I Am A Badass, And Please Don’t Forget It

02536F56-8672-49A7-90EE-6965A51075DB
Hey. So you’ve been reading these for a while and I think at this point I ought to make something clear. This isn’t a story about how sad I am. This isn’t even a story about how lost I am, or was. It is true that throughout these tales I have been both lost and sad. Truly, truly sad and at times very lost. But do not think for one second I have ever given up hope or thought that any of it was too much for me to bear, because it hasn’t been. This is a story about survival. This is a story about success. This is a story about living my best life despite the shit raining down on me from the ceiling fan.
The thing about me that I want you to know, the thing about me that I need you to know is that deep down at my very core, I am a badass. I am a true badass. I am a badass for the ages. Strength of character is all I’ve ever had. All we have had. And it turns out that that is all we have ever needed.

I come from a line of badasses. We’re a dynasty. It’s in our blood. It comes from my mums side. You see, she is a badass too. So is my sister. She is probably the most badass of them all. My mum got dealt a shitty hand. She, for all intent and purpose, lost her husband before her 40th birthday. Except he didn’t die, he was brutally injured and not only did she have to deal with that, she also has to raise two young children on her own. And raise us she did. Expertly. My sister is 32, she has two amazing young children and is a senior manager in a very good company. She isn’t afraid to ask for what she is worth. And if she doesn’t get it, she isn’t afraid to ask again.  She travels the world when her job requires and she is still there to pick her son and daughter up from nursery and read them books before they go to bed. She fights for women’s rights in the workplace and she has come out to Canada to drink cocktails and eat brunch with me because she wants to. Because she can. There is nothing in the world that could stop Julia. Trust me.
And me? Oh, I’m formidable too. Don’t get me wrong, I like smiling and being kind, I like making cards for my friends and baking cakes for birthdays and being the person that always buys the balloons. I like being calm and I like long walks. I cry at Rom Coms and bite my lip when I stub my toe…sometimes I cry because everything gets a bit too much…but make no mistake. Beneath my soft and sometimes anxious and awkward exterior roars the soul of a lion that is absolutely done with your shit. In one move, I’ll be ready to rally. I always have been and I always will be.
I survived a car accident, I was teased for the way I looked and acted at school, my childhood was a bit of a mess but I got through it. I studied and I got the grades. I went to university. I got a First Class Honours degree. I managed to find a job that served me in London, it was hard but I made it work. I saved my money, I moved across an ocean, I settled in a new city. Again, it was hard, but I made it work. I found two jobs, I made ends meet, I pushed and I pushed. I wrote for free, I took what I could. I built up what I had. It was hard. But I made it work. When the time came, I asked for more because I felt like I earned at and deserved it. I didn’t always get it, but that didn’t stop me trying again and finding ways to get it for myself. I broke up with my boyfriend, who moved here with me. I was afraid. I had to move out. I found my own home. I now live alone and I actually like it. It was hard. But. I. Made. It. Work.
I’ve never known what it is like to be rich. Perhaps I never will. But I know what it is like to make my own fortune and my own abundance. I work for my paycheques and when I am done with my 9-5, I work some more. Everything I have in my home and in my life I have worked for. It isn’t much, but it’s everything I need and that feels really nice.
What did I take from everyone else? The only thing I would ever accept. Love. They say it takes a village and I think they are right. Being a badass is easy when somebody loves you. I don’t think being a badass means going it alone. I think it means moving forward knowing it isn’t just you holding the sword. The more people that love you and you love back means the more people ready then join you in battle when times get hard. I think having an open heart is very brave indeed, although it has never been a choice for me, instead, a reflex I can’t control.
England, Germany, France, Canada… we little warriors have spread far. It makes me happy in some ways to know I have people in so many places. I think of them sometimes, half way across the world fighting their own fights, but never alone. We’re a network of badasses. My friends are fierce. And although we know there are some fights we have to mainly get through solo, we’re there for each other. I’m on the other side of the phone. Just give me a call and I’ll pack my bloody shield. Lol. I have no idea at what point this blogpost turned into medieval warfare but…I don’t know, I think I’m here for it. I’m here for them.
I am a badass.
For now, remember.  You won’t crush me. You will spur me on.  My spirit is strong. I will work with you but never for you. You do not own me and you never will. I am agreeable but not subservient. I might cry but that doesn’t mean I am weak. On the contrary.  I know there are good times and there are bad. I know the battle is never really over  but I do know I will always be okay, even if that okay doesn’t look the way I imagined it to. Why? Because I am me. And me has got this. I am badass. And please don’t forget it.

Those Who Go / Those Who Stay

Those who go

I walked the halls of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan alone. I was alone for the whole trip. By choice but also very much in practice. I was jogged from my thoughts as I saw them. I had no idea they were here. Three paintings that had struck a chord with me nine years ago. I remember the day I first laid eyes on them in a book in a lecture at the aggressively trendy art school I attended in South East London. Goldsmiths. That is a whole different chapter, filled with the iron clasp of skinny jeans, activism and men with haircuts reminiscent of birds of paradise. I’ll save those stories for another day. 

States of Mind: The Farewells, Those Who Go and Those Who Stay. Umberto Boccioni. An Italian Futurist who died after falling off a horse in 1916 age 33. He painted a series of three images in 1911, which were eerily preemptive of the mass divide that was about to strike Europe in 1914; the onset of World War I. While the first painting in the series is moving, it is the final two that have always rung around the passages of my brain. Those Who Go. Those Who Stay. Two sides of a coin. Both defined by one another, but can never exist as one.  

At 19 I felt a strong connection to these two pieces, despite only having had the smallest taste of “going”. I was only 60 miles away from home back then. An hour on a train. It pales in comparison to the 3,537 miles I live with today.  Yet I think that part of me knew, even then, that I would one day be away. Of the two camps, “Those Who Go” and “Those Who Stay”, I knew and have always known that I am going. That is the thing about me. I’m always going. I can’t stop. I can’t sit still. The going in me led me, after learning about futurism and modern art for the first time, to board a train to Paris to see it all for myself. The Pompidou. It was quite the adventure. 

I have never been one to miss out on an adventure. Never. Its not like I’ve ever had any money but I’ll always make it work. I HAVE to go. I have to see. I cant miss out.  

Yet…there has always been something that has drawn me to “Those Who Stay”. I cant say that I know too well what it’s like to stay, but I know that the scene depicted  by Boccinio was the real price of my departure ticket. The thing about going is that it also means leaving. I’ve never been under any impression that life stands still without me there. The place and the people I have left behind continue on their path. It’s just…in all my going I can still feel them. And sadness, and regret, and love and loss that I can’t be with them and be somewhere new at the same time. And I know that they feel me too. They feel me somewhere unplaceable deep inside as they continue their lives knowing that it is their choice to be where they are and that it was my choice to leave them there. As I, alone, came face to face with Umberto Boccioni’s paintings at the Museum of Modern Art I also came face to face with my own deepest conflict and sadness.  

Those Who Go. Those Who Stay. 

I was going again to see the people who stayed. I had a plane ticket back to England for Christmas. Being of the “Go” camp, I hadn’t had a December in the UK for four years. Whatever the season, I’m always filled with the Go/Stay conflict when I fly back to the UK. Those who go will know what I mean when I say this…returning home is utterly bizarre. Flying over England, seeing it from the sky makes me feel something very deeply. Something like placing Boccioni’s paintings on top of one another in a few suspended moments of reality where “Those Who Go” and “Those Who Stay” can live together side by side again.  Stay. Go. Stay. Go. Return. Stay. Return. Go. This is never more poignant than at the airport. It doesn’t matter whether you are one who goes or one who stays at this point, because we’re both sad. We are both defined by the other.

That’s the entropy of life though, isn’t it?  We can’t all go and we can’t all stay, if not nothing would ever change. And change is the very crux of all life and everything, if you really think about it. 

Ha. Spoken like a true goer. 

My sister sent me a parcel. A gift passed along from one who stayed to one who left. It was a beautiful book. Not so ironically it was “Oh, The Places You Will Go” by Dr Seuss. She reads it to my niece and nephew and I read it to myself and for one moment it doesn’t matter who stays and who goes because we are all sharing something and I like that. 

I think about the whole cycle some more. Staying and going. Despite being one that goes, a lot of things have stayed for me. My family are still there, and I am still here and we know we will be in the same space again … at some point. Love transcends geography. It doesn’t have a coordinate. If we all knew where to look for it, then it wouldn’t be so hard to find.

My best friend stayed by going…or coming…here, but in doing so started her own cycle of going and staying. In many ways I have stayed the same person. The reason I have always been a person that goes is because it has felt right not to stay. I stay as long as staying feels good and then I go when going calls me. And it does so, often. 

I think I’ll know when I get there. I hope so anyway. Or am I destined to never settle? 

On Tuesday you are going and on Tuesday I am staying. This is the right thing for you, but fuck does it feel weird to be one that stays.  For once. 

For now, I await the call with bated breath. Again.

those-who-stay

One

814A563E-8672-40AF-AC56-78A7463FEF44

It has  been one year.  One year since the day that started in England and ended in Toronto, Canada. One year since I woke up in a hotel room in a gigantic shared bed with my sister and fell asleep alone on a mattress in the middle of an empty room in a place I didn’t know. It was the only furniture I had.

I found the apartment a little under a month before. Will and I had broken up and he had left the country for a few weeks leaving me to get myself out. Pack it all up and leave. We had lived together for almost four years, and over two in the basement under a Starbucks on a busy Toronto street. Our first home together was over 3,000 miles away. A studio apartment in an only slightly dodgy area of London. It had a wall that separated a bedroom the size of a Queen mattress from a kitchen and living room with no space for an oven or a table. The London real estate dream. 

Our Toronto apartment, albeit dark, was much bigger. I loved it because it was where we had made our home, but I missed the light. This time I wanted light. I was a seedling ready to grow and I needed it. 

I was making one of the scariest decisions of my life, ending a six year relationship at the age of 29 and going it alone, so it seemed important to me to live alone too. I was sad. I was worse than sad. I couldn’t deal with having to fake a smile over my cornflakes in a shared apartment with people I didn’t know, knowing full well they had heard me screeching and crying into my pillow the night before. “Yep, I’m great thanks Jenny, how are you? Amazing. Have a good day at work! Ha, yeah, see you later !” End scene. 

The small talk. The sterility. No. I had to get through this alone. 

You had gone and I had planned to take up your spot in England when you got back. A cross over. Five and a bit weeks without seeing each other. Time. Space. But I knew I had little time to find my own space so I spent a cold Saturday traversing the West End of the city looking for a place to call my own. With a heavy heart and a painfully light bank balance, I was prepared to settle. But then I found my new home.  

It was still a basement, but it’s only half sunken and the bedroom has a huge window looking out into street. Light. I’ve spent Saturdays and Sundays laying in bed reading in the light and thanking my lucky stars to be alive and in the sunshine. There is also a little living room for entertaining around the corner from a small kitchen and a dining space as well as a little bathroom with a bath and shower. Perfect for just me, and just me was going to be perfect, wasn’t it? I’ve always had hope. 

It was more than I could afford, it still is, but the sacrifice for my own space seemed worth it. I’m lucky that I review restaurants as one of my many invaluable side hustles so I assumed I would just about still be able to eat and live and laugh, even though at that point in February 2018 laughter seemed as distant to me as Jupiter. 

So I got it. I had a move in date. A move in date that coincided with my return date to Toronto. What now?  Momentum has always been something I am excellent at summoning up but I find the bit afterwards, after the propulsion, after the flinging, after the landing…the bit when it’s over and you have to sit still…that bit…that is the bit I find difficult. My mum always says I can’t sit still. She is right. 

I had been in England escaping my problems and crying into different pillows for over three weeks and it was time to come home, time to move out and time to move in. And time to move on. All in one day. 

My last night in London was a grand affair. We had been celebrating my mum’s 60th Birthday with a trip to the capital. We had been on a pilgrimage up The Shard. We drank a glass of champagne in a white out as snow fell over the skyline. 3000 miles for more snow. When the clouds finally shifted the view was breathtaking. It’s a hard feeling to describe.  Looking over your old city, a place you lived for 8 years but is now mythical to you except in the one or two days a year you see it in the flesh… It’s a feeling that to me moves from the legs, to the gut, to the fingers. Make of that what you will. 

We had had a three course dinner and had been to see the Lion King on stage.  When it was over, Julia and I climbed into our shared hotel bed like we were kids again and giggled until we fell asleep. But the next morning came and I had to go. Fuck. Please not yet. 

We had breakfast at a Wetherspoons in Gatwick airport and mum tried not to seem too concerned that my day was going to involve a 8hour flight, a final goodbye with my ex boyfriend and a night alone in a new house. Her performance was unconvincing. “Do you have to do this all in one day, Bex? Couldn’t you stay with Ruth tonight.” I could but I wouldn’t. Momentum, remember. I was full speed out the final chapter and into my new book that I hadn’t thought too much about what that new first page would feel like. 

God I hate the security gate. The point of no return. I had never cried in front of them when leaving before. I’d always saved it for a private moment in the toilets but on this day I wept. Despite all my best momentum I knew deep down I didn’t want to go. My family, the people I love stood here in front of me in England, in safety and security, and my life lay in tatters in Canada. Why would I want to go back? But I had to and my time was up and I wiped my eyes and I got through it. Just. I was that girl crying shoeless at the security conveyer belt. “MISS, coat OFF please.” 

Okay, just give me a break. 

I was still crying when I had my shoes back on and my bag rezipped. Ugly crying, no less. This had to stop. I checked the last of my UK bank balance. £18.50. That would do. I found the champagne bar. The one only 50 year old business men drink at, the one with oysters on the counter and drinks placed on napkins. With all the grace I could muster, I sat down on a high stool. I was the only woman in sight. I ordered a £14 glass of pink Möet. Cheers to me. Cheers to this shit show. Cheers to the end and the beginning all in one day. Cheers to facing up to the chaos. Cheers to 3000 miles and no sleep and no legroom and big cases and…..after a while I had run out of things to cheers so just watched the bubbles rise and fall to try and distract myself from the pit growing in my chest. My flight was boarding so I downed the last gulp. Cheers to time being up. Cheers to the moment being now. Cheers to movement. Cheers to momentum. 

It’s weird, the only thing I remember about the flight was the take off and the landing. The middle is a jumble of phone notes and action plans. The beginning and the end were calm, though. The aerial views of my two different homes. One ebbing away for yet another day, and the other coming into view and settling back into reality. Toronto feels like my home now. As the plane landed with barely a bump, I knew I had to get back to it. 

Bus, subway, bus. One day I’ll be rich I’m sure but for now, inconvenient travel is the only way I do it. The stretch between my house, my old house, and the bus stop was eternal and tragic. I didn’t even need to put my keys into the lock, you heard me coming and opened the door. I’ll never forget the smell of that home, or of you in it. We’d seen each other for one hour at London Liverpool Street Station in our cross over and here you were opening the door to our home for me for the last time, biting your lip the way you do. 

Things had changed inside. All of the things I had packed three weeks before were now neatly stacked in a corner. You had bought a new sofa and some houseplants and a rug. You offered me a cup of tea. We drank together in tears. 

You left because you said you couldn’t watch. I couldn’t either. Ruth came and together we took my cases to my empty new home. It was late. It had been a long day. She helped me unbox my new mattress and made my bed up for me. A mattress and a lamp. That was all I had that first night. 

There is so much to be said about the next day, the next week, the next few months and I am sure I’ll get to saying it. Not least because the next day was when I had to see you, the other you, again. Our relationship was something else. A storm waiting to rage I guess? 

My friends helped me unpack and build my new furniture. We ate pizza on plates made of Ikea instructions. When I had a table I started to invite people round. At Easter I held a lunch for 16 people and as the months went on this house has seen so much laughter and joy and love. I may be the sole resident but my visitors have been constant and welcome. We’ve sat outside in the sun, we’ve watched movies on my bed, we’ve drank cocktails in my lounge. I’ve had parties, I’ve spilled drinks, I’ve broken plates. I’ve lived. Here. 

Sometimes I get home after a few drinks and I feel the warmth of my house as I open the door. Like actually coming from the walls. I know that it may sound absolutely insane but I actually think that my house LOVES me as much as I love it. I feel happy and safe here, when on that first night I wasn’t sure if those were things I would feel again. 

Yes, I’ve had sad times too. I’ve cried in just about every spot there is to cry in. I’ve cried in my shower the most. On New Years Day I cried on the floor of the kitchen while holding a mop in one hand and my face in the other. It isn’t always easy. But it always gets better. And living here has seen me be better and do better. 

Tonight I am holding a dinner party for those who have been on the front line for me this year. The people who have helped me build my furniture, scrabbled together miss-matching chairs so we can all eat together at my table, the people who have all involuntarily shouted “oooh” as we popped another bottle of Prosecco. I want to thank them and these four walls for being here. Thank you friends, and thank you house. Happy one year anniversary!