In the increasingly PC world we live in we are constantly told to embrace ourselves for who we are and to just be ourselves. This of course is fantastic advice and everyone should be true to themselves and be proud of who they are. However I think this advice often leads to us thinking that we either don’t need to change or worse shouldn’t change. I think this is also amplified by the internet. No matter how obscure your interests are there will always be a group of people somewhere online where you can share your thoughts and feelings which again is fantastic but it can be a bad thing. When you are surrounded by people with the exact same opinion and interests there is no one to challenge you and you can become stuck in an echo chamber. In this situation you can get stuck in the idea that if the people you talk to are just like you and they aren’t changing so why should you, you’re fine there’s loads of people like you so you shouldn’t change either.
Change is good and it is OK to change yourself.
I think I struggled with this idea for a while. I knew there were lots of people like me so there was no reason for me to change. There were a few things I could have changed to make myself happier or better but I didn’t because I was under the impression that I was perfect the way I was and change was bad. I think this whole “I am perfect” thing comes from an over abundance of feel good/positivity we are bombarded with. Now I’m not saying people shouldn’t embrace themselves I completely agree that being happy with who you are is one of the most important things in life but I think we get stuck thinking that we can’t change things but that wouldn’t be true to “just being yourself”.
I’m in no way saying everyone should change, I just think we shouldn’t be so scared of it. I’ve made a few changes in my life recently and some people are very quick to judge. They think it’s just a passing phase or how somehow that I’m going to fundamentally change my entire being. That’s not true, changing things doesn’t necessarily change who you are. The people who help the most are those that say “wow that’s awesome”, “well done” or just act like its no big deal. I don’t want a medal or a certificate I just want to live my life y’know.
This is rambly I know but it’s just some thoughts on a page. Basically just be yourself and if you want to change don’t be scared and if you want to be the same then do that as well, just be happy.
Motivation is a funny thing. I start so many things with good intentions then many of them fall by the wayside. This blog for example. Every few months or so I have a huge influx of motivation to write, create and generally better myself and more often than not it lasts a week and then its gone. I am in one of these periods right now. In two days I have completely tidied and sort out ALL of my stuff, written an article for SpiceUKOnline, sorted through and labelled all my GoPro footage, written this article AND finished/started a bunch of University work but I’m worried that in 2 weeks I will be back to my old lazy useless ways where nothing gets done.
I’ve tried to work out why this happens at at the moment I have no answers but I really hope I can keep this streak going. It feels different to the others in a strange way but I’ll guess we see. This particular post I’m probably not even going to share on social media. It’s just for myself so when I’m feeling unmotivated in about a weeks time I can come and read this and think man it felt great to do all that stuff and create things. I think I have sort of put a finger on what causes it but that for a more well thought out article than this.
One other thing that always motivates me is travelling. Every time I start living out of a backpack and visiting new places I get a unrivalled sense of adventure and freedom. There’s something about getting out of my house and constantly meeting new people that really drives me and I definitely intend to continue doing more of it.
It’s coming to that time at university where everyone is leaving, either for the summer or in some cases for good. It certainly is a sad time and frequent farewells cause many of us to slump unsure of what the future holds for our friendships. Having already said goodbye to one house-mate, several course-mates and various friends I am no stranger to this situation but I cannot help but imagine how much worse this would have been in the past. In an ever increasingly connected world as soon as someone has left your doorstep all you have to do is grab your phone and there are any number of social networks and apps where you can find them again. Are goodbyes really the heartbreaking affair that everyone makes out? I personally think not.
I want to make it clear that I am not a heartless creature from the depths, I just think that we really don’t have it that bad. Close your eyes (metaphorically), picture yourself at university twenty years ago, now imagine that you’ve just said goodbye to all your friends and hopped on the train home. When is the next time you will be able to contact these people? What if someone does not return in September? How will you know if Jerry finally makes a move on Glenda this summer? All important questions that need answering but alas you must wait. In the past people had to call from a land-line or God forbid write a letter to stay in touch. None of this fancy shmancy instant messaging or video chats. Back in the “dark ages”, as historians call it, you couldn’t contact anyone at the push of a button (or touch of a screen). This lead to friendships that could stand the test of time and each farewell was an event. If you liked someone you had to put in the effort to know what they were doing and how they were getting on but that is not the world we live in today.
I feel like this increase in technology means that every goodbye is not as final as we like to think. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mean that we have heavily saturated feeds that constantly keep us up to date on everyone’s lives. You may not directly contact most people but you will still have a constant stream of their daily life. At the moment I am writing this I could easily pop across to Facebook and see how any of my friends are doing. I have many people added on Facebook from primary and secondary school that I doubt I will ever meet in real life ever again but I still feel some connection to them. I can still see that “Jerry” has just gone to Spain on holiday or that “Glenda” has recently trekked 500km for charity without leaving my bedroom.
“But I only add my real friends on Facebook” I hear you cry. Bollocks, I say. If you can prove you only have your “real” friends on Facebook then pray teach me the way. I’m personally far to nosy to only keep a select number of friends. I love to snoop on old friends and enemies alike to see what they have accomplished since we parted ways. If you ask your parents who they were close friends with at university I can guarantee the number would be a fair few shy of your Facebook friend list.
In the past leaving university, or leaving school or even moving house could mean ending relationships with many people who you would never see again. This was even the case when I left primary school. Only since then have the wonders of social networks allowed me to rediscover old friends that I now see occasionally on my feed. This is nice. I enjoy seeing what people have got up to in their lives but it does leave this strange feeling that I’ve never really said a proper “goodbye” to any of them. Yes, I may never see them again, shake their hand, or share a beer but they are still there forever ingrained into my life. I do have the ability to stop this, one click and they can be gone but I find it hard to do this. Maybe it is just me but un-friending someone on Facebook feels like the final goodbye. After that I will no longer see them or know what they are doing ever again, unless I retrace my steps and then in an instant they can be back in my life.
It’s a complicated confusing topic and I wish it was simpler. When was the last time I said goodbye to someone and then completely cut ties with them. In this crazy connected world it feels like this is near impossible. Everybody is constantly posting, sharing and creating this pool of information about themselves that anyone can just dip into at any-time. Don’t get me wrong it is sad to see someone leave and not know how long until you will be reunited, it is sad to leave all your uni friends behind and it can be hard to say goodbye. I just feel that things use to be a lot simply when a farewell was the end.
Last summer I spent roughly 10 weeks across the pond in the grand old United States. Like many students do, I decided that instead of getting a work placement or job back home that I would spend my summer working on an American summer camp. This without a doubt was one of the best summers of my life. A few days ago a friend who is embarking on his own American summer camp trip for the first time asked me if I had any advice for him. After thinking for a while I realised that there were many topics not covered in the hours of safety briefings, booklets or pre departure meetings.
In honour of it being almost a year since I flew out I have compiled a list called The Things That Camp America Doesn’t Tell You or T.T.T.C.A.D.T.Y for short.
1. Don’t get too attached to your airport friends
When you arrive in the airport you will instantly see scores of people all wearing their Camp America shirts nervously milling around, trying to make friends, and attempting to find people working on the same camp as them. This is a fascinating sight and even more interesting to be a part of. The best technique is to dive in head first and chat to everyone and anyone to try and find some company for the long flight. If you are lucky enough to find people working on the same camp as you that’s all well and good but if not you may begin to wander and make friends with people from other camps. This is all fun and games while it lasts but when you have to split ways to your separate camps upon touchdown in America it can get quite emotional. Fear not as these encounters while brief are all part of the experience and you’ll probably get over it by the time you get to camp.
2. Everything is super far away from everything else
I had this epiphany while on the painstakingly long coach trip from New York to Maine. Both these places are on the East Coast and so in my mind would be relatively close together. How wrong can one guy be. It turns out that they are really far away from each other. When travelling in America it is almost easier to think of the separate states in the same way that you would think of most European countries. They are right next to each other and you can visit several in a day if you try but they are still quite far apart. While everything in England is so nicely packed together due to us being a tiny little island in America they have a lot more space. This is not exclusive to cities and towns but even their houses are spaced further apart. It’s weird.
3. Flags, flags, flags, flags, flags, flags and more flags feat. flags
Flags, there are so many of them everywhere. You’ve probably heard that Americans are patriotic but you will never understand the level until you just spend some time there. I remember playing a game with the girl next to me on the coach where we would get points for spotting flags first. We gave up after about 15 minutes when it turned out she had the better eyesight and that there were quite literally flags every minute or so (PS. If you are going to play this game work out before hand how many points Stars and Stripes bunting counts for). This incredible patriotism gets worse on 4th of July (Independence Day) but honestly by this point you wont care. Independence Day (other than being when Will Smith saved the planet from aliens) is an amazing spectacle to be a part of. We don’t have anything like it in the UK, try to picture what would happen if there was a Royal Wedding and a Royal Baby AND we won Wimbledon once a year, every year, on the same day but it was just as exciting as the first time. Yeah that’s kind of what its like for them.
4. Beer Pong
Have you ever seen a movie in America where there is a house party and they all play beer pong. That happens. A lot. I always thought that it would be an exaggeration but beer pong is a very popular game and they have lots of crazy rules. To my surprise it is not just throw a ball at a cup. With many added rules included bounce shots, rebounds and being “on fire” you’ll wish you already knew how to play it. At one house I went too they even had a table specifically for beer pong with the American flag painted on the top. I would highly recommend getting in some practice with a ping pong ball and some cups in your back garden before you go. Remember the drinking age in America is 21 so drinking out in bars and pubs is pretty much impossible without an ID and I in no way encourage you to drink if you aren’t of a legal age.
5. The Accent
Chances are that at some point in the past you have been told (or have watched Love Actually) and you now think that when you waltz over to America every single American will swoon over your accent. Now this is not necessarily true. When you go to work on a summer camp most people there will be accustomed to your accent because British people work there every year. I’m sorry to have dashed your dreams but it’s better that you go out with realistic expectations. All hope is not lost as many people you encounter off camp will be intrigued by your accent. For all I know the accent could work wonders and I was just doing it wrong, or maybe its just the way I look.
6. Being Under 21
(only applies to people aged under 21, duh)
Coming from the UK where I had been able to drink happily in pubs and clubs for almost a year the drastic change in drinking ages from 18 to 21 made me feel 17 again. Thankfully the local club (I say club it was definitely not a club) put on an Under 21s night where ages 18+ were allowed in. I decided that it couldn’t be that bad and went along with a group of counsellors from the camp I was working on. I was wrong. I understand that some people may have enjoyed it but I personally did not. As soon as you walked in you had your ID checked and then you were either marked as an under 21 or an over 21. Once you were branded you were then herded like cattle into your respective section. The over 21’s section was lively, fun and had a bar. The under 21’s section was boring, quiet and sectioned off from the rest of the club. The only place you could meet was the tiny dance-floor with about as much space as a disabled toilet and the appeal of dancing with lots of sweaty strangers in a disabled toilet. It was an interesting night to say the least but overall I would not leap at the opportunity to do it again. This could all be because deep down inside I am already a grumpy old man who hates loud music and sweat who knows. Being under 21 does suck but alcohol isn’t everything so get over it.
I hope these tips are useful for you. I’m sure there are many more things that I have since forgotten but just remember to take everything with a pinch of salt. It’s a different country and a different culture, just because we speak the same a similar language (that’s a whole other post) doesn’t mean that it will be just like home. You will probably have an amazing time and make incredible friends but when it comes down to it you’ll get back what you put in. So go out there and enjoy yourself.
If you aren’t going to America then just enjoy yourself. No one likes people who are miserable all the time. Lighten up.
As I sat in bed watching episode after episode of Homes Under the Hammer and Police Interceptors it dawned upon me that as soon as I finished my second year at uni I lost all purpose in my life. This is also when I ran out of crisps, the hangover headache kicked in and I began to make the painful trip to the kitchen to rehydrate myself.
While stumbling down the stairs I realised that in just over a month I was going to leave for Australia on my Year Abroad. This while incredibly exciting would bring me away from the city I had spent most of the last two years in and away from many of the brilliant friends I have made. I feel like I am sitting in some weird limbo, there is only so long before I hop on that plane not to return for an entire year but still enough time left for it to matter.
“What can I do to keep myself busy?” I asked myself “I know I’ll create a blog”.
And that is how this place was born. The best thing I did when I travelled in Uganda was to keep a journal but that seems so archaic to a New Media Student (and my handwriting is nigh unreadable nowadays). So I have made this place to document my thoughts, feelings and creations. You get the idea. I don’t know what this will be but I know that I want to document this next year and beyond.
I’ve done a lot of interesting stuff over the past two years at Leeds and made some amazing friends. I’m definitely going to miss it but nothing lasts forever. With all this in mind I hope I can document all the little things that I would other wise forget
Strap yourself in and get ready for a wild ride from this messy attic room in Leeds across the oceans to Australia and back again.
If you prefer tumblr it’s on there aswell – http://eatmorethensleepmore.tumblr.com/