Last night I was suffering from a bout of insomnia. Lying awake, I started to muse on the past. I had been reading a book about a woman teaching young college students and how she became involved in their development towards maturity and independence, This made me think of the time when I was the same age as those students. I remembered, particularly, the year when I lived in a flat with three friends I knew from University. How I looked up to the other girls! They seemed so sophisticated and confident, especially two of them, Shirley and Erica, who were close friends and had known each other from schooldays. They always seemed to know exactly how they wanted everything to be. They always knew what was the latest trend in books, films or pop music. Their clothes were always stylish. The two of them together set the tone and took the lead. They made the rules about meals, shopping, shared expenses,who was invited to our flat etc. etc. The other girl and I simply did what they wanted. Looking back I see that I was treated rather like a younger sibling, someone not quite competent. I wasn't bullied exactly, but my wishes and opinions were not much taken into account.
Now, so many years later, I suddenly perceive the four of us in a different way. I think of the behaviour of the other girls and see them as bossy and self-centred rather than clever and confident, somewhat immature, not particularly so for their age, but certainly more so than I. After leaving University I had found a job, so I was the only one earning my own living. Though I could always depend on my parents to help me if necessary, I was, already, almost financially independent. The others were still completing their studies and had well-off parents who paid all their expenses, I had always had holiday jobs and while studying, did part-time tutoring for pocket money. I was the one in a stable relationship, was contemplating marriage and was more sexually experienced. I also came from a very literary family and was better informed and better read than most of my contemporaries. Now looking back I can't understand why I felt at all inferior. I see myself now as the more grown-up one and the other girls as less mature. How interesting to find that the past is not fixed and that although our memories may not change in themselves they can take on quite different aspects when we revisit them in old age.