dear student with anxiety

anonymous barefooted melancholic woman embracing knees on floor
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dear student with anxiety,

You, who sits right by a door for a swift exit

And hopes that nobody will turn and look.

You need to know that you are great,

Pouring out more work than the louder ones

Who dominate every moment of the lesson,

Thinking that this world, revolves around themselves.

You need to know that letting go is hard,

But try because you’ll lose so much

If you let these precious days slip by.

Those boisterous boys are all just mouth

And one day you’ll look back and see

That strength right now, when stakes are low

Will only serve you well wherever you may go.

I want to keep you safe, and I will

Within my classroom walls. I can’t promise

What will happen further out from here,

But do try to go with that terrifying flow.

Dear student with anxiety,

You really are quite brilliant

I just thought you ought to know.

I have a lovely student in a class that are really quite naughty ones. She is so anxious that she can’t get in the room most of the time and the other kids really don’t make it any easier for her.

It makes me so mad that those kids are quite cruel to her, when she is just the loveliest kid. She sat outside and listened to my lesson through a window and she still did more work than most of the others.

I just hope that one day she can see just how brilliant she is. It’s heartbreaking to know that some really nasty characters can destroy a person like her.

If I had the chance to tell her what I really think, this is what I’d say.

Much Love

Rachel xx

sarah harding WAS my twenties

When bands and programmes flood the world,

They seep inside our minds and hearts

And leave their mark in gorgeous memories,

Of dancing in our bedrooms with

A hairbrush as a microphone, believing

With all our hearts that we are part

Of that girl group or those Friends

On TV each Thursday night, the ones we quote

In every aspect of our lives.

So when they’re gone, they leave a hole

Somewhere desperate on the edge

Of that plane that makes us human too.

Anyone living in Britain who is in their twenties or thirties will know the girl band Girls Aloud and so there will have been lots of shocked people on Sunday when the news broke that Sarah Harding died.

It’s always shocking when someone young dies, and Sarah was only thirty-nine which really is tragic. People who are thirty-nine should be looking forward to many more years of life.

I felt a similar pang of fear and hurt when Caroline Flack died. I think it might be because these women are about my age and it is terrifying to realise that I’m not indestructible. And Sarah shot to fame on Popstars The Rivals when I was fifteen so I feel that I have really become an adult alongside Girls Aloud.

I know it’s a bit of a cliche to say that someone was a shining light once they are gone but when I was eighteen and living in London I was walking past Pizza Express in Soho and these four women walked out of the door. My eye was drawn to the shock of blonde hair as Sarah crossed the street. There are only a handful of people on this planet who make you double take in their presence and she really was one; she was just so beautiful and shiny.

Much Love

Rachel xx

i hope it could have happened to anyone

female mannequin wearing black jacket
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I could be anyone,

A cardboard cutout stood up there,

I’m just a figurehead,

A metaphor for people with

The power to make life

A living hell for her.

That’s sad, I know,

It hurts my heart to know

That someone yet to reach her teens

Can feel so terrified.

I had an iffy lesson today when one of my Year 8s just made my life a living hell. We had never met and the moment she stepped into my room she had it in for me. She was answering back, refusing to do the work and throwing things across the room.

At first, I felt really offended, but as I reflected on the lesson I realised that I stood for authority and it didn’t really matter who was stood in front of her; she would have behaved in the same way.

I can only imagine what it is that makes a twelve year old feel that they need to be that aggressive when they first meet someone? It’s fear that makes us behave badly, so what is it that she is so scared of? That thought scares me.

I’m having a restorative conversation with her tomorrow and I hope that in a one to one I can show her that I’m on her side, because what I saw today kind of freaked me out.

I hope that the kids like this find some peace as they get older because it must be exhausting to be that angry and frightened all of the time. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling extremely nervous about meeting with her tomorrow. I think that sometimes kids forget that us teachers have human feelings too.

Wish me luck!

Much Love

Rachel xx

the little black book

black pencil on white paper
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She could take down the town

With the names in that book,

Those names up in lights

Who’ve so much to lose.

But what makes her write

Those names and those numbers

That could shine a bright light

On all that is wrong

With the world that we know.

I’m watching the Ruby Wax programme and in it she returns to all of her most famous interviews from the 90’s. I felt particularly drawn to the interview she did with Heidi Fleiss who I had never actually heard of before.

She was a madame who hooked up the richest and most powerful men with the most beautiful women, for who knows what.

It interested me because they referred to her little black book that could have brought down the town. It was interesting because she was due to go to prison for what she was doing, and when I look at the world today, I wonder if anything would have played out differently now?

I wonder if the #metoo movement would have protected her and uncovered the men? And I wonder what made her get into that business? Was the power and money, really worth it? And would it be worth it now? I wonder what I would do with a little black book that had all that power?

So many questions…

Much Love

Rachel xx

leaving it all at the door

food light city road
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Those automatic doors whoosh open with

A sucking of the air, warm from summer winds

That meets the endless refrigerator buzz

And then, with bag slung over shoulders

And swear words softly rolling from my lips,

The stress that weighted down a set of shoulders

Drifted on that early morning air.

It floats into a neverland, that’s not returned

Until I sit cocooned within the car, waiting

For the hours to tick by laboriously,

One more time, and then again, and again,

Until I die, lowered into ground I swept and mopped.

But did I ever want to visit neverland?

Or was I quite content to wave goodbye

To that heaviness that could consume

Even laid back men who laugh and drink despite

The building falling all around,

Piles of rubble, people screaming,

When all hell has broken loose.

I am enjoying my first weekend off in my new job and the thing that has struck me most, is that I’ve not really relaxed. I’m finding that my mind is running at a hundred miles an hour as I think of all the things I still need to do.

I hated my job at the garage because it was physically demanding and it was dull; there was no intellectual stimulation, whatsoever. However, it was wonderful to leave at the end of the shift and know that all of my stresses are being left behind.

Those automatic doors would swish open and I felt like I could breathe more easily. That’s quite the opposite of teaching where the stress is on nearly all of the time.

I think, that as humans, we need to decide what we want; do we want stressful but exciting jobs, or dull but with a delightful lack of pressure. Loving the job and feeling that you are doing something purposeful definitely plays a part in balancing that equation and that is something that teaching does offer me.

But, regardless of how much I feel like I’m making a difference, I’m going to have to be ‘on’ until half term!

Much Love

Rachel xx

you wanted me a little bit broken

woman holding broken mirror
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I worked so hard to sweep those tiny pieces,

Gathering so carefully, the jagged edges

Cutting through my skin, as fingers worked

To stick them back together with

What little that I had to hand.

And now that I am whole, with just fine lines

To give away the problems there once were,

But you – you took the glue that was the life blood

Of rebuilding me. You trampled on the tools

I used to close the glaring gaps,

And when my work was done, you turned

And left because you let a lie take over,

A lie that I would want you less

When really I just need you more.

I remember being really drunk when I watched ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ with Meg Ryan in it. In the movie, she is an alcoholic and after admitting she has a problem and going into rehab, her relationship starts to unravel.

As I say, I was drunk when I watched this so my memory is a bit sketchy, but I recall struggling to understand why anyone would struggle to come to terms with their partner getting sober. At the time, I was starting to realise I was struggling and I felt nothing but admiration for people who could get free of the booze.

The problem is that since I’ve got sober, I’ve encountered the same problem. My mum is one of those people that needs people to feel that they need her and so I think she actually enjoyed it when I was vulnerable. I was helpless without her and she really liked that.

I’m seeing it a lot since I’ve taken an interest in how people tick and I think that it’s quite common for people to want their family or their partner to be weak and vulnerable.

I guess that I’m a whole new person so I can’t really expect everyone who knew me when I was drinking to like me now. Some wanted the party girl and some wanted the little girl.

Now I’m an adult woman and I always keep that movie in my mind when I’m struggling with loss. It was a stark warning to me at the beginning of this journey, that things would change and not all of those changes would be pleasant. Some people just prefer you when you’re broken.

Much Love

Rachel xx

cooking on masterchef

baked dessert
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Those lights, they ramp the pressure up,

I know that cameras catch my every move,

Hands shaking as I chop I try my best

To imagine that I’m in my kitchen home

Where an Aga sings all day, heating air

Cold with winter snow and ice.

The studio is sunny, painted white

To make it bigger on the screen, but now

It feels so clinical, like judges may

Want to kill or operate on me.

I’m making fancy stuff today;

Impress them’s what they said,

They want to see the fiddly stuff,

Not the one pot dish that nana taught

When you were just a little girl.

Those casseroles and meaty stews are not

What they want to see, so make a roux

And add a strawberry coulis too,

With warmth of ginger mixed with saffron,

Rice that’s flavoured with a coconut;

Knock them out with taste explosions,

Bamboozle those at home with words

That none will understand, and with a smear

Of chocolate sauce spread artfully,

I’ll fool the world and make them think

I have a flipping clue!

taking off the training wheels

toddler riding bicycle on road
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The shock of turning just to see

There’s no one there, no one to catch

When lessons spooled so neatly go awry,

It’s only me who has the right

To tidy up, to take control again.

And is this new sensation good?

Or does it overwhelm the senses to

The point where nausea overtakes?

Let’s hope not, let’s hope

That reel will stay wound up.

I’m drawing ever closer to the first time that I’ll actually be left alone to teach a class all on my own. During the training year you always have a qualified teacher in the room with you so I have always been supervised up until now.

I still have support from teachers in neighbouring classrooms, but come Friday I will be flying solo and it feels both scary and exhilarating. On the one hand, if the wheels come off it’s all my problem. On the other hand, it’s so exciting to finally have control and autonomy.

I liken it to driving my car for the first time after I passed my test. You always have an instructor in the car while you are learning, and suddenly you get signed off and you can go wherever you want with nobody sitting next to you. It’s terrifying.

This is exactly the same feeling. I know that the next few days and weeks will be frightening at times, but one day soon I will realise that I’m flying down the motorway, singing to the radio, and instead of feeling stressed, I’ll be enjoying myself.

I’m looking forward to that day.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the baby photographer

baby sleeping in a basket and a round feather surrounding the basket
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She ties them up in woolen blankets,

Baby pinks and powder blues,

With bows around their tiny heads

As they sleep through flashing lights

And shutters clicking in the millions,

Parents standing proudly to the side.

She’s maybe only two weeks old,

Already loved enough for them

To spend that money on those shots

That sit in albums til she’s 21.

But the lady with the camera

Tries each month to have her own,

And each month when dreams are dashed

She cries in pain in bathroom stalls,

Drying tears to meet another pair

Proudly holding baby girl,

The life she wants with all her soul,

The dream she hides each day at work

With smiles and coos and coochy-goos

To mask the hurt inside.

the beginning of the rest of my life

wood typography photography blur
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It feels like the beginning

Of the rest of my life

But really it’s a pause

A semi-colon

In a rambling sentence

Let’s hope that the remainder

Will read so beautifully

That it rivals the poets

And seems so worth

All the typos and errors

That have come before.

It’s the day before I start my teaching job… for real. I was lucky enough to have a few days to go in before the end of the summer term, but this feels like the real thing as we all go in for the new school year.

I wrote the few lines above because I had said in my mind that this was the start of my life, the life that I should have had if I wasn’t drowning in vodka during my twenties. However, that time in my life still stands and it’s still important. So this is more of a pause than a new beginning.

I know that this next section of my story will not be perfect and there’ll be bumps along the way, but it feels like I’m on the path that I should have been on all those years ago.

When you first get sober you are promised that if you work at your sobriety you will have the life of your dreams. I thought that would mean that I’d be rich, famous and successful. But as I’ve traveled through this time, I’ve come to realise that the simple things like a job I’m proud of are just what my dreams were made of.

Much Love

Rachel xx