School Daze

Here's something I've been writing for a job application, but I thought I might just put it on here as something for y'all to read and think about...

A friend said to me the other day, “you’re going to look back in 20 years and think of your school days as the best days of your life”. This sentence struck terror in my heart. Am I alone in hoping that every year will be better than their school years? Am I the only person who would prefer to never see anyone they went to school with again? Was my negative experience of school all that unusual? I decided to ask around. 

My experience of school was at an all-girls boarding school, set in 100 acres, and surrounded by absolutely nothing. It’s a well-known school, one that has seen Kate Middleton, Clare Balding and Lady Gabriella Windsor come and go, and has produced two members of the reality TV show Made in Chelsea. I had moved to the UK from Australia, to take up a music scholarship that had been offered to me, and prior to arriving, I had hopes that attending a boarding school would be an experience akin to that of Hogwarts, or Mallory Towers. And I’m sure, to most of my year, it was - it’s just that my experience was very different. Coming from Australia to an all-girls boarding school can lend you a certain caché - if you fit the stereotype of blonde, lithe and tanned, and came shooting out of the womb ready to master every sport. Unfortunately, this was not me. I was awkward-looking, to put it lightly: long red-brown hair, pale, freckles and sticky-out ears, with low self-confidence and bad posture (to try and conceal the fact that I already had tits, age 11, how embarrassing). I also knew no-one, and everybody seemed to already know each other. It was a club that I was not a member of, a party that I wasn’t invited to. I will not bore you with the details of bad episodes at the hands of other girls - I will only say it did happen, and it made my life very hard and very lonely. I arrived an intelligent girl, ahead in all her studies, and quickly became the class joker - sacrificing my academic performance for a performance I hoped would gain me some friends. Popularity, both in and outside of school, ruled my life, and I spent years ‘perfecting’ myself for others’ approval. I left school with one good friend, and with a burning desire to never return, and to distance myself entirely. I was also tired. Tired of the cruelty that comes from girls who spend 24 hours in each other’s company with nothing else to do but form social hierarchies. I was tired of trying to be someone else for someone else, and the never-ending pressure that puts on oneself. I was ready for a change, and university offered me a clean slate to do so. I had escaped from the spider’s web that is the public school network, and, for the first time ever, decided to just be myself. Ironically, I now find it easier to make friends than I did at school, because I’m not bothered about whether they think that reply to their question was ‘weird’, if my outfit is too over-thought or contrived, or whether my ears stick out too much with my hair tied up. 

This isn’t to say that I look down upon, or pity, those who can reminisce about their school days as their ‘golden years’. I wish I had such fond memories as many of you do. But ask yourselves this: if your ‘best days’ were those spent in an institution as an awkward teen, where do you go from there? How can you put the most into your life, here and now, if you believe that it’s never going to improve on what it was at 18? For me, my many failings and unhappiness at school have spurred me on to seek success through happiness for my future; to focus not on what I haven’t had, but focus on what I could have. My very own pursuit of happiness, if you will. But don’t just listen to me. Here are some of your thoughts on the subject.

“Would you say your school days were the best days of your life?” 

Edmund, 21: I was indifferent towards my time at school. I didn’t have a bad experience, but I prefer my life since school. I’d probably say the best days of my life were on my Gap Year - no responsibilities, and the ability to do whatever I wanted.

Rosie, 21: YES! not the classes but 6th form was the best time ever. Turning 18, big parties and with everyone. You see everyone you're closest to every single day and you don’t miss them! I loved school.

Harry, 21: I had a great time at school, it was awesome fun - but I’ve had a better time at uni so far. Why would I resign myself to the belief that was as good as its going to get - I’m not even a third of the way through my life!

James, 20: The first six years were tough, but I look back proudly at where I've come from - living with your friends for 7 years was a good experience and prepared me well for the future. Some of the best and worst days of my life no doubt.

Hannah, 21: Yes, but only the last two years.

Louis, 17: School is food on your plate, money in your bank account, clothes on your back, a nice warm bed just for you, and a house full of love. The only thing you have to worry about is whether or not your doing well at school, or petty arguments that you have with your friends/enemies. Even if you fall out with someone, nothing really matters, as soon those will all be in the past. The things which will later tear you apart, such as job interviews, extra work, and true love crisis' are long in the future. All you have to worry about is yourself, and even though that might seem selfish, it’s really a huge relief. Childhood and your school days are a dream come true.

Claire, 20: I'd say that upper sixth, along with my experiences at university, would be what id call the best years of my life so far. the years before are just full of awkward  trying-to-fit-in moments and bratty young teenage girls!

My Friend's Mum (age withheld, obv): Are you serious!! I am very nostalgic about school days but they are nothing like what your generation will have as even a remotely similar experience...

Iona, 21: It’s like marmite...I love it because I met some interesting people, and learnt the occasional interesting thing, and I never had to pay bills, or check the oil in my car. Everything seemed more exciting with rules you could break without a spell behind bars. However, kids are mean, and money was available from a tap only my parents could turn on. All in all you could say that they were, although, there is no time but the present, and when school was my present I couldn't wait to leave. So on that note, no - school days were not the best days of my life, I'm still looking for them.

Then and Now - what a difference 10 years makes.

What was your experience of school? 

Belle x



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