"To win was everything to me."
Stefanie's hobby growing up gave her a taste for sequins and success. When her twenties weren't quite what she expected she took a whole new tactic - to disappear. In a funny and cockle warming piece Stefanie tells us how she has learned to accept her vulnerabilities. She still has the sequins.
Writer and performer Stefanie Moore spends some of her week teaching English and Drama and the rest of her time with her two year old son. Over the years she has left a trail of half finished scripts, songs and story ideas on old bus tickets and receipts in the murky depths of myriad handbags; but she is trying to move beyond this. She is just starting to refer to herself (quietly and in her own head) as a writer.
She is part of the Worker Bees Writing Collective based in Manchester and an alumna of the Write Like A Grrrl course and has just had her first piece of work published on Dear Damsels.In her spare time, she does yoga and meditates and when no one else is looking she reads recipe books while eating cheap ramen noodles. She tweets at @StefanieMoore3 and her blog is nefny.wordpress.com
I think, looking back, that hobbies have a different place in your life when you’re a child, particularly if you’re a girl. It’s encouraged for you to become obsessed with a thing, be it gymkhanas, friendship bracelets or New Kids on the Block – all popular choices when I was of the age. My hobby was a little bit more niche and it quicly became all encompassing; it could be ruthless, it could hurt and it involved lots of lycra.
I trained, three or four times a week, in a mouldy Scout hut and then spent my weekends in drafty, creaky church halls in the North East competing in dance competitions, or festivals as they were raterh quaintly called. I would be plastered with blue eyeshadow, hair gel and sequins and then would hurl my legs and arms around. The music was bits of Procol Harum, Acker bilk, Gypsy Kings were being forced like cheap meat through a mincer, out of a poorly maintained speaker system. And this in the era of cassette tapes, can you imagine the mist of anxiety surrounding this fragile ribbon of music? Because to win was everything for me from the age of 7 to 14, when I moved on to other age appropriate obsessions like drinking Diamon White and squeezing the spots onmy arms till I went dizzy with concentration.
Time changes nothing however; I can still recall standing there, knees locked with impatience and excitement and frustration as the adjudicator would read through the pros and cons of our performances, in agony until my number was called out, to look shocked, step forward, curtsey so deeply that it looked like my hip had just collapsed and accept the prize – a medal, preferably gold with a picture of dancing lady or the Humber Bridge on it.
My sister likes to remind me and often , that I was unbearable and I was in hindsight. I was precocious, self important and pretty damn vengeful if I didn’t win: a product of my environment. So my I look back on my talent with some shame rather than pride. My knack at smiling and gyrating to Kenny G at the same time is not what I’m thinking about when I think about what I have achieved in my life. What I’ve achieved, what I’m achieving after a long fought battle, is the acceptance, nay the joy in un-competing.
I was so used to winning that I expected my entire life to follow that same pattern. That if I simply worked very hard at something, wore lots of make up and had something or someone to compete against, that I would ‘succeed’. Needless to say, I went into acting and after suffering countless casting rooms of being the one of many girls with brown hair and blue eyes reading for the part of ‘junkie’ in the Bill, or ‘ footballer’s wife’ in Hollyoaks, I began to realise that I was not the only person who had cottoned on to this particular strategy. I was in London, not Cleethorpes. Having brown hair and blue eyes which I could move around a lot on cue was not my unique. I was not even the best at this partiuclar brand of unique. I didn’t get many parts and here endeth my twenties, dear listener, a time of real crashing failure as I perceived it. I decided that the best way to handle these setbacks was to disappear in my thirties, make the most non threatening choices that i could. I would drift between profession – I mean you could name pretty much any career and I have spent at least a day on a training course to do it – but as soon as I felt any challenge, I would walk away – I replaced my sense of invincibility with such a fear of any form of vulnerability, that I would quit and move on to the next ‘opportunity’.
Getting into a practice of mindfulness meditation has changed my life. I recognise now that I let my thought patterns sit at the control seat for most of my twenties. I missed out on friendships, adventures and experiences because I was in a constant state of comparing myself to others – and ultimately finding myself lacking. My one wish would be to go back in time, visit my mid-twenties self and have a good heart to heart (and cuddle). I imagine that I’m not the only person listening to this who would wish for something similar. But I’m working at making amends - I do a bit of teaching, I look after my son and I write, sometimes badly and sometimes well and these are things that make me happy. I think what I have achieved (and like all good personal alchemy, I don’t know quite how or when I achieved it) is self acceptance and the growing ability to be vulnerable, to fail, to be happy when others do well, something which would have left me as snarling, blubbering mess in my twenties. I’m about to read my work at a spoken word event – it will be my first time on stage for over a decade – and however it goes, I will enjoy the experience of being surrounded by a supportive posse of lady writers who will listen to me and I look forward to offering the same in return. I still believe in the power of red lipstick and sequins but I also believe in the power of sharing good thoughts and laughing at myself when it doesn’t go to plan. The dusty medals and Kenny G are safely in the attic.