Thursday, 26 July 2012

pick it out of the clouds

I wish I could say that my current mentality of 'OK, it's time to let go and move on' is entirely down to me, but it's not. Last week was pretty bad, and if you scroll through my posts I talked about it a little, but there are two things that I've been thinking about recently.

I'm a firm believer that a song can, in effect, change your life... Friendships and relationships are formed on the basis that two people like the same musician or band, and lyrics can move you in ways that you never expected. To quote Josh Groban (who is a huge inspiration to me/ridiculously talented), "music is what I always turned to when I was feeling a certain way". I can't play music and my singing skills are questionable, but I understand what he meant. Whether it's listening to music or creating it yourself, it's a powerful thing when you need somewhere to go and something to turn to.

This is the sort of song that I always overhear or catch the end of on the radio, but I never know what it is. I'd heard it, but I'd never listened to it. We hear things all the time, but it doesn't mean we're listening. Similarly, things pass by our eyes but sometimes we don't see them. Because of this, I think we all too often lose sight of the bigger picture. People talk about life passing them by without them really noticing anything, and I think it's very much the same thing - it's not like you're not there, living your life, it's that you've managed to stop paying attention to the things that make it worthwhile without even realising you've done so.

I'm sure I don't need to quote any of the lyrics from this song for you to understand why I find it inspiring and encouraging at the moment, but my favourite line is "we only bleed if we're not seen by another" simply because for me, it's true. To quote my favourite book,

"wear your brightest traits on your sleeve, for all to see, and do your tailoring at home."
And that's OK. It makes sense to do your tailoring at home. It's embarrassing to do your tailoring in public anyway - you can't just fall apart in front of everybody you know in an everyday scenario. The only thing is, sometimes I think you need someone to help you with your tailoring.
Because I have so much spare time at the moment, I've been spending more time at my grandma's house. I was there last Friday doing her dusting while she told me stories. Anybody in our family will know that grandma's house equals storytelling. In fact, one of our biggest 'in-jokes' is that whenever the phrase "when I left school at fourteen and went into the mill..." is spoken, we all know that a story is going to follow.
We talked about a lot last Friday. One of our most common subjects at the moment, amongst a few others, is how similar we can be. My mum has always told me "you take after your grandma" and after a conversation we had recently, I realise now quite how much I do. We both sat and recalled all of the times we were left in charge of something at primary school (and high school/college for me) and it made me realise something that I think I needed to realise.
One of my biggest insecurities has always been the fact that I'm naturally quite capable of being responsible for things and taking on responsibilities that most other people my age have shied away from. I was editor of the school newspaper, I pretty much single-handedly sorted out our entire World Challenge group (and for the past two years have even gone back to my old school on open evenings because it seems they still can't cope without me), I co-organised Children in Need, Red Nose Day, Anti-Bullying Week and World Aids Day fundraising, I ran the Amnesty group and even launched a building at college (that one was just plain weird). As a child, my grandma ran the school library, was responsible for taking money to a bank, generally looked after other kids and, when she started working at 14, was able to get herself into a much higher position than everybody else.
Why is all of this significant? While she was telling me about working her way up to her job, she told me about one other girl who had disliked her because she had a better job than her. My grandma and I haven't exactly been in the same position, but it made me realise that I don't need to be insecure about it, and it's OK to be that sort of person. Somebody important to me once said "you do what you do because you're you" and it's never really been something that I could feel comfortable with. I understand it much more now. People can look at me like I'm weird and find what I do absolutely hilarious all they like, but why should I change something about me that's actually good just because somebody else doesn't feel inclined to do the same? I mean, I met one of my closest friends through the college magazine. Why should I regret doing anything that others don't when it's been so positive for me?
I guess the key to moving on and letting go is accepting things for what they are. Everybody is different and while I might feel comfortable taking on responsibilities, and even enjoy them, others won't. That's fine. We need that balance. If nobody did anything, or if everybody did everything, we'd all be in a huge mess. Being one or the other doesn't make any of us any better than everybody else for it, it just makes us different and mean that our strengths and weaknesses lie in different places. I know for a fact that I've been guilty of forgetting that in the past, and I'm sure I'm not alone in doing so.
I think the song tells us something we all need to remember, "stop looking down at the ground, pick it out of the clouds - no one's gonna put you down". If you do what makes you happy and you do it well, nobody can have any real justification to have an issue with it.
Which songs inspire you or make you feel happy? Let me know in the comments below and we can all share in the happiness :)
Wishing you all a wonderful day,

seven things - august edition

So, somewhere around a month ago I joined in with Louise's 7 things for 7 days. My intial post was here, and I detailed seven things that I wanted to achieve. If you want to read more about it, here's Louise's post for this month :)

A quick update on my aims for July

Learn - I wanted to get myself back into an old routine of teaching myself Swedish. I'm pleased to report that not only have I done this, but I've really made progress (woo!) - see the post before this  for more details if you're a language geek yourself.

Be helpful - I wanted to help my grandma out more, but at the time I was extremely limited due to the awful weather. About two weeks ago, my cousin George and I went up and spent our afternoon knee deep in ivy that had been growing all over her garage. Fun stuff. And George, you'll be pleased to know that whipping me in the face with tree bits hasn't had any lasting damage...

Organise - I wanted to sort out and bin all of my unwanted college paperwork. There's nothing else to say about this except for that I got it done.

Finances - I wanted to sort out what I owed my parents following college prom and budget a bit more. I was actually fairly successful at this and managed a whole month with virtually no money at all.

Socialise - I wanted to make at least one plan to see a friend. I went to Sophie's one evening and we puppysat her new puppy Columbus and had a nice catch up :)

Presents - I also wanted to sort out Sophie's birthday present. This got done although I still think I could have done a better job. Hmm.

General admin - From what I listed, I managed to send an email that I'd been meaning to send, sort out the memory on my phone and attempted to organise my blog a bit more. I still need to back up all of the files on my laptop.

This month's seven things

Relax - July was strangely stressful. Even though I currently have absolutely no responsibilities, I was stressed because I'm so used to having things to do. This month I want to properly appreciate what being responsibility-free means for the last time before uni and 'growing up' etc.

Wardrobe - My wardrobe seriously needs sorting through and organising. I've run out of hangers and there are items in there that have been in there for about five years (not good). Now I've finished college, I want to get rid of some of the items that I never wear anymore so that I have room for new clothes in the autumn/winter time.

Write - I had huge ambitions to write more this summer. I used to love writing (both on my blog and creatively) but GCSEs got in the way, then college got in the way, and now I feel like I have no inspiration or writing ability anymore. I want to try and get back into writing a bit more before it's too late.

Let go - A bit of a deep one, but before starting uni there's a lot of emotional 'baggage' that I really want to let go of and move on from. That's all I'm going to say, but if you know me you might have an idea of what I mean.

Create - I also used to make jewellery a lot and it's one of the few things I thoroughly enjoy. Even when I was in Poland last year, I bought some beads and elastic because I wanted to make something. I haven't made anything in a long time, but I want to start creating things again.

Read - I'm halfway through or a quarter of the way through several books, and they need finishing. I also need to stop just reading It's Not Me, It's You over and over again, and read something else instead. At the moment, I have Mark Watson's Bullet Points and Once Vidas (AKA Eleven) to read, as well as the Spanish translation of A Thousand Splendid Suns (this one was a present from my dad, I'm not sure if it was to cheer me up as he gave me it during a pretty crappy time, or just because he liked the book).

General admin - Stop worrying about results day, do that backing-up of files, finish organising drawers, make a plan for continuing with Swedish

So, that's what I want to accomplish throughout August. What are your targets and plans for over the summer?

Thanks for reading :)


Sunday, 22 July 2012

swedish diary #1

Seen as I'm spending my summer trying to learn some Swedish, I thought I'd start keeping a bit of a record of it. If you know me, you'll know that languages fascinate me. I ordered an actual textbook to work from this afternoon, so hopefully I'll be able to structure it better soon, but for now I'm pretty content with how I'm doing things.

For the actual vocabulary, I'm using my Byki Swedish app. It costs £5.49 from the iTunes app store, but you get a fair amount of vocab (here's a tip - make sure you go into 'downloads' and download the rest of the vocab that you've paid for).

So far, I've completed 15 of the vocab lists provided by the app, plus a couple of extra sets of vocab that I compiled myself (food and colours). So far, one of my main problems is putting 'det' in the wrong part of sentences. Another is forgetting to put accents on letters. I usually remember 'å' but other accents are usually forgotten unless the pronunciation of the word is completely clear in my head and I'm aware that there must be an accent on certain letters.

I gave myself a massive vocab test this week (it was out of 189, eek!) and got 81%, which I was happy with. I mainly got things wrong if I hadn't really understood them at the time that I covered them (i.e. lots of phrases along the same theme - ''your *blank* is *blank*) and I wasn't great at colours either.

I'm hoping that when the book I ordered arrives, I can properly look into grammar. I have my 201 Swedish Verbs book (tack så mycket, Sophie) but it's literally just that, so I'd like to figure out some of the rules before I start using the book. I know from studying Spanish that grammar is usually the barrier that holds you back from progressing as much as you'd like, so I'm going to spend some time figuring the grammar out when I can.

Overall, I'm really enjoying being able to see that I've made actual progress. When I've tried to learn in the past, it's never been something I was able to really stick at and continue with, so I'm happy with the fact that I've got the time to make sure it gets done at the moment.

Are you learning Swedish or any other languages at the moment? Share your experiences below!

More soon! Vi ses senare,


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Saturday, 21 July 2012

in which i rant

I hate the summer. I really, truly, absolutely hate the summer. They say that summers such as those after leaving school are college are supposed to be the best. Do you know what I've been doing? I've been sitting in the house all day, every day, trying to make plans with people that never amount to anything and realising that the past two years are catching up with me.

I had an awful two years at college. For the most part, I regret going there. Everything was just difficult and when things were really difficult there was pretty much nobody there unless I wanted to see a the counsellor - and when people you know sit pretty much next to her office in their free time, you don't want to see the counsellor.

I used to know someone who was brilliant at being helpful. She taught me a lot and helped me open up to her when I needed someone to talk to. If I saw her now, I find it sad that I'd have to tell her that all of her efforts were in vain. Nobody cares now, so nobody ever knows anything. And it's hard trying to get on with everyday life when there's so much going on inside your head that you can't think straight.

Now I have nothing keeping me busy or distracted, it's all hitting me, and it's fairly serious.

This past week has been awful. I stayed up until 3am yesterday. I wasn't thinking or even visibly upset, my head was just completely clouded over. Today has been much the same. I just don't know how I can possibly process everything that's happened without someone being there.

Friends, they're all busy, and family are too. There's no room for me to once more be 'the one with the problem'. I'm always the one with the problem but I can't help it. It's not like I'm all of a sudden sad or upset, it hasn't gone away since Christmas 2010, it's just that some things happen and make it obvious. I know people have lost their patience with me, I know people can't be bothered with me anymore. I don't know what I'm supposed to do or say to explain.

If you find any sense in all of that, then you're a better person than I am.

And I'm sorry if that was miserable to read, but I needed to say it.

All in all, the summer holidays are rubbish.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

thoughts on... keel's simple diary volume one

If you haven't heard of the Keel's Simple Diary, then you probably fit into one of two categories: 1) you are totally brilliant at keeping an up-to-date diary of your own accord, or 2) you have no interest in diary-keeping.

If you own one, Keel himself suggests that the reason you may not have previously been able to keep a diary is perhaps because:
"1) Not every day is very eventful.
2) It actually takes a lot of discipline (regarding 1 even more so).
3) In retrospect, many find what they have written quite embarrassing."
All three of these things are problems I have encountered when keeping a diary

I happened to land upon the Simple Diary while browsing Amazon. Initially, I looked into Wreck This Journal after watching a YouTube video of what to do with it. Great, I thought, but definitely not for somebody who cringes at torn paper, paper with anything other than pen on it, paper with bent edges, etc etc. I followed a ton of recommendations and eventually ended up at the Simple Diary. Just the word 'simple' appeals to me greatly. Who doesn't like simplicity?

I instantly liked the concept. Keel has clearly thought out each aspect of the book, so much so that when you open it up, you have a card congratulating you on purchasing it and giving you an almost horoscope-like description of your personality. For example, I bought mine in lime green (I'll be honest, it was the cheapest one on Amazon at the time), suggesting "you are content despite your grand aspirations" and "you are a sincere person in many aspects". Of course, these statements are fairly vague, but from the moment you open the book you are encouraged to look deeply into yourself and who you really are, a theme that carries throughout.

In short, Keel's Simple Diary is (in my opinion, of course) a diary for lazy people. You fill in the date, choose an adjective or metaphor to describe your day, explain why in less than two lines and make a couple more choices over random factors in your life. What I find so great about this book is that by giving you seemingly random choices, it truly makes you stop and think hard about which of the three describes your day. Is my day a) crucial, b) open-minded, or c) immature? Well, I had something important happen today but I also had a stupid argument... Etc etc. Each day also comes with a quote. For example, the first day in mine says "If it's not there, there is nothing to find out."

So, overall, why do I like it? Well, I guess it's because there are a lot of things present that I personally find appealing - the positives far outweigh the negatives and for around £7 I think it's definitely worth it. I know I've spent £10+ on notebooks that never got used for diaries after all, so it's not like it's a waste of money. There's also a volume two if you find that you really love it but have run out of pages.

To sum up...

Great, new concept
Simple layout
Focus on thinking about your day properly
Luxurious feel
Fun factor present
Range of colours so not gender-specific
Great for people who want a record of their life, but not necessarily in-depth or that covers absolutely everything
Allows you to sum up your day and think about how things have balanced out
Probably great for people who have lots of thoughts and feelings but don't keep diaries because they struggle to actually turn their thoughts into sentences
Oh, and according to the back of the book, a portion of the proceeds are being donated to reforestation... that's always good

Elaboration on each day is limited
Could be argued that some day choices make no sense or would 'scare off' those who weren't necessarily hugely deep thinkers

If you have any questions, fire away in the comments below!


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

we drew our own constellations

Two years ago today I was in Croatia on a World Challenge expedition. Today, I'm sitting in bed and writing this while I chuckle to myself about the fact that Facebook just recommended I 'like' my old high school's page on there. I actually wrote about it a bit for my English coursework this year, and thought I'd share some of what I didn't end up using in the work. I'm actually going to do this every day until everything I've got has been published, so keep checking back for more :)
Novigrad at sunrise (around 5am, yikes!)

Part 1 - Adventures in growing up in less than ten minutes

I recall receiving a phone call halfway through the morning telling me what time I needed to be at the hall to begin preparations for the trip. It was early afternoon when we met in the dining hall of the school and were greeted by cheery Margaret and anyone who had, much to their displeasure, arrived early.

“Ye need to empty yer bags and pack ‘em again.” I was told. Brilliant. My mum and I had spent a whole hour of our lives – an hour that we will never be able to reclaim (but if you’re listening, God, it would be nice to have that hour, and the three hours I once spent on a broken-down train in the Channel Tunnel, back) – stuffing thick walking socks and plastic cutlery (spork, anyone?) into one huge blue 65 litre rucksack, and upon being told I was required to empty the damn thing I could’ve exploded with rage. However, apparently I had signed up for this, so I plonked myself down on the layer of dust hovering above the floor and started unpacking. “And ye need to put some team kit in there too.” I could kill.

The surface of the hall somewhat resembled a demolition site – it was as if we had all gathered the unwanted junk we had been accumulating over the years and launched it into a giant pile of tent components and, I’m shuddering just thinking about it, Beanfeast sachets. As I stood up to take in the sight, I found myself experiencing sudden feelings of relief – the only advantage to arriving after the majority of the others was, of course, that most of the team kit had gone. Me: 1, life: 0.

If I’m being honest, I don’t have the faintest idea where everybody’s baggage – both metaphorically and literally - disappeared to after that. My mind seems to have skipped a large, yet presumably very dull, period of time in which we probably sat around on the floor and did nothing while Margaret gave us ‘medication interviews’ (yes, interviews about any medication we may, or may not, have been on at the time).

After this lengthy spell of boredom ended, I recall being sent on a ‘mission to find some pens’. Somehow, I ended up in the tech block. Why? Because obviously when you’re looking for a few pens, tech classrooms are the places to visit… One thing that I definitely recall, and am reminded of every time I look at my left arm, is the moment that I found myself on the floor. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up there, other than that a puddle of water was involved, but I can report that I still have the scar to prove it happened. Me: 1, life: 1.

One large injury later, we had both pens and a role to fulfil for the next 24 hours. Somebody ‘cleverly’ invented the role of ‘checkspert’ (in other words, somebody who is rather reluctantly given the vital role of ensuring nobody loses anything), a role with which I was trusted for both the five hour coach trip and 2.5 hour flight to Croatia… you know, the most stressful moments for a person in charge of everybody’s passports.

(You don’t need to know that Katie left her passport on the plane…)

As somebody who had lived her entire life with an all-encompassing fear of being away from home, I was tense. It’s all well and good to brush the issue aside with a quick joke, but as we left the hall and saw our parents anxiously waiting for us to leave, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do this anymore. You could just run, I told myself, you can run away and hide until they all leave. But then, I’d have been wasting months and months of weary fundraising. All of the stress and struggle would have been wasted and all I’d have to show for it would be a huge rucksack and a few loose tent pegs. So, I just kept walking instead.

Sixteen suddenly felt very young. We were all, in effect, small children leaving their parents for the first time. Years of avoiding school residentials and sleepovers with friends were very much coming back to haunt me. The boys were self-assured. They were calm and confident, but there was a mutual understanding that they were all, internally, a bit of a mess. The girls, on the other hand, were quivering wrecks. One wailed and clutched her mum with the fragility and hold of a small child, another's fingers were wrapped delicately around those of her boyfriend, and even the solid bravado of a third could be seen crumbling as she watched her sisters playing in the distance. Us: 0, Life: 1000.

It was humbling, seeing everybody at their rawest. I didn’t remember them all as people who I'd argued with over fundraising and who I barely knew at all, I saw them as just people - people who make up our team.

More tomorrow! SOTD is Jack Johnson's Constellations, a song that reminds of me of Croatia...


Saturday, 7 July 2012

london + svenska

God kväll. I figured it was about time for another general update. Firstly, this happened this week...

I mentioned it a while ago, but this Monday I was one of 75 young people from across the UK who went down to London to an awards ceremony to receive a Diana Award. The awards themselves were set up in memory of Princess Diana, and there were five categories (Anti-Bullying Champion, Champion Fundraiser, Courageous Citizen, Active Campaigner and Champion Volunteer). I won one of the Anti-Bullying Champion awards for my work with SOS at college and all in all it was a pretty exciting day. There were so many different stories told and it was truly inspirational learning about the achievements of so many people who all thoroughly deserved their awards.

I went down on the train with my dad and when we weren't at Barclays HQ for the ceremony (yeah, that was a strange experience), we were either at London Bridge, on the tube, or at Covent Garden. A few photos from the day...

Oh, and I also found my new favourite phone box (not that I already had a favourite phone box, but you know...)

And while we're on the topic of languages (smooth link right there...), I've really been getting back into giving myself Swedish lessons and I'm finding that it's actually quite fun.  Of course, you're probably not going to find it fun unless you also study a foreign language, and even then only if you study it by choice, but I find it fun anyway.

I'm following the Byki Swedish app on my phone but instead of using the app I'm creating my own activities. I find that I learn best when I actually write things out, so that's what I'm doing. It's also interesting being able to track what I know and what I'm not so good at. I've been learning Spanish for five years now, and I studied French for two years before that, yet I have no recollection of how the first stages of learning a language go. At the moment, I can greet people and say goodbye, I can introduce myself, I can talk about languages that I can speak/read/write, count to twenty, say the days of the week, ask what time 'you' open and close and give brief/vague directions. I can also say 'jag behöver hjälp eftersom det gör ont här på min arm och jag var rånad' - I need help because it hurts here on my arm and I was robbed. Yeah, I'm totally covered in case I ever get mugged in Sweden. I can even swap 'min arm' for 'mitt ben' or 'mitt huvud' in case it's my leg or my head that hurts instead. It also greatly amuses me that 'ett sjukhus' (hospital) sounds/looks a bit like 'sick house' (and indeed translates into it too).

I need to do an update on my seven things for seven days (more like a month). Soon...

SOTD is Stockholm i mitt hjärta because it's Allsång på Skansen season and I'm very excited (and because I know there's going to come a point this summer where I will know all of the words to it) (and because nobody suits a bow tie more than Måns)...

R x