So… Uni Work…

I spoke to one of my uni friends today about this blog, and she said that I should add some of my own work as well… So here we go. This is the beginning of a piece I worked on in children’s writing about refugees.

-x-x-

It was nighttime when we came off the plane. Mumia smiled at me, holding my hand so that I didn’t get lost amongst the crowds of people returning to their Mumias and Babas.

“New beginnings,” she whispered quietly.  I looked at her, and saw sadness mixed into her smile. The truth seemed ‘to hit her like a bus’. There was only us. I had lost my own Baba somewhere on the journey, and so we were left here alone to start this new life. I was scared, but I felt that I couldn’t show this even to her. I had to be strong. That had always been what people called me: the strong one.

As I think about all my old friends, I really want to cry. I probably won’t ever see them again. Many of them left at the same time as us, but one by one they seemed to disappear into the night. Mumia says that I’ll make new friends, but I’m not too sure. It took me all my life to make my old ones, so how can I find people to replace them just like that. As I look up at Mumia I see that she’s looking around for something. Not knowing exactly what I’m supposed to be looking for I start to stare around the airport as well. Somehow copying her makes me feel a little bit calmer. My eyes wonder towards a sign: ‘L-E-E-D-S B-R-A-D-F-O-R-D AIRPORT.’ I can’t help but smile. Mumia has told me that we’re safe now. That they’ll be no more running. No more hiding.

She looks down at me, squishing my hand slightly to try to comfort me. ‘I’m fine,’ I say, trying to reassure her that everything is going to be okay. I don’t know whether I sound very convincing, but it’s the best I can do. She leans down to kiss me on the forehead before looking me in the eyes:‘We’re the lucky ones. Everythings going to be okay.’ I can’t tell whether she believes it or not quite now, but soon we’re walking towards the ‘departure lounge.’ ‘They’ll be waiting for us,’ she smiled. I have no idea how she can put so much faith in these people. We’ve never met them before. I was always told not to talk to strangers, but now I’m just supposed to follow her into a car with a whole group of them? I can’t help but smile up at her. She laughs nervously like she knows exactly what I’m thinking.‘Things have changed my airtafae.’

As we walk hand in hand through the departure gate there are even more crowds of people. Some are doing exactly what we’re doing, just standing still – trying to take everything in. We don’t have long to do this though – no time to readjust to all the different sounds and faces.

‘Almasi,’ a voice much louder than the crowds of people shouts across the lounge. ‘Almasi family,’ he repeats again.  He’s even holding a card with our name on it. I looked up at Mumia and can see her happiness. For the first time I realize that she had never really believed that somebody would meet us at the airport. That was something that we had learned on our travels to here: you can’t trust anybody.

We walk up to the man quickly, still holding each other closely. Most of our fears seemed to disappear for a second, but I’m still thinking about Baba. Almasi family didn’t quite describe us anymore. Maybe he should have just said… well I don’t know what he should have said, but really there was only me and mumia. We’re only a part of the Almasi family.

But anyway, that doesn’t really matter now. We approached the man, and soon we were in this car. Then we were going down this street, and then this street, and it was dark so I couldn’t see where we were exactly going. I somehow felt safe though, even though I had no idea where I was going. ‘We’re going to our new home,’ mumia said as she brushed the hair away from my face. It always amazes me how she always knows what’s on my mind. I can’t think of anyone better to start this new life with, I just wish Baba was still here.

Suddenly the car stops, and this is where it will really begin. The man leaves the car, opening the doors for us. It’s starting to get a little bit lighter now, so I can see the general outline of a house in front of us. This is it. This is where we’re going to live now.

We follow the man up the little step towards the house, and then the door is unlocked and we’re inside. The lights switch on, and suddenly the whole house seems so bright that I can’t see anything.

My eyes quickly adjust to the light, and then I can see everything. We’re in a small sitting room. One sofa, one chair and a t.v. I look up at my mumia, and I can see everything that she’s thinking. It’s not exactly what we had had at home, but at least it was ours. We had somewhere to stay, and to be safe. As the man left we sat not on the sofa but on the floor, holding each other closely. We both cried, and I don’t think either of us knew whether it was happiness and relief, or sadness for those we had left behind.

This was it, our new start. In a few days I would start school, and mumia would have to start looking for a job. Right now though we pushed those thoughts to the back of our minds, and just concentrated on the fact that we were safe and together.

-x-x-

Obviously this is a first draft of a first idea, but I hope you can see what I was trying to do. I’m actually interested in trying to extend it for my coursework, but as usual I’ve got so many ideas flashing through my brain that I’m not quite sure.

Anyway, for now until next time.

Sarah

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The Big Scary F Word…

Well now I’m in third year I’m constantly thinking about the same thing over and over again. By this, I’m talking about the future. That word that people in the first and second year kind of always talk about, but we never really expected to come around so fast. I thought I had it all sorted out, that I would just wait this degree out and then go and teach at a primary school. Then uni happened, and I suddenly understood that that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I suddenly refound my love for writing etc, that I had constantly pushed aside out of fear. I really wanted to do my own thing.

In reality my dreams of being a teacher had probably been mainly down to looking back at the people I had admired when I was younger, and how I wanted to be like them when I grew up. Well, that and the fact that I just wanted to go back to school, and just play heads down thumbs up with all the children. The whole idea of actually being the grown up in the room terrified me, and when I asked lots of people, they just couldn’t imagine me being a teacher. It was about then that I decided to try and work out what else I would do with my life. This is an issue that I’m still trying to face now, and it’s getting to a point where in my head I need to decide like right this minute, and actually stick to it. I swear it shouldn’t be this hard. I speak to all my friends, and they’re just like ‘I’ll think about it later” but that just doesn’t work for me. If I don’t have a long-time/mid-term plan it stresses me to the point where I can sleep at night, and I just turn into a zombie.

I mean, I kind of have the idea that I can do anything I put my mind to, but at the same time I worry about this continuously. I mean, I’m very good at starting things, but I’m never really good at finishing them. I mean, I mentioned in an earlier post that I would love to do music or writing YA for a living, but really I’m worried that I won’t actually be able to ever do this, as I still doubt myself so much. It’s like there’s this devil continuously on my shoulder just telling me that I won’t ever be able to do that. I mean, I have stories to tell, I just find the sitting down and actually writing it all a very difficult thing to do, because of the whingy spoilt brat which my brain has turned into. It wants to know how this is exactly going to help me with my life, and just continuously asks for proof that it will do what I’m hoping it will. Unless I can do both of those things, it just won’t go away.

I worry constantly that I’m not as good as everybody else, and peer review just stresses me out even more, as I can clearly see that I’m not as good as everybody else. Anyway, that’s not really where I’m going with this.

I just wish I could have a clear idea of what I will do in the future, or to just forget about the fact that the future even exists. Grr… I might as well try to get to sleep, because it’s not like I’m actually going to find the answer writing things on this blog.

Sarah…

Coping Methods: ADD and Uni

So, in my first post I mentioned that I would probably end up speaking about how my own personal ‘mental health’ has affected my time at uni, and so I thought I would explain a little bit more about exactly what I ‘have’, or rather one of things which I ‘have.’

I have no way to word it other than ‘have,’ but really I wish I did, as it’s not so much something I have, but a part of me.  If anything, it’s something that I own, that each and everyday I think I might have paid a little bit too much for, but still couldn’t imagine living without, as its so intrinsically a part of me. I love it and hate it at the same time. It’s always been there, and although it apparently makes my life harder than the ‘neurotypical person’ I honestly wouldn’t wish to be ‘normal.’ I mean, what does normal even mean?? This is me we’re talking about, so why would I wish to change the person I know and love the most in the world.

Btw, sorry for the repetition of ‘have’ in that last section. It’s ridiculously early and my brain just isn’t working yet!

I’ve just realised that I’m yet to mention exactly what I’m talking about, so here we go. I have (and have had for the whole of my life) Attention Deficit Disorder. If you’re not quite sure what it is imagine ADHD but a little bit calmer. I know that most people associate it with ‘naughty’ children, but really it’s way more than that. I’m not a scientist so I can’t explain exactly why it happens but my brain just can’t seem to concentrate on many things as much as other people can.

It’s like a switch just turns off in my brain. It could be 15 minutes into a lecture, or even a minute into a conversation, but after that switch has gone I just can’t pay attention – no matter how much I try. It can be so frustrating, and it only seems to have gotten marginally better since growing up. My brain literally seems to just have the attention levels of a young child.

It can be so frustrating, but since my formal diagnosis last year I’ve found it so much easier. The uni is aware and I have been provided with a dictaphone, which records all lectures, so that if I zone out I can listen back at a later date.

Even better is that it has helped me fully understand why I acted in certain ways, as before I just thought that I was ‘stupid’ or ‘lazy’ or just plain annoying. If you have ADD or ADHD you might recognize the kind of things I’m saying, so for me my formal diagnosis didn’t mean that I was being labelled, it just meant that I had the explanations for certain behaviours in my earlier years. By that I mean I was that child that you just wouldn’t be friends with. When explaining what I was like at school my housemates have actually told me that in so many words 😉 But anyway, I suddenly understood why I had been so disruptive – put simply I couldn’t concentrate. This would lead to me getting bored and ‘playing up.’ I’ve also been told extra things about ‘high intelligence’ and the work being to easy for me, but I’m not going to blow my own trumpet 😉 haha. That’s just not the type of person I am.

I said at the beginning of this post that I had come up with coping methods for uni, so I thought that I might share them, in a hope that it might help somebody else. Be aware though that everybody works differently, so although they work for me, they might not work for you. That’s one of the great things about life: our minds all work in different ways. (Sorry for the cliche!)

Coping Methods:

  1. Dictaphone

I mentioned it earlier, but I was given a dictaphone by my uni to help, and this has been a wonderful tool. I mean, another way that my ADD effects me is that I’m totally disorganised, and I keep on forgetting it, but for the lectures I have recorded this has helped me soooo much. I mean, I might not have actually listened back to them, but the fact that my lectures are recorded if I feel the need to go back over them really helps.

2. Detailed Essay Plans

My brain gets distracted easily, so although I understand what I need to write I always find this so hard to do. When I got to uni it became clear to me that my essays would always start off okay, but then end up going off on tangents (much  like my brain.) I found that the easiest way to deal with this was to write the most detailed essay plans ever. Like, they start out by me just bullet pointing 3 things that I want to include, and then I add the sources which I want to use.

It means that when I actually go to write the real essay that I have a clear and quite rigid structure which I need to stay within, so means that I don’t just go off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the essay question. My grades at uni went up from a 3rd in first year to a 2:1 in my second year when I started doing this.

3. Explaining to Friends and Course Mates

Now, I’m at a point in my life where I feel comfortable with telling people that I have ADD, but if you are not at that point thats okay. It’s not so much of a warning, but I kind of put it across as one (apparently…) but anyway, I’ve found that explaining my ‘condition’ to my friends has really helped them understand why I can’t concentrate on a whole lecture. It has meant that they don’t get offended when I suddenly switch topics in conversation, because they understand why I do it. It also means that they are more likely to let me borrow their notes, as they know I am not just being lazy. Being able to borrow notes for lessons I’ve zoned out in helps a lot.

4. Timetable of Work Hand-Ins and Reading

So I mentioned my lack of organisation earlier, so last year I found that writing up a massive weekly timetable of all work set for the semester help me immensely. I have these really brightly coloured pieces of paper, which list all the books and sources I need to read from Week One – Week Ten, so that I can double check on this when I feel like I’ve finished my reading for the week ahead. It also has deadlines on it, so I know when everything is due in. Again this has really helped me, as I often ended up forgetting what I was supposed to read, and then spend ages trying to work out exactly what it was that I was supposed to be doing, and then giving up and going on BuzzFeed or something…

5. Doing the Work I Feel Like Doing When I Feel Like It

So this is kind of a really important thing for me. I don’t know how to explain it really, but there will be times when one piece for uni seems so much more important/interesting for me than other things. I’ll obsess about these things, and can spend hours and hours on that one thing. It’s like that switch I was talking about has been stuck down with sticky tape. When I’m obsessed about a certain task I can’t concentrate on anything other than that task, and I even get annoyed if my boyfriend speaks to me in the middle of it. That is what I am doing right now, and nothing can get in the way. It literally feels like my whole life depends on that one task.

I’ve found that the only way to deal with this is to just get on with it. The task will end at some point, or I will eventually get bored of it, so there’s no point even trying to do something else, as I won’t really do that other thing anyway. I mean, at least I’m doing work, so I don’t think it really matters that I’m obsessing over this one thing way more than I obsessed about that other piece. Of course this is just personal opinion, when explaining this to other people they quite often can be like ‘but why. Can’t you just do something else?’ I’m like no, I honestly can’t.

Anyway, so I know this has been a really long post, which is kind of ironic as I’m talking about my ADD, but right now I am obsessing about this blog post. It’s kind of funny really, because when reading other peoples posts I normally switch off within the first couple of minutes unless it’s really interesting. Anyway, I hope this clears up a little bit about myself, and that it might eve help somebody out there.

Sarah

Missed Chances…

So last night I had one of those moments when I suddenly just looked up from my screen and just asked myself why I was even bothering. I went and learned Writings on the Wall on the piano, and just generally contemplated life for a couple of hours. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love uni, but sometimes I look back at my childhood heros and just think about how I’m the same age (or older) than when they wrote their first book, or when they released their first single… and then I just started to wonder whether I will actually get to that point, like ever.

If I’m perfectly honest with you guys, I have two big dreams: to write for a living, or to sing for a living (or in an ideal world where I don’t have to sleep, to do both at the same time.) I always said that uni would give me the chance to advance my skills, whilst also giving me time to get on with my life. It just seems like I have less time now than I ever have before. That’s the general way I was thinking, but then I just looked deeper at what I was actually working on. Suddenly, it seemed that that was only true because I was looking at it in the wrong way. Even though I’m busy with work, I’m still doing the things that I love, so what am I even complaining about??

Since I’m now in third year it was dawning on me just how many opportunities I had missed out on at uni, just because I couldn’t be bothered, or more precisely because I wanted the time by myself to work on my dreams. I’ve missed chances to work with big authors, just so that I could write songs which I never play live because I’m too scared that they’re too honest. I’ve missed guest lectures from people who could have taught me more about writing in the way I want to, just to contemplate plot themes that I’ve never continued. I just feel as if I may have missed out on that ‘something’ that could have helped me just sit down and write the novel which I’ve restarted like 3 times.

So, when I was thinking all these things over I realised that although I love uni, I haven’t really made the most out of it. It’s like that friend that keeps on trying to help you, but you just ignore because you think you’ve got it all covered. I kept on just thinking about the reasons why I started uni, which was generally to make the most out of my life. Then I started thinking about what I’ve actually done at uni – thinking that I’ve really let myself down. Uni is more than just attending lessons and submitting essays, it should be looked at as a whole new journey – a whole new experience. That’s just something which I seemed to have forgotten.

I’m not saying that I’ve done bad academically (I’m looking at getting a 2:1,) it’s just that I’ve neglected the whole ‘experience of it.’ I really should have just gone to those guest lectures. I should have just gone to those extra workshops with those amazing authors – that is where I’ve missed out. I looked at my degree as just a piece of paper, and in the end that’s led to me not enjoying my degree to the fullest level. I mean, I’m paying £9000 for this, why did I just waste so much time on things that I could of done for nothing?

Now after all of this, I feel that I should just come out with it: just make the most of your university. They all have so much more to offer than that 9am Monday morning lecture. It’s about guest workshops. It’s about networking. It’s about how you take those poems that you hate, and suddenly understand how it applies to you. That’s what I’m doing from now on. I may have started a couple of years later than I should of, but I’m already enjoying my whole uni experience a lot more, and because of that I’m attending more, understanding more and ultimately gaining more.

University is as much as you put into it.

I guess that’s where this post ends. Don’t be that third year student who looks back and wonders what they spent the past two years doing. Uni is as useful as you make it.

Sarah

So… 2 weeks later.

I’ve never been very good at all this ‘keeping a blog going’ stuff. I’ve probably written about 4 or 5 different posts, and then deleted them before even posting them. I think some of it comes down to the fact that words down on paper just seem so much more real than what goes on in my mind half of the time…Like if I write the stuff down then I somehow have to validate what I’m saying.

But anyway, I have been continuously busy trying to keep up with uni, and being in 3rd year is not exactly making that the easiest thing in the world. I mean, I just bought a coffee machine. I know that probably doesn’t seem like much, but before I started uni I didn’t even like coffee, but now I just need something to give me that extra kick in the morning. Maybe coffee is the perfect thing for that? Anyway, as I said, lots of work, lots of readings and lots and lots of trying to find things to distract myself.

I think what I’m going to do now is basically talk about those things that I use to distract myself the most. Here we go:

  1. Food. 
    Yes, I know I need to eat food, but I don’t really think I’ve ever eaten as much as I have this year. Its like the very idea of doing work leads to a whole preparation ritual of cooking enough pasta to sink a ship. Something about the necessity of food sinks into my head saying that I should cook before even thinking about doing anything. Like, I’ve just had lunch at uni, but before I start working again I need to make a quick sandwich, or cook a pie or something. Talk about food for thought!
  2. Nostalgic Websites.
    Now I don’t know about you, but as soon as I turn my laptop on to do work, I’m instantly like OMG WHY CAN’T I JUST BE A CHILD AGAIN… and then I spend about 3 hours playing Neopets, or Stardoll just trying to BE that child again. Talk about escapism… I don’t know whether it’s something to be ashamed of or not, but the very idea of having to do ‘adult’ work makes me suddenly want to play the games I used to play when I was younger. Yes, I know the importance of self-control, but when I start to play I’m like ‘just 5 minutes to take the mic out of childhood self,’ and then like 3 hours and £35 later it’s now 1:30 in the morning and I have an assignment due tomorrow. I think I literally might need help. I literally forget how to adult everyday.
  3. Blogging.
    Now, I’ll admit I don’t feel as bad about this, as I’m doing an English degree, so technically blogging is actually helping my degree (in some weird at least I’m writing something way,) but still I feel it needs to go here. I spend hours typing up these things, to then delete them and wonder why I even bothered. In that time I could have literally written half an essay or something, but instead I decided yet again that I could not deal with writing about Eliot or some other poet, so decided to type meaningless words that nobody will probably read. I’m doing this right now, I literally have no idea whether I will actually post this or not, and yet I’m still typing! Anything not to read any more modernism!!
  4. Picking Music to study to
    I feel as if this one is pretty explanatory. I always listen to music while studying, as it blocks out outside noise which I somehow find way more distracting than the music I’m actually listening to. One of the best things I’ve actually found for this is the newest Steel Panther album, as for some reason the constant referring to sex just makes me switch off from the music itself, whilst still blocking out the outside world.. but anyway thats completely unrelated. I just spend way too long trying to work out what music I am actually going to listen to, and then I get bored of actually ‘working’ and deserve a break, so just watch youtube for hours on end… Please tell me how I’m going to have enough time to pass my degree??
  5. Meme Articles
    Now, I’m not really a ‘I get distracted by facebook person,’ because quite frankly I don’t really have that many friends, but the one thing that does distract me on facebook are the constant reminders that the likes of BuzzFeed and EliteDaily do exist. They are basically my life. Out of all of the things I’ve mentioned these are probably the things I most waste my time on. It happens so much that I’ve even come up with reasons for my obsessions with these types of sites: 1. They’re funny and 2. They deal with issues that I relate to… 3. They’re easier to read than most things I read for uni… None of these reasons are probably good enough to excuse me spending so many hours on them when i’m spending £9000 a year too try and get this degree, but still they work for me whilst I’m spending maybe 2/3 hours a day reading them.

Anyway, these are just the main things that distract me. I mean, my boyfriend also lives with me, so that’s also distracting, but really these 5 things generally describe my day-to-day life, with maybe 1 or 2 hours studying chucked in somewhere…..

As I said before, I need help. Well anyway, I better be off now, as I said, I’m probably just using this blog post as a reason not to do my work (I have like 3 books to read before next week.)

Sarah

First Blog Post Nerves

Lets say for conversations sake that my name is Sarah. It might as well be Chrissy, or Melissa or even Gertrude, it just doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned we’re all in the same boat. I just want to look at the up and downs of a twenty-something university student in her final year. It’s just such a confusing time. Constant deadlines and the never-ending dread of graduate life jut around the corner… no wonder we drive ourselves crazy – that can’t be easy for anybody!

I’m not going to promise anything, but I have a kind of idea of what I want to do, and this includes:

  1. Maybe I look specifically at issues involving depression and anxiety, and maybe I don’t.
  2. Maybe I offer descriptions of  personal experiences, as well as looking at ways to try to get on with life despite it all. Maybe I won’t?
  3. Maybe I post weird gif things that make me laugh, in a hope that you’ll share the same sense of humour as me…or… Okay – I will definitely do that… 😛
  4. Just general life stories that might make you realise that that “SUPER embarrassing” thing you did once is just nothing compared to half of the stupid things that I’ve done…

As you might have guessed I don’t really know what I’m going to do with this blog, I just know that I want to do something! We’re all in this together, and as far as I’m concerned, I honestly don’t think anybody has it as together as they pretend xD

We all come in pieces…

Sarah