One foot in front of the other

18766033_10155369634441531_2734394718576523237_nI burnt three diaries the other day. They spanned across several years from my early teenage years, when nothing went as it did in the movies and I complained a lot. I probably still complain a fair amount now to be fair, but I like to also think I’m a lot more grateful; because as overwhelming and terrifying as it is, I love my life. And that’s why I burnt the diaries, I didn’t want to read years worth of moaning when I could focus on the happiness of now.

That’s what I’ve been trying to do this week especially, focus on the now. I have made it to Australia! And for the past 8 days I have just been putting one foot in front of the other, trying to ignore the voices in my head of what to do the next day or week, or whether I’ve made the right choice, and just focus on settling in. And on sleeping – they do not exaggerate the jet lag!

I’ll be honest, it’s been hard. Wondering if I’m doing a good job as an AuPair, if the family like me, if I’ll make any friends here. If I’ll spend the next 17 weeks regretting my decision. But I have made it through everyday without tears and with a smile by the evening.

Today was a particularly good day though, because all the worrying about what to do at the weekend (hey, I said I was trying not to worry, not that I was succeeding!) were unnecessary. I went for a lovely bike ride through the sunny town and then met up with another AuPair who took me for a walk around Alice Spring’s old telegraph station. This basically means walking through red dusty paths with strangely green trees surrounding you and a lot of flies following you. I did see a rock wallaby though!

It’s a strange place, Alice Springs. It’s basically the middle of Australia, this town with a cinema and shopping centre that is surrounded by outback. But it has a charm about it, this relaxed vibe that they know there isn’t much to do but everybody is friendly. I wouldn’t want to come on holiday here, but to live, so far it has nice chilled vibes. However, I’m always hesitant to speak too soon!

Anyway, just thought I’d say hello from the other side (of the world) and share the appreciation for life. Have a happy and sunny day now y’all, and don’t forget to always find things to be thankful for.

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Lucky tears

Mamma Mia was correct, there is an ABBA song for every occasion; I’m currently finding myself humming ‘knowing me knowing you’, because I know breaking up is never easy, but I do actually have to go. Ok, admittedly I’m not breaking up with anyone, but I do have to say goodbye and go away.

In just a few days (I daren’t count how many) I fly a ridiculous amount of miles, and I am freaking out and crying more than usual. But most of the time they’re actually happy tears, grateful tears. I cry because I’m aware of how blessed I am to have a supportive family who will look out for me, even on the other side of the world, and because, as daunting as it is, I have a very exciting opportunity and it’s one that I must embrace wholeheartedly. I think Winnie the Pooh said it best; “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?” It would be a sad life if we could just get up and leave totally unphased.  My life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect, but the imperfections just highlight the beauty better than any contouring ever could.

Driving away from Oxford with a car full of boxes last week I recalled coming to uni for the first time nearly 2 years ago. Half an hour from my halls and I was sitting in the back seat, texting my friend freak outs and crying – not the impressive, silent, can’t breathe sobs that I did last week, but rather the pathetic trickling tears kind. Sure uni wasn’t what I’d imagined it would be like, and I am taking a year out, but I don’t regret going and I’m glad of the friends I made and the experiences that I had whilst there, and I’m confident it shall be the same on my travels, as it always is with tricky and terrifying new beginnings in life.

For now however, I shall just try not to cry whilst I write birthday cards in preparation of the next 6 months, try not to wince at the amount a good quality backpack costs, and try to stockpile enough sleep so that the 2 days of flying doesn’t totally destroy me. My lucky-in-life tears and I look forward to telling you all the crazy that I get up to starting next week.

Is it just me?

How is everybody else not absolutely terrified? Sometimes I go into autopilot and then after a bit too long I suddenly go ‘oh my days, this is my life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, it’s not a movie that I should be sitting back and watching pass me by, this is my life.’ And the way everybody else seems to just get on with everything, happily living, I have to wonder if they don’t go in to this autopilot like me or if they are just jolly good robots. You see the thing is, life is terrifying, and so it should be. If you do something stupid, you hurt somebody. If you don’t embrace an opportunity, you’ll regret it. And if you spend all your time watching Netflix in bed you’ll miss your own life. We need that fear to keep us going, to motivate us to get up and keep trying. We need to embrace our lives.

But nobody else seems to be as terrified as life by me, they just live in this little bliss bubble enjoying each moment, or repressing all feelings in a very English way. Maybe I’m additionally freaking out because I just said goodbye to a dear friend. It feels so final even though I should be seeing her in six months once I’m back from my travels. I guess goodbyes always feel a bit final because you never know what will happen, and you don’t know what your next plans to meet will be. The last time I said goodbye to a friend we ended up growing apart and now we don’t talk anymore. It’s all a bit unknown really, and that is bloody terrifying. Another thing that’s bloody terrifying is that I’m going half way across the world, to the antipodes (big word I learnt from my brother) to a place I’ve never been to live with some people I’ve never met. Am I crazy? I think I’m crazy. I also think I have a right to be freaking out, and that’s why there is a chance you saw me and my friend crying at St Pancras station today as we repeatedly hugged goodbye – I didn’t cry on public transport this time, just in all areas around it.

Still, even though I am crying in public places and totally bricking it, I’m still going. I am moving forward with my life, because you know what’s more terrifying than living? Letting life pass you by.

Sir, are you hitting on me?

So I’m sitting on a bus, in London bare in mind. It’s been another long day at placement, chances are I have an ‘I will kill anyone who gets in my way’ death glare tattooed on my face. I’m minding my own business, counting down the stops on the familiar 30 minute journey until I can scream in my bed – or more realistically, scoff my face – knees pushed up on the back of the empty seat in front of me, head against the window, earphones in. That’s when I notice him out of the corner of my eye. The bus driver is looking over his shoulder, checking out something inside the pretty empty bus.

He carried on driving and I thought nothing of it… until he looked again. I could have sworn he was looking at me. Maybe I was humming along to my music again, or perhaps he didn’t like me having may feet up on his bus seats. I put my legs down and carried on looking out the window; 3 stops to go.

Mr bus driver was definitely looking at a me though. The third time I caught eyes with him and took my earphones out, because clearly he had something he needed to get off his chest.

“Did you ever have long hair?” It wasn’t just him looking at me now, but the other 2 passengers still on the bus.

“Yes…” I answered cautiously. Did I know him? I didn’t recognise him. He was too old for me to have gone to school with him, and seeing as I’m not a London girl it’s not like I just knew him from around.

“You should grow it long again. You’d look pretty with long hair.”

Come again for big fudge. This man was weighing up my hair (which admittedly was messy, because it had been a long day and I just didn’t care) instead of looking at the busy roads. I didn’t respond right away, I was far too confused. “I like it short, it was too puffy when it was long.” I eventually answered, rather lamely, and pushed the stop button, because I was finally home.

Totally stunned, I told my housemate when I got home. She was indignant, outraged on my behalf. I think she pretty close to writing a letter to Transport for London, a nice long rant about their misogynistic bus drivers. But the thing is I now find it rather amusing, and it’s not like all bus drivers give me fashion advice. You’ve got to admire his confidence really, even if his advice wasn’t appreciated. But what I really took away from this is that my face was pretty alright, I just needed to sort out my hair. And hey, a compliment is still a compliment, right?

Me again

I haven’t written a blog in a while, well a year to be pedantic. I would apologise to all my dedicated readers, but seeing as there was only 2 posts prior to this one and WordPress shows me all the stats on who’s been reading what, I know there aren’t many people to apologise to. Nonetheless, I am sorry, and it is time to try again.

In the past year a lot has happened, as you would expect from 12 months. I went to San Fransisco (AMAZING place) and got all my hair chopped off in Santa Monica – didn’t tell my mum, so when I got off the train back in Suffolk she circled me several times on the platform screaming “your hair, your hair!”. My father, bless his simple male soul, didn’t understand what my mother was on about, it looked exactly the same to him.

Over a several month period I bought a drastic halt to several friendships – not quite as easy as deleting someone off Facebook. It’s not something I regret, and it is something that I felt and still do feel was best for me, but I do regret any pain I may have caused other people.

I also attended my brothers wedding, where I DID NOT cry, in Pretoria – that’s South Africa, just FYI. It was a beautiful day, total shambles in regards to organisation, somehow a wedding cake got lost. But they got married and they were happy, so of course we all are too.

And most drastically – even more drastic than the hair – was the most horrid placement I had. Technically the placement wasn’t drastic, but the results of it were. If you train as an Occupational Therapist, like most healthcare courses, you must go on several placements to qualify. Last year my placement was my favourite part, it was sunny May, the team was small and laid-back, and it was dementia so I aced it. This time it was intensive neuro rehab. The thing with neuro rehab you see, is that everyone is at the top of their game, it’s not something that you succeed at based on instinct, and it’s not something the staff like to fail at. Don’t get me wrong, the hospital was amazing, and had I had had a stroke I would have felt in safe hands, but as a student there were times I felt I wasn’t even treading water. I cried everyday for two weeks, mainly at home, but one time in the hospital toilet.

One of the lowest points (even lower then crying in the toilet) was around my birthday. My family had come down the day before to celebrate, I’d had a fabulous time with them (as per usual) but then they left and I had to get up the next morning and go back to the hospital, to having no idea what was going on, to doubt whether I even wanted to continue, and to feel so ridiculously stupid. At this point I would like to take a moment to say that I am rather proud of how far I’ve come in life, in year 4 my teachers actually put me in a confidence club because I was so timid, and now I can at least successfully fake confidence when required, sometimes it even feels genuine. But on this particular Thursday morning I felt like I was in year 4 again, and so I sat down at the table before going to work with my bowl of porridge and I just cried. Solid sobs for 20 minutes – let me tell you now, porridge was not made to have salty tears in it. Somehow I managed to force myself to wash my face and get the bus, to continue through the day, because I knew if I didn’t that I would never go back. I’m glad I still turned up that day, and every day of the placement, because I learnt a lot during those 10 weeks. Not just how to write an acceptable patient note or administer a cognitive assessment, but also that I do have the mental strength to carry on, and that I need a break.

I wrote once that it is ok to not be ok, and I still believe that. I think it takes strength to not only recognise an issue but to admit it and seek help. I think it’s also ok to need a break, or even a complete change. During that challenging placement I considered quitting OT all together many times, but, as desperately as I wanted to, that just didn’t seem right. Instead my mother suggested that I take a year out to travel, to rebuild all the confidence that got knocked during those 10 weeks, and so that’s what I’m doing. I’m absolutely shitting myself, mainly because it’s so unknown, but I know it is the right thing to do. And luckily I have the full support of my parents. So who knows what’s to come next, maybe stories of sunburn, failed white water rafting, or another radical hair change – I’m thinking pink tips next time.

It’s ok

As exam season looms for many, I can’t help but think about some of my exams – and trust me I try my best not to. There’s one exam season that sticks out the most in my mind, perhaps because it was the most recent, or the first time I’d done exams away from home, or just because it was so plain awful. For whatever reason, I’m going to share it and the lesson I learned from it with you now; so buckle your seatbelt sunshine, it’s story time.
I had two major exams and my biggest essay deadline all looming within a two week period, and if I failed them I failed the year. And believe me, this year really wasn’t something I wanted to re-do. We’d been given the week before the first exam off from lectures so as to study and write our essay, and being the good girl that I am, I genuinely used this time for studying. I was practical and organised in my studying, meeting up with friends daily for revision sessions, and deciding not to go home because I thought I’d get more done at university. Well, it was all going well, until the Thursday, and then I cracked.
Spending a whole week sitting in your room just listening to the voice inside your head and the silence (sometimes also in my head), is not fun. It reaches a point when you start to worry you might go insane, normally around the point you start talking to yourself ‘for revision’. It turns out that I, quite a sociable person, have a very low tolerance for solitude, and I can’t actually go that long without talking.
So by Thursday I was just feeling utterly exhausted and in that awful revision rut where you’re convinced you’ve learnt nothing and you should just give up and become a stripper, because at least they earn good money. It was just quite a miserable day, and one thing after another, I couldn’t take it any more. It was about half six in the evening when I screamed and collapsed into tears on my bed. In a moment of delirious fed up-ness, I messaged my parents. But I didn’t get the response of ‘you can do it, just hang in there, chick’ that I was expecting, instead they very simply told me to come home. At first I thought they were just being my parents, eccentric, but they kept pushing and I knew they were serious. I contemplated it, I had no reason not to go home, no lectures or meetings to attend, and the fresh country air might make a nice change. It was half an hour later when I accepted their offer.
By eleven that night I was back in Suffolk, back in my comfy bed, back home and finally feeling something resembling calm again. It turns out that spontaneous trip home was possibly the best thing I could do for myself, because I still got work done, but I also got delicious food, comfort, and to hug my dogs. And, probably most importantly – though maybe second to the hugging my dogs – I got to see my parents, who reminded me that it would be ok. Not that it would be ok and that I would pass the year (though obviously they did say this), but that even if I completely failed at life I still had a home, a safe place, and that it would be ok, even if it wasn’t ok. I did manage to get that essay submitted in time, and I even passed my exams, which reminded me that even when you don’t think you’re going to, you can and will make it through. But that’s not what I learnt from this, what I learnt, which is something I think we all need to know, and something that I have to regularly remind myself, is that it is ok to not be ok.

My bad!

We all do silly, borderline stupid things in our lives. And let’s be honest, we do them on a more regular basis then we’d care to admit, or even consider. One of the silliest things I did recently bought my friend much entertainment.
My friend was visiting me in London for the weekend, and we were going to go to the theatre. We’d been planning it for months and were both utterly excited. I was incharge of booking the tickets, which I did in a rush one sleepy night. Big mistake.
The Saturday we were due to go to the theatre comes and I figure I’d best check my emails to make sure I had the correct details for the theatre. I hadn’t checked my emails in a long time for two reasons; firstly, my email app had been broken, and secondly, it was mainly my spam email account so it didn’t matter. It turns out, you really should check your emails on a regular basis. I logged on online and found that I had an email from the theatre from the day before saying ‘we hope you enjoy your visit to the theatre tonight’. I could feel the panic pumping in my veins, my heart speeding up. What stupidity had I done? Cursing aloud, I scanned my emails for the booking confirmation, and that is where I discovered I had booked the theatre for the Friday night instead of the Saturday. The Friday that had already been. There was no recovering from this, I’d made a big boo-boo.
My friend, lovely dear that she is, was very understanding though. She called me a ‘silly poo’ and laughed. There was no making me feel like an idiot, or bringing it up regularly with grievance. Just laughter. And that’s the wonderful thing about true friends, they understand and accept you make mistakes, some bigger and more expensive than others, and they laugh about them with you. We didn’t get to go to the theatre that weekend, but we did buy several DVDs and have an amazing girl night in – night salvaged. I like to think that my ditziness makes me endearing though, like a loveable fool.
All I really have left to say is ‘my bad’!