the small things

9 February 2021

I miss the people who were my unspoken friends. The smiles and gentle nods we would share when seeing each other across a lecture hall, in a seminar together once in first year and now always a friendly, distant face to see. I miss the little bonds of friendship, walking out of a seminar together and exchanging a few words; about the texts we just read and plans for the weekends, saying goodbye until next week. Now when I see somebody I recognise from a seminar there is no hello, as we have only met virtually. How can we be sure this is the same person as the pixelated face we see on screen each week? Surely they are not that tall in real life? I miss going to the library and seeing the same people, knowing their spots and wondering if they consider me their library friend as well. I miss seeing the same people around campus and forging momentary friendships that would be forgotten until I saw them again when we would exchange a quick smile, never words, but an acknowledgement of our routines making us cross paths every week. I miss the people who I would only ever speak to drunk in the smoking area, and when bumping into one another on campus only a small hello would be said. 

The brief interactions that amounted to small friendships in my mind were not something I thought I would miss so greatly. I knew I would miss going to clubs and pubs, that I would miss chatting shit with a strangers at parties, forgetting their name the next day but remembering that they were definitely fanciable. I knew I would long for the days I could ask my friends if they were on campus and to meet for lunch, that I would miss spontaneous trips to cafes with course friends who I rarely saw. I did not anticipate missing the small things so much though. It may be naivety, or simply an attempt to live a more positive life, but to me university has always been a friendly community of struggling students. We share smiles and nods because the work load is tough and we don’t know what other people are going through. On campus we can rely on the friendliness of one another; at the library we could ask to borrow a pen or a charger, if you borrow a lighter off someone you can have small talk too if you want, you can ask others where their clothes are from, compliment their style and their hair without knowing one another. But now those acts of community are gone and it makes me sad. I am sad that my final year of university has changed so much in ways that I didn’t anticipate. I have wonderful friends but I miss the false friendships, the small relationships that may have meant nothing to the other party but to me were a staple of university life. 

I am lucky that my University and particularly my department of study have done so much to ensure students do not miss out on so much of the University life. I am grateful that even through lockdown we have been able to go to the library, even though no amount of online remedies seem to stop my mask from fogging up my glasses, I am grateful that I get to live with my friends. But I just never anticipated how much I would miss the small things, or how much I would regret not savouring the small moments of friendship more. 

good things to remember for ever and more

28 December 2020

It is not uncommon for me to become attatched to certain quotes, but recently I have found myself relying on two quotes more than others. Niether are particuarly profound, and they may mean nothing to some, but they hold meanings that changed my perception of the world for the better and I believe that to others they may hold the same great resonance that they do for myself. (and what a better time to have some inspirational quotes than on the brink of a new year!)

postcard from here

'Well, maybe we should try not to understand so much, and accept some more' -Matt Haig, The Humans.

I think the attempt to understand everything is to make everything seem a little easier. Hardships appear better when the mechanics are understood, crises seem more bearable when the root problem can be identified, but when has life ever been so simple? Some things should be understood. Understanding emotions can help us better identify triggers, learning how the covid-19 vaccine works provides great reassurance, and I am sure there are a million more things that make life easier when they are understood. But many aspects of life are nothing more than abstractions. They appear and happen and are felt for reasons that can not always be understood and interpreting the reasonings behind such things can only get us so far. As much as some things are simply not able to be understood, sometimes they are not meant for us to understand. Many times this year, I have tried too hard to understand things that are actually impossible to understand, and I have caused myself more grief than neccessary by dwelling on why some things have happened. I forgot the bliss and learnings that can come simply from accepting things. Like I said, life is full of abstractions, emotions and motivations do not hold a physical embodiment so trying to understand them is not always possible. When we come to accept more and understand less, I think life can become a little lighter. It becomes easier to learn from things as we have accepted that the only thing we are able to control and understand is how we react and grow from some happenings. Not everything in life needs to be, or can be understood and attempting to accept more and understand less is probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves.

‘I occasionally experience myself as a cluster of flowing currents…[which]...require no reconciling, no harmonizing… I prefer this to the idea of a solid self, the identity to which so many attach so much significance’ - Edwaird Said, Out of Place: A Memoir 

This has slightly been taken out of context in the way I have come to deeply appreciate it. I first heard it in a lecture about the impact of colonialism on forming an identity and how it affects one's ability to rely on a stable sense of self. This is not to diminish the importance this quote has in postcolonial studies, but I also believe it has great resonance for those experiencing mental health difficulties. Often, when struggling with my own mental health I felt like I was constantly trying to return to being ‘the real me’, but how detrimental it was of myself to view the non-suffering me as the blueprint of my existence. I failed to see the problems of trying to return to a way of being, but this quote helped me to realise that identity is not a stable entity. There can not be a past self to return to because the self is not stable and fixed but instead is a ‘cluster of flowing currents’ that do not always fit together, that do not always make sense, that can never be returned to because the things that make us who we are continuously change. To think of myself as a fluid identity rather than a solid self makes it easier to accept my own adaptability, it makes sense because I am an accumulation of happenings, I cannot return to a way I used to be because that part of my existence never left, it simply changed slightly. I once read something that described our souls as animating the bodies we live in, and what a perfect way of describing it. We animate our bodies, we provide it with action and give it a life; our souls are not stagnant things in our bodies, nor does our soul separate  inside of us, therefore there is nothing ever to return to, no part of us ever gets lost. We are animated, we are moving, we are living, so we should never cause ourselves sorrow by wanting to return to a past self, because the past self is our current and future self. 

So, I hope these quotes provide you with some reassurance and hopefully they help you through tough times like they have myself. With all that being said, here is a final quote to remember : ‘you can get through anything, one day at a time’

musings : body positivity on social media & body acceptance

18 October 2020

In the media, there are accounts dedicated to positivity where attention is always drawn to the hosts imperfections, or accounts with a big following will intermittently do posts that highlights a part of their body which society has regarded as 'not beautiful'. There are women in crop tops who grab there rolls, who write lengthy captions about how they don’t care about their cellulite. There seems to be a long way to go until people can simply ~be~, where photographs that aren’t completely posed will be posted without a caption that gives reason as to why you can see a stomach roll. I also fall victim to it, but it also feels a bit damaging, or slightly, I dont know, less positive? I am sure there are big accounts that post photos of a chubby body/ body with scars etc without a lengthy caption to accompany it, or without reasoning behind such acceptance, but at the moment it feels like publicsed bodily ‘imperfections’ has to be in conjunction with a reason- a reason of showing that such imperfections are okay/ about the history of a battle with food/ a letting go of caring about social stigmas - but why is there rarely a case of women just being that way. It seems intristincally linked to everyday life as well- to tell others of our bloating not in a way to complain of the discomfort but to alert people that this isnt the ‘real size’ of our stomachs. It just all feels a bit out of wack that we are a society so insistent upon changing the perception of women, abolishing the narrative of 'this is how a womans body should be' yet still feel the need to justify our natural bodies.

I know that to achieve body positivity you do have to celebrate things that were once deemed an imperfection, but body positivity just doesn’t always feel entirely connected to real life. Do I have to let people know that I am aware of my cellulite and that I love it? Should I let people know that I am aware of my hairy armpits but just don't care? Does this make sense? Why can't we simply just exist?

(from left-right) image 1  |  image 2  |  image 3 image 4  |  image 5 backgrounds

On a similar wave length of frustration; there are all these posts about the ‘before and after’ of posing and editting, especially from influencers, which are wonderful to see. But then why do such accounts continually post photographs of themselves in an 'after' pose, angling themselves in such a way so that their body does reflect what is idiolised? 
I do love everyone celebrating their bodies, and I like posts that are about ones journey to self love. I just think it isn't right that popular accounts will post a photo one day of their body looking how it normally does and then always posting extremely posed and edited photos on other days. I know self love is tough, and people can be horrible, but I do think people with large platforms and big followings have a responsibility to normalise the way their bodies usually look and to not make self love such an intermittent thing. 

In saying all this, I know body positivity in the media has come a long way, and that lengthy captions justifying a post may be a defence against trolls or simply a celebration of journeys to body positivity. Yet such justifcations and captions don't coincide with body acceptance all the time, as there shouldn't always be the need to give explanation to our bodies. It is just an exciting thing to think about, when bodies will be posted without always being accompanied by an explanation, to simply admire a photograph that doesn’t come with a paragraph about how it is okay to look that way, because soon hopefully all girls will know that it is okay to look any way.

I have found it my mission to find instagram accounts that celebrate healthy and attainable bodies without always being accompanied by lengthy captions. Here are a few accounts I have been following and have inspired a new body positivity within myself, and I hope you experience the same:

@_nelly_london - she also has a youtube channel, but this is just her insta
@thenutritiontea -  less so an example of normalisation but simply reminders of how to live a happy and healthy life 

to be honest, I am sure there are a lot more but @_nelly_london is one of my favourite accounts. Just a beautiful woman loving her body and spreading positivity and acceptance. 

moving into third year

6 October 2020

The past summer has not been a fulfilling one, but for that I only partly have my poor planning skills to blame whereas the main cause has been the bloody pandemic. However, I do feel grateful that my summer was only effected by corona in the sense that it meant summer could not fully be experienced, as opposed to anything more sinister. I'm actually glad that summer is now over, as it feels more refreshing to be back at university and to have begun learning. I often find summer is a time of mental relaxation, or at least a time when the unsurities of life lessen in light of hazy summer days, yet that mental alleviation did not happen this summer. Now, being back at university, coronavirus feels less stressful as masks have become the norm and socially distanced coffee dates prove that friendships can prevail despite the dire circumstances. It all just feels a bit more calm, my first day of online learning was not too horrendous and nothing academic wise has become too overwhelming yet. The threat of isolation and being away from home at Christmas is beginning to get more intense, but I don't know, you just have to think that everything will be okay otherwise it will be impossible to live. 

Despite the circumstances, summer was good. I spent a lot of days working and organising days off so that I could travel up north to see friends. The sunshine in Leeds did not erase the lust for sunny days in european cities, but the trips always came as welcome breaks. I discovered my love of bike riding, and now have a beautiful bike with me, I read many good books, went on beautiful walks along the beach in Newcastle, went pottery painting, embroidered, swam and all in all despite a lack of genuine adventure in retrospect summer was not too bad. Just not the summer that I felt was deserved after a difficult year, but heyho summer will come back and at least this summer motivated me to finally get a bike. 

I am nervous about the year ahead, I fear how the stress of third year will combine with the anxiety surrounding covid. There is some comfort in the knowledge many are in the same position as me, yet the unknowable nature of corona really lessens that sense of comfort. I also feel sad at how my third year will pan out, that many of the good times I experienced in Leeds will not happen again but to focus on what will not happen will only make times even bleaker. For now though, I can rely on the promise of interesting modules, occassional pub outings and an array of wonderful people in my life to help make this year as brilliant as it can be.

there is no photo in this post because i am a trendsetter, and also, my life has been dull and the sights have been rainy, so there is not much to photograph.  

mental health tips for the oldies and newbies at uni

10 September 2020

 -It is okay to not feel comfortable confiding in people who are meant to be your best friends. It doesn't diminish the significance of the friendship,  it just indicates a growth within yourself as you recognise a conversation with that particular friend won't provide you with the catharsis you desire.     

(Everybody reacts to an emotional outburst differently; some people are pragmatic, some let you vent, some tell you to sort yourself out. The responses can be frustrating, you just got to remember that not everybody experiences things in the same way as you! Your behaviours may seem absurd and lack all logical reason to them, making you seem impossible to console, but no need to get upset or frustrated about this. Some friends will let you cry, others will talk it all out. It can take time to figure out which friends can provide the comfort most suited to you, but don't make the difficulty of the search discourage you from talking about your emotions. Even if friends offend/ annoy you in the process of comforting, it isn't due to a lack of care just a difference between the two of you.)

- In saying this, do not become too reliant on friends. Friends will be there for you, but it can be frustrating to constantly provide support for someone when really what they need is a good ol' load of CBT. The NHS get a lot of stick for their mental health services, which is fair because it can be shit, but it can also be great. it may not even be great, but it can provide a place for a structured exploration of your emotions. Look into what NHS services are available early on in your university experience, before things get too tough. I would suggest looking now to be perfectly honest, it can take a long time to be given your first appointment, but you can't always simply rely on yourself- mental health isn't as simple as that.

-Look into your schools pastoral services! They are there for a reason! It was only in second year I started to take advantage of my schools pastoral services, and although it doesnt provide a replacement for counselling, when immediate help is needed, they can give you a comforting ear and some wise words. It's easy to get overwhelmed by uni life, but there is no need for your burdens to be veiwed through a lens of invinisibility and often the pastoral team can help you realise this! You are never alone in the stress you feel, it is well known that unviersity is a difficult place to be and there are many support services you aren't even aware of. Have a look into this before term starts. 

(at unviersity of leeds there are talks, group sessions and so many things about how to plan your time, how to deal with stress, anger, desoluteness. it is easy to disregard group sessions, but they are clearly doing something right as they have been going on for a long time it always better to have some sort of outlet than to suffer in silence) 

-Don't feel bad about  taking a step back from a friendship - just don't do it without an honet converstion about why you need to step back 

- Grades don't define you! Learn from a bad grade, read the feedback. Have a cry and then move on. use the bad grades to motivate you. It can be ahrd, especially if youre used to being a star pupil and getting the top grades, but unviersity just isnt like that. also if you do a humanities subject, one tutors mark of a 2:2 could be anothers low first. it is hard, but it is what it is. just learn from low grades, find a common theme in feedback and work on it. but jsut rememebr as well, grades don't define you. if you get a bad grade, let yourself cry then go and see your friends (once I got a bad grade, cried in the toilets for two hours and was going to spend the rest of the evening being a sad loser girl, but instead my friends forced me to go to filmsoc, I watched Booksmart with my pals and had a wonderful evening! friends can help you out of rutts in the most simple of ways) 

- e x e r c i s e! can not recommend enough. walk and explore your new city, go on runs, workout from home. don't get bogged down in uni work and living a social life. you may not get that serotonin boost that exercise seems to promise, but eventually it will at least help you feel better about yourself. 

- drinking can make you sad! respect your bodys reaction to alcohol and don't feel bad for making this a reason as to why you say no. if i drink more than twice a week I feel awful, i get riddled with anxiety that cripples me and fills with self doubt. at uni drinking culture is such a big thing. don't feel bad about saying no to drinking though, find other ways to hang out with friends. watch films with them when they are hungover, go on walks before they start drinking, spend time with them outside of drinking so that you don't feel left out and so that you can remain in a good headspace. then when you do drink, hopefully the repurcussions wont be as crippling. 

university is difficult for those with and without mental halth issues, but the whole culture of university is very anxiety inducing; having to make friends, the focus of your future, drinking, late nights, lack of sleep. just take care of yourself, be proactive and know that more often than not somebody will be able to relate to how youre feeling and provide you with a comforting presence.

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