Friendship has no age

Tomorrow, I am attending a funeral of a special friend.  That’s what I’ve told people and they have reacted with horror and sadness….even more so because they’ve assumed it was a peer. 
No.  He was almost 85 and, of course it is still awfully sad and upsetting, but I do comprehend people’s reaction.  Of course, it’s less shocking for a man of 85 to die suddenly.  But it in terms of friendship, it is no less important. 

I’ve thought about this for a while.  Originally, when I started visiting my friend at his care home, I used to call him my “neighbour” or more specifically “my neighbor’s brother” or “a man I volunteered to visit”. Could I also call him a grandad figure? I could…but, no.  That’s not needed.  He was pure and simply someone I was close to: a friend.  

Friendship can occur between any two individuals. You can be as close to someone ten years younger than you, as you can twenty years older than you.  I’m learning this more and more as I get older.  Some of the colleagues I get on best with are in their fifties. Or, equally in their twenties. Frequently, I’ve met people who were the same year at school as I was….. we are the same age; we know similar people.  But we didn’t click.  It takes more than age to create a bond with someone…. interests, morals, sense of humour are more vital than the year you were born. Friendship has no age or barriers. 

So tomorrow, I say goodbye to a friend whom I laughed with.  A friend whom I had tea and cake with.  A friend I looked at photographs with.  

A friend.  

Are You Successful?

What makes a person a success? Why does society view success in such a limited way? What is the key to true success?

This blog topic has needed more research and a longer thought-process than most. Partly, to understand the notion of what people think success is; partly to find a way to write about people’s real-life situations in a way that highlights various examples of success. This blog post is not belittling anyone’s success or life choices, just in case you do recognise a real-life example. I’m just exploring the many options that there are to success.

Imagine a successful person. What do you envisage? You would not be alone if you pictured someone in a smart, formal business-suit rushing to catch a plane, in order to complete an important job role in their busy and high-flying career. Society teaches us to think about success in this way: career, wealth and travel. If you manage those, you are successful to the world, apparently. And in many cases, this is true. But let’s open that brief case and delve a little deeper to what makes a person truly successful at life.

I’ve noticed the term “successful” be thrown around my various family and friendship groups lately – a bit like a pass-the-parcel. People are keen to pass this term “success” on to other people, but are so reluctant to keep it to apply to themselves. When, really, we all want to open that pass-the-parcel: we all want to be successful. One example at a party recently, was a comment “she’s the most successful out of all of us,” the reason being that the girl in question was a few years younger than the rest of us, and had climbed the career ladder quite high for a tender adult age. And good for her! She clearly wanted to achieve that job role and job satisfaction by that age and has accomplished it. But when did success become just about your career or job?

Many people believe that success is the key to happiness. You need to achieve great things – get that job; bring home the money; buy the house. This helps to be happy.  But what if I said happiness is the key to success? This is what I firmly believe and I will explain why… If you are truly happy with your “lot in life” whatever that may. If you have learnt from your mistakes; got a job that makes you happy; stood by your decisions and you are truly happy as a result, then I think you’re pretty damn successful.

My Dad is another example (I hope he won’t mind me mentioning him here). As he nears retirement age, he occasionally complains that he wishes he had learnt a trade, worked for himself or simply attained more of a career. Now my Dad has always worked hard  – a true grafter. He has worked his whole life, bringing home money to support his wife and two daughters. He has now paid his mortgage off and he and my Mum can now enjoy holidays whenever they like. More importantly, he was able to be a loving, dedicated husband and father who has been around for us all. If he had learnt a trade would he be any happier? Would his family? Maybe he’s have slightly more job satisfaction , but longer hours and more stress perhaps. I think my Dad’s successful at life  – and I hope he will read this when he has his next moan!

A lot of my friends have achieved jobs and moved to various big cities – or countries – as a result. They have flown the nest and gone off to be successful in the “big city”. If that is what they choose to do and want to do, then that is fabulous. What I find interesting is that a few of them have confided that they feel they couldn’t return to our small home town, as they would feel unsuccessful as a result. To me, if you are unhappy in the big city earning the big bucks (and I am by no measure, saying they are) and you want to get a different job and return closer to friends and family – and are happy as  a result of that, then that’s true success to me. It’s not about returning with your tail between your legs, it’s about making the decision to be true to yourself and doing it. Experience things and learn from it. Again, I am not assuming that people can’t be happy in addition to a high flying job in a strange city – I know not everyone is like me 😉 I’m pointing out that it’s also a success to admit that you would rather have something else in life.

Society may view me as unsuccessful. I have a below average salary that doesn’t reflect my age or education, and I still live in my small, non-eventful hometown. However, I think I am successful. There, I’ve caught the pass-the-parcel and happy to admit that I think this. I have a job that I adore and gives me job satisfaction every day (most days!) and that has led me to have small business of my own on the side. I live in my hometown because, you know what? I like it here. It’s home. And in addition to my English degree, university taught me something more important: I am a home bird. I like to live within walking distance from my friends and family. I love to travel and go on holiday, BUT my town and roots are important to me – more important than any job or any amounts of money.

Other people may view success differently and I think that’s the point. We need to define what success means to us and put it into practice. If we are doing what makes us happy in this short life, then we are making a success of it.

XSXS

 

Everyone has baggage…

Do the things we carry with us make us who we are? Do they define us? Can physical baggage change how we feel emotionally?

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I’ve just returned from one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on: a trip to Malta for my friends’ wedding. The joy didn’t arrive on the plane with us, however. Neither did my luggage! But let’s just rewind some hours previous to this…

The journey to the airport was the most stressful I’ve ever encountered. We’d already spent hours (it seemed!) discussing a suitable departure time from home, in order to get to the airport in time. I already felt I was carrying a lot of tension as baggage – as well as my large holdall. We went quite early in the end, especially since the online check-in had said there wasn’t enough seats on the plane for our party of 8 to check-in. “It’ll just be that the website’s down!” we exclaimed. “All will be fine,” we repeated, as the British do when there is no cup of tea to soothe the situation.

Additionally to this, the 2 hour drive to the airport took 4 hours due to an accident on the motorway. We had little time to check in when we finally arrived – we were the last ones. The earlier check-in warning was correct – 2 of our party had to go on a different flight. So already, we’d lost some of our friend baggage.  A quick diversion to Brussels and 400 Euros payment sweetened this for them though! My husband and I checked in our baggage – if only I’d known that my bag wasn’t going to Malta any time soon.

After check-in, I normally get that first sigh of relief – you are physically free of luggage and just have yourselves to worry about. Not this time though. We sped to security and, although our friends got through swiftly with ease, we were ages. Firstly, I got “beeped” by the metal detectors and had to have this body scan thing. I also had to wait for my turn, due to a teenage girl having a sobbing fit. Seriously could we not catch a break? She was crying because she thought she was going to get arrested I think. Don’t wear the shiny necklace and bomb shaped shoes then love!  (Okay the shoes are a joke – and I also have no idea why I get beeped every time. I must have metal in my blood or something!) I finally walked out and realised hubby was still not done. Why you ask? Oh he’d forgotten that you can’t put liquids into your hand luggage. Even though a few moments before I’d said to him “Does my Vaseline need a plastic bag you think – is it a liquid?” This still didn’t prompt him to remember that his whole toiletry bag was in his bag. Honestly, men!

So a little lighter of baggage once again (toothpaste, sun cream and after-sun to be precise) we went to the gate. No duty free shopping today, ironically the one time we’d needed to buy sun lotion too! We rushed to the gate and our friends exclaimed that my row had been called  – so off I went to board the plane. Checking in late also meant I had to sit alone, but I think I needed it. 3 hour flight + a book + a glass of wine and some Pringles = a much more relaxed Sammy. The tension had parachuted away.

Once at baggage retrieval, I was now truly ready to start the holiday. There had only been about 200 people on the flight, so the luggage whirred around the conveyor belt quickly – people grabbing, pulling and sliding their belongings off. Then nothing. No more bags. I knew, with the theme of the trip so far that mine hadn’t made it. Turns out, it was still in Heathrow and it would be with me the next morning.

Being an organised individual, I had a bikini, two pairs of pants and a pull-on beach dress in my hand luggage. (Oh and my husband and I didn’t mix our clothes up, because we were staying in different apartments: girls and boys.) Yet, I had no deodorant, toothbrush or anything to go out in that evening. I felt a little sad – and then I felt guilt. Why did I have the right to feel sad about material objects? Some people had nothing. Yes, we were also two of our party down, but we were all alive and well. This trip was only 4 days  long and I couldn’t afford to waste one by being depressed about by lack of clothing and toiletries. My new outfit to try on was one of freedom and invigoration. Plus I didn’t have to lug my bag into the taxi or up to our 5th floor apartment! Silver linings and all that.

I’ve never thought of myself as materialistic and I also believe certain things happen to try us and test us. It was freeing to think I literally had what was on my back (and the couple of items I mentioned above). I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the beach – everyone has the same baggage there don’t they? Bikini, towel and some sun lotion (borrowed by a friend!) and you’re set. I must  admit I had a little wobble just before we got ready to go out though. Reception said they didn’t have a toothbrush to give me and I didn’t have any of my essentials to get ready with: make-up, perfume, body lotion, jewelry etc. For the first time since University, I felt homesick. It was the same feeling – a yearning for home comforts. Like I said above, I am not materialistic as such. I don’t particularly have expensive brands of these things –  and I was hugely grateful for everything my friends lent me/gave me – but those things are what make you “you”. We went out, had fun and cocktails – I looked alright I had to admit, my beach dress and bra combo along with borrowed jeweled flat shoes, a friend having done my make-up, a borrowed necklace and my travel bag as a handbag – but I felt like a slightly different version of “me”. I truly appreciated friendship in that hour we got ready though. As I say, I feel it was a test and it has definitely made me appreciate things that we take for granted.

The next morning at 8am, I got straight up, bunged the same beach dress on and inquired about my case. They had said at the airport that it would arrive in Malta at 1am.  The man on reception said that with his 30 years’ experience, he had noticed that the airline normally lie about the arrival and it would more likely be that evening. I was done at playing Lord of the Flies by this point and just wanted my stuff. So, another day out in the same shorts and top and bikini. Maybe, I’d lose friends too, due to my growing stench! We also joked that I could have photos taken in various spots in the same outfit. Furthermore, I was starting to worry that I’d be going to my friends’ wedding in my beach dress at this rate!

After breakfast, we returned to the room for money so that I could go out and buy a tooth brush, some pants and my sanity… when I almost tripped over a case. First thoughts of messy, untidy room-mates popped in my mind – then I recognized the white (well not so white any more – this is also the same case that I left in Newquay 5 years ago! It has had more adventures than me!) splashed with multi-coloured patterns. My case was here! Ridiculously, we all cheered! Because it was so much earlier and unexpected, it made it even more special! I had a sudden urge to get changed every hour  – just to make each and every item of clothing truly appreciated and valued! All after brushing my teeth of course 😉

So, I think we all have baggage. We all have “stuff” that make us who we are. Whether it is clothes and shoes; mobile phones; ipads; books; cuddly toys. They aren’t what’s important of course and they don’t make life more meaningful. My holiday was still fantastic with the stressful start. But they do help us to be who we are; survive the day-to-day; be the best version of ourselves. But I do recommend going without for a bit, to make you truly appreciate them. It is true that you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.

I rest my case 😉 …

XSXS

 

Return of the blogger…

It’s a Saturday evening. I’m home alone…a cosy night in with myself, whilst my hubby is at a mate’s house having a lads’ night watching the footy. I love being alone at times, but there’s still that nagging feeling that it is wrong and a little sad to have no plans on a Saturday night. Part of me feels I should make plans, go and visit family or arrange to venture out and do something…anything. But there really is no need.

Firstly, Saturday is just another day like any other. My girl mates happen to be free tomorrow eve and are coming for dinner then. Plus, next Saturday I’m out for dinner with my other group of lovely girl mates. Any day is a great opportunity to connect with yourself and have some much needed “me” time.

Secondly, I think I really needed some time alone to discover the real me again. It has been a bit crazy lately. We have put our house up for sale, been viewing every suitable house in the area, whilst dealing with all the admin stuff that accompanys it.  This is in addition to my full time job, plus tutoring kids loads with the exam season starting. Additionally, there has been a lot of family issues going on and I tend to live with a daily guilt that I’m not doing enough; not seeing certain family members enough. It’s so easy to get lost in the jungle of daily life.

So I’m on my own. What do I do? I watch a drama on catch-up that I missed during my demanding week. Cooked myself a delicious curry that I particularly like. I drink my favourite wine and watch a film that I’ve watched dozens of time and still love. I shamelessly play a computer game that normally swallows up far too much of my previous time. I look up Pinterest ideas and find myself sucked into feminist posts and tattoo ideas and Buddhist quotes. Then, I remember “writing” and how I have done so little lately. The feeling of content creeps back and I have that much craved for thirst to write…in addition to the thirst for wine! Getting thoughts down soothes me and resets me. Hence, this blog.

Return of the blogger…

xsxs

 

Introverted Extrovert this Christmas

Society tries to categorise people into two personality types: extroverts and introverts. Extroverts, apparently, are loud, sociable creatures. Whereas, introverts are the shy, meek and mild ones. But then you have hobbies and interests, in addition to personality, that also determine which category. Do you like being quiet? Reading a good book? Enjoy chatting with a few select like-minded friends? Yes? You are considered to be an introvert. If sky-diving, quad-biking and skiing are more your bag, then you’re in the world of extroverts.

I’ve always been fascinated by these concepts of “introvert” and “extrovert” and was reminded of them by my latest Psychologies magazine. The article in question named ‘I’m dreaming of a quiet Xmas’ was telling extroverts to be aware of their introverted friends and relatives, who may be affected by too much socialising and extroverted focused events. Too much stimulation can overwhelm a quiet, introvert. I do understand this and it makes sense. But as someone with some introverted tendencies myself, I do not want extroverts to feel they have to behave differently around me. But being aware is always a useful thing, I guess. I found a previous quiz more helpful as it delved a little deeper. It looked at four different areas we fall into to identify our personality type. This is more realistic. But the focus on introverts struggling with the festive period bugged me a little. Firstly, Christmas isn’t all about partying. But just as much about having quite time by the Christmas tree with a great book or Christmas film. Winter nights of open fires, cosy cushions and carols – surely that is an introvert’s dream? I know it is for me. There is plenty going on at Christmas to satisfy all personality types.

Secondly, where as I obtain many introvert characteristics, I also have many extrovert features to my personality. The categories are too black and white – it needs to be more of a scale. I like to read silently; sit and reflect; take a relaxing bath. These things all stimulate me and make me happy. However, loud, alcohol-fuelled gatherings in busy, lively bars and crazy parties also stimulate me and make me happy. I’ll talk to anyone: large groups, strangers, acquaintances – plus act the fool in front of any of these! I am confident, sociable and loud (bordering on silly and annoying when I’ve had a few…) which I am aware on not usual introvert qualities, but more extrovert. Some could argue that it is the best of both worlds:  I go out and party and then have quiet time at home. Both can make me equally content.

I do have typical introvert moments when I feel over-stimulated. Sometimes, music can be on and it suddenly feels too loud and unbearable. It has to go off straight away for me to feel calm again. I also hate going out on Christmas Eve (which my very obviously “extrovert” husband cannot understand. I always have hated going out on Christmas Eve, so it isn’t an age thing. I don’t like being pushed and shoved in a busy pub and then having the punishment of a Christmas Day hangover. (Midnight Mass is also a ruled-out option… see https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/midnight-madness/)  I’m not boring – I love going out – just not on Christmas Eve. I like a quiet, chilled night sitting under my beautifully decorated tree and intricately wrapped presents, whilst  watching a Christmas film  and getting into the spirit (yes a little Baileys or vodka too!) in my own way. I look forward to crazy, excitement of Christmas Day, whilst relishing the contrast and magic of Christmas Eve.

So, I like to think of myself as an Introverted Extrovert. But after doing some more research on the subject. This included yet another personality quiz and its verdict was to place me exactly half way between an extrovert and an introvert and the new, coined term for this is Ambivert.   Makes sense, but I think I prefer my term of Introverted Extrovert , or I can switch to Extroverted Introvert, depending how far down the scale I feel I am that day!

You may start to think about whether you are an extrovert or an introvert by this point. What makes you happy; what makes you tick. You’ll find you’re a mixture in some way, I’m sure. It is definitely a scale, I think, like I said above. And we’re all on it at different points. Even though, I stated above that my husband is clearly an extrovert (He loves rowing, snowboarding, quad-biking, paintballing – whereas I love reading, writing, swimming and shopping.) But, he also enjoys quiet activities – normally computer related: design, websites, games etc. Yet, we both adore going out with friends and family; going away for the weekend (yet activities we do when we are there are usually up for debate!); fancy meals out with alcohol; entertaining large groups of friends of family. Also, my hubby isn’t as socially confident as I am – especially with strangers. He can’t do small-talk or chat easily with people unless he knows them well. Maybe a gender related reason here too, I’ll agree, but we both carry introvert and extrovert qualities.

No matter where on this scale you come, make sure you do some of what makes you happy this Christmas. Whether that involves busy, festive crowds or some alone time, do not feel guilty about doing what you need to do to be happy. We all deserve it.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Riding into the sunset of my twenties…

I completed another item off my ’30 things before 30′ list. I went pony trekking! Those of you who don’t know me very well, do not realise what a great achievement that is… During my (almost) 30 years on this planet, I’ve barely been able to climb over a fence or gate – let alone climb on a horse, stay on it for an hour and then manage to get off! (Well it took 4 people and a lot of heave ho to get me off… and there is video evidence, so there is one friend who I have to be very nice to in fear of this video ending up on social media 😉 )

So I rode through the forest with the greatest of ease, my hair blowing in the wind whilst the horse’s mane swished from side to side….
OK, maybe not. In reality, I climbed up a plastic step, managed to get myself balanced on Skye – who was the loveliest, calmest horse , I’ve met (even though, to be fair, that isn’t many!) She started stepping towards the edge of the field straight away. I was moving! Argh! Turns out, whereas I was the one who could have easily pooed my pants, it was Skye who wanted to unload her waste… ahem! She has a regular spot and always does a poo before a trek apparently. I liked her organisation and preparation immediately!

Our lovely, calm ride didn’t extend to the rest of the group. The rest of my few friends were fine; the Japanese students from the local Grammar school were not. We were told that they’d been attending every week. At this point I thought, “Great, I’m bottom of the class!” But as they set off on the trek, a new horse from the field reared up at one of the horses carrying a Japanese student. His horse jumped up in reaction, consequently knocking him off! And another student next to him! I was horrified then, but there was no going back!

One thing that made me laugh in the trek, was how the instructors referred to us by the horses names. I heard one say to the other “have you been through trotting with Skye yet?” I was thinking, ” I’m pretty sure Skye knows how… It’s me who doesn’t and I don’t think I want to!” Skye was more interested in eating plants to be honest, but did have a little trot when encouraged verbally by the instructors. I then had no choice but to bounce and “trot” along too!

As I said, Skye took her gentle time. She completely backed off at one point and the instructor asked her why. She’d not seen what I’d seen: the horse in front doing a fart! Honesty, the tail wafted up and everything! That’s why Skye backed off and I didn’t blame her for a second!

I enjoyed my trek. The clippoty clop motion, the gorgeous autumnal leaves (the ones Skye didn’t eat!) and fresh air. We even saw a deer.. though I must admit my only thought there was “Oi Bambi, don’t scare the horses!” Yes, it was a great experience. Not sure I’ll become a regular rider or anything, it even go on a horse who makes it past the “trot” phase in all honesty. But I’m glad I did it.

I admire the outdoorsy people who bound about on these horses; no care in the world ; covered in mud. On the other hand, I screamed when we slightly brushed into a tree it fence. I guess I’ll always be happier tucked up with a book…or at the cinema alone 😉

But I’m a trot further to my 30s 🙂

XSXS

Learning like an intern

Recently, I’ve been ploughing my way through a hugely varied list named “30 things before 30″… And since the big 3-0 birthday is now a month away, there are still quite a few to tick off. I started the list, not because I think 30 is the age we can stop achieving our goals, but because I like to set myself challenges and I think we all, no matter what age, need to keep learning.

Now my list includes things like learning to knit, riding a roller coaster and eating caviar. I may have to admit defeat on some of these! And that’s okay. It’s my list of challenges and I’ve still learnt things about myself along the way. Like the fact that a certain Alton Towers accident has put me off even further… and what would I gain from doing this? I’m not an adrenaline junkie, so probably not much. But I could lose a limb!  I’ll also never make a knitter – after numerous attempts, I still can’t even ” cast on “. And caviar seems out of my reach to try… maybe I don’t go to the right places? I’ll add that one to my 40 list 😉

But I have been on a gondala, become a Mrs, cooked new meals from scratch, ordered a meal in Italian, baked an edible cake, done something amazing for charity, been tobogganing, had something waxed, read all of Jane Austen’s novels (almost!)… and horse riding is booked in for next weekend 🙂

Today’s challenge was to go to the cinema alone. I just feel it is important to go out on your own and have ” me” time. Today, I’ll admit was a little forced because I knew it was on the list. But in the future, if there is a film I want to see and nobody else wants to go, I’ll go alone. It felt invigorating to just turn up, buy your ticket, sit where you want… eat lots of chocolate and drink tea in my case. The only moment I felt awkward was when I had a little cry…. at the film, not because I was alone 😉 It also turns out we all need others, when you have toilet paper stuck to your boot in the toilets… Thank you to the lady who pointed that out to me!

‘The Intern’ was the perfect film to see alone. Completely coincidental too (I wanted to see Macbeth, but it wasn’t showing today). I love Anne Hathaway (still a bit of a Shakespeare link!) and Robert De Niro and it seemed like my kind of film. It was; it was brilliant.

I won’t give the plot away, but De Niro plays a 70 year old Intern. That was the first reason I loved it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you can always take on a new challenge and learn new things. Naturally, it takes on the idea that he ends up teaching Hathaway’s character more than she teaches him.

Bringing us to the second reason I loved it. Hathaway plays a highly successful owner of an online fashion company. Trying to be the woman who has it all: a great business with happy staff; a loving marriage and family; a beautiful and functioning home. I love the themes of feminism, love and family relationships. How we’re all learning all the time. Within our relationships, in our work and learning to have the life we want.

So I will keep doing my challenges and happily be considered an Intern. 🙂 And I definitely will have another solo cinema trip. ‘Suffragette’ next maybe. But to fit with the tone of that film, maybe a group is more appropriate? 🙂

 Xsxs

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