by Lena Green.
a double expresso – without water.
We didn’t do a lot of imagining where I came from – fantasy didn’t exist in bombed-out south London.
Life was daily. Life was routine. Life was getting to see tomorrow. Life was not marked by success, but by survival.
So when the careers officer said, ‘what would you like to do when you leave school?’ I failed to respond.
My query was with the word ‘like’. What would ‘I like’ to do? Was he bluffing me? Did I really, aged fourteen and on the cusp of leaving school, have a choice?
I paused and then said, ‘I want to be a teacher.’
He rocked back in masculine laughter. He lay down his gold-tipped fountain pen, and said, ‘No. No my child! Let me remind you. You are a secondary modern girl! You are not intelligent enough for higher education – it’s not designed for girls like you!’
I remained silent. I smiled because that’s what I had been taught to do, but deep down in the crevasses of my inner self, I knew that my immature utterance was no vision of fantasy.
I left the room – convinced I would prove him wrong.
I refused the polite subservient convention of thanking him for his advice. What did ‘he’ know of my so-called intelligence? What did ‘he’ know of me?
I left knowing that I would prove him wrong: that higher education, that teaching ‘was’ for me. From our short meeting I determined that I would grasp my future with both hands – that ‘I’ could make a difference for future girls like me .
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