The leaving certificate results came out recently. For those of us who did the exam, even many years later it’s impossible to forget the night before, the day of, the night after, the fear, the joy, the relief, the regret. I remember sobbing while working at my summer job when by some miracle I got a B in pass maths and that meant I would be offered my choice of Business & Legal Studies in UCD. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would actually happen. I put this course down on my CAO because my friend Nessa seemed to think ‘Business’ was a good idea and that was good enough for me. I liked Nessa. She was funny and had nice clothes. Looking back neither business nor law were ever of remote interest to me. The accountancy subjects alone nearly finished me off. It took about 15 years to correct my choice and to find my true path.
At this time of year the usual discussion of CAO points kicks off, university courses get offered, apprenticeships and first jobs begin. Students, often aged only 17, make decisions that impact the rest of their lives. Paths that may last a lifetime are begun. I was listening to a caller to the Sean Moncrieff show who said he turned down what he really wanted to do in favour of what his parents wanted, and now as a married man with three children to support, he feels stuck. He can’t get out of this job he hates and he’ll never pursue his original passion, because there is a mortgage to pay and school clothes to buy. It’s a story that many of us are familiar with; some of us will be able to think of a loved one in this situation and others are dealing with it ourselves. I wonder at what point we decide we’re not worth taking a risk. We don’t deserve a better life or we settle because we don’t feel we have any other options. At what point does fear of change or of what might go wrong, outweigh the terrible, claustrophobic feeling of being trapped.
If you could talk to your 17 year old self, what would you say? What dreams did you have then that as yet haven’t happened? That maybe the older you has given up on. What advice would you give to help the younger you strive towards what you really want?
Now turn this around. What would your 17 year old self say to you as you are today? As yet unburdened with the pressures of life, what would your hopeful, open, enthusiastic 17 year old self plead with you to do to make their dreams come true? Do you think you could find something in you to go after it now, because cheesy as it sounds, it’s never too late.