Thursday, 12 February 2015

Life After Germany: Uncomfortably Parked On "Civi Street"

Usually, there's too much going on for me to really mull it over. There's always an empty Word document crying out to be addressed, nights out to dress up for, rude customers to bite my tongue at every weekend whilst behind the tills. My life in Glasgow simply doesn't allow me the time to sit and think "god, you know what? I'm missing it. I really bloody miss Germany"

But I'm going to confess it all now. We are six months gone - half a year - and I am still seriously missing Germany. I even cried about it the other day, and I am famously reluctant to do anything that might jeopardise my meticulously applied mascara.

But there's almost shame attached to how this feels; I'm a military child, I was brought up to not invest meanings into the places we inhabit for such short times. Military children are good at getting over it. We're good at saying "thanks for the memories - but it's time to say our goodbyes"

Home was always less where the heart is, more "where the helicopters are".

So this is unusual. This isn't how it works. I shouldn't be thinking about how much I'm missing all the places I love in Germany as often as I currently do, because leaving places I love behind is all I've ever known. I shouldn't even be thinking about my old home, let alone actively longing for it - let alone ruining my mascara in my real moments of sadness.

Yet, for the past few weeks it's been like this little dull ache in my stomach, like very tame period pain; not particularly interfering nor harmful, but always present and a constant nuisance. When I was in Berlin with my friends last month, I actually had to leave the hostel bar early on the first night - parting from my actual German Jagermeister, the horror of it! - and take a moment to myself in the room. I found it overwhelmingly emotional to be back in this country I loved, but was already anticipating just how hard it would be to leave again.

To be honest, getting over leaving Germany hasn't been the only thing I've struggled with. As the months have passed and I spend my life pretty much exclusively on "civi street", I feel the distinct loss of my identity. It's hard to describe to people on the outside of it all, but I sincerely used to like being able to say I was a padsbrat. Less so because of the whole "proud of our Armed Forces!" rhetoric, but because it was, well, almost like a badge of honour; more of a "see all the shit I've had to go through because of this lifestyle; see how strong it's made me?"

But the past eighteen months or so in Glasgow has taught me to keep my mouth shut regarding that area; to put it bluntly, I've had people make their anti-armed forces stance very clear to me, and perhaps not in the most tactful of ways ("your dad's probably shot someone, how does that feel?") either. I mean, I've always acknowledged that there would be people who absolutely hated them and would have their reasons for it - whatever, I can deal with that. But...for want of something less pathetic sounding to say, that's still my dad those comments are aimed at. That's the man I can't even find the words to describe my love and respect for.

So I've taken to avoiding telling people my dad's profession, because I now see what they might be thinking, and despite my best efforts, I can't help but take it personally. Therefore, the padsbrat in me is keeping very quiet these days; so much so that really, she's hardly there.

I'm still struggling to keep quiet about these intensified feelings of longing and nostalgia, however. Maybe it's something to do with my childish resentment of the fact that I'm flying home to our new base in Yeovil on Sunday - not Dusseldorf airport.

In my original blog written on the night before we moved out of our house last summer, I described how moving away from a place you loved was "like grieving not for a person, but for a life you once had". So I guess this is just how it'll be for a little while longer. I'm still grieving, and don't people say that there's no time frame for this sort of thing? Most of the time it's manageable, certainly, but when the things that remind me of Germany appear in my own little life in Glasgow, I can't help but feel more bothered than usual; like during my German seminar, when I see a man in uniform or hear a helicopter outside as I'm falling asleep.

Yeah. I'd be lying if I said those moments didn't really bother me.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Note on Valentine's Day

You can see it too, right?

That's love. Like it or not, it's that time of year and looooove is in the air.

Love floats from the restaurants of Ashton Lane, you can't move for it in Royal Exchange Square. It's drifting around the chapels, the quirky cafes and the parks of Glasgow.

Love for the person who holds the other half of the proverbial split-heart necklace; or as the case may be, you're like me and don't even have that necklace. So instead it's love for the sight of the bottom of the bottle, a takeaway of your choice and that card falling through the letterbox that you already know is from your gran (of course you love it - there's probably a tenner inside it)

For Valentine's Day this year, I'll be dragging my untoned bottom ("what's the point of squats? It's NOT LIKE ANYONE IS GOING TO SEE IT!!") to work for the full day shift - god, it's like they knew I wouldn't be spending it with a boyfriend or anything remotely nice like that. Eight and a half hours of couples strolling hand in hand into the shop, giggling and whispering at the condom section, eventually arriving to the till with lipstick, chocolate, lube and a smirk on their faces.

"Bloody lucky you" I have to stop myself muttering. For me, this year's Valentine's Day will be as romantic as crying in Marks & Spencers because my boss told me off, or getting sent an unsolicited dick pic from an unknown number.

I hope it won't be busy, and the romance stays strictly in the chapels, the cafes and the parks of Glasgow, because when it's quiet in the shop and all I have to do is stand there, that's when I think about things properly; when there's no phone in hand, no laptop in front of me. Just everything in crystal clarity.

With that clarity along with the poignancy of the date itself, I'll probably recall the little romantic memories I keep stored away for the days I spend in bed listening to NeYo's So Sick more than one realistically should in a single hour.

Cuddles on that same old bench of my old college campus. Holding hands under a table. Waking up every morning to the same text with words that made me swoon. When he would shuffle towards me, use his thumb to rub the lipstick off my front tooth, then kiss me. George Square under the Christmas lights. The way it made me feel when I heard Unintended by Muse. Smitten side glances across a classroom. The sun setting over the abandoned, overgrown park where we sat on the swings; the last time he and I ever saw each other. Walking down Byres Road in the rain at 5am in my pyjamas on New Year's Day.

Those sorts of memories that I've collected over the years which I don't really mind not forgetting about; no matter how badly it may have ended with the person I shared them with, no matter how long ago it was, now. I'd be lying if I said these memories didn't make me wish I did have somebody to create new ones with; not just on this one day, but every day, really. Nevertheless, those sorts of wishes are futile and a bad usage of my headspace. I have essays to write and a head of hair to work on stimulating into more rapid growth; it has a whole inch to go before it's finally on my shoulders. That's a thought considerably more painful than having nobody to wake up and spoon on the 14th of February.

Nope, instead I'll put my make up on, pull on that unflattering fleece and stand at the tills, grabbing every moment I have to myself to reflect fondly on those memories. Then maybe I'll ponder the last time I actually shaved my legs, or inspect the contents of my purse. There's no aftershave I could possibly afford, anyway - I should know, I work in Superdrug. But there's definitely enough there for dinner for one at my favourite West End restaurant.

And then I feel alright about spending another Valentine's Day on my own.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Beauty, Best Friends and Badass Boots

It is the 1st February 2015. I am twenty years old, I haven't washed my hair in 48 hours, my skin is covered in spots, my moods are often unpredictable and I have never felt more beautiful in my life.

How do you feel when you read that? Are you happy for me? Are you happy that you'll finally stop pretending to find my self deprecating jokes funny (or the more recent development - just telling me that my jokes weren't funny)?

Or are you unnerved that I would make such a bold statement - unusually fearless and confident?

Truthfully, I've unnerved myself. This isn't a normal way for me to feel, this chirpy self assurance. For as long as I can remember, I've struggled to wake up as Floraidh Clement each day, in her spotty skin and unsure of whether she'll laugh or cry in those first few seconds of connecting those early morning dots - "who am I? What is my situation right now? Am I happy?"

The last month was a time when those questions were not ones I answered in total confidence - I'm Floraidh and I could be a lot better, my situation could be a lot better, I'm alright I suppose but still, I guess it could be a lot better.

But after a hard few weeks, I'm beginning to wake up with gratitude for being in this skin, no matter how blemished and in desperate need of some Sudocrem it truly is. I have found the people I was always meant to be friends with. I'm finding my degree course especially difficult at the minute, but I've not given up. I write a column I am sincerely chuffed with. I hope, at least, that I am making my mum and dad proud. I have let go of the people I clung to for fear of them moving on with somebody that wasn't me. I am growing less and less concerned about what people must be thinking of me with every word that leaves my lips.

But one concern that has taken me an incredibly long time to shake was the fact that I am not a conventionally pretty girl. I'm a plain girl who simply does the best with herself. For years I fully believed it to be the pretty girls who get noticed, the pretty girls who don't have to compensate for their lack of immediate allure by simply being funny or writing a blog to convey what they're really thinking; they are simply there, and that is enough for people to take notice of what they have to say.

But I have learnt particularly in the wake of the last month's adversities that feeling beautiful is not a purely aesthetic thing; it's not just pulling on the new bodycon dress my boobs look incredible in or buying a lipstick that surely costs the same price as return flights to Paris.

It is knowing people are finally starting to take notice of what I have to say because they sincerely want to hear it.

It is buying some badass heeled knee length boots that I stomp around and feel like I could smash through the glass ceiling in.

It is being surrounded by strong, intelligent girls who I'd probably feel intimidated by if I didn't know that that they miss their morning lectures just as often as I seem to, or wear Snoopy pyjamas to bed. It is having their positive influence and wisdom in my life; it is them making me both want to be better, but also reassured that it's fine to be how I am just now, too.

It is finding the dignity to walk away from a situation that is ultimately not making me happy. It is knowing better than to put myself in that toxic position where I feel I am competing with another girl.

It is taking every step possible to be my own best friend and doing whatever I can to look after my mental health.

It is finishing a yoga workout, lying there sweating and flushed on my bedroom floor in my American Pyscho t shirt and leggings, rolling over and dialling Pizza Hut; there is no punishing myself, no gruelling regime I acquire no pleasure from.

Yep, this "feeling beautiful" shenanigan seems to all be down accepting how I am, working with what I have and trying to refrain from ruthlessly punishing myself for what I don't. I mean, purchasing those boots helped infinitely...but still, I am starting to believe that the spotty chick in the mirror isn't so boring, charmless or uninteresting after all, and man am I beginning to really, really warm to her.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Floraidh, Thongs and, Well, Imperfect Blogging

I am shrieking with laughter; tonsils-out, throaty, whole hearted laughter. It's Wednesday's publications committee meeting, after all, so I am surely not doing anything else. My favourite day of the week with my favourite people - oh, how I am laughing. Everything is great. Everything is so funny, so hilarious. I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING.

But all is not what it seems. Sure, on the outside everything's hunky dory, couldn't be better. But this tells a decidedly different story to what's really going on; a feverish tension is brewing in my mind and body. Beads of sweat are forming on my forehead. A question acutely urgent and confusing nags away at me. I am forced to muster all my rapidly retreating strength to stop myself spitting it out.

"What the fuck am I wearing a thong with dungarees for?"

If you've never worn a thong with dungarees: just imagine searing hot pain and pressure in areas that should just never experience searing hot pain and pressure. It is the meeting of two crazily impractical garments; you wear them and finally begin to wonder if it could actually be true that you should prioritise comfort (?!) over style (?!). Briskly waddling past my friends on the way out, I flash a huge, nothing-to-see-here grin. "Sorry guys, gotta run - it's just I'm wearing a thong and I'm going to pass out! Any! Second! NOW!!"

My sides hurt from laughing; my cheeks ache - although perhaps not so much as my neither regions do. Either way, my exterior puts on a damn good show of Flo Is Totally Fine Yo'.

But despite the impeccable performance - if I say so myself - I think it's fair to say that this week, Flo has not been totally fine, yo'. No need for the grisly details, but it's been a period of Kate Nash on necessary repeat, too many appearances from the pizza delivery guy who definitely knows my name and even more heart-to-hearts on numerous sofas. Still, all of those things got me through it; somehow, I've always beaten the urge to stay in bed and not bother with the day. But the one thing that apparently doesn't get me through hard times is writing it all down; I don't feel the need to pick up my "pen", no matter how hard I try.

And it breaks my heart when I can't write anything. Words are literally the only weapon I have; my tongue is not so quick in person, and my blushing habit only reveals that no matter how sassy I am attempting to be, the game will always be given away sooner or later. That "blank mind, blank Word document" kind of failure brings out the mood swings and the self loathing Tweets more than my terrible underwear decisions ever could. Writing is My Thing, after all.

This pretty sombre realisation has not brought much cheer to a pretty cheerless week.

Still, I got home after the meeting and returned to my old faithful cotton pants. Certainly not hot, but definitely not going to render me infertile like that bloody thong probably has. Those cotton pants were like a cold bathroom floor when I'm on the verge of a whitey, that night.

But it was then when it became sparkling clear that laughing all the way through it - tonsils-out, throaty, whole hearted laughter - is the best way to square up and face all adversity. Yep, even if adversity comes in the form of wildly uncomfortable material designed solely to give you wedgies like a bitch.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Two Thousand and Fifteen: Self Love and Saying Goodbye to the Shrinking Violet

New Year's Resolutions are seemingly an opportunity to look within yourself and meticulously examine every one of your flaws. You're in bad shape, you're not working hard enough, you're spending too much money - you need to change. You need to strive to better yourself. Your jeans are only getting tighter. You'll never get a promotion at this rate. This has to be your year to get...better. Somehow.

I'm no different. I'm on this misery-go-round of self criticism constantly, and I know it's unhealthy; but when it's so ingrained into your psyche, it's tremendously difficult to stop. Almost daily I will question my writing ability or look at my cellulite in the mirror and miserably wonder "will it ever...lessen?" before giving the Galaxy a second thought. It's like I've been cast in this wonderful movie that might do very well in the box office but instead of jumping at the opportunity and learning my lines, I'm starting to wonder if I should just be the understudy, instead. Am I good enough for this role I've been given? Am I up to the task?

But this year, I've decided I want things to be different. I want things to be positive. I want to be the happier, fulfilled leading lady - not the reluctant understudy who frets about cellulite on her thighs and people liking her blogs. So instead of begrudgingly forking out for an eye wateringly expensive gym membership or devising a long term budget plan, I'm going to resolve to be kinder to myself this year. I'm going to want to stick to these resolutions, not curse myself for ever writing the bloody things.
  • if in doubt whether to get a glass or a pitcher, always choose the pitcher
  • learn to smile at rude customers
  • wear heels more often for optimum sass levels
  • wear plum lipstick more often for optimum sass levels
  • wear anything that increases the likelihood of achieving optimum sass levels
  • do not beat myself up for being an introvert - I cannot force myself to be anything else
  • buy more green smoothies on the way to work
  • be vocal and unapologetic about the causes I care for passionately
  • listen to old favourite albums and continue to be delighted and enthralled like it's the first time I heard them back in 2007
  • be perpetually inquisitive, ask more questions
  • do not accept half formed answers
  • apply for the jobs and internships that terrify me
  • never apologise for selfies, capture every second of a "good self esteem day"
  • own each second of being inappropriately overdressed for an occasion
  • accept that I am infinitely better off without those who I can't please despite my best efforts
  • walk more, get the subway less
  • learn to love my eternally rosy cheeks, marvel at the money I must save on blusher
  • do yoga every morning
  • try to be a sunflower and not a shrinking violent in academic situations
  • surround myself only with people who will firmly pull the breaks on my anxiety, not accelerate it further
  • do not let any attractive boy pass me by, do not assume that he will not want to talk to me
  • write down every little detail of what I'm thinking
  • pack practical footwear in my handbag; I'll thank myself
  • spend an inordinate amount of money on beautiful underwear if it's what I absolutely need to feel comfortable with my body
  • stop with the monumentally unfunny self deprecating jokes, because I'm probably alright, really.
Happy New Year. Know that every blog hit you may have given me was appreciated and shrieked over. I hope that this year your jokes will be without self deprecation, your sass levels consistently high and your cocktail pitchers always full. Because you'll obviously be on your second or third one. You riot, you.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

My Blue Pills and Your Bad Moves

Big BIG news: I'm back on the pill - woah, no need to pull on your best Calvins and set off to my flat. It's not what you think. It's not because I've finally become attractive so have suddenly been overwhelmed with male attention; goodness knows this world does not need any little Floraidh Clements but then, you probably knew that.

The real reason is that due to various organs not working together in the Oompa-Loompa like harmony in which they ought to, the doctor has put me back on these little blue pills that make me spotty, chubby and above all, especially irritable - like, what's fair about all that? I've "explored options" with a medical professional, found a sensible solution, made a decision to reduce my chances of breeding and I have never looked more dreadful for it. I am essentially being punished for being a grown up. Honestly, for the past few weeks it's been like my brain has been programmed into only hearing and viewing the things that make me grumble and send mardy texts to my mum.

Therefore I'm going to list those things, so hopefully you'll stop doing them around me, or I'm going to set you on fire; and as you now full well know, I'm a woman heavily dosed up on hormones. Don't tempt me.

  • Stop being dreadful to retail and hospitality workers. Now that I'm the least competent sales advisor in Superdrug, I've been exposed to life on the other side of the tills and getting up close and well, in a professional distance, with members of the public. By and large, the Glaswegian public are lovely and wonderfully forgiving of my fumbles and occasionally bad conversation ("sorry, I'm all a bit snotty and minging!" "oh..." *smiles politely, observes the snotty, minging sales girl handle their items*) but with the gems come the rough - and woah, can the rough be rude. Look, I know you don't need to say more than "thanks" to me in our brief encounter, realistically; but there is absolutely no need to shout at me for matters beyond my control, scold me for being too slow or demand to speak my manager about my so-called "incompetency - why would you employ her?" I am honestly doing all I can. I promise.

  • Equally, stop putting other people down for being "too nice" - what does this even mean? To hear this once in my twenty years would be one thing, but I've heard it several times just in the past six months and each time I'm just as baffled (usually making a mental note to "blog about that, sometime"). Putting people down for their virtues is, can only be jealously. I don't know about anything else but I'd hope those striving to be "nice" are far more tolerable than those heading in the other direction.

  • Keep your opinions on what somebody eats - or rather, doesn't eat at all - to yourself. As somebody who has lived through a lifelong "fussy eater phase", I find it rude when people comment, as though what's on my plate is genuinely their business. I mean, it isn't so bad because it's me, and I really am just this overgrown child who will get peeved off at you for it, but make similar comments to somebody with a truly troubled relationship with food and their reaction may be far worse than mine; just a sassy remark on a blog post.

  • Actually, do us all a good turn and keep all of your snarky comments to yourself - especially so when they're targeting something as personal and relative as food tastes, clothes, hobbies, musical tastes, those kinds of topics that really do depend on the tastes of the individual. Curious questions are one thing, outright insults are quite another. Clashes, differences and variety are exciting and refreshing, they inspire conversation - your comments kill it altogether.

  • Please do not balefully glare at me like I've killed your entire family when I admit I'm not a massive fan of Christmas. With great excitement comes the capacity for great disappointment, and December is no different. Christmas, to me, has always been like that first kiss with a new boyfriend; I day dream about it being this redefining moment that I will live to fondly regale to my teenage daughter in years to come, but then suddenly his saliva’s on my chin and I would just really like it to stop.

  • Anyone who claims to not adore Madonna's Beautiful Stranger, ELO's Livin' Thing or Dexy's Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen are just really upsetting. Stop pretending you don't adore them and are actually planning to play them all on a loop at your wedding.

  • Those who make the wild claim of "hating people" is something I can't get my head around. What exactly did the 7.125 billion people currently residing on this earth do to get you a bit miffed with humanity - each one of them? Did they all tell you that your hair was a bit crap or that they'd nab your actually surprisingly fit lad if they could? Are they the types to look you up and down in with a disapproving look in their eyes when you stumble into the bar, trashed before 10pm? Did each of them unfollow you on Twitter despite the fact that your Tweets are quite clearly gold? Are some of them voting UKIP just to piss you off? I didn't think so. A final question: is the entire world the problem or are things just not going your way?
And although these stupid pills do make me feel like the entire world is the problem, all of this is really just my own ideal version of life not going my way. The fun we're having, these pills and I; meticulously dissecting all that's wrong and turning a blind, oestrogen-clouded eye to all that remains good, hopeful and pleasant. And I know all of that is there; believe me, I do. I'm listening to Come On Eileen just now, for example.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tissues and Issues: Sensitive Soul Soliloquys

My friends’ couches have seen tears of all varieties. As a rule, there will always be tissues in my handbag, but they’re rarely in aid of the “cold that’s going around” Almost daily, I have to apologise to somebody I’ve just spilled my verbal angst on – “I’m sorry, I know it’s not anything, really. I’m just a worrier!”

And then I have to give that half smile, half frown, pretend it’s not really the big deal my wheedling tones have suggested, silly me, change the subject, but how are you getting on? Because of course it could never really be a big deal - that Floraidh Clement, she's just a worrier. 
A "worrier", it certainly sums me up - god, it's almost like I want people to read this and think I'm even less attractive. Because that's really not, is it? There's nothing attractive about the consistent and furious texting into the phone keypad, the friends who so boldly offer their selves up as counsellors, attentive on the other end. There's nothing hot about how my voice raises an octave, takes on that uncomfortable strangled tone and starts to stutter. There's no passion killer quite like the flushed cheeks and furrowed brow; believe me, there's desire but it's not what you think - I need you to tell me that it's okay, I need you to tell me that I'm fine. I'm craving your reassurance, your level head to bring me back down to earth.

It's not just all worrying; in general, I'm a highly emotional person. I'm pretty sensitive. I cry quite a lot, not necessarily because I'm glum, but because there doesn't seem to be much of a logical correlation between my tear ducts and any given situation. When I'm up, I'm really up; when it goes the other way, it's exactly the same. My heart rules my head and I act totally on my emotions, rarely on "how things actually are outside of Flo's perceptions of things"

I bet it all sounds exhausting to be my friend. I don't doubt it; for some, my existence is just wholly exasperating. Recently, I have been the recipient of many rolling eyes, raised eyebrows and tuts. Mostly I shake this off - empathy, man - but sometimes it bothers me, because this is just how I’m wired. The friends who are understanding of the way I am are nothing short of angels, usually wielding M&S food and a spot on their couch for me to occupy for "as long as I need it".

To be truthful, I'm worrying about a lot at the moment, mostly about university. My once certain academic future is shaky as I've realised I don't love my degree subject as much as I so desperately want to. I force myself to try and work on it - turn my internet off, turn my phone off, turn everything in my life the hell off - but it doesn't happen, because I don't seem to feel any desire to make it happen.
But what do I do here? How do I change this part of my personality that is so intrinsic and ingrained into my psyche?

For a long time, I have often scolded myself, urging myself to toughen up; to find and flick some internal switch that toughens my skin and firmly shuts the emotional valve I allow to flow so freely. The more stoney-faced among us might look like the stick is so far up their ass that it's actually stuck to their tonsils, but at least they've probably not cried for at least a fortnight. Maybe I could learn a thing or two.

But I really do try to see the benefits of being this kind of person. As I've just said, it's not hot. It's a pain in the ass. I sometimes wish I were less emotional, less "in tune", more rational and more logical; a person with the kind of personality that would wear a trouser suit and sensible, lace up shoes. But on the other hand, my understanding of my own feelings means that I am implicitly careful when handling other peoples; I know how to tread delicately, which is a skill I feel many could do with harnessing. I know how to choose my words carefully; I would never want to inflict anxiety on somebody else, because I know through daily, first hand experience that it's excruciating to be addressed in ways that make you feel small. The only kinds of emotion I want to leave on others are positive ones - no matter who they are. And I will go out of my way to do so.

Look, I sort of just gave myself a bit of credit on a blog - see? That's quite rare. Maybe the emotional wreck is clearing herself up. Maybe this state of being, this wild sensitivity, this firm awareness of my emotional range is not all "tissues and issues" - battle wounds, confidence blooms.