LIFE LESSONS

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - FRONT PAGE -

KATY HAR­RING­TON

IT’S au­tumn — time to turn the heat­ing back on and rum­mage through your wardrobe for the trusty 50-de­nier tights. For lit­tle peo­ple, it means back to school, or for the very lit­tle ones — just school. I pass them on my walk to work on bright Septem­ber morn­ings, crisp and cool. They walk a few paces be­hind their mothers, heads down, shy but im­mac­u­late in their new uni­forms — I’d love to take a pic­ture now and then again in six months when the cuffs on those itchy wool jumpers will be frayed and the ink-stained ties won’t be so neatly knot­ted.

Some of them will thrive, some will hate every sec­ond, they will bully and be bul­lied, but ev­ery­one I pass makes me think the same thing: I wouldn’t go back if you paid me. I was pretty good at the aca­demic side of school, es­pe­cially English (one notable ex­cep­tion be­ing when I mis­un­der­stood a com­ment about my ‘cav­a­lier’ at­ti­tude to hand­ing in home­work and took it as a com­pli­ment). The so­cial side was trick­ier.

I was bul­lied briefly, like al­most ev­ery­one else. They filled my coat pock­ets with gravel, tripped me up as I walked down the cor­ri­dor. Now, when I’m stressed, my worry dreams are al­ways about school or col­lege — I pass all my class­mates pour­ing out the exam hall dis­cussing a test that makes up 90pc of our mark for the year, and I’ve missed it, or I get a call from my univer­sity say­ing ‘ hang on, there’s been a mis­take…’ I’ve got a dose of the back-toschool blues my­self, to be hon­est.

Af­ter two weeks of hol­i­days, get­ting back to re­al­ity is a lot like go­ing back to school: long days at a desk, sit­ting on the bus pray­ing you won’t be late and sad sand­wiches for lunch. But just like those schoolkids, af­ter a few morn­ings strug­gling to get out of bed, I’ll get used to it.

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