Inspiration and Being Better

I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump recently. The last creative thing I did was… months ago, and I have barely done any blog posts this side of 2017.

I’d like there to be an actual reason for this – assignments, a social life, mental health, even.

In reality?

I’ve been lazy. I’ve been in a writing block and I haven’t made any effort to escape.

Until today, when I began editing the EPQ story I wrote last year. A whole year since I handed that bloody short(ish) story in which was probably the most significant piece of writing I’ve ever done, and cannot be bothered to edit properly.

So I began editing it… and hated everything. Like, hated. Like it was one of the worst things I’ve ever written.

But then I went back and looked at my old blog – iapologiseifyoureadthis.wordpress.com – and realised… It’s not so bad.

Everything on that blog is cringy and humiliating, but it’s who I was at that point in my life. And there is no comparison to where I am now with my writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I am so much better!

This is because I’ve practised. I have over 4 years writing experience now than I did when I started that old blog, and I like to think it shows.
It’s the same person, that much is obvious, but everything is juts… better.

This EPQ story is one year old. It’s going to feel crap because I’ve learned a lot since then, but we keep going. To improve, to grow, we have to keep making shit things, and I’m not going to let that stop me anymore.

I’m getting back into writing. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what I love doing. It’s what I’m going to do.

I am a hairy girl.

I’ve seen a lot on social media and generally online recently about body hair on women. And, as the feminist I am, I wanted to weigh in with my two cents worth.

(TL:DR version – I have hair, I don’t care and nor should you.)

I’ve been blessed with thick, flowing locks on my head. They’re dark, they’re full and when I say thick, I mean, they take literal hours to dry after washing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t reserved for the hair on my head.

Sure, I get hair in the usual places (ie, everywhere, like most other people) but my hair is especially noticeable. Very dark, very obvious and always in the way, apparently.
There are kids at work who tell me, “you have hairy arms” and my response is now just “I know! Now, why don’t we take your shoes off.”

If I shave my legs in the morning, there is stubble by the evening. I get one day of hair free shorts or dresses before the razor has to come out again and I slice my skin to a million pieces. Or I go back to wearing jeans in accordance to society’s rule.
Crop tops are a big no-go because of the patch of fur on my lower back, and I can grow a beard some guys would be jealous of.

I’m just coming to terms with all of this. It was only until recently that I would actually flinch if the word ‘hairy’ was used around me – it felt like my own personal kind of slur, designed to hurt and shame me.

By 13,  I’d already been shaving my legs for three years, my armpits for a year longer. Puberty hits young sometimes.

There’s my little sob story. I know,  it could have been much worse for me as a kid, and I’m blessed that only a few people snickered about it in the girls changing room. But you still feel like shit when you’re crying over another slashed kneecap, or your sitting in front of a nurse with an infection in your armpit due to shaving, or you’re dry shaving because you’re at guide camp; shorts are a necessity but you have no running water.

I’m over it. I’m done feeling like “hairy” is a dirty word. Like the hair on my legs is gross, but it’s A-Okay on my brother. Like I have to scrape off layers of skin, getting scarred and pock-marked in the process, for hours of wearing a skirt, just to then have days of itchy, dry skin.

I’m not saying I’m not going to stop getting rid of the hair. I’m just going to stop feeling guilty over having it in the first place.

Eating again

One of the unfortunate side effects of my anxiety is the distinct lack of appetite caused by intense nausea. This, in turn is directly linked to how stressed out I am.

In short, while some people comfort eat when stressed, I almost stop eating all together.

And it’s not a diet because I’m not trying to lose weight. I like my body how it is!

There was a time over last summer where my anxiety hit new highs. I had just started working, which was stressful, and was getting the bus to town nearly everyday, which is enough in itself to send me to a spiraling pit of self destruction, so I was feeling ill constantly.

Which meant I was eating… maybe… one full meal a day? And surviving off crisps and cereal bars for the other two ‘meals’.

Since then, it’s never been so bad. Usually, I eat two meals and a snack if I remember.

Until recently. I should be incredibly stressed, because uni work is amping up, I haven’t done much work on my project at all recently, my presentation on Tuesday sucked and we’re going to court tomorrow morning!

But I’ve been eating three meals a day. What’s more; I’ve been having breakfast, which I haven’t eaten regularly since year 9.

I feel good. I don’t feel stressed. I’m scared about how long I have before this goes belly up and I go back to the nausea and sleeplessness.

Semester A: I survived!

Well, friends, I’ve gone home for the holidays, and although I have a deadline January 4th, I can pretty much say that I’ve finished my first semester of university.

Oh my god. That was the fastest three months of my life.

In order for this post to make sense, I thin I’m going to have to break it up into sections and subheadings and all the rest – otherwise, we could get a little incoherent and ramble-y, and we don’t want that.

Living Alone

This was very different to how I imagined it: in my head, as a flat, we’d be cooking for each other, having meals together, going for food shops together – but it just doesn’t really happen. Moreover, none of my friends are doing it either.

I keep myself to myself, because that’s who I am as a person, but I started off the semester feel like I wasn’t really involved – that was my issue, not my flatmates – but over the past few weeks, I feel better about it. Nothing’s really changed, I just don’t feel like it’s a barrier anymore.

None of the other things about living alone – shopping, cooking, cleaning etc – have been a problem for me, but than, I wasn’t worried about them in the first place. Oh, except for the noise.

That still pisses me off, but what can you do? It’s Halls, it’s gonna be noisy.

Academia

Now, strangely, I didn’t think of the academic side when I was worried about going to uni – I was too busy being terrified of Freshers, and not drinking through Freshers.

Lectures aren’t as… formal… as I envisioned. This might be because my uni is quite small, and my course is tiny, so lecture’s are more open discussions than I thought they’d be. We just join in, which is nice!

The work is pretty much what I thought though – portfolios of articles, audio clips etc – though this creative project we have to complete for May threw me a little off balance!

So far, I’ve loved what we do; I’ve panicked and stressed and wondered if I’m doing the right thing, but I’ve loved it, which I wasn’t expecting, to be totally honest! Liking the course, yes. Loving it, nope.

Work

This is my actual paid job now, rather than uni work; it’s not exciting anymore.

At first, I was buzzing, because it was my first contracted paid job, and I was terrified, because it was my first contracted paid job, and I had no clue about any of the conventions regarding anything.

Now… I like it. I’m glad I work where I do. But I’m not excited about it being my first job anymore, which I’m okay with.

In general

The creative writing I do has taken a back seat for the last three months, probably because writing the articles for my portfolio takes a lot of creative energy and it’s hard to do extra stuff at the moment. Particularly after my attempts at blogging through November. Over the new year, I want to get back into it, and start posting some more creative stuff on here – poems and short stories and stuff.

I haven’t finished reading a fiction book since mid October, when I finished the Curious Incident… though I’ve started reading 2 books in that time. Again, over the Holidays, because I don’t have a lot left to do on the work due in January, I’m going to read more.

Planning

In the next couple of weeks or so – probably in the run up to new year to be frank – I’m going to be blogging about planning, why It’s necessary for me, how I go about it, and what’s going to change in the new year.

I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, but since I’m going to change things up for 2K17, I thought I’d wait until then. So look forward to that! Or don’t, if planning’s not really your thing!

Thanks for sticking with me through the last three months – the view count has really increased in that time, so thank you for that as well!

Day 24: Write Every Thought

When I was planning the November blogs, I thought this one would be the easiest because it didn’t really need planning. Or editing.

It’s literally me just typing what I think as the words are thought – this is probably why it won’t make a lot of sense.

It’s how I got through my first panic attack though, so this is probably the most therapeutic post I could make. It actually falls on a really good day to be honest though, because I’ve been ‘on edge’ all day.

(That’s the term I use when I’ve been feeling really anxious.)

There was some choir stuff yesterday that I panicked about at 2am last night, and then again this morning, and I didn’t eat something until like half 12 this afternoon which wasn’t great.

FYI, I’ve eaten properly now. Made a stir-fry with sweet chilli sauce and damn it was good.

I’m literally now eating chocolate spread from the jar and if that doesn’t say student life I don’t know what does.

Speaking of eating things, does anyone one how to eat a persimmon?

Oh! Turns out, you just eat it like an apple. It tastes kind of like apple and a hazelnut had a baby and you covered it in maple syrup. I am a fan. Thank you Tesco for reducing them!

Is this even entertaining to you guys? I guess not, my thought processes bore even myself sometimes – I get bored in the middle of a thought and am like “shut up Shannon” to myself, which is actually kind of depressing not that I think about it. I’m gonna stop, because I feel like I’m rambling.

And I know that’s the point of this, but it’s not even funny rambling anymore it’s one of those tangents where you just gradually get quieter till people just eventually stop hearing your voice.

Obligatory Results Day Post

I had this planned out in my planner as “results and what comes next,” but I’m not sure that’s strictly necessary anymore. Instead, I wanna explore my experience of the past year, now that I’ve had a few months to think it over.

Last year, I did horrifically. I received a U in Physics, D in Sociology and a D in English Lit. All day was spent in bed, eating crap and watching YouTube, because I wasn’t ready to face the year, and actually see how badly I had done.
I had a few days to think, before going into school to get things sorted, and came to the only logical conclusion I could: I’d have to try again.

Because there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do! English (books and writing) were my life and the more I write and read, the more I need to write and read. Physics could be discarded, as there was no way I was going to get a decent grade, even retaking. Sociology… well, I was going to drop it, but didn’t really have a choice. I failed Physics, so it had to go.

So I tried again. In all honesty, I think it came down to the fact that I hated feeling like a failure and that I wasn’t good enough. I worked harder, became so obsessed with my grades that I kept a tracker of all of the marks of all of the essays and bits of work I’d handed in, just to make sure there was an improvement. If I wasn’t working, I felt guilty, and if I was working, I felt like I needed to be doing other pieces of work, and I burned out around Easter.

It wasn’t healthy, but it worked. I lost weight, my appetite and I was getting ill every month on the dot. I was getting Bs and As in my classes. I didn’t see my friends outside of school and there came a point where I was having a panic attack a week, but my work was all getting finished and I was completing extra essays. On one hand, I was improving, and was happier for it. On the other, I felt as though I couldn’t let up. I had to keep pushing, to keep improving because I couldn’t let myself fall back into the hellhole that was Year 12.

So yes, failing in my own eyes a year ago did make me better. But it also made me more likely to neglect my friends and family, suffer panic attacks and avoid dealing with complicated emotional problems in favour of burying my nose into my books.
That might be more of an issue than bad grades was.

 

Feelings Upon Entering a Book Store.

INTERNAL MONOLOGUE

Okay. I don’t really need anything, but I’ve got like 30 minutes to kill before work, so I’ll just pop in here and-

WOW look books! There’s so many books here I wonder if I can read them all. What are they all about? There are 6 different books on that one table, they’re pretty thick too… that has to be, like, at least 6 years worth of work… Maybe I should pick one up, you know, just to justify all the hard work the author/publisher/editor put in…

*Breaths deeply* No, Shannon, you can’t just buy books. You have a whole shelf at home dedicated to brand new books you haven’t read yet.

I’ll just… head to the Sci-fi and Fantasy section…

You know that’s just torturing yourself.

I’m gonna do it anyway. Holy crap! The new cover for this edition of The Hobbit is incredible, I have got to get it at some point! I mean, I know have a copy already, but it’s not THIS copy and-

There’s someone else in this section. Oh god oh no. There’s never anyone here, there’s like, 7 people in the shop and you decide to stand right next to me? Do I move out the way so he can look at this eye-meltingly gorgeous version of The Hobbit, or does that look like I’m being rude?

Just  gonna… turn and look at the comics instead… wish I got into them, but they’re not BOOKS. It’s not the same… Okay, he’s gone. Back to drooling over – NOPE eye caught by the Game of Thrones books – okay, I know I’m not getting them here because I need the whole series and that’s wayyyy too expensive at this shop but let’s read the blurb as though you haven’t already memorised it. Now put it back before you taint it’s majesty. Scanning eye along… finds 3 books already on my shelf. The “to be read” shelf. Now feel incredibly guilty for not reading them. Sorry authors, I’ll get around to it, I promise!

Okay… I already want everything in this section so lets go somewhere else… ew, adult fiction, pls no. Lol there’s no one here, let the shelves keep the romance novels. I’m here for… action? Is that the right word? Never mind.
Can I go to the Young Adult or Children’s section? Does that look odd… I don’t get asked for ID for alcohol anymore, it’s a bit weird for me to look at kids books, right? Though no one here knows I’m not buying for a sibling or cousin… Yeah, lets look at the – NEW RICK RIORDAN SERIES. WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN THIS BEFORE? Dammit I’m broke but OH MY GOD IT’S ABOUT THE NORSE MYTHS I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THEM I HAVE TO READ THAT SERIES as soon as I get paid. You will be read and enjoyed. I swear, Norse God series, you won’t even be put on the “to be read” shelf. You’re getting read on the bus home.

But not today because the only thing in my purse are bus tickets, of varying expiration dates.

Let’s just… read the blurb. Of every book. And maybe the first chapter of the first book, you know, just to be sure I want to read it…

This is going straight on my amazon wishlist.

I should probably start heading towards the exit now I’ve been here for… 20 minutes? How has that gone so fast?? Let’s head towards the door and OH MY GOD STATIONARY. No, the stationary here is hella expensive for what you get but this one has vintage maps on and I need this in my life.

(You literally don’t travel anywhere?)

But it’s so cute… and also £23. I can feel my bank account draining just from holding it.

Okay, okay, walk to the front walk to the front… Man, I really love this place.

***

Well, I hope that was… I’m gonna go with interesting, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the right word. I’ve been going into town a lot more since I FINALLY got a job, so I’ve spent more and more time in bookshops. I’ve also spent more and more money in bookshops, but that’s an unresolved problem that will continue forever, probably, so nothing we can do about that. Anyway, these genuinely are my thoughts when in a bookshop, though a lot of the gaps are filled with me walking around in silent stupor.

I honestly do love bookshops; for whatever reason, they calm my permanently anxious state so much, it’s like a zen zone just being in one. Libraries are even better, but we recently got a brand new one in town and I still feel a little awkward going inside. I did take out Great Expectations though, and do like it a lot. I’ve never read a Dickens novel, and I just expected a really thick, long slog through the text, but it’s surprisingly easy to read. I sat down for one chapter today, and ended up reading three!

 

The anxiety post that, once again, no one asked for.

Ah yes, the all to frequent update into my experiences with anxiety.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting with my family, as we do on compulsory Friday family night. We were talking of… university funding, I think, and I asked if I could get officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (which I’m not at the moment) so I can apply for more funding, put it on job applications and so on; when I don’t mention it, I feel like I’m hiding something, and can’t expect them to accommodate my problems. Anyway.

That topic of conversation was fixed upon. Now, I have a hard time talking about it face to face with people – hence the main reason I post my experience here – and having my family focus wholly on my problem is weird and not something I’m comfortable with. I’d rather sort out the problems of the world than bring up my own issues, which is actually part of the anxiety.
So I try and explain it to mum, what I’m feeling, when I feel it and that it’s most often when I feel like I could disappoint people. Because that’s what I think it is – I feel such a need to please and impress people, that I worry about not doing it.

Long and almost forgotten story short, mum thinks I’m a perfectionist, that I hold myself to perfection and incredibly high standards, and I inevitably can’t reach these standards, which is where the doubt and worry and panic sets in.
Ultimaely, I think she’s right, I do hold myself to high standards, but it’s not the need to be perfect; I am aware that I am not and can never be.

It’s the need to be better. I don’t need to be the best, I need to be better than I am. Because, if we’re not constantly improving ourselves and how we impact other’s lives, it feels like an existence wasted. Bettering ourselves doesn’t have to mean trying to reach perfection. It can mean… subtle improvments.

I guess mine aren’t so subtle though.

Self-Hatred.

When I came back to school after the 2 week holiday – not long enough – I hated myself. I hated myself, my school, my lessons, subjects, people I was surrounded with… my skin itched and crawled with the need to be back at home, safe and unthreatened by children or bad grades.

I don’t hate myself. Thankful to the last in this regard, I realise that I am incredibly lucky in loving the way I am, but I couldn’t push away the feeling that I was less than I was before the holiday. Like I had lost something important, something vital to my own happiness. Not knowing what that is, even today, a week after coming back to school, terrifies me.

I wanted to burn everything, tear down the walls and educational posters and anti-bullying slogans. I wanted to burn myself, to clean myself of the feeling of loss, to control how much I broke down and what it was over. I had two panic attacks that first Monday back.

By Thursday I was fine. I was doing work, handing in completed essays, completed music coursework and wondering what song I would need to learn next for my Solo Performance.

The self-hatred didn’t last. Self-love doesn’t either, and is usually forgotten more than the rage and anxiety, but that fades too.

I think I felt so angry because I was reminded of stress and worry and pain, whereas I’d had a relaxing holiday, not really stressing, revising casually – this brought everything to the forefront of my mind and my first reaction was to blame something – myself followed closely by the school.

 

I do this thing, right? I’m sure lots of other people do it to, but I do it a lot and it really is one of the things I love about being me.

Sometimes, when I read a new book, or watch a new TV show, or film, I fall in love with it. I soak my mind in the characters and their struggles, their romances or deaths, and I lose a bit of myself in them. This can go on for a few weeks, or months, or sometimes years. Weeks was The Dresden Files, months was House and years… Lord of the Rings.

As of Friday night, the latest love in my life is The Dead Poets Society film from 1989. I cannot get enough of this film.

I didn’t even like poetry and I love this film and now I like poetry slightly more than I did before. Because you can’t watch this film and not have an appreciation for the work of poets and their shaping of human culture, human society, humanity in general. It’s probably unsurprising that I cried watching it, and it certainly won’t be a surprise that I fell in love with the characters and the story, which I’m not going to write here other than Todd didn’t deserve it and Neil is my hero.

It has even inspired my to start writing my own poetry again, not that I am a poet… more of a faker, really.

I would recommend this film to anyone and everyone just because it is so damn good.