Growing a Thicker (Warmer) Skin

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This is probably the most relatable post I’ll ever write, as throughout the years when I’ve talked about my experiences most people seem to have shared my journey.

Growing up, when your body goes through puberty and begins to change, it becomes a confusing time not only physically but emotionally. As a female, my body began to develop to carry and bear children, but I was only coming into my teenage years and embarking on high school, so I definitely didn’t feel mature or ready enough yet to cope with these changes.

Everyone around me seemed to be having an easier time than I was. I felt like the DUFF (the designated ugly fat friend), as they seemed to be growing taller and more womanly, where as I felt like I was growing wider and more clumsy. My feet were large, my hips were wide, my shoulders were broad, my hair was thick and wild and my features were average (and spotty) at best, or so I thought at the time.

My confidence plummeted, and I know I wasn’t the only one, as I’m sure behind my friend’s eyes they felt self conscious too. But our continual search for our identities and wanting to feel comfortable in ourselves seemed like a never ending journey, and for me, a lot of the issues that were born out of that time graduated with me as I left school.

Like most young people, I experimented, not only with clothes, but with hair dye and make up too. I slid happily into the familiar “emo phase”, subscribing to that way of life, not only because my interest in certain music artists ran with similar fashion ideals, but because for a while it felt like “me”, whoever that was. For a few years, I was happy. I liked to dye my hair different colours, dream about piercings and tattoos, wear jeans and band t-shirts to showcase my love of music and I loved that I was a master of the winged eyeliner phenomenon.

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But just like everything else in life, I grew up and outgrew that image, and moved on, but I didn’t have anything to move on to. It was about this time that I took my gap year, so a lot of my clothes were practical and simple, as I spent a lot of that year travelling. When I turned twenty and went to uni, it struck me that I’d been twenty years on this earth and I’d not “found myself” and felt pressured that when I went into a clothes shop, I should know whether an item was “me” or not. But I didn’t, I didn’t have a clue.

I spent a lot of that time adopting other people’s discarded clothes, from my Mum, from friends and family, and it felt like wearing someone else’s identity was far easier than the difficult search for my own. It wasn’t until I left university, had a breakdown and continued rebuilding my life that I could start to find out exactly who I was, and exactly who I wanted to be.

A good friend of mine is a colour analyst and offered to “do my colours” for me. This meant that I sat in a chair wearing an outfit similar to an all white nun’s habit and had colour swatches held up to my face to see how each one would react to my skin tone. It was fascinating how some colours made me look like I had a fresh spray tan, and others made me look completely jaundiced. After an hour or so, I had a complete collection of swatches that made me look amazing.

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You may be thinking that I just replaced one safety behaviour for another, or one clothing ideal for another, but just knowing that there were colours out there designed to flatter me, and by extension, make me feel confident in myself, made me feel so much better about going shopping, something I’d actively avoided for many years.

So here was the break down of my colour analysis. I had a warm skin tone, which meant that warmer colours as opposed to cold colours looked good on my skin. It also meant that gold jewellery was more flattering than silver. The analysis wasn’t exclusive just to clothes but to make up as well. I still love my winged black kohl eyeliner, but I also really enjoyed experimenting with a more natural look which gave me a warmer glow.

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This gave me the confidence to go out and start buying clothes because I liked them and knew the colours would look good on me, not because it’s because everyone else was wearing, or because I felt like that’s what I should be wearing. I still had my band t-shirts and my eyeliner, and I still brought them out every now and again to play, but I began to feel so much happier in myself now that I knew not all clothes were destined to make me look horrible. The Fitting Room Fiascos subsided and I began to feel so much more confident.

I didn’t continue comparing how I looked to other people because I knew that they had different skin tones and different body shapes to me. There was no point trying to squeeze into an outfit that belonged to a cool skin toned person, because it wasn’t going to give me the desired effect when I looked in the mirror. I dressed to accentuate the flattering parts of my frame like my waist and my curvaceous figure. I looked to role models with a similar shapes, like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, and ditched styles that were “in” or “fashionable” if they didn’t suit me. It suddenly became all so illogical. Maybe I’d reached the point of self discovery after all?

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But here is what I’ve learnt during my “journey to self discovery“. The journey never ends. My style has changed and evolved over the years because I have changed and evolved too. I’m sure by the time I’m thirty my wardrobe will look vastly different. Be comfortable, once you are comfortable in what you’re wearing, your confidence will grow. Once you feel confident, then it’s half the battle won. You can be comfortable and look good at the same time. Once I ditched the jeans and bought different kinds of trousers that weren’t denim, I felt so much happier. Whatever you’re wearing, rock it, and if you don’t feel like you can, then there are a few tips and tricks, like picking the right colours, that can help you along the way. Ultimately, you’re you, a beautiful, wonderful, unique, you, a person that should be celebrated as an individual however you look.

Rock Your Body: Tattoos and Piercings

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My opinion on tattoos and piercings is similar to that of buying clothes and dying my hair. I buy a t-shirt in a certain colour because I like how it looks, and I dye my hair a certain colour, or cut it a certain way, because I think it suits me. These are forms of self-expression, and I believe tattoos and piercings fall into the same vein.

(My hair has been various colours over the years, as you can see!)

I wanted to do everything I could possibly do when I came of age, so I got my first tattoo on my eighteenth birthday, as well as buy cigarettes, place a bet and buy alcohol. I knew a lot of people wondered what to get for their first tattoo, worrying if they’d regret it or only getting it because they could. But not me, I knew exactly what my first one would be.

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(Line work done at Black Pearl Tattoo, Bexhill)

People close to me will know my Dad passed away when I was fifteen, so I got Dad tattooed above my hip, next to my faint birthmark in the shape of a diamond. Now, nearly seven years later, I still love it. I could never regret anything that was in memory of my Dad.

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(Dot work done at Inkscape, Bexhill)

My second tattoo I got only last year. I never felt pressured to get loads of tattoos really quickly, so I wanted to make sure I’d had an idea in my head for a while before I committed. Again, if you’re close to me, you’ll know my struggles with mental health, so it made sense for my to get a semicolon, not only for Project Semi Colon, but also because I’m a writer. (And the semi colon is a very underrated punctuation mark, along with the interrobang!)

I’ve also had my fair share of piercings done, beginning with my ears which I got pierced at Claire’s Accessories when I was twelve. Then, there was a trend that started which included everyone I knew getting helix piercings, and so naturally, as a naive sheep-like teenager, I got one too. After a few weeks, it was so sore I could barely touch it, let alone sleep on it, so I took it out and the hole healed up.

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(Nose piercing done at Lord’s Ink, Bexhill and Labret done at Intro, Brighton)

Five years later, I really, really wanted a nose ring like Jeremy Davis from Paramore, and so went to get it done on a break from college. In the years after, I had toyed with getting a labret piercing, but always worried that I wouldn’t be “attractive” if I got it done. I worried people what people would think, or make assumptions about me that weren’t true. But in the end, at the tender age of twenty-two, I took the plunge in Brighton before going to see Charlie Simpson at the Old Market. I went to Intro in Queen’s Road and have been happy with my decision ever since.

The point of me writing this blog post is to tell anyone and everyone who is worrying about what others will think of their body modifications, permanent or non-permanent, then don’t. Your boy is yours to do with as you wish, and if you think it looks good, then that’s all the motivation you need!

Have you been thinking about getting a piercing or a tattoo? Or do you have some you’re particularly proud of? Let me know in the comments!

Feeling Craft-y: Journaling Ideas

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I never realised until recently, but I’ve been journaling my whole life. Even before I knew what journaling was, or before I could write, my mum has been keeping chronicles of pictures I’ve drawn and notes I’ve written throughout my years.

I then kept diaries when I was an angst-y teenager, which I eventually ended up throwing away or ripping up because I was too embarrassed about my feelings and thoughts. But now I’m older, and have developed a love of writing, and have gained confidence in owning my own feelings and thoughts, I have found a beloved hobby in journaling.

I love nothing more than putting on some music, or a film, sitting back with a pen or pencil, and letting my hand roam freely across the page. Sometimes when I’m on a train, I’ll put my headphones in and write down my thoughts and ideas, or how I’m feeling today. It’s great to look back on, especially when the pages are linked to significant life events, or strong memories.

So what do you journal about? I agree that there is nothing more daunting than a blank page, but that shouldn’t be what restricts you, it should be what frees you. You can put anything you want to on that page. But just in case you get a bit stuck, here are some ideas for pages in your journal to get you started.

About Me

What’s your name? When is your birthday? Where were you born? Are you left handed or right handed? What colour are your eyes? What colour is your hair?

Journaling is all about YOU and everything connected to your identity, what you think, what you feel, how you see the world and more. Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your journal.

Bucket List

Before you die, what do you want to have achieved? Do you want to donate blood? Sky dive? Milk a cow? Learn a language? Ride an elephant?

Journals are a great way of keeping focused on an idea or thought. You can dedicate a whole page to the idea that someday you want volunteer or own your own house. You could even fill your page with wallpaper samples!

Wish List

If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?

Journaling is also about escaping reality and letting your imagination roam free. If you wanted, you could buy a quad bike to ride around your mansion. The possibilities are endless and your responsibilities don’t exist inside your journal.

Things to Learn

Knitting? Photography? The Off-Side Rule? Perhaps you just want to write down the definition of a difficult word that you keep forgetting.

Things to Buy

The latest season of your favourite TV show, or the dress you’ve had your eye on the past few weeks? Even if you can’t afford it, money knows no boundaries in your journal.

Road Trips to Make and Countries to Visit

Do you fancy trailing along Route 66, or driving across Europe and back again? Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?

Job Titles I Want

Professional bed tester? Professional tea and coffee taster? Professional Netflix watcher? I know these are three jobs I would jump at the chance to do.

Those are just a handful of the pages I have in my journal, along with lots of free writing, strands of poetry, novel ideas, character names, narratives, letters to various people, list of books I want to read, films I want to see, notes, plans, ideas, favourite foods, my favourite types of coffee, celebrities I love, wishes, hopes and dreams, and much more.

Ultimately, journals are all about having fun. Let me know down in the comments if you love to journal, and what is your favourite page?

Writing a Book: My Tips & Tricks

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I have written a book, which is a phrase I never thought I would say, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s always been a headliner on my bucket list, and last November after a grueling attempt at NaNoWriMo, I managed to tick it off.

I have not ever published a book, but I’m working on it, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to tick that off the bucket list too. But after four years of would-be-novel writing, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to a finished manuscript.

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Make a list of genres/narratives/plot devices/settings you love.

I sat in front of my bookshelf, looked up at all of my well-loved books and asked myself “what is it about these books that I love?” Here were some of the answers I came up with:

The sea, lyrical writing, boarding schools, room mates/flat mates, no parents, freedom and independence, letters, philosophy, candidness of feeling, metaphor, living in sections/houses/districts/factions, snow, road trips, epic romances, being stuck somewhere, elements, magic, mystery, royalty, marriage, death/grief, group dynamics, history and many more.

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Make a list of names for characters you love.

You can do this by either going on a baby name website, or for something more periodic you could always go and look at the gravestones of people from a certain time period. This may spark some thoughts as to the identity behind the name, or character traits. Some names I love and plan on using are:

George, Corey, Greta, Matthew, Sasha, Kendra, Laurie, Harry, Lisel, Brodie, Annalise, Catelynn, Ida, Lydia, Teddy, Karen, Shay, Daya, Torin, and many more.

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Make a summary or short synopsis of your story.

Take the plot devices and the names you have just picked out and try to construct a story idea from the elements you’ve chosen. Don’t worry too much about your story sounding like something that’s already been published, some people believe there are only seven basic plots in the world. If we all worried about whether our story was original or not, we wouldn’t have much time for writing! See also: the thirty six dramatic situations.

For example, I could write a story about Laurie, a college freshman and History student, who writes letters to her future self about the lessons she learns from life, whilst slowly falling in love with her room mate.

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Buy a notebook, small enough to fit in your bag/pocket and big enough for your ideas!

If you are a writer, then there is a large chance you are also a stationary fiend. Writing a book gives you license to go to your local retailer and stock up on pens, post-it notes, highlighters, paper clips and a notebook (or a few). If you carry around your notebook with you at all times, you can write down an idea when the moment strikes, which is handy if you are particularly forgetful.

When I was working on my NaNoWriMo project, I had my notebook with me at all times!

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Write an outline, however vague or detailed.

My outline was similar to a script format. I detailed where the scene was taking place, who was there and important factors worth noting. I also wrote the bare bones of the dialogue between the two characters, or bare description of what a character was doing in the particular scene. After I had done this for the beginning, middle and end of the book, I went back through it and added in description, building the image of my scene from the ground up. The structure I had gave me something to work with, which really, really helped during my writing period.

And lastly, set yourself a goal. Whether you aim to write a hundred words a day or a thousand, it’s important to stay focused and disciplined.

I hope this little article has helped inspire a few of you to get writing. Let me know down in  the comments if any of these tips work for you!