Finding Myself

I don’t know about you, but I have found it very difficult finding myself in this world. I’ve always wanted to share my opinions, but I feel that obstacles have always presented themselves…

I was born to very liberal, modern parents. They always encouraged me as a child, saying I could do anything I wanted to do. Early on in my childhood, I really believed it too. I had such confidence in myself. I was loud, boisterous and outspoken. My parents never hushed me, but other grownups found me irritating and poorly behaved. This instantly led me to believe that children should be seen and not heard. And slowly, as I grew older, I began silencing and shrinking myself more and more.

My childhood friends knew me as being crazy. I naturally have a pretty excitable personality and it was more intense during my childhood. I am not in contact with my childhood friends to this day, but I can only assume they would recall me as being crazy or eccentric and most definitely not opinionated or passionate.

That’s not to say I wasn’t. Even as a child, I was passionate and opinionated… in my mind. I became so extremely closeted in own beliefs that I felt embarrassed even trying to debate with someone or even go against a popular opinion.

I began to shrink more and more throughout my primary education. My perception throughout primary school was that being opinionated was a very negative trait to possess. My teachers rewarded classroom obedience, not talkativeness.

At 12, the free spirit I once was had more or less vanished into thin air. I remained quiet, cripplingly under-confident and entirely obedient to social and gender norms throughout secondary school.

But inside, I wanted to scream. I experienced examples of daily prejudice and regular instances of discrimination throughout secondary school, both by fellow students and occasionally, from teachers.

I will always remember the anger I felt towards teenage boys who would use gay as a way to insult their friends. I will always remember the pretentious, macho exterior presented by teenage boys, the pompous and sexist attitudes expressed by them. I will always remember how atheism was forbidden and even punishable in secondary school; how Catholicism was integrated into all aspects of our school activities and subjects.

Ultimately, and here’s the part that broke my teenage heart, I will always remember how each and every one of us in secondary school were assigned the same narrow box to live in, and the same narrow rules to live by.

At 17, I thankfully graduated secondary school and respectfully kissed goodbye to a damaging, restrictive and confidence-crippling institution.

I soon began to learn that who I had been taught to be in secondary school would get me virtually nowhere in the real world. A path of self discovery lay before me. I would have to learn eventually how to be a civilized, respectable member of society. But how could I do this? What was my life purpose? At 17, I was filled with so many questions but I had yet to find any answers.

I first began to gradually reject social and gender norms. I didn’t want to be seen as weak because I was a girl. So I tried to be seen as strong. I began helping more people and showing compassion. I also finally learned how to stand up for myself, approaching 18 years old. I didn’t want to be seen as stupid, so I decided to go to college but this time study something I wanted to study. My secondary school academic performance was, overall, rather bleak.

I felt like there was something wrong with my brain in secondary school. A lack of interest combined with sheer boredom resulted in quite poor performance; particularly in my junior cycle. I was treated like there was something wrong with my brain, too. School encourages a system of putting people into boxes. I was horrendous at Maths, so I was deemed to have a learning difficulty. I was then treated differently by teachers and members of staff as a consequence.

I’ve come to realize that the term “learning difficulty” can cause irreversible harm to a young person. When a student struggles, they are examined and labeled a word and thus identified by that word. How can we expect the youths of Ireland to become confident, well-spoken, functioning members of society if we segregate them as being smart or stupid in school?

I had to unlearn the labels assigned to me after I graduated. Nearly five years later, I have completed my self healing process. I now reject the term “learning difficulty”. Instead, I choose to openly tell others (if brought up in conversation) that I struggle with the concept of numbers and spacial awareness. Additionally, I have extreme issues with organization and am prone to anxiety as a result to stress brought on by poor organization.

This is me. These are my shortcomings, but they do not make me “unable”. They do not cause me to suffer from a “learning difficulty”. They do not cause me unmanageable difficulty in day-to-day tasks. At 21, I can say that I am an active, functioning member of society. I will not be a label. I will not fit into a box of gender or social expectation. I will not be defined by what people call me, or what people see when they look at me. I will not be defined by the way I laugh. I will not be determined by who I used to be in the past, I will be determined by how I show myself in the present.

At 21, I am also aware that I still have a lot to learn. And I openly embrace my future experiences and lifelong lessons.

I have only begun to truly regain confidence in my opinions in recent months. In school, I was always shut down. But now, I can express myself freely without being segregated or labeled as a result.

I’m still finding myself, more and more every single day. But every day I notice something new. I notice a different form of inequality. I become aware of our failed education system, when I witness the intolerance and ignorance of young people regarding social issues. Homophobia, trans-phobia, racism, racist stereotypes, casual sexism, rape, victim blaming, etc.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the point in sending our children to public school at all from age 5-17 or 18; if we release them into the world as ignorant, intolerant or simply dismissive. What’s the point? I’d rather my child understands and rejects inequality and oppression instead of know how to do Algebra or cite a Yeats poem.

But maybe that’s just me. And who knows? Maybe that opinion will change. Because I am always progressing, changing and developing my mind. I’ve come a long way, but I’m still finding myself after all… I think we all are, ’till the day we die…

Aisling Kelleher

My Past & Me

None of us are ever capable of really understanding the struggles of others.  Unless you’ve lived someone else’s life, you can’t judge.  So, no-one can judge anyone.  Especially if they don’t know the first thing about said person’s past.  It’s very easy to look at someone, see that they’re fun, funny, giggly & easy going, and decide that their life has been easy.  But, how do you know that for a fact?
I have always been a bit eccentric.  I laugh a lot, have a weird sense of humour & I have always struggled to make (and ultimately, keep) friends.  Friends, and acquaintances alike, see me as a happy person.  I do try to be happy, & I am happy a lot of the time.  But I firmly believe that happiness isn’t guaranteed, it’s something you have to work on for your whole life.
I grew up hating myself more than I could possibly explain.  I never did well in school, I never did well with friendships, and ultimately, I felt like the most physically ugly girl in all of the world.  As a child, I didn’t fit in.  I did my own thing.  I always had a great family life, though – & I still do today.  This was such a huge comfort to me as a child.
As I went into secondary school, my mental health became worse.  I hated being there, but I wasn’t the type of student to break the rules, be disruptive in class or even skip class the odd time.  I followed the rules, the routine, but I despised it.  Unfortunately, I had a few teachers throughout my second level education who, I feel, bullied me.  I can’t really use a different word, as bullied is so fitting.  They saw that I was under-confident & uninterested, and they played on it.  I dreaded some classes as I knew being publicly humiliated by my teacher was always a possibility.
In school, I hung out with whoever would be my friend.  I went through a lot of friends in secondary school, but none of them are still my friends today.  Unfortunately, I didn’t understand at the time that friends were meant to be kind & respectful to one another.  A lot of my friends spent most of the time taking the piss out of me and I was the butt of all jokes.  In hindsight, they weren’t really friends at all – but, at the time, I was convinced they were.
As secondary school came to a close, I was excited & happy I’d made it to the finishing line.  There was just one problem – I didn’t have the faintest idea what was next in The Aisling Kelleher Adventures.  I passed my exams, & my results were a bit under the average.  It was enough Leaving Cert points to study something, but not enough to study anything I really wanted to in third level.
I ended up in a PLC course an hour from home, in Print Journalism.  It was during this year that I had a mental breakdown.  It was partly due to an incident that happened at the time, but mainly to do with a lifetime of covered up depression, self-loathing and heartbreak from just being me.  The whole world around me crumbled.  I became suicidal – but, there was a flicker of hope inside of me.  I knew how to love, & who I loved, & I knew that people loved me.  My family.  How could I selfishly end my life, & destroy theirs in the process?  If it wasn’t for them, I dread to think what might’ve happened to me…
I spent the next few months in recovery.  I took anti-depressants, and moved back home where my parents took care of me.  I was self harming at the time – the guilt I still feel from this is overwhelming.  It is so painful to look into the eyes of a loved one, & to realise that your own self-loathing is actually causing their heart to break, too.
Those few months weren’t easy.  Sometimes, I spent the whole day in bed.  Sometimes, I found myself crying & I didn’t even know why.  Ultimately though, I found a new passion in photography, vlogging & all of the media.  I wanted to be a journalist, TV presenter/producer, or a photographer.
Every day was a struggle.  A struggle to not cut myself, a struggle to get out of bed, a struggle to do anything productive or worthwhile.  If it wasn’t for my family’s supervision & support, those everyday struggles would have been so much harder.
I fell into the same routine of making friends with people who treated me badly.  Again, I was the butt of all jokes.  I don’t fully know what happened though, but it was like one day I woke up, & I thought to myself that I don’t deserve this.  I deserve good people. I deserve good people. I deserve good people…  It suddenly made sense to me.  The reason that unkind people found me in the first place was because I sought them out.  My own insecurities and self-loathing wouldn’t allow good people to come into my life.  I needed to work on tearing down the wall that I had had up my whole entire life.  If I could do that, good people could become part of it.
I cut off contact permanently with emotionally abusive people, & I told myself that I’d rather be a loner in preference to spending time with them.
To this day, there are still people who see that I am not confident, & they play on it.  But I have something now that I didn’t have with the teachers & the abusive friends.  I have the ability to stand up for myself.  My main interest in this life is the interest of other people – the people I care for.  I would do anything to ensure their happiness.  But something they never tell you is that you also need to make yourself happy.  If you do not work on being happy, taking care of yourself to a certain degree, how can you ever show love & support to other people?
I am now twenty one years old, & I am trying to make my dreams come true every single day.  And you should, too.  Every day is a struggle to be happy.  There are times that all I want to do is go back to doing nothing, & living a meaningless, lazy & unmotivated lifestyle.  But when that happens, I need to look inside of my soul & find that strength, that push, that courage, to get back up after being knocked out, to love again after getting a broken heart.
There is no magic potion for happiness.  It is something you need to find yourself.  What makes you happy?
My past & me have a love/hate relationship.  I hate being reminded of Past, but I love how Past motivates me to have a better future.  What’s done is done.  Messes have been made, milk has been spilt, hearts have been broken & heads have been wrecked.  But every single day is a fresh new canvas we can all work on.  Every single day is a day that can never be repeated.  Today, I am going to try to be happy.  Are you?
 
 
 

My Goodbye Speech Should The World End 21st December 2012

 

Let’s be honest – the likelihood of the world ending tomorrow is more or less non existent. But, if you’re like me, you’re used to things NOT going to plan. This is why I have decided to take this opportunity to look back on my last NEARLY 20 years alive, and reflect on the good, the bad and the WTF’s.

Firstly though, I feel it justified to express my sincere regret and feelings of victimisation at having NOT hit the magic 20. Yes, my birthday is 9th January, and this guesstimation for the world to end couldn’t have come on more of a teasing date – 19 days until I was due to officially turn 20! I feel so hard-done by! I mean, I was so close to having reached the old and decrepit milestone of two decades.

But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Enough dwelling, now let’s hit the juicy stuff. That’s right, reflection. On my last nearly 20 years on the Earth.

The Good Times

1. Let’s start with the obvious (although it’s obvious that doesn’t take away from its importance!) I was born to a good family, always had a home, food, drink, etc. I was not born into poverty, murdered, abused in any way. In this sense, I have been extremely lucky, and I am grateful for this. I have never had to worry about disease, I still have both of my parents. I didn’t have any childhood traumatic experience which greatly effected by current well-being. In this respect, I have been blessed compared to other unfortunate souls. Some children just want to be loved for Christmas. Some babies die from illness, or worse, murder and abuse. I would give my life for them to have lived, because I’ve had nearly 20 years and they haven’t gotten to live life at all. Tragic.

2. I am a hyper individual and I’ve always been able to cheer other people up. This may be something small but I do feel it is significant. I’ve not always been able to cheer myself up with the same strategy, but my mother used to call me a born entertainer, which was possibly more accurate when I was a child. Currently, many know me by my loud laughter, eccentricity and hyperactivity. For quite some time, I was self-conscious about this. But now, as someone who has experienced nearly two decades on the planet, I can see that maybe I contributed more to other people than I realised. Maybe I have cheered people up, helped them etc on a wider level which I was not even aware of at the time. This, to me, is something I can safely celebrate without sounding big-headed (Even if I do, there’s no point changing now. I’m due to die tomorrow, as are the rest of you!)

3. Obviously my personal achievements, although I regret that I have not even fully explored my interests nor had the time to do so in such a short time in the world. However, I have written numerous poems, one of which was published (I don’t mean to brag) and others which are of a generally melancholic theme, which can be found online at  http://allpoetry.com/AislingKell I’ve had a lot of people compliment me in this regard, which has been wonderful. However, I feel that at the young age of nearly 20 I still have a bundle load of poetry inside of me which I still need to write; but which have not been written yet due to a lack of life experience in many areas. Secondly, I would like to reflect over my Youtube Channel. I started the channel in 2011, and started doing vlogs and such. Now, it’s not a very successful channel, but through it I began getting interested in video-making, editing and scriptwriting in particular, which is what made me decide to go to college and study it there. I got into a college and studied a PLC course in TV and Film, then got into an Institute of Technology to study TV and Media Production; so yes, I would regard these as achievements (Getting into college is an achievement, right?) You can find my Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/AshyShash Also I’d like to recognise my creativity in many areas although I am self critical and realise that if I wasn’t as lazy, I would’ve expressed my creativity a lot better in the last nearly 20 years.

I won’t harp on about The Good Times anymore as I’m sure it’s rather boring. Besides, I have had many good times and trying to remember all of them in detail here would be impossible. But I will conclude this section in two blissful words – Santa Clause (and of course other childhood heroes – the epitome of the good times for me.)

The Bad Times

I am not a believer of dwelling on bad parts of my life. But I will briefly touch on this (I’ll spare the details) Growing up wasn’t always easy. I had low self-esteem, I suffered with bad depression, I had no self worth. All of this became very bad when I was around 17 years old, but thankfully through medical help and support from my family, I overcame the majority of my demons, and should they arise again, I deal with them in a much more productive way. Aside from this, I cannot think of any other major bad times in my life. I have had ill family members but it has never been anything too serious. Finances have always been hard, especially where college is concerned. But my family and I have always been able to manage, even if we’re short a few bob, which is fantastic.

How I saw the next 20 years going

I have/had all sorts of plans of how the future was going to go for me. Obviously, I was going to graduate college, in 2015 to be precise. Then I am/was going to travel. I want to go everywhere, I know everyone says that, but I LITERALLY want to go everywhere. Wherever I go, I’ll go with an open mind and have a job in TV production hopefully, and meet a lot of friends while traveling. In my mid 20’s or so I’ll calm down the traveling a bit and settle into one place, perhaps back to Ireland. But only if the economy has improved by this time. I would have liked to meet someone and have children, but I wouldn’t have liked to get married, at least not in a traditional ceremony performed by a Priest (Let’s not get into that) I’d have one or two children and I have no idea what they would have been like but I haven’t thought that far ahead because really, who the hell knows? I would have liked a nice house, materialistic stuff, not A LOT of money, but over enough money to just survive. I haven’t really thought about much else in the future. I suppose that’s why you’re not supposed to plan your future and you’re just supposed to live in the moment.

 

Yes, there is a lot I would’ve done differently. But I’ve had my chance, I lived it. Maybe I didn’t always live it right, but I lived it my way, mistakes an’ all!

It was lovely knowing everyone, of course! See you on the other side!

 

Is Barbie REALLY distorting the body image for young girls?

It seems that we are constantly hearing shudders and disapproving tuts from parents and guardians alike, regarding the Barbie dolls their young girls play with.  I am sure that I am not the only one who has heard statements such as “Barbie makes little girls think that they have to look a certain way”, and “Barbie doesn’t represent a normal woman” being thrown around in the last number of years.  But, are these disapproving remarks actually truthful? Or, is this just an irrational concern?

When I was younger, I played with barbies. I liked to make them prance around the place, often in a somewhat ‘unladylike fashion’, contrary to their flawless, pretty appearance.  In fact, I spent very little time as a young girl concerning myself with what Barbie wore.  I can’t remember ever maintaining the dainty little shoes which came with her – they always became lost in some way or other.  Similarly, I spent little time brushing her hair.  I’d roughly scrape through her plastic dyed hair with a human sized brush, and scrape it back with one of my scrunchies.  My Barbies spent most of their time frolicking around the place like they were drunk out of their minds… no shoes, carelessly dressed, often going around with missing items of clothing, etc.  I gave my Barbies certain personalities.  I remember when I was small, I was not one of these young girls to play into ‘the princess Barbie’; I always found the sporty and sociable Barbie to be far more appealing.  I know that other girls are different, and they spend all of their time sitting in their pristine rooms, brushing Barbie’s hair, dressing her, and of course, maintaining every last one of her colourful dainty shoes.

Some little girls are interested in beauty, the colour pink and fashion – and others are not.  Whichever the case, I fail to see how playing with a Barbie doll can distort their body image.

Barbie was not the only toy we played with when we were young. There were plenty – Baby Born, toy cars, teddies, board games, remote control cars, or even ‘make-it-yourself’ sets (which were referred to as ‘makey-do sets’ in my house).  I cannot speak for the general nation of children, but in our house there was rarely gender distinguishing when it came to toys.  My siblings and I shared our toys.  I didn’t adapt an unrealistic body image from Barbie, just like I didn’t aspire to be a cowboy from playing with a Woody doll.

For the most part, I feel I can speak from experience, and say that toys do not put any pressure on children to become a certain person.  Similar concerns have been expressed regarding video games such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’.  My simple response to this concern is that maniacs, murderers and rapists have been around for centuries.  I fail to see how a violent video game is going to encourage children to act violently.  Also, the game is only suitable for over 18 year olds — so maybe your child shouldn’t be playing it anyway if you do not want these concerns to become reality.

I can safely say that for me, a toy was always just a toy when I was young.  I was never under the impression that girls who looked like Barbie existed.  Perhaps ‘blonde bombshells’ did, but nonetheless they were human beings with non-animated faces and hair that wasn’t plastic. I also knew that Woody from Toy Story didn’t exist, and that race cars required a driver to move, not a hand.

Toys are there for children to create, to imagine, to have fun and to even express themselves.  So, my simple answer to the title of this blog is ‘no’, I don’t feel that Barbie distorts the body image of young girls.  Barbie is just a glorified piece of plastic, with round plastic boobs and plastic white-blonde hair.  Barbie was made out of plastic – just like Baby Born was, and just like remote control cars were.  I was never under the illusion that I would someday become a Barbie replica – and I never felt any of my other friends would either.  I was surrounded by real-life women, who were not made out of plastic and did not have permanent makeup tattooed onto their faces.  I always aspired to be like these women – I never aspired to look like Barbie, or act like her (considering her personality was somewhat bland.)

If anything, we need to concern ourselves with real-life women.  I do recall aspiring to be like Rachel Stevens from S Club 7, or Emma Bunton from The Spice Girls.  Rachel Stevens was awarded the title of ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’ during my childhood; and Emma Bunton often wore very little clothes and behaved very promiscuously in music videos (although she was most probably playing the character of ‘Baby Spice’)

Are these really positive role models for young girls?  Both examples were sexualised in the media.  Barbie was also sexualised; but as I have stated, the difference is that Barbie is plastic. Perhaps we need to be concerning ourselves more with the unsuitable role models for young girls?

But for now, I don’t feel Barbie is putting on any pressure. And, if you think she is, just don’t buy her for your children. It seems pretty simple to me!

Thanks for reading 🙂