One of the many pleasures of this year’s British Educational Research Association Conference was collaborating on the Aspiration Nation? Symposium not just with Kim and Laura, my CelebYouth colleagues, but also with the wonderful Louise Archer from the Aspires Project, Graham Crow from the Living and Working on Sheppey Project and Becky Francis. Graham’s research involves asking young people to write essays in the voice of their older selves looking back on their lives, replicating an earlier study by Ray Pahl in the 1970s. In exploring the archived 1970s essays, Graham was surprised to find that Pahl had scribbled ‘Total Fantasy’ on some. This remark from Graham provoked me to reflect on how we judge young people’s aspirations. How do some come to appear realistic and some fantastic, and with what consequences?