All in a year’s work

It feels like an insanely long time since I last wrote in this blog. Life has just become too busy and exciting to want to spend all my time writing and I’m so happy to be able to say that.

A year ago on this day I was working my last shift in one of the most soul destroying jobs that I think I’ll ever do. I was just an unimportant number to my employers and knew that by resigning I wasn’t affecting anyone; management wouldn’t miss me and my place was probably filled soon after by ten more poor souls who had no where else to go. I would only be missed by the few people I had made a connection with; the rest of the people in my office might recognise my face but they only knew my name by the sales target board that I tallied up my “successful” calls on. I always knew an office job wasn’t for me, especially a call centre job, but now I can safely say that I know this is true because I’ve actually done it.

Since then my life has done a total 1-80; I’m now a qualified chef and I spend my time in work on my feet trying to think about a million things at once. This is the start of my career as a chef and I hope to keep advancing it. Both inside and outside of work I’m surrounded by good people, funny people, people who want to listen to me, people who want to get drunk and fall into a taxi at the end of the night with me, people who want to get breakfast with me the next day as we all discuss the previous night’s events, people who message me to make sure I’m okay, people who don’t give up on me even when I melt their heads.

I’m going back to college in September too and I cannot wait. I graduated my first year with a merit and a student of the year award and am unbelievably proud of myself. Last summer I was a shell of the person that I am today and I have college to thank for it. Cheffing has boosted my confidence and changed me massively. Most of all I’ve found something that I’m truly passionate about and I love that. Next year I’m aiming for a distinction and possibly another student of the year award, I just have to work insanely hard to make sure I get there.

All in all the past twelve months have been incredibly life changing, and I’m beyond excited to see what the next twelve have in store.

x

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Contentment

I used to run away from my problems.

Two summers in a row I headed to the United States of America and worked two jobs that I didn’t really love, and I did it all because I wanted to get away from Northern Ireland. Ever since I moved home after graduating from university I’ve spent so much time trying to get out of here, of travelling elsewhere, of being somewhere, anywhere, other than here.

But last week, after what is now 21 months of living in Northern Ireland, I realised that it’s not where you are that matters, but what you do with that place.

After what I now realise is only a few months of incredibly hard work and determination I’m finally well on my way to living the life I want to live. I’ve lost a lot in the process; I’ve walked away from the Church, I’ve let a lot of people behind, I’ve totally changed how I live. But I’ve grown a stronger backbone, a thicker skin, I’ve made some truly amazing, inspiring friends, I’ve realised who I want to be and how I want my life to be and chased after the things I want like there’s no tomorrow, I’ve found an industry that I’m passionate about and I’ve taken so many steps to finally start my career in it.

I’m beyond proud of myself for who I’ve become and who I’m becoming. Thinking back on where I was a year ago, or even six months ago, I never thought I’d be where I am today when I was stuck in a crappy job feeling like I had nothing to look forward to.

After having got the call on Thursday evening from my new employer to say I’d got the job for the interview I’d had only a few hours before, my next step is moving to Belfast. I’ll never love Bangor; I just can’t. But I can tolerate it while I have to be here. I spend 80% of my time (if not more) in Belfast these days and I really don’t have much keeping me in this town any more. I would be working and living in Belfast already if it had been possible but life has worked out in perfect time. Everything just feels right; I wouldn’t have been capable of doing the job I’m starting this week before Christmas and I’m happy enough to work for a month or so before starting to look for places to live.

I’m also competing in a cookery competition next month which is something I never would have been able to do until recently. I just seemed to gain all this confidence and I don’t know where it came from but I absolutely love it.

Learning to be content where I am, to stop wanting to keep running away because it seemed easier, was the hardest thing to do. A while ago a friend told me that I needed to be okay here before I could be okay everywhere else, and she was right, I just never realised how long it would take me to finally be okay. But after months of hard work, and refusing to quit because it was hard, I’m finally at a point where I’m pretty content with my current situation.

I found this brilliant article that a friend had linked on my Facebook news feed and I just wanted to share a quote from it with you all, something that I can relate to 100%:

“There is bravery in travelling, but there is bravery in staying home, too. There is bravery in staying still long enough for everything to catch up with you, in trusting that whatever it is, it won’t drag you down. Because it hurts like hell when there’s nowhere to run, when the only place to circle is within the confines of your own addled brain. I lie awake at night trying to figure out ways to escape the barbed wire thoughts closing in. Every memory digs a little deeper into my skin.”

I am so fucking brave for staying here and letting life catch up with me.

x

Strength

The window is wide open and I’m listening to the rain pour down as if waterfalls are descending from the heavens.

It’s washing everything away; all the dirt and rubble, everything that tore my heart in two. Things aren’t okay, the problems aren’t gone, but I finally have clarity.

I am strong. I am so unbelievably strong and I deserve to know and accept that.

I have motivation to go running again.
I don’t know where the heck it came from but I have motivation.
I have motivation to eat well, to go to bed at a decent hour, to get up to see the sunrise.

I was driving home today and the wind was so strong I felt like it might blow my car off the road, but in the distance I saw a flock of birds getting ready to go to bed. I said to myself out loud, “How on earth do they manage to fly in this wind?”

They do it because they have to; they do it because there’s no other way to get to the tops of the tallest trees.
It’s just like life, isn’t it? I have gotten through the tough days because I have to, because there’s no other way to reach the things I want, because the opposite of life is death and I don’t want that.

I want to see everything this world has to offer me, I don’t want to miss any chances, I don’t want to ignore any possibilities.

And there is rest; just like the birds find their rest when they land in their trees, we sleep every night too.
I sleep every night! I can sleep again!

What I’m going through is a roller coaster; it has its ups and downs and what I’m experiencing now probably won’t last forever. But every time I feel like this, every time I feel strong, it gives me some hope that one day I’ll always be able to feel like this, and it reminds me that no one but me can build this strength. I have done this, I have grown this. I’ve had many people encouraging me and I’ll never thank them enough but, at the end of the day, no one but the individual can become who they want to be.

There is so much beauty in these rainy nights; always be grateful for them.

x

Lioness

It’s 1:36 am. Most of the world is falling asleep and I am coming alive.

Every so often I have these moments where I realise my strength. I realise what I’ve gone through, what I’m going through, what I’ve carried all on my own, and it hits me that this will all be okay.

Like a lioness looking after her cubs I have bared my claws to anyone who dares try to attack my home.

At night I lie awake; I have cried salty tears into my pillow but left no stain.
I have tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable spot in what sometimes feels like rocky ground.
I have stared up at a glowing screen, hoping for conversation that never comes.

I have had moments where my heart begins to beat so fast and I become so overwhelmed that my chest tightens and I feel like at any minute I might stop breathing, I might stop living. It might all turn to darkness and life as I know it might end.

Like a ship miles out at sea, I have thrown down my anchor but found no land to hold on to.

But I can only control my own heart.
I can only be strong for me, I can’t worry that others don’t love me.
I will find land, my home will be safe, and I will lift up my arm and shake my fist at the world.

I will let it know that I cannot be conquered, that I cannot be held down.

I want to be friends with the Pope.

Growing up as a Christian every so often I would come across people who made me think, “They’re so Christ-like”. In recent months these illusions have been shattered and my views of many of those people have changed entirely.

This morning I was reading about Pope Francis and what he’s been up to in 2013, and I’ve decided that I’d really like to be friends with him because I think he’s one of the first genuine Christians I’ve ever come across. There haven’t been many but he’s definitely one of them.

Really it all comes back to rules, doesn’t it? It all comes back to the fact that this guy is totally ignoring all the junk that people have put down as rules to be a Christian. It comes back to the fact that he isn’t afraid to hang out with criminals, women, Muslims, homeless people. It comes back that to the fact that he cares about the environment and wants to protect the rainforest and its native people. It comes back to the fact that he phoned a women who had been raped and told her she wasn’t alone. It comes back to the fact that he doesn’t think atheists are bad people.

So if the Pope is doing all this stuff why isn’t the rest of the Church? Why do we debate over women leading congregations? Why do we push gay people out of the Church because their “lifestyle choices” (homosexuality is neither a lifestyle or a choice) are “wrong” and only support heterosexual couples? Why is the topic of sexuality very seldom, if at all, discussed in Church? Why do we act as if Muslims are the enemy? Why do we refuse to care about the environment, choosing to say that it isn’t our fault? Why do we force people to look at photos of dead foetuses, forgetting that women don’t want to have abortions? Why do we think that just because someone doesn’t believe in God it means they’re a bad person; did we not all question at one point?

I don’t feel a part of this thing we call the Body of Christ any more because there’s far too much bitterness and exclusion and I don’t really think it’s what Jesus ever wanted. What we know as the Body of Christ, as the Church, is ugly and rotting and broken and that would be okay (because Jesus died so we could be okay, so we could know love) if we didn’t force all our pain on to others. We’re a broken people who’ve forced our brokenness on the world, forgetting what love really looks like and failing miserably to communicate it and pretending like that’s okay because “we’re only human”. But it’s not okay if you constantly say you’re meant to be “different” but yet continue hurting people. It’s easy to go out and do nice things for people but if your thoughts, your opinions, everything you keep inside, screams of hate and anger and judgement, then what’s the point in trying to make people think that you’re good? I don’t think actions speak louder than words, I think both go hand in hand and I don’t think God will ever say, “well you told that gay person they were living wrong but you fed some homeless people so it’s okay.”

I just don’t really want to be called a Christian any more because I think that word has far too many negative connotations. I’m trying to find out who God really is, what He’s doing in my life right now, and what exactly He wants me to do with my time on earth. I’m trying to figure out if the love of God really exists, if it can really be found in this world any more, and what it’s like to really know that love (the unconditional love that I’ve heard so much about but that has been overshadowed by the conditions created by Christians). No amount of nice worship songs or Christian blogs or Church services can help me any more, this is between me and God. I can’t tell you what the outcome will be, maybe I’ll realise that God just isn’t what I thought He was, or maybe I’ll realise that I can’t live without Him. I’m not afraid to question, to doubt, to be unsure. I’m not afraid because if God is who He says He is then I’ll go back to Him, and if He isn’t my time will be better spent on other things.

Life is meant to be figured out, to be poked and prodded, to be questioned. It isn’t a stagnant thing, it isn’t consistent. People were made to change and grow and I’m not afraid of change.

x

Snow

The silence of the snow falling all around,
The way each flake almost breathes as it flies past me.

The wind stops howling and each individual snowflake, so unique and different, like every finger print to ever exist, they all fall to the ground.

It’s as if everything stops moving for that moment; even the world refuses to spin on its axis and the thick blanket of clouds above us that seems to have no end stays perfectly still.

I tilt my head back, stick my tongue out and try and taste a little bit of this wonder and, after years of repeating this silly ritual, am still baffled that snow doesn’t really taste of anything.

Your footprints make a crunch, crunch, crunch in the white sheet upon the ground as the snowflakes are moulded closer together, letting people know that someone was here before, that this world is connected by those who came before, so we are not alone.

In this white, wintry world we are not alone.

The Fox and the Robin

Robins are here all year round but no one notices them until it snows. Their red breasts burning like fire in white landscapes, their little hearts so warm, their voices so strong in the silence of snowflakes falling fast, the silence that is broken every so often by feet crunching through the snow.

This silence is where I have been, you see. Dying to be like the Robin, my little heart so warm.

No feet crunched in the snow, only the silent padding of the fox’s paws, his breath lingering as steam. There was warmth in his blood but not in his heart. His claws tore at my wounds, removing all the healing, taking what I thought was good.

The fox took what he wanted and ran away.

So now I am left among the pine trees. I am left to figure out a new path out of the forest. I am left to follow the Robin, his red breast shining, his little heart so warm.

He is teaching me strength, he is teaching me to trust, he is teaching me to control the blizzard that used to wrap its cold arms around me and refuse to let go.

Sometimes he sings to me and reminds me that one day spring will be here and the forest will be full of colour again, he reminds me that this is not my forever, that nothing is forever. Some nights I dream of this, I dream of the warm sun on my face and all the flowers in bloom and I know I will eventually reach that place, because when I awake a new day has dawned.

So for now I will follow the Robin, and if the Fox comes back I will fight him with all the strength in my little heart so warm. Because the Robin may be little but he is strong.