History, Friends and Laughter: My Experiences in Berlin

Hi!

I got back from Berlin late on Monday night, having gone there for a history trip with my school. Ever since then, I’ve been exhausted but also so happy. On that trip I learned so much, made new friends and had the best time I’ve had in a very long time.

Prepare for a long post. I’m going to be recounting, as best I can, what happened in the four days I was in Germany. I’m still tired but I’ll do my best! My memory may be a bit sketchy because we did so much!

Friday

I was so excited on Thursday but I’d convinced myself I should go to bed at7 to get some good rest. Because I’m a moron, I got 5 hours of sleep that night: I went to bed at a stupid time and got up at 3 but the night before, I’d cleared up a situation that had been bothering me for a long time. We arrived at Gatwick at 4:30 and, upon me realising I’d forgotten to bring my Euros (wow), my dad and I did a mad dash to the shitty money exchange rate point. I was so tired even then; then I met up with my class and we went through security. It was so boring, including the fligh there despite my panic at take-off. Luckily I sat next to a girl who used to be in my old French class who has now become a great friend of mine. I’ll get onto the interesting part now.

There were 16 of us going on the trip, all of whom I liked or at least could talk to if I needed. Our two history teachers went, +a tour guide called Rob who was fantastic but walked at a ridiculously fast pace. When we were on the plane, I got an idea of what it would be like: people took the piss out of each other and laughed; that was an ongoing theme throughout the trip. One of my best friends, who I call Red, went too, as well as the other Head Girl.

We weren’t afforded rest when we landed. Oh no; it was straight into the activities: we were carrying heavy bags and had to travel to the hostel on public transport, jumping on trains until I felt faint. Perhaps that was also because I had intense stomach cramps and hadn’t eaten in ages (at one point my vision completely went, which was honestly a terrifying experience and I don’t want to think about it). After dropping our bags – it was about midday at this point – we went on a ‘walking tour’ of the city. That involved a Karl Marx statue, my friend taking out a communist manifesto which he had decided to bring, learning about the Burning of the Books in 1933 and being so tired I could barely think. We went to a museum and because I’m visually impaired, I was allowed to touch some artifacts using special gloves – for instance, a centuries-old cannon. I nearly screamed with excitement; I would have if I was able to muster up the energy to speak loudly. Usually, I feel stupid because people know more than me about historical context but I got to ask our museum guide a lot of questions.

In the evening, we got back to the hostel, had dinner and I was all ready for sleep. I shared a room with the four other girls and straight off, I made friends with the other Head Girl as we fangirled over books, discussed the day and the gruelling pace Rob had made us go at and laughed explosively. The other three were amazing because they helped me without me even asking; they seemed to understand I wanted enough freedom to feel human but that I did need help with some things and they never made me feel stupid for it. Even though we were tired, as soon as we got into bed we were utterly alert. I listened to them gossiping, managed to actually join in on the conversation and didn’t make a fool of myself.

Honestly, the first day was easy compared to the rest because it was an introduction. It made me feel at home in a foreign country and left me feeling wholly happy because I wasn’t pretending.

Saturday

We woke at 7 that day, my legs aching from the previous afternoon. However, I knew that this day would be challenging emotionally as we were visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, an hour’s ride on public transport from Berlin. We arrived late downstairs but I think we all knew that this was nothing compared to the enormity of what we’d feel later.

Going to the concentration camp was so incredibly moving. It was a work camp and we walked the route of the prisoners, looking at the barracks which – by the end – had 400 or so people in a relatively small room. The atmosphere was quiet, horrified, above all when we saw the outline of what was a gas chamber, the only one in the camp, and the gallows. This particular camp wasn’t like Auschwitz: not as many executions took place. However, it was a huge concept to take in. Until you’re there, it’s difficult to realise just how awful the Holocaust was. I think that everyone should learn about it and just understand the sheer scale of the horror.

In a similar emotional idea, in the afternoon – instead of going to the Olympic Stadium as was planned, we visited two Holocaust memorials. The first was comprised of stone blocks, varying in height – all in rows, it felt like they represented the different victims and stories. I felt disconnected and terribly sad as I walked through, trailing my hand along the rough stonework. However, the one that made me feel incredibly emotional was the memorial to the Roma and Sinti. Flowers were laid on a platform in the middle of a little pond, uneven stones on the ground engraved with names of concentration camps. Birds chirped overhead and it was a memorial to something awful surrounded by nature; it made everything feel real and terrifying. As well as that, we visited the Topography of terror, which documented the horrors of the Nazi regime in pictures. The history teacher which will teach us about that walked around with me, talking to me about the photos.

At night, we had dinner outside a lovely restaurant and in contrast to the heavy emotions we’d felt earlier, we lightened the mood by the best medicine: laughter. I was literally crying at one point because of various innuendos that were made; a bird landed on my tray; I managed to get food on me and it was genuinely so nice because I was on a table with the people who were quickly becoming friends of mine if they weren’t already. I felt so close with everything. After that, we went to the Reichstag – the government building, rebuilt after it was burned down in the 1930s. I spent time walking with my old French friend, as I like to call her; we got so fed up with the audio guide at one point that we just walked around the dome, taking in the atmosphere of the whole place with the historical context owe had.

Before we went to bed, we had an impromptu disco – the teachers had gone to bed, exhausted probably from the events of the morning when a drunk person had spoken at length to one of the history teachers and Rob had set the pace even higher. They put music on in the basement for about 5 minutes, after I came back in awkwardly after having been left by one of my friends by accident. It was certainly more tiring than Friday, for sure, made better by the yells of music of my friends.

Sunday

Sunday was really, really hot but that was probably because we were walking around all day. I wore light trousers and so was sweltering; we went to an art gallery outside Berlin in the morning. Red described everything to me, taking a picture of me outside in the garden – I think I smiled; I just found it all so beautiful. The house in which the Final Solution was planned was heartbreaking though; we learned about the stories of individual people, in addition to the fates of those in attendance at the meeting, who weren’t prosecuted for their part and after the war, often remained civil servants.

In the afternoon, we visited Potsdam; I went on a tram for the first time. Even though it was hot, we took a walk in the park and saw Kaiser Wilhelm II’s childhood home, as well as Frederick the Great’s castle – one of the people in my class is obsessed with him, something which I find hilarious. Walking up so many steps took a toll, yet the fountains, shade and resting places added a lovely touch to something so historically significant.

By that time, I was more tired than I cared to admit. We went bowling after having had dinner, the meal filled with the laughter that I felt was now customary. I came joint last (5th place according to him) with Red; I acted very strange because I was so exhausted and I felt emotional because it was our last night. For example, I screamed when I knocked down all but one pin, yelling “YAAAAS!” on various occasions. The teacher who teaches us the English Revolution section helped me to refine my “technique”. I adored that evening, even if we got back to the hostel at 10 and didn’t sleep until 12, a security staff member knocking at our door to tell us to shut up.

Monday

The last day was focused on the Cold War. When I woke up, I was surprised to note that I didn’t feel as tired as I thought I would be. I had packed on Sunday; we left the hostel at 9, the banter of the people in my class increasing as the day wore on. In the morning, we visited the Stasi Prison, one of the most moving things I’ve ever done with the only amusing thing being that Red got stuck in a rose bush. There were two prisons; one was reserved for physical torture and one psychological. It was horrifying. When you’re told about people who now work at the prison to do tours who have gone through Hell, imprisoned for crimes against the state they didn’t even commit, it fills you with this crawling sense of terror and sadness. I admire the people who can now go back to that prison to educate us, the younger generation, on what conditions were truly like. No sugarcoating. No hiding how it was.

We went to Checkpoint Charlie near to lunchtime, the seriousness in the morning then being balanced by shopping. The girls and I, as well as one of the boys, went to Zara and when we ran out of time, we went to get food. I managed to eat it in 10 minutes whilst running back to the meeting point, which made me feel more sick than ever. I laughed, shouted and gasped for air when the heat was too oppressive.

Going home was a sad affair. I didn’t want to, most of all because I would miss how free I felt and also because I didn’t want to return to the dreariness of school. We collected our bags, me complaining about how exhausted I was – luckily not wracked with cramps. In the airport, I discovered that someone had hand-written the word “blind” on my passport but had missed out the I, the pun pointed out to me. As I laughed so hard that I had tears in my eyes, people must have thought I was crying.

Berlin was more beautiful than I could express. The thing that meant the most to me was the help and support I got from, well, everyone. When I asked the girls to help me with something, they always did. I was treated like a human, like I belonged – it was a shock to come back to school and to not feel so complete: I even missed walking fast and the joking of the people around me. Everyone in Germany talked to me with no filter. Even the teachers relaxed, telling me at the end that it was amazing to have worked and talked with me. I was near tears.

I’m never going to forget it. Even if the specifics fade, I’ll always remember the kindness, laughter and the feeling of togetherness. When some of the boys were being their usual selves, I grinned and laughed and smiled. When I wanted to contribute something to a conversation, I could.

Sometimes, taking a chance and putting yourself out there can help so much with your confidence. It has for me and despite the fact that I was tired and irritable at some points, I wouldn’t have changed anything about those four days. They were worth every penny.

Have you ever been to Germany, or to a historical location that changed how you feel about things?

From Elm πŸ™‚

Why Telling the Truth is Good

When you’re in a difficult situation, where your brain convinces you to lie to someone because you think it’ll hurt less (it doesn’t) and because you’re scared of them thinking worse of you, telling the truth after that can be extremely tricky. It can hurt both yourself and others but there are a lot of positives to doing it and getting over your fear. On Wednesday, I told two of my best friends the entire truth about a situation that I had experienced three months ago or so and though I sobbed like a child in the nearly deserted common room, it was worth it and it needed to be done.

Upon explaining everything, both to them and another friend before, I came to rather, lise that I’ve been lying to the point where it’s damaged relationships. Telling the truth may be hard but it’s necessary for you to feel happy. If you’re struggling over telling someone something, I want to explain some of the positives to you.

It strengthens relationships
Admitting you lied to someone is really nervewracking and they may be annoyed at you for it. I’ve certainly experienced that but what I found, above all on Wednesday, was that people much prefer it when you tell them the truth. If you’re honest and tell them how much you fucked up, it shows them that you trust them. Trust may be broken at first because they may believe that you didn’t trust them enough to tell them the truth in the first place but when you admit that to them, it can add a level of understanding to your friendships. I won’t lie: it could go the other way but the gamble of honesty is worth it.

Things aren’t so complex
Not only does lying upset other people but it can leave your head in a mess as you try and remember who knows what; it’s a horrible state to be in because you can end up manipulating people. It is only natural, therefore, that you should remove those feelings as soon as possible. One of the easiest ways to do that is to tell as many people the truth as you can who you’ve lied to; it clears it up, lets people in on how you’re feeling and makes your head less cluttered. People have asked me why I’ve been feeling so awful but I haven’t been able to explain it properly until I told Wren and Red everything that went on. The simple act of explaining it caused my mind to relax a little from the painful twisting state it had been in; the first person I truly told[q~@]- who I’d lied to – started that relieving; my other friends carried it on.

You feel happier and less awful
Guilt is a central part to lying and it’s one of the worst consequences of doing something horrible. By owning up to it and telling someone, it doesn’t weigh as heavy: it’s still there, especially because of the disappointment that is (rightfully) displayed at how you lied, but at least some of it goes away. You also feel happier because for me, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to hide or pretend and if I hadn’t told the truth, I would have fallen apart. I was already doing that and it took me explaining shit for me to understand just how bad it was.

You can show people you’re able to move forward
If you’ve got your own thoughts for company, wherein only you know how you’ve been feeling or what you’ve been doing, it means you can’t move on. If you’re good at sorting out your own feelings then it’s okay but if you’re like me, the thoughts spin round and round in your head with no resolution. It hurts and does me no good. On the contrary, sharing things with other people helped me to face up to it and understand what I’d done; it really allows you to move on from the situation by forcing the results of it to become apparent to you.

You can understand who your true friends are
Lying is only an okay thing when it will have no consequences for anyone. When it does and you then tell someone the truth, it’s natural and understandable that they’ll be upset with you. In fact, I’d want people to be angry with me for misjudging their personality enough to lie to them. It absolutely wasn’t fair of me to do that. However, when I told Wren and Red, they explained that they still loved me, always have and always would and that this wouldn’t change that. I figured out that the people who are my real friends, who – whether sensible or not – would stick by me are the ones that can see the reasons why I lied and let me make up for it, as well as move forward. Some things are unforgivable and I don’t blame people for being upset with me because I would be but I know that if such trust is lost by lying, perhaps it would be best that the person distanced themselves from me.

You aren’t superhuman. You’re going to make mistakes, lie and upset people. It’s alright to do that. However, as terrifying as it is, telling the truth can make things a lot easier. Not in all cases but in a lot of them, honesty can be the best solution.

If you’re hurting right now and don’t understand why someone did what they did, think about it from their perspective. That can apply to those who lied and those who are angry because you lied. There are always more than two sides to a story.

From Elm πŸ™‚

I Can’t Speak German

Hi!

When I post this it’ll be Friday and I’ll be on the plane to Berlin, for a history school trip. It’ll be with both history classes: that includes Red who’s one of my best friends and a girl who was in my old french class, though not Laurel.

I’ve been looking forward to this all year: we’re staying until Monday and will be walking and doing so many activities every day. Such activities are visiting a concentration camp, going to memorials, seeing the Reichstag and other things I can’t remember. It’s going to be a good experience because it’ll teach me more about Germany itself as well as the horrors of the Nazi regime – we study it for A-Level in History – and I’ll feel more free, I hope.

Even if I’m mildly nervous because I don’t know many people well, I think that this will be an opportunity to “come out of my shell”. I’ve been extremely closed off recently to the point where it’s damaged close relationships; I feel like being a little more open with everyone, starting with actually displaying qualities to people of myself that are, in fact, truthful. I’m going there for the education as well as the companionship.

I’ve written a post that hopefully, will be up on Sunday so that my blog isn’t empty for 4 days. I’m going to miss you all: I haven’t read many blogs in so long; my previous drive to read has disappeared but after this trip, I hope it can revitalise itself. As I feel rather faded, this may be an opportunity to get my thoughts back on track. Maybe.

Expect a big update when I get back and if I don’t do one, feel free to shout at me. As I’m almost completely blind, I have to have someone from my school’s VI unit along to help me which is going to cause me some frustration but I’m sure it’ll be fine. I sincerely doubt I’ll have enough time or energy to miss England much; it’s going to be packed.

See you on Monday but most likely Tuesday because I won’t have Wifi! Because of the long trip, I’ll be utterly exhausted and I’ll have to go to school the next day. Oh, joy of joys.

Have you ever been to Berlin (if you don’t live there?)

From Elm πŸ™‚

Guest post – What does feminism mean to me?Β 

Hi everyone! 

I’m Lizzie from Lizzie’s Language and I’m really pleased to be writing a guest post on Elm’s blog, as she is such a talent writer. She is also writing a post on mine! I’m going to talk about feminism and what it means to me. 

I am constantly told that I’m over sensitive because I call people out over their racist jokes. Or I’m told that women have enough rights all ready so I should just shut up and go back to the kitchen. When I am alone on the streets or in a shop, even if there are a million people around, I am terrified when a man comes too close. Or rolled eyes are given when I try to explain why our bathrooms should be transgender friendly and that gay is not an insult.  

That is why I need feminism. 

I am constantly asked what feminism means to me and I would say that it means a voice. It gives me a voice to speak out to the world. My feminism however is not just for white women, it’s for everybody, no matter what race, sexuality or gender. The other day a boy asked me why I was defending trans right when I was a feminist and I told him that my feminism cares for everybody. And he said, ‘But feminists are only fighting for women’s rights’ and I think people confuse what feminism is because of its name.

All the time my friends tell me that they would be more on board with feminism if it was called something else. I’m sorry but isn’t the whole of the history of human beings called ‘ManKind’. And it’s called feminism not equalism because it focusing on raising females up to the same place as men and not tearing the men down to a lower level. Plus, who cares if it’s called feminism because it all started to try and give better opportunities to women and then it has evolved to help everyone.

Feminism also means so much to me because I would say that it is the thing that I’m most passionate about and how much passion I put into it never fades. I love dance and trialthons but sometimes I’m really passionate about it and then a month later I still love it but it doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me. Whereas feminism is something that I always have fire for and I’m always ready to fight for. The problem that I see now is that it is everywhere. Racist, homophobic, sexist comments and even subconscious acts don’t go unnoticed to me. Sometimes I call people out but I seem to notice it all the time and I just store my anger away. Recently I’ve watched my old favourite tv shows, like ‘How I met you mother’ and realise while I watch it that there are just so many comments that make me wince. 

Feminism is something that makes me who I am. People think of me and probably think of the feminist who writes slam poetry and is educated on most topics. I hope that the people reading this are either call themselves feminists or support the movement because we need all the help that we can get. 

I’d also like to say a massive thank you to Elm for giving me this amazing opportunity to write on her blog! 

Much love, 

Lizzie xxx

I Thought that My Love Life was Over

So far, school has been rather uneventful in the two days that I’ve been back, save for me internally freaking out about coursework and stressing at things that aren’t even important. However, there is a far more pressing problem besides the prospect of unmanageable work. That is, I appear to actually possess feelings.

How my mind works is that there are certain people which my brain tells me, “Okay, they’re nice; you could have feelings for them – but don’t; that’s a terrible idea!” A girl who joined my school this year, who I used to share my French class with, is one such person. I call her Laurel on this blog and you can read more about her here. I feel like a total creep for writing this and knowing my luck, she’ll end up finding it and I’ll be mortified for the rest of my days.

Yesterday, I spoke to her for the first time, properly in person, for about a month. Because of exams which meant that I was only in school to do them for two weeks and then I had two weeks off, I couldn’t have seen her for that length of time and before that, I hadn’t spoken to her in ages. Not being with Pine’s “group” a lot, I don’t often have the chance to meet her unless I go and sit with them at break. She’d been on my mind a lot lately. It wasn’t in a romantic sense really but I was more contemplating the decision that I’d made to drop French, as well as how much I missed those in my class even if I could see them outside of it.

I got into school, walked towards my first class of the day and genuinely didn’t realise it was her speaking to me, at first. Being greeted is a common thing but it was loud; I couldn’t hear much and I think I must have been tired. We were standing a little ways apart; I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings. My friends Wren and Swan were being themselves, saying inside jokes to me whilst walking off and that was when I knew that Laurel stood in front of me and I was a total moron because I think that I smiled really strangely. Now I think about it, that was so awkward.

We didn’t talk about much. The subject was mainly exams and before I had known it was her (how the hell did I not know?!) she hugged me and I felt really happy because I felt like she really meant it. I was cringing so hard when I clocked that it was her that I tried to, erm, make up for it, or that was how my mind justified it. Upon her saying that she would fail, I utterly disagreed with her and I hugged her again, touching her hands once or twice to prove my point. As I never usually initiate such physical contact with those that aren’t my very close friends, it was almost a shock to my own internal systems to note that I was doing this with very little fear.

I’m confused. Over the last few months, I convinced myself that those fledgling feelings had been stamped out. I didn’t need complications like that, especially when I was attempting to viciously deny other, much stronger feelings that had emerged for a different person. Neither approach worked. Now, it looks as if I’m in the same predicament as before: uncertain as to what I want, who I think about and what I want to do with those feelings.

I usually know how I act around those who I have feelings for but then I refuse to acknowledge that. It might not be apparent to anyone else except me but I think differently, pay much closer attention to everything and am more likely to remember how I felt in that exact moment. As much as I’ve tried to stop this, I don’t think I can. Once my thoughts go down a trajectory of weird and inconvenient feelings, they don’t stop until I a) realise it’s pointless; b) something unpleasant happens or c) I move onto someone else. I’m hoping it’s option C, honestly.

My feelings, or what’s left of them, for Laurel can’t be overstated. Yes, I think she’s wonderful and I feel entirely too comfortable around her but there still remains the problem of the ‘other person’. I won’t use Laurel as some kind of rebound because that would upset me; I don’t know her well enough to know what it would do to her.

All in all, I know a few things:
β€’ I have small feelings for her
β€’ They won’t go anywhere because I have about as much luck or good decision-making as a single-celled organism
β€’ I’m hopelessly confused because feelings EW NO GO AWAY
β€’ There are ‘other people’ who I have similar reactions to which makes things needlessly complex
β€’ If you try and ignore a problem or put your fingers in your ears whilst screaming ‘la la laaaaa’, it doesn’t go away
β€’ HELP ME I don’t need this in my life!

Are you going through something similar right now? How do you feel? I kind of feel like running and hiding next time I’m near her because feelings are scary. I haven’t felt this way, so carefree with it, in at least a year.

From Elm πŸ™‚

Afraid Of School

It’s safe to say that I really didn’t put enough effort into my schoolwork this year, or my exams in general. I say this to people and they act as if I’m joking when in actuality, I couldn’t be more serious. I screwed up work-wise and also emotionally, was sad, upset and angry at myself the majority of the time and I was the reason I had a shit time.

Writing this the night before school starts, I’m feeling especially scared. I don’t want to get into the motivational decline of AS-Levels, especially after all the shit which kicked off at the start of it. I blame myself – not for instigating it – but for letting it affect me and letting it carry on. This will be a rambling post, by the way, but I need to get my anxious feelings out because otherwise I never will.

I need sleep but I’m sat here worrying about the state of my thoughts. I need to pick myself up but I don’t know how; it’s got to the point where I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to be or feel when I return from school. It concerns me to note that I may either feel relieved and motivated or utterly shit, wanting to sob and just fix all of the things that have gone wrong.

Simultaneously, I want to get tomorrow over with and also I want to stay home. Exciting things may be coming up work-wise and in terms of school but I can’t bring myself to be happy about that because I need to cross the hurdle of not doing work first. If I never get motivated, I’ll never do work and that’s the crux of it. It’s not that I don’t do the work to a worrying degree; it’s that I don’t know if I’ll care enough to get stuff done.

When did this all start? Was it at the start of year 12 when French and personal things were affecting me? Was it around December when I realised that nothing was making me happy and that all the work I was doing was pointless? Was it before that when I had the habit of procrastinating and being lazy or was it before any of my exams, when I was so convinced I’d fail that I didn’t do enough revision?

I know that I can do this but I’m terrified, scared, paranoid and I want everything to go away whilst also wanting to be surrounded by happy things to forget about me. I have no idea what (i>exactly is getting me so worked up. I’m shaking, feel cold all over and my eyes are too widened to cry at the minute.

I can succeed in my subjects but that might be at the cost of my feelings and creative mind; I don’t want that. I want to sing, write, have fun and laugh but now, it feels quite far off. If I can balance work and a social life, everything will be okay but I don’t want to screw up again and make people unhappy.

Tomorrow, one of three things will happen: I will panic and lock myself into a work-mindset at the expense of talking to people; I will have a terrible attitude to work but revel in the fact that my friends are there or I’ll find a balance. I’m hoping it’s the last of these three but who knows?

I’m scared but I can’t let it rule me. I’m going to go to sleep but the thought of waking up tomorrow to face a day of self-induced fear is making me procrastinate sleep.

Sorry for the disjointed and fragile nature of this post. Inspiration can strike me at the strangest of times and I needed to get this written before the thoughts disappeared into a flurry of confusion inside my head. In the morning, I’ll look back on this and frown but for now, it’s the best I can do and that best will be enough.

If you’re returning to school now or did last week, I hope everything goes well! Remember that even if you feel a certain way now, it won’t last forever. You still have time to let yourself be happy: there will always be time for that. Being happy can be better than getting top grades in every single subject.

From Elm πŸ™‚

My Blog In The Real World

A week before my first exam, I received an email which changed the way I look at my blog and which could lead to something exceptionally exciting. I’ve got permission from the people involved to post about it and so here goes!

This email was from a girl called Silva, who had found my blog whilst looking for ways to procrastinate revision, which I thought was absolutely hilarious. Silva comes from a school in Dorset called Bryanston, an independent school; it also has students who live there in a boarding school setting. In this school, there’s an Equality Society which is pretty much run by her. They discuss and debate issues pertaining to wider problems in society.

Because I have strong views on that which I express through my posts, Silva asked me if I would like to come to their school and speak to the Equality Society about inequalities I face in education as a result of my disability and how I’ve overcome challenges to do with it. She said that it was a “tall offer” and that it may be far-fetched but that she loved my content and thought it was just what they needed.

As I’m an incredibly put together, professional person, naturally I started screaming as soon as I had processed what was happening, which took about 5 minutes. It was 10 o’clock at night and I was so shocked by the email that I couldn’t have replied to it if I had tried; it was only the next day, at school, that I answered. For me, that was more important than revision at that stage. After all, when would this opportunity happen again?

Of course, my first thought was that it was a scam as I was disbelieving that anything so momentous could happen to me. However, I searched up the school, managed to work out how far I lived from it and heavily analysed the email to check for any inconsistencies. After surmising that there was a 99% chance it was legitimate, I began to truly think about whether I wanted to do this. It only took me a day or so to come up with the answer: yes. I did.

Over the next few days, I was still surprised: it may not seem like much but to me, to be contacted on the platform which I love with everything I have, to be asked to talk about something I’m so passionate about and to have my opinions listened to is a dream come true. I know that here, I can make a difference. I started to plan how it would happen, emailing Silva when I could in the mayhem of exam preparation.

Silva gave me her number and after we’d spoken for a while, she asked me if I would like to talk to the Equality Society on the Monday preceding half term. Upon agreeing, we arranged a time and called. It was utterly surreal; I was sitting in my bedroom having a discussion with people I’d never talked to before, about something which was so huge to me.

I answered a few of their questions and it felt wonderful to be able to talk about my feelings. Questions I was asked ranged from how I knew what colour clothing I was putting on in the morning (that has to be one of the best questions) to how I access my work. I had an answer for each and felt almost like a fire was being lit inside me because I felt purposeful, comfortable and most of all? Powerful. One of the things I said was the smallest actions can mean the most or hurt the most and I needed to speak to the people there like I would talk to any other: without patronising, without treating them differently because everyone’s human.

According to Silva, when we spoke afterwards, more than 30 people turned up and were in a small geography classroom, with more arriving as I was speaking. It made me feel so accomplished. Though it was Silva who had advertised the event so brilliantly, it was my words to which they were listening. It’s a foreign feeling that I’ll never get used to because then, I wasn’t just that weird Elm girl. I was somebody who could change the opinions of people I didn’t know, using the only resource I can: my words.

I have barely told anyone about this but I’m still so incredibly excited. The first person to know was my dad who is totally on board with it; sadly, my mum can’t know the true origin of this as I refuse to tell her about my blog. We need to get the logistics sorted but at some point, we can make more sound preparations.

Hopefully this September, I’m going to travel down to Dorset to speak to them. Even some of the staff members know which is mildly terrifying. However, doing this is something which I’ve set my heart on. I want to help; I want to show people that even if disabled people have difficulties, it’s not the end of the world and there are ways to live and be happy.

Not only is this a dream for me but this is also drawing my blog out into the “offline” world. The people at Silva’s school know my real name as they would have to. One wrong word or accidental blogging or real life name reveal would end my anonymity but strangely, I don’t care as much. The fact that I was specifically contacted through my blog, not a VI charity or otherwise, shows how blogging doesn’t just have to be reserved for the online world. I am both my blogging and real-life persona: they aren’t two separate people.

Blogging got me to this stage in my life and will continue to shape how I act, how I feel and what opportunities can be gained. I couldn’t be more thankful for that; instead of being the “visually impaired one”, I want to be the one who can help people. Having a blog has let me be that person.

I’m really, really looking forward to this; it’s possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to my blog. Remember that your words can mean something; it’s words that can change people’s minds and let them understand things which they otherwise wouldn’t.

I may not be able to help everyone or do everything I want to do. However, what I can do is worth it. What I can do is help as many people as I can and speak as loudly as I can.

Don’t be afraid of taking new, potentially scary opportunities. It could change your life, or the lives of others, one day.

From Elm πŸ™‚

I Am Not

Writing a post whilst upset and hurt is never a good idea but perhaps it can be as I need to let these emotions out. Excuse any confusing sentences or strong language.

I am not a slut if I do things that other people find “questionable”. My body is my own and if I feel comfortable doing something, I’ll do it: the consequences may be difficult to deal with but that’s okay. I don’t need people who don’t even know me questioning my decisions and thinking that I have no morals, just because I did something I wanted to do a while ago.

Conversely, I’m not a prude if I don’t want to talk about things. Sometimes I feel fine discussing everything, sometimes I don’t; with some people I’m okay with it and with others, I’m not. One day I may be perfectly fine talking about everything that happened and another I’ll feel unpleasant about it and just not want to. If someone asks me a question and I don’t want to answer, that’s alright because I still have boundaries.

I’m not oversensitive if I get upset because of a situation. I may portray that I’m not bothered by anything but that’s a complete fucking lie; I’m still human and still have feelings. I don’t know how I feel the majority of the time so if I stop talking, it’s usually because I just don’t want to talk; it’s nothing against the person, it’s just because I want to get out.

I am not disgusting for being a liar. I think that about myself every single day and so others thinking that of me just reaffirms it. There are many reasons why I might lie: I don’t know what other people know, I don’t know if I’m about to be made fun of, I don’t trust the person or I don’t want to talk or think about it. Lying is not a good thing but sometimes it’s necessary, except when you get caught out and want to scream because you’re panicking too much to breathe.

I am not pathetic for being paranoid that information is going to get out to everyone. It makes me feel ill because I’ve told different people different things and yes, that’s awful, but some things I really need to stay private because everyone will know what goes on in my life, including people who just could not understand and who have never spoken to me. I’m not in the slightest okay with that so I shut myself off to everything.

I’m not over-reacting if I feel dirty, disgusting or sick. Occasionally, I want to wash all of it away; I stood there shaking earlier because I didn’t want to face the reality of everything. I felt horrible, like things were crawling on my skin, like I was something to be despised and someone to be disgusted at. In my head, the thoughts were screaming and I couldn’t catch my breath but I just. Felt. Awful. Some people would say that’s blowing things out of proportion but when you feel that creeping dread, you know that you can’t shake it.

I am not a coward for wanting to run away from everything. Avoiding your problems won’t solve anything but I want to try sometimes. I’m tired of potentially getting judged and of feeling like that people believe I’m nothing but a slut. I’m tired of refusing to defend my actions and I’m exhausted at the possibility of conflict.

If people call me these things, I’ll tell them that I’ve already called myself them more times than they can count. People’s opinions and actions towards you should never influence your self-worth. No matter how many times people twist it, your thoughts are yours.

Thinking positively about yourself is so hard, I know, especially is you believe people are making assumptions about you. If you’ve been in a situation which makes you hate yourself, remember this: you can always learn and if people judge you on one thing you did, it’s them that can’t understand you. Only you truly know what you’re thinking and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

When things start to get too much, tell yourself this: I’m strong. I am not a terrible person.

I’m not what they say I am.

From Elm πŸ™‚

My Volunteering Adventures

On Saturday mornings, when I can, I volunteer at an event called Parkrun with my two family friends, Poppy and Rose. Even if we’ve not been able to do it much recently because of exams, revision and stress, last Saturday I did it again with Rose and it reaffirmed to me just how much I love it and why I do it.

Parkrun is (usually) held weekly in parks around the UK and in other parts of the world. People run around a 5 KM track, each having an individual barcode which they can scan in at the end if they want to be timed. It’s not really a race because the only person you’re racing is yourself, if you’re not the competitive sort. Depending on your park, a different number of people will run it every week: it’s free, maintained by volunteers, sponsors and organisers and (in my opinion) is an amazing way for people to get together in a relaxed setting and exercise.

You may ask, “What do you actually do if you don’t run it?” because I know, the thought of me running the thing is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh. I really should one day… My dad has been running it almost weekly for nearly 2 and a half years, completing 130 or so runs. That’s how we first heard of Parkrun and my friends and I have been doing it for about 1 and a half years now, though not as regularly as I would like.

When runners are on a track and are busy exercising, they need to know which way to go especially if they’re unfamiliar with the course. We point them in the right direction, encourage them (or scream in the case of me and my friends) and are the eyes of the course if anything goes wrong. We wear high-vis jackets and, depending on how many volunteers – or marshalls as our specific role is – there are, there are normally 3 people to a section of the course, more if in our case we need to be supervised as we’re under the age of 18. There are other jobs, such as the ‘funnel people’ (that’s not their official name) who scan barcodes and the tail runner(s) who are at the rear of the runners and indicate to us when there are no more people so we can leave. I’ve only ever been a marshall because realistically, I couldn’t scan the barcodes and we’ve never tried to be tail runners.

Volunteering all started when Poppy wanted to do it for her Duke of Edinburgh: she asked me if I wanted to join her and I said yes; she and I both knew it well because of my dad and even Rose and her had run it about 6 times the summer beforehand. Both of us did it for a while before Rose joined: when she did, it just felt right and whenever one of them can’t do it, it’s not the same. Even after Poppy stopped D of E, we carried on because it’s become something of a tradition. I’ve always done it because I love it and even for waking up at 7, it’s bloody worth it.

Poppy, Rose and I have become somewhat known in our specific park – I won’t mention any details of the course or the average turnout because anonymity. People know us because, well, we’re very enthusiastic. Whether that’s literally screaming, yelling or cheering, all of us have really got into the spirit of it.

Part of the reason we work so well together is because of our friendship. I feel quite sorry for the people who volunteer alongside us because all of us insult each other constantly, comment on our “sarcastic” cheering (it was an accident okay?) and generally end up throwing what anyone else would call horrible remarks at each other. Any time one of us is awkward, which is usually me, the others take the piss out of them for it. Often, we repeat the same things, culminating in ‘running catchphrases’. We’ve even made plans to make a cheesy running Spotify playlist and I’m pretty sure all the runners mildly hate us because we don’t just stand around clapping. I couldn’t care less though because it puts a smile on my face.

Whenever we do volunteering, afterwards, I feel so happy and much more relaxed. I’d never want to be payed for it because I think it’s against the spirit of the entire thing; I’m happy doing what I’m doing. If I can encourage people and let them know they’re doing a great job, it makes me happy as well as them. Having Poppy and Rose with me whilst we do that is amazing because I wouldn’t feel comfortable shrieking around anyone else. If other people joined us that we knew, it’d be weird and I don’t think I’d approach it with the same level of enthusiasm. When the only people who know you properly are those doing the same thing as you, you can act how you’d want to act without being self-conscious.

Volunteering has made me more active, brought me closer to my community, gave me a little more motivation and showed me that money doesn’t have to be a reward but being around people can be. I love it more than I love a lot of things because it lets me feel useful and just plain good.

If you want to volunteer or want to learn more about Parkrun in general, you can look at their website.

Do you run at Parkrun or do you want to? Have you ever volunteered and if not at Parkrun, where do you volunteer? Let me know!

From Elm πŸ™‚

Small Confessions I Want to Make, Part 2

As with the first time I did this, I’m going to be writing little sentences to explain complicated thoughts in my head. Sometimes, expanding on a point makes me tired so these will have to do. Remember if you feel like any of these, I understand and you can always talk to me about it.

I get scared when I feel strong emotion and so have blocked it out for the last 3 months and now I don’t understand how to un-block it.

Having people be disappointed in me or not trust me any more really hurts but I brought it on myself and I feel like I deserve it.

I’ve lied to so many people that the thought of having to tell the truth – which I started to do yesterday – terrifies me because where do I start?

The longer I refused to admit things to people, the worse it got.

I’m going to repeat the same mistakes I did before because I said I wouldn’t in the summer and then did: I don’t know how to stop myself or if I will.

I have so little trust and faith in myself and others as a general rule that I feel lost a lot of the time.

I avoid my problems to such an extent that it makes them worse and causes me to lose friends.

I’ve missed a few blogging opportunities because I’ve been too stressed to reply to emails, when I know that blogging is the one thing I truly love.

Distracting myself is the only way I can get through days without screaming but I don’t know how to stop distracting myself now.

Last night, I stayed up until 2 AM because I was miserable and for the first time in a while, thought concrete thoughts without shying away from them.

Yesterday evening, I got so angry with myself that I wanted to punch through my window and it terrified me.

When I’m lonely, I do stupid, irrational things and now I’m known for that; it makes me sad.

If I get paranoid that people will hate me or never speak to me again, I don’t tell them things that I should which is so damaging to everyone involved.

The feelings I discussed here have grown and I really don’t like it; it’ll end in tears for me.

I’ve really fucked up and the magnitude of that has been hitting me all day, leaving me shaking and disgusted with myself.

Over the next few months, I want to feel like I have some kind of purpose rather than feeling listless.

I’m worried that when I go abroad later this month, my classmates will think I’m weird and won’t speak to me.

I still feel lonely and as much as it’s okay, I hate it.

Good days are what I live for.

Apologising is a scary thing for me because I can’t get the words right and if I screw this up, I won’t only upset myself but it’ll impact at least two other people.

I’m scared but I need to do something; I need to fix all of this.

I need to fix this now otherwise it’ll never be sorted.

If I can make other people happy, if I can swallow my pride and just say sorry without any justification for my actions, everything will be alright.

From Elm πŸ™‚