School Daze with Nadia Forde: ‘I was quiet and studious’

I went to Holy Faith in Clontarf in Dublin and I still have a big group of friends from school. These days, like most people, we use a WhatsApp group to communicate! Overall, school was an amazing experience for me.

School Daze with Nadia Forde: ‘I was quiet and studious’

I went to Holy Faith in Clontarf in Dublin and I still have a big group of friends from school. These days, like most people, we use a WhatsApp group to communicate! Overall, school was an amazing experience for me.

Nadia Forde and Enable Ireland service user Joan Phelan, 10, unveiling the 12th annual TK Maxx Give up Clothes for Good campaign. Picture: Anthony Woods
Nadia Forde and Enable Ireland service user Joan Phelan, 10, unveiling the 12th annual TK Maxx Give up Clothes for Good campaign. Picture: Anthony Woods

I think everyone’s teenage years are a little bit turbulent, no matter what. You’re at that age where you are realising who you are and learning all of these massive things about yourself. It’s the first stage on the way to adulthood, really. I look back and wish that I could recreate the memories that I had with the girls, because we all live in different countries now.

We all have families and we are all moving on in our careers. I miss the day-to-day connection of that, for sure. That said, I do not wish to go back to being a teenager — it was hard! It was a strict, sister-led school and I am grateful for the grounding that I got there.

Having lived in lots of different countries now, I definitely get different reactions from people when I explain that I went to a Sister-led convent school, and people are often kind of shocked that those schools still exist. It was such a normality for us, growing up. The Sisters were great to us. They encouraged growth and development in all of us.

I was quiet and studious. I wasn’t a troublemaker in at all, I think I was pretty good. I loved art and art history, especially coming in towards the Leaving Cert. I remember that being one of my favourite times of the week. I loved history in general, and I still do — I am a massive history buff. I am hugely interested in international politics and history and I read as much as I can.

I also loved biology. It was as though everything suddenly made sense. I think everyone should do biology. I think it is really important to learn how the world works, why it works the way it does and why humans do what they do — it’s the basics of why we’re here.

I don’t think that I really developed into the person I am today until my 20s, if I’m honest. When I was in school, I think I learned discipline and that has contributed to my really strong work ethic, and my ability to get straight into a job or a work project with all of my energy. It was a musical school as well. I remember being part of the choir and I loved that.

At that age, you are so conscious of how you are coming across that it can limit your choices. For me, I was definitely very afraid to be fully myself during the teenage years.

If I was talking to my teenage self today, I think I would give her a bit of a pep talk. I wish I had embraced my differences more. As I have gotten older, and especially now as a mother, I love what makes me different, and I don’t want to be like everyone else. In school, everyone wants to be the same — it’s the same hair and the same clothes and into the same things, whereas now I love focusing on the things that make me stand a little apart. I wish I had celebrated those differences in school.

Social media is the biggest conversation topic for me and my husband Dom when we are talking about when our daughter Wyatt is a little bit older and starting her schooling. I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of negative comments and messages, and I have a thicker skin, it washes off my back. That’s my fear as a parent during the school years. Bullying is not just at in the classroom or playground anymore. It’s coming into your home and your bedroom and I think it is causing anxiety for our young people in a really big way.

You want to conform, you want to fit in, you want to feel like part of the group. I think that when you are a little different, you feel a bit like the outsider and I think that’s where my not-so-happy memories of the time stem from. The thing is, what made me feel left out back then, makes me feel happy today and I am proud to be a little bit different. I would love kids to realise that life is hard, and it’s our job to not make it harder on each other.

- Nadia has partnered with TK Maxx on its 12th annual Give up Clothes for Good campaign in support of Enable Ireland, which encourages people to donate pre-loved, quality clothes, accessories and homeware to raise funds to support vital services for children and young people with disabilities.

For more, visit tkmaxx.ie

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