Sometimes I think that the best piece of advice I have received in my life came from a fictional character I created myself. Strange, eh? In The Boy With The Thorn In His Side , Michael is often nudging Danny along by suggesting he ‘prove them wrong’. Now is not the time to go into who ‘they’ are, but I am sure you have your own ‘they’. I’m sure that whatever your passion, whatever your dream, there is or has been someone somewhere expecting you to fail.
When I was a teenager, I called them the Plan B Realists. They liked my Plan A, which was to become a writer. They smiled at it and nodded and thought it was sweet, but they didn’t think it was realistic or sensible. It wasn’t a real plan, they said. There is no money in it, they said. I tried to ignore them at the time but fear becomes ingrained. Not being successful, not being able to support yourself, not making your loved ones proud of you, becomes too much to risk. It took me a long time to realise life is about pleasing yourself, not other people, and that maybe all the Plan B Realists had Plan A’s too once, ones that they failed to follow.
As well as the ones who like to piss on your fireworks, I’m sure you’ve got a fair share of the eye-rollers too. You know the ones who basically change the subject if you talk about what you do. Fair enough. Then there are the ones who are so impossible to please, you could become the highest earner in the family, own a yacht, buy them a house and still be the person they just cannot see.
Michael’s words come back to me whenever I am feeling unsupported or ignored and whenever I experience doubt in my journey as a writer. The words stir a steely resolve inside my quivering belly and help hold me still. If you sometimes feel like no one is listening anyway and perhaps they never were, like no one sees you or remembers you, like your voice is too small, like it fades away before it even begins, then perhaps you could also take some advice from Michael and tell yourself to prove them wrong. And that really mean proving yourself right.
Even if it hurts to acknowledge it, and it’s like there is something loose and rattling inside of you that is scrunched up, and batting around from one side to the other, and it’s like you can’t breathe properly when you think about it, when you think about them – it’s like you’ve been running from something that wants to crash into you if you ever let it catch you up – try to remember this. That there might never have been intentional malice in their words or actions, just a carelessness with your soul. That maybe you are family who really shouldn’t be, that you are so different from each other that it makes it impossible to recognise what you see – Remember that maybe they did the best they could with all that they had, and that maybe they did better than their parents did with them, and remember that you will do better still.
You will never make your children feel less than wanted and valued and longed for, and you will never have favourites, those that shine and those you allow to fade, and you will always allow them their rightful dreams and be there by their side to guard them so that they are never lost to cold realism.
Maybe they weren’t there and didn’t care, maybe they turned their back or simply looked past you. Maybe you were not what they wanted, or not what they needed. Maybe they will see it one day when it is all too late. Maybe they won’t. Maybe one day all of your dreams will come true and you will finally be able to turn around and say look, I did it, I told you I could, and maybe they will still not care.
If they doubted you or mocked you, ignored you or neglected you, if they turned you away because they knew no better, then prove them wrong and do it well. Whatever it is, whoever you are, whatever your passion, do it anyway, and make it your life’s duty and purpose to prove them wrong. Do it anyway and do it well, and do it for yourself, and let their scorn and disinterest spur you to work ten thousand times harder than you would have without it. Let it be the fuel from which you draw the energy to keep going, to hold your head up high, to hear your voice getting surer and stronger. Let it make you harder and faster and brighter and smarter than you would be had you had all the love and support in the world.
Rise above. Move on, and may they choke on their words as you prove them all wrong.