Skin, Make-Up, Scent & Hair

It’s hard to imagine the days when I would just brush my teeth, wash my face and get dressed… but that was also when I was under the impression that it was ‘bad’ to care about your appearance. There’s a difference between going out with no make-up and bushy hair when you’re comfortable with it and when you’re not. Putting a little effort into my appearance made me a happier, more confident person, so please don’t bash me!

Skin

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As skincare goes, I don’t have much of a carefully created routine with mine. I’ve not got acne, but I have persistent spots, redness and dark under-eyes, and nothing has seemed to improve things for me so far. I don’t like to spend much money on skincare, and if I’m ever experimental enough to use a face mask or rosewater, it’s usually something cheap I nabbed from T K Maxx.

  • I wash my face with Simply Pure foaming cleanser from Superdrug. They do a couple of other variations of this, but I find this satisfactory. Smells perfectly nice, and I really couldn’t live without the foam pump. Of course, everything from Superdrug is relatively cheap, and, most importantly, cruelty-free, so it’s a no-brainer. This costs about £2.99.
  • I also use the Let The Good Times Roll face & body cleanser from Lush every other day, usually in the shower. Although you can use it on your whole body, I prefer to keep it to my face. It smells absolutely DELICIOUS – fresh popcorn – but, sadly, you can’t give it a nibble like their lip scrubs. Trust me, I ate more of their candyfloss lip scrub than actually scrubbed with it. I honestly don’t personally see any visible effects on my skin with this – I just use it for the smell! It’s £7.25 for a small pot, though, so not cheap.
  • I moisturise with Simply Pure moisturiser, also from Superdrug. I’ve had a few moisturisers react quite badly with my skin, but Superdrug’s sensitive range usually keep it calm. Again, fragrance free and what’s always important is the SPF. This is £2.99.
  • I’ve pretty much given up on battling spots with creams and gels, but I ought to mention my Grease Lightening spot treatment from Lush. Spot creams and gels don’t work for me at all, no matter what the brand – not a single product has made a bit of difference. However, this stuff smells nice, so in desperate times I slap it on in case it just might work this time. It works for some people, apparently. My only issue with it is the pump is a bit awkward… and it was £6.50! If spot treatments don’t usually do the trick for you, I’d recommend you stay away.

Make-Up

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If you’ve ever seen a picture of me/met me, you’ll know I’m no make-up expert. I only started using it when I was fourteen, unless you count the blue eyeshadow and pastel lipsticks I got from My Little Pony magazines when I was little. I’ve watched about three make-up tutorials in my life, and promptly switched them off after I realise I can’t spend over £50 on just primers and powders alone.

  • I use a concealer stick in light from Superdrug to cover up my spots a bit more. I don’t recall the brand, but it’s the cheapest one I can find – £2.99 – and it makes a bit of a difference, so I stick with it. I’ve tried using more pencil-style sticks but they never work for me.
  • For foundation, I’m devoted to Fresh Nude foundation in ‘chelsea porcelain’ from the Body Shop. I used to use Barry M foundation which I also found to be off-colour until I tested my mum’s Fresh Nude bottle and fell in love. It’s light but gives good coverage and gives kind of a dewy finish that makes your face look fresh and glowy, and is actually pale enough for my skin tone! It’s £15, but lasts a good amount of time and is worth it for the quality.
  • For eyes, I use a variation of different palettes, but I tend to stick with the Venus eyeshadow palette from Limecrime. Mine’s a bit battered and the lettering’s all come off, but that’s only because it’s so well-used. Isn’t the design just beautiful? The shades are perfect for me – reds and browns and creams – but this was a earth-shattering £25! (Okay, I bought it from another seller which knocked off £8, but still very expensive!)
  • I’ve never really payed any attention to my eyebrows but I’ve buckled under the pressure and started filling mine in a little with brown eyeshadow and also a kohl brown eye pencil that I have lying around. Any would do the trick. I’ve not really got any idea with what I’m doing with them, though… my eyebrows just look a little less thin.
  • For eyelashes I simply put a bit of Sparkling Black mascara from the Body Shop on. I found this dead cheap in a sale, and it was probably on sale because the glitter isn’t visible at all. Instead, I use this because it doesn’t clog up into thick blobs like other mascaras and just gives my eyelashes a little more definition. Apparently this was £10 (not when I bought it, of course) but I believe it was only sold around last Christmas.
  • I don’t really like using lipstick but when I do, I use Burt’s Bees lip gloss. I believe Burt’s Bees is cruelty-free but not vegan because some products contain beeswax, but I don’t consider myself vegan yet. I have three nice shades that smell lovely and don’t leave any gloopy white film like so many other lip glosses do.

Scent

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I chop and change perfumes all the time, but the bulk of them come from the Body Shop. I am quite fond of buying little tester gift sets from Boots, though!

  • My main perfume is DKNY Be Tempted. This is just a gorgeous, sweet yet musky scent and my favourite DKNY perfume – I was quite disappointed by Be Delicious. It’s perfect for day and evening wear with both femininity and masculinity, and also comes in a beautiful apple-shaped bottle with a snake slithering around the lid.
  • For deodorant, I just use Sure bright boutique which smells perfectly fine and does its job. I also used to use a strawberry Body Shop deodorant, as well as a Superdrug white chocolate and fruit body spray.
  • I also occasionally use White Musk Libertine perfume, Japanese Cherry Blossom perfume and Apple Shimmer body mist from The Body Shop, as well as small Versace perfumes – my favourite being Crystal Noir which smells dark and coconutty.

 

Hair

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I’ve only very, very recently started using any kind of products on my hair, and this is really only because I’ve been trying to grow my fringe out.

  • After straightening my hair I use my trusty Toppik powder (£8.70) which I mentioned in my trich post, which is just a bottle of keratin that I shake onto the thinning areas of my scalp. It’s a bit like peppering myself. It sticks on for at least two days and barely comes away in drizzle or when rubbed against another surface, but it’s a bit of a nightmare when I’ve got an itchy head. Worth it, though.
  • If my hair is oily – and I am burdened with greasy hair – I stick on some Batiste dry shampoo (£2.00) which makes it a lot easier to deal with. It also smells nice, of coconuts!
  • I’ve very recently purchased V05 Give Me Texture tousled style spray, as I’ve been a bit miserable just having my hair lie flat and limp. It’s never really been long enough to do anything with, but a few sprays of this gives my hair more volume and a controlled bedhead look, which I love. It was roughly £4.30.
  • I also ought to mention I use hairspray – just any old firm-hold hairspray – to keep my fringe in place, which I clip up with hair slides in a middle-part like this:

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Veggie North: The Eighth Day Co-Op

 

The Eighth Day is a vegetarian café and food shop on Oxford Road in Manchester, right near Manchester Met University. I’ve always found it a lovely little place to get simple, tasty vegetarian food to eat, as well as to buy for later. The first floor is a shop, but downstairs is a cute restaurant with a cosy decor. There’s usually plenty of space to sit, and it’s always a relaxed environment.

The Café

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My go-to at the Eighth Day is simply brown rice with veg. I’m a bit of a fussy eater, but it honestly makes for a very tasty, filling hot meal. It’s usually just rice with potatoes and cabbage, although the vegetables change each season. They’re all perfectly delicious! The vegetables are quite buttery, which I liked, although I’m not sure if it’s butter or margarine; you’ll have to check. However, when ordering something with bread, you do have the option to ask for margarine. In fact, if you have any dietary requirements, whether you need something gluten or dairy-free, they’ll be happy to provide it for you.

On this particular day, I had my rice and veg whilst my dad had soup with bread, and this only cost a little over £6 – so not only is it healthy food, but it’s cheap, too. There’s always a soup available, along with selections of pies, roasts and salads – the menu changes every day – and there’s also a selection of natural soft drinks, healthy snacks and, of course, a water tap. Although the Eighth Day advertises itself as a vegetarian café, there are also always vegan options.

Being situated close to the university must be a great thing for vegetarian, vegan and simply healthy students alike.

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The Shop

The Eighth Day also has a vegetarian shop above the café where there’s a wide range of meat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free foodstuffs, as well as a range of cruelty-free cosmetics and skincare products. We personally like to get pesto, soba noodles, meat substitutes, wines and soap from the shop, but there’s so many other vegetarian foods to try! Along with the shelf food, there’s also a bakery at the counter selling freshly-baked goods. Most of the prices are affordable and it’s a real saviour when you’re struggling to find more obscure vegetarian/vegan items in places like Holland & Barrett. The staff are also very friendly and often passionate about the food they’re selling!

(Also, they place good music: today it was Mac Demarco and The Smiths!)

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I’d highly recommend this as a great veggie and healthy place to grab a snack or get some shopping done in Manchester.

Five Things to Know Before Starting Sixth Form

Before I started Year 12, I couldn’t stop envisioning myself strutting down a bustling corridor, best outfit on show for all to see, Frappucino in one carefully manicured hand and impeccably detailed notes in the other, meeting up with my large group of multicultural, equally as fashionable friends by my locker, retrieving my car keys, and driving us all down to some hip vegan cafe. Gone were the days of baggy jumpers and straggly ties – now, without a uniform (and legally being able to drive), I could experience an education akin to that of High School Musical.

That’s not exactly how things turned out.

1) You might not make friends immediately

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I was truly convinced I’d have a tight-knit friendship group within my first day. Like some students will, I started college alone – no friends from high school attended my college – and this new leaf was exciting for me. Being partially alone on that first week was quite a shock to my system, which is why I feel it’s important to mention. I actually had three separate sparks of friendship in a row on my first three days, but we never saw each other again afterwards, which I found really disappointing. However, making friends when everyone else is looking for a new group is really easy, and as long as you try and open up a little in classes and clubs, you’ve nothing to worry about. I’m as shy as anything, but I was pleasantly surprised!

2) Your free periods aren’t chat-and-chill sessions

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I know, I know. I thought I knew this too. I kicked off the year feeling motivated. I stayed at college from 9-4 initially and went over my classwork in my two and three-hour free period blocks. I never even considered leaving, though! Quickly, however, I saw free periods as an opportunity to have an early lunch, go on my phone, chat with mates and leave early. Oh, and they’re great for lie-ins. The amount of free time you receive can feel overwhelming at first, but don’t take it for granted. Time passes impossibly quickly, and deadlines creep closer. Get all your homework, essays and assignments out of the way, go over your notes, and revise for your next exam – then you can snake off for lunch at Subway.

3) Your teacher is there for you to talk to

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Teachers might feel a little less accessible than they did in high school. You’ll typically spend less time with them, and lessons tend to be less interactive (and more your teacher droning on for ages). Whilst independent study is important and initiative can score extra marks, there’s no need to be scared of asking teachers for extra support and advice. They’re there to help you, after all. Ask them about any exams, coursework or assignments you’re unsure about, and they’ll be happy to go through any of your essays and homework with you. They’ll probably be up for just a chat, too!

4) Clubs are great social and academic opportunities

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I was terrified of joining clubs… but I joined them anyway! Chances are your sixth form will shove extracurricular opportunities down your throat so it’ll be difficult to avoid, but always make time to check out clubs and societies. Sixth form should start off with a fair for clubs where you can check out all kinds of societies. You should be able to find something you’re interested in, even if it’s not something you considered before. I personally joined a writing club, a song-discussion club and even an archery club, which I’d never done before! Not only are these great for making friends with similar interests, but they’ll also look great on your CV.

5) You need to give yourself time to relax

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…Not whilst you have a list of essays to complete as long as your arm, of course, but once you’ve got everything you need out the way, you can take a well-deserved break. Studying your A-levels can be a stressful time; you’re potentially in a completely new environment with a greater workload and university looming over you. That’s why it’s important to settle down, calm down and not let the stress build up. If you’re feeling too panicked, though, you can always talk to friends and family, and your tutors will always be available for you to talk to – see if your sixth form has a counsellor.

Book Babble #3 – A Tale For The Time Being

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

★★★★☆

I always used to have a bit of a thing for ‘diary’ books when I was younger – Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Do Not Read This Book – and A Tale For The Time Being is perhaps the first ‘mature’ diary novel I’ve read. One half of this novel consists of the diary of Nao, a Japanese schoolgirl, and the other half consists of Ruth Ozeki’s fictional account of reading and investigating the diary. That might sound a little odd, but the idea works – mostly (I’ll get to that later).

Ruth Ozeki stumbles upon a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach after the 2011 Japanese tsunami, and inside, along with French letters and a watch, she finds the diary of a schoolgirl. This is the diary of Nao. She grew up in America but moved to Japan with her parents, yet she feels incredibly isolated in Japan. Her new schoolmates bully her relentlessly whilst her parents struggle with making their life in Japan, and this is what leads Nao to begin her diary. Initially, she intends to document the life of her grandmother, but the diary clearly revolves around her own life.

The opening page is immediately gripping – Nao is funny, clever, witty and instantly likeable. Ozeki perfectly captures the voice of a teenage girl who has been let down again and again but battles through with dry humour and hilarious observations (much like Midori in Norwegian Wood). Despite the comedy of Nao’s story, there’s also some very unpleasant and, quite frankly, horrifying anecdotes in her tale. Although mostly a very sympathetic character, Nao is not just the victim of bullying; she has endless layers, each slowly uncovered in the pages of this novel. Sure, her grandmother is talked about, but Nao never truly wanted to write about her – she needed to get down her own story.

Nao’s diary is interwoven with Ozeki’s fictional third-person account – she finds the diary, reads it, discusses it with her husband, and researches it to finds out more about Nao’s true identity. It certainly is a unique choice, and for the most part, a well-executed one: Ozeki experiences the reader’s curiosity and intrigue, and her discussions with her husband are almost a metaphor for our own internal dialogue as we explore not just the warmth of Nao’s tale but also the frightening depth. However, I quickly began to lose interest in Ozeki’s chapters. They seemed to vary from captivating to downright boring, and things went truly awry when Ozeki began to have dreams about Nao’s diary. I found myself skipping over the more tedious chapters because, to be honest, they really didn’t add anything to the story. Or maybe I’m just a bad reader!

A Tale For The Time Being is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and, for 70% of the time, gripping. It would make a great summer read, and really gives putting a message in a bottle a new meaning…

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is always something I’ve had a really hard time talking about. Mental health is becoming less and less stigmatised by the day, and that’s only because people are willing to discuss it – but it’s never easy. I’ve suffered a lot because of trichotillomania – I’ve been mistreated by friends and family because of it, never mind strangers – and that means opening up about it makes me feel  pretty vulnerable, based on previous experiences. But people need to talk about trichotillomania, because it affects up to 4 in 100 people, and that’s quite a lot.

If you don’t know what trich is, which is entirely likely, it’s an impulse control disorder (although when I first developed it, it was considered a form of OCD) that makes the sufferer pull out their own hair. Now, this can be any hair, such as head, eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic, chest, anything. The person has no control over this action and will often pull out great amounts of hair. I’ve heard some arguments that this isn’t really an impulse control disorder because we “don’t do it in our sleep”, which is, of course, a load of bollocks, and I’m sure not a single trich sufferer would choose to have this disorder. Although it’s closely linked to stress and anxiety, trich isn’t necessarily caused by anything, but there are examples of it being a result of a traumatic event.

I first started to pull my hair out when I was about nine. I started on my eyebrows initially. I can’t put my finger on the day it began or how I was feeling at that moment – all I know is I started and couldn’t stop. When I did try to stop, I was completely overwhelmed with the urge – I even felt physically symptoms, like an intense pain in my chest and sweaty palms. Soon enough, I had no eyebrows whatsoever, so I started pulling out my eyelashes, too. Around this time I had started suffering with anxiety, so you could argue trich may have been a result of this. Whatever the reason, my lack of eyebrows and eyelashes triggered relentless bullying from my peers, and I started pulling even more to cope with the stress. After a single night, a huge chunk of hair was missing from the front of my head, and that only worsened the bullying. At the same time, my parents were struggling to understand and deal with the situation, and were initially quite unsupportive – most likely in attempt to deflect the pulling in case I was just doing it for “attention”. In fact, we were watching a TV show in which an ‘expert’ gives advice to parents about troublesome  children, and told a mother and father whose daughter was pulling out her hair that she was doing it for attention and if you ignored it, she’d stop. That felt like a kick in the gut.

It really took over my life. I’d been a very normal, moderately popular girl and suddenly I was alone and felt hideously ugly. The first years of high school is when a girl’s appearance really comes into play, and I was walking around with numerous bald patches. People would stare at me on the street, relatives and family friends would whisper about me, kids at school would yell stuff at me. I rarely went a day without receiving some kind of insult from a total stranger: “You look like you have cancer,” “Are you going bald?” “Did you know you have bald patches?” “Went too far with the razor?” “Nice haircut!” “Baldie!” and, inexplicably, the word “Cancer!” just thrown at me down hallways. I didn’t have a single shred of confidence. I was not pretty and I would never be pretty because I would never stop pulling. In my first year, I cut off all my hair into a pixie cut in the hopes it would make the pulling less obvious, but the insults only increased.

My parents quickly came to my support, but nothing helped. I attended counselling, but it didn’t make a single bit of difference to my pulling. I went to a trich support group, but it just made me feel more hopeless. In online forums, people spoke of their success stories with combating trich, but nothing worked for me in the slightest. The only thing that made me feel a little less alone was the YouTube channel beckie0 (Rebecca Brown), a teenager (at the time) who also suffered with trichotillomania – and suddenly there was this whole community of young people struggling like me. Maybe I’d never meet anyone who just ‘happened’ to have trich, but it helped me to know there were people out there who faced the same struggles as I faced.

Today, I am pulling less and less, which I believe is a result of my increasing confidence. I have gone weeks without pulling and always ended up breaking, but in comparison to the times when I could barely go ten minutes without pulling, that’s quite a significant breakthrough. And after I post this, I am vowing to stop pulling for good – no second chances or hiccups or one-offs. I’d like to update my progress as I go on. I stopped pulling for over a month previously, and I think I can do it again. I don’t face bullying anymore, either, as my balding isn’t visible (although it’s a lot less visible than before anyway) as I cover it with a powder called Toppik. This isn’t a plug but it is something that has genuinely improved my quality of life. I can leave the house without expecting people to stare at my hair, and it feels wonderful; it’s totally liberating. It’s basically hair fibres you shake onto your scalp, and voila, a full head of hair!

I think so many young – and old – people suffering with trichotillomania would truly benefit from it being represented in the media and entertainment. I’ve only ever seen trichotillomania represented in the TV show Nurse Jackie, in which a child begins pulling out her hair but fully recovers in an incredibly short amount of time, and also, I guess, in the novel Sharp Objects, in which a controlling and manipulative mother has a “nervous habit” of pulling out her eyelashes. Neither of these have had any positive influence on me. I’d love to see a book, or a TV show, or a movie, or something, in which a character deals with trich, and it’s ugly and it’s hard and they’re stigmatised and bullied and go through all the suffering I went through, but show that we are not alone with this disorder.

Book Babble #2 – The Elephant Vanishes

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

★★★★☆

I’m a big fan of short stories. It all started after I read Instruction Manual for Swallowing by Adam Marek. Anyone who knows that collection knows they’re pretty weird stories -animals measured by volume, robot wasps, zombie cafés – but I was really into them. I read more and more short story collections, and ‘weird’ seems to be a common theme. It’s almost as if writers aren’t quite confident enough to carry their strange and unusual ideas out in a full-length novel, so they opt for short stories instead.

I knew Murakami’s stuff was weird because my dad had been reading 1Q84 and told me about all the strange and wonderful things that happened in it. I wasn’t allowed to read it at the time, though, so I promptly forgot about it – until a few weeks ago. I found a very interesting-looking cover in Waterstones and recognised 1Q84, and then picked up Norwegian Wood as it had its own recommendation card. I was thoroughly intrigued, but we couldn’t find our copy of Norwegian Wood at home so I instead had a go out The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami’s short story collection.

Every one of these stories made me laugh, whether it was because the writing was funny or the story itself was just so bizarre or the ending so unexpected. Each story was, I can only assume, well-translated, although none of them felt ‘Japanese’, per se – they could be set anywhere. The stories range from family affairs (one story is literally called ‘Family Affair’) to urban adventures to unconventional mysteries, but all of them were very Murakami. Here are some recurring themes I noticed:

  • Spaghetti (or miso soup, or tofu)
  • Ears
  • Things vanishing (like elephants!)
  • Housewives
  • Obscure composers
  • American rock bands
  • Cats
  • Percentages
  • Sudden phone calls

In fact, I just found a Murakami bingo board by Incidental Comics, so I wasn’t exaggerating:

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I mentioned unexpected endings. This was a common occurrence in The Elephant Vanishes, but oftentimes perfectly justified. All too often, stories focus on having a perfectly formed beginning, middle and end, but it’s as if Murakami writes his story and finishes it when he has nothing more to add, regardless of how complete it feels. In fact, some stories might seem ‘pointless’ to some readers – if there’s no real conclusion, then why tell it? But these are the exact type of stories that I love. He plays around with structure quite a lot, especially in The Kangaroo Communiqué and The Fall of the Roman Empire (etc), and whilst every story retains its Murakaminess, each is distinctive.

Rather than themes, clichés and storylines, in fact, the largest similarities between these stories are their narrators. They’re all apathetic – they are going through what they’re going through, they don’t think too much of anything, they deal with the situation and they simply tell their story. In that sense, the reader is forced to come up with their own emotional responses. Not that we don’t do this when reading any other stories, but nothing is influencing us when it comes to reactions.

I’d thought the previous story collections I’d read were weird or unconventional before, but Murakami takes the cake. I look forward to reading Norwegian Wood next, and hopefully many more of his works.

(My favourite story from this collection has to be The Second Bakery Attack).

 

 

Uni – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I have just returned from an open day at the University of Salford and have suddenly been struck by the realisation that uni isn’t actually that far away. It’s over a year away – I’d be starting September 2018 – but this first year at college has gone so fast that I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s honestly gone in the blink of an eye. University was unthinkable back in Year Seven, but then again, so were GCSEs. And I’ve already sat an AS level.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had my heart set on living on campus. I would have never even considered this when I was in Year Eleven, but I’ve become more and more accustomed to the idea. I’m the opposite of an independent person, unfortunately, but I’m currently trying to change that. Uni seems like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to ultimately make me a more independent and confident person. Everyone will be in the same boat, separated from maybe lifelong friends for the first time and living away from home. Living on campus would immediately force adulthood on me – cooking, cleaning, shopping, making my own appointments and phone calls (I’m not the only person who still struggles with that, right?), and it’s being forced into situations that truly helps me. I find it all too easy to shy away from responsibility and conflict and settle in my comfort zone. I won’t be able to do this forever, and I believe university will be the perfect shock to my system.

It’s not like I need to live on campus. All of the universities I’m thinking of are close enough for me to make a reasonable commute – Lancaster, Bangor, Chester, and, of course, Salford – and this was a conscious decision. I don’t want to move in to East Anglia and suddenly realise I’m not cut out for living on my own, because that’ll be a bit messy. But I really want to get away from my town. Now, I can talk and have talked about how much I loathe my hometown for pages and pages, but let’s just say I feel stunted here. I feel like there are no opportunities. It’s a place void of hope. It’s home, but I don’t feel any attachment to it. I can’t wait to leave. Now, my mother often helpfully reminds me that there’s misery in every part of the country and if I want somewhere nice I’ll have to pay a lot for it, but that doesn’t deter me. I am determined to get away. Uni might be this first step.

It is costly, however. I’ve never had a job, and we’re not particularly wealthy. I’d like to think I’d get a job once I start uni, but that’s something I’m pretty anxious about. More than that, though, is that at this moment in time I am simply not ready for living on my own at uni. I could not do it in my position as of now. I lack a novel’s worth of skills and experience to handle it, although I have made significant progress over the past year. And look, I love my family, I love being around my family, I love being comfortable. I like the idea of change, but often struggle with it when it actually comes into effect.

That’s why I’ll really be making it my mission to develop the skills and confidence necessary for this over the rest of the year and the next. I’ve already had a go at it, but I have a lot of work to do. I truly believe if I push myself, however, I’ll be ready. Even if things don’t work out and I end up wanting/having to stay at home, at least I’ll still be a more confident person.