Friday, 29 June 2012

# 94 Not meant for publication

I have 23 drafts of blog entries that are unlikely to ever be published. Some of them are there because I couldn't get a handle on the subject enough to turn them into a worthwhile posting. Others were never meant to be seen.

Do you ever get the urge to tell someone exactly what you think of them no matter how much it might hurt or how much damage it might do to your relationship with them? Sometimes I feel like I'm in an episode of Six Feet Under where in some parallel dream sequence everyone acts on impulse.

Those completed posts which keep their draft status are basically rants, I have to get it out of my system somehow or I might punch a wall. They are the things I would never say to people's faces because I know the effect they would have. But secretly I wish I didn't care that much and just said what I thought.

So for now, Blogger shall be my listening ear. Because sometimes I have to VENT.

# 93 Trending - naturism, body image and personal expression

My post earlier this week about naturism saw a surprising lift in blog traffic. I haven't posted much these last few months, things have been hectic and my attention has been diverted elsewhere. My blog a day is definitely NOT a blog a day anymore.

There's no doubt this has been the most popular post I've ever published which I have found intriguing for many reasons. So I looked at the stats for my other entries. 'Baring All' was closely followed by my post about literary tattoos way back in January and creativity and the educational sphere in May. Interesting that they all relate to body image and personal expression. And it got me thinking..

People are far more aware of their personal happiness and well-being these days. This is a good thing although I do wonder where this change of direction has come from. A recession that has restricted our spending power and made us more self sufficient? Perhaps we're just all fed up of the rat race and want a simpler life. All the things I wrote about were to do with getting back to basics, being happy from within and being at one in your own mind with who you are. These are important if you are to master the rest of the world around you. After all, if you're not happy with yourself how can you be happy with anything else?

My introduction to naturism has been a huge help. It's been an odd few months and the fall out from finishing my degree has put a lot of things into perspective, things I thought I had already worked out. It's been a shock to the system. All around me there are people caught up in unnecessary stress. Sometimes they are things of their own making, sometimes they are work related and you can't always escape that, sometimes it's just personal politics which I really don't have time for. 

Certainly things have changed for me. I am my own boss now, I can pick and choose my hours, my company, how I spend the precious hours I have away from my work. But it also means that I spend a lot of time on my own as I work from home. And I suppose that has been the hardest adjustment to make, going from a busy University course to being self sufficient.

I had planned a routine that would get me out of the house regularly and stop me getting too introverted. But I do like my own company and I haven't been able to implement the new regime just yet due to other commitments. At the moment it's been punctuated by more leisure time than I am normally used to and to say I have drifted and lost direction is the understatement of the year.

I should reach a turning point soon. I just need to shake off my student ways and get on with being me again. It's been three years. I think I have earned the right to fall off the treadmill for a short time.

Anyway, to end here's another snippet on life from a naturists point of view. We love this! Clothes optional

Thursday, 28 June 2012

# 92 Baring all

Like many women I have body issues. Nothing serious. Just the usual insecurities inflicted on me by a media keen to sell a perfect body image. To be honest, I could never get that obsessed about looking like that. I'm not self destructive or that vain and I don't live a lifestyle or work a job that requires me to fit the image. I am a self preservationist and I know when enough is enough. But there's no denying I've tried a few fad diets over the years, exercised impatiently and got bored waiting for the results and I've tried everything in moderation without success. Eventually though, you have to realise you are made the way you're made and that as long as you're healthy and in control, you should be happy.

Yep, we come in all different shapes and sizes - source
Some people are never at ease with the way they are, some beat the system and make their bodies look the way they want them to and the rest of us just learn how to be happy and work with what we've got. Most importantly don't feel pressured by the media to look a certain way. It's just not realistic. But it's only recently that the penny has dropped, and it happened in the most unexpected way. Because I was introduced to naturism.

I am not an exhibitionist, far from it. And though I have done a couple of nude photoshoots in my time it wasn't the experience I would have hoped for. I didn't feel any more at ease, if anything I felt even more self critical. The difference with attending a beach, sun club or swim is that it's not about wanting to flaunt everything in public for the sake of it or about how good the body looks to those around you, it's just about not wearing clothes because you like to not wear clothes. Finding like minded souls to bare all with has been great fun and also surprisingly easy.

Everyone is incredibly easy going and non judgmental. My self critical stance paled into insignificance when I was alongside other people. I realised I actually didn't look that bad and I wondered what I'd been worrying about. The best bit about it is that it's entirely non-sexual and this is probably why so many people can't grasp the concept of what naturism really is all about.

Peer pressure, media advertising, fashion - so many
influences, so unrealistic.  Sometimes the effects can be
devastating to both men and women, young and old: source
At the end of the day, we're all the same kind of creature. We have all the same things in pretty much the same places. It's only age, genetics and lifestyle that dictate how we look close up. I love the lack of preconceptions everyone has about each other at the events I've attended so far. No one is 'checking anyone else out' or comparing body shapes and sizes. Everyone is there for the same reasons - no clothes. And that's about it. 

I've been attending a naturist swim club in Sleaford for a couple of months now. And this week we tested out a local sun club camp and caravan park as day visitors. There's nothing better than lying by a pool in the sun, getting that all over tan. And no one cares. To say it's boosted my body confidence would be the biggest understatement of the year. You quickly lose your inhibitions and it just becomes second nature. 

Even better, we now have friends to attend events with. Friends both new and old to naturism who have the same attitude. And it's fun to share the experience in such a normal setting.

Some of you may think this bizarre - but why? In our apparently liberated Western society it still amazes me how hung up we all are about baring all, especially when you consider how little some fashions leave to the imagination. I guess it is all about sexual connotation. We live in a society obsessed with sex, safety and a preconception about nudity. It's a shame but as I've realised, not everyone is like this.

I like my new social circle. They are some of the nicest people I've met in a long time. They are liberated, non critical and have no preconceived notions about the body imperfect. And this is so refreshing.

For those of you interested in reading more - here are some blogs and websites by a few friends and acquaintances. Any questions, you know you can ask.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

# 91 The price of education

This cropped up on Facebook the other week followed a long string of comments about the value of education and the usefulness of a degree. It's painfully true though in our modern age. My personal feeling is that getting that all important qualification has overshadowed the importance of life skills and experience in the real world. This is a very sad state of affairs.

Once, University was the privilege of the few. Now pretty much anyone can go. It has meant that quite a few  people who really should have been learning a trade from the ground up and acquiring some life skills were cocooned in a never ending spiral of education. What it means in the long term is that there are a huge number of people leaving education in their twenties who have few life skills to equip them for the real world and the world of work. And even the standard of their education, from what I have heard from some employers, has been dubious. I keep hearing about poor levels of literacy, unacceptable work ethics and a lack of basic common sense in many new interns and graduates. You do wonder what on earth is going on in the classroom.

This isn't the same in all courses however. In the medical profession for instance, substantial placements are part of the curriculum. And so it should be across the board.

Of course we are still in a recession. There is no doubt that continued study staves off signing on at the job centre, something the Government is happy about because it looks far better on the statistics for them to be in education rather than on the dole. But it's not necessarily a worthwhile investment. Because in this day and age, if you need a job, just any job, your qualifications might not mean anything to anyone.

We have reached a peak. There was a time when if you had a University education, you would have been top of the interview pile for any job. Now you have to get a first in many degrees just to get to the first stage, because everyone seems to have that all important degree. If you have a third, don't even bother. So what next?

Well many employers are now turning to CV's and looking at work experience, what you've done with your life, not solely your list of qualifications. It's become clear to many employers that you cannot always substitute education for life lessons. And many graduates finding work experience placements during their course might get lucky if they play their cards right as The Guardian reported in January of last year. The major concern is that many 21 year olds leaving Uiversity have little or no relevant work experience in their chosen field with which to impress potential employers.

There are also many degrees that at one time would never have had a course attached to them - mostly in the arts. If you were creative and inspired and you wanted to be, say, an artist or a writer, you just went out and did it. If you were talented and worked hard enough someone would eventually spot you.

How do you grade creativity? It's a personal preference and styles and tastes change. Just because your lecturer might not like the way you painted that country scene it doesn't mean it is wrong or deserves a bad grade. It's because your interpretation is different. Why should you have to be told how to fit in as a creative individual? It's about personal expression.

In what I do the course has been useful from a technical point of view. As a manufacturing course it has been invaluable but as a creative course - I'm beginning to wonder. And courses such as this are desperately over subscribed so how do you stand out from the rest of the grads in your year? The answer is simple to a point - work experience.

Use your independent creativity, make the most of your contacts, and make your own work to promote you as a person to be taken seriously by employers. If you're a fashion designer for instance - make things and get them professionally photographed. It ISN'T difficult to do with so many TF teams around. If you behave like a professional, people will treat you like one.

You have to think on your feet once you leave University in whatever your chosen field. Take note if you are advised to get work experience as part of your course. And use the long summers in between to boost your employability. It will make a difference somewhere along the line.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

# 90 Life Lessons

I was a very angry, fired up and passionate person when I was young. I ranted and raved manically inside and was enthusiastic to a fault for the things I believed in or that captured my imagination. My commitment to a good cause was unparalleled.

But age and experience are masters at crushing enthusiasm and reminding you that you can't always beat the system. Now I am a cynic to a fault, although I have had many bouts of enthusiasm again over the years. These days I am far more laid back. There are things I know I cannot change and other things I wish I could but I just can't muster up the energy to jump up and down and scream about because I know it's not always possible to work the system. I do miss experiencing that passion. I am disappointingly submissive in many things these days although occasionally I can still get fired up.

I was reminded recently just how much that spark had gone out whilst chatting to a younger friend who is hopefully about to embark on her University career and knows what she wants to do and where she is going. She is driven and committed to her beliefs and her views which I find admirable. She reminds me of me in many ways.

When you're young, even up to the end of your University life, before you get bogged down by the 9 - 5, keeping a roof over your head and the triviality of every day life and the people in it, you think you can do anything. You study the subjects you love and have free time to indulge yourself. University may teach you some harsh lessons about 'the system' and post Uni will remind you that life is generally a game you have to play but you may not necessarily win. Of course, for some, it is. But for the majority of us, things generally aren't that easy.

And whilst the cynics around my friend during that conversation insisted that one day she would be 'just like us', a part of me didn't want to crush her ambitions. I want her to remain this strong and this committed to her beliefs all her life and I wanted her to be successful in all these things. After all without a generation of people with her attitude, where would we be?

Friday, 15 June 2012

# 89 Who's that girl?

People tell me things about me (I mean the way others see me) and describe me in ways I just don't recognise. In fact, I just don't get most of it and I never have. I'm just being honest okay? Don't berate me for this posting, it is what it is. I will cry if you do.

I am self critical it has to be said and I guess that maybe it gives me a slightly off kilter view of myself but I don't think I'm being that harsh. It's why I use the Bridget Jones analogy. Because I most closely associate myself with that slightly bumbling, accident prone thirty-something who doesn't quite get it. I am not fishing for compliments here so please don't post any. It makes me squirm and I will delete them if you do.

So okay - a few of the usual ones:

Pretty - ummmm quirky I think is the word you're looking for and looking younger than I really am, but not pretty.
Intelligent - not really, I haven't read a book in years, I rarely keep up with the news and I don't hold conversations very well. Throw me into an intellectual debate and I'll flounder like a beached dolphin. Ask me about costume, fashion or my family ancestry though and I'll bore the pants off you. I guess that makes me a geek.
Good at what I do - lots of self doubt there at the moment, it's been an odd couple of months. I'm not the best, I've clearly shown that but I'm hoping it's still a career choice.

I'm not going to list any more because people will start to rant at me. And I hate it when people tell me off for not believing them when they compliment me. Generally I have learnt to just say 'thank you' because it's rude not to.

I will however accept the compliment of being the most honest and trustworthy friend you'll ever know. Those who confide in me and know me well will testify to this and I am happy with that accolade. I think that's probably enough.

So the reason for this post? Self doubt. It's been a heavy couple of months. And I don't quite know where I am at the moment. I'm guessing it's all to do with being at a turning point, having to find my feet in a brave new world and suffering a few insecurities along the way. It sucks. I'm not intending to stay like it, but I guess it's a transitional thing that just happens when your whole way of life changes. I'll get over it, because I have to.

Monday, 11 June 2012

# 88 Cross roads

Do you ever feel like you're about to reach a cross roads? That lots of little elements of your life have been leading to this one point where everything converges in one place. And that your next decision could be the big one that sets you up for the next stage of your life.

Maybe, just maybe, you're about to reap the rewards of everything you have worked for or maybe you'll be that one step closer to world domination. Well maybe not.....

I'm not sure I'm quite there yet but it does feel like some monumental decision is going to have to be made soon that is going to set me on a new path.

It's not scary. Indeed, it's these crossroads that keep me moving onwards. It's how I have always managed my life - a little bit of fate here, a great opportunity there or perhaps a forced job move. Not everything goes to plan but often those blips are there for a good reason.

They are the things that are out of our control. And sometimes they are the kickstart we need. I hate getting stagnated or too entrenched in routine. It makes me complacent. Which is a bad thing. My mother calls me a rolling stone, and oh she is so right. But that's fine, I don't have the ties most people my age have and that's the way I like it.

So I'll just sit back and wait for fate to weave it's magic and see what's in store. Kind of excited. This could be another good one. :)


Thursday, 7 June 2012

# 87 Getting back into routine

There is a reason this post is not on my business page. A good reason. It's because it's a vent and I do not complain on company time no matter how annoyed I might be - it's just not professional.

I am no longer at university - OFFICIAL - but the whole leaving process has been painfully dragged out due to our end of year runway show two weeks ago and Graduate Fashion Week which is next week.

Three fabulous years have been marred by three depressingly bad three weeks right at the end and to be frank, at the moment, if I never see the inside of Thomas Parker House again it'll be a day too soon. Secretly however, I think I may be tied to it for considerably longer and after some time apart I am hoping we resolve our differences.

So last week I was working from home in an official capacity for the first time since last summer. And I was remembering what it felt like not to be tied to deadlines that weren't of my own making. And yes it felt good. Something I had been dreading (working from home) became a good thing because there I was doing what I do, using my brain and not being told what sort of designer I should be or how I was going to be marketable. And it's also dawned on me that I am no longer working as an aside to having a full time job. This is now what I do all the time. Isn't that fun?

I am the designer I am. Invariably my clients will dictate my styles which is fine by me. I am after all providing a service. They are paying me to make them unique individual clothes that fit them. I didn't need a degree to do this, or learn how to run a business or to be told what type of designer I was going to be, BUT the skills I have learnt over the last three years HAVE been incredibly useful and it has not been a waste by any means.

As well as that, my routine has been completely lost the last few months and so many amazing things have happened to me this year that I've almost lost sense of who and what I am. I let everything carry me where it wanted which was great. But now what I need is to eat proper meals, do some exercise, work a 9 - 5 and get creatively independent again.

And most importantly of all I need to figure out my work / life balance because I was reminded recently that I haven't seen some of my friends in MONTHS and that's just terrible. :/

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

# 86 Curb Your Enthusiasm

When I was young I was incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about what I believed in, what I loved to do and what I wanted to be. I was inspired. I could get lost for days in a project or get so caught up in a new TV programme I became completely obsessed and couldn't do anything else.

Last year it happened to me again. I was so full of buzz and energy for the work I was doing I was quite literally bouncing off the walls. It was like someone had slipped something into my food. But I lost it at Christmas and I've never got it back again.

The last months of University have been stressful, numbing and sadly disappointing. Even more, it hasn't quite dawned on me yet that I have left and that at last I can start being really creative again and work to my own agenda. I hope that with time and the projects I see before me, I'll get some of that buzz back again.

But it also occurred to me that it might not be me who's lost enthusiasm. I am amazed at the lack of energy in  some people around me, people starting out in life who should be full of the sense of trepidation that comes from flying the nest and starting out on your own. I'm guessing the state of the world today, the recession, the lack of job opportunities and the seemingly repetitive and predictable nature of life has dulled our senses a little.

But I see no spark in anything around me at the moment, nothing to catch the imagination. Films I see promise much but are often disappointing - music doesn't inspire. And as for the TV, well I pretty much stopped watching that some time ago.

I want that sense of adventure back that I used to have, that spontaneity about being a creative person, about doing something at the weekend that was unplanned and badly thought out and not having to plan my social life around what's left in my pocket. I miss these things.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

# 85 Bomb proof

I am bomb proof. I don't mean that in the literal sense i.e. I will explode if you actually stick a bomb under me. But I am unshockable, understanding, level headed and will deal with pretty much anything you can throw at me. I also have a very high stress tolerance. But eventually things will get to me.

Friendship wise mine have always been reasonably thin on the ground where close friends have been concerned. My very slight issues with trust mean I keep few friends in my confidence and the rest are happy acquaintances I am pleased to have had in my life. Every friendship lost for the wrong reasons is a learning curve and if you abuse my trust or my generosity I will see fit to deal with it. 

But don't get me wrong. I am not hard, insensitive or uncaring. I am indeed quite the opposite. I always consider myself the most trustworthy person anyone will ever know and there are those that will testify to that.

I know there are plenty of people out there just like me. We come to it from different directions though. I have never directly experienced anything particularly bad in my life. I have never been abused, raped, attacked in any shape or form, or had issues with drugs or alcohol (well not as a user anyway) and I have a good background and a stable home life. 

So for me to be so well versed and unshockable is perhaps an unusual response to a normal '2.4 family' upbringing. And for that reason my rationality also has a heart. Which means that although I feel the pain and my heart will get broken (which is goddamn horrible), I will come through because that's what you do. 

Life goes on and you deal with it.  And certainly experiences in the last year have made me much harder when it comes to sexual relationships (always my only weak point where rationality is concerned).

Of  course, I have never experienced a life threatening situation so I can't tell you how I would deal with, say, the discovery that I had a terminal illness. I would like to think I would do something useful with my last days, weeks or months on earth. But maybe I would take all the years of being 'nice' as licence for me to run rough shod over everything and every one. Who can tell? I haven't been there. 

What I do know, is that you should live for the moment, be grateful for every day that you are able to walk freely with good health and be thankful for what income you have and the reliable people around you. I can get insanely annoyed by petty and trivial people who whine and bitch about things they have no right to complain about. Thankfully I generally keep them at arms length. But I guess that's just me.