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Image / Self / Advice

‘The thaw begins today. This is your Spring’: The gorgeous advice to Leaving Cert students that moved us all to tears


By Sarah Finnan
03rd Sep 2021

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‘The thaw begins today. This is your Spring’: The gorgeous advice to Leaving Cert students that moved us all to tears

Leaving Cert exam advice that goes beyond “What’s for you, won’t pass you”.

Everyone has their own memories of the Leaving Cert – some positive, some less so. One of the most rigorous academic exams Irish students ever have to sit, it’s an experience that stays with you long after it’s done. 

However, despite constant assurances that “there’s a back door to every course and career path”, some still seem to be under the impression that this one test is the be-all and end-all of everything. Quite the opposite is true though, and whether you’re happy or sad with your results, it’s important to remember that this is actually only the beginning of your journey. 

Hoping to share some positivity on a day that can be characterised by overwhelming stress and anxiety, one person’s tribute to the graduating class of 2021 has gone viral online – and it’s a really lovely read. Left as a comment underneath an article that appeared the Irish Times, it was written by Billy O Hanluain

Speaking not “to the ones who’ll be feted on the covers of the newspapers with their freakish bouquets of 7 A1s”, but to the string of others who rarely get a look in when academic achievements are concerned, his comment reads like pure poetry. 

“This morning, I salute the dreamers, the ones who ploughed their own furrow against the grain, the dancers and chancers, the schemers, the unsung heroes of the magical space between the classes, the bike shed kissers and smokers, the ones whose crooked branches could never be bent straight, the raconteurs of the school bus stop, the shy ones who’ll be beautiful late bloomers, the bullied ones, the ones who thought their leaking buckets were deficient but it is only along a well-watered path that the most beautiful flowers grow, the boys and girls who held tight to their own songs, whistling their own melodies against the wind that blew hard for the last six years, the oddballs who rolled collecting only the moss they wanted, the gay boys who’ve waited for years to walk out of those school gates for the last time and walk tall, the ones who were taunted and not taught, the ones whose songs were frozen and stultified by facts; there is no failure today.

“The thaw begins today. This is your Spring, your release, your recovery, your time. Take flight. Learn to forget and dazzle yourself by being who you truly are. Let nobody measure or assess you. Look up into the cosmos of your beautiful self and follow that star that winks at you showing you the way towards the place that school never revealed to you. Somewhere way beyond what you thought was possible. Somewhere so close. Deeply lodged in you.”

Inspired by Billy’s gorgeous homage, I asked some of Team IMAGE what their advice to students taking their first steps out into the world would be. Here’s what our digital editor, Lauren Heskin, had to say. 

“Your Leaving Cert results can feel like the biggest most important decision of your life, but it isn’t. Of my six closest school friends, all of whom got into their first-choice university courses, three of them have since retrained in something completely different to their first degree. It didn’t delay their careers and between gap years and travelling and general life, we are all pretty much on the same rung of the ladder now. 

“So if you’re not sure what you will do after your degree or simply don’t fancy university yet but fear being left behind, your twenties and your career are not a continuous rise. They ebb and flow and sometimes the bravest thing you can do is say, ‘Actually, this isn’t for me’.”

While it’s been several years since I got my own Leaving Cert results (I won’t tell you how many), clear visions of that dreaded brown paper envelope still dance around in my head. Like many other students, I spent the majority of the following weeks after finishing my exams convincing myself that I had failed. The saying goes to “hope for the best, expect the worst”, but I could only do the latter. That summer taught me a very useful lesson on catastrophising. 

Cut to the present and I’m working in a completely different field to the one I studied in. It took me several more years to figure things out, and to be honest, it’s an ongoing process. So, while today may feel monumental, it’s only one of many, many other monumental days you’ll have in your life – most of which will be much better.