Skool dayz – travelling in time

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So recently I went back in time, around 12-19 years back. I went to my school reunion to once again spend time in the company of a group of people who, for better or worse, were such an important part of my life.

When I first heard about the reunion, I thought it sounded like a great idea, especially when it was going to be held in the same haunt that we used to frequent as teenagers: the local cricket club which could be hired out at reasonable costs for nights of youthful debauchery and sweaty walls.

However, as the date for the reunion started to loom closer, the apprehension kicked in. The reunion seemed less like a fun opportunity for reliving our youthful misadventures and more as a critical point in our lives when we would submit ourselves to the judgments of those who knew what our childhood dreams were.

We all came from the same background, more or less, but where were we all at X years from that fateful day when we (thought we had) finally left our school days behind us?

I tend to review my life, what I’ve achieved so far and where I’m going, on a fairly frequent basis, particularly around this time, as the year draws to a close. However, my self-imposed annual report is scary enough when it’s assessing what I’ve been doing for the last year. Did I really want to voluntarily put myself into a room full of people who would want a report not of the last 12 months but of the last 12 years! On a year-by-year basis my life doesn’t seem so bad, on this more mega scale, was I really going to live up?

Navigating the nervous explosions going off inside my skull I realised I was the one setting all these potential landmines. Would my old school mates really care for a blow-by-blow, marks out of ten, consideration of my life? Probably not. But confronting my reunion was forcing me to confront my worst critic: me. And not just current day me, who can be tough enough, but that youthful aspirational me who believed life would all nicely fit into place after university and I’d fulfill all those dreams I didn’t yet know I had. You leave school and you believe you can do anything. I still believe I can do anything but now I know that ‘anything’ entails a lot of work and sacrifice I’m not necessarily prepared to make any more.

If I want to give up on my current career and become a doctor, is it still possible? Absolutely! Is it worth it? Maybe not. Would I really be prepared to return to intensive education, take loans or find ways to support the costs of doing this and put myself through all the stresses and strains it would entail? Perhaps, if I absolutely wanted to be a doctor more than anything else. But this is the kicker, and the way in which I feel I’ve most disappointed 18 year old me; you see, life didn’t automatically all fall into place after university, I still don’t really know what I want to do and suspect there could still be 100+ interesting career options for me.

I might have narrowed the field a little bit but I still haven’t committed myself to a singular path. Whilst, this isn’t in itself a bad thing, I think my ability to be flexible and to continue to be interested in new avenues isn’t something to be ashamed of, nevertheless sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to have that one goal to rigorously pursue? But that isn’t me, I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point at which I can sit back and think ‘right I’m done now’.

Although my biggest concerns about the reunion were self-imposed I was still nervous about meeting up with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen since I was 18. I didn’t have any arch-nemeses at school and although there were people and groups I didn’t like, I‘d given up on worrying what they thought before I even left the institution. I was actually more concerned about confronting the people who used to be my friends, but for one reason or another I’ve fallen out of contact with. I don’t know whether this fear was motivated by guilt that I’d not made enough effort to stay in touch or a sense of rejection that they’d not done the same with me.

I generally think of my old school friends fondly, they were a great bunch who were part of an informative part of my life. And I have accepted that it is a fact of life that some friends we make are friends for certain times in our lives only and only a few are friends for the entire duration. However, it felt strange to be revisiting these old friends with the distance of over a decade between us.

I wasn’t the only one with butterflies in my stomach about confronting my past, pretty much everyone I knew who was going seemed to feel the same way. So we concocted a plot, we’d meet for dinner and a little dutch courage first, arrive en masse and, if it was terrible, escape to one of the many pubs in town. We had a nice dinner and I caught up with some old friends, some of whom I remain regularly in contact with and others who I wish I was able to see more.

After dinner we managed to work up the nerve to totter across to the cricket club. Inside it quickly became apparent that we can’t have been the only people worried about the reunion, of the 100+ who’d signed up, actual turnout seemed to be closer to 40.

I soon saw a few friendly faces, including some of those good friends I’d lost touch with, although the majority weren’t actually there, and…I had a really good time. It was great to see how people had and had not changed and it quickly felt like old times, except we spent a bit longer talking before hitting the dance floor than would have been normal in our sixth form days and I’m not sure we danced enough to make the walls sweat but it was a great night we didn’t want to end. After the official close many of us decamped to a nearby pub. The only thing that could have topped it off would have been if the kebab van was open when we left and I could have got cheesey chips on the way home.

 

Unstuck in time

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This week I have been trying to plan a number of international calls for my boss. I have a useful device on my computer where I can easily compare the times of our office with those he regularly connects with around the world. So usually this is pretty straight forward, except that I have been trying to coordinate calls that will happen after the clocks have changed in Geneva. In some countries clocks don’t change at all and in others they don’t change when ours do. And for some reason trying to figure this out makes my brain bleed.
I can check a hundred times that in a particular week Geneva will be an additional hour ahead of New York but when I look at the time scroller I can’t compute the adding on of that extra hour and have to start again. It’s like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face and I can’t get it to slow down enough for me to figure it out.
P1000461The concept of time is a strange thing and I’m not 100% sure that I believe in it as I am supposed to. A month or two back we read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ for book club. The book is told in a non linear fashion and centres around the character of Billy Pilgrim who becomes ‘unstuck in time’.
I read the book and listened to the club debate whether it should be classified as science fiction, whether Billy should be considered to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or whether the unsticking in time is simply an old man reminiscing. Being the somewhat simple person that I am I read it and just accepted the time travel as a perfectly normal aspect of the narrative.
To be honest it kind of made sense. I think I know that time moves in a regimented, chronological, one-minute-follows-another-minute sort of way, but that’s not how we experience it. So I wonder if the concept of time that I think I know is just one version of the reality of this?
I’ve been experiencing déjà vu quite a lot recently, that sense of half-remembered names and faces that I’ve already encountered some time ago. I looked online and found a lot of simple(ish) scientific explanations for déjà vu. But what if the explanation is even simpler, a moment or experience feels familiar because you actually have seen or experienced it before at another time?
Perhaps time is much more like a wheel within a wheel than the straight line we think, and every so often whilst spinning around one wheel we might get teeny glimpses of something that’s on another wheel we aren’t supposed to be circling yet? Like the fleeting moment of identifying a face in the crowd when on a ride at a fairground before the image is snatched away.
When they first turned on the large hadron collider at CERN, which I visited last weekend, there were fears that it would create a black hole and destroy life as we know it. The scientists involved said that was ridiculous and wouldn’t happen but when asked what would be the outcome of their work they didn’t, and still really don’t, know what the effects might be. Nerds (myself included) across the world are mostly keeping our fingers crossed for the coolest possible scientific outcome, that is to say time travel.
LHCbI like time travel stories and the fiancé and I have just decided to start watching all the rebooted Doctor Who (from 2005) from episode one, series one. I love the show but it always leaves me with a lot of questions.
Like how is anything ever a surprise for the Doctor? For example when he meets a potential new companion, how does he not instantly recognize them from future memories? When he’s in a sticky situation why can he never remember how to get out of it? And also, why are his companions always pretty young women? My constant questions become words that jangle in my head and are probably evidence of my tendency to over-think things rather than just go with the flow but the whole concept of time travel is just a circle in a spiral that keeps on spinning!
The idea of being able to visit different ages and different periods in history is definitely appealing. I’m pretty sure I’d make an excellent Tudor and would obviously love to see if hover cars ever do become the reality futuristic films promise.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut if you had the ability to time travel would you be able to avoid the temptation to visit your own history? If you could change the things you are not proud of or glimpse into the future to see what happens, would you? And if you could time travel and could make the odd adjustment here and there would this change who you are? If you knew your future would you experience your life differently?
And if time isn’t altered so easily and isn’t so much a line as a circle would we, like Billy Pilgrim, live our lives on a constant loop, that never really ends or begins but rather lurches from one key moment to another? Would life become a trap, a nightmarish existence of endlessly reliving every moment?
Would I at least be able to figure out what time zones Geneva and connecting cities are in, relying on future successes, or would I have to experience the pain of figuring this out for an eternity?