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’.

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

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

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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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