“You don’t want to hurt me, but see how deep the bullet lies.”

Ladybower Reservoir
Ladybower 3

{Six more pictures under the cut}

The opening sentence is always the hardest part of an entry to write. I can think to myself I want to write and I can know what I want to write about, but its hard to sit down and actually start. I find that with everything- essays that need writing, problem sheets that need doing. It’s always the starting of it that is the hardest.

Well, it’s already November. Two months until exam season, and when did that happen exactly? University is plodding along as ever. Half my modules are going OK, I just need to keep at it and make sure to practice questions a lot before the exams, but the other half are not good at all. Power Systems I like, but do not understand in the slightest. Electrical machines I know is necessary for my career path, but I do not understand in the slightest. Fields, waves and antennas I hate, and find boring, and do not understand in the slightest. I still have time for fields and power systems to hopefully sink in enough that I could scrape through the exam, but I have a coursework due in less than two weeks for Electrical Machines that I haven’t even started yet. I literally cannot do it. At all. The lecturer is good, the notes are good, the problem sheet is linked to the coursework and has thorough, clear solutions. But I just cannot understand it. At all. It’s worrying. Apart from that, my group project is also, well still, stressing me out. I am clashing with my group. Before every meeting I tell myself to hold back. There is a difference between sharing your opinion, and being an obnoxious twat. I’m leaning dangerously towards the latter but I am so frustrated and I find myself unable to keep myself from letting it show. They are just so disorganized, and so laid back about this project. And its like guys, seriously. This is the majority of our marks for this year. Can you please take this seriously? I’m being too harsh, I know, its probably that our learning styles are clashing, but that doesn’t make any the less frustrating. We had a meeting today we were supposed to be going through our project proposal presentation for tomorrow and no one had made any cue cards or even knew what they were saying and it just felt like such a waste of time. I’m really worried about how the presentation will go tomorrow, even though I have a feeling my group are going to surprise me (I am hopeful of that, I guess it could be said) I don’t really get on with any of these people either. I find myself rambling, saying things I shouldn’t, because I feel so nervous around them. Desperately over compensating for the fact I don’t know how to act around them, or what I am really doing. I was so lucky to have such nice groups last year, that I suppose its only right I end up with a difficult group who make me feel uncomfortable and frustrated this year. Apart from that, I am still being far too lazy with my Japanese, and I have another extra curricular module that I haven’t even started work on. Meanwhile I keep wasting time reading fic and browsing the web, because I am tired and frustrated and faced with all these things I don’t know how to do my first instinct is to bury my head in the sand and pretend that it does not exist, that it is not November, that time is not slipping, sliding out of my hands, unable to grasp onto it.

I’ve been going through health things lately. (This could veer towards TMI, so skip this paragraph if you want.) I suffer from heavy, painful periods and resulting anaemia and I got sick of it around the beginning of this year. I subsequently went on the pill and it turned me moody and made me fat, so I went off it and went on some other non hormonal pills, which didn’t work. So I am now facing going back on the pill and I just don’t want to. I am really not sure what to do – I want less heavy periods, but at the end of the day I’m facing going on the pill (mood swings, fatness, having to remember to take them) or getting the mirena coil (painful, painful, painful). Being a woman sucks. In other news I had a very awkward doctors appointment on Wednesday where, amongst other things, I was all “I have aneamia!” and he was all “No, no you really do not” and I just stared at him, shocked, because, and I accidentally said this out loud “But I feel like I do, so what’s going on?” He did not answer my question and I am still confused. I’ve been anaemic, or low iron but not quite anaemic for about 5 years now. I always imagined when my iron levels returned to healthy, normal levels that I would feel it. That I’d know. That I’d automatically be less tired, that I would no longer get out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs, that my periods would sort themselves out. I would know. But I am not anaemic and I still feel the same as ever. I am exhausted, all the time, I get out of breath, so easily. Which, after an unfortunate amount of time spent pondering this leads me to have to make some uncomfortable conclusions – I must be clearly doing something right if my iron levels are up without the aid of iron pills, but I must not be taking as good care of myself as I delude myself into. Lets admit to some things, right now. I do not sleep well. I wake up at funny hours multiple times during the night, I have bad, disturbing dreams that I struggle to wake up from. My diet could use some work. I have been on a mission to be less fussy, trying new vegetables, learning to love chickpeas and kidney beans and quinoa and cous cous but I still eat too many sugary snacks, I still binge eat terribly. I need to stop this. I am probably very unfit. I walk every day to uni and back, and I have been going hillwalking semi regularly, but that is only recently. I spent last year and the summer reasonably lazily, and I’ve never been particularly active, so I should probably accept that that is why I get so out of breath when I attempt activeness- my body just isn’t used to it right? That’s all I could come up with. Unless its all in my head, and that’s the most uncomfortable of all. Do I make myself ill for…what reasons would I do that? Attention? I don’t think I am that sort of person, but maybe I don’t know myself as well as I think, or there are things I don’t actually want to admit to myself. I find this all such a pain in the end. I don’t feel right, and now I feel crazy. Thinking about it all just makes me want to reach for the cookies because really, no matter what I do, it never seems to work (well, clearly the no dairy, more veg and less rice, more quinoa is working sorta, so there is that!) I just hate this and I really don’t know what to make of it all. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that I have normal, healthy iron levels. That everything is OK. It doesn’t feel like it. Also: I still do have the very real issue of my fucked up menstrual cycle to deal with. ugh.

And yes, did I mention the hillwalking? I went out with the society again and I took an easier walk and it was wonderful. We went from the Ladybower Reservoir up to the Derwent Edge and along there. Absolutely gorgeous and paced nice and slow so I could cope much better than the first time. I then spent two weeks not going, until this weekend where I went out despite the storm. We went out around the Kinder Scout area. There were strong winds, like a hand pushing you, and needle-like rain. Yes, I finally understood those cliché descriptions. It was terrifying walking up hills with reasonably exposed edges when the wind was pushing into you, a physical force, threatening to push you right down (I admit I stumbled several times as the wind caught me just so) And then the rain, oh the constant rain. I was so wet. Everything I was wearing was soaked through to my innermost layer. All my belongs in my bag were soaked. My pants and shoes turned brand new colors as the dirty water seeped into them. It was cold, windy, wet and downright miserable and I am going back again this weekend. Because the scenery was beautiful, the air was fresh, albeit maybe a bit too fresh last week, and although I don’t always enjoy the process, I do enjoy the overall getting out of the house and doing something. Just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, not sinking into a peat bog, not slipping on a wet rock or down a muddy hill, not being pushed over by the wind, it drives everything else out. It’s a good break. And there’s less pressure than in sports- there’s no rules, no fancy dress code (just be warm, don’t wear jeans and wear walking boots. easy!), no judgements. It’s still awkward, and embarrassing, because I am unfit (not anaemic, oh no, I have to face up to it now- the breathlessness, the pain in my chest, the nausea that overcomes me when I exert myself it all from a lifetime of inactivity, most likely) and I lag behind sometimes, and it’s awkward and embarrassing socially because I tend to say the first thing that enters my mind, and its never witty, because I space out and miss what people are asking me. But the big advantage of the bad weather is no one wants to talk, we traipse along, single file, in silence, trudging through the bad weather, wet and cold together. It’s quite nice. I don’t know how long the weather is going to hold out – but I’m going to try get out there until the ice settles in.

I do wish I could afford a fleece, some waterproof pants, a waterproof bag though. Alas, I could only afford to buy a hat for this upcoming weekend. Please, please let it be less wet and less windy. Not wet and a little windy would be ideal.

(No pictures from this weekend, due to horrible weather making it impossible, so have a handful from the walk before- around the Ladybower reservoir.)

“Sometimes there’s nothing left to save”

14. Nothing is coming to save you. Let yourself sit with that for a second. It will feel like rock bottom. Stay there for as long as you damn well need to. Lay down at rock bottom and look up at everything that you fell from. When you’re ready to stand, you’ll climb your way out by your own volition, and there will be no other hands to let go of yours, and that’s what’s most important. Nothing is coming to save you. We eventually have to let go of the idea that there is.(source)

→ I read this today and it really resonated with me. It describes quite well my situation these past few years. I did not learn this lesson as a twenty something, I learnt it as a teenager, which was a awkward time to do so. It took me some years to climb my way out of rock bottom, I still feel like I am climbing sometimes, like I’m always going to be climbing, heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel, but never emerging. I feel like I am stronger, having fought so hard, that I have a good amount of independence. But, I have also become very withdrawn too. I am fiercely protective of myself and my feelings, scared to trust other people because I never quite believe that they have good intentions, that their kindness is not some sort of lie. I test people – I am too scared to reach out to them, of rejection, so I wait and hope they will approach me. They rarely do. If they do, I say no to any offers of friendship, hoping they will push the invitation. They never do. I wonder if university would be easier if I had friends. I had a taste of it last year- of being able to work on coursework together, or revising together, and its one thing I miss about being there. I was alone, but not too alone. Here, I am very much alone. It’s third year, everyone is all paired up, and there are so many people, I slip into lectures unnoticed, and slip back out just the same. It’s a quiet existence, and I do not mind that, but sometimes I do want to talk to someone – sometimes I do want someone to ask about my day, or to talk over work with someone. There’s no one there. I never made enough effort, I was always too awkward, I always said the wrong thing. I end up feeling like there’s something wrong with me. I spent so many years trying to become something I was not, so that people would like me, they did not, so I gave up and became myself, and still people do not like me. They do not understand me, nor do I understand them. I realised the other day, that I actually do not really know what it means to have friends, to have a social life. It makes me feel flawed, wrong. I look at other people my age and feel so different from them, like there is some invisible barrier between us I’ll never be able to cross. Like there’s some fundamental knowledge I am missing, like being the only person that does not get the joke.

→ I am feeling very overwhelmed by things at the moment. I have my six modules, none of which I am really getting into at the moment. I go to lectures, I make notes. I’m not really processing the information. I worry about doing so many exams at once. Tonight I realized that I have a coursework for the one module, which involves using a particular software that I cannot use, so I am panicking about that. (Especially since I have no one to ask, as I have no friends.) Meanwhile my group project trudges along and I am so stressed out regarding that. I feel like I am envisioning this project totally different to my group members and its infinitely frustrating. I try to be flexible, to listen, to join in discussions not to impress my ideas on them, but to consider, to process all our ideas and try and bring them together. But I find myself getting confused by what they are saying. I cannot understand their vision, and that’s the true problem. In a fit of desperation I wrote down all my ideas as a rough draft of a project proposal last night and sent it out, and today in the meeting they tore it to shreds. Of course they did it kindly enough, but they started talking about things that were similar, but not the same, to what I was written and going off on tangents and I tried to keep up but I found myself so confused. I need to finish off the proposal, to try and change it to fit their standards, even though I am so uncertain about what they expect, and I really need to get stuck into my research. I’ve sat for hours reading through the internet, research papers, textbooks and each time I find myself feeling overwhelmed and confused as to how to get my ideas because I have many, I know what I want to write about and how, down on paper. Third year is so different from all the years that came before it – we’re expected to remember every little thing from previous years, to be competent, to be independent. I feel like at some point I was left behind, and now its school all over again, staring at the backs of my peers, desperately trying to catch up, coming close, but never close enough. I talked about this last year did I not? How I do not feel like an engineer. And its even worse this year, because I need to have a certain level of knowledge, I need a certain amount of confidence in my abilities, and I do not have it.

→ I have had a miserable week, hell, a miserable two weeks. I’m tired, I am always tired. My mind drifts from random thought to thought, never quite focusing on anything for too long, my nights are filled with strange dreams and I wake, with a fleeting moment of images and dialogue flitting through my mind before its gone, and all I’m left is with a sense of unease. It carries on to the long walk to university, and I find myself thinking things I’d rather not be dwelling on, unable to direct my thoughts away. Walking to university is exhausting, lectures are dull and time drags by so slowly, the material washes over me. I told someone today that I have no idea what modules I am doing, I just go to them. They gave me a very strange look and I understand, it does not make much sense, does it? But it makes sense to me. I am just going through the motions at the moment. I feel disconnected, uneasy, exhausted. It’s terrible, I know. It’s week 5 of university and I am already behind on my personal goals for my work.

→ I started Japanese lessons again last week and thus far I am not enjoying them – I am acutely aware that I am not at the level of the other people in my class and it makes me feel desperately out of place, very uncomfortable. I do not like it. I wish I was better at languages. Really, I love Japanese and I am in love with the idea of being able to speak it, but I wonder if I am really doing the right thing by actually taking these lessons. I do not think I am committed enough, and even when I do study, I am uncertain if I am doing it right. I’m not really certain of how to learn a language? When I do try and learn, I never really feel like it clicks, that I am really learning. It’s just a very different learning experience compared to engineering – the small class size, the interactive manner of teaching, working in groups and one on one, having to go up and write things on the board. It’s nothing that I am used to, and it makes me feel awkward and uncertain, and deeply embarrassed. I don’t feel like I should be there. I don’t feel like I should be learning Japanese- I struggle so much to wrap my mind around this strange, foreign language, to get to grips with writing the symbols and being able to read them, to remember all the new words for items. You’re looking at the world in a whole different way, Roman letters replaced by symbols, sentences reversed and held together by particles, each one with its own list of uses, past and present tenses, counting systems. It’s confusing, and I cannot bring it together in my mind. It’s not a problem to be solved, to be worked through to the final solution – its on ongoing effort, constant memorization, learning how to view the world in a whole other way. I find it really difficult, and I wonder if I am doing the right thing.

→ “I want to stay in a good frame of mind” I wrote, and how ambitious was I.

“Keeping my heart warm as today, rainy days never stays”

Beginning of Castleton Walk

{Five more pictures under the cut}

I woke up bright and early at 7am on Sunday. I got ready and left the house at 8am, then ended up sitting and waited outside TESCO (supermarket) for my sister to come to get my keys from me. She was in the city this weekend, and wanted to see me after my walk. The plan was to go to the walk, then get back around 6.30pm and have an hour with my sister before she had to go home. Things did not quite go to plan for this day, in many ways.

So, by 9am I was at the pick-up point for the walk with the university “rambling and hill walking” society. There were a handful of other people of the society there and we sorta chatted – the standard name, course, year, isn’t the weather nice? sort of conversation. We got on the bus and then it was a slow trawl to pick everyone up. The bus started at my pick-up half empty – but by the last pick-up point it was packed. A woman came to sit beside me, who was a long time member of the society. She was friendly, we chatted somewhat about this and that, and I got some information about the club from her, but eventually we lapsed into silence. The bus journey was fairly short – it’s amazing how quick you can go from the city to the countryside. After around a hour I was dropped off with the rest of my group. I had chosen Walk 4. There were 5 walks being held- with 5 being the hardest. Feeling relaxed and fairly confident, I had chosen 4. Something about it appealed to me. But really, I was an idiot to choose it.

The walk started off OK – going through fields and woodlands, then it became steeper and steeper and eventually we were trudging up a hill. A very, very steep hill. My breath caught in my chest and it felt like I could never quite release it, my legs felt tight and hot. I was panting loudly, out of breath. Everyone else was of course, quite OK. It was fairly embarrassing but I managed to push myself and keep up, even if everyone else had to hear me rasping breathlessly. (How. Embarrassing) the views at top were stunning though – and I took a million pictures before the leader called for us to start again.

The walk evened out again – lush forest and fields, even a long stretch of downhill, but there was another surprise just ahead – another hill to come. It was coming on to 2pm and we had not had lunch and I thought that if I just had lunch it would be OK. I made the mistake of mentioning this and there was an awkward moment where everyone stopped for me and offered me chocolate – thankfully I managed to convince them I was fine and to carry on until the planned lunch point. Thankfully they had decided to have lunch fairly soon. I really did want to take a proper break then – but I felt too embarrassed. It was PE all over again, where you’re lagging behind coming in last, letting the team down. We stepped off the road we were on and back onto rough path, climbing up through forest. I really was struggling to breathe, and my legs felt like lead. I pushed on and was grateful when we stopped for lunch. Two sandwiches, some chocolate biscuits, some grapes and some wine gums and I still felt exhausted, and vaguely ill. But there was still another hill to climb. By this point I was starting to lag, to get moody from my tiredness. The climb got steeper and steeper and every step was agony. I was clutching my camera strap and biting my lip in an effort to endure. I was really lagging behind now. Thankfully there was another girl just in front, also lagging, but she wasn’t feeling well. I was just unfit. I do not know how I made it to the top, but once there I sat down immediately, putting my head between my knees and trying to get my breath back.

Eventually I realised I was just starting to hyperventilate and got out my water to take a long, steadying drink. I felt ridiculous. I had climbed two mountains! I should be able to do this! But in truth when I climbed those mountains with my father we paced ourselves far slower and with far more stops. That uphill bit, we would have stopped at least once – sat down, watered ourselves, probably snacked. These people were hardcore, experienced walkers. They started at the bottom of the hill and went up the hill, no stops, no problems. I was exhausted. Thankfully the walk evened out nicely. We were going along the great ridge, and to either side were breathtaking views of the countryside. The day was bright and sunny which brought out all the colors. It was wonderful. I was lagging now, but not caring. I was tired, and I wanted to take pictures. I lingered behind everyone else, always keeping them in sight, bursting into fast speed to catch up so I could go over the stiles and gates as them at the same time, but otherwise embracing my exhaustion. I had tried so hard to keep up in the first half of the walk, not pacing myself at all like usual, and had ended up so tired. We did not carry on all the way along the ridge, but dropped down, through more farmland and eventually landing up at the town of Castleton. We sat down at a pub to wait for the other groups to come. I texted my sister- who was at home, waiting for me. I was eager to see her, to talk to her about my day. Unfortunately, it was not to be. One of the groups came in late so the bus departed late, which turned my plans into a huge mess. I ended up getting off at the university, then running to catch another bus, to get to my part of the city, then I had to run from the bus stop to get to my house. I got back to my house at around half seven, and my sister had to leave at quarter to eight. She was stressed, worried about missing the train, as it was the last train of the day. I was tired and stressed from the rush of trying to get back in time, and for her too. We chatted a bit but she was off soon enough. I was very disappointed, and I almost regretted going for the hike – because I could have had the day with my sister, instead. I wanted to see my sister.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hike. The day was lovely, the views were stunning, the people were friendly and accommodating (really, socially it was quite nice – there was not too much pressure to keep talking, as we were walking, and afterwards on the bus everyone was tired and caught up in thoughts of getting home, and not wanting to talk too much, even sleeping. I met some interesting people – a lot of them engineers, mathematicians and physicists, and a lot of international students. Even a girl who had lived in South Africa a little bit. All very interesting, very nice.) However I over estimated myself. Those hills really killed me. And I felt embarrassed- talking about my experience climbing mountains, then puffing and panting and lagging behind climbing up a hill. The more I think about it, the more I cringe. Strangely though, I find myself wanting to do a walk 4 again. I want to push myself. Yet, I don’t want to embarrass myself again. I have signed up for the walk next week nonetheless, and I will see what happens. We choose our walk difficulty on the day, so I will see how I feel then. Hopefully not so reckless as this week. But even if its an easy walk, I want to cram in as many walks as I can whilst the weather holds.

Today I woke up surprisingly not stiff, another early start, for it’s an hours walk to my house to university. The price to pay for living in a quiet suburb by myself is that it is very far from everything. The walk to university is not bad- just flat tarmac through suburbs all the way. I got to my lecture at 9am exactly, and felt tired, but not too bad, and still not too painful. My first lecture was on Power Networks and it was fascinating. It’s so great to be really digging into Electrical Engineering this year – instead of sitting through stuff I am not interested in. For the whole two hours of the lecture I was listening, paying attention, making notes, interested. I got a bit lost during the second half, but I will do a little bit of revision on the background material, the basics, before the next lecture. After that lecture I had Electrical Machines. Along the way a guy I was sort of acquainted with in first year approached me. I was shocked that anyone remembered me and happily chatted to him and his friend, who I had worked with on a project in first year, and so was glad he remembered me. It was quite nice you know? One thing I am noticing is that people keep asking me how Malaysia was and I think there is the expectation that I am going to start gushing about how great it was. It’s difficult, as it wasn’t that great. So in the end I am honest, I say that academically it wasn’t amazing, but getting to travel was brilliant. It feels a little awkward. Anyway, I sat with them for that lecture. It was weird, I felt a bit out of place. I’m so used to being alone. The lecture itself was also fairly interesting – though I have a feeling I may find this module difficult. Its all relevant to what I want to do one day though, so I shall try my best.

Really, I had a nice first day back. Just two intro lectures, no major social blunders. And I love that I’m living alone now – so I have time by myself. I can cope socially but only for a certain amount of time and I need time alone otherwise I get too anxious, I get moody and not nice to be around. I noticed it on the hike as well – once the hike was over I was keen to get back. I’d had lovely conversations all day, a few awkward moments, but nothing I said was as embarrassing as I get and I think I did OK, but after a whole day of it I was done, I needed to be by myself, quiet. In this way I think living alone will be good for me – I feel a bit calmer, less anxious, being able to come home and be by myself. I really am a bit of a loner.

Tomorrow I have three lectures, with an awkward hours break between the morning and afternoon. I have no idea what I am doing to do during that break. I’m trying not to worry about it. I want to stay in a good frame of mind this year.

“Snowstorms are coming, the heart is cooling”

→ My first day back at university was not as bad as I was expecting. It wasn’t good, either. It just was. It was terribly anticlimatic, really. I had two introductory lectures- one on safety, and another talking about the structure of third year. Both were dull and a lot of it I already knew. Socially, it was of course awkward. I got through the first lecture unnoticed, thankfully, but at the start of the second lecture I caught the eye of someone who I’d met in Malaysia, who is now taking a year abroad at my university. I remembered a close friend’s advice and did my best to ask questions, and listen to the response and ask more questions to keep the conversation on their side, unfortunately conversation does require that the other person also ask questions sometimes, and it is in trying to talk about myself or my feelings that I fail miserably. I have a habit of misinterpreting what people are asking, mostly because I have a habit of never catching the full question, and I have a habit of saying one thing when I really meant another, or wished to say something else.

After about 5 minutes of this fumbling, awkward excuse for conversation I caught the eye of someone I never expected to see – my close friend, the one who is now in fourth year. My friend from Malaysia had just asked me about my friends here, in the UK, (aka why I was sitting alone) and I was more than relieved to catch my close friends’s eye then, so I did not have to answer that question (I don’t have any friends in my year, is just such a awkward thing to explain to people) My close friend came over and we talked, then she left, and thankfully the conversation with my Malaysian friend moved on, although it was no less stilted and awkward. The second lecture passed, we attempted conversation some more, then parted. I thought about all the things I could have said as I walked home. How much better I could have presented myself. Isn’t that always the way?

→ I really cannot remember this guy’s name. My Malaysian friend. It’s right on the tip of my tongue but I just cannot remember.  I’m really terrible aren’t I?

→ This year, a large part of my marks is coming from a group project. an unsupervised group project. The enormity of undertaking something like this only hit me during that second lecture today and it is now on my list of things to fret about.  I am praying that I get my first choice project. It’s all simulation based, and I think I could manage that. I struggle to remember my other project choices, and I’m to scared to look, least I was idiotic enough to choose anything with a practical aspect. I know, I’m an electrical and electronic engineering who cannot solder. It’s a bit not good.

→ I joined a society this evening! I was talking to my Father on the phone, and he reminded me that I’d said I was going to join the rambling and hillwalking society at university. Of course, I had remembered that I had wanted to, but by this point I had already convinced myself not to sign up. My father encouraged me though, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised I really did want to join. I’ve climbed two mountains this year and I loved it, but I also struggled. I needed a lot of support from my father to get through those climbs. So I’d like to walk more often- just long treks through the countryside, up hills, to build up some confidence when it comes to walking, which will hopefully translate to having more confidence and independence when hiking. I’d really love to climb another mountain next year, I don’t know which one, but I want to climb something. I say this hesitantly, but I think I may have found something active I actually like.

I hope joining this society doesn’t ruin it for me. I’m worried about the social aspect, of course, and I’m also worried about how the walks will work- I’m anaemic, I get out of breath, sometimes I need to slow down for a little bit before returning to a more normal, brisk pace, sometimes I need to stop, just for a moment, to catch my breath and take a sip of water. It’s one thing being sweaty and out of breath, or needing to stop, or tripping up/slipping when you’re with family, its quite another around strangers. I’ve signed up for a walk this Sunday anyway (really, I have no idea where this burst of confidence and assertiveness came from tonight). I’m thinking I’ll just choose the easiest walk option, just to get a feel of it. Really, I’ve climbed hills before. I’ve climbed mountains. I can do this. Maybe.

→ I find I grow to hate things when they become too serious- I grew to hate music when it all became about passing exams, I grew to hate archery in first year when it all became about competition. There are things which I don’t want to be about competition, or getting a grade, but about enjoying it for its sake. I’m not competitive by nature, I work hard at my degree and strive to do well, but that’s all. And that’s my degree. Yes, that’s maybe also a reason I’m worried about this. I’m worried it will become too serious, and will stop being a relaxing thing I do every now and then, and become a chore.

→ On the subject of walking, I was talking to my father on the phone and he tentatively agreed to walking with me in the peak district in the winter! When we went to Japan we attempted to climb Mt Odake up in Aomori, despite terribly snowy conditions and it went terribly wrong. Of course it went wrong (I should really get around to writing that entry, because the story is pathetic, but the pictures are stunning). We weren’t prepared for those conditions, had no experience climbing in them really. I was scared the whole time, and both of us gained minor injuries from slipping. So why on earth would I want to put myself through this again?

I just think it would be good to do something I am afraid of.

This time, I want to do it properly. Proper equipment, an easier walk (i.e. flat). I think it could be much more fun if done properly, and I’d like to conquer the fear that Odake put in me when it comes to walking and hiking. It was the first time it hit me that actually walking/hiking is fairly dangerous. Once you’ve realised that, there’s no going back. The fear doesn’t leave you – that things can go wrong, very, very easily. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to do this dangerous thing, and realise that it can be done, despite the dangers. (Admittedly, once we got down from Odake I felt exhilarated. I’d been lost, injured, afraid but I’d gone ~300m up that mountain, and ~300m down it, in conditions I was in no way prepared for and I’d survived. There is something to be said for that feeling. Perhaps that is what I’m seeking out. Maybe its not about conquering fear, but about adventure. I’ve never considered myself adventurous though, so I’ll stick to my fear theory.)

“Who’s there that makes you so afraid. You’re shaken to the bone, and I don’t understand”

My sister came round last weekend. She was supposed to come on Saturday but on Friday I got a text saying she was coming tonight and was that OK? Well, it was far too sudden but it was hardly like I could say no. Things at home are continuing on their downward spiral, and my sister had to get away then. She was furious and fed up with the way things were. Again, I felt that anger that things were turning out like this. My father texted me to tell me to try and get my sister to calm down, the obvious implication that he wanted me to turn her round to their (our parents) side and I felt angry at that too. She’s my sister I thought. And you’re my parents. How dare he put me in that kind of awkward situation? I don’t want to have to take sides. To be honest, I never thought my family would get to the point where there were sides to be taken. As a family, we’ve never been perfect but its never been like this. Never been as bad as this, even when my sister was at her most rebellious, or I was at my most depressed, and so quiet and vicious because of it. A part of me hates that I wasn’t there at the beginning of it – it’s too much of a shock to come home and to realise just how much things have changed for the worse when you’ve been away. To see what’s been hidden from you, censored through the miles, the phone calls.

I do feel bad for my father though, even if he is annoying me with his attitude it hurts to talk to him these days. He always sounds so tired when I talk to him. He’s trying so hard, too hard. I feel helpless, as always. I wish there was something I could say to make my father feel better, my sister too, or to get my mother to change back to the person she was. I hate it all. I hate this anger. Selfishly, I feel happy to have been able to escape it, to be back in a position where I don’t have to see it, to have to overhear the arguments, to feel the tension thick in the air.

Well, anyway. My sister came down on Friday night, arriving at midnight and I fed her supper then, despite the time. Then we shared chocolate cake, heavily iced in rich buttercream mixed with crushed chocolate cookies, as we had a good bitch. The next day my sister drove us to a nearby forest and we went for a long, meandering walk through ancient trees. It was very, very pretty. We talked and played stupid games. I spy with my little eye something that begins with t — . We came back and I made food, we ate more cake. We talked some more, watched stupid videos on youtube and laughed together. The next day she took me to the supermarket and generously bought me a whole load of groceries. We came back and talked some more, and I made more food (a butternut tagine that I was very proud of – have you ever tried to cut up a butternut with a blunt knife? I do not recommend it) and we talked even more, until she had to go. We hardly shut up the whole weekend and it was nice. As predicted, it helped to lift my bad mood to be able to talk about things, everything, even the stupid little things, to be able to laugh carelessly and be a bit idiotic if I felt like it. It was also nice being able to feed my sister good, comforting food and to make her laugh. I worried about her the whole weekend, watching her out of the corner of my eye, knowing she was hardly as cheerful as she presented herself. I almost wished she could stay, in a way. That I could share my retreat, my quiet place, with her.

Once my sister was gone my mood fell again, and I spent the week doing little at all and eating too much and fretting about university. Last week, I was not registered for a single module or even on the right course. I sent emails to the right people asking to meet and they never replied. I went and tried to talk to people but they either did not know what was going on either, or they weren’t in their offices. Thankfully on Monday I finally managed to get hold of who I need to get hold of and get all the necessary paperwork filled in and handed in and to get answers to all my questions. I know what’s going on, now. I’m registered for my modules. And I’m on the course I want to be – that I’ve wanted to be on since I was 18 years old. Electrical and Electronic Engineering (MEng). That little MEng makes all the difference, to me. That fact I’m “MEng hons” makes me feel even more ridiculously pleased than I already was. And yes, I am proud too. I know its bad, pride, but damn I’d done it.

I was looking at my photos from Japan that other day, trying to formulate the rest of my diary entries, but it’s hard. I have not quite gotten over my amazement that I went to Japan for the second time, that I managed to go to Hokkaido and Aomori, where I always wanted to go. This is not the first time I have thought this. I remember clearly standing at the base of asahi dake, absolutely blown away by the beauty of what I was seeing, absolutely stunned as it hit me full force that I was standing in Hokkaido. It felt completely surreal, like any moment I’d wake up. But, I’m not waking up I thought to myself. I’m here. I felt so incredibly blessed, so incredibly lucky, to be where I dreamed I would go, so so long ago. It hit me how amazing it was to have my dream come true. It hit me just how many things I had made happen, when everyone told me they would not. Looking back I feel that sort of pride too , as it was my own hard work that had gotten me there, achieving the things that everyone told me I’d never achieve.

Three years ago I failed my A levels and was rejected from university. I was being told to “reconsider my options” and to essentially, give up. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t listen to that sort of reasonable advice. I ignored all evidence of my short comings and I fought. I wanted to be an engineer and no one was going to tell me I was not capable. No one. My dreams, that fragile hope for the future, was what got me through my depression without physically harming myself and I could not let them go, not so easily. I went through clearing- and that remains one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, and I got myself into a foundation course. I did that foundation year, got myself into one of the universities that rejected me, became part of the top 10% of my class in my first year, went to study abroad in my second year, got to travel and see places I could only dream of seeing before, and now this – getting onto the masters course. So yes, I feel proud. I think this is a case where I can be allowed to feel ridiculously pleased with myself. Back then I thought to myself that if I only worked hard enough I would surely be rewarded. Thus far I’ve not been proved wrong. It’s not been easy, I doubt its going to get any easier, but I hope I’m never proved wrong.

I admit, I’ll never forget the things said to me, or that feeling of failure when I was rejected from university the first time. It’s good, in a way, it gives me the strength to fight. I have a point to prove- to myself, to the world. That I am capable. But it gets tiring, fighting all the time. Always doubting, always, always looking over your shoulder, waiting for the past to catch up and for everything to return to the way it was.

I admit, second year was a tough one for me. I’m not sure I really enjoyed my time in Malaysia. Academically everything got very rough, my grades fell, and my degree means enough to me that that really affected me quite a lot. Then my Grandmother died and I was overcame with homesickness, and sadness, regret, longing, pain. I want to say my study abroad period was amazing, but I think I hit a bit of a low last year. I began to really doubt myself, to start to give up. I began to really doubt whether I was capable of meeting my goals. I thankfully managed to achieve what I wanted anyway, but I think this year I need to be better. I need to be more determined, more focused. I cannot give up yet. I don’t want to live whilst waiting for the other shoe to drop- whilst feeling that I’m about to lose everything, suddenly, without warning, any second. That this will be the year that things go wrong again. I admit, I sometimes struggle to believe that I am capable of anything more than failure. It feels very pathetic, with all that I have managed to achieve. Second year was like that, especially. I will not have third year be like that. How much more do I have to achieve before I believe in myself? I wonder. Just when will it be enough? So I say to myself now- enough. It’s enough.

That doesn’t change the fact that I’m terribly nervous about starting university tomorrow. I know, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will start my fourth year of university, and my third year of my degree. When on earth did this happen? I hope third year goes better than the second. No, it will. I’m so scared but I refuse to let it get to me. I’ll try and find my old determination, and I will not let things become so messy and painful as last year. I will not let my stupid emotions make a mess of things again. I cannot. It’s enough, now.