lifestyle

Six Ways Of Dealing With A Break Up In The Most Dignified And Noble Way Possible.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that the title of this blog post teamed up with the title of my last blog post is somewhat ironic.

So the long and the short of it all is that my cynicism towards Valentine’s Day as a concept has proven to be well rooted, as my would-be relationship to Mr Cruise came to an abrupt end some three weeks later.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. I got dumped.

Now I don’t want this to turn into a total bitch-fest where I sit and slag off the perpetrator for however long it takes me to write this, because eventually we parted on good terms. I say eventually because I was perilously close to jumping in my car and driving 106 miles north and strangling him – but because I am moderately reasonable, and frankly it would have been a tremendous waste of fuel money that I could (and did) spend on beer and chocolate to numb the pain of rejection, I decided not to, choosing instead to shout at him a lot via the medium of text (because we established early on that we were never ever going to endure a phone call, it seemed fitting to maintain that ground rule to the end)

So, here at Morganifesto, we (and by “we”, I mean “I”, because obviously there is no “we”) have compiled our amazing and foolproof techniques for Dealing With A Break Up In The Most Dignified And Noble Way Possible.

Number 1 – Cry A Lot.

I pretend that I’m not really much of a crier. I cry when I’m hormonal and I cry if someone shouts at me, but other than that I try to just choke it down until the feeling passes.

However, on this occasion, I am not ashamed to say that I did do quite a bit of crying. And yes, it made me feel a lot better. Emotional tears help with the excretion of toxins that increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as several other endorphins that are responsible for reducing pain. There we go, don’t ever tell me that Morganifesto isn’t educational. I’m full of science as well as wit and charm.

Still got dumped though didn’t I.

Also, after a long day in the salon, it was a pretty great way of getting rid of all the dog hair that was stuck in my eyes.

Number 2 – Avoid Social Networking

Sign out of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any form of social media app or website where you may be tempted to have a good ol’ root around. Don’t habitually check their page for updates. Don’t sit outside their house with binoculars in the dead of night. Don’t kidnap their pets/children for ransom. Just, don’t do it. Until you have some sort of closure, it will only make you feel worse.

Number 3 – Find Your Support Network

Because I am physically incapable of keeping my mouth shut when something bad happens to me, the very first thing I did was tell two of my closest friends, along with strict instructions not to phone me because as previously discussed, I don’t like phone calls, especially when I’m producing sounds that are linguistically questionable at best. They were obviously very supportive and nice to me, shared their thoughts on the situation and offered me all sorts of body parts to cry on.

I didn’t tell my parents because I figured they would most likely prefer to swap me for Mr Cruise anyway*

*I’m joking. I told them and they were great about it.

Number 4 – Be Sad – But Know When To Stop

A lot of well meaning people kept telling me “don’t be sad over him, he’s not worth it”, which in truth is really not helpful to me at all. Something very important folks – EVERY. RELATIONSHIP. IS. WORTH. BEING. SAD. OVER. It doesn’t matter if you were together (or in my case, not together) for five months, ten months, a year or five years – if you’ve invested time and emotion into someone for any length of time, then they are absolutely worth being sad over. The key is knowing when to stop being sad and start moving on, and quite often this is a conscious decision. Don’t sit around being sad and wait for the feeling to pass, because it won’t. It isn’t going to be like flicking a switch and suddenly, all the painful memories are no longer painful – but you have to stand up and physically tell yourself that enough is enough, and that will be the first step to closure.

The turning point for me was one night I was driving home from visiting my friends in Eastleigh, and Opus 17 by The Four Seasons came on shuffle. For those who don’t know, Mr Cruise is, among other things, a singer, and does a lot of stuff by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I was trying pretty hard to avoid their music in The Aftermath, because I was under the impression that the association would have forever ruined a band that I liked a lot, even before I met him. It turns out that this particular song is actually an excellent break-up song, and so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and listen to it the whole way through.

If you could have seen into my car, after I’d questioned how and why you’d managed it while I was hurtling down a dark road at…definitely the speed limit, you would have seen me giggling hysterically to myself the entire way through the song because it was just so fitting.

Also, fun fact – Frankie Valli did a song called ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’, which is equally true, but less inspiring.

Number 5 – Keep Yourself Busy

This one was fairly straightforward because I was midway through teaching my apprentice how to groom a Shih Tzu when it happened. The timing wasn’t brilliant, I’ll admit, but in retrospect it was much better for me that way. That’s not to say that I want any of my future partners to wait until I’m mid-groom before they tell me it’s over, but it was kind of easier to process while I had something fiddly that I really needed to concentrate on.

The next day I went to the pub and that worked as well.

Number 6 – Treat Yo’self

Does this one even need explaining? Order a pizza. Eat the whole thing. Run a hot bath, light a shit load of candles. Watch the entire second season of Suits in 24 hours. Throw darts at a picture of their face. The possibilities are endless.

– – – – – – – – –

So children, what have we learnt today? Crying is biologically efficient. Social Media is dangerous and pizza is medicinal. Excellent. I want a 2,000 word essay on my desk by Monday.

I’d just like to wrap this up by making it clear that I mean absolutely everything in the most light-hearted and humorous way possible. There is absolutely no bad blood between us and, without going into too much detail, he dealt with the whole situation with as much grace and dignity as he could, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. It would be extremely unfair of me to paint him in any other light other than the very best.

I don’t have any other magic words of wisdom to impart, so instead I will leave you with the song I mentioned earlier for you to do what you wish with. Anything else I have to say will probably be better summed up by Frankie Valli, so I’ll leave the hard work to him.

Thanks for reading

Morgan

xxx

 

lifestyle

I Don’t Really Know How To Feel About  Valentine’s Day

What’s this? Two posts in quick succession? What a new and novel concept.

On the subject of novel concepts, it was Valentine’s Day yesterday. I still can’t work out how I feel about it – I remember being being unnecessarily cynical about it as teenager but I can never quite work out why. I seem to remember my first boyfriend sacked me off shortly before the big day, so it probably spans from that. Either way, that was when I was 14 – but for some reason I’ve always eyed up the bunches of roses and soppy cards with a modicum of bitterness.

Actually bitterness is probably the entirely wrong word to use. Indifference is probably closer to my actual emotions surrounding the day. I mean, I actually really like the idea of having a day dedicated to love – being a secret romantic, having an excuse to go massively overboard for someone I love is actually really appealing to me. The only problem that I’ve had with that is that I’ve not have anyone to spoil for the last few Valentine’s days.

I know, I know. Put your violin down.

This year, however, I have a conundrum that I have never faced before – I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO CELEBRATE IT ANY MORE.

I mean obviously I know how to celebrate it – the precedent is food, flowers and booze which is more than acceptable – but I seem to have created a great deal of politics about it in my own mind. How do you know when it’s the right time to acknowledge it? How overboard can I go for someone who I haven’t been seeing for that long? How quickly can a first class stamp get from Basingstoke to Kettering? IS IT TOO SOON TO USE THE L WORD?!

Speaking of going overboard, I met Mr Cruise in June (on a cruise. I wasn’t an extra in Mission Impossible) and even though I’ve been seeing him since then, we didn’t really mention Valentine’s Day until the actual day itself. We didn’t exchange gifts or go out for dinner – and I don’t think either of us particularly minded. The closest we got was binge watching the entire first series of Stranger Things over two evenings last week, which is TOTALLY FINE BY ME (because Oh. My. God). He text me shortly after midnight and wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day before I did (which was definitely a test) but aside from that it was just really just another ordinary day for us. Being long distance, it can be a bit of a nightmare trying to juggle our jobs so we can see each other at the best of times, so throwing a specific day into the mixture just adds to the pressure and for me, would taint the sincerity if we had actually done something for each other.

I really don’t want to be one of those people who says “ugh, I really don’t like Valentine’s Day”, because I do – like I said, I really love the idea of having a day to dedicate to romance. I know that the majority of people celebrate it as a couple, but this year I’ve seen a few “Palentines” knocking around, which I think is a fantastic alternative if you’re not celebrating with a partner. The bit I can’t stand is the tacky slogans and obnoxiously large, heart-wielding stuffed animals that seem to make an appearance every year, and I’ve seen the entire range of rings that Pandora has to offer just by scrolling through my Facebook timeline.

I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t enormously bothered seeing all the photos and declarations of love dribbled all over social media, because it did occur to me that I might be. Was I jealous? If I’m being honest then yeah, a little – but I think that’s more to do with the fact that I don’t see my valentine all that often anyway, rather than the fact that I wasn’t with him on this particular day. On the whole it was actually really lovely to see couples embracing the day for what it was and, as it was my mum’s birthday on the same day, I still got to go out for a nice meal.

Strangely this post hasn’t really gone the way I thought it would. I was kind of expecting to come up with a bunch of reasons as to why I don’t like Valentine’s Day and turn it into a bit of an amusing rant, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that yeah, it’s not so bad after all. This probably doesn’t make for as much of an entertaining read, but if it’s any consolation, it’s made me feel a bit more positive towards something.

That is until next year, when I will inevitably walk up and down the seasonal isle in Sainsbury’s in early February, grumbling under my breath about how crap and tacky the whole ordeal is, stubbornly avoiding purchasing or wearing anything red or pink and yet still half hoping I’ll come home to a large bunch of roses when the 14th rolls around.

Thanks for reading!

Morgan
xox

lifestyle

Not Worth Reading – Part One

If you know me well, you’ll know that I have been known to describe myself as a writer.

Cringe.

There is of course one major issue with this claim – it’s very rare that I ever seem to write anything.

Thus I find myself here – in an ambiently lit bar-slash-cafe in the middle of Kettering town centre (which, because you won’t have heard of it, is a small town somewhere north of Northampton) pretentiously huddled over the smallest caramel macchiato I’ve ever seen and, less pretentiously perhaps, a portion of cheesy chips.

To be honest, the only reason I’m really writing this in the first place is because I have a lot of time to kill waiting for Mr. Cruise to get home from wherever it is the road has carried him today. I’ve been saying (to almost anyone that will listen) that I have been wanting to write more blog posts – so instead of doing that, I’m just scribbling down my stream of consciousness into a notebook that says “I Am Very Busy” on the front of it. This of course is a complete lie – because as I write this, it is five thirty, and Mr. Cruise isn’t getting back to his house until seven o clock. Fittingly, the place I’m in is called Kino Lounge. Pronounced like “keeno”. Because that is what I am.

People seem to laugh at me quite a lot when I do this in person. I think it’s partially because I don’t really think before I speak so my mouth tends to operate before I’ve really given it permission. It’s also usually accompanied by a great deal of arm movements and gesticulation, but I can’t translate that onto paper. I hope that whoever reads this finds it just as amusing as they would if I were to add the slightly wild and potentially dangerous arm movements.

Something that I have learnt today in my Adventures in Pretentiousness is that a macchiato isn’t what I thought it was. Whenever I have had one, it’s been in a Starbucks. It’s been significantly larger than this and it’s contained milk. What I have here is a very small, very strong coffee that tastes as though it has a great deal more caramel syrup in it that was perhaps intended. This is by no means a complaint – if anything, I feel like I can relate to this coffee. Bitter but sickeningly sweet, quite small and not quite what you were expecting.

That analogy started out as a joke but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. That’s how I know I’ve spent a bit too much time in my own little world today. I’m starting to give my dinner a personality.

img_3026

There we go. Just in case you didn’t believe me.

(and because I’m writing this out by hand, I’ve actually put a reminder in here so that I actually post the picture)

This isn’t actually killing as much time as I thought it might. Between frequent refreshes of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook every 34.2 seconds that yield absolutely nothing new each time, I’ve probably only been writing for about fifteen minutes. I’m sitting in an armchair that looked comfy before I spent any time in it, and behind me is three large sofas, with one single bloke taking up the whole table. To make matters worse, every few minutes he does a loud, long, snort to clear his nose. The occasional sniffle I can forgive because lord knows it’s -10 outside (and the northerly positioning of Kettering means that the weather is much like the town) but this isn’t a sniffle. This is the noise that people make to yak up a glob of phlegm and unspeakably disgusting bodily fluids from the back of their nose and spit into a tissue if they are civilised or onto the ground if they are a barbarian. I can only assume that this gentleman behind me is swallowing whatever it is he keeps bringing up, which is really putting me off the gradually congealing melted cheddar that I paid 55p extra for on my chips.

…that’s as much as I wrote when I was sitting in Kino Lounge. I didn’t finish my strange Macchiato for fear of never sleeping again, but I did order a raspberry Mojito and then questioned how I had ended up drinking alone in a bar in Kettering. The Snorting Man was replaced by a dog, which I was obviously thrilled by, and then I briefly made friends with a pug that appeared out of nowhere. Eventually I resorted to reading the same things over and over again on Facebook out of sheer boredom until Mr. Cruise called me to tell me that he was ten minutes away.  By this point it was pitch dark and drizzling moistly, so I practically sprinted back to Mr. Cruise’s house more quickly than my capacity for movement would normally have allowed – desperate times call for desperate measures.

I hadn’t realised I’d managed to write so much utter garbage in the hour and a half I was sat in that bar-slash-cafe. To be fair, I was hoping that it would provide me with some inspiration because it’s a really lovely place – I think it was a corn exchange at one point, and it has loads of shabby-chic, mismatched lampshades on the ceiling and antelope heads on the wall. I don’t know if you could call any of what I’ve just written particularly inspired but I had fun and it kept me entertained for about twenty minutes.

If you’ve read this far and it’s not because I’ve told you to, I am equal parts grateful and surprised. And yes – in answer to that burning question that I know you’re dying to know the answer to – there will probably be a Not Worth Reading Part 2. Maybe even a 3 and 4.

Maybe I’ll do a whole series.

Thanks for reading.

Morgan

xox

 

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World Mental Health Day 2016

I’ve had this post knocking around in various forms for probably nearing three years now. It’s a subject that I feel quite passionate about, and thus I find it very hard to articulate myself eloquently enough to put into words exactly what I want to say. There’s a lot of ground to cover and, given the nature of it, my experiences are different every single day.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. A day dedicated to raising awareness of any and all mental health conditions. Even if you have never suffered from a mental health condition yourself, I can almost guarantee that you will know at least one person who has. 1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental health condition in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter if it’s anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia or something else entirely – they’re all things that need to be talked about with as much seriousness as any chronic physical illness.

And so here I am, doing exactly that.

After a year of increasing sadness in my last year of college, I was diagnosed with a mental illness in the Autumn of 2012. I was at university, absolutely hating it and getting gradually more and more miserable as time went on. At the time, it had never even occurred to me that there might be something wrong – I just figured that my low mood was a byproduct of my abrupt arrival into fully-functioning adulthood, combined with the realisation that further education was absolutely not suited to me and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I started having panic attacks, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night uncontrollably crying for absolutely no reason at all. I phoned in sick to work on more than one occasion, just because I felt too sad and scared to move from my bed. I would either sleep too much or hardly at all, and there were days where I wouldn’t even leave my room. The worst part was that there was nothing in particular that made me anxious – it was just a constant, nagging feeling of dread. I also became “overwhelmingly self-conscious”. Not just things like whether or not I’ve got food stuck in my teeth, or whether or not it just looked like I was picking my nose when I was actually readjusting my nose piercing (that happens a lot), but ridiculous things like “Oh my God I think I just blinked too slowly”, “Am I breathing too heavily? I’m breathing too heavily”, “I’ve just moved my hand slightly too far to the left oh my God why did I do that”. Of course that manner of thinking is completely irrational – but I was absolutely convinced that everyone in my surrounding was watching me like a hawk, waiting for me to do something they could call me out on. Not surprisingly, nobody ever has.

That’s what made it so exhausting to deal with – I knew for a fact that the way I was feeling was completely ludicrous – but there was nothing I could do to stop the thoughts from creeping in.

Eventually I decided that I’d had enough. I went to see a doctor about it and from there, a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with depression and generalised anxiety disorder.

The discovery that there was actually something wrong with me changed my entire perspective on how I was feeling. I’d always just accepted that I was a natural worrier and that was who I was and who I was always going to be. Being told I had an actual, real, chemical imbalance was a glimmer of hope – because it meant that the way I was feeling was only temporary and there was a real possibility that I could change it. Unfortunately, that glimmer of hope was swiftly extinguished by my psychiatrist, who discharged me after four or five sessions because he thought I “seemed too happy” to warrant any more. To this day, I have absolutely no idea how I gave him that impression, but I thought that if an actual mental health professional was telling me I didn’t need help, then how I was feeling was as good as it was ever going to get.

It took me a very long time to build up the courage to go back to a doctor again. It wasn’t until the middle of last year when I was prescribed with a course of citalopram, an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) which increases the amount of serotonin in my body by preventing it from being reabsorbed by my brain. I wasn’t hugely optimistic about their efficiency – especially when the doctor told me they would take up to six weeks before I noticed a difference, and also that there was a tiny chance that they might make me suicidal. They didn’t, but they did have the weirdest mix of side effects – for the first three days, everything was in slow motion. After that had passed, I had a constantly dry mouth and I couldn’t stop yawning, peeing or shaking. Sometimes all at once. Eventually these passed, and after about five weeks it suddenly dawned on me – I felt better. I didn’t feel constantly nervous. The constant worry wasn’t as pressing and invasive as it had been before, and the empty space in my chest felt like it was gradually being filled. I wasn’t cured – but it was the first step down that clichéd road to recovery.

My mental health has been a massive part of my life for nearly six years. It’s had an impact on everything I’ve done. Some days it makes life hard, and other days I barely notice it’s there. The way I try and describe it is like “background sadness”, like when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone in a room where the television is on in the background. No matter how much you try to give that conversation your full attention, you can still hear the TV. Some days the volume is so loud that you’re struggling to hear what the other person is even saying. Other days it’s so quiet that you barely even realise it’s on – but you can always see the picture flickering over their shoulder.

I’ve had many occasions where I’ve gotten up and said “right. Enough is enough” – and for a while, things are okay. But it often stops there. Things rarely escalate beyond “okay”. It means that I can function to a degree but I still struggle to find enjoyment. It all sounds very doom and gloom – and believe me, it feels it too, especially when I do a job that I am blessed to love as much as I do, only to be held back so strongly by the fear that something is going to go wrong. Not only does it make me feel miserable, but puts a great deal of pressure on the people around me – the wonderful girls in the salon who put up with me when I’m not feeling great and take on the extra burden if I’m struggling to do a particular dog. My friends, who have had to deal with me cancelling on plans if I haven’t been feeling so well but still invite me anyway. My best friend, who has dealt very gracefully with all my venting and has always been a pillar of support, even when he’s had his own things going on.  My parents, who are still very much in the dark about the extent of things but continue to support me anyway.

For now, I am getting better. – I’m beginning to realise how far I’ve come since I was at university. I’m challenging myself to push through things that make me anxious – whether that’s grooming a dog that I think is going to bite me, getting on the train to London on my own or going on a date with someone I’ve only just met. I don’t want to say that these things would have been impossible beforehand, but they would have been seriously difficult. I’m still on the antidepressants and I’m beginning to learn how to be more open about what’s going on in my head. I’ve never been especially secretive about it, but this is the first time I’ve felt like I’ve been able to address it on a wider scale. I’m not going to end this post with some inspirational spiel about how I feel like I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel or anything like that, because I know that it’s probably never going to be that simple. Even though I feel okay now, something could happen that sets me back a year – and that’s okay.

If you’re still with me at this point, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read my strange jumble of letters. My WordPress draft tells me that I started writing this in 2013, and I’m only just now finding the words to say and the courage to post it. A particularly big thank you to the people who’ve been there for me in the last few years – everyone at Pets At Home for putting up with me and being so patient when I was being utterly useless, Conor and Saville for always looking after me and letting me stay with you when I didn’t want to be alone. Billy for being my pillar of strength and for pushing me to get help. Emily for being the most amazing best friend I could hope for; William for turning up in my life at precisely the right time, and for humouring me the night we met and I took “dutch courage” to an embarrassing level. To Andrew for being there for me, despite being on the other side of the world and then the other side of Europe, and to Emma, Steph and the girls in the Groom Room for taking over certain dogs if I couldn’t handle it. There are countless other people who have supported me and looked out for me, but if I were to list every single one then it will take me another three years to post this! Just know that I am eternally grateful to each and every one of you and I can’t thank you enough for all you have done for me.

Before this starts to sound any more like an awards acceptance speech, I think it’s about time I wrapped it up. After all that, I can’t actually think of a way to conclude – so I’ll leave you with this quote which for me, sums everything up perfectly:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates

Thank you very much for reading.

Becca

xox

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I made my own “welcome back” banners.

Hello.

I’ve had this blog since around about 2009. At the time, I was about 16 and addicted to Tumblr – and would probably have described myself as a “blogger”, even though all I was doing was hitting the “re-blog” button on photos and witty posts that other people had created.

These days, I’m twenty-two. I’ve gotten older, wiser and although I still pretentiously consider myself to be a “writer” of sorts, it’s rare that I ever actually write anything down on paper.

So here I am again. Reviving my old blog and starting from scratch. I’ve deleted all my old drafts and posts, with the exception two from 2013, and am starting again with a clean slate. I don’t know if it’s because it’s September time, and nearly sixteen years in education has meant that I still get a little jittery and restless every time it rolls around, but I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to get this little project back on the road again.

I have serious commitment issues when it comes to this sort of thing. Short attention span, tendency to procrastinate and susceptibility to distractions all mean that I really struggle to blog continuously. Team these things up with lack of confidence in any ideas that I may have to write about, and you’ve basically got a recipe for disaster.

For the time being, this is just a test. I was thinking far too hard about what kind of category I wanted to fit into – you get the beauty blogs, fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, game blogs, film blogs, book blogs – the list is endless. Then I realised that I don’t have to conform to any type of category – I’m reviving this for my own sake, not for anyone else’s, and therefore I shall write about anything I damn well want. Maybe it’ll be a rant about the stigma surrounding mental health one day, followed by a review of my favourite moisturiser the next day (it’s The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Aqua Boost Sorbet, if you’re wondering). It may not even make it that far.

All I know is, I’m excited to get this show back on the road. Writing is something I’ve always loved to do, and now seems like a particularly good time to start actually doing it. I just hope that there’s someone out there who wants to read it!

To read my post on University from 2013, you can find it here

If you’d rather check out my oh-so punny short story about hot dogs, you can find that here (seriously, why would you not want to read that?!)

Hopefully I’ll be seeing you soon!

Peace out

Becca x

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Why I Hated University.

So, it’s that time of year again. Fresher’s Week has just ended for the next generation of students who have infected Britain’s major cities with their scourge. I was one of those students myself just one short year ago – excited and anxious about beginning the next step of my life, studying a subject I was passionate and excited about…

Oh how wrong I was.

One year later, and I find myself in the midst of somewhat of a crisis. My first year was a total disaster. I discovered (during my enrolment lecture, in fact) that going to uni was a massive mistake. I should have run away and never looked back there and then, but I decided to give it a shot.

As the first term began, it quickly became clear that I was doing entirely the wrong course – English Language and Linguistics. I struggled with linguistics from the very first lecture, and I didn’t find the English Language side of things nearly as captivating as I had at A Level.

Soon enough, I stopped going to lectures, and I never really found any motivation to study or do set work. I had very little desire to make friends (even though there were some lovely people on my course that I wish I’d gotten to know better). I became more shy and withdrawn that I’ve ever been in my life. By Christmas, I was just about ready to drop out, but my parents, lecturers and boyfriend all told me they thought I should stick it out and that it would improve during the second term. It didn’t.

Second term was worse. One of the modules I had, I didn’t turn up to a single lecture for, and the others I only went to sporadically. There was a period where I went to only two or three lectures over the course of two weeks. I received emails telling me that if I didn’t start turning up, I would be asked to leave. By this point, I had been having panic attacks and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and an educational psychologist (and a ridiculously long, difficult test) told me I’d managed to live for 20 years with dyspraxia (and dyscalculia, but that wasn’t really much of a surprise) and nobody had picked up on it until now. It was a blessing in some ways, because now I had an explanation for my terrible short-term memory and awful concentration, but a curse because I had to come to terms with the idea that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, making my anxiety worse than ever. It was a vicious circle.

It was an extremely bad place to be and, I must say, quite possibly the lowest point of my life so far. I was so disappointed that I’d spent a third, miserable year at college in order to get the right A Level for my course, only to get there and hate it.

It’s probably fairly obvious that I failed my first year – although I did get an A+ in the only piece of written coursework I handed in, which was Child Language Acquisition.

Then there was the cost. As I started uni in 2012, I pay £9,000 a year, plus the £3200 odd student loan. Already, that’s £12,200 I’m paying back. I was hoping that my timetable would reflect the expense, but I was doing something like 12 hours of lectures a week (8 lectures/seminars at 90 minutes each). I can’t do the math, but I’m pretty sure that’s not worth it. It got worse though – before I made the decision to defer, I was going to begin a new course – English Language and Media. As I’d already done all but one of the English Language modules (not well, I might add), I’d have to “slow progress” and do the four media modules and the one English Language one I hadn’t done. This meant that, in my first semester, I would be doing two Media modules and nothing else. That’s a lecture and a seminar for each, at 90 minutes long that means I’d have had 6 hours of lectures a week, and be paying £9,000 for the privilege. I get that there’s meant to be time for “personal study” but that, frankly, is ridiculous. Not only was I paying the price with my mental health, but throwing myself into thousands of debt. And what for?

I don’t know what it was about The University Experience that didn’t live up to my expectations. There were plenty of opportunities to go out and have a good time – especially living in Brighton, the clubbing capital of the South. I loved the independence – particularly being able to finally get my rats and start up my fish tank, as well as being able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I loved living with Phil, even though a number of people have suggested that living with him was the reason I was so miserable. I loved my housemates and I loved the city I was living in because it really did feel like home. I’m not really that big on going out and drinking (or at least I wasn’t before I got anxious), but I didn’t seem to be having the “time of my life” like everyone was promising I would.

If I’m being honest, I think I was expecting university to change me for the better. I think I was hoping that doing a subject I had painstakingly chosen would change my attitude to studying and make me feel like I wanted to do it, rather than because I had to. I’d suddenly be able to focus and write long, eloquent essays rather than getting distracted by everything. I was hoping learning would stop being a chore and be something that I would enjoy doing.  When my attitude and my attention span remained exactly the same, I was more than a little disappointed. Instead, it changed me for the worse and it’s going to take much longer than a year to sort myself out.

There has always been huge emphasis placed on going to uni – my generation especially. Most of my college life was preparing us and shaping us for studying at a university level. If I had a pound for every time I heard the words “universities really like…”, then I would be able to pay off all of my debt in cash. When it came to applying, every single person in my tutor had a UCAS application, with the exception of maybe one or two. These people were given next to no support, as the focus turned to getting UCAS applications in on time and Personal Statements to below 4,000 characters or whatever the ridiculous number was. In my third year, the same thing happened again. I imagine it was fairly similar across the whole college – about 90% of people I spoke to were going to university and, if you weren’t, it was demanded of you WHY you weren’t going. What will you do instead? Are you thinking about apprenticeships? Do you have a job?

The sheer amount of people going to university now means that (excluding medicine and a few other specific subjects) degrees have very little merit when it comes to job hunting. Just because you have a degree doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be any better off than the next person. It doesn’t guarantee you a job in your chosen field. It doesn’t make you a better person, and above all, it doesn’t make you any more qualified (unless, of course, we’re talking about medicine or other specific subjects). Back in the days when my dad went to uni, a degree was much more difficult to obtain. Only the very best people went to university and if you had a BSc or BAHons at the end of your name on a CV, it actually meant something.

When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was adamant that I did not want to go to university. This carried on in my second year, when many of my friends were going off to open days and collecting prospectuses. It did not appeal to me at all. The only reason I did end up going was because most of my teachers during my second year told me: “you may as well go. If you don’t like it, you can always drop out,” like it was the easiest process in the world. Looking back, that’s a terrible piece of advice to be giving out. I realise now that they were probably only saying it because the more students that went to uni, the better the college looked. I decided to do a third year to complete an A Level in English Language, and then continue to university to do a degree because really, what else was there to do?

It felt to me that there aren’t enough options aside from university. I was given very little guidance when I was a naive 17 year old without a clue. It was basically “go to university or be stuck at Pets At Home for the rest of your working life”. I realise now that those aren’t the only two directions my life could take, but it was a particularly scary ultimatum to be given when I was basically being forced to decide on the next forty years of my life pretty much on the spot. Interestingly, of the four of us from our group of close friends that went off to university, only one of them is actually enjoying it. Two of us (including me) left, and the other one hates it. I won’t mention any names, just in case they don’t want me to, but I’m fairly sure they know who they are. *waves*

So, during the summer holidays, I finally emailed my lecturers and told them I wasn’t going back in September, and moved back to Basingstoke, animals and fish in tow. I’m using this next year to work full time and earn some money, travel to New Zealand to see my family and hopefully work somewhat slowly on my main novel and the various side projects I have in mind. There’s also NaNoWriMo in November, which I would like to seriously attempt this year. I have a 27 hour flight to the other side of the world at the beginning of November, so hopefully it will give me something to do!

Will I return to university next year? I have no idea. Given the rotten ol’ time I had this year, I’m not exactly in any hurry to go back. My mental stability is far more important to me than a £45,000 piece of paper telling me that a full stop goes at the end of a sentence (seriously though, I had a lecture on that exact thing). At the moment I’m doubtful that I’ll go back, but I’m wanting to keep my options open. I’m still technically a student of the uni, I’ve just deferred a year. I won’t know for some time if I will be going back, purely because I still have the sour taste of my first year in my mouth – and I’m not talking about Fresher’s Week hangovers!

Thank you for reading!

Love, Becca

xoxox

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Chapter One – Silk & Steel

A few people have asked me if they can read what I’ve written of my novel. So far, the answer has been no, as I’m a little self conscious of it in it’s current state. However, this is the first chapter in it’s first draft, for those who’ve asked to see it. This’ll probably be the only part of it that I share, unless there’s a particular part that I like and isn’t a massive spoiler, and by no stretch of the imagination is it anywhere near finished :L

 

All characters are (c) me.

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Chapter One

There was no shortage of introductions tonight. Professor Artemis Greyhound shook hand after hand, graciously accepted congratulations from many self-proclaimed followers of his work. Many people had offered him drinks, but he’d had to politely decline from over-exerting on the offers earlier in the night. He was standing by the bar sipping a glass of whiskey when he was approached by a stout gentleman with an impressive moustache. “Ahh, Artemis” he laughed and gave the Professor a hearty slap on the back, causing him to choke slightly mid-swallow. 

“Good evening, Seymour”

“How does it feel then, lad? You’re the new head of department!”

Professor Greyhound laughed. “It’s certainly an honour, sir. I can’t bel…”

Before he could finish, Seymour slapped him on the back again. 

“No need to call me sir, lad!” he said cheerfully, his moustache bobbing up and down as he laughed. His face was rosy red, almost definitely evidence he’d been having a good time that evening. 

“You’re my boss now” he said, in a slightly more hushed tone. “Well son, don’t let me keep you, get back to the festivities!” 

Professor Greyhound just had time to dodge another slap on the back before Seymour swerved away through a crowd of people helping themselves to flutes of champagne and delicate hors d’oeuvres. The Professor laughed to himself and looked down at his feet. He wasn’t used to all this attention. Being announced as the new Head of Department was really quite something, and not usually this big of a deal. It was different this time, however, as at the age of thirty one, Professor Greyhound was the youngest Head of Department in over two centuries. It wasn’t exactly a surprise to anybody except the Professor himself. That was the purpose of the party – thrown in celebration of Professor Greyhound’s achievements, despite his protests. He wasn’t one for parties – he was too introverted. The idea of having to go out and mingle with strangers repulsed him, particularly when they all knew so much about him and he didn’t have a clue who they were. 

So he stood by the bar, sipping his drink and surveying the room through his big, green eyes. He recognised a couple of people – Seymour French, his former mentor, drunkenly trying to chat up a group of embarrassed looking women. Mortimer Jones and Joshua Cartwright, two of his colleagues from the Royal Academy. He was pleased they were here – it was nice to see some familiar faces. He was about to cross the room and meet them when he spotted someone he’d never seen before. Talking to a muscly looking man in a suit was a woman, tall and wonderfully elegant looking with a solid curtain of dark hair framing her face. Her features were angular, and whoever did her make up had done a particularly good job on arching her eyebrows in a way that made her look contemptuous of everyone under her gaze. Her lips were a bright cherry red. She caught him looking at her and a smile traced her lips, if only for a second. She handed her half-full champagne flute to the muscly man and weaved her way across the room, heading straight for the Professor. She was wearing a backless floor-length black dress, slashed at the thigh, and walked with a deliberate swing to her step. She didn’t need to squeeze her way through the crowds – they got out of her way without prompting. By the time she reached Professor Greyhound, he nervously extended a hand and was about to introduce himself, when she grabbed his face in her hands and kissed him full on the lips.

Professor Greyhound had no idea what to do with his hands. The kiss felt nice, he had to admit, but it was not a kiss of affection or love – it was rough and powerful, and he knew he would be a fool to push her away, if only because he would be mocked forever after. He stood there for a second flailing his arms a little, until she stopped kissing him and gave him a shove backwards. 

“Good evening, Artemis” said the woman. Her voice was smooth and husky, reminding him of dry ice. “Congratulations on your promotion” she crooned coolly. There was something a little threatening to the way she circled him, and she made him think of a spider. By now, a few of the people standing nearby had ceased their conversations and watched with gaping mouths at this terrifying beauty. 

“Thank you” squeaked Professor Greyhound.  He cleared his throat, self-conscious that he was now probably covered in lipstick. “To whom do I owe this pleasure?” 

“Andromeda Steel” she said with an air of importance. A smirk twisted across her lips. “Are you feeling okay, precious?” 

Professor Greyhound wiped the back of his hand across his forehead. The room suddenly felt very warm and quite a lot brighter. It was beginning to dawn on him how much he’d actually had to drink, as the room began to violently spin. He fought the urge to be sick. Not now, he prayed, not in front of all these people. He was vaguely aware of the smashing sound of his glass leaving his hand and hitting the floor, and he fought the possibility of joining it. He could feel dozens of eyes on him now, but not one of them seemed to be rushing to his aid. The last conscious thought he formed was a  glass of orange juice, as his body crumpled beneath him.

Andromeda used her foot to move the Professor’s head to one side and get a better look at his face. His eyes were half open and glazed over and his lips slightly parted. A few people nearby looked shocked, but none dared approach. Without a word, she nodded to the muscular man, who muscled through the crowd and slung the body of the Professor over his shoulder. 

 

Andromeda turned, blew a kiss to the room, gave a slight wave and sauntered out of the room with a deliberate swing of her hips, her bodyguard and the unconscious Professor Greyhound in tow.

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