Sunday, 18 March 2018

My take on 30 before 30

In October this year I will be turning 30, and that prospect scares the hell out of me. I think there are a number of reasons – 30 feels so old to me but I still feel like I’m 16 – I literally feel like I’ve been put in some sort of weird time machine and my body has moved forward but my mind is moving backwards. I don’t know how to be a proper adult! I also struggle with the idea of being 30 because of how my life has worked out so far. I’ve spent my teens and twenties fighting illness and feel so far behind a lot of my friends with regards to life milestones – I feel like I need more time to catch up! When I was younger, I would always imagine what my life would look like at different ages. At 30, I imagined I would have a good job, be living in my own house, probably be married and be starting a family. But none of that has happened, which I think makes the idea of turning 30 even more difficult.

Because I’ve been finding the lead-up to this next milestone so hard, I decided I needed to do something about it. Moping around and feeling sad about getting older isn’t going to change anything, so I need to learn to accept how things are and make the most of what I do have and what I can do. I came across the idea of a 30 before 30 list a while ago and, although I found them a bit cheesy, they also intrigued me. But I always put off making one because I assumed they needed to include amazing adventures that I just wasn’t going to be able to achieve. Swimming with dolphins, travelling to Australia, holidaying in the Maldives – these are the kind of dreams I have on my Bucket List, and maybe one day I will achieve them, but I didn’t see the point in putting them on a 30 before 30 list – I simply wouldn’t be able to do them in time and would end up feeling like a failure.

Despite originally discounting the idea, for some reason I kept coming back to it. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I didn’t have to copy all the other lists out there if I didn’t want to. I could change the idea to suit my needs – so that’s what I’ve done. Instead of calling it my 30 before 30 list, I’m calling it my 30 Around 30 list. This takes the pressure off me having to try and cram everything in before I turn 30 in October and, instead, I can really focus on enjoying the things on my list by doing them before and after my birthday. I’ve also decided to make it a realistic list (for me). I still have my Bucket List (which I really need to update on my blog!) that includes my bigger dreams of travelling the world, getting married, having a baby etc. But for my 30 Around 30 list, I wanted it to only include things that I feel are achievable in the next year or so. Basically, I actually want to be able to complete my list!

So I thought I would share my list with you today, and then give you updates on how I’m getting on with it as time goes on. One, because it will be a nice way of recording the things I do to mark my 30th and a way to check in with myself to make sure I’m actually doing it. And two, because maybe it will give you some ideas of how you could make a list like this work for you. So here are my 30 Things I want to do around the age of turning 30.

1.   Go to Disneyland Paris
I’m a massive Disney fan (you probably know this by now!) We went to Disneyland Paris quite a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. I desperately want to visit Disneyworld in Florida, but for a number of reasons it’s just too difficult at the moment. So we have actually booked a trip to Disneyland Paris for September instead. Expect lots of posts and videos!      

2.   See a West End Show
I’ve only seen a couple of shows in the West End before – Phantom of the Opera and Wicked – and thought they were amazing. I just love the whole experience of going to London, having a meal and seeing a musical. I’m not sure which specific show I would like to see at the moment – there are so many on my list!

3.   Get a meaningful tattoo
I have been contemplating getting a tattoo for years but other things have always got in the way. There’s never been a specific design that I’ve wanted, but in the last few years I have really wanted to get something to remember the Grandparents I have lost. I think I’m finally at a point where I know that I want something meaningful, so I’m starting to investigate the best tattooist to make an appointment with.

4.   Get a job/create a job I love and that fits around my health
This is always going to be a difficult goal for me, mainly because of all my health problems. Working of any kind is never going to be easy or straightforward. A lot of my time is taken up with hospital visits, tests or just being unwell, so finding work that allows for all of that feels almost impossible. Which is why I have also added ‘create a job.’ If I could use my journalism degree to move my blog and YouTube channel forwards, and perhaps do some freelance work, then I think it might be possible to make it work around my health. It’s going to be a lot of experimenting and flexibility, but it’s something I’m thinking about.

5.   Visit Scotland
There are so many places I would love to visit, but I’ve always thought how strange it is to travel abroad when you haven’t even been to the countries in the UK! And I’ve never managed to go to Scotland. I know it’s quite a big place, but I think Edinburgh is top of my list right now.

6.   Go up to London for something that isn’t medical related
I travel up to London a fair bit these days, but for the majority of the time it is for a hospital appointment or some medical tests. Because these things are often incredibly draining, I find myself getting to Waterloo, taking a tube, bus or taxi to the hospital, having the appointment and then heading home. I see London out of my taxi window, but never get to experience the fun bits.

7.   Start doing my yearly Project Life albums
I bought my first Project Life album quite a few years ago, but it’s still sitting empty in my craft drawers. I also take a lot of photos, either on my phone or digital cameras, and they just end up sitting on my computer never being looked at again. So I would really like to start printing my photos out and making yearly albums with Project Life. It will give me the opportunity to be creative, and will also give something tangible for me (and my family) to look back on.

8.   Have a meal at The Ivy, London
I remember when I was younger – I would hear about celebrities going out to The Ivy for lunch or dinner and thinking how classy it must be. Fast-forward a number of years, and I’ve started seeing lovely photos and videos of bloggers and YouTubers going to the same place, enjoying the flowers outside the door. It’s made me want to visit even more!

9.   Have a spa break at Champneys
I’m a big lover of a spa – there’s nothing better than taking a few hours (or days) to just relax and get pampered, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and ready to carry on with your life. A few years ago my Mum and I enjoyed a Champneys spa break at Forest Mere, and I am desperate to go back for a few days again.

10.   Have afternoon tea somewhere fancy
If you’ve been following me for a while, you will probably know that I do love a good afternoon tea. I’ve been to quite a few different places, but there are so many more places I’d like to try. I think half the fun of it is deciding where to go next!

11.   Go to The Cotswold’s
Like I said earlier when I was talking about Scotland, there are so many places in the U.K. that I’ve never visited and have only seen in photos. And The Cotswold’s is one of them. Every photo or video I’ve seen from people’s trips there just look so beautiful. I really need to find a lovely little Airbnb so I can have a chilled out week exploring the countryside.

12.   Go back to Helmsley
A lot of people reading this will probably never have heard of Helmsley, but it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a small market town in North Yorkshire where my Grandparents (my Dad’s parents) used to live. I remember so many happy holidays up there, exploring the moors, going into York and finding farm shops with yummy cafés. When my Grandpa died, my Grandma moved down South to be closer to her family, and we haven’t been back since. I really miss it and would love to go back.

13.   Go back to Felixstowe
Like Helmsley, Felixstowe also has a special place in my heart. It’s wear my Mum’s parents used to live when I was little and where I lived for the first couple of years of my life. However, my Grandparents moved to live near us when my Grandad had his first mini-stroke and, again, we haven’t been back there since. I have so many happy memories of playing on the beaches, going to the pitch and put with my Grandad and buying souvenirs on the high street. I know it will be different now, all these years later, but still, I would like to see it.

14.   Go to The Lake District
This is another place I’ve never been to but heard (and seen) so many lovely things about. I remember a friend posting some photos of her holiday in the Lake District and I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. I would love to see it in person one day.

15.   Visit Longleat
I actually went to Longleat Safari Park a few years ago around Christmas and loved seeing the animals. But we soon ran out of time after taking quite a while to get round the car safari, so I would love to go back and see more of the park. Perhaps even stay at the Center Parcs nearby and make a proper holiday out of it.

16.   See a ballet
I remember seeing a couple of ballets when I was a lot younger – Coppélia with my dance school and I think Cinderella with a friend. I also did ballet myself, from around the age of 3 until my health started to go downhill at the age of 15. I really enjoyed both doing it and seeing others perform, and would love to go again now that I’m much older. I’m not sure which ballet I’d like to see at the moment, so if anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear them.

17.   Get my business cards printed
This one is pretty self-explanatory really! For months I have been saying that I need to get some business cards made up for my blog and YouTube channel, so that when I go to events or when someone asks me about my blog I can just hand them a card. But for some reason I still haven’t got round to it, despite knowing where I want to get them from. So hopefully this should be quite an easy one, and will also show my commitment to continuing with my blogging and freelance work.

18.   Complete my Limited Edition Disney Classics and Pixar DVD collection
If you’ve followed me on Instagram or YouTube for a while, you will probably have seen that I collect the Disney Classics and Pixar DVDs with limited edition sleeves. I’ve collected most of the more common ones, but still have quite a few of the more unusual films to pick up. So I’m excited to continue adding to my collection – all the shiny cases look so pretty together!

19.   Go to Sussex to visit Sarah and Charlie
When I was putting this list together I asked for ideas from some of my friends. One person suggested having a couple of points for seeing friends I don’t see very often or haven’t met in person yet. It was really tricky trying to whittle down all the friends I would love to see, but I thought that just because I put a couple on my list, it doesn’t mean I can’t still see others. So the first person I want to make an effort to see at some point is my friend Sarah, who now lives in Sussex, and her little boy Charlie. We get to see each other now and again when she comes back to see her parents, but I thought I would make this something a bit different and actually go to visit her. It’s not the easiest as I can’t drive that distance on my own, so I need help from my parents, but it is do-able.

20.   Meet up with Becca H and celebrate our 30th birthdays
Another friend I’ve been trying to meet up with for literally years is my friend Becca. We ‘met’ through an M.E. charity for young people when we were about 15 and have been talking ever since. However, the only time we’ve ever met in person was completely by accident, when we bumped into each other while I was shopping with a friend in Chichester (years ago). As our birthdays are in the same month, we’ve said that this year, we really need to do something to celebrate us both turning 30. I suggested meeting up at Chewton Glen, so we’ll see what we can organise.

21.   Visit an animal shelter with a donation of toys/food/treats for the animals
You’ll probably know by the name of my blog and my Instagram photos that I’m a big animal lover. This idea was actually something suggested by another friend and I thought it was a lovely thing to put on my list, as I didn’t want everything on this list to just revolve around me. I’m not sure which animal shelter/charity I want to donate to at the moment – I’d like it to be somewhere I can actually visit with my donations, so I need to do a bit of research.

22.   Get the train up Snowdon
I’ve always loved the idea of climbing a mountain, but because of my health problems and the fact that I use a wheelchair to get any further than a few steps, I never thought it would be possible. But then a friend told me about the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which goes right to the summit if you travel at the right time of year. Finally, I can actually ‘climb’ a mountain! I’m hoping this goal might appeal to my Dad, as he’s really into trains, so hopefully I can drag him and my Mum along to help!

23.   Treat myself to a designer handbag
I’m probably more of a shoes girl than a handbag girl, but that doesn’t stop me loving a pretty bag. I’m always lusting after the expensive bags if we ever go into a department store, so I decided to add treating myself to one to my list. It’s unlikely to be a really expensive designer handbag – one because I can’t afford to spend thousands of pounds on a bag, and two because if I did spend that amount, I would be too scared to actually use the bag! So my thoughts are something mid-range. More expensive than I would usually spend on a bag, but not completely out of reach either. I’ve seen some lovely bags from Kate Spade that I’ve been eyeing up, so they could be an option.

24.   Graduate from university
This is another pretty explanatory goal, but one I’ve been wanting to do ever since I understood what university was. My earliest memory of discussing university was when my Dad would tell me stories of his university days. Apparently at the age of about 5 or 6, I told him I didn’t want to go to university because I didn’t like curry (in some of his stories he had mentioned that he went out for a curry with his course friends!) Once he’d reassured me that I didn’t have to eat curry at Uni I felt a lot happier and more interested in getting a degree (and I do now like curry!) Fast-forward to now – it’s taken me three attempts at three different universities, over the course of ten years, but I’m finally coming to the end of my journalism degree. I still feel anxious that something will go wrong again and I won’t finish, but the closer I get, the more possible it seems.

25.   See the sun rise or set over the sea
I think this is a pretty standard bucket list goal, but that doesn’t bother me. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a golden yellow and orange sky over the sea – whether that’s in the UK or somewhere a little bit warmer, I’m not too fussy! But I just want to actually make the effort to sit still, wait around a little longer (or wake up a bit earlier) and enjoy one of the world’s most picturesque sights.

26.   Do something to raise money for charity
I’ve done quite a lot of fundraising over the years – I’ve organised a live music night, done a disabled climb over The O2, baked cakes for coffee mornings and been sponsored to wear funky socks and share them on social media. I have a few different charities I like to support, which include EDS UK, Mind and Beat so I’m currently thinking of what I can do next to raise some more money to support them. If anyone has any ideas of things I could do that are suitable for a disabled person I would be interested to hear your suggestions.

27.   Have something I’ve written published in a magazine or newspaper
I was debating whether to put this on my list, as it’s something I’ve already done a few times (I’ve had articles in Happiful magazine, our local magazine and a hospital magazine) but I thought there was nothing wrong with wanting to do the same thing again. After all, journalism is what I hope to do with my life, so setting myself a goal of getting something else published seemed like a good idea!

28.   Go on a cruise
Up until recently, going on a cruise has never appealed to me. I didn’t like the thought of being stuck on a boat for weeks on end and was terrified that I’d spend the whole trip being sick (I had an awful experience on a ferry once, which has really put me off boats!) But I didn’t actually know that much about cruise liners until I saw a programme recently on ITV about a cruise (and also saw some YouTube videos of the Disney Cruise Liner!) It made me realise just how huge the ships were, how much stuff there is to do on them (they are literally like a whole village) and how good they would be for someone like me who wants to see the world but doesn’t find travelling the easiest. The fact I could get on a boat and not really have to move much unless I felt able to get off when it stopped and have a look around sounds pretty perfect.

29.   Go on a date
When I was making this list, the same kind of dreams kept coming up in my head – I want to get married, I want to have a family, I want to buy my own house… But all of these goals just seemed so out of reach compared to where I am at the moment. So I had a think about what the first step towards those things would be, and taking the initial step of actually going on a date sounded like a good idea. I’m actually considering joining up with a dating agency to achieve this, as I’m not having any luck with the likes of Tinder or trying to meet someone in person. So wish me luck!

30.   Complete 30 random acts of kindness
My last goal is slightly vague, as I didn’t want to specify what I want the random acts of kindness to actually be. I do try to do little surprises for people anyway, but I liked the idea of doing 30 for my 30 years.

And that brings us to the end of my 30 Around 30 list! I think I’ve got a good range of goals to work towards – some fun, some kind and some just plain scary! But I think it’s important to challenge yourself a bit and do things that scare you from time to time. You never know what you’ll end up getting out of them. I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on my take on the 30 Before 30 List, and if you have any suggestions or recommendations for any of my goals. As I said, I will try and keep you updated on how I’m getting on with my list through blog posts, so keep an eye out for future posts. And if you don’t see one for a while, give me a poke and ask me why!

Have you done a list like this at all? What goals would be on your list?

Sunday, 4 March 2018

My trip to RHS Wisley

Before I start this post, I thought I’d better warn you that this is going to be pretty photo heavy and fairly word light!

A couple of weeks ago, my Mum, Dad and I headed over to RHS Wisley for a little trip to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. The last time I went there was a few years ago now, but I remembered really enjoying it and thought it would be something that my Mum would love, being a lover of gardens and flowers. I had rung in advance to hire a scooter, as the last time I went we used my manual wheelchair and it was hard work for my Dad! I’m so glad I hired the scooter, as it made getting round so much more relaxing for both me and my parents, so I would definitely recommend doing that if you struggle with your mobility. They ask for a refundable deposit of £5, which I think is fantastically reasonable.

Despite the weather being perfect in the days before (and the days after) our trip, on the day we went it was rather rainy. However, when we arrived at around 11.30am, the car park was still packed, so the rain obviously doesn’t put people off visiting. Luckily the rain seemed to ease off during the day, and it definitely didn’t spoil our visit. The first thing we did after paying to get in, being given my scooter and having a nice lunch in the café, was to head over to the huge glasshouse, as we’d heard they had a butterfly exhibit and were desperate to see it. Unfortunately, the butterflies leave after today, but they are an annual thing, and I would wholeheartedly recommend checking them out when they return. It was so lovely going into the tropical climate away from the cold and rain. The glasshouse was full of amazing plants and colourful flowers, so I thought I would share some of my photos with you.

After looking round at the flowers and the waterfall, we made our way into the centre of the glasshouse where the butterflies were living. We moved around really slowly, in total awe of the number and size of the butterflies flying around. I literally felt like I was on some sort of tropical rainforest holiday as butterflies floated silently past my head. I thought I would be a bit jumpy, but they are so delicate and beautiful I relaxed really quickly. I didn’t get many photos of the butterflies unfortunately, as they were so quick! But I did manage to catch a couple while they rested on the trees, as well as a beautiful blue one that took a fancy to me! It first decided to land on the back of my scooter seat and settled for ages, prompting other guests to gather in a circle around me to take their own photos (I felt a little like a zoo attraction!) A bit further around, another one came and settled right on my chest, which was a little scary to start with but I soon began to appreciate just how close I had managed to get to such a beautiful creature. Again, other people gathered around to check it out!

After our time in the glasshouse, we decided to have a look around the rest of the gardens. By this point the rain had pretty much stopped, so it worked out really well, even if it was still a bit chilly. This isn’t the best time to go if you’re hoping to see loads of beautiful flowers outside, as everything still looks fairly green. But we found some adorable little flowers in some of the small greenhouses and a few colours beginning to emerge around the outdoor areas. There were also the snowdrops just starting to fade, and carpets of crocuses covering grassy areas. I definitely want to go back in a few months once everything has come into full bloom, as I’m sure it will look amazing after seeing everything they’ve got growing. As well as a few flowers, there were also quite a few metal sculptures around the grounds, which looked fantastic, especially against the rainy atmosphere. Some of these were available to buy and there were some with a tiny hidden ladybird for guests to find.

We finished our trip with a little look around their garden centre and gift shop (and somehow managed to come away without buying anything, although Mum and I were very tempted!) Overall, we all really enjoyed our day out at RHS Wisley and are already planning our next visit.

Have you been to RHS Wisley before? What are your favourite flowers from my pictures? And what do you think of the butterflies?!