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The Girl That Was Before  

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The Girl That Was Before 

Four Years Ago – Age 19 



It was 2013 and the lights were flickering too fast for my liking and everywhere smelled of the  closeness of warm bodies. Sweat and warmth. In the nightclub light, we all glimmered. The music that played was a repetitive, lyricless beat but still everyone was dancing. Under my Converse I could feel the crunch of glass. From where I stood, at the edge of the dance floor with my two best friends, I could breathe a little easier. Even then, even when I was glittering just as much as the most beautiful girl in the room, I could not seem to remove my inner set of glasses that meant my eyes honed in the sticky floorboards or the fallen speckles of mascara under every girls eyes. I have always seen too much detail.

The
Abbey, in Tralee, was one of my first stomping grounds as a sometimes underage attendee of the average teenage thronged nights out. My group of friends, all eight of us, were celebrating the Rose of Tralee in August 2013, and it was nearing two o’clock in the morning. It was the summer after we’d finished school and I already felt a huge distance between myself and our ankle length tartan skirts. I’d been wishing for the night to end for sometime and I could not even fake a smile when I spotted my friend lifting the tie off an Longford escorts neck and placing around her own.

(This is me and one of my best friends on that CAO night in August 2013).

I had turned nineteen two weeks beforehand on the night of our Debs ball. The clammy Sunday night that had morphed into a Monday morning, was the day that our college offers (CAO) were being released at 6 AM. During my leaving cert, I got glandular fever and staph infection in my throat which meant I spent the entire exams period in a drug-fed haze. It had been nearly eight months since I had last felt well.
Whilst nowadays I acknowledge time as my greatest asset in achieving my ambitions, four years ago, I had a warped view of self-worth. Nights out only reinforced my inability to enjoy myself during crowds, and I spent much of any night wondering if was a burden on my friends. That particular night though, when the floor seemed to rise up to meet me and my chest felt like it was full of drying cement, I found my sister and her trusty inhaler, and went home. Between the hours of 2AM and 6AM, I could not sleep. Instead, I watched footage of the past three Olympics whilst my mind whirred with the knowledge that 50’000 students sat the Leaving cert every year and my writing course had only fifteen places.
When I read my email at 6:01 AM, I fell off my chair, entirely literally, with happiness before digging my nails into my knees and crying so heavily that I developed a headache that lasted three days.

Two Years Ago – Age 20
The house smelled of smoke and the carpets were covered in glitter and UV paint. Over the fire place, make shift bunting was strewn and a playlist of Disney songs blared. It was Halloween and two pumpkins were propped near the couches. In the tiny sitting room, my friends were glittering once more. Dressed as Disney princesses, the playlist was obligatory listening for all present. People were crammed into every little nook of the house. I was Cinderella, but I’d spilled some of my drink down my dress.

University was the cure for the venom that my life had become. I was a second year and was now studying words in every form – literary and linguistic. Here, I met friends who bring such light to my life that I count my blessings that I was late for my first class and the only remaining seat was the one behind my now best friends.

Everything would have be ideal – perfect even – if it wasn’t for the ‘health thing‘. I’d only been in college for three months, when I developed the energy and general health of the average ailing eighty year old. It was okay then, though. It was still new and undiagnosed and there was hope in every new medication I took or vial of blood I gave. I didn’t know then how long it would be and how bad things could get.
Over the next few years, I lost myself in who I wasn’t. I had never been inactive, yet I couldn’t play badminton anymore, the only sport I have ever loved or excelled in, or walk around town without needing to sit to recharge. I has never been lazy, yet one hour’s work now equalled over four hours in bed. I wasn’t a picky eater, yet now my stomach hurt every moment of everyday. I wasn’t queasy, yet now I would faint or lose vision after every time I’d stand up. I became what I wasn’t and within the grey areas of my anxious past and now horribly ill present, I was finding it harder and harder to define myself.

At the Halloween party, half of our friends hadn’t even arrived when I was readying myself to go upstairs to sleep in my friend’s bed. I’d spent the night trying to dance and having to sit and monitoring my pulse when I thought no one was looking. These few hours were going to cost me heavily in pain and energy tomorrow, but fear was the fuel of my life now. I was forever fearful that I would lose my friends or my then boyfriend by missing out on too many of these parties or opportunities they suggested. I fell into bed upstairs with my body on fire from exertion. I wouldn’t make it til tomorrow without crying.

(I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done without the kindness of my friends as I slept on every available surface, even mid conversation…)

Now – Age 22
There is mud everywhere. It is in my ears and under my toenails. I don’t have time to stop and check if it’s inside my nose too because I’m only 2km in the 11km total and I keep waiting for it to happen.
It‘ is such a perfect, small, all-encompassing word for the overwhelming swell of dizziness or exhaustion that would give me the sensation that my whole being had been robbed of blood, oxygen and life. After ‘it‘ I would collapse, as I had been doing for nearly five years. After ‘it’ I would be the Jen Who Is Never Able again.
Yet ‘it’ has not happened in a long time – months, even. In truth, I am entirely, absolutely happy beyond expression with my life right now. It seems that all good things that happen to me now come from my improving health. Nowadays, I am as normal as my behaviour shows because I am healthy enough to exercise, study and be social in the same day. I am only building back my reserves at the moment, and yet if I was only ever ‘building‘ for the rest of my life, than I would love in a state of absolute happiness.
For the first time in five years, my mental and physical health have aligned and I am well in every sense of the word.
By being well these last few months of final year – such a convenient time to be well – I have learned as much about myself as I did whilst I was ill. Through my illnesses, I learned empathy first and foremost. And now, by being whole, I am realised how much being healthy impacts the level of determination one can employ for their ambitions. There is such a difference in wanting to work hard and your body failing on you, and simply wanting to succeed but never to work hard.
I have my life back. If you have never lost yours, entirely and indefinitely, then I do not think I could make you understand the glory of this feeling. These past five years of my youth have been the slowest drowning a person can experience. Little by little, with every event you miss or friend or boyfriend whom you disappoint, your lung capacity shortens. Soon you cannot breathe in more than small wheezes and you lay in bed for the majority of everyday. You will learn to flinch as you look at your phone in fear of the social invites that you will have to decline. Worse still is the fear that they will stop coming – which they do.

Reading has always been hand in hand with writing for me and so I thrust myself into fictional worlds, despite the effort reading became. Game of Thrones took me over a year to finish as a book series purely because of the mental concentration it took to take it all in. And yet, in my reading, I grew such an affection for those characters who were physically active – the sword fighters and warriors.

Now, my life is a photograph developing in rainbow tinted water.
Everything is brighter and more beautiful, including those around me. I feel everything more forcefully and more genuinely. My hunger pains are now palpable to a sharpened degree and the laughter of my grandparents is loud against my eardrums in the most beautiful way.
Yet, with this new life comes a downside I never foresaw. With having an alertness, a sharpness, I have an unquenchable desire to do everything, so much so that I find myself overwhelmed at the sheer wealth of tasks I can achieve in a single day. Oftentimes I will find myself climbing into bed early in the evening out of habit rather than necessity, yet I will lie there wide awake lest a relapse hunt me down if I spend too much energy. There is a huge disparity now between who I was for five years, and who I am trying to be now.
The girl that was before was a tax payer in her town life, always the tenant and never the landlord. Now, I am in ownership of my everyday with an innate knowledge of what it is to be unwell and incapable, so much so that I will never take this joy for granted.
And so, I crossed the finish line of an 11km struggle. After spending years on my knees, wishing for a wheelchair at times, I crossed the finish line and I burst into tears. A passing man asked me had I injured myself and I just mumbled incoherently in response, looking at the blue sky, my mud soaked legs and the beauty of my friends – who saw me achieve something so momentous. Even when the tears and mud had long since left my face and I was in bed, warm and dry, I pinched the inside of my arm, wondering if it had all been a dream – and if it had, I was hoping I would never wake. 



Until next time, 


Jen x

Cutting the Bullshit 

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I am not sure if everyone in the world feels emotions as I do. Or experiences anything the way I do. How can we be sure that one person’s experience of a rainbow or the flickering light of a candle is really the same? 

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. Yet as a race we agree to an understanding of the experience of certain emotions, despite knowing that there are shades of experience in between. 
We all know happy. 
We all know anger. 
It is due to this knowing, that I ask if you have ever felt a deep sense of certainty that overrides all else in any given moment? 
It is a feeling of unshakable, undeniable certainty towards a situation or experience. 
I know I do and have done ever since I was very young. Yet now that I am (unavoidably) an adult, I am having this sensation much more frequently. It is at moments of this overwhelming concrete knowledge that I understand the extent of my limitations as a writer, as I fail to infer an emotion to you. This certainty roots itself in my chest. As strongly as I know that I am alive, as palpably as I can feel my heartbeat, I know this certainty to correct.
From the first time I recognised that words were all I needed in life to feel completely Jen, I felt a certainty that I would succeed within this arena. 
I know, I will someday experience people enjoying my words on a far larger scale than now. It is a given. A truth. The truest narrative of my life, that this success will be mine. 
This knowledge is not rooted in a belief that I was born special, but rather a belief that I was born with the useful combination of ambition and action. I walk my talk and will never stop working for this goal. 
Ideas are useless and execution is key. 
What good is this knowledge of my success, without the putting in the hours/years to see it come to fruition?  
Recently, I started to write a new novel, having completed my first one and redrafted it completely. 120000 words done twice, and it’s far from perfect. When I spoke about this new novel with some fellow writer friends of mine they asked me an extremely valid question that struck me in the midst of my excitement at a new project. Why? Why write another book during the final and most stressful year of my undergrad degree when my first one isn’t even published? 
The answer is thus: Querying for a literary agent takes a monumental amount of time, and receiving replies takes even longer – sometimes up and beyond six months. Whilst having received some promising replies from some agents within the first few weeks, one truly stuck out to me. An agent I have admired from a distance in the industry for many years, replied to my email personally, overriding her assistant. She wrote to me to tell me that didn’t accept books of my genre anymore but was impressed with my writing style. She told me that if I ever wrote any other book of a different genre for me to remember her email and that she was rooting for me to find my way back to her. 
In the next few months, I may receive an acceptance for an agent for that initial novel that was my life. Perhaps more than one, who knows? Yet should I not want to be ready to return to the one agent who has expressed an interest in me when I know that I am worth that interest?
I am hungry for literary success. So hungry that that I will be patient. 
If you want your dream badly enough, you will make it your every breath. If you are unwilling to maintain the grind that it takes to do this, you simply do not want it enough. 
I do twenty-six hours of college in four days. Between the hours of nine until six, I am consumed with classes. After that, I have college work to do for another four hours, minimum. Yet this is not my love. This is my occasional ‘like’  and this is not where my future will reside. 
For months I told myself that writing, that I claim is my everything, could wait until my degree was done. Then one morning I was brushing my teeth and I caught sight of myself in the mirror and really looked. It was time to speak the truth; 
I am a grade A bullshitter and excuse maker. I was willing to wait for my everything, my way of breathing and sanity, in order to complete my college degree which I do not even fully like half of the time.
It was time to call myself out and realise that if I didn’t have time for my passion and dream, then I shouldn’t have time for Netflix and ten-hours of sleep a night too. I was making so much time for other people’s narrative through reading books and watching Netflix that I was willing to throw my own under the bus.
It was time to grind and to rearrange. I can sacrifice sleep  because my dream is worth more. I need to succeed like I need to breathe and it was time to start acting like it. 
I am blessed. I’ve won the lotto of life. To live as a privileged female of the a developed country where I am in charge of my choices. It would be a disservice to those girls and woman who have much, much less to use my every advantage. 
And so, every night that I finished college work and assignments at ten, I am only beginning my writing day. Sometimes one, two or three in the morning vanish until my word count clocks up at least over two thousand new words. 
Short stories, poetry, newspaper articles, the new novel – I was utilising my time to walk my talk. Pontificating, fantasizing and hoping are passive. Only action is active. 
There is no time for doubt, and no room for fear. Within those hours, I am exceptional at what I do – unstoppable even. In fact, I am writing this at half past four in the morning. I’ve woken up with a stomach ache and I know that I won’t be able to sleep for another hour or so. I could read, or I could hustle – there is no longer a question on what I do anymore. 
I am now living my morals, my true narrative. 
What good is a certain knowledge that you can make it and your ambitions will be realised when all you do sit around with those with similar dreams and talk about what you will be one day?
We are young. We don’t feel too panicked with achieving our dreams just yet, not when we have a lot of life left to live. Yet, time borrows time, and regret mounts each year.
It’s time to place all of your chips on your talent and show your hand. 
Stop lying to yourself. Accept that you are full of false excuses and jealousies towards those who are ahead. Accept and change. 
The early mornings, late nights and working through sicknesses is the real difference between setting yourself up to be the winning player at every table and the losing player. 
Don’t call someone inspirational when they are doing what you are capable of too. They’re not inspirational, but motivated. The difference is huge and defines what you will think of as a regret when you wake up on your last day on this earth.  
It’s time to join the grind, and cut the bullshit. 

An Unstoppable, Unchangeable New Year 

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​Hello everyone,

Jen here, as always – bringing you my most erratic thoughts, which you never asked for. 
Time to dive right in:

Several events sparked my thoughts for this blog post, which may seem rather disjointed when written down. The picture I see in my head when my words are sewn together is never quite as succinct as that which is finally published. As always, I will try my best. 

As we saw a little over a week ago from our overwhelming access to social media, so many of us spent another New Year’s Eve dressed in sparkles and waiting for the count down. In recent years, I can describe those minutes before a new year begins as euphoric, tiring, vapid and empowering – sometimes all at once. Yet what each of these rather distinct experiences share is the well-wishing tidal wave from those in our personal and online communities, wishing us a prosperous and healthy new year. 
This new years, I sat in a bar with sister and cousins staring into at the brimming top of a tequila shot as I was passed salt to tip onto my hand at a minute to midnight. I didn’t hesitate. I’m not new to tequila, as my gag reflex will attest to. It was in that moment when the year on my phone’s lock screen changed that I recognised that so much had subtly changed about me and my behaviours over the past year. That realization was almost obliterated by the burn of tequila on my throat. But not entirely.
This post in itself is not a memorial to the wisdoms 2016 has taught me, of which there are many. There is no great shortage of those posts on the internet at the moment, and I am sure that others would summarise their year better than I could. 
Instead, I cannot remove from my thoughts the idea of what truly defines a year to us as humankind. This is the type of moment when any one of my sarcastic family members would tell me that 365 days defines a year, and 366 every four years. But truly, the idea of a year carries as much weight as concept of a cloud. Both would be without its name, definition and worth should humans not have deigned to give it one. 
I read recently that if no one is there to see a rainbow in the sky, it does not exist. I immediately rejected this thought until I grew to understand that without our presence, our experience of fractured light through our eyes, the rain and sunlight would be entirely null and void and may as well not exist. Thus, by this understanding, the beauty of the world is entirely dependent upon those who experience it. This gives us humans an equal exceptional status to the universe as all matter in the galaxy.  
Without our human experience of a year, the power of change that a new year holds would be lost entirely. Perhaps you will disagree with me, or may not understand me, for which I would not blame you. But in summary, all this means is that if we were to award ourselves such importance as we give a rainbow, the sound of the wind, or even a new year, the change we could enact would be insurmountable. 
If you had told me several years ago when my mind was at its weakest, that my mental illnesses, my obsessions, my passions and my oddities held the same worth as a very moon to the experience of the earth, I would have dithered between laughter and discomfort. I would have laughed because of how ludicrous the idea sounds, but I would have been uncomfortable perhaps because this understanding of each of our earthly experiences as vital, would have removed the antiquated teaching that I was merely a small drop in a large ocean. Life would have been more terrifying should I have recognised my worth as equating to the whole ocean. 
Each of us at varying points in our lives has experienced the terror of our own smallness in a universe who’s vastness cannot be truly grasped. It is from this horror that our self perception of an all-knowing universe and a little-old-me is born. 
Yet, without you the birds would cease to sound as it is your eardrums that make such noise possible. Without you, the smell of freshly cut grass would cease to hold value. Without you, the twinkling of the stars would remain unknown altogether.
Without you, a new year’s eve kiss would lose its importance. Your participation in life is what makes it worth participating in. 
I don’t write this in the hopes of bringing our new year’s hopes into sharper reality which will suddenly make our resolutions seem silly or meaningless. Instead, I write this as much for you as I do myself – to remember that our dreams carry equal weight and importance of the sunrise. Without us, neither would exist. Our beauty, our strife, our anger and our complexity is the glue which tenuously holds the universe together. Our existence hinges the experience of all non-living phenomenon and by that knowledge, we are truly exceptional and so are our dreams. Unstoppably and unchangeably so. 
Throughout my life, no matter how long or short that may be, I will no longer view my dreams as arbitrary or my opinions as being ‘out there’, as I create the very definition of ‘out there’ by my experience of it. The same goes for you – your experience, your universe and your life, unchangeably so. 
Now you only have to decide how you use it. 

Write soon, 

Jennifer x

An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

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Hello there,

I sat down to write this piece knowing it would be difficult. But as always, I wanted to all the same in the hopes of realizing some personal wisdoms. That’s the best case scenario. In any case, I can only hope the words will come out as I want them to, and if not, to know that I have tried my best should suffice.

Throughout my teenage years I have met some of the people that have changed in the most glorious, cataclysmic way. But, like everyone, I have suffered. I have suffered at the hand of my mental and physical health, and on occasion, by those around me.

I am twenty-two years old. My grandmother would tell me that I shouldn’t have anything serious to regret at this stage of my life. I’m young still, she’d say. Too young, she might whisper to herself. To me, that sounds like the wisdom of old age underestimating the burdens of youth. I can only hope when I am that age I can have the perspective of both youth and age to know the true answer to accumulating regrets. So tentatively, I shall step into the somewhat cold and fearful embrace of my teenage self and whisper the truths that are my most significant testament to youth.

 

If you are reading this than you are likely my friend. Or at least you know me. Maybe we went to school together, or maybe we’re struggling through Final Year of our degree together. Regardless of who you are, all I can ask is that you read this with an open mind. I wrote this in the hopes that we would all benefit from it. You, as much as me. Thus, I invite you to think about those formative years of your life.

 

Here is my letter to my teenage self.

 

Dear Jennifer, 

 

No one calls you Jennifer. I don’t know why I just did. Never mind.

 

This is both peculiar and marvelous at the same time. I am imagining myself sitting next to you in your favorite spot at the top of the hill near Nan’s house. (Spoiler: It’s still your favorite.) For some reason, it’s always dusk when you sit there, looking at an orange sky. You’ll be picking off some of the mint green paint on the pillars and watching millipedes on the walls. I feel as though I am a phantom looking in on a past person I don’t particularly relate to anymore. I’ve grown my hair out, stopped wearing jeggings and my face is a little less round. I’ve accumulated more allergies, illnesses, obsessions, and personal revelations. Perhaps most impressively, I’ve also cured my fear of lighting matches. Otherwise, all that’s changed is how I view the world and myself, which has in turn changed my world.

 

There are things that hindsight teaches us without mercy. As we sit in the classroom of life and watch our mistakes as though they were a gag real it is almost like watching the protagonist of a bad horror film enter the attic even though we know they shouldn’t. Predictable as dawn, but unstoppable nonetheless. The decisions of the past make no sense to the now wiser future. If we continue to view life this way, without reflections, we begin to lose context on how to reconcile who we once were with the person we are now. In essence, all of those people are connection and the separation is minimal. Lessons learned mesh into lessons we are learning. With that continuous and somewhat convoluted thought in mind, I will carry on with the list. So, as sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen will be the most challenging of your life to date, I will offer you, Jen, the snapshot lessons I learned by being utterly and wholly, you.

 

Let’s begin with a big one:

Don’t worry so much about missing the bus to school in the morning or about asking Mrs. Kirby for extra help in Irish. The world will still rotate and birds will still fly. You have my word.

 

Never pass your class tests for the gratitude of your parents or teachers. If you feel happier with another’s pride in achievements which are solely yours, then you will be setting yourself up to fail the biggest exam of all – self-esteem. Thankfully though, you can repeat that one until you get it right.

 

Don’t kiss that boy and get a throat infection a month into sixth year. You know which one I’m talking about. Just. Don’t. Even. Go. There.

 

Your best friends are beautiful in all that they are. Yet, your hair catches the same light theirs do, and you are all equally lovely. If each of us had spent more time thinking of each other during those years as much as we thought of ourselves, we could have saved ourselves a lot of drama.

 

Never underestimate the changes you can enact with your words. You own them, hone them and command them as easily as wind moves a leaf. There is magic there.

 

It’s okay to miss a day of seeing your grandmother in the Nursing Home if you can’t face the stagnant energy of the place and overwhelming sadness. She would understand. Recuperate and strengthen in those restful moments.

 

Speaking of your grandmother; learn all of words to Silent Night. She can tell when you’re repeating the same chorus to help her sleep, and so can the nurses on duty.

 

Death is not evil, neither is the illness that takes the person you loved. A disease wants to live and thrive, as much as we do. It is a natural reaction. Survival.

 

Blame is a directionless emotion, particularly when directed at the past.

 

Your sister moving to another country has astoundingly little to do with you. Be supportive, not wounded. Revel and understand the pain of her leaving, do not take this first step towards turning to ice.

 

If your friends are laughing at someone you are not obliged to take part. Focus on that feeling in the pit of your stomach. That feeling is rooted in kindness. Nurture it and help it grow.

 

Though you feel it, you do not literally have to be at war with yourself. In doing so you will dig your own rabbit hole of sadness and you will find yourself alone in the trenches.

 

When you have an idea for a novel in the back of maths in the Leaving Cert, ignore theorems and write it down. Revel in the excitement of that creative feeling. This is what will fuel your will to survive. That is the persistence which writers need. And you never know  – someday that book might be another Leaving Cert student’s exam topic.

 

Never confuse intelligence with having an affinity for academia. The two are not mutually exclusive and neither make you less of a person. When you’re twenty-two nothing will matter less to you than those comparisons.

 

Be real with yourself, a career in pharmacy would have killed you and spread decay among the only part of you to ever make you feel alive; creativity. Trust that you know yourself more than those around you and far more than you think.

 

Take pictures but do not spend too long looking back at them just yet. The moment for reflection is not when the story is still being told.

 

Never drown the parts of yourself which continue to crack through the surface. Should an adult you love or admire be cruel, cutting or insulting, you have the right to speak up for yourself and others. You are not less for considering cruelty unacceptable, they are less for engaging with it.

 

You will grow into your school skirt just in time to graduate from the school. Don’t be bitter with your mother.

 

Your instinct is your ammunition against those you cannot trust. You are never wrong.

 

Badminton is the only thing that makes you feel as writing does – simultaneous elation and freedom. Illness may take the fundamental sport from you, but never those feelings. Never encapsulate your emotions into objects, experiences, or people. They are not nearly as eternal as the beauty you can craft from those self-born emotions.

 

You will find peace in characters in books. But remember that what you love in them, mirrors you. Never forget why you love Lilly in The Secret Life of Bees. You are not unlovable, despite your beliefs – nor was she.

 

“A rising tide carries all boats.” Those who face your successes with you will rise. Those who do not, you need not worry about as they shall not be concerned with you.

 

You are entirely justified to be as confused about the word ‘fridget’ as you were on the first day of Secondary School. Seriously.

 

Thank your German teacher, Mrs. Dowling for instilling a love of words and language in you which has only grown. Thank her seeing a future linguist in a sixteen-year-old who didn’t see anything in herself just yet. She won’t be around forever.

 

Don’t worry about learning how to publish a book just yet. All will become clear.

 

When it comes to choosing between a lifelong friend, and your morals – be glad you know yourself enough to understand that it is not a choice at all, nor is it a position you should have been placed in.

 

Don’t argue with your mother for time on the family laptop. Relish a time when there was only one in the room and together meant communal consciousness of each other.

 

The minute that food becomes an enemy and not a life-source, recognize that you have lost your objective view on your self-worth. I promise you, you are as wholly magical as you always were, and in time, you will find that magic.

 

The first breath on your first day of college will feel remarkably like that of school, which will be disappointing. What has changed is the number of possibilities you are willing to take which compound upon themselves every year until the number is too high to count and the action to valid to require a number.

 

Class parties are intimidating. I won’t deny that. But sometimes you will find what you need in the college bar over pitchers of beer. There is safety there.

 

Should someone be rude to you, they are handing you a choice – you can return their rudeness or live contently despite it. Only one of those options feeds your best self.

 

You hate salad. You’ll be a vegan and still hate it – and that’s okay.

 

You do not know physical pain just yet. But that is not an excuse to live without empathy for others. Within time, you will beg for that empathy and be surprised at its rarity.

 

Do not hero-worship anyone. That includes J.K. Rowling. No one deserves that level of awe and kindness from you, but you.

 

I promise you’ll learn to love baths. But if your heart is pounding super-fast, you should get out. Low blood pressure is only going to become more interesting a complication, which you too shall master.

 

Holly trees have thorns that hurt. It’s not a good idea to take your little cousins to see the berries. When you make eye contact with your Nan watching you through the window, it’s already too late to run. Yet sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness, than permission.

 

Shame breeds shame. Should you listen to another’s opinion upon how vocal you should be about your own mental health, you are not as recovered as you think. Your mind has brought you to your knees, but only for mere moments. In those moments, you gathered strength. Now is the time to be another’s strength when they are on their knees. That cannot be achieved in silence.

 

You will be called blunt in college, just as you were in school. Yet what they don’t understand is that their definition of blunt is your definition of the honesty we all deserve.

 

However, not every works from the same rule book of life as you do. Your Junior Infants teacher has compared you to a Reverent Mother because you are so principled. But you have adopted negative connotations of this part of you since you were five-years-old. Principled does not mean stiff, uptight or rigid. You were simply aware of your morality from a young age. Knowing right from wrong is what the world needs, rather than mockings of such truths, so do not join in and laugh at yourself.

There will be parties during these years, before you took your sister’s ID, that will make you uncomfortable. You will persist to go to them claiming that the closing of your throat and the alienation you feel at the decisions of others is your fault. Once again, you’re wrong.

And lastly;

The world will begin to hand you the ability to demonize your own personality and appearance from the moment you enter to Age of Internet. For a while, you will play with fire. You will feel consumed. Yet this is my promise to you – you will never slip under the flames of such a dangerous minefield. You will become the flames and flesh out what threatens you with strength.

423661_533184656706545_1517433124_n Here you are eighteen. This was the first time you started to become aware of just how little you knew.

That’s all for now. Thank you so much for reading, especially if you made it to the end.

Write soon,

Jennifer x

Branding My Skin With Fear – Literary Agents

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Hey guys,

I hope you’re all well. As always, Jen here.

In February, I started this blog to write solely about the writing journey as an aspiring author. I was planning on being consistent, succinct and honest. Instead, I evolved this blog to become something entirely different. Whether that choice was conscious or unconscious I cannot be sure. Yet in the plethora of posts that have followed, I have learned that I love writing positively, more than writing factually. More so, I love talking about life and experiences much more than myself.

The reason for this is so distinctly obvious that I have danced around it these past months. To document my journey to achieving the dream, is to do so without fear. And my greatest fear, is fear.

Fear has lived as my shadow, best friend and worst enemy from the moment I chose to pursue what I always wanted it; a career in writing.

Fear and Doubt are siblings, if not twins. They cling to my shoulders and drag me backwards into the abyss of inaction and helplessness that forces me to become stagnant in my dreams. I topple backwards with them on my back and grasp anything to maintain my balance. Usually, Procrastination is the closest to hand and like a drowning man in sight of a distance shore, I snatch if with both hands.

In truth, my fear of writing explicitly about the one true passion of my life lies more in an innate anxiety of my friends and family seeing my progress and bearing witness to a possible failure. In September I recognized this as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The words we put after ‘I am’ are the most influential in all of our lives. And I was sick of living as though everyday I plucked my self-worth from a lucky bag – one day I am talented, another and I am cowardly. Should I see myself as a failure, then it is already branded on my skin.

Casting doubt aside not all that long ago, I began cautiously sending out a few queries to literary agents.

This was such a monumental moment that I had first realized to be necessary at the age of ten on our old dial up computer that I used to play Barbie Pony Club after school. After a shoddy google search I proclaimed myself as  informed as one could be and didn’t hesitate to explain the publication process to my primary school teacher the next day. I remember very clearly, that she told me that my choice of career would likely change dozens of times over the course of my life time. Even then, I knew she was wrong. I wasn’t ever going to not want this.

I do now believe that if I fear failure, I have already failed. Truly, that’s not how I want to live. Therefore it is with firm footing and steady breathing that I approach writing this post.

In my email, I now have a folder called ‘rejections’ which I find exceptionally exciting. In time I shall print them out and hold them with the pride. Perhaps that sounds ludicrous, or maybe you think I’m lying.

However, to me, a rejection is proof that I am getting closer to the ideal agent and situation for me. This is but a necessary part of my journey, which is why I poured over the letter from bed, with Netflix, candles and a face plastered in sudocream.

What prompted me to write this post was initially an anger I felt at myself. Carelessly, I emailed an agent without checking if she was even open to receiving queries at this time. In the writing world, to forget to check if the agent or publishing house is even receiving submissions is the height of recklessness.

Instead of throwing my laptop out the window like I so desired in that moment, I resigned myself to use it as a learning situation when I would inevitably receive the snarky reply calling out my amateur status.

In a turn of events I can only put down to my belief that good thoughts breed good gifts from the universe, I received a reply two days later from the agent herself, rather than her secretary. Far from snarky, she told me that whilst she shouldn’t have, she had read the full portion of the manuscript I had attached in my email and loved it. Sadly, she was unable to take my novel due to have reached her allowed quota of novel representations until the new year. She expressed her genuine disappointment and told me to query her again, should I not find anyone else in the time being, as she would, hopefully, have more time to invest in my story which she found both interesting and relevant.

In that moment, I saw the day when I melted my Crayola wax crayons against our playroom radiator in order to create a colorful design for the cover of my ‘book’ which I was writing in a learn-to write children’s copybook. Thinking myself ingenious, I was not prepared for my mother’s wrath. I was seven years old.

The email from the editor was a rejection, a victory, a compliment, a disappointment and an absolute triumph all in one. More so, it felt inevitable. I wondered, whilst reading the email, if this was what it felt like to truly have aligned your passion with your career. It was in a state of utter contentment, I moved the email to my ‘rejections’ folder.

The next day, at college, autumn was everywhere. The leaves were crunchy, red and littered every path. As I stepped on them delightedly, I realized that should I never received the status of an author that I would have a hard time viewing myself as a failure.

My mother frequently tells my sister and I that we are blessed to be pursuing careers that we love. She tells me that my grandparents never had that honor when they settled into dairy farming. I agree – we are blessed. Though I don’t agree that someone else telling you that are something, makes it so. I am blessed because I feel blessed. And that feeling, is what makes it so.

This post has taken me longer to write than usual. I hesitated over and over again because I was worried. Somehow putting my thoughts on positivity and my experiences in life online was easy. But sharing a step towards my ultimate goal was dangerous, presumptuous and even a little egotistical?

I count my mental successes in the number of mental protests I hold against a problematic thought process. And this is one.

And I’m eradicating the fear of documenting this journey by clicking ‘upload’.

Write soon,

Jennifer x

Worry is The Treadmill of Emotions 

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​Hi everyone, 

Jen here. 

I struggle with how to word precisely what I wanted to talk about, yet I tried my best. So stick with me.
In NUI Galway (where I am in my last year of college) there is a long corridor in one of the largest buildings, called the Concourse. Essentially, if you’re not studying nursing, medicine, business or engineering, the likelihood is that you spend most of your day there. 
The expansive corridor has always seemed quite intimidating to me. In truth, I find it like a runway. You’re walking, people are watching. But here, there’s no smoke and mirrors. If my face looks shiny it’s because of sweat bordering on anxiety over an assignment, not because of someone’s artistic decision. There’s no attractive way to walk down a corridor on the phone and eating a banana at the same time. And yes, this is silly. But because I feel it and so many others I know do too, it’s as legitimate as the air we breathe. 
Last Monday, I was walking down the fateful corridor with a headache bordering on a migraine. I was less than a point on the pain scale away from losing it. My shoulders were curled inwards and my face was pale. I could feel how clammy I was. My palms were sweaty in my pockets and my stomach churned in response the pain. I was already innately aware of my less than perfect appearance when a group of four boys walked past. Whilst they didn’t say anything to me, once I had passed them I heard them make a joke about how unhappy I looked and just how unattractive that was. 
Trust me, this didn’t upset me. But there was a time in the recent past that it would have. Instead of rolling my eyes and walking on, I stopped and leaned against the windows along the Concourse for a minute. The walls are panelled with open windows, capturing light but never letting in enough air. 

Without caring what I looked like (which was most certainly less than normal), I looked at everyone that passed by. It was just reaching the change over of classes and throngs of people were emerging like tributaries connecting to a larger river. 
People desperately hung to their friends chatting loudly, and all the while fixing their hair or clothes. More than twice I heard both boys and girls comment on another’s appearance, both negatively and positively. Most unnerving, however, was the way in which those walking alone moved. They walked with such a speed that I was reminded of the distinction between predator and prey, yet they seemed unsure from what they were hiding. 

Something in my chest ached at the sight of this as I wondered how many times I had looked just like that. Worse, I wondered how many times I had pretended to not feel those emotions altogether.
As I’m in my final year of university, I am very familiar with that corridor. I know the panic of searching for a seat in the library and how the college cafeteria feels when you’re lacking a friend group to engage in a group denial of social anxiety. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing what everyone else is or you know that others must surely feel the same. Because right now, you’re alone. 
Perhaps it is because it is my final year that I am having these thoughts. Perhaps on some cosmic level I needed to go through those daily tortures to recognise the absurdity within them. But being perfectly honest with you, I don’t think so.

As always, it’s all about perspective. 
When I was three I hated anyone who wore all black and all motorcycle drivers without exception. Worse still, (I’m trying my best not to be embarrassed) up until very recently I found cows terrifying. This is huge flaw when living on an Irish dairy farm or even generally being Irish. So, what’s changed? 
Well, nothing. I’m still Jen. Freckles and weird allergies included. 
Nothing is different except for my perspective. Before when I used to feel a deep and irrational fear for bovine animals and worry about my hair walking down a long corridor, I was viewing the situation too closely to myself. I saw the hallway as personally terrifying and cows as personally terrifying to me. 
It is in an instantaneous moment like a light switch that means we can understand that cows have more of a rational fear of us, when we shift the perspective and understand how they view us. Cows view us as users. We use their bodies, and thus, they fear us. 
People, students walking on the Concourse, are all being innately selfish. We are looking, judging, seeing in comparison to ourselves when no one else is. Therefore, quite frankly no one cares about us as much as we think they do
For me, this just reiterated the disservice I’ve done to myself all of these year by not caring about me first. How could it be seen as anything other than a disservice? No one but ourselves understands the intricate care we need in order to be content and healthy, yet we entrust others the care for us and priortise us when we won’t? 
Of course, our boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/dog will try their very best to care for us to the fullest – yet they will not succeed. This is not through any fault of their own, but rather our own misunderstanding that to give ourselves care and comfort above others is selfish

Worse still, we judge those who practice this self-directed compassion as self-indulgent. 
More times than I can count, I have said commented about someone’s self-indulgent nature with a sneer. Once, at the age of twelve my cousincaught me looking in the mirror, touching my hair. She laughed and joked that I was becoming egotisically. I felt shame that has no doubt caused me to remember the moment so vividly. Now, I understand that self-awareness and one’s ego are not synonymous. 
Self-compassion, as a practice, is for the benefit of ourselves. All things ego, is for the benefit of others. Ego is painting your own portrait to perfection and making it mandatory to hang in every house you can reach. Self-compassion is  taking a crumpled bed sheet and smoothening it as best you can and accepting the lines you cannot make fade as a part of you. 
I thought this as I leaned against the windows of the Concourse corridor watching people. I touched my forehead lightly as though the headache was now forming a bruise on my skull that would never fade or heal. I frowned, yet immediately caught myself in the action, remembering how sombre my face can look and how unapproachable that makes me. 
But is it my aim to be approachable? No. Approachability is a by-product of contentment but not the main produce. I was not born to be physically pleasing to passersby, who may be perturbed by my Wednesday Addams facial expression. My aim was to be my own aid, best friend and guidance – and no one else will ever come into that equation without my permission.
I pushed myself away from the wall and walked home, knowing this headache needed a dark room and silence, not another lecture hall. This decision was something I would have usually faffed around. I might have worried about missing coursework or appearing indifferent to a lecturer. But now, I know better. 
Worry is a treadmill emotion. It gets you nowhere and simply exhausts you. 
On the way home, I did not monitor my facial expression for anyone. Though, admittedly, I did laugh aloud when I remembered what my grandmother said to me when I forgot to smile at her friend when we went to town; 
Youll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’ 
She never considered that maybe, just maybe, I’d never want to catch anything at all. 

Anyway, that’s enough ramblings for now. 

(See, without a smile, I look semi-displeased. But I can live with it.)
Write soon, 

Jen x
 

My First Conference & The Bank of Life

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Hi guys,

I hope you’re all fantastically well and like the new blog art!

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Long time, no blog – But for me, this one was extremely meaningful for me to write.

Very recently, I have been quite busy. I know I should say the reason for this is due to entering my final year of university and having more hours on campus than off, but let’s ignore that as best we can. The source of a lot of my distractions has been an opportunity which came my way. This opportunity came on the form of a large convention which is held in London whereby technologists, engineers – and now writers – come together to design the best possible future. In May, I tentatively wrote a short story for the convention which was, miraculously, selected to be included as its’ own talking points during the week’s conference, and I was invited to speak. With trembling hands and brightened eyes, I accepted and the nerves mounted each day as the time for my talk drew nearer.

So I flew to London, spent time with family and tried to convince myself daily that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Yet it was the day of my talk, that caused my nerves to evaporate entirely. I thought it was important enough to share how this happened. If no one else reads this, it will always be a reminder for me.

It was a Monday morning. I was awake so early that my eyes were bloodshot and my mind still whispered words from my dreams. When was the last time I had seen 6AM? I couldn’t remember, but I doubted it had been in the last three months. It is at times like this that I understand coffee drinkers, I think, as I down my vitamin C and soya milk and oat cereal combination.

With painstakingly close attention to detail, I got dressed. Black playsuit with lace sleeves, black ankle boots – I even straightened my already straight hair. I selected a bracelet my godmother had given me for my eighteenth birthday to remind me of family, and to generally, maintain a perspective on what is important in life.

When I looked in the mirror I felt a little disgruntled that you couldn’t tell I had spent any more time on myself than usual. Shockingly enough, I was still Jen the Student and had not had a Princess Diaries transformation into Jen, the Writing Conference Speaker. My shoulders tilted a little too forward as always to match the odd curvature of my spine and I picked at the skin around my nails until the flesh was raw.

Today was not a day to think about what I was missing in college, or even how I was going to survive my own health long enough to do what I need to today. Today was a day to think of nothing but the underside of the iceberg which only I ever saw. When everyone else only noticed success, I saw the exhaustion, failures and relentless hope that it took to get me there.
The nerves began to trickle into my bloodstream and in a way, I was grateful for them. I would need the nervous energy to bounce around in my head to keep me awake for the hour and a half journey to Middlesex University in London. My stomach churned uncomfortably as I felt particularly small saying goodbye to my family. It was as though I had reverted backwards through childhood to infancy as I felt the need to have someone cusp my face and tell me today would be okay.

We hit the road and each minute, I thought of something else I might have forgotten. Did I have my laptop charger? Migraine tablets? A spare bottle of water? Thankfully, I’m also Jen, the Perfectionist so I had all of my bases covered.

Sun beat down on the car as we drove onto the A12, heading into London. It was September and nearly thirty degrees. Borderline ridiculous, I thought. Galway and Kerry were probably a typical mixture of grey and dense clouds right about then. The car’s air-con was long since out of commission and my fringe began to stick to my forehead in unflattering strings. I was already regretting my choice to wear all black, but I closed my eyes. I tried to say the introduction to my talk to myself. I shoved my hand as much out of the car window as I dared so that my pulse point could cool down, and I used my faithful breathing techniques in order to become entirely condensed into just my mind – no warm, claustrophobic heat would find me there.

My presentation was not until 2PM. For some reason, which I can only assume is an odd mixture of both diligence and luck, I was offered the chance to speak today at a conference where I would be surrounded by those who are much more qualified than I am. I was going to be talking about a sci-fi short story I wrote, and writing techniques to a room of engineers, technologists, business people, all of whom are exceptionally high-ranking individuals and professors. I was going to be the only writer, and the youngest person there by far.

I’ve always loved public speaking. As a child, I remember enjoying watching how one person can command a room’s attention so wholly, whether they were a priest or a musician. Now, however, I was being handed my dream on a plate. All that I wanted in life was coming my way through the power of hard work and an inescapable belief in myself. As a writer, I was valued. My six-year-old self who told my mother I wanted to be an author after successfully convincing myself that I wrote Little Red Riding Hood, would have been euphoric. Today, I felt to deep and innate desire to live up to all of expectations of myself. Perhaps this is the only downfall of my posture thinking – I know exactly all that I can achieve, and fear sets in when I risk letting myself down and failing to do so. Sometimes I forget that failure is not possible when you work this hard.

All of these facts were firmly settling into my conscious brain when the car suddenly jolted to a stop and my eyes snapped open. Classic FM was still playing The Nutcracker‘s Miniature Overture, and the sun was as pervasive as ever. But what had changed was the endless rows of stationary cars that clogged the motorway into the horizon. My cousin who was driving drew in a tight breath. Up ahead, I could make out an air ambulance on the road and several sets of flashing blue lights. It was impossible to tell the severity of the accident that had occurred but all I could do was hope for those involved.

In essence, our hour-and-a-half journey length had just become five-and-a-half. My bottle of water didn’t last long and I ripped into a packet of McDonald’s salt and poured it down my throat, ignoring the burning sensation. Having a heart that struggles to pump blood to your limbs, like an unfit coach potato climbing a dozen flights of stairs, means salt can make or break your day. And I needed today to be perfect.

The sun cooked the cars like dropped eggs on a stone pavement and people beeped and shouted in annoyance. Our conversation in the car was surface and our topics were just a thin ice sheet over a turbulent sea of worry. How long would we be stuck here? I felt a deep sense of self-disgust knowing that I was more concerned about my own conference appearance than I was for those involved in the collision ahead.

I didn’t feel so good anymore. My hair was damp now with sweat and my heartbeats were uneven. The beats seemed to run over each other like children racing for a playground. I sat on my palms to stop them from shaking. At this point, what worried me the most was that I would miss the presentations before mine – and therefore, miss the opportunity to learn how I should behave once up there in front of all of these academics. But even more; how would I stand up to give a talk for more than a half an hour when I was already shaking just by sitting?

The police began to redirect traffic after nearly two more hours. Everyone was directed into the same lane, but at least we were moving. When my cousin went to move off into the lane, we were met with the loud and sharp beeping of a navy passat to our right. Mr. Passat was balding, middle-aged and wearing a stripped polo shirt that strained against his large stomach. His full cheeks were the colour of beetroot as he rolled down his window to shout at us in colourful language about sticking to our own lane.

What interested me the most, however, was how many others I could spot around us with the exact same anger emanating from them. Many drivers were livid as they joined the queue diverting towards the M25. It was visible in the men who drummed their fingers on the dashboard and the women who bit their lips anxiously. It was even more visible in the angry gestures and unheard words that were muttered under their breath, which were sure to be callous.

It was then, that I was met with a moment of raw realization which seem to find me and teach an important life lessons regularly. As we inched forward, I thought back to the man who had shouted at us from his passat and how cruelly I had analysed his appearance. Whilst he and I may never, even on our happiest days, have seen eye to eye, I was being given an opportunity to showcase myself in the best light possible and I hadn’t taken it. Instead I had opted to be shrewd and mean.

My nerves for the conference seemed to vanish at that point when I understood that I am only ever on display to myself – and no one else. Others may watch my actions, but they will not see as I will, the kindness which I will now try to seep into all things. People often say that patience is a virtue and today, on such an important day, I could showcase patience by feeling it most strongly. If I am to walk my own talk and believe that everything in life has only the importance which I give it, then a traffic jam would be a foolish expenditure of such value.

In the Bank of Life, I was saving all of virtues and cashing in on my consistency for calmness. Already, I was rich.

Those five and a half hours in the car, most certainly made me richer as I missed the first three and a half hours of the conference. I felt no harbouring sense of irritation as we arrived at Middlesex nor did I feel nervous anymore. Instead, I smiled to my cousin and secretly squeezed my hands together in relief that I had experienced the day just as I had.

And so, it was with that knowledge that I networked as best as I could during lunch. If truth be told, the word ‘networking’ was always something I had associated more with my father and his work, than with myself. I layered my face in translucent powder in the bathroom before my talk, and ran my hands through my now entirely fly-away hair. My reflection was pale and clammy looking, but what did it matter anyway? I was hear for my words, not for my face.

It matters very little whether my talk went well or not because the metre stick which we use to gauge such things is irrelevant in terms of what I had gained by simply being there. Indeed, I did make valuable connections and receive offers of academic paper collaborations from several people. Someone even asked me if I had a book they could purchase. Whilst such things are flattering, it wasn’t this that made me happy. Instead it was the sense of rooting I felt towards my presence.

By rooting, I mean that the very energy in the soles of my feet seemed to seep down through the floor and entangle with the earth’s core so that if I were to be tied here for life – talking about what I loved – I would be the one to shackle myself in this spot.

Is it possible that at twenty-two I had found the emotions of a fulfilling life? I had found a situation where I felt perfectly at ease for the first time in my existence. Twenty-two seems somewhat young to have found my life’s happiness, so I can hardly believe my luck to have been handed such opportunities. It is now that I must reminded myself that I was handed nothing and it would be wrong of me to disregard everyday where I wrote stories through tears of exhaustion and chronic pain bursting in my bones, in turn for this outcome. Indeed, the days when my fingers swelled from pain and inflammation that I wrote whole stories with my pinky finger alone was a precursor to this.

And this is merely a precursor to all else that I deserve, except and will continue to strive for.

Here is the link to the story I wrote, if anyone is interested: http://ebooks.iospress.nl/volumearticle/45212.

I hope you found this somewhat interesting and possible to apply to yourself.

Write soon,
Jennifer

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What We Were Born To Remember

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Being sober in a crowd of drunk people is a challenge I mostly try to avoid. Generally, this has absolutely nothing to do with judgements and much more to do with an innate feeling of  being unsafe. When people are out, they are loud balls of quivering energy that jump and bounce from one body to another. This energy flow never ceases and the very air feels thick with this acrobatic dance of chatter.

Whenever I’m in a situation like this, (unless I am drunk too), I feel as though I’m tuning into a different radio station than everyone else. I can’t keep up with the jokes, laughs and general conversation. Perhaps all would be fine if I was blissfully superior and didn’t care, but I’ve never been. I’ve always wanted to tune into the right radio station with absolute desire.

It seems that as I grow as a person, I seem to experience a familiar sensation to different extremes. Each emotional upset is like climbing a ladder; be it my grandmother’s illness and death, financial worries or finally feeling as though I had found my feet when I fell chronically ill. Yet each time some new trial is added the gap between the rungs of the ladder become wider and I struggle more and more to make connections.

In short, if my life is going well I tend to be able to make connections with others easily. I understand people with ease. However, any upset that happens makes a part of me temporarily turn to ice, and I lose my ability to communicate with the same excitement and passion I always have had.

Recently, on a particular day in July, I was having what I would call a tea-water day. This means that it was a mixed bag of greys and murky browns. I won’t bore anyone with the details of why this day was evidently displeasing, but it was only twelve in the afternoon and I had already cried enough to make my eyelids puff up.

If you’re reading this, then it’s likely that you know how I feel about positivity. I meditate and think my way away from pain on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I am always in touch with my mind and how I’m feeling both physically and mentally at any moment. I have been, and always will be my own champion.

On this day, I felt a hurt that seemed to split me inside. Of course, whilst feeling this I was utterly aware of the transient nature of this symptom to the situation. I would be fine – and I was. However, I guess anyone with any kind of degenerative illness will know that keeping your days plain sailing on the most part is key to survival. So, this was a jolt in the heartbeat pattern of my life and I was exhausted.

But I don’t wallow. I refuse to surrender all of my cells to one emotion. Thankfully I haven’t been in a situation I could not yet compartmentalise, as I do appreciate some have suffered much worse than I have.

In the grand act of not wallowing, I linked arms with my best friend and went out that night, desperate to laugh. Having been both blessed and cursed with a strong tolerance for alcohol, I went from sober to drunk and back to sober again in the space of an hour. My blind thrill was short lived.

The night air in Galway City was clear and the streets were thronged with people. As is typical for Galway, the atmosphere was bouncing. Everyone was falling out of overcrowded pubs onto the streets where plastic cups were handed out and music played.

On that night, I talked and laughed. I met new people and I didn’t feel so ill I had to leave. Whilst my bones felt as though they were eggshell thin and flaking with hurt, I smiled because of the beauty that this is the worst upset I’ve felt, and I’m still radiant.

At the end of the night, at around half past three in the morning, I was separated from my best friend and hideously sober. Thousands of people were making their way along the main street and I seemed to be the only person going against the tide and going the other way.

Whilst I walked, I wrapped my arms around myself and willed myself to become invisible as the shouts from men came. In that moment, I felt abysmal. I was alone with my sadness and a symbolic dark cloud against the merry drinkers.

One foot in front of the other just didn’t seem fast enough anymore. I wanted to leap and fly away to somewhere warmer where the pain was not felt. I wanted my pain to be an abstract concept, like clouds – you can go through it, entirely without feeling it.

It was not until a voice entered my head, as clear as a church bell that my heart lifted. Once again my mind had given me the answer I needed once more by saying,

“These are not the days you are born the remember.”

A little bit of the ice inside of me thawed at that when I remembered that pain, heartache, and sadness is as consequential or inconsequential as the sun or a piece of litter on the street. However, what has a defining significance is the uniqueness of what I do with that pain, heartache and sadness.

So there – in the middle of Shop Street, in Galway City on a booming Race Week, whilst surrounded by incoherence on all sides and sadness within, I realised that the world aligned itself so uniquely when I was born, that my purpose can not be to remember days where I dragged sadness around like an Egyptian slave pulling a pyramid block.

And that is what I was born to remember.

Anyway, that’s enough for now.

Talk soon,

Jennifer x

Dreams, Ambitions and Shamelessly Hustling for Them

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Hello everyone, 

It’s Jen here with another mildly odd set of musings that occurred to me recently. I hope you enjoy; 

There are an infinite number of seconds and minutes left in each of our lives. Whilst the time will come for all of us to die, we can’t pinpoint the exact day and time. So it may as well be an infinite life. 
We use labels and milestones to construct age, when it is simply that – a construct. We’re a combination of moments rushing into each other which are only separable in our memories by what stands out to us the most; primary school, secondary school, exams, college, relationships, marriage. All of these things are the toothpick markers we stand up along our own mental timeline. 
I’ve always used a different one though and only recently have I come to terms with it. I use ambition and acquisition. It has also only been recently that I have stopped and realised that no, not everyone does this. 
Since the time when I decided I wanted to be a writer at approximately six years of age, I have looked in the mirror and stared at what could be, moreover what I could be. And I can no longer be caviller about the truth I saw there. 
For many years, I have told people my goal in life is to be a published author when that has only been part of the truth. Actually, that has only ever been the vaguest part of the truth. I want to be a successful author. 
I want success.
Perhaps that makes me sound greedy. Or perhaps it makes me seem cunning as we humans have a strange view of ambition as on an equal plain as slyness. Yet, at twenty-one, I cannot pretend to be casual about my own life plan any longer. I no longer want to feel ashamed that I am determined, hardworking and tireless in creating paths towards my aims around the road blockages life erects. 
When I was six years old I never realised that the declaration of my dream was actually just a decision for a future guaranteed achievement. It is only guaranteed by my inability to stop until it is a realization. 
Each day I push myself out of bed and write through pain. If my fingers seize, I use voice recognition technology. Yet harder still to write through is the cutting pain of doubt that tickles the edge of my vision and can sometimes stop me writing for weeks at a time. 
What drives me to begin again and again, over and over, is the exceptionally powerful knowledge that I am on the edge of a monstrous mountain, readying myself for a climb. The sheer fact that I climb with the cool confidence that there is no one who should be in my place and no one better equipped for this than me, means that I fly up that mountain. 
I wrote a story when I was eleven years old as a Christmas present for my family inspired by a beautiful decoration of a deer adorned in red and gold. I was sitting on my bedroom floor in December of 2006, coughing with a bad flu, writing in my best cursive a story that made my heart beat wildly with excitement. When I wrote the first sentence of the tale I felt something inside of me unknot itself. It was as though I could be my own standing ovation and that clapping, full of my own self-trust and confidence was all that I needed to hear for the rest of my life. 
I feel it still, in everything I write. 
So why must we downplay our wishes? Why must we be told that we have ‘notions‘ and are ‘high and mighty’ for sporting an untarnished self-belief in a world where people are competing to be the success story of the parishes, towns and counties? 
Well, we must do nothing. Answer to no one but yourself, and you are guaranteed to do yourself proud.
No dream is big or small, nor is it truly a dream. It is simply an expression of what you’re meant to be doing with your set of infinite moments. 
So, hustle and hustle well for your time to play in the big-time game where you make the rules. 
Simply by making the first move, you’ve already outdone your past self. And that’s truly the only person you should be trying to outdo. 

Write soon,
Jennifer x

Colder Than Winter, Meaner Than Demons

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Hello everyone,

Jen here.

Once again, this week, I found myself where I didn’t want to be. I was in bed with my childhood teddy bear and the weight of the chronic pain on top of me was making my very nerves shake. My cheek was pressed to the pillow, practically moulded to it, and I remembered all of the times I have used this as my default. Those times are countless.

I always feel shame when I acknowledge that. I tell myself that I am unproductive, lazy and useless. I put myself down on a constant basis from the safety of my head. I expect to feel ashamed of myself now. Just like others expect heartache or a lack of money in life. Yet thankfully, I have learned to right the exceptional wrong I have been doing to my body with these thoughts. Positive thoughts are three times as effective as negative thoughts and each day I bathe in a sea of my own affirmations. I don’t want anyone else’s, not anymore. They never feel as good.

It was this train of thought combined with the company of a beautiful friend that sparked my conclusions.

Every friend I have made, every person whom I have allowed into my life, has struggled in some form. Their demons were different but their pain is always smothering to bear. I know that to my friends I am a number on their list of ‘friends who’ve struggled’.

Recently an extremely close friend of mine suffered a loss. There is no need for details as loss is loss, and though the category is vast, the pain is a knife that affects everyone’s skin in the same way. My friend is a girl with delicate hands, an honest sense of humour and an exquisite taste in music.  These are all of the things I and others associate with her. This is similar to how she may associate a seal-like laugh and a constellation of freckles with me. Yet, throughout hearing of her loss, I realised that these were not things she associated with herself. Far from it, actually.

You, reading this, have struggled. You, reading this, have been in pain. Yet, you, reading this, will remember, with more clarity, your supposed weakness during those times rather than the light in your eyes on the first-day things began to feel better or the childlike tiredness after your first day really feeling whole again. Yawning, stretching, existing – each of those moments were perfectly truthful associations of you, much more than any pain.

I, too, am guilty of this. When I call myself weak I take my word as God’s gospel and accentuate my weakness purely by my sole awareness of my demons. Thus, my chronic conditions dominate my life in these times. I will not tell you that I am a success story. I will only tell you that I am colder than the harshest winter and meaner than any of my demons. And I deserve the right to expect better.

Those are my associations with myself.

And then I see the Facebook statutes of those struggling – the tweets, the Instagram posts and think again of my friend. Her bed has become a war trench where she is a tired soldier and she hides and rests. Pain rolls in at her like a gas, destabilising everything she ever was before this hurt. I am her, she is me, and she is all of us as we struggle.

There are no words that will make someone fight harder to find their next bliss. No words to erase a wrong doing or a hurt. No, words are a warm breath against a snowstorm of sadness. Only knowledge can do that and that must be found by yourself. Yet I urge you to look, please look, for the knowledge that you are far stronger than any wave, colder than any winter and much meaner than your demons.

You are still sweetness with your wide eyes enjoyment of the sweet moments like the first beat of a music video and the last words of Harry Potter. You can do both. Your demons are inflexible and never changing. They are fire. They have the ability to burn if we choose to remain solely as flesh. No, you are much more. Be royalty in your own body. Be the Queen, King and every subject in your court. Be demanding of happiness and incessant about receiving it, for you, my love, were not born for pain.

You were born to rule over yourself with the knowledge of your own greatness.

It is this which makes me rise each day from my bed and get dressed. Each day is my loyal subject and I am a merciful queen.

And I am tired of acting like a pauper.


Write soon,

Jennifer x