An almost audible cyber-sigh passes around Facebook on Sunday teatimes when one of the Class of 1988 announces that they’ve put line-dried sheets on the bed and will be turning in early.
Someone fanatically houseproud chimes in to say that they’ve ironed their bed linen, and we laugh through a debate about which of us has the right lifestyle priorities.
Someone else uploads a set of photographs; a meander round a garden centre, a trip to a quiet spot on the coast.
And this is what we are now. The Class of 1988. About to start turning 40 and drifting a little further every day from being able to convince ourselves that we’re still really only 16.
I wonder what thought the 16 year olds we once were would have given to the things that matter to us now?
I wonder how they’d evaluate our progress in achieving the dreams that they were so keen on fulfilling?
We had the usual dreams of adolescence. Invincible hope for the future. An expectation that we could do anything, go anywhere. Be anything we wanted to be.
And perhaps we could have done those things, had we been blessed with a touch more bravery to match our hope.
By the time we became The Class of 1988 and finished our compulsory schooling that summer, we’d spent most of our lives in the company of a very small group of people.
We were thrown together in a school that educated all of the children from our small industrial Yorkshire town and its surrounding villages. We were the children of accountants, factory workers, farmers and doctors.
And I don’t think that any of us had any idea that our roots would have any impact on our futures.
For most of us, our dreams were lost or swallowed up at some time within the last twenty or so years. Mostly when our minds were wandering into other priorities and the responsibilities that come with adulthood.
For some of us, we’ve done the things that we were destined to do. Found a place within the world that suits us and feels safe, even if it isn’t the life that we dreamed of.
I have albums of photographs taken at school; in classrooms, in fields and in the playgrounds that we used to hang around in looking nonchalant and cool. I have pictures of boys whose names I can’t remember, leaping on top of each other to pose in jumbled heaps of fashion, hormones and oversized feet. They’re the pictures that my dad repeatedly urged me to write on the back of to help me to remember names that would one day become as blurred as the pictures were.
They’re the boys who I’d spend hours talking to other girls about, ranking them in order of looks and personality, consuming ourselves with which surname would fit best with our first names. Practicing signatures and considering tactics.
And those girls that I spent hours talking to were the people who helped to shape my future and my values. We learned about life together. About broken hearts and fashionable skirts and the right kind of music to listen to. And we talked about the things that really mattered to us and about the people we wanted to become.
However much we’ve grown up and grown old, however distant our weekend activities are from those we enjoyed all that time ago, most of us are actually still the same in our hearts. A bit battered by life, perhaps, but we’ve managed to hold on to the things that are important.
And so this week, in the week that the first of us will turn 40, I’m raising my cocoa mug to all of us from the Class of 1988. And to all of those across the world who’ll be turning 40 this school year.
Here’s to life really beginning.
I wrote this piece for a Prompt at Write on Edge – our challenge was to “write about a season of change for your character or you.” I loved writing it, and wandering through from one time of our lives to another. I’ve also loved the wonderful responses that I’ve had since writing it; I think that nostalgia for schooldays is something that connects lots of us – wherever we are in the world.