The Hills are Alive Again!

Alas! Back out to the mountains! After 4 looong months of being confined to our local towns, the travel ban was lifted in Scotland on Friday! In great delight, my dad, my brother (albeit more hesitantly) and I set off to climb our first Munro of the year – Ben Vorlich next to Loch Earn (not to be mistaken for the other Munro Ben Vorlich in Loch Lomond). For those who don’t know, a ‘Munro’ is a Scottish mountain which is at least 3000ft high. Last year, my dad and I conquered 6 Munros as well as some other grand Scottish peaks but had to take a break due to them being so far out-with our hometown. Due to physio appointments, we couldn’t set off at our usual early time and had to wait until late morning. Luckily, we did manage to find a parking space amongst the inumerable abandoned cars along the road-side near the foot of the trail.

This being his first Munro in adulthood (he climbed Ben Lomond with my dad and his football team for charity as a kid), my 22-year-old brother, ever the unprepared party, didn’t pack any food and forgot to buy sandwiches at the shop before we left the city centre. I advised the daft bugger that he’d definitely need sustenance but the petrol station shop had no sandwiches. What did he emerge from the shop with? A Pepperami and a packet of Wagon Wheels… I wish I was joking! Luckily, my dad and I had packed some spare food for sharing so the muppet didn’t starve after all.

After the multiple weather apps (they all tell you a different story, you can’t just use one!) predicting highest temperatures of around 3 degrees Celsius with wind chill factors making it feel like sub-zero, and despite the sun shining, we set off layered up like a trio of onions. Within 20 minutes, I was peeling off my hoodie, zipper and long-sleeve under-armour top, extremely grateful for wearing a sports vest top underneath and embracing the rare warmth from the equally rare Scottish sun. It could only be deemed as true “taps aff” weather. (FYI, for any non-Scottish people; “taps aff” translates to “tops off”. And yes, in Glasgow, this is usually declared when the temperature reaches double figures since it’s such an unusual occurrence)!

The views were beautiful the whole way up the mountain; I couldn’t refrain from turning in awe to the sight of uncountable other stunning peaks and a breath-taking view of the Loch Earn glinting in the sun. As always, my inner child was delighted to encounter the large splodges of snow-drift, and yet, I remained sleeve-less. (This is highly unusual for me – I do not cope at all well with the cold! I’m usually layered up resembling a “Wildling” from Game of Thrones). Later that night, I realised that the sun had even graced my cheeks with a little red glow. However, the next morning, my nose was resembling a certain famous reindeer…

Ok, so I didn’t remain entirely layer-free. I reached what I thought was the “summit”, only to realise, I’d in fact been duped. Lulled into a false sense of accomplishment – and after over-hearing several others’ blatant disappointment at the realisation of the remaining almost vertical climb looming ahead, I was certainly not the only one. Approaching the real summit, the frosty wind kicked up and I was quickly fumbling in my rucksack for my zipper and gloves to prevent my fingers’ usual battle to fight off the eagerly lurking frostbite.

Even with the icy winds, this weather was practically paradisiacal compared to the conditions my dad and I had suffered on our last 3 Munros. These had entailed gale force arctic winds, heavy rain, fog thicker than Dwayne Johnson’s thighs, impenetrable cloud cover and unwanted exfoliating hailstone facials. Drenched, so frozen that even our skeletons were trembling, and we could barely see in front of us… “What views???” Did I mention that we got temporarily lost in the aforementioned dense fog on the way back down? Yes, we braced all of that weather for this view at the top of Ben Chonzie in mid-December… I guess our timing wasn’t exactly great. All the same, the sense of achievement upon reaching the summit (ok, more-so upon reaching the car on that occasion) is invigorating.

On another note – I absolutely do not recommend training your lower body the day before hiking up a Munro – especially when said hike is your first in at least four months… I have to admit, I have definitely had smarter ideas! My glutes were on FIRE for the majority of the climb (fine, and the descent), and even when simply climbing over styles – much to my dad and brothers’ utter amusement. In saying that, I got to laugh at their attempts to step over styles due to their flexibility levels being the equivalent to that of a concrete slab.

The trek was the shortest we’ve done in terms of Munros – but I also think this mountain has had the most consistent steep incline for almost the whole duration. Many others have at least plateaued in places. It was a great mountain to kickstart our Munro-bagging this year and I thoroughly enjoyed getting out amongst nature, the change of scenery and another new challenge. I can’t wait for the next one!

I hope you’re all enjoying the new freedoms too!

Stay safe!

Aimee x

Lockdown Life (Part II)

Personally, I think Lockdown 1 was the toughest for me. I was on holiday from work and en-route to meet a colleague for a drink in the city centre that evening when I received a text from my boss advising we were working from home as of the following day. Within a handful of days, our whole nation was stripped of its’ freedom and cattle-prodded into the first ever full lockdown. Too afraid to leave our homes. Adjusting to the loss of routine and the heart-breaking separation from those we love. Some, like myself, were drowning in an uproar of work while figuring out the ‘working from home’ fiasco. Meanwhile, others were frantically scrambling for every penny they could find to ensure they could feed their children, unsure of when they’d be able to work again or if they’d receive financial aid, as well as the rapid decline of our country’s economy. Most devastatingly of all, some were losing their lives; some were losing loved ones, both to Coronavirus and to other conditions whilst being unable to hold their hand at the end. Our key workers risked their own health and safety to attempt to treat the seriously ill and continue with our essential services. Also, hats off to those dealing with the lockdown loons who hoarded enough ‘essential items’ to open their own mini-mart! I thought working in a gadget shop on ‘Black Friday” was brutal enough… I’d choose folk fighting over RC drones over denying Sharon the three 24-packs of loo rolls any day! (I think I’d have found it hard to resist asking if she planned on eating nothing but laxatives for the next three months…).

On top of feeling immediately overwhelmed at the prospect of having no access to a gym (which, for me, has been my outlet to relieve stress and always gives me a mental boost), being unable to see my close family, my best friends or my (now ex) boyfriend, and being completely confined to my shared flat where I had grown accustomed to spending quite little time, my anxiety enjoyed a ‘blast off’ whilst my motivation and desire to do anything ‘productive’ simultaneously dive-bombed. Did anyone else react this way? Was anyone else over-ridden with fear of the unknown, fear of everything changing so instantly and the prospect of our loved ones or ourselves getting ill with the new mystery virus?

Some days I sat in front of my laptop staring absently at the screen, the walls, the rug or my phone, my mind completely in overdrive. Sometimes I sat vacantly, numb, unable to process our new reality. Just not knowing what to do or how to feel. At times, tears tarnished my cheeks and sprinkled my notebook for apparently no reason. My eyes were just spontaneously leaking, my mental distress escaping down my face of it’s own free will (something we no longer had). I tried to conceal it from my flatmate, because, let’s face it, I was embarrassed and trying to deny that I was an emotional disaster. No one likes to admit they are struggling, let alone attempting to explain why they’re crying at random – especially there’s no specific trigger and they don’t understand it themselves. To admit you’re having problems clearing your plate takes a lot of courage and often feels like you’re admitting defeat. You’re not. You’re actually taking the first step to regaining control and the first leap towards winning the battle.

Throw in the sudden realisation that I was miserable in the relationship I was in at the time, it’s unsurprising that I was quickly overwhelmed. I felt powerless. I felt obliged to ‘cope’. In fact, I felt guilty for not being ‘strong’. Upon reflection now, I suppose I had considered myself to be ‘strong’ and ‘independent’, yet I felt like more of my stitches were being yanked out as each new day arrived. That realisation alone was a tough pill to swallow. In all honesty, I was terrified at how rapidly and deeply my mental health seemed to have swan-dived. I was lost in the woods, unsure of which direction would lead me back to the path to “normality”.

 Again, analysing my situation now from a much clearer and more knowledgeable standpoint, I believe one of the main roots of my flourishing anxiety was due to being unhappy in my relationship. I had been on the bus to denial-ville for a while, and due to being unable to see him in person, I was intent to stick out the journey; determined I would eventually feel better about things once I had adjusted to the “new” way of life. ‘It would all be “fine” once I had a clearer head.’ As ridiculous as this now seems, I still agree with my rationale at the time – it would’ve been unwise to make any big decisions while there were so many other variables at play, tugging on my other strings. Waiting to see how things were between us in person seemed like the fairest thing to do – especially for him. I’d like to explore this subject on another level in a specific post, so I’ll leave it there for now. However, it did deeply affect my ability to adjust and deal with the obstacles in lockdown 1 – and I anticipate that many others across the country were thrown into unforeseen and perhaps awkward situations in their relationships once the lockdown was announced. The relationships which have survived or even blossomed throughout the past year are definitely special and should be celebrated!

One of the ways I tried to cope was by meeting my parents for socially distanced walks in our local countryside and golf course. As nice as this was in the grand scheme of the seemingly apocalyptic situation, the walks weren’t enough. The desperate loneliness tightened it’s grip on me day by day. I soon stopped working out at home due to the lack of structure and enjoyment – bodyweight exercises weren’t fulfilling as I’d thrived on increasing my strength with weights – and my diet started to resemble that of a 13-year-old at a sleepover – takeaways, crisps, cakes and chocolates by the dozen. Funnily enough, the binge-eating and lack of exercise made me feel worse, and I was just plunging deeper into my pool of self-pity.

Other prominent happenings from Lockdown 1 include the jigsaw puzzles phase (my favourite was a 500-piece Harry Potter one, because duh, it’s Harry Potter). Many redecorated their entire houses, re-vamped their gardens and some even built their own home ‘bar’ or ‘pub’. This was also the period of the infamous ‘Tiger King’ docu-series on Netflix, which I’m sure many of us watched out of sheer shock-horror, unable to peel our eyes away from the guy losing his arm from being mauled by a tiger, Joe Exotic’s eye-watering outfits, Carole Baskin (that bitch!) practically suggesting she fed her ex-husband to her tigers and parading around walking her current hubby on a lead, and one of Joe Exotic’s two husbands fatally shooting himself in the head. (Note: for those who somehow evaded it – yes, you read that sentence correctly – I wish my imagination could run to such wild planes). It was also the phase of no toilet roll or fresh meat; 90% of the population became skilled at baking banana bread and virtual quizzes which were basically the new weekends at the pub and the ‘social’ excuse people needed to binge-drink.

After several weeks of only seeing my parents for walks in the local countryside, I decided to move in with them for a few weeks. I actually had more space and time to myself than at my flat as my family were all still going out to work and I had the added bonus of the garden to enjoy the early summer we’d been graced with. I had initially been imprisoned in my garden-less flat working from my laptop, whilst the furloughed population were enjoying daily barbeques, day-drinking and paddling pools in Costa-Del-Glasgow. As grateful as I was to be working and earning my full wage, a part of me was a little green that I was missing out on such glorious weather and unprecedented yet precious quality time with loved ones. I was lucky enough to experience more of the ‘good’ aspects of lockdown once staying with my parents, but the anxiety gnawing at my gut still wouldn’t fully shift.

Lockdowns 2 and 3 have almost blended into one for me. I’m attributing this to the fact that the winter months are rather bleak and felt like several months of never-ending darkness and relentless cold, wet and windy weather! Although, I do feel like I’ve kept myself in check and coped significantly better during these times. During the period of relative ‘normality’, I ended my relationship once I was sure and so that stressor was no longer at play. However, I think the other main thing keeping me going has been focusing on my health and fitness. I enlisted my personal trainer to help keep me accountable, and having goals to work towards as well as a proper structure to my life again has drastically improved my response to the ongoing restrictions. I’m not suggesting that focusing on health and fitness is a solution for everyone, BUT, I am proposing that staying active in some way and getting some fresh air can go a long way. Eating a balanced diet will also help with tiredness, feeling sluggish and demotivated. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, I feel like a different person than I was a year ago. Perhaps, in many ways, I am. At the end of the day, these things are all to do with self-care and staying healthy, which I believe should be a priority for everyone – because we’re worth it!

The winter months are harder and tend to be even more of a struggle because of the longer, darker days irrespective of lockdown. The poor weather conditions also confine more people to their homes under normal circumstances, so being unable to have visitors will have had a detrimental effect on many, particularly the vulnerable populations. I struggled at times too – often missing out on daylight altogether during the week due to a hectic work schedule and such few hours of sunlight. I generally tried to go out for very long walks on the weekends in an attempt to counteract this but it wasn’t always possible, and the permanent darkness definitely took its toll. My heart breaks for those trapped at home alone, especially when most aspects of life currently feel equally as shadowy, and for some, rather frightening.

As I’ve discussed rather a lot of the doom and gloom we’ve experienced throughout the past year, I figured it would be nice to end this post on a more positive note (the good kind – not the covid-test kind, of course).

Positives from lockdown:

  1. Immersing myself in the local countryside and nature, sometimes for hours at a time on weekends in the nicer weather really helped to clear my head. It quickly became a renewed hobby for myself and also for my dad. We fell in love with the local wildlife and took pleasure in looking out for deer and birds to photograph with his camera. Once the travel restrictions were lifted, this escalated into a love of hiking and we bagged our first 7 Munros as well as a few other big hills before we were imprisoned again. We’re (impatiently) waiting for the travel ban to be lifted to venture out to the hills again. I have also noticed significantly more people out walking in the local areas and seeing others tackling bigger hills on my social media over the last several months, which is a great benefit to the health of many. It’s also refreshing to see as I think technology has really masked the pleasure outdoor activities can bring over the last several years!
  2. When staying with my family for a couple of months, I got to spend quality time with them that I never would have otherwise, and I’m very grateful for it. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that our loved ones, time and time with our loved ones are truly precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I literally cried the first times I got to hug my parents again as it felt so special. We got to laugh together, have barbeques, cook together, watch trashy movies and support one another (whilst winding each other up and frustrating the life out of my poor mum – just as we did before I moved out 5 years go).
  3. Flexibility – the whole world has had to adapt due to this virus to make our day-to-day errands, outings and work safer, which for many, has been a huge advantage. Many people are able to have a much better work-life balance with the flexibility to work from home, are saving not only their precious time but also money on commuting to the office and some may be saving money on childcare too.
  4. Technology has advanced and made communication easier for families and friends who perhaps live far away from one another – like my family; some of us are in Scotland but largely, we have members dispersed throughout England and even in Wales. This will be useful for us going forward, even once it’s safe for us to visit them again. We unfortunately can’t drive 5 hours each way on a regular basis, so my grandparents (who are 84 and 88 years young!) now being able to use Zoom to video call is a great development.
  5. Largely, people have been incredibly kind and caring towards one another – whether it’s rushing to the aid of others who are in need, dropping off shopping for neighbours who are isolating or shielding or simply sending a text to check in on someone. Many, like my lovely mum, provided some home-cooked meals and groceries for families in need while the children were being home-schooled. I very quickly realised that being home alone when you have nothing to do and perhaps only a few people to keep in contact with must be extremely lonely and so I signed up to become a ‘call companion’ through a charity called ‘Re-engage’. I call my elderly ‘companion’, who lives alone, each week for a chat. It’s been both rewarding and humbling to realise that a gesture as small as a simple phone call can make a difference to someone’s day. Also, it’s lovely to hear someone else’s story and find out about their life.
  6.  Some people have also learned to slow down and embrace life instead of being ‘go-go-go’ twenty-four-seven. I imagine there are a lot of working parents who will also have had significantly more quality time with their children than they ever would have due to being home instead of in the office (although, I also imagine some parents would understandably find this perhaps a little too much quality time…as I said in my previous post, you people are heroes).
  7. A lot of people have had spare time to learn new or rediscover old hobbies and passions – such as myself. Thanks to lockdown, having extra time on my hands and also from resorting to writing as a coping mechanism more than usual over the last year, I decided to create this blog for myself to start documenting my adventures and clearing my head of “junk”. I’ve also discovered a love for photographing nature and for hiking up mountains.

As England have more lockdown restrictions lifted today, hopefully Scotland stay on track to cross that line as planned in a couple of weeks’ time.

Stay safe and take care everyone.

Aimee x

Lockdown Life (Part I)

Where were you when everything changed? What were you doing when the announcement that life as we knew it was over? Who were you with when you found out you could no longer spend time with colleagues or even your loved ones? Due to it surpassing a whole year since the first lockdown was implemented, I feel it is apt to discuss the lockdowns and how they have affected myself and those around me.

To me, each lockdown has felt different. Each lockdown has strangled us with new struggles and challenges. But, each lockdown has also presented us with new lessons. This is NOT a post preaching about how we should “use this time to better ourselves”. This is an honest account of how I have personally “coped” (or at times, conceded…) with our current series of unfortunate events. This is a mere window into the aspects I have specifically struggled with the most, the people and methods that have helped support me through the obstacles and the ways in which I feel the lockdowns have hit us differently. I will never patronisingly or ignorantly claim that “we’re all in the same boat”. More accurately, some are on a luxurious cruise whilst others are in a damaged rowing boat, frantically tipping water back into the ocean with buckets designed to build sandcastles.

Now, consider where we are today. In a similar position? Perhaps. But look at how we’ve adapted. Working from home, virtual quiz nights, video parties and catch-ups with loved ones, socially distanced walks in the park… It bloody sucks, doesn’t it? BUT, in saying that, it’s amazing how quickly businesses evolved and people adapted – we’ve even got my grandparents using Zoom and they’re in their late 80s!

Over the past year, I’ve begun to realise that it’s not always possible to be a pillar. It’s not always possible to be the spare chair in the corner that everyone dumps their coats on after a long, hard day. I’ve begun to realise that this isn’t selfish. It’s self-preservation. Self-preservation is crucial for our own mental well-being, and overall health – how do you plan to be a support network for anyone if you yourself are in a bad headspace or are teetering at the cliff-edge of sheer exhaustion?

Living through a global pandemic with our ‘normal’ freedoms being so severely restricted and controlled for such an extensive period of time is new to just about everyone. I will not deny that there are tragically some people who do live with terrible oppression for a variety of reasons, and these times are likely to have been even more isolating and traumatic for those individuals. However, the vast majority of us will have had an unimaginable amount of adapting to do – literally overnight. For any person, change can be unsettling – it’s human nature, a lot of us are suckers for routine. However, when you stir in more ingredients such as home-schooling, loneliness, lack of social interaction, financial worries and the fear of a new virus – which has such a wide range of effects from literally no symptoms to severe suffering and even death – it’s hardly a mystery as to why so many of us have hit saturation at some point. There is simply no capacity left for more ingredients in this stress stew.

Personally, I think social media has often focused on showing us all of the “positives” (sorry(ish) for the poor-tasted pun!) to come out of lockdown or pushing all of the ways in which you can “transform” your life. I have no issue with this in that, if people have the time and means to do so, then that’s excellent. It really is great if this period can be used to pursue our passions or work to improve ourselves. Personally, I’ve found focusing on my own health and fitness over lockdowns two and three has drastically improved my mental health too. However, I don’t believe there is enough focus on supporting those who may also have goals they wish they could fulfil right now but can’t due to the dangers of the pandemic or the lockdown restrictions.

Whilst some have had an overwhelming abundance of free time, others were extremely overworked or are struggling financially and do not have the means to support a new hobby. Some are isolated at home with their children with no reprieve (shoutout to all the parents and guardians – especially the heroes who are raising their little monsters alone – I am genuinely in awe!). Vast numbers have suddenly become unemployed or are furloughed and struggling to afford their basic living costs. Meanwhile, innumerable businesses – old and new – that have been built from the ground up are barely keeping their hairlines above water, never mind their heads. Some are grieving the loss of loved ones – many of whom won’t have been able to hold their hand as their final sparks burned out. And some are being choked by their own minds as they struggle in a battle with their mental health.

As appropriately depicted above by my handsome cat, Oscar (yes, he’s absolutely living his best life), lockdown has looked very different for everyone. Or, some may have experienced a cocktail of both. At the end of the day, no two experiences can be accurately compared side-by-side. It’s just unrealistic and unfair to do so – especially to those of the celebrities and influencers you admire. However, I know how difficult this is in practice. I, myself, and others close to me, have all coped differently, thrived at different times, fallen apart at others, scooped each other up (virtually or from 2 metres away, of course) and supported one another as best as we could’ve. One common theme I have noticed amongst myself and some of my nearest and dearest is that we feel guilty. We feel guilty whenever we are having a tough time or struggling to hit whatever curveball life has bowled in our direction. The guilt stems from the knowledge that we are in very “fortunate” positions in comparison to many others across the country. The lesson I am learning is that although things could be a lot worse, we are ALL entitled to our emotions, feelings and “bad” days. Your feelings are valid. My feelings are valid. It feels selfish to acknowdledge this to begin with, but accepting that you’re not always going to be on top of your game is a big step to actually conquering the mission.

Those who aren’t “thriving” in our newfound way of life may be using all of their might just to get out of bed and complete some ‘everyday’ tasks. I bet most of us have had days where even getting out of bed feels like partaking in an episode of ‘Ninja Warrior’. I’ve certainly had my fair share of days where I chucked together some scrambled egg and toast for dinner because I didn’t have enough mental fuel in my tank to trek the five minutes to the local supermarket and face people. I want to emphasise that feeling this way sometimes is completely normal. As much as many influencers like to portray on Instagram that life is full of flowers, cute outfits, free hand-crafted cupcakes with their name on and over-priced pink fluffy slippers, it’s simply not true for anyone. Every being is allowed to have their ‘dark’ days. In fact, it’s necessary so we can identify and treasure the brighter ones.

The problem falls when the number of days being suffocated by the gloom start to outnumber the sunny ones, or worse, when the negative fog starts to block out the light in your life completely. If you feel this is the case, please, I urge you to reach out and ask for help. Contact a family member, a friend or even one of the many free services available.

I think it’s important to recognise that showing up, doing your best on any given day is an achievement. Our energy levels, time availability and even just our mental capacity to process or cope with tasks and stress fluctuate from day to day and moreover, everyone’s circumstances are different. Therefore, making comparisons is basically redundant and rarely makes you feel good. Trust me, as a chronic over-analyser who has been her own life-long harshest critic, comparing my own progress or achievements (or often in my eyes, the lack thereof) to stars’ shiny Instagram posts generally leaves me feeling rather defeated and miserable about myself. I think it’s even harder to avoid nowadays since I have more free time with less options to fill it, and with that, my mindless scrolling and self-trolling increases. 

For a lot of people, wading through the quicksand of lockdown-whatever and clambering out the other side IS the achievement. You may not have gained a ‘6-pack’, run 10km in 45 minutes, learned to crochet or bake a 5-tier cake complete with Disney characters and a gravity-defying packet of Minstrels on top to broadcast on your social media for a tonne of ‘likes’; but these ‘likes’ do not validate your strength, bravery or success. They do not prove all of the hardships and challenges you have overcome behind the curtains. You deserve to be proud of surviving the viral war-zone that was 2020 and the epilogue of 2021 (yes, I’m being naively optimistic that 2021 won’t be a full-blown sequel!).

As lockdown has taken over such a significant period of our lives, I feel one post is not quite long enough to fully discuss my views of life in lockdown. Therefore, I intend to post a second part soon where I will discuss my own personal struggles and a few ‘wins’ in case anyone can relate. For me, I always feel somewhat reassured knowing someone else out there has shared my feelings or experienced something similar. It helps me to pry myself out of the “why me” pity-party and also to accept that sometimes, life doesn’t go according to plan for others too, not just me. I’d also like to elaborate on a few things that have helped me through the dark days in the hope that maybe they could help someone else.

For now, take care and stay safe everyone.

Sending positive vibes and hope that we’ll have more freedom again soon.

Aimee x

The Memory Thief

Almost two years ago, one of the brightest lights in my life burnt out forever. Only, my gran’s special glow had been fading for a while. Years and years, in fact. No matter how much fuel and kindling we provided, nothing was enough to re-ignite the real her. Watching her vibrant flames gradually diminish to embers through my teenage years and early twenties was the most heart-breaking experience of my life. It felt almost twisted watching her slowly regress back to a child-like state when she herself had helped care for me as a young toddler while my parents worked.

One of the worst aspects was involuntarily being a useless bystander. A silenced, woeful witness. I desperately climbed the ladder as she floated further and further away from us, but the rungs kept snapping in front of me as I grappled for her, and Dementia snatched her away. Piece by piece, month by month, year by year.

My gran has now gone. Nothing will ever fill the void she left in my heart and soul, but in a way, that just means I’m lucky. Lucky to have had such a special bond with such a special, loving lady. We loved each other so fiercely, right until the end. She may no longer have known my name, but the eyes don’t lie. They glistened with nothing but love as they bore into mine on each and every visit. She still showered me with hugs and kisses and held my hand so tightly. In a way, we were lucky enough that her candle burned out before the disease could steal one of the most important pieces of her – her vehement love for her family.

I’m now tired of being utterly powerless.  I have been itching to help in some way, any way. I did all I could for my gran. I danced with her, sang to her, laughed with her, held her as tightly as I could and made sure she knew how loved she was. Eager to ensure she was happy from one minute to the next, as that’s the timeframe she lived in towards the end. But nothing felt like it was enough. I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t bring back the ‘real’ her. I couldn’t take away the pain my mum and other family members were experiencing. I couldn’t take away my own hurt. We were all broken and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fix it. Rationally, I know no one could have.

Dementia is a devastating end for so many people, and it crushes so many families across the UK. I am desperate to make a difference. To anyone who has been or is currently affected by this terrible disease, I am truly sorry. I wish I could help you and tell you it’s going to get better. I believe it’s an illness and experience no one can fully understand until they have witnessed it first-hand. You can’t yet grieve the loss of your loved one because they are still physically here, but, in a way, they’re also already gone. That in itself, is a confusing and devastating concept to process.

To contribute to alleviating the suffering of even one person affected by Dementia would be very humbling. In order to hopefully help as many people as possible, I will be joining the Alzheimer’s Society on 9th July to climb the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, to help raise funds for this amazing charity.  

The link to my Just Giving page is below. Any donations at all towards this great cause would be very much appreciated.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/aimee-gent

Thank you,

Aimee x

The Lonely Road to a Better You

Have you ever realised you were no longer content with the road your life was racing down? Your chariot was hurtling down the fast lane, but instead of steering, you were trapped in the passenger seat with your face pressed against the window, solemnly watching all of the exciting opportunities flashing by. Utterly powerless. This happened to me too. ‘Captain Routine’ and it’s sidekick, ‘Familiarity’, had hijacked my aspirations and desires for change. It was definitely time to re-evaluate and reclaim control of the wheel.

My personal journey began around three years ago when I had started to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I also regretted that lethargy and listlessness had become perpetual since starting a full time job in an office (where of course I was sat on my arse all day for 35+hours per week) a year prior. On top of that, my weekends were spent out on the town binge drinking, followed by a day of death-by-hangover, and subsequently eating a mountain of junk food which culminated in a big greasy takeaway in a bid to “cure” said hangover. I felt I had nothing to show for my hard work during the week and my weekends were all blending into one fuzzy memory of the same night out on repeat. Did I really want to keep up this monotony? Work, drink, eat, sleep, work…? No. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was so convinced there was more to life and that surely, at 22, I should have more energy and drive to venture out and experience the excitement.

The first jaunt of my self-development voyage began in the gym next to my office where I’d been paying the membership fee for around a year – yet, I’d have been lucky to have set foot in the place more than a handful of times. To my surprise, I enjoyed some of the classes and felt accomplished (and very broken!) upon completing them. I also met and befriended an amazing PT who completely changed my outlook on my health and fitness, and educated me on so many important things, which pushed me to snatch back the steering wheel and regain control of my future. I learned how to train with weights and fell in love with growing stronger and bettering myself regularly. The sense of achievement was unrivalled, and although I was really enjoying the physical changes to my body, I noticed that the positive effects it had on my mental health – especially on my self-confidence – were even more profound. These effects gradually trickled through to other aspects of my life and as a result, my internal compass was pointing me in a new direction. Although the shift in my priorities was gradual over the next couple of years, I spent a lot more time focusing on my nutrition, working out, progressing in my career, seeing more of the world and less on nights out.

Recently, I’ve fallen even more in love with nature and now enjoy hiking to the top of mountains to see the indescribable beauty Scotland has to offer. In turn, from spending less on alcohol, taxis and takeaways, I noticed the financial benefits too. Another bonus is that I now only resemble a cast member from the set of ‘The Walking Dead’ on the occasional Sunday instead of weekly. I’ve decided, it is now more important to me to use my hard-earned money to see the world and to invest in my future than it is to guzzle cheap yet over-priced vodka (that I swear could strip paint – I suppose they call it ‘gut rot’ for a reason!) in nightclubs every weekend. Could it be? Was I really growing up?

However, although you decide to change, or to work on yourself, it doesn’t mean that those around you will too, or at least, perhaps not in the same ways or at the same rate. Thus, self-development can quite quickly become a solo journey if you aren’t surrounded by like-minded people. There is nothing wrong with this, but from personal experience, it does make it harder to succeed. I personally find it a much steeper trek towards the summit when everyone else around me is heading in the opposite direction. For example: If you are trying to lose weight, but you work in an office where there appears to be an infinite supply of chocolates, doughnuts and crisps; the environment and your nutrition-oblivious colleagues are not complementary to your goals. This is where the isolation can set in. You may feel like you can’t participate, or maybe even as though you’re being judged or viewed as ‘weird’ because others can’t comprehend your newfound discipline and motivation. Some may even criticise or pass insensitive remarks (perhaps unintentionally), and I reckon this can be partially due to ignorance or jealousy. Some wish they had the drive and dedication to tackle the hurdles standing in the way of their goals, and so witnessing others running that track can make them feel insecure. In turn, they may lash out as a defence mechanism to protect their own ego.

The majority of my close friends are not even remotely health-conscious or interested in fitness or exercising, which means that our ideas of ‘fun’ or activities we enjoy rarely overlap these days. This is no one’s fault, our paths have just reached a crossroads and we’re travelling in opposite directions. They probably feel the same about me – after all, I’m the one who has changed. It’s me who doesn’t want to go out for food and drinks every weekend anymore, just as much as they don’t fancy a 5am rise on a Saturday to strut up a 3000ft + mountain with me.

Embarking on a new journey, working towards a new goal or simply changing your focus may be exactly the right move for you. It may be the building blocks for you to achieve your ideal lifestyle or even live your dreams. But, this can be a daunting process, and it can be extremely frustrating when no one around you understands either what you working towards, or why. If this is the case, which it has been for me in terms of my fitness journey for the past couple of years, having someone like-minded who has either experienced or is currently walking through a similar trail, is definitely beneficial to have in your corner. It is of course possible to travel these routes alone, but I believe that the journey will be much easier, and also more enjoyable if you’ve got a proper support system in place. One of my goals for this year (A.K.A. apparently the sequel to the horror movie that was 2020), is to befriend some more like-minded people who would enjoy going hiking with me some weekends, or even join me in the gym. These activities make me happy and it would be great to have some friendly faces I can share them with. This is not a bid to replace the special friendships I already have and that I am forever grateful for, but it will also help me create a bigger support system that aligns better with my personal goals. I also hope I could become part of that support system for others in return.

As you ‘grow up’ and surpass 20 (i.e. when the hangovers start to kick you in the balls instead of dusting you with a light headache), people’s needs, aspirations and priorities change. My main priorities tend to be my job in order to support myself financially, my health and fitness and seeing the world (yes, hurry up and feck off now Covid, my skin badly needs a strong dose of Vitamin D). Whereas, I have other friends who are settling down with their partners (yes, I happen to be that ‘ever-single’ friend), buying their own houses, getting engaged and some are even having babies. It’s difficult not to spot the differences in our lives now and hardly a mystery as to why we have less overlaps – we’re no longer running in the same races.

Sometimes, it feels like you’re the only boat on the ocean. When the tide gets rough, or a storm brews, a 1-person crew isn’t always enough to keep the vessel afloat. It’s normal to need someone on standby to throw you a life raft now and again. Once you see progress or evidence that you’re closer to grabbing that trophy, it becomes easier to reassure yourself, but sometimes, it’s still nice to have a crowd to cheer you on or someone to hold your hand along the way. I also believe if you get too used to depending on only yourself, it becomes more of an internal tug-of-war on the occasions when you really do need to ask for help. I sometimes struggle with this too. I can’t help but feel like a “failure” if I have to ask for support or admit I need a life-vest when I’m drowning. You can also run the risk of leaving it too late to get the necessary help which may lead to you feeling completely consumed or overwhelmed and exhausted from rowing against the tide with only one set of oars.

That’s why I feel the following is important: No matter whether your ambitions align or if they understand, if someone in your life has supported you in all of your other ventures, they’ll likely be happy to continue doing so (unless your new goals involve turning to illegal activities like kidnapping or armed robberies… in those instances, I fully support them being discouraging!). Be open and honest with your loved ones; explain clearly and concisely what your goals are, and most importantly, why you are working towards them. Describing it using an analogy for something the other individual is passionate about may increase their understanding of how you feel. If no one gets it, please seek out someone who does. You could join a social media group specifically dedicated to your area of interest, such as on Facebook; or, depending on your goals, hire a professional coach with expert knowledge, or join a course or classes to advance your own education and potentially make more connections. Find someone who will give you a nudge back to the right lane on the days that you’re ready to slam on the breaks and raise your white flag. Find someone who will remind you of your own power and abilities and all the obstacles you’ve already overcome whenever you doubt yourself. After all, having a safety net or someone to throw ideas to is always a positive.

Having someone like-minded to turn to can prevent you from feeling as if you’re “boring” others when discussing your passions too. I know for a fact that most of my family and friends immediately switch off as soon as I mention the gym or my latest fitness goal. I can’t really blame them, but it can be a little frustrating and disheartening when someone isn’t engaged in what you have to say. By having someone who’s interested to chat about your mission with – I currently have a weekly catch-up call with my PT – it generates room for creative discussion and sharing ideas, but it also allows for the time you do spend with your friends and family to be more valuable. It allows for that time to be spent focusing more on the topics you have in common and you won’t feel neglected or stifled thanks to having another outlet in which your thoughts will be more meaningful and appreciated.

Set your goals, make a realistic plan, build a support system and shoot for the stars. Support each other in every way you can, hold up your end of the bargain by putting in the hard graft and you will cross that finish line. You might even inspire others along the way. Perhaps some of your friends will even jump on the bandwagon and join your voyage to success and happiness. The main takeaway is: it’s ok to take a different path from your friends when life throws you a fork in the road. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer important in each others’ lives; some things may change, but it can often be for the better if you are working to improve yourself. You deserve to do what’s best for you and good friends will understand that, even if they don’t follow the same journey. It may feel lonely, but you’re not alone. Many will have taken similar paths before you, and many more will follow the footprints you leave in the future. Aim high, work hard, reach out and encourage others to do the same.  

Ps. It’s always more fun to have someone to celebrate with once you cross the finish line!

 

Introduction

Hello everyone, (cue the crickets and tumbleweed; oh, and hi mum), welcome to my new blog, ‘Aimee’s Angle’. On this platform, I will share my passions, life experiences, travels, adventures and random stories in the hopes that I’m not completely alone with the feelings or situations I’ve experienced. From the trials and tribulations of working out who I am and want to be, I’d like to share my experiences from love, loss, lockdown and anxiety to my travelling adventures and the inconceivable situations I somehow get myself into. For instance, has anyone else ever been bitten by a spider monkey whilst holidaying in Turkey? Anyone? That’s a story for another day… I promise to include photos!

Writing has always been somewhat of an outlet for me, particularly in times of stress or upset, and throughout lockdown, it has occurred to me that maybe I would’ve felt less alone or perhaps could have even tackled some of my problems more efficiently if I’d come across other people who had experienced similar situations (let’s face it, most of us have had ample time to overthink and come up with some crazy ideas lately). As I’ve gotten older and life has naturally dealt me with some more complicated, challenging and sometimes even painful hands, writing has also become somewhat therapeutic. If any of my stories and experiences were to give even one person an ounce of reassurance or comfort, or inspire them to open up to a person they can trust – ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, as the saying goes, then throwing my own secret thoughts and feelings into the courtroom of the Internet for scrutiny is worth it.

I think most people can agree that the past year has been full of unprecedented challenges, obstacles, disappointments and even losses – holidays, jobs, and most tragically, loved ones. That’s why I believe now is the time to try something new, such as learning a new skill or starting up that hobby you’ve ‘never had time’ for. Personally, I have struggled on and off, particularly in lockdown 1 due to the complete disruption of my whole routine (along with the rest of the UK, and many other parts of the world), and also some other personal reasons which I will elaborate on in separate future posts. Now we’re in lockdown 54823915 (officially, lockdown 3.0), I have decided to embrace my fitness journey – thanks to having the social life of a hermit crab, I’m actually closer to my goal than I’ve ever been. I’ve also been experimenting with cooking healthy-ish new meals to give myself something to look forward to each day – because who doesn’t look forward to each meal time, especially if you know it’s scrumptious! If there’s any interest, perhaps I’ll share some of my healthy-ish but delicious recipes in future posts. (Another side note, I use the term ‘recipes’ loosely – I’m more of a free-pouring-random-ingredients-and-hoping-for-the-best kinda gal but it’s always worked out well so far – if it ain’t broken and all that…).

The main hobby I have picked up throughout the pandemic though has been hiking – and for any fellow Scots reading, more specifically “Munro-bagging”. My dad and I started venturing out for long walks in the local countryside areas during lockdown 1.0 because it was the only way I could see my family at the time, and it got us out in the lovely weather. Once the restrictions were eased, we started travelling further afield and bagged our first 7 Munros between September and December, as well as some Grahams and a Corbett or two. We fell more and more in love with the stunning views, nature and wildlife, enjoying to stop and photograph them. I actually believe I’ve become slightly addicted to the rush of accomplishment when reaching the summit – perhaps also because that means it’s time for food… (And perhaps the relief of reaching the car again at the bottom – I’m only human! Plus, the last few have been completed in our horrendously typical Scottish weather; you know, the rain that exfoliates your skin through your 8 layers and the gale force winds that chill your bone marrow).

As I said, why not try something new during these dreary winter days in lockdown. If the last year has taught us anything, it should be that life is precious and time ain’t stopping for anyone – including all of us who have decided we aren’t aging until we’ve completed the global pandemic level (I really do think we should be pleading with Australia for the cheat codes…). That’s why I decided that lockdown 3 would be the ideal time to start writing my blog as a means of documenting some of my adventures, venting about the lockdowns, sharing my bizarre stories and life lessons I’ve perhaps learned the prickly way. If anyone else can learn from my mistakes then that’s great (at least someone will have!).

I’d love to hear from anyone who reads this who wants to share any interesting stories, their lockdown experiences (particularly interested in all the lockdown hobbies others have picked up, ways in which you’ve coped or struggles you’ve faced/ overcome), answer any questions and take suggestions for content you’d like to see incorporated in my posts.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you very much for reading.

Sending lots of love, hope and laughter,

Aimee x