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



There are two prominent things that I love about Birmingham that I believe are the ingredients to some of the best successes in this city. First is its talent and second is its women; so it makes sense that when I heard about the community Alto and its first all day event, I just had to be there and if you have met Anna and/or Holly (Alto’s curators) then you will understand why Alto is such a huge deal in a city full of equality like Brum.

If you haven’t heard of Alto (by now you should) then this is what it is about…

Alto is a community/collective that acts as platform for creative women of all backgrounds to be with like minded ladies, to share their work/business and support each other and the community keeps growing and going from strength to strength. Holly and Anna have created an invaluable support network, they have worked incredibly hard which was reflected in this event held at Cherry Red’s in Birmingham City Centre. These two ladies are a huge inspiration all by themselves.

The Event:

Held from 3pm to 11pm, unfortunately I wasn’t there for the whole day, but, what I did see (and I guess really witness, because magic like that falls under the phrase of ‘seeing is believing’ – you had to be there!) was utterly fabulous. So here are for me some of the key highlights of Alto’s first all-day event of the year.

There’s something exciting about the small journey to an event for me, as I climbed the mountainous steep stairs of Cherry Reds I began to get a rush of excitement and ambiguity in the pit of my stomach – a sense of ‘what is up those stairs and behind that door?’ washes over me, a bit like coming downstairs on Christmas morning as a child and not knowing what to expect. I managed to tackle the stairs, I got to the door and I stopped before pulling it open, taking a deep breath before taking in the rumbling excitement that was hidden behind the door. Opening it I was greeted by two rooms brimming with people, happy, enjoying themselves; a mix of people, talking, laughing, sharing and simply… being. This is what I call as a great reception to an event. After saying hello to Anna, I turned around to take the room in again and there it was… the box on the table – “What is Feminism – The ‘F’ Bomb” – with pens and paper to post your thoughts. And that was when I stopped to think, what does feminism mean to me? Well I would have to think about that for a little bit, let it percolate and try to make some sense out of something that means a great deal to me, however means so many different things at the same time. So let me tell you a little bit more about the event and then reveal what I discovered.

Something I love to feel at events is cosy and I felt right at home with the artwork of the fabulously talented artist Jenny Haruki hung upon the walls of Cherry Reds and above the fire place, the purpose of Alto is to help creatives showcase their work and what better way then to furnish the venue with Jenny’s eye catching pieces. With the simplicity of black and white lines and shading and beautiful women, she produces statements, not just art work. Check out her work, you won’t be disappointed: Jenny Haruki

The two bands that I want to write about, I have to write about together because of how they made me feel. Both bands include male and female members, both lead by female vocalists – who were strong and on fire! Shaake are an alternative band and there is something delicious about their music that does make you want to shake! The Mourning Suns, a psychedelic folk band with so much charisma and skin tingling notes that like any musical affair, I have to see them again!  The lead singers of both bands not only have vocals of diamond quality, sheer rough beauty with many facets, but hold a stage presence that translates to the audience, not just by their voice ability but by their physicality as performers. The lead singer of Shaake moved her body with the music in a way that anybody would when delivering the passion creatives have for their art. And Rosie Wilkes from the Mourning Suns represented everything that shows strength and again, passion in creative work, after still performing despite a personal event on the Sunday morning; that for anybody else would stop them from continuing to perform. It presents the drive and knowledge that doing something you love helps you get through the tough bits. Big, big, big love to Rosie! And the band for supporting her. Their performances reminded me why being a creative is just as realistic as any other career path, the emotion and feeling it can draw out is as real as anything else you can encounter in life – so the next time I hear someone with the opinion, ‘the arts is not a realistic career choice’ I will happily ask them to list the occasions when music has evoked something more than just easy listening for them.

Jodi Ann Bickley was there! This is the fangirl in me. She is an extremely gorgeous lady to have an event like Alto, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love Jodi, she is not only an incredible woman but an amazing being. From being a multi-talented poet and spoken word artist, to fighting and getting on top of ME, to now the Best Selling author of One Million Lovely Letters, which is probably the loveliest mission in the world, she performed at Alto accompanied by an all female string group, silencing the room with her glittering poems and sparkling delivery. Jodi’s journey and story is inspiring and above all, lovely. If you don’t know about Jodi, then you should check her out now!

So, by the end of the night I was pretty exhausted, I think that’s what happens once excitement and enjoyment runs all the energy out of your body. The event was embellishment of what Alto stands for as a family of highly creative ladies and once you get involved you want to know, see, hear and explore more! But going back to the ‘F’ Bomb, can I now answer that question? Well, yes and no… I think I have a range of versions of answers and thoughts, but there are two things that for me, I believe can answer some part of what feminism means (for me anyway). The first being passionate strength; something that I saw in Alto was the strength of the women that made the event happen, the women that performed and the women that came. I think the difference between strength and passionate strength is, strength can be getting through something because you have to and not because you want to and passionate strength is getting through something or doing something because you not only want to but because it is driven by love and the biggest belief in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The second is closer to an idea of what feminism is; drawn out from what I saw when I got to the event, seeing a mix of men and women of all ages and backgrounds talking, drinking together, laughing and simply being. Being human, being there, and being together is what I saw at Alto, everyone supporting each other and showing love, was the pinnacle of the event and lights up the base fact that you don’t have to be female to be a feminist you just need to be.

A huge congratulations goes out to Anna and Holly for so effortlessly piecing together such a crazily wonderful event; I cannot wait to see/hear what is coming next so I’ll be constantly checking their page! Have a look at Alto and make sure to like the Facebook page – Alto 

J x