Ms Jekyll and Little Miss Hide

Last night I went to an author event at my university, the University of Lincoln. Writer Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, published in 2002, had arrived in Lincoln to read us some stories from his new book, This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

I had been a fan of author events ever since I saw American crime writer, Michael Connelly at the LPAC (Lincoln Performing Arts Centre) in 2009, as part of the Lincoln Book Festival.  This was a few months before starting my American Studies degree.  I remember being so inspired as he spoke about his new book, The Scarecrow and read passages from it.  After that I saw Jeffrey Deaver, on an uber wet day in Lincoln at Waterstone’s (or is it Waterstones now, I heard they removed the apostrophe) on the High Street.  He was signing copies of his latest book, Roadside Crosses.  As with Michael Connolly, I mumbled something about being inspired by him and left happily with my signed copy.  I also saw Jodi Picoult at the LPAC, although I didn’t have the money to buy her new book.  I seriously regret that now.  Especially since she is one of the authors I am using in my dissertation. 

Anyway, back to Jon McGregor.  The first story he read was called Looking Up Vagina.  The crowd laughed at the word, like a bunch of schoolkids, which was funny because that’s what the story was about.  A little kid in his last year of primary school, who got bullied for being the first one with pubic hair.  The story is littered with words from the dictionary, beginning with the letter V.  Despite him being bullied, the little guy finishes the story by talking about how he is going to leave one day, go to a big city, go to university, and how those bullies will still be here, working in factories, looking for someone else to pick on. 

I have to say I think I held my breath through most of that 4 page story.  I was bullied at school, and I always told myself I would go to a big city, and that they would be stuck here, in this place forever while I would be doing great things, living a great life.  I never wanted to go to university though.  I could have; my grades were good enough, but I saw university as just another school.  Full of ‘it’ people and bullies. 

I did move to London just after I turned 19.  I worked in a hotel in Russell Square for nine months, before landing a job as a Paralegal in a city law firm.  I had promised myself I would spend a year there at least; by the time I left I had spent a year there.  But I hated my job and the lady I lodged with just began ignoring me.  So I felt like I had no choice but to reluctantly come home. 

I got a job, I got married after a few years, then I got struck by the 30-crisis, at the age of around 27.  What was I doing with my life?  Why did I have such a crappy job?  Why was I so unhappy?  Days before my 30th birthday, I had an epiphany.  What I truly had always wanted, was to live and work in the States.  So I began to work towards doing that, by going to university (the one thing I had always said I would never do) and in January 2011, I did live in the US (well temporarily).  Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as all that.  But I’m sure you’ll hear about that later. 

So back to Looking Up Vagina.  I’m now 33, I’m back in my home town, in fairness I have lived here all of my 33 years with the exception of the year in London and the six months in the States.  I ask myself why am I still here?  I should have left years ago.  I shouldn’t still be here now.  I’ve suspended my studies, due to my lack of concentration.  So I’ll be here for at least another 18 months.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  What I do know is that I’m still haunted by those five years I spent at Cherry Willingham Comprehensive School.  Even now, as a (semi)-confident thirty something, I still have bouts of shyness, fears of large groups of young people and a feeling that everyone is talking and laughing about me. 

Last week I went on a spur of the moment trip to the US.  Through Twitter, I had found out about a band called Mission Hill, from Boston, Massachusetts and had interviewed their singer/songwriter, Adam Jensen, on the radio show I co-host on Siren FM (www.sirenonline.co.uk), The American Dream Team.  They were playing the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston to celebrate the release of their new CD, Nowhere Man.  So I spent my last £500 on a flight to New York, spent a few days there, then took the Megabus up to Boston. 

On Friday night, the night of the gig, I made my way over to the Hard Rock Cafe on Clinton Street.  I confidently walked into the restaurant and made my way over to the bar, where I took a seat.  I ordered the cheapest beer and began chatting to the barman.  I told him I was here to see Mission Hill and he said he would go see if they had arrived.  They hadn’t so I waited. After a while, he told me that he’d spoken to the band and that they’d be out to see me.  So I waited.  While I waited, I thought about how crazy it was that here I was, thousands of miles away from home, thinking I was this big radio star coming over to interview a band.  I watched the people queueing to get into the gig.  They were happy.  I felt like I was at a party I hadn’t been invited to.  All the cool kids were going in, and I was alone.  Like I’m always alone.  Not included.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to interview the band.  I mean, I wanted to be a writer and I couldn’t even write.  How could this once shy girl just go ahead and interview complete strangers.  I wanted to fall apart.  So I paid my tab, and asked the barman to let the band know I had to go.  Just walk through, he said.  It won’t be a problem.  No, I can’t, I replied.  I, I, have to go. I think I have to fly home.  Just go through! he said again.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  I looked back at him, knowing I was.  I can’t, I whispered.  I picked up my bags and walked out. 

I held back the tears until I was out into the cold Boston air.  Then they flowed.  They flowed like a tidal wave.  If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s crying.  I wandered around Boston, heading in the direction I thought would take me to the hostel, but I found myself lost.  I asked three people for directions, but I just couldn’t work out on the map where I was.  Eventually I made it back to somewhere I recognised and headed straight for the hostel. 

I booked the Megabus back to New York, which was leaving in an hour and a half.  I continued crying throughout the night, every time I thought of what I’d done, when the band’s singer tried to call me, when he sent me a Facebook message asking Jodie what happened to you tonight?? 

So what did happen to Jodie Orton on Friday 3 February 2012?  She didn’t exist.  Jodie Keen, the ultra shy twelve-year-old, who couldn’t talk to anyone, who was afraid of everyone, had made it into the future.  But she was still that vulnerable little girl, scared to reveal her true self in case everyone laughed and humiliated her. 

The 24 hours after that, I almost gave up.  I continued to have bouts of crying.  I spoke to my parents on Skype and obviously worried them to death.  I told my dad I felt “defeated”.  All I wanted to do was go home, give up writing, give up the radio that was giving me all these delusions of grandeur, give up any ideas of following my dreams.  Following your dreams?  What a crock of shit.  I would go back, get a “normal” job and just try to be like everyone else. 

But I realised that I couldn’t do that.  To live a “normal” life, doing a boring job, it just isn’t what I want to do.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have lots of friends with jobs and families and houses and if I had that opportunity I would take it.  But I don’t.  And I don’t want to live my life in fear.  I don’t want to give up on my dreams.  I’m 33, goddamnit.   I know if I can’t live, or even follow, my dreams, then I don’t want to live at all. 

So I hauled myself out of the dark, dark place I was in.  I started to write on my long journey home.  Not loads, but little bits.  I’m going to return to Siren FM, because I enjoy it.  I realise I may not be the kind of person who can speak into a microphone while she’s alone, but put someone on the other end, one of the amazing people that we talk to on The Midweek Drive Morning Edition or The American Dream Team, put my fellow presenters in the studio, and I know I can do it. 

I’ve still been up and down like a rollercoaster this week.  In fact, just like I have the last year.  But writing is what I want to do.  So I have to just do it.  I know I CAN DO IT.  

I’m gripping the hand of the scared, 12-year-old Jodie.  I can’t let her regress into the past.  I want her to stand next to me, hand in hand, seeing the future, seeing that it is ok to let go of the past, to reveal that person that she always was but that she kept contained within herself, for fear of being bullied. 

For now she may be Little Miss Hide.  But very soon she’ll be Little Miss Sunshine, and I’ll be Ms Jodie Orton, writer, radio co-host and confident, beautiful, positive, 30-something.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chuck Lorre
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 17:29:48

    super bowl coin toss
    Looks like we may be kindred spirits on this subject – you seem to have a relatively comparable opinions and strategy to the website over Chuck Lorre as I do to mine.

    Reply

  2. horny
    Feb 11, 2012 @ 13:37:25

    Great post! It always amaze me how people can take time to write them. But to be honest maybe you should change the color of the texts? Sorry if I am being rude, just trying to help. Kind regards, Sophia

    Reply

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