Twenty-Nine

What if my destiny is to claw my way to greatness?”

— Emma-Jane Barlow (From Weeds, Sins & Sunflowers, 2022)

It is the eve of my 29th birthday. Every year I like to reflect on the year that has passed but before I started to write this, I read my last two birthday blog posts for 27 and 28 and I marvel at how different my life has become in only 12 months. This is going to be a long journey to write in such a small space. Maybe I should start at the beginning? That would be a good place to start.

When I turned 27 years old in June 2020, I was unhappy. When I turned 28 years old in June 2021, you guessed it, I was unhappy. You wouldn’t know it from my words but I just didn’t want to admit to myself that the root of the problem was blindingly obvious, something major had to change in my life. I felt stuck, like a weed, anchored to the soil. I dreamt of becoming a sunflower with canary wings, I wanted bliss, I wanted to fly, I wanted to soar, I wanted so much more for myself. Then, a few months after my 28th birthday, October 2021 to be exact, everything in my world changed. The universe shook me like a tambourine until I was forced to admit some harsh truths, I had to peel back the rose coloured lenses and become the person I was always meant to be and it all began with a broken heart.

The universe shook me like a tambourine until I was forced to admit some harsh truths, I had to peel back the rose coloured lenses and become the person I was always meant to be and it all began with a broken heart.

As the autumn leaves started to change, my 12-year relationship with my “childhood sweetheart” ended. But we didn’t just part ways because we had grown apart, there was no civility and shaking hands, only chaos, betrayal and pain. I never wanted things to end the way they did. It felt like it was happening to someone else. I was disassociated from the world and the people around me for months because I was trying to process the loss of everything I had ever known. I was yanked from the comfortable and familiar life I had been living for 12 years and all of a sudden, I had to start again. Alone. Build myself back up, brick by brick, discover who I was without this other person identifying my existence and purpose.

It has taken many therapy sessions to unveil my past traumas and to fully understand and accept that there was nothing healthy or gratifying about that long-term relationship. There was love there once, there was also growth and respect and honesty, but somewhere along the way, they all withered and it became toxic and I just didn’t see the signs. It has taken a lot of soul searching and shadow work over the past eight months to uncover the truth and understand the wrong choices I have made in the past decade of my life. I let myself grow small. I let myself be abused. I let myself live in someone else’s shade instead of giving myself the space to flourish and thrive as the bold and beautiful flower that I am.

I let myself grow small. I let myself be abused. I let myself live in someone else’s shade instead of giving myself the space to flourish and thrive as the bold and beautiful flower that I am.

In the hurricane of my heartbreak, I was compelled to write. As autumn faded into winter, emotions poured out of me and onto the page. I filled notebooks with verses of sorrow and I tried to find the reason and rhyme for everything that was happening to me by doing what I do best, write poetry. The end result was Sins & Sunflowers, my brand new poetry book, it is a raw and brazen collection that unearths some of the darkest truths that a broken heart ponders and it also explores the themes of finding new love and most importantly, learning to love yourself. Click on the buttons below to find out more…


So, I was now living in my mum’s box room. Staring at the ashen walls every day trying to figure out what the future would hold for me. I swam through all the different rivers of grief, denying my pain through a unfeigned smile, drinking red wine to numb myself, holding back the waves of anger that overwhelmed me and feeling dizzy from living as the past, present and future versions of myself. I was single for the first time and during those few months I explored my options, I had fun. Flirting, sexting, dating. I found a hidden confidence that I didn’t know was within me. I was finally getting somewhere with one guy that I was attracted to, but eventually, I was ghosted and left feeling used and worthless.

The journey of feeling worthless was how I discovered my worth. I knew then that I didn’t need anyone else to define me. I focused on myself and once I let go and fully embraced this new version of me, I found out something else, something I think deep down I have always known, I’m Autistic. When my therapist confirmed it, everything finally made sense. I’m not going to go into too much detail about my Autism here because this is my birthday post, but it was a blessing to finally understand myself and how I see the world.

The journey of feeling worthless was how I discovered my worth. I knew then that I didn’t need anyone else to define me. I focused on myself and once I let go and fully embraced this new version of me, I found out something else, something I think deep down I have always known, I’m Autistic.

Something else happened when I stepped out of the darkness and started to heal my heart. I met someone. An unexpected, beautiful surprise of a man that has shown me that I can fall in love again, learn to trust, fully embrace life and enjoy every moment. I am bursting with gratitude and admiration for him because he has shown me a new direction and a different path that I didn’t imagine my life would take. He is the sunshine I needed in my life and I wake up every day thanking the universe for giving me him and showing me that the love I still had in my heart, despite all its cracks, could find a new place to reside with someone else.

He is the sunshine I needed in my life and I wake up every day thanking the universe for giving me him and showing me that the love I still had in my heart, despite all its cracks, could find a new place to reside with someone else.

Fast forward to now and I am spinning under the disco ball, enthralled by the wonders that await me in the future. I am loving life again. I am finally breathing in the scent of blossoming hope and believing that I can be truly happy. I thought I knew what happiness was but I didn’t, not until now. I am going into my 29th year with grace and authenticity and carrying wisdom that outshines the grief and anguish I have encountered in the last eight months. The highlights of my 28th year are that I have found myself, found new love, found that change can be exciting and I have found that the strength to be a sunflower with canary wings was in me all along, I always knew how to fly and now I will soar towards 29 and be thankful because every day is a gift. The future for me is bright and I am going to dance beneath the sun, knowing that this happy poet has everything she needs to start living the life she has always wanted.

I am loving life again. I am finally breathing in the scent of blossoming hope and believing that I can be truly happy.

Why Do I Write?

Sometimes we need to go back to the beginning. To understand why we started to do something, so we can appreciate the journey. I have been creatively blocked for a while and most of the art I have created has felt forced. I decided to take a short break from writing poetry and posting it to Instagram, not because I don’t adore the community on there, because I do, but because I had forgotten my roots, my reasons for writing. I started to question why I write and it led me to find some of my old poetry, poems and stories I wrote as a young child and teen.

When I opened up the dusty Pokemon tin that lives in a drawer beneath my bed, I smiled at the stack of paper that had been folded neatly, hidden away in a box for nearly two decades. This is where it truly began for me as a writer. I started penning down poetry when I was 7 years old and stories at 10 years old. One of the first poems, that I managed to find, was about a dog and it was written when I was 8 years old.

A sweet poem with simple rhymes. Although I am quite impressed that I rhymed “food” with “intrude” at such a young age. Once I knew how to rhyme, I was unstoppable. Many poems followed. I was a unique child. I even knew it at the time. I always felt different, I was compelled to carry a notebook and pen and write, sketch, doodle anything that lived inside my innocent and growing mind.

I always say to people, even now, that I didn’t choose poetry, it chose me. Whenever I feel uninspired or want to give up writing altogether, I remind myself that some things are much bigger than me. The universe wanted me to be a writer. It wanted me to be a storyteller. I must continue. I must write. It’s in the innermost parts of my soul.

As I grew up, my language and themes naturally evolved. I would write about the seasons, dreams and what I can only describe as puppy love. Rhyming couplets, dotting my i’s with hearts. I did have a chuckle at some of the things I found. I was drawn to a poem titled Dreams, that I penned when I was 11-years-old and felt a warming sense of nostalgia, remembering a positive little girl that believed in the beauty of her dreams and had not yet been broken by the upheaval of this calamitous world.

Life is like a balancing beam, if you fall get up again.

— advice from my 11-year-old self.

At 12 years old, I was more ambitious than ever to pen stories. But no one knew it. Everyone saw a shy preteen who liked to perform on a stage to grow her confidence. But I kept the writer part of me hidden. I became self-conscious, as most teenage girls do. I didn’t believe in my talent. But in hindsight, reading this work back with adult eyes. There is clearly talent emerging…

The sky is griddled with pink and grey. Black rain falls. Moonlight filters through the trees. Each blade of grass glistens, spiked by frost. The breath that escapes me is dazzled. Like a stone falling in a pond, circles and circles of love ripple through me.

— excerpt from Descriptions (aged 12)

By 15 years old, I had written many stories and poems. A lot of them were typed at this stage, as like most teenage girls growing up in the early 2000’s, I was glued to a computer screen. But, I found this short story, a poignant tale of a daughter visiting her mother’s grave. I guess my love for melancholic stories and using emotive language to draw the reader in started here.

My throat was dry like the ancient stone walls surrounding the church. I knelt down, holding back the tears. The pain of guilt overwhelmed me.

— Excerpt from a short story (15 years old)

Now I fast forward, to now. At 28 years old. I have a published poetry book Darkness & Light, which is a ten-time bestseller on Amazon. 4.5k followers on my poetry page on Instagram. A successful collaborative poetry project called First Line Poets and an anthology on the way. I am proud of myself. Despite the setbacks, the obstacles, the years that passed by without putting pen to paper, I truly found my love for writing again. I think we always find our way back to things that are meant to be.

So, I fondly tucked away these poems and stories back into my childhood memory box. They have given me the push I needed. To keep moving forward. To keep writing. To keep carving stories and writing my truth. The moment that my pen stops moving, I lose the essence of me, who I really am. I am a writer, a poet, a storyteller. Stories live in the marrow of my bones. It is up to me now, to write them and share them with the world.

Twenty-Eight

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday.

And like I do every year, I am writing a birthday eve blog post. This is something that I like to do, to reflect on my life for the past 365 days. 28. Sometimes I feel like I fit into the mould of “old soul”, I have been through so much in my short life that I sometimes feel older than the number designated to me. I often feel like I have been here before and I know that I can be old fashioned in many ways. Other times I still feel like a girl playing grown-up, with a childhood whimsy in my heart that I has never left me and I don’t believe it ever will. Do we ever really “grow up” or is it just another social paradigm that we buy into like everything else? I think I believe the latter. It’s important for us to nurture our inner child and let go of the responsibilities of being an adult every once in a while.

Time is accelerating fast, I am heading towards 30 but it doesn’t scare me any more, not like it once did. Getting older has helped me to cement my ethics, morals, beliefs and perspective of the world. With age, comes wisdom, new experiences and memories – some that I will cherish and some that I would rather forget. In my life, I now have balance, calm, self-love, gratitude and purpose. All the things that I was searching to find in the chaos that was my early twenties.

So, there is no escaping the elephant in the room. The pandemic. 2020 was a crazy year. The world felt like a reversed magnet, everything felt wrong somehow and all humanity could do was adapt. So that’s what I did. I used the lockdown and isolation to get back to words. Pick up a pen and find my voice again. I had no excuses. There was no job or career to distract me. Just like the rest of the world, I spent my 27th year of life at home, staring at the same four walls.

This could have been detrimental for my mental health, I could have dwelled on something that I couldn’t control and spiralled into a state of anxiety but luckily, I have spent a long time healing and working on myself so that didn’t happen. What did happen was – I PUBLISHED A BOOK! I have dreamt of being a published author since the age of seven. Once I knew what a book was, I wanted to write one, see my name on the cover. Growing up, I dabbled in short story and novel writing, but poetry has always been the medium for me. So, I joined the Instagram writing community under the handle name @emmajanepoetry, used the support of the writers I met there to build my confidence and in November last year, I self-published Darkness & Light, my first poetry collection. You can buy it here.

Then something incredible happened! My book became an Amazon bestseller!!! Multiple times!!! It really was a dream come true and I am so proud of myself. Not only did I immerse myself in the Instagram writing community, but I created a collaborative poetry project called First Line Poets, 125 writers from across the world coming together to swap first lines to inspire poetry. The project is something that fills me with joy and I really love being the leader of this inspiring initiative I created.

There is a lot to be grateful for as my 28th year approaches. I have an amazing partner who is my world, I have great friends and family around me, I have just landed an amazing job as a Creative Consultant and I really enjoy it. Life is good. No matter what obstacles come my way, I know that I am strong enough to overcome them. My hopes for the upcoming year are that I continue to be happy, content and feel inspired to create. If there is anything that the year 2020 has taught the world and me, it is that everything you know can be gone in a second, so enjoy, live in the moment, let go of your need to control everything and focus only on the things that bring you joy. Life is unpredictable. And I have learned that no amount of wishing, organising with coloured post-it notes or filling planners with goals will change that. I am learning to let go of the need to know what is coming next. I spend more time in the present moment than I ever have. Sure, I think of the future. But this year has changed me, now I live with the philosophy of living my life – one day at a time.

Emma-Jane

Higher Power (Poem)

What if I’m not lost?
What if I have been
carrying around
the truth beneath my skin?
What if in the past,
when I looked up
into the blackened night,
searching for a beacon,
pleading for guidance
my higher power waited?
Lying dormant in my heart,
she patiently, silently,
lovingly waited for
the right time to awaken,
to be known to me.
I asked too soon
for a revelation,
I know this now.
I had lessons to learn,
mistakes to make,
demons to burn,
a journey to take.
My heart needed to
shatter and heal,
my eyes needed
to see the world
without rose-coloured glasses,
without a whimsical
shield to blind me.
My legs needed to be
dragged along different paths,
to lead me to this place.
Now, my higher power is here,
she is alive and listening.
She whispers in the
night and day,
reveals her wisdom to me.
She lights my soul with
burning embers.
Like sunbeams,
hope shines through
my eyes again.
Gratitude runs through my veins.
I am who I was meant to be.
She had a plan all along.
My higher power
knew I would crumble,
she knew I would fall,
but she also knew
that I would rise again.
– EJ

©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.

Darkest Days (Poem)

A world divided,
living in a digital matrix,
under a veil, day after day.
Slaves to our own
comfortable routines.
Easy, want it, need it,
click of a button.
Protecting our own hearts,
the lives we have built.
Millions of human lives,
a kaleidoscope of divergence.
An array of stories being told
through one lense of time.
Then, change.
A bane is set free.
Spreading through the world,
it eliminates, menacingly
praying on the weak,
tearing human lives apart.
But we are courageous,
we have kindness in our souls,
hope burning through
our spirits like wildfire.
We are human,
we can get through this.
Stay strong,
believe in togetherness,
believe in community,
the world will continue to shine,
even after its darkest days
– EJ

©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.

Lighthouse (Poem)

I am a lighthouse,
a beacon of positivity.
Dark clouds may
loom over me
but I am strong.
The sun may depart
to make way for the moon
but I am strong.
The storm may surge,
lightning may strike,
but I am strong.
I could fall under the waves,
almost drown,
but I am strong
I am a lighthouse,
I can always
find the light again
– EJ

©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.

What Is A Poet? (Poem)

What is a poet?
Woken by a whispering
muse from dusk until dawn
a sculpter of words,
an artist who paints
words that can set
a soul on fire.
What is a poet?
The yearning to feel,
to decipher the meaning
of the world.
A poet is a vessel of love,
a carrier of pain.
A poet is a creative
spirit craving definition.
I am a poet, a label
I am proud to unveil,
a word that elucidates – me.
– EJ

©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.

Actually Autistic Blogs List

A list of blogs by Actually Autistic bloggers

deepak sharma writes

Short and Inspiring Stories, Travel Memoirs and Articles

The Poet's Resource

sharing what we know about poetry markets

Daily Poets

Find the Story Anywhere, Every Day. Or Don't, We're Not the Boss of You.

K Morris - Poet

Kevin Morris poet

Poet's Corner

Poems, poets, poetry, writing, poetry challenges