The Poets

Poetry is underrated. Yes, I said it. Poetry – one of the most beautiful ways that a human being can express themselves, where you don’t have to stick to the rules and regulations of standard prose; where you just say what is in your heart and it can have the most profound effect on the reader – it’s just not valued anymore.

When I was at secondary school, we did quite a bit of poetry – John Keats, Philip Larkin, Dylan Thomas, my English teacher told us about Sylvia Plath – I was never brave enough to read her poetry… Whilst we were doing our GCSE’s, we analysed poetry from a few poets, sadly I don’t remember the poems or the poets – but some of the things that I read, stayed with me. When it is an autumn day, the wind is blowing in the trees and the leaves scatter merrily all around, I’m reminded of a poem when the poet is a little girl, who is walking through the park with her mother. Her mother seems so tall and powerful, wrapped in her warm woollen coat, her dark hair flying loose and defiantly in the wind, the little girl looks up to her mother, clinging tightly onto her hand, knowing that she is safe with her, that her mother will protect her from all the elements and from all her difficulties in life. I think at the end of the poem we realise that her mother had died…but that perfect moment of feeling completely safe and secure in life stayed with the poet forever.

I’ve written about this before, but one of my favourite poems is by Dylan Thomas – Do not go gentle into that good night. Sadly, this poem in recent times has been adopted by people who have opposing political views to me. However, that is irrelevant. I read this poem when I was 17 years old, a time of confusion – stepping into adulthood, wanting more responsibility, yet not feeling ready. Tired of being treated as a child, but not understanding what being an adult really means. My father had died a few years before and I wish that he had been able to ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’…a plea from all children to their parents – stay with me forever, don’t let death take you away…

Poetry. The damn thing touches your soul and parts stay with you, you’re reminded of certain phrases in the strangest of moments, not even knowing that you had been touched so profoundly.

There are times in your life when you feel invincible. Treasure those times. That feeling that the world is yours and that you have the power to part water if you were required to. Treasure those moments because as you grow older, those times feel fewer and farther between. A few years ago, I went through a bit of a rough patch. Nothing extraordinary. Nothing incredible. However, life felt tough. I will always thank God for the family that I have around me. They were there – like a shield, a huge support; like a warm, comforting blanket – there for me, in whatever capacity when I needed them. Words of wisdom. Words of encouragement. Words of inspiration. A telling off, if they felt I needed it; at times just a voice at the end of the phone, or a sweet cup of tea…whatever they felt I needed, they were there.

But the person that I had to thank the most, was my husband. My patient, kind, loving husband, who only wanted to see a smile back on my face, and for me to feel as strong as he knew I was. One day, I came up with a solution that I felt would make our lives better and talked through it with him. I was tired of not feeling strong anymore. Of feeling helpless – like a victim. I was frustrated that I didn’t feel like my invincible self. When would I ever feel like that again? I was desperate to take back control of my life instead of feeling so broken, unappreciated and undervalued.

It took him less than five minutes to agree that what I felt would be the best course of action to take – and a surge of relief shot through us both. Something palpable. A change happened and we both felt it. He doesn’t like to read as he simply doesn’t enjoy it – but later that day, he sent me a photograph of a poem that completely took me by surprise and made me weep.

This poem. The gentleness, the encouragement, the fact that being hurt, facing difficulties does not mean that you are weak and worthless – the fact that you got through it, means that you have become so much more. Yes, he would not have been able to express himself in the way that Nikita Gill, the poet does but his message to me was exactly that. That he was proud of me and that I would overcome these difficulties – life was teaching me how to be stronger.

I will be forever grateful to anyone who was there for me when I felt my worst. Those people have an incredibly special place in my heart – when I felt bruised, and battered and worthless – those people who refused to let me accept defeat, who refused to let me believe that I was any of those things – I will be eternally grateful to.

I don’t feel gratitude – but I will always remember the lessons taught to me by those who chipped away at my self-esteem and self worth – as they taught me something incredibly powerful….how people should never be treated. Lessons learned. And I know, just as I had to learn some lessons from life – they one day will too…

I don’t want to end in a negative way though – life is always full of ups and downs. It is incredibly important to appreciate the good times, when we have them and know that the tough times are temporary too. Embrace those who love you and make you feel loved. Embrace those who are there for you to bolster you when you are down. Embrace those who tell you that you are amazing – even when you don’t feel it and feel completely unlovable. These people are simply angels in a human guise.

But my post today, is dedicated to the poets. The people who can articulate feelings through words that resonate with so many souls. And to my husband…who loved me when I just didn’t or couldn’t love myself.

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A million love songs

Love songs are funny things aren’t they? I used to hate them when I was young. They used to make my skin crawl with embarrassment. I’d have to switch radio stations quickly or skip the songs on the CD when it came to ‘those’ songs.

That changed though. Ironically, not when I met my husband. I love him very much but still cringe in the same way that I used to when I was younger. He will mess around and lip synch to the lyrics of romantic songs to me – and I will involuntarily screw up my face, hoping that my expression is so off putting that he will stop. He knows me too well though. He knows that I’m embarrassed and that’s part of the fun. So, I look away until he’s done.

The minute that love songs started making sense to me was when my beautiful children were born. Now I know that this sounds weird but bear with me on this. I think I was pregnant with my eldest when I heard these lyrics,

‘Oh I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song
And this one’s for you. And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.’

I was on my own, probably feeling a little bit hormonal – and I heard this song, ‘Your song’, by Elton John. He wrote it, I imagine, for a person that he loved at the time. But I related to it on a different level. Those words were like a promise, a message to my unborn baby, that my world was so wonderful now that they were in my world. I too felt that what I had to offer was not that much, but I hoped that the love in my heart would do.

Even now, my girls help me far more than I help them. I hug them and draw strength from them. Sometimes I find it incredible that these girls, growing so quickly, once were growing quietly, inside me. Once so helpless, so dependent, now fully functioning, decision making, sensitive, independent forces of nature. A few nights ago, I was tucking my eldest into bed. Now, I have to be incredibly careful what I say in her presence. She is so perceptive and I can often see her trying to analyse my face to gauge my mood. If she senses that I’m upset, she’s relentless. She won’t stop questioning in her quiet, caring, unnervingly adult like way until I divulge what’s bothering me. As I tucked her into bed, she saw her chance. She knew I hadn’t been feeling my best but wanted to make sure that I was ok before she went to sleep. In that moment, I felt that our roles had been reversed and came away feeling oddly in awe of my little daughter.

My youngest daughter, who has grown in confidence over the past couple of years, has been feeling a bit teary over the past couple of nights. She is tired and goes to bed willingly, but then a few minutes later, is sobbing because she doesn’t want to be on her own.

I get that. I used to hate the dark when I was little. So incredibly frightened – my own imagination torturing me with sounds and shadows that played on my mind. Unfortunately, both of my girls have inherited this imagination and this fear. My youngest came down earlier, weeping hysterically, unable to speak because she was scared. I held her close to me, to calm both herself and myself down. It’s so distressing hearing a child cry in that way. Once her tears had subsided and her breathing had got back to normal, I said, you know there is a song that reminds me of you? She loves stuff like this, so she curiously asked, which one?

In a tuneless, croaky voice that only your own child could love, I began,

‘Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you
And everything you do
Yeah they were all yellow.’

Her face was a picture. ‘You don’t need to be scared,’ I began. ‘Because the stars shine for you!’ The only way that I can describe the expression on her face, is comparing to the sunshine breaking through the clouds and you feel the heat of the rays warming up your icy skin. Her face lit up. The thought of the stars shining for her, was the best feeling ever. And then she added to it. ‘They’re wishing stars too aren’t they? They make wishes for you? They look after you?’

Every word that she spoke, gave her hope that the stars were hers and hers alone. To look after her, make sure that she was safe and grant her wishes.

Before she skipped off to bed happily, she divulged to me that before we heard her crying last night, my eldest had heard her and had been trying to comfort her. I said, ‘That’s because we all love you so much. We all want to look after you.’ This thought comforted her so much, she just held onto me peacefully and sighed in the way that she used to when she was a small baby. Honestly, I didn’t want to let go.

Just like books, it’s amazing how songs can touch your soul. How one song can evoke so many memories and mean so many different things to people. I can’t listen to ‘Your song’ without crying anymore and there are so many others…but I’m so glad that these songs were written. Otherwise how else could I have known how to express this form of love to my dearest girls?

Nomad

One of my favourite things, my non-guilty pleasure on an evening when I’m all alone is to watch one of two films again and again. Both of these films give me that warm, syrupy feeling inside. Both films have aspects that I find troublesome, neither film is perfect. But I love them both equally. The first one is, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The second one is, ‘Chocolat’, with Juliette Binoche and a whole host of other incredible actors.

You’ve Got Mail appeals to the geeky romantic in me. Meg Ryan owns a children’s bookstore – if I wasn’t a teacher, I know this would have been my second calling. She begins to communicate online with a stranger and falls in love. She doesn’t realise this but her online beau, is her real life nemesis who has opened a massive bookstore opposite her and has no qualms about putting her out of business. Yes, the story has problems. Yes, the ending is hugely unrealistic. But I love it all the same. Isn’t that what films and books are for, after all? To give hope, to show that there can be a happily ever after. That you can find love in the most strangest of circumstances. That nobody is completely black or white – people, love, lives are complicated….

When I put on ‘Chocolat’, I am transported to a completely different world. A world that completely hooks in the Francophile in me. A world of mysticism, chocolate, french food, love. A world before the internet. A world of prejudice. Repressed feelings. Hiding your pain under the cloak of religion. Trying to be a good person by denying yourself pleasure – only to make yourself and everyone else around you miserable. No character is completely faultless and angelic, and no character is completely bad. The flaws in each of these characters is what makes this film so beautiful.

Juliette Binoche is a single mother, she never married – which to everyone who meets her is scandalous! She has a young daughter with whom she travels around, trying to find somewhere to settle. Her daughter, we discover, hates this lifestyle. She just wants to find somewhere to settle down, make friends in a place she can call home. Juliette’s character finds this challenging. It’s in her blood to travel. To be a nomad. When life becomes difficult, the North wind blows – and she takes it as a sign to move on, much to her daughter’s dismay. I love Juliette’s character in this film. She is kind. She is a free spirit. She brings so much joy and happiness to other people’s lives – at the same time feeling so lost and alone – searching for something – but even she doesn’t know what…I love her daughter’s character too. She has an imaginary friend who is a kangaroo – we realise this is because she doesn’t stay anywhere long enough to make proper friends. She is sometimes bullied because of the choices of her brave and unorthodox mother. She longs for stability and a place to call home – but she has no control over her life because she is only a child. It is easy whilst watching this to feel angry with Vianne (Juliette’s character), because you know that her daughter is going through so much pain and you wonder why doesn’t she just stay in one place. Why can’t she just stifle her feelings and desires to make her daughter happy? But that is the point of the story I suppose. You can’t be happy if you live a life of repression. Vianne could have stayed in one place and brought her daughter up there – but she would have been forever vilified for being a single mother. She wanted to open her own business and run a shop with all kinds of chocolate treats – the idea of a woman running that type of business on her own wasn’t palatable for so many people at that time. What would have happened to Vianne if she had just settled and lived a life that wasn’t right for her? Her spirit would have been crushed. She would have been completely miserable and she would not have been able to be the loving mother that her daughter deserved.

If you haven’t watched the film, I do think it’s something you should treat yourself too. Get a warm cup of tea, perhaps a few chocolate treats. Snuggle down and enjoy being transported to a completely different world.

Today’s blog has turned into a bit a of film review, I’m completely aware of that. However, the reason why Chocolat resonates with me so much is because I can relate to Vianne’s nomadic nature, a heck of a lot.

When I used to live in London my friend Pam and I, and even in conversations with my brother, we would talk about how we had a huge disdain for people who martyred themselves. Obviously, we weren’t talking about Joan of Arc and other people who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. We would talk about everyday people, who were miserable in their lives, in their workplaces, or in their relationships – how complaining about their circumstances was more preferable than actually repairing their situation.

I personally don’t believe that I do that. If I think something isn’t right, I will do my best to try and fix the situation. I’ll speak directly to the relevant people and hopefully things can be sorted and fixed. But if they can’t – if I feel that I am not valued, or appreciated, respected or listened to – the nomad in me will think, that’s fine, the North wind has blown. It’s time to move on.

You see, a bit like Vianne, I believe that life is too short to be miserable. To deny yourself happiness. To let anyone crush your spirit. That’s not living. That’s simply being alive. I understand that on the flip side, there may be difficulties and struggles that prevent you from just moving on. Life isn’t as simplistic as that. I know that. Throughout my life, I’ve had to make difficult decisions. Doing things that have gone against the grain. Making decisions that others may have thought were unwise. I am fortunate though, that I have family around me that have allowed me to make unorthodox decisions. Who didn’t care about putting society first. Society doesn’t feed or clothe you, or wipe your tears when you’re full of despair.

Living your life to make society happy – and crushing yourself in the interim isn’t a good way to live. We are only here for a brief period. A blink of an eye – and then you’re gone. Who will remember that you sacrificed yourself for the sake of duty? For the sake of pleasing others? No one will remember. No one will care.

Just live and let others live. Meanwhile, drink tea, watch films and eat a good dose of chocolate!

Making mistakes

I distinctly remember the point in my life when I was no longer forgiven for making mistakes as a child. I was 10 years old and no longer cute. That was it. It wasn’t that my peers had changed towards me. We behaved in the same way towards each other. But members of my extended family no longer wanted to indulge me or view me as a child who might get things wrong from time to time.

If I didn’t grasp things immediately, I was met with sighs or groans of exasperation or impatience. If I broke something accidentally, or had made a mess and not cleared up on time – that was met with the type of reaction that would have been the same, I imagine, if I had committed the heinous crime of murdering someone.

And what happens if that is the reaction that you get if you make mistakes? You become more nervous, more accident prone, more clumsy – and even more vilified because you just can’t do anything right.

I see it quite often. With babies, or children who are smaller, people see them and want to protect them. Look after them. They seem so vulnerable. So cute. But with children who happen to be quite tall for their age, or who have lost their puppy fat, or who speak well and appear to be quite intelligent – they are all treated as if they are emotionally a lot older than their ‘cuter’ looking counterparts. People are more impatient with them. Less forgiving. Older siblings get that type of treatment quite frequently. The pressure of being ‘the role model’, means that you are at times blamed for things that your younger siblings did wrong. Or, you are punished for actions that your younger siblings get away with because you paved the way for them.

We actually live in a society where making mistakes is fatal. People lose their jobs, or are sued, or are trolled on the internet – sometimes all three if they’re unlucky. I’m obviously not referring to people who commit crimes. Crimes are not mistakes. Crimes involve intent to break the law. I’m not discussing this. I’m talking about doing or saying the right thing – even when your intentions were good – but it backfires. You handle a situation incorrectly. You realise that was wrong. You realise that you should have said or done something different. We’ve all experienced this – but isn’t that what makes us grow? How else would we learn if we didn’t make mistakes. When we were first learning to walk, to talk, to eat – we got things wrong. Can you imagine if people discouraged us from walking, or talking or eating independently because we didn’t get the knack of it the first time around?

I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who continued to believe in me, who continued to give me chances, even when I’d messed up. Often, when I get things wrong, I am my own biggest critic – no one can make me feel any worse than how I make myself feel when I have made a mistake. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who remind me not to be so hard on myself. Mistakes happen. We support each other. We learn from our mistakes and move on.

We have to afford that same magnanimous attitude towards children too. The children who are smart. The ones who are tall. The ones who look older than they are. The ones ‘who should know better’. Yes. We all should know better. But we all continue to make mistakes all the same. To err is human….

To forgive…is divine….

Let’s have a bit more patience towards those who make mistakes. Let them know, it doesn’t matter, it’s not the end of the world. Help them; give them the confidence to try again. You never know what a difference you might make to that individual!

This too shall pass…

A few years ago, I was going through a bit of a tough time. Nothing specific. But life felt hard. My children were babies. I worked full time. They didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep. The expectations from my employers were, quite rightly, that I should be firing on all cylinders.

I couldn’t.

I don’t think that anyone talks openly about how hard it is to have young children and be sleep deprived. The impact that has on you. And it doesn’t matter whether you stay at home, or are working. Essentially, you are working all the time. In fact, if you’re working, you get a designated break time. You have other adults you can speak to. There is a break from the monotony of routine, that is nappy changes, feeding, nap times.

Although I sound completely miserable about it and it was incredibly hard work – I blinked. I blinked and the girls are not tiny helpless beings anymore. They talk and are actually quite funny. They help. They are good company. At times, they are wise beyond their years. And it made me realise – situations do not stay the same forever.

I was blessed. I wasn’t on my own during the periods that I found hard. My husband did everything in his power to help me. My mother would check on me two or three times a day to ask if I needed anything. She would come and give me respite whenever she could. My in-laws would check on us and provide help if we needed it. I was never alone and I’m acutely aware so many incredible women do this and more all on their own. However, it was my brother who gave me a gift that helped me to calm down and see things differently. He would ring me as often as he could and would try to be as supportive as he could. But in 2015, New Year’s Day, he came around and said, ‘I’ve bought you something.’ I unwrapped the gift, and he had given me a copy of ‘The Bhagavad Gita’.The Gita is a sacred, holy text for Hindus and let me explain the context behind it. Lord Krishna was on the battlefield with his disciple, Arjuna. Arjuna and his brothers were about to take part in the biggest battle of their lives – fighting evil. But the power-hungry evil people that they were fighting were unfortunately members of their own extended family. This epic story is described in the holy book of The Mahabharata. As Arjuna gazed across and looks to the opposing side of the battlefield, he has a crisis of confidence and conscience. He sees his uncles, cousins, teachers – people he grew up with, people he loved dearly at one time – and he tells Krishna – I can’t do this. This is wrong. I can’t do this. The Bhagavad Gita is the conversation that Krishna has with Arjuna. Krishna advises Arjuna that he has a job to do. The people that he is going to fight may be family members, but they had many opportunities to change their ways and do the right thing. They chose not to – they made their choice and they must face the consequences.

Krishna proceeds to give Arjuna, and the rest of humankind advice about how to live life, particularly during times of difficulties.

To my shame, I haven’t read all of the Gita. The original text is in Sanskrit and even though it has been translated, to read and understand each verse is hard going. Each line is full of wisdom and to understand it, even slightly, requires a huge amount of concentration.

It has been said that if you are going through any difficulties in life, you only need to concentrate and open The Bhagavad Gita to any page – the verses should provide some guidance and advice to help you. When my brother left, I put The Bhagavad Gita in a safe place, returning to it some time later…

The girls were asleep. I had just had a shower. I sat on the floor in my back room and started reading. Very slowly and full of intense concentration.

The biggest thing that I took away from The Gita, and what has stuck with me ever since was this – Everything is temporary. Happiness, sadness, easy times, challenging times – everything is temporary. It doesn’t last.

I realised that prior to reading that passage – that I have explained in incredibly simple terms – that I had had suffered a few setbacks that I wasn’t finding easy to deal with. Had I been feeling stronger, slept better, felt more like myself – I would have felt differently. But reading the passage gave me strength that the difficulties that I felt that I was facing – were they even difficulties? Or were they life lessons? But most importantly – I was given hope. Whatever I was going through was temporary. The feelings, the emotions, the difficulties – were all temporary. Things would get better. I just needed to remind myself and believe it.

The Gita was right. I sound hilarious don’t I? Thousands of years this sacred text has existed, and here I am in 2019, giving my seal of approval, 5 stars rating to Krishna! Krishna, you were right.

Whether it was because I had a sudden change of mindset and began to feel more hopeful – or whether it was a different reason – things slowly began to change. For the better.

Life is a roller coaster, so since that time, there have been ups and downs. Ecstatic moments. Moments of helplessness. Times that I have felt despondent and been pushed to the brink… Offset by times filled with immense gratitude.

I know that some people reading this will be feeling sceptical and uninspired.

Others will be feeling as low as I did at certain parts of my life. My advice to you is to hang in there. Keep going and keep believing. Nothing in life is permanent. Everything is temporary. And if you are going through an incredibly difficult time in your life – have faith. Because if life has taught me anything, this too will pass.

Back to school!

And so it begins. The weekend before returning back to school, the holidays have almost ended and I’m desperately trying to savour every last, delicious second of freedom, before we’re back on that hamster wheel, when real-life begins again. Over 20 years of teaching under my belt and the ‘fear’ is still there. I know I will not be able to sleep on Sunday and Monday night. A build up of nerves, apprehension and excitement. Wondering how on Earth I’m going to be able to fit back into the routine and discipline of being back at work again.

My daughters also have mixed feelings. They are looking forward to going back to school and meeting their friends, but a huge draw for them also is being with their new teachers. It’s so strange to be on the other side of the fence. Hearing my daughters chatter to each other about what their new teachers are like, and the excitement about building a relationship with someone who is going to be such an important figure in their lives for the next academic year. I know that if I say something to my girls, give them a golden nugget of information, they will listen politely and then perhaps forget or dismiss what I have said a few moments later. If, on the other hand, their teacher says exactly the same thing to them – they will absorb that pearl of wisdom with so much gratitude and love, repeating it to all and sundry.

Listening to my daughters reminds me of how important my role is in the classroom. It doesn’t matter how much other work I’ve got on, how much paperwork needs filling in, data that needs inputting, how many items there are on my never-ending ‘To-do’ list – my most important job is to be present for the children in my class. Not just teach them the curriculum. But to look after them. Listen to them. Notice if they are sad or upset, worried or nervous. Notice if they are tired. Listen to them reminding you everyday that it’s their birthday soon. Listen to what they did during their weekend. Notice if they’re worried about who they are going to play with at playtime or lunchtime. Because being a teacher in the classroom and showing children how to get better in their reading, writing and maths is only a tiny, miniscule part of the job. Actually, we nurture children. Make them believe in themselves. Make them understand that failure teaches us to get back up, dust ourselves off and try again. Teach them to work with different people. Get them to learn to articulate their points of view without being fearful. Make them understand that not everyone can be good at everything – we all have our own strengths – find your strength – you are important and precious, regardless.

On my third teaching practice, I worked in a beautiful, kind, warm, welcoming school. Every morning I would be excited to walk into the school building. The headteacher was always there at 7 o’clock in the morning and he would always walk into the school hall, set up a CD of calming classical music, and that would be the music I would hear as soon as I came into school. The music would get rid of nerves or anxiety that I was feeling and I would almost float into the Year 3 classroom where I was based. Every morning, the headteacher, would walk to every classroom and would wish every member of staff, ‘Good Morning!’, and his presence would always fill us with confidence that we would be able to deal with whatever challenges lay ahead.

There were 32 children in this class. All of them sweet and kind. In this particular class, there were two boys who were twins. One was a smiley, happy, chatty boy. The other brother was withdrawn. Unable to make eye-contact. He had a huge speech impediment and would not want to communicate with anyone. As was the custom on teaching practice, my job on the first couple of days was just to observe the children and learn from the class teacher about how she managed the class, and went about teaching things. The twins intrigued me though. I found myself watching the quieter twin in particular. He never appeared to listen to the teacher. His back was always turned and he would be playing with something in his hands. He found sitting up straight really difficult and would always be lying listlessly over his desk. In a world of his own…

If the teacher went over to speak to him, he would tiredly blink his eyes, as if he had woken up from a dreamless sleep and be completely unaware of what she had been asking him to do. During my break time, I asked my class teacher about him, and she explained that the two boys had been victims of sexual abuse since the age of 3 months. Both children had been removed from the horrific situation and were living with foster parents. Nonetheless, trusting adults, communicating with people, learning – these things were incredibly challenging for them both. What they both needed was an incredible amount of love, patience and understanding.

It means nothing really – but my heart broke for those two beautiful boys. I was probably only 20 years old and I wondered what type of monster could even think of harming babies? Anger consumed me. That was my first experience of working with children who had been hurt, abused, betrayed by adults. Sadly, it was not the last.

I knew from that moment though, that when I became a class teacher, when I was lucky enough to have a class of my own, I would do my best to make sure that the children in my care would feel loved, cared for and valued. But most of all – safe. That regardless of what else was going on their lives, aspects that I was not in control of – when they were with me, in our classroom, I would be there for them and they would nothing to worry about and nothing to fear.

I’m not 20 anymore – but I hold onto that feeling always. I love my job because I am working with the best people in the world – children. Life is so simple with children. They are idealistic – they care about the environment and justice and making the world a better place more than the adults who run the world. They laugh at the simplest things and can be so incredibly kind to others. When I was going through some incredibly tough moments in my life, it was seeing the children in my class daily that helped me heal and feel better again.

I’m aware that I sound as though I’m not bothered about whether children learn or not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually I’m passionate about education and learning, I’m living proof that if you work hard at school, then your life will change! But children don’t learn when they are in a state of fear, or in an environment of mistrust, when they are afraid to make a mistake. Children don’t learn if they feel that their teacher doesn’t like them, or doesn’t care about them. Children don’t learn, if they are not happy.

So, as I enjoy the dwindling moments of the summer holiday, I hope that the children in my new class have had a good summer and are looking forward to coming back. But most of all, my nerves, anxiety, fear is all tied up in a desperate knotted ball of making sure that I do my best for them – because that’s what they deserve.

Why?

I wrote and published my very first blog on 19th August 2016. 3 years ago. I remember having palpitations when I actually shared it on Facebook for the very first time. What would people think? I’m exposing my thoughts and feelings for every one to see – how will people respond? Actually a lot of people liked what I wrote and could relate to some of the things that I have experienced. At times my brother will call me up or text me when I have written about my father or our childhood and he’ll say, ‘I remember that happening so clearly!’ Or, ‘Did that really happen? I don’t remember that at all!’

Some people have asked me why I write.

How can I be so public about my feelings? Should I be baring my soul through blogs on Facebook?

I don’t have an answer to that one. I know that talking about feelings can be unbelievably embarrassing for some. I respect that.

If I wrote about my job, there is a chance that I would get some recognition amongst my peers. Perhaps gain more followers. Perhaps gain some sort of prominence. But I don’t write to achieve that.

I write because there are so many thoughts swimming around in my head, I need a way to articulate them. Every time I have written, it has felt as though I’ve managed to ease my own mind somewhat. Over the years I have written lots about my father. Getting those feelings out of my body and onto a screen has helped me to cope with my own grief – and in the same way ensure that his memory is never forgotten.

I’ve written about relationships between men and women, siblings and the most powerful, all consuming bond of all – the relationship with your own children.

Three years of blogging is quite good going – and I hope that I am able to keep writing for many more years to come. Sometimes I look at my daughters and hope that they will be able to read back on my blogs when they are older and gain some words of wisdom, or simply some comfort from their mother.

There are three things that I want to cover in this blog that I hope will help not just my daughters, but all daughters who read this.

When I was a little girl, I was lucky that I was good at school. I grasped things quickly. I was smart. But it was never enough. Why? Because whenever people met me, the first thing that they noticed was: a) I was overweight; b) I wore glasses. So random strangers in the South Asian community, felt that they had the right to tell me and my mother – she needs to lose weight. She’s not ugly – but she needs to lose weight otherwise she will never get married. Men don’t like fat girls.

No word of a lie. This began from the age of 8. I learned that I would never be good enough for anyone or anything because I was not slim. And so began the self loathing that refuses to go away.

As I grew older, the weight didn’t go, in fact it piled on. I did well academically – but I wasn’t able to communicate with men because I assumed that they would find me an object of ridicule. Why? Because I was fat.

Things changed when I moved away to London. I made friends who helped me to learn to love myself. Who encouraged me to go to the gym. Who made me love and recognise my own strengths and how much I had to offer the world. I didn’t need to impress men – they needed to impress me. I was smart, doing well in my career, owned my own property, a kind person…

I had moved away from narrow minded people who lived in a small pond and felt that it was their right to comment on a little girl’s appearance – away from the negativity, away from the toxicity, away from the comments such as, ‘She’s got a degree, is she getting married yet?’ Away from that, I was able to thrive and be who I am today.

My eldest is now the age I was when people began commenting on my appearance. When people began telling me that I wasn’t good enough. Those negative thoughts that I still battle with on a daily basis. But when it comes to my daughters – I go into tiger mode. First of all, if anyone is going to make negative comments about their appearance, they’re going to need an ambulance on hand because I won’t tolerate that nonsense from anyone. Secondly – they’re never going to be told that they are not good enough. There are times when we may not achieve what we want, things may not go our way, that is life. But it is never, never because they are not good enough.

The next thing I want to cover – exercise! I went to the gym yesterday and worked really hard. I worked so hard that my heart was thumping in my chest, my body was pouring with sweat and I was taking deep breaths to regulate my breathing. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and I smiled a huge, crazy grin. Luckily gyms are a bit like being on the tubes in London. Everyone avoids eye contact. No one wants to speak to one another. Everyone is in their own world, immersed in the motivational music blaring out of their headphones, or staring intently at their smartphones between exercises. So no one could see the crazy Asian woman smiling dorkishly at herself in the mirror. But the reason that I was smiling was because exercise makes you feel so incredibly happy. Sweating and aching and breathing – there’s a happiness in knowing that you’re making your body fitter and stronger and that hard work is fun.

So girls, ladies, women – whatever you are. Go to the gym, do your cardio and then lift weights. Exercise and burn your stress away. Exercise and focus on your breathing. Exercise and revel in how much stronger you are and how much easier it is to carry heavy objects. It is the best form of self investment and indulgence ever.

Finally.

And this is really important. Stay away from horrible men. I’ve said this before in other blogs but I get incredibly annoyed and am full of contempt for women who claim that they are attracted to ‘bad boys’. Honestly, if you’re attracted to men who are misogynistic, who have a roving eye, who treat you badly – but happen to be vaguely handsome – then you’re a massive idiot who will experience a lifetime of pain.

The truth is, there are many, many good, kind, caring men out there. Many. Find them. Find the ones who will put you first. Find the ones who will take care of you when you are sick. Find the ones who find different ways to make you feel special. These men do exist.

Do not give the men who treat you badly and show you their true colours, the benefit of the doubt. They don’t deserve it. Neither do you. Someone who tells you that you’ve put on too much weight, who tells you to stop making a scene when you are questioning them about something, who tells you that you embarrass them – these people are dangerous. Don’t be with them. Why are you with them? What do you gain apart from heartache and heartbreak and not to mention a whole load of mental health issues?

The 8 year old me, who wore glasses and was overweight never imagined that one day I would be married to a kind, loving man, who actually looks after people’s eyes for a living. Who would never, ever make me feel fat or unattractive. Who would love me regardless of my size. Who admires what I do for a living and supports me in everything I do.

Daughters – there are many, many toxic people out there. Those who judge and tear down others. Avoid them. Recognise them and move away from them. Surround yourself with people who will build you up. Who will respect you. Find those people. There are so many of them out there. You will find them because you know – birds of a feather, flock together. If I was able to find happiness – anyone can!