Tag Archives: leaving school

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

Last night on Twitter, someone posted a wonderful question. It was this:

Twenty years ago (for that, horrifyingly, is how long ago 1997 is), I was about to leave school. I wasn’t the happiest of people, despite hindsight telling me, now, that I had far more going for me than I realised at the time. I was facing huge stress, and I was rather unhappy, and I had no real or proper idea what my life was going to be like, or how I was going to manage any of it.

In short, I was just like every other person in my school year. Each one of us faced exactly the same challenges and choices, looking down the same corridors of possibility and frozen in the terror of not knowing which was the right choice.

Now, of course, I know there is no right choice. There are just choices. Each of them bring you somewhere new, and every new place has its challenges. But if a person of the age I am now had attempted to tell school-leaving me this nugget of wisdom, I would have rolled my teenage eyes and completely ignored it, because of course I would.

The question on Twitter, however, really made me think. There are approximately ten million things I’d love to tell the ‘me’ of late April/early May 1997, not least of which is ‘you’ll get your heart broken in a few years, so badly that you think you’ll die – but you won’t,’ and ‘doing English at university is most definitely not a waste of time, no matter what anyone says.’ I plumped in the end for telling myself not to worry so much, which is a perennial piece of advice, but now I’m wondering if I’d be better off saying: ‘In twenty years, you’ll have achieved every single thing you wanted, and that’s great. But – and here’s the kicker – none of it will be as you expected.

None of it will be as you expected.

I wonder if I’d left school with the conviction that I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or a sea-captain, how things would be different. Instead, I left school with a nebulous headful of dreams, ideas of an artist’s life without any proper plan to make any of it real, and I settled into a series of unsatisfactory jobs – not that there was anything wrong with the jobs, as such; it was me who was at fault. I struggled for so many years to find out the things which made me real, which gave me purpose, and then I struggled for many years more to find the courage to follow the plans I finally made.

I wish, twenty years ago, someone I trusted had told me: trust yourself. Those things you feel awkward about, or which you’ve been made to feel are wrong, or which you’ve been encouraged to ignore? They’re all okay. They’re more than okay – they’re you. And one day, they’ll lead to you do a doctorate in a subject you adore, and a few years after that they’ll see you get an email with the subject line ‘You WILL be a published author!!’

(Not that I’d have really known what an email was in 1997, but let’s just go with it.)

That’s not to say that life is exactly as I want it, even now. I suppose that’s humanity, isn’t it? Stasis is death, or whatever. Yes, I have achieved everything I wanted to do, and if I were to turn around right now and meet the Reaper standing behind me, at least I could fall beneath his scythe and feel like I’d done something meaningful with the time I’d been given.

But there’s always more to be done. There are always more mountains to conquer. There is always going to be that little itch around your soul, the one which makes you wonder: ‘is this it? Could there be more?’

And so, me of 1997, this is what I want you to know: there is always more. Everything you do is a step in the right direction. You will never stop trying. There are no wrong choices. And, sometimes, dreams – even when they come true – aren’t what you expected, so you’ve got to keep dreaming them anew. Striving for your own happiness is not a mortal sin. (Also, music will never be better than it is right now.)

And that heartbreak really doesn’t kill you. Trust me on that one.

 

 

‘Wednesday’ Write-In #78

Alors! Apologies for being late with this week’s Wednesday Write-In, chers. Life – including a storm complete with winds strong enough to almost bash the windows in, a power supply which saw fit to flicker on and off, and hail fit to batter holes in the roof – interposed. But, to my very great delight, everything is fine, and things can resume as normal today. We got away lightly compared with some of the rest of the country, which has seen extensive damage and widespread power outages. Winter storms, eh? Great fun.

Incidentally, this is my fiftieth Wednesday Write-In. Incroyable.

This week’s words were:

maple :: collection :: coarse :: husky :: cigar smoke

Image: megthegrand.blogspot.com

Image: megthegrand.blogspot.com

The Morning After

We’d driven to the beach to watch the sunrise, a collection of people too random to be friends, but joined by an inexplicable and unspoken bond. Someone, from somewhere, had stolen a cigar; smoke hung in the air inside the car like incense, and the heavy scent of it was making me feel sick.

A guy in the back was humming a song I loved, one about the Maple Leafs and ladies with lacy sleeves. I settled into it like a favourite shoe, my eyes sliding closed, wanting so desperately to sing along, out loud.

‘Hey,’ said Robin, suddenly. ‘There it is.’ His voice was husky – too much shouting and not enough sleep the night before. ‘The sun, guys. It’s comin’ up. Our first day as adults!’ He pulled himself up using the steering wheel, the bowtie on his rented tux coming askew.

‘Oh, gimme a break,’ moaned Stacey, curled up like a golden lullaby in the corner of the back seat, her head tucked under Brian’s arm. ‘It’s too early for this.’

‘Well, sadly, the sun has been rising early in the morning for a very long time, my dear,’ said Brian, stroking her arm. Whimpering softly, she folded herself further into him and he shifted, slightly, to make room for her. I looked right at him, but he didn’t see me.

‘Hey, I wonder what we’ll all be doing a year from now,’ said the guy in the far corner – the one who’d been singing, I thought. I didn’t know his name, though I was pretty sure we’d had art class together.

‘Time, I should think,’ quipped Brian. Stacey slapped him in that gentle way that only pretty girls can get away with, and he laughed.

‘Bri-bri! Don’t be coarse,’ she said. ‘I’m sure we’ll all be doing wonderful things. You and I’ll probably be in college. And you!’ She pointed at me. ‘Shirley? Sharon?’

‘Sasha,’ I said.

‘God, sorry. Sasha. Of course. Well, I mean, you’ll probably be working, right? In the shop, with your dad?’

‘My uncle.’ I cleared my throat. ‘My dad’s dead.’

‘Oh. Wow.’

I lowered my eyes against the barrage of pitying stares that washed over me, and wished I’d just kept my mouth shut. A long, empty moment passed, and the sun crept up the sky like ink bleeding into a piece of paper.

‘You do know we’re never going to have a truer moment than this one, right here,’ said the guy who’d been singing, his eyes distant. ‘We’re never going to be, like, between things the way we are now. Not ever again. This is it. The turning point of our whole lives.’

Nobody said anything. The car filled up with sharp, harsh light, the sort of light that makes dust motes look like tiny Tinkerbells, and makes eyes sting and shutter themselves away. Already, it felt warmer in here. Crowded. Full.

‘Hey. Maybe we’d better get back, yeah? People will be wondering where we took off to.’ Robin’s voice was soft. He started the engine without looking at anyone, and had already started to pull away from the cliff’s edge before we’d even started settling our uncomfortable, unfamiliar clothes around us, and sitting straight in our slept-in seats.

I took one look back as we drove away. The sunlight danced across the sea, and the sky was like the inside of a blue bell.

It was going to be another beautiful day.