In which I personally state some stuff



My parents are clearing out my old bedroom. Considering I left home six years ago and they’ve been living in a room still semi-bedecked with purple and silver teen tat ever since, I haven’t taken too heavy a hand with the disposal process.

In fact, I have had no opinions on the disposal process at all, which is for the best as I am the worst type of sentimental hoarder. I never throw away birthday cards for fear the sender might subsequently die. I still have my friend Sarah’s Year 8 English project in a cupboard because I couldn’t bear the thought of her heartlessly binning it. Twelve years ago.

I’m aware that there is a magical, elusive point in time between ‘soulless humanoid’ and ‘drowning in pointless nostalgic detritus’ at which it becomes fine to throw stuff away, but I have never been able to clock exactly when it occurs. What, for example, do you do with theatre programmes? To come home, still floating on that happy cultural high, and instantly commit the programme to the bin seems like the behavior of an ice-hearted monster – not to mention a waste of £4.50.

But when it gets picked up years later, covered in a duvet of dust, by someone who is helping you move, and they ask in a condescending tone, “What do you need THIS for?” and you’re forced to explain that you’ve been keeping it as an emergency mousemat despite already having a mousemat and in fact not even using a mouse anymore… well, you feel like a fool.

So yes, they were clearing out and I was staying out.

“We’ve found your personal statement!” my youngest brother declared down the phone last week. “It’s really embarrassing!”

Well, of course it is. It is cripplingly embarrassing. I think I even knew it was when I wrote it, but probably thought at the time that willingness to humiliate oneself on paper in front of authority figures might actually go some way to earning me a place at uni (besides, everything one writes as a teenager is humiliating and naff. I bet Mozart listened back to the early concertos and went ‘OH GOD.’)

I reckon UCAS could, and should, make a really decent toilet book out of the worst personal statements submitted each year. Mine opens with the immortal line, “Some people dream of seeing their name in lights. I’m more interested in seeing mine in print”. BLARRGH.

But writing a personal statement is just practice for applying for jobs as an adult, of course. And anyone doing that know there is another magical, elusive point – this time it’s where the inversely proportional goals of ‘making yourself look like you’d be good at the job’ and ‘not sounding like an arrogant tit’ converge in perfect balance, and nobody in the history of the world has ever achieved it.

If I were High Ruler of the Universe (which I shall never be, because I couldn’t write a decent enough application), cover letters would be done away with in favour of real life tasks that exposed crucial truths about the applicant’s personality. Such as making them watch Steel Magnolias to see if they cried at the correct bits. Or asking them the correct amount of time to hold onto a birthday card before throwing it away.