Notes Backwards

We’ve all wondered what we’d say, if we could travel back in time, and tell ourselves what to do. I thought I’d blog about it today, on account of the weather being simply terrible, which is making me all reflective, and thoughtful.

Knowledge, and university courses. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are several things a person must know. The first, is that learning stuff, the big stuff, isn’t easy, and unless you’re bless with a photographic memory, something I dearly wish I had, you will spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rereading, and note-taking, before you can confidently declare to understand something. Moreover, somebody will always know more than you about something. This is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to be absolutely the very best, at everything you try to do. You should take the university course you love, because otherwise you’ll be extremely resentful of it, and it’ll make it one thousand times more difficult to finish it.

Art. Art is important. It’s important because we like to build things, create things. We must remember to write, read, draw, and dance, throughout the exams, and throughout the long working weeks, because otherwise life becomes well, incredibly boring. It’s also never too late to be something you’ve dreamt of being, even if you find you’re just a little older than the others. That just means you’re more mature.

Body. You think you’re fat now, however hindsight suggests you were wonderfully slim. As Baz Luhrmann quite rightly says, “you are not as fat as you imagine”. Take care of the body. Get some exercise, even if you hate it, and remember not to eat too much rubbish. Some junk food however is good for the soul, and so eating some of it is strongly encouraged. As is the eating of broccoli.

Success. Being an awkward child, you don’t know what you want to be yet, however you do know that it’s going to be something incredibly high-flying, and difficult to manage. The aspiration will seem like it’s a really long way away when you get a reality check, and sadly have to check into the real world for a while, however you ought to just keep going, and find new ways to pursue things. Thinking outside the box is really very, very important.

Self Confidence. Another Baz Luhrmann quote. “Do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.” I find these to be rather wise words, and he has a point. Remember not to get complacent, and don’t think that you know everything. When you get to university you will be humbled by everyone and everything, including your peers, how daunting the real world seems, and how little you really know about your degree. Just remember it’s only the beginning, work hard to understand more, and use the library often. Do not be disappointed if you don’t just sail through, straight away. There’s no reward, if it’s too easy.

I think that summarises my wise words of the day. I think it’s useful, sometimes, to remember what you’ve learnt. It makes you feel wise, and more mature than you were when you first started out, even if it was only really six months ago.  The video by Baz Luhrmann is something I find incredibly useful too, have a listen!


On the Publishing Industry

As far as the publishing industry goes, I know very little about it. I know that I would like to be involved in it. And I know that it is incredibly difficult to get into the big publishing companies, purely because they’re just so competitive. The problem is less about your own aptitude for something, as opposed to finding a position that will allow you to pursue the career of your choice. Because in the corporate world, your dreams are just the same as another applicant, and you both want everything in the position.


The problem is acquiring experience and having enough initiative to search for the highly competitive internships that do exist out there. I think being aware of them is part of the challenge, and then finding out where to go from there is naturally difficult, but not completely impossible. I personally felt better about the whole prospect of searching for a job after attending some employability events, and realising that networking as opposed to simply qualifications, is the way forwards.

However, a note on talent; I feel that everyone has one, and it just takes longer to come out in some people. It’s always there, and I do honestly believe, even though I am known for being a tad cynical, that everyone has something. It’s hard to compete with people who have a huge amount of talent, all the time, but I think that’s just a part of the world we inhabit today. Once upon a time, people found a career and worked in it until they retired, however today, we’ll all have a number of different careers, and we’ll be wanting to move on, and upwards in the world, until we retire. There’s more of a hunger to be rich and famous today than there ever was; we all want to be something, or someone, or at the very least, we want to be rich and famous.

I don’t really know how I will go about being somebody, however I think my business which has started well, and I hope it continues to go well, will help with this. It’s not always easy, phoning and emailing everyone you know to tell them about it, but eventually you have to be accepted somewhere; it’s a law of averages. Eventually, someone has to say “Yes!”. Eventually however, is not a specified time frame, and everyone I’ve spoken to says that perseverance is key. Networking is also key. Talking and communication is key. It’s almost comparable to the Deathly Hallows, really; the three ingredients to worldwide domination.

So there we are. I love the idea of belonging to this industry, no matter which bit of it. I’d like to be involved in PR, and maybe even consultancy, but it’s so difficult to really define what it is I’d like to do. Which is natural, and it’s why people of my generation tend to have a multitude of careers, and areas of expertise. The agony of choice; that’s what’s made our lives both more delightful, and more difficult, all at the same time.




Learning to Jog

It might sound ridiculous, but I have never been able to jog on a treadmill. This is related to a past experience when I was ten, of falling off a treadmill. I fell forwards, face first, and skinned most of my legs. The carpet burn was the worst I’ve ever had. It was intolerably uncomfortable to sleep, for days on end. So now, at the ripe old age of eighteen, I thought I’d better conquer the fear, and jump back up onto the treadmill, if only to provide my gym routine with a degree of variety. Also, I’m an adult, and therefore should be able to use a simple conveyor belt, to run. A bit like a hamster in a cage, really.

So I stepped up, and firmly tied the STOP string around my wrist, to the point that it nearly cut off all circulation to my hand. I even turned the machine on. So it starts whirring, and I start walking. “This is okay,” I’m thinking. So I increase the speed, and this is when it all, inevitably, goes horribly wrong. I have to press stop, because essentially, my feet aren’t in time with the rest of me. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have no rhythm, and even less grace.


So, a strategic rethink was required. I came to the conclusion that if I could hear an obtrusive beat in my ear, then I might be able to do it a little bit better. So I found the loudest Eminem track I could find, and turned it up deafeningly loud, and repeated the entire start-up process again. Following the beat seemed to mean my feet were almost able to jog. So I felt more comfortable, and as I realised I wasn’t in pain, and I was still  upright (much to my surprise, and the surprise of the woman who seemed to be chuckling at my poor attempt), I decided to turn up the speed. And there I was: jogging along, at a steady pace, for a whole forty minutes. Forty minutes passed, and strangely, went really quickly. Whenever I’m in the gym, you see, time seems to slow down, and whenever I’m doing something urgent or enjoyable, it seems to pass at double its normal speed.

Therefore today, I feel like I’ve accomplished something; (I have really, I finished an essay, wrote this post, and argued at length in a seminar, about the merits of feminism in the workplace) I learnt to jog. I also learnt that you shouldn’t look at the treadmill floor whilst you do it, because this will cause you to become unbalanced, and frankly, I need no help in being unbalanced. I have it down to a refined science.

The gym is a scary place, but it’s nice when the treadmill monsters have been expelled, and you can add “treadmill” to the list of gym equipment that you are no longer terrified of.





A Blogging Hiatus

Dear Reader,

I return to my little blog today, feeling somewhat repentant, for being so completely neglectful of you lately. Unfortunately, I’ve suffered two main impediments to recent blogging. The first one being searching for a house, in which to reside next year.Working out the demands of both rent and bills are fundamental, and unfortunately, I’m not mathematically or financially blessed as yet. My job search has been as productive as using Dairy Milk as a fireplace, and the demands of adulthood seem to have overridden my aspirations within my life as a student. But no matter; we have resolved the crisis now, and hopefully, someone will one day employ me. At this juncture however, jokes about the employability of English Literature graduates can be made, but that’s another post…

My second impediment however was more serious, at least in my eyes, because, I lost my inspiration to a chronic case of writer’s block that seems to have lasted at least two weeks. It’s rare for me to be completely unable to write for this long; usually a day, maybe three; not usually weeks. I couldn’t even seem to manage a small poem, not even something crude, adolescent and unsophisticated.

I stood in the mirror one morning and said “I have nothing in my head to say. About anything at all.” This was strange, because we studied The Tempest last week, and I adore Shakespeare. We also studied James Joyce, a man I have a love-hate relationship with. Usually, I could have written a lengthy explanation for this feeling of repulsion and adoration that follows Joyce, but this week, I couldn’t do it. It seemed too hard to put fingertips to keypad, and make something coherent, even amusing. But today, it seems much easier, and I think I shall be tackling Joyce, Robert Louis Stevenson, and finishing my T.S Eliot series at least sometime in the near future.

So, dear Reader, I apologise for my lengthy absence; but I promise, I shall be back tomorrow, writing about literary type things, instead of rambling on about why I couldn’t write about them at all.



On Survival

So today, I’m taking a brief diversion from my T.S Eliot series, because I read a rather inspiring article in The Guardian which made me think carefully about the nature of survival, and the very different perceptions of it from culture to culture. The developed world, the world which has Starbucks coffee on every other street corner, deems survival as an almost decadent indulgence; “Oh, I simply couldn’t live without my four by four”, or “I’m just starving…”. The article however presented a rather more interesting perception of survival; it was all about the boys of war-torn Afghanistan, who quite literally, walked to Europe, crossing vast amounts of land, traversing mountains, and clinging to the chassis of assorted lorries.

These boys are certainly not undertaking the journey for any charitable purpose; they are running away, paying gargantuan sums of money to smugglers, to escape the Taliban, or endless poverty, or the constant bombing of their villages. Like every other human, they have the fight or flight response, and unfortunately, it’s hard to fight a cause that is illogical. In the same way as arguing with a three-year-old is pointless, it is pointless to attempt intellectual argument against fundamentalism. Neither of these things are rational.

The startling thing of course is the fact that whilst I’m vigorously exercising, researching, thinking about things to take to Kilimanjaro, etc, these boys, who barely have a pair of shoes, are literally just doing it, climbing the mountains, and travelling in any way that they can, because that truly is the only way that they will survive the journey from their own damaged country. No one voluntarily traverses the Italian portion of the Alps, without shoes, medicine, food or shelter. However, this statement in essence, cannot be true, because people do it, if not regularly, then often; it is not an unheard of occurrence. This is startling because in our world, that is to say, the “civilised” western world, the thought of doing something so fundamentally dangerous is tantamount to declaring one’s own insanity.

One of the young boys who travel (1)

We continually, as adolescents in particular, moan about how bad our lives are; our student loans aren’t large enough, our boyfriends don’t love us enough, and our parents are always completely unreasonable. And to a certain extent, we are entitled as teenagers, to moan a little bit; to realise slowly that we aren’t the centre of the universe. It’s a rite of passage to know that, however these teenagers never had the chance to be ungrateful, because they were thrown into an unimaginably intense world of pain, where their parents don’t survive long enough to be able to ground them. That privilege was removed from them by extremism and foreign intervention.

Their education is also of paramount importance to them; something that as financial markets narrow, becomes even more important. We don’t tend to notice how privileged we are, and more often than not, will moan about getting up early, our homework, and something that a girl said about us, to someone who we thought was our friend. The boys who walk across Europe seek education as ferociously as they seek food; it is inspirational to read their stories, and to hear such unshakeable commitment, is fascinating.

These kids are inspirational, please have a read through!




On Climbing Mountains

Of late, things have been evolving somewhat; from the inane and obvious, such as diet, to the more complex and frankly more interesting, attitudes. Experience, or the power and beauty of youth, becomes more obvious when you realise that you take it for granted; a failure to maximise one’s time, or energy as a person who is young and exposed to a plethora of opportunity is an intolerable waste, and once this dawned on me, I suffered something comparable to an epiphany, albeit in a more practical sense as opposed to a spiritual one.

Who wouldn't want to climb up there? (1)

So, in the last six weeks, I’ve been doing lots of things very differently than I had been before, for example, I’ve given up eating supernoodles for breakfast (or for any other meal), and instead, eat porridge made with skimmed milk. I’ve also taken to early morning trips to the gym; at seven-thirty am, instead of switching off my alarm and going back to sleep for four more hours, I’m on the cross trainer, or cycling, or something. I’ve found that the adrenaline kick that immediately succeeds the exhaustion is worth getting up early for. Without sleeping all day, there is far more opportunity to do things, and exposure to daylight naturally raises serotonin levels, making for a much happier person.

I think however, there’s more to this change than the somewhat superficial, in that I’ve been offered the chance to take part in a month-long trip to Africa next year; a climb up Kilimanjaro, all the way to the very, very top, volunteering with children and refurbishing schools (or something of this nature), and going on a walking or cycling safari through Hell’s Gate. The trip would give me the opportunity to see Kenya and Tanzania, and work with children, build some things for charity, and climb the world’s highest free-standing mountain. Research suggests that Kilimanjaro isn’t for the particularly weak-willed, and since I want to be able to say “I’ve stood on the summit of Kilimanjaro”, the opportunity seems too good to miss. The organisation of the trip itself will be something to add to a CV also; fundraising that kind of money, and seeking sponsorship is a practical skill. Overall then, it’d be incredible.

The trip has provided a little inspiration for getting up early and wandering around, thinking about acclimatising to a more normal “work-day” and eating much healthier food. It transpires that stereotypical student life doesn’t quite agree with me; but this element of student life, opportunities to travel, and so on, are very much my cup of tea. I’m glad there’s a goal that’s more substantial than ‘to look nice in a bikini’; there’s something much bigger, as well as the long-term health benefits of an attitude change.

There’s an awful lot to be said about mind over matter.




On the Predicament of Routine

I’ve ever so slightly fallen in love with Microsoft Office Outlook, something I’ve never been able to use properly before. The calendar function is excellent; you can colour code every element of your life, scheduling yourself in until your heart’s content. The search for a job however is prevailing; I am simply desperate for a job at university, if only to find myself some structure within this abyss of living in toy town; university day structures just don’t suit me. Arising at two in the afternoon and eating supernoodles on a regular basis is now a banned practice: I will not arise any later than eight in the morning on any given weekday. On Sundays however, I’m allowed a concession: nine am, but only if I’ve been out late the night before. The general “feeling” and routine of university life makes me feel unproductive, and I can’t stand feeling so completely swamped in apathy, so I have to try to get up and out and get things done during daylight hours, to the best of my ability. And unfortunately for students everywhere, alcohol does not make a person any more mentally efficient.

The Microsoft Outlook Icon: A Symbol of Hope For the Fundamentally Disorganised... (1)

You see, all I can think about at the moment is changing things about myself; starting an exercise routine, a better skin routine, a new part-time job. I feel as though I need a complete change, in order to see a complete physical change. Having begun changing my routine in mid-December, I’m already starting to feel the benefits of a regular sleeping and waking pattern, and the lack of junk food and excess alcohol makes a huge difference: I feel far less sluggish, and I have a plethora of energy I didn’t know existed. I’ve gone so far as to start looking at spinning classes and gym membership, and purchased cropped leggings for the purpose of attending the classes. Once the money has been spent, I feel too guilty not to make the most of the service I have paid for.

On a general point then, I’m hoping that this endless amount of energy will fuel not only the functional elements I’d like to change; hopefully it’ll move to me maintaining my blog a little better, and writing a little more, and forming ideas for novels, pictures, and plays. At this point however I digress, into the land of the optimistic, romantic artist. I like to inhabit this beautiful land, because it’s full of hyper enhanced colours and diamonds in the sky. It’s far nicer up there.

And so in this vein, I venture to share another of my works with you;  again, I’d love to hear what everybody thinks of this poem. Since it is loosely related to the theme of writing, and seeking publication in general, it would be interesting to hear what people in a similar predicament think of a poem that could potentially relate to them personally. I hope you enjoy it!


Letter to Talent

There was never a chance this would work. Well,
Competition, was inevitable.
There is a large, empty space, on the floor.
Scorch marks, by the fire. My carbon footprint.
The empty bottles, clink. Shame, floods my face.

The letters, the postcards. The newspaper.
Inky reminiscent. They smoulder, underfoot.
Smoke from our forefather. He founded the
Words, and songs; the poems, the plays, to us.
Dedicated literature, burning.
Scorch marks into the hardwood flooring.

Memorandum arrived, all from London.
Messages; Dear Sir; Dear Madam; Truly.
Bundles of new paper, new ideas, all
Etched into fresh, shiny ink. Sketched our words.
Seeking approval, we bid for our place.
A place in time, a magazine. A book.
A place, somewhere, anywhere to belong.

To exist, in the world of creative
Integrity, is a paradox;
Constantly, overshadowed, by bigger,
More powerful talent than your own being.
Carcinogens curl around your pale throat.
Inhaling: Have you found the mystique of
Post modernism, existing beyond
Your own suffering body? Searching for
A reason to stop stamping envelopes…

…The posting out of the charred paper: What’s left?
What is left of soul? You would (screw) everyone.
If everyone was asphyxiated
In your soulful, poetic arms,
Their charred bones. Mind.

(But for this agony, of attempts and failure,
Whatever is truly owed to us,
Whatever will become of us.)

-Sarah Alice