The ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful

On Saturday (which is yesterday as I write this) I had the pleasure of going to a literature festival. However it wasn’t your regular festival, it was the childrens festival. Before you all start raising your eyebrows in confusion, I went to see a few of my favourite people who happen to have childrens books out. However this isn’t what I wanted to write about today.

Yesterday Miranda Hart mentioned how important it is that children and adults use their imagination and that really hit me. Growing up I was ALWAYS in my own world. In cars I would imagine that instead of being in the car I was riding a horse alongside the car, I had not one, but three imaginary friends, I was always making up bedtime stories for my brother and writing my own stories for fun, Aged 11 I wrote AND DREW a superman comic, and I don’t even remember liking comics at the time. I don’t understand people who don’t use their imagination. It’s such a wonderful tool to have! It can quite literally take you anywhere.

I was tempted to insert a couple of extracts of a story I wrote when I was younger, at a time when I was inspired by Louise Rennison (who I have mentioned before) god knows how young I was, but it’s fairly embarrassing so I decided against it. Sorry to disappoint.

Yesterday, I was beyond thrilled to see children flicking through books, tilting their heads to hear stories being read, and talking about what they’re currently reading. I imagine being a child in this decade, where TVs are huge and phones are touch-screen, and YouTube is easy to find, it’s more difficult to find time to read or to go outside and swing on swings like I used to do, what if one day in the future all the parks are rusty, and the libraries and book shops are closed?! Yesterday gave me hope. Children raising their hands when asked the question “who wants to be a writer?” they weren’t bored at the prospect of reading or writing. This is so encouraging! Books may not die out after all.

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Familiar Faces

Since my last post, I’ve managed to get a full time job (who’d have thought it.) Due to this job actually giving me a reason to go outside, I’ve seen a lot of people. Disappointing I know, but in a way it’s been eye-opening.

I’ve seen a lot of people I recognise from my past, sometimes they’ve got a really familiar face and it takes me a while to remember their names, and when I say a while I do mean a while, nothing annoys me more than something being on the tip of my tongue but not quite getting to the stage of knowing it. But, not a single one of them has recognised me.

I think this comes from being the shy one in class, the one who was scared of putting their hand up and answering questions, the one who HATED speaking in front of a crowd, I just blended into the background and faded away. And the weird thing is, I don’t mind being unrecognisable. In fact, I prefer it. It means I can watch people, learn new things about them all the time, without them even noticing I exist. I think this sounds sadder than it actually is (I hope I’m not weird) It’s truly amazing what you can notice without saying anything, I’ve seen classmates grow up and they don’t even realise it. It does make you wonder if anyone is doing the same thing to you.

I guess where I’m going with this is that it’s okay not to be remembered, and it’s okay to be observant and it’s definitely okay to not be talkative. So next time you see someone you recognise in Tesco, hide behind the fruit to avoid talking to them, then pop out and see what they’re buying.

A Magic Lamp

I’m going to be honest with you all, my mood lately has been… changeable. One minute I cannot stop smiling, the next I’m barely able to lift my head up. My anxiety has changed slightly and my whole life is in a liminal state and is so dependent on external sources that I feel lost.

I thought I would ask myself what would I do with a magic lamp? In order to make my days go by easier than they have been, I thought I would enlist the help of a magic lamp and a magical Genie. I get “selfish” three wishes, and here they are:

I wish for the ability to be able to do maths. I want to feel confident with maths, I want to understand how to do percentages, I want to understand how to calculate the best pension scheme for me, I want to know what it feels like not to have to triple check your sums on a calculator.

I wish for my anxiety to stop messing with my brain. I want my heart rate to beat to a normal pace when I’m about to see a friend. I want my breathing to stay normal when I’m talking to people I’ve never met. I want my hands to stop shaking when I’m addressing a crowd.

I wish for the ability to sing. I would love to be able to sing in the shower or in the car and not feel like an embarrassment. I don’t want to become a singer. I just like music.

Memory Lane

I’m writing this post to ask you for some reassurance.

I am so afraid about losing my memories that I hoard all of my memories. I watched a clip of The Land Before Time while I ate breakfast the other day. This is not normal behaviour for 21 year olds. On a similar note, I have a YouTube playlist with clips from TV shows and songs from my childhood that I like to re-watch from time to time just to make sure I don’t forget any of them exist. I have an events countdown app on my phone, and even when the event has been and gone I like to keep the event so I don’t forget the event happened. I’m now counting the days since something happened.

Do any of you do this? Do you have to keep reminding yourself of everything you have ever done or have ever seen? I think I’m doing it due to a fear of becoming ill and losing my memory, especially when it comes to things like gigs. It feels like it’d be such a waste and such a shame for all the amazing things I’ve wanted to do for years and years to suddenly be forgotten.  It feels like I’d be letting 15 year old me down.

 

How To: intensive driving course and test day

This long blog post is in the style of a diary, as I feel as though it’s important for me to document the emotions I felt when it comes to learning to drive and taking my test. I would like to think this is beneficial and not off-putting but feel free to correct me.

I’ll start with some backstory. For my 17th birthday I got my provisional licence however, due to the fact I was still in college and would be starting university, I didn’t start driving until my 19th birthday. This was with my dad in his automatic Renault. I was pretty nervous. We went to what’s basically an abandoned car park where there were no other cars or people. Slowly I began to get to grips with automatic driving and things felt good. Then uni began again and I didn’t go driving till the Christmas holidays. It was then another year till I drove again as my placement got in the way of things during summer 2016.  It felt weird to be back driving but over the Christmas holidays, then during the summer holidays my confidence was growing. Fast forward to June 2017 and I was by no means professional but I felt as though I’d be able to drive somewhere. For my 21st birthday my parents got me an intensive driving course, which I was both excited and nervous about. The wait until the start date went by too fast and soon enough it was here. Now here comes the diary (if you prefer lists, scroll to the bottom to find the list of my tips and a list of my thoughts on an intensive course) :

 

It was the 17th July 2017, and not only was it my first lesson in a manual car, but I also had a job interview thirty minutes afterwards. I felt anxious and nervous and generally scared. Then the time came. My instructor (who’s lovely) tested my eye sight, then drove me to a housing estate, pulled up on the side of the road then asked me to swap with her.
I was shook.
She wanted me to sit in the driver’s seat on an actual road used by buses and people and cars. Bear in mind when I first drove a car it was an abandoned car park, this felt weird. I had never even touched a gearstick before, I’d only seen it used twice in person and my only knowledge of a clutch was from videos on YouTube.

We swapped seats and she talked me through the start-up procedure. All was fine. She then showed me a load of diagrams and information about how the car works. Also fine. Then it was time for me to set off. All was not fine. My legs were shaking. She talked me through what I needed to do and amazingly, I set off without stalling.
But I felt very confused. Going from two peddles, to three, was not easy, her Vauxhall peddles felt different to the Renault peddles and I had no idea how much pressure would correlate to speed.

After a jolty start I was going a solid 10mph and felt so scared. Over the course of the first hour I’d felt okay. I’d stalled a few times but on the whole was okay. The rest of the 5 hours is a little bit of a blur. I remember doing turns in the road, traffic lights in town, emergency stops (hideously disturbing), roundabouts, junctions, reverse bay parking and the dreaded hill start. Never going out of first or second and occasionally third gear. I was good at changing gear on the move. But when it came to actually stopping, then moving off again I just kept stalling. I couldn’t find the bite point at all.

I was frustrated and annoyed. I’d rolled backwards down a steep hill countless times. Which is embarrassing enough alone, but when there’s a class of primary school children out on a trip watching you make a lot of noise, it’s even worse. I’d caused traffic jams at traffic lights, making people wait for the lights to change more than once as I was unable to move the car forward.

When you combine low confidence, with anxiety and frustration, the result is a mess of a human. I am that mess. The only thing it reminds me of is having maths anxiety (which is a thing, there’s a TEDTalk) when I was in secondary school.  It wasn’t that I didn’t understand it, I just couldn’t do it, no one else can understand why I can’t do it, but I just can’t. And that feeling of disappointment is the worst feeling in the world.

I was trying to hear the bite point or feel it or see it but nothing looked or sounded or felt any different. It was like I was blind to it. I felt immensely stupid and started to slowly and silently cry to myself. By the beginning of the last half an hour the instructor (who had offered to drive me to my interview) gave me the option of driving myself. I could not face it, I shook my head and muttered something about it being best if she did. I had blurry vision from the tears, a lump in my throat and a violent urge to scream and slap myself.

She was telling me I was doing well, I was nearly there. There were only the few issues of needing to stop crossing my hands on the wheel, stop looking in the mirrors in the wrong order, stop signalling before looking in the mirrors, and most importantly learn to use the bloody clutch. But all I could hear was my own self-hating voice repeating the words;

“you are a failure, you can’t do anything”

The journey to the interview was pretty awkward, I was silent and sipping my water to stop myself crying, and, bless her, my instructor was trying to ask me about my weekend. We arrived at the place my interview was and I went into the loos to have a cry, as well as try to soothe the bleeding cut on the back of my foot caused by wearing new shoes for the first time (I wouldn’t recommend this but I had no choice, they were my only summery smart shoes for the interview). By the time I’d got home at 5pm after a 10 hour day I wasn’t sure if I was crying because of driving, my doubts about my future or the damage my shoe had done.

 

It’s the 18th of July, and I woke up feeling sick with nerves. However, overall my confidence had improved, miraculously, as if feeling sorry for me, the car seemed to make its bite point more obvious. I still stalled a dozen times but thankfully on empty roads. I had managed to go through traffic in town, around a traffic light controlled roundabout with roadworks, with no real issues (other than fear and a permanent grimace.) Todays new manoeuvres were turning around a bend (downhill which was slightly scary), and reverse parking.

The 19th and 20th of July marked my halfway point and although I was still stalling a handful of times, it was becoming clear that my stalling was down to me overthinking everything. Every time I doubted what I was doing, I would say “will I stall” and sure enough I did. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be that having no confidence does damage your ability to drive. Which does make it somewhat a cycle. But over time it will become easier, no one is born with a natural instinct to drive.

The second week of lessons went as well as the end of the previous week. It was two days prior to the test and I was already feeling anxious. I kept waking up in the morning feeling sick, I couldn’t eat properly, and my breathing was a mess. However as my driving went on, suddenly, as if by magic my confidence and driving ability grew. I had the day before my test off, which I can’t decide was a good thing or bad thing. All I know is that I was so, so nervous.

Test day was probably my best day of driving, well, it was before the test actually started. I felt comfortable and confident for the first time. I wasn’t making many mistakes, all my maneuvers were good, and I was repeating “you can do this” in my head so many times, it could have been seen as disturbing. Waiting in the test centre was hideous. Walking to the car with the instructor was hideous. My breathing was not normal. I was so SO afraid. I think it showed. I got confused answering the show me-tell me questions, and then on the way out of the centre I stalled. So by this point I was convinced I had failed. I just drove as normal. I stalled once more on a hill, then went into the wrong gear, but somehow I recovered it.

The 40 minutes flew by, I hadn’t even realised we’d finished until we were almost back at the test centre.

The man announced I had passed. I nearly choked I was so shook.

 

So the bit you’ve been waiting for, here are my thoughts on an intensive course:

  1. You learn a lot, quickly. If you’re a quick learner you’ll find it really fun
  2. I won’t lie. It’s painful. About 6 straight hours using your left leg hurts. I mean, maybe it’s me being unfit, but I found it painful.
  3. I think if you have anxiety, or have low confidence, I think an intensive course might be a little hard for you. I found I didn’t have enough time (or felt like I didn’t have enough time) to grow confidence, and remember all the things I needed to.
  4. You get to know your instructor and it kind of feels like you’ve made a friend, it’s quite fun chatting to someone whilst driving.
  5. On the subject on instructors, make sure you choose yours well, and make sure you know your hours. Nothing is worse than turning to a lesson too early or too late.

And now for the test tips:

  1. Use your mirrors, and be obvious about it.
  2. Stalling won’t fail you unless it causes someone else to take evasive action.
  3. If you select the wrong gear, don’t panic, you can still change it to the right one.
  4. Take your time doing maneuvers.
  5. Don’t be too cautious at junctions (*cough* like me…)
  6. Be careful about lanes and positions at roundabouts.
  7. Don’t think too far ahead. Stay in the moment.
  8. Keep reminding yourself that you can do it.
  9. If you like to talk through your thought processes, do it internally.
  10. Try to breathe as calmly as possible.

 

I really hope this helps you, and I wish you lots of luck in your lessons and course. I’d also like to thank my friends for their amazing support. You were all invaluable.

 

To read or not to read?

That is the question. How nerdy do I sound right now?!

Now I’ve finished uni I’ve got more time for books, which makes me very happy as reading is one of my favourite things to do. I haven’t talked about my love of reading on here before so I thought now would be the perfect time to tell you why, and who, I love to read.

For me, reading is a form of escapism. It’s a chance for me to ignore the world. If I’m reading, then I’m not looking at Twitter moments or thinking about job applications or thinking about Nectar points. I can concentrate on a new person in a new world. This means that it’s pretty relaxing, hence why my favourite places to read are in the bath (I’ve never dropped a book, though I have dropped my bookmark a few times), in bed or in the car (obviously whilst you’re a passenger and if you don’t get carsick.)

These locations also make reading pretty convenient, it’s during an activity you’re already doing, so it means you’re not having to find specific time to read. Nothing is worse than being too busy to read.

Reading also allows you to use your imagination, so much more than a TV show or a film. You’re in charge of how everything looks, from what colour the sky is, to what colour hair a character may have, it makes every story unique to you. It makes reading magical.

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And now to my favourite authors. Growing up my favourites were A.A Milne for Winnie-the-Pooh, Beatrix Potter for Peter Rabbit, Jill Barklem’s Brambly Hedge series (there appears to be an animal theme, make of that what you will.) Then when I was older I loved Enid Blyton for The Famous Five, Cathy Hopkins and the Mates, Dates series (who remembers these?!), Louise Rennison and the Georgia Nicolson series (I literally just Googled her and have found out she died last year so I’m now feeling very sad)  and of course Jacqueline Wilson. And now, there’s Sophie Kinsella, Caitlin Moran, Jane Costello, Carol Mathews, Lucy-Anne Holmes, Catherine Alliott and of course, my new love, Agatha Christie. Then there are so many autobiographies which are captivating and new releases that I’m so excited to read.

 

I hope I haven’t bored you too much. I would like to know your answer to the question posed in the title of the blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

RIP Louise. Thank you for the stories.

How to Survive: heatwaves

I am starting a new series on my blog (cue fanfare) entitled “how to survive.” In which I give you some advice* on how to cope with certain situations. Today the topic is heat, because once again the temperature in the UK is above 22 degrees. So we aren’t coping.

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If you’re in need of some heatwave tips, then you’re in luck, here is my list on how to survive a heatwave.

  1. Do not, and I repeat do NOT go on a hike or a run, unless you’re willing to come home looking like you’ve been in the shower.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fight for the shady spot. That’s right, that all important shady spot that all British people compete for. If you see one you like the look of, ignore my last bit of advice and RUN to appropriate it.
  3. Make a hand fan. If you remember the days of folding paper into a fan, then re-enact those days and make one. It works surprisngly well.
  4. If you’re fancy, use an electric fan, but it may or may not be just recycled warm air.
  5. Put water in the fridge, or even better in the freezer, tap water just won’t cut it. I also think it encourages you to drink more.
  6. Cold food is a life saver. Think ice cream, kitkats kept in the fridge.
  7. I know this next one might be horrifying, but hear me out. Opening your windows is actually really worthwhile, as much as this makes me sound old, it does let a nice breeze through.
  8. Avoid black skinny jeans in direct sunlight.

 

 

* may or may not work, please don’t sue me

21 Things at 21

On Sunday I turned 21 (I’m still feeling a little weird about this) and I thought I would do a blog post listing the 21 things I’ve learnt in 21 years.  This is quite a common type of post but I hope you find it interesting nonetheless.

  1. It’s okay to lose friends:
    It is definitely not easy, however losing friends is a natural part of growing up, and over the years I’ve lost more friends than I can count on both of my hands. However, losing the bad friends makes the good friends even better.
  2. Reading:
    I have come to the conclusion that reading is something incredibly important, and I’m pretty confident when I say that reading has shaped who I am. Reading is not nerdy or weird so read as many books as you can, whatever genres you like. I’m currently reading Agatha Christies’s “A Murder is Announced” and I’ve got at least three other books in the pipeline. My top reading locations are, in bed, in the bath or while in the car (as long as you aren’t driving or travel sick.)
  3. Lists:
    Write lists for everything, they are vital.
  4. It’s okay to say “no” once in a while:
    Of course, saying yes to things is really important, for so many reasons, but you shouldn’t be afraid to say no to something if you know you won’t enjoy it.
  5. Night clubs don’t have to be fun:
    It is possible to get through your late-teens without clubbing. If you don’t like them, don’t let others pressure you into thinking you should like them.
  6. Do your homework when you get it:
    It is so easy to put off homework, but the sooner it gets started the sooner you can move on the the fun things.
  7. Failure is good:
    It’s hard, and is definitely something I have told myself I am. I think we’ve all been there where we’re sitting in bed at night wanting to cry about the fact you’re a “failure” because you didn’t do something as well as you wanted to. As cliche as this might be, courage is what counts, and the more you fail the more courage you build.
  8. Don’t compare yourself to others:
    Other people are quite simply other people. Although the world is competitive and fast paced, you don’t have to copy someone else to be validated.
  9. Eat cake:
    Cake is really bloody nice, and if you’re offered cake, take it.
  10. Make your bed in the morning:
    I have always been one of those people who has been taught by their parents to make their bed in the morning. Now, aged 21 I am proud to say I have never forgotten to make my own bed. Making your bed may seem time-consuming, but I genuinely think it’s starts the day off with productivity in mind.
  11. It’s okay to be a “fangirl”:
    People label me as a “fangirl” quite simply because I grew up with a handful of celebrities which I like. And that is okay. It’s easy to feel embarrassed about who you’re a fan of, but it is not worth it, they make you happy and that’s the most important thing.
  12. Growing up without the Disney channel makes you different:
    I missed out on watching things like Hannah Montanna, my television was purely CBBC and CITV and I am not complaining about it, in fact, I look back on those programmes with huge amounts of love and nostalgia. But if you have also grown up without these channels you will be familar with the phrase, “HOW HAVE YOU NEVER WATCHED *insert programme*” because in their eyes we missed out on a childhood, I like to see it as we had a different childhood.
  13. Growing up without the cult films makes you different:
    It’s the same story when it comes to films. If you didn’t watch Harry Potter, you will miss out on 308 references, but you’ll also be different, which is great.
  14. Drink water:
    I cannot stress enough how good water is for you. I’m bad at remembering to drink but 9 times out of 10 if I am having a drink it’s water. It’s SO good for you.
  15. Read the news:
    Due to my degree, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at, then analysing the news. Although it’s not usually uplifting I find it is really important to keep your eyes on what’s happening in the world.
  16. Education:
    Education is not the be all and end all, and there is so much pressure put upon students, but if you enjoy learning then take it as far as possible, look up words you’ve never heard of  (yesterday I saw the word “vociferously” for the first time), read conspiracy theories, learn about the Tudors, whatever you’re interested in, pursue it.
  17. Internet friends are the best:
    Finding people online is so exciting, don’t be ashamed of it.
  18. Enjoy hot baths:
    Spend an hour reading in the bath to escape the world.
  19. Organise your finances:
    Make a spreadsheet, and keep your bills and receipts, stressing out about money is draining, time-consuming and unhealthy.
  20. Travel:
    Travel can be fun. Whether it’s by coach or car or plane or train, go and visit new places, learn about new cultures, hear new accents. There’s a whole world out there.
  21. Turning 21 is the first age that feels significant:
    When I turned 10, 16, 18, 20, it felt like they were milestones, but nothing has felt like 21. I’m now out of education, I’m halfway to 42 (thanks for telling me this mum,) I’m looking to start my career. This is where my life starts and that’s scary.

Life’s a Beach

Yesterday I spent my day at the seaside, which is something I don’t do very often. Usually when I go to the beach, I’m with my family and it’s not a relaxing experience, it’s a hike. So, to actually spend a few hours sat on the beach was very rare and very enjoyable.

I spent the day with one of my friends from college, which was a lot of fun. For the most part. As romanticised as it is, the beach is definitely not all it’s cracked up to be.

The sand. It gets everywhere. If not on your food, then in your food. It gets in your shoes and socks, and basically every item of fabric you bring, including the beach towel. It’s in your eyes, hair, nose, between your toes where it will remain for at least 5 weeks,  (this also rhymes which is very pleasing yet unintentional.)

Good luck standing up and leaving the beach. If you want to flap your towel you better check the wind speed and direction first otherwise you’ll go blind. You should also be aware of the people around you, as they will also go blind.

We also had a frisbee thrown in our direction which very nearly landed on the flaming BBQ which is a health and safety disaster.

Also, make sure you wear suncream but, for gods sake, do not apply it when you’re on the beach. My friend made that mistake and just ended up sticking sand to herself, as if it was some kind of exfoliating mask. It’s not.

BBQs on the beach have their upsides, for example they are cheaper than going out for dinner, and it means you can have as much food as you want. But they have downsides. Namely being the constant fear of being in charge of a small fire in a public space, surrounded by children and seagulls. I was genuinely worried for my safety when the wind started to blow the flames in my direction. And don’t get me started on lighting the disposable BBQ.

 

The Healing Power of Music

It’s been over a week since the horrific and senseless Manchester Attack, and today Ariana Grande announced a gig in memory of the attack.

The attack itself made me cry, and seeing this news made me cry again. Thankfully, in a good way.

Over the last week I have come to realise just how powerful music is. In the past I’ve done blog posts on how important going to gigs is, and I still stand by this. In fact, the horrific attack made me believe in it even more.  At first it worried me to think people would be put off for going to gigs, but I now know that us fans are strong and brave, and won’t be put off seeing our favourite live.

The thing that made me realise this the most, was the sheer number of tributes, positivity and connectivity then came from this attack. People were helping other people. And in this day and age this doesn’t seem to happen very often. There were taxi drivers giving free taxi rides, men and women giving free drinks to the emergency services, people online giving their support and donations, people meeting up for vigils. Then there were the tributes bands and artists gave at their gigs, resulting in thousands of people singing Oasis, clapping or standing in silence together, the sheer power of this was incredible, genuinely giving me goosebumps every single time I’d see it.

It really shows how a shared love of music just brings people together, no matter who you are, if you’re with people who like the same music as you you feel as though anything is possible.

Was this too cheesy? Probably.