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.

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365 Days Of Gratitude.

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For 365 days, I have been writing down three things I am grateful for each day and it has had some surprising results.

We all know the power gratitude can have. In the darkest times, if you can find at least one thing to be grateful for, even if it is something as simple as having running water, a warm home to live in or food in your fridge, it can change your perspective entirely. This is what happened to me.

I embarked on a journey of gratitude in 2016. It turns out, it was the perfect year to do it. I have had a difficult year. I won’t go into detail but it’s been really hard to stay positive most days. I downloaded the app Gratitude Journal on my phone on the 31st of December 2015. I wanted to see if writing down three things every day I am grateful for would actually impact my wellbeing and change my perspective when experiencing bad days.

It actually worked. Each night, I would write down three things I was grateful for that day. Sometimes they were very similar – my partner’s name, home and food. However, some days I managed to write down five or even six things I am grateful for. I didn’t feel like it changed anything at first. However, after a couple of months. It started to rewire my thoughts. Reflecting on my day each night with a list of things that made me feel grateful, happy and loved made me realise that life was about the smaller things.

Whenever I got caught up in a negative spiral of I hate my job, why does this always happen to me? and why am I not going anywhere?, I adjusted my thoughts. I  remembered my list. I am grateful for my friends, my partner and my home. It instantly reminded me to be grateful for what I have and not to focus on what I don’t have.

It had such an impact on my life that I’ve decided to carry on my gratitude list into 2017. It may not work for everyone but if you feel like you need to remind yourself every day of all the amazing things you have that make your life great, then start a gratitude list.

Reaching A Mental Health Milestone

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During the past few years, I have struggled with my mental health. I have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which means I constantly worry about everything and experience high amounts of anxiety for no reason at all. It took me a long time to accept that my anxiety was part of me, something that I couldn’t erase, something that couldn’t be ‘cured’ with a prescription of pills from the doctor.

A few months ago, when I reached a dark place with my anxiety and depression, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. I would go days without leaving the house, I would sometimes sit and stare into space, pondering on the bad things that have happened in my life or bad things that ‘could’ happen in the future. I felt like I was trapped by my own mind, it’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

Having an anxiety disorder is unpredictable. You may go through periods of time without any anxiety at all and then all of a sudden, it’s back and suffocating your thoughts like a dark cloud. I thought I was strong enough to battle my mental health issue on my own and convinced myself that I was ‘in control’ and my anxiety would get better over time, but it didn’t.

I had tried all of the ‘self-help’ options and nothing worked. I was crippled by anxiety, always worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. I reached a dark place, where I thought medication was the only option for me to proceed. Then, a shining light appeared and everything changed for me. I found the strength to ask for professional help. It was a waiting game but I finally got on the list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I have to be honest, I was sceptical at first. I had convinced myself that my natural way of thinking, the negative way I approach life and every situation couldn’t be reversed. After a few weeks of therapy sessions, I started to notice a change. I had unconsciously started to think more about my ‘unhelpful thinking style’ and started to rationalise with the voice in my head when negativity surfaced. The great thing about CBT is that it strips back to the bare bones of how you think, how this effects your behaviour and how you can change this in the future.

David, my therapist was amazing. He was honest, critical and helpful in our sessions. Always sending me home with ‘homework’ to do, such as thought diaries and weekly schedules, he discovered what my triggers were and how to remove them from my life. For me it was during my alone time that I experienced more anxiety and more depressive thoughts. The answer for me was to always keep myself busy and distract myself by colouring, reading, doing yoga or simply doing some meditation.

Ever since I started CBT, I managed to pull myself out of the depressive state that I found myself in for months, started to fight against my negative thoughts and made small changes in my life that were going to improve my overall wellbeing. I am going to do yoga as often as I can, learn how to meditate, practice mindfulness and make sure I find time to relax each day. I’m going to still have bad days and now I realise that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes and it’s normal to worry, as long as it doesn’t take over your life.

I feel like I am reaching a mental health milestone. I have learnt in the past few months that anxiety cannot be ‘cured’ it can only be ‘managed.’ I have discovered that if I give attention to my anxiety and say to myself that I am mentally ill or there is something wrong with me, it only fuels my negativity and it will probably erase any progress that I have made.

I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of understanding. I accepted my anxiety was a problem, I asked for help and now I no longer feel alone on this journey to achieve a positive mindset. I have a long way to go but I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of a dark tunnel of worry, insecurity, anxiety and doubt. Like a butterfly, I feel free to go anywhere I want to go and do anything I want to do. I want to believe in hope instead of fear. I want to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. My anxiety will never ‘go away’ but I’m confident that I’m now in control of how I think, how I feel and how I behave.

 

There Are No Shortcuts To Any Place Worth Going

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I sit here now and I really cannot believe that I am in my final year of university. I know the journey is far from over but I feel like I can reflect back on my time at Edge Hill from this point and smile at how much things have changed. I have learnt many life lessons, met some great friends and I have finally found my voice as a writer. The next priority on my list is to get the best possible grade that I can achieve. I would love to get a first but a 2.1 is what I am aiming for. I also believe that it is never too early to start planning the future, I have started to search for graduate jobs. We had a career talk in class on Friday and the realisation was that over three quarters of students who graduate fail to get on the career ladder of their chosen field. I want to be in the minority that manage to get their dream job. I know I am optimistic but you never get anywhere in life if you fail to try. I have become very interested in magazine journalism and I would really love to pursue this after university. The one problem I have come across is that a large percentage of magazine companies are in London and I live in the North West, so I want to work in either Manchester or Liverpool.

I am going to try my best to get as much experience as possible, if this means doing another unpaid position when I leave university then so be it. The recipe to success is a mixture of talent, determination and hard work. You have to push yourself to achieve your goals. Recently I have acquired a new attitude. That you have to push past every person on the way to the top, they are your competition. This is a competitive field, better yet it is a competitive world and sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to get to where you want to be. When the man who was leading the careers talk asked how many people in the room had contacts in the business or work experience that was writing related, three people put their hands up (including me) Three people! Out of a class of thirty students. He was surprised by this. He told me and the other two people that we were ahead of the others and were more likely to get a graduate job because of our related experience. I think he used the phrase – you already have one foot in the door and that’s all it takes.

I like to think of my career as a ladder and I have already placed my foot on the bottom step by working at Female First this summer. I have a long way to go and I have this ideal dream in my head that I believe is possible. I am not deluded. I know that it may not happen but I will use every bit of strength I have to make it happen. If there is anything I can take away from university, besides my degree and writing experience. I can walk away and say that I am a strong, confident women who is ready to grab hold of her dream with both hands. I want to inspire. I want to write. That’s all I have ever really wanted to do deep down. Even at a young age. I wanted to create stories. Start with the idea of a character and a place and create something wonderful.  I am one voice in a sea of people, just hoping for my voice to be heard. 

I cannot predict the future. But I would like to see myself working for a magazine, I would be happy with this career path. There are two types of people in this world, those who sit back and wait for things to happen and those who make things happen. I want to be the second type of person. I want to make things happen for myself. I want to achieve my dream. It is possible. If I keep believing this and if I stay positive no matter how much rejection I face then I will be okay. There are no short cuts to any place worth going.

There is no easy way to reach your dreams. I believe that it is never too early to think about the future. I will blink and my life will be ten years from now. Life is incredibly short and we don’t have time to sit around and wait for good things to happen. I want to make the most of the next twenty years or so because these are the prime years of a person’s life. These are the years that will be the foundation of my career. I will learn all of the valid life lessons I will ever need in this time and I will grow as a person and as a writer. I still live in the present because I believe that it is the best place to be but I still need to think about the future. It is quickly approaching. In eight months time I will no longer be a university student. I will be looking for work just like the hundreds of thousands of other students across the country. I need to stand out. Why should they hire me over another Creative Writing student? What do I have that makes me different? That is what I need to think about. A year ago I didn’t have this mentality, but now I do. Now I am ready. Ready for the long and agonising path that is, my future.

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Must Begin With A Single Step


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‘Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without.’ – Buddha

I have heard many things when it comes to yoga and meditation and I have to admit it, I was definitely a sceptic. I refused to believe that sitting down and focusing on your breathing for ten minutes could release all of the toxins and the bad energy from the body.

Today I decided to stop talking about yoga and start doing yoga. I have always had an interest in yoga and meditation but never really pushed myself to actually do it. I am so glad that I finally motivated myself. I have suffered with anxiety for numerous years, it crept up on me one day when I was at college and it has lingered over my head ever since. It only takes something small to trigger it, whether it be the stresses of university work, family worries or relationship struggles – my anxiety takes over. My heart beats increases, my chest tightens and I feel like I lose control of my positive thoughts. I sometimes get frustrated because I can still get anxiety symptoms when I don’t have anything stressful on my mind.

Here is where yoga comes in. I didn’t expect a permanent solution, I just wanted an outlet. I also have a hip condition so the idea of yoga has always seemed like an impossible achievement for me. I decided to give it a go anyway and in the process of experiencing yoga, I found meditation. I struggled to let go of the tension that built up in my mind and my body. I didn’t believe that meditation would work, but it did. I entered a trance-like-state without even realising it. I focused on my breathing, inhaling and exhaling. That’s all that I needed to think about. I cleared my mind. My eyes closed. I felt at one with myself. When I had finished I felt revitalised and free of anxiety and tension.

Amazing right? The lesson I have recently learned is a journey of a thousand miles must being with a single step. You have to try new things and find your true self. Take that first step and you may discover something great. I just hope that I stick to my yoga and meditation. I frequently go through phases of doing things. I learn a new subject or skill, I am fascinated by it and for a while it is my new favourite thing until it fades into obscurity. I get bored easily but I feel different about this. I believe that yoga and meditation will help me in every aspect of my life and I am determined to carry on doing it. It is a discipline that I feel that I need right now. I am going back to University in a few weeks and I don’t want the ghost of my anxiety to return. I haven’t had an attack in about six months. University is the number one trigger but now I have my new tools to help me cope. Yoga and meditation will hopefully help me control my worries and my anxious thoughts. I am confident that this is the beginning of a new spiritual journey, something great, something peaceful, something new.

Dream Big Or Don’t Dream At All.

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I think this is the most confident I have ever felt about my writing. I currently have 8,000 words of my first novel drafted, it doesn’t sound a lot compared to the 80,000 word mark I am hoping to achieve but for me it is a big accomplishment. I tend to bore easily with my story ideas but I strongly believe in this one. I might be currently writing The Pendant but that doesn’t stop me developing other pieces of writing. I am in the process of redrafting a poetry collection, I submitted it last year for my Poetry class and my tutor told me with a few more edits it could be published, so I am taking her advice and I am trying to polish it and will hopefully submit it to a competition when it is completed. There are fifteen poems in the collection and I have considered adding a few more, the collection is titled Beneath My Feet and the themes throughout the collection are place, landscape and time.

I also have the ambition to write a short story collection, I have a few ideas and would like the theme to be love, finding love and losing love. I have a few short stories that I have already written that could be apart of this collection and I have plenty of story ideas scribbled in my journal for new short stories. I am determined to make this an academic year of writing. When I finish my third year of university I would like at least 50,000 words of my novel manuscript completed and a collection of poetry and short stories. I am also studying screen writing this year and even though I enjoy it I don’t inspire to carry on with this medium after university.

I have always been overly ambitious, I just wish my efforts matched this ambition. I am indecisive, easily distracted and easily bored which definitely makes being a writer a harder journey to endure. I like to set myself aims that are possibly out of my reach, then I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them because they were big dreams in the first place. I’ve always believed that you should dream big or don’t dream at all. I am really excited to go back to university and carry on with my studies, I know that my last year is going to be my hardest year but I am going to try my best and hopefully I will have several creative pieces ready to be published when I graduate.

I would love to have my poetry or my short stories published. I know it’s going to be a few more years until my first novel will be ready to be submitted somewhere, so even though I am writing it I am working on other projects so I can get them published too. I have big dreams. I want to walk into Waterstones and see my book on the shelf.  I want people to get lost in a story that I created, I want people to fall in love with the characters that only existed in my imagination and I want people to eagerly anticipate reading my novels when I write them. I want to have a successful career, possibly publishing or editing I’m not entirely sure yet. I have big dreams and I am determined that they are all going to happen.  Every writer is an optimist. Canadian poet Margret Atwood quotes that ‘Any writer is an optimist. Why? Number one: they think they’ll finish their book. Number two: they think somebody will publish it. Number three: they think somebody will read it. That’s a lot of optimism. It’s optimistic in and for itself because it believes in human communication.’


Twenty

As you get older you gain wisdom that will stay with you for the rest of your life, you learn lessons that will only come from the mistakes and bad choices that you make. Wisdom is just another puzzle piece to the journey. What you learn about people and what you learn from others will shape the person that you become. I am reflecting on the lessons that I have learnt recently and even though I can still sometimes feel confused and deluded by this crazy world that we live in I feel a step closer to knowing who I am. I am turning twenty years old tomorrow and that doesn’t scare me, it excites me. I am one step closer to finishing education, I am one step closer to finding the perfect job and starting my career and I am one step closer to my future. Age is just a number but it can also represent different stages of a persons life.

The last decade of my life I started as a young ten year old girl with dreams of being on stage but things changed. I grew up. I struggled through my teenage years, the most challenging years of a person’s life. I realised through my teenage years that you lose friends and you gain friends. I learnt how to control my emotions and that there were more important things in life than worrying about things that don’t matter. As I got older I gained more responsibilities and I took charge of my own life and my own decisions. Turning eighteen was a milestone that was always going to effect my future. Choosing to take a chance on a Creative Writing Degree was the best decision I ever made. I lived on my own, I gained and lost more friends and made the decision to move back home because living with people I didn’t get along with was jeopardising my happiness. I am now turning twenty and starting a new decade of my life. I can see the future in front of me and I am excited for what awaits. I am my own person, with my own goals and my own dreams and I am not going to let my life pass me by. I am going to make something of my life.

I have found my soul mate and best friend, I have great friends and I know what career path I am going down. I want to travel the world with my boyfriend Declan, I want to get married and buy a puppy. I want to laugh and enjoy every moment of happiness I get. I want to have children of my own and teach them all of the things I have learnt in life, I want to watch them grow into amazing people and I want to enjoy every milestone they reach. Twenty might just be a number to most people and it doesn’t define anything but the number of years you have been alive but for me I always use age to define the steps in my life. Twenty defines the start of official adulthood. Twenty defines the start of great things. Twenty defines the next stepping stone towards my future.