Zero to Hero prompt – why did you choose this quote?
‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no-one alive who is Youer than You.’
I’ll be honest, I didn’t spend very long looking for a quote; I googled ‘quotes’ and this one instantly caught my eye. I dislike quotes that try to be too profound, finding that they often collapse under the weight of meaning ascribed to them; they end up meaning nothing. This quote (from a piece called ‘Birthday’) doesn’t try to be very meaningful. The wonderful rhymes of Dr Zeuss transport me instantly back to my childhood – where I was at once safely swaddled, yet completely free – and this particular rhyme reminds me of when all that was required of me was to ‘just be you’. Like most of the advice my Mum gave me, I think this served me well until I was about 12. It was then that I finally took my nose out of a book, started caring about what other people thought of me and made some attempts to infiltrate the social world of secondary school. I approached this with all the diligence that I had previously approached my reading, swallowing back any words longer than two syllables and learning the judicious use of swear-words, in order to avoid the dreaded accusations that I was a ‘snob’.
I was rewarded with a whole new world of friendships, intense as teenage friendships are. I hung around with a group of girls who became like a second family. I was fascinated by them; I learned them like I learned my homework, read them over and over like I read my favourite books, copied them as they copied me – swapping looks, phrases, make-up tricks, ideas. So many ideas, about life and love, but with horizons so small…These girls are a part of me, each one of them a plank of my identity, and for a long time they blotted out the horizon.
And when I moved away, squinted at the horizon from a different perspective, altered myself to fit different circumstances, wondered who on earth I was – what could ‘just be you’ mean? To which of these carefully constructed identities could anyone be referring?
Well, the amalgamation of all of them, I guess. In this, my 40th year, I finally feel as if I am managing to integrate these scattered pieces of me; these people and places and memories that coalesce together to form a sort-of whole person…So that, maybe on my next birthday, I can swaddle myself in a Dr Zeuss quote, and it will be meaningful to say to myself ‘Today you are You, it is truer than true, that no-one alive is Youer than You.’