Thursday, 3 May 2018

Compassionate Precision

My dentist informed me laughingly on a routine visit I had a teenage mouth. I laughed along whilst thinking: my outward appearance is more questionable, just like Jane Fennel in Philip Larkin's A Girl in Winter who could easily be mistaken for twelve when she's twenty-five. And like her, that sullen, bored girl is still present. Although why I was ever bored I cannot really say. Bored isn't really the right term either for what I felt in holidays; it was more of a weighty restlessness that I carried around with me and which I'm occasionally still burdened by. It sits on my shoulders and causes my brow to furrow as if a tractor's been ploughed along it. Back then I was never short of things to do and yet even in the doing that feeling was there, no matter my surroundings or company, because time seemed endless and futile. At least that's what I suppose because reflection – a looking down the years - alters such remembrances a little. That feeling hasn't gone away, but I don't know that it's the same.
I think Philip Larkin's Jane is the closest I've come to a self-understanding and feeling understood by a character, not because we're similar or one-dimensional (though I'm sure one or two of my few acquaintances if they know the novel might say both are true), but because she says stuff my thoughts have echoed. Her predicament, pre her marriage proposal, is my own: Just because I don't see the point in doing anything, it doesn't mean I see any point in doing nothing.” I don't, I have never, however, thought that for me marriage would be the solution. Always for me it comes back to an earlier point: “What about women that don't want careers?”
Marriage surely falls into that bracket: it's work of a sort that you might not want, that might not fulfil you, that make actually make you more dissatisfied, and which if you exclude divorce you have less of a release from – it's easier to leave a paid job or be sacked. Of course, everything I've just expressed is more in line with dated views where marriage offered escape as well as security; still, even today I say there's a relevancy as it would be better if marriage was not gone into to put to bed another dilemma which has gone unvoiced yet presses the mind all the same to take dubious actions.
Flitting from job to job is tiresome, but feeling inadequate in one is an esteem destroyer. That view too could be applied to relationships, as well as people's perceived notions of what you are and what you're about. Life, as they say (who? I don't know), never works out quite as you pictured it. I had wanted a career, I just never found out what it should be in. Ultimately. And I didn't have the mettle to reach the final level of any ideas I did chase, not that I didn't try; it's just I was never one to compromise my ideals.
University failed me and not I it because of the lifestyle you would have had to partake in, and where the first year would have been a repeat of my final year at college. I saw that for what it was immediately though the decision to bail left a lump in my throat for a very long time. I've committed and then realised nobody values loyalty. I've performed over and above my duty and been taken for granted. I've shown competence and ended up with more responsibility and no reward for my trouble; presumably the reward is the position of trust, yet the added stress soon exceeds that initial inflation of ego.
Everything eventually hits sour notes like a tune I've lost patience in playing for a thousandth time, or deliberately play carelessly because I don't hold the same (or any) hopes as I did before when inexperience made me strive for perfection.
I've cut, I've snipped a little more and then kept on snipping because to my eye the line is crooked. But the questions others put to you, as Katherine Lind does to Jane, in a helpful spirit are discouraging because not being in it they cannot grasp the true awfulness of the situation – that these avenues they're suggesting have been considered, even tested, and all have been found wanting in one regard or another. Sometimes their incomprehension feels insulting, although they like you are feeling their way and haven't got a mind to make up.

Picture credit: Philip Larkin statue, sculptor Martin Jennings