Anyone else?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I’ve spent my twenties going around in circles. 

Maybe it’s because I’m an over-thinker and a past-dweller, but every now and again self-doubt hits me like a brick. At these times, I consider radically changing things up, travelling the world or finally doing the music therapy masters I’ve always dreamed about. 

When I’m feeling like this, I am particularly vulnerable to the power of throw-backs and can easily get sucked into old libraries of old photos and end up scrolling for ages looking at how happy past me was and how wonderful the world was through those infamous rose-tinted glasses (that it never occurs to me I must be wearing). 

Last night, I went to sleep thinking about how it’s been over 7 years now since I started blogging. 7 years ago I was in my second year of university. I still wanted to be an opera singer. My best friend was a lovely girl who’s not in my life now. I hadn’t even met Dave. And in my sleepy state all I could think was that it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Surely in 7 years I should have done more?

At 11:30 pm on a Friday, after a long and tiring week, I found myself wondering what that girl would think if she could see me now and whether she’d be happy for me. Am I doing the right things? Would she be surprised by where I’m at – and not in a good way?

I realised she’d probably be most surprised to find I am living in a random city, away from all of my family and friends. For a split-second I considered insisting we leave this flat right away and move closer to home, before remembering all of the reasons we’re here, how much I love this place that feels increasingly like our own and that when the pandemic is behind us, we’ll be able to have family and friends visit whenever we fancy.  

I fell asleep eventually and as if by magic, this morning I feel grounded and confident again. Now suddenly I know I’m happy with where I am and I think back to university and realise just how far I’ve come. I’m sat here acknowledging that it doesn’t really matter what 20 years old me would think, because I’m a very different person now. And I’m actually proud of who I am. It’s not that I no-longer want to travel the world or do my masters, but I have faith I’ll get there one day and realise I’m content where I am right now, for now. All the decisions I made to get here make sense again. I’m sticking a middle finger up at self-doubt and shouting ‘I am just fine where I am thank you!’ 

And that’s it – I’ve come full circle. Now, I’ll go on my merry way until doubt hits and I go through the whole process all over again. Is this just what being in your twenties is like? We’re all just still discovering ourselves and working out what makes us happy and what we value most and eventually we’ll feel settled and calm. We can’t possibly spend our whole lives wondering if we’re doing the right thing and will ever be really truly happy. Right? 

It’s never too late for new resolutions

It’s a beautiful, frosty, sunny morning, I have the day off work and I hadn’t factored writing into the plan for the day, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that with some chill time on my hands, writing is what I feel like doing.

I was going to get up early and head out for a walk this morning. I miss chilly, morning walks to the station and I miss being out early enough to pick a super fresh croissant up from a bakery. I never thought I’d say it, but I actually just miss commuting in general. Reading on the train is one of my most favourite things and I will never again take for granted that divide between personal life and work life -That time to mentally prepare for the day and then wind down after it.

I’m not out walking, because we have an IKEA delivery due any moment. I’m so excited! This is our last delivery for the time being and our weekends spent building flat pack furniture may soon be behind us. Then, it’s just a matter of finally unpacking the last of our boxes and getting this flat set up just the way we want it.

Today I’m looking forward to going room by room, cleaning and dusting and hoovering and also hopefully getting organised as I go. What else is there to do with a day off work in lock down?

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt my mental health slipping if I’m honest. I went into the New Year resolving to keep to a strict routine and make the most of my day, by keeping work to work hours and making full use of the me-time either side. I lasted all of a couple of days before I let that slip, in spite of calendar reminders and booked virtual fitness classes (that it seems can be way too easily cancelled or forgotten).

So, now I’m resolving once again to do all of that – But starting by getting up at the same time every work day, getting some breakfast and a cuppa and then heading out for a wander. I’m hoping forcing myself out for a walk will help boost those endorphins people talk about, help me to mentally prepare for the day ahead and leave me feeling energised and determined. Watch this space.

Much ado about nothing

I’ve been feeling melancholy and I can’t really put my finger on why.

This bit between Christmas and New Year is always a funny one. This year it feels weirder than ever.

Over the long weekend I felt like I actually switched off from work for the first time in forever. With the lines having been blurred between work and home for a while now, it’s been hard to relax properly or create proper down time. Especially while stuck at home. It felt really good to forget about everything for a bit.

But now we’ve hit Chrimbo Limbo again and I feel hit by the impending doom of another couple of months in lock down. The news gets gloomier all the time and it seems more likely than not that the new restrictions will be here to stay for the time being. I’m looking ahead to a couple of months of days exactly like today and I’m not excited about the prospect.

I feel re-energised after my switched off weekend and now I want something exciting to look forward to. I want to make New Year’s Resolutions which involve a travel bucket list and saying yes to more stuff, when in reality I probably need to resolve to be grateful for what I have and stay positive and learn to take things as they come. There are resolutions that I actually stand more chance of keeping during a pandemic – get fit, spend less money in bars and restaurants, learn a new language, read all of my books but they’re not resolutions I actually want to make right now.

It’s not just that though, it’s also that I miss my family and I actually kinda feel a little home sick for the old house. Which I can’t deny, no matter how much I love our new home and the cute Christmas tree we put up Christmas Eve and my new book shelves.

I do feel better today already simply because one of my besties shared a voucher with us for free Hello Fresh meals and now I’ve yummy dinners to look forward to all of next week.

Work drew a lot of my focus today and that felt good too. I do enjoy my job and throwing myself into work would probably help. A break is good for the soul, but a return to routine is always good for me too.

All of that said, maybe I just feel blue, because it’s a kinda blue time of year. And maybe I’m totally over-thinking it. And maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself at a time when I should be counting myself lucky to be healthy and employed.

That’s it. I’m done moping. One day at a time from here and I’m going to keep busy, switch my anxious brain off (except when it’s needed for actually important stuff) and focus on the positives. We’ve got free food arriving at the weekend. What could be better than that!?

The New Normal

When this all began, there was so much talk about the strain on all of us. Everyone was talking about how we had to accept that our mental health might take a dip and a dive and that it was okay to feel anxious or down. No-one expected too much and we all filled our lives in any way we could. We took each day as it came.

Some people took to arts and crafts, baking or exercise. Others took up online courses and extra projects. Some just caught up on much needed sleep.

Now, life’s gradually returning to a new kind of normal and if you’re anything like me, you’re suddenly convinced you should somehow feel normal again yourself. Like it’s a switch we can flick on when life gets challenging and off again when things get better.

Here’s the thing – I still feel sad and tired, all the time. I’m missing my life before Covid-19, but I’m struggling to accept how far off a return to that exact way of life really is. I feel like stubborn teenager, sticking my heels in and adamantly waiting until things go precisely my way. I don’t want to settle for half-normal.

I’m looking at pictures of friends filling their diaries up with plans and getting out and about. I’m watching people at work throw themselves into planning for the next few months at home (because this working from home thing seems like it’s here to stay). I’m seeing people embrace the gradual relaxing of the rules and head back to beaches and shops. And I’m doing the most unhealthy thing I could do:

I’m directly comparing how I’m doing to how everyone else seems to be doing. I’m convincing myself that everyone else is fine and that I should be too. I feel like I should be full steam ahead back into work and socialising and my old routine and everything else that comes with it. It’s like I’ve decided Covid-19 isn’t a justifiable reason to feel ‘not quite right’ anymore.

Soon, I’ll probably find I do start making plans and accepting the new normal. I’ll ease into it over the next few weeks and before long, I’m sure I’ll start to feel myself embrace the way things have to be. But there’s no pressure or rush to do so – It’s only me putting that pressure on me. Which is no-doubt just making me more tired than I already am.

So, for anyone else who needs to hear it: It’s okay, to still not be okay. We’re still living through a global pandemic. And if anything, this strange return to a new kind of normal is likely to be the most mentally challenging part of the whole thing. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself!

Breathe, cut yourself some slack and still feel free to take each day as it comes. You’ve got this.

I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

Week Fifty-Two

As after most Christmases, the arm of the chair that I am sat in is piled high with books: The new 2020 diary I got for Christmas, Fearne Cotton’s ‘Calm’, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (I’m on chapter 8 and loving every second), and a very thick pad titled ‘642 things to write about’ (which I cannot wait to start working my way through). The Christmas tree is twinkling away next to me and the TV is on. Three different cooking shows have been on in the time I’ve been curled up here and I am now very hungry for something yummy.

Since starting my new job at the beginning of December, life’s been a little chaotic, very stressful and also all kinds of exciting. (The lead up to Christmas was as magical as ever and although I’m nervous about my new role, I am also very excited to get stuck in.) I am so relieved to have made it into Chrimbo Limbo.

I could spend hours reflecting on 2019. I wish I could have been more prepared for everything the last year would throw my way. I spent a year in which I resolved to try and worry less and remember that these will be the good old days, worrying too much and carrying the weight of the world around with me. At the risk of sounding super gloomy, I was tired a lot and stressed a lot and sad a lot, even at times when I would have expected to feel most happy.

But I’m grateful for all the great memories I have too. Paris in the winter, Soho with one of my best friends, a trip back to the 1920s for a night in Cardiff, a holiday in Kefalonia and an escape to Happy Place Festival. Performances with the band and a move into a new home. A visit to Casino Royale and many a laugh at Tim Minchin live.

And I am looking forward to 2020. It’s strange, but I almost feel like a year full of so much worry has led to me finally feeling like I am capable of worrying less. This year, big stuff came our way and for once in my life, the majority of my anxiety was actually rational; the butterflies made sense.

Now, I feel like I might be more determined than ever before, not to let the small stuff stress me out.

I’m taking 2020 as it comes. I’m expecting a year much like this one, except this time I feel much better prepared. Ups and downs are a way of life and it’s like I’ve learned to surf the waves finally. Or I hope I have. Now, that’s a very Bronwen-esque metaphor if ever there was one and I guess that’s a wrap on Chapter Five. 52 weeks, one year and a whole load more life lessons learned.

Be back soon.

Week Forty-One

This one’s for my Mum and her sisters, my aunties. I love you all so much.

The theme of 2019 has definitely been ups and downs. I’ve had months full of happy memories and positivity and other months that have been huge struggles. Whether it’s been my mental health getting me down or things going on at home. I don’t want to write a super gloomy post, but it’s felt like every time I was picking myself up again, something else has come along and knocked me down.

The above dedication goes out to my Mum and my aunties at a hard time for all of us. My Mum is going to be away from home for a long time and she probably won’t be home for Christmas and for me personally, worries about her and her sister and heart ache over missing her already have me feeling like the uphill climb that’s been 2019 just got steeper. But, this week, I’m reminded that life’s too short and we should be grateful for every little thing we can be.

Is it just me or, in this crazy adult life, isn’t a Saturday with no plans the best thing ever? I’m grateful for this moment right now. Sat with a cuppa, in our cosy living room, typing away to a blog I love to type away to. Dave’s stuck on a record by Greta Van Fleet and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I am. (It’s actually pretty awesome.) I’ve got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sat next to me on the coffee table and a hot water bottle to cuddle. I’ve got candles lit and I’m wearing the cutest socks (which a group of my loveliest friends bought for me for one of my birthdays).

It’s been a mad few weeks. Between long days at work, band practice, the stuff going on with my family and the social stuff too, I’ve not done as much nothing as I’m doing today in a while.

It’s not all doom and gloom: To give you some of the highlights, since I last wrote:

Dave and I went to our nearest zoo from the new house. It’s ZSL Whipsnade and I highly recommend a visit. It turns out it’s the biggest zoo in the UK. We walked over 7 miles just wondering around and it’s great because there isn’t really any set route or paths to take. You just kinda get through the entrance and go on your own adventure. With regular pit stops for coffee and food between amazing animals, it makes for a great day. You feel like you’ve properly escaped. The animals’ enclosures are huge too and although this means you don’t necessarily get to see them all, it’s good to see that they’ve got so much space to roam. The zoo is properly focused on conservation and not just on guest satisfaction.

Dave and I also went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriella play at The Hammersmith Apollo. They were AMAZING. Such good performers and musicians and eeek. I’m a big fan!

Damballa Collective had our second gig which was at a lovely pub in Camden called The Golden Lion. I was still so ridiculously nervous and I was full of cold, but it was still great fun and I think we sounded good! We got paid in roast dinner too, which is the best thing ever.

I went along to an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk to talk about Gifts in Wills and as ever, the event was beautiful (even on a very rainy Sunday morning) and I met so many inspirational people.

I drove up to Sheffield with my little sister to meet two of the members of one of her favourite metal bands. I’m still not convinced I’ll ever like their music, but they were really great guys and they made such a huge effort for their fans that day and it was actually a lot of fun to road trip up there together. We went to a really cool bar and I had the most amazing street food I’ve ever had.

I also met a lovely friend in Cheltenham for the day a couple of weeks back. We started with breakfast, had a stroll around the shops, saw the famous mechanical clock blow bubbles, wandered down through the parks and the older, prettier part of town and went to Cosy Club for a very yummy dinner. It was the bestest day.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve forgotten too!

In summary, my heart goes out to my family, life is precious and not to be taken for granted no matter how busy and stressful it might feel at times and I’m so grateful for all the happy memories I continue to make and for today: A day of calm among the chaos.

Week Thirty-Six

Oh heyyy!

So, the house move has gone surprisingly smoothly for me. Especially considering my inability to accept change, close attachment to places and things and general emotional-ness.

I was super emotional when we eventually said goodbye to the flat, but in my defence, it had been one of those weeks anyway and I was due a good cry. Also, it was so super strange seeing the flat all naked and empty and knowing it wasn’t ours anymore.

I think what’s made the move so much easier is that our new place literally ticks all the boxes. Life’s so much easier with a washing line and a designated cupboard for bedding and towels and under bed storage and a station nearby. And the house felt so homey so quickly too! The owner has decorated it so brightly and it was funished with a few bits and pieces before we even got all of our stuff in.

And my goodness do we have a lot of stuff! How two people can own so many things and have kept them in a 1 bed flat for so long I do not know. It’s also not until you try and pack your life into boxes you realise how fragile literally everything is! From kitchenware to ornaments and frames, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of bubble wrap!

September 1st came around and the new house was sorted and the next few gigs with the band were confirmed and that autumn chill appeared from nowhere and I got my boots out andddd I saw that Primark have their Disney Christmas tinsel out already and I feel so much brighter.

THIS is hands-down the best time of year. I can’t wait for the first trees to go orange and brown and the first crisp frosty morning and the first time I get all wrapped up in a snug coat and scarf and the first hot chocolate on a chilly evening! I know September might have a few summery days left in it yet, but I live for autumn and I’m so excited!

Week Twenty-Eight

WHERE IS THE YEAR GOING!?

I knew 2019 was going to be a big’un. I never could have prepared myself for how much of an uphill climb the first half of it would be. I said there was to be no stressing when my birthday party came around and I don’t want any of the amazing people who came to be disappointed or sad. I certainly don’t want my parents’ to feel like all their efforts were wasted. It was an AMAZING night! But honestly? I spent the whole thing feeling very anxious and went to bed crying at 1am because I was so frustrated that I hadn’t been able to enjoy it.

Now, here I am in July and my anxiety feels like it’s finally under control again and I’m absolutely buzzing about life! It feels like everything is coming together. A lot’s going to change over the next couple of months.

I remember New Year’s Eve 2011 very clearly. 2012 was going to be the year everything changed and I knew I wasn’t going to like it one bit. I went to bed early and when it got to midnight I cried. I was right; I didn’t enjoy the changes at all. Going off to university turned my whole world upside down. If I had known back then, that life would always be full of change and that I was just going to have to get used to it, I’m not sure what I would have done. Decided this life wasn’t for me and I was going to live under my duvet for the rest of it? Probably.

I’ve come a long way since then. I am prepared for the fact that the next couple of months may throw me off a little, but I’m also just super excited about EVERYTHING.

Where to start?

Well, today I have a jam session with my new band. YEP, MY NEW BAND. I’ve been really down about my voice ever since studying music at university if I’m honest. Being part of that music department made me feel like a very small fish in an extremely big pond and I never really shook that feeling. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I’ve repeatedly pledged to get back into singing. I was going to join a choir or find like-minded musicians to work with, but I never kept that promise to myself. I just couldn’t seem to find the oomph.

I work with this great guy who, over the last couple of months, has gone and given me my music mojo back. He didn’t really give me a choice in the matter. He rocked up at my desk one day and told me about this new collective of musicians he was pulling together. He said it was Jazz, but not Jazz. And kinda classically influenced, but not really either. He said he thought I might fit right in and before I knew it I was at the studio with him. It took me over half an hour to sing my first note.

Now, I’m away! We’ve had our first gig and, although I was super nervous, I managed to successfully sing every note and, although I might not have sung as well as I know I can, I was so proud and happy when we finished. Mostly proud to be working with such a talented set of musicians. The guy from work’s a ridiculously talented drummer. We’re playing with an AMAZING classical guitarist and FANTASTIC saxophonist and WE ARE DAMBALLA COLLECTIVE. Plug over, but I’m so excited. Can you tell?

That aside, we’re also moving home! (Providing our references all go through fine and they decide they think we’ll be able to pay the rent each month.) We’re moving in with a friend, into a much bigger home in a lovely village with loads of pubs and a big common and it’s going to be so lovely. And best of all… I can walk to the train station… waheyyyy. No more sitting in traffic every morning!!

Anddd finally, I passed my big qualification at work and now I’m officially qualified to do what I want to do. The world is now my oyster on the career front and I’m really excited to see where work life takes me from here… That’s if I’m not too busy touring with Damballa Collective of course.

All good things.

Life’s more challenging than ever before. Particularly for a worrier like me. But I’m making sure to take deep breaths when I can and I’m taking moments here and there to make sure I’m doing okay. I am doing okay. And next week I’m off on holiday. What better way to look after one’s mental health than to spend a week in the sun, with a good book (Miles Davis’ autobiography being my current book of choice… I’m only 3 chapters in, but I am loving it!) and an amazing friend? Eeeeek!

Week Twenty

It’s late in the day for a blog post, I know. As the weekend comes to an end, I’m feeling particularly melancholy and blogging always makes me feel chirpier, so here we are.

It feels like Sunday evening came around very quickly. It feels like only a few minutes ago, I was rolling out of bed (post- eurovision lie in was a necessity) and getting to work spring cleaning with Dave. The flat needed a good tidy and we rewarded ourselves with a lovely lunch out, so it’s been a good day all in all. I just can’t believe it’s nearly over.

I suppose, there’s still time. Time to get a real wriggle on with the studying. Time to chill and have dinner. Time to curl up with a movie and probably fall asleep in the middle of it.

Week twenty was a great week, if only because we were back to routine and that’s always a bit of a relief after a hectic few weeks in a row. That and the fact that the weather has been so beautiful!

This week I felt a little more on top of everything on the work front. Bank holidays are great, but I’d only just really caught up at work after Easter and then May came around and threw me off track again.  I needed this full five day week to get back on track. I had a very productive and equally lovely working from home day: I spent it working out on the balcony and cooked turkey dinosaurs at lunch time.

In other news, I started reading Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to hurt’ this week and I’m flying through it! I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a full 5 stars from me! The book is hilarious, but also eye-opening. Reading it is so enjoyable, but at the same time so frustrating. Basically, the book contains lots of Adam Kay’s diary entries from when he was a junior doctor. He helpfully translates the medical language and he’s brutally honest. It’s terrifying actually, to hear about the challenges our NHS staff face every day and the lengths they are pushed to. When reading it on the tubes, I felt like getting everyone’s attention and reading extracts out loud to the carriage just to raise more awareness.

I saw two of my best friends and caught up with my sister this week too. A good week is a week that contains multiple catch ups over food and drink…

My sister and I went for dinner on Thursday, which was lovely as ever.

Friday night was spent at Las Iguanas with one of the friends, numerous cocktails and tapas. She brought me the loveliest necklace for my birthday (which happens to be on Wednesday… And I’m going to be 25… EEK!) and we had a wonderful time catching up on life.

Yesterday, I drove to Salisbury to see the other friend. Escaping London was the absolute bestest. It took me ages to get past Heathrow and out the other side, but once I was away from the motorways and off onto the A roads in Wiltshire, I immediately felt happier. I whizzed down the roads, fields for miles on either side of me, until I reached her lovely flat. I was so happy to see her: It’d been way too long! We got a really yummy lunch in town and then did some shopping. I’m relieved to say that I successfully purchased my costume for my birthday party next week…

I can’t quite believe I’m going to be 25! I feel like this is it. This is the best age to be. I’d quite happily pause here for a bit. Determined to celebrate this year. For a few years in a row, I’ve not really made a thing of my birthday. I’m a stressy host anyway and getting everyone together always feels like a huge ordeal. A huge ordeal, that I will have undertaken by the time next Sunday comes around! I’m getting all my friends together this year, for a fancy dress party. Everyone’s coming as something beginning with ‘B’ and so far, I’m more excited than nervous. I just hope everyone has a great time and I can get my 26th year off to a strong start. Absolutely no stressing about hosting allowed. See you on the other side!