30 December, 2013

Torn Between Two Cities



Since moving to Sheffield 9 years ago, where I am ‘from’ has become an increasingly difficult question to answer. Everything about my life today, from my job to my home to the way I move to the places I love to the clothes I wear to the choices I make – it all screams Sheffield. Sheffield is where I built my own home, it is where I found out who I am and to some extent it is the place which has dictated who I became. 

Sheffield is in my blood – every hill I have run up, every house I have lived in (at least half of all properties in Sheffield), every gig I have taken in, every time I have a 'brew' instead of a tea... it has all been consumed by my soul and now I feel sure wherever I go people would look at me and just know I am Sheffield. I don’t know if I was born a Sheffield girl, destined always to be here, or if I just became Sheffield after a decade of living and breathing this special city, but I do love that where we end up becomes such a huge part of who we are.

Not only do I feel totally entwined with my city, I kind of sometimes feel like I own it. Shared ownership of course. No-else in my family lives here and only a handful of friends still do – it feels as though it is all mine. I am proud to have moved 200 miles from my family and created a life for myself – it has been a real fight at times, and on plenty of occasions in the past I’ve considered packing up my old kit bag and heading back to the safety net of where I’m really from. Yet something has always kept me here, and for now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Coming home at Christmas is an emotional ride, that feeling of catapulting back from our big, grown-up, independent lives to the bubble of our hometowns where we grew up, to who we used to be, followed by a week of memories and reminders. My heart breathes a genuine sigh of relief when I descend back into St Albans, so different from my Sheffield but so lovable in a different way. I always sleep so deeply in my childhood room, like I never do anywhere else, and I don’t think I am ever more comfortable than when I am mooching around my Mum’s house in my pyjamas, getting in trouble for dropping crumbs everywhere, feeling like I'm 18 again.

Sheffield is who I am now, but St Albans is my home at heart. I don’t know if you could get two more contradictory cities. North Vs South, Casual Vs Glam, Flat Vs Hills, Gigs Vs Clubs, Made in Chelsea Vs This is England, Prosecco Vs Real Ale. How both are such a big part of me isn’t something I could ever explain, but I like to see the disparity between my two homes as the reflection of how far I have come. And I get the best of both awesome little worlds. 

After a week of absorbing one Shire, I am headed back to the other and I know as soon as my soul is filled up with Sheffield once more, it will become a little empty for St Albans. That’s just the way it goes when you are torn between two cities.

x

Bye bye South - thank you for another week of memories!x






28 December, 2013

This is a New Year Post


So this is my obligatory New Year blog post. Not too original, but kind of necessary. I will get bored of reading ‘My Top 10 Resolutions’ lists and ‘Thank You 2013’ posts, but as a hypocritical blogger it is simply fact that I do a solemn nod to this momentous occasion which means absolutely nothing in reality. I do it almost apologetically – this isn’t my hands typing, it’s my muse. From blogging world to real world, art imitates life in that even though many people seem to kind of resent New Year and the many pressures and reflections it bequeaths, we have no choice but to do it anyway. Even if the way we do it involves actively and very stubbornly ignoring it.

I have always felt it kind of mean that New Year gets you at probably one of your weakest points. I am without a doubt at my fattest, most mal-nourished, poorest and downright freaked out (back to work after being pissed for 2 weeks? Oh man) come 31st Jan. So a New Year enforced review of my life just doesn’t feel fair. I don’t have to ask the question to know I am not on my own? Why do we choose this moment to realise all our failings and write a jolly good list to reassure us we won’t fail in these ways in 2014?

I don’t really like the idea of making resolutions designed to make up for where we didn’t ‘achieve’ in the previous year. There is too much focus on achievement. Even before I sat down to type this I was thinking ‘what have I done in 2013?’ and the list that sprung to mind was the one of successes and failings. It was looong. I learnt to drive, I moved in with a boy, I got a big shiny new job, I dropped out of the half-marathon, I spent 3 months unemployed, I got a car, I joined a book club, I sprained my ankle real bad and I spent the first week of the year with tonsillitis. This list, although meaningful in its on way, is actually kind of irrelevant.

Yes our 2013 list means we can cross off things for next year and start a whole new list, but actually life is an endless list. We will never reach the end. EVER. If we live by this imagined list we will never, ever feel like we are quite where we want to be. And that’s really sad. Too much focus on what we have or haven’t achieved means we will never quite feel ‘there’ and that means never quite feeling ‘happy.’

So the most relevant thing I did work towards this year was take steps to learn to be happy in the present. I started doing Headspace which has really helped me put a distance between my emotions and what is happening in my life. I focused much more on really small things and less on the bigger picture. Although I have always been easily pleased and get excited about the most mundane events, I haven’t always been so good at being totally content unless I am also achieving something big. What I learnt this year is that small things are certain and big things are not. It’s easier to be happy if you can rely on what is making you happy at the time. So, if you can be totally content because you are sitting on a really comfy sofa or watching an awesome film, you can be really bloody content because not much can take that away from you.

It’s really hard to do, and it was all the more difficult in the summer when I wasn’t working. It isn’t easy to wake up every day and think ‘I am going to drink this cup of tea and be really happy about it and not think about what is next’ or go for a run and actually take in the scenery and not be thinking ‘oh my days what if no-one ever employs me again.’ But I tried anyway and after a while the trying turned into me actually feeling okay. It got easier to be happy every day once I felt like my life was ‘back on track’, but I want to get to a point where if things go tits up again (and I am only 27, they are going to at some point) I kind of don’t care. At the moment I am flying higher than I ever have in my heart, and while I am obviously happy, deep down it’s scaring the shit out of me. I am so aware of what I stand to lose, and so more than ever I want to get to a point where these ‘big things’ are not what make or break me. I am almost there, but not quite.

Next year for me is not all about the ‘I want to do this and get that’; it’s about the how I want to be.

How do you want to be in 2014?

x



17 December, 2013

Christmas family time & feeling homesick at 27 x


It's a long time since I blogged properly. Sometimes there is so much going on in life, your heart, your head that writing can't even consolidate those thoughts and feelings. I have had 'blog' at the top of my daily to-do list for the past month, but practicalities have won over as I've flown around getting ready for Christmas - shopping, wrapping, baking, jamming and hurdling social events with the finish line in mind. Although the urge to write has been stronger in my heart every day - to the point I feel like I am missing a limb - I have been (im)patiently waiting for a moment of calm. 

This moment has just about caught up with me. Just for a minute. The presents are wrapped, the bank balance is having a heart attack and I said the dreaded 'No' to a social event tonight because I just...could...not. I'm not done yet though, I have mapped out my hurdles for the week, which face me like gladiators, and it feels a fair way from here to my Christmas dinner.

Usually by mid December I am so ready for not just Christmas but for home. The last few weeks beforehand can often feel like a marathon as I countdown for not just festivities but for the one week of the year that I dedicate to my family and my family alone. For some people it's about getting smashed with friends, but I can't think of anything I'd rather do less than spend my favourite day of the year hungover, unable to give my family the best of myself.

I live some 200 miles from my Mum, Dad and sisters, not to mention most of my closest friends. Although I am fiercely independent, have a doting man by my side (who I have found my own family in) and keep myself busy, nothing can fill the gap of the people I grew up with and sometimes when it's the depths of winter and I am all on my own up here in big scary Sheffield, I really really miss them. It can sound silly to say you feel lonely when you're happy and have so many people around you all the time, but I do feel lonely when all I want to do some days is nip home for a cup of tea with my Mum, or catch a film with my Dad.

I have been feeling pretty homesick today, which always knocks me sideways. Why the hell am I homesick?? I am 27 and almost living a fully-fledged grown-up life, yet some days I think I just miss the familiarity of where I came from and to be around people who I never have to try with. I grew up a family girl and I stayed one. I was always homesick for my Mum, from my very first sleepover to when I travelled Australia - barely a day goes by that I don't text her and that's just the way I have always been. Same with my Dad, I speak to him a lot and we always have either a very funny or very philosophical chat - there's not many people I can do that with, and I love that I can talk at those depths with my own Dad.

Both my parents ground me in different ways and I talk to both of them about anything and everything - there's not much I won't tell them - and even though I'm a stone's throw away from 30, I don't know what I'd do without them. It may be that I missed out on something not having a 'together' family unit growing up, but I actually think the opposite - knowing them as individuals means I have gained a lot. 

I also get two Christmasses! As a kid it used to feel a bit like pass the parcel going from Mum's to Nanny's to Dad's in the holidays, but I really look forward to those separate doses of quality time with both sides of my funny little family. Most of my year from the summer onwards builds up to this one week of big fat quality family time, and that's what I am counting down to right now. 

Forget the carols, the presents, the food and the wine - what I am craving beyond belief is those small still shots in time that tide me over when coming all the way back to Sheffield feels really freaking hard. The big chats with my Mum, silly jokes with my sisters, the cinema trip with my Dad which has become tradition. I sometimes get a pang when I see people who's parents are nearby to help them move this or paint that, but I wouldn't change our set-up for anything. So I don't get to see them all the time, but I couldn't be happier when I do. 

I may be homesick today, but I know that in a week's time I will be snuggled up with the people I can most relax around, probably arguing with my big sister and Mum about who would stand more chance with Gary Barlow, listening to some mad song my Dad has written on his guitar or eyeing up the last portion of Apple Pie (it's mine!) and I really cannot wait.

People find family in different places, it might be with parents and siblings, or it might be with a partner or a group of friends - it doesn't really matter. To me family is whoever you come 'home' to, who you spend these special times of years with, who you miss when things get hard and who you can just 100% be yourself around when you're bloated from 10 helpings of turkey and want to fall asleep at 3pm with gravy on your shirt.

x







26 November, 2013

Thank You Forever x

Oh hi blog, it's been a while. It's been a busy few months...


It's just over 2 months to the day since the day I nervously stepped into my new job - with crates of enthusiasm in tow, I sailed in on a river of nerves. It's 2 months since I opened the door (and got in a lift and went through another door) to a very new, very scary chapter, with my heart saying 'please, please, let me get what I want this time'. Oh no, sorry, that was on my iPod.. Either way, since that day, my feet haven't touched the ground.

When you've been out of work for even just a short time, when you have stood in line every other Wednesday to collect your dole money, when your career has been so turbulent and then your world has shrunk so small that you lose all confidence in how to be in life, you develop an appetite for normality like you wouldn't believe. I will never forget how excited I was to start work again the day I found out about my new role, I could have made it to the moon and back on adrenaline alone, and still had some leftover for a quick dance. My thirst for that feeling you get after an honest days work was overwhelming.

That appetite hasn't disappeared. Not a day has gone by that I haven't woken up bright-eyed and ready to work, work, work, and not an evening has come around that I haven't arrived home singing inside. My heart just singing at how lucky I am, my mind and body ready for more more more. Even when I caught flu pretty early on in my employment, I still looked forward to going in every day, so happy to just get on a bus, sit amongst people, belong somewhere. And more than that, feel like I belong.

True to form, nothing makes you appreciate what's good in your life like a scare from hell. On the scale of things, my scare was pretty small, but man did it shake me up. I'd like to think I have always been an appreciative person in that rarely a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. Sometimes on a lazy Saturday I lie in bed and I just look around my little bedroom at my little things and genuinely think 'wow!' I don't own anything glamorous, I type on a big old beast of a hand-me-down laptop, most of my clothing labels read 'atmosphere' (look it up) and I'm still pining for a holiday abroad. But I still feel so very blessed, because how very different life could have been. I've always said, if you have a roof over your head and someone to rely on, you're doing okay. Just lately, with the additional joy of employment in my heart, I think I might just burst with how grateful I am for everything life has given me.

That gratitude means I don't take anything or anyone in my life for granted. All the people at my new work who have made it so easy for me to fall into place there, who helped me find my way back to a confident and bright version of myself - credit to those people. You've no idea the difference you have made, you have no idea how dim my light had become. It really is true that you don't know how much a little kindness goes a long way, and whilst not everyone knows my story, they can simply know they have made a big difference to someone.

It's early days, and I know there will be some big fat challenges round the corner, but with the kind of vibe I am so fortunate enough to have found in a workplace and with the memory of those bleak days of nothing, I don't think my appetite to work work work will ever fade.

More soon...woman got work to do.

x

07 November, 2013

Social Media Girl Problems


Tonight I am doing something I don't very often do - I am unplugging myself from the whole world. As my  social media contemporaries will know, it gets increasingly difficult to do when living and working in the social media frenzy. Especially when I am rarely actually motivated to switch off - I really rather like being ON. As someone who already indulges in a never ending merry go round of Tweets, Instagrams and notifications outside of work, working in the same capacity can mean I am very rarely disconnected. Whilst this is good for my timeline, it isn't always so good for my health.

I have really struggled to wind down these past few weeks, even on weekends and evenings I feel super-charged, thinking about work a lot and forever checking in. My stress levels have peaked, sleep hasn't come so easy and last night I surpassed myself with a terrifying 3.5 hours of shut eye. I only have myself to blame - I am fairly sure I check my phone, Twitter, Facebook, emails, more often than the average once every 6.5 minutes. I am a monk's nightmare, I don't deserve to sleep!

Although I am loving every single second of being so immersed in the social media world and have never felt more motivated, I have had to start thinking more about my wellbeing again. As passionate as I am about social media and as excited as I am about changing the world through Twitter (*dreams*) as my Mum once so simply put it 'social media is like being at a constant party', and it really, really is. Constant socialising, interacting, reacting, never any time for reflection. While my Klout score may thrive, my mind and body can wilt if I don't stop for some fresh, non-virtual air every now and then. I worry I will miss life if I do too much of it through a screen. I tested the waters at the weekend and managed to get through an entire fireworks display without watching it through my phone, or sharing the experience with anyone online before the experience itself was even over. I immersed myself in the moment and realised how much more often I should do it, and not for  the first time. Starting the day with this in mind, after so little sleep I wanted to heave all the way to work,  this morning I walked the 50 minutes to work NOT plugged into my ipod, and I felt so much more relaxed at the end of that walk, for once I had sort of floated in on my thoughts instead of charging along plugged into my imagined soundtrack (are there definite no cameras?)

Tonight I am breathing that non-social air.  I am taking a 12 hour digital holiday, which in social media terms is about 17 years. With the house to myself, a very tired head and a baking cupboard gasping to be opened, I am switching OFF. Of course blogging isn't the best start to such an evening, but you know, I just had to share....


06 November, 2013

What am I Sorry For?


I have a habit I do not like. I apologise for myself all the time. Like ALL THE TIME. I didn't realise it until I moved in with my boyfriend. Living with someone you are close too is like being next to a constant and annoyingly good mirror - they show you yourself, all of you, even the bits you don't like or didn't know were there.

I have learnt a lot about myself living with Gareth, some of it better than others, and I have tried to change in ways I needed to. Before 2 became 1, I had no idea how uptight I am about plans and routine or how controlling I am in the kitchen. I didn't know I was missing out on soooo much good TV or understand the benefit of doing nothing every now and then.

On the flip side, I didn't know how much I thrive on security, how much confidence I gain from the safety of a happy home. I didn't realise how much time I dedicate to my friends and family or how quickly I drop everything when they need me. As I said, some of my qualities are better than others, and if this year has taught me anything it is that just when you think you know yourself, you realise you don't. And then you go and change and it's back to square one.

The things which have become most obvious to me this year though, as I see myself in Gareth's own reflection, are my own habits and unconscious behaviours which I have probably been doing for most of my life. Of course I have lived with other people, lots of them, and they may have noticed these things too, but no-one sees you so 3 dimensionally as a partner, and I don't think anyone has ever reflected back to me some of my unique tendencies quite how Gareth has. I had probably only lived with him for a few weeks when he first started reprimanding me for apologising for my very presence. He started to ask me what I was sorry for, and made me realise what I was doing. It wasn't before long before I started to notice myself saying sorry for nothing a countless number of times a day. Bleugh!

I would be aright with this little habit, as everyone has them don't they? Except I'm not really aright with it, because I don't like what it reflects about what's going on inside. I am not a meek person by any stretch of the imagination. I am confident and extrovert and opinionated. So why am I apologising for myself when I walk past someone on the stairs? Or before I ask someone a question? Or when I get onto the treadmill next to someone at the gym? Why am I sorry?

I have tried to stop apologising so much since noticing this, because I think it can only lead to bad things with regards to how people see you, or how they think you see yourself. It shows a vulnerability and a lack of confidence that perhaps doesn't do me any favours when it comes to earning bona fide respect. When I first realised this habit, suddenly a lot of other things added up, a lot of other people's reactions to me made sense. In the past I have felt other people have been able to speak to me or treat me in such a way they wouldn't do to others. Does my apologetic nature have something to do with it? Can such a small behaviour have such a big impact? I think so. Because underneath every give-away behaviour is an iceberg of information about yourself, and us humans are really very clever. We pick up on those tiny signals, they go straight into our subconscious and dictate how we interact with each other. Every minor movement, everything about how we hold and present ourselves says so much about who we are on a level we don't even understand.

Sorry is definitely not the hardest word for me, but really this unconscious habit is just me needing to make everyone happy. And you know what? I can't. I am me, I live, I breathe, I will apologise if I hurt you otherwise I am really not sorry. Instead of apologising for myself, I am going to try to live for myself a little more.

Sorry not sorry.

27 October, 2013

2013: The Year I Learnt to Adapt



If I have learnt one thing this year it is that we are amazingly adaptable. We go through life sort of collecting aspects of it – friends, hobbies, partner, job, house, kids – and for me there is always that vague feeling that if any of that unravelled or changed, I wouldn’t cope. Yet on we go, with life constantly throwing curveballs and although we may struggle inside when it does, for the most part we just get on with it, and for a lot of us we actually get on really well.

As someone who clings to routine and struggles with change, I tend to look at other people who have gone through big, unplanned changes in their lives and wondered how they would adapt, how they would come out the other side and still be themselves and actually happy. I am always so impressed when a few weeks, months, 1 year down the line they are not only fine, but better. I view other people’s ability to adapt as somehow superior to my own; ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do it’.

Something I struggle with a bit is flexibility and not freaking out when things go tits up. I am not even talking big things, I mean really small things sometimes. Not because I expect life to be perfect all the time, believe me I know how imperfect life can feel, but because I panic slightly about how things are going to turn out. The challenges life has thrown at me this year all seem to have been around that, around my ability to adapt and go with the flow. It is definitely a challenge I needed, and while I’m not quite there yet, I am learning and I always have faith that every bruise is a lesson I needed.

This year alone I have moved house, changed jobs, moved to a new side of town very different from what I have always been used to, had to largely sacrifice my running and at times completely give up exercise, been unemployed for a whole summer, gone from feeling fairly flush to having not a penny to my name, been 3 months without a salary, experienced some of my relationships drastically changing and really had to let go of a lot of the routine stuff I had become so dependent on. If someone had told me in January all this was waiting for me I would have gone back to bed and given this whole year a miss.

But despite all these changes that have happened, I have still achieved so much of what I wanted to when 2013 first rolled in and probably been happier than ever. I am driving (yay!), my relationship has progressed to a strong and steady space, I have adjusted to a very new living environment, I have learnt not to rely on money, I have built new friendships and I've taught myself to break from exercise as soon as I need it and not panic about what that means. That was a point I knew I really needed to get to – the ability to go easy on myself.  Yeah I have had to let go of old routines, but new routines have taken their place, they just aren’t all about me anymore. All of this is good progress. It is progress which has been really hard work, and with all the changes to my landscape it has been more than a challenge at times. I have suffered with stress and injuries and illness and heartache, but I’ve proved to myself that I can go through difficult things or awkward changes and still be happy and still achieve the things I hope for.

I still have a way to go, but for the final few months of this year I’m going to try and learn from my experiences. Some areas of my life are still clutter and discord, but I am trying my best not to panic about what would happen if this or that, and try to let go a little more of the things I feel bind my life together, because really those things don’t bind my life together – I do. I have surprised myself this year with what the changes I have adapted to, some more easily than others, and sometimes with a massive side-order of stress, but here we are in nearly November and I finally feel like I am swaying back to more of a stand-still. Yeah I may have been a bit ruffled from time to time as I have struggled to adapt, but my feet are still firmly on the ground and I have come up rosier than I could have dreamed. Maybe I can cope after all.

If you can see even the biggest of challenges and obstacles as something that you know you need (even if you don’t know why) it makes it so much easier to take, and in viewing hard situations in that way, you stand a great chance of turning it into something brilliant. 


05 October, 2013

My Girl and I: when your best friend is getting married x


Next year, in around 9 months time,  my beautiful best friend is getting married. That right of passage we all look forward to, and it's happening. NEXT YEAR! My Best Friend's Wedding! Every time this thought pops into my head, I get a bubble of excitement in my tummy and the threat of tears in my eyes, because quite frankly this is the most exciting thing that has happened to me. Yes, to ME! The wedding of course is all about her, them, the most perfect couple you could ever imagine (I know everyone says this but REALLY!), but as one of her 4 lucky bridesmaids, I am proof of just how much the beauty of a wedding radiates beyond the couple in question, to all the people close to them.

When Harriet asked me to be her bridesmaid (at my 27th birthday, with all my best ones around me) it knocked me sideways - in a good way. I felt and still feel so blessed to be involved in the marriage of such a fantastic couple, both brilliant as individuals and as a team. But beyond that it just touched me to feel so valued by them. I mean, you kinda hope that's the case with your best mate, but nothing screams WE LOVE YOU more than being included in their special day. So I cried, obviously.

I am yet to meet someone with Harriet's energy - both in terms of the amount of it and her disposition, she's so warm and confident in the best way possible, and makes everyone around her feel comfortable and protected. If you want a drink she jumps up to get it, if you need a shoulder she is there in a heartbeat, if you are having a little life crisis and have your lost your way, she guides you back and sees the best in you when you can't even see it in yourself. She is someone who is so naturally inspired to be there for other people, that she doesn't even know she's doing it, and she is hands down the most selfless person I have had the privilege to know. As you can see, I am constantly bragging about how amazing Harriet is, and she is even better as a friend.

The history of my friendship with Haz hasn't been conventional. We met on the other side of the world for one thing. In a hostel in Noosa - a tiny posh town in Australia which I visited for all of about 36 hours. She walked in, aged 18, with the confidence of a 27 year old, tanned, a ball of energy and smiles, easy-going and completely 100% content in roaming around Australia by herself. In stark contrast I was a bit of a pasty nervous wreck, with a mass of frizzy beach hair, on the verge of tears at most times, feeling lonely at roaming around Australia by myself. Haz took me for a drink that night and I was probably boring, quiet, tired, obsessed with getting home to the UK. We parted ways a few days later, but she always stuck in my mind as someone who I admired.

Little did I know that I would find myself bumping into her a few times at the university we both attended in Sheffield, and that within 5 years, a year after I graduated, I would be occupying the 8th bedroom in her house of 7 friends. I had graduated, they were all final year students, and it was a mad couple of months in every way. Easily the most unbalanced and lost I have ever been, I partied all week with the students whilst trying to hold down a job which I did enjoy, I spent all of my peanuts salary on Jaeger Bombs, regularly went into work hungover and found myself in debt, lost and isolated as my reckless ways alienated me from the rest of the group.  I was stuck in a dark, toxic cycle and apart from my family and friends who were all 200 miles away, Harriet was my only light.

Some time later, when all the signs screamed at me to change something, I did the decent thing and moved out and on, formed a proper young professional life in a proper young professional house in a nice part of town and actually did the 9-5 thing. Early nights, the gym, healthy meals, the Friday feeling. I found my way back, but not without the enormous help of Haz. While those few months were fairly crazy, Harriet was pretty much a constant.  She had to be there for me a lot very early on in our friendship, but somehow she knew without knowing that my behaviour was out of character and pretty much carried me back to a point I could start again from.

Although I moved on, my friendship with Harriet stuck, and blossomed and grew, as I was finally the person she knew I could be and I was able to give her the best of myself. In the years since, Harriet has never failed to amaze me with her generosity and warmth, I honestly can't fault her as a friend. She's driven over from Manchester just to have dinner with me on a random Wednesday, she's dropped everything to wine with me on a Friday night when I was feeling down, she's called me instantly whenever I have needed her, within 2 hours of my new job offer, there were flowers from her at my door. She has championed me and encouraged me to the point I am finally properly confident and finally treat myself with the respect that I should - I am under no illusions, I know I massively owe it to her. She's been both my rock and my role model.  Harriet is proof that you get back what you put out into the world, and the reason she has found such everlasting love is because she is constantly giving to other people, is so selfless and grounded, and expects absolutely nothing back.

Needless to say, I am quite beyond bursting with pride and cannot wait to see her tie the knot in 2014. I even bought the most perfect wedding acceptance card about 3 months ago (haven't had my invite yet) and I am planning my entire year around what is going to be one of the most memorable moments of my lifetime - my Haz marrying her more than deserving man.

x



20 September, 2013

Living in an emoti-world x


I would say that my friends and I are all basically similar. I say basically because on the surface we are not. If you lined us up and looked at us you wouldn’t think so – in my main circle alone we have Make Up Artists, Business Managers and Fire Women (!), Music Moguls and Teachers, and enough lovely ‘Marketing Girls’ to fill an office. We all like different things, have different tastes and styles, eat different foods and have our own interests, but there is something about us that is basically the same. Some kind of affinity I feel with my close friends which I don’t feel with the people who I don’t become close to. I have been wondering, what is that? What is the thread that pulls a group of people so outwardly different, together? I think it is to do with the depth we live at. ‘Wavelength’ is starting to make sense to me beyond having the same taste in music. I have realised recently that while my friends and I are different in many ways, we are the same in our basic outlook and the way we feel things, and I think that is has a big part to play in bringing us together.

When I was little I assumed everybody felt things in exactly the same way, at exactly the same depth. As I got older I couldn't understand why I got upset about things when other people didn't, or why people couldn't see other people’s feelings like I did. As an adult, I have realised that people don’t feel things the same. At all. They perceive things very very differently. Different moral compasses, different curves of right and wrong, working on totally different levels and at different depths. It is mind boggling, and there isn't a right or wrong, just a 'what suits you.'

I pretty much know I feel things a fair bit more intensely than the average person. I used to think I was emotionally unstable or had some ‘issues’ because I felt things so deeply and wore my heart so very on my sleeve. I had ‘friends’ who reinforced that belief about myself and allowed me to believe it. It was only a few years ago, when my Dad said to me ‘you feel things very deeply, you see things very clearly, which is both a blessing and a curse', that I realised there was nothing wrong with me. I just feel things acutely, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Since the days of feeling like the ‘odd one out’ because I got randomly anxious or struggled not to care, I have made several friends who feel things in the same way, who randomly cry when they see an old man having dinner alone in a pub (yes I did that) and who get so fiercely angry when they see someone they perhaps barely even know getting hurt. And they are really down to earth, happy, awesome people who I admire, which makes it easier for me to accept myself. Since then I have embraced that side of me too, because it is the same side of me who makes me able to truly empathise both with my closest friends and family, and people I barely know. It is that same side who makes me generous, kind and over-flowing with love. I can say those things about myself confidently – you don’t cry as many tears as me and not get to say those things about yourself!

 I have had conversations with my best friends from way back who are basically the same in the way they feel things, the way they can be high as a kite one week and down the next. Since school we have had conversations which have involved us saying that sometimes we just wish we didn’t care so much, that we didn’t feel things so deeply, like the people who just get by and don’t cry at the sad things and shut out the difficult and the bitchiness and just get on with it. Their lives look calmer and selfish in an easy way. But then we always come full circle and say we wouldn’t have each other any other way. My friends who feel things deeply and are willing to work on that complex level are my best friends. They empathise with me when they have never even come close to experiencing what I have experienced, but they still ‘get it’ and I don’t have to explain why I am upset or elated or just plain confused. They just know and make me feel normal for it. That is so reassuring and I don’t know where I would be without them.

I am so glad I finally accepted myself for being an emotional wee thing and opened up to it because it brought to me the people who I love so much, and in recent years has brought me right back to the person I like to be. That’s not to say I haven’t learnt where and how to channel my emotions, because I really have (you're reading it for a start!) – gone are the days of shedding a tear in front of the last people who should see me cry, because as much as I will always be emotional and I know I will, I have gotten daymn strong. That said, as innocent kids, before the world shapes us, we naturally and instinctively express the tiniest feelings through tears, tantrums and laughter - I don't think growing up should suppress that height of living.

I think a lot of people see emotion as weakness still, and shy away from it, or find emotions annoying in some way. So many of my friends almost punish themselves when they feel negative things or remain upset about things they quite clearly should be upset about, and it makes it all the harder for them and self-hatred kicks in. There is way too much pressure to 'be okay' and 'cool' all the time, and it isn't normal. I think the 'keeping up appearances' vibe that is in the media doesn't help. Sometimes I wish a celebrity would just turn to the press, crying, and say 'I am devastated that Brad Pitt left me for Angelina Jolie and 10 years later it is still hard to accept', because why wouldn't they feel like that? I think it would help remove this stigma society attaches to unhappy emotions. I like quirky, emotional TV heroins like Jessica Day and reference her a lot, because she for me is so REAL (apart from how does anyone look that good?!) and she helps people in real life feel like its okay to 'brake for birds' and fall over in public and cry at the totally wrong time. We are people, sometimes we feel sad, sometimes we feel jealous, sometimes we don't like things in our lives - we aren't weak for venting those things. I encourage my friends to accept when they feel like shit and be honest about it, and then to work really damn hard at not feeling like shit anymore.

I have news – emotions are and always will be a huge part of being a person, negative ones too! Yes life can be temporarily ‘easier’ if you shut difficult feelings out and pretend everything takes place in your mind and body, but it doesn't and at some point that can of emoti-worms will open itself up. There is always another level, and it is present in everything you do, everywhere you go, and some of us can see it even when you think you are hiding it. Sometimes I wish more people would accept the emotional essence of humanity and how good it can be to not only acknowledge but share that side of you - I believe that the harder you cry, the louder you laugh, the more you live. But then again, everyone is different, and everybody has to be different, so I don’t try to change people who are different to me anymore or try and find their other level if they don’t want it to be found, because heaven forbid we were all as emotional as me!

x

12 September, 2013

Falling Down a Lot & The Art of Romance


Sometimes things just don’t go to plan. Don’t you just hate that? I am a perfectionist and when I have an idea of how something is going to be, I struggle to adapt if it isn’t exactly like that in reality. Following my recent job news (yay!) I had 2 weeks to finally enjoy my time off before starting work again and it was going to be EXCELLENT. I was going to go for lots of long runs, I was going to shop, I am joining my family down in Devon where I was going to go surfing (try to), go on bike rides and run along the beach every morning. I was going to get a massage and a haircut and enjoy a fabulous anniversary adventure with Gareth.  It was going to be the indulgent break I haven’t had since the dawn of time...

That was until approximately 8:00pm on Monday night, when 9 minutes into a netball match my ankle went crunch beneath me and the blood drained from my face. As I crawled off the court and turned to look at my now Elephant-man ankle, my heart sunk as all my dreams for the next few weeks went bouncing off into the distance with the ball. As my ankle continued to grow and I was wheel-chaired out of Sheffield’s largest leisure centre dripping with sweat and fighting back tears (oh the memories!) my picture perfect few weeks evaporated completely.

I am trying to get better at adapting when things don’t go to plan, especially when really all that has happened is a minor inconvenience for a short period of time. To me it may have felt like I had been clinging onto these few weeks off forEVER and it was hard to accept that now there were  alot of things I just could not do, but really I know we’re just talking about a sprained ankle here. Its not that bad. Its just a nuisance. So I have tried to be really optimistic and embrace my time off in a different way. Thankfully Gareth has been off work so there has been lots of TV sessions, lots of films, lots of TV dinners and lots of R&R. Each time an ‘I could have been doing this’ or ‘I should have been doing that’ comes into my mind I tell myself to man up. I know how lucky I am, and this is merely a fly in the ointment.  While I can feel my bum getting wobblier with each day off from my exercise regime, I need to accept that sometimes you just can’t do everything you think you need to.  My massage will wait, I WILL run again, I will still hobble on that train to Devon this weekend – it’s not the end of the world. First world problems at their finest. That said, I would be god damned if anything was going to get the way of me and my boy celebrating our anniversary.

Romancing a different way

It probably won’t surprise you that I am a total romantic. We’re both quite traditional too, so romance for us means I bake for him, he sends me 12 Red Roses and takes me for dinner – you know the good old fashioned romance that people deny they like but most can’t help but warm to when it is them on the receiving end.

For our anniversary I had long since planned a picture perfect day of lazy brunch, a rainy/sunny walk in the peaks, me waiting on him hand and foot and getting dressed up to the nines for a meal out, but seeing as 2 days before the celebrations I quite romantically and dramatically sprained my ankle (classic Hannah I might add), the romance of our day took a drastic turn. It started in A&E as I rested my puffy ankle on his knee, the sweat from my leg meeting his jeans. Ahh, lovely. Our anniversary itself involved much puffing and whining from me as I shuffled on my bum around the house. I ungracefully lurched his presents at him across the bed and groaned as I went to lift my roses out of their box. I was determined to make him brunch but he wouldn’t really let me, so I got frustrated and couldn’t even stamp my good foot as I tried to man handle him out of the kitchen.  Later that day, the romantic walk became a 2 hour drive in the countryside as we belted along to BBC Radio 2’s oldies – Bryan Adams, Elton John, they were all in there. I all but hung my head out the window like a dog as i tried to get my first few gulps of fresh air for 3 days and avoid car sickness.

NOTHING keeps me away from my baking and I was determined he would still get the showstopper cake I had painstakingly created in my mind.  So the day before said anniversary, while he slept off his A&E and night shift  double whammy, I panted and hopped around the kitchen for 3 solid hours icing and filling the cake I had thankfully baked a few days in advance. I might have had Big Foots ankle and been drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers, but nothing comes in the way of me and one of my baked-good creations. It was humdinger and I cursed myself for having to have set the bar higher every year.

Dinner was something I was determined to still go to. He’d offered to get take out instead and take me out another time, but I wanted to put on my pretty dress and eat fine food dammit! So after an arduous 60 minutes trying to get ready, as I reluctantly left my high heels behind and settled for pumps, he taxied me door to door between our house and the restaurant, and I hobbled through the meal with my foot elevated as best I could, my 1 glass of wine going straight to my painkiller dosed head, causing me to confirm loudly that we WOULD have Cotton-Eye Joe as our first dance at our wedding. And we both did our own renditions of it.

When we got home it was straight to the freezer as he placed frozen sweetcorn on my ankle, brought me ibuprofen and regularly had to rearrange my cushions as I panted my way through a film, fidgeting every 5 seconds. I think I started to fall asleep at about 9.45pm. Ahhh, rock and roll! I slept 10 hours and woke up this morning irritable from lack of fresh air and groggy from too many painkillers, but I still had to smile as I grumpily put the kettle on – how could I not feel the love?


So as it turns out, our day wasn’t quite the traditional romance I had planned. But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. We made some real memories and next year we will laugh. Mainly at me. We had a hilarious time crooning our way around the peaks as the rain hit the windows, he still got his annual ‘showstopper’ cake and I still enjoyed my  beautiful roses from the sofa. Romance exists in so many forms, and to me there is nothing more romantic than him standing behind me pushing me as I crawl ungracefully up the stairs, grunting with every step.


The lesson I am learning (and think I needed to) is that life can be enjoyable even when it is restricted and is not what you had planned, because all that matters if you are alive, well and together. I think knowing that and laughing your way through the rest is the secret. I told him whilst we watched my ankle become increasingly deformed in A&E that I hoped he knew with me there would never be a dull moment and he just smiled at me so fondly it broke my heart. He knew. So here’s to another year of euphoria followed by falling over, I don’t care, ‘coz I got you babe.

I would like to also give a little mention to my grandparents, who also celebrated their anniversary yesterday – married 65 years and counting. They are an inspiration. 
Nanna & Grandpa, married 65 years 


10 September, 2013

5:2 - I have a bone to pick with you


If you haven’t heard the words ‘5:2’ at some point in 2013, you either move in a very different world to me or you have a disease which omits numbers out of conversations. What would that be like?
‘5:2’ has meant many things in the past – the ratio of working days to weekend days, 5 minutes before the hour, my height. But 2013 changed the meaning of these 2 little numbers FOREVER. Now 5:2 refers to a diet. The latest fad diet which people are trying in order to shift weight and still eat whatever they want most of the time. Hmmm, I think I have a problem with this already.

What do we know about 5:2?
The 5:2 diet involves fasting for 2 days out of 7, and only consuming 500 calories in each of those 2 days. The other 5 days you eat pretty much what you want. The idea is that you only have to choose 2 days a week in which to avoid bad foods and eat with real restraint, which is more realistic for busy, social people. By fasting twice a week, you can eat what you like on the other 5 days and still lose weight.
I have so many issues with this concept, but to sum up...

What has years of eating taught the human race?

  • ·         Eating little and often and consistently keeps the metabolism up
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to become weaker
  • ·         Starving yourself causes the body to panic store fat when you do eat normally again
  • ·         Extreme fasting can cause women to lose their period and jeopardise future child bearing  
  • ·         Starving yourself 2 days a week makes you a miserable sod
  • ·         If you under eat one day, you will crave more food the next day to over-compensate
  • ·         Eating anything in moderation is fine – i.e. you can eat bread, you just only need one slice, not a loaf


Does the 5:2 diet tick any of those points?
Like with Atkins or any of these trendy diets, they don’t last, inevitably at some point normal service resumes, you get back into normal habits and before long all that starvation followed by over-compensating was for nothing. Any weight you might have lost will come back on as your body panic stores fat. Hands up if you were doing Atkins 10 years ago and looked slinky? Hands up if you are still successfully doing it now and currently sporting your dream body?

It’s not rocket science
More than the physical effects of this diet, what it probably doesn’t warn it’s disciples about is how utterly miserable the other areas of your life will be. Constant craving and obsession over what you cannot eat on your fast days, followed by guilt and over-indulgence on your normal days.  That’s a recipe for a good mood salad. I have come into contact with several people doing the 5:2 diet, and most of them have become increasingly irritable and in all honesty, not sustained any great weight loss either. They are sending their body into panic on a regular basis, which is likely to pay havoc with their hormones and their bellies.

Even if the 5:2 has enabled you to lose weight and eat freer, my point is that it simply isn’t a healthy mindset or attitude towards eating. Weight isn’t the only reflection of how healthy you are, yes it can be an indicator when something is wrong, but what about all the other things that matter? Our mood? Our energy levels? Our insides? Nutrition that fights toxins and disease?

In times when strong is considered the new skinny, when we are more conscious than ever about our health, when we have more access to insightful technology and science that allows to really understand the science behind food – in 2013 for goodness sake – why are real, grown adults following this fad? WHY is the 5:2 diet catching on? HOW are people possible thinking this is a healthy, maintainable lifestyle? I for one certainly wouldn’t want to stand here knowing that for 2/7 days, 29% of THE REST OF MY LIFE, I would be starving. And more than likely become highly unpopular.

I know how irritable I get if miss a meal and if the people I have come into contact with who are following 5:2 are anything to go by, I would expect to become rather difficult to be around. Moody, tired, sensitive, snappy, forgetful. These are all repercussions of not eating well. That’s 29% of the rest of your life spent hungry, tired, irritable, day dreaming about pizza, loathing people with a sandwich while you munch on your allocation of carrot, losing friends at a fast rate.

Yes it has been likened to the 'Caveman' diet, when people were slender and e-numbers weren't an issue, but guess what? We aren't cavemen anymore. We have adapted to fridge-freezers and ovens, we have welcomed international cuisines into our diet, and it is very rare that we go out and hunt our own boar anymore, we are too busy.

“The tortoise wins the race”
Never was a truer word spoken than in the world of dieting and weight loss. I have got some really inspiring friends who have lost weight, like REAL amounts of weight, through eating 3 healthy meals a day and exercising more, but keeping to a lifestyle which is practical and maintainable. And which doesn’t encourage starvation. I applaud those people, as they have really put the work in and they deserve the fact that their weight will be much more likely to stay off FOREVER.

The result may not be as quick as simple starvation, but if you really want to lose weight long-term? Put the effort in. Get off your bum and run round the block. Swap your pies for salad wraps. Do that and you won’t need to starve 2 days out of 7. And your body will be so much happier and will still get all the nutrition it needs, every day. And so will those who have to put up with your mood swings! You got to put the effort in if you want to see change.

There are no shortcuts in health, and there is certainly no such thing as free lunch. The sooner we accept that and stop hoping some pill made from some random new flower will miraculously just rid us of all our fat or that a diet of syrup in water is the answer (mmm, nutritious),  the better for everybody.

Life is for living, life is for enjoying, food is for eating without pressure or guilt. Believe me, I understand the struggles with self control and balance when it comes to food, I have been there. So I am going to save you the effort and time and say take it from me, eating consistently, normally, every single day of your life, with the occasional blow out/treat day (and by occasional I mean once a month have a pizza, not every Saturday and Sunday eat everything you can possibly see – this will ONLY undo all the good work you have put in Monday –Friday) will make you infinitely happier.

Before I finish, I must state I am not a nutritionist or a dietician, or even a scientist. So feel free to ignore me or challenge me. Let the debate commence! But I will also state I am a real human girl who knows what she sees and who has learnt through trial and error what healthy means, who has bounced back from chubville (also known as wine-weight), who has bounced back from anorexia, and found a way that works for her. Weirdly, it’s the way most people have been doing it for years. That way is NOT 5:2. That way is ‘normal’, healthy, common sense eating.


*Read more about the science behind this diet, and why it is particularly bad for women*

06 September, 2013

A Little Secret and a Big Thank You x

I am going to let you into a little secret. I have spent the summer quite overwhelmingly unemployed. I could write you thousands and thousands of heartfelt words about my experiences, so intense an experience it has been, but that’s for another blogpost, which I did actually write a few weeks ago, when I was at the very pinnacle (or should I say pit) of my despair.

You wouldn’t have known it, right? I know. As I explain in this post, I so desperately wanted to channel my experience into my blog, not least because of the therapy it would have given me, but I couldn’t do anything to jeopardise my chances of securing a new role. So instead I wrote this post to myself, and saved it for a rainy day. Ironically, today it is hammering it down outside. You might want to read about my experiences here before you read this as it explains a lot about how I got to that point.

Today

The wait before the excitement!

Today I woke up knowing my life was about to change. I had reached stage 3 of a rather rigorous interview process and had all but been offered the job verbally. 48 hours ago I gave a presentation which I had spent no less than 6 solid days working on and the waiting since then has been unbearable. I haven’t slept properly, I couldn’t stomach much food and it was all I could do not to check my phone and my emails every 60 seconds. That’s how bad I wanted it, and that’s how much pressure has built up in my system over this past 6 months.

Being unemployed this summer has been the most soul destroying experience of my life. Why had my career been so difficult? Why didn’t anyone want me? What was I missing? It was so hard putting energy into job applications (circa 100), interviews (circa 20), and presentations (7 in total) when I didn’t know what it would lead to and when my confidence was so low. It was so hard feeling so isolated from the world every day, never being able to properly rest, not being able to make plans or look forward to anything because ‘we don’t know what’s going to happen’, trying to be strong and brave for Gareth and him trying to be strong and  brave for me. But throughout it all I held onto what I knew deep deep deep down – that the universe had other plans for me. It really is written in the stars, that’s something I learnt a long time ago and it helped me through these past few months.

What I do know is the timing of my unemployment was destined. I think the world knew I was due a break of some sort, in my 5 years of working I have barely had more than a week off at a time and in the past few years I haven’t had a proper holiday. I can’t call these past few months a ‘holiday’ but it was a break from the treadmill. I am so fortunate because had this happened 2 years ago i would have had to pack up my entire life in Sheffield and start again somewhere. But now i had my supportive partner and am so so fortunate that I was able to remain unemployed for nearly 2 months and not have to give up much but my spending money.

My advice to anyone who finds themselves in this situation for no good reason, who like me does everything right but still finds nothing is working out – my advice to you is BELIEVE that something right is around the corner, and it may be even better than you dared dream. My other bit of advice is make the best of it – yes, I have found it devastatingly tough being unemployed, standing in line to sign on and feeling as though I had lost my ‘place’ in the system. But I can’t be accused of not making the very best of it. Every day I got up at 6 or 7am, I did something positive and productive, I stuck to a routine, I took a break to go see my family and his family, I exercised a lot, I made lots of mini social plans like meeting people for coffee, I went for walks to clear my head and keep things in perspective, I set up on my own and freelanced – a project I will be forever grateful for as it has given me so much confidence in my professional abilities. I focused on little projects and doing nice things for other people. Yes I cried, but not that much considering how I felt inside and considering that I am a huge cryer!

I can hand on heart say I am so proud of how I have dealt with what’s been the most soul destroying 6 months of my life, I am so proud of my own strength that I want to shout it from the rooftops. Hannah a few years ago would not have had the same grace, positivity or certainty that it would be okay. I also know I am one of the lucky ones, not only in that my unemployment has been relatively brief, but in that I had the exact support network I needed to get me through. I have never had any doubt about how god damn lucky I am where Gareth, my friends and my family are concerned, but man they have excelled themselves during this. So this post more than anything is a big fat thank you to all of them.

Whether you picked up the tab, answered my desperate call on a bleak Wednesday, messaged me from the other side of the world to give me a confidence boost, wiped my tears when I’d had one too many lemon cellos and the despair came flooding out, reassured me whilst I cried in the toilets at work, or just listened to me, told me it was shit, but that you still believed in me. Your belief fed into mine and got me to this point. Thank you so so so much to all of you who played such a big part in keeping me a float. I owe a few drinks to say the least! And not to mention, as always, my Gareth. He has been nothing short of a hero. Even with me ALWAYS being in the house, taking up all the space, making a desk for myself in the dining room day in day out, hogging his laptop when mine died in my last week of work (I know right), not having so much time to clean the and the like (oops!) and having a few mood swings, he has been nothing but incredible. And to say we have been living in each other’s actual pockets for the past 7 weeks, we have barely even bickered! WHAT a team.

This morning my life did change, I received an absolutely amazing job offer, I accepted and I just know this one was always meant to be. It’s the role I have imagined myself in for a long, long time. Unlike other roles I have accepted, here there is not a single misgiving, everything about it is right for me and better.

The change I have been through in my career is really quite something, you can’t accuse of me of having chosen an orthodox career path. But this is the one I want to stick and do you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I have learnt so much about myself (not all of it good, but I have learnt from it), I have met some really very inspiring people, I have doubled my salary in 2 years and I feel like finally my hard work and heartfelt challenges are paying off – I am nothing if not a fighter! The first thing I did when I found out the good news (after bashing my shin on my bike whilst dancing around the dining room) was put my wellies on and set out for a long walk, to feel the real rain on my cheeks and make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And the next thing I did was call everyone who I owed a huge thank you to, and then buy a load of thank you cards.

The first thing I did...


Now I am going to unsubscribe from ALL the job sites (thank GOD!), write my thank you cards, have a glass of wine tonight (my first in 4 weeks) and enjoy the next little while until I start work again, because for the first time in a very long time I have TIME to spare and a job at the end of it. And its mine.

Wish me luck..

x




Written on Wednesday 28th September

Written on Wednesday 28th August

I am going to let you into a little secret. I have spent the summer unemployed. If I hadn't been so aware of the professional implications I would have shared this with you a long, long time ago. I am not an overly proud person and I have been gasping to vent my experiences through my blog, but I knew the implications it could have for my future employment and I couldn't say or do anything to hinder my chances of securing a new role. But unemployed I have been and I could have written a trilogy by now based on my experiences and the emotions I have come up against day in, day out.


My story

So how did this come about? It’s no secret I was miserable in my job in Leeds, to the point I took the first opportunity out of there. And while the next job I took was a fantastic opportunity, somewhere I fitted in and people SAW me and I was actually paid more than peanuts...while it was all these things, it was a fixed term contract. 9 – 12 months, maternity cover. And I didn't really tell anyone that. To begin with, this vital fact was a small dot way off in the future, I was just so relieved to be out of ‘that place’ in Leeds that job security didn't matter to me, job happiness meant more. I didn't even tell most people that my new job wasn't forever, because I had such shit luck beforehand that I thought it’s just got to work out. How can I fit in so well somewhere and not be meant to somehow stay? And if it doesn't work out, at least I am not miserable anymore. So I took it.

Needless to say, I had never been happier at work, not once did I dread going in, I made good REAL friends with my team and beyond, people could see me for who I was and the only office politics was one tiny woman who had an issue when it came to brew rounds. I don’t know if the fabulousness of the place was offset by the hellishness of the last, or if I had just learnt to count my blessings, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t know such a good workplace existed, but learning that it did over time made the realisation that I actually would have to leave (which hit me around April of this year) quite upsetting. But I tried not to dwell, I kept my head up, I knew the situation for what it was, I got myself into it to get out of something else, and I was (and am)just so so happy and felt so blessed to have had that experience. I can honestly say my 9 months there were hands down the happiest in my career. Short but very very sweet.

Fast forward 9 months to April of this year and I knew I had to face reality again. I have always been independent and I have worked since I was 14 (part-time in a bakers, who knew I would end up such a baker myself!) I have barely had more than a week away from work since I started working full time 2 days after university finished. You can’t really call me a slacker, and so the thought of NOTHING after Dimensions TERRIFIED me. And my bank balance. We had only just got out of the Red, we were so happy to be back to black, we couldn’t face the thought of NO SALARY.

So, it was time to throw myself back out there. And what a 6 months it has been.

Reality

I have always been lucky with job interviews, knowing as long as I could get my chatty confident self in front of people I would be in with a good shot. So nothing could have prepared me for the never ending turmoil that followed. Interview after interview, presentation after presentation, hope after hope shot down as yet another person with ‘just a bit more experience’ pipped me to the post. I aimed high, I aimed low, I aimed way out West.  I lowered my standards, I widened my net, I offered my skills for FREE in half hour long presentations to potential employers who didn’t want me but wanted my ideas. I spent every spare minute, weekends, evenings, lunchtimes, trawling through job sites, speaking to recruitment agents, filling in applications, bettering my CV, pimping up my LinkedIn, making connections, following leads. I bought blazers, I bought shoes. I spent 2 or 3 days on 1 presentation for 1 potential employer – only for them to go for that person who wasn’t as passionate but wouldn’t get bored, or who had 3 months more experience, or had less experience and who they wanted to give a chance. Would I ever win? Amongst all this, I had to wind my once full to the brim social life all the way down in order to focus on securing a new role.

At first I almost enjoyed it. I love the excitement of what next? I focussed on the potentially hugely positive change that awaited me. It was what I had to focus on to avoid feeling devastated at leaving the only team I had ever really belonged in. Sods law, right? I love the interview process too, the adrenaline, the hope of a future just in reach, talking about myself (ha!), showcasing my actual, real skills and realising I have the. It’s fun. At first.

At first, my friends had so much positivity for me “you are so employable, Han”, “someone like you won’t stay unemployed for long”, “so many companies will want to snap you up!” they said it because they meant it and I believed them because it SHOULD be true. Recruitment agents all wanted me on their books for the commission, all thought they could ‘definitely secure something for someone with your background’ and some of them even acted like I was one of them ‘haha you should see some of the CVs we have to work with, Hannah, you won’t have a problem.” Oh well thats good to know.

But eventually, I ran out of steam. They ran out of steam. My friends ran out of things to say. They couldn't understand it, they couldn't say it was going to be okay because here i was 5 months, 150 applications, 20 interviews, 6 presentations down the line and it wasn't fine. Even recruitment agents began to despair of me ‘you aren't still looking for work are you Hannah? I don’t understand it, I thought you would have something by now’ and the worst ‘Hannah! I have JUST the role for you, its a little further afield but the role is perfect. How do you feel about Southampton?’. TUMBLE WEED. SO MUCH TUMBLE WEED.

I cannot tell you how positive I tried to stay through all this, but I was so tired. So so drained. I was scared. I was anxious. I was stressed. Especially as this comes after such a turbulent year in Leeds. I needed a break.
My body hasn’t been well in months from the stress. I have been constantly busy, juggling my last few months, weeks, days of employment with searching for something new. ‘Searching’ doesn’t do it justice –what I have been doing is fierce, relentless, I am HUNTING. Yet man, did I stay positive. 

Even in my first week of unemployment, which was surreal as hell, I used every ounce of time to my advantage. I got up at 6 or 7am every day for 6 weeks, 7 days a week, with no job to go to. I stuck to my routine. I exercised, I showered, I got dressed, I made a desk for myself in our dining room and i tried really hard not to think of the girls at work, all chatting together about their weekends. I put in a solid mornings work every day until early afternoon, applying for every single relevant job out there, cold calling marketing agencies, seeking out opportunities to freelance, doing voluntary social media, looking into volunteering, scouring the websites of all the biggest local brands I could think of. Universities, shopping centres, colleges. I contacted various recruitment agents when they weren’t contacting me. I burnt myself all the way out fighting my unemployment, maybe a little too hard because my body hasn’t been happy with me for a while.

My afternoons were usually spent meeting people, going to appointments, finding excuses to go into town, running errands, anything to feel a part of things. And anything to make me feel at the end of the day like I had earnt my bread.

Coping


Knowing how to avoid depression I made myself have this routine, continued to excercise, I ate better than ever, after the first few weeks I didn’t drink even on weekends, became i know what this could have done to my self-esteem.  I did not ‘enjoy the time’ and ‘lie in’ as suggested to me by some  – as lovely as this would have been, I just knew that was recipe for one very depressed Hannah.  For the whole routine I had ever known my whole life had been broken. I had never had this much time off, not since the school holidays. What made it easier though was that my unemployment did fall in line with the school holidays. It felt a little more ‘normal’, a little less like I was out of the loop. But it still didn’t feel right. I need to work, it’s who I am, it’s who I have always been. Not working is more soul destroying that you can ever imagine, because it means no-one wants you. Despite all my positivity and productivity, depression did set in. Slowly but viciously at times.

Despite making myself stick to a routine I found myself less and less motivated, with each new application form that asked me to sell myself (and my soul) I found less and less energy for it. With each new knock back, it was harder to get back up. My reaction to calls and emails from recruitment agents turned from hope to dread – because I knew what fear and rejection lay ahead. With every day I lost a bit of myself. I found fewer reasons to be out in the world. Recruitment agents lost interest in me, my friends returned from holiday and got on with their lives, people forgot I was sat at home. Desperately wanting to work. Lonely. Isolated. Doing everything in my power to avoid depression. Suddenly, out of nowhere, on a sunny Wednesday, I would crumble from the pressure. As my money got lower, my soul got smaller and my confidence got less, these breakdowns got more intense.

I tried so hard to be strong all the time, especially for my partner who this also affected, but every now and then I just wanted to lie on the floor and howl and to have someone sort it all out for me. i felt hopeless, utterly hopeless. Whilst i know how extremely lucky I am, to have a supporting partner and family and friends, pride and my independence having taken the biggest hit of their life and do you know what? They did not need it. I already know how lucky I am. I already see the best in everything and make the best of every situation. I already know how to look after myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I already was doing all the right things, so why wouldn’t this hell end? Why wouldn’t someone just INVEST in ME?

Im going to let you into a little secret, I am still unemployed.  I didn’t ask for this time off, but sometimes, life has other plans for you, right? I must have needed it, I just don;’t know why yet. Which is why going into my 7th week and still unemployed with so much pressure on and very little hope, i haven’t stopped. I am still getting up every morning, bright and early, as if about to set off for work. Only work is my laptop and there's no one there to brighten my day. I am still staying in control. I am not succumbing to the temptation to just sod it all and go and spend my last money on WINE. But with every day that goes by, it’s harder. 

Sometimes I just want to get back into bed and stay there. Clearing up after dinner last night, it was the hugest effort to put one foot in front of the other. I am tired all the time. My body is shutting down. I am tired. I am drained. I need a break. And then I need a holiday. Last night i got into bed at 9pm and fell asleep instantly – there's no way I was actually tired, I had had a restful bank holiday, but i felt like hell. That isn’t who I am. Today I felt sprightly first thing but within an hour the hole in my tummy had grown so big I couldnt suppress my depression and I text my Mum with a worried 'I am struggling.' With each breakdown I have, the crying gets worse and the positive reassurance to myself gets less. I am struggling to force smiles to people, even to my Gareth.

I know its all going to be okay, but I don’t know when, and I'm worried about the pressure this is putting on my mind, my body, my relationship and my bank balance. I have worked since the day I left university, I am skilled, I am confident - and I should be in a job that i love and that deserves me. I don’t understand why my career has been so higgledy piggeldy and such damn hard work, maybe there is a lesson somewhere for me, but god knows i am trying my best.

I know the universe has other plans for me which is why things don’t seem to be panning out, and I know they will work out for the very best, but until they do I am going to keep faking that smile, keep my chin up, bounce back from every single god damn rejection and hope to come out of it even happier.


02 September, 2013

September - the month of change


Hello lovely world. I have had a little break from writing this summer - every writer needs a breather sometimes, otherwise you spend a hell of a lot of time putting energy out into the world and not enough time absorbing it. And you get tired. Whist I have been focusing my energy elsewhere, so many blog posts have been written in my mind. It's weird not channelling my emotions into writing and sharing, but it is certainly better for my own peace of mind to just 'keep something back' for me from time to time.

Over the past few days I think we have all felt the first few thrills of autumn - probably my favourite time of the year - and all the thoughts whirling round in my little head have inspired me to pick up my 'pen' again. We all want to delight in the excitement of a new month, especially this one. Ahh September. Like a lot of people, I have a lot of affection for this month – the start of a new season, the nostalgic end to a summer of fun (if you're lucky) and that feeling of a clean slate, starting afresh. September means a new notebook at the very least, and at some point a new wardrobe.

It's weird really because actually September is just like any other month, one of the few months in our calendar with no fancy holiday or reason to get excited. Yet it is ingrained in us from a very early age that September marks the start of something new, usually in the form of a school year or leaving home and beginning the life changing adventure that is university.

Summer sunshine is forgotten and people look forward to things like chunky knits and soup, we switch White wine for Red and wonder how long it is before they can start planning Christmas. Yes, I said it. For me though, September has always carried even more nostalgia. I live in a city which totally transforms with each new wave of students that hits it – Sheffield is pretty small as city centres go, and far too small to have 2 whopping great uni’s in the middle of it and nowhere for locals (am I really a local? I think I’m still in post-grad limbo) to run. I try to close my eyes and drown out the sounds of a city coming to life with Freshers who get younger every year, because the nostalgia is just too much for me. One of the drawbacks of having stayed in your university city is there are memories everywhere you look. University wasn’t the happiest time of my life even nearly, I am infinitely happier now, but somehow the sweet memories that sweep me up on the soft September breeze fill me with a round of pangs.

As well as this, ALL my major life changes have taken place in September. It’s when relationships have begun and ended, all my job transitions (and I've had a few) have happened in September so it is at this time I am usually a new girl or getting ready to move on. I don't think this is exclusive to me - the end of a long summer sparks lots of people to shake up their lives, hand in that notice or end that dead end relationship. As a result, it has always been the time I change the most, as a person. I meet new people, some of whom have become my very best friends and inspired me, and I try new things. With all the external changes September has always brought for me, it has often encouraged me to change too. Emotionally, mentally, even physically – and with each change with each year, I get stronger.

So without fail I wake up every 1st September feeling excited nervous, like the first day back at school, and throughout the month there is a dull but constant thud of nostalgia in my tummy, which grows with every autumn chill and every darker morning. Not the kind of nostalgia that makes you want to go back, but the kind that makes you remember.

This September is no different, and I am so happy it is here! The high pressure of the summer is off, we can all let out our bikini bodies out and snuggle indoors. It’s mine and Gareth’s anniversary next week and I am currently walking around in an actual bubble of love, remembering all our ‘firsts’ and thinking how far we have come as a couple. I am really looking forward to celebrating with him and I get all teary thinking about our adventures. Away from my relationship, I have had a very strange summer (but that’s for another blog post which I am saving for another time), so this September almost definitely holds some big upheavals again for me and I have to say I am actually really ready.

Have a great September everyone.

x