When You Are Not Eight

This will help you one day.

One day, when you are not eight. One day, when you are not looking for somewhere to stand in the playground, when you are not tying and retying your shoe lace in order to look occupied and unconcerned. One day, if you have nowhere to stand, you will be able walk away.

When you are not eight, you will realise that a view from the corner gave you a different landscape. Eyes that searched for acceptance, that distracted themselves with observation, will no longer see unmeasured glances of cruelty. Those same eyes will see the daffodil yellow of a sunrise and the blush of a robin’s breast and the dance of squirrels along the branches of an oak tree. When you are not eight, you will know that hours spent watching are never wasted.

One day, words will be your greatest ally. When you are not eight, words that cut and bruise so easily will be remembered, and you will understand the power of words and choose them with mindfulness and care.

When you are not eight, your friends will not all live within the pages of a book. You will say goodbye to Aslan and Meg and Mowgli, and your stories will be a choice, not a shelter. But one day, when you are not eight, you will look back on your old friends and realise how wisely you chose them.

One day, you will discover that not being selected is a selection all of its own.

When you have let go of the fear of unbelonging.

One day.

When you are not eight.


  1. barbarahenderson
    April 5, 2012 / 7:50 pm

    This is beautiful! From someone who also once stood alone in a playground!

    • April 6, 2012 / 12:54 pm

      Thank you so much, Barbara. I’m so glad you liked it!

  2. April 5, 2012 / 7:58 pm

    Come on over here, wee girl with the shoe-laces because the dumpy lass with the pudding basin haircut is never asked to play either. She’s got a Narnia book in her bag too. Come and sit with me and we can read together and see things and imagine that when we are big ladies we might write stories and be friends …. perhaps.

    • April 6, 2012 / 12:54 pm

      Ah, if only we’d been at the same school …

  3. April 5, 2012 / 8:05 pm

    Oh, Joanna. This is just amazing. You have such an incredible way of looking at things. Thank you for an amazing post.

  4. April 5, 2012 / 8:10 pm

    Your writing is so eagerly awaited Jo! This is why…so beautiful and so true. I no longer need to try to fit in, because I know I do in my own place, but it took me years to get here!

    • April 6, 2012 / 12:55 pm

      Me too, Lisa, but we got there in the end. That’s the only thing that matters x

  5. April 5, 2012 / 8:36 pm

    It’ funny how one spends so much of childhood trying to fit in, though once adulthood is reached, one does everything not to! πŸ™‚

    Wonderfully written, Jo.

    • April 6, 2012 / 12:56 pm

      Thank you so much. It is very ironic, isn’t it? If only we could nip back and give ourselves a few words of advice …

  6. April 5, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Your writing is always so lyrical and so poignant, Joanna. And it strikes such a chord. Perhaps not with the playground bully or the girl gang member or the tribal football supporter. Especially not when they’re with their mates, or homeys, or buddies, or whatever. But perhaps, when they’re alone, in the wind-swept marches of the night, when they face who they are by themselves…

    • April 6, 2012 / 12:59 pm

      I think you’re right, even the playground bullies were victims of the same desperate desire to fit in. We just all dealt with it in different ways. They could be very cruel times …

  7. April 5, 2012 / 9:10 pm

    I want to reach through the years and take your eight year old hand in mine so we could tell each other that we’d be OK, that what these people thought of us really doesn’t matter, and that when we grew up we’d still be living in our special made-up worlds while they were bogged down in ‘reality’. But deep down, I think you always knew, didn’t you?
    From one outsider to another.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:00 pm

      You are a very wise woman, Nettie Thomson. I think we always knew, we just needed to believe it xx

  8. April 5, 2012 / 9:12 pm

    Wonderful writing again, Jo – like many of your posts, this one benefits from reading and re-reading and understanding it a bit more each time.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:01 pm

      Thank you so much, Alan. I’m really thrilled that you liked it!

  9. April 5, 2012 / 10:39 pm

    This rings true! I think a lot of us have survived not being eight. I deeply appareciate the craftsmenship, the keen observation and understanding, and the empathy that go into your pieces.Thank you so much.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:03 pm

      You are very welcome. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and there are definitely a fair few of us who survived and remember. For once, there is comfort in numbers …

  10. April 6, 2012 / 8:14 am

    Such a beautiful post. And a good reminder that we are not eight and can withstand the curious looks towards an outsiders position. Thank you for this.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:05 pm

      Thank you so much for reading it. Even when you’re not eight, it can be painful, but you’re right: a good reminder.

  11. April 6, 2012 / 8:19 am

    Your perspective beautifully fixes the perspective of the child who feels an outsider. But most of us are not fully one or the other and, I suspect, can remember the moments when we, too, might have been guilty of “unmeasured glances of cruelty”.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:06 pm

      I definitely agree. Childhood is often seen as a black and white film, isn’t it? I just hope that my moments were brief …

  12. April 6, 2012 / 9:30 am

    Fantastic writing. I can remember being so alone at that time. I was an only child and quite awkward with my peers. But I was not unhappy. I had great faith in the world. And at eight years four months I discovered th joy of going to the library EVERY DAY (excpet Sunday, of course) during the Easter holidays.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:06 pm

      Thank you so much, Gill. I agree, going to the library was an absolute joy.

  13. April 6, 2012 / 9:39 am

    So much truth in this, and beautifully written.
    I was always one of those last to be picked for the rounders team. Hated rounders and was hopeless at it! It would just have been nice if I’d been picked first sometimes, that’s all.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:07 pm

      Me too. Netball, rounders … they were all my idea of torture. Thank you so much for reading x

  14. Mussycat
    April 6, 2012 / 9:41 am

    Lovely piece Jo, struck a chord with many of us it seems x

  15. April 6, 2012 / 1:11 pm

    That was truly wonderful. It could have been a letter to me at eight and it’s something I could still do with reminding myself of every now and then.

  16. April 6, 2012 / 1:13 pm

    That was truly wonderful. It could have been written to me at eight. In fact, it’s something I could still do with being reminded of every so often, even now.

    • April 6, 2012 / 1:14 pm

      Ach – sorry for the double post! I thought I’d lost the first! Feel free to delete one.

      • April 6, 2012 / 1:20 pm

        Don’t worry, blogs do that to me all the time! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was definitely therapeutic to write this, I’d recommend it. It does a body good to remember, I think x

  17. April 8, 2012 / 10:03 am

    Another gorgeous piece of writing. All of the very best and most interesting people that I know are following their own path without apology. x

    • April 8, 2012 / 10:53 am

      What a lovely blog comment. Thank you so much x

  18. April 9, 2012 / 8:51 am

    Once again an amaaaazing piece.
    I often wonder why I didn’t listen to my parents, who had also survived being eight, they tried so much to ‘help’.
    Why did we think that by conforming in every conceivable way that we would be ‘happy’. Its taken 50 years to learn that lesson.
    Thank you Jo once again for your wonderful insight.

  19. April 12, 2012 / 10:25 am

    I found it pretty grim being 11 as well. Thanks for this post, it was beautifully written. I thought it was about time I visited to see if I could for once read some of your words and not cry. But no…

  20. April 27, 2012 / 11:07 am

    This is so pertinent. I read it when it first came out, and then for some reason, I read it again today. My eight year old daughter is going through all of this at the moment. I wonder whether to show you her post or not? Her uncle died two days ago, and so did a grandfather of another girl in her class. The teacher said, “Make sure you look out for Daisy and Belle,” and she said everyone rushed over to Daisy, except for one girl. She told me this today on the way to school, and it made me very sad.

  21. May 10, 2012 / 9:17 am

    Ah Joanna, beautiful, and yes, that could have been me too. I know now at the age of 44 that being a grown up is much better than being a child – because you get perspective and the confidence to tell people to go away. Wish I could go back to my 8/9/10/11yo self and comfort her and let her read your piece but of course one can’t πŸ™‚

  22. June 7, 2012 / 5:27 pm

    What a lovely post, and where were you when I was eight? We would have got on so well! What’s that they say about the pen being mightier than the sword…? That’s SO hard to see when you’re eight. Not that I had a sword, mind; nor would I have known how to use one other than to cut my own toes or something (by accident, hapless me that I am). But you get the gist. Thank you for posting this, you raised a smile.

    It does make me wonder though about how many of us go through this; and if a lot of us feel that lonely, how come we didn’t connect? Also makes me worry about my seven year old on the playground who may… just be moving that way. Great post, thank you!

  23. June 29, 2012 / 5:25 am

    Haven’t read the other comments so maybe someone else has picked up on it but for me – this should end something like “and then, you will be a Man, my son.” – lovely ending Jo – “let go of the fear of unbelonging” a lovely phrase and sentiment – I gave up trying to belong a long time ago and feel much better for it πŸ™‚

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