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Picture if you will.

I am sat here in my jeans and over-sized sweater and my messy boy hair, wearing novelty socks and eating too many chocolate digestives. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. Unlike most mornings, today I did manage a whole fifteen minutes under a hot shower while Kai emptied the bathroom rubbish bin of tissues (don’t judge me – I’m strengthening his immune system), but absorbed in my hot-shower bliss I may have absent mindedly shampooed three times and conditioned twice so the messy boy hair is slightly lank. The over-sized sweater despite being clean on this morning already has some banana on one sleeve and what I think may be snot on the other. In the last 24 hours I have burst into tears a record number of five times and kicked two inanimate objects. I have had four hours sleep.

There are many things this scene screams. Confident, secure, fully-functioning grown-up is not one of them.

I have been struggling especially with the C word lately. No, not THAT C word. Confidence.

You see I seem to have mislaid mine. It’s not down the back of the sofa with the half-eaten rice cake. It’s not in the overflowing washing basket (hell it wouldn’t fit in there). It is not hidden behind the pile of clever books I can’t bring myself to read.

In fact, I don’t know where the frick it is. I haven’t seen it in quite a while.

More and more I envy those people who seem to ooze it from every perfect blemish-free pore. Those people that manage to combine motherhood with work and successful careers, with exciting projects coming out of their every orifice . Managing to fit deadlines around school runs, gym sessions and skin care regimes.

It’s like they are privy to a secret I have no idea about, passed about in hushed whispers while I was in the loo.

Around you – yes you accomplished people, I am left feeling so ineffective. So immature.

Why do I feel like this? Where on earth was I when the confidence ticket was handed out? (in the loo again probably – really should have worked harder on my pelvic floor).

I am 27. But I look kind of young for my age. I have a tendency to get written off by people, spoken to by strangers with that unique mix of patronising sympathy and instant dismissal. Old ladies can never believe it when I mention a husband, “but my, you’re too young to be married surely?!” and act surprised when I manage to come out with a vaguely intelligent or articulate comment. I always get asked for ID – once when I was buying PETROL which was more than insulting (surely I look older than 17? Don’t I??!!) My brother is two and half years younger then me and I look like his scruffy kid sister.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure when I’m 40 I will be grateful of this fact but right now it’s not really helping in the confidence department.

Social situations? Oh god where do I start. The stuttering? The complete brain freezes that make me incapable of speech? The completely irrational habit of coming away from all social encounters feeling dreadfully insecure and convinced I am the most scorned and despised person on the face of this planet?? I’ll stop there.

And then there’s work. Or ‘work’ as it should probably be referred to. Finding your way as a fledgling writer is not easy I can tell you. One of my opening exercises with my writing course was to free-write about your doubts about becoming a successful writer. I wrote six pages without even blinking. The thought of me ‘making it’ seems laughable. Successful writing seems to require a breeziness and articulate confidence that I can only imagine.

(Oh god. This is turning into a whiney post isn’t it. I apologise – there is a point I promise.)

It’s just I’ve been wondering what it is I’m missing? The right hair cut? The right clothes? The right pen? An ability to speak in whole sentences?

It’s easy to feel like those things would make all the difference but somehow I doubt it.

It’s also easy to feel like I’m the only one in the world left feeling so small, so insignificant.

But I’m not. I know I’m not.

I casually mention on Twitter about feeling like this and all of sudden I’m met with dozens of responses. All from women who say they feel the same. Many of them successful, accomplished women whom I admire.

And I’m left wondering… maybe the idea of a mysterious, innate secret to confidence is a misnomer? Perhaps, actually, none of us are the secure, confident people we imagine each other to be.

Maybe it’s not about FINDING confidence at all but actually just about FAKING it? And some people are just much better fakers than others?

So do you know what? That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give up trying to find it and settle for faking it instead.

And we’ll see what happens.

Now where’s that guitar case? I need to go swing it round on a mountain top.

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Taking a bit of a breather from the Sleep Carnival today – but do keep your submissions coming in, especially if you want to get your hands on the prize of all prizes which still seems to be causing a ridiculous amount of hysteria (not that I can blame you).

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A Leap in the Dark

(If you don’t like long stories – skip to the bottom. I won’t mind)

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Once upon a time there was a little girl. She liked to dream and imagine things and read hundreds and hundreds of books and ask pretentious questions and be in charge. She loved to write stories and imagine adventures in her head and generally preferred being in her thinking place than outside, where things tended to get a bit scary and insist on changing all the time, usually just as she thought she’d got the hang of this being alive business.

And then one day, out of no-where, and even though she REALLY didn’t want to, she Grew Up.

She still dreamed and still imagined and asked even more pretentious questions but as a Grown-Up was told she needed to be ‘responsible’ and ‘realistic’ and ‘practical’ and all of a sudden all her dreams and imaginings seemed very small and insignificant and worthless and certainly not the kind of thing that had any value in the Real World. Instead of having adventures in her head she was told she needed to do things like go to work and make enough money to keep her and the very Handsome Prince she had met in crisps and ice-cream and chocolate digestives.

She was confused. Everyone kept asking her what she was going to do with her life but she didn’t know. All the other Grown-Ups seemed to have decided and were busy getting on with life and having Real Careers and being everything confident, secure, competent Grown-Ups should be. And since their Real Careers seemed to mean they got to do fun stuff like buying houses and cars and going on holiday, and since she also wanted to feel confident and secure and competent she decided she’d give this being a Grown-Up business a go. Even though she didn’t feel the slighest bit confident, she hoped if she ran fast enough in the right direction then eventually she’d end up where everyone else was.

But try as she might things kept getting in the way. First she got ill, which was a real pain in the ass, and although it meant she could sit around in PJ’s all day which had always been in her top 5 requirements for her dream job, it wasn’t quite what she had in mind given that it was accompanied by generally feeling like crap. So getting better became top of her priority list, along with filling her long days with learning about all kind of random stuff to pass the time and distract her from the disgruntled beavers nibbling at her joints.

But she still hadn’t decided. You know, on the ‘Real Career’.

One day she got better (eventually – man alive that took a long time. Cities rose and fell in the time it took her to teach her feet to work one in front of the other. Physiotherapy definitely not for her if she couldn’t even get her own body to work properly – at least that’s one to strike off the list). Well, better enough. She managed to get a job that just happened to involve reading stories all day and teaching other children how to dream and imagine stuff all for themselves. And it was pretty cool. For a while. Not quite a Real Career (given the lack of future prospects and, well, decent pay), but it made do while the girl continued to try and figure it all out.

Then something magical happened. Her and the Handsome Prince got married and grew a whole new person. A tiny, needy, beautiful little person. And just like that things got Very Real Indeed. All of a sudden the girl found herself doing probably the most Grown-Up job you can do that, despite all pre-conceptions, just left her feeling even less confident and secure and competent than she had before. And though she loved this little person more than she ever knew it was possible to love something and not have your heart pop out of your chest and make a big mess on the floor, she also found it very, very hard and scary and found she wanted to go back to that thinking place in her head and do some imagining to recover.

So she started a blog. And wrote, and thought, and dreamt, and told jokes which made her feel better. A LOT better. And what made her feel even better still was that the people that read her random ramblings seemed to quite enjoy them, and wanted her to write more. She got the opportunity to write for a brand new Toy Review Site, and then to help out as Deputy Editor, which she kind of loved, and made lots of lovely new friends.

And sneakily, without her even realising it, the old dreams and yearnings to write came creeping back. She was that little girl again, sat surrounded by books thinking that words and pictures in your head were just about the best thing about being alive (although, she now also thought that tiny people covered in porridge and giving her big kisses were equally brilliant which shows that change is sometimes a good thing).

Oh but wait! I missed a bit out! (which coincidently is JUST the kind of thing the girl would do, given her inability to do anything in a straight line, especially walking).

Amidst her year of changing nappies, and being puked on, and getting her boobs out and traipsing up and down the stairs ten zillion times every evening, the age-old question has reared it’s ugly head. All her fellow mummy friends had gone back to work and here it was haunting her once again. What on earth was she was going to do with her life? (apart from pop out babies, which apart from the poo and the no-sleep thing was kinda fun). In an effort to make a decision once and for all, and make some money and FINALLY get herself that Real Career and the house and the car and all the rest, she signed up to do a degree in Earth Sciences. She wasn’t really sure why. She liked nature and stuff and thought, although it would be hard, would also be nice and safe. She’d probably get her essays back with big gratifying red ticks. And eventually a nice, safe job that would pay reasonably well and make her feel like a Proper Grown-Up at last.

But.

It wasn’t writing. And writing was pretty much all she wanted to do these days. The more and more she thought about it, the less sure she felt about the whole caboodle and the day all her study materials arrived she cried.

So here she was. Two paths laid out before her. On one side was a lovely safe path, with interesting things to study and A+s within her grasp, and a nice job at the end of it all.

It looked kind of dull.

On the other side was a big yawning cliff. It was a very long way down and held lots of opportunities for failure and disappointment and generally making a fool of herself. But it made her heart do a little skip with excitement when she thought about. And somewhere in the distance, there was a beautiful, alluring, dream-fullfilling place with Writer written in big letters on the sign over the entrance, and people sitting around in the PJs making up stuff and being interesting and arty and neglecting their housework. They didn’t seem to have much money, but damn, were they having fun.

So guess what she did.

She jumped.

She cancelled her place on the Earth Science degree and signed up for this course, which starts in a month and, coupled with some other equally fun writing courses over the next few years, would give her both an Open BA (Hons) Degree AND a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing . To learn about writing and give her an excuse to write all day under the guise of being a student, and generally give her the opportunity to see if she could make this writing thing stick.

She re-designed her blog as a way of increasing her audience and give her a place to showcase her writing efforts. And for the first time in a VERY long time, she felt truly happy and content. Yes she was scared. Very, very scared. Of failing, of everyone not taking her seriously, of rejection. But it was a good kind of scared. The kind of scared that might come before something really wonderful.

And in celebration of all of this she wrote a very long, convoluted story to tell you all about it.

THE END

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P.S. You got that the girl is me right? And that I’ve jacked in my Science Degree to follow my dreams of becoming a real life writer? Yes? Good, good. Just checking…


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Pieces of Me

I have to say that I am REALLY enjoying this blogging thing. I’m eagerly anticipating the moments when I can steal a little time away to write. It’s becoming a kind of refuge this blog. A way of de-stressing and unwinding, of laughing at myself and helping me not to take things too seriously. And I realised today that I have been keeping it faithfully for over two months.

I guess that doesn’t seem like much to some, but to me this is quite an achievement.

You see I’ve always been someone that took interest in a great number of things, picking and choosing between them all depending on my mood, but I have never been very good at maintaining focus on just one thing. I leap from one subject or hobby to another like some kind of giant human thought-association research project. The slightest thing can set me off. One book could set me off an frantic journey of discover taking in Arthurian Legend, onto tree lore, spiralling my way through Ecology and Environmental Campaigning, onto Green living and knitting, finishing up with remembering to separate my paper and my plastics.

It’s quite exhausting.

As such I find myself perpetually juggling a dozen or more different projects, all half pursued and half finished, left on one side as something new and more exciting steals my attention and my enthusiasm.  Over the years I’ve picked up no end of different skills and bits and pieces of knowledge.

In the interest of getting to know me better, here’s a few:

I draw, paint (and once won a competition), make cards (when I’m too broke to buy them), am a reasonable calligrapher, (producing stationary for two weddings), can knit jumpers with pirate motifs, embroider and undo knots that most people would find impossible, produced two (unfinished) patchwork quilts. I’ve had a go at amateur film making, featuring myself as both a hooker and a bearded doctor, and had a stab at photography. I’ve sang in public (not something I plan to repeat). I became quite adept at yoga, learning to contort myself into any number of positions, turned my bathroom into a laboratory whilst making my own beauty products and home remedies and cured my mum’s menopausal mood swings (well… almost). I’ve played three different musical instruments. I’ve read about philosophy and religion, argued extensively about both, making my mind up then changing it all again. I’ve ran for my local council and got a lot more votes than I was expecting. I’ve written letters and been on tv waving a placard. I’ve traced my family tree back to 1750. I’ve read ten billion books on every subject known to man.

And that’s before I’ve even mentioned my jobs. Let me see… I’ve sold shoes and waitressed (badly), I’ve organised filing cabinets and typed invoices at a double glazing firm. I’ve taken disabled children swimming and been a teaching assistant. I’ve taken care of elderly patients, wiping bums and changing giant nappies. I’ve bathed several old and wrinkly men. I’ve ran a school library and literacy projects and children’s book clubs. I’ve even sat with someone as they died.

Quite a list isn’t it?

But don’t get me wrong, this is not supposed to be a brag. Because although I am a bit of a jack of all trades, I am a master at none. At best I could be called ‘competent’ in most of the things I undertake but I’ve never been really good at anything. Maybe because I’ve never stuck with one thing long enough.

On first consideration, motherhood seems to be much the same. As always, I’d get points for enthusiasm but no-one is ever going to consider me an expert in the subject.

And yet now I come to think of it, it actually IS different this time.

This time I’m being FORCED to stick with something. As a stay-at-home mum I can’t give up changing nappies, or getting up at 6am every morning, or making toast highly delicious and varied and nutritious food stuffs. Well, I guess I could. But Kai wouldn’t be very impressed, and he has a great ability of pointing out my shortcomings in a very loud not-to-be-ignored kind of way.

This is one job I can’t quit.

And do you know what? I think it’s doing me the world of good. I think I have learnt more about patience and discipline in the last 12 months than in the whole previous 26 years combined and throughout all my other weird and wonderful occupations. I’m actually COMMITTED to something. And even stranger, I’m not bored or losing interest. I’m actually enjoying it. And looking forward to doing it a whole lot more.

Most surprisingly of all it’s making me want to change. It’s making me want to be more disciplined in other areas of my life. There’s the blog of course for starters. I’m trying to keep the house tidier and am making more of an effort with the cooking (and even better, so far I haven’t killed ANYONE! Result!).  Determined to know a bit more than ‘a bit’ about something I’ve enrolled on a part-time self-study degree course that I start in a month. The cynic in me tells me I’ll probably change my mind after a year and do something else, that the blog posts will dry up in another month and the house revert back to it’s old slovenliness, but actually I don’t think that’s true.

Because do you know what? I think I’ve changed.

I think I’m almost… *gulp*… becoming a grown up.

Now where’s that book on Quantum Physics I started?


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