Chapter 21 » 21.19

Knowing and accepting ourselves

When I left school I set out into the world determined that nothing as small as the Society of Friends would hold me. ‘I want the real world’, I said. ‘Friends are good people, aunts and uncles and cousins, they are friends of the family to whom I must always be polite. They do not drink or smoke or swear, they do not lose their tempers. They do not love money, they do not worship success (well, only a little bit), they do not compete, they do not gamble, they do not fight. They do not do what they want to do. If they want to do something very much they deeply suspect it is not the right thing to do. But I am not like that at all. I would like to drink and smoke, to make money, to be successful. I want to fight and to win; I want to please myself, to enjoy myself, to be myself. I am talented and clever and malicious; I will escape, for I am clearly not a Quaker, and find out what it is I am. I am no-one’s daughter and no-one’s granddaughter’, I said defiantly, ‘I am myself.’ And I marched down Shaftesbury Avenue waving my banner with only a casual glance at Westminster Meeting House.

What I am telling is a classic story but we must admit that every cliché contains profound truth and a story is classic because so many people recognise it as true. ‘Father’ I said, ‘give me my inheritance and I will go out and seek a fortune.’ So I took my inheritance and went out and spent it. When it was all gone I came to myself and, finding myself somewhat diminished, faced with demands I found difficult to fulfil, I went to meeting.

‘Here I am’, I said.

‘That’s all right.’

‘Just for a bit of a sit-down.’

‘Whatever you need.’

‘You mustn’t expect anything from me,’ I said, ‘I can only bring a need.’

‘Whatever you have.’

Dorothy Nimmo, 1979

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