I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

A letter to my younger self

Heyyou,

Believe it or not, it’s me. I’m you. Okay, well that’s confusing.

You’ll be sad to know I’m not famous yet. There’s still a big part of me that just wants to get up on stage every day and sing my heart out, but no, unfortunately that is not what I’m doing. Good news is, I’ve graduated now! Yep, that’s right. To say I found university hard would be an understatement, but I made it out the other side and I’m still standing. I looked great in the funny hat and robe, I did some travelling and now I’m looking for work – proper adult style.

So you’ve finished Year 11 and you’re going into Sixth Form College. Everyone’s telling you that you just have to go to uni. No-one’s telling you about the options you can take that don’t involve moving miles away from home and taking a really big loan from the government, go to them and ask them about them! Make sure you know you have a choice.

University did us an awful lot of good, but we would have been fine without it too. There’s some amazing people in my life right now that might want to kill you if you decide never to meet them though, just saying.

All I want you to know is that I still don’t have it all figured out. I still don’t have an answer to the question ‘What do you want to do for the rest of your life?’ and I’m beginning to finally realise that that is okay. Honestly, you don’t need to have all the answers, have fun, follow your heart and you’ll be fine.

Don’t let people tell you that you need a plan. Take it as it comes.

I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t rush. If you need a year out, take one. Listen to your own heart and don’t let what anyone else is doing sway you. You can make all the big decisions you like, but when you’re 22 you’ll just be sat wondering why you worried so much. You’ll still have changed your mind a million times. Plans change, things change, life happens, but it’ll all be alright in the end.

Lastly, if you do go to uni, don’t take that bottle of apple sours and don’t let your flatmates give you tequila either. Try Sambuka instead, you’ll thank me for it.

Yours-self,

Bronwen

Studying at degree level is more

It is more than anyone will ever tell you it is. They tell you it is hard work, when in reality it is more difficult than you can imagine and at times so stressful giving up is more tempting than pressing a big red button that has danger written all over it. Therefore they tell you that you will need to be determined when actually you need to be willing to get up after falling down for what feels like the one hundredth time in just one day. They tell you that you will learn a lot when in reality you learn so much you feel as if your brain might explode. They tell you it will surprise you. University will be nothing you expect it to be, but everything you need it to be. Strangers quickly become friends for life and things you’d never have dared to do become the things you do on a daily basis. They tell you that you have to love your subject. In that particular case they are right. They tell you they’ll be the best years of your life and while you face all the challenges and trip on all the hurdles you might begin to doubt them. Except, when you sit down, look back through the photos, remember the good times and look at the person you’re becoming, you realise it’s all worth it. Studying at degree level is worth it, worth all of it.

AMBEDKAR

As I wrote my dissertation I fell gradually in love with India’s dynamic  history and with the story of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. Dip in and out if you please. Read as much or as little as you want. My only hope is that I can draw at least a little attention towards Ambedkar; a man whose story should serve as inspiration to all of us.

Note: For the purpose of this dissertation I wrote in the past tense, but many people living in India today, still live as untouchables and are still limited by their caste, a caste they are born into and did not choose. Ambedkar’s movement was a beginning, but the story is still far from ending.

Continue reading “AMBEDKAR”

Time to conquer life

During the last week of the Easter break, home became just wonderful enough to ensure that leaving it again would be as difficult as ever. I’m back in Cardiff now and until recently, I was feeling very sorry for myself. For the first time this year, I’d had a meltdown and it felt like my fresher self was back to haunt me. Anyone who knew me in first year, knew my meltdowns were just my way of escaping life when the anxiety became too much to handle. I’ve been far too happy this year to need an escape, but my best guess is I finally needed to burst… I needed to release all the butterflies, probably to make room for the ones that would inevitably come when it was time to meet the last few deadlines and sit my second year exams. Once I was back here, I realised I needed to get a move on whether I was ready to or not. The more sorry for myself I felt, the more time I wasted, the more time I wasted the more rubbish I felt, the more rubbish I felt, the more I missed home and the more I missed home, the more I lost focus. It sounds so silly now, but I came to a holt. With an essay to write and a tonne of revision to plough through, a holt was not where I needed to be.

I had no reason to grumble: Last week was far from awful. The first day back here, I had dinner with the loveliest couple of people and went to a music social where I drank a little too much wine and smiled lots. Half way through the week I caught up with one of my best friends and we escaped life together for a couple of hours of wonderfulness. An amazing friend invited me over on Friday evening and when I arrived, warmed up chocolate cake and served it with banana. She cheered me up more than she knows. The problem was, the rest of the week was spent sat on my bed, staring at the research for my essay and then deciding I wasn’t ready to face it yet, so avoiding it at all costs. If I wasn’t doing that, I was curling up in front of netflix, eating too much and moping. I’ve always known I’m happiest when I’m busy, so why on Earth I didn’t drag myself out of bed and out of the flat I don’t know.

This week already looks so much brighter and not even just because the sun is shining. I finally handed in my last essay yesterday and with nothing but revision to bury myself in, my work seems so much more manageable. The Tesco shop was delivered yesterday and even having hot cross buns in the cupboard makes life that little bit easier. My dad booked the family holiday today and he doesn’t know how much of a difference he’s made to life by just giving me something to be very excited about.

Now, I’m sat on my bed, listening to the radio and revising while smiling like a fool. I’m looking forward to going for curry tonight with some brilliant friends from my course. I’m finally back on the move again. Here’s to staying positive. Sometimes we need to panic and we need to mope and that’s okay, so long as we can put ourselves back together, pick ourselves up and get moving again as soon we’re ready.

Time to conquer life.

The day before the day I go back to university

Having just spent five whole minutes sat in the middle of my bedroom floor wondering where on Earth I am supposed to begin, I am beginning to wonder whether I will ever get used to this whole ‘packing my bedroom into boxes’ thing. If I’m honest, when I sit in my room deciding what to pack, all I want to do is convert the entire bedroom into a car which I can drive to Cardiff, convert back into a room and then live in. Yes, I do still want all 5000 of my Jacqueline Wilson books and I am definitely going to need to pack every item of clothing I’ve ever owned due to a strange sentimental attachment I have to it all that I can’t really explain. Yes, I do want to take my silver spoon collection with me, all of my ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ CDs and every fluffy pen I bought during my last year of primary school. I need the pine furniture I grew up with, including the bunk bed… Even if it is no good for star-fishing in. My family and friends from Chelmsford can come along too right?

Ok, so I will not fit my whole bedroom and every Chelmsfordian I love in the car and I’m not actually quite that sentimental. My point is… this is the hardest part. I am really looking forward to heading back to university. The journey always goes amazingly quickly and I actually quite enjoy the four hours preparation time I get before life goes crazy again. Moving in is always good fun and so is the first night in or out with flatmates I’ve missed loads. Seeing my university friends, going on nights out and using my brain again always does me the world of good. So does having the freedom to order chinese at eleven in the evening just because I’m hungry, studying got too hard and chow mein is amazing.

The hardest part is today… the day you have to come to terms with the fact its time to pack up one life and continue living another. I can never help feeling a little emotional. Today is the day I empty my room and fill the hall way with an abundance of toiletries, books, clothes and high heeled shoes. The day I plan to spend packing, friend and family seeing and eating my body weight in food, but end up curled up on a sofa telling myself I will pack soon… Telling myself I’m not putting it off because I don’t want to think about leaving and saying goodbye, I am just making the most of home comforts.

But hey, all I’ve got to do is stop using my blog as an excuse, shut the laptop, pack, head out to dinner with an amazing friend and then sleep. Before I know it, it will be tomorrow.

‘Goodbye’ has a bad reputation, but it’s not always all that bad. Especially when its temporary.

Expert Procrastinator

Sat at my desk doing nothing other than daydreaming out of my window and singing along to my shuffling iTunes library. There is so much I should be doing. My room looks like a small bomb hit it. I’m sat next to a pile of books so high I’m surprised I managed to transport it from Cardiff to home. My head is filled with dates for my diary that I haven’t been writing down.

Home comforts are beautiful, but they turn me into an incredibly lazy individual.

I headed back to Cardiff with Mummy Maggs for a couple of days last week. I needed to be back so that I could hand a music assignment in, but I wasn’t ready to head back permanently just yet. My mum hadn’t seen my new flat. She hadn’t even spent much time in Cardiff itself: The last time she came to visit she spontaneously turned up for an aImagefternoon just after my 19th birthday… We crammed a lunch, a catch up, a shopping trip and student-style dinner into what felt like five minutes and then she headed home again.

This time, we spent two days tea drinking, restaurant dining, musical-seeing (Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a must-see; it had me smiling all the way through), drink sharing, Wetherspoons’ breakfast eating, sight-seeing, friend visiting, assignment handing in-ing AND shopping.

I now have one more week left at home to get organised, catch up on all of my reading, spend time with my family, see any friends still left in Chelmsford and eat as much food as is bronwenly possible. You may be surprised to hear that despite all my procrastinating, I’m beginning to look forward to it now. I never thought I’d say it, but that small part of me that always stopped me wanting to be back in Cardiff; that always hesitated and wanted to stay at home… It seems to have broken off, run away and left only me, looking forward to being back, to studying, to partying and to living the student life again. Bring. It. On

Part time Sale Assistant, full time student

The first week that I had to juggle lectures and work shifts I spent so focused on getting to where I needed to be that, once I’d got there, I forgot to enjoy myself. Then, when I got back home I felt like I’d done everything I needed to do: I found food, cooked it, ate it, collapsed in bed and normally very quickly, fell asleep. Perhaps I did need sleep and perhaps I had done all I needed to do, but my first Sunday free of work or lectures was spent reminding myself what it was I wanted to do. I realised the bits of university life I loved and still love most are the night clubbing, book reading, essay writing (yes, even that), music studying, opera singing, film watching, friend seeing, takeaway eating bits. Even if it’d only been a week I realised I’d missed that.

So, at the risk of becoming very slightly sleep deprived, I rediscovered my evenings. Week two, I got back in from work or from lectures, ate food and then spent the evenings doing what ever it was I wanted to do. Whether that was to head to an awesome friend’s house and eat pizza, get distracted by social networks/YouTube videos and get some of my music essay written, head to a night club, or curl up in pyjamas with my head in a book to cover the history reading for my next seminar. Late nights and early mornings are just about manageable when I can guarantee myself a ridiculously long lay in on a Sunday morning.

The week just gone was the most hectic week so far. Right now I’m trying desperately not to wish the rest of the year away but very much looking forward to working my last shift Christmas eve.

I’m trying to stay positive, but this is more testing than I could have known. I feel like my heart never stops beating too fast and the butterflies are back with a vengeance and that maybe this job wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Powering through. Now the countdown to Christmas has begun I’ve a feeling things are going to get a little easier. I’m glad I’m making the time for the things I love at least. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

There’s no place like home

It felt like the entirety of my weekend at home had been nothing more than a dream when I woke up this morning; the horribly stressful journey back to Cardiff being the disastrous ending that finally woke me up. It feels like I went to sleep after the Halloween party last Thursday and I’ve been asleep ever since. A big part of me wants to curl up and go back to dreaming of home so I don’t have to face today. Today is my first day at work and the day of my first rehearsal for my first concert of the semester. Today is terrifying.

Friday morning I wasn’t anywhere near as excited as I expected to be. I woke up with the biggest smile on my face, but only because the night before had been such great fun. I was happy because Halloween had been amazing and it hadn’t quite clicked that a megabus was going to take me home that afternoon. I got up, got ready and headed out to hand in my first music assignment of the year. I daydreamed my way through the entirety of my history lecture and then when I realised the time, half walked half ran home to pack. Time went by ridiculously quickly and before I knew it, I was sat on my bed eating my lunch as quickly as Bronwenly possible, because I knew I needed to get to the bus stop. In true Bronwen fashion I got half way up the road before realising I’d forgotten my purse and had to turn around to grab it. I caught the bus just as it was about to leave. The driver thankfully got down from his seat, smiled at me and let me chuck my bag in the hold. It took me six hours to get home, but when I did I was beyond happy. Home looked amazing and smelled amazing and my mum had left me a portion of chille con carne to reheat and eat when I got in.

Saturday morning my mum woke me up with a cup of tea and asked if I fancied a drive out of Chelmsford to pick my sister up from a family friend’s house. At first it felt ridiculous to even consider leaving my warm and comfortable bed, especially now I had a cup of tea in hand. As it dawned on me that this was day 1 of 2 at home I began to change my mind. I didn’t want to waste anymore time in bed. I jumped in the shower, my mum made us the most amazing breakfast and then we jumped in the car. I think I had forgotten just how much I love being behind the steering wheel. The drive left me on cloud nine. I spent the whole journey head bobbing and steering wheel tapping without shame. We joined our friends for a coffee in Costa before heading back. Sat with my mum and our family friends, drinking a Costa Caramel Latte I was ridiculously happy. I spent the afternoon being the laziest I’ve been in weeks and my dad ordered pizza in for dinner. We went to see the Fireworks display in Danbury (a Maggs family tradition at this time of year) and as usual it was incredible. Stood linking arms with my mum and brother, my dad with his arm around my sister just in front of us, I felt like I had the leading role in the very happy ending to a film. I was really ill when I got home, my guess is the cold got to me and the tiredness hit too. I missed out on joining some of my friends at the pub and had to head to bed at eleven before it felt like I had quite made the most of my day.

I got up fairly early again on Sunday, feeling much better after sleeping. It felt like I’d never left: I helped myself to cereal and joined my mum in the lounge. She was watching a Christmas film. Normally I would have objected considering November has only just begun but I was drawn in when one of the characters announced he was banning Christmas and the sale of toys. My mum made an amazing lamb roast dinner, I went shopping for work trousers and before I knew it I was packing up and heading back to Cardiff again. Saying a temporary goodbye to my family once again made me feel just as sad as usual. The journey home was horrible: Trains were late, I was late, buses were late, it rained loads, I did the walk home in a complete daze thinking only of bed and of putting my heavy bag down.

And then I woke up, back in Cardiff, curled up in bed as if I’d never been away.

Hippo-size and Happy

I should be the size of a hippo after eating everything I’ve eaten this week. I blame Papa Johns for tempting me with their 99p offer Tuesday night and Just Eat for making it so easy to order Chinese take away when you get home late on a Wednesday evening. My comfort food has become the occasional piece of healthy food I eat. The orange I ate after my Chinese takeaway for example, was so beautiful I think the vitamin C loving bits of me jumped for joy.

On Sunday night, this week terrified me. Now I’m sat on my bed, thinking about what I’m going to wear out tonight, surrounded by laundry that I discovered dries quickly hanging from the open sky lights in my room, procrastinating expertly and wondering what all the fuss was about. I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa drinking tea, reading the book on British History that I have become slightly addicted to and feeling productive despite the fact the book I was supposed to read today was based on the Dreyfus Affair in France.

I didn’t get into either the Opera or the Operatic Society concert. The audition went surprisingly well considering how ill I’d felt the day before. Expecting it to be a complete disaster I was pleased when I left and I had managed to at least sing the whole piece. Monday evening, after the audition when I met one of my best friends for coffee, I was feeling positive. Aside from managing to sing my piece, I’d spent a few hours in the library covering the reading for the lecture Tuesday morning and I’d been to my first music lecture of the year with out freaking out.

Tuesday, I think, was the best day. I may have had to get up at 7:30 for a lecture that exhausted my brain because it lasted an hour and a half, but I finished the day with 99 pence meat feast pizza, my first Chinese class and a night out. Chinese was brilliant. By the end of the lesson I was ridiculously excited about the fact I could say Chinese numbers 1-10, say hello, goodbye and thank you, tell someone my name is Bronwen and I am British and ask their name and nationality in return. Me and my flatmate spent the entirety of the walk home having the same conversation in Chinese over and over again. The night out was good, as they always seem to be, but the early start had got the better of me and I was home and tucked up in bed by two in the morning with McDonald’s chicken nuggets in my belly and a whopping great smile on my face.

After my lecture Wednesday morning (which i was very happy I made it out of bed and in to) I went job hunting again. When I went to hand a CV into The Entertainer Toy Shop they wouldn’t take it. They said they had finished hiring for the Christmas period already, but told me to wait a moment so they could double check. I ended up in a group interview for two hours having much more fun than I would have expected to have in an interview. I was completely unprepared, but the staff all seemed friendly and welcoming and the spontaneity of it all meant my butterflies didn’t make even a brief appearance. They said they’d call me on Friday if they wanted me to attend the Christmas meeting and work with them over the season and on Friday I got a call. If everything goes well at the meeting I can consider myself employed. I am trying me very hardest not to jinx things by mentioning how excited I am about the idea of working at a Toy Shop over Christmas helping children choose what they want from Santa, but I AM SO EXCITED. Yes, Santa is real.

The rest of the week has been just as amazing. I had a lecture on Chinese history which I know I’m going to become geekishly interested in. I wore my jelly bean wellies out the house and successfully resisted the urge to jump in puddles or sing ‘Singing in the Rain’ whilst spinning my umbrella. I planned on heading out last night but at the last minute chose to curl up with chicken, chips, an awesome friend and a disney movie instead of heading to the club. Tonight I am going out and I’ve spent so long trying to decide what to wear that I’m starting to wonder if I actually own nice clothes. Tomorrow I’m spending the day with my head in a book again, hopefully the right one this time.

I’m not an opera star just yet, but I am a Toy Shop sales assistant and I have conquered a week of lectures and loved it. I’m a happy Bronwen.