I listened to an interview with Jay-Z this morning and he said something like ‘you are where you came from.’ At first I thought, oh no, that means I’m a crumpet-eating, flat cap-wearing, pigeon admirer from Lancashire… Which isn’t actually too far off the mark, but I’d like to think I’m more than that, now I’ve had time to grow into myself as a human being.
To be honest with you I could not wait to get out of my beginnings. I left Lancashire as soon as I could be trusted to look after myself. In my teenage years I was subjected to a small town and I felt restrained and surrounded by petty mindedness and a lack of interest in ‘art’ and ‘books’.
I was probably pretty petty minded myself, looking back. And now that I’m not there and I can go to museums and art shows and libraries whenever I want, I do look back and think, I’m glad for the start I had.
The village I was born in (before we moved in my early teens) was a lovely little place with a river and friendly people that brought round casseroles and cakes if you weren’t feeling well. Had I stayed there I wonder if things would have turned out the same as they have now.
We moved from that idyllic place to a nearby town and although it was only a matter of 20 miles away, it was a different universe entirely, at least to me. I hated it. And not just because there was no river and I left behind my friends and my school and the park where you could feed the cute ducks.
To me it just felt so utterly different, like everyone was thinking entirely new thoughts and all the thoughts were depressing and mean-spirited. It didn’t help that my high school was a liability to education, or that bullying was a lifestyle.
However those years gave me a harrowing impetus to ‘get out’, to ‘move on’ and so I did. I changed schools eventually, after I finally broke down and told my mum the whole story. She quite rightly pulled me out of that school and put me in a better one, where verbal and physical abuse weren’t the daily ritual.
After that I put my head down and saw education as my vehicle to freedom. I studied and studied and studied, aced all my exams and ended up in a university half way across the country.
Looking back though, I do think that Jay-Z has a point. Those formative years really shaped how I am now, they helped me to find a toughness, a resilience and a persistence that I fall back on time and time again. So thank you Jay-Z, for making me think about this today!
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