I Wrote a Book Now What?

papers spilling from a typewriter

I have wanted to be a writer all my life. I am always writing in some way or another. Mainly it’s in my head, narrating my each and every action, elaborating on my feelings, but I’m writing. My life is the story and I tell it to myself as I live it.

Eventually the story in my head wasn’t enough. I knew deep down I was a writer but to be a writer I needed to put words on a page; one after the other until they formed an entire thing. Last year I started doing just that. I started out with a rough idea that wouldn’t go away. It was just a flicker of a thing. It would keep me awake or occupy me on my commute to work. I started writing. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t shape the thing, I just kept putting one word after another until it was finished.

I had the first draft of a book.

On the 24th of November when I typed ‘The End’ because I didn’t know what else to do to give me closure, I expected to feel euphoric but I didn’t. I felt agitated. I couldn’t relax. For months now I’d been occupied with this thing, this book, and now I didn’t have it any more. When it was in my head it was wrapped in possibilities. It could be perfect. It could be anything. On the page, I could see it was not perfect and it was this one particular thing instead of the many possibilities I had once wondered about.

A first draft is messy. It’s not meant to be perfect. You put the words into the first draft in order to have something to shape, to edit, to polish. Still, I expected to feel accomplished when I wrote the last word, or when I saved the document (backed up in triplicate), or when I told people, “hey, that book I was writing? I finished it.”

But it didn’t feel like that. As I put the draft away so that I can forget about it, let it grow blurry in my mind over Christmas and then return to it with a red pen, I only felt an overwhelming sense of what was left to do. This book needs tearing apart and putting back together again. It needs rounding and sharpening and tightening and tuning. The prospect of all this work is both alarming and exciting. I can’t wait to work this novel into something worth reading and at the same time I worry I am not worthy of the task.

Then there’s all the other ideas. Notebooks full of them. How I went 26 years nearly free of ideas for any creative projects is unfathomable, because now they crop up all the time. Most of them are faint glimmers that I transcribe into the ‘notes’ section of my phone and vow to go back to later. There are so many things I want to make – books, scripts, poems, blog posts, that often I am frozen by the overwhelming massiveness of it all. When will I have the time? Will I be good enough?

The answer is: you make the time, you make yourself good enough.

Adventures in Joblessness

Unemployment

Where have I been?

Well, lots of places and also nowhere at all.

I lost my job and have struggled to find another and with that I’ve been feeling a lot of uselessness, and hopelessness. When a fourth rejection comes in, for a job I know I am more than qualified for, it’s easy to sink into feeling like I’ll never get a job. It’s easy to blame myself – I must be too stupid, or not good enough and that’s why no one will employ me.

But that’s not true. I’m a qualified and capable individual. I live in a small city where there aren’t many jobs going at all, let alone ones I match the (increasingly more detailed and complex) person specifications of.

I know that a job doesn’t give me identity, but it does give money and money begets freedom. The freedom to do as you choose, the freedom to eat, and wear, and go where you like. And identity is very tied into the things you choose to do. When you don’t have a job, you don’t have money and when you don’t have money your choices are limited.

Now that my choices are limited, I feel limited. I used to feel limitless. The world was mine to conquer. I would travel all over it, I would buy things from it. The space I occupied was wide and open and expanding all the time.

But being unemployed is very claustrophobic. I’m hemmed in. Narrowed off. Limited. I occupy this house which is in turns my home and my prison. Which is a dramatic way of saying: I feel stuck and bored.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. A job will come along and when it does I will complain that it takes up too much of my time and energy.

In the meantime, I have acres and acres of time to fill with blog posts and Netflix.

You Deserve It

Self care you deserve it

I always thought I had self care down to a fine art. I take baths, drink copious glasses of wine and take time to watch trashy TV. I’ve been known to make myself a faaaaancy latte. But recently I’ve realised those things are just surface level ‘self care signifiers’ and what I really needed was something much deeper and more difficult to achieve.

This week has been hard for me. Nothing awful has happened but there have been a few bumps in the road and each one has left me more depleted and less resilient. Each evening I’ve got home and tried to do something nice for myself, to be kind to myself. I’ve soaked in the bath, had an early night, and eaten more biscuits than should be humanly possible. In the moment, those things have made me feel temporarily better but they have been like wallpapering over a crack in a wall.

You see, self care is more than a manicure and a glass of wine in front of this week’s episode of Dr Foster. Not that self care can’t involve manicures and alcohol and TV. But it has to also be more than that or else it isn’t going to give you real lasting benefits – or I’ve found it doesn’t with me, anyway.

I noticed this week that while I may decide to have a ‘relaxing’ bath, or ‘chill out’ watching telly, or to do some yoga, I do these things like any mandatory item on my to do list but with an added side of guilt. Whilst I’m floating in the bath I’m counting down the minutes until I have to go and tackle the monster pile of dishes in the sink, or I’m listening to a podcast to better utilise my time. Whilst I’m watching TV I’m also reading a newspaper, or I’m feeling guilty about the 34657 more ‘important’ things I could be doing.

Self care is being kind to yourself. Berating yourself for needing to veg out on the sofa, cocooned in a blanket, for an hour is not kind. Feeling your stress level intensify each minute you soak in the tub because you actually need to be doing something more ‘worthwhile’ is not kind. Never listening to music in the morning because you feel like you really should be watching the news is not kind.

Doing kind things only works when you cut out the internal monologue that tells you you only have five minutes to read that book, that tells you that you should be cleaning, not painting your nails, that whispers ‘this is essentially just procrastination’ as you curate your very own 90’s love song playlist.

Enter my new mantra: you deserve this.

When you deserve something it’s a reward. It has been earned and here it is, a lovely gift in recognition of all your hard work.

“You can squeeze in a quick bath but afterwards you need to clean the kitchen,” does not have the same ring to it as you deserve a deep, hot bath and a bath bomb.

Then I started thinking about what I truly deserved. What did I deserve in my life? What did I deserve to experience as part of my day.

I deserved a glass of wine but also, I deserved a healthy green smoothie because that was going to help me feel energetic.

I deserved to listen to cheesy pop music on the way to work. I deserved a long, hot bath followed by enough guilt free time to moisturise both my arms and my legs in one session. I deserved an early night without worrying I was sleeping my life away (I’m tired dammit!)

As the week wore on what I felt I deserved evolved. I deserved to speak up in that meeting. I deserved not to spend hours second guessing a decision I made at work. I deserved a night off the house work – to leave the dishes in the sink and the laundry in the hamper. I deserved to take the time to read poetry. I deserved to write and to do so without apology or shame.

Today, I ended up having to walk home. The walk is long (an hour at least) and through winding country lanes. I spent a lot of the day dreading it. But when the time came, the clouds parted and the sun came out.

I deserve to walk home in the sunshine, I thought. And I did deserve it and it felt so unbelievably good as I stood looking into the valley where my house is, all lit up by golden autumn sunshine. I turned my face up to the sun and the fresh air hit my skin and I smiled. I realised the thing I had been dreading all day was something I actually wanted to be part of my life, it was something I felt I deserved. Do I think I need to walk an hour in the rain? No thank you, I’m not insane.

When I got home I realised I deserve to live in a clean house and I cleaned it. Was it glorious and life affirming? No. But it felt like I was doing it for me and not just because it was something I had to do. Sometimes I feel like I only ever do things I have to do and it takes all the joy out of living.

These are the things I want in my life: poetry, love, wine, music, writing, long walks, slouchy jumpers, singing and dancing, laughter, cooking, doing my job well, being a good friend, helping make the world a better place, eating cake, drinking tea, long baths, candlelight, terrible period dramas, a good book and a better blanket.

And I deserve all of these. I deserve them.

I earned all those things and I have a right to claim them and in claiming them I have the right not to feel guilty for carving out the time to enjoy them.

We all deserve to live the best lives we can. We’ve earned this, you deserve it.

Messy House, Messy Mind.

messy house messy mind

Can you function when your house is a mess?

I can’t.

I try to, because I am an incredibly messy person. I leave things lying around, I don’t get to the washing up until there’s a thick layer of scum on the water I filled the sink with and ignored, intending to get back to it later. I leave the laundry until it’s overflowed the basket and taken over most of the landing. I leave little piles of clutter; books, pens, nail varnish, hair bands, wherever I go.

Mugs multiply whenever I am near. They spring up in their hundreds, half full of cold coffee or soggy herbal teabags, crescents of lipstick mark them like a brand. Post is collected eagerly from the door mat and then neglected on top of the microwave until such a huge pile has amassed that it warrants its own escort out to the recycling bin. Speaking of bins, the kitchen bin is left to overflow until its lid hangs off at a jaunty angle, pushed out by all the rubbish.

All of this I hate.

If the carpet is gritty with dirt, if the couch cushions aren’t plumped evenly, if my desk is smeared with mug rings and fingerprints, if the bath is not pristine, if the windows are snotty from the cat rubbing his little pink nose on them, if the laundry is not dealt with, if the bedding is not fresh, if the kitchen floor has not been mopped, if the cobwebs in the corners have not been dusted and the spiders humanely rehomed, if there is clutter and envelopes and tiny pieces of amazon parcel tape adorning every surface, I cannot concentrate.

If the house is a mess, my mind is a mess. Ironically, if the house is a mess, the mess so overwhelms me that I can’t summon the energy to clean it.

I read an article recently that said creative people are often on the messier side. Well, I am messy but I can’t be creative when my environment is messy. I can’t do anything when there’s a mess around which seems very unfair for someone as adverse to tidying as me.

I think what makes it worse is seeing people’s houses on Instagram looking all beautiful and neat. People with tidy homes seem to have their life together in a way I wonder if I’ll ever achieve. I wonder how much more productive I would be if instead of this doomed cycle of mess the house up, stress about the mess, resist cleaning until the house is incredibly messy, spend an entire day cleaning, I just kept it clean. I could wash up after every meal, do a load of laundry whenever enough dirty clothes accumulated, vacuum every few days, take the mugs downstairs instead of letting them fester in my bedroom. If I kept on top of things, I’d never have to waste time thinking about how I’m incapable of keeping on top of things, I wouldn’t ever have to eat cereal out of a measuring jug, there would be no slumping on the sofa whilst rendered almost catatonic by the sheer filth of my home.

But where would be the fun in that? Like the old adage says: you haven’t lived unless you’ve had to wear your bikini as underwear because you haven’t done laundry for four months.

Are you messy? Can you function when your home is a mess? Let me know in the comments or at hello@terriblypersonal.com

Back to School

fresh start September - back to school

There’s something about September. The dip in temperature, the need for jackets and scarves (and brollies – this is England), the shortening days. And,of course, the sense of a fresh start. I love the feeling of Sundays spent organising for the week ahead, of good intentions, of a renewed sense of purpose.

I am a fresh start junkie. No, I am an addict of planning a fresh start. In preparation for a week of healthy eating I could spend the whole weekend clearing out cupboards, collating recipes, writing shopping lists and imagining the new wardrobe of clothes my trim new waistline will require. At Christmas, and new year and on every birthday I write copious amounts in my diary about how I’m going to be a shiny new person once this imaginary line in the sand has passed.

September is the best of all these fresh starts. For me, someone who actually works in a school, it comes after a long break so that I feel excited and ready to resume my routine. I’ve had long enough off to come up with some really solid plans of how I would like this school year to go. Usually my plans involve wearing excellent jumpers and not crying in December when the flu and Christmas shopping stress converge in what I like to call: HELL. I might also throw in something about drinking more water and being more productive (a blanket term that implies I will stop doing all the things that make be a bad person). I write all these things down in my brand new notebook using my brand new pen and my best handwriting. Then I put them into my handbag which I have cleared of all receipts and hoovered the biscuit crumbs out of.

For the first few weeks of September I lay the clothes for the following day out the night before and I pack a nutritious lunch before I go to bed. I start each morning with, dare I say it, excitement and due to my efficiency everything runs smoothly and nothing seems hard. Because I’m on top of the housework, when I get home I’m able to enjoy reading, watching a film or writing without worrying that I should really be cleaning the kitchen before the mouldy dishes become sentient. I go to bed early and happy and prepared for the next day.

Then, one weekend I might leave the washing up and the laundry to fester because I drank too much cheap white wine on Saturday night and now I want to be in a completely dark, completely silent sanctuary where nobody touches me. I might have to scramble around on Monday looking for clean tights and a blouse that goes with the only pair of trousers that don’t have yoghurt on them. I end up rushing to work because I left late, my whole day feels flustered and hurried. I have a red, sweaty face and my fringe sticks to my forehead. When I get home, the satisfaction of getting things done and being organised can’t offer me the same solace as a slab of lasagne and a glass of wine in front of Bake Off. Heavily carbed and half-drunk, I crawl into bed without taking my make-up off. And so I go back to my old ways; I do things half heartedly and at the last minute.

I know all this. That somewhere at the end of September, or the start of October if I’m really lucky, all my energy for being organised will slip away. Though I might try to get it back it will elude me – seeming only to work in conjunction with a societally acknowledged ‘reset’ time – like the beginning of September, or a birthday. I won’t be able to properly get myself straight till the new year – the most widely accepted fresh start of them all.

These ‘fresh start’ dates don’t hold any special power that I know of. I know that this Monday is as good as any other Monday to start being a better version of myself. I also know that making a mistake doesn’t mean you should give up, you can have a weekend off, or start the week with a bump and turn things around on some unimportant Wednesday. But it never has the same sort of gleeful energy when you do it that way.

And even though I know all this will come crashing down in the near future, I’m still excited for my September fresh start. I’m still approaching it with joy and a fresh notebook and a neatly written to do list that is not written on the inside lid of a tampon box. I’m enjoying the fact that I used fabric conditioner and all my clothes now smell like tropical flowers. I keep staring at my impeccably organised handbag with wonder. My nails are painted, my eyebrows are plucked, my bookshelves are tidy.

I feel like I can conquer the world, or at least the next two weeks.

Do you love a fresh start? What do you like to do to get organised? Let me know in the comments or email hello@terriblypersonal.com

10 of my Most Pointless Fears

ONE:  That I will be wrongly convicted of a crime I didn’t commit.

TWO:  That my cat will sit on my face whilst I’m asleep and suffocate me.

THREE:  That I have slept for two days and missed a day of work – somehow without anyone calling me to find out where I am.

FOUR:  When I go to meet someone at a planned place, at a planned time, I worry that I invented the plan myself and they won’t show up, despite having proof on my phone that the plan was indeed made by both of us.

FIVE:  That I sleep talk all my secrets, even though I don’t have any secrets.

SIX:  Halfway through a really high note of a song (that I’ve already committed to sing) I worry that people other than my boyfriend can hear my caterwauling.

SEVEN:  That somehow what I’m listening to on Spotify is being broadcast on my Facebook page. Although is there any shame in Celine Dion and Lisa Loeb?

EIGHT:  Sometimes mid-conversation I am gripped with the fear that I have forgotten my accent and started using another one without trying to or being able to hear it. This has never actually happened (to my knowledge).

NINE:  That the way I have been pronouncing my name (correctly) for 27 years is incorrect and next time some administrator asks me it over the phone they’re going to erupt into laughter.

TEN:   That all my friends have gone to the trouble of creating alternate WhatsApp group chats without me to talk about me behind my back, or simply to avoid having to listen to my ‘jokes’.

Online Friendships – Should we GIF a F*CK?

online communication

It can sometimes seem like this is the age of the introvert. The internet makes it increasingly easy for us quieter people to function and recently there’s been a slew of introvert promotion from Susan Cain’s Quiet, to Rebecca Holman’s Beta: Quiet Girls Can Run The World 

I’m a typical introvert and as such I find it easier to communicate in writing than I do verbally. I’m also very sensitive so when I’m engaging with written communication I can sometimes read texts and emails in the worst possible tone, assuming someone is annoyed with me when they actually were just busy. I don’t struggle to make friends but I do find it difficult to foster big ‘group’ friendships (I was never part of a clique) and it used to be something that really worried me.

Recently, I’ve noticed some introverts crediting the internet with enabling them to create huge friendship networks from the comfort of their sofas and I wanted to investigate how that works and whether an online friendship can equal an offline one.

Continue reading “Online Friendships – Should we GIF a F*CK?”

City and Country: Place and My Problems

I’ve lived in the countryside for two years next week.

In those two years I’ve exchanged convenience for wide open views of hills and trees. The air is cold and crisp here. When you crane your head towards the dark night sky, you can see the stars as clearly as if they were painted on your ceiling – there is only one street light in this village.

There’s no pub here, and there’s no shop, not even a post office that sells single pints of milk or the odd Crunchie, so there is nowhere for the villagers to congregate, unless you count the two churches, and because of this we hardly ever have to speak to our neighbours.

At first I approached this change of scenery as a giant, fresh-aired adventure. I dug my wellies out of storage, I walked, I spotted hares and badgers and woodpeckers. I felt safe, cocooned by a blanket of rural space that deterred most visitors. I relished the quiet head-space. I curled up with books whilst the wind whipped round the sides of the house and the road flooded outside.

The first year of living here flew by in a caffeine fuelled haze whilst I struggled to complete my PGCE. I barely noticed my surroundings and since I was heading to uni or school most days, I didn’t feel the isolation of my country retreat.

country and city

But eventually the fog cleared, the honeymoon period ended and I began to notice that country life wasn’t all The Archers had it cracked up to be. There were surprisingly few jam making competitions and only on one occasion has there been loose livestock on my driveway. I resented having to plan the shopping meticulously because running out of toilet roll late on Sunday evening could be disastrous. I started to lament never being able to walk down the road for a quick pint, or a pub quiz, or just to get away from the four walls that, after a week of thick rain, had become oppressive.

It didn’t help that for months and months I was unemployed, stuck in the house with no occupation, or money, or friends nearby. The fields became claustrophobic – the sheer expanse of green seemed to be hemming me in, keeping me away from jobs that I could have had, or successes I could have achieved. Instead, I became increasingly frantic, stomping up and down hills, cleaning the gazillion spiders out of the high corners of my rooms, praying the cat didn’t bring home a dead baby bunny clamped between his teeth like a prize, all the while thinking, “what am I doing with my life?”

I thought about people in cities, people in London and when I did that I felt my life was very small. “What is happening here, in this tiny village, in this rainy valley?” I wondered. And then I would worry that because nothing was happening here, because there were no people here, because some days I feel like I’m a small mouse tucked into a crack in a wall, hiding whilst all the world thunders by, that nothing would ever happen to me.

I’m from a small town and all through my childhood and teens I was desperate to escape it. I spent rainy afternoons sat in my attic bedroom imagining a future where I travelled the globe. I saw myself in New York, London, Paris. I dreamt of tropical beaches, frozen lakes, writing at a small wooden desk in a narrow room, overlooking a green canal.

When it was time to go to university, I picked the one that was the furthest away which happened to be in Cornwall. The distance was exhilarating, the proximity to the sea a delicious, ocean scented bonus. After three years it was time to move on. London dazzled tantalisingly in the distance but was always out of reach – too expensive, too far from anyone who could help me. So I moved back home briefly and then to Manchester, where the jobs were.

city or country

In a city I felt more possible. There were options. Things were close – even far away places were easily accessed. Jobs could be lost and new ones found. There was never any anxiety about where to go for a pint, or a decent curry, or a roll of toilet paper on a Sunday evening. But we soon filled our tiny, expensive house with things we didn’t want to throw away; heavily annotated books, bundles of vintage dresses, unusual cookware that was hardly ever used.

I missed the salt air of the seaside. I missed walking up marshy hills. I missed seeing wide open spaces.

The countryside, then, seemed like the solution. A bigger house, with more space inside it and more space outside, uncluttered by buildings and people and cars. There will be space to think, I told myself as I loaded up the moving van. I could dream up a thousand possible selves and become the best one.

But your possibilities are limited in the country. You can have the job that is available, not the one you want and it will take you forever to get there and back on public transport so eye-wateringly expensive it’ll put a dent in your finances so severe you won’t be able to enjoy any of the few lack-lustre leisure activities available in the area (mainly pubs and the park).

So what’s the answer? I lived in a city, decided to move to the country and wasn’t satisfied with either. Very Princess and the Pea of me, I know. Well, I think I just want to do it all. I want to travel but also settle down, I want a high-flying career (that ship has likely sailed) and a relaxed, sedate life, I want the beach and the mountains, I want bright lights and a thatched roof, I want to be surrounded by people and at the same time surrounded by a silence only penetrated by bird calls.

living by the beach

Here’s the thing though: you can’t have it all. And it’s exhausting and unfruitful to aim for it. I spent three years setting up a life in a city, then I tore all that down and moved here. Two years later, I contemplate ripping it all up and starting again. But what if after another two years of getting to know a new area, the sea, the mountains, the moon, wherever I decide to lay my hat next, I find that’s not right either?

Where will it have got me? I’d be in a new place facing down the same old demons – that somewhere else would be better. That I would be better in a different place. That the things that are wrong are wrong because of location – because of the distance to the sea, or the nearest place that serves really good Japanese food.

Sooner or later I have to admit that the problem isn’t place. The problem is me. By constantly yearning for somewhere else, something else, I’m missing out on enjoying my here and now. I have a real issue with wanting to run away, or ‘start over’ as I put it whenever I float the idea of moving house again to my boyfriend.

My favourite daydream to indulge in is one where, on a bad day, I step onto a train and out of my life. I get out somewhere down the line, far away, and start again with a completely new identity, in a new place, where everything is possible.

For now, I’m going to try not to fret about whether I live in the right place and what’s possible for me here. Instead, I’m going to work out what I want and how to get it. There is no perfect place that I can pack up and move to and all my problems will be solved. Problems get solved because you sit down, and do the work and solve them.

How about you? Do you live in the city or the countryside and which do you prefer? Where did you want to live as a child? Let me know in the comments or email hello@terriblypersonal.com.

Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self

Once, when I was 19 I turned to my friend and said, “I was so worried last night that I haven’t slept at all.”

We were sat on our filthy rented house sofa. I was wearing a huge baggy jumper, clutching a glass of vodka and blackcurrant squash, I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept. I’d been up worrying about the three things that took up most of my brain space as a teenager: how fat I was, how stupid I was, how uncool I was. It had taken an immense amount of courage to utter those 12 words.

My friend rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“You’re always worried,” she said without even looking at me. She was on her laptop, looking at impossibly cool things on the internet because she was cool.

Then she went back to being her apparently self-assured self whilst I continued to worry, now with the added anxiety that I was annoying. I would worry that I worried too much for the next three years.

I spent most of my teens being a scared little mouse. I was scared about who I was, I was scared about what I might never be. I worried about fitting in and to combat that, I decided to just be like everyone else. I listened to the music they liked, I watched the films they raved about, I wore the clothes the magazines told me to wear and I spouted the same opinions my friends did.

Another worry crept in to my nightly rotation: that I didn’t like this person I had created. I didn’t like these bands, these films, these opinions, these clothes.

Looking back on poor, scared, teen me with the perspective of a decade, I wish I could go back and tell her a few things and save her a few dozen sleepless nights.

Firstly, your body is so much more than something for other people to look at and assess you by. The width of your hips is not a visual representation of the depth of your kindness. The gap between your thighs will not diametrically increase your confidence. You are not just the rolls of flab on your stomach and swell of your buttocks.

The hours and hours you spend now, looking in the mirror, pinching inches of fat until your skin goes red and sore, writing down calories, frantically doing sit-ups in the dark, those hours could be spent doing something worthwhile. In the time you spent agonising over your body you could have written a book, learnt to play the piano, watched Gilmore Girls a third, fourth and fifth time through. All these things are more enriching than measuring your thighs with a tape measure and worrying that the tap water has sugar in it.

Also, this is the thinnest you’re ever going to be, so have sex with the lights on, wear the crop top, take up space – be proud of your body, don’t punish it.

Secondly, you are a person all in your own right. You have your own likes and dislikes and talents and weaknesses. If all your friends are pretending to like the same band, same hairstyle, same thoughts then let them. There is so much value in being different, being the one voice saying something true. There isn’t safety in being the same – it just leads to the panic of being caught out as an impostor and misery over denying your true self.

Even when I did ‘all the right things’ – wore the correct clothes, listened to the right music, went to the right bars – I couldn’t enjoy myself because I had the constant fear of being found out. That any second someone would turn and scream, “she’s not meant to be here! She’s not one of us!”

Finally, just because somebody else says something with certainty doesn’t make it true. I’ll tell you what sort of people speak with authority about matters that do not concern them: MORONS.

People will tell you that you are too worried, that you are too boring, that you should hang out with your boyfriend less, that you should hang out with your friends less, that you should go to festivals (you hate festivals!). You will tie yourself in knots trying to please everybody and you will rarely please yourself. Don’t. As long as your actions aren’t hurting you or anybody else then the correct thing to be doing is WHATEVER THE HELL YOU LIKE.

What I’d really like to say to teenage me is this:

Be brave. There are lots of things to worry about in this world but what people think about you should not be one of them. I’d say, eat the cake and don’t worry about it, wear the weird dress that no one likes but makes you feel like Kate Bush, decline invitations to parties you do not wish to attend, if you want to see your boyfriend then see your boyfriend and if you don’t then don’t. I’d say, listen to the song you like on repeat, go for a long walk on your own, cry if you’re sad and do not feel compelled to wear low-rise jeans just because everybody else is.

This is your life, I would say, it’s yours to make what you want out of it and you won’t do that by letting other people make your decisions for you.

7 Empowering Female Characters

Do you ever read or watch something and think: oh my god, I need to be this woman?

Maybe she’s got her shit together, perhaps she’s super smart, or she might be so funny you had to spit a mouthful of tea back in your mug because you were laughing so much at her one liner.

Well, here are my 7 most empowering female characters,  from book, film and TV.

NUMBER 1 – Tess McGill from Working Girl. I love this film. Tess, a working class girl, from Staten Island works hard to follow her dream of working in the City despite her family and friends’ derision. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t seen it but she proves just how smart she is and never really wavers from her goal.

NUMBER 2 – Lorelai Gilmore. I thought about putting Rory on this list because she’s so smart and hardworking but then I thought Rory is all those things because of her mother. Lorelai is hardworking, determined and positive. She tries to do as much as she can independently and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She raised a daughter alone, put herself through school as a mature student and built her own inn. She just gets things done.

NUMBER 3 – Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale. Okay, so she’s routinely raped by the man who now ‘owns’ her under the patriarchal regime which took away her rights to a family, to read and to handle money but bear with me. Offred refuses to give up on her humanity. Throughout the book, and the TV series, she never gives up hope that one day she will be reunited with her daughter. She dares to love Nick, to form bonds, because she refuses to become suspicious and insular like the Gilead regime wants her to be. I think Offred in the TV series may actually be even more empowering to watch than she is in the book. Perhaps because we have more time to get to know the character, or perhaps because she says ‘fuck’ so liberally.

NUMBER 4 – Dana Scully. Whenever I’m feeling a lack of motivation, I like to channel Dana Scully. This woman. She’s a doctor, an FBI agent, an owner of a fabulous assortment of pant suits AND she manages to get Agent Mulder out of a multitude of scrapes and disasters. Every time a man mansplains to me on Twitter, I am Dana Scully rolling her eyes at her partner’s insistence that Werewolves killed the victim, even though the autopsy she just performed using real medical science proves otherwise.

NUMBER 5 – Flora Poste from Cold Comfort Farm. Few women are as single minded and determined as Flora Poste. She sets out to move in with distant relatives and completely change their way of life and that’s exactly what she does.

NUMBER 6 – Hermione Granger. She’s smart, she’s sure of herself, she’s not afraid to make herself heard. She also knows that you get from life what you put into it – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to imitate Hermione when I’ve had a test or an essay deadline looming.

NUMBER 7 – Julie Guille from The Blackbirder. I love Dorothy B. Hughes’ books. And Julie Guille makes this one so special. She is in trouble but she doesn’t just wait around for it to find her, she goes on the run. She knows how to handle herself. She takes risks and uses her intelligence and just plain bravado to get herself across the country for the chance of a better, safer life.

Which characters do you turn to when you need to feel empowered? Let me know in the comments.