My First Day at Sixth Form

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Thursday, September 5th 2002

Today was my first day back at school, and also my first day of sixth form. Everything is changing at the moment, but at least today's changes were positive. I'm filled with a wonderful sense of optimism at the moment; I just hope it lasts.

Getting up and putting on my own clothes is still a novelty, and I haven't started to take sixth form's extra freedoms for granted yet. I know that the work will be soul-crushingly hard, but at least I can take some liberties with my appearance. I feel more like myself in my normal clothes, which provides a satisfying boost to my confidence.

Getting up early, putting on my risque Good Riddance t-shirt, listening to the Descendents and packing my new folder with the word 'Matt' written in punch-tape on the front helped form a positive start to my day. I think I've probably listened to far too much of that band's music recently, as this morning I had a pretentious desire to be a zine-reading, coffee-drinking punkish kid who thinks for himself and acts positively and tries to act independently. I think the Descendents' songs, coupled with Milo's geek-cool struck a wonderful chord within me.

There's something really attractive about travelling to school by train. I think it's symbolic of my increased independence - I find my own way to school, and don't need a special bus service laid on because I can't read a train timetable. Also, the train journey to school is just really nice. There are no screaming children, no generic R n B played at pointless volumes and just normal, polite people who don't push and fight to get through the vehicle's doors. I can't stand sitting in traffic, so a six minute train journey is infinitely better than 25 minutes journey by coach. Instead of Cadbury Garden centre, boring Backwell housing and really bland coniferous woodland, I now enjoy green fields, a small meandering river, animals and a country manor house.

The walk from the train station into school was nice this morning. By some act of non-existent God, workmen were digging up the road right along the route to school. We got to walk down the middle of what is normally a really busy road. It reminded me of being at an airport, where everyone is hurriedly walking towards the same destination, carefully minding their own business.

I thought about buying a drink at the Esso garage, but realised that I'd much rather support the local corner shop than an oil corporation. It always gives me great pleasure to be selective about where I shop.

Finally we arrived at school, after a total of 20 minutes' walk plus six minutes' train journey. It was nice to be out in the air, exercising, rather than sitting in traffic. I don't think I'll bother learning to drive, as I hate cars.

I kept bumping into various people today, right from the moment that I stepped out of my front door; it was nice to see people that I hadn't seen for over two months. We compared results and experiences, and offered our own individual potted histories of what we'd done over the summer. It wasn't all good news, but the shared sense of optimism that goes with starting something new, and exciting, overruled any ill feelings.

Starting something new always involves changes, but when the changes are dictated by the contents of an impersonal piece of paper, I get a bit nervous. Finding out who my friends are, or who I'm stuck with, for the next two years is a bit daunting. Fortunately, I'm in classes with great teachers and am among my friends for most subjects. By 10am, my pre-school optimism had been turned into relief that I wouldn't be spending the next two years with people that I hated.

In my first lesson, psychology, I had to work with the new kid. I always feel sorry for the new kids, as they never really fit in with all the 'normal' people. It must be very intimidating to suddenly be forced to interact with new people, new faces in strange surroundings.

Anyway, I went and sat next to the new kid. I had no problem finding a seat; the desks on either side of him were empty. It was kind of awkward right from the start, which wasn't good. I'm quite good at meeting new people, but there are some people that I just can't make any kind of contact with. The new kid, is one of these people. He talks differently to everyone else, and the words he uses just aren't the words you'd expect to hear from your average 17 year-old. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that at all, but in his case it's hardly advantageous. That wouldn't particularly matter to the majority of people, as they're mostly shallow ignorami - the main thing that they judge people on is outward appearance. Sadly, his clothes are very, um, individualistic.

The question we had to discuss was 'What is memory?' As I was the confident person who wasn't intimidated by loads of new faces, I thought I'd speak to him first. I asked him the question, and began turning over my own thoughts, so that when he did the polite thing and asked me for my opinion, I would have a few pre-prepared, intelligent sentences on what I thought memory was, and is.

Unfortunately, instead of giving me a nice, short answer followed by a polite question, he went off on this rambling monologue about STM and LTM and recall and perception and stimuli. He even began drawing needless diagrams on the back of his new timetable. I tried to ask a question, and make some kind of input, but he cut me off mid-sentence. Perhaps he thought he was being interesting and precise, but I was just bored and uncomfortable.

Any thoughts that I might have had about whether this kid was just a person with an interesting personality but poor dress-sense were gone. This sounds harsh, but the boy is a bit of a misfit. He won't make many friends, not because people pre-judge him, but because once people get over their inbred prejudices and actually bother to talk to him, he's still not a particularly sociable person. I'm not saying that making friends is particularly important, but being lonely in strange school, especially our white, middle-class, high-achieving, vomit-inducing comprehensive, is hardly going to be fun.

I feel so unkind writing this, and I bet it seems like I'm the one with the prejudices, but the truth is that whatever I say, or think, it won't change the fact that he is never going to feel like he belongs. I feel really sorry for him, but the fact that I at least tried to talk to him makes me feel less guilty. I just hope that he doesn't care that people will laugh at him, make fun and even avoid him. In fact, I think I respect him for doing exactly what he wants to do, and saying a big 'f**k you!' to the world.

Who cares about belonging anyway? If belonging means getting to hang-round with a load of judgmental morons then count me out. Being happy is much more important. Fortunately I managed to get on with all the people with whom I've had past disagreements, and no one seriously pissed me off today. Everyone seemed more mature, which meant that I was able to get on with them an awful lot better.

I know this optimism, and contentment, won't last - I just hope that I can stretch it out for as long as possible. Things seem to glamourous at the moment, and I'm going to try to my damndest to keep it this way.

Rocket Man

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