Thursday, 8 October 2015
Yeah, you heard me. You were the one who challenged me to check out clearing. I snarked back (in that really annoying I'm-right-you're-wrong tone of voice) that of course clearing wasn't still open. It was September, and Freshers' started in less than a week.
I checked it out the next day (because I said I would) and of course it was still open. And we sat down, slightly stunned, and threw the idea of me being a fresher again into the air. I would be almost 6 years older than most of my coursemates. We'd decided to go for a quiet year, just to get used to this craziness called marriage, and suddenly there was an offer from Sunderland to study the degree I've always wanted (but never had the courage) to do.
You see, French was an easy option. There are so many writers already in the world, and it was a good, solid choice if I wanted to be 'marketable'. And I love languages. I love taking them apart and squishing them back together in fun ways, and I love that history can be traced by how we talk. Words offer hushed echoes of people and places we don't recall, who once upon a time stamped something of themselves onto their time. Language remembered them for us.
I was too scared to write "properly". We were supposed to have figured out what we were going to do at the tender age of almost-eighteen, and I remember sitting with my Mum on our sofa and bursting out that I had no idea which to choose. English? French? How was I ever going to make it as a writer? How could my voice ever be unique or interesting enough in a chorus as loud as the literary world? I would have to shout, I worried. And despite being a 'proper natterer' I have never been good at shouting. I can't even return a badly made hot drink.
So writing was my thing. It was the thing that I kept in a box, and brought out in certain situations or to certain people. It was so incredibly personal that the idea of sharing it, of putting it outside my little corner of the web and actually making it my job? That terrified me. It hit so close, so deep, that I ran as fast as I possibly could to the first 'marketable' idea I had, and I chose French.
I miss French. I miss Bristol. And yet, I am so utterly content and at peace in this tiny little university, on this small campus, in a way I never was in that city or that degree. I wanted to fit Bristol, so I squished myself into this 'idea', and wondered why I ached in certain places after a long time of a body and soul contorted to fit.
I live in Newcastle, in a little flat that smells of cigarette smoke despite the fact we took that massive sofa from the last tenants out. The North couldn't be more different from the South. It is busy in a different way: it is a rhythm rather than a buzz, and I love it. This ebb and flow that breathes life into art and history and people and music, in this no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase attitude that has stripped away my faffing and left me breathless.
There isn't really the space to say in four sentences what you could say in one (which still doesn't stop me, but I'm learning). There is a bareness that is beautiful, and incredibly rich. I have people who will tell me, to my face, if my writing is crap and when I need to start again.
I no longer want safe and pretty. I want real and raw, and if it is uncomfortable I will learn to embrace it (probably with a fair amount of whining which you're welcome to slap out of me), because living in a real way is surely the only way worth living.
I had this idea of myself. This fierce metropolitan woman who reviews theatre and discusses politics and explores little side streets and let's face it, is just pretty damn cool.
Well, when I meet people like that I'm always thrilled that they actually want to be friends with me. Because I am not cool. I tuck my pyjama bottoms into my socks. I make lists before I go food shopping. I watch house improvement programmes and laugh too loudly at my own jokes. I write down the exciting festivals in my diary and will more than likely forget to go, and we just built a shelf for the microwave to go on in our kitchen. I still beam proudly whenever I go past it.
I'm learning, slowly, that actually it's alright to be just me, as I am right now. That sounds like be-yourself rubbish, but I'm learning that it's exhausting and pointless to post this polished version of myself online and to other people. They'll love someone else.
So I'm a fresher. I'm a nearly 24-year-old who is basically the new girl at school. I'm a wife (that one still makes me feel weird but very very happy). I'm a rather amused slightly more-grown-up person who looks back at my 'I know everything' attitude and laughs, because I really feel like I know nothing at all.
But that's probably the best place to start. When we are empty, we can be filled up.
(... With chocolate, preferably.)