A Level Results Day

A year ago, on a clear Thursday in 2016, I received what I believed would be the most important piece of paper in my life. My grades were two As and a B. Honestly, I could’ve done better. I was two marks off receiving A*AA. Everyone always told me that university and A levels would be the making of me, but I think they ruined me.

Every time I think about my A level grades, I’m met with disappointment and regret. I should’ve done better. I worked so hard, but I probably gave up near the end. I messed up a couple of times. Cried in the class. Procrastinated. It’s my own fault. I was anxious, unfocused, undeserving.

Why do I still think this?

I got into my first-choice university, with grades higher than the entry requirements. I’m doing my dream course. I finished the first year of Media, Journalism and Culture with a first. I’ve only ever had one C grade. I still work hard. I still do well. I still strive to make everyone proud – to make this the making of me.

Somehow, having so much pressure to achieve all the time is hurting me, even though I’m able to achieve. I’m never convinced that I’m doing what’s best for me, and I thought that would end with good grades. Turns out, that’s me and that’s my personality, I’m constantly trying to sabotage myself because I’m too uncertain to ever be happy.

But that’s okay.

They’re only feelings. Achievement isn’t in those letters on a page, it’s in what you’ve overcome. Today is not the be-all-and-end-all. Good or bad, you’ll work it out. I have friends who went straight to university, others who changed courses, others who did an extra year. Everyone works it out eventually.

Simple Self-Care

Recently, I suffered the first big loss in my life. I haven’t struggled with my mental health very badly since around 2013, at which time my only coping mechanism was writing. Since then, I’ve learned how to control my anxiety, or at least to push it away. I’m no expert, and in the grand scheme of things my anxiety is very mild, so these tips won’t be helpful to everyone. Everyone’s experiences with mental health is different. You’re welcome to discuss your experiences in the comments.

Take a Day

This isn’t what self-care should always be, but it’s an important first step to getting back to yourself. You need a day to take your mind off what’s happened. Binge a series you used to love – I re-watched Sherlock. If you’re better off immersing yourself in something, get creative and play The Sims, maybe it seems childish but there’s nothing that distracts me better. I’ve also played some sixteen hours of the Professor Layton series – it’s been really comforting to revisit something from when I was younger. I would actually recommend this video game if you need some distraction, as the puzzles leave you with no time to think about anything else, the characters are absolutely charming and the music is really beautiful and calming.

Talk About It

Self-care is not all baths, candles, incense and yoga. You can’t bottle everything up or it’ll eat you. It doesn’t matter who it is – a family member, a significant other, a friend, even the audience on your blog! Getting it out of your system is liberating. Even if the feelings may seem insignificant, they’re not. Having a good cry, no matter your age or gender, is such an important part of this process. Maybe you don’t even need advice, you just need to talk. So write a post, like this, because it’s already making me feel a little better. Though your family might be hurting too, if you have suffered a loss, often they’ll be thankful for the opportunity to talk.

Get Dressed

When you feel rubbish, you can’t sit around all day doing nothing. Even if you don’t go anywhere, get back into the routine of showering and dressing, this can’t dictate how you spend your time. After what’s happened, I’m not sure I ever want to waste a minute again.

Make Plans

In the theme of not letting this dictate what you do – keep some plans. Of course there are times when you can’t do things, but sometimes getting back to normal – going for a coffee, going to the cinema, going shopping – is what makes you feel yourself again. As much as I don’t really want to drag myself around London this Friday, I know it’ll be good for me.

Recognise the Signs

For me, this is all about staying who I am now, not slipping back to who I was before I recovered. I’ve had trouble sleeping and I’ve felt like the room is slipping away from me – but at least I can see that it’s happening. I’m telling myself that I won’t let it happen again.

Get Creative

As I mentioned earlier, The Sims is a great creative outlet, but if you really are a creative person, sometimes you can write your feelings out of you. No, writers don’t have to be tortured souls, that’s only a harmful cliché. However, if I’m feeling particularly anxious, getting lost in my own world of writing really helps. If I can’t sleep, I turn to my phone notes and focus on the fictional problems of the characters I’m responsible for. I believe this works for me because it gives me total control, something anxiety often steals from me. If fiction isn’t your cup of tea, blogging about anything can help. If you blog about how you’re feeling, you’re helping yourself and perhaps others. If you blog about something totally different, congratulations, you’ve found a successful distraction!

Times like these have been tricky, they’ve left me unmotivated and I’ve neglected my blog, but getting back to normal is so important – whatever normal is.

Liverpool

A Level results are released in England and Wales next week, which means that this time last year I was trying not to cry at work whilst I considered how my impending grades would affect my future. My backup choice for university was Liverpool, which is one of my favourite cities in the UK. It would’ve been a dream to live there, but the course wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Nevertheless, I want to write about the city, because if you’re headed there for the next 3 years, or you’re thinking about it, here are some really great things about it. 

The Museums


Liverpool has a selection of museums, many free of charge. A favourite of mine is Tate Liverpool. They ask for donations as you enter, and there’s usually one paid exhibit but the rest is free. It has a huge variety of artwork on identity, gender, race, sexuality. You name it, there’s a piece there about it. It’s a must visit! A favourite of mine from my visit this August was Glenn Ligon’s work from the picture above. It says so much: its about America’s self-obsessed neon lights culture, the everpresent advertising and branding in our lives, or the dark current state of the once magical Land of the Free. 

The Streets

If you’re not so into art galleries, maybe you’d prefer to see work as you wander the streets. This picture comes from the charmingly quirky Bold Street, which has a great big pink wall that’s perfect for pictures. Liverpool is covered with interesting art, not to mention its fantastic architecture. The buildings of Liverpool are beautiful, somehow I prefer looking at them than London’s structures. It’s so much less busy, it always feels like there’s more time to appreciate the beautiful and the creative in Liverpool. 

The Food


There’s so much to chose from in Liverpool! Any chain you can think of is in the heart of the city. Whether you’re getting a Gourmet Burget at Liverpool One or you’ve ventured a little off course and you’re sat in an independent place on Bold Street, it’s all fantastic. My current obsession is pho, the Vietnamese soup pictured above. It’s so tasty and light, but absolutely filling. It’s so much better than ramen! Sometimes I wish I lived in Liverpool, so I could visit their pho restaurants every day. At the aptly named Pho, the food isn’t as overpriced as Wagamama. So when it’s cold and you have 3 essays due and none written and you just need some comfort, get down to Pho. 

The Shows

Now this was a long time ago, but it’s the only show I’ve seen in Liverpool so I’ll talk about it. Blood Brothers is one of my favourite plays, and it’s a wonderful example of Liverpool’s culture. It’s a heartwarming-heartbreaking play about class, fate and family. Written by Willy Russell, it’s one of his only plays that isn’t yet a film, perhaps because you have to see it on stage. It’s a musical with wonderful songs and a Liverpudlian cast. The perfect place to see this is The Liverpool Empire. It’s a gorgeous old theatre with a great view of the stage and comfy seats. If musicals aren’t for you, then there’s always plenty of comedy or gigs to catch in Liverpool. If anyone is playing at the O2 Ritz, don’t pass up the opportunity: it’s a cosy little venue with a great view and a balcony up above if you’re not one for dancing right next to the stage. 

The Shopping

Liverpool one has a million big brand shops, plenty of places to rush to on a Saturday to get an outfit for the evening. When the sales are on, there’s usually a lot of good stuff compared to my small-town-one-rack-in-New-Look to browse. There are also a lot of smaller independent shops, and plenty of vintage shops to browse. Of course, it’s not just clothes, music is Liverpool’s thing, so if you need some vinyls it won’t be hard to find them. 

Along with the Liverpool Eye, The Albert Dock and the bus tours, there’s plenty to do in Liverpool. So if you’re headed to any of their universities in September, you certainly won’t be bored. 

Book Recommendations

If you haven’t noticed, my borrowed book club has recently hit a wall. The next book I intended to read was Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. I couldn’t get into it. I even tried to read it on the train, the place I’m most productive, and I found myself distracted. The words rolled past my eyes and didn’t register in my head. I apologise to the ever-present Katie, who lent me that book, because I can’t write more than this about it. Since I should get past this slump, I’m writing a post of recommendations. These are the books I would borrow to you.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

tkmb.jpgPerhaps an obvious choice, but this is my favourite book. I was twelve and I was awkward and I was in an English class with only one person I talked to. One day, the teacher looked at us and told us that we weren’t going to read the recommended book for our ability, instead she’d let us read a classic. Every word is still in her voice, and every word told me that I was capable.

My emotional attachment to this book isn’t what makes it great. It’s a classic that’s readable, real and emotional. It’s a refreshing break from Bronte, but falls into the same category. It’s a seasonal novel: every word pulls you into the childish nostalgia of muggy Maycomb summers. Its comments on racial injustice are pertinent as ever, and do not ignore America’s shameful history. Atticus Finch is a wonderful literary hero – he’s an understanding father, he’s accepting and he has strong morals.

Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife

A recurring theme in this post: I studied this collection of poems. As I had to know everything about fortysomething of her poems for an exam, Carol Ann Duffy was once my mortal enemy. However, we reached her World’s Wife poems, suddenly it was hard to deny her genius. Each poem is the voice of a woman behind her more famous male counterpart: Queen Kong, Mrs. Midas and Mrs. Lazarus. It’s a funny feminist triumph.

blog-thing.jpg

Each character has a very distinctive voice, affected by the consequences of the man who defines her. Mrs. Midas sounds like she’s gossiping over brunch as she rambles about her difficult life, whilst Mrs. Darwin is short and smart. It’s so clever, it subverts the idea of history so well. It’s a very quick read, and her poems have so many different meanings that every reader gains something totally different from her writing. Borrow this book and tell me what you think it means, because I’m sure we’d have different things to say.

George Orwell’s 1984

This was required reading for my journalism course last year, and I regret not reading it sooner. In a world where the dystopian novel has been used too many times to count, where every trope is old by now, this novel takes it back to the basics. It has every dystopian trope – the forbidden love affair, the unsuspecting protagonist and of course the overbearing dictatorship. It’s less enjoyable because it’s been done so many times by now, and honestly the ending isn’t even that good.

The reason I would recommend this novel is for its pertinence. In January of 2017, following Kellyanne Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts”, 1984 flew off the shelves, selling out on Amazon. It is vital that we read this today, especially the essay at the end of the novel. Orwell creates a society who are controlled by language – the meanings of words are stripped and replaced with Newspeak. It’s something we need to understand in today’s world, because what a certain American President defines as fake news, is not what fake news is. He stops us from listening to each other. We can’t let a leader redefine the fundamental part of society – communication.

Let me know if you’ve read any, or if I’ve convinced you to borrow them! I would love to hear what you thought.

Borrowed Book Club – Everything, Everything

Borrowed Book Club started because my friends and I often pass books around to each other. I love to think about which of my friends my current book would suit, and I love that they sometimes think of me when they read a passage. Here is a review, exactly 250 words, about a book that was borrowed to me. Everything, Everything was given to be months ago by Katie, who should really have her books back by now.

I didn’t love this book. With glowing recommendations from more than one friend, I had very high expectations for Nicola Yoon’s first novel. Unfortunately (as with We Were Liars), the twist left me underwhelmed. I spent my time hoping that I hadn’t worked out the ending. This twist was a cop-out, an improbably hopeful ending that only happens in books. Perhaps we are supposed to figure it out before protagonist Maddy, even if so, it’s not effective. The twist is one for a tense thriller, not a melodramatic love story. This left me thinking that the love story may have been unnecessary. Another weak point is the plot’s reliance on the ‘sick girl’ trope. It’s overused, especially in YA, and I’m over it.

However, Everything, Everything does have its strengths. Where the plot may be lacking, the writing excels. The book is set out as a catalogue of Maddy’s thoughts – including simple yet beautiful illustrations and book reviews so short they rival my own. This form of writing feels original and prevents the creeping disinterest that comes with long chapters. Maddy is a fantastic character, and she’s rare – a genuinely believable YA heroine. It would be easy to read this in one sitting, but it took me some time to get through it. Perhaps I can only recommend when not to read this book: if at this moment someone you know is faced with a rare illness, the ending of this novel will give you no hope of their escape.

How to Procrastinate Productively

This post has been sitting half-written in my notes for three months. The original document is older than my blog. I hope this proves my authority on this topic: I am an expert in the art of procrastination. It is an art which demands your time and your energy, but most of all it demands to be mastered. Procrastination is not always a bad thing, not if you learn to procrastinate productively and make it work for you. I’m interested in becoming a freelance writer, a profession which requires self-discipline. My tendency toward procrastination often hinders productivity, so I must keep it at a minimum. The following are some tips that worked for myself, and will hopefully help others to procrastinate productively.

If your mind starts to wonder, let it. There is no use in staring at that blank if your mind won’t co-operate to fill it. Taking a short break, getting a drink or seeing friends for an hour usually results in a more productive mood. If you re-energize yourself, you’ll have way more ideas and drive to do that thing you couldn’t before. Be it an essay, writing a blog post or getting a start on that novel. Perhaps your mind will listen to you after you’ve done what it wanted to do.

Set rewards and reasonable goals. Done a paragraph? Read an online article. Finished a page? Get a cup of tea. Finished the whole thing? Watch a movie. Make sure you have something to look forward to other than finishing. It often helps to ban myself from very distracting things, until I have accomplished my set target for the day. Don’t overdo it though – you won’t write a novel in a day, so maybe start by planning it, starting a chapter the following day, and having a rough version of the chapter finished by the end of the week.

Procrastinate Productively. How do you think I started this blog? I was procrastinating a huge essay in January when I started outlining ideas for a blog. During my A Levels, I began mapping out my first novel. Procrastination sometimes sends you toward a less time-sensitive goal, but if you ensure that those ways you procrastinate will still pay off in the long run, you’re not losing any time! Be sure to complete the time-sensitive goals as well, I may have set up a blog but I still finished that essay. Positive procrastination is key!

Don’t Call Me Darling

As my bio suggests, I am nineteen. Unfortunately, in real life, I don’t have a handy bio to help people address me properly. I’m a woman who stands at 4″11 and I’ll admit, I look quite young. For this reason, not one person ever takes me seriously. I’m constantly sweetheart, lovely, darling, and most commonly, I’m the one who gets stopped on the door and asked for identification. 

Bouncers at clubs scratch at my ID, checking its legitimacy. The guy at HMV tries to look me in the eye subtly before he sells me a DVD intended for those age fifteen and up, until I shakily pull out my university card and ask if they have student discount. I stand behind a friend who’s buying alcohol, they let her off but they ask how old I am to ensure I haven’t coerced her into buying a bottle of Malibu for me. Before I get into this, you must know that this isn’t what bothers me. I get it, it’s the law. It’s there to protect people. 

What bothers me is the choice of words people use around me. Today I put a bottle of wine on the till at Tesco with my dad, to which I was immediately met with “Lovely, don’t do that again. I could get in lots of trouble.”, naturally I reassured him politely that I was nineteen. The response I got was no less patronising: “Yes darling, but you’ve got to understand that if you don’t look twenty-five, I could lose my job”. Is this mansplaining? Do I honestly look like I wouldn’t understand that? He continued to mansplain the issue until we left the shop.

I’m not your darling. Unless I’m your tired 1950s housewife, you don’t get to call me by that name. I find terms of endearment to be patronising when uttered by strangers, as if they need to talk down to me. It’s a microagression. I wouldn’t have this problem if I was a man, partly because I could grow a beard, partly because women never get taken seriously, right?

It’s not just because they tell me that kid’s swim time is over at the pool, and I should come back between 2 and 4 PM. That’s only a minor inconvenience. My issue is that this has become a larger problem for me. Nobody takes me seriously. I had no confidence when I was younger, and I ended up getting pushed around by friends and made the butt of every joke. Now I’ve found myself, and I self-loathe or shy away anymore, but nothing’s changed. I don’t think it’s conscious, but something in people must make them underestimate me.

But I quite like being a dark horse, I like surprising people, a small part of me likes how embarrassed people are when they’ve assumed that I’m under the age of 12. Again, it’s not that. As I get older and as things don’t change, I’m worried that I’ll never quite get anywhere. I’m worried that in every job I get, people will continue to think I’m on work experience and ignore my suggestions or ideas. I’m worried that any high-powered position is well out of my reach. I wish I was treated like an adult, and while I understand that I’m still young, other people my age just aren’t treated this way. They’re having babies, they’re getting married, they have careers. It’s like we all grow up so quick nowadays but they forgot about me. 

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor inconvenience in my life. I’m very lucky to be who and where I am. But everyone who tells me I’ll be thankful that I look young once I hit forty is wrong. Women are too often assessed on their age and how they look, young or old. I look to young to be respected, and adults look too old to be respected. One day, the teachers and the people who doubted me will see my talent, and then maybe I won’t look so young anymore. 

So please, don’t underestimate me, and don’t call me darling.