The Art of Simply ‘Being’

I am a worrier.  I’m obsessive.  I compulsively plan each and every thing in my life and can get horribly upset when things don’t work out exactly as they’re meant to.  I make lists for everything and am always one step ahead of my own reality, despite never quite being able to decide what that step is.  I also know however, that I’m not alone.  Having a diagnosis for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as recovering from Anorexia can often heighten my stress levels and my inability to live in the moment but I know, at least to some degree, that these days pretty much all of us find it difficult to switch off and see the world around us and experience our lives as they are truly meant to be lived – in the moment.

And here is where the art of simply being comes in.  It is something that many people may never have thought about and, in today’s society, something that is pretty much impossible to fully embrace but even letting go of the need to control slightly and allowing yourself to appreciate what you have seen a million times as the miraculous and beautiful things that they are, would go a long, long way.  My understanding of ‘simply being’ comes from an accumulation of spiritual practices and ideas which I have tried over the years in an attempt to improve my mental health and so it may be different to what others believe and, ultimately, what you believe, but for me its important and that’s why I want to share a little bit about it with you here.

My journey into practices of the mind and towards trying to finally embrace the art of simply being started when I first tried mindfulness during one of my hospital admissions for anorexia.  Lets just say that at the time I wasn’t impressed and was just as sceptical as the majority of the population, but now I am so glad that my nurse (who I was less than fond of, I might add) forced me to sit down and practice and read the information she gave me because a few years later I  have realised that the concept of mindfulness was exactly what I needed.  Mindfulness is basically the practice of living in the here and now and recognising the processes of your body and mind in the very second in which you are living.  It means not obsessing about the future or the past or even about how much stuff you had planned to do that day but never got round to.  It originally comes from Buddhist practices and is a chance for us to let go of our insatiable need for planning and thinking and would hopefully lead to a peace of mind I have been forever searching for.  I have tried and failed many times to fully commit to the practices and doing the meditations on a regular basis but now that my journey in this field has progressed I can see why its so important to keep it up and keep adding to your ability because calming the mind is a skill that takes practice, just like any other skill you may choose to learn.

The second major step in my journey towards simply being is a slightly more recent one.  My mum’s friend is a great believer in spiritual healing and practices reiki and reflexology on a regular basis and, especially since I became unwell, she has continued to give me books about spirituality, crystals and self-help.  And, while I did read the books she gave me, I just never really believed it could work or help me in any way – until about two months ago.  Just after handing in my final essay at university I was looking for a new book to read and, as I was rather low on funds (just for a change) I found I didn’t want to spend money on the novel I had been fancying and decided to read something I already had instead, which turned out to be Gabrielle Bernstein’s ‘The Universe Has Your Back’, which I had received as a gift from her over a year earlier.  I started reading it and I guess something finally clicked.  The timing was right and I honestly believe that I was meant to read that book at that time and, just to prove it, when the book asked me to look for a sign in my everyday life, I found the exact book I had wanted to read instead of ‘The Universe Has Your Back’ in a charity shop for £2 in a place I would never usually had ventured, just half an hour later.

In ‘The Universe Has Your Back’, Gabrielle discusses letting go of some of our control and allowing the universe to give us what is right, instead of obsessing over having to get it ourselves.  It also talks about the power of positive thinking (which I am obsessed with) and how mantras and meditations can help us to not only make our own lives better, but the lives of everyone else around us better too.  The meditations are slightly different to mindfulness practices but run along the same lines and, I feel, are in some cases even more helpful for me personally than the former.  It was an incredibly freeing experience to read this book and it is ultimately why I am writing this today and why I wanted to share the act of simply being with you all.  A lot of you will be thinking that it sounds like nonsense and that’s ok because for a long time I did too but I simply ask you to be open minded and to give it a try to see if it can help even slightly to give you  a bit more peace and calm in your mind and, ultimately, in your life.

And so by this stage, my idea of the art of simply being became a mixture of mindfulness, Gabrielle Bernstein’s theories and Buddhist teachings but the final part of it also became my own personal opinions and beliefs in life which I found were just as important in shaping how I practiced these philosophies as the ideas themselves.  I don’t believe that you can just wait around for opportunities to fall into your lap and sometimes the best thing you can do is fight and work hard for something to make sure you get what you want because then, and only then, if it doesn’t happen then you can be satisfied that, in this place and in this time, what you really want is not the right thing for you.  I also don’t believe that its possible not to sometimes look ahead and plan things just as its also nice to sometimes look back and appreciate happy memories and what used to be and I think that recognising the times where planning and remembering are helpful are important practices too.  But probably the most important thing I’d like to add is that its ok not to follow spiritual practices or theories of self-help to the letter because everyone is different and everyone will find a different way of living which works for them.  As long as what you do makes you happy and makes other people happy too then it’s a worthwhile practice to me.

Personally, I am really hoping that giving my art of simply being a final try will be the thing I need to stop overthinking everything and, quite often, still being a slave to my own thoughts.  June has been a particularly difficult month for me but I am glad to be coming away from it with something much more positive than I could have imagined and, by sharing these positive practices with you all, perhaps something even more positive still.  And I know it seems daunting but its ok to slip up and its ok to not understand what you’re actually trying to do but being truly present in your everyday life and letting go of some of the fears and doubts you have really can help.  And to help you get started below you will find some of my favourite and easiest ways of practicing the art of simply being in everyday life from books and resources I have used in the past, and, if you do want to take it that step further, I have also added a number of links to resources which may help.

How To Practice The Art of Simply Being in Everyday Life

  • A good way to start is with simply breaking one of your normal routines.  Say you usually sit in a particular chair in your house or at work or you do things in a set order when getting ready in the morning etc. then just switch this up.  Sit in a different place or have your breakfast before you do your makeup for a change – it can be amazing what a change can be made from breaking away from your default pattern!
  • As soon as you wake up in the morning tell yourself, either out loud or in your head, that today is going to be a good day.  Say it a couple of times and use it as a positive mantra to show that you’re ready for whatever the day will bring.
  • Go for a walk and leave your headphones at home for a change.  Simply walk around and try to do nothing to experience the world around you.  You will be amazed by the different sights, sounds and smells that you usually completely miss.
  • Take a social media break for a day or leave your phone at home.  Or, if you can’t manage that then leave your television and laptop off for the night. Cutting yourself off from technology for a while can seem really daunting but its often one of the only ways we can truly experience the world around you and trust me, it feels great to get a bit of freedom from it!
  • Try out one of my favourite, basic mindfulness practices called the raisin meditation.  All you have to do is take a handful of raisins and a notebook and start by really studying one of the raisins.  Look at it’s physical appearance and write down what you find.  Then, think about the texture of the raisin and how it feels in your hand.  Finally, put the raisin in your mouth and, very slowly, bite into it and think about what it tastes like.  Write down the results and try again with the next one.  You will probably find that you’ve never truly tasted a raisin more and you’ll realise all the times you’ve absent-mindedly eaten things without even giving it a second thought…oh, and you can also do this meditation with chocolate if you want!
  • Each time something frustrating happens or you find yourself faced with a problem, stop for a minute, take a deep breath and think about it differently.  See it as a challenge that you have to overcome and use the minute to think how you can produce a more positive outcome from this situation, than if you had just acted straight away.  You may find that this is just the universe testing you, waiting to see how you are going to react.
  • A good time to practice being mindful is while cleaning your teeth.  You will find that you are so used to the activity that you’re mind will wander on to a number of different topics and you won’t even really pay attention to the brushing itself.  So, next time you brush your teeth don’t think about anything but the activity itself.  Notice the way the brush moves across the teeth and take your time to cover each and every one and see how the action feels.  There’s two great opportunities per day to be mindful without taking any time out of your day!
  • And this last tip is all my own and its very simple: get more sleep.  It is impossible to be completely present in your life if you can hardly keep your eyes open during it.  Simply being is not about coasting through your life, it is actually about being awake and aware and you can’t do this on four hours of sleep a night!

Resources Which May Help

  • The Headspace App, available on apple and android, is a really user-friendly app which allows you to do meditation practices anywhere.  It takes you right from the beginning and seems like a much more ‘acceptable’ way to clear your mind if you don’t feel ready to jump into the heavily spiritual stuff yet.  It gives you a ten session free trial and after that costs hardly anything for a full year subscription.  It’s a great tool and I would highly recommend it.
  • https://gabbybernstein.com/ – if you want to find out more about Gabrielle Bernstein and any of her books or products or are looking for more resources about this aspect of spiritual teaching then definitely check out her website.  She really is a great figure in this field although some of the things she talks about may be quite daunting for someone completely new to meditation or spirituality in general.  But if you’re open to it, I know this could be a real help.
  • Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, written by Mark Williams and Danny Penman – this book is where it all started for me and is really user-friendly.  You get a CD with the book which gives you some of the best mindfulness meditations that I have ever used and has a good number of chapters just talking about what mindfulness is and why it is useful and each week you get a set of different tasks to complete which makes it really simple to follow.  Only challenge you have to face with this one is fully committing, and staying fully committed for the entire eight weeks!

GOOD LUCK!

 

 

Orange Is No Longer The New Black

PLEASE NOTE:  THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS.

I am often overly critical in my analysis of films, television series and books and I know myself that I will always look for the problems and the parts I didn’t like before I start thinking of the positives.  I’m a pessimistic critic, and I accept that.  It is for this reason that I usually like to take a bit of time to process my thoughts before I actually write any reviews or give my opinions on things to make them more balanced however, after finally getting to the season finale of what was previously one of my favourite Netflix original series’, I already knew that my mind was well and truly made up about what I believe to be the downfall of Orange is the New Black.

Just like every other fan of the show, I was counting down the days to June 9th when Season 5 of the hit series would finally come out and we would be reunited with our favourite felons and the suspense would ultimately be over about what Dayanara chose to do with that gun.  However, as the episodes continued, I felt like something was missing.  The riot, which I assumed would end after, perhaps, a couple of episodes simply dragged on and on and I found myself losing interest pretty quickly as the plot became more convoluted and, at times, frankly ridiculous.

I didn’t like seeing Red lose the steely Russian stance she has always owned so well and end up with some crazy vendetta while on speed, I didn’t like how the first thing the inmates thought to do with the hostages was to unclothe them all and then – wait for it – make them take part in a talent show.  I didn’t like how everyone suddenly had smartphones and access to the outside world and I didn’t like how Maritza and Flaca became ‘Youtube famous,’ and completely lost their ability to make snappy one-liners. I felt like all of the plot lines used were just very obvious and forced and it cheapened the humour of the show no end.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, Orange is the New Black has always been ridiculous, but it’s been ridiculous in a way which is shocking and out there and makes you wonder how they got away with it.  But in season 5 the humour is really tacky a lot of the time and makes it seem like the writers have just run out of ideas.  None of the jokes or antics have anything on Crazy Eyes singing ‘chocolate and vanilla swirl’ or Doggett finally getting new teeth and I can’t think of a single time I really sat back and laughed while watching this new season at all.

I guess I should have seen this coming.  The show has slowly been becoming much more serious and dark than it’s former humorous days and that was ok because I cried like a baby when Poussey died and hailed the show as a success (despite standing by the opinion that season one and two are undoubtedly the best) because it still made me feel something.  But, and I really, really hate to say it, I kind of ended up not caring whether any of the inmates had their demands met at the end of the riot, and I may have even stopped caring about what happened to the prisoners themselves.  Not only was the humour gone but the sentimentality was too and the relationships became less endearing with every empty phrase or stupid decision that people made.

And one thing that I have loved about Orange is the New Black in the past is their frequent flashback sequences, which gave us a clear insight into why each individual found themselves in prison, and, for a lot of them, made us see them as human and oddly justified in what they did.  But although there remained flashback sequences, the ones we did see, such as that of Tastyee meeting her birth mother and Daya as a teenager getting advice from Aleida, were a bit misguided and didn’t really fit for me with those we had seen in the past for the same characters.  There was also a flashback about Alison Abdullah which I found quite gripping to begin with but then the back story just seemed to stop and I was left wondering what the whole point of showing us anything was.  The one saving grace for this season’s flashback sequences was that of Piscatella’s secret relationship with a former inmate in his past career as this seemed to be a nod to the old format and gave me a profound sense of feeling for a character which was few and far between in other parts of the show.

For me though, maybe the whole problem was the basis of the season altogether because the riot meant that we were watching the characters as free women, in a sense.  They no longer had to stick to routines, go to work, sneak around, deal with staff or anything which, in my opinion, has made Orange is the New Black so popular in the first place.  I don’t know about anyone else but when I watch a show where the whole basis is watching the mishaps of women serving time in a correctional facility, I don’t think it really works if they are all free women with free rein of the place.  Hell, that’s just some folk sitting around in a confined space!  It’s funny really, because my Mum is just starting the series herself and so I re-watched the first ever episode last week and I couldn’t get over how much I missed that part of the show.  Mr Healy and Mendez, Bennett and O’Neil…for me they were just as much a part of the show as Piper is and they really made those first few seasons the wonderful things they are now, but, not only are they gone but there was no sense of order at all and it was just as chaotic watching the show as the prison riot itself.

For me, order was restored way too late and in way too unconvincing circumstances and I for one have been left bitterly disappointed by this half baked concoction of cheesy humour and obvious antics.  I want passion, I want good, untasteful humour, I want scandal and betrayal, I want steamy relationships and criminal plans but most of all, I want the old Litchfield back.  In this case, I think Ill be sticking to my little black dress over an orange jumpsuit any day.

Featured image is not my own.  It is copied from: https://womensvoicesforchange.org/the-pros-and-cons-of-orange-is-the-new-black.htm

 

The How, What and Where of Barcelona

My Mum and I love going on city breaks.  It all started a couple of years ago when we decided to spend a long weekend in New York for my Mum’s birthday with the rest of the family and the concept was even more of a success for the two of us when we left my brother and Dad behind last year and headed off to Paris for my eighteenth.  The weather may have been terrible from start to finish during our Parisian adventure but it had been such a good laugh and a chance for us to spend such good quality time with one another we booked up to go to Barcelona at the end of May this year, with hopes for better weather but just as good experiences.

Barcelona is a vibrant, incredibly diverse and architecturally stunning city with lots to offer any tourist.  From the beach and the historical buildings, to the shops and the sangria – the city really seems to be becoming the location of the moment and, due to this,  I thought I would share my thoughts on HOW to get around and plan your trip to gain maximum success, WHAT to go and see while in Barcelona and WHERE to eat and drink while there.  All of my recommendations are based on my own experiences over our jam-packed four days and so can’t possibly give the full extent of what Barcelona has to offer, but if there’s one thing My Mum and I do well, it is seeing as much of a city in one weekend as is humanly possible.

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HOW

First things first, getting from the airport into the heart of Barcelona really has only one cheap but sensible option, the Aerobus, which stops very near to the airport exit.  It only costs around $5,90 pp. as opposed to a taxi which could cost as much as $35-40!  A great money saver and the bus stops in four locations throughout the city, terminating in the most popular destination of the Placa de Catalunya, between La Rambla and the main shopping street, Passeig de Grácia.  Staying in and around the Plaςa de Catalunya will also make it easier when travelling to other destinations because, excluding the attraction, Park Güell, everything else you will want to do or see is pretty much within walking distance and the whole area has a great feel to it.  If you do find yourself needing a taxi however, you will have no trouble getting one as Barcelona has one of the highest taxi to population ratios in the world – even more than New York!

We stayed at The Catalonia Hotel just a five minute walk from the Plaça de Catalunya and I personally couldn’t fault it – great breakfast, beautiful rooftop terrace with plunge pool, free wine and basic tapas in the afternoon – what more could you ask for?!  The price tag for this particular accommodation was quite high however, and I’m not sure its always worth spending so much on a hotel on a city break because you will often find that you don’t spend much time there.  So, when picking somewhere to stay this could be something to consider.

As for exploring the city itself, I am always a great believer that walking around and just getting a proper feel of the surroundings is the best way to truly experience it all.  You will often find a number of things that you never would have found if you had taken a taxi or a bus or any other mode of transport and, with Barcelona, this is no different.  What I will recommend however, are two particular tours my Mum and I took which really enhanced our ability to see the city in new and exciting ways.

The tours were booked through Viator, an online tour company run by TripAdvisor and the first was a bus tour on our first night which took us around the beach area and then up through Montjuic to the castle where you are able to view the Magic Fountain Show, which is put on every Saturday night only – perhaps something to consider when IMG_1015.JPGbooking your trip!  The Magic Fountain Show itself was an amazing start to our holiday because from the moment ‘Barcelona’ by Freddie Mercury began to play and the fountains began to dance, the atmosphere of the place was breath-taking, and it only became more and more magical as the sun went down and the lights came on.  It really is a must-see, and that’s even before we mention the beauty of the castle itself!

Our second tour, also booked through Viator, was possibly my highlight of the entire trip which was the Segway tour that I forced my Mum to do with me on the morning of our second day.  The tour was organised by the company Barcelona Segway Fun and our IMG_1054.JPGtour guide David made the experience even more enjoyable with his very easy-going and pleasant manner and his helpful information about the sights we saw – which included the beach and harbour area, the Arc de Triompf, the Parc de la Ciutadella among much more. Honestly, it is one of the most fun experiences I have ever had on holiday and even my Mum loved the Segway by the end!  All I can say is if you don’t do this tour then you are missing out big style, because it’s a great way to see many sights you may otherwise miss out.

 WHAT

When it comes to attractions and must-see’s in Barcelona there is really only one truly IMG_1115.JPGobvious sight:  the world-famous Sagrada Familia.  Designed by Antoni Gaudi and still under construction even today, it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever visited and I can completely understand why so many tourists flock here.  I would really take your time while studying the two finished exteriors and the roof of the church in particular (not that you can really help yourself) because the extreme detailing is amazing and, I do think its worth booking to go up one of the two currently finished towers, because the views from the top are really something.  What I will say though, is that the Sagrada Familia is just as busy as you believe it to be and, if you don’t book entry in advance then you are unlikely to make it inside – so please book online first!

And, to give you some prior warning before you book up to visit Barcelona, if you don’t IMG_0991.JPGlike the architecture and art of Antoni Gaudi, then just don’t bother because he crops up everywhere.  Luckily I’m a fan but even I was slightly fed up of hearing his name by the time I returned home as I visited three other Gaudi sights during my stay.  The first was the Casa Battló, a house within walking distance of the Plaça de Catalunya, which takes on an underwater or skeletal theme, depending on which way you look at it, and I have to say I was very impressed with this building.  It is incredibly beautiful both in exterior and interior qualities and I believe it is just as much a must-see as the Sagrada Familia itself, so do make some time for this.

I cannot say however, that all of Gaudi’s architectural buildings are as worth visiting because after booking a night tour quite last minute of The Pedrera, an apartment building designed by the man himself, I was left highly disappointed with the experience.  Yes, it’s pretty as apartment buildings go but it is just that – an apartment building.  I kind of felt they were just spinning out the Gaudi name to make some extra profit and honestly, I would probably miss out this particular site from your visit because it just didn’t give me the wow factor of the previous two.

After the disappointment of The Pedrera, we did however, still decide to travel to Park Güell, a public park area also designed by Gaudi, and the park itself was lovely for a relaxed walk however, we unfortunately fell victim to the mistake of not pre-booking so we were unable to fully enter into the ‘Monumental Zone’ where a number of Gaudi’s most impressive mosaics and colourful sculptures are placed – so once again book in advance!  Still, the free part of the gardens themselves have a lovely atmosphere and would be a great stop for a picnic, if you have the time.

And, if you’ve finally had enough of Gaudi there is still a number of non-related things to fill the rest of your time with!  I would recommend just having a walk down La Rambla and into the Plaça Reale, which is not only really beautiful but has a lot of restaurants and bars, which might be of interest to you.  Unfortunately we didn’t explore this area until near the end of our trip so didn’t get a chance to try out any of the places around here but this was really the place where I felt most like I was in ‘Barcelona’ and La Rambla is definitely the best place to go if you want fresh fruit, churros or ice cream.  I would perhaps avoid this street at night though if you don’t want hassled to go to the night clubs in Barcelona which, if you’re on holiday with your Mum like I was, you probably won’t be interested in, as there are a lot of PR’s going around.

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So finally, and one of the last sights we visited during our trip, was the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, or, as it is otherwise known, Barcelona Cathedral.  I sometimes think this is a place which is often overlooked simply because of the beauty and popularity of the Sagrada Familia but this is still a stunning building to see and was very much more what you would expect from a religious building in terms of atmosphere and peace and it is also free to enter, with only donations being suggested, which is good for those on a strict budget.  Do remember to cover up a bit better for this sight however, as strappy tops and short skirts/shorts are prohibited here.

WHERE

And so my final, but often most important, section is related to the good (and bad) places my Mum and I found to eat and drink while on our travels and the place I feel I have to mention first is the vegetarian/vegan haven just off the Plaça de Catalyuna which is WokiIMG_1179.JPG Organic Market.  My mum, and all other meat-eaters, will not understand the euphoria which came across me when I realised I didn’t have to put up with any more cheese and tomato and had found a place where I could not only get fresh vegetables and exciting meals but I was also sure that my vegetarianism would be understood – it was brilliant!  Woki serves a lot of diverse dishes but have a fully vegan menu and make a range of gluten free options and cakes too.  It is open right through the day so would be good for a visit at any time and even people who are self-catering will be able to buy supplies as it doubles as an organic supermarket.  Can you tell that I really, really liked this place?

The second place that I ended up really liking was a small, café that we found on the last day, just round the corner from our hotel, called the Libreria Café (or Library café) and that’s pretty much all the description you need.  It’s situated in the upstairs of a bookshop and has a really peaceful and calm atmosphere and the staff are happy to make up a range of toasted rolls based on what you would like, as well as having a varied menu, fresh frittatas and pretty good looking cakes too.  It’s great for a quick bite between seeing the sights and could also be an option for dinner, as I think they serve more filling meals through the back of the café too.  And, you’re pretty much surrounded by books which will always earn them some brownie points with me.

As well as the Libreria Café, there does actually seem to be a lot of cute, independent bakeries in Barcelona which are really worth trying out.  Another one which I had recommended to me was the Hotel Praktik Bakery which I also found and thought looked like a really lovely place for a casual lunch.  The only reason I didn’t personally go here is because there was a lack of vegetarian sandwich fillings, although I’m sure they would be happy to make something up for you, on request.

This next one is going to sound like a bit of a strange recommendation since it is a supermarket but the Carrefour Market located on La Rambla is like no other supermarket I have ever visited.  They have a great selection of filled rolls and wraps, fresh smoothies and they even have separate stations where they serve sushi and freshly prepared stir-fry’s and noodle dishes.  It kind of left me wondering why supermarkets at home were so inferior in comparison but honestly, you have to see it to believe it.

The reason that I haven’t really mentioned a number of good restaurants for proper, sit down meals is because I wasn’t overly impressed with the two we did end up visiting.  One which my mum did enjoy however, was Margharita, an Italian restaurant located off a side street from the Passeig de Grácia.  They have a really good range of different pasta dishes and salads but I was left quite let down by the standard of their pizza, which, from an Italian restaurant, left me surprised.  Despite this, their rosé wine was very impressive, and if your that way inclined, it’s probably worth visiting just for that.

IMG_1183However, if a good rosé wine isn’t enough and you are looking solely for somewhere to get a good drink, and in my Mum and I’s case this means cocktails, then you’re probably going to come up with the name Dry Martini, which seems to rank pretty highly on a number of sources as being one of the oldest and best cocktail bars in Barcelona.  However, I am here to tell you that it’s probably not worth the bother of travelling there.  It’s quite fancy inside and looks like an old-fashioned speak-easy but it came over even a bit snobby to me and the cocktails were quite overpriced and the one both my Mum and I tried – The Amelie – wasn’t even that great.  It was highly alcoholic though, which was probably just a means to get you to forget about the price!  Perhaps give this one a miss and go get yourselves some sangria instead.

IMG_1187.JPGSo lastly, what better way to finish up my How, What and Where of Barcelona than with an excellent Gelateria recommendation in the heart of La Rambla.  We came across Amorino by accident while exploring this part of the city and was enticed to go inside by the beauty of the shop and the ice cream itself, housed just inside the door.  They have a great array of flavours and even have fully vegan certified sorbets which looked really good quality.  They also make the most beautiful displays on the cones and make them into the shape of flowers, with the option to add a mini macaroon to the top too, if you want one.  The flavours I tried were stracciatella, dolce du leche and chocolate hazelnut and honestly, for those few minutes, I was in heaven.  Its a lovely, lovely shop and will definitely satisfy any sweet craving.

So there you have it, my brief but hopefully interesting look into the beautiful and exciting city of Barcelona.  Whether you are there for a week or simply a few days, like my Mum and I were, you can not fail to be impressed by the beauty of each and every building and the number of great opportunities the city has.  I would love to go back and spend more time at the beach area, as well as finally getting in to see some of those famous Gaudi mosaics at Park Güell, but, perhaps for now, a Gaudi break is very much what I need.  Happy travelling folks!

 

Looking Back on First Year at University

It’s now been nearly two weeks since I moved out of student halls and back into what I guess I have come to know as ‘my old life.’  All the boxes have been unpacked and the memories of first year at university are starting to become just that – memories.  However, I don’t want to forget the year I have had quite yet and I don’t exactly feel like letting go so I thought that one last reflection on what has been one of the most miraculous, surprising and freeing years of my entire life was very much necessary.

From the moment I arrived at university and first set foot in my new halls last September I promised myself that I would give the student life my all.  For the past four years really, my life has felt as if it was on pause, unable to move forward through the struggles I encountered with anorexia, my mental health and just generally not fitting in and so what I really wanted, more than anything, was for this to be my chance to fully press the play button on life once again. And, I can honestly say that I have thrown myself into everything I could have done and pushed myself further than I would have ever thought possible, and I know that it is for these reasons that I am sitting here today feeling so entirely satisfied and happy with all I have achieved in the space of eight to nine months.

One thing that didn’t really satisfy me and one of the first things that I learnt after moving is the truth about Freshers week because before I left home I guess I saw it as a highly important time where new friendships would form and I would perhaps instantly be able to know whether I would achieve the fresh start that I so desperately longed for or not.  But the truth is that Freshers week, for the majority of the new student population, is simply a week where you feel incredibly ill and tired all the time but still also have a strong sense of guilt for every night you don’t go out and drink yourself into oblivion.  I know I got to the end of it and really just wondered what I had to show for it which was, let’s be honest, a few new acquaintances on my Snapchat and some seriously bad dark circles under my eyes.  But hey, it’s a lesson right?

And so Freshers week had not lived up to the hype and I have to admit I was a little worried that the rest of the university experience would be the same but luckily for me, over the next few weeks and months, I started to see just how amazing my life could be, providing I stopped obsessing over when and how things would change.  And, in the end, it was sort of an accumulation of a number of things that finally made me see how great I really had it.

I know for a fact that one of the things that ultimately made my time so worthwhile was flat 22 and everyone in it.  Student halls is definitely a bit of a lucky dip since no-one can truly know the people who will get on and those who won’t but for the majority of those I ended up living with, I now couldn’t imagine my life without them. Flat 22 became our little family – people to laugh with, cry with and generally IMG_0625.JPGmake an idiot of yourself with and for someone who had always tried to hide the embarrassing or weird parts of my personality, it was amazing just to be forced to be myself and realise that everyone has their quirks – which turned out to be the best part of it.  They say you never really know a person until you live with them and I am sure that when we meet again in September I will remember all the really annoying things about everyone but right now I am just so glad that I got the chance to get to know each and every one of my flatmates.

Another thing that has really made my experience of first year so special is the chance it gave me to restart my dancing again after having to stop nearly five years ago for medical reasons.  The Edinburgh Napier Dance Squad was, I have to admit, a little bit more of a daunting aspect to get involved with, and I know that a lot of people even scoff at or look down at sports and societies but honestly, it has been great for so many reasons.  I have met some amazing people, it has filled my schedule with something other than drunken nights out (although there was some of that too!) and it also Dance Show 2017.jpgmanaged to help me realise how much further I had to go in my anorexia recovery, which is something that I never could have foreseen it doing.  It was dancing that first made me aware of how unfit my lifestyle was making me and how tired I would get compared to everyone else and I also started to feel frustrated by the anxiety I felt about having to eat my tea so much later as a result of classes.  And so, along with a number of other factors, I really have dance to thank for how much more recovered I am now, compared to when I started university in September.  And I have a feeling that dance will become an even bigger part of my life in second year because I managed to secure a place as Social Secretary on the new committee.  The fact that people picked me for this role actually means more than anyone could know.

I guess that one of the last things I should probably mention though is the actual course itself which has been a bit of an up and down experience.  In trimester one I loved it.  English and film are two of my favourite things in the world and so getting to go in and study and talk about it really blew my mind for a while and the fact that I was only actually in for nine hours a week was very attractive too.  But I don’t know if it was because the novelty had worn off or because I failed to engage with the modules so much in the second trimester but for me, something felt off.  I kind of clawed it back at the end but I just seemed to see that there was a number of holes in what I was learning and I got seriously fed up of every single debate coming back to the theme of feminism.  However, it remains a subject I love and so for that reason I am going back next year with a positive outlook and the hope of re-engaging with the wonderful world of movies and books even more.  And I came away with merits for every module I took so it can’t all be bad!

But now I guess that’s it.  I would be here all day if I went into exact details or the countless numbers of specific events which has made my year such a rewarding experience but I need to remember that first year doesn’t have to be placed in a box and cut off as something which has passed because, as cheesy as it sounds, going away and living independently and being placed in such a different setting has actually made me realise much more who I am as an individual and has made me a much better person in the long run too.  Sure, I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things that I now really, really regret but what is first year for if not for making a few wrong turns now and again?  And, now that I can clean a bathroom, have taken a real interest in cooking and actually have to think about my finances, I guess you could say that I am sort of an adult after all this!  And for anyone nervous or unsure about taking this massive step in their lives, I can only urge them to take it.  Going to university has been the single best decision of my life and I am happy to announce that the play button on my life is well and truly back on, and I can’t wait to see what new adventures are just around the corner.IMG_0185.JPG