Again, I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I felt like they must be happier than me, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t really that sad.
It’s the way you look at grown ups, and think that they have everything you could possibly want. I guess that’s how culture perpetuates generationally. As a child all your wants are created by the desire to emulate what the bigger, older people can do. No wonder you end up plugged into the same routines as them.
As a child everything is a combination of wonder and terror. I think I overfed on the terror, and I’ve never worked out why.
But that fed my view of other people. I always knew that other people must be like me, but the seemed to hold some secret I couldn’t understand. I always thought football was stupid, but I was always kind of aware that I obviously had some physical stupidity that stopped me being able to engage with it. I just wanted to play with my dreams, read my books and get lost in the wild edges of the playground.
I felt lonely, but I did always have friends. I kind of assumed they thought I was weird, but I find it harder to remember what I thought of them. I felt so lucky to have anyone’s trust, but then I remember playing quite mean games. I certainly got people into trouble. Having a paganish ritual burning ceremony at the end of a very catholic familyed friends garden didn’t end particularly well.
I think I was a fairly bad friend. I kind of assumed my imagination made me special, whereas in fact it probably just made me seem a little crazy. I remember lots of fun games though. Time spent trying to explain unrealities to each other.
It’s weird trawling through all these memories though. I can’t help but assume that they’ve gone through a few layers of cognitive distortion. In the same way that the true content of dreams is supposed to be encoded by your conscious mind to avoid the harsh truths, so I think that my current cognitive state has a control over what I percieve of my earlier memories.
That sounds intensely paranoid, but I’m just not sure I can trust my interpretation of the few fragments of childhood I can actually grasp. My image of childhood me as an arrogant, weird but imaginative prick isn’t necessarily reality, it’s just that I like self loathing.
As for the people around me. They all seemed to be weird to me, but I knew that was my own weirdnesses. I was just grateful when someone was similar enough to me in terms of interest to make me notice I wouldn’t always be alone.
Were they okay? Of course they were. We all were, as much as we could be. Kids are weird, it’s a sensible way to be. The world is weird, and you’re still trying to figure it out.
We still are.
Illustration by Rosanne