All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Unsent Letter #5: It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. An oddity this one, considering I only knew her for four minutes!

7 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Never thought you’d be hearing from me again, did you?

What was that?

Ah.

Don’t worry, I’m not upset you don’t remember me – I would’ve been stunned if you had! You see, the thing is, I’m doing a series of unsent letters to important people of my past and today, your name was plucked out the hat. Aren’t you a lucky woman? It’s not often you receive a letter from someone you knew for four minutes some thirteen years ago, is it?

Yes. You’re more than entitled to screw this up and throw it in the garbage but before you make a decision let me tell you why you’re an important person from my past, it may just pique your interest to keep reading.

You are responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Yep, I’ll say it again just so it’ll sink in. You, ——–, are the person responsible for the best twelve months of my life. Now, doesn’t that feel a little awesome? No. A bit creepy? Fair enough.

In September 1999, I was but a young, fresh faced wee thing completely clueless with the methods of bunk beds, dorm rooms and all night drinking games. You were a ravishing raven haired backpacker hostel receptionist, who, like the Sirens of lore, enchanted every male who ventured too close. I was too shy to strike up a conversation for the five days I spent in Edinburgh, but on the last day, I bit the bullet.

You were wearing a pair of faded, dark blue jeans with a slight tear in the left knee. Your shirt was red, your jacket raven black to match your hair and your socks rainbow striped beneath kicked off ankle boots. You had a small Celtic knot tattooed on your chest, a silver stud in your nose, a gold ring in your left eyebrow and a single looped ring in your left ear. You also wore Jarvis Cocker style black rimmed glasses and had a habit of scratching the back of your neck whenever a guy was pissing you off.

I remember the latter only because I stood in line for ten minutes whilst an ogre of a Spaniard tried to chat you up, but you kept fiddling with the ring on your finger hoping he’d get the hint.

Anyway, when I finally reached the head of the queue I made no attempt to convince you into my underwear, merely requested your assistance. I wanted to book a hostel in Fort William and you were able to do so until you asked if I’d ever been to Oban. After telling you I hadn’t, you nodded sagely and and then picked up the phone.

After you’d booked the accommodation – and given them my credit card information – you gave me a booking slip and told me I wouldn’t really need it as they had a record of my reservation but to hang onto it anyway. I thanked you and you said “You’ll need this though,”

You then leaned over the desk, revealing the tattoo on your left stomach (which is when I wanted to ask you what is it with you and your left side? but didn’t) and pulled out a train timetable. Which I already had so politely declined until you said “Not to Oban, you haven’t,”

(And then the conversation went something like this…)

“I’m going to Fort William,” I said.

“I made the booking in Oban,”

“I asked you to make a booking in Fort William,”

“I know. But you also said you’ve never been to Oban. So I booked you Oban instead,”

“Why?”

“Oh. Did you have something important you needed to get to Fort William for?”

“No, not really, I went there a few years ago and wanted to pay it another visit,”

“So you’ve already been to Fort William?” You said. “But not Oban,”

“I’ve never been to Oban,”

“A sentence you’ll never be able to say again after tomorrow. Look, there’s a train at two-ish and you’ll be in Oban by five, easy,”

“But,” And then I made some weird sigh, and then I smiled, and took your timetable. “So what’s in Oban?”

“Nothing really. It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole,”

Now, I’ve worked in backpacker hostels in the years since this exchange and I can honestly tell you that if any of my receptionists had booked a hostel for someone that wasn’t at their destination of choice, without asking or confirming first, there would have been lashings of trouble. We’re talking a bollocking of such biblical proportion it would have redefined this British colloquialism for scolding for the rest of time.

I should have been angry. I should have been pissed. I should have been all manner of cheddered off.

But, like you said, I’d never been to Oban. So what the hey?

Anyway, we never crossed paths again, so I was never able to thank you for being such a bizarre receptionist. The thing is, ——–, like I said at the start to try and tease your interest, you’re responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Because if I’d gone to Fort William I would never have been in the Oban backpackers to pick up a copy of the Anne Rice book Memnoch the Devil from their book exchange. And if I hadn’t picked up that book I would never have had a random conversation with a strange little Danish man who waxed lyrically about a wee town called Portree.

And if I hadn’t listed to his sonnet over this fishing village I would never have decided to go there after a few days in Fort William. And if I hadn’t gone to Portree I would have arrived in Inverness a week early, which means I would never have met Patrick, and if I hadn’t met Patrick, I wouldn’t have gone to Aviemore, so I wouldn’t have chanced upon an old woman in the Visitor Information Centre who recommended I visit Foyers.

And if I hadn’t extended my stay in Inverness to visit Foyers I would never have met Deborah. And if I’d never met Deborah I would have missed out on spending four months with some of the best people I’ve ever known. This, in turn, inspired me to go to Canada where I would meet Annie and Rachel.

And if I hadn’t done that, lord knows where I would be right now!

You see, ——–, your rather cheeky action set off a chain reaction that not only gave me the best twelve months of my life, it changed my meager existence in so many ways it’s almost impossible to count. Without you changing my plan for me, I wouldn’t have met people I couldn’t imagine my life without.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even though we knew each other for only four minutes some thirteen years ago, even though I don’t even know your name, the impact you had on my life is beyond measure – and I’ve always wanted to tell you this.

With love and thanks,

Addy xx

PS…I took this photo twenty-four hours after we met. It’s always been one of my favourite’s from the trip.

PPS…You’re right, Oban was a bit of a hole, but a bloody gorgeous hole!

Other letters in this series:


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Unsent Letter #4: Because you never know if today will be your last

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Let’s get going.

6 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Once upon a time, I wrote the following advice in a blog post: ‘Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content’. It’s the only line of my blog I’ve memorized, because as you know, I didn’t say it, you did.

Four days. How do I write a letter to someone who I knew for four days some twelve years ago? A woman who carved her name on my heart for all eternity? Your sassy savviness, ——-, was always an inspiration to me so any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

In the numerous emails I sent you did I ever tell you that you were the first woman to leave your handprint on my cheek? That I wore the stinging pain like a badge of honor until the imprint of your studded ring faded three days later? If I didn’t, then I am now. If I did, please feel free to chastise me for repetition. Or not…because the only reason I bring it up is to thank you for it.

Since that night, there was only one woman who understood me enough to do what you did. Only they were less sadistic, so did it metaphorically, not physically. You know that was an option, right?

Sitting here, thinking not only of you but the potential people reading this letter, I’m starting to realize how messed up this sounds. There we were, sitting in a pub, drinking whisky, chatting nonchalantly, when out of nowhere you slapped me so hard my cheek was pink for hours! All because I wasn’t telling you what you wanted to hear. They’ll be thinking ‘that’s effing abuse’ or ‘Jesus, she sounds like a right a-hole!’

They won’t understand that it was exactly what I needed. You knew I wanted to tell you about Annie, about my life, about all the things you’d been trying to draw out of me. You knew my anxiety was holding me back and you needed to shock me out of it.

That’s what I always think of when I think of you. Your innate ability to delve deep into someone’s soul and yank out the person that you knew was buried deep within, even when they couldn’t see it themselves.

To my shame, and eternal guilt, I didn’t possess that ability. If I did, perhaps you’d still be alive, slapping anxious men into baring their soul before dancing with them through the silent Nova Scotian streets.

Dammit, ——–! I would give anything to smack some sense into you right now! Why didn’t you talk to someone? Why didn’t you talk to me? Why didn’t you get help? Why didn’t you see just how fucking awesome you were?

When Teri told me what happened I couldn’t speak. I tried to, so hard, but nothing came out. It was like being punched in the chest by a twenty-foot polar bear wearing brick laden boxing gloves. The thought that someone as vibrant, outspoken, intelligent, compassionate and downright sexy as hell  could see no way out other than…other than…dammit, ——–, what the FUCK?

Why? Why? Fucking WHY? Do you have any fucking idea how many times I’ve asked myself that question? Teri couldn’t say, she didn’t know, you didn’t tell anyone. No note. No letter. No email. You just walked into the fucking bedroom in the fucking I Heart Halifax T-Shirt that I fucking brought you and slashed your wrists! What? Huh? Fucking why? Was it my fault? Was it because of me? Do you know how many times I’ve asked that question? You were wearing the fucking shirt I gave you, ——–, you expect me to believe that when you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror I didn’t flash into your mind? I had a T-Shirt given to me once; an artsy-hipstery green thing with a print of a girl swinging from a tree branch, whilst on the opposite branch a man was hanging himself. Whenever I saw that T-Shirt for months I thought of her! I didn’t even have to be wearing it; just the sight of it in the drawer brought her back to me. So NO, I don’t believe I didn’t cross your mind as you lay on the bed and bled yourself dry over the one present I gave you. I’ve gone over those four days so many times ——–, every second we spent together, every word, every syllable, every dram, every touch, every hug, every near kiss and hip-bump and I can’t for the life of me think of anything I did to make you kill yourself! So please, I need to know what I did! It’s been eating at my heart for over twelve years. Maybe if I’d done this, or that, or whatever, you would still be here; dazzling the world with your killer smile and warped sense of humour. Why? Jesus Christ, WHY? I could have helped you, ——–. Teri could have helped you. Anyone could have helped you. We all loved you! So why didn’t you let us? Why didn’t you confide in us? Why couldn’t you share what was going on? FUCK-ING-WHY? God I want to scream! So many times have those words filled my head. Day after week after month after year. Replaying, repeating, analyzing, endlessly trying to answer the question even though I’ll never know for sure. Ever. Bound to live a life in limbo, hating myself for not sensing your sadness, for not seeing the black dog had taken hold and wasn’t letting you go.

Oh, ——–, I am so sorry for not helping you. For not seeing the pain you were in. For not being a better friend. A better man. Despite the hole you’ve left that will never be filled, I hope, I pray, that you found the peace you so desperately needed. I know…because I’ve been there. I know how you felt when you pressed the knife to your wrist, feeling the blade shake in your hand as you wrestled with the dilemma of a lifetime of pain against the blissful relief. I just wish you’d dropped the knife like I did. That you’d chosen to fight on, like I did.

We’re approaching the anniversary, by the way, not long now before I spend the day celebrating your life. I’ve done it every year for the last eleven years. Last year, I recited Henry V next to a stream in the park I was sleeping in (I couldn’t find a fountain). The year before, I toasted your life with a special treat of fish’n’chips. A few years ago, I even wrote you a story, a crazy adventure about a woman who goes in search of a man named Hope.

I don’t know what I’ll do this year, maybe purchase a studded ring and slap myself hard in the face for old time’s sake! You should know that I’ve never stopped trying to overcome my anxiety. There have been a few times I got close, but without a friend like you to catch me, I just kept falling back.

All I know is that I’ll spend the day locked in the endless torment of the ever-present why?

——–, you taught me life is about seizing every opportunity you can. Of grabbing the world with both hands and squeezing it dry. If you want it, go for it, because everything is possible.

“Life is a gift! Grab it, tear the wrapping off and play til your heart’s content.” Is what you told me once. “Because you never know if today will be your last,”

You were an amazing woman, ——–, we could all see it. I only wish that you could have too.

Wherever you may be, I hope we meet again someday, if only to get answers to the questions that have tormented my mind these last twelve years. If only so I can sit and share whisky with you again, laughing and smiling as if the world was our private ball pit.

Wherever you may be, ——–, I hope you’ve found the peace and happiness you craved.

With love, hugs and hip-bumps,

Addy xx


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Unsent Letter #3: My life would be empty had you never been in it

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Not sure how this one is gonna go down. Hopefully not badly.

5 September 2012

Dear ——–.

Did I ever tell you what I was thinking when I pulled your purple pyjamas off the line? How when the wind began to pick up and the rain threaten to fall, I dashed outside and plucked them from certain drowning in the Hebridean Sea, all because I wanted to see how cute your perfect posterior looked within them.

Yep. You probably thought I was being a modern-day, slightly scruffy Mr Darcy when I saved the pyjamas of a relative stranger from being lost at sea. But nope, I was just thinking of your cute backside and how much I had already begun to fall for its owner.

I’m hoping you know me well enough to know I didn’t fall for you simply because of your quality arse, but in case you don’t, and for the benefit of the blogging audience, I didn’t.

I fell for you the first night we met, the moment you staggered out of the Professor’s car wearing every item of clothing you owned. I fell for you the moment our eyes met and you smiled that contagious smile of yours. By the time we huddled around the fire entertaining ourselves with a dodgy fashion advice book you’d already stolen my heart, so your deliberate sexual pronunciation of breasts and buttocks and bosom and stockings was just torture. But you know that, don’t you?

Did you know I lay in bed that night fantasising about you? How I craved to be the one to slowly peel each layer of clothing from your body? Did I tell you how much we laughed in that fantasy as I removed over a dozen pairs of underwear before finally getting to the good stuff!

Just like with that book, and the drinking game, and the oh-so-take-me-now ”yes please” you whispered under your breath that first night, you knew you had me caught in your splendiferousness.

So much has happened since we last met, since we shared a tea and you quoted Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. So much heartbreak and loss, confusion and darkness, that sometimes I thought nothing would make me smile again. But no matter how wrong it sounds, how weird or pathetic, when things get too much I just allow myself to drift back to the hostel and those first few blissful days.

Even though it’s a sure-fire way to make me cry – happy tears, just like now – it’s also a sure-fire way to make me smile. As they say, you always remember your first time, and I am so grateful that my first time was with someone so understanding, so beautiful, so kind-hearted and whose posterior looked so utterly magnificent in purple pyjamas!

Blimey, so many memories are flooding back right now I think I need to take a moment. I was always a bit soft, you know that, but in recent years tears have become few and far between; I should have known memories of you would bring them back in a heartbeat.

For the last few years my mind has oscillated between anger, frustration, guilt and joy whenever I think of you. Anger because of what you did; frustration because of all I sacrificed; guilt because of the things I never said and joy because, well, you’re you. How could I not feel joy with all we shared?

I hope you won’t mind if I skip the anger and go straight to the guilt. We spent too much time in the anger that year that there is little left to say on the matter. I made mistakes. You made mistakes. We were both human. All I will say is that I’m sorry I didn’t handle the situation better. I’ve returned to those months many times over the last few years and no matter when I do all I see is a man struggling to figure out what was happening. I tried so hard to explain but I could never find the words to get across to you how scared I was. Not because of what happened but because of myself.

That sharp drop into depression obliterated me that year. I didn’t understand it like I do now. I never had. Which is where the guilt comes in – and I need to talk about that, because it’s been eating away at me for years.

It would be a lie to say I’d never wondered if you’d read any of this blog. Back in those early days I thought of it often, worried about how you would take some of the things I wrote. You knew I suffered from depression, and you knew of my early suicidal thoughts, but the self-harm…I’m sorry.

There were so many times during our relationship that I wanted to talk to you about that. To tell you of the things I had done to myself. The day I self-harmed just before Christmas, when I lied to you about burning my hand on the stove, all I wanted you to know was that I had done it to myself; that I wasn’t coping and didn’t know what to do anymore. Perhaps if I’d told you, you could have helped me find help, but I guess that’s what karma is for. It sure did come back to bite me on the ass, I assure you.

For years I convinced myself I hadn’t told you of my self-harm past because I was protecting myself. When I met you I hadn’t self-harmed for over a month, and then there was kissing and sex and experimentation with handcuffs and long walks along the Ness and the urge was gone. I was scared that telling you would trigger me to doing it – and as time went on – it was no longer an issue. Until that day before Christmas. Until 2006.

There’s nothing I can say to alleviate that guilt, of keeping something so intimate from you, but know that I am deeply sorry for the things I never told you of my life. Like I said, if I had maybe I would have got help sooner, but like I said, karma.

Just like October 2007, for which there is no excuse. When I left that suicide letter I was out of my mind. I wasn’t thinking rationally. I wasn’t thinking at all. I barely remember leaving it and, when the psychiatrist at the hospital gave it back to me, I couldn’t even remember writing it.

There was no malice there, ——–, I promise. My mind was broken and I had no idea what I was doing; or the rational irrationality of the suicidal mind, as I have said to myself over the years.

So I’m sorry, truly. The thought that this is your last memory of me is punishment enough.

Then there’s frustration, but I think I’ll skip that as well. You know what I sacrificed for you. I emigrated for you! Through all these years of nothing I keep wondering where my life would be if you’d just told me you didn’t want to be with me anymore.

But then, if I hadn’t come to Australia, we would have missed out on so much happiness. Or, at least I hope they were happy years for you, because I’ve never regretted the time we spent together. All those walks along the beach, the long bike rides around Albert Park, lazy days in the flat and excursions to beautiful places. They fill my heart with such warmth and happiness all the pain of what happened between us dissipates.

And I just find myself remembering that same contagious smile I fell in love with on that distant island almost twelve years ago. And the perfect posterior that looked so edible in whatever you wore!

Okay, starting to sound like Karl Stefanovic, sorry.

The problem with streams of consciousness is that I am bound by the mythical rule of zero editing. If this weren’t such a post I would happily snip all I wrote between the symbols so you would only remember the happy times we shared.

Family aside, dearest ——–, you were the most important person in my life. In many ways, you still are, and given the likelihood I’ll be spending my remaining years alone, you always will be.

You taught me about life, art, literature and – to be crass, but equally true – the female body; both inside and out. You introduced me to a world of music beyond dodgy pop and random Scottish folk. You showed me what it was like to trust someone, to give yourself over to someone so completely that they become the guardian of your soul. You introduced me to the pain of a broken heart, a lesson as equally important as the introduction of love, which you were also responsible for.

My life would be so different had you never emerged in all those layers of clothes from the Professor’s car. Had you not seized control and asked if you could kiss me, nothing would be the same.

Perhaps for the better.

Perhaps not.

Either way, I know my life would be empty had you never been in it.

For all the years of wonder, beauty, love and bliss you gave me, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I loved you more than I ever dared to admit and I will continue doing so until my dying day.

I hope you found happiness, my dearest ——–, for my heart would break if you didn’t.

All My Love Always,

Addy xx


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Unsent Letter #2: Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Giggles. This one’s a little different!

2 September 2012.

Dear ———-,

Oh my God, I’m laughing so hard right now! In fact, because these letters are supposed to be no holds barred, non-censored Addy; I am laughing my fucking arse off! Oh, the sound of your nicotine scented breath gasping out of your oversized nostrils is music to my ears. There’s no need to skip back a couple of sentences to make sure you read it right.

I didn’t write ducking farce.

I didn’t write plucking aries.

I wrote fucking arse!

As in I am laughing my fucking arse off that I get to write you a letter, you rancorous, coiffured old sow!

Do you want to know how many ways you made my life hell? How many days I hated having to get out of bed to walk the three miles to school to be the object of your passive aggressiveness sadism? Seriously, what was it? What did I actually do to deserve all those detentions, lines and clip-round-the-ears?

Was it because I was an outsider? I may not have known it then, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Scotland since we last met and I know this can be quite a big issue in parts. If it was this, it’s called racism, ———-!

Was it because I was fat? Yeah, I know, I was young but I did my best. I walked to school, I played football, I exercised a hell of a lot more than some of the other kids in class. If it was this, it’s called fatism ———-!

Was it because I asked questions? Because, you know, you were my teacher. How is showing an interest in learning a reason for such scorn? If it was this, it’s not any ism I know of, it’s just bloody stupid!

From the moment you first met me you didn’t like me. In fact, that first day, you wouldn’t let me play with the other kids at playtime because I’d spilt some milk on a book. I was nervous, ———-, it’s called an accident. How is stopping the new kid at school from interacting with his new classmates going to assist in matriculation?

Do you remember how you reacted when you asked what I wanted to do when I grew up? It may have become an internet meme, but all memes lead back to truth somewhere!

How about when you made us have a ‘cowboy’ day? That even though you knew I hated them, you forced me to eat an entire can of cold baked beans as well as three hotdogs so I could understand how ‘cowboys’ lived. Do cowboys vomit uncontrollably into bushes on their way home from the ranch? I don’t think so.

What about the time I broke your lamp? I’m sure you remember that. There I am walking across the room to hand out some worksheets when the lamp just falls off the desk, and this, in some weird and twisted logic, becomes my fault – even though I was a good meter or so away from it! It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I don’t think you were allowed to clip me round the ear like you did that day. You certainly weren’t supposed to drag me to the corridor by the same ear and deposit me there until you decided what to do with me. Guide me there, certainly. Tell me firmly to walk there, absolutely. But drag me there?

In today’s era, ———-, that would be called child abuse. But then, given your desire to – and I quote – “thrash the living daylights out of me’ – you didn’t seem all that bothered about this sort of thing.

Fortunately for me you weren’t allowed to administer the cane, what with it having been rendered illegal and all! Do you know how thankful I am for that? Fucking thankful, that’s how much! For I have no doubt I wouldn’t have been sitting for months had you been allowed to administer it. Or do you not remember your comments about Boy?

You really were an absolute, total, one hundred per cent, fucking bitch, ———-!

But…and however painful it is to admit it…you were one of the best teachers I ever had.

Certainly, you made my life a living hell and the epic bollockings you gave me are still ringing in my ears, but unlike the majority of teachers I had in the intervening years, I still remember the vast majority of your lessons.

Even though it’s been over twenty years I still say to myself never eat cheese eat salad sandwiches and remain young every time I write the word necessary! The same can be said for; My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets, Bad Eggs Cause An Upset Stomach Easily and Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move.

Whenever I hear the word Roman, I think of the book you used and the somewhat dodgy pictures that illustrated it – right down to the colour of Nero’s hair and the cat lurking in the background.

To this day I can’t hear the song Home On The Range without feeling nauseous. And yes, this is a good thing!

Plus, how could I ever forget the fact that you helped me realize I wanted to be a writer. There was me thinking you were being a total pitchfork (What? I’m over my anger now!) by giving me detention after detention but you knew what you were doing all along. I still remember the two stories I wrote during those periods; the little boy setting off on a quest for treasure in the wilds of the Moss and the schoolboy who broke the teachers cane to win the respect of his classmates. Fairly obvious you were the inspiration behind the latter!

And then there was the bullying. You, ———-, were one of the only teachers who ever took me seriously. I remember when a couple of the boys started beating on me in the playground. You came storming right over and after disposing of them to the Headmistress, took me to the Nurse to get patched up. You even gave me a strawberry flavored lollipop to help cheer me up afterwards. I also remember the hug you gave me when I was all upset and teary by a cavalcade of nasty words that one of the girls was giving me about my sister.

Yeah, perhaps I was too hasty with how I started this letter. In those moments, ———-, you were magnificent; everything a teacher should be and more. Not only did you genuinely seem to care about your students, you actually went out of your way to make them feel better.

So, I would like to sincerely apologise for using such nasty and insulting language at the start of this letter. It was very wrong of me and I should never use such words in public or private.

And, to prove I do remember the things you taught me:

Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.
Swearing is wrong and can hurt people’s feelings. I must never use such language in public or private.

(x50 more times)

Though I have to say, I wish they’d had computers at school when you were teaching me. It’s so much easier cutting and pasting than sitting there for hours on end until my hand hurt!

Seriously, thank you.

Really. Honestly. Thank you.

Not just for all the things you taught me, but for being such a kind, caring woman – some of the time, at least. I could have done with having a teacher like you when the bullying stepped up a gear after moving schools, because the more I think about it, the more I realize you really were one of a kind.

So it’s rather an honor to have been your student, for a while at least.

Yours, with affection,

Addy xx

P.S…I never did get her – probably because I always went back for seconds ;)


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Unsent Letter #1: The First Real Friend I Ever Had

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge being:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2)
The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3)
It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. Let us begin.

1 September 2012.

Dear ———-,

If I were being honest, there are three names I considered not including within the beanie. My reasoning being that if any of these names were pulled out it would raise questions over the whole ‘chance’ aspect of this challenge.

Which, less than a paragraph in, is a lie.

The reason I didn’t want to include these three names is because I was scared of being forced to write a letter to them. Partly because I can’t forgive myself, partly because it’s too painful and partly because I really don’t know how to say all that I want to say. You, my dear ———-, are one of these three.

Even though you’ll never read these words I am lying here shaking with fear (literally), at the prospect of writing to you – which is utterly ludicrous because I used to write to you all the time! You were my oh-god-is-the-post-here-yet letter writing buddy. Inverness, Caldicot, Mull, Melbourne…you wrote to them all, and every time you did, this bloody great smile crept over my face and all I wanted to do was tear the letter open and devour it.

I miss that smile. I do. In a way I’m glad you’ll never read this because I’m ashamed of who I’ve become. The boy you knew had so much promise, so much hope and passion. He was convinced, even though he was crap at it, that he’d become a writer, a film-maker, a photographer. That if he just pushed himself hard enough he’d be able to get past all the shit he kept hidden and become someone people would have been proud to be friends with.

The shit I kept hidden. Fuck. Where do I begin with that?

You sent me an email once whilst I was sitting in the adjoining room. A simple little email that spoke volumes about how utterly useless I was. You asked me to tell you something that you didn’t know about me, that no-one knew about me.

I wanted to tell you I was a virgin, but was scared of the embarrassment over being a twenty one year old sexually clueless male. I thought about telling you about my depression and anxiety, but was scared you’d look at me differently. I considered telling you about my sister but didn’t know how to word it.

Every part of me wanted to respond to that email with something – anything – that would challenge me to open up in the ways I so desperately wanted to. But I never did. I just let it slide, like I always did when people tried to get to know me. Perpetually scared of anyone getting to know the real me in case they realised I was a fraud.

That all my talk of strength, courage and determination were just the ramblings of a sad pathetic loser who couldn’t accept his fate in life. So determined to prove his self-fulfilling prophecy of deserving to live his life alone that he pushed everyone who seemed to care about him away.

However much I want to I don’t think I can answer your email now. I’ve shared so much of my life over the last five years, disclosed so many of my secrets to the entire world, that I can’t think of anything that no-one knows about me. Even my most with-held secret was shared on a public forum yesterday! Maybe it’s a good thing that everything’s out there, maybe not. All I know for certain is that I wish I’d been able to share these things twelve years ago. If I had, maybe I wouldn’t be writing this now, perhaps we’d have moved on from letter writing to emails, tweets and blog comments?

Anyway, even though we haven’t spoken in years, I still think of you frequently.

I think of sitting in the hostel smoking room until the early hours, keeping you company with wine, cigarettes and Jenga tournaments. Do you remember the mini-cruise we took to Mull? I found a photo of you from that day last week; playing on the swings in your bright yellow raincoat with a fantastic smile on your face. In fact, playgrounds feature quite frequently in my memories of you. I seem to recall there was one in Fredericton with incredibly bouncy animal things and, of course, a brief sojourn on the swings in the grounds of Caldicot Castle.

Then there were the midnight wake up calls. When I nearly tipped you out of the bunk-bed in Fort William followed by, more amusingly, the fire I built at four in the morning when we were camping in the hostel on South Uist. Why didn’t I tell you to fuck off? That I’d only got up for a piss and if you wanted a fire you should have bloody well made one yourself? But, I’ve always been too much of a gentleman for that sort of thing, haven’t I?

But truth be told there are two memories I have of you that burn brighter than all.

The first was Canada. Not a specific incident, but all of it. After months of looking forward to seeing you, there you were, standing on my hostel doorstep looking as beautiful as you always did. It felt so good to be around you again, to have long conversations about nothing in particular and everything that was important all at the same time. This followed by our Canada Day camping weekend, which I still think of every July 1, where I was attacked by a vicious blood sucking leech and shared some of my writing with you for the first time. Finally, those fleeting moments at the tail end of my trip.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not getting on that train. I often wish I’d turned around and spent a few more days with you. Even if it meant earning the scorn of my parents by phoning them to tell them I was a bit stuck. I am sorry I left so abruptly, it’s something I’ve never forgiven myself for.

The second memory was in Caldicot. Not exactly the most thrilling town in the world, I’ll grant you, but for the last twelve years I’ve been trying to work out whether or not you saw what was on my monitor when you appeared in my room that night? One minute I’m being all male and checking out, shall we say adult entertainment, and the next you’re standing right behind me. I came this close to opening up to you that night. This close to telling you about all the things I’d withheld. By then I believed you wouldn’t have cared, that you would have accepted me regardless. It doesn’t matter now, but know that even though I didn’t tell you things, it’s not because I didn’t trust you or consider you a friend.

I did, I really did. It’s just, as with everyone, I could never find the words to explain anything. They would get caught in my throat or muddled in my brain and rather than cough them out or unscramble them, I just remained silent.

I’m skipping around it, I know, because even now, all these years later I’m still too anxious to say it, even though I’m sure you always suspected. My GOD! How can I be so nervous? I’m on the other side of the world. I haven’t seen you for over a decade. I haven’t heard from you in four years. And yet I still can’t speak the words I always wanted to say.

———-, I… [Addy’s note: I’ve been stuck here for nearly twelve minutes staring at a flashing cursor unable to type the words. My heart is pounding. My limbs are shaking. My mouth is dry. This is what my anxiety does to me. I need a smoke, stat!] … ———-, the reason I was so scared to reply to your email was because I’d already started to fall for you. That’s why I built you the fire at four in the morning, why I was so nervous sleeping in the same tent as you on Canada Day, why I disappeared to the cinema when we were in Oban. Partly because of my fear of losing you, partly because of my naivety, anxiety and weakness, I could just never find the words to tell you.

You taught me so much; how we should never stop expanding our horizons, the deliciousness of cameo menthols, that you can be on a fairground attraction too long, how we should embrace our inner-child from time to time, both the importance and beauty of silence.

Although we were not friends for long, your friendship meant the world to me; you meant the world to me. I’ve lived in hope for a long time that I’ll get the chance to see you again, to be given the opportunity to tell you in person just what your friendship meant to me. You were the first real friend I ever had, and I’ll never forget you for that.

Wherever you are, whomever you’re with, whatever you’re doing, I truly hope you’ve found happiness.

You sincerely deserve it.

All my love and hugs,

Addy xx