|See I did smile sometimes!|
I attended a great @post40bloggers.com twitter party last week discussing what we would tell our 16 year old selves. As to be expected from a gaggle of forty-somethings we had plenty to say.
And it got me to thinking.
Sixteen. It actually made me quite sad. It's okay put the hankies away I'm not going to sob-story here. I thought about what 43 year old me could possibly offer 16 year old me if 16 year old me would actually stop listening to Duran Duran and listen to what anyone had to say.
1. I would congratulate me on being strong and brave. Stepping out into teenage world with my brown face in a sea of white Essex faces that weren't ready for multi-culturalism wasn't easy. But I smiled, worked hard, told jokes and found a group of brilliant friends who buffered me from everyday ignorance. I loved school. Despite my spirit being broken at times I found myself able to speak up and not lose myself in a fog of blame. That was all me.
2. I would show me how to love my face. Now that I see adverts with black families, presenters with brown faces on my telly everyday and see successful people of colour from my generation it's a blessed relief . But 1980s me didn't like the girl in the mirror at all. I hated the hair that sat in two neat plaits instead of golden flowing tresses; the two protruding teeth that were capped due to a collision with a classroom door; the bottom that wouldn't fit in jeans without leaving a gaping chasm at the waist, even with a belt; the way I would get stared at when meeting new people; the incessant chorus that told me I would have to work harder than everyone else because of my colour, The unfairness of it all. So many people haven't let any of the above stop their progress but I think I did. And for why? My sixteen year old face was beautiful, smiley (most of the time - come on people I was 16 - sixteen year olds are moody) and glowing with all the promise of a life ahead. My hair was strong and thick and washed and plaited by my mother's hands every Saturday night. But I looked around me and saw that I was different but didn't have the courage to relish that difference.
3. I would demand that my talents were not to be given up and instead to take some risks. Writing, athletics and music. By 16 I was writing almost every day, training most of the week with race meetings at the weekend, and I was pretty mean on the piano too. I would go back and kick that stubborn streak out of me and keep up all three. To enter story competitions; to understand how important athletics was to my life and that I would miss it everyday if I gave it up - plus losing the chance to marry Roger Black, who was obviously going to wait for little ole me to grow up; to not be afraid of singing at piano exams. To tell me that the crippling fear felt at 16 would only diminish if confronted otherwise it will remain well into adulthood.
4. And lastly I would remind me that family do prevail. That through all the crappy stuff, life changes, house moves, that there are people that you share blood and bonds with who are also going through their crappy stuff too but manage to make it to the odd birth, marriage, death event and remember you when it was a long yesterday ago. That I should take pride in where my place is in that family because when it's my turn I would want my children to feel pride in their position too.
Being 16 was sometimes a bit miserable, usually a lot of fun, often misguided, occasionally getting it right but most of the time it was just me making it up as I was going along. Some things never change.