It’s 4:15pm on a grim Wednesday afternoon, two days before my birthday. Two days before my hope of growing up gracefully is tested again. I’m ensconced under a blanket, fringed in by four walls and deafening silence. It’s taken me approximately 4 hours to shift from my stationary position post pain palliating bath and even then, I’ve just ended up downstairs; scrolling aimlessly through social media, staring at the ceiling, wondering when my unproductive conduct is going to unravel into prolific fulfilment and when the weather is actually going to feel like summer.
It’s mid June and if there wasn’t a mnemonic timestamp chiming from my smartphone I’d be inclined to think we’ve reverted back to December. in retrospect, I kind of wish we had. It would produce a fresh chance for me to make an effort in growing up and sprouting towards the spiritually enlightened disparity of life around me, rising awakened enough to gain proper perspective – because I turn 26 in a matter of double figured hours and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. It’s just another day. I’m miserable and consuming my daily dose of denial. In hindsight, it’s not just 6 months of the year I feel I’ve successfully wasted; it’s a titanic chunk of my entire existence and I’ve dived right into the non-anchored pool without an inflatable aid.
They say it’s normal to forebode a birthday once you pass the mid twenty mark but is it normal to have the constellations of your fully fledged body safely settled in a lair of wonted vanilla humdrum whilst your head is somewhere in the clouds of youth and desire to start over? With every year that passes I question my purpose floating above my growing up ghost life. What it means for me to be here right now celebrating my birthday with a cheapo Aldi cake and add-ons bought from my own rusty pocket as a wide-eyed single woman still living at home and failing to meet the substandard requirements of society. It’s in my hands to alter the safety blanket familiarity into a flourishing future and yet here I stay, sifting through the ordinary because branching out to the bookmarked chapters of independent stories which move on to become best sellers is smothering.
I’ve spoke about it before but to me, growing up with the prospect and pressures of adulthood really is terrifying. You have that girl you went to school with married with two children, a steady career, a car, a mortgage, and a lifetime plan. Then you have that wayward stranger scavenging for a tenner and getting plastered every night. You’re expected to have it all together but there’s no coaching lesson on growing up, on autonomy or responsibility or the planes of loneliness. There’s no advice on what to do when the path you pencilled into your secret diary when you were 8 years old collides with a car crash of events turning tradition into topsy-turvy. You reach sixteen and are given the liberty to roam free and experiment with creating your best and most strongest self. Except, I skipped that stage and made a beeline to the hammering exit shielded by a wall of glass that shattered into shards year by year.
I’m officially leaving the 18-25 category and I still don’t feel as though I’m moving any closer to a clear vision of what I want my endgame to consist of. I’m four years from thirty and I still don’t feel like I fit in or belong to the conventional constitution. Often I think, perhaps that could be down to early trauma; the malady of physical and mental illness crafting a butterfly effect. That my formative years were stolen from me; emotionally and figuratively, and that’s delayed my thirst to use a birthday as a motivator to growing up, a stimulating opportunity to press reset and allow the seeds to bud again. Then I think, maybe that’s just the way I was built – with one foot already lodged into a sullied grave.
It’s funny because sometimes I’ll strike one as ahead of my peers whilst simultaneously lacking the sobriety of empiricism. A decade ahead with the way I was forced to mature through hardship “designed” for the older generation (like you can ever prepare for what life throws at you no matter what stage of growing up you’re at) but a decade behind for the rest of it. Those years take its toll and it’s an act of congress to regain longevity. Pain has weathered my state of mind and yet I’m not at the same place as other twenty somethings. The girl who wants to rely on her mum to phone the doctors for her as she curls up into her maternal lap on a burn out is the same girl who remembers she’s not getting any younger. I never really have figured out how to balance the two and I’m not sure I ever will.
The digression in the journey to manufactured and measured maturity impales me with whiplash. Swarms me in a nebulous cyclone of dizziness and aching bones with a hissing of background noise cocooning my every sense. It’s like I’m a helicopter waiting to board but circumnavigating the landing area. It’s as though I’ve never gotten off the ground properly and spread my wings. I feel chronologically out of order and waning into the wilderness.
The panic doesn’t surface and settle as a VIP guest until a milestone of growing up approaches. It’s always there lurking in the shadows of my silhouette but it’s not buoyant until that sudden realisation hits. When I’m laid in bed at night questioning my guarded choices and pondering about what lies ahead. When relationship statuses of acquaintances are upgraded. When there’s a snippet of fortune from someone younger than me, an adventurous soul with irrefutable experience and a proven photo diary of themselves officially growing up and moving up the ladder. Or when I’m partaking in a fictional hyper-fixation in lieu of introducing myself to the real world. It’s in the realms of expectations and the vessel of commitment and the poetic blink of an eye.
As the latent linear line travels with the looming of the hereafter, I worry. I worry about my vulnerability never getting closure. I worry I’m never going to love myself enough to let anyone else in. I worry my intrinsic value is non existent. I worry every twelve month period that passes is a diminished possibility and it becomes more onerous the longer I leave it. I worry the older I get the less likely I am to perfect my wishes of finding someone who accepts me and having babies and getting married. I worry it’s too late to reverse the sign of the times. I worry about the scientific fact that at 26 I’m cruising closer to death with a vast plunge but how can I decline when I feel like I’ve not even lived? Are these my permanent layers now?
Truth is, I don’t know. The stakes are high in my self-slaughtering judgement but there isn’t an instruction manual or a survival guide to growing up and it’s not imperative to keep a record on holistic properties. I don’t know for sure whether this is the case for others either. It may seem visible on the exterior but I don’t think being maximum amounts of level-headed without faltering is even possible. You can’t always have it together bossing through life, surely? That’s what adulting is, right? Social media masks a great deal and I need to remind myself I could place a bet on the majority of people having had periods of falling apart and win the jackpot.
My life doesn’t end because I don’t meet the customary. It’s not a write off. The earth is spinning on its axis and the rain’s still teeming down. Maybe I will parallel the darkness but I’m still blowing out my candles. I’ll play it by ear. I’ll desperately grasp on to that limited time slot but I’ll refocus the dread onto a tonic that will allow that fear to dissipate. Like a celebratory pizza or waking up to lovely messages from my friends or just simply living.
They say grief substantiates as a time healer. That over time it will steadily harvest into a root that solely exists at the rear of the stewed garden they call life, rather than budding in bedlam at the forefront; overgrowing so the branches scratch and thorn until you’re left with nothing but a weeping wound. A wound that can’t easily be detected by the naked eye; but which, to you, is as prominently raw as a spearhead to the gut. They say grief becomes a passing thought, that the pain dulls and leaves a salvation of space for you to carry on blooming. And it does. I wouldn’t call it a blatant faux tale. But the scar never dissipates..
It’s ten years today since I lost my Dad.
Ten years since I last saw his face and heard his voice.
Ten years since he closed his eyes for the final time.
Ten years since those lashes I’ve inherited stopped fluttering.
Ten years since the heart holding so much warmth, goodness, and irreplaceable memories I was blessed with stopped beating.
Ten years since the wonted light went out only to be replaced by a hollow, emotionless ember.
Ten years since the palpable ripple of numbness bestrewed my being; feeling too much but not enough.
Ten years since that first bout of guilt and quandary inhabited my mind – guilt for the rockiness in our relationship, guilt for resenting him at times, guilt for my first thought being how much this could’ve been prevented with his own volition, guilt for wondering whether he knew how much I loved him and wished we had so much more time together, as he passed.
Ten years since I laid lifelessly in the darks of the night thinking “what now?” my brilliant, beefy, buffoon of a father isn’t here anymore.
Ten years without his guidance by my side and an entire lifetime to go.
I was 15 when he took his last breath. I’d just finished my school production and gotten into college. Two honorary events that should’ve been celebrated with both parents by my side; smiling in rejoice and heading home with a pizza and DVD or whatever was the recreational trend back in 2009. Instead the man who meant the most to me was laying lifelessly in a hospital bed, blue eyes devoid of any sparkle and limbs torpid, telling us this was it and he’s had enough.
Dealing with that emotional pandemonium at such a young age, knowing my dad wasn’t going to be on earth to walk through those stages of my future, was the cruellest, hardest heaviness I’ve ever had to deal with. But death and grief and sorrow don’t have an age. They don’t care. They don’t have the slightest solicitous sympathy for what the impact of loss is going to bring. They don’t send condolences to that silent breakdown when picking out your funeral outfit or your brother going off the rails at school or the bereavement counsellor introducing herself to an inoperative teen or the sorry messages and awkwardly glum pitiful expressions you have no idea how to face or the emptiness you’re still going to feel 3650 days down the line.
Nobody needs to hear the ugly, multifaceted enormity of grief. I’ve spoken about it before but I think, if you’ve lost someone close to you, you’ll agree that nothing quite equates nor compares to the real thing.
Grief isn’t romanticised like in the movies. You aren’t gifted a hero to swoop down and show you life is still worth living. There’s no shadow of a ghost guiding you to the edge of repose. Grief is nothing but heartache and sombre and stepping stones. The five stages of denial, anger, confusion, depression and acceptance iterated like a false promise in house of parliament. There’s no moving on, only working your way through with pace; turning a turbulent tap of feelings.
The world’s still spinning. The sun’s still rising and setting with prospect in its vesper of colour. The shore’s still drifting with sand in its perimeter. People are still having to say a permanent goodbye to their people every single minute of every day. The people who shape them whole, breaking the left behind into unmendable parts. It’s savage and it’s sad. Really fucking sad. There’s no ‘grief process’ because that would warrant a beginning and an end – and instead it’s an endless tunnel of old and new damage.
Grief isn’t a glorification like it’s portrayed in the box office but when you come across a digital depiction so near to the bone it’s almost riveting. I spent last weekend watching the affirmed Afterlife and what I didn’t expect was the flick of a button, a sonorous start up sound, and impulsive Saturday night entertainment to inspire me to write another vulnerable, wordy post. What it displayed was a raw and harsh insight into how grief can flip you upside down, beautifully delivered in a heartbreaking and heartwarming way that allows you to trace back to when you found your soul again and re-emerged through tears of mirth and the correlation of dolour.
Because grief does change you. It changes the way you think. The way you act. The way you behave. Your attitude and your persona and your outlook on the world but it’s possible to bounce back. It’s possible to continue on and allow death to push you, to mould you, to escort you back into consciousness. You’re allowed to be angry but you’re also allowed to propagate remote happiness. Grief changes you but it’s met with strength, solidarity, humour, and the posthumous reflection of both hoping and knowing they’re proud and at peace.
It’s a tough case when grief isn’t afresh. When you’re not the girl who’s just lost her dad. The ten year anniversary comes around, the empathetic messages reel back in, and there’s no viable way of getting out of it. You can’t avoid the dreaded date. You can’t skip a day to bake cookies and sing along to Disney and road trip under the moon or whatever else makes you saccharine style happy. You just have to face it head on. People presume that abysmal hole isn’t as vehement but it is. You’ve adapted and grown but that void remains.
It remains in the random and uncontrollable to and fro of waves that drench the surface and wash out the intestinal fire. When a song etched from fond nostalgia comes on the radio. Whilst you’re getting ready. When you’re alone and your thoughts manifest. As the clock chimes and your schedule runs and the calendar approaches those double dates in June with a marked gap where the birthday bash betides. When you think about how much they’re missing out on – the good and the bad and the ‘your daughter’s had a stroke’ type of news. When you wonder what they’d look like if they were still around; would they still walk with their head up in the air, would that same head now be completely depilated. When you like to think they can hear the unsaid words and are watching the monumental minutes. When you need a big bear cuddle or a chin pie. When a funny joke that instils their character is told or a notable point in your life is reached. When you know they’re dead but your subconscious still instantly goes to tell them; like you’ve not forgot they’re no longer here but you still sense their presence. It hits you, it chokes you, and it spits you out. Your breath catches and the emotional pain transfigures into physical.
Grief messed me up. It left me bereft but yearning to continue living in this finite and fragile life. Like that six part series said, all we’ve got is each other to help us through the struggles, to get up and carry on. Today and every day forward I’ll find solace in the photos, the conversations, the family, the possibilities to excel, unravel his story to the descendant flesh and blood, and contour that celestial triangle of dancing stars; his name on them all. I’ll light a candle and I’ll pin some supermarket flowers to his tree in the garden; the one we’ve shared so much fun in at the back of the house where we formed an eternal bond.
Ten years ago on that solemn day in a seasonal switch there was a hole punctured in my heart; a piece of it fragmented and discarded never to be restored whole until we meet again and until that day I’ll hold his memory close in the remaining pieces that circulate and fill my nuances purely with his spirit interlocked in my soul.
The light can prevail amongst the dark, storm clouds allowing the peep of sunshine to banish the hurt that exists. And right there in a spotlight of a shadow will be a single white feather on a bed of roses. Floating and flourishing. A reminder that he’s never really gone. My Dad. My pillar. My forever.
When I think of my love life, I think of a tumbleweed rolling down a parched country road excreting depleting levels of energy at its slowest rate. Tortoise-like. With a hollow shell. Dried of concrete connection. Also known as, me. Just like my career prospects, my nightmare of a neurological disorder has relentlessly affected that part of life that falls into place naturally for most people. Dating. Relationships. Getting down and dirty. Finding the one. You know, the works.
I don’t talk much about my lack of romance. Mainly because it’s purely that – lacked and illusive – but also because I prefer to conceal the semblance. I like to think people see me and surmise my life is rich with opportunities to meet handsome men and allow them to whisk me off my feet. An average modern blonde with a dictatorial voice and a passable pair of boobs. It’s just better that way. More comfortable, convenient, and congenial. But it’s far from the truth and it’s about time I opened up about a factor that does run cynically through my mind at a much faster pace than the tumbleweed.
I’m forever in a perpetual cycle when it comes to dating. Contemplating whether to just rip the plaster off and take the plunge. Download Tinder and embrace the cringe. Approach someone with some dutch courage companionship on the sporadic occasion I’m out in a bar slyly giving the eye. Place the deceptive mask on that covers the face of someone who’s actually pretty damn petrified.
The torrent of excuses take centre stage to quash the deep-rooted factors that prevent that sense of freedom and stature when working towards putting myself on the market. I blame it on my awkwardness, my social anxiety, and being an undivided commitment-phobe. The accurate but hyperbolic fact that I’ve had to primarily look after myself and my deteriorating health since I was 17 years old and I haven’t had the time or the stamina to search for love. Realistically it’s the fears and the inhibitions of pouring my life into an overfilled rickety bucket and emptying it out to someone, the dread of rejection, the perturbing thoughts that emotional attachment and exposed vulnerability will only lead to further isolation and dejection.
Dating is difficult at the best of times. It’s not an easy ride. Not that I have much experience but I know what it’s like to live in a spiralling world of orthodoxy. To follow the journey of determining that special someone is overwhelming for the healthiest of people but finding that eligible individual who both vibes with your interests and your personality, and understands that some days they’ll have to refrain from touching you because you’re curled up in a ball paralysed with a pain flare, is balancing on the edge of implausibly impossible.
Dating with a disability? Yeah, it’s a whole other ball game.
Having a chronic illness that impacts the conventional functions of everyday has to become a significant part of you and often that plays a part on what you choose to divulge and who you choose to divulge to. My nemesis is I prefer to keep that version of myself secret when that version isn’t even a periphery, it’s who I am. Avoiding the situation is much more uncomplicated than finding common ground with my regular psyche and the Antichrist infarction on my brain that’s doing 90mph in a 30mph zone.
The apprehensions of dating with chronic illness is well rounded. Not just with scientific knowledge but from general prevalence and of course direct word of mouth. There are so many conflicting elements that contribute towards that shakiness surrounding dating when you’re physically unable to do what all your healthier peers are doing.
When is the right time to reveal your condition? I don’t even think there is an ideal opportunity to bring it up in casual conversation. How the bloody hell do you introduce yourself at a first meeting? Hi, I’m Bridie, I’m already extremely doubtful you’ll fall in love with me but just to deter you further – I had a rare form of stroke as a teen, was robbed of my youth, and am still struggling through each day with erratic, incurable, debilitating pain and a severe serotonin shortage. Oh, and I can’t feel the left hand side of my body either. Also if this somehow miraculously manages to progress into a real relationship there will be a good proportion of guaranteed days I’m cooped up indoors ugly crying with a dishevelled appearance and an unresponsive manner. I’ll probably even spitefully push you away because there’s nothing to thwart my substitute emotion of sheer anger. So sexy. Very alluring. Not off putting at all.
It’s that unabating dilemma of what you should give away with those first time questions. Especially the big statutory one. The instant ice breaker of “so what do you do?” – a piece of cake for your average Joe to answer but a gulp inducing freeze frame for me. Where do you start in telling someone you don’t have degree level qualifications or a stable job or a wealthy sum of earned income and have spent most of your development to adulthood sat in hospital waiting rooms or on your single bed contemplating whether you can go on living in this state? How do you broadcast your desperate nonstandard freelance schedule of grabbing any modicum of work – even lowly commissioned tosh – because you can’t afford to turn it down nor stand the sight of another declined email and ignored pitch? How do you even begin to explain about those pencilled plans crushed by the weight of your monstrous malady? And more importantly, how do you inform the person facing your camouflaged crestfallen reflection with hope and intrigue that you rely on the government and your mum to get by as you doubt you’d be able to cope single-handedly. Ambition and success and stability and independence is attractive. Not being stuck on a demoted loop with no certain direction for the future, figuratively glued to your home turf making it even harder to meet new people and socialise in the ordinary.
Pain is problematic because it’s invisible and explosive and you can’t detect when it’s going to strike. My outer image to a blind eye is a picture of promise and prosperity enlarged into an exhibit; a deceptive canvas for passers by to criticise. Being disabled means you really have to be cautious of the ignorance and judgement that can shed from an obliviously unacquainted person. Pain could hit me unexpectedly halfway through a date and suddenly the concept of smiles and fun completely vanishes. Or I could organise a date when I’m feeling up to it, have to cancel two hours before, and abort mission completely; and I can only imagine what that would do to some fragile masculinity with a pinch of utterly wrong impression sprinkled on top. It’s not just the pain that’s unpredictable, it’s not knowing when someone is desperate to run for the hills despite what their mannerism may exude. I already feel like damaged goods, that devalue tripling in dominance isn’t something I’m particularly keen on reaping.
It’s not just the pain presented on a platter, it’s the ensuing pattern of things that coincide unavoidably. The moods. The depression. The seclusion. The self-esteem. The negative body image. The broken sleep. The constant exhaustion. The limitations and boundaries. The extra challenges. The doubts that creep in; as soon as you gather up the courage it’s an automatic ‘am I really cut out for this?’. The scepticism and internal debates without an audience. What if they think I’m a boring PG freak? What if they get fed up of me complaining too much? What if one day they just decide my unhappiness and inability is unbearable and up and walk? What if they’re just feigning interest because they feel sorry for me? How do I embody this new fraction of my life without scaring people away?
I know full well I’d receive the stereotypical response, all the stuff you’re supposed to say, the “none of that matters” and “it makes no difference” but I know otherwise. I’ve carried this burden for 8 years and I wouldn’t want to introduce this unpleasant reality to anyone ill-suited or immature. In fact, nobody would want that.
All of those afflictions and trust issues contribute to the embedded precept that finding love just really isn’t worth the physical and emotional energy. Kissing the frogs to find my prince isn’t even a durable enterprise when I can’t bring myself to conquer those qualms on the first batch of tested tadpoles. It’s better to be alone and continue disappointingly letting myself down than it is welcoming unfamiliar and incalculable ingredients into the mix.
I’m well aware this screams repressed ableism, self-stigmatisation, and an immeasurable dash of internalised self hatred but it’s a manifestation for me. I’d forcibly chastise anyone else being this harsh on themselves but it’s how I feel and I can’t dispose of the gnawing torment – because the reality of your body failing you is that it rips you of worth, beats you down, and piles on a myriad of emotional issues. I find it so unsparingly hard to see, designate, and unveil the ‘me’ within the haze of searing pain and surrendering fatigue. I’ve become a solitary detractor bordering on executioner and that irreversibility has proved to be just as inconceivably destructive as the pain itself. I know there’ll be plenty of chronically ill people dating or in committed and wholesome partnerships and I both envy and salute those who have defeated that stage of fundamental frailty. I only have myself to blame because I purposely don’t put the effort in – but with those weighted barriers on my shoulder as I stumble along the path of alienation, it’s just another obstructive side effect to my illness.
I’m 26 next. The societal scale tells me I should hurry up the dating game – offer myself out with a confident and unfaltering aura – but how do you do that when you’re still figuring yourself out? Still deeming what permanent puzzle piece can slot into your jigsaw wreckage? Unveiling my body is unimaginable. Not that you can physically see my problems but to me you can. It does seem palpable because I’m conscious of what’s happening thunderously inside. Picturing myself settling down, finding the perfect match, someone who is willingly volunteering to sign up to every facet is unthinkably bizarre. Not just because I feel undeserving and not good enough but because it’s been me, myself, and I for almost a decade now; I can’t imagine anyone entering the main plot of my story, taking over care and control of my territorial nature. The ‘there’s someone out there for everyone’ notion just doesn’t decipher in my detached world.
The one thing I have learned in being a sad and lonely singleton (now I do joke, it’s not that miserable) is that saint valentine forgot cupid’s arrow and struck me with an introversion instead. In a way, it’s helped. It’s helped me take time for myself selfishly, be content with my own company, and not force dependency on anyone else. It’s allowed me to know my worth. To not settle for less than I deserve. That being someone who will understand how much I’ve been through, go above and beyond in proving me wrong, and accept me and all the baggage that lugs along.
I have no idea whether that person will be introduced into my sphere anytime soon. I don’t know what the future holds and I definitely can’t foretell whether I’ll beat these battles and let my guard down but it’s okay because we’re all the same in that department; with health problems or without. Everyone has those insecurities and struggles and jitters about what will happen next whether single or taken or just simply dating.
Yeah I may end up a spinster. Or I may become a reputable inventor when I devise a dating website exclusively for spoonies (this is a serious suggestion, imagine how easier it’d be to meet those likewise who *get it*?? Dragon’s Den I’m coming for you) but all I can really is do is keep moving forward when the sun rises and push through misadventure to create a rapturous pursuit or two when that big ball of light turns dark.
Painfully average. It’s a vaguely fatuous term but complex in all its connotations. When some people talk about being painfully average they talk about not passing maths or lacking rhythm or eating nuggets and chips for tea every day but when I talk about feeling painfully average (actually I don’t which is why this burst of conversation is ironically derived from securing the lock on my deep-rooted cynical cerebral conceit) I mean an all consuming wave of sub-parity, a real definition of my depiction, incessant doubt and instability, and a thought or ten that never goes away.
Painfully average to me is a static state of never being good enough, no matter how hard I try. It’s counteracting with that whiff of regard that you are trying, convincing yourself you’re a washed out footnote in what trying really translates to. It’s feeling lazy and useless and stupid. It’s logging on to social media to discover the sunflower in a sea of daffodils has just been given that promotion or reached a triumphant milestone or being welcomed to work with their dream brand; and you’re just a hovering barren bumblebee unable to harvest pollen, wrapped up in the absence of validation.
It’s the fruition of disappointment and disapproval. The rumination of mediocrity. Being nothing special or noteworthy. Irrelevant in my jaded existence. It’s having zero faith in my capabilities. It’s being laced with self doubt which in succession prevents that flow of confidence and creativity and ambition, navigating that vicious circle. It’s never holding the superior title. Failing to conquer relatively resourceful skills because my brain is unable to gather information at an expert rate. Practicing but never quite reaching that satisfactory endgame and allowing that disabling defeat to overpower my entire being. Keen to build an empire but instead only managing to shelter in a flimsy made tent as the wind gravitates me in a tailspin back to that endless limbo.
It’s stationed below what is expected of a twenty something, boxed in with no way of escaping without the illustrious voice in my head taking centre place on the winning podium and laughing directly at me if I even attempt to ask for help or strive for more. It’s also my own expectations, ingrained and compressed furthermore in a mind running off pure pipe dreams and elusive pursuits, never satisfied or fulfilled with who I am and what I want. Visualising change and improvement and then being stared out by intrusive thoughts of “why bother?”
It’s feeling the wishy-washy kind of insipidly dull. Like a failure. An empty soul. Being behind on the times. Like anything I ever do or achieve (emphasis on the ever) is going to match up to the prodigal son who’s made up of not just ordinary stone but dazzling gemstones. It’s meaninglessly filling the void directionless, mulling over and wondering whether I’ll catch up on the thriving ladder of relationships and career and general success in comparison to ~normal~ people my age. Whether I’ll ever make it in life with that placid, content feeling of value and belonging.
Painfully average is not quite finding my place yet nor fitting into the universally cool criteria. It’s that trivial rejection email or notification or voice out loud that feels like a drastic event and tears you apart. It’s exerting myself with the amount of effort I’m putting in and seeing nothing for it. Like no matter how many hours I put into a project it’ll always be on the bottom pile shielded with dust. Wanting to give up but knowing full well I’m still not doing enough to help myself and taking the wrath of guilt that follows. Dwelling on the fact it’s never me on that pedestal, in fact I’m just on the back burner not daring to make a name of myself or actually being acknowledged to do so. It’s that sickening, blood draining, lump in your throat when it hits you.
It’s that reoccurring phase of being somewhere in the middle, unwavering yet sailing amongst more desirable options. Stuck in a foggy, unclear atmosphere of suffocation and suspension and suffering and then smiling, like everything’s all right. Tumbling in a constellation of inhibition and irrelevance with an inability to go anywhere; floating my way through the sphere on a black cloud above sunshine and rainbows. I’m not moving but the rest of the world still continues to orbit perfectly fine around and without me.
And feeling painfully average isn’t just limited to my inner self. It’s the outer oxymoron. Having a volatile habit of depriving my personal quality by appearance shaming. There’s periods of adequateness, like when I dress in my Sunday best and prance around streets embracing the one thing I am solidified in (style fyi) but then the unsettling hatred germinates and before I know it it’s all I’m blazoned with. Is that linked with my conceptual insecurities? Perhaps. The two are most likely conjoined. But it doesn’t make it any easier. When the mirror is no longer my friend. I’m alone with no camaraderie and just downbeat thoughts circulating. Not feeling funny enough. Or pretty enough. Or striking enough. Or just enough. Being well aware I’ll never be that flawlessly, glossy, witty glamour model with cooperative hair and golden skin and an impeccably toned bod; especially when I’m figuratively strapped to my bed with week old hair, a bare face, sunken eyes and spots because of an unexpected and unwanted pain flare up. Being well aware and predominantly accepting it, but also wishing more than anything I could swap faces, bodies, and lives, with her in the spotlight.
I think I am subconsciously aware I do have reasons to be above painfully average but not the kind I desire, not the type I feel I’m capable of embodying.
There’s a tweet doing its rounds on Twitter at the moment:
anyone who was a “pleasure to have in class” has an anxiety disorder now
and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Yeah, I laughed because it was definitely a direct attack, excuse me hdu. But it’s not until it’s actively materialised into your train of thought that you start to muse over how the perception of yourself from child to adulthood can be so profoundly different. I was the good kid, regularly praised, breezing through school, plenty of friends and fun and bubbling with that guileless sense of majestic credibility. Only when I started having problems mentally at the end of high school did the switch flick. My aspiration began to dwindle and the painfully average overtone of being utterly insufficient became encapsulated in everything I perpetrated.
Using humour as a method of distraction and a coping mechanism is definitely popular in my rule book trajectory. I can jest about seeing people younger than me settling down and buying a house and getting married and having babies whilst I laugh at farts with my brother on an evening where I eat cereal at 1am and devote my entire slumber state to a new sitcom. It’s okay until that starts to becomes a designated, ineradicable, painfully average fear.
The big PA is semantics. It’s food for thought. It’s a term individual for everyone. And that’s what I am, wholly individual. I’m not even seeking to be highly above average. I don’t want to be pigeonholed into a standard category but I just can’t seem to get a grasp on it becoming a casual phrase instead of an eternal mood eating away at me and weighed down like an anchor beneath a stationary boat. All I know is that when it does happens, I’m enclosing it to a glass bottle and sending it out into my own ocean of forever.
2018. It’s been a funny old year. In January’s reflective post I had an intuition 2018 would be the year of good fortune but I was wrong, as per. I made a real effort to follow the purposeful plan I’d set out for myself, the objectives, the testimonies, and the life mantras, but a couple of weeks down the line and I found myself having to force it.
As the years go by, the less I want to spend hours typing out a lengthy post that fits the ‘new year, new me’ culture. The less I want to blend in with the crowd and start laying out all these romanticised, stilted statements declaring I’m going to become a completely different person and remain nothing but upbeat and positive because in reality, that isn’t reachable for someone like me. I’d very much like it to be. That’s probably why I assertively tell myself and get it down in writing; but if there’s one thing I’ve executed this year it’s unfeigned honesty and direct gospel – through the ebb and flow – and that’s what I’d like to carry on persisting with.
So, instead of railroading my way through another bittersweet year flying by and another unpredictable one open to possibility on the horizon, I’m reviewing and I’m reflecting.
2018. It’s tested me but it’s also opened my eyes and taught me valuable lessons. I’ve seen true colours. I’ve lost respect for people I thought I’d hold on a pedestal for a long time to come. I’ve become wary and had a downfall of trust. I’ve fortuitously fallen out of love with things that once meant the world to me, things that once played the chief role in my happiness. I’ve wobbled and I’ve won. I’ve been intentionally hurt and knocked down. I’ve given in to people trying to break me. I’ve been at my all time low. I’ve been surrounded by so many anxieties and worries about the here and now and the future; tons of questions and realisations that leave me sad. I haven’t felt like myself. I’ve been lost and lonely and weak and unsure. I’ve still been battling with no fixed outcome daily.
But I’ve also been strong. Resourceful, empathetic, compassionate, driven, open, passionate, liberal. I’ve laid my struggles and self-hood out on a plate and taken that risk of people being able to target every little component of my life – but it’s paid off. I’m using my personal experiences to achieve, inform, and impel. I’ve read more. Educated myself more. Listened to more music. Listened to more people. Been more vocal. For most of the year I’ve spoke as an advocate for those most oppressed in society and especially the disabled/chronic pain community. That honest mindset has given me an understanding of who I am and what I stand for. Allowed me to feel empowered and unstoppable and in turn it’s worked in my favour.
I’ve witnessed karma first hand. I’ve recognised what is toxic, that there’s a difference between what you want and what you need. I’ve learned that walking away from someone and/or something that had a hold on you, so much so that you lost sight of what’s important and what you yourself are made up of, can be liberating and free and leave you in a newfangled sense of peace. I’ve also learned that it’s OK to let said people go because all-sorts of folk will come and go in life – whether they’re meant to be temporary or permanent. I’ve moved on. I’ve focused on myself and my dreams and my personality. I’ve cemented friendships with an even more resolute connection. I’ve appreciated how blessed I am to have such an incredible network of people around me who are patient, understanding, and accepting. And I’ve proudly said; you know what? I’m a pretty sound human and I aim to continue improving on that.
It was probably just a few weeks into January when I realised the year of 2018 was just going to be as shite as the rest but actually, that’s my pessimism demonstrating its demons. Looking back there has actually been a fair few stand out moments and that’s what I love about reflecting on the past year, you find positivity you failed to see before.
I’ll definitely be orchestrating a photo-focused round up in my insta stories in the next couple of days before the clock strikes midnight, the fireworks are lit, and the party induced fun and frolics are reinforced to the limit on the 31st, but a quick summary of all the good bits of 2018 worth raving about is something I wanted to report in my 2018 synopsis.
The year started off amazingly as I attended my first Blog At The Beach and subsequently went and won myself a trip to Paris. PARIS. Bloody Paris! The place I’ve been fantasising about visiting since forever. I then headed off with my sidekick (aka mum) at the end of July in a sweltering heatwave and had the most mesmerising time which I’d do anything to relive! I landed myself some fab collaborations both on social media and my blog, working with some amazing brands; most notably Pretty Little Thing, Warehouse, Nomination Italy, Victoria Leeds, and Beauty Bay. I attended numerous events and restaurant reviews. I’ve been slowly but steadily growing a business I intend to aim towards skyrocketing to its prime in 2019! I got my first freelance writing gig and composed from the heart. I got another job from home as an online stylist (the platform’s currently being relaunched so that’s something I’ll be getting to grips with in the new year!) I featured in news articles, magazines, documentaries, and have spoken to media outlets about my story – pushed myself to face my fear and anxiety of phone calls and told my story. I raised £500 for The Stroke Association – a charity I’ve doubled my support and unification for, this year.
I’ve seen three of my favourite artists live and bought tickets for three more (speaking of which, The 1975 hold the album of the year title! Modernity has definitely failed me and I can’t wait to yell the Love It If We Made It bridge at my loudest next month.) I went on my second girls holiday to gorgeous Gran Canaria, had no recollection of sleeping four in a bed, slow danced to a Whitney Houston tribute, laughed until we cried, and loved it so much we booked to go back to the same place again. I had the most unbeatable summer fuelled with football fever and red hot sunshine I never thought I’d have. And, most weighty and progressive for me and my self-doubt and consciousness, began to debut my face and my voice via video – opening up new doors and using this to engage fully with my audience. Testing the waters. Experimenting. Constantly wanting to strive for content both you and I enjoy!
It’s been a mixed 2018. Hard to deal with for the majority, but full of memories to treasure. A real whirlwind of emotions but emotions I’ve been able to release; be more comfortable in talking about and revealing to the world. Often it’s felt like I’ve felt so much at once and yet nothing at all. Hollow and dead inside but about ready to burst with apprehension and overpowering, loud energy. The main point is, I can take the good days with the bad and share that publicly and that’s what I aim to carry on doing. The less alienated I’ll feel, and the more adjoined I’ll feel to you lovely lot.
Although I’ve promised myself no resolutions, no strict goals, no ridiculous, unreachable aspirations, I still want to go into 2019 working on myself and myself first and foremost. There’s five key methods I want to implement into my mentality.
Stop trying to compete with the same. I feel like 2018 has consisted of me being so caught in trying to be I neglected the letting me be. I want to properly drill it into myself that I’ll never be the 100k photo perfected superior kind of blogger but that doesn’t have to be a downfall. The complete opposite, in fact. I have my own individual quirks and ways of documenting my creativity and if I concentrate on that alone it’s bound to be beneficial. I want to try and switch off from the intensity and pressures of social media whilst still being interactive, sort of discovering that balance. My attitude is to strive to work for something bigger for myself; instead of trying to conform within someone else’s world, I want to mould my own. After all, no-one really cares if I disappear. Nobody notices or reaches out or will be missing my posts. It doesn’t shake them or knock their routine. That’s why I need to stop trying so hard to please other people with what I produce and stop seeking validation that isn’t going to be instrumental for me on a long term basis.
Be responsible for my own happiness and well-being. Staying with social media; I pledge to make my feeds a safe haven. Block and mute stuff that makes me uncomfortable and leaves me with dread, anger, and anguish – because boy has 2018 been full of those. The internet has been heavy and hard to handle this year. People seem to have gotten more disrespectful and unnecessarily horrible and in turn 2018 has definitely made me more perceptive of what affects me and I want and need to keep that ongoing. I often tell myself as long as I’ve grown as a person it doesn’t matter that nothing’s changed but the end of 2018 going into 2019 is and is going to be the turning point and the ultimate breakthrough. Nothing’s changed because I’ve not allowed it to. I’ve stayed in my safe, comfort zone and only stepped out of it a couple of times that I breathed a sigh of relief over when it was done with. Next year I want to outdo myself, shock myself with how adventurous I’ve been, to explore outside my usual endeavours. No more getting lost in imagination, more acting on it. I am the motivator for change; for my general wellness, my mental health, my peace of mind, my stability, my fulfilment, my thrills and my contented pleasures. Relying on others and fantasies to form my own happiness is unhealthy. I’ve already kick-started the process but I am erasing the concept of depending on people that don’t even care about my existence, and hyper-focusing on situations that last only a day before reality hits again. Finding and creating self happiness is hard but doable and I’ve taken the first step by admitting I need help and support via therapy. It’s not going to come to me, I have to make it happen, and I’m excited about and eager to see what’s going to come next with the right guidance and stance!
Construct confidence and self-worth. I’ve shed light on this subject a couple of times. In a blog post at the start of the year and on a recent insta post inspired by Paige’s #ChristmasConfidence campaign. I wrote what was close to a heartfelt essay about the functions of my brain. How no matter what people say otherwise, it will always tell me I’m a useless waste of oxygen, that the reflection I see is ugly, too flabby, not fit to society’s standards. I spoke about not wanting to be so wrapped up in the negatives as I exit 2018. I don’t want to fake my confidence with a false poise. I don’t want to be scrutinising myself with every photo I take and every outfit I try on. I don’t want to set myself diet and fitness goals and only then allow myself to feel hot. I want to embrace my flaws, accept what cannot be changed, and what makes me the person I am. There’s three aims I intend on epitomising: stop doubting myself, give time for myself, and love myself – because what is meant for me will be mine.
Chase that development. I want to chase the gains on my hopeful career ladder but I also want to chase the curiosity and the ambition and the impulse and the passion. Think outside the box, up my creativity and revolutionise my ideas, really get to grips with what I want to convey in my niche and focus on a day by day approach with origination and blossoming trailing behind at full speed. Put my heart and soul into ventures and projects. Put even greater time and effort in and hopefully – fingers crossed – notice the results come this time next year!
Leave behind what isn’t good for me. Not just the trivial things that I really shouldn’t get myself stressed and worked up over but the way people treat me and respond to me as an individual. Less worrying but also less being a pushover. I’m not begging anyone to stay or saving space for people who can’t be bothered or show no interest in me. My circle of people who matter is small but balls to being afraid to cut people out if they show signs of lying and manipulating and being passive-aggressive in the way they behave around me. It’s okay to put myself first because this is my life, my heart, my mind, my body, my beliefs, my thoughts, my feelings, my cause, my existence. I am unapologetically me and I don’t need vindication from anyone but myself.
All in all, the underlying sentiment is that the more the years go on and the older I get, the more I am determined to become better, more aware and receptive. There’s a quote by Denzel Washington I like to always look back on when I need a reminder that being a good person gets you to where you want to be and always sits at the number one spot when life is playing out around you.
“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished it’s about who you’ve lifted up who you’ve made better it’s about what you’ve given back.”
2018 has definitely been that kind of year and 2019 will take that notion by the hand and lead it further forward. With blips and woes but with perseverance and power!
Now, it probably wasn’t the wisest idea writing this hefty, deep, digestive post in the weird wilderness period between Christmas and New Year when we’re all delusional as to what day we’re on, who we are, and what we’re supposed to be doing. Being the least impressive and most unattractive version of ourselves. Falling into an abyss of endless food and sleepiness, made up of 90% chocolate and 10% indigestion.
I’m currently there. It took a metaphorical slap to the face to get me shifted off the sofa I’ve melted in to since Christmas Day and get sat down to express all the internalised conflict 2018 has shifted upon me. It doesn’t help that a massive flare up of chronic pain has inevitably occurred after having a lot of bonkers fun and that’s tied me down. But writing this has proved it doesn’t have to have me entirely in a choke-hold and I do actually feel pretty damn cleansed nearly 3000 words down. Exhausted and my hand in agony, but cleansed.
These few days are where it’s okay to take time off and strive to do absolutely nothing but it’s more than okay if you want to follow in my footsteps. Just saying.
I peaked early because I’m heading off to the East Midlands tomorrow morning for a family break to a tranquil country park in joint celebrations of my mum’s 50th and new year’s eve. I’m staying in a caravan meets lodge, with the most snazzy design, a hot tub, and a TV above the bath. Spending three days there, seeing 2018 out and welcoming 2019 in is just what the soul requires. Reconnecting with natural nature, winter walks along the lake, chilled evenings, more scrumptious food, getting dolled up for the new year shenanigans, forgetting about every errand and problem 2018 appended on me for a short while, and not feeling as though I’m obliged to do anything but draw a blank. It’s going to do me the world of good leaving 2018 behind and starting the new year in another place – a peaceful setting at that – I feel it in my bones, and I hope this time I’m right.
If you’ve got to the end of this mammoth post then, congratulations. I applaud you. I also hope you’ve had a brilliant Christmas and end 2018 with a bang (take that how you want.)
I’ll be signing off until regular schedule begins, now, but will more than likely be still posting bits and bobs over on Instagram over the weekend. I hope you’ve had the chance to rest and retreat and come back afresh with new inspiration and ideas. I definitely have and you should start to see me implementing them as soon as I properly get the concept into gear.
And last of all, THANK YOU. Every sign of support from my small but mighty bunch of readers has kept me going this year. The compliments, the feedback, the likes, the messages, the praises, the invites. Knowing I have those dedicated readers with me every step of the way on my turbulent journey, even through the rejections and the lows, is why I do this and is why I’m always striving for excellence. I hope 2019 brings you everything you wish for and every inch of contentment and feeling of success, enthusiasm, and purpose you’ve brought me!
As I’m writing this post, the sun is blazing, the ladybirds are swarming, and if I really concentrate on my surroundings I can pretend it’s summer again. Brought back to reality by the whooping winter cough that’s been depriving me of my much needed beauty sleep for weeks on end, of course. But never has there been a better time to pretend I wasn’t supposed to publish this at the beginning of last month when the photos were taken because this week’s temperatures means I can still get away with winging the denim skirt and cropped shirt look. Speaking of summer, that time period is what instigated this mentality of numbers aren’t everything, and that’s what I want to drive home about.
The summer months tend to be the doorway for my most creative outlets. It’s warm, you can go outdoors into the natural light, it doesn’t get dark ’til 10pm, and my Vitamin D filled, motivated mind is brimming with new ideas. The trouble is, for as much effort as I put in, there’s not much to show for it. No increase in engagement, no sudden influx of traffic, followers still dropping like flies, and little to no changes seen in any social media surveillance. Only recently have I realised, none of that matters as much as you think it does.
As you will probably all know, this summer I visited Paris for the first time and that meant I had a chance to capture content that really came from within the heart of me and fit the boxes in which my preferences and passions lay. Content that I was happy with. Content that I truly enjoyed getting out there. And although it was something I personally relished in, at the forefront of my mind was that constant thought of impressing others and perhaps this being the opportunity to grow my platform further. Architectural art, notable backdrops for outfit locations, famous landmarks and the cliche poses was bound to grab people’s attention, right?
There were a few (very much appreciated) uplifting comments and praises from my avid readers but nothing out of the ordinary. No life changing recognition or sudden insta fame, and I don’t know what I expected because I’m well aware I’m not in the exceptional category of incredible content creators who boss it in every image and every sentence, but it was a kick in the teeth when I really thought I’d reached the best level of quality and received nothing in return.
Only when I moved on from that did I realise I’d been hyper focusing so much my real, sincere gusto took the back-burner, because no matter how much blogging and generating influencer work you’re proud of is a key vocation, becoming so transfixed and overwhelmed by the numbers side of things only turns you into your number one own worst enemy.
No one actively likes a decrease in their audience, that’s a fact. Spending hours perfecting that photo angle, editing, analysing, and feeling as though you’ve hit the jackpot, just to get zero response, isn’t pleasant. It is discouraging and it does make you feel like shit. Especially, if, like me, you’re a paranoid over thinker anyway, and you spend a solid portion of your day wondering why. What am I doing wrong? Are my photos really that bad? Are they not superior or varied enough? Have I just bored people to death with my lengthy ramblings because I don’t know when to shut up? Everyone must hate me. Yep, that’s the only conclusion.
It’s easier said than done, not getting caught up in the hype of a follower count. And it is difficult not to be at a loss when it feels like there’s always someone better than you. Someone getting recognised by the high end brands, building a massive following in just a few months, radiating with personality and unique traits that make you feel like the white crayon of the pack. But it’s also good to remember, no one does you like you do.
It’s got to the point now where I’m just like, why don’t I just post for me? Do what I want to do without worrying how many people are going to take interest or whether my monthly users will be impacted? Snap away without fretting about if my photos are luxe enough? Post what I like with no added pressure, no hidden meaning behind it, or try hard attitude. It’s quite the revelation, but it’s hitting me right where it’s supposed to. It’s turned my mindset right around. In today’s industry, you do need to go that step further to stand out amongst but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing that your own way and staying true to your colours. Forcing yourself to push the boat out isn’t going to do you any favours.
Right now I’m all about letting it all flow naturally instead of getting so worked up about every single thing I post. If that means my ditziness and overdramatic uncoolness and the rest of my ugly parts shows, then so be it. That’s just a central part of my ambition and overall nature.
Social media is often outlined with rose tinted glasses, anyway. It’s all magnificence and professionalism and ‘here’s what you can do to improve your niche and reach your goals‘. You can’t scroll through without Twitter without spotting the latest SEO strategy, and you can’t open up your Instagram app without an advert for a new E-Course popping up amongst the overly saturated pictures. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that. Absolutely not. You do what’s most helpful for you and what suits you, individually. I just think right now that’s not the place I want to be at. I’ve tried the whole tips and tricks scheme and actually, have in fact found more long term fundamental results just by being authentic.
I want to post as and when I want to and not because I feel I have to. I don’t want to have to think I must be constantly producing 100% sterling content in fear of people losing interest and pressing the unfollower button. I want to post without thinking too hard and if that means crappy iPhone pics then that’s what it will be.
I want to stop caring about the negative impact of the algorithm. I want to interact with others in the community just out of pure goodness and engrossment, not for any gaining intent. I don’t want to be attached to Google Analytics and media kits and DA’s. I mean, it’s beneficial and it helps put yourself into perspective, but I don’t want to be seen as the lower grade of someone else. I like to think that if PRs and brands like what they see, they will contact you anyway, no matter what that number on the page says.
The opportunities I’ve had certainly aren’t based upon a few digits. Blogging is so much more than the amount of likes, followers, and views on your screen. That isn’t what makes you special. Your life, your worth, and your skill as both a blogger and a genuine human isn’t defined by that. Putting your heart and soul into everything you do and remaining true to yourself whilst forming experience is what makes you great.
Taking it back to the beginning is the direction I aim to go in. Remembering exactly why I started and reflecting on my blogging journey. I’ve never been one to intensely track my success in numbers but even as I implemented this into my approach, it wasn’t why I began to explore and develop my very own corner of the internet in the first place.
So, yes, I do lose followers quite rapidly. I’m not the chattiest or the funniest or flawlessly consistent and I’m past letting that one curated, fixated side take over my life. Feedback is amazing. An increase in likes and messages and followers are bloody brill but I’m done taking offence if I don’t see that regularly. It’s flattering to know people are recognising how hard you’re working and valuing that but if it isn’t your cup of tea, then that’s okay!
Since lowering my expectations in myself and my relevance, quitting the harsh focalising, and ridding of the tactical notion I’ve noticed a lot more genuine appeal head my way and that says more to me than anything.
I’ll never be mega popular, that’s just not who I am. I don’t have the lifestyle privileges to allow me to be on board with the top dogs who absolutely slay their way through their online career and I ain’t even stressed about it anymore.
Maybe people just aren’t a fan of my universal tableau and that’s fine, as long as I’m still being me.