Summer in the City

Well, September is here at last and summer is officially over. I haven’t really blogged as much as I hoped to (I just didn’t get the chance) but that’s something that will change now – promise!

Just like every other year, I had grand plans for this summer. I was going to learn how to juggle, pick up bass guitar again (it’s the one instrument I’ve been fairly consistently neglecting since about two months after I started to play – oops), play endless guitar, teach my scouts as much as possible, paint the house, write some letters, maybe learn to swim – a whole heap of stuff. Admittedly, I never ACTUALLY do all of the things I plan to do over summer. If half of my plans happen, I’m doing pretty damned well. This summer, however, I got absolutely none of these things done.

“Why?!” come the cries of my hundreds of concerned readers. (only not really)

Here’s the thing.

A couple of years ago, it became clear to me that my original home back in Donegal was not overly safe for me. I’m not going to get caught up in the details of it because these things happen, but basically when I moved out last year at the ripe old age of 17, that was me out for good. This didn’t pose too much of an issue to me for the first while as I was working on starting a new and improved life on this side of the border. In fact, it didn’t really become a problem at all until May, when I discovered that the lease for my current flat wouldn’t begin until September, while I would have to move out of my room in Elms Village in early June.

So my summer didn’t exactly go according to plan: while nothing terrible happened (like being disowned by my family or, you know, death or something), and while I still had regular online contact with plenty of loving relatives, this summer marked my first true experience of what could turn out to be my life once again when this lease runs out: moving from place to place, sleeping on mattresses, sofas and kitchen floors, in baths and hedges and pretty much anywhere where I wouldn’t get attacked or soaked in the rain. This summer, I spent time in my sister’s spare room, but I also spent time walking through Belfast with a bundle of blankets and no idea where I was meant to be going. I’ve been hired and fired, stuffed and starving, and have been in WAY too many conversations which started with the words “I don’t want to kick you out, BUT…”

The lowest point of my summer was walking out on the last day of my second job in 2 months and realising that I had no job, only 40p to my name which I couldn’t even access because it was in the bank, and no idea where I was going to sleep that night.

The past few months could easily be interpreted as one great kick in the teeth after the next, but I don’t regret anything that I did over the past year. I feel like the whole experience has taught me the true meaning of “it gets better”. Less than a month ago, I was sitting under a bridge on a rolled-up blanket and hoping that someone would call me up to offer me a bed for the night. Today, I am sitting writing this in my new bedroom, in my new flat. I can hear my friends and new flatmates laughing and chattering in the next room. Tonight, I will have a hot meal for dinner. Tomorrow, I will get up and go to work at one of my new jobs and when I finish work, I will return to MY flat and go to sleep in MY bed.

And you know what? This summer has probably been the best summer of my life so far. It’s been unpredictable and stressful and extremely unstable, but I have never felt so free. In the space of a year, I went from this stuttering little punchbag to a king with a key to the city. So much went wrong this year. If I had seen it coming, I probably would have given up because I wouldn’t have believed that I could deal with so much all at once. With the summer behind me, however, and with it the uncertainty, the sickness and the cold, I will look you in the eyes and tell you that this is my year. 2014 is Tab’s year, and it is only going to get better from here.

Just you watch this space.

Belfast Pride 2014

Belfast Pride finally took place on Saturday, quite some time after Pride Week for some reason! It was my first ever pride, and I had the pleasure of volunteering at it. One thing I’d say to anyone else who gets the opportunity to be in or volunteer at a parade: Do it.

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My role as a volunteer consisted of walking alongside the parade and making sure nobody was drinking or doing anything which would hurt themselves, somebody else, or pride as a whole. I was also instructed to try and prevent conflict with protesters by advising people to avoid them where necessary. To be absolutely honest, I’m almost glad it rained as much as it did because while I’m definitely improving my interpersonal skills in social and professional situations, I don’t know how I’d react when faced with conflict and potential violence. My guess is “not very well” but it turned out not to matter as the miserable weather meant that fewer protesters bothered to turn up, so there were no major problems.

While the rain seemed to have an effect on the number of spectators that turned up, it didn’t change the bright colours and high spirits of the parade. Scantily clad angels and cowboys roamed the square, rainbow-coloured capes were visible in every direction and when the rain came down, the rainbow umbrellas went up.

Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.
Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.

I ended up walking next to my university’s LGBT Society, which was an odd bonus to my day, and got to catch up with a couple of members of the society afterwards. The entire society seems to be lovely, and I’m definitely going to make an attempt to go to more than 5 meetings next year! Another upside to this position in the parade was that it meant I spotted the president of our Student’s Union marching in the parade, strengthening my belief that I voted for the right guy – long live Cap’n Gallagher!

To sum up an already short post, Belfast Pride was fantastic. I can’t wait until next year, when I will hopefully go to more events and will definitely volunteer again. Here’s hoping that it’s a little drier next time, though!

Damp.
Damp.

Welcome to the Job Market

Hello, readers! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here because I haven’t had access to my computer, but I’m going to try and start posting regularly again.

Summer is here, and I am broke. I’m desperately searching for a job, but nobody seems to want to employ me. NOBODY! I’ve discovered that the “job market” is less like a market and more like a void into which you throw all of your hopes and dreams (and countless copies of your CV) and pray for a positive outcome. And, to be frank, there has been no positive outcome to speak of.

I’m currently living between sofas, which is a new experience. Officially, I am living with my sister in her flat but as I have no money to help out with rent, I don’t stay there every night. That’s fair enough, I think – if I’m not paying rent, I have no claim to the flat. She’d have every right to kick me out fully if she wanted to, but I can trust her not to do that! I just hope that I manage to find something by September, when the lease to my own flat begins! (Eek!)

All is not lost, however. In late June/early July, I managed to get a short job working at the summer graduations for my university. It earned me about £130(ish) which I have pretty much spent at this stage, but also earned me some all-important experience in the field of events catering. The job consisted of setting up for graduation garden parties, plating the food, directing guests, handing out platters (I didn’t know it was possible to get stressed out about strawberries and cream!), making tea and coffee, asking guests not to pick at food from the platters on the table when it was very clear that they were to take one platter each, cleaning equipment, litter-picking, fetching, scrubbing, tidying and just generally running around following orders – and it was fantastic! I was always worried that I wouldn’t be any good at that sort of job, since before then I’d only worked in a hospital and a newspaper, but I actually did really well!

Rocking the work clothes!
Rocking the work clothes!

So, not to blow my own trumpet, I actually rock at catering jobs. I am the queen of systems and orders. When I’m around people I don’t really know, I automatically become extremely polite, which is exactly what is required when you’re working with the public. When I eventually get a job, I might be a little wobbly for the first day but after that, I will absolutely own it. The problem is, my potential employers don’t know that. I look horrific on paper – unexperienced and therefore unskilled. There are people also looking for jobs in this city who have years and years of experience in establishments exactly the same as the ones I’m applying to, so who could blame the business owners for choosing them over me? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m afraid that this is just another pointless ramble with no conclusion.

If you want a conclusion, I guess it’ll have to be “I’m probably not going to be employed any time soon” or something along those lines. But oh well. It’s the business owners’ loss – they don’t know what they’re missing out on!

But hey, if one of you happens to own a business in Belfast, feel free to employ me. I won’t let you down!

Keep smiling, posting will return to normal very soon.

Tiny update

Progress has been made.

Today, I sat in front of four people and tried my best to explain why I should be chosen for an internship with the Belfast Telegraph. And I didn’t die.

The thing about interviews is that they do not display to potential employers whether or not you would be suitable for a job. They show potential employers whether or not you do well while sitting in a room full of people whose sole purpose at that moment in time is to analyse and judge you. They show potential employers whether or not you are any good at trying to convince people that you are better than other people. They don’t show employers how good you are – they show them how good you think you are.

If interviews are anything to go by, nervous people are no good at any jobs. Modest people are useless people. Introverts are vastly inferior to extroverts. None of these things are true.

But another thing about interviews is that although a bad interview can destroy your confidence for anything between 5 minutes and 5 days, it can also teach you and help you to improve in the long run. The very first interview I ever did, which was about 2 years ago now, I got so worked up that I had to leave about half-way through the interview. Needless to say, the interview was not successful.

So whether or not I get this internship (and I really hope I do), the very fact that I stayed until the end of this interview is an achievement. It feels like a small victory over my own ridiculous self.


I’ve made this tiny little post because I feel bad for neglecting this blog over exam time. Hopefully, posting will go back to normal after Saturday!

 

Lean, Mean, Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Machine

There are certain things that I don’t let myself think about because I know that I’ll send myself into a full panic if I do. It is by blocking these things out that I maintain a level of functionality, this is especially important in social situations (come on, who wants to hang out with someone if they think there’s a chance they’ll have to sit through them having an anxiety attack?). Since turning 18 (the legal age to drink in this country), I have discovered that alcohol is especially useful in these situations. Without getting drunk, a small amount calms me down just enough that I function like a normal person. All hugs and dancing. All fun and games. Wonderful… to a certain point.

All of my flatmates go out at least once every week and get utterly plastered. They love it. The poison in their systems makes them think, say and do ridiculous things that are hilarious at the time and make fun stories for the next day. They all have stories from the start of the year about how they barely knew such-and-such-a-person but they were super drunk so they went together to such-and-such-a-place and had some sort of kooky adventure that made them best friends to this day. Alcohol is a big part of their lives, and has been for quite some time.

I have a rather more complex relationship with it, however. It helps me to such a brilliant degree in social situations (I must point out here that I only drink once a week at most) that I certainly count it as one of the more positive changes that have taken place in my life in recent times. But the second I get actually *drunk*, something that has only happened two or three times and hopefully won’t happen many more times that that, the effect is the exact opposite. I think about all the things I shouldn’t, and I start to panic. What’s worse is that when I’m drunk, I don’t even think to get away from people when it happens, because I can’t feel it coming like I can when I’m sober. I can have a full-on freak-out in a bar, and all my friends can do is look on in horror.

All of my friends, that is, except for two. Because it is in your lowest moments that you discover who your real friends are.

Since moving to Belfast and actually developing a social life of sorts, I have had three of these public panics. The first two are referred to here and here. The third happened this Thursday past. On all three occasions, it was one or both of two people that looked after me and helped me calm down. These people were Nicole and Michael.

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On Thursday, we were at Kremlin, an excellent club full of lovely people. It is my favourite place to go out, which is odd considering I don’t generally go for clubs. Because we’d gone out in a big group (usually, if we go to Kremlin it’s just 3 or 4 of us), we had had predrinks beforehand. I was… jolly. Let’s call it jolly. Thanks to £2 drinks and the obsession of my comrades with “seeing Tabitha drunk” (which is quite a let-down really, I think they expect me to a completely different person somehow), I quickly became more than “jolly”, and then quickly descended into the drunken panic-state that is the reason I do NOT generally drink in excess.

Thankfully, however, both Michael and Nicole were out that night and they both pounced on me almost straight away. And they calmed me down. And they helped me enjoy the rest of the night. And they didn’t complain once that I was causing a problem.

Thinking back to the events of that night, I am not sad that I can’t socialise in the way that everyone else can. I’m not sad that I can’t risk getting drunk like everyone else does. I’m not sad that I have wasted all these hours of my life in a state of panic.

I am happy, very happy.

This time last year I felt all alone in the world and did not feel like there was any real reason for me to stay. Now, I have a large circle of friends and a small circle of close friends who I know I could trust with my life. I have people I can talk to when things get too much. I have a place in the University of my Dreams. I have a mother who loves me and a sister who I can hang around with as if she’s just another friend.

So, so what if I have problems with socialising and communicating? I have everything I could possibly want, and I couldn’t be happier.


Stuff for you to check out:

  • Michael’s music (youtube/soundcloud)- he’s a super-great musician and a lovely person. Would you be so kind as to check it out and maybe give a little feedback? Even just the listen would be a great help, he needs a signal-boost! (No, he hasn’t asked me to post this. I’m just trying to help out!)
  • This blog, because it’s great.
  • This lady’s twitter account, because it makes me smile.

I hope you all have a great day!

Tx

Growing up too quickly?

Hello! I’m back!

I missed my last week-or-so of posting because I was staying in my grandfather’s house, which has neither an internet connection nor a computer to write on. Shockingly, I did not die due a lack of screens (though I came close).

I love spending time at my grandfather’s house. He lives in a tiny little village in Somerset, on the farm he owns with my uncle. My uncle lives with his family in a house attached to my grandfather’s house, which used to be a mill.

My uncle has two daughters, Izzy and George. These are the cousins I grew up with, so I’m as close with them as I am with my mother and sister. However, because for the past few years I have only seen them for a week every couple of months, they seem to be growing up with the sped-up quality of a stop-motion animation. One minute, they’re begging a 12-year-old Tabitha not to turn into a grumpy teenager like her sister did (a phase she has now passed through and come out the other side of, thank heavens). The next minute George, the younger of the two, is about to turn 13 herself.

Despite being 12 years old, George is more similar to me than anyone I have ever met (though I hope that she is not too much like me – to see her develop mental health issues like I have over the years is just about the worst thing I could possibly imagine. Because of this, I may be slightly overprotective of her.) A regular mini-me, she loves rock music, sci-fi and horror movies, reading, camping, pretty much everything I love. I’m thrilled to call her my cousin.

George and another girl that lives in the village are at that odd age of both knowing and not-knowing when it comes to the facts of life. This means that at every given opportunity, they make giggling remarks like “that sounds dirty!” before arguing over whether or not it did sound dirty, and if so how it sounded dirty, and if not how it could be changed to make it sound dirty. More often than not, the things that they decide do sound dirty do not sound dirty at all, but I don’t really bother telling them that. Whatever makes them happy, right? It also means that my baby cousin, who is six years younger than me, has had more boyfriends than I have. That’s just depressing.

The downside of this fascination is, of course, when they get things right. On several occasions, they have appalled me with real dirty jokes. In some instances, they seem to have more knowledge on these subjects than I do (which I guess is unsurprising – “sex ed” in a tiny school in the middle of the Irish countryside is never going to be all-inclusive). It’s scary how these young girls can so quickly switch between making these references and pretending to teach their stuffed toys about multiplication and division.

(I’m taking a break here to go to Tesco to buy my student supper of baked beans and bread. Unimportant information, but there you have it.)

Izzy, on the other hand, is 15 years old and I have finally accepted that she is a teenager. It only took two years (well, almost 3)! She’s finally got through her early-teenage phase of obsessing over sex and “hot” boys, and has settled down into just being her. It’s great, because she’s one of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet. She jokes that she and her friends are all dreadfully immature, just running about and being silly rather than talking about boys and makeup and all of that stuff, but really I think that she’s very mature. Certainly, her mental age is higher than my own.

I can’t wait to go and visit them as soon as possible (though it could possibly be as late as July). The pair of them are growing up so quickly, I sometimes worry that they’ll soon be older than me. But through all the jokes and the boys and the worries that this and that and the other might be “dirty”, I can’t help but see them as the kids that I grew up with. 

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Happy Birthday, Philip! (+ NaPoWriMo)

Another day, another birthday. It’s a busy week!

Yesterday, it was Philip’s birthday. We didn’t have a party, really, but at least part of the day was spent eating cake and flying a remote-controlled helicopter (Shannon got him the helicopter because she hates us all and wants us to suffer)!

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To explain Philip: He’s going out with Shannon, likes Doctor Who and is a ridiculous human being. He also has the bedroom next to mine, so he’s the one that’s most likely to be bothered by my music (sorry). Frankly, Philip was the person I expected to get on with least of all, because he struck me as a “sports guy” who didn’t really talk to anyone that much. And in part, I was right – he goes to the gym all the time, sometimes twice in a day, and stays in his room a lot of the time. But I was wrong about us not getting along, as he is now sort of like an older brother.

When I say he’s like a brother, I don’t mean he’s a super close friend, which is what most people seem to mean by that. What I mean is that we laugh and joke a lot, but we also take the piss out of each other a lot. And, of course, he also enjoys the Older Brother Traditions of wrestling me to the ground, throwing food at me or farting while standing directly in front of me. I guess those are just the perks of the role. 

So happy birthday, Simba! I hope you had a great day, and don’t break your helicopter too soon!

Tx


 

NaPoWriMo: Rows

One by one,
Standing in
Single file
We begin
Our marching.
The time has
Come to put
Our worries
Behind us
And do what
Must be done
Because now
The bell is
Ringing and
The man is
Shouting and
It is time
For us to
Learn how to
Count to ten.


 

More NaPoWriMo:

  1. Dreams of Fire | mcscriptor
  2. The Gaia Room | Voiceless Fricative
  3. Sky Diamonds | Salsachica’s Ramblings
  4. April the ‘Unlucky for Some’ Thirteenth | hangerfarmpoets
  5. The Bumblebee of ForgivenessSun/Son | Graceful Press Poetry
  6. No Ordinary Pub | piazzanewyorkcatcher
  7. Break It Down | Angela Hickman
  8. It’s a Life | Backwoods Walking
  9. The Sisters’ Room | Retirement Legs
  10. NaPoWriMo – Day 13 | Bob’s Blog-O-Rama