- Friday, 4 July 2014 -
Saying 'NO' to Society
Helloooo my lovelies and a happy Friday to you all! So I've been typing away at this post and backspacing it all in equal measure, tentatively wondering if I should continue. And so after much toing and froing I wish to ease my burden and just go with it - today's post is how I became myself.
I've always been pegged as "different," and I suppose growing up in a close-knit community where even the thought of open-mindedness was shunned, kinda had a knock-on effect on me - I didn't want this, to be another sheep in the herd. I grew up living a solitary yet independent life, where I suppose without any sibling guidance or influence allowed me to form my own ideas and identity. True, I grew up not having the slightest notion what the bloody hell the difference between foundation and concealer was, but at least I GREW, as opposed to being suffocated by society's "norms."
In my teenage years, I'm unashamed to admit that I went through quite an array of phases and trends. Firstly, let me announce that I stem from the sort of town where being a chav/raver is perceived as standard, so naturally that's where I started off. As soon as I hit 13 I was out at clubs most weekends and even though I always had this niggling notion at the back of my mind that this wasn't me, it sure as hell was everyone else. I already had an ear for the likes of Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy but no, that was "shit music." You were classified as weird if you didn't listen to anything with even the hint of a remix to it. My head was in a forlorn flurry and with that dolefulness came the answer - I embraced my inner emo. I was probably 1 of about 10 actual alternative people in my conformist Catholic all-girls school of over 1,000, and I got hackled for it every single day. I would get verbal abuse on the street for simply expressing myself with my all-black styling, it actually got so bad that a firework was once thrown at my legs on my way home from school. Society was oppressing me, pushing me into the mud and screaming at me to just conform. But I knew it wasn't me.
I first dyed my hair a crazy colour when I was 17, it was Rhianna-red and a gargantuan "fuck you" to the world. I had left my secondary school in order to find solace from a technical college where I could sit my A-levels and experience delicious escapism. Let me fill you readers in on a little factoid here about life in Northern Ireland: people are obsessed with passing their driving tests. So much so that it's our natural birthright to be able to drive and where the second you declare on Facebook that you've accomplished a task that so many million before and after you will achieve, you're rewarded with the highest of praise - and to me, it's all bullshit. Even to this day, at the age of 22 upon arriving home to Northern Ireland, I'm greeted with the following way of conversation: "Hey Claire, so how's Newcastle? You still loving it? You driving yet?" I'll let you in on a little secret that I learnt dear readers: being able to drive does NOT define you as a successful human being, sure it's beneficial in life and I'm not totally dismissing the idea of me ever learning but everyone's different and it's sad that society doesn't seem to think so.
As I hit my late teens my style and overall identity evolved, instead of fearing the society who persecuted me for my individuality, I pitied them. I had a whole new perspective on life and as I watched them in their drones heading off to a local university and never venturing further afield, I was stricken with a sort of empowerment, that I DIDN'T have to follow the crowd. So, I waited until I was 20 years of age to head to university in Newcastle Upon Tyne; I didn't want to set such boundaries like they had - I wanted to see the world, even if that meant only starting in England.
Something else that I've noticed that society is quite naughty of accomplishing is making you unsure of yourself. For years, I've been enduring subliminal whisperings of how you can't achieve anything if you don't attain a university degree in Law, Medicine or the likes. And God forbid you choose not to embrace university at all, shame on you for having your own free will! It was these kinds of misplaced, guilty thoughts that actually used to attack my brain. As a child, I always harboured quite the artistic flair and penchant for creativity but growing up was a different story altogether as schools would drill it into you that a life comprised of art and design (or any other Arts and Humanities subjects for that matter) was a road to no town. And to think I almost yielded too, as once upon a time, during that fateful period of picking universities and university subjects, my top choice was a joint Politics, Media and English Lit degree - seems a pretty unnatural fit for me, right? I remember that I cried an ocean the moment I realised I was being untrue to myself, and desperate to repair the situation I went through Clearing via UCAS and not only found myself a design course but ultimately, found myself again.
This post isn't just a cathartic way for me to shed some light on my past, it's a message to anyone reading this that feels trapped or pressured for fear of what society might think. Well let me tell you this: you're put on this earth for a good time and not a long time, and it'd be far worse to regret things that you had done than what you hadn't. Don't grow old thinking "well I should have gotten a tattoo when I had the chance" or "I wish I could have pursued my dreams of professional line dancing." In the wisest words of my fellow Irishman:
Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
- Oscar Wilde