real life

"I wish I was still the person I was in high school."

I’m eternally grateful that smart phones weren’t permanently grafted to people’s hands when I was in high school.

I’ve lived through many awkward adolescent moments in my time, moments that definitely have no business finding their forever home on the world wide web.

There’s the many times I stepped onto the school bus with my hair wound up in an ornate cluster of butterflies, flowers and chopsticks…and the many times the nuns promptly confiscated it all as soon as I stepped through the school gates.

Then there was the time I toppled into a creek during Year 10 camp and was then locked out of my cabin, condemning myself to a night spent shivering in damp clothes and mud splattered socks. Or the glorious day I accidentally removed half an eyebrow during an ill-fated makeover attempt (thanks for nothing, Cosmo) and had to fish an old pen out of the deepest depths of my school bag and try to etch in a replacement.

Needless to say, the result was less Cara Delevingne and more Cruella de Vil.

Thankfully, a lot of things have changed since those old high school days. These less-than flattering tales now only emerge on the occasions when my high school friends and I get together and only then am I forced to deal with my teenage self.

That’s the wonderful (and sometimes terrible) thing about having your world filled with people who knew you during a dark time in your life, a time when you truly believed temporary glitter tattoos were an edgy fashion statement.

It’s been years since we walked out of those school gates for the last time, and since then whenever our conversations take on a ‘now vs then’ vibe, we all admit that while our school days were hilarious and wonderful and memorable, we’re happier with the people we are now.

In many cases we’ve swapped angst for empathy, uncertainty for decisiveness and DIY eyebrow maintenance for professional assistance (thank God).

But now, as we reach the end of our 20’s, we’re finding our lives stuck in a mundane cycle of grudging acceptance and endless routine. Suddenly, the lost traits from those idealistic 15-year-old girls of school days past aren’t looking so bad.

Instead of that age old question “what do you wish you could tell your high school self?” the question we’re asking each other has suddenly become “what do you wish your high school self could tell you?”.

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“I was a lot less cynical back in high school (I think),” said one of my high school comrades. ” And I don’t do much for myself now, I used to do drama, swimming, late night walks and read lots of books.”

“I wish I had the bravado I had as a teenager,” said another friend. “I have more fear as an adult than I ever did as a teen, less self confidence, less self worth. And I miss the way I would talk with such imagination, passion and ferocity. I’ve just re-read a blog I kept in high school and was so much more honest with myself then than I am now.”

“When I was younger I was so much better at always seeing the best in people,” one added. “I still try to be that positive person, but with age comes the experience of being burnt and it’s harder to look past people’s faults or things they have done to hurt you.”

“I wish I laughed as much as I did then,” one said. “We laughed until we couldn’t breathe back then. I hardly ever laugh like that anymore… Though I’m sure I’m no less funny.”

As the conversation continued I decided that, questionable fashion choices aside, I too longed for my teenage self. The days when I allowed myself to think bigger and better, days where I felt no embarrassment about putting myself forward. Days where I’d sing on stage, plot wonderful yet totally impractical career plans, live my life in stories and constantly feel like things were just beginning.

That mindset is, of course, not completely sustainable in the real world. Yet I didn’t mean to completely toss it away along with maths tests, uniforms and everything else I hated about school.

And it appears my high school friends think I’ve done just that, with this message popping up on the secret Facebook group we share now that our lives have spiralled off in different directions.

“Laura, I wish you still had the same unshakable passion for your favourite things. You’re still very passionate about the things you love, but like all of us you put mundane life ahead of your imagination. Not a criticism by any means, just a nostalgic observation.”

And so, like the sappy, idealistic and often ridiculous people we were back then, we’re going to try to live, laugh and dream just like those girls used to do.

But maybe I’ll leave the chopsticks out of my hair.

What high school trait do you wish you still had? 

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