Invisibility

Another post as part of Zebra Garden and The Waiting‘s Blog Hop. This week’s theme, The Pool.
RTT Blog Hop

The all girls grammar school that I attended had two mobile classrooms by the entrance gate which were used as sixth form common rooms. These days a school’s sixth form centre is often a slick, purpose built collection of classrooms and study areas. We had damp and cold huts, one for lower sixth and one for upper sixth. They contained sagging sofa’s and uncomfortable chairs, pulled up against the barely functioning storage heater. Their main, redeeming feature was the kettle; lack of sleep could be treated with numerous cups of strong coffee.

On the wall by the door was a notice board on which I one day spotted a letter inviting applications for a scholarship to the University of Western Australia. A bequest existed that would fund a student from Britain to study at this exotic establishment. With my desperation to escape the restrictions of my teenage life bubbling ever closer to the surface, I decided to apply.

I have no idea how many other students I was up against, but was surprised and pleased to be invited to London for an interview with the Board of Trustees. My mother insisted that my older sister accompany me on the trip; I was irritated by this forced intrusion but, in the event, pleased to have her along for support. We travelled overnight by boat and train to the big city and stayed for one night in the Brixton YMCA (it was cheap). I had never seen so many people of colour and associated this neighbourhood with the riots that I had seen on the television news. We kept a very low profile.

Not knowing anything about interview technique or expected behaviour, I chatted openly and confidently about my interests and aspirations. I gave the performance of my life and was offered the scholarship, conditional on achieving good enough grades in my exams. I spent the next few months dreaming of life on a campus by the beach surrounded by tanned and beautiful people. In the days before the internet my view of places was largely dictated by television imagery and my mental picture of life in Australia was based on soap operas.

My mother blamed the number of parties I attended; I suspect I had bitten off more than I could chew in subject choices; whatever the reasons, I did not achieve the grades that I needed in my exams and was rejected by the university. The bitterness of my failure was all the more acute because I felt that I had let the Trustees of the scholarship down.

I managed to get into my local university and settled into another few years of living under the restrictions imposed by my parents. Many of my friends went away to study while those who stayed made new friends and got on with their lives. I felt as though mine was on hold.

I discovered the campus sports centre and began to go to the pool each day. There I would swim length after length, slowly up and down using my inadequate breast stroke. I found it relaxing, therapeutic, a chance to switch off from the turmoils in my head. I believed that, in this environment, I was invisible.

When I discovered that my regular swims had been noticed by other students, who found out my name through discussions with mutual friends, the pleasure of my lengthy swims was removed. Unknown to me, these boys had been mocking my arduous progress through the water, racing each other alongside my steady lengths to see how many they could achieve with their slick freestyle in the time it took me to get from one end of the pool to the other.

The benefits of my regular swims had been taken from me and I stopped going to the pool. With my invisibility removed the tranquillity  had been tarnished. I was often lonely at university but never more so than when I was noticed and regarded as odd.

Thirty years later I was offered the opportunity to join a local gym with a small pool attached. Once again I started swimming regularly, length after length covered with my slow and graceless breast stroke; I can still use this activity to switch off and relax. Sometimes other users comment on the distance I travel or the time I spend in the water, but these days I do not care. This is how I choose to spend my time. If others wish to measure their own achievements against my slow progress then let them.

I have a friend who introduced me to the  Aquatic Ape Hypothesis; a theory that ancient man evolved as he did due to his relationship with water rather than the land (some reading on this is suggested in this post Sadness and science | E.J.Kay’s blog). I am no expert, but do find it interesting that so many people gain comfort from proximity to large bodies of water; picturesque locations by lakes, rivers or the sea are sought out for holidays or homes. Perhaps the benefits I gain from my therapeutic swims are built into my humanity.

I enjoy my regular often solitary swims a great deal, but see no reason to improve my technique. My visits to the pool are selfish undertakings, never designed to impress others. I enjoy watching the variety of visitors, guests and members who also use the facility, although I also relish the rare occasions when I have the pool to myself. I swim for pleasure, but still yearn for invisibility.

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Opinions and comments

Oh dear. I seem to have rattled a few cages with some of my recent posts. Although not my intention, it is an obvious risk when I write as I do. It is fine for me to say that this is my blog and I will write as I wish, but I put links to my posts on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed, thus offering them up to the people who have got to know me outside of the internet. It can be difficult to square my wish to write as openly as I can with my wish to be sensitive to the feelings of those who may recognise the people and events I refer to. Remember readers, this blog is a collection of my thoughts and opinions on a mix of random topics. Just as a conversation can reveal differences in views amongst friends, so my interpretation of events as put down here is likely to differ from how others may have experienced the same situation.

Another of the perils of writing such a personal blog is the risk of becoming narcissistic. I read this very funny post yesterday How To Write A Blog: 10 Obligatory Blog Posts Every Blogger Has To Write At Least Once | The Official How To Blog. which made me both laugh and cringe at my own guilt on a few of the points mentioned. I think we should all be able to laugh at ourselves from time to time. I will try hard not to take my writing too seriously; please feel free to do the same!

In keeping up with current affairs I do develop opinions on some serious topics, but rarely feel competent enough to comment immediately and directly. I seem to need time to mull over what I am thinking; to put my thoughts in some sort of order. Having written a general post on societies acceptance of women being at fault if they are sexually assaulted  (The unacceptable passing remark « neverimitate.), I read with interest the various newspaper comments and blog posts on the Steubenville case in America and the rape culture that is prevalent and accepted there. Two that stood out were I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person. | The Belle Jar. and Listen to Steubenville Because It Speaks | Banjos and Bordeaux. The apologists for the perpetrators of this crime make me despair, but at least there is now a debate going on. Let me know what you think of these posts.

I started this blog as a way of taming the jumble of thoughts that were rambling around inside my head. Just as I start my spring cleaning at home with a good clear out, so writing my thoughts down in this way is helping me to restore order; I have found it very therapeutic. It is always interesting to know what people think of what I write and I welcome the comments that I get, especially as the majority of them have been encouraging, constructive and reflective. I have had to put up with just the one troll but I guess that is another peril that can be hard to avoid if publishing publicly. Just as in the outside world most people will behave reasonably most of the time, so on a blog the vast majority of readers can be welcomed.

I don’t plan to stop writing and I do hope that people keep reading. I also realise that I have just written a blog post about writing a blog post which must count as one of my 10. I’m working my way through that list nicely.

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Learning to Blog

Twelve days into blogging and I am taking note of my behaviour. I started this as a therapy; as a means to exorcise the seemingly constant stream of conversation and discussion that was going on in my head and never got shared.

When I did have a real time, face to face conversation with a known person about any of this sort of stuff I never seemed to get across either the feelings or the meaning of what I was thinking. I have no idea if this is typical or unusual, but it was getting me down. Writing this blog has helped. I can think through and edit what I want to say. I am hoping that it comes across as I want it to; that it is real.

What I didn’t anticipate was how I would react after I had emptied my overfull head of those thoughts. I was doing this for me yet I started watching the blog stats; the number of new visitors, views, likes and follows offered a validation of what I was doing. I started to note what seemed to be of interest; the best time to publish; where the views were coming from.

I can’t say that any of this has affected what I write. I sit down at a quiet time of day with a soothing drink, put my feet up and log on. What I produce is what is in my head, not what I think will be read. I am still doing this for me. I find it interesting though that I do take note of how it is received. I generally have no idea who is reading, just the numbers. I have no idea what readers think, but I still like the fact that it is being read. I am not just writing and storing the document in my computers memory; I am publishing and it is being read. That is a satisfaction that I had not anticipated.

It will be interesting to see how my reader stats evolve as the novelty of posts from a known person diminish. Will I pick up new readers from shares, searches or tags? Will it matter?

Thus far the effort I have put in has been more than repaid. I have found writing to be like a sports massage for the mind. It still feels good to be read though.

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