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On quiet rebellions

I rebelled only quietly in my teens. To this day I don’t believe I did anything truly stupid but I hurt some people (mostly my parents) and took some chances and most of this happened outside of school.

I never considered myself rebellious, nor really think I appeared that way to others. Yet I was always part of a little renegade duo – at times a band of three or four – who stood outside of all the social tribes but had friendly relations with pretty much all of them. That’s arguably still true for me today.

I would use my intellect to spar a little with teachers who I knew respected me, and who knew that I respected them. I got detention once for eating a Kitkat in English after being told not to twice. I refused point blank to draw graphs in Maths after year 10, striking a deal with my teacher that absolved her of responsibility for my GCSE results (I got an A).

I came to one class 10 minutes late every time as a principled stand against the offense of ‘wasting our learning time moving the furniture’ with a teacher who I now massively appreciate for her innovation of turning the desks to face each other in a circle for our class discussions.

I didn’t start smoking until I was 18 (I do actually consider that quite stupid and potentially an act of rebellion amongst my peers, many of whom kicked off with cigarettes much earlier) and although I drank heartily I always seemed to manage to have a good time and get home without any major scrapes or fall-out.

No drugs til I had a good go with marijuana for a few years in my 20s. The upside of this phase was that I made great friends that I still have today, achieved some cultural mind expansion amid the haze and it pretty much stopped me drinking.

What does all this mean? I was just about to go to bed – at the rebellious hour of 10:30pm on a Saturday night-  and this all came out of me in a tumble.

I guess I feel similar as an adult. Fairly quietly I’ve taken some pretty different choices to many other people I know. I left the rat race in London fairly swiftly after only four years (with a 9 month gap to travel the world and consider becoming a professional hippy) and set up a retreat centre with tree houses in Norfolk.

After a few years and some major life events even this alternative career path felt a little rigid for me and I tossed off the lot to go travelling and say yes to serendipity. I also tossed off a seven year relationship, a three bedroom cottage and a cat. I’m making light with my language but that was major.

I travelled with a very tangled ball of wool that I was slowly unpicking and unravelling. It was made of so many threads I had collected and hastily bundled together without due care. The threads were beautiful and over time I began to imagine they might one day be woven into something.

After five years as flotsam, flowing hither and thither like the white horses of the tides, I washed up for the third time on a remote olive farm in Greece and went in deep for four months of solitude. Again, not a choice that has been taken by many I know.

I nearly lost my mind but I didn’t and I found some nuggets of gold and burned up some lumps of coal. They gave me energy and the threads began to weave slowly slowly before my eyes.

I suddenly knew that I was ready to belong again, to something beyond myself. I wanted to belong to a place, and -scarier still- to people. I wanted to belong to groups. To have a regular coffee place (well – decaf tea really) and a regular friend to meet there. I wanted to touch peoples faces for real and not sat stroking the screen on a skype call.

So I came back to the UK and started making different choices. Slowly, slowly I feel I’m softening the edge of my rebellion for better or worse. I registered with a doctor again for the first time in 7 years and now they send me letters about my body. The people at the coffee place know my dog’s name (they don’t know mine – it works for me somehow).

I have a dog! A dog that hangs out of car windows and likes camping. A dog that keeps me grounded most of the time and takes me out in the woods every day. A dog that I am committed to for maybe 20 years.

I’m still living in a tiny wooden cabin on stilts at the end of somebody’s garden and I still work for myself. I’ve never claimed benefits even though I didn’t have a job for 3 years and went long stretches without a penny to my name. I still choose not to read the papers or listen to the news. Somehow I still get most of it from the ether. I still have 3 or 4 girlfriends who are also free queens of their own realms. I still don’t do graphs.

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