Breaking out of your Comfort Zones

Why do we have comfort zones and how do we know we’ve broken out of them?

Is being in a comfort zone just recognizing something that you’ve done before and not feeling anxious about doing it again? Do you just need to feel nervous in order to know you’ve done something outside of your comfort zone?

There are so many hurdles every day that we have to get over and for some it is harder than others.

Starting a new job is scary enough, but for others, just getting a new bus can be the scariest part of it all! Anxiety in every walk of life is common and I am writing this mainly to prove to a lot of people that they are not alone. We are all more anxious than we let on but we mustn’t let it get the better of us. Sometimes, we just have to put our head down and run full speed into the wind. No matter what you’re thinking in the back of your head! Those voices who are saying, this is too hard, let’s go back inside: You have to ignore those.

It’s easy to not doing something because the pain and fear that comes with it is just too much. I have been a no show for so many interviews because I have found the tiniest excuse and wriggled out. What’s embarrassing is I tell myself “That was fate, I wasn’t meant to work there,” or “What came next was meant to be.” But what is really quite frightening is that I could have really missed out on some seriously good opportunities if I had just shown up.

Thinking about the immediate future and how nice it would be if the feeling went away now isn’t helpful. Of course you won’t regret not doing it, because you’ll never have known what you missed. It’s not possible to regret in these situations. But what is possible is just to begin to imagine the sense of pride you might feel if you do achieve something. That overwhelming buzz that you can get so quickly will make up for every last ounce of anxiety you have ever felt in your entire life on this planet.

Obviously, the fear can return because there are always new things to do, but so will the excitement if you beat it again.

My recent big steps include quitting my job, getting an internship and having my own articles produced daily on their website. I have covered topics from dementia to virtual reality. If you’re interested you can follow me on Twitter @MeganAtSMF.

I was comfortable, pretty miserable, but comfortable at my old job. I knew how everything worked, I knew which toilet wouldn’t bite my bum, I knew all the people (all 3 of them) and I knew my bus route like the back of my hand. Quitting my job was easy, because I knew this internship would be life changing. But during my last two weeks at the job, suddenly the work wasn’t so bad and was 3 months with absolutely no money worth it? I had to remind myself constantly that I was suffering from “graduation goggles.”

As if moving to a workplace on the outskirts wasn’t frightening enough, I signed up for my first ever poetry open mic night, just a week after the move.

It didn’t really hit me until the night of the event how scary it would be. I realised there was an actual hall, an actual microphone, an actual bar with actual bar staff and more than my boyfriend and best friend listening.

pic

It was daunting and I might have had the help from a few whisky and cokes but I read my poem and shocked not only myself, but even my friends. Everyone was surprised with my performance because I managed to deliver it like I was totally cool and calm. I certainly didn’t expect my passion to come through, at all.

The video wasn’t spectacular but do I plan to post it here.

Try the Facebook link but I can’t guarantee it will work:

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10204983109071915&pnref=story

In case that doesn’t work I also have the poem here, which is just a poem about having some balls!

The Poem that was Worthy of an Open Mic Night

You’re a poet

Embrace it

be brave and don’t fear it.

“It’s old fashioned, it’s boring

it’s so gay.”

Says who? Teenagers.

A truly formidable group of young people.

End up with A stars in English lit and suddenly

don’t forsake it.

So it’s for open mic night

I’ve turned up to the door and never walked in

I’m a Chicken with a capital C, because you see

it scares me. You scare me.

Because I can’t let it be free.

Because I am silly.

The poems write me,

they’re always there, my control.

Don’t want to lose my shadow.

My fear is a disease, where it’s easy to not seize a passion because

others just don’t feel the same.

But it’s time to stand up, be a woman

know flow and grow against this society

that doesn’t move from the truths that it

thinks it knows,

that poetry

isn’t cool.

I’m not a singer, I’m no performer.

Yet poetry brings that out in me.

So here is an ode to a poem, this poem infact,

that marks the occasion where I learnt to distract

myself from this thought, that was killing me inside,

that I couldn’t open up. That I wanted to hide.

So my poem, this poem, I just want to thank

you for giving me the oomph and giving me the knack to

get up on this stage and nearly pee my pants

but it’s not cut me down, it’s not made me weak.

I hear my voice is loud and it’s ready to speak.

Who Gave You Your Oscar?

Who Gave You Your Big Break?

This time two weeks ago I started to work out my notice at a computer outsourcing firm. They were the last two weeks in a living hell, and why was I leaving? Because I had finally got my big break. I was going to start that intern lifestyle. Okay, so I won’t be getting paid for a while but I think I can cope for a while on my last pay cheque. At this stage in my life I cannot turn down an internship as a content writer when that’s what I want to do forever. It’s terrifying knowing that tomorrow I am taking my first step on a career. This isn’t a job, this is what I went to school for. This is actually career-worthy stuff.

I know I’m not quite living that Carrie Bradshaw American dream but this is quite a big shot at it. And hey, I’m sitting at my desk, leg’s crossed, in just a towel, hair up, laptop at a funny angle. I may as well have some Chinese takeaway as well, just to finish the picture. Or a cosmopolitan? That sounds good actually.

So anyway, all this stuff about starting careers and having a big break made me wonder who have I got to thank for all this? I read a quote from writer of The Miniaturist Jessie Burton:

Yes, you work hard, but what the hell else is there to do, when no one is going to do it for you? And alas, working at something does not mean you will be rewarded in the way you thought you would be. But this does not mean that when you do find reward, you should think it was only because of your hard work. You also got lucky. The world is enormous and brimming with misfortune. We should not be ashamed of luck. We should try and pass it on. I intend to do so in 2015.

Luck? At first I thought “pfft,” no way, I worked hard for this. I deserve it. But then I thought, look at all the people I know who work hard and don’t necessarily get what they want. In fact, I was told that those graduating with 1st class degrees are less likely to succeed than those with a lower qualification. Maybe they lack the creativity to progress past the initial school-like environment.

But, still I certainly never considered myself a lucky person, in fact I normally say I’m quite the opposite. But now, I’m thinking that like Jessie, I should be grateful, I should keep up the hard work and be ready to pass on my good luck to others.

Let’s take a few steps back and see where my good luck has come from. It was September 2013 and I was entering my final year of university. Work was at an all-time high and I was going through a pretty traumatic breakup.  It was safe to say I was heading for a breakdown. So, out of nowhere I’m approached by some pals who knew me through my love for American Football and they casually mention how running their Uni team was a bit too much work and would I be interested in helping. There were 2 or 3 of them behind this decision and I actually didn’t know them as well as I thought I did at the time, but of course I said yes. It was definitely an escapist thing. Somewhere else to focus whilst my personal life crumbled and my degree was getting too much. Because of these 3 fellas I became quite a big name around the football scene. I met all the coaches and by the end of the season, the HC of the County Premiership team found me and got me shadowing his wife to be the GM of their team. Now those 3 original guys who really gave me my big break into that world aren’t prevalent parts of my life. Not through anyone’s fault, just time and drifting lifestyles. I still see them, but it wasn’t until now I realised I had them to thank for all my success in the world of American Football. Obviously, at every step along the way there have been people to thank. The woman who took me the extra way and her husband who introduced us have been massively influential and will continue to help me in my first seasons.

But it’s not just American Football related success that all this has brought me. It meant that 9 months ago I met a guy who’s become very important to me. Because of him, I’ve stayed in Cambridge. Because of that I’ve started a Masters. I have a gorgeous place to live. I’ve met some amazing people whilst trying to fund my way through a postgraduate degree. And my general managerial skills have impressed in all my interviews. Who knows, it may have been the American Football stuff that got me the internship!? That combined with my crazy writing skills, of course.

It might just have been these 3 random guys who really didn’t know me and I didn’t know them, that got me where I am. It might be nothing to do with it.

The point of this blog is to make you think who have you go to thank for where you are now. Like all the people winning Oscars… Who’s been holding your hand literally, or from afar? Who’s never lost faith in you? Okay, so the Oscars has got me way too emotional and grateful, I think! So for my metaphorical Oscar, I want to thank the American Footballers, my best friend for being the Dion to my Cher, the fruit to my nut and Hugh to my Grant. I also want to thank my mumma bear for being so confident in me. And finally, for all the teachers/lecturers who have told me since Year 3 onwards, “You’re gonna be big, kid.”

life begins at …..

So, at the start of this week I promised to post something everyday. Then, less than 24 hours later, I get a phone call offering me a full time job – something I had given up hope on after a good 100 job applications had gone unsuccessful. Looks like its going to be a weekly post from now on.

But anyway, the next day I was up at 7am, home at 7pm and asleep by 10pm. Life had truly begun. Then I got thinking, when does this so called good life start. There’s so many sayings going around, I’m no longer sure where the good parts are meant to be.

This is a little story I’ve been writing on the bus each day.

Hannah had begun her first ever fulltime job. It was hard, it was long hours and there was actually a lot more to transcribing than she thought. Chinese code language ran through her head all day and all night and every time she heard background noise when she was writing she very nearly coded it, even when she was on her blog. <BGpoa> ~~<2Ty>

Her first day hadn’t got off to a good start. Hannah had been 20 minutes early and her boss had been 20 minutes late. She had argued with her boyfriend before leaving for work as he didn’t understand. He had been in full time work since he was 16. The transition from student to adult was hard. Hannah was not happy. Hannah was only 21.

As a child Hannah had always been bitter and very aware that these were her best years and yet she was spending 5 days a week in school. Hannah wasn’t popular at school. In fact, Hannah had been bullied because she was smart.

When Hannah got home from work she was tired and miserable at the thought of going back to work early the next day, she had less than 12 hours before it all started again. That evening, whilst they were cooking dinner, Hannah accidently dropped her phone in the sink, along with the washing up. Hannah and her boyfriend argued again and fell asleep, back to back.

On Hannah’s second day she had caught a cold. She was aware she was sniffing a lot but was too afraid to go to the toilet as some doors in the office lock automatically behind you. Hannah didn’t have an electronic door card yet and didn’t want to risk being locked anywhere in the office’s four stories.

The training Hannah was going through was rigorous. She wasted her lunch hour reading Moll Flanders and wishing that she could actually be a Gentlewoman one day. By 6pm Hannah was ready to go home. That night her friends in the year below her, who were still living the student life invited her for a night out on the town. Biggest night of the year, they said. Hannah told them no. That night her friends had fun. But Hannah had fallen asleep by 9pm watching Our Zoo on BBC iPlayer.

The next morning a friend called her on her commute. Hannah sat on the bus listening to her friend talk of the dramas of the night before. She spoke of tears, vomit and adultery. Hannah told her friend that university is the best years of your life, enjoy it. But Hannah wasn’t convinced, she had never been convinced. There are only so many kebabs and hangovers a girl can take.

That day at work Hannah found out she passed her initial training tasks. It was her third day on the job. Hannah ate a tuna sandwich for lunch, read some more Moll Flanders and tried not to blow anymore snot bubbles when she dozed off.

When Hannah got on the bus that evening she overheard a woman on the phone. She was wishing her sister Happy Birthday. Laughing, nay cackling, she told her sister not to worry. Life begins at 40. You just wait.

Hannah couldn’t tell if the woman was being sarcastic, she looked way past 40 and was still riding the bus commute home into the least good areas in the city. Hannah looked out the window and smiled. The sun was setting and the whole of the city was glowing a warm orange. Hannah had forgotten how much she enjoyed the school bus journey home all those years ago. How pretty the views were and how it made up for the nastiness at school. She remembered the spring bus journeys and seeing the first baby lambs and she remembered the Christmas bus journeys with all the twinkling lights. She looked forward to those days to come.

Hannah had realised that life begins when you work hard for something. Life began when she was going to school because she was working for the weekends. She worked for those evenings when she could see her family and play. Hannah had loved nothing more than going to Church with her mum on a Sunday and coming home and chopping vegetables. But Hannah’s Life had stopped when she went to university because she had all the time in the world and nothing to work for. Hannah had got a degree, she even got a first and was proud. But her money was eaten up on an expensive student house, with 3 messy roommates. Hannah’s life had been a party and she didn’t appreciate the time she had.

Hannah got off the bus and could smell Autumn. It reminded her of her first week back at school after the 6 week Summer holiday. Hannah’s boyfriend was standing at the bus stop. He had some shopping for their dinner and tissues for her sore nose. That night whilst they were sitting in the garden talking, something they promised they would do every night from then on, Hannah realised she didn’t mind work anymore. Hannah could see what she was working for. She understood that life only began when you had worked out who you wanted to spend it with.

Flash Fiction Project: Tube Flash with Joanna Sterling

As I begin my MA in Creative Writing I am going to try harder than ever to read and write something everyday for the term. I cannot promise that all of these pieces will make it onto my blog but I can certainly try. For this week I am focusing on Flash Fiction mainly because I suppose you could say it is my most recent success.

I won a spot in a Flash Fiction project called Tube Flash: http://www.thecasket.co.uk/tube-flash/

The creator’s name is Joanna Sterling, a kind, creative and eccentric character. The idea was to merge the map of the London Underground with her beautiful collection of brooches. Sounds mad, perhaps it is! But I loved the idea that when you decided to make a submission you could either pick a brooch, or your Tube station (depending what grabs you most) and then make a story based on either/or. I was attracted to a gorgeous brooch with just the head of a rooster. I was born in 1993, which according to the Chinese New Year meant I was born in the year of the rooster. I felt it fitted well. The station my brooch was paired to was Cockfosters, even more fitting I thought!

Cockfosters-250x223

Laughing, I told myself “Without a doubt my story is going to have to be linked to chickens in some way.” And having started a dissertation in Fairy Tales and Myths, it seemed only right that I find something to revamp! The Greek tale of the Cockatrice became my inspiration.

By the end I wouldn’t have minded if Joanna picked me for her project or not. She had given me two related stimulus and I had been inspired to write. But as it went, I won a spot on her map after all!

So for todays piece, I want to share with you my take on the legend of the Cockatrice. To view it, please go to Joanna’s website http://www.thecasket.co.uk/tube-flash-map/ and click on Cockfosters: the most Northern stop on the Piccadilly Line.

Tune in tomorrow for more Flash Fiction.

Updates for Your Purchase from M4Magpie

I heard the email come in,
a little chime that gave me
that sinkin’ feelin.’ I looked
at the screen. It looked at me.
And the email sat in bold.

Unread. Received 1 minute ago.
The subject read ‘Updates,
for your purchase from M4Magpie.’

Click.

My eyes skimmed down, searching
for good news. But my gut
was telling me, I was gonna lose.

The words ‘Out of Stock’ stung
my heart like a wasp. My money
would be returned to me,
to make up for my loss.

I looked away and it went off again.
Cheeping like a chick: “don’t turn away,
look at me! Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!”

Samantha J. Kennedy at gmail dot com
was sitting there.
I couldn’t bring myself to open it,
I didn’t dare.
The noise , oh the emails! All
flooding in.

Her gift wasn’t sorted and her evil
woman senses knew.
So she dropped emails
like missiles.
Every 20 seconds.

Tomorrow I would see her,
Not even roses as a gift.

“But it’s Valentine’s, you stupid prick”
I could almost hear it now.

Maybe I could say to her, “You snotty,
ungrateful, bitch.” I could walk out right there
and then
“Oh! Look who’s sorry now!”

She would weep into my arms and bring
me kisses and home-cooked food.

But the thing is, I know, she wouldn’t care
or cry. In fact, she’d find another guy.
Be married by July!

That’s when I heard another noise. A distant little ping.
It was an e-mail from her saying
“Jude, it’s over, forget it.”

I didn’t need to open the other 54.
I knew exactly what had happened and
my heart sank to my feet.

But then just as I was about
to throw myself out the 6th floor
window.
I stopped and I smiled.

Samantha J. Kennedy is no more.

She’s not my problematic girl
who needs me everyday.
I don’t need to explain myself
when I detour on my way
home. It was like a weights been lifted.
Like God was on my side.

“Oh and on the day before Valetine’s”
my mother tried to sympathize.
All I could think was how it saved
me fifty dollars on M4Magpie.

 

The title for this poem was given to me in an exercise in class – I know the poem is sketchy but it’s nice to just write sometimes. So I thought I’d share a few of the exercises with you and you could do them if you fancied it.

1. The title is ‘Updates for Your Purchase from M4Magpie’ – what is the poem

2. Your horoscope is: ‘Company from Out of Town could spell trouble’ – write about it

3. Write about a noise that just won’t stop!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

How Poetry is still relevant to the 21st Century

Ok guys, so I have been a fan of poems since I was a youngster and I can’t help but feel that everyone is a bit ashamed of poetry these days … it is not outdated and certainly not irrelevant at all. So over the last few weeks I have been (for lack of a better word) experimenting and I have found so many exciting constraints and new ways of writing that have opened my eyes and I really wanted to share them with you.

The poem I wrote this week is called ‘Smart Warship’ and here it is…

Lived land, silly prey.

Sad boy down, soul July.

Light-heartedly, winds not

Clothing repeat – nation’s fate.

Saying:

Up Queer, Rose Hens.

Now ambition by the fire.

Their eyes just crack

Rank, it’s due.

Chimpanzee crossing

Father, thee was plenty

Fluttering fine thread

The tree afterwards wood.

Smart Warship.

First thoughts?

That made absolutely no sense, am I right?

Read it again.

Still doesn’t make sense?

Well that’s the fun of this type of poetry. It is called Cut-Up poetry and you can go about it anyway you like and to be frank it seems like the fun is making it as absurd as possible.

I took an anthology of hundreds of poems, flicked through it and randomly stopped on a page, stabbed a word with a pencil, wrote it down and made a list.

Then I didn’t reorder these words, or even add any joining words in. I just gave them a structure!

THEN, I read it a few times. And I made up a meaning… what was my book trying to tell me…something about war? or Chimpanzees? or maybe nothing at all …

Why as humans do we NEED things to make sense? Why are we always looking for meaning in everything? It doesn’t need meaning. What we’ve all forgotten about poetry is why people loved it in the first place. Not because of the metaphorical meanings or the clever forms … it is because people have a love for words and the art you can create with your voice! Why would music and lyrics have become such an important part of the 21st Century… of course it is just a modern, melodic version of poetry.

Even if you think the sound of Cut Up poetry sounds silly I really think its worth a go. Cut up a poem you’ve written before and reorder it and you might learn something new about yourself! There are so many different ways to experiment with poetry and writing!!!!!!!!!! Please, if nothing else, just give this a try, I’ve written a few methods you could try below.  If any of them come up really funny, stupid or actually quite deep let me see them by posting below 🙂

Cut Up Methods

  1. Cutting up a poem you wrote or someone else wrote and put it back together in a completely new order
  2. Take a book / magazine and cut out words and re jiggle them on the table and make a poem out of them ( I have one of these to show you soon from a H&M mag )
  3. Try random word generators online, that comes up with some good words!
  4. Try what I did: stabbing words with pencils.

3 months worth of work on Magical Realism

So it has been far too long since I made a post and I feel awful about that. Although I must admit to having lost my password and only just recovered it now, but then again, I wouldn’t have forgotten it if I had kept going on wordpress.com more often.

So here it is, what I have been doing for the last three months…

I have been looking into Fantasy, or magical realism as the posho’s like to call it.

Thinking about thresholds, girls on the brink of adulthood and lines being shifted between good and bad, magic and reality.

I took a power, of the magical kind, and thought if I could have one what would it be. Inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Mrs Midas I wrote a poem about granting wishes but how perhaps it could become a curse not a traditional “Magical Power.”

This is, by no means, a final draft. So be kind. I have a lot more I want to add – subplots about the girl and depth that I want to go into with that. but for now, here is a bit of microfiction.

enjoy,

Meg

I wish, I wish, I wish

Whenever I said those two silly words I’d flinch. I had grown to accept that something untoward would fall out of the air and hit me if I, or anyone around me, let the words slip out. When I was a young girl the North Star finally granted one of my wishes. And it was the biggest wish of all. Perhaps, the poor star had grown tired of granting wishes to those who didn’t deserve it. Maybe she had realised only those who hadn’t yet had an answer from God would use her. That they didn’t believe in working hard for something, but expect it to be given – if only they pray or wish enough times.

As a child my wishes would go unnoticed. A sparkly new doll, a fine pair of shoes or for the bully to go away. But as time went on my parents grew suspicious of their own activity. They would find themselves doing the strangest of things. Gone out on a limb to bring you a pony darling. We don’t have enough room for one but we just couldn’t resist. Here you go. Oh what fun.

At fourteen, things began to change. I wished for the boy of my dreams to turn up. He did. I wanted him to love me. He did. But I soon learnt the hard way that wishes involving others could not be easily undone. Love cannot be undone even with the help of magic. Toby McGuiness still sends me love letters nearly every day and he is stuck forever more in my shadow. I tried wishing for him to have a friend, a young lady, some company. The next day he went to the pet shop and bought a Pomeranian called Lady.

One day when I was in a store on Oxford Street a young woman said to her friend how she wished she could afford the dress she was looking at. I was just in ear shot. The sales assistant walked over and offered the dress to the girl for a discounted price. Both girls looked around as if they didn’t believe their ears. I quickly left the store before anyone else said anything.

I hadn’t turned sixteen when a gentleman caught on to my ability. He called me Genie. I called him Wallace. At first we enjoyed wishing together. But the novelty soon wore off. Wallace decided to bring in some of his customers from the beach. He had an ice cream van. At first it was just little children, with silly wishes. Soon the parents got involved. Some wishes were exciting. A woman wished for love not war. Soldiers were brought back from warzones all across the globe. Another gentleman wished for a cure to cancer. There was a breakthrough three days later. Some wished for their soul mates, whilst others were more materialistic. But I never judged anyone. I was still younger than most of my customers, barely a woman, yet I was granting wishes that were beyond my comprehension. A sister wished for her own blood and flesh to lose her husband. I never asked why. I didn’t understand jealousy and hatred. Not yet.

The wishes continued to get dark in this way and I had no choice but to accept them. I was a magically charged hit man.

When Wallace found me one night, trying to scrub the magic out of me in the river, he put a stop to the customers. But it was too late – the harm had been done. People could find me easily. Some would shout at me in the street, knowing that I had no control over my powers. Some would come to my house. I even started to get old customers return to me – unhappy with their wish’s outcome. The woman who wished for peace argued more than before and the man who wished for the cure still lost his wife. The soul mates didn’t show up on cue and the sister was riddled with guilt. They would try to undo the wishes, but what is done cannot be undone.

Eventually, Wallace left me. I was fed up with him and he with me. Over my sixteen years on the planet the North Star had drastically been fading and one night I noticed it had gone. No longer a muted spec but completely put out altogether.  I tried to wish for the wishes to go away and I wished that someone else would get my curse.

On my seventeenth birthday my grandmother told me I was young and that I would still have so many happy years ahead of me.

But before a month had passed my grandmother would choke on her words. The casket that sat before her was buried on January the 1st 1991. The grave was showered with flowers until ten years later – when finally people started to forget or forgive. It was around this time, that the North Star was spotted again, after having spent nearly two decades tricking planet earth that it had disappeared forever. And the wishes would start again.