Monday, 4 August 2014

A year later

Don't get me wrong: I have a great life. I live in a safe area and have great family and friends who love me. I have a roof over my head, access to food and clean water and enough money to get by. I feel guilty talking about my problems when there are areas of the world that are at war right now, and tragedy is a daily occurrence. I am not writing this for sympathy, because I don't deserve it, or even want it. I'm writing this because, as I've said before, my blog is my outlet and it's therapeutic in a way to be able to organise my thoughts into paragraphs and then release it into the world and know it is no longer plaguing my mind. I'm a teenager and I know I will go through worse in my life, but this felt like a big deal at the time so I am writing about it..)

It was on this date last year that I pulled myself out of the pool of self pity I had been wallowing in (and the pyjamas I had been wearing for the past three days), and opened blogger to write a post.
Other than exceeding the acceptable number of days to go without getting dressed, that doesn't sound like anything 'ground-breaking', or worth remembering the date for. However, it was on this date that I decided to actually put some effort into my blog and try to make it work. At the time I was incredibly unhappy and I decided that suddenly more than ever, I needed something to occupy my time with other than watching sad films and staying in bed all day.

Flashback to four days earlier, I was in the most beautiful place I had ever been in my life. Mountains loomed in the background of the ocean, their dark silhouettes against a watercolour sunset. I imagined the worlds greatest artists struggling to do the sight justice. It felt like I had stepped into a painting where all the things I loved had been rolled into one beach front town. There was an endless array of unique, lively bars filled with tanned tourists as they sipped mojitos, and market stalls run by locals selling intricate looking jewellery and, sometimes strange, ornaments. The air was still warm even though the moon hung in the sky and children were still running along the beach, splashing the water and sending ripples across the reflection. It sounds like something from an exaggerating travel broacher, yet it was real and right in front of my eyes.

I could see how beautiful it was, and I knew I was incredibly fortunate to be there.. But I wasn't happy.

Explaining the ins and outs of what happened to the internet is something that seems very daunting and unlikely at this moment in time, but it's not really important anyway. Basically, I was incredibly sad. One thing I've noticed is that when you're sad in a beautiful place, it starts to seem less beautiful. The sun feels too bright, the music too loud and the people too happy. It was like my feelings were so strong they were starting to taint the world around me in a miserable shade of grey.

I didn't understand what was happening to me. It was as if my unhappiness was a disease and it was eating away at my whole body, changing me completely. Even when I went home I was in a paralysed state of misery and I couldn't shake the feeling. I wasn't Laura anymore, I was quieter and anxious and scared. I no longer made an effort to leave the house, and when I had to my mind was blank and I struggled to find the words to communicate with even my best friends. It was like I couldn't feel anything at all, and even laughing became a laborious task.

During a day when I was alone in my room, I was reading a post that Joni (who, by the way, I embarrassingly emailed when I very first started blogging, literally asking her to be friends.... wow) had written (on her old blog) about the #tblogger chats on twitter. I wanted to take part and so I created a twitter for my blog, to avoid any real life friends discovering it, and that night I joined in. I became fascinated with the fact that, behind the computer screen I was a miserable teenage girl, anxiously prodding my keyboard in response to these seemingly perfect bloggers, who probably had no idea how long I was taking trying to come up with the perfect reply; yet through the power of the internet I was able to create this 'persona' that was bubbly and happy. Joining in that chat was one of the best things I did that year.

At this time my escape was my blog. I could sort my thoughts into paragraphs and hit publish to be greeted with support from people who didn't even know me. If the blogging world got overwhelming I could click the 'x' in the corner. I could be somebody else, somebody who was confident and happy and completely different to the real me. If I had a bad day, I could come home and pretend it never happened and just write about a lipstick I liked. Blogging was so therapeutic and I became infatuated with everything surrounding it, especially the community.

Go back to August 4th 2013: I remember spending hours trying to take the 'right' photographs and fussing with the editing, fooling myself into thinking I knew what I was doing. Although that post is brief, it felt like if my life had a soundtrack then 'The Start of Something New' from High School Musical would be playing. There are no comments and I doubt that anybody even read it, but to me it was important and because of this is probably one of my favourite posts I've ever written (despite the terrible writing... if you read it don't go any earlier it is SO BAD).

I always thought that if things ever got better then I wouldn't need my blog anymore, but a year later I am happy and more Laura then I have ever been before, all thanks to everything this space of the internet has provided for me. Things are so good now, and it feels like I have been able to come out of my shell because of the confidence that blogging and the people I have met along the way have given me. The person I used to portray on twitter is now the real me, and all I needed was a confidence boost to make it happen.

Maybe somebody reading will be going through a similar thing, and in that case I offer some, possibly terrible (but hopefully not), advice:

Moving on is not easy. Saying goodbye to something that once brought you so much joy is not a case of 'getting over it' and it's not something you can be distracted from. Even a year on sometimes there are songs or photos that trigger a whole wave of emotions. Sometimes you'll be in the middle of a supermarket and you'll want to cry because you just spotted the sweets that you both used to like (lame, right?). There are days now when I am caught off guard when an old inside joke makes me laugh again or I remember making lists of sad movies to watch at 3 am with somebody who used to be close to me.

The quote 'don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened', never really made sense to me up until recently. 'Why wouldn't I cry if something is over?', I thought, 'How am I expected to be happy about letting go of it?'. It is only now that I realise that it takes a lot of strength and bravery to be able to say 'That part of my life is finished now, and I am choosing to be grateful for it rather than sad'. There is so much happiness to be found if you just look back on the past with happy memories rather than resenting the fact it will never come back.

Become your own best friend. Spend time discovering music that makes you feel alive, movies that change your life and books that make you feel as if every word was written for you. Build yourself back up into somebody better, somebody who you are proud to be and somebody who is ready to face the world, no matter how fragile you may feel. Test yourself, do something incredible and unexpected. Throw yourself into something new, rather than dwelling on the old. To me, the new was blogging and I am living proof that something as simple as pouring my heart out to strangers on the internet can make you happy.

Don't try to pretend it never happened. Embrace the past and all the embarrassing moments, the mistakes and the unfortunate events. You are a sculpture and life is an artist that is shaping you to become a breathtaking piece of masterpiece at the end. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is if none of this had happened, then I would never have created a twitter for my blog, joined in my first chat and discovered some of my 'bloggy friends' who have brought me so much happiness. If it wasn't for the thing that, at the time, felt like a mistake, I would probably have given up blogging by now. Now I find myself thinking 'wow, I'm so glad that happened because what I have now is so much better'. To be incredible annoying/cheesy and quote something I found on tumblr 'You can't have a rainbow without a bit of rain'.

It's been a whole year now, yet if I try hard enough it's as if I can still feel the sun on my face, and hear the sound of distant waves crashing on the beach along with loud music and voices from bars and restaurants. I can still smell expensive perfume intertwining with the sweet, sea air, and I can still remember how the intense unhappiness and discomfort felt in my chest. My emotions were tangled up in each other, at a time when I should have been on top of the world I was struggling to see any ray of happiness. If I try to remember then I can, but what I have learnt is that it is cruel to keep putting myself through that again and again just because I am able to. It is time to let go and look forward to whatever is next to come my way.

So there you go, a very rambley, nonsensical post from Laura... If you managed to make it this far then you probably deserve a medal.

If you want to read the post I wrote a year ago you can click here!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Books vs E-readers

I apologise for the state of my copy of the Chamber of Secrets and also for the terrible photography.. I will never learn.
Living in a world that depends on technology, although arguably capable of destroying our social skills, is actually pretty cool. I have written posts in the past that touch on the subject of technology and it's many uses (which you can read here and here) however I have recently been transfixed on one particular debate which I want to share my thoughts on. What is better, books or kindles? 

Like many people, the scent of a new book is incredibly nostalgic to me, bringing back memories of reading under my covers with a torch after bedtime as a child. Although that seems like such a cliché, it's something that I imagine I am not alone in. Books provide an escape from reality (which is something my blogging friend Lauryn wrote about in an amazing and relatable post here). We are able to live vicariously through the characters on a page, in a similar way that a parent does through their child. There is something strangely satisfying about tackling a thick novel page by page, or marking your place with some kind of tacky bookmark or (for the other lazy people out there) folding down the corner of the slightly off white paper.

When the kindle was introduced society seemed to be torn into four groups over it:
  • Those who thought it was a joke
  • Those who hated the idea
  • Those who supported the idea
  • And those who didn't really care.
I personally was part of the first group, I remember seeing the advert and thinking it looked like somebody had ripped a page out of a book and stuck it to a bit of plastic. However, after one came into my possession I realised they were actually a good idea.

I can understand some of the arguments against it. For example, one of the Kindle's main advertising features is the 'no glare' screen which sounds impressive at first, right? But guess what else has no glare? A book. However I can also understand that this makes it superior to the likes of iBooks which was intended for reading on the shiny surface of an iPad/Phone/Pod. 

Many people were offended at the thought of books becoming extinct and never being able to experience the little quirks that only paperbacks have to offer, which tainted the vision of the kindle and created an army of people immediately against it. I think that because of this, the positives were forgotten and it became this 'evil robot book coming to take over the world'.. (maybe that's an exaggeration).

First of all, it saves paper. We're constantly bombarded with statistics about how many trees are cut down a day and told that we need to make a change immediately, yet still as humans we are so wasteful. I know that I am a hypocrite in this situation, and that debate is probably too big for even another blog post, but it seems strange to be so against something that isn't contributing to deforestation, yet still provides us with books.

I also find it to be very practical. Last year I got on a plane for the first time in my life and discovered the baggage limit (which seemed to test my limits). I found myself in a situation where I was deciding between taking an extensive, unnecessary amount of haircare products or an equally unnecessary amount of books. With a Kindle this is no longer a problem. (That sounded like an incredibly cheesy advert and I apologise.. wow..).

Something that pretty much everybody seems to suffer from is fear of change. Simple things like a new layout on twitter can cause a sense of uncertainty and it's actually kind of stupid. I used to hate change, but now I am more welcoming to it and the good that it can bring if you only allow it to. We get so comfortable in our routines and surroundings that small things can make it seem like the world has been turned upside down. I think that this is the main reason people hate E-Readers so much. The mere thought of something changing is enough for somebody to completely write off the idea of anything new.

The human race has developed an insane amount to get to the place we are in now. The technology that we have access to today has been in the dreams and imaginations of budding inventors and engineers for years. When you hold your phone you are literally holding somebodies life work in the palm of your hands. So, the next time you turn your nose up at something that is 'too futuristic' remember that we have waited years for this kind of thing to exist and that you should embrace it! Imagine what somebody from 100 years in the past would think... the word 'witchcraft' comes to mind..

Although I am fully supportive of the kindle craze, I still have a place in my heart for books and will continue to buy them. Where do you stand on this debate? Are you completely against E-Readers or do you prefer them to books? I am open to all opinions!