On Abusive Friendships & Recurrence

I had other friends in my first few years of university, but there was one particular friend who pretty much held a monopoly on my time. I’m not going to use names in this post, so lets call them Janet. (Apologies to any Janets out there)

I met Janet in my first week at Queen’s. We’d both been given timetables with the wrong information, and found ourselves sitting in a random politics seminar instead of our introductory English in Transition seminar. We both got in trouble for this, which seems a little unfair as there was no way for us to know our timetables were wrong until it was too late. Our drastically different personalities meant we took this injustice very differently – I was a little upset and embarrassed, and didn’t talk in the module for the rest of the semester. She developed a real dislike of the tutor who scolded us and took every possible chance to create arguments with him. And somehow we ended up becoming firm friends.

Somehow it became my responsibility to make sure she was on time for every class, find all the right classrooms, alert her if we got any emails worth reading. It helped that we ended up in the same class group for every single module. When we were together, I became almost this sidekick-type character, gentle and silent except when it was necessary for me to make a joke or – as was growing increasingly common – summarise the week’s reading into a few sentences so she wouldn’t be in trouble for not doing the work. I figured it made sense – I did all the reading but didn’t have the confidence to actually make any points in class. It seemed fair that at least one person should benefit from my work.

By second semester, Janet was still my only friend on my course. We had to take this “skills” module basically designed to make our anti-capitalist degree appeal more to the neoliberalist university (the module has since been scrapped, but so has the School of English so there really aren’t any winners there). Much of the assessment for the module was based on group work, and Janet and I found ourselves at a table with the other groups who didn’t quite have enough people to complete a group project – one boy who seemed much happier to work on his own, and a group of three friends. One of the three friends was very organised, level-headed and a natural leader, and Janet automatically felt a massive competition grow between her and this girl. She decided that the other members of the group could be friends with us but we’d have to get rid of the leader, as they wouldn’t be able to get on. We completed the group work over the course of the semester, but Janet’s plan to edge the other girl out and secure friendship with the others never worked. She went back to only having me, and in return I could only have her.

That summer, I found myself without a home and became very good at my new hobby, drinking.

Sometimes she let me sleep on her kitchen floor. Once, she had me sleep in her bed with her boyfriend and herself, because she was fighting with her boyfriend and wanted to show that she liked me more than him. I got uncomfortable and slept on the floor under someone’s coat. I didn’t stay there much after that.

When university started again, I took to meeting her before class every morning in front of the main university building. I have a weird memory where I was running late one morning and passed my lecturer (Dr. Kelly, of whom I was terrified at that stage, for some reason) crossing the quad towards our meeting place. Seeing me, Dr. Kelly didn’t ask why I was walking in the opposite direction from the lecture, he just said “She’s waiting for you.”

There were a lot more incidents like that. We were known to be inseparable, though it was also pretty clear even to me that we had more of a master-and-pet relationship than that of friends. I’ve since found out that a few of the people who I now consider to be my closest friends wanted to talk to me sooner, but always felt like they weren’t allowed to talk to me with Janet there.

After a particularly stressful assignment season, I ended up building tentative friendships with some of the other students on my course. We planned a boardgames night for after assignment, and all the while I very much felt like I was going behind Janet’s back. Even once I’d invited her, it felt very much like I had betrayed her by talking to anyone else about it first.

On the night, she turned up late, stayed for an hour and then insisted I walk her home. Shortly after that, rumours started floating back to me.

Some months ago, I’d opened up to Janet about the sexual abuse I’d been through as a minor. I hadn’t ever spoken about it before, but she’d sensed that I was upset about something and got me drunk to get it out of me. I was embarrassed the next day, of course, but mostly felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’d been keeping it a secret for so long, and it felt good to finally have someone I could trust with this part of my past.

Then, one night, I was walking one of Janet’s friends home from a night out. Janet had been out with us but had disappeared with her boyfriend, so that only two of us were left.

The friend, Áine, was explaining to me that she felt embarrassed about still being a virgin. I told her that it wasn’t something to be embarrassed about, and that if she wanted to have sex she would have it sooner or later, and that if she didn’t want to have it at all then that was fine too.

“That’s easy for you to say,” she said. “Janet told me you lost yours years ago.”

I didn’t know what to do at that point. I denied it. I hadn’t done anything consensually in my life. While I tried to be ~liberal~ and ~sex positive~, the truth was, I found that difficult given A) I hadn’t had any sex education in my life and only knew what I’d managed to find out from movies and B) any experience of sexuality I had had been incredibly unpleasant. I still feel bad for having such a shameful reaction to someone suggesting that I, an adult, had had sex. But at the same time, it’s not all that surprising.

And now other people knew too. And if one part of the group knew, the rest definitely knew as well. There are no private discussions in a group like that.

I texted Janet as soon as I got home, and she denied it instantly. She demanded an apology.

I told her that I was sorry if it wasn’t true, but that I could only go by what Áine had told me.

She told me that didn’t sound like an apology to her.

Then she broke up with me. Like, friend-broke-up.

I went into one of the worst depressions I can remember. Missed a week of lectures, missed work. I stayed in bed in a darkened room for most of that time.

The person who, by now, was my only friend had officially retired me as her lackey, and I didn’t know what to do.

The weird thing is, I had an almost identical friendship in primary school. That one got to the point where teachers would make worried phone calls to my mother, or make it a rule that I had to play football like I used to at least a few times per week, or sit me down and tell me about bullying. And for some reason, none of these things made me walk away.

Between these two manipulative friendships and one abusive relationships, it’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that I am the common denominator. That there’s some weird part of my personality that makes me seek out people who will hurt and control ultimately ruin me.

I know that if a friend told me this same thing, I’d tell them that’s ridiculous. But then, I haven’t watched my friends fall for the same thing over and over. They’re not the ones lowering themselves voluntarily into quicksand every couple of years. That’s me.

I don’t have a conclusion for this post. I can only hope that I’ve had enough CBT and grief counselling and regular counselling and pills and pep talks by now that I’ve worked the weird urge to be sad out of my system. Or that it was never in my system. Maybe it really isn’t my fault. Seems unlikely, though.

This has been a slightly heavy post so here is a photo of Baxter to make everything alright again.

Revisited: Meet the Oakfriends!

Well, Sunday evening is here again!

Good evening, all! It’s Sunday evening. Tomorrow, I go back to work after a weekend of applying for Doctoral funding (this took 2 days of constant head-bashing, so it’s kind of heartbreaking to have to go back to work having had no time to relax yet). Having revisited my first post on this blog, it’s time for me to do likewise for my second post. This post seemed to mostly talk about the people I lived with back in first year, so it might be interesting to see who I’m still relatively close with.

Sundays are always weird in student accommodation for weekenders like myself (weekenders being people that stay in accommodation over the weekend rather than travelling home).

When I lived in Elms, I was one of the few people I knew who didn’t go home at the weekend. Obviously, students who travelled from other countries didn’t generally bother travelling all the way home for the sake of two days, but these people made up the minority. We made up some sort of tiny club – internationals, students who’d found weekend jobs in Belfast, students who had nowhere better to be. I was in the latter of these categories, though the emails from QUB asking if I needed lessons in my first language may suggest otherwise.

So Sundays were sort of a day spent half enjoying what was left of the quiet weekend, half looking forward to the return of our other friends. They were also spent convincing ourselves and each other that we were just about to start doing work any minute now and never quite getting around to it, though I think that’s the case for all students, wherever they may be.

I live with 10 other people, but there are more people who live on different floors and pretty much live with us.

After a long day of waiting and not working, the rest of our flatmates would begin to return somewhere around 8pm. I lived in the First Floor of Oak 4 with 10 other people, along with people from other floors who sort of drifted in and out. Much to the despair of the campus security, our door was always open and friends were welcome to come and go as they pleased.

Living with so many people, especially after living alone with my mother for so long, was both a lot of fun and incredibly, incredibly exhausting. I think I was lucky with the group of people I was placed with, as I enjoyed Elms a lot more than the vast majority of people I have talked to. There seem to have been so many people who lived entirely out of their bedrooms and didn’t get along with anyone in their halls, and I don’t think I would have survived that.

Oak 4 seemed to move and flow from acting like a big happy family to living as a few clusters of bitchy friend groups and back again. There were a few weird power struggles, too, but nothing major that year. I’m still friends with a few people from Oak, but most of us seem to have lost touch to a certain extent, and some seem to downright loathe each other.

Christmas in the flat. Standing: Curtis and Philip. Left (front to back): In-Ho, Brian, Niamh, Herkmin, Minjung, Claire, Cillian, Francesca and I. Right (front to back): Andrew, Joe, Dan, Evan, Orla, Colum, Catherine, Ryan, Glynn and Rachel.

I didn’t live with Curtis in second year, but we lived together again in third year. He was a really important part of what turned out to be a pretty difficult final year, and I was lucky to have him. Curtis and I are still firm friends, though we don’t seem to get time to hang out all that often. He finished his first degree and graduated on the same day as me, and now he’s studying for his second degree, this time in medicine. That’s always been his plan, so I couldn’t be happier for him! Right now we bump into each other on the street and have these great conversations that can never last as long as they want to. I always leave these conversations promising to have him over for tea soon, and I always genuinely intend to follow through with this invitation. But I never do, because something always comes up, and then I forget, or I have a busy week at work and don’t have the energy to host guests. I’ll get around to making proper plans soon. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day right now.

Curtis and I in Elms, Thanksgiving 2016. Curtis was an RA that year!

Like Curtis, I lived with Philip in my final year of university, but we didn’t quite gel and I haven’t spoken to him since. From my perspective, he did and said some things that were unnecessarily cruel, but I’m sure I must have done something to provoke that. I’m working on identifying my flaws as much as possible right now, so that I don’t annoy anyone else so much again.

In-Ho and Minjung both moved back to Korea half way through my first year of university, and I haven’t seen them since (Korea is a long way away!) though I still hear from Minjung every now and then. I really hope that at some point either I’ll be able to travel over there or they’ll come back here to visit. Either way, I’d love to see them again, especially Minjung.

Last time I saw Niamh was last year in the McClay library, and she seemed to be dating Evan. I’m not sure if that’s still a thing, but they’re both lovely so I hope it’s worked out! I’ve seen Herkmin once or twice since the end of Elms, but we mostly just wave hello at each other. I haven’t seen him in about a year, so I’m not entirely sure if he’s still in Belfast at this stage.

To my knowledge, Claire and Cillian are still dating, as they have been since the very start of our stay in Elms. They always say hello when we pass on the street, but I haven’t hung out with them in about 2(?) years. I lived with Claire (and therefore Cillian) in second year, and Claire was generous enough to let a friend of mine take her room without paying rent when she wasn’t using it during the summer. She’s a good egg.

St Patrick’s Day. L to R: Colum, Curtis, Catherine, Shannon, Colum’s friend (?), Orla, Ryan and Rachel.

Francesca lived on the same street as us in second year, but I don’t think I’ve seen her since then. I haven’t seen Andrew, Joe or Dan since first year. I’ve bumped into Glynn once or twice but haven’t seen him much since then either. I lived with Orla in second year, but didn’t see her that much as she was always at Colum’s. When I saw one of them I saw both, and they were both lovely.

I bump into Catherine every now and then and we exchange hellos, but that’s pretty much always been the extent of our friendship. Back in first year we were two of the more quiet members of the household, and mostly only talked when drinking. I think that’s okay, though.

I haven’t seen Shannon since final year, on account of my falling out with Phil. That’s a big shame as I considered her one of my closest friends at the time, but she and Phil seem to still be very much together and I’m glad they’re both happy. They seem like a wonderful couple.

I only see Ryan very occasionally, but it’s always nice to see or hear from him. I hope we can go back to Kremlin soon for some delicious strawberry woo-woos – as far as I can tell, we live on the same street now!

Preparing for In-Ho’s birthday. Minjung, Curtis, Cathal and Brian.

Rachel put me up a lot of the time when I was between houses a few summers ago, and I’m forever thankful for that. I don’t get to see her that often as she has a boyfriend and a job and I think she’s back in uni now, but any time I see her it’s wonderful.

I passed Cathal on the street last week and we exchanged a speedy “hello”. I think that’s the first time I’d seen him since first year, or second year at the latest, but it was good to see him. Cathal was always one of those people I got along with in a strange way, in that I could never quite tell if he liked me or thought I was too strange to be likeable, but we could make jokes all the same. He’s a good dude.

Exploring the Interwebs! Michael, Shannon and I. (Snap taken by Curtis)

Brian lived in Cork for a year, but he’s still somehow one of the people I’ve seen the most of over the past couple of years. That’s because whenever I bump into him on the street, we almost always end up drinking coffee for an hour. Brian can turn anything into a social event, and I respect that. I hope I keep bumping into him and accidentally going for coffee.

These (and possibly some others) are the people who will most likely be mentioned in future posts, as these are the people that affect me most on a day-to-day basis.

I think Michael had a rough year after we all left Elms, especially after he graduated. I don’t see him around much anymore, but we always say hello and sometimes stop for a chat when we can. He’s grown his hair out and I think he has a girlfriend now. He’s also released an album, so that’s pretty cool.

It’s weird to think that all these people played such a major role in my life, and now I barely even know them to say hello. It’s weird to think that after this blog post, I’ll probably never have cause to write about some of them again. Things are just… pretty weird, I guess. But we all moved on to different lives. In my case, and I hope in most of their cases, it’s a better life filled with friends and love and stress and hope. I hope they’re all having a good year, and that they know how important they were to me.

In any case, it’s time for me to go to bed. Back to work tomorrow, back to washing dishes and interacting with people I didn’t know existed just a few years ago.

I hope you all have a great week.

Revisited: First Steps into the Blogosphere

Hello, world!

So my plan over the next few weeks is to alternate between writing new posts which are relevant to my life today (as in On Being Needed) and revisiting posts from my original blog here (as in Revisited: Writerly Reflections). Today I’m going to revisit my first ever post on this blog (which you can read here) to see what has changed, what’s stayed the same and what I had completely forgotten. So let’s get to it!

This is going to be quite a new experience for me: I have had Blogs before, but they only lasted a week at the most because I really had no idea what to write about.

I still have no idea what to write about the majority of the time. I think that’s just what it is to write a blog, or to write anything creative. When I decided to write about myself, I made things a lot easier for myself by sort of giving myself permission to open up just a little bit, but also made things a little harder by forcing myself to write about things I hadn’t publicly acknowledged before.

I decided to write about my life as a young person dealing with anxiety and social anxiety because those were the things I was willing to claim as my own at that stage. But the thing is, while I believe I do have anxiety to a certain degree, it’s not my real diagnosis. In reality, I am living with clinical depression and PTSD. I didn’t know about either of these things when I started this blog, though. They weren’t things I’d allowed myself to explore.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a victim.

I was right about one thing, at least: mental illnesses affect a whole bunch of people, and many of this whole bunch of people can feel awfully alone. As a teenager, I felt like a “victim” a lot of the time. That’s probably because I had checked out to a certain extent, so it seemed like everything that happened in my life happened to me rather than with me. So when I started writing about how I wasn’t a victim, I was probably just trying to distance myself from that version of me.

As far as I’m concerned now, when I announced that I was not a victim in my first blog post, I was lying. I claim the “survivor” title now that I’ve processed things a little better, yes, but at that point I hadn’t addressed any of the crappy abusive things I’d been through and as a result was re-victimising myself every day. I was very much under the illusion that because the panic attacks and dissociation I still experienced had been happening for so long, that I shouldn’t be considering it a big deal anymore. Maybe that’s what I thought being a “grown-up” was.

Now, I am 18 years old, and a (rather young) first year student at Queen’s University Belfast studying English with Creative Writing.

And yes, I spent a lot of my teenage years feeling very sad and alone, and yes that’s a pretty common experience. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fair experience. I started this blog shortly after my 18th birthday, by which point I was already studying at university. I was legally an adult, and I guess I decided that meant I had permission to put everything behind me and charge headlong into a whole new persona.

This blog is going to chart the ups and downs of student life not only as a sufferer of anxiety, but also as a normal kid because, after all, that’s all I am.

This was… not entirely a bad idea? While it wasn’t a long-term solution, dumping the sad, lonely old me and being semi-open about my mental health allowed me to settle in to my new home more successfully. My housemates sort of knew about my condition, and knew to give me a bit of space sometimes. It sort of worked.

While the little progress I made in my first year of university didn’t revolutionise my life, it did act as the first tiny step in moving from this dude:

(I’m the one in green)

To this dude:

Happy! Healthy!

– and that’s pretty neat!

On Being Needed

TWs for this post: Abusive relationship, sexual abuse, mental illness, suicide

I’ve been fiercely independent for as long as I can remember, and that’s always been fine by me. As a kid, I favoured my own company over that of others. As a teenager, I’d constantly branch off and go and do something on my own, faster, because I’d be frustrated by the speed at which everyone I knew walked or ate or decided things.

In my late teens, I found myself in a horrific relationship where I was not only forbidden to spend time with my friends without the guy present, but was also groomed, sexually abused, made to believe I had been pregnant and killed “our child”, etc etc etc.

I don’t know if I didn’t go for help because I didn’t feel like there was anyone who would help, or if I was ashamed of the situation or of needing help, or if I somehow thought I could get out of this on my own. Abuse can really mess with your head, and I had the extra difficulties of having had no self-confidence to start with, having never been in a relationship before and not knowing what was normal, having a difficult home life and having been bullied pretty badly more or less right up until I started dating someone much bigger, stronger and better designed for physical confrontations than I was. At the end of it all, I stood no chance.

But then, I don’t know if anyone really stands a chance in an abusive relationship.

When I eventually got out of it, I did it by moving to another country and not telling anyone my address (excluding trusted family members and one friend from school). I broke up with him by messenger, he told me he deserved better than that, I believed him and felt guilty until I realised I could very easily have him arrested for everything he’d done. Being dumped seemed pretty hot by comparison.

For blog-reference, it was around this point that I started running this blog. I was 17, I’d left home, I’d started university and was suddenly the youngest person I knew, which was very weird. But it was also amazing, because I was suddenly free to be my own person once again, to be where I wanted to be (outside of class time) and do what I wanted to do. So I spent a lot of time walking places on my own and chilling in my bedroom, which probably made people think I was settling in a lot worse than I really was but that was alright.

And that’s how I lived for the next 2-3 years, just kind of rattling around, doing my own thing. I loved being completely independent, but there was still something not quite right. I became painfully aware that if I were to die, or go missing, or just stay in my room for a few days, nobody would notice. My landlord would eventually notice the rent was missing, and I’d start clocking up an unusual number of absences at university, but that’d really be it for a few weeks at least.

And it’s not that I was necessarily planning on dying or going missing any time soon. The thought floated into my head on a daily basis, but it had no date or time stamp, no timer counting down to one big full-stop. It was more like, if things get any worse, at least I could duck out without causing too much fuss. And that was both comforting and very upsetting, and it was mostly the latter.

Things are a lot better now. If I were to stop going outside or replying to messages, or to go missing or something else like that, plenty of people would notice. Of course, I’m not simply not doing things like that to avoid upsetting people, I am currently enjoying life and am happier and healthier every day, and no longer have any intention of going anywhere.

Suicide is no longer so much of an eventual certainty as it is something that pops into my head and makes me go Gosh, remember when that was something I actually thought of doing? 

But even if I didn’t have a new, happy life of work and pastimes and friends and grand plans, there’ll always be a new, backup reason to stick around: I am needed.

If I were to disappear, first of all, my amazing partner would be very very very unhappy, and that is something I never want to make anyone feel and definitely not him. He makes everything so much brighter and more possible, and while I don’t agree with the idea of one person completing someone, he certainly makes it a lot easier to be me and to be the best me possible.

My place of work would be absolutely fucked. Like, I can’t take a single day off, let alone an eternity, because they don’t have anyone to replace me with. They can find someone else to wash dishes and serve customers easily, yes, but until they did that they’d have to cover my tasks among themselves. And my tasks aren’t remotely difficult, but everyone in that deli has way too many jobs of their own to take on any more.

My guinea pigs would die. They’d starve, get sick, not have anyone to give them their medication. I can’t check out of taking care of them for one day, and I wouldn’t want to because when I adopted them I was making a promise to feed, clean and care for them every single day. That’s just how owning a pet works.

I love being independent and doing my own thing. I’m a detached, floaty person who lives in their own head, and that’s fine by me.

But even more than that, I love being needed. I love that me existing finally has some sort of difference to people around me. And I didn’t think that was something I’d ever get to find out.

Revisited: Writerly Reflections

So something weird happened this week: I got an email from WordPress.

Okay, so that’s not so weird. I’m involved with a few different blogs right now, and my inboxes generally contain at least 5 WordPress emails every day. The weird thing was that it was telling me someone had linked to a post on this blog, which I haven’t gone near in a number of years, and which I had almost entirely forgotten.

So I open it up, and it turns out RamisaR over on Musings of a White Rose has linked to my ancient post, Writerly Reflections, over on their blog. And I figure that if people are still linking to this blog, I should probably make the effort to look at it a little myself.

My original post talked about my introduction to writing, so I’m gonna use what I said just short of 4 years ago and also revamp it with a couple of updates.

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember.

I’m certain almost everyone is sick of Harry Potter by now – I’ve more or less reached that point myself – but I’m of just the right age where Harry Potter was this fresh new thing when I was a kid getting into reading. The first few books were read to my by my mother as bedtime stories (in fact, I think I was too young to really remember the first book as I had to re-read it a number of years later) but by half-way through the series, I was reading them for myself. And compared to most of the other books there were for kids my age, the later Harry Potter books were h u g e. Like, you’d really know it all day if one of those bad boys were in your schoolbag because you’d be dragging yourself around by the end of the day.

Needless to say, through this love of reading came a love of writing.

I enjoyed plenty of other kids books, I should say. I was really big into Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Hobbit, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series and Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. And eventually, this addiction to books transformed into a kind of need to make my own. All the way through primary school, I’d come up with endless ridiculous characters with my buddy Phillip. We had monsters, detectives, wizards, villains, superheroes, and everything else that a self-respecting kid would want in their stories. At this stage, we were convinced the work we were producing was definitely going to make it big. In hindsight, they were some pretty low-quality designs.



Eventually, in fifth class (I would have been 9 or 10 years old), my teacher stopped me after class and told me to stop writing stories about these “silly superheroes”.

These characters made their way into all manner of comics, models and short stories, and they continued to pop up over and over again for years. When my teacher finally snapped and told me to write about something more serious, I was outraged. Here I am, writing the next great work of Irish literature, and this woman comes and tells me my protagonists are silly? Something had to be done.

When I turned 13-or-so, the only writing anyone got to look at was work that had to be handed in to a teacher anyway, while my personal writing turned from gripping tales of daring do to angst-filled poems about someone in class not giving me my pencil back, or whatever was bothering me that day.

That something eventually turned out to be a spooky noire story with an edgy cliffhanger ending. “Yeah,” I no doubt thought. “That’ll show her.” But it showed nothing to nobody, and when I got my homework back the next day my feedback was something along the lines of “What happens next? Where’s the rest of the story?” This was the first time I had to learn that some people just don’t get art.

When my teens rolled around, I realised that perhaps my future didn’t lie in science fiction and fantasy, but in poetry, and the uncomfortable angst of adolescence gave me plenty of material to whinge about. Most of my (really rather dodgy) poems were about dead animals – roadkill, prey, etc – because I was going through a bit of a phase. I did write one sort-of-okay poem about a friend of mine who died when I was around 16, but that’s about it.


Still, even if a short summer job with a small town newspaper turned out not to be my big break, it certainly showed me what I wanted to do with my life, writing-wise.

My poetry phase didn’t last forever (or so I thought), and my attention shifted once again. This time, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and even took up a summer job with my local newspaper. This plan lasted until sometime around the start of my second year of university, which is also around the time I stopped writing this blog. I started writing for a few university publications in my final year of university, and became the Arts and Entertainment editor for The Gown during my Masters, but there was no real end goal.

At the same time as all of this, I started working as a freelance writer, and I think that’s probably what killed my interest in journalism. I worked with one or two great projects, a few of which I still write for out of enjoyment rather than necessity. But something in the meaninglessness of churning out “content” with the sole intention of (A) passing plagiarism checks and (B) search engine optimisation sort of destroyed some part of me.

I became incredibly depressed (though I had already been diagnosed with clinical depression long before this, so probably this just made matters worse rather than triggering some major downturn). I stopped replying to client emails and messages, even though I relied on these people for money, and they relied on me to keep their projects running smoothly.

In my head, my plan was to just live off what money I had, and when it ran out I’d end it all. I don’t know if I was ever actually going to go through with that, I know I put a lot of thought into it but I don’t know what was actually going to happen. But then, plot twist!

I finished my undergraduate degree in the summer of 2016 and graduated with first class honours. And somehow, I was offered a scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in reading and writing poetry. And just like that, I had been given another goal to strive for, another little meaning to keep me going for another little while.

And I just finished my Master’s, and don’t have a poetry collection (yet!) but have been published in a few different magazines, and I’m making plans for my next step.

So that’s where I am now, just in case you were wondering.

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.


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!


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.



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!