Posted by: Natalie | February 11, 2010

When I grow up I want to be . . .

“When I grow up, I want to be like Mrs Oakden!” I was 4.  I had spent 5 mornings in reception class – that’s approximately 15 hours of school experience in which I formulated my life’s plan. I then spent the next 20 years achieving that goal. It was all I ever wanted to be! And the tragic thing is, this tale – according to my mother, who does have quite a dubious memory at times to be fair – is true!

It hit me fairly hard really this week. A friend is throwing a birthday party in March this year – I don’t think she would be hugely impressed at revealing her age, but let’s just say she’s older than me! Anyway, she is having a themed fancy dress party as all good girls should. The theme is “What you wanted to be when you were 9.” Brilliant! Excellent! You would think. A chance to see your friends embarrassed dressed as princesses, Jedi knights, train drivers, Lollypop men, even – yes, someone is planning on this as their ‘outfit’ – a page three girl! Jelly, ice cream, pin the tail, musical chairs – a perfect 9 year old themed birthday. Genius!! But then I walk in . . . tweed skirt? glasses – maybe on a chain? hair in a bun? Doesn’t really scream creative or interesting does it!

I just don’t know why I so desperately wanted to be a teacher all my life. Maybe at 4 it was because I saw what I believed to be an awesome knowledge of everything cascading from one mind. Maybe it was because I could see the power held over others and the ability to boss them about without being told off. Maybe it was the key I’d get to a never ending supply of stationery? At that age, I just don’t know.

As I grew up, my reasons became clearer and I didn’t deviate from the path. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I did. Temporarily. But as much as it ruined other buds that could have grown, it shows that they did exist, long before I made my way here.

I was a bit of a naff writer at school and I didn’t read much as a teenager- nothing at all if I could help it. Then came Miss Mills and Year 10 English; “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Othello”, “Animal Farm”, and that one book, the one that changes everything, “Wuthering Heights”. Suddenly I was in love with literature, with torment and angst and passion driven to the realms of insanity. This new energy somehow seemed to make my writing better – I don’t know if this was true or if I had just learned to believe in what I wrote, again it is not clear. And that’s when the seed was planted. For about 4 months, all I wanted to be was . . . a . . . journalist! Arggggh, I cringe just thinking about it.

That summer I chose to spend two weeks of my own glorious 6 week holiday, volunteering at the Chorley Guardian. I  was given a swivel chair and a computer at the long table of the main article writing team. I was at the forefront of breaking news, I saw criminals stand trial, I wrote . . . about Fred the weather man and a giant bottle of tipex at Botany Bay. The fortnight was hell. I was so bored, so insecure and so fuming when they printed my cutting edge tipex article under someone else’s name!!!! I had never once realised the mundanities of little town life! Everything I did was pretty much binned on the spot, probably so badly written due to the fact that the news itself induced a coma!

So, that was that. I no longer wanted to be a journalist and it only took two weeks of pain, probably more like two hours of pain then the rest in purgatory! But still, at the back of my mind, festering away under false pretences was this deep desire to share words with others, in only a way I could. Many steps have contributed to this realisation – it took time to really take shape, after all I had worked so hard to become my 4 year old ambition – how do you turn your back on 20-odd years?

Many factors contributed in my leaving teaching, for however brief a time, but it was the writing that was my saviour. At some point I shall explain just how it came to save me, that’s not for now, not at this hour. But it is here now, it is strong and I am completely in love with it – writing is possibly one of the most exhilarating things I have done – it floods the soul and mind, torments and frustrates, but also frees and stretches all in one breath. I can’t promise my work is any good, but hey, sod it! If I never try I will always regret. And that I could not bare. If I do not try now I risk letting down that four year old girl with her long plaited pig tails – I run the risk of having to tell her I failed as a teacher because the politics just got too much to bare, that she was wrong, that teaching doesn’t exist in the way she dreamed.

This way I have allowed myself to fall completely for something new and enticing, yet still enjoy the odd day teaching, and remembering why I loved that job so much too. All in all, right now, at this second, my life is wonderful, I have the best jobs in the world, and a sense of happiness I am completely addicted to.

So, please, pretty please, when I grow up, I want to be a writer, a story teller, a composer of literature to shock and awe and entertain those 9 year old children in us all!



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