Next month it is 10 years since I took my final A level exam and left school. This weekend I am marking the occasion with a mini reunion with two of my best friends from the two years of 6th form, E and K. E is one of my oldest friends, and we've known each other for approaching two decades; we've stayed in touch pretty much constantly since leaving school, having a routine whilst at university of emailing each other on a certain day of the week, that lasted through several years of work before life has just got too busy. Although K and I were good friends, we have only met once in the last eight years which was at my wedding lunch last summer. I'm pretty sure we can pick up where we left off and am looking forward to filling in the gaps and having fun like we used to - there's something very comfortable about being in the company of the people who saw you through your inappropriate crushes and inability to choose clothing.
It's got me thinking though as milestones always do (and I haven't even had to navigate the minefield that is a school reunion yet), about what we've achieved in the last decade, and how much or how little of that could have been predicted then. E and K and I *were* all clever, getting reasonable GCSE results, and in the case of E and myself, excellent A level results that took us to Oxbridge, but never really lauded as being clever by our school. Since then, between us, we all have first degrees (2:1s), there's a Masters (with distinction), and a PHD that's nearly completed. Along with a myriad of professional qualifications in both librarianship and tax accountancy.None of us had boyfriends (except K, briefly) at school, yet one of us is married, and we all own property with our partners, and have been with them for 8, 5 and 4 years respectively. My inability to cover a Christmas cake neatly hasn't stopped me from successfully making my own wedding cake, and E's procession of unfinished sewing projects doesn't prevent her from making cushions and other things for her house with her own sewing machine. My Physical Education teachers would be astounded by the fact that I regularly choose to enter competitive events and that I swim in excess of 20km every week and recently completed a 10k swim followed by a triathlon only a fortnight late. I could go on.
I'd like to be able to tell my 18 year old self that you never really know what's round the corner. You may feel that you have been set upon a certain path, but you don't know how that works out; I wonder if that is the sort of advice my 38 year old self will want to give my 28 year old self? In some ways I am entering a period of stability in my life with a marriage and home ownership - but so many things are uncertain. Who knows what another ten years will bring?
Oh, and who'd have thought that we'd end up in the garden centre at the pyo fruit farm that I took the ladies to buying plants? Seems city dwellers (unlike suburban me) don't get access to proper countryside or gardens very often. Or that we then spent at least an hour discussing our respective vegetable growings?
Mavis Gallant’s “A Recollection” (1983)
22 hours ago