life

January Review

wp-1454439809432.jpgIt’s good to keep check on my goals, isn’t it? That way I can track my progress.

I’m doing well, I think. I haven’t quite curtailed my spending, but my savings account is slowly growing with each payday, and I’m way ahead of schedule with that. I want to have enough for a few months’ rent by the time I’ve graduated, so I don’t have to worry as soon as I arrive back in Florence. Also I read about fuck-off funds a couple of weeks ago and I think it’s something that every young person needs to aim for.

Academically, I’ve improved massively on time management, and I’m not overwhelmed trying to balance work, a social life, and my studies. I still need to improve here, in fact, I’m procrastinating a little bit by writing this because I have two presentations this week and I haven’t even finished all my reading. Heh. That’s something I can work on. I haven’t been using my notebook much as an organisation tool, but that’s fine as long as I’m not being a total scatterbrain.

Personally, I feel good. Great, even. I don’t know what subconscious weight has been lifted from my chest, but whatever it was, it isn’t dragging me down anymore. I feel really optimistic about the future, because I know there’s so much to look forward to, even though some things are a long way away. I suppose then that I’m getting better at being patient, because I can deal with that wait.

Blog-wise… yeah I know. Soz. :))) Also I haven’t been running for a while so I’ll go tonight.

– Niko

 

 

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The art of being a little bit weird

Oh, hey… heh. What was that about being more active here wp-1453152794544.jpgin 2016?

Maman bought me a book for my birthday called The Art of Being Normal. It was probably just because she thought that the title was funny,  transgender teenagers are definitely at the bottom of my ‘fiction plotlines that I would find vaguely interesting’ list, but it had me thinking about being ‘normal’ in general.

Weird people know we’re weird, and we don’t feel the need to announce it (looking at you, omg i like books and tea i’m so quirky ahahaha girls), in fact, we’ve often put a lot of energy into striving to be whatever we thought regular people are like.

I know there’s not really any such thing as ‘normal’, but you know that there are people that never quite fit in, and growing up, that was always me. I never had a large group of friends, and especially in secondary school, I mostly drifted between groups of people who were nice enough, but weren’t really close friends. I was a bit paranoid, mentioning anything slightly unusual to a bunch of equally self-conscious teenagers was met with looks of disgust and second-hand embarrassment, which would just push me back into my shell.

Looking back, I’m glad that I was, and still am, a bit weird. This isn’t going to be a blog post about how I’m better than those other people, and it’s not something I’mm particularly proud of, any more than I am of having brown hair. What I want really to say is that our experiences in childhood shape who we are as adults, and I’m pleased that my younger self, for all of her cringey tastes in music and clothing, terrible DIY haircuts, and loneliness, has helped me become me.

The things I was insecure about before, I think, have become my strengths. All the time I spent alone has taught me how to become independent, I don’t care if I look like my date stood me up at a restaurant, I’m perfectly happy eating by myself. My odd dress sense is probably still odd, but I know what I like, and I’ll happily take risks that others wouldn’t dream of. I don’t think of myself as particularly intelligent, and if I weren’t myself I’d probably tell me to shut the fuck up, but people do me the compliment of letting me ramble on for hours on just about anything, so I suppose I’m doing something right there, too.

I’m not 100% where I want to be yet, it takes me a while to really open up around new people, and there are always parts of myself that I’ll be working on, but I know that self-improvement is a lifelong process, and that I’m on the right track.

– Niko

 

Looking Forward

wp-1451654816326.jpgI don’t really like to give myself New Year’s Resolutions, the timing feels a bit arbitrary and often people are too optimistic. What I always do though, is try to watch 100 films that I’ve never seen before each year. I’m usually good at this, but for some reason I forgot to make a note of what I’d seen in 2015, so I don’t know whether or not I reached my target. I’ll be keeping a record for 2016, though.

This year, instead of making promises to myself that I could never keep, I want to look at the things I’m improving on, and make an effort to keep on in the right direction. For me those things are:

1. Money. 2015 was an expensive year for multiple (sometimes unavoidable) reasons, and I spent far too long on the brink of my overdraft limit. I’ve decided to keep a record of what I’m spending, so I can better budget my life, and start putting money aside in my savings account again, which unfortunately I had to empty last year.

2. Exercise. I actually do a fair amount of walking in my day-to-day life, but I took up running a couple of months ago. It’s refreshing to do some cardio from time to time, and I’m mostly concerned with fixing my tight calf muscles, especially in winter when most of the time I’m wearing heeled boots. I want to get to a place where my legs don’t ache after a jog, and it becomes a regular part of my routine.

3. Studies. I want to make a more dedicated effort to my education. Not that I wasn’t trying before, but I had far more 4am library sessions than anyone should be doing, and I want to stay on top of my workload, which last year felt a bit like spinning plates. My action plan here is basically just to be more organised, and maybe stay on campus rather than going straight home after a lecture. That way, I don’t have to make a long journey to the library from home if there’s anything I need.

4. Personal life. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be in a relationship until I move back to Florence permanently, so I’m not making any resolutions in that department, plus, it’ll give me more time to focus on my degree, which I’m enjoying a lot right now. I would, however, like to make more of an effort to maintain the friendships with the people I value, because it’s such a shame when you drift from the people you love.

That’s it, really. Nothing radical, no great, sweeping changes, no Eat, Pray, Love. I think that making small steps towards the vision I have of what I’d like to be. It’s better this way.

Have you set yourself any goals this year? Did you achieve what you wanted to last year?

– Niko

Looking back

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Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

It’s been a while. Like I mentioned before, I’ve been working through December, and I thought I was busy during term time! I didn’t want to spam everyone with wishlists and gift guide nonsense because really I’d like this blog to have a bit of integrity and I’m feeling a bit disillusioned with buying and buying. Retail does that to you. What better time to start writing again, then, than New Year’s Eve? I’ll be spending tonight revising and drinking Babycham, plus I’m a little bit upset because I ordered like £20 worth of sushi and my order was cancelled because the restaurant decided not to be open, ugh.

Anyway, I thought I’d write a little post summing up some things I’ve been thinking about recently.

1. Patience. I’m going to sound like a middle-aged Facebook drama queen, but I’m learning that I really don’t need to waste my time on people who don’t dring any value to my life. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life being very patient, assuming the best of people to then be let down, and letting them take advantage of me, and now I don’t really have the time for it. Perhaps it’s Marie Kondo’s influence, but if someone doesn’t spark joy, I have to discard the, so to speak. It sounds harsh, I know, but I meet so many people that it makes no sense for me to be wasting energy on the ones that don’t enrich my life in any way.

2. Myself. I feel as though I’ve really been able to learn a lot about myself this year, about how I cope under pressure or in new environments, and what I genuinely value in life. I feel much more empowered than I did last year and I definitely give far fewer shits about things that don’t matter. Going forth, I’m going to continue to challenge and push myself to achieve to the best of my ability, and squeeze everything out of every oppotunity that I’m faced with.

3. Dreams. Continuing from that last point, I have a much clearer idea in my mind of where I want to be in five years, and what I need to do to get there. When I look back, I’m quite proud of what I’ve done to get to where I am at the moment, and even though not everything went to plan, I’m happy here and in the direction I’m going.

4. Instagram. Humblebragging here, and the shortest bullet of all, but my Instagram has got a pretty strong theme going on right now which I’m pretty proud of. So glad I went back to using my favourite filter.

Those are the key points for me, really. I don’t want to give too much away right now because I also want to write a post about resolutions to be published on New Year’s Day.

Have you made any great realisations this year? Self discoveries?

Happy New Year!

– Niko

ABOUT ERASMUS, or, why i haven’t graduated yet

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If you know me in real life, you’re probably aware that I spent the last year or so in Italy. If you know me in real life but we don’t talk ever, you might be wondering why I didn’t graduate university last year, with everyone else my age.Firstly, I went to two colleges; I did a BTec and then decided that I also wanted A-levels, so that was two years I happily delayed for the sake of getting onto an academic course (History of Art), but even then I should be graduating this year. I’m actually doing my second year of university again.

Because, let me tell you a thing, I did a year-long Erasmus placement at the University of Florence, and, much as I love the city, I did achieve very much, academically speaking.

The Italian University system is far different from that in the UK; lecture halls are packed and noisy, exams are oral, and the relationship between lecturer and student is much less like that of colleages, but like a secondary school teacher and teenager. I found this behaviour totally unprofessional, and it made me less keen to seek help when needed, as it was almost impossible for certain staff members to hide their distain for students. God forbid they should be required to do what they’re paid for…

The teaching style is different, too. There is heavy emphasis placed on memorising facts and dates, with very little room for personal interpretation or analysis. I’d go as far to agree that a lot of British students do have massive gaps in their general knowledge, but to go through a three year degree without developing critical skills just seems a waste of time to me. Students are allowed to resit exams as often as they want until they pass, provided that this is within twelve months of the original teaching, and many will fail several times. This is partly to do with the oral exam system, where the lecturer will simply call an end to the exam if a student struggles to answer the questions (in a written exam, you would just be able to return to the question later), and the fact that so many resits are permitted suggests that the university doesn’t even expect many Italian students to pass on the first go. Coming from a system where a resit is very rare, and only under extremely special circumstances, this is completely alien to me, as one would expect the teaching to be sufficient to equip the student to pass on the first try.

There’s also a lot of waiting around because of this oral system. An indefinite number of students can take a written exam at once, whereas obviously only one student can be questioned at a time. This meant that the exam I had signed up for on a Monday, I ended up sitting on Wednesday afternoon. Obviously at this point, the lecturer was sick of examining students, and decided to take it out on me by being what I can only describe as the rudest little twat I’ve ever encountered in my life. If it weren’t for that fact that I needed to stay sweet and negotiate a passing grade from him, he’d have had a verbal slap in the face after his first snarky comment.

I think the main problem was that my university had too much confidence in us, and expected us to attain a whole year’s worth of credits, just as we would in the UK. This is quite unusual for an Erasmus placement, as most sending institutions only require a certain amount of credits, then an assignment set from home to make up for the rest. This would have been better as it would have massively reduced the pressure I was under, and being pushed to do more self-directeed research would have made up for what I wasn’t getting in class.

When people ask me about it, I always tell them that they’re better off finishing their degree, and doing a gap year once they’ve graduated, completely circumventing the crappy university system. I’m glad I went to Florence, and have plans to move back ASAP, I only wish that I’d come out of it without having to appeal to my home university to continue my degree!

Has anyone else been on an Erasmus placement? How was it? Google, and the people I’ve spoken to tell me that they’ve had very similar experiences.

FAKE IT TILL YA MAKE IT: pretending to be confident

wpid-wp-1446065607453.jpgI’m not really a outgoing person. I get anxious when the supermarket is too busy or someone stands too close to me, but I’ve overcome a lot of my problems in the past few years, and even when I’m not feeling 100% about a situation, I’m better equipped do deal with unfamiliarity and stress.

1. SASHA FIERCE IT. Do like Beyoncé and let your imaginary alter-ego do the hard work. You don’t have to name them or release and album about them, but just acting as though you’re playing the part of a confident person is a great way to get through uncomfortable situations.

2. DOMINATE YOUR SPACE. Don’t like, get up in everyone’s face or anything, but open gestures create a sense of ease and confidence in your surroundings. Unfold your arms, stretch your legs, stand up straight! Actively cowering from the world doesn’t help you confront it.

3. BE NICE. Even if that means putting yourself out of your comfort zone to be extra polite to people. If you come across as a bit prickly, you set off a vicious circle of people avoiding you, then feeling bad, then acting miserable, etc. Break that cycle with a few kind gestures and you’ll soon find life more manageable.

4. SMILE! You don’t have to go around grinning like an idiot, but forcing a smile is an instant mood lifter. Sometimes when I’m sat at the computer by myself I’ll smile and I feel good immediately. Something to do with what the body associates with smiling, perhaps? I read an article about it years ago and honestly I think it works. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, crack a big fake one, it feels great, I promise. You’ll also look more approachable and CONFIDENT!

5. GET INDEPENDENT. Do things by yourself. People look at me like I’m mad for going to the cinema or sitting in restaurants by myself, but it’s a great exercise in self-reliance and the more I do it, the less I care about what other people think. Do I look like some girl who got stood up on a date? Doesn’t matter! I’m enjoying myself and that’s all that matters. You soon stop worrying about whether you’ll have company to do the things you love, unless it’s tennis or something, in which case, definitely find at least one person to do that with.

And you guys? What have you found helps get you through anxiety? I don’t think any of these tips are quick fixes, but they were certainly huge aids for me in terms of growing as a person.

– Niko

EVERYDAY CARRY: what’s in my bag?

wpid-wp-1445706561516.jpgI love this kind of post, I’m a nosy person and it gives an interesting insight into that person’s personality. So I thought I’d share with all y’all what I’m lugging around every day.

THE BAG /// I bought this from Coccinelle in the January sales this year as a birthday present from me, to me. In a market saturated with Saffiano (this is your fault, Kors), the buttery-soft leather was a welcome change and the hardware is gold-toned, which is important to me. In nine months of use, there’s hardly any noticeable wear aside from on the bottom studs, so it’s definitely been a good investment.

wpid-wp-1445706565760.jpgWHAT’S INSIDE? ///
1. Folding multitool, because you never know when you’ll need some pliers or a tiny saw. Thanks Dad.
2. L’Occitane lavender hand cream. This came free with a magazine this month, so if you don’t want to pay full price, head down to your local newsagent and grab one.
3. Pencil case. I bought this from artbox a couple of years ago. I only ever use these pens because I’m left handed and they don’t smudge under my hand, plus the fine line makes my writing look neater.
4. Tissues. I have a cold. Just be thankful that I didn’t include a photogrph of the mountain of used ones that were also floating around my bag.
5. Wet wipes, for if there’s a gross thing.
6. Kiko Kiss Balm. It’s coconut flavour, it’s delicious, and it’s brilliant for nourishing lips. I don’t have a Kiko store nearby so I bought about four while I was in Florence so I would have a steady supply.
7. Engrish coin purse, covered in ink and suncream. I just keep small things in here, like painkillers and nail files and the tiny San Pio I found that one time.
8. Barbie x Tezenis folding hairbrush.
9. Liquorice pellets. I’m actually surprised there are only two tins because I have loads of these lifesavers. They’re great for when you have a tickly cough but you don’t want to start hacking up a lung in public. Nice, right?
10. Coccinelle purse. I was actually going to buy the matching bowling bag for this because I love the suede stripes, but I needed something that would fit A4 folders, so this was a good compromise. You really don’t realise the value of a high quality purse until you buy one and you’re no longer fighting to open the zip, so smooth!
11. Hand sanitiser. I touch a lot of strange animals.
12. Swiss Army Knife. This comes in handy pretty much all the time, I think everyone needs one. Cutting food? On-the-go manicure? Toothpick? Sorted!
13. House keys. Broken Jack Wills torch and Endless Edamame keyrings.
14. Torch keyring. Useful.
15. Rhodia webnotebook aka BEST NOTEBOOK EVER. It has a 0.5cm spaced dot grid which is perfect for graphs and stuff, and makes just looks more clean than lines.

Do you guys carry anything weird around? Once I found a dead mouse in mine. Obviously my cat wanted to make sure I was taking a packed lunch to college.

– Niko

CLEANING MY ROOM WITH KONMARI

wpid-wp-1445018168072.jpgI’m sure everyone and their dog has read, or at least heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by now. I read it about a month ago and I can assure you that the title is no exaggeration. Kondo, known by her fans as KonMari, is a Japanese organisation expert and claims to have never had a repeat client, her advice is THAT good, and you know what? I totally believe her.

I read the book while I was in Florence, and was rearing to get back to my bedroom in England and have a massive clearout. The day after my arrival, that’s exactly what I did. I followed the steps in the book, starting with clothing, then books, then miscellaneous items, etc. Although I did get rid of A LOT of clothes (three huge black bags) and a load of other things, I’m going to focus on the bookshelves because those are what have had the most obvious visual impact before and after the clearout.

I started by pulling everything from the shelves, so I could see exactly what I had. KonMari recommends this so we ‘activate’ the energy of each item, then we can decide if it ‘sparks joy’. If yes, we keep it, if not, we get rid of it. Having already gone through this process with my clothes, I was already in cleanout mode and it was much easier to start throwing books away, even if they held dear memories. For this, Kondo recommends that we thank each item for the role it played in our life, but accept that it has served its useful purpose with us. This way we can more easily part with things.

I found that even though I had kept a lot of books because of the memories they held, they actually sparked no joy at all, and in fact created a sense of anxiety when I picked them up. Many things I was keeping not because of the memories, but the fear of losing touch with those parts of my life. I don’t believe in inanimate objects having energies or anything, but it can’t be healthy to be hoarding so much stuff that make me uncomfortable to even pick up.
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This was most evident in my magazine piles; I went through a massive magazine obsession in my teenage years, and never threw them out. Rather, I kept them like some kind of archive as if I was responsible for keeping them as records. This was bad for me and it’s insane that I actually had room for them all. There were so many that I didn’t want to go through them all, so kept a handful that had some great photoshoots in, and recycled the rest.wpid-wp-1445018160337.jpg

One of the things Kondo advises is to not let family members start ‘helping’, and she’s totally right. My mother was quite upset at me giving away books that I’d never read, that good money had been spent on. While it’s a shame that these books didn’t get used as intended, I simply accepted the value they’d held to me at some point, even though it was only brief, and let them go. Surely it’s better for them to find an owner who will value them, than have them oppress me in my own bedroom? Having my mother guilt me into keeping things that I didn’t want really wasn’t helping me reach my goal, and I did end up shouting at her to back off from rooting through the rubbish bags. I did rescue one thing for her, but I’m not entirely sure what she’s planning to do with a light-up, quacking, duck-shaped keyring, and I’ve since found other things that she’s ‘saved’, too. Why she needs an out-of-date face cream, I’ll never know.

After I’d sorted out what to keep, I began putting it all back on the shelves. I now have much more space for things to spread out, rather than cramming them on top of each other, and have made use of this to make space for the ornaments I wanted to display. Although Kondo advises not keeping more than around thirty books, I’m happy having more than that, and would even allow myself a few more, given that I now have free space on my shelf. I even spread out my Penguin Clothbound Classics, which creates visual interest with their patterns, as they’re dotted around, rather than in one block. Now when I look at my bookcases, I’m happy to see them, and have definitely noticed that there was a certain subconscious anxiety in the past compared to now.wpid-wp-1445018164489.jpg

KonMari has definitely changed the way I view ‘stuff’. Now I’m far faster to throw things away that serve me no purpose, and stop clinging to things for no reason.

I’ll finish this post with a little bit of wisdom from William Morris:

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Has anyone else tried the KonMari Method? How did it go?

– Lauren

FIVE GOOD HABITS TO GET INTO: adulting

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Look, I’m not saying that I follow my own advice, and these are definitely things I should aim to do more often, but I find that when I follow the tips in this post, I’m a lot happier, more organised, and productive.

1. Stop comparing yourself. I think this is one of the best pieces of advice you could ever get. We’re always looking at the people around us, and it feels like they’re all more competent, like they’ve got their shit together, like their lives are perfect. Like, stop. Nobody’s life is perfect and you know it, but it wouldn’t make a very good Instagram feed if people posted about their bad days. Don’t even compare yourself in a ‘yeah she’s prettier but I’m more successful than her’ kind of way, just don’t. It’s does no good and your thoughts are better spent on working towards your own goals.

2. Clean up as you go. I KonMari-ed my room a couple of weeks ago (more on that soon) and now that everything has its own place, it’s so much easier to stay on top of mess. Now I’ll put my clothes away as soon as they’re ironed, and make sure things aren’t hanging around in places they don’t belong. It’s so much easier to tidy a few things at a time, rather than reaching a point where you can’t even think any more until you’ve spent a whole day cleaning and tidying.

3. Stop putting things off. I know, better said than done, but it’s not worth the anxiety at the back of your mind that wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t let all of those little tasks pile up. Do the dishes! Reply to that email! Mop the floor! It really isn’t as time-consuming or painful as your mind likes to make out, so it’s worth doing that thing as soon as you can.

4. Check your bank balance regularly. I’m a bit Schrödinger about my balance – I’M NOT POOR BECAUSE I HAVEN’T CHECKED HOW MUCH MONEY I’VE SPENT YET SO UNTIL WE KNOW FOR SURE I STILL HAVE FOUR FIGURES IN THERE – and it’s definitely one of my worst habits. I know that if I check my account at least once or twice a week, I’m a much more responsible spender because I’m aware of the most recent balance, and know whether or not I can just blow ridiculous amounts on pastries and shoes. There’s no escaping your spending habits, so you may as well face up to them and make more informed decisions.

5. Allocate time for work, and time for relaxing. It’s too easy to get sucked into browsing the internet for hours, then realising that you’ve neither achieved anything that you needed to do, or used your time in a way that makes you feel relaxed or refreshed. I find that putting things down in a daily planner is a great way to remind myself of the things that I need to do, and it feels satisfying to tick things off my to-do list. Visualising what I need to do keeps them at the front of my mind until I complete them, and it’s so much easier to make time for myself when I know I’ve done what I need to do.

Now go forth, and do things!

– Niko

BREAKFAST AT BETTYS

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I think I am most at home in cafés. There’s no way I’d rather spend a spare hour than by sitting tucked away from the crowd, savouring a coffee or a pastry, and watching the world go by. Une flâneuse.

This morning I dropped by Bettys in York as I arrived early in the city,and ordered myself an espresso and eggs benedict. The art deco interior and huge windows create the perfect people watching environment.

I only wish that cafés were as much of a ‘thing’ here as they are on the continent, but I suppose I should probably spend my student loan on something other than tiny cups of coffee…

– Niko