10 Years Ago…

Apparently, the natural lifespan of a sheep is around ten years. This fact is pretty irrelevant to this post – the only link really is the length of time the sheep in the feature photo are likely to be around is the same as the time span from my own life that I’m covering today in this post. I didn’t have a photo for the topic and so I had to make this one, of the sheep, relevant somehow. And that tenuous link was the best I could do…sorry.

Ten years ago, conveniently, I was ten years old. That feels crazy to type – I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve been on this planet consuming Marmite for two decades that freaks me out a little, or the thought that ten years is literally half my life. Either way, it’s strange how far away I feel from my ten-year-old self. When I was ten, I was in my last year of primary school. I had a t-shirt with an ice cream on it that I wore religiously, I played four square in the playground, and I choreographed dances to Blondie with my friends.

At eleven, I took that leap into secondary school – suddenly going from the oldest in a school of 360 pupils to the youngest in a school of 1,600 students. It was disorientating for most of us I think. I (wrongly) learnt that backpacks aren’t for cool kids (don’t worry, a few years later I realise how mistaken I was and rediscovered the backpack life) and that school skirts should be rolled over at the waistband to shorten them (they still looked awful, whoever thought that stiff polyester is a good material for a skirt clearly never wore one).

From twelve to fourteen, I think my life remained pretty similar – I enjoyed school, put effort into my homework, and aside from a few friendship changes, things went pretty smoothly. I learnt how to flip on a trampoline. I really got into cooking, and would often have dinner on the table for when my parents arrived home from work. I became more self-aware and consequently, more self-conscious. I grew to dread class presentations. I read a lot of books. I liked History and English and hated the school bus. I became really passionate about dance, joining clubs for every style and taking part in performances. I played the violin in an orchestra and went to Guides – neither of which I felt much of an affinity for. This is the time I really started appreciating routine: I made my school lunches for each day the night before, fitting an abundance of snacks neatly into one tuppaware.

At fifteen, the pressure of school was starting to trap me into this feeling of worry: that I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t do it, that I would let people down. But I also had wonderful friends who made the days at school pass pretty uneventfully. We got into concerts, a notable one being the night we saw Bastille and met the lead singer after the show.

Sixteen came along and I took my GCSEs in a whirlwind of panic. The summer after that was long, in a good way. I dip-dyed my hair green and went to Cuba with my family. September shoved me back into reality: I moved schools for sixth form college and started the IB. This period of my life I’d characterise as intense – hard work and constant effort, with a smattering of hysterical laughing fits in the Film Studies ‘editing suite’ and a few relaxed lunchtimes playing cards in the canteen. I became more aware of the wider world and discovered veganism. I got my first paid job and overcame panic after panic. I lived in flannel shirts from thrift stores and expressed myself mainly through my manic making and consuming of baked goods. There were plenty of good moments, yet the fear of failure was like a damp laundry smell that followed me around. Somewhere in the middle of that whole alienating experience, seventeen pretty much passed me by.

By eighteen, I had a couple of months left of revision before 10 days of solid exams, and then I was finally free from education: I vowed I would not put myself through something like that again until I really wanted it. And then my life was travel: Paris, Iceland, Florida, Canada, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, India… I worked abroad, met people from all aspects of life, and completely changed my perspective on so many things. It’s cliché, but I do think travelling, especially alone, teaches you a lot about yourself – your capabilities and limits, the heights of your happiness and depths of your lows, your resilience and resistance to fear – the growth of it all is overwhelming really.

By nineteen, I was home again and depressed: no money, no future plans, everything good felt behind me at that point. I took a job in an ice cream shop where my friend from school worked and sweated my summer away scooping gelato. I visited friends in Sweden and felt okay for a while. The monotony of this type of work was kicking in by Autumn though, and my brain felt like it had weeds growing in it, or tumbleweeds blowing across it, from lack of use.

I enrolled in the Open University to get the cogs turning again, started this blog to encourage a bit of creativity into my life, and looked for a new job. I landed a Healthcare Assistant role at the hospital and after a relaxing New Year’s away in Wales got stuck into it. The work was hard but rewarding: my life became a juggling act of long shifts, online learning and ferocious writing. Yet somehow this wasn’t enough. This was the point at which I applied for physical university: I had a yearning to learn, and be around other people also learning, and doing a distance learning course wasn’t satiating these things.

I turned twenty and completed the year-long online course regardless of my waning enthusiasm, quit my job and went travelling again: Greece, Poland, Prague, Amsterdam, New York, Spain. A much better summer than the one before it, that’s for sure. I worked hard on my blog, getting my first couple of sponsored posts in August and driving up traffic. Things felt like they were looking up.

By September I was at uni, studying Sociology and getting a new job as a Communications Intern. The first term flew by, not uneventfully that’s for sure, but every tornado passes eventually. Christmas came as a welcome break and a week hiking in the Peak District (the source of the sheep photo) helped ground me a little again. And here I am, back at university – ten years on from that little girl in her last year of primary school, completely unaware of everything to come.

Where has the last ten years taken you?


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sunlight on peak district mountains

Goodbye 2018 – December Reflections

December, as it usually is, has been an exhalation: of stress, work, chaos. I spent the first week up at university, catching up on lectures and bits of reading I missed throughout the term, before enjoying a couple of days in London with some friends. From there, I headed back home to be with my family for Christmas.

We did the typical yuletide activities – making a wreath for the door, going on cold woodland walks, shopping for and wrapping presents, baking festive-flavoured things – and ate lots of yummy comfort food. It was a blessing to be able to use a proper food processor to make vegan nicecream again – I miss it so badly when I’m up at uni with just my cheap smoothie blender to rely on.

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Reflecting on My 2018 Goals

We have reached that reflective point in the calendar, a week in which lots of us cast a thought back over the previous 12 months and linger on the good and the bad the year had to offer. I thought I’d take a moment to wrap up by looking back on the goals I set way back in January.

Physical Health

I wanted to spend lots of time outside and move more in an effort to improve my general wellbeing. I think my success with this varied over the months but I did get out the house quite a bit and I did give basketball, yoga and running a crack. Through these activities, I attempted new things and overcame old anxieties; I’d say that’s a win even if exercise did fall off my radar as the year toppled into the colder months.

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happy sunset silhouette in sand dunes australia

Take That, Anxiety: An Open Letter from the First Term of University

Dear Alys,

Hey, you made it through the first term of university! Can we have a pause for applause, please?

Yes, you’ve cried. Yes, you’ve had days when leaving your room took more than a couple of thoughts and deep breaths to achieve. Yes, anxiety hasn’t decided to fully retire to The Bahamas, never to be seen by you again (yet). But you have persisted through these feelings and honestly, they’ve been rather fleeting for the most part. More like occasional-dandruff-to-brush-off-the-shoulders level, a minor inconvenience, rather than taking-a-few-days-out-because-of-flu level.

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potrait of girl in dungarees dress

12 Things I’ve Learned in the Past 12 Months

A year ago today I was probably walking home exhausted and over-heated from my full-time job at an ice cream shop in town. I was in a totally different place then, to where I am now. Not just in terms of work, but in all areas of my life. I guess the same can be said by comparing any two months a year apart, but I think I become particularly reflective around autumn, and this past year has held a lot more change than most.

Coming into September always feels like a new beginning – the start of a fresh academic year breathes a renewed wave of energy into everything, even if I’m not personally attending school that year. And so this seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on the last 12 months – the good, the bad and the lessons I’ve learnt.

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March Reflections – My Birthday, Facing Rejection and Losing Self-Confidence

Like every other blogger out there, I am starting this reflections post with the obligatory ‘I can’t believe it’s already April!’. But seriously, how did that happen? March, although seeming to fly by, was quite the struggle for me to get through at times. It wasn’t all bad though…

The first half of the month ran pretty smoothly, dare I say uneventfully. I was on top of my Open University work, went to a Sigrid concert, and even managed to start feeling more comfortable in my working environment. Then it was my birthday: half of which was was an extremely stressful morning at work, the other half of which was amazing. Either way, I made it to twenty, so I guess that’s an achievement!

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February Reflections – How My New Job Is Going, Spontaneous Adventures and Life Update

In my first ‘reflections’ post of the year, I described January as a whirlwind. If January was a whirlwind, with everything up in the air and swirling around me a little chaotically, February was most certainly a cheetah: definitely continuing the fast-paced rush of the previous month, but with more direction than a tornado. Allow me to explain.

This was the month of settling into my new job as a healthcare assistant. In January, I was completely out of my depth: I had no previous experience in a role like this and every hour was filled with foreign experiences. At the end of each twelve and a half hour shift I’d be totally wiped out, and sometimes tearful. This month, I’ve felt a little more in control, I know what to do and how to do it most of the time; I’m also starting to understand the dynamics of the team I’m working in. Each shift feels like I’m heading for a clear goal now, rather than nervously running around in circles wondering what’s next. I also did my first ever night shift a couple of weeks ago. That came with a whole bucketful of lessons in itself.

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