Where to now?

tumblr_o88qieCEHL1unca3mo1_500

It feels like the decisions we make in life all of a sudden seem incredibly momentous; before you can say Jack Robinson they seem to hold great value and significance. One day, it’s deciding which picture you want to colour in, the next it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life. Blink and you’re there. I’m here to explain that you don’t have to have your life planned out, though it may seem that way. Let me tell you why…

It all begins with our education. It seems like you’re always having to decide what you want to do next, how that’s going to impact your future. I know what a testing experience this is. It leads to so much questioning. For me, it began with selecting my options for GCSEs. After exploring all of the different subjects at Secondary school, I knew which subjects were the ones I enjoyed and wanted to continue with. My passion was Drama. This transpired when it quickly came to choosing my A levels. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to continue to 6th form, but I followed the motions and carried on at school. That was when everyone started to talk about what happens after school, as if it’s supposed to be mapped out for us. My school pushed UCAS applications so we were all naturally applying for university. I had no idea how to go about this process. I didn’t know what I was looking for in terms of different universities and courses, I didn’t even know if I wanted to go. I applied anyway. I applied to do Psychology because I was good at it.

With that application sent off and my offers received, I started to look at what my other options might be. I began thinking of all of the careers I’d thought about pursuing. I had experience working in a salon which I enjoyed! But I’d also considered so many other options. I’ve wanted to be a midwife, a beauty therapist, an air hostess, a teacher, a counsellor, a Drama therapist, a performer, a writer… as you can see, I had no idea which direction I wanted to go in. I attended an interview for a course in beauty therapy but soon felt that I was capable of doing more; I wanted something more challenging. Whilst I loved the idea of being a beautician, I felt like my brain could lead me to some other possibilities. I was back at square one. So, I declined my offers to study Psychology at university and decided I’d go on a gap year to figure things out.

Now, going on a gap year, I needed a job. However, my job at the time wasn’t quite what I wanted to carry on doing. I was 18 and working in retail and basically discovered that working in retail wasn’t for me! So I got a job as a maths and English tutor and quickly left the world of retail. I planned on working there as much as possible for the year.

Then came A level results. I did better than I thought so, shock, began to weigh up my options again. I missed Drama and remembered feeling gutted at the thought of never being able to do that job again. I’d also been enjoying my new job as a tutor. A few phone calls later I’m off to uni to do Drama studies and Education studies. Fab, sorted for the next 3 years. I was working and studying and didn’t have anymore decisions to make for a while.

By the end of my undergrad, I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a Drama teacher. Off we go again, going through the motions and I began my teacher training year. I quickly learnt that I loved being in the classroom and teaching Drama. What I didn’t love was that teaching is not just ‘teaching’. Teaching is focused on paperwork, targets, planning, marking, reports, creating resources, not having evenings and weekends with a clear mind for the awareness that there is always something to be doing. So, in January, I applied for a new job. A job that wasn’t teaching. I finished the course but became certain that I wasn’t ready for a career as a teacher. My subject has no respect within the current education system and job security would be slim. At the age of 21, I couldn’t picture myself enjoying my 20s knowing the workload I would be taking on. There would be no work-life balance. I went to my friend’s house and had dinner and basically tried to figure out what on earth I wanted to do with my life! We wrote down ideas and frantically searched the internet exploring all sorts of fields from play therapist to events manager!

I’m now an Assistant Director for a successful tuition company and will be launching one of the new centres. I’ve ended up with a career in management and education! When my lecturers found out I wasn’t going straight into teaching, I had some explaining to do. I had to be so sure of myself that I wasn’t going to follow the motions this time. I was actively going to find something which I knew I would both enjoy and benefit from.

I think the key point that I’m making here, is that it’s completely fine to not know what you want to do with your life. We’re taught that we must have an idea by the age of 15. We aren’t taught that our career plans can change, that’s if we even have one! I have spent a lot of years of my life being unsure of what I wanted to do, what career I wanted to be in, how I wanted to spend my time and I think what would have helped is that reassurance that you can change your mind. That it’s ok to be unsure of your destination. It’s healthy to explore other options if that’s what’s making you happy. So many people are in the same situation, figuring it all out! There’s no timer, there’s no limit. Explore as much as you can. Be brave enough to stray away from just going through the motions. Be strong enough to pursue what’s going to make you happy,  instead of feeling stuck in a position you don’t want to be in. Let your future come to you. Discover what works and what doesn’t. Allow yourself to have an open mind towards new and different opportunities; you might reach a place you never would have imagined.

Just because you devised a plan in Year 11, it doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. Let it evolve with you. Be patient. Try not to panic, you’ve all the time in the world to figure it out! You do you, break your own boundaries, try something new and sieze the opportunities that shine your way and soon your success will radiate around you!

22 by 22.

tumblr_static_2vbkjiny6qass4s8gsgo0kkk0_640_v2

In the 22 years I’ve been roaming this planet, fumbling my way around, I’ve learnt the odd thing or two about life. The following pieces of advice are not prescriptive, but are recommended up to 4 times a day with 250mls of water. I’m messing, let’s just crack on.

Here are 22 things I’ve learnt by the age of 22:

  1. Feel your boobs and/or balls. It’s something that takes such little effort. Before you jump in the shower, when you’re getting changed, when you’ve got a spare couple of minutes to yourself, check yourself to ensure their are no lumps, bumps or abnormalities. Get to know what’s normal for you and keep an eye out for any changes! Visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/testicular-cancer/getting-diagnosed/finding-early for info on checking your testicles and visit https://coppafeel.org/boob-check/ to find out about boob/peck checks.

2. You will experience rejection. I don’t mean this to sound as harsh as it does… but it will happen. The reason being that it is simply something we must all go through. I’ve been rejected by boys, by companies; I’ve had my ideas rejected. What we don’t see at the time is that they are such an essential part of development. They direct us towards better things (and nicer boys). Take it on the chin and keep moving forward. Life wasn’t designed to be smooth and painless. You have to realise that what you thought was best for, perhaps isn’t and that maybe, you’ll be just better off entering the next door that opens.

3. It’s ok to be doing something different to ‘everyone else’. It may seem sometimes like everyone is following a pattern of job, marriage, babies. Or uni, more uni, travelling. Or full time work, moving out, back to work. Do you see what I’m getting at here? Whilst it may seem like ‘everyone is travelling/having babies/getting engaged/moving out’ etc, a lot of us are actually doing completely different things. I have friends still at uni, friends who have worked since the age of 16, friends from uni and part-time work, friends who are having babies, planning weddings, going out every weekend, travelling, buying houses… and it’s all fine and it’s all great! Do not feel obliged to be doing anything that doesn’t present itself to you in the right way at the right time. There is no time limit, there is no schedule, there is no rush. You do you and enjoy every second of it.

4. Always carry £20 in cash. Literally. You will thank me for this. You will always need change for something. Whether it’s a car park, for a charity, to lend someone, for food. Having a bit of cash on you will make your life so much easier.

5. There is nothing that coconut oil cannot fix. Nothing. I’m telling you now. Eat it. Put it in your hair overnight. Use it as a cleanser. Cover your body in it. Trust me. It’s a wonderful invention. I’ll let you try it for yourself…

6. You probably do like reading. As an avid reader and writer, I have started to notice how reading and writing are embedded within the lives of others. I couldn’t tell you how many people tell me they ‘hate reading’. Now, come on now… you and I both know that you don’t hate it because you rarely engage in it to be able to make that conclusion. Chances are, you haven’t found the right book yet. There are so many genres now and varieties of books that all it takes is a little bit of searching around. I recommend the app ‘Goodreads’. It recommends books for you based on your interests and previous things that you have read. Let your brain develop the story through your own imagination rather than relying on movies to tell the story for you. Don’t block reading out of your life just because you didn’t particularly enjoy reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ for GCSE English…

7. Stop checking up on social media. I don’t mean forever, don’t be silly. However, the world won’t stop if you don’t know what’s happening on Twitter or Instagram for a couple of hours. Don’t live your life through a screen and remember that the majority of people only choose to post about the most positive aspects of their life. It never shows the full picture. Enjoy spending time with people without scrolling through your phone, engage in conversations over dinner, have a catch up that doesn’t involve constant refreshes of your news feed. Find a good balance between real life and your online life.

8. Take pictures. Loads of them. And print them off. Having memoirs and keepsakes are so important and they’re the best way to reflect on some of your most treasured experiences. Technology has advanced in such a way that almost all of us will have a good quality camera in our pockets at all times. Make use of the space on your phone. Capture moments. These are yours. They help to tell your story. They remind you of the times you have shared with the people in your life. Always take lots and lots of pictures.

9. Look after your hands. You use them every day to point to things, hold things, write with, to shake other people’s. Look after them, keep your nails nice and clean, keep your hands soft, wash them (goes without saying but you never know with some people…) and trust me, it leaves a good impression.

10. Anticipate other people’s actions. I have to do this a lot when I’m driving and basically just assume people are going to do the stupid thing I don’t want them to do and be prepared for that. In other words, forward thinking. Be prepared for things suddenly changing – but don’t necessarily expect it. Understand that things can take a very quick turn but know that you have the capabilities to deal with it.

11. Drink lots of water. I’m a nightmare for not drinking enough water and yet it is so, so important. It helps with your mood, keeping your skin and your eyes healthy, it helps with weight loss, digestion… the list goes on. We are made up of around 70% water… you wanna be keeping it that way! There are even apps now that help you through reminders and logging systems to ensure you’re drinking a healthy amount. Your body, mind and skin will thank you! Visit Health and Wellness coach, Abby Phon’s post for an in-depth exploration of the benefits of staying hydrated! https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4287/10-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Drink-More-Water.html  

12. Eat the cake. Seriously, that one bar of chocolate or one slice of cake is not going to throw you off your nutritional intake and cause your body to meltdown. We are humans that thrive from being able to indulge and appreciate nice things. Cake and chocolate are just two examples of those nice things. Think about it, have you ever looked back and thought ‘I’m so glad I didn’t have that Twix in April 2011′. I’d assume not. Go for it, treat yo’ self. You deserve it.

13. Opinions are not universal. The beauty of an opinion is that it is an idea or viewpoint generated from a specific individual, with specific values and interpretations. Now, as you’d imagine, there are a lot of these ‘specific individuals’, thus, in turn, we are not, I repeat… not going to share the same opinions and values as one another and I think that’s pretty damn great. Differences in opinions invite you to develop an open mind, they initiate conversations, they relate back to the person holding it. Just because somebody doesn’t agree with what you think, it doesn’t mean you should stop thinking it. Stay sure of yourself.

14. Learn from children. I’ve been working with kids, age 4 – 18 over the past 4 years and my God, they’re the best people in the world and we could learn a lot from them. Their innocence and naivety primarily puts things into perspective for us as adults. I know that if there is something on my mind and I’m going into work, it soon won’t even be a passing thought because I’ll be deciding what colours we’re using to finish the picture we started together, or I’ll be listening to how their day went. Kids have a knack for being able to cheer you up without realising and demonstrate perfectly that life is there to be enjoyed. Don’t take it too seriously.

15. Smile. I discussed this recently on my personal Facebook page. Smiling is such a small gesture to make yet so many people struggle with it. If I’m out marketing and I smile, people look away, tell me they’re not interested or keep their very serious straight face and I’m thinking… ‘…I literally just smiled with no intention of doing anything but that but ok huns’. It honestly makes my day when someone smiles back. Don’t float through life having the entire world thinking you have a permanent resting bitch face, because everyone is capable of just a little smirk! It goes a long way and you’ll come off as being very warm. Smiling is super important.

16. £100 is actually not that much money. When I was younger, we used to have ‘the Weakest Link’ on at home and they often would get more than a couple of hundred quid at the end of the programme. Back then I remember thinking your possibilities with that amount of money are endless. In reality, it’ll just about cover a phone bill, netflix subscription and a light food shop. Appreciate every penny you have and find a balance between spending wisely and spending wildly.

17. Take care of yourself. You are number 1. You are your biggest fan. You are responsible for keeping yourself going and functioning and in one piece. Look after yourself. Be kind to yourself. Pamper yourself. Love yourself. Then thank yourself for being so kind.

18. Loss is inevitable. You may relate to this in any sense of the word but I shall not dwell on it longer than necessary; it’s faily self-explanatory. The first time you lose something, usually something along the lines of a teddy or a special pencil or a biscuit, you feel devastated. Unfortunately, we never truly adapt to accepting that feeling; we just begin to apply it to different situations – the loss of a job, a family member, a friend. Whether it’s something small or something huge, make sure you heal in the healthiest way possible. Create a strong support network and explore your available options for dealing with loss. We are always taught to deal with it, not eliminate it. It has to run its course, but so do you. Life has a way around these things. Trust me.

19. Your first hangover will be the easiest one of your life. Yep, they get worse. They get harder. Treasure the easy ones, take advantage of them; because before you know it, it’s taking you 3 days to recover from 1 night, just because you couldn’t turn down the Weatherspoons pitcher and impending jager-train. Take a pint of water to bed. Drink as much as you can. Eat before you go to sleep that night (post-night-out nuggets are an essential). And don’t make any plans for the rest of the weekend.

20. Just be nice. It sounds so basic. Hey, that’s because it is! I am such an advocate for women being friendly to other women. Paying a stranger a compliment. Bigging someone up. There is already too much hate in the world to be adding to it with our pointless bullshit that we don’t even mean. Be nice and people will respond accordingly (I say this because some people just don’t like friendly people, which makes me sad).

21. Your first love probably wasn’t your first love. You might think at the time that you will never meet someone as amazing as this one and that there definitely aren’t other people in the world for you to fall in love with because it has to work with this one… your first love. I’m sorry honey, chances are you’ll look back and laugh at yourself as I have done many-a-time. Although, I have to admit, some people’s first love grow to be successful and full of adoration. But I mean, for most of us, we have to clear out the wastes of time first. It’s all about refining and it is not a bad thing!

And finally…

22. There will never be a time you don’t learn a new lesson. You are taught things every single day. Today, for example, I learnt that your stomach is actually a lot higher up in your body than I thought it was. But until you reach your final few moments, between now and then, your life is a series of complicated, frustrating, exciting lessons that you will gather and cherish and use to solidify your wisdom! These have been just 22 of the things I have learnt (23 if we’re counting the stomach thing) and no doubt, if I did this in a year’s time there’d be 22 (or 23) more. Be open to opportunities. Accept your mistakes. Accept that sometimes you might fail. Look after yourself. And go buy yourself a large pot of coconut oil!!!

I’m going to be honest with you…

bbbde380670d61afbe5a9cfc757ec8fd--tumblr-girls-tumblr-art-girl

For those interested, this one is a post revealing myself in an incredibly vulnerable light. I feel that sharing what has shaped and influenced us is one of the most effective ways to enable people to feel they can relate to what somebody is going through. Social media tends to mostly show the highlights of people’s lives, all the good stuff, which is fine but not realistic. People easily become hung up on the idea that their newsfeed is full of peoples’ ‘perfect’ lives. We are shown the surface and rarely what happens underneath. I want to talk about some of the things I’ve been through, involving mental health, relationships and emotions. I’m touching on some quite personal topics too, so if you’re nosy, you’re in the right place! So… without further ado…

It was around the age of 14, that things started to feel hard. I was researching a lot of dangerous things and posting some dark content on my Tumblr page. I created a ‘thinspiration’. This was a series of booklets that I put together that would mean I wouldn’t gain weight. I had punishments written down, a list of 0 calorie foods, exercises and even a piece of writing I’d found which told me why I shouldn’t eat. It would insult its reader, create self-loathing, it was aggressive and I listened to every word it said. My figure has always been something which I am conscious of (although I am slowly learning to love some parts of it) and it was something I felt a deep desire to have intense control over.

I’ve always been a worrier. My Nanna would’ve been able to tell you that from the first time I experienced getting cramp and thought I’d never have feeling in my foot again. Alongside worrying, I’ve always been the type to ‘care too much’, if there’s such a thing. I hated the idea of letting people down or making people feel sad and I’d be very hard on myself. 2011 was the year when I first self-harmed (for those of you who have noticed the butterfly on my wrist, it’s a symbol of recovery and was my first tattoo). This is something that never really leaves you; you just gradually learn how to control your urges and think more rationally. I have a document that I wrote up over the course of 3 years that I would add to every now and then. Nobody has ever read it, except me. It reveals exactly what was going through my head during that time, with themes including paranoia, worthlessness, self-harm and a lot of explicit language. When I was in 6th form, I started to see a counsellor, which was fucking terrifying… but it helped. Temporarily.

The state of my mental health has come in ebbs and flows over the years. In 2015, I went to see a doctor and was given medication but that was about it. No explanation of any other options or what the medication would do. I refused to take it. I hated the idea of not being in control of how I feel. Fast forward a couple of years and alarm bells start ringing. This year, I have a lot going for me and I realised my mental health was deteriorating further, to a point I felt I couldn’t go on living every single day with such a struggle. I currently suffer with depression, anxiety and intrusive thoughts. In May, I visited my doctor (a much nicer lady!) and I was given Sertraline 20mg. I was on this for 6 weeks. It didn’t suit me at all. It’s important to tell you that people react differently to medications so what didn’t work for me, may have worked for others! But my experience on them wasn’t a positive one. I felt worse, irritable, suicidal, I had a constant dry mouth, I wasn’t going to the loo properly,  I lost my appetite, I felt sick. Bottom line is, they just weren’t for me! So, off I went, back to the doctor. I’m now on Citalopram 20mg. I’m feeling ok. I’m laughing more. I’m more rational. It’s still early days though and this is definitely just the start. I still have bad days, bad weeks, bad nights. I still battle with my head more often than you may think. But less than I did. I’m in the process of organising counselling sessions, which I’m actually looking forward to. It makes a huge different being able to sit and have someone tell you that what’s going on is completely fine.

I think a key factor which has influenced my mental health is the types of relationships with people that I have had. Being completely honest, when I like somebody, I really like them and I find it difficult to stray away from that. I’ve liked a fair few guys in my time (I even went through a phase questioning whether it was just guys I liked or if I liked girls too). I’ve liked people I’ve worked with, people I’ve been to school with, people I’ve met abroad, people I’ve met online. I’ve also wasted a lot of time. I’ve had my heart broken by the same people over and over again. I’ve waited for people that never had any intention of being with me. I’ve been completely cut off. I’ve been left for other people. I’ve been selfish. I’ve had a relationship with a guy who wasn’t very nice to me at all, verbally, emotionally and physically. I’ve been through phases of not wanting to be with anyone at all (which actually, was a very important phase to go through). And now, I’m in a very loving, understanding relationship with the guy I fancied at school when I was 15 years old. My point is that each heartbreak, each abandonment, each time I’ve been fucked over and each time I’ve fucked up too, all of these experiences have shaped me as a person. I know what I’m worth and what I deserve and don’t settle for anything less. It’s allowed me to realise exactly what it means to be loved and how that is shown. It’s allowed me to be patient and to expect the unexpected. You never know how your deal of cards are going to play out, but that’s what life is. That’s why we do the things we do. It all leads you to your final destination, to where you are meant to be.

And then there’s my incredible friends, new and old. God, if I can teach you anything from this post, it’s to please appreciate your friends. Don’t ever leave them on the sidelines because they are some of the most important people in the world, for such a variety of reasons. I’d be nowhere without mine.

This year has been a crazy one so far. With my final diagnosis, a new relationship, a new job, finishing the most challenging course and developing relationships with new friends, it’s been constant, exciting and exhausting. It’s been a test. I’ve opened up a lot. I’ve shared things that go on in my head, but nowhere near all of it! I’m hoping that people can understand there’s more to a person than first meets the eye. I want to remind you that everyone has a history, whether they want to share that with you or not. That history, however, is not that whole person. They are a collective of all of their experiences. Acceptance is something that we all need to strive towards. Celebrate people’s differences, acknowledge what people have been through and view each other holistically.

Be kind always. Love with all of your heart. Be true to who you are. Accept that your history is just that and it’s yours. Never apologise for the person you have become because you’re pretty damn incredible. I promise. X

The Reality of Arts Disparagement.

Image result for the arts

As a 21 (22 in 16 days, oi oi) year old girl who has been involved in the Arts her entire life, I have faced my fair share of battles with individuals who do not understand the Arts. I say they do not understand it because they display a sense of disrespect and ignorance. They are quick to criticize what they don’t understand. So, I’m here to explain why the Arts are so important. Hold tight, amigos…

People are quick to judge what they do not understand: Story-time. Quite recently, I attended a day at university which involves all trainee teaches on the course. We were discussing an issue and created an example of a student opting for GCSE Drama. Within seconds, another individual sniggered, making a joke out of the mere thought of a student choosing a performative option. How insecure do you have to be to make remarks against another person’s choices and abilities? I have to emphasise, this person knew nothing about us. It appeared his exposure to the arts was little and he was not able to comprehend why somebody would make the conscious decision to follow a creative pathway. I hope this blog reaches you someday so that you can become educated to the benefits that my subject offers and you can realise the significance of the Arts in a child’s education.

The Arts in the UK Education System: As I’m coming to the end of my Teacher Training course, following a degree in Drama Studies and Education Studies, I’ve done my fair share of research into how the Arts sit within Education and I can tell you now… it’s not comfortably. I have witnessed classes being cut, allocated time for subjects becoming fewer and opportunities for the study of a creative subject becoming incredibly slim. Now, ask yourself, who is at the heart of schooling? Who becomes the most affected by these decisions? Yep. Students. Kids. Individuals who have dreams. Children who flourish in the Arts for different reasons. The boy who is naughty in your maths class? He probably looks forward to having Drama once a fortnight because he has an outlet to be a great performer. The girl who is being pushed towards an academic future has aspirations of being a musical performer. The girl whose attendance isn’t great, she may not be the brightest, is incredible at drawing and has sketch books and portfolios that mean the world to her. Those who aren’t the ‘brightest’ academically? I’ve known them to be the strongest, most talented performers – to a standard others could only dream of.

What I’m getting at here is that not every student is destined to follow an EBacc influenced pathway. For any of you unsure, the EBacc is a GCSE performance measure which consists of the study of English, Maths, Science, History or Geography and a Language. Now, I’m not dismissing the fact that these are incredibly important, because they are. I’m arguing that the Arts are equally as important. Students who aren’t confident in these subjects are likely to rely upon a creative subject. We are all so different. We all have so many different strengths, talents and weaknesses. The beauty of mankind is that we are capable of fulfilling such a variety of roles. Yet some children are having that torn away from them. Former education secretary, Nicky Morgan, commented that the arts are not useful, that it limits children for their futures. Tell me, Ms Morgan, how often have you attended the theatre or a cinema? How many pieces of art have you come across in your life? How often do you listen to music? The Arts are not what is limiting children. What’s limiting them, is the gradual removal of subjects that can be offered to them.

‘It’s not a real subject’: Isn’t it? Enlighten me. How would you define what a ‘real subject’ is? Is it something that ticks boxes for you? Is it the link with your political standpoint? Is it linked to success rates? Because for me, every subject is a ‘real subject’. Each subject will be a strength for someone. There are people who love history, maths, English, Science, Geography, French, Technology, PE… and the Arts. There are so many successful people inhabiting this planet from so many backgrounds. A real subject is something that benefits any one individual in any which way.

‘You will be required to do a presentation/role-play/speech’… ‘oh-no’…: Every single interview I’ve ever been to has required me to engage in some form of presentation or role-play scenario. I’ve needed to demonstrate that I have confidence to do so. The Arts, Drama in particular, teach students vital life skills. It teaches them how to get up in front of people and absolutely smash a performance or a presentation. It teaches them to work in different groups, learning how to work with people they might not initially have chosen. It teaches them confidence. It teaches them skills which you will all use every single day. So don’t tell me Drama is pointless when it’s the main reason behind my personal successes. I have a First Class Degree. I’m days away from being a qualified Secondary teacher. I have been accepted for a management position within an education company. For someone who’s always followed ‘pointless subject’… I’m doing pretty damn well.

T.V. Movies. Theatre. Music. Fashion. Art. I can guarantee, if you’re reading this, you will have an interest in one of those areas. Chances are you have a Netflix account or a Spotify account, or Apple music or something with a designer label on it. None of those things would be available to you if the opportunities weren’t there for the creators. Think about what an influence these areas have on modern life before you make your criticisms.

Economy: According to the Independent (2016), ‘creative industries generate £84 billion a year for the UK economy, almost £10 million an hour. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work this out… If we reduce opportunities and overlook the importance of the Arts, this figure is going to drop. The economy will be affected. You will be affected. Dreams will be affected. Futures will be affected. Companies will be affected. Generations will be affected. Creative industries are such a key driving force and there is so much potential out there that can’t be brought to light due to the struggle of having no chance to showcase it. I once knew of a student who opted to take GCSE music. The course was not continued. She then opted for GCSE Drama. She was refused. Her final destination for her option choices has resulted in Geography and Travel and Tourism. These are not her passions. This may be one more individual who has given up and lost hope in having an Arts-based future and is settling for something of zero interest to her. Would you be ok with that? I think not.

So then, I’ll wrap it up. What I’m trying to get across is that the Arts are receiving so much stick. They are disregarded as unimportant and not beneficial. Drama is not a discrete subject on the National Curriculum. If it wasn’t for the opportunity to study Drama, I’ll be honest – I probably wouldn’t have finished school and yet now, subjects are being cut left, right and centre. We are expected to continue with school plays, concerts, showcases, galleries, whilst at the same time, they continue to reduce our opportunities. But you know what? Those of us involved in the creative industries are so damn passionate. We do not go down without a fight. We see potential where others see a waste of time. We believe that every person has a right to follow the path that is suitable for them. Whether that is within Drama or music, maths or history. Please realise the importance and significance of the Arts and creative industries. Recognition is at the heart of this. We all deserve a chance to shine where we thrive the most.

People will always discriminate the Arts but the Arts do not discriminate.

(One final side note: If you’re one of these people that thinks all you do in Drama is ‘play games and act like a tree’… I’ve never been a tree in my life. I have however been the lead girl in Bugsy Malone. And yes, we do play games to warm us up and they’re bloody brilliant).

Not defined.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_filename_640

I AM MORE than the negative thoughts that wash over my mind like a wave consuming my entirety.

I am more than the struggle to find motivation to get out of bed. The impossible task of stepping my feet onto the bedroom carpet and lifting myself up to start the day.

I am more than the streams of tears that fall down my cheek, drenching the pillows, tracing my jawline, landing heavily onto my collar.

I am more than the doubts that fill every empty space in my thoughts; that stray me away from my true identity, from my true personality, from my own morals and beliefs.

I am more than my heart plunging into my stomach, pounding against my ribs, spinning, beating, pushing, all because I have to go somewhere new.

I am more than a fear of failure; of heading towards the finish line but not being able to move my feet.

I am more than scratching at the surface of my skin to distract from the whirlwind in my head; of damaging what’s there to protect me.

I am more than feeling numb. Of waking up, waiting. Waiting to see how I will respond to the day ahead. Waiting, but feeling nothing. Emptiness. A blank slate. Nothing.

I am more than feeling an emotion so deeply, so low, so intensely that it puts life on hold. To feeling there isn’t an escape from it. To the questioning of whether I’ll laugh until my cheeks hurt ever again.

I am more than clinging to a moment, for the worry that it will soon be over. For the nervous enjoyment of a day, in fear that there won’t be another one for a very long time.

I am more than the worry of my friends and family. Of the reassurance that ‘I will be ok, I’m just struggling’.

I am more than just getting through the day. From waking up, to climbing under the duvet, breathing a sigh of relief that I made it in one piece; awaiting the anticipation if I can do that for another day, another week, month, year, decade.

I am more than that. I am the freckles on my face when the sun has shone down and tinted me with it’s wonder. I am the music that I listen to, when I’m blasting it through the speakers of my car, singing at the top of my lungs, catching the glances of other drivers. I am my name, which makes me a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend, a best friend, a teacher, a cousin and a niece. I am the creases in the corners of my mouth when I smile, when something in this world has allowed me to react with joy. I am the strops I throw when something doesn’t quite go the way I intended it to. I am the determination I put forward to finish what I have started. I am the love I pour into other people to create relationships stronger than an anchor diving into the ocean. I am every emotion I have ever felt. I am the experiences that I have had and the experiences yet to come. I am an ambitious actress. I am a future mother and wife and Nanna. I am a product of my environment, of my own personal path. I have been influenced in so many ways that have made me the person I am today, sitting in my boyfriend’s bed, writing this post, on a cloudy Sunday morning. I am all the times I have had too much to drink and become completely lost in a new world, a utopia. I am the girl who can spend an entire day getting ready, looking glamorous; but I am also the girl who will order in a box of 20 nuggets, whilst in my unicorn pyjamas, watching Netflix. I am a result of all I have been taught, by my parents, my teachers, my friends, counsellors, boyfriend and ex-boyfriends, bullies, managers, colleagues and strangers. I am the books that I read, the pieces that I write, the make-up that I wear, the songs that I sing, the clothes that I wear, the sense of humour that I have, the spectrum of emotions that I feel, the colour of my nail polish, the grades I have achieved, the scars that I have, the bruises that I find, the hair that flows to my waist, the positions that I sleep in, the runs that I take, the movies that I watch, the people that I talk to and listen to, the opinions that I have, the perfume that I wear, the jewelry that I put on, the advice that I give, the honesty that I feel, the pieces that I perform, the food that I eat, the drinks that I let slide down my throat, the dreams that I have, the regrets that I have, the dances I do, the tattoos that decorate my skin; I am more than just an abstract concept.

I am all that I have done, and all that I will do. The places I have been and the places I am going to go. I am not defined by my mental illness. I am defined by the detail which lies within the construction of my entire being. I am defined by everything in-between. I am defined by my willingness to carry on. I am defined by so much more than a doctor’s diagnosis.

You didn’t have to.

love blog

You didn’t have to. At 1am, when I felt my chest tighten and my head spin whilst my mind began to race and my lungs felt as though they were desperately reaching for air, you didn’t have to sit up with me and wait with every inch of patience for it to pass. Knowing exactly what to say, holding me with reassurance running through your fingertips as you brushed my hair off of my face. Each breath became slower, my heart was calm, my muscles relaxed, my head fell calmly onto your shoulders and you kissed me. We went to sleep and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. At 9pm, when I was frantically searching through the pages of my diary, trying to figure out how we’re going to make the time for each other, worrying that work will take over the time we have. You knew. You knew that I was worried because I wanted to organise everything; I wanted structure. I always have plans on a Tuesday. ‘Every Tuesday is date night’, you said. I was relieved, I was excited, I had no reason to worry that life would get in the way and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. At 7am, when crystal clear tears rolled slowly down my cheek as I sat at the edge of the bed. And again, at 8:20am, when I came out of the doctor’s room and couldn’t hold my composure. The words left your mouth as though you’d practiced them a thousand times in front of the mirror. You held my hand a lot that morning, rubbing your thumb up and down because you cared. You liked showing me that you were there. It was one of the scariest, most overwhelming mornings of my life, but you were there so I got through it and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. At 11pm, we sat. I rehearsed the words over and over in my head, thinking of a way to release them in a way that made them sound less terrifying. I told you everything. I told you of the words I’d been to scared to acknowledge ever even existed, expecting the worst, expecting concern, expecting to lose hold of everything that I had; but you understood. You were able to relate. You made me feel normal and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. At 4am, we were drunk in a hotel room. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was preparing to lose you before I even had you. I shared my mind with you. You smiled, even laughed a little – I felt the world lift from my shoulders. The exact moment that my heart knew you were different, was right then. You were mature. You demonstrated the perfect display of compassion, warmth and tender-heartedness. I changed into my jarmies, you fell asleep first, I lay my head onto the pillow and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. It was coming up to 11pm. You were home before me. Something had happened and I called you in a panic, to which you said ‘I’ll sort it out, just come home and look at the  floor’. I opened the door, struggling to get the key out and closed it again. I followed your notes through to the living room, to the sound of our song, to the sight of one of my favourite movies ready to play and a sofa made up for a cosy night in. My eyes scanned the room, landing on the door to the kitchen, to which I pulled on the handle and ran straight towards you. I was safe and I was ok.

You didn’t have to. When you discovered my passion, what I love, you began to enjoy it with me. When we got home late and I hadn’t eaten, you made me some crumpets – the special way, so that the butter melts all the way through. When I asked you, after speaking for less than a week, to come to a Mallory Knox gig in Birmingham with me, you could have said no. When you made me a present to keep me going to the end of my course. When you told me in the car on the way home from Nottingham that you thought I was beautiful. When you bought me nuggets when I was sad because you knew already that it would cheer me up.  When you reassured me that I’d done nothing wrong when I lost trust in myself. When you told me you could relate to the way that I was feeling. When you stuck by me, through some of the hardest times I’ve ever had to face; and promised that you always will.When you tell me not to worry, I am ok.

You didn’t have to do any of those things. I didn’t expect anybody to ever do any of those things; but you did…to which I am grateful and I am appreciative and I am besotted and I am smitten. A year ago, or 2 years ago, I never believed in finding a ‘person’. I was adamant that it was the kind of thing you’d see in a movie on Netflix and that would be it’s full extent. You’ve allowed me to feel so much in such a short space of time, something which I never imagined would happen to me. You are supportive. You are kind. You are selfless. You are inspiring. You are my person.

I didn’t have to write this, but I did. You didn’t have to love me, but you do. I never thought I’d have my happy ending, but I will and for that, I thank you.

For L.T.B.

1 in 4.

1 in 4

Mental Health Awareness Week. Controversial. It’s a topic so many people are afraid to talk about. Some may argue that it’s great to have an awareness week, but do those same people give it a second thought in the following week? Or the week after that? Others act like it doesn’t exist, in complete denial. Ingratitude. And then there’s the people who are mad. They’re mad because they believe that mental health awareness should have no lifespan, no expiration date. I’m on their side. We need to talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that Mental Health Awareness Week does a great job; all day I’ve seen so many posts, people showing love and support, sharing stories, essentially doing what they feel obliged to do – raising awareness. And it’s great. But here’s the thing… after this week is over and people (not everyone, but some) stop posting on social media and stop talking, it’s over for them. It doesn’t stop for everyone. In fact, it doesn’t stop for 1 in 4 of us. There’s the statistic – ‘1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’ (mind.org.uk, 2017). Research shows that that’s remained a pretty steady statistic. And the problem? Talking. I mean that in every single sense of the word.

Think about it like this: if mental health was as valued every single day of the year, as much as it is in this single week, would the same number of people feel too ashamed or scared to talk? I don’t speak for everybody. I have to make that absolutely clear. I know people will experience different feelings towards the idea of talking about what goes on in their head… but here’s what I want to dissolve away – the stigma attached, this idea that talking about your mental health isn’t good. Why the fuck wouldn’t it be good?  My example. When you hurt yourself, maybe you fall over and hurt your knee, usually your first reaction is to clutch it straight away because it hurts. You know it’s not going to fix it, but you do it because it reassures you. It keeps you going until the right help comes, whether it’s a plaster if it’s mild or somebody to come and give you assistance. Stick with me. Mental health, things going on in your head, or if your want the fancy-pants definition *ahem*:

psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life’ (dictionary.com, 2017).

Now, imagine instead of your knee, it’s your mind. Instead of clutching it, you talk. Just like when our body feels pain, we find ways to keep ourselves going until we find our source of support.

Talking is hard. God, I can tell you that it is so hard. There is a constant fear that you’re going to be judged for whatever comes out of your mouth. ‘Are they going to look at me differently?’ ‘Are they going to tell people?’ ‘Is there something wrong with me?’. The answer, believe it or not, is no. Not at all. Because you will make the decision to tell the right people, the people who won’t just hear you – they’ll listen. When you’re ready to talk about something, through very careful decision making, you’ll pick the person you trust through your own good judgement.

The way I look at it, talking is the starting point. When you don’t voice anything, it all stays in your head, the only person you tell is yourself. It becomes heavy, it becomes constant, it intensifies and it will consume you. I promise, opening up little by little will change your life. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done. It’s taken me a while to get there, and I’ve had to learn how to deal with telling the wrong people, but at this point, I know who to talk to when things are rough. Here’s the important bit, this applies to every single one of you reading. You do not have to be the one who is suffering to be a part of this because your job is to keep everyone talking! And I mean everyone – forget gender, religion, culture, sexuality – address mental health issues and help us to kick it’s ass. Spread the word, make people aware, do your research. Most importantly, let those around you know where you are. Make it clear that if at any time they need somebody, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours, tell them you’re here to listen. Please don’t assume people know they can talk to you, let them feel comfortable in the knowledge that they have your support. Hey, even something as small as asking somebody how their day was… it can make a huge difference. Let’s get talking and don’t ever stop.

Because really, your mind controls every single part of who you are. Your physical health is responded to by your minds. Your actions. Your movements. Your thoughts. Your intelligence. So, if your mental health is suffering, how can you expect the rest of you to be ok?

Help to end stigmas against mental health. Encourage talking. Encourage thriving. Encourage a future to look forward to.

For more information or support, you can visit the following links (and of course, never hesitate to send me a message – I’m never far!).

Mind – for better mental health

Samaritans – confidential listening service

Time to Change – ending mental health discrimination

Support from ‘Heads Together’

How to access mental health services

Crisis services

My post on intrusive thoughts