Wednesday, 16 January 2013

On New Years Resolutions...

Written for Her Campus Leeds

New Year’s resolutions; a lot of us make them, and a majority of us seem to end up breaking them.  I don’t even remember if I made a resolution at the beginning of 2012…if I did, I doubt I kept it. But this year, I decided to make an effort, and wrote quite a long list of resolutions, which can all broadly be summarised as “utilise the time you have”. A big part of that was waking up and going to bed at a reasonable hour (with nights out as an exception, of course). I find if I get up at seven or eight I can do so much more with my day, than if I wake up at twelve and then stay awake till three in the morning.

And I’ve already failed. Of the sixteen days we’ve day of 2013 (as of when I’m writing this), I’ve ended up sleeping in on maybe a third of them. And I’ve failed at other parts of my resolution too; I’ve procrastinated, wasted time; done all of that.

But I don’t see this as outright failure. Because for me, this isn’t some sudden change I expected to happen as soon as they let off the fireworks at 00:00 on 1st January 2013. I’m instead trying to see my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 as a process.

Because it’s the perception of New Year’s resolutions as something that you must change about yourself the second the New Year rolls in that makes them so impossible to stick to. For a lot of people, their resolutions are going to involve changing months, even years’ worth of bad habits. If you’ve pledged to eat healthily of course you’re going to cave and eat pizza at some point because up until the beginning of that year you were used to just eating pizza whenever you wanted to.

If we see New Year’s resolutions as these static, immovable things that we must stick to religiously from the first day of the year then when we do inevitably break them…we just give up. But then that means, because you had one pizza, you’re not going to make the effort to eat healthy for the rest of the year; because you stayed in bed instead of going to the gym that one time, you’re not going to exercise for the rest of the year.

Breaking our resolutions should be seen as stumbling blocks, rather than outright failures. I’ve learnt from the times I didn’t manage to get out of bed in the morning; I now put my alarm across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off (although now I seem to have developed the habit of getting out of bed, turning it off, and getting straight back into bed…may need to work on that!). And more importantly, having this goal has motivated me to get out of bed on the days that I have managed to get up early. It’s helped me stop scrolling through tumblr and actually do some work on many occasions. Despite the many times I’ve failed so far, I am making progress.

Of course, there’s something quite alluring about the static fail-once-and-you-quit resolution. It means you can try and be a “better” person, but you don’t have to sustain that energy and effort throughout the year. But I don’t want to treat New Year’s resolutions as an exercise in collective failure. I actually want to be a more productive person; and if I really want to, by the end of 2013, be properly in the habit of waking up early, of not procrastinating, of really utilising the time I have…then I have to accept I won’t always succeed at the beginning of the year.

So here’s to seeing New Year’s resolutions as a learning curve and to not giving up because of initial failures, to working to break bad habits and to actually being happier/healthier/more productive/a snappier dresser/whatever you want to be in 2013.

Friday, 3 August 2012

From Olympic skeptic to Olympic enthusiast

 When London first won the Olympic games, I was far from overjoyed about it. I was twelve, so my opinions on the situation were primarily the opinions I’d stolen from my mother, which were pretty much:

-The Olympics is pointless.
-London doesn’t have the infrastructure.
-It will cost a tonne of money.
-It will be overcrowded and stressful and horrible, in exchange for no real entertainment value.

This was my opinion of the Olympics for the next seven years while London prepared.

I mean, it’s true I’m not a big sports fan; except for one one nations match, which I watched to see Wales win the grand slam, I never watched sport as a kid; in general it just doesn’t really hold my attention. And it’s true I rely on the tube as I travel from greater into central London all the time, so the potential of delays and overcrowding was a pretty legitimate worry.

But my completely negative attitude to the Games was just…silly. Aside from the fact that there are real benefits to having the Games, there’s just no point in being negative about such things. It’s there, why not enjoy it?

It was fully grasping the advantages of the Olympic legacy that first started shifting my attitude towards the games, though. The building works and improvements to infrastructure have been quite amazing for London. It wasn’t that I didn’t know this. But it was that by this point I was so determined to be negative that I wasn’t prepared to do more than grudgingly accept “well…it’s nice but it would still be better if we didn’t have the Olympics”. It took someone really hammering it into me that we needed this investment, and it probably wouldn’t have happened without the Games for me to feel actively pleased to have the Olympics in my city.

And then I went to see the torch. I only went to see it cause my friend asked me to. But I have always quite liked the torch and the symbolism behind it. We saw it run past Downing Street and Westminster and it was just…really cool. Not often is so much emphasis placed by society collectively on something that is especially symbolic and conceptual. And that’s really cool. Plus the energy and the sense of collective experience was just…it was really great.

Then came the opening ceremony. Words cannot even begin to describe how much I loved it. It was amazing. And it made me wish I hadn’t been so cynical about the games. Because then I would have made an effort to be watching it with friends, or be out, or just…something. It’s sad that I was just at home, with a family that only cared so much. I wish I’d made more of it. But it was still a wonderful, incredible ceremony. An imperfect once in a lifetime is still a once in a lifetime.

I flew to America on 1st August, so I’m missing most of the Olympics. I don’t regret this; it’s s worth it but…I am sad about it. Which I didn’t expect to be. In the few days I was in London at the same time as the Games I saw all the Olympic-y stuff on the South Bank as well as checking out the BT Live Zone in Hyde Park. And it was a whole heap of fun.

And I watched a lot of it on TV. Of course I could do that where ever was hosting it, but there was something more immediate and vibrant about knowing it was in London. I’m never going to be a massive sports fan. But I can appreciate sports like diving and athletics for the sheer wonder of what people are able to do with their bodies; their power and their control. And even sports like football I put on in the background while doing other things; I’ve learnt to somewhat enjoy the incredibly raw, pure drama that is sport.

The Olympics have London this constant sense of fun and excitement. It was certainly far from over crowded, and public transport really wasn’t all that bad.

By the time I left I might have become almost overly obsessive (I was watching sport faiiirly constantly…and I bought a souvenir pin badge); my friend commented that “you didn’t care about this until two days ago!”

But I’m glad I woke up to the fact that…the Olympics is something you might as well enjoy. There was no way to zone it out, after all; it was pretty omnipresent; and sport is cool, and investment is cool, and showing our city off to the rest of the world is cool. It brought London a lot and by being cynical I was just…making myself feel bad when I could have been embracing it and feeling happy. Which in the end I did. And I’m glad.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sick Leave.

I woke up today with a cold. It’s not surprising; my dad and my brother both have colds and when you live in a house with two people who are ill, you’re quite likely to fall ill.

My instinct when I’m ill…assuming I’m this kind of ill, where I am relatively fine, rather than if I am actually throwing up or delirious with fever or something…is to battle through it. This probably stems from four years of being in full time education where I was working towards important exams and missing lessons and catching up was stressful and I preferred to go to school and deal with feeling ill and crap.

But today I made a very conscious effort not to do that. There’s quite a lot of stuff I need to get done; I’m going to New Mexico in August and in addition to needing to sort out stuff for that, it’s compressed the amount of time I have to do all the other things I have to do over summer. After I’ve written this blog post I’m probably gonna write myself a very long to do list for tomorrow.

But I’m more likely to be able to get through that to do list because I’ve given myself a break today to let my body somewhat recover. Knowing me-with-a-cold, this cold will probably linger for ages, but at least, by resting, I’m more likely to get through this initial actually-feeling-really-crap-rather-than-just-sniffy stage. If I’d gone with my instinct to power through I’d have defiantly got through more today, but I’d have prolonged me being ill and sluggish and in terms of effort to productivity; my productivity over the next few days would have been lower than it’s, hopefully, gonna be.

I also need to be aware that how I rest mentally is very different to how I should rest if I’m ill. Doing what I’ve done today…mostly watching lots of Modern Family and the Simpsons, as well as sleeping till gone noon…doesn’t make me feel mentally rested; it actually makes me feel restless. If I need a break from things I’m best off reading or seeing friends; but those, especially the latter, are not conducive to encouraging my immune system to fighting off a cold.

I certainly feel better than I did this morning, and hopefully tomorrow fighting the urge to power through being ill will have paid off and I’ll feel a lot better.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Life in motion.

This blog post is very heavily inspired by Rosianna’s video about her need for movement, not just physically but in her life; having things changing and developing and moving forward and not remaining still and static. You should watch the video…you should possibly watch is more than once (as I have; it makes more and more sense to me every time). This blog post is kind of just me trying to articulate some of my thoughts and personal responses to this idea of…motion vs stillness in life.

I’ve barely blogged in the past almost-a-year, and in that time far more has happened and far more has changed than I can even begin to express. I’ve been in a state of perpetual motion and development; and since around March it’s all been incredibly positive and directional and just…really, really great in ways I would have never anticipated before going to uni. And it’s defiantly been very…movement-y. Very fast.

And then after my final exams…for the first time in a long time, I stopped. And it was really, really nice for a while. I was left with this after glow of achievements and failures and development and movement and just everything that had happened…I was really, really happy. And I spent a lot of time just sitting in pubs and playing cards with friends and having a break; I hadn’t stopped working since around March, and I hadn’t had any real, emotional respite since arriving at uni.

And although this was still, there was movement; although it was a sad kind of movement. I spent most of my final few weeks of my first year of university with the same general group of friends…but an ever decreasing group of friends as more and more left to go home. Some will be back next year, some won’t; but with all of them it was sad and this kind of movement felt…slow and sad but also poignant.

I stayed quiet late, but finally, I also went home.

The packing process (which somehow managed to take two days…), was good; throwing away stuff was good, and although carrying my bags home was a nightmare, leaving halls was good. Partly because I didn’t like my halls aaalll that much, but partly because leaving a fixed location is good. I’ve increasingly come to dislike being in one fixed location/residence.
But then I got home, and everything stopped.

Even towards the end of the university year, the rather static nature of my existence, although I was having a lovely time, was starting to make me increasingly anxious and restless. And getting home only made that a hundred times worse. Although I have a lot of amazing things lined up for the future, the fact that they weren’t then and happening made them feel…incredibly unreal to me. This was coupled with the conclusive nature of the moment; the first year of university being over and the “end”-ness of it. That, and a lack of forward motion made it feel like…and obviously, consciously, I knew this wasn’t true…this was the conclusion; the finale of whatever this thing is I’m doing called life. And if this was the end; it would be a really crappy end. And that made me really dissatisfied and really…miss a lot of things that I felt might make this a better end. Except this isn’t the end. At all. This is a part of a process and as soon as I see it like that it’s all colourful and exciting and it just…makes sense.

And since then I’ve tried to work on…injecting that sense of movement into my life.

This has partly been making the present a step towards what’s looking to be a really good near future; I’m going to New Mexico, but I actually bought the plane tickets, I’ve applied for a few jobs; things like that.

But it’s also been about turning a lot of the ways I fill my time into something moving, rather than something static. Like, right now I’m blogging; which can just be an isolated activity in which I write some words and publish them and maybe people can read them. But it can also be part of a process; an exercise in documentation, but also, something I’m trying to…grow through; and be better at. I want to get back into personal blogging, and I, in general, want to get better at writing and producing more writing. I want my more political based writing to become something I’m…somewhat skilled at; that may be worth something (I don’t mean monetarily I mean…like…worth…yeah; you know what I mean).

Other things, too, like reading; reading doesn’t have to be a still thing…it informs so much who you are and become a vehicle through which you develop.

There are also more concrete, practical ways I’ve generated this sense of movement; I’ve started using goodreads to track what I’m reading and watching the books pass from to read to reading to read gives the whole thing a sense of motion.

That’s just one way I’m trying (succeeding? Yeah…I think I’m succeeding) to create movement in the things I do.

And the other thing that’s really helped, surprisingly, has been my school friends and meeting up with them and hanging out…which I haven’t done properly since Christmas in most cases. And that’s funny because, largely, I’ve seen my school friends as this static thing; this safe point of stillness while everything else around me is rapidly moving. But coming back to that base after everything that’s happened has helped give me a more solid sense of self with which to move forward. Cause my friends aren’t still, either. We’re all moving forward together.

The internet said this quote was said by Einstein, so it may or may not have been said by Einstein, but it feels relevent to this... "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Friday, 23 March 2012

London to Leeds and back again...

Until I went to university, I’d lived in London all my life. I was a Londoner through and through. I walked fast and didn’t make eye contact with people on the tube. It’s not that Londoners don’t care about each other. It’s just that they don’t care about each other’s business. Londoners in a crisis band together and look after each other. But god forbid we would smile at each other on the street! And there are upsides to this; it also allows for the anonymity of London. You can walk through the streets dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow and no one will bat an eye lid. That mentality; the “we’re all in a rush so let’s not bother each other” mentality…that made sense to me; it was how I functioned.

And then I went to university in Leeds. It’s a stereotype that Northerners are more friendly than Londoners. But it’s a stereotype that is, largely true. People smile at you in the street. Cab drivers talk to you. When I first got to Leeds, this freaked me out. Which sounds ridiculous, but when a cab driver started talking to me, I really didn’t know how to respond. When people on the street gave me a smile, my instinct was to look away. My first few trips back to London felt…safe. No one I didn’t know was going to try and interact with me and that was what I was used to.

And then there’s the pace of Leeds. A friend of mine once commented that, “Leeds has the economy of a city, but the pace of life of a town”. For a Londoner, I’m a pretty slow walker. In Leeds, I’m practically The Flash. Which is something I’m conscious of when just walking through the street, but there it doesn’t matter. But in a queue, it does. I’m honestly not sure what I find more annoying; the slow moving of the queue, or the fact that the people around me don’t seem to mind. I’ve stood in many a shop queue wanting to yell, “Does no one here have other places that they need to be?!”.

For a long time, partly because I came home very often during my early university career, I very much felt like a Londoner in Leeds. But more recently, I’ve noticed a shift in me. The slow pace of Leeds is still annoying to me…but London can seem…too fast. Getting into Kings Cross station, I was thinking “why are there so many people, why are we all moving so quickly, I can’t deal with this!”. And I’ve realised I’ve started smiling at people in the street. I didn’t even realise I was doing it when in Leeds…but in London I realised because people who I smiled at looked at me like I was crazy.

No where is quite like London, and I do love this endlessly fascinating city. But coming home, for the first time…I didn’t want to. Leeds feels so…homely to me now. And there’s something you can get from cities like Leeds that you can’t really get from London. The feeling of…potential. Something growing. There are always new and exciting things happening in London, but it’s not the same. London has, in so many ways, hit saturation point. It can do different things. But it can’t do better things than what it’s already doing. It’s so amazing there’s very little room for it to become any more amazing. But with cities like Leeds, there still growing. And that’s really exciting to watch.

I’m still a Londoner. Pushing my way through a very crowded Waterloo station the other day showed I can still get into the “head down, keep walking” London mentality. But I’m a slightly more…Northern-tinted Londoner. A “more willing to smile at people in the street” Londoner.