Skin and Bones

Skin and Bones

I was a pretty skinny kid growing up. I’m talking knobbly knees, chicken legs, and the kind of body that made adults say things like “we need to get a few pies in you”.

I had never really thought about what my body looked like until I went to secondary school. All the girls around me started growing boobs and bragging about their bra sizes in the PE changing rooms, and I had… nothing. I got my first double A bra from Asda just so that I wouldn’t be the only girl without anything on, but there was absolutely nothing for it to hold. I was nothing but ribs and skin.

Then, when I was about 13, the boy who sat in front of me in music lessons turned around and asked me if I was anorexic. I didn’t even know what to say. I was shocked. As far I was concerned, I ate like a pig. But that question suddenly made me self conscious; did people actually look at me like that? Was there something wrong with my body? I thought about all the times adults had commented on how they needed to feed me up, and how my friends had gripped my wrists to see how small they were. Did I need to change something? I started to make a point of overeating in front of people, bragging about how much I could eat in one sitting, and avoiding the charity fast days at school out of fear that everyone thought I had an eating disorder. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to put on any weight. Curves were nowhere to be seen. I was still living in my outfits from Tammy and the kids sections of shops, but trying to hunt down size 4 clothes in Miss Selfridge so that I could look as grown up as the other girls with their C cup bras and bigger hips. Girls expressed their envy over my bony body and six stone weight, but I would have done anything to swap with them.

It wasn’t until I got to sixth form that I started to put on more weight (probably thanks to the meatball subs that I consumed literally every single lunchtime without fail – the people who worked at Subway knew my order without even having to ask me), but I was still really slim. I started to develop a few curves though – not enough to dance around my bedroom to My Humps, but enough to get comments like “Olivia, when did you get an arse?” and other slightly creepy remarks.

When I moved to uni, my lifestyle completely changed. Alcohol, takeaways, and a rejection of any physical activity whatsoever meant that after years of trying to pad myself out, I rapidly gained rather a lot of weight. In some ways, I was ridiculously happy. Boobs! A bum! Curves! Finally! But then something new crept in. I was self conscious about the new, dark purple stretch marks that had flowered on my thighs, bum, and boobs, the way my face seemed to have turned into the moon, and how none of my clothes fit me anymore. When I came home for Christmas, an old friend of mine said I had “gotten a bit podgy”. Someone suggested I go on a five mile run. My sister, six years older than me, weighed me and found that I was two stone heavier than she was. I felt a strange sense of shame. I had got what I always wanted, but I was unhappy with it. I couldn’t win, no matter what my weight was.

The following year, I dropped a lot of weight after I turned veggie, and I drank very rarely. Then, a few months ago, a horrible bout of stress and anxiety caused me to shrink once more. I think I’ve reached some kind of middle ground now, but this Christmas a family member asked me if I was anorexic, and when I replied no, they asked if I was bulimic. These things still linger, and people regularly question and point out my weight. I am less concerned with that now though. I’m more concerned about doing and eating the things I enjoy, without letting my body go to some kind of unhealthy ruin. Sure, sometimes I’ll eat healthily and go to the gym, but other times all I want is to demolish an entire pack of biscuits and laze around in bed for a couple of days. My weight fluctuates, but it’s just a matter of how I feel at the time, and I don’t make much of a conscious effort to make myself look a certain way anymore.

The comments we make about people’s bodies stay with them for a long time. I was never self conscious about a lot of things about myself until other people commented on them, and they’re things I’ll never forget. I will always remember being told I had tiny pig eyes in year 8 while I queued for my lunch, and people making fun of my eyebrows (too bushy when I left them, too thin when I plucked them), my teeth, my voice, my body hair, and a million other tiny things. For a long time, whenever I looked in the mirror, all I saw were the mean comments that people at school had made about my physical appearance. Sometimes I still do. But I have learned to accept the way that I look and love myself for what I am.

Things are rarely all they’re cut out to be. When it comes to weight, we walk on a fine line. When I was more slender, people asked me if I had an eating disorder, I craved curves and padding, and was desperate for a “womanly figure”. When I put on a bit of weight, I was “podgy” and needed to shed some pounds, became self conscious about stretch marks, and couldn’t stand to look at my layers of chins. You’re never going to please everyone, and there are always going to be people who question you. As long as you’re happy within yourself, none of that matters. My face is still a bit like the moon, I’ve still got stretch marks galore on my thighs, and my boobs still aren’t as big as 13 year old me wanted them to be, but I’m happy with myself for the most part and I don’t let people’s passing comments impact upon the way I see myself anymore. That’s what matters, no matter what my weight might be.

Treat your body, and other people’s bodies, with care. Look after them, and be kind to them, because they’re all we have.

Advertisements

Attending Adult Ballet Class

Attending Adult Ballet Class

I used to go to ballet lessons for a short while when I was around thirteen, but I didn’t last very long. Working for a dancewear company over the summer meant that I  spent a lot of time absorbed in the world of dance, and I was transfixed by the grace and elegance of the ballet dancers. I’m no graceful gazelle, but over the summer I decided that I wanted to give ballet a go again, so I hunted down some adult classes in Manchester.

I found some open adult ballet classes at KNT Danceworks in Manchester, and at only a fiver for an hour, I hopped on the bus after work one day and headed to the dance studio in my gym clothes.

I won’t lie to you, I was sort of expecting it to be patronising and dull. Thankfully, I was wrong. The dance teacher was friendly, clear, and made classes fun for everybody. The ages ranged from people who looked about my age to ladies in their seventies, and there were men of all ages there too. The class was inclusive of everyone of all abilities, and even I could keep up with some of the fancier footwork. I didn’t feel like a silly elephant at any point in the class, and I actually let go of all of my worries for an hour and just danced, laughing with a bunch of strangers at some of our poorer attempts, and filling each other with pride when we nailed the moves.

Ballet was actually more of a workout than I was anticipating. I came out of the studio out of breath and sweaty, shocked by the fast pace and hard work that went into some of the moves. The next day, my thighs and calves were aching, but it felt kind of good.

The whole thing was a really fun experience, and although I’m certainly not going to be a pro, it’s something that I would probably do again.

The Fear of Growing Up

The Fear of Growing Up

Kids these days always seem like they’re in such a hurry to grow up. I constantly see fifteen year olds with better contour than me, wearing clothes from Topshop that I can’t even afford, and talking about things that I never even knew about at that age. The process of growing up has been very different for me.

You could say that I had a sheltered childhood. My parents tried their absolute hardest to preserve my childhood for as long as they could, and that’s something that I can never thank them enough for. When everyone else was watching Big Brother and Little Britain in year 6, I was still on Spongebob Squarepants and Hannah Montana. In fact, I didn’t abandon those shows until way after I started secondary school, and by then my peers were watching horror films and shows with sex scenes. We went to the same school, we ran in the same circles, and yet our lives were so different.

Throughout school, I was always the innocent, naive one that nobody wanted to taint. People my age were talking about crushes and sex and alcohol, and I was still stuck in the mindset of a child. Because, well, I was a child. I didn’t dare swear, not even in front of my friends. I still wanted to cuddle my teddy bear to sleep. I freaked out every time someone brought up their period, and feared the day I would get my own. When I did get my own for the first time, I fainted, cried, and then tried to revert back to being a six year old again and got my mum to buy me a Bratz doll. Thirteen years old isn’t “grown up”, and I didn’t start to feel grown up until I hit eighteen. The night before my eighteenth birthday was quite the scene in my house.

Eighteen is a big, important birthday. You legally become an adult, and you can do almost anything. The most exciting thing for most people on their eighteenth birthday is being able to legally drink, but alcohol had never even passed my lips before, so I didn’t even think about that. Instead of the usual excitement, I was in pieces. I sobbed and sobbed at the thought of becoming an adult. I fretted over things that I don’t even have to worry about right now, like “how will I remember to put out the bins every week?” and “I’ll never be able to afford a house”. Uni was just around the corner, and that looming life change suddenly started to hit me. I would have to live alone, function alone, and be surrounded by strangers, but all I wanted was to cuddle up on the sofa with my mum and watch Monsters Inc.

Everybody always says that they don’t feel any different when they age a year, but I did. I never had before, and I never have since, but I felt like something changed in me once I hit eighteen. I felt old, mature, different. I didn’t like it.

Have you seen Toy Story 3? When Andy is all grown up, and he doesn’t play with the toys anymore? If you’ve never seen it before and you don’t want any spoilers, look away now. When he gave all of his toys away to Bonnie, my heart was breaking. He was essentially packing up his entire childhood and letting it go. Sure, it was going to a deserving little girl who would get way more use out of the toys than him, but those toys shaped who he became as a person; they were more than just his toys, they were his friends, and they made up a huge part of his life.

Letting go of my childhood is something I will never be able to do. I was extremely lucky and I had the greatest childhood I could ask for, and I never want to forget that. Even the thought of having to say goodbye to those incredible years is painful. The only thing I regret is letting other people make me feel ashamed for holding onto that.

The day that I first picked up J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, I fell apart. The wonderful story of children in a magical land where they never grow up was my dream, and I read the whole novel with a smile on my face, overjoyed at the thought. But, spoiler alert, the children go home, and they grow up. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried, and I cried a lot. That fictional little bubble I had locked myself in was suddenly popped. There’s no escaping life, and no escaping growing up, not even in fairytales.

I am now approaching twenty one years old, another milestone birthday. I’ve never been in a hurry to grow up, and I’m still not. But the thing that brings me comfort is this: although I may grow old, I never have to grow up. I still have a teddy to hug at night, because it’s comfortable. I still put Spongebob on while I eat my breakfast every now and then, because there’s nothing else on TV and cartoons still make me laugh. I still hold my dad’s hand sometimes, because I love him. And there’s no shame in that.

Go through life at your own pace. It’s worth it.

 

 

My Terrible Addiction

My Terrible Addiction

Okay, maybe that title was a little dramatic, but I’ve got to come clean about something.

I am addicted to buying notebooks. During these difficult times where money is tight, I find myself craving the creamy paper of another blank book. And yet I have another hundred empty ones on my shelf, in my drawers, and stuffed into my bags.

I just can’t help myself. I see a pretty notebook, and I must have it. Even if I never use it, I just want to look at it. The beautiful soft covers are so enticing, and the look of the fresh, untouched pages are just waiting for me to ruin them with my scrawling handwriting.

Stationery shops, particularly Paperchase, are my biggest weakness. I run straight to the notebooks, I pick them up, I flip through the pages, and my heart bursts with joy. “You won’t use it, you don’t need it,” my conscience tells me. “You’re so poor, you can’t afford it,” my purse tells me. I know they are right, but my heart is so much more convincing. It’s like the little devil on my shoulder, whispering to me that everything will be okay if I just buy this notebook. And another tenner goes down the drain.

Recently, I’ve been able to control my addiction a little better. I avoid going into pretty stationery shops, and I try to stop myself from creeping onto the Waterstones website when I’m lying in bed, thinking about how I could just do with one more notebook…

For some people, it’s shoes, for others, it’s games. For me, a notebook addiction is crippling my life (and my bank account).

I know that this isn’t the worst addiction I could be tackling, but I just had to get it off my chest and admit to my problem, however small it may be. Perhaps there’s someone out there reading this who finds themselves relating to me. Maybe.

A Wedding Anniversary

A Wedding Anniversary

Six years ago yesterday, my sister and her husband started dating. One year ago yesterday, they tied the knot.

My brother-in-law had been part of the family long before the papers were signed. Andy is definitely like my older brother, so the day that my sister announced their engagement to me in January 2015, I couldn’t contain my excitement. They’re the perfect couple.

Despite the fact that they’ve been together for six years now, Jessica and Andy continue to amaze me with their strength and the unconditional love that they have for each other. I look to them for inspiration constantly, as they have full trust within each other and have supported each other through everything that life has thrown at them.

Their wedding day was the most beautiful and wonderful day you could imagine. There were tears, there was laughter, and there was lots of dancing, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate their love.

I can’t believe that a full year has passed, and I think that we all wish that we could relive that day. But now we get to celebrate the anniversaries instead, and they’re an even greater milestone.

So happy first anniversary to my beautiful sister and the best brother-in-law, and I give all my love for the years to come.

 

The Importance of the Pinky Promise

The Importance of the Pinky Promise

I know what you’re thinking: that title sounds so childish. How old am I again?

Let’s just be clear for a second – I am never going to stop using pinky promises. They may seem childish to some, but for me they are the highest possible symbol of trust that you can have with another human being. Pinky promises are simply unbreakable; one pinky wrapped around another symbolises so much more than childhood promises of friendship – it’s make or break.

I haven’t always taken the pinky promise so seriously. Two years ago, I met Qasim and Paige. This duo take the pinky promise more seriously than anyone else possibly could – it’s one of their greatest strengths, and why I will always have so much trust in them. Their honesty when it comes to the pinky promise inspired me, and now I use it as a guarantee of trust and secrecy. We are sworn together by entwining our little fingers, and its simplicity and innocence is something that continues to make me smile and bring me hope.

In a world where so much is uncertain, I can always rely on the pinky promise to give me some stability. As an anxious person, sometimes I find it difficult to believe that even the most simple of things are true. Somebody willing to offer me a pinky promise that everything is going to be okay, or that they love me, or that they are completely honest, is a saviour to me. It calms me instantly; this little symbol brings me so much comfort and peace, and helps me to trust in other people during times where I might otherwise have found it difficult.

But pinky promises work both ways. Offering someone else my own little finger will hopefully help them to put their trust in me, too. If I can be somebody else’s support system that they can trust undoubtedly, then of course I want to be there. There is no higher promise that I can make to them.

Forget crossing your heart, blood pacts, and spit shakes, the pinky promise is the only thing I can believe in.

Mastering Productivity

Mastering Productivity

I am not claiming to be some kind of miraculous, productive being. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life being really, really lazy. However, over the past year (and particularly over summer), I decided to get myself into gear and actually do something other than eat and sleep.

Keeping busy keeps me level. If I spend too long doing nothing, I start to just morph into a moss-covered rock that never moves, and the less I do, the less I want to do. Once I recognised this, I powered myself full-force into a lot of different things to see how it went. And you know what? I feel great.

Before summer, I pelted headfirst into my course, and kept it as just that. I didn’t really have any hobbies and I didn’t have a job, I just focused entirely on my uni work. So when summer came around, I found myself very, very bored. Sure, I made a head start on the reading list, but that didn’t exactly give me something to have on the go all the time. I dug into my own books, and read more than I could possibly count. I would spend day after day wrapped up in my duvet with my Kindle under my nose, blocking out everything else. I love books, and I love the escape that reading brings, but spending my days poring over books meant that I also spent all my time in bed doing pretty much nothing else.

Once I got a full time job, of course things started to change. I spent the majority of my time at work, and I was keeping busy, but I wanted something to fill my nights and my weekends. This is where I started to pick up hobbies.

Honestly, I’ve never really had hobbies before now. There was never really anything that I kept at, so I decided that this time, things would be different. My first port of call was languages. Over summer, I polished up on my French skills that hadn’t been touched since I was sixteen, and I ventured into learning Danish. I love learning languages, and I love a challenge. I practice for a few minutes every day, and it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. I recognise the words a little faster every day, pick up on new things, and it keeps my brain ticking.

We all know how important it is to be physically active. I had essentially done no exercise since PE at school, bar a couple of at-home workouts that I never stuck to (I bought a hula hoop). I wasn’t happy with how sluggish I felt, or how my chins seemed to be multiplying by the day, and I’d heard about how exercise is a great stress reliever. I loved going to the gym over summer. It made me feel like I had my life together. I had more energy, felt more confident, and had the opportunity to push myself. Signing up to classes in advance made things concrete for me rather than an option. I felt a great sense of achievement when I ran for those extra five minutes or lifted those extra ten pounds, and my head felt clearer, too.

You may have seen me talk about knitting before, and that was my next venture. I love that I have something to show for my time and effort, and it’s so therapeutic. It’s not work related, but I love it and it makes me feel productive anyway. I could take my knitting to work and get a couple of rows done on my breaks so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting time, and it’s so satisfying looking at something and thinking “I made that”.

I’ve played the ukulele for over a year now, but perhaps I don’t pick it up as often as I should. Setting myself a goal to pick up the ukulele every once in a while instead of leaving it to gather dust gave me another thing to focus on, and it was very calming to play.

I even dabbled in ballet a little bit, attending a couple of adult lessons to keep me active and get me out of the house. It was good fun and actually a great way to take your mind off other worries, because you have to focus on your body rather than your mind.

Finally, this blog has pushed me to keep busy. Whacking a post up on a website three times a week means that I have to get creative with my ideas, plan out my posts, and most importantly, write. Writing is my favourite hobby, and yet I don’t do it enough, and I certainly don’t show my writing to anyone. This blog gives me a set structure, with time limits that I have to stick to. I get the chance to let out some of the thoughts that feel like they’re bunged up in my head, I get to be creative, and I get to see how I cope under my own pressure.

I found that keeping myself busy with things other than work helped me to focus on being more driven and not letting myself get lazy. Knowing that I could achieve so many little things in one day restored my own faith in myself, and that means that when I start uni next week, I’ll be ready to get on with my work instead of having to kick myself out of a lazy phase.

So here are my tips for being productive:

  • Just do it. Whatever it is you have to do, just get on with it. The sooner you start, the sooner it will be done, and you’ll thank yourself for it later. Procrastination isn’t going to get you anywhere.
  • Keep yourself busy with anything that you can to keep you in the flow of getting stuff done. The feeling of success gets pretty addictive, so set yourself small goals and soon enough you’ll be aiming higher.
  • Make a checklist. I tell myself that if it’s on my checklist, then it has to be done with no excuses. It feels great being able to tick things off a list and look at everything you achieved at the end of the day.

Like I said, I’m not exactly the perfect example of somebody who has their life together and always gets everything done, but I try, and that’s what matters. My hobbies may be small, but they keep me busy and they give me something to work towards, even if it’s just learning one new Danish word, nailing one new song on ukulele, trying one new stitch in my knitting, or pushing myself for one more minute in the gym. I promise, it helps.