Love

There have been a number of things that I imagined as a child that didn’t quite turn out as I expected. Expectations that were quite often set by films. There wasn’t a magical transformation between the ages of 14 and 17 in which I blossomed into a slim and beautiful woman worthy of a slow-mo sexy music intro in an early 00’s  male-lead rom-com. I’m not a talented tortured artist type whose depression is important because it makes you take me seriously. Depression makes me burst into tears in the middle of the day for no reason rather than contributing to anything creative*.  I’m not adopted nor have I developed any variety of superpowers, I’m utterly lacking in that ‘something’ that makes a children’s story heroine. When you are an adult you can buy anything you want at the supermarket and eat biscuits for tea if you like; this isn’t entirely untrue, getting drunk and eating three meal-sized portions of food from McDonald’s has happened but I ‘treat’ myself to raspberries these days because that stuff is expensive. To name a few things… But there is one thing that I got nearly right, but I’m quite happy to have been a bit off the mark.

When I was 11 I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself, something that dropped lower and lower as my teens progressed*, so much so that I couldn’t imagine ever meeting someone that would want to marry me. I wasn’t really someone super invested in the whole wedding fantasy thing, which I feel is more of a rom-com trope that it is real life, but from a young age I had that downer of a thought. This story doesn’t end with a wedding, this isn’t a pre-Frozen Disney princess film, but it turns out good. It is a pretty stupid thought to have and maybe if I could talk to the littler me I would tell myself that. “Dude you seen how many ugly people there are that are married and made babies? That could be you, you serious nerd!” That or something a bit less Anna Kendrick-y, because–let’s face it–I would have some serious emotional ground to cover to prepare myself for the ensuing 12 years. I don’t doubt that everyone would. Even if it is just to prepare for the embarrassment of drunken events.

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I think that the thing is, love always seemed so special and rare so why should I get that? I was right and wrong. And I’m glad to be both. I’m a romantic. Kisses in the heavy rain, holding hands, getting sad at train stations when you say goodbye and looking into the heart of the TARDIS so that you can get back to them and defeat the Daleks together. You know, the cheesy stuff that films say are real but your very cold and unromantic world says aren’t. Getting slowly older, and less of a teen, without having as much of a whiff in the direction of such things was difficult. Couples that had been together since before I was born were divorcing. Just like my grandparents (both sets) many years earlier. There were always ends. And there still are Brad and Ange, Chris and Anna, little things that make you doubt.

Turning 20 was a bit of a landmark. I wasn’t interested in waiting around for love anymore so I gave some to myself*. Then a bit more. Then I found that self-care didn’t just mean the ‘be nice to yourself’ stuff but also the ‘stop eating white bread’ and ‘stop hurting yourself’ stuff. I guess ‘stop hurting yourself’ might seem obvious, but we hurt ourselves in many ways. Thoughts more often than not. When I turned 21 I had lost a few fucks and a couple of stone. Loving came more easily to me because I realised something I wish that every 11 year old girl could say about themselves: I am worthy of love and I’m pretty darn great.

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Forever 21

Now the turn of events is pretty cliché. I’m not going to tell anyone that you have to love yourself before you find love somewhere else. Because we all deserve love, with the exception of neo-Nazis and people who walk slowly side by side with their friends on a busy pavement, nobody has to earn it. But learning to love and care for yourself is more important, other people die, or worse, go bald. Self-love is very difficult. Sometimes I doubt if things have really changed that much for me when I feel sick looking at myself naked and pinching at my flesh. But those feelings don’t linger like they used to. Part of this could change, if you aren’t well you can’t help the way you feel about yourself (hence, everyone deserves love even if they don’t think they do). Yet day by day, week by week things are much better. Bad thoughts come, but they don’t stay as long.

I knew that I would fall in love fast. Luckily I had a couple of false starts before the real thing. I got a taste of what it shouldn’t be without making any real investments. So as it happened I kept pausing, “Is this for real?” It was after 10 days together that I really knew. Not 10 continuous days, it was a little under a month, but 10 times of seeing one another. I knew because the words were pushing my tongue against my teeth. I was hearing them when they weren’t said. I felt them sweating out my palm. Of course though I couldn’t actually say them. Don’t be so crazy, I’m a writer not a performer. They were too precious. What if I said them wrong? They could break me.

But they didn’t. So now I get to say them everyday, thank you for my cup of tea – “I love you.” I like holding your hand- “I love you.” My face hurts from smiling too much when we are together- “I love you.” You bought me pyjamas with personified sushi on them – “I love you.” You made me sad but I forgive you- “I love you.” You’re my best friend- “I love you.” So few words that mean so much. And much more than I had hoped. They wrote the poems, painted the pictures, made the films and sang the songs but it is but better than all of that. It’s funny, weird, exciting but ultimately right. So right.

I’m glad I was proved wrong.

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(*I’m OK though.)
(*Seriously I am OK now.)
(*No not that kind of love!)

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Returning to the Magic

The winter I turned seven I remember standing in a long queue at the cinema after we had bought our tickets. There were a lot of people waiting to see a film and there was undeniable excitement in the air. There aren’t many specific memories that can be clearly recollected from childhood but this is one of mine. A memory of waiting to see the first Harry Potter film.        

These circumstances aren’t usual or even unique but they were well timed. I was seven and unable to really read anything much more complicated than a Beano. Reading the Harry potter books wasn’t something I could do until I was in middle school, but I had heard of them. And as a seven-year-old I was dissatisfied with the limitations of youth and thought the children a few years older than myself seemed so grown up. Harry, Ron and Hermione were set to guide my aspirations. Heroes is a strong word, such titles are reserved for the likes of Miss Buffy Summers, but I cannot deny being encouraged by Hermione’s unapologetic know-it-all-ness. She made me want to be brighter, smarter and prouder for it. Which is partly accountable for my saying things that sound smart but not actually being sure if they are correct or have any substance. But I’m not a doctor so it’s not too important I’m right all the time. Just as long as it seems like I am.

Anyway, I was hooked. How could I not be. A new film every year or so unit the age of sixteen. Until I was leaving High School. The characters growing older with me, their school years taking place alongside mine. They had homework and awkwardness like me, but they had adventures and through the films, and later the stories, I got to escape from the muggle world into their magic. In many ways it is quite a gift to have in my generation. And is something I’m keen to share with the new generations, such as my sister ten years younger than myself. Legacy is a big word but that is what is being nurtured for Harry Potter. Perhaps just more ways to make money, but less cynically new ways to enjoy something we love and to have others experience it anew.

For my eighteenth birthday party I dressed up as Hermione and I then went to the Harry Potter Studios with my best friend as a present. To stand among the places you dreamed of visiting as a child while being on the cusp of adulthood is a powerful feeling. You know a lot more than you did over ten years ago but you have much bigger questions and fears. It was the perfect close to my juvenile years.

Now I still love Harry Potter but that love is less immediate, perhaps even less relevant, as my life is filled with newer things like career goals and exciting food. A couple of months ago my sister turned twelve and as a family we visited the studios together. There aren’t many things families do together, that everyone enjoys, but this is one. We all have our own love for Harry Potter. Each of us having our individual connection to the stories and world. In this respect Harry Potter is important, it is a force for good that brings people together. Money grabbing aside, the tour is special, the studios are a new place for expressing this love. Walking around now as a young adult I’m still affected by the wonder and detail of the cinematic world. There were a few new things to see which renewed my excitement. It’s odd that seeing all the tricks that brought the magic to life, looking behind the curtain, could offer wonder.

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All in all it was a great weekend, despite my having a migraine the night before I stayed in the hotel and ordered in some really tasty Thai food. Unfortunately, I don’t think that they will deliver to Manchester from Watford. I think that if you have already been when it opened there’s still lots to enjoy visiting again. I’m just saving up for my very distant trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando now…

Places and Times

A few days before my 19th birthday I moved from a village of a few thousand to a city of several million. Once goodbyes were said I was alone in a dingy attic room on the eighth floor of never-ending corridors. I could try not to be dramatic and describe the situation in any other way than like the opening of a young adult novel of a heroine plunged into scary and unknown circumstances–but that’s what it was. (Spoiler alert, the girl overcomes obstacles, learns about herself, gets the guy and is currently living in the happily ever after.) I have never been one to crave company, not in such an acute sense of the word. Introverted by nature, aloneness equated to ‘me time’, doing what I want and not worrying about other people. But then there wasn’t an option, being alone was no longer a respite in a house full of family or a school of old friends, it was the default. I could hear a thousand voices a day but not a single one familiar.

This is softened by a little by routine, the same faces in your class once a week, the girl who cooks dinner at a similar time to you, the guy working the evening shift at the Spar but these aren’t relationships. I can not name a single person I lived with for nine months three years ago. I could make a lucky guess as they were white, female and born in the 90s. Sarah? That sounds right.

One place it is hard to feel lonely is at the cinema. Some people wouldn’t dream of doing this alone, I know that there is a certain anxiety around this but once you get over the suspicions that people will judge you for being alone it is pretty great. You can go see whatever you fancy without needing to convince someone or worrying about them being late or needing to get there at a specific time yourself. Plus once you are there, it is dark and there’s no talking so you don’t need anyone. Doing things like this are important, not just if you are lonely but also so that you become comfortable with yourself. It’s an aspect of confidence to be happy making your own plans and taking yourself out for dinner. You can find out what you really like without outside opinion.

Not one to go too far out of my comfort zone I chose the Odeon at the Printworks to do this. Making it a safe place in a strange city. Somewhere that being alone didn’t matter so much, where I could lose myself for a little while in the emotions and stories on screen. I’m lucky, I don’t need that now like I used to. With the recent hand over to the Vue, its change reminded me of my own.

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Sitting alone in the dark is a good growing point but also not a long term solution. I’ve found, one way to make friends is to find people who like the same things as you. After trying a few friendship interest groups/societies I found that big crowds of strangers isn’t my thing–way too overwhelming and not good for the social anxiety.  So films were a good talking point, particularly for a student of the arts. ‘That’s a really cool thing, it reminded me of this film.’ ‘Oh, I have seen that, it was good.’ ‘They are making a new film, it is out now.’ ‘I want to see that, let’s go.’ And there you have it: pockets of interaction. Now I can’t recommend this entirely, I saw a few films with acquaintances before making a proper friend. Including an instance where a guy brought another friend along almost to diminish the possible date-like situation that hadn’t originally occurred to me. But going to see films with people tells you things about them. What they find funny? Do they have good taste? What are their manners like (did they talk through the film)? Do they breathe heavily in an annoying way? These are all good things to know about people. Particularly if you are looking for a person to spend a lot of time with, perhaps in a romantic arrangement of sorts.

First dates, from my limited experience are strange, you can accidentally be committed to spending too much time with someone you don’t like or the opposite: not have any plans and end up sitting in the same bar for 5 hours. I met my tall friend outside of what was the Odeon. Cinema dates are generally considered a no-no, but preceded by coffee and followed by drinks you have a good layer of getting to know someone.

  • Coffee – Do I want to stay on this date, am I attracted to this person?
  • Film – See something you had planned, share an interest- sexual tension?
  • Drinks – Established post-film, agreed upon if both parties are interested, and you have films to talk about during any potential lulls.

The drinks aspect of this is a little flawed as trusting things go well you may end up being kicked out of bars because they are closing. Oh to be young.

I trust that some of this sounds a little calculated, but here is the outcome: The other week I visited the Odeon with my best-friend, housemate and long-term boyfriend (all one person). We saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it was great. It would be the last time I would go to that cinema as the Odeon. As we were leaving I couldn’t help but think about the me who first went to that cinema, the me that was coping as best she could, and the me that I am now. It would have been the greatest of comforts to have known how far I have come from then. To know that I wouldn’t fail, that I could find happiness and people that like me.  I have changed and so has the world around me.

 

 

Graduating to Adulthood

So, last summer a pretty big thing happened to me, I graduated from University. It was the closing scene on years of hard work, post-it-note planning, stress-induced anxiety attacks and, most importantly, caffeine. It was the highest of the highs! Perhaps mostly because I spent the day with the people I love most in the world and had some very tasty Italian food from Don Marco. But also due to the relief of not having any more deadlines.

Now, here’s the thing. Once you graduate, there isn’t a thing anymore, there’s nothing. You graduate but are then thing-less. My life was writing essays, reading books, amending my scripts then all of a sudden I was torn form the city and plopped back to the house and the village I grew up in. The place I also grew out of.

Initially, nothingness is good. It was a time to play video games and binge watch those Netflix Marvel shows. But with your heart in another place, and no longer living off the student loan cheese, the craving for the opportunity to move forward and suddenly prove yourself the success that piece of paper says you are builds to desperation.

You don’t suddenly get the dream job you studied for. That isn’t a big statement, most people are aware of this. But you won’t get the backup either, or the backup to the backup. In fact there will be a struggle for the zero hours jobs that being a graduate you’re both under- and over-qualified for. You will end up scrounging for anything. I don’t know if this is because of the economy, the increase in graduates or simply having studied English and not wanting to suddenly become a teacher (maybe a professor, one day). I don’t have those answers but I do know that to get anywhere you just have to keep pushing. Drag yourself to the job centre and take the job in the toy shop. Learn things about people and that if their daughter doesn’t get a Hatchimal that you have ruined Christmas for them forever. Grow in unexpected ways from these challenges.

I’ve managed to move into the realm of full-time work. Career style. It’s not the career I was looking for. But right now it’s what I do and I find that it challenges me every day. Through it I’m starting to shape the life that I want in my fledgling adult years. It’s also giving me the chance to evaluate what I do want. Part of me keeps dipping a tentative toe into the pool of returning to university. To return to the place that made me. Partly in hope to get further into the career world I wish to be a part of (and by further I mean at least being able to see its hazy form on the horizon), but really I think it is because I miss my thing. My thing is writing.

So, graduating is hard, being an unemployed graduate is hard and then finally getting a job is hard, that’s life and whatever. But it’s not really the titles that matter. I am what I do and that should be what I want. So here I am, writing.

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