An Ode To My Teenage Self…
When I was fourteen years old there were three things I knew with absolute certainty:
1. I wanted to be a famous, published writer more than anything in the world
2. I wanted one of the variously unsuitable boys I fell in love with to notice me
3. I didn’t fit in, I was the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
I was shy, pretty but not in a conventional way, with big green eyes and a ton of curly red hair which made me the subject of teasing and ridicule from an early age and on top of this I was completely and utterly socially inept!
At 11 years old I was sent to boarding school, a scary and intimidating experience perhaps for most kids of that age but this was coupled with the fact that I passed my 11+ with a full academic scholarship, the only way my parents could possibly have afforded to send me to such a place. I was surrounded by peers who had grown up with such unimaginable wealth and start in life that I stood out like a sore thumb, with my high IQ, handmade and charity shop clothes, green flash trainers and not a designer label in sight.
I felt lost, I had nothing in common with those around me, my parents did normal things, my Dad was an engineer, my Mum stayed at home and looked after us, we grew our own fruit and veg, holidays were camping and walking in the UK, usually to various nature reserves and beauty spots, we were taught the value of the world around us and lived a make and mend lifestyle, whereas my new classmates had parents who in a lot of cases came from money themselves and so didn’t have to work, they ate out and holidayed abroad in places with funny names.
I wasn’t jealous of what they had, in truth I didn’t really comprehend that sort of lifestyle at all, something that even now I earn a reasonable living myself, is so far ingrained that I feel guilty spending money and shy away from the obvious trappings of labels and flashy things. I just wanted to be able to join in, to feel less of an outsider, to find some common ground and to make some friends.
Little by little I started to make some friends, people who like me were bright but awkward, we formed a rag tag group of weirdos and oddballs who lived mostly in black, wore thick eyeliner and mascara (including the boys) and absorbed ourselves in the warblings of bands like Bauhaus, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails & Sisters of Mercy, finding some simpatico in the world at last. My parents didn’t really understand the maudlin creature that returned home during the school holidays and tried their best to encourage me into dressing more cheerfully but I tended to just immerse myself in the fantasy world of literature and music trying to drown out my innate loneliness.
Teenage life was hard, pressure seemed to come from everywhere, to fit in, to be cool, to look fabulous, to be in a relationship & ‘put out’, to study – a never ending mental drain and apart from studying I was terrible at the rest! I fell in love a few times, but generally my intentions were either not reciprocated by the too cool for school object of my affections, or short lived, boys would ask me out but once the more seniors kids discovered that said boy had asked out the ‘odd ginger goth girl’ they were ridiculed into submission and I’d be quickly ditched.
I then made the fatal error of falling quite hopelessly in love with one of my male best friends, mistaking our closeness for more. Jamie was a vision of long blonde hair, button nose and eyes so blue and endless that they gave an infinity pool a run for its money, his cuteness allowed him to transition between the oddballs and the cool kids, the male equivalent of a gateway drug, easy to be around and left you wanting more. To his credit he goes down in history for the best ever gentle let down when I finally plucked up the courage to ask him out in one of our nightly exchanges of notes about our day. He wrote the most eloquent of ‘its not you its me’ letters telling me why we weren’t really suited and that we were just ‘sugar mice in the rain’, a Marillion lyric that like him I still hold dear in my heart to this day.
My spare time outside of classes, sports & study was mostly spent writing teenage angst poetry or surreal short stories, dreaming of a career as a writer with a cottage by the sea and just the cliffs and waves for company and inspiration..and maybe a cat..and to play violin effortlessly and sing folk songs. I had some minor success in writing competitions and somewhere my poetry aged 14 lives in published form though I’ve never been able to force myself to track it down and buy a copy preferring to leave it out there in the ether like a mythological creature, I fear to read it now would dash my romantic notion that it was possibly quite good.
Nowadays of course I’m not a famous writer at all, or a haunting voiced violin playing folk singer (though I do own a fabulous purple electric violin like Ed Alleyne-Johnson which I’m still learning to play). Nor did I go on to be one outside of those teenage ambitions, not because I tried and failed, or didn’t try but because the dream changed, morphed and took a different path the older I got. I work hard and have a career which I love. I’m not famous, but I am successful in my field and I’m able to put my social conscience to good use, trying to make the world a better place a little step at a time each day, so hopefully in my own way I can make a difference. I’m still an oddball, I have a self-deprecating sense of humour, I’m a huge 30 Seconds to Mars and Depeche Mode fan, so my music taste is pretty similar, I’m still not great in large social groups as I’m still quite shy but I’m better than I was at finding my own place and I get by and have good friends.
So why am I writing all this? I guess I’d like to tell my teenage self (and others out there) not to worry, not to stress so much and to enjoy life!
To reassure her that one day there will be that right boy and that finding him will be fun (okay and yes heartbreak as well!) along the way. The world is full of all sorts of different guys with luscious locks (and you’ll be responsible for increasing the growth of some of it!) and infinity pool eyes, some will break your heart and some will love you right back and you’ll probably break theirs, but its all part of life’s little mysteries.
That university and life after is full of amazing oddballs just like you, in fact there are many oddballs out there, creative, kind, intriguing, inspiring, challenging people who will make and shape your world.
That true friends know you, love you and remain with you through thick and thin no matter what and you don’t have to be anything but yourself for them.
To keep writing, for enjoyment, for pleasure and to never lose the wonder that is words on a page, no matter how bad the writing might be.
That life will have its up’s and down’s but that with a song in your heart , determination and a dream in your head you’ll be just fine!
“Dreams are the result of a million choices, a billion failures, and a few successes.” ― Jared Leto
“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” ― Dr. Seuss
“I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.” ― Neil Gaiman
“I’m not insane, I’m voluntarily indifferent to conventional rationality.” ― Jared Leto
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss