TIMELESS – a theatrical love affair.

On 17th July 2004, when I was just 13 years old, I wrote this diary entry to myself:

‘Dear Diary,

Went to see Hair tonight at Middlesbrough Little Theatre. Words can’t describe it. I just wish I was on that stage. When I’ve left school, I am definitely going to Stockton Riverside College to do Performing Arts. I just hope that I’ll make it to the West End. Jess, if you read this in 4 or 5 years, I hope you’ll be chuffed. ’

I remember that evening as plain as day. I’d gone along to the theatre that night and I left the theatre having decided that I was going to pursue it as a career. That trip to the theatre, alongside countless others growing up, inspired me like no other experience. For just a few hours, I could lose myself in a different story to my own. Tragic tales of star-crossed lovers and murder, hopeful searches for long-lost parents and, in this case, an insight to what being an anti-war hippy was like in the midst of the Vietnam war. I left the theatre educated in new topics, I left the theatre with new songs stuck in my head but best of all, I left the theatre dreaming. I was ambitious, I had a burning passion and I’d be damned if I didn’t see it through, if I didn’t try every single little thing I could possibly think of that would get me on that stage one day.

I was a member of both Middlesbrough Youth Theatre and Teesside Operatic Society during my school years. This provided me with so many opportunities to tread the boards of ‘The Little Theatre’, to the point where it felt like a second home. I made lifelong friendships, with both cast members and the backstage crew – they still have me in for a cuppa when I come knocking!

Middlesbrough Youth Theatre was a safe space for me to express myself, both as a young actress and a teenager. It was a familiar, warm, cosy environment where I was allowed to be myself and not feel judged for it. It was a place that I could explore new ideas and feed my creativity, but it was also a place that I could fall flat on my face and pick myself back up again, without feeling like an idiot. It was sanctuary.

I feel strongly that providing this opportunity to a child growing up, especially in today’s society, is of the utmost importance. We must continue to encourage our younger generations to be open, communicative and expressive and the theatre is an excellent opportunity for a child to do just that. I will be forever grateful for Middlesbrough Youth Theatre for allowing me to do just that and I’m a firm believer that it played a key role in shaping me into the person I am today.

Theatre as a whole is an incredibly important art-form, particularly at the moment. It provides people with the opportunity to escape the outside world for a few hours. It’s  ibuprofen – it provides relief, especially in this time of political uncertainty and societal difficulty. It brings people together, young and old. It offers a chance to put aside differences and difficulties to come together for a few hours – unified.

I grew up watching show after show at Middlesbrough Little Theatre and I am still a frequent visitor today. I love coming back to Middlesbrough and supporting our home-grown talent. I love that shows transcend the years and that shows that I once adored as a child are now loved just as much by my god-daughter, my newest theatre-date. I love that I’ve gone on to play roles professionally that I first played at Youth Theatre, like fulfilling some kind of theatrical rite of passage. I love that in a world that is constantly evolving and changing, theatre is timeless.

On the evening of my West End Debut, my first performance as a cast member of Mamma Mia!, my Dad gave me that diary entry from my 13 year old self, framed to keep. A reminder of a dream coming true. Thank you Dr Theatre, I love you!

 

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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
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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!

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…

Melbourne // Photo Series

My love for street art knows no bounds and Melbourne was certainly not short of the stuff. Be still, my hipster beating heart. Magical.

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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