My mind is my own! I am in control of what I think! I can decide what I do and how I live my life! Or can I? Whatever I was born with was soon over-laid with what other people wanted me to think. I was born with a sense of my masculinity, even as a baby. That did not last long. Parents, friends, teachers, film stars, colleagues all sought to tell me how to think and what to think. I thought they had good ideas so I listened to them. Was there anything left of me?
When I was eleven I was planning what Senior School to go to. There were alternatives for me to consider. The option from the state was either a grammar school or a secondary modern school, depending on whether I passed the 11+ exam. The grammar school was the better option. There were two other options which required me to pass special entrance exams. One of these was Manchester Grammar School (MGS), one of the best schools in England.
One day a teacher from another class came in to our class and asked us who was going to sit the exams for MGS. I was one of the few who put his hand up. The teacher looked at me and made a dismissive remark about what was I doing taking them. That hurt me a lot. She made the remark because my eldest brother failed the MGS exams and my other brother failed his 11+. What chance did I have?
I passed all five exams that I took that summer, possible because I was so angry at the teacher. I went to MGS and at least had good quality conditioning.
Problems arose at MGS because I had this remaining feeling that I was not good enough, even though I had shown otherwise. I had a residual view from my teachers that I was not an intellectual star, that I was there under sufference.
I realise now that this was just not true, but because I believed it at the time I made it true. Others conditioned me to believe that I struggled to understand what I was learning and that I would not amount to anything. I accepted this view.
I confirmed this when I failed to get a place at University when I left school at the age of eighteen. All my schooling had been a waste and all I had done was prove that the teacher, seven years before, was right.
I went into the theatre to do some physical work while I worked out what I was going to do in life.
In time I became a rebel and started to refuse to accept what people told me I could or could not do. I forged ahead and decided to make up my own mind. I became a designer and explored my creative side. I joined trade unions to explore my ability to discuss intellectual issues. I became a mathematician and explored the depths of pure thinking. I became a writer and put all this together into what I regard as the powerful intellectual basis of my life.
I am still seen as a rebel by my family. They see me going beyond the boundaries and forging a life which was not in the ‘plan’. I have come to love being a rebel because of how other people react to it.
This series of posts is a case in point. Many people think I am mad to expose myself like this. Yet when I get comments from readers such as the following one, I know I am doing the right thing.
“I have been really liking what you have been writing! I always do, I enjoy your perspective and ability to write about all of the experience of being a man, from raw sexuality to rarefied spirituality. And being nearly 50, I am relating to what you are writing very much, and am doing some similar changing myself. Always appreciate your insight and expression!”
The key, though, to looking at my mind is to understand what I have done with it. Come back tomorrow to find out.
- What did you believe about yourself when you were young?
- What direction did your life take as a result?
- How could you re-think your approach to what you think?