Nepal Day Two: Pokhara (And Election Escapism)

In truth I don't really feel like publishing a blog post today. I attend an American university in the Middle East with an incredibly diverse student body and it seems that nearly all of us, like so many others around the world, are despairing over the future. I hadn't scheduled a post and all I want to do is crawl under my duvet and pretend that Brexit and Trump has never happened (Admittedly it hasn't even been called as I write this, but it looks pretty much impossible for Hillary to win right now), and stick to my belief that the world still loves each other. But life carries on as normal, and so throwing back to some travelling shots seems like a pretty good way to go. 

I had intended to post more about Nepal, and yet somehow other topics overtook the travelling ones in my blogging brain. My vlog is very nearly finished and I'm really excited to show you everything we did but in the meantime it's kind of nice to look at those happier times a little way across the world. 

Ironically the beautiful stone structure at the top is the World Peace Pagoda, a fitting reminder for the way things should be right now. Post Brexit I wrote an article for The Gazelle, our publication here, imploring both sides to not let the divisiveness grow hatred in our heart. All I can think, as we watch Trump emerge victorious, is that now more than ever we should listen to and support minorities who stand to be hurt over the coming years. We should turn to our Latino/a, Black, female, LGBTQ (and any other group who stands to be hurt) friends and show more love than ever before. 

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Maybe She's Born With It...

...Maybe she worked bloody hard to get there.

I have a pet peeve. Well, I have several pet peeves to be precise: people who put a thumbs up as a response in conversation (it's not a response!) being just one of them. But since I didn't spend the last hour in counselling discussing that particular peeve, it won't be the subject of today's post.

No, my current bugbear is people who say "you're so lucky" to the product of hard work.

See I am that annoying person who gets most of my work done early. Not always, I've been known to leave readings till the last minute like any other college student, but in general when I have essays I am almost never writing up to the deadline and usually can submit several days in advance. This was the case with my most recent midterm, partly due to some miscommunication with deadlines, and so I found myself finished two days before the actual thing was due. Now I don't particularly go shouting from the rooftops about this, not least because it doesn't make me a popular person, but occasionally it comes up and invariably the response is some form of jealousy over the break I will have whilst they slave away over their own work.

Now I get it: no one likes to think of others relaxing whilst they are glued to their laptop. But it's not like I didn't do the work. On Friday (our Saturday because the weekends are different) whilst most others were lounging in bed, I was up early and in the library. My essay didn't miraculously appear from thin air, it's just where you might choose the last two days of the given time to do it, I will probably choose the first. 

I think why I find this so frustrating is because it genuinely doesn't come naturally to me. I am inclined to procrastinate on Facebook and get sucked into the rabbit hole of the internet, so I work really hard to counterbalance that as much as I can, not to mention putting in the extra hours to ensure everything gets done even with my procrastination. 

I have discussed it with my Mumma at length, mostly on the subject of bravery. I think it's easy to look at me living a whole continent away from home and think that I was always a go-getter type, when in truth I was a child afraid of almost everything. I sobbed at the prospect of being away from home and that scared little girl is still inside of me. Those closest to me know that physically stepping on the plane to Ghana was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I relied so much on support from those around me. Now I am happy and at home in Abu Dhabi but it hasn't always been the case, and it took a whole lot of courage to leave England four years ago. Easy it was not, but if you don't see those moments then you might not understand how much some of these choices have cost me.

I think the real frustration lies in how invalidating words like "lucky" and "jealous" feel. They dismiss the hours and hours of effort, the sacrifices and sheer amount of energy that goes into each event, essay or adventure. I write about my own experiences not to praise myself but to make you think harder about certain situations before you jump to jealousy or dismiss it as luck. I too have been guilty of looking at other bloggers and envying their success without thinking about how hard they worked to get there. I know how easy it can be to assume that they were gifted with something that placed them there, when invariably the only something is just hard work. Sure, some people are naturally talented in certain areas but even then they work hard to develop their skills. Photographers don't just pick up a camera one day and produce a beautiful picture on their first click, invariably they invest hours into playing around with different settings. Writers have to discard many bad pieces of work before the good ones emerge. Singers spend so much time honing their voices. Yes the raw talent might be a gift of a fate, but invariably it is nothing without someone's time and dedication.

Even where character traits are concerned, I'm coming to realise that so much of it is not what resides naturally within us but how we cultivate them. Kindness, generosity, a lack of envy: so many of the people who seem like this is inherently a part of them still have to squash down unhappier thoughts in order to allow the better ones to flourish. 

Perhaps you disagree, or maybe you can think of your own examples. Either way, I just ask you to consider that outcomes are just the tip of the iceberg, and the work gone in may well be meaningful to the person concerned. Maybe she is born with it, but I bet she worked hard too. 

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Blogging Dissatisfaction and the Art of Self Teaching

I Can Write, Though.

You'll have to forgive me if I'm more lyrical than usual, but I have just returned from the most incredible slam poetry event and now words are swirling around my head demanding to be written. Sometimes starting these posts is clunky, unsure sentences not yet fully formed, but today electricity bursts out of my brain and through my fingertips, pulsing and pressing each key to form the phrase to communicate to you what I'm trying to say.

I could never do spoken word. In front of a crowd I stop breathing, and I mean that in the literal sense. The words don't come out because breaths can't come in and there's a finite amount of time that one can go without oxygen. It's certainly shorter than any speech, poem or rhyme will ever be, and who wants to hear from the girl gasping at the front?

I can write, though. Of course many people can, but when I say I can write I mean I can write feelings. I express myself through this screen, or through my notes, or even through the scrawled scribbles in the millions of notebooks scattered around homes on different continents. It wasn't always this way: I never kept a diary for more than three days straight, and sure I could put pen to paper academically but I was only one for prose and nothing that even vaguely bordered poetic. But the words that I read from my favourite writers entered my heart as I clasped their well-loved novels between my excited hands. I started to jot down on here boring sentences about my days in Paris and before long I was practising writing; writing for myself. I even tried my hand at poetry and only one worked, verses that felt like I was exposing my raw soul through sentences. Through regular practise I started to pick up a flow, and there are old posts I read where I can still feel the rhythm coursing through my body as they wrote themselves. My hands were doing the work, but it felt like those words poured out of my brain fully formed with little input from me. Would it amaze you to know that sometimes I don't even know how I feel until I write about it?

There is no point to this post other than to express how inspired I feel right now. Posts of late have become a little more clunky, a throwback to a younger me who didn't know she could write but wanted to try anyway. I hope you see what I mean, or perhaps you are shaking your head and thinking that I am no different. But tonight I feel different, I feel lit up in a way that only comes from seeing the inspirational work of others. Words communicated so beautifully that I swallowed back tears more than once. Maybe I will never perform, but I want to write in a way that sends that rhythm to your heart. I've seen it done, and maybe even done it before. Will you permit me to keep trying?

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Nepal Day One: Kathmandu

Gosh, it feels like a long time since I wrote a travel post. Most of my summer snaps turned into vlogs with their subsequent posts taking a more reflective twist. But then don't so many of the words that end up on here have that musing upon the recent past element about them?

I am in the process of pulling together a vlog of our wonderful trip, but editing it is lost in the endless articles that I have had to read for my senior thesis over the past two days (I'm making real progress though, guys!) and thus I thought I'd throw a few shots together to give a little overview of what we did. It was a manic five days, four of which involved plane rides, and it really felt like we saw a lot of Kathmandu and Pokhara.

We started at the fantastic Bouddanath Stoupa, with those stunning eyes staring out at us as we sipped coffee in a cafe across the road. The scaffolding has sat in place whilst everyday Nepalis put the structure back together following the devastating earthquake that hit them eight months ago.

Having visited Kathmandu in 2014, seeing the remnants of damage everywhere was shocking. The attitude of everyone we spoke to was so inspiring, though. Rather than lamenting over their great misfortune, people pulled together to start repairing relics across the city. This incredible structure has existed since the 5th century, and as we sat we saw a monk calming painting across the bottom. 

One of the things that I particularly love about Nepal, and Kathmandu in particular, is the colours. The vibrancy of the buildings catch your eye as you turn every street corner, and these prayer wheels were a particular favourite of mine. Buddhists have a really efficient way of praying: they write words of prayer on paper and insert them into the wheels, so that the prayers are sent as the cylinders spin. Neat, right?

You may have spotted this familiar face, since she graces just about every vlog and travel post that I ever make, but it's time to give her shout out (although if you spot my code names of bae, beloved and the love of my life, then you'll realise she gets rather a few shout outs). Hands down though, so many of the incredible photographs and videos of me on here are thanks to her patience and eye for detail. What a wonderful woman, aren't I lucky?

See what I mean about the colour? I had to laugh at this monastery, inside it had the most exquisite painting, and on the outside solar panels reigned supreme on the roof. Somehow I don't see any cathedrals catching on any time soon...

As the sun began to set on the square, the Stoupa began to darken to the most stunning gold colour. I had barely spent three hours back in the country at this point, and already I was thrilled with what I was seeing. There is so much to say about the way the Nepalis are treating what so many would regard as a tragedy, but that's for a future post. I also snapped thousands of photographs, so this certainly won't be the last one on my adventures in Nepal! But for now I would just say that if you have never visited Nepal, I would urge you to do so (or if you have, go back!). 

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It's Never Too Late To Try

How To Survive A Bad Day

Finding The Perfection In Imperfection

There is so much that I want to write here that it is hard to get my thoughts into a logical order, but I'll certainly try. I've just finished a counselling session, one which I thought would be very different to what it was. After three sessions of mostly positive thinking, I had gone into this latest one feeling considerably more negative and certainly not satisfied with how the past few weeks had gone. In previous weeks I discussed with pride how well I was managing, and the same couldn't be said of today.

How wrong I was. What started as a recounting in which I was almost in tears, I ended up smiling. He has a magical way of making me feel proud of the smallest achievements, whilst acknowledging what has happened in my week. Perhaps I'll write a whole post about my journey with counselling, but for now just know that I left bursting with ideas and a lot happier than when I went in.

What we discussed, and what I desperately want to convey to you here, is about perfectionism. Now I hate the term because so often it's used in a flattering way when I find the reality to be a constant sense of low lingering disappointment. My previous counsellor called it 'Unrelenting High Standards', a term that I feels captures some of the stress of never living up to the impossible. Because that's what perfection is: impossible.

I have long set these standards upon myself, which has sometimes served me well. I am known for being a hard worker because I can't bear to produce anything that is less than a level that I am happy with. I fear the disapproval of others so strongly that it spurs me on to work harder and harder, hoping to always satisfy in every realm of my life. So much of my success can be attributed to this phenomenon that learning to let go a little was, quite frankly, terrifying. But the constant pressure was also crippling, and so I have spent a long time trying to be okay with that bit less, a fact that I now acknowledge with some pride.

Of course such perfectionism still rears it's ugly head from time to time, and so my frustrations led us down a path in which he suggested to me that sometimes imperfection is better. Using a recent video I had made as an example, he showed me how the simplicity of my work (and let's be honest, the simplicity was due to the limits of my skill set) helped me effectively communicate the message. Had it been more sophisticated, perhaps the sentiment would have been lost. What was more important: the creation, or the communication? (Clue: I work for the Health Promotion Office, not the Talent Promotion Office. People wanting to get better sleep is more important than the style, put it that way).

It's not a way of looking at the world that I have ever encountered before, but I love it. Nothing is truly perfect in these complicated, messy lives that we lead, and so it feels like a reframing which will not sacrifice hard work, but instead celebrates it. After all I should do my best, but it's okay if my best doesn't quite reach those dizzying heights that I dream of.

Because I never want to learn a lesson without putting it to the test, I used this as an opportunity to post a picture from a few weeks back that I had loved but in which my stomach was, shall we say, more prominent than I would have liked. No matter that my ear to ear grin radiated out from the photo as I sat a top a giant fucking (sorry) inflatable unicorn, I let a little bit of podge stop me sharing it with the world. Of course as soon as I posted it on Instagram friends and strangers left wonderful comments, but even if they hadn't I still would have put it out there with pride. I am human, with human skin marked from years of living, and human fat from sharing pizzas with my co-workers on Saturday nights, and a great big human sized laugh from a wonderful pool day with my best friend. If that isn't perfection, then I don't know what is. 

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World Mental Health Day: I Am Not Ashamed

App-render, Or Fun Ways To Learn Spanish

How To Make Peace With FOMO

No Regrets

How to Sell Yourself (When You Hate Doing It)

Did You Know That People Hate Advice?

Find Meaning In Your Pain

To Those Who Give Good Guidance

Ice in the Desert, or a Cure for Writer's Block

Social Stagnation and Writer's Block

Overlapping Lives: What Happens When Blogging Meets the Real World?

Learning the Art of Acceptance and How It Will Make You Happier

Hone Your Craft: Why Blogging May Pay Off in the Most Surprising of Ways

What A Wonderful Year

Leaving A Beloved City

The Trouble With Transience

Dipping Back Into Dating

Washington DC

Rediscovering Myself

The Unusual Act of Spontaneity

The Colorado Vlog

Summer Reading Suggestions

The Accidental Minimalist

When Should You Argue?

How To Help A Struggling Friend

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

I've Lived

Finding Your Happy Place

A Trip To Tamale

A Beginner's Guide To Getting Fit

The Bane of Blogging