Sunday, 20 December 2015

Feeling 22

It may not have felt like the perfect night to dress up like hipsters, make fun of exes, have breakfast at midnight or fall in love with strangers...but it was a wonderful surprise birthday bowling party, a lovely birthday breakfast with my best gals, wine in my lecture, a birthday dinner with my favourite man, and a weekend of drag and Star Wars with the Adventure Team. I'm feeling a very lucky and very grateful 22.








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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Notes to my younger self

I remember being in year five at school, and being in awe of a girl in year 8. I remember thinking she was the coolest, cleverest and most beautiful girl I'd ever met and feeling totally overwhelmed that she would talk to me, let alone be super nice to me. I remember thinking "I will never be that old". I saw this girl yesterday, at Clapham Junction on my twenty-second birthday, and whilst she's obviously still three years older than me, it dawned on me that I am that old - in fact, I'm older, I'm many, many years older than the thirteen year old girl I never thought I'd be. It dawned on me even more when I saw this girl with her baby, and I realised that she was a real life adult, and one day that will hopefully also be me. This got me thinking about all the things I've done, the aspirations I've achieved and the people I've met since my days in year five in the Great Walstead school play. It made me think about if I am where I thought I'd be, or at least where I hoped I'd be. 

According to my life book (a journal my Mum has made my brother and I fill in on our birthdays every year detailing our favourites, dreams, aspirations and achievements), aged ten my favourite colours were purple and bright green; my favourite lessons at school were ICT and French; spaghetti was my favourite food; and when I grew up I wanted to be an actress. According to my personal journal, a diary which I wrote only when catastrophic things happened to me, aged ten I was most worried about holding a boy's hand at the Christmas Bazaar, whether the girl in year eight actually really liked me or whether she preferred my friend, and whether I'd keep my voluntary job in the school bookshop. They were big worries, capitalised and scrawled across pages of my diary; I don't think I thought I'd ever really overcome them. I'm happy to say that I did: I never did hold that boy's hand, I think that girl did genuinely like me and I never got booted out of the bookshop. Today I am older and wiser, I still have worries which one day will seem obsolete, and this is some of the advice I would offer to my ten year old self: 

1. Working hard usually pays off
As my brother likes to remind me often "you're not actually clever, you just work hard" - which is a bit true. My school reports always read 'hard-working' and 'conscientious' and that was something I was always really proud of, and felt like it was a real asset. I've learned that hard work usually gets you what you want, or where you want to be, and that there's nothing more satisfying than having goals and achieving them through hard work. Hard work isn't confined to academia. One of my proudest moments is still organising a charity 'ball' with friends in year ten; it was nothing like anything I'd ever done before, and was my first real insight into everything that is challenging, frustrating and amazing about organising events - and also about how incompetent people are. We worked so hard for so long to pull that evening off, and I have never been so satisfied and relieved. 

2. Sometimes you have to say 'no'
99% of my teenage years were spent saying 'yes' to things. It was amazing, and I was offered lots of really great opportunities which I was able to make the most of. It encouraged me to try new things, meet new people and realise some of my most enjoyable hobbies and interests. It also meant that I did a lot of stuff which I didn't want to do, an amount of stuff I couldn't really cope with, and felt a pressure to continue to say yes because I was Laura - the reliable one, the one who would always say yes! Sometimes you have to no, for your own health, your own sanity, and because you've got your own priorities. Help people out when you can, seize opportunities but don't knock yourself out doing it. 

3. Talk to people
Remember how you spoke to that girl in year eight and then befriended her and thought you were the best thing since sliced bread? Do that more. Do that always. Always talk to people, at school, at university, at work, when you're out and about, because you never know what might happen. They might end up becoming one of your best friends; they may offer you opportunities; they might help you out, or you might be able to give them a hand. You never know. Contacts, for whatever purpose, are always good to have. You'll never make them unless you talk to people and put yourself out there. 

4. Sometimes things get really bad, but sometimes they get really good
Age ten Laura, you're going to have to deal with some really crap stuff: you've got two years off school ill to cope with; moving to new schools; doing your GCSEs and your A-Levels and wondering how you're ever going to make it to the end of your degree; you've got rubbish friends and hopeless boyfriends and family you wish you weren't forced to be related to. It's LAME. You've also got some really fun years of school to look forward to, with awesome friends and thousands of opportunities; holidays with family and with your friends; successes and achievements; having independence; and meeting new people who will change your life. Try not to dwell too hard on all the rubbish bits. The good bits more than make up for it. 

5. You can do it
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. If you want to do it, then do it. It helps if this incorporates things you're already good at or interested in, and make the most of the skills you have and the opportunities that are available. Remember that you only have to answer to yourself - your mum/teacher/friend/colleague will probably get over it. Do what's best for you, and do it when you want to do it. Don't forget about others, but your life is your own to do what you want with. Don't settle. You deserve the best and to be surrounded by people who think the same. 
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Friday, 11 December 2015

For the weekend...

I love a routine. I really love a routine. I like to know what I'm doing and when I'm doing it and have a plan. The last few weeks I've really struggled to sleep and I don't why, and it's really thrown me. There's something quite unsettling about waking up in the morning, remembering you spent most of the night away, and trying to do everything that you'd planned to do on 3 hours sleep. At first it's tiring, later it's impossible. So my routine has been abandoned, first unwillingly, second willingly. I'm almost at the last week of term, I've done all the work I absolutely need to do before next Friday, so I've spent the last few days napping if and when I need to, watching films, colouring, wrapping Christmas presents and taking a break from the sleep, work, eat, work, sleep university routine. It's liberating. So I would advise you all, once in a while, break away from your routine, do some stuff you want to do...it's even better if you can sleep too! 

Happy weekend. X

http://sillytilly-x.tumblr.com/

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

For the weekend...

#NotInMyName


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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review: Matilda the Musical


The week before last Matilda the Musical turned 5 years old, performed for the first time in Stratford-Upon-Avon. That means I've wanted to see Matilda for approximately 5 years. Growing up, the film was one of my favourites which I'd watch over and over again, and can still quote religiously to this day. I loved the story, I loved the characters and I loved the magic. I was really interested to see how this could be brought to the stage...

The first thing I noticed about the musical was how striking the set was - not in a showy, theatrical sort of way, but a homely sort of one. This comforting visual simplicity continued throughout the show. There was nothing totally spectacular about the set but it framed the stage perfectly, complementing rather than supplementing the performance. The second thing was obviously the opening scene, which left me feeling slightly disheartened. The song wasn't memorable, there was no actual reference to Matilda, and it was all just a bit cheesy and superficial. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the rest of the show, but was praying it would get better and live up to all the wonderful things I'd heard about it...and my own expectations! 

And it did get better, definitely. But it never quite got as good as I'd expected. My main issue was with the sub-plot: Matilda spends a disproportionate time of the show telling an elaborate story about an acrobat and an escapologist, which was fine at first, but became totally excessive and overwhelming. *Spoiler alert*: that story ends up becoming Miss Honey's life story which is bizarre, and is supposed to link in with the idea that she has magical powers but it's all just too weird and detracts too much from the original plot. That was infuriating. Having said that, all the kids in it were amazing, and I'm always surprised by what exceptionally talented child actors we have in the West End. There were a couple of really good, entertaining, clever songs but it was hard to associate them with Tim Minchin - because they tended to be fairly inconsistent, and not especially memorable. The dancing had the same feel: absolutely fine, quite funny, but nothing totally mind-blowing. 

I left with very mixed feelings. I'd had a good evening, I'd enjoyed it for what it was (it's a show very much for children), and I'm glad I got to see it. But I was also glad that I hadn't paid for expensive seats, and I don't feel like I need to see it ever again. 
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Friday, 27 November 2015

For the weekend...

One of the most interesting and challenging articles I've read for a long time: considering the role of cities, and how current ideology and policy is making them less safe and more exclusionary. 

Some geography for your weekend: http://bit.ly/1NcNz9b


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Contemplating Final Year


"So is this your final year?"
"Yep"
"Oh, so you actually have to work really hard now..."

I've had this conversation TOO MANY times in the last 6 weeks. At first I thought "well maybe, but I did work hard(ish) last year"; now I'm thinking "oh my god yes and I have so much to do and it's taking over my life". It is fair to say that I had not quite anticipated the demands of final year prior to starting it...which is fine, but now I'm entering a deepening realisation that I have a lot to do all the time and this is going to continue for the next 6 months so I'd better stop flapping over it. Right now, I'm stuck in a love/hate/slight indifference/absolute frustration relationship with university at the moment, which is both rewarding and tear-inducing. I didn't really know what to do about it, so I figured it would be best to try and step back from it all and have a moment of reflection...

Final year is stressful because... there is a lot more work to do
I think I currently have more work to do than I did in my first and second years combined, so I'm a little out of practice and not really used to it. In some ways it's great, because I like being busy and having things to do, but in others it's very disheartening. I feel like there is always something that needs doing imminently, and for everything I tick off my 'to-do' list, I add about 5 more things. Currently, I see very few endpoints (aside from the glorious dissertation hand-in date) and I'm trying to manage having a constant pile of things to do that never seems to go down. On the flip side, the work I have to do is marginally less stressful because I am taking more modules that I'm interested in this year, so I'm finding the work generally, or at least partially, enjoyable. 

Final year is satisfying because... it is a means to an end 
University is about a lot of things: having new experiences; broadening/deepening/stretching/challenging/narrowing your knowledge, outlooks and perspectives; growing up; meeting new people; a step towards employability; having fun. It is also, in some ways, a means to an end - especially at this point in the final year. I feel like I've got to the point where I know (vaguely) what I want and what I need in terms of a qualification on a piece of paper to help me get there. All I need to do now is achieve that. At times this feels really exciting and liberating; at others it feels daunting - like an end to my university career, and even all my time spent in education - and that I should be working really hard to make sure it was all worth it and I did the best I possibly could have done. 

Final year is scary because... you have to think about life after university
Whether you're doing further study, going into a job, going travelling, have no idea what you're going to do yet but you'll work it out, it's a step into a different period in your life. The change for some will be greater than for others, but that doesn't necessarily make it any more or less scary or any more or less meaningful. When I think about my life post-university I am, first, excited to have a year of freedom, travel, meeting new people, doing something different...and not revising/writing essays. When I think about my life post-gap year of dreams, it's a bit more scary. It's hard to decide what you want to do when you've never done anything except go to school, then university with a couple of summer/part-time jobs in between. I guess we're all in the same position though: self-discovery will be a process...I'll let you know how it goes. 

Final year is comforting because... you know what you're doing
This is the first year of university which I've stepped into and actually felt like I know what I'm doing and what's expected of me. I've finally reached a point, which in my first term of first year I never imagined that I would, where I know how to write a proper academic essay (with slight varying success...); I can read academic articles and actually understand what they're talking about most of the time; and I can reference without it taking me as long as it did to write the essay itself. I know where I'm living, what I'm doing, how to cook, how to use buses, where different university buildings are, which few hours a day the Geography Office's door isn't locked, who my friends are and how to be an actual real life student. So whilst lots of other elements are hugely stress-inducing, having a grip on other parts of university/my life makes it much easier.

Final year is tiring because... sometimes I am too stressed to sleep
You know that feeling when you're laying in bed and you're thinking about all the things you need to do, and you should probably do, and you also all that stuff that you already should have done? I feel like that's a little too regular at the moment, and I'm left feeling very sleepy and smothering my face in concealer as a result. Because I am of the mentality that, once I start something, I'd rather work really hard and solidly to get it done rather than drag it out for ages, I'm left with long days of working, hour after hour of staring at spreadsheets and transcripts, and very sore and tired eyes. It's not ideal, but I'm sure this is something lots of other finalists are also experiencing. My tip: take weekends off. I always make sure that I work hard all week, but I very rarely work at weekends and the break (from reading, from thinking about work, from staring at a screen) is absolutely necessary to my own sanity. 

Final year is... better than any other year of university
All taken into account, I am definitely enjoying my final year significantly more than I have any other year of university. A significant amount of this enjoyment is as a result of recent changes in my department that have infinitely improved student experience (shout out to Jason Dittmer!) It's awesome to have a dissertation supervisor that I see fortnightly and can e-mail whenever for advice/support/direction/stability; it's also cool to have a tutor to help clarify feedback, go through exams, and just ask for general help. Seminars mean that I have some really meaningful academic engagement with others students and lecturers, and that I can ask questions without having to awkwardly put my hand up in lectures, or clarify readings and things I'm not sure about. Just last week one of my lecturers said "hey Laura!" to me in Bedford Way, and I went to see another for a chat and ended up hanging out for 45 minutes. The changes, and also being a final year student - and being more familiar and established in the department - makes for a much better sense of community, approachability and affability. 

I hope other people can identify this, and it helps put your final year into perspective if you're struggling! 

"I remembered that the real word was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils" - Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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Friday, 20 November 2015

For the weekend...

Tune of my week, for your weekend.

Officially a Belieber. X


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Friday, 13 November 2015

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Remembering my Sanity: Sane New World


I rarely read non-fiction, and I'm not a huge fan of a self-help book. This was both, and I thought it was pretty cool.  

Mental health has received significant attention in the media in the last year - and mostly in a positive way, recognising its important and encouraging people to talk about it, not around it. Since 1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues at some point over any given year, it's about time we started taking it seriously, naturalising it, and dragging it out of its awkward, marginalised state. I do believe it's hard to truly grasp mental health troubles until you've experienced them: until you've genuinely been terrified to leave the house, you can't imagine it...or until getting out of bed feels like a major struggle, you don't really understand. So given her long, and very public, history of depression, I think Ruby Wax was particularly well positioned to write this book - and her honesty and empathy is something that really shone through. 

What I liked most about this book is that it wasn't gloomy or bleak, it was actually very funny. Ruby Wax doesn't wallow in self-pity, and this isn't a book about all her problems. She's extremely aware that, when suffering with your mental health, it can be extremely difficult to understand or even notice other people's struggles...not unless you can directly relate them to your own. And that's not always helpful. The book begin by asking the reader what's wrong with us? - it doesn't launch straight into classifications of depression, anxiety and OCD, but remains focused on the problems we ALL face: our day-to-day worries, the times we feel like we're not in control, and the feeling that everyone is doing better than we are. Then, we delve into the problems of, what Ruby Wax terms, the Mad-Mad: the 'recognised' mental health issues. This section is filled with anecdotes, suggestions and science. It's not about assigning labels or stereotypes, but understanding that plenty of other people experience the same feelings and the science causing it. 

I hate science. That's a lie. I don't, it's really cool. But I really struggle to understand science. Yet Ruby Wax takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the brain, genes, hormones, drugs and it all made perfect sense. I could absolutely understand why, if suffering from mental illness, taking time to understand the science behind it, as Ruby Wax did, could be a very therapeutic, productive and rational way to go about dealing with it. Clearly it's not as easy as I'm making it sound: understanding your hormones doesn't mean you can switch them on and off, but perceiving your emotions as a chemical mess rather than a personal failure may offer some solace. 

It doesn't end there. The final chapters of the book focus on mindfulness: taming your mind, and alternative suggestions for peace of mind. This ranges from a plethora of exercises, which primarily ask you to stop and focus on something (usually something very simple like you're breathing, what's going on around you) - to recognised programmes such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The book does not promise to solve all your woes and worries, but it does offer you the opportunity to think about them in a different way and suggests some solutions (which don't involve being patronised by your GP) to try and help yourself. 

It was amusing, sincere and insightful: a totally new way to approach and discuss mental health. I think it's a book everyone should read - to understand, if not to help. In the wise words of Ruby Wax...

THOUGHTS ARE NOT YOUR MASTER, THEY ARE YOUR SERVANT

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Friday, 6 November 2015

For the weekend...

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/procrastination-quotes/

Sleepless nights has made something click this week, and I've become acutely aware of how precious time is. I feel like I've wasted a lot of time over the last couple of years, which was sometimes inevitable, and perhaps necessary to come to this realisation...but I've decided it's about time I just started getting on with these things. This week has been pretty jam-packed full of uni working, 'gap year of dreams' planning, life sorting, brother appreciating and finally braving a nose piercing. Productivity is WONDERFUL. 

Happy weekend. X
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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Recent Reads #4


Sometimes you have to read several unsatisfying books before you come across something that you're really absorbed in. I hate not finishing a book, so if I'm not that fussed about something I'm reading, I just tend to read it slowly, get in a rut about it and then resent having to read it. But then you read something that reminds you why you love reading, and it's all better again. So here's what I've read recently: the good and not-so-good. 

The Dust That Falls from Dreams - Louis de Bernières
This was my first Louis de Bernières novel, and I fear that it may be my last. I totally sped-read it prior to seeing him talk about the book at the Kew Literary Festival last month, and hoped that learning about his inspirations and hearing him read the book would make me like it...but it just didn't. For a start, I really didn't like his writing style: it was almost too jovial for too long, and I felt like I was reading the novel in a farcical tone. The novel is set in Eltham, Kent in 1902 and follows the life of Rosie, her sisters and their neighbours. Very quickly the novel jumps from the trivialities of the London suburbs to those of the Western Front, and we follow how Rosie manages her love triangle and devastating wartime. So, on the surface, it sounds really good and I really wanted it to be. I thought the overall message about building a new world and being hopeful amongst an environment experiencing chaos and devastation was a really good one, especially how it paralleled the love story and post-war Britain. Other than that, I really struggled to engage with it: I didn't like the characters, the style of writing and felt like the plot had lots of potential which just didn't deliver. Definitely not my cup of tea! 
1 / 5

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
To begin with, I need to make the point that this is a very 'technically' clever novel. There are lots of characters whose lives we are told about in substantial detail, and a narrative which constantly crosses barriers of space and time. I often found myself thinking 'wait, who is this again?' and 'I thought they were dead, where are we now?' - so, although an intelligently manipulated novel, it was a confusing one. The novel centres around Ursula, a character who experiences the most tragic and bleak events...but Atkinson offers her the chance to live her life again and again (hence the confusion). This opportunity forces the reader to deal with these questions too: would you take a second chance at life? What would change? Would you be able to save the world, and the people you love? It's profound, definitely, and I appreciated it for that. It wasn't the commuting read that I expected it to be, and as most of Atkinson's other novels are, but it was interesting. I can't say I loved it, because I didn't - but I did appreciate it. 
3 / 5

Strange Weather in Tokyo - Hiromi Kawakami
This book isn't something I'd ever pick up in a bookshop, but I'm so glad I read it. I borrowed it from Simon who'd chosen it as part of the Mr B's Bookshop Reading Spa in the summer, and was hooked from the beginning. It's a really short novel, I read it in under 2 hours, but I felt like it was a really interesting, sensual introduction to Japanese culture and a captivating, observational read. I can't really give a plot summary because very little actually happens, but we follow the lives of two lonely individuals who meet, and connect, in unusual circumstances. The whole book is written in such a removed way that you, paradoxically, want to find out more about the characters but equally don't really care about them. The experience of reading the novel was like a pass the parcel: there's something new on each level, and you're getting deeper and deeper into their lives. I felt really sad to finish this book, really wanting more, but also appreciating that it worked perfectly existing in this very simple, neat little pocket. I'd highly recommend this - a very calming, insightful read leaving you feeling disconnected from everyone and everything in it. 
4 / 5
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Monday, 26 October 2015

MY FRIENDS

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another:
"What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."”
 
- C.S Lewis 


Last week started perfectly well and ended positively awfully - for no real reason. I woke up on Friday in one of those moods that you think you'll never escape: when you're miserable, bored, whiney and thoroughly unpleasant to anyone unfortunate enough to come across you. It really sucked. 

But then came the weekend. Ok, that didn't start particularly well either...but then it was wonderful. And that's because I have wonderful friends. Moving houses, new houses, work, holidays, LIFE had meant that we hadn't spent much time together in ages and a catch up was well overdue. Soon an afternoon 'watching the rugby' became pumpkin carving, cooking (and consuming) inordinate amounts of veggie chilli and jelly (dairy free puddings ftw), beers and snowballs, horror films, and a SLEEPOVER. And that wasn't even the end: an extra hour in bed, bacon and jam sandwiches, trip to the farm, autumnal countryside walk, Sunday roast. It was literally the dream weekend. 

This weekend made me so happy and so thankful that I have such amazing, hilarious people around me: friends who compare farting habits; friends with whom I can offer boob pain support - it's actually your diaphragm, who knew; friends who will sing the Tracy Beaker theme tune with me of a Sunday morning; and friends who I want to buy and live on a farm with. Having such a fun weekend made me super keen to plan in more weekends together, day trips, dinners, Netflix and chill (before it meant sex) - and suddenly it became 'what are you doing for Halloween? Bonfire Night? New Year? When can we go fancy dress shopping? Can we plan this weekend in December?' It's just too exciting. 

And it got me thinking: how awesome are friends? I think it's so easy to get totally wrapped up in your own life that you forget about all the great people you have around you, and don't always make as much time for them as you should. It made me think that we should all, myself especially, take some time out to get back in touch with our friends, find out how they're doing, what they're up to, go for dinner with them because that's what friends do, right? It's made me think about all the great times I've had with friends with whom I've not spoken to for years, and made me want to message them RIGHT NOW to reminisce and work out how we can have all that fun again. It's made me want to have a sleepover, on the world's snazziest blow up air bed, every night. 

Thank you friends, for being my friends, and for reminding me that best friends are the best. 
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Friday, 16 October 2015

For the weekend...

When Simon asked if I wanted to go and see Fightstar with him, my response was 'I LOVE Busted!' Turns out they're not the same. I've had a week of intense listening, and I'm now pretty psyched to see them tomorrow...even though they're not Busted.

So here's a song for you all, for the weekend. 

Never Change - Fightstar. X


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Friday, 9 October 2015

For the weekend...

A long weekend away, plunging back into university life and a bout of vertigo - it's been a strange week. And when things get weird, I usually curl up in bed with a cup of tea and read F Scott Fitzgerald. Naturally. 

This time I turned to Tender is the Night, both because I think it's his best and I was wishing I was in the sunny South of France. I can never help but skip pages and turn to my favourite bits in this book, and I think this quote tops it. 

Happy weekend 
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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A weekend in Oxfordshire


Simon's birthday called for one of our (belated) birthday trips: a weekend in Oxfordshire. We set off in the sunshine, in our ironically sporty hire car to the village of Long Wittenham in South Oxfordshire. I'd booked for us to stay in a total Air B&B gem, a studio barn conversion in the most lovely, peaceful countryside surroundings - where we enjoyed our little picnic right on the Thames. We sat, watching all the boats go past, and some ducks try and eat some apples, soaking up the sunshine and deciding what to do with our weekend. Since neither of us were familiar with the area, we decided to go and have a little explore of the village meeting some friendly cats, dogs and thirsty cows drinking from the river on the way! After having only been there a couple of hours, we felt very at home and so far away from London. Before dinner, we thought we'd have a drive round some of the neighbouring villages and stumbled across The Earth Trust at Wittenham Clumps - a nature reserve with awesome views. More lovely cows, hot air balloon spotting and wandering later, we headed off to dinner at a local pub, The Bear. We enjoyed some great pub food, watched the rugby match with some disappointed locals before venturing back to the barn to snuggle up in bed!  It was really sad to leave the following morning, particularly since we'd had such a nice day and I was worried the rest of the weekend wouldn't live up to it. But alas we had to, and we drove on towards Oxford. 


We arrived at, what was supposed to be, the highlight of the weekend: Nina the Narrowboat. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as special, cosy or memorable as I'd expected, but we were still right in the centre of Oxford and headed straight off to see what we could find! We bimbled through Christ Church Meadow, into the centre of Oxford, where we were surrounded by students moving into their colleges for the year. I was really glad we went a little bit out of season, because I think we saw the more idyllic Oxford, full of locals and students, rather than the summertime tourist-dominated city. There's so much to do in Oxford that we almost had option paralysis and, instead, just spent a few hours walking around the city, getting our bearings and seeing all the things we could do. There's something really exciting and removed about being surrounded by the beautiful, traditional architecture, navigating tiny cobbled streets and gargoyle spotting on the buildings! A couple of people had suggested we take a walk down the canals towards Jericho, an area of Oxford neither of us had ever visited, so we decided we'd do that spotting all the other narrow boats on the way. We ended up in what I'm pretty sure the resident alcoholic deemed 'the best pub in Oxford' just in time for the rugby, which was made all the more exciting being surrounded by some enthusiastic Irish and Italians! We finished our evening walking the entire stretch of Oxford (and back again!) in search of a restaurant, chowing down, before heading back to our slightly chilly boat. 

The next morning was a bit of a camping experience: woken by the heavy rain, we made our morning tea and coffee on the gas stove alongside our instant pots of porridge! Sitting out on the boat, we watched all the rowers go past on their early morning training sessions, and fed all the ducks the crusts of bread we had leftover! Sitting on a damp seat under a leaky cover in the pouring rain, it wasn't quite the narrow boat experience I'd imagined but it was a unique one nonetheless! Another day of more exploring and a token visit to Blackwell's was had before we headed up, back to the relative warmth, dryness and showers of London! 

It wasn't the weekend I'd imagined, and was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was mostly really fun. The beginning was a hundred times better than I anticipated, with lovely weather, lovely food and lovely countryside, and the end was slightly disappointing. But, it was nice to get away for the weekend, spend some time together and do some exploring. Happy Birthday Simon - here's to a less soggy birthday treat next year!


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Friday, 2 October 2015

For the weekend...

A week of dissertation work has inevitably become a week of looking at anything and everything the internet has to offer. This was my favourite from the week:

Photographing young couples in bed around the world


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Monday, 28 September 2015

REVIEW: Write on Kew


Write on Kew was Kew Gardens' first ever literary festival, running from 24th-27th September. There were more than 80 events running over the 4 days, including talks about fiction, children's literature, gardening and cookery. Located in Kew Gardens itself, the literary festival gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and other attractions in between talks. It was really convenient to have everything on site, and so close together - especially with the lovely weather, it made for a fantastic couple of days out. I've been quite disappointed in the line-ups of other literary festivals in recent years, and this was the first I'd found since attending the 2013 Oxford Literary Festival where I've been really keen to see several of the visiting authors. We decided to get tickets for Margaret Atwood, David Nicholls, Bill Bryson and Louis de Bernieres. 

Margaret Atwood (25th Sept)
I've been a big fan of Margaret Atwood since reading The Handmaid's Tale shortly after I'd finished my A Levels. I am not a big lover of science fiction, but there's something about the dystopian societies that Atwood creates that I find so engaging, exciting and a little bit terrifying. Atwood's new novel The Heart Goes Last, released only a couple of days ago, was the main topic of conversation. I'm yet to read it but, after having heard her spoken about it and read a couple of extracts, I'm so eager to! It speculates about a futuristic North East USA, where a financial crisis (much like that of 2008...) leaves half the population unemployed and poverty-stricken. The only viable solution seems to be the proposed project Consilience, an enormous prison where citizens take it in turns to be inmates and guards. Weaved within this apocalyptic world, in true Atwood fashion, are some strong feminist characters and a good old love story. 


Listening to Margaret talk about this book, and the other work she's involved in - including the Future Library Project and The Hogarth Shakespeare series - was amazing. She's an eccentric, interesting and intelligent woman, and her passion for her work and ultimately for being involved and progressing the world of literature and publishing is so evident. Seeing Margaret Atwood definitely made me want to go back and read some of her earlier novels (after I've finished her most recent!), and also follow her on Twitter! If she's anywhere nearly as funny online as she is in person, my Twitter feed is in for a real treat. If you ever have the chance to catch Margaret Atwood, be it at another festival or book signing (or on last Friday's Newsnight!) then absolutely do. Not only is she a fantastic author, but a totally intriguing and unique character. 

David Nicholls (26th Sept)
I expected to really like David Nicholls, and I really did. Bill Bryson talked about the anonymity of lots of authors: most, we love their books, but we don't really know who they are, what they look like, but David Nicholls was exactly the person I anticipated him to be. In some ways I was most looking forward to seeing David Nicholls, since he was the only author of whose books I had read every single one (well, all 4). For me, Nicholls is the master of the ideal holiday read: not trashy but not requiring huge amounts of concentration; a love story; good characters; and fairly fast-paced plots. Though I enjoyed Us and One Day (and was pretty unimpressed with The Understudy), Starter for 10 remains my favourite (and my favourite one dramatised) and this seemed to be a feeling shared by much of the audience. He talked about his character development, which I really admire; the work that authors are now required to do beyond writing, like book signings and festivals and radio shows; and how his books, screenplays and films all come into being. 

As both a screenwriter and an author, David Nicholls was able to offer a really interesting and informed perspective on the dramatisation of novels. I learned how about how, often, writers have fairly little control over the direction of the dramatisation of their novel after selling the rights, which was something I hadn't really realised - I'd always thought they were fairly influential in the process. I wasn't surprised to discover that he'd written the screenplay for One Day - but was really curious as to understand more about why he wouldn't do it again. He spoke about the difficulty of having to cut your novel down, which you've already cut down, into 120 minutes for the film: being required to change certain scenes, and cut out some of your favourites, simply because they don't operate on screen nearly as well as they do on the page. Much of this talk was focused around Nicholls' screen writing, and how that's been influential in shaping his career as an author, which was something I really glad to have heard about. He ended the talk by saying how this was the last time he was going to speak about Us in this sort of environment, and that next week he'd be buying his new notebook and pen, and get planning for novel no. 5! 

Bill Bryson (26th Sept)
I left Kew on Saturday night thinking 'I wish Bill Bryson was my grandad'. Undoubtedly I enjoyed this talk the most, completely captivated by Bill Bryson in all his intellect, humour and experience. This one felt more like 'an hour with Bill Bryson' rather than him having come to publicise his new work, which I think I actually preferred; we got a real insight into the things he enjoys, the experiences he has whilst researching and writing, and about his life told through his books. I laughed, almost constantly, for an hour at Bill's tales of being banned from McDonald's by his wife after an unfortunate scenario resulting in 20 Big Macs; of his tales of odious childhood neighbours; and his feelings about Robert Redford playing him in the recent film A Walk in the Woods


Despite instruction from his publishers not to give too much away, Bryson spoke a little about his newest book: The Road to Little Dribbling, which is basically Notes From a Small Island take 2. On the 20th anniversary of Notes From a Small Island, Bryson decided to explore England again - to see what had changed, and what had stayed the same. He said that England is, ultimately, still the same country he fell in love with 20 years ago, but with more litter. As someone who's visited very little of the UK, I'm looking forward to reading it and hope that it informs some of my anticipated exploration! I don't think anyone left the room not having really enjoyed the hour, and feeling totally in awe of Bryson's hilarity, humility and honesty. 

Louis de Bernieres (26th Sept)
I'd spent the days in the run up to seeing Louis de Bernieres speed reading his most recent novel, The Dust That Falls From Dreams, a tale of love amongst war. Although I appreciated the technicality of the novel, enjoying the multiple narrators and the knowledgeable historical element, I didn't love the story itself. Louis spoke in great depth about his inspiration for the novel, and his interest in wartime Britain stemming from stories told to him by his grandfather, a pilot in the war. He is clearly really well informed about that period of history and, interestingly, tends to draw on the stories of normal, everyday people rather than focusing on those of politicians and royals which we so often hear about. During the Q&A session, one member of the audience asked a really provocative question about pain - that lots of Louis de Bernieres' characters were victims of pain and suffering, and how was it that he knew so much about this? He spoke of a really unpleasant time at boarding school as a child and, having also spoken about his young family and love for his children, this really rung quite true and deep - and, I think, touched many members of the audience.

Overall, I really enjoyed my couple of days at Kew. I was so impressed by the general organisation and structure of the event, and I really hope to see it back with an equally exciting line-up next year. There is such variety, even when you're not looking for it. I expected to attend 4 talks about 4 books, but instead learned a huge amount about the authors' own lives, work and inspirations; the other projects they're involved in; their interests and influences in politics and history; and what interesting individuals they all are. I'd 100% recommend the festival, and seeing all 4 of the authors speak if you ever get a chance. 
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Friday, 25 September 2015

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Travel Wishlist

I am currently referring to the year that will follow my graduation as the 'Gap Year of Dreams' in an attempt to motivate me through the next year, and also ensure that I do make 'a year of dreams'. I have total, unashamed wanderlust right now and the list of places I want to visit is becoming longer and longer. I've gone from simply making a list of places I want to visit in 2016/17 to a list of everywhere I could possibly want to visit in my life! I'm trying to plan in a mixture of trips, big ones and small ones, so I can, for the first time, leave Europe and also make the most of the limited funds I have. It's exciting, really exciting, and I love going on holiday, and I love organising. It's also a bit scary, because there'll be new experiences and I want to make sure I plan the best trips I can possibly have! 

So, as hard as it is to narrow it down, here are the top 5 places I am desperate to visit in 'The Gap Year of Dreams': 

ROUTE 66, Chicago - LA


Ok, so this one's a bit of a cheat. I am dreaming of an American road trip, preferably in Cadillac but I'd take something smaller and more fuel efficient. Route 66 takes you from Chicago through Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and finishes in LA. I've always fancied Chicago, and am desperate to go to the Grand Canyon, and maybe even spend a couple of days in Vegas...if you're in the area, how can you not?! Ideally, I'd like to pop up to San Francisco at the end; ever since watching The Princess Diaries, I have been aching to go! 

I've never been to the States before, so I want to experience that in all its excess. I'm also intrigued about the whole road trip experience: I want to drive (or at least be a passenger) on big open roads, and stay in motels (which I'm sure are much more glamorous in my mind) and stop in diners. Not to mention, see all the sights along the way! So this is my no. 1 - my desired 'big trip'. 

NEW ZEALAND, Auckland - Queenstown

http://weheartit.com/entry/group/19359256
I am all about the road trip. The second 'big trip' I'd love to do, would be to go to New Zealand, and drivr from the Auckland in the North Island to Queenstown in the South. From what I understand, the North island is slightly more cosmopolitan and incredible for scuba diving (which I've always wanted to learn how to do!). The South is more mountainous, and known for it's beautiful walks and wildlife. And look at those lakes! I do love a good lake. It sounds like the perfect 'multi-centre' trip, and would be lovely to escape the English winter in favour of the New Zealand summer. Whilst travelling to New Zealand wouldn't force me quite so far out of my comfort zone than perhaps visiting parts of Africa or Asia, I feel like that could, in some ways, make it more relaxing and more enjoyable - especially for a first trip. 

In my mind New Zealand is a lot bigger than it actually is, and my proposed journey is actually just under 1000 miles - so trying to complete it, and make plenty of stops on the way, in 3 weeks shouldn't be a problem. The only downside is the flight, well, the cost of the flight which is making this trip seem like a progressively more distant dream! 

PARIS, FRANCE
I have never been to Paris. I've been to Disneyland Paris, but apparently that doesn't count. One of my aims for my Gap Year of Dreams is to spend a period of time in France and improve (remember) my French - and what better place to be than Paris? I want to do all the touristy things first: go the Louvre, up the Eiffel Tower, and see the Arc de Triomphe. Then I'd like to see Paris for what it really is, and maybe travel a little bit around France. I've always quite fancied the look of Provence. I feel like Paris is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once, and I think 2016/17 is going to be my first! Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a quick trip to Disneyland too... 

LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA 
Buzzfeed, that trusty travel source, describes Lake Bled as a place that's 'even awesomer during the winter' - and I think it's probably right. As I said, I love a good lake and I'd love to do a bit of exploring of Eastern Europe since it's somewhere I've never been. Lake Bled is just outside the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, and has a small island in the middle of it, the island of Bled! Bled itself is home to a Gothic church, whilst the Medieval castle lies just to the Northwest of the Lake. I love Gothic and Medieval architecture, and think that Lake Bled in winter time would provide the most perfect, magical but eerie backdrop to these sights. A definite must see, I think! 

BARCELONA, SPAIN 

Because you've got to have an old favourite! Simon has agreed that next year, after I've finished my finals, we can go back to Barcelona - and I cannot wait! We went in June 2014 and had the most wonderful, super busy but also really relaxing 5 days; but there was so much that we still didn't see. I'd love to go back, revisit the places we fell in love with, eat ALL the tapas, go to the beach, and see all the places we didn't have a chance to before. Barcelona will probably be my first trip of the Gap Year of Dreams, and I feel like it will be the trusty one: a lovely city, hopefully lovely weather, and lovely company. What more could I want? 

So it looks like it's going to be a pretty sweet year, right? I'm excited, overexcited, so excited that I keep forgetting that there are 90 hours of lectures, a dissertation and 4 exams between me and the Gap Year of Dreams...but I'm sure it'll come round soon enough, and I'm certain it'll be worth the wait. 

I'd love to hear about your experiences if you've been to any of these places, or if you've got any recommendations then please get in touch! 

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Friday, 18 September 2015

For the weekend...

My little brother is going to university this weekend, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I'm really excited for him, but I'm also going to miss having someone to watch daytime tv with, hang out with, and look after. We've always been close, and never really argue, so I can't even really focus on all the things that will be great about him going (apart from the fact he might come back a full on grown up who can cook pasta unaided). 

So, for this weekend, appreciate your siblings. If you need some help, listen to Jeffrey Kluger - he sums it up pretty well: 



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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Relationship

"What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?"


I've spent the best part of the last couple of months talking to lots of people about their relationships. It sounds like I've begun a career as an agony aunt, but alas I am just researching for a dissertation about the formation of online relationships, and I have lots of very emotional friends gong through lots of changes and transitions in their romantic lives. It's left me thinking a lot about the notion of a relationship: why do we want it so much? Why is it so hard when it breaks down? Why are all those in relationships so fearful of losing them and, most of, those who aren't so determined to be in one (even when they pretend they're not)? 

You see, I am friends with lots of amazing, beautiful and independent women - ones that don't take any shit and don't have aspirations to be housewives. I am also friends with lots of fantastic, committed and thoughtful men. And lots of them seem to be coming to points in their relationships where it's make or break: it's a few years in, it's starting to get 'serious', they're talking about the future, and a decision has got to be made. Is it right? Do they see themselves with this person in the 'long term'? Do they have compatible ambitions, values, aspirations? If not, is it better to get out now, in an attempt to provoke minimal pain/tears/suffering? Scary, huh? It is, and it's really hard. I find it hard to be on the outside of it, let alone in the middle of it - driving it or the victim of it. 

The fear and the tears almost always seems to come down to change. Whether the change is realising that this person, with whom you'd planned a life with (even if it was just in your head) is no longer going to be there, that you're no longer going to have the life you'd imagined and planned; or discovering that ultimately this person, and your life with them, doesn't match your aspirations for yourself and you can't live a lie, or try and make it work, for any longer. It's an upheaval, it's unsettling, it's insecure - for a time, you don't know what to do with yourself apart from get pissed or cry into your coffee, eat everything or nothing at all, or sleep with everything that moves or stay in your own bed, with Netflix forever. It's one of those things that can creep up on you when you least expect it, when you're 22 and not necessarily thinking about co-habitation, marriage or babies - but you're laying in bed one night and you think 'shit, this isn't what I want now...or maybe ever'. You're overcome with guilt, worry, fear - of what should do, how you should do it, how your s.o. with react, and how you're going to get over it. I feel like there's a really common misconception that it's far easier to be the person doing the breaking up, and that's not always the case. Sure you have the power, but you also have the responsibility. 

But what about when you get it right? When you're infinitely happy, and when you're snuggly in bed with your s.o. and talk about the future, your shared future, and all the adventures you plan to go on together; when neither you or they can imagine being with anyone else; and when you agree...on the important things. Then it's great. I'm not saying that it will always be perfect, and there will inevitably be disagreements and arguments and times where you want them to just shut up and get out of your face, but you'll always come out the other - probably better off. You'll probably have lots of worries, doubts, concerns before you get to this point. You'll almost certainly worry about whether they feel the same - sure, they tell you that they love you, but do they love you like you love them? You'll worry about another person coming along, the home-wrecking bitch who will do her best to destroy everything you love. You'll worry when they've had a bad day, because they're a bit quiet, a bit snappy or not quite themselves. But one day, you'll worry less. You'll feel happy, secure, loved. 

So to all my lovely friends and all the people who have kindly helped me with my dissertation: well done for being brave, and doing what's right for you (or coping with what's right for them). If you're not right for them, then they're not right for you. You will feel better, and you will stop binge eating crisps. You will come out of this happier, stronger, and more full of love. You've got to get it wrong to get it right. And when it's right, it will be amazing. X
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Friday, 11 September 2015

For the weekend...

'For the weekend' will be a weekly post containing a weekly Friday treat, ready for the weekend!

This week, it's Don Broco's Automatic (from their album of the same name). The album has been my dissertation aide for the week, and this song is constantly in my head at the moment. An awesome, upbeat tune for a Friday afternoon! 



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Friday, 4 September 2015

WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS. Actually don't, I've got stuff to do.


Every year I get to September and I makes attempts to sort my life out. September feels like a new year, a new start, and an opportunity to reflect, make changes and get things done. In some ways, it’s a really exciting time and it feels productive: like I’m actively doing things to make myself happier and my life easier. Simultaneously, it’s a scary time because you start remembering the things you’d planned on doing last September, and you become increasingly aware of all the responsibilities you’ve spent the summer repressing.


R E F L E C T I O N 

It’s my final year of university: the last 2 years have gone so quickly but so slowly. I’ve wished for this day and I’ve dreaded it. But now I’ve got to deal with it. Last September I promised myself I’d find myself a more settled place to live, I’d do more reading and I’d do more volunteering. I did all of those things, though perhaps not in the way I’d anticipated. This year I hope to make it through a year living in Sussex without losing my mind, do even more reading, and finish my finals with minimal, but reasonable, stress. This time last year I was preparing myself to be applying for graduate jobs now. This September, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to do that now. I hoped that I’d be in a clearer position about what I wanted to do and, in some ways, I am – but the clearest of those thoughts is that I don’t want a graduate job, at least not yet. Making this decision has urged me to reflect on my years in education: the seemingly senseless transition from GCSEs to A Levels to university, you do what you’re told and you don’t question it. It’s a rigid cycle and one I’m keen to get out of as soon as I can. This September I’m planning a post-graduation year out. A year in which I have many Septembers to make changes, make myself happier and reflect; and a year in which to do something different, something fun and something for me.


M A K I N G . C H A N G E S

Change no. 1: moving home for my final year of uni, which I’m yet to decide whether it’ll be the best decision ever, or the absolute worst. Ultimately it’s not a decision I have much choice in, I’m too poor for you, London.
Change no. 2: do things that make me happy and don’t worry too much about what I’m expected to do. I hate saying no, but I hate doing the crap expected of me by other people even more.
Change no. 3: doing some exercise again: I vow to kick box and do ballet.
Change no. 4: accepting that dairy is the devil and that a Dairy Milk isn’t worth it.
Change no. 5: making the effort to do the things that I know will benefit me and make me happy, even if it’s difficult.


G E T T I N G . T H I N G S . D O N E 

I look at this phrase and I see DISSERTATION in flashing lights in my head. By the time September does end, I need to have made some serious headway with my dissertation – but it’s something I know I need to continue to momentum with until March. This is pretty daunting, and feels like an impossible enthusiasm to sustain. I know I will get there though, it’s not really that hard, I’ve got to find people who will reveal all about their dating lives. What I’m more excited about getting done is planning my post-uni gap year. I currently feel like the world is my oyster, and then I look at the cost of flights relative to my bank balance. It’s amazing though: I feel like it’s a bit of a puzzle that I’ve got to try and make work, and what better motivation to do that than the prospect of travelling with your friends, boyfriend, and making a good start on your bucket list? Getting things done has never been so tempting.


So whilst I’m already mourning summer holidays, breakfast in the garden and flip flops, I feel like this year could be a good one. It feels a bit like the beginning of the end, in a good way. It’s repetition and revision for the last time (for a year at least). 

YAY for change, YAY for getting things done, YAY for September. 
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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

'A teenage dream's so hard to beat'

Teenagers. Everything is so apocalyptic.


Teenage years are the worst, everyone says so, especially when you’re a teenager. They patronise you about hormones and ‘changes’ and promise you it gets better. But I want to talk about whether it ever really does. Last week, friends and I were talking about our teenage years: what we remember, what they meant to us, how they shaped us. The conclusion was unequivocal: being a teenager wasn’t that bad at all. Not compared to your twenties.

Let me take you back to my teenage years…

My most treasured memories are of my friends, lots of them, different ones at different times. I think I had 6 best friends (bffs, bezzie m8s, bmfls, bffls & 4EVA) in my teenage years and, apart from 2, I’ve lost touch with them all – but I am infinitely grateful to each of them for making being a teenager so happy, so fun, and so manageable. My best friends were the ones that spent Saturdays walking around Brighton with me, trying on clothes our pocket money would never afford, and leaving with a packet of sweets, a discounted CD from HMV and a tummy full of Nando’s that our parents had given us lunch money for. We stayed up all night at sleepovers, eating popcorn, watching shit films and discussing the hilarities of school, all the girls we both hated that week, and pretend we had serious and urgent boy woes. We chatted on MSN, on the phone, by text, on Skype, Facebook chat, Bebo ALL THE TIME because sometimes there is just so much to talk about, and the 8 hours spent together at school does not suffice. We did our homework together, got dressed up for parties together, babysat together, cooked together, did all the embarrassing things that we hope no one will ever know about, together. We helped make each other the people we are today.

Friends are the good bit, though. There were also bad bits: new worries, bigger worries, one that we thought were totally insurmountable…

It was almost like the day I turned 13 that spots appeared, and not just one of them; they were all over my forehead, sometimes my chin, sometimes even my nose or cheeks. The only conceivable option seemed to be to hide them (and all my shameful sensitivity about them) beneath a long, sweepy emo fringe. One that would ultimately make my skin even greasier. It was at this time I discovered how absolutely necessary some concealer, powder, mascara and an awful lot of eyeliner was to my general well-being. I needed it to cover up my spots, mostly. I also needed it to appear suitably cool and grown up: what teenage boy doesn’t love a mysterious, fringe-heavy girl with a nice thick helping of eyeliner? And with spots came periods. I’d anticipated it, but I’d anticipated it making me feel like a woman: sophisticated, worldy, can get out of PE if necessary. It made me feel gross. All girls, women, have battled with the total horror and embarrassment of someone discovering we’re on; with the confusing masterpieces that are tampons; and the horrendous stomach cramps, vomiting and hot flushes experienced every time it feels like your ovaries are simultaneously trying to eat themselves and burst through your stomach (and/or back).

Next was school: the best and worst days of your life. Retrospectively, school was great. At the time, it was utterly ridiculous. Why did I have all that homework? Why did my hair scrunchie need to be navy blue? Why was my blazer so itchy? Was it really necessary to have a bag bigger and heavier than me to carry all my books and folders? What if GCSEs made me die of stress? Why did THAT teacher do THAT really annoying thing ALL THE TIME? How do they always know when I’ve rolled my skirt up? WHERE DID I PUT MY LOCKER KEYS?

And parties. Your first real party, with boys, a barbeque not cooked by a dad and alcohol (a hearty selection of Bacardi Breezers, WKDs and maybe a cheeky Smirnoff Ice) makes you feel like you’re unstoppable. You’ve left the house with a skirt over the top of your really short dress, which you promptly remove to make sure you look bangin’. You’re having THE BEST TIME. This is nuts, this is the new you, you might even try a cigarette or take a drag of a spliff. All fun and games until you’re sick, and it’s blue WKD, and you’re so relieved you said you’d stay the night because you cannot go home like this. Eventually you crash in a tent, amongst some hay bales, in the back of your car.

Boys. Being at a girls’ school I was fairly protected, oblivious. But there was still the first real crush which, at the time, was MAD ADORATION: year 8, I know he looks like a shark, but he has a 6 pack and that’s really cool (but secretly freaks me out). It’s a shame he doesn’t love me back and I have to send him emo texts to get him to notice me and maybe sympathy fancy me. Then there’s the rebellion: the one you secretly want your parents to know about because it’d really piss them off, but you’re also repulsed by the repercussions. This doesn’t stop you flaunting him to your friends and doing dramatic readings of the texts he sends you. There’s the MSN boyfriend who tells you he loves you, that you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him…but is completely terrified of you in person. The boy you ‘brb’ and never return. The unrequited love you still wonder about today. The boy at the party who agreed to make out with you even though you had braces. The first kiss, messy, the first time you had sex, even messier.

It’s a beautiful, horrible, confusing, exhilarating, upsetting and overwhelming experience. But is it anything on your twenties? 

Today marks my 618th day into my twenties, and it has already been much more difficult and confusing than any of my teenage years. The friends are the constant, but suddenly you find yourself spread out at unis or doing jobs all over the country. You are no longer the only thing going on in your friends' lives, and neither are they in yours. You make new friends, lots of them; but it's not quite like school where you spend 8 hours with them every day, where you all live down the road from each other, and where you can't chat them for 2 hours every night because you pay your own phone bill now. You'll still see lots of some friends, but some you'll lose touch with, some you'll catch for a coffee or lunch a couple of times a year, some you'll always make plans with and never end up seeing. It's more work, it's not as easy.  

Your spots are mostly gone, but they come back when you least expect them and when you're least equipped to deal with them. Having spots makes you angry because you're not a hormonal teenager anymore, no one expects you to have spots now; it isn't fair, in fact, it's a damn right injustice. You are better at make up now though, and you can afford concealer that isn't made by Miss Sporty. Periods go from being a tummy ache and a day off school to trying every contraceptive pill available in the hope of finding one that doesn't make you sick/grumpy/fat/rashy/pregnant...and still settling for one that gives you disgusting, painful periods half the time anyway. It means buying your own tampons and being horrified at how expensive they are - then buying them in bulk when they're on offer in Tesco and avoiding eye contact with the boy at the check outs who must think you're having the most aggressive period in the world. It means worrying about when it's late, why it's late, why it's different, whether you're pregnant, how on earth you get an abortion if god forbid you are which you almost certainly aren't. It means secretly looking forward to the menopause so you never have to endure this monthly warfare again. 

School becomes uni, which is harder and more responsibility. You're required to make more choices: no longer is it 'pick 10 subjects you vaguely like and are interested in' but 'pick one to study for three years, make sure that you really like it, but also make sure that you're going to be able to get a job at the end of. Oh, and make sure you pick the right place to do it: the right course, the right location. Can you afford it? Do you want to live there?' Suddenly you have to make plans, set your own routine, work out what you're going to do with your 36 working hours a week that you're not at uni. And then, at some point, you're supposed to work out what you want to do with your life. When you're a teenager it's fine not to know, but when you're 21, 10 months away from graduation, somehow it feels concerning not to have any idea. You haven't got your life sorted out, and everyone else seems to, and that feels problematic. Very quickly you realise no one knows what they're doing either, whether they're at their desk in their uni house, in their classroom, or in their office. 

And parties become clubs. It's not ok to get smashed on WKDs anymore, and that's a sad realisation we all must come to. Feeling fab in your friend's garden with the shortest skirt you've ever worn aged 16 isn't as fun when you're being touched up by a middle aged, high, Iranian man in a club in Shoreditch who, every time you try to escape, shouts 'you fuck me' at you. You have hangovers when there's nothing in the fridge. No longer do you just have a cheeky kiss in a disused caravan with a friend of a friend; in your twenties it translates into the idea that you could have a one night stand with a guy you've just met - a notion that simultaneously terrifies, intrigues and repulses you. You realise you got the night bus back with friends, but none of you remembers any of it. You drive to your friends, then realise you're too drunk to drive home, and instead find yourself sitting in a pub, surrounded by old men on a Saturday night, waiting for someone to come and get you. You're expected to be an adult when all you want to be is a teenager. 

Boys are still boys, you think they're going to be men now, but they're still boys most of the time. The end of your 6 week relationship with the boy you only really spoke to online, a week before your Maths GCSE which seemed like THE END OF THE WORLD doesn't compare to the unrivalled guilt (and relief) of ending a 2 year relationship. You've now realised that all those things that you thought were making you appear really sexy really weren't, and you're now just a bit confused about what it is that makes you attractive to other people. You try be chatty and not too weird, put on some liquid eyeliner and hope for the best. You're still not really sure if they're flirting with you, but 17 year olds have stopped sending you unwanted dick pics now so that's good. It's not long before your Facebook newsfeed is full of engagements and wedding pictures. When you realise that your friend from year 8 is now married with 2 kids and a dog, and you and your boyfriend can't even work out what to watch on Netflix, you wonder what's going on. You start thinking about commitment: what it means to be in a 'long term' relationship, what would happen if it all ended tomorrow, what it is you want, and whether this is it. It's exciting when it is; it's awful when it isn't. It's lots of time, worry, contemplation, feelings. It's not just dumping a 13 year old boy because he wouldn't hold hands with you yet. 

Being a teenager was hard sometimes. But being a twenty-something is harder. You're expected to grown up for yourself and make decisions for yourself. But did they lie when they said it got better? I don't think so. It's got harder, much harder, but also more fun and more free. The bad times suck even harder but the good times are awesomer. I've decided it's ok to miss being a teenager, but it's also important to enjoy being a twenty-something. I figure thirty-somethings are going to be marriage and babies and mortgages and jobs, and that definitely sounds worse. 


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