Saturday, 8 April 2017

This Is Where I'm At | April

She's so hard to please but she's a forest fire

In early March, I flew home to daffodils and Vitamin D and my first, but hopefully not last, Key Lime pie. I always look forward to these trips so much, this one in particular because I took the time to reach out to people and fill my time at home with catching up. But with returning to a place that changes so slowly, nostalgia arrives. And with it, an inescapable measuring of then versus now, what's changed? I shared with my parents my half-ambition to do a master's degree, unsure if I was convincing them or myself. I was grateful for stolen conversations with Belfast-based friends, and realised that if I haven't fully realised my life's greatest ambitions, I have become more open and trusting, and I do have people who listen.
I think that weekend set the tone for the month. Topsy turvy. Glimpses of spring and then great downpours.

I went to see the ineffably talented Orla Gartland support Declan McKenna, and lost some hours thinking about how teenagehood is an unparalleled time time when you have self-loathing and ego in equal measure. I went to Thorpe Park, a beautiful place, even for someone with vertigo who's terrified of rollercoasters. Yes, really. I enjoyed being on set for a bit of Bry's next music video set, always quietly amazed at the things people can do, the power of collaboration.

I made baby steps towards a better me; as I've said before, spring is a much better time for self-improvement than January could ever be. I joined a fitness class, ran 5k every Saturday, batch-cooked lunches, explored the countryside we live in, did something I've been putting off for months if not years.

I saw Get Out, a masterpiece. I can't stop recommending it to people. Also Beauty and the Beast which was just lovely. My annual obsession with Broadchurch is ongoing, and I'm also almost done with Girls. I bet it's not often those two shows go in the same sentence. Reading slowed a little last month, but I was floored by Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It pulled me out of my own head in big, important ways.

I don't know what to expect from April. Honestly, I'm more concerned with slowly learning what to expect from myself. 

Yours, yellow,

Sunday, 5 March 2017

This Is Where I'm At | March

I think it's funny that we always consider spring a new beginning. When the evenings show me how much further they can stretch the light, I don't think 'ah, it's lighter, like it was in October'. I think that this is a miraculous and brand new thing.

I'm grateful to February for its four short weeks.

I spent the first half of the month counting down to the day where I could set my out of office email and bask in annual leave and a few days of escapism joining Bry on his UK tour. I got a three and a half hour coach from London to Cardiff, and managed 3 hours and 10 minutes before throwing up in its toilet closet. I got to have lunch with my in-laws and surprise Bry with their presence at his show. I got to watch Danny Gruff and Tessa Violet play their great songs, and I got to dance to British indie rock then eat panda-shaped birthday cake at 3am.

I do worry I'm falling into an old habit. I'm still counting down to a point in the future where I'll have everything I want. And yet, here in the present, I'm doing nothing to make everything I want happen. The advice from a Fulbright scholar in my third-last week of university rings in my ears. 'I always used to say, don't worry: Future Self will take care of it'. She was talking about writing essays. I don't think my future self can cram all my hopes and dreams the night before they're due.

I bookended the month with Hacksaw Ridge and Lion, loving both for different reasons. I got better at making time for stories in February - whether they were mine or someone else's. I kept watching Girls on those evenings spent at home alone, and kept asking myself why I was watching it. Sometimes one of the characters will vocalise an ugly, selfish thought I've played in my head and it makes me want to turn it off forever. I read 'The Hate U Give', a stunning debut novel from Angie Thomas. It was a fitting novel to read during US Black History Month, and I'd highly recommend it.

Okay. A short post for a short month. I look forward to March, filled with even more light.

Yours, full of spaghetti,

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

This Is Where I'm At | February

You were standing in the street 'cause you were trying not to crack up
It wasn't like a rain it was more like a sea

It's a common theme in these monthly musings but really, I don't like wishing time away. When life hands you a month containing five Mondays, though...

Good riddance, January.

I'll pick up where I left off: spooled up in my mum's armchair as the clock struck midnight. I gave Jools Holland and co another half hour, then went to bed with a hot water bottle and thought about how I really wasn't feeling it this year. You know, a New Year. Capital N capital Y. Every year, I have the knowledge that time is a construct and you could get excited about the changing of months or the changing of weeks if you really wanted to. And yet, most years, I still get swept up in the magic of it. A new parting greeting for strangers. Putting everything you consumed over the past twelve months into a competition before academies and guilds get the chance to. [Best movie I saw last year was 'Spotlight'. Book - 'The Girls' by Emma Cline. Album 'Bry' by Bry.] And because I married someone who's always trying to wrestle experiences out of life, our group of friends is often subject to Worst moment of your year? Best new person you met this year? Most memorable trip of the year? questions.

Something about knowing I wouldn't be able to differentiate between the first week of December and the first week of January unsettled me. It doesn't feel like there's time to adopt some new activity in my routine. I don't feel awake enough to work on self-improvement. I'm giving myself a pass. I'm going to keep on keeping on, and once the days are longer and SAD is behind me, then I'll think about having a fresh start.

Of course, you can refuse to change anything about your life, and then watch the world's life change irrepairably. I'm trying my best to pay attention to politics, not just in the US, but also at home in Northern Ireland where the lives of the people I grew up with are affected by an unravelling government. I want to be better, I want to be more informed, I want to set aside time to helping. Don't call those resolutions.

While women worldwide marched, I conquered my only serious resolution by going home to see my parents. I think a lot of my frustration and low moods over the past five months came from not being able to recharge and check in with my folks and my Shetland pony. I visited a stone quarry and reconnected with my horse dentist - getting a week of back pain in return. I looked at photos of my friends in various cities protesting for their rights. Although being home is the purest way of being myself, I did get that teenage yearning; that if I want to partake and make any sort of change, I have to leave it behind. I have to stick to the city. 

I kicked off the year by seeing The Kite Runner in the West End. I fell in love with the film and the book a few years ago, and it seems like such a timely story given that a lot of the ugly racism we're seeing stems from not understanding one another. In the cinema, I watched and loved La La Land and Hidden Figures. My first book of the year was Stephen King's On Writing. 

February is a short, unassuming kind of month and I like that. You don't expect it to be warmer. You don't expect anything dramatic to happen. We're just spinning around, posing in a mirror, trying 2017 on for size.

Yours, five months in,

Sunday, 29 January 2017

This Is Where I'm At | January

We've wandered mony a weary foot

Note: I have never posted one of these so late. This entire post has been written in drabs for this whole month. I don't know why I've been so reluctant to share. Maybe January scared me, maybe the next twelve (now eleven) months are rolling out ahead of me and from this position, they look ilegible and snarling. Maybe my life seems insignificant compared to what's happening in the world. I'm still sinking my teeth into 2017. I didn't want to break the routine of writing these posts so here I am. Late. 

In December I counted down. I counted down the days until I could fly back home for the first time in the longest time, relax, overindulge. With the 'penultimate Monday!' scribble came an anxiety, however, that since September I've been counting to Christmas and once New Year's Day ended, the year stretched out in front of me with nothing to count down to. When I'm clear-headed and optimistic, I can combat this. I can stick stakes in every other month and between times, climb towards those sweet rest spots.

Though I'm not sure I really like Christmas Day all that much, I was grateful to the season for the marks it put on my calendars. From my work Christmas dinner to a Penguin party to evenings in restaurants with festive menus. Ooh. I saw my tiny family, my tiny horse and my overweight cat, before travelling to Dublin to have a 'second Christmas' with my in-laws.

Then I had four days of sheer escapism as I travelled around Ireland with Bry and his band, on hand to sell merch, take photos and reconnect with friends as he did his thing. I'm sure the novelty would eventually wear off, but right then, living out of a backpack, with one book and a box of gift chocolates to hand, I felt like I could trail Ireland's midlands forevermore.

I returned - a little sniffly and regretting packing one pair of jeans - to my hometown to ring in the new year. Not one for breaking traditions, it felt odd to curl up in an armchair with a hot whisky when I'm usually posing for a photo with Bry and co before a fine meal and a night of board games. But I'm grateful for my parents, for the familiarity of home, the comfort of slipping into a town where everybody knows my name but little else about me.

Usually, I would look ahead to the month to end these posts. That hasn't quite worked out as that month is almost over as well. Maybe I should tell you about my resolutions. They aren't yet on paper, which means they will probably fade out in the same way the morning darkness does. I figure if they're important, I'll remember. It's the usual nonsense, anyway. Write more, feel more, do more.

I saw Rogue One and it reminded me how important stories are to us. I read sporadically, really, putting more energy into buying other people the perfect books than reading any. I listened to the usual Christmas tunes with fresh ears, as we're forced to do every winter. I'll leave 2016 behind with the words of Sufjan Stevens: can you say what you want, can you say what you want to be?

Yours, onward,

Sunday, 4 December 2016

This Is Where I'm At | December

A note from my iPhone, 17th November:

I am good, I am grounded 
I think I'm getting it now. That home is him and sometimes here and it'll always be there. And the woman from the Caribbean talked about the power we each have to give other a lifeline and my god. It's true. 

There's a November predictability. The leaves will fall. We'll see frost. There's not enough of the year left and yet, it can't end quick enough. Someone ends up hooked up to a toxic mixture of drugs, again. 

I wrote the above note on the train home from seeing a moving museum performance called 'London Stories: Made By Migrants'. In a small group, you go into six rooms and hear stories from six people about how they ended up in London. It was unbelievably emotional, and I felt like a flaky little thing that blew in, by comparison, but it helped me feel able to take ownership of some small corner of this city. I am here. 

Okay, okay, let's talk about the two nights when Bry supported twenty one pilots at the Alexandra Palace. (We could also talk about the day in between where we flew to Ireland for a wedding and danced like two people who didn't have to fly back the next morning.) I got to share in an experience that is completely and utterly what people call a once in a lifetime experience. I got to see twenty one pilots perform - and what they do feels like the exact definition of perform. Knowing come Tuesday morning, I'd be back at work, and wouldn't breathe a word of how unbelievable and transformative my weekend was, was secretly kind of thrilling. Hannah Montana! 

I did better at making time to see friends in November. I went to see Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and really enjoyed it. I got to see Bry's entire family during another Dublin weekend. I also saw Catfish and The Bottlemen play live for the first time and half of U2 were in the same room. I realised that if every weekend involved a flight back to a certain emerald isle - Christmas shopping with my mum, playing catch with Lucy the dog - then life would be much sweeter. I ended the month with a Christmas party at Pan Macmillan and admittedly, felt a little festive for the first time.

I am so glad to see you, December. You know I hate counting days but we established that as the crux of our relationship a long time ago. 19 days until I can get on a plane, push through frostbitten clouds and touchdown at the place I call home. 

Gilmore Girls came back. My all-time favourite TV show. I have too many thoughts on that to bore you with. I've been listening to Bry's debut album, because it came out in November and it was the most exciting thing that has ever happened. The Missing wrapped up and it was some of the finest British TV of the year. I've been reading whatever turns up on my doorstep, which is fun and varied and I will make a video about it soon. 

Yours, hanging in there,

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

This Is Where I'm At | November

someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull

I don't really know where October went.

What did I read? Barely anything. Where did I go? There and back again. What did I learn? I'm still processing it.

I'm adjusting. I'm still adjusting to this place, adjusting to my job, adjusting to impending darkness. Y'know - winter.

I had never been awake when the clocks go back before. But this year was the year, making a late night drive through rusty Sussex roads and about to skip the news bulletin when the nocturnal newsreader said it's one o'clock. Although the moving around of daylight bothers me more than I care to admit, I do like the idea of realising the whole clock concept isn't really working for you as a nation in summer, so you just change it. Simple.

Anyway, there I am, absolutely blaring eighties power ballads and reflecting on a beautiful play that I'd seen earlier in the evening (Beacons by Tabitha Mortiboy starring my friend Sam) when I notice these shapes at the side of the road. It was foggy so I was driving really slowly with foglights on, no other cars around, and I realise these groups of shapes are rabbits. Rabbits! If you shine a bright light at a rabbit, they stand there and stare at the light instead of running away. Little taxidermy statues. When I was growing up, I refused curtains and liked to stargaze from my pillow. My bedroom looked out on to a vast field, bordered by another smaller field, which eventually gave way to a windy back road. Sometimes, some ghost car with its headlights turned off would make a midnight trundle along that road and then a sadistic passenger would shine an unbelievably powerful torch out the window and 'lamp' the rabbits in the field before shooting them.

That's a morbid memory, but my bedroom would light up every time. Fight or flight, fight or flight, fight or flight.

Here are some things I've been proud of myself for over the past few days:
- Making myself lunch to bring to work every day, even when I'm tired and making dinner is a chore in itself. Healthy, filling lunches full of colour and packed in a bright blue tub.
- Choosing water over caffeine.
- Being honest with myself and with a couple of understanding friends that my mental health isn't perfect this week.

And admitting that here is also a good thing, I think. I'm not used to being unable to drive to see my parents on the weekends when Bry is away on long trips. I'm not used to being away from my house for 12 hours a day. I'm feeling it. But I'm hanging in there. I'm standing in the headlights but I know it will pass and I will cross the road.

October: Bridget Jones' Baby is a hoot. The Missing is the only TV I'll stay up late for. Strictly Come Dancing is a beautiful British joy. Lady Gaga's new album is worth a listen. My favourite human on tour with one of my favourite bands is unbelievable and I'm full of love.

Yours, cold,

Sunday, 2 October 2016

This Is Where I'm At | October

A saved note on my iPhone from earlier this week:

Weird how stepping on the wrong train and immediately stepping off just as the doors are closing is such an 'oh god i'm so embarrassed those 20 people who i'll never see again witnessed that' moment, because this city is like an entire beach and we're all faceless little grains of sand. Worse, I dropped my grey beanie and as soon as I realised, paused and looked over my shoulder in case someone would run up to me waving it in their hand and saving the day. Of course not. Worse, still, I know this self-doubt, this tiredness, this I Can Only Ever Really Relax And Function If I'm Working From Home thing will be erased by a coffee. How unoriginal!!! 

Alright, September.

Last month delivered. After a summer of change and doubt and w-a-i-t-i-n-g, I got offered two jobs in one day, finalised some cool 'content' for YouTube and my husband got a support tour he'd be dreaming of. It's funny, though, because when the thing you were waiting for actually happens, it's not the end. Nothing is final (I hope) and there always has to be some sort of forward motion.

I love forward motion, in a very literal sense. I find I'm less stressed when I'm walking or folding clothes or even going through the step-by-step process of applying makeup. On a related note, last month I decided to quit drinking caffeine on weekdays and burned through two days of withdrawal headaches to get to a point where I'm generally less anxious and more consistent with my mood/tiredness throughout the day.

Anyway, back to work. I had to readjust my life around my job. You know, I vividly remember writing an essay for my then-English teacher, now good friend, in Year 9. It was a short piece about aspirations and the future. I wrote about feeling like I had two distinct sides within me. One, a horse riding instructor with a small farm in the countryside where my ancestors have always lived. A few rescue ponies, my family nearby. The other, a savvy city girl who wore high heels to her office job and drank choco mocha frothy lattes* and was kind of unstoppable.
*Direct quote from the essay.

How different the reality is of being that girl in a blazer - hole in the sleeve which I superglued together on my second day - who takes three trains and two naps to get to a job where I wear a lanyard and attend team meetings and wake up at 6 and get home at 7. Do I sound negative? Am I being too negative? Questions I've asked myself a lot as my body and mind got used to spending so much time away from home and my husband and visiting friends this month

So here are a few mantras (can you have more than one mantra?) I'm adopting.
- Savour the little things. Making it to the station in time to catch the 17:54 instead of the 18:04. A nice interaction with a colleague. A dog on the tube.
- The first week is not prophetic. Everybody feels overwhelmed and under-qualified when they start a job, I guess. Take each day as it comes, ask questions and make detailed notes.
- Don't berate yourself for becoming someone who looks forward to the weekend and holidays. It doesn't mean you hate your job. It doesn't mean the artist within you is dead and buried. Plan some lovely things to do on your free time and find some sort of balance between looking forward and counting your life away.
- Feeling like a functioning adult seems to stem more from preparing my own lunch at home and less from knowing an Excel formula. Huh.

I am so ecstatic for how busy Bry is, and for his upcoming London show and his new single and his support tour with twenty one pilots, one of my favourite bands since I saw them last summer and cried in the rain. He is not the only person pursuing a career in entertainment in my life, and I've been celebrating the successes of other people I'm lucky enough to know.

I read The Graces by Laure Eve which I will review and upload to my channel this week. I've been watching Jane The Virgin again, as well as a record-breaking number of reality TV shows: Great British Bake Off, Hunted and Strictly Come Dancing. I saw Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children last night and really enjoyed it! I also watched a wonderful Ted Talk about conquering anxiety that I'd highly recommend.

I guess that's about it. I kicked off October by going to a cat rescue centre on my own and getting some laundry done. I like October, it feels like there's still enough time to get stuff done and the darkness hasn't been around for long enough to feel like it's never going away.

Yours, nearing my bedtime,