I found my Leaving Cert results the other day and they took my breath away!
I’d remembered they were pretty poor and even to this day, when they don’t matter anymore, there’s still a slight shame in remembering how I was told to say “I was very happy with how I did” if asked about my results. It wasn’t too bad though…no one expected too much from me so it kinda took the pressure off! My priority was to pass my Ordinary level maths…I needed it to go to nurse training here in Ireland ( I was only 16 so didn’t want to go to the UK to train) so I held my breath until I knew I passed and I did! The relief was huge and I got my place in nurse training in Sir Patrick Duns hospital in Dublin the following January.
And although it was an entirely different time, there are similarities with this week for the young people who have just received their first CAO offers here in Ireland. Some of the students in my year were very clever with huge expectations upon them for their results and their life – these were the ‘bright ones’. Some of the students were hard grafters who did well in their exams because of hard slog and determination. Others were ‘weak at maths’ or ‘bad at languages’ or ‘useless in science’ or whatever label was applied over the course of their time at school.
Let’s face it, by the time you get to Leaving cert, you’ve gotten a particular label whether you like it or not – you’re ‘clever’ or you ‘struggle with maths’. You’re ‘bright’ or you’re ‘lazy’. You’re a ‘could work harder’ or ‘sloppy in your written work’. Some of these labels are pretty accurate and some of them are completely made up and far from the truth…but they stick either way. I had the label of being ‘not very good’ at school, especially at Maths. I’d been told that from a very young age and like the good girl I was, I kept to the plan. Thankfully, I took this label ‘not very good at SCHOOL’ literally and so, as soon as I left SCHOOL – to study nursing, a funny thing happened and I became an A student. (There’s a whole other story there but that’s for another day).
So, it’s worth remembering that labels fall off or they’re taken off or they get erased and can be overwritten. They’re not who you are but it can feel as though they are. So if you’re a student who’s had to go through the hell that is the Leaving cert and the CAO offers over the last while, I just want to remind you of this. You’re going through one of the most stressful and challenging times in life you’ve met to date. And in a few weeks, you’ll be on some journey towards the rest of your life. It might be all you’ve ever dreamed of or it might be the last road you expected to be on. Whichever it is, take a peek at your label and see if it suits you and serves you well. It might just be someone else’s story and this book is one you should be writing for yourself. No label has indelible ink – if we are growing and changing, it does too. So write your own label and go live a great life. It’s too important to do anything else, I promise.