As a fresh-faced 18 year old in 2009, I remember being racked with nerves when Goldsmiths university summoned me for an interview at their south east London campus. Until then, I’d spent my entire life in the small rural county of Shropshire, where literally nothing exciting has happened since Charles Darwin was born there in 1809 – and no one ever mentions that he escaped the wilderness at the earliest opportunity. I wasn’t cool and I wasn’t well-travelled, or even well-read. How was I supposed to impress a bunch of academics in the big city?
It was my Mum, as always, who gave me the most valuable advice: “just be yourself.” So, instead of pretending to be an aloof artiste (as I had practiced, using Meryl sodding Streep as a muse) – I just accepted myself as an excitable, little goon. And it worked.
A mere 5 years later, however, being yourself isn’t quite so straightforward. Social media allows us to create entirely different personas from our real world selves and it’s easy to get our various identities confused. On Instagram, for example, we have filters to appear glamourous 24/7 – and you can crop out that damp patch on your bedroom ceiling. But the truth is that nobody is round-the-clock fabulous. We all have those moments when we trip slightly on our way to work or we accidently spit on our crush mid-conversation.
Life is full of not-so-glitzy events and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s how we react to those situations that make up our true selves. Those situations are the stuff of good conversation and those reactions are what can make us seem either loathsome or adorable. You might look stunning with a Sierra filter but I’d find it hard to be attracted to someone who can’t deal with – and laugh at – life’s imperfections.
I guess I’m writing this blog because it took me 21 years to realise that it’s okay for people to know that I’m never going to be cool. I can be geeky, vain, crude, partial to pop culture and excessively polite. I don’t know about cool bands or cool clothes and I certainly don’t spend my weekends at cool warehouse parties. It’s just not me. And since I stopped trying to be someone else’s idea of awesome, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.
So my point is this: image brand the fuck out of yourself on Twitter et al. but never forget to be a real life, bona fide, full-of-flaws person. If you’re really brave you could even take a chance and be a little less perfect on the internet, especially as there’s a generation right behind us who are going to have some pretty unrealistic expectations of the world.
Life is more than being cool and, to end on a hearty cliché, nobody does you better than you.