mental health matters

The other day my doctor congratulated me on having the courage to pursue an entirely different career to the one in which I trained. That was a big deal to me. Just over a year ago I was not in a great place. I was struggling through my final year of uni and trying to work through in my head just exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that, although, for the most part, I loved what I was doing, there was something about it which just wasn't quite right. I had never experienced the kind of thoughts and feelings which had surfaced at various points throughout my degree, and I decided that it was my choice of career which was taking its toll on my mental health. I was surviving, not thriving.

I finally found another career path which excited me and spurred me on to complete my degree. Things immediately seemed to be going my way - I passed my degree and achieved the 2:2 which was going to give me a fighting chance when it came to applying for a masters, I was offered a job which I very much enjoy (and which has made me realise just how negative my previous work environment had been), visited a publishing house for a day, had an interview at my choice of university, got an offer from that university, received a scholarship offer from that university (do you get the picture yet?) All of these positive things made me feel about 95% sure that this was the right decision, but there was still that little thought in the back of my mind. But when my doctor sat there and told me that he sees so many people who are incredibly unhappy in their jobs and that, though it takes courage, making that decision is so incredibly important, I finally felt 100% certain that it was right. That affirmation that, yes, my mental wellbeing is a good enough reason to change my mind - it's my choice and only I can make the one that's right for me. 

I wanted to share these thoughts because it's mental health awareness week. I know that my story pales in comparison to many others, but every struggle, no matter how small, needs to be talked about. I didn't speak to many people about the days when I didn't want to get out of bed, or my chest was so tight it felt as though someone was standing on me. I didn't know what it was or how to deal with it. But those who I did tell helped me to understand it and get through it, and that's why it is so incredibly important to talk. Mental health matters.

spring adventures: the end

It makes me sad that this is the last of my posts about what I've been up to the past few months. And I can't believe it's been months. Time has gone far too quickly. But it's been the best fun, and I've loved being able to share it. I managed to cram a fair bit in to the last few weeks before exams and placement (yes, I'm back to that - but not for long!), with two trips to London and a return to Birmingham in the middle of it. Once again it was Rowan who joined me - it's going to be odd not seeing her week after week! 
First on our list was seeing Leon Bridges at the O2 in Brixton. I have been in love with Leon since I first heard his music; I think there's something so fresh about him even though everything about him is from several decades ago. Support was from Andra Day who is an absolutely incredible singer with so much soul. Honestly so beautiful. And then Leon turned up and the party really got started. He's a trained dancer, so half of the performance was that. It was beautiful to see him get so involved in the music and just have a good time. Having the jazz band was great as well. It made for a really good Friday night! And Brixton O2 is a really good venue, as well. It's about a five minute walk from Rowan's flat (winner) and has a really gorgeous interior with a sloping floor, which was a real bonus as it meant that you could see no matter how far back you were (although it did leave our legs feeling a little weird). Ro introduced me to Blues Kitchen in Brixton for brunch and then we just wandered in the afternoon before I headed back home. The sunset was really beautiful, and watching it set whilst driving through London was just dreamy. I love that city.
After I'd returned to Birmingham for my last few weeks of uni, Rowan came to visit and we went to Newton Faulkner at the Institute. It was a ridiculously good gig, and was so much fun. It was one that we both agreed we weren't necessarily the most excited about but he was really impressive. His musical talent is amazing and his stage presence is great, something which comes of ten years' worth of touring, I think. We fell in love with I See Rivers, his support act. They are from Norway and are just these gorgeous ethereal creatures and make the most wonderful music. It was seriously such a good night and Newton turned us into a choir at points and there was dancing and it was just great. Then we did what we usually do a slept for a million hours, went for lunch, and toured Birmingham a little before Ro headed home. 
Our last gig was a ridiculous one to end on. It was Tom Odell. Actual Tom Odell. I was so upset when I saw that his intimate show had sold out, because I was due to receive an email and never did, but I somehow managed to get tickets through DICE. I honestly don't know how it happened, but I was ridiculously excited. So I ended up getting the train down to London and seeing him in Islington at a beautiful little venue. Long Way Down is one of my favourite albums of all time, so I have been looking forward to his new stuff for so long. To hear him play it live in such a small venue was absolutely incredible. He has got such a powerful voice, and yet there's this real vulnerable side to it. I think it'll be one of those gigs that you remember and say 'I saw him at a really tiny venue once' when he's playing these massive shows. Annoyingly I had to get back to Birmingham for uni the next day, so we couldn't do anything interesting. But while we were having lunch in McDonald's (everyone's favourite), we sat by this guy drawing the most incredible comic. I really hope that he makes it in that business because he clearly had such a talent for it. I love the things you stumble across sometimes.

I have honestly had the best few months doing all these incredible things, and I'm so lucky to have been able to. I hope that the summer proves to be just as fun. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

spring adventures: new york (ii)

Are you ready for part two? You might want to grab a cuppa. It's probably going to be another long one.

Day 4 in New York City started off in the best way possible - bagels for breakfast. They're one of my favourite things to eat, and everyone's got to have an actual New York bagel, right?! One of the places I'd really wanted to visit was the High Line in Chelsea so we decided to head in that direction as the weather was supposed to be a bit more rubbish towards the end of the holiday and we wanted to make the most of the sun. It actually turned out that it rained when we got there and then was gorgeous that afternoon, but it didn't spoil it. It was busy enough in the rain so I can imagine in the summer it is absolutely packed, but it was a really interesting way to see some more of the city and it's actually a really lovely area of green-ish space to walk. We made our way down from the High Line and walked through Chelsea a little bit along to the market. I can totally understand why it's the fashionable area - my goodness, it is beautiful! Even the Google building lives there. Chelsea Market was cute, but I have to admit that there wasn't a huge amount there considering how busy it was. I had an incredible chicken pot pie from one of the food stalls for lunch and then we got mini doughnuts for dessert, so I shouldn't complain! After lunch we wandered back towards the High Line to a place called Biergarten which Zoe, Nolan and my dad wanted to check out. It was ridiculously expensive but I think they enjoyed the beer and we got to play table tennis so that kept us amused for a little while.
By that point the sun was shining beautifully and so we made our way towards the 9/11 memorial via Wall Street. The 9/11 memorial was the most incredible place - I'm getting emotional even just writing about it. There is just this very contemplative atmosphere there. I found it very difficult not to cry, and none of us really said much. You are just kind of floored by this empty space left and how much of an impact it made on the entire area. The memorial is really beautifully done, as well. I'm grateful that I got to see it. We left before we all burst into tears and found Battery Park, where we enjoyed the last of the sunshine for the day and admired Lady Liberty from afar. Dinner was at a place in the East Village called Whitman's, where I had incredible grilled cheese. More places in England should sell grilled cheese. I love grilled cheese. It's a miracle that I didn't take any photos of my food, save for a pretzel, whilst I was there. I was obviously far too excited and just wanted to eat it. You're probably very grateful.
Saturday morning was fairly rainy so we took cover in Grand Central Terminal. How beautiful is that building?! I just wanted there to be people wandering around in appropriate period costume to get the full effect. So pretty. After wandering around for a little bit we made our way to Union Square. The market was there because it was the weekend, and it almost felt a little bit like home. And all the flowers certainly brightened up the slightly grey day. Zoe and Nolan took my dad to Brooklyn Brewery in the afternoon, so me and mum left them to catch the subway to Williamsburg whilst we braved the Brooklyn Bridge. Neither of us are the best at walking over structures which are a long way up with holes in the floor, but we made it! The view kind of kept our mind off things. It's actually a really lovely walk, and it was nice to see the city from yet another perspective. We then explored Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO, where I took that photo, and decided we'd make our way back to Manhattan to wander some more. I do want to explore Brooklyn properly when I inevitably return, though. We found ourselves in the middle of a massive old pillowfight in Washington Square Park, and then discovered the sweetest little mews which were something related to international NYU students. I want to enrol there just so I can see the inside of them! We then walked up 5th Ave until we got to the Flatiron building (which is just as cool as I thought it would be). I know everybody always says you walk a crazy amount in New York, but I couldn't believe just how far we'd made it that day - I think it was over 10 miles according to my phone. I'm not sure I believe that, but it certainly didn't feel like it if we did. While we were having a sit down by Madison Square Park, the others rang and told us they'd drunk the brewery dry, so we met them back at Union Square and made our way to a pizza place near the apartment for dinner. That pizza was really bloody good.
Sunday was a bit of a pain in the arse as our flight was late in the evening and we had to drag our luggage around with us all day (about the only downside to renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel), but we enjoyed breakfast at Bercli Park again before heading uptown. Zoe and Nolan had an earlier flight than us, so we said goodbye to them on the corner of 57th and 6th. My mum just about held it together until they disappeared down into the subway station, but then she went to bits and so I went to bits. It will never be easy saying goodbye, but it's much harder when mum is there. I blame it on her motherly instinct. Maybe when I'm a mother myself I'll understand. Anyway, we spent the rest of the day lugging our suitcases around Central Park - it was difficult to say goodbye to that place, especially on such a beautifully crisp, sunny day - and down 6th Ave to the Rockefeller Centre (thank you, public toilets), and then on to Penn Station where we caught the train to the airport. I'm sure it would have been a more productive day had we not had our suitcases, but we were a little limited by them and, to be honest, I don't think mum was particularly up to much. So we just enjoyed the atmosphere of the city for those final few hours. It was the absolute best holiday; New York City was everything I hoped it would be, and more, and there's still so much left to explore. And to spend time with Zoe and Nolan was the best - fingers crossed it's not another two years before we see them again. New York City: you stole my heart completely. See you again sometime.