Long time, no blog.

Well hello there strangers! It has been almost 2 years since we last spoke. Let me fill you in on where I’m at since my last few blog posts.

I have finished my undergraduate degree in Education, Psychology and Counselling with a 2:1 which I am partly majorly disappointed in (as a 2:1 is not the best I could have got, and if it is not the best IT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH) but mostly ecstatic with, as (in no particular order):

  1. Whatever the grade, I have a degree – which after dropping out of 2 universities before starting at Sheffield Hallam is something I and my family never thought I’d achieve;
  2. The 2:1 has enabled me to receive an unconditional offer to study for a MA in Education, which I start this week;
  3. The logical part of my brain is aware that the grade I have received is actually the most insignificant part of finishing my degree, as I have loved the learning process and grown and developed as a person throughout studying in ways I could never have imagined, and;
  4. I know deep-down that I deserved that 2:1, which is a very respectable degree that I really am proud of. There are a million cogs in the learning wheel beyond your academic capabilities and I did my best with the hand I was dealt. Maybe my ‘best’ IS something that isn’t quite perfection. And maybe that’s ok.

As I mentioned, I enrol on to my Masters degree this week and I couldn’t be happier. People keep asking me what my plan is and to be honest, I still do not have one. No, I am not studying to be a teacher or for any other particular profession. I want to study a MA in Education because I adore learning and am intensely passionate about educational opportunity and social justice. If I could go on to do a PhD I probably would. I hope to study for as long as I possibly can and feel I will have to eventually be dragged out of university kicking and screaming at the age of 82.

I have been social media-free and vegan for over 2 years… and trust me – no one is more surprised at that than myself. Both are up there with the best decisions of my life and I can’t see myself ever again spending an evening scrolling aimlessly through Facebook while munching away on a big, greasy cheeseburger.

Do I miss social media? Not one bit. Once in a while I think about all the acquaintances and old friends that I have not been able to contact (or at least stay up-to-date with based on their online posts) and wonder how they are getting on. Are they happy in life? Are they doing what they said they wanted to do all those years ago? Do they ever think about me too? But that’s ok. My social circle has massively decreased in numbers but increased in quality. Those that really wanted to stay in contact with me have done so. My mental health and wellbeing has skyrocketed (which I do not put solely down to deleting social media, but I believe it has a big part to play). I don’t take 713 painful ‘selfies’ anymore before narrowing it down to one picture that I hate a little less than all the others and posting it online with a candid caption hoping for likes and comments and the subsequent pleasure that boosts my self-esteem for 0.1 seconds before it plummets back down lower than ever before. I haven’t wasted time worrying about how I come across to others, whether people like me, whether I am interesting or intelligent or funny enough compared to all these other individuals. I no longer suffer the stresses of playing the ‘game’ in the online ‘society’ that these sites have cleverly created to keep users active online.

Oh, it’s so-and-so’s birthday today. 46 people have posted on their Facebook wall so far. Should I post happy birthday? I haven’t spoken to them since school. But they DID say happy birthday on MY wall last time. So I suppose I have to post something, really, or how would it look? They would notice, wouldn’t they? So would everybody else. If I don’t post happy birthday on their wall they won’t post happy birthday on my wall next year. And then that is one less person posting happy birthday on my wall, and I have hardly any people posting happy birthday on my wall compared to so-and-so as it is. People will think I have no friends. We can’t have that. I’ll post happy birthday on so-and-so’s wall. It is the courteous thing to do, now that I have been notified of the date by Facebook. I can’t un-know this information and carry on life guilt-free with not posting happy birthday. Now…what exactly do I say in this post? Just a simple: ‘happy birthday so-and-so!’? No, that clearly isn’t enough effort. We used to sit together in the library for god’s sake. I need a few more hours to contemplate the best way to go about this.

Since no longer being able to blurt out my raw thoughts and feelings in a Facebook status and removing my social media ‘voice’, I have allowed myself time to think about what I want to say and how best to say it. Yes, some things ARE best left unsaid. Everything is so much more peaceful and simpler now that all I have to worry about it what is going on in the real world – meaningful things that actually, directly affect me. I can’t even fathom how I used to have the time to use social media and now spend my days having real conversations and doing productive things. Honestly, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders in more ways than those mentioned. I would encourage anyone who relates to my social media experience to try and give it a break, although I am aware most people are capable of using it in a positive and healthy way. Despite being genuinely happy with my life and who I am for the first time, I know I will always have those niggling feelings of not being good enough deep down inside because that’s what I was brought up to know. I have to be careful who and what I surround myself with – social media is unfortunately one of those things that triggers all that negativity for me.

Do I miss non-vegan food? Fuck yes, constantly. I am not disgusted by or outraged with the smell of meat cooking which I assumed would happen eventually. I crave dairy products almost every day. My decision to be vegan is a moral one (I think it is the ‘right’ thing to do ethically) and in a way it is still difficult to prioritise that over those unexplainable ‘wants’. However, veganism is simple in that it has now become part of my lifestyle and everyday routine. I know what I will and won’t eat and I know what I like and where to get it from. With the countless vegan options available nowadays I rarely feel like I am ‘missing out’ on anything and can stuff my face to my heart’s content as I always have done. And trust me, I do.

Sometimes I think about how easy it would be to just grab anything from a supermarket or shop and not have to consider the ingredients or processes involved – which is something I definitely used to take for granted. Being alert in this way to what goes on with my food, clothing, toiletries and so on has enabled me to develop a sort of ‘mindfulness’ across all aspects of my life. I exercise (somewhere between occasionally and as often as I can), I wake up early and spend time doing things I gain something positive from, I try to challenge or expand on my own views with books and YouTube videos and documentaries. I am often researching what I can do next to reduce my environmental footprint, help those in need or do whatever small thing I can for this earth that we are rapidly destroying. Because if you aren’t striving to be better or make things better, aren’t you simply using up resources and basically just… existing?

Anyway, this blog post has ended up a lot longer than intended. I had forgotten what it feels like to just sit in my pyjamas and spill my thoughts out onto a page (satisfying, rewarding, therapeutic). I do have some actual interesting blog ideas lined up but I thought it would be weird to just jump right in and post about something else when I have been M.I.A for the past 2 years. So yeah – this is me. Where are you guys at? Leave me a comment, or email me at: ciretta.paone@hotmail.co.uk. I would love to catch up with you all despite my non-social-media-ness.

Until next time.

3 months vegan & why I’m sorry

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I don’t want to start this blog post by saying “I have been vegan for 3 months”. I ate almost a whole bag of prawn crackers that came free with an (otherwise vegan) Chinese takeaway in a moment of madness during my October time-of-the-month. That is just one of a few slip-ups. Although I am researching and investing in cruelty-free products, I am still using the make-up I own from Benefit Cosmetics (who test on animals, click here to check whether your brands do too) and wearing old, woollen jumpers (although not ‘harmed’ in the shearing process, sheep are bred and enslaved to provide products for humans and then sent to the slaughter). There are some ridiculous ingredients like Acetylated Lanolin Ricinoleate, Desamidocollagen and many more that come from animals and mean nothing to me when I check the back of food packages (I’ve just googled them to make my point). Who knows how close I actually am to actually achieving veganism.

vegan definition

As I explained in a previous blog post, I chose the vegan lifestyle for health reasons first, the social and environmental implications of the meat & dairy industries second, and for the support of animal rights third. The more that I read and learn, the more these intertwine in my head in to one, impenetrable reason to continue with this change. If anyone would like me to write in more detail about these 3 reasons to go vegan, please let me know. I understand that the majority of people that choose these lifestyles are doing so to support animal rights beyond anything else, which I totally support and am starting to open up to more over time. Anyway, back to my point.

My god, it’s tiring. And do you know what makes the whole thing so much more difficult? People casting their judgement on you and your lifestyle and making you feel like you aren’t a ‘real’ [insert lifestyle choice here]. This is something that I am massively guilty of in the past. There was a girl I used to be friends with before I decided to ‘go vegan’ who called herself a vegetarian in that she chose not to eat meat or fish. She was extremely educated and passionate about her lifestyle and would get quite riled up when expressing her point if we were to ever talk about animal rights. However, she openly admitted to eating gelatine (found in lots of sweets and cakes) despite being aware that it is a protein obtained through the boiling of skin, tendons, ligaments or bones from cattle. She had no argument for this and expressed her admiration for the vegan lifestyle often, explaining that it would be “too difficult” for her to give up dairy products such as cheese and milk, regardless of what the farm animals were put through to produce it. In an unrelated argument that ended our friendship, I sent an awful text to this girl telling her that she was a hypocrite who couldn’t possibly stand for animal rights, and was simply trying to come across as compassionate in order to boost her ego.

label8I regret that text for so many reasons, but mainly because I have realised that a change in lifestyle is about intention rather than perfection. If a person wants to make a stand for animal rights based on their own values and beliefs, a change in diet for example is a step in the right direction for them. At least this girl was doing something, you know? And that is admirable, I realise this now. It is very difficult to give up meat in a western society where it is constantly promoted. So kudos to her, and all the other vegetarians that I have most likely offended in the past. You are all making positive change. It’s very similar to the pacifism or communism argument people have. “Well it’s a nice idea in theory, but it won’t actually happen and I can’t make a difference“. If we all have the attitude that our contribution to change, however small, won’t mean anything, then of course we won’t move forward as a society! Anyone that has made an active choice to change something about their lifestyle, be it choosing not to purchase products from Nestlé (click here to read why) or having a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones (click here to read why) is making a positive change. If you want to stand for what is right for you, do something, ANYTHING to take action! (This does not mean that I condone Hitler’s fascism and mass-murder, father. Honestly, the shit I get).

I suppose this blog post is a sort of tail-between-my-legs apology. The girl I mentioned isn’t the only person who I have attacked for their beliefs. I remember being steaming drunk one night recently and lecturing a random vegetarian guy I had met about 10 minutes before with something along the lines of: “I don’t get vegetarians. If you care about animals, why would you consume dairy products that are produced by putting animals through absolute torture? An animal being slaughtered and served in a supermarket isn’t the only way it can be exploited. You’re just as bad as a meat-eater…” blah blah blah, drink a-sloshing and digging a continuously deeper hole for myself. The poor guy was actually very nice about the whole thing; clearly he was in a place where he was comfortable in his choice.

label6My opinion has changed so drastically in the last few weeks and I think it’s important for me to share this in the hope that it will give people something to think about – especially those like me who have been quick to critique others who are contributing in any way towards making the world a better place. Could it have been denial? Jealousy? I don’t know. The girl I mentioned before is doing a great thing in her vegetarianism, but she, myself and all the others in whatever lifestyle they lead, have to stop judging and comparing others. To me, in that situation a few months ago, the vegetarian girl wasn’t doing ‘enough’. To an elderly vegan who hasn’t been near an animal product in food or otherwise since the womb, I might not be doing ‘enough’. 100% vegan is almost like the holy grail of lifestyle choices to me. It is so pure and so intense that it is very difficult to achieve, especially if you have been brought up in a family of meat and dairy eaters and are surrounded by ambiguous products containing these 6-syllable ingredients that make no sense.

vegan not real

Am I a vegan, or am I ‘transitioning’ to the vegan lifestyle? Is it right for me to call myself a vegan when I knowingly am still using my leftover non-vegan beauty products, or when I had that minor blip and ate the prawn crackers? Can anyone and does anyone ever avoid all animal products in a Western society? Definitely something to think about.

Any person who is doing whatever they can to move towards change should be applauded, and that is something I am working on. Any person who has the right intentions, be it veganism, another lifestyle choice or just generally, is a good person in my eyes. The key thing for me and my readers to take away from this is the focus on INTENTION, not perfection. There are no perfect people in the world and everyone has their own shit going on that we’ll never understand. As an all-or-nothing person, I went from cheeseburger-loving, milk-guzzling maniac to upholding quite a strict vegan diet. 6 months ago I would have bowed down to the holy entities that managed to have enough self-control to give up bacon butties on hangover day. I have made a huge step forward and I should feel proud of myself. I shouldn’t be made to feel embarrassed or struggle with whether to use the label ‘vegan’ or not in case I’m not good enough. And I shouldn’t be inflicting any of that on anyone else, either.

For me, veganism is the attempt to move away from as many animal-derived products as possible. I will take a medicine prescribed to me to help me survive whether it contains animal ingredients or not. I’m not going to walk around in wooden-soled shoes or never use a computer again (rubber and plastics potentially contain animal by-products) but in accepting that maybe it isn’t possible to be ‘100% vegan’ I’m not going to let that get me down. The less of a product we purchase, the less it will be produced – that is simple supply and demand. I truly believe that I and many others are making a difference towards the end of cruel and systematic factory-farming and disgusting animal testing practices in the purchasing of cruelty-free alternatives.

I don’t eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy products 99.9% of the time, and to my knowledge. One day I hope to be there 100%. I own items that include animal products or have used animal testing, but am replacing everything with cruelty-free substitutions at my own pace and with the limited budget I have. Sometimes I sit and have intense and almost sexual thoughts about eating a massive bowl of spaghetti carbonara. I consider myself to be a vegan and I feel a million times better than I ever have before. We should all support one another in the positive lifestyle choices we make, and I am sorry to anyone that I have made to feel like their journey is not important.label5

Why I am deleting Facebook

Everyone has at least once threatened to delete Facebook. I am guilty of this many a time; I’d probably add a few embarrassing screenshots of the status updates I’ve made in the past claiming I’ll be gone for good if I hadn’t deleted them upon my begrudging return to cover my tracks each time. I don’t have Instagram or Snapchat and my Twitter account was set up by a friend of mine as another platform for plugging my blog posts which I don’t even think I remember the password for and could never get my head around using. If I did eventually delete Facebook, that’d be it for me and social media. And my god, isn’t it hard to cut all ties like that in this modern networking world?

Social media is as close to literally as grammar will allow me the air we breathe. It’s the thing we turn to when we’re waiting for a bus, or are bored in a lecture, or simply just as something to do when we aren’t doing anything else. The mind-numbing scrolling of news-feeds becomes almost addictive and it’s now normal to see groups of people on a night out all stood in a circle on their phones in the middle of the dance floor, side-stepping or bobbing their heads to keep themselves from being completely sucked in to this alternate online universe. You can’t really have a conversation with someone without them checking their phone, which is linked up to and synced with every social media app under the sun. I don’t know if I’m using the correct terminology here as even being an avid Facebook user I’m still a bit behind with all the other shit people use right now, but you know what I mean.

So why am I deleting Facebook? There are so many reasons. There has to be for it to cross everyone’s mind at least once in their social media career. As I said before there’s been so many times when I’ve threatened this break-up and as predicted I’ve always come crawling back – the main reason for the last few years being the connection to a vast amount of people for sharing my blog posts, keeping up to date with who is getting married or having a baby or buying a house (yep, adulthood is certainly looming) and generally being a nosy bitch.

Which leads me on to my first reason for wanting to delete Facebook: it’s the most pointless waste-of-time that distracts me from doing things that are actually important or meaningful. For example: face-to-face human interaction. Updating my blog, as I love to write. Working on assignments that have looming deadlines. Doing absolutely anything productive in general and living actual life. The list is endless, and we all know it. I update my Facebook status constantly with my itchy wannabe-writer fingers and it generally just seems to annoy those that don’t try have a presence within the social media platform. Of course, it isn’t only negative feedback that I receive on my updates but I certainly have had a backlash on a number of occasions. I have realised that there is an unspoken ‘right way to be’ on social media and unfortunately I have never fit in to that.

And so the people are my next reason for wanting to delete Facebook. There are so many within my online community that use social media to make sure they’re up to date with what everyone else is doing and then going and having a big ol’ (private) discussion about it. It seems that the only way you will not get judged on Facebook is if you do not post on it. I like to call these individuals ‘Facebook Snakes’, slinking around in the undergrowth knowing everything about anything but never really coming to the surface and making themselves known for everyone else to see. When a juicy scoop comes in you can bet they’ll all be having a bitch about it at the next pre-drinks, but when they’re next online, back they slink. Clearly I am referring to personal experience here. Is this just a student thing? Anyway, I don’t want to be associated with all of that. I am a self-admitted ‘over-sharer’ and try to be open and honest about the things I think and feel.

As I’m sure is the case for all of us, I cannot deny that I haven’t spent many an hour doing what has been affectionately labelled as ‘Facebook-stalking’ people. Sometimes your self-esteem is so low that you can dedicate a whole day to lying in bed in your pyjamas, clicking through people’s pictures and sighing at how wonderful their lives and/or faces are. Facebook use inadvertently involves judging and being judged – although everything we post is ‘fake’ anyway. We post what we want people to know and allude to what we want people to think. Everything you see on Facebook, for those reasons, are like the filters people use on their pictures. We post what we want people to see about ourselves, and the rest is obsolete.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the fact that people don’t care about the things you care about; all too often it appears to be too much effort for people to support you by doing something as simple as ‘liking’ a project you’re involved in and passionate about. If this is what we are using Facebook for and not to encourage and help our friends, what is the point? This constant cycle of judgement is my last reason (mentioned in this post, there are so many more that I won’t go in to) for wanting to delete Facebook. Why would I purposefully associate myself with everything that brings me down? And can I please stress that they bring ME down. I am sure there are people who can use social media in a positive and healthy way.

Right now, I’m trying to back up all my pictures and people I don’t want to lose contact with – then I can finally shut my profile down. It’ll be interesting to see how long I stay off Facebook for this time. We as a culture rely on social media so much, but it’d be nice to actually hang out with people more often or speak over the phone and engage in real, interesting conversation that goes beyond how big someone’s lips are. It’ll be especially difficult for me seeing as I like to write down everything that crosses my mind but hopefully I’ll just be updating my blog more often.

Either way, this is for the best for me for now. If you would like to keep up to date with my blog, please subscribe to The Very Hungry Cirettapillar via email using the ‘follow’ button to the right of this post.

Storing nuts for the winter: sensible or senseless?

I could tell as soon as I walked through the door something was missing; that glimmer of recognition wasn’t there. She doesn’t understand who I am like she used to.

The world sees the British as depressed and pessimistic. We moan and complain and who can blame us with this weather? – but I’ve thought about it a lot today and in my opinion we’re quite optimistic in one way: future. Everyone seems to be planning for the future – I want this job and this car and this lifestyle and this many children and then that better car and a country house in Devon that I visit for long weekends away with my adoring family and then that even better car and my children will get all A’s in their exams and play violin and will never need a shop-bought cake for their birthday because in this fantasy world I can bake.

I see this as similar to a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. He scampers around for months on end with no immediate reward and sensibly stashing his findings for later. By the time the first snow falls he’s happy as Larry in Lapland with his little nut store going on. I suppose it’s like the novelty of having a mini-fridge in your room in how convenient the nut store is in the winter. Like, it’s right there. People with a mini-fridge in their room will know what I’m saying. So in the end all his efforts were worth it for another year. I’m using the squirrel as a metaphor for us, the people. The nuts can be anything from money to success to experiences and the store for the winter is our future. We’re all scampering around too in order to get where we ideally want to be later. Most people do a degree to qualify for a certain job. We work in trashy bars that close at 4am and pay cash-in-hand in order to gain experience for a better job afterwards. We don’t eat the glorious cheeseburger in order to maintain a ‘beach-bod’ for our holiday abroad. We don’t stay up past midnight because we have to get up early tomorrow. Everything we do has a positive or negative consequence and the choices we make are heavily influenced by those.

In the grand scheme of things isn’t this way of thinking extremely optimistic? I mean, we’re assuming we’re even going to be here tomorrow. Life is a precious thing that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. How often do we consider not getting to that point we all imagine – that place we call “settled down”? I have a friend who I think I’ve mentioned in a blog post before that hates his degree. He is constantly miserable and under pressure and wakes up each morning dreading lectures or assignments or exams on things he’s simply not interested in. Since the first year I’ve said “quit, do what makes you happy”. People tell me it’s not as simple as that but having left university twice myself much to the disdain of my family I can assure you it is. My friend’s response to quitting was that he needed to get a decent final mark in order to obtain a decent job in which he can make decent money to provide for the future. To “make a life” for himself.

I find it really interesting how we can allow ourselves to suffer for something we only have a chance of obtaining. People wake up dreading what’s to come that day for such a long time, whether it be their university course or job position not motivating or inspiring them, in hope to be rewarded for it later. I very much believe in living in the moment but find it difficult to do consistently just like everyone else. As I said before everything has a consequence and sometimes it’s more complicated than just overlooking that.

In the same way, the important people in our life are always included in our future plans. Obviously we understand that people don’t live forever, but until a letter from the doctors comes through the door or something, death isn’t really even an option.  And that’s not a BAD thing; we can’t live our lives in fear of the worst case scenario. We couldn’t get on with the day if “he might die” or “she might die” is running through our heads, (although if it did I bet we’d all be a lot nicer to each other). That squirrel wouldn’t collect his nuts for the winter if he was afraid to go out and get eaten by a fox. I didn’t visit her for a long time because the thought she could get poorly and leave us hadn’t crossed my mind. It’s not that I didn’t want to or couldn’t be bothered. There was no sense of urgency.

She was diagnosed with cancer today. And we think she has Parkinson’s.

To anyone that is reading this that has put off seeing a loved one, please try and find the time to catch up – even if it’s just a phone call. Tomorrow they might not be the same person anymore. Life IS precious and in the grand scheme of things so fleeting. If there are things you want to say or making up to do with family or friends do it today, do it now. Put aside any principle or pride and remember how easily and unfairly they can be taken from you. Is it really worth holding the grudge in the end?

I hugely regret not visiting her in the time her mind deteriorated. I will never come through the door and see her face filled with memories shared and love and understanding like before. I didn’t know, I hadn’t planned for this. Do you see what I’ve been saying? Homosapians have developed far beyond a bloody squirrel. Stop doing or not doing things now in assumption for the future. Don’t suffer now in order to be happy later. “Later” is just as vague as asking the length of a piece of string. We have beautiful minds and the capability to think and feel and remember and we should use them right now in a way that satisfies us before the same opportunities aren’t there anymore. This sad story of my Grandmother is just one example of dangerously leaving things to be better in the future. The world doesn’t always work like that. We’ve all got something we’ve been putting off doing. Now is as good a time as any and it takes something like I’ve experienced today to realise that. Don’t wait to understand it yourself, just trust me: do it now or regret it later.

Let’s talk about Ciretta

Here are 10 things that make me happy, just because:

1. Those Tesco Value knock-off custard creams that are like 40p for a pack. I also kind of hate these though because you don’t feel bad for eating the whole lot in one go seeing as you get them so cheap and then you feel really sick because all of the sugar and need to make yourself a slice of buttery toast. Then you get the urge for something sweet-tasting again and the cycle continuous that like of the sun rising and setting each day.

2. The colour green. It’s always been my favourite colour. I think when I was younger I just wanted to be different to all the girls wearing pink and thought I was über-cool and original to like green. Now it reminds me of nature and vegetables and the carpet in my old house.

3. Notebooks. My ex-boyfriend would wake in the dead of night to find me still tapping away on my laptop in the dark shopping for beautiful notebooks online. There are so many god damn varieties that I have a huge collection of unopened notebooks that I just like to look at and dream of what could be filling the pages one day. Notebook shopping is one of very few shopping experiences I can tolerate.

4. Friendly strangers. In some villages of Yorkshire when I’ve been doing the walk-of-shame home from a party at 7am there will be those early risers (usually old people) walking their dog or whatever in those hats that look like something a farmer would wear. We all know what I’ve been doing. I am clearly in yesterday’s dress. Every so often this is overlooked and I get a genuinely friendly stranger conversing with me, just because I’m there. “Hello dear. Bit nippy this morning isn’t it?” People are always so weird about talking to strangers, especially on public transport and that. To be honest I find it odd sitting on a bus surrounded by people staring into the distance in silence as if they’re the only people in existence. There are so many people in the world we completely ignore who might have a million things in common with you or really need your help if you gave them a chance.

5. Writing. I had the privilege of a ‘Social and Literary Studies’ graduate as a father who was my original inspiration for wanting to know about everyone/everything and then write as much as I could about it. When I was little I wrote loads of stories in between the tiny spaces of the lines in newspaper articles. I think that was because my parents spent a small fortune on printing paper for me to write on and it eventually had to be rationed.

6. Clothes with owls on it. Now, this is a HUGE issue for me. My family and I support Sheffield United FC, fondly known as ‘The Blades’, and the nickname of our rival team (Sheffield Wednesday) is ‘The Owls’. I have this real cute jumper with an owl pattern printed on it which I’m not allowed to wear in the house. I understand. I have to suffer for my disloyalty.

7. Reptiles. As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts I am not a massive fan of animals. Anything cute and fury usually just secretes their fluff all over my clothing as if they’re saying “don’t you dare forget about me you horrible excuse for a female”, or I convince myself there’s something in their eyes telling me they’re hatching a plot to take over the world. However, I do own two beautiful leopard geckos which I love more than any other living being. They remind me of dinosaurs and I love dinosaurs. Cats and dogs are so 2013 – REPTILES are the pet of the future. Also when I went to the zoo last year there was a humongous Komodo dragon that I felt some weird instant connection with. Everyone else ran off to laugh at the monkeys and I just pressed my head against the glass of his enclosure and stared at his beauty. Did you know that when Komodo dragons attack their prey, say a deer, they go for the feet first to knock them off balance? THAT’S SO CLEVER AND EFFICIENT.

8. Going out to eat. I sound like a middle-aged professional here but sometimes I genuinely do prefer getting dressed up and going out for a meal with friends than anything else. I love takeaways. I love home-made food. Sometimes it’s a nice change to sit and have everything done for you AND it not taste like heart disease. Devouring a meal with a glass of wine is also an excuse to people-watch. Sometimes I like to sit and make up stories about the people sat on tables around me. That couple on my left are on their 3rd date and they’re going to get laid tonight. You can tell because they ordered oysters.

9. The blissful naivety of children. I have a 4 year-old sister and a 2 year-old brother who are the apples of my eye. I’m not really a “kid” person but when they’re related to you and can’t pronounce your name properly you’re gonna be biased. I learn a lot about myself in just watching them play or during conversations with them. So many simple things fascinate them. They can be entertained for hours on end by the same tedious game. If I change the tone of my voice they can find something previously dull extremely interesting and it really makes me think about the simple pleasures of life we all overlook as adults. Scarlett and Jude are never bored. They can pick up a crayon and create a whole fantasy world in their head about King Crayon and his quest to find the people of his kingdom over Pencil Case Hill. It’s inspiring, really.

10. Elves. I’m not really sure where my obsession with elves came from. It could have been when I was dragged to the cinema to watch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers back in 2002 (which was the start of all my love for LOTR) or when I created my first ever Wood Elf character on the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in 2003 when we first got an Xbox. A rogue elf character with a bow and arrow and x1.5 sneak damage for a ranged critical hit? Nothing cooler.

I’ve decided to try and live life with a greater sense of self-sufficiency. That’s healthy, right?

My mum gave me all sorts of man-hating advice when I was a teenager. I laughed every one of her clichéd stories off and flicked my bleach-blonde bob in a way that said “that sort of stuff will never happen to me”. I mean, back then I was a deeply unhappy person and I was still pretty optimistic about my future love life. Boys seemed to like me because I was a totally awesome person. That, or the fact I wore teeny-tiny shorts. Anyway that is not important. The fact is that despite hating myself and the world around me as a teenager the one thing I always, undoubtedly and refreshingly had faith in was love.

Do you ever wonder if you’re someone’s favourite person? Like, do you know when you’re a kid and you play that “what if” game and it’s really intense and hilarious and your best friend at a sleepover goes to you “what if me and your mum were both hanging off a cliff and you could only save one of us?” and you squeal “I’d save YOU of course, my mum makes me go to bed at 8pm I mean how unreasonable” and it’s all happy days knowing you’ve got each other? A bond like that seems so hard to find when you grow up. The people you care about most always seem to have someone they’d pull up from the cliff-edge over you. That’s the harsh reality of being a grown up: no one cares enough to mean you don’t have to try so hard anymore.

Another example is when you leave school and get a job and weee how exciting. Something bad will have happened one day and you come into work all emotional and “accidentally” tipping things onto the floor because seeing as your life is so shit, why not destroy everything around you? The manager comes in while you’re sulking in a corner and gives you a written warning because Cheryl said that Monique said you’ve done nothing all day and it’s really putting a lot of pressure on her.

Wait a minute. Why doesn’t my manager care that I’m upset? Can’t he see that something has happened and now it’s affecting me in my work environment? Shouldn’t I be allowed a time out, or to sit in the office with a cup of tea to cry in to or the day off? Does he have no advice to give to me as his employee? I REALLY WISH I WAS BACK AT SCHOOL RIGHT NOW.

That first moment when the light bulb flashes and you realise people aren’t going to bend over backwards for you anymore is the time when everything starts getting really scary.

Being responsible for you is daunting. You spend your whole childhood and most of your teenage years (varying depending on how overprotective your parents are) wishing everyone would “leave you alone” and “stop treating you like a baby” and “let you make your own decisions”. You count the days down on your calendar with a big fat sharpie until you can finally move out of the family home and get on with your own life because your parents want you to have a horrible life rotting with them until they acquire Alzheimer’s and start shitting the bed.

Let me tell you something I have learnt:

  1. Your parents DO want what is best for you,
  2. Your parents HAVE given up their entire life and maybe even burden unfinished goals in order to look after and nurture you,
  3. Your parents most definitely do NOT want you spending your entire life with them. They want you to “leave the nest”, spread your wings and fly into the big wide world.  They want you to live. And while you’re doing that, they’ll be there for you. Worrying and nagging and probing and judging – but there.

Then there’s the whole school culture of being part of one big family (which I’m not going to dwell on because once you’ve been to school for 18 years you don’t want to talk about school anymore). People take for granted what a big step it is to be able to look back on those years and all the concern, support and praise that was showered on you for something very very average and uninteresting.

I was working in a lovely little pub whilst studying Psychology at university a short while back. Everything was getting a bit hectic towards the end-of-year exams so much so that work had become my divine sanctuary. One day I was so lit up by the thought of getting out of lectures and going to work to see all the regulars that I arrived for my shift early and proceeded to work my arse off. I was going to say “literally, WORKED MY ARSE RIGHT OFF” but I have a friend that tells me off for using “literally” incorrectly. You know what I mean though – I’d genuinely never worked so hard in my life. Not many people can say this kind of stuff about their job so I hope that somehow emphasises how much effort I was putting in. Anyway, it came to the end of the shift and I was clinking glasses with the last few straggler customers to celebrate a job well done when my manager came thundering down the stairs. He’d been harassed by Head Office all evening for something-or-other and hadn’t been able to witness my Godly Workings.

“Have you finished closing down the bar yet?”

“Not yet, I was just –“

“Well what are you doing STANDING AROUND and DRINKING when there’s STILL STUFF TO DO?”

This is what went through my mind at the time: Oh my actual god, you have NO IDEA how hard I have been working today while you’ve been up there oblivious to my struggling probably doing things that don’t matter because I am clearly the only person that cares about this place and puts any sort of measurable effort into its upkeep I do so much work and get no gratification for it I genuinely deserve a worker-of-the-week award and if that doesn’t happen here IT SHOULD BECAUSE I DESERVE ONE”.

I went bright red, blinked back tears at the injustice of my life and got to work.

Thinking back on that day whilst writing this it is so outrageously obvious to me that a) there was no way my manager could have known how hard I had been working, b) of course he was actually doing something worthwhile and more than likely worked just as hard as I did dealing with much higher-up matters of the business and c) why the fuck should he care? I expected to get rewarded for basically doing my job to a decent standard. In an ideal world yes, workers would get rewarded for doing well because I’m a firm believer in positive reinforcement, but this is in an IDEAL WORLD. In an ideal world there would also be an end to world hunger and war and everything would be free and my thighs would never look huge but regrettably that’s not how it is.

This brings me back to my original point: no one cares right now. Everything is so difficult and life is so hard for you that you forget about the starving African babies riddled with AIDS and you tell yourself that it’s “so unfair” that you’re you. Woe is me, and all that. However, there is one thing that makes this feeling go away in my experience. And that is love.

Ah, love. “An intense feeling of deep affection” or “feeling a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone” are the two Google definitions I just read. To me the most valuable part of love is that feeling that there’s always someone there. I’m not saying that love = stability because otherwise I’d have been in love with my GCSE maths teacher and mayn, he old. He was a legend though; I don’t actually know if I’d have achieved an A in maths without him. He also promised me that he’d bring in a “Choc Ice” if I passed my exam, which he never did but I didn’t mind. Anyway, tangent. What I am saying is that for me personally, being in love settles the constant feeling of “where do I belong?” in my life. I have a habit of questioning everyone and everything (and not in an insightful or intelligent way). Being in love means the weight is shared between two pairs of shoulders instead of one. Your parents and teachers are obliged to support you because that is their job (obviously this is not the only reason they support you, I’m sure they also have a heart); your partner commits to you and all of your baggage because they want to be there for you. How wonderful.

I’ve recently been through a break up and I’m really down about it. If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly this spitting, profanity-ridden pessimist compared to my usual blog post tone and subject of “being happy” and “finding happiness” and “why I’m happy” then that’s your answer. And so here’s what I have learnt after all of this: try not to put all your hope on anyone. In my last blog entry I came up with a term called “forever-thinking” in which you subconsciously consider something always there if it’s going right for you in your life. People you fall in love with are the worst specimens of “forever-thinking” because 9 times out of 10, it won’t last. I’m too depressed about the whole thing to research some actual statistics on break-ups but we all know it happens far too often. Don’t fall into a false sense of security with someone and share your burdens with them because your shoulders get used to a reasonable weight and then BAM – double whammy all for you.

Despite being a festering ball of anger right now I have not completely lost my mind; I am not telling you guys that I think relationships are shit and not worthwhile and that YOUR BOYFRIEND IS GOING TO LEAVE YOU AND THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING. The point of this post is to remind people that it is so difficult to lose someone supportive in your life, just like moving on from school and the family home. It gets to a point where you can’t expect anyone to put you first. “How could you do this to me?!” is something I have repeatedly screamed at ex-boyfriends (usually accompanied with something flying across the room and snot all over my face) as if they have some sort of duty to keep me safe forever since they took me on in the first place. Yes, “took me on”. Because that’s all you are once you become an adult: extra work. You aren’t worth anyone’s while unless you’re contributing to a work force or giving out frequent blow jo- I mean, making someone happy.

I’ve decided to try and live life with a greater sense of self-sufficiency. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that in order for you to offload all your issues onto someone you have to take a load of it in return. In the end that’s effectively double the problems you had when you halved yours with your partner and it’s always worse when you feel like there’s realistically nothing you can do to help them. 99% of your worries or problems can only be solved by you no matter what you convince yourself.

If you’ve got an itch on your back and your partner scratches it for you, yes – you no longer have an itch. But what about the next time you’ve got an itch on your back and there’s no one there to help you? You have to find a ruler or something and get it scratched yourself. That’s probably a bad example but my back is genuinely itchy right now and I’m just rubbing up on the sofa like some kind of sex-deprived maniac in order to scratch it without moving from my seat. Although that would be very embarrassing for anyone to witness I feel so proud of myself for dealing with it on my own. And do you know what? It would have been so much less distressing to cope with the second time if I’d done it on my own the first time.

It’s a good feeling to overcome something on your own (especially when it’s on a bigger scale than a back itch) because once someone does it for you, you tend to rely on them to be there whenever the going gets tough. I know that there’s people that love and care about me in this world, but we’re all our own No. #1s in the end.

It’s probably healthy to remember that.

A big thank you to Sam who proof-read the whole thing for me at 3am in case I was too angry for anything I write to make sense.

“Forever-thinking”

It is human nature to commit or grow used to something and then forever picture it in your future. If something is working so well for you why would you ever consider life without it? As we grow this way of thinking becomes less intense (because, in my opinion, we’ve experienced these things being taken away from us) but nevertheless is still there. A few years ago I got a matching tattoo of lyrics from a song by my favourite band with my best friend. Luckily The Maccabees are still my favourite band, but I don’t speak to the girl anymore. Every long-term relationship I have been in has included that little daydream of what our kids would look like despite not actually wanting kids any time soon.. if ever. However far up or down the spectrum of forever-thinking you are, we are all guilty of it at some point in our lives.

Even though I’m drifting aimlessly through life at the moment and no one thing or person has any promised stability for me, I’m happy. Ridiculously happy. “One door closes so another one opens” is such a cliché idea but one that I know I am a living example of. One day I’m going to settle down with a career, two-up two-down house, family of my own that loves me for me and maybe an aquarium. Right now is the time for living each day as it comes while I have no responsibilities or ties to anyone or anything. Anything I do to fuck up is something I have to recover from and doesn’t affect anyone else in the long-term. So why not take a risk on a big blow out and risk fucking up every now and again? I’m strong enough to recover and in the end it’s all worth it. I’ve always pined for stability – now I accept that there are positives to having no promises to anyone.