I once lived in a small terrace house, in a quiet Cooks Hill street.
I was 22, naïve to life and completely hooked on this new found young, single existence from the word go.
A walk to the end of my street revealed book shops and buskers, cafes and old shaded parks.
I lived amongst uni students, street performers, hedonists and elderly cat ladies who fed bread crumbs to birds.
It was a beautiful, special time and it should have been the beginning of a wonderful life, which was bubbling away inside of me.
I was so enamoured with my surroundings that I would constantly soak it all up, take it all in and happily explore people and places around me on my own, discovering the beauty each time I opened my eyes to it all.
Our buttercup terrace houses all lined up in the row, the only way to tell the difference, a pot plant of choice or an old sofa, reflecting those that dwelled inside.
If you walked around Cooks Hill of a night with only moonlight to lead the way, you would often come across two obstacles and they were as equally as iconic to those who lived there; poorly lit root ravaged foot paths to stumble over, and bats…or bat poo to be more specific.
Cooks Hill is a special place by moonlight, I think mostly because of the big overarching fig trees that line the streets and the old faded houses…crickets chirping, bat’s echoes, the gentle slow thumping of a band playing a gig at a local pub close by, it all just seemed so magical to me at the time. A fire twirler lived a few houses down for a while, and would often practice in the street making it even more so.
In summer, I would spend a whole day riding my bike or walking in the hot sun, ending up at the beach. Excited by a new secret spot - a delicious treat for hot, sticky red tinged skin. The best part of the discovery was having to wade through a cool, sparkly channel of water to reach the secluded bay. There I would lay back and soak up the sun’s rays and day dream, constantly day dream.
It really was the time in my life where I developed a sense of love for being on my own and enjoying the peacefulness of my own company. I remember vividly, being so excited for what life had in store for me.
On days when the sun was too hot to venture out, I would open all the windows and doors and perch myself at my bedroom window, which was at the very front of the old creaky house, watching the world go by, pen in hand and note book on my lap.
The late afternoon light as it trickled through the faded lace curtains and onto my blank page, moving in time with the welcomed breeze. It is a feeling and memory that has remained with me always. I can feel the warm sun, see the golden soft sunlight and smell the Cooks Hill scent in the air, Lilac Wine on repeat, drifting down the floor boarded hall.
This is how my mind always saw the world, a day dreamy haze that travelled with me from my childhood.
This is where I first really knew that writing had turned from idle careless jottings and into something so much more.
It didn’t matter what was going on at the time, I had found this space and this thing I could do to pour it all out of me.
A sweet moment in time where everything was golden and sparkly and bathed in that soft afternoon sunlight.
I had never truly struggled before then, I did not really know what pain was.
And I still believed I was going to do something special in life.
Things looked so promising from that window.
I had a handful of close friends who lived in each other’s pockets. I had just finished studying and excited for the career path ahead, and like all girls my age, I had a crush on a boy that quickly twisted into love (or so I thought at the time).
Time however, has a knack for moving things on and this golden moment faded quickly.
The boy only ever threw scraps of himself my way, and the more I pulled and grasped the less he gave.
I was miserably unable to get a foot in the door of my chosen career path at the time, which was being heavily guarded by a bullying, pit bull of lady who held the key, and I was too scared and doubtful of myself to ever question her…to speak up.
I was also suddenly mending delicate, fractured friendships that had not pulled through a rough time unscathed.
Things kind of just tumbled on from there…inevitably my first bout of depression hit me soon after too.
It didn’t take long though for life to get back on track.
New friends slowly came along, old friends became good friends once more, career opportunities appeared, and most luckily for me another boy came by, who gave me all of himself and brought along the sunshine with him.
I guess I am thinking about Cooks Hill and being 22, and this lovely moment in time because it is the last memory I have before life kind of happened…somehow, so fast.
And now here I sit.
I have become the very worst thing possible. A passenger.
I walked down my old street a few days ago, and it all came flooding back to me.
There are far less fig trees, the pavement is still crackly and bumpy beneath my feet, and the small cottages are all with fresh coats of paint and porches filled with on trend furniture, audis parked out the front. It still has that certain charm though and feels like a big warm hug.
It also gave me a long hard look at myself, and walking down the same street, I realised I was the exact same person that I was at 22. Only age and a few curves the difference on the outside, on the inside - a little less naive and a little wiser.
I also thought, if I am not careful in 20 years’ time it will be the same story.
I went home that night and not only looked at a few writing courses as I have done a million times before, but I actually have started applying for some. Fear and self-doubt can certainly appear, but this time they will be the passenger and I am calling the shots.
We are always told by those who have lived a full long life, that a life not lived and embraced is one filled with regret.
Why don't we ever listen to them?
Something else happened to me last week that gave me the little jolt needed.
I was asked by my doctor (doing a routine questionnaire when I came to them with my anxiety) 'How often do you feel worthless?', I bravely and truthfully answered, most of the time.
That is not very good.
I don’t want that to be the answer, next time I venture down my old street.
Taking the plunge into writing, is the scariest thing I have ever pushed myself to do, but I have to do it for that starry-eyed 22 year old sitting at her window. I can’t let her down anymore.
I may stumble upon that book shop at the end of my old street one day, and find my own book on it's shelf. Why not?
I really hope that if you are reading this and wondering what the point of it all is, you also ponder at the same time, on who you were at 22 and what you thought life had in store for you.
Why can’t you make it happen if it hasn’t yet?
Fear just isn’t a good enough excuse to me now.
Sure there will be bat poo and bumps in the road, but you have to push on and do it for yourself, because the alternative is just far too un-sparkly and ordinary to not at least try.
Emma Kate xoxo