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When I was a Child (Collab With Elm)

Dear Lau,
Part of me is so glad you never knew me as a child but the other part wishes that more people knew me how I was: irritating but curious, strange but unique and a little girl who asked too many questions, too often. I think I’ve lost a part of myself, as we so often do when we grow up. I’d like to keep that part alive, even just to you in a post.

I grew up in a little suburb town (I still live there), going to a school only about 3 minutes’ walk from my house. From shortly after birth, I’ve been almost completely blind and I was told I was a very quiet child at first, constantly listening. In nursery and pre-school, I used to believe that everyone was just like me and I couldn’t tell you when I realised that wasn’t true. All I know is that growing up not seeing left its mark on me; I can’t escape that. Saying that, it wasn’t actually an integral part of my childhood.

When I was in primary school, I went to the small school by my house and met a friend there who I still call one of my best today. Along the way I learned how to read, speak and I built a personality. Perhaps that personality wasn’t confident, wasn’t looked at with particular interest by the majority of the people there or was considered odd but what it was was loud, full of an internal energy and imaginative. I used to play these made-up games with a friend in Year 2 and, in Year 6, we remembered the old times and laughed about it. Though I haven’t met him in about 7 years, those games shaped my childhood and let me create worlds in my mind.

One of my earliest memories was spending time in the house of my two oldest friends, one my age and the other the year below. They didn’t like me too much then: I was annoying, woke them up at 6 in the morning and sung far too loudly. However, as we got older, my best memories were with them. I wore matching dresses with one of them, sang songs we made up on the piano and made fun of each other. We still do all of those things. They, along with a girl I’d met at primary school, stuck by me and convinced me that I wasn’t worth ignoring and that I was important to at least a few people.

My mum lived in Malaysia until she was around 21 and for about 2 years of my childhood, she went back there and to Singapore to work. I won’t lie to you, that affected me: as my dad worked, we had au-pairs who became like distant older sisters to me when they were there and often, people can’t and won’t understand why it was necessary. However, when I visited my mum in Singapore, I got to know a new country: my sister and I played together sometimes, or annoyed each other: one time, she made me stay up to prove to me the Tooth Fairy didn’t exist. I still remember weirdly specific things about my time over there – I’d see my mum every 6 weeks or so – like the fact that her apartment was on the 7th floor. It awakened a little love I have for travelling, along with a trip to France and later, Portugal, with the family of those same two girls I spoke about.

After my mum returned from Malaysia, my parents divorced. Mum bought a new house; dad stayed in our old one and I alternated between staying with one or the other. A year later, my dad married a Thai woman (we’d gone over there a few times). Thai weddings are really different to ‘traditional’ weddings over here and it was amazing to me to see the culture come alive – that’s a post or five for another day. So much change was happening but in my little way, I coped, taking things in my stride although I still got confused about why things were how they were. My friendships strengthened after that but sometimes, I’d escape into my own reality of books, stories and later, music.

As I didn’t watch TV a lot, I read. Ordering huge braille books from the library, it’d take me a while to get through but I absolutely devoured them, the books cultivating my love of writing. I loved my friends and the ones who I’d only recently got from the visually impaired community, not realising all of these people would shape me so profoundly. I’d always been a sort of actress, disappearing into my own dreams and that was what I took from my childhood: a wish to create, to change the world with a whisper. My loud, yelling personality had calmed into something no less bright.

I’m not sure I’ve totally captured how I was but that’s the beauty of this. You can’t sum up a person in a few paragraphs or lines of text. By giving you a glimpse into my childhood – the personality of it – I have hopefully let you know a little of how I grew up. There are plenty of other things that have made me into the person I am today which come later but for now, these are just the foundations.

I can’t wait to read your post; thank you so much for letting me collaborate with you! This has certainly made me go on a journey, not so much back in time but into my own thoughts.

From Elm 🙂

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