Firework Failure

Tonight was my second meeting at the new Guide unit I’ve started helping at since moving to University. I don’t like it there. It’s the first time in my life where I feel like Guiding doesn’t accept me. I’m supposed to be a leader, but I’m treated more like a Guide. I wasn’t introduced to anyone, and I don’t feel like the leaders want to interact with me, which leaves me in rather an awkward position. For the past thirteen years, Guiding has always been the one place that I can be myself, but it doesn’t feel like that anymore, and that’s rather sad.

What we did at Guides tonight, was go for a walk to spot fireworks. We didn’t see many fireworks. I’ve probably seen more fireworks on snapchat story this evening than I saw in real life. What we did, however, was walk out to the viewpoint over the city.

And damn, was it beautiful. Sadly, the camera on my phone didn’t do it justice, so I won’t disappoint by uploading the photo. Up on top of the hill, looking down into the valley of the city, I could see for miles and miles. A misty yellow haze of light pollution enveloped row after row of street lights. Flickering bedroom lights could be seen, and occasionally, the break lights of a car would punctuate the view. The abbey was bright, and right in the middle, lit by the lighting I have so often seen on the floor. Everything seemed so close, and yet, from where I was stood, it was so peaceful. In the distance, up I could see cars pass up over the main road on the hill, yet aside from the occasional bang of a pretty firework, and the squeals of giggling guides, it was silent. Nobody else seemed to appreciate it, too distracted by the cold and their torches, and so I stood, alone, and soaked up the moment of escape.

I glanced up, the sky was clear, and I could see several stars. I picked out the brightest, and I made a wish.

My feet now numb and my hands like ice, we headed back for a hot chocolate. Perhaps I seemed a little distant to those around me, but I was still mesmerised, thinking about the view.

I’d like to go back, in the daytime, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same. I’d like to show my best friend, when she visits in January, but I’m not sure I’d remember how to get back. I’m not sure if she’d think I was crazy.

It’s awesome how something which when you are in it feels so big, can look so small from above. Maybe there’s a lesson I should take from that. I’m not sure.

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Watching The Flames

A few nights ago, I went to a camp out at a friend’s house. My friendship group sat in the dark, wrapped up in blankets, played silly games, got a little tipsy, and sang along to music. We also had a fire, and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores. It was peaceful, beautiful even.

I love fires. Out of context, that perhaps sounds strange, but you forget that I am a Guide. I’ve grown up camping in fields and singing around the campfire. The campfire signifies peace, laughter and friendship. The campfire always comes at the end of the day, and it’s important to remember that tomorrow will be a new day.

As I sat in my friend’s field, and I watched the flames lick the wood, I found that for a little while, I drifted into my own little world. Many of my friends had gone to mix cocktails or put on their PJs. The music had stopped, and I savoured the quiet. The crackle of the wood as it burnt was the only sound that could be heard. I watched the flames dancing over the logs, and slowly, it burnt down into a pile of embers. The glowing ash is often more beautiful than the fire itself. I was truly content, just for a moment. I’ve missed fires.

It seems however, that when you are content can often be when reality hits you the hardest. It wasn’t long before an unexpected fear was slipping down my face. Why it happened, I don’t really know. Perhaps just that moment of escape allowed my emotions to be completely free. I spend so much of my life tense, stressed, and concentrating on control, to let go is very much an alien feeling. Even today, when on a first aid course and being used as a ‘casualty’ (I knew the trainer!) I was constantly being told to relax, and that I was too tense to work with.

A few seconds later, my friends returned. I wiped the tear away, and the feeing of overwhelming relief went with it.

Living, laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Two sides to volunteering.

I love Guiding because it is the one place I feel truly accepted. I know that I can be myself, and nobody will judge me. I’m not afraid of being wrong, and so if I can see a job needs doing, I’m happy to just get up and do it without being asked. As a leader I find initiative that I never knew that I had, and a confidence to talk to those not only much older than me, but also people that I’ve never met before. If you ask me to do it, I’m happy to give it everything I’ve got, regardless of weather it’s ‘stand up on that stage and dance’, ‘set this gazebo up’, ‘carry these drinks’, ‘rescue that kid who is crying at the top of the slide’, or just ‘mingle and make sure all the girls are happy’. I love volunteering, and I gain so much from every experience, however big or small. More importantly though, I like to think that the girls I’m leading are having fun, and gaining just as much if not more than me.

Sadly, what ruins big events like today are those leaders who get stroppy. Okay, yes, you’ve brought your Brownies here, and yes, I’m sure that you’re feeling a little stressed, however, there is no need to take it out on me. Leaders seem to forget sometimes that actually, the people running these events are volunteers too, just like them. To make it even worse for us 14-18 year olds, there’s something about being a member of The Senior Section that means that leaders feel they can pick on us. Many leaders wouldn’t dare to speak to another adult in the way that some (not all, I hasten to add!) speak to us. They see the difference in colour of tshirt, and suddenly you can be made to feel very much like a rabbit in the middle of a pack of lions.

I haven’t really been on the team at big events before, and whilst today was a lot of crazy running around and a bit of stress, I truly enjoyed seeing so many smiling Brownie faces. But one Brownie Leader made me cry today, and you know what? That’s out of order. I don’t think I need to go into all the details, and actually, she probably wasn’t the only person to contribute to the problem, but she tipped me over the edge. Shouting and snapping at me in front of 200 odd girls because you did something wrong isn’t fair. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I was quite calmly trying to rectify the problem, but you still shouted. When I backed down and allowed you to continue to do the wrong thing, you still shouted. What more would you like me to do? It was you that failed to listen to and follow the instructions, not me. Don’t take it out on me, just because my tshirt is aqua. I don’t see you challenging anyone in a navy tshirt, so don’t target me. Senior Section members shouldn’t be ‘an easy target’ for frustrated leaders. We’re only trying our best to do what we can with the information we have.

I do however love to be appreciated, and when the county commissioner told me today that I was an ‘amazing star’ I beamed and I beamed. Whilst I don’t do it for the praise, some parts of today have been truly rubbish, and it’s nice to know that actually, you are needed, and some people really appreciate everything that you have to offer.

Guiding truly is a beautiful organisation. I just ask that those stressed out leaders try wherever possible to keep their stress to themselves. If you’ve got an issue, you can just ask calmly, and we’ll probably deal with it much more quickly!

Living. Laughing. Loving. (And hopefully sleeping soon, too! I’m exhausted!)

alex122rw

Tears of a Seven Year Old

As a leader, I shouldn’t have favourites. All girls who come to our units are equal, have equal opportunities, and just as much fun! Of course, it’s never as simple as that though. Everyone has favourites, and you can’t always stop yourself. You don’t decide ‘oh, she’s going to be my favourite’, it’s a sub conscious decision. My Rainbows may be a lot younger than me, but just like people of my own age, they’re certain girls that you just ‘click’ with. What is important however, is that the girls don’t see this favouritism. I would never ever choose one girl because I liked her more than another, and I would never let it affect my leadership. All the girls are equal, even the one who just WON’T ever stand still and listen.

Last night, some of our girls left Rainbows to jump over to Brownies. Some of my favourites, the kids that I’ve had the longest to get to know, left. I always knew that one particular goodbye would be hard. There was one little girl who when she first started two years ago, cried for a long time that first meeting. I took her hand, got her involved, and made sure she had lots of fun. Since then, she’s grown up a lot, and is so so much more confident, and although she still has the odd meeting where the idea of games makes her feel ill, or she doesn’t have anything to say, the majority of the time she’s bouncy and happy, just like everyone else.

Tonight, I knew something was off. Before we’d even made it into the hall to jump our eldest girls up to Brownies, she was holding my hand. As the leaders in charge went down the list of names, and she knew that her name was getting closer and closer, she squeezed my hand tighter and tighter and moved nearer and nearer to me. When her name was called, I knew she wouldn’t let go, so I took a step forward with her. The idea that I’d then hand her over to two people she’d never met before so they could ‘jump’ her over the circle clearly terrified her, and she burst into tears. In the end, I walked her across to her new sixer, and spend the next ten minutes kneeling next to her whispering words of encouragement and rubbing her back, reminding her to breathe, and wiping away her tears. At the same time I knew this meant she’d clearly loved being a Rainbow, it was heartbreaking to watch a little girl cry so much, and I found that soon, I was fighting back my own tears.

Of course, I did eventually have to say goodbye, and an hour later when I saw her at the end, she had a big smile on her face. She was so proud of herself, and I was proud of her, too. It’s funny, because I’m sure that I was probably very similar at that age, and look at me now; I’m a confident leader, off to University, and ready to face the world.

That’s what Guiding is about. Guiding brings out the best in both leaders and girls, and I hope that we can continue to do so for a very very long time.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Summer Sunshine

A few weeks ago, I got a lovely tan. I bleached my hair a little, and I stretched my legs. I ate hot food three times a day, and I partied in the evening. I went on walks, visited a famous town, and saw thousands of smiles.

I was volunteering at a Guide and Scout Jamboree. It was flipping amazing. A chance to keep busy, distract from the background thought that was the impending results day, make new friends, and have fun. I helped to provide activities for 6000 children this week, and I’m really proud of that.

Guiding and Scouting are both amazing charities that provide amazing opportunities to children and young adults, allowing them to develop and grow, and mark their spot in the world. I feel so privileged to have helped be a part of so many children’s lives. I’ve never been a Scout, but I am a Guide. Many would say that I have blue blood, and a complete addiction to Guiding. Here’s just five reasons why…

1. Confidence and Growth
As a child, I’d hide away when new guests came, and I wouldn’t dare answer questions in class. My transition interview at school resulted in five minutes sat opposite my new head of house in total silence, and for the first year, I couldn’t speak to my new flute teacher. Guiding has allowed me to grow, and through being a young leader and a ranger, to take on roles that I would never have dreamed myself capable of. I went on an international trip with eight girls and two adults that I had never met before, and made friends with people from around the world. Without guiding, these opportunities wouldn’t have been there, and I wouldn’t have been able to complete so many other things. A few years on, I felt happy in my University interview, and I can now give presentations when required with only minimal preparation.

2. Leadership
I had to learn to lead, and I was never a natural leader, but Guiding allowed me to nurture the few useful skills that I did have, and to develop new ones to allow me to become the leader that I now am. I’ve also been working in leadership teams, and so not only can I give ideas, but more importantly, listen to the ideas of others to find the best solution.

3. Friendship
As a child, Rainbows and Brownies was exciting because it was with different people. I wasn’t with my usual friends or peer group, and it meant that I got to meet new people from the surrounding area. When I moved schools, Guides gave me some stability because I knew that although I’d have to make a new set of friends at school, I would still see some familiar faces on a Wednesday evening. Now, as an adult, I find those who I meet in Guiding easiest to talk to, and get along with. We share a common interest and live by the same laws, meaning that conversation flows since you always have at least one mutual topic of understanding. I’m not afraid to ask questions and smile at new people in Guiding, because I know that they won’t turn around and be bitchy behind my back. There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or a defined expectation to which you must conform.

4. Safety
Guiding is a safe and friendly place for many young people, providing them with some stability and security in their lives. Guides was where I really learnt to communicate with adults, and I know that when times are difficult, there are always people that I can turn to in Guiding for a word of advice or a hug. There’s people there who are not only trying to make sure that I’m having a good time, but are also looking out for me, to make sure that I really am okay.

5. Belonging
I’ve never felt isolated or alone as a member of Guiding, and being in Guides made me feel wanted. The uniform brings some level of equality, but each person in Guiding makes the same promise, and so live to the same values and principles, meaning that we can relate to one another. Nobody is ever allowed to feel like they aren’t meant to be in a certain place, and as a volunteer, I find that I really am appreciated both by other leaders, as well as girls and parents.

And guess what? That week meant that I got nine days with my best friend, too! How fabulous!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Bouncing Off The Walls

I’m on a happiness high right now, and I love it.

I stayed at my best friends house last night. We watched movies, we had coffee, we ate cookies and sweets and chocolate tart, we drank wine, and we laughed. We laughed more than we have done in a very long time. There were no tears, and it was fantastic.

Today, when going through the notes app on my iPad, I found a list from November 2013. It was a list of everything that my best friend had said in the few months before that which made me think that she had an eating disorder. I was trying to collect ‘evidence’ so that I could ask people for help, and eventually, tell someone. It felt really amazing to be able to delete that note whilst knowing that we’re still best friends.

Tomorrow, we’re going to WINGS, a Guide and Scout camp, to volunteer. I’m so very excited. It’s going to be awesome to spend a week together as one of the last times we will see each other before Uni. I had been so nervous before, never quite sure what would happen. Our friendship has so often been filled with tears and terror. Now though, I’m bouncing off the walls. I know that it’s going to be an awesome week (even if one mainly filled with Guide-Scout traitor debates – shes from the other side, you see). If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m ill, I don’t think I’d be able to sleep tonight.

Bring on tomorrow. Please, bring me tomorrow. I’m not sure that I can contain my excitement any more!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Saying Goodbye

I hate saying goodbye. And last week, I had to say some goodbyes that I really wasn’t looking forward to. I had to say goodbye to my guiding county, in the hope that in September, I’ll be moving to the other side of the country to go to University.

Firstly, was rangers. This goodbye was fairly easy, however I did receive a letter and two badges from the leader which made me cry. That particular leader has been amazing, and I’m sorry to have to leave, but really, I know she’s always there for advice, and it isn’t really goodbye.

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Wednesday night’s goodbyes were much harder however, especially leaving Rainbows.

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I made these cakes, which the girls loved, and I was given a vanity case. More importantly though, I got the chance to run one last singing session, and was given some photos that have already gone into my uni box. By the end of the night, with big hugs and girls hanging off my from all angles, I was nearly in tears.

But is it really goodbye? Not according to the last verse of my favourite camp song…

‘…Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm
And as the years go by
Mmm, I’ll think of you and sigh
Mmm, this is goodnight, and not goodbye’

Goodbye. It’s something that I’m going to have to practice saying. In only fourty nine days, I’ll be saying the hardest goodbye of my life. Fingers crossed though, I’ll be saying the most amazing hello of my life, too. Hello to University!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

A letter to… My Ranger Leader

Dear my Ranger Leader,

You’re a crazy, amazing person, who has helped to shape me over the past four years. I’ve loved coming to Rangers, and it has helped me to grow, to develop, and to be confident.

When you started as a leader, I was apprehensive. I liked you, then I didn’t like you, and now, I love you. Once we got past the slightly awkward stage, you kept me attending Rangers at a time when I came home and cried. I hated it. But the Guiding spirit within me allowed me to hold on for long enough, and just as my fingers started to loose their grip, you appeared.

For the past year, that you’ve been leading on your own, it has been amazing. I’ve made decisions, I’ve fundraised, and I’ve done things that I never would have dreamt that I’d have been capable of doing. For that, I owe you a bigger thank you than I’d ever dare to say to your face.

Not only that, but we’ve done things! From the little things in that we now don’t just eat biscuits every meeting, to the big things, like you helping me to gain my Chief Guide Award. Now, that is something that I’m proud of. I’m ambitious, and I always wanted to do these things and work towards awards like that, but I never knew that I had the support. I didn’t know that there was anyone behind me, and with your help, I’ve done it! I’m so pleased, and I cannot wait to begin the next challenge, the next award.

Now, as I (hopefully) head off to University in September, that sadly means that I have had to leave Rangers. The next leg of my Guiding journey will begin, and once more, it’s going to be big and scary. It’s okay though, because you, and many others like you, have helped me to understand that we’re all sisters in Guiding, and you just need the confidence to say ‘hello, I’m here!’ and people will take you. Volunteers are not paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.

I hope that in the future, I can be just a good a leader to my girls as you have been to me. Here’s to that future, and don’t worry, I will sure be back to visit!

Thanks again, for everything that you have done for me.

Sincerely,

Alex

*This is part of a personal summer challenge that I have set myself to write ‘a letter’ to a different person or thing every week. I plan for there to be nine letters in total, and if anyone would like to join in this summer, even if just for one letter, or a letter to a person of their own, please link back to my blog, as I’d love to see it!*

I promise that I will do my best.

For the past thirteen years, I have been making a promise. When I was younger, it was a simplified version, and I’ll admit that recently, the wording has changed a little, but it has always meant the same thing. The guiding promise has always had a special place in my heart, and now, I think that place is bigger than ever.

I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve the queen and my community
To help other people
And to keep the Guide Law

That is a motto that I aim to live by, not only when I’m involved in Guiding events, but also in day to day life. I love the new wording, it just means so much more to me, and I find it so much easier to apply to my life outside Guiding. Being true to myself is especially important. Those words have a lot of meaning for me. It’s about being an individual, not following the crowd, not succumbing to peer pressure. For me, it’s about being there for others, providing a shoulder to cry on, working hard for my exams.

Girlguiding has always provided a stable in my life when things have gone wrong. I’ve had more opportunities than I could ever count, and I’ve grown and developed into a confident and well rounded individual. This week is national volunteers week, and while I’d love to write a long post about my reasons for volunteering, I unfortunately cannot take that much time from my exams. So, ill leave you with the bits that for me, most stand out…

Friendships. I’ve got friends in Guiding from all over the country, and the world. They’re practical advice givers, and they sure know how to have a laugh!

Confidence. I’ve grown so much as a person since becoming a Guiding leader, and my Rainbows are a sure proof way to make me smile!

Memories. I’ve had so many fantastic opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to have anywhere else. Camping is a favourite past time of mine, and this year, I’m lucky enough to be volunteering at a large camp with 6000 participants. I’ve done this once before, and it’s impossible to explain the feeling of excitement when you step into that campsite. Smiling faces, laughter and fun are ALWAYS order of the day with Guides and Scouts.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please follow this link.

Living. Laughing. Loving. Or, as my five and six year old Rainbows would say, ‘look, learn, laugh, love’.

alex122rw

The Bucket List

About two years ago, I started writing a bucket list of fifty things I wanted to do before I die. Today, my list is fourty seven items long, and I’ve completed seven. I’ve decided that it’s time to give you a little peak into my world. My list, as you’re going to see, rangers from the small and seemingly easy to the massive mental and physical challenges, as well as some exciting things along the way.

Number 24 was the first item that I completed: read all the Harry Potter books. Although not a particularly difficult challenge, I felt a great sense of achievement from being able to write ‘done Jan 2013’ next to it, and it really spurred me on to keep going with my list.I first made s’mores over a fire at winter camp with Rangers in February 2013. They were amazing! Giving blood was challenge number 23. It was something that I really wanted to do, but I was very afraid of. However, a week after my best friend turned seventeen, we went together. I’ve been three times now, and am going for my fourth in a few weeks. Is fantastic, and so rewarding! I was so happy to pass my driving test with one minor in October. Alcohol has always been an issue for me, and it’s always something that I worried about. I’m proud to say however that in February I completed number 13, and 14: drink a glass of wine and go to a party with alcohol. My most recent achievement, and something that I’m extremely proud of is getting the Chief Guide Challenge award. I went to the presentation evening in April, and it was fabulous.

I’ve also got fifteen that I’m planning to try and complete in the next year.

1. Complete gold dofe
6. Complete my ALQ
8. Train as a monitor for ATE
9. Get my grade 8 flute
18. Keep in touch with my best friend from high school while at university
19. Watch the sunset on a beach with someone I love – of course, I’m not sure if this one will happen, but it’s an aim
20. Write letters to myself for later stages in life
22. Enter a photo competition
34. Take an exam without stressing – I’ll be very very lucky if I manage that before I leave school!
35. Before I leave school, donate hair to the little princess trust – booked in, it’s on Friday!
37. Bake each friend a special muffin for the last day of year 13
38. Run 10K – in three weeks!
39. Learn basic piano – my best friend was supposed to be helping me with this. I hope we get there sometime!
42. Say sorry only when you need to – this is a massive mental challenge, but I feel that I’ve come so far, I can make it all the way in the next year
47. Surprise my best friend one weekend at uni with coffee, pizza, cinema, and lots of chats

Today however, I discovered something really cool – a bucket list of friendship. I don’t think it’s something that I’d ever mention to my best friend, she’d probably think I’d gone mad. Separately, privately, and without discussion, you each write five things that you want to do together in the next year. Then you sit together, combine your lists, and make the first plan. As you complete each thing, you cross the item off the list. Going off to university is something that I’m really worried about. I’m a complete ball of anxiety over silly things sometimes, and I’m often worried that my best friend will forget about me. I do wonder if this would help me feel better? To know we always have a plan… That way, she can’t forget. As I said, ill never mention it though. I may be a lot more confident than I was when we met three years ago, but I still have a bit of a fear of being judged. Maybe you can try it though, I’m sure it’d be great fun!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw