One post at a time.

Unusually, it’s incredibly easy for me to pinpoint when I decided to create this blog. Like I said in my last post, I am not obese or anorexic – but that doesn’t mean that weight doesn’t affect me too. My brainwave came when I discovered, quite through chance, an Australian model named Robin Lawley (you can go to her website here). Scrolling through Twitter one day I saw a picture of her doing a swimsuit shoot with a list of comments underneath where people were slating the fact that she was called a ‘plus-size’ model. She is actually a UK size 12 – 2 sizes smaller than the overall UK average.

I couldn’t get over it! Not only had she been labelled ‘plus-size’ when she clearly just had a healthy and happy figure, but the normally ruthless public were defending her cause and finally recognising that models didn’t have to be a specific size. This was unknown to me. People weren’t calling her ‘plus-size’, ‘big’, ‘large’ or even ‘tall’ but could instead recognise that she was beautiful and happy in her own skin. Or in this case, her own swimsuit.

The positivity was contagious. I had to know more. A quick google search later I found her website and her blog called ‘Robin Lawley Eats’, a blog about (yep, you guessed it), food. I started to look at other plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Jennie Runk and I became enamoured with this world where these beautiful women weren’t judged on their size anymore. It was idyllic, it was eye-opening, and most of all it was incredibly inspiring.

I almost wish, amidst all this positivity, that I could say I am writing this blog in hindsight with a clear mind and acceptance of my own body. Unfortunately, as many people who have let weight become far too entangled in their lives will know, that is not so easy. I still wake up everyday and hope that my stomach will be flatter, poking and prodding at it in the mirror. I still become horrendously frustrated when I can’t exercise because my perfectly balanced routine starts to fragment. And most of all, I still can’t bear the thought that I’ve put on weight.

Despite all of this it became increasingly clear to me as I learnt more about the plus-size modelling industry that, like it has done with so many other of my concerns, writing could help to crack the monopoly that weight has held in my life for nearly 6 years. I realised that it could potentially break me out of my permanent 12-year old mindset that saw me go from a relatively untroubled child to a girl who couldn’t bear PE because it involved getting changed in front of all of her much skinnier friends. I knew that I had to give it a try.

This idea struck a resounding chord with me on stumbling onto that picture of Robin on Twitter and I have to say it’s exciting to be turning it into a reality. The truth is, I know that I’m never going to become a plus-size model. I may be the right size, but I haven’t got the insanely natural good looks that need to go with it (no matter what my mom says). However, the ideology that these stunning women give out is one that I’m slowly learning to come to terms with; that I can be a size 10 or 12 and not be considered ‘above the norm’.

That’s why I started this blog. Because the solidarity that I felt with those models is something that I can’t move on from; something that I can’t forget. So. instead of pushing away the possibility of acceptance, as I have for so many years, I am finally choosing to explore it. After all, as these beautiful and inspirational women have shown me, the only person who actually sees me as fat is myself. Now I’m hoping to change that, one post at a time.

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This is the picture that changed my whole view – let it change yours.

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Why this can’t wait.

Writing has long been a form of therapy – it helps us oh-so-emotionally-stunted people release our pent up thoughts, and that’s why I’ve decided I’m going to do this. 

So. Here I go. This is quite a scary post for me to write, probably because I’ve been thinking about this for so long. I want to talk about it though; regardless of whether it’s a cliché for teenage girls, and regardless of whether anyone actually bothers to finish reading a post. I want to do it because if there’s any chance that it will help then I quite simply have to do it.

Let’s start from the beginning.
I am 17. 
My height is about 1m70cm (ish), and my approximate weight is between 10.5 – 11 stone.

I am not obese. I do not have any kind of eating disorder. I am quite simply an utterly average British girl, and as such I feel I am perfectly equipped to talk about weight – the one issue that I have never been able to conquer.

Let’s get a few things straight before you decide this is going to be yet another neurotic, distorted and downright uncomfortable moan about the way so-called ‘society’ represents weight. It’s not. It’s to be a blog page, focusing on anything and everything to do with weight that takes my fancy. Daily struggles, workout and injury updates, diet groans and, of course, snack confession time. It will feature my views on weight in the wider world (excuse the pun), any current stories concerning weight, and, most importantly, my new-found fascination with the world of plus-size modelling. 

I will put any information about the new blog when it is up and running on here, and a slow transition will take place from ‘Life as a Unicorn’ to the new site, which I am proud to announce will be called ‘Weighty Waffling’…

I feel like this is a good move. And hey, who knows, maybe it’ll help me to finally face something that has long dictated my life, influenced my decisions and changed the way I view myself. Maybe this will finally help me to re-evaluate my relationship with something I have no way of escaping. Maybe this will finally change things. Maybe. 

Why I am a doomed writer.

At 6 days into the new year, very soon to be 7, I have had a sudden realisation. I was procrastinating, as per usual, over a history essay that I should have done weeks ago, when I followed a link on Twitter that lead me to a blog on WordPress. Oh s**t, I thought. Indeed, it is a realisation that I’m sure many fellow writers and bloggers have had countless times, but as a relative newcomer to the world of words it was a realisation that certainly packed a punch. For with the close of this day, it has been exactly 3 months and 6 days since I last wrote something.

And by something I don’t mean an essay, or a piece of coursework, or a diary entry but an actual genuine piece of writing about something that I care about. I repeat – oh s**t. 

Of course, I immediately set about to reassuring myself. ‘But you’ve been busy!’, crooned my thoughts, ‘You’ve had loads of A Level work and an Eisteddfod competition in December, plus you’ve now got a job and well it just slipped your mind! Don’t worry about it,  and just let it go..’. Ah my slippery, slimy, political thoughts. For a while, as I’m sure it does for other guilty writers, this soothed me. It’ll be fine I had said, whilst nodding most righteously to myself. It’ll all be fine.

Then the doubts began to creep in.

Why do I bother if I’m simply going to be a flake for 3 months? Why should I try to be a writer when clearly, if I loved it enough, I would be remembering and wanting to write everyday? And finally, the doubt I truly believe every single writer, hell every single person, must have had. What if I’m simply not good enough?

What if the constant stream of essays and pages of textbooks have actually sucked any love I had for the written word out of me? What if I just can’t do it anymore?

Its with this that I open 2014. Positive stuff, I know. I think, though, that it’s important that every once in a while we question the pathways we have chosen. For me nothing has changed, because when I think of a life without writing it’s unbearable. Even now, just while writing this post, I feel a sense of calm, of control, of purpose. I know that there is no way I can abandon something that has always formed a natural part of my life. At the same time, I’ve realised that I need to give myself a push in the right direction or I’ll never take my writing any further.

It’s easy to make a whole load of false promises at the start of the new year, and I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying that I will blog every few weeks or every month and then beat myself up if I miss a deadline. I don’t want to make the one creative part of my life into a chore. Instead, I am choosing to say this. 

I, Natalie Cherry, do solemnly swear to never leave writing behind. Even if I go weeks, months or – god forbid – years without picking up a pen or taking to a blog, I will always return to it.

Whew. Now that’s out the way I can get on with the year. Which reminds me – Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you, as it has brought me already, a sense that it’s not all doom and gloom. 

 

Why Mr Gove’s examination changes are a bad idea.


Take a deep breath. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. A slide, a scan, a sigh.

It’s over – you know them now. All the hard work, all the agonizing over dates and names and numbers; it comes down to those few letters on a page. And then, whether they were good or bad, you move on and make plans accordingly.

This year, like so many others 17 year olds in the country, it was in that unforgettable, nervous, sweaty-palmed fever that I got my AS level results. I am, however, one of the last to ever do so, because next year that qualification will no longer exist. Mr Gove and Mr Cameron are changing current examinations to cut out modules, which they say are making a mockery of the system. According to the new government changes, re-sits must be quashed and the old, final examination system has to be brought back in (a system where students sit one set of exams after two years at both GCSE and A level).

As a young person interested in bettering my future, I could not disagree more.

Let’s start by ignoring the fact that countless headteachers and school boards have rejected the proposals (after all, that’s what the government and Ofsted have done), and just look at the impact that changing the system will have on students themselves. When I entered Sixth Form last September, I had no idea how difficult Year 12 was going to be. I had no idea how much work I would have to put into my AS levels. With exams looming in January and June, however, I soon found out. Those initial exams are a crucial wake-up-call to every single student that decides to take A levels. Without them, there is no way that either myself or my friends could have achieved what we had hoped for this summer. And now, with one year left, we can make informed decisions about our futures. Some people will have to change their university plans, realising that perhaps lower entrance requirements are more realistic. Others might drop A levels all together and take up an apprenticeship or a job. A few may re-take the year, giving themselves a valuable second chance. Remove the AS modular system and this will not happen. Students will flounder for two years, convinced they are doing enough and that it will all turn out fine in the end. For those students, results day will really be a nasty shock.

The government counters this argument by saying that the final examination system worked in the past and will work again. To say this, I feel, is to be completely ignorant to the fact that the world of work and education has developed dramatically. Since the modular system was brought into A levels in 2000, we have changed as a nation in unthinkable (and not always positive) ways. Jobs for young people in Britain are now scarce, youth unemployment is high, and the value of a university degree is not only academic but sensible – why not study for a further 3 or 4 years and wait out the economic storm? Why not better your chances at finding a job in the future? The expectations of young people are that much higher now too, as we are repeatedly told that we must compete with nations across the globe. How can we do this if less people are going into higher education? How can we start to repair the economy of tomorrow if we are not given the opportunities to do so today? After all, employers are not going to know if you sat the 2014 system or the 2015 system. They will simply see your qualifications as they are.

On top of this initial problem, there is the ever increasing pressure that this sudden change will bring. Balancing an entire future on one set of exams seems absolutely insane to me. One bad day can change everything, and that simply doesn’t work when the stakes are higher than ever before. A level examinations have always been intense, but over the last few years this intensity has multiplied threefold, as my parents’ and grandparents’ generations have told young people that the system will not allow us to achieve. We are told to reach for the stars but are apparently embroiled in incompetence that ties us to the ground. Our exams are ‘easy’, our learning ‘bite-sized’ and – this is the most common thing we hear – we are given too many second chances. Quite frankly, this makes no sense. As far as I am concerned, second chances are not bad. In fact, I see them as necessary.
Students need to be taught that hard work, and nothing else, leads to success. The most effective way to prove this to young people is to let them experience it first hand – to show them what happens when you do not work hard enough. Is that not what the government wants? A generation that understands what it means to work hard and persevere? Modules encourage this by showing students their potential futures at the end of one year of A level study. This gives them a choice – work hard or give in. It is only by using this system that we can learn the value of hard work, something that pushes people to advance their futures. I have seen this transformation myself in some of my closest friends. It works, and consequently they work.

 The government also claims that by removing the modular system they will make exams harder and stop the current ‘dumbing down’ of students. Not only am I shocked at the lack of thought put into this, but I am also insulted, and I have every right to be so. I am not naive, and I know that allowing countless re-sits is not sending the right message to students. However, I also know that the exams I sat this May were not easy. If Mr Gove disagrees with me, he is welcome to try a few. How belittling, how infantilizing, how patronising to say that the exams we work tirelessly for are easy! It is completely unfair to say that one year ‘had it easier’ than the other in the same way that it is impractical to pretend that a string of results reflects a whole person. Not everyone is an academic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the chance to go to University and further their study. After all, modules reflect working life much more than the final examination system does. No employer allows their employees to mess around for two years and then produces a test and expects them to get 100%. In the real, working world employers expect consistent hard work, and modules teach such consistency in a very structured way, giving students employable, transferable skills. Where exactly, I must ask, is the problem?

 In the end it comes down to the simple fact that the proposed radical changes to the examination system will affect negatively on students and their exam results. That this is true I have no doubt. And yet, it appears that these changes will take place anyway. Given this, I call upon the government to give us the other part of the plan. Because surely if you are going to make it harder for students to get to university, there is a plan to provide for them elsewhere? Some super-duper apprenticeship schemes set to roll out across the country? Some foot-in-the-door tips and advice to give young people a chance at finding work? At the very least a plan to reduce youth unemployment?
Please, do reveal all.

I was always told as a child that if you shouldn’t take one foot out of the canoe until your other foot is firmly in another. It’s too risky. When it comes to my future, I don’t want to take risks, but want to feel supported by a government that believes in my generation’s ability and wants to help us achieve. Instead we’ve lost both canoes and are facing the reality of plunging into murky, uncharted waters.
Take a deep breath. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. A slip, a crash, a fall.

Why is growing up so scary?


The fear starts at an early age….

In 22 days I will be an eye-watering 17. Excuse the dramatics and forget for a moment that 17 is still infantile, because for me it signals much more than just 1 extra candle on the cake. Come September, I start my last year at school.
As one of the youngest in my year, the idea of being grown up never really occurred to me because I was always the baby in any group. As well as this, I have always felt as if I was struggling towards the finish line – each school year dragging on longer than the next.
Put all this together, and you’ll see why I was so freaked out when I realised that I am about to start the end of my formal education.
Now, for those readers who left school a long time ago, I’m going to allow the patronising chuckle and shake of the head. I’m sure that any sane adult reading this is probably laughing their head off, and thinking that this naive, stupid girl doesn’t know that life will go on after school.
The worrying thing is, I do know this. I know that University and life beyond education will be some of the most exciting years of my life, and I know that there is something to look forward to outside the realms of 8.30am to 3.30pm. I know this, I’ve seen friends and family go through the same process having left school, and yet the finality of it all is quite overwhelming.
I reckon one reason behind this is that I’ve always enjoyed school, and that to a certain extent I’ve always been considered ‘good’ at it. Academics aside, I was the classic teachers pet, got involved, and did all those stereotypical ‘school’ things like sports day and school plays, plus a few more. In the midst of getting the grips with daily life at school, I somehow forgot that eventually I would have to leave. In some sort of bizarre version of denial, I never really thought that growing up would happen to me.
That denial brings a whole other aspect into play here, because for years I gazed at the older years in awe, thinking that it would be forever until I would leave. In fact, I distinctly remember going into school on the first day of my third year, Year 9, convinced that I would be stuck in school for an eternity. That was 4 years ago. 1 quarter of my lifetime, gone.
According to all the clichés, getting ready to leave home and become an adult is both exciting and scary. I must admit, at the moment the exciting part is non-existent, not only because I know that once school is over it’s over, but because there’s this sense of being the oldest and having to set the example that I have always been set.
Those giants that I looked up to when I was working my way through the years had seemed so mature and seemed to have everything sorted. I stupidly had this fantasy that when I reached my last year of school I would have it all sorted – I’d be the perfect weight and have the perfect boyfriend, with shiny hair and straight teeth (well I at least have those even if they are shielded by the monstrosity of my retainer), and that I would have all my life plans sorted out. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me how ridiculous that sounds.
Now, with every day bringing me closer to my ludicrous deadline, I can’t help but ask myself – why is growing up at 17 so scary? The answer, I have decided after much deliberation, is that on top of saying goodbye to the people I have seen everyday for almost 7 years, I’m saying goodbye to the image of what I thought I’d be by now. Because if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t  have any of the things that I thought I would. And I don’t know anyone my age who does. The sixthformers that I idolised and (literally) looked up to were exactly the same as I am now; stressed, scared and, without beating around the bush, a mess. Talk about popping the fairytale bubble.
It’s strange though, because now that I know that these false fabrications of life are completely pointless, I have stopped waiting for all the elements to come together magically and am instead making them come together myself. I have decided to take the approach that I have always reserved solely for academics, which is one of hard work and perseverance. In order to make myself the person I thought I should be by my last year,I have to actually do something.
Revolutionary stuff, I know, but it genuinely hadn’t occurred to me before.
Alas, with old age looming in 22 days, I’m scared about the future. However, I’ve also come to the realisation that I have to make things happen, or nothing ever will.
Cue the Rocky-Balboa-esque film montage to Eye of the Tiger; I’ll see you on the other side of 17.

Why Britain does tradition well.

Welcome to the world little Prince George and give us a wave, because you’ll be doing a lot of that from Buckingham’s balcony in your lifetime. The balcony wave is, after all, one of the most public royal traditions in Britain, and it’s one that brings the monarchy closer to the people, reinforcing the royal family’s place in the 21st century. Because despite all the criticism it receives for being out of place in this modern world, the monarchy brings much needed tradition to Britain.
Now, I’m not saying this because I worship the Royal family or even because I’m a raving patriot, but because I’ve recently discovered that I like tradition. Quite radical for a 16 year old, I know. The thing is, it allows us to remain quite formal and yet give away some frivolity, and in doing so form the nutshell of British culture. We like the good old stiff upper lip but giggle like little girls when given the chance (or some whisky).
I came across my liking for tradition last week when I visited and toured round the Houses of Parliament. The whole place is completely steeped in ritual and ceremony, at the same time as having this serious undertone and a heavy, important presence. I mean let’s face it, some pretty important decisions have been made amidst the plush green and red furniture.
It was during the tour that I noticed how much of a ceremonial role tradition still plays in the daily running of the country, from the annual Queen’s speech, where she gathers her robes in the ‘Robing Room’ to the ‘Aye’s’ and ‘No’s’ corridors that have beaten electronic voting systems in style. These examples, however, highlight the way that tradition has remained small-scale and almost trivial, not holding back the natural evolution of the country’s values and politics (unlike the American constitution, which in my personal opinion continues to keep America in the past, governed by rules written in a different time) . British traditions allow us to move forward.
Although many assume that we are a nation that still lives in the 18th or 19th century, in actual fact we have developed social views and attitudes that far exceed any expectations. For our pomp and ceremony is just that – playful and a bit barmy.
Even our oldest institution, the Royal family, has evolved, as shown by the sheer joy on the faces of the newest and most famous family in Cambridge. William and Kate (and Harry of course) can be proud of the fact that they are the face of a new royal family, one that accepts and moves with change. The birth of their son showed this, but in fact their entire attitude towards royalty has always hinted at this shift in mentality. The birth itself was naturally peppered with formalities – the public announcement of ‘It’s a boy!’ and the celebration of the guards at the palace to name but two -, but with the safety baby car-seat and thousands of reporters outside the hospital, we were reminded distinctively that this was very much a modern affair. How wonderfully, wonderfully British.