Back to school

Unsplash / Lizzy Gadd

Unsplash / Lizzy Gadd

I may be 30-ahem-something and schooldays may be a fading memory, but even now, the looming arrival of September always feels more like the start of a new year than January 1st does.

The start of a new school term was always such a major event of the year and brought noticeable and tangible change, from those early primary school days in your brand new uniform, to the spotty teenage years, all the way through to your first move away from home and arrival at university.
The limp, cold and hungover arrival of new years day still seems mediocre in comparison.

I decided to take a summer holiday from blogging, not because I’d been at it so long or so prolifically that I was in need of a break, but because I’d begun to wonder if it was doing me much good.
Writing posts, sharing your thoughts and receiving friendly feedback is often a tonic.
But, I had found that I was starting to think about many things in a way I hadn’t for a while.
Writing blog posts about my single status was making me feel both comforted and like I was finding kindred spirits out there, at the same time as drilling down into emotions that weren’t especially fun.
There were times when I felt worse having expressed or admitted to something than I did before I started. Perhaps the need to keep reviewing my world to generate content meant I was thinking deeper or focusing on things in a way that wasn’t always helpful.

So, I’ve had summer off, I’ve been to parties, I’ve drunk a bit too much, a friend and I enjoyed a jaunt around Italy for a couple of weeks, I’ve survived being the single-girl at a wedding and I’ve had a bit of a mental and emotional ‘regroup’.

And so now, with the arrival of a new school term, and what feels like the start of a new year, I can’t think of a better time to re-connect with the blogging habit and start exploring a new way of writing, or thinking or exploring my world.

I wanted to blog as a positive action, not to moan or feel sorry for myself and whilst I think I have so far largely avoided those pitfalls, I was perhaps in danger of falling into them.
A holiday has been good, but I’m feeling ready to break out into a new term and crack open the digital pencil case.

So, hello, again.

Odd One Out

The dawning realisation that pretty much all of my friends are either coupled up or married is one of the things that led me to start blogging.
A throwaway comment from someone that I’d been ‘left on the shelf’ (thanks) has echoed its way through my mind.

New Old Stock

New Old Stock

I lamented this during a “moany” day to a work colleague, and they looked at me blankly and pointed out that maybe I needed some different friends.
Now, not to suggest I don’t like my existing friends, but I take on board the fact that for the vast majority of them, life has moved in a different direction to mine.

So, it has made me realise that perhaps I need to start branching out in some new directions.
The realisation that I need to maybe join a new club or two, take up a new hobby or two, go to a new place or two.
Maybe meeting a new person or two will make me less of the odd one out.
So far, so simple.

Until I sat down to start researching what I might like to do and drew an absolute blank.
Should I do some kind of class? (which all seem to be starting in September – months away!)
Should I take up a new sport? (I am SO rubbish at sport)
Should I join a walking club? (Two left feet…)
Should I find a book club? (Why is there no book club locally???)

On the one hand, choosing to find a new interest seems exciting and liberating.
On the other, I already feel a little bit exhausted at the knowledge that once again not only do I have to find a group that I hope will have a me-shaped space in it, I’ll also have to walk into a room on my own, introduce myself to people on my own, smile and not show my nerves on my own, and hope that someone is friendly…
Just like walking into a wedding alone, there’s something about walking into a new place alone that is scary.

And what exactly to do? It feels like the world is my oyster, until I actually start to try to research it and find myself drawing a lot of blanks.
I sat there yesterday, staring a the Google search page, thinking I didn’t even know what to search for.

Perhaps there’s a correlation between the scary bit and the blanks?
Maybe if I wasn’t feeling a bit scared, there would be a whole host of opportunities?

36 and in need of new friends.
Is it me or is that as rubbish as I think it is?
I’d love to know how fellow singletons keep busy and meet new people.
Does anyone know the secret?

Finding a direction

So it’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this blog and whilst I’ve been going through the process of setting it up, thinking about what to write about etc, I’ve found myself getting somewhat confused about my identity.

Where to tread?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered a huge community of bloggers that I hadn’t known would be there, I’ve discovered the absolutely vast range of things people write about and the world suddenly seems so much bigger than it did before!

I wanted to blog about life as a single-woman in her mid-thirties, because it’s the element of my life that makes me feel the most like the odd-one-out, or ‘different’ to the people around me in my life, it’s the element of my life I feel so very aware of.
Being single at my age isn’t necessarily an awful thing, and I’m by no means miserable, but it does feel like there’s a spotlight shining on the fact there’s nobody at my side.

Setting up my blog Twitter account (@shelfblog) felt like something I had to do, but in doing so, I’ve found myself getting more confused and less sure of who I am, what I think or what I want to be writing about or saying.
For example, I’ve selected to follow quite a few feminist twitter accounts, like Vagenda magazine, Everyday Sexism etc. And I previously blogged about the No More Page 3 campaign which I believe strongly in.

Except now I wonder whether instead of navel-gazing about my own life and what it’s like to go through life alone, should I instead be lifting up my sword and going into battle alongside campaigners?
These are people who are campaigning for the good of my fellow women, and when I read about the level of abuse hurled at them just for doing do, I realise they are brave as well as outspoken.
Twitter led me to an article about a woman who had received the most disgusting threats and abuse, just for being a feminist, just for speaking out about equality. I read it and cried.
Twitter suddenly seems like an online portal for bullying and nastiness.

It has really made me wonder about my own approach, and whether I should (or am even able to) be as strong and outspoken as these women.
I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist, but I’ve never been a campaigner.

How far do you have to go in standing up for what you believe in? Is just believing in equality enough? Or if you’re not actively joining in the fight, are you just paying it lip-service?
But do I abandon all the thoughts and feelings that originally led me to want to blog? Because they aren’t going to go away any time soon.

I have signed up for the next Blogging U challenge and want to devote more time to exploring other blogs, discovering how other writers find their voice, set the tone for their site, discover who they are through their writing and stay on course and on topic to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

I hope that through this I will find my way through some of the fog that seems to have descended and left me feeling a bit like I can’t see the wood for the trees.

I would, of course, absolutely love to hear from any more experienced bloggers with insight to share.