'I learned that you cannot speak on other people's behalf, but you can share your own truth and listen to other people's. Because there are a lot of young women who need to be listened to.'
- Emma Gannon, Ctrl, Alt; Delete
It's a mild Thursday afternoon. I'm sat alone in a rattling train carriage speeding through a countryside smudged with streaks of amber and olive, and in a passionate flourish I suddenly snap the book shut on the table before me. How, my mind asks, more statement than question. How can she possibly know that?
For beneath the picture of the woman grinning conspiratorially with her finger over her mouth, are all of my secrets. My teenage diary. Every thought I've never whispered, every sentiment I could never find the words for.
I picture in that moment a butterfly effect of young women across the world having that very same reaction, momentarily stunned to read their own stories with different names and hear their deepest most isolated secrets confessed by somebody else. I pick up the book again, unable to tear myself away for long, and continue to read our parallel narratives. For in a world in which we all seem so divided by differences, there's one thing Emma's book makes clear to me; We are all more alike than we think.
And we are stronger, always, together.
From the earliest memories of discovering chatrooms and MSN as a preteen, right through to becoming a professional internet-er of her own cyber empire, Emma's stories are as hilariously embarrassing as our own cringiest memories, yet as heartwarming and innocent as we remember ourselves once. But don't be fooled, this book is not just a collection of (albeit very witty) anecdotes. There's something much deeper that lies beneath every word she writes and every tale she chooses to relay, which becomes more apparent in the latter half of the book.
Where Amanda Palmer's 'Art of Asking' first whispered the idea that I could start a fire, Emma Gannon has put a matchbox, kindling and a can of gasoline before me, and whispered,
'I dare you.'
'I dare you.'
Through the simple radical act of just telling her truth she's inadvertently done two seemingly contradictory things. One hand, her prose reads so familiar and speaks so uniquely to the reader they'll feel completely singled out, exclaiming 'Me too!' after every other sentence as if they were kind friends reminiscing over a bottle of wine. Yet she has also united all these souls under one shelter, and bought them home, naming the flaws we've all had without any hint of patronisation, accusation or shame. She is voice kinder to our former selves than perhaps we ever could have been. This book is much of a sigh of relief to the 23-year old me, as Girls in Tears or Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging was when I was 13.
After watching Emma's journey on her blog through the past few years, I somewhat expected there to be a tone of, perhaps, 'finality' about this book. As though this was the amalgamation of the past 7 years of hard work, and Ctrl Alt Delete was testament to it, born from the end of a long journey. But in fact, it doesn't take more than a few pages to realise that this is all really just beginning for Emma. This book is no graduation. It's her formation.
It's at this I'm reminded of a quote from Aubrey Plaza, upon the release of Guardians of the Galaxy and the sudden rise to superstardom of her former co-star and on-screen husband:
'I just want him all to myself, and now I feel like the whole world is let in on the secret brilliance of Chris Pratt'
While I feel like a proud parent, with that secret little smugness that I stumbled upon a great thing before the rest of the world, I could not be more proud to see just how exciting the future is about to become for Emma Gannon.
Quite simply, I'm left with a sweeping gratitude that future generations will grow up in a world Ctrl Alt Delete exists, and I feel blessed with the honour of knowing the insightful, passionate and inspirational woman behind it.