Self consciousness and a lack of creative genius.

I have always tended to shy away from the things that make me feel uncomfortable. In School, for instance, I hated participating in anything creative. I laughed and joked about it, I tried to convince everyone that the only reason I hated it was because I couldn’t see the point given I wasn’t creatively inclined. And in some ways, that’s true. Lowest marks ever awarded in a 1st year art exam, I believe. I was oddly proud of that lack of achievement because it validated my beliefs. And okay, while I’ll never win the Turner Prize, I think my lack of artistic expression was more to do with negative self esteem and chronic self consciousness. I was sure everyone bought into my lack of ability, but thinking back, I vaguely remember a comment on a School report from my Art teacher along the lines of Kirsty can do well if she stops worrying and focuses. It was the same scenario in any subject that wasn’t based in cold, hard facts. Creative writing assignments were a favourite amongst English and History teachers, and were ones that I failed miserably at. For days I would agonise over making my report seem interesting and well developed. I was mortified handing it in for assessment, even more so if I was called upon to read it aloud. Things only made sense if they had a purpose, were logical and analytical.

I’m an avid reader, I love books. Books have shaped my life and at times given me a sense of purpose. My partner and I had a conversation about this recently, and somewhat surprisingly concluded that I dislike fiction that is overly descriptive, too filled with fluff. I like enough information to creatively build the characters and imagery in my head, but I don’t want someone else’s impression imposed upon mine. I appreciate that the Author wants to share the world they have built with the reader, but as with any poem, piece of art, song or musical composition, the meaning and interpretation varies from person to person. Should that not also be the case for works of fiction?

I’ve been struggling emotionally over the past few days. I’ve been feeling the familiar self doubt begin to creep back in and take hold of my rationale. It came to a head this Morning with some shouting and a lot of tears. Ultimately, I don’t feel as though I have made as much progress in life as I ought to have done. I was becoming fixated on that and how that reflected on me as a person. If I focus only on what I have to do, I feel overwhelmed, but then punish myself for not doing enough. I’m continually setting myself up to fail.

Most Evening when I sit down to write, my fingers move on auto pilot and I let them, because it always helps.  If someone had said to me 15 years ago that I would be writing a blog and enjoying it, I would have laughed at them and asked what the point was. But, here I am. And you know what? I get it now. Without a creative outlet, we’re just machines working towards an ever changing goal.We all need something to give us purpose, to remind us that we’re human. I do feel self conscious about my postings, I realise that I’m not most peoples cup of tea, but this is the creative outlet that I’ve chosen and I’m sticking to it.

I bet my English teacher would be proud.

Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it?

 

 

Advertisements

Decongestion relief and a 4 mile, 2 hour commute.

Belfast has changed massively since I was a child. Even when I was living in Glasgow for University and returned over Holiday periods, I was in awe of the redevelopment projects and its attempts to reestablish itself, to move away from the stigmas that have plagued Northern Ireland for so long.

Even now, almost 10 years post University, I find myself taken aback by how unrecognisable Belfast has become. Each Evening, I stand at my bus stop, right next to City Hall and take in the sights. Honestly? I can’t help but feel proud.

download

The issues that I have lie with the size of Belfast. Tourism has increased exponentially, the population has grown rapidly, but in terms of available space, the infrastructure is not built to sustain the rate of growth. There’s a massive disparity between public and private investment.

Belfast is widely known as being one of the most heavily congested cities in the UK.  Measures have been taken to attempt to encourage the use of the public transport system, but the issue is that it’s not enough. The transport network has greatly improved, but there is still a long way to go to bring it up to the standard that is required. In my opinion, development of the rail network is a more sustainable option and one which offers longevity. It would encourage more people to move out of the Greater Belfast area if the City was more readily and financially accessible, thus reducing traffic congestion.

4692815_f784830b

At present, I live around 1 mile away from Belfast City Centre and 2 miles my place of work. On an average Morning, during rush hour, it takes me around 1 hour to commute using the bus service. My house is about a 2 minute walk from several bus routes, so thhe majority of my time is spent waiting on a long overdue service, or waiting for a service that has capacity to let me on. Bus lanes are operational on part of the journeys, but unfortunately not all.

It pains me to see advertising campaigns on the buses aimed at further promotion of the already oversubscribed services. Most recently, the campaign poster shows a faux medication box for decongestion, as opposed to decongestant, claiming that use of public transport is decongestion relief. It’s clever spin on words, I’ll give them that. However, it’s promoting a service that can’t deliver what it promises.

I have been forced to complain several times about the Metro bus services. Many a morning have been stood watching bus after bus after bus pass before there is even availablity to board. I pay upfront, on a monthly basis. It’s the same cost, no matter where in Belfast you live, so long as the only service used is the Metro service. Yet, given the closer proximity to the City Centre, I am at a disadvantage due to the number of people utilising the service. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always so busy, but there are peak times and it’s best to avoid them during such periods.

I love that Belfast is now on the map, I do. The City and the greater country have so much to offer, however, I wish that the investment in public services was greater. Ultimately, a 4 mile, 2 hour commute daily, is unforgiveable. I have found myself commencing work early, or finishing work late to avoid late, delayed and over-filled buses, solely to minimise stress levels. We strive to achieve a work life balance, but our commutes feel like they are work. By the time I find myself home in the Evening, I’m exhausted and burned out. It’s difficult to convey, but I find the most recent campaign frustrating and mildly insulting. Not only because it’s misleading, but because it feels like a terrible waste of money. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words. Offer a service that you can be proud of, that meets the needs of both visitors and locals alike, a service that rewards regular users and commitment and one which provides what it promotes, one which improves daily quality of life.

That’s the marketing strategy that will sustain growth, not a silly play on words.

 

One tooth and a multilingual attempt

one_tooth_boy_front

I love this time of year. Tomorrow is Good Friday, which means that most people are faced with the prospect of a four day Weekend. It’s been a long slog of a Winter, and while it’s still cold, the sun is beginning to make a lengthier appearance and spirits are high. There’s been a nervousness in the Office today, almost like the feeling you used to get during School, sitting in your last lesson on a Friday Afternoon, with your backpack on your knee, anxiously watching the clock, waiting for the bell to ring. The childlike giddiness is infectious and it’s hard not to feel the same way.

Leaving work, tired but in a good mood, I noticed a lady ahead of me wearing a black mini skirt, white tank top, black heels and a black hat that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Royal Ascot.

My first thought was that everything was coordinated very well, but I wondered where she may have been going. Something just felt a bit odd about the whole thing, which is when I noticed a number of passing cars beeping their horns at her. That’s when something clicked and I noticed a lack of breasts, hairy thighs and the distinctly male cheers of her friends.

Yep. Bloke on a stag party. I laughed, everyone at the bus stop laughed, he posed for photos and we laughed so more.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more strange, I noticed an older male approaching the bus stop with a dangerous glint in his eye. You know the glint I mean? The gleeful look that says they’re happy to have an audience for their show. Well, he certainly didn’t disappoint.

I don’t intend to sound cruel, but this gentleman had a shock of white hair and one tooth to his name and reminded me of nothing but an overgrown baby. It’s a visual I just couldn’t shake.

I watched him interact with a fellow passenger. He handed him a bookmark printed with religious scripture, the young lad smiled and nodded whilst looking extremely uncomfortable. He then moved on to a young Chinese lady, but, instead of offering her one of his many bookmarks, he simply shouted at her “Chinese?!” and proceeded to speak what I can only imagine a Chinese donkey would sound like.

“AWWW-EEE-AWWW” and other such cultural butcherings of the Chinese language.

When she looked at him blankly, he then asked her if she understood him. He seemed to think he was conversing perfectly. She was mute in her shock.

I was trying so hard not to laugh, knowing that it was my turn next.

Over he shuffled, bookmark in hand, and before he could say a word, I politely told him no, that it would be wasted on me, but that I appreciated the offer. He seemed somewhat taken aback, realised that he was barking up the wrong tree, and quickly rounded on a male Nurse who had only just arrived at the bus stop and hadn’t witnessed the earlier floor show.

The man-baby took one look at him and shouted – “POLISH?!”

All I could think was oh no, here we go again, but the Nurse laughed, shook his head and said in the broadest Belfast accent- “no mate.”

At that point, the Bus arrived and our new friend boarded without a backward glance, whilst the rest of us stood laughing, briefly united in our semi bewilderment.

The long Weekend can’t come quickly enough!

A banana eating evil genius and an obsession with the number 31.

pexels-photo-321552.jpeg

I made the mistake of leaving work during rush hour on Tuesday Evening. Since Monday was a bank holiday for St. Patrick’s Day, I figured most people would have also taken Tuesday as leave and the traffic would be lighter than normal.

Wrong. It was bottlenecked, slow moving and my bus, while slightly less busy, just meant that there were fewer people standing. I still had to pirouette my way between them in order to get off.

I know it’s sad, but I have a favourite route, a favourite bus type and a favourite seat. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t develop acute anxiety if the stars don’t align. I’m not huddled in corner, rocking back and forth mumbling “I just wanted the 31. I just wanted the 31.” on repeat. But, put it this way, I timed my departure yesterday in order to maximise my chances of getting the 31. It’s like I’m one of those boyband fan girls. I get flutters thinking about it, but I draw the line at stalking and tears. I think it’s a fair compromise.

My parents used to do it when I was younger, so maybe it’s ingrained in me. Admittedly, theirs was simply a preference of logistics and timing, and while mine is to an extent, I’m not going to lie either. It only runs hourly, and it stops running at 17:30. It’s exclusive and elusive. The 31 has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Needless to say, sods law intervened and I didn’t make the last bus yesterday Evening, so was forced to use the regular and more popular, less direct and traffic inclined route. The traffic was at a standstill for part of the journey, the temperature was starting to become uncomfortable, I had a headache and I really, really didn’t want anyone to sit beside me.

For anyone who has read my post on etiquette, you’ll realise that this goes against my self assigned code, but on Tuesday, I just didn’t care.

Normally the bag trick works, put your bag on your seat and stare off into the distance, pretending like you don’t know the bus is rammed and there aren’t people passive aggressively eyeballing you from down the bus. This is risky at rush hour though, because no matter how much you think your fuck off vibe is engaged, some cocky shits will be stronger and you’ll be asked to move your bag.

I know, I’ve done it myself.

I needed a new plan and quickly. So, do you know what I came up with? I ate a banana. That probably sounds fairly innocuous, but picture this. Everytime someone boards the bus, I take a bite of my banana. It’s timed so perfectly that when they are scanning the bus for a seat and lock eyes with you, it makes them feel uncomfortable enough to avoid you. No one ever knows where to look if someone else is eating a banana. It just feels a little too intimate doesn’t it?

Well, it was a genius move. Albeit, I could have won an award for the most slowly eaten banana, but, I got a seat to myself so it feels like a win.

More on how to scare people off on the bus next time folks. Banana eating is just the beginning.

Plain Jane, body positivity and equality.

I’m sure we have all noticed that our social media feed, no matter what platform, is inundated with posts, vlogs and blogs about hair, makeup, beauty and fashion. No matter how reclusive you may be, it’s pretty difficult to escape from it.

I spend around 3 hours a day travelling to and from my home and my place of work. That’s 3 hours of my day spent around strangers; listening, learning, observing and thinking.

And do you know what I’ve noticed recently? How out of place I not only look to others, but how out of place I feel in myself.

I’m a plain Jane, and that’s on a good day.

Spending money on make up and fashionable clothes, out of pleasure, fills me with dread. Don’t get me wrong, I make an effort where I deem fit, but I still feel woefully out of place when I do. It makes me feel uncomfortable when I’m complimented for wearing make up, for styling my hair. Like, me, without enhancement, isn’t good enough.

I’m not going to lie, some days I feel like I should bow down to social pressure. Truthfully though, it wouldn’t bring any fulfillment or joy to my life, so what would be the point? That’s not to say that it doesn’t bring joy to others, just not to me.

In all the furore made about body positivity, women supporting women, promotion and support of individuality, it seems to me that it’s all a smoke screen. Like another cause with superficial meaning.

How many times have your heard your friends and family say “she’s so brave wearing that, at her size, but she looks gorgeous doesn’t she?” Yet, a similarly plus sized lady without the fashionable attire is called a fat slob.

That’s not body positivity, that’s not women supporting women. It’s contradictory and hypocritical. It’s inequality in a nutshell.

If it’s not a topic you can wholeheartedly support, then don’t claim that you do. Stop trying to please people. Stay true to what you believe.

I’m in awe of anyone who can keep up with the trends and invest so much time and money in their appearance. It’s an expression of themselves, their own display of individuality and it’s fabulous.

However, anyone who doesn’t choose to express themselves in a similar manner should not be criticised or judged for doing so.

We need to give each other a break sometimes. Life is difficult enough without feeling as though we’re constantly on trial or in perpetual competition with each other.

It’s nice to feel that we look nice, but ultimately, it’s how we treat others that should be our defining quality.

Put it this way, I’d rather be complemented on my caring nature, than my long eyelashes.

Burn out, Yoda and making the most of it.

I know my posts have been fairly infrequent lately. It’s partly because nothing out of the ordinary has happened on my travels, but also because I’ve been feeling very burned out.

I was on the bus this Morning, lost in my own thoughts and feeling very anxious. It took a good 15 minutes before I realised that my sausage friend was on the bus and in high spirits.

In fact, it took for a conversation with an 80 year old woman to give me a bit of perspective before I realised what I was doing and how much I had tuned the rest of the World out.

I’d had a bad day at work the previous day and have been feeling emotionally fraught for the last number of weeks. It’s strange; you don’t really notice it creeping in. It just slowly takes over and warps how you think. Suddenly your coping mechanisms begin to fail and before you know it you’re losing your temper, your moods become erratic, and you’re retreating into yourself. The worst thing? We ignore all the signs our body is giving us to convince ourselves we’re fine. When someone asks if you’re okay, you tell them you’re fine and you believe it yourself.

That’s what scares me the most. The lengths of delusion I will let myself go to before my rationality kicks in.

My life isn’t perfect, but it’s far from awful. When I feel my mood slipping, when I feel the depression setting in, it’s easy to see the faults in everything, to focus on the negatives. I’ve come to realise the one thing I crave most is safety and security. I put it down to circumstance. If I was prettier, if I had a better job, if I was married, if I could afford a car, I’d feel more secure. The reality is though, I wouldn’t. If find something else to worry and stress about. Constantly striving for a perfection that is neither true nor achievable.

My elderly passenger this Morning asked me if I enjoyed my job. Normally, I would smile and provide a diplomatic response, however, she caught me completely off guard and I told her that honestly, I didn’t.

And you know what she said? Count yourself lucky, there’s plenty of people in the world who would kill to be in the position you are. It might not be for life, but make the most of it for now.

The she stood up, pressed the stop button and got off.

She was like my own little Yoda, sent to me exactly when I needed her.

I started out wanting to post about all the eccentricities and quirks of my daily commute, something light hearted at the end of the day. I certainly never expected each journey to provide a much needed life lesson.

It really is amazing what you can learn when you truly learn to listen.

But, I suppose that’s really just me making the most of it. For now.

Sunday blues, depression and the reality behind social media.

inspirational-bird-quote-freedom

I always find Sunday to be a challenging day. Before I’m even fully awake, I can feel the change in my character. My moods are polarised, ever-changing between melancholy or giddiness verging on hysteria. I mope or I laugh hysterically, there is no in between.

For a long time, I simply accepted that this was the way things were. Throughout my twenties, I assumed they were a by-product of a hangover. Post good night out blues, I called them. Moving through my late twenties, and now into my thirties, the feeling a Sunday instills hasn’t abated.  My Saturday nights are often spent watching a film or curled up with a book, so alcohol cannot be the culprit. Post good night out blues, have now transformed to Sunday blues.

Sunday blues are a thing, right?

They aren’t though, are they?

I’ve spoken recently about my own demons and depression. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that at the peak of my battle, Sundays were the day where I would struggle the most. The most tears and blood were shed on a Sunday. I simply couldn’t bear to be alone with my own thoughts.  I couldn’t stop the cogs in my head turning, overthinking, over analysing, assuming the worst. I tried to force myself to sleep to gain some respite from my own head. When that didn’t work, I would hurt myself. It’s hard to explain why, but I found that the pain was a distraction. Hurting physically was easier to deal with the emotional anguish I felt.

Grief. Loss. That’s the only way I can describe what a Sunday makes me feel. The anxiety at starting another working week is just too much. I feel like I’m grieving the loss of myself.

One good thing to come out of my experiences with depression is the practising of CBT. It has promoted my need for mindfulness and self awareness. Overthinking is dangerous, but I’m now at a point in my life where I feel that I can think without driving myself into a depressive episode. I’m able to take control of my thoughts, rather than them letting take control of me.

It’s easy to blame the materialistic things in our lives for our unhappiness, but for me, I feel that I’m still on my journey and I’m where I need to be at this point in time.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t even think I am unhappy.  I’m impatient and without a clear goal. I’m putting pressure on myself to be successful, but I don’t know what I’m even aiming for. I’m happy with who I am now and with how far I’ve come. I can be honest with myself, I can reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, I can take criticism constructively, I’ve stopped hiding behind my insecurities and I’m getting a lot better at admitting when I’m wrong.

I think it’s okay to admit that you don’t really like your job. However, there is still always experience to be gained from it. I don’t necessarily feel that I’m doing a job that gives me a purpose, or that I’m at a point in my life where I am content. I think I have a lot more to learn and a lot more to give. However, I am exactly where I need to be right now. For that reason, I can accept that until I make the changes that are necessary for my own contentment, I will also feel a sense of sadness on a Sunday. Instead of focusing on emotion and letting it envelope me, I’m going to let it be my weekly reminder that I still have work to do. That my journey isn’t yet complete.

As silly as it may sound, writing everything down and getting it out really helps. Simply typing this post today has made me feel better. It gives clarity, direction and structure to my thoughts. It clears enough head space to allow me to take action, make better decisions and strangely, relax.

I’m ready to face the World.

I never thought I would be willing to be so open about what goes on in my own head. In an age where social media is prevalent, where our interactions are primarily virtual and where we only put the best version of ourselves on display, I think it’s important to promote realism. This is really what goes on. No one is alone in the thoughts and feelings they have. We’re human, we’re flawed and it’s okay to be so.

Is this really the legacy we want to leave for the next generation?

Be real, be honest, be true to yourself and own it. You’re doing yourself a massive injustice if you don’t.

Kirsty.