How I’m Learning to Say No 

Hello there! I’ve been a little busy as I just went back to work teaching and I have more subjects than ever this year. It’s great and all but I only have two hands…for now, at least. I wanted to share something with you all, however, because it’s something that has really changed my life in the last few months. 

I have finally learned to say no. 

I mean, I always knew the word existed and I had used it in certain situations, such as: 

“Would you like some raisin bread?”

“No, thank you.” 

That’s mostly because raisins are the devil’s food and I won’t hear any arguments from anyone that says otherwise. *shudders*


Raisins aside, saying no has always been an issue for me. It’s probably because I’m a people-pleaser and I loathe any form of confrontation (unless you’re trying to get me to eat raisins…I really hate raisins). I have often found myself in uncomfortable situations simply because I wasn’t confident enough to be completely honest. I have always wanted people to like me and to see me as amiable and cooperative. 

The problem is, people will also view you as somewhat weak and this can put you in situations where you can be taken advantage of. Of course, you don’t want to find yourself going to the other extreme and becoming belligerent and unhelpful. You just have to find that balance that ensures your happiness and that you can maintain functioning personal and professional relationships. 

It isn’t easy. It has taken me many years to work on gaining the confidence to become more assertive. I have learned that I can’t keep everyone happy all the time. People will be annoyed with me. People probably won’t like me very much from time to time. All of this is normal. All of this is okay. Now, when someone asks me to do something, I consider my response carefully. Sometimes it might just be something that might cause me mild inconvenience but will benefit that person quite a lot, so I will say yes just to be kind. There is, of course, nothing wrong with doing this. If I feel that something will make me unhappy or uncomfortable, however, I will most likely say no. I do this for my own sake. 

I owe myself as much happiness as I owe other people. 

That has really become a kind of mantra for me. I do my best to be kind and thoughtful but I also do my best to look after myself. If you find yourself having trouble saying ‘no’, start off simply. I find it is often easier to say it by email or text rather than face to face. Of course, you can also be diplomatic in your refusals. As time goes by, you will become better at doing it face to face. You may not use the actual word no, but a more polite derivative of it. No matter what, be kind, be considerate but think of your own happiness. 

So, all together now:

Nooooooo! 

Have you any tips to share? Please comment below! 

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.

The Hot Seat: Meet Amanda

Hello again m’dears. I am so excited to announce that this week, I shall be interviewing a lady that needs no introduction (except this one), the fabulous Amanda Lyle from Inside the Life of Moi, a fantastic blog that demonstrates Amanda’s considerable writing talents. Don’t just take my word for it; have a read of her brilliantly entertaining interview below and then check out her insanely addictive blog!

Over to you, Amanda!

                                     interview

 *Pours glass of wine and slips into the hot seat, surprised that it isn’t as hot as it suggests, and she didn’t need that ice pack, after all*

 

Hi Amanda! Why don’t you tell my readers a little about yourself…without using the letter ‘e’. I’m kidding, go e-nuts!

Alrighteeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (<- enough e for you?) Where do I start? I am a 21-year-old (one can wish) 28-year-old with a fondness for happy dancing, biscuit dunking, photography and all things 90’s (Lycra included!). I am also a mother of three sometimes-adorable-but-mostly-quite-annoying children (ages 2, 5 & 10) I have been married to my partner in crime for almost 5 years and I live in the Southwest of England: land of cider, farms and not much else. I would love nothing more than to become a writer, but unfortunately I am yet to start that book I have been harping on about for the past TWO YEARS <- And the Queen of procrastination award goes to…. Oh yes, that would be MOI!

 

Why did you decide to start blogging?

Okay, so this might sound morbid, but 18 months ago I was, to put it bluntly, in a bit of a crappy place. I was lost, misguided and falling apart (it didn’t help that I was living in the dreaded Coventry at the time *shudder*) One day, I decided to write. I hadn’t written anything for so long, but I had this overwhelming desire to write and write until I could write no more! Writing not only helped to heal many of my wounds, but it also gave me clarity. Over time, it occurred to me, I wasn’t lost anymore. I was free …and I had a pretty awesome blog to show for it! (<- Not to blow my own trumpet or anything!) If it wasn’t for my blog and the huge amount of support I have received over the past 18 months or so, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Cheesy, I know….but so very true! THANK YOU, GUYS! *wipes tear*

 

Your blog has become very successful. Has this changed your day to day life in any way?

 

I mean, I would like to say I get hounded with fan mail and stopped in the street, but I would be lying. Nothing much has changed really…boring, I know! However, I do get the odd person come over to me and tell me they read my blog. I then glow a bright shade of cherry tomato and scurry off embarrassed.

Random Fact: Only a few close friends know about my blog.

 

What one piece of advice would you give to other bloggers?

As Dory once said in Finding Nemo “Just keep swimming!” Oh no, that’s not right, I meant… Just keep writing! You’re bound to come up with something publishable at some point!

Also, never be too critical with yourself. Some of the pieces I assumed would go down like a lead balloon, actually floated higher than I could ever imagine. My most popular post to date (Dear Husband: An Unconventional Love Letter) I was close to not publishing at all because I felt it wasn’t well-written.

So, just go for it – what’s the worst that can happen?

 

You have written some very honest and personal posts. Did you find this difficult?

Naturally, I am a very open person. I don’t feel like I have anything to hide. However, there have been a few posts in which I found myself hovering over the ‘publish’ button for a good half an hour before mustering up the courage to press. One of those posts was:I love you, but I don’t like you: A story of fractured bonds and motherly guilt. This was my most personal post to date. I really opened up and allowed my thoughts to run free. I couldn’t have received a better response from my readers. It was the first time I had been left both speechless and overwhelmed by everyone’s understanding and generosity. The positive response from my post has opened doors for me to continue to write more open and honest posts in future. It feels so liberating to be able to share myself so openly with everyone and not be judged. I have so much respect for all of my readers. Not to sound too hippy, but they have touched my heart in so many ways. I couldn’t be more blessed. I’m a very lucky girl!

 

Okay. That was too serious a question. Let’s lighten things up: are you a girly-girl or the more outdoorsy type?

The outdoorsy type?!  *cackles uncontrollably*

I couldn’t be further from the outdoorsy type. My husband would describe me as ‘high maintenance’ but I would say I’m more of a girly-girl. I love make up to the point that if my husband ever left me, I’d probably marry it (Okay that sounded a bit extreme….but I do adore it!) …and the thought of dating again *shudder* sends me into hot sweat!

I also have a slightly unhealthy obsession with nail varnish and pretty much own every colour of the rainbow! So, I’d have to marry my nail varnish collection too!

…Is that even legit?

Apart from one pretty traumatic experience at Glastonbury festival involving over-flowing porter-loos, hippy tea and enough mud to build a mud city…

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(Source: www.dumb.com)

…you wouldn’t catch me camping EVER! I mean, where would I plug my hair straighteners? A tree? And how am I supposed to climb mountains in heels? Nah. It just isn’t me! I’d choose makeup, heels and bags over hiking boots, oversized backpacks and….eeerrr….mosquito bites, any day!

You’re a mother. What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received?

When parenthood becomes overwhelming, lock yourself in a cupboard with a strong drink and pretend everything is AAAAAAAAA-Okay! I’m kidding, of course. The most important thing is to love your children unconditionally, no matter how much they make you want to rock back and forth in an under-stair cupboard. Never underestimated love.

 

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

Now and then my brain will shoot blanks. Rather than panic, I take some much-needed time off from writing and allow my ideas to reform. After a few weeks, I find that my head is so cram-packed with ideas it is ready to POP! That wasn’t meant to sound sexual at all. Honest!

 

Curveball: Are Jaffa Cakes biscuits or cakes?

I would say…. They are biscakes! (<- see what I did there!)

 

What do you do to unwind after a long day?

I usually run a bubble bath, pour myself a glass of wine, put my headphones in and fantasise about being anywhere but dreary old England. Other times, I’ll light some joss-sticks and meditate to the sound of panpipes and whales singing. Okay…one of the previous statements was, in fact, a lie… I’ll leave you guys to figure that out.

 

And now for some weird questions…

Who would you rather go clubbing with: Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama?

I reckon Michelle Obama would be a complete party animal after a few sparkling wines…therefore, I’d have to choose her to go clubbing with her.

Hillary Clinton, I have her down as a more hot cocoa-drinking, sheepskin slipper-wearing and bed at an appropriate hour, kind of girl.

OH MY GOSH! I’m turning into Hillary Clinton, aren’t I? *shudder*

 

If you could have be any kind of shark, which would you choose?

Umm, there’s different breeds of sharks? I thought a shark was a shark… *Googles* Okay, according to Wikipedia there are 509 species of shark… waaaaay too many to choose from! Can I just say Sharky from Sharky and George? (Remember that awesome TV show?) I mean, what other shark wears a Panama hat?

shark
(Source: www.youtube.com)

If you had the power of invisibility, would you rob a bank?

Of course not, I would never do such a thing! I’d be too busy doing other awesome things like hanging out in the male changing rooms *Coughs* Nah, I probably would rob the bank … I could do with a nice new handbag and wardrobe to match! I meant… I would give it to charity, obviously!

 

You get the chance to appear on a tacky reality TV show for a lot of money…do you take it?

It depends how much I would get paid and which reality TV show it was. I can’t sing to save my life, so X-Factor would be out of the question….*thinks about past contestants* ..or maybe not? I haven’t got any outstanding talents… I mean, I can’t spin plates with my eyes closed whilst doing the splits and yodelling, nor can I eat one hundred pork pies in one sitting…so, Britain’s Got Talent isalso out of the question. And given my dislike for the wilderness, you wouldn’t catch me eating bugs in the jungle…forget that! I’m not remotely a celebrity…but get me freaken out of here! So…. Big Brother it is!

Perhaps I’ll audition for next year?

pig fly

(source: http://paulstudentstories.blogspot.co.uk/)

Janey, it has been a pleasure! Thank you so much for inviting me to sit on the Hot Seat… I can officially say… This seat is HOT…or perhaps it’s just me, having a hot flush?! Or maybe it’s these glaring studio lights? (We’re in a studio, right?) Either way, I’m glad I brought that ice pack!

*Stumbles off stage tipsily holding an icepack to her backside*

Thank you so much Amanda! What a fun interview this was. I’m off to listen to panpipes and whales because, frankly, that sounds amazing. 

Why you should keep blogging

Remember those first few cautious weeks of blogging? Like a fawn on stilts (weird simile? Bah, I’ve got tonnes of ’em), you wobbled into the blogging world, weary and unsure of what you would discover. Would anyone read your posts? Would people be nice to you? Would you get to sit with the cool kids? AND WHAT THE HELL DOES SEO EVEN MEAN?!

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And then the questions start: why am I doing this? What’s the point? Would anyone really care if I stopped? WHY DO MEN HAVE NIPPLES? (Sorry, I got carried away there.) If you are reading this and you are a novice blogger, you may be having doubts. You may be frustrated with the fact that you have few followers, no one seems to be reading your posts except your strangely literate cat, and Cosmopolitan isn’t banging on your door begging you to be their new Editor in Chief.

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Not really. You’re better than mediocre. You’re ocre.

Despite all of this, my advice is to stick with it. Hang in there. Tough it out. Climb that mountain, etc, etc. Sure, blogging can be frustrating. In my first few months, I had very little engagement and sometimes I wondered was it really worth all the effort. Then I realised something: if one person, even one person is reading your posts, it means that person has taken time out of their day to read something you have written. And that’s pretty cool, right? RIGHT? Well fine, here are some more reasons that you should stick with blogging:

Your audience will grow organically

If your posts are quality enough, people will read them. There is a virtually never ending supply of great blogging advice out there to help you with your posts, so if you’re unsure, do a bit of research. Remember: be concise, use visuals and people love cats. Also use appropriate tags so people with similar interests will be able to connect with you.

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IT’S A CAT…IN A PILOT COSTUME…

You will meet some amazing people

Whether you go out there and search for people with similar interests or they find your blog, you will meet some fantastic people who will help you grow as a blogger. Read as many blogs as you can and you will find inspiration all around you. I have met so many brilliant bloggers whom I have learned so much from. There is a pool of versatile bloggers out there; so many people have such interesting stories to tell.

Blogging is therapeutic

When you have a particularly bad day, there is nothing better than having a good rant on your blog. Or posting pictures of owls…whatever. It’s wonderful how another blogger can make you smile and really brighten your day. Even if you feel nobody is reading your posts, writing about your thoughts and feelings is a brilliant outlet for your stresses and frustrations.

It’s yours

This might sound a little silly, but it’s true. This is your own little patch of Internet. You are building a little home for your thoughts and other people are choosing to visit. Isn’t that nice? My thought-house is a little stranger than everyone else’s: there’s strobe lights and drunk owls, and people still visit. So you’re good…you’re totally good.

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This is basically my blog in a picture.

You’ll get a real sense of achievement from it

Remember that feeling you got when you gained your first follower? Good news: that feeling never gets any less special. There are lots of other achievements that feel just as great: awards, re-blogs, shares, and even competitions that you can enter. Having something to aim for will give you a real sense of purpose and it is the best feeling when you are rewarded for it. Ask any blogger; re-blogs, blog awards, shares and follows feel so flattering and really do make all the effort worth while. Sure, this isn’t what blogging should be solely about, but it’s a lovely incentive. It’s a lovely community where people are only too willing to show kindness and generosity.

That’s my two cents anyway guys. If you are having doubts, I hope I’ve helped in some way. And if you’re a blogging veteran, why not share some of your own blogging tips. Why have you remained in the blogosphere?

How to become instantly happier

I realised some time ago that to instantly feel more content and at ease with myself, I needed to stop comparing myself to other people.

Of course, this seems simple in theory. The truth is, it took a very long time for me to put this into practice. We are surrounded by other people all the time: friends, family, co-workers, schoolmates, roommates, even strangers. These are people whom we often deem more successful, better looking, more intelligent, funnier, more popular, basically just better.

But who says that they really are better? Who actually measures these things? And what is better anyway? I mean, Usain Bolt is a better sprinter than me (allegedly), but I’m not going to cry about it.

The truth is, these insecurities lie within ourselves. We make the comparisons. In some ways, it is perfectly normal. Competition is what drives us to succeed. But what about when we become consumed by feelings of inadequacy? Sometimes these comparisons with other people do more to hinder us than to help us.

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When I was in school, I constantly compared myself to my classmates. When a test was returned to me, I was more concerned with what grade the people around me received than my own. My friend Laura was brilliant at science. It just seemed effortless to her. I, on the other hand, struggled with it. Whenever Laura got an A, all I could do was question my own ability, or perceived lack thereof. I would plague myself with questions: why can’t I get an A? What’s she doing that I’m not doing?

It took me some time to realise that science just wasn’t my strong suit. I loved it, but I had to work very hard to even maintain a C grade. My strengths in school were English and history. I received a pretty constant stream of A grades in both (self-five), but of course I didn’t focus on that. I focused on how poorly I was performing in science.
In short, I was focusing on what I couldn’t do, rather than what I could. I was also focusing on what Laura’s strengths were, which was just counter-productive. I should have been solely focusing on me.

This sense of inadequacy was evident in other aspects of my life too. I had serious insecurities about how I looked. My hair has always been curly, but that wasn’t fashionable throughout my teenager years. My two best friends had sleek and frizz-free hair and it bothered me that no matter how much I straightened my hair, it was never as smooth as theirs. I know that sounds so shallow, but during that delicate time of my life, it really seemed important.

I constantly compared myself to my female friends. I didn’t feel tall enough, thin enough, blond enough, my eyelashes weren’t curly enough, my collarbone wasn’t as pronounced, my nails weren’t as long, my eyebrows weren’t as arched, my fingers weren’t as lithe…I literally experienced all of these inadequacies and they tortured me. I scoured beauty magazines for tips, which definitely didn’t help the situation. As the lyric in Everyone’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) goes

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I let these thoughts consume me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more comfortable in my skin. I have my mother’s eyes, my father’s nose (not literally, I should point out), and my grandmother’s curls. I have decided that it is a beautiful thing that a part of them will be with me (and a part of me) always. Why would I want to look like someone else?

I could also talk about how we often have these feelings in the workplace. We all have that workmate that seems more diligent, more efficient, more conscientious. I’ve come to realise that yes, these people are often great workers, but they harbour the same insecurities as everyone else. They have the same capacity for failure (and fear of it) as the rest of us.

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I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you…

So my lovely readers, my point is that happiness often alludes us throughout our lifetimes and this is often the result of our own feelings of inadequacies. These feelings come from within. Once we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else, we can focus on being the best version of ourselves, not someone else.

Man, I feel like this right now:

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But really, this is more apt:

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A LETTER TO MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SELF

Hey fifteen year old Jane,

It’s twenty six year old Jane. There’s probably lots of things you’d like to know, like which Backstreet Boy you’re gonna marry or how the career of that cute girl from ‘The Parent Trap’ is going. It’s bad news on both counts. Don’t sweat though, I’m not writing this from the maximum security wing of some futuristic women’s prison. That’s all I’ll say about where I am, I remember how much you like surprises.

So you know the way you’re the bane of your teachers’ existence with your constant chatter and witticisms?(In your head, anyway.) Well, GUESS WHAT? You are now the recipient of this behaviour; you decide (I think you’ll be around seventeen) that it would be just WONDERFUL to become a teacher. And you know what? It is wonderful. You’ll have a pretty stressful few years in your career (you’ll be thrown in to teaching a maths class and you know how crap you are at maths), but you’ll love it and you’ll even get gifts from your students from time to time (as well as grief, but it’s all part of the job). Remember this one tip: teenagers will work insanely hard for rewards of a chocular variety.

Also, stop messing with your hair. At the moment, it’s a very bright blond and you look RIDICULOUS. I’m sorry, but have some sense woman/girl. You’ll get to eighteen and you’ll realise that being a brunette suits you so much more. And also, the bleach will actually result in some of your hair falling out when you’re seventeen. I’m sorry, ok? You were going through your obsession with The Simple Life and it got out of hand. But right now, I have very long and thick hair (I don’t really care anymore but I know you’ll appreciate this). Also, an amazing invention known as hair straighteners will mean you won’t look like Melanie Griffiths anymore #winning (sorry, a little futuristic humour for you there).

Now, you’re gonna need to sit down for this one (maybe on that really cool bean bag that you end up losing in college). By twenty six you still won’t be married. Or have kids. Or a very stable job. But hear me out.

Soon enough, you’re going to meet the person that will change your life. You won’t know it at first but he will make you happier than playing snake (which I know is totally your thing right now). He’s handsome, funny and intelligent and you’ll even start a little pet family together (really, you could open a petting farm). I won’t tell you anything else because the journey you’re about to take is the best thing that will ever happen to you so just act surprised when you meet him, okay?

You will think about marriage and babies for a long time, but then you’ll realise that you’re happy just being in the moment and going with the flow. The moment is pretty great.

You have some tough times ahead. You know Mam and Dad? Yeah, they split up. And you know the way you faint sometimes? That’s not low blood sugar like you self diagnosed (thank you, dial-up Google), it’s epilepsy (but you kinda kick its ass so don’t worry). You’ll be in a car accident. But look, you’re still here. You’re alive, you’re relatively healthy, your family are safe and you currently have a cat sitting on your shoulder…how cool is that? (Just to clarify, you have the cat there by choice, you’re not in some dingy alley way somewhere surrounded by stray felines.)

The friends you have now? You keep lots of them, but you also lose a few. One of your male friends will profess his undying love for you and you’ll both laugh about it years later. Try to guess which one.

You’re gonna end up moving around a bit, but strangely, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll end up far away from home (and so will your brother, who you’ll miss terribly) but you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll thrive. You gain far more confidence in your early twenties and you will learn to be more assertive. It won’t be an easy process but you become a person that you finally feel proud to be and because I know how low your self-esteem is right now, that’s pretty amazing.

Your sister (who you’re probably squabbling with right now, HEY PUT HER HANSON CD DOWN) will become one of your best friends. I know you don’t believe me now, but no one will ever make you feel as loved and protected as she does.

I want to say one last thing: you’re a teenager which means you’re…well, you’re kind of a bitch sometimes. Stop pouting at me, we both know you’re not scary. When you get to my age, you’re going to really regret how shabbily you’re treating Dad. I know you find him annoying and embarrassing now, but you’ll look back and realise that he loved you and nurtured you in the most selfless of ways and you were just a big bag of nasty hormones. Go hug him right now.

So Jane, twenty six year old you is not that much different to fifteen year old you. You still watch Kenan and Kel. You still wear jeans (they don’t really go out of fashion but they become a lot tighter) and you still love spaghetti like Miley Cyrus loves twerking (I just realised that pop culture reference makes zero sense to you, just take my word for it). Things have changed though. You’re living with a real life boy. You have a career. You drive (you just got a speeding ticket tut tut) and you haven’t seriously injured anyone yet. All in all, you’re happy.

Just please, please don’t get in anymore photos where you’re wearing dungarees. They will come back to haunt you in ways you can’t imagine. And stop over-plucking your eyebrows, you look like a meth addict.

P.S. No, they don’t have flying cars yet but they do have something called ‘Facebook’ which is just as creepy as it sounds.

If you could write to your fifteen year old self, what would you say?

10 IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE MOVIES

1. Anyone who craves human flesh probably doesn’t look like this:

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but more like this:

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2. Getting intimate with a giant furry beast will probably not result in this:

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But may look more like this:
(Jack pointed out that the man looks like ‘a mixture of Jesus and Kris Kristofferson’.)

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3. Singing loudly in public will probably not result in this:

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but this might happen:

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4. This is a real archaeologist:

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This is not:

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5. Not all guys look this good in a vest:

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and this guy wants you to remember that:

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6. There’s watching someone sleep…

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…and there’s just plain stalking

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7. If a momma’s boy starts discussing taxidermy with you, it’s best to back away slowly

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8. Platform 9 3/4 is a great idea

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…but it doesn’t exist

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9. Random and spontaneous dances are never this well choreographed:

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This is more like it:

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10. Some people are just plain selfish

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Mothers Always Know Best

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*For the purposes of this post and your imagination, this is my mother

Most people see me as a paragon of calmness; a level-headed, laid back Zen Master. Except that last week, I had a freak out. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a freak out of Danny Bonaduce proportions, but compared to how I normally compose myself, I might as well have covered myself in green paint and beat my chest with Black Hawks.

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In a certain light, we’re virtually indistinguishable

It all started when I was waiting in the car for my boyfriend, who was off doing boyfriend things (code for “I can’t remember what he was doing”) and I decided to peruse my Facebook newsfeed. As I scrolled through the mundane ‘1 like=1 prayer’ melodrama, I noticed that one of my friends had gotten engaged. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘good for her’ as I dutifully clicked the ‘like’ button.

I continued scrolling. ‘Huh’, I mumbled again, albeit this time in a more high-pitched tone, ‘Katie is engaged too. Oh, and Emma. And Marie just had a baby.’ I sunk back in my seat. I tried very hard to feel happy for these girls I had once attended school with. They’re nice girls and they deserve to be happy. So why was I feeling like someone had punched me square in the uterus?

As my boyfriend nonchalantly sat back into the car, he noticed I was staring into space (at this stage, I was possibly imagining an older version of myself knitting clothing for my sixty cats).

‘What’s up?’ he asked me, possibly expecting me to refer to the fact that he had earlier hidden my Abba Gold collection.
I didn’t want to say anything. Besides the fact that I didn’t exactly know what was indeed wrong with me, I’m not the passive-aggressive, manipulative, reverse psychology type (you know the ones, they’re all over your Facebook) and I really didn’t want Jack thinking that this was all a clever ruse to provoke him into action.

What could I say? ‘Oh all my friends are engaged and having babies and we’re sat here eating drive-thru and debating whether we’ll watch Iron Man or Spider Man when we go home.’

All he would infer from anything I could possible say is that I was pressuring him to propose to me. And that’s not what I want. Don’t say women aren’t complex creatures…wait, who actually says that, ever?

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I’m sayin’ nothin’

We’ve been together for eleven years now. We’re in our mid to late twenties. Marriage just seems like the next step.

Except we can’t afford it. Readers, I’m being so honest with you that you might as well be cradling my head in your lap and singing lullabies to me. We know that we want to marry each other eventually, and we will, but right now, it would seem like a gigantic expense that we couldn’t justify. And marriage seems so grownup and real, sometimes I just don’t feel mature enough for it. I’d be a ‘Mrs’ for the love of Jezabel.

So I have to admit, the marriage thing wasn’t what was bugging me. Nor was the fact that my friends could now probably run a small crèche between them. No. It was the fact that their lives were taking shape; that they had a sense of direction, of purpose. (The following should be accompanied by cheesy dramatic music and narration by Cameron Diaz) I started to feel like I was in a maze and I had no idea which way I was supposed to go.

To my horror, I noticed tears running down my face. Actual real, giant, salty tears. ‘Oh Jesus,’ I muttered, as I used the end of my sleeve to aggressively dab them away. I’m the sort of person who really hates to cry, so when I inevitably end up sobbing I mutter things to myself like ‘Oh stop it, you big baby!’ which actually makes me sob more because I’m being mean to myself. And myself is quite sensitive.

‘Love, what is wrong?’ my boyfriend asked again, this time showing genuine concern. I can imagine a montage of all his misdemeanours playing though his head: toilet seat left up, clothes balled up on bedroom floor, pizza box in living room, expensive conditioner used as body wash, again…

‘I don’t know really. I just… Sometimes I see other the lives of everyone else taking shape at our age and we’re just kinda stuck in this never ending cycle of debt and takeaways. I feel aimless sometimes, I suppose. I know I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a conventional person, but I have to admit Jack, sometimes the conventional looks pretty comfortable.’

I could see Jack’s eyebrows rising and falling, which I know means he as confused as Kim Kardashian in an art gallery.

‘Sooo, I didn’t do anything?’ he asked gingerly. I leaned over and kissed him.

‘No,’ I smiled through my tears ‘you didn’t.’

Great, I noted wryly to myself, now he thinks you’re on your period.

As we continued our journey home silently, Jack dispensed some pretty good advice.

‘You should talk to your mother. I think it would help.’

At the time, I wasn’t sure. At my age, Mam had a house that she fully owned, a child and she was married. I don’t even own a subscription to my local video store. But as I mulled over whether I should ask my mother for advice that night in bed, I resolved to ring her the next morning. I told myself that she’s a pretty good listener and if anything, she would comfort me.

So I called her and told her that I was doing good but that lately I’d felt a little down. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m known for being the one in my family who normally dispenses the advice rather than receives it, so my mother was a tad surprised. I also felt slightly guilty that this didn’t exactly appear as a ‘real’ problem. There are people out there in debt, suffering from depression or ill, and I’m just some middle class white chick with first world problems. Still though, I knew she wouldn’t want me feeling so aimless and underwhelmed with my life.

‘I don’t know how this has really happened’, I began (although I did know, and I silently narrowed my eyes at an invisible Mark Zukerberg) ‘but lately I’ve just been feeling like I’ve, I don’t know…like I’ve wasted my twenties. Like my life hasn’t really even begun yet. I mean, I love Jack and I’m so happy with him, but I feel like a home for us, and children and all that, is so far out of reach. And everyone else seems to be settling down. And when you were my age, you were married, with a house and a kid and you had everything. I just feel like I’m missing out on all that.’

There was a long silence at the other end of the phone. Great, I thought, I have literally bored her to death.

I heard her take a sigh. She began: ‘firstly, when I married your father it was 1980. In Catholic Ireland. I had a job but I felt I had to leave it. Times were very different. I was expected to get married. There was no such thing as living with someone first, and women were expected to have children.
You don’t have those expectations anymore. You get to keep your job, which you love. You don’t have to have children by a certain age to keep your parents happy. And you’re angry because these societal expectations are gone? What is that?!’
She was half laughing, half incredulous.

She continued:
‘You are so lucky. You’re not tied to a property. You’re not expected to play the part of dutiful housewife. Don’t get me wrong, I love the three of you (my siblings and I, I’m guessing) more than anything, but my god how I would have loved some more time. I would have loved to eat pizza on the floor (how does she know?) and come home at eight o’ clock in the morning after a house party, but I couldn’t. I had responsibilities. And I was so young.
And, my dear, you are forgetting the most important fact of all: if my life was so perfect, why did our marriage break down? Hmm?’

She was right. My father and her had separated a few years ago. Was she saying that it was because they married too young? Was it because she didn’t get to experience enough of life in her twenties?

‘Look’, she interrupted my reverie ‘I was happy. I was. I had three beautiful children. And you can have that too. Except you can also go and live some of your life first. Who says marriage and kids qualifies you as an adult, hah? Ok, so yes, you still wear Minnie Mouse onesies, but you’re a grownup with or without marriage and babies. And you’re doing a pretty good job at this adult malarkey. You have a career, a stable relationship with a great man and you seem happy, most of the time. What more could you want? The grass seems perfectly green where you are.’

‘Oh Jesus.’

‘WHAT?’

‘Im crying again,’ I mumbled. And I was. The warmth of her words surrounded me like a blanket. As I say there, ensconced in her rationality, I knew she was right. She’s my mother; she’s always right.

I need to be thankful that I live in a society and in a time where I’m free to do as I like (within reason of course, yes I’m talking to you: the guy removing his clothes and planning to run naked through Walmart). I also realised that I just need to calm the eff down. I’m twenty-six. I still sleep with a nightlight on after watching horror movies. I don’t think I should be thinking about babies juuuust yet. Of course, it’s a personal thing, but I have to admit, I’m pretty content with life at the moment. There’s plenty of time for marriage and children. I don’t need to waste these years by inventing societal pressures.

Until then, I’m going to continue putting dresses on my male Westie because, well, I can.

And also, this is me:

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10 Things NOT to do on a first date

1. Dress uncomfortably.

There is literally nothing worse than being more nervous than Woody Allen in a brothel and also feeling like your ribs are about to explode.

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2. Discuss politics or religion.

Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one. And when it comes to these two contentious issues, it’s best to steer clear. Unless you’re an atheist and she’s a member of the Westboro Baptist Church; probably better that you discuss that little pickle pretty quickly before she’s protesting outside your house.

3. Go to a movie

I never understand why people choose to see movies on their first date. You can’t talk or even SEE your date. Recently, a friend of mine went on a first date with a guy to the cinema and when I asked what he looked like she said she didn’t know! He could’ve been Pee-wee Herman for crying out loud. (FYI, I don’t know where I get this stuff either.) Not to mention the conversation won’t exactly be flowing because, well, everyone will shush you.

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4. Talk about an ex

So, your ex cheated on you? Broke your heart? Moved on with your sister? Trampled all over your heart, did he? Don’t moan about it on a date. That’s what Jerry Springer is for.

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5. Play hard to get

Playing games is for kids. I really can’t stand when you hear people dish out advice like “treat her mean, keep her keen” or “play hard to get”. Treat me mean, get bruised testicles.

6. Have unrealistic expectations

I’m not saying that you should just settle for any ole Tom, Dick or Jamie O’ Brien, but more often than not we expect a date straight from the imaginings of Richard Curtis. Me and Jack’s first date was a walk. Yes, you read that right. We walked for miles, sometimes in the rain, and we talked and talked until it got dark. It was cheap and simple, but it was also romantic.

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7. Expect him (or her) to pay

I have a big issue with girls who expect a guy to pay for a first date. I have talked to a lot of guys about this and the general consensus has been that they have no problem paying for a date, especially if they have invited the other person to a specific place, but it’s not cool when the other person doesn’t at least offer to pay their half.
You might be more old school and traditional than me, but I think it then sets a precedent for what is to follow. I’ve know plenty of girls who will play the ‘I’m a feminist’ card and demand equality, but would then expect a man to pay in full for a date. I have no issue with a man who would like to pay for a first date, but I would always offer to pay my way and I’d be only too happy too.

8. Spend more time checking Facebook than talking to your date.

Ugh. It is awful when you are trying to have a meaningful conversation with someone and you’re met with monosyllables. I don’t know how anyone would think that this is anything but ignorant. I would start discussing how I have a highly contagious virus and see how long they decide to remain unresponsive.

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9. Arrange to meet other people without telling your date

The reason I’m including this is because I recently went on a big knees up with my old work mates. There was about fifteen of us and lets just say when we all get together it gets… Messy. About an hour into the tequila shots and terrible karaoke one of our group arrives with a guy we’ve never met. Turns out they’d been on a date and she’d decided that they should meet us instead of go on the dinner they’d booked. She told me that it took the awkwardness out of it. ‘You sure did’, I replied, ‘for YOU.’ The poor guy was confronted with fifteen drunken and inquisitive women and he was clearly uncomfortable from start to (very hazy) finish. We were kind to him, but there’s only so much “YOU SHOULD TRY ON MY LIPSTIIIICK” one man can take.
If you make a date with someone, keep it between both of you, unless you have actually planned on attending an event with friends together. It could be a great ice-breaker, or, you know, extremely awkward.

10. Overthink the end of the date

We’ve all been there. “Should I kiss him?” “Will he expect to be invited in?” “What if he leans in for a kiss and I dip my head the wrong way…” There’s just no point panicking about these things. These moments should just be organic. It’s best to just relax and see where the moment takes you both. You don’t have to do anything, there are no rules here (well, except respecting the wishes of the other person) so have fun!

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How to meet his parents and not receive a restraining order

If there’s ever a time in your relationship that you’ll wish your partner was raised by wolves, it’s when they suggest the dreaded parental meet. Sure, wolves are dangerous (just ask Red Riding’s Hood’s Grandma) but in this instance, they are no match for the people who raised your precious partner. Everything you say and do will be judged and they will talk about you when you leave. So how do you get them to say things like ‘she was a well-adjusted individual. We like her’ instead of ‘frankly we’d prefer if you brought home Lindsay Lohan’?

Well, follow my advice. Moms love me. Well, Jack’s Mom does. And maybe my Mom. That’s it really. Here you go:

  1. Don’t drink beforehand. You think a few tipples will make you confident and more sociable. They’re thinking ‘why is our son dating an alcoholic?’
  2. If there’s two things Dad’s love, it’s sweater-vests and being funny. Laugh at absolutely EVERYTHING his dad says. Unless, of course, it’s ‘we buried our dog Sparky today.’ Probably best not to laugh at that.
  3. Ask them if they’ve ever heard of Amanda Bynes. No? Well, regale them with tales of her escapades and compared to her, you’ll look like Marcia Brady. Bonus points for saying something like ‘if only she’d stayed in school’.
  4. Don’t offer to help cook. Cause his mom will say something like ‘Sautee the onions please.’ And you’ll put them in a blender. Then she’ll realise you’ve never sautéed before. Or, ahem, cooked hot food. Moms have a HUGE thing about their boys eating well. In her eyes, if you can’t provide the grub, then you can’t provide the love. If you can cook, don’t show off. As the saying goes ‘Hell hath no fury like a jealous mom.’
  5. You must pretend to just ADORE whatever pet they have. Even if their Persian, Mr Snufflebumps, is a psychotic feline who is already planning your downfall, you pet him. Even if you’re allergic. You can go to the Emergency Room later.
  6. NEVER begin any story about your partner with ‘last night, when we were fooling around…’
  7. When she breaks out the baby pictures, do not make fun of her precious bundle of joy with remarks like ‘LOOK HOW BIG YOUR HEAD WAS!’ or ‘WHEN DID YOU STOP BEING CLINICALLY OBESE?’ You can make fun of him later.
  8. Remember that tattoo you got on your butt during your trip to Thailand when you wanted to “find yourself”? Probably best not to show his parents.
  9. Don’t lie. If you tell them that current affairs is your forte then it should be. If his dad asks you ‘what do you think of Syria?’ and you respond with ‘Oh…um, Rice Krispies are my favourite…’ they’ll probably deduce that you were lying.
  10. Don’t dress like Nicki Minaj. That shouldn’t really be a problem, unless you’re Nicki Minaj.