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.

Twenty-Seven

Another year has passed. It has become a tradition for me to reflect on my life for the past year, the night before my birthday. Tomorrow I turn 27. It’s a strange world that we are living in right now. With a global pandemic, lockdowns across the world and an unpredictable virus taking people’s lives, this birthday I am filled with gratitude that I have a home, I have people who love me and I have my health. So this birthday is a little different, I have to stay indoors and celebrate it on a smaller scale, but I’m okay with that. You see, in the post I wrote the day before my 26th birthday, I talked about already feeling fulfilled, about learning to let go of things I can’t control and focusing on the present moment and the small things in life I am grateful for. I am happy to say that I continued on this journey of gratitude and light this year.

In September, I decided to go back into the classroom. I took a role as a teaching assistant, believing that even though teaching was not the job for me, the classroom was still an environment I thrived in. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were many reasons I left my most recent job, I won’t go into the details. But something inside me was telling me to move on. I didn’t belong. I don’t know how I knew. I just did. I had to walk away. Now I don’t see it as a failure. I see it as a lucky escape. From a life that wasn’t meant for me. Since I left teaching, I often find myself repeating this phrase to myself “I can do anything but not everything.” It keeps me grounded and reminds me that it is okay if something is not for you, it’s not a failure but a lesson. Then I ask myself, what can I learn from this experience?

Well, what I have learned is that I am a free spirit. I am someone who becomes restless in one place for too long, I crave change, I need to be stimulated, I always want to try new things. I may have changed my mind a lot on what I want to do and what I think my purpose is during my twenties so far, but isn’t that what this time is for? Everything I have done is part of my journey. Since my last birthday, I have been focusing on my wellbeing and working on myself. My energy has shifted from what career or job I want to have, to what truly makes me happy. I started going to therapy and I worked through a lot of issues that have held me back for years. I made the crucial steps towards battling my anxiety and depression once and for all. There many other factors alongside therapy, but I can say for certain, I haven’t been this mentally strong in a long time. I am calm, centred, more creative and overall I worry less about what direction my life is going to take. What will meant to be will always find a way. I’m not saying I won’t ever experience mental illness again. But I now have full confidence in myself that I have the right tools to recognise the signs before I end up in that place again.

Also, in the last year, I have started my own small craft business called Positive Stitch. I started stitching as a hobby. In January, I started selling cross-stitch and embroidery gifts and I love it. Stitching is therapeutic for me and I have always loved creating things, whether that be a piece of writing, art or a music. During the last few months, I have found my creativity again. I am writing poetry every day and working on editing my first collection. I am practising my skills on the guitar and ukulele and singing a few times a week. Life is good right now.

So on the eve before my 27th birthday. I want to just take a moment to look back at how far I have come. Remember the mountains I have climbed to get here. It may have taken years of struggle but I have found my strength. I am happy, I am thankful for the present moment and hopeful for the future (whatever it may hold for me.) Now I can’t predict what will happen in the next 365 days of my life. But as long as I believe in myself, follow my intuition and appreciate the love and happiness that surrounds me, I’ll be okay. Happy Birthday to me, here is to many more to come!

Twenty Five

Tomorrow I turn 25.

I like to reflect on my life when it’s my birthday. It’s the perfect time to see how my life has changed in one year and it also gives me a chance to express my gratitude for the amazing things in my life.

When I wrote my last birthday post, I was just about to start my journey to becoming a teacher. It’s 365 days later and I am now coming to the end of my training, I will be qualified in just two short months. I have secured my first teaching job, a permanent position in year five and I am over the moon about it. Just as I predicted, it wasn’t easy but I can say for certain that training to be a teacher was the best decision of my life.

This year I have learned to find balance in every part of my life. I have learned to accept and let go of certain feelings and thoughts that were holding me back. I still have a long way to to before I am free from my anxiety but as time passes by, I am conquering it with confidence and learning different ways to reduce stress and manage my emotions.

The thought of the next year scares me a little but I am excited for the changes that I know are going to come and the little moments in life that will surprise me. I am ready for me and the people I love the most to move forward, to succeed, to love and to live a happy and fulfilling life. I am ready for the challenges that await me in the next 365 days, and I hope to share some happy memories and new life lessons with you all in my birthday post next year.

Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

2014: A Reflection Of 365 Days

2015
2015  is fast approaching and when the clock strikes at midnight tomorrow and the celebrations begin, I will do just that with a smile on my face because I really have had an amazing  year. 365 days ago I was a different person, I was in a different situation and I had a different perspective. Now, I am one step closer to being the person that I want to be. There have been many moments in 2014 that I have felt proud, happy, grateful and optimistic and unfortunately, there have been hard times when I have felt like giving up. However, I’m starting to discover the way that life works and although 2014 had its challenging times, the amazing moments still shine for me. It’s the little things that make me smile when I reflect on the year I have had, walking hand in hand with the one I love alongside the River Liffey bridge in Dublin on our first holiday together, shaking the chancellor’s hand as I completed my university journey and was awarded with my degree and the feeling of wanting to dance all night as I celebrated with my best friends at our graduation ball.

I don’t like to make new years resolutions because I no longer feel like I need to resolve anything in my life. I can always change however, every morning when I wake up I have the choice to change my life or my attitude, I don’t want to give anything up or set myself unrealistic goals. What I want to do instead is carry on growing as a person and learn to be happy. I have discovered this year that happiness isn’t something that is guaranteed. It’s so easy to slip in and out of happiness and despair, there is no secret to happiness, it must come from within. I need to learn to be happy with how my life is now, rather than think about the future or the past. Only then will I be truly happy.

This year I have started to believe in myself and my abilities. I wrote a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. Before November, I didn’t believe that I could do it but I did. I graduated university with a 2.1, the three years of hard work and determination finally paid off and wearing my cap and gown was one of the best days of my life so far. I want to do my masters one day and hopefully I will get there because I want to keep going. I have started to learn sign language this year and I have really enjoyed it and I am going to carry on with it in January. I have had many voluntary writing positions this year, I am getting my articles out there and making a name for myself. I am slowly getting to where I want to be and although I can often be impatient, I am proud of what I have achieved so far.

I like to think of a new year as a new book, with empty pages and I can paint them with words and memories. I need to think of the future but also need to stay in the present, enjoy every moment and seize every opportunity. I have learnt many lessons this year and I’m sure there will be many more to come in 2015. My biggest problem is I like to plan things, I like everything to be perfect and I like to control everything in my life but I need to try and let go and let life happen. I’m starting to realise that I can’t control everything in my life and the future will write itself and I will never have control over what happens to me and the people that I love. 2014 has been a year of growth, a year of learning new things and a year of new adventures. That’s exactly what I see beyond the horizon of January the 1st, 2015 is a new adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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