“They say that shoulder blades are where your wings were, when you were an angel,” she said. “They say they’re where your wings will grow again one day.” David Almond, Skellig
Is it unusual to want to grow wings? I doubt there’s a kid alive (or that’s ever existed) that hasn’t at some point wanted to do it… Maybe because of birds but most likely because of a superhero. Being an 80s baby, Superman probably first gave me pause to think about the advantage of flying, but it was just that… A pause, the feeling was fleeting.
When I was 15, I read a book called Skellig by David Almond, Skellig himself has dusty crippled wings, he must learn to fly again (Foo Fighters reference anyone?!) and is supported through this journey by open-hearted but slightly alienated children. Can you see the appeal of this story when I was at high school? If school was: Cliques. Hormones. Uniformity. Popular people who should be unpopular. Unpopular people who should be popular. Bullying. Not being able to change for FIVE WHOLE YEARS without somebody resenting it. Tests. Bad food. Skellig was about getting out stronger for it, the other side. Preferably, far away. All you had to master was the art of being good and you would be elevated away from the chaos.
The thing is though, I’m 28. I’ve lived by that idea, of ‘being good’, for a long time, it has served me well too, but… I still want to grow wings. I still feel that creeping sense of unease, quite regularly, that I’m the kid at the party that somehow got the dress code wrong, let’s say, I’m wearing a condiment inspired outfit to a Cowboy party… the sad truth is, that in reality, I’ve grown to understand the dress code and I look the part, it’s an internal code that’s tripping me up. It’s the fact that 8 out of every 10 people I know just do not seem to care about ‘being good’. WHY DO THEY NOT CARE? It’s not just the big things either, like repeating Daily Mail lies without even considering checking the facts, or The Sun printing Reeva Steenkamp in her bikini, looking sultry, on the frontpage while reporting the last few horrifying moments of her life (and people still buying it) it’s:
- The bullshit male head nod (you know the one, it looks like a tick and always involves raised eyebrows) that guys give Mat that somehow implies I need to be consulted/placated before he can make his own decision over something inconsequential like watching football.
- A certain Heaton Moor bar owner lecturing me on my voluntary role with Oxjam and saying, “you should go and do something important with a local charity, who do Oxfam think they are trying to bleed us during the recession?” Seriously, who is he volunteering 15 hours a week of his life for 7 months for? Nobody.
- People who think teachers have no right to strike and make asinine comment over their social networks without the slightest notion of the reason teachers need to raise their voices and be heard.
- People travelling alone on a long train journey and not offering to move next to another lone traveller so you and your friend/Mum/partner can sit together even though you are making it VERY obvious, that is your heart’s one true desire. (You inevitably sit next to the lone person, so why does it matter to them which stranger they are sat next to?!)
- The tabloid press making it seem like Kim Sears life will only have true value when Murray pops the question.
If these people were trying to be good, these little things would not carelessly happen or be said. By default, I would not still be wishing for wings just to get to the point where I could clear the raging noise, that is people trying to make their mark, stake their claim and, crucially and frighteningly, carve up the opposition. If I had wings I could still save the day and me taking up space on this spec of the universe might be worth something.
As it is, I’m not going to grow wings. Ever. I’m never going to look like Michelle Pfeiffer did as Catwoman or be that cool (even in my Mosher days I could not rock that amount of PVC!) or be the amazing, life saving inspiring teacher she was in Dangerous Minds (part of the reason I went into teaching, sad but true) but I can do something else.
I can create a 30 before 30 list that focuses my attention on taking control of my life, rather than floating with the flotsam, and ‘being good’ to myself will be nurturing enough to make sure I still have enough energy and will left to ‘be good’ to others. If it saddens you, that I need a list to do this, it’s the result of 6 long, arduous and miserable years teaching that have made me the sort of person who needs a list.
I have recently had a pupil yell, “I’ve got human rights you know?” in my face (so closely I felt the flecks of spit land on my own, uncomfortable, flesh) just because she was peeved at being given one-to-one support to improve her low grade in a piece of work. How very dare I. Sometimes, it’s as simple as those little incidents, they are enough to make you want to change something. Anything. Something in your own life, something that nominal amout of money coming out of your bank account every month for a worthy cause, elsewhere, just doesn’t cover.
My best friend once sent me a beautiful card that had the following words typed across it in black ink on stark white card:
‘When you think it’s the end, it is there that we will begin.’
I’m about to come alive.
I’m going to begin… With a list!