Packing up my house contents for the second time in two years means re-visiting the memory box. It’s more interesting than Ebaying vintage die cast cars. In my memory box, I found things I’ve kept since the age of 10. My school projects (that my Mum did), cards and letters, and my signed Clarendon House Grammar School for girls blouse, covered in scribbles containing advice such as ‘watch out for the boys’ from when I was 14 and about to move to Milton Keynes. I did watch out for the boys. I bloody loved them.
Some excerpts from my diary age 14-16. I feel they show my development:
Maths – ah oh! More algebra – I HATE the stuff!
Pete’s got his eyes bandaged ‘coz of welding with no wotsit.
I’ll write out the Greatest Love of All now OK? (and did)
PS I’m badly in love. I’m only 14 but I swear to heaven that this is love. Sorry, I don’t swear, but I’m positive that I’m IN LOVE. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
(in mirror writing) I’m going out with a boy called Jason. He’s black.
Last night Mum, Dad and I had a massive WAR over Shaun.
I love Wig more than I did Shaun, and if I love someone, I’m not just gonna give up. It really isn’t so unreasonable at 16 to want a boyfriend.
In 10 mins I’m going! Breaking out at long last – I can’t quite believe it but I think it’s gonna happen! I’ll write back later. I’ve written Mum a note. She’s playing with Jonathan – I’ll slip out soon. Man am I scared!! Hi. It’s 11.10pm and I’m back. Wow I did it!!
Dad blah blah blah mum moan dad wants to meet Wig to tell him off dad don’t respect Wig cos he won’t finish with me no pocket money and they’re selling the piano. Wow that did hurt. The piano goes and my main life goes. I’m not joking I’ll be depressed without that piano I need it it’s part of my life.
Hi. All I’ve done today is talk to teachers. First, Mrs Lawrence was persuading me to stay on the 6th form because she said I’m too intelligent HAHA and I’d be bored doing typing. Thing is I really want to earn money and be independent. I think in my situation that would be good. Later on Mr Andrews said the same thing and we had a really long talk about Mum and Dad and Wig etc. He said he’d come across very religious people in a Christian guest house who based their whole lives on the bible and so he could understand Mum and Dad. I didn’t slag them down at all and Mr Andrews noticed that. He said he’d heard me talking to Ceilidh and she’d said ‘Oh you just oughta tell them to ____ _______’ and I said ‘yeah but they mean a lot to me’. So he said he wouldn’t know what to do.
Every day I’m gonna say whether or not I stuck to my diet. I did today. Had 952 calories. Exercise – walked in woods for ages and did some exercises to my fave songs for half an hour. Cor Richard is nice. I’m getting badly behind with the Bible and prayers and it is showing. I am HARD and COLD again and at the mo I’ll fall in lust and be besotted and GIVE IN if anyone pays me any attention so I MUST pray hard and read the bible even when I don’t feel like it. See I’m eyeing Richard up and I’m neglecting bible and those two factors make things very dangerous indeed.
I’m in a bit of a mood. Mr Mawer called me to this office in Maths. Said about my denim jacket and I argued a bit and he arranged for us both to count how many people in leather or denim jackets. He won the argument but he’s ok he was really nice and I like him now. Then after that he asked me about the time Nicole offered me crack. I didn’t know how he knew. Paul takes drugs too and I say it’s up to him if he wants to.
So it seems I liked my teachers and talked to them. I don’t remember any of that. I was kicked out of school half way through sixth form due to doing no work and spending most of the time skiving. I hung out at people’s houses or on the field mainly. I didn’t see the point of school any more and I started drug taking. I think I was depressed. I never knew it at the time, or for years later, or that I had a significant eating disorder. It’s so obvious looking back. I was troubled and anxious, eager to please and attention-seeking, upbeat and positive, and I wish I could talk to her, the girl in the diaries, whenever I read them.
I realise now that that’s what I do when I teach.
My latest set of cards, on leaving my current teaching job, will probably always move me. I have so many cards from vulnerable kids. This letter is a couple of years old and already getting tatty from being in my memory box. So I’m going to write it out as for me it proves that my life has become meaningful and my early experiences have formed my understànding.
I’ve been seeing a counsellor for my diagnosis of what experts call “Being a miserable fucker” for going on 5 years. When I finally mentioned it to Mr P, he was nothing but understanding and reassuring. He told the rest of my teachers, and a few of them even went out of their way to awkwardly ask me if I was okay. I appreciate their good intentions, but you were the only person who managed to say it and sound like a human being at the same time, and as you regrettably may know from your own experience, that goes an incredibly long way. You were always a great teacher, but I can’t thank you enough for being able to show empathy to somebody that at the time, desperately needed it. As it stands now, I’m both improving of my own accord and seeing a clinical psychologist, so fingers crossed for the future not being quite so grim. If I told you that you made learning fun I’d be a liar, but you were and are still a real inspiration, if not in English or Critical Thinking, then as a person. For a school that seems so full, it sometimes feels hard to find other human beings – for offering support, mercy and kindness when I needed it, you easily count for ten in my books. I hope this letter can convey at least a fraction of my appreciation, and I wish you all the best in future.