Looking Back and Looking Forwards

Twelve months ago I thought my biggest challenge in 2015 was going to be completing a triathlon. It was hands down my biggest worry, far ahead of the new job I was about to start. I also thought 2015 was going to be my year – I was very much on the new job, new challenges, new start bandwagon. All of which goes to show you should not trust my fortune-telling skills.

The past year has been the hardest of my life, both personally and professionally, and I’ve been challenged in ways I never thought possible. Turning 30 felt very adult and far off last January but by the time I made it to August I felt every one of my 30 years. There have been times this year when I’ve felt one hundred. Making an appointment for the vet to come and put our beautiful dog to sleep, less than six weeks after we’d last walked up a mountain with him, was by far and away the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever quite get over. Watching Andy struggle with anxiety and depression, ultimately something that led to him losing his job, was equally heartbreaking, mostly because there was almost nothing I could do to help.

Professionally, my shiny new job has had perhaps the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. Within six months of starting I’d had to recruit an entirely new team and my boss was on maternity leave. I’m still getting to grips with what my job actually is and how to do it well in a very difficult and different environment to the ones I’ve worked in before. I’ve taken things on that I’d have shied away from a year ago which makes me proud but at the same time I’m not happy with what I’m achieving at the moment. I’ve always been an overachiever so that’s quite a hard thing to admit, particularly as I’m not sure how to turn things around.

This isn’t to say 2015 has been all bad because that’s absolutely not true and despite all the woes I’m still astoundingly lucky. My sister got married in July which was amazing, not least because I officially gained a fantastic brother-in-law! I discovered that I actually like running and completed three 10k races and two triathlons. And we adopted a new dog – a handsome French hound called Marlowe who is a constant source of joy despite the fact he’s an inveterate thief. All the same it’s a year I’m happy to consign to history.



It’s a little hard for me to jump on the “new year, new start” bandwagon again this year, as you might imagine. We’re moving house in less than a week and whilst I know I should be excited part of me is still in crisis mode, waiting for the moment when something goes wrong. I’ve always been an optimist but I’m finding it hard to look ahead at all at the moment, let alone with positivity. So my resolutions for 2016 are incredibly simple: more fitness, more happiness. Nothing world-changing, nothing earth-shattering but perhaps sometimes that’s ok.


Standing Out…

My hair is orange. Like Hayley Williams orange. This is the first time I’ve changed my hair colour in nearly a year and although I love it I feel very self-conscious. I never normally feel anxious when I change my hair so I don’t quite understand where this has come from.

Orange hair montage

Even my hair has a montage…

Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s the first time I’ve changed my hair colour in my new job and my colleagues are surprised. Everyone’s said nice things though even if the word bright is used a lot. I’ve not had the best history with comments on my personal appearance in the workplace, mostly due to a preponderance of white men in suits, but that’s several years and several jobs ago now.

I do feel like I stand out more than usual and that, in some obscure way, I should apologise for it. I don’t know why that is. Being a woman in public is often a challenging experience I guess and I’ve got used to short hair making me feel relatively invisible. Now my pixie cut has grown out and my hair is luminous maybe I’m too visible, too bright?

I want to be comfortable in my skin but I’ve not been today and I really don’t like it. Maybe tomorrow will be better…

Now We Are 28: A Sense of Belonging

Last weekend marked the ten year anniversary of my first week at Durham University and thus it is also ten years since I left home for the first time. In the intervening decade I’ve lived in five different cities, six houses, seven flats, and packed my entire life into boxes at least 15 times. I still live more than 100 miles from my entire family, most of my friends and the town I grew up in.

Much in the same way as I love the feeling of travelling I love the possibilities of living somewhere new but I don’t think I’ve ever felt I “belonged” somewhere as much as I did when I first moved to Durham. I was terrified when we first arrived of course, for some reason I spent most of the journey panicking that I would be ostracised for bringing too much stuff with me (I needn’t have worried) and that I wouldn’t make any friends (ditto). But within two weeks, once I’d survived fresher’s flu and navigated a nightmarish train journey back to Wales, I felt more at home in Durham than I’d ever felt anywhere in my life. This wasn’t an indictment on my much-loved family and friends, just a reflection on how much of a fish out of water I’d been. Leaving Durham three years later was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done – and remains so, seven years of difficult decisions later.

By now, almost everyone I know is pretty settled – most people seem to pick a place and stay put, whether by birth or by choice. That happened pretty quickly with a lot of my friends – people dispersed to various locations once we left university and then seem to have remained there. People often look at me strangely when I talk about moving around the country or when I happily travel 100 miles for a night out with friends. It’s odd because I don’t consider myself particularly well travelled. The wanderlust is unintentional, I like to arrive at new places but I also like to leave – if you’ve ever met my dog Roscoe you’ll know he is also very much of this persuasion!

So, true to form the latest move – to Nottingham, a mere four months ago – was decided pretty much on the spur of the moment, I’d been offered a job and the boy had been made redundant so we thought we’d try a change of scenery. Unexpectedly it was a bigger adjustment than I’d been expecting, somehow I’d become settled whilst I wasn’t looking. The job I left behind was one I loved and only left because it was made very clear to me that, however hard I worked and whatever additional responsibilities I took on, I’d never be able to earn a promotion. Actually leaving was heartbreaking but after months of frustration it was the only choice. Similarly, I cried the day we left our little house in Leamington – it may have been too small and possessed of an extremely irritating landlord but it was the boy and my first home together. For someone who claims to thrive on change all of this upheaval was harder to deal with than I remembered…

I feel like I belong everywhere and nowhere all at once – home is where my boyfriend and my dog are, where my family are, where my friends are. I could be happy anywhere – a big city, a small town, the side of a mountain – which is a blessing in many ways. At the same time part of me wants to find a place where I can put down roots, knowing that I’m not going to have to pack my life into boxes and deconstruct all my bookcases yet again. Is that part of getting older or will I still get the urge to gallivant around the country when I’m 60?

30 Day Music Challenge: Day Twenty-One

Day 21: A Song That You Listen To When You’re Happy

This is in some ways the easiest question to answer – I’m quite a happy person most of the time really. I may moan occasionally and I’m quite good at feeling sorry for myself but generally I’d describe myself as an optimist! And an over-enthusiastic user of exclamation marks… Mind you I’ve not got much to be unhappy about – I’ve got a job I love (most of the time), fabulous friends scattered all over the place and a massive, crazy family whom I love very much. In many ways the past couple of years have been the best of my life – I got out of a relationship that wasn’t doing me much good towards the end of 2008 and  whilst at the time I was heartbroken it also gave me the impetus to really change my life, make new friends, do new things and so on. I’ve also spent a lot of time listening to different types of music – mostly recommended by my wonderful twitter family – and going to completely random gigs. So the past few years have been what a dodgy reality tv show would probably call a “journey” – whatever, it’s been lots of fun. 
However this post is about songs you listen to when you’re happy so enough of my self-indulgent waffling… Despite a fair bit of sadness the past couple of months have been among the happiest in my life – if that isn’t a complete paradox! There’s one person I have to thank for that – and I also have to thank him for introducing me to this band because they’re amazing. The first time I heard this album I literally started bouncing around the kitchen! So currently my happy place is Spaceship by Alice in Videoland. I’m off to dance about the kitchen, kiss my boyfriend and enjoy the weekend – see you later alligators! 
“Wanna take a ride on my motor bike,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship,
Wanna take a ride on my motor bike,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship,

On the way to the moon, in a giant balloon,
Better hurry up, we’re steering back to earth soon,
Want to know what I think, is you painted with pink,
A mean imagination and a shit load of ink,
I’m not gonna lie, I really like to get high,
Everything is possible, the limit’s the sky,
I’m not gonna lie, I really like to get high,
Everything is possible, the limit’s the sky

Wanna, wanna,
Wanna take a ride on my motor bike,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship,
Wanna take a ride on my motor bike,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship,
Wanna take a trip in, my space ship”

30 Day Music Challenge: Day Three

Well I’m racing through these aren’t I?! Day three already… Today’s question is particularly appropriate at the moment because despite grief, illness and the fact that it still isn’t spring I am actually very happy at the moment.

Day Three: A Song That Makes You Happy
In light of my simmering euphoria it’s difficult to find a song that doesn’t make me happy. However there are a few things which are guaranteed to put a smile on my face and the song I’ve chosen manages to combine both of them! Firstly, as anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be dragged to Reflex by me will know, I have a very soft spot for cheesy 80’s music. Spandau Ballet, Wham!, Europe, Journey – just name the song and I can guarantee I’ll have screamed and dragged an innocent victim onto the dancefloor as soon as it came on. In fact one of the reasons I love Glee so much is that cover of Don’t Stop Believing…

The other genre of music that makes me bounce up and down with joy however is Ska. I knew next to nothing about ska until I went to uni, I think the only ska band I’d ever heard of was Madness and I didn’t even know they were a ska band. However, Durham SU used to put on an alternative club night every term which was pretty much the only time you were likely to hear any kind of rock music in a club in Durham. The first time I went I was desperately trying to look cool and was sort of shuffling away to the music trying to work out if I’d put enough eyeliner on when my friend Katie started bouncing up and down to a song I’d never heard before. I think it was Kicking Pigeons by [spunge] but I couldn’t swear to that. Anyway that was when I discovered ska and also when I realised that having fun was far more important than looking cool.

Fast-forward seven years (really??) and, whilst I have learnt that not all ska is happy smily music – I live in Coventry these days and so appreciate the grim industrial wasteland invoked by Ghost Town – I still adore a bit of ska-based silliness. I saw Reel Big Fish last Sunday and it was such a fantastic gig – Kerry and I danced like mad things all night! On the basis of that alone I could probably pick any RBF song and go to my happy place but this was their last encore, it was brilliant and, as I said, I’m a true child of the 80’s. So here you go – Take on Me by Reel Big Fish! Happy, happy, happy!

“We’re talking away
I don’t know what
I’m to say I’ll say it anyway
Today’s another day to find you
Shying away
I’ll be coming for your love, OK?
Take on me, take me on”

30 Day Music Challenge – Day One!

One of my New Years’ resolutions was to blog more frequently which, given that it’s now March, is somewhat laughable. The last two months have, however, been high on life-related trauma and low on time to do things like blog, exercise or sit down. I’m going shamelessly plagarise the 30 Day Music Challenge idea from Andy, Nuala and Ness as it seems like a good way of getting into the habit…

Day One: Your Favourite Song
I avoid answering this question all the time. In fact I have spent DAYS thinking about this question and I’m still not convinced I know the answer. I’m quite faddy so the song I’m listening to at the moment tends to be my favourite. However there are some songs which stand out, the ones that get me through the happiest and saddest times in my life as well as the ones that get me out of bed and into work every morning. The song I’ve chosen – because I have for once managed to make a decision – could actually fit into a lot of the categories on this list. It makes me happy but it’s also made me cry. I know all the words, I’ve danced to it a million times and  it reminds me both of people and places I’ve loved. It’s also a song I’ve loved since I was little and had no idea who The Cure were or what the song was about, I just liked the chorus! Over the past couple of weeks I’ve thought about and listened to this song more than I have in years so choosing it seems particularly appropriate.

My favourite song is of course Friday I’m in Love. It’s a song which seems to run through the fabric of my life and even at the times in my life when hearing it made me sad it’s always been a song I loved. At the moment just hearing the opening bars makes me want to dance like a crazy person so, of all the songs that I love, this is officially the one I love the most.

“I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday I’m in love”