Sunday, 6 November 2016

Two months later...

This blog is now in its 7th year. Don't ask where that time has gone... I haven't a clue. I decided to start this blog, coincidently, when I started my undergraduate degree and I began getting to know York a little better. I was 21. Life consisted of Evil Eye cocktails (the amaretto cherry one - sickly sweet - couldn't drink it now!), a few select friends in York, none of whom I studied with just yet, These were non-YSJ friends. I started volunteering with some young people and I definitely didn't turn up to some of my lectures. Life was spent 'on the road' as I called it. Really, I was on trains, in cars, taxis, crossing borders, travelling to various places... I was sort of this elusive person and I don't really think even my tutors thought I cared about my degree until they realised that actually I did pretty well even though I kept rather quiet and would often send late apologies for missing lectures. I was 'that' student at the beginning. I'd miss lectures because of the late calls to be at a location HOURS away at 6am the following morning. I kid you not... But I did this partly because I loved it and also because the jobs paid the rent and I escaped university not having a student overdraft and for that, I was pretty pleased. 

Modelling served a purpose. Anyway, that was life. Lots of connections, rarely actually connected. Impossible to pin down. I don't know how I kept grounded really - perhaps that was partly why I did it. The ground keeps you still. It is holding. But if stillness isn't comfortable, it isn't surprising that it would be avoided. So, that's when I started writing this blog - maybe the week I started my undergrad. I love reading it back - I feel sort of fond of those few years, but they did change, and of course, inevitably I changed too. Somehow things changed and here we are now. I used to write in this blog multiple times a week. Then last year I probably wrote once a month. Now it has been two months and I haven't written a word. Well, I've written ALL the words everywhere else, mainly my MSc thesis, but none on here. There's something so public about writing here that I've realised it has silenced me. I'm not silenced in other places, but I am on here. So I am going to work out what I can write again, because I read a friend's blog this afternoon and realised I miss mine.

Things really have shifted, and now life is all about the connections. I'm probably writing because I'm sat at home on my own feeling pretty disconnected so I am finding a way of doing something that helps me to connect. Watched a bit of Strictly, read and provided feedback on probably 60 student abstracts, drank a small gin and now I think my thinking capacity is done for a Sunday evening.

I didn't think I would pack up and move on my own to a new place, but I did. I'm doing some teaching, starting my PhD (WHEN I eventually get my head around to the fact that I should start it now) and I have found a wonderful place to continue with my therapeutic practice. I didn’t think any of those things would happen, but they have. Things are OK - I packed up my stuff and didn't fall to pieces and I am finding that there are some really good people around. It's funny how you think leaving is going to be so bad, but then once you're gone, it is OK. Once you give space to the newness, the space that didn't exist before can be filled. Now my challenge is to find some more space because I am rapidly running out of it. Time, space, energy, coffee.... I am running out. That might also be something to do with why I haven't written in here at all.. Sort of surviving day by day, hoping that soon enough it'll be week by week and soon I will actually feel on top of things.

Anyway, so much for not having anything to write. I have written things, but at the same time, written not very much at all. I do really feel like I'd like to work out how to use this blog now, or I'll have to always turn to my anonymous one, which would feel like a waste of something that's been a good few years in the making.... 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Post-Barcelona, life is changing.

It's Saturday evening, I wanted to write a blog post - wasn't quite sure what I wanted to write but decided to log in and write anyway. I have been back in the UK since Monday morning, went to officially start my new job in Northampton, and then came back home properly on Tuesday. I think my sisters were laughing at me for the entire journey back to England because of how much I was freaking out that our flight would be delayed or our taxi driver would be late! Fortunately all was fine in the end. I could easily go back to Spain tomorrow - and I am pretty sure I still might as well be living in Spanish time. It's gone 11pm and I have only just eaten dinner (consisting of lots of random green stuff from the fridge) and I have a glass of red wine in hand.

I miss Barcelona a lot... It was so wonderful to go this time, with the only agenda to have a holiday. The first time I went to Barcelona was on a modelling job, the second time it was to live there and model, the third time was a long weekend with friends, fourth time was last year. I lived there for a month last year, intended to model and write my practice file, I ended up maybe doing one shoot, not wanting to model any more and spending the days walking for miles on end, exploring beaches and then coming back in the evening to write my practice file until the early hours of the mornings. I was fortunate to have jobs that allowed me to do that, to have tutors who supported me in writing that practice file (that word still fills me with a little anxiety!) and to have friends who understood my need for space but also their company (yes - biggest contradiction I know). The bigger point is that I am fortunate enough to know Barcelona pretty well and to feel that it is home (one of my homes anyway..)

Barcelona was different this time - I didn't go with a modelling portfolio in bag, casting clothes and heels. I went with a pile of books and clothes and that was it (ah, and also my dearest sister and a visit from a very good friend and our other sister). It was good to go with no real intention of work. That hasn't ever been my experience - even modelling. To know that each day you have to be measured like you're some kind of mannequin or wear some clothes on a casting or shoot that are probably not going to be your size - too big or too small but never actually fit. And yup, you guessed it - it's always YOU that's wrong. Always you and your body, never the clothes. Or worst of all you are told that it's a lingerie casting and you're asked to bring a bikini... Goodbye dinner plans for the evening and that extra glass of wine. I am pretty sure not many people can relax knowing that your body will always be up for viewing and judgement and it will probably never be enough. No fun. (in fact, very much not fun - not for this post though). This time I did go with the intention of doing a little work on my Masters but needless to say that didn't happen. Lack of work meant that this weird sense of fleeting guilt stayed with me for most of the trip but then in our last few days I just let that go. It had to go really... we had mountains to hike and paths to walk and new places to find. I've come back home and in 4 days I've got more done than I probably could have done in two whole weeks if I didn't take the break. Lesson learnt. Time-Off-Work-Guilt serves no purpose (usually...) and breaks are good.

Anyway, back and living in the grad centre but that's OK for now. I want to make the most of my last month in York because from the end of the month I will be moving to Northampton to start a new job and start my PhD. Exciting and very scary. It is funny thinking about the conversations I've had with good friends about leaving. It gets to a certain point and then I strategically move to this place of denial about how sad it will be to say goodbye to York and those I love. Onwards and upwards, new adventures. But still - leaving what's been home for six years is an odd feeling. Especially when 'home' is an odd concept in itself. Change is good - this is what I am telling myself anyway! A good friend (Anna you won't mind me writing this) who is also moving to a new city soon, reminded me that part of the adventure is getting to know new people and new places. This was a timely reminder :)

Fortunate and happy - and pleased that it is Saturday evening and I am not in the grad centre!!

Monday, 11 July 2016

Ironically the best thing

A quick post, before I finally get some sleep. I seem to be averaging around one post per month this year, which is a far cry from a good few years ago when I would sometimes write multiple times per week. The irony is, is that I actually write much more now than I ever did before, and probably to a better standard (one can hope anyway). It is just rarely given a voice on this blog. I have realised over time that more of my life has become sort of hidden and I share less and less with those around me (well, excluding immediate family and close friends). Because there is much more at risk these days. It’s no longer a case of jetting off here there and everywhere and writing as I travelled or blogging in-between lectures or when I’d be waiting for a friend to arrive for a coffee or sat in a train station cafe. That really seems idyllic now, not that it felt it at the time! It is no longer that simple. Life, I guess, has become much more complex. So I don't tend to share much, professionally (mainly because my job relies on me adhering to strict ethical guidelines, confidentiality being at the top!). And also because life does get complicated and sometimes writing coherently about something that isn’t coherent at all... well that just doesn’t tend to work.

Anyway, the week ahead is going to have to be a 'take it one day at a time' sort of week, which is probably why I am up at this time and have strategically found this distraction. Work is going to be a little challenging this week because I am close to leaving and beginning a new job, and I am not a person who tends to do endings very smoothly. So it’s safe to say that this week might be a little less than smooth. I have also set myself the challenge of getting as much written on my MSc thesis as humanly possible. This is a dangerous target to set, for someone with highly perfectionistic traits. So really, for the next 7 days it is going to be busy and odd. Then I get to meet my sister and fly across to Barcelona where I am certain my soul will find home again. I wonder if my laptop will come with us.. I have never taken a break and not taken work with me. The language of 'taking a break' isn't language usually practised in my world!
I have actually not been home much this week (I love being home, but this is a good thing for right now). I was away at a conference and found myself embracing not turning my laptop on for 4 days straight. My supervisors weren’t so keen on me going because it would take away from writing time, which was important. So important I don't think they approved of me going at all. Anyway, I assured them that I would still be writing and not to worry…. Perhaps they were right, because in fact I didn’t take my laptop out of my car boot. Not intentional, but this conference was good and there just wasn’t any need to do work. Well, there was a need, but there wasn't the time, and I wanted to focus on getting to know the place that I will be moving to very shortly. Ironically, not working and leaving my laptop in the boot of my car was the best thing. I have a newfound clarity about what I need to do next (with this work), and I don’t think that would have happened if I was still immersed in literature and data analysis on my own without stopping to open my eyes and look around. As they say, meaning arises out of interaction and I do believe I’ve made more sense of what I need to do because of the people I have been meeting. So I am pleased that I didn’t work, and oddly for once I don’t feel behind, nor do I feel that strange sense of guilt. I was away meeting new colleagues, finding a new house and getting to know a new town.

Despite the fact that this week is inevitably going to be an odd week, I realised something quite important whilst I was away meeting new people at the conference. I was sitting in a workshop and was creating something that I thought represented an important message. I didn’t actually realise that the message contained something in it for me too. It was about standing together and keeping connected. We are relational beings and we all need people – on a global level and on an individual basis. Something in what I did reminded me just to keep connected whatever I am doing and wherever I am.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

This is not about women, this is about us all

I should be editing my 'designing research interviews' section of my methods chapter but instead, I'm sat here reflecting on the monstrosity that is everyday sexism. I had my first real encounter of online trolls and abuse today just because I dared take to twitter with my feminism.

Yesterday I took my car for its MOT, and I encountered what I encounter every single day. In fact, what most of us will encounter every single day, multiple times a day, and the worst part is, is that it brushes over us, like the air we breathe and like the ground we walk on. It has become so normalised that it brushes over us. We become desensitised and unaffected. This just is not OK. I won't even say that the small encounter I experienced that I defined as everyday sexism was a 'small thing' because it wasn't. It was about a small issue (the gear stick on my car) and it was a small conversation (about 30 seconds whilst I was paying the mechanic my MOT bill). But it was not a small thing; it was an incredibly big thing, characterised by structural gendered inequalities and power. This was my issue, and this is why I tweeted. I would argue it isn't exclusively my issue either - I would argue that it is everyone's issue.

I dared take to twitter with my story because I believe in sharing stories. I was not 'asking for it', as a number of these twitter trolls seemed to believe I was doing. Nor was I inviting sexual connotations within the hate tweets and nor was I inviting judgements about my intelligence or worth. Unbelievably, when a woman chooses to write on social media about an issue that is important to her, she is not 'asking for attention’; she is genuinely using her intelligence and her experience to write and communicate, because although they highlight uncomfortable truths, these issues (yes, the issues that are important to women) are actually important. 

Throughout the day, I have lost count of the amount of Twitter notifications I have received. One abusive tweet received 131 likes - and that is just one of them. They are still coming in. I had to charge my phone twice at work, and I wasn't even actively using my phone. This was all down to the tweet I posted last night, stating the following: 

'mechanic: 'well you won't know anything about cars but....'. Well actually I knew everything about my car that you just told me #everydaysexism'. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to said mechanic for doing my car's MOT. But I was not thankful or receptive to his assumption that because I am a woman, I would not know 'anything' about cars. And no, I truly don't believe that he would have said the same if I were a man. So today, via the portal of twitter, I have been told to get back in the kitchen and pull my knickers up, I have been called an idiot, a tit, a moron, a 'bad' feminist, a bitch, attention seeker, I was asking for it, I lack intelligence... Some even feel pity for this mechanic for having to deal with a 'client like her'. That isn't the worst. The worst are the men who take great pride in tweeting about the things they would like to do to me. I have blocked these ones.

I am fine, but that isn't the point; the point is, is that this is not OK. None of this is OK. Online abuse is never OK, nor was the gendered assumption that I don't know about cars (whether I do or not, is irrelevant. It is the fact that regardless of gender, some know about cars and some don't and some know a bit...) anyway. I digress. 

I’d say that around 95% of said twitter abusers were male. This is not, and never should be about othering males. This shouldn’t be about creating barriers between males and females and it should not be about perpetuating a ‘them and us’ culture. But look at what happens if one feels threatened…. Walls come up, defences come out, and vicious, vile and quite honestly offensive words and sentiments are used, usually against women. Because whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, women do not exist in society in the way that men do. The pay gap does exist, we have additional hurdles to battle through in our careers, we walk home at night with keys clutched between our fingers ‘just in case’, we are subjected to strangers who think we are put on this earth to please them, we sit in job interviews (as I did 6 months ago) and are asked why we are single (and then expected to provide an answer). Gender inequalities are all around us. This is not news. But my point is, is that this is not about me and this is not about women, this is about us all. This is about a cultural change that desperately needs to happen. Goodness help any woman who chooses to use her voice and her intelligence to stand up and speak up, and goodness help the others (usually men) who feel that their masculinity entitles them to belittle the women who challenge their masculinity. But of course it is more than this – it is about the fact that we use gender to categorise each other and judge each other, and importantly, we use those boxes as a measure of our own worth and our own expectations of ourselves and of other people.

It is infamously said that boxes do not keep others out, they fence you in. Today has tested my tolerance. I have been angry, but my eyes have been opened and I am not offended because this is not about just me. This is about us all. What I know is that this needs to change…..

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Change is good: 810 miles and a lot of talk about 'change'

It's been around 2 months since the last blog post. That sounds rather confessional - it isn't intended to be. But it does feel a bit odd. This blog is in it's 6th year now and I've gone from writing a lot (I mean a lot.... sometimes a good few times a week, sometimes even twice in one day) to now, being 5 months into the year and only posting 3 times (this is the 4th). I'm not sure what this says really, apart from that things are changing significantly - and for somebody who has a rather ambivalent relationship with the concept of change, this is exciting and daunting. I'm sticking with exciting. Change is good.

The past couple of months have been a little adventurous. The universe continues to show me that it is indeed smart and unpredictable. Had my birthday, started a new job, got my mind a little blown with another job offer that I thought I had lost all chances of getting, drove a grand total of around 810 miles in the space of less than a week down the country and along the coast to see some friends and take a breather (I did just calculate that mileage....), done a couple of modelling jobs even though I keep saying I have retired (yup, at 27 I can retire as a model....). I am learning, largely from other people's confused responses when I inform them that I am not modelling any more, that apparently I like to be selective and it is not entirely true that I have stopped modelling. I am just taking decisions into my own hands and of course, I've realised I do actually have a blast when with a team who create that sort of environment and foster a culture of respect. Who'd believe it; respect and positive, empowering relationships are important at work!!

So even with embracing change and making some pretty big and exciting decisions about the next few years of my life, I took some time out of my research and have finally dipped my toes back into the water. Well, no - I have plunged my whole body right back into the ocean and every time I sit down at my computer I feel like I 'should' be writing up my MSc and not writing a blog post. I do love this blog, but everything I write for my MSc is scrutinised under a magnifying glass with a fine tooth-comb, and I am on a very limited time-frame. It takes time. It can't be done with a glass of wine whilst multi-tasking and responding to emails. Well it can, but there would be very little point. So I have indeed taken the plunge and I don't think I'll come back up for air until after research interviews are done and transcribed and data analysis is completed - in fact, I don't think I'll come up for air until the whole project is written up. It's going to be a mad stage. But that is perfectly fine - nothing in life is 'sensible' these days, so madness fits right in. Have made the active choice to embrace change and madness in equal measures.

Let's hope I don't wait another couple of months before posting again. If I do, it's because my A Level students have finally cracked under the pressure.... In fact, they are all holding up spectacularly well, despite an education system that is well and truly designed to test them to their limits and beyond (not just academic limits - seriously it is designed to push them emotionally because the bar is set at ridiculous heights and we live in a horrific outcomes-driven culture). Or it will be because I, myself, have cracked under my MSc or under the papers about ethical and participatory research with children. There's a hefty pile on our dining room table just sat waiting for me to consolidate all the information I'm processing and then put into coherent words in my methodology chapter. Perhaps wine is necessary after all...

Here's a couple of my favourite pictures from Bournemouth. Thank you so much Viv and Scott for being such wonderful hosts!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

How and why?

So when it's 1am on a Saturday night (Sunday morning), you're on the sofa, Brene Brown and Gloria Steinem books surround your two empty wine glasses (yes I've had white AND red), and you're reading those articles that mindlessly fly around the internet, such as 'Why some people stay stuck and others change their lives', you know that perhaps something needs to change. In fact, since my research supervisors are telling me I should write more concisely, with purpose, I can remove the word 'perhaps' and also 'you know that'. That leaves 'something needs to change'. I won't go into how much I've said this over the past year or so, and that much has changed whilst so much has remained stagnant too. That is another point for another day...

My guilt at seeming lazy is tapping into my brain now, and I need to reassure you that no, I don't spend every night on the sofa; this is a very rare occasion. It's lovely because I've been out of action for the past couple of days (health reasons..) and so have been sleeping a lot. So I'm not so tired and can afford this time, apparently not guilt-free though, on the sofa. I can't read any more, so I wrote in my anonymous blog and then felt I might actually write in this one. Yes - guilt taps in once more. Isn't it a powerful thing..

Anyway, so here I am. I wrote in my anonymous blog about a particular thing that happened this week; I pushed and I think I let a rather wonderful opportunity slip me by because either a) genuinely legitimate issues around scheduling and timing, or b) my own fear of change and fear of failure. I know which I think it is. Perhaps this is the thing that needs to change.

This particular article advises the reader to ask 'how', instead of 'why'. It then, with an optimistic tone, sets the reader to the challenge of changing their life for the better. Now I prefer the article a friend sent me, which was more about motivation and purpose; working out  why we do what we do, and why we choose not to do certain things. Why do we prioritise some things over others? If we can work out the purpose and driving force behind our actions and desires, then we are more likely to make these things happen. Apparently this is key to finding motivation to make things change (according to some internet author...) BUT this is theoretical too, not just mumbo-jumbo words. This makes sense; purpose is part of how we survive. It's existential and also part of our connection to something deeper than surface level stuff. So maybe it isn't about asking 'how'. Maybe the 'why' is most important. Maybe patience, too, is key. And bottling up the fear and throwing it out to sea.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Insects and Plan B

The title of this post is a little misleading. It is actually very misleading. It is because I have been spending some of today writing (or attempting to write) my literature review chapter. I should probably correct that even more - when I say 'some of today', I mean between 8-9am, and between 7-now, I have been with my papers and notes and documents of many notes and bullet points and half written paragraphs in a structure that will be unrecognisable by the time I am finished. BUT, at least I have made a start, and, in at least one area in my life, I am on target. One small victory to me.

The reason I have entitled this post 'insects' is really for no other reason but to try to get it out of my head. I am writing a literature review section on the impact of trauma on brain development and attachment functioning for young children - or, if you're me, you write about why you're NOT writing about that (AKA distress shouldn't be medicalised and we are MORE than that). In the literature, some people refer to young children as 'infants'. So, of course each time I turn to my keyboard to write 'infants', I inevitably write 'young insects'. Apart from that time I wrote 'insencts'. I really have a case of brain mush today. It makes me entertained to say the least. Perhaps on par with my email I sent out earlier - where I clicked 'reply all' to all my colleagues when intending to write about 'exam invigilation' I actually typed 'exam invigoration'. Safe to say my brain-type co-ordination isn't on top form today. I almost don't care. It's nice to have something stupid to have a giggle at on my own. 

I really am not writing in here very often these days. It means I end up writing about insects - seriously not an interesting topic for me. Since I seem to spend most days ridiculously busy, time seems to be so precious. Each year I think I understand what busy feels like and when the next year comes I am certain that I was fooled and mistaken and that I did not realise how fortunate I was. The thought crosses my mind often to pack things in and stand in front of the camera most days. At least that way there are only emails to respond to and if you don't respond then it's known that you are busy and you'll either be called or they can wait. I don't think I want the responsibility of ensuring I have 32-24-34 measurements or having those measurements be the sole determiner of my monthly income. BUT I do for sure feel I could do with a couple of months away from the things and people that unfortunately reality is throwing at me. Last weekend I took a trip to Amsterdam and found my brain totally pre-occupied with research and applications. I was also eyeing up apartments with balconies that I could live in in my alternative life that I have all mapped out. My Plan B perhaps. Needless to say, I am pretty sure it should become a Plan A.

Anyway, no modelling for now. For now, it's random trips to Amsterdam because apparently that's the way to deal with the unpredictability of life (on a rocky boat too...). I learnt I am really good with motion and sleeping anywhere I lay my head when I am tired. But then again I learnt that when I lived in a top floor apartment in Osaka in a bed that had no bedding and an apartment that had no air-con in the middle of summer. I also learnt I can write research proposals whilst drinking a bottle of wine on a big ship in the middle of the ocean when there is a storm. Also for now, I am in my 7th week of becoming a vegan. I say 'becoming' because it's sort of a transition and am not sure if it will stay or if I will decide it isn't for me. But for once I am doing it properly and not using it as another excuse to get/maintain the 32-24-34. I sometimes find myself late at night night watching upsetting videos about the dairy and meat industry, which aren't so pleasurable and they lead me to wondering, how, in my angry vegan state I can become an activist.. for animal rights, for women's rights, for gender equality, liberation, against sexism and ageism, etc... Often these aren't even the things I'm angry about but mostly they are very much underpinning. Perhaps in my alternative life when I get my 2 apartments in Amsterdam and of course Barcelona. Barcelona for the summer and Amsterdam for the winter. Totally sorted. Who needs a PhD. 

Anyway, I have been unwell so I am not drinking wine. It's also a school-night. But here's a cheers to my alternative life and to whoever wishes to join me.
A few pictures of the Dam:

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Being seen

We are a couple of weeks into the new year now and I have gradually transitioned back to work and life. For the first time in my working (and student) life, I actually took a solid two-week break over Christmas. No work, no laptop, no emails (OK, a few emails - but more for personal/career progression reasons than strictly work related). I spent time with family, did some travelling to the coasts - yes, plural. Northern and South-Eastern coasts. I also spent time with good friends and time trying to work out what is next in my career. It seems that options are freeing and liberating but the old existential truth in freedom and choice is the fear and anxiety that inherently presents itself as soon as we realise we, alone, are solely responsible for our own outcomes. 

I have been reading some Brene Brown, as I sometimes do. She writes, near to the beginning of her 'Daring Greatly' book, that 'what we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being, rather than knowing, requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen'. There is something about women empowering women to not shrink into themselves and not not to make themselves smaller to accommodate for powerful 'others' who dominate and eclipse our own needs and undermine our worth (that is indeed a Shonda reference). But there is something more about encouraging each other to 'show up' - to let ourselves be seen. Although this does bring me to another point, but I won't go into the structural stuff around the boundaries and barriers we face as a product of the structures we live in. As a women, as a young women, regardless of skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience, purely as a women in her 20s, it seems there are additional mountains to move and additional structures in society that serve to determine a set of assumptions and judgements regarding our capabilities and worth. It is curious, I get stuck between anger and rage, disillusionment and naivety, solitude, and then a big 'screw this' attitude, whereby I book last minute weekends in Amsterdam (I did do this... AND am pleased I did) or I blast out the abstract for the seminar session I'm doing next month that I can surely convince myself I 'do not belong' in. Funny, these messages we pick up along the way.

Anyway, Happy belated new year to all... I figured as my break consisted of plenty of people, wine, and the sea, I'd post (more) pictures of the coast..