I feel I need to start this post with a very big disclaimer. I respect all religious views and I definitely don’t intend for this post to offend anyone.

But I’m frustrated.

My so-called lack of beliefs is a belief in itself. I am always open to learning about different religions, as I find them fascinating, but I don’t appreciate people trying to convert or ‘save’ me.

I am spiritual, in the sense that I think there could be some sort of higher power, and I believe in serendipity/fate/kismet/whatever you want to call it in some form or another, but I also believe in science, facts and proof. They may do for you, but for me, religious books don’t offer those things. I know that’s where faith comes in, but unfortunately, I don’t work like that, and I’m sick of people trying to prove me wrong. I can’t look at a sunset and see God’s work. I won’t hear a child prodigy playing the piano and think they have been given a gift from God – for me, it’s a sign of aptitude and probably a lot of hard work. People can do incredible things; of course I’m in awe of them, but I believe they have themselves (and possibly genetics and a good teacher) to thank for their abilities.

And that’s OK.

I wanted to have faith for such a long time.

I wasn’t raised religious. Most of my primary schools (I went to a lot!) were Church of England. My father isn’t religious and my mother is Buddhist. I wasn’t baptised and I was raised to be open-minded and curious. And I was very curious.

I went to Alpha Club, attended a lot of church events with my best friend and often prayed for some sort of sign that God was there. But I never felt it. I could never quite get my head around organised religion, and there are quite frankly, a lot of aspects that I don’t agree with. I really loved this post by Mark (The Honest Father), as it summed up a lot of what doesn’t quite sit right with me.

As a woman, there are some traditions and beliefs within various religions that make me feel uncomfortable. A lot of other things just don’t make sense to me and it’s not through lack of questioning.

Perhaps one of my biggest obstacles (and not just because of my own sexuality) is the notion that homosexuality is a sin. I can’t get my head around the idea that God would create a person a certain way, then tell them it’s a sin to love the person of their choice.

I don’t label myself.

I’m interested in Humanism, because I feel like I can align with its values. But quite honestly, I simply believe in being a good person and leading a fulfilling life. Anyone that shudders at the thought of Humanism or Atheism (and believe me, I’ve met a few people that do) needs to look at themselves and question why they feel this way. There are good and bad people in the world, religious or otherwise, so please don’t confuse lack of religion for a lack of morality.

I’m sorry if this post has come off as ranty or aggressive, I merely wanted to voice my frustrations and actually, my hurt. I’ve been made to feel like less of a person for not being religious, and to tell you the truth, I don’t see how this is any less offensive than discriminating against someone for their religious beliefs. It’s insulting, upsetting and surely not very in the spirit of loving thy neighbour.

Everyone has their own beliefs. Atheism, Humanism – or any belief system that doesn’t worship a deity – is just as valid as your religion. If I’m respectful and understanding of your beliefs, please extend me the same courtesy.

I’ve been mulling this idea over for some time now and I thought today – with #thrivingatwork trending on Twitter, and the topic of mental health in the workplace being widely discussed – would be a good time to share it.

I want to create an ‘openness in the workplace’ scheme

Now bear with me here, I haven’t worked out any of the finer details, but the basic idea would be that managers can sign up to have a little sticker or badge on their desk which shows their team they’re open and sympathetic to mental health struggles. Other members of staff could also display their support, with the goal of creating a safe environment, where people feel comfortable being open if they’re struggling. Anyone can sign up – whether they have personal experience of mental illness or not.

This would only be a small part of a wider campaign and I have yet to think of a catchy name, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

I’m aware there are potential pitfalls

For example, I in no way want this to become a ‘counselling’ service. People involved in the scheme shouldn’t be treated like a substitute for qualified mental health professionals, nor should they give any sort of advice – just support and understanding.

In fact, this may be a crap idea altogether, so please feel free to tell me if you think it is! What I’m hoping is I can get enough people interested in getting involved and we can have a bit of a brainstorming session and bounce ideas off each other. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in any way.

People shouldn’t feel afraid to phone in sick if they’re having a bad mental health day

I’ve seen far too many people on Twitter saying they’ve often felt too afraid to be honest with their boss when calling in sick. We shouldn’t have to lie – mental health is as important as physical health. The goal of this campaign is to reduce stigma and help people to understand this.

I want talking about mental health at work to be as commonplace as talking about having a cold. In the same way you might grumble about having a headache, if you’re feeling anxious at work, I believe you should be able to mention it to your employer and be able to take a few minutes outside without it being a big deal. I have personally experienced working in an office like this and it was a wonderful, supportive environment that everyone should have.

If I can be a part of making that happen, even on the smallest possible level, I want to. Let’s do this!

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I tweeted about getting some MEGA EXCITING news yesterday.

I sort of planned to wait until everything was finalised, contracts signed etc., but I just can’t wait any longer.

I am thrilled to announce that…

GIF of Mel doing a drum roll

Drum roll please!

I’M WRITING A BOOK!

I will reveal more details later, but for now let me just say that I am ridiculously, deliriously happy. It’s a memoir, so I’m going to have to dig deep and get nice and personal – I hope you’re ready!

It’s all thanks to this little blog that I’ve been offered this incredible opportunity, so I’d like to thank you all for your support, encouragement and kind words. I really feel like I’m part of an amazing online family and I’m grateful for that every single day.

All my love,

Mel

(A soon-to-be PUBLISHED AUTHOR – WHAT?!?!?!?!)

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few tweets about the mental health blogger convention I’m hosting next year. I’ve had a few questions about it, so I wanted to answer them all here. I’m so excited (and nervous!) about this event and I hope to see loads of you there.

Where is it?

It will be in Bournemouth, at the Queens Hotel.

This is roughly a ten minute walk from the train station and a two minute walk from the beach if anyone fancies wandering down afterwards. If you’re driving down, there is free parking at the hotel, but it’s limited. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of street parking around, though please be aware it’s all pay and display.

When is it?

Saturday 14th July 2018, 11am-6pm.

Will there be food?

There will be tea and coffee on arrival as well as a light buffet. If you have any allergies, please check with hotel staff on the day.

Where can I stay afterwards?

There will be a small amount of discounted rooms allocated to this event. Please contact the hotel directly to make a booking and explain that you are attending the event.

Failing that, there are loads of hotels nearby; my recommendations would be any of the Oceana Hotels or The Orchid, which is very affordable.

What’s the running order of the day?

I’m still nailing that bit down, but currently I have plans for the following:

  • Talks from people in the MH blogging community
  • Exhibition stands with products
  • A booth with a make-up artist/eyebrow lady (sculptor/artist/stylist/whatever the term is…!) giving makeovers
  • Potentially readings from authors and a stand-up set
  • Selfie area (I will also be running a competition for the best selfie!)
  • Lots and lots of mingling and great conversation with like-minded people, in a relaxed, comfortable environment

Sounds great – how can I buy tickets?

Tickets are £15 each and you can buy them here.

You won’t get a physical ticket, but I will be sending email confirmations, which you will need to have with you – on your phone is fine!

Can I vlog the event?

Please feel free to take photos on the day and write blog posts after – the more the better! However, at the moment, I think I’d prefer it if there wasn’t any vlogging (though I may film some of the talks myself). I only say this because I want everyone to feel comfortable and some people may not feel relaxed being on camera.

Is the venue wheelchair accessible?

Yes!

Help! I have more questions!

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments, or drop me an email: geekmagnifique1@gmail.com

MH Blog Con logo

 

Ours is a story about friendship. But it’s also about love, family and all the strange ways life manages to throw people together.

I always find it amazing that when a person comes into your life, you never really know how important they are going to become to you.

I certainly didn’t realise when I came to your house with a bottle of gone-off Bucks Fizz (I think this was an attempt to get us through our English Lit revision?), that you would one day be like a sister to me. We laughed as we poured ourselves a disgustingly flat yet chunky tipple, and our friendship started.

I’d pick you up on my way to sixth form and we’d eat croissants in my car. I fed you cream cakes while you were working on the tills at Morrison’s. You know, all the usual shenanigans you’d expect from two seventeen-year-olds.

We ended up going to the same university, even though we both picked different ones as our first choice. We chose the same joint honours course (Journalism and Media Production), before both deciding at the end of first year to drop journalism. This wasn’t planned or talked about, it just happened.

It was at university that I met Dave, who very quickly stole my heart. Some time after that, Dave met Pete, who soon became his band-mate and one of his best friends.

After university Pete came to live with us in our flat down in Bournemouth. You’d moved back to Hastings (I missed you so much!) but came down regularly to stay with us. In fact, you were there the weekend Pete moved in. We ended up watching Hole in the Wall and learned that it’s one of the greatest TV shows ever made.

Photo of me and Julie

One of my favourite pictures of us, taken shortly before you moved to Bournemouth.

Friendship between you and Pete eventually turned to more. Dave and I got engaged the same weekend the two of you had your first date, and soon after, the four of us were living together.

You moved out (thankfully only down the road!), Dave and I got married, then you and Pete followed suit soon after. It wasn’t long before you bought your first home together (again, thankfully only down the road!) and from time to time we’ve helped with fun jobs like smashing up concrete in your back garden and taking trips to the tip.

When you told us you were having a baby I cried. I knew instantly that I would love your child so much; I was so excited to be Auntie Mel to a little person you created.

Over the many years our lives have been so intertwined. We’ve shared ups and downs, holidays in Cornwall, birthdays and early Christmases that have felt just as special as the actual day itself. We’ve racked up massive phone bills to each other, commiserated failings, stayed up until 4am giggling like fools and celebrated loads of amazing achievements (in my case, many a new job!).

Today Dave and I officially bought our first home together. Naturally we’ve remained in walking distance of you, because it’s become obvious that there’s no way we’re getting rid of each other.

This move has been a long time coming for me and Dave; a bright spot at the end of some difficult times. A fresh start.

And because we’ve always been in sync and our lives have this funny way of slotting neatly together, today is also the day you welcomed your son into the world.

You and Pete are like family to me, so of course your son is going to be like family to me too. We have made more amazing memories than I can count and I look forward to making many, many more.

And so, I’d like raise a glass (of something that isn’t Bucks Fizz!) to the birth of your beautiful baby boy.

To my best friends, my family, and to serendipity.

x

A little side note: I got the text announcing your little man’s arrival just as I was getting into my car to go and pick up the keys to our house. About five minutes later this song came on the radio. It always makes me think of you.