Why are we racing to adulthood?

June has been a bit of a nothingness month for me aside from pretty major one event – I turned 25.

25.

Mid 20s. As close to 30 as 20. A quarter of a century. A fully-fledged adult. The age at which my parents got married. The age at which as a kid I thought I’d be married and own a home and have a kid.

It goes without saying that I have none of those things.

But I read a quote recently which sums up my attitude perfectly – I’m right on schedule with my life plan now I’ve pushed everything back eight years.

Because looking at it now 25 is far too young for all those things. I’m amazed my parents felt mature enough at 25 to get married. I can’t keep a plant alive, I still cry at adverts, I sometimes eat biscuits for dinner; I’ve no business making life shaping decisions. Owning a home, having children and getting married are all things that can wait because when else in my life am I going to get the chance to be accountable to no one but me?

This hit me while re-reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and just provides further proof that I should adopt it as my own personal bible. Talking about her mother she says, ‘I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life… I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.’

That’s what I am right now. I’m just me. Tied to nothing. In practical terms I’d have to give one month’s notice at work and two months’ notice on my flat but after that I could just walk out of my life. I could splurge all my savings on an around the world trip. I could move to Australia or Canada or Europe (although not for long). I could go back to University. Or I could continue as I’m doing now and just live my life exactly as I’ve made it around me. Eating what I want for dinner, even if that is occasionally biscuits, spending my money on iced lattes, second hand books, fancy cheeses, fresh flowers, days out to castles, landmarks and zoos and one extravagant, exotic holiday a year. Yes I’ll have a savings account too, I am unendingly sensible after all, but this is the one time in my life when I’ll have financial security, disposable income and no one dependent on me; I finally get to treat myself without guilt, without debt.

And slowly but surely, through reading and working and day to day life experience, I’ll become a well-rounded woman. The kind of confident, self-assured woman 13 year old me could never have imagined. Ready to face the serious, big things when I need to.

These lost years of the mid to late 20s when you’ve been thrown out into the world to live independently are the best gift that the feminist cause has given us so far and we are not even close to appreciating it. Women just twenty years ago didn’t get this option. Lizzy Bennet, Helen Graham, Tess Durbyfield, Cassandra Mortmain, Esther Greenwood; none of them got this option and they all so desperately needed it.

So I’m going to stop worrying about getting ready for the future, racing through life to the next goal post, and use this time to become a really good version of myself.

Advertisements

My biggest achievements of 2015

37ee98946bd5de65c6916f911b3ea0cb
visitlondon.com

One day into 2016 and already I’m looking longingly over my shoulder at 2015!

At this time of year I should be setting out my New Year’s resolutions and although I’ve started thinking up a few – take more photos, read more books than I buy and finally drop those extra eight pounds I’ve been carrying since uni – I’d first like to take a moment to look back at 2015.

The obvious thing to look back at is my New Year’s Resolution from last year which was in a year’s time to be anywhere but England. Clearly that didn’t quite pan out.

But you know what, I’m ok with that. So my year hasn’t been filled with amazing life changing experiences, it’s been successful in a quieter more grown-up way. Whereas 2013 had graduating from uni and 2014 had a two month trip around North America, 2015 has been more about the serious matters of getting a job and moving out.

So my first major achievement, and to get the boring one out the way, is that for nine months of this year I have been employed. In an actual job. That I get paid to do and am good at (most days). Until this year I’d been finding it almost impossible to have any kind of consistent employment. But what started as a four week temporary assignment has turned into something I could really make into a career (although with my contract running out at the end of January I’m going to need to cross all my fingers and toes for yet another miracle).

Second, which kind of goes hand in hand with the first, is getting my own little studio flat. And one day, I swear, I will photograph it and do a post about it. Because it’s just so cute you have to see it – books and bookish decorations everywhere (of course). If you’d have told me at the beginning of January that by summer I would have moved out of my parents house and be living on my own I would have first scoffed in complete disbelief, and second panicked at the thought of such a huge step. But when it came to it it wasn’t really scary at all.

And talking of things that are scary, this year I have conquered one of my biggest fears – talking on the telephone. I have hated talking on the telephone since I was a little kid. I just get so flustered that I forget everything I’m meant to be saying. So when two days into my job I was given a list of 40 people and told to phone them all, well, I almost had to disappear off to the toilets to have a panic attack. Seven months later and I talk on the phone every single day. And although I wouldn’t exactly say I enjoy it, I can at least do it without feeling like the walls are closing in around me.

From something stressful to something sweet. 2015 was the year I ticked a major life’s goal off my bucket list – holding a baby. It was something that I’d just never had the opportunity to do but as I was getting a bit older this was starting to be a serious predicament – how could I know if I wanted a baby of my own if I’d never even been near one? Well just like buses, it turns out babies come along in twos as I have now held two babies. It wasn’t exactly a comfortable experience but I’m happy to report I didn’t drop either of them. Yay. And that – big shock – they’re really cute.

And my final achievement this year – which I probably shouldn’t have left until last because it’s a little underwhelming I’ll admit – is getting my ears pierced again, and then again. I’ve been wanting three lobe piercings for around two years now mostly because I just think it looks cool. And a little bit to get back at my ex boyfriend who always said he’d break up with me if I got my ears pierced again. Well screw you, Matt! (I just want to point out I’m not really that bitter, it’s been two years, I mostly did it because I think it looks cool). I’d been really psyching myself out about how painful it would be, hence the long wait, but my friend finally convinced me to go through with it and what a fuss I’d been making over nothing! Barely felt a thing. In fact it hurt so little that exactly five weeks later, on a whim and on my own, I went and got the third hole done. Just a few days ago I was finally able to change those earrings and I was right, my ears do look cool.

I can only hope 2016 will bring me as many achievements, big or small, monumental or just another piercing (don’t worry dad, I’m mostly kidding).

What a difference a day makes

I wrote a post yesterday about how great my life is going. How much progress I’ve made in the past six months. How everything’s looking good for the future – ‘I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up,’ as Augustus Waters said.
And then today I’ve got that knot in my stomach and nervous thumping of my heart that means somewhere in the back of my mind is a negative thought that I just can’t shake – in two months my contract is up and I go back to being unemployed.

I’d got overly confident, cocky even, that my contract would just be extended again. It had happened three times before; of course it was going to happen again. I was acting like I was a permanent member of staff; worrying with the others about what the situation would be next year, planning my holidays so that I wouldn’t go over my annual leave allowance, picturing myself there for years to come. I thought I was immune to cursing myself, that my old belief that ‘when things happen in one’s imaginings they never happen in one’s life’ was no longer true. I was an adult now and couldn’t hold to such silly, childish superstitions.

And yet in reality the prospect is looking a little bleak. A lot bleak. And it seems November is going to the month when I have to return to the hateful, soul-destroying task of applying for jobs. And being turned down. Even if I did get a job it wouldn’t be as good as this one. I wouldn’t like the people as much and I’d lose the friends I have made in the office, fade in their memories as just another temp who came and then went.

I might now have a greater skill set, more experience, more confidence even but in so many ways I’m no different to how I was in April. When I face a problem, a bump in the road, I’d rather wallow in it, let myself be defeated by it, than stand up and face it head on, with steely resolve and a plan of action. It’s certainly too early to be calling myself an adult, I’m still very much a work in progress.

This time last year…

  
My life is going pretty damn well at the moment.

If you’d have asked me a year ago, even six months ago, how I was that wouldn’t have been my answer. Far from it in fact.  But I don’t think I’d really stopped to consider just how far I’d come until I came across the old text from my ‘About’ page, written ten months ago when I was first setting up this blog.

I’m Lizzy, 23 years old and living the graduate dream – I’m unemployed, single and living with my parents.

My dream career of publishing is on hold thanks to the double whammy of physical and mental illness (and a complete lack of confidence that I’d ever actually be able to break in to the hugely competitive industry with an irrelevant degree) so while I alternate unemployment with mind numbing admin work this will act as an outlet for my book related (and sometimes non book related) musings. Not so much a book review blog as a book based blog.

Right at the start is one big change (aside from, you know, being 24) – I now have an actual long term job. It’s not exactly a lucrative, challenging job offering me lots of career prospects but it’s actual employment. Employment that has a purpose, an output. With a level of responsibility that I have never experienced before. And enough income to actually be a tax payer, a contributing member of society. Almost (and I’ll say this very quietly because I don’t want to curse it), almost like a grown up.

And then once I’ve paid my income tax the rest of my earnings go on the rent for my little studio flat. Where aside from the occasions where it goes a few days without the washing-up being done and those nights when I can’t be bothered to cook so eat an apple and a packet of biscuits for dinner (ok, the apple is a lie) I live like a responsible adult. I go food shopping, I clean the kitchen floor (which is about a metre square but still) and sometimes I have vases of live flowers to look after.

Though I am still single. And nothing’s going to change on that front any time soon.

And now we’re going to take a short break while I teach you all a psychological concept. Something I learnt about back in the good ol’ days of A-Level Business Studies (read: absolutely horrendous and soul destroying days of A-Levels and I’ll do anything not to have to go back there, thank you): Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You can have no idea how much I hate myself for talking about this, I feel like such a hypocrite. When I first learnt about it I did nothing but moan (but then it was being taught in a 9am lesson so I was certainly within my rights to be moaning) and I’ve always mocked anything to do with psychological theories and profiling as complete crap but here I am anyway.

The basic idea is that you have a pyramid of needs and you have to satisfy each in turn before you can get to the next, the top being self-actualisation. Sound interesting? Not really. But you can read the Wikipedia article.

In my own personalised version I’ve always had the base covered – food, shelter, that’s been fine. If the second level was my health though I’ve been stuck on that for years. My one wish for that portion of my life was some sort of miracle cure. So obviously that isn’t what’s happened. Instead I’ve learnt a way around my health. Or at least fallen into a routine that works for me, for now.

Once that was settled I wanted some level of security and this job gives me that. Even though my contract might finish at the end of the year I’ve now got some solid experience to put on my CV and I’m fairly certain a few people who’d give me pretty glowing references. The prospect in terms of income and purpose isn’t anywhere near as bleak as when I went into this job.

So what is it I’m after now? What is my level 4, that one stage before I can achieve self-actualisation? Truthfully I don’t know. According to Maslow it should be esteem but I feel pretty good in that department actually. I’m confident in my friendships, my family and coming to actually quite like myself as a person. And that’s never really been the problem. I think what I’m most after is a little excitement, something a bit different.

Could the answer be that now’s the time to actually pursue that ‘dream career’ in publishing? No I don’t think it is. Through having a consistent job I’ve come to discover what it is I want from a job and I don’t think publishing would fit that criteria at all. I want something that I can see I’m actually making a contribution but go home at the end of the day and leave it behind. Nothing unnecessarily stressful and demanding, or that encroaches on my personal life and stops me enjoying my hobbies. Or in this situation, that one particular hobby.

It’s not that I’ve got stuck in a rut, that now I’ve found a job I want to hang onto it for dear life, it’s just that I never realised how much satisfaction you could get even from the most basic of jobs so long as you have some ownership of a task. And like I said right back at the beginning of this blog, one of my earliest posts, someone has to be doing the office jobs. And ten months on the thought that I might be one of them doesn’t fill me with terror anymore.

Or maybe it’s that this blog it’s doing its job just too well. It really has acted as an outlet for my bookish side so much so that I no longer feel the need to look for another one.

This has really been a very interesting exercise, looking back at my past through something I can use to tangibly compare ‘then’ and ‘now.’ The state of my life in 100 words or less. This time next year I wonder what those 100 words will be.

This month I’ve been…

IMG_8667

The end of July has really snuck up on me. But thinking back about everything that’s happened this month June seems like a lifetime ago. So before I dive in with my monthly round up of the books I’ve bought (which actually is a little thin on the ground) I’ll bend your ear about the other things that have been happening in my life over the last 31 days.

Right at the beginning of July I spent a wonderful 4 days in London with my mum. Not that you can ever spend a bad day in London – I’ve said before that it’s my favourite city in the world.

We go every year for Wimbledon which of course never disappoints. As long as the weather stays good. And this year it was perhaps a little too good when I had to walk around for the next week looking like a raspberry and wincing every time I moved thanks to some monstrous sunburn. But it was totally worth it.

Wimbledon

Alongside the tennis we fitted in a shopping trip (obviously), explored bits of London I’d never seen before (read: we got lost), ate mukhwas in Masala Zone (which is without a doubt my favourite Indian restaurant in the country and why they can’t open a branch outside London is beyond me), met a uni friend for lunch who I hadn’t seen in about 6 months and I spent a glorious three hours sat in Regents Park reading my book and feeling like life just doesn’t get better than that.

London

And then once I was back to my regular life suddenly that got all exciting too when I moved into my very own little studio flat. Believe me you will become bored of seeing photos of it once I finally convince the landlord to let me hang pictures on the wall. Right now it looks a little too bare still for my tastes. But I love anything that gives me a legitimate reason to spend 6 hours in an Ikea.

And aside from those two big things I have also started a new job (which I’m still a little overwhelmed by as I have I actually responsibility – something I’ve never experienced before), tried confit duck for the first time (and I think it might be true love) and held a two day old baby, the first baby I have ever even been near, let alone held. So really, the six books that I’ve bought are far from the most exciting thing that has happened. But here they are anyway.

  1. HOW TO BUILD A GIRL by CAITLIN MORAN

After lunch out with my friend I found myself in Kentish Town with 4 hours to kill. So I did what any self-respecting bookaholic would do and set off on the hunt for a bookshop. Within five minutes I had found four charity shops all with a wide selection of books, including this copy of How to Build a Girl for 95p. 95p!!! I thought things in the capital were supposed to be more expensive! I have both read and reviewed this book and through reviewing it discovered that I actually really enjoyed it. 95p very well spent.

  1. THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS by JACQUELINE SUSANN

Also bought from a charity shop in Kentish Town purely because it was oh so pretty. I started it the day I bought it which is practically unheard of for me. I finished it a couple of weeks later and still haven’t been able to stop thinking about. This has leapfrogged right to my top ten favourite books of all time. Plus it’s so pretty I spent two hours rearranging my bookshelves so that I’d be able to more easily see it.

  1. NORA WEBSTER by COLM TOIBIN

Since Brooklyn was such a successful read I thought I’d try some more Colm Toibin. I read about two pages of this then decided it wasn’t what I was in the mood for.

  1. THE CHILDREN ACT by IAN McEWAN

Because I will buy anything Ian McEwan that I come across. Although I think I only need two more and I’ll have his complete back catalogue. Just need to find the motivation to actually read them all…

  1. THE DIARIES OF JANE SOMERS by DORIS LESSING

While I was still suffering from my Valley of the Dolls hangover – which I still haven’t quite got over – I desperately tried to hunt down any books that might be even slightly similar. Another Jacqueline Susann would have been ideal but I couldn’t find anything by her so I bought this instead. I knew nothing about it when I bought it. And other than that the author won a Nobel Prize (and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by a Nobel Prize winner before so that’s something) and that she’s considered something of a feminist I’m no better off now.

  1. PHOENIX POETRY COLLECTION

It took until I was 17 years old to discover that I absolutely love poetry. But until I bought this I only owned three poetry books myself, and two of those were by the same person. When I came across this collection second hand I was very excited as it looks nice (and I’m very shallow when it comes to books) and features some of my favourite poets – Shakespeare, Dickinson, Wilde and Rossetti.

7 things to remember next time I’m sobbing on the floor at 2am

Flowers

So last week I had one of those evenings where my mood is about as low as it gets and I just don’t know why. And not knowing why makes it even worse because then I can’t do anything to sort it out.

My evening had been going just fine until I watched a really harrowing bit of Game of Thrones, my friend made an offhand remark and my dad criticised my driving. And next thing I know I’m hyperventilating with tears streaming down my cheeks.

I knew I needed to snap out of it. Well not snap out of it. In all my experiences (of which there have been far too many) it doesn’t just suddenly go away like that. But I know that there are certain things which make me feel better and help the feeling to slowly ebb away. Unfortunately when I’m feeling like this I can’t remember what those are. Hence this post. If I write down a list of all the things that can make me feel a bit better then I’ll have it to refer to next time. And hopefully be able to nip it in the bud.

They might seem like absolute common sense but my mind just goes blank when I’m worked up and all I can think about is really sad things – how bleak the future is, how everybody’s going to die, how I’m getting fat because of all the chocolate I eat, that bit in Marley and Me when the dog dies. I’d also really appreciate any suggestions – assuming it’s not just me who gets like this, which I highly doubt.

1. Do NOT try to sleep

My first thought whenever I get worked up is to climb into bed and just get the day over with. But there is no emotion less conducive to sleep than agonising depression. As much as your bed might be cosy and comforting you’ll just be left alone with nothing but your own thoughts. And they’re not helping you right now. So step away from the bed.

2. Move

Upset in your bedroom? Then move into the lounge. Upset in the lounge? Go and sit in the garden. Even if there isn’t a physical source of your emotions it’s helpful to have a change of scene.

3. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth

Ok I may have got this one from The Princess Diaries. But it is ever so relaxing. Really any breathing exercise at all where you properly fill your lungs and concentrate on your breathing will make your heart beat slower and those butterflies in your stomach calm down.

4. Put on something funny and light-hearted

I put off turning the TV on for as long as possible because once I do it’s admitting that I won’t be going to bed for a while. But if I don’t it’ll just end up being even longer until I calm down enough to actually fall asleep. It goes without saying to keep away from anything that could be upsetting. I stick to things I know really well – something animated, an episode of Friends or really any Jane Austen adaptation.

5. Eat something

I get grumpy when I’m hungry. So if I haven’t eaten in a while there’s a good chance that’s most of the problem. It doesn’t have to be healthy, just quick and comforting. Something fancy with avocado might be oh so Instagram-able but when you’re down nothing beats a dinner of chicken nuggets, chips and spaghetti hoops.

6. Write it down

I have five memos on my phone where I’m just pouring out everything that I’m feeling. I write them as though I was writing a blog post. I’d never publish them because they’re just rambling nonsense but if I’ve got everything I’m worried about down on paper (or Word document) then it’s there to remind me if I need it but I don’t have to keep fixating on it. I can free up my mind to think about happier things. And before I know it my chest is relaxing and the knot in my stomach is loosening.

7. Look at cute things

I have a folder on my laptop which is filled with nothing but cute photos and gifs – dogs wearing bow ties, cats getting stuck in things and pandas falling over. It is physically impossible not the at least smile at a picture of a dog dressed up as Harry Potter.

Seasons

Seasons

People seem to think it goes without saying that you have a favourite season. I’m not sure who exactly I’m referring to by ‘people’ but I’m sure I’ve been asked on several occasions and I never have a definitive answer. The only thing I know for sure is it’s never the one we’re in at the time.

I have romantic notions of winter. I picture it as snowy roads, street lights and everyone wrapped in cosy scarves and hats full of Christmas cheer. In reality though most of Christmas cheer is gone by the time winter gets into full swing. Snow turns to slush, slush turns to ice and ice means you have to walk everywhere in fear of falling over on your bum in some embarrassing manner. And no matter how many layers of wool you have on you can never be warm enough. So winter is out of the question.

If all of Christmas cheer is over before winter then it must belong to autumn. But when I think of autumn I think of biting winds and constant rain. Not exactly idyllic.

Summer is nice enough in concept but as a hay fever and heat rash sufferer with pale skin that refuses to tan and needs to stay hidden underneath long sleeves and jeans, summer is much more stress than it is worth.

So that leaves me with spring. A season that for the past 20 years of my life has been synonymous with deadlines and exams. But that phase of my life is over. I can enjoy the frolicking lambs in the fields and daffodil lined lanes (this makes it sound like I live a Thomas Hardy novel which I really don’t – thank god) rather than being trapped in my bedroom surrounded by mountains of textbooks which are somehow magically supposed to be crammed into my brain and then spewed out in coherent sentences in one hectic hour of writing. This year I can look out the window at the blue skies (or heavy rain – they’re not called April showers for nothing) and for the first time properly enjoy spring. So I think it might take the title of my favourite season.

The Work-Blog Balance

img_7620-1
You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting very regularly for the past few weeks. Why? Because I have a job. And as much as it’s a good job, pays well, keeps me busy, introduces me to nice people, it still exhausts me. When I come home in the evenings I just want to collapse in front of the TV before going to bed at 8.30pm (true story. I have reverted to the bedtime of a 10 year old). The last thing I want to be doing is stressing over getting my useless laptop to connect to the less than reliable internet. So I’m afraid the blog has rather fallen down my list of priorities.

But I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. I’m so proud of this blog and I don’t want to see all my hard work go to waste. I was seeing my stats go up and up. Over 100 followers! Amazing! So I suppose I just need to find my inspiration again. And tonight might have been that night. (It also might have something to do with me maybe having fixed the internet – touch wood).

So if I’ve removed the internet as a problem then it’s just a matter of finding somethign to write about….

Reading-wise I’m on a serious Philippa Gregory hype at the moment. And although her books are engrossing they’re not exactly inspiring. I don’t finish them and think ‘I must let the world know what I have thought of this.’ So posts on books aren’t where my mojo is.

I should be overrun with potential recipes to publish seen as I’m cooking for myself most nights. But the majority of evenings my first thought on getting home isn’t ‘what can I make that will look really Instagram-able?’ It’s ‘what can I make that’s quick, easy and filling?’ So instead of inventive recipes most nights it’s oven pizzas or tuna pasta.

All that leaves is random ramblings. The kind of posts where I start writing them with absolutely no idea where I’ll end up. Like this one. And to be honest that’s fine with me. I’d rather have some less well worded (bordering on nonsensical) posts than nothing at all.

So in the next few weeks you can expect to see a little bit more activity from me. Even if it is just 300 words on a funny thing that happened on the bus. Or why ice cream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Becuase as far as I’m concerned that’s better than nothing.

Small Pleasures Week #12

 

1. My new job

I started a new job on Wednesday. Just some more entirely mundane admin but it is so nice to feel I have a purpose again. In fact I spent most of the weekend in a funny kind of mood, almost as if I wished I was at work rather than dossing around in my pjs catching up on TV. Unheard of.

2. Buses

They may be completely unreliable and bear absolutely no relation to the timetable. They may mean leaving the house earlier than if I were to just walk and charge me £4 for the pleasure. They may smell a bit funny and make me travel sick. But I’m having a love affair with buses. I love sitting down with my book for half an hour while someone chauffeurs me to work. Especially when it’s drizzly and cold outside.

3. Old people

To quote Clueless – ‘old people can be so sweet.’ On a spring evening two old people walked arm in arm across a field and my heart just melted watching them.

4. Facing my fears

I hate hate hate talking on the phone. It’s a combined fear of getting the wrong number, not being able to hear what the other person is saying and coming across as an idiot. So you can imagine my emotions when my manager asked me to spend the afternoon phoning people. But you know what, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. I pictured myself by the end of the day so stressed from the whole thing that I’d be curled up in a toilet cubicle hyperventilating. But in reality I was just fine.

Small Pleasures Week #11

jk

1. Having the house to myself

My parents went out to the theatre and I hadn’t realised just how long it had been since I’d had an evening with the house completely to myself. I love living with my parents (and not just because it’s cheap) but it’s still nice to have some time on my own. With complete control of the remote control. And being able to eat as much chocolate as I want without anyone commenting on it (although it’s good I don’t get to do that too much or you have no idea the size I would be).

2. Game of Thrones

It’s back! That’s all I have to say.

3. Train journeys

Yesterday I spent four hours on a train. For some people that is their idea of hell but for me it was four wonderful hours. The train journey took me to visit a friend in Manchester who I hadn’t seen in too long and I had a wonderful time but that’s not the point, the point is the journey. I just love travelling by train. I read a book, I read the paper, I ate some crisps, I stared out the window, I accidentally engaged the woman next to me in conversation and then I read my book some more.

4. Baking

It had been so long since I’d last baked anything but I just hadn’t felt the motivation. But on Wednesday evening it all came flooding back and I locked myself in the kitchen for three hours, emerging with more ginger fudge (recipe here if you’re interested) than we’re ever going to be able to eat.

5. People

There’s no denying there are some bad ones but in general, aren’t people great? This week I’ve met four new people who were all great fun, seen three people be kind for no reason at all and watched two people stand up, say how much they love each other and get married. Right now, I’m feeling very positive about humanity.