Our time together is at an end by Jamie Keegan May31


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Our time together is at an end by Jamie Keegan


I write this at an unusual time of the sixth year experience; the intermediate period between the graduation and the Leaving Cert itself, both traditions very different this year than before. As I prepare to conclude my time as a student of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh, I am compelled to reflect on my time in this school, and all that it has given me.

My secondary school experience always had a healthy dose of the unexpected and unplanned. From the dreadfully unseasonable rainout on the heights of Mangerton to the abrupt closure of schools in fifth year to the surreal experience of having to watch a graduation ceremony rather than experience it in the traditional way, unpredictability was a constant theme of the past six years. I’ve struggled unpredictability in the past. Ever since my early childhood, I have always preferred structure and planning to more chaotic situations so you can imagine the chaos wrought by a deadly pandemic and recurring lockdown – interesting to say the very least. But, truth be told, if there’s something I’ve learned from my adolescence it’s that life will always be finding new ways to challenge you.

I started my journey on a Friday at the end of August and I prepare to finish it another Friday this week. Countless tests, excursions and exciting situations are enclosed within those six years. Every school year brought its own unique challenge. First Year of course began with the daunting experience of beginning a whole new chapter of my life while Second Year brought a clear idea of the kind of work that would be expected of me. Third Year had the Junior Cert. which seemed monstrous back then yet rather quaint through rose-tinted glasses. Transition Year tampered with the formula a bit. Instead of gruelling hours of study and exams we were allowed explore new skills and talents we had. I still remember the process of producing the TY film I made with my friends, stressing over whether or not we’d ever see it completed. But Fourth Year came to an end and we were thrust into the Leaving Cert. era right after the summer which was interrupted twice due to the unprecedented spread of You-Know-What.

A hectic journey to be sure, all the more so because of the unexpected obstacles. But a journey I am grateful for nonetheless. My time in Spioraid Naoimh was defined by friends I made and what I learned and experienced. I came into First Year already part of a group that slowly began to expand and drift apart. Two of my closest friends from primary school left after the Junior Cert. But I made some incredible new friends as well. I prepare to leave school now with several I hadn’t known before CSN and the school itself became all the more special to me because of it. This was not just a place I went to learn – it was place where I’d see these people again, people who I have seen grow over the years and mature into adulthood. It’s a surreal experience seeing pictures from earlier years. It’s hard to remember we were ever that small, that young and that clean-shaven.

The period of 2015-2021 was an interesting one in which to come of age. Every year there was a new world-wide development. My time in school saw the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the double trouble of Brexit and Trump and of course the outbreak of a deadly virus. I’m not sure I buy into the cliché of your teenage years being ‘‘the best days of your life’’(for God’s sake, let’s hope not!) but they are significant years. After all, this is when you come of age and grow into the person you go on to be. So, I suppose we have to give all those years of note-taking and exams that.

I remember all the experiences I had during the years and how they shaped me, from the aforementioned First Year Climb to the weeks spent with work experience to the Graduation itself. Although I wasn’t there for all the experiences, having skipped out on the Ski Trip and Fourth Year trip to Kilfinane, I’ll forever be grateful for the ones for which I was. Because of this it may come as no surprise that the most enjoyable year was Transition Year. Filmmaking was perhaps the best experience of all, with special mention to the TY Talent Show and Soccer Marathon as well. I often credit this year with shaping me into who I am today but I have to give attention to the other years as well. Every year it feels I have become more like myself. I learn more, meet new people and experience new things. As stated before, I was always uncomfortable with dramatic change but these years taught me a valuable lesson: change isn’t inherently good or bad. We may not have any control over what happens but what we can do is control how we respond. And sometimes, that really does make all the difference.

I recently had a conversation with my father. He told me that things that aren’t expected can often turn out to be more special and even sometimes more enjoyable. And looking at the end of Sixth Year, I can see what he means. This past year was difficult – there’s no point in debating that. And definitely not preferred. There was surely a lot of the Sixth Year experience that was missed this year including the entire months of January and February but perhaps that makes the accomplishments all the more impressive. I’ve certainly been tested like never before in the months since the first lockdown and sometimes it seemed as though it was just too much. But I endured, and things started to get better, several times. With everything that we’ve been through, it’s honestly a result that we’re all still here. We’re a historical year, in ways. I smile to myself thinking about how our Sixth Year class photos will stand out compared to previous years. And of course who could forget our newly-approved streaming graduation ceremony which gave an immensely different but thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the year. And now here we are, many of us facing down a multi-week period of exams and I’m sure that most of us would just to love to just get it over with and move on with our lives. But here I am, nostalgic over  my time spent here, warts and all.

I cast my mind back to that first day in First Year. The school seemed so massive and intimidating then and the day dragged on worse than a Shakespeare play. The very idea of being in Sixth Year and on the cusp of leaving school forever seemed inconceivable. Yet now, here I am, wishing there was more time in a way, not just to get more space between now and the dreaded exams but to have more time to spend in this pocket of time. ‘‘I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you left them,’’ as Andy Bernard says in the final episode of The Office. Because now, here we are, preparing to leave the ‘‘good old days’’ of childhood behind us. It’s bittersweet but I always like to see more value in the ‘‘sweet’’ part. It could be very easy for me to be bitter at what I missed out on and for what was not meant to be. But I’d rather be grateful for what I did experience and for what this school has given me. And, even after everything that was happened, I don’t think I’d change anything, apart from the removal of a global crisis obviously, but, regrettably, that was never in my power. My time in secondary school wasn’t perfect but it was my life and my choices. And that’s enough to be satisfied with, I think.

So to any fellow Sixth Years, congratulations. I may not know all your names but we’ve all come to the end of the road now. I wish all of you the very best in the future and am grateful for the time we spent as a group. And to any other years reading, I leave you with this; savour your time here because it won’t last forever. Leaving now, I’m proud to have been a student of Coláiste and Spioraid Naoimh. You might not have that feeling yet but hopefully you will someday. And when the time to say goodbye does come you may be surprised to find just how difficult it can be.

Signing off,

Jamie Keegan.