Friday, 19 October 2018

Possessing the cool thing.

I have this funny habit of wanting to own things. Not material things, I don't feel especially strongly about objects. I enjoy having objects, I enjoy materialistic pleasure but I don't feel it so urgently as this other type of possession.

Mostly it is in moments of insecurity that I get this sensation, as if it is linked to proving myself, to marking myself out as worthy. It will happen in conversation or imagined conversation or even conversations I am not a part of and it will rush up inside of me hot and aggressive. The need to possess a concept, or an abstract thing, something which is not tangible but something I want to be inarguably connected to.

How do I explain this?

Say, for example, my dad had invented something really cool (he hasn't, sorry) and everyone knew about the cool thing but they didn't necessarily know that my dad had invented it. And it came up in conversation, without anyone else knowing how intrinsically linked I was to this cool thing, well, that is when the sensation comes along. I would feel an overwhelming desire to own that thing. To make it known that somehow, in some tenuous connection, I was a part of the thing.

I suppose it is linked to uniqueness. The desire to stand out from the pack, in the impossible task of becoming more immortal than everyone else. If they remember you for something, if they can see how different you are, that you possess this cool thing, you won't become ordinary and therefore invisible. I dread invisibility, especially when a moment of insecurity can convince me that I might be.

It is a way of being heard and noticed, to own something. Maybe that is how people feel about material things, and I feel it about tenuous links to concepts or events or facts that might make me seem cooler. Might give me more value.

Weird, isn't it.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Moments with my sister.

I want to write down every silly, funny moment between us because they are so beautiful and I feel so happy when they happen. I want to remember each moment you said or did something so obscure, so ridiculous that only we could laugh and our laughter created a separate universe where only we existed together, for as long as the moment lasted. I want to catch all these moments and keep them in jars to go back to, but they are so fleeting and I must watch them dissolve, clinging on to the feeling they created.

I want to keep having these moments, these private bursts of laughter in a language only we can understand, forever. I want these episodes of unadulterated joy to keep coming back to me. I want to preserve you, in each of these moments, I want you to last forever, for me, in our world. Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

I've grown up.

It is so strange to notice yourself change. It is subtle, and can only be seen once it has happened, but it is odd when you suddenly realise. I have changed recently, or maybe I changed before and I didn't know. The change has been growing up. I have grown up, a bit, over the last few years.

I have noticed because I have come back for my last year of university and something feels different. I feel calm, and ready, and the pangs of missing home are not so great anymore. For the first time I didn't cry when my parents left. Which perhaps they will be sad to know, but also happy that they finally produced a functioning adult. Almost.

It feels funny because I am watching the first years wander around in that very lost, very frightened way with brave faces and I don't feel like that anymore. I feel different, in a good way. I don't need to put on a brave face because I feel brave, I have done brave things and given myself the reassurance that I can do almost anything I put my mind to. That's a fantastic change. It doesn't mean no more fear, but it does mean the fear is always conquerable.

Perhaps I am lucky because I have always been ready to move on at the exact right moment. Ready to move schools, ready to leave school, ready to finish university. Ready for the next bit, whatever that may be.

So I have changed, and grown up a bit. And it is such a lovely, reassuring feeling that I almost can't wait for it to happen again. And again. And again.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Time in all its ways.

We consider time in all the ways it cannot be. It cannot be filled, or spent, or wasted. It is not malleable, it is not better or worse, slower or faster, more valuable.

We can pretend we have control over time in the way that our minds perceive it, that is powerful enough. But it is an illusion and nothing more.

Funny then, that I should always worry about time. Worry about how I fill it. Was that hour spent well enough? That day? That week? Was I present enough? Did I watch time fly or did I only sit to ponder it after the event of time passing, whilst it still passes now. And now. And still now.

What is an hour spent well? When I was happy? When I was working hard at something I care about? When I was working hard at something I don’t?

For the whole of September I have been telling people that I am “filling time” before I go back to university. Filling it up because I’m bored, waiting for my real life to start again.

My real life. What does that involve then? Perhaps just an easier way to “fill” that time. A distraction from time. Fewer hours spent watching time pass.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

I've got a favour to ask you.

I have thought for a long time about writing this particular post. I still feel nervous about it. I think because I value the integrity of the blog, and the autonomy of the reader to do with each post what they will. That sounds a lot heavier than I mean it, but I am aware that in our current climate of clickbait and manipulative algorithms people are tired of having content shoved in their faces. And maybe my content isn't wanted, or needed enough for it to make it further than my circle of Facebook friends.

But I am going to ask, since I preach about being brave enough to do things one is scared of, for you to do me a favour. I don't always know exactly who 'you' is. Most of the time I am surprised by who it is. I still half expect the readership of this blog to extend only to my dad and some close friends. Happily I am often proven wrong.

So I am going to ask this: if you enjoy a post, and I mean genuinely enjoy it, would you share it? Or even just like it, so that more people on your feed and mine can see it? I want to clarify that I want this to happen only when you feel it's right. For example, don't share this post because I literally asked you to, share the next one because maybe it made you feel something, maybe it felt important.

I feel like I am writing a letter to 'you', asking for your help. In a way I guess I am. I've spent enough time working on this blog to want it to go somewhere. If it doesn't it means it wasn't supposed to, but if it can it was because 'you' as a collective reader decided it was good enough to share with your version of the wider world. And by going somewhere I'm not sure exactly what I mean, but sharing my writing with more people would mean a lot. Just a few friends of yours you think would appreciate it, maybe.

I might regret this post, I might not, but there's never any harm in trying, is there? And I trust 'you', whoever you are, to let me know when mistakes are made, or when I think they've been made but  haven't. 'You' often keep me on the straight and narrow, just by being there to listen to the thoughts I type out I hope can always be heard.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

All this togetherness.

When I wrote a play about loneliness I was writing it for women my age. Or women who had ever been my age, or women who would be. I don't know why I was gendering it in my head but the entire process I was surrounded by women and I talked primarily to women about my own loneliness so why would I consider the play to be for anyone else? I was 20 and a woman and had felt lonely and so that was who the play was for. A dedication, if you like.

But at almost every single performance there was at least one man in the audience who was over the age of 50 and who, after the play had ended, came up to me with genuine gratitude in his eyes and said "well done and thank you so much for articulating something that I couldn't". I didn't know these men, but this genuinely happened several times. I had inadvertently reached out to people I didn't realise I had much in common with at all.

One of the reviews started off by stating their fears that this would be a self-indulgent little play by a self-indulgent little girl who barely knew what life even had to offer. Harsh, but maybe somewhat fair. But it went on to say that the play was nothing of the sort, that it did feel universal, and that the loneliness expressed was human and wide-reaching. That the audience felt included.

Perhaps I did initially try to aim my play at women my age because I don't know what life has to offer yet, because I was scared of making assumptions. I haven't even turned 21, what do I know? And yet my fears feel older than that, they always have done. I know my loneliness is sometimes bigger than me, that it is felt by everyone at one point or another. There are different ways to feel lonely, but somehow I touched on a big one, and some people said thank you for it. And I am so grateful that they responded so kindly, because it all goes in one big circle, all this reaching out, all this universality, all this togetherness.


Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The soul needs airing.

There is that stuffy feeling, isn’t there? When you’ve left the windows to your soul closed and the air inside grows stale. You need to pay attention to yourself, to listen to your quietness, to notice and listen to your own human body. 

I felt that last week, like I needed to shake myself out. Wash myself and hang up to dry. I needed to care for myself. 

So I spent hours grooming myself. Bathing in hot water, massaging shampoo into the roots of my hair, washing my face with something expensive and needless, but luxurious all the same. Lying there, watching your body just beneath the surface, stretched out beyond you, is soothing. It enforces a presence with yourself. 

I like the feeling of my skin without the rough hair that grows on my legs, or under my arms, and so more hours were spent removing it. Different methods: shaving, epilating, plucking. Contorting my body to find the roughest bits underneath my thighs, or long ones in the crevice of my knee. Frustrating and satisfactory at the same time; a feeling almost certainly reinforced by western beauty standards. My smooth skin glistened after rubbing in some chocolatey smelling moisturiser, and I enjoyed the end result. How lovely all the lines of my body, how gentle and peach like my skin.  Never mind the patches of hair unfound and forgotten, never mind red little bumps left by unkind razors, never mind scars. 

And then to paint my face, and dry my softened hair, and watch the angles change with the light in the mirror. Not narcissistically, just interested, fascinated with the idea of this body of mine; this fleshy cell from which I look out of and feel and process. And also I guess narcissistically too, as I paint angles onto my face, shapes to accentuate features I like. But it is okay to like them, it is okay to spend time with yourself. 

And it worked, this grooming. I felt I had dusted out my mind, come back to myself. Centred myself. Is this what it takes to love oneself? Perhaps some of it. My body is important to my being, after all.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Like water in cupped hands.

There are those thoughts, thoughts and feelings, which one longs to hold onto. And yet in the moment you have the idea to grab hold of the feeling going through you, the thought going past, it starts to dissolve and you clutch madly at nothing until whatever it was has completely disappeared. That's okay, they'll come back one day when you least expect it, within you somewhere but not consciously reachable.

Then there are those thoughts, thoughts and feelings, which one wishes will never return. And yet even at your most conscious moment as to how you feel, what you think, not one part of it will dissolve. You wonder how this can be, when all the best things last so briefly and this irritating little bugger of a thought won't leave you alone. It has such a loud voice, such an anchor to every waking moment.

Bad thoughts have become like a bad habit for me. Easier to ignore, easier to forget but still ready to creep up in my moments alone, as if my mind remembers that those are the times when those thoughts were most potent. When I was most vulnerable. I just think it's silly now, now that I feel happier, calmer, better. When I think those bad thoughts I can recognise them as not real, eventually, but it feels like I've just bitten my nails for the sake of a past nervous tick which no longer serves a purpose. It is as if ghosts of bad thoughts and bad feelings reside in me going through their old routines, running out their inevitable course despite the fact that most of the time I'm not listening.

I guess it's slightly sad that the good feelings, once realised, slip away like water in cupped hands. But then you wouldn't know, would you? If the bad ones left no mark, no measure for how bloody brilliant things can be. I suppose I should just stop trying to cling so hard onto it all, but I am getting better at that.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Edinburgh

You know how memories, or the feelings that are strung along with them, have a taste? Or a smell? Or a sound? And when you dredge them up, or return to something recent but that was sharp and potent you feel it all the way through you? On your tongue, through your nose, a ghost sound ringing in your ears. 

I find it quite painful, a bitter sweet sensation, even if the memory is a good one. In fact, almost especially if it is. If I was in love (with a place, with a feeling, with what I was doing) then the notion that it has been and gone feels quietly catastrophic. Huge waves of emotion for something I can only retrace in my head before sleep, or in moments of reflection. And this emotion has nowhere to go, only to rise up in me, force me to recognise it, remember things that were but are no longer, wait for it to fade. Sometimes I find myself caught between clutching to the feeling of how brilliant the memory is, how powerful the emotion, and at the same time wishing for time to pass so it can be less sharp, less immediate. 

The exact memory I keep visiting is a recent one, so the feeling is still very strong. I can still taste it, smell it; dusty, ever so slightly of sweat that isn’t mine, cheap wine, after shave, shampoo. And the sound is quieter, but street music and thousands of people all moving together at once, their excitement palpable and matching my own, shouting, laughing, dancing. I can hear it. And I want it. I want it all back, the feeling, the taste, the smell, the sounds, the brilliance of it all. 

But it is locked now, into something that happened, something anticipated, something experienced, something only to be remembered. Until next year, when I can go again and find new tastes, new smells... same sound maybe. 

God it’s painful, and so lovely. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Loneliness and Other Adventures.

Five months ago I plunged once more into the murky depths of anxiety, which slowly began to sink my mood further and further into the ground, or the sea, or the bottom of a deep lake, or wherever this metaphor is going. In short, I felt awful and afraid and exhausted. Right at the moment I felt myself tip over I decided I needed to do something big that would pull me out the other side. I decided that I was going to take a play to the Edinburgh Fringe, I was going to make myself write it, and I was going to perform whatever it was that I came up with.

The biggest, most overwhelming fear I had at the time, and had had for a long while, was the fear of loneliness, or perhaps I was just feeling loneliness itself. And so since this was the most dominant feeling I had, and the only thing I could really think about, I decided that the play would be about exactly that. And in writing this play, in pulling out everything I was feeling onto the page and forcing myself to confront it I was going to heal.

I kept joking about it at first, that this would be an "elaborate healing process", but secretly I was hoping that it would come true.

I had the idea for the play over a weekend, and the next week I had a venue space in Edinburgh confirmed. The more I committed to, the less I could turn back on myself. I needed to find a team, and I needed to write it, and sign contracts and pay money I didn't have and then find a uni society to fund the money I didn't have and sign contracts with them and then I would be locked in and I wouldn't be able to get out until the end of the very last performance in five and a half months time.

The one thing I knew about this play was that I wasn't going to do it alone. I was going to surround myself with likeminded people and let them help me with what I had to do. I thought that perhaps I was being a bit hopeful about the type of cast I was going to find; that I was going to bond with them emotionally, that I was going to go on some sort of journey with them, that I would be forever grateful that they were there by my side the entire time. That's what I was picturing anyway, that's what I wanted.

Last week three of the loveliest, kindest, most beautiful women I have ever met came to stay in my house and we spent hours in sweltering heat rehearsing for this play about loneliness. And no matter how long it was taking on one tiny scene, or how tired we were, or how far away finishing felt, I did not doubt for one second that it would come together eventually. I have never felt that for a play, I have never felt so sure and so calm. I have never felt so safe in the presence of people who, until five months ago, I barely knew anything about. Two of them I only met in the auditions.

This play might not be the best thing I will ever write, or the best thing I will ever perform. People might not like it, it might get bad reviews, my parents might regret that they had to come all the way up from Buckinghamshire to see it, but I will not mind whatever the response may be.

When I decided to fully throw myself into this ridiculous project I did not know how much emotional recovery I was about to go through, I did not know how bad I was going to feel, I did not know, truly, how much I needed to do it. But now I am here, five days before opening night, feeling more at peace with myself, the universe and everything in it than I have done in a very long time. And even if someone tells me never to step on the stage ever again after this, at least I can tell them that I really, really gave it my best bloody shot. And that I am happy, and less lonely, and that's all I was really asking for.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Check your privilege, for crying out loud.

Today at work - a small coffee vendor on a station platform - a nice man, probably in his 40s or 50s, came up and told me about the best coffee he'd had there with an "exquisite" mix of syrups. Unfortunately he could not remember the exact recipe, and I couldn't help him since he didn't have enough cash to give it another try. We worked out it had been my sister who had served him the exquisite coffee but she didn't remember either. The guy stuck around to have a chat instead.

He told me he loved the area I lived in, that it seemed like one of the best places in England. No one is usually that enthusiastic about Buckinghamshire, but I happen to agree with him. He asked if I was born and bred Bucks, I said I was, and he asked how I'd enjoyed growing up here. I told him I'd loved it and that I'd been very lucky to have done so. That every school I went to was considered excellent by Ofsted, and that having beautiful countryside and London just next door was, to me, the perfect combination. He remained enthusiastic, nodding along to everything I said. "It was very different growing up in Hackney, you know?" he said. I told him I could imagine, but really my white, middle class existence in a home county is a million miles away from a black man's upbringing in the roughest parts of Hackney. There was no bitterness in his description of how he had to become streetwise very quickly, only a longing for things to have been easier, perhaps to have grown up in Buckinghamshire with nice schools, and nice families, and nice middle-class things to do every which way you look. Before he left he joked and asked if I was posh. I laughed and said, sheepishly, "probably". And then he grew serious and told me that it didn't matter, there had to be different types of people in the world, and that I shouldn't be embarrassed about it. I was a bit taken aback, but I told him I thought that even if having privileges wasn't itself a problem it is vital to acknowledge what I have and how it effects other people. He said "I guess" and then his train arrived and we said goodbye.

A few days ago I commented on a Facebook post about Dominic Raab and his views on "feminist bigots". I joked about the tough lives of straight, white, super-privileged men for never having had to face accountability before now. My comment was ironic, and I felt, as I always feel, the necessity for adding "not all men" was entirely redundant. Nevertheless a straight, white, middle aged man I do not know and have never met commented that he felt "judged". I restrained myself and told him I was sorry he self-identified as the "middle-aged white man" everyone seems to be so aggressively attacking and was sensitive enough to believe that what I had said had anything to do with him. I could have told him that the fact he felt judged probably pointed towards his subconscious guilt of being exactly one of the men I was joking about, or that his individuality as one of the "good guys" doesn't work if you wade in with your own pity story in a conversation you weren't in any way involved in. I could have told him to go and do something profane, as I felt angry enough, or I could have just told him to check his privilege. I held back not wanting to embarrass the friend whose post it was, but had it been my own I could have said a lot worse.

This is not my own analogy but imagine you're in a meeting in a job you've worked hard to get to.  Imagine the position you're now in gives you a lot of leeway and a platform for speaking out. Say you're a white woman from a privileged background but you still had to wade through the shit of office sexism and of everyday sexism to get there. You look around the room and take in everyone else sitting around the table. You give yourself a private pat on the back for doing so well, and then you take a note of every person in that room who is not being represented, who could be there doing a good job. Now you have the power, now you've used the privilege you got given in life to get where you are, it is your job to hold the door open for everyone else who needs to come through. Once you are in a position of privilege you have got to acknowledge it and you have got to use it for good. I don't see any other way around it, I don't see any better thing to do. Open the door and keep it open. Whoever you are.

Check your privilege over and over again, check who needs a helping hand, check why you are where you are, keep out of conversations that aren't about you, let people be angry who need to be angry. Except if you're a straight, white, privileged man in which case you can sit down and keep your anger to yourself because this has been a long time coming, my friend. Just look around you, look at the lives of other people, and try your hardest to keep going in the right direction. Because we are going in the right direction, I promise. I promise.

Monday, 2 July 2018

My unashamed love for Love Island.

I have watched this entire season of Love Island so far without any sense of irony. I've enjoyed every bit of it and I'm not remotely sorry.

I have been absolutely compelled by the sense of intrigue, the clash of personalities, the betrayal, the female friendships, the unwavering dedication to a narrow standard of beauty, the unwavering pursuit of fame and money.

I love the ironic voice over which constantly acknowledges the producers' obvious manipulation of the islanders' terrible behaviour, like some meta-theatrical technique. I love feeling quietly happy with myself when I've chosen a favourite islander whose actions and behaviour remain impeccable despite adverse conditions (Dani), and I love believing that some of the couples have found genuine love on this show designed for fakery and juicy gossip. I actually love immersing myself into it despite its consumerist, ageist, ableist, sexist, homophobic and vaguely racist tendencies because it never lets you forget it is any of those things. It is like a Brechtian form of theatre where the audience is constantly reminded of the unreality in an attempt to make them think harder about the content...

Okay, I'm not going to pretend this show is in any way intellectual, but it is, without a doubt, some sort of brilliant social experiment with some of the vainest, most beautiful, most dense (and strictly heterosexual) people this country has to offer. It's like after years of reality TV they finally perfected it into something truly awful and delicious. Like a sugary dessert, it's not doing anything good for your insides but the process of eating it is entirely enjoyable.

I was going to write something about the judgement of other people's tastes and the false sense of intellectual superiority for not watching it but, frankly, Love Island probably isn't worth it. It is what it is, take it or leave it, but I will be having the dessert and eating it, in this case.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Long, romantic bus journeys

I always find long journeys an exciting prospect. I await them eagerly, making plans for all the productive and romantic things I will do on them: write in my diary, sink into a new book, listen to a new album. Sometimes I really do achieve such levels of obnoxious activity on transport such as trains, but the reality of bus or car journeys, somehow, are never quite as active. 

Usually, I end up staring out of the window watching the landscape rush by as my eyelids grow heavy, letting myself slip in an out of consciousness in awkward but pleasant slumber. I find the hum of an engine, its white noise, makes me feel like a baby who’s driven around to stop it from crying. I find myself unable to fight against the helpless sleepiness of the long hours spent watching the world literally go by. 

I often berate myself for this, for spending 6 hours on a coach in an unthinking stupor. For staring out of a window for the best part of a day. I’m never sure what else I was supposed to get out of the journey, but rest and the cocooning safety of the vehicle is apparently not one of them. It’s something I find deeply pleasurable, and yet I battle with myself to actually enjoy it. Why do I do that? Why do I spend 80% of my life annoyed at myself for not doing something else? Why can’t I just sit here, on this bloody bus, and take it all in?

I just find it interesting how the enjoyment of life, of any part of it, but mostly the mundane parts, is a force of effort. How I anticipate much greater emotion, a much greater memory than one of snoozing on the sunlit motorway. And when that great romantic bus journey doesn’t come about the way I wanted it to, when something equally as lovely does, I kick myself for not getting more out of it. What a ridiculous thing, what a funny little mind I have. Because I’m sitting here, in the blanket evening warmth of my Gran’s back garden, after a long 6 hours on a coach, thinking how lovely today was, how rested I feel, how many small things I noticed as hours slipped by which I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. 

It’s just interesting, isn’t it. 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

My dad and the concept of gender.

I rang my dad the other day, just for a chat. Our chats are always long, spilling over excitedly into new topics as we go along: new books, articles, podcasts; interesting things we saw in the day, conversations we had with other people, new people we've met.

The other day I was surprised, although I shouldn't have been at all, that he brought up the topic of gender neutrality. An article about a Canadian academic explained and discussed their credibility, which brought up why their views about gender neutral pronouns, or gender in general, were problematic and dad had shared it on Facebook and was telling me about the response. It was coincidental because I had just watched a Youtube video 10 minutes before about bringing up children as gender neutral in Finland. We both said it was interesting.

Dad talked about the comments on his Facebook post expressing views and arguments against gender neutrality, to which his response was: it's all bollocks anyway. Here I was having a spontaneous chat with my dad on the phone and he's telling me, confidently, that gender is a construct.

He wondered what he would have been like earlier on in his life had he not been brought up in the dichotomously gendered society of 1960s Scotland. Despite never knowing my dad as fitting into any convention of restrictive masculinity, he was wondering how the development of his identity could have been better, less moulded, more fluid.

Our understanding of gender identity is slowly and labouriously untangling itself from the centuries of its limiting construction. It can't be that simple, but maybe it is. My dad is a no bullshit kind of a guy. I said to him that maybe people resist this shift in our perception of gender because they see it is as a threat to their own identity. He said that it was a good theory, but that seeing as there is no legitimate threat to identity people should probably just get over it. I paraphrase him, but there he is; a mountain of self-assurance with a constant river of evolving human compassion and understanding. My dad is a man with the greatest perception of "live and let live".

He doesn't get everything right, no one does. But I realise how privileged I am to have a dad who can call me up and tell me to check my feminism, who I can do the same back to. I have a dad who reinforced my belief in the performativity of gender, in the instability and fluidity of identity. In short, I lucked out, as far as dads are concerned.






Saturday, 9 June 2018

Crying in the smoking area.

In the early hours of Friday morning (1 am, although I'm not quite sure) I left a club because I couldn't stop crying. I had drunk far too much wine and I was far too tired and I hadn't cried properly in about two months. They were hot tears and I couldn't do anything but let them stream down my face, trying to look away from my friends, hoping the tears would stop and the night would carry on. But I couldn't and eventually I had to say, in the kind of desperate way when you think you're about to be sick or you feel trapped in somewhere, "I'm really sorry, but I just can't stop crying." And then it all came out and I did that ugly sob crying where you're trying to catch your breath but it's also an enormous relief to have such an outpour of emotion after a long period of stress and tension.

And in the busy smoking area of a club night in Leeds one of my best friends in the whole world took me in her arms and told me we were going home, and I cried some more and said okay and also 'I love you'. We bought cheesy chips on the way and made cups of tea and got into bed and watched Sex and The City. I thought how lucky I was to have such an extraordinary friend and then, finally, we fell asleep.

It's funny because the next day I felt quite deeply embarrassed about what had happened and spent a while cringing over the events of the night and now here I am writing publicly and in detail about it. But on the train from Leeds back to Cambridge, my hangover finally waning, I thought about how often I build up emotional expectations for myself and get confused when it doesn't happen how I wanted it to. I thought about how I say to myself that I will feel better, free or exceedingly happy when X happens, when I'm doing Y. I thought about how, because everyone else always looks like they're having the time of their life on a night out, I must also be having a great time even when I probably should be tucked up in bed watching Netflix. I thought about how we put pressure on ourselves to always be in a good mood, to always look like we are in a good mood even if we're not. I thought about how unforgiving we are of "bad" emotions and never appreciate the fact that they are just as unpredictable and real as the "good" ones.

I thought about how I wanted that night to be exciting and endless and full of adventures. And I thought about how I couldn't have predicted having an enormous cry on a night out in Leeds but it happened and it wasn't good and it wasn't bad. But I felt relieved and I felt loved and now it's just another story to tell. And it's funny, isn't it? Because that's just exactly what I want life to be about.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Contemplating life without the act of writing.

The blog has been quiet for almost a month now which has, sadly, been fully intended. But I haven't left a month empty for 6 years, so I won't let it happen in the midst of relatively unimportant exams.

My life for the last few weeks has consisted of a selection of deathly quiet libraries, coloured pens running out on me, cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, terrible coffee, good coffee and, if I'm lucky enough to be in bed by 11, old episodes of The Great Interior Design Challenge on Netflix.

Amazingly my thoughts have still been whirring away. On the cycle back from the library to my college I can still work through more than just what I'll be having for dinner. I'm thinking things still; big things, small things, working myself out, working the world out as I spend hours robotically writing notes in bright pink, and then in bright blue when the felt tip dries up.

I have realised, however, that I have nowhere for my own thoughts to go when I'm not writing them down somewhere, anywhere. Two weeks ago I was busy with more than just revision. I was rehearsing for a show I'm working on, I was meeting cool people, having interesting conversations, collecting stories to tell. I scribbled some of them down in my diary before I started these monotonous hours in the library. But somehow it still feels like there are thoughts and memories still floating above me, floating higher and higher, harder for me to anchor with the act of writing them down.

Sometimes I secretly worry that I'm pretending to myself that I like writing. I wonder if I've accidentally told too many people and I can't go back on my word. I didn't realise I needed a month without it to really miss the sensation of ordering and crafting my thoughts into something coherent for no one but myself, but anyone who also may be curious.

I feel good now. Expunged some of the disorderliness in my head, forced a creative outlet. I'll sleep better, a weight's been lifted. You should try it, maybe.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Just write a paragraph.

"Just write a paragraph" I've said to myself about 20 times today and yesterday. It seems my head is in its repetitive mode where interesting things are said once and then latched onto and dismantled into something boring and overdone. A thought or feeling is so strong for me that over weeks I find myself sitting down to write and wanting to say the same things. Writing is the greatest form of my emotional expression, and describing how I feel is often my way out, but I write for an audience here and I have a diary to write more explicitly and less eloquently how pain or happiness or stress pervades my day.

I do write for an audience here and I think that's where I get stuck sometimes. I write for an audience that I know, mostly. I sit down at my laptop, or sometimes on my phone, and I wonder what people, people I've befriended on Facebook, would mind reading about. It is no bad thing to write for an audience. It sharpens the way that you write, that's one reason why I do it. But sometimes it can stifle me when I get scared. I'm not scared of anyone I know, I could tell anyone anything... I'm a big sharer. It's just that knowing that people will read what I like and they will decide whether they do or don't like it, whether they do or don't agree, makes me falter sometimes, hesitate over the 'publish' button, re-write the first sentence over and over again before I find something to go with. It makes me procrastinate for days on end.

And now I've written something. More than a paragraph. A few short ones instead. And the funny thing is I don't mind what people think, as long as someone enjoyed the words that I wrote on this stuffy April evening. That's all that matters, isn't it?

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Possible if the sun is shining.

There is something about the sun shining that makes everything seem good again. Or, at least, possible. A few days a go I wrote this, intending for it to be shared:

So you've found yourself here again. Sitting in the car by yourself wondering why your chest feels like its caving in and you can't stop crying. The world feels like it might come to an end but yesterday you sat drinking with friends thinking what a wonderful thing it was to be alive. You were so filled with love and laughter. Why are you here again?

You keep worrying - don't you - that this is going to repeat itself forever. That this earth-shattering emotional pain, that this deep-seated sadness is going to go round and round. That you'll have to swim through these periods like swimming through thick tar missing bits of your life you fear will be tainted. 

You know that's not the case. You know that sadness in memories fades, that the happiness that was there all along fills it in. Pictures that were painful to look at now bring joy. Not all of them, but only because some things still hurt. 

What are you going to do then? You know this can't keep on. You know that it doesn't. You know that you pull yourself back up. But what are you going to do? 

You are surprised that you're here again. You thought you were going up, but no one goes up forever. Life is up, life is going up, but you are sometimes watching from the bottom. You are moving with life, but you are not feeling with it. Not all the time. Not right now. So what are you going to do? 

-

Life is so unpatterned, so random that knowing what will happen next, how you will feel from day to day is impossible. I have no external reason in my life right now to feel the "deep-seated sadness" that I sometimes do, but I do. Perhaps there are biological reasons, perhaps its in my nature. But the repetitiveness of 'bad' feelings is not good enough for me. I do not have the time to fixate on thoughts that bring me emotional pain. Today the sun is shining and I feel calm. Later I will see friends, I will read, I will go to work. I will feel happy. I know I will. I will also dip down - perhaps today, maybe tomorrow. But it must be my conscious effort to forgive myself and get back up again.

I asked myself "so what are you going to do?" and now I know: forgive yourself, take care of yourself, love yourself and get back up. That is not always easy, but it is almost always possible. Even if the sun isn't shining. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

No more Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

I am bored of second rate female characters in films. I am bored of being highly critical of how a film portrays women, or people of colour. 

The other day I saw 'Isle of Dogs' at the cinema and it was great. But at the end of the film I was left feeling annoyed. How come Wes Anderson's female characters can only exist as romantic interests? I went back through them all in my head as the credits rolled, he may be the king of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The women are interesting, sure, but they only serve as quirky love interests of the much more developed, central male characters. 

This isn't to say that I don't enjoy the films where every character except for the white male is mis/under-represented. I'd be hard pushed to find films where that didn't happen. Even in films that I love, films that might have interesting women fall short elsewhere. "Oh the black actor is the main part's funny sidekick again? With minimal characterisation? That's new." 

If I'm going to be "fair" to the sexist way women are presented in (mostly) Hollywood movies then obviously I have to consider the social climates/times they were made in. Blah blah blah. The newer the film the less time I have for its lazy underdevelopment of non-white male characters. Or its lazy casting. Or its outdated, antifeminist sexualisation and exploitation of women's bodies (I just watched Blade Runner 2049). 

I know that social movements go slow. I know that the Weinstein exposure only just happened meaning, up until the end of 2017, women were quietly being bullied, manipulated and sexually abused. Women are still being bullied, manipulated and sexually abused just, hopefully, less quietly and less effectively. If Salma Hayek's story is anything to go by then the constant misrepresentation of women in film and the constant over-sexualisation of them is hugely unsurprising. 

But I'm still bored of it. Female characters are not hard to write, a black actor is capable of playing the lead role, white men are quite clearly not the only interesting, complex, beautiful human beings we can portray in film. There is so much more we could be exploring, so much more most people want to explore. I am so bored of pretending otherwise. 

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Worrying.

A few weeks ago I sat round a table in a bar with a few people I'd done a play with - it had just finished its run - and for some reason this blog became the topic of conversation. One of my friends asked the group to put their hands up if they read it, which they all did, and that always comes as a surprise to me. Then he said "put your hand up if you worry about Mollie when you read her blog". And they all did, which was also a bit of a surprise.

I've realised that I write best when I'm being honest and when I write from a place of sincere emotion. And sometimes that honesty and sincerity doesn't stem from a good or happy place. I don't mind that, the writing I share can be a sort of therapy both in its being written and its publication, and if it is something  that I can be proud of then in every way it's done its job, for me, at least.

I haven't written a blog post for a few weeks, something uncharacteristic of me, because I haven't felt up to it. That's okay, anything I did write would have been repetitive and probably boring. I haven't written much privately either because I'm not sure the feelings and thoughts I've had are that worth remembering. Anything written from a non-personal perspective wouldn't have contained the right emotion. Maybe even still it's not quite coming from the right place. I've sat for half an hour producing words at a snail's pace because returning to a habit you've neglected for a while is hard. I always lack the confidence I normally build up when I'm writing weekly. It's funny how quickly it can diminish.

What I'm trying to say is that everything I write comes from a place of truth. And when that truth is sad, or fearful or has seen better days, there is never a cause to truly worry. If I ever stop writing, if this blog goes quiet without explanation for more than a few weeks then maybe that's when you could check if I was alright, but I highly doubt that's going to happen.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

To my sister on International Women's Day.

When people who don’t know us say we look alike, some have even said like twins, I laugh. I laugh because we could not be more different. 

Recently I screamed in your face, and you screamed in mine and we said we hated each other. We’ve done it before, and no doubt we’ll do it again, but that particular time was pretty bad and I am still ashamed of how I behaved.

You are the one person in the world who has said the most deeply hurtful things to me and meant it. I only know you meant it, and it only hurt so much, because what you said has always been a little bit true.

More recently than the day we screamed at each other and Mum had to apologise to our neighbour for the noise we had one of the most perfect days of my life. We got up early and I drove us to Stratford upon Avon and we queued to get cheap tickets to the theatre and we did things that you liked, and things that I liked, and I felt so blissful and so happy just to be spending such perfect time with you. 

This was exactly three days after I said, or rather shouted, the words “I don’t like anything about you”. I really, really, really didn’t mean that. 

Sometimes I worry because I see you growing up and becoming a woman and taking a different path to me. And I worry because I have no control over that path and I don’t know where it leads which is silly because I have no control over mine or where I’m going, really. 

Sometimes I worry because I watch you undervalue yourself over and over again and I don’t know how to stop that. I don’t know how I will stop you invalidating your worth with men who don’t know it. I don’t know how to teach you that even though you are brilliant you are going to have to work hard at absolutely everything. I don’t know how to tell you that if you want something you go and get it but that means hurting and that means fear and that means rejection. 

But I also know that you do know all these things, and even if you don’t yet you will learn them and you will learn them without me. 

I know that you have the ability to speak your mind and stand your corner as loudly and as clearly as I do. I know that you do not fear judgement and even when you do you look past it. You look past it better than I do sometimes.

To finish my open letter to you on International Women's Day 2018 I wish to say this. Your worth as a woman will be counted in many ways throughout your life and not all of them will be your choice. You will have to find the strength to undermine the ways in which society will try to determine your value. And you will have to find the strength to be angry - really angry - and to use that anger positively. You must use your strength to help other women at all times and you must use your strength to forgive. 

Finally, I want you to know that I love you and that I am proud of you and that you are one of the strongest, most brilliant women that I know. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

Big, fat, open wound.

I have a big, glaring problem with loneliness. I hate it. I think that I shouldn't have to go through it, that no one else is experiencing it. I think that men should just fall in love with me and when they don't, repeatedly, I feel disgustingly, horribly, painfully alone. I feel alone in the experience, I feel alone for not 'having someone', I feel alone for not being doted on.

And I let this loneliness, or this deep fear whose origins I can't quite put my finger on, swim up around my heart and my head. I let it clench my chest like a belt pulling tighter and tighter. I let it make me cry enormous quantities of tears. I let it overwhelm my thoughts with this stupid idea that by not 'having someone', whoever that someone is meant to be, I am devalued. I am embarrassing, and awkward, and I think that being nearly 20 and a half and single is something to be quite deeply ashamed of.

I have this idea of what it is I am missing out on, what I think literally everyone else on the planet is experiencing. I have this idea but I don't actually know what it is.

There's this huge open wound that I have neglected and I keep thinking that someone else is going to come and fix it and heal it but they're not. They can't. It is my wound and 'having someone' is only going to make it worse.

Sometimes I feel like people in relationships have done something right and I haven't. Like they've been rewarded with an entire person for themselves. Like they must be happier than me, and less lonely. Sometimes I actually think that even if I go through a relationship that is not equal and in love and playing out its natural lifetime that as long as it lasted more than a month or two I will have gained something. I won't be so ashamed. I won't feel so lonely.

With these thoughts I not only devalue myself but every relationship I have ever had and still have. I mean flings and heartbreaks, and I mean family and friendships. I devalue every connection with another human being; everything they felt for me whether it was romantic or platonic love, admiration or desire.

I am writing this because I am so angry. I am so angry that I feel like this, that I keep this thought going round and round in my head to the point where it just becomes "I hate you, and you do not deserve love.". I am writing this and making it public because I need to expel this dark, negative, corrosive feeling. I need to get up and look directly into the heart of my own weakness, that big open wound, and I need to let it heal.

I need to stand alone. Away from other people's lives that I keep comparing my own to, away from social ideals I think I should have conformed to or achieved by now. And I need to say, over and over again, "I love you, and you are loved, and you can only ever be loved more not less."


Thursday, 15 February 2018

I'll be okay.

On Tuesday night I went back through old blog posts, mostly from the past year. I forgot that I would find it a difficult process, that it would upset me, but I carried on with it anyway.

It's an odd thing to revisit feelings you publicly articulated in a way that was not too personal but personal enough. Reading some of the posts made me sad because I had been sad for a large part of last year. I noticed patterns in my writing such as always telling the reader, but mostly myself, that it was all going to be okay in the concluding paragraph. I knew that I was writing those posts, exposing such a deep and unsettling emotion, because I was going to be okay.

I felt so sad re-reading my own writing because I felt so far away from the girl saying all those things. It's a good thing that I no longer resonate with that feeling, that it has become something distant, but I forgot how lost I was. I had an overwhelming desire to tell this girl, who had written all these sad things, that she really definitely was going to be okay. It would not last as long as she thought it would (it felt like it would never end), and it would not get the better of her.

In wanting to reach back to myself and show her how I feel now I know that I will never be her again. I know that I will feel sad, deeply and painfully sad, and maybe I'll write about it here, but I will never feel so trapped and so endlessly low.

Because it ends, I know that it ends. And I can come back here, to this place where I'm sharing a lot of the things going round in my head, and I can remind myself that I did it, that I'll do it again, that it won't last. And that I'll be okay.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Existing.

I didn’t delete blog posts until recently. In fact, I’ve only done it once. Most of the time I am quite comfortable with writing something very personal and posting it on the Internet. If it’s something I’d be happy telling a person I’ve just met I know that I’ll be happy sharing it with whoever cares. But there is a line, it’s a deeply personal line in my head, and I know that I’ve crossed it when I keep cringing as if I’ve told someone an embarrassing secret. Not just someone, anyone with a WiFi connection. 

I think a lot about whether I share too much on my blog. I pride myself on always being my authentic self but I sometimes wonder if by constantly publicly writing about it I lose a bit of it to a virtual space. Or to people who aren’t listening. Because I am wanting people to listen.

Does it matter who you are saying something to or is it just the fact that you are saying it at all that counts? 

I guess it all just comes down to existing. To wanting to prove that you existed as much as you can. To leave footprints with words and feelings on the people you encounter, and expanding it out to people you never will. Do those people really care? Will they really remember? 

I think of people I look up to whom I will never meet because they are too famous or too famous and dead and I think of the impact they have made on me. I have pictures of Audrey Hepburn all over my room, and I declared an undying love for Regina Spektor at the age of 12 which is yet to die out. And they have shaped me, in small ways, and they have influenced how I think or behave or look. I was never alive at the same time as Audrey Hepburn but whatever she left behind still reached me, I still benefit from what she did with her life. 

I think about books I’ve read when I’ve felt scared or sad or lonely, or films that have helped me escape, or music I’ve felt inspired by and I realise that even if I never meet or know the person or people behind those things they still reached me. They still made an impact. They still made me feel less alone, less fearful, less weird. 


If I can do that on a much smaller scale, help someone, make someone think, then I know that my oversharing is worth it. I know that my being completely honest and open is good for me and maybe for someone else. And maybe I won’t just fade, and someone will know that I existed. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Coward.

Last night I found myself standing on a stage in front of about 100 people completely butchering my lines. No one really noticed apart from the director and my cast members, and even then they weren't sure because, God knows how, I kept in character.

I only realised that I was getting things really wrong when I looked up at my poor cast-mate's embarrassed face as I repeated words twice and didn't make any sense. She has countless more lines to remember than I do and never butchers them, I had one monologue and was messing it up.

I knew immediately that I had let myself down through lack of focus. I had let myself go into autopilot and forgotten to be in the moment. I could have told you it was going to happen before I got on stage when I was silently panicking that the emotion I had brought to focus the night before wasn't there. And I could have done a lot more to stop my mind from wandering but I got so caught up in feeling scared and believing, before it had happened, that I was going to mess up my performance that I did.

I keep doing that a lot in various parts of my life recently. Believing that I can't do something and subsequently not being able to do it. Paradoxically I know that I can do whatever it is I'm trying to do, and that I have the potential to do it really well, but it's almost like I self-sabotage as if to prove myself right, or wrong, depending which way you look at it. Perhaps I do this as an excuse not to do things that scare me, or in an attempt to avoid failure. Perhaps I'm just being a coward. Perhaps I just need to stop pretending that I don't believe in myself.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Brave.

I still cry every time my parents leave me at university. As if it's something that never happened before, as if I don't relax into my other life after they've gone. Me and Mum cling to each other right before she leaves because it's hard for us both. I get caught between wanting to watch them walk away down the long corridor or hiding in my room to make the experience go faster. It is always at this point that I cry.

I'm not entirely sure when being an adult and living independently is going to stop being a bit lonely and a bit terrifying because it certainly isn't easy. I keep feeling quite a paralysing fear that I've started doing it all wrong. I haven't been brave enough, I keep... feeling scared. The feeling of wanting to hide and escape means that sometimes things don't get done. I don't write because I'm terrified of it, and I find more comfort in watching a film with the family or doing every single bloody thing to avoid the feeling of dread at an empty page.

I cry when my parents leave me because it is my comfort shrinking to the far end of the corridor, down the stairs, into the car and onto the M11. I have to be big and grown up and walk briskly towards an unknown, exciting, frightening future. I have to be brave. I can be brave.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Transphobia.

I realised, about a year or two ago perhaps, that I was transphobic. I realised that I had let other people's prejudices influence my own because it suited my world view at the time and I did not understand what being transgender really meant. But I never voiced my prejudice, thank God, because I knew deep down that I was wrong.

My previous transphobic views were made known to me when I started watching the series Transparent on Amazon Prime. Suddenly I had access to a positive narrative about a transgender woman who after an entire life of living as a man with a wife and family made a decision to transition to what she always had been. An earlier recognition of my flawed understanding of gender came from  Laverne Cox's role in Orange is the New Black but I still lacked sympathy or proper acknowledgement of the validity of being transgender. 

I am ashamed to admit that my conscious transphobia was influenced by radical feminists and Second Wave feminists some of whom believed that transgender women were not real women and were just men in disguise here to take our roles and rights all over again. Okay so a white woman who can present as a man can still take advantage of white male privilege but that really, really isn't the point. To argue that transgender issues are not a part of feminism, a movement which endeavours to provide equality for all women, is, I realise now, wrong and absurd. 

I think that some feminists and women are afraid of the concept of transgender because it challenges what it means to be a woman. It's not just having a vagina that qualifies you for womanhood. I think that feminists fear that the attention will be taken away from reproductive rights, which are so important to women and to their womanhood, including mine, and that part of themselves will be diminished. But transgender women do not make the struggles of being a woman disappear. It is a different type of womanhood, and who are we to say that is wrong?

In fact what learning more about what it means to be transgender or non-binary through art, writing or otherwise, has taught me is that my own gender has been confined to a box and I am now understanding more about what it means to be me. I have learnt that I am more feminine than I am masculine and that I should celebrate my femininity because society is always trying to disempower it. I have learnt that my female body is important to me and my womanhood, but that it does not define it. I have learnt that I know that I am a woman simply because I just do, and I don't need to know the reason why, it is just instinct. I have learnt that I know nothing about what it means to be transgender and I am trying to understand it more everyday. 

I've realised that I was completely wrong, and I am very sorry for that, but I am also very grateful to be able to love and feel empathy for more people in this world than I did before.