Am I Superwoman?

I’m trying to complete a degree to the best possible standard I can. I have three assignments due in at the end of term, as well as the continuation of the final year project. The three assignments consists of a 2,500 word non-fiction for children narrative, a 3,000 word opening for a children’s fiction story and a 2,500 word short story. When you factor in bibliography, various appendix elements and accompanying synopsis, the grand total reaches over 10,000 words. Over ten thousand words in just over three weeks.

Fine perhaps, if there was nothing else vying for attention. But there are still lectures and extra-curricular discussions to attend. Not forgetting work shop sessions with course mates to discuss stories. I strive to check in with my family also, calling up my sister or writing a letter to my grandmother. I make a vague attempt at a social life with a rare meal out, or having a friend over for a cup of tea. I feel compelled to supply the kind demand for my company.

And Christmas is on the horizon don’t you know. There are presents to buy and wrap. Some take priority, as fellow students will soon be returning home for the holidays. So the home made gifts have to be ready far sooner than the 25th. The chap is celebrating his twentieth birthday next month too, which consists of more presents, more travel, more memories made. Time spent with him is precious.

I have two blogs to regularly update, plus various correspondents with email to engage with. They serve as an outlet of enjoyment, but also a chance to practice my writing. I also have my domestic duties to keep up with. I have to source my food, that has to be on budget, gluten-free and vaguely healthy to maintain the body that society of today expects of me. The cooking of the dishes takes up time, and then there’s the washing up. There is always washing up, just as there is always a pile of laundry in the corner.

On top of all this, I still have to find the effort to wash and clothe myself each morning. A course-mate said to me yesterday: “you always dress so well Rebecca.” I cannot tell you how much her compliment meant to me. For if I look cool, calm and collected on the outside, that means the paradox within is thankfully concealed. The mask is firmly in place, now where can I get a cape?

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Am I lazy?

Students are the epitome of lazy, apparently. The stereotype suggests that we don’t surface from our smelly rooms until midday. We spend what’s left of the day dressed in hoodies, dragging ourselves to class. We then cram in our studying during the early hours of the morning, accompanied by a ready meal and a beer. Well, no, actually.

I’m a morning person, which is a good thing for a student. I like to be at my desk by 9am, notebooks ready and waiting. When you only have nine hours of face-to-face teaching a week, you have to make the most of the rest of the time available. University is all about self-motivation and self-study. If I’m not in the library gathering research books, then I’m reading them with a cup of tea. Or I might be reading fiction, learning what makes them work so I can reflect this in my own writing. I do an awful lot of writing, from plans to essays to timelines to the actual stories themselves. Although creating stories can be time-consuming, I normally find that the time flies by.

Not today though. Today, I have reached for the hoody. All I can think about is getting into pyjamas and watching films. I am burying my head in the sand with regards to upcoming deadlines and progress for my stories. Even my characters seem to be ignoring me today, no one wants to come and play on the page. There is no spark in sight. I feel like hiding under a blanket and forgetting that my responsibilities exist.

Does this make me lazy? You do indeed have to push yourself to get things done, but I would argue it is acceptable to give yourself a break every so often. I’m awful with anxiety about getting things done and completing tasks correctly. When I spend so long with my work during the week, sometimes I do want my weekends to be story-free. I don’t think that’s laziness. I think that’s me attempting to find harmony and a work/life balance. I will only have myself to blame if the balance is off kilter and my life is affected. I can accept responsibility for my own choices, whatever the outcome might be.

(Budget challenge update: A little expenditure today, but nothing too overwhelming. £3.35 for train ticket, 85p on flapjack and £1.50 for bus far = £5.70. So, £48.30 to last 21 days.)

Am I naive?

Families are pre-programmed to have your best interests at heart. But when these good intentions clash with your own desires, arguments are bound to erupt. I don’t mean to convey myself as a grumpy teenager, but I often feel my ambition to become a writer is misunderstood by my family. They only see the bumps along the path, but I’m focused solely on the view from the top.

In my mind, being a writer is the sole option. I yearn to become a successful children’s fiction author. Writing is the only activity that fevers my brain and feeds my heart. I’ve pictured myself achieving this dream many a time, a comforting notion on nights when sleep is hard to capture. I am working towards my goal, enrolling on a specific University course to further aide my dreams. I am funding this myself through my work at Cath Kidston, because it’s what I want to do, therefore I’m the one who pays for it. Even when I’m tired and down, the thought of The Dream pushes me forward.

But is this fanciful thinking? I sit in classrooms full of people who mirror my ambition. Even some of the tutors don’t complete their own goals. The realm of storytelling is cut throat, it’s not an easy industry to break into. But it does happen, stories do get published. Authors do attend book signings and book festivals. It’s not just a dream, hard work can bring it into reality. But still the nagging voice asks such difficult questions – have I got it in me to fight for my work? Will my stories stand out in a pile?

I have no answers to these questions yet, and I try to avoid doubt where possible. But I am instilling a practice that we all learn as children.

Try.

You have to try new sports and new foodstuffs to find what you like. You have to try all sorts of new things to gather experience and knowledge. You have to try to secure good grades. You have to try in order to accomplish anything, it all involves effort. You have to give it a damn good go before you turn your back on something that could potentially unlock great happiness. Some people might walk away from the ladder, claiming that it is too high. I want to make it up a couple of rungs, at least.

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This is my first step on the ladder. A note to say my short story competition entry has been accepted. I won’t win, but having a complete stranger read something I wrote is a true thrill. Fingers crossed.

Am I a squirrel?

I think I have managed to define my inner animal. For the article that first sparked this thought process, head here, uplifting and amusing.

            I am a squirrel. A red one if you please, one does not wish to be known as “common”.

           

Reasons I am a squirrel:

I have a habit of storing food. I’m never content unless I can open the cupboard (or in my case, pull open the filing cabinet) and find it full. I take great joy in the fame of Tetris it takes to get all of my supplies neatly arranged. My fridge drawer is exactly the same. I have learnt how to be creative with my limited space.

 

I enjoy being outside, but then nesting in the evenings. I’ve never been a successful gym bunny, the metallic machines jar with my old-fashioned vibe. I like to stay active though, walking is my favourite. I’m fast discovering the benefits of yoga as I strive to do it every morning. Squirrels need to be agile and flexible!

There is nothing better when the sun goes down to build myself a nest of cushions and blankets and spend time on a hobby of choice. Sometimes it’s writing, most of the time it’s cross stitching (old-fashioned vibe coming through yet?).

 

I get through an awful lot of vegetables, nuts and seeds. I’ve started sprinkling a seed mix (pumpkin, sunflower and linseed) on my morning porridge. I love the crunch compared to the creamy porridge, and yes I do come from the Nigel Slater school of thinking.

I visited my sister last week and she showed me her latest recipe book, that I have resisted buying, so far. The Covent Garden Soup Company is renowned for their fresh soups and their books are a delight. My sister was so enamoured with it, she bought a blender. Guess who came home with her barely used hand-blender? My adventures with soup making deserve a post of their own. Suffice to say, I’ve definitely been having my 5-a-day recently.

 

Reasons I am not a squirrel:

 

I don’t climb trees and do not have the slightest inclination to try.

 

I’m almost positive that squirrels do not have Marxist essays to contend with that keeps them away from fun activities such as blogging. I have missed far too many posts as of late, but with the Spring Holidays upon us, I have more chance to write posts and more time to do things to write about. The looming responsibility of a degree certainly doesn’t interrupt your average squirrel.

 

I lack the anatomy of a tail. Although all the fresh air and good food is certainly giving me bright eyes.

 

            I’m quite enjoying channelling my inner squirrel. It’s prompting me to go outside and enjoy the new season, particularly as it’s getting so warm. The weather makes a huge difference to me, I can feel myself coming out of hibernation. Hurray for Spring!

 

Please note: I do believe this post is a direct result of reading too much Redwall books by brilliant author, Brian Jacques. Excuse me whilst I go defend Redwall Abbey in full squirrel maiden regalia. Eulaliaaaaaaaaaaa!!

Am I a feminist?

You know how it goes. You’re studying literary ideologies and your task in to write an essay relating to this. You go to the library and come out with a bagful of book relating to your chosen subject. You start reading the work of Betty Friedan and Margaret Attwood and your pretty little head starts to think.

            I was inclined to think of my own conclusion on feminism. They are stoutly divided in two.

 

Reasons that I am not a feminist:

 

1)      I love to wear pretty dresses and look good for my chap. I would definitely be less inclined to wear jeans and the like around him. We got to choose our spring uniform at work this week and it’s almost shallow how much I love this dress. I smile every time I see it swinging merrily in my wardrobe.

 

2)      I love to cook and clean. I relish in the satisfaction of it. I always tidy and clean before the chap pays a visit. A highlight of his presence (one of many) is that I get to cook for two which is easier less challenging than preparing meals for one.

 

3)      I do believe it should be a goal for every woman to have children. In whatever guise that may be, natural conception, IVF, adoption, I do believe it’s a female duty to nurture children. It may not be their sole ambition but I think it’s a wish for all women.

 

Reasons that I am a feminist:

 

1)      I will never be told that I cannot do something because of my gender. That’s the reason I played football in primary school and why I am training to be a writer. My sexual organs play no role in deciding what is suitable for me to accomplish. I strongly believe in equality.

 

2)      I will not alter my views or beliefs to appease my partner. One can always be proved wrong, but I will not be swayed just to gain approval. Plus, the debate makes things interesting. We tend to agree more than disagree, but that doesn’t matter there isn’t room for different opinions.

 

3)      I have the power of choice. I choose to wear darling dresses as I waltz around the kitchen. I am not chained to the oven, I lock myself in there. I don’t do it because the chap, society or anyone else tells me I should. Likewise, others may choose to storm up the career ladder; it’s their right to do whatever makes them happy. I think woman today sometimes take for granted the social, financial and personal control they have. Yes we can now vote, but we can also go out without a chaperone, have our own bank accounts and eat in public on our own. It was a very different story a mere fifty years ago.

 

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

Am I poor?

There was a programme on BBC Three tonight that intrigued me. “Growing up poor” seemed to strike a chord with me, thinking it would be along the same lines as my budgeted student life.

            However, I quickly realised I know nothing of the situations that were featured in the programme. All three girls were younger than me yet had faced struggles that I can’t imagine. It made my existence seem wealthy. And it made me think about things that I never realised I was grateful for.

 

1)      My qualifications

I’m lucky that I enjoyed school. I like learning and when it came to crunch time, I did get my head down and get my grades. They are not spectacular, but they are something that I will hold forever. I have big ambitions, but in any case, I have the means to provide for myself by getting any job possible.

 

2)      My work experience

Without my GCSEs, I wouldn’t have got my first job in Sainsbury’s at 17. I don’t like people who turn their nose up at working at a supermarket. A large, established company is a great place to get a foot in the door and earn decent money. Through working my weekly shifts at the supermarket, I saved money ready for Uni. Without that starting point, I wouldn’t have gathered enough for my CV to be able to work at Cath Kidston. I now work in the prettiest shop in the high street, thanks to doing time stacking shelves.

 

3)      My large collection of possessions

            In the programme, it was a highlight for one of the girls to finally be getting an oven. I use the oven/fridge/microwave/sink everyday without even pausing to think about it. I have an overflowing bookshelf. I have a wardrobe full of clothes. I have two different sets of sheets. I have a drawer filled with lovely notebooks. I have the   opportunity to choose what kind of hair products I used because I have the money to do that. It seems so insignificant, but it’s something others don’t have.

 

I do now feel incredibly lucky to live the lifestyle I do. I work hard, but at least there is the glow of a positive outlook pushing me on. One thing I didn’t understand is why young girls are still getting pregnant. Protection is overly available and the lack of responsibility is overwhelming. But this aside, I still think all three girls are incredibly brave for keeping their heads high during such tumultuous times. This programme is airing at such a key time, with the benefits system a hotly debated topic. I think the documentary makers have done a brilliant job about why our benefits system should be applauded, not condoned.