15 tweets that made me feel less alone.

So I’ve not written in a while because, essentially, I’m dealing with a life thing and can’t write to share atm.
I’ve sat this evening in a pile of my own emotional shit, feeling relatively blue and giving myself a hard time about it – extremely frustrated with one’s self. Now, I’m learning to be kinder to myself when it comes to this but it’s something I’m having to learn to do and it’s a work in progress kinda thing.
So I did maybe the worst thing I could possibly do in this situation, I took to social media.
BUT. During some tough, ‘messy head’ times recently, I’ve been hugely inspired/entertained by some fantastic women. So hey, I found these tweets that I’ve spotted over the last few months and put them all in one post and I hope that if you’re out there reading this, feeling blue just like me and not sure how or what to do to get yourself out of it, aside from down a tin of G&T and gorge on some crap food whilst watching all 10 seasons of Friends, well hey… you’re not alone. There’s good people out there and hey, sometimes they feel the way you do. And they have a fuck load of faith in the Universe and you. And they’re out there, sharing their truths and guess what, you have every right to do that to.
Thanks for lifting me up when I needed it gals!
Hope I can do the same for you one day ❤️
J x
————————————-

Before you go to bed tonight, my girls…doesn’t matter who you are and what you’re like. you’ve got BDE* and that’s a fact. Don’t let ANYONE step on ya. Night. **(BDE is big dick energy)

This is a shoutout to all my ladies who muddle through work (on and off the stage) with the period pain/brain/bloat. I was wading through FOG during tonights show. My brain & body were NOT playing ball. So, Ladies, just a reminder. YOU ARE AMAZING for handling this once a month!

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If music be the food of love, play on.

To say that 2017 has been somewhat ‘challenging’ would be a massive understatement. I feel emotionally, mentally, physically (though, that’s mainly down to eating my way through a lot of Nandos across the year apparently – as my tax return likes to point out) DRAINED. ZAPPED. Most definitely ABSOLUTELY like a lot of people – I have very much struggled this year. I have, at times, felt like I’ve been drowning… engulfed by a sea of political shit-storms, financial instability, professional uncertainty, all too fleeting waves of success, overwhelming social scenarios and all round anxiety, at times, that I may potentially be what people like to call ‘a failure’. One minute, I’m riding high. The next, stood in standstill ‘life traffic’. In a deep pit without a rope ladder.

2017 disguised itself as a massive steel-capped boot that walked on over to my already batshit crackers, extreme highs/lows life… and gave me the biggest kick up it’s ass. And boy, did it bloody hurt.

I do, however, want to share my experience with the emotional ibuprofen that I so often bang on about. An antidote.

To say that Music has saved me would sound dramatic to some but it has done just that. Through various jammy ways, working as a muggle for the majority of my year, this year I have witnessed a lot of live music. A lot of fucking GREAT live music, for the mortifyingly bargain price of handing out drinks samples and showing people to their seats.

And on every single occasion that I have been in the crowd, listening intently, I have asked myself:

‘Is there really any pain that cannot be relieved by the power of Music?’

I mean, even Justin Bieber helped me deal with a particularly dodgy life event. And on that note…

Growing up, I have always taken great pride in how diverse my taste in music is. There’s very little that I actively detest when it comes to musical genres. I even enjoy myself a bit of country nowadays, tripping to Nashville being a huge contributor to that. I stood on the Ryman stage where Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter and fell head over heels in love with the sucky, tragic romance of it all.

I’m reminded of memories through music, being the nostalgic tit that I am.

This year I saw Celine Dion in concert. It immediately took me back to winning my Primary School talent show singing My Heart Will Go On and listening to the Let’s Talk About Love cassette with my Papa, in a holiday  apartment in Turkey, way back when.

I saw The Killers and it took me back to Leeds Festival 2008.

I saw Green Day and it took me back to the Music Room in Secondary School, where I’d attempt to play drums to Wake Me Up When September Ends without flaring my nostrils – don’t ask.

I watched Blondie for a second time in my life, Phil Collins, Tom Petty two months before he tragically died, Stevie fucking Nicks, Elbow, Madness, Kings of Leon (who were shite but hey ho – free show)… all in the space of a Summer.

October came along. I turned up to work to find that I was, in fact, working a Morrissey gig. I’m gonna be honest, I say ‘work’. I did very little work that day.

Now I understand Morrissey is a marmite kinda guy. I watched as radio management had kittens whenever he mentioned anything remotely political or unjust, live on air. But you cannot deny that his voice is quite close to literal magic.

Material wise, his new album cannot be put in the same bracket as his classic hits with The Smiths. In fact, I can only really remember possibly one song he sang that day and I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed, upon reflection afterwards, that he didn’t whip out This Charming Man at the very least.

But what I do remember is being truly captivated by the presence of that geezer onstage. I remember hanging on his every word, hanging on every chord… absolutely fascinated by him. Fascinated by how he creates sad, folky tones and then unleashes a jazz-style vibrato to keep you guessing.

I remember taking in the crowd and how united everybody was. United and caught up in the same  moment. Amazed by how a voice like that can transcend the years and appeal to people in both their 50s and their 20s. I’ve never felt a connection like it throughout my years of going to gigs.

I left work that day on the highest of highs, with the realisation of how powerful music can be in bringing people together. I checked my phone and was greeted with the news of the Las Vegas shootings. I then got really fucking angry that the solace of music, for those people caught up in the awful happenings in Vegas, had been abused and tainted. Likewise with the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester and Eagles of Death Metal in Paris.

Because that’s exactly what music is to a lot of people, what it has been to me this year and what it will continue to be for years to come, regardless of the arseholes out there who have tried to stop this from being the case.

Solace.

Sanctuary.

A getaway car.

We celebrate with music. We grieve with music. We fall in love to music. It’s personal. It’s relatable. There is always one song that fits a moment and that is the beauty of it.

In true ABBA style, I’d like to say thank you for the music. I love you.x

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.

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.

Avenues: A New Analogy

I have a new analogy.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time now, even going so far as to discuss it with a few friends (I’m finding it a lot easier nowadays to openly discuss thoughts and ideas with people I trust, which hopefully means that my confidence in my creative ability is growing – mini pat on the back, I’m my own worst critic).

Last year, I toured the UK with ‘The Sound of Music’. From January to September 2015 I lived out of my Ford Fiesta, visited multiple cities, clocked up around 6,000 miles, 3 speeding tickets (no excuses but when long distance journeys become a vital part of your life, for a long period of time, they start to get tedious and lead to distraction. I guess that counts as an excuse… guilty), lived away from a stable base for 9 months and as a result, somehow along the way, I actually grew up a little bit. I started to see multiple things with a new perspective.

Now, over the course of the tour, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. I often wished that I had a crazy hobby or the motivation to read To Kill A Mockingbird (I will get through it one day). Along with the excessive spare time I seemed to have, there were the present stresses of ‘What will be my next job?’, ‘When will my next job come along?’ and of course, the most haunting question of them all, ‘Will I even work again? EVER?’. Oh, us actors do worry. Worry and fear, if not ALL of the time then at the very least SOME of the time, latch on to our souls. But that’s a whole other subject, so we’ll leave that until another time…

So. Spare time, twiddling thumbs PLUS no motivation to do anything remotely productive PLUS stressing about my future in my life’s vocation/my main money earner/my one true love of life. Although I LOVED my job, more than anything – I never thought I’d ever come anywhere close to being in The Sound of Music in my lifetime, I felt completely stuck. And if I’m truly honest, it made me a little bit miserable and left me feeling a bit guilty. I beat myself up for acting ungrateful, to no-one else but myself, even though I was really grateful for the opportunities I’d been given. It was like one big internal boxing match, fighting 50 rounds in my head. But, before long, I had a cracking amount of Maria shows under my belt, I ticked one huge box off my ‘bucket list’ and the tour came to a close. Funemployment (it won’t be long before that word makes it’s way into the Oxford dictionary, mark my words) approached once more and I had nothing but afternoons on the sofa with the Friends box-set planned. Or so I thought.

Because that’s when my new analogy popped into my messy, boxing match of a brain.

I did a degree in Musical Theatre. Musical Theatre has been my life for as long as I can remember. I bloody adore Musical Theatre. For all of those reasons, Musical Theatre is what I chose to do professionally, to earn a living. However, Musical Theatre is also extremely competitive. It brings a lot of incredible highs AND some awful, heartbreaking lows – dealing with rejection is a massive part of the job, more to come on that one at a later date!

Nevertheless, Musical Theatre is my… HIGH STREET.
(For the American folk out there, I think it’s what would be called the Main Street? Sorry if I’m being completely ignorant, don’t hate me. I will learn.)
My lovely HIGH STREET. I’m going to say it has a pretty decent Tesco Express, probably a pharmacy, a post office, a local bakery and, for now, a tea/coffee shop. I’m going to say that the pizza takeaway shop recently closed down in a bid to promote a healthier lifestyle. I hope I haven’t lost you yet, I’m getting to the point… I promise.

This HIGH STREET is the centre of my town, town being metaphorical for my life. It brings home the literal bacon (lord, I love bacon), Doctor Theatre works there (he’s pretty great), it connects me with a lot of my favourite people, it brings home the dough ££ and it gives me ENERGY, LIFE, VITALITY etc etc…

Here comes the fun part. We’ve established that MT is a pretty prominent part of my life. But what happens when Funemployment pays a visit and MT is suddenly put ‘on hold’? That’s where my AVENUES come in to play…

A town cannot be a town with only a High Street to it’s name, surely. I decided sitting on my ass watching Friends was simply not an option anymore, and I started to explore the possibility of actually using my free time productively. FINALLY. It occurred to me that, although it is my one true passion and my professional occupation, Musical Theatre didn’t have to be the ‘be all end all’ of my life. Giving everything a go and training to be as diverse and versatile as possible had both been two of my favourite personality traits growing up… I thought it was about time they made a powerful re-entrance into my life.

To sum things up quickly, I revived the following non-Musical Theatre AVENUES:

AVENUE 1: Songwriting. My love for music has always been a huge part of my life and I had written songs in previous years. Within the first few weeks of re-earthing this avenue, I had 5 new songs nailed. WINNER.

AVENUE 2: My friends. Now, friendship is a never-ending blessing but 9 months on the road meant that I’d not been able to catch friends in shows, I missed going out for tea and I simply had not set eyes on some friends, face to face, since before I left London with my life packed into a car. Since giving myself a kick up the arse, I’ve had meals out galore, watched amazing friends being incredible onstage (ok, maybe that one’s a bit stagey) and I’ve squeezed the majority of them regularly in person. Not being hangry and plagued with FOMO (the fear of missing out – FYI), the feeling of pride and free hugs – all excellent scenarios to be in, I think you’ll agree.

AVENUE 3: My family. I’ve actually had the time to sit on my sofa, cuddle my dog and create mess in my home, resulting in my mam and I arguing because we literally are THE SAME PERSON (we love an argument, we do). It’s the little things, ey?

AVENUE 4: Learning the guitar. Growing up, I attempted to learn the guitar, the alto saxophone and the piano. I failed to stick to every single one of them, something I really do regret. I can play piano well enough to write chords for my songs, I can bash out ‘Sir Duke’ on the sax if I’m asked to (please don’t ask me to), but guitar is always something that’s frightened me. Up until now. I bought a new guitar for my birthday and I’LL BE DAMNED if I don’t learn to play it this year. The Beatles – Blackbird: I’M COMING FOR YOU.

Those are just a few examples. I don’t want to bore you with many more but I’m also getting back into reading, I’m working on an idea for a theatrical piece and I’ve created a blog (that I hope you’re all still going to read after this crazy b*tch post).

These avenues link to my High Street, to create the wonderful town that is MY LIFE.

What I’m trying to get at is that I am a creative person and sometimes we need more than one thing to help us feel fulfilled. Broadening our horizons and venturing out of our comfort zones can create opportunities that we never thought were even possible, let alone that we felt we deserved.

Even in Musical Theatre, to this day, I am still learning. I am hungry to learn more, anything that can help me to improve on my craft. That is my area of expertise, and still I am not satisfied. I must keep learning, I NEED to keep learning. The moment I feel I have stopped learning will be the moment I quit. Which will probably be never.

I don’t profess to be an expert in any of my other avenues. As a matter of fact, I feel I am merely peasant level at the creative ones. So I am now jumping at the chance to start from the bottom. I have a chance to learn how to become respectable at something relatively new to me, that is not my area of expertise… and I absolutely deserve it. I have the chance to give each avenue a freaking STREET PARTY, with bunting, the lot. I have a chance to grow my town. I’m going to continue to lay new roads, build new houses, maybe even a hotel…

Stop referencing Monopoly now, Jess.

 

In short, my new analogy:

Your life is your town, your professional career is your High Street and your Avenues are everything that surrounds it. The avenues are the life and soul… YOU. Build a town, make a football team and I’ll create a friendly league… it’d be mint to have you.

 

Possibly took that last sentence that step too far. Classic Jess.