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still standing or standing still?

May 24, 2013

Does there actually come a point in life when you stop dreaming? Or when being ambitious goes from being encouraged and praised (as a young person) to something that is looked down upon and suspected? At what point should we be satisfied with what we have, and accept that what we have is our lot in life? Because the way that I am going, I am only becoming more impatient. Perhaps it is a subconscious race against time, trying to get as much as I can before the alarm clock rings and I have to sit down and stop trying. When is enough enough? For me, I don’t know if it ever will be, and is that a good or a bad thing?

I remember reading an interview with Janet Jackson (as good a source of life advice as any, considering she certainly has lived!) where she would advise young people to make sure that they appreciate their journey, rather than always striving, striving, striving for more. This makes sense to me, but I must admit that I am not very good at it. In the quest for seeking to do something that fulfils me but that also “matters”, I seem to repeatedly experience disillusionment once I realise that what I’m doing with my life isn’t quite what I intended. Pretty soon, I move onto the next in an attempt to climb the ladder, all the while hearing the clock inside my head ticking more loudly with each birthday that goes by.

Why is the clock so insistent? At this point, I am lucky enough to be able to say that I am happy with my life, that I have accomplished a lot in a relatively short time, and that I appreciate what I have and don’t take it for granted. So where does the nagging insistence that it’s not enough come from? I think it’s because I feel that I still have plenty of potential that I’m not utilising, because there are only so many hours in a day and because there is only so much money in the bank. Yet, if I had all the money in the world, I’d probably not quest and strive quite as hard, because a little bit of the struggle would be taken out of it. Don’t get me wrong, if I won the lottery tomorrow I certainly wouldn’t rip up my ticket or choose to donate all of the money to charity. I would take all of that money and use it to improve my life in the ways that money can.  But not only is money not everything, but money is only something; and when I say that I want it all, I am not referring to material possessions. I mean achievements, I mean developing my intelligence, awareness and having all the life experiences that I feel I want to have. I don’t know if I will ever be satisfied, or ever stop working. Does that make me greedy, immature, honest, ambitious or just restless?

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what it feels like for a quitter.

May 14, 2013

2013 seems to be a year of me leaving things behind in search of establishing my independence, and although this can be called “quitting”, I guess that quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve left one job for another, which has turned out to be at times a disorienting move, but ultimately one that has improved my sanity and quality of life, as well as my prospects for moving up the career ladder (I desperately need to get into a managerial position and gain experience of leading a team). My new job isn’t perfect, and it is a slight departure from what I thought it would entail, but at the end of the day, I am happy for now and I hope that it will be a stepping stone to greater things.

One of the loves of my life, Starbucks, has been another thing I’ve drastically cut down on. As money became tighter during the first few months (note to self and anyone reading: always budget for food!), Starbucks was something I didn’t really need and so I didn’t spend on it. Occasionally I will still have one, but work provides free instant coffee so that is sufficient to wake me up once I get into the office; Starbucks is much more of a social thing nowadays. Also, they do wonderful specialty coffees (read: sweet, sticky treats of drinks) and I still adore a white chocolate mocha or a strawberries and cream frappuccino; but it’s not great for the waistline! Especially when I now live full-time with a fabulous chef who always makes seconds.

And nor is quitting smoking. I started off the year well enough, but soon I started to make exceptions; one in my break during Italian class; one when I was feeling stressed at lunchtime; one nearly every lunchtime… Although going up to 4 cigarettes a week is hardly anything to write home about when I was smoking 8 a day only 6 or so months ago, it represented a breakdown in my willpower. So after a discussion with Toby where he found out about my secret smoking and was shocked, I ended up handing over my cigarettes and lighter to him because I knew that this was a way to completely stop myself from cheating. And it’s worked – I’ve gone nearly 4 weeks without a single cigarette.

Quitting smoking isn’t too difficult in terms of the practical sense; don’t bring your cigarettes with you, and you don’t smoke. Don’t bring your lighter with you, and you can’t smoke even if you buy cigarettes. But it’s the mental games that you play with yourself – on one of the rare warm, summery days, having a cigarette is so carefree and relaxing. It is de-stressing, and it is a way of killing time. Watching other people smoking makes me feel envious of the moment they are enjoying. I gave up smoking – surely one every now and then can’t hurt? (That’s the kind of thinking that leads to making exceptions for yourself, and that’s how I started back on them a couple of months ago.) Why should I have to sacrifice everything?

Everyone has vices – this is true. Do I honestly, truly think that I have smoked my last cigarette? I doubt it. I enjoyed smoking so much,  and I think about smoking quite often because I am still conscious, after this amount of time, that I am depriving myself. But when Toby found out that I had been smoking in secret, he was really upset because he hadn’t known about it (I was ashamed to say anything, and I also felt – quite defiantly – that I didn’t have to report to him. Even though it may have helped, in this case) and he wanted to help me help myself to give up. So I gave him my smoking paraphernalia and that has been the practical part solved. Even now, I often feel tempted to give up on giving up – denial is exhausting, rebellion is satisfying and makes me feel free. But I also know that it’s an illusion – smoking ties down my money and my health (even though you can’t feel it short-term). Toby said to me that he wants to help me give up to support our future together, and to help us ensure that we can grow old together.

Thinking about these words, and about the fact that he was disappointed that I was creeping down the slippery smoky slope, give me the inspiration to try as hard as I can to remain smoke-free. I want my partner to be proud of me, I want us to live long lives together as much as is possible, and more than anything I want to demonstrate that I can triumph over temptation and maintain my willpower. I found out that not long after I quit smoking, Mike also did – now, if he can quit smoking, I guess anyone can! He had a throat infection over the winter (and various chest and lung problems in the run-up to that), and this finally spurred him to quit smoking because he couldn’t smoke during his infection, and once he stopped he thought he might as well stay stopped.

The life of a quitter is hard. The argument in my head that I have already deprived myself of plenty (see above) and why should I enforce this suffering on myself – everyone has vices and their own personal addictions, and I don’t get any reward or gold star for behaving so abstemiously – is a strong one. I had a dream last night that I was in Italy – glamour central! – and I had met up with some man who was supposed to be my father (although he didn’t resemble my actual dad in any way) and his new girlfriend. Everyone around me was smoking, and I was so tempted to have a cigarette, but what convinced me to resist was that even in my dream, I knew that Toby would be upset with me. If I feel a little bit like I am being controlled, I can tolerate it only because I know that Toby is trying to help me and ultimately liberate me, and I’ve given him permission to do that. So I don’t know if I will make it as a non-smoker all the way to the end of my days, but I hope that by taking each day at a time, I could maybe do it? The life of a quitter is uncertain. But it’s also hopeful.

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hibernation temptation.

April 8, 2013

Lately, I have found it difficult to do anything without complaining, and I realise that putting negativity out into the universe via the internet is not how I wish to conduct myself. For one, I believe that you reap what you sow and what goes around comes around, and at this point in my life I want to exude as much positivity and good vibes as I possibly can with the hope that it’ll return to me in kind. And secondly (more practically speaking), who would wish to follow or tweet or be friends with somebody who is constantly down on themselves, whether with good reason or not?

In my last post, I talked about how important words are to me, and how judiciously we must use them. So I try as much as possible to use my words carefully, and not say anything at all if it’s just going to be a whiney tweet. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I hope that I am getting better. Recently though, with this temptation to just vent and vent and vent, I have wondered whether it’s better not to have a blog, or Twitter, or Facebook, or anything else. How old-school and tempting it would be to go back to basics and just be a human being. I could be anonymous and work on my book and my music in seclusion and privacy.

But also, and ultimately, how ignorant, how anachronistic and how unrealistic. As a relatively young person who is generally vibrant, effervescent and spirited, I don’t think I could feel truly connected to the world I live in today without an online presence – and not just with reference to maintaining friendships (especially with those you don’t see more than once every few months). The internet will likely be how I promote my artistic pursuits. In career terms, there is LinkedIn and Facebook and employers evaluate you in part based on your profiles there. Now, it’s important not to chat foolishness on these online platforms, but at the same time, being completely invisible on them can only be a disadvantage too, right? I don’t know how people consistently execute such a balancing act – at 27 years old, it sometimes takes everything in me to make sure that I represent myself as intelligently as I can. What a burden to place upon people who are younger, who are still growing up in the world – while it’s important to be self-aware and aware of the world around us, I don’t know if it’s completely healthy not to have a time of life when one can express oneself relatively free of persecution, and is free to be silly and make mistakes. Otherwise, how can we learn if nobody is willing to let us make any mistakes and forgive us for the ones that we do make?

So I am resisting the temptation to hibernate and cut myself off. But I’m resolved to being a little bit quieter and more introverted – to conduct myself with dignity and integrity. These have always been my aims, but sometimes I need a bit more strength to achieve them! Simply put, if we can’t say anything nice then we shouldn’t say anything at all :)

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words.

March 20, 2013

Without realising it, because it’s something so elemental, my whole life has been intrinsically tied to words. While others may excel in numbers, images, gestures, movement; I’ve always been best with words. My continued studies of modern languages (French and Spanish at university, and now Italian) complement my multi-lingual heritage; as a toddler, I used to babble in fake-Italian down the phone to my great-aunt because I wouldn’t understand what my grandparents’ generation were talking about to one another. It was like a secret code to me, and as I’ve grown older I have been more motivated to crack those codes.

Language is an attempt to codify human existence; it doesn’t always work, but we have great fun trying. Words can be used to communicate and express ourselves (both to create barriers and to break them down); to motivate and inspire; to entertain. On a basic level, this blog is my way of communicating and expressing myself. I write songs and poems to express myself once again, but also to entertain others; furthermore, I am writing my first novel (very early stages) in the hope of creating something that people will enjoy reading. Learning Italian has allowed me a new insight into my family heritage; I love learning and I seem to have a natural talent for languages. There is something about romance languages (particularly Spanish and Italian) that captivates me and holds my attention. I can’t really explain it, but right now for example I am watching Volver on a rare night home alone and I just feel very happy and ‘at home’.

I haven’t written much on this blog lately, because I am now of the feeling that if I don’t have something new or useful or valuable to say, then I’ll wait until I do. There’s enough filler in the world. So I apologise if my updates are sometimes infrequent (as they are lately), because I hope that the quality will prevail over quantity. As a child, we learn to use our words to express our desires; in the schoolyard (and elsewhere, but this is an early example most people can relate to) we then become aware that others may use their words to bully, hurt and provoke. As we become older and our understanding gets (hopefully) more sophisticated, we embellish our reasoning and almost forget that at the end of the day, we should be judicious with how we use our words. I don’t necessarily mean sparing – there are many moments when I am reminded of my mother’s saying that “there is a tongue in your head, so use it!” Words are there to be used. Just not abused. I hope that my forthcoming projects (album, novel, continuation of this blog, learning of Italian) and my lifestyle in general will make the best use of the words I have at my disposal and open my eyes to new things along the way.

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maturity.

February 24, 2013

This week has been a thought-provoking one. First of all, I attempted to get Beyoncé tickets to her show at the London O2 Arena but failed miserably at both of the pre-sale events I tried. Upon receiving my payslip on Friday, I had to make a difficult decision – due to having to catch up on tax I was owing from changing jobs in the middle of January, I didn’t get as much money as I had anticipated. Some budget readjustments on top of this showed me the unfortunate truth, that I had to give up trying for Beyoncé tickets. As much as she puts on a fantastic show, and as much as it would be a major life event to see her live (just as it was to see Jennifer Lopez for my birthday last year), money is more important. And I think the money would be better spent on clearing my overdraft, and then saving up for a holiday for Toby and myself later on in the year – something that we’d both enjoy. Although I would love for Toby to be present at the Beyoncé gig, I guess the mature decision is to put the money towards something we would both equally enjoy – Toby would have been there at least partly for my benefit.

This weekend we’ve had Claire and Ian staying with us, and the past two weekends we’ve had Karina and Hannah too. I like the feeling that people enjoy visiting us and I hope that they will have a good time and want to return. Yesterday we visited the Saatchi Gallery and its current exhibition of Soviet art really captured my interest. At times it was revolting, but it was consistently engaging and I enjoyed it a lot. This made me think that in a way, it’s a shame that studying as an adult is so much more expensive and has to be balanced with adult responsibilities, holding down a full time job, budgeting and so on. Because in my opinion, when I was an undergraduate student in my late teens, I didn’t have the maturity (not necessarily emotionally, but in terms of the fullness and sharpness of intellect) to fully appreciate everything I studied. Although I was by no means stupid, and I definitely put the effort in, I know that if I were to my degree again, I would be able to turn my 2:1 into a 1st with the brain I have now. I love my Italian class because I love studying; I loved my postgrad because not only was it a pivotal time in my personal and emotional life, but I was truly studying with freedom and with my eyes open. That time, there had been no element of following the pack to university hoping that everyone else’s instincts that it was the right thing to do were right on (as it happened, they were); I knew that doing my postgrad was me grasping my future and changing my professional direction. Study is important because it can be life changing, but I certainly also love it because I am addicted to the feeling of learning and enriching myself, in the belief that it makes me a better person.

After the Saatchi Gallery, we went to visit Pete’s new flat in Kennington:

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It’s amazing that someone our age has been able to purchase a flat in London and get on the property ladder – it’s so bloody difficult, and at the moment making ends meet while we’re just paying the monthly rent is proving challenge enough! We headed on to Clapham for a meal and drinks, and I saw Clapham with the same eyes I saw West Kensington earlier that day as we headed up to meet Christina at her flat in Fulham. I saw these places with the eyes of someone who now lives in Chiswick and has unwittingly grown accustomed to its middle-class pleasantness. All of a sudden, the assault of newsagent windows chock full of posters, cheap eateries emboldened by harsh lighting and residences with missing corners and unkempt windows was distasteful. I couldn’t reconcile my sudden, definite prejudice with the facts that I don’t come from a particularly glamorous part of Bristol, that at school I was surrounded by people who were from more affluent families than me and I was thus proud of my brain and my achievements all the more, that for my first year of living in London my flat in Earls Court was conveniently located and all that I needed, but it wasn’t particularly luxurious. How quickly I’ve learned to see things differently! I hope, while we have achieved a lot in terms of where we live and I appreciate the comfortable home Toby and I have created for ourselves, that I haven’t become a snob or lost touch with the essential things in life which are more important than symbols of rich or poor.

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As Toby and I have settled into life together in Chiswick, we joke that we are becoming middle-aged – drinks out with friends are a treat, and we’re often so tired that we are grateful to stay in (as much as we enjoy socialising!). In Clapham last night, after a meal at Strada that took too long to arrive, we went to a bar that was crammed full of people 5 years younger than us shouting at one another over music that was decent but far too loud, and yet: there was no dancefloor! After a cocktail, we threw in the towel – either I want to dance, or I want to talk, but not being able to either was frustrating! Is all of this this another sign of old age, and of shifting out of the up and coming generation into the hasbeens? Or (I prefer this option) have I just grown up and now I see the world through the eyes of an adult who is fortunate, wise and no longer has to suffer (as many) fools?

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Tube update: Ravenscourt Park & Stamford Brook

February 17, 2013

Despite the fact that we’ve been living in Chiswick for 4 months now, and I go through these tube stations pretty much daily, I have never actually walked past Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Toby and I finally did this after dropping Hannah off at Hammersmith so that she could make her way back to York – I am so glad that she enjoyed her weekend with us :) It’s important to me that our home is welcoming to all of our guests so that people think of us fondly and return to visit us again in the future! We had a fabulous time with her, and it was so good to have catch-up time.

Once we’d put her on the Piccadilly line train, we wandered back through the King’s Mall arcade at Hammersmith (which reminded me of the Broadwalk near my nan’s in Bristol in terms of the sadness of a lot of the shops there – although we discovered Tiger which was excellently quirky, and I even dared to go into Primark), and then along the Chiswick High Road. We stopped for a lovely coffee and toasted sandwich at Artisan café, which was a light and airy space which rejuvenated us before continuing on our way. I also got some more book ideas at Waterstone’s – as well as Wuthering Heights, I have made a start on an ebook gay fiction series by Nick Alexander (50 Reasons) which I’m enjoying so far. I’m also spending time with albums by A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Here’s to the week ahead, and perhaps some more musical and literary discoveries! :)

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Tube update: Shoreditch High Street, Bank and St. Paul’s

February 16, 2013

This weekend, Hannah is staying with us and it’s great because I haven’t seen her for two months, which is too long! We’ve had an epic day out, which started with a haircut from my stylist Reza, who has moved to Base Cuts on Portobello Road (typically, he moves to Portobello Road just as I move away from it to a new job). This time, I took inspiration from Andrew Rannells, who plays “me in 5 years’ time” on The New Normal. Needless to say, Toby and I are fans.

After my haircut, Hannah and I walked over to Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush, and had a brief shopping trip before meeting Toby at Caffe Nero and getting the tube over to Brick Lane, as Hannah wanted to see what the fuss was all about. After dodging in and out of hordes of hipsters lurking by faux-vintage clothes shops trying hard to look aggressively edgy, we noted some intriguing cafés, a row of cute boutiques along Shoreditch High Street, and eventually the station too:

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We had actually done a lot of walking by this point, so we decided to visit a couple of London’s landmarks that surprisingly, I hadn’t seen up close until today. The Gherkin for one:

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The Bank of England, which is apparently where the station Bank takes its name from:

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and St. Paul’s Cathedral, which looked surprisingly beautiful through the wintry trees, and is situated near a decent shopping centre!

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We finally made our way back home to Kew Bridge (via the Waterloo and City line, which I have never used before and may never use again, but I am glad I got to experience this shuttle train at least once!) to chill in front of the television. The Girl Who Played With Fire is coming up on dvd tonight! Although it was challenging to get myself up at 8am this morning, it was worth it as it’s only just gone 6pm and we’ve accomplished so much with the day! I think at some point I would like to revisit Columbia Road (Toby and I visited the flower market there a couple of years ago on a photowalk), explore Hoxton, and gain a little more insight into the trendy parts of East London and what makes them appealing.

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