Third Year

Sunday, 28 September 2014

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This weekend has been a manic one, as I've made the final journey up to Uni to move into my new house. I arrived one day earlier than my other housemates, as I worked all day yesterday, but it gave me a short amount of time by myself, which I very much appreciate, to unpack and settle in.

Today has been a chilled Sunday. I woke the latest I've woken since coming back from Thailand, which only tells me that I was definitely exhausted after working pretty much everyday this week. I have spent most of my time catching up with the girls and settling everything in. Our new house is absolutely lovely, and it still feels very much like we're staying in a hotel rather than our home for the next 9 months.

Tomorrow is the first day of my third and final year at Uni. It feels very surreal to be going back - the summer has been life changing but also very long, so getting back into an academic routine may take longer than I think. I also still can't believe how quickly time has flown as it really does feel like yesterday that I was a vulnerable fresher, embarking on a new adventure in the big, wide world. However, I am looking forward to it - I am in the best psychological place that I have been for years, which really I am very grateful for. Third year is by far the hardest and most demanding year, and it will require energy and hard work to be able to meet my own expectations. But not only that, I want this year to be memorable too. I want to socialise with friends, discover new places and be able to enjoy my final year here. I want to create a good work/life balance, as it's the one thing that I believe is missing. I am an all or nothing girl, which leads to either exhaustion or insanity, and that isn't healthy for me.

My instinct tells me that this year is my year. I have the ability to fuel myself correctly, enjoying learning and being a student once again, and embrace life. It really is time to roll my socks up and make every minute count.

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Coffee, Conversation & Company

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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I have spent the past two days mixing work with seeing friends for coffee, conversation and a goodbye for a few months as Friday sees me move to Uni for the final time. I say coffee, but really I mean that I have embraced the autumn flavours, and sipped pumpkin spice and gingerbread lattes.

This afternoon was especially lovely, as I saw a friend that I have not seen for many months. She is one of those people that I can see after a long time, and it's like we've never been apart - an oldie but a goodie! After catching up on each other's lives, the conversation turned towards how she thought I inspire people. I find this extremely flattering but sometimes it can be a struggle because people compare their lives to mine. They see that I went to Thailand and had the time of my life, and whilst this is completely true, it was also the hardest thing I've done and the biggest risk I've ever taken. My life is far from perfect, and it most definitely hasn't been easy. I sit here thinking as I type, that yes I may have done one thing, but there will be things that those people have done that I haven't. We are all different, have achieved different things so therefore, comparing is utterly pointless.

Ultimately, we spoke about comparing and how we should not compare our lives with someone else. I have been having doubts about returning to Uni, where the environment can sometimes include diet/exercise conversation. But, I am reminding myself daily that comparison is the thief of joy. We are all surrounded by negative energy, and it is very individual as to how you define that. What is healthy for me isn't necessarily healthy for you, and that is OK. For as long as I live on this earth, there will always be someone smarter, smaller, bigger, have more freckles than me, a longer nose...

I am currently the happiest I've been in years. I am laughing again, my smiles reaches my eyes and for once, I'm being honest with myself. If I feel those comparison doubts creeping in, then I know that the healthy thing to do, is indulge in good coffee and company. It's what is right for me.
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CATs the Musical

Saturday, 20 September 2014

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My first love in life has always been musicals. Before going to Uni, I was a member of a musical society, jazz singer and part of a choir that toured Europe. I absolutely love to sing and dance! It's a little sad that I had to stop really, mostly due to lack of energy and enthusiasm for life, but these days I find myself singing and dancing again whilst waiting for my kettle to boil!

Back in February, it was one of my best friends Birthday and I bought her tickets to see CATs with me at Birmingham Hippodrome. She is also a musical lover, and still performs in the society we met, so it was the perfect night out for us both. I decided to make an effort and wear my new duster coat, with my favourite dress (forever pretending to be fashionable!). We began the night in Wetherspoons, accompanied by burgers and chips, laughter and a long overdue catch up, before heading to the theatre.

The show was absolutely incredible. CATs has never been a favourite of mine as there is no plot really. It's all based on poems written by T. S. Eliot, so can get a little confusing BUT if you can look past that, you are left with the most amazing songs, dances moves you've probably never dreamed of and incredible costumes. The entire cast are cats, so they are all unbelievably flexible and dressed in extremely tight leotards.. so when you're faced with dancers legs above their heads - let's just say that some of the men caught our attention ;) Ice cream had to be eaten at the interval, just to cool us down! Any excuse.. ;)

It was definitely one of those evenings to treasure. Seeing a show with good company isn't a rare occasion for me, but being happy and content within myself is something I am beginning to embrace more and more. Living life in the present is something I am constantly training myself to do, and last night I managed that wonderfully.

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Note to self..

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

It is already Mid-September, and although I hate to write it, I feel like this month has been wasted a little. Apart from working and catching up with friends, I have spent a lot of my time with a lot of free time, and I really am not very good at the whole 'relaxing' thing. I am indulging in books mostly, but am not ashamed to admit that I ordered my first two Christmas presents this morning! I keep reminding myself to embrace this time, as I move into my new house in 9 days, and I will struggle to find any free time.

I have been doing my best to catch up with friends, and always find it odd when you have a deep conversation with someone, only for that theme to then pop up in the most random of place. I really am awful when it comes to taking my own advice, but recently, I feel as though it is actually a good thing to be doing. I know I am not the only person who is guilty when it comes to not listening to themselves, but why don't we? If we don't look after ourselves, we really are no good to anyone. I really do believe we should make it more of a priority to give ourselves more TLC, especially when it comes to health. I am someone who expects the very best of myself and will beat myself up if I don't meet my own expectations. 

A very good friend kindly reminded me this week 'Would you speak to a friend in the same way that you speak to yourself?' A very powerful question really, and for me, and maybe many of us, the answer is a definitive no. So, why is is acceptable for us to be harsh on ourselves? It's not..

Strangely, I came across this today. I am not a believer in fate and I'm sure it's pure coincidence, but a spooky coincidence nonetheless. I am going to actually try and take my own advice.

Treat yourself the way you would treat a small child.
Feed yourself healthy food & make sure you spend time outside.
Put yourself to bed early & let yourself take naps.
Don't say mean things to yourself & don't put yourself in danger.
(Your skull and your heart are still as fragile as eggshells).

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Au Natural

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I think it's only normal to experience a change in the way you think about certain things, when you go and live in a completely different place, with completely different values. I know I went to Thailand for what I assume were different reasons to many other of the volunteers, but my attitude towards food isn't the only thing that changed.

I'm not saying I can now live without all things western - internet is one thing, I am ashamed to say, that I can not live without. But one big change for me, is my attitude towards my appearance. Before going to Thailand, I was a girl who would not been seen in public without a little make up. Usually though, it would be a lot of make up - usually far too much. I enjoy applying make up, and I am proud of some of the pieces that I saved for - especially Chanel polishes and the Urban Decay palettes! Not only make up, but as someone who has naturally big, wavy hair, I could not leave without straightening it..

However, since being back, I have had no desire to do either of these things. In Thailand, it felt good to be completely natural. My skin felt fresh and my hair definitely thanked me for the lack of artificial heat. So, I've kept it up. I've only worn mascara and eyeliner, and my hair has been natural. And, you know what? I actually prefer it! I have waaaay more time in the morning to do other things, and I've received so many compliments! 

It got me thinking as to why I even wore make up in the first place? I think make up is something that definitely makes a woman appear more professional in today's society but it's also used to cover up insecurities. I think, for me it was a bit of both. Maybe I wanted to hide away and appear more grown up at the same time? I know I used to long to wear make up for ages, admiring woman who applied it so well. I'd envy those who had fantastic winged liner and bold red lips because I felt like they were both skilled and really looked after their appearance. But actually, maybe it's the women without much make up that I should be admiring. They feel confident enough to show people who they really are - and actually, I think I'd like to be one of those people too.

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Raspberry & White Chocolate Blondies

Monday, 8 September 2014

Today I did something that I've not done in years - I baked some delicious treats. I bought a recipe book during recovery and never actually used it so thought it was time to end that stupidity. I chose a recipe but changed the flavours to my favourite fruit, raspberry instead of strawberry and pistachio (and increased the amount of fruit which did result in a soggy bottom!). The outcome, although not perfect, was still a delicious one! I've included the recipe, with the correct amount of fruit. I'll definitely learn from my mistakes..

75g Unsalted Butter
175g White Chocolate
75g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
3 Tbl spoon Plain Flour
1 Tbl spoon Baking Powder
Pinch of salt
100g Raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 170C (150C Fan), Gas mark 3. Grease line a baking tin.
2. Melt butter in a small pan, on a low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and add white chocolate to melt
3. Whisk eggs in a bowl. Add sugar and whisk until the mixture is mousse like - a quick test to see if it's whisked enough is see if the mixture can stay on a spoon for 5 seconds (or longer!)
4. Stir and blend the butter and white chocolate (I had to melt the chocolate on the heat for a bit extra), and then gently fold into the mixture. Also fold in the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.
5. Finally, fold raspberries into the mixture. Then gently spoon into the baking tin and place into the oven for 30-35 mins. The recipe makes 8-16, depending on how big you'd like them.


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Autumnal Air

Friday, 5 September 2014

I feel as though I have hit the ground running this week, and that reality has set back in immediately. It feels like I returned from Thailand 5 months ago rather than 5 days!

Ever since Sunday, I have been rapidly sorting through documents for the new academic year. I move into my new house at the end of the month, and I'm now faced with the dreaded Oh my gosh, I'm now a third year and have to do a dissertation, so have been swamped by emails, phone calls and preparation for my final year at Uni! I have also managed to sort out my job at home and at Uni, revamp my CV, get a hair cut, book an appointment for my final vaccination, and catch up with some of my friends and family! Yes, reality really has kicked straight back in but receiving a phone call from Uni with news that I've been awarded a scholarship for my mental health volunteering and work in Thailand, really does make it all worth it.

However, the change in season is something I am totally embracing. I'm aware that the UK hasn't really experienced much heat this summer, but I certainly have so the cooler autumnal air is actually quite welcomed. I am beginning to think that Autumn is my favourite season - I love the chunky knits, hot chocolates, colours produced by nature and cosy fires. Not forgetting my love for candles! Those who know me well will know that September means that it's now acceptable for me to start burning my favourite Yankee Candles, usually something resembling a cake or sweet treat. Yesterday I met a good friend for a wander around town and purchased 'Fireside treats', which smells absolutely divine. It's definitely put me in seasonal mood, because I type this now whilst thinking of bonfire night, hot soup and sparklers! 

I did manage to take time off from my harsh reality last night though, with a good catch up and dinner at Pizza Express. It was an absolutely wonderful evening, full of great food, stories and laughter. It was the perfect way to celebrate everything we have both achieved this year.

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Monday, 1 September 2014

"I think that many do want to be helped, but they have too much stacked against them and also don't know how to accept help. Being cared for is alien to some people"
- The Skeleton Cupboard by Tanya Byron

I actually had a lot of free time during my weekday evenings in Thailand. What with no wifi or anywhere to really go, I turned to books as my primary source of entertainment - 10 books in fact! However, one in which I managed to read in about a day, was The Skeleton Cupboard written by Tanya Byron. The book is about the experiences she endured whilst training to be a clinical psychologist in the 90's. This book really struck a chord in me for a number of various reasons. Firstly, the only career I wish to pursue is that of a clinical psychologist, and this book has 100% confirmed that. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I really was intrigued by her words surrounding loneliness and accepting help. 

Half way through my 6 week adventure, I was surprised by how I had actually become homesick. It's something I've never experienced before, and something in which I didn't think I would have to experience. With living away at University, and being quite content with my own company, I considered myself to be quite independent and satisfied with that. However, after reading this book, I actually realised that I'd distanced myself from almost everyone as a way of coping. It was a way of protecting myself as I begun to recover from a mental illness, so that I didn't get hurt. Also, as I didn't receive treatment, I never really learnt how to accept help and nor did I allow people to care for me. Sure, I have a great set of friends and family, but I never really allowed them to access what was really going on - if they got too close, I'd push them back.

In Thailand, I was cared for. I had the most amazing host Mum who did everything for me. She cooked, she took me to see things and resolved any of the problems that I might have had. She was in control and I accepted this from day one. I took a risk and it was the best decision I ever made because consequently, I learned how to accept help and care, and I actually liked it. I am now looking back on how isolated I forced myself to be, and that it wasn't that great at all. In fact, it could get quite lonely at times and I don't want my life to be like that any more. 

So guess what? It won't be. 
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