Leaving school comes with a large dose of nostalgia

Our young blogger Charlotte blogs about how she feels upon leaving school.

Last Monday, I went up to school and handed in my leaver's form. After 13 years in the school system, I have been released into the world of adulthood. I am deemed to be mature enough now to tackle anything life throws at me. After 13 years, I have finally done it. I have Left School.

When I was five, I imagined the end of school to be a blissful utopia. No more teachers! No more bullies! No more maths! However, now I have - like, I presume, most young people currently in my position - mixed feelings. Being out of routine for the first time since I can remember freaks me out a little, and I am, of course, going to miss a great number of teachers and classmates. On the other hand, saying a defiant goodbye to certain members of staff and pupils, with whom I didn’t always see eye to eye, has been a delicious upside to leaving school.

Overall, though, the one major side effect of all these conflicting emotions which I have noticed above everything else significantly outweighs any euphoric feelings about leaving school. Irritatingly, my brain seems to have chosen now, three months before my eighteenth birthday and a time of bank accounts, job-seeking and preparation for moving away from home, to flood itself with nostalgia and a wistful longing for my childhood. A time when I thought that cash machines were magic holes in the wall out of which infinite amounts of money would pour; a time when nobody in my family could do any wrong; a time when the only major worry I had was the fact that my best friend from school had been seen, by several witnesses, to be talking to another girl.

In short, I appear to have gone a bit Peter Pan.

Growing up is a funny thing. It has led me to discover family rifts and conflicts I never knew existed. I can remember the warm, magical feeling at five years old when I trusted absolutely everybody around me, and when everybody in my family seemed like the bee’s knees simply because I was related to them. Now, as with any family, the impressions I have formed about the characters of various family members over the years contradicts this rose-tinted idealism, and I miss that blind loyalty, as well as the happy ignorance of the years passing by. Throughout my childhood, my grandparents made DVDs chronicling my childhood over the years, capturing my progress from baby to teenager on video camera. Now, with my grandmother having dementia and her memory worsening each month, those precious years feel like a lost world, something which I can never snatch back.

In 2015, Sam Rowe wrote in the Daily Telegraph article Kidulthood: why are we terrified of growing up? that “we’re becoming a generation of commitment phobic ‘kidults’”. Rowe puts this down to “the rising trend of avoiding marriage, parenthood and a career,” and asks the question “is becoming a grown-up so cripplingly scary that it’s worth mutating our own neurology?”

Answer: duh! Of course it is. I’d give anything to have my childhood all over again, if only to postpone adulthood. I’d love to feel as excited about Christmas as I did when I was six. I’d love to be able to sob into my mother’s shoulder about bank account applications, driving tests and part-time jobs (or lack of them) and have her say “It’s all going to be fine,” rather than “You’re right. You are going to have to sort everything out. Today.”

Of course, the obvious reason for my refusal to embrace the encroaching menace of adulthood is because I’m a lazy, snowflake millennial, and too privileged to know any better. But Rowe had it right, in a way. I am, to some extent, afraid of commitment and responsibility, though I’m fully aware it’s going to come whether I like it or not. But I don’t think it’s the commitment that I have trouble really accepting. It’s the disappearance of childhood trust, naiveté and blind love for the world and people. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, summed up the experience of growing up perfectly: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”