The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Banana Pinching and Prayer

This weekend I spent my time on my church's 'Student Weekend Away' or 'Church Camp' as I like to call it, because I'm super cool and it winds people up. We stayed at a place called Ashburnham, about a 15 minute drive from BATTLE STATION (it's just a train station really but I couldn't resist) and had a fun filled weekend full of teaching, laughs and lots of tasty food. As it was a Jesusy trip, we didn't do too much exploring, except for a lovely afternoon walk in the grounds, which consists of lots of beautiful woodland and a pretty church.

Some of the beauts I had the privilege of spending the weekend with.

Who'd have thought we'd find a church at a Christian retreat centre?! Clearly not Joe and Gordon...

Ashburnham is so removed the the madness of London and creates so much space for relaxing and soul-searching. Plus there was no signal and the WiFi didn't really work so we literally had no distractions from reality, which in itself was pretty liberating. It was everything I usually love about camping, with slightly more warmth (as we were inside) and properly cooked food (rather than my specialty of cold beans from a can). This also lead to us having to provide our own forms of entertainment that didn't involve the internet.

These consisted of but were not limited to...
  • The most epic game of Chinese Snap that has ever been played. I kid you not, it was so epic that we all had to lie on the floor on our stomachs, shoulder to shoulder and lunge towards the pile of cards in the middle as they were at least an arms width away. And with all those people playing, guess what? I was STILL losing. *Not recommended for those with sharp finger nails or claustrophobia*

  • Learning how to pinch a banana open. Sounds trivial but is actually one of my proudest achievements. Apparently it's how the monkey's do it AND you don't end up with a mushy end-of-banana. 

  • And this, which for some reason was hilarious at the time. I think it might be a 'had to be there' moment but it'll make a few people giggle so I'll post it anyway.

Oh and I also learned that the key to making new friends is making an abundance of cookies and cakes to share.

Silliness aside, the weekend was a bit of a self discovery one for me. I mean, the past year and a bit has been that, but for some reason this weekend in particular really got some things straight for me. Whatever ever you believe - call it the Holy Spirit, call it simply gaining perspective - the overriding message on my heart the entire time was, 'no more hiding'. Which funnily enough ties into the Identity Thief series Josie and I have been writing recently. For me, the experiment taught me a lot about how I shouldn't be so obsessed with hiding my body from the world and this weekend I got to reflect on the aspects of myself, aside from my appearance, that I was insecure about or felt I should conceal.

Because really, why shouldn't your attitude to your personality be the same as to your body? You are who you are, warts and all, and no matter what people may lead you to believe nobody is all shiny and perfect. The only reason we are ashamed and compare ourselves to other people is because, like us, they are hiding all the stuff that makes them seem less perfect. There is no shame in being who you are, whether that be alcoholic, anorexic, believer, atheist, depressed, insecure and whatever else you can think of. Sometimes it can be really hard in today's 'liberal' society to be yourself, when there are so many expectations for everyone to be a certain way and act a certain way and dress a certain way. But why should we hide the negative aspects or those that others may deem negative, when it may be an inherent part of our being? Whether your secret makes who you are or hinders who you want to be, hiding it stops any use you may gain from it or help you may need to overcome it.

So I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't hide certain parts of my being any longer. And surprisingly, as soon as I opened up about things to people... absolutely nothing changed. Or at least not in the way I expected them to. Things that I had been terrified to admit because I assumed I would be looked down upon or treated like a crazy person for, were accepted and I felt an overwhelming peace and relief. It even seemed to have a kind of domino effect, in that because I'd opened up about things, others did too and I discovered that I am not so different to everyone else. 'It's not the emotions that you have, but the secrecy that will kill you', is a message that one of our student leaders felt that God had said to him, which holds so much truth because keeping something bottled up for so long causes you to create catastrophes in your head out of things that really aren't so bad.

Of course, you don't have to shout about your deepest darkest secrets to every Tom, Dick and Harry that will listen, but when you share things with those you trust, the hold they previously had on your soul just melts away. I realise I'm kinda reiterating the old, 'A problem shared is a problem halved' saying, but it really is true. I feel so much more free now I know I don't have to hide part of myself from those I love. For those who aren't so keen on the Bible, 'honesty is the best policy', or as it says in John 8:32, 'The truth will set you free'.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

What will survive of us is love

For some reason my post 'Do what you want and fuck the rest' has taken off in popularity far above anything else I've ever written. I can only assume that in my rather miserable place of ranting, I've struck the same nerve with some people that had been struck in myself that same day.

'You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life is one fucking beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work... Fuck that. And fuck the Air Force Academy. If I want to fly, I'll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest.' - Dwayne, Little Miss Sunshine

I actually re-watched Little Miss Sunshine yesterday - a movie I'd highly recommend to anyone and everyone - which is what spurred me to reread the post that had been inspired by it. Whilst I can't deny that I still agree with the vast majority of what I wrote, there is one particular thing that I'd like to clear up.

Love is everything to me. Ev-ry-thing. I love everyone I've ever met and never met and it's even listed as my religion on Facebook (so you know it's legit). I feel that last time, as I was a little upset due to one of those complicated, I-can't-be-bothered-explaining relationship-things, I belittled love. To me, love makes the world go round, it's in the air, in the whisper of the trees and it can definitely put you on top of the world. It's the most important thing in the whole entire universe and YET, I stand by what I said; it isn't all that you need.

In an ideal world, it would be. Everyone would love one another so fiercely that we wouldn't have to worry about the unequal distribution of the world's resources or the hurtful words that sparred between two friends. But as humans we are not ideal or perfect, so we get love wrong time and time again. We hurt those who mean the most to us and unfortunately, our love will probably always be inadequate for it to be 'all we need'.

Which is why I believe that we should chase what makes us truly happy. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, encourage mindless hedonism or complete disregard and lack of respect for others. As I said last time, I agree with good ol' Albert that 'only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile', but we must be careful not to forget to look after ourselves in the process. Burning yourself out for others is, whilst admirable, pretty counterproductive in the long run, as you are no use to anybody completely exhausted, stressed out and hysterical because you just can't cope. So breathe, take a step back and always make some 'you' time. Whether that be a night out with the girls or some alone time knitting in your bedroom (surely that's not just me) you need time to be yourself, in order for you to be the best you can be for others. And honestly, don't they deserve your best?

What I'm trying to say is, don't disregard the importance of human love just because it isn't the only practical thing we need in life. Love the hell out of everyone you meet because, regardless of background, race, religious beliefs, sexuality, gender and anything else you can think of, as humans - sorry to bring High School Musical into this - we ARE all in this together whether we like it or not. Just don't ruin yourself in the process. You are far too precious and beautiful for that. You have to love yourself and your own life in order to show others how to do the same and that comes from pursuing your own personal well-being and happiness.

I'm also going to add this link to a friend's blog as I think it compliments, sums up and is probably an improvement on what I'm trying to say about what love means. Enjoy Bright Lights and Loneliness.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Identity Thief, Emily's Story

Since posting the video I've had all sorts of feedback and questions on how our experiment went and what the subsequent results have been. Whilst the comments have been mostly positive, I've also received some concern about the last part of the video where I say, 'I may be less inclined to wear things like this' referring to my dungarees. I realise that without context that could appear as though the experiment has taught me to shy away from what is naturally my own style, due to the reactions to what I was wearing or due to the various 'tramp' related comments Josie received when wearing my clothes. So I thought I'd better start by clearing that up.

First of all, I am not, by ANY means, getting rid of my dungarees. They are my favourite item of clothing by a long shot and nothing will ever compare to their super comfiness. However, as I mentioned in the first post, I have some serious issues when it comes to my body shape and how I perceive myself. This stems wayyyyyyyyyyy back to my childhood, when in Primary School I was going through the awkward, slightly chubby, puppy fat stage.

This is what my friends say I used to look like. I now cry with laughter every time I see this.

Unfortunately like many other children I suffered a severe, though short lived, stint of bullying around the age of 10/11. Although I was on the slightly larger side (though how much that was true is difficult to tell), I still wanted to fit in with my skinny, mini friends at school so I'd always do the classic school girl skirt rolling up and cool sock thing - which looking back was actually really bizarre. Whilst none of my friends would bat an eye-lid, almost everyday when I said goodbye to group I meandered home with and walked the last five minutes by myself, a group of girls from the neighbouring 'rival' school would chase me home shouting obscenities at me and their favourite, 'fat slut', still resounds with me today. I'm not sure how many people I ever told about this as I was, and probably still am, a proud little lady and didn't like people to think that they could get the better of me. So for a few weeks I would take it on the chin, ignoring everything and anything these four girls would throw at me until it finally fizzled out; I can only assume they got bored due to my lack of reaction. I even eventually befriended one of them a few years later at a drama club I attended, though she either chose to pretend or genuinely couldn't remember what she had done.

When I went on to high school the following year, I lost a lot of weight. It almost didn't seem like a conscious decision at first, I just stopped eating as much. Then I'd eat as little as I could get away with and began to feel guilty if I didn't feel hungry. A few times I got so hungry I binged like crazy then made myself throw it all back up again. Luckily, by some miraculous means, I managed to get through all this without telling a soul. I didn't want people to think I had an eating disorder or worry about me. The fact was I was 'fat' and needed to lose weight, but unfortunately I was totally uneducated in how to do that in a healthy manner. I was also lucky that I somehow managed to take hold of the situation before it became too severe. Although I was pretty tiny, (I remember a science class when I was 14 where I weighed in at 6.5 stone (42kg) and a pair of jeans I had when I was in year 5 were to big for me by year 9) I was never dangerously underweight and as I gained more confidence I started to care less about what people thought.

This is me at my first festival just before my 14th birthday rocking my classic, men's extra large black hoody.

Sadly, the repercussions from 10 years ago still haven't quite left me. Although I care less about what people think of my style and personality, I am still and will probably always be, terrified of being 'fat' or 'slutty', which is why I dress like a do. I'm the kind of person who dresses depending on how I'm feeling. I either pick colours that reflect my mood or garments that reflect my level of self esteem. For example, if I'm feeling sad I'll pick dark colours or if I'm particularly excited I'll go all multi-coloured or if I'm having a 'pretty day' I'll wear something girly or if I'm having a 'fat day' I'll wear something loose fitting and comfy so I don't have to feel self conscious about myself etc etc etc. Although my clothes are without a doubt an expression of my personality, it annoys me how they are also slightly determined by insults a received from some misguided children over a decade ago.

So, to get to the point, I am not saying I would be less inclined to wear my dungarees because I don't like them. It's just that by wearing something that made me feel pretty much naked and incredibly self-conscious for the day and receiving only positive comments, I've realised that maybe I shouldn't be as ashamed of my body as I am. Of course my friends have always been lovely to me, trying to build me up and telling me that the amount I care about other people's opinions is stupid, but seeing not only the reactions to what I was wearing but also to my clothes on somebody else's body really highlighted for me the ridiculous lengths I sometimes go to just to hide what my body really looks like. I should be wearing my clothes for me, not because I'm scared somebody else won't like what they see.

Another question/comment that I've received a lot is, 'Why don't you wear make-up?' and, 'I didn't realise you didn't wear make-up, that's so strange'. Now I just want to make it clear that I'm not a raving, bra-burning, man-hating feminist (though if you are, each to their own, I'm not one to judge). I simply don't wear make-up because I don't like it. That's genuinely it. It makes my face feel heavy and it gives me spots and more often than not I have allergic reactions that make eyes swell so much that I look like a bull frog on steroids. I'm partial to a little now and then for a special occasion or just coz I fancy it, but other than that I really just don't have any interest in it.

Me (right) with make-up.

Me without make-up. I'll let you guess which side.
I can't really see much difference, hence me not seeing the point in it. Maybe I'm just blind?

Also why is not wearing make-up considered strange? Most men do it everyday. Which is another thing I don't get: why aren't men 'allowed' to wear make-up? Like I don't see how it HAS to be a particularly 'girly' thing (whatever 'girly' is, but let's not get into that right now). Surely you're mainly just covering up blemishes on your face and then adding a bit of colour and sparkle if you fancy it? I think it's silly how women are just expected to wear make-up because of our gender and if we don't do it it's like we're trying to make some statement to the world about our views on society. Well I'm not, I just think it feels yucky. So there.

On the day of the experiment I also got a lot of interesting reactions that I didn't get to record. I had a really interesting conversation with one friend in particular about whether how you dress defines your identity. He talked about how for example, my having dreads and a slightly alternative dress sense doesn't define who I am, rather it is more a cherry on top of the 'Emily' cake. Basically, it's a form of self expression rather than something that defines what your personality should be. Although some of my friends noticed my new look, it didn't change the way they acted with me, just like Josie and I didn't notice how different our styles were until we swapped. Don't let people define you because of the way you dress or do your hair or whatever else you do to decorate your body because at the end of the day, once they get to know you it really doesn't make a difference. If people were all the same how boring would that be?

Any other feedback has mostly been that people thought our experiment was interesting and they can't wait to read more, which is always lovely to hear. So thanks for that, we didn't expect something that was originally 'for the LOLs' to get so much attention :) If you have anymore questions you'd like us to answer then please don't hesitate to send them on. Josie will be writing more about her experiences in due course!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Identity Thief, The Vlog

This is the video result of our identity experiment (see previous post!) We'll be writing more about it in due course!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Identity Thief

In the past few weeks, a lot has changed in my life for the better. One of those things being moving into my new house with four wonderful girlies who are just plain amazing. However, a couple of us have been feeling quite self-conscious and lonely with the holiday season approaching and the phrase 'forever alone' has been thrown around a little too much. Josie and I (below) have been feeling particularly image conscious. Josie has found herself a bit too concerned about what other people think of her and I have always had issues with exposing my body as I have never been particularly confident with my figure. We decided we needed to do something to tackle these problems and THUS our ingenious experiment was born... Operation Identity Thief.

For today, we have decided to swap styles - not just clothing, but shoes, make up and jewellery too. Doesn't seem like such a big challenge however, our styles contrast slightly...

See? Lovely and comfy in our own outfit choices before the switch.

Perhaps I'm imagining it because I know how I felt, but I think we look significantly less comfortable here.

Josie is spending the day sporting my lovely, roomy dungarees, avengers tank top, men's medium sized checkered shirt and my Docs. Oh and she isn't allowed to wear any make-up. Where as I am in a Josie classic of leggings, a skin tight black long sleeved top, panda blazer, knee high robin hood boots and a full face of slap, red lippy and all.

We've now spent an entire day at uni in each others clothes, which has sparked some interesting conversations and reactions, as well as reflections on our part. We'll be sharing our thoughts on the experiment, as well as those of our friends, in the next week as we explore how our clothing effects how we identify ourselves and how we are viewed by others. Who do we really dress for and why do we make the outfit choices we make? I'm finding it all quite fascinating myself.

Tonight we're venturing into Winter Wonderland to brave our new looks in public. Wish us luck...