Helping you get through tough times

Learning from your mistakes

We’re all allowed make mistakes, the thing is to not let them define you. Here’s a story from a supporter who worked hard towards what they wanted after floundering at school. Sound familiar at all?

Poppy in a field. Photo: Eoin PluinceidI never liked school. There were certain subjects I liked – English and history – but the rest of it I wasn’t too bothered about. As a result, I was a bit of a messer. I just found myself totally bored in school.

Understanding the square root of π wasn’t something I cared about; having a laugh with my friends was always my top priority.

Pointless subjects

I was continuously in trouble and usually quite noticeable in the classroom for all the wrong reasons. I just wasn’t interested in maths or science subjects.

I knew I’d never go on to study them and thought being forced to study them for my Leaving Cert was pointless. (To be honest, I still think it is. Generally, people either have an aptitude for arts based subjects – history, English, languages etc – or maths and science based subjects).

Fighting it

But, being forced to study things you’re not particularly interested in continues throughout life, in different forms. So fighting it and making a nuisance of myself was utterly pointless. I should have just put my head down and got on with it.

Noticed absences

The problem with being known as a troublemaker in school is your absence is noticed when you skip class. So I got caught a few times on the hop, which only landed me in more trouble.


Like most of my peers, I began drinking in my mid teens. I began experimenting with cannabis as well. In my wisdom as a 17-year-old, I began to occasionally smoke hash in school. I have no idea why I started doing this.

Unsure about future

I was in sixth year at this stage and my Leaving Cert wasn’t far away. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed writing short stories and had a vague interest in journalism. I was interested in current affairs.

At the private school I went to, it was a given that most of us would go on to third level study. Although I wasn’t a dedicated student, I generally did ok if I put my mind to it, which wasn’t all that much.

I got caught smoking hash in school and was expelled. Looking back, it was a stupid thing for me to do.

Messed up

There was only eight weeks left until my Leaving Cert, so I had to teach myself the rest of the course work. I sat my exams and didn’t do brilliantly. I did ok, but didn’t get the 400 plus points I needed to get into the courses in journalism I’d applied to.

I didn’t realise how disappointed I’d be. Getting kicked out of school messed up the last couple of months for me but I really have no-one to blame but myself.

Alternative path

Looking around for alternative ways to get into journalism I found there were lots of FETAC diploma courses I could apply for. I got into one and was delighted with myself.

We were told that it’s very hard to get a job in a newspaper/radio/TV. At this point I’d decided this was the only thing I was interested in and wasn’t going to fail. On some level, I probably wanted to prove to the school I’d attended that I wasn’t a total waster and was capable of achieving something.

After the diploma, I got into an add-on degree course and then went on to study for a masters degree in journalism. I was very determined and focused.

Hard work

Succeeding in journalism – like most careers – is more about being motivated and working hard than skill. Journalism is also a lot about luck as well as determination. I’ve certainly been very lucky as well as putting in a lot of hard work. I work for a national newspaper now and specialise in a specific area of news.

I love my job. I know of so many journalism graduates who can’t get work in this difficult industry. I’ve met a few people over the years from school, who’ve been surprised that I have a half decent career after being such a messer in school. They expected me to be stacking shelves.

Learn from mistakes

When you’re a teenager (and an adult) you make mistakes. I certainly did. But if there’s something you really want to do and are prepared to put in a lot of hard work to get there, just go for it. Never let your past mistakes hold you back. They can sometimes motivate you to work harder.

What can I do now?

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