Tuesday, 23 May 2017

24 on the 24th: An Unexpected Victory

This time tomorrow I will be 24. I love my birthday: aside from Christmas and Shrove Tuesday, it is my favourite day of the year. Plus some small part of me is pleased by the fact I turn 24 on the 24th of the month. So far so good right?

Everything was fine until I realised that I will be well into my twenties, 2 years out of uni and my life doesn't look anything like I thought it would. This filled me with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and disappointment which, honestly, I have really struggled to shift. The funny thing is if you were to ask me exactly what I was expecting life to look like for me, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I could maybe list some rudimentary materialistic things I expected to have/be closer to, but I couldn't paint a detailed picture of an alternative me if I tried.

I expected:
- to be living away from home, saving for a place of my own.
- to be working full time in a job with prospects for progression/already be progressing.
- to be in a relationship

I am:
- living back at home with the parents, on wages that don't allow for saving
- working part time in a job without much prospect of progression.
- single

As I look at these two lists, I realise that this time a year ago I was, on paper, much closer to my expectations of myself. I had moved out of the parents' house, I was living in a city I called "mine." I was working full time, and though I wasn't managing to save, I was still earning and living off my own money. This time a year ago I was in a relationship that made me the happiest girl alive. I had not long got my new car, and was feeling more like "a real adult." Pondering this makes me sad and acutely aware of the fact that on paper, it looks like I've taken a step backwards (or 3).

But, what I don't tell everyone (well I guess now I am telling cyberspace), and what a lot of people didn't see, were the realities of my "great on paper," life. I was living away from home, but struggling to cook/eat properly and generally look after myself. It was hidden well by my job; because I always had lunch of some kind, people weren't to know I rarely ate dinner, or sometimes even breakfast escaped me. My housemate probably thought I was some sort of weird hermit since I would sometimes go for days without seeing him. Money was always an issue; I was more or less living from pay-day to pay-day and had more or less got to a point where I stopped caring (depression does that to a person). The relationship I was in had cracks, which I failed to see until it was too late; lack of communication being the main factor there. I had become so unhappy in my job that it had turned me into someone I really disliked; think judgemental/stressy/snappy/catty and not to mention a nervous wreck. I was determined to hold on to my independence because in my mind admitting I needed real help meant admitting I was failing. It meant I was unable to be a "real adult," despite what my driving license and passport say.

Fast forward to November/December and I was still refusing to admit that something needed to change. I was not getting any better, in fact, I was miserable. My anxiety had improved and the situation at work had got to a point where I could turn up, but I was still desperate to leave. After spending 2 glorious weeks off at Christmas with my family, I realised I had to do something. I made a game plan to move back home in April the following year: I'd save a few months wages & then take some time out. I don't know what it was but something snapped: I handed in my notice as soon as I got back in the new year and moved home at the beginning of February.

Today, I am sat in my pjs, alternately crying, typing and drinking tea. It turns out some of this is still pretty raw because I haven't revisited it since I've been back in my little home town. But you know what? I am happier. I am living at home with the parents, so the stress of having to plan/shop/buy meals is gone. I have my support network in the next room, and my part time job is great. I love not being behind a desk and just by the nature of what I do I physically can't take work home with me. I have time to see my close friends and finally feel like I am beginning to heal. I am discovering something I am good at and in being single I'm learning the importance of being who I need, instead of trying to be what others want.

So when I turn 24 tomorrow, I will celebrate and dance, and be irritatingly, nauseatingly happy, because for one of the first times in my life, I have become exactly what I needed for myself. In my mind that is far more important than any expectations or check-list of achievements, so I am totally a-okay (or learning to be) with how my life looks because I STILL HAVE ONE.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Is your weakness really a weakness?

I shall begin by stating the obvious: I don’t like a lot about myself. To those who know me this is old news and I can already picture some of you shaking your heads, while the rest of you roll your eyes and tut in disapproval. But that's the truth and growing up, I learned to despise who I am. I thought all of the things that made me me were weaknesses: I thought I was weak. I believed I was ugly, worthless and a little bit stupid. I blame it on a childhood and school life where I was made to feel that I was too sensitive, too vulnerable and God forbid someone should call me soft hearted. I hated it. I grew up learning that I had to suppress that side of me. 

Little was I to know that these things that I suppressed and replaced with biting sarcasm and well-placed bitchy comments, would actually prove to be some of the qualities that people complimented me on most often: soft heartedness, openness and vulnerability. That sensitivity has brought me strength, the softness I choose to keep as an act of rebellion and the vulnerability? Well that still hurts sometimes, but honestly? I'd rather have that than be hardened into the shape of bullies who taught me they were "tough."

I know the beginning may have read like a sob story (sorry about that one), but what I am trying to say is that our biggest weaknesses can actually become our greatest strengths: that stubbornness? It could give you drive to stick at something until you succeed. The bluntness? Combined with a bit of tact it can earn you respect. Perfectionist? Well at work things need to be ordered and organised; you could succeed at management. 

So where have my "weaknesses" taken me? They contribute a great deal to my writing; it is honest (sometimes possibly too honest), raw and open. I write to feel less alone, so others feel less alone and without its rawness or its vulnerability, there would be no truth in it. So yes, I may sometimes show too much of myself in what I put on paper, but why should I keep quiet when I have a voice and a platform that others may not?