When, precisely, does one arrive at the place called ‘grown up’?
Eighteen? Twenty one? Or some other important milestone? Buying toilet bleach? Saying no to that fourth glass of wine because you’ve ‘got an early start in the morning’?
For me, it’s always been a career thing. Which is why, when two e-mails arrived in my in-box yesterday, my ‘grownupness’ – for want to a sharper term – sprung to mind.
They were, in fact, the same e-mail, forwarded by two correspondents, one my literary agent, Andrew, the other my co-ordinating lecturer, Nick – he who oversees my one-morning-a-week-in-term-time professional alter ego as a Creative Writing tutor at Cardiff University.
The e-mail was a request from our esteemed National Service Broadcaster, here in Wales, for ‘expert women’ to apply for a place at what looked like an exciting opportunity; a woman-centric masterclass in media – in radio and TV broadcasting, presenting and contributing, plus lots of ‘networking’ opportunities, to boot.
I was duly excited. After all, this was prime LBL territory, wasn’t it? I’ve dabbled in telly, I can network like an exocet missile and I’ve been popping up on BBC Radio Wales for years.
Yes, my day job is writing, and writing, and – yup – writing, but drag me from my crumb-strewn and fairy-lit burrow and I’m like a Duracell bunny – go me!
But was I ‘expert’ enough? Serious enough? Inclined-to-smart-separates enough?
Most of all, was I grown up enough to do this?
For guidance, I harked back to my childhood. What did I want to be when I grew up?
Lots of things. A Vet. A biologist. A marine biologist (blame Jacques Cousteau). An advertising person (cleverly combining wordcraft with art, see?).
A meteorologist. A designer of greeting cards (whaattt?). An actress (hmmm… it was a ‘difficult’ phase, that. Encouraged by a friend’s father. Who said he would pay for me to go to Rada which, at the time, seemed like the best bit of philanthropy, like, EVER. But looking back… well, maybe not quite that).
An author. An author. And thrice more, an author. And belatedly – this thought struck me while becalmed at Barclays Bank – a Blue Peter presenter.
God! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? I’d be perfect!
It was a conviction that never left me. Though my authorly ambitions burned most brightly (and still do) I also harbour the conviction that, had age not withered me ever so slightly, I’d have made a cracking Blue Peter presenter.
After all, I’d been on it as a child (as you’ll know, if you read me regularly) I could cut, stick and staple with the best of them, and though I might baulk at the idea of leaping out of speeding planes or, indeed, into Victorian sewers with a personality that was Tiggerish to the point of inciting violence, I embodied a BPP like no-one else I knew.
And clearly – CLEARLY – I still think that. I must do, because within seconds of the e-mails arriving (within seconds of each other, too – wasn’t that a sign?) I was on the website, scanning the criteria, mentally ticking boxes.
‘Passionate’. Tick. ‘2 minute piece to camera’. Easy tick, that one.
‘Bring your subject to life’. Tick. ‘Convey enthusiasm’. Big tick.
Within seconds I was on it, pulling my CV from its computer folder, dusting it down – it doesn’t travel much, only to book proposals, really – and planning the whats and whys and wherefores of my application talk.
And then I stopped. Because that word ‘expert’ bugged me. Did I qualify as an expert in my field?
I so obviously do – I have 35 books registered with the Public Lending Right office, don’t I?
I’m also – not boasting, just saying so, to convince myself – a 12 times Sunday Times bestselling author now. Plus I teach it, too – with plenty of that ‘passion and enthusiasm’. And yet, and yet… Do I really feel like I should be there? Feel clever enough, established enough, grown up enough?
The short answer, and one that’ll be familiar to women everywhere, is no. Not quite. Sort of. Um. Er.
I told Pete I might not apply because I already have the best job, EVER; that I was rather too busy with it to attend fancy ‘meeja’ masterclasses. But the truth is that I’d MAKE time, because I think I’d be good at it. But do I feel worthy of a place on it? Not sure…