Monday, 20 August 2012

The Real Me is Here

In the past few weeks I’ve heard a lot about identity. 

Nicola Morgan recently wrote a great blog post about the real her and how she had been distracted and how she now wanted to write. And write. And write.

So did Rebecca Bradley.

The Edinburgh Book Festival has taken place with various conferences about national identity, cultural identity, and so on. I’ve just watched online, the discussion with Irvine Welch, chaired by Ian Rankin, and a crowd of writers. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Not the last hour. I far preferred the first half.;postID=8647306764886002546

Today I was humorously asked by a fellow writer who was the real me and would Effie/Sharon/Whoever stand up? It made me think, again, about identity. And who am I? Really?

First of all, I am not one thing, or one person, but the sum of all my parts.

I am not defined by my accent, a grim north eastern twang which is neither Cheryl Cole nor Coronation Street. 

Nor do I feel particularly English, or British. I was born where I was and grew up where I did, neither of which were something I had any thought or control over. I was not taught in school that I was any different to people in Scotland, or Ireland, or Wales. Or Australia. It was never instilled in me to think of myself as English. Or British. Or European. My father sailed the world and talked of many countries. My mother and her mother were born in the south of England, my grandfather was Irish, my other grandparents were from the North East. So what?

I am not defined by my gender. I grew up in a sexist world when things were changing. I worked in a male dominated profession. My husband looks after the kids when I regularly go away from home to work. He also does majority of the cooking. And?

I’m a wife but I’m not a domestic goddess. I hate housework. But I love my family and would do everything I can to protect them. 

Nor am I defined by my class, whatever the heck that is. I was born in my grandparents council house and my first home was a rented caravan because my father sailed the seas and my mother was effectively a young single mum, though married, and it was all they could afford.

My religious and political beliefs are largely kept to myself, not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but I’m not that passionate nor well informed, or inclined to engage in intellectual discussion about either. Also, I find it tends to annoy some people and I hate arguments.

I am a mother, sometimes a good one, sometimes not. For sure, my kids will have plenty to write about should they wish to, ala Philip Larkin.  

I was a police officer for twenty years but I was far from the stereotype that many imagine. I just believed in right. And good. And being decent.

I own a business but I’m not a typical or conventional boss. So say I. 

I have a genetic condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and so do my three children. It’s sometimes disabling and sometimes debilitating. I don’t let it define me and I try hard to work with it, not against it. Oh – and I am incredibly clumsy.

I write. I love to write. I have always loved to write and when I couldn't do it for me, I put that energy into my work related writing, of which there was much. I am not a literary writer. I will never win a literary award but I do win some competitions. I write mainstream stories which anyone can pick up and enjoy or discard. I write many genres but I usually write about the dark side. I just love to write whatever comes out. Sometimes it’s rubbish. Sometimes I surprise myself. It’s really rubbish!

If something in my life isn’t working, I try to change it, if I can. I moved from the North to London. I loved it. London. Twelve years later I moved back. Then I moved to Scotland. I’m not afraid of change. I actively make it happen. I believe in personal responsibility, even when I fail. It’s no-one else’s fault but my own.  

I am different things to different people. I am not my past. I am not my present. I know nothing of my future. 

I like coffee but not tea. I like wine but not spirits. I like the rain. I like the sea. I like the trees and rough, rugged countryside. I like reds and blacks. I like blues music and catching tunes and classical pieces I've long forgotten the names of. I like late nights and late mornings, though I don’t often have either. I like to be good but know I’m sometimes bad. I love to be tidy but my house is often cluttered. I colour co-ordinate my wardrobe – for ease, not obsession. I like to travel on trains, which is as well as I do it a lot, but I hate flying. 

I like reading and words and stories but hate maths, and sums, and things like spreadsheets that my sister is so good at.

I like to laugh. And I like to dance but I know I’m now at that embarrassing age where my dancing is better kept to my kitchen. Preferably with no-one else in it. 

I have a past, but who doesn’t? I’ve lived in different places, had different lovers, done things I’m ashamed of, and some things I’m proud of. I value my friends and I appreciate honesty, even if it sometimes hurts. I confuse myself as much as I confuse others. I am contrary when the mood takes me. And I have an over-riding need to understand. I need to understand. I have to be able to make sense of things that concern me. It unnerves me if I can’t. But I know I can’t understand everything.

I realise I am lucky to live somewhere that allows me freedom of thought and speech and the opportunity to make up my mind without repression. But of course, I’ve been coloured by experience, and perception, and influence, and many other things, as much as I’d like to deny it. 

Who am I?

I’m nobody really. I’m just me. Whatever that is.