Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014

Goodbye 2014. It's been nice knowing you but I'm afraid it's time to move on. It's sad to have to say goodbye, but we'll both get over it. It's been an explosive friendship and I'm sure I'll look back on it with a certain fondness. Before we go our separate ways, however, I wanted to leave you with this...

2014 has been a year of change. Looking back over the past 12 months is slightly overwhelming. So much has happened, so much has changed yet I've managed to get through it just like billions of others. This has been a year of growing up, fleeing the nest. A year full of exams and expectations. A year of saying goodbye.  A year of heartbreak. A year of fresh starts and new friendships. A year of adventures. A year of incredible ups and extreme downs. A year to look back on full of sentiment and to think, 'It's been one hell of a year'. Because it truly has.

It's too easy to sweep over the 12 months and make a judgement, good year or bad. To weigh up the happy against the sad. But the truth is, there will never be a year that is full of complete and utter happiness. There will always be a measure of shit mixed in. Sometimes more so than others. All things must come to an end, all good things and all bad things. This is a saying and a fact that stays with me throughout life and assures me that when the going gets tough, there will be a time in which it will get better. But it also means that things won't always go so well, and that is just a natural part of life.
So, 2014. We have had a blast, haven't we?

It started out on a high, so we'll start with the highlights. In January, I got an offer from Oxford University to study Geography. everything seemed to be going well academically and things were looking up. In February, I turned the big 18 and again, realised what a wonderful bunch of people I have in my life, both family and friends. In March, I visited my beautiful nieces and nephew in Scotland - something I don't do nearly as often as I should. I had a joint birthday party with one of my best friends and ran in fancy dress for the Sport Relief Fun Run. In April, I discovered a place of absolute natural beauty, Iceland. It was an incredible trip and I'm truly thankful to have had the opportunity to go. Also in April, I quit my job to focus on my exams. In May, I had my official last day of school and although it was a sad occasion, it was also a necessary rite of passage. Also in May, I passed my driving test first time round. June was mainly a month full of revision and exams, but at the end of June I had my end of 6th form prom which felt like the final goodbye to everyone in my year. July was hectic, I met my cousins from Australia for the first time as they visited for a month. We got on so well and did so many things, days out and nights out, so much that I can't be bothered to write it all down. Also in July, I played drums and sang in my last Concert with the school and soon after, I went off on my first solo trip - to America and Canada. It began in a place called Turtle Island Preserve where I met some of the most wonderful people on the planet and had such a fantastic time that I cried for a while on the plane and for the next few days after I left. But then I saw my family in Canada and had another great, but different, experience. Hanging out with family members, going on a road and camping trip with my uncle and spending some quality time with my aunt was just what I needed. Which lands us at the mid to end of August. August, the month in which I got my exam results and didn't get my place at Oxford. I'd already realised way before this point that it was not the place my heart was set, so this wasn't the big tragedy everyone assumed it would be. Instead, I got into the university which I desperately wanted to go. September was a month of working and saying goodbye. Getting ready to leave. Prepping for the fleeing of the nest. It was also the month of a fresh start at university. Meeting new people and living on my own. Which brings us to October, the true settling into university life. Making friends, going to lectures, joining societies, visiting new places. New new new. November was the month of truly getting over old heartbreak and opening myself up to others. December has been the month of family and friends, seeing people who I haven't seen in a while, being together with the people you love and truly appreciating life. Also, getting extremely sentimental. But that's a regular occurance for me anyway!

The not so great parts have been in there too. The uncertainty of the future. The stress of exams and the impatience with school, wanting to leave. Needing to get away. The fraying of nerves with friends who were all equally stressed out. The heartbreak of falling in love with someone who is strictly off limits. The stress and worry over exams and results. Saying goodbye. The feeling of missing family members who are gone and missing family and friends who live far away. The homesickness at university. The stupid mistakes resulting from alcohol consumption. The general worries and responsibilities of living on your own and having to pay for things you're not used to paying for. The loneliness of everyday life without your true friends or family around you to give you a hug. The falling for someone who is yet again off limits and having to get over it. Yes, there have been down periods. But still, this year has been absolutely mental and I hope that 2015 is just as crazy.

Happy New Year! I hope your 2014's have been great, and I hope that 2015 is just as good, if not better than the previous 12 months.

So, goodbye 2014. As I said, it's been nice knowing you but it is time to move on.

I won't forget you.

xx
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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Oxbridge Interview Tips

For those of you who are applying to Oxbridge, the prospect of the interview probably doesn't fill you with a sense of calm. In fact, the mention of it most likely plants a weight of cold, hard dread in the pit of your stomach. But even if you're feeling pretty positive about the whole thing, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that helped me get ready for the dreaded interview date.

1. Do practice interviews with a variety of people. Teachers from your subject, teachers from other subjects, family, friends. Although the prospect of doing an interview with someone you know can be really daunting. It is for exactly this reason that you should. I find it so much easier to come across as confident and knowledgeable in interviews when I don't know the person doing the interviewing. It means that if all goes horribly wrong, you can walk away and never have to make eye contact with them again. But when it comes to people who you know well, it's embarrassing putting on your serious front, opening yourself up to constructive criticism and then having to continue seeing that person after the mock interview is done. In the month leading up to my interview, I had a few mock interviews with different people. The one's that I had with teachers I didn't know went absolutely fine, the one's I had with the geography teachers that I respected and knew fairly well went horrifically. But, after those ordeals, the actual interview went so much smoother than I could have hoped for. You know what they say, a bad dress rehearsal foretells a good opening night.

2. Know your personal statement inside out. Your personal statement tends to be the only reference point the interviewer has about you in the interview. It's the one thing you can really prepare yourself for when it comes to the interview. Don't get caught out. If you've mentioned books you've read, make sure you have something to say about them. If you mention particular interest in a topic, have something to say about it. If you put some opinion in your personal statement, make sure you can back it up if they ask you to justify it. It would be unbelievably embarrassing if you were asked a question about something you'd written and you couldn't answer it.

3. Don't learn reams of information to recite. Interviewers know when you're reciting a pre-prepared piece. The point of the interview is to see how you think on your feet, not to see how well you can remember a paragraph. It is difficult to foresee what the interviewer will ask you about, so there is no point memorising large chunks of pre-planned text. Instead, go through a list of general topics to do with your course and make a few brief points about each. That way, if it comes up, you've had a few thoughts on the issue beforehand and you're not sitting there with your mouth opening and closing like a goldfish in the interview. This brings me back to doing mock interviews. I thought I'd prepared a load of things to talk about in my interview and then I got to the worst of my mock interviews and my geography teacher asked me how long a piece of evidence would last in a particular type of rock. I had absolutely no clue. It completely stumped me, I didn't know much about geology and it scared me, so I sat there like a goldfish instead of keeping a clear head. Which brings me onto,

4. Keep an open mind and stay calm. This ties into the third point well. The interview questions will range in difficulty, but it will be hard at times. There may be questions that you have no clue about. Don't panic. Ask them to repeat the question, this gives valuable thinking time, don't worry about silences, they don't expect you to answer immediately. If there is a hard question, keep an open mind about it, steer the answer towards your strengths. Stay calm, it's the best thing you can learn to do.

So good luck! I hope it goes well, and if not, it's not the end of the world. At the end of the day it's another experience that will make you stronger. It is definitely not something you should ever regret doing.

xx
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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bucket List

I am one of those people who likes to write to-do lists and reminders, they help to motivate me and there's just something about the crossing off afterwards that extremely satisfies me. So it should come as no surprise that I have written a list of things to do before I die. A bucket list if you will. I started this list when I was 12 years old and as I've grown and changed, the list too has developed. There were some things that I used to want to do that I have no interest in doing anymore, which is fine by me. So without further ado, here is my List of Things To Do Before I Die version 4.

  • Travel to Iceland 
  • Travel to Denmark
  • Get straight A's in my exams one year
  • Sail a boat on my own
  • Sing a solo in a concert
  • Audition for a part in a musical/play
  • Act in a musical/play
  • Be part of the backstage crew in a musical/play
  • Play drums in a concert
  • Go on a foreign exchange
  • Travel to Norway
  • Publish a poem
  • Go scuba diving
  • Go jet skiing
  • Go on holiday with friends
  • Travel to Finland
  • Own a diamond
  • Travel to Canada
  • Work with children
  • Run a 5k charity run
  • Run a 10k charity run
  • Meet someone famous
  • Read 1000 books
  • Babysit
  • Have/adopt a baby
  • Get a job
  • Travel to USA
  • Travel to Australia
  • Spend £100 on an item of clothing/shoes
  • Dye my hair
  • Be a bridesmaid
  • Wear a lovely dress
  • Go to Alton Towers
  • Go to Aqualandia
  • Go clubbing
  • Climb a mountain
  • Go paragliding
  • Go white water rafting
  • Win a competition
  • Go skiing
  • Get a tattoo
  • Pass all of my GCSE's
  • Travel to New Zealand
  • Go to a spa
  • Go on a safari
  • Complete Bronze Duke of Edinburgh
  • Have a box of chocolate without sharing
  • Sail round the UK
  • See All Time Low Live
  • See my favourite band live
  • Go to a concert abroad
  • See Phantom of the Opera
  • See Les Miserables
  • See Wicked
  • Travel to the Falklands
  • Travel to Italy
  • Complete Silver Duke of Edinburgh
  • Go skinny dipping
  • Go up the Eiffel Tower
  • Travel to Ireland
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Ride a camel
  • Hold a snake
  • Get a massage
  • Go camping
  • Donate Blood
  • Go meat free for a month
  • Stay out all night until sunrise
  • Run in the rain
  • Watch the sunset
  • Go to Comic Con
  • Get revenge on someone
  • Work in a bar
  • Go on a gondola 
  • Go punting
  • Go paint balling
  • Go clay pigeon shooting
  • Go on a road trip
  • Go abseiling
  • Go rock climbing
  • Pass my driving test
  • Learn first aid
  • Visit every National Park in the UK
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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Niagara Falls


The Niagara Falls are a spectacular display of some of the natural wonders the world has to offer. When I was in Canada just under a month ago, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to go and see the Niagara falls for the first time. It was recommended that I see the falls at sunrise as there tends to be less people around, and of course, sunrises are beautiful. I arrived at the perfect time. Awestruck by the scale of the three falls, American, Bridal Veil and Canadian, I stood at a viewing point and stared across, taking in the sights, smells and feel of the waterfalls (It's impossible to stand close to a waterfall without getting drenched!) Walking down the wide pathway to get closer to the Canadian falls, it was also crazy to think that in that spot I stood, it was never dry. The mist and haze from the fall is constant. Even now, as I sit here, at that spot it will be wet as always. It's quite comforting I suppose.



What's not comforting is the uneasiness I felt the whole time I was there. The fact of the matter is, the falls, in my opinion, have been ruined by people. Everywhere you looked you could see buildings, lights, tourist attractions. On the way in we went through an area that looked like Blackpool. Arcades, amusements, big shining lights, Vacancy, No Vacancy, fast food. Anything you wanted, you could find. Except peace and quiet it seemed. I'm glad I went at sunrise because I would have hated it if there had been masses of people hanging around the falls.



 I always tell myself that when you go somewhere or see something with high expectations, you're much more likely to be disappointed. And that's what the Niagara falls were to me: a big blaring disappointment. I left feeling so sad it was unreal. Having been to Iceland just recently and seeing waterfalls that, although cannot compete with the scale of Niagara, are left almost entirely in peace, it was impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Not in the falls themselves, but in people who could let such a wonderful place go. I doubt I'll ever revisit the falls, but I do not regret going. Visiting them was an experience, just not one that I was necessarily expecting...


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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Where Rainbows End/ Love, Rosie - Cecelia Ahern

What happens when two people who are meant to be together can't seem to get it right?

Rosie and Alex are destined for each other, and everyone seems to know it but them. Best friends since childhood, they are separated as teenagers when Alex and his family relocate from Dublin to Boston.

Like two ships always passing in the night, Rosie and Alex stay friends, and though years pass, the two remain firmly attached via emails and letters
. But destiny is a funny thing, and in this novel of several missed opportunities, Rosie and rs. Heartbroken, they learn to live without each oAlex learn that fate isn't quite done with them yet.


Review
I thought I'd read this book after I saw the that it was being made into a film and oh my goodness, am I glad that I did.

It's rare to find a book that manages to capture and convey exactly how you feel at a very specific moment or time in your life but for this moment, at this time in my life, 'Where Rainbows End' alternatively named 'Love, Rosie' and 'Rosie Dunne' really hit me hard.

Cecelia Ahern's expression of time throughout the novel was perfect. It was gut wrenching and heart breaking yet it was perfect. The phrase 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans' seems absolutely fitting to this story of life that spans over a 45 year period, through snapshots of letters, emails and notes.

I don't tend to write a lot in book reviews, for the fear that I will say too much and ruin the experience for others, but if you have read this novel, I would love to hear what you have to say.

All in all, 'Where Rainbows End' was a magical and heartwarming read.


Favourite Quote (Without Spoilers)
Life is funny isn't it? Just when you think you've got it all figured out, just when you finally begin to plan something, get excited about it and feel like you know which direction you''re heading in, the paths change, the wind blows the other way, north is suddenly south, and east is west and you're lost. It's so easy to lose your way, to lose direction. There aren't many sure things in life, but one thing I do know is that you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. You have to follow through on some things.

For more information, visit Cecelia Ahern's Official Website:
http://uk.cecelia-ahern.com/books/Books/Where-Rainbows-End/



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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Writing Personal Statements

Wherever you are in life, there will come a point when you have to sell yourself. And I mean that in the figurative sense of course. Whether it be for a job application, a place at college or an audition, to be successful usually involves proving yourself to others. Unfortunately that can mean having to talk, and even verge on brag, about yourself. For some, that may seem easy but I think it's safe to say that most of us, talking ourselves up feels rather uncomfortable. One particular struggle for me was writing a personal statement for university. 

4000 characters of pure cheese. Yet, if done well, can make the difference between receiving an offer from university and, well, not.

So, first things first, don't panic! 4000 characters (including spaces) may appear daunting yet it really is not that much space at all. In fact, the last sentence alone was 114 characters. And so far in this blog post, there has been 904 characters. See? Not that difficult.

I always think that the hardest thing about writing personal statements and alike, is knowing where to start. Don't worry about your opening line straight away, just start on different sections. A sentence here and there. These can then be put together later on. If you're struggling to think of things to say, I've put together a checklist of things that I found helpful when writing mine:

1. The most important thing to include is why you want to study your chosen subject at university. You are applying to study there for 3 years or more, so the university want to see that you have a real interest in the course. An interest that you will then bring with you to that university. No uni wants to invest time and resources into a student who isn't particularly passionate or is going to drop out after first term.

2. What have you done to show your particular affinity for your subject? It's all well and good saying how passionate you are about your subject, but what they really want to see is how you've taken that passion, that interest and have proactively furthered your education. This includes books you've read around your subject, lectures you may have been to, workshops you partaken in, essays and competitions... the list goes on. If you find that you haven't really done much, don't worry, it's never too late to pick up a book!

3. Have you done any work experience or volunteer work? Preferably related to your course, particularly in regards to competitive courses such as medicine and veterinary medicine. However, it is not a necessity for volunteer work to directly associate with your course. Instead, write about how that experience has developed you and any skills you may have acquired or improved. 

4. What are your hobbies and extra curricular activities? Don't just add these in for the sake of it. Make sure you show or allude to how they have been vital in part of your character and development, if you've been part of a group or company for a long time, show that you have dedication, that you will gel with the rest of the university outside of academia. 

5. What other subjects are you studying currently? How do they link to your course, what do they add that will come in useful when you get to university? Personally, I decided to remove part of this element from my personal statement as it didn't flow as well as I had hoped. 

6. Have you got any anecdotes or been on any trips that make have sparked interest or lead you down the path that you're currently taking? Your personal statement is called a personal statement for a reason, adding personality makes it just that bit more original. 

Remember: admissions tutors read thousands of applications per year, make yours enjoyable to read. Get friends or teachers to read before sending off. Check for spelling mistakes or improper use of grammar. These things are just as important as any of the other points above. 

I hope this has been a help! Good luck!

xx

A copy of my personal statement - applying for Geography (BSc and BA)
Offers received: Oxford, Durham, Lancaster, Exeter and Royal Holloway
Total number of characters: 3987

My first tentative steps were taken onto the path of geography when I heard the words that still to this day bring a smile to my face, ‘longshore drift’. Having spent the majority of my life by the coast, the processes that shape the world around me have always been an intriguing unknown. It was the summer of 2009, whilst sailing around the UK, in which my particular interest in the topic of coastal geomorphology initially developed. My most vivid recollections from the trip were passing along the Yorkshire coast, cutting through the highlands of Scotland and sailing alongside the isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. The sheer diversity of the British landscape was something I had never previously had the opportunity to experience. At that point in time, however, my comprehension of geography and what it encompassed was limited to what I had learnt at school.

Only through further study and reading around the subject have I been able to understand just how widespread geography really is. Every time I pick up a piece of related writing I manage to stumble across new concepts and ideas that I’d never previously encountered. ‘Whole Earth Discipline’ by Stewart Brand was, for this reason especially, a joy to read. The most compelling topic for me was the controversial issue of nuclear power. Not knowing much about the matter beforehand, I realised when reading this book that my preconceived ideas about nuclear had been extremely biased. After turning the final page, however, I walked away having gained a new perspective, mind buzzing with the sudden realisation that there was so much more for me to learn. Through this love for reading I have been able to volunteer at both my school library for six years and local library for a year which has given me the ability to find information quickly and easily. This desire to acquire knowledge continues to pave the way in my pursuit of geography.

One particular overarching issue that I find myself drawn to whichever direction I take is climate change. When reading ‘The Last Generation’ by Fred Pearce, I was introduced to the term ‘Anthropocene’ which I decided to research for my extended project. The idea that humans have made such an imprint on the planet to have a geological epoch in their name is mind blowing. It is fascinating to see just how much of an impact humans have had on earth. The question of whether Homo sapiens are as important as perhaps believed is still undergoing much debate, despite the inordinate amount of evidence that suggests the term is well deserved. Climate change is an issue upon which humanity is universally trying to resolve and through my study of biology I have been able to explore methods of adapting to climate change such as the development of genetically modified crops and the selective breeding of cattle.

My experiences of geography stretch well beyond the reach of the classroom and have been essential in my desire to study geography at a higher level. When on my field trip to Northern Ireland I visited Murlough Bay, a stunning sand dune ecosystem which is facing an increased threat of erosion. I had the privilege to meet David, a national trust warden who had such a passion and investment in the area that it was impossible not to feel inspired after talking to him. Participation in the Duke of Edinburgh silver award allowed me to spend a lot of time in the New Forest where I encountered natural flood defences in the form of marshland. Having learnt about the importance of wetlands previously, observing first hand just how appropriately named they were, was an experience. Taking part in the UNIQ summer school only strengthened my belief that geography was the right way for me. After a week full of lectures given by experts in their fields; fieldwork determining the role of plants and algae in stone conservation and a tutorial investigating the issue of resource nationalism, I was certain in my decision to study geography at university. 
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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Iceland


At the beginning of April this year, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Iceland, a trip I had been eagerly awaiting for the best part of 3 years. I went for a total of 5 days, and have absolutely no doubt that I’ll go again someday. Whilst in Iceland, it was difficult to picture anywhere that rivalled its natural beauty. Almost as soon as we landed we were whisked off by our coach guide from Discover the World to a place that I can only describe as paradise. Nestled among the lava fields was an expanse of water so blue it made my breath catch in my throat when I saw it. I suppose the name ‘Blue Lagoon’ makes perfect sense really. 


After a brief clash of cultures, we made it through the changing rooms relatively unscathed. Once in the naturally heated water it was impossible to think anything but happy thoughts. Floating about in such warm water was so relaxing that time seemed to stand still. If it weren't for my watch I’d have missed the coach back to the hotel, an entirely possible scenario, as two members of our group soon found out. On the first evening, a small group of us went for a walk along the coastal path as it was getting dark. Looking out at the sea, with snow-capped mountains in the not so distant distance was phenomenal. It’s not exactly a sight that I am familiar with in my everyday life.



The next day in Iceland was packed full of beaches, waterfalls and glacier walking. After setting off bright and early to meet with our tour guide Ragnar, who was to be our insight into all aspects of the weird and wonderful Icelandic culture, we stopped off at Seljalandsfoss, a stunning waterfall towering 60 metres. It was an unfortunate time to discover the inadequacy of a particular pair of waterproofs but soggy trousers were a small price to pay for the incredible experience of walking completely behind the waterfall itself. The next stop was Skogafoss, an equally fantastic waterfall made all the more incredible by the sense of achievement we all felt after walking the 429 steps to reach the top. But before we knew it, we had to return to the coach in order to reach Solheimajokull in time for our bout of glacier walking. Fitted with waterproofs, helmets and crampons, we set off onto the glacier spending two hours completely overcome with the bizarre reality of walking on top of a mass of moving ice in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.



The next two days were just as surreal. We walked along black sand beaches; climbed to the top of a volcanic crater; smelt the sweet scent of sulphur and watched in awe as a geysir bubbled and erupted before us. One particular highlight was caving in Leidarendi. Few of us had ever done anything like it before. Armed with only a head-torch, we descended into a dark abyss, where we crawled, climbed, and fell through former lava tunnels. We not only learnt more about the geological history of that part of Iceland, but also were treated to fascinating (and terrifying) examples of Icelandic mythology. At one point, we were made to turn out all the lights and await the arrival of the carnivorous 'Unkind' monster, who was presumably dying to meet us. All in all, Iceland was an extremely incredible assault to the senses.


The last day, which is always a sad time, was greatly improved by the prospect of some shopping. A small group of us decided to get up extra early to go swimming in a local pool (complete with water slide and hot tub). Despite the 'pool police' (two women that sit in the shower area to ensure that people are 'truly clean'), the hour there was great fun, and attempting an assault course intended for children is definitely something to remember! Our time in Reykjavik was also great. The view from the church tower was really quite something, if a little windy, and the numerous shops selling everything from fridge magnets to animal furs were lovely to go into. Overall, Iceland was amazing and I would most definitely recommend it for anyone who's thinking of going in the future.

xx


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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Death

It's a strange thing, this death business. To me at least.

I first encountered death two years ago. That statement in itself sounds silly, as if I woke up one morning, went for a walk and who do I bump into? None other than the grim reaper himself (to clarify, I fortunately did not... or unfortunately depending on how you look at it). But I digress, I experienced death for the first time when I was 16 years old. Before that I'd been extremely lucky, everyone that I loved was alive and for the most part, well. So when the time came for me to lose someone I love with all my heart, I had absolutely no idea how to handle it. You see, dealing with death is among the things they never teach you at school. Sure, I knew all about the dangers of teenage pregnancy, STI's and what to do in the case of bullying, but when it came to seeing someone die I was none the wiser. In retrospect, I understand why they never teach this at school. How to deal with death isn't something that can be taught. There are no guidelines and everyone has a different experience, a different perspective. Saying that, there are all sorts of things online telling you how to deal with grief, the 5 stages of grief and whatnot and I know that for some, it helps. It helps to have a set path. To have somebody else telling you how to feel.

Before I continue, it probably makes sense to give a bit of background about my own experiences which may or may not be similar to your own. The reason I've decided to write about death is as a result of the past month, in which two members of my family, one close and one not so close, have died from pancreatic cancer. Before that, back when I was 16, my cousin, a name that never seems to convey just how much he means to me, died after having a kidney transplant that was supposed to save his life. Joe was 17. I'm not sure whether it was because he was so close to me or that he was so young or that it was the first time I'd ever had someone I love die, or maybe a culmination of all three that has meant I have never felt that extremity of pain before or since, except when I think about him, even over the past month which has been pretty awful too.

I don't feel as though I can do Joe justice in this post, so I'll dedicate another to him entirely because now I have finally plucked up the courage to write, I just want to get it all out. But dying, death, being gone is perhaps one of the most difficult things I have ever had to get my head around. And the honest truth is that despite having two years to get used to the idea, I still can't really understand how someone who you saw and spoke to and laughed with and spent some of the best days of your life with is just gone. Suddenly you can't talk to them anymore, you can't play fight with them, you can't stay up until two in the morning catching up on lost time. Just like that, there will be no more memories to be had with them and just like that, the picture of them in your future disappears. Except it doesn't, and that's why it's so difficult. For someone to leave such a huge hole, it is inevitable that life as you know it will never be the same again, it can never be the same again.

When Joe died, I lost all empathy for my friends. I pulled away, I hated people and their stupid little problems. I even hated my parents, not because they were annoying, but because they wanted me to talk to them about my feelings and I didn't want to talk to them about it. I felt that nobody really understood what I was going through and I was angry. I wasn't directly angry about Joe dying, whenever I thought about him and our memories I just felt sad, this gut wrenching hollowness that I thought would never go away. Before the funeral I would bargain to Joe in my mind, it's not too late to wake up Joe, please, just wake up, switch places with me, anything, it's not too late to come back to us, don't leave us please..but then he was cremated and I remember as we left the crematorium, placing my hand on the coffin as a final goodbye, I knew then that there was no turning back, and I wondered if I could ever feel happy again.

After that it's all a blur, I have my diaries here and I know that I wept every day for a long while.

“Weeping is not the same thing as crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it's over, you feel like you don't have any bones left to hold you up.”

I decided then that I would try to do the things that Joe no longer could, I went to concerts, I planned a holiday with one of my closest friends, the first without parents, I studied really hard for my exams because I gave up caring about what people thought of me. Teachers gave me a wide berth and for that I am eternally grateful because with the pressure off, I managed to get fantastic grades in the summer. I became friends with a new group of people, still being friendly with the people I'd spent the past 4 and a half years with as it was so close to the end of school I didn't want to hurt them. As fate would have it, one day someone who was a friend but not that close started crying in the one lesson I had when I sat next to her and it turned out that she had lost someone she loves 3 months before who was the same age as Joe and just like that I didn't feel alone anymore. She is now my best friend, and for that I am blessed. I am thankful to Joe for giving me a kick up the backside and giving me inspiration to really live and enjoy life.

Looking at the 5 stages of grief, I do feel that it has some merit. It's true there was denial, anger, bargaining, depression, I don't feel as though I have exactly achieved acceptance yet. But the thing is, it didn't happen in order. Bargaining and denial came first. And once I was angry, I still felt denial and I stopped being angry but I didn't bargain. I didn't read these lists because I didn't want to be told how to feel, I wanted to feel how I needed to feel. Some people on the other hand, need these lists, needed to know how to deal with it. But I didn't like being told when to cry, when to be angry and when to feel okay. It should be okay to cry whenever and feel whatever you feel at whatever point you feel it.

If you're dealing with something similar I would recommend that you talk to someone. I had a best friend who helped a lot. And Joe's mum, my auntie, also helped a lot. Because she knew him better than anyone. She knew what I was going through because she was going through something 100x worse. I had a whole load of family who knew the Joe that I knew and I had a friend who knew how I was feeling. I also had the Joe in my mind, in my heart that I could talk to and that helped too. I couldn't have gotten through it alone. For everyone who didn't understand, although initially I was angry, I'm not anymore. I was reading a book a while back and a quote stood out for me;

“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (its three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).”

People forget, because they weren't connected to that person, they haven't got to live with this great huge hole in their lives but it's something that you have to deal with, on top of everything else, that life goes on and that you have to change and adapt or else it will go on without you. And the thing that I wish somebody had told me was that it was okay to be happy too. The guilt I felt when I had a moment when I was truly happy, something I thought I would never feel again, the guilt was almost enough to counteract the happiness altogether. But honestly, Joe wouldn't have wanted me to be miserable. He was all about doing as much as possible and having a great time. He would not have minded that I was enjoying myself. Not in the slightest. As long as I was doing something worthwhile. And I measure this by asking myself, 'Would I want to call Joe after this and tell him all about it?' and that works for me. So the moral of the story is, death is strange and unknown but how you deal with it is entirely up to you. Don't let others tell you how to feel or make you feel like a nuisance for being sad. Find that person or those people who really care, and there is definitely somebody, and let it all out and do something fun afterwards. It's good for the soul.

Whatever happens to people after they die is a mystery. Believe what you would like to believe. I believe that I'll see Joe again, that I'll see Brendan and that I'll see Ruth. And although it sucks to have to live in the now without these people, it gives me hope that I'll see them again. To know that makes death a lot less scary. But remember to enjoy yourself and make the most of life, of family, of friends. I know it's cliché but I'll end this on another quote,

"As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let us down, probably will. You'll have your heart broken and you'll break others' hearts. You'll fight with your best friend or maybe even fall in love with them, and you'll cry because time is flying by. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, forgive freely, and love like you've never been hurt. Life comes with no guarantees, no time outs, no second chances. you just have to live life to the fullest, tell someone what they mean to you and tell someone off, speak out, dance in the pouring rain, hold someone's hand, comfort a friend, fall asleep watching the sun come up, stay up late, be a flirt, and smile until your face hurts. Don't be afraid to take chances or fall in love and most of all, live in the moment because every second you spend angry or upset is a second of happiness you can never get back."
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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Book Night

Happy St. George's Day! Happy World Book Night! And don't forget to say Happy Birthday (and death day) to Shakespeare everyone!

For the last two years I have been a giver for World Book Night (WBN). For those who haven't heard of WBN, it is an annual event funded and run by The Reading Agency whereby a selected 20 books are sent to volunteers all over the country. These volunteers/givers then hand out copies of their selected book on the 23rd April, particularly to those who do not regularly spent time reading. The aim of WBN is to encourage more people to read and to share the joy that books can bring. In addition to the 20 World Book Night books, people are encouraged to give a book away, any book at all, to spread the word (quite literally). I personally think World Book Night is an amazing celebration of books and I wholeheartedly support it. As you may know, books (along with geography and cheese) are my true loves on this earth.

This year I have handed out 18 copies of 'Vengeance Is Mine Inc. and Other Stories' - Roald Dahl, who is one of my all time favourite writers. Last year I handed out 20 copies of 'The Reader' - Bernhard Schlink, which is an
amazing book that I completely recommend to everyone. So, whether you knew about World Book Night previously or not, I urge you to give away a book to someone today. You never know, that book may change someone's life.

Have a wonderful night, and remember, books are beautiful.

Support the cause:
http://www.worldbooknight.org/

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