I’VE BEEN LOOKING AT SOME CHILDHOOD PHOTOGRAPHS OF ME, AND I CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER: WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT LITTLE BOY?
That photo is me. Yes, I know. My only excuse is that it was the seventies and my parents dressed me. Just ignore the hair.
I look at that little boy and see so much potential. Even I have to admit that I was quite a cute child. Wasn’t I? Blond curly hair and big blue eyes are generally considered markers of cuteness in children, insomuch as I understand these things. The point is that he could have been anything. The world was his oyster. A vast ocean of untapped potential lay before him.
And what did I do with it?
Well, I got through school without too much trouble and went to a sixth-form college. Unfortunately, I found out about drink, drugs and women, so my A-levels were pretty much a wash-out. It took another decade of mind-numbing and sanity-destroying jobs before I cracked and went back to college in order to get the qualifications to get into university. I succeeded and managed to leave university with a 2:1 in English and Education and Qualified Teacher Status.
I became a teacher and it has led to a nervous breakdown within five years. I have also managed to turn that cute little blond-haired boy into this:
In Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity the main character feels the need to apologise to his childhood self for turning into who he has turned into, and I can understand why. Childhood is a time of joy, or at least it seems that way with the benefit of hindsight. That sense of joy, that innocent enjoyment of life, really shows through in old photographs and, to the right (or possibly wrong) sort of mind, this can create a feeling of intense melancholy. I once dressed up to take part in the carnival in my village (and won first prize) and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I walked around the village dressed like this:
I simply cannot believe that I did that. I look back and I am completely unable to explain how I overcame the profound embarrassment of that experience enough to actively enjoy it! Look at me! I look like a twat! And I’m smiling! That’s a genuine smile of happiness! Dear God…
Anyway, I do want to aologise to myself. I feel ashamed of the way that my life has turned out. But also proud. Why? Well, I’m still alive for a start. That’s a good thing. I’m engaged to a woman that I love very much. I am getting the help I need to sort my depression out and I am actively chasing my dream to be a writer. I may get there, I may not. The point is that I am trying. I’m writing because I love it.