The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 1

First of all, I would like to apologise to my Life Coach, Jon Richelieu-Booth, for doing his utmost best to keep me accountable for this challenge blog.  As he pointed out several times to myself and my Twitter followers, Day 1’s blog was actually due on Thursday 9th May, which is now four days ago.

As you will know if you’ve read my blog before, I do have problems with endings and finishing things, so one might be inclined to think that by delaying the final blog of this challenge, that I was not ready to move on.  But I don’t accept that.  Like much of life, you can make whatever plans you want, and dream whatever dreams you like, but sometimes life will get in the way.

I’m sat here, in bed in my new bedroom in London.  The Bish is sleeping on the end of the bed, and I can hear the birds cheeping in the trees outside.  Once again, I am full of cold, although it was probably unreasonable to expect that by moving a few hundred miles South that I would suddenly become immune to the common cold!  A result, no doubt, of an extremely busy few weeks, which my body has admitted has finally worn me out.

I could have scribbled this blog quickly on Thursday in order to make the official deadline of midnight.  In a week of hosting international friends, packing my stuff and saying my goodbyes, I could not find the time.  I know that things done half-heartedly are not always up to the quality they should be, and this final post I didn’t want to rush.  And this is my blog.  Like me, posts may be late.  Sometimes they may be a little drunk when they’re written, and they might be full of utter rubbish and drivel which would be expected of a drunken writer.  Like the new life I’ve been chasing for so many years, it may not happen as early as you expect, and you may get frustrated or exasperated waiting for it to happen.  But it will happen when I am ready.  

I am not going to apologise for who I am any more.  My timekeeping skills are atrocious and everyone who knows me will expect me to be late.  The only event I was ever early for was my wedding, and look how well that turned out.  My blog, like me, will not always be there on time, but as I always say, better late than not at all.

When I started this challenge back in February, I really didn’t know what to expect from the coming months (read the first blog here: www.wordpress.com).  I used the Chinese New Year as the opportunity to set myself a target of reporting back to my followers how I was progressing (or not), with finishing my university degree, and planning for the future.  Part of the reason for doing this challenge is because I wanted to be kept accountable, which is kind of ironic considering I’ve just said that I will do this blog when I when I am ready, and not when someone asks me to.

This has been a lesson learned over the last twelve weeks, in that you have to find the fine line between being held accountable, and running your own life.  Left to my own devices, I can be lazy, procrastinating over the smallest things.  But when I put my mind to doing something, it happens.

As this challenge comes to an end, I can reflect on what I’ve achieved during these twelve weeks.  I have finished all my university work, and now, all that remains is to receive my final result in July, and to attend the Graduation Ceremony at Lincoln Cathedral in September.  I have found new accommodation in London for myself and The Bish, who is settling in slowly, still a bit wary of the other two cats and the golden retriever who live here.  Now I am in London, I will find a temp job to start with, followed by something permanent.  All in all, I’ve achieved pretty much what I wanted to: I’ve finished my degree and I know that London is where my heart lies.

I couldn’t have got to where I am today without the help of some wonderful people, and I would like to thank them with all my heart.  To Jon, my Life Coach, who, as mentioned above, has done his part spectacularly in keeping me accountable, even when I have resisted.  To my Study Coach, Mel, who guided me through the hardest university year, gave me excellent career advice as well as being there to listen when things got tough.  To my Counsellor, Julie, who was there to listen during the hard and the happy times, and gave me the confidence to get through some hard tasks; as well as the tears there were lots of laughs in our sessions.  To my friends, near and far, thank you for being there when I’ve needed you, and just for being there.  I’d especially like to thank Fen, who has not only supported me throughout these last three years, but who has helped me with my move to London and been the voice of reason when I have not wanted to listen.  I will miss you, my Chinese Wifey, but I hope that it won’t be too long before you’ll join me in the big city.  To my family, thank you for your unwavering support over the years, I know it’s been hard to watch at times but I’m finally ready to take the steps towards what I’ve been searching for and I know you’ll be proud of me for finally achieving it.  Finally, I’d like to thank The Bish, whose unconditional love has got me through, and who I’m glad has been able to come to London with me.

While this may be the end of The Twelve-Week Challenge, it will not be the end of 33andlostinlife.  The title of this blog will need to be changed at some point in the future, but I look forward to writing new blog posts, and coming up with witty titles (I’ve missed those).  Now I no longer have essays haunting me, I hope to do some more creative writing as well as blogging, and I promise I’ll keep my followers updated with that.

In the spirit of some recent posts, I’d like to leave you with a song.  This year I met my favourite singer for the second time, Eric Martin, from the band Mr. Big.  Their music, as well as Eric’s solo work, has kept me going for the last twenty-two years.  This is a song from their reunion in 2009, where I was lucky enough to see them play in Barcelona.  It’s a reflection on the past, while at the same time being positive about the future, which is how I feel right now.  

 

 

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The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day Two

Today was my second day in London, and it was a combination of being a new resident, reminiscing over my previous life in London and doing touristy stuff with my friends.  I visited Brick Lane, in London’s East End, where I lived for three months back in 1998.  I remembered how unhappy I was living there, but smiled at how it never put me off living here.

Where Brick Lane is trendy and hip, Bethnal Green is not so cool.  I lived just off Brick Lane, but Bethnal Green is where I used to go for food shopping.  Walking along Bethnal Green Road today, I felt glad that I’m now living in a better part of London, which is beautiful and leafy, and has a really good feel to it.  I know I’m going to enjoy living here, and I can’t wait to get to know the area better.

My new room is starting to look more like home now, as I unpacked most of the clothes I’ve brought and hung them in the massive floor-to-ceiling wardrobes in my bedroom.  Tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Lincoln, to collect the rest of my stuff and say my last few goodbyes, before returning to London on Friday.  Before the end of the week it’ll be time to go hell-for-leather applying for jobs, which will mean the end of my student life, and the last of having my days free.  But I can take credit from the fact that I started the next stage of my journey before the end of this challenge.  Because things do happen, if you believe that they can.

 

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 6

After four years, I finally handed in my last two assignments at the University of Lincoln.  The final pieces of paperwork were submitted to the Faculty Office with a minute to go, which is not quite as dramatic as it used to be, with my department having implemented online submissions earlier this year.  While I am relieved not to have any more work to do, it seems strange to think that I’m completely done with university.  All that’s left now is to receive my grades, and attend September’s graduation ceremony in my beloved Lincoln Cathedral.

This week really has been a week for finishing things.  I met four friends this week, which is the last time I’ll see them before I go. Tonight I attended the last meeting of the Lincoln Phoenix Writers’ Club, of which I am Secretary.  I have learned a lot from them about writing and hope that the next time I can attend a meeting, probably during a visit back to Lincoln to see family, will see me having written something I can actually read out at the meeting.

While I would love to chill out now, I can’t.  Tomorrow one of my American friends is coming over from LA to visit, and on Monday I shall be heading to London to take the first load of my stuff to my new place.  Wednesday will be heading back to Lincoln, before Friday will be the day I formally move, along with some more stuff and the fluffiest thing I own; The Bish.  I do worry about Bish, because driving to London will be the furthest he’s travelled, and I’m sure it’s all going to be new, so I don’t know how he will react.  All I can say is that since I found the flat, he’s been a lot calmer, and I can only guess that’s because I have been a lot calmer.

Anyway, tonight I have been busy packing, and almost forgot to write my blog, hence its lateness.  It’s all becoming so real now, and I can feel the excitement buzzing inside of me like a little kid on Christmas Eve.  Unlike Christmas Eve, however, tonight I know I will sleep, because I’m so tired.  Finally, I can go to sleep knowing that one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in the last few years is done, and that new path is just days away, waiting for my tread.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 7

With less than 24 hours until my final essay deadlines, it’s strange to think that by this time tomorrow my days at university will be over.  I still have two final essays to finish, but ones about three-quarters done, and the other is about halfway.  I have no doubt that they will both be in tomorrow, but I’m almost sure it’ll be afternoon before they get submitted.  One thing I do know, is that I’ll be jumping for joy once I walk out of the Faculty Office for the last time.

While you may be forgiven to think that I might take a break before plunging into anything new, think again.  My diary for the next week is full to the brim, and that includes a visit from my American friend, two trips to London, a near-naked dip in Covent Garden courtesy of Nivea and the biggie: moving house.  After 13th May, I’ll be making a full-time job of finding a job, and so while I may get to lounge around in my new apartment a little, I’m really hoping I’ll get work, at least temporary work, fairly quickly.  The relaxing time, preferably in the form of laying by a hot pool with a glass of sangria, will have to wait until later in the year.

But I don’t mind my life being busy.  This is what I’ve been working towards for years and it’s finally here.  So while tomorrow may be the day I hand my final essays in, really it’s just another tick on the huge To Do list of my life.  And I’m determined to work hard to get to where I want to be.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 8

Today I held my breath as my phone rang, seeing the London area code pop up.  Finally! I thought.  A job!  Sadly, it wasn’t about a job, unless you count taking your clothes off in London’s Covent Garden in recompense for a fluffy white towel and some Nivea goodies as a job (I wouldn’t, but I might consider making a career out of it should I struggle to get work after I move down South).

About a week ago, I signed up to Nivea’s Dare to Dip campaign, which challenges women to take their first dip of the season in confidence, after a survey done by the brand suggested that more than half of British women fear getting their belly out in a bikini each summer more than baring all to a new partner*.

I can quite understand this.  Despite the confidence I’ve gained in myself over the last few years, I’m wary of the fact that I now weigh more than I ever have, and my pot belly, the product of too much Diet Coke and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), might give some to question when the baby was due, should I dare to don a two-piece.  As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I lost a stone and a half in six weeks due to stress a few years ago, and having felt great despite being vastly underweight, a different kind of stress has led me to comfort-eat and to pile the weight back on.  While I had no plans for being on a beach half-naked in the near-future, with my relocation to London taking priority over a holiday, it now appears that I will be needing do exactly this in the not-quite-so-exotic (or warm) Covent Garden in Central London.

Looking at bikinis today in the shops, my eyes wandered to a pair of pink “tummy-control” bottoms, and for the first time in my life, actually considered that I may have to buy them, as well as spend the whole time in Covent Garden next week breathing in (especially as there will be photos taken afterwards).

The long winter we’ve had here in the UK has meant that I’ve been able to cover up my body, insisting to myself that I’ll ditch the Diet Coke and eat healthy once I move to London.  But now the weather’s getting warmer, I want to start revealing my body parts to the sun, because I do look better with a tan, and also because I have two bottles of Hawaiian Tropic SPF 15 which have been collecting dust after my trip to Singapore got cancelled to save my academic career and give myself time to finish my dissertation.

The Dare to Dip campaign is encouraging women to bare their cossie-clad bodies to the world.  When I received a call today confirming my place in the 200 out of the 22,000 who had applied, I was asked why I wanted to take part.  I explained about my quarter-life crisis, about the last seven years being about finding who I am and not being afraid to show that person to the world.  To me, Dare to Dip is an extension of that; the person that I am will not only blog about things that others would refuse to even talk about, but to not be afraid to get out there in a bikini and show the world that this is me – I may not be perfect but this is who I am right now.

While there is a lot of pressure on women from magazines and other media – who hasn’t seen the features about stars with no make-up, or take a look at so and so’s cellulite – I believe that if you feel confident in your body, you will feel more confident in yourself.  When I weighed 8 stone 3, there’s no denying I felt slim and so much better, and having a tan I was even happy to forfeit make-up.  At 10 stone 4, I feel like a flump.

Having been a very shy girl at school, I’ve always been rather conscious about my image, and even with my make-up on and my hair looking its best, I still feel as though I look like everyone else without their hair and make-up done.  I can’t imagine ever feeling so glamorous that I feel like a million dollars.

Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be a self-pitying blog.  I want this opportunity that Nivea has given me to be a celebration of the fact that I am a woman, and that women sometimes need encouragement from other women.  While my blog is a focus for my writing, about the one thing I am an expert in – myself – I also want it to give hope to other women, who may not feel quite so brave about living life and pursuing their dreams.  I understand that, because for me, I was that person for a long time.  But now it’s time to change.  And not only time to Dare to Dip, but to Dare to…Be.

 

*To read more about the survey, click here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2313082/Half-British-women-dread-baring-bikini-belly-beach-getting-naked-new-man-time.html

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 9

As this challenge moves into single figures, I’m sat here yet again with a blank screen.  While I recently blogged about this, and about how my new life is like a blank page, I don’t want to say the same thing again.  But why is it that I’ve fallen asleep twice, yet am refusing to go to bed until this blog is written, and it’s already 21 minutes late?

I’m quite sure the main reason is the pint of Carlsberg I had after my last ever radio show.  That was a momentous occasion, to say goodbye to The American Dream Team, the show I co-founded with my co-host, Jack Harrison, back in September 2011.  As regular readers may know, alcohol does not improve my writing ability, but rather hinders it.  I’m amazed I’ve written this much already, although to be fair I’ve probably slept some of it off already.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was meeting another friend today, another who I’ve known for the best part of my adult life.  While, like yesterday, it wasn’t goodbye, but until we meet again, it signified the fact that the days are counting down until this part of my life finishes and my new life begins.

It’s funny, but today, that old ghost has been haunting me a little.  It’s as though the part of me that never got what it wanted is hoping that it’s not too late, that there’s still chance.  But I know there is no chance, and I laugh at this lame attempt to keep me stuck in the past.  It’s a past that kept me busy and occupied for a long time, but now is the time to let go.  A new future awaits, full of life and love, and where there is no room for anything else, anything bad.  Finally I’m almost at the end of the tunnel, and I can see the light.  It’s not someone holding a torch, and it’s not the headlamps of an oncoming train.  It’s the bright sunshine of the outside world, waiting for me at the end of the darkness.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 10

With all endings, comes goodbyes.  Or rather, till we meet again.  I had one of those moments today with one of my oldest friends (as in how long we’ve known each other!).  Over a Starbucks, we reminisced how next year would be our 20th anniversary of being friends, having met at the first place I ever worked at, Stapleton & Co Estate Agents in Lincoln.  I was 15, and my friend, Sarah, was 20.  We’ve been through so much together, and I will miss our regular chats over posh coffee.  Tomorrow I will meet another friend, someone else I’ve known for a long time, and that will be another step towards leaving town, and leaving the friends I’ve known for years, through the good times and the bad.

It took me a long time to appreciate good friends.  After I left school, I had a great distrust for so-called friends, and for many years, while I had no problems trusting men (unlike a lot of women I knew), I did struggle to trust female friends (I didn’t have any male friends, which is probably why I have such issues with men).  I think those who have been my friends the longest are those who were the exception.

In my mid-twenties, I began to realise that I didn’t need to keep people in my life, if they were bringing me down, or using me in some way.  I had, to be blunt, a “clear out” and those people are no longer in my life.  Since then, you pretty much only get one chance with me; blow it, and you’re out.  Life’s too short to have bad friends.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be forgiven, but you’ve got to work damn hard to make sure I’m not going to regret letting you back in.  Saying that, I love meeting new people, and I’m always happy to make new friends.

I am a firm believer that people do come into your life for varying times and reasons.  Not everyone will stay forever.  Some people will be there only while you need them, likewise you may appear in their life for a specific reason.  There are people I’ve lost contact with over the years, and I do regret that, but with social media, there’s always a chance that we may be reunited.

What I want to say though, I guess, is that despite the fact I’m moving hundreds of miles away, I know my true friends will always be there for me, and they know that I’ll be there for them.  Distance will never wreck a good friendship, be it over land or sea.  Through the tough times, the fun times, the very, very shitty times, I’d like to thank all my friends for being there for me, and to remind them, you’ve got a friend in me.

 

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