Life Sweet Life

I wake this morning to the sound of my iPhone.  The alarm is going off, as it does every weekday at 7am.  I press snooze, my head hits the pillow and I get another nine minutes of lovely sleep, before it goes off again, and I tap my phone to silence it.  After the fourth time of snoozing, I decide it’s time to open my eyes properly and attempt to prepare myself for the task of getting up.

As I reach to unplug my phone, flat on the sheet beside my pillow, Bish stirs next to me, and I stroke his head gently.  Morning B, I say, as I hold my thumb on my phone’s thumbprint identification system, and it unlocks without me having to enter any security password.  I check my emails first, scrolling through the fifteen or so that have arrived since I closed my eyes to sleep.  I read only the four job emails, of which there is nothing of interest, and I delete them straight away.  I close down my emails and go straight to the next app of my morning routine, Facebook.  As I look at my news feed, Facebook informs me that I have MEMORIES TO LOOK BACK ON TODAY, and the first memory I see is from 14 June 2014.  It contains a photo of actress Sarah Connelly in the film, Labyrinth, and was a Facebook post in which I shared what turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts: Homeless Sweet Homeless.

I click on the link and read the post nostalgically and with pride, as I do when I read any of my blog posts.  I am reminded that this post was written two years ago, when I had moved out of a flat in Ealing, but hadn’t yet found a suitable place for me and Bish to move to.  I am reminded that during this time I had stayed with friends and in a B&B.  I am reminded that Bish at the time was in a cattery in Edgeware, and my stuff was in storage in Hangar Lane.  I am reminded that I had dejunked 12 bin bags full of crap to the charity shops, and sold almost all of my furniture to people via Gumtree.  I am reminded of the difficulty I was having in finding something within budget and pet-allowing.  I am reminded that I was encouraged, but resisted, to re-home Bish.  I am reminded that I was able to write a blog that included one of my favourite childhood films.  I am reminded that I have not written a blog in many many months.

I have thought about it, occasionally.  There is certainly a lot to update you on.  But the self-doubt part of me has heard my blog voice in my head, and cringed, and any thoughts I have had of writing it again have dissipated.

Having thought about it all day, I just re-read all my blog posts from 2016, and I am surprised to find there are actually five published this year.  It is so long since I blogged that I have forgotten that I published any at all since the new year started.  I am pleased to see that one of the five is a short story, a piece of fiction I wrote on my commute one day.  This reminds me that I am capable of writing fiction, not just blog posts, and that on rare occasions I have even managed to put it out there for people to read, not just to resign it to a notepad or in the notes pages of my phone.  I am encouraged by what I have read, and it sparks something in me, in my desire to write, to put words on paper, even a virtual page.  Two years after a blog about being homeless, and I am determined to make today the day I start blogging again.

So here it is, a post, as yet, untitled.  So what have I been doing when I’ve been not writing?  Well a lot has changed.  Back in September 2015, I made the decision to move back up north.  You’ll know if you have read previous posts that it was something that had been suggested to me by a friend during my time in London, but for reasons that seem beyond me now, I could not face.  I had clung onto the idea that my future was in London for a long time, but I had to face up to the reality that I was treading water in an expensive, lonely city, and not progressing in any way, shape or form.  I spent five months applying for jobs in the north, but not even being shortlisted for anything dampened my spirits.  I had given myself six months to find something and set myself a deadline of the end of March to leave.  As the middle of February approached and I was faced with two lengthy trips back home at the end of February and the middle of March for family birthdays, and two sets of travel and cattery costs, and I decided enough was enough, and after a few day’s thought, handed my resignation in at work and gave notice on my flat.  My dad had kindly offered me my old room back, and it meant that Bish and I could move back to Lincoln while I saved enough money to move onto Sheffield.

After saying goodbye to the few good friends I had made in London, on 13th March, Bish and I moved back to my childhood home in Lincoln.  The relief of being away from the capital was increased at the sight of fields from my bedroom window, and while I knew Lincoln was only a temporary residence, I knew the move back north was the right thing for me and Bish.

After leaving my job in London, I had intended to find temp work here, but because I was only planning on being here 1-3 months before moving on again, I was told there was very little in the way of short-term temporary work.  However, the agency offered me the opportunity to go back to my old department in the NHS, at a much lower rate of pay.  Reluctantly, in order to save money to move, I took the job.  While I was gutted at having to take a drop in pay yet again, the work was easy, and more importantly, I was surrounded by friends, people I had known and worked with for many years.  I relished my new commute, one that took 25-30 minutes door to door, half of which I was able to walk or ride a bus alongside beautiful fields, instead of my former 60-90 minute London commute where I’d be in busy train carriages or running across the footbridge at Britain’s busiest train station, Clapham Junction.

Bish has settled into life in the north although it hasn’t been easy for him.  Not long after we moved, he spent a day sleeping under the conifers in my dad’s garden, and a few days later, I returned from a weekend away to find him covered in ticks.  While dad and I removed the ones we could see over the next few days, it soon became clear that it would take a specialist.  We took him to a local vets and it turned out he was riddled with them.  After undergoing a multiple trips to the vets, with two lots of sedation and a hell of a lot of tricky tick removal, he is now clear of the little bastards, but it was a very stressful few weeks for all of us.

I’ve been in Lincoln for just over three months now, and in less than three weeks Bish and I will be moving on again.  In order to tell you about our next move, I need to tell you about the biggest change in my life, which happened at the beginning of this year.  Yes, after all those years of searching, I finally met a kind, caring, supportive and absolutely wonderful man who fills my heart with joy.  Online dating finally paid off, and it was worth putting my hand in my pocket, as I met my guy on e-Harmony.  After endless messages, it soon became clear that we were very well matched, and our mutual love of charity shops, board games, books and 80s films, created a foundation for our two creative souls to build a relationship.  Six months later and I am happier than I have ever been, and I know that he was worth waiting for.  So, mine and Bish’s next move is to Derby, where my boyfriend lives, and I can’t wait.  It’s been great staying with my dad, but I’m looking forward to having my independence back, to live with my boyfriend, in a decent size house, not a room, a place where Bish can enjoy the run of, and where he has his own cat flap, out into the garden where he can relax on a summer’s day (and not a conifer in sight!).

Finding love hasn’t made all my problems go away, but having someone by my side who understands depression, and is supportive and there for me at the times when I do fall apart, has made the transitional period so much easier.

So in just over two weeks I’ll make another move, to another new place in which for me to re-invent myself.  I think back to two years ago, when I had no fixed abode, and no idea what the future held.  I still don’t know what the future holds, but I know it contains a loving relationship with someone who thinks the world of me and Bish, and for whom the feeling is mutual (from me and my cat).  And if being homeless taught me nothing else, it showed me that I can cope with what life throws at me, and I can live to tell the tale.

I think it’s true to say you don’t know what is round the corner, and you never know when your life will change.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always for a reason.  And even the bad things can give you inspiration, when you look back upon them and can say: I survived that.

 

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A Name On A Coffee Cup

She spies the cup on the table. Lid off. Its sleeve has fallen to the table, no longer needed by its owner to prevent burnt fingers that are already suffering from frostbite.
The cup, which is about a quarter empty, or is it a quarter full, she wonders, of brown liquid, has been abandoned by its owner.  
Mark.
That is the name emblazoned on the side of the cup, next to the familiar green logo. Surely it cannot be spelt right? It is probably Marek, or Marco. Or just perhaps they got it right for once. 
She thinks about Mark. Wonder what kind of job takes him from the Broadway into town. If he buys Starbucks every day he must be well paid, she thinks, before it occurs to her that she buys Caffé Nero soya lattes, one shot please, every day. It’s like a ritual, or is she obsessed.  
She skips her coffee today, in favour of catching the 9:08 Windsor & Eton Riverside. She has been late to work too many times recently. Already, stood on platform 6, she feels she is missing her fix. Maybe she shall take a leaf out of Mark’s book, and go to the Starbucks kiosk at Gunnersbury. Leaf. Tea leaf? No, Mark is definitely a coffee drinker. 
Could he already be drinking a second? No. His cup was still on the table outside the cafe, not joined by cups from Helen or Sanjay. He hasn’t been gone long. Long enough to hop on the Northern Line, north, not South. Not to Mordor. He’s probably passed Clapham by now, about to get off the tube at Stockwell and walk across the corridor to join the Victoria Line, also going North. Not packed today though. He takes a seat next to a man in his 50s reading about the death of David Bowie, and a woman in her 20s who opens her mouth as she applies her mascara. He opens his book. Hemingway.  
He’s a reader, as well as a coffee drinker. Yes, he read as he supped his morning coffee, and smoked his cigarette. Tried to quit last year, but the evil weed keeps him hooked. He can’t quit now, anyway, not with Amanda being the way she is. He is not ready to get married. She has been ready since she was 13. He always checks the condom after sex, and her pills in the evening, to make sure she’s still taking them. Sometimes she ‘forgets’. He remembers the last near miss.  
He is content in his life, but he knows that is because he glosses over the issues. Paints over the cracks. Layer, after layer, after layer. Layer Cake. I might watch that later on Netflix, he thinks.  
Later he arrives at work, for some reason craving another caffeine hit. Normally his morning Starbucks keeps him going until after 10am. But this morning he left some of it after receiving a call about an urgent matter requiring his attention in the office. He makes himself a coffee, his assistant Lula looking at him in surprise as he normally barks beverage orders at her.  Lula wonders if there are problems with Amanda again, not that Mark has told her this, only what she has gathered from carefully reading between the lines. As she watches him carry the cup out of the kitchen and stops to chat to one of the other partners, she wonders, and a smile plays on her lips as the fantasy plays in her head, the one where Mark proclaims his love for her and then makes love to her right there and then on the desk. Yes, Lula wonders.
She is so busy daydreaming that she does not hear her phone ring, the trill tone of an internal incoming call. 
Mark glares through the glass partitions of his office at Lula. Stupid cow, he thinks, slamming the phone down. Daydreaming again. Shakes his head. He is very fond of the girl, but sometimes her head is just not in the game. And in this business you need people who are totally committed to the game.
He thinks about Amanda again, and how he is not totally committed to that game. Far from it. He looks again over at Lula, and remembers how her hair fell over her face while she was dancing to The Final Countdown at the Christmas party. He thinks about Lula, and he wonders. 
As she gets on the Overground at Richmond, she wonders. And she thinks you can learn a lot about a person from their coffee cup. 

The Mystery of the Christmas Cup

The cup lays there on the tracks, its shape pristine, shining from the rain that pours down this morning at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest station, or so I’m informed by the signs dotted around.
The cup resembles Caffe Nero’s familiar light blue, but it has lost its brightness, the way litter does when it is left out in the sunshine to disintegrate. The company’s logo, its name emblazoned slap bang in the middle, is cocooned within a red wreath. The kind one might hang on their front door, as long as their door wasn’t red.  
I look at the cup curiously. The faded colour and the Christmas motif allude to the fact that the cup has been there some time, on the track next to platform 6, home to trains heading towards Reading and Waterloo & Eton Riverside. But it is the shape that confuses me. The perfect cup-shaped shape.  
It has rained a lot lately, as it tends to do these days during this month. Paper goes soggy when it gets wet, so why hasn’t this cup crumbled from the rain? 
But it is designed to hold water. Hot water in fact, infused with a little, or a lot, depending how you like it, of caffeinated coffee beans, or perhaps some hot chocolate. So it needs to be strong enough to hold hot liquid. Surely it can withstand a little rain?  
But I do not want to give the tall, sorry, regular, cup any more credit than it deserves. It should hold a cup of coffee, yes. Maybe two. It shouldn’t be able to withstand 8 months of rain.  
Of course it hasn’t rained for eight months solid, though it feels that way sometimes here. But we’ve had a lot of heavy rain this August.  
It is August. Almost the end of, but still the eighth month of the year. That is why the Christmas cup is so out of place. Has it really kept its shape for so long? 
My disbelief remains instilled within me.  
Perhaps they ran out of regular cups? Resorted to using the leftover supply of Christmas cups? No, this seems an unlikely explanation; surely they may run out of Christmas cups but not the other way around.  
Perhaps the cup belonged to a beggar, one who sits on the street with his hand out, waiting for a few coins to buy a sandwich or a bottle of White Lightening. Perhaps he (I am presuming the tramp to be a he), finally got enough to put himself on a train to Windsor, where he can visit the Eton Riverside.  
Unlikely, let’s face it. While they do have pubs in Windsor and even Eton, down by the Riverside, I’m sure, there are plenty of pubs to be found in Clapham Junction, should the tramp have received enough to pay for a pint.  
Maybe someone kept the cup, refilling it every day with coffee from home, being either too tight or too poor to buy a new coffee everyday. Someone with a complicated relationship with money but who likes to keep up appearances. But no. Someone resorting to those kind of tactics would surely not give themselves away by using a Christmas cup all year round.  
Also, I argue to myself, someone who is holding onto the cup for whatever reason, is not going to cast it away across the tracks at Platform 6. No. That is the behaviour of a guy in a suit, a businessman who is predisposed with his latest business deal to care about disposing of his trash in such a manner. Or perhaps a young dude in a hoodie, who also doesn’t care about littering the station.  
If only there was a witness I could ask. The way all the great detectives do. Excuse me madam, have you ever seen this cup here before? 
I think before I answer.  
No, I say. I haven’t ever seen this cup before. I have seen the torrent of water that falls from the roof next to the Pumpkin cafe, the one that is cascading down this rainy day. But I have never seen the cup that lies within reach of the drops that pour and splash over it.  
Am I an unreliable witness? I am here on the platform every day. Every working day at least. Most days I stand right here, where I am now, the best spot to get on if you want to get off closest to the stairs at Richmond. 
Why haven’t I seen the Christmas cup before? On the days I arrive with time to spare, I spend my minutes waiting for the train by looking around. I notice the far away platforms, the workmen’s building opposite, the footbridge. I even remember a beer bottle, Stella perhaps? Surprisingly unbroken despite being tossed away from the platform. But I don’t remember the Christmas cup.
The next day I return to the scene of the crime. A crowd has formed, and I struggle to get a good look at the evidence. Eventually I see it, and I am shocked at how it has disintegrated since yesterday. Of course, this autopsy reveals that the deterioration could not have occurred in such a short space of time. The cup has now been spun around, and I can see the inside of it is not a pristine white as one might have expected upon first viewing yesterday, but instead a dark black from all the dirt contained within. The perfect cup shape was no longer, having turned into more of an oval. The outside, no longer shiny from the rain, was a dull, faded colour. The Christmas motif is still there. We finally have our TOD (Time of Deposit) – which is given as December 2014/January 2015.

The mystery of the Christmas cup solved, I continue on my way to work. I will think of the Christmas cup as the new Christmas cups are unleashed in the coming months, and of course every morning, as I clap eyes on it at Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest.  

Written 24th August 2015

Are You There God? It’s Me, Jodie

He didn’t know if he had it in him to be a great writer but he was going to be some kind of a writer no matter what. Why not? He was good at it. More important, he got off on doing it. When the words came right, he got off on it in a big way. And they wouldn’t always be able to withhold the money from him on a technicality. He wouldn’t be eleven forever.

The Dark Half, Stephen King (1989)

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wish I could say that I wrote stories as a child, but I didn’t. I wrote one for my English class when I was eleven, and my teacher, Mr Pearce, obviously thought it was good as he read it in front of the whole class. I was beaming until I got the paper back, and there were red pen marks around the characters’ names, which I think I had sub-consciously taken from that great writer, Judy Blume, who I was a fan of at the time. My innocent plagiarism aside, I would not write any further creative fiction until the age of 32 when studying in Judy Katz’s Women and Lit class at Juniata College, during my study period abroad.

Like Thad Beaumont, the eleven year-old whose quote I have borrowed for my opening, I don’t know if I have it in me to be a great writer. But I know I can be some kind of writer. And like Thad, I get off on writing. I can re-read my blogs over and over with a sense of pride, and sometimes excitement that it was me who actually wrote it. I’ve never felt like I was good at anything until I started writing.

Of course, writing hasn’t always been an easy path. This blog is a testament to the journey I have been on through my thirties. My blog has been criticised for being too negative, but what do you expect from a blog called 33andlostinlife? Sunshine and roses? Well maybe some of you would. Those of you who have learnt to see the world with happiness, no matter what your situation. For me, that has always been a difficult thing to do and I envy your ability to see the world in a rose-tinted way without the need for spectacles.

This Wednesday gone, 28th January, was the third anniversary of starting this blog. As you will know or can calculate if you can do basic maths, I am no longer 33 years old. I am in fact 36 now. I have given much thought before to changing the title, and with each birthday I do consider changing at least my age. But I just haven’t been able to switch the title, because I still feel lost in life, and at times more than ever.

I now realise though that it is time to change that title. Perhaps it is the fact that I am defining myself as “lost in life” which keeps me on that path.

So soon, I will write my final blog as 33andlostinlife. I am sad to say goodbye to the one place I have felt safe to admit my feelings, frustrations and fears for the last three years. But I’m excited to be moving on to what will be a new…time in my life. I almost said chapter, but as I’ve learnt in the 21 months since I left Lincoln for London to start a “new chapter”, I’m just not very good at finishing things. Especially chapters, both written and in life. Creative writing is not my forte, though I hope one day it will be. But I am good at writing blogs, and yes I did just say so myself. I met American crime writer, Jeffrey Deaver, at a book-signing in Waterstones Picadilly last year, and I asked him for some advice on writing. He told me not to make it personal. Oops, epic fail. Anyway, one thing I struggle with is self-confidence, and if I think I am good at something, then I should continue to do it, no matter what the advice from one of my favourite authors.

I have thought long and hard about whether to just change the title of this blog to something different and carry on from here. In the two years since I started this blog, I’ve written 257 Posts, which have been viewed 15,723 times. Those posts provoked 221 comments and gained me 222 followers. That to me is a huge amount, and I have worked hard to build my following. While I hate to start my following at a big fat zero, I hope you will understand that I wish to keep 33andlostinlife for what it was – a way for me to journal my thoughts and feelings during this whole thirty-something crisis, and to give others the knowledge that they are not alone in what they are going through. It wasn’t meant to be a woe is me announcement board, although some saw it as such. What I will take with me though is that I had far more positive comments than negative ones, and not just from friends and family, but from other bloggers and readers from all across the world.

So I hope you will continue to follow my journey once my new site is in place, and I promise to blog regularly once more. This last two months has been a big transitional period for me and I hope you accept my apologies for disappearing off the virtual page. My apologies especially go to my reader, Angel, who has commented twice during my absence, to say how worried she was by my lack of posts. I wouldn’t normally avoid responding to comments, but in typical Jodie way, I couldn’t bring myself to write because I didn’t know if I should write anything else as 33andlostinlife. So I buried my head in the sand and ignored even the comments.

But I couldn’t avoid it forever and so here I am. Once I have found my new blog, you will be the first to know. I want 2015 to be just as productive blogging-wise as last year was, and for my blogs to be full of the positivity in life. I also want to expand outside of the blogging sphere and into other forms of writing.

In the spirit of new starts, I do accept that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I won’t become the greatest writer overnight. But perhaps with a little work, and a lot more effort, I can become some kind of writer.

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)

Raise Your P!nk-Tinted Glasses…

During my Study Abroad period in 2011, I discovered what it was like to live in a Small Town.  I used the capitalisation, because, you have not lived until you’ve lived in a Small Town of America.  I lived in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, which is a land far, far away from the rest of civilisation.  The highlight of socialising there for me and my friends, who had no access to transport of any kind (not even any buses or taxis in Huntingdon), was the weekly visit to Memories.

Memories is a sports bar, which hosts karaoke every Wednesday night.  I had never done karaoke before, at least not in public.  I mean, plenty of times, at home in the safety of my living room, could I be found beating PlayStation’s SingStar at its own game.  But to get up in front of strangers and sing, that is something completely different.

While I wasn’t the age of most other students at Juniata College, my time there can definitely be attributed to a coming of age.  Juniata was full of firsts for me; the place I first wrote anything that wasn’t an email or an essay (and what would eventually become this blog), the first time I ever got bollocked for drinking in public (on campus! at the age of 31! America sort your drinking laws out…) and the first time I slept with someone more than 13 years my junior…

Memories, ah….ahem, back to Memories the sports bar and Wednesday night karaoke.  While James Blunt’s 1973 became quite an anthem for me and my friends, Smooth by Santana featuring the lovely Rob Thomas became my favourite karaoke tune.  The song that will always remind me of Memories though is Raise Your Glass, by P!nk.  It’s a song for outcasts everywhere, a celebration of those who don’t fit into society’s place for them.

I have always seen myself as an outsider, and while there was an element of me being different from everyone else, I think for the first time in my life I didn’t mind.  I knew that I was well on my journey in life, and that I would enjoy its ups and downs, with those who chose to come along with me. Many of those had chosen to take further study, or travel the world, because, like me, Life hadn’t offered them the relationship, the children, the house, the car. They sought the future, like me, through rose-tinted glasses. Always looking for that guiding light to show them the way.

University, incorporating my Study Abroad period, was where my friendship ring truly went international.  At the University of Lincoln, I ran a group called MAPS (Mature and Postgraduate Students) which is where I met many students similar to my age and older, both British and international. Working in a London hotel at the age of 19, and working in a hospital meant that I had always been surrounded by people from different cultures and backgrounds, but it was at university where I really got to know people from different nationalities. While everyone has different issues, beliefs, ways of seeing the world, at the core, we are all just on the same path, wanting to carve a way through life with the support of those around us, be they friends or lovers. I am lucky to not only have the support of my family and my British friends, but also my worldwide family.

While I will always be an outsider to the world, this is a place that I am finally happy to be in. So this post is a way of celebrating those that choose to sit on the outside with me, and watch the world go by. To you, I raise my glass, and dedicate this awesome piece of karaoke (lyrics included!).

P!nk – Raise Your Glass

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