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. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Supporting Black Rights as a Clueless White Girl.

I am a white, middle class, privileged and educated young woman whose surrounding area has a black population of approximately 0.1%.

My only troubles are those of past anxiety disorders and an overbearing sense of the black hole of the rest of my existence. I face discrimination as a woman, technically, but my own experience as a feminist comes from wanting to ensure the life of equality I lead within my family and amongst friends for other women who suffer far more than I ever will.

In short, I live a relatively care free and happy existence with opportunities (hopefully) laid out in abundance before me if I choose to get my act together and pursue a path with passion and enthusiasm. That is all I need to do for myself. I have unbending support from my family and friends and teachers and, even, society. Mostly I fit into what society would like as an ideal: White, Middle Class, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Eloquent, Polite. I could go to anywhere in North America and most likely be welcomed - before I opened my mouth and said something liberal, socialist or radical in some areas - and I would certainly not face any trouble with the police unless it was warranted.

I would not be singled out, ridiculed, or even hated by an upsettingly large group of people for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I would not be shot in the back for my skin colour without even holding a weapon myself. No one could come up with a name laden with a history of a dark, dark oppression and brutal slavery to lower and undermine my being. I would not have to fear the authorities whose sole purpose is to 'protect me'. I would not be sectioned by history and society to live in one area with my people because I would be received with hospitality anywhere I went. I would not still be facing a looming and obvious discrimination in the place of my birth for the way that I looked.

I would be allowed to exist as a human with a right to liberty in the constrained and often misconstrued sense of the word. I would be absolutely fine and dandy because I am white. Setting aside issues I may otherwise face as a woman I would be safe and looked after. I would not be essentially dehumanised by a system of oppression against what I am and where I come from.

Frankly what I am trying to say, in a rather long winded manner, is that I can never truly understand the suffering and the fear and the injustice that black people face in America - and sometimes here too - in a first hand way. I have no right to question those in the middle of the movement against racism because I cannot know how awful, how agonising, how frustrating it is. I cannot say to black women that I am in the same boat because how dare I even begin to think that our situations are similar. As women we will face discrimination for our gender, as black women they will face an agenda against their existence.

Therefore my only issue is this: I struggle to know how to truly support anti-racism movements. I do not want to offend, belittle, or patronise a people who know discrimination in a 'free land' like no other. But I support and believe in their battle and rights with my whole heart. I will stand with them, or just on the outside in encouragement if it is not my place to shout out. I am wholly revolted by the bitter and poisonous racism that exists in frightening quantities in today's 'liberated' west.

I will express my utter distaste for any form of racism openly for really it is all I have the ability to do and I will fully support those who are still afflicted with a deadly prejudice. I will just stand in solidarity with those who still suffer for it is -  in the way of black and white, good and bad - the right thing to do.