Chapter Four: Anna
Ambition is one of those things that is always a fatal flaw in Shakespeare. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Shakespeare but Macbeth is on our course this year, and Macbeth definitely has that fatal flaw.
You’d think Shakespeare, supposedly the greatest writer in the English language, would have been more sympathetic in dealing with ambition.
My aunt thinks I’m ambitious. Sorry, very ambitious. Possibly my mother agrees with her.
There is really no good way to use the word ambitious about someone, ever. It’s not just about setting goals and seeing the Big Picture and working your way towards something. It’s that element of ruthlessness, the implication that you would do anything to get what you want.
If you’re ambitious in Shakespeare, you will kill people who are standing in your way.
And then there’s the hint of presumptuousness. How dare you have such high expectations for yourself? How foolish of you. How dare you presume to think that you might achieve something? Don’t you know you’re not cut out for it?
I’m up in my bedroom even though there are still a handful of guests left downstairs. I open the notebook. My lists. In August, before school started, I wrote it down. The course list for the CAO, which I mean to fill out soon, even though the deadline isn’t for months. Medicine, medicine, medicine. And the points you need, the points I need, last year’s points plus ten or fifteen just in case. The points are supposed to be lower this year, so they say, but medicine never acts the way other courses do, and that’s not going to change in time to make a difference for me. I’ve accepted that.
To be absolutely safe I need six hundred. Six A1s at higher level. Biology, chemistry, accounting (which I am only taking because the timetable doesn’t let me do three sciences, and it is straightforward), maths (in which I am getting grinds because my teacher is absolutely hopeless and they won’t let anyone move into Ms Black’s class, refusing to admit that anyone on the staff might be incredibly incompetent – don’t even get me started on Mrs Fitzpatrick), English, Irish. I am still in the higher level French class but mean to drop down to pass so I can concentrate on my other subjects, the ones that I’ll be counting. It just seems dangerous to do that, because what if one exam goes horribly wrong?
In the notebook there is the list of all the tests in school, all the marks I’ve got this year, the numerical indicators of where I am going right and where I am going wrong.
This is not ambitious. If anything it’s a procrastination technique, making lists instead of studying.
I am not ambitious. I have no intention of killing anyone or bribing anyone or seducing anyone in order to get my way. Besides, they’ve a whole set of regulations about not sticking money inside your exam scripts, which I don’t think anyone would really do, even though people joke about it all the time.
This is how it works: you work. There is no secret way around the Leaving Cert. It is not ambitious to understand this, or to appreciate that you can either get into the course you want this way, or wait for years and years before you can try the graduate-route or mature-student thing.
Anna’s very ambitious. Please.
© Claire Hennessy 2008