I am a very different person to the girl I was this time last year. In just under a month I will be heading off for my first year of university, and I am 100% sure that I am more prepared than I was 12 months ago. This year, having taken a step out of the education system for a while, I feel like I’ve grown up so much!
Until last September, my entire world was focused around school and the work I was doing there. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been if I had wanted an easier ride, but at the time it felt like all I needed was within that environment. When I left, it felt like everything had fallen apart – I didn’t have a centre anymore. Having struggled with the anticipation of this for over a year, when it actually happened my mental health suffered in a brand new way. But this lead me to something very important; a life lesson that I needed to learn.
It came from a youtube video that I saw in late September. Hazel Hayes is a vlogger and short film maker on the internet, and for the last 18 months she has been documenting her life in a series called Time Of The Month. Each month she films short sections of her life and edits them together beautifully into a half an hour episode, letting her audience know what she is up to and allowing hersef to reflect on the month that has just passed. At the end of these episodes, Hazel sets out themes and emotions that have been prominent through living the month and editing the footage and this section always, always makes me cry! I find myself relating to her story and her life so intensely every time, all the while trying to remind myself that I don’t personally know this woman (however cool I think she is!)
This is by far my favourite series on youtube at the moment and I look forward to seeing it every single month. One of the most impressive things is how authentic and honest Hazel is in sharing her life with hundreds of thousands of people. Sadly, in July 2015 Hazel experienced the end of a relationship and (luckily for me) she decided to share this experience with the world. The episode entitled August 2015 (the second after this change in her life) was published on 7th October 2015 with absolute perfect timing. I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling about leaving school and how much life had changed even though I thought I wasn’t ready for it. But then I saw this and Hazel said the words that I couldn’t find; she was describing what I was experiencing, so that I started to understand my own emotions. Everything that I want to say is in the video below, so instead of typing out word for word what Hazel says, I thought you could just watch the section at the end of this video.
Grief. That’s what it was. I was grieving. But it wasn’t for a person or a physical thing, I was grieving the life I used to know. That girl who went to school and sat in those classrooms and performed on that stage was gone and it didn’t feel like there was anything else to go to. I didn’t know what I wanted because I just missed it. I needed to give myself time to grieve that life before I could enjoy this new one.
Hands down this was the most important thing I realised this year, because then I could start make it better. I’d always thought (perhaps quite naively) that grief was only about losing someone, I’d never thought about it in any other context so I couldn’t articulate it. But once I understood those feelings, I could start to move passed it. My mental health began to improve and I started to get on with life in the real world.
It now feels like this was the lesson that sent me on the journey to adulthood. This is all sounding very cheesy, but genuinely crying at the seven minutes at the end of this video was the first step on that ladder. So, if you ever happen to read this Hazel: Thank you so much for sharing what you felt because I’m sure that I am not the only person who was helped by your words.
This video also gave me a big leap towards the piece that became Base Layer (our devised piece of theatre aiming to reduce the stereotypes surrounding youth mental illness that we performed in July) because I thought that if I had been helped by someone sharing their thoughts and feelings, perhaps my journey could help someone else. There is a recording of our performance of Base Layer here or you can buy tickets for the final performance on 10/09 here.
Grief is a natural human emotion that occurs way more often than we let ourselves think. It’s OK to feel loss and sadness when something changes in your world (no matter how small you might think it is) and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that and let yourself grieve. Something will eventually make you so happy you could burst again, but that wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t had the sadness. It’s a very hard thing to remind yourself when the chips are down, but Stars can’t shine without darkness.