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A Look Back at 2018 (and a Look Forward at 2019)

2018 has been a year of ups and downs. Is that cliché to say? Probably, but it’s true. Some terrible things happened this year: my gran, who I was very close to, got ill and unfortunately passed away, and I have had some health struggles of my own, both physical and mental, which I am still grappling with.

But some great stuff happened this year too! I had a wonderful time abroad in Tenerife with my mother, I quit my terrible job and will be starting a much better one soon, I got a lot of writing done, read a lot of books and manga, watched a bunch of great anime and films, listened to some good tunes, and played some awesome video games!

So here’s a summary of some of my faves :-

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Excerpt, Fiction, Original Fiction

HTRYV Excerpt: Nightmares

Sleep came surprisingly easy, but the nightmares came easier.  Disembodied hands on her throat, familiar by now, clamping her voice down so she couldn’t scream.  But this time the fingers changed, grew longer, greener; they became vines, full of thorns piercing her throat.  Her breath whistled and wheezed through the holes, and blood followed, dripping endlessly onto dirty floorboards.  The crimson puddles were morbidly fascinating, and Bex watched, frozen and dying, as they bubbled and undulated, splitting apart and reforming into dozens of red roses.  The two nearest her opened their petals wide, as if blooming, and inside were two huge, black pupils, watching her. Bex felt oddly pulled in by them, and she found herself wanting to pluck them, smell the coppery tang of the blood, touch the velvety heat of the petals.  But she couldn’t move, couldn’t blink or even breathe and she realised, in that detached way of thinking that happens in dreams, that she had died.

The pain in her neck moved—how was she still feeling pain if she was dead?—as the vines unravelled and vanished, laser-focusing instead to two points on the left of her throat that would have brought tears to her eyes if she had still been able to cry.  Something pressed against her chest, pleasantly weighted and warm, and she felt comforted, even as the agony grew—even as the fangs inched closer and closer to her carotid artery. She wouldn’t mind bleeding to death, she thought, if this was how she went…if her life could feed—

Bex jerked awake at once.  Her vest clung to her with sweat, her arm trembled, and her breathing came hard; but she was glad she was breathing at all.  She felt sick to her stomach, horrified at both the dream and at herself inside the dream, and she barely made it to the bathroom before she vomited, retching until all of Allison’s dutifully delivered food was floating in the toilet bowl.


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JackSepticEye’s Tour Changed My Life

On November 4th, 2018, I saw JackSepticEye’s How Did We Get Here? liveshow at the Edinburgh Playhouse.  And it changed my life.

For those of you who don’t know, JackSepticEye, A.K.A. Sean McLoughlin, is an Irish YouTube personality who primarily does let’s plays of video games.  I’ve been watching his content for roughly four years, after he did a gaming collab with another YouTuber I’m subscribed to, Markiplier.  (I also saw Markiplier and his friends in Glasgow when they did their liveshow over here, check out my post about it!)  Jack’s darling accent and cheerful demeanour captured my heart instantly, and here I am writing this blog post four years later, the day after seeing him perform live on stage.  How far we have come.

Without going into too much detail about the contents of said liveshow, it aims to answer its own question – how did we get here? – and can be roughly described as one-third stand-up comedy, one-third audience participation, and one-third inspirational messages as Jack takes us through his life, from his childhood in a small town in Ireland, up to his present status as a well-known YouTuber with several million subscribers.  This is achieved through comedic anecdotes and metaphors using on-stage gameplay, and is rounded off with one of Jack’s trademark PMA (positive mental attitude!)-inspired sincere speeches at the end that left me feeling warm and fuzzy.

But why did it change my life?

Well, technically, it didn’t.  My life is still the same as it was yesterday.  I’m still unemployed, battling anxiety and stress on a daily basis, and struggling to get people to notice anything I write.  So I suppose it’s more accurate to say it changed how I view my life.

I have some things in common with Jack.  We’re both British.  We both grew up in small communities.  We both have a love of video games.  We both had bad experiences with higher education.  Like most of his fans, I’ve heard the stories he’s told in his videos about living in a cabin in the woods, or dropping out of college, etc.  But to hear them told in much greater detail, with extra information I had no idea about, really made our similarities hit home, particularly when he talked about feeling lost and isolated after leaving college.

I dropped out of university in 2012.  I had been struggling with the workload on a course I had no interest in, and had only gone to university in the first place because it was expected of me.  I cried almost daily, and was in a very bad place mentally.  Since then I have only had a couple of low-skilled jobs, and now in my mid-twenties I still have no ambition, no goals, no career or life aspirations.
So to hear Jack, JackSepticEye, one of my idols, almost word-for-word mirror my experiences in his own stories about how he felt stupid among his peers at college and how he had no clear direction in life until he discovered YouTube, was eye-opening.  Here was this amazing person who inspires me every day telling me he’d gone through exactly what I had, and come out the other end fighting and making it his goal to spread a wonderful message about hope and positivity!  It completely changed my outlook on life in the space of a couple of hours.

While I’m under no illusions that everything will suddenly be perfect – Jack even says in his show that even with help, things still take hard work and dedication – I left the venue feeling inspired and hopeful for the future, for the first time in…well, ever, I think!  And while I know every day won’t be good, and there will be tough times and dark hours where the little pessimism-demon who lives in my head starts to take over my brain again, I will keep trying.  Because Jack kept trying.  I will not give up.  Because Jack didn’t give up.  I will not settle.  Because Jack never settled.

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Thank you, Jack.


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Personal

And then there were two.

The loss of a loved one, especially one you had lived with for twenty-five years, is an odd thing.
“Odd” may not be the right word, or at least not the socially-acceptable one.  Sad, tragic, heartbreaking, difficult – it’s all of those, too.  But “odd” feels the most fitting, somehow.

There is an empty space.  And not just physically, although that’s true too: there is no third person to manoeuvre around, no body sitting on the chair in the corner, no figure in the unoccupied bed – the emptiness I mean is an absence of being, a lack of sound and substance and personality, a strangely deep loneliness although I am not alone.
There’s a missing set of footsteps shuffling around.  There’s no blaring TV in the middle of the night, pumping out Chris Tarrant’s voice via endless re-runs of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”  There isn’t the gentle, consistent scraping of pen over paper and humming made-up tunes.  The house is quiet.

It’s like limbo, I suppose; or what I imagine limbo to be like.  There’s a lot of waiting.  Waiting for the things to be processed and organised that must be processed and organised, yes, but also, I think, waiting futilely for some semblance of what used to be “normal” to return.  But that “normal” is gone, and so begins a process of grasping and shaping a new “normal,” but I think that process hasn’t begun for me yet.  I spend a lot of time looking out of windows, letting my mind become a faux-comfort of white noise.

There is a sense of guilt, too.  Relief is the guiltiest feeling of them all.  It’s over, thank goodness, we can move on – but should we?
How dare I laugh?  How dare I make plans?  How dare these belongings be given – or thrown – away?  How dare a house of three become a house of two?  How dare any of this happen?
But it dares anyway.

And then there are the reminders.  The cushion in the car boot.  The special shampoo tucked among the rest in the bathroom.  The collection of scented candles.  The pink and white cardigan.  The photos.
Sometimes, remembering is nice.

I’m looking out of the window, again, as I take a small break from writing this.  It’s getting dark, and the clouds are moving, and the cars drive past, and the Earth turns, and life goes on.
For some of us.  For two of us.

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