Looking Back…

Hey everyone.

It’s been a nice few days for me. Christmas has come and gone – probably the best I’ve had for many years – and now we’re on the verge of the New Year. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because, really, it’s just another day but with a different number on the calendar.

Worse is the fact that the different number represents getting older! Years back, I couldn’t wait for the day I grew up. Eventually I did. I would not want to relive my childhood again: it’s an utterly frustrating time during which you want to do things but cannot, normally because your parents, teachers or anyone adult “tells you so”. I hated that.

Now I want to stop growing up. I think I’ve reached the optimum age, and so I’m not looking forward to being 20 next year. Sure, it’s just another day. But this time it means something. It means that the teenage years are officially over. I have a life I must live. And in fact, time is running out!

That’s difficult for me to accept. It’s scaring me at the moment about how fast the days are flying by. I can’t believe that it was two weeks ago today that I returned home for Christmas. I’m amazed when I think I’m already nearly half way through the first year of University life.

18 was my favourite birthday. It removed 99% of the remaining legal boundaries in my life. It was also when I left college. 16 was good, but I couldn’t vote yet – which was the key one for me. Yet, I knew who I would vote for and I still agree with that choice. Why was I not able to vote at 16? Heck, I knew most of my political persuasions at the age of 12, and they’ve hardly changed.

Age is an arbitrary thing. People grow up at different rates, and even more so in terms of brain power. I always hated the various age limits we go through as we age, but I’m sure I shared that with 100% of my peers. There is definitely room to question age limits, but I have no solution. It’s nearly impossible to decide when people can and cannot do things. Arguably, some people still don’t understand politics even by the time they die.

2004 has been pretty good to me – I’ve earned money, I’ve relaxed and now I’m working towards a degree. It wasn’t nice to become 19, because 18 was such a great age to be. But 20 will be even worse. Now I realise there’s no way back. I used to wish the days away. I wanted life to accelerate…

Now my wish has come true.

Happy New Year to all who are celebrating it! I will be.

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Height

It’s one of those things that are a bit meaningless really. But to me, I have always liked being reasonably tall. Yet, even a simple thing like this can depress me. I am a smidge over 6ft tall – 1.835m.

Once a month for the past few years I have been marking out my height on the doorframe of this room with a pen. The results are rather disappointing to me… it really looks like I haven’t grown in four years, and if I have, it’s no more than half a centimetre.

This is really annoying because I used to be one of the tallest people. It seems I really must have finished growing at the age of 15, and yet, I don’t remember ever going through a growth spurt. Maybe I just started earlier than everyone else. I really thought I’d keep on growing… I was clinging on to something I remember in my biology text book from when I was 11 which told me that “By the end of puberty at around age 18, males end up close to their adult height” – which implied more height to come.

What a letdown! 🙂

It’s just another one of those things that point out to me I’m not a kid any more. I’d really hoped to gain another inch or two. It’s nicer being tall!

Snow. It’s Great. (when you don’t get it much…)

What is it about snow that brings out the kid in everyone? It’s quite ironic really that after me moaning for some time about growing old and never really experiencing much in my childhood that today, on Christmas Day, the best day for there to be snow, we get a pretty deep covering of it.

It’s been four years since anything like this was seen in this area. So when it comes, we like to have some fun. The thermal gloves come out, and the snowballs get thrown here, there and everywhere. And the great thing about it is that it doesn’t matter what age you are… you can have enormous fun.

We had a major snowball war in our street between ourselves and the neighbours. It lasted nearly an hour and it really cheered me up. The difference was amazing. It felt so liberating that everyone around threw away their prejudices and engaged in something a little silly and perhaps childish, but it was totally worth it! It’s great to see adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s taking part in just about the best social activity we get around here that doesn’t involve getting drunk! It reassured me that I shouldn’t feel so bad about what I’ve lost… it’s not all bad.

So… it’s been a pretty good Christmas after all. Two weeks left now before I have to return to Hull.

Next stop, 2005.

Happy Christmas

After last night’s depression, I decided it would be nice to start today on a more optimistic note. I’m trying to put my glumness about life overall to the back of my mind and just enjoy the day with my family.

I was glad to see that all of the presents I gave were well received. But then again, they should have been because I’d asked most people what they wanted beforehand! I got some books, a couple of albums and some DVDs which will be well watched eventually. And the dreaded socks, aftershave, razors or other goods didn’t make their annual appearance. It’s just typical really, because I could do with some of those now I’m a student… I could do with saving money in that area!

So I will try to be happy today and really mean it. I don’t want this journal to degenerate into me complaining all the time and wallowing in my own self-pity. But it might; it really helps to get some things off the chest. I’m quite pleased with what I typed yesterday… not particularly because it’s on a good subject, but it cleared the air. I think I finally got down to paper and out of my brain the exact reasons why I have trouble with life at the moment.

Now I can work on some solutions. And yes, Chrissy… I hope it really is heading in the right direction. I’ll try not to get too upset over the past. Honest. Thanks for your comment – I really appreciate it.

Me: Chapter II

Right now, I’m depressed. Totally. And this, in the season of goodwill to all men. What great timing! Sure, I put a brave face on it. I’ve got pretty good at doing that these past few years… able to be happy when the situation requires it. It certainly does tonight.

First, let me explain. My name is Matt and I’m a 1st year University Student – a Freshman, if you will. I’m 19 years old, which makes me mostly one year older than everyone else in my year. I took a gap year, you see. Thought I’d be clever and save up some cash by working for a year, and it’s mostly paid off. I’m probably one of the few who hasn’t had to go into an overdraft yet, but that’s probably because I’m as near as being teetotal as you can get without being it. Alcohol certainly isn’t your friend when you’re feeling depressed, I can tell you.

Anyway. I started University in September. I live in a student house with five other people, whose names I will protect. They’re an all right bunch, but I have trouble getting on with a couple of them. It’s a grotty place and it’s freezing all the time, which sure as hell doesn’t help my mental state. I’m studying politics; I enjoy it, but I’m not sure where it’s taking me.

Why Chapter II, I hear you ask. Well, the answer is quite simple. Ever since I left home, crying a hell of a lot, I knew this was the end of my first life. Everything right up to that point had been insignificant. It had paved the way for this vital juncture. I had written the final scene for Chapter I, and was beginning the introduction to Chapter II.

But it wasn’t just the physical detachment from my past life. Emotionally, I feel different too. I worry about the future. I can’t help but wonder what I will be like in 10 years time. Hell, I don’t really know what I’ll be like next year. My life is up in the air, and I have no idea of what direction I’m going to take.

I hate the word “adolescence”. The word “pubescence” is even worse. It’s a critical time in everyone’s life, but its effects are over-emphasised. The key aspects of the transition are mostly physical. The adult body forms. But left behind is the brain. It doesn’t know what to make of things. It can’t keep up with the pace, and most people, around about the ages of 14 to 17, end up kids inside an adult body.

But that wasn’t the case for me. Physically I changed. But emotionally, I changed very little. Not in the expected way, however. You see, I didn’t really have a childhood. It’s hard for me to understand, but from around about the age of 11, a sense of maturity just appeared from nowhere. During my adolescent years, it was merely built upon with experience, creating wisdom, in the way everyone does. Or should do.

Consequently, I was always sensible. I never took drugs. I never smoked. I never drunk alcohol. I never went out to pubs to buy underage. Heck, I never even had sex. I don’t regret any of this… even the sex. It just wasn’t in the picture. I was attracted to girls. Sure as hell I was. But I wanted to get my schoolwork done. There’d be plenty of time for that.

But as a result, I had a pretty empty adolescence. I had a great set of friends, and they respected my wishes not to take part in the things they were getting up to. In a way, I learned a lot about all of these things without actually doing it thanks to their input. But they left me to my own devices. And I got through GCSE life.

After that, I decided to leave all my friends and go to a Sixth Form College to do my A-Levels. At the age of 17, still all around me were kids in adult bodies. Only now some of them were starting to catch up with me. They were finally entering the stage I’d been in for years.

“Adultification”.

It’s not a real word as far as I know, but it says it all. The process of which adults are made out of kids: the real emotional development. Society makes adults out of us, shaped by the “guiding hand” given to us by our families. Some families do it better than others. Mine did a pretty good job and I’m grateful to them for that. Friends also have a major influence, and so do school structures. The process of socialisation – the correct term for this – begins to really take root in brains which are now beginning to realise that you can’t hide in groups forever.

A-Levels went by without a hitch. Two years of my life just disappeared, never to return. Once again, I came out of the process pleased with the results. I guess it made sense to go to University now. I made a choice and I stuck with it. But I took a year out first – working.

Work taught me a lot more in life than what schools had taught me for 13 years.

It was horrendous. All around me… other people working.

Life. Work. The two concepts becoming intermingled. I had no problem with working. In fact, it got me out of the house and socialising with new people; a good thing. But I became increasingly aware of what lied ahead.

Ask a random person on the street about their life, and one of the first things they will tell you is what they do for a living. Is that how our society judges people? Merely on what they’re doing in exchange for cash? What have you actually contributed today apart from the C02 emissions from the car you’re driving?

It’s a question people have difficulty answering.

It’s a question I have difficulty answering. And it scares me.

It scares me because I know I’m going to end up the same way. People tell me I have so much ahead of me… but I fear I may have already thrown away and closed the doors to many options that have presented themselves and I have turned away from. Only now are we realising that most avenues of potential are formed in childhood and adolescence. Major talents with which you can make a difference can be nurtured and prosper with immense ease at this time. And if you miss the chance, you may find it never comes back again.

At work I looked at all these people. Most of them knew their careers had reached the end. It didn’t really matter how young they were… they had already reached their potential. It just didn’t seem to make any difference any more.

Like I said, it scared me.

I knew I had to get out. I knew I was getting nowhere. Fortunately, I had already lined up a University place. It was my get out clause that I’d never really intended to use. I applied to Uni just to placate the parents. I really wanted to go out there and work. I was fed up of education. Hence the gap year. But it didn’t turn out that way.

It was only when this clicked into place in my brain that I realised that I had to start writing the conclusion to Chapter I. The time was right to set the wheels in motion, but I don’t know where the track is leading. All I knew was that I had to get out. At least I must have more of a chance of avoiding a dead-end life if I get a degree, and maybe more beyond.

That was what resonated in my mind as the car left my home for the final time. I knew I’d be back at Christmas… just as I am now. But I knew Chapter I had closed. I cried for what I’d lost.

September 2004 was the new beginning. But even then, it wasn’t all that it cracked up to be.

Slowly my life has descended into a permanent depressive mode. I hide it. I sometimes even forget about it and have fun with my friends. But I can never get rid of the niggling thought at the back of my mind that I’m missing out on something. That I’m here to do something far more important than study Western Europe.

I just don’t know what.

And that’s where we begin…