Opinion: 'Taking a leap of faith can be good for you'

Ruth Davies and her daughter Florence 

Ruth Davies and her daughter Florence - Credit: Ruth Davies

My eldest daughter will be starting high school in September and with just weeks to go, the nerves are building for this new stage of life which she embarks upon entirely solo. All her friends are going to another school and while it was all very well in the planning, as the day grows closer, she is starting to worry about not having any pals. She wonders if there will be anybody at her new school who will like her and worries all from old will forget she exists. 

To be doing something entirely different is a choice she made with awareness but nevertheless, it’s a tough moment for anyone. I tell her that no one likes change but the fact she jumped with both feet anyway shows what a brave girl she is. I have no doubt she will have friends old and new very soon, but I understand her angst.  

I told her about my experiences as a 13-year-old when I made a similar leap. I’d begun high school in Norwich but soon after won a place at a prestigious drama school in London putting me in a quandary of decision making. I wanted to go, to have this incredible opportunity, but the thought of leaving for new pastures terrified me.

When I say I don’t like change I don’t simply jest. I have felt melancholy leaving a hotel room after a week of enjoying it and when I moved house once, literally two miles down the road, I cried so hard my family began to wonder if I was the full ticket. Something within propelled me to choose that hard road though and it was one of the best things I ever did. I’m so glad I did something out of the ordinary for many reasons and though some things didn’t work out exactly as I’d envisaged (when do they?), I achieved so much just by being the girl who leapt.  

I was lonely at first. A new school in a new city with a timeline to match no one else. I’d get on the train in Norwich at 5.30am and not be home again until 8pm. My friends from home were all on a far more acceptable clock, and for a while there I guess I got forgotten about a little. I wasn’t the obvious choice to meet with on the weekend having not been there during the week, and yet the kids at my new school didn’t live near me.

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I floated about for a bit not really knowing where my place was or who my people were, but time moved on and slowly I found those feet which had jumped so far away. It took them a while to ground but when they did, they found my old best friend, who was still there (and still is) but they also made new friends with different lives and things going on.  

My school, being that little bit more unusual, had children travelling in from all over the country just as I was. Hardly any of us were from London so we were mostly in the same boat. We didn’t really see much of each other outside of school and yet close bonds were formed all the same and suddenly with new friendships I had double the people on my side. New friends then who are now old of course. 

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Different lives and miles in between never have to mean the end of anything so I’ve told Florence if people are meant to be in your life they absolutely will be. If I managed to keep up with pals all over the country from back in 1992 when we didn’t have anything more advanced than a pager (oh but wasn’t that the height of sophistication?!) then they most certainly will still be around now with social media to thank and be thankful for.

The people who peel off, the ones who don’t stay in touch? Well, they’d have not remained a feature in the long run anyway. Oh, and think of the new people she will meet too. The world opens up in high school and though it’s hard to watch my child go off and live life independently of me, making friends I haven’t handpicked, knowing things I have no clue of, this is the good bit right?!  

These are the days she will remember forever. The giggling, camaraderie and all the wonderful forming bonds to last a lifetime brings. There are certain stages of life where you meet your tribes and high school is the first really big arena. I still chat to my best friend Emily almost every single day. She pre-dates that move of high school in my life, she pre-dates high school full stop in fact as we met at gymnastics circa 1990 and here we are, 30-odd years later still very much in each other’s lives despite the leads up to the now being quite different for each of us.

Many of our today conversations revolve around the good old days when summers stretched over sunshine hours that lasted forever, and we wrote lists of boys we fancied but played Sega like our lives depended on it. Still babies but coming into woman hood. We felt then all the anxiousness Florence feels now, the uncertainty of the future while working out who we were as people.

We weren’t quite assured enough to be cool and yet her and I laughed and laughed about everything and nothing just as we do still. When we look back to being eleven, as gawky and unsophisticated as we knew we were, we remember some of the best days of our lives. I feel that anticipation in my throat for my darling girl who was but her sister’s age just two minutes ago. I feel it with such excitement for her that I can hardly breathe! 

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