Friends will be friends

The company we keep on a daily basis can really influence who we grow to be as individuals, as much as we deny this! We change to accommodate people and naturally pick up different traits and interests as a result of hanging around people. Sometimes it’s great but a lot of times it can also be really damaging and we can loose our own self identity.

This happened to me and I now I am really selective with who I share my life with and I have a new friend recruiting strategy…

– If I initiate every conversation and meet up, we are not friends. One sided relationships never ever work out!

– If our meet ups always involve alcohol and you can’t hold a sober conversation with me then you are using me or you have a drink problem.

– If significant people in my life have worries and doubts about you, they probably are right. Sometimes people on the outside of relationships and friendships can see things more clearly and to the point.

– If you are a negative person, no matter how lovely you can be, I just can’t spend too much time around you!

It seems blunt and a bit black and white, but since having anxiety and depression I have really learnt who my real friends are. Those who genuinely cared and still care even when the troubles seem to be distant and overcome.

I have met some really lovely people recently after starting a new job and on my university course, and some of these people are so genuine, kind and loving that I know I want them to be in my life. It’s really made me realise that we can get so comfortable with our lives and not seek to change the people around us to put us in a better place!

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Everyday is a New Year

Growing up I enjoyed going to big family parties for New Years Eve and it really was a special occasion to get all dressed up in sparkles. When the parties stopped being hosted, I missed them and really wanted to keep staying up until midnight to see in the New Year with my family, so I have done until this year.

2014 has made me question why we even celebrate the New Year like we do. The shops bombard me with emails about discounts for the all important occasion, the media put pressure on society to drink and party. Glitter and sparkles apparently are acceptable by anyone not just 5 year olds (I personally am not afraid of glitter on a daily basis) and we all say “Happy New Year!” with a smile on our faces ignorant to the rest of the world who have no company, shelter or food to share such a night with.

New Years resolutions are made – mine being to live a more minimalistic lifestyle, and there is a pressure to pick a good one and receive praise or support for it throughout the next year. We make them in an attempt to make ourselves better people or to make a difference to the world but why do we only choose to do it on one day a year? Everyday is a new year to me. Each time I look at my diary I am reminded that every day is a new day in the year. The last and first day of a year are not significant at all when you take away the parties.

If you don’t want to celebrate or have nothing to celebrate why do other perceive us as boring? It’s a horrible feeling when you’re not feeling yourself to have a pressure to live up to other people’s expectations. This year has been full of life lessons and not particularly one I would want to celebrate so I’ve decided to keep it low key and just spend some quality time with my boyfriend. I’ve ignored comments from others around me and I look forward to just living my life on a day by day basis rather than building up pressure to ‘significant’ events throughout the year.

I hope everyone has a better, more reflective, safer and positive year of 2015 and every year thereafter!

2015 Clear Out

Each year I like to make realistic New Years resolutions, they tend to be ‘drink more water’ and ‘save more money’. At the end of 2013 I had high hopes for this year and genuinely believed it would be one of my best years yet. I had plans to save money to move out, to successfully finish my first year of Univeristy, build those incredible unbreakable friendships and generally hoped to be living a much healthier and happier lifestyle.

2014 has been the most challenging and life lesson-filled so far! Without listing all of the negatives I have really learnt to self reflect which so important for personal growth and development. I feel more aware of who I am as an individual, what I stand for and believe in, what I want in life and more importantly what and who I want in my life.

A lot of this year I have spent being in low places where I have had no money, being in debt and have suffered breakdowns of relationships with people I spent a lot of time trying to impress. Now I am at a place where I have ‘matured’ (ha ha) and recognise that possessions or recognition on social media doesn’t determine who I am or my self worth. People who don’t return my calls or texts are not worth getting upset over!

2015 will be the year I take a step back and create a lifestyle of selective and quality possessions and friendships. To help me stick to this and reflect on my lifestyle adaptation I will be posting little updates on my clear outs which hopefully will inspire some of my readers to also downsize and really live a life that’s meaningful and positive to them!

I’m a QUITTER and that’s okay.

In June 2011 I sat my last A Level exam. As soon as it finished I rushed out to catch the Loop Bus to the other side of town, where I would be having my first ever full time job interview. I was one who left college and avoided university, partly because I couldn’t settle on where I wanted to move to and I didn’t feel like I had enough time to prepare financially.  My boyfriend and I had been together for two years already and he had a last minute change to his future plans which looking back now, clearly impacted mine. I’m glad they did.

I always knew I wanted to work in a school and with other people telling me I was good with children and teaching would be a good career for me to get into I didn’t think twice about it. All of a sudden it was what I felt passionate about and really could see myself doing.  So I went to this job interview for the role as a Teaching Assistant. The interview went extremely well, I had no fears of what would happen in the Headteacher’s room, I just went with the flow and spoke with passion and honesty. I think I giggled after every answer I gave too, and I had that dry mouth syndrome you get when you talk to much and are nervous to say the right things.

Later that evening I got the dreaded phone call and it came with the best news ever. I still remember the conversation and the shakes of excitement and how the adrenaline just rushed through my heart.  They said they were really impressed by my application and interview and wanted me to become a part of their school. Result! I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to let everyone know. My first interview for a full time job and I got it!

So over the year I worked in the Early Years Foundation Stage classrooms (Reception) and familiarised myself with a wonderful team of staff and 60 sweet little children. I loved everyday of it and there was never a morning I woke up and dreaded work. I felt so pleased and grateful to be so young and have a job I loved when some of my friends were struggling with what to do post-college.  I also had a lot more money in my bank account. I usually did since I worked quite a lot since the summer I left school, but this was a big chunk of money and a consistent amount so I splashed out on a new (secondhand) car as you do, along with clothes and lots of takeaways.

It was around four months into my time at the school that I realised I had settled in very quickly and was receiving positive feedback about my performance. I had a few added responsibilities which I embraced and I felt like I had been at the school forever. I think it helped that I was working in the first form classrooms so I was growing into the school with the children. This all made me consider training to become a teacher. The teachers I worked with were talented and it showed that they loved their jobs and were making such a positive difference to the children in the classrooms – and obviously the staff around them too! So the hunt for university courses began. I spoke to friends, family and colleagues and my boyfriend trying to find advice on what to do and where to go.  In the end I quit my ideal job and settled to move away to Oxford Brookes University.

I loved living away from home and met lots of lovely people. I loved being independent and Oxford is such a beautiful city in which I felt really at home. My campus was up a hill not too far away from the city center, but it felt like I lived in the middle of the countryside. My halls were brand new and en-suite so I had no trouble settling in and making myself a new temporary home. I enjoyed the modules I was studying and put a lot of effort into my work – I even became a group rep. Then my first placement arrived in a school about half an hours drive away. I had the responsibility of driving a partner too, and I didn’t know the roads at all. My first motorway drive was when I moved up to Oxford and I done it alone, before that I had just pottered around my home town in my little Ford KA (my bubble). So before I had even arrived at school I felt a bit of pressure. I loved being in the classroom (Year 2) and it was something new for me as my experience had always been in the Early Years. I taught a phonics lesson with my partner and was observed with OFSTED which was scary but manageable.  My placement was just one day a week for five weeks, and I struggled to motivate myself to get up and go in for something I felt wasn’t really exciting me enough. I started suffering from headaches and just generally feeling run down and after a long wait at the doctors I was told  I was fine and homesick. He did not care to even check my temperature! SO I started to feel a bit unsupported, alone and misunderstood.

Christmas holidays soon came and I was glad to be packing up to come home. Although I didn’t really want to move back into my tiny boxroom, even if it was temporarily for 4 weeks. I cleaned my room and packed as much as I could fit into my little car, I said goodbye to my friends one by one as they each set off home for the holidays.  When I got home I had an assignment to do for English – my favourite subject and it was on Phonics which I feel I know quite well.  I sat down and wrote the title out about ten times on my paper, each time screwing it up and rewriting it. I couldn’t concentrate and felt like I had no intention of doing any work.

This is because deep down I knew I did not want to return to university. So without too much conversation with anyone else I quickly emailed my tutor and course leader saying I wanted to quit. Little did I know how my decision would impact my relationships with those around me who had been quiet supportive in my decision to move away.  My boyfriend didn’t understand why I was quitting. I let my parents know I wouldn’t be going back, except to pick up the bits I had left behind and I was faced with clear disappointment and a lack of understanding. I had no money to go back to university, I had to borrow petrol money off my boyfriend and I knew that it was the right decision for me.  Oxford was an expensive place and the pressure of funding my course and living out of home was costly. Especially when I wanted to fit in and appear to be sociable and up for having a good time with my flatmates and friends. I had got a job as a tutor before I even moved to Oxford because I knew I would need to work to get the extra money but I had to quit after a couple of shifts because I couldn’t commit to the timetables because of the unpredictable university timetables! So even my preparation didn’t help me to continue on my course. All these small factors contributed to my decision to leave.

So I didn’t work for a couple of months at all, I had a bit of student loan money left over which helped me get by with the direct debits and allowed me to still socialise a little bit. Then I got a big unexpected bill that I was told I wouldn’t be faced with for the accommodation costs at Oxford for the remainder of the term. I wasn’t even in the room and I had to pay. The problem was, because I had withdrawn from my course Student Finance had been notified and had asked me for a proportion of my overpaid loan back. I immediately paid this back as I knew I wasn’t entiteld to it and I didn’t fancy having a massive loans company chasing after me! So this letter from Oxford Brookes came at a bad time where I had no money. It was about £852 I owed.

I knew I needed to find my feet again and return to work, so I looked about for my ideal job again. Within a six month period I found myself dipping in and out of jobs:

I waitress-ed in the evenings at a local holiday caravan park – I quit because I didn’t enjoy the working environment.
I worked two temporary weeks at Easter as a play leader and Early Years Manager in Croydon.
I did some behind bar work on a casual basis – I quit because of the late nights and early starts at another job.
I worked as midday Supervisory assistant at an infant school which I enjoyed a lot. So I made an application to restart university at Brighton and continue my progression towards my dream career of teaching. I quit my job at the school and I worked the summer as a play worker and in October I enrolled as a full time student again studying Primary Education (3-7 years).

Again I loved my university course and made a group of friends who I traveled with on the train. I felt confident and sure of my future. Living at home helped with the financial worries, despite the ghastly train prices (thank you Southern Railway!). I got a job for Christmas at Monsoon and after two weekends I quit because I felt like it wasn’t fueling me enough. I couldn’t return to the world of retail after I had worked my idea job as a Teaching Assistant since leaving school. I felt like I was going backwards! I continued submitting my assignments and received really good feedback on them, again giving me confidence I was on the right track. Then placement arrived and it was a 40 minute drive away. I struggled to fund the journey and money worries returned. I tried to be savvy with my pennies, and made packed lunches and thought ahead of what I would need. I emailed my support tutor for guidance and didn’t receive a reply and then another email was sent and I was told it was normal to worry. I felt like my concerns weren’t being addressed and I was being labelled as a worried student teacher because of what the role demanded. This was far from the truth, the role has never really been a shock to me. Having family and friends as teachers and other educational professionals I have not been a stranger to the hard work involved. I was receiving excellent feedback from my observations and really got a buzz from the placement.

Then all of a sudden I felt tired all of the time, fed up with living at home, seeing my old peers graduating and moving onto their second year at university. I felt like everyone else was really happy and I was struggling to enjoy anything because of money worries. I got a throat infection and migraines and in the end was signed off by my doctor – he said it was to help me succeed in my placement. I agreed. Thinking that this would be okay with school and the university but I was wrong.  The school were fine with it, they wished me well and hoped that I would be back soon. The university are very strict and it’s black and white on attendance. Five days off and you FAIL.  I couldn’t help being ill, I had done everything to prepare myself and it was unfortunate that I got so run down. So I was told not to return to the school – by the University. The school didn’t really understand and I don’t think my partner completely understood either. It was a shock to everyone!

So I appealed and was granted mitigating circumstances, I am set to redo my placement in April and can’t progress into my second year until September 2015. Since then, I have been job hunting, scraping by for money, struggling with my label as a failure and the comments and questions from others. ‘why did you quit again?’ ‘you need to do what you want to do’ ‘do what makes you happy’. Well teaching did make me happy and it wasn’t my fault I was ILL. I actually don’t stand up for myself enough, I let them think what they want and I nod and listen to what they have to say. I know it is me who knows my life the best and I have my boyfriend who I think knows me second best!

In need for money I started working as a Gymnastics Assistant Coach which was great, the hours were perfect for me and working with children kept me engaged in that teaching mentality. I also got a job as a midday supervisory assistant again in a Special Needs School, which I loved. But I quit shortly after starting due to being signed off again for two weeks.

I search for jobs on a daily basis, probably an hourly habit now. I always look for a Teaching Assistant post. I find the ones I like the look of and I have let so many slip because I don’t want to have to quit again due to placement and returning to university. I don’t want to work a part time job and spend the rest of my time wondering what I should do with my life. I need to feel settled and stable, something which for since 2011 I haven’t had or experienced.  When things haven’t worked out I have always planned my life around returning to university and to persevere the dream of teaching.

I have been a hypocrite to myself and haven’t been listening to what I knew and felt all along. I miss my first job. I miss supporting a teacher and loving my role. Whenever I am at university I miss school, whenever I am on placement I am unhappy because I enjoy it so much I know it won’t last. I miss earning some money and being able to do the things I would like to do without feeling guilt or worry, simple things like purchasing a double cheeseburger on a Sunday or a new pair of shoes because that makes me feel happy inside.

I’ve made the decision to quit trying to fit the mold and do what others expected me to do. People grow and change, I am not immune to this. The teaching profession changes and this impacts the decisions made.  This week I decided to quit returning to full time university to return to the world of work and enjoy my early 20’s while I can. I have never been in a rush to qualify I am not a career driven person. My actions have suggested I am and I want to change that! My future dream is to enjoy my job, move out, have a family and just invest time in the people and things I love.

I am Lauren and I don’t want to be a teacher at the moment, I want to be a Teaching Assistant and study towards a degree part time – purely because I love studying. One day in the future I might opt into a post graduate course in teaching or I might follow a different career path. I will grow into whoever and whatever I am supposed to be and there will be no pressure on myself to ‘succeed’. A job title shouldn’t define my success!

If you are still reading this, I am extremely impressed and thankful that you’ve taken the time to read about this chapter of my life!  It’s emotional and hard to accept change and to explain or justify this to people. Hopefully by sharing this I can show that quitting is okay and it can help you get to where you need to be. Now to find that job of mine!

You’re Bigger than the Big Blue

“You’re bigger than the big blue”

This can be interpreted in so many ways but for me it really relates to my struggles with depression and anxiety. The ‘big blue’ being these mental health problems which affect me on a daily basis. I also see the big blue like an ocean of obstacles in the form worries, fears, people. Not all of these things stick around, some might longer longer than others. But I’ve noticed that they come and go like waves, some knock me down and some push me up to a high. Although there might be a risk, they never completely drown me – because I have decided I am BIGGER!

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I’ve learnt this year that change doesn’t just happen without you actively making an effort. For me I have had to chase other people up by making phone calls, sending letters and emails in order to secure my future plans. When you do finally get some answers (because you will), it’s a relief and there is a great sense of satisfaction knowing you’ve been productive. I feel more able to achieve and that I am regaining control of my life and the decisions I need to make.

At this time of year where everyone around you seems to be positive, excited and happy, even when you catch yourself having some fun, it can be so difficult to get the support you are actually in need of. Please talk to people and look after yourself. x