Earning my stripes…

On paper my start in life looks, at best, pedestrian.  A happy childhood with supportive, loving parents and an older brother who I got on quite well with.  Not an affluent childhood, but never lacking either (unless you count the time I was so envious of a friend’s complete set of Mr Men books in a custom wooden trolley that I wheeled it to my house, ran inside and hid under my duvet, pretending to be asleep, out of sheer guilt).  I completed my high-schooling with average GCSE grades and a nice group of friends (give or take).

I was generally a well-behaved teenager too; no experimental drug-taking (at least, not yet), no ASBOs, no clandestine relationships with inappropriate elders (any amorous daydreams we red-blooded teens had about teaching staff would be thoroughly dampened by the thought of our lecherous PE mistress who insisted on overseeing compulsory shower time).  At a time in life that is considered by children’s programmes to start and end with the popularity hierarchy, I was painfully middle-of-the-road.  Not popular, not unpopular, not quite invisible either.  Oh dear.

It was after this time that the story really begins, I suppose, because good stories tend to be based on drama, failure and some peril. As with most tales, I am ever-hopeful for a happy ending and as with most people, I am hopeful the ending is far, far away.

Where do I start?  Chronologically, it would be with my failure to complete my A Levels.  Or I could get into the drama of a failed marriage, which includes a reasonable dose of peril.  Maybe my aspirations in the art world never quite getting off the ground will ease you in more gently.  The trouble with reviewing the past, as a 40 year old, is that there is such a lot of it.

I think I shall start instead with “why”.  As in “why now?”

My life, so I’ve been told, has evolved around other people.  I have cared for and supported children, grandparents, parents, friends, partners, co-workers and strangers on the street for a good deal of my life.  I don’t regret or resent this and I am certainly not suggesting I will stop – this is who I am and changing seems far too much like hard work.  Besides, I don’t want to be a meanie.

Isn’t the big 4-0 meant to be a catalyst for change?  I can’t call it a mid-life crisis because I’m not in crisis.  I don’t even feel miserable.  The greying on my temples I fondly refer to as my ‘go faster stripes’ aren’t a new phenomena – they arrived in my late twenties – but are indicative of the mounting years of life experience.  I would just like to do something more exciting, having worked hard throughout my adult life, on very little income.  To pick up speed, see new places, try new things.

Should I take up gardening now?  Maybe go the whole hog and set up an allotment!  I’ve always fancied giving my grotty little house a complete redesign.  I suspect that would result in a structural disaster and much embarrassment.  I have a list of places I’d like to visit.  I may have seen New York three times before my 19th birthday, but I’ve never been to Scotland, or the Lake District.  Come to think of it, there are large areas of East Anglia I’ve not stepped foot in (‘big deal’ you may think, but it’s on my doorstep so there really is no excuse).  I have even toyed with the idea of visiting places with interesting (aka ‘rude’) names.  So it could be that a trip to ‘Fanny Barks’ or ‘Six Mile Bottom’ is in order, or should I start with ‘Butthole Lane’ (I kid you not!)?

Wherever and however this leg of the journey starts, I’ve earned my stripes.  Now it’s time to use them.