Lessons from my former self

I read a blog post today that expressed a theory of finding love. It mentioned writing down all the lessons you had learnt from your previous relationships and forgiving yourself and that other person for the actions behind the lessons.

I loved this idea so started writing.

Six names in my book.

Not knowing what I was going to write as I mapped out their names one after the other, giving each a page or two depending on what I felt would be appropriate for them, I began to write and realised very quickly that the most import lessons I have learnt came from two guys I only gave a page to.

My first love, my high school sweetheart, who was never officially my boyfriend as we could never find an appropriate label for what we had, taught me more about love than any of his contemporaries would.

My final love, C, surprised me which in turn surprised me. I don’t have a bad word to say about C, which I have mentioned before, so why would him being one of my only two true loves surprise me? Simply put, I hadn’t realised I had truly loved him. It wasn’t until I wrote about the lessons I had learnt from being with him that I opened my eyes to the fact I actually loved him.

Not to be mistaken, I do not want to be with my high school sweetheart or C. Those boats left the harbour and I am simply happy and content that I got to be with them before they sailed away.

I appreciate my time with them above my time with anyone else.

I wasn’t showered with gifts or complements, I wasn’t the only girl in the room to them, I had to fight for their attention in crowed rooms at times, but when they did look into my eyes the world vanished, and as cheesy as that may come across it’s entirely true. The world stopped when they looked at me. Because when my world stopped, so did theirs.

They each cared for me in a way that no other man has ever cared for me, uniquely.

My lessons I learnt from them, in no particular order, that I am incredibly thankful for:

• Appreciate the moments; early morning calls purely to laugh at your “morning voice”, laying together arms wrapped around you on the sofa watching tv, watching them prepare food (sometimes even in complete awe of the weirdest things guys will eat), walking through deep snow in the park after work just to be together before going to your own homes.
• Love happens at first sight; it’s a feeling, go with your gut. Love doesn’t need to know his job or career prospects, favourite music, history. Love is that person looking at you like you’ve never really been seen before.
• Be like your 13 year old self; blindly confident. Brave. No fear of rejection because you haven’t known it yet. Let that person know you like them. If it’s not your time right now it doesn’t mean it won’t be at some point. Let them know. You’d want to know.
• Don’t think of the final result, or even the “title”, of you and them. None of that really matters. What matters is what you do and feel today. No labels are needed for that.
• Allow someone to take care of you. Your weakness is not always weakness, it’s an opportunity for someone to show you their strength and how much they care about you. Allow yourself to be surprised. You don’t always have to be strong. But remember this feeling when you are shown this kindness, and repeat for others; acts of random kindness should not be limited.

You’re not the only one trying to be loved and understood. Remember that.

Love and let love in.

Each person on this earth will be dead in less than 100 years; so live, love and laugh, while you’re still breathing and beating.

xxHBxx

A novel idea

I’ve thought about writing a book about my travels since before I even left England to go on them. I thought what a brilliant way to fund my future travels; I’ll write everything down, become a best selling author and continue writing and travelling until I don’t want to anymore.

While travelling I found no time to write except for quick updates and photo uploading on my social media page; this was frequent and detailed. I didn’t sit down alone and write my biography while I was out there because, in all frankness, I had better things to do.

I talked, listened, explored, experienced everything I could where I was while I was able; and I repeated this each and every day I was out there.

It only occurred to me today, as I have still yet to write about that life I lived, that my thoughts behind the desire to write about my travels hadn’t been motivational enough for me.

I don’t care about money. I only care that I have enough to do what I want in that day, whether it is to fly somewhere or grab a coffee while exploring.

I don’t care about labels. I refuse to pigeonhole my whole self and I know my successes without a best seller or an academy award as acknowledgment of that.

I don’t care about what anyone may think of the girl they saw two years ago and before. That girl even I didn’t know. I look at old photos and think back to not too old memories and don’t recognise the person I was walking around as.

What I do care about is the person I became when unleashed. When set free. I followed only my heart and grew into myself.

I had joked before I left that I was leaving to find myself. The cliche of travelling being very real to someone that hadn’t travelled, like myself. What I thought would happen would be that I was hit with a sudden and drastic epiphany that would awaken and reveal the real me after a long and intense journey of some sorts while in a desert or log cabin somewhere. But life isn’t a movie, and it’s not a book.

I didn’t go to a log cabin and I only passed through deserted areas. Instead it took more than a year of awakenings to realise I was living my epiphany without consciously being aware of the fact.

When I originally planned the penning of my book it was filled with dreams and ideals, and entirely about me. What I realised while travelling was that I became less interested in my story as I lived my days with the people around me.

I was still, of course, interested and curious in my own story but I was becoming more aware of the impact we place in each others’ lives simply by living our lives with one another.

I wanted to tell that story.

I realised that I couldn’t believe these people I was meeting would be completely unknown, forgotten even, to so many when they where so incredible.

Unless I tell the story of Kathleen Glass, a South Carolina woman I met on the greyhound to Charleston last July, a woman who sat on the seat at the other window across from me and pointed out the points of interest around us while we rode through South Carolina and told stories about all of them until I fell asleep from being up almost 24 hours. When I woke up on that Greyhound bus, my first Greyhound trip and having heard so many horror stories about the people that ride the Greyhound, I found a stamped and addressed envelope, a postcard and a note on the seat next to me. Kathleen had written her address on the envelope, she had asked me to write to her about my travels so she could show her daughter to go out and live just as I was, and the postcard contained a list of websites for South Carolina tourism along with a small note to please make sure I visit South Carolina again. On the front of the postcard, that she had carried around with her as a personal reminder, was a quote; “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” And she was gone.

I was in America for 149 days; I knew Kathleen Glass for 3 hours. And I will never forget her.

My book began as an Eat, Pray, Love knockoff, but I didn’t live Elizabeth Gilbert’s life. I finally lived mine. And I was never alone.

Writing for them.

xxHBxx

Penny for the guy…

Well it took me long enough but I’m dropping pennies all over this city.

A small background on my sister; she was my rock during my six year depression, she saved my life three times during that period, she is in the third year of her degree, which she started at the age of 26 and is on track for a First, as a therapist.

Since she began her degree two years ago a lot of our conversations have turned into an impromptu therapy session, either for herself (as each student also undergoes therapy as part of their studies) or myself. Many have ended in happy or sad tears for one or both of us as epiphanies were had about our childhoods and such.

She also, of course, was there for me during my eating disorder as a sister first and foremost, but also as an ear listening to my battles.

Last night during a discussion where I again asked for her help with my eating habits we somehow dug deeper into my addictions, with food and cigarettes being our hot topic.

What began as a pleading for help that had me in tears asking “how do normal people eat?” turned into a question of my treatment.

Obviously when discussing an eating disorder with a person you trust you speak about the external factors of it first; I’m fat, feel ugly, I want to look good again etc. but we then got on to why I have never felt anything but unattractive.

When I was 13 years old my high school sweetheart, the basketball star of our school (this is England so that doesn’t mean too much, but it did to an America-loving Brit like me) told me “you’re not ugly, you’re just not very pretty” which was possibly the worst age to be told such a thing. Since then I have never felt comfortable with my looks. Until then it had never even occurred to me that my face was anything but just my face. Now it was ‘not ugly, but not pretty’. I started tweezing my eyebrows into oblivion to follow the other girls. Wore white eyeshadow (oh the early 00’s!) like everyone else. And had so much eyeliner to copy Christina Aguilera in the Dirrrty video I was bordering on the goth-line!

My sister and I talked about my last relationship – the one that ended with a trip across America planned and an eating disorder to boot. I mentioned that I had been looking at photos from when I was with him. I was a UK size 8, 115lbs and thought I was huge. When I saw photos of my 23rd birthday my upper arms were slimmer than my current forearms. And at the time I was being told off by him for not going to the gym and for eating too much. He was slightly overweight after gaining weight during our relationship, whereas I had lost weight in that period without noticing.

At the end of our relationship I was the same weight I had been at 15 (ten years on) which was 115lbs. I had been that weight for the last two years of our time together.

When we broke up, in that first week, I was too devastated and lost to eat. I needed a distraction so I went to the gym rather than being home alone. I went for late night runs to avoid sleeping without him next to me. I lost 9lbs in that week.

I say that it took me a week to get over him because in that week I begged for him back, I cried for everything I had lost, I decided to follow my dreams taking all the money I had saved on my own and travel across America alone, and I realised I didn’t need him and eventually that I didn’t want him. I no longer had to listen to him telling me off for whatever I had done wrong now. I no longer had to listen to his parents scream at me for not agreeing with them on whatever topic it was today. I no longer had to sleep with the guy I had become physically repulsed by.

When I realised all of this rather than focusing on the routine I had counted on for three years, I knew I was over him. I just needed a new routine. Enter, eating disorder.

I had no control in my relationship but I had full control of my eating disorder, so I thought.

I talked to my sister about him telling me I was fat and hardly ever that I was pretty. After expressing her sisterly side of wanting to punch him for this we moved on to a point I hadn’t noticed. That I always listen to the guys that tell me bad things about myself, and take it to heart.

My male friend T told me a few months ago not to let the “dickheads” have so much power over my self worth and I had told him it’s not that easy to dismiss. We had been discussing My American and how badly that had ended when he said this. He told me I don’t realise how beautiful I am which echoed what C had said to me two years ago when talking about our time together five years before that; “I don’t think you realised how beautiful you were, I still don’t think you do.”

My sister said to me:

“I wish you could see you how your friends and family see you….I get what you mean about taking in what people say about you as if it’s a mirror, but you seem to just do it with certain people – guys – when the real world thinks you’re beautiful and kind and charming.”

After hearing this the penny dropped.

My exes were pricks.

First my high school sweetheart said what he said. The next ex cheated on me, the next also cheated and tore me apart in the process, the last ex gave me such a complex I developed an eating disorder and even C (the first time around) treated me like a toy when we were together.

I had thought I only go for nice guys as my type, but looking back they all appeared nice on the surface and that’s what I clung to. They actually put me down, made me feel fat, ugly, worthless and cheap. Each relationship damaged me in some way that left a branding on my self esteem that I can’t shake off.

Last week, while waiting for lunch with a friend, I got talking to a good looking guy from Canada that was stood next to me in the line. Our opener happened when I hadn’t realised I was quietly singing the song I had in my head and he stood smiling at me, I burst out laughing when I noticed and we started chatting. Twenty minutes later we said bye. When my friend and I got back to the park to meet our group I told them about Canada (and that’s what I’ll call him here – potentially for just this one post) and they asked if I’d got his number. Nope. Why would he want my number?! He was good looking, funny and nice and I have a double chin and cellulite! My exact thoughts. Because apparently in my head my personality counts for nothing unless it’s just friends.

My sister ended our therapy session, through my tears, with this simple message: “change happens in awareness.” and then left me pondering the question of my smoking and eating addictions; “it would be good to look at what the addictions are doing for you, because they have some purpose.”

I spent today thinking of this each time I lit a cigarette. In the morning before my bath, on my walk to the tube, on my walk from the tube, during my lunch break, a quick smoke after a busy period at work, with my girls just after work, on the way home from the tube, and at my flat. Yep, I’m addicted.

I had thought it was a comfort thing, but then I realised it’s another self confidence thing. The ‘busy period’ at work when I desperately needed a cigarette before I started the next urgent task (they’re all urgent, it’s a law firm) had occurred just after I got embarrassed stood asking a Partner in a different department to sign something for my boss who had left the office but needed emailing over to her. She questioned why she was signing it and I told her there were no Partners in the office from my department but my boss (her friend) needed it urgently. She stared at me for way too long and I went bright red. This happened right in front of the guy in my office that I find cute. I sent the document to my boss and went straight down for a cigarette.

I hate the way I walk, oddly enough from being bullied about it by just one person at school, so I smoke when I walk to distract myself.

I feel self conscious when I eat so I smoke before and after to focus on that.

I hate being alone in the flat so I go outside for a cigarette and people-watch.

I smoke because I’m self conscious.

I know it’s killing me, I can’t run anymore, and I can barely taste food now but I don’t know how else to channel it yet. So I smoke.

Waiting for the next penny to drop.

xxHBxx

Control Wars; The Battle of Self

The difference of a year…

Exactly one year ago I was preparing for my upcoming American adventure, saving every penny I earned, and enjoying every moment of anticipation. I was also preparing for my then-best friend’s wedding in Spain where I would play the role of photographer for her big day, and was looking and feeling the best I had ever done so.

One year and twenty-nine pounds later the same cannot be true.

During my four days in Spain last year I worked as a slave to ensure A’s happiness, was neglected as a person in doing so, and was starved – beyond my control – in the process.

I was at the height of my eating disorder and anyone that has ever experienced this would understand the implications to such a person of another person controlling when they can eat.

It doesn’t sound hard to step away from something when you need to eat; however A is a high-maintenance person on a great day, throw in ‘her’ day and a new level of princess has arrived.

As a person that puts others first, at home and in work, I was at her mercy. Knowing this wedding, for me, was work I set aside most of my feelings and did as I was told when I was told. I assisted in every aspect and documented every moment on film.

By the end of the second day I realised I hadn’t eaten since I left England.

I only realised this when everyone else was eating and I was taking photos, as I was constantly told to do. As soon as I lay the camera down I was instructed to pick it up. And I did so.

That meal was a selection of finger-food prepared by A’s grandmother. When everyone was preoccupied with food I attempted to eat and found that, as a vegan, there was nothing I could eat but dates. I threw down a handful and was promptly told to pick the camera up again as the mother of the bride wanted to make a speech to the ten of us.

A few moments into the speech I experienced camera-trouble and quietly told A. The mother heard, stopped speaking in the middle of the ’emotional expression of love’, and waited until the camera was ready to document her moment. When the camera still would not work, the mother let out an angry sigh and left the room. Speech abruptly ended. Why make a heartfelt speech when there was going to be no evidence!

Not a single person but myself found this bizarre, the entire room simply continued eating without a flicker of an eyelid.

The entire wedding was the single strangest human interaction experience I have ever lived through; nothing was said or done unless the camera would document the ‘moment’.

I examined everyone at several points in each day watch me – or rather, my camera lens – through the corner of their eye, and only when it was in their direction, become animated with love for the family around them. When the lens was turned each moment stopped. It became a game.

As I was dealing with just nine people in the entire wedding party I had thought my main focus would be on A and her husband. I had already known A would be demanding. What I hadn’t calculated in was her family.

Nine A’s.

Each one a diva, princess, controller, dominator. Each one wanting to be the centre of attention.

Because of this my basic need to eat was lost on them. When I wasn’t photographing A, I should be photographing the mother, and if I wasn’t photographing her the father would step forth, and so on.

When I did set the camera aside to grab myself some water I was told to pick it up and “you’re missing moments!!!!!” was yelled at me.

By the wedding day I was exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, and pissed off.

We were in the south of Spain in May. I hadn’t eaten more than 400 calories in three days and had had approximately five glasses of water in this time.

I was in tears the morning of the wedding.

I was staying in A’s grandmother’s apartment and had no spare time to buy food let alone drink water.

The night of the wedding, after the most bizarre (I’m using this word a lot but trust me it is the only word I have for this experience) wedding I will ever be present at – the groom storming back to his apartment five minutes after saying I Do simply to “be away” from the bride, him then locking himself in his bedroom for a further two hours refusing everyone’s begging of him to come to the reception before remerging like nothing had happened, to name one thing in a long list – my hunger was finally noted when, during the main course that I was a third of the way through demolishing, A sweetly asked if I needed a break. The genuine, heartbreaking relief that struck me made me well up as I exhaustedly and happily told her ‘yes’.

My relief lasted a second. She instantly and happily turned to her father and, indicating towards me, said “ok, we’re going to take a break from eating and take some photos over there!” With a flick of her head I was to get up.

I have never held tears back so hard as I did in this moment.

When I returned to my place at the table once A was satisfied she had enough decent photos my remaining food had been removed.

When dessert came A indicated with the flick of her head and her neck stretched in my direction to almost breaking point that I was to get up and take photos. It was only then that I realised my hunger had been noticed by at least one person. A’s father turned to A and said “I think you’ve got enough photos now A! Let her eat her dinner!” Trying not to cry again I watched as A angrily snapped at her father that there weren’t enough photos and it was Her.Wedding.Day!

The following day I had my first day off before I flew back the next day. A was spending her first day as a married woman happily lounging in the beautiful 5 star cottage her parents had paid for, or so I thought, and I could finally relax.

I had been told on my first day in Spain that her family would not be comfortable with me wearing my shorts so I had spent the entire experience, aside from the wedding day, without food or water in black jeggings and my shoulders covered in the Spanish May heat. The day after the wedding, with A not around, I wore my shorts, drank sangria, and ate pizza and chips until I couldn’t eat any more.

The following day I flew home. I haven’t seen A since.

That night I went out drinking with my sister. I had kept her updated during my time in Spain with tearful phone calls and messages. When I got back I had lost a further five pounds from my already tiny frame.

This event triggered my eating disorder switch.

So angered at being starved I began eating to spite my experience. And I didn’t stop.

After a month I had gone from 7stone 7lb to 8stone. I felt huge. I was still 4lb below my pre-anorexia weight but that 4lb was too close to me, I couldn’t break my new eating pattern.

With a month to go before I flew to America I was desperate.

I confessed to my sister my eating troubles I had been battling for a year. I told her I knew every calorie in everything I ate. I told her I would binge on 6,000+ calories and then starve with 300 calories for days to make sure the weight didn’t show.

I would run 5 miles after a binge and work out every day every chance I got; running a bath – sit-ups, during lunch break – no food; sit-ups/push-ups/walking half an hour, after work – 2 hours at the gym and a run home, watching tv – push-ups/sit-ups/exercise DVD, in bed – sit-ups/push-ups. I couldn’t stop.

There is no denying my body looked incredible. I was stronger than I had been in years and felt fit.

I didn’t shy away from cameras and was confident in everything I wore.

But as soon as I broke this year-long routine my mind didn’t know what to do. I had a new obsession: eating. I would binge, then forget I had binged the day before and binge again. I stopped going to the gym that month because I was eating so much junk food I felt lethargic and ill and couldn’t stomach a run. I stopped doing sit-ups before my bath because I was too tired from the junk food.

During my first month in America I gained 10lb. I was now 8stone 10lb. I hadn’t weighed this much in three years.

Looking at the photos now I wasn’t a bad size. I looked healthier than I had looked in years but my face was noticeably rounder. I remained at this weight until my third month in the States. When I got to San Diego I was no longer walking around every day. I was fixed, twenty metres from the beach and with everything and everyone closer than anywhere I have ever known. From then on my weight grew. By the time I left Australia and landed back in England – seven months after leaving – I had gone from 8stone to 9stone 8lb.

22lb heavier than when I left.

One year ago I was my most confident. I was anorexic. Now I have very little confidence in my appearance and have the exact opposite of anorexia.

After eleven months of binging I am struggling with how a person eats normally. My weight has gotten out of control.

People say when you starve yourself the weight comes back twice as hard and twice as fast. I don’t feel this is entirely due to your metabolism being messed around so severely; I believe it is your mindset that does this. You jump from one addiction to the next. One method of control to the next. One self-destruction to the next.

I hope you, the reader, never have to go through this.

I have been battling my weight for two years and have seen myself at both extremes.

Battling for normality.

xxHBxx

93 Million Miles from the Sun

“Over the horizon, into the night..”

Four months ago I left my home in Ocean Beach, San Diego and headed out to Hawaii. The week prior to me leaving OB something changed me. Or rather, I suspect, someone.

I don’t make a habit of falling in love, albeit this blog may beg to differ, however I met a person in OB that I slowly, reluctantly allowed into my life and eventually my heart. His name, to all in OB, is Boston.

A lot happened in me at that first bonfire on the beach, but one thing started a chain of events I wasn’t wanting, or even willing, to happen.

I had seen Boston briefly back at our hostel a few hours before everyone headed to the beach. I noticed him above the other new faces because he struck an eerie resemblance to K, my club rep back in LA who had given me the confidence to live comfortably without makeup just three weeks before. I had remained in contact with K to the point where he had asked to join me in Hawaii and was planning when he would arrive and where he would stay; I had little faith he would actually fly out to see me but it was a sweet notion nonetheless.

When stealing glances at Boston I could tell their differences in appearance we obvious; Boston’s strong predominant jawline was nothing like K’s subtley defined one, and Boston’s long brown hair as opposed to K’s shaven head, but the striking similarities were there. I had seen photos of K with long hair pulled back into a ponytail with dark stuble framing his smile and it was this image of K that Boston was most alike to.

At the bonfire I found an opening in the group and sat by the fire. I was between my new friends I had met playing beer pong at the hostel on my first night in OB before we had moved on to a bar for games of pool and $6 pitchers of beer, to my right and Boston to my left. After a while watching the fire and our growing group of travellers and locals I began talking with Boston.

At first it was like drawing blood from a stone getting this creature to talk. Either he was quiet and mysterious by nature or he just wanted to appear that way; whichever it was his likeness to K intrigued me enough to keep trying.

I silently began attempting to size him up and figure him out as our conversation slowly developed from idle to amusing.

He was at the hostel but he wasn’t a traveller; something a lot of young people I had found throughout my journey did while looking for a house and job. He was also holding a lot back.

Having come from Miami, his home after Boston, he briefly mentioned that he had had to “get out of there” and I didn’t press it further. In my head I was imagining him with the wrong crowd and a bounty on his head but I didn’t ask for more details since he seemed pained to discuss it. Instead I asked about his decision to move to California. He didn’t seem the ‘beach’ type in my innocent eyes. He looked as though he would be more at home in new York based on his clothing and demeanour. His answer was effectively that he wanted to live by the beach; couldn’t argue with that, except he’d just moved from one. By this point in the conversation I felt like I was trying to levitate a rock and carve it into a small replica of a Mini Cooper complete with working engine using just my mind. It was painful but not awkward somehow. He was simply holding back but wanting to talk, so we carried on.

Eventually when he found a topic he was on fire. The topic we struck gold with was relationships (the one universal topic each individual has in common with any other – love dilemmas). He told me how every girl always wants a bad guy that treats her badly. I strongly begged to differ expressing the fact I could only speak for myself but my ‘type’ has only ever been nice guys. I can find anyone beautiful if they are a genuinely nice person. He told me I was lying to myself for saying this and I told him every one of my exes has nothing in common in appearance, hobbies, lifestyles or height, they are simply all genuinely nice guys and I dont have any bad words to say about them as individuals (as boyfriends some of them do lose brownie points, however as people every one of them is a good guy, and that’s why I was with them). This conversation had us each stood facing a brick wall refusing to give in for a while before we both decided each other was right; maybe some girls do like bad guys, and maybe a few exceptions to the rule do just like nice guys. Compromise to get the conversation out of the hole.

Suddenly my birthday was asked. I gave the date and he smiled to himself. Why was this amusing?!

He was born the day after me, five years later. We are Leo’s.

I don’t pay too much attention to starsigns. I find them fun to read when I come across one and I usually find truth in them but mostly because I’m seeking it.

He described us as being stubborn and passionate by nature. I was about to protest the stubborn comment until I replayed our previous conversation in my head and thought about how long we had actually been facing the wall both refusing to back down. I agreed with the passionate statement however my positive outlook and Boston’s negative one meant we interpretted this differently too. I said I was lead by my passion and that it is an incredibly positive thing; it had encouraged me to work two (at one point three) jobs and save as much as I possibly could so that I could fulfil my dream of travelling across America alone. It had brought me to this point in my life where I was sat next to him by a bonfire on the beach with the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing loudly behind us as we talked. However Boston agreed we are lead by our passion but it is a negative part of our character. We do not see things clearly as we are too driven by our emotions. True; but not always a negative – I felt.

I met a person from the Netherlands while in OB that said to me in a rather defeatest tone “why do you do that?! Why do you always see everything in a positive way?!” to which I had no reply for him. The magority of time I had known him he had spent a lot of it discussing life, the future, and small details of the day under a dark cloud. I simply stood in front of this person and thought ‘I wouldn’t trade my outlook for the world’. When I thought about this remark later in the day I sat with a smile on my face as I thought of how far I had come without even realising it; the only negative remark I heard while travelling was by this person telling me that I am too positive in my life. How could I not smile at that.

While at the bonfire with Boston we continued our discussions and I learnt that, much like our starsign, he sees himself to be like a lion of the kingdom. He passionately discussed the character of lions, which I felt was a bizarre twist in the conversation but at least the rock was starting to resemble a vehicle now. It was during this discussion that I became aware of Boston’s crude nature. I was baffled and repulsed. The conversation went from strange to obscene in almost no time and I felt, for the first time in his presence, uncomfortable.

I was known amoungst my friends at school to be quite prude; in fact it’s so embarrassing to remember that I wouldn’t comfortably say the word ‘condom’ until I was seventeen. I wouldn’t describe myself as prude now at all, and I don’t scare easily in the slightest, but this conversation brought me back to my sixteen year old self. He was so graffic I blushed. I had never met anyone like him.

As the bonfire was beginning to unwind we all headed back to the hostel. It was pitch black and everyone was tired. I felt that Boston was going to hit on me and so I created a distance between us as we walked back. He asked me if I would walk with him along the pier; oh come on! What part of that entire conversation made him think he’d ‘got’ me?!

I made my excuses and said no; far too tired, it’s cold, too dark, I have to pee, oh look shiny things..!

Over the next few days I would see Boston at the hostel and felt bad for him. His ego and crude approach wasn’t winning him any friends and so, raised by my Father to always stick up for the underdog, when I saw him I would talk to him. Always keeping a slight distance as I didn’t want him to think I was interested in him in that way I remained polite and jokey with this interesting character. A few people asked me why I was talking to him, something that made me want to talk to him more – why wasn’t anyone giving him a chance?! My response was always ‘he’s not a bad guy, he just puts on a front to protect himself. He’s actually really funny.’ I firmly believed this. He was funny, if a lot crude with it. He wasn’t a mean person, he’d obviously been hurt badly and was a walking ego so that no one saw him. He was protecting himself and there is never anything wrong with that, we all have our own survival techniques. But I could see he wasn’t a bad guy, as much as he liked the idea of labelling himself as one. (Trust me Boston, it doesn’t get the girls – at least not this one).

A few days later he left with some others from the hostel and headed to San Francisco. I didn’t think that I would see him again.

Then after a couple of days I was sat on the front porch of the hostel and someone said “hey there’s Boston”, I turned around and walking down the street towards the hostel was Boston. For some reason, I still have no real clue where it came from other than instinct, I happily screamed and gave him a huge hug as he got to the porch. I was happy to see him. In fact I was really happy to see him. Why!?

We got back into the routine of chatting when we saw each other around and then gradually it became more frequent. One day some girls I hadn’t seen before got to the porch and Boston suddenly jumped up, looked at me and said “we have to go, walk with me!” I was completely confused and he urgently repeated “will you just walk with me!?” I quickly got up and we started walking fast away from the hostel towards the beach. I was caught up in excitement and was thinking I was about to get some juicey gossip here, as it turned out he had just seized an opportunity to get me to go to the beach with him alone. Crafty.

We talked as we walked and while we were sat on the beach. We were laughing and talking about everything from relationships to the crazy-acting guy that tried to join us on the beach and had told us, ironically, to watch out for crazy people. Boston seemed disappointed when I suggested we go back to the hostel; he’d wanted to kiss me and I could tell. I didn’t feel romantic towards him. He was a friend.

I’m not sure how but over that week, as we were spending a little more time together, he started to tell me his feelings towards me. He wasn’t wearing his ego quite so much anymore. At first he only stripped off his ego when he was around me, jumping back into the routine when he felt others confront him or approach him, but soon enough he was slowly showing the world the Boston that I got to see alone. As this was happening he was becoming more social too. He could be found sat watching the world go by from the porch, deep in thought, on his own on almost every day but on one day I came down ready to hit the beach and found him playing chess with others on the porch; it was like a tornado hit me. I was so happy for him the more I saw him like this. I smiled at him and went to the beach.

With a few days before I would leave for Hawaii Boston began proposing to me and telling everyone, loudly, at the hostel that I was his future wife. Even writing this now makes me smile at the memory of it. He told strangers on the beach that we were talking to that he wanted to marry me. It was hilarious and sweet. When we were alone I was smiling; I couldn’t quite believe how fond I’d grown of this guy that just ten days ago was so arrogant and crude I could barely stand him.

One day he completely opened up to me. I’m not sure how it happened or what prompted it, but he let down every wall and talked. He talked about his feelings for me, his past, everything. He was nervous while talking and kept breaking off in the conversation through nervousness. It was a nice moment to be a part of.

The next day I gave him a piece of paper with the link to this blog. I hadn’t told many people about this blog and, given that my raw thoughts and feelings are all over the pages of it, felt my stomach in knots as I handed him the key to my feelings. “This is me.”

The next day he sat with me in the kitchen of our hostel. He told me he had read my blog. I was shaking; not only had I not told anyone about my blog but I hadn’t prepared myself for someone talking to me face to face about what I had written. He said it was like reading my diary “you’re very honest on it”. He told me it made him uncomfortable. I was devastated. I started shaking more but hid it, my stomach was in knots again and I thought I was going to pass out. I felt like I had gone white. I was about to be rejected for showing the real me; I had opened up and it was too much for someone – my biggest fear was coming to life and I wasn’t sure I could handle this.

But then he told me he pushed himself to keep reading, and he couldn’t stop. He told me he is angry at me, because I can’t see how beautiful I am. He told me that from reading everything “it made me like you more..!” I’m not sure I can do justice in words the way I felt after he’d said this to me. All I know is this entire situation, the days before and this moment in the kitchen, made me like him more too.

Over the next few days Boston would smile at me differently, I liked it. Whenever I looked up from whatever I was doing I saw him looking at me with love.

One day we were sat on the porch with the others and he passed me his phone. I read the message he had typed out on it and smiled. I replied and passed it back to him. We were effectively like teenagers it was hilarious at the time and even in remembering it now. He wrote in one message “do you know how I can tell when you like someone?!”…”You bite your lip!” He also said to me that I’m different with him now. I asked how. “You look me in the eyes a lot more now.”

The day before I flew to Hawaii was the OB Farmers Market that happened right outside our hostel. While we were all sat on the porch talking to everyone and eating the food we’d bought at the market Boston looked at me and I smiled and instictively bit my lip. He jumped up, punched the air and whooped and cheered so loud I burst out laughing. Everyone was confused and asking us what was happening. He ran around the porch shouting “YES!!! I knew it!!” while I laughed and told him I needed lipbalm!

That night he told me he had something for me. Knowing him the way he is I made him promise it wasn’t rude!

We were sat in the corridor of the hostel when he asked me to wait there. He came back with a blue lumber-jack jacket rolled up in his arms.

He told me that his Mom had made it when he was younger, that it was incredibly important to him, and that he wanted me to have it.

I told him I couldn’t take this jacket from him. This was too much. He insisted and after a while I accepted the jacket. It was like out of a movie; but better. I couldn’t believe how much this guy cared about me. This was the first time I kissed him. The night before I left for Hawaii.

The next morning I waited for him to wake up but knowing I was leaving at noon and he usually woke up around then I went to his room and knocked on the door. He opened the door from his bed and lay there as he told me about his strange dream he had just had. I fought every instinctive urge I had in me to lay down next to him and just cuddle up to him. I told him I was leaving soon so did he want to go for a walk along the pier; “NOW you want to go to the pier!?!” I smiled and told him to get ready quick.

We walked along the pier and stopped at the end. Watching waves and looking out at the horizon we talked about home. I told him I’m not ready to go back home, I haven’t discovered what I want to do with my life yet. I still had a little over two months until my flight home but it seemed to be going quick now. Checking the time we realised I had to get back to the hostel to go to the airport for Hawaii. Walking with his arm around me we headed back. This was the first time anyone at the hostel had seen us so close. When my roommate brought her car around he helped me carry my things to the car. We hugged and he kissed me in front of the hostel. He stood looking at me and said “is this really happening?! You’re really going?” I got into the car and he leaned in through the window, kissed me, and then told my roommate that the plan was to get me drunk so that I wouldn’t notice as she pulled the car around and brought me back to the hostel.

Then I left.

When I was on the plane I looked out at the pier and started crying.

I haven’t seen him since. We have spoken on the phone, talked in text and on our social media page, but three days before I got back to San Diego from Hawaii he told me that he was going back to Miami. It was the hardest decision he had made because of me but he needed to go back.

When I was in New Orleans I was going to go back to San Diego for one last time before I flew to Australia. Boston flew to San Diego from Miami, but I had realised I couldn’t afford to do that in the end and was flying from New Orleans.

He is now in San Diego again. I am back in England.

I found out a few weeks ago that my Dad has cancer, so I flew home last week. I’m not sure how long I will be here. That depends on life.

I don’t fall in love easily.

While in Australia with LF, who I miss so much since leaving her, I was talking about My American and she said “was there any time you forgot about him?” I told her “the only time I didn’t think of him as much was when I was with Boston”.

Now that I am back I am back in contact with My American. I am also in contact with Boston. My feelings for both are completely different. Boston knows me, completely, and he adores me as the girl in front of him, on this page, and in his life. My American has yet to meet me, it’s still up in the air.

I am home now for my family.

What happens now will shape where I go in the future. San Diego, London, Australia..

Living and loving until every end.

xxHBxx

Where do we go from here

 

When I decided to travel nineteen months ago I did not anticipate the catalogue of events this would create for me.

 

I spent a year planning my six month trip around America. I saved vigorously, worked three jobs, limited my social activities as much as I could, worked out my monthly budget, and prepared my case full of things I thought I would need. I remember sitting on the floor in my living room with a map of the United States in front of me; post-it notes, pens, notepads, IPhone, laptop, calculator all neatly around me as I designed the most cost-effective route to get the most out of America for my budget.

 

I am not wealthy. I never have been. My family struggled throughout my life and beforehand. Money has never held importance to me other than ensuring we are able to eat, sleep, and enjoy each others’ company. As a five year old I remember being at my Dad’s house with my sisters and Dad in the living room; we did not have money, we were struggling to pay the rent, my parents had divorced two years before and had lost an incredible amount of money on the house we had to sell. We had moved from the North of England to the Midlands and so both my parents were away from their families. They were alone trying to raise three daughters in a new small town after leaving one of England’s biggest cities, and they now had money troubles along with custody battles to contend with.

 

While in the living room with my Dad and Sisters my Dad brought out a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. I remember so clearly from childhood that if we had a bar of Cadbury chocolate and “hedgehog” bread it meant Dad had a little extra money left over that week.

 

We did this so often that it became our routine whenever we had the money for chocolate. We all shared the chocolate equally between the four of us while chatting and then when the chocolate had all gone we rolled up the foil wrapper and threw it around the room at each other; diving over sofas, ducking behind chairs, using feet, arms, heads, flicking the wrapper we were laughing so hard and for so long it was true happy family time.

 

When I was at University in London I walked around Camden showing my Sister and her Boyfriend my favourite area of London. I stopped at a palm reader on the corner of a street. It was five pounds for a single palm reading so I went for it.

 

I was eighteen years old, completely fresh to London and filling my days at University with dance and drama (Performing Arts being my subject). When I sat with the palm reader she asked me to not respond or speak, simply listen.

 

She told me that I surround myself with negative people; that whenever I get a little bit higher there is always someone waiting there ready to knock me straight back down again. She told me I am not good with money, and I never will be. She told me I will find Mr Right, but I will hesitate, and he will walk straight past. But she told me I have a lot of Hope. She said that I am filled with Hope.

How I could be full of hope after this conversation escapes me a little but rather than seeing this as my fate, I viewed it as a warning of how my life could become unless I acted now. Possibly my Hope talking.

 

Over the next few years I would try to look at my friendships and see who my friends actually were. Because of this I have lost contact with many people, but the ones still in my life, oh my gosh I love them. My incredible friends like S, my high school best friend that stood by me, and continues to stand by me, during every good and every single bad moment. When the heat is on she is stood next to me, and when the chips are down she’s always there for me. My wonderful friend Chunk (his nickname since his childhood that no longer applies given that he is a walking muscle-machine now but he’s still ‘Chunk’), who, when the drama surrounding my friend B’s relationship ending erupted to gigantic proportions a few weeks after my own long-term relationship break-up, met me for coffee and asked me what happened; I instantly began the story of our mutual friend B only to be interrupted with “No, it was obvious they were never going to work, I’m asking about you. How are you? Are you ok?” I had forgotten my own break-up was in anyone but my own mind until he said that to me; I didn’t think anyone was interested since all I was being asked about around then was regarding B. I cried in his arms as I told him how unhappy I had been in the relationship and how much I tried to change myself so that I wouldn’t be yelled at by my ex or his family any more but I couldn’t live like that, so after three years I left. I was devastated and was still getting used to sleeping alone, no longer having my phone filled with “I love you” messages, and not having the same routine after work of dinner and cuddles on the sofa. I was incredibly lonely and trying to hide it to help others deal with B’s dilemma.

 

My trip was meant to be six months and then I return to England on January 4th 2014 with new experiences, bad hair, covered in travelling tattoos, a strange accent and my head and heart ready to enjoy the new adventure of settling my twenty-six year old self down. I spent three months of my travelling time thinking of how perfect my life would be when I returned to the arms of My American in January. Instead I flew to Hawaii rather than home for my three week break where I had planned to meet up with My American until his work commitments and his own thoughts on our new long-distance relationship meant that he didn’t want me to change my plans to meet him.

 

While in Maui with my newest closest friend from travelling, my San Diego roommate from Germany, she asked me to join her in travelling around Australia for a year. I had known LF for two weeks. I thought about My American. I thought about the fact I had told him about my eating issues and a week later he had told me not to return to England to meet him. I thought about how much money I had left, how much I would need for Australia, how much a flight would be, how much I would need to continue my trip around America and if I would then have enough to travel to Australia with the $5,000 the Australian Government require you to have before entering the country on the Work and Travel Visa. I thought about everywhere I still wanted to see in America and about everything I wanted to do when I got home. All I had wanted to do was settle down. Close this chapter on my American Dream and meet My American in London. I weighed everything up; thinking of my bank balance in my head, converting it to pounds, then US Dollars, then Australian Dollars, what would happen if I went back to England and My American didn’t want me. What would I regret? Not going back? Or not going to Australia when given the chance to?

 

I had two cards in my hands; continue the original plan and return to England whether My American wanted me or not. Or try Australia knowing that My American didn’t want me right now so there was every possibility he wouldn’t in two months when I got back. More time away from me meant less time wanting to be with me.

 

I said yes.

 

I cut a month off my original trip around America as I couldn’t afford to enter Australia with less than the $5,000 the Government stated, and the extra month in America would eat into that money too much. I wrote on my social media page my newest plan; hoping My American would message me. Instead I messaged him. I told him the new plan and he gave me no indication of his feelings towards it. Was he sad I wasn’t returning? Was he happy I was the one that made it easier to let go? Was he even wanting me to talk to him? I had no clue.

 

I didn’t book my flight until three days before I left New Orleans on the plane to Australia. One month after I messaged My American.

 

Looking back now I wish that I had spoken to him properly before I made any decisions. He isn’t a mind reader and neither am I. If I had the same chance now I would ask how he felt towards me and if he saw us with a future. I would tell him the only reason I’m considering leaving is because I can’t face going back and him not wanting me. Instead I just left.

 

Now I have been in Australia for two months and last week I booked a one-way flight back to London leaving in two weeks. During a conversation in the annex of our house at 4am I cried to LF as I said that I can’t stay here thinking of him each day and wondering if there’s any way we are meant to be together. I needed to go back and meet him. I messed up by not returning in January and I needed to tell him, if only to clear my head.

 

I battled the decision whether to tell him I am coming home or to wait until I was back and see if he wanted to meet. I told him. And now I wish I hadn’t booked the flight. He doesn’t want to meet me; it’s too late. He’s moved on.

 

Today I got offered a job in Australia, after reading an email from a job I applied for in England asking me to call them to discuss the position. I called my sister and told her I have two paths in front of me; one I know, one I don’t.

 

If I go home I work in an office again. I excitedly see my friends and family for the first few weeks, and then I am working in the office. I don’t meet My American because he doesn’t want to meet me, and I am exactly where I was a year ago.

Or I stay here. I work the job I’ve never had before in a company that has stated that team building exercises consist of paintballing and go-karting trips, that they already have a team lined up for me that they want me to work with, and that the two weeks I have planned to return to England (as I only stated I would be away for two weeks) is not a problem, they will have me join the team before I leave and work as normal as soon as I return after the two weeks.

 

Seems like an easy choice.

 

My head wants me to travel, to explore, become the Me I am perhaps meant to be. But my heart is devastated. I wanted a life with him. I fell in love with the possibilities. With everything it could have been, and I held on to that for six months, daily.

 

If you are half as sick of reading about My American as I am tired of thinking of him and every mistake I made then I apologise. My head knows I need to let this go but my hope won’t be silenced yet. I believe I met my Mr Right, and I hesitated to meet up with him before I left for America, and now he has walked past the thought of us. My friends here and while travelling have told me that my Mr Right won’t walk straight past. My Mr Right will want to meet me, be with me, do anything to have my heart and me in his busy life.

I hope so much that this is true.

Trying to close the chapter

xxHBxx

Melbourne, AustraliaWaimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

Acceptance and Healing

Yesterday I spent my evening with one of the best friends I made travelling in San Diego. J lives in Melbourne around the corner from where I am living. Since the day I met him I have I adored him as my friend for life.

J and I walked along the beautiful river that is across my street and viewable from my house. We walked and chatted for around an hour about anything and everything. While walking we discovered some gym equipment that has been placed by the running lanes in a mini Muscle Beach attempt. After testing it out for a while we carried on walking and talking.

We had already been talking about fitness when we came across the impromptu gym. J has recently embarked on a new health and fitness routine since gaining weight in America during his travels. He talked about how he was in the best shape of his life before heading to Canada and America for his six months away from Australia, but had known and accepted that he would gain weight during his trip and would just deal with it when he got back.

I talked about how I was in the best physical shape of my life before I left for America also, J already knowing of my eating disorder we discussed my gym routine. After playing on the leg-press during our walk I expressed that the leg-press is my favourite piece of equipment at the gym; I always leave it for last as my grand finale. I told J how I had built up my strength from being able to push 40kg at the beginning of my training to pushing 100kg just before I flew to America. My routine being ten reps of 40kg, then ten of 50kg, then ten 60kg, ten 70kg, ten 80kg, ten 90kg, and finally ten 100kg in one sitting. Since dancing my legs have always been my strongest, with my upper body strength being embarrassing in comparison.

Before I travelled I was at the gym every day, and ran 5 miles in the countryside every few days – weather depending. Part of this was my eating disorder, I needed a visible physical reward for my lack of eating and something to stave off the effects of the occasional 6,000 calorie binge.

While talking to J about the gym, my old routine, and how I felt in my body – ignoring my eating disorder and simply thinking of the physical feeling after the gym – I realised how much I missed it. I became passionate about exercise as I was talking to him. We both did. Walking around the river, chain-smoking as we walked, I remembered our bike ride in San Diego where I was prompted to quit smoking for a month due to one particular monster of a hill that made me walk my bike to the top while believing my lungs we about to explode with every breath. I realised my smoking will have to be replaced with my E-Cigarette a friend got me in San Diego if I want my gym routine back.

Today I felt ill and spent the day happily on the couch drinking concoctions my roommates told me would cure me and found myself looking at old photos from last year. I was struck with how beautiful I looked. The photos I have focused on over the last five months have been during my eating disorder. Instead today I looked before my eating disorder. I looked at the months before my break-up.

As I saw photos with my ex who I had been with for three years I felt sadly and knowingly nothing.

As I continued looking at photos I came across the ‘out-takes’ from my camera practice shoot with A from two months before my break-up in 2012. At the time I was my normal weight, I had no eating issues in the slightest, and I looked beautiful. I hadn’t seen it at the time.

I remember the shoot so clearly. I was so unbelievably nervous that I was physically shaking. A kept telling me I was beautiful but nothing worked to calm me down. I had a camera in my face, inches away from me, and I was shaking. She positioned me leaning against a wall to calm my shakes but it wasn’t until I asked if I could climb her garden tree that I began to calm myself slightly. Taking photos of my climbing and laughing I went as high as she would let me then allowed her to take my photo.

Climbing trees has always calmed me since childhood, I hadn’t realised this until this day happened and I looked back on certain memories of me climbing trees. It was my known calmer.

In fact my first kiss with my ex was in a tree. It was the first time he had ever climbed a tree which should have been an indicator of his upbringing however I simply encouraged him to go higher and calmed him as he panicked about how we would get down; “Don’t worry about getting down until we have to get down!”

After I had climbed the tree I then danced in her yard. Taking photos of me dancing I relaxed until I realised she had taken photos of my face; I had thought she was taking them of my dancing. She captured my face as I danced, which I had never seen of myself even when I was a dancer. My body was always in focus back then, not my face.

When I was thirteen years old the boy I loved in High School (a boy that has owned a large slice of my heart since the first day I saw him) told me a few words I don’t think I will ever forget. When we were seventeen and in a relationship he apologised profusely for saying them to me and I believed him, however the damage had been done unfortunately, as much as I know he doesn’t believe these words now, he did then.

“You’re not ugly, you’re just not very pretty.”

As a thirteen year old this was the first time my looks had ever been presented to me. I was not aware of how I looked to others until this sentence was said to me. There we no others around, I couldn’t put it down to childhood bullying, it was simply a private intimate conversation with my High School love, and he told his truth about why he didn’t want to be with me.

Since that day I have questioned the way I look so much that I have no idea how I look now, to others especially, but to myself also.

When I told my sister about my eating disorder the month before I flew to America she sweetly said “I don’t know why you don’t know how beautiful you are. I don’t have any body issues but I’ve always preferred your body to mine.”

While talking to C last year about our previous relationship that we had been in five years beforehand he said to me “I don’t think you realised how beautiful you were, I still don’t think you do.” Trying not to cry as I heard this he simply kissed my head and held his arm tightly around me while I let that sentence sink into me.

As I looked through my old photos today I began to realise how beautiful I am.

I do not under any circumstance say this with arrogance, ego, or smugly. We are all beautiful. I had never seen my beauty.

I do not know how others view me, however I am starting to view myself differently.

Yesterday I enjoyed my first real meal since I left England; a homemade vegan curry completely full of green leafy vegetables and technically a portion for two people, with bread rolls instead of rice (as I never have rice with curry – rice for me is sushi or risotto). It was healthy. I was full but not in pain. I felt good.

Today I made my first real lunch since England; a huge salad with spinach, avocado, tofu, and others. I felt healthily full and satisfied.

Before my eating issues began I had other confidence issues; I did not in any way believe I was pretty or beautiful. One female friend at sixteen had told me I was “attractive, but not pretty” a notion that contributed to my believing guys only wanted to sleep with me rather than date me because I’m not pretty enough to date, but attractive enough to sleep with. I am always on-guard for this. In fact it was this exact reason why I did not meet My American the week before I flew to America. I was petrified he only saw me this way, and so I did not meet him. Knowing him the way I do now this has been added as one of my only three regrets in my life. A moment I can never get back.

Looking at my photos I am starting to silence the old voices that nagged me and accept how I look; and I am beginning to see this is not the negative acceptance it was before.

A few days ago I asked My American what his reaction or thoughts had been when I initially told him about my eating issues. It took me four minutes to stop crying enough to reply to his message.

“No it didn’t phase me. I was sad for you, it sounded hard. My heart went out to you. I’ve had my own demons. No judgement.”

Reading those words after I nail-bitingly asked my personal question, not knowing if he would even reply, I burst into audible sobs.

The relief.

It was a weight lifting off my shoulders that I realised I had placed on my own shoulders in the first instance. I had spent the last two months believing he didn’t want to meet me because I wasn’t as perfect as I had first appeared.

He may not know how thankful I am that I met him, but that revelation has helped clear my mind more than he may have cared it to.

Step by step I will get there.

Full of eternal Hope

xxHBxx

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