Back in December – doesn’t that feel like a long time ago! – when I came home from uni for Christmas break, I had to go back to my old secondary school for what they call the ‘Celebration of Achievement’ evening. Essentially, it’s where we pick up the certificates for our GCSEs/A Levels, some people get special awards, and a person always makes a speech which is usually about hard work. I’ve been to it before, but that was while I was still attending. Going back was weirdly enlightening.
First off, obviously pretty much nothing had changed. It looked exactly the same as when I left, which was only to be expected six months later. But the really strange part was that, where leaving had felt entirely natural, coming back felt seriously alien. I don’t know why, but I never really considered the idea of ever entering the school again after I walked out that final day in summer. Going back in, seeing various old schoolmates, it was all really odd. I’d never felt so out of place in my life.
What was quite fascinating was seeing the amount of people in my year who didn’t go to university. I was sort of aware that not a tremendous amount of us did, but when I say that none of my friends from school are at university, I do indeed mean none of them. Two are working in the town centre in retail stores (although one of them is on a gap year), one has an apprenticeship in London… Other friends I’m not so close with are also staying home. I know another who’s on a gap year, but she just appears to be tutoring a couple of hours a week at the moment.
I’m not judging these people, really, it’s just an odd thing for me to realise. University was never a doubt or a question for me, but so many of the people I grew up with barely even gave it a second thought. Just seems strange.
Returning to my old school taught me another thing: some people just aren’t going to change. There’s this girl who I’ve known pretty much my whole life – same primary school, same secondary school, same piano teacher for goodness’ sake – and she is without a doubt the snootiest, prissiest, most full of herself girl I have ever had the displeasure to meet. (Well, a teacher at my old school could give her a run for her money but I’m trying to make a point.) Anyway, she got one of those special awards, something like ‘best contribution to school life’ and she just made such a show of collecting it. Unfortunately she was sitting next to me at the time, so I got front row seats to her clearly rehearsed show of standing, putting her hand to her chest as she shook her head with a poor attempt at a modest smile, and sashaying her way up to the stage.
I didn’t watch her actually collect her award because talking to my friend was frankly more interesting, but still. It’s just astounding how absolutely high her opinion of herself is. And it always has been. Good for her, in a way, I guess – I doubt she’ll ever be so aware of reality that she realises how many people see her walk past and just frown with disbelief.
I know it’s sort of harsh to take the mick about someone like this, but it’s not like I disclosed names or anything. Usually I am 100% behind that #girllove movement Superwoman/Lilly Singh promotes, but some people are simply not made to get along.
Anyway, one final thing that returning to my old school taught me was that I am in no way sad that it’s over, nor eager to return. Ever. I was completely ready for the switch and nothing’s changed. School was a place I found a load of opportunities, but also felt extremely caged. It seemed so full of various injustices and stupidity, and feeling so out of place upon return was absolute confirmation that I am not destined to work in a school environment.