September Goals

Friday, 1 September 2017

The back to school-style excitement of September still plays merry havoc in my year, in one of the loveliest ways possible. It invites change and challenge into my life; re-discovers determination and motivation; and invokes a certain something not entirely unlike a new start. Add to that the new turn of a calendar month, one that has a nice round number for days, and you've got yourself the perfect blank page on which to make yourself a list of goals. At least I have anyway! So, what do I hope to plough through this September?

● Renew passport;
This is getting ridiculous. My passport expired in March and it remains useless. I have had a snazzy new passport case with the money tucked inside for the renewal since my 30th birthday and I still haven't sorted out a sodding up-to-date passport photo. It just doesn't align with the wanderlusty vagabond in me, and so, this month, the application must go!

● Absolutely no takeaways;
I'm on a big money-saving bender this month, which is hilarious really, seeing as I have just made a list of 'things already committed to in September' and it contains no less than 3 city visits all across the country! As well as an anniversary, a night out, birthdays and a leaving meal. It shouldn't bode well - but I remain confident that it absolutely will. One thing I am thoroughly good at is having a champagne time on lemonade money, and this will apply across the entire month - citybreaks and all! A rule a couple of us in my house have enforced is 'no takeaway September', after a particularly lavish and lazy August.

● Make major novel writing progress;
20,000 words would be nice - ambitious, but nice. To be honest, anything more than zero would be an achievement, so I know I'll be happy with something around the 10,000 words mark, which is approximately 333 words a day. Not difficult at all!

● Build up to running 2 miles without stopping;
One of the biggest frustrations in my life is letting my overall fitness go. In 2011, in a different life, I ran pretty much every single day and entered myself into a handful of races - 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons. I didn't think that much of it at the time: forever the pessimist, always determined to get faster, at the same time not really noticing my own progress. But what I didn't realise was that through all of the pushing and the determination, I was getting better - I was getting well under 10-minute miles, I was on the verge of breaking my dream time (sub-30 5K) and ran my last half marathon race with enjoyment rather than exhaustion. Then, inexplicably, it all just stopped, never to begin again. I have decided that this particular month in 2017, 6 years later (and older), is the month to revisit this slip-up and try to make my body move again. I am not ignorant of the fact that trying to reclaim fitness is no easy task, however, I believe I am able to put the effort in. I can already run 10 minutes without stopping - not quite a mile at my speed, yet, but it's a start!

● Go to 3 classes at the gym;
Preferably one each of the following: a pilates class, a zumba class and a yoga class. I need to spend more time at the gym anyway, what with just beginning a membership with my beautiful local baths. A couple of my housemates are regulars too, which always helps, and I always forget how classes are so fun and social that you barely remember you're working out at all.

● Blog 3 times;
One down, two to go! I know three isn't that much of a challenge but when you have only blogged that many times this year anyway, it's a little bit of a leap.

● Buy a new MacBook charger;
A smallie but a biggie. Because it finally works again! And I will otherwise forget.

● Jazz up my rented room;
I've lived in this houseshare for a year now and we have all been incredibly lucky - we have actually made friends for life and it actually does feel like we have gelled into the shape of a little family. The shared areas aren't too bad as well, but my actual room? Bare as anything; soullessness prevails big time and this has to change. I think a lot of my problem is that I tend to hoard a lot of things (darling, things) that have no real home, so I need a few new methods of sorting and storage. As well as some delightful things to adorn my walls - I'm thinking posters and photo collages - and finally making my desk fit for use, I'm hoping to turn it into a right little haven.

So there we have it! My September goals, laid out for all to see. I've been indulging in a new policy in the last couple of months - instead of keeping my wannabe-achievements to myself, I have been telling all and sundry about all the little (and big) things that I'm hoping to knock out of the ball park Oval. That way, rather than sweeping over the fact that I have let myself down yet again, there is always somebody else around to hold me accountable. And tell me off! Because no matter what kind of life you've lived, you're never too old for a telling off.

Starting with today

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Truth be told, I didn't want another post of goals to come around so soon. Given my past track record, I have come to realise that the constant revolution of making intentions, then breaking intentions, makes for no fun read at all. Imagine writing your life into a novel and putting it out there for all to read: your protagonist, which happens to be your very good self, bumbles around for what seems like eternity and your readers have no idea whether to begin cheering or steel themselves up for the inevitable moan. You leave them disappointed; perhaps more disappointed than you actually feel yourself, but then again, you have become used to this feeling. You are numb to the labours of your own invention - and this is the trouble that comes hand-in-hand with being a perfectionist.

Self-improvement can often be a long game of two punctuated halves. In the first instance, you are fit and fiery and ready to go. You make lists upon lists, and lists of lists, and set yourself objectives and, as well as aiming for dates saddled at the end of a duration, you aim for the stars. There is almost nothing that can shake the excitement and the positive energy that comes from trying to take the steering wheel of your very own life, precious in it's worth, and trying to lead yourself in a better direction.

But then comes the intermission. Whether long or short, it's always bleak; something that you wish to forget about as soon as possible, or brush under the carpet. In the intermission, everything slips. You are suddenly not abiding by lists anymore and you are no longer on auto-pilot - you are flying solo and this plane is falling. You are experiencing your first failure on this journey to betterment and it's frustrating, de-motivating. You wallow for a brief time - we're all allowed to, we're only human after all - and then you dust yourself off, declaring that it's time to move on, to begin again.

The second half gets underway and you realise something is amiss. You're lacking in spunk, in grit and gumption. It makes it that much harder to persist. You are still inherent in continuing with your plucky positivity parade, but it's like wading through treacle. You lose interest; you seem to lose interest pretty easily anyway. And before you know it, you're back to square one. No, further back than that; you're wondering what led you to captain yourself across this stormy sea, and declare this particular ship well and truly closed for business.

Imagine that. Now imagine all of that, repeated, over and over, like one endless perpetual motion. Blips blending into failures; defeat overwhelming everything until it's all that you ever know. Until it's something that you are so used to, you're not sure you can remember ever feeling so spirited. That would not be an inaccurate description of much of my adult life.

Please don't pity me. I am, after all, the director of my own life, and that is never going to change. I am not putting this tale out there, laying it all bare, for sympathetic ears and helpful words. I am declaring this as a conflict of interest - because no matter how many times it happens, and I have lost count, this is not the way I intend for things to be. I am well vested in my adult life - I'm 30, for crying out loud - and I barely have anything to lose, so why-oh-why do I find it so difficult to give more?

The awareness I am slowly letting wash over me is quite becoming. Recognition is a funny old thing, especially regarding your own being, and it can very easily be dismissed or glossed over, forgotten about until the next big fuck up and the cycle starts up again. But this time, it's different. This time, I am willing to accept a better fate; I am not about to turn down this chance to turn things around; and maybe to feel lifted in the process. Maybe that little joy will continue to lead me, and will aid me in acting with confidence and certainty. Maybe good things will happen, if I put my mind to it. And maybe, just maybe, when I do face failure once more, I will feel it. It sounds strange, but I couldn't imagine anything more fulfilling: to be driven by the losses that you made on your own terms.

It starts with today. Just a little change, barely anything worthy of note. It starts with today - putting it out there in black and white for all to witness, and for reminding myself in times of trouble. Suddenly, it's not about goals anymore. It's not about lists or challenges or all of these silent protests. It's about each and every step forward, delicate and daring all at the same time. Remembering that you are not defined by your mistakes, or regrets. Remembering that you are lucky to live. Starting with today.

Perpetuum Mobile

Friday, 4 August 2017

If you read my last post, then poor you. Poor me, too. There's nothing sadder than a whole heap of wallowing self-pity. Thankfully, it was seemingly a blip and so, panic over. I'm 30 now and I feel pretty alright; mostly just bumbling around in awe of how I didn't self-implode in the lead up. However, numbers may change but some things remain the same, and anxiety reigns supreme in it's own little haphazard way. How is it August already? Where is the summer; why is it raining all of the time? (Oh Manchester, I do love you so, but you have got to sort your weather out.) What is my life and my place in the world? Why haven't I figured everything out yet?

Newsflash! It's okay to not have it all figured out yet. I'm here already and I'm waving, not drowning. So instead of focusing on what I haven't achieved (which my brain reads as FAILURE!) I'm going to focus on what I have achieved, and what I can possibly hope to achieve in the upcoming year.

Stuff to already be proud of:

01. My new-fangled money saving mentality. This sounds ridiculous but it has taken pretty much all of my adult life to become somewhat good with money. After years of payday pandemonium, which began to settle and slow down once I was past the flighty-nature of my mid-twenties It was only when I turned 29 and had to pay for car insurance, estate agent fees and an unexpected month's rent for an entire apartment, thus having to live on bread and oil for the rest of the month, (Note to my parents: this was an utter exaggeration) that I decided enough was enough and I had to completely re-jig the way that I looked at money. ....

02. My fantastic relationship with my parents. Alert, alert: you are about to be inundated with a whole lot of clich├ęs. Otherwise known as Ma and Pa, my parents are more than absolute rocks: they are an island. Sure we've had our ups and downs over the years, as I'm sure every son and daughter of every age all across the world have done themselves. But as a trio we are more than aware of life complexities and know that most of life's trials and tribulations, however harsh they may seem at the time, are always just a drop in the ocean. It's taken me years and I wish I had matured sooner, but now that I am a Real Adult™ my relationship with my parents is at it's finest. They are more than just ancestors - they are true friends and there's pretty much nothing that I can't run by them or talk in-depth about, anymore. Considering I was the most rebellious teenager, and that most of my big life decisions have just been history repeating itself, to be able to hear my parents tell me how proud of me they are is jelly-knee-inducing. And to be able to have this relationship with them at all; I am very blessed indeed.

03. My assertiveness & ability to say no. In the past couple of years, I've slowly but surely learned that it's okay to take time for yourself, and to not be on-the-go all the time and that, while it's fun to say yes to everything, it's not the be-all-and-end-all to miss out on some of that fun here and there. In fact, there's nothing quite like sitting back and relaxing in your pyjamas in front of a good TV series, after a long hard day at work, in place of the pub. So basic, but always worth reinforcing.

What I hope to be proud of a year from now:

01. Read 20 books. I'll start with a little story that says it all. 2015 was my best reading year yet, if you picture it from only the summary. When you delve deeper into the analysis you will see that, out of a total of 18 books, half of those were read in the month of November, during time well spent on South Asian bus networks and beaches. In 2016, I read just three. Abysmal, entirely abysmal. What I find with reading is that it's just as easy to not find the time for reading, as it is to make time for reading. There's a few pages to be had in a 20 minute break, or that hour winding down before you drift off to sleep, book upon face. So I just need to attack this one with vigour, otherwise known as 'just getting on with it'. I ummed and ahhed over a number before I finally hit publish on this post but I knew I wanted it to be a greater amount than it ever has been, and with 18 currently topping the charts, I think 20 is a nice round number to bestow upon my 30th year.

02. Positivity in fitness and healthy living. You know, it's true what they say about your twenties in terms of body image - that you waste all your time worrying about what people think about your physical self. They also say that turning 30 changes everything, and I am here to quash that statement. I can honestly say exactly when I truly stopped caring what people thought about me: I was 28 and travelling solo for the first time in my life, all around South East Asia. For the first time in my life I didn't have to answer to anybody or be influenced into making decisions for myself by anybody else, and over 6,000 miles away from home I sure as hell wasn't surrounded by the people who had stuffed me full of self-doubt. It was also constantly pushing 35 degrees, and so I was fairly relaxed with the amount of clothing that I had on (when it was suitable to do so, of course). I don't think I was fully prepared for how mentally at-peace I would feel for the first time in forever and suddenly, I didn't care what anybody thought about my body. Because, suddenly, I realised something: that nobody was looking anyway, because nobody cared; because everybody else were probably too busy dealing with their own hang-ups to give me a second thought.
Mind. Blowing. I know. But it's so freeing, that awareness, when it finally hits you. And I am here to say that it doesn't hit you the minute you turn 30. It may take a little longer and that's okay... but it also may come sooner, which is fabulous. Just make sure you embrace it, and keep embracing it. My health journey is far from over: I have more hiccups than I care to remember, and that's just the stuff that I am directly responsible for. There's other stuff underlying, deep beneath that shiny new thick skin of mine, that needs professional dealing with sooner or later. There isn't even a proper plan in mind. But as vague notions go, I would say that this is a pretty good one to have. Just the knowledge that your mind, body and soul are all linked with what you choose to fuel it with is enough, and there is no need to put a label on anything. Also, good fuel input equals great energy output and I look forward to rinsing that energy to the max. More hiking, more cycling and getting back into running are all high on my list.

03. Make a step change, workwise. I am not saying that I want to change my job; but my role? Definitely. One cannot be an admin assistant forever. I know that I am meant for bigger and better things. Fueling my ever-growing ambition is the reassurance that the company I work for are willing to put a set amount of money towards training for each and every employee, as long as it will help themselves to grow within their job title. I am firm in the belief that some form of marketing would aid any role, and so it's part of a wider action plan that I am currently trying to settle on the most perfect Digital Marketing course for me. Will be handy for keeping the ol' brain cells alive too!

04. Complete the first draft of a novel. Something I endeavour to go into detail with at a later date, but I have been in the process of writing a novel for the past two years. Process is a very loose term, as progress hasn't exactly been booming. It's another one of those things that really took off when I had a lot of free time travelling in Asia, but has fallen by the wayside in the last year. Another of those things that I simply need to make the time for, no excuses.

05. Travel more. This is a very broad topic but I feel like it encapsulates so much more than just booking a bunch of flights to claim kudos-laden stamps in my passport. It's also about making the most of the country that I live in - that is the United Kingdom, just in case anybody was unsure - by way of daytrips, night drives, city-visits and Hooligan Hikes. If you're wondering what a Hooligan Hike is, fear not - it doesn't involve anything that would make the National Trust recoil in horror! Just see it as a rowdy group hike involving singalongs, way too many Instagram stops, a little alcohol and a lot of fun. I mean if the Hooligan part doesn't appeal to anybody, then general hiking will suffice, but then again, what's a hike without a random skinny dip at the end of it?

06. Invest more time in friendships & reconnect with people. It's hard not to hold yourself personally responsible for the dwindling of friendships in this journey called Life. However, we are all as equally culpable just as it seems to be one of those things. You spend a large deal of your mid-twenties ravaged with panic that so-and-so hasn't spoken to you for two days and perpetually wondering if you have said or done anything wrong. Another newsflash - you haven't. What happens is, you grow a little bit older and, much like how you shed the belief that everybody is staring at your stomach rolls, (recap: nobody CBA, okay?) you also shake off the false suspicions that all of your friends hate you. They don't have time to; they are only trying to get through their similarly obstacle-filled life just the same as you are. All I can say is, be available for them when they need you, and they will never let you down. Some of my best friendships are punctuated by several weeks of silent running and that's entirely okay. It's easy to pick up where we left off or begin an entirely new stream of conversation flow, and there's never any awkwardness because there isn't any expectation. Whoo, I think I've waxed lyrical about this point enough now!
That being said, while I am comfortable in the knowledge that all of my current friendships are weighted with quality, there are a few people who have touched upon my life in a variety of manners that I would love to reconnect with and strengthen the bonds between us. These include Gwen and Vicky, who I have known for about ten years and have both had babies since the last time I saw them, as well as my beautiful bridesmaid buddy Kerry who is actually my best friend's best friend and I would love to bond with more, and Grace, who I cannot describe more actually than "she is my sorta-soulmate" and it's plain silly that we have not made more happen. There are also new and growing friendships that I intend to strengthen, like Lauren and my current housemates.

07. Save XX amount of ££. I guess this completely tallies with what I have bigged-up above. It's going to be hard - I'm trying to have more of a life for the rest of this year and that involves plans and spends, naturally. But I'm completely determined to meet what I think is a realistic target of £2,500 saved by the end of the year.

08. De-clutter my life/not own so much stuff. This is a Ronseal job, really. I am not utterly obsessed with having that elusive capsule wardrobe anymore, but at the same time I am not totally over it either. What I have hopefully found is a rare middle ground where I am organised and tidy and able to keep my wayward ways under wrap, but also where I am not afraid to satiate my magpie-eye from time to time.

09. Deal with my anxiety. Probably another something to go more in-detail about in the future but I feel like one of the pivotal points of this year gone past is just the understanding that yes, anxiety is something that I am actively dealing with. Just the realisation of that alone is an awfully big step and I know fully well that it will take time to understand more about why this is a part of my life, and how to handle it when it rears it's ugly head.

10. Visit Bee, Nick and Buttercup in Los Angeles. It's laughable; absurd; completely outrageous that my best girl and brain-twin, as well as her husband and pup, have lived in California for almost two years and I still am yet to make a visit to the place that they now call home. Outrageous! Nothing is set in stone but I know for a fact that this is likely to be one of the last tasks I can cross off of this list with certainty, as I hope to finally make that visit at the end of June next year. Obviously saving the best for last, aren't I?

11. Keep an ongoing record! Trust me, I don't need anybody to tell me that I am absolutely horrendous at sticking to anything. But until the clock strikes midnight on my 31st birthday next July, I am adamant that I will be able to look back on the year gone by in at least one fashion. Any of which are yet to be determined, by the way. However, I have a little notion lingering on the edge of my brain telling myself that I will try to blog once a week. And I really will try; it doesn't sound so impossible really, does it?

I will leave you with a song that signifies exactly what I wish to be: perpetually in motion. Always trying to achieve the best version of me. Never giving up; not even trying to. It fills me with hope and strength and ignites a fire in my to fulfill my dreams, big and small. And I think that you should listen to it too.

Could always do better

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

You know the routine. You feel a bit crap, you go through the motions, you begin to pick yourself up again and not only pledge to do better, but list in intricate detail every which way you are going to make this 'better' happen. You're a writer and with that comes avid list-making. So you open up your rusty blog, intrepidly excited at tapping out those black and white letters that should ultimately make these little life changes official.

Except your silly little cycle is interrupted with some painful realisations and a lot of cold, hard evidence. You haven't blogged in nine whole months; your last blog post was exactly the kind of declaration that you were hoping to make today and, as your eyes travel down that fateful list, you swallow whole every possibility that you hoped to achieve. Nine months and you have nothing to show for it. Well, guys, that's me all over in five short points:

Never did my vegan month.
   Didn't buy that Garmin.
     NaNoWriMo was more like NaNoWriNo.
       This is still the first time that I've written since that all-promising blog in October.
         And the biggie: I turn 30 in less than a week - and my '30 Before 30' list is less than half complete.

And *wham*, there comes the overwhelming feeling of abhorrence. There's no two ways about it. I feel like a total failure and I have let myself down to the max, because I doubtlessly know that I could do better. I could always do better - five little words that I have plucked from somewhere unknown, held close to my heart and lived my life with. At any other time, they would have been the positive driving force behind every one of my pledges and actions. But somewhere along the way, they seem to have fallen off the vehicle that is my life.

I've always dreamed big, but I am starting to realise that the certainty of my own ability is riddled with self-doubt. Already that is such a huge admission, that the prospect of going further from this point is dizzying. While I've always been independent and a boss-lady of my own life, I feel that I am beginning to regress ever so slightly: a smidgen of hand-holding seasoned with a little bit of opening up. I flit between feeling desperate to sell all my belongings and indulge a nomadic lifestyle, tied to absolutely nothing, and wanting to spend more and more time sleeping in my childhood bedroom. I'm not sure at which point I will stop, or settle. This is only just a small part of the never-ending fluttering of my thoughts - leapfrogging wildly until they hit stormy waters, a wee pause to ponder how to navigate further taking the well-trodden stepping stones back to shore, and repeat, and repeat.

And one thing I know for certain, is that I am not alone in this sentiment.

So no, this is not the most happy post that I have ever written, and it's perhaps a stark contrast to every other blog out there, but if there's one underlying theme it doesn't lack, it's positivity. An eagerness, not for a better life, but for an improved lifestyle. And that perhaps the most that I can promise right now is baby steps and hand-holding. But that's okay, isn't it? After all, it doesn't matter what journey we take to reach our destination, as long as we get there in the end.

And one thing's for sure - I am a pro at working things out along the way. So, we'll see how it goes.