16 December 2014

What's 'normal' about normality?

As children we are all taught to embrace difference, taught that there is no such thing as ‘normal’, when in fact there is. Within the English dictionary ‘normal’ is defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected”. Likewise, ‘difference’ is also defined. This is described as “a point or way in which people or things are dissimilar”. So if we’re taught from a young age that difference is okay, at what point do we deviate from this to decide that being normal is actually all that we really want. At least, it’s all that I really want.

I’m different through no choice of my own. I have to accept that. But for some reason I just can’t. No matter how many times people tell me that being unique is the best thing in world. I just can’t seem to look at myself in the mirror and repeat their words; I simply choke on them as they stick in my throat.

I was conceived in 1993; my mum had an idyllic pregnancy and when I was born in March of 1994 both of my parents were elated. There were no signs, no tests, no indications to show that I had a syndrome that would later be diagnosed as Moebius syndrome.

Nonetheless I had a pretty average childhood. Although slightly later than most of my peers I reached milestones Specialists said I wouldn’t: my first words, steps, and full mental capabilities - all just the same as everyone else. But much to the dismay of parents I never had my first smile.

You see, Moebius syndrome has affected my sixth and seventh cranial nerves. Thus meaning that I was born with a palsy on the left side of my face, leaving me with a lack of facial movement. For example I was born without the ability to smile properly, move my eyebrows and move my eyes from left to right. Which, as you can imagine, makes me look different to everyone else.

It wasn’t until I got to the age of ten that I started to understand that my dissimilarities from everyone else was because of my syndrome. Since then it’s only really gotten harder for me to accept, even though as I have grown older most people have become much more accepting.

I wish I had had the to choice to be different. I wish I could have chosen to step out of the of realms of normality and shove two fingers to the world and anyone who stood in my way. But I didn’t. Instead it is simply a pre-determined fact of my life that I have no choice but to live with, for the rest of my life.

As a teenager I was trying to find who exactly I was, just the same as everyone else. My peers made that near impossible though, and to some extent their words are still why I still struggle to this day to accept who I am. Even nearly five years after I have left school the constant taunts still remain: “Ugly”, “Shovel face”, “Wonky woman”, “Road kill”, “You should’ve been killed at birth”, “I wish you would kill yourself, that would be the best day of my life”.

The throwaway comments, made by people who probably don’t even remember saying them, have made me question everything. When do these accepting children cast their minds to judgment? What defines normality within their eyes, and who has that control? Why does society feel the constant need to portray an idea of aesthetic difference in a negative light?

Yes, I could have ‘corrective’ surgery, but why should I need to be corrected? Am I not good enough the way that I am? Who decided that not being able to smile, or that that fact that when I talk my face isn’t symmetrical, is not correct? Who exactly is it that reinforces this within society?

There have been times over the years where I have longed to be the same as everyone else. In fact, I still do. People often say, “But Jemma, you’re so unique and you stand out. You should be proud of that”. And yes I understand what they’re saying, but I cannot help but feel they are somewhat misinformed. I’d like them to go through what I’ve been through, for them to look themselves in the eye and not recognize the face staring back at them in the mirror, and then repeat what they have said.

When I’m just being Jemma, and I’m away from mirrors or the possible judgmental eye of a stranger, I flourish. I can laugh so hard that I snort, talk so much that words no longer make sense, smile so hard that my imaginary facial muscle aches. But then I’ll remember - even just for a split second - and I’ll retreat back to the shell of the girl that was just there.

If shooting stars really could grant wishes, or if genies flew out of lamps, then I know exactly what I would wish for. I would wish to be just like everyone else. I want to blend in. I have spent years upon years longing to see my face without my syndrome, and to show the world that what I look like is not my choice. I often wonder what I would look like if I didn’t have it? Would I be as perfectly beautiful as the rest of my family, my friends and peers? I’m not naïve enough to think that I wouldn’t still want to change things, but at least I could.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve grown older I’ve learnt to deal with things better and how to shrug off the immaturity of some. But why should I have to? I have spent years feeling utterly worthless, just because society has created this ‘ideal’ image. I have wanted to kill myself, I have cut my own skin, just to try and deal with a social construct that over time has been created and remodeled to encourage a ‘normality’ that for some, like myself, just is not possible.

No matter what people say, difference is still marginalized and looked down upon. The people who embrace difference often have made that choice for themselves, they don’t have to have the choice made for them.

Difference should not have to be defined as different, just like normality should not be normal. There should be no stereotypical ideal, or preconceived ideas. People should just be whoever they are. But until this, I will continue to long to be ‘normal’. Yet still forever be confined by my difference.

11 November 2014

Learning from mistakes

I am human. I have made mistakes, and some have been bigger than others. I think the most important thing to remember when this happens is to allow yourself to learn and move on from it. If you have done wrong to others all you can do is ask for their forgiveness by showing your remorse. If you do that and they still don't want anything to do with you then just move on.

Now don't get me wrong, this hurts - a lot. But, that being said, if people cannot handle you at your worst then they certainly don't deserve you at your best. For example, earlier this year I made some mistakes and I unintentionally hurt people I thought I cared about and who cared about me. I wasn't forgiven and instead any blame they harboured themselves was pushed on to me and that was not nice, at all - even more so because they were people I thought genuinely cared about me.

At the time it was the most excruciating thing I had ever gone through and I hated every second of it. Looking back now though I can see how good it was for me. Instead of being stuck in that suffocating environment I left and found something much better. From then until now I have been working on myself to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.

You see, to me it was a life lesson. It's something that I will never forget, but for the right reasons. When I look back at that time in my life later on I will be able to see that it gave me courage, wisdom, empathy and more strength than I ever thought one person could muster - let alone little old me.

That's the thing about mistakes, it takes a second to make and sometimes a lifetime to rebuild what you had, sometimes you never will get back what you had. But do you know what, sometimes things do just happen for a reason. Life is changing all the time, and that's okay. Half of the time you just need to change with it and hope that whatever change it brings is for the best.

28 October 2014

I Forget Where We Are

Are you looking for the perfect autumnal 54 minute album to fill the void in you life - look no further! If you're not, then just listen to it and you'll find a whole is now filled that you didn't even know existed. So Mr Howard, Ben, has been a firm love of mine for a good length of time now. When his first album 'Every Kingdom' came out in 2011 I fell head over heels.

Now he's back with a brand-spanking new album, 'I Forget Where We Are'. Much like his previous album, this has just the right mixture of melancholy and positivity. It's perfect for studying, or for going on long autumnal walks crunching through the orange-tinged crispy leaves. But truly, it's perfect for any kind of time. My favourites, if I had to pick, would be: 'Rivers In Your Mouth', 'I Forget Where We Were', 'She Treats Me Well', 'Time Is Dancing', 'Evergreen', and 'End Of The Affair'. The whole album is so pretty though. Gahhh - I just love it far too much! It's literally been on repeat whilst I've been writing trying to write my assignment for uni. I think I would go as far to say that it's my soundtrack to autumn - it's love at first sight, so to speak.

Do you have an autumn soundtrack? If so, let me know!

27 October 2014

The beauty in the broken

image source: http://becuo.com/broken-mirror-reflection
There's something beautiful about those things in the world that are broken, both in objects and people. It's effortless and delicate. It's almost magical how something so intrinsically designed and thought-out can just disintegrate right before our eyes.

A mirror, for example, lets us see all that is beautiful and ugly within ourselves and others. The object itself is nothing without us, it does not hold the beauty. As a piece of glass it is relatively irrelevant. When it shatters all the shards of glass disperse amongst the ground, the light reflecting off each individual segment sending a glittered reflection to every surface it greets.

It's much the same idea with people. There's something slightly breathtaking about breaking; it gives you a chance to rebuild yourself. You can learn from the things that sent you shattering and make the changes to ensure that they do not have the same effect on you again.

And just like trying to fix a mirror, you will never be the same again. But that's okay. You see, breaking does not mean defeat and you should never let this thought take over. Just think of the caterpillar, because just when it thought the world was over it became a butterfly.

26 October 2014

Always remember how far you have come

I found this whilst procrastinating my assignment (again) on Pinterest this afternoon and it just hit me - metaphorically slapped me around the face if you will. I spend far too much time worrying about where I want to go in life, what I want to do, who I want to be. Instead of stressing about the future and how far I still have to go, why don't I admire how far I have come? 

Imagine it as if climbing a mountain - something you will never find me doing, but still. When you pause half way up to rest, you don't look around you and think "Gah, I'm not at the top yet and this view here is so unattractive". Instead, you'd probably recognise how far you have to go, but you would also look at how far you've come. You'd give yourself a big gee up, look around and take in the awe of the beauty surrounding you. Because if you'd have stayed at the bottom of the mountain you would have never seen the wonders you're taking in right at this very moment. If you hadn't taken your first steps up this mountain there would be no way of you reaching the top. You quite simply have to start somewhere, and then every step from there on out is an achievement in itself. As I've said many, many times - just keep taking those baby steps

Moving away from that beautiful (I'm far too modest, I know) analogy, in my life in general I have conquered so much and battled so many demons. And you know what, I'm still here and I am still fighting. With every step forward it gets easier and the view gets better and better. 

In reality, life is no mountain - more like a never ending treadmill on steep hill mode. There is no end point; we fight and fight until we forget that we are fighting and we just start living. And by that point we don't even realise that's what is happening. There's a difference between looking behind you to help you admire your current view, and simply walking with the shackles of the past tied around your ankles dragging you down. 

So when you think that you cannot keep going, just remember how far you have already come. Don't ever doubt your own strength or your determination. Life is whatever you allow it to be.

23 October 2014

Billy and Me

I've done a few book reviews on Jemma In Words, all claiming that they are my favourite - truly they are. Some months ago now I did a mid-way review of Giovanna Fletchers second novel, 'You're the one that I want', which you can find here. I finished it soon after and loved it. I have been watching Giovanna's youtube channel and it became apparent that she was writing a christmas version of her debut novel 'Billy and Me'. I knew I had to read her debut and it was only a matter of time before I downloaded it on to my iBooks on my iPad. 

I downloaded this book on friday, and it's now Tuesday. To say I loved it is an understatement. It was incredible and I was hooked from the get-go. Without ruining it I'll try and give you a brief summary: 
It's about an ordinary girl who falls in love with a movie-star. Think of it almost as a modern day Notting Hill (coincidentally my favourite film in the world). It makes you laugh, cry and fills your heart with both sorrow and hope. It builds dreams, and shatters hopes and futures. 
I think that's as much as I want to say about what happens, I think the best thing about this book is that there are so many unexpected things - I actually squealed "Nooooo", on more than one occasion. 

For me to say that it's amazing is an understatement. It's enriching and nourishing. There is so much more that I could, and want to, say. But I won't. I will let you discover the story for yourself - it's breathtaking. I really hope you love it as much as I did - I'm sure that you will. 

What's been a favourite book of yours recently? 

22 October 2014

Staying cosy this autumn

If you ask me what I think of when I hear the word 'autumn', I think of warm knitwear, comfortable clothes and layering. So today I went shopping and did a bit a lot of damage in H&M - I find that they have the best things for this time of year and it's not too expensive either. 

This is arguably my favourite thing and I feel like I'm going to wear it 99% of the time. It was only £14.99 and it's lovely and thick, cosy and the mustard colour is absolutely gorgeous. I originally tried on a medium size but it was far too big and baggy, so I ended up with a small (goodness knows how - I've haven't had a small in years), so I would definitely go at least one size smaller as it just makes it fit better and look even more snuggly. 

If I were going out then I would throw on my thick parka from Peacocks many moons ago - it's quick and easy, but just looks really perfect for this time of year.
Secondly I got this little pull-over jumper - I opted for the large size so that it was super relaxed and easy wearing. It was the most expensive at £19.99, but it was totally worth it and still not really that bad price-wise. It has a fleecy inside which honestly makes me feel as snug as a bug in a rug. Mmm. 
Finally I got this 3/4 sleeve top in a burgundy colour - it was £9.99 and is just perfect for layering and looks so flattering on. For something so simple it does wonders. I wore this with a chunky black cable knit scarf and a coccoon type cardigan from Dorothy Perkins a long time ago.

I am totally in love with everything and they're just some simple basics that are perfect for layering however you fancy. They are great for autumn and can be easily layered to take you through to winter and back around to early spring. Absolute gems if you ask me!