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.

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.

A Published Poet Part Two

Last year I entered a Mental Health Poetry competition with Make Our Rights Reality (MORR), my poem Did You Know made it in the top 25 and the prize was for my poem to be published in an anthology. The digital anthology has been released, the physical anthology will be out after the lockdown in the UK is lifted.

Did You Know is a poem I wrote about my darkest time a few years ago, when I was suffering with depression. It is a letter I wrote to let those around me know how deep in depression I was. Poetry for me has always helped me process my emotions. Many of these poems stay in a notebook or on my computer, as I once found them too personal to publish. But I saw this competition as an opportunity to make my voice heard amongst those who have suffered with mental health issues.

I am really pleased with this poem. I can look back on the words I wrote and be grateful that I no longer feel that way. But knowing that this anthology will be read by other young people who may be suffering with their mental health and my poem may make them feel less alone, makes me proud.

Did you know?
by Emma-Jane Barlow

Did you know that in my darkest moments,
I imagined a world without my heart beating and I smiled?
Every day, I wished for a way out, searching for salvation,
a path that would lead me towards the light.

Did you know that before I shared the positive picture that you liked,
I was drowning in desolation on the bathroom floor?
On the edge, pierced with panic in my chest, the walls crumbling around me.
Trapped, desperately watching my dense tears descend to the ground.
Alone, clock ticking, waiting for the storm to pass.

Did you know the immeasurable time I spent fighting with my own mind?
A damaged wasteland, a toxic atmosphere, somewhere you would never want to be.
The countless moments I spent revisiting old conversations.
Analysing every-spoken-word, every-emotion-felt.
Exhausted by the endless cycle of never-feeling-good-enough.

Did you know the infinite seconds, minutes, hours that I struggled to find silence?
Wanting just a fleeting moment of peace amidst the chaos of my unruly thoughts.
Every day, I dragged my legs through the mud until the sun set in the sky.
Sleeping, my only sanctuary, my only safe space away from the bleak.
In my dreams, I was free from the demons that held me hostage.

Did you know that despite the glimmer you saw in my eyes, inside my soul was breaking?
The mask I wore was due to the fear of being misunderstood by a disapproving world.
When it slipped, the eyes would stare, the voices would whisper, the fear returned.
No one recognised the hopelessness in my heart, the desire I felt to eliminate the darkness
that was growing inside me, once and for all.

Did you know that although I am walking on solid ground today,
I am waiting for it to dissolve, without warning, beneath my feet once more?
I see the light, I feel the light, I am the light. I can finally breathe without pain.
Yet I know that one day, when I’m not watching, my demons will return.

View the full anthology here: http://makeourrightsreality.org.uk/young-people-use-poetry-to-speak-out-about-mental-health/