And what about these last two years? Enough said. Suffice to say I didn’t write a book or master sourdough or run a marathon around the back garden. I didn't have any eureka moments. However, I have come to accept that we are naively under the illusion that we have control over stuff, but really we don’t (except for the choice of Friday night takeaway).
The exam uncertainty and the Norma-lego-hair-Foley bashing now feels like a lifetime ago. Finally, tomorrow, it begins. With pens and compasses in hand our brave souls will sleigh the Leaving Cert dragon piece by piece over the next few weeks. Our soldiers of sonnets and saponification, of sráiths and scarification have assiduously endured in the solitude of their bedrooms and ends of kitchen tables for much of this year. They've missed the rights of passage like nights out and grads, not to mention cancelled sporting and music events, all vital to help them and their friends in getting through challenges. In training for and attempting a marathon it’s an achievement just to get to the start line. So to all those sitting the exams, it is a huge accomplishment to get this far considering the terrain you have had to cover over the last two years. You are all mighty.
English Paper One - three words that would put the fear of God in anyone who still wakes with the sweats having dreamt about arriving at their old school to the exam without pens, naked or got the time or day wrong. There are any number of variations on Leaving Cert nightmares and throw in your teeth falling out whilst attempting a quadratic equation question and the dream analysts would be ecstatic. There is a reason for this. It is said to be the most difficult exam you will ever sit.
All the cliches are true when it comes to this behemoth humdinger of a test but I’m going to reiterate them anyway and repeat myself as Irish mammies do. So listen up, cause I won’t say them again…
You will be fine and in the words of the wonderful Derek Mahon 'Everything is going to be alright'. There is nothing more guaranteed in life than uncertainty and change so this is just another hurdle will be a catalyst for change. Embrace it and face it head on. You know more than you think you know. Remember, this year you also have accredited grades.
This evening, get a walk in or do whatever it is that makes you feel good. Watch or read something that keeps you calm. In our house it has been a mixture of Bones, Grey’s Anatomy and Geordie Shore. Get up early, have a decent breakfast or not if it’s never been your thing. That’s ok too. Bring a decent lunch if you’ve got a double whammy on the same day. Arrive on time. Bring some water and sucky sweets. PoloMints got me through many an exam and you can't beat a good aul Winegum either. Don’t forget your pens and a calculator if needed. Breath. Read through all the questions first, it’s like doing a few stretches before a match. Have a rough page in your answer book for writing down anything that comes to mind like words, phrases, pictures, anything. If all the lights go out in your head, close your eyes and breath again. Then write the ‘5WH’ down – who, what, when, where, why and how. It may prompt other questions and with a bit of luck some answers. Time your answers and leave plenty of space underneath each one so you can go back and write stuff in if you think of anything when reading over at the end. Put the blinkers on and don’t worry about anyone else in the room. If others look for more paper, it means nowt.
By the 24th June I will no longer have any children in school. I will not have to buy any scratchy jumpers, polo shirts or schoolbooks. A new chapter will begin for us all in September, whatever that may be. And the world will continue to spin.
Win, loose or draw in this Leaving Cert battle I can only say, fair play to ye all! I just think you are all fantastic considering what you have gone through over the last while. Most of all, I am especially proud of my two girleens. What brilliant young women they both are. I admire their strength and resilience. I wish them and all their fellow warriors the very best of luck in all they do. As you sit and watch the clock tick to start, remember 'Steady, hold, hold, hold...now!'