This afternoon, sitting on the top deck of the number 57 bus, and gawping at the view, I realised that I was inadvertently tuning into the conversation of someone sitting a few rows behind me.
You know the type. They are typically not very interesting, but talk in a loud voice about things that they presumably think make them sound profound, interesting, clever, and possibly even attractive. This boy's conversation did none of the above for him. Shame.
He was saying to the poor suckers he was talking at, "it's, like, totally amazing, ain't it? Like, two years ago we were leaving school and stuff and now everyone's, like 18 and that, and everyone's getting, like, drunk all the time, and it's wicked and it's, like, amazing that it's two whole years already, ain't it?" This theme went on for about twenty minutes without pausing long enough for his audience to comment on whether it was, like, amazing or not. And all that time I wanted to walk to the back of the bus and shake him.
I didn't want to shake him because he was irritating (although he was) but because he had no idea that two years in is nothing to how, like, amazing it gets.
Two measly years! Two years during which time most of them will have been in some form of higher education anyway, to numb the effect of entering the real world. Pah!
It's almost fifteen years since I left school. Now that IS amazing. Amazing to me, anyway, since it really seems like it could have been just a couple of (admittedly busy) years ago. I can remember elements of my school with such very vivid clarity that it's a surprise to me each time I remember that I've been out of school for longer than I was at school now.
I met up recently with a girl I was at school with between the ages of 13 and 18, who I haven't seen for at least three years, and we were still making the same jokes as we were when we were 17. In many ways, it was like not time had passed.
But time has passed. Things have moved on. If Matey-boy on the bus is alarmed at how things change between the ages of 16 and 18, he's going to get quite light headed with what happens between the ages of 30 and 33. In those intervening years between us, we have celebrated three wedding anniversaries, had two children, rented two flats, sold one house and bought two new ones, held four jobs, been on countless first dates, had one grim medical diagnosis, and reduced our working weeks to an average of 3.5 days. And those are just the main headlines. Heavens knows what happened that we failed to mention to one another.
Seeing people like this has a profound effect on me. I come away feeling positive about the good news, sad about the bad news, warm and fuzzy and the friendliness of it all, and mildly depressed at the list of news I didn't have; the husbands and children that I can't talk about.
So THAT is why I wanted to shake this dumb-ass 18 year old. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him to stop banging on about how amazing it is that stuff is happening to other people, and to get on with doing some stuff himself. I wanted to smack his loud-mouthed chops and tell him to stop being wowed by the fact that his newly-of-age friends are able to get drunk and take note of the fact that RIGHT NOW they are meeting people who they might or might not marry, and might or might not have children with, but who will, without question, be significant in their respective life stories. I wanted to tell him to take decisions seriously, because you don't get the chance to make a lot of them a second time. I wanted to tell him that he should never regret doing something, he should only regret not doing it, and that no-one ever had a better life by saying no to new things. I wanted to tell him to look at how he feels now about the last two years and multiply that by twenty and think how he'll feel about this time when he's cruising towards his retirement.
But most of all, I wanted to tell him that hearing his too-loud conversation had made me realise that I should do all of these things myself, and see if, in three years time, when I run into an old friend, I feel more like my achievements make me proud.
As Ferris Buellar says, life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
cake and life
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