Friday, 25 November 2016

Because I can't write and other Irrational Behaviour

I can't write.  My inner voice reinforces this. "You are not a writer - you 'know' your spelling is shocking and you've often been told that your English Grammar is terrible!"

I love coffee shops.
I love even more those Indie American coffee shops (I've mainly visited them in my daydreams!), where reading the books that line the walls is allowed and actively encouraged!
I love sitting alone in a coffee shop, as I am now, detached from my daily life, from any form of routine and free to let my thoughts wander.

So here I sit at 9.30a.m. on a Friday morning and I am almost wracked with guilt at the facts that; whilst the working world is hard at it - busy absorbing their portion of crap from middle management, whilst all the stay at home Mums are busy cleaning hair out of the plughole, whilst my thoughtful, hardworking, loving, accommodating husband is busy earning a crust so that we can just about pay the bills, I am sitting here drinking a Latte and indulgently tucking into an Almond Croissant. It is not just the croissant that is an indulgence, my husband is honouring the Artist in me by enabling me to spend time trying to find my path in life (let's hope I hurry up and find it!).

I'd love to write and have a vehicle with which to get out of my head the contusion of thoughts and disparities in and on life.  To put onto paper my observations and all those contradictions I wrestle with daily, which make me feel like a rank outsider and an 'also ran'. One who looks in on a society that frankly I often don't understand and on people with whom I feel that I have little natural affinity. In the words of that great philosopher of the airwaves, Terry Wogan, "Is it me?".
But I am starting to realise that I have been conditioned into being out of step with the world along with the fact that I don't have the ability to write.

I remember as if it were yesterday being humiliated, aged 12, in front of the whole class by my English Teacher for not completing my homework.  I hated the belittling experience of being coerced into playing Scrabble, only to struggle and lose, and be told that I can't make proper "long" words. Apparently, I am incapable of forming structured and grammatically correct sentences that any reasonably educated person is able to decipher.  This fact has been communicated to me over and over to this present day.   Therefore, over time, I have assimilated the knowledge that because I can't spell and I have this loose, extremely informal grasp on what constitutes proper English Grammar, my opinions, therefore, are also invalid.

One of my parents looked at my O Level and GCSE results, when they had arrived in the post, and announced "Is that it?!!". The other parent said that "So long as you have done your best" - this felt kinder but to be honest I had absolutely no clue how to achieve 'my best' academically - there was no connection in my mind between what had been happening in the classroom over the past eleven/twelve years and this set of exam results.

I went on to achieve a couple of equally unimpressive 'A' Level results with my ongoing education secured solely by way of a confident Art Portfolio.  I already understood that I couldn't spell and that I was incapable of stringing more than two sentences together in any form of structured essay. Nobody, not my parents or the school, would have dreamed of suggesting that I should take on a third 'A' Level, or that perhaps further study in English might be advantageous. My 'A' Levels were in History of Art and Art in which I respectively bottomed out with a D and an N.... an N, in my most significant subject?  To this day I don't even know what that is!

Maybe I am purging myself and coming clean here because I no longer wish to carry my own sense of failure any longer.  I'm wanting to spread it all out on the table so that I can be seen for what I am. I don't want to feel a fraud anymore and I want to lose that sense of hiding something that is conveyed in the Amy Cuddy TED talk.

But then came the 'freak' grade.  I sat an examination called 'General Paper'.  Apparently it was a bumper certificate in order to achieve a few extra grades on the part of the school - I'm not even sure if it still exists.  We sat this paper with no warning and with no preparation, such were the benefits of a state school education in the 1980s.  Unlike my other written subject, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting the examination.  I had no preconceived ideas, nobody had told me that I could not 'do' this subject.  It was like skiing on pure virgin snow.  I wrote and wrote freely, lucidly and comprehensively.  I felt that my arguments were clear and structured and that my writing was animated, that I had found my voice which was at last being heard.    I achieved an astonishing grade B which for many years stood like a monolith amongst the detritus and wasteland that was my secondary education.

I've gone on to make my way in life by a rather circuitous route.  There are achievements of which I am proud.
My steps to rebuild my academic confidence began with attending evening classes aged 27.  Taking an 'A' Level in English Literature and Language and subsequently gaining a grade A.  I completed every piece of homework that year.  I consumed the six texts we studied with a voracious appetite.  I learned to confidently voice my opinions during those classes. Those opinions were welcomed, acknowledged and validated.
I hardly recognise myself as the person who gained an MA with 'merit' whilst simultaneously working part-time and in the space of the same year, whilst living in a restoration project house, having a baby, coping with the sudden death of my father and 12 weeks later being unceremoniously stuffed into a redundancy procedure by my then employer.  
During this course I sought to undergo an Educational Psychological Assessment.  I walked away with a name for my frustrations, Dyslexia, and also a judgement that intellectually I sit within the 97th percentile of the population.
My professional capacity has been endorsed with the great privilege of being awarded a significant financial bursary from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.  This enabled me to further develop my skill in Printmaking.

Perhaps as a result of being conditioned to believe that I cannot write, or form any coherent or relevant opinion on any given subject, I have developed an intrinsically hostile attitude to bigotry and dogma (Does intolerance of bigotry make me a bigot?).  Inwardly, I challenge everything - but I'm not outwardly hostile.  In my defence I can only offer that I judge and scrutinise myself above and beyond all others, to the detriment of a peaceful mind and in the knowledge that "A life unexamined is not worth living" (Ref 1).

And so I find myself here. Needing to write. Needing to challenge those aspects of life which sit uneasily in my mind.  Needing to communicate my dissatisfaction with certain aspects of society's willingness to tolerate the status quo.  Needing to record my observations. Needing to express my thoughts.
Please excuse me for the presumption that I am able to write!
Please excuse me from feeling entitled to my own voice!

Ref 1
Plato was credited with this quote.  It is referenced as coming from Plato's Apology, which is a recollection of the speech Socrates gave at his trial.  Socrates is attributed with these words after choosing death rather than exile from Athens or a commitment to silence.

“Give me but a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.” Archimedes

With my sincere and huge thanks to Waitrose for their coffee and the 'Waitrose Weekend' paper!

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