Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To The Girl From 365 Days Ago

Hello beautiful,

You’re not dead, yet, and that’s a good thing. You also haven’t wished for it in a long time, and that’s also a good thing. Would you like to know why?

I’ll tell you, in time, but first, we have some other matters to discuss.

We’ll start with January. It is just about to start for you, and it begins the way that December ended, in lockdown. You are bored of all this pandemic business, as is everyone else, and as I write to you, I regret to inform you that it is not over yet. We aren’t quite in lockdown, but it might happen. The upside is, you are no longer afraid of it.

The thing you feared the most about the lockdown was that your boyfriend would go wandering and forget about you, and during the first lockdown, that did happen, but you manage to grab another one pretty quickly, just in time for the next lockdown, and the worrying began again, but this time you won’t be afraid of that. Not because you have found an intensely loyal man, or because you grew as a person and stopped being so insecure, but because you grew as a person and addressed why a man slipping through your fingers scared you so badly.

Oh, you are as impatient as ever. I was going to tell you about everything else first, but I suppose you deserve to know.

This was the year that you accepted the truth. You know exactly what I’m talking about, and I know for a fact that as you read this, you have a racing heart and a tight throat. It’s the same mix of guilt, panic and shame you feel when you think about that girl from school, or that girl you wrote White Wine about. It’s the same shame you feel when you watch the Scottish Affairs Committee (not giving any further context there, if you know, you know). It’s the same way you feel every time your family asked about your love life and the same way you felt when you were fifteen, writing (admittedly, quite good) poems about Carol Ann Duffy.

You know what I’m about to say, and you are staring at this letter, trying to rearrange the words or shove them back into my pen, but you can’t (primarily because I typed them lmao). I’d go back to the girl you were two years ago, or five, but I know they couldn’t take it. I know that they weren’t strong enough to take this journey, and if I’m honest, I don’t think you are, but I know that I was not strong enough for you not to.

You have been carrying this alone since you were a child, but it’s over now. I know that you know what I’m about to tell you, and I know that you are hoping that I won’t. The funniest thing is that your dearest friend in the world is just like you, and you have loved him, just the way he was, but for so long, you couldn’t love yourself in the same way. You accepted him, genuinely but you saw yourself as a freak. I guess it was less acceptable if it was two girls, to you? You celebrated him, but you kept yourself a secret, because you thought you were different, something shameful and terrifying, but much like the angel in the nativity, I come to you and I say “Do not be afraid, because we have missed out on so much life already, and we don’t have time to be afraid anymore.” Perhaps the angel of the lord wasn’t so abrupt, but you know me, I’m no angel.

It all started on a date with a man. He was crazy about you, and you thought you could do what you always do, act crazy about him and hope that he married you and gave you the child that you had always wanted. He probably would have, had he not guessed what you were. I still don’t know how he did, mind you. He asked you, directly to your face, and you felt like you were going to die on the spot.

“Are you a lesbian?”

It seemed like an unfair question. You had been willing to give him what he wanted. You would have been loyal. He would have been happy. He just didn’t need to ask questions. It was a good deal, really, but I suppose he couldn’t take it, because he knew it wasn’t what it appeared to be.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t have been a good deal, after a while. You’d get burnout from having to get through the sex, just like you had before and you’d start recoiling at his touch, he’d feel rejected, you’d get depressed. It would be the same as it always is. You’d cling to it desperately, because you wanted to be anything but what you actually are and it would slip away from you, because as it all turns out, men are not stupid, and they can usually tell when their partner doesn’t want them.

You told him that you weren’t “like that…” but you knew that you couldn’t hide much longer. You also knew that nobody was buying your “Shy bisexual” persona either. It was starting to become really obvious that you were just not built to be with a man. If a man who was a stranger could figure it out, then there was no more hope of deceiving everyone else.

I tried to pretend I was just thinking about it, like it was something I was considering for the first time but I had always known, and eventually, after several years of keeping it a secret, I told the truth for the first time. I wrote a bunch of angsty poems to tell the audience and I recorded an angsty voice note to tell the family. As it all turns out, lots of people apparently knew and were just waiting for me to say it, on my own terms, so… you really have nothing to worry about. You could do it, today, if you want. It makes no difference to the people that love you. Your mother still loves you, I promise.

Now that’s over with, we can talk about some other news. As I mentioned, Covid-19 is still very much a thing. You are very bored of it now, mainly because the British government is making a mess of preventing another wave and you long for the safety and competency of a Nicola Sturgeon or a Mark Drakeford, but, alas, you only have Boris Johnson to rely on.

Speaking of all of those people, you finally launched the politics segment of your podcast into its own podcast and you’re having a lot of fun doing it. It does your mental health a lot of good to pretend to be Emily Maitlis once a week.

Your birthday absolutely sucked because you spent it in lockdown and you were really sad, all day. That is why it was important for you to treasure your 28th birthday, but, noooo, you didn’t want to listen… I can’t tell you how the next one will be, because it hasn’t happened yet and nobody knows what the British government will do from one day to the next, but I hope it will be better. God willing, I would like to go to Toby Carvery for your next birthday, but we will see what happens with restrictions.

You will write a lot of things that you love this year, but your favourite is a song called Widow, that you released to raise money for Terrence Higgins Trust. You’ll be donating the royalties every year from now on and I can’t wait for the many years of fundraising ahead.

You currently have a duolingo streak of 506 days. You finally opened up and tried to make friends outside of the internet. You’ve written songs that have been played around the world. You went on a date with a girl, on purpose, in public and you didn’t bail on her or insist on it being a secret. You hit a million streams on Spotify. It’s been a much better year than you are expecting, and I’m proud of you.

You spent a lot of the year being confused and scared. Scared of the virus, scared of your secret, but as I write to you, on New Year’s Eve, staring down the barrel of 2022, I am so happy to tell you that the fear has less of a grip on you now.

I don’t know if it will ever go away entirely, but we’re getting closer to living with it, day by day, and for once, I am actually excited to stay up until midnight and say goodbye to a year full of difficult but necessary lessons.

I wish you all the best for 2022, and not just because I have an interest in what happens to you, but because at last, I am ready to accept that you deserve it. You deserve the absolute best, and you’re going to get it.

Love forever,
J x

Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

A Letter To Myself, On December 26th 2019

Hunnybee, you’ve got a big storm coming…

Where on earth should I begin? Well, perhaps, with some positive news. This year will be a great year for you in many ways, but you’ll be very depressed for a lot of it, so you won’t notice until right at the end, when you sit down to write this letter. So, good things happen, but it might take you a while to fully appreciate them, because the rest of the world is bleak as hell.

First of all, please enjoy your birthday. Treasure it. Stop waiting for your dumb boyfriend to text you back and focus on the people that are in front of you. This will be the last time you see your family for a very long time, and they’ve all gathered together in the food court at Bluewater to celebrate you, so drink that up and don’t worry about some guy that won’t matter in a few months.

Yes. The guy you thought was your soulmate is in fact just a guy, and it will all be over soon. You’ll cry about it, write songs and poems about it, and drink a lot of alcohol over it, but in the end, you survive, as usual, and you find someone much better, just like Brian said you would (I know you kept trying to be delusional about how often the nine of clubs appeared in readings, but you will in fact be meeting someone new, so don’t be stubborn!) and you will learn to trust people again. It will be difficult at first, because you’ll be anxious, you’ll overthink everything, and you’ll basically be monologuing the lyrics of If I Fell by The Beatles inside your head every time you look at him, but it will in fact be fine. Your confidence will be absolutely destroyed, I’m not going to lie to you, and it will not be helped by a disastrous attempt at online dating that makes you feel very unlovable, due to many suitors only messaging you things about your boobs, however, this mess does help you write one of your favourite songs from this year, Swipe Forever, and you eventually find someone who treats you very nicely, and makes you feel very pretty, without being vulgar af, which definitely helps with the confidence.

You do a lot of cool things this year. The thing you’ll be most proud of is a radio show called Diverse Verse. At first, you’ll think you could never be capable of creating radio content, but then you’ll realise that you’ve been making a podcast for several years, and that you do in fact got this, sis. You will meet writers from all over the world while making the show, and you will finally feel like you are really a part of the LGBT community in a meaningful way. You will also say many NSFW things on this show, and then be mortified to discover that your mother is a regular listener.

You release three records (four if you count the live album) that you’re really proud of, and a wonderful book that was pieced together from your pain but means a lot to you, as well as another that you love just as much, but wish you hadn’t delayed for stupid and sentimental reasons. Writing really saves you this year. It keeps you safe from how awful the outside world is, and you feel a much deeper connection to everything you create.

You also write your first song entirely in Spanish, which feels like a big accomplishment. Your Spanish gets a lot better with a little help from your boyfriend, who is not a teacher but is very good at keeping you focused on your studies. You also start learning Scottish Gaelic, which along with your membership of the Scottish National Party should be all you need to apply for asylum across the border when Boris finally makes England too uncomfortable for you to stay.  You will be perpetually disgusted by the British Government, but you’ll have a weekly venting session on your podcast, so that helps take the edge off.

I feel I’ve gone far enough without mentioning the big thing. I’m trying to avoid it, because it is a proper downer, but I sort of have to, to be honest… Towards the end of 2019, you see some stuff in the news about a mysterious virus, and you won’t think too much about it, because you’re still depressed about the general election, but as 2020 begins, shit gets… kind of real. Slowly at first, because everyone basically pretends that it isn’t happening, including you. You are in the midst of preparing to release Deus Ex Machina, deeply considering getting a cat, and making the first steps to prepare for a tour to promote your projects. Alas, only one of these things actually goes ahead. Deus Ex Machina comes out in February, as the news warns in the background of some thing called the novel coronavirus, but you’re not quite ready to listen. So, you ignore it, as does everyone else, apparently. To be fair, the prime minister literally jokes about going into wards with patients infected with this mysterious new virus and shaking their hands, so it is actually quite easy to see why most people were unbothered. You wash your hands, as you always do, because you were raised right, and that’s all, really.

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Eventually, shit does in fact get very real, in a way you can no longer avoid, when the British Government begins a national lockdown. People are told to stay at home, the shops are rushed by terrified people, toilet roll, soap, paracetamol and pasta become like gold dust, and you’re like “Um, what?” because you can’t really believe any of it is actually happening, but I can assure you, it definitely is. You start working from home, with only a walk to the park every night and the occasional trip to the shops to keep you occupied outside of day to day things, and at first, you don’t mind. You quite enjoy sleeping in because of the lack of commute. You quite enjoy being able to do all of your work from the comfort of your bed (except zoom meetings. I know you won’t know what this is yet, but it’s basically video calls, but, like, cursed), you quite enjoy being able to have biscuits whenever you want, or not having to properly dress up, but eventually, it starts to get to you. You’re lonely, you’re isolated, you’re bored, and you’re starting to be afraid of this virus, as you see death tolls rise and you watch the world change. You do, however, get lots of cuddle time with Marmalade, which helps.

Your growing dislike of being locked up at home is worsened by the fact that the government initially says it will only last twelve weeks, and then twelve weeks becomes a lot longer. It is also worsened by the fact that your relationship falls apart in front of your eyes, and you can’t do anything to stop it. You give it a really good try. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you fight for anything so hard, but some things can’t (and as you will later discover, shouldn’t) be saved. Break ups are shit, but they are even more shit when you are locked in your house and can’t go out and forget about it. You are literally just trapped with all the overthinking, self doubt, self hatred, blaming yourself, hating yourself, wishing that you could have done things differently. On top of all that, during this period, you briefly lived in a hotel for a week, because your kitchen ceiling came down and you had to move very quickly to somewhere else, with the hotel being a little stop gap. So, there we were, lonely, depressed over a break up, in the midst of a pandemic and low key homeless. What did we do? We got the fuck through it. It wasn’t easy, but we wrote our way out of it, we sang our way out of it, we cried our way out of it, and we survived. I really want you to know that we will always make it. There will be many moments, not just in 2020, but probably in the future too, where things look hopeless, but we will always make it, because the world is not done with me yet. Little Muffin certainly enjoyed our brief time living in a hotel, by the way.

You find yourself closer to God this year. It’s probably a coping mechanism, but it helps keep you sane, so I don’t think we should worry about it too much. You go to church via livestream, which is weird as fuck at first, but becomes quite cool, when you realise that you can pause church to grab drinks or have a smoke. You find a lot of happiness in writing, as I mentioned earlier. You will finally stick to writing every day, and it helps you process everything that you’re feeling, even the things you try to avoid. You miss performing, so badly. You really regret turning down performance dates offered in March, for a previous engagement that absolutely wasn’t worth it, and you spend the rest of the year kicking yourself for not having a few more time on stage before it became basically illegal.

You spend a lot of the year considering travelling Europe, which is very bad timing, considering a) the virus b) brexit, but you do make the decision that you’re going to do it anyway, even if it’s more complicated now, and you may need to wait a long time. At some point, you will indeed be Paris bound. The thought of this keeps you going through some of the more difficult parts of 2020. You spend a lot of time, lost to wanderlust, gazing lovingly at the 3D bit of google maps, exploring places you can’t wait to visit when all this mess is over. You have yet to renew your passport, by the way, but you will get on that for sure, at some point.

You do find a little inspiration from this virus mess, and like many artists this year, you create a project that directly references the horror of Covid-19, when you write Ella at The End Of The World. You have a lot of fun writing it, and it does give you an outlet when you need it most. You finally write the zombie story you’d always wanted to write, but couldn’t quite figure out, and it helps you feel a little brighter, as a difficult year rages on.

Christmas is a bit different. You don’t see many people, in a conventional way. There is a family video call, but you spend Christmas with just one of your housemates. It is different, but still fun. You drink a lot, walk to the lake and feed the ducks, and watch Jingle All The Way, while you sober up with dinner. You are currently writing this, in bed, with the electric blanket that your boyfriend got you, to keep you warm when he can’t, and while a lot of the things in your life are uncertain, and the world is a crazy mess, you know you will be okay, and that’s all you can really ask for.

Besos,

J x