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

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Rivers

I wrote this poem almost two years ago and had planned for it to be spoken word but kind of chickened out. It’s pretty nerdy but it makes me smile; I hope you enjoy it!

 

I don’t want you to think I’m one of those Hollywood-esque, star struck, over the top, over-dramatic twenty-some things who thinks that life is easy.

I don’t want to fill your minds with clichés like “the more you learn, the less you know” and “what goes around comes around”,
I just want you to realise that we all have dreams, goals, ambitions.
We all have places we want to reach one day and you need to realise that that’s okay.
And this is my dream.
Every time I put pen to paper it’s like a river flowing down a mountainside.
There’s something in the way my mind intertwines with the words I have been speaking since the day I started to talk.
My connection with syllables and similes, adjectives and adverbs, alliteration and hyperbole, is something that I can’t quite describe.
For a while I was afraid of this gift.
Surrounded by musicians, painters, dancers I was afraid to let my talent shine because “nerd is the word” always came to mind.
I can’t lie, I love to sing, so I took up guitar and made a half-assed effort at writing songs.
But my lack of persistence took over, ever so slowly, and, eventually, I once again picked up my pen and paper and did the one thing that comes oh, so naturally.
People ask me why I write, why I’m so ready to place my heart in the wide open space we affectionately call “the interweb” for everyone to see.
Well, friends, I’ll tell you this now: I’m not the only one and I have been inspired by many other great writers to do what I do; I am definitely not alone.
Whether they focus on poetry and prose, sing their hearts out, rap faster than George Watsky, write fan fiction, or take part in the blogosphere, there are plenty of other people doing just what I do.
But, sometimes, I wonder the same thing (for different reasons, of course).
You see, the path that I have chosen may never pay the bills.
The government don’t want to support those of us who dream higher than numbers and equations so I guess I’m stuck…
Writing out words that protest how frustrated I am, even though David Cameron will never listen.
If this is democracy then why are the arts and humanities never given a chance?
So maybe it’s all in vain, right?
Maybe this foray into spoken word poetry will never go any further than the pages of social networking sites, Forever ignored by the artists who inspire me and never found by the people who need to be inspired.
But, until words go out of fashion and those of us who create art are placed in prison,
I will keep writing.
Until the day I die I will fight for the use of language.
And I’m sure some of you will laugh at me when you hear this,
Some of you will cringe and some of you might even feel the need to ask “why?”
And after hearing my previous words I will assign you to the “lost cause” group,
The people who just don’t want to understand because you don’t like what I do and I’m fine with that.
You may make more money than me but, as film maker Mickey Smith once stated,
“If I can only scrape a living, at least it will be a living worth scraping.”

Change.

Since leaving my job I’ve started getting up at 7:00 am most days to go running.

I leave my phone at home and head to the beach where it’s just me and my thoughts. Every single day is beautiful, whether the sky is overcast or the sun is reflecting off the water, and I can’t Instagram it or Tweet it or Facebook it. It’s like the world stops turning when I run, while all I can hear is the tide slowly moving in and out, my lungs breathing deeply, and my feet hitting the ground.

This morning I decided to cycle instead of run and I took a slightly different route and, before returning home, took a break and sat on a bench and stared out over the beach and talked to God.

My head has been all over the place recently. Change has swooped in like an eagle swooping down to catch its pray, and with it it has removed different people and situations from my life. I have lost people who I thought would be around forever, people who knew more about me than anyone else. I left my job that had become my security blanket for the past ten months; life might get hard but I could always rely on the fact that I was going back into the office on Monday to take my mind off everything, as much as I hated being there.

I have also gained things; I’m going to college in September, I’m helping with my Church’s Holiday Bible Club and another kid’s club in the south of Ireland.

And after that I’ve already started to plan, mostly in my head, adventures next summer.

The past thirteen months have been thirteen of the hardest months I think I have ever lived. They have been relentless in breaking me down and tearing me apart, but they haven’t been wasted. I can already see God using all the stress and the struggles to change me, to make me see Him more clearly; He does not waste pain. And all these things in front of me that scare me a little bit will be opportunities to grow too.

I could never settle for the monotony of what life has been for the past year and God has used that to motivate me to make things better for myself.

One of the best things about God is that He does encourage us to make changes, but He always remains the same, He is always consistent. That is why we can find our security in Him and not be afraid that everything is changing, because He never will.

x

Figuring out what I don’t want to do.

Next Thursday I’m leaving my job. After ten months of madness I am leaving and in September I’ll be starting a full time course in professional cookery at college. I am beyond excited to finally be doing something I love that is one step closer to my dream of one day owning a cafe (I’m going to call it Annie’s ’cause I’m super original).

I’ve said since day one of my employment that nothing within my skill set or personality was suited to the job I was being asked to do. I’m an introvert (as discussed in my post, Introversion and Being Introverted) but in my job I have to spend my whole day talking to people, working as part of a team, and doing and saying the same things over and over again. It’s very monotonous and the repetition sends me mad at times. Sometimes it knocked my confidence a little, knowing that most of the people I work with are good at all the things I’m bad at, but then I’m reminded of the fact that I’m good at so many other things.

I’m a creative person and have probably been subconsciously looking for something like cookery for a long time now. I loved my degree and found it really interesting but I don’t know if academia was really for me. I have a short attention span and always struggled to spend hours studying, I wanted to be up doing things, making things, creating; sitting in the library for hours at a time took more energy out of me than spending a day on my feet cooking ever would.

It may have taken me 23 years but I now know what exactly I don’t want to do with my life, as well as all the things I’d really love to do. No matter what, I want to do something that involves caring for people that allows me to be creative. Owning a cafe is perfect because I love cooking, it gives me so many opportunities for creativity (not just in the food and drinks but also in designing the cafe itself; I already have ideas), and it lets me welcome people into a place that I own and make them feel welcome and at home. I can assure you that my cafe will not be one that throws people out after an hour, but that will let people sit for hours studying or reading or Skyping family and friends in far away countries.

I’ll make sure to keep you all updated on how it goes.

x

Introversion and being introverted.

I’m an introvert. Once I told someone this and they said, “Oh no, don’t worry, you’re not” as if I’d just made a negative comment about myself. Being introverted means you gain your energy from being alone, you’re more likely to be sensitive and emotional, are probably more of a thinker and feeler, and may be more creative than your extroverted pals. Contrary to popular belief being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy (though I am incredibly shy when I’m with people who I don’t know so well) and it also doesn’t mean you’re a recluse. Being introverted is not a bad thing.

At the minute my job requires me to be an extrovert; I don’t know if my employers have realised yet but I’m not very good at this and cannot wait to leave at the end of the month. However, leaving my job does mean I’ll have a lot more free time on my hands and, until I really thought about it, I was a bit worried about this. I have a lot of friends who are very busy all of the time; they have so many things going on in their lives and are constantly rushed off their feet. For the longest time I have thought that to have a good life you need to have a busy life, you need to always be out doing things, you need to have tonnes of friends and always be with people but I have finally come to the conclusion that this is not true.

I’m not saying that I’m going to stop making effort to spend time with people or working on making progress in becoming more involved with my Church, but it does mean I’m a little happier at the thought of not always being with people. You see, my job has squashed my creativity somewhat. It tires me out and leaves me with very little time to work on all the creative things that I love to do, that come so naturally to me as an introvert. So to have free time to focus on these things again is wonderful and such a blessing.

In September I will hopefully be starting a full-time course at college to study professional cookery. This course is Monday-Friday, 9-5, and while my cooking will be an individual effort (which I am really looking forward to) I will spend my days being with people all the time. Right now I have two months ahead of me with only two weeks taken up by helping at kid’s clubs; this is such a gift and I’d be stupid to waste it. I’ll be able to use this time to work on all of my own creative projects, focusing on the things I love.

Most of all I look forward to all the time I’ll be able to spend with Jesus, just like last summer. I look forward to being able to isolate myself from the world every so often to just focus on Him because that is what I need more than anything. Life has been crazy for the past few years so now is the time to commit everything to Him before it gets crazy again.

So, to my fellow introverts, don’t be afraid of your introversion. We’re an important part of this world and should embrace what we have to offer.

x

Learning.

In January I passed my driving test and was really excited to finally gain a bit more independence, not having to rely on people to always give me lifts or always using public transport. However, the longer I’ve been driving I’ve noticed one very frustrating thing: society doesn’t leave any room for people to learn. I noticed this when I first started my job too. Every so often I would be speaking to a rude customer and they would say, “Are you new?” As if their frustration was completely down to the fact that I was still learning how to do my job and that being new and still learning was a bad thing. In regards to driving, I may have passed my test but tonight was the first time I’d driven to Belfast, and all the lane changes were quite confusing.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened:

  • I realised, at the last minute, that I needed to change lanes.
  • I had checked in my mirror, was certain no one was coming up behind me, and went to move over.
  • All of a sudden someone beeps their horn, but they don’t just do it briefly, they held it down for what was about 5 or 6 seconds (actually a reasonably long time).

It came across as very aggressive and actually had me in tears because I got so panicked by it all. To add to the trouble, in Northern Ireland you have to drive with ‘R’ plates (restricted) for the first year after you pass your test, allowing everyone on the road to know you haven’t been driving for very long. My issue with ‘R’ plates and how they do more harm than good in causing other drivers to think this means it’s their job to “teach you a lesson” or put you through some sort of sorority/fraternity style initiation is a whole other post, so I won’t bore you with that now.

It just really bothers me that every single person who has a driving license in the UK has been through the same process as me, but eventually something inside them goes, “Okay, you’ve been driving long enough to treat people like crap because you have no patience. Yep, that’s fine.” It’s the same in work: every person I speak to had to learn to do their job so why am I not allowed to learn to do mine?

It’s the same in so many situations; if you’re not perfect straight away you’re not good enough. I think it’s something to do with selfishness and self-entitlement, but I’m not too sure. Mostly I think it’s just a bullying tactic, to make yourself feel better because you’re not new to whatever it is you’re doing, or, in regards to dealing with customers, to make the person feel like they’ve failed at their job somehow because you haven’t got the response you wanted. We don’t laugh at people in school or university who are learning about a new subject for the first time, so why do we do it in other areas of life?

I think bullying is a big problem in society, to be honest, and not just between school kids. It happens at university, in the workplace, in day to day interactions with strangers, on the roads… And yet we’re all shocked when we hear stories of teenagers killing themselves because they’ve been picked on so terribly by their peers. The world is a harsh place but it appears to all be fun and games until someone gets hurt. But, as I’ve learnt through a job in customer service, adults are more immature than six year olds. I have said countless times that I would rather work with small children than adults because children use more logic than a lot of the people I’ve spoken to. If we don’t want our children to be bullied or be bullies we have to start acting like adults, not mirroring the negative attitudes that we have given to our children, because children learn from the people around them and, for most, those people are adults.

People need to learn, and I wish more had the opportunity to learn from responsible, mature adults. We need to give people space, we need to encourage them, and we need to build them up, not bully them and make them feel small. Being a bully only makes you look like an idiot.

 

Seeing the Good.

I have a friend who I think is wise beyond his years (I don’t really tell him that because I don’t want his head to get too big) and for the past few months he’s had to deal with the brunt of my life stresses. Any time I was worried or sad about anything he was really helpful and a lot of the time he would tell me that I could have things a lot worse. This didn’t sit too well with me at first but tonight it seems to have finally made some sort of impact on me.

For the past few days I have found myself in a really good mood, totally in love with Jesus and pretty content with things. But last night something triggered all my fears and worries again and today I haven’t been so okay about things. Tonight it all came to a head and I found myself in a foul mood again, bursting into tears and, not angry at God, but just asking Him when this would end.

But instead of moping around for too long, for the first time, I really thought about how much worse my life could be. I thought about how good it is: I have a home, where I live with both my parents, I pay very little to live here, I have a job, I have friends, I live in a democracy, food and clean water is not scarce, I have a degree, I’m learning to drive… The list is endless. Everything I need is available to me and a lot of the things that I want are attainable. The best part is that I am loved by an amazing God who would do anything to keep me safe, who watches over and protects me every day and who doesn’t let me do anything alone, who will

wallflower

never desert me, who fills me with hope constantly, who will never be far away, and who died so I could be forgiven and know Him.

I know it’s hard to do this, to see the good in the pain, because I don’t believe it’s wrong to let the bad things in your life make you sad. There’s a great quote in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (the book, at least, I’m not sure about the film) about this:

I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.

But, keeping all this in mind, I think that we’re all so ready to wallow. As Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst) says in Elizabethtown,

Sadness is easy because it’s surrender. I say, make time to dance alone with one hand waving free.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s easy to sit and think, “My life is terrible, everything is awful”, but it’s not easy to turn around and say, “You know what, I’m going to look at the good in my life.” It has taken me seven months to be able to do this, and it was no easy feat. Again, I emphasise that this doesn’t mean that your pain is invalid, but it will give you freedom from it and enable you to live your life and hopefully motivate others.

The thing is, God doesn’t change, no matter how we feel. I have spent too long blaming Him for all my problems and I can’t even begin to imagine how much that hurt Him. I wrote a post on how God loves me a few weeks ago entitled ‘Why Romance isn’t Dead’ and after really considering all these things I understand that everything I said while angry probably tore His heart in two. He has so many good things planned for me. He can’t stop the bad because He allows us freewill, a great sign of a loving God, but He showers me in blessings constantly and that, putting everything else aside, is more than enough to prove to me that my life is good every single day.