It’s hard standing up to parents as a teen at the best of times, especially if you’re not the average ‘rebellious’ kind who’s been shaving their head and dyeing their remaining Mohicaned hair green and pogo-ing at every musical opportunity (unless to the Birdy Dance) since the advent of punk a couple of years back. Ah yes, welcome back 1980.
It’d been bad enough owning up to wearing blue mascara when I’d got some on a (peach) towel in the bathroom after not having oiled my make-up off properly beforehand. It’d been equally humiliating to admit to having scratched the name of a boy on the underside of a piece of household furniture and had it not been for my perfect spelling of the word ‘Malcolm’ (in hindsight I should have said ‘M A L C U M’ when they asked me how to spell this) I could have left the blame squarely in my little brother’s court.
So I knew it was going to be a tricky operation telling my parents I’d like to go to Art College please after I’d finished my A-levels. Actually even staying on the 2 years to do these had been fraught with anxiety and argument and punishment so this is how trepidacious vocalising the notion of even MORE further education was going to be.
I’d got my Art teacher on side beforehand, though. The wonderful Mrs Black, who’d helped me search for the best route to take: a foundation course at our local college followed by 3 years at Bath College of Fine Art. And she’d even found out about grants and financial help for students with parents on low incomes.
Armed with this plethora of infomation, I broached the subject and was met with not only a resounding ‘No’, but reasons to back up their decision:
- I’d give my brother ideas if he saw me gallivanting off to college.
- I’d become one of those ‘drop-outs’ before a year was up.
- I always had ideas above my station, it was time I stopped dreaming.
- There was no point wasting 4 years studying when I could be earning money, bringing home housekeeping.
- What would I do with a degree in Art anyway?
- They’d never gone to college and it hadn’t done them any harm, had it?
I can’t begin to describe how bereft I felt. Lost, empty, alone, isolated, misunderstood and unloved, the tip of the iceberg. And the following morning, when friends at school were still discussing their options, choices, interviews and visits to various colleges, I felt like an outsider; the bystander watching everyone else’s lives unfurling in front of them. The me from yesterday had died. Just gone.
I gave up after that. I’d already taken my English Lit exams by this time, all I had left was my Art practical. I got halfway through, couldn’t see the point in continuing, so walked out. Mrs Black, bless her, rushed out to persuade me to go back in and finish but I’d lost the will.
And I can still feel every little cut and bruise this painful period of my life left me . My nan died shortly after the non-Art exam and so my entry into the world of grown-ups suddenly looked like the bleakest, coldest, darkest place I’d ever seen – even in my mind, and that’s saying something.
If I could’ve said to the unhappy, lost 18 year old girl back then, that one day she would give birth to the most incredible person she’d ever met, and that this wonderful girl, her own daughter, would give her the encouragement, support and confidence to finally follow a dream and enrol on Degree in Creative Writing, then I wonder whether she’d have been happy to wait out the interim 35 years until this happened? Would it have made a difference to the intervening years and given her the faith to hold on and believe that something good and better was going to finally arrive when she was 52?
Remembering how that sad, lost, lonely girl used to feel, I rather doubt she’d have listened or believed it if she’d been told this. She’d have shaken her head and said ‘what use is that to me now?’ or something like that. She’d been hulled out. There were no words back then that could’ve saved her; the hurting had already happened.