Health

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Three times, I’m sorry.

Anxiety is an issue that has, continues to or will affect almost everyone. Anyone who has experienced it can tell you how difficult and isolating it is. You lose your sense of self worth, your thought process completely changes and you don’t know who you are anymore. At least, that has been my experience.

So this is a short piece I wrote some time ago about my own personality and self worth, that still sometimes reflects on how my anxiety is now:

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Three times, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, for everything I’ve said. I’m sorry for everything I will inevitably do. But that’s who I am. I do things and I say things I don’t think are right. And I end up apologising. Why? I don’t really know why. If I could change that I would. But I can’t.

You’d think after all the strain and the stress and the pain it makes me feel I’d know better than to act like who I am. You’d think I’d tone it down a notch, just so I wouldn’t have to go through the agony of having to apologise for it again. You’d think so. But it’s hard. It really is. And that’s what makes it hurt even more.

It’s like I’ll never fit that idea of perfect that I’ve got engrained into my head. I know who I want to be, who I should be, but I never make it. No matter how hard I try. I end up being that same pain in the arse I always was. For some reason, I can’t help it. No matter how hard I try.

So all I can say for all that I’ve done is I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the moon and back. I’m sorry to infinity and back. I literally can’t put how sorry I am into words. I suppose all I can ask is that you bear with me as I try to change for the better. I know that’s rich after everything, but what else can I do? But I can promise this: no matter how many times I screw up, I’ll always try to be a better person next time.

No matter how anxiety too often makes me feel, I really do know things aren’t as bad as they seem. I’m not as bad a person as it makes me think I am. So that’s what I have to keep at the forefront of my mind to try to keep the anxiety at bay.

And to anyone else who is also suffering, take it from me: no matter how bad it may seem, it will always get better in time. Even if it’s hard to believe.

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Journalism

Humans of New York: Why it is interesting for an aspiring journalist

“Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010. The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants”.

When Brandon Stanton began Humans of New York (HONY), who could possibly have foreseen its global success? With more than 20 million followers on social media, to say HONY is a popular concept would be an understatement. But for someone, like myself, who is incredibly determined to make it in journalism, the whole idea is simply fascinating. It proves that the world is filled with a diverse range of people who all look at the world very differently.

For those who aren’t entirely familiar with it, HONY gives an insight into the lives of ordinary people. It is online, through its website and social media, and there are also print editions of people’s stories. People share all kinds of things: their struggles, their best moments, their achievements, their hopes for the future, their opinions and so on, with a photo of them alongside their stories. And each individual always has something totally unique to say.

One story I absolutely love is told from the perspective of a cop, whose father and grandfathers were both cops. But, as a father himself, he has higher hopes for his son. He described the things you see as a cop as “not emotionally clean”. He also told of how it is hard to know how much to push your child in the right direction. But what I took away from his piece was that, above all, the father cared. He wanted the best for his son but without being too hard on him. And that, for me, says it all about how much he absolutely loves his son.

Another incredible story shows the persistence of one woman who didn’t give up in her search for a job. She had moved to New York after graduating with a degree in accounting. Having applied for jobs at dozens of places, and heard nothing back, she decided to go into different car dealerships (she had always loved cars) to see if they could offer her an accounting job. She did not find anything in the first couple of places she went to, but when she went to Jaguar/Land Rover, they decided to give her a chance. She was interviewed that afternoon and was immediately given the job. The first thing she did was call her parents. They were proud of her and she was so proud of herself. Reading about the how much perseverance many people have is, for me at least, so refreshing.

Since its creation, HONY has continued to grow and has even gone global, with Brandon having visited 20 different nations to share people’s stories. He has travelled to countries such as Iran, Ukraine and Uganda to give us a better insight into the lives of so many more people.

And this has been so inspirational for me an aspiring foreign correspondent. Brandon has looked past all the politics and statistics and stereotypes to ask actual people what they have to say. And, honestly, that is the one thing I want to achieve as a journalist. I want to show the world how a single mother of 5 is affected by war; I want to show the world why that 20-year-old has to take dangerous routes in the hope of finding a better life; I want to show the world that behind all of the numbers and all of the labels, there are real human beings who have emotions and needs, just like the rest of us. And I ultimately want to show the world that we’re really not so different from each other.

But I am not the only one who has been inspired by HONY. There have been other pages set up in the same way, such as Humans of London and Humans of Edinburgh. This proves to me that people are genuinely interested in what each other has to say. And I hope that, one day as a journalist, I can help even more people to share their thoughts, stories and experiences with the world.

Uni Antics

5 Things That Help with Missing Home on Study Abroad

You’re in a foreign country having the time of your life: you’re travelling to new cities and even to other neighbouring countries. And it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever done. Genuinely. But of course you start to remember the small things about home. Dairy Milk for a pound, your favourite newspapers everywhere you look, easily accessible Heinz baked beans… you get the idea. You begin to miss the small, quirky things that make your home country, well… home. But I’ve realised that finding some sense of familiarity in your new home country really helps. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Belgium and the culture and the food (the waffles! the fries!), but sometimes it’s nice to have some of what you love the most from home. So these are some of the things that have helped me so far.

 

  • Staying in touch with my home uni

This has really helped with the sense of continuity. I’ve continued to write for Radar, the student magazine, and have contributed to the student TV station. Student media is one of the most important things to me at home, so staying in touch with everyone and maintaining an active role has been amazing.

 

  • Russell Howard

I didn’t think I watched a lot of TV back in the UK but apparently that was a lie. I began to sorely miss watching my favourite comedies or changing over to Channel 4 News at 7 o’clock or binge watching recordings of The Simpsons while having my dinner. So when I realised that Russell Howard had uploaded full episodes of his shows on his YouTube channel, I was so excited. One of my favourite comedians with all his shows in one place: what could be better?

 

  • Doing my favourite things

My entire summer was spent basically me going to coffee shops, reading and blogging. So now, whenever I have the time, I go to a coffee shop and read. Or maybe even scribble down ideas for the blog. Being totally lost in the moment doing one of your favourite things is genuinely the most incredible thing – and it sometimes helps to forget where you are for an hour or two.

 

  • Splashing out on typically British food

On the rare occasion that I do find something typically British, I feel so pleased with myself. I think it all goes back to the whole “national pride” thing. But it does go a long way in giving you a sense of being at home. So even though it’s all pretty expensive (€1.90 for a pack of Jammie Dodgers!!), sometimes it’s worth paying the price.

 

  • Waterstones

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I basically live in bookshops. It’s impossible for me to have a ‘quick look’, as I always find something new I want to read (hence my ever-growing to be read pile). So when I discovered the Waterstones in Brussels, I knew where I’d be spending rather a lot of my time. If I’m at the Waterstones long enough, it actually starts to feel like I’m in the UK. And outside the shop, there’s a stand of British newspapers which, for me anyway, is one of the most exciting things!

 

So when I decided to come to Belgium for Erasmus, I knew I wanted to really immerse myself in the culture. And that’s still what I try to do as much as I possibly can. But I have to admit, taking a step back into my familiar ‘Britishness’ really goes a long way in helping me feel far less homesick.

Interests · Opportunities · Uni Antics

Living Abroad & Your National Identity

I’ve been in Brussels for exactly four weeks now and my eyes have been opened to so much. I’ve learned loads about the Belgian culture, customs and so much more. And having a very international group of friends here has allowed me to find out so much more about the world. But the thing that has surprised me the most since arriving in Brussels, is my own sense of national pride. I’ve always known I’m patriotic and proud to be British, but I hadn’t quite realised to what extent that was the case.

Going to Brussels for study abroad is genuinely one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’m getting to immerse myself in a whole new culture and I’m learning a new language – by the way, Dutch really isn’t as hard to learn as I’ve been making it out to be! And I’ve made friends who I get on so well with – we all have a good laugh and have done absolutely loads in the time we’ve known each other. So Brussels has been pretty exciting so far. And also, it’s an incredibly valuable experience for achieving my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Brussels over the shoulder
Brussels City Centre
Ghent bridge
Ghent

But one thing I’ve found is that I become really excited when I see something typically British. Even things I usually wouldn’t give a second thought to at home: Jammie Dodgers, Robinson’s orange squash and Heinz baked beans to name a few. I began to wonder why being abroad for a long period of time makes you so happy to see things you otherwise wouldn’t give much notice? But I came to the conclusion that it was my sense of national pride and a connection to “home”.

Also, when we visited Ghent the other week, I seemed thrilled to see a guy playing the bagpipes, even though I wanted to be solely exposed to the Belgian culture. I’m not even Scottish, but they definitely caught my attention. But when there’s something from the place in which you live, you can’t help but turn and look.

From the day I knew I’d be coming to Brussels, I was so excited to become as Belgian as I possibly could. (That still didn’t stop me taking a bag of 200+ Tetley teabags and hanging the St George’s Cross on my bedroom wall though). And now I’ve been here for around a month, Brussels has definitely reinforced my ambition to find out about and share the stories of people from all over the world. I’ve met loads of awesome people here, all with different personalities and backgrounds, which I’m delighted about. I absolutely love it. So that’s definitely encouraging. But I’ve also realised that wherever I end up in the world, I’ll always have a strong connection to my English roots, and I’ll continue to be the proud and patriotic Brit I always was.

Uni Antics

My First Few Days in Brussels

Admittedly, I’ve been neglecting the blog slightly over the past few days, but for a pretty good reason. I’ve finally moved out to Brussels for the next few months, which I was really excited about. So I’ve decided to write a post about how the first few days have been.

I might as well start at the beginning: day one. So I arrived in Brussels at about 9.15 (local time), having had to get up for a 6am flight (killer!!). I think I was pretty tired already but the mix of emotions kind of took my mind off it and kept me going. I was really beginning to feel nervous at this point – I had literally just arrived in a totally new country alone, where nothing was familiar. But I knew it could only get better, right?

So I arrived at the student dorm and unpacked my things. I think I was pretty grateful to have something to keep me busy for at least a while. I kept my door open, secretly wishing someone would go past and I could go and speak to them. A couple of people did walk past the room and said hi, which did make me feel slightly better.

Once I’d finished unpacking, I decided to wander around the area and perhaps find a supermarket. I walked through a nearby woodland area, which reminded me of the woods in the town I live. It was quite nice to discover something that reminded me of home, especially as I was already beginning to feel a little homesick. And eventually, I found a small shop and bought the basics for the next couple of days.

I woke up on the second day feeling slightly better (having actually slept!) but I was still feeling pretty isolated. I still didn’t know anyone yet and it was beginning to wear me down – I had to speak to someone. But when I heard two people speaking along the corridor, I was delighted that an opportunity to do just that had come up. I was quite nervous about going to speak to them, but I knew it’d be worth it. And it totally was! They were both absolutely lovely and invited me to go out shopping with them. I was so grateful to them that they let me go with them – it made me feel so much better about being in Brussels.

And so my second day in Belgium was amazing! We bought some necessities and I even tried my first real Belgian waffle. I learned so much from my two new friends, including how the public transport works and where the main shops are. And I was having a great time exploring more of Brussels. And even now, I’m still so grateful to them that they helped my confidence grow in my new home city.

Also on my second day, I met someone who I have become very friendly with – she was moving in that day. Since then, we’ve both made other mutual friends and, as a group, we’ve seen even more of Brussels. We tried waffles (I couldn’t resist a second!) and the fries with mayonnaise. We’ve seen a fair few sights, and they were absolutely incredible! Each day since I arrived has become even better than the last. And I already don’t want to go back home!

So classes will have to start soon and I’ll have to do at least some studying. But I know there’s so much more I’ll go and see, both within Belgium and further afield. I’m so excited to see what the next few months will bring. I absolutely love my new home and I know I’ll always keep coming back.

Books · Controversial Topics

“The Confession” – John Grisham

I’ve always been a strong believer that good books are powerful things. They bring you into a totally different place, they make you think, make you question things and, ultimately, they make you feel something. And John Grisham’s “The Confession” is one novel that, for me, did all of those things.

Set in Texas, USA, it follows a Lutheran Minister (Keith) and a terminally ill murderer and serial rapist (Travis) as they try to save an innocent man from capital punishment. An innocent man, Donté, who has spent nine years on death row for a murder he did not commit. A murder which was, in fact, committed by Travis.

The unlikely duo’s relationship was arguably turbulent, with Travis not always fully cooperating with Keith. Travis knew, as he was dying anyway, that the right thing to do was to confess to his crime, thus saving Donté. But he was often unsure of himself, even going off the radar for a while leaving Keith frantically searching for him. Eventually though, the pair set off for Slone, Texas, just hours before Donté was due to be executed.

But, of course, neither Travis nor Keith were taken seriously by the police or those high up in the judicial system. ‘They had their man’, as was often pointed out. They didn’t want to admit they were wrong, despite the chance an innocent life could be lost – their politics were far more important to them.

And that’s what made me feel, above all else, rage. In the end, Donté was executed. An innocent man needlessly lost his life. Travis was clearly the main reason for this, having not come forward much earlier. But those at the top did not use their power to stop a preventable death. They didn’t even want to give Donté a chance at life.

But although this novel is fictional, it does highlight several issues surrounding capital punishment. Personally, I think the death penalty should never be an option. Who is anyone to say that another human being should die, even if they have committed murder? Thinking about it, it’s kind of a catch 22 situation. And innocent people have lost their lives because of a crime committed by someone else. It’s awful enough if a person has been imprisoned for something they didn’t do, but once they’ve been executed, there is no going back. They wouldn’t even get the chance to go on with the rest of their lives. Not to mention the huge impact it would have on their families.

I could write a whole post about why I think the death penalty is wrong. But I’ll go back to my point at the beginning of this post, that a good book makes you think, question and feel. And “The Confession” has most definitely done that for me – I feel so strongly about the issues that it highlights. So I would absolutely recommend “The Confession”, having been one of the more thought provoking books I have ever read.

Books

‘The Girl on the Train’ – Paula Hawkins

The Book:

This novel is up there as one of my all-time favourites. In just over two days, I had finished reading it – it has to be the fastest I’ve read a novel. I was so invested in the storyline and it had me hooked from the first chapter. I don’t like to sound clichéd but The Girl on the Train is one of the most gripping novels I have ever read.

TGotT Book

Set in London and the surrounding area, the novel is told from the perspective of three central characters: Rachel, Megan and Anna. While Rachel and Anna’s chapters are set in real time, Megan tells us her version of events beginning three months earlier.

The Girl on the Train begins with Rachel. She takes the same train every morning to her job, which we later find out she lost due to her excessive drinking. She looks at the same house every day and watches what seems like the ‘perfect’ couple (Megan and Scott) enjoying their lives together. Rachel wishes her marriage to her ex-husband, Tom, could have worked out that well. And seeing her old house, with Tom’s lover and new wife, Anna, having apparently taken her place makes the pain much worse for Rachel.

Anna, having had a daughter with Tom named Evie, is very paranoid about Rachel. The house phone is always ringing and she has seen Rachel on their street. Anna comes to the conclusion that Rachel refuses to get over Tom and the fact that he cheated on her with Anna; she therefore continues to contact him. However, by the end of the novel, we learn that it was not actually Rachel on the other end of the phone.

When Megan tells us her story in the lead up to her death, we soon discover that her life with Scott is not as perfect as it seems from Rachel’s point of view. We find out about events from her past that have affected her psychologically and we realise that Scott is not her only lover.

But the events that follow Megan’s tragic death reveal the characters’ true selves and what exactly it is that connects the three women.

 

The Film:

While I absolutely loved the book, the same unfortunately can’t be said for the film adaptation. I wouldn’t say that I dislike it – after all, it wasn’t a bad film. It just wasn’t quite right, in my opinion.

TGotT Film

I know films are never 100% exactly like the books they’re based on, but this one was annoyingly inaccurate. While a British actress (Emily Blunt) played Rachel, the film was far too American for a book that was set in London. And that’s because the film was set in and around New York. They didn’t just change the city, they changed the country altogether. And I feel like that took away from the book’s ‘identity’. Having got used to the idea of the plot taking place in England, it just didn’t feel right watching the film taking place in the United States.

I also don’t feel like it communicated the storyline as well as it could have. It seemed like it would only have made complete sense if you’d read the book, especially at the beginning. Having read the book, I won’t ever know if I’d have followed the plot well or not by just watching the film, but that’s the general impression I got from it.

But despite my criticisms of the film adaptation, I would like to reiterate that I didn’t completely loathe it. There are just certain things I would have preferred had they been done differently.

So in my overall opinion, The Girl on the Train is an absolutely incredible book (5/5), while the film is so-so (3/5).