The Quarter-Life Crisis

I am in a reading slump. I don’t get them too often at the moment so I think I just need to switch out the book I’m reading. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, I am, but I don’t think it’s what I want to be reading right now.

But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

When I hit twenty-five, I didn’t really have a quarter-life crisis, I was happy floating along and nothing really changed with my age. Fast forward a year.

I recently turned twenty-six (you may remember a vaguely uplifting post about it), when that happened I had a grand plan and life was good and I was feeling determined and optimistic about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a plan and am feeling determined but I am also feeling incredibly anxious.

Everywhere I look, my friends from all periods of my life (from primary school through to my master’s degree) seem to have their lives together, they have great jobs, great houses/flats, some of them are buying houses. They’re going to exciting places and having exciting adventures. (Now, that last bit is something I like to observe from afar, I am a homebody and I’m happy to just chill locally – that’s not to say I never want to go on holiday but I’m more focussed on saving at the moment and that’s okay.) I see my friends getting new jobs and moving up in the world, getting higher salaries and more respected in their fields, and then the panic sets in.

Maybe, it’s just because this month is an expensive month for me, filled with various car-related payments (insurance, service, road tax – yay!). I’m not able to put anything in my savings for a while and that freaks me out. But I find myself panicking that my life is going nowhere, and thinking that I should be at the same stage as the other people I know. Now, rationally, I know that all of my friends have probably had this exact feeling despite how put together they look on the outside. I know for a fact that I have been one of the people inspiring the panic for at least one of my friends (she told me so), so I must not be doing as badly as I think but the problem is that once I think it and feel it, it’s a hard feeling to shake.

My self-confidence ebbs and flows. I can take compliments now, I am practised in the art of agreeing when people say nice things about me and not only agreeing but believing it too. But that confidence doesn’t extend to my worth as a person, I find it very difficult to imagine myself as someone who adds to the environment I am in, I know I am good at things but I never think I am good enough at those things (to be worth hiring or paying or sometimes just being around). I know that this is probably being exaggerated by my current lack of money and the worries that come from that.

I will probably be okay in a few weeks but until then, I will be huddled in the corner, like Golem, whispering my precious over all of the five pence pieces I can find.


This has been a blog entry, I think. I honestly don’t know what this was but I needed to write about it, so here you go. My humble Monday-evening-but-posting-Tuesday offering.

On insta-love

Greetings, greetings, one and all. This is a bit of a weird one, bear with me though because I think it’s worth reading. (Well, would, I am the one writing it.)

Insta-love. Not the kind you show on instagram by liking as many of someone’s photos as is humanly possible in one sitting (though, that can be good) but the kind you see in books and movies. Often hailed as unrealistic and annoying and a plot-ruiner.

Well, I have a confession to make on that front.

It’s not that unrealistic. (Controversial?) Sure, if it’s terribly written or portrayed and you’re getting no feeling from either character, I can understand it ruining everything. But as a thing, on the whole, it’s not that bad. Love is weird and it’s different for everyone. This is common knowledge. A love being different to the love I experience, doesn’t make that love invalid and I would never dream of saying it does so why do we assume insta-love isn’t a thing?

Why am I writing about this? Why am I defending insta-love? Well, quite simply, because I feel it myself. Perhaps not full-blown cherubs-with-trumpets-I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you-immediately love but it’s very fast.

Context: I met my boyfriend through online dating, we spoke for maybe a week before we met each other in person. We spent a day together and before he went home, I ended up deciding ‘Yup, this is the person I want to be with.’ (If we’re being completely honest, I decided that about an hour into the day.) He agreed. And so we officially became a thing. I didn’t need a second date to know that he was who I wanted, or that a relationship with him was both what I wanted and right for me at the time. Over a year and a half later, and here we still are, living together harmoniously in a little flat on the top of a hill.

I can’t ‘date’. I don’t see the point in devoting time to someone I don’t see or want a future with. If I decide to be with someone it’s because I’m in it for the long-haul from day one. When I was doing the online dating thing, if I felt a strong connection with someone (like my other half) I would cease talking to anyone else on that platform until I had confirmed whether it was something both of us wanted to pursue.

I feel very quickly and very deeply – I felt strong feelings for my other half before we even met. I am exactly the kind of character that gets complained about for being unrealistic but does my existence not make all of those claims a little bit false? Sure, it might be annoying as hell, and it might be difficult to understand if it’s not something you go through, but it’s very much a real thing.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, it hurts when it goes wrong – especially when it goes wrong after a short period of time and the people around you can’t quite understand why you’re so upset about it. That side of things, I think, needs to be explored more. I’m all for happy, wonderful love stories but I’m also all for raw, emotional, painful, not-quite love stories.

A lot of the complaints about it come from young adult fiction, and TV shows and films aimed at teenagers but it’s very much something that teenagers go through. I had so many dramatic unrequited teenage crushes and my teenage relationship(s), other than being a train-wreck, were very much that immediate, sickly sweet kind and so were many of the other teen relationships going on around me. What’s important, I think, is that books/films/shows that deal in insta-love should also deal with how to react healthily to it ending. There are so few stories that I know of that can be used as an example of a healthy way of dealing with a break-up, if you know any, do share them.

Is it just me? Am I the only person on this planet who gets insta-love and doesn’t revile it on principle? Am I speaking into the void?

Photographic Aesthetic

There is something about viewing headlights through mist. Any lights, really. There is something about how beams of light are elongated and spread by fog which makes everything look that little bit more magical. And terrifying.

If you wear glasses, which I do, mist and fog is confusing. At first. It could just be that your glasses are fogged up or that there are smears on your lenses. Then when you take your glasses off it’s entirely possible that the mistiness could just be your poor eyesight. Light fog, I mean. Heavy fog falls like a blanket, and the heaviest fog spreads light in front like a wall. No more beams stretching ever forward, instead a block of light.

You hear talk of snow-blindness but you never hear about being fog-blind. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car deep in dense fog during the night (with your headlights on) or during the day (without), you know what it means to be fog-blind.

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Fog is otherworldly. It transforms and shapes buildings, fields, trees, cars, lights into something other. There is no weather that changes the look and feel of a place so much as fog.

Mist and fog is my favourite weather to take photographs in (I may have mentioned this before) – it’s also one of the most tricky. But it is the kind of difficult that really pays off if/when you succeed.

It’s trickier still when wearing glasses, as are generally cold conditions. When your face is behind the camera, your breath fogs up your glasses and you end up having to wipe them every five minutes. It’s worth it. Creating magic is always worth it.

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Even when it’s not foggy, I try to bring a little bit of the aesthetic into my photographs (even the selfies and random snaps I post to my personal instagram – my current filter style is Gingham with extra fade, and other tweaks which depend on the photo). Often my photography has a slightly faded feel, I take that inspiration from the misty conditions I love to shoot in.

There’s just something about it, it’s hard to put my finger on why exactly. But it doesn’t quite look real, even though it is. It’s almost like a half-real thing. It fades sometimes as quickly as it appears and you never know how long it will stay.

It suits me though, and my whimsy. Hopefully this year will bring me more mist and more art, and more magic. We will have to wait and see.

Inspiration from Daily Prompt: Aesthetic

On being grateful

Over the last week, my often-mentioned, very talented friend Mike Medaglia announced his next book in the wonderfully successful One Year Wiser series. The simply and aptly named One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal does what it says on the tin. It is a journal that allows you space to write one years’ worth of things you are grateful for alongside quotes and other fun things.

And that’s what poetry is. A human attempt to comprehend and share personal experiences of the things that exist just beyond our perception and comprehension.
Mike Medaglia on Poetry and Wonder from The Mindful Life Illustrated

This announcement, along with Mike’s Mindful Life Illustrated Elephant Journal posts on all things mindfulness, gratitude and generally living well, spiritually and mentally, has made me think of all of the things I am thankful for. Well, actually, the thing that triggered my thinking was a beautiful sunset on the way home from work but then I was reminded of Mike, then I matched that with a video I watched last night by Carrie Hope Fletcher and then that spiralled into everything else and so we ended up here. You and me, on this blog.

If you’ve read Mike’s writing, you know that it has the power to make you think about things, really think about things (and if you haven’t, you should). And so, thinking about things, I am. So, without further ado and pomp, I present to you:

A little ramble of things I am thankful for

How to survive a funeral

If you look, see a
box. Cry
for the melting snow.
For the flowers,
miscarriages of colour
returned to the earth like bulbs.

Bethan Ford-Williams

I am grateful for poetry, and the ability to write it, and the fact that I spent three years around people who were excellent at it and who loved it as much as I did and in some cases more. I am grateful for spending three years writing and reading and knowing that doing that was okay, maybe a bit self-indulgent at times (maybe a lot of the time) but that it was something worth doing.

I am thankful for the opportunities that those three years afforded me, and that I took a chance, when I was seventeen, and looked into university without ever really intending to go.

mum and dad

I feel so grateful to have the parents that I do, who are unfailingly supportive (even if my Dad tells me I drive incorrectly). I am thankful that they are the incredibly weird people they are because otherwise I would not be the incredibly weird person I am. (And that would be a shame for everyone involved.)

Even when they have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, or doing, or think I am being dramatic (I probably am), they support me, share in my laughter and laugh at me when the situation calls for it.

Selfies with the parentsI do not thank my parents enough for the relationship we have; the way we have never really had a fight; the way they take selfies with me even though it’s often ridiculous and very much in public; the way they let me dig at them for saying words that aren’t actually real words.

The cinema trips and drives with Dad, the shopping days and lazing around on the sofa with mum (and the dog). I am so lucky to have my parents, and I don’t tell them enough or talk about my feelings to them very often but I like to think I show them.

I am thankful for sunsets and clouds and stars and the sea. I am thankful for tiny, fluffy animals and animated gifs. I am thankful for chocolate (so thankful for chocolate). I am thankful for cobbled streets and houses with beams, but I am also thankful for towering buildings with walls made out of nothing but windows.

I am thankful for books and vanilla chai tea. I am thankful for friends and movies and ice cream.

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I am thankful for my best friend, who I wax lyrically about on a semi-regular basis, I am thankful that I have someone in my life who understands me as she does and who lets me sit in the corner, doing my own thing and is content just to be in the same room. I am thankful that she walked up to me as I was stood on the steps of our college. I am thankful she didn’t run away when I continued the conversation I was having with myself in my head, with her out loud without providing any semblance of context. I am glad she just rolled with it.

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“My sister is gonna make a mint, everyone can see her potential is f***ing phenomenal.”

Overheard from
the garden in 2011

I am thankful for my brother. He is one of the most irritating human beings on Earth but he is also my brother. I am grateful for the nice things he says about me when he thinks I can’t hear him and that he likes to throw wrapping paper at my head at Christmas, so much so that it is now tradition. And I am also grateful for hilariously out of tune sing-a-longs. I am grateful that I have a brother.

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I am thankful for grandparents. Grandparents are precious, and if you have any still with you, pick up the phone and give them a call or go round and give them a hug. I am so lucky to have had my grandparents right up until my twenties, and I am so lucky to have had not two but three sets of them! (Long story short: we adopted some close family friends who lived in the house at the bottom of our garden, and they, too, adopted us.) I am lucky enough to still have my Nanna (on my mum’s side) and my adoptive grandad still with me. I am thankful for their existence, and their stories, and the stories I can take forward and tell my one-day children and grandchildren.

I am thankful for stories, and photography. I am thankful for mist and hills and beaches. I am thankful for the way that light shines through leaves. I am thankful for those of you still reading this ramble.

he and i

I am thankful for my other half, at whose desk I am sitting while finishing this post. I am thankful for his patience when I am stressed and his support when I am feeling needy. I am thankful for his willingness to stay in with me on a Saturday while we look after my Nanna and watch nothing but old musicals and every single Lassie film that exists.

I am grateful that he took the time to respond to my message on okcupid, and that we found a time to meet and both dived in head first. I am slightly jealous of how smitten my dog is with him (it’s not fair) and how my laptop seems to really want to please him and only turns on when he is around (it’s really not fair). I am thankful for taking chances.

I am thankful that we share so many obsessions and yet still find things to each have of our own. I feel grateful that he has an incredibly lovely family, and that my own family accept and approve of him whole-heartedly. I am thankful for the sheer amount of ridiculous selfies he has let me force him into.

I am grateful that I have my own little corner of the internet to write my thoughts and review my books and fill with whatever floats my considerably eclectic dinghy. I am thankful for the people who read it. What are you thankful for?

Pondering on trains #2

Today, by the time I get home (including tube journeys and train delays due to electrical failures which meant at least one carriage of an overcrowded train was plummeted into complete darkness and subsequently led to us being stuck behind a slow train) I will have spent fifteen minutes in a car, twenty seven minutes walking, forty-six minutes on a bus and a whopping four hours and eight minutes on trains, with eight hours at work sandwiched in between. I will have spent £10 more than usual to get an open return which lets me get on a train at the time I would normally be waking up and I will definitely not understand why I was required to spend that extra £10 to get on a train at ten past six on a Monday morning. Nothing particularly special happens on trains at ten past six on a Monday morning, there is no magical on-board vanilla chai tea service or super comfy seats, nor are there warmer carriages or super speedy travel times, nor a small jaunt into Narnia. In fact, I am pretty sure it is a much more enjoyable experience catching a train at any time other than ten past six on a Monday morning.

That said, for most of that train journey I had ‘assumed the position’ (an act I save for the most dire of sleep-needing circumstances – normally in winter when I have had a bout of sleeplessness – which involves a lot of slouching, and as much snoozing as is possible on a bumpy train ride, all in the safety of the abnormally and wonderfully large fluffy hood on my coat) so it is possible I could have missed whatever magical happening I was paying £10 extra for. Either way, I am not sure that extra £10 is worth it.

(As I type, on my way home at around 6PM, a man with a beer has opened the train toilet door on an unsuspecting business man who clearly wasn’t aware of the lock button, though, now said beer-holding man has entered the aforementioned train toilet upon the business man’s exit and the lock symbol has not lit up so perhaps it’s just not working – regardless, that was not what I wanted to see on a sleep-deprived Monday evening and further firms the fact that train fare is bafflingly high considering the never-improving state of the service. We have already touched on how much I despise train toilets, be that in a very small way, combine that with drunk people and it is very much not a good time.)

I get incredibly stressed before I travel, to the point that my incredibly patient other half has to answer the same few questions about a million times, the answers to which do nothing to ease the stress but I still need to know the answers every time I ask for them (“when do we need to get up?”, “when do we need to leave?”, “how long will it take?”, “will I definitely get there on time?”, “will it definitely turn up?”, repeat ad infinitum), as well as dealing with irritability and the potential for less-than-a-minute bursts of uncalled for stress crying, the latter, thankfully, not happening very often. (You know he’s a keeper when he not only gets up with you at 4AM when he doesn’t really have to but also offers to make you pancakes before you leave, walks you down to your bus stop and deals with all of your pointless questions, stress and grumpiness when he should still be sleeping – thank you, you are super human.)

If I am travelling just after I have to get up, I will inevitably not be able to sleep; so determined will my body be to not miss my train/bus/taxi (delete as applicable) that I will be completely awake for most of the night with fleeting pink elephant dreams in between (today’s being a result of the back-to-back Attack on Titan watching I partook in on Saturday, and, naturally, not at all relaxing – it’s good, you should watch it). Naturally, my decision to travel a greater distance this morning in the same amount of time it would have taken to catch the various rail replacements home yesterday made me question my life choices, as well as whether today was, indeed, the same Monday I thought it was, but it also made me feel oddly triumphant.

But that was not the point of this pondering. I’m not entirely sure what the point was but it has led me to question why they’re spending so much time on a snazzy new line when that snazzy new line is leading to over-crowding on the pre-existing line and traffic problems in my home town. Sigh. That is, potentially, a rant for another entry.

Pondering on trains

I am currently (at the time of writing, though, probably not at the time of posting) on a train, and, as is customary with my train journeys, I am using this time to Think-About-Things. Nothing too drastic or life altering, just little things like ‘I haven’t written properly in rather a long time, I should fix that,’ and the impossibility of phone cameras catching the incredible beauty of a fleeting sunset between two train seats, so fleeting that it only lasted all of about two minutes. I saw the glow on the wall (do trains have walls?), spun round to try to photograph it but all my camera picked up was a yellow mass, and the train jostled about so much that it would never have focused anyway.

Other thoughts include: ‘I really am uncomfortable in this outfit, I wish I had found that t-shirt,’ ‘I need to lose twenty-eight pounds, at least,’ ‘I am hungry,’ and those are then swallowed up by improbable ones about futuristic trains which don’t wobble, and contain toilets (I am sat opposite a train toilet) that don’t have that awful train toilet smell. Trains where Quiet Zones have some kind of force field in their doors which automatically mutes any electronic devices and tells your brain to use your inside voice, your quietest there-is-a-baby-asleep-in-the-next-room-and-if-it-wakes-up-its-parents-might-actually-eat-me voice. Then it digests a bit and turns into a moral dilemma – is a super high tech train which is able to alter the volume of the voices of those inside it, utilising the brain of those people, ethical? Probably not.

On that note, my train is pulling into my station (or was, at 6:30pm, when this was being written) – time to go.

The Fault in Our Stars

My next blog entry was going to be about Simon Mason and his wonderful story-like way of guest lecturing. But then I was completely and utterly emotionally destroyed by John Green and The Fault in Our Stars.

I’d thought about reading it for a while, almost bought it and then didn’t, wasn’t sure whether it was something I would be into and then succumbed yesterday. I finished it today.

I would like to start this (and I realise that this is not the beginning really) by saying that I do not cry at books and that recently I have fervently taken to not-crying at real-life emotional situations. I cried at this. I would like to say that it was perhaps because I am grieving and have been grieving but I feel that in saying it I would be doing a disservice to the book. So I won’t. I cried at this book because it was worth crying at. And I think that it was something that I needed to read at this point in my life.

I am thankful for this book.

The novel follows Hazel Grace Lancaster, a cancer patient, as she gets to know and grows to love Augustus Waters who she meets at a support group. From the blurb, I knew it was going to be at least a little bit upsetting (not to mention the snatches of reaction I’ve seen on both Facebook and Tumblr), I’ve read upsetting books before and it’s been tough, getting attached to characters who you know may not have a happy ending, but it’s always been a case of read, finish and move on. The Fault in Our Stars was different, there were tears and when I thought it might be getting a little bit better more tears took their place.

When it ended, I felt a little bit like Hazel with An Imperial Affliction. I still feel a little bit like that. I want to know what happened to everyone else. I want to know a lot of things, I won’t list them here because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who might not have read it. But it’s definitely left me thinking. I find myself imagining what might be going on now, as if they’re not characters but real people with real lives. In a way they are, there are real people going through situations much like Hazel’s and now I’m thinking about them.

For me, that is one of the signs of a good book. A book that not only leaves you thinking about its characters but about people you’ve never met and may never meet.

I am going to read it again. Not just yet but soon. Until then it will sit with me and I will think about it, then try not to think about it, then inevitably think about it again.