An honest look back at an odd summer but the summer i found myself again :)

by Anthony D. Cliffe

I haven’t had much to blog about lately, but as I’m in bed writing this with the cat on my feet acting as a very handy pair of furry slippers, the wall mounted thermometer telling me its 15 degrees in my room. It means summer is over and autumn has arrived. Sadly. So I plan on looking back on an odd summer if I’m honest, it’s been unlike any I’ve ever had if truth be told, however I have a very honest stance on things from the past few months and it’s only now that this summer I’ve been able to really put things to bed and believe again. I feel the best I’ve ever felt within myself for months because of it to!

So before I do,  it looks like it’s time to look forward to the long nights, the jumpers, the crackling fires, the brilliant star gazing opportunities and well that’s about it. Oh and having an excuse to drink hot strawberry juice which tastes immense! I hate autumn however, always have. It’s as far opposite my favourite season of spring as you can get. In Spring I love how everything is that much crisper and sharper. I love nature and have always found peace and beauty in it, so spring to me is awesome. It gets warmer, the skies bluer, that freshly cut grass is greener and the colours of the flowers and trees are quite simply amazing. Spring has an energy about it, as if nature is waking up with a big old yawn and stretch. Full of promise and adventure for the summer months. Autumn however is cold, usually grey and wet, dark and dull. Many people love when the leaves turn a brilliant shade of orange. I just find this sad. It’s like the tree tries it’s best to cling onto life, even though it knows the inevitable of what will happen. I can almost imagine the fanfare and the big song as the big old oak tree bows out into the recesses of its deep sleep for another few months. Battening down the hatches for another harsh winter ahead.

Plus the fact that you know there is always that one arse-hole dog owner who lets their dog shit in the pile of leaves. Yeah we’ve all done it! Gone to volley a wedge of leaves because, let’s face it, it is fun…it is until you realise that leaf is a bit soft.

I just hate everything about autumn if I’m honest. I suppose though, as the nights draw in and it gets dark I get to write more things. Like now it’s 22.04 on the clock. I write way more creatively after sunset. Same goes for my novels, I tend to write after dark and edit in the day. It seems like as soon as the sun goes down my creativity increases. Maybe it’s some biological Author trait who knows?

Oh and I guess one other good thing about autumn is earning the man card. When every other cyclist and weekend warrior is hanging up the bib shorts and cleats for the winter, scurrying indoors for the turbo trainer or the gym. Me, well it’s time to dust off the thermal tights, the overshoes, the thermal jacket and the gloves and tackle the winter rides. There really isn’t a better feeling than on a crisp cold clear morning, cycling to the top of Clieves hill in 2 degree weather, tinkering on the brink of hypothermia but feeling absolutely awesome. When everyone else sits inside nice and warm and lazy, you’re out there being awesome! In fact me and my training partner Shaun have a 7 am 30 mile ride planned for Monday, forecasted weather windy at 8 degrees. Bring it on!

So, anyway, this summer, that’s what this blog is here for right. Well as I said, it’s been an odd one. In fact I’m not entirely sure where I would rate it as it’s unlike any before, a lot of soul searching and accepting things was done. It’s not been a classic by any means. It hasn’t been great but it’s not been a disgrace either. Any summer has to go a long way to beat the ones as a kid. Week long water fights between the boys and girls. I mean, honestly it was immense! In fact, next blog I think I’ll do it on just that. Because it really was like lord of the flies or if only children were in charge of warfare, that’s what it was like. Us boys designed and modified weaponry and tactics. Built mounts for our water guns so we could fire them from our bikes, in and out precision strikes on the enemy base. At the height of the war we built a go  (the X-22!) and retrofitted it with a water bomb holder, not to mention my old friend Shaun’s water mounted bag pack super soaker! Of course the girls turned to chemical warfare and dirty tactics. Placing washing up liquid in their bombs and water guns, screaming at high pitch and using their lady charms to fool us. As me and Vixs had a thing, we would meet up in the neutral zone when no one was looking, she’d pass us information about the next attack. Thinking back, that was awesome hahah. AH geez. I’d do anything for another day back in those summers. In fact, on a long lazy midnight walk home with my wingman Cal the other night, we were talking about those water fights. We took a trip around the places we used to go and how nothing had changed. Some brilliant memories. Plus we shared a laugh about how obviously back in the day the girls were the enemy and that was it. They were there to be “soaked and destroyed”. What we found funny the most was that clearly a shit load of wet t-shirts on the girls didn’t register one bit as a kid. If that happened now, with us all the age we are now, I guarantee the girls would win hands down. Only because all us guys would be gorping at see through white t-shirts.  Does anyone not miss the black and white innocence of a child? I do sometimes!

One summer did beat all of that tho and that was 2010. It had everything, epic holidays, really new experiences and first times for a few things, it had controversy, romance, drama, heartbreak. It had it all. Maybe that’s why this summer has seemed so odd; it’s been relatively drama free. Which is new to me, it really is. If I’m not dealing with other people’s drama then crazy stuff is happening to me. I really do subscribe to the fact that I think I have my own TV show in a parallel universe. I’d say Eastenders meets the inbetweeners would probably cover my life. I do have some brilliant soap opera plot lines that have happened to me.

The only real drama this summer was losing one of my best friends, over well…I’m not entirely sure. So that’s really sucked this summer. Sometimes when enough is enough it is time to walk away from someone who pushes you away and no matter how loyal you are to a person, everyone has their limit. I was pushed over mine. But as the dust has settled, you think things over and could have dealt with x,y and z better and against other peoples advice, if you’re reading this, I’d like to offer a public olive branch, if you’d do the same. Having our pride and stubbornness stand between our long and unique friendship would be a shame, I’m willing to swallow mine. I’m willing to try again if you are; you know where I am anyway dear, if you want to open up the dialogue again…

So while I’m still hopeful that that plot line will be resolved, in a happy manner (I hope), the summer has been drama free and so to for my friends. Which is brilliant! I really cannot stress enough how my close circle of friends, when happy and are in harmony, really make me happy and happy is exactly what I’ve been at the end of this summer, for to be brutally honest, a long long time.

You know I’m always brutally honest with these blogs and how I feel so I might as well be totally to the core with this. Many people who break up will go off with someone straight away to heal a broken heart and will act as if they’re better without that person and all that kind of crap to make them jealous or as if to prove some sort of point. That’s never been in my DNA. I don’t see the point in bullshitting anyone. If they walked out on your life it’s their loss, you don’t need to act like you’re fine if you’re not.  Last year, I was on top of the world and many people close to me will know I was happy. I’ve always had a strong base of family and friends in my life but for years I lacked that one thing I wanted more than ever and that was a girl who shared with me my life, my ups and downs and shared my dreams. As a Taurus I hate change and as a Taurus I always give 100% to everything and I always put my heart into everything. Everything is an investment with me. If I invest in you, it’s an all in investment with my mind, body and soul. I don’t do things half arsed. Hence why this year saying to my best friend in an heated argument that I’ve given up on them and I’m walking away hurt me more than it would have hurt them I’m sure.  That’s why I want to make a mends because I’ve invested so much in them, it feels wrong to back out. I pride myself on being a top friend. I failed.

So last September when the rug was pulled out from under my feet without any warning, it’s safe to say I felt pretty shitty and for a long time. Of course one bad thing leads to another and then another and you just get to the point of ah fuck it. For many months, I forced smiles, battled with myself day in and out. You see if I lose a friend or a love in that case I will always look inwards at myself before I blame anyone else. However reassuring it is to hear people say it’s her loss and all this I always look in on myself. There is no harsher critic than myself. I’m never truly satisfied with my work, there is always room for improvement.

So for months I ran scenario after scenario in my head. What did I do wrong? What could I have done? Going from always relying on myself assurance, in myself and my character I found It difficult to now be questioning myself. I lacked self-confidence and that “swagger” that I apparently have when all is well (a few people have refered to this but I don’t know what that is!? I don’t think I walk with a swag, or maybe its my aura I don’t know!) but either way it was missing. Not that anyone would know because I have a good control over my emotions. People knew I didn’t take the break up particularly well but to them I was just working through it and was fine.

So that confusion turns to anger and then bitterness. I swore to myself I wouldn’t let the bitterness consume me like it did with Laura, although I think many would agree it was justified in that case. So yeah a few deep breaths were needed to remember not to go there again. Things didn’t start to turn around until the BCUR conference.

For months I was keeping my head down just ploughing on with things, pushing things to the back of my mind. My friends had problems I’d go help them like I always do, if work needed to be done I’d do it, that hint on anger making my work that little bit better. So I came to the BCUR conference, having to speak in front of 1000 people about my research. 1000 people. The person I was when I was about to stand up in front of all those people in Plymouth  was a far cry away from the Tony who was comfortable in himself and was riding a wave of inner confidence for when I last done public speaking which was my leavers speech in Year 13. Now I had to stand in front of all these people, for 15 minutes talking about resident’s perceptions of aircraft noise surrounding an airport to academics, biologists, theologists and none of them interested in aviation. It was an impossible task I thought to myself. All these people are going to laugh at you dude, you’re shit, and your work is shit.

It was the morning of the conference as we sat over breakfast; I couldn’t hardly stomach it over the nerves and fear of the presentation. As we took the long walk to the uni, my very good friend Chloe pulled me back behind the group and said “Go prove her wrong, do yourself proud, do us proud. We believe in you” and those words. Believe in you. Is exactly what I needed to hear. When the break up happened it was as good as saying I don’t believe in you anymore and therefore I didn’t believe in myself, as I beat myself up i lost confidence in myself. If someone loses confidence in you then how can you possibly be confident in yourself I stated to myself.

So as I nervously cleared my throat to speak, looking at all the eyes looking at me, I felt that good old familiar fire ignite back in my stomach. That old cockiness, that selfbelief that had been missing for ages.  I spoke with confidence, that ego thing was back. Striving on being the one in control and having everyone’s attention in the room. I finished that presentation to a rapturous applause, loads of really good questions and people even coming up to me in the after party congratulating me and saying how interesting my research was, was awesome. BCUR was the start of a long recovery journey to where I am today. Of course I couldn’t deal with things in my head as we had work, then finals to revise for etc. I got a first for my dissertation, passed my degree with a 2:1 but I just didn’t feel happy with those achievements still. I was still unhappy, all those months after, it was as if everything was tarred with that brush. It wasn’t until the summer when I had time to think things over and really look at things in detail. I guess I didn’t want to face up to some of my own failures. But I looked at things and well, bar a few minor things, I honestly don’t see what I could have had changed. For my next relationship whenever or whoever that maybe with I don’t think I’ll change much from my approach. I feel I ticked most boxes of what a perfect boyfriend should be like and ey maybe it is cockiness here but I’d go as far as saying I was a damn good boyfriend! “Well why did she leave then” I hear you muse. Well my answer to that is … people change, people fall out of love I guess and that’s life and well her loss in my eyes. Who doesn’t want to date a spongeheaded, egocentric, Merseyrail bashing, aviation obsessed cyclist with permanently cold hands, an addiction to mint imperials and a misplaced self confidence in his own novels?

I don’t see why I beat myself up for so many months over it. Maybe it was the lack of self-confidence that was talking, I don’t know? But now I’ve had the summer to accept things, heal, spend some absolutely quality time with my best friends, Talbot, Emma, Shaun and Cal I come into this autumn fully refreshed, confident and well that “swag” is back bitches.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking well I wouldn’t want my ex to know she hurt me that much. Why not just pretend that you’re fine and get on with it like everyone else does. Well like I said that’s not me and why the hell would I want to be “like everyone else?” boring much? When you’re in the position I am, when you’re completely true to yourself, have dealt with all those niggling gremlins, when you’re truly happy in yourself again and love yourself again. It’s a brilliant feeling. I have no clue if she is happy now or not, I don’t really care. Good luck to her. Couple of months ago I’d have spat that sentence out with a splash of bitterness. Now I’ve realised I’ve wasted too much energy over it and I shouldn’t be bitter. Because really, I’m grateful to her, her loss is someone’s gain. I’m not entirely sure who wants to invest in me, I’m not the easiest, the safest or the straightest forward of investment but at least you know what you get and hey maybe like Taylor Swift you won’t end up in a song but a blog or a character in my novel is the least you’ll get :-).

So now I feel good! For so long I thought no one believed, I couldn’t be more wrong. From family members who are proud of where my life is heading, to my friends who continue their support and friendship and to the people who believe in my novels and my dreams. For months I thought I was alone on an island, looking out to sea, turns out I needed to stop beating myself up and to realise that my friends, family and even people I don’t really know that well, were the sand and the palm trees.  I couldn’t care less if you think it’s weak that It took me so long to get over it. I don’t care if you think laying my emotions out in my blogs is pointless, useless or “tragic”. I am who I am, I like who I am, people like who I am. If you don’t then I probably share a mutual dislike of you too :).

We’re all different and I like to tell it as it is. Honest and open. I think if a lot more people were as open about their feelings as I am then the world would be an easier place.

So unlike the people who dive into relationships after break ups, those who force themselves to be happy in new relationships. I say to you don’t. I say, take a break, have a look at yourself, forgive yourself, dust yourself off. When you’re happy in yourself, then you are the best you can be. You shouldn’t need a relationship to make you the best you can be, you should be the best you can be on your own.

So, I’m not sure were my life is going, I start my masters in a few weeks, I have a novel to complete, I’m broke, no girlfriend or any prospect of getting one anytime soon but you know what? I can’t wait for what’s around the corner.

So I head off into the unknown, with my coat over my shoulder, Tony swag, my chin held high. As I’ve walked through the storm and I can see the clear sky ahead. So I raise a glass to the past. Thanks for making me a better person, to myself, goodbye that Tony, hello again old classic one. I feel an adventure on the way, good luck to you if you’re on the journey with me. Sarah, if you want to talk things over you know where I am, I hope you do, because I miss you and I’d much prefer you to be a part of the present and the future than be locked away in the past, so yeah, I’m sorry. I can be an overprotective moron sometimes but it’s only because I care about people close to me that I do the things I do! It’s my egoness and stubbornness that does not know defeat and therefore believes I can solve any problem no matter how unsolvable it is. That’s just who I am. So yeah…I miss you dude :(.

So this summer I had one of the best gifts of all. Finding myself again.

So as the sunsets on a summer, as the autumnal moon rises, just as the change in the season occurs a change in me has occurred. It’s time to kick the tires and light the fires! Let the new adventures begin, buckle up mother fuckers. This bitch is back and is coming out fighting!

Well I say fighting, what I really mean is carrying on being me and doing my same old boring things 😛 . Ahhh it’s good to be me again!

Until next time!

As always, from the heart.

Toe

xx