Extracts from my Teenage Diary 

Hello darlings! 

Lately, I was cleaning out our attic space (which was so messy I’m surprised I didn’t come across a family of raccoons living in there) and I found a couple of diaries I had kept during my teenage years. My initial reaction was delight; I had completely forgotten about them. After reading only a few pages of the diaries, however, my delight was quickly replaced by a sense of MORTIFICATION. Sweet Simon Cowell on a bike, they are cringe-inducing. 

Because I love you all and want to make you cringe as much as I did, I am going to share with you some excepts from some of the worst entries I found. Welp. 

13/3/00

Dear diary, 

It’s hard to believe I’ll be finishing primary school soon! I’m kinda sad about it and scared to start secondary school. I know K**** will be going to the convent with me so I don’t feel too bad. I’ll miss my other friends so much though. It will be weird going to an all-girls school. And I have to wear a UNIFORM. It looks like a kilt, I HATE IT. 

I was fighting with my sister yesterday because she said I took her purple top but I actually didn’t because I don’t even like it. Anyway, where would I wear it? I was on the roof of the school with the lads which I’m not supposed to do but I did it once. J**** had to help me up because I can’t climb like the rest of them. Sometimes I don’t want to do those things because they get us in trouble but they are fun. I can’t wait for the summer. I got new sandals and a top from Extrovert. I cut my hair too but it’s a little short. I look like a fella. Mam tried to convince me that it’s all the rage at the moment but I can barely tie it up and it’s all bushy. I got butterfly clips for it and they are soooo pretty. 

Me, J***** and F******** went for a walk the other day but we got lazy so had a big water fight instead. 


Okay, so that entry was petty innocuous but it sets the tone for my ridiculous lack of concentration and coherency. I was only twelve here, bless my cotton socks. I’ll skip forward a bit.

4/12/01 

Aargh! Christmas exams soon. I feel fine about English and history and maybe Irish but the rest are so hard. My business teacher is so scary. I feel like I can’t even look at her and she gets angry. She randomly put on a Shakira song the other day and we thought it was a trick so we all just sat there, staring at each other. I like science but A**** makes me laugh all the time and I can’t concentrate. I’m not even going to talk to you about maths. Some of our teachers are already talking about the junior cert and I’m just not listening. It’s a year and a half away for f**k’s sake. Take a chill pill.

My family are driving me crazy. My sister has a boyfriend…think I told you about him?? My brother is away and my parents are just sooooo annoying right now. If I didn’t have the pets, I would probs run away and be a hippie. 

P****** asked me out again. I don’t really like him but all my friends think I should say yeah to him. I don’t know….

Oh, R**** came over and stayed the night the other day! We just messed around the village with the lads. R**** got freaked out by the peacock. 

Me, F******** and J***** have just been playing PlayStation all the time because the weather is so sh**. I wish I had more news, but things are so boring right now. I’ve just been listening to BSB and I put up some new posters. 


Okay, so this one is a little more action packed. You can see my love for English and history goes back a long way. I didn’t know then that I would be teaching it myself one day. That business teacher was indeed a tyrant and I’m still frightened of her. Maths was never my strong suit. Ooh, I swore. So much sass here! 

That P guy was my first boyfriend. And BSB is…you guessed it…Backstreet Boys. BSB TILL I DIE. Oh, and I never did become a hippie. 

Also, bonus cringe points for the out-of-nowhere peacock reference. 

11/10/03 

Dear diary, 

I know it has been forever. Things have just been so crazy, I don’t even know where to start. So I did the Junior Cert and weirdly, I got on really well. I got 4 As and 6 Bs…I even got a B in maths…pass maths, but maths…and an A in music…like wtf?! And English, history and CSPE (but everyone gets an A in that so…) Fifth Year is actually great so far. I feel a lot more mature even though I still play games with my friends haha. 

The biggest thing that has happened is that I met someone and….well I’m in love. I know, I know, it’s sudden. But I love him. His name is J and we talk all the time. I met him in January but we didn’t start going out until May. And I love him. It was really sudden, but I just know. He is so lovely and he treats me so well. We have so much in common. The only problem is that he lives in Dublin and I don’t see him much. We talk every single day on the phone and we text all day long. He’s like my best friend. 

I haven’t seen F******** in ages and I miss her! R***** comes up to me every evening after school for a chat. I love my friends. I’m lucky to have them and J… I’m even getting on a little better with the family. 

HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN?! My sister is PREGNANT! I’m so excited to be an auntie. I don’t feel old enough to be one but I’m sure it just involves having sweets on you all the time, right? Haha. 


This is my first entry where I reference J, my boyfriend of 14 years! Did I mention I love him enough?! My sister now has three wonderful kids and her daughter was born that December and is now….almost 14 OMG. Being an aunt definitely imvolves more than carrying sweets around with me, but it definitely helps! 

So I was no Anne Frank. What about you? Did you keep a diary in your youth or do you keep one now? Confess in the comments! 

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My Blogging Dilemma

Hi everyone! 

I have a little bit of a dilemma in terms of my blog and I would really appreciate any advice or opinions you guys can offer. After all, you’re all so wise and learned (see how I’m buttering you up, eh? *hands you plate of chocolate chip cookies*).

I began this blog four years ago as an outlet for all my random and somewhat zany thoughts. I didn’t tell anyone because a) I wanted to be able to discuss private matters without worrying about who in my personal life would see them and b) because I genuinely didn’t believe a single person would actually read my blog. Over the years, I’ve let a selected few in on the secret but have elected not to tell my family, or anyone on my personal social media accounts. 

There are, of course, benefits to this. I can write freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed by the people whom I see frequently. Let’s face it, we all have a little rant now and again about someone who annoys us on social media. I worried that my blog and twitter feed would irk people or cause them to take me less seriously. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. It would hurt me if I knew people were being overtly critical of this blog. I’m probably way too sensitive.


I think there have been drawbacks to keeping this a secret too, however. Firstly, I’m really proud of my blog. I don’t want to sound smug or arrogant, but I have worked hard on it and I would like to share that with the people closest to me. When I was nominated for an Irish blogging award in 2014 alongside some of the most famous blogs in the country, I couldn’t tell anyone. I was so flattered and excited to be named a finalist but I couldn’t share that excitement with anyone. The same happened in 2015, when I became a finalist in the Weblog Awards or “Bloggies”. I was nominated alongside The Bloggess, who is, like, blogging royalty. I felt so honoured and so proud that all my hard work seemed to be paying off. It was difficult not to tell people, but I knew that I would have had to compromise my semi-anonymity and I wasn’t ready then. Now, as my blog readership grows and I am being presented with some very exciting opportunities, I am having to spend long hours working on drafting posts, networking and keeping up to date with all my social media accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love creating new content and connecting with new people. But it is time-consuming. The people around me assume I’m sitting idle all day, throwing blueberries at my cats (that’s only on Sundays). I would love them to know that I’m far from idle and that I work pretty damn hard. 

So does this mean I’m ready to reveal my blog? I don’t know. I keep going over the pros and cons in my head. You might think I’m overthinking it. I mean, would anyone even care? Sure, they’d probably check it out if I posted a link on Facebook, but they’d forget about it in a couple of days, right? Possibly. But there’s also the fact that I’m a teacher. I have professional connections on my personal social media accounts and I know my blog would probably go down as well as a salad in an enclosure of lions. As a teacher, there is always the possibility that my blog will be discovered by former employers, prospective employers or even worse, students (aaaaargh). I mean sure, I’ve never posted anything insanely inappropriately but I’m hardly a paragon of professionalism and maturity here, am I? The thing is, I don’t want to be. I set this blog up to be a space where I can be all kinds of silly. Ireland is a small country. Putting my blog out there would mean that people would see it, and quickly too. Sure, they may not be terribly interested but it could work against me when I’m trying to convince someone I’m not a lunatic who does yoga with her cats (it’s Zumba, FYI). And I don’t want to compromise myself on here either. I love being able to be a little crazy here. It’s liberating! 


There’s also the matter of my family. Sigh. I love them. I do. They are all kinds of wonderful and lovely but daaaaamn can they be judgemental and morally superior. I can actually hear the criticism already: 

“You’re a teacher, Jane. It’s just all very unprofessional and silly.”

“It’s a little narcissistic, don’t you think?”

“Isn’t it a little immature?” 

“It’s not really a big achievement though, is it? You should be focussing on what actually matters.”

Okay, I’ve made them sound a little more heinous than they actually are (LOL, oops) but that would be the gist of it. I would feel like an errant six year old who just stuck pebbles up her nose.  I would want them to be proud of me and to encourage me but I doubt they would. And that would hurt. A lot. 

Okay, so that seems like problem solved, right? Telling people about my blog seems like a bad idea. But I still have that little nagging voice (let’s call her Kim) that says “go for it!” It would certainly open up more possibilities. I could actually attend blogger events and make real-life connections. I could stop worrying when my tweets are featured in newspapers and magazines (and lately, even TV, thank you Big Brother Uk) that someone I know will figure out that it’s me. I mean, the chances are pretty minimal but still…
Best of all though, I could include my nearest and dearest in a journey that has meant so much to me. I know the majority would be so kind and supportive and would even help me. Many probably wouldn’t even care all that much, and that’s fine too. It would be amazing, but also terrifying. I’ve been semi-anonymous for so long, it would be so strange to give it up. And once I do, there is no going back. 

So, as you can infer from this meandering, semi-coherent post, I’m conflicted. I would LOVE your thoughts and opinions on this. Please share in the comments! 

P.S. I owe such a debt of gratitude to those of you who have supported me along the way. You will always be my MVPs. Love you guys. 

P.p.s. I set up an Instagram account for my blog and would really appreciate a little support. You can follow me here and I will follow you back because I love you. Too much? Too much. 

Nobody Else is You 

Here’s a silly little poem I jotted down one day waiting for a bus. Hope you guys like it:

                                                                    

                                                                     Nobody knows you like you do
                                                                     Nobody else can ever be you
                                                                    And you can’t be somebody else
                                                                    You can only be you 

                                                                   You can go and try on someone else
                                                                  And wear their thoughts like a scarf 
                                                                 But nobody else will ever fit
                                                                 So be comfortable wearing you 


A Love Letter to Anxiety 

Dear Anxiety, 

Should I name you something? Maybe it would make you a little less intimidating and a little more human. I used to picture you as a fuzzy black shapeless entity that I couldn’t quite make sense of, clinging to my body and pulling me back from moving forward. I’m seeing you more clearly now, though. I’m getting to know your idiosyncrasies day by day. You seem to know me very well. You know my weaknesses, my doubts, my fears and always the perfect time to strike. 

I should hate you, but I don’t. I fear you. I resent you sometimes. I regret you. But I don’t hate you. 

You see, you’ve taught me so much. Because of you, I truly know myself. I feel liberated because I can finally accept myself for who I really am. I am flawed. I make mistakes. Not everyone likes me. When I mess up, you’re there to remind me. You make me feel it. I cannot escape you. Your grip is too strong, your voice too loud inside my head. In those moments, I have to confront my reality. Instead of running away, blocking out all negative thoughts, you force me to accept. Of course, many of the thoughts you throw my way are completely irrational. That’s kinda your modus operandi, isn’t it? There was a time when I ran from them and from you. I denied negativity, I denied sadness, I denied you. I pretended that I was okay, all of the time. Of course, you lurked in the background, waiting for me to let my carefully constructed guard down. And when I did, boy did you hit me with everything you had. It was terrible; the worst experience of my life.  But at least it was real. It was my truth.  And you gave that to me, so I owe you thanks. Thank you for finally forcing me to confront and accept the person I really am: imperfect but actually quite resilient.  

You are now an integral part of my person, a part of me that I will never fully be free from. You will be there, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’till death do us part. I could try to pretend that you won’t be, but ignoring you seems to make you stronger, angrier and more determined. So I will embrace you. If we work together, we might just be able to live together in relative harmony. 
So what do I see you as now? Well, now I see you as a cat. You play with me sometimes, but most of the time you get bored and fall asleep. And then I get to feed you fried chicken, so everyone’s happy. 

I’m sure I’ll see you soon. I’ll be ready.

Love, 

Jane x

Welcome to My Home 

I currently live in a little cottage with my boyfriend, our two cats and our two dogs (yes, I consider them my children, no they don’t have pacifiers…unless….okay, stop it Jane..). Anyway, this is the home that my grandfather built to raise my mother and her three siblings. I spent many a happy evening as a child here, picking gooseberries with Granddad and sitting on his (extremely patient) Old English Sheepdog’s back while he brought me on a tour of the garden. When my grandfather died, the house was passed to his youngest daughter, my auntie. For years, the house was rented by strangers while we went about our lives. My aunt loved the house, but didn’t live here as she had a life built with her family at the other end of the country. We all kind of just let it go, although my aunt visited it as often as she could.
Sadly, last year, my aunt passed away after a long battle with cancer. Around that time, myself and J happened to be looking for a new home. It just seemed like fate that we would wind up here; in the house my mother grew up in, the house my aunt had loved so much and the place where I had so many fond memories. I’ve been living here for a year now, and this place has become a shelter for me. I’ve had my struggles, but this lovely home has been my one constant. And you know, I’ve gotten to decorate it with owl ornaments so…there’s that. 
So, lovely readers, I thought I would take you on a little tour of my cosy little home because it is one of my favourite places in the world and I love sharing with you all…besides cake *cat hiss in your direction* 

The exterior


The Main Living Area:

Gatsby insisted on being in the photo


Dining Room: 


Our Bedroom


Guest Bedroom: 


Kitchen: 


The Little Things I Love 

I love the little bookshelves at the top of this room although they aren’t the most practical!


There is a loft up these stairs that J uses as an office. It is the only room upstairs. My grandfather, a carpenter, built the staircase out of church pews.

I love soft lighting. I filled gorgeous hurricane lamp with rose petal lights and it makes a beautiful lamp at night.


Hope you all enjoyed the little tour of  my house. Feel free to come and stalk me! 😝❤️

7 Ways to Combat Stress

We all get a little stressed every now and then. A little stress is perfectly normal but if you find yourself getting stressed quite frequently, then you need to consider the impact this can have on your health. Excessive stress can cause numerous problems for your physical and mental health. For those of you familiar with my blog, you might know that I have issues with anxiety myself. I’ve made a concerted effort over the last year to try and manage my stress more effectively so I thought I would share my tips and tricks with you all. 

                 

1. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the process of learning to live in the now instead of fixating on the past or the future. It involves focusing deeply on your actions and surroundings in the present moment. We often worry about things we cannot change and things that are beyond our control. Practicing mindfulness has really helped me, despite the fact that I was initially a little sceptical about something so seemingly simplistic. Even taking five minutes out of your day to disengage your mind from negativity and pressure and instead focusing it on a simple breathing exercise can make a big difference to your life. Why not start by simply downloading an app, like this one, which will guide you through a medication? Enjoy!

2. Exercise

I know, I know. Some days I would prefer to eat pineapple (I REALLY HATE PINEAPPLE) than exercise. There is, however, a veritable mountain of evidence pointing to the link between exercise and a reduction in stress. This doesn’t mean you have to massively exert yourself (unless that’s your thing!) but even a little light exercise can really lift your mood as well as expelling tension from your body. Personally, a enjoy a little jive around the kitchen while I’m cooking and a stroll with my dogs. Find what works for you! 

3. Play!

Being an adult is hard; there are so many pressures and responsibilities that seem to pile up all around us day in, day out. That’s why it’s so important to try and recall the exuberant and carefree nature of childhood from time to time. When I was a child, my only worries were whether I had fed my tamagotchi properly or which Backstreet Boy I would inevitably marry. My happiest memories revolve around playing and having fun with my friends. As we mature, we seem to lose so much of that childhood sense of playfulness. Every so often, I take time out of my day to just be a little silly. I have great friends who indulge in this with me, be it through games or just clowning around. Don’t be ashamed to embrace your inner child; they need to be let out to play once in a while! 

4. Find your relaxation

Everyone unwinds differently. We all have something that we find relaxing: be it listening to Norah Jones or death metal music. You just have to find what works for you! I love listening to playlists that I can compile on Spotify to help me chill out. I colour, I blog, I run a bath, I light candles, I watch trash TV, I play with my pets or I sit under the tree in my garden. You will have your own thing and if it helps you to unwind, go for it!

5. Love your space

Many of us will occupy the same spaces day after day, be it in the home or at work. It’s important that we feel comfortable in these spaces. I personally get a little stressed by clutter or mess so I try to ensure that my surroundings at home and at work are clutter-free. I like clean, organised and open spaces. I also love soft-lighting and candles, so I use them where I can to lighten my mood (although adorning your work desk with fairy lights and candles might look a little odd). Add some peace and calm to the spaces you use most frequently by adorning them with whatever makes you happy: pictures, plants, quirky ornaments, there are endless possibilities! Keeping them neat and tidy will also help you to feel organised so that’s a bonus!

6. Plan and organise 

I often find myself getting stressed by things I haven’t yet done. A lot of my insomnia in the past has sprung from a feeling of disorganisation. As a result, if I have a big stack of essays to correct, I will jot down a quick marking scheme or I might give myself a target of ten to do in two hours. Big jobs can be compartmentalised and planning is the easiest way to do it. I keep a little notepad on my coffee table at all times, where I jot down my short lists or plans for the day. I don’t put pressure on myself to actually abide by or achieve them (see next point!) but it is nice to have a little outline to guide me through those bigger tasks. Also, conceiving these is a little mini-task in its own right so you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something before you’ve even started, yay! 

7. Don’t pressure yourself 

Personally, I think this is the most important point of all. So much of our stress comes from a fear of disappointing not only other people, but also ourselves. Although I try to be organised and I like a good plan as much as the next person, I try not to get stressed when things don’t go according to plan. I ask myself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” Most of the time, this little question puts my concerns into context. We can all be far too hard on ourselves. You won’t always finish your task by the end of the workday, you won’t always look polished and perfect, you won’t always get to the gym, you won’t always make everyone else happy. You WILL make mistakes. This is as inevitable as a Kardashian divorce. You can keep the bar raised high if that’s what motivates you, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t pole-vault over it! 

Have you any stress-busting tips you would like to share? Comment below! 

Gain Attention, According to Social Media 

Let’s face it; we all get a little giddy thrill when those notifications light up on our social media accounts. It’s almost akin to some sort of weirdly addictive drug. So wouldn’t it be just swell to garner even more attention on social media? With my tried and trusted tips, you’ll see results in no time!

1. Invent a new fad diet 

Everyone knows #cleaneating is where it’s at. Why not invent your own medically unsafe but totally awesome fad diet? What about the organic grass diet? Hey, if it’s good enough for cows, right? I mean, have you ever seen a cow with acne? Didn’t think so. How about the praying mantis diet? Just look at how slim those things are!

Despite what virtually all medical healthcare professionals will tell you, this is an amazing idea. Think of all those likes and prayer hands emojis you’ll get? 🙏🙏🙏

Who said you need qualifications or experience to provide nutritional advice?!

2. Invent a conspiracy theory 

What better way to generate attention online than taking an ill-informed stance against the advice and empirical research of doctors, scientists, historians, and well any so-called “expert” really. Pah, expert. What does that even mean?!

Everyone knows that scientists are only interested in being generally evil. Rumour has it that they all meet at a super creepy and pointy old castle once a year to plan how they’re going to swindle honest and decent people out of their hard-earned cash. Well, show them that you’re not going to be taken in by their fancy Harvard doctorates by claiming that eating out of your cat’s litter box gives you shiny hair. Show those pesky historians who’s boss by claiming that the CIA hired monkeys to assassinate JFK. Lee Harvey Oswald could easily have been three monkeys standing on top of each other. Or just go with the old-fashioned moon-landing hoax conspiracy, although you do risk being punched square in the face by Buzz Aldrin.


You don’t even need “proof” or “evidence” or any of that other scientific garbage. Just wild, unsupported claims that are sure to gain attention. You just watch those followers roll in.

3. Become a master of the “vague and passive aggressive” status update 

Being honest and saying what you actually mean is overrated. Why be direct and mature about something when you can just… not be. You’ll have the “u ok hun?” comments rolling in double time.

Bonus likes if you use the words “some people” or “haters” in your posts.


4. Take selfies everywhere 

Did you know you burn on average 3,000 more calories if you take a selfie at the gym? What better way to let people know that you’re better than them by posting multiple pictures of your sweat-soaked armpits all over social media, amiright?!

Don’t just confine your selfie taking to the gym. Nowhere should be off limits: Private family functions, funeral homes, attics where Jewish families hid from Nazis…go wild.

It’s what Anne Frank would want.

5. Capitalise on Tragic Events 

Whenever there’s an international event, ensure you race to social media so you can be the first to get a hashtag like #prayfor… trending. Sure, others are offering actual valuable help like shelter and food but you changed your profile picture to a flag for a week, so who’s the real hero here?


Yes, I’m a little snarky here, aren’t I? 😂 I’m guilty of some of these too, so take it with a pinch of salt. I would love to hear from you in the comments! 

Own Your Introversion 

“Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and observe more than you know.” ~ Michaela Chung

I’ve always know that I’m an introvert. So when I took the Myers-Briggs questionnaire as part of a work-related exercise, it came as no surprise to me that I am classed as an INFJ personality-type. This table should explain that term to anyone unfamiliar with it: 

Source: Wikipedia

I didn’t really think about it until lately, when a former college classmate had taken the questionnaire and asked me about my results. I told him that I was an INFJ and that I fully accepted this description of me. He seemed surprised, as an extrovert himself, that I considered myself introverted. I suppose, on the surface, I appear very comfortable in company and I am able to make idle small-talk with the best of them (topics of choice: the weather, whatever Trump has done this week, the rising cost of saffron), but I know myself that I am much more comfortable either by myself or with a small group of people whom I know well. It was what he said next that really sums up the misconception about introverts: 

It’s just… aren’t introverts…like…a little weird and awkward? 

Full disclosure: Yes, I can be a little weird and awkward. And there’s nothing wrong with that (okay, so I probably should be supervised using adult scissors and I definitely shouldn’t be left alone with your boss, but that’s just common sense). But come on, I’m not some bumbling Hugh Grant archetype who can’t string a coherent sentence together without peeing myself.

Although I can relate to this so much. Dammit Hugh.


Introverts aren’t socially inept idiots. While we may not embrace social gatherings with the same enthusiasm as our extroverted counterparts, it doesn’t mean we don’t like or even enjoy them from time to time. It also doesn’t mean that we’re incapable of conversing with others in a meaningful way. Introverts tend to listen to and really think about what you are saying. It is only when one is quiet that you can really listen. We are contemplative and reflective. That is not necessarily a sign of shyness and most definitely not a sign of weakness. 

I want to banish the misconception that introverts are somehow ineffectual loners who loathe human contact. You can be introverted and lead a fulfilling, successful life. You can work and socialise like any other person. You value your own company because it allows you time to think, to reflect, to create, to be.

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Sometimes, I feel most lonely in a room full of people because a situation like that often prevents deep, meaningful communication. Conversations at social gatherings can be inanely superficial. 

I’ve grown to love my own company. I love the silence of it (well, I’m sometimes silent… there are those days I get my Celine Dion on…). I love listening to my inner voice in that silence… although she’s usually telling me that she wants fro yo and a Storage Wars marathon. 


So I’m choosing to own my introversion. I’m not ashamed of it, and you shouldn’t be either. In fact, without this aspect of  my personality, I don’t think I would be blogging. It’s allowed me to be a much more introspective person and that’s key to personal blogging really, isn’t it? That and cats…lots of cats. 

So tell me about your personality; are you an introvert? Or are you more extroverted? (nothing wrong with that, of course *awkwardly bumps you on the arm*) 

Come tell me in the comments! 

The Woman I am Not

“What did you do at the weekend Jane?”

I am surrounded by five women I work with, all eating kale salads or spreading avocado on crackers. I suddenly feel that my chicken and stuffing sandwich on white bread with a side of crisps looks embarrassingly out of place. I hesitate. Should I tell them that my boyfriend and I watched the 2000 WWF Royal Rumble while eating kebabs? Given that the majority of them probably spent their Saturday attending their bikram yoga classes, I choose to lie:

“Erm, I went on a cycle.” I had doubted that they would have been as enthused about The Rock’s victory that year as I had been. I sat there, frustrated with myself. Why lie? Was the truth really so embarrassing? I knew the issue I had wasn’t with the women surrounding me, it was with myself. Over the past few months, I had started to feel… abnormal. These women were everything I had envisaged I would be as a woman in my thirties: they knew the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot, they had children whom they took to ballet, they were all slim, fit and attractive and had an air of maturity about them that was slightly intimidating. Don’t get me wrong; they treated me very well. It wasn’t anything they consciously did that made me feel uncomfortable in their presence. I guess it was what they didn’t do.

Compared to them, I felt like a silly, immature little girl who would never have life figured out. I spend my free time playing PlayStation games, watching horror movies and rugby, eating Nutella out of a jar, teaching my cats The Macarena and sending decidedly ridiculous Snapchats to my friends. Maturity wasn’t the issue, however. Besides all evidence to the contrary, I am actually pretty mature….

Well, okay… I know when to be mature. So that wasn’t what bothered me. The issue was what these women represented to me. They represented an ideal of feminism I felt so alienated from. They reminded me that I was quite far away from being the graceful, high-heel wearing, hummus-eating, almond milk-drinking lady I had once envisioned I would magically become. They reminded me of the woman I am not; the woman I would never be.

I don’t bake. I don’t have children. I hold babies like I’m about to drop kick them for three points. I drink to get tipsy, not because I notice the citrus aroma in whatever white wine I’m drinking. I watch wrestling, reality TV and violent films. I don’t know how to sew. I can’t wear high heels. I don’t enjoy looking at photographs of babies, weddings or curtains. I DON’T KNOW WHAT A TRACKER MORTGAGE IS.

I get in touch with my inner glamour goddess every now and again, but sometimes I need to clean the dog crap in my garden Marilyn.

You’re probably thinking, so what? Aren’t all of the above antiquated stereotypes about women’s interests anyway? Perhaps. But it was difficult to sit amongst these women, day in, day out and not feel so uncomfortable in myself. Whether I liked it or not, these were their interests. Which, of course, they were entitled to. They weren’t the anomaly, I was. I know that I’m not better than these women, and they’re not better than me. I actually liked them very much and they showed me nothing but respect and kindness. It was just that I was so so different to them. But why?

I suppose I can’t really answer that. I know everyone is different, but I was like a black sheep in a sea of pink flamingos*. As time moved on, I begin to accept myself for who I am, and who I am not. Just like they’re not wrong for their personal tastes, I’m not wrong for mine. Okay, so I would prefer to see Stone Cold Steve Austin perform a stunner than look through a book of carpet samples. Each to their own, right? They might appear more traditionally feminine than I do, but so what? We’re all women. Our differences need to be celebrated. They nurture us. They teach us. I cannot be someone I’m not. Why would I force myself to eat avocado or learn how to sew when I just don’t want to. That doesn’t make me any less of a woman.

And what exactly is femininity anyway? It doesn’t necessarily mean pink stilettos and prosecco. I can look to all the wonderful qualities these women at work (and all the women in my life) possess. They are nurturing, they have empathy, they are sensitive and gentle. They are strong. And while I won’t be hitting up the nail salon with any of them anytime soon, I appreciate why they like the things they do. They make them feel happy. Just like Wrestlemania makes me feel happy. 

I do love being a woman. I also love a hell of a lot of random crap: makeup, Jurassic Park movies, owl ornaments, cats, UFC, poetry, flowers, anything involving Hannibal Lecter… I can be a woman and like all of these things. There’s no set of rules that we have to abide by. It’s not like you turn thirteen and have to level up to the next woman level by passing a cross-stitching exam.

Anyway, labels can confine us. They often present us with barriers and prevent our growth. In the traditional sense, no, I’m not very feminine. That’s okay, it would be a little stifling to be defined so easily. In today’s world, gender roles are not as clearly defined. We are being restricted by them less and less. I am as feminine as I am masculine in many ways. Except when it comes to dealing with spiders. Don’t come near me with that shit.

So yeah, I’m going to continue watching Storage Wars with my terribly chipped nail polish and my Seth Rogen donkey laugh. Sure, there isn’t going to be a Disney princess based on me (unless Disney suddenly envisage their princesses with terrible hand-eye coordination and a penchant for leggings) but did Snow White ever knee-slide across a floor while managing not to spill two pints of cider?

Didn’t think so.

*Gives you time to mentally picture that. Enjoy.

Everyone is a Lesson 

Imagine a world where everyone had the exact same opinion about absolutely everything. It’s hard to conceive of, isn’t it? Besides being an unrealistic prospect, it’s also a pretty boring one. 

Lately, I happened across a tweet which said something to the effect of “whoever has x opinion is going to get unfollowed and blocked.” While I can’t remember what the offending opinion was exactly, it was the sentiment of the tweet that stuck with me:

Block out everything you don’t agree with. 

It struck me as an incredibly ignorant, close minded and even petulant statement. Sure, you can surround yourself with people who share similar values and beliefs to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. But to develop a fully open mind, you should also engage with people who challenge you, people whom you can learn from and who can help you grow. Our perspectives and views of the world are often blinkered by our own unconscious bias. It’s healthy to have people around you who will question your beliefs and your motives. Of course, no body should ever have to tolerate intimidation or aggression from someone whose opinion differs from your own, but there is such a thing as an honest, respectful and beneficial debate.

Consider the following:

You are placed in a room with fifty people. You are all asked questions about your political leanings, your religious beliefs or lack thereof, your sexual preferences, your morals, values and personal tastes and your feelings on important socio-political issues. You are then grouped with people according to the similarities in your responses. As you have all more or less the same viewpoints on several potentially contentious and divisive topics, you all probably would get along quite well. Would you learn anything? Maybe. But because you all have quite similar perspectives, it’s unlikely there would be any earth-shattering epiphanies. You would make some new friends, at the very least.

Now imagine you are placed with those people whose answers completely differed from yours. You are encouraged to discuss your reasons for your responses to the questions. It would be difficult, possibly unpleasant. It would be offensive and maybe upsetting. You are encouraged to stay as calm as you can. You begin to express your own viewpoints as best you can, and even teach some of those people things they genuinely didn’t know. They tell you that they will reflect on what you have said. Most importantly, however, you listen. You hear opinions that differ from yours. Huh, you hadn’t thought of that before. Hmm, you think, maybe I was wrong because I just didn’t know enough. You feel your perspective shifting a little and you realise the earth hasn’t suddenly stopped spinning.

It’s not necessarily about being wrong or right. Sure, it can be hard to remain calm when you’re being faced with abhorrent bigotry of any kind. When someone is being genuinely ignorant about a subject they clearly know little about, it can be extremely frustrating. Instead of labelling someone a racist or an ignoramus however, try to educate them. Give them the facts. If they choose to ignore that, then disengage. Sometimes, you just will just not get on with people and that is okay too, but there are plenty of wonderful friendships around the world which have been borne out of difference and disagreement.

Think about and confront your own opinions as much as you can. Ask yourself why they are important to you, whether they are supported by fact or experience or are they motivated mostly by feeling? Are they maybe formed by personal bias? Aim to engage with people whose opinions are different. If you’re a democrat, for example, talk to a republican. Don’t just dismiss them because you don’t agree with their political affiliation. They are a person, just like you, who has probably arrived at their political persuasion for a plethora of reasons. Find out what those are. Maybe they’ll change their mind, maybe you’ll change yours. Maybe nobody will but you will both definitely have learned something about the other side.

It won’t always be easy. You will be challenged and insulted. You might develop even stronger convictions or you might begin to change your mind; both prospects are equally exciting. But think of all the positives: you’ll be more knowledgable on certain topics, you will develop a greater sense of empathy and you may even make new friends (just, eh, hide the knives when they come over). In the word of Amy Poehler:

Limit your “always” and your “nevers”.

So open your mind. You never know what joys you’ll let in.

 

Here’s me using one of these inspiration quotes I decry so much. See, we’re all learning!