The Year of Funky Trousers

Tomorrow I commence my final year of school.

I should be quaking like an ant under a too-heavy crumb, marvelling at my great age, or panicking when I can’t feel its purported greatness. I should be looking in the mirror every five minutes to check I’m still the same person and not going to reverse my own growth cycle or spontaneously combust or break out in hives before tomorrow.

In reality, I’m sitting in front of my computer screen trying to conjure up some fragment of feeling. When I started driving a month ago I knew I wasn’t as scared as I should be. Some people curse out loud; I don’t even curse in my head. It’s like everything is distanced from me, happening only to the effigy I made of myself and not a breathing being.

Tomorrow I start my fourteenth of fourteen years of school!!! In a year’s time I’ll be leaving home, packing up and going to live overseas, completely on my own!!!

No matter how many exclamation marks I use, the hammer doesn’t drop. I trust it will; and probably at the least convenient time.

So instead of looking forward, under the pressure of being practical and trying desperately to freak out as I ought to be doing (??!!), I’ll look back and analyse what last year, my first year of Sixth Form, has given me.

*

Firstly, it’s been the best year since I turned a teenager.

Not because it hit all the ‘defining moments’ of teenage existence (well, not the stereotypical ones). No; this year I’ve been discovering Who I Am. When your brain is rearranging itself, you’re so many things at once we lose sight of our own identities, or never had them, but recently things have been coming together in my head.

A long time ago…

I was a goody-two-shoes, an admittedly sheltered youngest child. Either people liked me or they mocked me—but I don’t suppose I was great to mock, since I was too naïve to catch the mockery. I thought I was an animal-person, a nature-person.

As with most people, it all went wrong somewhere—perhaps not somewhere specific, but ‘go wrong’ ‘it’ did. The last day of Year 11 I still date as one of the happiest days of my life. Not because I especially hated school, but because study leave was the right thing for me. I’d waited years to get this—trusted to study alone, at home, independently, without anyone on my back (except my mum). I confess I spent more of study leave watching film commentaries than working (it was fantastic), but hey. Freedom!

Sixth Form is an extension of that independence.

The day exams finished I built a sculpture of eight aluminium chairs in the link. Notice only one of them touches the ground. Juvenile, I know.

The day exams finished I built a sculpture of eight aluminium chairs in the link. Notice only one of them touches the ground. Juvenile, I know.

Thanks to the abomination that was the new timetables, my lunchtimes and free periods never clashed with any of the lovely people I affect to call ‘friends’. So I worked/wrote/NaNo-ed without interruption; I sat on my own in ‘the link’, a glass bridge/corridor linking the main school to the Sixth Form Centre, where it’s quiet and airy, and I watch people going past and eavesdrop on their conversations.

Some people know I sit there. “You’re always here on your own,” they say, “you look lonely.”

Once that might’ve bothered me. Now I feel proud. I can sit alone in the link and not feel rubbish about myself—that’s one massive thing this year has given me.

Not having a uniform is another of the great things.

A year ago this terrified me. I didn’t have any smart clothes—nothing but jeans! I was scared about people thinking me a slob if I didn’t change outfit every day. As for the pressure of looking good in a new way EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING…

My crimson accessory kit!

My crimson accessory kit! (Yes, my hairdryer is modelling the hat.)

In reality, most people wear the same outfits two or three times a week, and you begin to associate them with certain garments, which is cool in itself. I went shoe-shopping for the first time ever, and am now known for my red: these gorgeous red leather clown-shoes (my first heels), red jacket made of some material with a satin-y sheen, translucent red glasses, red ‘20s-style hat. Oh, and long wavy red hair (but that’s natural). It’s self-expression, and so invigorating!

I never cared for clothes till six months ago; now I love finding new ways to make a skirt ‘work’.

It’s a common misconception that uniform equalises everyone. Well, in my experience it doesn’t, because if you have crap skin like me you’re dismissed. Now if I wear a lacy cardigan and a long skirt, I stand out anyway—it actually gives me a chance to be complimented.

So I’m rabbiting on about being content with my life because I’m secure in Who I Am, and you’re wondering Who the Hell I Am.

I’m the only Sixth Former and the only girl who goes to the bridge club, I have a protégé four years younger whom I love like a brother. I wear a rosary. I break conversations to squee about my subconscious solving a maths question. I’m known for cynicism, but I’m no longer scared of anyone younger than me, asking teachers awkward questions, or starting religious arguments. Finally, I’ve developed hand gestures the way island folk know best.

And this summer, I’ve learnt that I’m the kind of person who wears ‘funky’ trousers. I never knew—and I’ve certainly never had any wildly-patterned lower half garments—but…it’s just me.

My 'funky' buys of the summer. Left: a French Connection jacket reduced to £13 from £87 with a really groovy pattern. Middle: checked Mango trousers bought in Innsbruck, Austria. Right: Dorothy Perkins polyester trousers.

My ‘funky’ buys of the summer. Left: a French Connection jacket reduced to £13 from £87 with a really groovy pattern. Middle: checked Mango trousers bought in Innsbruck, Austria. Right: Dorothy Perkins polyester trousers.

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Eloquence, Confidence and Power (bonus points if you note all the ironies)

Music: Radiohead – Life in a Glass House (some damn good trombone!)

A few evenings ago I was beneficiary to an observation about eloquence, confidence and POWER. “You can be the cleverest person, but if you can’t express* your intellect, you have no power,” thus the observer (WTTE). I blushed and said something stupid, perhaps proving his point.

Upon reflection, it seems even more alas! plausible than it did to my subconscious psyche in those few seconds. People in power, sure they’re clever, but politicians have that ‘sparkle’, that intensity: instinct or even the art for rhetoric. It’s not knowledge that empowers you (scientia potentia est, as attributed to Sir Francis Bacon), but application thereof.

For example, education over recent decades has made a significant shift from fact recall to structured analysis. My mother spent her schooldays learning every precise geographical feature of a series of maps she was expected to be able to hand-draw—dimension and all, to the last contour. Now they’d give you the map and tell you to analyse it: what does this feature mean and how might it impact the surrounding environment (or whatever; I’m no geographer)? We are expected to THINK.

The few truly eloquent teenagers I meet are instantly my favourite people. I’m not impressed by wit, necessarily (especially not the snitzy tumblr kind, though that can be mildly amusing for a short period of time), but an insight into the world and its ridiculousness, a fine vocabulary and the deft conduction thereof will surely ‘win my heart’. Indeed, that ain’t me.

And with that I wonder about positing a different formulation of the eloquence-power relation. I find, myself, that associating with these superior verbalists as described above somewhat dissolves every particle of wit and interest from my own ego. If I have not already proved myself confident and eloquent (neither of which I’d call myself, thus I falter at the first clause) to a word-wielder, I genuinely cannot do so thenceforth.

Through no fault of his own, the person who gave me the subject of this post is one such creativity-sapper (as far as I’m concerned). Why, I ask myself, when I get on so very well with people who don’t use my beloved words like he does?—and there it is. Other people (and this isn’t meant to sound swanky) I can outwit, out-math, out-music, out-vocab, out-mock, out-run, out-age. Even if all else fails, I can mention God or church (again) and get an exasperated glare. POWER. The only power I have over this person is that I can write a damn good blog post (1. when I stop talking about myself; 2. when I can be bothered; 3. ahem, I need your support, to cover this ugly boasting), and even then, I’ve never read his writing. All fails!

My point, ladles and jellyspoons, is that one may have eloquence, but without also that beautiful gift of confidence-regardless-of-whatever-power-you-have-or-don’t-have-as-the-case-may-be, you will not have POWER.

‘Blind confidence’, my observer called it. ‘Well-judged confidence’, I corrected him. In retrospect, ‘blind confidence’ is pretty much it, except I’ll change ‘blind’ to ‘unconditional’.

So, POWER is internal and external, and without the former you can’t have the latter**. That’s why earnest compliment-fishing only earns pissed-off stares. Alas for me and many! insecurity gets you positively nowhere.

What a failing: that I love to assert myself, but am so petrified of failure that those against whom I’ve ‘already’ ‘lost’ never get to know I can assert myself. Hierarchy turned on its head, if ya like.

Lesson over. Add your thoughts; contradict mine 😉

 

*vocal expression and execution, that is

** I wouldn’t wish to pose that as a rule. ‘Confident’ people may be less respected than those quiet people who necessarily have weight (though it could be argued that they do have inner power, but don’t externalise it consciously; other only people ‘feel’ it). And, of course, there are ‘confident’ people who are everything but inside (this is the hard one, and it might involve a redefinition of POWER—yeah, should’ve done that before I began talking about it. Your call!).