Dressing-up-box

Now that I have finished the MA it is fully my intention to continue this blog with a similar remit (mostly trying to capture what is going on in my head) but from a different angle.  Obviously, the focus will no longer be on studying.

I have a couple of ideas for anchoring themes, which I will explore in the next few posts.  At the moment I want to try and work both in by perhaps alternating and sometimes picking up on both.  Both will be things that will change in reflection of my mood and mental landscape.  I suspect one will shift more rapidly than the other producing more variety and the other will tend to play out its movements over longer time periods.  Both are very much about strategies I use to explore and express the less tangible contours of my thoughts.  I have been described as volatile by others in the past.  Other descriptions in a similar vein include: flightly, inconsistent, impossible, exuberant, energetic, fiery, unpredictable.  I prefer volatile as it conveys just the right degree of unpredictability and peril.  It has taken me a while, but I am learning not to apologise for this aspect of my character and find out what adventures it will take me on instead. With all this exuberance and volatility, however, even I find myself getting a little lost sometimes.  So I have developed some strategies for expressing and translating what is going on in my head that cannot be put into words.  The unexpected benefit of this is that it helps me figure out where I am, because it is not always immediately apparent even to me.  This is definitely true of the strategy about which I am writing this blog post.  I have learned to consciously use it as a waymarker for myself, as a way to interpret what it is I am navigating around in my head (often without even realising I am stepping around it at first).

The first of my strategies is getting dressed in the morning.  Obviously I advocate getting dressed before leaving the house for many practical reasons!  However, my day to day wardrobe is no ordinary wardrobe.  It is a dressing up box.  I hadn’t made the link until a friend pointed it out to me recently.  I was explaining how when I get dressed every morning I choose which character I want to play.  My propensity to switch styles of dress from day to day is well known and many people I know have commented on it.  My chic, immaculately turned out, dress-and-perfectly-matching-heels best friend thinks she has finally taught me a thing or two about style and then I wear a Hawaiian shirt out for for Friday night drinks.  I love that shirt and I promise you I will wear it again in public.

As I am sure you can imagine, getting lost in a dressing up box every morning sometimes means I struggle to get out of the house on time.  For the sake of punctuality I do try planning outfits ahead of time.  Sometimes this works, but sometimes I put on the planned outfit and it isn’t right.  I don’t feel like wearing it any more.  It is a highly subjective and contingent thing and it depends entirely on how I feel and what I am thinking about on that day.  Not that there is always a clear, rational or purposive link between what I think/feel and what I wear.  Inexplicably, when I went out to shop for my first car I chose an outfit that can best be described as 1960’s art student-esque.  I wore skinny black jeans, an oversized men’s YSL shirt and a blue neck scarf.  As a young woman going out alone to look at cars I chose that outfit?  The car dealers must have been rubbing their hands with glee when they saw me coming.

I picked up the YSL shirt for £4 in an antique shop.  I have a growing collection of men’s shirts now – demonstrating another aspect of my clothing infatuation.  I like picking up odd bits and pieces and then combining them in unexpected ways.  For this reason I don’t generally spend silly money on clothes.  I prefer to pick up odd bits and match them together.  Charity shops are great for this.  My favourite skirt cost £5 from the British Heart Foundation shop.  My timeless little red dress was £8 from the Red Cross shop.  I also like making an outfit unmistakably mine by putting my own little flourish on it.  I can while away hours pottering around charity shops hunting down unusual things.  I now have many more tweed scarves than one girl could possibly need and don’t talk to me about brightly coloured shoes.

I can’t explain how I know when I have put together just the right outfit.  When what I feel, think and how I want to portray myself in a given situation accords with how I look in the mirror I feel at ease and comfortable in my own skin.  Sometimes it is impossible to achieve this.  When I can and do get it right I feel ready to take on the world.  I have sufficient armour to make it through the day and a suitable window for self expression.  I should add that the point of balance between the two varies quite considerably.

To go back to the enlightening conversation touched on at the start of this post, the astute friend observed that he understood what I meant as he feels similar when donning a suit, for example.  It was he that described my activity as like delving in to a dressing up box, a comparision which I love.  It captures the sense of play and self-indulgence with which I approach dressing.  Of course, I also have the mornings when I just don’t have the time or energy for all this self-indulgent faffing.  I reach for jeans and a v-neck jumper, but this is no less an expression of where I am mentally and emotionally.  And I do have my sartorial disasters.  I just keep very, very quiet about them.  Christ only knows what they say about me.

I love this shirt

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I’ve gone and done it!

Yup, I have actually submitted my dissertation and finished the masters.  I can hardly believe it.  I feel as if I have been run over.  I am that tired, achey, disorientated and generally battered and bruised.  I have not been sleeping properly for three weeks.  I have been so keyed up about finishing that I have not been able to get to sleep and have been getting up way before my alarm goes off in the morning.  On two nights this week I got only three hours sleep.  Factor that in to having to work a 37 hour week and I am well beyond shattered.  However, I submitted three copies of my dissertation yesterday morning and last night I had the best night’s sleep I have had in weeks.  I am still exhausted, but now its Friday and I have finished work for the week I can relax and have some fun over the weekend.  Fun? Can I still remember what that is?

Wow.  I have produced and written a piece of original research, one that I am really pleased with and I have really enjoyed working on it and especially the writing of it.  The writing has been the most fun bit.  I have met so many intelligent and creative people and this in particular has been an absolute joy.  I have found my interest and my voice in the field and that is also a truely wonderful thing to have done.  Is this getting nauseating yet?  Can I express just how truely amazing the experience of studying for and completing this MA has been? Perhaps not but I am going to try.  When people ask me about my research I can hear myself talking to them with a confidence that I never thought possible.  Not only do I talk, but they seem to listen and to respond.  In other words, not only do I have somethiong to say and the confidence to say it, but other people seem to understand me when I talk about my research.  They don’t laugh, not even a snigger.  Two years ago I could not even have imagined what that would feel like.

Apart from all the people I met through the University (that is, all the other students whose diversity of viewpoints brought an incredible richness to our teaching seminars and the academic staff whose enthusiasm and encouragement has been so infectious) I also contrived to meet with two local fiction writers.  I had met them both before, briefly, and I wanted the excuse to talk with them both about writing and to get to know them on a more personal level.  It was like a brush with celebrity for me and I was terribly nervous before meeting with both of them.  (“You mean I am meeting with real writers, really?  And I get to ask them questions and present myself as an intelligent person? Am I sure this is real?”)  Can you imagine my jaw dropping surprise when both of them said that they wanted to meet again, to learn a bit more about me?  I, honestly, could hardly believe it.  Me? What could possibly be interesting about me? I have since met with the delightful James Burt twice and I have made plans to meet up with the lovely Kay Sexton tommorrow morning.  And I have engaged in fascinating, stimulating conversation with both.  WHAT?? Is this my life?

The thing is, my life has changed beyond all recognition.  It was two years ago I started the study and so much has happened since then.  So much has happened that I really need some time to digest and reflect on it.  Which is exactly what I am going to do.  Once I have done a great deal of sleeping.