Thursday, 22 June 2017

How I got to be at the end of a year.

I am almost at the end of my first year of uni. Time has never gone so fast. Or so slow. Or felt so different.

Today as I took down the pictures I'd stuck on my wardrobe nine months ago an overwhelming rush of all the feelings I had felt came through me. All the things I had feared, all the adjustments made, all the settling in. I walk through corridors that now seem so familiar to me, that at first were so long and cold and strange. My room for the first few days was a box I felt very alone in, and now I feel tearful thinking of our goodbye.

I know that I am a different person from the girl who arrived here in October, but I can't put my finger on why. Am I wiser? Happier? Sadder? Heartbroken in new ways from the time before?

During my three terms here I felt like nothing and everything was happening. Time would drag along and speed up to twice the pace each week. Half way through I felt I'd achieved nothing. Now I realise I did everything under the sun, and still there is more to do.

I can't process everything that has happened to me this year, or how I have grown, or how it makes me feel because it is so huge. This whole year has been massive, like a big bang expanding over time, and now I have three months to look back, think, and then quickly move on.

I have done things and not done things. I have regretted and deeply enjoyed. I have been frightened, and loved, and angry, and new, and just happy to be alive. I have been low and unable to get out of bed. I have been so excited I could barely go to bed.

I'm not quite sure how I got to be at the end of a year, it's all a bit of a blur. I stumbled through, working my way, creating a new version of myself. I don't suppose that next year will be any different.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Other women.

I've been meaning for a while now to write something about the women in my life but I keep feeling unsure as to how to proceed. I'm finding it hard to put into words what it feels like to be built up and supported by so many important, clever, brilliant women because they are the absolute essence of my being. I want to say something tacky like "the sisterhood is real" because I genuinely feel like I am part of something bigger, that my womanhood is a part of a world wide society.

But I know that not every woman feels they are a part of this sisterhood. I know that some women want to exclude other women, women born in the wrong bodies, women who are 'different'. I find this so sad, so frustrating that the existence I have connected to and being empowered by other women does not materialise for some. I have this feeling sometimes that I want to take all the women that I will ever meet by the hand and have us stride to our brilliance together. I have this feeling that without other women I would feel nothing at all like myself, but very small and low and unimportant.

The women in my life include my mother, my sister, my aunts, my cousins, my grandmothers. Every female friend I've ever had has built me and supported me in some way. The voices of my favourite female music artists have always comforted me when my heart has been aching. The words of female writers help instruct me. The lives and ambitions of women in roles I desire to be in keep me going, keep me working, tell me not to give up.

In fact, when I am at my lowest, or most afraid, I tend to go to women to let them help me. Perhaps that is the result of being brought up in a primarily female family who openly discuss things and cry together and laugh together and heal together. Perhaps that is why I seek out women to help myself to heal.

This is a very personal outlook. Like I said, some women can be excluded by other women, from other women. And this is not to say that the men in my life have not helped me out of low moments, have not comforted me when I've cried, have not laughed and danced with me.

But I just have this amazing feeling when I'm with the women I love, and I can say literally anything, and I can show them my ugliest side, and I can be my absolute self. I just can't explain this feeling, but it feels a part of something. I feel a part of something bigger than myself.

Maybe that is just what it's like to feel human, to feel a part of something bigger than yourself.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

When neither here nor there is good enough.

I've come home for the weekend. From uni because I needed to get away. I cycled to the train station and it was warm and sunny and nice. I spent 20 minutes trying to work out where the cycle park was, moving my bike to several different spots before I found it. I bought a ticket and I got on a train going to London. There was a really loud family sat behind me but I managed to ignore them by listening to music through my broken headphones. I couldn't listen to some of the songs because they made me feel weird, and I wanted to the enjoy the view but it was tainted somewhat. I got off at King's Cross and suddenly remembered being on the same platform getting a train to Leeds for my interview there a year and a half ago; how different my life would be if I'd taken that offer. I walked to the underground and got on a train, and then I got off at Baker Street and walked to Marylebone instead to avoid the all stations Metropolitan to Amersham. I bought a cold drink from the AMT stand and I walked to platform 6 to get on the final train of my journey. I put my music on again but I don't think I was really listening. 

My mum was standing behind the ticket stiles smiling at me. 

And normally, God, normally that would be enough to make me smile, to lift my spirits, but it didn't do much. I felt hollow and I felt everything all at the same time. 

I came home to escape something, but I haven't really managed to escape it at all. I want to be at home, but I don't really want to be here either. I want to be at uni, but it's started to seem really huge and like I'm rattling around not really knowing what to do with myself. 

I think I had a nice day yesterday, but everything I did was tainted with the underlying feeling that something was very off. Unease swimming around near my heart, like an electric eel, shocking it when it got too close and leaving me reeling without really knowing why. Partly my thoughts, partly just a feeling. They seem pretty much the same at the moment, I can't get either of them to stop. 

When neither here nor there is good enough sleep seems the better option. But you can't sleep forever, and the here or there has to be the reality. I'm not even sure I am here or there anyway, I think my mind is taking me elsewhere.  I'm not sure how to get back to where I am, but I guess I will eventually. I guess I have to, at some point. Fear doesn't last forever.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Blue flashing lights.

I can't remember how many times my dad has said "If you need me, I'll put the blue flashing lights on the car and come and get you.". Probably because he's said it every time I've gone out and been afraid, which is a lot. He's said it when I've been in the other end of Europe and I've been ill or panicked and crying on the phone. I've fully believed that he would drive across the whole of France just to come and get me. In the past, when I've been stranded or afraid, he's driven at silly hours in the early morning to come and take me home. And he's never been angry about it, or annoyed, or told me to pull myself together. He just says "I'll be there soon, don't worry".

I know that wherever I am in the world, and whatever he's doing, my dad will put the blue flashing lights on the car to come and get me. I am always safe and never alone when my dad is on the end of the phone, and that is very lovely. 

Friday, 19 May 2017

"Today I hate Shakespeare"

I wrote on my hand, about a week ago, the words 'today I hate Shakespeare'. It was intended as a reminder for something I could write a blogpost about. I was in a class having some sort of existential crisis about my degree and I wrote that on my hand to probably be profound and make myself feel better about the situation. 

Today I do not hate Shakespeare. I'm a big fan of the guy, in fact, but on the day I decided that we were not on good terms I think I was really having a wobble about all writing ever. The feeling came from sitting in a class about glossing. Glossing Cymbeline to be precise. I haven't actually read Cymbeline yet, and I still have no idea how to gloss. This, I thought, is what I'm paying £9,000 a year for. What, exactly, is the point? 

I spent the entire hour and a half not paying attention to any of the intelligent conversation going on and instead questioning whether I was just spending three years learning how to make things up. What benefits was I receiving from studying Shakespeare? How was this going to enrich my life? 

I decided to go to a bookshop after the class instead of doing the work I was supposed to to reinforce my love of literature. It did the opposite. There are a lot of books. There will continue to be a constant stream of books and stories and ideas probably forever. I am never going to read all of these books, so why should I care about them? I want to write books, but why would anyone care about them? It's all just words put together in different orders, isn't it? Different people trying to be clever, different ideas, different opinions, clashing and mixing and overlapping and repeating. Why should I bother? It's all too much. 

I walked out of the bookshop feeling more disheartened than when I'd entered. Never before had my dad's voice in my head saying "so many books, so little time" been so oppressive. 

But I think I just like the way things make me feel. And by things, I mean books. I managed to remember, having spent the entire day wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life, all the ways that books had made me feel. And whether that was sad, or happy, or angry I realised that was how they enriched my life. Like music, where the patterns of sounds and notes evoke powerful emotional reactions, literature puts words in different orders to see how we respond. Literature is the ability to explain humanity ad infinitum. The study of literature is an attempt to understand all our aspects and ways of being, all our patterns, all our language can say, all the ways we can feel. 

I think I'm okay with that, you know. Sure, it's an expensive way to read, but I think I can read better than I did before and I will continue to improve at it. And maybe one day I will be able to put words together in a new order, and explain humanity in my own way, and help some teenage girl in her room when she's scared or alone or doesn't know why she's there. I think I'm okay with that, with that being why I'm here. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Alone is sometimes lonely.

Sometimes I find being alone a pleasant experience. I find that the sense of self is grounded, and I can feel myself being one tiny spec a part of the universe. I can work out thoughts in my head, I can test the feeling of absolute independence, I can be my own self without being anyone else's. I am me in the whole sense of my body and my mind and the way I look at the world.

Sometimes I find being alone an absolutely hideous experience. The feeling of being a tiny spec in the universe becomes overbearing, squashing me. I've actually considered whether I've become invisible before when I've been in a town for several hours and not said a word to anyone. I start being overly friendly to shop owners and cafe baristas as my only form of human contact. Working out the thoughts in your head is all very well until you realise you keep going round in circles unless you discuss them with somebody. Hearing yourself say thoughts out loud, and having someone respond to them is just a nice reminder that you definitely exist.

This is all very dramatic, I know, but recently I've been a bit afraid of being alone. As if all my friends are the little weights on the end of helium balloons, and when I leave them for a while I begin to float up into the sky with my own thoughts going higher and higher, further away from the grounding comfort of a smile or a hug or a laugh.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Things That Your Mum Can't Fix.

The thing about shifting yourself out of the family home and into the world is that you have to start to deal with the Things That Your Mum Can't Fix. Of course, I'm not actually in the world yet, I'm in a sort of pretend one, at university, where I can still have meals made for me and if I really need it a real adult will help me sort things out.

It's still a step up from mum and dad being in the next room, and there's still a sense of launching yourself into adulthood without the instruction booklet or a helmet to help with the crash landing. You arrive in the world alone, ready to force strangers to be your friends and hope that they like you. You arrive in the world really hoping that at some point these strangers will be able to look after you.

Thing is, I'm not talking about having to do the washing up every day, or making sure you clean the sheets regularly, I'm talking about the emotional labour of putting your lifeline at the end of a phone and throwing yourself into the hands of people you've only just met.

You're not reinventing yourself, as such, but suddenly you find yourself peeling back layer by layer to friends you have decided to trust. You watch people learn about you as an almost fully formed adult. There's a lot for them to catch up on, a lot for them to get to know, and it all happens at double speed.

The Things That Your Mum Can't Fix are the things that made me realise that nobody can read my mind except for my mother. I've had to learn to ask people for help, to allow myself to trust, and to allow myself to be completely vulnerable in front of brand new friends.  The learning about each other happens at double speed because no one else is around to take care of us. Okay, Mum is still at the end of a phone call, but she's not there to hold you when you cry or when you're scared or when you think you need some helping out. You've got to both be that for other people, and let them do it for you.

It's a gamble when you meet new people to know whether you'll be able to trust them with all sides of yourself, but when you get it right it really, really works. It's a new kind of love, a new kind of friendship, a new kind of being. And it's great, and it feels great, and I am very lucky.