Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remember Me?

BinswoodI came across the above photo surreptitiously (you can click on it to enlarge it). I say surreptitiously because it was not sent to me; I merely found it on an old school acquaintance’s Facebook page. I doubt they even remember me, let alone would have reason to send me a copy of the photo.

Because you see, despite this being a snapshot of my peers outside my old sixth form college, I am not on it. I don’t even recall this photo being taken. I was totally unaware of it at the time; the fact that somebody gathered this select few together, organized them, took the photo. I was not invited or even told about it.

That sounds bitter – and maybe it is – but that was undeniably my first reaction.

Followed swiftly by a “why the hell would they have invited me anyway?”

You see I doubt if most of the people in this photograph would remember me. I expect that most of them didn’t know who I was even at the time. They would have past me in the corridors, sat behind me in the classrooms and I wouldn’t have impinged on their consciousness in the slightest. Except maybe as “the really uncool kid”, “the nerd”, “the weird looking one”.

I doubt if I had a name to most of these people.

I was a wallflower at school. Complete and utter. And while my sixth form years were the start of me emerging from my awkward shell, I was still a long way off from gaining any kind of confidence or self esteem.

When I look at this photo I feel a painful sense of want. An agony of wanting to fit in and be cool and be popular. Kind of like Kung Fu Panda (before he discovered the secrets of Kung Fu) wanting to hang out with the Furious Five.

Only for me it was never going to happen.

A couple of my friends are on this photo. Tristan Fitzgerald and Steve Fox. It’s telling that they didn’t tell me about this photo being taken at the time. For them it would have been a pleasant but not particularly especial event. If I had been asked to join this group it would have made my entire year.

Well. It plainly wasn’t my year.

It’s weird to see how young everyone looks. So eighties. So dated. Faintly ridiculous. And yet this was the epitome of cool. This was a group of teens who thought they knew it all before University and Life proved to them how wrong they all were.

This was a group of teens who I envied, who I hated, who I adored and in a couple of cases – Sarah Cullen and Emily Sweetman – I would even have gladly drunk your bath water.

But I am not in this photo. I am somewhere else in the building. Probably in a darkened room writing trauma inducing poetry about not fitting in. About not belonging. About desperately wanting to. About how was I ever, ever going to get a girlfriend?

Looking at this photo now I can finally see how all that really didn’t matter. It was only me that made it matter; that hamstrung myself with it. All those useless hang-ups. All those miserable desires and the unfairness of not having them realized.

Looking at this photo now I wish I could go back in time and instil a different kind of world-view into myself. To not have myself care so much. To bother a good deal less about other people’s opinions. To have the scales pulled from my eyes. To pull these people down from the dais that I had placed them on. To stop wanting to be like them.

Because going my own way – as I eventually did – was always the right thing to do.

To not be on this photograph was always the best thing to be.

I just didn’t realize it at the time.

This is a photograph of me before I woke up to myself. Before I became me.

It’s only now that I’m smiling for the camera.



libby said...

But Steve...we all have a photo like this! Me and my best mate from school wondered why there are lots of photos around featuring the cool kids from our old school and we are noticeable by our absence...and like you, when I first saw them I was really hurt...all those old feelings came rushing back and it was a horrible realisation...that even as the 57 yr old ladeeeee I am bothered by such things. My wiser friend reminded me that we were a)cooler than the rest of them anyway and were probably up to no good or something somewhere when the pics were taken and b)always going to have an element of 'not fitting in' about us because we weren't sheep c) not the only people not in the photos......she started throwing names at me and saying 'was she/he in it?... No...stop being so paranoid'...and you know what, she was right. Doesn't mean I don't know exactly how you feel though...and by the way...when on earth are the building works going to be completed there?

Gorilla Bananas said...

Ugh, what a merciful escape you had! Imagine one's embarrassment at having been photographed with those posturing, wannabe-cool adolescents. I'm glad you grew up enough to pity them.

Suzanne said...

Life's does throw weird things at us, and I admire your attitude Steve, so much stuff really just isn't worth the energy. This post was good for me to read today when life is also throwing its curve balls at me... Have a wonderful Christmas.

Steve said...

Libby: you are so right and much wiser than me. There were loads of other people they left out too. My wife said the same thing. Just proves what a big bunch of bastards they were. (Only joking!)

Gorilla Bananas: I love you.

EmmaK said...

If you had been in the photo pray tell what was the state of your look? Are we talking long fringe died black or experiments with Sun-In making the tresses orange? or did you simply humiliate yourself in stonewashed denim? We deserve to know

Steve said...

Suzanne: just keep batting them away. One day you'll hit a six. :-)

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too.

Löst Jimmy said...

The really cool in that class are the one's not in the photo.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

It has never occurred to me that there are photos of groups of my school peers without me in them. Undoubtedly there are. Never mind. I'm coming to Leamington Spa on 28 Dec so will email you about coffee.

Being Me said...

OHMYGODICANNOTCONCENTRATEONAREPLY for I just read Lady Mondegreen's comment.

Green. GREEN. Green with envy. She'd better give you and Karen the biggest squeeze from me. xx

But really *composed myself now* Steve, the others are so right. And I want to say to you, it's not just the dais you put them on; those types always put themselves on the dais. I was teased mercilessly, openly, by girls (and in later years the 'cool' guys as well) and left out of much of the goings-on. They didn't even curb it in front of teachers in the end. Pure hell. I had to stand next to one of them one year for photos - the main ring-leader - and while I no longer recall the horrid, spiteful things she was saying to me under breath, I do recall her doing it. I look at that photo now and can see the nastiness in her face. Me? I look like me. As you find me.

I say to you, good on your younger self for not being amongst the 'in' crowd. Because they're never truly 'in' for long. Not in the real world.

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: cheers; you're a mate and a half.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: sounds good - looking forward to it.

Being Me: our time to meet up will come, never fear; either on this side of the world or yours. That's a promise, matey. ;-) And you are right about the in-crowders... those who live by the sword and all that. Much better to be forging ahead on your own, finding your own path. Much better to be in with yourself than a crowd.

English Rider said...

Bravo Steve, if you've truly left this behind you. It's hard to shake the view that you have of yourself when you are in those teen years. Maybe there's hope for the rest of us after all.

Vicky said...

A school friend of mine on facebook has just about all our class photos posted from high school and believe it or not I am not in one of them. Did I even attend high school............

Steve said...

English Rider: I have the odd little lapse but on the whole I'm a very different person now to how I was in my teens.

Vicky: like me you were plainly elsewhere doing something much more worthwhile.

Kelloggsville said...

I'll guarantee they weren't hand picked, they were just in the common room when the photographer turned up. I also know that 90% of those in the photo have difficult feelings about it despite actually being in it. I'm glad it's helped you work through some stuff though.

The Sagittarian said...

I used to hide from cameras, still don't like them much but am VERY happy to use the buggers so I guess you could kid yourself you took the photo? :-) Just kidding, it's funny what is so meaningful at certain ages isn't it. Janis Ian and 17 etc...as far as I can tell, you've turned out awwrighty!

Nota Bene said...

Half way through reading that I knew my comment was going to be...but how many of them have as many fans as you do now...and then I got to the end and realised I didn't need to. Glad to have met you and glad you are smiling now

Raven said...

I love this. I wasn't even a wall flower...I perfected being invisible. I also learned to like me for me instead of basing it off of any other external opinion...hard lesson to learn I think.

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: our common room wasn't that big! But I do take your point. Thank you.

Amanda: maybe you're right. I did take the photo but the experience was so traumatic (all that eighties' hair) that I blocked it out!

Nota Bene: cheers bigly.

Raven: it is a hard lesson - but the most useful.

Trish @ Mum's Gone To ... said...

Far better to be looking back at your schooldays and realise how you've grown as a person than to look back and realise that was the best part of your life and things went downhill from then on.

Hope you enjoy Lady Mondegreen's secret garden!!

Steve said...

Trish: absolutely - at least it was upwards from that photo on rather than a downward spiral.

As for Lady Mondegreen - let's hope Leamington is up to it!

Steve said...

Emma: your comment initially disappeared and then has reappeared again. I was a vision in navy blue corduroy and "react-a-light rapide" glasses. Not a good look. Then, now or ever really.

Marginalia said...

Jesus Christ, the love children of Bananarama and Duran Duran.

No wonder you're not there, you being the fruit of a coupling of Meatloaf and Little Eva.

Steve said...

Marginalia: more like Morrissey and Suzanne Vega.

the fly in the web said...

I'd have been in the library...I was always in the library...all the poncing about pissed me off totally, but people could be hurtful...my wish not to join in had to be attacked as otherwise what was the value of their activities?
Same phenomenon with some expats in France and now in Costa Rica.

Brilliant how you analysed, came to terms with and overcame the feelings...and yes...how many of them have so many people waiting eagerly for the next post on your blog?
B... all, I should think.

Sorry for profanity...it's Christmas.

John Gray said...

if I dont get the chance
just wanted to know I want you to have a lovely christmas xxx
and i MEAN THAT!

Marginalia said...

In your dreams

Steve said...

The fly in the web: Christmas my arse. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. ;-)

John: thank you - and same to you too. Have a great one.

Marginalia: you honestly couldn't handle my dreams.

Livi said...

*hugs* Oh I hear that.

If only we could talk to our teenage selves, eh. The trauma we could save

Steve said...

Livi: I would certainly have given myself some fashion tips. And saved a lot more money.

la mujer libre said...

Ugh, I'd conveniently forgotten what a mess 80s "fashion" really was.
Those "cool" kids mostly always peaked in their teens. It was all downhill from there on in for them.
You on the other hand... ironically (and obviously!) true coolness found you - because you don't care about "cool".
Me? Oh, of course I was a determined outsider who continues to define cool...;-)

Steve said...

la mujer libre: cool kids peak in their teens. Ha! I'll remember that when my boys hit teenhood... sage advice indeed. You and me, we're just too cool.