[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.

Handmade Winter Knits

After a long while, I have found my knitted accessories to be of some use. On top of that, I am knitting again! I have yarn that I want to use up! YAY.

For the first time in years, we had a wave of heavy snow. Now, just in case you live in Canada or other snowy places, I must explain that heavy snow in the UK is something like 10cm of it. Most years we only get a trickle of it, so having so much snow so early on in the year is fairly unusual for us.

Needless to say, everything shut down and the roads were dangerous and everybody made a snowman that day. Meanwhile, Twerp and I made a snowman on our first day of snow. It was taller than me and a very impressive effort considering previous years.

We planned to make another on Day Two of snow but it was powdery snow that wasn’t cooperating well so we ended up doing a photo shoot that I had been procrastinating for weeks. Behold – I wanted to share my hand knits.

In this grey winter, this neon hat has brightened the lives of everyone around me, I’m sure. People underestimate the power of neon combos and this blue and neon pink had always been something I wanted to try, so when I spotted the two yarn colorways sitting on a shelf together I practically leapt for them!

The lipstick is Revlon’s Matte Balm in Sultry. I think.

The yarn is from the store, Tiger – it’s the thick fabric yarn (Super Chunky weight) and costs £3 a ball. For this I used two balls of the main colour and one ball of a secondary colour, and improvised using this pattern as a base. This took me less than a week to make thanks to the large size of the yarn. Here are the main changes I made:

  • cast on 45 stitches with 10mm circular needles.
  • no pompom.
  • Decreased using the main colour but tied the ends in using the secondary colour in a star formation so it looked cute

20171211144201_IMG_6093-01.jpeg

I remember I promised a pattern for this cowl that was improvised years ago, and I hate that I completely forgot about writing one because… guess what? I’ve lost the original, I want to make a new one, and there’s no pattern to be found. I must really hate myself.

20171211144514_IMG_6101-01.jpeg

These fingerless gloves aren’t helping my fingers in the cold, but at least I can use my phone. For snowman making, I obviously would not recommend these! I made these three (!!!) years ago completely improvised and for a while, I thought I had lost one but it turns out both were lying in separate nooks and crannies of my room! I’m glad to have them this year! However… I have lost the matching hat… RIP caramel hat, you will be missed.

The yarn I used for these projects was Sirdar’s Escape DK, although I’m not sure if it has been discontinued or not…

Meanwhile, this cowl took two years to make. I used this pattern and started it because I needed a knitting project for watching the Great British Bake Off in 2015. Here’s the link to my starting post on it! It’s super cushy and cosy although the stitch pattern does cause it to roll up on itself. The pattern is Lael by Wendy Neal (linked to Ravelry page) and it’s a free pattern, so go knock yourself out! If I were to make it again, I’d use an even softer yarn than Stylecraft’s Chunky with Wool.

I hope you have enjoyed the snow too, this year. Especially as we likely won’t get something so wondrous for at least another five! It warmed up so quickly a few days later that our snowman lost its head overnight (although it took another 8 days for it to fully melt and only fully disappeared today – maybe that was jsut because ours was so huge!).

Seeing as this is my last post before Christmas (or on Christmas, even), I would like to take the time to wish you all a Merry Christmas whether you celebrate it or not!

Until next time,

X

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

My Experience at G-Dragon’s ‘Act III: MOTTE’ Tour in Birmingham

I may have recounted this story a number of times, but I got into K-pop because a family friend spent her gap year in Korea and came back with a K-pop mix on a CD, full of Bigbang and SHINee’s old hits and Lee Hyori’s U Go Girl. We played it when her mom picked us up from school all the time, and Haru Haru was my favourite song for an age and a half.
That was like, ten years ago. I listen to K-pop like I listen to just about everything else – casually and not as obsessively as I used to, but if you strike a K-pop conversation with me I’m not going to stop talking. Where do I even get all these trivia from? I don’t even know. I joined the K-Soc at my uni so hopefully, I will make friends who I can be just as chatty with.
Anyway. G-Dragon held a concert in Birmingham recently, and I knew whatever it cost, I would end up going. It was very pricey for a concert so I settled for a seat that was still £120+. GD was my first love of K-pop but I don’t love him as much now to pay £200+ for the VIP Silver Soundcheck package like a certain relative of mine… (You don’t even get to meet him for that money…)
It was my first concert at Genting so I was quite excited! I ended up there many hours early since I was tagging along with VIPers but that meant I could grab food and still be in my seat an hour and a half before the show started. It also meant the wait for the show to start was pretty much unbearable.
The Genting Arena doesn’t allow fancy cameras like my DSLR (darn it!!) so I am still stuck with the phone camera I used last year, sadly, which is why my photos are less than impressive. I spent the rest of my time jamming along to everything he performed.
The show was all bright lights and dark visuals. MOTTE, for G-Dragon himself, is a show exploring himself- his identity as GD and as Kwon Ji Yong, and it did feel quite personal, also including video interviews with his friends and family. The setlist started from his old hits and ended with almost all the songs from his most recent EP, Kwon Ji Yong. It was separated into three acts this way.
I noticed people were more hyped towards the second act when he performed more recent and well-known songs (and especially CROOKED in the encore because we UK fans have a soft spot for it – he filmed the video in London). It was a shame people weren’t as excited for A-YO and Obsession as I was, though! They are two of my favourite songs by GD.
I met some wonderful fellow concert-goers whilst there. From the pair of girls waiting for food to the girl I sat next to as we both went to the concert alone, to the girls who helped me charge my phone and find my relative after the battery died, and also got me the poster that is now on my wall. I’ve met so many wonderful people through my casual listening of K-pop and this night was no different.
I am so happy that there have been more K-pop concerts in the UK recently (Crush, ZICO, Dean, GD and KARD all in the last year and Hyukoh next month) so I get to indulge in live music I love. I am putting my bets on BTS being the next big act to hit the UK, seeing as they are doing fabulously internationally.
Who are you waiting on to hold a concert?
Until next time,
X

[Chat] Getting Ready for School/ University/ Whatever EEEEP


Hi everyone!

So, as I mentioned in my last update, I got into University!
(Cue cheers and party poppers)

I was feeling ecstatic, then quite ambivalent about it when I first found out. Anyway, I’m excited at the moment. I am going to a university close to home, whilst my brother also got in to Uni and is moving out, so our preparation lists are very different, of course.

I sometimes wish I had a very good reason to move out, but rather sadly my rational thinking won out on this one. My brother is studying Marine Bio, something that can’t easily be studied right in the middle of the country with a canal at best, and my best friend is a Dentistry student of which there are only 17 schools in the UK.

Meanwhile, there are many more places to study Psychology and the University I am going to is a solid choice to study it, apparently. If I can, it’s probably a good idea to minimize the debt I’ll be getting, too. One thing I am petrified of is being stuck paying off a huge amount of money with stupid interest rates.

Whilst the new start is a great excuse for new stationery and things, as I am staying home I really don’t need anything new! I have:

  • a colourful set of clicky Paperchase Inkjoys.
    I have a few Staedtler fine liners but I don’t use them as much as I prefer the biro-type pens like Inkjoys.
  • A lot of flash cards I didn’t get around to using during A-Level
  • notebooks – I tend to accumulate those!
    My favourites for notes are actually the £3 A4 hardback spiral-bound notebooks from the Works – the ones by PaperPlace. The designs for these often change and aren’t exactly Paperchase-cute but I just grab the nicest design – I’m not too picky with these. Those have decent paper quality and big line spaces for rough work, and on top of that, they are super affordable. The greatest testament to how much I love these, however, is the fact I’ve fully used up two. I, chronic notebook un-finisher, FINISHED these notebooks because I used them so much.
  • One of those tiny pencil cases, from my little sister. I have gotten into the habit of using much less stationary and carrying only a select few pen colours around – usually black, blue, red and purple. Again, this is for rough work when I am out and about. This is a soft case as I’d rather not have my pens rattling in a tin or box, and still fits a folding ruler and nail file just fine!
  • A USB stick that I’ve had for six years and is still going strong – for any digital work.
  • A sturdy backpack – I like the Kipling ones – which may be a little pricey but my huge travel bag lasted me through my GCSE textbook days and multiple overpacked days of travel and my backpack has lasted two trips to Vietnam as well as two years of my brother’s A-Level textbooks and folders so I think they are quite worth it. My best friend, my brother and my dad all love their Swissgear/Wenger backpacks.
  • A daily journal thing from Urban Outfitters. It’s not something to plan weeks ahead with – I am trying to use my phone calendar more – but you can just pop a date in and organise a free day if you just so happen to have one, and make lists of important things to do. I had a problem with my day-to-view planner last year with just not filling it in and wasting lots of pages, so hopefully, this strategy will be better.

Is there anything you think I don’t already have that I should get?

I’m not quite sure how else to express that I’M EXCITED even if I’ve spent most of last year being glad I’m not doing the same exams my friends in Uni are, because that will be me soon. It’s exciting the way all new things are.

I’m not even worried about socialising! A couple of years ago the idea of that would still terrify me but I’ve become much more comfortable with chatting to anyone over the last year, mostly by attending lots of events by myself. The only thing is that I’ll probably sit out all the club outings and house parties…

One thing I am actually worried about is if I love Psychology like I think I do. A-Levels are a real test of whether you like a subject enough to work at it and Psychology was definitely that subject for me. I always seem to do better in my Psychology work even if I think I’ve put the same amount of effort (or even less) compared to my other two subjects. Especially during my gap year, I was far more focused on Biology and Chemistry because I had more to make up for in those, and I still made less progress. I’m just worried it might also be the same for bits of Psychology this year but I’m also sure it’s just me vastly overthinking all of this and maybe I should stop before I have a crisis.

Phew.

I mean, how do you like to organise yourself? Is anyone else nervous about the New Thing that they’re doing this year?

Until next time,

X

 

 

Two Years of Twenty Swans!

20161214203009_img_0789

This blog survived another year! That’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I have followed many a blog that has just disappeared after a few good posts. More than that,  I am proud to have just stuck to putting things up even without a schedule or promoting my posts on social media properly.

For any regular readers, know that I am so thankful that you glance at my stuff and I hope you’ll stick around for the years to come.

Want some stat-related tidbits? Sure you do.

  • The total amount of views for 20S in 2016 were almost quintuple the amount in 2015 (!!)
  • But! I also posted far less, with 26 posts in 2016 compared to 134 posts (!!) in 2015. I think I went from thinking about posting often to posting less, but more quality posts that I took time and real effort to do and am proud of. I have also begun to use a diary to keep track of various things and in a way, vent off some thoughts that won’t go on the blog anymore.
  • My most viewed post includes a terrible sheet-masking selfie. Half the views I got this year came from this post.

I am really surprised and proud of the humble bit of growth this blog as seen, numbers wise, haha. I have to admit, I got the Blog’s birthday wrong. I had this post in draft mode for sometime next week, but it turns out to have been today! Cue a lot of last minute panic. Last year, I gave the blog a new banner to celebrate. I still really like it. I still use the same theme (Plane) and same standard WordPress domain. This year, the Blog Gift (am I making this a thing?) is nicer looking photos!

I also had a bit of special blog-related reflection time based off last year’s anniversary post. I think I did work a lot on improving my beauty reviews and making them as detailed as I want them to be, and the photography/lighting issues have pretty much all been sorted in one swoop since I bought a new camera at the end of the year.

On the other hand, I completely forgot about my personal spending goal and whilst I definitely didn’t stick to it (especially with that camera) I think my willingness to spend has kind of levelled off a little. I’m less impulsive about my purchases and stricter about using up products before I buy more. On the other hand, I am way more likely to buy books…

What are this year’s mindful things?

  • Actually keep goals in mind. It’s so easy to lose track of annual goals as the days go by, especially now that I can barely keep track of the days.
  • Be better about doing to-do lists. I’ve been trying to use them to keep track of my daily progress and work on daily streaks and habits and stuff, but for some reason I’m leaving at least one point empty all the time. Heck, I could have only one thing on my to-do list but not complete it.
  • Finish that novel. I’m not sure any more needs to be said.
  • Read and review more books! BOOKS, I TELL YOU.
  • Maybe get back into knitting? Knitting was possibly one of the main reasons that I started this blog (it gave me something to write about!) But I’ve barely touched my needles since last year. I also have a big box of yarn to use up. I just don’t feel like I have much cause to sit down and space out any more. I really miss it though so I’d like to take more time out to do it.

Again, thanks for reading, and here’s to yet another year!

Lots of Love,

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