by Michelle Walshe

I remember that class very vividly. It was religion. We were talking about what we would do after school. I went to an all-girls, Catholic school, where Sister Margaret prowled the corridors looking for misdemeanours, policed the colour and size of your hair clips, while all around me, my classmates were getting pregnant, drinking heavily from the age of fourteen and smoking John Player Blue. My classmates didn’t go to University. My voice was a lone one that day in class saying I wanted to study further, to have a career, to travel. I remember telling the teacher I thought my life had not begun yet. All around me, astonished expressions on faces already jaded, skin already ruined by drinking and smoking too much, eyes already glazed from living an entire lifetime in your teenage years. I remember feeling very young and very innocent that day, surrounded by girls I couldn’t wait to be free of. Their tiny existences, centred around “the group,” their cliques, their boyfriends, their babies, the drunken nights, the hangovers, all things I didn’t experience until much later in life. It was like living in a parallel universe. I would leave my academic, over-achieving house every morning and enter this place. I hated it, every minute of it. And seventeen was the age I left it all behind, never to look back.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Seventeen, final year in school, taken in May at the end of the school year in my school uniform (policed by Sr. Margaret!).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am about to buy a new pair of glasses and they remind me of these ones. I haven’t worn glasses like this since I was seventeen. I graduated to contact lenses and smaller, less visible, less noticeable specs. These ones in the photo were red. I loved them. Now I am returning to this style and I went looking for this photo in a box of hundreds of photos to reassure myself and managed to locate it. Looking at it now I’m tempted to let my hair grow again too!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Walshe is a forty-something woman searching for meaning and happiness. To this end she travels, reads, writes, plays a lot of sport, anything to escape. No husband, no kids, no ties, just a passport and a credit card and a wish to be free. Just back from two years in Morocco, home in Ireland for Christmas.