Sunday, 2 February 2014

Journal - January

I kicked of the year documenting all the pleasantries of each day that went by in the most creative way that I could think of, but this quickly became a challenge. The more I attempted to be artistic, the more time it took. I found myself filling out whole weeks at a time, trying to catch up. 

I knew it was getting rediculous, but kept telling myself 'I've got this far, so I should keep going'. There came a point where I had to recognise that I was turning something which was supposed to be recreational and freeing into just another source of pressure. Do you ever find yourself doing that?

The aim was simply to keep a journal, focusing mostly on the positives and making it in some way 'artistic', so frequency shouldn't really be that important. 

I began January feeling happier and more hopeful than I have ever felt, exactly how you'd like to begin a new year. Throughout the month things have got a lot tougher, but I am determined to keep this journal as a means by which I can reflect on the positive moments. 

I've actually found that once you start looking for and documenting them, there's that many small blessings in life it's hard to keep track. It may well take me another month to scribble them all out. 

On Ambition

We sit in an adorable new cafe which feels as though it could be in France or Spain. I have no desire to throw my smoked salmon croissant at someone and upturn all the tables. Neither does Elena I expect. But there’s a burning desire within us for a more subtle kind of revolt. We tell each other to ignore the warning light that creeps into your head when you enter into your late twenties. That feeling of needing to climb ladders and start families. Thirty is in sight now, and if you’re not married and successful at thirty then you never will be. But why should we have to have it all mapped out to feel content? Can’t we just enjoy the moment, trusting that things will work out?

Elena and I are haunted by a crippling affliction. It’s common, but most people try hide it beneath their smart suits in fear that those around them will think they are inferior. They've been told for most of their lives that it makes them stupid, naive, a dreamer, a loser. They've been told that they will never get anywhere if they let people know that they have it. Our affliction is a creative nature. If I tell people that I might like to be freelance again one day; an artist, a designer or an actor perhaps, I'm usually met with a sympathetic smile. I
daren’t even say that I have a blog. But when I say these things to Elena, she’ll pull out a piece of paper and make notes for me as she lists projects to get involved with, sources of inspiration and local contacts. She’ll grab hold of my visions and run wild with them and I do the same in return. Before we know it we’re collaborating on imagined projects. We talk about what we would do if money was no object and uncork bottled up ideas as the passion fizzes out of us. 

The same happens with other topics of conversation. Other people will tell me that I need to be more realistic about what I’d like from a future partner. If it’s not that I should learn to embrace chauvinist or shallow behaviour, it’s that perhaps I should go on a date with someone I'm not even marginally attracted to just because he’s nice. Elena says screw that. Expect a great love story, you deserve nothing less. *

I work in a school because I hope to inspire young people. I want them to care about their education, but I won’t tell them it’s all about A grades and university. I want them to know that they are good enough already. I’d like them to feel that they can do anything if they try hard enough, that their future has no limits. I’d like them to have hope. I know many will share this sentiment, so why do the opposite for the adults in our lives? When it comes to our friends, why do so many encourage them to suppress past hopes and dreams? Surely we care for them just as much? Why is it that we want them to play it safe? Do we not believe in their ability, in their talents, in them? Sometimes people want to be reminded who they really are and what they really want. Be the person who encourages them. Be Elena.

*Disclaimer note to Mr you-know-who-you-are; I wrote this in the summer...

On Rebellion.

I probably couldn't be less ‘Sex, drugs and rock and roll’ if I tried. But if you've picked up any fashion magazine in the last year, you’ll know that ‘rebel’ is what we are meant to be right now. To my knowledge nobody has caused a riot by wearing a leather-sleeved top and a tartan skirt. No boundaries have been pushed. I doubt that anyone has wrestled with whether they can dare to wear a particular garment more so this year than they have any other. That got me thinking; to be a rebel is to resist convention, yet our standard idea of a rebel is in a lot of ways the social norm.

I heard of a woman leaving her work so that she could be a stay at home mum. That didn't sit well with some people. How lazy is it of her not to work? Surely she is resigning herself to a sad existence if all that she is to be is a wife and a mother? In reality though, does that not make her the boldest woman in the room? The one who has chosen to do what she feels like doing despite the opinion of others, to challenge what is expected of her, to break the mould. If her family can get by on her husband’s salary, then why isn't that OK?

I can’t help but feel that in our fight against misogynist stereotypes, we have simply packaged ourselves into a different kind of box. Take sex as another example; women are now expected to feel proud of having slept around, to be empowered by it. It’s as if we've hit a time where the world now feels there’s something wrong with sex being about love. Or at the least, that there’s something wrong with it being just love, and just people, with no added extras to spice things up. For my generation, I fear those that bragged about what ‘base’ they’d got to as a 15-year-old may never have grown out of that mentality. Women would once laugh at how men spoke to each other about sex, but now they desire to emulate it. If anything, women probably speak more graphically.

Have we got so carried away with fighting old conventions that we've created new ones? Perhaps we need to re-think things a little. It’s right to fight against being told to shut your mouth and sit pretty, but that doesn't mean you have to shout the loudest. I could not be more pleased to see a new wave of women speaking out against the standards set by men’s magazines and music videos. Yet we also need to be aware of an equally dangerous pressure that comes from other women. Cosmopolitan is going to tell you the same things as Nuts, just in a more subtle way as it pretends to fight your corner.

As women I'm not saying we should go backwards, but rather that in order to move forwards we need to be careful not to pen ourselves in. Make sure that you’re doing what you actually want, not what you think you should. By all means, be impulsive. Be ambitious. Be brave. But be yourself too, because perhaps the woman who turns down a fantastic promotion opportunity to avoid stress, or the woman whose favourite thing to do in the bedroom with her husband is talk, are the most blessed and most rebellious of us all. 

And whilst you're here, sign this. 

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