Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Journal - March






In March I have begun to learn not to worry too much about what these pages look like. A journal ought to be a form of expression, not a final draft. 


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Journal - February




In February I found keeping up with journal entries to be even more of a struggle. Most of the time I was too busy, too tired, or had something else to do which had to take priority. I had a lot on my mind which I didn't feel I wanted to write down. But there were occasional factors that brightened my days; little things like pleasant exchange, a memory, a song, a compliment, or a sunrise. I could have just made a note of them, but I didn't because wanted my journal to be visually interesting and I had no good ideas about how to make it so. As a result February has little presence in this book of mine. 


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Journal - January



I kicked of the year documenting all the pleasantries of each day that went by in the most creative way that I could think of, but this quickly became a challenge. The more I attempted to be artistic, the more time it took. I found myself filling out whole weeks at a time, trying to catch up. 




I knew it was getting rediculous, but kept telling myself 'I've got this far, so I should keep going'. There came a point where I had to recognise that I was turning something which was supposed to be recreational and freeing into just another source of pressure. Do you ever find yourself doing that?

The aim was simply to keep a journal, focusing mostly on the positives and making it in some way 'artistic', so frequency shouldn't really be that important. 



I began January feeling happier and more hopeful than I have ever felt, exactly how you'd like to begin a new year. Throughout the month things have got a lot tougher, but I am determined to keep this journal as a means by which I can reflect on the positive moments. 



I've actually found that once you start looking for and documenting them, there's that many small blessings in life it's hard to keep track. It may well take me another month to scribble them all out. 


On Ambition

We sit in an adorable new cafe which feels as though it could be in France or Spain. I have no desire to throw my smoked salmon croissant at someone and upturn all the tables. Neither does Elena I expect. But there’s a burning desire within us for a more subtle kind of revolt. We tell each other to ignore the warning light that creeps into your head when you enter into your late twenties. That feeling of needing to climb ladders and start families. Thirty is in sight now, and if you’re not married and successful at thirty then you never will be. But why should we have to have it all mapped out to feel content? Can’t we just enjoy the moment, trusting that things will work out?

Elena and I are haunted by a crippling affliction. It’s common, but most people try hide it beneath their smart suits in fear that those around them will think they are inferior. They've been told for most of their lives that it makes them stupid, naive, a dreamer, a loser. They've been told that they will never get anywhere if they let people know that they have it. Our affliction is a creative nature. If I tell people that I might like to be freelance again one day; an artist, a designer or an actor perhaps, I'm usually met with a sympathetic smile. I
daren’t even say that I have a blog. But when I say these things to Elena, she’ll pull out a piece of paper and make notes for me as she lists projects to get involved with, sources of inspiration and local contacts. She’ll grab hold of my visions and run wild with them and I do the same in return. Before we know it we’re collaborating on imagined projects. We talk about what we would do if money was no object and uncork bottled up ideas as the passion fizzes out of us. 

The same happens with other topics of conversation. Other people will tell me that I need to be more realistic about what I’d like from a future partner. If it’s not that I should learn to embrace chauvinist or shallow behaviour, it’s that perhaps I should go on a date with someone I'm not even marginally attracted to just because he’s nice. Elena says screw that. Expect a great love story, you deserve nothing less. *

I work in a school because I hope to inspire young people. I want them to care about their education, but I won’t tell them it’s all about A grades and university. I want them to know that they are good enough already. I’d like them to feel that they can do anything if they try hard enough, that their future has no limits. I’d like them to have hope. I know many will share this sentiment, so why do the opposite for the adults in our lives? When it comes to our friends, why do so many encourage them to suppress past hopes and dreams? Surely we care for them just as much? Why is it that we want them to play it safe? Do we not believe in their ability, in their talents, in them? Sometimes people want to be reminded who they really are and what they really want. Be the person who encourages them. Be Elena.


*Disclaimer note to Mr you-know-who-you-are; I wrote this in the summer...

On Rebellion.


I probably couldn't be less ‘Sex, drugs and rock and roll’ if I tried. But if you've picked up any fashion magazine in the last year, you’ll know that ‘rebel’ is what we are meant to be right now. To my knowledge nobody has caused a riot by wearing a leather-sleeved top and a tartan skirt. No boundaries have been pushed. I doubt that anyone has wrestled with whether they can dare to wear a particular garment more so this year than they have any other. That got me thinking; to be a rebel is to resist convention, yet our standard idea of a rebel is in a lot of ways the social norm.

I heard of a woman leaving her work so that she could be a stay at home mum. That didn't sit well with some people. How lazy is it of her not to work? Surely she is resigning herself to a sad existence if all that she is to be is a wife and a mother? In reality though, does that not make her the boldest woman in the room? The one who has chosen to do what she feels like doing despite the opinion of others, to challenge what is expected of her, to break the mould. If her family can get by on her husband’s salary, then why isn't that OK?

I can’t help but feel that in our fight against misogynist stereotypes, we have simply packaged ourselves into a different kind of box. Take sex as another example; women are now expected to feel proud of having slept around, to be empowered by it. It’s as if we've hit a time where the world now feels there’s something wrong with sex being about love. Or at the least, that there’s something wrong with it being just love, and just people, with no added extras to spice things up. For my generation, I fear those that bragged about what ‘base’ they’d got to as a 15-year-old may never have grown out of that mentality. Women would once laugh at how men spoke to each other about sex, but now they desire to emulate it. If anything, women probably speak more graphically.

Have we got so carried away with fighting old conventions that we've created new ones? Perhaps we need to re-think things a little. It’s right to fight against being told to shut your mouth and sit pretty, but that doesn't mean you have to shout the loudest. I could not be more pleased to see a new wave of women speaking out against the standards set by men’s magazines and music videos. Yet we also need to be aware of an equally dangerous pressure that comes from other women. Cosmopolitan is going to tell you the same things as Nuts, just in a more subtle way as it pretends to fight your corner.

As women I'm not saying we should go backwards, but rather that in order to move forwards we need to be careful not to pen ourselves in. Make sure that you’re doing what you actually want, not what you think you should. By all means, be impulsive. Be ambitious. Be brave. But be yourself too, because perhaps the woman who turns down a fantastic promotion opportunity to avoid stress, or the woman whose favourite thing to do in the bedroom with her husband is talk, are the most blessed and most rebellious of us all. 

And whilst you're here, sign this. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Goals for 2014

Well, goodbye forever to the New Year's revolution. Goals for the year; that's the way forward. Creating a list of things that I wanted to achieve at some point within the whole year, or to improve over the course of it, had a much greater impact than I had expected in 2013. Here is my final draft of the much-deliberated list for 2014.


Stay creative - As my number one goal last year, this has had such an impact, but it can't stop here. I know that I have so much further to go and I'm only just beginning to scrape the surface of my creative potential. To highlight it's importance and encourage myself not to give up, I've sat this goal in it's rightful place at the very top of the list.

Be positive - Simply because I've a lot of things to be thankful for, but I find myself moaning far too much.

Be more musical - I have a confession to make; this goal was going to be 'play my bass guitar'. I tweaked it to make it a little broader and easier to achieve. I know that in order to really count this target as met when January comes back around, I need to dust off the bass. But this way, if I fail, I can say 'Well, I kept going to the singing club, so technically I became more musical'. 

Keep a journal - There are two reasons that I want to try keeping a journal this year. First of all, lots of things make me smile day-to-day, but without record they fade into insignificance. Secondly, as a creative outlet. I want to take inspiration from the art journalling workshop that I did and try to make it visually interesting. My hope is that this will ease me into the next goal, which is...

Make art - I don't do this because I'm lazy. I don't do this because I'm scared of  ending up with something that a five-year old could have done better. I don't do this because I don't feel inspired and don't know where to start. But none of those excuses are really good enough.

Go on holiday - It's been a while since I got away and I need to make it happen this year. Preferably Italy. 

Read some books (& finish 1984) - As a child I loved reading. For a short while this was so true that I even wanted to be an author. Sometime in my teens, I lost interest. Books didn't grab me anymore. How or when I can't decide, but somewhere along the line reading stopped being a joy and became a chore. Despite this, at some point in my teenage years I made a mental note that at sometime in my life I would like to read George Orwell's 1984. When I read his Animal Farm for work purposes a few years ago, I read with an enthusiasm that had been missing for so long. 'Afterwards, I'll read 1984' I had thought. I dove in, with the wide-eyed excitement of my youth temporarily returned, only to find it quickly disappear within the complicated web of Chapter 1. I gave up on reading once more. During this year I found cause to give 1984 another go. I'm determined to finish it this time, but also to find other books and perhaps become able to consider myself a reader once again. 

Finish decorating - It's been nearly a year since I moved in and I can't quite believe how many simple decorative touches I still haven't sorted. 

Actively persue my interest in cooking - Cooking can be just as creative as art, and in many ways I have the same sort of relationship with it. It totally frustrates me when I experiment and it goes wrong, but when it turns out great you just can't beat that feeling. This year I want to learn things about food and challenge myself to take more risks in the kitchen. 

Pray more - When I look back on 2013, I am in no doubt that so many of the possitive changes are a result of growing closer to and having been greatly blessed by a loving God. I feel that he is very present in my situation, but yet my prayers are sparse. I know that if this year is to be as fruitful as the last, it'll need to be a result of talking to my God and listening to what he has to say. 

Here goes...


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Goals for 2013 Reviewed


• Be creative and artistic - This was my number one goal for the entire year, and I actually did pretty well with it. I have made a conscious effort not to repress my creativity all year long. I may not have accomplished all that I could have, but I've made the first steps and begun to dip back into some old creative habits. I stopped acting about 8 years ago, having enjoyed nothing more until then. This year I started acting again. I also forced myself (that's no exaggeration) to turn up, absolutely terrified, to a singing club. I'm still incredibly nervous and I do sound awful, but that's not the point. I attend frequently. I keep taking lots of photos. I doodle more. There's still a way to go, but the key thing is I've begun to remind myself that there are some things which I really enjoy doing once I've pushed myself a little. 

• Move out - This happened right at the start of the year, and I can't articulate well enough even to my closest friends the extent to which it has improved my life. I am absolutely in love with this little place that I have all to myself. 

• Do at least one blog challenge - I surprised myself here. I did two month-long photo challenges. It drove me mad, but it felt good to make it through. 

• Make or customise at least one garment or accessory - A few days ago I was genuinely considering trying to make a dress in one day so that I would not fail to meet this target. Not having planned for it, I didn't have enough of any suitable fabric. It probably wouldn't have happened if I did. Fact is; I forgot about this one, then I remembered and couldn't be bothered. 

• Be punctual - Sometimes I can be stupidly optimistic. Enough said. 

• Plan outfits in advance - See above.

• Make friend dates - I have managed to make a suitable effort to have 'friend dates' this year. It's paid off. 

• Harden up - I'm not sure that 'hard' is the right word here. I think what I meant is that I wanted to be a little more thick-skinned and less 'emotional'. I feel inclined to count this as a target that has been met. I don't feel less emotion, but I am less emotional, if that makes sense. I am perhaps a little wiser. Though not quite wise enough to explain it. 

• Have proper me time - I have done this too, having my own space has made it much more achievable. Girly films with wine and chocolate, candlelit baths, hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. Lots of time has been spent on the sofa!  

I may have scored a failure hat-trick, but 6 out of 9 isn't too bad. Regardless of how many items I can tick off my list, this New Year's Eve I was able to look back on the year as one that I am proud of. That's good enough for me. 


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