It’s not easy to sit here and write these words, but: I have always been a giver upper. I’ve started this sentence and erased it a few times and spent a few weeks coming back to it and leaving again. At school I had dalliances with the violin (one lesson), the guitar (several lessons but didn’t turn into Avril Lavigne overnight like they told me so I stopped) and ballet (I’ve never forgiven my mum for letting me give this up, I’d be a sinewy babe by now if I hadn’t). As I left school, this carried on to university and I never did upgrade my English Society membership from a bit of paper to an actual card. Nor did I ever go. To sum up, I was never the person that had a singular hobby that I stuck at. I was the jackass of all trades and master of absolutely none.
This, I’ve realised, I think stems from my dad (hi Ken!) whose hobbies include but are not limited to: flying (a plane, obvs), stargazing, saxophone, guitar, racing (cars not ponies), cooking, Spanish guitar, banjo…I could go on. Well, maybe I just take after him but I think I’ve finally found The One.
I was never sporty before this year; I was in the Lacrosse team for a day before I realised you had to get up early on Saturdays and when swimming came around I conjured up a never-ending-couldn’t-possibly-go-swimming-period. So much so, that they actually started to take notes of our start and end dates. Because apparently it’s not ok to be irregular?!
Well, not long after the start of my 25th year on this earth, I did a Half Marathon in Amsterdam. And, I’ve spent the last year being a continuous, consistent, gym-goer. This actually marks pretty much a year after I started becoming active and eating well. A friend just told me my ‘thing’ is “boys and eating well”. What I think of this, is a different matter. But living healthily is becoming my ‘thing’! I have a ‘thing’! (Don’t have a boyfriend but you can’t have it all at just 25, even Adele says so.)
I’ve had anxiety since I was about 17 and my first panic attack happened when I was eating a banana and I ran next door and told my neighbour – as I was home alone – that I was having a heart attack, banana still in mouth (lol). After only a few days, I was getting panic attacks daily and it felt like my whole world had been shaken around with fuzz. It felt like in a film when everything around me was moving so fast and yet I was stood still, unable to move. Ever since, I’ve had bouts of feeling anxious and bouts of feeling completely fine, luckily it hasn’t been that intense since apart from a brief period at Uni. However since, I’ve had chronic tension headaches that have been so debilitating at times I’ve been to hospital when I lived in Paris – and got filmed for French breakfast news, where I had to shake the doctor’s hand and say “Merci” but I pulled my drip out stretching my arm out and chaos ensued. They also used a blue filter which made me look EVEN sadder and more ill. Whilst we’re on the subject, I’ll also reveal I had to be brain scanned not just once as the healthy limit recommends, but twice because they didn’t get the shot, after which I went home and passed out from the drugs and strain of it all on my doorstep and my flatmate came home and thought I was dead, having texted her hours earlier saying “I’m having a brain scan at hospital” and then my phone ran out of battery. It was all round, an unfortunate day for me.
Anxiety is now so widely discussed and felt amongst our generation, with pretty much everyone experiencing it on some level, at some stage. Yet it’s still being treated with anti-depressants, pills and beta blockers. I’ve been given liquid valium, yet never told to just go out and exercise. Which is a strange realisation to have. Because the truth is, exercise has meant more to me mentally than physically – the body part has been an added bonus. It just makes me feel sane. Not that I think I’m insane, but it just gets me. When I see the gym now, I actually feel comforted and relaxed, which is something I never thought would happen. And it’s now not something I feel I have to do, but of pretty high priority in my schedule. I feel like I have a grip on myself, for the first time in years. I highly recommend making it your new ‘thing’ too, if you aren’t already because as well as being super good for your brain, body and mind, it’s Trendy and everyone’s doing it.
The Half Marathon itself was nothing short of fairly horrific; the first 10K was a breeze and I was still smiling but by 20K I actually shouted at a Dutch kid that was just trying to cheer me on. (In my defence, he shouted at me in Dutch so he could’ve been laughing at me.) Unfortunately, due to internet restrictions and me generally being crap, I had brought everything I needed apart from a playlist. So, I ran 21K to just four Beyoncé songs and a remix a DJ gave me in Sheffield after saying he liked my ‘moves’ (you heard). If that’s not even more impressive, I don’t know what is.
Finishing was the strangest jumble of feelings I think I’ve ever had; relief, joy, pain, embarrassment as I saw the official photographs. But mostly, I felt proud of myself. And really, really smug. But I think I’m allowed to, based on my previous history. Plus I think all of my sports teachers thought I would die before 21 of inactivity, so this serves as a big F**K YOU to them. (Although hey, if you’re reading this. Sorry I swore, if you want to make me do laps that’s actually fine by me.)
I no longer feel like I have to give up because something is hard or I don’t become Avril Lavigne first time. I’ll think about it sure, but I’ll keep going because I’ve found the thing that makes me want to. As I plod on being paid in crackers* and living in a shoebox, I’ll try and bear this new approach in mind. Until then, there’s an avocado in my handbag that I must attend to. For anyone who read my ‘someone in my office stole my avo’ rant, then you’ll know why I now keep them about my person. Maybe it’ll become a new ‘thing’ – I already coined the term ‘Avocessory’ a while back on Instagram. *I am everything I despise about the world* But I’m going to stick at the exercise. I’ve hung my medal on my wall to a) show off to newcomers and b) remind me I can do things.
*Not actual crackers. Are crackers a thing anymore? I feel like no one eats them. Or cheese. Or dairy. Or anything that’s not everything-free. Free from Free.