At the end of 2017 I said to myself, you’re already making the moves Fayola, you know what your goals are, it doesn’t matter when you start them or when you achieve them as long as you’re striving towards them.
Last year my most important goal was to get a job in publishing. It was one of the few I ended up achieving. (unpacking from undergrad after…. 3 years… was also one of these things).
I set myself this challenge in January… it didn’t happen for the longest time. It wasn’t until the summer that I was actually going to interviews on the regular and actually landed an internship which eventually led to me looking experienced and comfortable enough to get hired full time at my job (which I started at the end of October).
I know what sort of things I’ll be trying to make progress on this year.
I want to complete the renovation of my room aka reclaiming my space at home, knowing that I’ll be living at home for a long while still.
I want to learn how to drive, I still can’t drive. On this year where I’ll be living for a whole quarter century, I think it’s time I actually step up, plan it and follow through.
I want to be healthier to myself. Get a better relationship with food and exercise. To be healthier with the boundaries I set and enforce with my loved ones. To be able to say “no” with my chest and not feel bad about being pliable, unavailable or too broke for something else.
I want to take time to enjoy myself, attend more events, travel more, try new hobbies until I find something that I don’t want to stop.
I want to be the best version of myself possible, but of course I want that every year.
I want to replenish my savings account, which has suffered over the few years of my unemployment.
I want to continue using the bullet journal method- because in the month that I haven’t been… my life has been a small, small mess.
I’m also going to take the time to acknowledge that even though I only achieved a few things, they were good things. And honestly, that was an achievement in and of itself.
Everyone knows that really cringe joke about the family of balloons right?
There’s baby balloon, mummy balloon and daddy balloon. The parental balloons are sleeping in bed when the baby balloon decides they want to sleep next to their parents- but there is no space for them in the bed! So, they deflate daddy a little… still not enough room. They deflate mummy a little, still not enough room- and so, baby balloon deflates themselves.
The parental balloons wake up in the morning and realise what has happened the night before and daddy has to have a stern word with his child!
“Son,” he says (in all the versions of the joke I’ve heard baby balloon is assumed to be a boy, probably because sexism and male seen as the default BUT THATS NOT THE POINT) “Not only have you let me down… You’ve let your mother down… and most importantly- you’ve let yourself down.”
It is supposed to be a ha-ha balloon parenting joke, because he disappointed them but he also deflated them! Hilarious word play. On an average day, I’m so into wordplay. On the majority of days this summer though…
Not so much. I’m no longer crying all the time- which is great. But I am sleeping a lot more, and stressing so much over things that are taking me forever to address. I can’t really tell the time, because it seems like a bit of a blur and also- time isn’t real.
And yet, I am giving myself the stern talking to that daddy balloon is giving his child. I am wondering if this behaviour is letting down my family- but most importantly myself.
When I graduated from my English and Philosophy degree with a 2:2, I felt like a failure. I know now that I wasn’t, but I’d expected a 2:1 and was told that you know, after university you won’t be considered for a job if you got anything less than a 2:1 (thats how common the degree was getting amongst applicants). After a year of, struggling to break into the field I wanted toLondon, I decided to start an MA course to improve my “employability”.
This time last year I was accepting my place at Kingston University and contacting my old lecturers for educational references. This year, I’m staring at a half-written dissertation and wondering if I did well enough to get a passing grade, and if my overall grade is worth getting a private loan for £8k.
Transitional periods are scary. Despite being 23, there’s nothing I’d like to do more than crawl into my parents bed and hide from the world in that tiny safe space. Maybe one day I’ll be able to laugh at the balloon joke again without igniting anxiety and causing me to doubt myself.
Well, it would be the summer term, if I was still taking classes.
I’ve learned about my limits. I’ve learned about prioritising. I’ve learned about self care.
So, after the Easter break, I had an overloaded schedule. I was travelling and working almost every single day of the week… and I was not coping well. What exactly was taking up my time?
Researching and writing assignments for my MA.
Attending the final few days of lectures.
Working 3-4 days a week at my university on a charity campaign.
Interning 3 days a week at a company in North London.
Babysitting after these various classes and jobs.
Looking for & applying post grad jobs and internships.
Trying to squeeze socialising into the few hours I had to spare.
I don’t want to complain about it, because I signed up for all of this. I was stubborn. I refused to reach out for help, or prioritise properly out of pride, and to be honest I suffered for it- but damn, did I learn.
Basically… I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating right. I only had one working hand and, to be honest, I’m still working on rehydrating myself because despite all of the above, I was still trying to act like I could handle it. Like I wasn’t struggling. Like I had the time to go out with friends and attend events because to present anything other than the image perfection (even if I was failing to juggle everything) was something I could not do.
I need to be able to understand that while I can do so many things at once, doesn’t mean that I should– especially when I’m trying to perform at a high standard. Because I’m still recovering from a burn out. So I need to learn how to say “No.” Which funnily enough was one of the things we were taught on the course, clearly it has taken a while to sink in.
I need to be able to ask for help. Suffering in silence is not cool, it doesn’t make me stronger- only tired. Despite my broken hand, I was still trying to perform as though I had both hands at my disposal. And never actually able to reach those goals, which had me feeling down because I knew people who had situations that I saw as “harder” than mine continuing to do great things- and I’m terribly self-critizing. And I’ve not been able to break the habit of comparing myself to others just yet.
I need to feel comfortable unplugged. I spent almost every waking hour on the in front of a luminously bright screen, which did not help me get as much sleep as I needed. (I believe it has something to do with the blue screen?) I’ve recently downloaded a set off applications that mimic artificial light when the sun goes down- so that my brain knows the time to sleep is soon. I’ve even started to leave my laptop downstairs and my phone across the room instead of giving into temptation of accessing them when I’m frustrated by how long it’s taking for sleep to visit me.
I need to make time for myself, I need to take care of myself. It’s not normal to literally be crying over spilled milk (in private, quietly and ashamed) because everything else has you so high strung that a small spill feels like the end of the world. In joining my council library, I’ve given myself access to thousands of books with no extra stress on my wallet, which has given me the opportunity to actually read for pleasure with no guilt, and I have never been more thankful.
And now, as my load has lightened, I honestly do not need to put myself through so much stress again in the year. Having this experience so close to the three months that I have to work on my dissertation? I’m trying to find the silver lining. Kinda succeeding too.
It all started last week, when I realised I had only one week left to have any reason to travel to Kingston from my house in SE London… I have a dissertation to write, and I can’t justify travelling for an hour to get to the lovely post-grad library section on campus… I can’t work at home because procrastination is the devil incarnate, (suddenly, all my chores seem more important than my education somehow…)
So I was out buying last minute cheap additions to my costume (don’t ask) and I decide to stop by the local library.
Let me tell you, I haven’t used a council library since I was 8 and my Greenwich Library card was terminated because I was a child who used to keep books forever and/or damage them so badly that my parents had to buy them from the library. Greenwich council, I am sorry, please forgive me.
I used my secondary school library a lot, I became the best of friends with the librarian. Our friendship meant that I could spend my lunches hunched over a book or watching the star wars rap flash animation instead of standing around in the cold (or pollen or heat, depending on the season). I got first pick of the new arrivals, my opinion was valued, how many other 14 year olds answered questions like :”Is this book (with a sex scene) too mature for your age?” on weekly basis? (The answer was always no, because the smut available online was way more graphic than the brief paragraphs in question)
I looked at my local library as I walk down the highstreet… it just looked sad and small, but apparently one of my university alumni recommended it as the place to write a dissertation when summer comes around. But… it still looked sad and small, so I went to the library 5 more minutes away.
And I fell in love again.
I only went in to see their study zone, on a whim. Instead, I have signed up for a Bexley Library Card. The librarians were so nice to me, they gave me all the information I needed to know about the Bexley Libraries and I got their sympathy and well wishes as my broken hand is always a conversation starter- even though it’s a boring story.
So now I can take out 12 books at a time for at least three weeks. For my purse and overburdened bookshelves, this is a bit of a godsend. I was even shown to the YA department… where I browsed diligently for 15 minutes before picking the top 4 books that I needed to read ASAP and take off of my TBR list:
The Art of Being Normal | Lisa Williamson
Vanishing Girls | Lauren Oliver
I’ll Give You The Sun | Jandy Nelson
Stars Never Rise | Rachel Vincent
I’ve already read them all.
I know I was trying to read a book a week this year (and I’ve been failing), but it seems like I’m catching up on lost time. It’s turned into a book every other day right now. On my return to the Library I’m going to observe the Sci-fi Fantasy section… I’ll need you to pray for me and my bag next week, I’ll probably take home the full 12 books of my allowance.
For real though, I’m so glad I stepped foot into a non-school library for the first time in however many years again. Looking forward to my TBR list shrinking further and making friends with the librarians (maybe they do placements? who knows?). Anyway, now I have a beautiful addition to my keychain.
I do that a lot. Sometimes I enjoy it, most times; I cringe, I cringe so hard that I have toyed with the notion of completely deleting my account and destroying all records of my attempt at writing.
After all, I’m not a creative writing student, but fanfiction has been a big part of my life since, well, I was in secondary school. I posted my first ever chapter on a forum that was called BBRae4Eva, I think. And since then, fanfiction has been an anonymously accessed, never before announced activity that I take part it. I’ve written and published online 16 fanfics of moderate success from about 2004 to 2014 (with numerous unfinished sequels, prequels and one-shots that lie in the fiction folder on my desktop).
Now, why am I dragging myself through this 90K+ worded romantic adventure between my favourite crack pairing: Naruto’s Uchiha Sasuke and Hyuuga Hinata in a 6th form AU?
I’m about to start writing again. This time, not fanfiction. 100% original plot, 100% original characters.
This year I’m taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to those in the know), it’ll be the second time I’ll be participating. And unlike last year, I plan on actually reaching the 50K mark within the month. So this is like a cram revision session for next month’s “test”.
Last year, I started and got most-a-ways through a post-industrial fantasy tale, based in a little town called Silverbank. I was inspired by a friend’s short story that I had read in my final year of university: in her story, education was the class separator (and to be honest, even in our society that is the case often more than not).
In my take, I followed a large family of seven, the Darzis. Aida the mother, a fiercely jealous woman still hiding grief and taking it out on her eldest surviving child. Kamal the semi-absent father, a seemingly ordinary construction worker who hides his ties to underground political extremism with the profile of an alcoholic. Taking inspiration from my family I gave all the siblings nicknames that were so often used, their legal names were strange words they had to remind themselves to answer to, which were only brought out through vexing parental lectures and legal processes.
There was Sugar; the eldest sister, beautiful and with a tragic past & present (& possible future). Sixes; the big brother, named for the 6 facial scars on his face (punishment for stealing from an orchard) dating the identical twin brother of his little sister’s beau. Sissy; Aida’s favourite and personality twin, big appetite for romance and about to embark on a shotgun wedding. Sweets; the MC (middle child AND main character), at the ripe age of 16 (perf YA MC age), entering the workforce and trying to not get romantically distracted by the other half of the golden twins of attractiveness while getting involved in all of the sibling drama and some of dad’s extreme politics. Sparkles; the youngest daughter with crippling low self-esteem but high expectations that depend on her above-average intelligence. Shin; the sweet baby who becomes traumatized when forced to witness the outcomes of one of his father’s plots.
As you can see, I gave myself a lot to work with. Maybe too much to work with…There was supposed to be romance, conspiracy, drama, jealousy, death, suspicion. I probably got to slightly introduce these plot devices and maybe get a bit of the Darzis’ struggles in the 42K words that I had managed to splurge out. Let me tell you, Unnamed NaNoWriMo14 was what happened when you try to cram a seven-novel series into one.
This year I’m not going to do that.
I’m going to write more simply. I know my genre: my old faithful High Fantasy… but with a twist.
Yes, it’s going to feature Medieval inspired European background. Instead of the foreign brown savages with strange customs and social structures that get introduced to the main character who becomes the very best, like no one ever was, somethings are getting flipped around perception wise. My new MC, the beautiful Kewoya’ana is transported via magical portal to a world of stone turrets and corset-wearing courtesans, “dashing” knights, and gets to overthrow some totally un-righteous rulers in order to set up a treaty between worlds.
And now that I’ve explained the basic plot, I’m really hoping that it doesn’t end up too much like Wurst and Feist’s Empire Trilogy set in the Riftwar Cycle.