My Volunteering Adventures

On Saturday mornings, when I can, I volunteer at an event called Parkrun with my two family friends, Poppy and Rose. Even if we’ve not been able to do it much recently because of exams, revision and stress, last Saturday I did it again with Rose and it reaffirmed to me just how much I love it and why I do it.

Parkrun is (usually) held weekly in parks around the UK and in other parts of the world. People run around a 5 KM track, each having an individual barcode which they can scan in at the end if they want to be timed. It’s not really a race because the only person you’re racing is yourself, if you’re not the competitive sort. Depending on your park, a different number of people will run it every week: it’s free, maintained by volunteers, sponsors and organisers and (in my opinion) is an amazing way for people to get together in a relaxed setting and exercise.

You may ask, “What do you actually do if you don’t run it?” because I know, the thought of me running the thing is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh. I really should one day… My dad has been running it almost weekly for nearly 2 and a half years, completing 130 or so runs. That’s how we first heard of Parkrun and my friends and I have been doing it for about 1 and a half years now, though not as regularly as I would like.

When runners are on a track and are busy exercising, they need to know which way to go especially if they’re unfamiliar with the course. We point them in the right direction, encourage them (or scream in the case of me and my friends) and are the eyes of the course if anything goes wrong. We wear high-vis jackets and, depending on how many volunteers – or marshalls as our specific role is – there are, there are normally 3 people to a section of the course, more if in our case we need to be supervised as we’re under the age of 18. There are other jobs, such as the ‘funnel people’ (that’s not their official name) who scan barcodes and the tail runner(s) who are at the rear of the runners and indicate to us when there are no more people so we can leave. I’ve only ever been a marshall because realistically, I couldn’t scan the barcodes and we’ve never tried to be tail runners.

Volunteering all started when Poppy wanted to do it for her Duke of Edinburgh: she asked me if I wanted to join her and I said yes; she and I both knew it well because of my dad and even Rose and her had run it about 6 times the summer beforehand. Both of us did it for a while before Rose joined: when she did, it just felt right and whenever one of them can’t do it, it’s not the same. Even after Poppy stopped D of E, we carried on because it’s become something of a tradition. I’ve always done it because I love it and even for waking up at 7, it’s bloody worth it.

Poppy, Rose and I have become somewhat known in our specific park – I won’t mention any details of the course or the average turnout because anonymity. People know us because, well, we’re very enthusiastic. Whether that’s literally screaming, yelling or cheering, all of us have really got into the spirit of it.

Part of the reason we work so well together is because of our friendship. I feel quite sorry for the people who volunteer alongside us because all of us insult each other constantly, comment on our “sarcastic” cheering (it was an accident okay?) and generally end up throwing what anyone else would call horrible remarks at each other. Any time one of us is awkward, which is usually me, the others take the piss out of them for it. Often, we repeat the same things, culminating in ‘running catchphrases’. We’ve even made plans to make a cheesy running Spotify playlist and I’m pretty sure all the runners mildly hate us because we don’t just stand around clapping. I couldn’t care less though because it puts a smile on my face.

Whenever we do volunteering, afterwards, I feel so happy and much more relaxed. I’d never want to be payed for it because I think it’s against the spirit of the entire thing; I’m happy doing what I’m doing. If I can encourage people and let them know they’re doing a great job, it makes me happy as well as them. Having Poppy and Rose with me whilst we do that is amazing because I wouldn’t feel comfortable shrieking around anyone else. If other people joined us that we knew, it’d be weird and I don’t think I’d approach it with the same level of enthusiasm. When the only people who know you properly are those doing the same thing as you, you can act how you’d want to act without being self-conscious.

Volunteering has made me more active, brought me closer to my community, gave me a little more motivation and showed me that money doesn’t have to be a reward but being around people can be. I love it more than I love a lot of things because it lets me feel useful and just plain good.

If you want to volunteer or want to learn more about Parkrun in general, you can look at their website.

Do you run at Parkrun or do you want to? Have you ever volunteered and if not at Parkrun, where do you volunteer? Let me know!

From Elm 🙂

Guest post – a pledge to positivity.

First of all, I am over the moon that Elm has agreed to let me write a post for this blog – thank you so much!

When deciding what to write I was lingering in this peculiar melancholy state. I felt somewhat oblivious from everything – I was far-flung, a thousand miles away. Thus I decided to dedicate this post as a pledge to positivity.

I’ve always tried to live my life as pragmatic as I could, especially going through school and other challenges your adolescent years have to offer. And just the same, I’ve tried to encourage those around me to always look on the bright side and always be the best version of them. But sometimes we can get lost, loose our buoyancy and the sudden plunge into a deep sea catches us off guard. And it can be hard to find a way to the surface once more.

However there are a few healthy habits and thoughts I’ve discovered to unfasten the desolation and to maintain a positive mindset.

Firstly, I feel as though it is cardinal to stress that positivity is not always adjacent to happiness. They aren’t particularly the same thing. Although obviously happiness can stem from being positive. However the two don’t exactly have to marry up. You may be feeling at your worst, but there’s always a lighter side to it – although this may not clear the air completely for you, it could lift some weight away which is better than before.

If you have studied philosophy you may be aware of the theory of light and darkness. Without getting too into it, this isn’t a philosophy lesson, it challenges the problem of evil by saying like darkness is just the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. And this correlates well with this idea of positivity. Sometimes there is an absence of good, which is always something which can be turned around – sometimes you just need to step out of the shade into the light.

This next habit/process is one I found hard, and I know people I have spoke to have found difficult, however is completely doable. And that is catching yourself in the moment. As humans we can happily go along in this conscious coma as I like to call it, unaware of ourselves. However by recognising these waves and then moving from them can truly build you as a person. I really don’t exaggerate when I say it is pivotal for me being more forward looking and sanguine! Nonetheless, it is something which is found tricky to get into. And unfortunately I am not psychiatrist and have no real methodology around it.

There are also some everyday things which let you engage with yourself as a person, ergo exemplifying this positive state. If you look online there are hundreds of thousands, but here are some of my favourites which I believe have actually helped me:

  • Drinking more water
  • Writing
  • Going on a walk
  • Meditation
  • Playing/listening to music
  • Reading
  • Socialising
  • Colouring

Although those are very general things, you’d be surprised at how they can really develop you!

There are also many mindfulness apps nowadays which I personally can do with or without (basically the voices annoy me…) but I know some friends of mine and a doctor really favour them!

This is becoming quite a hefty post so I shall leave it there. Big thank you again to Elm for this and I hope you’ve liked this little reflection post from me! I am also trying to get back into blogging more and engage with more people on the internet – make some internet friends aha!

Em x

I Can Vaguely Socially Interact

Today, Robin and I went to a water park. I’m writing this on Thursday night, and half panicking that I won’t get it up in time. (Which I didn’t because #Rebel) CALM, Elm!

The water park was about half an hour from our campsite, and was huge. It had so many attractions, but Robin and I only went on two because I’m a wimp. After we went on them, we walked around (even though the floor was fucking boiling and our feet killed), went to get food at a noodle bar and relaxed in the “shade”. Saying that, the shade got interrupted by sunlight most of the time, and suncream had to be reapplied multiple times. Urgh.

You’re probably not wondering what the title means, so I’ll tell you anyway. It’s the thing that sticks in my mind when I remember the day, as sad as that is.

The first thing we went on was something similar to rapids. It was a water slide where you had to go in those rubber rings, and I went in one with Robin. You slid down and shrieked whilst you splashed into water, and it was bloody brilliant. I mean, I enjoyed it immensely, and yelled “BLOODY CRAPPING HELL!” on at least two occasions.

On the second slide, the “social interaction” happened. It’s actually laughable how I put that in quotation marks. Whilst the queue for the ‘crazy river’ wasn’t too long, the one for the other slide was significantly lengthier. As the sun beat down and I waited, with Robin and her mum and dad, I heard teenagers – speaking English – behind us.

Now, this has been rare this holiday. The norm is to hear Italian, German and Dutch, so to hear English was a shock. It was even more of a shock !hear it from someone who sounded close to my age, so because I’m a weird child, I fixated on it.

Oh, Elm.

Luckily, it’s fresh in my mind, so I can recount it properly. The whole experience happened at about midday, before I had lunch, and so the sun was intense. There were breaks of shade, but all throughout the time when we queued, I heard them behind me. I’m really fucking strange in that I like to socially interact, though I’m awful at it, and so I tried !get an opportunity to speak to the boy (he also had a little brother who was about 10, though I had no idea of the older boy’s age at that point).

Robin’s mum was talking to me about how old I looked (apparently I do look about 14, sometimes 15), and I kept on thinking about the people behind me. When the conversation moved onto how I supposedly had a good figure, and that Robin and I were both very pretty, I started to feel more confident. It wasn’t that I felt insecure before: today wasn’t a bad day for me in terms of that, because I feel alright about my body. It was more that I was worried as to how people would view me in a social situation. Because of that, as we reached the top of the staircase, I turned. Partly !get the sun on my face, and partly to just… Build up the nerve !tell myself that I could talk to people, if I wanted to. It was important to me that I could because it proves to me I can be okay in situations like that.

After I was ahead of Robin and her family on the staircase, I thought my chance had gone. That makes me sound like a stalker, but it was honestly only that I wanted to talk to someone my age. At school, I don’t branch out often (OMG I’ve made that pun before but still) and so I felt a crushing disappointment when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to show a stranger, someone I didn’t know, who I was when I was feeling the most free I’d felt in a long time. Does that make sense?

We turned right at the top of the staircase, walking into a patch of shade. I’d hung back a bit, mostly to get Robin in front of me so she could help me not look like a complete moron on the slide.

Robin’s mum spoke to them first. They were talking about a slide that they’d had to queue for for one and a half hours, that was – I think – one of the tallest in Europe. On hearing that talking, something changed inside my thinking; I thought: why not? So I turned once more, and just asked a question like “Are you SERIOUS?!”

After that, it was surprisingly easy to speak. I only thought I was an idiot once, when I said that I was so paranoid that I’d burn and he laughed a little. His brother was cool too: they were going to race each other down the slide for 5 euros, which made me chuckle.

Feeling somewhat bolder, I decided !ask questions. Robin’s mum found out he was staying at a campsite not far from the water park. When I spoke to him, he said he was 15 – and the strangest thing? It turns out that he lives in a place very near to the town where I go to school. AS IN, he lives VERY CLOSE to my school and would have gone to it if his dad didn’t move house.

As we got on the slides – there were five slides going down next to each other – I found out his name was James. Using his real name might be risky, but I’m at the point where I just don’t care. Him finding my blog is pretty much impossible, and even if he did, he most likely thinks I’m strange (which isn’t a bad thing!)

Possibly the most hilarious part of it was when I came off the slide. I realised I couldn’t exactly stand up, all 5 foot 1 inch of me, so I shrieked exactly that, followed by “WOAH, where am I?!”
James then called, sarcastically whilst laughing, “In a swimming pool!” My response? “SHUT UP I KNOW!” Laughing all the while, to show I was taking the piss. At least, I hope he realised I was… Oh god.

“So, we’ll see you around,” was the last thing he said. Afterwards, jokingly, I said to Robin that we should go looking for him, but I knew we wouldn’t see him again. The park was massive, with so many people that it would be like looking for half a needle in twenty haystacks. The disappointment I felt was short-lived, but it was more a sadness at a missed opportunity. Not really romantically – realistically, nothing could ever have happened, but just in a friendship and potential future happiness sort of way.

I didn’t get his number, or his facebook or anything. However, the possibility of us having mutual friends is so much higher than it’s ever been before with anyone I’ve met on holiday, which is rather scary if you think about it. I was in my bikini for fuck’s sake, acting like a total lunatic and laughing, carefree. He is someone I will, most likely, never be around again and so for me, it didn’t matter how I acted: only that I was happy.

I didn’t worry that my hair was horrendous, that I laughed too loudly, or if I turned and faced him too much. I didn’t think about how he saw me, or if Robin would judge me (which of course she didn’t). Again, he’s just a random boy on holiday, who I met for 20 minutes, and who I know nothing about. Still, I’m smiling because I’m remembering how great it felt to be in that moment.

It’s getting so much easier to say that I’m proud of myself. I spoke to someone, spontaneously and randomly, without thinking I was out of place or that I should just shut up. Maybe, over the past year, I’ve become better at speaking to people I don’t know, but this time was when I put it to the test.

I passed that “test”. I’ve never been more glad of that.

From Elm 🙂

Am I Always on Edge?

It’s come to my attention, rather unfortunately, that I find it almost impossible to relax.

Yesterday, I spent the day with Jasmine. It was a fantastic day; I went to her house, and I might as well run through a quick summary of what happened.

I went to hers via train (which took about 50 minutes) and arrived at her house after she picked me up from the train station (she waved at my dad across the road, and I remember feeling horrifically nervous and rubbing my hands together again like a mad villain on the train). Her foster mum is still lovely as ever, and we hung out in the living room before going upstairs. As I said to a friend last night: “Shit happened, we went on the bus to get lunch, got back, shit happened, then we went home.”

Well, because I’m Elm, I’ll give you more of a rundown. We went for lunch in a place reasonably close to her house (I mean it wasn’t really lunch; we had it at 5:30). We arrived there an hour before the restaurant – a Chinese place – actually opened, and so we went to a cafe and had an oreo milkshake. If you guys haven’t had them, they are beautiful and the best thing to ever happen to my life. Well, not the BEST thing to ever happen, but you get the picture.

When we were having food, I still felt very free because it was just her and me, whilst we were talking. I mean, I could barely eat much, but I was having a day where food wasn’t sitting very well with me.

After we returned home, we watched some TV and sobbed with laughter, before going to her music studio. There we played music, sang, and… Oh god I have to talk about this, don’t I? This is the whole point of the post. Aaarghh.

Physical things happened. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a lot; like my experiences on Wednesday, I felt entirely comfortable. No disgust, apart from a situation that happened before we went to lunch that is possibly the most horrifying and embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. That’s one thing I point blank refuse to talk about, because no one except her knows and it’s just too horrendous; I still can’t think about it without feeling gross, even though she wasn’t annoyed or anything. Okay, that’s enough of that.

In the music studio and in fact, all throughout the day when stuff happened, I just… Couldn’t relax. It wasn’t that I didn’t WANT to do anything, because I did; it wasn’t that I hated it, because I didn’t. Over the years, I’m so used to tensing up for anything – I’m ridiculously unflexible, probably because I hardly ever stretch or do exercise. Before I get sick and disgusted with myself, I need to remember that I still have time to become more fit. It doesn’t stop me from panicking, though.

At one point I got so frustrated and upset, but I think she understood. I thought she was somehow upset with me, because we just sat there silently with the worst kind of fear and worry growing inside of me, with our faces close but not touching. I almost felt like crying, because I thought that there was something wrong with me; now I know that I was just tense. SO tense.

Ever since we ate “lunch”, she’d been looking at my eyes. Because of the blindness, I can’t control them very well; they do their own thing and it took me a long time to look to the left, or up, and actually keep my eyes there. I’m still not good at it. In the studio, or at points throughout the day, she’d say, “OH! You’re looking at me!” or “Hey, they’re syncronised now.” No one’s ever payed that much attention to them before; either that, or they just haven’t mentioned it to me, and I think it was fascinating to both of us. After I got angry and frustrated because I couldn’t seem to relax, we were sitting there (as I said) and she just whispered, “You did it again – you looked at me, Elm.”

I’ve never come that close to crying at something so insignificant. We spoke about how I couldn’t relax – on many occasions she said, “Don’t tense up – it’s okay.” and I made my muscles believe her.

Not being able to properly let myself rest is really bothering me; the situation with Jasmine just emphasised that. Though she understood, I didn’t: she said, “Well I’m lost,” on one occasion, which made me almost feel guilty that I COULDN’T loosen myself up. Why couldn’t I?

I’m so used to stressing. Pretty much every day, I find a new thing to worry about; right now, I’m worrying about me stressing too much. Yesterday, I worried that she hated me. The day before, it was holiday homework. You get the picture, and said picture annoys me.

It was about 9:00 then, when my dad came to pick me up. It turns out that he and Jasmine’s foster mum get on really well, causing me to feel incredibly bad about lying to him. Jasmine and I were in the living room whilst they were talking, just sitting next to each other (kissing occasionally but obviously not doing anything too serious). It made me feel like I was actually a good person, or that I was valued AS a person. I could tell that she really didn’t mind that I couldn’t relax earlier, but I was still worried about it.

Yesterday was a great day, and I laughed a lot, felt happy and got emotional because she actually wanted to listen to me speak. During our lunch and an impromptue shopping trip, I felt almost like I WASN’T blind, that I was”normal” in quotation marks, even though I know that normality is subjective. With her next to me, it made me feel that way. However, the stress was a low point.

If I never relax, where does that leave me? I can’t think of the last time I let myself unwind properly, just sat down and didn’t think of anything. That doesn’t really work for me, and now I’m becoming a little panicked. I need to find a way to de-stress, but whenever I think about that, I feel guilty once more as I always think there’s something I MUST do, and if I de-stress, I won’t give myself time to do that thing and I’ll worry about it later.

It’s illogical. In the long run, I’ll be MORE stressed and less relaxed if I do everything right now, because I won’t be able to do it as effectively. If I show myself that calming down, doing something relaxing and chilling out is okay, I’ll have a better mindset.

How do I do that, when I’ve never really done that in the past?

Today, I may go on a walk with my dad. To give myself a starting point for calming down, I created a playlist on my phone literally called “Relaxation”, which contain songs with no drums or shrieking guitars, so that I can listen to them quietly and sort of immerse myself in them. I’ll take 10 minutes out of my day to stop for a little while, not do anything and just breathe. Reading might be an option, too.

In addition, exercising could be good for me. Maybe that’ll make me feel like I CAN do something: going on walks, going rock climbing, swimming perhaps (even though I hate it).

I hope Jasmine will be able to help me, directly or indirectly. My friends, too, simply by being there. Sometimes, you just need a place to be yourself.

It’s a starting point. If I can stop being so tense, I’ll hopefully feel better. Honestly, everything about me is tense, even my hands.

Do you get stressed easily? What kind of things do you do to calm down, because I really need tips!

From Elm 🙂

The Universe Has OBVIOUSLY Turned Sideways

A few days ago, I thought something that shocked me nearly into the next century.

I need to do some sort of sport.

No, SCRATCH THAT: I WANT to do some sort of sport. Yeah, you can faint now, because I just admitted to WANTING to do exercise. Elm, the most reluctant person in the world, who HATES all forms of exercise. Yup. I’m in shock, too.

It’s just, I’ve had enough. I’ve had ENOUGH of feeling unfit and getting short of breath when I exercise. And of course, there’s the whole thing about it calming you down and making you concentrate more which helps with exams and that kind of thing. I want to be active because god knows I NEED that, as I haven’t been in recent years. Or ever.

There’s a reason why I hate exercise, or the thought of doing it, and it’s probably because I never had or never could be bothered to take that opportunity. Oh here comes the awkward part where I bring my blindness into it, though it has no business here.

There’s sports that are specially adapted for us blindies (CRINGE why did I say that?) like football, cricket, goalball etc, but they’ve never interested me. Not sure why. Running is an issue because I have to get guided, and I’ve NEVER been confident with swimming. I SHOULD be, but I never have been; partly because of le lack of sight (NO EXCUSE) but mostly because I started late and always had lessons with those younger than me, which caused me to have horrific embarrassment.

I want to do something where I can truly do it, with little help – I won’t say no help because I’ll need guidance a little. Judo maybe, or rock climbing. The latter would be good – Y’KNOW WHAT FUCK IT, I’m looking into it.

Climbing’s not a TRADITIONAL sport, not like running or cycling or football, but it’s something I can do. I tried it once before but quit, STUPIDLY, and I need to take it up again. I’m more confident then, because it’s something I can concentrate on without relying on people to literally guide me, like in running.

I just need to get passed the issue of confidence because I hate people seeing me exercise, as in I really hate it, especially when it’s something I WANT to be good at.

To be honest, I want to say I can do it. I want to achieve it, and get healthier; I’m way too thin but I need to be more in shape. For god’s sake, I don’t even care about the “I’M BLIND AND Can DO SPORT!” because that’s old and everyone knows that we can so it’s not exactly a revelation.

It’s time I actually made a damned effort instead of doing nothing. You know, it might even make me more productive. I like routines, and I’m getting better at organising myself too.

From Elm 🙂

Guest Post – Getting Motivated to do…Exercise!

Hi guys! I’ve got a guest post for ya, from the brilliant and amazing Shay – click her name to see her blog, because it is WONDERFUL. I think you’re going to love this post, because I did.

I want to thank Elm, firstly for giving me the honour to write on her fantastical blog! 😀 No but seriously, Elm, you blog is amazing and I absolutely adore it!

 

I made a list of potential topics I could write about and I decided to go with something I am just so experienced and so professional in. Exercise.

Okay, I can admit, I am not the best at exercise, which is also why my advice about trying to get motivated will be sincere because if it worked for me, it can work for anyone. Seriously, anyone!

 

One big tip I want to put forward first it get rid of distractions! That’s right, don’t post anything about doing exercise on Facebook or whatever you kids use these days. XD Put your phone on silent and turn off notifications and try and forget about all of that! There are actually apps, if you’re desperate, that don’t let you use your device until a certain amount of time has passed, which can help to not get distracted and push you to actually go out on a jog or something.

 

Set a plan to do exercise. This is a part of motivation as it makes you feel more organized and serious about getting fit. Strive for something. The reason why I actually tried to do exercise was because I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to tone. My results were shocking because I could visually see a change to my body within a week. I had lost a noticeable amount of weight and I had toned ever so slightly in my arms. I know it might feel hard at getting into doing exercise, at first but once you see a difference, you’ll definitely feel more determined to carry on. Be SMART! S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-relevant, T-time bound.

 

Actually do what you set to do. Get your butt of the sofa and do something with your day! By the way, don’t take that personally, that was mainly me talking to myself. But still, take that advice on too! XD It’s easy to say you’re going to wake up at 6 and go out for a jog, the night before. When it comes to it, you feel a lot lazier and might even skive off doing it. Trust me, I understand. It’s literally the story of my life! Set a commitment to doing it. Make sure that you will have to do it like setting out your trainers next to you and whatever you wear to run in, as this will motivate you, even if you don’t feel it will.

 

And if you think that you’re going to give up half way through your exercise routine or whatever you’re planning on doing, maybe hang a picture over your head of Taylor Launter or something and convince yourself that’s how muscular you’ll look after.

Or maybe just skip that piece of advice… yeah, that would probably be best.

 

I think I might have just disproven my own point: “my advice about trying to get motivated will be sincere”. I’m sorry. XD I tried.

Again, thank you so much Elm for letting me do this guest post!

 

-Shay from VengeanceWearsBlack :3