Drifter

you say i might drift, 
without definable direction 
if i do not do this now 
and i understand 
but understanding does not cut through my apathy 
i need to be certain i have a choice, i need freedom - space 
and if i drift 
surely it is better than being rooted in the expectation of other people.

Kate © 

I wrote this poem based on what a teacher asked me, about my future. I was not doing well in school and this teacher asked what am I going to do when I leave, if I don’t receive qualifications and achieve my exams, what will I do? And you know when you’re a kid, so many adults want to know what you have planned for the future and I think in particular when you are a teenager, you have to make decisions based on – what? We change and grow so much as teenagers. To then spend our twenties trying to undo a lot of damage from pursuing the wrong things. And I have always known I am a writer, someone who creates stories. I don’t know at what point I learnt that was not the correct response, that being a writer was unrealistic and unlikely to achieve success. Success to the adults seemed to be money and status. I think my perception of success become skewed and I became very stressed trying to pursue employment in a sector that was only harmful for me. It carries more weight to empower people by encouraging them, telling them that they can do something. When you add in the complication of having anxiety and depression, I imagined leaving school after exams was tantamount to walking off a cliff. I was going to spend the rest of my life in my bedroom, pretending that I didn’t exist and hoping that someone would help point me in the right direction. I was 15 years old when I left school, I was one of the youngest because I’m a summer baby, and that’s a small number of years to be alive. 15 years old and I knew I hadn’t a future. I don’t think it is meant to be that way.

Who else hated P.E when they had to participate in it at school?

Who else hated P.E (physical education) when they had to participate in it at school?

I can’t recall P.E being a problem when I was a very small child. P.E was moving and running and jumping about. What joy. (Well, not entirely) Then I remember in year 6 boys and girls were split into their respective genders and put into separate classrooms to change into the P.E kit. Because we were ‘growing up’. That was a time us girls started to feel we needed to ask our mums to buy us vests to wear year-round. Because we were growing, well, outwards rather than up.

What changed in secondary school?

I did not like the intimacy of changing into my kit in a changing room full of girls. I was the last to wear a bra, and I knew it would be totally mortifying if I were to flash my boobs at my classmates.

As you can probably guess, not wearing a bra meant running was awkward. I could not do a long jump or trampoline without a bra on. Especially if the boys were also having their class in the field next to ours. Having boys laugh and point at your unleashed boobs is something that still haunts my nightmares today. I hated the kit that we had to wear. As soon as I could, I swapped the shorts for trousers. Trousers with pockets, so I could sneak in sweets. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do a deal more with the thin t-shirt. I disliked having my arms out even then.

So there was an awareness of my body (and the bodies of others) which puberty made me loathe and I then hated the performative nature of P.E. I didn’t want to do netball, with the competitive girls who used their elbows to knock you flying. I didn’t want to do rounders, because of the aforementioned running part of it. I didn’t want to get into pairs and do sit ups, because I didn’t have anyone who wanted to pair up with me.

I decided eventually to not participate. It became a problem. When depression came in and fucked with my head, I lost control at times and I didn’t feel I had control, so I would kick off. I thought school was pointless. P.E was a lesson I would try my hardest to skip. Because once my classmates realised I was someone who kicked off and would disrupt lessons, there was always a – I don’t know. They knew there was a good chance I would refuse to do something that the teacher had asked. They thought it was hilarious. I’m not someone who likes attention. It was embarrassing. But how else was I supposed to tell the teacher I was, to put it mildly, pissed off? We clashed because I was a problem and my behavior was not conforming to their rules. Rules which my depression and I had had enough of. It wasn’t the teacher’s fault, but they made my life so difficult. I was self-harming at that time and if I was mad at them and how they had treated me, I would go home and self-harm and punish myself for not being ‘normal.’

Thankfully, I was allowed to quit P.E when they realised, I was not going to bow to pressure. I was put on a reduced timetable, which had a few lessons on it and I would come into school for those. And I spent the rest of my time in my bedroom, trying to pretend I didn’t exist. Because my mum didn’t want me at home, doing absolutely nothing in her eyes. It wasn’t the best solution for me, brilliant for the school, but not for me. I was bored. I needed help.

I think about it now and I was heading for trouble, anything to numb feeling.

And this is why I now live a mainly sedentary lifestyle.

Quiet people still have a lot going on in their heads, if not more so.

Aren’t I good enough?

God knows, I try

And I thought I knew

                              But now I do

I am not loved

         Nor liked

I am not a person

        But food

For the sharks

Some words from a poem I wrote a long time ago. This poem is painful to read, partly because it is a poem I wrote when I was 16/17 and my writing has changed since then.

I did not understand when I was younger why people could be so horrible. Now I am older, I realise bullies are people that are hurting and having power over someone can be addictive.

I would say that I have never been bullied, because I did not think what had happened to me could be classed as bullying. People in school just didn’t like me. I was so sensitive as a child, I was completely passive and would not speak to people. I did not retaliate and so that attracted people, who would say things and push me around.

I grew up believing that I was worthless. I become so fixated on why I did not have friends. Why are friendships so hard for me to make and to maintain? What is wrong with me? I seemed to have different friends every term or school year. I struggled with boundaries, and holding a conversation, in relationships. I had a mindset that relationships are based on what I can give to a person, so that they will stick around. That’s something I grew up with and it isn’t easy to erase.  Even now if a group of people are laughing near me, I will instantly think it is me they are laughing at. I thought I was weird and had something wrong with me. That’s why I spent many years trying to be like everyone else, thinking if I like what they do and listen to the same music they do, etc., then maybe I will magically start to fit in. You know, when there’s a clingy child at playgroup and an adult is trying to get them to play or is finding another child to draw them into a group? I was that child. Except I wasn’t too clingy, I was so independent. I was happy doing my own thing and reading books, making up stories.

I am an adult now and I appreciate these days that universal popularity probably isn’t that great, not everyone is going to like me, and I am not going to like certain people. It’s more difficult with learning social skills and trying to tell myself I am worthy. I still believe if people are treating me like shit, it is because I am shit and not because that person could be having a bad day or whatever. I remember being in my first romantic relationship, and he was horrible, but he withdrew his love whenever he felt like it and it would be devastating because I thought this was someone who loves me unconditionally. Don’t use love like that, it’s cruel.  

I think the takeaway is it’s a lot of effort to be someone who you are not. Shame erodes confidence. I don’t think any of the teachers in school gave me useful advice, they didn’t tell me differences are what make us individuals and there’s nothing wrong with being someone who is more reserved and quiet. Quiet people still have a lot going on in their heads, if not more so. If the people around me built me up and let me be me, I could have shrugged off what the bullies made me feel because I would have inherently known that they were talking shit. As it was, they shaped my character.

After all that time

 

 

hour spent, shut, into a classroom –
terrifying tomb
in plain clothes alongside a dozen other adult learners –
their eyes on the paper –
mine on the shuffling blinds
as the open window lets in some relief

45 minutes to go

i should concentrate
one of the questions
that one, no
too difficult
pick another
q2?
no, don’t like that one either

an alarm vibrates the air

shaking us all from private places by the root
the fire bell, brilliant
told to forget our bags, no chance
and leave the building

we file out

mixing in with other the pupils

 

(from Put me Down, I’m  Terrible)

K.L


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