Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 goals

2014 is finally coming to a close (thank God!). It's been a year of mass highs and extreme lows, and I can honestly say I have never been so glad to see the back of a year.

I use goals as my sort of "new year resolution" style-y things, just slightly more important, I guess. I completely suck at resolutions, so I thought that if I altered the name of them I might stick to them. Turns out it doesn't work all too well as I hardly achieved anything from last year....

So I have decided that 2015 will be the year I sort my shit out and stop making excuses. It's time for me to look myself directly in the eye and be brutally honest. So that is what I did. 

It sucked.

I regretted it.

But December 2015 me will probably thank me for it.

These are the things I plan on doing by December 31 2015. 

Long story short, 2015 will be the year I stop feeling sorry for myself and shove every edible thing in my gob and finally lose some weight.

Hopefully that'll have a knock-on effect on everything else because it makes me extremely uptight about life.

I also need to not break my laptop. My history with laptops is pretty poor, so maybe I might keep this one a little while?

Finally, I want to stick to some of these. That is my biggest goal.

I want to look back on New Year's Eve of 2015 and realise how much I have achieved. Maybe I should start one of those jars where I put every achievement in it and look at it next year?

None of that "new year, new me" crap, I'll still slip up every now and again, and I'll still make a tit of myself every day. But who cares?! Let's have a lot of fun in 2015!



Monday, December 22, 2014

University life lessons

I am coming up to my last few months at university, and they have absolutely flown by. It genuinely feels like just yesterday I was in the car driving down to Plymouth for the first time, a tad teary at the realisation I wasn't going to see my dog every day (don't judge me), but also incredibly excited at the prospect of moving away and being on my own. 

I have learned a lot in my three years at university; and not just about my course! Mainly, I have learned a lot about myself as a person, as a friend, and as a writer. 

There have been some largely significant ups and downs over the last few years, but in typical cliché format I wouldn't change a thing. 

For anyone going to university, it is inevitable that you will go to university as one person and come out the other side another. Your likes will change, you will find new intolerances, you may even decide that you don't want to work in the field you have studied.

I am going to share with you my main life lessons I have discovered in my three years.

Leaving your work to the last minute is stupid, even if you manage to do it.
Believe me. I did it last year; going 3 days with a few hours sleep just to write a few essays that you should have done months before really isn't worth it. No night out, or wholehearted procrastination is ever worth mastering sleeping with your eyes open.

The library is your friend.
Although I feel slightly hypocritical for writing that, is really is. I am not a massive fan of the library (for some reason it just isn't a place I can sit and do work), but it is somewhere with thousands of books which can answer that essay you have been mulling over for days. 

So are your lecturers. 
Over the last year or so my lecturers have been a massive help. Whether this be with actual uni work, or just someone to rant to when things are getting a bit much. They have your best interests at heart. Even if you might not like the way they teach, or their voice makes you want to fall asleep in their 9am lecture, they will do their best for you. Make sure they know you (and for the right reasons!), and you will get something good out of that

Budget your money - your loan isn't the lottery.
Your loan might look like free money to you. If you're like me, your loan only just covers your rent and you don't get a grant or a bursary, then you'll know what I mean. Keep an eye on how much you spend, and where you're spending it. Always make sure you have money for food. That litre of vodka might look appealing, but when your morning hangover comes and you have no money for food to nurse yourself back to health, you'll be thanking me!

Try new things.
Although uni is all about getting your degree, it's also about discovering who you really are. Try something you haven't tried before (and no, I don't mean going to get smashed off your face, or ending up as a massive heap on the floor because you got too high last night!). I mean try a new sport, take up a new hobby, or even try a different food. Experiment with the good stuff!

Don't be afraid of failing at something.
Behind every success story are many failed attempts at getting it right. Don't be too bummed if you don't get the grade you wanted on an essay, or if something you wanted to work didn't go quite right. You will get there!

You have lectures for a reason.
Yes, 9am lectures suck. No, you probably don't want to go. Yes, you probably should go. Especially if you plan on passing your degree, lectures are normally the best way to go about it.

Stick it out - it'll be the best thing you do.
This applies especially to something I called the "second year itch". The jump from your first year to your second year is quite big, and it doesn't normally tend to hit until just after Christmas. Believe me, it'll be shit. The only thing you will want to do is go home, curl into a ball, cry a little, and then never go back to uni. Don't. You pay a lot of money to get that degree, so stick it out until that final moment. It'll be worth it, I promise.

People come and go; focus on what matters.
There will be people over your time at university, and even life, who won't be your friend for the entire 3 years. That just happens, and there is nothing you can do about it. Focus your attention on those who do stick around, and keep that end goal in sight.
Do your research.
This is both on your degree choice and for your coursework and exams. I didn't do masses of research regarding my degree (I chose it as I didn't think I was good enough for law...turns out I am), and feel like I made the wrong choice. I learned that doing something I loved doing would have been a lot more fulfilling than doing something I am good at. In the long run, being good at something won't always get you anywhere, whereas enjoying something would make you stick at it wholeheartedly. 

A diet of beans on toast and pasta isn't that great.
I don't really like beans anyway, but please don't live off things that take 5 minutes to cook. Keep a balanced diet. You'll get to the end of your final year and wish you didn't end up putting on loads of weight (believe me!).

Don't be pressured into anything you don't want to do.
This applies universally to anything at uni. If you don't want to do something, or go somewhere, or be a part of something, then don't. Saying no is better than regret. 

Think for yourself.
Although in some ways it can be good to be influenced by people, make sure you make your own choices. Take a step back and think whether you honestly think something is a good idea.

The sky is your limit.
I am aware that this is the biggest, and crappiest, cliché in the entire world, but it really is true. If you want something and you are determined enough to do it, then why should anything stand in your way? 

Nothing is handed to you on a plate.
Despite many people's views on university, you have to work really hard for everything. You won't suddenly get a first if all your essays were written hungover, hours before the hand-in time. Don't get complacent with one really good mark, because that doesn't mean you are automatically given another high grade. Work your butt off.

You don't need alcohol to have fun.
This is something that I am currently finding out. Having a night in binge watching Netflix and ordering a pizza really can be a lot of fun. Some people don't quite understand this (I still get a hell of a lot of drama because I gave up drinking), and you will get shouted at and pressured into drinking. If you don't want to, then don't. If you do want to, then go ahead! But not having a hangover for months is amazing!

When things get tough, keep going.
Things will be thrown at you left, right, and centre all throughout your degree. Things at home might not be great, things at uni might not be great,  and situations with your friends might not be great. Take my advice and throw yourself into your work. It acts as a distraction and you end up doing a lot more without procrastination. 

You get out as much as you put in.
If you don't bother with your work and prefer to go out 5 nights a week, you'll end up with shitty grades. If you find a good balance between work and play, and realise that your work should be a priority, you will excel. 

Know your limits.
It can be easy to get carried away with things (believe me, I wish I knew this last year...) and you can go slightly off track. Learn where your limits are, and try not to pass them.

Plan your time well.
Get a wall planner and actually use it. Mine has been the best £3 I have ever spent. 

Have a goal.
It doesn't matter how big or small your goal is; being able to work towards something gives a great feeling of satisfaction when you reach that goal. 

Don't worry if you don't have a life plan.
This is also something I wish I realised this time last year. People still pester me, and family ask me all the time, about what I plan on doing when I graduate. My honest answer? No bloody clue. For all I know I could go on a mission to Mars (not going to happen). I don't know what I will be doing this time next week, let alone this time next year. Learn to brush it off and don't feel pressured.

Be open minded.
Don't shun something just because it's not something you would normally do or like. Just because it's not honestly "you", doesn't mean that it won't work.

Do what you want to do.
Don't do something just because someone tells you - that includes going to uni. If you're doing something for someone else then you're just going to fall at the final hurdle. If you do something for yourself you will go a million miles.

Don't be afraid to take a break.
Don't be afraid to throw your hands up and admit you need some time to yourself; that doesn't make you a failure. I found this out last year when I actually went home for a weekend (the first, and so far only, time this has happened). The time away from your uni work will probably do you good.

Feeling down is OK.
It's fine to feel a bit crap about stuff once in a while; it's only natural. Grab a cuppa, throw your favourite movie on, jump into bed, and don't move. You will feel thousands of times better.

And finally: don't panic.
Breathe. Find a way to relax. Keep your head above the water. If you feel like you're sinking, try not to panic, and ask for help. There is nothing you do that can't be fixed in some way.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Note to self | #1

Recently I have been feeling quite down about the way I look. I don't know why, and I don't know why it even started. I think it has been one of those things that has been building up for the last few years. 

I have decided to talk about it on my blog to see if I am the only one, or whether some of you guys reading this might be feeling the same way. I've turned it into a little series where I can just vent about what I am feeling, not sugar coated, just cold, hard truth.

The other day I found a picture of me about 6 years ago. I was slim, toned, and about a size 8. I am now the opposite of those things. I have a bulky stomach, several chins, and my thighs are huge. I joke that I am growing into my winter coat, when really all I want to do is tear away at my skin chunk by chunk and throw it away.

As much as I know this is all down to myself, I also contribute this to several bad break-ups, a lot of drinking, and really bad and unhealthy lifestyle choices. I know that weight is just a number, and I feel like such a hypocrite for posting this because of how I try to make other people feel positive about these sorts of things. But there is only so long you can really bottle things up for.

It has gotten to the stage where I can't even look in the mirror at myself above my shoulders (thank god for my strategically placed mirror), and I end up swamping my body in several layers of clothing. 

I don't feel good about myself. I think I look disgusting, there is nothing nice about the way I look that is natural. 

I take massive pride in my make-up and perfecting my hair. But this has become almost a mask for me to hide behind.

I can honestly say I haven't been happy with the way I look for about 5 years now. 

I have tried about 4 times to kick-start a diet, a new workout routine, or even to starve myself completely (yes, I am well aware this was an absolutely stupid idea).

I feel like I am in a dark place, and I am getting better at hiding it. My smile and jokes have just been a cover-up when all I have wanted to do is cry for hours every single day; I just can't seem to help it.

Since I stopped suppressing the way I felt about my body and sat down and carefully thought about it (even if that did result in tears), I have somehow put myself in a more positive mindset.

I have made a few smaller changes in my life, which are gradually leading to bigger ones. I stopped drinking; I reduced the amount of fast food I was eating; I reduced almost all sugar from my drinks; and I removed some of the small things that were making my feel bad about myself. Even if that included people. 

Tiny steps lead to bigger strides.

I am hoping in the next few months that I can kick myself up the ass and get back to working out, whether this be on my own, or with one of my friends. 

It has taken me a few years to get in the mental state where I feel ready to conquer the way I feel about myself, and get back to the happier, self-confident person I was back then.

I know it will take time, and luckily time is something I hope I have a lot of.

I am still not entirely sure whether I will post this or not. I usually try to refrain from making my posts too personal, and writing my honest feelings down was really hard. No doubt I will get some negative comments, but hey ho.

I hope that I'm not the only one who feels like this. Maybe I could have an online work-out buddy to help with everything. Who knows?

Keep swimming.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Tiny Talk - episode five: Stress

Stress is one of those things than can come and go, be part of your daily routine, or just something that rarely happens. 

Unfortunately for me it is one of those daily routine things. 

I don't know why, and I don't know if I can even pin-point it to one individual thing - maybe it's part of university. That would probably make sense considering there has yet to be one day since September when I haven't woken up feeling stressed about something. 

If you are anything like me you will probably find it really difficult to deal with stress. I find myself getting really worked up, unbelievably intolerant of everything, and just generally becoming a horrible person to be around. 

I'm not even sure if anyone ever gets the same?

There are just those days where I wake up and instantly find that a tiny little thing can ruin my mood instantly. Maybe it's just because I'm female...are there any guys out there who get like that? 

I find that my pet peeves become the main focus when I get like this. I cannot stand the noise of someone eating with their mouth open or breathing heavily. I get instantly riled and have to move out the room if someone near me is doing either of those things. 

When I am stressed this gets a million times worse.

There are hundreds of different reasons why you might be stressed. Family problems, relationships, school or university, or even things to do with yourself might make you agitated.

When I get really stressed (as in I-have-an-essay-due-in-tomorrow-and-I-haven't-written-any-of-it kind of stress) I take refuge on my blog. Although that is usually counter-productive and I end up writing a 1000 word blog post instead of a thousand words on my essay, I end up feeling a million times less pressured than I did beforehand. 

I have also recently found that I take comfort in drinking numerous amounts of coffee when I am stressed. Considering I drink a large amount of coffee everyday anyway, this is probably not healthy. But when I am trying to be productive I think the idea of "healthy" becomes a fairytale.

I've also tried going out for walks. However, it's winter and I tend to do work at night so it gets a tad cold and dark. So instead I take a breather, light some candles, and sit looking out a window. I end up feeling a lot better than before, and usually (this being the operative word) I can manage to get something done after.

If your stress is based more around an issue, such as family or relationship problems, then you might want to take a different approach than my "avoid everything for as long as possible" idea. Try talking it through with the person, or people, involved. Even though I feel like such a hypocrite here because I find this really, really difficult, it works. 

Or if you're not feeling brave enough to come face-to-face with the person causing the stress, write a list. A list of anything. Pros and cons of the situation, why you feel like you do, things that make you happy, literally anything. Getting some emotion out on paper might make you considerably happier and feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders. 

I mean, I should be doing work right this second but I took my avoidance approach and it worked! Onwards with my dissertation. 

What sort of things do you do when you feel stressed?  

Keep swimming!


Monday, December 01, 2014

Dear Mum

Now the time is coming near,
To say goodbye to another year.
It may not have been the best, it's true,
But it's safe to say we're proud of you.

February brought the news no one wants to hear,
But you took it in your stride and showed no fear.
Even though a few tears were shed,
You chose to fight and smile instead.

After you had the lump removed,
And you came out a bit battered and bruised,
You kept positive the whole damn way,
And cast all the bad thoughts away.

Even though chemo made your hair fall out,
You still looked beautiful without a doubt.
Bradley the wig gave us all a laugh,**
It's always good to have a bit of a 'giraffe'*

Then came radio, three weeks long,
Yet again you remained strong.
It was almost the end, I bet you couldn't wait,
That final day was amazingly great!

And now we've come to today,
Where you have waved cancer away.
You're the champion of the battle, the winner of the fight,
Suddenly the days stop being grey and became bright.

Now we can look forward to our holiday,
Where Mickey and Minnie come to play.
I bet you can't wait to eat at Zaza Bazaar,
And have a drink at every bar!

So now I'll finish on this note,
And from my mind I'd like to quote:
Everyone is proud of you through and through,
And to cancer we all say a giant "fuck you!" 

This is dedicated to my amazing mum who has had the year from hell and still comes out the other end smiling and making ridiculously crap jokes. 

I love you always.

*"Having a giraffe" is a little side joke in our family.
** My mum decided to be funny and name her wig 'Bradley' in Bradley Wiggins...