Posts Tagged ‘Doubt’

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fortissimo.

July 15, 2012

This week has not been the kindest. I’ve been scared, depressed, challenged and exhausted. Scared that in September, I might no longer have a job; depressed that if I didn’t find a source of income within the next two days, that I might have to move back to Bristol (which isn’t terrible in itself, but would feel like a massive step backwards and super-frustrating when I am due to move in with Toby in a couple of months); challenged to step outside of my boundaries and comfort zone, and apply for jobs once again; exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster of all the above! Toby was away in Manchester for two days, so I didn’t have as many cuddles to keep me going as I normally would; although I feel that perhaps his absence was a good thing because otherwise I might have vented to him a little too much!

The reason why I chose the title “fortissimo” for this blog, is that it has a double meaning: normally, we think of the musical term, where it means to play very loudly, as if at the height of a crescendo. But it also means “very strong”, and this perhaps is the theme of the week I’ve had. In the blog I wrote last week, I wrote about wanting to feel more vibrant as a result of the summer weather, but I also want to feel super-strong. Vibrant and powerful in a range of ways. Fortissimo, if you will.

I had people yell at me over the phone at the start of the week; I knew I was not in the wrong in each siutation, but considering the circumstances they were in, I understood that they were distressed. However, the way I felt after they took their frustrations out on me was proof that I am still very much in the process of developing a thick skin.  Two years ago, coming out of the QCG at UWE, I felt somewhat invincible: I had a wonderful new boyfriend, a fantastic new best friend, I’d just landed my first proper full-time job and my body was still banging (I am hoping that my healthier summer focus will help me get back to this state). I also felt confident – that I could really go out and get anything I wanted, and do anything I put my mind to. I think that I have / one has always been able to do this, but not without a certain sense of self-doubt on the inside. That year, the sense of self-doubt turned into a sense of self-belief. As I look at myself this week, I realise that that sense of self-belief has disappeared somewhat – and I want it back. I have to be stronger, more confident and less deterred by what others may say or do or think.

It looks more certain now that my job is in fact not in jeopardy, but I also feel that (due to changes at work which I don’t really feel I can talk about in the public domain) my sense of security is far from unshakeable. I won’t be totally reassured until I’m holding my contract in my hand (which apparently should happen on Monday afternoon), but it’s an improvement on the uncertainty I’ve been going through recently. Part-time work during school and university excluded, the longest I’ve stayed at a job is one year; this position was the one where I initially hoped (even without realising it) that I would break that pattern. I wanted something on my CV that showed I had commitment to a role. In feeling forced to look elsewhere, I confronted a sense of fatigue at completing yet more job applications (most, if not all of which I won’t hear anything back from – nothing personal, just the way it works), but also some questions (raised also by the article I read in Glamour recently): by not constantly challenging myself to go for higher positions, promotions, jobs where I would (for example) have to travel abroad sometimes, am I really challenging myself? There is a lot to be said for being safe and being based in one city – it makes life easy, and it means that once the working day is done, my life is my own and I can spend it with my partner and my friends. It’s a lovely sense of security (there’s that word again!); but at 26, I should still be challenging myself and shooting for the moon, right? And what’s more important – something on a piece of paper that shows I’m loyal to an employer, or an attitude and confidence that shows I am loyal and committed to my own development and achievements?

It’s a change to my thinking that I’ve tried to get my head around before, but only partly succeeded: we feel a misplaced sense of loyalty to our employers, because they pay us for what we do and provide us with financial security. However, we are the ones earning the money, learning new skills constantly, and we should be less afraid to confidently negotiate positions and salaries as we see fit: if you don’t try, you don’t get! If employers don’t want to pay for our services, they don’t feel bad in saying goodbye; why should I feel guilty in looking around at what other options might be available to me, in case something better comes along? A professional relationship should work two ways.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel comforted by the fact that I probably won’t lose my job, because it makes things easier and more stable for me and Toby moving in together in the Autumn and being able to put a deposit down on a new flat, but I’ve been forced to think that while we are young, we should be confident and assertive in going for opportunities that present themselves, and in creating opportunities where none are immediately evident. Sometimes one is lucky, other times one must make his/her own luck. So contract or not, I’m going to keep an eye on what jobs come up (both internal and external), so that I’m ready to apply for something better that takes my fancy.

Another surprising development where I’ve really had to draw on some strength is in my cigarette consumption; somehow I’ve found myself promising Toby and a few other people that I will quit smoking in 2013. I’ve joked that this might be December 31st, but really, it is one of next year’s New Year’s resolutions. I’ve prided myself on my stubbornness, and I know that I will be able to do it; when reading Diana Ross’ biography, one of the things that stuck with me is her saying “I’m going to quit smoking one day without any whining or fuss, not like other people.” And that’s exactly what she did! I admire that single-minded determination to change one’s life without wavering even in the slightest. But when I told a couple of colleagues this plan of mine (they’re not colleagues I usually work with, because I certainly don’t want any kind of scrutiny in my office), they said “well, do you really want to quit? If you do, why wait? Start now.” I must admit that that thinking makes total sense, but while I am getting to the point where I truly do want to stop smoking, I still enjoy it somewhat that I’m not ready right now. However, after a Wednesday night out with Nick where we made a new Icelandic friend called Sigga (who smoked a lot, and I smoked with her), I woke up the next morning hungover and with a very husky throat. I really didn’t want to smoke, and I didn’t have a cigarette until 1pm that afternoon. I had a total of 4 that day (normally, I smoke between 8 and 10 cigarettes a day), and from then on, my colleagues’ words were echoing in my head. I really could quit sooner rather than later, and I’ve focused on reducing my cigarette consumption with the hope that I could stop. I don’t know what I will do at work, as I will still want my breaks every couple of hours (particularly considering I rarely take a proper lunch break), and there are social and time-killing benefits to smoking. But rather than a physical sense of addiction, the hardest challenge will be conquering the voice in my head that yells “CIGARETTE CIGARETTE CIGARETTE” when I become conscious that I haven’t had one that day. I had 7 cigarettes the following day, and today I bought a pack of menthols (rather than my usual Marlboro Reds), of which I have had 6. Menthols have a different taste and less nicotine, and my idea is to wean myself off cigarettes, or at least permanently reduce my consumption. As anyone who has tried to quit smoking before knows (I did quit once in the past after I came home from my year abroad in Spain, but I had only smoked for a couple of months, so it wasn’t really the same thing) I don’t know if I’m ready to completely quit and declare myself an ex-smoker, because sometimes I really enjoy it and I’m quite attached to having a cigarette with alcohol, or before I go to sleep. Plus, I feel like I would be betraying (there’s that word again!) Mike, or Toby’s colleagues who like to smoke, if I no longer want to smoke with them. I also believe that truly conquering one’s addiction to smoking, alcohol or whatever truly means that we can still do those things when we genuinely want to without feeling any compulsion. If I gave up smoking completely, I would still feel subjugated by my addiction if I felt a constant sense of fear to have a cigarette for the rest of my life, in case it opened up the floodgates and I couldn’t stop again. True mastery to me means that I am in total control of every cigarette I have, knowing that I can trust myself not to have another one if I don’t want to. At this standpoint, I can say that I feel ready to cut down my smoking by about half (and recapture my full vocal power and some extra spending power each month to boot). So I have also been gathering my strength to do that.

Living life to the full, being loud and proud, and being strong and confident is a daily work in progress. It’s not always easy, and we can’t do it 100% of the time – I fully accept this. But when I go through a shitty week like this one, I’m thankful for the support offered by my partner, friends and family, but I’m also encouraged to recapture my own confidence and desire to reach the stars. I have so many goals in life that I not only am working slowly towards achieving, but that I am fully capable of – but it’s easy to get worn down and distracted by the daily grind that we learn to settle for a little less and choose safety over excitement. As long as I have financial security, the love of my partner, family and friends, I can do anything I set my mind to. But it’s also important not to forget to actually set my mind to new ventures and projects, rather than the same old ish! I believe that this is what I mean by living “fortissimo”.

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shame.

June 2, 2011

In pursuit of trying to attain a carefree, happy state, I need to try and unburden myself of the baggage that I carry. I think that we all do, and we all have stupid things buried in our past that become a part of us and that resonate as mistakes we are embarrassed by. I generally try and move on and learn from my mistakes, and luckily I can say that each of the following things that I am ashamed of, I have only done once! As long as we learn from our mistakes, that is the important thing. But I want to share 5 of my biggest, most embarrassing mistakes with you so that I can relieve myself of the chips on my shoulder (or try and wipe away the grease these chips have left behind!), and so that we can all see that we ALL do stupid things and we’re only human – unless we fixate on them and don’t move past, we are not defined by our mistakes.

1. Car accident

A month and a half ago, I had become much more confident with my driving, and I had found myself caught behind cars which were driving very slowly and being quite impressive. I never drive aggressively, but I was becoming impatient. It was the Easter holidays, and I was leaving for work on a Wednesday morning. My mother told me to drive carefully, and I brushed it off with a “yeah, yeah”because I thought she was worrying unduly and just doing what mothers do. You know what’s coming next.

Not 10 minutes away from my house, I can’t remember why but I looked down at my phone on the seat next to me for a second. In that second, my hands must have moved on the wheel, I veered into the other lane of oncoming traffic, and I looked up to see my wing mirror being knocked off the car by a van, and although it had swerved to avoid me, the back of the van hit the front wing of my car. Now everyone was fine, the damage was not major, and I just needed to pay for some polish to remove the worst of the scratches, some touch up paint, and a new wing mirror glass to replace the one that had been shattered (the rest of the wing mirror luckily just popped back onto the car in the same way it had popped off).

But I just felt so embarrassed at a) making such a stupid mistake, especially when my phone hadn’t even done anything! My phone stays on silent in my pocket from now on, and I put a playlist on my ipod of what music I will listen to on my journeys prior to setting off!

b) That I could have done much more serious damage, and injured myself or another person. It was bad enough that I had ruined my pretty car (that’s how I felt – now that it’s all touched up, the dent is barely noticeable – especially compared to a lot of cars’ scratches and war wounds) and damaged another person’s vehicle.

c) What would other people think of me having an accident only 3 and a half months after getting a car? Would my friends, my partner, my family risk getting in a car with me again? I was clearly careless, and I was afraid of being judged. Slowly but surely, I have told some of my friends and I was surprised to know that they have nearly all been in a similar position. The most common expression is “oh, you’ve had your first prang!” This makes me feel a little better, because I am not alone. I certainly drive more carefully as a result – I just wish that it hadn’t taken a car accident to make me wake up and be less complacent.

I lost my confidence with driving, and I am only now getting it back. I felt disappointed in myself and doubted my own ability. Mike was absolutely brilliant – he told me to just get in the car, drive to work, and then we went to Halfords and sorted out the door hinge, polished and painted up the dents and scratches, and ordered a new wing mirror glass. And this is the attitude I need to maintain – no matter how disappointed in myself I felt (and I felt pretty low in the days following the accident), I got back on the horse and kept going. Even when I didn’t want to. So that (along with the not looking at my phone while driving) is what I am taking away from this experience.

2. Walking on the motorway in Spain

My friend Jen from LA had come to visit me for a few days during my placement year as an English Language Assistant in San Roque (southern Spain). On the way back from Algeciras on the bus, it seemed like it suddenly got dark and I ended up getting us off the bus at the wrong stop. We didn’t have much change, so rather than wait for the next bus to come along, I decided that we should just walk up to a clearer area and then I would call my flatmate Juan and hope that he would pick us up (which he ultimately did). This involved walking up alongside the motorway – it was unsafe, and Jen was shaking and crying all the way to the roundabout where we met Juan. Although at the time I was scared myself, I felt that we had no option other than to walk – in retrospect, we should have waited at the bus stop for the next bus to come and explained our predicament to the driver. It would have been much safer, and I am ashamed that I put both of our lives in danger, just because I had not enough money and too much pride. I would never make that mistake again, and I was lucky that Jen forgave me easily.

3. Writing ‘SEX’ on my classmate’s art overalls

When I was in year 4 at school, I was fascinated by sex because at that age, it was naughty and forbidden and I was just gathering an awareness of what it was. Because it was naughty and provocative, and my classmate Nick was pissing me off in an Art lesson, I scrawled the word “SEX” in green paint on his overalls. Looking back, this is obviously not a big deal and sort of hilarious – at the time, Nick went to tell our art teacher, who told me I was “evil” and my punishment was to take the overalls home and wash them. Which meant my mother saw, and she asked me why I had written it. I had no real answer, she didn’t talk to me for a day, I returned the clean overalls, my art teacher forgot that I was “evil”, and everything was ultimately fine. But I was ashamed at the time because it was such a shocking thing for a child to write and to do, and being told I was “evil” only made me feel that sex was dirty and naughty, giving me some issues to work through in my teenage years.

4. Mentioning 9/11 to a new student from New York.

When I was in for an induction day for 6th form, we were introduced to a new student who had come over from New York. Her name was Alex, she looked nervous and I decided, in my utmost wisdom, to be friendly and warm towards her. We made polite conversation, and then I decided to put my foot in my mouth and mention 9/11 (which had happened nearly a year ago, by this point), and ask how her family and everyone had coped with it. What possessed me? The poor girl just smiled and flabbergasted, said that everyone was coping and that it hadn’t really affected her overly much. I learned from this that I should think before I speak and that if something seems like it might be a faux pas, then it’s best not to say it. Needless to say, we did not end up being friends.

5. Overreaction at the QCG 2009 Christmas party.

I wrote about this here, so I won’t rewrite it. All I can say is that but a few weeks later, I met Toby (the real love of my life) and I can now look back and see how neurotic I was, and how much I have chilled out. And I can still be pretty neurotic now, to be honest – so when I was younger, I was probably quite crazy!  I have learned to try and keep my composure, to just keep moving in life, and that love is just around the corner, even when it seems most unlikely. And a year and a half on, Mike and I are still close friends and that is the most important thing.

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end game.

April 18, 2010

It sounds silly to say, considering the last 8 months that I’ve had, but sometimes I still feel a waste of space.  I get down sometimes and I feel so indecisive, so useless… I don’t know what I want.  I have made huge changes and huge improvements in my life, and I am so grateful to that and I appreciate things like I never used to, so I don’t feel I’m being ungrateful or taking anything for granted.  It’s just that despite everything seemingly going my way for once, despite the career change I’m making and the reasons I have for doing it, I still wonder… what is it all for?

I always hated the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I’ve never had any idea, apart from when I was a child and I used to fantasise about running away and catching a plane to America at age 13, so I could be a superfamous pop singer by the magical age of 17.  Needless to say, that didn’t quite pan out (although I am very proud of my latest album Quiet Storm) and since then, I’ve felt at a loss, and somewhat a failure, for not having achieved that ridiculous and yet wildly romantic childhood dream.  In much the same way as I’ve been academically brilliant, I have always been able to sing, dance, write songs and play instruments because I just always assumed that I was capable of those things.  I never doubted myself, and through sheer force of will and plain naïve arrogance I turned out to be really good at all of that.  The only time I’ve ever failed any kind of test was my driving test, and 5 years on I’m making moves to finally erase that failure.  Generally, I’ve believed in myself and it’s pushed me to the top.  So why am I not famous, successful, rich and happy?

I look to my twin Ciara. She was born on the exact same day as me, and in her life she’s accomplished exactly what I wanted to but never did. Where did I go wrong? Did I ever have a chance, or was it just luck?  If I had my life over again, what could I do differently to end up where she is? Does that mean my achievements are nothing? I’m not going to brag about anything I’ve done in my life (the last paragraph sounded plenty up myself for this entry) but I know that I’ve achieved things which are pretty decent, some would say admirable.  But it means far less to me than perhaps it should, because it’s never really gotten me anywhere that’s mattered to me.

But then, looking at what the music industry is, especially now, I think perhaps I was naïve in believing that I could give up everything and just be famous.  Having the talent is one thing, but I don’t know if I have the stamina to stick out the years of churning out radio-friendly fodder to get to a stage where I can call some of the shots and have any sort of creative control. Especially now, where I’ve got to the stage of clearly becoming an “adult” (i.e. old) because I find 90% of what is played on the radio recycled garbage.  As I’ve grown my musical identity, I have gained more fixed ideas of what I want musically and who I am, and I certainly don’t fit into any of the current moulds.  I would not last five minutes on X-Factor and similar programmes, because even if I have the talent to make it, I don’t have the obedient personality which can be crammed into a shiny black suit and forced to sing mundane cover versions with choirs and key changes.  Frankly, I’d rather die.

But then, we all end up dying anyway, right? So I have let’s say, 65 years, to make something of my life.  Ideally, I want to have a life where I’m remembered for all time, but that doesn’t seem to be too likely does it? Either I go on a killing spree (which is a little bit messy for my liking), or I become a leading politician (I’d rather go on the killing spree), or I do something incredible on a grand scale.  This incredible thing was going to be the super-influential singing career idea, but I guess I’d rather sing for my friends and those online who appreciate my music (THANKYOU ALL btw!) and get to write, produce and sing the music I want, which means sacrificing the fame. Oh well.

My logic for going into Careers Guidance was to do an incredible thing on a smaller scale.  If I can’t have / don’t want the burdens and trappings of fame, I could still touch people’s lives as an individual, because doing Good Things gives meaning to my life and my actions, and it’s the meaning that I truly seek.  Just as my friends and I influence each other (again, thankyou all of you! YOu know who you are), I would like to be a good influence in people’s lives when they need it most, to enable them to progress and achieve what they want.  If it’s a less grandiose dream, it still has its heart in the right place, I feel.  And perhaps one of the people that I advise, that I support, that I help, will become the superstar I always dreamed of being.  That would make me feel incredibly proud, and perhaps that would be enough. I just hope that I do get a job as a guidance worker somewhere, because I finish this course in 2 months (it’s flown by, hasn’t it!) and I need the money, I need the experience and I also need to get my own place and not waste any more time!  Otherwise I will end up dying, and not having made anything of my life on whatever scale.  And that would be a disappointment and a waste of myself.  I need to make my life a life worth living.

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beautiful.

February 28, 2010

This song by Vivian Green is one of my new favourites at the moment.  It’s what real R&B is (not this dance/pop/Timbaland hybrid nonsense), about self-esteem, relationships and beauty.  Her voice is lovely on the song, and the lyrics are so poignant.  It’s inspired me to write this blog, because over the last 6-9 months, I’ve grown to feel a lot more comfortable in my skin.  I’ve gained a lot of new friendships (Nick and Toby met today! We had a lot of fun banter and coffee/tea in Starbucks), I’ve entered into a really lovely relationship in which I’m starting to feel comfortable, and my body and image are finally reflecting the man that I am, that I’ve become.  In short, it’s taken 24 years but nobody can make me feel ugly anymore.  Sometimes I might be hard on myself, and I’m pretty vain and heavily self-critical, but at the end of the day I’ve come to a place where I’m good.  Although it doesn’t matter whether other people validate you and the most important person you have to please is yourself, it has been a revelation just how valued I am by my friends, both old and new.  I entered into university and despite my closest friends being quite different from me, they support me and I support them.  We value each other, respect each other, and nobody can convince me now that I’m an ugly person.  Over the past 6 months, I’ve let people in on some heavy secrets of mine, and nobody ran away.  They all embraced me, and that’s meant a lot to me – I’m a beautiful person inside and out.  Not because they say so necessarily – after all, I worked damn hard to get to this point and feeling this way is still incredibly new to me.  But for example, I got home tonight and my parents were sniping at each other regarding a possible new car (which would be expensive), and they tried to ensnare me in the discussion.  I’ve grown to the point where I won’t be bullied by my mother or shouted down by her neverending arguments from her fixed point of view.  And neither will I be wound up by my father’s surreptitious planted comments, nor intimidated by his own feelings of superiority, inferiority or jealousy.  I love my parents, but so often these days I feel like the adult in this house and I won’t be made to feel inferior, naïve or ugly by either of them.  It took a very long time (longer than it should have), and it took more newly-formed friendships than it should have, but I’m strong enough to see their faults for what they are, rather than just taking them into me and feeling guilty about myself.  It’s not my fault, and I’m not the problem.  I’m not perfect, but I’m beautiful and I deserve to love myself and believe in myself as much as anyone else.  And finally, even though I can often waver or doubt myself (as we all can), I more or less do.  It’s a work-in-progress, as with anything.

In both of the essays I’ve submitted on my careers guidance course so far, not only have I got pretty decent marks, but I’ve received praise on how well I write.  This stands in contrast to when I was at Oxford and my tutors would complain about my essay structure and my use of language.  Perhaps part of it is that I’ve taken these past criticisms on board, perhaps I’ve grown not only in age but in maturity and the ability to express myself in a subject or arena that I enjoy, but it’s true that you can’t please everyone.  At the end of the day, I appreciate the compliments and try to improve from criticism, but it’s a lot harder to knock me down.  I feel happier, stronger and more sure of myself, and what’s most important to me when I’m handing in an essay, when I’m selecting my outfit for the day, when I’m singing a song to an audience, is that I’m happy and believe confidently in my self-expression.  Criticism from other people can help me to grow, praise from others lets me know I’m on the right path, but at the end of the day I have to be alright with me and nobody else can disguise whether I’m good or uneasy with myself.

So I realise that this entry can be construed as me giving myself a massive pat on my back, and to an extent it’s true 😉 But in the past when I’ve kept diaries or expressed myself in some form, it’s often fixated on the negative and become quite self-deprecating.  I won’t deny that there are entries on this blog where I’ve still been that way, but life doesn’t preclude negativity.  We all have good days and bad days, but I’m determined to acknowledge the good just as much as the bad.  I feel happier than I’ve possibly ever felt in my life, and I want to celebrate that and encourage you all to celebrate your own good days and happiness.  I’m determined to celebrate myself, even if nobody else will – but the greatest thing is that in the past 6-9 months, enough of my friends have reinforced me and held me up when I’ve not quite had the energy to see the good in myself or do it myself.  I truly appreciate that, and you know who you are – thankyou 🙂 So in connection with Vivian Green’s “Beautiful”, please listen to the song and put not only your loved ones but your friends and those who matter “on a pedestal / let them know that they’re beautiful”.  A compliment costs nothing but if it comes from the heart, it can make all the difference and encourage or remind people of the good in themselves. In a recent entry I talked about the value of letting people know that you appreciate them, and I wanted to reiterate that in this entry.  I appreciate myself, I feel appreciated and I won’t be downtrodden the way I used to be.  And neither should my friends be, and neither should you be.  Love yourselves, love one another, and we can all succeed together. 🙂

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edgier.

December 10, 2009

Having been on my new university course for 3 months now, and having made some really close friends who are generally a few years older than me (my closest friends on the course are 33 and 35), I’ve really been able to see how far I’ve come as a person.

Looking back at myself even 4 months ago when I had only started writing this blog, I knew myself, but myself was unsure and nervous.  I felt as if I was in a rut professionally after graduating with a good degree from a prestigious university, personally I had had “friends” who turned out not to be friends at all slander me and accuse me of things (theft, bullying) that I had and have never done, and would never do in a million years.  I took it all on the chin and just had faith that things would get better, but I knew in my heart that I didn’t know what would happen.  Would this careers guidance course be the right decision for me?  What was going to happen to me?  Had I peaked already in my life?

The answer to that last question, now I see, is an emphatic NO! Obviously I was only 23 (now 24) and to paint myself as an underdog who had it all and then lost it was more than a little unfair to myself.  I now know that I have so much going for me, so much to offer, and I am not an ugly or stupid person no matter how much certain people may endeavour to make me feel that about myself.  I deserve the best, and with this new qualification, new friends who seem to value me for me from the jump, and new confidence, I feel that I can get the best.  Once again, I’m back on track, and more than anything I’m so relieved.  I may paint myself as confident and assertive – and I am those things – but underneath I still get nervous and insecure.  Now, I finally see that I really am worth more.

I guess it’s a part of natural evolution.  I’ve grown up a lot, and although it took pointing out, I am older than my years.  I don’t feel out of place hanging out with 30-year-olds, because we have the same mentality and experiences.  People generally have trouble guessing my age (I still get ID’d for buying cigarettes on the one hand – which makes Mike LOL and envious at the same time!; on the other hand, a couple of people on my course originally thought I was late 20s because of the fact I can articulate myself and hold my own in discussions), but although I may tease my colleagues at university about receding hairlines, wrinkles and old age, I don’t feel any difference between us.  Aaliyah really had it right – age ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Usually it correlates to maturity, but not always.  At the end of the day, people are people, and we are all human.

These are things that I already knew to be true, but having them held up in front of me has forced me to accept these things as positives about myself.  It’s finally really sinking in.  And the truth of who I am as a man, as a human being, is finally coming out.  This is what I wanted to write about really, but it took the backstory above to get there! (Sorry… but I always give you the main course – no snacks here!)  I thought that I was an adult after university (by which I mean my undergraduate degree at Oxford), but it took me a bit longer.  Working at the Perfume Shop gave me a taste of the hard grind, working for not enough money and being treated like I didn’t have a brain (the saving grace was superficially decent friendships and getting to work with fragrance and deepen my knowledge of it).  My newer job at the hospital has made me see how people can be valued in their work, both monetarily and in terms of being treated like an intelligent human being.  My new course at university has helped me see what I really want to do, and now having that thrust forward has completed me and erased some of my doubts (not all, but some is certainly a step forward) about my future and my life’s purpose.

As things around me have been moving in the right direction, so I’ve been able to spread my wings and become more of who I am.  I love smoking – I’m not a moron and I know it’s not good for my health nor my voice, but I enjoy the feeling from it, the fact it kills time, and the socialising aspect of it – I think it goes hand in hand with being confident and conversational, as you often get approached by people who want a light / spare fag, and you end up conversing with strangers because you share an appreciation of nicotine!  In turn, smoking has reduced my hunger (allowing me to stick to my no-evening-snacking policy) and I’ve dropped a waist size – people at uni have christened me “good looking”, “pretty boy” and lots of other complimentary things referencing both my physical looks and my fashion style. I feel more confident in and out of my clothes – although I’m such a perfectionist that I’ll never be satisfied!  But looking at my vanity and my past issues with my own body and self-esteem, I’ve come a long way.  I feel happier in my skin physically as well as emotionally – and I’m feeling more confident to express the edgier, darker sides of myself which set me apart from others.

After years of deliberation, changing my mind and refining my ideas, I’m finally set on getting tattoos!  One is a stylised A, which you can see here; the other will be above my left collarbone mirroring it, and will be a gun.  I’ve been inspired by Rihanna‘s gun tattoo, but I want it because to me a gun is a symbol of strength and power, of aggression and conflict, of edginess and darkness.  These are all things that I embody – I am tougher than some people initially assume, and I want an emblem of that grit and fire.  I feel it’s applicable to me, and also quite exciting and sexy.  And whereas before I might have balked at the permanence of a tattoo like that, now I feel mature and comfortable enough in myself to be able to wear it and pull it off.  This is me – maybe I’m a good boy gone bad, but I still have a good heart; I have just spent too long in my life pleasing others, and now I’ve finally lunged for myself with this course and am reaping the rewards much more than I ever did listening to other people’s opinions on what was best for me, I believe in my own capacity to make decisions.  I’m not an angel, I’m not a good boy, and I’m tired of portraying that.  I am me and I have a good heart and an intelligent mind, but sometimes I enjoy being provocative or sexy or pushing the boundaries.  That is just as valid a part of me, and my new friendships embrace that part of me too and love me for it.  My infatuation with a married man who has become my best friend and is actively ok with my affection and flirting and actively returns it has been a revelation to me.  We understand each other, we can control our affections (he feels the same way about someone else) and be mature adults, but we also have fun with it – we accept each other and I never felt so comfortable to be able to be so emotionally honest with someone I knew would accept me for who I am. From him I learned what it is to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, and also that whatever I’m feeling, I am a rational person and I should never feel guilty for my feelings.  I should never feel stupid, and the sign of a good friendship is being able to admit how you’re feeling and that other person accepting you for it and not telling you it’s wrong or silly.  Again, these are things I superficially knew, but feeling and living them is a whole other revelation.  I hope that my friends can one day think of me in the same way.

So my embracing my dark side instead of being afraid of it; my becoming edgier is a natural emancipation, a natural evolution of me.  I am free to be who I am, and I am proud of who I am.  I’ve felt ashamed, even in small doses, for too long.  It took a long time to get here, and I’m sure in the future I will still make mistakes and waver, but hopefully I can come back and read this post and remember my feelings right now, and that’ll keep me going.  Once a good boy goes bad, we’re gone forever – but I wish I’d gone sooner and I look forward to where I’m going and whom I’m going with.

h1

justify my love.

August 11, 2009

It’s ten minutes to midnight as I write this, and as I am waiting for my dad to finish playing Evony and toddle off to bed, I find myself reflecting on the day. I signed off at the jobcentre, embarked on an unnecessarily slow bus ride to the gym, worked it out hard (Dior 33″ jeans, here we come!), then spent the afternoon at Hannah’s on the internet, watching Doubt and learning useless Friends trivia.  I also had dinner with her sister and mother, who has apparently been feeling that since I left university, I have been “lost” because I haven’t immediately fallen into an appropriate high-flying career.  This dinner ended up representing my opportunity to tell my side of the story to her, and justify my decisions and explain why I’ve chosen to go into careers guidance.

Why did I feel the need to justify myself?  Because a) Hannah’s mum is generally a nice person, and I know she’s always liked me, so I can’t help but feel dismayed that a small voice inside me nags that I have lost her approval somewhat.  Her approval shouldn’t matter to me, and it certainly doesn’t play a role in the choices that I make, but because I like her, I want her to like me and to return to thinking that I have my head screwed on.  And b) inside, there is another small voice that perhaps feels I need to justify to myself why I am where I am.  After all, I dreamed that by 23 I would be well on the way to having a successful career and earning tons of money.

Why hasn’t that happened? Well, there is the recession so the decent jobs are not available at the moment.  I investigated a Bristol translation agency soon after I graduated last summer, and they were pretty blunt in the lack of jobs available.  I didn’t have the funds to move to London, so I ended up staying at the Perfume Shop, ultimately managing them at a reduced wage in return for a boosted CV.  It wasn’t ideal, but it got me through.  Music-wise, I have been working on my Quiet Storm project, which I’m excited to say is 99% complete, and I’m hoping to release it on the internet around my birthday (October 25th, mark it down!) – but I don’t have an easy way into fame so rather than go on reality television (which screams tacky to me, and I’m not ready for my music and image to be so controlled just yet), I’ll hustle in the background crafting songs which I am very proud of.  I am doing little bits of promotion online, and my friends and people seem to like it and are very positive, so that touches me.  I always believed if my music could make a difference even to just a few people, and entertain them, then I must be doing something right.  I have bigger plans, but everything in time.

This year off also gave me time to really think about what I wanted to do.  When I graduated only a year ago, I had no idea.  Reading the novel Push by Sapphire finalised an instinct I’d had, that I wanted to make a difference to young people’s lives, to help them establish their own place in the community and make the most of their lives.  I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I had done Peer Support and counselling at Sixth Form and at university.  My experience as a language assistant in Spain gave me awareness that in most cultures, there are a lot of young people who are getting swept along by the education system without really knowing where they want to go.  I want to be there for them, because I know exactly how they feel.  I want to help people find their own direction, and present all the options available to them, because I think that a lot of people aren’t really aware of all the options at their disposal.  It’s going to be hard, and there will be difficult cases who don’t want to listen.  But again, if I can make a difference to even just a few lives, those people can make their own mark on society, and I will be proud of my work and the fact that I helped somebody.  So I hope that it all goes to plan, because I am finally passionate about my career direction. (And the money’s not bad either, without sacrificing my entire social life and relationships for my work and some extra £)  We all make sacrifices – but I’m 23, and I want to live.  I can work til I drop come 30, 35, 40, once my personal life is more rhythmic and established – but right now, I just want to have fun outside of the 9 to 5.  After all, some levity is vital for a healthy, balanced mind and spirit.

I explained this, more or less, to Hannah’s mother, and she seemed to take it on board.  I hope I changed her mind around, because I want her to understand where I’m coming from and more importantly, where I plan to go.  The reality is that I am less lost now than I was even just a year ago.  I shouldn’t need to justify myself, but I did it all the same, and I like to think it was a compelling explanation, because I believe in it.  I guess that this blog will follow me on my education journey over the coming year, and I hope it all works out well – because I have to do what my heart says.  In this instance, I’m trusting my intuition and my emotions to guide me to what is truly right for me.

h1

jagged little pills.

August 8, 2009

It’s hard for me to remember a time in my life or my musical experience before Mariah Carey’s Butterfly album, because that has shaped the way I sing, the music I aim to make and so much more besides; to me, it is nearly the perfect album (I don’t believe there is any such animal).  But before Butterfly, I was obsessed with Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill.  I bought the CD when I was 10 years old and I played it to death.  I don’t really listen to Alanis Morissette anymore, but for a while she opened my eyes, my ears and my vocabulary.  Listening to “You Oughta Know”, I used to think that “going down on you in a theatre” meant that she was going to attack him.  I guess I was sort-of right… It’s things like that that make me really that I was a curious blend of precociousness and naïvety as a child; perhaps that’s true even today… I remember my parents being astonished at the fact that I had decided to cling to this singer so; after all, she was quite controversial and her lyrics included explicit language and sexual metaphors.  My parents have not been shy about swearing in front of me since I was about 7 years old, but thankfully I didn’t hear much about their sex life until I was maybe 11 or 12.  But my parents thought I had good taste (for once), and we used to play the cd in the car and we all enjoyed it.  There was a period during my summer holidays before starting year 6 when I would literally go up to my room after breakfast, slip the CD into my black Sanyo CD player and sing it all the way through.  Every day.  For at least 2-3 months… It was crazy, and I don’t think I have done anything like that since, nor would I want to.

So today I was browsing through wikipedia on the net and I end up reading Alanis Morissette’s album pages.  I remember the situations I couldn’t relate to so much back then have now become fully fleshed-out (when I was younger, I would just connect to the song’s emotion because I had no experience of romantic or sexual relationships).  I understand the Catholic angst of “Forgiven” better now than I ever used to, and that is coincidental because I was discussing religion and Catholicism with my friend Adam today while watching the film Doubt (I caved and bought the dvd).  The concept of living up to being the “perfect child” under pressure from my parents, family and peers has never lessened but my maturity lends new hues to the song “Perfect”.  I remember nearly having an affair with my peer mentoring instructor, drama teacher and counsellor while listening to the song “Hands Clean” (we never had an affair, but I had a crush and we were close.  And all my friends at school kept checking that we weren’t sleeping together, which obviously we weren’t).  Listening to “Joining You” today reminds me of when I was younger and contemplated suicide on more than one occasion, and realising that life really can be that depressing if you let yourself get caught up in it so much.  Sometimes levity and fun are not a bad thing, and in fact vital to our survival.

I wrote a hell of a lot of songs and poems during my childhood as a direct result of Alanis Morissette’s inspiration.  I pray that none of these poems or lyrics come back to light, but perhaps they aren’t as bad as I imagine them to be.  I also expect some of them are a lot more risky than what I produce today, because as I’ve honed my craft, I’ve also made steps on the journey to finding who I am and how I can best express that.  At 11 years old, I knew a lot for my age but I still had so much growing up to do and so the poems I wrote were a mishmash of everything.  I imagine it to be a bit messy and at times laughable, though probably heartrending all the same.  I would never go back in time, because I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons and I don’t want to have to relearn them thankyou.  But at the same time, as unhappy a child as I was, I remember the growing and the learning and the insecurities, I see how far I have come, and although according to R “I put too much pressure on myself”, I can’t help but smile and remember the little boy who was doing all the “right things” and still felt so lost.  And at least I stand here today, and I’m a tiny bit more found than I used to be.  Who isn’t a work-in-progress?  But some progress has been made.

Listening to “Unsent”, I think of the people I have dated, and why it has gone wrong every single time.  Of course, it takes two, and as much as I can blame myself and push myself to learn and to act more rationally and maturely, and as much as I push myself to be more perfect and model-ready, it can’t all be my fault.  I always seem to settle for less, and now with B and with R, I feel caught in the middle of two non-boyfriends who emotionally connect with me but can never give me enough in return, for various reasons.  Last night, R’s boyfriend hijacked his msn and effectively said that R spends too much time talking to me (and other guys) on msn.  This morning, R said that the boyfriend was jealous (I suppose understandably).  I don’t want to be a homewrecker, I don’t want to be the jump-off, I don’t want to be a booty-call or a one-night-stand or a throwaway boyfriend.  I don’t want to be waiting around for B to wake up and smell the coffee, and I don’t want to be caught in the middle.  Like I said before, I can’t even imagine myself not single, and yet I’ve racked up all these nearly-guys.  I suppose I am the stronger and the better for it, but it gets tiresome… however, at least like Alanis, I get some pretty decent lyrical material out of it!  I guess part of being older and gaining experience is that you hurt and get hurt along the way of life.  I don’t really know how to conclude this entry very neatly, but I try not to feel bitterness if I can help it.  I try to stay pretty zen about my relationships, and I don’t think that we need to stay friends with our exes every time, but after a while I don’t want to waste my time hating them either.  The more open I keep my heart, hopefully the more likely someone is to find it who is worth my time and then I’ll prove my self-fulfilling prophecy wrong and be able to enjoy what everyone else seems to without trying to walk the line of perfection to everybody.