For reference, this is an ode to my mate Dean. And the rest of that gang that used to hang around ‘up the side gate’ at Harris City Technology College. Making jokes about the news, and passing our GCSEs.
Do you ever look back at your teenage years and realise how awkward as all living fuck you used to be?
Hanging around with kids who made jokes you didn’t find funny, who were smoking drugs you had the sense and general fear not to touch, and who were getting touched up at bus stops by guys you knew weren’t going to get a single NVQ and had a Nike tick shaved into the back of their head, which just confused you. Why would you do that on purpose? You look like a twat.
Waiting behind at school for mates who’d got detentions that you didn’t get because you’d kind of grasped the premise that homework was kind of there for a reason early doors, so you just did it so you didn’t fail your exams and you could actually get a job. And the only reason you waited was so you could walk up the hill to the bus stop with them and just be late home and you didn’t really understand why you were doing that either.
You’d hang round shopping centres on Saturday’s just walking round and round, maybe buying a top from Etam that you thought was a bit slutty and not very nice and was made of a fabric that would just make you hormonally sweat even more than you already were, but because everyone else was buying one, you thought you should.
You’d stand around and wait in the middle of shopping centres or cinemas because your bestie reckoned that would make boys come up and chat you up. But you didn’t want to get chatted up by a boy that wore tracksuit bottoms out of the house. That’s not the life you wanted to lead.
If you were honest, you wanted to be having coffee with a mate that understood how much you’d actually enjoyed that book you were reading for English and wasn’t going to mock you for being a neek, and a mate that understood your jokes that were about stuff other than shitty programmes other kids watched on Nickelodeon. A mate that actually understood the fact that you enjoyed knitting, or making clothes from scratch or writing stories about stuff that you thought mattered.
You may have been lucky enough to fall into a gang at school that were like you. I did. A group of kids that were smart enough to get through school and lay a good path in front of them, but were funny enough to get away with being late or maybe having a bit of a hangover. Mainly, cos the teachers knew that at worst you were getting drunk on a Thursday night after you finished your shift in a shoe shop (that you got paid quite well for), and you weren’t out shooting up or getting pregnant.
We were fine. But we were still awkward.
Because none of us were ever meant to be 16.
None of us wanted little bullshit holding hand relationships that often ended in you deciding to maybe have sex one Saturday afternoon, that would no doubt end up being filmed on a Nokia 3310 and distributed around Year 11 as quick as you could say ‘blow job’.
None of us wanted to get involved in ‘beef’ in the playground because Chantelle had been ‘chatting bare shit about’ Denise and needing a good old fashioned public beating. We didn’t fall out with our mates about boys and choice of patent leather footwear.
We were too busy trying to not be a teenager. We wanted the next thing.
And I think we all thought by the time we reached work or uni, the awkwardness would subside.
First jobs were met with a real frustration. But we were finally at work, we were finally out of uniform, we were finally the grown ups we were supposed to be. So why weren’t we in charge? Why weren’t we bossing it? Why did this job not meet the expectations we’d built up in our teenage bedrooms?
We’d jump from job to job, trying to find the thing that fit.
We’d go travelling, because well, I’m 21 and people go travelling to find themselves and as much as at the time I thought it was bullocks that myself would be discovered under a coconut on a beach some place, I went, I travelled.
I remained unfound.
I remained just as awkward in myself as I was at 16.
And it wasn’t until this year, until 28, that I realised why.
Some of us are born in older bodies. Some of us were never meant to be teenagers or reckless 22 year olds.
We were born to be the age we are now.
From Facebook and nights down the pub, I’ve learnt such a lot about that little crew of kids at school that were awkward as all fuck 12 years ago.
We needed to be 28.
We needed the experience and the self belief to do what we’d always wanted. We needed the balls to go for what we’ve always dreamed of, we needed the age behind us to be taken seriously, and we needed to finally be at a time of life where the jokes fit our age, the hobbies did the same and we didn’t feel restless anymore.
You look around at us now.
Some own our own businesses, some pull in pay cheques that would make the average 45 year old stutter. Some live in Australia and are married. Some are on the tele. Some own two homes. Some have babies.
And guess what, none of us are awkward anymore.
All because we’re finally the age we were always supposed to be.