oh the irony. despite writing a bevy of stories for mancunian matters as part of the news associates course i started at the beginning of the month, i've had no motivation to write anything for this blog, despite wanting to retreat back into the safety of a space that's truly mine.
allow me to backtrack. for the last seven months i've had little else to think about, and though the course was described as "intense", i was not prepared for the endless slog of shorthand thrown at us, which i'm finding impossible to master.
not being good at something - espcially when it comes to anything related to writing - is something i find particularly distressing, which is why i related so deeply to the person in this ask polly column. their situation is pretty much a mirror of my own; a recent college (uni for us british folks) graduate being crushed by the weight of expectations bestowed upon them by their family, teachers and society in general who felt pressure to produce something incredible every time they attempted to write. having constantly been told from the age of seven that you're particularly good at something - in my case english - puts an enormous amount of pressure on you, and coupled with my anxious nature and desire to please everyone, means that i've been way too hard on myself the last few years.
this pressure even extends to this tiny blog with a total of three readers, which seems ridiculous now that i'm typing it out.
in this column, polly reassures them that at 22 they have plenty of time to achieve their goals and not to expect everything they write to be amazing. of course i know this, but i've always been focused on The End Goal in life, which is to become a successful writer and hopefully publish a book one day, completely disregarding all the work i'd have to do to get there, so seeing it written out in front of me made me realise that "the end is the work itself. it MUST be the work itself. the work is what you want. there is no end point to reach."
and it's true; once i get out of my own head and start writing whatever comes to mind, i feel fine and remember why i love doing this. another excellent article with slightly more practical advice comes from man repeller's ~head of creative~ amelia diamond. in it, she details her career path so far and provides her solution to writer's block: "if you’re blocked on a personal project, write what actually is in your head, even if it’s, “there is nothing in my head. this is stupid. why am i writing this.” keep going. keep going, still! you’ll get something."
long story short, i write because i need to write, because even though i've kept a diary since i was eleven, the leo within me really loves attention, even if it does come from the same five people who always like my tweets and instagram posts. though my obsession with documenting things hasn't been the best for my ~mental health~ i truly can't imagine a life without writing.
back to the course then, which has given me a wonderful case of impostor syndrome as i feel like everyone has so much more experience than me and are far better writers, despite the positive feedback i get from my tutors. ever the dramatic scorpio, it sent me into yet another Existential Crisis™ about whether journalism is really what i want to do, and my complete inability to pick up shorthand as quickly as everyone else took me back to my first year of uni when i genuinely contemplated dropping out after just three months.
so of course this article hit me particularly hard (it's like man repeller know exactly what i'm thinking lately), especially this quote:
"i can’t articulate who i am anymore, but i know for certain it’s something i’ve never been."
when you've spent your whole life working towards one specific goal, convinced it will fix all your problems and make you Truly Happy (even though happiness isn't a fixed state), those moments of doubt feel all the more terrifying. couple that with gradual breakdown of my closest friendship in the last few months, and everything i thought i knew seemed like it was pulled from under me. forcing myself to accept that things won't ever be the same was one of the hardest things to deal with, and i only wish people considered the breakup of a friendship as serious and life changing as a romantic one.
i've had to rebuild everything from the ground up, and though at times it feels like my worst nightmares come to life, i finally realised that it's okay to just be. i don't need to publish a best selling novel by the time i'm 25, i don't need that one best friend to make me feel complete, and if i stray ever so slightly from the path i've followed since i was 15, the world isn't going to end.
which brings me onto the music.
last friday the debut album from pale waves was finally released and my mind makes noises - which matty healy and george daniel had a hand in producing - is the only thing i've listened to since.
so far the standouts are:
red - for its stupidly catchy chorus and the revelation that heather wrote it about "an american girl" which followed an even greater admission in this NME interview that "a lot of my songs are actually about girls". at nearly 23 this shouldn't feel like such a big deal, but when you experience rejection from people close to you, the search for acceptance and validation, that your feelings are normal, never really stops. as much as i wish i'd seen something like that when i was 14, i'm thankful that teenagers now will have someone they can look up to. (side note: i went to see the miseducation of cameron post a few weeks ago and though i was alone, that sense of belonging and being around people who are just like you was more powerful than ever, and amazingly i didn't even cry once.)
loveless girl - matty and george's influence is all over this one, from the chopped up vocal at the start to the glimmering synths in the background. as always, the lyrics strike a chord with me. heather elaborated on the inspiration behind the track, stating that: "a lot of people said when i was younger that i was a bit cold and a bit dead inside. i was just trying to figure myself out, i think. i feel like people were intrigued by me because i wasn’t a typical high school girl, and they wanted me to be this person and to be obsessed with them but i just wasn’t, as brutal as that is. and then they got angry with me because i didn’t give them what they wanted." forever branded the Weird Girl at school (probably due in part to my somewhat experimental outfits every non-uniform day) - i often had people ask me why i "didn't speak" and why i was so quiet - i know how it feels to be branded emotionless and unsociable. this quickly became a key part of my personality and i got a strange sense of satisfaction from not being like everyone else. needless to say, i don't feel a single pang of envy when my ex-peers pop up on my facebook feed announcing their engagement or the birth of yet another child.
noises - one of the most personal songs heather wrote for the album, i felt an ache in my chest as every lyric seemed to sum up my feelings so perfectly. for me, this song is why we need music, how incredible it is to know that you aren't the only one who feels like this, and i can't wait to see it live next friday (!) when i see the band at the ritz.
karl (i wonder what it's like to die) - a dead ringer for nana from the 1975's second album, this song is reserved exclusively for my 3am crying sessions (needless to say i felt Very Attacked by the line "you like crying in your room for something to do" from came in close) after i listened to it on the bus one morning and very nearly sobbed in front of everyone. a tribute to heather's late grandad, i can't help but feel emotional thinking about my own grandma who i was incredibly close to and is now in the late stages of dementia. seeing as crying in public has become a new pastime of mine lately, i'm not sure i'll be able to hold it together should the song be included in next week's setlist.
drive - of course i saved the best till last. again, the 1975's influence is all over this one - the opening sounds scarily similar to she's american - but heather makes it her own. describing it as "part two" of noises, she perfectly sums up how it feels to be 23 and terrified; i really feel like she looked inside my head when writing these lyrics. picking just one line that stands out is nigh on impossible, but the opening one - "i'm 23 /
i still feel the same, maybe?" - does a pretty good job. or maybe "i can't help the way i am / no-one seems to understand"?
much like in loveless girl, it's that sense of being unable to open up and have people truly accept you, and the unshakeable realisation that nothing has really changed since i was 14. case in point: i managed to acquire tickets for the 1975's show at manchester arena next january - where pale waves will be the support (!) - and if last time at the o2 was anything to go by, i already know i'll be one of the oldest in the crowd, a concept i can't get my head around as it feels like only five minutes ago that i was pestering my parents for gig tickets and queuing outside venues in the freezing cold.
i'm going to try and link back to what i was saying earlier about accepting yourself the way you are - in my case stupidly intense, emotional and disturbingly self aware - and allowing yourself to just exist.
though most people find the thought of this terrifying - trust me i was one of them, heather summed it up best when she said "i like to be alone most of the time / talking to myself with nobody else / and that's the way that i like it".
as i get older, i've realised there's a certain power that comes with choosing to leave an event you never wanted to go to in the first place to go home and watch big brother with your mum, or getting an early bus back from the pub when the prospect of a weekday hangover feels too much, and never apologising for the things that make me who i am.
somehow pale waves have managed to capture all of this with a series of sharp, blisteringly honest songs that will surely resonate with people of any age. managing to make pop music feel fresh and exciting is no easy feat, but my mind makes noises is a step in the right direction.