[Photo: Taken on Monday 24th Oct while sat wating for the bus heading to Dong Yuan at lunch time. Within 2 hours the weather transformed from this bright blue sky, to heavy dark and angry storm clouds that drenched the gardens.]
So this one is a few days behind. Transformation was the word prompt for October 25th. Today; the first day of me sitting down to attempt this post, laptop on knee, Tom Petty singing about losers and American girls, cuppa to my right, is October 27th. I used to do a “prompt a day” a couple of times a week when I started this blog, but, at that time I also had more spare quiet moments at my desk with not much to do. Things have changed. Things have…. Transformed. I’m sorry, that was cheesy, but I stand by it! A friend who is currently up to June in trawling their way through my long winded and self-absorbed posts mentioned that they miss when I used to “explain my idea of stuff”. Meaning, they liked the posts where I take this one word, the selected jumble of letters that WordPress presents us with each day, and run with it. Sometimes I run head strong in one focused direction, other times I may as well be trying to dodge bullets with the amount of zig-zagging and tumbling over myself I do while trying to explain my thoughts and feelings of the word. I noticed this word pop up in my inbox a couple of days ago and it’s been on my mind since. So here we go…
a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance
a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal
the induced or spontaneous change of one element into another by a nuclear process.
Shamefully, one of the first things that pings up into my mind when I read this word is not the incredible journey a caterpillar embarks on during its life. Nor is it the leg sprouting, tail loosing changes a wee little tadpole goes through to become the frog. No. My first thought was: #TransformationTuesday. It pains me to even admit that and see it here in my ever growing Word Document that I type my blog post drafts upon (currently at 74 pages; 40,000 words). Yep. A bloody hashtag about body changes, diet achievements, when puberty hit hard to a lesser than average looking kid etc. is what I think of when I read those 14 letters strung together. Maybe that’s an embarrassing and awful insight into my social media habits and slight addiction (which, I must admit, I’m slightly getting over). I recently posted a somewhat #TransformationTuesday post myself, except, it was on a Sunday. I’ll start by admitting how much I wasted a perfectly good weekend. Did I go out and explore my new surrounding some more? No. Did I go and do some shopping with my friend? No. Did I sit in my apartment all weekend only leaving for the occasional top-up of food? You betcha. So by the time Sunday rolled around, I was looking for new ways to entertain myself in my little white walled home. I found my old hard-drive and decided to plug it in and have a gweld as to what was stored upon it. This is where my afternoon, evening and night blur into one and I lose track of time. As some of my friends know, Hannah Rettie, you in particular, I found a great stash of photos from our oh-so-cringy high school days. I even found an amazing selection of videos recorded around Abergele and in my young teenage bedroom. These included: me and Sam doing an excellent lipsync of a few Rocky Horror songs, Hannah screaming “Sam and Dean, Sam, A, Deeeaan” from one do or another at the Passey’s many years ago, and even, a very entertaining “dance-off” between [our high school friend] Amy, Hannah, Ste (yep, my now married ex-boyfriend), and his friend Richard. I spent the rest of my night lost amongst old pictures of myself, my friends, family, pets and videos that made me laugh ‘till I cried. In these photos I found a number from what I have named, my cool days. These were the days when I was crazy skinny (maybe not healthy but skinny non the less), could pull off any coloured pair of the tightest jeans I could find, with a different coloured top, yellow fake convers, and a Black Parade style jacked. Not to mention my asymmetric hair with a slash of colour, and for a (painfully) short while, my lip ring. Honestly, I could go on about those days for ever, so I need to cut it short. Yes my skirts were way too short to be acceptable on the streets let alone in school (where I wore them all the time, my favourite “goth skirt” even had stocking clips which I thankfully never used). But yes, I got lost in this twister of reminiscing and nostalgia for the person I used to be between the ages of 16-19. I heard once (maybe in a movie or a song, or I’m just making it up…) that most of us use up our cool kid points throughout our teenage years, and we don’t get then restocked until they’re no longer cool kid points, but cool OAP points. It’s very rare you meet a middle aged person and just think: shit they’re cool. But, you’ll forever be meeting teenagers, young adults and envying what they [appear] to have or be. Then, you meet people’s grandparents, the older generation, they tell you stories of their lives and, because they’re from such a different time, thrust into this world of hashtags and constant celebrity media, they come out with the most amazing one-liners. And BAM, cool points re-stocked. Now, I don’t mean to bash all the middle aged people out there, because trust me, some of the adults in my life are the coolest people I know, but I think that’s because they held onto their teenage and younger selves, and dragged them through all the hardshit… I’m sorry, hardship, growing up forces you to encounter and deal with. The age old [and slightly over used phrase] is: You have to grow old but you never have to grow up. And I’m thankful for the family and friends in my life that showed me, the middlies, the biggies and the littlies that from such a young age.
I lost my train of thought there quite badly, I’m sorry! This appears to be one of those posts where I’m slightly out of control of where it leads me and where it ends up, not the other way around.
[I just had a sudden flash of a certain stage of a Mario Kart Racers level which sums up how this post feels like it’s going. Mushroom Gorge on Mario Kart; Wii is a pretty damn fun level, but I always get distracted, I have too much fun, and lose control while my poor Yoshi, on his unstable bike bounce and fly over the mushrooms in the cave. I can see him now, while I’m trying to sneak another olive from the jar while playing with dad, my Yoshi is bouncing over the first mushroom, soaring through the air, annnd aiming in the completely wrong direction. Back focused and a quick flick of the remote and he’s headed back to safety. So… excuse that horribly poor simile, and let’s move onto the next mushroom of my Mario Kart style post.]
A lot of people move away and to new places to “find themselves”. This wasn’t my reason. Quite honestly, I didn’t think I needed to be found. I [thought I] knew who I was, what I stood for and all that jazz. I feel like coming down to Southern China was the first thing I ever did, solely for me, and on my own. Sure that makes you re-evaluate things and check yourself over. (I mean it’s a bloody long flight with not such a great selection of movies, you have to pass the time somehow.) A few years ago now I made a decision about my life, (when a few pretty big ones were made for me) that I was going to say Yes to any opportunity that came up, I was going to be social and adventurous. Maybe I’d watched the Jim Carrey film Yes Man one too many times, but I thought it was a good mantra to have in this new stage of my life (I’ve had a few new new stages since then). Sadly, nothing great or spectacular came from this change in my life. I didn’t jump on a plane and leave for a year (not yet anyway), I didn’t meet the love of my life after saying yes to meeting friends in town, nothing of the sort in-fact. I did, however, see a lot more of my friends and spent countless nights out in Bangor. I’ll be honest, as fun as it was; it wasn’t really what I was going for with the whole new Yes-Girl attitude. It wasn’t like the movie… But, it did remind me that you only miss and regret the things you didn’t do. This set me up pretty well for one of the next stages in my life. China.
I’ve never been what people would call a social butterfly. I like to hang out with others, yes. I like to chat and socialise, sometimes. But, China has deteriorated what little social butterfly that was ready to bloom inside of me, and smashed it back into its dull cocoon. When you’re surrounded by millions of people who don’t speak the same language as you, look like you, or even care about you one bit. You get used to feeling isolated and being alone very quickly. And, I don’t hate it. Over the years I’ve grown accustom to me time, and realised I actually need it. I need time to just come home, chuck on some comfy clothes, and be by myself. Others though, it’s their worst nightmare, or at the very least, the bottom of the list of things they want to do with their evenings. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have that kind of attitude where all I want to do is be around others, socialise more and be part of a lively group. But you can’t force it. I’ve never been the big talker, the life of the party or the main attraction. I’m more the kind of girl that you’ll pump into (physically) at the bar while we’re ordering another pint. I’ll make polite conversation with you, we’ll share a laugh, and then we’ll be on our way. I’ll blend into the background and enjoy my evening, just as much as you, just in my own way. Sounds like a 1000 miles away from the thigh-high-boot wearing, yellow tights strutting younger self I described earlier right? I don’t know why, or how to describe it, but I have changed. Everyone does I guess, we can’t stay our teenage self for the rest of our lives, we just have to pick the best bits and make sure they’re with us in along the way.
One thing I didn’t realise I had kept with me is my colour. I used to be known for my colourful outfits. Then it was my peacock hair. Then? Nothing. I lost it all. I dressed in normal jeans, standard t-shirts, even dyed my hair brown for a short while. I completely lost who I had been so proud to be. On the odd occasion, probably when I was about 20, I used to have mini freak outs where all I wanted was to grow my hair, dye it brown, and be “normal”. If I could go into those New Look changing rooms where I threw one of these hissy-fits now, I’d grab myself by the shoulders and shake so damn hard. I look back at the name badge I had for Tempest. My hair was a neat bob, and brown. Just plain old brown, (and yes, I was fairly on the larger side of my body limits back then). I don’t recognise that version of me. I know that sounds so cliché [who is that girl I see, staring straight, back at me….A little Mulan there for you all], but it’s true. A few months after I started Tempest, I dyed my hair a deep red/purple, for a couple of reasons. The main one being, I felt like I was a fraud. I didn’t feel like it was really me heading to all those schools, heading round to Nana and Grampa’s on a Tuesday, driving down the lane to Oakwood, or making epic pasta bakes with Sam. (Embarrassingly the other reason was due to the shockingly large amount of grey I started to find… I blame this on 3 people in my life. I’ll let you work out who they are!)
Where I’m trying to go with this section is that I thought I knew who I was when I came here. But I also thought I’d lost part of myself over the past few years. A part I was so proud of and people tended to define me with. When I arrived here, I expected people just to see a quiet British girl, with not much about her. Sure they’d see me as friendly and polite, occasionally potty-mouthed and sarcastic, but that’s it. So image my surprise when my friends started to comment or point out colourful, bright and beautiful things, saying they reminded them of me. Sure, some of the things were hideous that I don’t think even the pyjama wearing old Chinese ladies would wear, but, they saw colour, and thought of me. That was not something I expected. I thought that was a part of me I was holding onto as a memory of my former self. It’s the same with my “creative side”. These are things I thought my “new” self-had left behind and waved at them as they grew smaller in the rear-view mirror. I mean, the grown out and faded blue/green section of my hair probably played a part. Maybe even the 6 holes in my ears, the 7 rings I wear on my fingers, my multiple tattoos, and my bright nail varnish all possibly built up this persona. And my god did it make me happy. It sounds pathetic, self-obsessed [and another word that’s failing to come to my finger-tips right now] but, to know that people who have only known of my existence for a few weeks see these traces of my old self that I so desperately try to cling to, made me realise; it’s not my old self. It’s just me. That is who I am, that’s a part of my personality that I’ll (hopefully) never loose. I posted a collage of photographs showing my teenage fashion sense titled: “Looking back at old photos, I definitely peaked in my teenage years!” I had one comment which took me aback a bit. Travis, my old boss and mums friend commented with: “I find that hard to believe, knowing you now.”
So, to my surprise, I have “found” myself a little more since being here on this solo journey. I’m learning more about myself and who I am as an individual each week, and thankfully, I don’t hate what I’m learning! So what if I prefer to head home for some me time reading my book with a cuppa at lunch rather than sitting with a bunch of westerners [some of which will be] making crude and “over-the-line” comments? There is nothing wrong with that, and I’m glad people aren’t judging me on it. Another thing that has almost become a trademark of some sorts for me is a book. Who’d have thought it ey?! My friends are actually surprised when they see me at the bus stop, on the bus, walking for food without a book/my Kobo in hand. Now, obviously this only refers to when I’m doing all the above on my own, I’ve not become that unsocial that I ignore the real humans in my life and focus on those only in the written word! Part of my personality and who I am has become a reader and a bookworm. That’s never been part of me before. I used to be the kid who hated reading, struggled to focus on books and never got onto the free reading level in Junior school (despite being given the responsibility of Librarian….) It used to take me months, years to finish a normal sized, if not at the smaller end of the scale, book. Well, I’ve transformed (managed to get that in there finally) into a bibliophile! My sister would be so proud of me! I tell her about all my book related accomplishments, no matter how big or small. I’m sure that she isn’t that interested or impressed in the slightest, but this feels like such a big monumental change in my personality, that I just have to share the news! Since moving to China (last year) I’ve been keeping record of the books I’ve read in the back of my academic diary. So far, since August 2016, I’ve read 6 books. Yes, one was very short (Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk), one was about all the most messed up and unbelievable psychological/scientific experiments conducted over the years (Elephants on Acid – Alex Boese), and one, my latest conquest, was by Stephen Kings son, Joe Hill, with a bloody huge book called NOS 4R2. I wasn’t aware of the length of this book until I was about 40% in, feeling like I should be nearing the end. That’s my only qualm with reading on my Kobo! You can’t actually see how many pages the book has, how big it is, how daunting it is. But, I guess that’s a good thing for me. There are a number of King’s books which I would love to read, and have wanted to for years (including, surprisingly, IT), but due to the sheers size and thickness of the bound-beauties, I’ve left them patiently on the shelf untouched. I now carry a book with me everywhere I go. The last two I read were electronic, on my Kobo, and I will admit, it made my reading life on the move so much easier! I think I’m going to start limiting my paper book purchases to ones I really truly want to feel their weight in my hands and smell the pages. It pains me to say it, but I think it fits my lifestyle better! I decided after 2 ebooks, it was time to crack the spine of one of the 6 books I brought with me in my suitcase. Number one on the list is the classic Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. It took me roughly 8 months to finish Dracula and it travelled to many different countries in my carry on! I think this one will be different. I just need to get my head and mind back into the genre and way they’re written in, a slight change from the Stephen King and Son style.
So there we go. I don’t think I can count this as a Prompt-a-Day related post, if it is, then the links are tenuous and easily missed! I seem to have covered a lot of ground there with only a few stepping stones or, mushrooms if we want to continue with the Mushroom Gorge analogy…