Root Menu

Sophie Townsend

A Self-Portrait

BIRTH: In November 1985 I was born in the south coast city of Portsmouth. I was, of course, overdue probably due to me being too snuggled up and fast asleep. This has been a recurring theme in my life! The odd thing about my birthplace was that whilst I was there, there were also three other little girls being born as well. Doesn’t sound odd yet does it? I mean there are lots of people born on the same day, right? Well, yeah but two of these other girls and I remained friends from then till now. We ended up going to school together, being in each others’ classes and being pretty good friends! Odd, I think! As we have grown up we’ve grown apart but we are still in a close proximity to each other and our paths often cross.

So, I was born in Portsmouth but I was bought up across the water from there in a little town called Gosport. Nothing really goes on in Gosport that’s of much interest but it is surrounded by enough big cities to make life there OK. I live with my mum, dad and brother, who is 22. He’s just finished uni and is starting to make a life for himself. My brother and I aren’t amazingly close but it’s a lot better than when we were young. Back in those days we used to fight and bicker constantly. I never used to leave him and his friends alone and so my punishment was to be chased round the house with spiders! As we’ve grown up, most of the childish fighting has disappeared and my brother doesn’t tend to chase me round the house with spiders anymore. It’s hard for us to really bond, though, as I think we are quite different in the people we are. My brother only works hard when it’s really necessary and never does more than he has to, whereas I’m the opposite!

CHILDHOOD: My childhood was a really enjoyable time, I have so many memories of things I used to get up to. My parents were great and always created the most fun they could for me. My dad especially was a big kid at heart whilst I was growing up. He always ended up in the bathtub, fully clothed every night! Or covered in mud! Or in trouble with my mum for getting me over excited and filthy! I was a very tomboyish little girl as I grew up, mainly I suppose due to my big brother’s influence on me. I wanted to be just like him and that created Sophie the tomboy!

My main passion as a child was mud! I remember the day my dad filled a wheelbarrow full of the stuff and I had to dive in it to find little army men! I also used to love making mud pies, all the time! I even had the air raid shelter in our garden where I used to spend hours creating my very own splendid dishes of mud. Of course, I sometime forgot about some concoctions and they’d go mouldy, but that happens to every good chef, doesn’t it? Although my cooking skills were beyond belief in my early years, I haven’t continued the art of being able to cook. I can use an oven/microwave/toaster but need instructions to follow if I have any chance of getting anywhwere! God knows how I’ll survive at uni.

As a child I never went without. I was by no means spoilt but my parents tried to give me everything I wanted. I think part of what they gave me has influenced my spending habits of older life. I love to shop and think this stems back to when my parents converted our conservatory into a shop for me. My dad made me a till, my mum collected all our empty bottles and cartons, and I displayed them in my ‘shop’ and spent ages playing in there, perfecting the difficult art of shopping which was going to prove to be invaluable as I reached my teenage years!

I had a lot of friends as a child as I went to quite a big school and everyone lived close by. However, through all of these friends there has been one that has stood out. My friend Lucy. She is exactly (to the day) six months older than me, so on her birthday it’s my half birthday and vice versa, which is great! Lucy came to see me when my mum was still in hospital after having me. Of course she won’t remember this as she was only six months old but since then we’ve been best friends. We grew up together, playing together, learning off each other, arguing! We did the whole pretending to be sisters thing for ages when we were kids and people believed us as we were quite similar to look at! As we have grown up and gone our separate ways, we have seen less and less of each other. It’s difficult as the age gap has meant that we have always had to create our own group of similar aged friends. However, although I don’t see her much I know she is always there. She’s one of those friends you know you can call at any time and they will make time to speak. One of those friends who is genuinely interested in how you are and what you are doing. One of those friends who you know will be the first person to reply to your wedding invitation when you announce your marriage.

SCHOOL: School was never an issue with me. I enjoyed learning and I think this was helped by the fact my parents encouraged learning at home. My dad would take me to museums on teacher training days, I would go to the library with my mum in holidays and I was shown how to enjoy learning. As a result of this, I always worked hard and always enjoyed school. I always liked my teachers and so my general experience of school was a good one. I never woke up and thought I didn’t want to go and so I think this has set me up for life allowing me to get the most out of my education.

Where I live, all of the schools are local and there is a natural progression between them. This means that a lot of my friends and I have stayed together for a long time. Even when we moved to secondary school and met new people, I was set to be with them for seven years due to our school having a sixth form college. Although this is a good thing that I wasn’t really disrupted by having to be separated from friends, it’s now made me so excited to get out into the world and meet new people. Education and school sort of restrict you and set boundaries as to whom you meet and socialise with, whereas I just want to go and meet knew different people who have a different background to my own.

NOW: So how did I, a south coast born and bred girl, end up living in the city of Oxford? Well, that’s simple – I’m studying here. In October 2004 I begin a three-year course to study Law. It’s going to be quite a change moving from a town based on the sea front, where to go shopping/to work/clubbing I have to get on a little ferry to Portsmouth, to a city where I can walk most places, there’s no sea and no late-night rides home on the rocky waves. I can’t wait though as I feel restricted and limited by only having lived in one place. I’ve only really met people from one area and only ever experienced the lifestyle of living in Gosport. I wouldn’t change anything about where I’ve grown up but I feel now that it is time to meet new people and get to know a new city.

ME: I’ve always been a strong-minded person who enjoys a good argument or discussion. I don’t necessarily always believe the side of the argument I am defending, however, I always try to support the opposite to others to make the debate worthwhile. I’m quite an opinionated person; however, I’m learning how to become more diplomatic and how to channel my opinions successfully. This is why I am studying Law at Oxford University. It seems to me that Law allows you a structured way to express your opinions and to use a rigid set of rules to support a viewpoint. In the long run I want to become a barrister. This to me fills me with excitement. I know you get all these hyped up TV dramas on law – but I don’t want to become a barrister because of Ali McBeal. I want to do it because it is right for me. People always ask, ‘How would you feel defending a murderer?’ My answer? Well I take the ‘innocent till proven guilty’ seriously. If there is enough evidence to prove someone’s innocence doesn’t that say something?

MOTIVATION: I’m driven by money, ambition and fulfilling my own and others’ expectations. People believe that money can’t buy happiness, I agree, but I do believe it can aid happiness. It allows you to do what you want with life and have what you want without a struggle. Ambition is a personal thing. I want to achieve my goals in life, so do all I can to get there. Expectations are a major motivator and also a major pressure. They are what drive me the most. I don’t want to and don’t like failing. I don’t want to disappoint others or myself. I work hard for what I achieve and get frustrated when people don’t appreciate this. Some believe that it is all easy for me. It is not.

FEAR: I used to be scared of a lot and I think this is because I think too much. I think fear makes a person weak. My biggest fear still remains with me – the fear of the unknown. When I do something new, or go somewhere I haven’t been before, I get scared. To overcome this fear I know that I have to be in control of the situation, know exactly what is happening, when, where, how. This has resulted in me becoming a very organised person. However, as I’ve grown up and learnt to rely on people, I think my fears have decreased. Actually, I don’t know if I fear less or I have learnt how to feel safe. Since I’ve been with my boyfriend I have felt protected. I feel I could take on the world and come to no harm. This is why my fears have diminished.

FRIENDS: Friends to me are what make up my life. I’ve always had a strong unit of friends surrounding me and I never want that to change. Without friends I would feel lonely and isolated in this world. My friends and I are all different to each other but we all have one thing in common – a similar set of morals and values. By sharing these differences but also this underlining common appreciation, my group of friends is a very diverse and warm group. I always have someone I can turn to depending on the situatuion or my mood. I respect each of my friends as individuals and all I hope for in a friendship is the same degree of respect back for me. I will support a friend through anything but find it hard to stand by them when they no longer respect me and take me for granted. Everyone I regard as a friend I will show respect to and I hope for the same in return. I don’t think you can ever have enough friends. It’s in this situation that quality counts, not quantity. I would be happier with two strong, loyal friendships than I would be with 25 friendships of a poorer quality.

LIFE: I wouldn’t like to think that I have wasted much of my life. The way I see it is that everything I have done I have made the decision to do and I have done it for a reason. Fair enough, sometimes I could have been doing something more useful than I was but I had made a decision not to do it. That’s not wasted time. I am conscious of wasting time out of my life, hence the reason why I take so much on. I want to do everything whilst I can so that I don’t miss out on the opportunity whilst I have it. I try to be purposeful in things that I do and try not to be too lazy.

I think I’ve got quite a good work ethic. I believe that if you are going to do something you should do it properly, otherwise it’s just a waste of your time. That’s why I always worked hard at school. It frustrates me to see people throwing away their education as I think that the compulsory years of education might as well be spent achieving something rather than wasted.

I always take too much on and then can’t understand why I’m struggling to get things completed. I prefer it that way though. I would prefer to do too much in life than not do enough. I don’t want to live to regret the things I haven’t done, I might regret some things I have done but at least I’ve had the experience.

LOVE: I believe that love has made me a stronger person. It has allowed me to see who I really am, taught me to believe in myself, made me open my heart for someone else to share. I believe that love has made me a stronger person but also a more emotional person. It has given me the courage to do things I wouldn’t have done before, but at the same time it has made me vulnerable to more emotions. Before I learnt to love I had a protective exterior shell to me. It was my way of dealing with things, put me in control and stopped me from being hit by the negativity in the world. However, as I learnt to open up to my partner, my exterior wall has come down to allow me to see who I really am. Instead of my outer wall I now have love to shield me. I’ve learnt that a combination of love from my family, friends, partner and a growing love for myself has made me feel happier and fuller in life. My only doubt about the amount of love I have in my life at the moment is coping if any of this love disappears. I enjoy it being a part of my day-to-day living and what I enjoy I don’t want to be without.

THE FUTURE: The future was a frightening thing to me (and it still is); however, with each day I think I’m becoming more excited about what it holds. Now the chapter of my school life is shut I am anxious to see what the next episode has in store. I want to go out and learn new things, meet new people, live a new way of life. I want to adventure into the world and make a career for myself, buy my first house, and most importantly live the best life that I can.

October 2004