The gal has returned!

I’ve managed to bring my laptop back from the dead tonight. It’s been in and out of consciousness for a few weeks now, well and truly circling the drain, to the point where I spent my lunch break today frantically Internet browsing for a new laptop.

But I’ve saved it. Me. Doing something techie. Dad would be so proud (and so very confused).

It’s annoying though, because in my blogging absence I’ve made so many big life decisions and completely shaken up my whole routine. I wanted to document it all! I wanted to write about everything as I did it.

Never mind. I’m here now and this is what I’ve been up to!

New job

In April, I went for a sneaky interview without telling anyone, and was initially rejected for the position. Two days after that rejection, and not before I’d blabbed to everyone that I’d been for this interview and no they hadn’t offered me the job and yes I was going to be at Nero for the foreseeable future, I got an unexpected email from the organisation offering me the job.

A lot of sheepish apologising and notice-handing-in later, I served my last ever coffee (probably) (it was a regular americano, drink in with hot milk. How boring) and transitioned into my shiny new graduate role as an Editorial Assistant.

Philosophy students everywhere: it’s happened. A Philosophy degree has come in useful. Brace yourselves; if I can do it, you can too.

New location

What made me taking this job a bit more of a song and dance than it probably should’ve been was the fact that I had to relocate to take it up.

If you’ve been to Malvern, you’ll know it’s not exactly a hub of graduate opportunities. If you haven’t been, you’re probably wondering ‘where the hell is that?’, which is sort of the same thing.

The new job is in Manchester. I’ve got a couple of friends who live here, and my dad’s close family live nearby too. I’m staying with his cousin and feeling very at home! In June I’ll be starting to look for somewhere to live in Manchester, which is exciting and terrifying in equal amounts.

New hair

A list isn’t a list until it’s got three points, right?

I spontaneously booked myself in for an overhaul appointment the day before I left home. Cut, colour, restyle – the lot.

I’ve now got something that isn’t really a thing, not quite, but my hairdresser and I have called it a ‘colour melt’ and it doesn’t look entirely horrible so I’m happy. It’s really nice actually. I couldn’t handle my roots coming through so quickly as they did with my all-over orange/’auburn’ colour, so I’ve got natural brown roots into red at the ends.

I’ve got the jazziest hair in my team now. Which is really worth the £82 spent, arguably on a whim, getting to that point.

Until next time – I’m so happy to be back!

Emma x

 

BEDIM, day 22 (oh, what’s the point): Being a Beginner…at Everything

We’re lucky enough to be living in a time where having a uniquely personal identity is not only celebrated, but actively encouraged. From more integral aspects, such as gender and sexuality, to the more minor embellishments of diet, hair colour, hair style, fashion, which series you’re binging on Netflix – now more than ever there are so many ways to express yourself and live life to the best of your ‘you’ potential.

Maybe it’s the growth of social media, through which we’re exposed to backgrounds and lifestyles different from our own, that we should be holding accountable for this attitude towards identity. I can certainly vouch for this – my year group at high school, bar I think three people, was exclusively white; I was bullied and made to feel inferior for my ‘emo’ music taste and questionable fashion sense (though appalling it may have been, it probably wasn’t worthy of the casual death threats I received on more than one occasion.) It’s not that liking My Chemical Romance was an ostracisable offence, it just didn’t happen. If you’re gonna tease someone, it might as well be someone different to you, right? I’m really impressed with how far we’ve come in terms of embracing change and diversity in the 10 years since I was at school.

Since being exposed to reams of different backgrounds and personalities, I’ve turned my attention inwards to explore my own identity. There’s lots of aspects of my identity which are fluid, stamped with a big red question mark, but that’s fine. I’m happy to let aspects of myself fluctuate and differ as I meet new people and am introduced to more of the world around me. All part of self-improvement, right?

My latest hang-up, in regards to my own sense of self, is my almost entire lack of hobbies and interests, in the traditional sense. Sure, I find ways to fill my time – I’m an avid reader, I keep up this blog, I go on trips and holidays because I love seeing new places – but I can’t play an instrument (the recorder doesn’t count), have never been part of a sports team and not once have I starred in a play, panto or anything remotely similar. I used to have swimming lessons, was briefly enrolled in lifeguard training and attended Girls’ Brigade for about six years, but that was the extent of my extra-curricular childhood. I outgrew GB and once you’ve collected every badge in swimming there’s not a lot you can do (unless you compete, but I’m not streamlined – or in any way graceful – enough to be a fast or powerful swimmer.)

So, at the age of 22, I’m starting over. I’m determined to forge myself an enriched, interesting identity, and find myself some ways to occupy my time that don’t exclusively revolve around scrolling through Instagram. My first pursuit is picking the ukulele back up and seeing what happens!

It’s always the right time to remould and experiment with your identity. Don’t feel restricted by how others have seen or known you – if you need a bit of inspiration, get yourself onto Twitter or Instagram and see for yourself how vast and great the possibilities are!

Emma x

BEDIM, day…whatever: Recapturing the emo ‘magic’

Just found this hilarious piece in my drafts and thought it was too funny not to post. I was waiting to find some old photos to embellish it before I hit ‘publish’, but sadly I think they’re lost in the ether now. Devastating, I know! But here it is anyway.

You’ve come to the right place if you sadly missed out on the scene phase of 2007/8, and don’t quite have the balls to go all in. This was me. Age 13, sitting at the edge of it all and desperately wanting the massive hair and Skins lifestyle but severely missing the mark. (I was 13! What do you expect?)

I took the ‘kooky’ agenda and ran with it. I ran as far as Matalan. What 13 year old kid in their scene prime didn’t wear Matalan? I wore a summer dress with purple footless tights and thought I was the edgiest fucking quirk out there. Me? Jeans? I was *so* above jeans.

…unless they came in zebra stripe, purple or green. I remember ordering jeans in these three colours from Criminal Damage, the scene clothing catalogue of DREAMS (yes, catalogue), and wearing them probably once each in public. I was so into it on the inside but the predominantly white, middle-class British town I lived in was not ready for my garms.

I was so desperate to ~express myself~ with my hair and makeup choices too. On my final day of Year 8, just turned 13, I decided I was over brown hair. It was so BORING and MAINSTREAM and life’s too short to be a slave to the masses. I went to the salon my Mum uses and got my hair dyed ketchup red.

Bare in mind this was still three years before Rihanna would debut her incredible LOUD era red hair, and even two years before Cheryl Fernandez-Versini would come out on the X Factor with her L’Oreal Casting Creme gloss mahogany red hair that everyone went on to copy. Puberty was well and truly in full swing, so *my* red hair of 2007 was nicely stuck to an oily forehead set against cheeks scattered with acne.

Make-up was, thankfully, a bit less of an issue: it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve properly taken an interest in makeup, and I’ve always invested in products that give me the soft, ‘natural’ look. That being said, it makes the whole thing more tragic to imagine me, red-haired and in bright, garish clothes without a scrap of makeup. It just hammered home how much of a child I still was. I am thrilled, speaking in hindslight, that past me never tried the raccoon eyes or uploaded such a look to the Internet. Thinking about what could’ve been gives me a headache.

It was a tough time to look me in the eye, all in all. An ensemble only a mother could love.

Now that you’ve got the clothes, hair and makeup down, the next natural step is to showcase your look in the best way possible. It’s common knowledge that before the selfie became widely recognised and celebrated, scene kids on Myspace were paving the way with the infamous ‘hold the camera way above you and look to the side!!’ angle. Makes your face look thinner and your soul blacker. Fact.

At this point I would be more than happy to inundate you with *my* selfies, straight from my Bebo page, but I’ve just discovered that Bebo has gone! Kaput! Completely!! All these years I’ve gone back to my page (for some reason my brain decided to retain my old URL, for times like this clearly) to show friends these selfies and have a good old laugh. But now I can’t. Bugger.

I guess you’ll just have to recreate the look yourself…

Emma x

BEDIM, day 4: Feeling Body Positive

When you’re battling against a mental illness that spends every waking moment trying its hardest to bring you down, it’s hard to see the best in yourself sometimes. I’ve been quite fortunate recently, in that I’ve been feeling pretty good about myself and the way I look, dress and act, which isn’t something I’ve ever been all that familiar with.

I’m putting most of this new-found confidence down to how I’ve slowly-but-surely changed my attitudes towards body image, whether that be my own or how I see others. These changes are by no means revolutionary, or even particularly original (let’s be honest), but they’ve worked.

(A little disclaimer, before I jump in: I’m writing from my own perspective as a white, British girl, whose body type has always been fuller and heavier than the majority of my friends. While I’m not obese I am overweight, BMI be damned, and I’ve always been reminded of it in some way or another, whether that be via the media, my grandparents’ off-hand comments or the way I’ve been treated by men in clubs.)

Valuing Strength over Shape

I joined the gym in January 2016 to give myself a bit of a breather from the horrible, difficult place I was in at the time. At first, I didn’t really take it seriously – I rocked up, plugged my headphones into the elliptical and peddled until whichever episode of Bob’s Burgers I was watching had ended, then left –  but since September last year I’ve been making more use of the facilities after enrolling on an introduction to weights course. Now, I’ve seen the things my body can do and how strong it is!

Discovering this strength in myself has made me realise I’ve been prioritising my body’s capabilities wrongly. I’m not slim or slender, so I can’t rely on my body to make me appear delicate. What I do have, on the other hand, is a pair of arms that can rally crates of milk up and down the stairs at work and carry a suitcase without a wheel through the streets of Vienna for more than a couple of hours without breaking a sweat, and a body that allows me to run for – at the moment – 5km in one session, which is something I’m both working to improve on and very shocked that it can do that in the first place.

If I never have a flat stomach or legs *not* built like tree trunks, that’s totally fine, because it’s my bell thighs and bulky arms that allow me to live my life in the way I like.

Being Instagram-savvy 

I think social media is subconsciously where all my silly dispositions about my own body have come from. Put me in front of my bedroom mirror with the clothes I’m feelin’ myself most in and I’m fine. Shower me with photos of skinnier, fitter, clearer-skinned people in my age group and I’m all of a sudden considering why I don’t have xyz, and reflexively comparing myself to other negatively.

Instagram is a social media platform I scroll through absent-mindedly more than a few times a day, whether I’ve just woken up, am about to drift off to sleep – or it’s literally any other time of day and I’m up to date on Facebook, Twitter and everything else, ha ha ha – so I don’t want using it to impact negatively on my life outside my phone!

I got into the habit of seeking out and following body positive Instagram accounts – my particular favourites being @bodyposipanda and @chubbybabe_ at the moment (and @helenanderz for just owning who she is in every way!). I’m not looking for accounts of people with similar body shapes to my own, but for accounts with unabashed, shining optimism, celebrating the beauty in how diverse our bodies can be.

It works! Learning to see the light in what you have, and appreciating the way you’re shaped in the ‘now’ as opposed to constantly striving for ‘WHEN I’ve got abs/I’ve dropped to x weight/I’m xyz dress sizes smaller, THEN I’ll be happier/more successful/better’ and so on.

It’s hard, I know. It’s taken me this long!

Until next time,

Emma x

BEDIM, day 3: Looking out for #1

 

Last night, in a surge of motivation (the root of which is still unidentified), I drafted a list of about 20 potential post ideas for BEDIM,  in case I lose momentum later on in the month. Really, a very kind gesture from past me to future me. Today’s post, as lifted from the list, is as follows:

‘Doing shit solo and how empowering it feels’

Don’t let anyone tell you I’m not inspired.

As I’ve talked about before (in this post, to be specific), I’m a very independent person by nature. Always have been, haven’t yet been given a reason to not be. Sure, its probably been quite psychologically damaging, because the very idea of commitment and dependency on someone/something else for my happiness gives me the metaphorical shivers, but I’m learning to own it and my God is it empowering.

Doing shit solo, as I’ve so eloquently put it, makes you realise that the way you spend your time doesn’t have to be at all limiting and that the safety blanket of a social group isn’t essential to getting out and doing things. I recently saw La La Land at the cinema alone, and as much as I cringed my way through buying the ticket in front of a queue of couples, friends and families, the actual film-viewing experience was really enjoyable. I could form my own opinions without the pressure of making sure whoever I would have come with was having a good time, or that the film wasn’t a disappointment and we hadn’t wasted our money.

-For what it’s worth, I loved La La Land. If I hadn’t, I could just draw a line under it (or even better, leave the cinema whenever I wanted!), because when you do things alone, you live by your rules and your rules only.-

Eating alone was a milestone I was more anxious about. There’s a bit more stigma surrounding it – in a cinema, you’re under a shroud of darkness and the activity of watching a film doesn’t really require social interaction anyway. In a cafe, you’re in the middle of a buzz – everyone’s with someone and, for the most part, eating out is dressed up as a social occasion. But, surprise surprise, I had nothing to worry about – I took a book with me and enjoyed lunch at my own pace, and guess what? Nobody stared. Nobody gave me a funny look for being in a cafe alone. No-one cared!

That’s the thing. Nobody cares. The apprehension we have around doing things alone, I think, stems from a self-consciousness that everyone is silently judging or mocking you for not having friends or a partner to be doing these things with.

But why should we always depend on the support of others to be able to have a good time? Doing things alone is a whole different kind of experience that I can’t recommend enough. It’s a great celebration of self-sufficiency and, without meaning to sound too soul-searchy, a fab way to get in tune with yourself and work out how you do and don’t like spending your time. (and sometimes, it’s nice to just enjoy the ‘doing’ of socialising, without the need to hold up conversation. It’s relaxing!)

In the next fortnight I’m going to be going to a gig by myself, which I’m excited as well as incredibly nervous for. If anyone has any advice I’d really appreciate it!

Until next time,

Emma x

 

BEDIM, day 2: World Book Day

logoIt was World Book Day today, which you’re probably well aware of if you’re a parent, have anything to do with schools or even just a grasp on social media. For the uninitiated (does it take place outside the UK?), World Book Day is an annual celebration of reading, and getting children interested in reading – today’s celebration is the 20th of its kind – marked by inviting children to attend school dressed as their favourite book character, and giving each child a voucher to be spent on novellas written by well-known authors (or bought for a quid, if you’re a bookish child like I was and couldn’t just choose one) sold in bookshops across the country.

Whew. I promise, if you never experienced a World Book Day growing up, it was a very exciting date in any primary schooler’s calendar. Well. Mine, at least.

Books are constantly changing the game for me in so many ways. I’m not much of a TV watcher, save for a few series that warm my heart so effortlessly they’re like comfort food now, but since forever I’ve been opened up to, and shaped by, so many concepts and possibilities I’ve seen in my favourite works of fiction. Here’s my most memorable of those.

  1. All Jacqueline Wilson, everything: I don’t actually remember which Jacqueline Wilson book was my first, but I had some firm favourites: Sleepovers, which I used to read in one sitting whenever I was a bit bored; The Diamond Girls and The Illustrated Mum for how gritty they were and how much of an accomplishment it felt to have finished them (when you’re 9, The Illustrated Mum is really, really long, my God); the Girls In Love series was important to me as a teenager, too – introducing me to proper coming-of-age stuff before I was even remotely close to coming of age.
  2. ‘Noughts and Crosses’, by Malorie Blackman: I’ve ranted and raved about this book so many times before and I doubt I’ll ever stop. At the age of 12, being exposed to a YA novel exploring not only love but politics, war, racism and classism was my real transition into the ‘real world’, so to speak. I remember taking the book with me to sleepovers and waking up earlier than my friends specifically to carry on readng it, and feeling so overcome with every emotion as I turned its final pages that I cried like a baby. A book had never done that to me before. I was arguably too young, at 12, to be reading it, but it’s definitely the most important book to my own timeline that I’ve ever picked up.
  3. ‘The Goldfinch’, by Donna Tartt: I’m actually still reading this one, which is secretly annoying because I aimed to read two books a month this year and it’s only February’s first foray (I know it’s March, I know). However, I’m not annoyed at the book itself – it’s about 900 pages long, built like a brick – because ‘The Goldfinch’ is incredible. I’ve never read a novel in which each setting, character, movement and emotion is explored and analysed in such depth. The plot is largely focused around antique dealership and fine art, two things I can’t say I know anything about, but Tartt has a real gift for immersing the reader in protagonist Theo’s world, and I’m hooked. As a writer, it’s inspired me to do so much more with my words.

So there we have it! Three ways books have influenced me for the better. If only I could appear at work in costume and not be marched straight back out to change…

What’s your favourite book?

Until next time,

Emma x

Blogging Every Day In March (BEDIM), day 1: Random Acts of Kindness

It’s the first of March, Lent is upon us and as part of my yearly pledge to pale in comparison to Jesus heading into the desert to ward off temptation, I’ve set myself some goals. As far as my blog’s concerned, I’m going to be making a post every day in March – inspired by the VEDIM trend I’ve seen some YouTubers complete (Video Every Day In March), I’m going to give BEDIM (which I hope is self-explanatory) my best shot.
Today’s offering is a nod to the joy of random acts of kindness. I was this morning talking to one of my regular customers at work, marvelling at photos of her sculptures – a talent she’d never mentioned before – and lamenting my arty side as it’s something I’ve let go a little, even though I love getting stuck into creative things.
If you’d asked me from the ages of about 4-11 what I wanted to be when I was older, I would’ve told you I was going to be an artist. The pipe dream slowly manifested itself into wanting to be a book illustrator, a la Nick Sharratt – Jacqueline Wilson books influenced my little life every way possible, no doubt about it – and now I’ve settled on wanting to write the books themselves.
Anyway, I digress. I sent
my customer on her way and, completely unexpectedly, she returned an hour later with one of her old sketchbooks for me. I was so touched! Even sweeter yet, she’d written a dedication to me on the first page.
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I’m excited to get back into a little bit of sketching. I’m also in the best mood because I can’t get over how thoughtful the gesture was!

Hope you’re all well. Expect to see a lot more of me in March.

Emma x

2 | Although it’s Week 7, really

Well, fuck. Forgot about my pledge to write a blog post a week, didn’t I? It completely slipped my mind. What’s worse is I can’t actually remember what I’ve done, week by week. All I know is we’re near enough 7 weeks deep into 2017 already. Cool.

SO, I’m going to just write 6 posts in quick succession to get back up to speed. I’ve got enough shit to write about in the meantime. I picked up my car, named her Val (as soon as I clocked the numberplate the name stuck) and have driven her fair distances; I went on the holiday I booked and had a fab time. I’ve been to manager’s meetings at work, started completing 5k runs at the gym because I realised I was capable, and I’ve changed up my hair (again). It’s been a good few weeks.

Stand by. I really wanna keep this resolution.

1 | One Week Down

2017 is still very much a newborn but, like a shamelessly pushy parent (Dina Lohan, perhaps – and if that isn’t the most dated reference you’ve heard in a long time I don’t know what to tell you), I’ve already pinned pretty high expectations on it and lined it up a gruelling schedule of self-improvement.

First of all, the boring admin-y bits. I’ve started a 2017 journal to record my passing thoughts and general mood swings. I’m also committing myself to a blog post per week – in theory, I’ll have documented 2017 in 52 posts by the end of it, although if the year takes a drastic turn and we enter 2018 feeling world-hungover there might be one or two posts missing, like a sodden, abused deck of cards from a pre-drinks the night before.

So, exciting thing number 1: I bought myself a new car! I sold my old, dangerously faulty runaround to a builder working on a house across from ours for £50 – he’s taking it for parts, apparently, although which parts I’m not sure. Hopefully the parts that weren’t mocked by the mechanics who did my MOT – which doesn’t really amount to many. More power to him. I’m eager to make more long-distance car journeys this year and maybe even conquer my fear of the motorway. Baby steps!

Exciting thing number 2: I booked a holiday! My friend Emily and I are going on a trip to explore Prague, Vienna and Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. We fly out on Tuesday 7th Feb and back home again on Valentine’s Day (aw). As someone who hasn’t been the most adventurous with her travels for this, that and the other, I’m really pumped to go and explore some new places. Hopefully it kick starts a lot of trips and breaks in 2017!

Reading this back I realise I’m at danger of having peaked far, far too soon, but I’m happy to confront that down the line when it’s the end of summer and I’m inevitably on the verge of an existential crisis.

How has your new year been?

Emma x

What’s the word in 2017?

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As much as I love hearing and reading about other people’s New Year’s resolutions, this year I’ve felt inclined to not set myself a range of goals to achieve. Expectations, a lot of unnecessary pressure, blah blah. So I haven’t. Instead, I’m doing something a little bit different.

2017, for me, will be focused around and structured towards a single ideal: that is, I want to reclaim the life I’m so eager to live. I want to reclaim what’s mine.

As you’re probably aware, the past couple of years haven’t been the most fruitful for me in terms of my own personal development. If I had to summarise my 2015 in a single word, that word would perhaps be ‘cancer’. ‘Death’, maybe. ‘Loss‘, overall, because in the process of losing my Dad I lost my ambition, my drive and the student lifestyle I loved so much. I lost my mind a bit.

2016 wasn’t much better. It was almost a consolation that 2016 seemed to carry a curse – with iconic celebrities calling it quits on the world, global and national politics taking a bizarre and frightening turn and terrorist attacks becoming too commonplace to be truly shocking – because the year’s events made my grief and mental health nosedive feel perfectly in moderation with the rest of the world. A bit of a safety blanket, you could say. My word of 2016 was definitely ‘adjustment‘, with plenty of first birthdays and anniversaries without Dad confronting us in a moody blue haze. Each brought with it a unique challenge, a family conflict, a feeling of emptiness. 2016 was a year of ‘helplessness‘.

Therefore, I’m designating a word to 2017 before it’s even really begun, and that word is ‘reclamation‘. I’m setting out to take back what the world has stripped me of, and I’m going to give it my best shot.

As nice as the optimistic promises of ‘eat less exercise more’, ‘8 hours’ sleep a night’ or ‘drink 2 litres of water per day’ seem on the surface, they’re not going to cut it for me in 2017.

Until next time,

Emma x