Twenty Nine

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When I was about 12, a teacher asked if I could help her out by cutting some card in half. I can’t remember what they were or what it was for, only that she gave me a stack of A4 sheets and a pair of scissors, and asked me to cut down the centre of each. To save time, I put a few sheets together and cut through them all.

Only once I cut through the last few did I see that there was somebody’s certificate at the bottom of the pile. I felt sick, and I hid the certificate deep in the back of a cupboard. When the teacher asked if anybody had seen it, I put my head down and pretended to write.Admitting that I had made a mistake felt like the worst thing I could ever do.

Admitting that I had made a mistake felt like the worst thing I could ever do.

*

When I was a child, the adults in my life thought I could do no wrong. Although this was in some ways a blessing, it was also a curse, because I’ve grown up being terrified of telling people anything I don’t think they want to hear.

When people meet me, they like me. My greatest fear is that by telling the truth people won’t like me anymore.

In theory, I know that I don’t want people in my life who don’t love me for who I am. In practice, I physically cannot make words come out of my mouth that might change somebody’s opinion of me.

I’ve lost count of the number of boys I’ve kissed because it seemed less awkward than admitting that I wasn’t attracted to them. Or the number of films and TV shows I’ve watched with people despite not being interested at all.

I ran away to get married, and only told my closest family via email that I had.

I didn’t even tell my husband when I was getting my first tattoo, and I hid it from my parents for at least a month.

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to please people that I don’t even remember what is and what isn’t a lie.

*

Truth is a funny thing anyway. Some days something might be true, but it soon ceases to be as we learn new things and change our minds.

Today is my twenty-ninth birthday. This is what is true for me today.

My name is Kate or Katie depending on whether we’re related or when you met me. My favourite things to wear are pyjamas and a hoody. I used to be vegetarian and then I wasn’t.

The first time I kissed a girl was because I was drunk and mad at my boyfriend. But her lips were soft and she was beautiful and I can still remember what it felt like to hold her hips in my hands. I suppose it was an awakening of sorts.

These days I identify as queer, and sometimes as polyamorous (the rest of the time I think that polyamory is a choice, and not an identity). I sometimes go on dates with people who aren’t my husband. Sometimes I become friends with his partners, and sometimes I don’t. In August, he and I are going on holiday with our girlfriend. I’m too scared to talk to my parents about this.

I’ll never stop listening to punk rock from the early 2000s. I eat omelettes topped with jam or a banana. I sleep on a different side of the bed depending on who I’m sharing it with.

When I was an artist’s model I wasn’t really doing it for the money. I enjoyed being naked in a room full of strangers.

I agree with my Mum when she asks me not to get any more tattoos while simultaneously planning the next one. I don’t know how I can explain how with every piece of ink I feel more at home in my body, and how blank skin is just a canvas waiting to be filled.

I like putting on makeup, and drinking sweet flavoured (non dairy) lattes from high street coffee chains. I’m usually thinking about clothing combinations, or something I want to knit or crochet.

I love my job, and I feel lucky that I’ve found an organisation that lets me be me.

I worry that I never got over my eating disorder, just replaced sticking my fingers down my throat with going to the gym.

Actually, I worry about a lot of things.

I feel guilty that my Mum is a full-time carer and I’m not able to help her. I don’t think I spend enough time with any of my family. When I do see them, I always feel like crying when I’m driving away.

I’ve accepted that depression and anxiety will always be part of my life but I think I’m getting better at managing my moods.

I want to have children but I worry about ruining their lives.

I have a compulsion to take off my shoes and paddle in every bit of water I see. I believe that ice-cream tastes better when it’s in a cone. I will walk for up to two hours to avoid taking a bus.

I have a small number of close friends who mean the world to me.

Twenty Nine

This Post Looks Like Crap, but it’s OK to be a Beginner.

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Let’s all pretend you can’t see the selfie stick, shall we? Ok, good.

For about as long as they’ve existed, I’ve secretly wanted my own fashion blog.

At first, I assumed I couldn’t have one because I looked all wrong. Because you can only put pictures of yourself on the internet if you’re tall and your hair doesn’t all stick up at odd angles.

And then, I couldn’t have one because it was a bit silly really. Grown up women who want to be Charity CEOs shouldn’t be interested in fashion. I needed to write about serious things like politics and the environment.

And then, well, I got trapped in a shitty relationship where my boyfriend basically told me that every idea I had was a stupid one. Oh, and I believed him. So that’s two years of my life I won’t get back.

And then I got all hot and bothered about personal branding. I couldn’t possibly talk about clothes AND mental health AND crafts AND feminism. I needed to find my niche, this is important.

Ha. Now I’ve decided that my personal brand is talking about what the hell I like (and yes I’m sorry if you’re that friend who gets to hear about unicorn horn butt plugs).

And finally, I couldn’t do it because I don’t have a good camera, or an uncluttered space with good light in which to take photos. Basically, I didn’t want to do it if it was going to look like crap.

Well, you know what? Whenever we start something new it’s going to look like crap. Seriously, you should see my first few attempts at a granny square.But if we only did things we were already good at, we wouldn’t do anything at all.

But if we only did things we were already good at, we wouldn’t do anything at all.

So welcome to my first crap outfit post. I hope you enjoyed it.

*

OH YEAH. Clothes.

The jeans. I bought these at GAP in Cheltenham sometime around Christmas 2015. I know this because I remember Danee was sending me twitter messages trying to get me in the festive spirit, and I was reading them while waiting to pay.

The t-shirt. I love long shapeless t-shirts. This one is from H&M. It might still be in the shop, because I bought it this year. I actually went in for gym shorts, but I couldn’t resist this colour.

The jacket. Originally from Primark, I picked this up in a charity shop in the weird little onion celebrating town I grew up in.

The necklace. The owl was once on an earring, one of a pair bought for me by a boy in a market somewhere in rural Warwickshire. I lost one of the earrings but I liked the owl (much more than the boy in fact), so I bought some chain from this amazing shop, and made it into a necklace.

The Earrings. I bought these from Exclusive Roots in Oxford. I wear them approximately 92% of the time that I’m not sleeping.

 

This Post Looks Like Crap, but it’s OK to be a Beginner.

Dating With a Side of Casual Misogyny

Here are some messages I have had recently, from various (straight, white, cisgendered) men, when I expressed my desire to be treated like a person with feelings.

“If you’re married I can only assume you aren’t looking for a boyfriend. If you’re not looking for a boyfriend then what exactly are you looking for? If you’re looking for friends then you chose the wrong app because I’m single and want to go on dates with women who are interested in a bit more than friendship… should go without saying really.”

“I’m confused. What do you want?”

“I guess I should have known this would be too complicated to figure out when I saw that you were married. Well, we live and learn.”

“What exactly are you looking for?”

And here are some questions that I have.

Do you always know what you’re looking for?

If I don’t make up my mind about somebody right away, why am I accused of being a cocktease or wasting your time?

If I was single, would I be such a tease for not being able to tell you exactly what I want? Or would I be being “too keen” or “too slutty” if I did?

Is it not worth the effort to be nice to me or get to know me because I already “belong” to another man?

Why don’t I deserve compassion and empathy?

What’s wrong with having those things in a relationship that you know isn’t going to end in marriage?

Why should it matter where a relationship is going? Can’t you give this moment your best self?

Do we have to have either friendship or a sexual relationship, and not both?

If so, why is friendship the consolation prize?

I get it guys, it’s not a problem with you, it’s a problem with the system. But can y’all just try to, you know, fight that caveman instinct and not be such a fuckboy?

Read more of this comic!

Also, follow Angie on Instagram so you can see wonderful comics about polyamory as soon as she’s finished them.

Dating With a Side of Casual Misogyny

Things That I Know About Change

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Decisions and changes rarely come at me one by one, patiently waiting in line for me to get to them.

Instead, change comes all at once, hitting me like a tidal wave while I struggle to stay standing.

One such wave came in 2013, when over a 6 month period, I broke up with my long-term “we’re going to stay together forever” boyfriend, moved to a new city, cut off my hair, had my nose pierced, got myself a new friendship group, and planned my first tattoo.

I went from being cautious, careful and cripplingly self-conscious, to somebody who drank a little too much, had casual sex with strangers, but who finally felt like the person she wanted to be. Sure, a little chaotic, a little reckless. But also brave. Unapologetic.

It turned out, that when by boyfriend left he had taken my credit card, and ran up thousands of pounds of debt before I noticed it was gone. I scanned the bills: he had taken her to all of our favourite restaurants, and I had paid for it all.

The job I had chosen over him disappeared in a round of budget cuts and department restructuring.

My Grandad was diagnosed with cancer, and all at once our lives were governed by hospital visiting hours. A few weeks later, he died.

I felt all adrift at the funeral. So much had changed. Did my family even know who I was?

I remember that I had a cough and one of my cousins kept joking that it must be those cigarettes. I remember thinking, he thinks that it’s funny because he thinks I don’t smoke. I spent the whole week pretending that I didn’t, desperate to light up.

At some point between Christmas and New Year I returned to Oxford to meet the men I’d been talking to on Tinder.  I doubled and then tripled my number of sexual partners.

*

I remember having a conversation with my mum during this time. We talked about resilience. How she felt that it was the most important thing that you could teach a child, because while you have no way of knowing what will happen in their life, they would be ok if they were able to adapt.

I claimed that word and staked my identity on it. Whatever else I might be, I knew I was resilient. I knew that whatever happened, I would survive.

*

After a while, life settled down. I found a more permanent place to live, a job that I liked, a relationship that was good for me. Things ticked along.

Now I’m thinking about resilience again, because the last 12 months have brought a hell of a lot of changes.

Some changes were planned. We both started masters degrees, him moving to Amsterdam to make use of EU student fees before Brexit, and me choosing to keep my job and study on the side. And so also a long distance marriage, and the adjustments that brings.

Over a couple of months, four of my colleagues found new jobs, and all of my housemates moved out. I found myself surrounded by a completely new set of people.

And then, of course, the other things that life throws in on top.

A promotion, more training, less time.

Daily struggles with depression and anxiety, and the resulting medication, therapy, and fear of falling off the edge.

We’re slowly losing Grandma to dementia. Her eyes look towards you, but she isn’t really there. Mum has become a carer, and now all our conversations are about medication, hospital visits, good days and bad.

My husband has fallen head over heels for one of his other partners. I like her too, but it’s forcing us to re-evaluate what we assumed about our marriage.

It looks as though my job is changing again, but there are still decisions to be made about that.

The landlord is selling our house. We need to be out by August.

*

Age brings some benefits. I am navigating these new changes with more confidence and self-assurance. Sure, there has been some drinking and casual sex. But less of it this time around.

I have different coping mechanisms, as the growing pile of knitted items in my room is a testimony to. I am talking more and hiding less. Just about.

I appreciate how important it is to keep to a routine of eating well, exercising often and sleeping enough. The worst days are the ones after a late night.

And of course, I’m never alone, cast off in a sea of bewilderment. Grit is my rock (husband, best friend) who helps keep me tethered to the shore. He knows, almost before I do, when I’m about to have a panic attack, and how to calm me down. He listens with patience, and when I’m done with overthinking and there is nothing left to say, he just holds me, and it feels like coming home.

*

It’s important to keep some perspective. Looking back, these periods of dramatic change have also been the periods of accelerated growth – where I’ve stepped up and become the person I’ve needed to be.

Because that’s what matters isn’t it? That life doesn’t stagnate. We change, we grow, we cast of old relationships and form new ones.

We recognise when we need to stand stronger against the tidal wave, and when we need to just let go and enjoy the ride.

Things That I Know About Change

Running Without Goals

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Since the new year, rather than trying to run further, I’ve been trying to shift my slow jog into a slightly less slow jog, and run 5k in under 30 minutes.

It started out as fun, this competition with myself. A few times I missed by a matter of seconds, so I pushed myself harder the next time. Eventually, I did it, and I was proud of myself.

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I started to plan the next goals. Maybe I could do a 5k in less than 25 minutes? And then, in a few years, less than 20.

But then a funny thing happened. I stopped wanting to run.

Today, I gave myself permission to run only as fast as my body wanted to. It meant that I ran a slower pace than I had done in months. But when I finished, it felt incredible. It reminded me why I run.

I run to get myself moving in the morning. I run to clear my head before work. I enjoy being outside before everyone is awake, and watching the light change over the river.

I run because it forces me to be in the moment. For once, I’m not rushing on towards the next thing. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other until I can’t anymore.

Running without an end goal means I enjoy the process more. It’s relaxing. For me, it’s what running needs to be.

I have goals in my day job. I have things that I need to do for my degree. I have deadlines for my writing, and planned end products for my crafting. I’m a clumsy and forgetful enough person that I need lists, and rules, and objectives, for almost everything in my life.

But I don’t need that for running. Running can just be fun.

Every conversation I have about running is about measurement and goals. What was your time? How far did you go? How often do you train?

I wonder what would happen if I didn’t have an answer to those questions. If I ran for only me, and for how it makes me feel.

Mindful.

Joyful.

Free.

Running Without Goals

On Daily Writing, and Finding My Voice

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It turns out that writing daily posts for another site didn’t leave me with any creative energy to update this one.

But what it did do was teach me a few things.

Outside accountability means I get shit done. Without this, there are days when I just would not have written. I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t think I had anything to say.

But I had made a commitment to another person to provide daily content. Not wanting to let them down meant that I sat down and wrote, even when I thought I have nothing.

Which leads me on to: starting to write can be the hardest thing to do. But once you start putting words on a page, it gets easier. Some days, when I had no idea what I wanted to say, I just started typing bla bla bla, and the story came to me.

We aren’t all the same, and neither is the way we write. I learnt that daily journal posts don’t sit well with me. I like to have distance between when things happen and when I write about them. It helps me work out what it is I think, and what I want to say.

Chronology isn’t so important to me. I like to group together stories according to theme or lesson, or how they make me feel. Grit, on the other hand, is King of the daily journal post, managing to make things interesting and relevant right off the cuff.

But I never would have worked out this preference if I hadn’t left my comfort zone and tried something new. This brings me to the final lesson. Every opportunity to write is a chance to find your voice. Take every one you get. 

On Daily Writing, and Finding My Voice

4 Things I’ve Learnt from Having Tattoos

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Some people make assumptions. Once I had visible tattoos in my profile picture, people (well, men) on dating sites started treating me differently. I suppose part of it was just something to talk about, but I also noticed the tone of messaging shift. Sure, you always get the sleazebags who’ll tell you exactly what they want to do to you before you say hello. But even the nicer messages became more sexual in tone. I began getting told more often that I looked “hot” or “naughty” rather than “friendly” or “cute”.

But most people don’t. The majority of those I know – friends, family, employers – really don’t give a shit. I remember feeling self-conscious the first time I revealed my tattoos at my latest job, but the only thing that anybody has ever said is “Cool tats!”

A lot of people secretly want one. One conversation I do have a lot, with friends and with strangers, is the “I would love a tattoo but I’m worried about the pain / judgement of family / permanence of the decision” one. I’ve been asked for tattoo advice by shop assistants serving me, people waiting next to me at the bus stop, senior managers at work, and friends of mine I never knew were interested.

Tattoos can help you love your body. I first got tattooed on my upper arms because it was a part of my body I never ever showed. I would wear three quarter length sleeves or keep my cardigan on, because I was convinced that my arms were proportionally much chubbier than the rest of my body. Despite kind of being aware that this was body dysmorphia rather than objective truth, I would be too self-conscious to ever bare this part of my body.

But now? Now I feel uncomfortable keeping my cardigan on, because I don’t feel like myself without my tattoos on show. Sometimes I would rather be cold with them visable, than warm with them covered. The top of my arms are my favourite part of my body, because they are covered in beautiful designs that are personal and distinctive to me.

You can read more about my tattoos, why I got them, and my experience of being tattooed on Underland to Wonderland.

4 Things I’ve Learnt from Having Tattoos