I sat down to write my blog post today and was quite suddenly overcome by a sharp sense of stage fright. Quite suddenly, I have people reading my blog who don’t really know me, and who don’t read my fiction. These are people who just stumbled onto my blog by accident, and decided to be kind enough to leave a comment (which is very much appreciate I must add!). It’s interesting because I was faced by this sudden realiziation that once again, my words are spreading further than I thought they would.

I don’t mind, it’s just a little daunting sometimes.

So, I thought and plotted and wondered what to write and I finally decided that a proper introduction is perhaps in order. The kind of: Hello, my name is…

On the internet, I go by the name of Alyssa, or AlyssC01. If you google AlyssC01, all the hits related to that search is mine. I decided to create this name and keep on using it purely for continuity’s sake, hoping that somehow all the pages that I create or frequent will eventually link up to become one big web of cyber identity. That, and I hate sharing. I wanted something that was mine and mine alone.
I’m twenty five years of age and strangely aware of the fact that my youth is slowly but surely leaking away from me. I enjoyed being in my early twenties and crossing half a century sucked. But, I’ll get over it – I’m not that narcissistic.

I’m an active person (thankfully, otherwise I won’t survive my jobs…) and I love being outdoors. My biggest passion besides writing in life is horses. I’m currently working three part times jobs, one being waitressing which is the most financially rewarding, the others being horse related. I give lessons in general schooling and on the odd occasion (when the fancy strikes, or the coin drops) I give private lessons in horse handling. I’m not a professional, I’ve just finally come across a mixture of things that work. They don’t work for everybody, but they work for me and mine. My last job is as a horse safari guide at a local game reserve. The hours are the worst, the pay the least but the spiritual rewards the greatest. I have been fortunate enough to race a horse down a dark road at moonlight with nothing but a halter to control him. I have galloped to the top of a hill at midnight and sat there on my horse, on a piece of wild, rugged land surrounded by the city and its lights. I have spend nine hours straight on a horse and woke up the next morning to go and do it again. The fulfillment that it gives me is indescribable.

I’ve recently returned to my home country in South Africa after spending almost two years working and travelling abroad. When I finished my studies in Animal Science and Animal Genetics, I was given the option of either a) doing my Masters or b) doing my Masters… I chose the option c) None of the Above. I can’t say what had made me do it. I just woke up one morning, realized that I had to go abroad and went to apply for my Visa. I got it and within two months I found myself in the United Kingdom with no clear purpose. I lived with a close family friend, during which I started working for her neighbor as a Lambing Sheppard. Quite suddenly, I found myself doing something my flashy degree had not prepared me for. To put it in the mildest terms, I became a sheep midwife to a flock of 3000 ewes along with a six other people. For those of you who love statistics, that’s 500 head of sheep per person… the odds were against us from the start. I loved the work, and eventually became a night lamber, choosing to work night shifts because of its solitude. I spend about 6 weeks doing nothing but sleeping during the day and tending to a flock in Milton Keynes at night. The only human contact that I had was my land lady who fed me twice a day and my co-worker who handed the flock over at the end of every shift. For the rest, I had only myself for company and it was the loneliest and most wonderful time of my life. There was a raw solitude in those hours that I know I will never have again. I found myself there in the dark, in the cold amidst the toils of life and death that birth brings. I fought for life with my own hands and it stripped me bare to myself.

I loved it.

I also spend quite a number of months in Scotland, first doing volunteer work in two Camphill communities in Aberdeen and then doing some cow milking near Helensborough. In Helensborough I once again found myself alone through most of the day. My hours were from 4:30am – 9:30am and then again from 4:30pm -9:30pm. For the rest, I had the run of the Scottish Highlands for myself. In answer to a question that was posed, yes – I have a very faint Scottish accent that’s come to dominate my own native one. When I curse though, I curse in Welsh…

From Scotland, I went to London, a shift that almost killed me but which had its purpose in the grand scheme of things. After that, I had to rush back home to South Africa because my mum became quite ill and I had to keep the household together until we knew what was going to happen. She survived and made a miraculous recovery which allowed me to return to the UK to finish my work. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to London but chose to retreat to Wales where I did more lambing. When my contract ended, I packed a backpack with a change of clothes, something warm and my computer and set off for Australia where I traveled for a month. From Australia, I went back to Scotland (with the same backpack of clothes…) – knowing that I had to say good bye to the place that had stolen my heart because I had to return to my own country. I backpacked there for some time, hiking and living in youth hostels.

And then, I returned home to find myself in the position that I described above. Yes, I work very hard, but I also have to confess, it’s because I choose to do so. I push myself to the limits and the extremes of time and physical exhertion. Why? Because I can and it’s sometimes the only way I can enjoy feeling alive. The adrenaline rush, the pressure – it keeps me going.
So, don’t despair by my hours if you’re just starting on this road to independent living.

We live the lives that we choose, not those that are given to us and so far, I am not disappointed by my choices at all.

30K Shout Out and Blue Monday.

So, with Monday just gone past on my side of the world I’m pleased to announce that I have completed 31132 words for my NaNoWriMo project. That’s further than I managed on my very first attempt at Nano a few years past. I’m pretty confident (though aware that the world can blow up in your face sometimes) that I’ll reach the projected 50k for the end of the month. We are given a report at NaNo (let’s see if I can insert it at the bottom) as to how our progress is and mine’s very positive. According to it, I only have to write another 1300 words a day to reach my goal. Seeing as how I average at around 2000 I’m pretty sure I’ll make it. You see, writing to me is nothing new. This is not the first time I’ve written down a series of words and dare call it a novel, no – it’s merely the first (second) time that I do so with a bigger goal in mind.

What that goal is I’m still not sure and I’ve stopped worrying about it. I had a bit of a strange day today. Mondays are bad for me because I’m normally suffering from a kind of weekend hang-over of the non drinking kind. My weekends are very busy. They are my peak working times. I waiter Friday, Saturday and certain Sunday evenings as well as ride a proper distance with my horse and work on my second job as a horse safari guide. I worked yesterday (Sunday) at both the restaurant and the nature reserve and this morning I felt as if a truck hit me. I had to get up quite early to attend a horse riding lesson but somehow, I could not drag myself up. I lay there in bed, aware of every ache and pain in my body and wondered what holy cockroach I had stepped on to deserve my life (I’m pretty dark in the morning). Without feeling ungrateful, I found myself despairing about everything from my university degree to my work hours and my family. I found it unfair that I had studied five years and worked 2 years in my profession only to come to a country that refuses to hire me in my field because of the two words: Affirmative Action… (And B.E.E. for that matter). I was angry that I had to work 6 days out of a 7 day week, scrape time together to spend with my partner (who’s on the same continent as I am for the first time in 2 years) and just manage to get round to riding my horse. I found it unfair that I had to count every cent that I made and that I couldn’t sleep a proper amount of hours every night.

But then, of course, as it always happens, I started thinking about all the things that I do have, about the things that give me joy and the gestures that make me calm. So, I dragged myself up out of bed and went to ride my lesson. I allowed a friend to drag me to another’s birthday party and sat there, allowing myself to enjoy it (and the chocolate cake!). And then, when I came home, I allowed myself to go to bed for another hour which was the best thing that I could’ve done for myself.

I woke up feeling groggy and disorientated and all but dragged myself to work. When I reached the restaurant, I realized that I had to do something about my attitude otherwise I was going to have a very bad night. So, I went outside, got myself a Coke Zero and bundled myself into a corner amidst empty boxes of potato wedges and frozen vegetables. I drank my coke slowly, allowing myself to enjoy the sun beating down on my back. I told myself that I had to pull myself together and for once I listened. I found my calm, acknowledged my insecurities and unhappiness and moved on from there.

The thing is that, perhaps like Nano, the trick is not to focus on what you don’t have or what you should have, but what you can do at the given point in time. Life really isn’t fair, if it was – none of us would have anything interesting to do. But, life is also what we make of it. I can decide to sit and sulk about my unused qualifications; my crappy work hours, my unorganized room and my painful muscles or I can get up and say: So What? I do the best that I can do.

And, that is what I do. I might not be the best, but I do the best that I can do and that, as it has always been, is good enough for me.

View my progress report