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A Very English Prom

I've grown up watching Hollywood films about the rite of passage that is the American High School prom. It's the idolised evening where American teenagers face the climax of their personal character arcs. Bianca punches Joey in 10 Things I Hate About You and Kat realises the truth behind Patrick asking her out. Troy and Gabriella perform possibly the best dance number in Disney history in High School Musical 3's 'A Night To Remember'. Molly Ringwald makes an entrance in Pretty in Pink. Pacey and Joey have a colossal fight in Dawson's Creek. They kiss, they breakup, they dance in slow motion and always remind each other with starry eyes that it is a night they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Other regular themes include sneaking in booze; dodging the teachers who act as wardens on patrol; limos, corsages; threats from fathers to boys about treating their daughters respectfully; plans (often thwarted) to "do it” for the first time on prom night. In the movies, it is almost always a heady mix of teenage angst and fairytale.

In England it isn't so dramatic, at least not in my experience. My prom was a muted affair - dare I say a little more sophisticated than the US movie version - and just a tad more chill. No sneaking in alcohol - we started with a champagne reception with our parents and teachers. We had a sweet sit-down meal with teachers as our guests at the table; and then danced to some cheesy tunes. I couldn't help but compare the stark differences from the Hollywood version to my very English prom. There were no corsages or prom queens. No one took dates. The teachers and students shared conversation over wine and food. The splendid evening was only slightly overshadowed by England’s World Cup football match, which was on at the same time. The bursts of yelling and screaming somewhat undermined my claim of a sophisticated dinner...

While there were many differences, there were also many similarities.

The evening held the same weight and sentimentality that came with marking the end of our school career. Close friends shared moments of simple joy and laughter that would unlikely happen on any other evening (Lily, Sarah - we’ll always have the roundabout). Old friendships were repaired (Alfie, I mean you); students from different groups who had barely spoken in years suddenly were connecting and laughing and grasping the moment. And for me and many of my friends, it was all about the dress.

After the party, after the after-party, after the after-after-party, I ended up dancing in a park at 4am with my best friends as the sun came up. The usual London bustle was muted by dawn and it was like the whole world was ours, just for that short window. For once, not agonising over exams or the uncertainty of our future. Truly carefree, living in the moment. We ran down empty streets in our prom dresses; we laughed at the strange encounters of the night bus (not a limo in sight); we were joined by an odd collection of people, not necessarily people with whom we’d spent much time over the last year but who persevered with us throughout the night. All embracing and bonding over the collective, deliriously joyful state of having just officially graduated.

By the time we made it to starbucks at 5am we came up with what we thought was the funniest idea of the night - returning to school, where our prom was held hours earlier, and watching the teachers and younger students arrive as normal at 8am for their regular school day. The next three hours were a test. We lost a few from our eclectic group at different stages due to exhaustion but the final five or so that made it back were absolute troupers. And after our grand tour of different locations throughout the night we returned exactly 12 hours after our prom began. We saw our wonderful head of year — the inspirational, best-teacher-in-the-world, Mrs Adams. We saw a few others who had the same idea. Everyone, it seemed, had a fun night.

Five Years of Lexi Likes

Lexi Likes is now five years old.

That’s five years of chronicling the evolution of me as a writer and me as a person. It's something in which I take great pride. I have spent almost a third of my existence writing Lexi Likes, with content ranging from my sweet fashion musings as a peppy thirteen year old to the hopefully more considered views on life and the challenges it poses for a young woman in this complex age.

I’m now at a crossroads. Like many of my peers, I’m transitioning from the relatively cosseted world of school to.…..well, I’m not quite sure. My future remains uncertain, as does everyone's with the shadow of results day hanging over Summer.

It’s has been long few months. Actually, it's been a long year. Upper Sixth, the final year of school in the UK, was tough. It's hard to anticipate until you are in it. Everyone seems to recall the agony of their final school year but it's not something you fully understand until you're doing it yourself. The exhaustion of the university application process, the lead up to A-levels plus the exams themselves, all mixed in with the antics that come with being young and trying to work out exactly where in this world you want to be.

Sound angsty? It was.

I'd like to think I held myself together pretty well but I'm also not afraid to admit that I got hit by a few curve balls. While this was the year I strengthened my most valuable friendships and had many good times, it's also probably been the hardest year of my life. The simple yet deeply disorientating lesson is that not everything in life goes to plan. I've learnt I do not respond well to the surrendering of control. I've learnt what it feels like to want something with all of your heart and not get it. I’ve learnt to deal with burning disappointment. I’ve learnt that the measure of a person is how they move forward after taking a big hit. I've learnt that A-levels are bloody hard. I've learnt many things and, tough as some of those lessons have been, I am probably stronger for it.

During this year, the last six months in particular, my focus shifted to my studies. My blog took a backseat and the content I produced concentrated on my thoughts during this turbulent time. While it was an accidental product of the shift in my lifestyle, I'm actually proud of some of the pieces that came out of it.

Despite all the trials and tribulations of this last year and the disappointments that have come with it, one thing I know is that I feel confident calling myself a writer. In the ever-changing digital age, you can waste a lot of time trying to label your digital identity - blogger, writer, influencer, journalist. But storytelling, and writing more specifically, is what I do. When the travelling stopped; the party invitations were declined; when the theatre trips and art exhibitions were replaced by study and revision; when the personal style consisted of a rotation of three pairs of trackies and old T-shirts; writing was still there. And regardless of career or future, it always will be.

Here are some highlights of the last five years.

1. My first post. Short but sweet.

2. Outside a show at my first season of London Fashion Week

3. My first commission, where I designed an outfit for a doll company

4. Getting featured in Teen Vogue

5. A double page spread in a French magazine about my life in London as a blogger

6. Speaking to the marketing director of Lad Bible as a CNN intern at a media conference

7. Listed in The Tab's '25 Most Successful Fashion Bloggers Under 25'

..to name a few.

I also want to thank you. Many of you have been here since the beginning, and may remember some of those moments. It's crazy to think I've been blogging for five years but what's even wilder is realising how many of you have been along for the ride. As my life moves into a new phase, I'm actively considering where to take this blog. As I evolve as a writer, a storyteller, so will the content of Lexi Likes. I hope that you will stay with me. 

I’m only just getting started.


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.