Thanks, Joan (and Tavi…and Youtube)

On those evenings when I wind deeeper and deeeper into the annals of 2013-14 YouTube videos, I am rarely rewarded. Today, I was pleasantly surprised. After watching one Tavi Gevinson video (my quest started from Casey Neistat’s channel…??), I’d worked my way through quite a few until clicking on this one, in which she mentions Joan Didion’s essay entitled: ‘On Keeping A Notebook’. Naturally, I google this because I love keepin’ me a good ol’ notebook.

Joan Didion

I read through and then reach the bottom of the second-to-last page, and stop, trace my eyes back up a few lines, and re-read. Didion writes:

“I have lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio…

…The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished.”

This struck me because lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my sixteen-year-old self. About how, even with my feet (almost) to the ground, I lived in my head. I thought deeply and boundlessly. The songs I listened to then, the films I loved, the blogs I followed were like another home. I occasionally throw myself back and listen to, watch and read those things, six years later (mostly because I’m ridiculously sentimental). Yet, like Didion, I sometimes feel that I’ve lost touch with ‘that person I used to be’. But I’m working on reconnecting. In a similar way, she continues:

“It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.”

I’m pleased with the fact that I still keep a notebook; its details are not so distant that when I read through it, things don’t seem too out of context or tricky to follow. But I don’t want to  get to a place where I can’t remember what the heck I was writing about when I was eighteen. I’ll continue to grow and change, but I don’t want to lose touch with my formative thoughts.

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend 🙂

 

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Elif Shafak on ‘The Politics of Fiction’

It has been difficult to find time to sit down and write on here. The past few weeks have been charged with tasks, appointments, classes, and projects which I am completely dedicated to and thankful for. Yet, I have neglected a few of the things which truly keep me ticking on the inside! It’s time to refocus, gather my energy and start re-funnelling it into the more personal and intimate areas of my life. Hence, my first post in a while!

Late last year, I followed my good friend to a hidden bookshop at our university, in which we got talking about books and authors we enjoy. He told me about an author who he admires immensely – Elif Shafak. After watching her TED talk on ‘The Politics of Fiction’, I couldn’t keep it to myself. If you have a few minutes, please watch, and enjoy.

Essence.

creativity

I have mentioned before that writing is a cathartic process for me. What started out as a hobby and a method of therapy has developed into something which I would like to do for the rest of my life. Lately, I have undergone a process of personal evaluation: met with a crossroads, the time has come for me to pick a direction. However, being a reflective thinker has meant that the decision making process has been drawn out, involving extensive list making, seminars, thinking, crossing things out, re-thinking things, exploring my curiosity and errr, more thinking. A lot of thinking, perhaps too much! Not only has this process brought about internal turmoil, indecision, and eventual transformation, but it has also brought an effective solution.

After proceeding with caution, it has become clear to me that taking that feared leap need not be so….restricting, or even complicated a process. How did this clarity emerge?

By revisiting to my teenage self.

Although not that long ago, looking back has revealed to me the internal change which has taken place over the past 4 years. It all started by flipping through an old, neatly kept A3 sketchbook. Filled with collages, design sketches, doodles and mood boards, it represented who I was at that point, and who I still feel am. It is a pure expression of creativity, of a time when ambition was a mere thought, a hope. Essentially, I am – and love being – creative.

Now, that ambition is very much at the fore of what I do; it is something which I cannot afford to not keep thinking about, but I must action it.

In working towards making that happen, however, I’ve been guilty of drifting away from what inspired it. New aspects of life become prioritised; characteristics of the ‘real world’ come to the fore, and shake you out of your younger, imaginative self. I am enjoying witnessing and experiences the changes that this time in my life bring – although sometimes anxious, I remain excited on the whole. However, keeping in touch with my essence, what I enjoy, what inspires me, and what aligns with my purpose in life – even knowing what that is, is just as important as blooming into a young adult and shouldering the responsibilities that it entails.

Creativity is a pervasive element of who I am, and what I do everyday. Even something as simple as cooking, I realise that when I am doing it, I am at my most engaged yet relaxed point. I am not thinking about anything else but that which I’m creating in that single moment. Although Anthropology is not a classically ‘creative’ discipline, it is a deeply explorative subject which has allowed me to combine my creative and academic interests. Not to mention that it involves a lot of writing.

My hope is that I remain able to stay in touch with that essential part of my identity.

My A/W Style

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It is probably fair to call time on summer where I live – it has been raining on and off for the past week! So in an effort to usher in the new season in a optimistic way, I decided to organise my wardrobe and sartorially prepare for the colder months.

I find that A/W calls for more dramatic dressing – experiencing cold weather where you live can be a curse as much as a blessing in that you can be more experimental with what you wear. Generally, I tend to have a basic ‘jeans and a t-shirt’ uniform as a base, and I tend to add texture, layer and colour with chunky knitted pieces, classic jackets and practical yet stylish boots or lace up flat shoes. When I feel like brightening my look up, I turn to prints for an uplift and a point of interest.

With sunrise and sunset starting to draw closer together, I am looking forward to dressing more creatively gradually working more and more autumnal items into my daily style.




Beware! Mind-blocks, breakdowns and determining your path

I think the time has come for me to join the life club. After years of feeling comfortable in the knowledge that the pressures of adult life seem far away, I was hit with the realty that ‘grown up’ duties are not so distant as I thought. Over the past two years, and more intensely in recent months, I have been trying to prepare myself for adulthood and its obligations as  best as possible by working, studying, doing internships, moving out, managing to pay rent, bills, etc. However for some reason, I was still unable to avoid the mini-breakdown  which ensued just yesterday afternoon, and I could not help feeling that there seems nothing to look forward to. I couldn’t help but question whether all this effort, ambition and dreaming would be worth it in the long run, or whether at some point I might just have to sacrifice said ambitions in order to meet the necessities of post-university life. For some reason, the transition does not seem so smooth.

Oftentimes, this feeling can be difficult to shake and when left to fester, could result in over-thinking, feeling overwhelmed and ultimately, experiencing a mind-block. On this occasion, however, my internal optimist decided to present itself just in time and remind me that this lack of motivation and discouragement should not – and will not – last for much longer.

Why did this happen?

Honestly, I believe it has something to do with knowing and accepting the things that I am motivated by. In that moment of feeling lost, overwhelmed and a bit hopeless, I felt angry at the idea that my ambitions could not be achieved. I felt resentment towards whatever it was that made me feel as though I had to rely on someone or something else to determine my destiny. I kept wondering if all this work I had put into trying to creating my own path would be in vain.

And then I realised that it did not have to be.

I think that if there has ever been a time to determine your own life path, it has to be now. There are so many platforms of expression and creation both online and in real life which can allow us to explore the multiple facets of our personality and turn them into our main jobs and/ or side hustle. Life does not have to be monotonous, it does not have to be a chore. Irrespective of one’s job or income, I believe that a self-determined career and life is possible. Opportunities abound, and while it can feel as though you are being pulled in several different directions, taking a step back and remembering what motivates you in life can help.

5 tips to help you maintain your wellbeing when starting university

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I just published my first YouTube video! If you are about to start university, college or a new school, you might find this useful. In this video, I cover 5 main tips to help you maintain your wellbeing and maximise your experience at your new institution. Take a look to find out, and leave a comment if you like :).

Personal Communities

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It’s funny how it can take a good clearout or spring clean to remind you of all the snippets and forms of community surrounding you. At the start of this week, I started clearing out my room and moving things about in order to create more space, and in the process, I uncovered multiple mini treasure-troves of souvenirs, birthday cards, school reports, a yearbook and christmas gifts that I had received over past years.

Opening each one felt like unlocking a forgotten mental safe of memories and friendships that defined those points in my life. Especially finding the more detailed or written-in cards, and a few unopened ones, in a strange way reminded me of who I was at that stage, and who I have grown – and continue to grow – into. After being distracted from my original spring-cleaning task for long enough, I came to realise how your ‘community’ – your supporters, friends, family, mentors, teachers, even employers or colleagues, can extend far beyond your consciousness of its existence.

It can be easy to discount certain ‘invisible’ members of your community, especially if we do not hear from them as frequently as those closer to us. Even if simple gestures such as Christmas or birthday cards can seem generic or empty, to an extent, its sender did think of you and consider you a part of his or her community, enough so to extend such a gesture of acknowledgement and well-wishing towards you.

Inevitably as you go forward in life, you will lose some of those relationships and networks, but it is somewhat exciting to think back and witness how these members of your community have somehow shaped you, inspired you, taught you a lesson and more. Plus, if you’re ever feeling unsure about your growth or who you are and what you have accomplished, looking through these little accounts of yourself written by people who are important to you can re-affirm the positive elements about you, but also enlighten you to some constructive (mostly constructive, but not always!) criticism about yourself that you may have worked on since then. In a way, I like to think about it as a sort of autobiographical diary.

Flipping through these souvenirs felt quite therapeutic, and turned a rather mundane task into a pleasant and fulfilling one! Despite this, it made my task slightly harder as I felt reluctant to dispose of them but hey, I guess part of moving on is letting go….

Live all of your (potential) years, not half of them!

A couple of nights ago I was checking out the Humans of New York site, when I came across this short story from a photographed lady:

 “I’m trying to distance myself from the idea that youth is the best time of life, because a lot of my friends are really anxious about growing older. I’m studying classical drawing, which helps. It really slows things down. We can work an entire month on a single drawing. And I don’t plan on reaching my peak before the age of fifty.” 

Immediately I thought ‘This is lifechanging.’ This short paragraph put so many things into perspective for me, and in a way it ‘unblocked’ my mind. I reacted in a similar way to this ‘Ageless Dailies’ StyleLikeU video above.

This is because lately, the topic of age and the course of life has been something I have been thinking about a lot. While it sounds simple and obvious to say, to actually understand that life is not over until you are no longer alive, is a bit of a challenge. For example, so many of us plan our lives and goals around age points i.e. ‘I would like to buy a house by the I’m 30’ or ‘I want to earn X amount of money while I’m still young’. The fundamental truth is that there is no rush! The practice of making life plans can be of great benefit however, if you put pressure on yourself to achieve all of those plans in your youth, further still, if you have limited foresight beyond your young years, then life is more likely to become a blur in which every achievement is reduced to a tick off your crammed to-do list.

Added to this, we need to rethink what we consider to be young. These self-imposed limits force us to live our lives as if there is a peak to reach, and as a result, we limit our capacity to explore and simply think. Quite literally, we have our whole lives to live – all of however many years we are given – to experience things, to accomplish goals, and to make our dreams manifest. We don’t have to prematurely retire from life’s goodness and opportunities because of age check-points we assign to everything we do.

So going back to the short story, in that moment of reading and re-reading it, I realised the value and importance of treasuring every potential day, week, month, year that life affords us. We should remember to treasure the temporality of life, and not reduce it. If there is something you dream of doing, get on with it! It will add to your richness of experience. That’s one thing that this inspiring StyleLikeU film has taught me.

P.S. Sorry I’ve been absent for some time! Now that exams are over I can breathe a bit :).