Pretty

I wish I was pretty. 

That was something that I used to think every day – when I looked in the mirror in the morning, if I caught my reflection in a window, when I looked at other people, and pretty much any second in between. I wish I was pretty. I wish, I wish, I wish.

Every teenager feels insecure, but a lot of them don’t have much reason to be. I was one of the unlucky ones. Puberty hit, and whilst it seemed like every other girl was moving on from training bras to ‘proper’ bras, I got acne. I wrote about this in another post, but to catch you up: I’ve had acne since I was ten, and although now my skin is a lot better, it used to be awful. I would get really big spots on my chin and my nose, thousands of tiny spots across my forehead and big globs of spots over my cheekbones. It sucked. Big time. I still remember the first time some spot treatment actually worked and my Mum ran her hand over my forehead and said ‘Oooh, smooooth’. I tried every skin cream and pill that the doctor would prescribe, but nothing really worked. My skin only really improved in my last year or so of school and now, after a year of university, I only ever get blackheads and a couple spots every now and then. Still, I can’t help but think about how I used to feel completely insecure every day, hating how I looked.

I wish I was pretty. I wish I had different skin. I wish I wasn’t ugly. 

I suppose there’s a lot that can be said about the media at this point and how it wrongly portrays teenagers – I mean, come on, the amount of films and TV shows I used to watch where everyone had model looks didn’t help. But it isn’t just the media that’s to blame.

I remember going to the cinema with a couple of friends and we were chatting before the film started. One of them had a spot on her chin – just one single spot on an otherwise unblemished face – and she was almost in tears. She went on and on about how awful she looked, and kept saying ‘Just look at it! It’s so disgusting!’. In my head I was rolling my eyes, so I finally plucked up the courage and in a completely self-deprecating/joking manner said ‘Hey, at least you don’t look like me!’. They both looked to me, and singly-spot-on-her-chin girl said ‘yeah, I guess you’re right’ and then they went on to standard girl chatter.

That was probably one of the first times that I realised that other people looked at me to reassure themselves. I mean, sure, I’d always think that I looked awful and thought everyone was judging my appearance, but it hadn’t really ever been confirmed before then. I was pretty miserable for the rest of the outing and more than likely for the rest of the month – again, I was a hormonal teenager. It really doesn’t matter when people tell you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, because all you can think about it what’s on the outside. I wanted someone to tell me that there was a new treatment where I could get new skin or a different face or something, just anything to make me feel even just a little bit prettier. I’m also pretty sure that I believed with every inch of my being that if I was prettier, it would solve all my problems. People might like me more, I’d probably do better in school, maybe I’d get a job – all the important things for a teenager, clearly.

I’m not entirely sure where I planned to go with this blog – I suppose in typical blog fashion, I didn’t have a plan other than to vent about my problems and hope that maybe someone can relate. It would be nice, though, if looks weren’t as important as they are – although we all pretend they’re not.

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Teachers change your life…or something

My family is moving in two weeks out of the house I’ve lived in for my whole life, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that there is a lot of crap to sort through. I came across my old school reports (teachers really need to use words other than ‘conscientious’) and it came as a bit of a shock that I wasn’t always good at English. Now, this isn’t me being all ‘I am a genius, how could I have ever been bad?’. No, this is me saying that there was a time that my best subject was Maths and my worst was English; which is something a Classics-with-English student never expects to discover. I was looking through my primary school books (it’s unsurprising to see that I was never good at art), only to find that English didn’t really appeal to me early on. In fact, the comments from my teachers mainly told me to ‘stop writing about horses, think of other topics’ or ‘stop using the words beautiful and lovely in every piece of work’. It seemed sightly strange to me that, yes, although I was a seven year old obsessed with horses, my teachers were telling me that I shouldn’t write about what interested me. So what if it’s a creative writing piece with the title ‘prints in the snow’, we don’t want to see you following them to find a pony.

Ok, some of you might be thinking that they had a point and sure, I could have tried to write about something that didn’t include horses (or horse related creatures, such as unicorns or a pegasus), but that’s clearly what inspired me to write. That was what I enjoyed. Soon after my horse ban, my writing went downhill and there are comments on my sudden lack of effort and enthusiasm. Clearly I wasn’t impressed with being told I couldn’t write about the one thing that interested me.

Then comes secondary school and in my first year my English marks pick up, only to plummet in my second year (a year which I detested English due to the teacher). Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly start to get really good marks in my third year which only continue to improve throughout the rest of my education – all which was taught by the same English teacher, who I loved. Which brings us to today, where I’m pursuing a career in writing.

If that teacher hadn’t come along, I might have never enjoyed English. I might have stopped having lessons after GCSE. I might have chosen a completely different career path, maybe even choosing sciences, god forbid. It just seems absolutely bizarre to me that something like what teacher you have, which shouldn’t impact your education, changes your whole life. Maybe if I had a fantastic chemistry teacher who inspired me I would have decided to take it for A Level, and then gone on to do something like biochemistry. It’s pretty terrifying, actually, to think like that. English (and Classics, of course) is what I always think makes me, well, me. I’m the girl who is always reading, always writing, who wants to be an author, who is desperately trying to discover how I can get publishers to send me books for free to review – because, of course, everything is better with free books. Of course there are other things that make me who I am – this is where I include a shoutout to my family, my dog, my friends etc – but I’ve always thought that English was always my thing. I found a script, of all things, for a play that I wrote at a very young age (it’s about a group of kids who investigate a graveyard where there’s a vampire who they eventually defeat with the help of their dog – Scooby Doo, anyone?). Reading that, I just assumed that I always knew writing was what I wanted to do. But apparently not.

Teachers change your life. They do, as silly as it sounds. You think it all depends on what school you go to, but it also depends on what teacher you get. Maybe if I had been encouraged in primary school to write about whatever makes me interested, I would have been better at the subject earlier on instead of being upset that I was told to stop writing what inspired me. Maybe if that history teacher I had in my first few years of secondary school had taught me for GCSE as well I would have continued it. Maybe if my maths teacher didn’t ‘jokingly’ call me Twit every single lesson, I might have been more confident about my abilities.  Maybe if my PE teachers didn’t make me feel completely inadequate at AS, asking me constantly if I my handicap in golf had dropped every week, I might have enjoyed it and done better in the exam. Maybe, just maybe, teachers are far more important than you first think.