Saturday, 22 November 2014

Hope Beckons?

Since opening my eyes to a colourless, cold Saturday morning, I've been in a good mood. Wait, let me redefine that. The best mood that I've been in for an extremely long time. Instead of searching my face for signs of purple-ish bags and a cluster of ganglike spots, a picture of a brighter, more optimistic girl reflects in the mirror, which is in no way influenced by a pick-me-up glass of Coca Cola. 

Compared to the anger that rushed through me at the beginning of this week, I've since undergone a major transformation: the anger has gradually ebbed into a hush which I'm now able to put and lock away in a box, while a sense of relief seeps in, bringing waves of peace and tranquillity in its wake. Though it is not yet clear whether the red-hot anger will ever make a return in the near future, I'm nonetheless feeling better without its glaring presence; at long last, I feel as though I'm making a safe landing to Planet Earth, minus the wincing bump. The stress that I once feared would never disappear is slowly leaving me, replacing it with a calmer approach to life - the very last thing that I was thinking about less than a week ago.

Day by day, a light is becoming clearer, as the dark in which I've recently found myself is gradually becoming an indistinguishable blur. Reflecting on the events of the past week, I cannot contain the happiness that threatens to override me - and, in respect of the truth, I don't want to keep it inside for much longer. 

For months, the only way that I've dealt with my emotions is talking about them, then sticking them inside a bottle before sealing with an airtight lid. Though putting a bottle of water aside is as simple as it sounds, that bottle has been on the verge of exploding into a spectacular mess from the moment that I tried to contain it: doing so was asking for more trouble than it was worth. Whether I wanted to have some temporary peace or bury my head in the sand for as long as possible, doing either or both of these things took its toll on me. 

Like a handcuffed criminal, I couldn't escape and flee from my troubles. My eyes was focusing right on what was bothering me, unable to look at anything else. In fact, I haven't been able to look at or think about much else besides stress for a very long time - more than anybody deserves to endure. Months pass at a snail-like pace that provoke me to wonder whether time is really slowing down, or I'm the only one who believes so. Once you ask yourself that question, you have to absorb the truth, instead of hiding it and dealing with it one day in the future - what matters is how you react in the moment. 

After hitting a particular low point at the beginning of this week, there came a moment when I realized that happiness - the ultimate goal - could only be achieved if I made the efforts to obtain it. Frowning, sighing and having an elegant sulk about the matter wouldn't resolve the problem: only hope and a bit of time would keep my spirits alive. 

At the pace of a hundred year old tortoise, I began to develop a bit more optimism which, once I returned to face my cold-hearted menace on Wednesday, came about more easily. I lost myself in piles of work and half-interesting lectures, providing me an ideal distraction from the problem at hand - I rarely had a spare moment to think about myself, let alone the stress that I'd be under a few days before. And, without particularly considering it, my bubbliness - of no champagne kind - was reboosted, feeling as fresh and alert as a just-charged mobile.

However, happiness isn't necessarily created by time - something better happened. Though I'm reluctant to go into details (albeit I wouldn't put it pass the likes of TMZ and E! to have already discovered the truth) until I feel the time is right, I was on Cloud Nine yesterday, having given my confidence - and hope - the greatest boot that I could have hoped for. If all goes to plan, I'll be celebrating Christmas much earlier than usual: I would have received my main present! Still, all is not yet confirmed until early next week, so I'm not exactly in a position where I can get all my hopes up... yet it appears that luck is reflecting more in my favour, so I hope. 

Despite enduring the worst ever start this week, I've emerged as a stronger, feistier and more hopeful person towards the end of it. I've discovered a confidence that, until a few days ago, had scarcely been explored and used to my advantage - proving that I am not a person to be messed with, regardless of their so-called 'superior' position! Regaining hope has been the icing on the cake, yet I might get my hands on a glace cherry if my dreams are answered - and confirmed next week. 

All in all, does hope beckon for me? Judging by the light that I can see, I believe so. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Return of The Menace

Fast, sharp and cool. The rate at which it arrived was too much to process, let alone embrace, when I became aware of its impending arrival, whilst its sharpness - throwing my alerted senses into jeopardy - was much more a bit astonishing and the temperature that chilled me to the bone was unlike what I'd ever felt before. Needless to say, my emotions have been tossed into the air more than a batch of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday - finding my footing on Planet Earth is a main priority at the moment.

After all, are we not unlike our usual selves when we begrudgingly face a return to the menace, which twists our typical adolescent scowls into a glare that would chill the most heartless? For some of us, we turn into the sulkiest brats whenever forced to return to the weekend chores that we spend all week not thinking about, then cannot stop going over as soon as Saturday morning comes. When found in such situations, it amazes me how we swap from our typical happy attitudes to a persona that not even a drama queen would recognize - or we sink into a misery so deep that only we can save ourselves from drowning in such a glorious mess.

Although they mostly hover in the background, the menace's existence is difficult to forget about entirely, which justifies why we detest it with a capital D. However, I face a menace that must be confronted five days a week: school.

A monster for whom countless teenagers reserve a great hatred, school does not always treat you like a reliable friend, sometimes betraying your trust or causing an all-mighty blow to your confidence. If you're having a bad day, very little can prevent you from living through your sadness in five hour-long classes, juggling both the presence of classmates and schoolwork at the same time.

Yet the occasional bad day that everyone experiences from time to time is exactly what defines my time at school: it's the norm. As disappointing as it sounds, I've lost count over the many days that I've returned home feeling a thousand times worse than when I left seven hours before. Part of you chips away after the final bell of the day rings, signalling an end to an exhausting day complete with hassle. Though such experiences may help you develop a tougher and more over-cooked skin (as discovered when tucking into dry-as-a-desert meat in the canteen), a steelier persona doesn't ease the hardship that you have unwillingly endured. Whatever has happened and wherever you may, nothing can distract you from the hard-hitting truth that the menace is still present and as bothersome as ever.

With mixed feelings, a decision was made to stay off school on Monday and Tuesday this week due to numerous issues at my school, with an intention to bring about some form of action from the authorities involved. As all sleep-deprived teenagers would feel, I was elated about the prospect of having a decent lie-in until 9.30am (à la the much-looked forward to weekends) and not being obliged to remain glued to my seat in Form for fifteen minutes, which I've always perceived as a waste of precious learning time (that, if it did not exist, would enable the pupils to finish school early!).

Fifteen minutes after I got out of bed, my elation steadily died down into a blank emptiness, which was then replaced with an ache. Despite the overwhelming possibility that more trouble could occur, I wanted to be at school, entertained by the lessons and even smirking in spite of myself when the class jokester unveiled his inner Dalai Lama. Even though I sort of knew what would be covered in my lessons, working from home - which, what with few distractions, no rowdy pupils or ice-cold/boiling hot classrooms, was the ideal learning environment - wasn't entirely the same because I didn't have the actual work on hand. Plus, it didn't take long until panic entered the equation over whether I would be left behind or if I was doing enough work. As distracting as my school is, I have developed an ability to somewhat drown out my surroundings and focus on the work: without my books or lesson plans, how could I lose myself in thoughts regarding the reason for which I was staying at home?

Bearing these fears in mind, I came to a conclusion on Tuesday evening that, instead of waiting another day to see whether things would improve in my absence, I would witness them with my own eyes by returning to school. Though plenty of encouragement from my parents was required to influence my decision, my eagerness to return to lessons was far too great to ignore: another lie-in may have been lost because of it, but I would have missed on much more had I stayed at home for one more day.

As I prepare to attend the mother of all days - the 'chip-tastic' Fridays - I may be settling back in an undisrupted routine, though that comfort is somewhat ill at ease. The menace might be the very last thing that I would consider thinking about whilst solving an Algebraic equation, but it immediately returns to the furore of my mind once the final question has been completed and the moment has come to go home. Like a stalker, I'm followed to the front door by the menace, whose invisible disguise may not been seen by the naked eye, yet can always be sensed. The front door is locked, but the menace has gained entry in what I call my safe haven, the one place where I always feel secure - how can I fall into the arms of safety if plagued by such a cruel demon? The menace terrorizes me whatever time of the day, wherever I am and however I'm spending my time: not even two days off at the week makes a significant difference.

Like I learnt long ago, standing tall behind a shield is the only way that I protect myself from the menace; otherwise, I would never enjoy a moment of pure, unadulterated happiness. Keeping strong is easier said than done, but it provides a strength - both of the physical and psychological kind - that blocks you from being driven insane from a highly negative force of energy. Finding and eventually creating your shield takes time yet, once you hold it in front of you, you only realize that it is worth the wait. To this day, I sometimes lose my guard - along with the grip on my shield - but it is a thing that becomes easier to hold onto as time passes.

The menace may be ultra-fast, as sharp as a needle and cold like a heart of steel but, whatever happens, I know better than to let it get to me. A menace can only possess a power so great - as if I will allow it to gain even more!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Coping When You Reach Breaking Point

Breaking point. What is the definition of the term? When you break something, that object either smashes into a million and one smithereens (e.g. an iPhone that your butterfingers 'accidently' drop onto tiled floor) and is, to an extent, irreparable. As for the 'point', it is a stage that you reach after leaping over many obstacles before that, um, point. Therefore, you'll in for quite a rollercoaster when 'breaking' and 'point' are combined - a ride that nobody wishes to hop onto. 

If you fancied reading a Google-approved definition of the term, breaking point is defined as 'the moment of greatest strain at which someone or something gives way. A terrible climax from which its victim suffers, breaking point harms you more than words can begin to describe: everything that you see and feel is as empty as a black hole. Coated in more darkness than a tacky coat of nail varnish, you are pushed to the absolute brink by toxic levels of frustration that are constantly injected - and carry a highly fatal risk. 

Each time that you reach breaking point is a further blow to your confidence, self-esteem and hope in society and, most important of all, yourself. Therefore, does it honestly shock you to the core that coping is the least of your priorities?

Well, I'm certainly no exception, that's for sure.

Since I hit an almighty low - or high, depending on how you perceive it - last week, I've been staying at home instead of leaping into pools of schoolwork head-first. Needless to say, bullying was the cause of my decision to stay away from the troublemakers, along with the sad truth that the school itself was failing to sort the issues out - months after they originally came into prominence. 

After nearly six months of daily intimidation, verbal abuse and, at times, physical attacks, I decided that it was time to take a stand against the authorities who were incapable of disciplining the bullies, despite the cost that it could potentially have on my studies. With the support of my parents, I've remained off from school for two days, yet am nowhere nearer towards reaching a conclusion - thus, breaking point remains a major and frankly worrying issue. 

Although I feel safer and more secure than ever at home, it frustrates me that several of my workbooks are still at the school and, instead of complying with my request, the school hasn't bothered to supply me with any work to complete at home. Considering that I haven't made anybody else's life an absolute living hell, why should I pay the price by falling behind while my tormentors gain an education at school? In between studying, my blood boils with so much anger that I'm running out of ways to contain it: unlike the foul habits of several of my peers, uttering as many F-bombs as the fruity ones that Lush make do not relieve me of any stress. In fact, I'm becoming more stressed out as each day passes because my faith in the school is decreasing to such an extent that I cannot entrust my safety in their hands - and, if things carry on as they currently are, will I ever muster the courage to walk through its doors again?

Undoubtedly, I'm certain that many of you will be scratching your heads as to why I'm refusing to return to school, despite the effect that has already impacted me. As a self-confessed lover of learning (in teen speak, geek might be the literal translation), I feel like I'm being starved of oxygen due to not having the required work and books - as bad as the teaching was, learning was the only thing that I woke up to achieve each morning. Even Google is depressingly letting me down with few suggestions when I type in the exam specifications: if the world's most famous search engine cannot help me, who can? My punishment is continuing, though I'm miles away from the school itself - and I have absolutely no doubt that the bullies themselves have received the dressing down that they should have had months ago. 

All of this drama - non-stop phone calls to the school, emails to the teachers, the long waiting period in between responses - could have been avoided. So easily that none of this could have ever resulted in such a terrible, sticky mess. Instead of getting my hands stuck in another piece of HBO-worthy drama, I want to wash my hands clean of every impurity that has blemished my confidence in the past five-and-a-half months of bullying. My hours in bed may have increased due to not getting up early for school since yesterday, yet I am affected by fatigue more than ever. I can't sleep. I'm losing my appetite for food. I have no interest in working. Basically, I'm not myself. If you ever wanted to witness the zombified version of LikeATeen, you are staring at her - grey-bagged eyes and blank-as-a-sheet-of-white-paper stare into the back of beyond. 

Like an empty can of Diet Coke, I am so deprived of my inner contents - all that makes me a typically happy teenager - that I cannot think about anything apart from what is going on at the moment. Whenever I'm at home, my mum usually has to encourage me to take a break from studying: this time, however, it is evident that I'm hardly in the mood for it. Finishing a unit off in my Biology book might seem excessive to some of you, but it is as basic as writing my name down, so I feel. My identity is defined by events that were robbed of my control: a snitch, a weakling and a loser are among the names that I sense are associated with me because of bullying. As all great people do, I aim to rise above it, yet there is only so much that you can take before breaking point consumes and destroys you. 

Therefore, I'm in need of developing suitable strategies that will enable me to cope during this difficult time - but how? I don't know what to do or think while my mind is positioned elsewhere, making itself a perfect target for another strike. Coping is essential if I wish to keep myself sane from now until whenever this chapter draws to a close - or should at least eventually do so - but I have to learn how to calm myself down when my anger threatens to explode. 

Albeit short-lived, watching half an episode of Sherlock last night (which was cut short due to wanting to see Gemma Collins embarrass herself on I'm a Celebrity...) took the edge off current matters for a while, an opportunity which I immediately seized. I enjoyed seeing Benedict Cumberbatch on screen more than his greatest 'Cumberbitch' (extremely obsessed fan, between you and I), though for reasons completely unrelated to a doomed love affair. Temporary distractions such as television may not address the issue at hand, but I welcome them gladly - any distraction would make do while reality is being such a miserable bother. 

And, perhaps to my inner sloucher's annoyment, carrying on as normally as possible - which applies to any Maths-related work - is highly important. I've survived as best as I can with my books, knowledge and the internet, in the hope of keeping up-to-date with my studies. Everything else might be up in the air, yet at least I can find some solace in analyzing a paragraph about the inner-working of plants or translating a page of French. Yet again, distractions are my heroes in disguise: without considering it, they have rescued me on numerous occasions. Hence the reason why I somehow managed to survive months of bullying at school - apart from break and lunch, work was on offer. 

Anyway, I hope to emerge from the other side as soon as possible, having gained more than what I had when this drama originally commenced. Breaking point should hopefully never be reached in the near future again, yet this experience ought to define me as a stronger being. Their hints of a six pack may suggest otherwise, yet the pupils at school possess a fraction of the strength that they regularly boast about. Appearance or words don't mean anything - only the truth does. Along with the fact that bullying is unacceptable and its death should be declared sooner than ever. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Change in the Atmosphere

Throughout this week, the sky has reflected exactly how I've felt. Sunshine for the tiny spark of hope rising within me; colourless clouds representing the drained feeling that I've gotten used to; and heavy, seemingly endless rainfall which express the sadness of a thousand tears pouring down my face. Although it might seem to be a so-called coincidence, I perceive it as something much bigger than that: whenever I look up at the clouds caging me in my village, I needn't consider what my mood is. Even today's heavy fog accurately describes the emotionless, exhausted feelings that I refer to as my own. 

Besides, I sense a slight hint of something major hanging in the atmosphere which is in no way related to the weather or, indeed, my feelings: an important moment will soon be upon me. For ages, part of me realized that it would be approaching in the near future - because there was little chance that it would not arise - yet recent events have pushed its due date forward, influencing the atmosphere more than ever. 

For too long, I've spoken about a change needing to occur in my life. Fuelled by heartbreak and devastation from a source that I once welcomed as a fresh change, a moment dedicated to making a decision - that, regardless of its outcome, will have an impact - is no longer in distant shores. In fact, it has nearly reached the shore: days, weeks and months of waiting its arrival will eventually be over, which then transitions into a new phase. A phase of which will determine the course of my future - perhaps heralded as the most difficult decision that I will have ever faced. 

Decisions are never easy to make. Even the simplest ones can cause plenty of bother if you are not equipped with the tools to make them. However, the thought of making such a life-changing one can cripple you before you even get started. At the moment, I'm fighting fear in favour of reaching the courage which will keep my nerves at ease, yet I'm running out of strength; too much of it has been wasted on the subject of this decision. But a change needs to happen, unless I want to repeat another endless cycle of misery. You can guess which one I'll go for. 

And the cause of this agony? My school. Yes, that hellish prison to which I'm bound to attend five days a week has agonized me to the extent that I can no longer endure another second in a so-called 'educational' environment. After one too many incidents, a decision has to be made this weekend - will I return on Monday or was yesterday my final day there?

Having endured five months of ceaseless aggravation, bullying and plentiful quantities of maliciousness, I've had enough. Unlike many times before, I truly mean it. My whole family are more exhausted than I can begin to imagine because of what both my brother and I have faced at the school, a word which now sends shivers down my spine. 

Everybody and everything - apart from my grades - has suffered as result of attending that spiteful place over the course of less than six months. I'm lonely. I'm sad. And, perhaps the most significant of all, I feel cheated. When being guided on a tour around the school in May, the Deputy Head assured my family that not only would I receive a great education, but I would be in safe hands. After being pelted with inappropriate words in and out of school from fellow pupils and intimidated on various occasions, my safety hasn't exactly been a main priority. Plus, I can count the number of decent teachers on one hand - the rest either allow their class to run riot or they repeatedly disappear for no apparent reason (as if the pupils would be the first to find out why). 

As I'm recommencing work on my GCSEs, I cannot stick it out for another few months to see whether things will improve. The damage has already been done. A meeting with the Deputy Head on Wednesday didn't address the issues that we had with one particular pupil - who has not been disciplined for his actions - who then upped his hate campaign against us. Even a Head of House has declared that this situation is beyond him - where else can we turn? 

In the meantime, both my family and I are torn about what to do next. For reasons which I neither wish nor can explain, more trouble happened in the days following the meeting earlier this week. As a result, it would be too dangerous if I went to school on Monday - after what has happened, I would definitely not put it past this bully if he decided to resort to physical tactics, instead of the vicious verbal ones that he has used for months. 

However, I don't have the strength to ever go back to that school. For one thing, all this fear and worry has taken its toll on me, and I really don't want to push myself further - that should only apply to my studying ethic which, as I focus my attention elsewhere, is being pushed to the bottom of the pile of priorities. And, unsurprisingly, I have no desire of returning to school until I transfer to another one - why would I want to add more unpleasant moments as I'm struggling to forget the previous ones? At home, not only am I safe, nothing - from the presence of bullies, disruptive pupils or constant worries - distracts me from studying. As long as the work is supplied, I don't care where I study - my only request is that I'm not doing it at that hellhole. 

A risk that I constantly take is the possibility of losing my love for learning because I'm trapped in such a negative environment. When I wave goodbye to my mum as I set off to the bus stop each morning, I have no idea what will be spilling out of my lips when I return seven hours later. Will I have travelled through hell or, if luck allows it, had a relatively rare 'okay' day? Uncertainty is horrendous at the worst of times, yet even more hellish when it grips you on a daily basis. Two days off at the end of the week doesn't allow me enough time to recharge my batteries and mentally prepare myself for school. Even talking about it now, one foot still remains in the grounds, classrooms and bus; it is no way to live. 

Right now, I really have no idea which way to turn. I'm at crossroads - I either turn one way or the other. Such a crippling weight is being carried on my shoulders that I have to relieve myself from it soon. What should I do? Return to school next week, acting as though everything is normal? Literally from my first day, anything relating to school has not been normal. I'm hardly a Soap Awards-winning actress at the best of times, so why plaster a Hollywood smile on my face? If I do leave, I will be faced with an agonizing wait until I find out whether any schools have any places. Even then, would I have to stay at my current school if other ones in the local area were in no position to offer my brother and I two precious places? I wish that I could look into a crystal ball and discover the wisest path to follow because I can't pick one, yet this might be a case where I can only rely on my gut instinct. If only I had more faith - and experience - in following its lead. 

By the end of the weekend, I really hope that I will have made my mind up and, if anything, my future is looking a bit clearer than it currently does. Trying to see beyond mist and fog is never the easiest of all tasks, let alone the outcome of your near future. As much as I need clarity, insight and wisdom would be greatly appreciated; changes are not exactly the easiest things to get your head around, yet reassurance eases the shock that has the power to transform your world into a holy shambles. 
At least one definite change in the atmosphere will be a perspective on these matters - and hopefully the reignition of hope, providing me a solid foundation for achieving my dreams. Hopefully, my nightmare at that dreadful place is nearing an end - the beginning has only just started.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Why Bullying Is a Demon

Bullying, bullying, bullying. Could there be a word which angers me more the one beginning with the letter 'B'? Afraid not, if you have ever encountered bullying - either on the receiving or witnessing end. Without delving into a heavily explored rant, bullying is horrible, horrendous and absolute hell for anybody who becomes a victim of it. As a current victim myself, I completely identify with those whose lives have been tormented by physical and verbal abuse: tragically, it seems that I've joined the saddest club to which you could ever gain admittance and is a place that I'm eager to lose my ties with as soon as possible.

Nobody likes to feel weak. Weakness is often regarded as a negative - why seek pleasure in experiencing those feelings when it offers absolutely no benefits to you? We take pride in being heralded as strong, seemingly bulletproof creatures: in some ways, living up to the 'ideal' image that we create ourselves or are influenced to believe by society. Standing up for yourself is a skill that showcases our strength at its very best and couldn't be further placed apart from the nervous, uncomfortable feelings that a 'weakling' would supposedly feel. Obviously, everybody aims to be as solid as steel. That's simply a fact of life. Yet does it actually immunize ourselves from the intimidating clutches of bullying? Not necessarily.

Ever since I started at my new school over five months ago, my life has been an absolute misery. A living hell. A nightmare in which I've been trapped since awakening on the first day of June and preparing for my very first day at secondary school - and have yet to wake up from. Usually my guards in armour, words cease to provide me strength when I describe the range of emotions I've felt over a five month period: lonely, depressed, angry. And, perhaps now the most significant of all, tired. Though my early starts in the morning obviously don't benefit my sleeping hours at all, the main cause of my frequent exhaustion relates to the bullying that I've been subjected to. Experiencing it, thinking about it and telling my family or whoever about it is more draining than one could begin to imagine. Like a bathtub being drained of its bubbly contents, I'm losing drops of energy as each second at school passes: by the time I get home, I would gladly lie on my bed and not dare to move a finger, let alone get up.

School shouldn't be like this. Nothing, from personal experience to discussions posted on the internet, could have prepared me for five months of constant aggravation. Absolutely nothing. If I did have a slight insight into what laid ahead of me, I would never have walked down this path that, since these incidents began to occur, I beat myself up for choosing. At times, my veins are pulsing with blood red anger, whereas I only need a small win on the Lottery to buy warehouse loads of Kleenex and release the sobs that rarely rise over the barriers. My emotions are often all over the place, and it tires me to keep them in check when I'm dangerously close to reaching breaking point. Is it fair? No. Should anybody be forced to endure torture in a place of learning? Never. But why is it happening?

In life, there will be many questions that I'll encounter, but will struggle to answer. From the potential existence of aliens to an Algebraic equation, I will certainly never be short of questions that will give my brain a greater workout than an episode of Countdown does. However, I've resigned myself to the fact that I will never uncover the actual truth about why I'm being bullied, despite creating several theories that may very well hit the nail on the head. When you face up to the prospect of sitting in the same classroom with your tormentors after waking up in the morning, you are so sick with nerves that you cannot think about anything else: reasons are easily forgotten because only the offensive actions made towards you matter. Still, we can second-guess that the cause of the bullying might be linked to our appearance, ethnicity, sexuality or background - or, in many cases, nothing at all.

Personally, I believe that my age (due to going back a year), previous status as home-schooled, appearance (not a single mini skirt or ballet pump in sight) and even my strong, refined accent could be taken advantage of by my tormentors. Compared to the majority of pupils, I stand out of the crowd: I've never made any effort to alter my behaviour, style and certainly the way I speak for the sake of 'fitting in'. I'm different, but my individuality shouldn't pose any problems. Unlike the offensive jokes that some pupils make, I'm neither harming nor offending anybody - why make a big deal over what I perceive as nothing? Sadly, I will never understand what goes on in some kids' minds and what provokes them to begin a hateful campaign against me; I guess that is a matter which mystery-hungry Sherlock Holmes will have the honour of figuring out.

Due to the upsetting nature of the incidents, I really have no desire to do an Oprah and reveal every single bit of the bullying I've endured - such things can be reserved for the publicity-loving stars whose sole purpose is to promote their half-funny rom-coms. However, I've been on the receiving end of shoving, offensive words and interrogation from pupils who absorb every fact about me like a soaked sponge: they are constantly hungry for new gossip. So, if I'm having an occasionally quiet day, what do these people do? Trapped in the land of boredom, they dig a way out by creating some drama... all of which is linked to me.

Conversations are resurrected with excitement if pupils have something juicy to talk about - especially if that subject is sitting several rows ahead of them in the classroom. Having developed a knack for hearing from far distances (due to my secret habit of eavesdropping as a youngster), I struggle greatly to ignore chatter about me. Only work distracts me from all of these problems, yet I'm plunged into a sea of deep misery once the bell rings for break and lunchtime - when the bullies can strike me more viciously than allowed during class.

Although my friend and I regularly hang out, most of her classes are different to mine, so we don't easily find one another at break or lunch, which means that I'm sometimes alone. When I was home-schooled, I always enjoyed having some 'alone' time because I could get on with some work and eat my lunch in peace. At school, however, these are definitely not times to be avoided: as soon as I've eaten my snack, I'm desperate to attend my next lesson because I cannot stand another second wandering in the corridors or fearing that a tormentor will find me.

For fifteen minutes in the morning and nearly an hour in the afternoon, fear grips me. If my friend is with me, my nerves are somewhat eased, yet I'm on permanent lookout when I'm by myself - after everything that has happened, I cannot afford to land myself in another incident which provides some juicy gossip that the entire school talks about for a week. And, as personal experience has taught me, telling the authorities can make the situation worse - although I would never dream of keeping these matters to myself. If somebody cannot get a grip on their bitchy behaviour, it is only right that somebody gives them a dressing down!

Demonic, devilish and downright distressing, bullying is a monster that I'm fighting to tame. As difficult as the process is, I'm trying my hardest to block out the bad stuff and work to the best of my ability; failing to do so would allow the bullies to believe that they have won. As if I'm willing to give them a hint of satisfaction!

One day, I hope to read this entry and look at my experiences with a different, wiser perspective. Obviously, bullying isn't just limited to children - adults can suffer from it more horrifically, yet experiencing it at school is equally horrible. I seek to emerge from this dark tunnel as a stronger person - despite occasionally falling prey to weakness and low confidence - who is better equipped at warding off stupid and vicious people. Do they honestly believe that they are the most powerful human beings on this planet or are they delusional? At times, school reminds me of a mental asylum: some people are just crazy. But I'm not - it is pretty fair to say that I'm one of the sanest pupils there.

Success beckons for survivors like myself - unless you gain a degree in the subject, I doubt that many of my bullies will lead charmed lives. During the darkest times, I get a kick out of imagining how great my future will be while they spend it at the job centre, receiving a cheque to feed their nine hundred kids or so. My gain, their loss...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What This Chef Likes

After coming home having just finished another exhausting day at school, I opened the door and stumbled into the house, relieved to be back in my natural surroundings. Instead of greeting one of my four cats or even having a quick bite to eat, I was desperate to relieve myself of a hefty weight that I'd been carrying during my five minute walk home. In one of my hands was a pink Forever 21 which, when opened, revealed a plastic container. Inside of it contained a treat that I absolutely adored and could not bear to wait a second longer to try - fruit soda bread.

Having prepared and baked it at school several hours beforehand, I was itching to delve into one of the capacious kitchen drawers, find a knife nearly as long as the bread itself and cut a few slices, being transported to days gone by of home baking, winter evenings and sunny breakfasts which were defined by buttermilk-enriched bread. Typically made by my mum, soda bread had been left off the breakfast menu - or, indeed when I think about it, the lunch and just-arrived-home-from-frantic-outing-to-the-supermarket cravings - for quite a while, which justified my making it in school today.

Due to selecting Catering - better known as food technology or simply cooking for those unfamiliar with the rather vague term - as one of my GCSE options several months ago, the course requires participating in practicals on a weekly basis, in order to develop my cookery skills in various areas. Since the school year began in September, I've tried my hand at beef curry, chicken stir frys, herb-crusted fish and, of course, the horrendous deep-fried samosas which, to this day, are the only dish that have been photographed (and showered me in shame).

All of this work - getting to grips with different kinds of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and savoury foods - contributes to a coursework assignment that I'll start shortly after Christmas which, when juggling millions of plastic bags whilst racing to the bus stop in the rain, somewhat makes this enormous effort worthwhile.

In such a short space of time, I've gained confidence (and hopefully not weight from testing the finished product) in successfully cooking dishes without poisoning neither myself nor my family which, after cooking a cod-themed dish last week, was eagerly consumed by all my cats! By the time that coursework begins next year, I won't have any worries about getting good grades: seeing my skills soar each week is absolutely reward and, undoubtedly, a perfect confidence booster.

Although I had an opportunity to study other subjects, I was drawn to Catering because of my ambitions to develop cookery skills that would remain with me throughout my entire life: the same certainly could not be said about creating a programme in computer science, could it? Though the course leans further towards the aims of a future caterer, I've nonetheless learnt plenty of skills and facts that will hopefully have not slipped from my memory come results day in less than two years' time; considering that I didn't know how to cook meat (without being gripped with the fear of giving myself food poisoning) several months, producing a beef curry simply shows how far I have come!

Besides, standing in front of a stove or oven makes a decent change from being stuck on a table and uncomfortable chair for hours on end, as is typical in 90% of my other lessons; during such an important time when focus is crucial to achieving exam success, variety could be the key to keeping me partially sane. Some pupils discover their reprieve when running around a field in P.E. (though I seriously wonder why). playing an instrument or sketching a detailed picture: I instantly forget about stress the moment that I walk into a kitchen. Obviously, I experience moments when I feel very little different from a contestant on Masterchef as the teacher roars over loud buzzings of chatter to remind us of the time we have left or I'm racing to save my dish before it turns into a burnt, unappetizing mess. Overall, I've found peace in what you might consider to be such a crowded, chaotic place which, wherever I am, instills a sense of calm within me: the kitchen is my safe haven.

As much as I enjoy every single second that is spent on preparing and cooking dishes, there is absolutely no doubt that I get a kick out of trying the finished product - after all, doesn't food taste a hundred times better when you've made it yourself! Teenagers have a well-known reputation for woofing down food quicker than an Olympic-winning athlete at the best of times, and I'm no exception; waiting until I got home to try my soda bread was agonizing, so I'll gobbled it down literally as soon as it was placed on a plate!

When I cook at home, I tend to lean towards sweeter dishes, such as cakes and biscuits. Yes, the WeightWatchers police would most certainly disapprove of this practice, but I find these recipes rather easy and less time-consuming than an actual meal; easiness and speed is important, is it not? Old favourites include chocolate chip brownies (the ultimate mood-lifter), gingersnap cookies and coffee and walnut cupcakes, yet I often try new recipes - once again, variety keeps the excitement of cooking alive! As long as something - sweet or savoury - has been made, I'm happy. The hit that I get after cooking is what I crave the most, though I wouldn't turn down a (homemade) fairy cake if offered to me!

Whether I'm at school or home, I love cooking in every form and am so pleased that I'll slowly progressing from the status of an amateur to an intermediate cook - at this rate, I'll land myself a job in a restaurant! The pleasure it gives me is priceless, along with the lovely-tasting goodies that it leaves behind. At times, I wonder if I'm luckiest girl in the world... or have just woken up on Christmas Day!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Listening To...

Every day, every hour, every second, I'm surrounded by sound. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, my ears are alert to the presence of sound - both in the form of loudness and near tranquillity. I hear people talking. My breathing. A gust of wind blowing past me. Unless I embark on a nature retreat in the middle of nowhere, noise is constantly present in my life - the only time that I'm immune from it is while I'm asleep.

However, there is a type of noise that is quite different to what you usually hear, and erupts a sense of pleasure when you listen to it, losing yourself in a stream of hypnotic beats. Music is a joyous noise that I constantly crave to hear, wishing to fill my eardrums with the soothing vocals of Sade instead of hearing the irritating stream of chatter whilst weaving my way through enormous crowds. 

I adore music as much as anybody else, and feel at peace while I'm listening to it. Escapism is a term that springs to mind when explaining the joys of listening to music because I literally escape to another place: is it limbo, or a paradise thousands of miles away from Earth? Anyway, I entirely forget about living on this planet when singing along to Get Lucky on my bed on a Sunday evening - what I hear at that moment is all that matters.

Currently, the music that is most meaningful to me are a variety of songs which I can't resist listening to, indulging on them like one would gorge on a box of truffles (e.g. me yesterday night). Long ago, I gave up figuring out why I refer to music during periods of craving peace because, at the end of the day, it always does the trick. Always. Unless deprived of inspiration when surfing playlists on Spotify, music is guaranteed to hit the spot - satisfying a desire to unleash my inner Mariah Carey or rocking out to feisty anthems - whatever I'm feeling. 

As a teenager, my emotions are central to what I choose to do, which music is even affected by. Is it any wonder that millions of young adults cherish their iPods like the Queen's crown jewels? Music ignites happiness within us, a feeling of which we yearn to experience again and again. Some people get high from taking drugs: I get my hit from losing myself in the world of pop, soul and timeless classics. Needless to say, music is very addictive - but I have no intentions of cutting back on it!

Therefore, I won't be easing on my listening to various songs, some of which have been selected as my current favourites today. If I'm bored, happy, down in the dumps or generally in the mood for some catchy tunes, music is my go-to friend. And, however old I am, I just can't get enough!

1. Changing - Sigma feat. Paloma Faith

2. Yellow Flicker Beat - Lorde

3. Rather Be - Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne

4. My Happy Ending - Avril Lavigne

5. Wonderwall - Oasis