Another great response. Delighted that so many of you let us know ‘What conversation you would have with your younger self’.
Your stories were overwhelmingly positive and it was interesting to see how you came to the challenge from so many different directions.
We read about feeling alone in a crowd like Ambra Sancin, about insecurities and young dreams. ‘Keep dreaming,’ advised Jill Caskey.
I loved Alice String’s Hey You and Jane Hanson’s Between you and Me, remembering embarrassing and painful schooldays but as Jane said, ‘We grew up’.
Some wonderful writing and lovely use of language so we’ll expect to hear from you and many more members answering the call of our next challenge.
321 LET'S WRITE
A Japanese style poem by Barbara Caldicott
Accept life as given
Enjoy good and bad
Learn from All
The girl with the blonde plaits, chewing gum and staring out of the window. WATCH OUT! He's coming for you.
Don’t shake, don’t quiver. Stand up straight. Look him in the eye.
Don’t do that. When he shouts ‘in the wastepaper basket’ he doesn’t mean you. He means the chewing gum.
Hey! It’s okay
Stay calm. Pull the waste bin off your bum. Straighten your skirt. Ignore their laughter.
Hey! Calm now
Take a deep breath. Try not to cry. Let the cool air of the corridor cool your burning cheeks.
Hey! Smile a little
Know that one day you will recount this story to the laughter of a dinner party or even use it in one of your pieces of writing.
I’m happy. Walking along, minding my own 11-year-old beeswax.
A whisper! Whispered in my head via my ear, I suppose. ‘Mind how you grow younger me.’
‘Now I know you know. Aren’t you telling Dad that all the time? In fact you’ve said it to him so often that one day he painted, ‘I know’ all over your pin-ups, including your favourite, David Cassidy, one.
‘Anyway, I digress. What I want to tell you today is … Are you listening?’
‘Right. In a few years' time Mum will write in an address book she buys for you:
‘Your future lies before you like a sheet of driven snow. Watch how you tread for every mark will show!
‘She is really annoyed with you for doing a wrong. She is worried about you. Interested?’
‘Oh! you will be. Now hear this.
‘Work hard at school. I know you hate it now you are living in Sheffield, (in the North of England) after leaving the fabulous Burry Port.
‘Hairdressing isn’t for you, I know, because I tried it and didn’t like it. So try to gain good exam results, preferably in 12 subjects.
‘Don’t mess about with lads, they are just trouble waiting to get you into trouble, one way or another. I know because they did!
‘Distractions You can have those when you are a high-paid lawyer or forensic scientist.
‘Are you listening?’
‘Good. This is the most important bit, so stop walking.
‘The best advice I will give you is that when Paul comes into you life do not change a thing. You got it?’
I continued walking with a spring in my step knowing that the future is bright.
Thanks me xxxx
Hello it’s me. Well, you actually. What I mean is, it’s us.
Consider me a voice from the future or even a guardian angel.
Something protected us during those hard times. Maybe the power of a future version of ourselves saw us through … or does that sound weird?
Those stone steps and iron railings leading up to the junior entrance of the old school building still loom in front of our eyes.
It was like a fatal attraction to hover around them, even though we knew Miss Helliwell had absolutely forbidden anyone to enter during playtime.
Too late! The two older girls who were her henchmen grabbed us and pulling us roughly by the elbow and cardigan dragged us up the steps.
That fear, the ice that immediately coursed through our guts. The tears and trembling that overtook us. ‘We’re going to tell Miss Helliwell!’ What an apt name .
She came in all her darkness. A formidable figure with short steel grey hair and a sallow complexion.
Her clothes were monotone and made of coarse material, thick woollen stockings and black serviceable shoes. She screamed, ‘Kneel down with your hands on your head, face the corner.’
It was too late to stop the hot trickle of urine that flowed down our legs and wet our socks and turned into a cold puddle on the floor. A pool of shame.
Time seemed to stop. The two girls smirked and went out. The sounds of children shouting and playing drifted into the cold cloakroom.
Our thoughts turned to other children who had been punished. Children dragged from their seats.
Poor Bryan Wilkinson with his skinny legs covered by a network of red veins from the cold, getting spanked by the ruler. He writhed to avoid the whack but she gripped him firmly.
We went home that afternoon feeling hollow inside .
We can’t remember what she taught, being in a permanent state of fear.
Keep it in! Don’t ask to go to the toilet. Sit immobile. Shrink and be unnoticed.
The pain was unbearable and we fainted. The headmistress had us sent home. That was the turning point when thankfully someone realised that our physical illness was a direct result of emotional turmoil.
So you see. I was there for us. We observed. We were silent but we grew up.
Hey you! Yes you! The one hovering alone near the drinks table at the party, absorbed by the cheese plate.
This is the first of many parties where you'll feel awkward. You may even want the ground to swallow you up. Or, fake a headache and leave at 11pm, one hour after arriving.
You'll hope the invitation says, 'come dressed as a pop singer from the 1980s' so you can hide behind an asymmetrical hairstyle, a big-shouldered sequinned jacket and black fishnet stockings.
Or worse, 'come as your favourite pot-plant!' so it's easy to position yourself in a corner pretending you're part of the furnishings.
The social gatherings where you'll enjoy yourself - perhaps even be the life of the party - will be the ones where you'll know most of the guests.
Old friends or work colleagues make conversation easy and you won't fumble for words. It's the events where you don't know a soul that will be difficult.
‘How can complete strangers chat for hours on end,’ you might hear yourself thinking. ‘What on earth do they say after, Hello, I'm Hermione!? Maybe they've all read How to Win Friends and Influence People?
At some point it will become clear to you that you!re an introvert. You'll worry that people will judge you. Try not to punish yourself by thinking you!re some
Introversion can lead to some wonderful forms of creativity including painting, writing, reading and making choko chutney. Well, the last one may not set your world on fire, but you get my drift.
Once you've accepted your personality type, you'll free yourself from feeling guilty for preferring a quiet night in or a gathering with close friends.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't seek professional help if you're worried this is leading to social anxiety.
In 2012, author Susan Cain will deliver a TED talk titled The Power of Introverts, which will attract over 28 million views on Youtube (a new video-sharing platform to be created in 2005).
In a world where extroverts are lauded - and introverts are often misunderstood - your ability to listen, understand and respect others will stand you in good stead.
You'll be fine.