Friday, 3 January 2020

2020 vision

Friday, 3 January 2020

2020 vision

'“I'll never get used to anything. Anybody that does, they might as well be dead.”' 

Snap, crackle, pop - no, I'm not referring to Rice Krispies. The roaring twenties have kicked off with a magnificent bang and it's time to rein in the new decade Gatsby style!
In what feels to have been a truly dystopian decade of technology, politics and protests, it would be useful to do what just about every other journalist appears to be doing right now: to reflect on the decade. So what have the 2010's taught us? 
A slightly better graduation picture?
Some interesting school pictures...

In what I had hoped would be a humbling moment of gratitude, I decided to participate in the 'ten year challenge' photos everyone has been uploading to Instagram. Amongst the funny (yet fearful) photos of my full fringe, side fringe and funky fashion choices, it made me realise condensing ten years worth of activity is a challenge in itself.

The last decade has seen me through the start of secondary school all the way to sixth form, my undergraduate degree and, now, to my master's degree. That's a lot of time for physical growth, as well as mental growth, and I have a lot to be thankful for.
So what are my big takeaways from the 2010's?**
I think it's fair to say the following lessons have been learnt: 

  1. Privileged people have the potential to use their power for better or for worse 
  2. Social media isn't always social 
  3. We should never underestimate the possibility of flared jeans making a comeback 
  4. Our climate is in a more precarious position than we predicted. 
(Oh, yes. 5. And that my bangs won't be making a return any time soon.)

On the theme of self-awareness, it would be fair to say I'm often caught in a constant battle of worrying too much about what other people think, focusing on the future rather than appreciating the present, or comparing myself to someone else. 

Yes, it would be great to say I'm going to cull these habits for the next decade, but I'm pretty sure these are all commonplace for your average 12-22 year old. Perhaps even just for your average human. 

It got me thinking about my 2020 vision.
Yeah, it would be great if we could all have this perfect year - with perfect plans, perfect places and perfect people. That's 2020 vision, right? 

But to me, that seems a little unrealistic for your everyday Joe. 2020 for me is not about a perfect vision. It's about balance, perspective and hindsight. About finding the silver lining in every hurdle I face.
As your typical cheesy blogger, it seems a little cliché to admit I made 12 resolutions - one for each month of the year. Amongst some larger goals - like running the Great North Run (yikes!) - I've weaved in some grounding resolutions like avoiding pessimism by practicing gratitude. (Wow, I am corny.)

I realise it's not always easy to look on the bright side, so I'm open to someone giving me a little nudge when I lose sight of my 2020 vision. I encourage you to do the same with others. After all, there seems to be so much negativity in the world that it would be nice to be reminded of the simple pleasures in life. Right?

**Mum has just informed me that my only takeaways have been pizzas and Chinese takeaways lol. Some things never change.
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Friday, 6 September 2019

Reality check

Friday, 6 September 2019

Reality check

" '...Tell me, are you a real writer?'
'It depends what you mean by real.'

I’m having one of those throwback to naïve little me moments. Three years ago, I was frantically reading Jane Eyre for the beginning of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree in Newcastle. I remember forcing myself to get through the pages and thinking that I would never get this book read in time for my first seminar. Three years and an undergraduate degree on, I can proudly say I picked up the skill of skim reading at speed - three books a week you say? Pfft, no problem.

I also remember convincing myself all this hard work would be worth it in the end. I’d walk out with a degree, my dream job (hi vogue!) and a self-assurance that I could do anything. Oh, Holly.

2019 has ended up being a go go go year with little time to come up for air. As an undergraduate, you end up resembling a juggler. You’re a stay-at-home artist perfecting your show; you’re a street performer showcasing your talent. Then, suddenly, you’re competing on the main stage, trying to convince your audience you’re juggling more responsibilities than everyone else.

The truth is, no one tells you about the stresses third year brings. You’re feeling relaxed, scatty even (see my post from the beginning of third year) – lulled into a false sense of security when BOOM: ‘I’ve just been offered an interview on Thursday.’ 

Hold up – people were already job hunting??? Throw into the mix internships, networking, CV writing and you can be feeling pretty behind, pretty quick. More research informed me that people had reigned in their garish Instagram posts of them holding several drinks in their hand in obscure rave caves and had substituted it for neutral palettes of sunsets setting on San Sebastian’s streets. 

Yet this culture of comparison can lead to unhealthy self-doubt. I have to remind myself that, yes, other people have secured jobs but I haven’t exactly been taking a back seat either. Whilst I may have taken a break from my blog, I’m now a confident Lifestyle Editor capable of using complex software (notice I've even given the blog a lil makeover). I’ve written for several publications now – something first-year me would’ve been impressed at. And I’m now (excitedly) preparing to start my International Multimedia and Journalism Master’s degree in just a couple of weeks – something I hadn’t even considered a year ago. Perspective.
In perhaps what others would call ‘escaping reality’, I spent my summer at Blue Star Camps in North Carolina again. Up in the fresh mountain air and away from academic work, you could be mistaken for thinking I opted for the carefree summer one craves after graduating. Instead, I endured a challenging 3 months caring for 65 campers and 10 staff. Phew.That’s a lot of names to remember. 

Although I had a few wobbly moments – ‘I feel like my friends are getting ahead in the real world’, ‘no one will see this as a proper job’ blah blah – my Dad reminded me over the phone of the level of responsibility I was undertaking:
 “What other job would give you that much authority at this age? You’re a manager.” (See below picture for my managerial headshot...)
Although it can feel good to be on the achieving end, I think it’s still important to recognise that our twenties aren’t always going to be the go go go. I know friends that have hit the post-Uni downer when applying to jobs and not hearing anything back. I also have friends who’ve been slogging away for years and are working their way well up the ladder. Friends that are getting married; friends that are travelling; friends that have their shit together; friends that don’t. Isn’t it time we just accept that our twenties are the rollercoaster years?
Whilst I’m all for this ‘you do you’ freedom, it’s loaded with a burden to have your own image, an Instagram profile that’s more like a sales pitch, an answer to the question: ‘who are you?’. 

There’s so much pressure to have it all together at 21 – be professional, have a profession, profess what you’re passionate about. It all seems big, in your face, daunting if you’re not quite there. But sometimes, we forget about this thing called perspective. We forget that sometimes, it’s more than okay if the next big thing is lots of little things.
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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Scatty and Scandalous: Ladies, Let's Get It

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Scatty and Scandalous: Ladies, Let's Get It

'That's very much on my schedule, an some day I'll get around to it; but if it happens, I'd like to have my ego tagging along.'
Autumn this year really has felt like the season of change - of beginnings and endings. My third year of University should surely be my most settled - yet I've found myself more scatty than I've been in a while (that's saying a lot for me). 

But alas - it turns out I am not alone in this midterm mayhem. It would seem that a whole multitude of friends - all over the world - are trying to get to the bottom of 'what the f life is trying to teach me right now'. 
Since September, we've endured a season of stress: a domino effect of couples breaking up or getting back together, dissertation station (more commonly known as procrastination) and frequent throwing round of the 'P' word: 'what are your plans post-Uni?'. Add to the equation heinous hormones prancing about all over the shop and you've got some fairly flustered females.  

I'd scoffed when one of my gals claimed it was all to do with astrology: 'it's all in the stars, Holly. Venus is in retrograde. Give it until mid-November.' Perhaps this is so, but my explanation to all this change and disruption is simple. We're finally entering adulthood.

Perhaps the full gravity of what lies ahead is finally hitting us. These pressures to find the perfect other half, the perfect job and the perfect lifestyle are hitting us from all angles. But why do we torture ourselves with these crippling anxieties? 

Has Ariana's epic music video Thank You, Next taught us nothing? Firstly yes, early 2000's films packed a punch, empowered the timid teen and were, frankly, irreplaceable. Iconic, Ari. Secondly, what good has ever come from dwelling on the past? Sure, acknowledge people and events in your life but, in the words of our Queen, 'next.'

This same resilience has been demonstrated by none other than my seven female flatmates. Our lounge seems to be more of a therapeutic space than anything else. Intellectual debates to emotional support, we're a strong household. (...led by Frida Kahlo, whose picture takes pride of place above our sofas).
We are Satan and his seven deadly sins after all... So scandalous.
Adulthood, of course, means more than just keeping your emotions intact. After my summer of escaping responsibilities at Camp America, I also did a week's work experience at Esquire Magazine in London... Hopefully I'll actually get round to writing about my Devil Wears Prada combined with Bridge Jones with a sprinkling of Carrie Bradshaw moments soon. I've also taken on the role of Lifestyle Editor at Newcastle University's Newspaper, The Courier. It all sounds kind of daunting doesn't it? Call me a geek - but I'm actually kind of loving this adulting stuff.

As we're now in December, it seems appropriate to embrace all things festive.'Tis the season of reuniting and mulled wine and I've already kicked it off with some belters. A few casual drinks with friends from Camp suddenly turned into a 3a.m. boogie in the club as we sang our hearts out to our summer anthem - Shotgun. I also reconvened with friends from home in Lisbon (watch out for a post about this too!) - a short but super sweet trip filled with laughter, love and lots of wine. 

But the big reunion comes in just over a week when I fly out to New York with my parents. The trip will combine everything I love - my favourite time of year and my favourite city and the best people to spend it with. But this 21st birthday celebration just gets better as I'll be, at last, back with my American besties.  
All this reuniting reminds me, that maybe change is a good thing. Sure, growing old can seem kind of hideous. But maybe there's something kind of wonderful about entering our twenties.

After all, you start learning the difference between people willing to fit you into their free time and those willing to free their time for you. You learn to find an ease in solitude. You learn that years worth of education cannot teach you to love yourself. That's just something we gotta figure out ourselves.
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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Camp America '18: Camp Life!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Camp America '18: Camp Life!

'Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot'.

'Okay guys... Need help. Writing my next blogpost and want all your best moments from Camp. Funny, special - you name it. Go!' - My iMessage shoots halfway across the world to my American sistas.
Seconds pass before hundreds of messages come pinging through on my phone.
'Bounce bounce bounce.'
'When our kid woke everyone up sneezing and farting simultaneously.'
'Our rap battle at Color War.'
Having just finished typing up a thirty-five minute transcription at work experience (more to come about this soon!), my facial muscles were reminded that smiling felt good.
It's real, the Camp blues are hitting me harder than my first alcoholic drink back in England did.
Knowing where to even start with all these snippets is a mission in itself. As I've been recounting various stories to my family and friends, a bewildered expression has spread across their faces. 'What's Pinnacle?', 'Why is Color War such a big deal?', or worse still from my brother: 'Holly, no-one wants to hear your 10,000 tales about your "best summer ever" with all your "new best friends!!"' So, for those unlike my brother and who actually want to hear me rattle on about Camp, read on for (what I hope) is a rundown of some of my most memorable moments.
Camp Life:
Every day, the campers were able to select activities lead by specialists. These ranged from kayaking to high ropes to yoga to ancient arts - the list was endless (lucky kids!). Although the counselors didn't lead these, we had to attend for safety reasons. Feeling a little plump from the carbs on carbs on carbs, I volunteered to go to mountain bikes - which my co-workers seemed a little too grateful for.
Ten minutes into biking and I had the overwhelming sensation that it wasn't just my bike that would be rolling rapidly downhill - my optimism would be plummeting with it. Did I fall off? Yes. Did I throw a tantrum? Yes. Did I make the whole experience even more humiliating by wearing a soaking bikini that turned my top see-through? Absolutely.
Next week I opted for the 'nature' option, thinking it would be a welcomed break for my knackered legs... Which it was, until a wild snake dropped down from the ceiling and the cute rabbit I was holding decided to take a nibble on my boob.
Aside from these dramas, my co-counselor and I had 16 campers to look after in our cabin (the biggest cabin on camp!). But through our everyday struggles a new-found strength emerged in us - the ability to find laughter and joy in the most simple, pure moments. Through this she quickly became my rock and, more importantly, my best friend.
(Our kids stole a giant inflatable unicorn and put it in our cabin one day...)
Of course, we dealt with shit every single day (literally - my camper told me she had an itchy, crusty ass). Yes, I may have nearly been suffocated beneath another of my camper's sleeping bags as she somehow rolled on top of my head during our campout. I may even have had my naked body completely exposed to 16 sets of amused eyes as they ripped the shower curtain open on me. But these were the moments that made us smile.
You can't help but question whether you've made a lasting impact on these kids by the end of the summer.
One day I lost it with my kids when I discovered them writing in my travel journal... Only to realise they were writing 'plane letters' for me. As I stumbled across them a month later on my travels home, my question had been very much answered...

(I'm not crying, you are)
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Monday, 27 August 2018

Camp America '18: Culture shock!

Monday, 27 August 2018

Camp America '18: Culture shock!

'Can you rattle right over here? It's important,' and there was a croak of excitement in his froggy voice.
June 3rd. I'm halfway across the world from home, in an unfamiliar environment with a group of people I have just met in the last 24 hours. We're gathered by a fire-pit and have just finished introducing ourselves as the staff of Blue Star Camps 2018. 

As my brain attempts to put names to faces and faces to accents and accents to places, I thank God that we have the same mother tongue as Americans - I don't think my mediocre foreign language skills would have coped under the circumstances.

My new found American friend hands me a stick with two marshmallows on the end. 

'So this is going to be the test of our friendship. Let's see if you can toast it to perfection and make me the best s'more I've ever had,' she grins and urges me forward; 'Oh, no pressure. I've only been coming to this camp for years'.

As we tuck into my first ever 's'more', she gives me the thumbs up - I've surpassed her expectations. Who would have thought that 10 weeks later I would class her as one of my best friends.

With my ego soaring as chief s'more maker, I had thought I'd nailed that cheesy, American spirit to a T. Naive little me thought I may even get mistaken for your typical yank escaping the hustle and bustle of city life to work a summer job in the mountains.
In typical Holly style, my 'episodes' meant this assumption was soon out the window...

When I first told my campers to 'put on [their] swimming costumes' for the beach party, outrage erupted:
'Swimming COSTUMES! But Holly, it's not a costume!!'
Feeling mortified I had apparently been calling it a costume or 'cozzie' my whole life instead of a 'bathing suit', I cowered back into my bunk. 
'But it's not a suit either,' my meek defensiveness is lost in their giggling screeches.

Weeks later, I'm sunbathing with some of the staff. Alas, on comes the summer banger that everyone seems to know... Bar me. You know the situ - smiling, doing the awkward side to side head bob and chancing a few lyrics so you don't look like you've lived under a rock for your entire existence. 
But today? Oh no my friends. Today Holly has remembered to bring her phone along. Feeling smug and savvy at what I think is a discreet 'Shazam', I sink back into my towel and let the music transport me to my imaginary stage. Once I master this all-American anthem my transformation from Brit to American will be complete! Just as my eye-lids go heavy and I envisage my solo guitar piece, my friend's voice booms from above: 'HOLLY. TELL ME YOU ARE NOT SHAZAMING LIFE IS A HIGHWAY!' Again, my ears are met with screams of laughter and disbelief; 'You do realise that this song is from the film Cars don't you?'
 Even my F.O.M.O. excuse couldn't save me from the embarrassment.

Calling 'Chick-fil-A' 'Chick.. a.. fill', saying 'Chipotle' in the most Received Pronunciation possible and arguing a 'biscuit' is not the same thing as a 'scone' also set me apart from my fellow comrades. Drat. At least I wasn't calling flip flops 'thongs' like my Australian friend there and saying 'yum-o' after every meal. Now that would be embarrassing...

Aside from the American culture, I was also immersed into the Jewish side of camp. Although it wasn't orthodox, we were encouraged to participate in Friday and Saturday Sabbath services, as well as singing the prayers before and after meals (those are engrained into me for the rest of my life). 
Although for my thirteen-year-old campers these co-ed services were a chance to get dressed up in their best gear, wear make-up and straighten their hair, a wave of calm tended to sweep across everyone once we were in the Camp Chapel.
(That said, one week I struggled to keep 'zen' as I'd spent 45 minutes straightening my camper's curly, thick hair... Only for her to decide that she preferred it 'au-naturel' as she washed it five minutes later. Good job I'm not a hairdresser really.)

During services our camp focuses on different values each year and sets a theme accordingly. This year they chose 'Choose kindness, share peace'. It was comforting knowing that in a world full of heated politics, gun crimes and injustice, there is a collective culture we can all benefit from. And that culture thrives from love.

(More tales to tell about camp coming soon...! 'This one time, at summer camp...')
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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Packing up and shipping out

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Packing up and shipping out

'He shut the suitcase and produced a letter.'
Packing up, unpacking, repacking. And checking I've repacked the items that were packed in the original haul of items that I unpacked to repack again. Mental as it may seem, this has been my routine for the last couple of weeks. With my second year of Uni over and my summer in America commencing in just a few days, it seems as though the clocks are stealing minutes away from me.

Despite the seemingly never-ending essays, the sun and my fab friends have lightened the last few months of University life. Although this has made saying goodbye to them even harder... Hugging goodbye to my soul sista who is studying abroad next year was tough, as was bidding farewell to my German flatmate who has become one of my close friends. With all these departures, I should be a strong independent woman waving bye to my parents on Saturday - but watch me shed a few tears as I scoot off for three months! 

In keeping with this clinical routine, I feel as though I've been working my way through checklist after checklist recently. VISA appointment in London? Done. Work experience organised with ESQUIRE magazine? Done. 10,000 words worth of essays? Done. Phew. 

Whilst it may appear I have my act together, don't be fooled by appearances. In avid response to my blonde highlights, my mind too has had its share of 'blonde' moments (I blame the bleach). Of course, my blog wouldn't be complete without a few conundrums in the mix, so here's the breakdown of my blonde highlights from the last few months:

Firstly, our fancy dress failures:

1). The Iconic Trio house party:
Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. Who saved Princess Peach from the Koopaling Clan I hear you say? Well, my fellow readers, we had a bigger challenge on our hands. Princess Peach had kindly cooked up her fellow bros a feast before their quest (the party) but had forgotten that she had to squeeze into a child's size dress later that evening.
Many attempts were made to zip it up. Rubber gloves were involved and a naked excursion outside was made (cold air makes your body shrink right?), before we opted for a more extreme solution: to unpick the stitching. As the pictures reveal, we outsmarted our obstacles. 
I'd say it was not game over for this trio... 

2). That 'cobbled together' outfit that, yes, is just a downright shambles:
Budgeting gets tighter, student attitudes get stronger. 'Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty sure I've got a few bits and bobs for an outfit'. 
(To anyone wondering, that is Minnie Mouse x2 and Pocahontas. Try to guess the theme.) 

3). Oh, shit. No-one else is in fancy dress...
As if I needed it confirming any more, our appearance at a Peaky Blinders themed Fight Night in fancy dress was a true Bridget Jones Tarts and Vicars moment.
My friend DRESSED AS A MALE. No going back - a marker pen moustache and machismo could not be undone.
My other friend and I - we had got the era entirely wrong. Oops.
Amongst other mishaps, I also decided to try out Newcastle's sunbeds. Feeling pale and pasty for the intense heat in North Carolina this summer, I thought a couple of sessions would acclimatise my skin. Now, before anyone says anything, I know. Terrible damage to your skin and just not worth it. Perhaps, then, it was fate's intervention that was trying to ward me off.
Confusion erupted when I stuck the protective sticker goggles over my eyes. How on earth are you supposed to find the blooming door to the sunbed when your eyes are closed?! This must be a health and safety hazard, fumbling your way blinded into this. I did however endure the full 6 minutes - eyes closed, hand firmly on the door handle - cursing under my breath.
As I yapped my friend's ear off about how stupid the goggles were, she only then informed me you're meant to wear them like sunglasses... with your eyes open. Think I'll stick to fake tan.

In typical exam season style, the sun greeted us as deadlines loomed ever closer. It seemed as though the student population in Newcastle gravitated towards the beach. Tynemouth was given a continental vibe as young people cracked open the tinnies, cranked up the speakers and basked in the day's last hues. One of my friends even fooled people she was in Ibiza! Of course, essay writing was squeezed in between these 'breaks' - but sometimes you've just gotta seas the day.

I've also had celebrations such as our annual English Ball, leaving my job and a few fun dates. 
Fortunately, the sun held out a while longer and I've been able to enjoy lunches, cocktails and family time al fresco (thank you Mr Sol). My brother's girlfriend and I hit up Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds, whilst Dad treated my family and I to a celebratory meal and Mum even treated me to lunch at The Ivy in Harrogate... I'm piling on the pounds before I even begin the hotdog diet! 
I've perfected my plaits, packed my case and now all that's left to do is prepare for an emotional goodbye to my precious parents. My nerves may be kicking in, but meeting people from all across the world sounds kind of enticing. 
Sure, we could all do with a few more hours in the day to prepare us for whatever we're working towards, but isn't spontaneity the epitome of what our generation stands for?
After all, 'if we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives' - Lemony Snicket.
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