Friday, 16 September 2016

The Next Chapter

Only a few short months ago I uploaded a post that spoke about my dilemma regarding my undergraduate Sociology dissertation.  Under all the stress of the final year, and concerns as to what my future would hold I had felt like giving it all up.  I had declared to myself that University was not for me.

In truth, I had become scared.  Scared of failure, and in my fear I had almost quit.  Thankfully for me, I completed my dissertation, although I changed the topic at the very last minute which consequently led to a piece of work that didn't have nearly enough time dedicated to it!  But I did it, and was pleasantly surprised when my final mark came through.

I was capable.

It's funny how fear of failure can sometimes cause us to throw in the towel and not bother trying at all.  I deeply regretted allowing my depressive episode overwhelm me during my third year of study.  The University offered numerous levels of support, but I was too afraid to reach out.

In short, I do not like admitting that my mental health is not always great.  I feel ashamed that I have a disorder which can take away all of my energy and leave me wishing for eternal sleep.  And it frustrates me that my condition is cyclical.  It also reassures me.  It will eventually pass.  The highs and the lows.

I gained my undergraduate degree, and while I passed with honors, if I had had the courage to reach out and admit I was feeling overwhelmed and my energy levels zapped by a depressive episode, I could have gotten the support needed for a plan of action that could have meant I would have completed the two modules I ended up dropping.  In total I passed the required amount of credits to earn a degree with honors, but I was angry at myself because underneath the fear of failure I knew that if I hadn't given up I could have done so much better.

For any students who may happen to come across this post, I have one piece of advice:

If you are struggling, if you feel low and tearful, stressed out and overwhelmed - reach out, speak to the University, do not struggle on your own, because you are not alone.  And don't give up or drop out (unless that is something that you conclude is best for you).  Don't let the fear of failure take away your dreams.

Following my graduation this June, I set about looking for jobs in my areas of interest.  As a mature student, I already had a wealth of employment experience, although I did not want to return to the jobs I had once done.  I've always found it difficult to internally rationalise simply doing a job to earn money.  I wanted to work in an organisation or field that actually benefited humankind.  I also really love writing and reflecting on my thoughts around issues that grab my attention.  So my aim was to procure work in the third sector which I hoped would allow me to use and improve my writing skills.

The one position that really filled me with excitement was one I had seen advertised with the British Red Cross.  It was for a volunteer Refugee Case Worker.  And it was applying for this and similar positions in various non profit organisations that led me to come a little closer to what I hoped to do with my future, and where I could possibly see myself in five-ten years from now?!

I wanted to return to my original plan I had had before I began my undergrad career.  I wanted to undertake a Masters, I wanted to continue learning and expanding on my interests and knowledge and indulging in my love of writing.

I found the perfect Masters Degree, I applied, and whilst I hadn't truly believed I would gain a place, I hoped beyond hope that I would.  Waiting for the email that would inform me of whether I had been successful or not was absolutely awful, I felt like I was suspended in limbo.

Whilst I awaited my fate, I continuously applied for jobs and attended interviews.  I hadn't had much luck, many applications being thanked for but 'not progressing the application further'.

There's an old saying about buses; none for ages, and then they all come at once.  In my case this was true; first a job offer, and then the very next day an offer letter for my place at University.  Out of the two I was more ecstatic over the uni acceptance letter than the job offer.  Whilst financially I am going to struggle, and the workload will be challenging and testing, I just knew that I had to do it.
I remember what I wrote in my UCAS personal statement about the reasons for wanting to study sociology.  I had wanted to gain the knowledge and understanding so that I would be able to do my part in creating a more equal and peaceful world.  I wanted to help those less fortunate than myself, those who suffer simply due to where on the planet they happened to be born.  Naive as it may sound, I want to make a difference, and I want to help to create a better world.

So, come Monday I begin the next chapter of my life.  And I can honestly say for the first time in four years I have complete clarity as to where I am heading and what my goals are.  For a while I didn't have a clue, but now it feels like a huge light switch has been flicked on, and I honestly can't wait to get started.  And this time I wont allow my fear of failure stop me.  It's time for me to step into my full potential, and show myself what I'm capable of......

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Strangest Dream

I awoke unsettled, from the strangest dream,
I sit and ponder;
What does it mean?

In a country, not of my origin,
The gas station didn't sell my cigarettes
A kindly shop assistant helped me choose,
20 B&G's, the silver pack will do;
In my head, I was thinking -
"Lucky Strike"
Yet B&G's; they sounded about right.

There was a flat,
With a tricky lock door,
It was a dream
Yet I felt I'd been here before;
In my thoughts within the dreamscape
I instinctively knew;
I felt at home....

Then a different scene emerged,
I found myself in some kind of waiting room,
Or possibly a smoking lounge,
Rows of tables, four plastic chairs to each;
Windows lined the right-hand side
Looking out onto the street.

The atmosphere was malevolent
Sense that dark forces were at work
A group of young people, carrying knives
Began to approach a table to the right side of the room
Instinctively I moved first towards
And then slowly edged further away.

Things began to get heated
I moved out of the corridor-like room
Into a sort of entrance hall
Lots of people gathered
Women wrapped in towels
Like they were at a spa,
or a swimming pool

As the group with knives began to chant,
"Terror, Terror, Shark Attack!!"
A person nearby
urgently said
"Get ready to run!"

Chaos broke out
Out of the door we flew,
Running scared
Through streets in the dark of night
Streets in a dream, not real
Yet I had run through them before

Then I stopped
A terror which shook me to my core
"My Angel!?!?"
He was not with me
Not by my side
He was not with me
He was left behind

Yet he was not with me in the beginning?
I know for certain
I was there in the dream alone
I wouldn't have left him?
Dreams playing horrible tricks
Changing the game in a blink
Panic gripped me
I began to shake...

I head back to the place
from which I just fled
A thousand and one thoughts
racing through my head

When I arrive
All is quiet and still
Only two people are present
In the corridor-like room
A woman, smoking;
A man with dark shoulder length hair

"Have you seen my Angel?  Is he here?"
I'm crying, fear permeates my words
"Yes he's here - he's in a bad way"
The man with shoulder length hair begins to say
I turn my head towards an open door way
And there my Angel is
Dragging himself across the floor
He has a nasty wound on his right leg
And tear stained cheeks
I begin to weep

My heart breaks as rush toward him
And he begins to speak softly
"It hurts" he tells me

We need to get him to the hospital
I tell the man with the shoulder length hair
As I bundled my sweet Angel up into my arms
Stroking his hair
And whispering to him
That it will all be okay.

The man answers
"Sure, but who is going to pay?"
Payment before treatment
How inhumane this truly is
"My Dad has a credit card, I'll call him, he will pay you"
I had no money
I didn't even know where we were
nor how we had ended up here
In a dream
I did not even know if I had any other family at all.

We get into a car
My Angel upon my knee
I'm holding him close to me
And wishing I could take all his pain away.
Did I leave him behind?!?
But he wasn't there I protest
He wasn't there
But maybe he had been there all along
And I hadn't realised.

His sad eyes look up and deep into mine
As we sped through the dawn lit streets
In a world without time
My heart breaking that my Angel had been all alone
Scared and hurting
I had not been there,
I had not protected him

And then I woke up
Tears soaking my face.........

Friday, 15 July 2016

Square Peg / Round Hole Syndrome

Do you ever feel like you don’t truly fit in, like, anywhere?
             - All the fucking time.

Round peg /square hole syndrome….

I think I have been a round peg attempting to fit into square holes for the last thirty three years; I am exhausted by the effort now.
Even when it appears to the untrained eye that I have adapted and slotted in rather well, I feel the gaps.  I feel how I am not snugly encased in my hole.
I am also acutely aware of all the times when I have suddenly morphed into a square peg only to discover that I am not even able to penetrate the now round hole I am attempting to infiltrate.

And I know that I am not alone in feeling this way.
There are a plethora of articles written on this very topic.  Many conclude that the reason behind not felling as though we belong (or ‘fit’) is due to being out of alignment with our unique truth.

Truth is not universal.

Stephanie Zamora penned a beautiful quote;

Whatever makes you different, that’s exactly who you’re here to be, not someone that “fits” with everyone else.

Dr Suess promoted the same sentiments.

Being different ought to be embraced and celebrated.

I think most would agree.  Yet not fitting in is still ridiculed.  It is still judged.  Even in contemporary times when difference and embracing our unique quirks is advocated far and wide via various media channels and platforms.
There still remains the status-quo of homogeneity that runs insidiously through the underbelly of society.
If it didn’t, then we wouldn’t all be required to be so courageous in being ourselves.

It feels to me like it is advocated that we embrace our true selves, but only if our unique quirkiness fits into the societal definition of appropriate quirkiness.  For example, it’s cool and accepted if your uniqueness has a cool ‘hip’ quality to it.  If it’s ‘trendy’ (wow, I fucking hate that word, but for lack of a better descriptive it’s staying in).
If our uniqueness can be used to generate an income, if we are able to turn it into a commodity to be exchanged upon the open market.

At least that’s my current perception.  And it’s open to change, for I am somewhat contradictory in my approach to life, I am a big fan of Osho, and he welcomed contradiction.  To be contrary is to be in a constant state of flux, ever-changing, flowing and adapting.

How many of us are still struggling to figure out what our own personal truth is?  Let alone whether or not we are in alignment with it.

Both hands up for me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a dabbler.

An eclectic drifter.  Possibly lacking in ambition (at least according to the societal definition of ambition – hungry, money driven, and plastering social media with selfies promoting ‘Brand You’).
I am not a fucking a brand.

I am not a fucking product to be marketed.

And yet, apparently I am.  Anyone who wishes to earn a crust from their craft needs to create a brand, and then market the sheezus out of themselves.

Maybe I am a dysfunctional human being.  There was a glitch in my evolution.

Because I’m just not feeling it.

Maybe that’s my truth.  The feeling that the world built upon the selling of ourselves is absolute bullshit. 

Even spirituality is a commodity now.

What the actual …?

Yet, as the old saying goes;

If you can’t beat them, join them???

My exhausted efforts of attempting to fit into molds that are not meant for me, have left me bent so out of shape that I am unable to return to my original form.

I’ll remain the bent out of shape, eclectic drifting dabbler gypsy child I was destined to be…

For now, at least.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Inspired by job applications (the post, not me....)

I can't believe it has been almost a month since I last posted anything.  It's been well over a month since I actually felt compelled to write.
And now, on a rainy Saturday in July, I am suddenly compelled.

So much for disciplining myself to the practice of writing every day.

Me and self-discipline are old flames, and currently we are not on the best of terms (if we ever were).   
Like much in my life, I am either all in, or all out.  No half arsed effort, it's either all consuming, fueled by the fire of passion, takes over my entire life-is my reason for breathing....or it's just not.  I am not only referring to writing, this is pretty much how I tackle everything, from cleaning and housework, to (dare I say it) parenting, work and life.

The thing with self-discipline, is the pressure you put onto yourself, and that is indoctrinated into us by society; the whole "to be a success, or be worth any value you have to be self-disciplined, you ought to push yourself", and all that shit.

When it comes down to doing shit that brings you joy; makes your soul sing and all that jazz, there is never any need for struggle; there is no force, because you want to do it with all your heart and soul. The concept of  self-discipline (my personal perception of it), is that it seems to place added pressure onto already high expectations of how we think we ought to be; how our life ought to look.  But that's foolish in itself; life and each moment, and us as human beings are what we are, and things are what they are.  There is no need for expectation.  Everything just is.  Whether we choose to see all for what it is, or whether we struggle and fight and resist cause it ain't up to our standards?  Well I guess that is down to personal choice and the motto of life which one subscribes to. 

For me personally, high expectation and struggle just don't flick the light switch for me.  If I fail at sticking to my own goals, I end up hating on myself.  
And that is no fun at all.

So screw the goals, or actually, screw the high expectation which is placed on achieving the goal which ultimately leads to the harsh self-criticism when a goal isn't reached in the way we envision it ought to have been.

If there's passion there and you wanna go hell-for-leather towards something you want - do it.  If/when that passion fizzles out (which may/may not happen) learn what is to be learnt from the process and move on to the next thing....
Moving forward without pressure.  

Which leads me to the whole point of this particular post.

Pressure.  Do you work well under pressure?
I'll take a bet that the majority of us will affirm a positive to that statement when asked in interviews and on application forms for employment.
But do you really?
I think a definition of pressure is required.  And the context to what is meant by pressure when asked.
I love a bit of pressure when I'm writing, it gives me a good kick up the arse with a shot of adrenaline, knowing I have to finish to a tight deadline.  And generally I have brought that pressure upon myself by procrastinating in the space between being given an assignment or task to the moment when I choose to get down to business (two days before?).

Any other type of pressure though?  To be in an environment when you are required to be constantly 'on' for the whole time you're there?  With every move and moment being clocked, and timed and scrutinised?  And then the work you put your best effort into doesn't even receive acknowledgment? When your contribution isn't valued?  
Fuck that kind of pressure.
No one gets paid enough to deal with that shit.

It's like the ' needs to be good at multi-tasking', when most of us mindfulness freaks know that it's all about focusing on one thing at a time.
Yet on an application form, or in an interview we're all, "Sure, I ADORE multi-tasking, it's what I do, it's how I live my life!!!"

When I multi-task, I fuck up.
I can work on more than one project, sure, but not all at the same time.
My best work?  When I focus 100% on the task at hand.

Focusing 100% on the task at hand is the springboard for my next point.

If we set ourselves too many goals, it would be assumed inevitable that at least one wont be attained. The solution?  Set one major goal, and then work your arse off to achieve it before planning the next one.

My current goal:  To create interesting and engaging content about a trending topic of interest each week, and post the end product on to this here blog (with the clause that some weeks it may be a topic which is of high interest and importance to me, but may not be 'trending' in the traditional sense).

A solid two weeks of job searching and applications provided me with inspiration from which to muse and ponder that I'd never imagined would occur.
It also led me to thinking that I am not of the same elk of the conscientious none-to-fivers (Honestly, I already knew this from much trial and error in my earlier employed years).

I possess a solid and strong work ethic, and I put my heart into the work I do (which is currently unpaid and done because of my shear love of it).  Yet, when I read over job specifications, I do sometimes feel it would be fraudulent of me to say that I can multi-task and work well under pressure, because, although I could, and do, it would be completely dependent on the type of work and the environment in which I am working.
And I stick by the sentiment that we all produce quality work when we are focused upon the task at hand.  Multi-tasking needs to take a leave of absence for a while.
Quality over quantity.

I'm pretty sure that this post could do me out of a few jobs.  But if you were an employer who valued quality of work over quantity, then I am definitely your girl!  And if the role involves writing, well, that would be a dream and a pleasure.....

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Confidence training - doing one thing every day that scares me.

Do one thing each day that scares you.

For me, that could consist of numerous activities.  Most of all, anything which exposes my 'real' self.   To share anything which I have created from my heart scares the absolute shit out of me.


Lack of self-belief; the fear of being rejected, ridiculed, told point blank that what I have created is complete shit.

I surmise at times that my efforts at writing are utter crap.

I mean, what is my message?  What point am I attempting to get across?  Sure, I love writing, putting my chaotic thoughts down upon paper and attempting to make sense of the mess.

But am I actually any good?  Does anyone actually benefit from what I write, or ought I just keep my words hidden away in a private journal, stashed under my pillow?

Being deemed good, or shit for that matter, is all relative.

Yet being aware of this does not lessen the insecurity felt from within.

In an attempt to grow in confidence, I have decided to set myself the task of doing something each day that scares me.  Something that causes me to feel a little nauseous, but ultimately empowers me.

I am not talking about grand things; no bungee jumping or anything like that.

Just little things, things which may seem insignificant to an outsider, but which are huge deals to me personally.

For little over a year now I have been putting my poems to music.  I think I have around five poems which I have crafted into songs.

I love singing.  However, to sing my own songs in front of anyone causes me to have a complete meltdown.  Karaoke I can do, belting out another's song is fun (and usually happens after a shot or five of dutch courage).  But performing my own songs?  Shit, that's like peeling back the skin of my chest to expose my heart.

If someone tells me I can't sing, well that's cool, it's a matter of opinion.  To be told you can't sing and that your song sucks?  Well that's just fucking murder of the soul right there!

Okay, so I'm being over dramatic, but the fear of ridicule combined with a lack of self-belief has meant that none of my songs/poems to music have ever been heard by anyone other than myself (and my mum!)

So, in the spirit of "Project Confidence Boost", yesterday I decided to record myself singing one of my songs and post it to my Facebook profile.

Now my Facebook profile is locked down private, and only those who are on my friends list can view anything I post.  So it was not like I was putting myself out there for the criticism of complete strangers.  Still, it terrified me just as much as it would have done if I had been posted it on an open profile.

Still I did it.  As I pressed post I thought 'fuck it, what's the worst that can happen?' followed by a distinct sick feeling.

Why the fuck would anyone want to watch this?

Why not?

The accompanying caption to the video stated that I was in no way delusional or attempting to be the next Lianne Le Havas, but I felt the need to share a little bit of me.

The song/poem writing is a hobby, it brings me joy.  The point of sharing wasn't anything more than an exercise of putting myself out there, to show myself that the consequences of doing so would not be as dire as I had imagined.

It also brought me to a significant aha moment.  Without feedback how can I improve?  And this isn't restricted to the music, but to everything we create in life.  Without sharing, we never get the opportunity to receive feedback (good and bad), and without feedback we will never know if others like or dislike something we have created - in a way, we stunt our own growth.

I also discovered that I felt a sense of power in doing something that scared me.  Even if no one had seen or bothered to comment on my little video; the act of putting it out there felt good.  I did it.

Now to decide on what today's 'scary thing' will be.

Eye contact with strangers?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Don't be so hard on yourself - Self love & Compassion.

As Jess Glynne sang in that gorgeous soulful voice of her's "Don't be so hard on yourself"

The past few days, those exact words have been playing on a loop inside my head.  I have been in a major funk.  Stuck in an imaginary limbo created by my own mind and amplified by my penchant for procrastination.

I am my own worst enemy, a harsh critic.  There is no one on this earth whose words could be so scathingly hurtful as my own.  In a way this is something of a blessing, another's opinion and criticism of me will never hurt me as much as I hurt myself.  It is also paralyzing curse that shackles me to the radiator and leaves me stuck in non-action. 

The root cause - fear and low self-esteem.

Both of which are the reason I have a section of my living room floor dedicated to stacks upon stacks of self-help literature and 'how to' guides. 

I berate myself for not being passionate or ambitious enough in regards to money.  Money has never been what drives me.  When I was younger and had dreams of becoming a dancer, my mother, in her concern for how I would support myself, warned me that dance was a precarious profession and that I would be best of focusing on a 'proper job'.  

My response was, and I still stand by it: I would dance for free, money isn't the reason for wanting to follow my dreams.  In the same way I write for free.  I write because I love it, I dance because I love it.  To make money from my dreams would be fantastic, but it is not what lies within my motivations for pursuing them.  I do what I love regardless.

I'm happy in low stress ( I say this relatively) hospitality roles.  Waitress work in bars and restaurants suits me just fine.  I love the interaction, the busyness, the physical nature of the job.  Roles that do not put so much pressure on me that they suck the life force from me and leave me lacking energy to pursue what I truly love.

There is so much emphasis upon making a career from our dreams.

And that totally kills the fun and joy.  And for me personally, when too much pressure is added my creativity likes to take a hike.

Does money equal success?

Depends on our unique perceptions. 

Through writing this very post, with no clear view of how it would come together, or what the clear focus of it would be, I have managed to free myself from the self-inflicted funk.  

This is what I love about writing.  It allows you to come to realizations you hadn't even thought of prior putting pen to paper - or fingertips to keyboard.

I am frustrated by my lack of money driven ambition.  And that's okay, simply because; I am not a failure because I am not driven by monetary reasons.  I still pursue what I love.

So what if I am not over enthusiastic for planning and organisation and desk jobs and the corporate realm.  So what if the thought of donning a suit everyday and working for 60 hours a week doesn't fill me with excitement.  So what if I am met me looks of bewilderment when I say that once my degree is finished that I would rather work in a cafe/bar and be happy whilst earning just enough for my needs, than work in an office and be stressed and unhappy whilst raking in the moulah.

If we are happy and content with our choices, in turn that makes us kinder people.  Money doesn't create happiness, it creates the greater possibility for freedom, but it keeps you imprisoned in the quest whilst you earn "your freedom".

Freedom is a state of mind.  Happiness is a choice.

I am not lazy simply because I do not want to spend my life rushing around and getting stressed out over, what in the end will turn out to be, very trivial shit.

It's okay to not be organised.
It's okay to not be all goal orientated.
It's okay to live moment to moment and not think too much about the future.
It's okay to be exactly who you are at whatever moment.

Comparisons to others are deadly, and a enormous waste of emotional energy.

My funk came from comparisons, because I'm not doing what "successful people" do.
My funk came from my perceived failings; but now I realise I do not want to be "that kinda person" anyway.

I am totally at peace with the person that I am.

Procrastination could be seen as the souls way of telling you that the shit you're putting off isn't completely necessary in the grand scheme of things anyway. Plus, I also tend not to procrastinate when I'm doing what I love.  It's the things that I hate and that don't truly align that bring about procrastination (for me anyway).

Ta rah funk.  I'm choosing to stop being so hard on myself.  For now at least...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

A loss of Equilibrium - Dissertation heartache

Take five deep breaths.

Calm yet? No?

Take five more, maybe ten.  Actually, it's probably a good idea to just keep going until your equilibrium returns.

My equilibrium is somewhat elusive these days.

Replaced by frustration, anger, self-criticism and some serious self-defeating inner dialogue.

Did I say these days?  I'm being somewhat dramatic, it's actually only fully evident today.  The past week has felt like progress.  But today has felt like a grand cha-cha-cha backwards.  Suddenly I feel lost and hopeless.  Things aren't panning out the way I expected, and I find myself shouting and loosing my shit over tiny slights that wouldn't usually scratch the surface of my temperament.

And it's frustrating the shit out of me.

Why the hell am I so angry?  Why do I feel like today is the end of the world?

Is it a moon day?  Is my cycle due?

The last two are usually really reliable indicators of the change in my mood and sudden loss of equilibrium.  But they are not the influencers today.

Therefore I make an attempt to be reflexive - examine where these feelings are coming from and why.

I'm left stumped.

I'm left even more frustrated with myself for not being able to read my own intuition.

In tears I look upward and whisper, Please fucking help me out!?

As of yet, no bright lights or visions in burning bushes have occurred.

So I'm breathing.  And writing.  And sharing this sorry tale with whomever drops by my site today.

Then it dawns on me.  My dissertation is due to be handed in on May 5th, less than a week away.  The inspiration for the topic and content decided to disappear out of the door at top speed after only 950 words, and I've been treading water and slowly sinking under frivolous and superfluous sentences and bad structure ever since.

My heart isn't in it, hasn't been for quite some time.  The only reason I am making an attempt to actually complete it is to save face in front of my parents - they perceive me to be a starter whom never actually finishes anything.  Whereas my perception of the way I conduct my life is more along the lines of - oh that looks interesting, I'll give that a go - oh not really what I expected and not particularly working out, shan't waste any more time here...moving on!!  I haven't enjoyed university since I started there just under 3 years ago.  And I'm no longer willing to pretend that I did.

From the impending deadline issue stems the reality that university is basically over, and I have little to no idea how I am going to go about supporting myself and my little dude for the foreseeable future.  Scary shit.  On the other hand, a fine opportunity for new beginnings.

But a new beginning of what?  That I do not know.  Whether I graduate or not, I am still no clearer on what the next step to take is likely to be.  And my passions and dreams are not yet honed enough to generate an income.  

The breathing worked a little, it lead me to sit down and write this.  In writing this I see the light side of the situation, and the reality that even if I fail the degree it's hardly the end of the world, I mean I survived for 26 years and was gainfully employed for the majority of ten of those years prior to any university study.  Some of the roles weren't as fulfilling as others, but all provided a wealth of experience.

It's time to get creative and brainstorm/mindmap myself a solution.  One thing I am certain, even on the days when my equilibrium is compromised and I look set to traverse wildly towards the canyon of the self defeatist death river - there is always a solution.  There is always possibility and opportunity if one is willing to look beyond the tip of the nose and outside the box with imagination and an open mind!

The cynical fucker within me isn't fully behind the truth or validity of paragraph above.  The little sod would rather I sat in my tears, stuffing my face with chocolate and whining to myself.  

The chocolate part I might indulge - but cynicism and pessimistic attitudes are so fucking last year.