Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth

I’ve only just gone back and read through everything I’ve written so far. No wonder there’s confusion. I’d forgotten how I’d written some of it. I think I lost the plot somewhere.

I’m better than this.

It’s a form of control. Whereas thoughts might simply drift by, only becoming a matter for rumination if the mood and opportunity take us, when you choose to take one and turn it into something written, you choose to assert control over it. You examine it. You pick it apart, critically. Is that how it really was? Could there be another reason why I’m remembering it in that way? How was I feeling right then? Could that be affecting my memory? And then you transfer that into letters and words and paragraphs, leaving you with something else to analyse. You look at what you’ve written down and wonder what’s missing. You need to work out what else is needed in order to provide more context. The other person’s point of view? The events leading up to that moment? Some of these things will always remain unknown, but empathy and creating a narrative can work wonders.

Sometimes I let it control me. I pick a thought, turn it into a ‘what if…’ and then tie that to some vague memory I have. And thus, we get confusion. I’m weaving storylines into a French plait.

Once you’ve finished writing, you can look it over and assess its tone. Is it bitter, or angry? Is it sad? Consider your mood, whatever you’ve been left with. Do you feel better for writing that? Are you feeling thoughtful, pleased with a revelation? Has it made you feel ashamed and dirty all over again? These are all important things. They lead you on to the next story, they give you more questions to ponder.

In academic writing, guidelines for essays tend to have at least one reminder for students to check that they have actually answered the given question. It’s very easy to fuck up, you see. Place undue weight on just one word and you could be answering a different question entirely. You might get carried away going through your notes and get excited about a narrative you’ve found but forget that it’s just your pet theory and not what you were asked to do.

I have to be very careful with this. In a recent essay where I had to discuss Sartre, I was more interested in the scandal around Simone de Beauvoir getting sacked as a teacher because she kept seducing underage women and then taking them home to Jean-Paul than I was writing dryly about objectification in relationships.

I just write and see what happens. Sometimes I have to remove a lot of words. If they’re good words, they find a new home. If they’re terrible, they just get deleted.

It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re dealing with your own thoughts and memories. A more important thought will appear while you’re writing and you can’t stop to take notes because you’re already writing so you write it in and pick it apart and then it has to fit in with the other thoughts so you work out how they go together and you bridge gaps and fill holes…

Looking into my memories and my thoughts is uncovering many things that have been hiding in the dark for years. Like how I was able to read from an unusually young age. Nothing was really made of this until my mum and I were in with a doctor (why were we there? why do I vaguely remember us being in London?) and he asked me to read from the British Medical Journal. I was four. I don’t remember what he told her, but it became a big deal after that. My mum would brag about how ‘gifted’ I was, and make me read things to her friends. I hated it.

She never encouraged me, though. Nor did my grandparents, to be fair. They couldn’t figure out what to do with me so they just left me to it. I was years ahead of my class in school and pretty much skipped over all the early readers. When I was nine, I was given an adult ticket in the local library because I’d read every book in the children’s section.

My teachers encouraged me and I, in turn, impressed them. We had to write poetry inspired by Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’, and I went nuts and ignored all the rules about poetry that we’d just been taught because the rules went against everything I believed about poetry and I scribbled free verse all over the page instead. ‘You can write!’ they told me. Writing became important.

There was a school a few towns over for ‘talented’ kids. I don’t know much about the school, I can’t remember what it was called or exactly what town it was in. It might well have been a school that just had a high amount of kids attending good universities, and they accepted kids from other places if they excelled enough. Couldn’t tell you. I do remember that my teachers were pushing for my mum to send me there, though. They seemed to think I’d be accepted.

I asked my mum, and she said no. It was too far and she didn’t want me going all that way on a train or a bus by myself. That was it – no thinking it over, no attempt to find a solution. One of my friends – my intimidatingly smart friend – was definitely going there, so could I not go with her somehow? But no, just no.

When the application form was sent out, I was living with my mum and her boyfriend. They filled in the form one night, probably drunk, and being really horrible towards me for some reason. They put the school that everyone from my school went to as the first choice, which was fine. But for the second choice, he decided it would be hilarious to put the local convent school. Laughing way too hard, he said it didn’t matter because I would definitely get into my first choice. And yeah, there was no way the convent would have accepted me anyway so it was a pretty empty threat. It was just… why?

These are stupid memories.

I’m not bitter about the school thing. I vaguely remember being at my intimidatingly smart friend’s house one day, on a rare occasion when I was allowed to visit a friend, and we were talking about going there. We weren’t sure I would get in – my teachers seemed to think so, but her parents seemed to think that there was more to it than being a little bit gifted and that you needed to also be able to play a musical instrument at a certain level. So my friend pulled out her old piano lessons, and began to teach me.

Or… maybe my mum told me that to deter me, and so I arranged my own piano lessons but then she got fed up with me asking and just said an outright no…

My memory is awful. Why is there so much that I can’t remember?

So, I went to the same school as everyone else and hated every minute. I was completely bored and increasingly pissed off. At some point, one of the teachers started to harass me for wearing two earrings in one ear, knowing that I couldn’t take out the top one because I’d only just had it done, and I just got so annoyed because I’d always tried so hard at school and been so well-behaved and now I’m in trouble anyway because of the school’s stupid fucking earring policy?

I left, and went back to my books.

0 comments on “Like all dreamers, I mistook disenchantment for truth

  1. Remarkable similarity to my life! I could read well at age 3, and was frequently called upon to perform. I was asked to read toothpaste tubes, the backs of cereal boxes, and random passages from the nearest book. These and other performances I hated.

    Then I was moved up a grade midyear, and was still ahead of most, but now was smaller than most. These two experiences led me to shun attention for my abilities, to downplay them. It has affected my later education and my career. I simply don’t like attention for it.

    Yet I am flattered when I receive praise for something I write for fun. That feels okay for some reason.

    • My biggest issue with it was that everyone seemed to want me to fuck it up. If I stumbled on pronunciation – which happened fairly often because I’d only ever seen some words written down – then I was laughed at because, oh look, she’s not as smart as she thinks she is… even though I never claimed to be. My other performing monkey trick was being given impromptu spelling tests, and that was just as annoying.

      I’m so sorry that happened to you and that it’s affected you the way it has. I don’t think people realise that singling out a kid in a way that lets their peers know that they are much smarter than the rest of them is actually not a useful thing to do. You are a great writer, so I hope someday you can find a way to overcome that experience. Perhaps the reason you can handle praise when you’re writing for fun is because you’ve made a deliberate choice to write and you feel more in control?

  2. Writing and books are a grand escape. I should also say I should take notes from your academics because if I did, I would prob focus better on commenting and not ramble so much.

    Cheers! 😉

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