When I was eighteen, I made a decision that would change my life. Most Irish teenagers make a similar choice at this time of their lives, sixth year in secondary school, Leaving Cert leering its ugly head on the horizon and one form to fill in that would decide everything we did for the next fifty-odd years of ours lives: the CEO form.
I still remember it all, the going to different colleges for different open days. Except, for me the choice was never one that included leaving home. I wanted to go to college in Dublin. I wanted to stay close to what friends I had; at that age, I was even more socially awkward than I am now and I mostly got close to a limited number of friends in school, most of whom I still talk to on a regular basis. And of course, I didn't want to have to wake up unnaturally early to attend lectures. This also cut out Maynooth.
I went to two Open Days, looking at English courses, Journalism, Marketing, Business; really, my options were limited to my specific tastes and the subjects I was studying. Mostly. I didn't want to go into further study in design. I didn't want to study Science.
When it came to filling in the form, then, it was all to do with one of the above-mentioned courses (with the addition of Philosophy and Psychology each combined with English at Trinity College, both of which I had my reservations about because (1) I wasn't sure I was cut out for the courses and (2) I wasn't sure I would get the points.) My top three included the college where my friends from then are now all studying (the aforementioned friends I still talk to) and the college I am attending now.
Form filled in, I "only" had to sit the exams and get the points. No biggie, right? I'd be in college with my friends in no time at all. Except, when I tried to picture myself in college, the green grass I sat on wasn't in that college, and it wasn't with those friends. I never suspected I would stop talking to them, it just didn't feel like I would be spending the next four years of my academic life with them. In my mind it was a scene out of a brochure: me, a guy and a girl sitting on the grass at the college I'm now attending (my classmates will know that there are only two areas of grass in the college I have ever acquainted myself with, neither of them being the football pitch - it was the larger of the two, opposite the library.) The sun was shining, the atmosphere felt good, and I knew deep in my heart that this was what I wanted, that this would be a reality, if not so literally.
Two years ago, when I was eighteen years old, I knew that when I was studying to become a teacher I would meet two people who I would definitely be happy to spend the rest of my life talking to. (Turns out it's more than two; go figure.) Two years ago I knew I would find my best friends in a college I had yet to earn the points to get in to, had yet to receive my place on my course of choice and had yet to actually see. I just knew.
I've never told anyone that before. In my head it was going to be a dramatic speech made if times ever got hard. Literally a few hours ago I was going over it all in my head. I knew who I was talking to and I knew why it was important. Times have been hard, on and off, over the past few years of my life. I've been bullied, I've been drawn completely within myself, I've felt completely cut off from the world (last summer was horrible for that one!) and every time of late, the people in my brochure photo of an idea of college were there to help me through it. Two years ago, I knew about the cups of tea and the long talks on the phone and the hardships of starting over, and the joys that would follow, and all the happy times I would have that let me know that no matter how hard it all got, things would get better.
I don't get to see my friends so much during these months when college is out, but I always know these great and wonderful truths that life is always so much better when I can be with them. And when I can't, I fantasise, make a cup of tea and look back at all the photos taken that serve as story I've been waiting to happen to me my entire life.