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.


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?


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.