I’m going back to university.
Only for a weekend, but I’m so very excited about the prospect of going back that I don’t know how I’m going to contain myself until July.
It will be an informal reunion, bringing together a few modern linguists, ’95 millésime, and anyone else they fancy inviting, and when an email was forwarded to me, I surprised myself with my own enthusiasm. Two hours later I had an alumni number, a room reserved in halls with the rest of the gang, had cajoled my boss into signing my holiday form and booked some flights. Only then did it occur to me to ask Mr Frog if he minded being left alone with Tadpole for three days.
Apparently ten years is about the time when most of us start to hanker after some sort of reunion, so the timing is spot on. The people I am most looking forward to seeing are actually those I have been in semi-regular contact with all along, but I don’t get to spend time with them as often or for as long as I would like, distance and motherhood not permitting. So I can’t wait to reminisce over a few drinks and revisit some of our old haunts. I want to soak up the atmosphere of this place where I spent what I fondly remember as the happiest years of my youth. I want to pretend, just for a couple of days, that I am in my early twenties again. It’s a shame I haven’t hung onto any of my college clothes. It would have been amusing to show up in my blue doc martens with beads strung on the laces. My tastes have evolved a little since my indie, student grant thrift shop days however and many things have been given to the Red Cross (to Mr Frog’s relief).
There will be many other former students present who I literally haven’t see in a decade, since graduation day itself. I’m sure I’ll recognise them all, and they me, but I haven’t the faintest idea who and what they have become.
I will have to perfect a potted resumé of the last ten years. Let me see:
“I taught at the Sorbonne Nouvelle for a couple of years, as a lectrice. Adamant that I wanted to stay on in Paris, but not exactly bitten by the teaching bug, I went back to the UK for a few months and returned armed with a bilingual secretarial diploma (and a London Chamber of Commerce gold medal for best ‘oral’ in the country – which I think is in my underwear drawer somewhere). My glittering PA career has taken me from investment bank to internet startup to luxury goods empire to current position of wicked blog-idleness. I moved in with Mr Frog eight years ago and we have an adorable little Tadpole who will be two years old in June.”
What I will probably do, knowing me, is look shifty and defensive and mutter under my breath that I’m “just a secretary”, brandishing a picture of my daughter as proof that I have done something meaningful with my life. I will have to work on not being visibly overwhelmed with jealousy as I hear about glamorous jobs in the wine trade, in film production or the diplomatic service. Of course, depending on how many drinks I have knocked back in order to steady my nerves, I may just grunt, or content myself with eavesdropping from my vantage point under the table.
I have touched on this subject before. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do. Most days I enjoy it, actually. My only goal, upon finishing my education, was to live and breathe French. What I would actually do for a living was by the by. But I can’t quite shake off the guilt I feel about not having ‘fulfilled my potential’ in some way. I was always a swotty, straight-A student, fiercely competitive, constantly striving to be top of the class from pre-school to college. My schoolteachers predicted great things and encouraged me to aim high. But at the end of the day, I realised that being top of the class had been my only real goal; it had been an end in itself, not a means to achieve some higher purpose in the long-term.
Most of the time I don’t give this subject a second thought. But the prospect of meeting all these high achievers has reminded me how much I detest reading Friends Reunited. You remember that girl at school who was more interested in boys than actually doing any work? Who barely scraped through her GCSE’s? Who was spotted at L’s 16th birthday party having sex standing up against the front of the house, and then, later again on the swing in the back garden (with a different partner)?
We predicted that in a couple of years she’d be pushing a pram around Bell Farm council estate, hair pulled back into a Croydon face lift.
She’s a bank manager now.