Apparently, the natural lifespan of a sheep is around ten years. This fact is pretty irrelevant to this post – the only link really is the length of time the sheep in the feature photo are likely to be around is the same as the time span from my own life that I’m covering today in this post. I didn’t have a photo for the topic and so I had to make this one, of the sheep, relevant somehow. And that tenuous link was the best I could do…sorry.
Ten years ago, conveniently, I was ten years old. That feels crazy to type – I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve been on this planet consuming Marmite for two decades that freaks me out a little, or the thought that ten years is literally half my life. Either way, it’s strange how far away I feel from my ten-year-old self. When I was ten, I was in my last year of primary school. I had a t-shirt with an ice cream on it that I wore religiously, I played four square in the playground, and I choreographed dances to Blondie with my friends.
At eleven, I took that leap into secondary school – suddenly going from the oldest in a school of 360 pupils to the youngest in a school of 1,600 students. It was disorientating for most of us I think. I (wrongly) learnt that backpacks aren’t for cool kids (don’t worry, a few years later I realise how mistaken I was and rediscovered the backpack life) and that school skirts should be rolled over at the waistband to shorten them (they still looked awful, whoever thought that stiff polyester is a good material for a skirt clearly never wore one).
From twelve to fourteen, I think my life remained pretty similar – I enjoyed school, put effort into my homework, and aside from a few friendship changes, things went pretty smoothly. I learnt how to flip on a trampoline. I really got into cooking, and would often have dinner on the table for when my parents arrived home from work. I became more self-aware and consequently, more self-conscious. I grew to dread class presentations. I read a lot of books. I liked History and English and hated the school bus. I became really passionate about dance, joining clubs for every style and taking part in performances. I played the violin in an orchestra and went to Guides – neither of which I felt much of an affinity for. This is the time I really started appreciating routine: I made my school lunches for each day the night before, fitting an abundance of snacks neatly into one tuppaware.
At fifteen, the pressure of school was starting to trap me into this feeling of worry: that I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t do it, that I would let people down. But I also had wonderful friends who made the days at school pass pretty uneventfully. We got into concerts, a notable one being the night we saw Bastille and met the lead singer after the show.
Sixteen came along and I took my GCSEs in a whirlwind of panic. The summer after that was long, in a good way. I dip-dyed my hair green and went to Cuba with my family. September shoved me back into reality: I moved schools for sixth form college and started the IB. This period of my life I’d characterise as intense – hard work and constant effort, with a smattering of hysterical laughing fits in the Film Studies ‘editing suite’ and a few relaxed lunchtimes playing cards in the canteen. I became more aware of the wider world and discovered veganism. I got my first paid job and overcame panic after panic. I lived in flannel shirts from thrift stores and expressed myself mainly through my manic making and consuming of baked goods. There were plenty of good moments, yet the fear of failure was like a damp laundry smell that followed me around. Somewhere in the middle of that whole alienating experience, seventeen pretty much passed me by.
By eighteen, I had a couple of months left of revision before 10 days of solid exams, and then I was finally free from education: I vowed I would not put myself through something like that again until I really wanted it. And then my life was travel: Paris, Iceland, Florida, Canada, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, India… I worked abroad, met people from all aspects of life, and completely changed my perspective on so many things. It’s cliché, but I do think travelling, especially alone, teaches you a lot about yourself – your capabilities and limits, the heights of your happiness and depths of your lows, your resilience and resistance to fear – the growth of it all is overwhelming really.
By nineteen, I was home again and depressed: no money, no future plans, everything good felt behind me at that point. I took a job in an ice cream shop where my friend from school worked and sweated my summer away scooping gelato. I visited friends in Sweden and felt okay for a while. The monotony of this type of work was kicking in by Autumn though, and my brain felt like it had weeds growing in it, or tumbleweeds blowing across it, from lack of use.
I enrolled in the Open University to get the cogs turning again, started this blog to encourage a bit of creativity into my life, and looked for a new job. I landed a Healthcare Assistant role at the hospital and after a relaxing New Year’s away in Wales got stuck into it. The work was hard but rewarding: my life became a juggling act of long shifts, online learning and ferocious writing. Yet somehow this wasn’t enough. This was the point at which I applied for physical university: I had a yearning to learn, and be around other people also learning, and doing a distance learning course wasn’t satiating these things.
I turned twenty and completed the year-long online course regardless of my waning enthusiasm, quit my job and went travelling again: Greece, Poland, Prague, Amsterdam, New York, Spain. A much better summer than the one before it, that’s for sure. I worked hard on my blog, getting my first couple of sponsored posts in August and driving up traffic. Things felt like they were looking up.
By September I was at uni, studying Sociology and getting a new job as a Communications Intern. The first term flew by, not uneventfully that’s for sure, but every tornado passes eventually. Christmas came as a welcome break and a week hiking in the Peak District (the source of the sheep photo) helped ground me a little again. And here I am, back at university – ten years on from that little girl in her last year of primary school, completely unaware of everything to come.
Where has the last ten years taken you?
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