Saturday, 1 August 2015

Hello, August

Hello, August.

I feel like you’re going to be a great month this year.

I’m moving to London.

I’m starting my new job.

That’s two pretty huge things.

Exciting things.

I’ll be making new plans, new memories, settling into new routines.

Meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities, learning new things.

Exploring new places, visiting new attractions, taking in new sights.

Visiting old friends, meeting new ones.

Finding my feet in the Big City.

Swapping hourly trains for tubes travelling minutes apart.

Swapping a quiet town for a bustling city.


August, I’m excited.




Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Graduation: Two Years On

A few days ago (on 10th July), it was exactly two years since the day of my graduation ceremony. I studied English Literature at the University of York.

My Instagram and Twitter feeds at the moment are covered with proud pictures of new graduates, the latest group of people who have succeeded, and completed the next stage in their education.



It’s got me thinking back over that period, and over the three years which led up to that day, for me.

It’s a funny old thing, graduation.

There’s pride: you did it!

There’s excitement: many people see it as an important life stage. Plus you get a cap and gown.

There’s love: people are there with family and loved ones, and surrounded by their course mates.

And then these feelings are all mixed in with uncertainty.

How did I manage that?

What next?

Where now?

I have to LEAVE this place and these people?



For many that choose to go to university, it’s the next stage in a mapped-out process: primary school, high school, sixth form/college, degree. We know those next stages are coming, and a lot of comfort lies in those facts.

And after university? You either study for longer, or you get a job.

But in what? Where? How on earth do you choose where to start applying? And how do you let those employers know you’re exactly what they’re looking for?



For me, graduation was a funny old day because I didn’t enjoy the process of getting there. University was not ‘the best three years of my life’. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, I met some great people, and I did some great things.

But my overall university experience?

Nope.

Not a great one.

It was full of big realisations, and not all good ones. I left university a bit of a ‘shell’ of myself (my parents’ words) and then had a long way to go to build myself back up again.

The main point to this post is that graduation is a great day, and a day to be proud of yourself. But if you don’t feel like the happiest person in the universe, that’s ok. You’re embarking into a world full of possibilities. Your time to explore, and grow, and learn is only entering a new phase.

If you don’t have the next step perfectly planned, that’s ok. You’ve got time to figure it out.

And whether you’ve had the best three (or more) years of your life ever, or you’ve struggled along the way, the next stage has the potential to be even better.


Congratulations to the newest year of graduates, and good luck with what the coming years hold. From personal experience, things can keep getting better and better.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

23 Years, 23 Lessons.

On 7th July, I turned 23, and after an amazing week of enjoying my birthday, I’m feeling somewhat reflective. 

I’m planning, I’m thinking, I’m sorting through my thoughts. 

And whilst I process these thoughts, for today, here’s a list of some of the 23 ‘life lessons’ I feel I’ve learned over the last 23 years.


1. Real friendships take work, and effort to maintain.

2. Don’t be afraid to drift away from friendships that leave you feeling drained, or tired, or not valued.

3. You won’t always understand every decision those around you make… But if you care about them, support them.

4. Some people will have very different views to you on a whole range of things, and that’s ok.

5. The path that’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for you.

6. It’s ok not to have absolutely everything figured out. Most people don’t.

7. Work hard. It will pay off in the end.

8. Making mistakes is fine, as long as you learn from them.

9. Alone time is important. Don’t feel bad for taking a little time to just be ‘you’.

10. Eat right most of the time, and exercise at least a bit. You know you feel better for it.

11. Don’t kick yourself when things don’t happen exactly the way you planned them. Things are allowed to shift and change.

12. Even if the goal stays the same, there can be many alternative routes to get there.

13. Jealousy is rubbish, but we all feel it, especially in this social media world. Channel it into feeling pleased for people, then let it fuel your actions towards reaching your own goals.

14. Try not to compare yourself to everyone else too often. It can be absolutely exhausting.

15. Read. Novels, non-fiction, blogs, articles, newspapers. It’s one of the best ways to learn, open your eyes, and expand your horizons.

16. Say no. Sometimes. Know when you’re over-stretching yourself.

17. Say yes. Sometimes. Take chances and explore opportunities.

18. Anxiety is horrible, but you can get on top of it. I feel like a completely different person to the ‘Sophie’ of a year ago.

19. Be honest with yourself. How do you really feel? What do you really want?

20. Experiences are much more valuable than random objects. My favourite birthday moments this year were of doing things, not receiving things.

21. If you have an amazing family, or even just a pretty great one, recognise it and feel grateful. So many people aren’t lucky enough to have that.

22. Be excited. Look forward to things. Enjoy the moments when things feel ‘just right’. Those memories and plans keep you going when you wake up having a bit of a sad day.

23. Never underestimate the power of a text, or a phone call. Remembering someone had something coming up, or just checking in, can brighten their day.




Do you have any to add to my list?

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Reading List #28

It’s been a while, but this title can mean only one thing: it’s book time again. Here’s the latest wonderfully random selection I’ve been getting through…


The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey



In 1920s Alaska, Jack and Mabel are looking for a new start, but still haunted by the baby they lost ten years before. When a little girl appears on their land, they begin to question who she is, and whether they have room in their hearts to form new relationships.

This is a beautiful novel that reads like a fairytale. The concept of grief was explored in a very sensitive fashion, and I enjoyed being left with such an ambiguous ending.


I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes



This is an epic. There’s a murder in a Manhattan hotel. There’s a beheading in Saudi Arabia. And the list goes on, with one figure seeming to link them all.

Pilgrim is an intriguing character – you know both so much and so little about him. It’s a complex novel, with a lot of threads, and therefore takes some concentration, but Hayes knows exactly what he’s doing and never lets an element of the plot drift off into nothingness. This is a novel where I totally understand the ‘hype’ and I was really impressed.


The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer



After the death of his brother, this is Matt’s story of struggling with his mental health. And it is absolutely stunning. By far one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, Matt’s voice is so well sustained, and very chilling at times. Complicated family relationships are dealt with in Matt’s unique way, and I couldn’t stop reading.

The story jumps about in time, so you never quite know the full story at any one moment, and the book also plays with presentation. At times, there are single words spaced out across pages, and at other moments the black writing fades to a barely-there grey. These techniques only added to the complexity of Matt’s character, and I was really impressed.


Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman



Callum is a naught, and Sephy is a cross, so how long can they remain friends? I remember reading this book years ago, but my friend Jenny picked it up for the first time recently and I couldn’t resist a trip down memory lane.

A young adult novel, the prose is fairly straightforward, but that takes nothing away from the power of this book. The stark simplicity of the nought/cross distinction makes the events of the novel even more terrible. This novel makes you ask so many questions, and really holds up a mirror to society both now and in years gone by. I enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, the first time I gave it a read.



What’s the last book you borrowed or recommended? Do you often share recommendations with friends and family? 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Things my dad has taught me...

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m lucky enough to have a dad who I’m incredibly close to and has taught me an awful lot over the past 22 years!

Here’s a round-up of the top five:

1. Friends are important. My dad is probably one of the most sociable people I’ve ever come across, and it’s definitely from him that I’ve learned to give everyone time, and really get to know them. He has so many close friends, some from school, from university, from various jobs, from playing sports… He’s always busy, always socialising, and having such a wide group of friends allows him to enjoy all the different things he loves, with great groups of people.

2. Listening has its place. Fitting in neatly with the friendship theme, my dad often finds himself in a bit of an ‘agony uncle’ position. There’s something about his open nature that lets people know they can trust him, and over the years friends have spoken to him for hours on end about all sorts of things, be it their health, family lives, marriages, or work situations. I find it really inspiring that so many people see him as someone they know will lend a sympathetic ear, and they trust him for sound advice.

3. But don’t lose yourself.  Another trait I’ve inherited from my dad is that we ‘invest in people’. That is, if we have a friend, or build a relationship with someone new, we always want to see the best in them. Which is a brilliant thing – but sometimes people don’t deserve the pedestal you put them on. People can take advantage of someone who will forgive again and again, and tell themselves that ‘next time they won’t let me down’.  This one has definitely led to some tears over the years, as I take situations to heart that many people may just let pass them by. But I wouldn’t trade that away, because it’s worth wearing my heart on my sleeve a bit when I look at the real friendships I have around me.

4. There’s always time for a sneaky theatre trip. Dad is a massive theatre fan (and an avid Shakespeare fan, in particular), and so growing up I’ve been lucky enough to see an awful lot of incredible shows. From Wicked last week, to Derek Jacobi as King Lear, to a dance production of Othello, to a stunning adaptation of Greek play Orestes, we love our theatre outings, and I’m looking forward to our next chapter of theatre trips once I’ve moved to London!

5. Work hard. Dad set up his company very soon after I was born, so I’ve grown up seeing him progress and grow and keep learning. I’ve seen him secure amazing clients, and feel down when there’s a slow month, and get up at 5am to finish off that report that’s come in at the same time as ten other things. Working for my dad for just over a year after graduating gave me even more of an insight into both the ups and downs of his working life, seeing exactly the work that goes into what he does day-to-day, and the effort that goes into making sure every client is treated in the best possible way. The lessons I learned in that period will always be ones I carry forward.



So there we have it, five lessons from a top, top dad. Barrie, you’re brilliant J

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

State of Limbo

I was in the strangest of moods last night.

I had excess energy in my body that I could almost feel waiting in my limbs. Like a physical presence, making me feel like I needed to do something big to get it out.

I felt on high alert, or on edge, or like I was waiting for something, when nothing was about to come.

It’s a feeling I’ve not felt in a pretty long time, months and months in fact.

And I wanted to write it down as a reminder of progression, of moving forward, and of changing.

Because that feeling was a part of me almost 24 hours a day about 2 years ago. I’ve mentioned my anxiety on here before, but only a mention, as I didn’t (and still don’t) feel in a position where I’m ready to talk about the whole thing. I’m still here only talking about moments.

But let me return to last night. It was a mixed-up bundle of feelings. I’m in a state of limbo. There is so much uncertainty, but it is leading to so much excitement.

I’m looking for a job. I’m looking for somewhere to live. I’m moving to London.

The potential lying ahead is making me beyond excited, yet none of it yet has a fixed date. I can’t plan exact dates, or set anything in concrete because I don’t quite know yet where the walls will be built, exactly how my new foundations will be laid.

And that mixture of anxiety, anticipation and excitement is an interesting concoction.

About 1-2 years ago I didn’t get on public transport. I dreaded dinners out with friends. I went through a period where I ate barely anything, and what I did eat took me ages, and I didn’t eat it ‘properly’. I struggled with not knowing exact times things were happening, and I panicked if plans moved by 20 minutes. It took over, and learning to overcome those feelings has been an incredibly long journey, and one I am still walking.

Last night highlighted another massive turning point in that process. I’d had one of those days where I felt like everything was up in the air, and there were a thousand thoughts of equally high priority on my mind. That energy coursed through my veins, I needed to release those feelings of anticipation and emotion.

And did I panic?

No.

I laughed. I talked about it, and I laughed.

I acknowledged where those feelings were coming from, and I acknowledged that  I knew how to deal with them.

To an extent, some of these feelings will always be with me, and I know now that that’s ok. I have learned so much about myself, and I’m at a point where I’m ready to accept so many new challenges in full knowledge that I can meet them, enjoy them, and do things that the ‘me’ of a year or so ago, or even the younger version of me, could never have imagined were even possibilities.


And I’m excited.


Monday, 1 June 2015

Brave?

‘You’re so brave’

'Now's the time to do it!'

‘That’s so exciting’

‘Do you know what you’re going to do?’

These four phrases have been repeated at me on a loop for the past few weeks.  I guess you could say I’ve made a couple of ‘BIG DECISIONS’.

I’ve left my job, and I’m moving to London.


 I don’t know where I’ll live yet. And I don’t have a job yet. Those things are TBC. They’re works in progress. Determining their answers is the purpose of the next couple of weeks.

I’ve never really put myself in a position before where I don’t know precisely what is coming next. I take a lot of comfort from having plans, from having dates in the diary and concrete goals I know I can achieve.

I didn’t take a gap year. I’ve not been travelling. I feel like I’ve always followed a very safe route, and done what I expected myself to do.

But recently I’ve realised those goals were goals I created a few years ago, and actually those goals have changed.  My overall aims and goals are the same, but I've learned that the path to get there is flexible.

I’m ready to be somewhere totally new, and start the next chapter.

So this is Day One. Satisfyingly, it’s also a new week, and a new month, and I’ve woken up in a mood where I feel  like anything is possible.


Image from www.cutepict.com

Any tips on the Big City will be much appreciated!


Happy Monday, Happy June, and have a wonderful day J
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