'Don’t give up on yourself': Irish LGBT+ activist who failed Leaving Cert shares inspiring message

As the Leaving Cert results are released, Conor Kelly explains how not getting perfect points doesn't mean it's the end of the world.

Young people studying for the Leaving Cert, a table before them with notepads and laptops

I failed the Leaving Cert. Truthfully, I am happy that I did because it taught me that if you fail, it’s not the end of the world.

It’s not because I didn’t study constantly for hours each day, because I did. I just wasn’t the kind of person who could handle the Leaving Cert and everything that came with it. I hated every moment of secondary school. Every day, I was called a ‘faggot’, ‘queer’ and disgusting names by people who bullied me constantly. 

From the very first day of first year, every teacher, relative and friend I knew told me that if you failed the Leaving, or didn’t get the grades you needed for college, your dreams are over and that’s it.

That’s not the truth and I’ll tell you why – because come September, I’ll be starting the second year of my degree in social work in TUD Blanchardstown even though I failed.

Secondary school years were the worst of my life – sometimes I still have nightmares about them. Secondary school doesn’t nurture young people as it should. The system is outdated and you are thrown out into the world having not been taught about such things as sexual health, consent, mental health, how to find jobs, your financial responsibilities, your fundamental rights as an Irish citizen and so so much more I could mention but it would take a list as long as O’Connell Street. But college is the most amazing thing. It’s beyond my wildest dreams and I’m so happy I got the opportunity to go.

So to every single person who reads this who has gotten their results – you are incredibly strong and brave. This is beginning of your life, you can and will succeed in life even if you happen to miss out on those points. There is a whole world out there so don’t give up!

Firstly, what you need to do is be proud of yourself for all the hard work you did.

Secondly, be happy you’re finished and celebrate.

Thirdly, move on with life, do what you love and do what is right by you.

I hope this brings you some comfort in knowing that if you didn’t get enough points in certain subjects, then just choose to do something different – because a person who is motivated is every employer’s and college’s dream. If you’re like me and education isn’t for you, get involved in volunteering and build on your strengths.

Just don’t give up on yourself. Reach out for help, because there’s no shame in that. Being vulnerable is a strength. Not a weakness.

Sometimes you must fail to succeed.

For young people in need of support, you can contact Samaritans Ireland here

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