The International Writers Magazine: Lifestories
God the world can frighten me these days. I mean its always
been a tad scary of course- when I was very young and tomboyish
I was afraid of bras, when I was a teenager I was scared that
no-one would ever truly know and love me for who I really was
(as most teenagers probably are without realising)...
I was scared when
I drove down a motorway for the first time and was horrendously unsettled
when I went to bed in student halls under the first moon of my university
life. I was worried that I wouldnt clinch the degree result I
finally graduated with, and I remain terrified that Im simply
not a good enough writer to forge a career for myself somewhere within
that mightily competitive industry.
Outside of my habitual narcissism, Im afraid for the future of
a planet upon which countries bicker about the building of weapons powerful
enough to obliterate us all, and of more and more unstable minds going
undiscovered, existing within families, and then one day propelling
their hosts towards the schoolhouses of isolated communities to execute
children in front of one another. My mum is scared that I will vote
Conservative at the next general election, because I often exclaim how
Im warming to David Cameron in comparison to Tony War-Mongering
Blair. I generally worry, alongside millions of others I am sure, that
the world being built around us by those in power is a structure without
humanity, and that in a few generations time we will all inherently
hate one another, and then someone will push a button and solve the
whole problem under the conclusive umbrella of a mushroom cloud.
But, my God, it is the most ridiculous, self-destructive thing to live
in a state of fear, however inconspicuously. Being afraid is natural,
hmm, its a defence mechanism with some pros for some people Im
sure, but like jealousy and frustration, it seems to me to be one of
the most useless emotions in the frontal lobes back catalogue.
The root of the problem with being afraid is that it can cripple you,
and keep you on your knees in a shitty life of acceptance and acquiescence
and restriction, or so it seems to me since taking part in the osmosis
of Student Bubble to Real World.
Maybe these are words that can only be spoken by a slightly cocky young
graduate relatively unscarred by adult living or real problems, but
I am aiming to acknowledge what is scary out here without letting it
mar my life. An impossible task? Maybe. But to try, is that impossible?
Never. And I steadfastly refuse to stop trying.
When I first made the financially-necessary Move Back Home, I
wasnt scared so much as I was wary and despondent, as well as
excited. Leaving university brought such a mixture of emotion, being
home seemed to initially be about coping with loss whilst expecting
I concluded that it was a very lonely thing to be a graduate, having
to step back into a world that is simultaneously awfully familiar and
irreversibly changed. You have to get the balance right between what
you were, what you now are and what you want to become, and it seemed
dangerously easy to lose sight of the latter in the real world. At first
it seemed to be trying to strip me of that at every turn, as if it wanted
me to forget what Id worked for and just accept that life was
now a grind without freedoms Id grown to cherish; I was turned
down for job after job, because I was either overqualified or inexperienced
depending on the employers view of higher education, the only
job I could get was totally unlinked to my ambitions (and continues
to pay extremely badly!), and the public transport system remains determined
to make the distance between myself and my boyfriend a harder obstacle
for us to conquer than it really is.
As the weeks went by, it became apparent to me that there was a lot
more for a graduate to be scared of than for an undergraduate- the Student
Bubble encased me in a protection and lavished upon me freedoms that
I couldnt replicate now that it had expelled me. I started to
worry about the length of time I would have to stay in my current job,
and whether or not things with my friends would ever fall into place
again, and whether or not I could hack being away from my boyfriend
when I was used to unrestricted access, and whether or not I should
bother with this whole writing lark when I didnt finish work til
6pm and it was just so much more tempting to sit on the sofa all night
and watch television til it was bed time
But I was lucky. Before the completely unoriginal, tiresome worries
had piled up so high that I was smothered and sapped of the remaining
bit of graduate exuberance left in me, I was saved, and am now here
championing a resolution for everyone to acknowledge that life is unequivocally
daunting but not necessarily overbearing, that there are things to be
scared of, of course, but not ruled by.
And what was my saving grace, exactly? The epiphany happened as I sat
in my car, parked at the local train station, tears running down my
face because my boyfriend had just caught his umpteenth train back home.
I was upset because I knew I was going to miss him, yes, but the real
reason I was actually crying was because I was frightened. I was frightened
of how we had to now live our lives, I was frightened of what was to
come, of what might never be, of what was possible.
And the minute I realised I was afraid of possibilities, the very things
Id gone to university to grasp, I knew enough was enough. I knew
that I was letting my fears overpower everything, they were overriding
all sense of logic and confidence, cancelling out the things that I
knew and replacing them with "what if what if what if?" Screw
what if, I told myself in the rear view mirror as I wiped my blotchy
face and snotty nose (thank God the boyfriend had long gone at that
point), I am sick of my attitude being moulded by the things that go
wrong in life.
Knowing what might happen isnt the same as being afraid. Giving
up trying to keep good things going or make good things happen is, in
my book, the worst relinquishment to Big Bad Scary Life that any graduate
can make, and will age you quicker than the passing of time. Back home,
here, as I adjust to my new lifestyle, I see more people who dont
do what they want because they are scared to alter their lives than
I have ever come into contact with, and I dont know if this is
just my hometown or if its just adulthood. But I tell you what,
I am not now seeing it as inevitable to become like that, I am not being
that crying little girl at the steering wheel week after week, I want
to be the woman who puts her foot down on the pedal so that she can
get to her fellas house that little bit quicker on a Friday night.
Real life is going to have to put up one hell of a fight if it wants
to take that from me any time soon, and so I beg and plead here that
every graduate, every person who reads this at whatever stage they are
at in their lives, that they do the same as I am doing now and at least
try to see the wood for the trees. It really isnt that bad once
you step back and look at it.
© Lauren Almey December 2006
Lauren Almey can't sleep
after a Rainfall
headed in her direction...
Lauren Almey at the empty fairground
had longed to believe in monsters...
Lauren Almey on lovers torn apart
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