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Life after the Leaving Cert- You are more than a piece of paper

So leaving cert results day is upon us once more. This morning thousands of Irish students across the country will open a brown envelope that they think will determine the course of their life. The truth is many of you will be overjoyed, but the other sad reality is many of you will be disappointed. And that’s Okay. I know we’ve heard this countless times.  Every year it’s the same spiel, ‘it’s not the be all and end all’ ‘there are ways and means around everything’. At the time they seem like throwaway comments to make those who didn’t quite get what they wanted feel better, but in actual fact it’s the truth. I didn’t believe it then, but I sure as hell do now. For anyone feeling a little let down today, let me share with you my leaving cert story.

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I sat my Leaving Cert in June 2011. (Still coming to terms with the fact that, that was five whole years ago). I was 17. The world was my oyster (or clam as I once very blondely referred to it).  For a long while I struggled to find what it was I actually wanted to do after school. All around me classmates were interested in being teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, nurses, radiographers, dietitians, pharmacists, scientists, vets, you name it. But I knew I didn’t want to be any of those things. They just didn’t appeal to me. It felt like there wasn’t a single course out there to suit me. It was by chance that I actually discovered my area of interest.

Surprise surprise it was actually at one of those tedious higher options fares that you only go a long to, to skive a day off school. But it turned out to be very useful. I realised that my passions lay with writing and the media. Within weeks I had decided that media and Journalism was the route for me. Looking back it definitely wasn’t one of the more advertised courses.

Anyway my friends agreed it was the perfect avenue for the blunt, outspoken Jess they knew. So I started working towards my goal. At roughly around 435 points in all of the colleges that offered it across the country, it was achievable. I decided on UL as my first choice. There was an extra entry requirement in most colleges of at least a B3 in English, but as far as I was concerned this wouldn’t be an issue. English was my subject. I loved it all the way up both primary and secondary school. As a child I was always writing stories in my spare time. Most people loathed Shakespeare and the the list of ‘boring dead white guys’ i.e  poets, but I loved it all. It was a welcome escape from algebra, equations and the Krebbs cycle.

I worked hard, I did my homework, listened in class, and did my bit of study every night. I didn’t kill myself, but I definitely applied myself. When the two weeks of exams came I was confident. I was happy with every exam bar English paper 2. I felt I over thought it a lot, which resulted in me panicking slightly through it, but aside from that I was home free.

Summer began and the worries of the results were put on hold until August. I went to Oxegen with my friends to celebrate. Almost every weekend thereafter was spent traipsing around the public houses of Kilkenny city. Summer 2011 was a good’un. Then came August and I was turning 18. A mere 3 days before results day. The excitement and simultaneous nervousness was rife.

I’ve spoken about it briefly in previous blog posts, but the night of my 18th was bitter sweet. Many of you reading probably already know, but my drink was spiked pretty badly. I ended up suffering an adverse reaction, which saw me confused and disorientated in hospital the night before results were out. The spiking caused a chemical imbalance in my brain so I was really unwell.  Not exactly what I had planned but sure hey. That’s a story for another day.

The morning of results came and my mam had gone in to collect my results and bring them home, seeing as I had only been released from hospital late the previous night. I’ll never forget the feeling of opening the envelope, hands shaking my entire future rested in what was enclosed. I ripped it open and quickly scanned to make sure there were no Ds or Fs. I saw As Bs and Cs. Relief. When I had calmed down enough to check what each grade was in, I was met with a wave of horror.
I just remember asking “What’s the second C in?” Everyone in the kitchen was silent. But it was there in black and white.
English: C1.

C fucking 1.  

I needed at least a B3. My sister added up my points and informed me that I had received 495. Amazing, 60 over what I needed. But it didn’t matter. I still couldn’t do what I wanted. My favourite subject had let me down. I had gone from an A/B student to a C. I threw the piece of paper on the floor and I ran down to my room. I was still suffering the affects of the spiking, so later that day I actually tried to convince myself my family had conspired against me and fabricated my results. I demanded to see the ‘real’ copy. It was all pretty crazy. In the days that followed I was in and out of hospital for check ups.

It soon transpired that I would be taking a year out before going to college. My family encouraged me that it was for the best. I was well and truly devastated. It was never part of my plan. But looking back I was too unwell to start, plus I didn’t get straight Journalism so I needed the time to figure out what I was going to do. In an instant all my college dreams were slashed. I felt like a failure. Watching all my home friends move away and start new and exciting lives in Dublin and beyond was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. Though my friends were amazing to keep in touch, I couldn’t help but feel left behind.

I never thought I would be the one it would happen to. I wasn’t going to be the disappointed one, no. Not me. Yet I ended up getting hit with a double edged sword. For the year I was off as a result of everything that happened, my mental health suffered a lot. I grew into myself and I was sad and lonely all the time. Who was blunt, outspoken Jess? Where was she? 

A dodgy drink and a piece of paper had ruined my life. (or so I believed at the time).

It wasn’t until the summer before I was due to start college the following year, that I truly started feeling like myself again. I realised the grade wasn’t a reflection on my abilities, and that what happened the night of my 18th wasn’t my fault. I went inter-railing and I re-discovered the spark in life. I had debated about repeating my English, but I didn’t want to go through the stress of it all again. Given it’s so subjective who’s to say some cranky old examiner wouldn’t have given me a C all over again?

My heart was still with UL though, so I decided to go for their New Media and English course instead. I could always do a post grad dip in Journalism after, if I so desired. Once I had gotten over the disappointment, I realised the range of options available at my fingertips.

So you see, I was more than the piece of paper. It just took me a little while to realise it. There’s an old cheesy quote that goes something like ‘sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck’, and I firmly believe that.

Five years on,  I’m working in London and flying home to graduate in 5 days. If it hadn’t been for everything that happened in August 2011, I wouldn’t have the friends, boyfriend, and wonderful memories and life experiences I have now.

So if you’re any way upset today, please know there is life after the leaving cert! It’s natural to feel this way, but I promise you, your dreams aren’t over.

So cry it out, drown your sorrows in a few naggins, but don’t let it hold you back. It didn’t define me, and it doesn’t define you.Plus life is more fun if there are a few twists and turns a long the way! The straight road is overrated.

You are more than a piece of paper.
~Jessie
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Repeal The 8th- Without the hate!

This is probably going to be one of my more controversial posts, of which there are few, but I feel I can’t stay quiet on the issue for much longer. It seems as if everyone and anyone is giving their two cents worth on social media these days, so I thought why not give mine. People are going to jump down your throat either way.

Repeal the 8th. Lets talk.

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Firstly let me make clear that personally I am pro-choice. I have always been pro-choice. I believe that every single woman should have the right to choose. But for goodness sake ladies what happened to respecting one another’s views, morals and beliefs? The fact of the matter is both sides of this campaign need to stop vilifying one another. The funny thing is, (and I did not expect this) but most of it seems to be coming from the pro-choicers. Which not only makes me sad, but ashamed of the turn this campaign has taken.

Over the last number of weeks I have been appalled at the amount of people I’ve seen shot down, shouted over, and dismissed simply because they are not pro-choice. What happened to engaging in mature debate?

Girls; I understand you’re passionate. I understand your drive for change, and believe me I understand you’re angry. But the way some (not all) of the campaigners are handling it is just largely counter-productive. Telling Sally she is a “backward bitch” because she is a strong advocate for pro-life isn’t strengthening your cause. That is something I’ve actually seen. A long with “old fashioned views” “catholic propaganda” and so on and so forth.

We need to be able to participate in dynamic discussions with people to make a real change. Oh and another thing? (you’re all going to hate me for this), But men matter too. Yep. They have an opinion on this too, and just because they don’t have ovaries does not mean they should be treated with any less respect. It takes two to tango, so why shouldn’t a man be able to have an opinion when it comes to the issue of abortion? It’s not as simple as a women’s bodily rights. Scream at me all you want, but it isn’t.

Sure it’s the woman’s physical body, and she absolutely 100% deserves to have full control over what happens to it. But the life inside of her doesn’t belong to just her. So forgive me when it makes my blood boil to see other women dismissing men whenever they try to engage in this issue.

There are so, so many elements of it to consider that are just continuously being overlooked (by both sides), to suit their own agendas. The mob mentality is growing on social media and it needs to stop. I have many friends, that for their own reasons are very much pro-life, but I would never dream of jumping down their throats in the manner in which I’ve seen.  Myself and my friends have had a number of discussions on the matter, in which everyone’s points were listened to and taken on board. You’d be surprised at how much you could learn by just shutting your gob for ten minutes and respecting what someone else has to say.

You don’t have to agree with it, but you have to accept that this is an extremely complex and sensitive issue, you aren’t going to convince everyone. Stop belittling those that are just as passionate about something as you are. Change isn’t going to happen via condescension.

Yes I would love nothing more than to #RepealThe8th, but in a manner which is considerate of the beliefs of my opponents.

Rant over.

 

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Moving to London

As many of you may already know, around about 4 weeks ago I took the plunge and moved across the pond. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but it was an opportunity. An opportunity I felt I couldn’t pass up. I’ve always been slightly in awe at the many directions life can take. There’s an abundance of twists and turns and the truth is you never know where you might end up from one year to the next. For instance if you had told me two years ago I’d be spending 5 Months in snowy Sweden, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had said the following summer would see me leave pieces of my heart across Barcelona, I wouldn’t have believed you. And if you had said a year on from that, that I’d be living in London 6 weeks after finishing college, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.

In fact I probably would’ve laughed in your face.

But here I am. Finally ‘an adult’ and starting to make my way in the world. It’s funny, my last couple of blog posts were fraught with final year woes and the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know where I was going to end up and I couldn’t see past the immediate sadness of post university life. I probably should’ve listened to all those words of wisdom, voices of loved ones telling me ‘it would all fall into place’.

So London. Why you might ask? Why Not.

I mean in an ideal world I would’ve landed a cushy job back in the Big Smoke, lived with my Nan again, and been surrounded by friends and family. But it’s all too safe isn’t it? There comes a time when you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m not going to lie I thought the transition would be easy. Sure it’s only across the pond, 40 minute flight, be grand. Its not like I’m going to Australia. All mantras I kept repeating to myself in the lead up to the big move. I mean I’d lived abroad twice before sure, in my mind I was a pro at this. Only I forgot to consider the very real fact that this time there was no return date. That sounds very dramatic! Of course I can hop on a plane and come home at any time, but I mean in the sense that this time around things are pretty long term.

I’ve never really considered myself the ‘home bird’ type. So I was surprised to find myself feeling so homesick. As someone who was used to the freedom of driving everywhere in the last year (lazy so and so I know), it was a huge shock to my system to suddenly be sharing my journey to work with hundreds, if not thousands of other commuters every morning. London underground can be a very dreary place- if you let it. Hoards of people stomping down the ramps to the station, their footsteps echoing in perfectly synchronised misery. It’s all very regimented. People going about their day. Not caring to stop for the few seconds it takes to put a smile on their faces. In the short time I’ve been here I’ve found ways to look past what has become a very mundane aspect of my daily routine.

It might be the woman who takes her Pug on the Northern line every evening at Moorgate, or the little french girl with the red rimmed glasses bursting with the excitement of it all, or my personal favourite, the station controller at London Bridge. Honestly, though he’s just a faceless voice from above (literally), he really puts a huge smile on my face every morning. For a man who spends most of his morning repeating things like “Miiiiiind the dooors, this train is now ready to depaaaart,”, he does so with such enthusiasm. Every morning he greets passengers on the platform, tells a few jokes in between trains, and wishes everyone a good day at work. He even apologies when the tube is so packed and can’t let anymore people on. As if it was personally his fault. You can hear the smile in his voice every morning, and I don’t know about the 100 others but he definitely gets my day off to a more pleasant start. He’s actually so great I’m genuinely thinking about writing a separate blog post about him (stay tuned).

So yeah. I’ve started to look for little things like this to make me smile. Not that London isn’t already full of amazing things to do and discover. Sitting along the river Thames down on Southbank has become one of my favourite things to do on an idle weekend.

For those wondering what it is I’m actually doing- (which lets be honest is probably no one but anyway), I’m a media executive. Sounds fancy, but it’s pretty standard. I work for a company that builds and manages relationships with Journalists and PR clients. It’s my job to make sure both sides are kept happy. I suppose I’m sort of like a middle man. Part of it involves interviewing Journalists (irony), and keeping clients up to date on where they are and what they’re writing about. I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a good gateway to getting my foot on the ladder so to speak. Everyone in the office is super friendly (refer to hangover post), so that helps!

This was probably pretty irrelevant for anyone else other than my Nan and aunties who want to tell the small town gossips back home what I’m up to.

Just tell them I’m a big shot soon -to -be famous exec lads, I won’t complain 😛

Anyway all in all I’ve decided to take it all in my stride- one day at a time. I’m looking forward to finding my feet, and exploring more of what London has to offer. Whether I’m here for  6 months, a year, or 5 years I’m sure i’ll have plenty of stories to take to the next place with me, be it the Emerald Isle or beyond.

P.S (No chipped teeth, stolen iPhones, Stalkers, or Lost luggage mishaps yet! maybe my unfortunate ways are changing?)

On that note, i’ll leave you with a cheesy pic of me trying to look cute with Big Ben in the distance.

Until next time,

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~Jessie