Being 16 – Do you remember that time?

I do, quite clearly.

Of course, I was virtually Jonny no mates. I did have friends, there was Paul and Garry and Dave and some guy who I can’t even remember now but used to go drinking with whenever we could get away with it. Strange really, I was 5′ nothing and still got served OK in pubs. I guess they figured anyone as diddy as me with the nerve to order booze must be old enough.

I remember other boys at school had girlfriends and my thinking how amazing it must be to have a girlfriend but yet, totally convinced there was no one out there who would be interested in me. I probably missed the many signs to the contrary I was that naive. There were several occasions where adults would talk to me like an adult and I would answer like a kid and then kick myself later when I realised they were actually expecting an adult answer, which I could have given them, had I only accepted they were actually speaking to me as an equal. Wasn’t that just one of the big issues with being 16? You know, not knowing. Expecting to always be treated as a kid and being all defensive and then totally missing it when we were spoken to as adults.

I was barely out of school and already right in the thick of working in London. I had no real social skills dealing with adults at all, for that matter, my social skills dealing with those my own age left a lot to be desired. The reality there is, I just could not see they were all as screwed up and scared as me just dealing with it differently.

There were people like, really old at 23+ who I looked at and admired out how sorted they all were and how amazing it must be when I would also start to think differently, think like an adult. Of course, I had no idea at the time that this is not how life works. We really don’t change at all from that screwed up kid, we get to know more stuff which helps us be more confident in decision making but as for actually feeling like an adult, I am still waiting for that to happen.

I can remember a few people at the time asking me how many kids I may want, where do I see myself in 10 years time, the normal sort of things people ask to pass time. The very thought of having kids filled me with the same sort of dread as if someone had asked me whether I may walk naked around the local greengrocer, it was as alien to me as having a one to one conversation with an old person!

There was this girl at school, Sharon I think she was. Well, she got pregnant when she was 15. Behind her back everyone did seem to be talking about ‘the slag’ but, I guess, things were different then. She left soon after the news got out. I recall thinking how bizarre it was that anyone my age could think of having a child, how my first thought on the reality was, her mum would have to bring it up or something because I knew I’d have no clue with a baby. I could barely take responsibility for getting myself up for work in the morning. In fact, I didn’t. I relied totally on my mum to do it. It would be years before I felt comfortable getting to work, feel like I was valued somewhere or belonged there.

In my more private moments I played with my cars still, I needed escapism in order for me to make sense of the world or maybe for me just to run away from it. It still is important for me to this day to have ‘me time’ and I make no apologies for it. The time enables me to be alone with my thoughts, concentrate on my own needs, though this is rarely the case.

In many ways I was fortunate, it would not be until 1983 when I was 20 that any significant event would happen in my life. One in which I was forced to be an adult totally, my first relationship. I was in love, for the first ever time. It was the most amazing feeling in the world and I wanted it to last forever. Well, the feelings have lasted to this day but, as these things have a way of doing, the relationship floundered.

Could I have handled a relationship at 16? No, not a chance. I just didn’t know about life enough, hell, I didn’t really know about me either. I had unexplained anger, depressive moments which came and went. I was really happy, bubbly and basically, childish and, occasionally, I was a sensible young adult though those moments were rare.

I was totally incapable of talking to adults with confidence. I was totally convinced they were all obviously more knowing that I was yet arrogant enough to stand my corner just because I could even though I was relying entirely in gut instinct whilst they used cold, hard facts. Yes, I won some arguments but it was because, as later became obvious, was being an annoying little twat rather than any intelligent well thought out reasoning. It was simply that they didn’t care enough about the subject to bother wasting their time with this ignorant vocally aggressive young man.

Then there was the ‘at home’ issues. As a kid I may have complained half heartedly about chores but this was nothing to the reasoned debate I attempted at 16. My thought process, such as it was, lead me to conclude that as I was working now, just like my parents, I should have an equal say in everything. I clearly drew the line at an equal proportion of the bills, that was clearly my parents domain as, after all, it was their house. No, my argument was that I was now a wage earning adult and that alone gave me the right to equal attention and respect in the house. So, no more asking me to do chores, I’d do them when I wanted, thank you very much. No, don’t expect me to make you a coffee at 9pm every night, how very dare you. Yes, I did expect my washing done, my cooking done etc, it was their choice to have me after all was said and done.

Yes, it would be fair to say that I was a twat in the first order.

By the time I relented and realised it was me being stupid and not them being unreasonable it was too late for me and mum, she was dead. Actually, it was probably then when I realised just how destructive my attitude of ‘me first’ have been. She asked me, just two days before she died, would I go buy something for her dinner. I said that as it happened, I already made planned so she’d have to go get it herself or ask someone else. I mean, true, I had no idea how ill she was at that time but it never crossed my mind to consider any other possibility than I would always have time to make things right I was screwing up. I visited her those two days later in the hospital, I presumed she was staying in for a routine check as she often did. I kissed her goodnight, never said ‘love you’ but just ‘probably see you tomorrow’. I didn’t. By 7am the next day she was dead.

The trouble is with things like that, first experiences of the reality of life, is that, by the time we realise what total idiots we are it can be most often too late to rectify things.

Up to date now and I am finding myself thinking, what if something suddenly happened to me? I mean, I joke about not having got to see a doctor yet about my throat but, what if? I’d not have been the first to shrug off something only to find out that, ‘had I been there sooner’ something could have been done. So, what would my not being around do for those around me now? This is my greatest fear. I am not concerned about my own inevitable end, whatever there may or may not be after death doesn’t much matter right now, I have no control over it anyhow. I don’t think people around me are prepared though. I have no taught them well enough to cope without the skills and knowledge I have gained over the years. I don’t want to have that as my legacy. That everything falling apart was because I held everything together. I’d like to go to my end knowing that apart from some feelings of loss, those I care about can take care of themselves and have a good understanding of the importance of ‘doing the right thing.

That paragraph aside, I have no plans to be dead any time soon, not that it is my choice but fingers crossed and all that.

If there was anything I wish I could do, right now, and for which I would give up any possibility of a longer life, it would be to enable the kids in my life to experience, just for a while, how they are perceived and for them to also experience the feelings of a much older child, say, 40 something. Then, maybe, if we are really lucky, they won’t make so many stupid mistakes based on what they don’t know and learn who to trust and to listen to those people who must, just by using logic, know more and understand better than they, as youngsters, can hope to do right now.

Is that the time already? Not that it matters, it’s been weeks since I had a good nights sleep.

I hope this entry doesn’t come across as depressive? It is meant to be read as a sentimental journey into an earlier incarnation of myself and to show how this may relate to others, of a similar age, and perhaps the way they are feeling now.

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