My Lab

I need to quieten my mind.

As I sat deciding a way to open this post, my teeth were vehemently gritted, my jaw clenched and my toes crunched in a curl.

My exterior fits the profile of someone who is scared an anxious and so does my interior. I have always been someone that is emotionally charged and that is not to say that I am weak or a “typical female”, I know myself, I am simply in tune with my feelings and intuition and know that what I do and the decisions that I make affect my emotions more than my mind, what affects my mind is my emotions. It is a gift that I am grateful for because I can firmly say as someone who suffers with anxiety and depression that if I had ever listened to my mind and my thoughts I wouldn’t be here today.

So I have always lived my life according to how situations make me feel, not what they make me think… Until something happens, the wind changes, the fish are no longer swimming upstream and suddenly the current situation has gotten so engulfing and pressurising that I become emotionally void and that is when I am stuck. That is when fear steps in because all I am left with is my thoughts. Now you may be thinking, but Jordan, fear is an emotion, you are definitely feeling something/having some kind of emotion. The emotions and feelings I attribute to my decision making or guidance through a situation are what my heart feels and what my intuition tells me and as we all know, a woman’s intuition is never wrong. So what happens when they go? I have now allowed my thoughts to control the situation and take over where my heart and intuition should be and now I am actually unable to make any decision, in fact I’m unable to decipher what is right or wrong. I am scared.

My cousin taught me the acronym F.E.A.R.: False Evidence Appearing Real when I was eleven years old and since then I have heard it in films, read it in books and have wondered whether we are saying to ourselves that we need to ignore fear and tell ourselves that it isn’t real or welcome it and understand why we think we are in fear. But even more so, is it right to deny ourselves of fear? Can it be more damaging? I know that my fear at the moment stems from my inability to feel, to be able to make a decision that isn’t going to plague my heart which in turn will then plague my mind. So where do I go from here? Unfortunately I don’t have time to muddle on through anxiety this time but, though my stomach is in constant knots and my mind is doubting, devaluing and betraying me at every other thought, this time I am armed with more fight than ever before and whilst my heart and intuition are being silent that has to count for everything.

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My Lab

a little celebration

I have been away from my blog once again, but it has been for a fabulous cause, because… I have amongst other brill projects, officially finished the first draft of my first novel Both Sides Now. It has taken me eight months and a total of 25 chapters and 85,232 words to get here. There has been giggles, wine and some incredibly invaluable advice and encouragement from so many loving and caring people along the way of this journey so far that I feel blessed. I am also extremely proud that I actually managed to get through this draft and not a) throw my laptop accross the room when I couldn’t get the words right, b) given up and started on a new idea, c) put myself into a caffeine coma. But I have learnt a few things along the way, so here we go:

1. The first draft was always going to be shit but if you can do it, then do it! Get it done!

2. Laughing to yourself when you read your own work back is not strange, it means you are bloody hilarious.

3. Staying up until four am to get a chapter finished isn’t bad, just don’t have plans the next morning. But if you are a full-time writer you won’t have plans, writing is your plan!

4. It’s okay if you read one of your favouite author’s books and suddenly secretly hate them – you wonder how they are that fabulous? They wrote a fabulous book, that’s how! And so will you! This is how fabulous you are…

5. Reward yourself with wine and treats whenever you reach a goal. 2000 words – deserves one glass, unless you’re struggling to create then just go for it anyway. Oh hell, just take the whole bottle and don’t stop until that bottle’s empty. (Drink responsibly though.)

6. Be perpared to boil the kettle five times and still not even make a cup of tea.

7. Interestingly enough even though said tea won’t get made, you will actually bizarrely drink a lot of tea (or coffee if that’s your thing) right into the early morning until you look like this guy…

If you look carefully I’m sure he’s saying the words, “Must finish chapter.” Non? Just me then.

8. Your bladder will also not thank you for those copious cups of tea and you will be in complete cba mode and not go to the toilet for ages. Sorry bladder.

9. Drinks and bladders aside. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s very easy to tell yourself that what you’re writing isn’t any good, but it doesn’t have to be, that’s why there’s such thing as editing. As Shannon Hale said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”. Think of the sandcastles!

10. HAVE FUN. The great thing about writing a first draft is that while it is bloody hard it is also the time for you to experiment, be creative and let loose, the fab news is, nobody will ever have to see whatever you choose not to keep.

So those are just a few things that I’ve learnt. Next up for me is the luscious editing part where I am sure I am going to cry, whinge and get destracted by pictures of Kit Harington, mmmm… Before I head into this unchartered territory I am scurrying back to my hermit hole to revise for my upcoming English Lit exam and finishing off my Creative Writing Assessment plus other things. So I will be away for a while but I hope you enjoyed the update! Thanks everyone who has come along on the journey so far! Lots more to come!

Ciao,

J x

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My Lab

I am an unorthodox 21 year old.

I am what I like to call an unorthodox 21 year old, that doesn’t make me alone or unique because there are many other like me, but someone that in our society is different to the ‘usual’ twenty-one year old.

Myself today, I am a writer, a wordsmith because I like to dabble in a little bit of everything I am just not very vocal with words because the introvert in me cries every time I have to talk to a large group of people (if unprepared), seriously, even picking up the phone and ringing someone requires a fifteen minute pep talk. I am hyper in sudden spontaneous spurts of endorphins and adrenaline.  I don’t really drink, I used to drink a lot, when I was 18 I did the thing most 18 year olds do when they can legally walk into a pub and feel like a grown up. I guess I got it all out of my system then. I also love being alone, but don’t like feeling lonely. I suffer with anxiety and depression and I’m no longer afraid to talk about it. Like most people my age I do have a loving family, a select group of supportive friends and a lovely boyfriend. So it’s all good there. I don’t go out partying or clubbing – that’s not an introvert thing, it’s just because I don’t enjoy having some guy grinding up on my leg like an all-too-happy to see me puppy where I have a sudden urge to shout “Down boy!’. The music is always too loud – like you have to be drunk for it to actually sound good otherwise it sounds like it’s coming out of a tin can and I just don’t see the appeal of the clubbing culture. It’s just not my thing, many people my age have looked at me as though I have something wrong with me, but I think that’s okay.

I also am very ambitious but before I could never really pinpoint what I want, except for one thing – I want to be an author, not when I grow up or get older but now, I guess I’m impatient too but only with myself. Most people my age are in their last year of uni, some will probably go straight into a job, some won’t, some will go travelling and some will just be clueless with what next to do with their life. Me on the other hand, I am studying an Open University course full time. I originally started it part-time but then realised I’d be twenty-four by the time I finished. I also am a self-employed freelance writer, so I have to take care of myself and my job, occasionally when I have a melt-down, I cry for help and when the help comes in the form of slightly older and a lot older peers and copious amounts of tea or hot-chocolate I’m sure again about what I’m doing and the path I’ve chosen. I also run a project, currently by myself and so again I have to light up the S.O.S pile of wood and rejoice when people come and not only help physically but keep me going. I’m always tired, I rarely have time for myself let alone my family or friends; my mind never stops and I have to juggle three things at once and try not to feel guilty about focusing on one but not the other two. I’ve just got started with this new journey and it’s exciting, scary but lovely all in one go. So like I said, I am very ambitious!

But the journey before this change in destination wasn’t easy. I am young, I am busy creating something everyday, working and studying but I didn’t leave school with the answer, I didn’t wake up one day and say “Yes! This is what I am going to do!”. I slugged myself through years of unfortunate events, confusion, anger, despair and lots of lacking of confidence before I could get here. I left school with great grades, 6 A’s, 4 B’s and 1 C. Not too shabby for someone who’s attendance was poor, I studied hard and worked hard to get those grades and it paid off. I went to a college that took 2 1/2 hours (roundtrip) to get to everyday because I was convinced that acting is what I wanted to do and I wanted to go to a college that would support that – so I did, despite not knowing anybody there or liking leaving my warm house at half six in the morning.

Nobody told me just how hard college was and I worked hard but I finished my first year with grades I wasn’t happy with. So I wanted to move to a college that was closer to home to do my second year of A Levels but I didn’t because being young and having your “first love” puts you in a position to make not so well thought out decisions. Girls, if your boyfriend (at any age) ever says to you that if you make a decision that will make you happier, that will improve you but doesn’t make him happy or improve him that he will leave you – run for the hills and don’t look back because if he truly loves you, he will support you. So that’s what happened and I decided to leave my course, do a B-Tec in Business and stay at that college, yes that’s right I did that, I changed my course, literally and metaphorically for him. This was okay for a bit though, again I worked hard, got Distinctions in all of my assignments and muddled through the first two months then my family suffered two accounts of heartbreaking news. My nan became ill of leukaemia, then shortly afterwards my grandma became ill with bowel cancer.

It was hard, I tried to keep up with college but I couldn’t between visiting my grandmother in hospital and then dealing with my boyfriend breaking up with me at one of the hardest points in my life. It sucked, I won’t lie, it really sucked. My grandma, one of the strongest women I have ever known died. She told me I was able to be anyone, be anything that I wanted, but I couldn’t believe her, how could I when she was leaving me? Eventually I dropped out of college, became withdrawn, stopped eating and talking and I had no clue how anything was going to get better. Obviously it did but at that time the light at the end of the tunnel was not even a spec. Between the ages of 18 and 20 I tried one more college course and dropped out, I worked in retail, in admin and volunteered. I had to try and stay busy whilst I found some answers, found my path, the thing that I wanted to do and would be happy doing. I had great advice given to me in between this time, I wrote a lot of poetry and even had one poem published – this was when I used to perform and I couldn’t honestly tell you why I’ve stopped. I wrote stories and kept the creative juices flowing. I just kept going and living and existing without feeling a sense actually being or doing anything truly purposeful. Until one day I decided I wanted a degree in English and Creative Writing and I knew that it would be tough because I didn’t actually have an A Levels or anything equivalent, so I looked up Open University I get support with tuition fees, I can do it online and at home and it’s flexible, it’s almost perfect so I started studying part-time.

Yet it wasn’t enough and the gap didn’t feel whole. Last year I was volunteering at a community centre and was managing their blog and social media when they suggested I did it as a job and after a lot of convincing and believing that I could actually do it, in 2014 The Blogatory was born and I went self-employed, doing what I love which isn’t something a lot of 20 year olds get the opportunity to say. Then The Book Club started and that has to be my greatest love, the best thing I’ve ever created and I am sure that it is going to grow into something that will inspire and help people to also do what they love and the platform that we (I say we, because there will be a team one day) will provide will allow local writers, authors and poets to shout their work from the rooftops in the form of print and if I can do that for even one person that will be amazing. Finally, of course one day I will be a published author myself, that’s all in the plan and I’m working on my first ‘proper’ novel now.

I know a lot of unorthodox people like me because naturally you draw yourself to the people most like you, I am surrounded by great people who are like me, thinkers, creators, ambitious, quirky and pretty darn cool. We are all at different stages and it’s amazing to watch these beautiful beings create these amazing projects, social enterprises and businesses. But my journey is just beginning, I am proud to be who I am and even though I have my down days and moments of deep despair I am sure about my destination this time around.  I am an unorthodox 21 year old and given my experience I probably shouldn’t be where I am now but I’m here.

J x

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Why I am terrified of 2015!

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While it’s taken me 3 days to accept it’s a new year and much longer to write a post on my blog, I have been in a world of deep thought that has left me a little bit of a disarray.

You see, whilst I am excited for the New Year, I am absolutely crapping myself! Last year a lot of wonderful things fell into place, it was probably the best year I have had in a very long time and like every great party, I didn’t want it to end! Why? Because as marvellous 2015 is going to be, there is going to be a lot of pushing up sleeves and no time for anything but hard-work! But the even scarier thought? Whilst I know I am capable of making all this magic happen, whilst I am stupendously excited and passionate about getting it done. I am not ready for it and I know I’m not. But 2015 is here, so what now?

Every year I would look forward to the New Year after having a bad year so I would welcome January 1st with open arms and the hope of anything being possible, and that is the gorgeous thing about the New Year, it provides hope and a fresh start to those who need it. Every year I would (literally) cry happily at midnight due to an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I get to have another go at another year to start again and make something happen. Well 2014 I did and now I just have to keep it going and grow it. For someone who has had to “start over” every year this, growing and nurturing something is completely new and it’s scary. I won’t lie to you – I am terrified. But it does not mean that I am not going to do it.

One of things that I can proudly say about myself is that I can rise to a challenge when I need to and right now I do. This year holds a different kind of unknown territory, one that I will step into with the greatest of care and caution but with the reminder of why I am doing it. I love what I do, I have a vision of where I want it to go and whilst there is a plethora of hands out there just waiting to help I am that person that can steer it to that place but more importantly it’s up to me to reach out and take those hands because another thing I am bad at doing is accepting that I cannot always do it alone! I have no problem asking for help or accepting it but I have this big issue with feeling that I need to step-up and carry the weight all on my shoulders and allow people to cheer me on for support but not actually allowing them to carry some of the weight. Well here it is: I can’t do it all alone and I have promised myself that this year I won’t try to.

There is a lot to be done and it’s going to take a lot of resilience. I’m not ready for it at all but not everybody always is and sometimes, just taking the plunge is the best thing you can do. This year I am going to be brave and I want to encourage everybody that is feeling like they aren’t ready to be courageous too! Here is my 2015 mantra: Be kind to yourself, trust yourself and never be afraid to reach out for that help!

Happy New Year!

Jx

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Remembering the Forgotten with ‘West Indies to West Midlands’

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Last Tuesday most of us bought a poppy to remember those that fell in the First World War and the wars that have happened since, we took part in the two minutes silence at 11am all for Armistice Day or as it is better known as, Remembrance Day. But last Tuesday, myself and many others gathered at The Drum for the opening night of the ‘West Indies to West Midlands’ exhibition presented by local photographer Inès Elsa Dalal, partnered with the Why Are West Indians Project (WAWI). The exhibition was an eye-opening, educative and humbling experience portrayed though visual art.

We were welcomed with spiced bun, patties (demolished before I could even get one), Red Stripe and Stone’s Ginger Wine, absolute treats for a warm reception if you know what these mean to the West Indian culture. After I had got myself the last drop of ginger wine I went on a journey, exploring the of young men from the 1950’s to the fascinating portraits of West Indian men that have served in the military, dressed in their attire and pride. The portraits translated (to me) a story of nobility, strength and honour, but I hadn’t seen anything like these before, maybe because they’ve been forgotten, or hidden from history.

Then something happened, we were introduced to a procession of military regiment standards by the WAWI project which was an amazing experience if you have never seen a march of standards before. However there was something that made this procession beautiful and different to any other you will see, the Standards used in the march were by veteran servicemen were that of the different West Indian Regiments that served in the British Army. These Standards are a replica of the originals that have been hidden for over a hundred years and the WAWI project made it possible for such an educating yet beguiling experience to be displayed. But it begs the question… Why are the West Indians hidden from the British history of war and as a result forgotten about?

As a child of West Indian ancestors I couldn’t help but feel a sense of overwhelming pride to the whole exhibition, but as a young person born and raised in England I was intrigued and interested, wanting to know more of the story and questioning why the story of these soldiers has never been told until now. I want to congratulate Inès on capturing the essence, the pride and the history of these soldiers and am eager to find out more of the story. It’s time to remember these forgotten heroes.

About Inès:

Documentary photographer Inès Elsa Dalal specialises in conducting social commentary projects involving heritage, community, sanctuary and social rituals. Her previous work includes ethnographic studies which range from locations as hyperlocal as Harborne and Balsall Heath, Birmingham, to as far-reaching as Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

‘West Indies to West Midlands’ is Inès’ first solo exhibition and she plans to work to document under represented communities for the entire duration of WW1’s centenary (2014-2018)

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Touching My Dreams – Checklist One

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This was what I woke up to this morning and it made me smile because it is so close to the truth. The truth that this week has been a flurry of exciting happenings that bridge the gap between my dreams and reality. It’s almost as if the bridge is about to close, ready for me to just walk across. I can see where I am going and I know I will get there, I’m not there yet but I am so close and it’s only within my reach. So I decided to start writing a checklist of things to help those who want to pursue their dreams and make the cross to reality. I am still a working progress but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a helping hand to those at the start line. Before I begin I would like to thank Juanita Johnson for sharing the image above on Facebook this morning, you don’t know how much that has made me realise my own development and how close I am to getting to where I want to be.

If you didn’t already know, my big goals are two things. First to be a published chick-lit author, it has been my dream since I was nine-years old and I have never stopped wanting to be a writer because it is something that I have always been confident that I am good at being and doing. My second goal is to create a platform that supports and connects female writers, authors and story tellers, helping them to achieve their goals and be a supporting mechanism along the way – I am half way there with this, there is a whole cosmos of things that I have yet to do and add to this platform – The “magical, the illuminating” Book Club – but that’s okay because the journey has just begun and is a long way from the ending.

So here are the first things on my checklist:

The hardest part is taking that first step. 

When you have an idea, sometimes setting it into motion is that scariest part. You worry no one will “get it”, that it won’t be successful and that it will fail before it can even take off – so why bother? There is a mantra that I like to remember whenever I start to doubt myself – “The hardest thing you will ever have to do is live your life” – what does that have to do with an idea? Well, it has everything to do with it. Everyday we live, we do things consciously and sub-conciously, we wake up subconsciously but we consciously decide to lie-in and hit snooze ten times instead of actually getting up. To get up is a decision we make that starts our day whether it be productive or not, but it is a first step into whatever we do; we enter a day not knowing what is to come, what is going to happen, whether it will be a bad day or a great one. This is the same thing with an idea or taking that leap into that dream career or the first step on the right path. You don’t know what will happen after you take that first step, but as soon as you do you are open to a world of possibilities that are within your reach. So don’t be afraid, the beginning is the best part, take that step and begin what could be the greatest day of your life.

Patience may be a virtue but it isn’t automatic, it comes over time. 

Patience is not one of my strongest attributes. When I was in Primary school I couldn’t wait to get to Secondary School, when I was in Secondary school I couldn’t wait to get to college etc, etc. Now, I am twenty and pursuing my dreams because that’s my next destination, but now I have much more patience than I did before. When you begin your journey it might seem like a long-haul, it might seem that it will take years to get to your destination and that is okay. When I began my journey I was impatient for things to happen, to get from A to B for C to fall into place, but as I have gone further on I have learnt to be more patient. Patience and perseverance are not things that happen overnight, they come with time so don’t worry if your struggle to be more patient, you will get there.

Remember to breathe.  

It sounds silly because breathing is something we do involuntarily every day. But when we are stressed, find ourselves faced with a difficult problem, sometimes we find it hard to breathe and sometimes we forget to breathe altogether. I can remember when I first started having driving lessons and whenever I found something difficult I would hold my breath and wish and hope that everything will turn out fine, which is better than stopping in the middle of the road but not good if I passed out because I would never realise that I was actually holding my breath until I started breathing again or when my instructor would tell me to “just breathe”. Not everyone does this and some people are able to laugh in the face of stress. But for those that can’t, try and remember to breathe no matter how hard the situation is, I find that breathing exercises help me find some calm when things get a little too much and I take a few minutes to refocus myself as it is hard to keep focused when stressed. This point is a continuos thing to remember throughout your journey and beyond so don’t forget it.

So those are my first three points on the checklist – I hope you will find them at least one if not all useful.

So…

Take the first step.

Patience and perseverance comes over time.

Remember to breathe.

 

Next time we will explore worth, quantity vs. quality and support networks.

 

All the best with your journey,

 

J x

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