Starting secondary school can be a scary time. You've spent the last year as part of the ruling class of your primary school when suddenly you're tossed back to the bottom of the pile. Everyone around you is now bigger, stronger and cooler. The familiar school grounds whose every corner you've explored has been replaced by a labyrinth of haunted corridors and echoey staircases. The small bundle of motherly teachers quietly removed and in their place a legion of disciplinarians armed with an assortment of punishments for any wrongdoer. I was among the first in my year to be sentenced to detention. My crime? Laughing in church.
I attended a convent school for girls and on certain feast days and special occasions the entire population was marched across to the local cathedral for mass. On one of these occasions, a girl in the row behind me was struck down by a case of the hiccups. To begin with it provoked nothing more than a few hushed sniggers but over the course of the next five minutes the hiccups gained momentum becoming increasingly louder, increasingly more frequent and infinitely more disruptive. Soon there was an outbreak of giggles in the far left corner of the cathedral, and, as anybody who has ever contracted the giggles at a completely inappropriate time knows, trying to stop is like trying to wash a cat. Now, I wasn't the only girl laughing in church that day but I was the only idiot unable to control themselves when the teacher came over to investigate the disturbance. When we returned to school, I received the small white slip of paper indicating my judgement. An after school detention. My life was over.
There was only one thing that I could do: worry. It is safe to say that my worries did not form an orderly queue in front of me. Instead they rushed at me from every angle and started yelling all at once whilst throwing things at my head. What are you going to tell your mum? She's going to kill you. Even worse, she's going to be disappointed in you. How are you going to explain that you've just broken one of the ten commandments? What's going to happen at the detention? You might get suspended. Or even expelled. Maybe they'll just send you directly to hell. This continued until detention day came around and I was a tiny quivering wreck stood outside the classroom waiting for the teacher to arrive. Just as I thought things couldn't get much worse, a group of older girls appeared at the end of the corridor. Shirts untucked, skirts rolled up, they prowled slowly towards me smoking on cigarettes and swinging metal chains. (They probably were doing neither of those things but it's important that I tell it as I remember it.) My detention cell mates. 'Fantastic.' I thought, 'Definitely going to die.'
The teacher arrived in the nick of time and opened the door. To my relief there were no fiery pits within, just the standard issue desks and chairs and some unthreatening looking sheets of paper. The order of the day was not expulsion but an essay. As it turned out, 'Thou shalt not laugh in church' was not one of the commandments but it was still very much frowned upon and I was ordered to write 1000 words explaining why. I was 45 minutes in and not doing very well on the word count. Aside from 'laughing in church is rude and distracting and the priest might think you're laughing at him', I really didn't have a lot to say on the subject. Suddenly the teacher left the room and my cell mates descended upon me like crows. I braced myself for something terrible but it never came. The crows were friendly and they came bearing advice. They told me that my writing was far too small and I'd never get out of there if I didn't fill 2 A4 sides. They also laughed at my crime and reassured me that they'd done far worse at my age and lived to tell the tale. When the teacher returned, my writing quadrupled in size and I soon completed my essay. I had paid my penance and I had been released. No hell, no horror, all that worry for nothing.
I learnt a lesson that day: don't get caught laughing in church. A more valuable lesson would have been that all of my worries had come to nothing. I had spent an entire week tormenting myself with all of the terrible things that could happen and not one of them did. In fact, if I could look back at all of the worries that I've ever had, I'd bet that the majority of them came to nothing. And for the few times that something bad did happen, worry neither prevented nor solved it.
Since we launched Lanther Black we can always find something to worry about. Some days it's the sales, other days it's the stock. Sometimes the cashflow keeps us awake at night, other times it's an exhibition. This week has been particularly fraught with worry. We've run out of a few of our best-selling designs which has caused our online sales to drop. At the same time our trade orders have increased but we're unable to fulfil them all. A few new accounts are slow in paying their pro forma invoices so we're worrying that they've changed their minds. On top of that our workloads have increased, there are not enough hours in the day, I have two writing deadlines that I'm way behind on, we can't decide what to have for dinner and there's no milk for coffee. And yet, despite all of the energy that we've wasted on worry, the outcomes remain unaffected. Worrying about stock won't make it arrive any quicker. Worrying about writing does not get things written and worrying about coffee does not produce milk. Besides, what's the worst that could happen? A couple of weeks of slow sales will not bankrupt us, a few more late nights will not kill us and if in doubt you can't go wrong with Mexican food for dinner. Just like an after-school detention, the fear of the thing is often greater than the thing itself. So we've got a new motto: Unless it results in death, prison or a portal to hell, it's not worth worrying about.