Recently I joined Instagram and my first thought was how perfect the images are…and those in them. If you check me out you’ll see a handful of snaps. I am a tidy, colour coordinated person so I should fit in here. And wanting to be followed and liked as much as the next person I spent an allowance of energy, I can’t really spare, on colour schemes, interesting juxtaposition and avoiding images of myself; a very ordinary, middle-aged woman, with unruly hair and a penchant for everything pink and flowery. But I realised I couldn’t compete, other book bloggers had images down to perfection and honestly I’m a mess. I’ve the spine of a centenarian; it’s weak and crumbling and my spinal cord is damaged and I can barely dress myself. So although this image above is an arrangement it’s more reflective of the person I am which is a struggling author, used to her own company, mad enough to read extracts of her book to her mutts.
I write two blogs one as an author and one as a sufferer of Myelopathy called My Hell Opathy. I haven’t a great deal to offer in terms of exciting places, holidays, clothes, restaurants so I strive for honesty…which doesn’t always look attractive. I want to be the kind of writer who looks for hidden gems: a good heart, fairness, grace, pure unprejudice. I am a total believer of, no matter what bad things you’ve done in your life you can change, maybe you can’t take it back, you should be punished, you may never be forgiven, but a new life is possible.
How we look matters; there is no escaping that fact. It seems to matter more when we’re young. We have this negative image of ourselves in our head which is out of proportion; our pessimism photoshops it, so we hate ourselves. Then we fall in love, and it’s like our dark bloom has flowered into something extraordinary until we are dumped. We are like Pandora’s Box with each crack that appears escapes: doubt, hate, anger and we do the most damaging things to ourselves and others because pain is sometimes unbearable.
Random Attachment is Mia’s story…but she shares it with a trillion young people. I don’t say girls or women because boys and men equally feel the same hurt; their self-worth, love, desire, hope is no less fragile. How do I know this? Well I’ve a husband and two sons and if that’s not confirmation enough there’s Lil Peep, XXXtentacion, Juice WRLD. These artists are part of the soundtrack to Mia’s self-hate, despondency, loneliness and heartbreak. I still listen to them now, whilst editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle because they are as relevant to Phoenix Whittle as they are Mia. I scribble words, names of artists, doodles, my appointment for waxing. And I was about to change my sheet for a fresh one when I thought: this is life; imperfect, full of half-finished ideas, riddled with emotion. Then I checked my Insta. Why am I doing this to myself again? Trying to fit in, to be liked, to wondering why my post has 200 likes but nobody wants to see my profile. What effect does this have on a teenager. Especially one who feels overlooked, worthless, crap at school, never invited anywhere, struggling with their sexuality, their identity. Jesus, it’s terrifying, I can feel my heartbeat increase just by typing these words. So I’m rebelling, my house isn’t perfect, it smells of dogs and the kitchen light’s been out of action for three months. I’ve got the worst cellulite in history. I’m so tired all the time. Everyday I think about giving writing up. Everyday I want to curl up and sleep forever.
My emotion isn’t the raw, gut wrenching bleakness a teen feels but I’m not fooled by how damaging it can be. Music gives a relevant, bittersweet insight to the teen psyche. At 51, writing YA, this resource is probably as close as I’ll get to young adult thinking unless I become a councilor. I’m not pretending to know half of what’s being expressed. It’s almost a foreign language to someone like me who only swears when the banoffee tarts run out. But the emotion is there; this dark energy that I claim as once my own. There’s a brutality to emo rap that’s beautiful; a vocabulary that at first seems vulgar, violent, sexually explicit. But if you forget who you are, and listen, you start to understand who they are.
Mia is a dreamer…which sounds exciting and ambitious. If I had to colour dreams, they’d be soft hues of yellow, sky blues, light green…but what if your dreams twist like you’re wringing out a grey, stained dish cloth. What if they gnaw away at you? What if you desire something so badly is hurts? What if you think of a cold, damp, earthiness, six feet under? Mia’s desperate to escape, to be loved, to be lovable. But where’s the emotion in that? Where’s the taste of hurt so bitter even when you spit it out it lingers. Where’s the fucking loneliness. Why the fuck does Mia care about her mother. She’s a fucking bitch! Now there’s the hurt, the loneliness, the hate. So I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are born from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed Mia’s way; from how her mother picks her up and puts her down.
Beamer Boy is Mia; she feels like a nobody, like she’s a buffer for her mum, a gofer. So she dreams about boyfriends, being slim again, dancing, having friends…killing her mum…and she is a girl who doesn’t need a boy…but she desires Flynn; there’s a difference. So it’s my song of the week.
Lil Peep and many emo rappers are well tattooed up. Not the popular, well placed, top ten tats but totally random words and art work in visual places. Their stories written on their skin; their songs emotionally and intimately revealing. It’s hard to think this talent, this young man is dead.
We start judging so young. In the playground abusing one another. Hurting each other when there’s sandpits to play in and who doesn’t love paint?
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times; it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s not just names its: texts, snapchats, facebook, instagrams, twitter; each mistake, each misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion is crushing.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. Hearts aren’t bullet proof and minds do dwell on every word spoken, every wardrobe choice, the phone calls that never came. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That’s advice for someone who’s lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low; imagining a darkness where all your pain disappears, you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia thinks – what’s the point? She doesn’t care about herself or school. She’s sixteen and a crutch for her mother. She barely exists…until she sees Flynn. It’s not a case of a knight in shining armour; that’s romantic but outdated. Flynn’s the spark, the catalyst, not the hero…why should he be under that pressure? Mia has to find what she needs from within.
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep. Some writers, JK Rowling for instance, have an imagination that is boundless. Not me. My imagination is very much on earth, living in a head that can’t imagine past the high street. As a middle-aged women, my emotions’ sharp edges have become blunt from experience. I rarely cry, I find it hard to comfort others, I don’t care what people think of me. Yet when I write, I feel everything as fiercely as I did in my teens…but me, the woman recognises negative emotion as a trap. It’s like a vampire; you’re drawn in by it because you feel so shit about everything. It comforts you with this cloak of darkness that numbs you to the point you feel a sweet sense of peace that you want to hold onto…forever. So unlike the brilliant Thirteen Reasons Why my YA characters will never do the unthinkable…they might want to…they might be on the brink of…but I can’t let that happen because of the insight age brings. I know this:
- no matter how much you hurt pain dulls with time even when you don’t want it to
- around the corner is possibility: friends, lovers, achievements, adventures
- Life is hope and Death is hopeless.
One of my favourite films, WRISTCUTTERS, is the journey of three people who commit suicide and end up in a limbo for suiciders. It’s here they learn to value life and go on this mad adventure to get back to the living world.
I know from experience that when you’ve really hit bottom you don’t want to go back to living.
To put it like emo rappers we are all fucked up inside. Sometimes it’s our parents that fuck us up, sometimes it’s friends, boyfriends, complete strangers, events, abuse. Some of us will never fit in. What’s the saddest thing is some of us won’t make it. We’ll never know if love, friendship, acceptance, happiness was only around the corner. For Mia it had to be. For me? I’m not spending four hours putting my books in piles according to colour; my energies need to go on writing and not feeling sorry for myself.
I want to live till I’m a hundred, writing books and loving my family. I know some days I’ll forget this…but I’ll listen to Lil Peep and XXXtentacion and I’ll know we all feel like we are walking a tightrope between the living and the dead.
If I was in a room full of teenagers I’d give this advice. People will always judge you, let you down, hurt you, but that’s the life they are living, one of ignorance, bitterness, dissatisfaction, jealousy, competition. You need to LIVE YOUR LIFE; don’t let someone or something cut it short. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS tell someone how you feel, don’t be embarrassed, don’t be scared of hurting them, don’t think you’ll look like a dick or weak, don’t think people will blame you or that somehow you deserve it, or it’s your fault.
When I felt threatened, coz that’s how you feel when parents dump all their shit on you, I hadn’t anyone to talk to and I worried my mum would find a diary and use it against me and I genuinely loved her and didn’t want my words to hurt her so I wrote letter after letter to John Taylor (Duran Duran). My friend had seen him going into a house in South Kensington so I had the address (we think). It didn’t solve my problems but it lightened my heart. I hope you all find a way to lighten your hearts and LIVE!
My Channel: Ramblings of a Mad Woman…actually Gertrude T Kitty.
I listen to a lot of emo rap, it’s fuel for dark writing; for those emotions that can be destructive, that are bourne from every cruel or thoughtless word tossed your way, from how people pick you up and put you down.
“Sticks and stones might break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
Chant it to yourself a million times and it’s still not true. Names hurt a lot; Trippe Redd says so, Mia agrees. It’s just so much worse insults, slurs are
Every mistake, misplaced word, rejection is magnified through social media and the weight of people’s opinion crushes.
We’re so susceptible to negativity when we’re young. I don’t think there is a recipe for healthy self esteem, for shielding yourself against bullying, for thinking positively. Pull yourself together, be strong, you’ve got this, you’re the better person, grow from it. It’s all bullshit. That advice is for someone whose lost their mobile or turned up to school wearing uniform on a non uniform day. When you’re dangerously low you don’t want to grow from it, you want it over, gone, finished…you don’t want to be strong…you don’t want to be anything, ever.
Mia sometimes thinks – what’s the point? Her trouble is her mum’s isolated her, relied on
Teens live now
They say write what you know. So what about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter? Whoever first gave this advice, I think they meant write what you feel. Like lyrics in a song. Like Lil Peep.