Saturday, 22 February 2014

When Life Sucks (Part 1)

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.


  1. Your pictures are gorgeous, all of them xxxx

  2. Oh Gem!! What an amazing account! How awful that you were made to feel so isolated and disliked by such horrid people. Kids and teens literally are the worst! You write with such clarity, I can imagine being there. And how awful it must have been. I am so glad you had 3 wonderful years at Uni, even if the first was horrid. The photos are fantastic! You changed so much over the years though I can see you now in some of the youngest photos. I look forward, with trepidation, to part 2. X

    1. Aw thank you. Haha, yes sometimes I think people won't recognise me, other times I think I haven't changed at all!

  3. I was entirely engrossed in this blog. I don't know what to say except how horrible it must have been for you. But even that sounds inadequate. I loved your photos, especially in that silver dress! Look forward to Part 2 and thanks for sharing with us, xx

    1. Thank you. Ah my high school ball gown-I made it myself : )

  4. Oh Gemma, this is such a heartbreaking story. I was in tears while reading about the bullying - people and even kids can be so cruel. I was bullied when I was in Elementary school (my family moved from the States to Europe and well Prague was not the most welcoming place) - it was a horrible time for my whole family but things got better for me in high school, although I put my parents through a lot of hell.

    Anyways, I cannot wait to read the second part. Your story is so captivating and it literally moves the heart. I am so glad that I have met you through our blogs:)

    1. Thank you, that's such a lovely thing to say and I'm glad too : ) It's so sad that it happens to so many people and even now. Kids can be so cruel and for no real reason. Thankfully I don't dwell on it too much, I suppose 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' right enough. I hope you don't either. It's funny now that some of these bullies add me on facebook! Yeah, NO WAY!

  5. none will have the same experience you said,could kind of relate and feel the empathy from it.
    and I'm kind of want to share my story with you too but,it would be too long as comment so hope I could talk about it on my blog someday maybe...
    but please let me tell the few of them here today!(sorry but I just wanted that right now!!)

    well first,I read and loved the that post "You Are What You Are (Beautiful)" (may as you know).
    I actually took bit long to read it because I usually don't read especially English but you got me reading it until the end.

    my family hadn't much money too as we had 3 sisters (include me) 1 brother and my mom was single mother.
    and a lot of my clothes were handed from my sisters and brother (I still keeping few of them and wearing) and I know many children would dislike it but I always like it.
    but I was still too small so looked silly and even more smaller wearing those.haha
    and my family,each one's always had really different personality.
    I remember my sisters and brothers used fought a lot.but I had never really fought with any of them until now.
    I was the most youngest (which I call "bottom one" in my language) though I always felt like I was in the middle of them.
    not about age but,b/c...I was the only one who really talks and knowing all of them.
    I like my family never pushes much their opinions for anyone else than themselves.I think that kept each ones personalities and kept them believing in themselves until now.

    in the school,my sisters and brother were always popular kind...I was the only one who never really had friend even.
    I guess my sister and brother has got bullied in the school except 2nd oldest one which means I was.
    most of reason is we were always "new child" in the school cause of moving and changing school lot of times.
    so most of bullies happened in the beginning of the time of each.
    then sometimes they made peace after while,sometimes left school before it happened.
    my case was a girl always friend with many girls,especially one hated me.
    I don't know why but she was always like jealous with me.
    she used tell gossips about me,just talk some shit about me true or not.
    and few more people still wanted to be mean to me,but never in front of me,they were kinda scared of me.
    I went really rarely so they were making more and more gossips about me while I wasn't there.

    I got tried of waiting to start working after finish my country's compulsory education.which means 9th grade in other countries.I was so happy when it finally finished.

    btw,I used wear the uniform too!for me was only 7th~9th grade though.
    in my country,they started making student wearing uniform because they wanted children to not care about rich or poor in the school also they taking like school is kind of like job(?) so to have that feeling while wearing it also when we wearing uniform,people will know which school we are at and we need to know if we make some bad impression,it will be the bad for other student in that whole school.
    simply what they want is focus on studying when in the school actually.
    so we not allowed to bring something not related to study like mobiles or ofc.
    I find bad also good in that.
    and I ofc hated wearing uniform especially in the beginning but didn't take long to learn that personality won't fade away with clothes if they really do have own personality.
    and I understand their opinion.

    sorry that I wrote (I tried make it short but still!!) too long,but I just like sharing,especially with this kind of thing.
    not like talk about new apparel or something but something like this,that's what we really care about in the core.
    other things are just like junk.
    we still like them,but not our main of life.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that Asa. I know you read and liked my Beautiful post and that means a lot. It's sometimes difficult to share life experiences or even personal family photos on the blog, but it was something I wanted to do. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to write all that : )

  6. I relate so much with some of what you have written here. Especially the bullying, I understand completely how you feel, I too was physically and mentally tortured throughout my school years and it is comforting to know that I was not the only one. Your photographs are fabulous, you look beautiful in each one and it is very touching that you feel you can be so open here. I love your blog, thank you so much for everything you post :)

    1. Thank you very much for that and sorry you went through a similar situation : ( It was horrendous at the time, but I do have some happy memories too and can look back and for the most part forget the bad that happened. Thanks, I haven't really 'explained' the photos so some might seem quite random ; )

  7. Hey Gemma, this is a brave and thought provoking post. I'm sure you know it but having everything when you're a kid is no fun either. I had parents who worked long hours and so were well off, bought me lots of stuff but had no time for me. The ankle jumping thing is called "Skip-It" and yes, of course I had one! I had bloody everything: Popples, masses of Sylvanians, Keypers, Wuzzles, My Little Pony, you name it. But I was desperately unhappy. I had no brothers or sisters to play with and am socially inept so instead of friends I had a succession of kids who took advantage of my desperation to be liked by bribing me. I'd have to do exactly as they said and give them anything of mine they demanded or they wouldn't be my "friend" any more. Then I got into trouble with my mum and stepdad because my latest toy or trinket had disappeared.
    Sorry, that ended up way longer and more in depth than I intended! I think childhood is such a raw and painful topic for a lot of people, and hats off to you for sharing yours in such detail :)
    Lucy x

    1. Aw thanks for sharing that Lucy. You're right, there is the flipside where one can be just as unhappy. Looking back now, I think it's pretty cool my Mum took the time to make things for us, when at the time I probably thought it was a bit naff! Luckily for my parents it was only really my big sister that wanted (and got) the expensive stuff like the bike, roller boots etc. My little sis and I were happy with a new Sindy and I know that I was damn lucky to get that.


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