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Cultural Context - I'm Not Scared, The Great Gatsby, All My Sons for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

“The world of a text, and how it affects the behaviour of central characters, can influence a reader’s response to the events that take place”.With the Comparative, you will end up covering the same points in many essays - but your angle really matters. The essay below tries really hard to fit a Literary Genre take onto a Cultural Context title. This greatly sabotages the all-important P of PCLM. Also, it's better to paraphrase than to misquote. You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€). 
#625Lab (a) Discuss the extent to which this statement applies to at least one central character in one of the texts on your comparative course. Support your answer with reference to the text.
In light of the above statement, the film “I’m Not Scared” by Gabriel Salvatores contains central characters that are corrupt and immoral because of the world they live in. The world of the text is revealed through many aspects which I will discuss below. These aspects affected the cha…

Write a personal essay about one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced #625Lab

This essay below is a beautiful exemplar of the genre of personal essay, full of cathartic confessions, teenage going on middle-aged angst and some incredibly deep insights and lessons learnt. It would be better to cut it down a little bit, just to make sure that you have enough time in the exam.

Here is another personal essay of the same title about sexuality and another about a divorce. This one is about moving school. You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€). 

As an adolescent, discussing uncertainty often sounds like a whine; a call for attention. Yes, we understand you have exams and you don’t know what to do with your life. I’ve been there and look at me now, a really successful accountant with a spanking high pay check! Even though I’m millions in debt, divorced, I hate my job and never see my children because of my schedule, don’t worry!

All of us have heard or been able to perceive something along these lines before, and I feel horrifically ungrateful even typing that, but it’s the reality for a lot of “advice” that we get regarding stresses and worry we have for our futures. 

For many of us, our parents and their generation are in jobs they don’t get satisfaction from, their lives are riddled with bills, budgets, mortgages and other big-people words that I, as a 17-year-old, am trying to push as far away as I can for now. Some part of me knows the inevitable reality of these adult things and responsibilities that loom miserably closer and closer with every year that comes. I know that one day, despite complaining bitterly about homework, all I will have to amuse me at home will be mountains of clothes to iron and tumble dry, dishes to wash, cheques to write and such; a cycle that will continue for the rest of my life. Am I a grossly unenthusiastic pessimist? Does this make me immature? I often feel that it does, and distress over the horror I feel when I imagine my days being filled with such futile repetitive tasks. Millions of adults do it every day, can I not just act like a grown up and do the boring things in life that adults have to do? Despite it obviously being a fundamental part of life, I can’t help but feel that there is so so much more to life than this cycle. There has to be. I refuse to follow any such path, even if it means being skint for a while.

The pressure to be successful in this world of greed and power is overwhelming, and every day of school is like a suffocating grip of uncertainty at what I’m even doing everything for. Why do I even want these points so badly? Will a prestigious, high-earning course even make me happy? At the end of August when the results come in, what does that mean for me? What do I even want from my life? Such a big part of me wants desperately to start fresh, something I’ve subtly been trying to do for years now with each time I move school. But I’m talking on a whole new level here- cut contact with everyone I’ve ever known and start from scratch in Chile as a Buddhist Monk and live in an adorable little shack by the coast, working for my means and hunting my food. At the same time, I have an intense desire to make an actual success out of my life, like save lives or pull off ridiculously complicated cases and burn tracks in the world of my peers. Why is it so difficult to make these decisions?

I question my future almost compulsively, every day of my life. If there’s one thing that makes my skin crawl and my eyes roll in self loathing, it’s talking about myself as if I were a special snowflake. I know how annoying it is. But this is a personal essay, so I suppose I have some window of opportunity here. 

I recently moved to a school that is the complete opposite to my previous in almost every way. Firstly, there are no boys. A lot more dramatic than it sounds, trust me. Secondly, I didn’t know a soul and was leaving my best friend behind. Thirdly, it was almost violently catholic- my old school was somewhat religious, but we never had actual Masses in a church or anything along the lines of a “Rosary Club”. Not that there’s anything wrong with these things, please don’t misunderstand me as a cynic, but it was just so different for me. So holy. So many prayers. And finally, the school was full of city people. After going to a hugely diverse, much more rural school for quite some time, being amongst city dwellers was surreal. Everyone seemed to be a Starbucks Gold member, owned Juicy Couture velvet tracksuits and at least three pairs of Uggs. Fashion statements back in culchie-land were GAA jersey’s and hi-tops tucked into fluffy socks. No one knew what Juicy Couture was. 

As a blissfully ignorant reader, you may think these statements are insane. However, they are the fundamental reasons I worried myself sick for upwards of about a year, following on into fifth year when I had to actually learn things and do actual work and all that good stuff. My parents and I came to a unanimous decision towards the end of summer 201x to move me to a more academically focused school that would hopefully help me achieve my dreams of high points. Looking back, I seriously think we all needed to calm down a bit and making me move schools wasn’t exactly necessary, but I can’t even stress enough how happy I am we did.

However, at the time, it felt like the worst decision I’d ever made in my entire, nonsensical life. It didn’t even hit me that I was actually uprooting everything safe and familiar until I was walking up that awful steep hill in the vomit-inducing bag of a uniform. I actually really like it now though; it’s grown on me. Sort of like a mould, or a bacterial culture. Anyway, when we made the initial decision I thought I was so cool and grown up and impulsive, making choices on the basis of my long term well-being, look at me! That lasted about 36 hours, and I went weeping to my mother that we had made a terrible, terrible mistake but it was too late; she’d confirmed it with the school and I was to attend the induction in four days’ time. I genuinely spent those four days dragging up every photo and article ever written about Mount Elsewhere and the people, the teachers, the modules, the trips, everything imaginable. I’m pretty sure I got the whole way back to 2013 on the Twitter page.

See for most, uncertainty universally means the same thing, but affects certain people in more severe ways. The first few months after I started at this school, I generally had about four hours sleep a night, awful moments where I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was suffocating, and fully discovered the divine invention of coffee and how to pretend like you’re not having an existential crisis between classes. At the time, I genuinely thought being in a single-sex school had made me severely uncool and awkward, and ridiculously it took me over a year to realise it was simply an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, this continues to plague me even in my moments of absolute certainty, or when I feel like I actually am getting my life together for once. Perhaps this is why this essay title caught my eye so swiftly. Writing it now I feel ridiculous and melodramatic, but uncertainty is laced into every day of my life.

Another moment of ambiguity that sticks out like a sore thumb for me is when we moved to Ireland in 2008. You’d swear we uprooted our entire life from Bangladesh or something wild, but we’d only been living in the States for seven years. It might not sound hugely significant, but for me, it was the biggest thing that had happened in my entire life. I remember hazily, one day coming home from school with my brother at the harmonious age of five, to see my mother standing sheepishly, with a heartbreakingly hopeful smile on her face, next to a “for sale” sign that was planted firmly in our front lawn. Our initial reaction was ecstasy; an entirely new house with new bedrooms to paint and friends to be made, a new school and new plastic-covered copybooks, even a new language. It all happened very fast because my grandmother was dying and my we wanted to move closer to home while she still had time. 

Being caught up in this whirlwind of so many emotions and changes at such a young age took its toll more heavily than expected, and shortly after we moved to Ireland I became very problematic. I missed everything terribly, with a sense of loss almost abnormal for someone so young. I remember clearly that I used to have a best friend with very curly blonde hair called Anna. Anna had a fish-pond with a bridge which we used to dangle our arms over and search for goldfish until we got pins and needles and had to go back inside for some more juice. In this new place, no one had a fish-pond with a bridge, and because I had an American accent, they didn’t want to have me over to play at their houses anyway. It was really hard for a few years, and for a long, long time I resented and doubted us ever moving. This uncertainty about uprooting a life I’d never truly appreciated followed me through most of primary school, where I moved schools yet again at the age of nine. 

This time you’d have expected me to be more prepared after already attending two schools. How chronically wrong we are to think that. I crashed and burned in that school, but despite hating almost every moment of it I have some very happy memories that are separate from my peers there. Again I was hugely doubtful about my move to this new school; my previous two had been mixed schools and generally open-minded with students from many financial and ethical backgrounds. This was all-girls and highly religious, without even a male teacher in the entire faculty. I was hit like a truck from day one in my third and thankfully last primary school, though when I think about my time there it’s almost hysterically funny considering how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed. Almost every girl’s mother had a spanking new BMW that her unseen husband had bought for her as well as a conspicuous pair of diamante Prada sunglasses. All students had been taught how to knit and sew and say the rosary perfectly by third class, and everyone wore an Abercrombie or Hollister dress for their confirmation. If you didn’t, you were poor or a freak. Because of the reserved and upper-class nature of the environment and I being so obviously different, my few years there were riddled with uncertainty, anxiety and settlement issues.

I’m searching for some way to make this whole thing somewhat positive but for me, uncertainty has never, ever been a good thing. I’m still struggling day by day to accept that it’s simply part of the modest package that life gives us, and at the same time it’s a gift and a curse. Not to sound grotesquely cliché, but the ambiguous concept of the future is what makes it so exciting yet so daunting. There has been more uncertainty in my life than the latter in any case, but I feel that this has completely developed into my greatest strength- flexibility. Without a little bit of doubt, I would never have been able to cope with new people and situations, a concept I think is irrefutably essential in today’s world. Despite the misery and trepidation that uncertainty has caused me, I don’t think I’d like the person I would have been without it very much at all.

Write a personal essay about one or more moments of uncertainty you have experienced

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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