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At 18 do you know where life is going to take you? Of course not. The world is your oyster; everything is in front of you and nothing is impossible.
The words of a well known American writer describe it best (Don’t be lazy, Google it): "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
But the problem with being 18 (acne and virginity aside) is you don’t realise any of that—why would you? You have left an environment where you were at the top of the pile with nothing more to learn (Especially if you were the porn king of your school!). And clearly you now know everything there is to know about life, love, and the universe.
At that age do any us think about where we will be 30 years later? Or what obstacles real life will throw at us along the way? Nope, no idea! You live in the moment, and the future will take care of itself.
If you have read my earlier musings, you will know that as a 5-year-old I had a very clear career path—I was shooting for the stars. At 14, it had changed somewhat. By then I was aiming to shoot something that’s for sure, but at stars of a very different kind! But by the time I left sixth form (let's call it by... mutual agreement!) I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. It didn’t matter though, because the world was my oyster and I was all set for exploration and discovery.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the best time to be leaving school without any real qualifications (unless you include CSE's in Spanish and Physics as potentially career enhancing!). Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to discover that positions for Mexican rocket scientist assistants were pretty thin on the ground, but then again in fairness, most jobs were at that time.
So, leaving school at 18 with no plans, and—due to my, err... mutual agreement with the headmaster—no 'A' levels either—was probably not the best way to start my voyage of discovery! In those days the support system for returning to full-time education in the UK if you had dropped out of sixth form was not as good as it is now. And as the Astronaut position actually required me to have 'A' level maths & physics (not just to have shown up in the class!) and porn career opportunities meant a trip across the Atlantic and a couple more inches on a certain part of my anatomy! The only option left open to me was to get a real job.
Which would have been fine. However, this was the early 80s and a certain Mrs. Thatcher (Remember her!) had started her mission to decapitate the unions; unemployment was at an all-time high, and UB40 was a well-used government form—that only later became better known as a band from Birmingham.
And so, in the immortal words of said band, I became "A one in ten!" A government statistic. One of the thousands of teenagers leaving school at that time on an endless conveyor belt to nowhere!
At 18 years old with your dreams ahead of you, suddenly finding you are not wanted by society is brutal. Especially when it's partly of your own making. The rejection is draining, the fear of failure all-encompassing, and your confidence slowly ebbs away. Leaving in you in pretty low and dark place. And when you have no self-worth, everything else becomes... well worthless!
Nowadays a lot more is known about mental health issues and particularly social anxiety! But back then it wasn't high on people’s agenda. So, when as a fit, healthy, bright 18-year-old, you start to worry about—well, just about everything. Life can become pretty overwhelming. You lie in bed unable to sleep, having panic attacks so bad, with your heart beating so fast, you think you are going to die of a heart attack. (And for fuck's sake you're only 18 and just discovering girls and sex—and not the Linda Lovelace porn star kind!—so you definitely don’t want to be dying just yet!)
Fortunately, around that time (or is that unfortunately!) I met two friends who I have remained close to ever since—alcohol and gambling!
There's a great line in a song from one of my bands of choice at the time, which sort of summed up where my life was for a while "The devil came and took me from bar to street to bookie." Thanks Messrs Difford & Tilbrook—I couldn't have put it better myself!
Being able to legally buy alcohol and gamble is part of life’s "rites of passage" and I am sure all 18-year olds will no doubt experiment with both (These days I think they experiment with a whole lot more, and some of that shit is a whole lot scarier too I suspect!) Of course, individually any of these vices can give you a high, but together they can be a lethal and addictive combination, especially when the need for them is possibly masking something far more worrying.
Let’s face it. They are great mates and are always there when you need them, and I can confirm they are a great coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety and all the other shit going on in your life. But what you don’t realise at the time is that the baggage they bring with them eventually ends up being equal to, if not worse, than the problems you started with!
Over the years my need for their friendship has lessened, and I can go for long periods of time without seeing them. But every now and then they can still be relied upon to help get me through a bad day.
If you met me now, you would never believe I could suffer from anxiety, or that I was an introvert, that desperately lacked confidence. People will tell you I am one of the most confident and assured people they know. And they are right, I am!
So, what changed, from being an 18-year-old on the highway to hell? How did I end up having a hugely successful career, and being where I am now, with all the trappings of that success? Well, the answer is simple—yhe love of a good woman!
How many people go through life looking for “The One”? The one person that takes your breath away and makes your heart skip a beat. They can search for years and still never find love, let alone their true soulmate, the person that connects with you on every level and completes you in a way you never even knew existed.
Fortunately for me I was 17-years-old years old when I met mine. She was an artistic, confident, weed smoking, porn curious (Check my earlier posts!), gorgeous girl who for some bizarre reason actually took an interest in the quiet, slightly funny, geeky kid with no job!
Little did I know at the time she would change my life for everand help make me the person I am today. And 37 years later (fuck I am old!!) her love for me continues to protect and inspire me every single day.
My wife is the most amazing person I have ever met. I am of course hugely biased, and I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but she is still the most stunning woman I have ever laid eyes (and let’s face it the internet allows you to look at some exceptionally good looking ladies these days!). I know, I am and always have been seriously punching above my weight, but she has never wavered in her desire and love for me.
But most importantly she believed in me when nobody else did - including myself! She alone gave me the confidence to pick myself up and take on the world, and she alone got an 18-year-old kid to believe that everything really is in front of you and absolutely nothing is impossible. Even when you feel the weight of the world is against you!
Oh, and yes and as a bonus… if you have read any of my other musings, she did manage to master some of those Linda Lovelace skills!
The rest as they say is history, life's been good to us and we now have two fabulous children of our own. And unlike his dad, our son and eldest child has stuck to what he wanted to do as a youngster and is well on the way to achieving his ambitions. His outlook on life mirrors his mother. He is kind, caring and works incredibly hard to achieve his goals at the sacrifice of almost everything else.
Our second child is our beautiful, creative, funny and fiery daughter who has both the stunning looks, caring nature and artistic ability of her mother and the temper, addictive personality and the sarcasm of her father! Without going into detail, her path through life thus far has been far more troubled than her brother, but the fog is now finally beginning to clear for her.
If you are a good parent, you are supposed to leave your children a legacy or an inheritance. Generally, this will be of a monetary, or perhaps a property nature. Or if you are lucky enough to be one of those fiercely good-looking people, it could be they get your looks, and that’s certainly the case with our children. Who, I am a happy to say have both inherited their mother's striking features.
Alas, they have also inherited something from their Dad, but I am afraid it’s not a legacy you really want to leave your kids!
Unfortunately, they have both acquired the crippling anxiety of my teenage years. It manifests itself in different ways and to different degrees. Our son is a perfectionist. He constantly struggles to be the best, and anything less is failure which sends him into an agonisingly depressing spiral.
Whereas our daughter suffers with the classic symptoms of second child syndrome (yes, it's real, Google it), and keeping up with a brother that is so driven and so perfect is almost impossible. So, she dumbs down her natural ability and her social anxiety and self-loathing pour out!
My own fear of failure, nurtured in a world of rejection many years ago, is imprinted all over them. And to see them both struggling with the demons of my past is both heart-breaking and scary.
What’s worse is knowing all of this is largely driven by their need to be what I want them to be, to do the things I want them to do and to be the success they think I want for them.
And yet despite inflicting them with this awful curse, they both think I am an awesome Dad—so go figure!
They are both young adults now, with their lives still ahead of them. And unfortunately, it’s taken me too long to realise what I should have said to them a long time ago!
In the words of Mark Twain (see, I saved you the bother!)- "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It doesn't matter what route you go by, or how long the journey takes. The world is your Oyster, so go find a pearl—and if you are really lucky yours might be as good as the one I found as a 17-year-old!