Goodbye 2017!

Goodbye 2017!

I’d never expected 2017 to be an extraordinary year. Strange events have certainly happened, such as meeting someone who my 14-year-old self never thought I’d meet. I often found myself questioning whether my life is indeed just an X-rated anime and if so, whether I’m the headstrong protagonist or the submissive yet loyal sidekick. Throughout this year, I’ve invested in my friendships and felt myself reaping investments in return. I’ve felt so much sadness that I could feel it start to seep out of me. I’ve learned to relish my peaks and learn from my troughs. I’ve changed from someone who found peace in boxed up rooms to someone who silently craves havoc and unpredictability. So, here’s the spiel on 2017.

Despite a series of misadventures and poorly executed events, I found myself being very happy in 2017. As a particularly glum individual with impossibly high standards, this was probably what surprised me the most about this year. Being happy was usually something that I felt after a good grade or a pleasant interaction with someone. It wasn’t the baseline or norm that I lived on, and so it certainly wasn’t the expectation. However, in 2017 things started shifting in a good direction, such that I found myself looking forward to the Tuesdays and the Wednesdays, not just the inevitable doom of the human race and all it’s creations.

Interestingly, 2017 has also been the year where I’ve experienced the highest amount of rejections in my life. Prior to 2017, I’d taken all the calculated steps to ensure that any chance of failure was minimised. I applied to universities I secretly knew I’d get into and I only loved when the numbers added up. Maybe it was a desire to be brave and do something unprecedented in my life, or maybe it was simply poor judgement, but whatever it was, 2017 was the year of failure. I never do anything half arsed, so when I fail, I fail hard. Whilst Theresa May has been battling for her hard Brexit, I’ve been streamlining my way from one hard Rejection to another.

2017 being both the year of happiness and the year of failure seems like a glaring oxymoron.  To be honest with you, I don’t really care to fully understand it myself. Trying to understand why I feel this way despite what’s happened would be a deep spiral into a paradoxical chasm. Maybe my happiness can simply be equated to the joy I feel when I listen to Fireflies by Owl City or maybe it’s attributed to the followers of my blog who are somehow still reading it, despite the mindless gunk train you see before you.

2017 also marks 10 years from when I started Year 7; A timid and awkward girl decked out in plaid and navy. I no longer am timid, I no longer am awkward and I sure as hell no longer wear plaid. By becoming more comfortable with myself, I’ve been able to reach out and let myself be reached by the people that matter most to me. So, thank you for those 3:46am conversations full of anguish and acceptance, for the times you made me laugh until my chest felt like it was being squeezed into pulpy orange, and for the Haribo heart healing sessions. This is to all of you whom I’ve met, gotten to know, and reconnected with.

I loved 2017, I hope you loved it too. Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

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Double clicking the mouse

Double clicking the mouse

So it’s 2am, and I’m trawling through IEEEexplore and Google Scholar looking for relevant papers for a report due on Friday. Through a completely unexpected turn of events I stumbled onto this paper about intimacy in the World of Warcraft. I’m completely fascinated because whilst I never played WoW, I did play Runescape. One of the things that shocked me on that game was that I was often propositioned by other avatars as we waited for the mobs to respawn in the cow field. Mostly one would assume that these sorts of antics would just be from 12 year old kids who had somehow acquired unsupervised internet access. However I did wonder, if grown adults actually did that…like attempt to form actual relationships and date through online games. Then if we’re playing under the rule that anyone should be able to do whatever they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone, I’m struggling to see the reasons why not.

One of my favourite series is called The Guild, which details the adventures of a group of friends who game together in an MMORPG, (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game,) and decide to meet in real life. Two of the main characters Codex and Zaboo are part of an unrequited love story line, where Zaboo insists that they have undeniable keyboard chemistry. Their relationship seems to have developed through winkies and 2 bit blue roses through the many months spent on this game, but when they meet in real life, it soon fails.

As someone who used to frequent several online MMORPGs, I’ve witnessed these pixellated romances. I’ve also heard of some pretty wacky stuff such as people cheating on eachother on an MMORPG, with eachother. I don’t think anyone ever predicted that the modern day ”It is the east, and Juliet is the sun” would become “buying gf 2k. “ Maybe this is why we often hear the “Love is dead” trope, because soul searching has now become soul swiping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for applications like Tinder. I don’t see it as an invalid form of love questing at all. After all, (the majority,) of profiles on there are real people and I don’t see why it couldn’t work. Sadly, it’s only left me with an irrational fear of the Victoria line.

With the rise of anthropomorphic robot sex dolls, are humans approaching an era when flowers and chocolate are replaced with coitus with souless droids? And whilst I don’t know anything about love, I do know about robots. To some people, humanoid robots are nonsensical because a robot is first and foremostly an appliance. They are tools used to augment the quality of human life, and the human experience. After all, you wouldn’t give your toaster a face, why should a robot have one? Well, the obvious answer is the familiarity and warm tingles we get from human interaction. I don’t think I’ve ever received a more than mediocre hug from my laptop, even when it’s CPU is overheating.

When you think about the disadvantages of cyber dating, they are few and far between, if we’re talking about that famed intangible love that we are all programmed to crave. You can get into those wily 3:15am conversations with someone through the glint of your computer screen and satisfy that craving. You can even make some pretty decent trade deals for iron ore at the same time. Finally, there’s a pretty minimal risk of STDs, but please if you’re cybering, don’t accept trojans.

But who knows, technology is advancing extremely fast and people speculate that one day robots will be able to love. Then maybe one day the phrase “double clicking the mouse” will come into a new meaning.

Top 10 | Songs

Top 10 | Songs

I’d always been reluctant to list any of my top 10 anything, partly because I’ve tried really hard to avoid making this blog like Buzzfeed. However, I’ve decided that 2017 will be the year that I live by less rules and blog more frequently. So here are my current top ten favourite songs, all of which I can easily listen to for days on end without getting tired. Those who know me, won’t be at all surprised at this list.

  1. Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin
  2. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto
  3. Hello Seattle by Owl City
  4. Fireflies by Owl City
  5. We Don’t Talk Anymore by Charlie Puth
  6. Middledistancerunner by Chicane
  7. Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz
  8. Spanish Sahara by Foals
  9. The Last of Us by Gustavo Santaolalla
  10. September by Earth, Wind and Fire

Nostalgia

Nostalgia

Going from a near teetotal environment to witnessing someone piss into a bin outside the Physics department on my first night of university was an eye opening and educational experience. One of the key things I’ve learned is that people will use anything as a mixer when desperation strikes at the realisation that Tesco closes at 10. From milk to mouthwash, I’ve heard it all. It’s common knowledge that the student cocktail typically involves:

  1. Anything alcoholic
  2. Something a bit less alcoholic
  3. Repeat step 1 until you’ve reenacted the beginning of an episode of Casualty

So, after witnessing all this, I thought I was prepared for everything and anything. And it’s true, I can do almost anything. For example, I can build an operational amplifier from transistors, and I can program a robot with speech recognition capabilities. Then, I tried clubbing.

When I was in Primary school, we used to have termly school discos where we’d all don our freshly ironed tie dye shirts and get down to Bob the Builder and Cotton Eye Joe whilst inhaling a sugar stick. At the age of 21, I’ve made the natural progression of attending clubs instead of discos. In theory, clubs should just be discos but for adults, right? NO, it is NOT appropriate to extrapolate this using a linear relationship. Adult discos do not mean sweeter sugar sticks and more choruses of Cotton Eye Joe. Instead, they’ve been swapped out for overpriced jäegerbombs and now your mum no longer picks you up at 9pm anymore when it all gets a bit too waved. Then when you finally do leave, your whole body feels like you’ve been rolling around in a chip pan all evening. Used and greasy.

When you get older you realise that at these clubs people don’t think light up shoes are the bee’s knees, and DJs just give you the dirtiest glare when you try and request the Macarena or the Cha Cha slide. Then you realise that people aren’t playing Stuck in the Mud, and crawling between someone’s legs in order to ‘free them’ will only get you dragged out of the club by a burly bouncer.

Dance Offs are no longer an easy contest between the people who can or cannot do handstands. Nowadays in order to win a Dance Off you need to do a backflip, two Dougies and perform heart bypass surgery equipped with only a broken pint glass and a used lime. (Might be just an Imperial thing, or maybe just don’t challenge medics to dance offs.)

And so whilst I do appreciate some things about growing up, such as being able to drink coffee and talk to boys without getting written permission from my mum, sometimes I wish that I was still wearing light up shoes at discos in the school dining hall.

 

I shouldn’t be here

I shouldn’t be here

In one of my first ever classes in Year 7, at 11 years old, I watched as another kid got told that they “shouldn’t be here,” because they struggled with a worksheet. This was not told to them by a peer, or even a resident bully. This was said by our teacher.

It was dressed up as a beacon of opportunity, a chance for any child, regardless of their upbringing and social class to receive an excellent education if they deserve it. This merit is earned by our mastery of verbal and non-verbal. That’s the grand idea, the methodology that feeds into this is wholly good, fair and honourable. However, when the cost of the school uniform alone reaches £300 then you start to question the integrity of this claim. When the actual proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is clearly low, then this claim is even more disputable.

It is a place where you are measured purely by the smattering of A*s on your piece of paper. This notion motivated us to achieve, overachieve and quake at the thought of failure. Otherwise I would not get my stars, and then I might as well just be blunt rocks. Passion for the subjects I once adored became fear of my inadequacies. I was more scared to be wrong because being wrong would make me undeserving, then maybe other people would also say that I too, “shouldn’t be here”. Pastoral care became a mere afterthought, so much so that the environment became a notorious petri dish for mental illnesses and eating disorders. I entered those marble arches with excitement and enthusiasm, and left with scars worn on my sleeves.

We criticised our teachers, disrespected them. Blamed our own shortcomings on the education that was offered to us. We rescinded any blame placed onto ourselves as we deemed ourselves blameless, after all, we were grammar school girls. But to us, learning was only important if it amounted to UCAS points. Learning was just a side effect of the Oxbridge dream.

We were bright and hopeful children, the future of this country, but most of all, deeply ignorant and arrogant. So, we swallowed CGP books, reciting them to oath and gulped down factsheets fed to us on silver spoons. We became doctors, lawyers and dentists, and now we look back with contempt.

My purpose in life

My purpose in life

Most of us spend our entire lives searching for our purpose, to find the meaning in the blank pages of our storybooks. I often think about this. I think about the people I have met and how they have changed me, and how little events that might seem meaningless to others end up influencing me the most. Just like the protagonists in these stories, I’ve always believed that I would only discover my own purpose on an adventure.

So today I ventured from my cosy abode in Surrey to the far away land of Brighton. Unlike Surrey, Brighton is teeming with colour and vibrancy, it’s the perfect place for an adventure. So with a buzz of excitement and an eye for opportunity, I arrived in a positive state of mind. After napping on the beach for an hour I felt rejuvenated and ready for anything. At this point, my sister suggested that we go to the arcade. I hadn’t really had much experience with arcades and didn’t really see their appeal, but I’m the sort of person that will try anything once. So I sauntered into the arcade, where we prepared ourselves with a hefty collection of 2p,10p and 20p coins.

For a brief explanation (also see photo below), these machines work by the player pushing 2p coins through a slot, in an effort to push the 2p coins already inside the machine along so that they fall down into your winnings. There are a number of prizes within these machines that can also fall down if you place your 2p coins correctly. As a final year STEM student, I felt more than capable to succeed in this challenge. After all, surely it’s just physics and good timing? We scoped out the arcade in search of our target, and we soon came across the holy grail of arcade machines. The Pokémon toy machine.

coins

Then that was the first time I saw him: a little charmander, perched onto a bulging nest of 2p coins. Our target was set and we started pushing our 2p coins into the machine’s mouth. My sister and I soon initiated a tag team system where one of us would run to the nearest coin exchanger when our supply got low and exchange our 20ps and 10ps for 2ps, whilst the other would form a human shield around the area in the case of lurkers aiming to swoop in on our prize.

Eventually as time drifted, I soon started to realise that this mission was not as easy as I had anticipated. Voices started echoing in my head: “Feed the machine, tuppence for the charmander.” The various sounds around me and chimes of old timey arcade music start to merge into a soft jeering. I felt like Bilbo Baggins in the fight of her life against the nefarious Smaug. I started to recall all those coins that I’d found in my room that I just scooped into a jar collecting dust in a meek corner, and all those coins I’d spent on disappointing freddo chocolate bars. All those wasted opportunities.

At some point I’d started to lose my peripheral vision. The world outside of the arcade machine started to blur and contort into fog as the mechanical whirring of the inner meat of the machine spurred me to sway backwards and forwards. My body started to modulate to the machine’s natural frequency, I was now one with the machine. The charmander stared at me with black beady eyes, it’s glare hot on my face and piercing into my vision. I tried to glare black, in an effort to embue my inner power into the coins and force the charmander to succumb to me, but alas it was not very effective.

Eventually my time in the arcade started to end, and my cluster of coins was also near depletion. Although I had managed to catch a squirtle, the charamander still resisted. My mouth was bone dry and my forehead entrenched in sweat from my efforts. I decided to compromise, and accept the sacrifice that the squirtle had made. But how far can I actually go in this world as a water pokemon girl instead of a fire pokemon girl? There was a dull pang in my chest as I scooped up my remaining coins and took one last longing look at the charmander. Maybe I should just accept that I am the sort of girl who seeks out a charmander but ends up with a squirtle.

But I guess the most important thing that I learned today is that my purpose in life is neither as a gambler nor a Pokémon catcher.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

Londoners are in general, stubborn and resilient. We’ve also earned a reputation for being unfriendly, unapproachable and blunt. I’m pretty sure that one of the unwritten rules of the Tube is to never make eye contact, second only to standing on the right of the escalator. Yet, after the events of last night, I’ve witnessed so many open their homes to strangers and try to help the situation in any way that they can. Whether that’s donating blood or providing hot chicken soup, there’s a strong sense of solidarity.

I’ve never known any other home than London. I was born in Kingston upon Thames, went to University in South Kensington and now I work on Oxford Street. Throughout my life so far, albeit I’ve only had 21 years, I’ve lived and loved in this city. One of the things I love most is the teeming diversity of London. In some ways, I’m so glad that I went to University here where I’ve had the chance to mingle with people from all walks of life. (On the other hand, I’m quite crippled with debt now but that’s another blog post.)

The most obvious reaction to fear and events such as these is to blame. Blaming gives evil a face and holds it accountable. In times of panic and fear like this, we want to find answers to the questions. Even though we don’t know what the questions are, and the answers don’t add up. Three attacks in three months means that we are confused, angry and frustrated. We are frustrated as to why this keeps happening and why we are helpless as to how to stop it. It just doesn’t compute that all these atrocities can be happening and for no good reason.

Don’t let this frustration grow into resentment, instead, let it fuel our defiance. We all deal with grief in different ways. Some of us pray, some of us eat so much chocolate that we fall into sugar comas, some of us just cry until our heads spin. No matter how we deal with it, what matters is what we do next. One thing to me is clear, when somebody attacks our people, they are attacking what London represents. These individuals want to break down our tolerance, our respect for our neighbours and our way of life. They want us to turn on each-other and to divide us.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am scared of absolutely bloody everything.  My housemates once got me to hide inside a bathroom for the best part of an hour cause they claimed to be holding a spider outside the door. I’m jumpy, and I startle when people touch me. I’m terrified of dark corridors and being left alone outside. Yet, if I let the fear stop me from going out to London and doing what I usually do, then that would be me complying with what they want. I’m just so determined not to be scared this time.

I’m proud to be a Londoner. Londoners might be seen as blunt and unapproachable, but we sure know how to love and learn from each-other. Lacking a sense of belonging is something that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. Yet I know now that I belong here, and I refuse to live in fear and flinch at every step I take. If anything, I will live more boldly and with more conviction than I ever did previously. And of course, I will keep calm and carry on.