Catherine, Aged 17

6 Apr

One of the downsides of being both a YA writer and secondary teacher is a constant reminder of one’s own teen years. I have a recurring nightmare in which I am forced to return to my own school, where I am made to teach but also take A-Levels at the same time (“Your French exam is tomorrow! And your class has been waiting for you for fifteen minutes!”). Argh!


(Me, somewhere around 17-18, sat on the sofa with my laptop…looking pretty much the same as I do now! Side note – crying because I have suddenly noticed the old green cushion next to me…*wipes away a tear*…don’t mind me…)

Anyway, next month it also happens to be my ten year anniversary of blogging – starting off on Livejournal, natch, the in thing to do in 2004, as documented in The Social Network. As such, I thought it might be fun to revisit 17-year-old me. What was I like ten years ago? Have I changed?


I was an introspective teenager, in many ways, more so than now. I spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about things – definitely too much – and I’d say that’s something I have worked hard on reducing over the last couple of years. I suspect I was also deeply irritating, although the patina of obnoxiousness I was wearing when I arrived in Year 7 had been mostly chipped off by the realities of life in a girls’ school by the time I reached Sixth Form.


I was just starting to forge my love of Classics, the subject I would go on to study at University. In fact, in my LJ entry for 9th June 2004, the date of my Greek Tragedy exam, I note that I ‘managed to use physis, aristeia, anagnorisis, polytropos but none of my other cool Greek phrases’. Luckily I had good teachers, who fostered my aptitude (‘I would rather mark one of your essays than chew my own hand off’ – real quotation right there). I also made myself take AS Maths, still one of my greatest achievements, because maths is definitely not my strong subject.

I was dabbling in writing but not fully committed. I had tackled NaNoWriMo for the first time in November 2003, with the infamous ‘Intelligent Hot Air Balloons’ novel, only reaching 27,000 words or thereabouts – but I had finally seen a project through to completion. Other ideas were dotted about in notebooks – a pregnant girl in a conquered land where guns could turn people into mist, a vampire cafe and a genetically modified couple escaping from their lab facility. Maybe I will revisit these – they certainly prefigure a lot of the themes of my current work. I also wrote a lot more poetry than I do these days, and plays too. I spent a lot of time on a play-by-post RPG, which I was fairly obsessed with, and this improved my writing a lot, especially when I had to react to events that I probably would not have written otherwise.

I liked playing around on the computer, especially picture editing (pics of Eric Bana, mainly…yeah, I had good taste). I played a lot of the Sims 2. Hmm. Not much change there.


I loved Dark Angel, The Tribe, Star Trek and pretty much any geeky shows in that genre. These being the days before catch-up or streaming, I had to tape stuff off the tv onto VHS if I was called to dinner in the middle (which happened fairly frequently). Honestly seems like the stone age now I look back on it…!

Reading was dominated by books for school – the Iliad, Washington Square and Spartacus crop up on my LJ. I had given up on Harry Potter by this time, and wasn’t reading much in the way of children’s literature any more. It would be a few years before I came back to YA.

Music has never really been a big part of my life, even less so back then, which I know is unusual for a teenager – but I did occasionally listen to the odd Sondheim musical or 60s classic, which I still love today. A few years earlier I had attempted to ‘become cool’ by forcing myself to listen to the complete Pepsi Chart Show every Sunday. The less said about that, the better!

Future Plans

I didn’t believe it was possible to be a professional author (which had been my plan for many years), so I was thinking about academia or maybe something in the Civil Service.

Love Life

This will be a short section. I had none. There was a brief glimmer of hope in July 04 when a guy told my friend he liked me, she set up a cinema visit, I stressed about which jeans to wear and then…he didn’t show up. Gutted. I’m not even going to go into the whole debacle that happened in the autumn of that year – honey, if he doesn’t even want to hold your hand, he is NOT THAT INTO YOU.

I guess that is the main thing I would go back and tell my teenage self, if I could. Although it was a major source of stress that I was seventeen and ‘never-been-kissed’ (then eighteen…then nineteen…), in the end it all worked out beautifully and I didn’t have to go through any of the messy break-ups and heartaches that come with early relationships. So – if you’re listening, seventeen-year-old me – chill out! You will soon be in an institution full to the rafters of nerdy, bookish types who wear sweater-vests, build robots and read Latin, and in the end you’ll go for the joker in the beanie hat who stays up till 2am with you watching stupid videos on youtube. Also, you will have the greatest male friends, who will pretty much be your non-romantic soul mates, and that is going to ROCK.

Ten Years On

Image (Me, at this exact moment, aged 27)

So, ten years on, I feel like I’m sort of the same person – I still like many of the things I did back then, and in many ways my current passions have grown from seeds that were sown at that very time. But at the same time, when I look back on those journal entries, I feel a great distance from that girl. Much of this distance is the natural gap that opens up during uni, gap year, becoming an actual working adult. I am by necessity less selfish, less lazy (okay, only a bit) and less introverted. I guess that is called growing up.

Still, it is nice to revisit her once in a while. I hope she continues to inspire me to write things she would have loved to read and plan lessons she would have loved to take part in. Catherine, aged 17 – thanks 🙂


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