Do Something That Scares You

I made every excuse in the book to get out of doing the thing that scared me. The Thing was scheduled for yesterday evening, and I’d known it was coming for about four or five months. That meant that I couldn’t even pull the ‘but I’m woefully under-prepared!!!!’ card. Thing was, I really, REALLY didn’t feel like it. I mean, really. The past couple of weeks have been utterly manic. While it may look like, as a freelancer/self-employed chappy, I just swan off to the cinema on a Wednesday afternoon, that isn’t my whole life.

Yes, I do take off on occasional mid-week jaunts, but to make up for it I work through the weekend. I stay up working til late. I wake up in the morning and hit my inbox. I think about work all the time. This last week it all got a little bit TOO much. When you’re a freelancer, you obviously have a variety of different people who give you work. You don’t leave your office at the weekend, or at 6pm, and leave your work behind. You need to be easily contactable at all hours, and when you need to take a day off to get some head space, it can get a bit sticky. I desperately needed that bit of room, but everywhere I turned there was a loose end. The emails, phonecalls, texts and tweets suddenly all started to build up and I started to drown a bit.

I’d manage to get a very sexy bit of flu at some point during the week, which meant that by Thursday morning, I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. In fact, navigating the tubes on Wednesday, I kept feeling like I was going to pass out. My voice had started to go. Then there was all the snowy weather and cancelled plans…all in all, I was getting a bit stressed out and a bit crap at dealing with stuff. I was trying to run away from my To Do list instead of calmly approaching it, and that was the worst thing I could have done.

Yesterday, I took action. I decided I wasn’t going to do The Scary Thing. Because of this decision, I then felt so guilty and awful that I channelled my energies into everything else on my list and actually manage to clear a lot of my work load. I was due to leave for The Scary Thing at 6pm. Around 5.30, I decided to do it. The Scary Thing was singing and playing my ukulele in front of an audience at a burlesque night at the Forum, in Tunbridge Wells. I’d never even been to the Forum, and it had been ages since I’d performed in front of people. I’ve sung in front of crowds before, but never sung AND played my uke. I was losing my voice, I was dizzy, I was exhausted, frazzled, and had never done the song in front of anyone before. Oh, and I hadn’t washed my hair.

What changed my mind? The fact that, deep down, under the talk about flu and potential snowfall, I knew I was planning on cancelling because I was just plain scared. I wanted to let myself off the hook. Thing is, if it’s only fear that’s holding me back, then I will always do it. If I’m scared, I know I’ll go through with whatever it is I’ve said. Whether it’s singing in the middle of the RVP shopping centre in T Wells on a busy day, modelling in a catwalk show, or agreeing to pull together a magazine pitch in a week, I’ll always do it, to smash in the head of my Fear. Why? Because I never want to look back and know that I stood in my own way.

I thought about this blog, and how it’s based around positivity, ‘just doing it’, and encouraging people to go for their goals. How could I possibly keep writing like this and telling others not to be scared, if I knew I’d completely caved in myself? My whole philosophy in life is based on stepping outside of my comfort zone, because then and ONLY THEN will good things happen. You can’t sit around in your room or in your office, expecting your life to miraculously change and get exciting. You need to do it yourself.

I am generally great at not letting nerves interfere with anything. I decreed this year would be ‘my year’ (I hope you’ve done something similar yourself), and since the year started I’ve been taking chances, making connections, smiling at strangers, going to new things…And things have already changed hugely. This year has already been unbelievably brilliant. Good thing after good thing has been happening. But to return to last night…I stomped all over my nerves, quickly ironed my dress, grabbed my ukulele and a make up bag and headed off.

I wasn’t remotely nervous when I got there and met the rest of the girls who were performing. Everyone was so lovely and really kind. I got dressed, Victory rolled my hair, ran through my song and chilled out, trying to ignore the flu-induced dizziness and slightly croaky voice. I was still calm as the audience filtered in. The photographer at the event very kindly came up to tell me I looked good on camera in the photos he’d shot before we started, so that made me feel a lot better. And predictably, ten minutes before I went on, I completely freaked. My voice suddenly started to go, I felt a bit shaky, and I just really, really, REALLY didn’t want to do it.

I did though. I stepped out there, looked into the audience, had a little chat with them, and started to sing. I think it went well – I had a couple of strained moments due to the good ol’ sore throat, but ultimately, it went much better than I could have hoped. Because, like Cinderella, I had to get home before the Lemsip wore off, I exited through the audience. I was still slightly scared that I would get pelted with a spare bucket of tomatoes that someone had on hand, but ultimately I was relieved I’d done it, and completely buzzing. No tomatoes – I had some lovely, sweet people saying they’d really enjoyed it, one girl asked for my card because she was getting married and mentioned something about me singing at her wedding, and another lovely lady was very enthusiastic and asked about where she could buy my CD, and took my card to talk through potential future opportunities with her!

So, not bad for the first time I’d ever performed like that in public. If I hadn’t gone, I would have stayed at home, watching TV, eating spaghetti, and feeling very silly. I still truly believe that if it scares you, you should do it. Even if you do it for the huge burst of adrenaline that you’ll get afterwards, then make it happen. It worked to clear my head – I’m suddenly able to focus again, I’ve ticked things off the list and just generally dealt with everything that’s come my way today.

Still not convinced? There’s a line in a Chilli Peppers song that always sticks with me, and it’s this: “This life is more than just a read through”

Snow Day

I hate being bored, don’t you? In the back of my head, I can hear the echoes of the phrase ‘only boring people get bored!’ Well. Sometimes interesting people need a break from all of their exhausting and creative pursuits, and would rather like a bit of time off. Sometimes, the most fascinating creatures among us get stuck in the house, due to…oh, I don’t know. Snow?

And so it was yesterday. Trapped in the house! I elected to start a roaring log fire, put the original St Trinian’s on, and try and loll about a bit. I haven’t been used to taking weekends off lately, so I find that my brain is still running and my hands are fidgeting, and I generally want to do something. A lot of the time, I find it easier to relax by doing something that isn’t related to my work, or is utterly pointless but thoroughly enjoyable. For a start, I decided I’d wake myself up by going out into the snow with bare feet. I’ve never done that before in my life, and I’m not sure why I did yesterday. A combination of supreme boredom caused by the endless similar ‘snowy scene’ photos that appeared all over the net, and the fact that it was going to take me ages to get socks and shoes on. Anyway, I highly recommend it, and here’s the proof I did it:

I saw the comedian Josie Long do a brilliant stand-up show a few years ago, where she talked about all the things people put a huge amount of effort in to, but which don’t actually make any difference to life whatsoever. The show was called ‘Trying is Good’, and Josie pulled together a bunch of examples of the aforementioned ‘tiny things’ that people devote their time to. She handed out little hand-drawn booklets to all of the audience, and later in the show she passed around sweets and oranges for people who were particularly lovely. I was charmed by the show – she also mentioned how at the Edinburgh Festival, she would make badges for all the audience members on a daily basis, as well as sticking packs of sweets to the bottom of chairs as a nice little surprise. One of my tutors at uni, who’d been working at Edinburgh that year, told us that Josie held a month long Boggle championship over the course of the festival, challenging everyone to games between shows.

I unashamedly love that sort of thing. We get so caught up in only doing things that are important and that will drive us forwards in life, that we rarely ever spend time on something silly and purely for enjoyment purposes. Well, I’m a big fan of doing little thing just for the sake of it. That’s why I bought myself a 24 pack of Sharpie pens, despite having no practical use for them whatsoever. One of my February challenges was to make a stop motion animation, and I decided yesterday would be perfect to give it a shot. I’ve never done anything like that in my life before, and it was a big process of trial and error. For my ‘final’ piece, I shot about 200 frames, editing it together using the amazing free JellyCam software, and the result is below. It’s so far from perfect, or even being any good, but it was my first time! And I’m going to try some more (better) stuff in future. Hope you enjoy!

NY Resolution Challenge: February

Hello chaps.

It’s the 1st of February, which means it’s time to set myself some new challenges for the month. In January I set 16 and achieved 13 of them. It was pretty good going. I’ve actually been a little bit easier on myself for February, and I shall tell you for why. Firstly, it’s a shorter month (slightly…ahem), and secondly because due to a little thing called London Fashion Week, I shall be out of action for around a week. I will be a strangely dressed, cocktailed-up, exhausted zombie with an increasingly heavy camera around my neck and a Moleskine notebook on my lap.

I’ve set just 10 challenges. I did have a rather good suggestion this morning that I try and write a 50,000 word novel across the month, a la NaNoWriMo, but I simply don’t have the time what with all the other writing, and well, sleeping I intend to do. They’re not my most imaginative set of challenges, and I feel a bit like I’m playing it safe, but February is going to be a crucial month in keeping on top of various projects, so I don’t want my own personal lunacy get in the way of, you know, actually doing things that I’m supposed to be doing. Perhaps I’ll make March a month when I force myself to do some really insane stuff?!

So without much further ado, I give you…my ten resolutions for February. As ever, feel free to drop me a tweet (@ameliafsimmons) if you have any suggestions, or if you fancy doing your own set of challenges.

And remember….”Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, it may pass you by.”

  1. Go rollerskating or blading
  2. Eat ice cream in Winter
  3. Make a stop motion animation
  4. Despite probably being single for it, have a great Valentine’s Day (or Valentinstag, as those crazy Germans call it)
  5. Visit a new town or city and explore
  6. Write a poem
  7. Try a different hairstyle every day for a week
  8. Do something to benefit someone else (rolled over from Jan)
  9. Attend a lecture on something completely out of my comfort zone/sphere of knowledge
  10. Visit a proper tea house

There we go. As I said, not my most imaginative…but they’re still challenges!

Toodle pip,

Amelia x

NYE Resolution Challenge: January RESULTS

At the beginning of January, I set myself a series of challenges to kick start my new year. I’ve managed some and completely and utterly failed others. Here are the results…

 1.  Try a completely new fitness class

I’d planned to get down to the local gym, but the sessions on offer weren’t exactly ground-breaking, and most were something I’d done before. I’m aiming to try zero gravity yoga at some point, but still waiting for it to be rolled out across the UK! Anyway, I set this goal because I was falling off the exercise wagon, badly. Try motivating yourself to do exactly the same DVD everyday and you’ll start to go insane.

I use YouTube a lot for workouts, particularly Pop Pilates, but again, that didn’t come under the banner of ‘something new’. I Googled ‘fitness trends’, and up popped a link to a site called www.thinqfitness.com, a virtual space where you can be ‘taught’ routines. It’s exactly like being in a class, expect for the fact that you don’t have overzealous people crashing into you, and sweating.

I road-tested two. Firstly, cheerleading. Now, strictly speaking, I’ve done this before, but it was so much fun that I wanted to mention it. I then spotted belly dancing. I have NEVER attempted this. My early grounding in ballet has made it impossible for me to be really loose with my hips (ooh err!), and my back is perma-straight. ‘This is it,’ I thought. ‘This is the challenge’. I did it, and I found it VERY difficult. It just goes against the rules my body has learnt! Plus I was a bit terrified of the instructor. Still, I tried it! And I may well try it again…It got me in the carnival mood, just in time for ‘Hot Brazil’ at the V&A (more on that later).

2. Exercise 6 days a week

I can’t check this off, sadly. I thought it was achievable because I’d stuck to that schedule for two months in the lead up to Christmas. Suddenly, in the New Year, when everyone was gearing up for the gym, I suddenly got extremely burned out, probably due to my daily two hour workout sessions, every day but Sunday. I started slipping off quite badly. I made a goal of working out every other day instead, but I struggled with that for the first few weeks. I decided to go for runs instead, as I sabotage myself by exercising at home, then getting distracted by a text or an email. I’ve got better now, and am at least doing a bit of something every day.

3.  Read at least 2 books of some merit – no chick lit!

I read Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis. I also read ‘How To Be a Woman’, but I don’t think that counts.  I also read a book of Polly Sampson short stories and started Less Than Zero and The Doll, by Daphne Du Maurier. All in all, a very good innings, considering I was freakishly busy.

4. Keep to my newly devised blogging schedule

The blogging schedule was a plan I devised myself so I could start posting more regularly. I’ve not 100% stuck to it, in the sense that I’ve actually posted more than I planned! And it’s already had a great effect. Two weeks into January and I’d had more blog views than in the whole of December!

5. Apply for membership of the Royal Society of Literature

I applied! And I got my beautiful card – see below. I’ve already booked for two events, including ‘Being a Poet’ and ‘Titanic Voyagers’. I’m extremely excited.

6. Attend a late night at the V&A

Hot Brazil night! It was…well, hot. And busy. Click on the hyperlink to see more about it, and my other museum adventures.

7. Attend a talk/lecture at the V&A

Weather permitting, tonight I’m attending the ominously named ‘Deadwood: The Future of Magazines’.

8. Do something wholly to benefit someone other than myself

Urgh. I’m appalling. I attempted this – I’m an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and we’ve been putting some plans together, but I don’t think I can count this as truly doing something for someone else. Uh uh. Try again next time, contestant.

9. Submit a piece of my writing with the aim of getting it published

I did this in a roundabout way. My friend and I pitched an online magazine idea to an arts organisation, which would entail doing writing. As part of the application process, I had to upload writing to my portfolio, so I’m going to go ahead and check this one off, as we worked very hard on it.

10. Listen to a whole album by an artist I’ve never listened to

I set myself this challenge because I’m such an old man. I sit around banging on about how great the 80s were (despite being born at the tail-end of the decade!) for music, and how I don’t like anything new. Well, that’s pathetic, and a bad attitude.

When I went to Latitude last year, I listened to lots of new music in ‘preparation’ for the festival, because while I knew reams of songs by Adam Ant, OMD, and Echo & The Bunnymen, I’d never heard anything by Foals, The Vaccines, Hurts or Everything Everything. I made myself listen to them, and I actually loved most of it. I felt like I’d wasted a portion of my youth just rediscovering old music, and not hearing anything new.

I chose Young Knives because I listened to a bit of ‘Love My Name’ and really enjoyed it. I listened to ‘Ornaments From the Silver Arcade’ and I fell in love with it (Even if I did have to stop myself going ‘it sounds like Devo!’). It was incredible to do that thing where you really ‘discover’ an album. Where you start off by liking one song, and then suddenly you really love about three others, and you just work through the album. My picks are ‘Woman’, ‘Human Again’ and ‘Everything Falls into Place’.

It’s a big thumbs up from me on Young Knives, and I also listened to Neon Indian’s ‘Era Extrana’, and got really into that too. ‘Polish Girl’ was my standout track. I found once I broke that first barrier, I actually wanted to discover loads of new bands, instead of wishing away my youth! I’m actually genuinely proud of myself for putting down the Steely Dan and listening to something made this side of the century.

 11. Learn a new song on my ukulele

Ok, I feel a bit like I aced this one, folks. I got a bit cocky. I didn’t just learn a new song, I learnt a MASH UP. A mash up that I INVENTED. I was messing around learning ‘Wetsuit’ by The Vaccines, which is very simple in the chord department (think Ramones.) For ages, I’d been wanting to rework ‘Stand & Deliver’ as something a little more melodic, and slightly less speak/singy. It actually came to me when I was singing in the bath, a slightly less shouty version.

I was tinkering around on the uke, working out a segue from Wetsuit to Stand & Deliver, when I realised they used the same chords. Interesting….Next thing I knew, I was splitting them up and retooling them into one song. And it might be terrible, but at least I can tick it off the list, and I bloody enjoyed it as well.

12. Visit a bar I’ve never been to in London

I visited the long bar at the Sanderson Hotel as part of a press launch. It was absolutely beautiful, and I think I might now want to live there.

13.   Start my Vogue Secret Address book challenge

I started, with A is for Apps. More to come soon.

14.   Draw something

I’d ordered some Sharpies, and I wanted to do something truly epic. I didn’t. Instead I just drew this when I was supposed to be working:

15.   Stop procrastinating and design and order my business cards

I did it! I ordered a personal set and a set for my role at LadyMPresents.co.uk. I got them from Moo.com and they were, like, WELL ace.

16.   Throw a dinner party

Another big fat fail. There was just NO TIME. And everyone kept saying it was going to snow. Urgh…I’ll have to roll it over for another month.

So there we go, chaps! I managed about 13 out of 16, which I’m actually quite pleased with. So, what shall I do for February? I need suggestions! Either comment on here or drop me a line at @ameliafsimmons. How was your January? Did you do anything epic, unusual, or just plain stupid?

I love you byeeee xx

NY Resolution Challenge: January

As I’ve commented before, I like to set myself ‘challenges’ as my New Year’s Resolutions, instead of ‘give up this’, ‘avoid that’. To really help keep me on track, I’ve decided to go public with my plans. I’ve also chosen to break the challenges down into months, so I’m obviously starting with January and work from there. I think New Year’s Resolutions mostly fail because you’re setting yourself goals to last the entire year, meaning you couldn’t really check anything of your list properly until the year was up! And for someone who lives to check thing off lists, that would absolutely destroy me.
Here’s my list of goals for January. Some are more self involved than others, but I’m just getting started. At the end of the month, I’ll post this list again and see how many I can check off. Of course, this isn’t just about me and my plans, but please feel free to get involved. What are your goals? Comment or tweet me at @ameliafsimmons. 
  1. Try a completely new fitness class
  2. Exercise 6 days a week
  3. Read at least 2 books of some merit – no chick lit!
  4. Keep to my newly devised blogging schedule
  5. Apply for membership of the Royal Society of Literature
  6. Attend a late night at the V&A
  7. Attend a talk/lecture at the V&A
  8. Do something wholly to benefit someone other than myself
  9. Submit a piece of my writing with the aim of getting it published
  10. Listen to a whole album by an artist I’ve never listened to
  11. Learn a new song on my ukulele
  12. Visit a bar I’ve never been to in London
  13. Start my Vogue Secret Address book challenge
  14. Draw something
  15. Stop procrastinating and design and order my business cards
  16. Throw a dinner party

New Year, New Direction?

You might have read my post on New Year’s Resolutions by now (it’s here: https://ameliaflorencesimmons.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/resolutions/ if you haven’t.) In the spirit of renewal, and making positive changes, and seeing as my blog has been such an important part of my year, I’ve been wondering what direction I should take it in. If you’re a follower of my blog/a regular reader, you might have noticed that my blog doesn’t exactly conform to a particular genre. One week I’ll post a recipe, then a music video, then a TV review. It might leap from an account of my weekend to a post on bioelectricity, and then a comment on fashion.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what direction to go in. Sometimes, I think it’d be easier just to be a fashion blog, or a music blog, or a food blog. But it never seems to work out like that. I’m too interested in too many different things to keep it tied down, and when I look at my blog, it’s a perfect reflection of me. Sometimes I’ll go in search of a little depth, other times I revel in the shallow end of life, and I always, always appreciate beautiful, strange and amusing things. I’ve elected to keep my blog the veritable mish-mash that it truly is, a cocktail of the things that I enjoy.

So, that’s how things stand. It’s like a blogging lucky dip, you never know what you’ll get. That being said, I do have one blogging mission that I’m going to try and complete, starting in the New Year. Now, every couple of years, my beloved Vogue magazine includes a ‘Secret Address Book’ supplement to the magazine. It’s essentially an A-Z of fantastically exciting places to go and things to do, mostly in and around London. I have to say, I was the tiniest bit disappointed with this 2011’s, because it included a lot of shops and salons. The 2008 edition was a bit more exciting in terms of culture, so I think I might try and dig out my old one. 2008 featured fascinating restaurants (dining in the dark, a completely raw food restaurant), as well as things like lectures and literary salons.

Anyway, inspired both by the book and by my need to actually start engaging with exciting things going on around me, I’ve decided to challenge myself. Over the course of 2012, I’m going to pick at least one place from each alphabetised section, and do a blog on it. Hopefully, I should learn new things, discover new places, and recommend some new places for you to go to. I’ll be supplementing this with visits to other exciting things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s easy to feel like, now I’m not a student, I don’t feed my brain or try new things.

That’s my first mission for 2012. I’ll be starting in January with the letter ‘A’ (why does this suddenly feel like Sesame Street?!) so keep reading as I uncover some rather exciting places.

Also, if you have any of your own secret places, cultural happenings, or books you absolutely love, send a message my way. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Preparing for my mind to be broadened…

Amelia xx