Monday, 2 January 2017

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

Hello! Welcome. It's so nice to finally be in touch with you. As much as 2016 was a good friend to me, I am aware that this was not the case for all. You, however, are a whole new beginning. I understand you've got some burdens to carry, handed down to you from last year, but I do hope you use what you have in a good way. Surprises are great when they're a kitten or an amazing birthday cake, but when they begin to take over the world, and not in a good way, those types of surprises are perhaps best left unopened in the present drawer...with an extra, double-knotted bow.

So, now that your predecessor's failures have been glossed over, I'll move onto what I hope will come from you. To be specific, what I personally hope to do and achieve for the duration, or at least some of the duration, of your stay.

Hold a pen correctly

This may seem like an odd one to start but, trust me, it's a pretty big deal. I'm currently studying a course that involves teaching many small children the basics of reading and writing, both of which I feel very passionately about...The problem? I've never, and I mean NEVER, held my pen the right way (and I have the weird lump on the 4th finger of my left hand to prove it). I've been writing like this for, what is it now?...19 years ish, give or take a few and now...Well, now it's just too late. Now, I have no choice but to unlearn how to hold a pen and then reteach myself! The last thing I want is to become famous for being the childcare provider/teacher/nanny/psychologist who left in her wake an entire generation of children with bumps on their fingers because they used 4 instead of 3 to hold their pen. I tried it - the 'right' method - last night while colouring in a very finely detailed thank you card and my conclusion was: three fingers to hold a pencil just isn't enough! I don't know where it all went wrong or how it ended up this way but it has. At the grand old age of 21, I am going to spend the first few months of the new year, teaching myself to write...again.

Practice makes perfect....

Stop biting my nails...again

This is one of those resolutions I make every year. Every December I look down at my hands and sigh at the realisation that, one again, I have been unable to go for a manicure or even open the pots of polish I pointlessly keep in my make-up bag because, unfortunately, care and decoration of nails requires just that: nails. Biting my nails is one of those things I don't remember ever not doing. When I'm bored, anxious or simply noting that I actually have a nail available to bite, I will bite it. At school, I would sit in Collect (Assembly) for half an hour of silence and pass the time by chewing at any available part of my hand. It has reached a point where half the time, the lack of nails means I bite skin around my nails. I bite and I chew until my fingers bleed and it's all for the purpose of fiddling. Perhaps I will consider investing in a stress ball or I'll start taking my personalized play dough everywhere I go...I'll think about it. The point is, I would like to stop. I'd like to be able to have my nails painted or to satisfactorily scratch my own itches - it's all very well saying 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' but I can't even return the favour. I follow these random pages on Facebook that pop up on my newsfeed demonstrating amazingly beautiful and funky looking designs for people's fingers. I sit and I watch, focusing on how steady the hands are of the people on the screen and how sparkly the sparkles are....Then I remember that I have no nails. By the end of the year I will though and I shall scratch peoples backs as much as I like....What's more, I shall do it with brightly coloured, glittery nails too! You just wait and see!

I recieved this about 5 years ago for my birthday...I am yet to use it

Nice work Ellie...Nice work

Exercise more (.....)

Oh...this one again...another that I contemplate every year before realising: I hate exercise. Last year I tried running. I was advised to get an app. It sounded great: Couch to 5K! 'That sounds like me!' I thought, 'I'm a great fan of the couch!'. Start with a minute of running followed by 1.5 minutes jogging for 20 minutes? Pffft. If this is how you become a runner, I'll be Mo Farah by the end of the year!...I think I did a week...perhaps 2. Then I went on a run one day, got to one of the jogging bits, my chest still burning from the minute of running and my legs threatening to collapse beneath me. What did I do? I called my mum. I cried down the phone telling her that I give up and am never. running. again. That was a resolution I did manage to keep...except occasionally...for the bus. Don't get me wrong.  This resolution does not mean I'm going to start running again. God no! That was awful. I didn't like the pain but, even more, I hated the feeling that I was being watched. Watched and judged by every person out walking their dog, driving in their car or running along the same stretch, clearly having been doing it way longer and being way fitter, smugly speeding past with not a glimmer of sweat on his brow. Instead I'm going to try and find a personal trainer. I have the luck and joy (*cough cough*) of living in a block of flats with a private gym...the plan (or so I write now) is to find someone to teach me how to use all those terrifying looking machines so I can sneak down there alone and do my own thing for a while, without the prying eyes of the already fit...Then I'll sneak back upstairs, strip off those sports legging things (that I bought years ago and I think make my bum look great but have rarely worn for actual exercise purposes) and sit down with a tub of Ben and Jerries in front of the telly....alright, maybe not. Maybe a hot chocolate. With cream. I mean, it's cold outside. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do!

They're just really flattering...I think.
I wouldn't want to ruin that trying to exercise...

Work on OCD (but don't be OCD about it)

I've had OCD forever. I don't mean I have it in the way people now (annoyingly) use to describe their funny little quirks. I mean: I have OCD. I've been diagnosed. Approximately 15 years late but I have. In the past I've had year long Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions and I've been kept up late into the night. All because of niggling little obsessive, compulsive needs to straighten my shoes, check the lights or the gas hobs are off downstairs or to touch the cold tap an even number of times (but not 10 because that takes ages and is far too close to 11 for my liking) before I can go to sleep with a settled mind. The last year hasn't been so bad although it did get worse while at university the first time round, my brain constantly telling me that if only I got out of bed for the 6th time in a row, the next day of lectures would suddenly make sense and I wouldn't spend all day feeling sick. Since leaving that course, and over the last year, I've been much better although certain things did stick. One of the obsessions I'm focusing on now, for instance, is not feeling the need to go to my profile on Facebook before closing the website, something that would often force me to reopen Google, go back onto the site and close it again simply to complete the niggling task. For the last few days, I have done my best not to. So far, it has been fine and the world has not ended. One baby step at a time. Next up: stop checking the kettle is full before I go to bed. I seem to have an unexplainable fear that leaving the kettle containing minimal water or, dare I say it, empty, will lead to some sort of fire...don't ask. Perhaps it is secretly an unconscious desire to minimise the time it takes to make a cup of tea in the morning. I guess we'll never know. The point is, I'm going to work on it and I'm going to try not to work on it in a obsessive or compulsive manner.

If you look really closely, there's a tiny white label on the left.
I obsessively have to fold this under the carpet before I can get to sleep at night

Leave things to be more last minute

This one may sound counter-productive and against the grain but I do have a problem. My problem seems to be the opposite of most...which I believe is part of the problem...if you get my drift. I have a habit of, on being given an essay title or any sort of task to do, beginning work on it as soon as possible. I plan it as soon as the weekend rolls around before completing the first draft before the next week is up. Two or three weeks later, a week or so before the deadline, more information about how to tackle the task is provided. Great. I've already done it. While I've been busy trying to get ahead and keep on top of my to-do list, those around me have been waiting patiently, perhaps collecting information, perhaps not, allowing time for more clues to be given and then writing it in a great spurt towards the end. As is my nature in most areas, I am taking the steady jog, through the scenic countryside with breaks for tea while everyone else is going for the sprint method. Once again, I'm Mo Farah. Everyone else around me is Usain Bolt. It seems the Bolts are doing it write...or at least giving themselves more time to train. After weeks worth of reading and writing, hundreds of words over the word count, a sudden wave of anxiety hits. I find out, with the finish line in sight and the rest of the team waiting patiently at the start,  that this was in fact an obstacle course and I missed all the obstacles I needed to jump over, climb through, or run round in order to be valid for the medal at the end - dammit learning outcomes! While I was concentrating on reaching the finish line, the others were listening to the rules and regulations. The plan this year is to try and do that more. Be patient, Ellie. There'll be time for tea at the end of the sprint.

New Watch, New Me...

Use my (NEW!) slow cooker so I don't burn any more stews.....

You may have read earlier in the year that I made a stew. I chopped all the ingredients, browned them, chucked them all in the pan together, popped the lid on and went out babysitting...You can guess the rest. Let's just say, that particular attempt at culinary genius did not end up in my stomach but in the bin along with the pan I had cooked it in. Although I managed to make a second attempt a week or so later, and a delicious one at that, I've decided to try something new this year. The slow cooker. Having become some sort of comfort chef this year, I've begun using completely made-up, all-in-one, chuck it all in dishes, to comfort me after a day at Uni or stress. It was very kind, therefore, of Father Christmas (Santa Clause, Saint Nick...Papa Noel...?) to bring me a slow cooker for the big day! Never more will I fear returning to a flat filled with smoke. Never more will I scrape the remains of a delicious stew from the bottom of a pan. Instead I shall be slow. Instead, I shall prepare my evening meals in the morning, or when I get home and leave them to gently cook. To take their time. I shall re-watch all those videos of slow-cooker recipes I've saved over the year and act determinedly to produce a dish that is just as photogenic. This year, I will never have to get into a stew.....see what I did there...about cooking again.

Bring it on!

Drink more water

A pretty self-explanatory one. I basically don't drink. Why should I? I never feel thirsty (and why would I drink when I'm not thirsty) and I don't like the taste. If I'm having a good water day, I'll maybe drink one glass..more often than not half of that will end up being poured down the sink. Every evening I go through the ritual of filling up my pint glass of water next to my bed. Every morning I wake up to a pint of water next to my bed. I like tea. I drink lots of tea. Tea is my friend. Apparently, however, it isn't as important or good for you as water. Personally, I think that's silly. It tastes so much better. In my imaginary world, that 60% of us that is made of water, is made of tea. In the real world, however, I must encourage myself to drink. My plan? Many, many of those cute little juice pouches. I'll carry them around wherever I go and pour them into every drink of water I have. First, though, I need to work on the water drinking...Perhaps I should treat myself for every drink I have: a chocolate biscuit? A cup of tea? Perhaps that defeats the object...Ah well, I guess I'll just go with the flow...

This glass fills me with no joy

Drink less/no alcoholic beverages

I'm going to do it. I'm determined. Because, and I'm going to be honest here, so please don't judge, I genuinely think I'm missing the point. To me it seems everyone contains a microchip that tricks them into enjoying alcohol and when the chips were handed out, I had popped to the loo. Every time I go to a party and am handed a drink, from the first sip onwards, I have to try, incredibly hard not to gag or make a face as I do so. I simply don't like the taste. And it's all very well saying things like: but there are so many drinks! You can't hate them all! But trust me. There's something about drinks with alcoholic content, that I simply do not like. Wine, Cider, Vodka alone or mixed with anything available to mask the taste....all make me wince. Why do I drink them then? I hear you ask. Because there is very little worse at a party, in a bar, in a pub or simply out and about than drunk people when you're sober. For me anyway. I just don't want to be in a room, not even on my 21st birthday where everyone is a friend, surrounded by people with drinks both in hand and in head while I'm sober as a judge. The problem? It seems to be very difficult to meet people, whether as a friend or as a date, without involving drink. People want to meet at bars and then socialise at clubs. They want to share a bottle of wine over a meal or a glass in front of the telly. I would much rather share a pot of tea and some slices of cake. My gift to myself this year, therefore, is to not drink just for the sake of fitting in with people around me. I started the year with a few sips of champagne at midnight and that level of drinking is about as much as I can cope with while still smiling. Not to mention, as I've demonstrated previously in my 'Dear Alcohol' letter, I'm not exactly good at judging how much to drink when I do...As much as I can see that drinking is some sort of social norm, I personally do not enjoy it. If that makes me abnormal, so be it. My plan this year then, is to fit my social circles and my dating life around finding people who are happy to sit in front of the telly with a cuppa, walk around a market or eat cake without a glass of wine to go with it.

Oh dear tipsy/drunk birthday me...
you'll not be smiling so much later when you're put to bed on your birthday
because you drank too much...

So, that's it 2017, my new best friend. As time goes by, I'm going to focus on the above. I'm going to finish my first year at MCI. I'm going to sing in a show with all my Starling friends. Two Saturdays every month, as much as I can, I will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital to spend time with children who need me. I cannot guarantee a smile with every step but I can guarantee that there will be steps because, as I read in a quote at some point last year, 'You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step' and that, my dear friend 2017, I shall do.

Best wishes and welcome to this utterly, incredibly mad world,

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