I can still see you huddled under that archway like it was yesterday; your hands pinched your elbows as though they were the only branches gravity had to hold you down with. I’m not going to lie, I looked in the mirror this morning and our face is still as white as it was that September afternoon Mom and Dad left you at Nottingham for that first time. But we look a lot less frightened today. Unfortunately, the past four years of sleepless nights and truly delicious cocktails have left us with a few more bags under the old eyes than we ever thought we’d have, and our chin has never improved. If anything, it’s become even more wide-set, sorry.
Please promise me you’ll eat lots of cake. Our weight isn’t going to yo-yo that much (you may lose a couple of dress sizes the summer you go to Africa – ha, yes, just wait for that one! – but it’s not too much I promise). However, we will become intolerant to gluten in a few years time and that is devastating. Gluten-free jaffa cakes just aren’t the same, I promise you; they are fake, and they suck. Eat cake. I promise to work it off later for you.
Now, I know you’re frightened — you’re not going to forget that fear – but I can promise you that it’s going to be nothing like you’ve ever imagined. Forget never making friends: the door opposite you is hiding the sister you never had. Your bedroom doors are never going to shut; so you will never miss a moment of each other’s lives. The teddy bear of the boy down the corridor who is going to rescue you during tonight’s fire alarm is going to be one of the very last people you say goodbye to when you graduate. Sure, others will come and go – and I’m not going to even suggest that you’re going to find that easy because you won’t – but you will leave this place safe in the comfort that you’ve kept hold of the people that you were meant to. As in all those clichéd college movies, friends become family and arguments become brash but forgiven.
You are going to make it to America. You are going to love it. It will again be terrifying, but for totally different reasons; you are going to learn that I am your best friend and I have got you. We are self-reliant these days, in more ways than people will ever like to give us credit for, and we learnt to be so out there. The challenges you face across the pond shall not be travelling or studying; you are about to come across law enforcement practises you don’t understand, a terrifying woman from Bosnia and monopoly money you refuse to believe has any worth (you will spend too much). But you will also meet people you won’t leave behind, and the world shall become even smaller with Skype and FaceTime (just you wait for the later versions of the iPhone) and Twitter and LinkedIn (don’t even ask yet) and the ten thousand other ways we are now able to connect far beyond our back yards.
I’m not going to let you in on how we fare romantically: I believe that’s a saga one needs to live through fearlessly (and somewhat naively) in order to truly appreciate just what we learn in that sector. You will laugh, and you will cry. Just trust your gut.
You have an absolute lifetime ahead of you, and as I finally pack up our final Nottingham house, I am so, so jealous of you. That archway to the left of where you’re standing now is where you’re going to be chased by boys dressed as chickens in about eight months time. That bush to the right of you is where you’re going to have to drag out a drunken friend and de-thorn his thighs. Those picnic tables near the hall reception are where you are going to sit and drink and laugh and pose and tell the silliest of stories and make the silliest of memories. And, it’s where you’re going to re-sit in four years time and look back towards the archway where you are now and remember you fondly. It’s all going to be brilliant, I promise. I’ve got you.