Sunday, 30 August 2015

Living for the Future

Are we too focused on living for the future and missing out on the here and now?

This was a question posed within Paper Towns and it got me thinking. At school teachers constantly communicate the message that you are working towards getting good grades to get into sixth form or college and then on to university. While you are studying at university you are thinking ahead to getting good grades again, this time to get a good job post qualifying.

I'm guilty of looking forward and at times wishing my life away. When I was younger I remember thinking, I wish I was older so I could do this or that. I have always planned for the future through setting goals and having ideas of what I want to accomplish. I'm not sure there is a problem with planning for and working towards the future. However, I think the problem comes when you are so focused on the future that you are not present and are at risk of missing out on special everyday moments that our lives are made up of. Again, I could also be guilty of this, this is evident at the moment, having recently finished university and started a new job I am already thinking what now.

I'm not sure that it would be physically possible for me to start anything new at the moment, as I'm still learning all about my new job and don't get home most nights until 6.30, 7. Simple tasks just to look after myself are an effort because I am so tired. Plus I haven't even graduated yet so really that chapter in my life has not reached its conclusion.

I sometimes find it difficult to appreciate the simple everyday moments that get us from one day to the next. I seem to have a need to fill any gaps in my life and feel as though I am moving forward, working towards something. Another big part of my need is to feel as though I have a purpose, that I am doing something worthwhile and therefore I am worthwhile.

I want to be more present and mindful, to value and enjoy it. I realise that this is something that will not happen overnight. I guess it could be my new goal. Like any new skill it needs to be practiced, so taking inspiration from posts about gratitude journals I am going to begin something very similar. To try and become more aware and appreciative of everyday simple pleasures I am going to reflect daily and write down at least one positive thing, hopefully there will be more than one but we'll have to see. I think it's easy to take those moments for granted and miss them occasionally.

There is so much in this world to be grateful for...I choose to look at the good things
Image from Pinterest

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Perfect Weekend

Being back in full time employment and no longer a student has meant that the weekends are precious and much needed time off. I thought I would dedicate a post to what my perfect weekend would entail. Unfortunately, all of the things I would like to do in a weekend do not often fit into two days, or if they do I would be shattered all of the following week. So with that in mind, my perfect weekend would be at least 3 days.
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I like to start the day with a coffee, a view like this would be amazing

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I like to spend time with friends and family, catching up, drinking more coffee and eating nice food

Exploring new places, re-visiting old ones, enjoying the fresh air

Taking photos

Taking time out and watching a film at the cinema

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Having some me time, a ridiculously long shower, candles and catching up on my recorded tv programmes

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Having an early night and snuggle up with a book

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Being inspired to write

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Influences & Identity

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Whenever I'm asked about myself I often end up talking about my work and what I do; either paid, voluntary or with my family. I have very strong family values and I am lucky enough to come from one that enjoys spending time together, who look out for each other and are there for each other. I know that if I got myself into a bad situation that my family would do all they could to help me out and I am extremely grateful because I am aware that there are people out there who do not have that level of support due to various reasons.

In return, I like to think that I do as much as I can for members of my family. I often pop round to my Nan's for a coffee, sometimes take her out for a push in her wheelchair or into town. I also regularly look after my Grandad for periods of time. Why do I do these things? It is partly because I feel strongly that it is something I should do, that family should look out for each other but I also enjoy doing it, I love spending time with my family.

My work is also important to me and who I am. I like to help others; whether it is through donations, volunteering or paid employment. I feel strongly about individuals who have disabilities, their independence and quality of support they receive. Perhaps I have these feelings because I have grown up with my Grandad having a disability I am not sure. I haven't been able to do any voluntary work in the last 12 months but it is something I want to get back into.

Lastly, I thought I would share some films that I have found influential and inspiring.

Inside I'm Dancing 

Image from Google
For those of you who haven't seen it, this film reflects the change in thinking and policy around how disabled people should live and be supported. It follows the main character, Rory, advocate for his right to receive a budget to enable him to live independently instead of in an institution. It see's him fight to live how he wants to live, which seems a strange concept when many of us do this without it being questioned or limited.

The Blind Side

Image from Google
I just think this film is amazing, the trailer alone is enough to bring tears to my eyes. It's all about one woman offering a teenager a place to spend the night when she suspects he has no where else to go and ending up with him becoming part of the family and a professional football player. For me, this film shows non-judgement, acceptance, opportunity and the importance of family. Before seeing the film I had an interest in fostering and adoption but this film intensified my feelings of wanting to support children who need foster or adoptive families.


Image from Google
If you've read previous posts you will know that I lost someone very close to me last year. Wild follows a young woman who lost her mum at a young age and in response to her grief goes 'off the rails', using drugs and being unfaithful leading to the breakdown of her marriage. She becomes a person she does not like, that her mother would not be proud of and decides to find her way back to the person she was. She does this by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. I think it's a great film about loss, strength, courage and personal growth.

While We're Young

Image from Google
This is the most recent film I have watched and found inspiring. It is about a forty something couple meeting a twenty something couple, it's about living life and made me want to be creative. But, my favourite part was a speech toward the end of the film about documentaries telling a story, being educational and honest. At the time I was writing my dissertation and the speech fitted with what we had been taught around integrity and ethics behind research. It inspired me to go away and write something informative, interesting and honest which I tried to do to the best of my ability.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

What I'm Reading: Paper Towns

Image from Google

Who are we?

Are we something to other people but not to ourselves?

Has what makes us us come from within or from others and their impositions and influences?

These are some of the questions the author of Paper Towns, John Green, asks. The book explores a number of concepts and themes that are interwoven within the book such as; gender, identity and finding your place within society. One of the main themes throughout the book explores the character of Margo and relates to the second question above. It appears that Margo is a popular, outgoing, rebellious person to those that know her, however, as the story develops you discover who Margo really is, someone completely different.

What really stuck out for me was the concept of accepting people for who they are, not who you think they are or who you want them to be. I think this can relate to expecting others (friends, family members, colleagues) to have the same viewpoints as you, to want the same things. In recent years, I have had to accept that my friends want to put time into their relationships and that there isn't always time or money to also do things like trips and holidays with me. I can easily take things the wrong way and struggle to see why they wouldn't want to squeeze in a girly weekend away, we have fun and I want to spend time with them. Recently, however, I think I have been a bit more grown up about it, I understand that relationships are important and know that I am the same when I am in one. I need to accept the balance and take the time I can find to get together and compromise on the things we do. Our friendship is of more value than arguing over things that are not really important. Being the only single one amongst my friends means that I need to find things I enjoy doing alone sometimes so that I don't spend all my time hiding away, not doing anything when my friends are busy with their own lives. Hence the solo road trip earlier this year.

In terms of who I am and what influences that, I guess I'm still figuring that out, still growing and changing. One of my biggest role models as a teenager was Angelina Jolie; her humanitarian work and her adoption of Maddox as a single woman. I think my choice of career, within the health and social field, has definitely been guided from within. I've followed my feelings, my need to find a job where I feel worthwhile, where I can make a difference. People are motivated by a number of reasons; their values, political ideologies, money, power whose to say what are right or wrong motivations for doing something. I think it's all about perspective and we have to take the time to consider all of them before jumping to conclusions and possibly the wrong ones.

I've seen the trailer for the film Paper Towns and can't decide whether or not to go and watch it when it comes out. I quite enjoy watching films when I've read the book, to see if I discover something new and to see what has been changed. I can't do it the other way though, I struggle to read the book if I've already seen the film. What are your thoughts on watching films if you've already read the book or the other way around?

Sunday, 2 August 2015


About an hour ago I slotted the key into my front door and hauled my suitcase in behind me for the last time this weekend. Arriving home after three days in Amsterdam. A friend suggested going away a few months ago and we got around the booking the trip about a month ago which is all very last minute for me. A few words to describe me would definitely include planned and organised but I would love to be more spontaneous. Feeling unprepared for something causes me to feel anxious and this trip was very unplanned. Due to the stresses of starting and learning a new job I didn't make time to research the trip at all, my research was limited to asking people who I knew had been before. I do think it's helpful to ask friends who have been to places previously because they can sometimes give you a more realistic view than the guidebooks. Although this may not be very helpful if you are interested in different things.

For me the benefits of my trip began as soon as I left work Thursday evening. I was able to place all my work stress into a box and leave it there for the weekend. Usually, I find I am not able to do this as well over the weekends when I am at home, I spend the time off thinking about what I didn't manage to get done and what I need to do the following week. Knowing I was going away felt like I had permission to leave everything behind and just enjoy the present. And I got the Friday feeling a few hours early!
My trip officially began at 3.30 am Friday morning when my friend arrived at my house and we made our way to the airport. I haven't flown for a few years and only remembered just in time about liquids in the hand luggage needing to be a certain size and in a clear plastic bag, I didn't realise I was only allowed to fill 1 bag, so things had to be re-jigged before we left. I did remember, however, that I could only take 1 bag onto the plane so I made sure my handbag could also fit into my hand luggage case. When we arrived at the airport we went through security, as my friend had already checked us in online, and through the other side to get bottled water and a coffee for the flight. Thinking we a lot of time we took our time until we realised it was 6.30, the same time our gate was due to close! After a mad dash to our gate and cramming our handbags into our main suitcase we were informed that there was no room left for hand luggage on the aircraft so it would have to go in the hold and we were asked to take out anything we needed for the flight (everything we had just crammed in from our handbags). After this start to the trip we enjoyed an easy, short flight to our destination.

Our flight was at 7 am, it was only an hour long and the time difference in Amsterdam is an hour ahead to we landed around 9 am but it felt more like lunchtime. We were warned about the cost of getting a taxi from the airport to our hotel but decided we would rather be taken to our hotel to begin with and then we would figure out how to get around from there. Luckily, we met a taxi driver who guaranteed us a price of 45 Euros for the 30 minute journey, when we arrived the metre said it should have cost closer to 80. We entered the hotel to ask whether we could leave our luggage somewhere safe as check in was not until 3 pm, pleasantly we were told that our room would be ready in 20 minutes so we ordered a coffee and made a plan for the day.

Image from Google
I really liked the building, it was an old orphanage, so although it was quite dark, which has been continued through the current decoration, it had character and was different to more modern hotels. I also love old buildings that are decorated in a modern way inside which this hotel did. A few things that weren't quite so great were the steep steps in the room to get up to the bed, the broken fridge door that came off in my friends hand when she went to open it to store and cool our bottled water and the small fire we were notified about by a member of staff and a letter apologizing for any inconvenience caused when the hotel had to be evacuated earlier in the day (this was when we returned Friday evening).

Traffic is also crazy over there, not only was the traffic coming in different directions (on different sides of the road) but there are cyclists and trams to watch out for! I was quite surprised how busy Amsterdam was, I think I had a mental image of the city being quite laid back and less busy. Even where we were staying, which was a 15-20 minute tram ride from the centre, there was quite a bit of traffic and people, seemingly in a hurry, on bikes. My favourite mode of transport was the hop on and off canal tour boats. Cruising along the canals was laid back, peaceful and relaxing and we found it was a great way to get our bearings and get around the city, although not a great way to travel if you have to be anywhere at a certain time or if you need to get anywhere quickly.

I found the city very picturesque and as I mentioned above I loved how it brings old and new together. The tree lined canals that are home to a number of houseboats and bordered by traditional slim, tall learning houses. The variety of bridges, often filled with bicycles lent against the railings. Very much the way I imagined it to be. Then you head towards the docks and there are the more modern buildings, different use of shapes, of colour and concrete.

I think Amsterdam is a great city and has something for everyone. It is steeped in history and culture and is very diverse. Gay Pride celebrations were concluding this weekend with a parade on Saturday along the canals (seemed very much like a carnival on water), the positive energy it created felt great to be around and be part of. Our trip ended on a positive note as we successfully made our way back to the airport after navigating the trams and catching a train when neither one of us is any good at using public transport.