I’d like to think I’m fairly OK with myself as a human being (although the amount of qualifiers in that sentence would beg to differ). I have a pretty good sense of who I am and what I’m about, I like my style and I have, rightly or wrongly, been called “cool” on at least one occasion. All in all, Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, as she stands today, is reasonably alright – but it wasn’t always that way.
One of my dad’s favourite stories to tell – and, indeed, he cracked this one out in his wedding speech – is the story of when I was five, and he and my mum were called into school because, in the teacher’s words: “I know Chloe likes to show affection, but she keeps hugging the other children and they don’t like it.” I have an aunt who loves to regale me with stories of when I was little and I enjoyed being naked, even at the most inappropriate of family moments. These are not stories I cherish. It seems Chloe circa 1996 was a lot less reserved than she is today, and these cringe-worthy stories are probably why.
But it didn’t end there; I grew up leaving a trail of embarrassing moments behind me. I tried to fit in with the cool kids and fell miserably short. I decided that blue eyeshadow and wearing all of your bracelets at once was a good idea (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). I went to my first, proper teenage disco (it was in a club and everything) and I slipped and fell in front of everyone on the dance floor. I made jokes that weren’t funny. I went along with opinions that weren’t my own. Now I look into the past, and all I can do it cringe.
And sometimes I get really angry with past Chloe. I want to go back to that little girl who kept hugging people and give her a shake. I want to find that nerd in high school and scream, “Why can’t you be normal?” My Facebook “On This Day” timeline makes me want to go back in time and punch myself. Why couldn’t I be the fairly acceptable person I am now, back then? Except, that’s the point; I would never be the person I am now if it wasn’t for those embarrassing moments.
I think we all look into the past and cringe; the dodgy outfits, the awkward romantic moments, the things we said that we wish we could take back. But imagine yourself now if you hadn’t gone through all the things you went through. Imagine you always got everything you wanted. Imagine you did everything right. Imagine you were the coolest kid in class and everyone worshipped you – what kind of horrible monster must you be today? No empathy for anyone who made a mistake. No real friendships with people who love you despite your flaws. No strength of character because you hadn’t been through the embarrassment and come out the other side. I think I owe past Chloe quite a lot.
Whenever I meet anyone now who’s arrogant or rude or, let’s just say it, a massive prat, one of my first thoughts is, “Who raised you?” Haven’t these people ever been told no? Haven’t they ever suffered through puberty? Hasn’t life knocked them down at least once, that they are such smug and terrible humans as they are now? I insist that stories about the awkward kid I was – the over-hugger, the frequent nudist – aren’t really about me because I was still a kid; I was still figuring things out. But if those things helped me to not be a prat later on in life; to develop compassion and understanding and a strong sense of self, then I accept, own and thank God for every one of those ridiculous, embarrassing and cringe-worthy moments.
So thank your younger self for being an idiot back then, and paving the way for the person you are now. Dig out your photos of bad haircuts and display them with pride. Remember the other kids who made you feel small and smile. Wear your past misgivings as a badge of honour. A million, tiny, embarrassing moments have led to you being you – and you’re nowhere near being done having them – but the good news is: it only gets better from here.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti