Posts Tagged ‘achievement’

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on my way.

August 9, 2011

At the end of last year, I wrote down that this year I wanted to achieve:

1. Buy a car. (Tick. I bought a car, bought some tyres, had a small accident, replaced the door latch, paid through the nose for its MOT, and taxed it. So yes, I well and truly achieved that aim!)

2. Get a job in London. (Yes! As of yesterday lunchtime, I got a new job as Admissions Officer at Southbank International School. I start there in mid-September, and I am so excited. And relieved. And proud of myself.)

3. Move to London. (Now I have to find somewhere to live in London! I am more than ready to move out, and I am adamant that I want a flat by myself, which is going to be expensive. But I am ready for it. I am thinking Earl’s Court / Barons Court)

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger! (So far, so good!)

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album. (Well, I haven’t got the microphone yet. I don’t know if that is going to happen; as you can guess, I have had a lot bigger things to spend money on this year. But the album is underway and I have recorded 5 or so songs, with lots more on the way! It’s a slow work in progress, but I have faith that it will be the best thing I have ever done. Watch this space.)

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft. (This one seems to be the hardest, but my credit card is nearly paid off. I will get there.)

In the last few weeks, I was feeling quite low. I wasn’t having any luck with finding interviews, my car just kept going wrong and needing more money spent on it, and work just seemed to pile more and more things on top of me, without my colleagues seemingly having to take on more tasks. I started feeling resentful, paranoid and questioning whether I was entering a depressed period. It wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t nice for my friends or for Toby who had to support me. Luckily, there were some things to look forward to: I went on holiday to Seville with Toby and I had my interview at Southbank, which held a glimmer of hope. Just before I finished work for my holiday, I had a long chat with Mike who said in no uncertain terms that I needed to snap out of it, or go and talk to someone professional.

I decided that I would try the former before I had to try the latter, and spent a long time thinking. About feeling taken for granted at work, and about why I couldn’t see that being able to manage additional responsibilities was a compliment as well as a burden. About the fact that I didn’t want to be down anymore, and I didn’t want to feel the guilt of burdening my friends when they could do nothing to help me, before I started helping myself. About the fact that I overcame a lot of obstacles to get my driving licence and my car, and that I shouldn’t give up now – I already achieved more than I thought I would. About the fact that if I give up, I end up nowhere, making no progress – and unhappy anyway. What could I, my family, my partner, be proud of then? And finally, about the fact that life is too short to be miserable all the time, especially about what largely boiled down to petty popularity contests at work. Just because I don’t want to be involved doesn’t mean that I should alter my whole routine and happiness because of it. It’s just a job, these are just people! I already have my friends, my family, my boyfriend. Life is good and I shouldn’t focus on the bad. So I decided that I won’t.

I let it go. At first, I was exhausted by it all, and there was an element in acting happily in the hope that my smile might be contagious. But it was surprisingly easy after a few days. Once I got to London, did my first interview, and chilled with Toby, my troubles started to melt away. Maybe I just needed the time off after all. The holiday in Seville was good for me (as well as immensely enjoyable and relaxing – the first of many holidays I hope to spend with Toby) as I was able to think and talk about what I wanted to do with myself. I have resolved to continue working on my music, but to actually start putting together a portfolio of music reviews (the Nadia Oh one is the first) which are kept to a strict word count of 250 / 500 words – perhaps alongside a couple of longer articles – and then sending these to newspapers and magazines in the hope of perhaps landing something. At first for free, but maybe – in the long run – freelance? Paid? Writing music reviews, at least for part of my living, would be great and I think that I am and would be very good at it. So I have a plan. I felt positive, and I felt empowered once again because my future is in my hands.

We came back from Seville, I had my second interview, and yesterday I got the job offer, which I accepted. I handed in my notice at college, and I realised from all the congratulatory tweets, as well as colleagues being so pleased for me, that I have a lot of people who are really happy for me and want the best for me. I am very lucky, and very grateful. But it’s also because I try to be a good person, a nice person, and a fun person – not only do I try to be those things, but I am those things, most of the time. So it’s not worth losing that to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Because I am not worthless, nor hopeless – and as soon as I let it all go, my worth and my hope revealed itself once again. So I learned that: I don’t believe we can control everything that happens to us by any means, but you get a lot more in return when you are nice & happy. We need to roll with the punches life throws at us, take some down time and then come out smiling 🙂 Life can be good if we let it!

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Toni Braxton – Pulse. (album review)

May 7, 2010

The first album from Toni Braxton in 5 years comes following an abbreviated residency at Las Vegas, yet more record label disputes, health scares, a neat run on Dancing With The Stars and a separation from long-term partner Keri Lewis.  So one would assume that she has a lot of life material to draw on, material that might be evident in the singer’s new album.  Well, yes and no: Toni Braxton has stuck to her strengths, which are soulful R&B ballads expertly sung.  The lyrical content of these tracks betrays barely a whisker of what the singer has been through in the past 5 years, and to look at the singer she stands stately, sophisticated and stunningly beautiful for a woman of 40 years old.  Indeed, she still has that same sexy body she had 15 years ago, although now it is dressed with a more chic, age-appropriate veneer that effortlessly walks that tightrope between sexy and classy.  Nevertheless, Braxton’s creamy, rich alto has a slight bit more depth to it now; to paraphrase from her interview in Metro this week, she has the ability to channel her experiences (be they joyful or sad) into the texture of her voice, and this is what makes Braxton one of the most enduring and valuable singers to emerge in the last 20 years: you feel her when she sings.  On Pulse this is evident throughout, particularly when her voice is reduced to a low, husky whisper such as at the beginning of “Woman”, a cover of Delta Goodrem’s track from 2007’s Delta that improves on the original because Toni Braxton’s voice brings more depth to the lyrics (although Delta Goodrem’s own version was solid in itself, perhaps making this achievement all the more impressive), and the production ranges from subtle to soaring while never overtaking Braxton’s performance.

After more leaks than Ciara’s Fantasy Ride, it would be unacceptable for Pulse to be anything less than solid, considering the 25+ tracks we’ve heard from Toni Braxton’s recording sessions for the project.  For the most part, Braxton has chosen the strongest songs for the project, although bonus tracks “Rewind” and “Stay” add little value to the album and could have been replaced with successful “Ice Box” soundalike “Clockwork” and particularly “It’s You”.  These are just little personal gripes however, and don’t affect the fact that Braxton sings each of the 11 tracks on her album with impeccable aplomb; her voice cannot be faltered, whether she’s emitting attitude on the sassy “Make My Heart” (which again improves upon Blaque’s / Mis-Teeq’s “Can’t Get It Back”, being based on the same sample) or evoking vulnerability on standout closing track “Why Won’t You Love Me”.  It is surprising that this is the only track on Pulse that gives Toni a significant songwriting credit (“Yesterday” does credit her, but only along with 4 other contributors) considering her credits on The Heat and More Than A Woman; those two albums, while not perfect, were both cohesive and consistent – they felt like albums, not just a collection of songs.

And this is where my only main gripe with Pulse comes in.  Indeed, the album contains some beautiful songs – my personal favourites are first single “Yesterday” (although it sounds like Beyoncé’s “Halo”, it is strong and sincere enough to stand on its own two feet – unlike the version with Trey Songz, which suffers from a change in production that is at once overdone and bland), the aforementioned “Make My Heart” and “Why Won’t You Love Me”, “Wardrobe” with its clever man-as-outfit metaphor that somehow avoids sounding cheesy or forced.  “Lookin’ At Me” is a welcome uptempo that bumps convincingly and brings the sass out of Toni, and perhaps in the closing stretch of the album which is ballad-heavy, another uptempo of this nature might have livened things up.  Finally, “Hands Tied” is an utterly beautiful song in lyrics, production and vocals, and has an outstanding video to match – Toni Braxton dances in front of a troupe of attractive men, stands in an eye-catching black dress in front of an ornately carved table that I would quite like in my house, and locks eyes with the camera, singing and dancing and yet conveying the determination for love inherent in the song’s lyrics.

As I said before, there are no weak tracks, and perhaps my opinion is swayed by the sheer amount of material I’ve heard from the project – unlike classic albums Secrets, The Heat and More Than A Woman, the album feels merely like a collection of lovely songs than like an album.  Previous album Libra suffered from this same problem, although Pulse has more of an identity, hewing close to soulful ballads and eschewing popular production tricks; unlike a couple of Libra‘s tracks, this album won’t sound dated, to its credit. But something intangible makes some albums more than the sum of their parts, and Pulse just doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi.  In comparison with Monica’s recent Still Standing (check my review here!), both albums are a welcome embodiment of “real” R&B, both are classy efforts that dispense with unnecessary featured artists and emphasise the singers’ strengths.  Neither album possesses any repellent tracks, and all the material is beautifully sung.  But if I had to choose between them, Monica’s would win out because something about it feels more sincere, more cohesive; something connects with the listener more.  I feel bad that I can’t quite put my finger on what that “something” is, but it means that while Pulse is certainly solid and worth purchasing, as a whole it isn’t  exceptional.  Nevertheless, some of its songs are exceptional, and it is wonderful to hear a singer relying on her vocal ability and strong songwriting rather than gimmicks or collaborations with flavour-of-the-month artists.

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shopaholic.

February 13, 2010

“She got a Fendi fetish / She got a shopping problem
That girl’s a shopaholic / She only mess with ballers
She got a Gucci fetish / She got a Louis problem
She got a shopping problem / That girl’s a shopaholic”

— “Shopaholic”, Nicki Minaj f/ Gucci Mane.

Listening to the above song from Nicki Minaj’s stellar Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, I can’t help but relate.  I have never been very good at resisting shops, but today I went into Guess with Toby and promptly dropped £136 on a bag (it matches my wallet! And I’ve been keeping an eye out for a new bag) and a hoodie (it was in the sale, the last one and my size.  Therefore, it was destiny and there was nothing I could do but fulfil it).  Note that I have my excuses rationale ready 😉 I felt a little guilty because Toby has a little bit of cashflow difficulty, and I didn’t work last week when I went to get my new tattoo done (which cost £100 in itself!).  I think I might have to take on some extra shifts at the hospital.  I am not one to flash cash, especially when that cash comes largely from funding to do my course, and I am also spending a significant amount of money on getting my driving licence (wish me luck for my theory test on Tuesday morning!), which is a pretty necessary measure.  I’ve never been rich.  But sometimes the allure of beautiful designer things is just too much to resist.

I spoke in a recent entry about the fact that I wasn’t always like this.  Designer names used to be something out of reach, irrelevant.  I was younger, those were things that would come in time.  Well, I’m not younger anymore; that time is now. Life is too short to be wanting forever; I don’t spend crazy amounts on irrelevant things, so why shouldn’t I treat myself?  Generally, I am a shopaholic because I love spending money, be it on myself or on other people, and I’m just as happy to buy other people things because I find the look on their faces when they open a well-chosen gift something to treasure; that’s my favourite part of holidays like Christmas.  But sometimes I feel a little guilty because perhaps I should be a little more responsible with money – you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.  I should appreciate more the plight of people who might never be able to have even one beautiful thing in their life.

I think about my grandmother when I have crises of confidence like this.  She’s actually quite wealthy, but she’s never been one to treat herself; she would much rather give everything she has to other people.  She will be  77 years old next month, and in April it will be 2 years since my grandfather died.  I love her to pieces, but it’s hard to get through to her the philosophy that she’s earned the right to spend a little on herself and treat herself to a nice little something every now and then.  Hell, I’m 24 and I’m feeling that life is too short! But since she’s never bought herself designer things, precious jewellery, something special, preferring instead to shop at pound stores and discounters (even though their wares often fall apart in a matter of weeks, necessitating a repeat purchase and costing you more in the long run – I’m a believer that generally you get what you pay for, and if you don’t then you take it back and you take your money elsewhere).  I wish that she would recognise that she is worth a little bit of luxury.  I think that she is a good person; I think that I am at the heart of it a good person, and a good person doesn’t declare themselves all the time.  But nor should a good person go totally unsung or unrecognised.  That’s why I love to treat my friends, my family, those close to me – they are good people and they deserve a little luxury.  The same goes for myself.  And I wouldn’t spend it if I really couldn’t afford it, so why should I feel bad about it?  The only thing I hate is to be spending like this around people who honestly can’t afford it, because the last thing I am is a snob.  After all, this ability to buy something nice is fairly new to me – I wasn’t always like this, and I’ll never forget that there was a time (and there might be a time again soon – who knows?) when I couldn’t afford it myself.  I know what it’s like to have to really budget, and I truly hope that nobody close to me thinks that I’m buying things just for the name.  Shopping is about achieving the person I always aimed to be, about externally realising the man I am inside.  I hope that nobody close to me ever thinks that I don’t appreciate what I have, or that I take for granted my current finances.  Because I do, and I don’t (respectively).  And as for what the rest of the world thinks, I couldn’t give a fuck.

I have found my own sense of style, and a look in which I feel comfortable.  Unfortunately, that look is expensive 😛 (What do you expect? I have Italian blood 😉 ) Sometimes I have to ask Toby / Hannah / Nick / Davina / Deena / Karina to drag or steer me away from certain shops, because I know that I shouldn’t spend the money – it’s not necessary.  But from time to time, I give in to the devil on my right shoulder and buy myself something nice because I want it, I need it, I earned it.  Maybe I’m a little bit devilish, maybe I’m a shopaholic.  But if so, that’s who I am and on the whole, I like it 😉