Growing up, I never really knew what I wanted to be, and at the time, that was ok. Because every week I wanted to do something different and I was told by my family “you don’t need to know yet.” But then came a day at school, when really in the grand scheme of things, probably about the age of 13, they set us up with an appointment with the careers advisor and again I was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This time however, my answer of “I don’t know yet” wasn’t good enough. I was told that, at the age of 13, that I needed to grow up and decide what I want to spend the rest of my life working towards and then becoming. At the age of 13, this sounded like madness. So I told the career advisor that I would go away and really think about it, but as I sit here, at age 27 and think about it, I never really did decide and that is maybe why I am where I am today.
I had lots of chances, yet none of them seemed to work out. Was it because there was some kind of cruel force out there laughing at my misfortune or was it, really that fate was trying its hardest to guide me in the right direction but I was just to dumb or lazy to see it?
The problem I have faced my entire life is that I never really performed to my full potential. My school reports and all of the parent teacher appointments that my mum had about me, all said the same thing. “Emma is an A grade student working at a B grade level.” or “Emma is intelligent but the biggest struggle she has is working to her full potential” – Now you see, growing up, my family had always told me that they would support anything that I wanted to be and that they would be happy with whatever I chose as long as I was happy with that. But I can’t help but wonder if in a way, my family being so supportive and allowing me to have such freedom with my own mind and future, is the reason I never really amounted to much? If they had been more forceful and had demanded that I pick a career and pushed me to do it, would my life be completely different? Or would it be the same, but I just wouldn’t have such a great relationship with them?
In my family there are only 2 grandchildren. There is myself and my cousin William. Will is 5 years older than I am, but he has always been the high achiever. He’s got the model good looks, he was a county swimmer who could have gone on to Olympic greatness had he not discovered girls. He’s travelled the world, speaks multiple languages, has had some of the greatest jobs in the world. Is married and has a beautiful little girl, earns well and has the entire world at his feet. He can do anything he wishes to do.
Don’t get me wrong, we are both blessed with intelligence and we both received university degrees, but Will is always seen as the more successful grandchild. Growing up (and I hate to say it) but I was the favourite. William grew up out-of-town and was 3 hours away from our grandparents, whereas I saw them every day, and I was spoilt. I was the apple of my grandfathers eye and I could do no wrong. I was the smartest and most amazing little girl, in his opinion. I still remember now, and there’s even a tape of it somewhere, of me at the age of 2, counting to 10 in english and then in french, followed by me singing Frère Jacques in its entirety flawlessly. Now, I am not trying to brag, but I am saying that, yes I was clearly clever and had all of the potential in the world, yet I, unlike my cousin never succeeded at anything.
I literally am The Girl Who Could Have Been But Never Was. My life is full of examples of where either through my own fault or a sick twist of fate that my future was derailed.
First example – In year 6, aged about 10 or 11, you get the meningitis jab at school, which is just one of the routine vaccinations you get. However, for me it wasn’t so routine. There is like a 1 in a million chance of contracting meningitis from the vaccination, but lucky old me was that 1 in a million. I was very lucky, that my mother not only recognised my symptoms rather quickly (because my uncle had also had it as a teenager) but because of the good open relationship we had, she believed me when I told her how sick I was feeling. My condition got worse in the space of hours, but I was lucky that when I told my mum “it hurts too much to be in the light” and other things, she took me at my word. Many parents would have thought their 10-year-old was being difficult, as we were at lunch with family that day, and they wouldn’t have listened and the result could have been deadly, but because she believed me I am here now.
However, meningitis and contracting it when I did has had such an effect on my life, I really do think this was the catalyst that sent my life down the track of “family disappointment.”
I spent weeks in hospital and then weeks at home as I wasn’t allowed back to school for a long time in case I caught anything else. But it was in these weeks that I missed the opportunity to apply to a different secondary school, and subsequently missed the visit to Millais (where I eventually ended up) I also didn’t get to pick which friends I would like to be in a form with. Many would say “Does it really matter which people you ended up in a class with?” I would have to say, yes, I believe it does. Millais is a Top 100 school, and I am so glad that I went there. I would love for my daughters to go there, if I have any, but I ended up being put in to a form with people I didn’t really know or like. Most of my friends were boys anyway, so transitioning to an all girls secondary school was a big change for me, and I struggled at first. Had I been in a form group at least with the few girls I was actually good friends with, it may have made it easier for me. Because I didn’t enjoy my time at Millais at first, I believe that this did affect the way in which I worked at school, and even in to College and University. I used to do the bare minimum. Although I was capable of doing so much more, I didn’t want to. I was happy with an average B, rather than an outstanding A. I didn’t have many friends as it was at the start of secondary school, and I believed that I had to dumb down a little in order to make friends. This then became a habit. I could get a B so easily and without having to try, that I used gave up trying. I didn’t need to, I could work at a B and that was considered good. I became lazy, but also because no-one else around me pushed me to get the A’s I was capable of getting until it was too late. I was often taken to the side by my head of year and told that I wasn’t “working to my full potential.” She would show me the results from exams such as the SATS, and show me that I was within the top however many of the year. That if I pushed myself I could be at Oxford or Cambridge and become something great. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t know what I wanted to be so I didn’t have anything to focus on. I took easy subjects such as drama, because I enjoyed them, was good at them, but also because I didn’t have to show how smart I was. This mindset then followed me to college, where at the age of 16 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, I though Editor in chief seems pretty cool in the movies, and I like watching movies, so I took subjects like Media and Film. Again, it wasn’t a stretch for me. I picked it because it was easy and I didn’t have to put any real effort in to it.
I then went to University and because of the classes I had taken at college I was now down the Journalism and media route, without really having a plan or desire for once I graduated. Did I really want to be a journalist? No. Not really. I wouldn’t mind writing a book, if I had any good ideas, but really, and this all dawned on me too late. I would have loved to have been a pathologist or a behavioural psychologist or a profiler. My obsession with murder mysteries and serial killers, and their crimes and motives, is phenomenal.
Pretty much everything I read and watch is related in some way, but typically I realised too late that this is what I want to be. The annoying thing, I could have done it too. I firmly believe that I have the brains and the ability to have done any of the jobs that I listed above. But it is too late. I could have been…but never was.
Another example, when I was younger, sport was another thing that I was naturally good at. I was blessed with brains and athleticism.I am not trying to brag again here, I am just telling it how it is. There wasn’t a sport that I couldn’t turn my hand too. Football had always been the one that I had naturally swayed towards the most, but at school we played a lot of other sport, Netball, Hockey, Tennis, Badminton, Basketball, Rounders, Stoolball, Cricket, track events… you name it, our school did it. I was in top set for PE also, My PE teachers used to beg me to join the school teams, but I had no desire too. I already played football outside of school, and again, due to my laziness and my not wishing to stand out I suppose, I didn’t really partake. I would play the occasional game if the team was short. Maybe that is it, maybe I disliked the attention? Maybe I didn’t want the pressure of people knowing you are good at something?
Because when the day came for tutor groups to pick people to do events at sports day, I never raised my hand. I never offered to do an event. I hated it that day, I used to try to miss it if I could… our sports days were before we were put in to sets, and we used to take PE as a form group, so everyone knew who the fastest runners were, or the sporty ones, and stuff like that. So, they would want those people to do the events. I never wanted to do it, I hated sports day, again not because I wasn’t good at it, but I think because I was.
They would always say to me “Emma, we are putting you down for…*insert any race here*” I would say “Thanks, it’s nice you believe in me, but I don’t want to.”
It wouldn’t matter though, the day would come and they’d suddenly tell me that they had put me in for an event or 2. It was usually the relay, and I was usually the anchor (the last runner.) Don’t get me wrong, I am wildly competitive, so even if I am forced in to doing something I don’t want to do, I will still want to bloody well win once I am there.
When it came to football, I was in a football team, and played for the county and was even scouted for a potential trial at Arsenal Ladies. But, in true Emma style, it could have been…but never was.
I knew that I needed to rest and be fit for the trial if it happened, so I decided that I would pull out of the county competition that was coming up. It was a day where each county put in a team, and then played against each other. So I was in Sussex, there were teams from Kent, Surrey, Hampshire… etc etc all playing to win. I had told my team that I wasn’t going to be able to play. However, in the morning, my phone rang, and it was the county coach. They’d had a few people pull out sick, and they needed me to come and play or we would have to forfeit our team. I didn’t want to let the girls down, so I agreed to play. There was a little voice in the back of my head that was saying “no…. don’t do it stay at home!” and my mum and I even said in the car on the way there that I should take it easy and not risk anything.
This is all well and good, but female football especially is very competitive and can get very physical, so even if you want to take it easy that day, some other bitch might not want to. Well, that is exactly what happened to me that day. I’d been through a few matches and was fine, hadn’t done anything that an ice pack when I got home wouldn’t fix, but then, I played the next match, and my opposite girl was baying for my blood. The first header I went up for against her, she proved she was out for a battle, as she grabbed the back of my ponytail and as I jumped, she pulled me down by it, so it unbalanced me and I smashed to the ground. I have a bit of a temper, and I was finding it hard to keep my cool. If we were marking she would be pulling my shirt or elbowing me in the boob or something, and it was winding me up. I could hear myself, my mum and my coach all saying “don’t let her get to you it’s what she wants.” She then tackled me really badly. I was injured. She’d caught me late and she had caught my ankle and I had fallen on my knee awkwardly. I was in pain. I knew I was in pain, and everyone else knew I was in pain. But I wouldn’t be subbed off. I was mad, the red mist had descended and I was out to make this even. I was running on my knee as best I could but it wasn’t great. It was killing me. But I waited, it only took a few minutes, before she had the ball again, and that was it. I went in. I got the ball, but I had gone completely through her to get it. She was on the floor clutching her leg and screaming in pain, and I was playing the ball on, pretending that I wasn’t in pain. The referee agreed, it was a fair tackle – I had gotten the ball, it was single footed. The game was stopped and she was subbed off. Only then did I sub off too… but I had done some damage. Again it was all my fault, because I couldn’t be beaten by this bitch. I went home, but I ended up having to go to hospital. I was out for 6 weeks. I’d pulled all the ligaments in my knee. I was going to miss the day with the scout.
I hung up my boots for a bit, I was so mad at myself, but I gave up football for a bit. Then one day, I was mucking about on my friends brothers skateboard, and I really broke my knee. I had to have 2 knee ops and was told I’d never play sport competitively again. So once again, a career I could have had, this time in football, was gone. I was about 15/16 when this happened. In fact I damamged my knee so badly I had to learn how to walk again, and I was on crutches for a year. I spent my GCSE year at Millais in the library, as I wasn’t able to go to any of my classes that were upstairs. So I was pretty much self taught that year. I still managed to get 13 GCSE’s though.
Anyway, I think you get the idea, I had all those chances, and it is all my fault that I am where I am today. I do consider myself the family disappointment. My mum would disagree, so would my grandmother, but my Aunt (Williams mother) has made multiple comments since I’ve been ill that I am a waste of space.
I also know that I could have achieved so much more, and that really I have nothing to show for the talents and the abilities that I have or had, and as of this moment in time, I cannot see of a way or anything that I can do, that will transform me from this, the let down, the disappointment, the failure and the embarrassment to something that my family can be proud of. I had a plan, well as good a plan as I’ve ever really had for myself, to become a teacher, but then, like some cruel joke I then became ill, and that plan was shelfed along side everything else I could have been, but never will be.