The other night I had dinner with an old friend. The kind of friend who not only remembers that time you discovered hair dye for the first time and had a barnet the colour of an Aperol Spritz, but has had the photographic evidence pinned to her wall in a photo collage for the last ten years. The kind of friend who is incredibly relaxing to be around, because conversation is stripped of the need for context and is instead reduced to a chorus of “Remember when…?”’s and frequently punctuated with cackles of laughter.
As always, our chat took a turn for the nostalgic. I’ve known this particular friend since we were 5 years old and she holds a very special place in my heart – and not just because of the many, many birthday parties attended, family crises handled and pre-pubescent fashion decisions (mutually) supported. This friend is particularly important. You see, she was the other member of my band.
Planit Satin had a rocky history. We began in Year 3, as Hit-It, and performed our hit single ‘Pop Star’s Going Too Far (Into Space)’ in assembly, in front of an eager crowd of pre-pubescent girls. Later, we took on another member and were re-christened as ‘Seasons’, spending our lunch breaks writing songs and rehearsing dance routines near a particular log in the playground and – like the 90’s pop groups we idolised – dealing with fall-outs and backstabbing within the group. By the time Year 5 came around, 4 had become 2, and Planit Satin was born.
Utterly bizarre name aside (to this day, neither of us have any idea where it came from), Planit Satin was a huge hit in my all-girls junior school. We recorded our first single, ‘Dreams’, in the home studio of a family friend (yes, I still have it, and yes I sound like a chipmunk in dire need of speech therapy) and spent our weekends and holidays at each others’ houses, writing songs and recording onto cassette (those were the days). Our friends and parents were forced to watch endless performances, passed judgement on all of our songs and routines and even took us to the Steps – Gold concert at Wembley (still a highlight of my life).
Then came the big idea. We would put on a charity concert at school, performing our greatest hits and charging for entry. My friend’s sisters would be in charge of costumes and accompaniment.
We were 10 at the time.
Looking back on it now, I can’t believe how precocious we were. More than that, I can’t believe the balls we had; to decide to perform a catalogue of songs we’d written ourselves in front of our peers (many of whom were older and we didn’t know very well) and, more than that, to demand they pay to watch us.
Thing is, it was actually a roaring success. Retrospectively hilarious and cringe-worthy though it may be, the entire school attended (and paid), applauded and screamed in delight when we handed out sweets in the encore (we were pretty savvy ten year olds). I have a very clear memory of the aftermath in particular, when we were swarmed by well-wishers wanting our autographs. It was the closest I’ve ever come to fame and clearly made us cocky – we repeated the event the following year. Hell, when we were 12 we even wrote and recorded our own Bond theme tune, “Black Tie, Silver Bullet”.
Reminiscing about this particular chapter in my life was, firstly, hysterical. Nothing can make me laugh like memories of my former escapades. On the other hand, the more I thought about the kind of person I was back then, the more I wondered what kind of person I am now. Am I still the girl who demands that people pay attention to my achievements and, more significantly, who is sure that they are worth paying attention to?
When we’re young, we really do have nothing to lose. We’ve not yet internalised the (very British, but also self-jeopardising) attitude of ‘don’t push yourself forward’ and ‘good things come to those who wait’; that, yes, there may be the odd super-famous, super-successful 23 year old, but they’re the exception, not the rule.
What singled me out as a ten year old (aside from my lyrical genius of course) was my single-mindedness and ambition. Half the kids in the playground had the dance routine to ‘Tragedy’ down pat and forced their parents to spend their Sunday afternoons watching endless performances, propped up by unwilling siblings. I had decided I was better than that – somehow, at 10 years old, I had decided I was one to watch.
I know I sound like a hideous child, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t (Mum?) – I was just confident. The thought that keeps nagging me is, what changed?
Puberty forces us to become aware of ourselves, our physicality, our emotions, the way we interact with others. Re-examining my memories of my early teens, I’ve started to realise that, along with a pair of boobs, came an innate self-consciousness that was never there before and that I haven’t shaken since.
I haven’t gone the traditional route since leaving university; I avoided all things remotely corporate and have ended up working as an Editor and Writer for a Start-Up, not really a predictable choice. The thing is, I never saw that decision as brave, per se – to me, working in Finance or Law seemed completely against type, so much so that I never even considered it as an option. I (and anyone who knows me) am perfectly aware that I would go insane within 6 months living that life. It was that certainty that drove me towards other, less conventional options, just as a gluten intolerance would cause you to avoid spagbol. Others, however, have made it clear to me that they consider my choice a risky, and therefore inherently courageous, one.
In reality, I don’t feel brave at all. I spend much of my life awash with uncertainty and – yes – fear. Every birthday brings with it a fresh wave of inadequacy; another year has passed and I still don’t have a book deal, a record contract, a hit movie. My overdraft mocks me every time I check my balance (which is usually just after I get paid, for self-preservation’s sake). Don’t even get me started on my student loan.
Do we need the distance of over 10 years to recognise the fearlessness in our choices? Or is decision-making a little like what I’ve heard about childbirth – over time, we subconsciously block out the fear and pain involved and focus on the wonderfully productive end results, a process that enables us to continue to make bold (and potentially bad) choices in the future, without being constantly crippled by fear.
The point of this is not just to contemplate the degradation of my self-confidence, but to make a public resolution, this being the season of change and all. I am determined to channel a little more of my former confidence, to get out of my head, stop worrying about the ‘if’ and ‘when’ and start actually doing. After all, even the 10-year-old me was aware that every sell-out concert starts with a rehearsal in the playground.