- Friday, 4 July 2014 -

Saying 'NO' to Society

Helloooo my lovelies and a happy Friday to you all! So I've been typing away at this post and backspacing it all in equal measure, tentatively wondering if I should continue. And so after much toing and froing I wish to ease my burden and just go with it - today's post is how I became myself. 

I've always been pegged as "different," and I suppose growing up in a close-knit community where even the thought of open-mindedness was shunned, kinda had a knock-on effect on me - I didn't want this, to be another sheep in the herd. I grew up living a solitary yet independent life, where I suppose without any sibling guidance or influence allowed me to form my own ideas and identity. True, I grew up not having the slightest notion what the bloody hell the difference between foundation and concealer was, but at least I GREW, as opposed to being suffocated by society's "norms." 

In my teenage years, I'm unashamed to admit that I went through quite an array of phases and trends. Firstly, let me announce that I stem from the sort of town where being a chav/raver is perceived as standard, so naturally that's where I started off. As soon as I hit 13 I was out at clubs most weekends and even though I always had this niggling notion at the back of my mind that this wasn't me, it sure as hell was everyone else. I already had an ear for the likes of Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy but no, that was "shit music." You were classified as weird if you didn't listen to anything with even the hint of a remix to it. My head was in a forlorn flurry and with that dolefulness came the answer - I embraced my inner emo. I was probably 1 of about 10 actual alternative people in my conformist Catholic all-girls school of over 1,000, and I got hackled for it every single day. I would get verbal abuse on the street for simply expressing myself with my all-black styling, it actually got so bad that a firework was once thrown at my legs on my way home from school. Society was oppressing me, pushing me into the mud and screaming at me to just conform. But I knew it wasn't me.

I first dyed my hair a crazy colour when I was 17, it was Rhianna-red and a gargantuan "fuck you" to the world. I had left my secondary school in order to find solace from a technical college where I could sit my A-levels and experience delicious escapism. Let me fill you readers in on a little factoid here about life in Northern Ireland: people are obsessed with passing their driving tests. So much so that it's our natural birthright to be able to drive and where the second you declare on Facebook that you've accomplished a task that so many million before and after you will achieve, you're rewarded with the highest of praise - and to me, it's all bullshit. Even to this day, at the age of 22 upon arriving home to Northern Ireland, I'm greeted with the following way of conversation: "Hey Claire, so how's Newcastle? You still loving it? You driving yet?" I'll let you in on a little secret that I learnt dear readers: being able to drive does NOT define you as a successful human being, sure it's beneficial in life and I'm not totally dismissing the idea of me ever learning but everyone's different and it's sad that society doesn't seem to think so. 

As I hit my late teens my style and overall identity evolved, instead of fearing the society who persecuted me for my individuality, I pitied them. I had a whole new perspective on life and as I watched them in their drones heading off to a local university and never venturing further afield, I was stricken with a sort of empowerment, that I DIDN'T have to follow the crowd. So, I waited until I was 20 years of age to head to university in Newcastle Upon Tyne; I didn't want to set such boundaries like they had - I wanted to see the world, even if that meant only starting in England. 

Something else that I've noticed that society is quite naughty of accomplishing is making you unsure of yourself. For years, I've been enduring subliminal whisperings of how you can't achieve anything if you don't attain a university degree in Law, Medicine or the likes. And God forbid you choose not to embrace university at all, shame on you for having your own free will! It was these kinds of misplaced, guilty thoughts that actually used to attack my brain. As a child, I always harboured quite the artistic flair and penchant for creativity but growing up was a different story altogether as schools would drill it into you that a life comprised of art and design (or any other Arts and Humanities subjects for that matter) was a road to no town. And to think I almost yielded too, as once upon a time, during that fateful period of picking universities and university subjects, my top choice was a joint Politics, Media and English Lit degree - seems a pretty unnatural fit for me, right? I remember that I cried an ocean the moment I realised I was being untrue to myself, and desperate to repair the situation I went through Clearing via UCAS and not only found myself a design course but ultimately, found myself again. 

This post isn't just a cathartic way for me to shed some light on my past, it's a message to anyone reading this that feels trapped or pressured for fear of what society might think. Well let me tell you this: you're put on this earth for a good time and not a long time, and it'd be far worse to regret things that you had done than what you hadn't. Don't grow old thinking "well I should have gotten a tattoo when I had the chance" or "I wish I could have pursued my dreams of professional line dancing." In the wisest words of my fellow Irishman:

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
                                                                       - Oscar Wilde       

  1. What a lovely post, I really can relate a lot and I can tell you that you're a beautiful person inside and out! Keep being you hun.

  2. Awesome post! I too attend Art School, I've a BA in Fine Art, a teaching qualification and MA in Art & Design so I understand when people say to you "But what job will that get you?" - My go to answer was always "Its a vocation, its not about getting a standard job!" - Mind you I do have a standard job not, not very creative, but I'm still creative in my own time - blogging for one! - As a teenager I viewed myself as an outsider looking at the world from the outside. I felt I wasnt part of it and it took me years to feel like I belonged somewhere or fitted in. Nice to hear I wasn't alone in those thougths!

  3. I'm 21 now, it wasn't until I moved away to university that I was able to discover who I truly was. It was a fresh start & the best thing I ever could have done.
    I still get judged back in my hometown for being "quirky" and different, but now I've learn that I just don't give a fuck what they think.
    I am who I am, and I'm happy being that person.

    This is a brilliant post, and it'd be lovely if readers realize how true it is!

    Kelly from | DayDreams & DaisyChains

  4. Just another zillion things that I can related to you about!
    Quite a settling and helpful post for me just now too actually mentioning the success and achievements. I didn't do uni and now my other half is the sole bread winner and people look down their nose at me for it. But its our life, I am who I am and believe in what I do so I don't need to conform to anything society wants me to!!

    Kick ass post!!

  5. Amazing post Claire! completely with you on the whole 'shit music' thing. I was classed as an 'emo' growing up because I was pale wore some eyeliner and listened to My Chemical Romance as oppose to slapping on the fake tan for school. And the driving thing - YES. I've been living at home and if I hear once more 'you should have used this time to get your test' I'll scream. Literally felt like I was reading about my own life there now haha xxx

  6. I fear I may become tiresome repeating myself on your blog one of these days.. so I'll keep it simple ^__^ - FABULOUS. xx

  7. I have that problem of the driving question as well, I'm 20 a uni student and definitely can't afford to learn. Glad you're happy where you are now! xx

  8. I loved this post! I find now that I'm older that everything is learning experience. After I graduated from high school every lesson I needed to know was right there in front of me. Even though I was depressed for three or four and a half months, I think I learned how to embrace myself as a person with a disability. Oh, and about the driving thing! I actually don't want to learn how to drive. At all! Because I am sucky driver with my wheelchair! Lol

  9. I was bullied in school when I was going through that awkward emo stage but I don't think it really bothered me that much because I knew that's who I was, I know it is a phase but in a way I'm still that person just toned down and more mature... I absolutely HATED school because they didn't care about anything creative and it still annoys me now. I watched a TEDS talk recently called "school kills creativity" - http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity (the link if you want to watch! Although it's a bit long,) and it made me feel so happy that some people actually realise how ugly, boring and drab school is. I'm glad you went through clearing and chose a course you preferred. I remember when I felt pressured to do A Levels but thankfully I went with my heart and did a Fashion BTEC instead and now I'm off to uni this year to do a degree in textile design/surface pattern. Couldn't agree more with the last paragraph.

    Amy x
    The Creative Outlook

  10. I love this post! I can definitely relate. People think I'm so weird because I'd rather spend my Friday nights with a book & duvet rather than getting drunk down town, so most people brush me off. It's annoying but I'd rather spend my time doing what I want than being pressured into doing things that everyone else wants me to do!

    whatlaurendidtoday.blogspot.co.uk xx

  11. Oh do I feel this so much. For me I was a bit more gradual, all my efforts to be myself seemed to be accompanied by some traumatic event of some kind. My parents split up and shit hits a big fan, I decide that I will finally be the emo child I always wanted to be, big hair, big eyeliner everything! I was happy-ish. I think I lacked the inner resolved to be that person so I was always unsure of myself everyday. I maintained my emo days through college and through the first year of uni. Until another event triggered a new change in myself. I wanted to be more girly, I wanted to wear the clothes I liked not what I thought I should wear or what was most convenient. I loved my emo style but it wasn't the emo style I wanted and I just wanted to let it go.
    Since meeting Kris, I have to admit he's my "be yourself catalyst" in my life, I can honestly say, you know what I'm freaking awesome and the world can go fuck itself. I took me about three years to really get in tune with myself and I'm still on that journey. It was ending uni that did it for me (another somewhat traumatic event!). I dye my hair white, I thought, fuck it I'm going to buy that dress with the weird print and I was set.

    Now I stand, any hair colour I chose, any animal print I want, any tattoo, piercing, heck I even got my blog back that I quit because it was "too weird".

    We're awesome, that's all there is too it. Despite the continued staring, pointing, judging and laughing at my face I get almost everyday because coloured hair in Belgium is apparently just so god damn weird. Rant over.

    (long comment is long)

  12. This is such a wonderful post. I can definitely relate to being made to feel threatened and alone for daring to like clothes or music which are different from the norm. I can also relate to the driving lessons comment - I'm from Northern Ireland as well, and since I was 17 every time I'm back over I get the 'So are you driving yet?' questions. Even when I was at university in a city centre and really had no need (or money!) to drive a car!


  13. What a brilliant post and so well written. I hate when society expects us to conform to some preconceived 'norm'. Everybody is different and I love the message of your post, encouraging people to be individual :) I love your blog and I have followed you with Bloglovin and GFC, if you ever get a chance to check out my blog I would be delighted thanks!

    Camille xo.


  14. This has been a lovely post. I'm a new reader and I really love all your photos and your posts :) I've bookmarked your blog and I would really appreciate it if you took a look at my blog too <3
    Marissa Jamie : Faithfully, Marissa ♡

  15. Hey Claire this was a touching post. Well done girl. I also grew up in a close knit community and it was hell. Standing out from the crowd can actually be fun. Thanks for sharing this!

    Erin xx

  16. New reader here (via Becky Bedbug)
    I love finding (mostly) Newcastle based bloggers! I moved here from Scotland in April, and blogs are helping me find new places to go and giving good recommendations on everything from restaurants to hairdressers.

    Love this post. Especially the "True, I grew up not having the slightest notion what the bloody hell the difference between foundation and concealer was, but at least I GREW, as opposed to being suffocated by society's "norms."
    - That rings very true for me, who at the age of 25 still doesn't know much about make-up.