... Don't let the scented candles, houseplant affiliation and sophisticated (NOT) blog posts fool you into thinking that I wasn't a complete and utter DISGRACE at college!
In 2010, I left high school and enrolled at a different college to the majority of my peers. It was a bold move – I was painfully shy, and was leaving behind everyone and everything I knew in favour of embarking upon a new adventure.
I reckon a total of three people knew my name at high school: my best friend, the librarian (who used to reserve all of Jacqueline Wilson's new books for me), and the nurse (who calmed a-many of my panic attacks).
In year 8, I had made the incredibly ill-informed decision to host a 'model horse' party for my 13th birthday, and funnily enough, I never quite managed to shake the 'loser' label I acquired.
I preferred books to boys, ponies to parties, and [ballroom] dancing to drink.
I was okay with simply blending into the walls, but part of me ached with a curiosity to experience the exhilarating teen life that my peers were cruising through with much gumption. I longed to know how it felt to be asked out by a boy, or invited to parties.
I wasn't naïve enough to think that I could reinvent myself amongst the peers would had known me for five years. No, what I needed was a fresh start. I needed to be surrounded by people who wouldn't continuously remind me of the time I entered my school's version of Britain's Got Talent and read out a poem about my favourite pony.
And so I made that life-changing decision to spread my wings, gain some confidence and own my uniqueness.
... Enter college!
In a matter of weeks, I discovered fake tan, pink sparkly lipstick, house parties, fake ID, nights out in town, and boys. I was finally living the existence that most people my age had been blessed enough to enjoy for the past few years.
I quickly became established in a large group of girls and lads, who actually found my quirks hilarious! My teetotal ethics were a particular running joke, with the majority of college refusing to believe that my giddiness on nights out was simply attributable to orange Fruit Shoots. (In all seriousness though, I did ace college without touching a drop of alcohol. 27 years a teetotaler - apart from 'that' liquor chocolate - and proud!)
I had my main group of amazing mates, but I actually turned into one of those people who hangs about with everyone, across all different groups. I was infused with the joy of meeting new people, and I couldn't get enough of it.
Instead of trying to conceal all of the things that made me 'different,' I owned them with assurance, often sending myself up.
My self confidence simply flourished. It was a truly beautiful revelation.
Wild with a passion for my new found elation, I perhaps didn't take the academic side of college quite as seriously as I should have.
Do I ever regret failing my AS Levels and having to re-sit my entire first year? Absolutely not.
Do I ever think that maybe I shouldn't have skived off sociology, instead spending the afternoon at Superdrug trying out new Barry M nail varnishes? No!
Do I ever spare a thought for the watering can that ended up on my neighbor's shed roof after a particularly raucous house party? Umm, not really!
Do I ever wish that I hadn't exploded into the exuberant, loud, whacky teen whose actions I still cringe over? Never in a million years!
Even now, ten years later, I still often fondly recall college and the thousands of memories I made there with a miraculous group of friends by my side.
I might not remember a lot of the educational stuff from my three years at college, but I do feel rich with experience and precious recollections.
Laughing every day is such a gift. That sounds mega corny, but it really is an honest sentiment. And by laughing, I don't just mean a sprinkling of half-arsed chuckles here and there; I mean full-blown, belly-aching, eyes-watering, hiccup-inducing GUFFAWS. I laughed like this every single day at college, without fail. The warm feeling it radiated granted me a three year high.
I can honestly say that I had the time of my life!
I have kept a diary since the millennium, and have religiously written a page every single night ever since. Looking back on old diary entries from primary school, high school, college and beyond provides a combination of heart-warming nostalgia and an element of shameful embarrassment.
And so, alongside the theme of this article, I thought I would treat you all to a little insight...
Below are a collection of horrifically cringe-worthy, unedited quotes straight from the diary of a naïve youth.
DON’T judge me...
Wednesday 9th February 2011 –
“Didn’t even go to coll today as I had double photography and I hate James who teaches it cause he always takes my make-up off me.”
‘Coll?!’ Well, above all else, that’s a fantastic example of written English, coming from somebody who was studying the subject at A-Level...
Admittedly, I did spend the majority of my lessons preening myself for lunchtimes when I would waltz up and down the ‘refec’ like a Persian cat.
I often made it quite clear that I was only at the college to socialise, and showed complete disregard for important stuff, you know, like my A-Levels.
Friday 18th March 2011 -
“At the end of the day, I’ve got my haters, but I’ve also got the best friends in the world, and I wouldn’t change a thing!”
... I’m sorry, WHAT? Haters?! Who did I think I was?! Sixth form's answer to Kim Kardashian?! L O L.
I think this entry came about when I went to college with one million layers of fake tan and bare legs, and it rained, and I spent the whole day looking as though I was a burns victim. A girl I'd never actually met put a Facebook status about 'the state of' my 'orange' legs.
I retaliated by posting the lyrics to I'm Getting Paper by Chris Brown in a subtle 'SEND.'
'I don't see how you can hate from outside the club - you can't even get in!"
... Actin' as if I went clubbing every night of the week, or something! Pretty sure that at this point, the only club I'd ever been to was the summer pony camp at my local stables.
Tuesday 3rd May 2011 –
“My sociology teacher - Matt the Knob – rang home about my ‘bad attitude,’ and Mum rang Dad and told him! LOL! He was like ‘You act like a child, I treat you like one. You can cancel your house party and stay over here Friday and Saturday night.’ ERM NO! If he thinks I’m going to his and missing my house party, he’s got another thing coming!”
‘Matt the Knob’ had clearly gotten fed up with me turning my desk into a make-up counter every lesson. I had no interest in sociology whatsoever, and would spend the majority of the lessons idly scrolling through BBM. (Deffo showing my age now - back in 2011, we didn't have TikTok - we had BBM!)
I once had a very heated argument with Matt after he dared to label Wannabe WAGs as ‘lazy and stupid.’ But ya' know, it was sociology after all, so it was good that I was able to stand up for a subject I clearly felt so passionate about...
Anyway, on this particular occasion, I returned home from college wearing hot-pants and 87 layers of fake tan to discover a very passive-aggressive voicemail from Matt on the answer phone.
The look on my Mum's face confirmed that she had already listened to it. She was due to spend the weekend away, and I had planned a house party for the whole college to attend in her absence.
I was absolutely gutted - not because my teacher had called home and I had disappointed my Mum, but because I was now banned from having my precious party. (I know – life is so unfair, isn’t it?)
The outcome? I declared that I was moving out, stormed out of the house, spent the night in my friend’s brother’s spare bed, and got a U in sociology.
Friday 13th May 2011 –
“Anna and Kel came round, and guess what?! I GOT SERVED ALCOHOL AT THE CO-OP! I had Anna’s mate’s I.D and I put my hair up in a bun, and OHHH YEAHHH, I got served! SOOO HAPPY!”
I mean, the worst part about this entry is the fact that I don't even drink. I have never tried alcohol in my life. At the tender age of 17, I simply wanted to buy a bottle of blue WKD just to prove to myself and my friends that I looked over the age of 12.
I remember parading down the main road, raising the bottle high above my head in triumph. I think I even went as far as putting a Facebook status about ‘gettin served xox.’
Obviously, everyone was WELL impressed.
Kicking open the front door, I was instantly collared by my Mum, who is notoriously like the cool Mom from Mean Girls.
"Just be careful if you're going to drink that," she warned. "You've got to be up at 8 to see the horse."
"I'm obviously not gonna drink it," I sighed dramatically, rolling my eyes. "I don't drink alcohol, DUH! I bought this for myself!"
I brandished a bottle of strawberry and peach flavoured Evian water.
... And that was the moment my Mum realised that she really had nothing to worry about!
That bottle of WKD remained in our bottom cupboard with the pickled anchovies and Rich Tea biscuits for about five years afterwards, before we finally chucked the ‘trophy’ away.
Friday 19th August 2011 –
“The girls came round with some brochures for MALIA 2012!!! Such a funny night! We went to the McDonald’s drive-thru at like half 10 at night in our sunglasses blasting out ‘Champagne Showers’ and ‘Where Them Girls At.’ We kept making Anna beep at random lads and we shouted ‘FIT!’ out of the windows. I had two McFlurries."
Well, I’m just glad that I spent my summer holidays being a mature student and revising for all of the A-Level retakes I was due to sit...
At 17, the most exciting thing that can possibly happen is one of your friendship group passing their driving test. I’m not sure what 17 year old me found so alluring about late-night carbs and generally being a public nuisance, but I was quite clearly in my element.
Thursday 22nd September 2011 –
“Funny triple travel lesson with The Huns this morning! Sharon was doing my head in. She confiscated my Tangle Teaser and Jen's lip liner, so we hid under the table and refused to do any work LMAO! She had to get Wendy to come in and shout at us LOLOLOL. All the BTEC sport lads were watching from the window and kept making frog noises to freak Sharon out, it was sooooo funny!!"
Who'd be a teacher, seriously?! Why did I treat college like an actual holiday camp?!
‘The Huns,’ or the ‘Cheeky Travel Huns’ to give us our full title, consisted of myself and several other members of my Travel & Tourism BTEC class. We gave ourselves this nickname in quite serious terms, and woe-betide anyone who challenged it.
The Cheeky Travel Huns basically spent each and every lesson applying make-up, sharing Pom Bears and gossiping as oppose to doing anything remotely constructive.
Our teachers (Sharon & Wendy) were in a constant state of despair. In fact, they even went as far as writing me a two page letter begging me to behave, which at the time, I thought to be the funniest thing that had ever happened to me. They ended the letter with a stark warning: ‘If your ambition to marry a footballer doesn’t come into fruition, it might be wise to have a back-up plan and a qualification.’
Thursday 24th November 2011 -
"Had maths with Simon. Me and Jordan kept singing Tinie Tempah's new song 'Earthquake' cause it says 'HEY SIMON' in it hahaha, it was well funny!! Jordan has got some new giraffe socks, so we took a photo of them next to my new Fred Perry fresh treads."
... Sounds hilarious.
Oh Christ, I had almost forgotten that I went through a phase of speaking like Professor Green. Describing footwear as a pair of 'fresh treads' wasn't even the worst of it, either! I also used to label unappealing things as 'bait,' and reply to pretty much every comment with, 'Ya dano!'
Don't ask me why, because I honestly don't know.
Tuesday 8th May 2012 –
“YESSSSSS! QUIT MY JOB, HAVNE’T I?! Finally got my life back! The uniform was 'angin, and the heat of the kitchen made my hair dry.”
... I mean, it might be worth mentioning that I only had this particular job for all of about two weeks.
The job in question was a waitressing position at a local hotel. I don’t quite know why I made it out to be so horrific – if I remember correctly, all I did was play dares with the lads and spend hours on end pretending to steam cutlery.
I gleefully informed the hotel manager that the role wasn't a permanent position for me, as I was going to marry a footballer in the near future, anyway.
She - quite rightfully so - called me out about this in my first and last team meeting, in-front of 250 staff.
"And of course, we must say farewell to Cara, who hasn't been with us long, but is already leaving us to pursue a proposal from David Beckham."
My 18 year old thick skin clearly didn't grasp the irony, as I sat simpering round at everyone.
Later that day, the lads took a picture of me in my pinny doing the hoovering and shared it on Facebook under the caption ‘WAG in Training.’
Tuesday 15th May 2012 –
“Ended up going to the bookies with the lads on my free. They had the car window down, blasting out Drake, then they randomly put on ‘Rocky Robin’ hahahaha! Then they left me in the car for half an hour, HAHAHAHA, chillin outside Betfred. I missed half my travel lesson and Sharon goes, ‘Cara, where have you been?’ and I said ‘Been bookies.’ HAHAHAHA!"
Ten years on, and I personally don’t actually see anything comical in the entire above paragraph, but College Cara clearly thought wasting her education outside a betting shop listening to MS Dynamite’s ‘Wile Out’ was absolutely side-splittingly funny.
I legit thought I was THE coolest girl in the whole damn world, knocking about with the lads, copying their expressions so that ‘Nahhhhh,’ 'What you SAYINNN?' and 'My man' became part of my every day vocabulary.
... Anyway, that's enough burning embarrassment for one day! I'm off to sing to my cacti and unwind with a good audiobook - goodnight!
Cara Jasmine Bradley