Grown Up Christmas

When did Christmas stop being fun? From bad dads, family bust-ups and annoying relatives to unwanted gifts, Christmas just isn’t the same being a grown up as when you’re a kid.

You rarely get new toys to play with, or not much if you get something expensive like a new phone. At this age, as well, you have no real need for anything, so thinking of things to respond with when your parents or siblings ask what you want is near impossible.

These days, I dread opening presents in front of people for I fear reacting wrong if I get something I don’t want or didn’t ask for. It sounds a bit ungrateful, and I swear I’m not. When it comes from the right people, you will always appreciate the gesture, even if you later exchange their gift for something else ‘from’ them. But sometimes, I really mean the phrase, ‘You didn’t need to get me anything,’, and this is certainly the case when it comes to some relatives…

In short, I have lived with my mum and our dog full time since I was fourteen, while my brother splits his time between home and his dad’s. My dad’s only efforts to get to know me involve ineffective ‘bribes’ (in other words, he tries to buy me stuff to gain affection). But because he doesn’t know me, he knows nothing about what I like or dislike, my interests and hobbies, nothing. This is why I dread his presents.

This year, I had to tell him I didn’t want to open my gifts at his, namely because it’s embarrassing, but also, as I said before, because I struggle so much to look happy about something awful from someone who, if it weren’t for that really annoying thing called blood (and my mum’s nagging), I would not have in my life.

Unfortunately, I did have to go round to his house on Christmas day, but only because I had to pick up my brother, so I had no choice.

His idea of spending time with us is acting like a completely normal, no-issues-at-all-family, sitting around together and watching the TV (even though my brother will sit with sound cancelling headphones on his iPad and I will be messaging my friends for help). He does not bother trying to talk to me much, because he does not know me, and we are also completely different people.

I’m sure a lot of kids with divorced parents have similar issues, not wanting to see one parent at Christmas or even resenting not getting to see them because of your other parent, perhaps. However, most ‘normal’ divorced parents don’t live five minutes away from each other. All of my friends with divorced parents will have one either end of the country, or at least in different towns. But we live in the awfully uptight, dull hometown of my dad, and my mum only stays here because of her friends, work, and since my brother is so close to finishing school, there isn’t any point in her moving just yet.

Anyway, once I got home, I spent the rest of the day actually enjoying Christmas Day for the first time in a long, long while. My mum and I both said afterwards, it was the best Christmas in ages, and it didn’t take much; every helping out in the kitchen with Christmas dinner, watching some TV, opening few but wonderful and thoughtful presents (and enjoying music from my mum’s gift from my brother and I of a record player, which we had not expected to make her so emotional).

It was enough to forgive (or at least forget) the negatives, i.e. Dad’s thoughtless gifts, all from the same areas of two stores, as per usual, because he doesn’t try hard.

One thing I should say is that my family are really careful with money. We’re not poor, but that’s because we don’t spend on anything pointless. My dad, on the other hand, despite working full time in a rather well-paid job and having two household incomes as he remarried, complains that he has no money because he has supposedly spent it all (on things like my braces, which he will hold against me, and an extension for his house), yet will buy me so much I do not even want at Christmas and birthdays, then throw some money in my bank account on top.

Now, I’d be grateful for the money, but I cannot be overly grateful because, as I said, it gets used against me, and I also end up with loads of crap I can’t do anything with. About 80% of my dad’s gifts from my birthday and Christmas are currently in a big bag in our spare room.

I’m on the verge of creating an unwanted Dad gifts eBay account as I type.

Metal signs are the bane of my existence when it comes to unwanted Dad gifts, as well as glittery, flowery bags designed for eight-year-old girls, foods I’m allergic to and boring DVDs I will never watch (mostly purchased for containing an actor who was once in Harry Potter, and as most of you will know, there are a lot of actors in Harry Potter).

For me, Christmas was probably simpler as a child for two reasons. One, I mostly wanted Playmobil, chocolate and teddies. Two, my parents gave joint gifts. My mum would get my the stuff I want and my dad would source ‘stocking filler’ gifts (a.k.a. tat), so there was lots to open with plenty of variety.

Despite this, the worst part of Christmas was the Boxing Day extended family gathering. Christmas is known to be a family time, but over the years, our family has grown smaller and those in the family we tolerate even smaller than that. My family is just nutty, plain and simple, and we’ve had some hard times this year that have driven in some wedges. It’s fair to say that alcohol was a must, and I rarely drink.

But no matter who you are or where you come from, I believe the key to Christmas is relaxation. Don’t overthink it or build up your expectations, because that’s when things will go wrong. Christmas comes once a year (even if it seems to start in September these days), so why waste all that built up excitement. Buy yourself some of your own gifts for others to give to you if you must, and make sure you each have some compromise with the TV remote. And it doesn’t matter if you’re with family or friends.

Just smile through it. Or get some Lego to keep everyone quiet. You’re never too old for Lego.

Merry Christmas!

~ Mia


Dyslexic, Not Thick

There are so many misconceptions surrounding dyslexia and people are quick to judge when they don’t know about it. I had always struggled with school and reading, but my mum pushed me to keep up and do well. I was never unintelligent, but when it came to applying my skills, I fell back to average. And for years, that’s what I thought I was: average.

It wasn’t until I was around thirteen and began really struggling with reading, classwork and exams that anybody suspected something was up.  My mum eventually arranged for me to be tested for dyslexia at my school when I was fourteen and they told me that I was– But I wasn’t dyslexic enough to get any support. They showed me my results, and basically, I struggled with cognitive processing, but because I was bright, that balanced it out.

Obviously, it sucks having dyslexia and struggling with simple studying and reading, but it was nice to hear that they thought I was too bright for it to be an issue. Still, it was an issue. Everything I did, reading, writing, thinking, was that bit slower than everyone else. Only when I moved schools two years later did I finally get an assessment that allowed me the support I needed.

I was never ashamed of my dyslexia. It was something I was proud of, a hurdle I had proved I could overcome, and people with dyslexia are known for being creative, problem solvers and are great at seeing the bigger picture – ‘they miss the trees but see the forest’. I was still only average at school work, but I felt as though there was finally a reason for it and that everything made sense.

Until recently.

I had grown so use to my dyslexia that I’d almost forgotten it was an issue outside of studying. There had never been any issues I had faced socially other than off days being asked to read something out loud. But I suppose now was just the time I started noticing why things were not going swimmingly in the social world.

For the first time in my life, I got a job. Nothing fancy, just part time in a pub. Now, you can’t exactly put ‘dyslexic’ on your CV, especially when you already have little reasons to get people to hire you (no experience, no references, sporadic exam results, etc.). Even though I see it as a strength of my character, others may not take to it kindly, although I told myself that this is a changing world (half my friends claim to be dyslexic for university, after all) and that it isn’t something that most people would be bothered about, but boy was I wrong.

My work were the least accepting place I have ever come across. Slow cognitive processing means thinking in general, and so pile on stress and a quick-paced environment, I won’t catch over half of what people say to me. I’ve been criticised in front of customers, being called deaf, slow and not with it, including once being called the first to a customer who literally could not hear a word I shouted to her, but blamed me for not understanding what she wanted when my boss showed up; the customer is not always right.

I tried to let people know that I have dyslexia, dropping it into conversation, but people really don’t understand that it isn’t just something that affects your eyes or your brain when studying or reading from a textbook at school. It affects you in the real world just as much. Yet there is still the agonising internal debate whether or not to tick ‘yes’ for disability on forms, because after all, we’re not in a wheelchair.

Too many people claim to have dyslexia when they don’t even know the half of what it’s really like to have it. To be talked to and about like you’re incompetent or ‘thick’ just because you don’t immediately get someone’s joke, or then once you do, the moment has passed and it wasn’t funny anyway. This is also the case if you act on instinct, when your brain just won’t wake up and focus, and muddle things up. And the classic British save for not catching something, where you say ‘Sorry?’ a maximum of three times before pretending you got it, doesn’t work when someone is asking for a drink by a term you’ve never heard used before by any other sane or even partially sane customer.

Dyslexia isn’t something you develop either (so sorry to the millions of kids who join university, play off the few dyslexia symptoms they have to get a free laptop and are now the reason the government won’t fund laptops for people who actually need them and the supportive software). It is something you are born with and you will generally have noticed symptoms of it throughout your life, even if you only now know what they mean.

Ten percent of the UK population are dyslexic and four percent are severely so. Yet, by university, that number seems to rise to about fifty percent based on speaking to people I know. I hear a lot of ‘Oh yeah, I think I must be dyslexic’ from people when I explain to them my situation, but these people will still read all of their school books with no issues other than severe boredom, when I struggle to read books I really love.

I can trace my dyslexia back to being a child. British kids will probably remember being set the Biff & Chip (Magic Key) books to read throughout primary school, which were set to different levels of reading. At my school, teachers never assessed our reading one to one. We were given a reading list and some books to take home, we would read with our parents and they were supposed to tick a box to say that we had read the book twice over, no problems. My mum may have cheated a teensy bit. My brother and I never read the books twice (they were torture to read once) and half the time, she would read them to us, or at least with us.

When I think back along these lines, I don’t remember doing much reading aloud as a child and I dreaded having to read something out in class. After finding out dyslexia could be a reason for this, I did my research, which showed the cases of severely dyslexic children. I told myself I couldn’t be dyslexic, because letters did not swim about like they did on the explanatory video I watched. My dyslexia is now borderline severe and I now understand what it’s like, only you don’t really see letters move, they will just appear somewhere else that doesn’t make sense. My ‘bright’ mind now has only enough strength to move words somewhere that makes sense. For example, I can see a sentence a pluck a word from later on, place it at the start and by the time I get to the second word, I always think I have spotted some bad grammar on the writer’s part. Before I reread it and discover I am the one who has made the error.

One thing that really helped me to cope with it (and to some, it may sound lame) was reading out loud with my mum. I was fourteen and I read the Hunger Games trilogy from my hardcopy while she followed on the kindle. It was like being back in primary school again, but it made me more confident about being called on to read something to the class and about reading in general. I have since been complimented on my reading voice, although, if they followed along the text, they would notice I have a fair bit of artistic licence with text to speech.

I rely so much these days on my instincts getting me through the day. I guess at what I’m reading, I guess at what someone has said and respond to it instinctively. I don’t have a clue what comes out of my mouth half the time, so when people then stop and go, ‘Huh?’, I genuinely don’t know how to explain myself. After all, it seemed obvious to my subconscious.

Another common misconception of dyslexia is an association between messy handwriting and being dyslexic. My handwriting is generally super neat, but it takes a long time to write it that way. I have been observed having a tight grip on a pen and that is because without doing that and taking time to write out each letter, I would not have neat writing, and then no one would be able to read it. But, I’ve never tried writing normally, because slow and steady became normality. Dyslexia became normality to me and knowing that about me is often key to understanding who I am.

So, I suppose the moral of this, as I will say for most things, is to do your research. Don’t assume you know all about dyslexia just because a friend has it or you’ve seen it portrayed on TV (definitely don’t get all your knowledge from the last one, as we are always portrayed as being thick but– Oh wait, it’s just dyslexia; you can be clever and dyslexic, too). And don’t assume you have it just because you struggled to read War and Peace or were tired that day you tried to read a mass of information from your text book. Don’t assume someone is thick or unintelligent just because they aren’t quick witted and don’t assume someone is giving you dirty looks when they may just be struggling to process what you said.

Dyslexia is a disability that only those who really have it can understand. It impacts your life on a daily basis and does not get enough recognition. That is why I always talk about it like it’s a positive part of my life; it is. I see the bigger picture, you see the flaw in the top right corner.

~ Mia

Dear Diary

Throughout my years, I have tried and failed to keep a diary. I have about a billion notebooks and a few of them hold evidence of these attempts. But, when I was around thirteen and started watching the CW show The Vampire Diaries on Netflix, I was inspired to try again at keeping a diary, and this time it stuck.

Okay, so I don’t use it all the time anymore. These days, I generally have to reach a real low to reach for my diary and a pen, but it is a fool proof method for me to make myself feel better, or relieved is probably the better word. Writing out my feelings is the same as talking to someone, only you don’t have to risk the humiliation of exposing your soul to another human who has the potential to use it against you or judge you for it. A book is the most impartial of listeners and as long as you keep it safe (and away from prying eyes) it will do you no harm.

Diaries are such an old concept that many people probably overlook. It is the sort of thing that you would come across in every single chick flick or kids show growing up in the 90s or 00s, remember? There would be the girl who hid her diary in a stupid place and used it to say horrible things about protagonist X who, of course, reads only that bit.

Rule one of keeping a diary: don’t bitch. The book is not your gal pal on a night out. If you are expressing your feelings into words, you have to be completely honest with yourself or you won’t feel better. You also learn more about yourself if you admit to things you would rather not like jealousy and greed, and will benefit just as much from getting these off your chest as reliving an event or emotion that makes your chest and throat tight while tears sting at your eyes.

Modern people will tend to use social media as a diary (and I am guilty of this *cough* twitter *cough*), but you can never be one hundred percent honest on social media. You want to make yourself look good or seem mysterious and vague when tweeting, snapchatting, etc., and that is what people expect of you. If you start pouring your soul out to the internet, people get weird and will undoubtedly judge you. I’m a fairly honest person and I’ll speak my mind often because I’m always trying to understand myself, and that is what my diary is for. As much as I want other people to know what I know about myself to stop them making presumptions about my character, I have to accept that as a battle lost on this occasion.

People have as much right to not listen as you have freedom of speech.

But a book? A book has to listen! (Poor thing). What’s more, you can be honest and open and really learn about yourself. Achieve all this and I cannot guarantee happiness, but I can tell you that knowing yourself makes it easier to ignore the haters.

It is also something constant and always there, as often people aren’t. People are notoriously unreliable and will switch off to another person’s serious problems for various reasons: they’re an optimist to your pessimism, they’re selfish, they think their own problems are greater, or often it is because they don’t understand what you’re going through. Unless you are talking to someone who has been through the exact same issues you are currently facing, they won’t connect emotionally. It’s like reading a story: if you can’t connect to the main protagonist, you’ll just end up dismissing the tale.

The manual task of writing out by hand is also a relieving part of expressing yourself. There is something about dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘T’s with a pen that you just don’t get from tapping the letter on a keyboard. Writing makes it more personal as well, like a letter to a loved one written in a hand that is unique to you.

Tips for keeping a diary:

  • Don’t bitch, state only facts and try to work out why you feel so strongly about someone or something
  • Be honest, with yourself as much as the book
  • Keep it safe, just in case anyone does decide to poke around your things looking for some ammunition against you; again, if you stay wholly honest and don’t bitch, nothing anyone reads should be exact enough to offend them
  • Write until hand cramp is the worst pain you feel
  • Try to understand you
  • Don’t look back, simply write it out and close the book; it is not use to dwell on the past more than once, because then it is time to accept it and move forward

It’s all about learning who you are and embracing that person. You be you.

~ Mia


So, the other day, me and some friends got into an argument about voting. I only wanted to state a fun fact, that you are more likely to get penalised for not registering to vote than not voting afterwards, which I had read somewhere recently. One of my friends just outright said, ‘You’re wrong,’ because where I had read this on some online article, it said it was illegal to not register to vote. That, I hold my hands up, was wrong, but the rest of what I said is, as I say, a fun fact. I only wanted to impart some fun knowledge to lighten the mood put forward when someone says, ‘Have we all registered to vote then? Be sure to vote XXX!’

I am far from a political person. Many people last year for the referendum whose birthdays were after June or not ’til next year were complaining that they could not vote, but I was glad to be a July birthday, and to me it was a lucky escape. In my generation, there is only one option of who to vote for, in this upcoming general election but also for the referendum last year. Yet, we are so uneducated in politics that I honestly have no idea how people my age can argue so blatantly about why they were right to vote XXX.

The reason for the XXX is because I am a big believer in not flaunting your vote. The campaigners for each party or side are, in my opinion, the only people who should be telling you who to vote for, because that is their job. I don’t want nineteen-year-old undergrad first years telling me what’s right and what’s wrong, nor do I want celebrities forcing their views down other people’s throats.

To be perfectly honest, I really wish I was still seventeen so I did not have to vote this year. I openly admit to having no knowledge of any party running other than the popularity battle going on between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbin (one newspaper running a story entitled, alongside a picture of Mrs May, ‘Vote for me, I’m not Jez’.)

We need educating more, but for some reason, whenever anyone tries to do that, they make it dull. I highly recommend the Channel 4 show The Last Leg for a fun perspective on the news, as they also seem to be the only show I’ve come across that is wholly unbiased as they get their points across. We need more things like that, which will make politics fun and interesting, not the dull, argument-causing, fun-killer it is at the moment.

I hope you vote based on what you know and what you feel is best in this election and not just because your friends are telling you what to do. They know as much as you, and if you want to look into each party a bit more, you will know more than them. At the end of the day, if it’s not the result you want, just move on. There’s no point wasting time on politics you cannot control. It’s really just like ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent. If you don’t like the winner, what can you do about it but complain online? It’s not going to change the result.

Happy election! Vote independently and wisely.

~ Mia


My biggest bugbear. What’s right about this social media site? (Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg…)

It first made its appearance back in 2004 and was open to the above 13 years old public in 2006. At first, Facebook appeared to attract an adult market as a way to reconnect with old school friends, neighbours, colleagues and friends around the globe easily. Since then, there have been plenty of other sites and ways to keep in touch with those we don’t see everyday made, thus altering Facebook’s main purpose.

Now, it is primarily a place for people to make sure everyone they know by name or face has been informed of their latest meal, shopping trip, extravagant birthday party or night out… Yes, it could probably be said that this is the purpose of most social media platforms, but there is just something about Facebook that seems more annoying than the rest.

Perhaps it is just my biased views because I have had a terrible experience with Facebook. I joined Facebook as soon as I could (probably even sooner) because it was the only social media I was aware of and all the ‘cool kids’ had it. At this point, for my generation, the aim of Facebook was to collect as many ‘friends’ as you could by adding people you had seen around school, heard by name or who appeared as a mutual friend, and this was how popularity was established.

As time went on, I realised having everyone from my school, people I never spoke to, was pointless. I told myself it did not matter that I didn’t have as many ‘friends’ as some other people, but in reality, the only thing that did not matter was my view on this. The rules were already there; Facebook friends = popularity, like a simple sum to those around me. These days, it’s likes = popularity, and this is a feature of all social media sites that I despise. I am one of those people who will like everyone’s photos on Instagram (the only other site that is as like oriented as Facebook that I use) simply to be nice with very few exceptions – I’m strongly opposed to the content, too many of the same photos have been posted or I don’t believe the photo was taken by the poster. However, I do believe others are much more critical as they scrutinise through their timelines, judging the person far more than the post.

Facebook has also been a big source of cyberbullying through my time using it, for me and others. It does not use the simple ‘indirect’ method, but gets far more specific. And what’s worse is people will comment on that post, trying to publically find out the details of a person’s anger, upset or cruelty, which thus leads to further anger, upset or cruelty, often to the point where the person it is about has no choice but to get involved. Behind a screen, there is a barrier where you cannot see the person you’re hurting’s reaction. It is so easy to become detached from emotion as you type out, blank-faced, a message filled with as many insults your brain can think of, which is why it is so easy and so common to encounter cyberbullying.

(If anyone is suffering from the abuse of cyberbullying, I will be writing a post on bullying at a later date. But if there’s one thing you can learn from this particular post, it is that it really is easy to detach yourself from emotion online. Bullies want a reaction. Stay calm, reply calm and you’ll soon be laughing about it all later.)

A heated battle of words cannot accurately portray what is written on someone’s face or what is racing through that person’s mind. The written word also allows people to be more calculating with their responses. There is also a waiting game that forms, which means it isn’t really ‘heated’, is it? It is more of a bashing out a heated message, waiting, cooling off as time passes, and then, when the response you have been waiting for finally comes through, all the emotion comes flooding back.

Facebook is also the worst place for stalking. I’m sure everyone has done this at some point. Despite the talks in secondary school about internet safety, I know so many people whose profiles are open to the public. If I did that, it probably would not matter because I rarely to never post anything, but these days, you can find out everything about someone from finding their Facebook page.

Because I don’t use Facebook often, there is one thing I would love to open to discussion because I just don’t understand it. It is this: why is unfriending someone the biggest insult/shun people of the modern world can think of?

I have recently had to sit through my mum and her friends discussing whether or not to unfriend or block this person or that person for whatever reason and taking a very long time to decide upon answers, almost as if they are plotting murder. I have also been on the receiving end of being ‘unfollowed’ as the final straw to someone. When I was in that situation, I did not want bad blood between this person despite everything, and so I was not as quick to do the same, but then the time came where I thought, ‘Well, this is ridiculous, there’s no point,’ and gave up.

So, there you have it. Everything wrong with Facebook. I hate it, but I will continue to use it until group video calls comes back into fashion or good old meeting up in person.

If you enjoyed this blog post/rant, please like, share or follow via the various links surrounding. Please feel free to check out my Instagram and Twitter, too, linked at the top of the page and follow me there (my Twitter is just as ranting as this blog).

Until the next one…

~ Mia

Wrong Century: An Introduction

Hi everyone,

Welcome to Wrong Century, a blog where I (a complex British teenager) occasionally rant about everything wrong with modern life. Suggestions for topics are perfectly welcome.

I’m a professional writer and full-time student, so I won’t initially be posting to a schedule, or certainly not a frequent one. I will post as and when I can or when inspiration strikes for a new rant topic.

I will also try to run a question and answer process; if you have any questions about me, my blog or simply aspects of modern life you want to know the answers to, I’ll do my best to provide.

Hope you enjoy!

~ Mia