The End of One Chapter leads on to a New One

I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
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Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.

These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…

They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.

Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.

They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.

Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.

It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.

And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.

Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.

Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.

And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.

M XXX

The Road NEVER BEFORE Taken…

Every year, I teach Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’, whether it’s on the course or not.

I love it. And I love passing his wisdom on to my students. Sometimes, the hardest decision is the best one to make. The obvious, “easier” route may be more appealing; safer even, and yet those who took the road less travelled, will always in hindsight, confirm that it was the right road to take.

I love to use it as an encouragement to my students that they shouldn’t always follow the crowd, that they don’t HAVE to take the road that they feel has been laid out or paved for them. That when it comes to it, they must follow their gut and trust their instincts, and that no matter which road they choose, it will carry them onwards, to somewhere.

And yet this year, for the class of 2020, I cannot use this as I always do. Because this particular class group are not in control of their choices as they should have been. They have all been directed towards a new road; a road NEVER taken by any of us before them.

“knowing how way leads on to way…”

And unfortunately, the lay of the land means that there is no safe or usual road for them to pass through the end of school and on to the next stage of their journey.

It’s new and unchartered territory for them, for their parents and for all staff in the schools they attended.

And yet… this time next year, they WILL have travelled this new road. It will have brought them to their next destination.

A year from now, they will have moved through the current chaos and will be looking back on this time, glad that it has passed and no longer stressed by the situation.

Some of them will be working, or in college, or at university; physically or virtually…who knows? They might still be at home, having taken a year out, waiting for the course they plan to do to start, excited and ready to begin the next stage of their lives.

And while there is still uncertainty for our Leaving Cert students, and none of us can know where their roads will take them, this is not new. This uncertainty is the one thing that they ARE getting to experience like every other LC group before them.

And yet, for all of them, in a few months time, that uncertainty will have passed and they will be travelling on the next road of their journey. They will not still be standing at the crossroads wondering which road to take.

The road onto which our young adults are stepping, is new. None of us have been through it. So really, none of us are in a position to tell them how they should feel or how it will go.

I used to always tell mine “You’ll be fine, just like everyone who has done it before you.” I can’t say that this year. (Firstly, because they are not in front of me, and secondly, because they are trailblazing a new road.)

We old fogies have not been through this before them. We can not fully understand. We shouldn’t pretend to.

This group have lost much. They’ve lost their right of passage through the final weeks of school. They’ve missed their last classes with favourite teachers (and the joy of a final class with not so favourite!).

They’ve missed prizegivings. They’ve missed graduations. They’re missing their end of year celebrations; parties, masses, whatever events and celebrations that are traditional to their individual schools that they have expected and looked forward to for the past six years. For many, they’re missing the ending of 14 years together, through national school to now.

And as adults, we shouldn’t dismiss their sadness at missing these things. These losses are as important to them as our problems are to us right now.

But onwards they WILL go. And while they are indeed on a road never before taken, they will travel onwards.

To our school leavers, (especially to my own brilliant and inspirational young people) I want to wish you well. You are bright and talented and the world is yours for the taking. Trust and stay positive.

A year from now, you will look back. You will have moved on. You will be on the next stage of your journey, and while you will have travelled there on a new road, an uncertain road and a perhaps frightening road, there was a road. And you took it and it is taking you forwards.

And I truly hope that you know that wherever it has taken you, it is the road you were meant to be on.

As Frost said, “I-I took the road less travelled, And that has made all the difference.”

When this is all over Mammy…

“Mammy, when this is all over…”, Mammy will need to have won the lotto.
 
I hear this line at least 5 times a day, from both of the girls.
And I find myself agreeing to pretty much everything that follows this phrase…
 
So far, I have agreed to:
 
Sleepovers with their cousins
A trip to Aberdeen
Dinner in Backstage EVERY night
A trip to Harry Potter World,
A trip to go see Santa in Euro Disney
A trip to Disneyworld Florida, where we will apparently swim with feckin dolphins
To have all of their cousins here for a sleepover
New clothes in Penneys like Arianna Grande
A visit to Uncle B in London
Playdates with EVERY BFF and general acquaintance in the world.
 
In fairness, they are also asking for things that are so heartbreakingly simple and genuine, that I find myself nodding in fervent approval when they say Mammy, when this is all over can we…
 
Go hug GannyGanda
Go play in GannyGanda’s back garden
Go to get icecream in the shop
Go in the car
Go out for pancakes
Go in to see Daddy’s gym
Go to dancing
Go to Glenveagh
Go to the beach
Go to school
 
And these I eagerly agree to because I can’t wait either. Actually, they’ll have to get in line for some of them, because ‘Me first yeah?’.
 
I had a catch up with two mates last night. And all of our kids have taken to using this line. We wondered where they heard it…but we know where. Well, obviously, they heard it from us, because let’s face it, we’re ALL using this line.
 
We’re all dreaming of the things that we once perhaps took for granted.
We’re all dreaming of doing the things that we are not able to do currently.
We’re all dreaming of the places we’ve wanted to or love to visit.
We’re all dreaming of seeing the people we are missing.
 
And it’s perfectly normal to miss and to plan and to dream.
 
Yes, we are all finding our grooves in this “New Normal”. I’ve used that phrase many times. And yet, now, while I am indeed living in my new normal, I know that it is thankfully, NOT going to be normal forever.
 
This new normal is temporary and we must all remember that. We must all accept it for what it is, for now, and look forward to when we can start to move on.
 
Because, thankfully, nothing lasts forever and everything changes eventually.
 
So, when this is all over, and it WILL be all over, we will all have things that we can’t wait to do and places to which we can’t wait to go…
 
We’ll have energy and determination to get or do things that we’ve perhaps procrastinated about or put off until now.
 
And the things that we CAN arrange and afford and aspire to, (mostly the hugs and playdates), will be done with joy and enthusiasm.
 
And while, short of a lotto win, there’s not a hope that I’ll follow through with the full list of things that I’m agreeing to right now, I will continue to let my kids enjoy the momentary dreaming that they get when they start a sentence with “Mammy, when this is all over…” because we all need to look forward and dream of when it is.
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Vote Vote Vote

It’s almost time to vote.
And the sooner the whole thing is over, the better.
Much like recent ‘votes’, this election is fizzing with emotion and anger and frustration. And so I think that most of us will be glad to see it done and dusted and to get back to normality.
polling station
How you vote is YOUR decision.
How I vote is MY business.
We all have things that we hope for and expect from our candidates, and we all have our own checklists of characteristics and qualities that we want to see.
We all have opinions; strong and valid opinions, but as I have said eleventy billion times, OPINION IS NOT FACT.
For me, it’s simple.
The candidate who stands for the people who live in this country, ALL the people people, not just the freckled few, gets a vote.
The candidate who can voice their opinions with respect for others, and without dictating that anyone who differs in their opinion, is wrong, will get a vote.
The candidate who is knowledgeable and has educated themself on the issues that they will discuss, will get a vote.
The candidate who sees all Irish citizens as equal, regardless of skin colour, physical appearance, profession, ancestry or heritage, will get a vote.
The candidate who recognses that their opinions are ONLY opinions and NOT FACT, and who can tolerate disagreement as a right, will get a vote.
The candidate who stands up for the rights of all, and who I believe will genuinely work towards making things better as much as possible, will get a vote.
I will put a number beside the names of most of the candidate.
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Some, I will leave absolutely blank. Some do not deserve and will never get my vote.
I will not vote for the person who stands up ONLY for themselves and people who they deem to be like them.
I will not vote for the person who uses misinformed, exaggerated language to create hysteria and incorrect scarmongering about issues, just because they are uncomfortable with change.
I will not vote for the person who attacks an alternative opinion, or who demonises people who think differently to them.
I will not vote for the person who preaches to be holier than thou and who yet casts all the stones.
I will not vote for the person who thinks it acceptable to write another candidate’s name on their posters to ridicule and criticise.
I will not vote for the person who is spouting racist, homophobic and quite frankly disgusting vitriol about people in our society.
OUR community.
OUR country.
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Many will argue that “they’re all the same” or “They’re all as bad as each other”.
We live in a country where it is hard to trust those in power. Where “jobs for the boys” and “who your father is” has always had a lot to do with who got what and who climbed which ladder.
But today, we must vote.
We, the people, the public… ALL citizens of Ireland.
Whether you have followed every interview, listened to every debate and read every manifesto, or whether you’ve simply been vaguely aware of the political rhetoric which has overcome our airwaves and twitter feeds for the past few weeks, you still must vote.
Our vote is our voice.
A physical manifestation of our being.
A chance to have our say.
If we do not vote, really, we have no ground to stand on when it comes to complaining or commenting on how things go for the next 4 years.
If you can vote, go vote.🇮🇪
If you know someone who isn’t able to get to the polling station, drive them there.
If you have a young adult at home, get them to the booth. Make sure their voice is heard.
(Let them vote with their own mind and their own heart. Remember that how YOU vote is not necessarily how your child will vote.)
To the candidates who have put themselves out there, (for reasons other than imposing archaic and bigoted opinions on the county), whether or not I agree with your general policies, good luck.
It is not an easy thing to do; to put yourself into the public domain, to open yourself and your family and your entire history up to the scrutiny and criticism of the world, to take on such a challenge.
It is brave and it is honourable, and I salute you.
Here’s to an eventful weekend.😘
As with all democratic events, some will celebrate and some will not. Everyone cannot win (and not everyone deserves to), but we all must use our voice.
Reegardless of the outcome, cheers to the future my Lovelies.
Now, use your voice.
Vote.