Posts from November 23rd, 2014

Who’s That Lady?

November 23, 2014

The Man Repeller Writer’s Club set a brief titled ‘(Not Too) Cool for School’ to write 500 words on one of the most valuable lessons learnt during school, and one that wasn’t written in the books.

I think for a lot of experiences in life, it is through hindsight that we see clearly and understand what we have been taught and how we have grown. In reflecting upon my own school experiences and in remembering the mindset I had at that time, it is at once a little funny and a little heartbreaking to see how much older I felt than I really was.

Anyhow, I call this piece of writing “Who’s That Lady?”

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Who’s That Lady?

Inhabiting a chaotic cosmos of hormones and peer pressure, a teenage girl often thinks she is light-years more grown up than she is. During my own adolescence, I was no exception to the trend for a warped sense of one’s own maturity.

In my family I was the only girl, and my three brothers were much older than me. So by the time I hit puberty, it was just me and my mother living together. And we did everything together. Imagine a blonde, British version of the Gilmore Girls and you pretty much have us. We would meet for coffees after school, discuss who we had crushes on, and spend our weekends going to art-house cinemas and sitting in bookstores, poring over philosophy books and travel guides until closing.

I was ten years old when my mother was first sick, and it was during the first year of my A-Levels when I was seventeen and-a-half that she died of metastatic breast cancer. Feeling as though the ground had been swept from underneath my feet, my method of coping was to embrace my independence wholeheartedly. As well as continuing with my education full-time, I worked part-time as a waitress, and stayed living alone at my family house. I wanted to ace my exams, earn my own money, and prove to everyone that I could cope spectacularly on my own. Walking between my house, college, and work, I would listen to the Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady?” and feel like one badass chick.

While I studied hard, in classrooms I felt increasingly distanced from my peers. I struggled to relate and imagined that my classmates lived lives that were infinitely more sheltered than mine. I revelled in independence but at the same time envied the simplicity and comfort I assumed they had. All sorts of frustration and emotion swam inside of me, and frequently my mind orbited way outside of the classroom. In coming to terms with death at that age, my sense of what mattered became awfully dry and extreme. And so any time somebody in class complained about something trivial or acted like a brat, I wanted to feel so angry at them for not “getting it.”

But, somehow, I couldn’t.

My gut surprised me and told me that there was a blurry bigger picture that I would one day understand and see clearly.

Firstly, I realised then that it wouldn’t serve me to be envious of others and how I presumed their lives to be; besides, you never know what another person’s personal life is really like. Secondly, I sensed that to live with a chip on my shoulder about the pain I felt was only going to have a negative affect on me and my experience of the world.

But when I reflect on the awkwardness I felt sharing a learning space with others my age at that time, I wish I could have seen that I was in fact the same age as everybody else. I hadn’t become a woman overnight like I thought I had. Following astral lines of thought is fun and being self-sufficient feels great, but, I have learnt since that being a woman requires much more: the ability to lean on others, as well as to love one’s self unconditionally like a mother would.

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