Leaving Cert results survival guide: If all else fails, ‘kick the sh*t out of option B’
Reframe your parents’ expectations. And yours. Avoid social media. If necessary, lie
Lucy Prendeville of Tullamore, Co Offaly, who got eight A1s in the Leaving Cert in 2015. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Chemists are running low on Rescue Remedy and Dioralyte, and social media is full of people humblebragging about how well they did at life, despite failing their exams. It can only mean on thing – it’s Leaving Cert results week. Here are 19 tips for surviving it.
1. Practise good self-care. This may include getting an adequate amount of sleep, eating nutritious food, making time for recreation, and staying far away from your very brainy friends.
2. It may also include keeping a wide berth of the steps of the Institute of Education on Leeson Street, where all of the country’s brainiest students seem to congregate, ready to oblige the phalanx of waiting newspaper photographers by jumping off on command, while brandishing their results.
3. If possible, be in another country – preferably one with poor wifi coverage, making reading other people’s PDAs (public displays of accomplishment) on social media more difficult.
4. If you’re planning to get your exam results online, set a specific time to check, and keep yourself busy until that time. Did getting up at dawn and pressing refresh until your index figure seized up help you procure tickets for Electric Picnic? No it did not, and it won’t help you get 600 points either.
5. Breathe. Yes, it’s something you typically do anyway (aren’t you clever?), but focusing on your breathing, and taking deep breathes right into your lungs, sends a message to your brain to slow down and relax.
6. Take a psychobiotic. Researchers at the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork have discovered a link between the bacteria in your gut and your stress levels. Taking a daily capsule containing the bacterial strain Bifidobacterium longum 1714 has been shown in studies to reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive-like behaviours and to improve your memory. Where were you in June, 1714?
Have your say: Did your Leaving Cert results matter in your life?
7. Reframe your expectations. If you’re happy with your results, great – move straight to point 11 below. If you’re not, look on it as an opportunity to develop resilience, rethink your plans and binge on Netflix and sausage sandwiches. Actually, however you do, sausage sandwiches will make everything seem better.
8. Reframe your parents’ expectations. This is particularly important if you have the kind of parents who spent the month of June telling everyone that you doing the Leaving was worse than giving birth to you, and are now anxiously preparing for “our results”. Start dropping hints about your plans to rent out yurts in Thailand for a living.
9. Avoid reading anything on Facebook written by someone who wants to share how failed their Leaving Cert and are now renting out yurts in Thailand for a living. Or running a tech empire in Silicon Valley; an airline; a country, or a successful business peddling platitudes about how failing the Leaving Cert didn’t define them. It won’t help. The Leaving Cert might not matter to them but, for this week at least, it matters to you. Ignore anyone who tries to delegitimise your very natural apprehension.
10. If you do worse than expected, recognise that you are not an accumulation of C1s and B2s and half-remembered facts about the characteristics of saprophytic fungi or the difference between exponential functions and a hole in the head. What matters far more than points on a piece of paper are your life experiences and your responses to them: your passions; the grit and resilience that you’ve acquired along the way; your persuasiveness; your empathy; your creativity; your entrepreneurialism; your cop on; your sense of right and wrong; your ability to hustle – none of which can be measured by marks out of 600.
11. If you do better than expected, don’t be that guy or girl. Rein in the smug. Lay off the PDAs. Refuse all requests to jump off the steps of the Institute of Education while holding your results in your hand.
12. You can’t control your results. But you can control how you respond to them. If you are disappointed, start working on – as Sheryl Sandberg would say – kicking the sh*t out of option B.
13. Practise mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches your brain to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when you experience it. The Calm and Headspace apps are useful for beginners – particularly when you play them at loud volume on headphones any time you hear the words “well, how did you get on?”
14. Go for a run. Running is especially helpful when you don’t have headphones handy.
15. If you don’t have headphones and running is impractical, lie.
16. Ignore everyone who tells you that in ten years’ time you won’t remember how many points you got. You will remember. What will change is that you won’t care how many points you got. In terms of how you see yourself, it will be about as relevant as the age at which you first started walking, and slightly less relevant than how much you made for your communion.
17. Go easy on the booze. It might feel like an instant stress-reduction bullet, but you won’t feel better for it tomorrow. Dioralyte is not actually magic.
18. Yes, the Leaving Cert matters. It doesn’t determine the rest of your life, but it does help determine your next step. In that sense, it’s an important part of the arc of your life. If the numbers and letters written on that piece of paper aren’t what you wanted, it’s a setback. But it’s not a catastrophe. It’s not the measure of you.
19. Remember that getting disappointing results isn’t the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing that can happen is allowing those disappointing results to get to you, and convince you that you’re less than you are.