Leaving Cert. Now and Then - 1981
the views of a past pupil 20 years ago
The best years of your life are your school years! How many times have you heard theat. But don’t you believe it. I for one was delighted to leave school and finally be free to do what I wanted. The world was my oyster – at leaste, in theory! Armed with respectable Leaving Cert. results after a nail-biting Summer holiday, I sat down seriously to find myself a job. After filling out countless forms and receiving countless neatly typed letters beginning, ‘I regret to inform you…’ I got this vague feeling that employers weren’t exactly begging me on bended knees to come and join their force. A few hundred more ‘ I regreet’ letters and the feeling was no longer vague, it was very definite.
By this time, I was desperate. I would do anything. I began to wonder if all my work at school had been a complete waste of time. One gets very depressed sitting at home everyday beneath mother’s feet. I scoured the newspapers without any luck. A job ame up in Ballybunion for th Races buyt a weeek later I was back to where I started. In desperation I went to Tralee and to Manpower Services.
They took down the relevant details and a few weeks later, I jumped at the sugestion that I do some secretarial work in Lisotwel from December to April. I was a secretary.
I was never executive material but I did my best. I thumbed my way to Listowel and back every day and was paid £20 a week. It went up to £30 two weeks before I left, and I enjoyed myself. I made some friends and it was good work experience. Not exactly what I wanted, but anything was better than the dole queue.
Of course, while working in Listowel, I kept applying and a few hundred negative replies later, I was invited to come for interview to a London hospital to do nursing – the one thing I had always wanted. Of courese, I went, failed the interview and stayed.
My mother was upset. I hadn’t even said goodbye properly, but looking back now, it was just as well. I stayed with my uncle and his family for a while – six months to be exact. A very long time, but they patiently put up with me. For a month or so evcerything went very well. I was really enjoying myself. I began to apply once again to London hospitals from my new base..
And then slowlsy I began to realise that I wouldn’t be going home for quite a while. I was very homesick. I would cry myself to sleep. My mother would ring me on Thursdays and I would say hello, dash upstairs, lock myself in the loo and cry my eyes out. We decided to stick to writing letters.
Of course, lots of funny things happened. I didn’t know how to catch a bus, use trains, even shopping was a problem. I took my cousin to school one day, and couldn’t find my way back. After half an hour’s wandering around, I accidentally came on the right street. I took her to school?
I managed to get an interview with British Telecom for the post of office clerk. the day before, my Aunt and I took the bus by the place of interview so that I would know where to go. Sure enough next day, everything went as planned. I caught the bus on my own, and flushed iwt hpride, I entered the building, found my way upstairs, only to be told that the interviews were being held the next day. The lady in charge commented on my eagerness. Exit one red-faced candidate.
Then my luck began to tunr. I found a job in a large supermarket, working on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was a great step forward. Time stretches on forever when one has nothing worthwhile to do, and one starts to brood and become very depressed. I worked there part-time for about three months. IT was hard at first, making new friends was a very slow and painful process. On my first day, I wen tot the canteen and knees shaking, I ordered my dinner. My face fell when I was served up chick and sweetcorn. Convinced that everyone was staring at me (and they probably were), I failed to gain any control over the sweetcorn which went around and around and around my plate. I didn’t even try to wrestle with the chicken. Even now chicken makes me cringe!
Gradually of course, I began to fit in. Then I even bagan to enjoy myself. I really looked froward to going to work, and two days a week wasn’t enough. Then a vacancy came up for a full-time postiion and I was taken. I was thrilled to bits. I stayed there roughly five months in all. Now that I had my own friends, I coudld go out more. I could buy nice clothes and gradually, everything came together. All my waiting had paid off. I was accepted in a hospital. I made plans for leaving my job and the security of my uncle’s home. I bought various bits and pieces, pots and pans and in January I moved in.
Of course, that’snot the end of my story. Actually, it’s just the beginning. I have at least three years of study before me but it was worth waiting for. Perhaps that is the most improtant point of all. Never give up! After being out of work for a period of time, after failing interview after interveiew, one loses hope, and and becomes convinced that he or she is lacking in something. IT’s so easy to give up. Never be too proud to take something else in the meantime. Keep on applying – it will cost you a fortune but it is worth it in the end. BE warned, you must be prepared to wait! Nothing more can be done to prepare you for when you leave school. Everyone has to experience it for herself and everyoine copes. Of course, you will be homesick if you have to leave home, an dnowdays that means almost everyone , but believe you me, that slowly passes. And I am speaking from experience. Rembember, everyone else is in the same position, and even knowing that helps quite a log. Tehre really is something for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding it!