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.’

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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.

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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