Single, Successful AND Falling Apart? What an Achievement That Would Be…

“She’s single, successful, and falling apart” read the billboard poster back in 1998. Ally McBeal, the young, unimaginably thin lawyer who danced with babies and fantasized about having sex in a car wash represented every young woman who was trying to make her way in the world. Facing the difficulties of working with her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, trying to make it in the legal profession and fighting a biological clock in the form of a dancing baby, Ally McBeal gave us weekly entertainment and a soundtrack to cry for.

IMG_1479.JPG

“Well at least she’s successful” is the bitchy comment I read in one magazine at the time. Because it’s true, Ally McBeal is the rarity in this world; she has a profession that she can call a career. Most women of her age don’t have that. Which leaves them single and falling apart.

I for one can identify with that. I have never had a career. At school during our final year we had a class where we went round the room saying what job we wanted to do when we left. I said I wanted to be a secretary. Six years later I was a secretary – and I hated every minute of it. Being a secretary involves being organised and thinking ahead on behalf of somebody else. I can barely do that for myself, let alone someone of Professor status. After spending four years at university, I am still no closer to that elusive career than I was at the age of 15. While I have a rough idea of what I want to do, which is getting paid to write, I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to do that. Writing blogs is a step in the right direction, but this dream definitely needs more work.

I do feel like I’m going off on a tangent, which I tend to do. So back to the point. Ally McBeal, for everything else she may be, is at least successful.

I found out a few months ago that one of my closest childhood friends is not only sucessful, but, well, she’s pretty big-time successful. On top of having a journalism career for a well-known national newspaper, she’s already published one Kindle book, and has just published a “proper” book. The subject? Her thirty-something crisis.

I have to say it took me by surprise. We lost touch around the time I got married in 2005, although I would like to say that wasn’t the reason. While I have very fond memories of my friend who I spent many a half-term holiday with after her parents moved away, I did feel the green-eyed monster lurking today. When you are trying to assess how well or not you are doing in life, the last thing you need is for someone you know that you can compare yourself to doing a million times better.

It must be a time for ghosts from the past. I found out recently that a classmate of mine died several years ago. The news didn’t really surprise me, for the last I had heard anything of this girl was reading in the newspaper about her, and it certainly wasn’t a celebration of any achievement. While she obviously had her own issues, I feel nothing for this person, because of the way I was made to feel at school. Anyone who has read this blog before knows I still have issues, even at my age, about school-related incidents.

So here we have two people from my childhood; one, a really good friend, who has made a success of her life and the other, someone I would rather forget, who no longer has the option to make anything of life.

I would place myself somewhere in the middle. I have my issues, and lately I have been mooching around rock bottom.

Since I started on my own thirty-something crisis some eight years ago, the one thing I have been able to use for encouragement is the discovery of those who are passionate about what they do, or are making progress towards achieving that. While studying in the US, I took a journalism course, and for one of my papers I chose to write an article called Follow Your Dreams: Chasing the Dream. In it, I interviewed a twenty-year old student from my college who had bagged himself a summer internship working on hit TV show, Weeds, and a former mature student who was working as a reporter for the New York Post. I remember being inspired by both of them, who through their hard work and perseverance were well on the way to their dream jobs.

Back at my home university I volunteered at a community radio station (www.sirenonline.co.uk) and I was lucky enough to be able to choose people to interview, many of which were involved in music or writing. Coming into contact with such people each week really inspired me that I could pursue my dream too.

I think since I moved to London though, despite the capital’s cultural hotspot, I haven’t been able to seek out those same people as I did before. And because I have felt my own dreams being stifled, it has been hard to feel joy towards those who are following their own dreams. I found out about my former friend who wrote the book earlier this year, ironically through a guy I met while internet dating, who had worked with her during one of her earlier jobs. At that time I was unable to accept the fact that someone I once knew had achieved exactly what I wanted, with bells and whistles. It hit me hard. She had endured the thirty-something crisis, which led her to an adventure worthy of not just a novel, but a memoir. She travelled the world in a boat while I struggled to get out of my home city. I have to admit, I still feel a little jealous. And I guess that is the reason this blog has taken such a long time to write. I had to dust it off to finish it ready for publication.

But I think I am finally ready to put that jealousy to good use. It’s time to start being inspired by people again, rather than to beat myself up by the fact that someone has achieved something that I have not. I have been searching for that job I can be passionate about, and the best way to achieve that is to find inspiration from those around me. While I may have been beaten to writing a novel, there’s room on the shelves for more than one. And the blogosphere is created such that there is room for everyone. I will take encouragement from the fact that someone I once knew has achieved the dream of having a book published, and that if I try hard enough anything is possible. Like Ally McBeal, perhaps I can at least aim to be successful, even if I am still single and falling apart.

*Emma Bamford’s memoir Casting Off: How a City Girl Found Happiness on the High Seas is published by Bloomsbury.

**I did promise in Jogga-Blog to the Moon that I had a moon-themed song, and well this one just seems to match this blog. Plus it’s from the 80s. What more could you want?

The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys (1985)

Jogga-Blog to the Moon

So last night I talked myself into going for a run. Actually I ran last Monday too, although I don’t think I blogged about it (despite it being world news). Anyway, I run along by the river towards Richmond, where I am greeted by the wonderful sight of the big red house on the hill. Last night the view was even more outstanding, as it had a big red moon to go with it.

IMG_1447.JPG

Today I ache, a lot more than last week, but it was worth it.

I wanted to end this blog with a song about the moon, but I’m saving that for my next post. So instead I’m going to leave you with a bit of INXS, who kept me going on my run last night.

Disappear – INXS (1990)

You’ve Lost That Summer Feeling

I mentioned in a previous blog about how the summer here in England seemed to come to a soggy wet end some weeks ago, with the gorgeous sunshine being swapped for almost-daily showers, my summer wardrobe being swapped for its autumnal cousins. As a sufferer of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I felt my mood plummet along with the temperatures and the pouring rain. But most of all I felt the fear: the fear of getting cold.

It’s like I don’t know how to dress any more, but it involves layers, and lots of them. With the temperatures lifting this week to around the mid-twenties degrees Celsius, I’m feeling a little separation anxiety with my scarf and cardigan, who I feel have become old friends. Or maybe my Siamese twins. Either way, as a child, I didn’t need a comfort blanket. I certainly don’t want to start carrying one about now, since I’m already laden down with so much baggage.

So today, I left the scarf and the cardy at home. I’m not ready to embrace winter yet. And I’m working on banishing fears from my life. After a jog down the Thames last night, I’m feeling positive. And I want my summer feeling back.

Steal My Sunshine – Len (1999)

Jogga-Blog is back!

While this blog is called 33 and Lost in Life, and you expect to hear the mumblings of a thirty-something as she stumbles her way through the journey of life, I have to be careful not to grumble too much. Suffering with depression, and now being off my anti-depressants (I’ll tell you about that another time) I am susceptible to bouts of downness. After a lovely weekend away with friends, I was particularly down at being back to reality. Yesterday as I headed home after doing some overtime at work and my weekly shop, I could feel the depression seeping in. My housemate was out, so the flat was deserted except for The Bish (my cat, Harry). I knew there would be trouble ahead if I didn’t do something.

So, after unpacking my shopping and feeding Bish, I donned my jogging gear and set out to run.

Something else I need to update you on is The Sugar-Free Me Challenge. I’m well into it now, and I promise a proper update today or tomorrow.

One thing I can say is that I’ve not lost weight. As I turned onto the main road, I felt heavier than I had when I jogged this route earlier in the year. This did not bode well.

However, after my initial misgivings, I managed to run for 13 minutes without stopping. I was most impressed with myself. I was out for a total of 25 minutes, and probably 5 of those in total spent walking (which admittedly seems like a lot now!).

When I got home, I felt like the cloud had lifted. Not totally gone, but put enough at bay to have some food and relax for the rest of the night.

I still want to blog about what’s on my mind, but not yet. They say that patience is a virtue. If I blog when I’m down it shows in my writing.

Yesterday on my commute to work, there was a fog over London. Between Acton Town and Chiswick park, there is a point where you can look east towards Central London and see the skyscrapers. I make sure I take a look most days as it reminds me that I live in London . This great city. I don’t see much of it apart from this West London bubble between Chiswick, where I work, and Ealing, where I live. Yesterday, the city skyline was obscured by the fog, but I knew it was there. Like the way out of depression, I know it is there, I just have to try to follow the path. I think I shall jog and blog my way of the fog…

Jogga-Blog No. 4 and 5: AKA The Return of 33andlostinlife

Out of all the titles you could possibly have expected me to pick for my first blog post in almost two months, I bet you didn’t expect to see the words “Jogga-Blog”.  In fact, this is the fourth and fifth Jogga-Blog combined, because my first London-based jog occurred on Thursday evening.  While afterwards I was most pleased with myself, the closest I got to blogging about the experience was thinking about it.  Well, you know what they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Today I was up early, so I decided to take advantage of the nice morning, before the heat became too overbearing, and take myslf off on another jog.  Once round the park without stopping this time.  I was most impressed with myself.

You may be wondering why it has taken me so long to write another blog post since the publication of The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 1.  I’ll do my best to fill you in on what has happened in my life over the last seven weeks, and from then onwards I shall attempt to keep you updated on a more regular basis.

I managed to find a lovely flat in West London, which I’ve settled into now.  My “housemates” are slightly older than me, but it’s nice to be with people who are full of stories from their lives.  I love listening to them talking, because it gives me inspiration for writing.  While this is the first time I’ve put virtual pen to paper in some time, I’ve been jotting down notes in my mind.  My little notebook that I use for my writing ideas got dusted off the other day, and I’m delighted to say that some of my ideas made it onto the page.  But I finally feel like my creative juices are starting to flow, which makes me happy because the pipes have been clogged for some time. Now though, that all my university work is finished, I can write for pleasure, without having to worry about deadlines, and I am thrilled that my ideas may finally find a place in the world.

It took me a while, but in mid-June I finally found a temp job, working in the Head Office of a high-end retail company.  The office is located only four tube stops from where I live, so the commute takes around 30 minutes door-to-door, which is not too bad considering I work with people who commute up to four hours a day.  The work is very similar to what I did in the NHS, analysing data, but instead of patients, it’s handbags and high heels.  I had a job interview for a writing position for one of these Daily-Deal websites just before I was offered this post.  While I was slightly disappointed not to have got the job, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that, for now, I’m happy with a nine-to-five job that I can do without having to stress out over it, where the people are nice and the commute isn’t too long.  I can get work on getting my finances back into a manageable condition, and use my free time to do what I have wanted to do for so long: write.  This job is temp to perm, which means it may become permanent in a few months.

You may be wondering why I bothered to do a degree in American Studies, if I was only to get a job the same as what I was doing before.  Well I got my degree results the other day, and I will graduate from the University of Lincoln in September with an upper second-class honours, or a 2:1.  This is reflective of the work I’ve done over the last four years, and while last year I may have been disappointed not to have received a first-class honours, right now I am just glad to have made it to the end with some sense of sanity.  When I started my degree, my life was very different, and what I want to gain out of a degree now is not necessarily the same as it was when I enrolled back in September 2009.  While I would still love to have the opportunity to work in America, I am learning to pick and choose my fights, and the opportunities for someone like myself to make the USA my home are slim.  What I’d rather do is focus on what I want to do, which is writing, rather than where I want to do it.  Days like today, where the weather is 26 degrees centigrade (79 Fahrenheit), and the forecast for the next six days is much the same, I’m more than happy to be in London, which is like a little greenhouse full of heat, where I can spend my lunchtimes sunning myself in the park, and the early evenings in the garden.

So I have somewhere to live, a job, and lots more time on my hands.  One thing I don’t have, is a relationship.  As you know if you’ve spent any time with me or my blog, that is high on my list of wants.  Right now, as much as I’d love to meet someone, I don’t have the money to spend on dates, or buying new clothes for dates.  But that is ok, because knowing myself as I do, it would be wrong to rush into finding someone, and people do always say it happens when you don’t expect it.  I can enjoy settling myself into my new life, and eyeing up the hot guys on the tube…

For now, life is good.  This chapter is still very new to me, and I’m very much finding my feet.  I’ve put on weight since my arrival, hence my desire to jog, and knowing that I won’t be able to afford to join a gym until possibly later in the year, I’m going to have to rely on my own resources and free exercise such as jogging and walking, in the tree-lined areas close to where I live and work.  By the end of September, I will have graduated from university, signaling the true end of the previous chapter of my life; potentially have secured a permanent job, and have made myself financially stable.  All the key ingredients for the basis of a happy life, on which I can build the foundations of the me I’ve wanted to become.  Please join me as the journey continues.  I’ve missed talking to you guys.

 

 

Jogga-Blog No 3

It’s a beautiful day!  The sun is shining!  Why I am so happy?  I’ve been out for a jog, that’s why.  No, not job (not yet), but jog.

The other day I finally put batteries in my bathroom scales, hopped on and…when I finally picked myself up off the floor, decided that it really was time to do something about my weight.

As I’ve probably mentioned before on this blog, three years ago, I lost a lot of weight in just a few weeks.  I went from 10 stone 4 pounds (65.3kg/144lb) to 8 stone 3 pounds (52.2kg/115lb).  While it was stress-induced, I felt great, and even spending six months in America while studying abroad, where they do love their burgers and portion sizes, I returned with only an additional 3 pound.  Sometime between June 2011 and now, I’ve put on 2 WHOLE STONES.  When I stepped on my scales the other day, I was 10 stone 6.  My ideal weight for my height, 5 foot 6 inches (167.5cm) is 9 stone 10 pounds.

I have never weighed so much in my entire life.  Growing up I was always pretty underweight, and I liked it that way.  I know I’ve been piling on the pounds, but I guess I didn’t realise quite how much until I weighed myself.  It always goes to my stomach, and the amount of coke I drink, along with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) I suffer from, has always given me a belly.  Plus I’m a Cancerian, and they are apparently renowned for having pot bellies (I certainly can’t argue with that).

So this morning, I woke up, decided that today would be my first jog of the year.  Got dressed, put my Adidas London Marathon 2012 cap on (I’ve never run it, the cap was a freebie at a place I worked last year), strapped my iPhone to  my arm with Michelle Branch playing and took off on my route.

It was so warm out today that I knew I didn’t even need to wear a hoodie.  While that meant my belly was on full view to everyone, I didn’t really care, because even wearing my jogging outfit, I feel slimmer already.

I’ve been eating lots of fruit this week, and trying to drink more water, and less Diet Coke.  This healthy eating is going to continue, along with a decided effort to cut the crappy foods out.  I want to look great when I move to London.  Whereas the huge weight loss from three years ago was caused by stress, usually stress causes me to comfort eat, so this was rather a one-off.  To lose weight, get toned and look great, it’s going to take a lot of work, at a time when I already have a lot of other stuff to think about, but it’s time to kick this new me off with a bang.