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.

 

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

The Write Thing

As I sit on my bed this Tuesday evening, I can only describe the feeling I have right now in one way: contented.  Which seems bizarre to me, and probably to you too if you read my last blog post, I Survived the Weekend…and Lived to Blog About It.  I’ve just re-read every blog I’ve written since I started writing again last month, and I realise how much I’ve missed it.  

The actual act of writing not only makes me feel better, but checking my stats several times a day also makes me happy.  WordPress stats tell me how many people have visited the blog on a daily basis and how many times they have viewed it, which countries visitors are from and the number of views each individual post has received.  While my views are relatively low compared to other blogs, I get such a warm feeling inside to know that people are reading what I’m writing.  And not just reading it, but sharing it via social media to other potential readers.  

After the distress and disappointment of the weekend, I feel calm and…strangely enough, ok.  Work has been without issue so far this week, I am feeling positive because have applied for three jobs, and tonight I went to my book club where we discussed two short stories that I suggested, some 19th century women’s literature that I read at uni and loved.  But most importantly I am blogging again, and people are reading again.  Right now, in this moment, I am content.  

And you know what, I’ve actually had this feeling since Monday morning.  My friend at work read my last blog and asked me if I was ok; she must have been expecting me to burst into tears but I didn’t, and that I put down to having written about it.  I actually felt bad when my boss asked me how my weekend was, and I answered “not great”, because I was feeling ok when I answered her.  But I didn’t feel I could lie to her and tell her I had a good weekend an hour after posting a blog about suicide.  

I’m feeling like I’m waffling now, and I want to post this before I start to regret writing it, and that is totally not what I wanted to happen!   I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I know for sure this blog is the right thing for me to be doing.  And as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.  

Come Back to What You Know

My first blog back at 33andlostinlife sees me borrowing a blog title from an old song by West Yorkshire band, Embrace.  I’ve had my ex-husband’s Cigarettes and Alcohol, a mostly 90s Indie compilation on repeat album mode for the last month, and this song is one of the eight that I lately squeezed onto a playlist of favourites.  

On 15th January 2015, I made a bold statement on this blog that I was going to set up a new blog and write much more positive blog posts.  That was a great idea, and still is, but have you seen any new, more positive blog posts?  No, me neither.  

Almost seven months later, I find myself even more lost in life than ever before.  A stressful week at work last week has left that boat rocking, and I’m feeling the need to abandon ship more than ever.  Of course, it’s something I should have done a long time ago, so perhaps it’s a good thing, but actually finding something else freaks me out.  

The problem is, I want to be a writer.  So I want a writing job.  Ideally I’d be writing a column in a magazine like Lucy Mangan but I’m nowhere near ready for that yet, and not quite as ‘outspoken’ as the girl born to Northern parents who lived in the South (the total opposite to me) who writes for The Guardian newspaper and Stylist magazine. 

My dilemma is whether to get a writing job of any sort, or just go for a normal admin job, but one that pays a lot more.  London has horrendously expensive living costs and while I’ve found sanctuary in my small studio flat and garden (Update: Bish is very happy and spends all his time outside with the exception of when this horrible August rain pours, which keeps him housebound and sees him taking over my pillow), I still have very little money (if any) left at the end of the month.  Whichever option I choose for my next job, the one thing I’ve struggled with is confidence in myself, and that stands like the Berlin Wall as a blocker to any future moves.  

Confidence to gain some work experience as a writer.  Confidence that yes of course I can do that £34k a year data role (and bag a £12k pay rise).  Confidence that I must summon from somewhere if I am going to get myself out of this rut I face and move forward with my life.  

I’ve been inspired lately by two people.  One is Aussie Natalie Imbruglia, former lovely Neighbour and 90s pop songstress famous for telling us it’s ok to be cold and ashamed and lying naked on the floor when the love of your life turns out to be a bit of a knob.  A recent article in the Evening Standard magazine tells how Natalie suffered with depression even during her most successful period, becoming reclusive.  18 years later, she says “Food as medicine.  And I feel great.”  I will second that, although I have a feeling she’s not talking about scoffing a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk or Double Decker when she gets stressed.  Divorcée Natalie certainly looks fab at forty, and just as gorgeous now as she did back in 1997 singing Torn in those combats.  Her new album, Male, is out on 21st August.  Read her full interview here.

The other person to inspire me is fellow Northerner Danny McNamara, co-writer of 90s hit Come Back to What You know and lead singer of Embrace.  Writing his own blog in 2014, he tells how the inspiration for his songs comes from PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Suffering a traumatic childhood incident that “was traumatic, terrifying, and…almost killed me,” Danny reveals how “it’s literally coloured everything I’ve done since.”  Suffering PTSD between the ages of 19 and 22, he suffered multiple panic attacks a day, wasn’t eating, sleeping and went down to ten stone (63kg) – not much for someone who stands at 6 foot 2 (187cm).  

He used songwriting to get himself out of the dark place he was in, and aged 44 he says he’s better now, not just well.  More importantly he’s still writing and recording with Embrace.  He spoke out about his mental health issues last year because he was inspired by others speaking out about their experiences.  You can read his full blog here

I can agree with that.  And I’m reminded that the reason I started this blog was to get some cathartic therapy from writing about my own experiences with depression.  But more than that: so that other people could read about them and perhaps not feel so alone and sinking in their own negative thoughts.

I was told my blog was depressing.  Well, yeah, it’s a blog about living with depression, dur.  And while I’d love to be writing shiny, happy blogs, I’d rather be writing depressing blogs than nothing at all.  I have done some writing during the time since my last blog post; I started a novel which got to about 20 pages before I shied away from it.  But I haven’t looked at it for months, although I keep thinking about picking it up again, and that’s a start.  

One of my uni lecturers gave me what really was the most simple piece of advice: you want to be a writer, then write!  Since discovering my ability to write in 2011, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I know it is my destiny (not my density…although it does weigh me down at times).    But writing with depression is hard.  Although not impossible, as many creative people, including Natalie and Danny, will tell you.  

So for now, I’m coming back to what I know.  I was the most prolific  in my writing than I’d ever been last year, until my living situation ground that to a holt.  I’m well out of that now, and the person that told me my blogs were depressing is no longer in my life (thank God).  I’m going to continue this journey as [insert age] andlostinlife, because it’s my journey, and my stats tell me there are still people out there reading it, almost daily.  That amazes me, considering there’ve been no new posts for over half a year.  But maybe those people passing through will stop by for a bit longer next time, and those of you who followed me before will continue to do so.  I had gained a good following, and not just my friends and family, who of course I appreciate their support, but fellow bloggers from across the world.  

I can’t promise what type of blogs will follow.  But if you don’t like what’s contained within them you are free to leave any time.  This isn’t Hotel California.  If you do, then come back to what you know.  Because I am.  

Come Back to What You Know – Embrace (1998)

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.

Gone Goal

On Saturday night I finally had the pleasure of seeing Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl at the cinema. As much as I love going to the movies, visits to the big screen have been few and far between since I moved to the big city, but Gone Girl was one of those few films I was desperate to see before it disappeared into that black hole between the big screen and my DVD collection.

Having read the book last year, I knew the storyline. After seeing the film adaptation, the screenplay having been written by Flynn herself, I was not disappointed. Gone Girl is still one of the most amazingly clever novels I have read and if I could write something half as good as that I would be happy. What am I saying? If I could write something half as long as that I would be grateful.

Since I did my first piece of “creative” writing in 2011, I have struggled to write any fiction with the exception of the odd fairy tale. They say everyone has a book in them, and while I have ideas, I have failed to write more than about two pages before giving up. Every so often I give it a go but the truth is, I just don’t feel comfortable with writing fiction as I do with writing about real life in my blogs. They (whoever “they” are) say you should write about what you know, and at this point in my life, while my sense of direction is skewed and I may not be able to make sense of my thoughts and feelings, I do at least know I am having them. With the help of some popular culture, I can usually successfully transfer them onto the virtual page and into reader’s minds.

One thing I take from Gillian Flynn is that she published her first novel at the age of 35. Author Jodi Picoult published her first novel at the age of 37, and crime writer Raymond Chandler published his first story at the age of 45. Perhaps the best-known contemporary novelist of our time, J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book at the age of 32. Proving that novel writing is not the monopoly of the teens or twenty-somethings, some of the best come from those with more life experience.

So for now, while writing a book seems like a gone goal for me, I take inspiration from writers like Gillian Flynn, and hope that one day I will be able to craft characters who are as deliciously complex as Amy Dunne and her husband, Nick.

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.

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