Studying in Barcelona – Part 1 – ANTICIPATION

SO I spent the past couple of months studying in BARCELONA – y’know, just casually, no big 😉

And I thought I would share my experiences here. I haven’t got a set number so I’m just going to be posting them as they come to me. This first one was actually published on the wonderful site of Soapbox Press, who kindly let me write a few articles about my travels. So here it is, the first post about my adventures in Spain – ENJOY!

Also, check out Soapbox Press! 😀 http://soapboxpress.co.uk/

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

This was 5 minutes from my flat. For real

Growing up and growing old come with a myriad of choices and expectations. And I  am going to be delivering you with a series of articles about how some of these choices have affected me.

Towards the end of high school you have to decide when to leave school; whether to go to University or college or just to get a job and work your way up; if you go on to further education, where and to study what; if you should move out; if that thing with that guy was just a party thing or if he’s actually the one… the new responsibilities are endless and the choices you make now can affect your entire life.

I am in my 3rd year of a Multimedia Journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian University. I decided to take a deviation of the academic route by going to University (the “academic” thing) but doing a degree that would allow me to be be creative as well as learn (the “artistic” route).

Since I was 15 years old, I was determined that I would make it to University. I had always been a hard worker and my grades were good. But I knew that the competition for a subject such as journalism was fierce, so I got my hand into as much freelance and work experience as I could and when crunch time came – I made the cut! From 800 applicants, I was one of the lucky 36 to be accepted.

A huge part of picking your University id working out if the options it offers are right for you. What services and opportunities will it provide to get you where you want to be, and if you are not sure yet (as so few 16-20 year olds do) then what can they suggest to you that might help guide you onto a path.

What attracted me to GCU was the chance to travel abroad in the third year. And, after five years hard graft, I am headed to Barcelona!

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. The process has not quite been everything I dreamed it would be.

My fanciful teenage mind had romanticised the whole process. Over the years of anticipating this event, I had not thought about the landmine of paperwork, red tape regarding funding, ‘I’s to be dotted, ‘t’s to be crossed, meetings and consultations to be had, more e-mails than the internet can surely handle, sent across two countries and endless arguing with faceless officials who’s job seems purely to put up as many road blocks as possible. Whew! It’s exhausting even to think about.

But as of Tuesday 9th of September, I am off to Barcelona. The flat is booked, the room mates and I are ready to move in and, on Friday 5th of September – I am still not packed. But I will be, when the time comes.

To conclude this first piece, my main comments are these.

It has been a long, hard road to get to this stage. I have had to work extremely hard to get to this point, overcoming personal struggles as well as fighting off competition to be able to get here. It will be fun, right?

I certainly hope so, because seeing as this is my first time with responsibility for my own place, and I have to live with two boys for the next four months, I am terrified!

SSDD

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We Can’t Handle the Truth?

So, people can’t handle the truth? Really? Let’s investigate that, shall we??

Wise words, my good man, wise indeed...

Wise words, my good man, wise indeed…

People can handle the truth. People are designed to be able to handle anything life cares to throw at them. The question is, are they ready at the time to handle what’s being thrown at them.

There comes trying times in everyone’s lives and it is how we deal with challenges that form, not only our futures, but how we see ourselves as competent individuals, and how others judge us according to their own standards. Fair? Probably not, but that’s the way it is. People judge themselves more harshly than anyone else ever could. We are all our own harshest critic.

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And who’s to say that just feeling good about your decisions is enough to convince the world? The world doesn’t know your motivation. Doing something you deem admirable might make you feel good, but can you be assured that Joe Bloggs passing by will know the strength it took to achieve a thing they might see as trivial? That’s the hidden challenge of the equation – you are not only faced with your own moral dilemma, you are faced with having to accept the assessment of others, regarding how you handled it. And resist the urge to wrap you hands around their throats if they disagree with you.

Yet, the biggest struggle can be when your head is so full of other stuff that you cannot see that all important truth. It is now that someone else must be employed to help you see what your occluded mind won’t let you.

you have the truth in the palm of your hand, the question is, can you find it??

you have the truth in the palm of your hand, the question is, can you find it??

We’ve all had the feeling; that almost deja vu like sense that something is missing, something is just not right. That feeling stops us seeing what’s really there. Hallucination is maybe too strong a term, but certainly, there is a cloud there. A veil, preventing the truth from being revealed to our desperately seeking minds eye. Does that mean we’re not “ready” to understand? Not necessarily. And that should be the decision of the individual. It shouldn’t be left to another to decide whether gently patronised is a better temperament than fully informed. Perhaps that individual who cannot see is not looking for pity, or sympathy, or compliments, or naive reassurance. Perhaps they are asking, pleading for help. Wanting another to act as their eyes in a time when sight evades them.

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Key to finding that all important truth in our lives is simple. To get into our own heads, we must first get out of them.

“…a simple trip to the beach can be all it takes to clear out heads and open out hearts, and write a new ending to an old story…”

We first have to want to get help.

“…there are those who got burned by the heat. they just want to forget and start over… while there are others who want this moment to last forever…”

But in the end, isn’t fact, better than fiction? No matter how bad life gets, it is never the best option to live in a fantasy, especially not one of ones own creation. As comfortable as you dream world may be, as easy and safe as you self-imposed bubble may appear, remember; your head knows all the pitfalls. There is no hiding in a land born solely from our imagination. Sure, it may seem to be a haven bathed in golden light and peace and only simple, easy explanations for everything, but – if the sun can shine in such a place, then that sun can cast shadows. And, given enough time, they will find you.

“…tans fade, highlights go dark and we all get sick of sand in our shoes… so we find ourselves looking to the future…”

It takes bravery to admit any truth. Let’s not forget that.

brave-b5b2d44cc2393aa2c9b1a7ede7dba601_h

 

SSDD

Murray Mania: Enthusing a Nation

Those of you who follow TENNIS or are just captivated by the quintessential optimistic Englishness of strawberry’s and cream in the constant face of a potential storm, will know that Andy Murray is kind of a big deal.

Strawberries-Pimms-giant--007

He’s THE NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION!!!!! 😀 😀 😀

GO ANDY!! :D

GO ANDY!! 😀

Andy’s perseverance to become so has inspired a nation for the years he’s fought to win on Centre Court.

He beat off Novak Djokovic in 3 straight sets, in blood boiling heat of almost 50 degrees, in a battle that will surely have it’s heart racing final game replayed on the golden reel of tennis forevermore.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Andy Murray broke a 77 year dry spell of Male British Winners of Wimbledon, the last British Male to win being Fred Perry in 1936. As the commentator said as the players walked onto the court, if he were to win (which he did) he would be the first player to do so in shorts – gentlemen played in long trousers back then!

There are so many reasons to be proud of Andy. For one thing, he’s been playing in Wimbledon for several years and done well, meaning that for the few weeks of summer left after the tournament ends, about 90% of British children and 20% of their over-involved parents *, become healthy, enthusiastic health freaks, and join a Tennis Club. A membership that gets shoved to the back of a drawer as soon as the Autumn winds appear. Around August. So he’s inspiring a healthier nation, if only for the short weeks of summer.

*(these statistics are totally made-up, btw)

But more than that, he does what few things can; he brings together a quartered nation under the shared support of one man.

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man or boy?? …

Great Britain, in spite of its’ name, is not a particularly “cuddly” places, regarding it’s relationship with its members. The ancient rivalry between Scotland and England has often served as a divide, much in the same way the USA views Canada. But for that fortnight in July, when the spell of Wimbledon sweeps over this island, we are united. Sure, we indulge in petty quibbles about “when he’s winning he’s BRITISH but when he’s losing, oooh, then he’s SCOTTISH!”, but that’s all part of the fun. Those little jibes that let us keep our national identities while still reveling in the shared bolstering of a 26 year old already held as a sporting treasure.

Until yesterday we had become accustomed to that perpetual let down come the semi finals. But all that has changed.

Yesterday, both my dad and I cried tears of pride in a man who has literally trained his entire life and who has now achieved his dream. To watch someone’s dream come true on live television, along with 17.5 MILLION other people was really quite a special experience and not something I’m ever likely to forget. That shared elation may only have been a tiny piece of the overwhelming ecstasy Andy Murray was feeling, but to be a rock in the waves of the young athlete’s joy was enough to give me a head rush – imagine the effect it had on his 6ft 3″ of tennis-star muscle!

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Another, lesser reason I am personally proud of him is the fact that he’s Scottish. As a Scot myself, whenever “we” win at something, it’s always a cause for national celebration. And, while I’m not exactly a patriot, I do feel a sense of pride when someone from up North beats someone, anyone, really. (… but yes, when we beat England…)

Prime Minister David Cameron went on record today as saying that he “can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Knighthood” in the New Years honours list for 2014.

the face of a new Knight of the Realm?? :D

the face of a new Knight of the Realm?? 😀

So, next Wimbledon, with our Pimm’s, ice and mint, strawberry’s and cream, white flannel shorts and button down polo shirts, we could be bounding onto center court in unified support of SIR ANDY MURRAY! Roll on the New Year and we’ll find out…

straw3

Now, where’s my tennis racket???… I feel the need to thwack furry yellow balls…

LINK TO ALL THINGS BRITISH AND TENNIS!!

 

SSDD

Are You Happy In Your Job? Neither’s America!

Are you happy at your job?

Think about it – are you really happy doing whatever you’re doing?

Phillip DeFranco’s Youtube video the other set me onto an interesting thing. A social experiment was conducted recently in America and it turns out the American dream ain’t all so accessible for 52% of Americans. That’s how many people were said to be unsatisfied in their job and that the “perks” of working in certain establishments, such as games rooms and massage parlours and free catered meals and casual Thursdays, beer Fridays, health care and dental and whatnot, are not enough to grant them overall satisfaction in their work. 18% said they were “actively disengaged”. Essentially these people are just slumped over their desks, buggering about, pressing a few keys then slipping off for a beer to take the edge of the boredom.

What makes me sad is that only 30% felt their job to be “actively engaging or inspiring“. In a population of millions, in a country apparently busting at the seams with opportunity and preaching happiness and fulfillment and all that overly positive Americanness, such a tiny number of people have actually found that.

What does that say about the productivity of such a vast country? If they can have the amount of influence that they do with only 30% of people actually doing any properly motivated work, can you imagine the madness that would ensue if the other 70% were engaged?? It would either become a world so overrun by sunshine and productivity that the actual sun would feel like an underachiever and find another solar system (assuming of course it isn’t an unmotivated working class American, of course, in which case it would probably just stop shining) or it would be complete carnage! War. Need I say any more? They’re already farting rainbows over there, who’s to say what could happen!

When_The_Sun_Is_Gone_by_artofkerem

Which made me think. This isn’t even the number of people who are not doing the job they want, that dream job that has everything they are looking for in a satisfying occupation – these are just the people who are doing a job, one to get by, get some money, get paid and go home. What of the people who got the dream job – then discovered it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

I’m under no illusions. In a society so uncertain of its future, life seems to be filled with “just getting by” moments, people doing what they can for money to support themselves and their families – but isn’t that such a crap way to live?? Argue that life is full of winners and losers, people who get what they want and people who don’t and that it all comes down to whoever has the balls to go out and get what they want gets it, but I think that’s a load of bull.

happy accordion player

happy accordion player

That’s like saying those 52% of unhappy people never tried to achieve their dream. Maybe they did. Maybe it just didn’t quite workout. Maybe they wanted to make it as a street accordion player, but unfortunately, the public were more into skater haired street buskers at the time. Gutted for them. Now they sell insurance in a call center.

Forget that – who is to say they’ve even decided what they want to do with their lives and are just trundling along at half speed til they can work it out. I’m 19 and I’m currrently trying to work out what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life. There are times when I think “well Gem, you’ve made a royal balls up of your life so far, what are you going to do about it??” Terrifyingly (though not altogether unexpectedly) the general response from that voice in my head is either silence or… “…fuck if I know, you control the legs in this situation, you work it out!” Yeah, coz the voice in my head is extraordinarily rude, by the way. Should probably have a word with it about that actually…

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

try again! never too late to rock the street XD

So now I’m wondering; what can the people represented in that awful stat do about it? Can they do anything? Go back to that accordion and hope the market’s changed? Get a hair cut and conform for the sake of a taste of success? How do you even measure success. I think it’s personal. If you are satisfied then surely that’s a job well done? You might not have millions in the bank, but you will be rich in spirit.

From the sounds of America, this whole appearance of total contentment in life is a facade, a nation wide pass time of pretence and self disillusionment. Maybe they should take a look at a happy busker, an old man and his accordion. A guy who took up the art again after years wasted in a desk job, having given up on the dream of his youth ; chances are there are holes in his shoes and a couple of missing buttons on that old thing, but I’ll bet there’s a smile on his face. Because he’s made it; he’s playing to his audience. Whether they listen or not is irrelevant – that little bugger with the cool hair has gone home… I hear he sells insurance now…

SSDD

Knowledge of the Problem Does Not Free the Oppressed

Homeless Hero

The old clique says “knowledge is power”. But there are times when knowledge and whatever liberation supposedly comes with it, are not enough to give freedom to your speech.

When someone is suffering it is the base instinct of any morally aware person to want to extend the helping hand of the more fortunate to them. Yet that is precisely the problem; want to.

The action to follow the desire does not always come. It is not always something achievable. There is often something stopping you aiding a person. It may be that you have the tools to improve their situation. Maybe you are the only one who can.

Then that wall comes rushing at you and suddenly you’re stopped; words crumble to dust and silence in your mouth, your tongue becomes nothing more than a pointless lump in an empty cave.

So, for whatever reason, your snaps shut and the right words die. Instead, the thoughts fire through your mind and fill it with electric little snaps, desperate flashes of all the things you wish you could say, but can’t and so must suffer alone.

Sometimes the barrier is created socially.

Maybe you are walking down the street, spot a homeless person and are about to give them a fiver when a companion makes a comment about how hobo’s are in such situations because of something they themselves are responsible for; either how they have no-one to blame but themselves or how their system is corrupt and they are actually faking poverty and being paid a bomb. Such capitalist tales are not uncommon, after all. Corporate fat cats praying on the good will of others by creating a twisted circle in which the genuinely needy miss out on their meagre hand-outs.

The hand in the pocket slips past the loose change and pulls out a luxury item – perhaps a phone – instead.

Guilt crossed with a determination to fit in, enforced by that companions rant will make that phone feel like it weighs a tonne; but your apologetic grimace (if you can even muster it) will not keep that poor person warm at night, not will it fill their empty belly.

And the worst part? That person, while sitting on the coldest, lowest wrung of society with exactly zero to their name, will probably look right back at you and understand. Probably even thank you on your way by, wish you a pleasant day. And you had better go and try to have one, because it can be sure as hell guaranteed that they won’t.

No matter how much you know you deserve their angry screams and hateful diatribe, no matter that the phone in your hand could probably feed them for six months, none of it will come. Because they will know why you stayed quiet.

Columnist for the Independent, Laurie Penny, stated in an article in last Sundays edition that she once gave “a homeless man half a Lucky Strike out of my own mouth”. However, placed in said situation, would she still have been able to execute this desperate level of charity, an act on the overwhelming urge to do something?

That wall of conformity has meshed with the collective responsibility to keep it that way and a cowardice to change that attitude has spawned.

Our only hope is that somewhere along the line we can collect enough common sense, or even the common decency that we share between us, and liberate the knowledge of what is the human thing to do, to act in the instincts of kindness that we all feel to some extent, from the restrictions that are sadly crushing the community of our society.