A few posts back I wrote a bit of a random blog about nothing in particular, but I touched on mindfulness. But what even is mindfulness? When I put it into the Google search bar, it came up with this definition: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this – but definitely not calmly! I think it is important to acknowledge how you feel and to try and do something about it – not just put it away into a box that is never opened, or if it is, not in the wrong way. I don’t even know if this is making much sense at the minute, but I’m just going to roll with it and see where it takes me.
Over the past few years I have noticed that I put myself under a lot of pressure to ‘exceed expectations’. Exceed expectations in what? Who knows. Sometimes it’s the tiniest things such as cooking a nice meal. Other times it was academically. But this, in hand with overthinking many situations has left me with anxiety. Anxiety is a word that is bounced around over various platforms these days. So much so, it sometimes feels like everyone has it and is jumping on the bandwagon. Occasionally I have felt like this and that maybe I am just being a complete drama queen. Then I realise that it’s the anxiety sending my mind into overdrive and the best thing I can do for myself is to just allow myself to feel the way I feel and not try to change it. Easier said than done though.
I keep moaning about putting on weight and that I’m fat, but I don’t do anything about it. Which I know is ridiculous. If I was that bothered, I would diet and do exercise. But I hate exercising and dieting is an evil word in my opinion! I write a lot about food and being on a diet would not be exciting and I think I would lose my mojo with my blog. Part of mindfulness though is just accepting my size and the fact that I love food. I’m a size 12 and shouldn’t look so poorly on myself. Loving food gives me a great excuse to cook new and exciting things to then blog about anyway!
Last October I embarked on a new adventure at the University of Essex. I started a Masters degree in Creative Writing. For the last 9 years or so it has been my dream to become a journalist or writer in some capacity. I don’t even care if I get paid a lot or no money to do it. I just want to do it because it is what I love. I love writing on my blog. It gives me a sense of freedom, individuality (which seems ironic as everyone has blogs these days, but equally, everyone’s blog is different) and room to express myself as in real life I would never in a million years talk about this stuff with someone I know and love. It’s much easier to do it to a bunch of strangers over the internet – insert laughing face emoji here. So I thought an MA in Creative Writing would be a great stepping stone to reach this goal.
Doing the MA was an amazing, unforgettable experience. I made new friends there, and these are now people who are friends for life, friends I speak to daily and friends who I can share triumphs and tears with. But it is also an experience where I put enormous pressure on myself and allowed fear and anxiety to take over at times. It wasn’t necessarily fears of failure, it was fears of being laughed at or not being seen as good enough to be on the course. One of the most important lessons I learned while studying for my MA was that it is vital to believe in your own work and know that everyone writes differently. We were all good at something, bad at other things. Our strengths and weaknesses set us apart and gave us a fantastic foundation to help one another, offer advice and more importantly to criticise. I was so lucky to be in classes with great friends, it was a safe place for all of us to receive feedback on our writing and to see what didn’t work/ what did.
I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout the MA and it did take its toll on me mentally. Particularly writing my dissertation. My dissertation was something I was extremely passionate about and when I handed it in, I was super proud of what I had done. I don’t think I’ve actually said that aloud but I knew it was a well-researched piece of work and I can truly say I put my heart and soul into it. I got my results last week and I am graduating from the University of Essex with a Merit. I am the only person in my family who has an undergraduate and postgraduate degree and it is something I should be proud of. And I am. But the result was not what I wanted and I just felt like a failure when I read my results. I sobbed and left work and felt so crap for the rest of the day. There was a little voice in my head telling me that I should have done better, I have let myself down and my parents down. That I’m a failure. I’m not where I should be at the age of 29. That everyone is better than me. That I should forget about my ambition to be a journalist and a writer.
And I listened to that voice. I was so angry at myself and couldn’t see past the fact that I did produce an amazing piece of work and I have a Masters degree. Not many people I know can say that and it is something I need to hold close. I am proud that I’m graduating next year with a Merit in my MA. It may not be a distinction, but I know that as an individual, I have so many strengths in and outside the academic arena which all hold me in good stead for the future.
Back in August, I bought a ‘Be Your Best Self’ journal from Paperchase. I wanted it to encourage me to write, boost my self-esteem and confidence and to believe in myself more. But, due to increasingly bad anxiety, I’ve found I only think about myself negatively. It is something I need to stop doing because I am a pretty great person, I care about those around me, I want to please people and make them happy and I think I have a kind heart. But being a Virgo, I am a perfectionist and slightly OCD, so the slightest thing will make me look at the glass half-empty. I am going to try and change that though, firstly by filling in the following pages in my journal as honestly as I can. My aim is to fill it in by the end of the year.
I have written this today because I have felt anxious and drained. It’s ok to feel like that and that’s what I have come to realise. You need to the things that make you happy, make you feel comfortable. For me, I always feel drained and tired. Let yourself feel like that. Let yourself sleep if you need to. That’s what I have done and I feel so much better for it. I also feel excited for the future and I’m going to just carry on blogging and pushing forward to reach my dreams!