The happiest days…

My kids at school are in the process of applying to universities. In a few weeks, I will be desperately writing references that might help them get to where they really want to be in an environment that is a hundred times more competitive and complicated than it was when I applied.
When I applied, higher education was still free. I got many offers, some from excellent universities. I turned them all down to go to Lampeter, and never looked back. When I applied, a garbled personal statement about my A levels and my church work sufficed. The grades were meaningless, as long as I got the equivalent of two Es. My parents were horrified. I wouldn’t listen.
It’s difficult to tell these children (some of whom I have known since their first day when they were tiny, scared, eleven – and I was older but just as scared) how lucky they are to be at the very start of such a big adventure. It’s difficult, without crying, to tell them how much I owe to those years at university and all the people I met there. There are many things I would do differently now; but if I did them differently, I wouldn’t be me. And all the hurts I caused, or felt, seem to have been washed away – in the main – though there’s a boy who still won’t speak to me despite us both growing up and marrying someone-elses.
My closest friends are people I met in Lampeter, who stood by me through the awkward years of kissing inappropriate boys, learning to drink – and when not to drink, crying, shouting, playing sad songs and locking myself in my room, staying out late, not going to lectures, inviting strange people to stay when they had nowhere else to go, ‘borrowing’ things, never doing my laundry, refusing to eat, bouncing cheques, crying, shouting, laughing, dancing, crying. I was never more miserable, and never more alive.
At Lampeter, I never locked my door, and the worst thing that ever happened was an ex-boyfriend creeping in to leave me a tormented love-note on the back of an old photo. I could pop in to see my dearest friends without ringing in advance (hell, none of us had phones!) and always knew if I popped down to the Union bar, there’d be someone there I could talk to. Even when we had no money at all, and when it rained all day (as it often does in Wales) we still found reason to be happy. I don’t have many memories of things I learned in lectures, but it was here that I learnt most of the important lessons of life.
I miss those days. I miss the people. I miss the freedom that comes from not knowing that every minute is precious and you shouldn’t waste a single one.

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