Dear diary…

“Have just had my toughest experience ever: Mum sitting on me, squeezing my blackheads, with Rhian looking on!”

“Sometimes I wish time wouldn’t drag so, especially after the Easter hols…” 

Is this normal writing for a 13 year old?

My journals and I go back a very long way. Even as a kid, I loved the feeling of having a fresh new notebook, which I could decorate as frivolously as I wanted, before complaining to it about my life. And let’s face it, when you’re a teenager – and an autistic one trying not to be eaten alive by non-autistic ones, at that – there is a lot to complain about.

Actually, my first diary was more of a travel log, three days before I turned 11, just before adolescence became an issue. We were en route to New Zealand, and I was not letting a moment of our upcoming adventure go to waste. Amid jetlag from hell, day trips of a lifetime, and hours of travel by land, sea, and air, I was determined to write down everything we did. I don’t know why I wrote as if I was addressing the rest of my class at school (why the heck would they care how many bedrooms our third motel had?), but that aside, I’m glad I did it.

Since then, my journals have evolved considerably, and have seen me through nearly a decade of teenage angst, followed by my attempts at adulthood. Journaling is my main way of keeping myself writing every few days, and a testament to what a nerd I am is how I feel like I have a different relationship with each one, depending on a number of factors. Like how often I wrote. Or what stage of life I was at. Or how much written self-reflection I did. It makes me feel pretentious, putting it like that, but it’s true.

Through keeping it up, give or take a few slips, I’ve definitely benefitted a lot from journaling. For a start, it helps me remember. I love laughing at my old diaries! It also helps me regulate my thoughts and emotions, making them less overwhelming when I can see them on paper. I’ve written down hard learned life lessons, I’ve made important decisions through brainstorming, I’ve poured out my heart about many a difficult situation, and instantly felt calmer.

Most recently, I’ve come to realise that writing a diary has helped me be more honest with myself, because I can get my thoughts and feeling out without being heard. Or maybe practise getting them out until I’m ready for them to be heard. Sometimes I don’t feel like it, other times I get started and don’t stop for ages. Either way, it feels like a constructive habit, and if it keeps me writing and learning, long may it continue!

My diaries, minus my current one, two pocket notebooks, and a wad of cat shaped post it notes. Starting with my neon travel log, going clockwise, and finishing in the middle.

 

Advertisements

Purpose

It’s a common image, isn’t it? You study, you graduate, you see the rest of your life ahead of you, and you’re desperate to find your purpose in life. And then you despair when you realise you don’t have one. Right?

People have many different opinions on big topics, like purpose, and fulfilment, and some might even say destiny. At university, with all the learning you’re (hopefully) doing, it’s so easy to think the world is your oyster from then on. And optimism is important, because you need to feel like you have something to be really living for. But adulthood is hard, and if you only expect to be moving forward on a steady upward slope towards your dreams, life will be disappointing.

Then at the other end of the scale, you could argue that there’s no point dreaming. Nothing lasts, nothing is certain, and you’ve just got to deal with whatever you’re given. I’ve never been inclined to agree with this attitude, because you never know what you could achieve if you keep dreaming and planning. But even just writing that argument has got me wondering: is there any truth in that?

After months of job hunting, disappointment, and finding ways to stay busy, I’m struggling with feelings of disillusionment at the moment. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’m working on book drafts, Demon magazine editing,* and this blog, and have often considered starting podcasts. Writing is how I communicate best, but sometimes it feels like nothing more than an old childhood dream. As a Christian, I hear, or read about, so many inspirational stories about people who have beaten far worse odds and survived by the sheer strength of their faith, and as much as I keep praying, I can’t help wishing I had that strength.

Facebook, by the way, for all it’s many fine qualities, does nothing to help here. Rather, it taunts you with glimpses of how successful your friends and acquaintances seem to be, whether socially, romantically, or in the world of work. Thus creating a standard that is about as reachable as the end of a rainbow. But your goals in life don’t have to be like that.

We all seem to have a need for certainty in our lives. It’s like a basic emotional need so that we have at least some foundation for the way we live. I do believe in having a purpose, but I also believe there is a trick to it. You’re not born with it, you don’t find it – you choose it, plan for it, pursue it, and if it doesn’t work out, you choose another. You might not have full control, but the direction you try is your choice.

 

 

*The Demon is the magazine of my old uni, De Montfort University. Despite my lack of interest in sports, I’ve somehow become the News and Sports editor. My role comprises correcting other people’s work, repeatedly announcing deadlines, and reeling at the thought that I’m the only person on the team who remembers when the Demon was a newspaper. Riveting stuff.

 

Life so far: growing up, autism, and 100 blog posts!

Years ago, I often thought about starting a blog. With my big dreams of becoming an author, it sounded like the sort of thing that all the high-flying writers are doing. Of course, it was just a crazy idea I had. Nothing serious. Right?

On receiving Blogging for Dummies for Christmas, I thought I’d at least show my appreciation by doing a quick summary of my world as a trial blog post. Now, four years and 99 posts later, my blog has definitely stood the test of time. It’s my way of reaching out, entertaining, and making my mark.

And this is my 100th post! So I thought I’d offer a much bigger summary of my life up until now.

Starting with Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday 17th March 1993 at 1.13pm. My parents joke about how typical it was of me to come out at lunchtime. To which I say, how many people do YOU know who were born in the middle of the day, week, month, and academic year, on their due date?

People sometimes ask me what I remember about Taiwan. Kind of awkward because my earliest memories include me and my (British) mum hiding from my (Taiwanese) dad after they had been fighting. But hey, I also remember playing with our pets, walking through mountain scenery, and my 4th birthday party. It wasn’t all bad!

Just after said birthday, my pregnant mother and I hastily headed my grandparents’ way – Cam, Gloucestershire. My sister was born. I started school, and was happily oblivious to my teachers telling Mum how weird I was and blaming it on bad parenting. Then we found a council flat.

A year later, while we were on holiday, my now-stepdad made his debut. From then on, he kept turning up on our doorstep. And we on his. This went on for about three years, until he and Mum married, and we invaded his house for good. Did I mention what a cute bridesmaid I was?

Now in Loughborough, I ended up at a school that was actually competent, and hey presto, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My response to the news? “Oh…can I have a piece of cheese?”

Secondary school pulled my head out of the clouds with a jolt. It was a scary world of social hierarchies, sport, and teachers with varying levels of empathy. I struggled with friendships. I struggled in classes. Most of all, I struggled to accept that autism was nothing to be ashamed of.

But gradually, I got involved with various social groups at church, and I finally started to make friends and open up about my difficulties. Meanwhile, I was studying animal care at Brooksby College. It comprised manhandling animals of every size and species, essays, poo, and overnight lambing. Pretty grim, but I passed with straight distinctions!

Because I wasn’t ready for uni afterwards, I did a couple of years of home study, and realised that my heart was in becoming an author, not a vet nurse. The second year proved eventful when my Grannie died of cancer, and I still regret not visiting more. But it was also the year I started at De Montfort University, studying Creative Writing and Journalism. It was challenging, and falling out with my friend when we tried living together was hard. That said, I learned more about writing than I ever had before, and I don’t regret it for a second.

And now, here I am, coming to the end of my Christian bookshop internship. It’s been a great year, with great people, and I can’t help wishing I had more time left. But few things in life are permanent, and as I reflect on my significant life events, I do wonder what the next one will be.

 

 

An impossible task?

After a good, stressful, productive, or just a little crazy, three years, I have recently finished uni for good. I was never going to be a huge fan of that perfectly reasonable question “So, what are you going to do now?”. Now I may be allergic to it. Including when the person asking is myself. Symptoms: high heart rate, nervous twitch, sweat breakout. To save the breath of anyone asking, I wish I knew.

Besides applying for part-time jobs, worrying about the future and playing Sims 3, I have been working on a little something to get me thinking about my goals for my life, for this summer, for this week, whatever. Voilà, one vision board!

board

And it’s so simple, yet fun, to decorate. Lists, mindmaps, stickers, favourite song lyrics, and a good dose of motivational quotes. Starting with this gem from a childhood book of mine*:

“The way to deal with an impossible task is to break it down into a number of merely very difficult tasks, and break each one of them into a group of horribly hard tasks, and each one of them into tricky jobs…” – Terry Pratchett, Truckers – p153.

Straightforward, yet sums up my plans for the future in just one sentence. Become a well known, if not famous, author? Impossible. Start a YouTube channel and make videos about living with Asperger’s? Impossible. Find a place of my own? Go travelling? Start a training school for Guide Cats for the Autistic? So what if the last one actually is impossible in my lifetime. You get the picture.

Half the trick is knowing the answers to the following questions. What do you want to achieve? How do you work best? What drives you? Simple, easily asked questions. Bordering on clichéd territory and yet could impact our view on our life if we really gave them some proper thought. Let’s break it down. What sort of things inspire you? Music, deep conversations with friends, correcting injustice, getting closer to achieving my goals, in my case.

Think about that thing in life you really want to do. Does it motivate you? Worry you? We’ve already ascertained becoming an author, for example, is impossible. Right? But brainstorming ideas for fiction or non fiction material isn’t impossible. Writing short pieces of prose isn’t impossible. Creating a detailed, cohesive synopsis? Tricky, but doable. Researching publishers with requirements that fit your agenda, then editing over and over until someone accepts your work?

Just be persistent. Some things are impossible. But unless your goals include flying, immortality, mass destruction, or turning everything into chocolate, don’t make them so by not even trying. Note to self.

 

Work experience: The Derby Telegraph

Before I begin, I would like to apologise for two things. One, for not getting round to doing this post right after said work experience took place – Freshers Week, as it happened. I have been slowly getting to grips with living independently, having coursework once again and the fact that our washing machine probably hates me. Two, for the huge spider picture which might, assuming the internet will co-operate, be the first thing any readers of this post will see…

What have spiders got to do with work experience? Don’t forget this is Journalism work experience we’re talking about here. I had been advised by my tutor to read the newspaper before working for it – if you haven’t done your research before hand, you might as well pack your bags. So I did my research, and one of the stories I found was about how spiders are soon to be invading our homes while increasing in size and number. I had also been told that if you arrive with a story idea on your first day, you could impress your employers no end. In desperation, I racked my brains for an article idea, and eventually settled for a follow up on the spider article: How to keep spiders out of your home. http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Scared-spiders-s-house/story-22962222-detail/story.html 10687038_844698658883010_3441144676856458668_n

Now I’d like to say that I had complete confidence in my new and radical idea for an article and that it wasn’t just a desperate last resort to do something vaguely clever. Being (I like to think) a very truthful person, I probably won’t. On the contrary, however, the article not only impressed the people I was working with, it dramatically increased the Derby Telegraph’s online readership. Get in!

I did learn the hard way though, that as a writer not everyone will be impressed by your work, or even remotely respectful. I couldn’t help but be offended by some stupid comment saying, among other things, that I need to “get some help for that phobia” – I was only doing my job, I don’t even kill spiders myself! Luckily, I live with a housemate who thinks that responding to rude comments online is pointless and who reminded me that I normally think the same.

The main difference between working with the Derby Telegraph and the Nottingham Post is that in Derby, they set me easier tasks, and were then way more easily impressed whenever I got to the end of yet another article. I had thought that they would be stricter, what with the firm work experience guidelines they emailed me previously. I didn’t once have to go and badger any hapless passers-by in some remote corner of the county, however. I simply wrote about whatever they wanted and was thoroughly praised for completing each task. Before I knew it, not only did I have five more articles published – four of which went on the website – I was also asked to come back, so agreed that I would every Wednesday.

Whilst I don’t think this post is quite as entertaining as certain previous posts, it does allow me to give a shoutout to the Derby Telegraph for publishing my writing – I’ve been told that there may be more of my work to come in the paper, maybe even including one with my photo in it! Meanwhile if you’re looking for a more intellectual read, have a browse through these following articles of mine. Want to know what a cross between a dachshund and a Chihuahua is? Ever seen a poodle cat? Know the secrets of Iphone headphones? Hoping to take your family on as many Halloween themed half term activities as possible? Read on… http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Healthy-hybrids-designer-dogs-know-dalmadoodle/story-22966750-detail/story.html
http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Fashionable-felines-man-moggies-heard-cat-breeds/story-22980925-detail/story.html
http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/iPhone-headphone-secrets-95-owners-v-know/story-23005058-detail/story.html#0RphhqQsyvEHGgov.01
http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/October-half-term-holiday-Derbyshire-things/story-23033828-detail/story.html#HBHGOxD19xmoumx3.01