The Southern Rail Blues

It was all going so well. I was almost, dare I say, enjoying it. And then the nasty lil imp that was yesterday put two great big splotchy stains on it and firmly banished it into that part of my brain that’s labelled ‘Things We Dislike’. By it, I am of course referring to my commute.

Things were great. My body’s started to accept getting up at 6.15am so that the mornings are gradually less painful. This morning I was even awake enough to do winged eyeliner before leaving the house. I’d learnt where exactly to stand in the morning to be right in front of the opening door, and which carriage to get on to almost guarantee a seat (albeit always in the same carriage as the man who has decided that the morning commute is the perfect time to phone his relatives and have a big long chat. Every. Single. Morning). I’ve established which carriage to sit in on the way home to be right in front of the station exit. I’ve found some podcasts I like, I’ve gotten very skilled at weaving through unbearably slow people in Victoria Station. I’ve developed Resting Commuter Face (although I fear sometimes mine is a touch too far on the murderous side. I really don’t like slow walkers). I was chill.

And then, pals, lads, readers (all three of you), several small niggles began to appear. Some numpty on the tube decided to re-tie his shoe in a very crowded carriage, and when he straightened up he headbutted me in the chest. A man sat next to me on the train home and opened up the foulest smelling sandwich I’ve ever encountered, and then took half an hour to eat the damn thing. Small irritations, manageable, but pushing me closer to the precipice of rage.

Yesterday tipped me over the edge, and they weren’t huge problems, in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t get stuck in London overnight. I didn’t have to get on any always-slightly-too-cold rail replacement buses. I was in fact only three minutes late to work. But it was the final straw for my teetering acceptance of the commuter life. In the morning, my train driver decided he wanted to take a leisurely drive into London, so I was ten minutes late into Victoria, at which point I discovered that they’d closed off the tube entrance. Temporarily, to avoid overcrowding, I expect, but by the time I’d noticed, having joined the queue at the entrance, I was already trapped there by rows of other people behind me and was forced to text my boss and wait it out in a crush of people who didn’t seem to understand that you won’t miss a train if you stand just 30 centimetres further away from my personal space.

The evening was worse. I was a little bit late leaving work, so I had to hack it through the station to fling myself onto the train…which then sat there, not going anywhere, radio silence for a good ten minutes past our scheduled departure time before we were informed that there was a problem with the doors and we ‘wouldn’t be moving any time soon’. I was fortunate in that my season ticket allows me on the Gatwick Express, so I hopped on that and then changed at Gatwick, but I have no idea how long some people were stuck there. It was the end of the day, I was already frazzled from the morning’s nonsense and a surprisingly busy day at work, and that just topped it all off. Commuting is dead to me.

It’s not really, of course, because I still have to do it in order to keep my job, and I’d quite like to keep this one. But I’m not going to enjoy it. Much. I think it brings out one of my worst sides – a friend of mine texted me earlier to tell me she’d seen me dashing through Victoria station with single minded focus on getting onto my preferred train carriage, and I was gutted that I hadn’t spotted her. I haven’t seen her in a year! Commuting makes me grumpy, and other commuters are often rude which makes me rude too. All barging elbows and mutterings and yanking down the arm rest to divide seats because heaven forbid your arm brush against mine. Still got a bruise, thanks mate. None of us are pleasant people when we commute, and it worries me a little that sometimes I struggle to shake it off. I’ll get home and be moody for the evening, which is a waste of what precious little time I have that’s not spent at work or on a busy train. I need to work on leaving it behind when I get in my car.

That said, the one bright spot is that it has afforded me a good time slot to read. I spent a lot of my time at university wailing that I had so much academic reading to do that there was no time to read for personal enjoyment, and I fell out of the habit and struggled to get back into it with my hard-to-please brain always losing focus and flipping between Netflix and Twitter and Buzzfeed and never concentrating for more than five minutes on one thing. The commute has at least tempered that – the hour on the train is a good chunk of time to read with no other distractions, and I’m getting through books at a fair rate! Silver linings and all that.

Until next time, K.

So It Begins

I think I might have magic powers. Apparently if I complain about something enough, its remedy suddenly pops up. I once had an Amazon Prime package that hadn’t been delivered on time, and as soon as I opened up one of those ridiculous online chat help window things and began my outraged customer spiel, the doorbell rang. Mildly awkward conversation ensued whilst I tried to thank my online helper for as yet doing nothing without fessing up to the arrival of my 9″ round cake boards (Mum uses my Prime occasionally and as a consequence my recommended items are often bizarre looking kitchen implements).

Further proof of my magical complaining trigger – last week I wrote about how stressful job interviews are and how much I was beginning to despise unemployment and hey presto, the next day someone rang me and gave me a job. Yup, I’m employed again! I start tomorrow, with high levels of excitement, low but persistent levels of nerves and a tiny bit of utter dismay that I have to be leaving the house at 6.40am every day because I will now be commuting to London. Those who know me will attest that I am categorically not a morning person and generally shouldn’t be approached before about 10am. My current sleep schedule is approximately 1am-11am. 6am starts are going to hurt.

London. The thing I’ve always said I’ll never do, live and work in a big city. And yet here we are, breaking the one rule in pursuit of an exciting job opportunity in an industry I’m very keen on (publishing, for those interested, but that’s all the specifics that I’ll go into on a public platform!) and the chance to no longer sit and trawl through endless job sites promoting the same ten jobs that won’t suit me, pretending I’m interested in Netflix while also scrolling through Instagram and Twitter and flicking through books and rearranging my wardrobe about seven times. Turns out all the stuff that’s fun to do at weekends when you can enjoy having no responsibility is not as fun when it’s available to you 24/7.

In a few months, barring any hideous disasters that I really hope my karma isn’t bad enough to cause, I’ll fully break my rule and be moving to London too. The commute isn’t awful, but it promises to be slightly uncomfortable at best and squished-into-the-too-busy-train, breathing-other-people’s-sweat, being-constantly-elbowed-by-that-dude-who-keeps-trying-to-read-his-newspaper unpleasant at worst. My current feeling towards it is that the sooner I can stop doing it, the better. I’ve got some podcasts loaded on my phone to try to preserve my sanity (recommendations welcome!) and I’ve been sharpening my own elbows and practicing my balance – I’m aiming for the ability to stand on a moving train/tube without needing to hold onto anything at any point. Tube surfing, if you will.

Because I’m me, I’ve been panic-preparing all day even though this shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not even an interview, I already have the job, but I’m still terrified that somehow they’ll decide they’ve made a mistake and I’ll be back to squinting at LinkedIn when it emails me Prison Guard job openings. Algorithm, you okay hun? So it’s currently 8.40pm. I made my lunch for tomorrow at midday, I packed and repacked my bag by about 2pm, I’ve laid out my outfit and subsequently fretted that it’s not suitable (everyone who interviewed me was wearing jeans. Do I therefore feel comfortable enough to wear jeans tomorrow? Nope). I’ve tripled checked train times – on that note, whilst season tickets are undoubtedly a good saving in the long, paying for them initially is a brutal blow to the bank account. I’m so ready for tomorrow that I’d probably get an award for it. All I need to do now is calm my overhyped brain enough that I can sleep well, because oversleeping, missing my train and being late on my first day is in my top three worst nightmares. Best crack out the sleep tea and the lavender oil!

Until next time, K.

The Mum Friend

Hey pals. Long time no blabber from me. Turns out unemployment doesn’t offer all that many riveting adventures as fodder for cracking blog posts. I somehow doubt anyone desperately wants a day-by-day account of me sitting on the sofa switching between job applications and Netflix episodes.

Tell you what, job hunting’s depressing, eh? CVs and cover letters and application forms and, if you’re lucky, interviews, all designed to make you come up with the very best parts of yourself and put them out there for someone else to dissect. What are your strengths? What can you do that no one else can? Why should we hire you? Who do you think you ARE?

I mean, maybe it’s because I’m British, maybe it’s just a cute lil personality quirk of mine, but I am terrible at selling myself. Self-deprecating humour and dark twisted sarcasm are where it’s at for me, I don’t do genuine self-promotion. I sometimes think that it’s because I’m not arrogant enough to really rate myself, but that’s an unfair assessment of anyone who actually is good at selling themselves just because they have the confidence to do it.

So what am I good at? What are my employable assets, my transferable skills, my Unique Selling Point? (I tell you, the next person who goes off on one about the importance of a USP is getting a slap). I don’t like self-assessment, because I find it really awkward to stand up and say ‘I’m bloody brilliant, me’. Even though in some cases, I kind of am.

I’m obscenely well-organised. It’s irritating for most people around me. I despise being late, so am always at least 15 minutes early, as are the friends/family that I’ve spent 20 minutes yelling at while they get dressed and do their hair (I, of course, have been ready since 4.30. Taxi’s at 6. No, you have a problem). I like lists, and order, and spreadsheets, and timetables, and I am not flexible on that. The spreadsheet says we go at 11. See, in that pretty turquoise box there. NOW GO GET READY. I am The Mum Friend, and I must accept it. I’m the one with the first aid kit, the spare bobby pins, the stapler. I’m the one that will offer you tea about seven times a day and nag you about eating/sleeping well/taking regular breaks when studying. I’ve already looked up thirty-five different activities for us to do on this holiday and I know exactly how to get to them and what it’s going to cost us and I’ve budgeted accordingly. Spontaneity is not my strong point.

That said, the rigidity of that part of my personality is wavering of late. Doing nowt but sitting around for 80% of my week has triggered the wanderlust in me and I have a strong urge to just get on any given plane and go exploring and just get out of my head and out of my comfort zone and out of my bloomin’ trackies. No long-term pre-planned destination, no carefully curated ten-step itinerary, just a new place and a camera (and some money and probably a hostel booking because I am still me). Tragically, my long-standing commitment to weekly dates with the Jobcentre means I’m not allowed to leave the country or they’ll cancel my claim and it’ll wreck my pension. Ah, the joys of adult life.

I wonder, though, whether being The Mum Friend and being An Adult are synonymous. I vote no. Adults, capitalised Adults, have certain things about their lives that I don’t have, I feel. Of course, there’s the big stuff, mortgages, families, bills, etc (moment of silence for all of us who will never own our own home, thanks a lot heinously expensive property ladder you hero) but there are small things that in my mind constitute full-blown successful Adulting that I will probably never achieve, and to be honest I’m okay with that.

For example, Adults probably don’t cut themselves every time they shave their legs, nor do they burn themselves every time they use a curling iron. My bleeding left knee and the scars on my arms and fingers can attest that I am not, therefore, an Adult. Which is fine. Adulty-adults take themselves far too seriously. I’m delighted to say that I don’t know any – sure, my parents and grandparents and extended family can be mature and serious when needed, but they’re also all absolute children and I’m so pleased. It’s something I very much aspire to – sensible when necessary, looser and freer when possible.

I think that’s the difference between being The Mum Friend and being The Mum. Yes, I will come on your ridiculous unplanned road trip where all you want to pack is cake and good music and I will sing loudly and badly to forgotten gems of the early 2000s- but I am secretly bringing a map, a torch, and the number of the AA. You’ll thank me for it later.

Until next time, K.

A poem

I have a complicated relationship with poetry.

I won’t go into specifics, but I’ve never understood the great capitalised concept of Poetry, and I’ve never really understood why I should have to. Can’t poetry just be words on a page? Something we write when we need a way to spill our thoughts? Why does everything have to have a hidden meaning?

GCSE English, I’m looking at you.

I’ve written some terrible poems in my time, but also some I’m proud of.

Proud of.

Embarrased by.

Poems can have different effects on different people. They can make you angry, sad, happy, confused…

Pick an emotion, I’ll find you a poem. I mean not me, personally, I have things to do. The world at large will find you a poem for it.

To an extent, I suppose my question is this: what constitutes poetry? Can true poetry only be the written stuff with often dodgy rhyming that they throw at you in school and tell you that the myriad meanings behind digging for potatoes are of paramount importance? Can’t poetry just be the thing that makes you feel?

If people can say that some random dude scoring a mildly impressive goal in a football game that some people care about more than they care about their own families is poetry in motion, then I can say that the feeling I got the first time I single-based someone in cheerleading is poetry.

If hope is the thing with feathers, poetry can be the thing with scales. The thing underwater that drags you under and swirls around your head and makes you forget which way is up.

Alfred J Prufrock measured out his life in coffee spoons, and I’m measuring mine in overpriced coffees and tight hugs and Skype calls and laughter.

I could quote a thousand poems that have meant something to me, and a thousand whose supposed deep emotional meaning has completely passed me by.

Poetry is when we’re flying running screaming laughing crying bleeding hoping breathing.

This poem doesn’t rhyme. This poem is hideously unstructured. This poem can only be called a poem because I say it is.

I’ve written poems about Arabic, and poems about custard, and poems about poems. I’ve read poems about everything under the sun. I have a few favourite poems that I go back to time and time again, whether I understand them or not.

People are snobs about poems. Snobs in poems. People are also beautifully, heartbreakingly open and honest in poems. Poetry hits you in the solar plexus in a way that most longform literature doesn’t. Mostly short, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, poems worm their way into the deepest recesses of your mind, where you forgot you could even feel that emotion.

Poetry’s beautiful, and ugly, and kind, and cruel. As are we. Poetry and humanity don’t fall far from each other.

I’ll keep writing poems that no one except me will ever read, and I’ll keep reading poems that I love, hate, understand and don’t, because I want to. And I think you should too. If you want.

Until next time, K.

Worth the Risk?

I may have just done the most reckless and stupid thing I’ve ever done. Which, admittedly, being the fairly reserved and un-wild 23-year-old Grandma that I am, isn’t the most reckless and stupid thing anyone’s ever done, not by a long shot. But for me it’s a Big Thing. I’ve quit my job.

Technically, I did this last week because y’know, notice periods and all that, but today was my last day. Today I handed in my keys and archived all my emails and drove away in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be going back on Monday morning, and the knowledge that I don’t have anything new waiting for me. Right now I don’t even know what I’m feeling. Obviously I have my reasons for leaving (the details of which I won’t be going into on a public platform!) so I’m not exactly devastated, and I do feel liberated, but I am also sad in some ways. Sad to have left behind a group of truly lovely colleagues, and if I’m honest sad to be losing a steady income. On a certain level, I’m terrified to be unemployed and living on my not-substantial savings and my parents’ generosity, terrified that it’s going to take me ages to find another job and it won’t be something I love, terrified that I’m not even sure I know what I want to do. On another level, I’m excited to have some time to figure these things out. Excited to reassess my situation without any other responsibilities, excited to throw myself into finding a job that I’ll really love.

I’m nervous about going back to the job-hunting life because I think I know what I want to do, but if I admit to myself or anyone else that it’s what I really, really want, it’ll be all the harder to take rejection. It’ll be that little bit more disheartening every time a company just never replies, knowing that I’d pinned so many hopes on that job. Surely it’s better not to let myself get too invested in anything, and then it won’t hurt when it’s a no.

This is, of course, a pretty bad view to take, because passion is important in a job and if I want something I’m going to love, I have to start by caring about it and showing that I care about it. Few people will hire a candidate who thinks they ‘might give it a go, not sure, see what it’s like’ over a candidate who’s invested and committed and enthusiastic from the get-go. I’ll just have to find the balance between admitting how important a job is to me, and seeming too indifferent. Tricky.

When I wrote recently about switching to decaff coffee in an attempt to lower my anxiety (I think it’s working, by the way, so yay for that), my friend Alba told me she was impressed by how proactive I was. So I’ve taken it to the extreme, and proactively quit my job with no prospects and no clue. Well done Lang, super good adulting.

I don’t quite think I’ve ruined my own life yet. That’ll only come if it takes months on end to find another job and I end up in another place I don’t love because realistically I’m human and money is a large motivating factor in my life. Keep your fingers crossed for me that that won’t happen, hm?

I think sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m only 23, and actually I don’t have to have my whole life together now. I’m allowed to make mistakes, I’m allowed to take some time to figure my life out, I’m allowed to take risks. And so are you. They say you should do something every day that scares you, so here I am, scaring the living daylights out of myself by having absolutely no plan whatsoever. I like plans, I like organisation, I like control. Having none of those things frightens me, but it’s a good kind of fear, a sort of feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway adrenaline-y nervousness that’ll kick me into doing something about it.

I could choose to see it as quitting, as giving up, as not being able to hack it. Or I could choose to see it as closing the door on an admittedly short, but mostly sweet and useful chapter of my life, allowing me to start the next. Who knows where it’ll lead? It could be to something incredible, if I let it. For once in my anxious, pessimistic life, I’m feeling optimistic.

Until next time, K.

“You can’t have a cranny without a nook”

How on earth is it March? Quite apart from the untowardly festive weather (my brain keeps singing Christmas songs and I have so much rage), what happened to February? Last I recall, I was complaining that January was dragging on and on, and suddenly February came and went before I had time to blink!

I have been in full-on Feeling Sorry For Myself mode this week. I’ve been properly ill for the first time in I can’t remember how long (I definitely blame the general mass of disease that is a university city, thanks Durham) to the extent that I took two days off work and just lay on the sofa being pitiful and watching Netflix (I’ve starting watching Suits, and yes, it is 80% because I want to see what Meghan Markle was like as an actress). Duvet and PJ days sound great until you’re too ill to enjoy them, so I’ve been really tragically bemoaning that situation for a few days.

This whole week’s been a bit of a write-off in terms of stellar employee behaviour, to be honest. I only managed two and a half days in the office – the aforementioned two days off for illness have been supplemented today by the fact that I bailed on the office at 2pm to make sure that I’d be able to drive home safely in the snow. It’s not super snowy down here (it is the South, after all) but the roads are still pretty dodgy in some places, and I’m definitely glad that I left work when I did, even though I do feel very guilty about abandoning them all. They live within walking distance, it’s fine…

The week has not been all bad, however. I had a Skype call with three of my old uni housemates last night, and it was glorious. It cheered me up so much that I almost forgot how rubbish the week had been, even though nothing of great consequence was talked about. It’s just so nice to see everyone’s (blurry, terrible-internet-connection-pixelated, often frozen) faces and hear their news.

I’m quite often slightly stunned at how big an impact the small things can have. Every time I walk past the Cafe Nero in Godalming I get a warm fuzzy feeling (gross, sentimental, ew, I know) because of that barista who gave me extra hot chocolate when I was having The Worst Day. When I went up to Durham last weekend, my friend came and picked me up from the station in his car to save me what would have been a fairly easy 15-minute walk, and thinking about that still makes me smile. Living in rural Sussex with my parents can be isolating, but it’s tempered by evenings spent chatting about absolute nonsense with friends – producing such gems as the title of this post (all credit to Flo Sharp).

Going back up to Durham was an odd experience for me this time. When I went last November, it didn’t feel like I’d been gone for very long, but somehow these few months from then to now have stretched out and my degree feels like another lifetime. The friends I was staying with joked about how weird it is that I’m already paying into a pension, and they’re right, it is a bit. It’s not weird when I’m at home, or at work, or seeing other friends who also have graduated and found jobs, but it’s weird when I’m back in my uni city, in a student house, with a group of people who are still preoccupied with summative essays and dissertations.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m belittling summatives or student life. I’m not. It’s hard. My dissertation remains the most stressful thing I’ve ever faced. But it’s just so bizarre to me how detached from that I already feel. My current weekend to-do list consists of an 8am doctor’s appointment and subsequent blood test (thanks Accutane, I do so love monthly blood tests), a car service and sorting out my car insurance payment, and clearing out my room. Such a wild and spirited youth I am. I like to say that I don’t consider myself a proper adult, but in many ways, I am, and that’s quite a scary thought. I loved going back up to Duz to see people and support the Cheer Squad (we were wonderfully obnoxious supporters. I got on a train with blue stripes still painted on my face and got some very strange looks) but it did highlight how much growing up I’ve done in the past seven months. It’s weird, I’m not sure if I like it. I suppose I’ll just have to cling on even more determinedly to my childish side!

Until next time, K.


Trust the Fairies

Being in your twenties is so weird. It’s such a bizarre period of life limbo, where at any given moment you could feel as grown up and adult and You-Got-This as your parents, or as inexperienced and naive and Help-Me-Where’s-An-Adult as a tiny child.

For the most part, from toddler age to late teens, all of your friends and peers are in the same place as you emotionally, intellectually and geographically. When you’re middle aged, your friends and peers are, with a few exceptions, employed and settled with kids. But in your twenties, who even knows? I have friends still at uni, friends who are funemployed, friends who are kicking off amazing careers, friends who are married, and all of them are within three years of my own age.

All of my closest friends now live at least an hour away, which is the trouble with a combination of going to university really far away, and living in the middle of absolutely nowhere in the countryside. The majority of my contact with any of them comes through social media, which is why I will be forever grateful for Facebook despite its many pitfalls.

That said, it makes Skype calls, phone calls and those precious face-to-face meetings all the more special. I went up to London last Sunday to see a few uni friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since last August/September, and I laughed until I cried three times in the day. It was the best day I’ve had in a long time, and the residual joy from it has buoyed me through most of this week. This coming weekend I’m off back up to Durham for the Intercollegiate Cheer Comp, because I cannot and will not let go of my love for the Trevs Cheer Squad, and the excitement of seeing my friends who are still studying up there is going to get me through the rest of this week and beyond.

I also Skyped my uni roommate on Sunday evening, and we chatted about this exact thing – being in your twenties is so strange. It feels like an awful lot of pressure sometimes, what with trying to meet society’s expectations that we will all forge a career path, find a healthy, long-term relationship, buy a house (or at least rent a nice one), and know exactly who we are and what we want from life by the time we’re 27. Not a chance, pal.

My twenties, so far, have been an absolute riot. I’ve lived in four countries, and briefly popped into several more, spoken (with varying degrees of success) three languages, met some incredible people, laughed until I’ve cried, passed my driving test, written a dissertation (and complained the whole time), graduated, travelled the USA, discovered I’m shockingly bad at paddle boarding, and managed to land myself a job and a salary. I’ve been at the highest and lowest points of my life over the past three years, and I don’t think I’d change a single moment, even the hideous ones. Most of the best memories I have came about because of things I didn’t plan, or things I agreed to at the last minute with my heart racing and my sensible side screeching. Sometimes (and forgive the hypocrisy, as I’m fully aware that I’m a huge control freak) I think you just have to sit back and have a little faith.

I don’t care what you have faith in, that’s entirely up to you. Faith in God, in the universe, in karma, in fairies and unicorns if you want to. But find faith in something, and trust it to have your back even when everything else is piling up against you. 2018 feels like it’s going to be a good year, and I don’t even know why. But I’m going to try really hard to staunch the must-control-let-me-control-I-need-to-be-in-charge urge that I have, and let  things run their course and reach the conclusion that they’re supposed to. With a lil helping nudge here and there…

Until next time, when I’ll try to be a little less Mystic Meg, K.

New Lifestyle, Who Dis?

Pals, something wild has happened. Something unexpected and shocking to us all – I’ve become the sort of person who willingly goes to the gym three days in a row. And enjoys it. I don’t even know who I am anymore! I’m sure you’re all as astonished as I am, such drastic change never happens to me! (What do you mean, I’m ‘always this dramatic and it’s not that big of a deal’? Rude).

I was due to have my second personal training session (I get three free ones with my membership, I’m not rich enough to pay for regular personal training) last Monday, but I had to move it last minute because my grandparents came home from their month abroad (cripplingly jealous, me? Nah) and I wanted to see them. So in a moment of madness I agreed to a half hour training session at 8.30pm on a Friday. Towards the end of the day at work yesterday my mood was increasingly tipping towards ‘maybe I could just reschedule again because Friday night gym sessions are not high on my list of fun’ but honestly I felt it would be more effort to rearrange it again than to just go and only put in minimal effort, so I speed-ate dinner when I got home from work and trundled off the gym, complaining in my head the whole time. And actually, it was great.

I had a different trainer, because the first one had booked himself some holiday, selfishly, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out, neither was she, and so when she offered a choice between doing a circuit of the gym and having a go at various weird machines, or getting some boxing gloves and pads out and doing a boxing session, I opted for the boxing, predominantly because the weight machines intimidate me. And it was SO. MUCH. FUN. I would thoroughly recommend it. I think I might have finally found a form of cardio that I genuinely enjoy, although I’m not sure what it says about me that that’s punching things…

After we’d finished, the lovely trainer Lauren said she was working all weekend and if I wanted to go in again we could do some more, so I went back this morning. Me. I-hate-running, exercise-is-the-worst, did-someone-say-cake Lang. And I’ve got my core conditioning class tomorrow. Three gym sessions in three days, what have I become?

It helps, of course, that Mum and I have agreed that if we’ve done well with the fitness and weight loss stuff each month, we’ll buy ourselves some new gym wear as a reward. Ain’t no motivation like sassy leggings. I even bought myself cute lil workout gloves to protect my delicate lady hands from the grips of the weight bar. I’m going to end up buying tank tops that say Squat Goals, aren’t I?

I’ve also swapped my normal coffee for decaf in the coffee machine, as it occurred to me (duh) that caffeine probably wasn’t my bestie in terms of my anxiety. It’s only been a week and I don’t really know if I can see a difference, but we haven’t had any more epic meltdowns yet. Huge love to everyone that messaged me after last week’s post about that, by the way, I appreciate it more than I can adequately put into words (bit awkward for a blogger).

I’ve got a colleague coming over for Sunday lunch tomorrow, as he’s German and has never had a classic British roast dinner. I’m feeling the pressure on creating the perfect example of a Sunday roast. Yorkshire pudding with the dinner is a must (even though it’s lamb not beef, #controversial), as are more roast potatoes than any decent human being ought to consume in one sitting – what was that about my new virtous, healthy lifestyle? If anyone has any further suggestions as to how to create a first-class example of the British Sunday Lunch, let me know!

For now, I shall reward my heroic gym-going efforts by slobbing out on the sofa in my onesie and catching up on Silent Witness and Death In Paradise and trying to ignore the carton of custard in the fridge *immediately retrieves custard from fridge*.

Until next time, K.

Coping Mechanisms

I don’t know if I’m going to post this. It’s definitely an overshare, but the conclusion has been reached that I need to find a coping mechanism for my anxiety, so I’m going to write it all down and maybe I’ll share it with the approximately six people who might read it.

I had a panic attack at work today. Full-on, choking sobs, I can’t really breathe meltdown panic attack. They’re horrible, and I thankfully have them very rarely, but when they hit they leave me drained emotionally and often also physically. And with a throbbing tension headache that I still have. Which is not ideal in the middle of the day at my place of employment.

The one colleague that caught me in the very beginning of crumbling and swiftly herded me into the empty meeting room handled my dramatics remarkably well, despite the mild panic clear in his eyes. Which I completely understand, because when faced with someone who’s crying and shaking too hard to speak or breathe, it’s tricky to know how to react if you’re not used to it.

Trouble is, I don’t really know what’s brought it on. Okay, yes, I had a lot to do at work today and I wasn’t fully confident doing all of it and I think maybe it was that final New Project email that tipped me over the edge, but I’ve had days like that before that have not led to me being gently but firmly kicked out of the office to go for a walk and pull myself together. So I’m not sure what’s triggered it exactly, which means I’m not sure how to try to remedy it.

Low-level anxiety has been a fun lil friend of mine for a long time. It’s usually not a problem, and mostly only kicks in and tightens up my lungs in situations involving phone calls or rooms full of strangers. Public speaking is also pretty much a no-go zone. But that’s not uncommon, many, many people have similar reactions to these things. It’s been a while since I’ve been unable to get my panic response under control, and that frightens me.

There’s a good chance that this is due to the medication that I’m on for my acne, which is known to have side effects including depression and heightened emotions. If that’s the problem, and my increased lack of control is Accutane-based, I have a whole new problem. I can’t tell the doctor that the medication is causing emotional problems, because they’ll take me off it, and my skin won’t improve, which in turn will cause emotional problems. Can’t really win.

If I know that the extra anxiety is caused by the Accutane, to an extent I can keep a better handle on it because I know it’s coming. But what happens when the course of medication stops, and I still have anxiety? What happens when I still freak out over phone calls, what happens when I can’t put myself in uncomfortable but ultimately beneficial situations, what happens when I don’t have control over my own emotions?

See, I think that the problem, at its core, is my insecurity about what other people think of me. Once I’d calmed down today, my first strong reaction was embarrassment that my colleague had seen me like that. Embarrassment that I’d had to call my mum and blubber down the phone about how overwhelmed I felt. Embarrassment that at the age of 23 I couldn’t hold back the tears in a place where I was supposed to be professional and capable. Because I’m worried about how people’s perception of me might change for the worse if they think I’m too pathetic to cope. I have anxiety about my anxiety.

It’s hard to let people help, sometimes, because there’s an undercurrent of ‘how annoying are you being right now, that your poor friend has to waste so much of their day putting up with you. You’re not entitled to sympathy. You don’t deserve people to care about your problems, they’re not problems, you’re just weak‘. Anxiety’s a pervasive little bastard, sitting in the corner of every room you’re in telling you that everyone else in that room is thinking negative things about you. On a normal day, the rational side of my brain can tell these insidious thoughts to shove it. I keep a tightly locked, bolted and padlocked lid on the box in my brain that houses these thoughts, but sometimes, just sometimes, someone takes a bolt cutter to the rationality box and it all comes flooding out in hysteria.

It’s interesting to me, however, that small things can trigger it but in much the same way, small things can help. Having wandered around a park for a while and called my mum to just blurt it all out and then compose myself, I popped into a coffee shop to buy myself a hot chocolate, because sometimes anxiety needs a hug and sometimes it needs breathing techniques and sometimes you need to punch something, but sometimes it just needs sugar. I ordered, and paid for, a small, but when the barista handed it to me his accompanying words were ‘oh, oops, look at that, I’ve made a large’. Fragile and covered in thousands of delicate spidery cracks as my composure was, I almost lost it again at that small kindness, but it also boosted my mood no end even without the extra sugar.

I don’t really know where I go from here. There’s not really a quick fix for insecurities and an inability to cope when overwhelmed. It’s probably a good thing that people at work know, despite me being a bit ashamed of it, because this way maybe I don’t have to bottle it up anymore, and maybe the sheer thought that I have the freedom to have a panic attack will in fact prevent any future spectacular meltdowns. I hope.

There wasn’t much point to this blog post, and if you’ve made it this far I’m very impressed, but writing everything down has helped. I feel better at the end of writing this than I did at the start, although there’s still a slight feeling that if you’re reading this, you’re reading it with derision at how ridiculous I am. But that’s okay, you’re allowed to think that. Just maybe don’t tell me, hm?

Until next time, K

Olfactory Memory

Lads, I think today might be the sweatiest I have ever been (I know, this is something you really wanted to know about me. You’re so welcome). I’m convinced I must have lost at least half a stone in sweat. Clubbercise tonight was pretty much just 45 minutes of jumping around, and I both hated and loved it. I had to drive home with my air conditioning on its coldest. In January.

Happily, I can already feel my stamina improving in this class. Now I can get through at least three tracks before I lose the ability to properly control my limbs as I flail them around. I really never thought I’d become the kind of person who enjoys exercise, and blathers on about endorphins and all that blah blah, but actually I really do enjoy both the Clubbercise and the Core Conditioning classes that I do. I still hate running though. I don’t think anything in the world could persuade me to enjoy running.

The main thing that struck me this evening, however, was not that I can now still breathe after three minutes of star jumps. It was that the corridor to the changing rooms smelled like rugby players. And I don’t know why I immediately recognised it as specifically that, but that’s definitely what it was. Sweaty, muddy rugby boys. I was really thrown by how familiar the smell was, and how instantly the memories of standing on a freezing cold pitch in Durham in November, and running up the stairs to the secondary school changing rooms in winter, came flooding into my mind.

I’ve been thinking about it all evening since. Olfactory memory (smell memory. Yes, I definitely googled it because I thought it would be a schmancier title for this post) is astonishingly powerful. Have you ever been somewhere completely new, and yet smelt something familiar and spent ages trying to work out where you remember it from? Ever walked past a place, or a person, and been hit by a scent that brings back memories so powerful they floor you? It’s weird, in a way, because I don’t think we ever really pay attention to smells, subtle ones that surround us without our notice, but they lodge themselves so firmly in our brains that the slightest whiff of that same smell ten, twenty years down the line transports you straight back to being eight years old and running down a hotel corridor in Alsace.

There are certain smells which will always be comforting to me. My Nana has smelled the same to me every day of my life, as has her house. Houses have really disctinctive scents, although you don’t always notice them. When we  moved house, the only time I’ve ever done so (excluding student housing at uni which doesn’t really count), I initially had trouble accepting the new house because it didn’t smell the same. If I were ever to go back to our old house, I expect I’d have the same problem. It’ll smell like someone else’s life now. I rescued an old shirt of my Grandad’s a few years ago that he was trying to throw away. It’s far too big on me and is probably my favourite item of clothing. I wear it like a protection blanket on days when I feel low, and it perks me up. It still has the faintest traces of my Grandad’s smell on it, although I’ve worn and washed it so often now that it’s mostly gone, which is a little upsetting to me. I might give it back to my Grandad for a week so I can get the smell back, because it’s such a comfort.

It’s a shame, almost, that you can’t capture a smell in the same way you can a photograph or piece of film. It would be great if you could play a video clip and be able to smell everything as well as see it. Although maybe then we really wouldn’t ever have to leave our own living rooms, which would be a travesty!

Until next time, K