There’s a trend of books coming out at the moment that I’ve been reluctant to try. Not because they’re badly written. I’m sure they have been very important books for people who aren’t me. But I’ve been seeing a lot of books lately that seem to be promoting something that I’m not particularly interested in hearing about right now.
Like the Hygge invasion of 2016, we are being inundated by books about how to become an adult. Becoming grownups. Adulting. There seems to be a general need right now for people to be told what to do beyond school and university, maybe because no one seems to know what the hell is going on.
I laugh weekly about the fact that, “Holy shit. I’m an adult.” And yet there are still so many things in my life that I don’t have sorted out. I still feel like I should be heading off to school each morning with a marmite sandwich, lovingly made by my mum, and a packet of crisps. I should be forgetting to do my science homework and getting in trouble for leaving my PE kit at home.
When people tell me how to be a grown up, it feels like I should be pouring myself into some kind of one size fits all mould, sacrificing the things that make me happy to make way for a newer, sleeker, cooler and generally more together me. I don’t like it.
I first came across Laura Jane Williams last year. I’d spotted her first book, Becoming, in Waterstones and was drawn to its cover, (I am always drawn to covers.) but didn’t know much about the author. I noticed that my friend Ella, who writes a very lovely blog, had been interacting a lot with her on Twitter and after a lengthy stalk, I realized what I’d been missing. Laura Jane Williams is like the cooler, older sister I never had. She writes in a way that is honest and full of feeling. She’s been there, done that, got the t shirt, and she’s here to tell us what’s what.
Ice Cream for Breakfast is her second book. It comes after the completion of her first book left her feeling completely burnt out, and explores the life lessons she learnt after taking care of three little girls. It talks about unleashing your inner child to help you deal with adult life. It’s not a how to guide on growing up. Instead it celebrates all the things you’ve always known, the things kids just instinctively do, and what we forget. “Rediscovering your inner child”, I like the sound of that.
Back to my lovely friend Ella. She was kind enough to let me come along as her plus one to the book launch for Ice Cream for Breakfast. Now this was cool for a number of reasons: not only would I get to meet my girl crush (and not to mention many extremely cool famouses that were milling around), I would get to see a book launch for the first time. As someone who wants to work in publishing, this was the most exciting thing. And yet nerve wracking. I’m not so confident these days so the thought of meeting new people was terrifying, but being with Ella made it feel easier.
Ella and my new Twitter-turned-IRL friend, Alex (who also has a very cool blog), and I arrived quite early and ended up loitering in the bookshop for about half an hour before heading back upstairs to where the event was. We had some prosecco and crisps and after about an hour of some awkward attempts at networking, Laura and her editor got up to talk about the book. I was so surprised at how emotional it was. Ice Cream for Breakfast is not a title you’d expect to be linked to so much pain. It’s got a brightly coloured cover and it’s inspired by kids, for god’s sake! The happiest beings on earth! But as Laura spoke about what led her to taking a job nannying three children and how it helped her come out of a dark place in her life, I began to understand. She said that this time last year she’d felt like the saddest girl in the world and that really resonated with me because that’s how I feel sometimes. Maybe not like the saddest. But still sad. Sad about stupid things like how I don’t feel like I’m good enough or in the right place in my life. I was thinking, “God, other people feel like this?” But most importantly I was thinking: “Other people felt like this and they ended up okay?” By the end of her speech, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I had to bite the inside of my cheek hard to stop myself from crying.
I bought the book of course and went to get it signed. I’ve never really wanted to get things signed that much. I remember waiting in line with a friend for hours to get the new Harry Potter DVD signed by Draco Malfoy, but this was so different to that. Laura is a person that I look up to in a completely different way to someone you watch on a screen for an hour and a half. She is able to convey feelings and experiences that I didn’t know I could relate to. She is a natural storyteller, funny and thought-provoking. She makes me want to go back to the kind of writing I used to do when I was younger, keeping diaries and jotting down my feelings instead of formulaically composing half hearted book reviews. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about books, but I miss getting really creative and emotional with my writing.
When I sat down to get my book signed, I felt nervous about speaking to someone I admired so much, so I just commented on her speech and the night. I wanted to say something that encapsulated the way I felt about her book. Maybe I should mention the fact that I’d just left a job because it made my head hurt. Or about how I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. Maybe I should just talk about how I am feeling a little lost right now but her books give me hope.
I didn’t really say anything too eloquent, but, before I left, I said quietly, “Some of those things you said you were feeling last year. That’s how I feel now.”
I don’t think I finished my sentence. I was aware it was closing time and we were in a rush. I’m sure if there’d been time I might have said more but it was enough. Maybe it was an odd thing to say to a complete stranger, despite the fact that I probably know more about her from her books than I do about some of my close friends. But saying (quietly, but still out loud) that things are tough for me right now, felt like enough. And it felt like a start too.
Because that’s what Ice Cream for Breakfast is really about. It’s about what you can learn from your inner child, yes. But it’s also about admitting you need to learn those things, get out of that adult funk, play, piss about a bit and help yourself be happy. I hope the right people find this book. Some of us need it.
Seems strange to write about a book before I’ve even properly read it but that’s how much faith I have in this author. To wrap up this slightly different, slightly emosh post, I leave you with a thought from one of my favourite fictional characters who, on this subject at least, has a little bit in common with Miss Williams.