This is a photograph of a beautiful rose amidst the jungle of my garden. Our student house is falling apart and our garden has been a wilderness of cigarette butts and litter for months. But this single rose was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but bring it inside. It’s kind of really relevant to the point I hope to make…
I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately about who I was when I came to university three years ago and how I have changed and the things that I have done over the last three years. I definitely think that self-reflection is one of the healthiest things you can do every now and again. I think that it really helps to not lose sight of yourself.
I’m not very big on this whole ‘mindfulness’ movement that seems to be occurring but that’s just because I haven’t really looked into it and don’t think that it can fix the things it claims to be able to fix. That being said, I regularly reflect on myself. The way I personally keep myself on track is by imagining that I am not just one body but that I am the collection of younger selves. I regularly look back and think ‘Would younger Hannah approve of this?’. I know that it sounds strange at first but I just think that it is such a shame when people grow up and forget what they wanted when they were younger. We all had dreams and not all of them were achievable, most of us were not destined to be astronauts and few of us are going to change the world in some crazy way. But there are still childhood dreams that we can make a reality. I just want to honour myself in the sense of accomplishing– or at the very least, trying my hardest to achieve, the things that I hoped that I would.
I said when I was younger that I would live somewhere as cool as London. I’m a fully fledged adult and I still share that dream with my younger self; I still absolutely think London is a cool place to live and even though I have honoured that dream by living here for three years, it isn’t over. If anything, I’m glad that I did take the opportunity of a scholarship to a London university and had the opportunity to take the money I needed in order to live here. I genuinely feel that in honouring that childhood dream I have done my adult self the world of good – if I didn’t move then when would I have? Would I ever have been so recklessly brave to move 400 miles away from what used to be home? I surprised myself. I stood outside of my comfort zone and went somewhere completely different to anything I had known before. Everybody came from wealthy backgrounds and grew up so differently to me. It took a lot of adjustment but I have made myself fit here and I have come to feel so at home here.
Another childhood dream of mine was to write for a living. I haven’t achieved this goal fully but I’ve brushed upon it. I began my blog about five years ago now and am proud of myself for maintaining it; even if myself as an author has changed and even though what I write about has changed, it’s so nice for me to have my life, my goals and my lessons learned documented for me to look back on whenever I please. I also wrote for a company that represented a variety of clients and that is how I made my money in my second year so I did the whole write for money thing and I learned what I actually want to write about in the meantime so honouring that little aspiration was useful to me.
Perhaps the biggest dream of mine was to write a book. I was always so head over heels for books as a child. I cannot remember how old I was when my mother placed a big cardboard box of Enid Blyton in front of me, the pages of the books yellowing from age and wafting a musty loft smell at the turning of each page, but I grew up with the folk of the faraway tree and the children’s adventures. I dreamed of expanding sweets and fairy folk in long grass and flowers. I looked for magic everywhere I went and I read at every spare moment that I had. I think I lost that magic a little bit when I was in high school and sixth form. I guess it was never cool to read.
I rediscovered myself when I came to London. I think it’s because everybody is so artistic and everyone has their interests and that’s respected. I began to read again, I began to write again, my mind was full of colourful worlds that didn’t exist on paper and there were so many things that I wanted to say on a variety of topics. So I wrote it down. Everything I wanted to say. All the topics I wanted to talk about. Love, growing up, moving away, friendships, depression, eating disorders, the ways of the world, the subtle politics of relationships, everything. In the space of a few months I wrote a novel. A publisher requested to see more of that novel. I received an email from an editor saying “I absolutely loved the story and the idea behind it…a truly great read…this can be something really really great”. It isn’t perfect; they want to know some more about some topics and to get to know a couple characters in particular even more, but I have professional notes now to better it. Then I am to send it. To be published.
I wrote a book. In my final year of university, I sat, with my head full of colour and characters and wrote an entire novel, an entire world of the most extraordinary characters with their beautiful quirks, telling their wonderful stories. Who does that? What kind of self-masochistic, overambitious crazy person gives themselves more work than necessary and writes a novel in third year? I look back at this pile of pages and I can’t even help myself, I just laugh because I don’t know how I did it and I don’t know how it got to this! But I’m really glad that I honoured my younger self and wrote a novel like she dreamed of. I still share that dream. And I’m this close to achieving it. Maybe I’ll tell you the title of it soon, but this post is not about my book.
Speaking of university, I was sure that I was going to university and then I wasn’t and then I was and then I wasn’t. And then somebody lovely in my Philosophy A level class told me that I absolutely should go. I should leave the small town and grow some balls (so to speak) and just do it, just accept university for the huge opportunity it is and do it. And so I did. And I loved it and I knew that because nobody else in my family had the same opportunity and because I knew I really didn’t come from money or have the money to waste on this to throw away my degree, I decided to make the most out of it, I decided to get a first. And I did. Can you even believe that? The girl who didn’t even want to go to university suddenly decided three years ago that she was going to and that she would get a first? Again, I don’t even know how I managed it because it was not easy!
My point with this post, which I am more than certain is one of the longest posts I have ever written, is that we all need to return to those dreams of our younger selves and achieve them. Why not? I have learned, over the last year especially, that there is a certain magic about me saying that I am going to do something. From the moment I set my mind to something, I just manage to achieve it. Perhaps the first step to success is stating that you are going to do something. Find what it is you want and say it aloud and then do it.
I come from a tiny town, a town that if a tornado blew away tomorrow, no one would even notice. It probably wouldn’t even make the news. I don’t come from money. I never thought I’d afford London living. But I saw an opportunity to move (thank you government for the cheeky loans) and I took it. And, as the saying goes, I ran with it. I made it everything I wanted it to be and more. I took the little bit of spare time I was given in university and created something great with it. My point is, nobody knows who they’re going to be but you should damn well like that person. Everybody should do something amazing with their lives; ‘amazing’ is subjective so just find what you think is the good life and go for it. Coming from a crap town is no excuse. Not having the same opportunities and resources as everybody else is still no excuse. Bloom where you are planted. Everyone has obstacles, even the people who you think get the best start. Sometimes those obstacles are the things that make you the strongest sort of person. Experience of crap things, for example, very much inspired me and, more than that, made me able to write about those crap things and create something good out of it. Isn’t the point of generations to strive for better? Everyone wants their child to do better than they did and you should take everything your loved ones have ever put into you and do something with it.
So, mum, thanks for all the books! Thanks for that inspiring trip to meet Jacqueline Wilson. Isn’t it funny that the author I adored and was so inspired by when I was so little is the same woman who is going to shake my hand and congratulate me on my graduation in a couple month’s time? How funny does life work? I wish I could tell my younger self that one day she’s going to have a book deal and then Jacqueline Wilson is going to be the chancellor of her university and shake her hand precisely eleven years after she shook hers at a book launch, and she is going to congratulate her for her first class degree.
Have a talk with your younger self. Did you do everything they wanted from life? Can you say that you’re taking every single opportunity you are handed and making it work for you? Bloom where you are planted. That’s what I wanted to make a point of the most. Please, wherever you are, whoever you are, don’t waste yourself, just bloom where you are planted.
All of my love,