A blog dedicated to the creative output of R.P. Brown ryebreadcreative@gmail.com

Pick a Direction

“Come in Sally, welcome. Sally Francis, I don’t believe that we’ve been formally introduced but I’ve been hearing your name a lot recently and I’m sure your well aware of who I am?”

“Yes sir”

“Good. Now please take a seat. We have a number of things to discuss. I was wondering, do you have an inkling as to why I’ve asked to see you this afternoon?”

“No sir.”

“Now, Sally you must have some idea. Have a guess.”

“Em, my grades maybe?”

“Yes your academic performance has been a bit erratic of late to say the least. You’re clearly a clever girl, more than capable of getting the grades when something sparks your interest or so I’m told. However, we can’t pick and choose the tasks we undertake in life. What would the world be like if mothers decided to stop feeding their children just because they didn’t feel like it?”

“I’m not sure I want children.”

“Life has a habit of changing our minds for us. The minds of the young are so fickle, let me tell you. Now don’t roll your eyes at me young lady, I’m speaking from experience. We’re going off topic. Your grades are not the primary reason I’ve called you in today. You know yourself that you are not fulfilling your potential and I’m sure your parents and teachers have informed you as such numerous times. No, nothing more I can say on that account. The reason I’ve called you in today is to speak with you about the English assignment that you submitted last week.”

“What about it sir?”

“It was to be a creative writing piece as I understand it.”


“What did you think about the work you submitted?”

“I liked it. I worked quite hard.”

“Quite hard?”


“Do you think you were creative?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Not much of a plot or a story.”

“No, not really.”

“Did you think you were being clever?”

“I’m not sure what you mean sir.”

“Were you being rebellious? Funny? Was it a cry for help?”

“I just wrote what I thought.”

“What you wrote was hardly appropriate for the task. I’ve highlighted a few paragraphs, let me read you a few extracts of your essay, “Pick a Direction”, was it called? I’d like you to expand a little more on some of your ‘thoughts’. Your first paragraph for example.
‘Pick a direction, any direction at all. The world is your oyster. This is what they tell you and teach you from a young age. Some things they don’t think you’re capable of and they encourage you to choose something more realistic. I find this utterly suffocating, like being thrown into the middle of the ocean and told to swim in any direction. Whoever invented the phrase sink or swim was a genius. Sometimes I think in a world of supposed possibilities, how can I possibly choose? The only thing I feel like doing is sinking but that’s not an option I’m told.’
Now Sally, I’d like you to explain why you decided to write this as your first paragraph. Are you inventing a character? Speak up child. You must learn to articulate in this world.”

“I just put the pen to paper and that’s what came out.”

“If we all just said what we thought, what kind of world would we live in?”

“An honest one I suppose.”

“Don’t be smart with me Miss Francis. Where is creative element in your work? The narrative?”

“Those are my words, they came from me and I wrote them down. I would have thought that constituted creative writing.”

“You would, would you? I think a diary would be a more suitable home for your kind of writing. Let me draw your attention to another passage.
‘The phrase, it will all turn out for the best, is one I loath. In order for anyone to know what the best scenario is, they would need to know every alternative outcome and come to an objective conclusion as to which was the most beneficial. This is clearly impossible, the phrase merely highlights one of the many coping mechanisms of humanity. In order to live with the decisions we make, we delude ourselves, choosing to believe in a higher power guiding us throughout our existence, whether that be God, fate or destiny. What if one cannot delude oneself? Are we functioning human beings? We must live with the horrible pain staking truth, that our decisions have consequences which are often undesirable.’
My dear you are too young to be so cynical about life. The fact of the matter is that we all have to choose our path so to speak, no matter how daunting that may be. Often it ends up picking us, small decisions, easier decisions shape the rest of our lives. We seize an opportunity here, move to be with a loved one there and before we know it we find ourselves looking back satisfied with our progress and at ease with the person we are. We cannot let fear rule us or we may find ourselves living with our own underachievement for the rest of our lives. Can I ask what subjects do you enjoy? Which ones do you most look forward to?”

“I like woodwork.”


“Yes, I’m working on a four piece table and chairs set for my final project this year. Mr Anderson seems very pleased with my progress.”

“Yes I’m sure he is but surely woodwork is more of a hobby, is it not? There isn’t much money left in homemade furniture or prestige. I think as a pastime it’s brilliant. A way to relieve stress, quite therapeutic but isn’t there a more academic subject you enjoy? One that uses the brains you’ve been given?”

“Em, not really. I suppose I enjoy English. Geography is not bad.”

“My colleague, Mrs McFergus, informs me that you’re quite the chemistry wiz. Have you considered a scientific career? A pharmacist perhaps? Very respectable choice.”

“Actually I was thinking of giving it up next year.”

“Nonsense! You must at least reflect on it my dear. Such a pity otherwise. What about business? Plenty of places for a bright spark, could be challenging. Wouldn’t you relish the task?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why ever not? So many opportunities, management, marketing, PR.”

“Well I will give it some thought, sir.”

“Do, do. I have just one more paragraph to read before I let you go. I only mention the matter because I worry that the connotations are quite serious. Towards the end of your essay, you state;
‘I cannot own this sense of pointlessness, directionless or purposeless as I’m told time and time again, it’s a phase, it’s your hormones or I feel exactly the same way. This emotion is just a blink in the eye of your existence. Yet there is no one who can see inside or experience the enormity of what I feel, the weight is not shared and does not enable me to move or stumble in any direction with anything resembling conviction. I do not maintain that my experience is unique, just merely that it is strongly felt and I wish it were not so.’
There is some emotional depth here.”

“Um… thank you, sir”

“Do you consider yourself to be a popular girl Sally?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m told you’re not for want of friendship or companionship. Would that be a fair assessment?”

“I guess…”

“Many of your teachers have described you as a pleasant young adult, often quick to smile. I myself, find happiness comparable to that of a bandage, merely a temporary, even an unhealthy solution if the foundations are not fully set. A sense of ourselves must come first and foremost otherwise our pleasure will fade from our senses, leaving merely a lingering bitter taste in our mouths and an emptiness in our arms. Do you speak to your friends often?”

“Well we wouldn’t be considered friends otherwise.”

“But I mean… for instance if you find yourself with a problem, do you find it easy to confide in others?”

“Mostly. I mean sometimes I can’t find the words to express myself… I think I find that more difficult than finding someone to listen.”

“I see… I see… and why do you think that is?”

“Um… well as I said sometimes the words just don’t come out as they should.”

“Try a little harder Sally. I’m here to help you.”

“Well it’s like… it’s like all the little links are part of a bigger picture and each time I try to explain it I’m focusing on one thread… and no one but me can see the full tapestry.”

“This is what you want? Someone to see this ‘tapestry’”

“I guess.”

“Do drink Sally?”

“Um …”

“This is all confidential. No one is looking to get you into trouble, I’m just trying to get a fuller sense of you.”

“Well sometimes.”

“Do you sometimes exceed the recommended limit?”

“Well who doesn’t?”

“I will admit we can all get carried away at some point but if drunkenness is a regular occurrence, it can be a cause for concern. We all must ask questions of ourselves Miss Francis, to make sure our intentions are virtuous. Why do we drink? For most, it is merely the taste or a means to relax. Others have more detrimental drives, such as to release our inhibitions, to shield ourselves from our own thoughts or to drown all sense of our being. What about drugs, Sally? Have you ever taken any illegal substances?

“Just once or twice and only marijuana.”

“Let’s not downplay the seriousness of a Class B drug, especially when it has such damaging effects to mental health. I’m not chastising you, far from it. At your age you are expected to try new experience and push the boundaries placed upon you. That said we must never stop asking ourselves what drives us. Am I being clear?

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Are you sexually active?”

“Um …”

“Nothing to be embarrassed about. All perfectly natural.”

“I’m not sure I understand the term properly sir.”

“I suppose it is a little vague but it’s certainly much wider than intercourse. Perhaps it could be defined as the first time you have sexual relations with a partner.”

“Please sir. I’m not sure I’m comfortable speaking about that.”

“My apologies. I have no wish to make you feel uneasy but would you be interested in talking to someone on a more regular basis?”

“Like a Psychiatrist?”

“Just a little bit of counselling, to help with some of the feeling you’ve been having of late.”

“I think I’m okay.”

“Are quite sure?”


“Well if you change your mind, all you need do is have a word with me. My door is always open to you. Unfortunately we have no choice but to award you a zero for your English assignment but your teacher has very kindly offered to mark a more suitable attempt if you have it on her desk by Monday. I suggest you take her up on her offer.”

“I will.”

“Before you go, I’d like to compliment your writing style, though still inappropriate, it was quite elegant in places. Perhaps a future writing for a glossy magazine?”


“One last thing, I hope this will not be a conversation you’ll readily forget?”

It is a conversation that came back to Sally Francis some years later. The transition from her teens to her twenties was one that suited her immensely, she held her head higher and walked with a certain confident air, which blew in like a breeze as she entered a room. She had studied sculpture, taking tremendous pleasure in the smell of sawdust filling her nostrils, the unique touch of each individual grain and she took pride in every blister, a mark of her hard work and achievement. Her recent graduation, however, was not a change she wore so easily. At present, she felt as if she’d been dropped into the ocean again and this time was different, for she noticed that it was not a body of water in which she waded but a sea of bodies, each scrambling to the top so as to see the sky and breath the fresh salt air.

It was for this reason that the advice offered to her as a younger woman circled her mind, round and round, pulling her thoughts down into a dreaded drain. As much as she tried to keep her head above the surface, Sally felt herself sinking and not in the way she’d wished as a child but dragged, kicking and screaming into one dark all-encompassing idea. Was it all a waste of time? Those happy years between now and her teenage years. A bandage that had been ripped off prematurely? Surely it had been understood that her feelings were just a healthy dose of angst, which would slip away, forgotten and discarded as she neared adulthood.

Yet here she was again, fighting the tide without a rudder and with no land to be seen on the horizon. This eternal struggle exhausted her, whilst all the while she remained to the outside world idle. She realised that the constant drive to achieve her goal had distracted her throughout the years before and at the same time she’d been surrounded by friends, living with them, rarely a moment to reflect on her direction. Had she been mistaken? All this time she’d thought that she was moving forward but without a landmark, had she actually been stagnating? This idea sickened her, plagued her waking hours and haunted her dreams. This emotion, she now believed, would never leave her, but instead wait in the shadows to pounce at her most vulnerable.

Sally contemplated the idea of her foundation. The structure felt weak, like a strong aggressive wind of change could see her come crashing down. Was this all the sense of herself she had? No, she’d felt strong at times but when was hard to pinpoint through the hopeless fog.  She was all too aware that dwelling on this issue was toxic, if she had not found her direction by now, she must search ever harder for it because here was the real truth, she’d been happiest when she’d been distracted, when her sense of herself was barely there at all.

If Sally Francis could lead a life so occupied perhaps she could forget herself and the purposeless that walks behind her like a shadow devoid of form.

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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