The Great Face-Palm

Yesterday I wrote a blog called All in a Day’s Work, in which I talked about how I’d been declined an interview for a copywriting job with the company I work for due to my lack of professional writing experience. Today a friend has reminded me that I passed up an opportunity to write, which could have put me in a much better position for applying for that job.

A few months ago, my best friend and her boyfriend set up a website selling handbags. They asked me if I would write some blogs for it. I shared their excitement for the website, and wrote an initial blog. While it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, Nick gave me some feedback and we discussed ideas for other blogs.

After that, I wrote nothing.

I felt bad for letting my friends down, but they had other people writing for them, so I told myself it was ok.

I don’t know why I couldn’t write another blog. I think maybe the reason is that I knew there was one line in the blog that particularly wasn’t appropriate for that website. But I told myself that was my writing style. And I think at the time, that was all I believed I could do.

It would have been fairly easy to write a few blogs under the themes we had already discussed. So why didn’t I?

I have to admit this is not the first time I’ve sabotaged my own writing career. When I used to work for Siren FM, we regularly interviewed a lovely Australian woman in London who ran an online magazine-style website for women. Shortly before I moved to London myself, I approached her about writing for the website, and sent her a copy of one of my carefully-chosen blogs.

While her feedback on my blog was good, she told me that for the website she needs more solution-based articles. So for example, if I’m going to write an article about how rubbish online dating is, I should really end the article with some alternative ways that women can meet men.

I never wrote anything for that website. I think again I was scared to write something different than what I already knew. Also, I thought how can I write an article giving people advice when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing in the first place?

I’ve recently been on some time-management and problem-solving courses at work, and in both I used writing articles (as opposed to just blogs) as an example of something I wanted to achieve. Thinking that I might finally get round to writing an article, a few weeks ago I visited the website. What I found was an article on my childhood friend who had written the book. And it hit me: while I could have been writing for this website, she was being written about. I scurried away with my tail between my legs. The one good thing to come of that visit though was that I finally edited and published my months-old draft of what was to become Single, Successful and Falling Apart: What an Achievement That Would Be.

So this morning, as I lay in my friends’ spare bed in Manchester, even though it’s so early, I sit here face-palming myself that I let two good opportunities to advance my career pass me by, one which also would have helped out my friends. But face-palming won’t help in the long run. Neither will letting the fear of trying something new overcome me. To quote Baz Lerhmann’s 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived”. It’s time for me to override the fear and start writing outside the comfort zone of my blog, taking feedback on the chin when receiving it and using it to make my writing better.

I thank my Thirty-Something Crisis for one thing: letting me discover my ability to write. But more than that; to allow me to know that I can write. This is not a belief that is buried deep-down somewhere. This is an intrinsic, core belief. For which I am eternally grateful.

All in a Day’s Work

After what’s been a very emotional week, I enter the weekend with a smile on my face. I count two reasons for this. One, I’m on my way to Manchester to help my best friend and her boyfriend move to London. Two, I have actually made some progress, albeit small, in the pursuit of my elusive career.

Recently I enquired about a copywriting job with the company I work for. While I didn’t get an interview due to my lack of professional writing experience, the Senior Copywriter for the company offered to meet with me to give me some advice.

When I turned up for the meeting today, not only did I meet the Senior Copywriter, but she also brought along the Editorial and Content Manager. Between the two of them, they gave me some excellent advice about the kind of experience that would help me should I apply for that type of role in the future, qualifications I could look into getting and other types of roles that I could consider. They also told me that while my blog demonstrates that I can write, potential employers will want to see how I can promote them and their brand. My blog, due to the personal nature of it, promotes me as a brand.

This meeting has certainly given me lots to think about. Over the last year I have been questioning whether I actually want a position that is your basic, writing job. For example, would I really want to be a product writer? My writing is very creative, and while I don’t write much in the way of fiction, I do like to tell a story with my blogs. If I had a writing job where the creativity is stripped away to the bare bones, would I be happy with that? Of course, this may be a stepping stone to a job with a more creative type of writing, but I don’t want to be put off writing before I even get there, and apparently these kinds of roles have a very high turnover of staff.

Writing a novel is the dream for most writers, myself included. But the truth is, I love writing my blogs. I enjoy blending the autobiographical with popular culture and everyday life. Right now, I could probably say that my ideal job would be to write this blog, perhaps in a magazine or newspaper column.

So basically, I won’t be stopping this blog any time soon. However, I do need to start branching out with my writing if I want to start applying for writing jobs.

As well as the career advice I received this week, I also stepped over a mental hurdle. I had been worried for some time about telling my boss that I wasn’t particularly happy in my job. Those three weeks in June where I had nowhere to live still haunt me, and being on a fixed-term contract, I worry about ending up in London without a job. While getting emotional at work is not recommended, it did help me this week when I had to explain to my boss on Thursday why I was in floods of tears.

While I gave her a basic outline of the week’s events and my general dissatisfaction with life, I also took the opportunity to tell her how I was feeling about work. How I was unhappy doing the same job as I had been doing before my degree, how I wanted to pursue a career that was more writing-based and how the one-year anniversary of my graduation ceremony was really pressing my need to get back onto the path of seeking the career I can be passionate about.

Rather than giving me a grilling she was supportive, encouraging me to seek out some evening classes that could help with my writing dream, and reassuring me that this is a job to pay the bills with while I am pursuing my dream job.

To have had that conversation with her was a relief. While my contract was extended by three months earlier in the week, I no longer feel like I should live in fear that this conversation could put me out of a job.

As if to underline the two career-related conversations I’ve had this week, the most recent issue of Stylist magazine has an article on evening courses.

Perhaps the most inspirational message I received this week though was on a visit to this train’s WC. Proof that creativity can exist everywhere, not least on anti-toilet-blocking signs, only makes me want to discover mine even more. So I certainly won’t be flushing my dreams down the loo anytime soon.

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Up Again…

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about the songs I wake up with in my head. Today, despite all the pain, I woke up with a song called Up Again in my head. The song is a collaboration between singer/songwriter Rae Morris and electro-classical band, Clean Bandit.

I listened to the song this morning, like I always do when I wake with a song in my head. The lyrics, “The only way is up again” gave me hope that there is a way out of what I’m feeling, and that the only way is up.

Later this morning, I checked my emails. I had signed up to Rae’s mailing list a few months ago after buying Clean Bandit’s album, New Eyes on which the song appears. In my Inbox today was an email from Rae telling me that Up Again is her new single.

I think the universe is definitely trying to tell me something today. For once I’m going to try to listen.

Up Again – Clean Bandit ft Rae Morris (2014)

When Men and Women Really Shouldn’t Be Friends

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess, although she really didn’t know how beautiful she was. She spent hours up in the tower dreaming of the day she would meet her perfect prince.

One day, the princess got fed up of waiting for her prince to come and rescue her from the tower. She had heard of a witch who could arrange unions between princes and princesses so one day she took a carriage to the witch’s house, far off in the deep, dark woods.

It was a cold, dim, dark-looking place with big black bats flapping around. Surrounding the house was a moat filled with plenty o’ big toothed fishes.

The princess crossed the moat bridge and knocked on the big wooden door. A crackly voice shrieked, “Enter!”

Inside was the most scary witch the princess had ever seen.

“So you want to meet a prince, do you?” the witch asked in her crackly voice.

The princess replied yes.

“Drink this potion, and soon you will meet your prince.” She handed the princess a purple bottle containing a dark liquid, which bubbled inside.

The princess was so desperate to meet her prince that she took the bottle without a second thought and gulped down the black liquid.

The witch began to cackle. The princess, who was suddenly feeling very scared, hitched up her dress and fled from the witch’s house.

Soon after her visit to the witch’s house, she saw a gallant knight at a jousting tournament. He was handsome and brave, and as the princess watched him battling the other knights she knew he could be her perfect prince. After the tournament, the princess searched everywhere for her knight but he was nowhere to be found. She asked one of the other knights where he lived and sent him a scroll by carrier pigeon, asking if he would like to meet her at the next jousting tournament. To her delight, the knight agreed.

Their first meeting was wonderful. Although the princess was surrounded by many chiselled knights at the tournament, she only had eyes for the knight. And he only had eyes for her.

The knight and princess had a few more dates. But the knight could see that the princess wanted far more than he could ever give her, so he did the valiant thing and told the princess he could not be the prince that she wanted him to be. The princess was devastated. They had a long conversation and agreed that they would stay friends. But their friendship was limited mainly to playing Ye Olde Wordes With Ye Friends.

A few months later, the princess moved to the big city to start a new life. She had hopes of finding a career, and hopefully a prince. The princess found it hard in the city, at times feeling even more isolated than she did when she lived in the tower.

One day the princess received a message by carrier pigeon. It was from the knight, telling her that he too was moving to the city. The princess was overjoyed, and had high hopes that their romance could be rekindled.

When the knight arrived, they started to spend time together. There was an obvious spark between the two. After a while, the princess invited the knight to share her four-poster bed, which he did.

While they had a lot of fun in the four-poster, there was never any romance away from the confines of the castle. This disappointed the princess, because as much as the princess cared for the knight, she knew that although he was fond of her, he did not share the same feelings. She thought back to her visit to the witch’s house, remembering the potion she drank. She knew there was only one way to break the witch’s spell.

The princess had to admit her feelings to the knight. They agreed that he would no longer share the four-poster with her. But they still kept a close friendship. The princess was again very upset, but thought that at least now she would be free of the witch’s spell.

Over the next few months, the princess met new princes, who usually turned into frogs when she kissed them. The princess would always end up being disappointed, and her friend the knight offered her a shoulder to cry on.

The knight and princess spent a lot of time together, attending jousting tournaments and medieval feasts. The princess continued to have feelings for the knight, but kept them quiet, for she knew the consequences should she ever reveal them to the knight.

One day, the knight met another princess. Although he tried to keep it from the princess, for he knew she did not like to hear such tales, eventually he had to tell her. The princess could tell how much the knight liked the other princess, and was very jealous. But she knew in her heart that he would never want her in the way he wanted the other princess.

So the princess confessed her true feelings. The knight was confused, because he could not understand how the princess could still hold a torch for him after all this time. She told him about the witch’s potion and he asked if there was an antidote. The princess told him there was none.

The knight and the princess talked late into the night. The knight asked the princess if she wanted to end their friendship. While the princess knew this was probably the only way to get over the witch’s spell, she could not bear to be parted from the knight. Because he too valued his friendship with the princess, and worried for her being alone in the city, he also could not be the one to walk away.

This sad tale ends here. Far away in the deep, dark forest, the witch cackles.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Remember this pain.

Remember this pain.

Remember this pain.

This is the second time in my life I’ve had this conversation. That dull ache in my heart, that tells me it is time to face the truth, admit defeat. The battle is over; the war is lost.

We’ve said our goodbyes, and sadly I think it will be for good this time. I can’t bear to think of my life without you. But that’s what it is; my life. Without you. Because your life is without me.

Remember this pain. Don’t let it happen again.

My Wrecking Ball – Ryan Adams (2014)

Solo Flight

A few weeks ago I won a pair of tickets to see American Singer-Songwriter Ryan Adams (not to be confused with the ever-so-slightly-more-famous Canadian-singer-songwriter-Bryan Adams) at the iTunes Festival. In case you haven’t heard of it, the iTunes Festival is held every September at The Roundhouse in Camden, London, and showcases around fifteen or twenty musicians during the month. iTunes gives fans the chance to win tickets for as many artists as they want. This is the fourth year I’ve entered and finally won tickets. I can’t help wondering if this is because I am actually living in London now.

Despite my joy at winning tickets, I had a job of trying to get anyone to join me. My close friends were all busy, so were work colleagues. I resorted to a general Facebook post offering the free ticket, but while some of my American friends would have jumped at the chance (especially my friend Mark who has seen Ryan in concert twice), the Brits were slightly less inclined to go. In the end, the guy I’ve had a few dates with said he would go, despite having declined previously.

We arranged that I would head over to his place first and that we would go to the concert from there. Due to the engineering works taking place in both Twickenham and also further north, it took me over an hour and a half to get to his place, half an hour longer than it should have done. After indulging in what two consenting thirty-somethings would do, I asked him what time we would need to leave to get to the concert. To which he replied, “Sweetie, I’m not going to the concert.” I stormed out.

While I have no problems doing stuff on my own, since I have travelled overseas on my own and even been to concerts abroad alone, I was rather pissed off at having to go to the concert by myself, especially after what had happened. I had been expecting to go alone since it wasn’t looking like I would find anybody, but having somebody offer who then had no intention of going really pissed me off.

Although I am angry with him, I am more mad at myself. For many years I have met guys and rushed into intimacy in a blind bid to find “the one”. But of course I always end up feeling disappointed and used, metaphorically “lying cold and naked on the floor” to borrow words from Aussie songstress Natalie Imbruglia.

The main problem is, when this happens, my self-esteem plummets. I feel like I will never find someone, and ask myself why does nobody ever want a relationship with me? The truth is, it is very rare that a great sexual encounter will lead to a relationship. I do know of a couple who are expecting their second child after a one-nighter at a party (well, not after that party obviously…you know what I mean). But sadly they are the exception; because most guys just don’t want to know after the deed is done.

Despite going on my own to the gig, and being stood behind a lovey-dovey couple (which is enough to frustrate me on a good day) I really enjoyed the concert, and I’ll be listening to a lot more of Ryan’s music in the future.

Recently, on the way to work after a very bad morning, I stood at the train doors waiting for them to open at my station, and it occurred to me that what those people waiting on the platform were about to see was my very grumpy face. I realised I didn’t want them to see that, and so I made an effort to put a big smile on my face. And you know what, it really did make a difference; I felt so much better. So lately, I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to smile, especially when I feel like crap.

Last night I had a counselling session (which was good timing) and then I met a friend at Oxford Street. On the bus I reapplied my make-up after my tearful appointment to make myself look and feel better. Using my recently-discovered ability to smile through the pain, I made a concerted effort to put a smile on my face as I entered Debenhams to meet him. As I greeted him, he still commented on how thoroughly fed up I looked. So despite my best efforts, neither make-up or a forced smile were enough to hide the glumness I feel at this latest dating disaster.

I guess a still have a long way to go in not allowing my relationships with men affect my mood and my self-esteem. Last night with my counsellor I made a list of the qualities I want in a man, as well as some ground rules for dating. While I have no intention of going back to internet dating anytime soon, the difficulties in meeting someone the old-fashioned way make it likely that I’ll be back online within a number of months. Armed with my list and instructions on what not to do, hopefully I can navigate this minefield a little better and without setting myself up for situations in which I only end up getting hurt.

I wasn’t going to make this a music blog, but since it’s partly about Ryan Adams, I feel I want to share at least one of his songs. Come Pick Me Up was the last song he played as part of the two-song encore. It’s about getting hurt yet going back for more. Which I think sums up this blog.

Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams (2000)

Disruption of the Mind

So TfL have foiled my weekend plans yet again with their engineering works at Twickenham meaning no trains departing from the station for the second consecutive weekend in a row. Either this means that the fans of the funny-shaped ball should be more grateful that the boys are pulling overtime on a Sunday to make sure the station is suitably beautified before next year’s Rugby World Cup, or I should be face-palming myself for not learning from last week’s mistakes.

Anyway, it occurred to me that engineering works, like the ones taking place at Twickenham, are quite tiring for those of us that have to endure their oar-sticking into our plans. I have compared travel-associated inconveniences with depression before, and guess what? I’m going to do it again.

I find rail strikes and engineering works loathsome. When something happens out of the ordinary to interrupt my journey, it can be hard to deal with, because, let’s face it, when everything is hunky-dory and things are running smoothly, everybody is happy because it makes life so much easier.

As you know, I suffer with depression, and at times, my mind will go on strike, and refuse to provide the services it should, such as returning phone calls to those who care about me. Other times, I will make that call, but the flow of tears make it hard to get anything sensible out of me other than a steady flow of negativity. Don’t my family and friends get fed up with that? Don’t they get a sense of dread when they hear the stony silence in my voice, or the sound of the quivering lip that is holding back the tears?

The answer is yes, I’m sure they do. But because they love me, and because they really have no choice other than to wait for the strike to be called off, or for the engineering works to be complete, they listen, and they take the Jodie Replacement Service that is offered in the wake of the real me.

Like rail interruptions, Jodie interruptions promise to cause havoc for much time to come. But the next time I see a Rail Replacement Bus heading over the bridge, rather than getting mad, I’ll do what my family and friends do: accept it as a fact of life and know that normal services will be resumed shortly.

Open Heart Surgery

My heart hangs in the window for all to see. Like the one I wear on my sleeve, and the one I give away too easily. A heart should be a cherished thing, to be handled with care, not battered and bruised. But like I don’t know how to care for myself, I don’t know how to care for my heart. It doesn’t come with instructions, or maybe it did, and they faded into oblivion the first time I put it through the wash, in a bid to make it clean, and fresh, and new.

But your heart can never be clean, and fresh, and new. It will always carry the marks and scars of loves, or lovers, lost. Unless you have a heart transplant. But would your new heart revel with the love from its donor? Or ache with all its former heartbreak?

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The Joy of Middlesex

This week I’ve had my dad and his girlfriend visiting (sorry – I hate to use the word “partner”, it always sounds so formal). While discussing what sights to see, Kew Gardens, which is very close to where I live, was suggested as a place we could visit. However, the three of us all being considerably less inclined to part with the fifteen-hundred pennies required to grease their palms for entry, we decided against Kew, and since it was a nice day, made the decision instead to visit Kew’s neighbour, Richmond.

We started off from Twickenham in the morning as the sun was starting to break the clouds. We took the Thames Path along the river, where the counties of Middlesex and Greater London are joined in holy matrimony.

Along the river there are many benches and at one point we came to a widening in the path where there was a whole crescent of them. We read the inscriptions – many of them remembering loved ones past and came across one in particular which read “You’re the measure of my dreams”. On the bench was a ladybug, or ladybird, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on. In the last few years, I’ve taken to calling them ladybugs, which is weird, since as much as I love America, I spent much of my time there arguing with my American friends about things such as the correct pronunciation of the word “pavement” (not “sidewalk”). This was the first ladybug I’ve seen all year, and so I honoured it by taking a picture.

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As we walked further along the path, we were greeted by the sight of the big red house upon the hill, which I previously posted a picture of in Jogga-Blog to the Moon. This is the former Royal Star and Garter Home, which until recently, has provided accommodation and nursing facilities for injured servicemen since the First World War.

As we reached Richmond, the sun was really warm and the cloud had dispersed. We found seats in the Tide Tables cafe, where we people-watched and relaxed in the sunshine with coffee and lemonade.

After a long spell sat by the river, we walked up to Richmond Hill and admired the vista from the top. The spot offers the only view in England to be protected by an Act of Parliament – the Richmond, Ham and Petersham Open Spaces Act passed in 1902 – which was implemented to protect the land on and below Richmond Hill and beautiful foreground views to the west and south. Then we walked back down the hill, through the Terrace Gardens. We came across a statue of Aphrodites, which caused a “furore” to the people of Richmond when it was built in 1952. Google “Bulbous Betty” and I guarantee you will see why. But she’s my kind of girl – making a spectacle of herself and not giving two hoots about it. On the placard below the statue I spotted another ladybug, this time a black one with orange spots.

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We found ourselves back down by the river, and to quench our thirsts we stopped at the Pitcher and Piano, enjoying a cold beer in their riverside beer garden.

After a while, we headed back along the river to Twickenham, stopping by Orleans House to view their World War I exhibition.

As I arrived home that evening, a third ladybug caused me to get my iPhone out for a photo. Brown with yellow spots, it greeted me on my front door as I put my key in the lock. Like my bus blog the other day, it appears you wait all summer for a ladybug and then three come along in one day.

Luther and Janet once said that the best things in life are free. Well it’s true – they are. With the exception of beer. But combine what nature has to offer, with a cold beer on a beautiful sunny September day, and there is proof right there that you don’t need to fork out excessive amounts of cash to have a good time.

As I prepared to write this blog, I reviewed the pictures I took of the ladybugs, and came across the first one on the bench. I had taken a picture of the whole bench, the one with the quote, “You are the measure of my dreams”, followed by the inscription, “Richard Ayley 1971 – 2010”. At the time, it was the quote that struck me, but today it is the young age at which he died – 39, only three years my senior. I was curious, so I Googled him. Richard, a Twickenham resident, was actually only 38 when he died of a brain tumour. He had been married just two years before.

Luther and Janet were right – the best things in life are free. But life is short. So enjoy the sunshine, a walk by the river or in the park. Find things that cost nothing to do and save the expensive things for another time. As winter approaches and the sun disappears, enjoy the fresh air in lieu of the sunshine. But most of all, enjoy the company.

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The Best Things in Life Are Free – Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson (1992)

Just Like Buses…

You know that old saying, you wait ages for a bus to come and then three come along at once? Well have you ever wondered what happens when there’s more than one bus? I’m not talking about the metaphorical idea, but the actual practical sense of there being more than one bus.

Today I had a doctor’s appointment, and instead of taking the train, I had to get two buses. While debating whether I had time to grab myself a free latte from Waitrose, I spotted the bus waiting at the traffic lights. It was six minutes early, which should have told me it wasn’t the 7:55 I had intended to get, but probably a late running 7:05 or something (since when did any bus ever turn up early? A bit like me).

I had to make a split-second decision then – run for this bus, or risk being late if the bus in six minutes didn’t actually show at 7:55. So I legged it.

The bus flew past me, and I ran. I ran like Forest. In fact I think I overtook him at some point. The bus pulled into the stop and I watched as the two people waiting got on. Then it waited. And I ran harder and faster.

I reached the bus just as the doors closed. Out of breath, I tapped on the door, and the bus driver opened them for me. Despite the fact I was totally out of breath, I headed upstairs, since it’s still cool to go on the top deck, no matter how old you are.

As my breath started to slow, and the bus windows started to steam up with my body heat, I looked at the traffic jam ahead. About three cars in front was another 267 bus.

The bus I was on was full of schoolgirls, which would have bothered me at one time but not now. The bus in front was also full.

After about ten minutes, the schoolgirls all got off. Which left me and three other passengers. Shortly after, they got off too, and I had the top deck to myself. As we drove along, and stopped at every bus stop the 267 in front did, the bus in front got fuller and fuller. I looked around me at the empty seats, and at the buses going past on the opposite side of the road which were standing room only.

It occurred to me that this journey was surreal in that I was on a bus, heading towards Hammersmith, in rush hour. And I was totally alone.

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Which is how it feels in life sometimes. You will take a different bus to everyone else, and it will feel like a lonely journey. You will wonder if you are doing something wrong as you watch the packed-in faces going by in the opposite direction. But having a bus to yourself, and not just a bus but the highly-desired top deck, is quite an achievement. You don’t have to go in the same direction as everybody else, you just have to have confidence that it will get you where you want to be. Eventually.

You see, the thing about being on the second bus, is that it will stop occasionally, to even out the gaps in service, as TfL so eloquently put it. Which proves that sometimes even buses can get ahead of themselves, and arrive early. So as you sit waiting all alone on the bus, watching the traffic pass you, and the other 267 disappearing on the horizon, remember that it is only a temporary wait, and that you’ll soon be on your way again.

In Brentford, I changed buses. As this was the first stop, I was the first passenger to get on. After a while, the bus filled up, except the space next to me.

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While part of me wondered why nobody wanted to sit next to me, the rest of me didn’t care, and carried on writing this blog.

I arrived at my destination, marvelling at how a single bus journey could provide such inspiration for a blog. But that is what this blog is about; being inspired by life, both its big events and its small and seemingly-insignificant things. If I can take inspiration from a red bus, then I am definitely tapping into the resource that I need to make my writing work: me.

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