The reality of the Christmas season…

It’s dark, the rain is splattering against my bedroom window, and I’m once again wrapped in blankets with an unhappy stomach. On my bed there are chord sheets of Christmas carols, some lush products, craft stuff for Guides, Paddy the iPad, my phone, while on the floor are three bags filled with shopping from today and throughout the past year that will be Christmas presents.

I haven’t written on here for a long while because I didn’t really know how to articulate everything.

In October, I had a breakdown. There were a lot of triggers in a short space of time and I think with stress of one of my jobs and not having friends around much it just escalated quickly and suddenly. I came off facebook and one day just got in my car and drove for hours. I didn’t really eat for several days.

Since then, I’ve been better, but still struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve not been able to be involved much with church partly because of the panic attacks, and partly because of work.

There have been a lot of things going on. I have two incredible jobs which I’ve dreamed of and had given up on hope of finding. I have been truly blessed this past summer, and I’ve now passed probation of one of them. I really, really hope that it will work out so I can stay after my contract is up because I love it so much there. The other job I’m still on probation, and it was a tough start for a lot of reasons. It’s still tough, but I hoping it’s going to be rewarding. And then there is volunteering. That’s been hard. I’m exhausted, and we are still short on volunteers which means I haven’t been able to take the steps back I wanted to.

So I’m doing lots of great stuff, and it’s all good. But it means from Monday-Friday I have no social life. Free evenings are rare. By the weekend, I’m exhausted. And everyone (including me) is busy. Most people have families they want to do stuff with at weekends. I don’t have that, so weekends have been incredibly lonely. I think I had this ridiculous dream after 3 years working pretty much every weekend of having friends who would want to go on walks, cinema trips and music gigs because that’s what it used to be like. Now I truly am that tragic spinster. I really need to get some cats.

The other thing that’s been going on is that my Dad has had some health issues. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you’ll know that my Dad and I don’t have the easiest relationship. We have had months of trying to get him to a specialist here in the UK, tests and consultations and waiting. So much waiting.

The events of the last couple of months have really shown me how much I’m lacking in friends. The friends that have ‘been there’ – the ones that have checked in, who have text back when they see a missed call – they’ve all been people who are too far away to be able to do anything. However you know you have a good friend when despite being on a whole other continent they are texting you almost daily to check in.

And I get the “FOMO” thing. It is so hard at this time of year to see people happy and with friends and family. You know you’ve been replaced and forgotten when it’s there to see on social media. On the days when the anxiety and depression has really peaked, it’s just like twisting a knife in a wound to see. It makes it so abundantly clear that you are all alone, and if you weren’t here – life would go on perfectly fine without you, because it already is. It’s a really horrible thing when you feel so resentful of people that you love.

And do you know what, I know that in the past, people have contacted me saying how jealous they are of me when I’ve posted stuff on my blog and social media. It is really easy to portray this whitewashed version of our lives.

So though this post has been sitting in my drafts for a week, I am going to publish it for that reason. Because I want you to know, just in case you are feeling crappy too that you are not the only one. If you have a family that have mostly stopped speaking to each other and you only see at funerals. Solidarity with you – I’m in that place too. If you are living with mental health illness. Solidarity with you – I can empathise. If you are single and trying to navigate what life looks like when you are alone – I’d love some advice on how you deal with that.

Oh, and although I won’t be alone on Christmas Day, I will be on twitter as much as I can be to provide some company to those who are. I’ve been doing #JoinIn since Sarah Millican started it, and I can see how much it is needed more than ever this year.

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The one where I’m glad I bought the Kleenex that was on offer…

Photo on 01-06-2017 at 23.22

I was about to start getting back to how I used to blog. Job hunting has become such a huge part of my life, I actually had to stop myself going into places that had ‘Staff Wanted’ signs and every evening I’m still reaching for my laptop to go on websites looking for jobs and will be clicking on links before I realise “Oh yeah…I don’t need to do that anymore!”

I have 3 days off this week, the first two were used to schedule meetings and appointments that I’ve had to put off for ages and to catch up with a friend who’s about to move South. I’m now house sitting while my Mum and her husband are on holiday which means I have a house to myself and the use of a car. Today I finally felt my body starting to relax…and in true BK style, as the day has gone on I’ve got steadily more and more filled with snot. Yep. I’ve got that cold people. (My friends Ruth and Lynn have reported colds too and starting to wonder if they can actually be passed through facetime. Ha ha!)

Not to worry, this Girl Guide is always prepared – she saw boxes of tissues on offer a while ago and bought them because she knew they’d get used at some point when she next caught a cold. And hey, when you work with children, you know it’s inevitable that it will happen!

And I’ve got my food shop in, paid my rent, bought s’mores supplies for the next campfire, put the dishwasher on, done all my laundry and I’m almost caught up with The Good Fight. In case the parentals have discovered my blog…yes. I remembered to put your bins out. And I’ve thought of about another page worth of stuff that I should put on my ‘to-do list’ for the next fortnight. So all in all, I feel like I got quite a few things accomplished before I have to go back to work for the weekend.

And one of those things on the to-do list is….WRITE THE POST ABOUT THE ETHICAL MAKE UP!

🙂

The one where I visited some fairy woods…

So, it’s safe to say I’m pretty wiped out. Last week I struggled through with sore throat so I figured it was another cold  coming on care of the children of Edinburgh, but on Sunday I woke up with no voice. New self-diagnosis: laryngitis!

Suffice to say, it’s hard to do my work without a voice, so I’ve been resting it as much as possible today before I have to do some youth work stuff tonight. In an attempt to stay awake I thought I’d blog to share some photos from last weekend…

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For the first time in a long time, I rode in Davina. She is still green rather than blue but I’m pleased to say that I didn’t have to pray for her engine to start. Sadly though it was a grey drizzly morning at the beach…so no beam work. Luckily though, members of the church had this very luxurious RV with a canopy for everyone to shelter under. I say everyone, most of the kids wanted to climb all over Davina and run around in the rain.

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While people ate bacon rolls (I keep kosher) I sat in a camping chair snapping pics at strange angles in between having conversations. But this lad may have been my favourite subject to photograph. Even my friend who is an actual professional photographer saw pics and said “That is the most photogenic dog!”. He also woofs along when people sing Happy Birthday.

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While we were there we looked up to see a group who were galloping across the beach on horseback. I’ve only ever seen one or two horse riders at a time, and it was really cool to watch. Especially with the backdrop of Bass Rock in the background. I felt so sorry for the horse that kept lagging behind. I can empathise.

And after going back to my friends’ home to warm up and collect their lovely beagle, we ventured back outdoors to a wood where fairies live…

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I’ve also heard that some baby penguins have been born including a baby rockhopper (the Northern Rockhopper penguins are my faves…they always come to say hello through the fence, and they look like punks so what’s not to love?). It’s the first time in 8 years a baby Rockhopper has been born. Usually it’s only gentoos that hatch eggs. A visit to the zoo is on my to-do list. 🙂

 

The one where a brother visits…

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So clearly, a big massive blogging fail this week! APOLOGIES! But I have some good excuses and one is pictured here. That is the rare sighting of a sibling people. A sibling in the same place as I am. I came home from work on Sunday evening to find out that Brother 2 was coming down. Yes, I already had a huge list of things planned for my two days off this week (like choosing and purchasing new glasses, getting organised for International Women’s Day, writing blog posts etc) but suffice to say that when I returned home from a meeting and Monday’s errands to find my brother on the sofa the rest of my to-do list got benched.

Especially when Brother 2 asked if we could go to the Zoo today. People…you know I love the Zoo. You know I love opportunities to keep learning how to use the fancy camera. How could I say no? And I’m so glad we went, because for the first time in YEARS I managed to get some photos of the otters. Genuinely, I got so excited my Mum gave me the eyeroll. She doesn’t understand the frustration of the otters hiding from your every visit for years on end.

So here we are, it’s 10 p.m. the night before I start my work week (and tomorrow is also International Women’s Day) and I’ve still to put together my inspiring woman story to share, I’ve not blogged at The Girlguiding Life or done a quote of the week, I’ve not purchased any glasses and I’ve not looked at stuff for Surf Camp.

I do however have some aching legs and a memory card full of photos to upload and edit.

I also can’t wait to share what the meeting was about. I’ve been in talks for months with a friend of a friend who I connected with through twitter (yay for Twitter!) and the time has come to put an idea I’ve held onto for years and actually attempt to make it a reality. I’m nervous, because the fear of failure is strong – too often it paralyses me into inaction. If you are in East Central Scotland, I really, really hope you’re going to like what it is and get behind it to share it with your pals.

 I feel like I’m missing so many friends this week, so please leave a comment and tell me how your week has been. Is there anything I can pop into my jar of gratitude, or be praying for? Let me know, I love hearing from you Koala Tree followers. 🙂

Quote of the Week: Walking with friends

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It’s fair to say that 2016 wasn’t the best year. In fact there were some very dark times, and I think the fact that I had trudged through 2015 and gone into 2016 with a little hope that what had been rubbish in 2015 would be rectified in 2016 made it slightly difficult to swallow.

But then…friends.

There’s nothing like going through dark times to find out who your true friends are. Friends who love you just as you are, who accept you in your circumstances no matter what they are. Friends who you haven’t seen in a couple of years who will come running round to clean a trashed flat when you post on facebook a cry for help. Friends who have their own stuff going on but accept you as a surf camp leader despite the fact you’ve been lying on the floor of a bathroom for 24 hours and less than prepared for your responsibilities. Friends who are in town for a short period of time and will take you running to their hotel room after work so you can at the very least watch the Great British Bake Off together in your pyjamas while eating homemade brownies before heading home to bed because you have to work the next morning. Friends who will text and what’s app and engage on social media when lack of finance and time off work mean you can’t afford to travel to visit during months and years of separation. Friends who will accept leaving on a road trip to a wedding at 11 p.m. because you need to work a late shift in order to get the weekend off to go in the first place.

They are worth more than  their weight in rubies, diamonds, emeralds (and any other precious expensive jewels). And I’d rather be going through rubbish times knowing they are by my side, than having a comfy life without them.

Because I know that in the times where life is great, all I want to do is share that moment. I remember being in Australia seeing a beautiful sunset and wishing a particular friend was there to witness it. I remember wandering the streets of Paris alone and wishing I had someone to experience it with. I love going to the cinema with a friend so we can discuss the film we’ve just seen after – whether it’s one we love, one we hate, or one that we disagree on!

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And when it’s cold and your face is being stung with hail on the first day of a new year, there’s no better people to do it with than with friends. Even when you’ve spent so much of the day in your pyjamas, you end up literally walking in the dark because January days are short in Scotland!

 

The one where I’m thankful…

…because for the first time in ages, I’ve had two days off in a row.

Actually I think there have been other ‘two days off in a row’ but they’ve usually been for a specific purpose…like driving up to Aberdeen at 5 a.m. to meet electricians or driving through the night to go to weddings, job interviews, training days etc.

However, in some kind of wonderful all the planets aligning way, I got a whole weekend off where I ended up having nothing to do (other than the usual stuff of laundry, supermarket shops, cleaning the bathroom etc). That was exciting enough. But then a couple of days ago I discovered that on one of those work free days, my Mum didn’t need her car.

The whole weekend has been wonderful. My friend brought her kids to my work on Friday evening, and gave me (and many presents that I have bought and had hauled up in our stock room because I knew trying to get them home via public transport would be a disaster) a lift home after my shift finished. Saturday morning I was able to get all my work uniform washed  – I learned last weekend NOT to leave this to my ‘second’ day off, as I ended up being called in to cover for someone’s absence and had to wear unwashed uniform. Ewww. Sorry work colleagues! I went to the supermarket – granted I was reminded why I don’t usually go there on a Saturday, but hey! I got food in my cupboards. And more importantly….

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My friend Nicola and I have a little Sainsbury’s chocolate log tradition, and get very amused by the fact they change the decor on the box for different holidays. This exact same chocolate swiss roll will be packaged for Easter come January. Anyway, such traditions have been shared with our other friends since we currently live 100s of miles apart and sharing chocolate log is only possible through instagram.

In this case, it was taken down to my friends who are planting a church community further down the East Coast. We had our traditional walk, and it was lovely to spend time not only with them, but their godson who I have gotten to know through the surf camps we run each summer. He and Miss S were at a youth event I used to be involved with on Friday night, and more than anything it makes my heart so happy to see them growing into young adults that are kind, compassionate, questioning and making the world better instead of worse. I miss my Soul Surfers family, and have for the last 9 years obnoxiously invaded their lives and self proclaimed myself an honourary member of their clan! 🙂 Oh yeah and Miss S is the same height as me if not a bit taller now. She officially has beaten my little sister, and my little brother for they didn’t manage that until they were 14 and 12 respectively. We had a lovely meal cooked by Vicky (Vicky and our friend Kathy are both amazing cooks, and I’m still hoping after almost a decade of friendship that their talents will rub off on me, but alas I’m still a terrible cook).

And this day was followed by a Sunday off….and it was one where our church have worship services! I turned the corner to the church just as aforementioned friend above was arrived with her two amazing but very tired boys in tow. It was just nice to be worshipping God, seeing friends…including the youngest brother of a university friend who just happened to be visiting Edinburgh for the weekend.

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After church, another friend found me and we headed to the cinema. For a film had come out on Friday that I’ve been waiting a long time to see. It wasn’t amazing, but I loved the creatures and think that Eddie was perfect as Newt Scamander which made up for the elements of the film and the story that frustrated me a little. I now want a Hufflepuff scarf (I am a Hufflepuff after all) and a bowtruckle.

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And so we come to the end of a lovely restful weekend where my heart has been filled up with everything that work, lack of car, commuting and tiredness has kept me from. Now I’m turning to Christmas prep – I’ve promised a post about some of my favourite Christmas reads and to help Rebecca launch Airmail Christmas. It’s going to be different this year, because recent events have led us to change our cause. We’re still working out the details, and although Rebecca will be taking the reins once again, we’re going to use The Koala Tree to launch Airmail Christmas! So please do look out for posts about both books and Christmas card exchanges in the next week.

And last of all…

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This reindeer, who has lovely velvety antlers, Irish green eyes, soft fur, and smells like Peppermint and Chocolate needs a name. Suggestions so far have been

  • Ashsleigh
  • Jingles
  • Charisma
  • Esmeralda
  • Rhinestone
  • Emerald
  • Emerald Mint
  • Peppermint
  • Hamilton*
  • Angelica*
  • Schuyler*

*these were suggested by my sister, who I introduced to Hamilton, and she has become almost as obsessed with the musical as I have been since I heard it for the first time early this year. Because my elf is named Eliza, she thought these suggestions would be suitable. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, Eliza is also the name of Alexander Hamilton’s wife. Eliza the elf is not named after  Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

If you like any of the suggestions, or have another one let me know in the comments! 🙂

The one when I wish I had my own literary apothecary…

Today I finished reading The Little Paris Bookshop. What an incredible piece of literature, how uplifting and not at all surprised that the author gave a wee shout out to Harold Fry in her acknowledgements.

The last few days as I’ve been bored, fed up and just tired of being fed up and terrified that the best years of my life finished at 23 and it’s just going to continue to be this – reflecting on the friendships I used to have, the travelling I once did, the life I used to blog about. Reading the book made me think that actually, I’m most tired of trying to please people and be like everybody else.

My friends are forever saying that they wish I could catch a break, or wondering how I didn’t end up on drink, drugs or hanging from a tree. My whole life has often felt like one long fight, and one wise woman told me that I needed to stop fighting and let others have my back.

During this month as I spend my days wearing one of my three yellow tops (it was only two, thankfully the Myers clan sent me a fantastic t-shirt which I am today wearing proudly, so I’m less likely to be wearing stinky unwashed clothes!) or creatively coming up with ways to sneak in some yellow or gold when I’m working at my paid and unpaid jobs which require uniform, I’m thinking of all the people whose lives have ended prematurely because of cancer. Today, one of my friends, a wonderful woman who is the epitomy of what it means to be an encourager is in hospital isolation and is getting her stem cell transplant in the hope that it will rid her body of cancer once and for all. There are days when I wish I could swap places, because I have survivors guilt. How come these amazing people who do amazing things didn’t get to continue a life here on earth, and I’m still here?

It needs to be for more than just living every day being miserable and purposeless.

It’s two years since I stopped working in the field of non-profit management. I really miss it – not the crappy pay, but the people and the purpose. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done the last two years without having Girlguiding in my life to fill a little of that void. I guess I’m just someone who has to be giving…because I feel like without giving my life is completely worthless. And giving my time to captialism makes me feel icky inside.

There are so many things I’d like to do but at this point do not see a way for any of them to happen. Mostly at the moment I wish with all my heart for a job that enables me to have a car and travel again.

I miss my friends.

But also, I hate not being able to be there for the important stuff.

I want to be able to drive after work to do the barefoot beach cleans, and deliver books to people with no access, I want to go to support fundraisers and rally for childhood cancer research funding. I want to be able to go over to Italy and just wander continental Europe to be inspired to write and perhaps as a side note turn up on a beach in a Burkini to make a point.

I also want to know that I can travel to watch friends get married, or hop in my car and drive to keep a friend company if she ends up having to have emergency dialysis treatment for days on end. I want to go snuggle my friend’s newborn baby. I want to throw my friend the birthday party that I missed.

I don’t want to be sitting at my computer screen angry at people who (seem to) have better lives than me, who are getting to eat meals with the people that I love spending time with as I sit alone choosing between cooking a proper meal or being able to afford to buy a yellow cardigan in a sale. I don’t want to be grouchy with the friend who turned down work because they couldn’t be bothered because last year I chose working over losing a day’s pay to go to a party…and it ended up that I missed out on meeting my friends’ baby before he died a few weeks later as a result. But those are the decisions you have to make when you are on zero hour contracts.

Bottom line is that I’m tempted to one day just leave it all behind like Monsieur Perdu did. Mind you I don’t have a boat full of books to exchange for food so it might be an issue. But either way, I want something to change.

I’m in need of the sunshine, sea, books and an awesome Italian cook…! 🙂

Flashback Friday: To the Freshers, from the Graduate…

Originally published in September 2010

So over the next few weeks, lots of young people will be packing up their stuff into bags, suitcases and boxes as they leave home for the first time and move to go to university.

Unbelievably it was NINE (update: FIFTEEN) years ago when my Mum and I drove up the M90 to move me into the university halls of residence at Hillhead that was my home for my first year at the University of Aberdeen studying for an MA in Human Geography. I was 17 years old, no one else in my family had ever gone to university, all my friends (except 2 who left a year early like me) were staying on for our final year of high school, I’d been warned to do everything except go to any Chaplaincy events and I didn’t actually know that you had to do exams at university before the end of your 4 year degree.

I was CLUELESS. And I’m thankful that in 2001, no one really owned digital cameras 🙂

So I thought I’d impart my wisdom I learned from that first year onto any freshers to be who want to ‘listen’…

Dear Freshers,

I am so excited that you are going to university. I found a real home in Aberdeen when I was a student, and my hope is that no matter where it is you go to study, you will find a home there too. I hope you learn lots, not just from what you study, but also from experiencing so many opportunities that are going to lay ahead of you.

I also wanted to give a few of my top tips for living in halls. First of all, take things with you to make it ‘homey’. Pictures of friends, family, pets. Posters (though I’m willing to bet you’ll find some GREAT poster sales in Fresher’s Week). But most importantly: TAKE YOUR OWN DUVET COVERS! Second of all, for the first few days keep your door wide open whenever you’re in your room (maybe not when you’re changing or sleeping, but you catch my drift right?), this way you can say hello to people who might be passing. It’s a great way to greet your roommates/neighbours in halls who may also be feeling homesick or nervous.  I also took teabags, juice and stuff so that I could offer cups of tea or whatever which people really appreciated if they hadn’t unpacked or got to the shops yet.

Be nice to the campus staff – porters, cleaners, cafeteria staff….(it pays to be nice, just ask any of the S Floor girls!)

There’ll be lots of events on for freshers, and it’s worth going to as many as you can. Freshers week creates so many memories, and I still remember my freshers week – we had such a great laugh, all the girls on my floor together.

If you are a Christian – check out your CU on campus. Most CUs will put on events in Freshers week, and even if you never really get involved for the rest of the year, it’s worth getting to know some of the other Christians on campus. Most of the ‘older’ Christian students will organise church walks so that you don’t get lost trying to find churches on a Sunday morning/evening, and it’s nice to go in a group.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice. Find a church home. Sometimes we used to get quite competitive in the CU about how many freshers we got to go to OUR church. But seriously guys, find the one where you think you can be involved and grow in your faith. Get stuck in…introduce yourself, find out more about the church, what their vision is and whether it’s one you feel called to be a part of. If you find one, stay there – don’t spend the whole term church shopping. Trust me, in the second semester (after Christmas) you want to be settled.

Get involved in university too. Join a society – it’s a great time to try new things whether it be musical theatre, underwater hockey, canoeing, football or gardening!

Make sure you have a good stock of lemsip and vaporub. If you don’t catch the fresher’s flu at some point in your first term, it’ll be a miracle (and I want to know your secret).

A toastie maker is your friend. Cheese and baked bean toasties rock at 2 a.m.

Take flip flops for the communal showers (unless you’re going to posh accommodation with an en-suite…)

Try to go to at least 50% of your lectures (and if you miss them, make sure you catch up!). Don’t miss tutorials.

If you find you are hating what you study after 1 year, don’t feel like a failure. That’s fine. It wasn’t for you, and now you know. You gave it a go and it’s not the end of the world. Several of my friends changed degree after their first year. I changed 7 weeks into my 3rd year. Find what you do like, go for it and stick at it! No matter what degree you do, there’ll be boring courses you have to take. I loved my Health Sciences degree, but the compulsory study of Statistics that was part of it did make me cry (more than once).

Take advantage of the student discounts (always ask wherever you go!)

Don’t get a credit card. Try your best to avoid going into student overdrafts if you can.

Put your student loan or bursary into a high interest savings account.

Avoid drugs like the plague, if you’re going to drink alcohol do it sensibly (and never on an empty stomach), and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel out of your depth.

Feel free to experiment with fashion. It’ll make for great photos to show your grandchildren in later life if nothing else. 😉

But most importantly…enjoy it. It doesn’t come again and university is an amazing opportunity not many people in the world get. It will shape you and give you a foundation for the rest of your life as you take on more adult responsibility.

And I hope you’ll gain so many friends you have for life…

Safe travels & happy studying!

love from,

Brunette Koala 

DipHE BScHlthSci (Hons) (<–the only time I’ll ever use those letters it took me 5 years to earn!) (Update: Lets make that Brunette Koala DipHE BScHlthSci (Hons) PgDip)

PS  If you’re a university graduate, what advice would you give to freshers and current students?

Comments left by readers on the original post:

ScottI graduated with a DipHE so my advice might be limited but I’d add.

Treat it like a job with a flexible boss, do a uni 9-5. That way you’ll keep on top of things and not find yourself saying you have to study when an otherwise unmissable opportunity comes up.

Register with a GP. You may never go but if you do have to go at least you’ll not have to fill out crummy forms when you are ill.

Don’t leave laundry in the machine, be ready for the cycle ending or a fellow student will pile it on the floor for you.

And to expand on the wrong course point, if you are on the wrong course it is also okay to leave uni and figure out what to do, check out exit awards first.

TaraFor those who are Christians – when it comes time to leave halls and start choosing flat mates (third term of 1st year), try not to live with all Christians. You’ll never have a better opportunity to talk to your peers about your faith and those opportunities will not come more naturally than with those you live with. On the flip side, don’t be the only Christian in your flat – because that is tough too.
That’s the advice from my experience. From others – put your faith and morals out there early. Not in people’s faces, but don’t hide who you are. If you don’t drink and are joining the hockey team whose initiation involves copious amounts of alcohol,don’t cave. Tell them you don’t drink but that you want to play for them and will take some other initiation ceremony instead. Those moments are terrifying – but once people know who you are up front, they accept you and it ceases to be an issue. And it ultimately gains you much respect and many opportunities.

GavinThis seems quite appropriate…

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?n=1367

My fictional female role models…

As a young girl, it was tough to find role models. When I became a Christian, I discovered that there were a whole new bunch of expectations on young women that I didn’t feel I would ever live up to. When you are younger, if we can’t see what we want in our immediate life – we often look to the arts for inspiration. Books, TV and film often give us ideas and possibilities of what other options of being are out there. And too often as girls we were shown examples of needing to find a guy to come save us and love us to be complete. Thankfully it wasn’t always the case, and I wanted to share some of the fictional female characters that have given me hope throughout my childhood, teen and young adult years…

Abby Sciuto – Abby, the ‘happiest goth you’ll ever meet’ who is a forensic scientist at NCIS. Always compassionate, loves hugging Bert the Hippo, goes bowling with nuns, builds houses for charity and is every bit as capable with IT as Timothy ‘I went to M.I.T.’ McGee. Which is probably why he admires her so much. I love that none of the more conservative characters like Jenny Shepherd or Leon Vance ever try to make Abby dress differently. They accept her for who she is, because they respect her, her work ethic and her talents.

Professor McGonagall – A single woman, a fair if stern teacher. But one that clearly has her pupils’ backs. She never disciplines simply to exert her power and authority. She supports her fellow women. She doesn’t back down from a fight, and she is fiercely loyal to Dumbledore and to Harry. I always loved those little snippets you got of her mischievous side, as she mumbles to Peeves how to unscrew light fittings and in the film that moment of “I always wanted to use that spell!”

Sally Fletcher – The adopted kid of Tom and Pippa, the girl who had the kind heart and got teased for her imaginary friend ‘Milco’. The one who got bullied, was good at school and worked hard at school. No surprises then that she ended up becoming a foster Mum and a teacher…always giving the underdog kids who had had a rough start in life a second chance. Sally was always just that few years ahead of me on TV as I grew up through primary and secondary school watching Home and Away and as the swot of the class, she made me feel a little less alone. (And yes, I did bawl my eyes out when she left Summer Bay).

Miranda Bailey – I know, I know… I’m supposed to love McDreamy, or Meredith. But Bailey was always my favourite character in Grey’s Anatomy. I loved that she was short.  I loved that she wasn’t sleeping around (like all the other surgeons were). I loved that she refused to get a full wax when after her divorce she is trying to find love again (oh, and as a Health Promotion grad was very proud at her responsible attitude to STD protection!). I loved that she was an African-American woman in old white men’s club. Yet she is exactly where she should be as a competent, highly skilled, hard working surgeon. Oh, and did I mention that she is a Star Wars fan?

The Babysitter’s Club – It’s tough to pick one girl out of this group, because they all had their moments. Jessi Ramsey was the ballet dancer of the group but she was much better than I ever was! Dawn was the only one who never seemed to feel like she had to be someone else to impress a guy and I appreciated that about her. I think I most identified with Mallory Pike. Mallory was the big sister, the one that wore glasses, wanted straight hair, had braces, wanted her ears pierced, wanted to be a writer and really sucked at and did everything she could to avoid  PE. I don’t think I was quite so insecure about my looks as Mallory was, but I could empathise with her struggle. Each of these girls had something to offer and their own strengths and weaknesses. It was also refreshing to see that they came from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds and their families all looked different.

Haley James – I used to get One Tree Hill shipped on DVD from the USA (because I couldn’t afford a TV license and it took sooo long to come out on DVD here in the UK and it worked out cheaper usually anyway) and my friend and I watched it weekly at my flat when we were students. The girl who took a while longer to have close friends that were girls, the one who worked part-time, who liked to teach, who loved to sing. I loved that Haley was willing to wait for the right guy, and that even though she was the sensible one she still got pregnant in high school. I also liked that she wore her ponchos and hats that she got teased for, and that she never bailed on a friend. She never tried to dumb herself down and even when she was afraid of failing and pursuing her dreams she found the courage to go out there and try eventually.

Rory Gilmore and Lane Kim – I love Rory and Lane. I kinda loved last year when me and one of my friends (who is a fellow Gilmore Girls fan – several of my friends have borrowed my DVDs) took one of those BuzzFeed quizzes that I came out as Rory and she came out as Lane. That seemed just totally perfect to us. Rory and Lane are equally awesome in my book. Again, two ladies who didn’t act stupid to get boys to like them. Two ladies who knew what they wanted and worked to achieve their dream. Yes, Rory gets a little derailed, but she gets back on track eventually. I’m kind of glad that they showed that part because so many of us have to make mistakes to learn from them. I’d love Lane’s record collection and Rory’s book collection. Oh, and they were Brownies as revealed  by Lane’s note to Rory in 1995.

Lucy Pevensie – I was so mad when my cousin named her daughter Lucy as that was what I’d always wanted as a name for a daughter. Lucy Pevensie is probably the reason why. She’s not the oldest or the obvious leader. But yet she’s the one who finds Narnia, the one who always sees Aslan before the others, and is the one who reawakens the trees. There’s also a glimpse you see of Queen Lucy in the Horse and His Boy where you find that although her sister is off finding suitors, Lucy is not. She is willing to battle with the boys and is a proven warrior.

Precious Ramotswe – Mma Ramotswe is probably my favourite character written by Alexander McCall Smith. I love that her wisdom, her kindness and that she doesn’t feel the need for a husband. When she realises that Mr J.L.B. Matekoni is worth teaming up with, she says yes to his proposal. But I love that they are equals in their marriage. And he is a great guy who supports her in her business, and continually fixes the little van because he knows how much it means to Mma Ramotswe. And if you’ve never picked up the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books, um…well…you are going to be lost in many conversations I have with you.

Mulan – because finally we got a Disney Princess who didn’t either a) spend the whole film searching for a husband or waiting for him to save her (yes Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Anna, Ariel…I’m looking at you) or marry a guy that was a bit sketchy (Belle, Pocahontas…). And she basically saves the army, and then saves them again along with all of China. She could have decided to stay, work for the Emperor and possibly be near Li Shang. She chooses to go home. And doesn’t show any romantic interest in Shang until he respects her as a woman. Go Mulan. Until you, the only strong females in Disney were all animals (Duchess in The Aristocats, Nala in The Lion King).

I’m sure there are more that I’ve forgotten, but did you have fictional characters that inspired you, encouraged you or gave you hope growing up?

BK’s YouTube Picks: My Lighthouse

When we did Surf Camp this year, one of the songs we did almost every night was a song by Rend Collective called My Lighthouse. I often played it on my ukulele and it’s probably the only worship song that has been played over and over on my iPod this year. A year in which I’ve had to wonder if I even want to call myself a Christian.

The last 24 hours have been pretty awful, and I feel a sense of deja vu. The year is ending the way it began – with the deaths of friends’ parents, with tragedy, confusion and just general crappiness of crappy things happening to good people. I woke up at 3.30 a.m. on Boxing Day feeling hideous and ended up getting out my tablet and logging onto a bible app that for the last year I’ve not been able to access because I’d forgotten my login details. I suddenly was able to login, and felt a strong need to pray for friends…I had no idea who or why.

Our country has been filled with floods. Our country is spending money we apparently don’t have wrecking another country. Right now my friend’s Mum is missing and no one knows why.

Tonight, for the first time in a long time I’ve been able to find encouragement from worship songs again. One of them being this one.

“Your great love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea

-‘My Lighthouse’ by Rend Collective