Little Things

As my life progresses I become more and more aware of the importance of appreciating the little things in life. Cliché as it might be, it improves my mood and helps me feel calm. Being someone who enjoys a bit of macro photography, I have a tendency to notice things that others sometimes miss, but lately I haven’t been finding the time to get out and about in the fresh air (blame essays…).

This week has been one of ups and downs. There have been some incredibly-exciting-squee-yay moments (like getting my first blog published on Huff Post) and some incredibly-not-so-great-meh-blergh-cry moments (like the other night). It’s been a weird one because for the past few weeks I’ve been a desk hermit; my life has revolved around waking up, essaying and sleeping. Then this week I’ve suddenly had some free time, no structure and a very long to-do list. I expected to be incredibly happy, very excited and seeing all the friends I hadn’t seen in far too long once essays were over but the reality has been different – having free time has given me chance to stop and think (never a good thing!), and I’ve felt really lost without having essays to focus on (not really complaining – I don’t particularly want any more right now but you know what I mean).

Today, after a week of a failed sleep routine, too much TV, weird food combinations and a bit too much sitting wondering what to do, I decided to sort it. Being like this doesn’t do anything but make me feel rubbish, I miss the best bits of the day, and all in all, it’s a bad plan.

After waking up too late (again), completing my morning run, writing a shopping list and doing all those other fun things, IDSC_7330edit decided to grab my camera and go on a walk. I don’t do this often enough. It feels self-indulgent and there are always others things I could (and arguably should) be doing.

I found my sunglasses (wahay, summer!), shoved on some dungarees and made it out of the door. I walked up through some fields, found some buttercups and started snapping away. It occurred to me that I wasn’t sneezing or wheezing and my legs hadn’t swelled up which was something to be majorly grateful about (modern medicine is wonderful). It was so amazing to have a gentle breeze, hear some birds, feel the grass moving in the wind and welcome a sense of peace.

A man walked past with four dogs – two spaniels and two black labs. We spent about half an hour chatting about photography and dogs. I stroked his dogs and they were so lovely, soft and affectionate. There was no agenda, no rush to be anywhere and I will probably never see this man again, but it was lovely to stop and chat for a bit.

We parted and went our separate ways, but it got me thinking; these are the things which make me happy and content. Being with people, the sunlight, dogs, my camera, the smell of a spring field. They fill me with a sense of peace and the knowledge that whatever happens in my life, these little things which will always remain. They will always welcome me back.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in my life in the next week, never mind the next few years and beyond. Hopefully I’ll graduate, I might be able to afford a house (probably not, but we can dream) and get my own dog. There’s a chance I’ll get a job (please be kind to me job market). I might meet someone who I want to spend my life with, or I might not. I’ll probably make some new friends and drift from others. Mum will probably pass away, hopefully nobody else will. The kids I’ve babysat will start taking their GCSEs and A-Levels and I’ll wonder how I got so old. There will be happy times and sad times. Times of distress, anger, joyfulness and excitement; lazy days and busy days; car trips and cycle rides. There are so many things to look forward to as well as the unavoidable difficult times.

I need to remember that though bad happens; there is also a lot of good. That even if I’ve neglected them for months on end, the fields will always welcome me back. Most importantly, if my life gets busy to the point that I don’t have time to stop and smell the seasons, it’s time to stop and revaluate things, because that is not a happy life and it’s not a life I want to live.

Just Be.

feet One of my jobs involves looking after two lovely young boys. They’re Star Wars, mad, fantastic at Lego and have an incredible amount of energy. They’re loving, have huge imaginations and do impressive impressions of minions.

Every single day, they teach me something new whether that be facts about planets and dinosaurs, intricate Ninjago plotlines or important life skills such as how to have patience!

On Tuesday, I was sat in the garden with them. We’d been in the park all morning and had then come home to have a picnic outside. We were sat out on the grass, in the sun, eating lunch, as you do – and I began to feel stressed. Physically stressed. There was absolutely no reason to feel this way. Yes, one of the boys often takes twice as long to eat as most snails probably do, but that in itself is not a stressful situation (unless you need to get somewhere quickly and you’re waiting for him to finish).

It occurred to be that there is very rarely a moment in my life where I stop. For most of my life, I constantly have to be somewhere, do something and it usually has to happen now (if not before). Some of this is when I have a lecture to go to and I’ve overslept, but often it’s a need I impose on myself because I feel that I can always do more and try harder. And that is probably why I felt stressed. It’s almost my bodies’ natural reaction that if I’m not doing anything for 5 minutes or longer then I’m wasting time and I must getbusyquickly or everythingwillfallapartargh!

I don’t think this is an ideal way to live. Yes, I like being busy and yes, I like getting involved with lots of different things. But there is something about stopping, looking at the world around you and noticing things. Noticing how the sun feels on your skin, that there are three bees in that flowerbed, that the air is beginning to smell like spring. Just appreciating where you are in that moment and feeling content.

Some might call it mindfulness, others might refer to it as meditation. Some do it through yoga or pilates, others will go for a bike ride. But I feel like it’s important to stop every once in a while, take in your surroundings, and just be.

Letters don’t define your life.

As most people who have Twitter will know, yesterday was A-Level results day. The day when 18 years olds anxiously refresh UCAS and shake their way into school to collect brown envelopes containing their fate. Have they got the letters needed to get them to their choice of university? Or are they destined to a year of ‘gap-yah-ing’ it up and working out what to do with their lives?

Either way, those 3 (or more) letters do not define you as a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’ – something which is hard to trust or believe, especially at the age of 18 when you’re the only one of your friends to have dropped a grade.

I’m 20 now, it’s two years since I got my results, but I can still remember it clearly. I received grades which anybody would be pleased to open. They got me to the university that I wanted to attend and would not hold me back from anything I wanted to do. But I wasn’t happy. Why? They weren’t a perfect score. I went to a school where most people were aiming for an A or A* in most subjects. The stress of repeated testing and constant pressure had really taken it’s toll on me. I always thought of myself as ‘academic’ (however you define that) but on the receipt of those results I was lost.

In the last couple of years, I have taken steps to define myself by something other than my grades. Volunteering in general, but particularly Team v (a volunteering program training the next generation of social leaders) is something which has really helped me with this. It was the first time in my memory that I was learning by doing, not by textbook, and more importantly – learning because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. If I made a mistake it was fine, that was simply part of the learning process. At interview they didn’t want to know my grades, they just wanted passion and potential. I couldn’t tell you the grades of a single one of my Team v friends but I could rattle off grades of my school friends at the drop of a hat.

I have made huge steps in learning that there is life outside grades and that the person you are, and more importantly your own personal happiness, are much more valuable then any letter defining your ability to recite reactions will ever be.

It’s a long road and it’s a hard thing to accept when we are brought up in a society where newspapers tell us that ‘exams are getting easier’ and ‘unemployment is rising’. Admittedly – last night I felt like that 18 year old “failure” again. But it’s so important to remember – your grades are not you. Do not let letters define your life.

Check out this video for more inspiration.

IMG_1039.JPG