I like to include little bits of personal information or personality into regular blog posts. I think it's what gives blogging an edge over other forms of media. You want to hear what the blogger likes and doesn't and can relate to certain aspects of their life or bond over similar tastes. However it's not often I write an entirely personal post. I'm a private person in real life and blogging allows you to reveal as much or as little about your real life as you wish, which suits me. Plus, my blogs are fashion and beauty related rather than lifestyle, so it never felt right to 'TMI' left, right and centre!
My body confidence post, You Are What You Are (Beautiful) (back in June 2012 unbelievably) was probably the first time I'd been so open and honest about my feelings. I was overwhelmed by your reaction and even now, I still get comments and references to it, which is just lovely. I never expected it to be as huge as it was and it seemed that speaking from the heart, touched yours. I've considered (many a time) doing a follow up post to that, but for some reason I've gone in a completely different direction. I'll warn you now it's very long, but punctuated with old photos which will hopefully make you laugh and keep you going!
I was 22 when I got to experience first hand, exactly how much life can suck. I'd led a reasonably happy and average life up until that point. Sure it had it's moments of hurt and even utter heartbreak, but on the whole it wasn't too bad. I have two sisters (I'm the middle one), so there was rarely a time when all three of us got along. My big sister and I fought a lot. She loved to fit in, I loved to stand out, so she made my life very difficult and it often (every day if you ask my Mum) ended in tears. Growing up, we never had much money. My Dad has always worked hard and worked several jobs, it's just unfortunate his chosen profession never paid all that well. So I mostly wore hand-me-downs and there were times when we missed out or things we didn't have. You know those things you used to attach to one ankle and spin and jump over with the other foot? I can't remember what you called them, well we couldn't afford one, never mind three. So Mum made them for us from an old tennis ball and washing line! I remember flying kites (Safeway carrier bags on wool) and walking on stilts (syrup cans with rope handles). So long as I got a Sindy each birthday and Christmas I wasn't concerned with fancy bikes and big name trainers actually, but kids can be pretty cruel about that. Which brings me to school. I hated it! I hated the uniform, being told what to do (although I was certainly no rebel). I hated doing subjects I had no interest in, plus I was bullied. Naively, I thought at every stage of schooling that it would stop. It didn't. Hell, it even continued in my first year at Uni!
I was 'different' and that just doesn't fly in school. I was the only kid in my class with glasses, so 'geek', 'swot' and 'specky four eyes' became my middle names! The teachers liked me, which was another sticking point. It wasn't 'cool' to be friends with me and I got a stark reminder of that, when five boys from my class kicked me, pulled my hair and taunted me on the way home from school. One of my closest female friends at the time, was walking with me and continued as if nothing was happening. She didn't get help, she didn't ask them to stop, she just turned her back and kept walking as if she didn't know me. Why did they pick on me that day? Oh because the teacher said she loved the french pleat in my hair! Don't even get me started on the head mistress pulling me out of class the next day to decide on the boys punishment, while they all stood around me!!
That was only one example of many. I was obsessed with dolls and ballet and fashion. I knew as a toddler, I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up (seriously) and so I lived for non-uniform days. One whole day where I could get out of that stuffy shirt and tie and wear whatever I wanted. Be me! Of course the same day filled me with dread, because I just knew my attire would be ripped to shreds (thankfully never literally) by the kids that didn't like me. Basically I was an easy target and had my Mum said I never had to go back to school again, I'd have been a happy bunny. She was of the opposite opinion though "sticks and stones..", pick yourself up, rise above it and get on with it. So I did. I tried ignoring it, tried being smarter than them, tried defending myself, giving as good as I got in some instances, but it was never just the one bully, so I never really got a chance to escape it.
High school wasn't much better, like I said, non-uniform days spring to mind and once I had an entire town of girls corner me at lunch with the intention of beating me up. Most of them, I'd never even met before. I suppose I was just unlucky. A lot of kids go through the same thing and on the flip side, I always had a lot of friends, so it wasn't all doom and gloom. I had loads of girl friends, but not many boy friends. Most misunderstood me, saw me as unapproachable and intimidating. Probably some of the reasons the bullies disliked me. However there were a few boys that took the time to get to know me and realised I was nothing like they first imagined. At 17 I faced the toughest time of my life when a very close friend was suddenly killed in a car accident. He meant a lot to me and I'm not sure he knew that. I was utterly devastated. Sixteen years on, I still don't talk about it and I have tears in my eyes just writing this. It's something you never really get over, although it eases with time. I still think about him, even if only for a moment, every day. It certainly made me realise that you had to live each day like there was no tomorrow, because it could be taken away so quickly.
So when it came to leaving school, I knew exactly the type of course I wanted to apply to and as a backup, went to visit an art college closer to home. I immediately knew it wasn't for me, so put all my eggs in one basket as it were with the choice of two courses at the other Uni. The art teacher I had in my final year of school really didn't like me though. I wanted to sketch and design, she wanted me to paint a bowl of fruit or draw an engine part. She didn't get me at all and this was so frustrating for me, because I had no support from her whatsoever. I knew what my end goal was and focused on that, but she somehow saw that as a lack of commitment. She thought I wasn't serious about art (somehow my classmates managed to skip their other subjects to spend more time in Art, whereas I couldn't). I, along with two friends were relegated to the adjoining classroom and when it came to displaying our work in the hallways, she refused to put ours up. We even had an exhibition at a local gallery and she put our work through the back and the rest of the class got pride of place in the main room! Come parents night, she hauled me into the room too in the hope of shaming me (my parents were well aware of how unfair she'd been). I explained I wanted to go into fashion and was focused on that (everybody at school knew that), then she told me I'd benefit from sitting beside this other girl and looking at what she was doing. I knew this girl (our paths had crossed many times, but we weren't friends) and she'd decided 5 minutes ago that she wanted to go into fashion, when I'd known my entire life! I politely declined her condescending feedback and it only further cemented my need to get out of that place and away from crap like that. So it came to Uni interview time and I got in, even before completing my final exams. Oh and I was the first in my art class to be accepted anywhere. Ha ha!
Of course I was nervous about moving so far away from home and going somewhere where I didn't know a soul. The majority of my school friends went to bigger universities where they bumped into school friends (and foes) all the time. I was going it alone. I was glad of the fresh start though. Somewhere where I could be myself and nobody knew of the nicknames, the 'geek' label, the fact that boys at school had usually been too terrified to talk to me and so on. I was surprised at the interview when everyone turned up in black trousers and there was me in a multi-coloured, psychedelic mini-skirt suit I'd bought at The Clothes Show. I still stood out like a sore thumb, which surprised me.
At first our 'floor' of girls in the Halls all got along really well and were the only group who socialised as one big family. Half the girls did one course, the other half did another and I was the only one from my particular course. The first day I was worried I knew nobody on my course (and that everyone had already made friends), but in time it meant I had different friends in class and at 'home'. The Uni was small enough that everyone knew each other anyway. The little home family didn't last though. I still don't know what happened, but a split appeared and I seemed to be right in the middle of it. I was tired of high school antics like this. It got bad and I didn't even feel much support from the girls that were 'on my side'. I wanted to rise above it, but when you're in an environment like that, seeing each other all the time, emotions are heightened. It was silly things, like them purposefully dirtying my dishes and leaving them unwashed just because they were mine, snide comments behind my back but loud enough so that I'd hear and laughing, shouting, screaming and thumping on my door after drunken nights out at 4am, when I had to get up for class early. They singled me out and it made for very uncomfortable living. So long story short, I came home most weekends, even if that blew my entire weekly budget of £20. It was that or sob on the very public phone to my Mum about it (no mobiles in those days kids).
I was enjoying my course work though and so I stuck in there and thankfully things got better. That entire group who'd hassled me, left after first year. Two of them hardly ever went to class, so I wasn't surprised. I moved into a 'quaint' little house with three other girls from my floor and the others we knew moved into a house across the street. I loved the next three years there. I say our house was 'quaint', that's polite for a 'disaster'. To the point it was comical though. I can recall one time when we came back after the Christmas holidays. I was first back and found the central heating wasn't working. So I switched on the dilapidated 'fire' in the living room as we couldn't suffer no heat in the middle of winter in the Scottish Borders! It set off the smoke alarm. A socket in the kitchen blew, so we couldn't use the kettle and had to boil water on the cooker. I was forced to buy a little heater from Argos, so we didn't all die from hypothermia in the night. I plugged it in, only to blow the fuses in the whole house! Then the plumber came and told us we didn't have appropriate ventilation and so we had builders knock a hole in our wall, electricians, plumbers, gas man, it was all go! We dealt with it though. Leaking radiators, two occasions with bats flying indoors (don't ask), a flooding washing machine, water trickling into the house below us, hot water pouring out of our house outside, I could go on and on! Every minute was an adventure and that's before you get started on our love lives and everything else.
I got along with every single person in my class and my flatmates were like sisters to me. The locals and few boys at Uni that weren't gay (and you should know we outnumbered them probably by 30:1 gay or not) although a little unsure of me, were soon eating out of my hand! I loved studying fashion (ok, I'll admit some classes were mind numbingly boring), but I knew it was an opportunity to learn and that I had to soak it all up. It wasn't all work, we had fun too. We'd party in bars and clubs until 3am, get in at 4 then I'd get up and dressed for classes at 9am. In summers and weekends, I'd come home and work (a job I'd had since school), but was much less reliant on coming home during term time. One of my flatmates was Irish, so we'd go home with her as often as we could and the nonsense we got up to there intensified!
Turning 21, was to be the best year of my life, but by the time I turned 22, it all started to crumble.
Part 2 to follow.