Saturday, 3 October 2015

Don't blink.

This life - Blink and you are here. It is like a very fast ride: you're only barely aware of it happening and only when it's over can you reconstruct the events to look back through like a photo album in your head.
I know at 17 I have barely touched on the meaning of 'where did it all go?' But I passed my driving test on Thursday and I think the last thing I remember before that is starting as a pupil at secondary school. I blinked and now am here. I will blink again and then I'll be there. At the moment of everything happening it feels as if there cannot be anything else. This life now is all there can ever be. And  time passes over and that life then is a faint memory you can only just conjure up to the forefront of your mind.
I think I mention this now because this is the age where I am coming to terms with this time hopping head of mine. I live today and nothing else exists. Does anyone ever get used to that?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Spoon Fed Entertainment.

(A subtle and ironic recommendation of probably the best TV series ever. Ever x)

I read an article recently about how the BBC was being encouraged to conform to the 'box set' generation and produce a series a little more adherent to that nature. The words 'epic' were used and even a little paragraph about chancellor George Osborne's two cents on the matter was included, perhaps his advice on how the BBC can keep its licence. The BBC has conformed to this trope and has in fact made an 'epic' to be aired soon. It is all very well and good for our Conservative chancellor to counsel the corporation about making the new Game of Thrones but I am doubtful as to whether such interference produces good television. As much as forced content made to appeal to the masses works with marketing when producing a form of art, the kind we expect from a visit to the theatre or the cinema, the content falls dead.

When I think of good television the shows that come to mind are somewhat masterpieces. The programmes that everyone obsesses over have a beating heart at their centre. Real thought and care went into the script, into the directing, into the acting. A good television show rarely ever begins with a following that is sure to indulge in its 'box set' nature, but usually ends up growing a strong fan base to merit its own worthiness. If a population is spoon fed its entertainment and told that it is all good and yummy it will most likely spit it out and go in search of a better source. Good television does not come from trying to be the next Game of Thrones, it comes from standing out on its own and genuinely entertaining those who stick around to watch it. In fact, the 'box set' culture only happened because the 'mass' was able to take control of the content it consumed. The traditional form of sitting down each week to unveil a new episode of some brilliant series only really happens if the viewer is gripped from the beginning and makes his own decision to carry it on.

It is actually difficult to describe the feeling of becoming addicted to a television series but I can relate it as extremely enjoyable. I try not to spend entire days watching Netflix but if I find something I am truly keen on it is hard not to press 'Play Next Episode'. The BBC's new 'epic' about the Trojan wars set to rival Game of Thrones has had approximately £2 million spent on each episode, I really hope it was worth it. One can spend a couple million on a production to make it look pretty spectacular, but that money won't buy a story worth sticking around for. That has to happen almost by accident, it has to happen with the audience's consent.

Most people, contrary to popular belief, aren't always the stupid consumers we like to think they are. Where the masses may like to swallow whole the marketing crap they're continuously fed, they aren't always so keen to passively accept their forms of entertainment. Good content does not happen on demand, and 'box set' series do not just occur when the Chancellor of the Exchequer says so. The BBC is known for its excellent content, it has often shaped and created that British trademark, especially for good drama series. I just hope that it comes to remember this if the next of its multimillion pound 'epics' comes to epically fail.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Age of the Selfie.

'Tis the Age of the Selfie. According to some. To many it is an age of extreme narcissism, to me a new experience of self expression and connection. A discussion thread on my dad's Facebook introduced me to the idea that this modern self portrait was another means of reaching out to everyone else. Sometimes this reaching out can mean a search for approval, a need for someone else to confirm their good looks when they face an element of low self esteem. But this search for approval is still a strong desire to connect. Sometimes it means to say something much more distinct: it means to say "I am here."

Admittedly it is easy to understand why many link the selfie to an act of narcissism. It is often an act of self love, and a bold way of admitting that you think you are beautiful in some way but this is not narcissism. Narcissism is an excessive, or even erotic, interest in oneself without the awareness of external objects. If selfies were narcissistic we would not share them with the world but would keep them to ourselves for some weird form of enjoyment. Those selfies would be very odd. But most of us do not keep our selfies to ourselves, and instead we use them to connect with our friends and even strangers. We use them to express emotion, to be artistic, to be funny, and, if you are brave enough, to state that you are beautiful.

There is a trend on Twitter of young women, and sometimes men, posting a series of particularly beautiful selfies in one go. There is no purpose for these photos but to declare outright their own self love. These women say "I am beautiful" without being asked, and without an uncertainty that asks nervously for the onlookers to agree. They just wanted to say that they felt good today. Many of them are not 'conventional' looking. I find it powerful. I do not find these selfies irritating, or rubbed in my face, but I do find them inspiring and lovely to look at. They are lovely because such a force of self confidence is infectious. When someone does not owe anyone but themselves their own beauty, the sensation of that self belief trickles into the minds of others.

And so if a selfie be an act of self love then so be it. There is quite enough of self hate to go around for it not to matter. This newfound desire to connect with the world is much healthier anyway.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Lady nipples and other oddities.


Let's talk about nipples. Lady nipples. Because I think there's a little bit of an issue surrounding the *sensitive* area. More than one issue, actually, the whole thing is just a bit of a shambles.

Firstly, perhaps, we should discuss the issue within the issue that, when considering all the other debacles going on in the world, freeing the nipple is possibly not the highest priority for all women. It isn't my highest priority, but it does fit onto my list somewhere. It fits onto my list because when I consider all the wonderful ways in which men and women are unequal the sexualisation of body parts has for a long time been a little unbalanced. I say a little, I mean a lot. My sister recently saw a Twitter user with their feathers ruffled over the Free the Nipple campaign and they exasperated over the fact that when men look at boobs it's all come the revolution and when women look at crotches no one says a word. The silence on this issue could possibly be because no woman ever has stared hungrily at a stranger's crotch during conversation but then again I could be wrong. Either way, the sexualisation of the female body has been overhyped to the point where the two lumpy things on a woman's chest become the centre of her attraction to all other humans and often the bane of her life. In fact, they have almost become an object of power: squidge them together in a tight top for a job interview and you could be well on your way to a prosperous career. But it isn't the actual boob we have a strange complexity about, it's namely the nipple.

A woman can walk around with the majority of her lady lumps very much on show to the world and, without too much fuss, can spend the day very happily. She will get leers and stares and beeps from white vans and a cat call or two but it is allowed and she is free to do as she wishes. Until, of course, a woman might decide that the day is too hot and she wants to liberate her breasts to avoid tan lines or just to feel the fresh air or perhaps because that's just the way she likes it. This is not allowed unless you are on a swanky beach in the South of France. The woman must keep her tiny, round nipples concealed from all eyes because God forbid. I have still not worked out exactly why this may be the case. A man is as free as a bird to show off his nipples, and plenty a man nipple I now have seen, but it is simply too much for the whole of society to see an entire boob. The children would cry, the men would just collapse. All of man kind would feel deeply offended and we would spend the rest of the day in shock.


Thinking that boobs are especially hot is not a natural occurence. It is a fetish. Some men from other cultures actually think that our men are weird for liking boobs as much as they do. They compare our men to babies because they are so attached to the thing that first feeds us as infants. We have perpetuated this specific sexualisation and we have made up the rules to say that exposing a woman's nipple is wrong.

I support the Free the Nipple campaign not only because it's a strange, outdated inequality that says more about our prudishness than anything else, but also because of how it limits women sexually. Girls and boys are told at a young age that boobs, once past the age of breastfeeding, are entirely sexual. This means that when a girl grows boobs she immediately becomes an object of sex for the boys disregarding any other area in her development. She is told that these are her most sexually powerful asset and that if she flaunts them about too much she will overuse this power. She is told that men enjoy this part of her, but, unless she's lucky, she's never told what part of her she might enjoy herself.  I totally understand the fascination, they're a pretty funky body part, but I really don't think they're that special.

In the 1930s men in New York campaigned to free their own nipples after four men were arrested for going topless to Coney Island. It worked and now it is considered the norm in most of western civilisation. Man nipples fine - woman nipples not fine.

I have never had a truly great desire to go topless on a hot day even if it was uncomfortably warm and I never really gave it much thought. But, having given it more thought, that resistance probably comes from the conditioning I have received about the meaning of breasts in my society. They are a sexual object and therefore must not be shown in public. I believed that for a while, and now I'm inclined to break those rules in order to undo what we've all been taught. I believe that the Free the Nipple campaign has a well intentioned purpose in terms of women's sexual liberation and their regard for their own bodies. When I build up enough courage, I think I may start to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. And I hope there are many other women who think it well to join me.

If by some miracle the campaign is successful and it becomes legal and more normalised to show lady nipple in public it won't mean that all women will be obliged to do the same. I don't think I would feel a constant need to be topless, but men don't get that urge either. It is just another step towards liberation, and more liberation means more equality and more equality (between every man and woman with all their colours, shapes, sizes and minds) is good.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Expectation vs Reality.

More often than not I face a sense of wild disappointment in my 'reality' when I've lead up to it with a very much romanticised 'expectation'. Having a vivid imagination can tint any actualities in a less than magical way. I let my mind run away from me as I conjure up the reality I would like, and then I have to reassure myself that, yes, everything is as good as I wanted it to be it's just a matter of being in the moment, when the moment actually arrives. Whether 'expectation' and 'reality' are all that separate - depending on where you categorise 'reality' and its realness - they never seem to match up. The most obvious explanation to me is that my ability to be in the moment comes much more readily when I lose myself to my imagination and I forget to focus on my surroundings than when I am desperately trying to observe myself in a real situation. The key is the conscious production of thoughts and ideas versus the subconscious. Over thinking has never been a good thing.

I can compare my acknowledgement of my expectations and realities today to those I experienced as a child to notice the effect awareness can have on my concept of time and the events in between. Until I was about 12 Christmas would always be the most enrapturing, fantastic day of the year. The sensation of utter joy was unrivalled. I would go to bed the night before with butterflies in my stomach and sleep restlessly, dreaming of possible realities for the next day until I would wake up and each one of those expectant dreams were actually surpassed. The day would always seem to carry on forever as if there was no limit for the excitement surrounding the celebrations. I was so completely in the moment that time spread out and slowed down as I forgot to notice its passing. I was not time's prisoner, I was just walking along beside it.

Now I think that Christmas day gets shorter and shorter, despite the fact I no longer go to bed at 8:30 pm. In my desperate attempts to 'make the most of' the reality I feel as if time is running away as I force myself to enjoy each moment. Enjoy this, I will think to myself as the moment passes and I barely brush its surface because I've incased myself in my thoughts. Time seems to be speeding along, as it does, I am told, always appear to do for the older folks and I can't seem to stop telling myself to enjoy it and just be in it. My expectations and realities go hand in hand with time because when I daydream I have no care for it and when I am living in a moment I constantly worry about the time running out from under my feet. When I daydream long periods of time pass without my noticing and I have lived in a little peace, but I shatter these dreams each time I try to replicate them in a reality that should be allowed to play out by itself.

If I thought a little less perhaps my realities would become greater than my expectations, but teaching a mind growing in awareness and unwanted cynicism to be calm and let itself become encircled by whatever event unfolds itself is proving a little more difficult than I ever expect.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Keeping up with Myself.

I have technically kept a diary since I was 9 years old when my cousin gave me a large notebook with a picture of a kitten on the front. That was like most other people's experience of a diary; I only ever wrote in it with intervals of at least 6 months. The early entries are quite amusing. "Mum was Really angry cos I didn't lay the table when she asked me and we were just doing something and then we were walking towards the door and she got histerical and I said shutup and now i'm up here! NOT EATING! I made up with mum and had a delicious tea."

But now in this past year I have begun to really and truly 'keep a diary'. This diary is no longer the sporadic and always impassioned work that it used to be, nor is it the public sort of diary that I keep up here. This new diary is perhaps much more private, and much more dear to me. The entries are a little more thought out, or at least better written. And better spelt. Instead of being a method of release when I'm angry or upset and being filled with lines like "MUM IS BEING HORRIBLE TODAY" the diary is more a means of catching the thoughts I have whenever I feel it necessary for them to be caught.

It's an extremely therapeutic process. I splurge real life, real time, unfiltered thoughts and feelings onto the page and then I get to look back at bite sized moments of my life whenever I please. I record the memories that I want to keep shiny and new and I figure stuff out by letting confusing or interesting thoughts and ideas flow. Sometimes it is just a snippet of my teenage dirtbag moods and experiences, other times I make an effort to record something vaguely poetic. I want to always keep a diary. It helps you to not forget those moments that get lost forever if not quickly noted down soon after. I hate forgetting those moments, and this way I never can.

I do not write in it every night religiously,  I don't always have something to say. I am just creating a physical place to store a few favourite or interesting memories. Perhaps it is to romanticise my own life a little by decorating a particular moment with frilly words and expressions, perhaps it is to anchor my existence to a flimsy little notebook. But I do know that I look forward to the years to come to sit down and enjoy the person I once was at 17, 18, 19 and all the other moments I am waiting for.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Exams do not mean shit (and other excuses for any existing student)

In Britain today every 17/18 year old will be receiving their results for their A Levels. For many it is a relatively crap day. You wake up with nerves jangling - if you were even lucky enough to get a good night's sleep - and you anticipate the worst no matter who you are. You have waited around three months for this day, and now it is here and you must face a sort of future. University, retakes, choices and even going back to school at all are all the stakes in line here.

However, if you have worked hard you will most likely do well. Whether this means a stellar results sheet or whatever is required to get you into the university of choice the effort you put in is almost always reflected in what you get. 
Unless, of course, we take into account the fact that the exam paper may have been especially hard, or completely unexpected, or you felt really quite ill on the day. In those cases no matter how clever or hard working or passionate you are something will go wrong for you. An entire future can be based upon a tiny letter written on a piece of paper and if that hour and a half in the exam room was not your finest then needless to say you will face disappointment. I also say entire future because I would like one adult to honestly tell me the other valid and successful options to begin my grown up life other than going to a good university. Society and government are obsessed with attending higher education like never before and so undeveloped, hormone ridden teenagers must push themselves under a mountain of undesired pressure to reach the holy grail of education so that their step by step life can begin and we can all hope to contribute taxes in the next few years. Hurrah. 

It is almost universally assumed at my grammar school that not going to university can cause some deep and regrettable dissatisfaction with life because anything else must be totally awful. We were literally told by a guest speaker one afternoon that "People who attend university have greater satisfaction with life". I would like to know who vomited that out as a 'fact'. I can hardly believe it to be at all true. 

This morning when I went to collect my own results I was being rather harsh on myself for not doing as well as I'd hoped in one subject. I was actually crying. It probably looked pathetic. I can still go to a fantastic university with this result. I am not entirely sure what my problem is. I suppose the inescapable self comparison with my fellow classmates is part of the issue. And then the fact that I am a self diagnosed perfectionist who secretly hopes for good fortune to be handed to her on a plate doesn't aid the situation at all. Perhaps it is because now I cannot apply to a university I had hoped to go to since I was very young. As a disclosure I should say that I didn't actually like it too well when i visited. But I guess it's the not being able to say "I told you so" to all those who said "Ooh that's ambitious" when I told them where I wanted to be. Either way I was upset. I was under the impression for a short while that this result was important. I kept forgetting it didn't actually degrade my quality of life in any sort of way. 

And then on the way home whilst I quietly sobbed to myself about the slightly disappointing outcome of a single exam I noticed the bin lorry on its round of the local houses. Inside the lorry one of the bin men was dancing. He had a smile on his face. He looked happy. And then I came back to reality.
I didn't know whether any of these men had been to university or what they'd done at school or how well they'd done but I did know that they weren't slitting their wrists at the side of the road because they hadn't gone through an uninspired system just to get into an essentially worthless office job. They were doing something useful and beneficial to everyone in the surrounding area. That seems extremely satisfying. I have always heard people joke that if their exam results didn't go well they'd just become a bin man. "It's okay it's always been my preferred profession anyway." they'd say sarcastically, inside they were hoping that it would never become an ironic reality. But really I don't see how they would be any less content with a job as a bin man than with any other career. They would still be loved, still be capable of loving others, still be able to read, still be able to discuss and debate, still be able to dance and drink and eat. 

I think that it is rather difficult to remember that one's life and quality of life does not hang by a thin thread off the edge of whatever results one receives from doing A Levels. I even think that people often forget there is always a solution. Even if you've done very well it is easy to feel a pang of disappointment if it still wasn't what you expected. It is easy to forget that in the grand scheme of things, in the great bowl of happiness and joy that should be your life, exams really don't mean shit. They will not bring you unyielding pleasure, they will not bring you your family, or your friends, they will not bring you the ability to enjoy living. 

Even if you are the world's biggest perfectionist and your marks are not in fact perfection please refrain from berating yourself. Exam results do not accurately measure your intelligence, or even your commitment to hard work, nor do they measure how much you enjoy the subjects you take. Exam results will never be able to affect the brilliance of your life effectively. Life is good still. Life is always good. Exams do not mean shit.