Twenty Thoughts from A Twenty Swanna (i.e. it’s my Birthday.)

Hi everyone!
It will be my twentieth birthday as this post rolls out. I can’t quite believe that I’ve survived two decades of life so I’m kind of chuffed.
Did I do anything particularly special? Er… no. My regular outing with Tray has had to be moved due to uni things and on top of that, we both have university lectures on our actual birthdays! The official celebration isn’t happening for another two months as a result.
I wasn’t actually feeling a big celebration though and didn’t plan anything in the meantime. Well, I attempted to plan things but also had uni events and deadlines to keep up with. In the end, I ended up with very impromptu plans to go out for food with friends… three times this week!

 

THANKS FOR THE CAKE, RK. I celebrated really early with her as she flew home over a week ago. I love her chocolate handiwork.

 

I thought that ‘twenty things I learned in the last twenty years’ would be a good thing to do. After all, what is this blog without some sort of reflection?
But then I ran out of things after ten, so now it’s just ‘twenty thoughts‘.
Even then, I struggled with thinking of stuff.

One.
Care a little less.

This is my mantra for everything, these days.
I care less about people’s opinions of me when I talk. This does result in me sounding a little passive-aggressive, sometimes, but also being less willing to take other people’s crap. I also seem to have a knack for flirting when I am into it.
I care less so I don’t stress too much about my work, too.
In the words of my brother, things just are not that deep.

Two.
Make the best decision you can, and then put your all into what you decide to do.

This way, I end up with fewer regrets. It’s easy to just say ‘don’t do things you’ll regret’ but that’s the best advice I can give on actually preventing them!

Three.
Get that sleep in.

I know for sure now that I function best on at least 9 hours of sleep and I have been better at getting to bed early when I need to. Luckily, my uni schedule has been nice for this, too. I’ve definitely noticed that over a longer period of time running on sub-par nights, my mood also suffers in ways I can’t help. I’m pretty sure there are now scientific studies that found the same thing. I will have to find them sometime.

Four.
How to dress for my body type.

As my body changed in my teens, I didn’t know what to do with it. My style went from tracksuits all day, every day, to A-line tops, leggings and canvas shoes, to discovering skater skirts that flatter my waist, paired with nice ankle boots. Your teenage fashion is always going to be cringe-worthy but take what you like most about yourself and accentuate it, always try things in store and don’t buy on a whim.
Yeah, with my body type online shopping is mostly a no-go.

Five.
Keep the curtains open in the winter.

I struggle to get up in the mornings when it’s dark. So sometimes, I leave my curtains open and it does help me get up when my room is [fractionally] brighter. As for the summer… I’ll figure that out later.

Six.
Cafes.

I hugely underestimated the power of a nice coffee shop.
Even if I usually order a pot of tea at one.

Seven.
Adults can be idiots too.

I was taught to respect my elders and I still do, but I was also taught that they are never wrong, and that’s not right. Respect their opinion, by all means, but they can be wrong… And hypocritical. Especially now I’m an adult myself, this has never been more apparent. That’s right… This has been an open declaration that I’m an idiot.

Eight.
Food costs a lot.

SOB.

Nine.
Sharing is [Self] Caring

Okay, I know I have self-confessed tendencies to gossip which I blame on my mother’s side of the family. But that’s not what this is about.

When I am struggling with something, usually my emotions or other decisions or general stress, just being able to vent out to someone is a real help. Most times organising my thoughts for them helps me to find the answer myself, and when I’m being extra irrational my friends are the best voices of reason, too.

Ten.
Don’t wait for free time. Make it.

I think I picked up this piece of advice during a year of NaNoWriMo and honestly, I’ve never let go of it since it clicked. Sometimes, instead of waiting for a free day to draw or knit or read, you have to take matters into your own hands.
Find that spare half hour.
Push around the minutes.
Make time.

20180201181658_IMG_7586-02.jpeg
A note about my name – you could spell it Su-Wa-N, Su-Wo-N, Su-A-N or Su-O-N in Katakana. It doesn’t matter since it follows the pronunciation, and on top of that, there are sounds that can’t be written in Japanese.

Eleven.
Friends aren’t made in a day.

This one I keep having to remind myself of since starting at university. Of course, I’m not going to be besties with everyone. It takes years of hanging out until we have too much dirt on each other to let each other go in order for that to happen.

Twelve.

Skills aren’t mastered in a day either… and they take practice!

On one hand, my standards are really low. I’m happy to be alive, and I’m happy to be happy. But on the other hand, it’s difficult not to keep comparing myself to others my age with bigger achievements no matter how small it may seem.
Also, I know I still have a long way to go to reach the place I want to be with my writing and other skills, but I need to remind myself that I’m not really getting anywhere by not dedicating time to them. I haven’t worked on my novel in a while.

Thirteen.

Everyone should spend at least a summer working in retail.

You’d appreciate shopping a lot more, believe me. It doesn’t even have to be a summer – it could be the really busy Christmas period. Experience handling fussy customers and in the end you’ll wish you never have to be That Customer for someone else.

Fourteen.

You can’t look after other people
if you’re not looking after yourself.

I began to think about this since last year, but I was discussing life priorities with someone the other day and was reminded of this. On my own list of priorities, my mental health and wellbeing are at the top whereas for someone else it might be that they put everyone else before themselves.
Either is fine and doesn’t make you all the worse for it.

It’s just that when I’m under the weather, I’m of practically no use to anyone else.
But also, I have to look after myself so that my friends don’t have to stress about me since I know they worry about me sometimes.

Fifteen.

Honestly? Honesty.

I don’t know about you, but lying never got me anywhere.
If it’s important, the sooner it’s discussed the better.
In most cases.

Sixteen.

Be reasonable. Be rational.

This one mostly applies to my shopping habits, but it also applies to interacting with people, sometimes. It’s why I always go to my friends when I feel like my thoughts and opinion don’t make sense and needs objective input. It involves making an effort to understand someone else’s point of view before I go about judging them.

Seventeen.

There is always tomorrow.

No matter how terrible that day is, there is always the opportunity to go to bed and wake up feeling a little better and I’m grateful for that.

Eighteen.

Starting something is the first step towards finishing something.

This is especially true for writing as I find starting the hardest thing to do… even if I haven’t finished a novel yet.
It is less true for trying to exercise.

This brought to mind that quote from Adventure Time:
‘Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.’
-which I think ties into point twelve as well.

Nineteen.

Don’t start things last minute.

This might sound hypocritical of me since I can be guilty of this myself. But honestly, once I get started, as mentioned in point eighteen, the rest comes a bit easier. Start from the middle of something if you have to. But basically, if the thing is started early, such as the essay draft, that’s a little less to do later when you’ve suddenly been bogged down with work and other deadlines.

Twenty.

Blood is NOT thicker than water.

This one probably sounds a bit harsh but when it comes to my family, I am equal parts attached and apathetic. I am lucky to have really close friends in my siblings but beyond that… I have less sympathy. My family get no free passes because we have blood relations. That’s never quite made sense to me. However, I do also want to make an effort to be closer to my wider family in Vietnam, who always make me feel welcome when I am there, because recently I was wondering what I would do if my parents were not around to bridge the gap between us.


Okay, that was surprisingly hard! I didn’t realise that twenty things was so many. I don’t think I’ll be able to do thirty when I’m thirty…

Dad mentioned something about being grateful for being born and stuff, and I am – that’s a given. But I’m also grateful to myself for still being here, despite my horrid mental health. For making it through and letting me experience a lot of cool, fun stuff as of late. Parents get their own days to celebrate in mothers’ and fathers’ days but birthdays are for the individual to celebrate themselves and making it on their own strengths.

As a final point, I’m doing so many things as an adult that I never imagined I would be doing when I was a teenager or even younger. I didn’t think I would be a concert-goer or that I would ever go to a nightclub (I’ve only been once, but still). I’m actually relatively surprised at the amount of independence and freedom I have now even if I do still complain sometimes.
I mentioned that it’s difficult to make friends, but leaving primary school I had pretty much none, and leaving secondary school I have a handful of close friends and a bucket load of names I want to meet up over a pot of tea sometime. (If you went to my secondary school, that’s you. I’m serious, hit me up.) I’ve said this before, but honestly, if my eleven-year-old self could see me now, she’d cry in amazement.
My friends are the reason I’m still here – the reason I still choose to be here. If you’re a friend reading this, THANK YOU. I’m really bloody grateful for all of you. Heck, I’m crying happy tears.
Happy Birthday to Me.

Until next time,

X

[Chatter] Re: Exams

Hi everyone!

If you’re doing A-Level mocks or modular university exams, then exam weeks are upon us and I wish you all luck! Some of you have probably even finished now so I hope they all went well. My own exams start just as this post goes up and end on Friday.

Exams have never been my strong point – let me point you to the gap year that resulted – but I think I have ways to manage now. I tried to put in a little extra effort as soon as possible to account for the inevitable week-long slump (which happened. I think it’s passed. I sure hope so). Luckily my course is assessed through a variety of methods (compared to exams I love a good essay) and although these exams are still 75-85% of their respective modules it’s still a bit of weight off.

I’ve been sleeping less well recently. Some nights I just struggled lying awake, other nights I genuinely had to chant ‘bed, bed, bed’ to myself whilst still scribbling down a couple (okay, another paragraph) of words. It’s revision guilt. It happens. I never feel like I’ve done enough. I never really feel ‘stressed’ in the same way that others do as I feel so calm even now, but then I worry about not being worried.

The only way I have found to help combat that a bit is to go do a chore or something I’ve been putting off. Shake things up. Move around. But I’m even struggling to get my skincare routine done. I’m still scribbling down notes for some reason. But anyway… I usually get to bed in the belief that the next day will be better. That’s the mindset to keep.

But it’s so, so important for me to get nine/ten hours sleep and I’ve only been managing 7 on average. I would say 7 is recommended for a barely functioning Swanna, but nobody wants that. 8 is pretty good because I feel less like crap. If I only have 6 my immune system also doesn’t do too well and I will suddenly catch a cold (which I am generally pretty resilient to. I used to be that kid that was never ill.)

As a result of all that, I think my general mood took a hit but when I think about it my mood does do a bit of a consistent dive before my period starts anyway… Since getting treated for depression I’ve remained hyper-aware of how I am feeling and what contributes to major or concerning changes in my mood and I have been putting things in place to help with that.

So, if you have an exam, have you planned an after-exam treat yet? It was actually meant to be the Paramore Birmingham concert, for me, but due to timings that ended up being actually right before my exam week (!!) but my current treat is Pierce Brown’s book signing at the end of the month. No doubt I’ll find a way to get food or buy something nice immediately after my last exam too! But yeah, I always plan some kind of event and keep it there, set in stone. Make it a lil special.

Remember to look after yourselves and prioritise your mental health over your mental ability. There’s nothing that worries me more than people who survive off three hours of sleep (if you’re reading this, you know who you are!).

Until next time,

X


Days since last buying lipstick: 21
Lipstick worn today: Maybelline Creamy Matte in Brown Sugar over MaxFactor lipliner in Red Rush.

Reflection: First Term at University 

20171211144807_IMG_6106-01-01.jpeg

Hi everyone!

So, as I type, Christmas is approaching really fast and so are my January exams (!!) and as this post goes up it will literally be the last day of term. I know it is often said, but this term flew by crazy fast. I can’t quite believe my course started two and a half months ago!

I’m really enjoying myself. I like the institution I’m studying at. It’s far more relaxed than my old school ever was, which brings both pros and cons but overall I prefer it. Unexpectedly, I seem to have fewer contact hours (compared to my friends on other courses or universities) which is nice for settling in and joining societies and, if you’re not local, gives you time to explore the city you call home during term time.

Heck, I’m local but I’m still discovering new places in Birmingham, to be honest.

We have a few assignments and tasks to do, but generally, a reasonable time frame is given to do them, and I find myself regularly going back to doing work without wanting to complain that it’s tedious. I may be one of the few people who like writing essays even if it’s a little challenging. I would much prefer those to the looming exams in January, anyway. Revision is still one of those necessary evils.

Overall, it’s really not bad, at the moment, and thankfully so. So far, the course has been a lot of A-Level stuff but with an appropriate dose of new concepts to keep the A-Level students on their toes, so to speak. Lots of reading. I’ve managed to keep up with everything but the required reading…

Oh, and despite getting back into education I’ve been able to continue, or at least regularly revisit, most if not all of my hobbies. In small chunks. A chapter here and there, a doodle before bed, that sort of thing. I am learning Japanese at uni as part of their languages program, alongside my first-year Psych modules, and Korean as part of an unofficial language exchange, both of which have been a lot of fun!

Making friends is difficult. Surprisingly, I haven’t found it hard to just get talking to other people. I think that may be a skill I picked up by going to events alone during my gap year.

However, I think I’m forgetting that I don’t have to be talking to people 24/7 to be friends with them after seeing the same people daily at school before. Especially at uni where everyone has their own timetables and you might get to see your new friends three times a week, max, if they’re on your course. I have to remember that I didn’t make friends instantly back in year 7 or sixth form or when I first started my job, either, and that in most cases I went through years of awkwardness before I felt comfortable with people.

At the moment, I get really worried about what other people think of me. I kind of worry that I’m not the kind of person people want to be friends with, or that I’m not approachable, or that I’m not making the effort. I worry that I miss signs when people are talking to me, too.

I find it’s best to be a little blunt when expressing myself, but I’m not particularly outgoing, so if I’m in doubt at all I tend to stay quiet. I don’t really do subtleties very well in conversation. I also don’t do well in groups larger than four people, and I don’t feel the need to fill a natural silence which to other people might not be ideal. I stutter crazily over my words if my brain is working faster than my mouth (which is to say, all the time). All of that makes me kind of awkward to talk to.

I know. I’m over-thinking some things. But when has that ever changed? That’s my only main worry so far, otherwise uni has been interesting!

Until next time,
X

The Gap Year Diary: December/ January 

20161213210028_img_0663

So, last month I didn’t put up a Diary entry because I had it written and just forgot to schedule it – So now I have combined it with January events this time around. This is what I got up to…

  • Uni Offers
  • New Camera
  • Progress with revision and languages
  • Novel Progress
  • Novel Editing Workshop
  • Archery Competiton

University Offers
At the beginning of December, the two universities that had yet to respond to my UCAS application finally did… with rejections from both. One of the rejections I was unfazed by, whilst the other was from Warwick, which I have visited a few times and was a place at which I was really hoping to study. It’s a shame (sigh). That said, my remaining offers are all very reasonable so my hopes of actually getting into a university on Results Day haven’t plummeted just yet. I felt a bit dejected but what’s done is done. I have my target grades, now I just have to aim for them and like, not miss this time (*worried laughter in the distance*).

New Camera!
Following the previous part, I then proceeded to treat myself and spend all my summer savings on a new camera. It’s an ‘entry-level DSLR’ from Canon, the EOS750d which is a newer model from that line, and it’s really really nice… Who knows, maybe there will be YouTube videos?? Haha. No.

I’m still using the automatic features a lot, but slowly I am learning about the different components that make up a shot and want to practice as much as possible. I’d like to learn about post-processing too. Whatever it is, it means some great shots for the blog in the future!

Revision Progress
Ploughing along as usual. I am working myself into the habit of picking up my flashcards when I have time and testing myself, and I need to keep it up into the year, especially as I start to switch up the topics and subjects a lot. But I also need to remember to wind down in the evenings to sleep, and to know when to stop.

Now that we are officially about halfway through the academic year, I’ve been rethinking my motivations. I dream of being able to pump a fist at life on Results Day. I think of that image a lot, and I make sure to think of that image day and night, and that has been helping. I also think of that wad of my own money I used to pay for this year’s exams, which is also pretty motivational.

Language Progress
I have now finished my first Japanese course, and have decided not to take on another class. My main issue is that the next course runs through the exam period and I don’t want too many commitments during that time (with my job and archery and all). Over the last few months I have liked having classes as an extra spurt of motivation and I definitely feel more comfortable directing my own self study in the language. I think I have these conjugations sort of making sense in my head, and I have been memorising some kanji, too!

How is that novel going, by the way?
I made some surprising progress this month! I’ve been making more time to just sit down and ponder about how to take the story to where I want it to go, even if my characters don’t seem to want to go there. I’m trying to stick to a daily goal of 200 words on my project, and have finished the first chapter at last. I let a friend read it and she gave me some really good feedback and pointers that I hadn’t thought of. I work on multiple chapters at once because that’s just how I like to write, and just before the end of the month I hit 10,000 words on my draft, which is the furthest I have gone with a project without scrapping it and that is an achievement in itself!

There are some crucial parts of the story that I have found still need developing, like the main characters’ families (!! important!) and since my main protagonists are all Vietnamese, I’m having to consider other aspects of the family dynamic like how they use language at home, the various names they might have, and so on. Thinking about it, it’s pretty interesting and I’m looking forward to developing that part of it more.

 How to Edit Your Novel Event at Waterstones Birmingham 
No, I haven’t finished my novel, but of course I was going to turn up to a great opportunity for advice and insight! I took quite a few notes and it was lovely to hear some authors talk about their processes – it really solidified the idea that writing methods are different for everyone. I have written up a blog post on this, so keep an eye out for that!

Archery Competition 
I have to admit, I’ve been feeling far less enthusiastic about archery than I used to. Main reason being that it feels stranger and stranger to walk into my old school and not be a student there. Thankfully the other students I’m familiar with are usually there and have really helped me feel less awkward.
Anyway, after a Christmas break, I did feel quite under prepared for a competition so Twerp and I did our best to make use of all the sessions by going to every one leading up to it, even if I was suffering from cramps one week and a very bad cold the next!

The two of us were so nervous going in, as it’s our first ever archery competition. We shot a Portsmouth round, and I was one of the scorers on my target. In actuality, I was probably more nervous about the prospect of doing mental arithmetic under time constraints because I kept making mistakes on the score sheets! I was also pretty tense during the first half of the shoot but after resigning myself to doing badly I was able to relax. There’s nothing I can do about arrows already shot!

In my competition category, I didn’t win any prizes. My score was over 120 points from the bronze score. Twerp managed a bronze in her category, though! Right at the end, though, I unexpectedly got a handicap award, which I think means taking into account experience level and stuff like that (I’m a novice, and went up against veterans!) I won a little thing. I’m pretty chuffed~!

All in all, it’s been an eventful couple of months. February should be interesting, as it’s my birthday month and all…!

Until next time,

X

The Gap Year Diary #2: Sept – Oct

Fortunes from Lily @ #BookityBooks

Here’s what I got up to this month-and-a-half!

  • The school squad group chat is quieter these days.
  • #Growingpains tour
  • School-related things
  • Beginner’s Japanese
  • Bookity Books
  • NaNo Prep
  • Trip to Edinburgh
  • Goodbye to the nail salon

Uni things
Towards mid-September I said goodbye to a number of school friends that were heading off to Uni and moving out. I’m hella excited for them! They’re heading off to do a huge variety of exciting things. Although they’re all my motivation for working my butt off this year, most I’ve heard is that things are expensive, and freshers’ week is a blast, and they have lots of cool student discounts, yet things are still expensive. Their workload seems to be increasing at a pretty fast rate, too…

#Growingpains book tour
I went to the #Growingpains tour in Waterstones Birmingham featuring four lovely authors: Laura Dockrill (Lorali), Julie Mayhew (Mother Tongue) , Claire Hennessy (Nothing Tastes As Good) and Jess Vallance (The Yellow Room).
I hadn’t read any of their books but rest assured that they are all on my reading list after hearing them talk a bit about them – they are all funny and lovely people! I also managed to get some great writing advice from Laura Dockrill and Julie Mayhew about the plotting and structure of a story which has inspired me to approach my current project differently. I was suddenly bombarded with ideas, and also did a bit of a horrid thing and cut out a few of my beloved, yet unnecessary, characters to archive them for another story. Thus began my prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Exam Scripts
The day after that, I went into school to pay to get my exam scripts back, and pay for the archery club which I still go to. I can’t wait to see what went wrong four months ago, in a gut-dropping, sigh-inducing way. My UCAS application is also well on its way and hopefully should be finished soon. I’m in no rush as the staff from my old school are prioritising this year’s Year 13 and have warned me that they’re not going to put mine first – fair enough, really. I think I have just sighed a hundred times just having to write this paragraph, but it’s something that has to be done.

Japanese Lessons
I signed up for a course in Beginner’s Japanese in September which started last week, as it’s been something I’ve always been interested in doing. Had I gotten into Uni I would have used the module-switching opportunity to do it, but thankfully I found a way to do it anyway. I have previously tried to learn at home but I’ve never had any lessons so my knowledge is random and I can’t string sentences together… There was a beginner’s Plus option but it’s good that I went for basics as the course includes a few things I hadn’t covered in my self-learning and it’ll help me to reinforce the things I do know. I am also using the lesson structure to go over my Vietnamese as well.

Bookity Books
In my first write-in session at #BookityBooks (as opposed to the ones where we just talk about books), we did a couple of word wars and I got stickers (always fun), a fortune cookie (always fun) and won a prize (YEAH. GO ME.)
I had decided not to bring my laptop and wrote by hand for my word wars, which I didn’t have much high hopes about because I know I’m a really slow writer. It turns out that I’m actually pretty fast under pressure – I did 300 words exactly in fifteen minutes, which is about a side and a half of stretched out handwriting on A4. In the ten minute war, I almost matched that with 248 words.
There’s hope for my Psych essays this year, everybody! Even if the average word size in my essays is larger!

NaNo Prep
NaNoWriMo is coming up, so I was very good about planning and did it all in a two-day sitting. By planning, I mean I summarised ideas for scenes that I’d like to write and made sure there were loads just in case I got stuck and wanted to move on. It’s a pretty long list. We did a bit of criticising at the month-end session at #BookityBooks so I had the other members (and by that I mean just Maddie) look at my intro. My issue is that descriptive paragraphs sound fine in my first-person POV style but not in my third person because it sounds less personal and just too much. So now I am trying to strike up a conversational tone in third person that should hopefully be easier to read through.

The Spontaneous Trip Up North
Coming into the second half of the month, my Dad invited me to go up to Edinburgh with him for a couple of nights. I was a little worried about it at first, but decided to be positive about the idea and went along. My family and I have never been to Scotland at all before as it’s a bit of a long drive – estimated at about 5.5 hours but that ended up being longer due to weather, construction work and general traffic.

Anyway, Edinburgh and Glasgow (where I went on our second day) are really lovely cities that I’d love to visit again to explore better. All the buildings in the city centres have a charm to them that’s unique to their cities and not like my home Brum at all. I mostly had to tag around with my Dad on this trip, but I want to come back and visit Edinburgh Zoo and all the museums I spotted on our drives around the city. We visited the seafront in the early morning when it was still chilly, but it was still really nice – I love a nice quiet beach. If you are visiting, I recommend the Mussel Inn in Edinburgh as a restaurant to eat at in the evening, although be sure to book a table first!

We also dropped by Newcastle to visit one of Dad’s acquaintances on the way back. That makes three cities in three days!

 The Nail Salon
As we go into November, my parents have sold their nail salon to focus on their new business ventures full-time, and I have to say that it was sudden and that I’m not quite ready. I had no idea that earlier this year I’d be walking into the place for the last time. The place is virtually the same, just that it will have different people working there from now on. I liked the neighbourhood it was in and the familiar local faces – faces that probably assumed I was a local too. My parents ran it for over a decade, which is over half of my life so I do feel a bit of a sad pang knowing that I’ll probably never go back.

That’s what I’ve been up to this month! Next time, you’ll probably be hearing a bit about NaNo, UCAS and my progress in languages.

Until then!

X

 

 

 

The Gap Year Diary: Aug/Sep 2016

Well, for one, I admit that this series is just going to be my regular life, but with a bit more focus on what I’m doing education wise extra things this year. Oh wait, that’s what I normally do anyway, isn’t it? Well, it got a fancier title!

In this post (I ramble a lot these days):

  • Special Summer Segment: I spent my summer working it off… Again. But this time, I’m keeping the job!
  • The Study Segment: Parental pressure, UCAS and help.
  • The Sanity Segment: Waterstones is my new favourite place, NaNoWriMo, Inktober, Bake Off.

The Summer Job
Summer work has been quite busy. I work at a factory/outlet Clarks shoe store where the shoes sold are discounted compared to the regular stores  – so parents have been dropping in from all over the city and even further afield sometimes just to get a good deal on school shoes.

Understandably, it’s been utter chaos.

It’s not something you believe, really, until you’re either a parent who couldn’t help it or someone working it off! As I type I have recently finished a two-week-and-a-half streak of 4-5.5 hour shifts every day, and now that it’s over, I can consider my bank account blessed at the end of the month… even if a sixth of it is reserved for exam scripts and resit costs. Last year, I was upset to give up the permanent part-time position for my studies, but this year I am free to keep it – I’ll only be working weekends anyway, and have gotten way more efficient with doing my weekend house chores to fit that time in.

If anybody needs a tip for getting school shoes, I’d say go about three weeks before start of school, when it’s fairly busy but there are actually shoes to buy, and it’s not too early in the summer and hopefully the kids don’t have a growth spurt in three weeks. Go early – like when the store opens, early, to miss the busy hours. Sometimes it can stay busy all the way til closing time. Don’t come in the day before school starts, no matter what. We had nothing on the shelves as it was… Bank holidays are also difficult because our normal delivery is obviously not happening that day and we might still be suffering from a busy weekend.

The Study Segment
I’ve been under pressure from my parents complete my resit year at a school. I have technically learned all this stuff already and have the materials I need, now I just need to re-cement it in my mind. It’s resulted in uncomfortable conflict and Mom’s declaration that all her kids must do Nail Tech if they fail at education (and by extension, life). My dad, on my first day off after the consecutive streak of days of work, audibly expressed his shock that I hadn’t volunteered to go to work with my mom (he’s less hassling about it now, though). They’re starting to emphasise the need for work or business skills more and more, although I am not really interested.

Honestly, my positivity is a miracle considering the circumstances. Each word can be a hammer to the head from them.

I’ve emailed some old teachers who have agreed to the occasional help email as the year goes on, so I won’t be completely without help from people who know their stuff. Some have even offered to go through my exam scripts and mark essays and things and I’m incredibly grateful that they’d even consider that as, technically, that’s their free time.

I pulled myself together and started my UCAS application again. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m not quite sure about anything. But my old school are processing my application and have recommended that I get it in as early as this week or else risk having to wait until December – which I don’t actually mind. I need to think carefully about this year’s plans before I rush into completing the exact same application I did last year – that wouldn’t help me much, would it? I don’t even know. There doesn’t seem to be as much useful, specific help out there for reapplicants like myself.

As always, send a bunch of emails to find out what your options are. My school don’t offer lesson time for resitters, only the option of resitting the exams there, and being able to apply with UCAS through the school system again. There’s also the option of finding and talking things over with a college that offers resit help, but you have to consider the exams boards used for your subjects and the fact that most places are now teaching new specifications.

The Sanity Segment
I joined the local monthly writing group at Waterstones in the city centre. #BookityBooks are a small but very cool group of people – I mean, book people have never been bad people in my experience. I then promptly dethroned the guy with the coolest name, as you do. The plan for the session was to discuss the structure of a novel, but we mostly ended up chatting, and I think that’s a great way to get to know everyone first time round, so I couldn’t complain! It all ends up as writing inspiration.

On that note, I’m pretty excited about NaNoWriMo this November. My project this year will be a revamp of last year’s, once again. I do feel that every year I get ever closer to solid characters and plot, and last year’s success is making me anticipate this one very much.

I love absolutely every awkward bit about this photo. Glad nobody noticed I wore my favourite nightie. The group was as cosy as my outfit. My first session was also Paige’s last – she’s wonderful and I’ll miss her a lot anyways!

Before that, there’s Inktober. Y’all may know that I did this last year too – it’s a challenge of doing an ink drawing every day for October. I want to spend more time on my drawings this year so, instead of spending the whole day deciding what to do, I am going to pre-write some prompts and ideas. Inevitably they’ll be NaNoWriMo related, and hopefully they’ll link to my novel planning which is running at the same time.
The challenge is for ink, but I’m extending it to include watercolour. My new favourite combo recently is watercolour with fineliner for details, and I treated myself to a new student-grade Windsor and Newton studio palette. I’m not quite confident enough to use the artist-grade stuff, and I’m hoping to get a lot of use out of this to learn about colour properties and which colours I am likely to use more in my own personal palette (also, I’ve never taken my art travelling much, so at this point I wouldn’t go for a travel-sized palette). The other idea is to upgrade as I run out if I feel like it.

You see that? I got a signed copy of Nadiya’s Kitchen! I love Nadiya Hussain – as the lady from Waterstones tells me, ‘she can do no wrong in my eyes’. Learning to cook is one of my iffy goals of the year, and Nadiya has a great selection of her personal favourite family meals (I’ll be trying out the stew, fried fish, and all the curries!) as well as some great bakes to try. My parents can’t complain much, can they?

The great charm of the BBC is the ad-free viewing, yet great quality programming they offer. As I type, it’s breaking news that The Great British Bake Off, the show that Nadiya won last year, is moving to Channel 4 next year.

It just won’t be the same.

Until next time,

X

Reflection: Results Days


I’m not quite sure how to start this post. It’s been strange. As of the morning of Thursday 18th August, my future is quite ‘up-in-the-air’ but at the same time I’ve had to think a lot.

UCAS’ Clearing system was always an option. I don’t think I’m close minded towards other universities, but going through and eventually spending three years and at least £27,000 on something I’m not 100% into, is not appealing to me. I think there’s also a small amount of pride there – I know I am very capable of getting into Warwick (still my dream uni) and I think I’m a little stubborn about getting there. I wouldn’t feel satisfied getting into university with the grades I got, and that was it.

Upon initial reflection, I’m not quite sure why I did so badly. I was sure that I had at least done ‘okay’ but what I did get was ‘disastrous’. From my point of view, I worked my butt off last year, I know I did. I also know that what I really wished for was to be able to pace myself and not have always be cramming in a bunch of material at once and just take it slow by myself. Now, I have basically granted myself a year of such self-pacing and self-management, but I’m not sure which is scarier. I will have a tiny fraction of the support that I got over this past year, yet I will be expected to do a lot better.

But whilst I’m obviously quite disappointed, I also now have the entirety of the year ahead to plan for. A whole year, besides studying, all to myself. This is where the pacing begins. This is where I start pulling my socks together.  Also strange, because I have found that things turn out okay if I make myself flexible but here I really will have to plan wisely.

I mean, now I can’t do anything about my horrendous grades apart from working on them again to make them better. It doesn’t seem quite as scary as it thought it was earlier this year, now the dust has settled a bit, although it would really really help if my mother didn’t suddenly decide to hint at me that just getting a vocational qualification or directly getting a job is better. Months ago, she did tell me she was okay with me taking a gap year, now she’s saying instead of studying and wasting time I may as well work and earn money. I think she really meant back then ‘I’m okay with you taking a gap year if you get decent grades’.

There are a lot of things I do want to do and goals to complete. I don’t intend to just study this year – I don’t think I could cope with that at all, I mean I need to get out of the house!

Of course, I am retaking a number of exams this year. It’s probably not uncommon to retake one or two units, but… I’m talking resits of resits. I am basically going to have to re-live my year 13 all over again. Not looking forward to it, but… we’ll see how this goes. I’m going to have to make the dreaded Chem4 module my bestest friend.

I am going to keep shooting arrows at the archery club, and aim to work my way up to my first competition. That means working my way up from shooting 28lb bows to beyond 30, and probably actually working out to be able to handle a bow that’s bigger than myself.

I am going to carry on working so I at least have some financial freedom in what I do in the next year. I have to pay for all of my exam retakes, plus any archery stuff my club isn’t providing, plus transport fares, study materials and the occasional treat(!). It’s probably wise to keep a job that’s so convenient to me, and hopefully if I do make it into uni I’ll have more money to spare.

I am going to carry on writing. I mean, writing this blog post, writing that poem I have to do for Verve’s competition, working on pieces for literary magazine submissions, working on pieces to display on my writing blog – all of them are things that help me to vent some creative energy into something good, and all of them are helping to keep me sane.

I want to do new things, and have a  backup plan in case this year flunks too. I know that my knowledge (however basic) of two languages is really advantageous considering  the demand for related services and stuff, and I’m hoping this might open some opportunities in the future. Therefore, I want to strengthen my Vietnamese language skills as well as pick up the languages that I have always wanted to at least begin learning – Korean and Japanese – since I was little.

In the end, I have to take this year in my stride. I mean, I’ll be living the uni life vicariously through my friends and so have insisted they share everything with me! I can’t deny that I’m really REALLY jealous of them but I’m also really damn proud of them for making through what was a real hellish year and coming out on top.

Here’s to the academic year of 2016-17, whatever we’re doing.

X

P.S. If you’re also in gap-year purgatory and feel like needing company, I need it too. So do get in touch, even if it is just a rant about writing a personal statement for the second time!

Email: twentyswans@gmail.com

Twitter: @twentyswans