I grew up in a slightly odd childhood, one of the younger of six siblings, and sometime after my mother had exhausted all sense of wonder at the birth of a new child. Dealing efficiently with the demands of a new baby or mouth to feed with a minimum of impact on routine was at the heart of her approach.
As a consequence the household had the atmosphere of a holding area at some welfare assessment centre: largely indifferent to the mood of its inmates with random and spontaneous periods of cruelty depending on the whimsy of elder siblings whose actions, no doubt, were a response to the general emotional bleakness.
The reason this matters, apart from a lack of toys and sweets of course, is that when I left my childhood I departed as one who has walked out of a prison after a long sentence with very little idea of self or understanding of the mechanics of the outside world . During my teens avoiding reality by daydreaming or reading had been my only available survival technique.
Like all of us, my entrance into the world left me with advantageous disadvantages. It gave me the perspective of being an outsider who had little knowledge of ordinary family life or being cherished and fuelled with a sense of purpose, but it also left me, rootless, imaginative and with an unexpressed sense of life’s mystery.
Faced with the question, “Would you rather be an astronaut or a librarian I might reply, “Look at the way the light is hitting the water over there. It’s almost luminous”. The observation might be accurate but was not fundamentally career enhancing.
It takes a long time to grow out of being odd. Perhaps more than a lifetime. It’s a project I intend to start on fairly soon. It demonstrates that you can never predict the benefits hidden within any experience. It reminds me that self-pity is seldom a useful pre-occupation, and if you wish to explore it, it is best done on your own. It leaves me vunerable to, and slightly baffled by, any displays of tenderness shown towards me.
I am wary of how those who are in positions of power use and exploit their position. It makes me value the joy of people who cherish each other without thought of personal glory or advancement. It taught me that the damage done to us can often become a portal to a greater understanding of, and empathy with, the world around us. Bitterness is not the only response available to the unfortunate, and without wishing to be harsh, can smack of self- indulgence . And lastly I ask myself if writing is the last resort of the socially awkward ? Answers please to an address of your choice, or in the box below.