It has been six years since I sat my Leaving Certificate in 2009. In those six years, I have changed as a person and my life has changed around me more than I could ever have dreamed back then. It seems to be a thing to write a letter to your 16 year old self, but I feel that Leaving Certificate me was far more in need of a kind word and a kick up the backside, so she’s getting my sentiments instead, it being that time of the year.
You’re sitting in your room, listening to the radio talk about how a school in Louth opened the wrong paper for English Paper 1 and you are panicking. They’re talking about changing Paper 2, when all of the rumours cater for a paper that you know, that you’re well capable of. This is massive. Life changing stuff. The stuff of crying over. For one thing, you won’t be able to go to the cinema Friday night if they make you sit an exam on Saturday. Which, after much turmoil and giving out, they will. But you know what, it’ll be alright too. You might not do as well on that exam as you had hoped, but it’s not the end of the world.
Right now, you’re set on studying Drama and English. Oh girl, how I’m laughing at you now. You speak of these subjects with such love and passion which your college self will grow to resent. Calm down, you’re going to get the points you need and more – and nobody is going to ask you how many you got (but you’ll mock your brothers eternally for “beating them”, so they do come in handy for some things). You’re talking about doing things like drama therapy and working with small children. Little do you know that in six years, you won’t be off getting children to voice their anger through drama, but you’ll be dealing with the drama of a child of your own. With a toddler, everything is drama. You might find some use for that rolling on the floor exercise yet.
Moving to Cork is going to be a journey for you, one of the best things you’ll ever do. You’ll meet people who will change your life, people who will form the person you will become, and people who will teach you what drinks do not suit you on a night out. You’ll have stressful, horrible times too, but you’ll learn how to deal with them in a way that works and is manageable, which you really need to do.
I hate to tell you, but these aren’t the most stressful exams of your life. Make sure you read that exam timetable correctly – it can really lead to some absolute meltdown moments when you walk into the exam realising you stayed up all night studying for the wrong exam. Yeah. Don’t be that person. Take it from me.
Try to make better choices. Avoid a few guys who come your way who seem to have it all – they really don’t, you need to know when to walk away. Do actually go to classes when you do get to college, don’t spend half your days in the college Starbucks and the rest only half listening in the back of a lecture hall. Required reading is your friend – as is coffee. Actually read the course descriptions before choosing your modules; you’ll thank me for this when you’re not sat in the library poring over an assignment internally screaming about how much you hate this module. You meet some amazing people, keep them around, they are the good ones.
You never will get use out of any of those theorems or historical dates; but you will actually get use out of your Irish grammar tenses and your Economics notes – just as well you’re being completely OCD and wasting study time rewriting those notes, isn’t it? Just a pity you didn’t keep them afterwards, they would have been handy!
You are bright, funny and a little bit weird but that is what the people you are about to meet will like about you – and if they don’t, then they probably don’t belong in your life. Try to remember that these are just exams, that as long as you do your best it will all be fine, and that for the rest of the Summer you can relax (in your two jobs. Yeah, this will burn you out eventually). Whatever you do, avoid that hairdresser the week before the debs – I promise it won’t end well. Make the most of the next few weeks and months; the time you have with some of the important people around you will end far too quickly and can never be gotten back. Make memories. Make them matter.
Stop panicking, turn off the radio and actually look at your notes. Think of it as an extra day to study. Learn a fifth poet for gods sake – Bishop shows up though, it will all end well. Keep calm, and best of luck.
All my love,
What advice would you give to your former self on the eve of their Leaving Cert exams? Let me know in the comments!
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