In St Mark's Square, Venice, wearing an outfit that I didn't even like back then, let alone now.
Things that I regret:
- Not allowing moments to be special. My prom, leaving school, even being at school, birthdays, holidays, being part of big stage productions, I let it all flash past without taking any notice of it.
- Not taking more photographs. I wish I had pictures, to help remember the memories I try to look back on.
- Not properly bothering about what I wore, or how I looked.
- Being too afraid to take chances, and letting opportunities slip past.
- Not having enough confidence to feel comfortable physically.
I have a feeling, though, that it might not be my fault. In the last ten years or so it has become Zeitgeist to celebrate the special moments, to photograph everything, to cherish moments with friends, to appreciate how special every day at high-school and college actually are, to revel in and enjoy wearing clothes every day, to have an identity. It was only when I was about twenty that I discovered clothes, real music, photographs, memories, special moments. Before that time, around 2002 I would say, it seemed that we just existed, getting from one moment to the next, just *being*, and not celebrating it. I’m almost sure it has to do with background. Nineties, northern, working class, being special just didn’t happen. At school we all had identical pencil cases, shoes, coats, bags, hairstyles, no-one was different. It was a very dreary, rainy, grey existence, where you didn’t have chance to appreciate something as being special. I watch episodes of Glee or The OC now, and everything they do is a celebration; one long prom, and high-school is magical, just as it should be. Looking back, I did have magic, in my small group of friends, we laughed and had moments, but never appreciated them. I think I might have seven photographs of me, if that, for the whole time I was at school and college. In one of them I’m wearing a Manchester United football top, lying on the grass in London. I wish I could live then, as I am now.
Glee's American Dream
On the night of my prom I got ready in the bathroom at home. It was the first time I’d ever had a proper up-do, and my dress was from Topshop (before Topshop was popular in Runcorn). I heard the limo beep downstairs, panicked because I thought I had to be in it NOW, and ran downstairs. My family were all waiting with cameras, but I wouldn’t stop, I ran straight past them, out of the house, and into the limousine, and my Grandad just managed to get a photo of me from behind that’s a bit blurry. Everyone else has beautifully posed photographs, a treasured keepsake of their sixteen year-old self, to keep forever, and all I was bothered about was that I might keep the driver waiting. In fact, they’d come early, specifically to give us chance to have photographs taken.
I’m not exactly cool now (far from it), but I wish I’d had the confidence that I have now to defy what I look like and at least *feel* cool, back then.
- At primary school I was always a tomboy, never quite felt like a little girl. I’m on the front row, at the end on the left.
Everything was identical, nothing was allowed to be creative or pretty, it was black, ugly, and smelled slightly of sweat. I’m at the front, crouching on the ground.
The person in the tracksuit is the teacher. She wasn’t even a P.E teacher. I liked her though, she once said that when I go on stage I ‘light up’.
Even in rehearsals, doing what makes me what makes me most happy, I never allowed myself to feel like a real actor, never enjoyed the moment.
- One exception to the rule, a moment always guaranteed to make me feel special and glow with pride, is taking the final bow at the end of the performance.
This was one of the first nights when I hadn't planned or expected it to be special, I'd just gone out to a local amateur dramatic awards evening, not expecting anything, and it turned into one of the most special nights of my life. Even though I hadn't thought much about my outfit, it felt right, and I felt confident in myself. As I walked casually onto the stage and was presented with the trophy and handed a bottle of champagne, I was grinning. It was a truly special moment, that I hadn't seen coming.
Maybe that’s the point, perhaps when you plan something so strictly, and build your expectations up, waiting for something perfect and significant, it somehow never manages to *feel* significant.
This was the night of my twenty-first birthday. It was one of the first occasions when I'd spent time thinking about my outfit, and really made an effort. Somehow, I managed to feel radiant.
The good thing is that I have, thankfully, learned. I still haven’t got it perfected, but I’ve learned that that feeling of surety and inner-poise doesn’t come from how you look, or from careful planning, it comes from feeling confident and at ease in your own skin, and THAT is what I have learned. I still look as awkward and freakish as ever I did, but I’ve managed to overcome it, and to feel good about myself, even though I know I don’t look how I’d like, or sound how I’d like, or anything how I’d like.
I try to stop myself regretting, and to only allow positive thoughts to develop, but I can’t help wishing I could have those times back, to live those days again, as myself as I am now. (If only to be thin again.) I’d listen to more music, wear better clothes, and cherish every single moment of the the youth that is so precious. I feel sad and terrified that it’s slipping away, and at twenty-six next month, there isn’t much sand left in the hourglass.