Posts Tagged ‘community’

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believing in me.

August 10, 2010

Yesterday I performed three songs at the BAYS (Bristol Active Youth Group) 2010 summer party: “Russian Roulette” by Rihanna, “No One” by Alicia Keys and “You Lost Me” by Christina Aguilera. I was privileged that Ness invited me to perform, and it also gave me the opportunity to prove several things to myself.

  1. I hadn’t performed in front of an audience for a few years, and I wanted to know that I still had what it takes to entertain people and that my voice was still enjoyable for people to listen to.
  2. That I was capable of singing 3 relatively vocally-intense songs in succession, in front of an audience without messing up or without my voice failing me. Basically, that I could do justice to the material I had chosen.
  3. That I could still competently sing these songs despite the fact that I am now a smoker.
  4. That, despite my absence from performing, I could perform through the nerves.

I am happy to report that I proved all of these things to myself and I did a great job: everyone seemed to enjoy my performances and was very complimentary about my voice; one girl even said she wanted to marry me! (I think Toby would have something to say about that!) So that was lovely: I also enjoyed watching Ness dance to Lady GaGa, and there was an MC beatboxing who was fantastically talented… some of what I saw would put celebrity musicians to shame. It was touching to see young talent on display in my community, and moreover, a group of young people coming together to do something positive for their community.

Then, today I have just come back from my driving lesson. Despite the fact that it’s taking a lot longer to reach my driving test than I originally anticipated, I finally got roundabouts 100% sorted out (my last problem area) and now I feel that I will be capable of doing everything I need to in my driving test. Plus, my driving instructor was less of a fool this time than he was last week. So I am feeling good: this is the way I like to start a week, with a sense of positive accomplishment two days in a row.  I hope this continues, especially considering that the time has finally come to start my new job at Cirencester College on Monday. I have to keep up my sense of self-belief, because this is how I can keep transforming and improving my life. 🙂

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community.

July 5, 2010

When I am on my driving lessons, my driving instructor (who lives around the corner from me and has done for the whole of my lifetime and probably many years prior to that) often points out people who he knows, chats about the various people who have lived and continue to live in certain houses and streets, and talks about life in Kingswood in general.  Most of the time, I can only nod my assent because I have no idea whom or what he is talking about; I only know the names and faces of the people who live within 3 doors of our house and across the road from it.  On the odd occasion that I am walking around the local area, I could quite happily walk past people who live on my street without recognising them.  This street is not and has never been a community to me; my town is just a place I live, and although it’s adequate (I like the fact that unlike other, more wealthy areas of the city, it doesn’t have a ‘grey’ atmosphere and I can see the sky – I’m not a total urbanite then!), I don’t feel any sense of community with the other people who live there; in fact, I feel like more of an alien (and with my dress sense, I look like one too).  I must add that I will stick up for where I come from, despite its chavvy, slightly dangerous reputation; I did get slightly offended by a comment made by one of the people on my careers guidance course at UWE; being a graduate of Spanish and French, I was asked “But in Kingswood, you don’t get an opportunity to practise your languages, do you?” This comment was accompanied by a smirk; I took slight offence because although it’s true that where I live is not a cultural hub and I don’t meet many people who are multi-lingual there, Kingswood is not formative of who I am.  Moreover, it’s not a bad place, and given that the area of Bristol that this person comes from is more renowned for crime and poverty than mine, it’s somewhat hypocritical and condescending.

Anyway, I went to Peterborough to spend the weekend with Toby last weekend, and I had a wonderful time, but I noticed that for him, life and his sense of community is different: he knows all of the people who live in his close and a lot of those who live in his village.  He went to school up the road from his house; he can point out many people in the photographs included in the local Parish News (I am unaware of Kingswood having a Parish News leaflet, or any kind of worthwhile community publication). It is interesting that I cannot do this.  I always went to school on the other side of the city, because my parents paid for my education and decided to send me to those schools (and based on my subsequent track record and academic success, I can’t quibble with their decision – it was pretty wise and with hindsight I would now have done the exact same thing).  When I went through a brief phase of playing with the family of girls who were my age and lived across the road from me, they had a group of kids who lived in the neighbouring streets as their friends: I knew none of these people because they all went to the same school down the road from our house; I went to a private school across the city.  We had different school holidays, different teachers, different friendship groups, different subjects.  In retrospect, that was most definitely for the best but at the time it felt like I had to work extra hard to fit in with them.  Despite living across the street, it was like I was visiting another world, their world, every time we would play together, and after a couple of years the visit wouldn’t be worth it, and we would just say hi without animosity as we occasionally passed each other on the street.

However, whereas Toby can name all of his neighbours and various people who live in his village (and I also understand that part of this is the difference between city / country-ish mentalities), I enjoy my popularity when I wander round the Bristol city centre – Mike commented once on a shopping excursion that it seemed as if I knew at least one person in every single shop (and there are a lot of shops).  This is an exaggeration of course, but not a massive one; I like shopping and I used to work in retail in that area, therefore my face is recognised in the area and I can recognise acquaintances who work there too. An amusing story is the Guess Boutique – whenever I go in the staff are extra-happy to see me because they still remember the time Toby & I went in and I fell in love with a bag that I could not afford; Toby & I left and I spent the whole of that Friday night babbling about the bag. Saturday lunchtime we returned to the store and I bought not only that bag that I had originally claimed was “too expensive” but also a hoodie to boot (it was on sale, there was only one and it was in my size, it was black and gold which are my colours – it was obviously fate so who am I to stand against destiny?). I don’t know if the staff there work on commission but I think that that day, they were very happy!  So I make friends in shops.  My friends who live in Bristol may have gone to school or university with me, but we came from all different parts of Bristol (and their experiences of commuting to find a community may be quite similar to mine) so urban centres, shopping districts, cafés and cinemas are our meeting points.

My point is, I have my own community of people whom I call my friends; friends are the family you can choose, as they say.  However, my friends are all dotted about the city (and beyond that, the country); the way we keep in touch is via telephone, email and internet most of the time; and when we want to meet in person, it’s got to be an arranged thing rather than a spontaneous wander down the road.  Although it can feel slightly isolating living where you have no real connection to anyone else in the immediate vicinity, it’s made irrelevant by the fact that I can speak to and arrange to see a lot of my friends within very little time; and that my friends are so, so good to me.  I think that having my own space is something that I value too; at the end of the day, I can retreat to my home and have a little time for me, safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to bump into or be harassed by anyone who knows me.  I can be anonymous, think independently, live as I choose without any fear of anyone whom I care about judging me. I know that in Kingswood, I dress differently, I wear different clothes, I speak and think differently to the majority.  I would never change that; I like being my own person and I won’t ever change to conform (a hard lesson that built my character during my school years). But it’s made easier when I’m surrounded by people with whom I have absolutely no desire to fit in. My community, the people whom I love and value, are my friends; my community is not local but instead city-wide, national, and one day I hope it will be global.

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if i weren’t me.

April 29, 2010

Last week I spent a full week at university, which by this point of the course has become pretty much a rarity.  I was pretty down last week (which culminated in a weekend of feeling so ill that my head was going to drop off… I wonder if it was psychosomatic? Who knows.  I’m more or less better now though 🙂 ) and had a lot to think about, a lot of voices in my head and a couple of voices in my ear.  Ultimately, the situation has been resolved for the moment and I feel a lot better about it – it’s always best to be honest in a relationship.  Anyways, I’m not going to talk about that because I believe that a relationship is best kept private, and neither me nor my boyfriend would want things to be splashed across here publicly.

But while I was feeling down, I withdrew into myself somewhat, and it was interesting what I noticed.  A couple of people whom I don’t normally talk to on my course were quite concerned and asked me how I was, but then I’m not close enough to them that I really wanted to go into details so I just brushed it off and diverted the conversation onto something more general, less specific.  My close friends knew what was up and were genuinely helpful and listened without being overly cloying, which I really appreciated.  But for some people, I ceased to exist.  Now, in one way I really appreciated this because I didn’t want everyone coming up to me and being all in my ear like “Alan what’s wrong? You seem like this” or “You should do this” or “You’re normally so bubbly”.  I can decide how to tackle my own problems and I don’t need anyone’s pity or for them to point out my mood, because that’s not going to make things any better or help me.  But it was like I was invisible; if I didn’t make the effort to be friendly and say hello, they didn’t even acknowledge my presence.  It was funny how machiavellian it all seemed; I am a friendly acquaintance but not a good friend, so they don’t need me and therefore I don’t merit even a civil greeting, because I haven’t put myself out there first? I won’t forget that.  I’m very lucky that I have enough very good, beloved friends who do care about me and are genuine because that behaviour in the past would have made me insecure, whereas now it doesn’t matter to me.  But it doesn’t mean I didn’t notice.

I remember when I first started on the course, I was quite outgoing, confident and very sociable, organising nights out and gatherings.  I really threw myself into it and everyone seemed to really like me; I somehow managed to say hello to everyone and be everyone’s friend.  One person whom I barely talk to even called me “the glue that holds our course together”!  Now, there’s nobody I dislike on the course and I am pretty sure nobody dislikes me, but at this point we have formed our own cliques and allegiances and we don’t really deviate from those.  The only time I am generally a talking point these days is if I have a new tattoo or if I am somehow connected to a large group activity.  So from my shell looking out, I noticed last week how different I am from Mike, how much more laddish he is and how easily he can mix with other people socially.  I mean, it’s all superficial and I am not very good at shooting the breeze on a superficial level with someone with whom I know I have little in common.  But I wondered, why are we such good friends if we’re such different people? Like, we have different interests, differing music tastes, and yet we’ve always had so much to talk about and the same opinions on a lot of things.  I can’t quite quantify it and I’m not sure what the working formula is, but I am glad it does work and I hold our friendship so dearly.

And although I was looking at myself toughly wondering why he might want to be friends with me, I looked at the other members of our group: Emily is absolutely hilarious, quite filthy and very Welsh; Vikki is similarly Welsh and very family oriented; Gina is sweet and lovely with a heart of gold, but quiet as a mouse.  And I think that I’m quite interesting, I definitely have my quirks, but I don’t need to shout about them and I don’t need to be noticed, so I guess that I fit into that group because I’m not overly opinionated, and I also don’t have an off-kilter, geeky sense of cheesy humour aspect to me that even the “cooler” people in the big clique on our course have.  I like my friends and I think I fit into our group perfectly, that I wouldn’t want to belong anywhere else and I don’t feel I need to.  But I miss the community sense of friendship that was on our course in those initial months.

If I weren’t me, would I be more deserving of their acknowledgement? Maybe. Maybe if I could talk about sports or about marriage or about wandering around South America or whatever it is they talk about, I might fit in better.  But that’s not me, that’s not who I am.  By this point, I’ve worked quite hard at uncovering, discovering and improving the man that I am that I quite like myself, generally speaking (though this depends on whether you catch me on a good or a bad day 😉 ).  I am also very grateful that I have the friends I have, that we all care about each other and we are so close.  Life isn’t a popularity contest (though I have never been unpopular), and I know where I stand and I think I am happy here, it’s just interesting to contemplate if I were different, would my friendships be different? Would Mike and I have more in common, and would that change our friendship for the better or for the worse? I can’t imagine us having a closer friendship considering what we have achieved in the last 8 months, and I am truly blessed and I wouldn’t want that to change in the slightest.  I sincerely hope nothing ever changes between us and that we are friends forever (I can’t see anything changing this in the future, but you never know).  I still went on a guys’ poker night and that went perfectly well (I was deceptively skilled, which impressed the others), so although I am not quite as laddish as Mike or the other guys on our course, I must be fine and I guess that my differences are to be cherished: I am unapologetically myself and people do respect me for that, which I appreciate.  I guess it’s useless to think about being a different person, because we can only be who we are.  I am happy with who I am, I just wonder if there are sometimes ways I could act which would be better, or more charismatic to attract other people to me.  Food for thought.