The discovery of the real “you” does not lie within the journey, but in the packing.

Everyone talks about going travelling to broaden the mind or discovering the real “you”, but having spent an entire day packing for various different occasions, I have come to the conclusion that your inner self is hiding at the bottom of the rucksack.

Packing is, in itself, a journey. You begin, full of excitement for your forthcoming trip. You are resolute that you will pack lightly and not take unnecessary stuff with you. So you grab yourself a bag and begin to plan your days. Everything is going to plan, until one thing occurs to you: what happens if it rains? You have only packed for good weather! So then you grab a few jumpers and long-sleeved tops out. But a jumper doesn’t go with shorts, you’ll have to pack jeans as well.

So now, you’ve got more outfits than you have days and your empty suitcase is surrounded by piles of clothing. You’ve lost control, you start throwing all your favourites in, just in case. You’ve put a swimsuit in, not because you’ll have a chance to swim, but you don’t want to be caught without. Then you’ve got a coat, jumper and thick trousers, because you never know when the weather will turn. In the Med. You’ve got both pairs of flip flops, not so you can go out with solely flip flips or flop flops, but just so that you can decide on the day, which pair you will wear.

The excitement of going on holiday is starting to fade as you realise you have to decide what to take. Suddenly your bag seems woefully small and your clothes inadequately large. You sink down on the bed, bored of all of this, dreaming of it being finished and getting to your destination. You lose all will to pack and distract yourself by turning your out of office on, making sure your bank account is correct and all those really important, but unnecessary things.

In a moment of panic, you turn reluctantly back to your packing. Sensibly, you throw some stuff aside and then work out how to cram everything in. It is only when you’ve just managed to inch the zip closed, by lying across the case, that you realise you’ve forgotten underwear, a toothbrush and your toothpaste. The next mission, should you choose to accept it, is to start trying to poke things in through that gap in the zip.

I can talk about this so knowingly because last night I packed a bag for a 2 day stay in Edinburgh followed by a week in rural Scotland, working at Blair Horse Trials. Thankfully, for the main, this involved work clothes, which have been printed especially for the occasion. Easy; although, last year, it did rain like a dog, so I have packed a few extras to try to stop myself from drowning. Then I have thrown a few nice clothes in for Edinburgh and my GHDs for the trip. Where it starts to get difficult is that I will be at V Festival immediately before, so I have had to work out what I will need for both and which bits I can take where. It has been a logistical nightmare, and that is before I started packing ten boxes full of lab equipment and all of its accoutrements for the work side of it.

What have I discovered today? Every packing experience takes you on a journey of excitement, disillusionment and disappointment. Forget the holiday, I’ve travelled enough before I’ve even left.

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To Love or Not to Love; that is the question.

This week, I have been challenged to write a love letter to myself and in the absence of anything better to do, here I am. I often find that I can’t resist a challenge, but I am already worried about how this is going to go. Either, I will find I have nothing to say, or I will talk about how wonderful I am and sound like an egomaniac. But then I thought about it and decided ‘in for a penny, in for a pound.’ I am writing a blog, which is incredibly me-centric, so it can’t get any worse.

Dear Bryony,

One of the first things I noticed about you was how quickly you seemed to inflate and deflate in the presence of others. Like a balloon, the more people blow you up (you can stop those thoughts right now), the higher you seem to get. Yet it just takes the tiniest prick (ok, maybe I meant that double meaning) to send you flying back down. Everyone assumes that you are loud and brash, always wanting to be heard over everyone else, but I know you better than that. You live off the praise of others; the minute people laugh at your jokes or pay any attention to you, you blossom like a flower, full of stories and compliments for everyone. But those that go up must always come down. I see the way you react to people’s comments. You cannot take a compliment as it is meant, you expect there to be a hidden agenda in there. You pretend that those comments don’t hurt you; Bryony, she’s a clown, an idiot, it’s water off a ducks back. But deep down, you remember those comments. You remember exactly who likened you to Ugly Betty and you remember the exact date that someone told you that you had a mono-brow and a moustache.

Of course, you wouldn’t dream of telling us who that was or when that was said for fear that it might cause conflict or an argument. Sometimes I find it hard to understand how you can come across as loud and confident, yet you can be such a timid mouse when it comes down to it. I find it quite endearing how you seem so desperate to protect yourself that you will do anything to avoid confrontation. You need to learn to choose your fights. Certainly, choose them wisely – there is no need to fly off the handle at everything, but sometimes it is worth just pointing out to people, that you were a little offended by something that they have said or done.

You set such high standards for yourself and everyone to live by, but you have to remember that we all travel at our own pace. Just because you live life in fast forward, don’t force that on everyone else. When someone is trying to help you, accept it and instead of going sulky or silent because you haven’t managed to complete it on your own, smile and thank people for their help. Never drop your own standards though; the way you strive to achieve everything is brilliant. The time and dedication you put into your horses is a great way of channeling that energy and giving you a great understanding of winning and losing. Everyone who has grown up with horses knows all about losing; they are great for character building.

I love it best when you are away from other people; you are funniest in your natural state. The way you look at the world and can’t help analysing what everyone says and does is amazing (if on the cusp of OCD territory.) You seem to see through people’s nonsense and have a charming way of humouring them. The way you watch television and take such delight in picking apart the shooting or the storylines seems absurd. The way tv and comedy interests you fascinates me; you have such flagrant disregard for a lot of programmes, yet it only takes the flick of a switch to turn you back into a squealing geek. I don’t know many people who have such a large (and peculiar) dvd collection. You have two copies of Spaced for crying out loud! Who needs two copies of anything? Going and seeing live comedy is a bit like picking a scab for you. You really want to go, but you aren’t sure until you get there whether it is going to hurt like hell or make you feel better. It seems that there is nothing worse than seeing a bad live performance. Thankfully, you are more selective about what you see these days.

Don’t ever put yourself down; you have built yourself up on this hill, surrounded by a moat and 500 soldiers to protect yourself from the world. Don’t live your whole life scared of failing – you cannot miss out on everything in case it doesn’t work. Take the risk, jump from the high dive, stare down the barrel of the gun, pee into the wind. (Yes, Friends fans, I have borrowed the wise words of one Mr Tribiani there.) You don’t want to get to retirement age and sit in the home telling everyone that you could have been an award-winning writer, if you’d have stuck at it. Sure, you will probably not get anywhere, but it is always worth trying. I know that this year you have stuck your neck out; you are writing a regular blog and a play. Next year’s challenge is to write a story or a novel. It might seem too much, but try. You might surprise yourself. Do something to make yourself (and us) proud. I know you can do it, so bite the bullet and have a go. Don’t push people away if you think they are getting to close, embrace it and enjoy it whilst it lasts.

Now I know that you’ll keep this letter and pick out everything that might seem like a shortfall of yours, but instead look at them as quirks and what makes you, you. You are so positive about everything else, be positive about yourself for once.

Love,

Bryony

Is this how Shakespeare felt?

Despite a love of English literature as a whole, there are obviously some parts than I love and some that I loathe. I have never been a fan of poetry; obviously there are some parts that I really like, but they tend to be the simple stuff like Betjeman. (If you ask anyone what poet they really like, I guarantee you that it’ll be one they studied. Noone seems to travel outside of their studies in the world of poetry. I find it far easier to name poets that I dislike; Pound, Bishop and Dove are ones that spring to mind. (I can just hear my personal tutor at uni telling me off as I write this.)

When it comes to drama though, I’m a completely different kettle of fish. I love drama of all ages and types. I love the good old renaissance stuff – Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson and that malarkey. Then the modern stuff is brilliant too – Pinter, Stoppard, Osborne and I could go on, but I risk losing my (one) reader. I don’t know whether it is because you can visualise drama in front of you and can envisage how the characters would react or whether it is just because I’m too stupid to look for the hidden meanings and messages in all that dreary poetry. You can shape drama however you like; half of the interpretation can be created in the performance. (Wow, my old tutor, Grace would be proud of me.)

I also love performance, whether it is comedy or drama, I love seeing something live. Seeing something live always involves risk, especially in a lot of the improv shows that I like to see – they could mess up, but surely that’s the excitement? If you get to see them make a mistake or corpse, you have seen something that hundreds of others have missed. I would rather see people take the risk trying to create something amazing and failing slightly than see something mediocre that is the same, night on night.

I think this is what was running through my mind on the evening that I volunteered to write a play. Whilst I was at uni, I had a go at writing some comedy and scripts with comedy compadre (and ex-blogger) Jo. Sadly, we only realised about our common love and ambition in our third year, so we never managed to be a part of any tacky uni revues or the such like. Still, we spent far longer on our uni based comedy than we did on our actual work. It didn’t come to anything, but we had such fun writing it and imagining it. So in a momentary pause between all the mad things I am trying to cram into my life at the moment, I sat down on twitter to find the Director of the Nottingham Comedy Festival asking Jo to write a play. The phrase that comes to mind for what I did next is “speak in haste, repent at leisure.” I daftly volunteered that we would write a play. But Helen, the lovely NCF Director, seems to have taken us very seriously. She has offered to cast it and direct it, which means that we really do have to write something.

All of this sounds like I don’t want to do it and I do, but I’m petrified. For a start, I am so manically busy for the next month, I can’t even remember my own name without getting in a flap, let alone penning a play. But the most terrifying part of it is, what if it’s appalling? What if it turns out that neither Jo or I can write for diddly squat? I’m not sure that I’m ready to find that out just yet. I really love the modern style plays where it is very static and not much happens, which is handy as they say you must write about what you know and it turns out, I know very little. Seriously though, I really like the kind of plays where very little happens and I happened upon the scripts of Jim Sweeney’s plays on his website, which has been a godsend. The way the characters speak sounds so natural and it made me realise that not that much has to happen to make a really interesting story.

So, after some brainstorming and waking up in the middle of the night, I have had some promising ideas. Now to turn those ideas into a reality in between the bouts of regret, self hatred, doubt and diminishing confidence. I’m sure everyone has the same feelings before they begin writing. Is this how bloody Shakespeare felt before he started his first play?