Tomorrow I commence my final year of school.
I should be quaking like an ant under a too-heavy crumb, marvelling at my great age, or panicking when I can’t feel its purported greatness. I should be looking in the mirror every five minutes to check I’m still the same person and not going to reverse my own growth cycle or spontaneously combust or break out in hives before tomorrow.
In reality, I’m sitting in front of my computer screen trying to conjure up some fragment of feeling. When I started driving a month ago I knew I wasn’t as scared as I should be. Some people curse out loud; I don’t even curse in my head. It’s like everything is distanced from me, happening only to the effigy I made of myself and not a breathing being.
Tomorrow I start my fourteenth of fourteen years of school!!! In a year’s time I’ll be leaving home, packing up and going to live overseas, completely on my own!!!
No matter how many exclamation marks I use, the hammer doesn’t drop. I trust it will; and probably at the least convenient time.
So instead of looking forward, under the pressure of being practical and trying desperately to freak out as I ought to be doing (??!!), I’ll look back and analyse what last year, my first year of Sixth Form, has given me.
Firstly, it’s been the best year since I turned a teenager.
Not because it hit all the ‘defining moments’ of teenage existence (well, not the stereotypical ones). No; this year I’ve been discovering Who I Am. When your brain is rearranging itself, you’re so many things at once we lose sight of our own identities, or never had them, but recently things have been coming together in my head.
A long time ago…
I was a goody-two-shoes, an admittedly sheltered youngest child. Either people liked me or they mocked me—but I don’t suppose I was great to mock, since I was too naïve to catch the mockery. I thought I was an animal-person, a nature-person.
As with most people, it all went wrong somewhere—perhaps not somewhere specific, but ‘go wrong’ ‘it’ did. The last day of Year 11 I still date as one of the happiest days of my life. Not because I especially hated school, but because study leave was the right thing for me. I’d waited years to get this—trusted to study alone, at home, independently, without anyone on my back (except my mum). I confess I spent more of study leave watching film commentaries than working (it was fantastic), but hey. Freedom!
Sixth Form is an extension of that independence.
Thanks to the abomination that was the new timetables, my lunchtimes and free periods never clashed with any of the lovely people I affect to call ‘friends’. So I worked/wrote/NaNo-ed without interruption; I sat on my own in ‘the link’, a glass bridge/corridor linking the main school to the Sixth Form Centre, where it’s quiet and airy, and I watch people going past and eavesdrop on their conversations.
Some people know I sit there. “You’re always here on your own,” they say, “you look lonely.”
Once that might’ve bothered me. Now I feel proud. I can sit alone in the link and not feel rubbish about myself—that’s one massive thing this year has given me.
Not having a uniform is another of the great things.
A year ago this terrified me. I didn’t have any smart clothes—nothing but jeans! I was scared about people thinking me a slob if I didn’t change outfit every day. As for the pressure of looking good in a new way EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING…
In reality, most people wear the same outfits two or three times a week, and you begin to associate them with certain garments, which is cool in itself. I went shoe-shopping for the first time ever, and am now known for my red: these gorgeous red leather clown-shoes (my first heels), red jacket made of some material with a satin-y sheen, translucent red glasses, red ‘20s-style hat. Oh, and long wavy red hair (but that’s natural). It’s self-expression, and so invigorating!
I never cared for clothes till six months ago; now I love finding new ways to make a skirt ‘work’.
It’s a common misconception that uniform equalises everyone. Well, in my experience it doesn’t, because if you have crap skin like me you’re dismissed. Now if I wear a lacy cardigan and a long skirt, I stand out anyway—it actually gives me a chance to be complimented.
So I’m rabbiting on about being content with my life because I’m secure in Who I Am, and you’re wondering Who the Hell I Am.
I’m the only Sixth Former and the only girl who goes to the bridge club, I have a protégé four years younger whom I love like a brother. I wear a rosary. I break conversations to squee about my subconscious solving a maths question. I’m known for cynicism, but I’m no longer scared of anyone younger than me, asking teachers awkward questions, or starting religious arguments. Finally, I’ve developed hand gestures the way island folk know best.
And this summer, I’ve learnt that I’m the kind of person who wears ‘funky’ trousers. I never knew—and I’ve certainly never had any wildly-patterned lower half garments—but…it’s just me.