What, Where, When, Who?

What the hell am I doing? 

I feel like I ask myself that question every day. I feel like actually part of being a student, a teenager, heck, even a just person, is asking that question everyday. I’ve reached a point in life when I’m starting to constantly ask myself the following: what am I doing, where am I supposed to be doing it, who the heck am I and when is the deadline for figuring it all out?

As you might have guessed, at 19 years old, I don’t really have many of the answers to those questions yet and every time I think I might have found one, something usually goes dreadfully unexpectedly.

I don’t think I’m going to find any of those answers any time soon, despite my best efforts, but I think I’ve found some little things that are starting to help me make a move in the right direction.

Life and education and other people are always, of course, a great help, but among all of those very big and should be obvious guides, I have found two other great helps in answering some of my biggest questions. Those are reading and writing.

Reading and writing has been a massive help for me throughout my entire life, often without me even realising it. I’ve navigated a lot of the hardest periods of my very short existence thus far with words; shoving my nose into books or spilling my guts onto blank pieces of paper. I’m a scrap paper scribbler, and when life throws me an unanswered question, I turn to the only two things that I’m sure I know how to do.

I’ve been thinking about those big questions I mentioned at the beginning a lot recently as September is coming up and September has always sort of functioned like New Year for me. It makes me reflect on my personal and academic growth in the past year and motivates me to do better in the next. For me, September is when all the big changes come; good and bad. I thought about all of my current projects and what I wanted to do with them in the coming academic year. And that of course brought me to this blog, which had me asking another, slightly smaller, question.

What the hell am I doing with this blog? 

Or maybe the question was more like, what is the purpose of it? Originally I read and reviewed books and then I started posting a bit about writing and a bit of my own writing and then I talked a little about my life and honestly it turned into a bit of a personal dumping ground and then I got scared to post. It’s too easy to put my feelings online. I’m sure lots of you know what I mean by that.

So after some thought and reflection, I think I sort of worked out what I want this blog to be, at least for the time being. I want to chronical life through the eyes of a bookworm. I mean let’s be honest, us oddballs do have a quirky little way of seeing the world through the fantastical ideas of the book we just read. So yes, that’s the plan. I want to chronical the life of a bookworm, more specifically this bookworm. Uh, me. This will obviously include book chats and writing updates, but also how life has influenced my book chats and writing updates. How what I’ve been up to influences my reading taste and my opinions on bookish topics and how much reading I’ve been doing etc. but also how a certain book taught me how to deal with said issue or how I wrote three pages of angry crap because this thing happened. Kinda make sense?

I’m hoping this concept will allow me to share the parts of my life with you that are important, without feeling like I’m putting too much out there. You’re still getting me and my life, raw and real, just through the bookish lens. Anything you want to deduce from what you see from that is your call : p

So that’s my plan moving forward, I hope that’s interesting to you and I hope that I can produce something insightful as well as relatable and fun. I mean, I’m going to try my best! Honestly, I think it might actually be a little therapeutic for me too.

A Review of Some Beautiful Books

So this month I really wanted to get back into reading now that my exams are all finished up and I thought what better way to ease myself back into the reading habit than picking up some beautiful graphic novels and picture focused books. I read three in total and I thought I would briefly share some of my thoughts on each for you today.

Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt

Jane, the Fox and Me beautifully tells the story of a girl dealing with bullying due to her weight at school and how she escapes her sadness through her reading of Jane Eyre. She draws parallels between herself and Jane and as someone who adores the novel Jane Eyre completely, I loved that the main character in the book looked at the novel in a very simjane-3.jpgilar way that I did after my first reading. Though the story itself wasn’t ground breaking, it was the simple beauty of it paired with the absolutely stunning illustrations that kept me enthralled. The colour pallet was very much suited to the tone of the book and I do so wish I could have posters on my walls of some of the beautiful drawings inside.

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg

With a sunning calm coloured and eye catching cover I couldn’t help but pick this one up. I’d heard a little about the814arl7EWXL.jpg concept of hygge before but I really wanted to learn more. This book was again a really comforting and quick read that taught me a lot about Danish culture. The concept of hygge in it’s most simple terms is sort of like living in cosiness and I very much got that vibe while reading. It very much made me strive to live this warm, loving and pleasure filled kind of life and it gave me many ideas on how to do so. It reminded me how important it is to live in the moment and to revel in the little things that bring me happiness and I was very grateful for that.

The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

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It was the stunning illustrations once again that drew me into this wonderful graphic novel. Telling the tale of a travelling story teller and his love during early earth, the adorable story paired with equally beautiful imagery makes for such a heart warming read. With a mix of little humorous quips and heartfelt moments this graphic novel seemed to find an excellent balance of action, adventure and quiet moments of love story. Again, the colour pallet is wonderful and, as with Jane, the Fox and Me, brightens and darkens perfectly depending on the tone of the moment within the story. Flicking through this one really brought a smile to my face during every page.

So those are some of the lovely more image and illustrative focused books that have helped me get back into the habit of reading this month. They all provided a very cosy heart warming feeling and I would definitely recommend any of the above. I look forward to reading more graphic novels in the future!

I Think I’m a Shy Extrovert…

So it came to my attention recently that I might quite possibly be the not so rare but rather unheard of shy extrovert. This was a big deal to me as a) I’ve been struggling a lot with myself and having understanding of myself and my habit of worrying recently and b) I didn’t even know that the shy extrovert was thing.

So as I’m sure you know and to my understanding the terms introvert and extrovert on a basic level have a lot to do with how people “recharge”. I’ll link to a page explaining it better here but for the purposes of understanding what I’m talking about we’ll just say that the basic idea is that extroverts get their energy from being with people and introverts from spending time with themselves. I think it’s important to remember that both introverts and extroverts are still human beings and need both time alone and time with others but the idea of the label is that introverts sometimes feel tired and drained after a long time surrounded by people and need to retreat to some alone time while extroverts feel similarly about being alone for extended periods of time.

I firmly thought that I was an introvert for a long time. I’m quite a reserved person and it takes me a long time to be comfortable enough with a person to be myself. I always dread big social occasions and I do enjoy time to self reflect. However I was misunderstanding how the definitions worked. I was also misunderstanding myself. See when I moved to university I learned that I hate being alone for long periods of time. I feel tired and sad and I get stuck in my own head. I get lonely very very quickly. I thought coming to uni that I would want to spend lots of time alone in my room but as it turns out doing so really drags me down. I find myself seeking small groups of people to talk to. I find myself hoping to run into someone in the kitchen and messaging my flatmates when they’re only in the room next to me. As it turns out, I’m not very good at being alone for long periods of time.

I always associated shyness with introvertedness and confidence and outgoing personalities with extroverts but I recently learnt that they don’t always have to be related. I learnt that there are shy extroverts who though need social situations fear them and struggle with confidence particularly when in large groups and that there are introverts who, though enjoy spending time alone, have no trouble starting conversation and making new friends at all. I think drawing a focus on large and small groups of people for me is important because I very much enjoy hanging out with a small group of friends and having one on one time with someone is something I revel in but find it harder to feel comfortable in a much larger group.

Another habit that seems to fit me into the shy extrovert category is that I often have lots to say but can’t seem to find the voice to say it. This sometimes even applies in small groups of people and very much depends on my level of comfort with the people surrounding me (as it works for most people extrovert or introvert). My shyness is nowhere near the level it used to be and as I’m getting older I’m getting better at this social stuff but my shyness is still there and it means I often fear judgement from the people around me which means I tend to bite my tongue a lot without even realising it. I feel silly often and sometimes disregard my own thoughts and opinions on the little day to day things, music and tv for example. It’s something that I’m doing a lot to work on and is definitely getting better.

I’m glad that I found out about the shy extrovert because I feel less odd now. I feel like I’ve found a better way to understand myself and comfort in the fact that there are plenty of people who feel similarly. I’ll leave a link here to the video that I watched about this that really made me mutter “heck this is me!”

It’s also important however to understand that there are going to be little bits of both introvert and extrovert in everyone. I learnt that there is something called a ambivert which is a mix of the two. Maybe I’m that instead. I’m not sure, but hearing people talk about the experience of being a shy extrovert really resonated with me.  There are all these ideas that extroverts have less close relationships, like talking more than listening etc which definitely doesn’t fit me but I can’t help but feel like these ideas are stereotypes and generalisations in the same way that suggests introverts are all hermits who are awkward and terrible at socialising and expressing themselves through speech. That’s not always true at all.

I’m a person very much focused and interested in self understanding and reflection so sometimes labels help me with that. I think that’s why exploring this further is something that I really want to do. Maybe I should do some more research into the ambivert. Please do let me know in the comments what you think about all of this. Are you an ambivert, extrovert or introvert? Is this kind of thing even important to you? Do you struggle to define yourself as any of them? I’m always interested to hear your thoughts.

Going Cruelty Free: Step One

So a number of months ago now I stumbled across the cruelty free makeup community. I’d always known that cruelty free makeup existed but it always seemed so expensive and inaccessible to me. I’d also never really thought about why it was important. I can’t remember the exact moment I made the decision to attempt to go cruelty free but I know that it came from falling down the rabbit hole of cruelty free makeup videos and blogposts online.

I think the inspiration to start showing a little bit of consideration for these kinds of things came from being surrounded by people who do. Since moving into university, I now live with two vegetarians, have a vegetarian boyfriend and a number of friends and family members who have made the decision to go vegan. While I have not made the choice to join them in that aspect and have varying views on the use of animals etc, I was inspired by them to take a small step in making a change and for me a logical place to start was with the beauty products I use.

 

After making the decision the first step I decided to take was of course research, and honestly I’m still lingering in this step and think that it will be one that has to continue to be a part of my cruelty free journey. Research has both been harder and easier than I thought it would be and it’s sort of tricky to explain why but I’m going to give it a crack. So the easier part is that there are tons of resources out there. There are blogs, channels and websites dedicated to making your cruelty free choices easier. One of the most helpful for me has been Logical Harmony’s blog and YouTube channel. I think it’s a great place to start as it has all the basic information right there for you. The only issue I’ve found is that the brands mentioned can be a little US based and lean towards higher end in some aspects.

Another easy aspect of this has been that a lot of the cheaper brands that I already know and love actually have turned out to be cruelty free. Brands like Superdrug, Balis and Harding, W7 and Lush all have cruelty free products that aren’t too harsh on the wallet and likewise aren’t too hard to find.

The trickiest part of the research process has been how complicated animal testing laws and claims can be. Some companies claim not to test on animals but are owned by parent companies that do etc and this means that attempting to make the ethical decision can be confusing and difficult. I’m trying to approach this with a very relaxed attitude, laying the focus on educating myself. I’m open to making mistakes,  not being too harsh, accepting some products in my collection will have to remain for the time being and that for now I’m not going to get bogged down with ideas of parent companies etc until I can understand what the implications are better. I’m open to learning and for the time being I’m not going to be too strict with myself. This is about me making small and gradual changes.

As I mentioned before, I think I’ll forever be stuck in the research stage, but the stage I’ve been moving into now that I have some of the basic information is what I’m calling “the use up.” I’m not willing to throw away all of the cruel beauty products I own as not only is it a complete waste but I am not in the financial position to be able to go out and immediately buy replacements. For that reason I’ve gone through what I own and tried to spit it up into cruelty free and otherwise and am prioritising using up what’s not cruelty free so that when it’s all done I can focus on finding a cruelty free replacement.

So all of this has kind of been my step one in going cruelty free and hopefully I’ll keep you guys updated with the steps I find myself taking following this. If you think there’s anything I should know about the transition, or products or resources you would recommend, please let me know in the comments. Would you ever consider the switch? Yes or no I would love to know why and we’ll always reserve judgement here so long as all comments are respectful and open minded. Thank you!

Quote

Big Issue? Write small.

“The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kids burnt sock lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.” – Richard Price

So this quote above is something I stumbled across on line a good number of weeks back now and reading it was like getting slapped in the face. I have no idea why but in the moment, and even now as I reflect on it, this seems to be the best piece of writing advice I’ve come across in a long time, possibly even ever! (I know, dramatic.)

As I mainly write contemporary fiction I’m very big on character and thematically driven stories. I thought a lot about the quote and then about some of the best books I’ve ever read and I realised how much it really rings true. Let’s look at some examples:

 

The Book Thief

Big Issue: War

Basic Idea of Book: A girl who steals books.

 

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Big Issue: Mental Illness

Basic Idea of Book: Charlie makes some friends.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 

Big Issue: Race and Sexuality

Basic Idea of Book: A really angry kid has no friends.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

Issue: Love, Mortality (Cancer)

Idea: Girl and boy fall in love.

 

You see? All of these stories had a massive impact for me because of how down to earth, real and simple the plotlines were. None of them were preachy, none shoved the theme in my face every page. They all hit me across the face when I closed the book and learnt something and realised I couldn’t shake the theme from my head despite the fact I was never told explicitly what that was.

Like I said, I’m not totally sure why this piece of advice was so valuable to me, well maybe what I’ve pointed out above. But it was. It’s something that I’m constantly trying to keep in mind why I’m working on a project. I think it’s because people can’t comprehend the horrors of war. It’s too much, too big to wrap our human minds around. But a burnt kids sock. That’s small and it resonates and it’s an image that’s very hard to shake from our heads.

So if the issue is big, write small because it’s those small images that often punch with the most impact.

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

So today is the 8th of March, also International Women’s Day! I love the fact that there is a day to celebrate women, their achievements and their rights. I’ve only really began learning about Feminism over the past couple of years and I have so much left to learn but I’ve enjoyed the experience so much and I am definitely already a proud woman and feminist.

I wanted to take the opportunity today to say thank you to all the women in my life. That’s women I know and women I don’t. From family, friends and teachers to powerful women in the media, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by females that inspire me to be better every day. There are women in my life who are stay at home mothers and women who are teachers and cleaners and there are women in my life who are business women and managers and self employed and everything in between. I have role models in every aspect of my life, women who I admire and trust and who teach me what it means to be a woman every day.

And what do I think it means to be a woman? Well I think I’m still working that out. But right now, to me, being a woman means being strong and proud, being ambitious and compassionate and caring, being able to do things alone but also knowing it’s okay to ask for help. It means being proud of who I am and making sure I help to make the people around me be proud of who they are too. More and more being a woman makes me feel like I’m part of something. Though the culture of girl hating is still present, everyday I feel more and more like women are learning to build each other up instead of tear each other down.

I live in a world where life for women is getting better even though issues are still present. I’m aware of my privilege as a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman and know that a lot of women don’t have it as easy as I do. Casual sexism might be an issue I come into contact with sometimes, but they have problems I can’t even comprehend. I think International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate how far we’ve come and reflect on that, as well as think about how we can go even further.

Being a woman is such a huge part of my identity. I’m learning to love myself, my femininity being a large part of that. I remember when being told I was girly was a huge insult and sometimes I’m sad to say I still take it that way.  I remember when I didn’t understand the implications of the phrase “you hit like a girl” or “you’re not like other girls”. I’m glad to say that for the most part I don’t think that way anymore and I’m extremely proud of who I’m becoming as a woman.

I continue to seek guidance from women much smarter than me, more experienced, women with their different view points and lives, as well as to stand on my own, grow and learn who I am knowing that being a woman, while a massive part that, will never be the only thing people see about me.

So Happy International Women’s Day. I hope you stand together, men and women and ever gender in-between included, and be proud of who you are, and who the people you love are and who you will all eventually become.

 

 

 

 

A Thank You to Tea and Toast

Recently I’ve been bloody obsessed with a lovely bit of tea and toast. I’ve finally realised how underrated it is and todays post is pretty much going to be me telling you why ; )

Tea and toast has been a massive comfort to me this past couple of weeks when I’ve just been feeling a little down. It’s such a lovely comfort food. It’s quick to make and it’s yummy. Not to mention all of the variables of this very simple little meal (variables which I will further discuss later). Its the warmth of the tea and the crunch of the toast. It’s the way it just feels so familiar. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about a good bit of tea and toast (unless of course you want there to be). It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, it can be good for and it can be a good treat, and as someone who’s God awful at cooking it’s a massive relief to come home to after a long day at uni.

I love toast with butter and/or jam, Nutella spread or marshmallow fluff, or something healthier like some Avocado or egg or a nice cheese spread. You can have it with almost everything. My flat mate eats it with mayo on top! Same goes with tea. If it’s a plain cuppa you love then go for it and if you don’t, or want to try something a little more exciting or different, there are fruit teas, herbal teas, teas that taste like cakes and sweets. Heck, coffee is just as good and with just as many variants! And don’t forget all the different types of bread.

Tea and toast is a snuggle down meal and a get up and go meal, it all depends on the time of the day. It’s what my Welsh family would call hearty. There’s something about it that makes me feel good inside, something that calms me. Maybe it’s just the simple act of taking five minutes out of the day to pop the kettle on and flick the switch on the toaster.

I love the meal in my room with just the lamp and some fairy lights on, some YouTube or a TV show playing in the background. It’s a shared love amongst my flat mates and we all seem to take solace in the part of a day where we have time for a cheeky slice and a nice hot cuppa.

So thanks, tea and toast, for getting me through “one of those weeks.” Incidentally one of those weeks when you just need to have a bit of tea and toast : )