(Hello chums! Welcome to my blog where I will take you along my journey on the publishing track with my YA novel, and all of the ramblings that come with it!)
A Meeting With My Teenage Self – The Before and After
There is something truly revealing about being someone who has come through a storm so little people know of, and having risen regardless of the damage done. And yet, what’s more revealing is when this new, polished, you is faced with a situation that is entirely juvenile and speaks of your past so wholely – how should one react?
For me, there is a picture that needs to be painted for you to perhaps understand the transformation that is Jennifer. At the age of fourteen I was doubt and perfectionism condensed into a girl with a full fringe who never left the house without a watch. I was perfect. My schoolwork led me to A’s repeatedly, and my routine was flawless. I was a wire coil wrapped so tightly that my worries of my weight, intelligence and ambitions were under lock and key to no one but me. As the years stretched my perfectionism became dependant on hiding the depth to which I needed such rigidity. Appearing casual was all that mattered at 17, even more so than it had at 14.
The root reason for this was nothing but the girls in my class and school year. An all-girls school is insidious and ideal at the same time – but when I saw the flushed faces of those girls whom I could never be, the wire coil inside of me only tightened further still.
There was one girl who was on the highest tier of the two-tiered social system we had all devised together wordlessly. She was a poem to me, and a symbol of all I wasn’t – and naturally, she was (and is) an incredibly kind person. Her hair always hung loose to her waist and never seemed to irk her so much that the tightest of hairbands wouldn’t be enough. Her cheeks were already beginning to show signs of her constant beautiful laughter, and her eyes sparkled. Always – even when she wasn’t looking at anything in particular.
But times change.
That girl is still all of those things as far as I know, and I acknowledge her kindness before all else when I think of her. I, however, am not the same. In short, the wire coil snapped and unraveled both dramatically and dangerously for sometime after the age of 18. The recovery process for me taught me what school never had, as I stopped looking around at others so much and to put my money where my mouth was and started writing everyday. What good is an actionless ambition?
Time happened faster than I noticed, and whilst I put pen to paper with increasing haste, each word stitched the very bones which I’d berated and broken back together. I fell back into place with my own, new life and began to forget others. Writing poetry, articles and my novel became all I needed to remind me of the uniqueness that I had long since tried to hide by the cutting and cunning art of comparison.
This girl and I are no longer a side-by-side, before and after picture illustrating the benefits of bottling another’s charisma and casting my own aside. It’s funny really, all this time, and so many casts I have moulded to my bones and rebroken, and she has no idea.
So when I sat on a bus with my notebook out and my diary detailing my life propped open on my tucked up knees, I did not expect her to sit in front of me after so many years of learning had passed.
And so, despite having learned so much, and having become an adult I was proud to be, my heart dropped and my mind honed in on the details I had not thought of in nearly four years. Her hair was shorter now, but her eyes still twinkled with the mischief of life. She was entirely polite, funny and even kinder than I remembered. I held my breath for that entire conversation until my chest squeezed in pain.
And so the bus started and we both sat back, and as I attempted to sirultitoudly take a deep breath I caught sight of her hands in the tiny crack between the seats. Her nails were bitten to stubs, and some were even bleeding. I watched as she anxiously nibbled at a thumb before I realised that this girl and I had nothing in common, perhaps now – but my past and her present led me to empathy. I had long since stopped biting my nails with the anxiety I had taught myself was not a necessary part of me. It would never lead me to my best self.
No that road had taken the best part of two years to travel and rectify the damage done. More than once I had to forgive myself for not being this girl and for being the person I was born to be. I have long since prescribed to the motion that I entirely worthy of all that I want – writing success included. I am a good person. But this girl, so anxious now, troubled me. Something had her feeling otherwise and I wondered if she had always been this way, but I had been too blinded by jealousy to see it.
Don’t get me wrong, this did not give me a sense of superiority. Far from it, really. No, I felt distinctly disheartened as I realised that this was her road and not mine.
So I did what I always do to make sense of the world;
I wrote about it.