Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Happiness Is...A New Pencil Case

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Ahh, September: the start of a new school year. As January marks a new calendar year, time to take stock and outline your plans for the next twelve months, so September signifies new beginnings in academic terms.  I can clearly remember my own annual Back To School moments as though they were yesterday: the starchy new shirt, the too-big blazer ("you'll grow into it"), the pleated grey skirt that I'd roll up at the waist in a desperate attempt to sassy-up the drab regulation attire.

The long, lazy days of summer would inevitably come juddering to a close, as parents up and down the land drew a collective sigh of relief that the constant bickering between siblings would at last be interspersed with peace, as we all trotted off in opposite directions to lessons. But before the great exodus back to class could begin, it was time to turn our attention towards preparing for the new year ahead; the obligatory shopping trip with mum to purchase shiny new shoes and the pristine pencil case which came to signify new beginnings.

Later, when I was due to start a new job or attend an important course, I'd make a similar pilgrimage to the shopping centre (albeit without my mother in tow) to coo over the stationery section: admiring the slinky lines of a sleek fountain pen, or the newness of a multipack of mini-highlighters.

Half the time I never actually used these new purchases; often just knowing my pristine satchel contained such gloriously useful items was enough to give me the confidence I needed on my nerve-racking first day. There's something strangely therapeutic about caressing new writing implements, before carefully replacing them in their immaculate newly-purchased receptacle. The smell of a new pencil case still takes me back to the days of being a knock-kneed angsty tweenager; so evocative is that synthetic, plasticy aroma.

It's more than the pencil case itself; what I really love about those new school supplies is what they stand for: a fresh new start. When you open the cover of a pure white notebook you get the sense that anything is possible. The future is not yet written. That blank page can be daunting: how will you fill it? It can also be exciting, as you wield the pen like a weapon; you are the master of your destiny, the hero of your story.

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When the clock struck midnight last New Year's Eve, I had no idea that within a matter of months I'd be realising my long-supressed dream of writing, and that said writing would be read by other human beings. It would be published in a glossy magazine, and then weekly in an online newspaper. If someone had told me then that some of my articles would be read by thousands of people and shared worldwide, leading to podcasts and interviews, I'd have laughed out loud...before shrugging off such ridiculous claims with a dismissive flick of the wrist. Yet here I am, nine months on, doing just that, without having made any steps towards this point until mid-February this year. I can hardly believe my good fortune.

Instead of hitting my 40th birthday feeling past my prime, I unexpectedly found myself feeling newly invigorated, and excited for the future like never before. For the first time in a long time I feel in control of my destiny, as though all the tough times I experienced during my thirties were preparing me for this very moment.

My point? Never feel like it's too late to do anything in life. Famous fashion designer Vera Wang designed her first dress at 40; Samuel L Jackson got his big break at 43. Morgan Freeman was 52 when he landed his first major role.

All the while your blood is pumping, your heart is beating and your thoughts are lucid, there is time.

If miraculous things can happen to little ol' me, they can happen to you too. Your future is a crisp white page, just waiting to be written on. If you make a mistake, so what? Be bold, write in pen...that's what Tippex was invented for.

So go out and buy some new pens and a pencil case, if that's what it takes. Turn over the cover of that brand new notebook: it's time to write a new chapter in your life story - the most exciting one yet...

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