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A Measure of Time

I'm about to read a book called 'The Order of Time'. Part of the blurb says, 'time flows at a different speed in different places'. While I'm unlikely to go into quantum theory and my Physics knowledge is limited to my A-level syllabus, I want to give my take on the passage of time. 

On Friday I finished high school. A major chapter has come to an end. Now is a time of reflection as well as looking ahead — with excitement and with trepidation. 

My whole year sat in the park dressed in our old school uniforms reminiscing about the years we spent together. I have a mental snapshot of that moment which I will take with me throughout my life. During this time of reflection, I thought of the way I often measure time. For me, it is usually the distance between two points — events or experiences, sometimes of little meaning in themselves, which I remember clearly and which echo with the reality of today.

I had an orthodontist appointment at the beginning of year 11.  At that time I booked a return bout, for the end of that academic year — right after my GCSE exams. I recall that I speculated about where I would be, how I would feel, how my exams would have gone when I reached that second appointment. When I did return, I paused and thought about all that had happened in that period of time; a huge amount occurred between the parallel events, yet it felt like no time at all.

These junctures aren't always organised routinely. Sometimes it's an event I find myself experiencing which I  vividly remember also happened years ago. One happened recently. It snowed in London for the first time in years. It was strange and beautiful - my good friend Tom took the photos in this post to forever remember it. For one second, I flew back to the last time it snowed in London. I have similar photos of my brother and I decked out in garish ski gear in our driveway, our excitement evident across our beaming faces. The snow-day bookends, the then and now, were, for me, a time travel experience. Two events years apart, that seemed like they were adjacent on my personal timeline. 

Sometimes it's triggered by an event, like the snow, sometimes by a song, a smell, a taste, or even a look. A flash into the past, and a sweeping reflection on everything you've been through since that moment. 

Riding the Wave

Many of my blog posts over the last two years have been about the uncertainty of my future. I've written about how it's frightening and exciting in equal measure to not know what is next. I've reflected on the past while waiting for the future path to become clear. All of this was written in the knowledge - in the hope that by the beginning of AprilI would know what I'm doing next

Plot twist - I don't.

Perhaps naively, I assumed the vast majority of people would apply to university, end up with the school they wanted, get the grades and start in September. I assumed for most people, me included, much of the uncertainty would be over by now. It clearly happens for some people but what I’ve learned is that they are the very fortunate minority. 

For most people, it is not linear. There are setbacks, rejections, choices to be made. Gap years are increasingly common - not always a vehicle for travel but one for reapplying and figuring things out. People 'settle' for their second or third or fourth choices and end up loving it. Some go to their dream school hate it. There are so many variables out of our control that predictions are fraught with risk. But the uncertainty is part of the process.  

I'm also starting to realise that this is what the rest of life is going to be like. We've been spoilt by the linear security of school, always knowing what is ahead of us. Life isn't like that. Stepping out of that rigid structure feels like stepping into a void. 

Over the past few months, I've been dealt a few unexpected cards. I had the fantasy of my future mapped out in minute detailBut the cards I’ve drawn means I need to rethink. Dealing with rejection, and the closing of a door - even if it is just temporarily - has been harder than I could have imagined. I thought that university decisions, whether the verdict was good or bad, would bring clarity. At least I would know all of my options. At least I would be able to make a choice based on reality instead of hypothetical scenarios. Once again, I was wrong. Having heard back from all my universities, I'm actually faced with different choices and I remain confused

So, how do the unlucky majority deal with the process of uncertainty? As we watch our peers cruise through to their top choices, barely breaking a sweat, how do we deal with not knowing? 

We ride the wave. 

The Waiting Game

There is none of the energy and excitement of starting the journey. There is none of the satisfaction of finishing the race. It is just a waiting game. I lie in the midst of a torturous hiatus. It's not the eye of the storm nor the calm before it. There's pressure, it's uncomfortable. Like many of my friends I am just waiting; for my A-levels, for university decisions, and for my next steps to become clear. 

I'm trying to keep my cool and sidestep any drama but, I'm not going to lie, it's tough.

We are all anxious in anticipation of our final exams, now just months away. I've completed my A-level mocks - an unsavoury taste of what is to come and the reason I couldn't attend or cover this season of London Fashion Week. While I admit to feeling invigorated by starting the revision process, which hopefully will build confidence about making it through, it's still a matter of... waiting. Not only for the exams but for university decisions.  

Part of my own uncertainty is one of geography - whether I stay in London or move to another city, or move to the United States. I have a favourite option but I'm not going to reveal it, because even as someone who prides herself on being rational, I don't want to jinx it. What is most excruciating is that all of this is now out of my control. At this point there is literally nothing I can do except... wait. 

We're all processing where we are, where we want to go, what is the right path for us. There are scores of different scenarios but until the results and the offers are in I can't focus on any of them. It's exciting and scary. Those of us in the same situation can share our anxiety and be there for one another but there is little we can do other than provide moral support. I am trying to balance positive thinking with managing expectations. Like I said, it's out of our control now. 

One thing is certain - I will be studying English. My current English class will laugh at me for putting this in but perhaps I should have faith in Fortuna, the Greek Goddess who controls the Wheel of Fortune. In a tragedy, she is responsible for the tragic hero's reversal of fortune - she turns her wheel and everything changes. Fortuna was a concept also used widely in Medieval literature, so I feel it's apt to bring it into this piece. Nowadays, we'd probably call it fate. What will fate decide?

I like to think of myself as someone who will drive their own future. I am determined, and I strongly believe in the power people have to make things happen if they are committed, passionate and driven. So when I am in a situation where Fortuna (or university admissions officers) have the power to decide my fate, I'm not embarrassed to say it's unsettling.

I don't have a magic formula for making it okay for me, or my friends, who are similarly waiting decisions now outside their control. All we can do is have faith in ourselves and remember that this is a long game. Maybe fate will take us down a path we'd previously not considered but we will ultimately find fulfilling. We just have to get through this period, embrace the decisions that are made and move ahead with some confidence that Fortuna will be kind. 

Now It Gets Serious

This is going to be a big year for me. I will look back when I'm older at 2018 and see it as a year of big choices and dramatic change. This year I will take my A-levels and finish school. I will turn 18 years old. I will leave home and start university - exactly where, I do not know yet.

Knowing that thousands of others are in the same boat, making choices that will significantly impact their lives, does not make it feel any less monumental. Up to now, there's been a rhythm, a sameness, about the years. I've known what to expect. Another school year, maybe a set of exams, the same place, the same people. Now, I'm making choices; I do not know whether I'll be successful in some of them or where others will take me. I'm also facing the final exams, hoping I'll do well. 

What is most significant about the choices ahead of me is that I am making them. Up until now, most of my major life decisions have been made for me. My parents decided where to bring me up, where to send me to school, to some extent what I should study. I may have had some input, but in the words of Judge Judy, up until 18, the parents own the air that I breathe. Now I'm taking the reins. I'm making the decision about where to go, what to study, where to live, what to do with my life. That responsibility is both exciting and terrifying. I am accountable for all that is to come next - good and bad. 

The choices my peers and I will make are potentially life-altering. This is one of those rare moments where we are being asked to pick a path for ourselves. As we get older, it will become less about us and more about those around us. It'll be about where your wife's promotion takes you, living in an area with good schools for your children, staying in a job so you can earn enough to have a lifestyle to keep you and your dependants happy, etc. This current series of decisions is all about us, the young individuals embarking on life as adults. At 18 we are also legally responsible. We are accountable. We will make the decisions, hopefully get them right, and regardless have to deal with the consequences.


Stockholm is a wonderful city for shopping. You can stroll down Drottninggatan to see an H&M on every corner, along with Åhlens, one of Sweden's major department stores. If you're looking for something more 'hipster', Södermalm has a Shoreditch vibe and is the best destination for vintage. And finally Biblioteksgatan is a long stretch of glamourous designers with a charming red carpet at Christmas, where these photos were taken. 

It's easy to spend a whole day walking around the main island and use the cold weather as an excuse to buy new clothes. Which brings me to the newsboy hat. I've seen them emerging in stores and online for a year or so, and decided the icey Swedish wind was the final cue to take the plunge. Besides, who doesn't want to look like Keira Knightley in Love Actually?

A 1920s Legend in 2017

In 1920, Greta Garbo, then Greta Gustafsson, was working in one of Stockholm's major department stores, called PUB, as a shop assistant. Her good looks led to modelling hats in the store's catalogue, and from there she took part in a commercial. She was then offered roles by directors, and ended up on a scholarship to study at the Royal Dramatic Theater School at 17. That working-class Stockholm shop assistant went on to become an Old Hollywood legend.

And so, I found myself in that very same building, also at age 17. No longer a department store but a hotel called the Haymarket by Scandic. With the same art deco flair, tributes and references to Greta laced throughout, the 1920s character felt very much alive. As an Old Hollywood enthusiast and overall vintage fan, staying in the Haymarket was the immersive and colourful experience I didn't know I needed.

The glamorous decor made me feel like I'd stepped into an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. I was ready to wave my hair and adorn myself with pearls to live out my very own Jazz Age narrative.