Thursday, 9 April 2015

The 5 things I swore I'd never do

Janet at 19: in need of a supportive bra, but at least my lipstick game was on point

Sarah wrote an ace piece recently about the things she swore she'd never do... and then somehow ended up doing. So much of what she said chimed with my own experiences, so (with permission, of course) I thought I'd come up with my own list of the things I told myself I'd never let happen in my life.

1. Stand at the back of a gig
"God, what's the point of even going to a gig if you're just gonna stand at the back, clutching a pint?" went our oft-repeated teenage refrain. To us, the only place to be was in the heart of the mosh pit or clinging to the barrier, gazing adoringly at the indie stars as they crooned to us. Now? Unless a gig has the option of sitting down, I seriously think twice about even booking a ticket. At a recent Ryan Adams show I felt so smug, sitting up in my comfy seat on the balcony while down below, people jostled for position in the main arena. Sixteen-year-old me would be aghast.

2. Wear a coat
In 1994, when I was 16, I decided that it wasn't cool to wear a coat. Instead, I had a ratty grey wool men's cardigan, which I'd picked up in a charity shop and fancied to be rather like the one Kurt Cobain wore during Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance. That cardigan saw me through several freezing cold Yorkshire winters: I once walked the seven miles home from Bradford, in the middle of a snowstorm, wearing nothing but a dress, the cardigan and my trusty Docs. And while I did end up buying a coat some time in the late 90s, it took me an embarrassingly long time (like, until I was about 33) to realise that wet or cold weather is really so much more pleasant when you're properly dressed and shod in sensible shoes.

3. Sell out
As a teen and young adult, if I was determined about one thing it was this: I would never sell out. Which is to say, I'd never have to stop making art and writing. I'd certainly never get a 'proper' job or a mortgage. I'd never stop partying and protesting. I'd never stop dying my hair lurid colours, nor take out the myriad facial piercings I'd accumulated. I'd be a free spirit, tied down to nothing. It's embarrassing, now, to look back at what a cliche 'rebel' I really was. Over time, I was able to think more carefully about which bits of my rebellion were truly important: having pink hair and partying every weekend? Not that important (and also damn near impossible now I'm old and prefer to be in my pyjamas by 9pm on a Saturday night). Writing, activism, travelling? All pretty important. Having a well-paid and therefore 'proper' job to enable the aforementioned writing, activism and travelling? Fairly essential.

4. Become a teacher
The idea of teaching as a future career was first suggested to me by my sixth form English teacher, Mrs Pugh, after I'd dominated the discussion on Henry V Part 1 for the nth time. It was not a suggestion met with delight. I might not have known exactly what I did want to do but I knew what I didn't, and that was teaching. The conversation repeated itself in university careers interviews; in the pub with friends, when the subject of my inability to hold down a job came up; from my mum in despair, as I told her of the newest career change: "What about teaching?" "Not a chance."

I can't quite put my finger on the moment when my response changed from, "Not a chance," to, "Hmmm, maybe," but by the time I was 25 I'd enrolled on a PGCE, with the notion that I'd teach for a couple of years and then pack it all in to go travelling again. Well, ten years later and I'm still teaching. I discovered to my surprise (and, I suspect, the surprise of those who know me well) that I'm actually a pretty good teacher. Turns out Mrs Pugh was right all along.

5. Become one half of those couples
You know the kind: those couples off whom happiness just radiates as they grin at each other, holding hands and leaning on each other's shoulders. The couples who are really just going about their business but who, when you're single and feeling vulnerable and lonely, seem like a smack in the face. After ten years on my own I'd made all sorts of promises to myself that I'd never be so touchy-feely and so obviously loved-up in public. That I'd consider my single brethren when I had a partner. Yeah, that didn't go to plan...


  1. I like this a lot - and I liked Sarah's too. Maybe I should do my own. It scares me a bit though as I think I always knew I was a bit boring - it is more the silly things I have done that I said I'd never do...

  2. SO many of mine were basically the same as Sarah's (settle in Leicester was one I wanted to include, but at that point pretty much all of my list matched hers so I swapped it!). I'd love to read your version of this.

  3. I love this! Im with you on #1, #2 & #3! Number 5 maybe many moons ago, but after 13 years - nah! x

  4. What is it about slightly rebellious youngsters and not wearing coats?! I have no idea why I dug my heels in so firmly on this one issue for so long!

  5. This is brilliant! I feel like I'm probably guilty of all 5 of these too! I definitely never wanted to be 'that guy' at a gig!

  6. This is super! I was like that on teaching. When I came back from Indonesia, my Mum kept on at me to do a PGCE and I ranted back that there was no way I would just do teaching for the sake of it, it had to be something I really wanted to do because it is a really hard job, and lo and behold, I then decided, a few years later, that now, I wanted to!xx
    I never dreamt I'd get to marry someone from near Newcastle esp as I totally loved all the Geordie teachers at school!x

  7. This is totally me - everyone insisted that with an English/Sociology degree, teaching was the 'most sensible' career option. I was NOT interested in doing something just because it was sensible. I have to say, though, I don't think I had any conception of how difficult teaching was until I started my PGCE, I was so naive!

  8. The gig thing still kind of bugs me, I'd LOVE to have the energy to be in the middle of the pit. But after a week's teaching it's all I can do to drag myself off the sofa to get to the gig in the first place - sitting down when I get there is a must!

  9. Haha I love this post! Yeah the best place use to always be right at the front at a gig, oh I remember the times of being crushed up against the front railings too many a time fondly! But now, nah I can't be doing with all that! I remember how I use to be able to go out clubbing three times a week without a coat (mind you this was in Newcastle and ya know, no one wears a coat), I shiver at the thought of how cold I probably was now in my "old" age lol.

  10. This is such a great post! Totally with you on the gig thing, I LOVE sitting down or standing at the back of a gig now. So much more comfortable and enjoyable when you can have a little dance without being jostled, or sit with a drink without it being chucked over you. The teenage me who used to get right in amongst it would not be impressed! I am also one of those couples, I don't even care haha. Love this!

  11. It's so nice to go home from a gig not smelling of stale sweat (other people's) and beer that's been chucked over my hair. I honestly don't know what I was thinking of when I was a teenager!

  12. The clubbing thing - oh my gosh, how did I EVER go clubbing three nights in a row? As recently as a few years ago it was pretty standard for us to go out on Friday and then Saturday too. No idea how I managed it while teaching all week!