HOW BIEBER GOT IT RIGHT WHEN HE SAID ‘YOU SHOULD GO AND LOVE YOURSELF’ AND THAT TIME I TOOK ADVICE FROM A PACKET OF LOVEHEARTS – a Jessica Daley essay on enduring the so-called ‘Quarterlife Crisis’.

A. I watched Justin Bieber on Sunday night and surprisingly really enjoyed his set. The boy can daaaaaance, even if he does wear shit yellow hoodies.

B. Today I caught myself taking advice from a packet of Love Hearts and had to have a word with myself. The first LoveHeart actually hilariously read ‘Grow Up’.

C. I then found this old essay that I typed up last year, written during a time I was struggling a bit and assumed it was what we nowadays call ‘The Quarterlife Crisis’ (read on for a definition). I thought it’d be funny to share it, as though the Love Hearts weren’t a big enough indication that I’d officially lost my shit. Enjoy my moany, cranky 24 year old self. xo

Well, where do I start on this topic? The Quarterlife Crisis.

A little bit of background info. For the past couple of years, I think since around the time I graduated from drama school and became a fully-fledged adult living in the big bad world, I’ve struggled at times with the whole concept of ‘growing up’. My first year out included enjoying my first West End job, an experience that was all too new to me. I was being paid a proper wage, I was responsible for paying my rent and my bills and for the first time, I was fully in control of my own life. I confess, as a result of being in charge of myself, I spent the majority of my wage on socialising, TOPSHOP and a bloody cracking trip to the U.S. But yes, it was the beginning of my life as an adult, my time to stand on my own two feet and my time to become independent.

Cut to the present moment. I’ve been ‘adulting’ for around two and a half years and I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for the majority of that time. If I haven’t been acting, I’ve been waitressing or teaching or gigging or working behind the bar in a pub. I’ve even sat in Somerset House; in a full black suit, in painful heat with no air conditioning, guarding paintings. GUARDING BLOODY PAINTINGS. So yes, when it comes to my professional working life, that pretty much sums it up. It’s inconsistent, spontaneous, sporadic/insert all of the similar synonyms here. I’m currently sampling a well known drinks brand at British Summertime Festival, which is one of the greater ‘muggle’ jobs I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in.

But to get back to the point…

My lifestyle has drastically changed since graduating, the above is the obvious example of this. It’s the not so obvious examples that I’ve seemed to have a problem with. I think the easiest way to explain is to just throw down a list, so here we have it:

  • My body has changed. This is my biggest issue, probably like most girls my age. It’s painfully bloody annoying that I can no longer wear the same stuff I wore during my college years because I NOW HAVE BIGGER BOOBS. Not to mention that Topshop never bloody catered for dancer thighs anyway, my thighs are now bigger than they were. All this stuff, by the way, may not be obvious to everybody but it bloody well is to me.
  • Because I’m no longer dancing everyday like I was at college, I find it extremely difficult to keep fit because THE GYM IS SO FRIGGING BORING. I’m sorry to all the gym lovers out there but I just can’t detest it more, I have to force myself to go with the whole ‘if you go do this HIIT session, you can celebrate with food!’ thing. Then a friend of mine recently told me that HIIT doesn’t necessarily work for everybody. So now, I feel like I’ve tried almost everything and nothing seems to work anymore.
  • My metabolism’s crapper now than it was and I LOVE food. Self-explanatory.
  • Hangovers. Don’t get me started on hangovers. The intensity of the hangover now, compared to a hangover at age 21, is unbearable. I consider not drinking anymore every time I’m bedridden, the day after the night before. But, before long, I’m back with an Old Fashioned in hand. I guess it’s one of my favourite ways to socialise, I definitely know I don’t have an addiction as I could go without if needed. But I do enjoy a cheeky cocktail to unwind. I definitely don’t drink alcohol as much as I did three years ago though, so that’s a plus.
  • I’ve started to worry about everything. Anxiety is a word thrown around quite a lot these days (I think that it’s bloody great that people have started to open up and talk about it more so now than ever, if I’m being completely honest), I know, but I get anxious at least once a day about something or other. I worry about not being liked, looking bad, whether I’ll ever work again, people thinking I’m rubbish at my job, pissing people off without knowing I’m doing it, being annoying or letting people down without knowing I’m doing it, being alone for the rest of my life, people not wanting to be my friend, trusting people, not being successful in my career, the fact I seem to have been blessed with a double chin recently, dying unfulfilled, not saving money whilst I’m in work, **MONEY** – that’s a frigging HUGE one at the moment, losing family or friends (even when they’re perfectly healthy), thinking I have my shit together when in fact, I really don’t…. the list goes on and on and on and is pretty damn stupid. I even worry about maybe having early signs of dementia because I’m quite forgetful sometimes… I blame Grey’s Anatomy for that one.

    I also think social media has a massive part to play in all of this. I swear it all stems from the ‘Top 8 Friends’ thing, back in the days of MySpace. That AWFUL feeling of paranoia and worry when you found you’d been demoted to 6th place, from 3rd place, on a dear friend’s Top 8. What did this mean? What have I done? Do they hate me? ARGH ARGH ARGH.

You laugh at how stupid it sounds but you know it’s bloody true.

Nowadays it’s ‘WHY DOESN’T HE LIKE MY FACEBOOK STATUSES ANYMORE?’ or ‘WHY HAVE THEY UNFOLLOWED ME ON TWITTER?’ or ‘SHIT SHIT SHIT, I LIKED ONE OF HIS PHOTOS FROM A YEAR AGO ON INSTAGRAM, HE’LL THINK I’M STALKING HIM’.

I mean, WOE IS ME. How sad am I? Sad and self-involved and just so frustratingly anxious about knowing it too. I can pretty much say that all of the above is 100% to blame when I’m feeling unhappy and I can’t tell you how much it really, really, REALLY pisses me off. It’s like my mind can’t keep up with what my body’s wanting to do and everything is just too overwhelming to deal with sometimes.

Is this what they call the Quarter-life Crisis? For those who are not familiar with this phrase:

quarterlife crisis

/ˈkwɔːtəˌlaɪf/

noun

1.

a crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life
– taken from dictionary.com

Abby Wilner, an author, apparently coined the phrase back in 1997, when she moved back home after graduating and couldn’t figure out what to do with her life.

How the hell do I get out of whatever hell hole this? I know I’m not enjoying it one little bit, I’m curious to know how I’ve come to be like this and I’m dying to get out of it, ASAP. It’s like that part at the beginning of the Shrek movie when all of the fairytale characters move into his swamp without asking him and take over, pitching their tents and hopping into his bed. I mean, this is probably the only instance where I’d market myself as Shrek, aside from when I’ve hit a low point with a tub of ice cream and a spoon on my sofa, but that’s exactly how I see it. Thoughts and worries invading my head at all times and I can no longer use the excuse of being ‘young and stupid’ to get away from them.

As a result of this, I’ve taken it upon myself to develop a love for the Self-Help section in Waterstone’s. Though I haven’t quite reached the Bridget Jones level of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I’ve actually learnt a lot so far from the work of modern authors.

I started this ‘self-analysis’ journey with You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. This was a real game changer for me. I was doing a bit of unhealthy, ‘I have no money but I’m gonna buy things anyway’ shopping and came across this in Urban Outfitters. I’d not exactly been on the look-out for any self-help if I’m honest, I knew I was miserable but didn’t really know how or what I could do to solve it. On first glimpse, the title caught my eye but because I thought it sounded really wanky. After reading the blurb, and the first few pages, however… I was sold. I don’t want to give away the entire book but it focuses a lot on our energy, being present in the moment and self-belief, being happy with your individual self.

More recently, I picked up a copy of The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight at Heathrow airport, before embarking on a thirteen hour flight to Japan. The title got me from the minute I laid eyes on the front cover, as I often care too much about what people think and I’m constantly filled with FOMO – the fear of missing out. The front cover also states what this specific book was designed to do: ‘How to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like’. There’s a particular page inside that contains a flow chart headed ‘Should I Give A Fuck?’. It’s pretty fricking genius, giving guidance on when to give or not give a fuck, how to not be an arsehole about it and using your ‘Fuck Budget’ wisely. The F word is present in just about every single sentence. I’ve realised that I actually give too much of a fuck about silly things sometimes, as you would probably have got from my list of worries.

Also, and what I feel has been the ultimate life changer for me, I found myself obsessed with The Inner Fix. Written by the dream team known as Addictive Daughter, Persia Lawson and Joanne Rayner, this is a book that taught me that I have to get to the root of my shit in order to fix it. I don’t want to write much more as I’ll spoil it but just know that if you feel that you have shit you need to deal with that you’ve put off for years, this is the book you should be turning to for help.

In the past, I’d have felt ashamed to be sitting here admitting that I’ve turned to the art of ‘self-help’, seeing as though I have never been diagnosed with any serious illness nor do I claim to have any ‘real issues’. My childhood was filled with love and support, my parents encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do and, as I’ve previously written about on my blog, the first time I have endured grief of any kind was earlier this year when I lost my dog. Sure, later on in life, I’ve been faced with endless amounts of rejection via my job, my parents divorce and witnessing friends and family facing battles with addiction and depression but, overall, I’ve been ‘ok’.

Processed with VSCO with b5 preset

It’s only recently that I’ve come to believe that, by maybe looking after myself a bit more, I could be more than just ‘ok’. When I’ve delved a bit deeper into the art of self-care, it turns out I have some serious business to tend to. And you know, at 25 years old, that’s ok. I’m ok with that. These are my first tiny little steps towards sorting my shit out and I’ve found that, over the course of the year, they’ve changed my thought processes a lot. Super exciting.

P.S Waterstone’s, I’ll see you soon for some more stalkage of your Self-Help section. I’m due a visit.

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MEMORIES MAY BE BEAUTIFUL, AND YET… Confessions of a Nostalgia addict.

nostalgia
nɒˈstaldʒə/
noun
a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.
“I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days at university”
synonyms: wistfulness, longing/yearning/pining for the past, regret, regretfulness, reminiscence, remembrance, recollection, homesickness, sentimentality
“there is a nostalgia for traditional values”

I have a pretty messed up relationship with Nostalgia.

I don’t just mean the ‘classic’ nostalgic ideas, like the different sweets I used to eat as a kid or Barbie memorabilia (I had some bloody great Barbie jeans) or the Spice Girls era, though all of those set off all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings in my tummy… but I mean full blown, addicted-to-the-past, yearning to relive past moments and the ideal outcomes I used to dream about within those moments, Nostalgia. The love I felt for people, before they broke my heart. The major highs I’ve floated on in past jobs, before the contracts came to an end. The safety and security I felt living back at my family home, before I exposed myself to being an independent, self-sufficient human two hundred miles away.

I’ve found that past midnight, and before the ungodly hour of 7am, is primetime for a nostalgic episode.
I’ve spent days on end stewing over writing this essay, lost for words. The minute the clock strikes midnight, and I actually decide it’s time I try and catch some sleep, it’s like my brain kicks into overdrive and instantaneously declares ‘NOW is the time I shall reminisce! Bring on the memories, good and bad. LET ME HAVE ‘EM’. (Around about this time is the time I start to regret my decision to have a cup of tea at 10:45pm.)

Similarly, my brain likes to do this whenever I have an early rise. I’m talking about those mornings that you’ve upped and left the house before the majority of the human race has snoozed their alarm for the first time. Those mornings when the sun has barely rose, the sky is the palest of blues. You’re the first person to breathe in that day’s fresh, crisp air and it feels so uncontaminated… clean. The streets resemble that of an apocalyptic themed movie, not a single soul in sight. Deathly quiet. Peaceful.

And I feel all weirdly cosy and comforted, wrapped up in my big coat with a woolly hat and my hands tucked into my pockets. But, in the same respect, I feel on edge. Uneasy. Because I start to think about little moments in time that I’ve felt this exact feeling before. Where was I when I last felt like that? Was it when I awoke pre-5am in Sydney, Australia, for my early flight to Melbourne or when I similarly hopped out of bed at 7am to go for a brisk morning walk around Manly with my Mam and Uncle? Or was it way back when I was younger and I’d have to shoot out of bed super early to go on our annual family trip to Flamingoland? Like a usual dose of deja-vu multiplied by 100.

Visiting places I’ve frequented in the past, with particular people or at a particular eventful time in my life, brings back all the vibes too. In particular, one of the biggest triggers is Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The sea, the breeze, the sand, the ice-creams… BOOM, achey achey heart.


Music is also a massive nostalgia trigger for me. I have a strong emotional connection to music. Whenever I feel remotely emotional, I hop onto Spotify and jam out some tunes to fit whatever mood I’m in. It’s probably the one thing I’d say really feeds my soul and fills me up.
Different songs, artists, albums are all attached to memories and places and feelings. Whenever I play specific pieces of music, I am transported back into the moment I’ve connected that piece to, in the past.

For example, whenever I listen to the Lianne La Havas – Blood album, I’m instantly transported back to the time I walked through the backstreets of Kyoto, Japan. Completely alone, as it poured with rain. I remember how quiet it was but how safe I felt. Taking in the old Japanese teahouses with their lanterns hanging outside. The track Green and Gold, in particular, I find comfort in.
Any of Alabama Shakes’ stuff makes me think of coming up with lyrics whilst taking a shower. Don’t ask me why, I haven’t the foggiest idea.
The Grease Megamix running straight into Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go reminds me of making up dance routines in my living room as a kid, as they both followed each other on the compilation CD I used to play religiously.
The Fray – Over My Head (Cable Car) reminds me of the glorious MySpace era and Secondary School.

All of the above reminds me of how powerful music can be and how it has the ability to affect us emotionally. How good is music, really? It has the ability to provide relief and to heal. Why any government would want to cut Arts funding to seriously affect the production of such a powerful, healing art form, ESPECIALLY in the type of world we live in and with what’s going on today, is BEYOND me. But that’s a whole different ball game…

I’m used to taking great comfort in that warm, fuzzy feeling but lately, my thoughts have shifted. Maybe I’m a little too cozy living in memories? As a result, am I not living in the present? Am I missing new, precious moments right now by longing to be back where I was 5 years ago? Do I choose to love the past because the present has become more difficult to comprehend and deal with, when our world seems to be going through a political global crisis right now? I’m pretty damn lucky that I have such great memories that I’d want to relive all over again, I guess, but I often feel so stuck and unable to move forward and is that because I’m just so obsessed with them?

This thought actually came to head when I watched La La Land for the first time, a film that exhumes Nostalgia. The colour-grading, for one, is filled with splashes of pastel hues, there are countless beautiful sunrises and sunsets, then that edgy argument scene that tinges all of that with a feeling of dread and uncertainty. I came out of that cinema bewildered and a blubbering mess because I related that much (what a d*ckhead ey).

Then I listened to an interview from the Golden Globes (I think?), just after Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling had swiped their awards, in the press conference room. Damien Chazelle, the director, made a comment that really struck a chord.

‘Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is not a place to live, you should honour the past but actually find a way to push that forward, whether it’s in how you love or how you make movies or how you make any art.’

And like that, everything made sense. I just knew that the next step for me was to break out and start living in the now. So often, I’ve read quotes and had conversations about living in the present and all that jazz, but it took this for me to have the realisation of what that truly meant. To have such beautiful past events as part of my history is completely a blessing and being reminiscent and sentimental once in a while isn’t a crime. But I have now come to realise that by living in my past, and not dealing with the present, I’m taking 12 steps back and 0 forward. And that’s no way to live when life on earth is so damn short. We must continue to keep moving forward, even when shit gets hard. As the late, great Abraham Lincoln once said:

‘I walk slowly but never backward.’

Backflips

One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept as I’ve grown older is that I’m not good at everything I do. I grew up being good at things, academically and artistically. I grew up being good at picking things up, throwing myself in at the deep end, being relatively good at everything I did.
Apart from gymnastics.
Don’t get me wrong, I was ok at it and I absolutely LOVED going to gym as a kid. I was part of Riverside Display Team, who I travelled around the country with. We competed at, and won on one occasion, the British Championships in Liverpool and we performed all over Europe, even at Disneyland Paris (which was mint FYI).
But I was always scared to take a leap of faith when it came to gymnastics. I mean, being afraid of heights in a team building things like a 21 man pyramid probably didn’t help. I was scared to try being a ‘top’ when it came to big balances. I was also weirdly afraid of going upside down whenever we performed outside. I don’t know why that was, maybe I felt like the sky was caving in on me or something.
I was limby, gawky and clumsy and on paper, not the perfect candidate for being part of a sturdy structure of human beings.
It took me 6 years to pluck up the courage to try for my first backflip, just a casual back handspring.  Once I achieved that, I never looked back. I can still do them today. In fact, I’ve showcased them at several dance calls, whenever the team have asked about anybody being able to do tricks. What’s absolutely hysterical is that, if I know people in my audition, they are always so surprised when I put my hand up to volunteer my acrobatic services.
I just mustn’t look like the backflipping type, whatever that is.
That feeling of surprising people, pulling out something completely unexpected, is actually such a funny, great feeling. It really makes me laugh, wholeheartedly.
Right now, in this moment whilst reflecting on that feeling, I’ve come to think that maybe that’s a similar feeling to the one we get when we break through a mould. When you completely abolish somebody’s idea of you, throw them off course, fuck the system and make a pigeon hole look a bit like Donald Trump… a stupid, shitty thing that spouts uneducated assumptions and complete nonsense to anybody that will listen. (That probably makes no sense to anybody but myself, apologies.)
And so when I dream of breaking the many moulds in existence, and setting all of the pigeon holes on fire, I hold onto that feeling that I get when somebody is surprised by my backflip. Sky’s the limit bitches. It’s not falling in on you, even when you feel upside down.

‘TRAPPED IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION’: What they meant when they said ‘People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.’

Yo yo, I wanna just touch on the subject of loneliness. Loneliness is something i’d felt very little of until this year. Working outside of the UK, a long way from home, certainly had it’s perks (I have literally had the best, craziest, funniest, most BRILLIANT year EVER – no exaggeration)… but it also come with a few negatives. Loneliness being one.

I’ve felt completely consumed and overwhelmed by it, at points. I have let it take over me and reduce me into a sobbing mess. I’ve let it bite at my ankles, even when I’m surrounded by swarms of people in a busy theatre. I have sat on the edge of my bed in a hotel room, staring into space, convinced that I’d never feel different ever again, that I was going to feel like that forever. I’ve felt cast aside, even when I’m being included. I have actually not wanted to FaceTime or chat to people from home at times, for the sheer fact that it’ll make me feel even more out of place in the alien country that I’ve had to reside in at the time, with all the fear of missing out on what people are getting up to at home, without me. I’ve felt misunderstood, that I didn’t belong and that nobody liked me. To sum it up, I’ve felt pretty rubbish at times. I’ve found that I’ve been living in a ‘bubble’ all year. Everything inside that ‘bubble’ is extreme and seems more important. The stakes feel higher and emotions are heightened, due to there being less of a concept of what is happening back home, in our ordinary lives.

Existing in that bubble got awful lonely sometimes, even when I was surrounded by wonderful people.

I got homesick. I was meant to spend 2 weeks in Thailand. I spent 24 hours in Bangkok and flew home… the first time I’ve ever actually worried about my sanity was in my hotel room, as I scoured SkyScanner for a cheap flight outta there. I will throw my hands up and confess that I have struggled and I realised that I’m not as invincible as I thought I was.

One morning I spilt yoghurt on my jumper at breakfast and then couldn’t stop crying… how sad’s that?

As always, upon reflection, I try to seek a positive in such tough situations, a resolution. They say that people go away to ‘find themselves’. I never intended on taking this job solely to find ‘myself’. In fact, I have a pretty strong sense of who I am. I always have. I’ve endured processes where people have made me question that or have tried to ‘crack’ me or have led me to feel peer pressured into being what people want me to be/what people believe our industry wants.

And each time somebody or something has tried to affect me in such a way, I’ve come up for air knowing that I’m still the same person I was at 16, at 17, at 18 and so on. Just a bit older and bit wiser. You know, if I’ve found anything this year, I’ve found even more freedom in being just… well, me. That’s a huge positive I reckon.

 

15387627_10154045852685849_1345814132_o

Manly Beach, Sydney.

But what this year has massively highlighted to me is my absolute adoration for people.
I am completely at the hands of the people I love.
Consumed by my relationships. My family, my friends.

You know, I’ve always loved the song People from Funny Girl. I adore the simplicity of it: the sweet little melody and the honest lyric. Obviously I’m a stagey little shit and a HUGE Barbra fan (what? Did I not say already?), but I think she sounds just glorious singing it. I think it’s one of her best. However I feel like I’ve only, this year, come to understand the lyric for what it truly means.

‘People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world’

If you were to ask me ‘What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt this year?’, I would respond with:

I need people.

The moment I booked my emergency flight home from Bangkok, back in May, I felt a huge wave of relief. I was just a 6 hour sleep and a 13 hour flight away from my people. I felt like I could breathe again.

I went home for two whole weeks and drunk those people in and I have never felt anything like it.
I’ll never forget how wonderful it felt. I’ll never forget how excited I was to be there with my friends in London – so much so, it started to get on their nerves (I admit, when I get like that, it can be a bit… overbearing?).

I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve made some FANTASTIC friendships during my time away too (I bloody love each and every one of you, you know who you are!) but there’s also nothing quite like being around the people who know you, inside out, back to front with the tag sticking out. Everything just kinda slots back into place, as if you’ve never left. Pure, unadulterated JOY.

I’ve gained a lot of perspective this year, as I mentioned in a previous post, and my love for people, and realising that people can make such a huge difference, is one big contributor to that.

Reflecting:

  • I know that I’d have adored my trip to Thailand, if I’d only shared it with somebody.
  • I’ve endured heartbreak and grief this year, like no other year before, and I am absolutely certain that I would not have dealt with it in the correct way if I didn’t have my family and friends surrounding me, talking me down and working things out.
  • I was recently made aware that a piece of advice that I’d given to somebody, something that I maybe didn’t think was all that relevant to me, has made a little difference. That one baffles me, how can I be qualified enough to give somebody advice when I’m still learning myself? But it helped regardless, and that’s pretty cool.
  • My Mam and Nan flew out to see the show in Singapore and if I’m honest, that’s when I realised that if I broke my leg the next day and couldn’t do the rest of the run, it wouldn’t matter. They got to see me in the show, on the other side of the world. My Mam and my 83 year old Nan. Being a part of a show that I’ve always dreamed of being a part of is one thing. Being able to share that with the people I love most, that’s priceless. Bloody GLORIOUS.15356073_10154045854225849_1418219579_n-1

These all serve as evidence in the case of ‘I Need People in Order to Exist’.

Thank you to my People! I love you!

People saved me from my Lonely Bubble, so I’m gonna continue to have faith in people whole heartedly.

Except maybe Donald Trump… but that’s a whole new ball game…

You Can Take the Girl Out of Teesside: A love letter to my home x

I come from a wonderful little town called Middlesbrough, in a wonderful little place called Teesside. Heard of it? You’ve most likely seen it advertised as either ‘The worst place to live in the UK 2009’ on Location, Location, Location or most recently ‘the worst place to grow up in the UK if you’re a girl’. Football fans will have heard of Middlesbrough Football Club, especially as we’ve just been promoted back up to the Premiership. Foodies may have heard of the good old ‘Chicken Parmo’. Australians may, or may not, know that we are the reason they have the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Let’s just go back to this ‘Worst Place to Live’ thing a minute. You see, a group of people out there are studying for a living OR being paid to gather enough information to create a kind of ‘league table’, to show which is the ‘Best and Worst place to live in the UK’. That’s all fair and proper, as statistics and studies can contribute to life changing discoveries. If I’m honest, I’m nowhere near qualified enough to comment about all of that in great depth, so I won’t. But then we have the Media. The real issue here is the Media. In case we didn’t get the information from these studies in the first place, the media like us to be EXTRA INFORMED. Especially when it comes to ranking things from best to worst. They need to reiterate in every way ‘JUST HOW SHIT IT IS TO LIVE IN MIDDLESBROUGH’. And then do you know what they do? They do nothing. Absolutely nothing. They make everybody aware of the matter AND DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT IT.

You can see how the conversation would go…

‘Middlesbrough has the highest exclusion rate in schools or something’

‘Oh, really? Well, what can we do to improve it?’

‘Soz, don’t know. I’m out of office now, going away tomorrow, don’t ask me.’

Anyhow, in my opinion, that’s just a generally common thing nowadays. People who are tucked away in their high castles or offices are quick to come up with and highlight the negatives from afar, yet do nothing to turn them around and make them positive. The majority won’t have even step foot in the places they’ve been studying. Yet, with the click of a button, have the means to create a mix of shit vibes and paint them all over a town, bringing everybody living there down and leaving them completely fed up that, yet again, they have been targeted. It’s quite frustrating really.

Then, there are the people of Teesside.

Despite all of the negative press, the recent closure of SSI resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and a fair whack of spending cuts, I’ll tell you what there is.

There is spirit.

There is a constant willingness to make the best of what there is and to move forward. There is an acceptance that, perhaps, we aren’t the ‘best town in the UK to live’, but we are growing. There is an invaluable sense of self, an evolving identity. Always aiming to improve, rather than aiming to be Number One. Completely unapologetic about who they are, they happily exist and take great pride in what surrounds them. A town in the midst of regeneration, a town that is united completely every week when their football team play, a town that is proud. Even when the British media are doing EVERYTHING in their power to ensure they can’t and won’t be, they remain proud.

I am an actor. I’m riddled with insecurities, centred around my looks, my skills and ability, my personality… You name it, I have the insecurity. I make a living by pretending to be other people, if that doesn’t scream insecurity then I don’t know what does. I’ve worked very hard all of my life to ensure I gradually progress to do this as a career, as it has always been my passion. As the years have gone by, and the novelty of graduating from a pretty amazing establishment after three years of blood, sweat and tears has worn off, I have come to realise that I am not the best in my field. Now, some people may read this and think I’m being negative or self deprecating or fishing for compliments… you couldn’t be more wrong. I know that I’m a relatively decent standard as far as my ability goes, I’ve been fortunate enough to work some fantastic jobs since I left college back in 2013 but I am not the best. It’s a simple fact.

Because actually, who is the best? Who do we define as some of the best people and why do we define them as the best? Who gets to decide who is the best and who is the worst? Who has that right? And even if they have some form of made-up ‘right’ to dictate who is the best, does it fucking matter anyway? Who gives a shit? It’s completely subjective and especially in a creative industry, it’s harder to point out who is the best when everybody is busy doing their own thing, dancing to the beat of their own drum and all that. This seems to be my current attitude. I have come to the realisation that if we spend our lives constantly trying to be what society says is ‘the best’, is that really going to bring us happiness? Is that mindset productive? What really do we have to prove? Who do we have to prove it to? 

Despite my terrible insecurities, the one solid thing that I’ve accepted about myself, and always have been accepting of, is the fact that I come from Middlesbrough. Isn’t that funny? That’s probably been the most constant thing in my life. Quite frankly, I think it’s kept me sane. In and amongst all of the rejection, I always know that I have home to rely on to make me feel accepted and wanted and loved. 

I moved to London around six years ago, to study my degree. Moving to the big city brought many new people into my life, from all walks of life, from all over the place – stretching as far as Australia. I was thrown into a gigantic pool of people of all cultures, a plethora of accents and lots of different opinions. I also worked away in Asia for a long time this year, which helped me gain a lot of perspective. Taking all of this into consideration, and I’m sure fellow Teessiders who have upped sticks and moved away will agree, I always look forward to going back home.

I look forward to seeing that big, blue, beautiful thing we call the Transporter Bridge. I look forward to seeing the wonderful Cleveland Hills. I look forward to seeing the glorious industrial backdrop that our town is built upon. But most of all, I look forward to being back amongst an incredibly inspiring collective of people. A solid community.

I’m a firm believer that my hometown has influenced who I am and who I have become, realising that being ‘the best’ at something isn’t necessarily ‘the best’ thing in life has kind of confirmed that. I repeat, to have come to this realisation is not a negative thing. I feel free and better off for realising it, for now I can go on my way, doing things my own way and achieving things at my own pace. I feel proud to come from a town that strives to be a little better every day. A town that chooses not to let what other people say affect them. Who gives a shit if we’re not the best? What do we have to prove and who do we have to prove it to? No-one, that’s who. We’ll just keep on growing and developing whilst everybody else fights to be top dog, knocking each other down in the process. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.

UTB.

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Teesside Dusk.

PERSPECTIVE: that time I cried at a Marks and Spencer’s biscuit.

perspective
pəˈspɛktɪv
noun
  1. 1.
    the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.
    “the theory and practice of perspective”
    2. 
    a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.
    “most guidebook history is written from the editor’s perspective”

Perspective interests me greatly. I am absolutely fascinated by how different things can affect perspective. Different environments, different people, different cultures. We are one person, with one set of eyes. Yet, what we see in our teens can be so drastically different to what we see in our twenties. What we see and how we deal with things in one country can be so drastically different to what we see in another country. What we see through our own eyes is entirely different to what your Uncle Bob sees through his eyes. What a criminal sees as right, the average non-criminal sees as wrong. What you see as one colour may appear different to what another person sees (hence that whole stupid ‘WHAT COLOUR IS THE DRESS?’ escapade).

I guess I find it so interesting as my perspective has changed a lot lately. With age, with experiences, with reading and educating myself. It amazes me how differently I look at things now, from how I looked at them when I was eighteen.

When I was eighteen, the world was my oyster. I dreamt big, I dreamt of having a successful career, I dreamt of living comfortably in London and taking over the world, step by step. Stereotypical of a creative, aspiring teen performer, some may think. But I wasn’t completely naive to the industry I was entering, I had witnessed many friends trying and giving up because it’s a super tough world out there. I’ve always been a hard worker, I enjoy hard work. I enjoyed slogging away at school to get my A* in GCSE English Literature. I enjoyed pouring endless hours of research into new musicals whilst studying for my BTEC in Performing Arts, just so I could be the person singing a song nobody had heard before. I’ve always enjoyed that feeling of ‘getting educated’ and learning new things. On top of all of this, I dreamt big and had this burning hope in my heart that I’d be that super successful person I strived to be, one shiny day in the distant future. This is what I perceived to be ‘the ideal life’.

Cut to being twenty four. I’m currently sitting in a beautiful, organic restaurant in Makati, Metro Manila. If you were to ask me, at eighteen, ‘Where do you think you will be in six years time?’, I can bet you ten thousand pesos, right in the moment now, that I would not reply with ‘doing Les Mis in the Philippines?’. I am BAFFLED at the thought of being here. At least once a week, I ask myself ‘how on earth did you wind up here, Jess?’.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a pretty great run in the industry so far, each job I’ve done has been very different to the previous job, artistically and logistically. I had a great year in London, a great year on the road in the UK and now, here I am in Asia. I have to admit, I’m completely rubbish at saving money, it’s the one thing that worries my mother (sorry Mam). And you know, if I was good at saving money, I probably would have enough to not be worried when the dark days of ‘funemployment’ loom, instead of panicking and working endless shifts in a pub to buy food and petrol.

But whilst being rubbish at saving money, do you know what I have done? I have travelled. I also have to admit, I’ve looked relatively well whilst doing said travelling because I have an endless need to buy clothes, but I have travelled. I have experienced places I have always wanted to experience and I have experienced places that I never intended to experience. Specifically, I’m currently experiencing and I’m about to experience EVEN MORE of a part of the world that I wouldn’t have dreamt of visiting if my job hadn’t have brought me out here. And boy, am I glad!

I’ve tried endlessly to write a piece about Manila, I think this must be my fifth attempt, and now I can finally weave it into this magical piece about perspective.

Because my perspective has changed.

Important things I have learnt from living in Manila:

  • We are just a tiny little human on a HUUUUUUUUUGE planet. No-one is more important than the next person. No culture is more important than another culture. Respecting other people’s cultures makes life easier for everybody. The filipinos are some of the kindest, most patient and most generous people I have EVER met, being a little more like them can surely NEVER be a bad thing? So yes, mutual respect IS everything. You can ALWAYS learn from people. If we all pulled our head out of our arses more often, we’d probably learn A LOT.
  • Poverty is much more than you see on TV or in magazines. Poverty is well and truly alive. I thought I’d experienced extreme poverty before. I’ve witnessed homelessness on the streets of London. Hell, I’ve felt so bad that I’ve bought things and handed them to the homeless people on the Strand before. But I had NEVER experienced a small child tugging at my skirt, begging for money, before I came here. I’d never seen a grown woman cradling a baby in one hand and holding an empty cup out in the other, under a lamppost on the corner of a street, asking for money to feed herself and her family. I’d never had a teenage boy asking me if I could give him my smoothie. But what really REALLY freaked me out about this whole thing is that, after about three weeks of being here, it felt normal to see all of the above. It was like I’d become immune to it. How on earth does it get to a point where you become immune to something like this? How is ANY of this normal? And how on earth did I not think this was a big deal when I was back in London, lapping it up and complaining about having to be waitress for a short time whilst being out of work? It BAFFLES me to this day.
    Yes, there are BEAUTIFUL areas of Manila, I’ve eaten the most delicious meals in awesome places. Which is what makes me sad. Because poverty is truly alive. And I feel like it’s important that everybody should be aware of this. It’s helped me to feel extremely grateful for what I have, for my wonderful family and friends and for the opportunities that I have been given.
  • I do indeed, have a fantastic group of people waiting for me at home, boosting me up from afar. Being here without them only strengthens my adoration and gratification for them. They make me who I am. I would happily take being short of money and unemployed but having a life filled with these amazing people over being successful, famous and alone ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Now, I find myself not putting so much focus on ‘being uber successful’, ‘taking over the world’ and ‘having enough money to live comfortably’. I want a life filled with love, being creatively fulfilled and following whatever path that’ll take me to creative ventures, knowing that I have done everything in my power to understand and respect other people and their own perspectives. I want to see this beautiful world and what it has to offer. I want to come home to London at the end of it all and feel GRATEFUL for it, not complain about the shit transport system or Oxford Street being packed full of tourists, leaving me unable to busily power walk to my destination. Believe me Londoners, you haven’t experienced bad traffic until you’ve experienced Manila traffic, I’d take five hours of driving in Central London over driving ten minutes in Manila.

But most of all, I want to have exciting stories to tell my children. I want to have gotten the most out of what this wonderful life has to offer, while I can so I can tell my kids to do the same… because it’s so worth it. Like anybody on this planet, I want to love and be loved.

I cried at the sight of a Marks and Spencer’s packet of biscuits a few weeks back because I hadn’t seen them in so long. That night, I introduced some Aussy workmates to them and we ate the packet during the next few shows. How is that for cross-culturing behaviour?

I do miss a good old cup of Yorkshire Tea though.

Palawan

Rebel, My Best Mate.

Now I have to admit, I don’t really know where to start with writing this one. You see, a few weeks ago I was on a creative roll. I was loving throwing down the creative thoughts whizzing around my head, and putting them out there in a bid to inspire.

But today, I’m trying to dig as deep as I can to find some words. I’m trying to take a leaf out of my own book when I’ve been jabbering on about ‘art’. I’m pleading with my head to let me use what has been a really tough few weeks to create something, anything, in a bid to help me deal with things. In my Art. Is. Important post (click here to have a gander) I wrote: ‘sometimes my brain doesn’t allow me to start this process right away, so I feel like I have to endure raw emotion at it’s most concentrated. Sometimes art can’t just step in and take the bull by the horns.‘ These past few weeks has been one big, prime example of the above. And I feel like I have to apologise in advance because this is a bit of an emotional one for me.

 

Two weeks ago today, I lost my best friend of 13 and a halfish years. My dog, Rebel.

 

Now, before we start, I don’t really care to hear the whole ‘he’s just a dog’, ‘ohhhh your dog? ah I thought it was a family member the way you’ve been carrying on’ business. If you’re thinking that, I’ll want to punch you in the face for being ignorant and you’re not welcome here today.

 

Luckily, I haven’t had much of that over the past few weeks. In fact, I’ve been completely blown away by the messages I’ve received, the memories people have shared and the love and support I have been shown by friends near and far. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs but Rebel was an old man, he had his troubles and, though it breaks my heart to say, it was just his time to go.

 

Reb had been through EVERYTHING with me over the past 13, nearly 14, years. So many highs, so many lows. He even made it to prime time Saturday evening TV. He was my constant. Honestly, I know I’m bias, but he was the most terrific animal I’d ever known. He let me dress him in stupid things when he was a puppy, he sang along to my saxophone playing as I practised (or he was probably crying because it mostly sounded dreadful), he collected giant sticks from the park and would walk all the way home with them in his mouth (which pleased Mam & Dad, when they left the front door and tripped over them), he’d bark angrily at the postman from afar only to greet him with love up close (all bark, no action), he’d go to the bookies with Dad and scrounge biscuits, he’d be in the kitchen within 3 seconds of hearing the biscuit tin clattering… I could go on for days. He was an all round champion of a dog, with qualities of a human. Actually, he was more intelligent than some humans I know. He was such a presence. Even being home alone on an evening, I’d feel safer just knowing that he was chilling in another room in the house. If he was laid in the kitchen, and I started crying for whatever reason in my bedroom, he’d be by my side within seconds. When I’d arrive home from London, after moving away and having not being home for months due to college, he’d greet me with throwing himself on the floor to have his belly scratched, whilst crying happily and wagging his tail profusely. If I was away, Mam used to put him on FaceTime or put the phone to his ear and he would recognise the voice and react. As he got older, he stopped resisting cuddles and he started to cuddle back. When I hadn’t seen him in a good while, that was enough to make me cry. The feeling of pure love and feeling needed and relied on.

 

Dogs are pretty amazing, aren’t they? Fourteen years have passed and still these memories are so vivid to me, some of the happiest memories I have. And all because of a dog and his loyalty and love for me. I have a lot of fantastic, supportive friends in my life, don’t get me wrong… but he was one of the best, most reliable friends I had.

 

These past few weeks have felt somewhat… empty? Like, there is a massive void. A grey area. I keep going to whistle for him and then I remember that he’s actually not here. He doesn’t exist anymore. It’s all very, very strange.

 

Grief, to me, is one of the most alien experiences a person can go through. I lost two grandparents when I was much younger, whom I loved dearly and still think of fondly, yet I think I was too young to understand and feel the true pang of grief. Losing Reb has kind of been my first, properly-felt encounter with the beast that is Grief. Grief has had me crying at the sight of a slice of toast, because that’s what me and my mate shared every so often. In fact, it’s had me spontaneously crying A LOT. Grief has blocked my motivation to create (the little shit). Grief has made me feel riddled with guilt, numerous times. Grief has made me feel like I’m anywhere but on planet Earth. Grief has actually made my heart feel like it is physically breaking in my chest. Grief has made me feel like I’m now part of an elite crew (‘I know how you’re feeling, I can relate…’).

 

But, being the person that I am: constantly wanting to learn about absolutely anything and everything if it means I can get ahead, ‘Grief’ has taught me a lot in these few weeks. I feel like I’ve learnt more about being human in these past few weeks than I have in a lifetime. That may be a bold statement but for now, it is seeing me through so I’m going with it. Everybody deals with this Grief beast in different ways. There is no written manual in existence that can, step by step, cure it completely. In fact, I don’t think there can be a definition of it, as everyone experiences it in different ways. Unfortunately, it is a part of this crazy thing we call life. Personally, the thought of losing Rebel has not ‘got easier’ to deal with. I’ll actually think twice about saying ‘it gets easier’ to anybody in the future because I think that’s total BS. Losing somebody will NEVER get easier to deal with. I’m just now thinking, on a personal level (as I say, EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT), I can practise getting better at dealing with it. We learn from experience, after all. This experience has taught me that, as humans, we have so much love to give. The massive love for my dog will now go into loving the memory of my dog, but I still I have so much love to give. I just think that’s incredible.

Time helps too. I’m not sure how, I’m not a trained psychologist. But time has actually helped a lot.

As I say, I can’t really preach. I’m kind of getting on with things and I have no idea how or what is exactly helping me.

 

Finally being able to try and write anything close to this has helped too. The thought of writing this two weeks ago was buried under masses of grey clouds in my brain. I knew I needed to do something of the sort as the next step to embracing this new stage, but when? was the burning question.

 

My intention today was not actually to inspire or to preach or to whatever. It was maybe to selfishly indulge in writing anything that sprung to mind as part of my grieving process, to help me move forward, to progress and look to the future.

 

But it was mainly to honour my wonderful, handsome, intelligent border collie best friend. I’d do anything to have him back (I could think of a few people in this world that I’d happily trade in) but I am so happy and privileged to have been able to have this little critter in my life at all.

 

Oh he was just a dog… but he was mine.

Love you Reb, thank you for being the best.

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