'You're a mental,' the Romanian receptionist at work told me.
'I'm A mental?' I replied.
'Yes. You're a mental.'
She had a fair point. Mental as a noun. I was stood outside of the building wearing over-sized sunglasses and a bright yellow headscarf printed with horses, rolled and bowed so that it tied just off-centre at the top of my head. It was a style not dissimilar to a Botswanan lady detective.
I'd told her my decision to wear such attire- coupled with a long-sleeved, floor-length black dress that arguably looked like it was stolen from a Deacon or similar- was based solely around the fact that I'd decided For Serious that I wanted to pursue my PhD. In the university of my imagination, PhD students wear headscarves.
'You're a mental.'
That was three weeks ago. Since then, change has been underfoot. I knew it was coming. I saw friends from adventures past recently, and I said the exact same thing. I know that the wind beneath my sails is shifting, but I don't know yet quite how. Is that a wanky thing to say? No, I was told. It was A Laura Thing to say.
It's on my CV that I am as happy counting the stars in the sky and meditating to birdsong as I am doing absinthe with strangers called Marta and making misguided decisions about boys. I just tend to do the hippie shit in private.
The hippy inside is beating the drum of my heart to get a voice of her own.
It started with an external shift. I've had no shame in tweeting my wardrobe daily, from men's leather waistcoats and fuchsia lipstick to yellow trousers worn with turquoise tee shirts. Necklaces with elephants the size of my palm have featured heavily, as have black army boots worn with everything, no matter how fancy. And we can play the game where we argue that fashion doesn't matter but you'd lose, because sometimes having bright red lips makes me write better and there's no disputing the facts.
I'll admit that last week my s7 year-old student asked me if I had come as a clown.
I think that for a minute there, I thought I had to be a Proper Teacher with a Proper Job and wear suit jackets and not say vagina so much. And THAT is what has made Rome shit. It isn't Rome's fault. IT WAS MINE. CULPA MIA.
There. I said it. Let's move on.
I spent an hour on the phone to my brother the other night. He told me he was reading a book about how to think better, and I was all, how to THINK better? And he was like, Yeah. I'm just trying to learn stuff. I want to be a better person. And that confused me for a minute, like, there's a book on that? And then I understood that fulfilling your potential is all about pursuing what interests you for the simple fact that it interests you. Not for a job. Not for a boy. Just because. Like Steve Jobs said, my brother added.
Well. That was it. I was Googling and Amazon-ing and Internet-ing in a frenzy comparable only to the time I met Alexander McCall Smith and couldn't speak beyond commenting on the cucumber sandwiches. What am I interested in? I asked myself, and the obvious answer was writing. But I have a library on writing. What I wanted was something that would feed into that, but also be a means to its own end because that was the whole point of the hippy sodding exercise.
I ordered three books: one on modern feminism, one on vegetarianism, and one on creativity. When that package arrives at work I really will feel like the liberal lesbian my father frequently accuses me of being.
DAD. It doesn't stop there.
I also brought a notebook, and another fancy pen, and on the front page on the notebook I wrote THE LITTLE BOOK OF CREATIVE and then underneath wrote my name because every notebook should have your name on the first page. It means, THIS IS FOR ME. It marks the territory of the pages as your own.
Austin Kleon writes that to be an artist we have to filter our influences. I follow this in my friendship groups religiously in terms of positivity: the only people I keep close are 'yes' people, who do things and follow their dreams and make stuff happen.
Kleon says to be good artists we have to do the same with a creative influences: read, read, read and from that reading decide what we want to 'keep' and what we want to disregard. The keeping stuff needs a notebook and will help us be better at life if we write it all down to remind us.
So. Me and my ridiculous list habit and crazy headscarves and new books now have a Little Book of Creative where I keep all my ideas and quotations that I come across and keep track of my 'Yes, and...' bucket list because POTENTIAL!
AND IT GOES ON. I've started taking a copy of the blog post into adult English lessons with me, and forcing students to be excited about it. And once these Italian businessmen and housewives and teenagers see past the over-excited hand-gestures and the high-fives we read it together and everybody says the same thing. I'M GOING TO BUY A CREATIVE NOTEBOOK ON THE WAY HOME.
I'm a mental. And it's contagious.