Leaving Cert diary: what possessed me to do higher level?

Ghostly presence of Heaney noted but impending maths exam is more haunting

The American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): made an appearance again, making it two years in a row. Photograph:  New York Public LIbrary Picture Collection.

The American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963): made an appearance again, making it two years in a row. Photograph: New York Public LIbrary Picture Collection.


I love writing stories, creating new worlds where anything can happen.

There hasn’t been much of that lately. There hasn’t been much of anything lately, come to think of it. To say I’m looking forward to getting my life back is an understatement. There will be sleep, glorious sleep. But first, there’s maths to overcome.

Oh maths, maths – what on this good earth possessed me to do higher level? Forget the bonus points, I somehow managed to ignore the fact that numbers terrify me. Reality bit last week.

My parents managed to talk me down from the resulting miniature breakdown, making reassuring noises about examiners practically giving marks away. I’m just going to write everything down. They give plenty of marks for attempts, don’t they? One thing is certain, I vow never to do another calculation once this is over.

But back to the second English paper. I wrote my story on Wednesday about the ghostly presence (thank you examiners, that did nicely) but Heaney was the main ghostly presence over the past few days. There he was in Paper 1, and everyone was expecting him to come up in Paper 2. He did, but it was Heaney, unexpected. The unseen poem was his but he wasn’t among the prescribed poets.

Always listen to the voices in your head. Mine was telling me that Heaney was too topical, too obvious and I was semi-right. I liked the poem of his that came up, plenty of alliteration and colour, stuff to write about. I had an inkling that Plath might make an appearance again, and there she was, two years in a row.

I’m not ecstatic about it, I guess. English is one of my stronger subjects. I didn’t like the Macbeth question. Loads of people did, so I don’t know what that means. It was unwieldy, difficult to get around. But then I liked the general vision question and everyone else seemed to hate it. Who knows? I’m just counting down the days to the end.

I don’t believe in repeating, so this really is my one and only time to sit it. Once is enough. Life will take me where I need to go. In the meantime, chocolate and the thought of impending freedom will be enough to get me through. Rory O’Carroll is a student at Coláiste Chill Mhantáin in Wicklow. Meet our Leaving Cert diarists at irishtimes.com/examwatch

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