Kerplunk goes the Essay…

Had someone told me three months ago that I would be writing an 8000-word assignment on Aesthetic Formalism and I would have probably scoffed in your face. To be honest, tell me now and I might still. I’m halfway through my first rough plan for an assignment due in about 40 days and, believe me, it feels like I’m standing at base camp looking up at a summit that seems nearly impossible to climb to.

 Here’s the thing, if I write 200 words per day from now until January the assignment will be done. I know this, but every Tuesday I come home and feel like I have to re-think every word I’ve planned so far.

Why Tuesday?

That’s the day I meet with my lecturer and the two others on my course for the seminar that the assignment is related to.

Why do I want to change every single word?

Because every week something will come up that changes the research I’ve done so far. It’s like we gather to play a game of scholar’s Kerplunk. My assignment is one of the marbles and week by week we slide a stick of philosophical theory out from underneath the marble. Each time I think my marble is being held by the theories, someone pulls out the exact theory that sends it spiralling.

But that’s what the sessions are about. I’m not the only one with a marble. Each of us present arguments that flag issues in each other’s assignments, and then the assignments get better for it. If I sat through a lecture thinking that everything was good and my assignment didn’t need any altering, my lecturer wouldn’t be doing her job. It may be the most tedious thing in the world, but re-writing has become my secret weapon in understanding my own knowledge.

That being said, I’m super disorganised and will probably end up leaving the assignment until last minute. What can I say? I’m a chronic procrastinator.

 

Hannah, we have a problem.

 There is a gigantic meteorite heading towards me. I can’t move. Not one inch of my body will budge from it’s current position. My brain hasn’t registered the hurling mass that is, at present, hurtling through space and time towards my current location. In short, I’m screwed.

 No, I haven’t turned into a doomsday predictor in the past week. I have, however, noticed just how fast Christmas time is approaching, which to every student means one thing: deadlines. (Yes, I know it can also mean finally taking the laundry that has been ominously piling up over the past term back to Mum and Dad to do, but that’s besides the point…)

 Anyway, back to my point. Exams, Essays, and Deadlines. Three words that strike fear into any students heart. No matter how well prepped a student may be, those dreaded words can still magically make the palms clammy, the lip quiver, and result in the overwhelming desire to watch Netflix all day. This week I have definitely been feeling the pressure of deadlines creeping up on me.

 No, not creeping. Barreling.

 Here’s the problem. I’m a perfectionist. I take pride in my work, and no, that isn’t always a problem but sometimes the perfectionism can really take hold. I don’t like handing in work that I’m not 110% sure is my best. Unfortunately, I need to remember that every so often, the work I’m expected to submit is a work in progress not the beautiful final product. That being said, it’s hard to let go.

 Take today, for example. Today I felt like I was drowning in deadlines and word counts and nothing was making me feel any better about the situation facing me. I have a proposal due, which in it’s definition is not the final product, but I want to show the best work I possibly can as soon as I possibly can. Today that has felt like a massive hindrance in my work. So I gave up. I called the boyfriend (or chauffeur depending on how you look at it) and asked him to pick me up and proceeded to sulk quietly in the car for most of the journey back to our flat. But then I got home, and I had received a package:

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 Words cannot explain just how uplifting it was to receive my undergraduate graduation photo. Yes, my hair is a bit wonky and, like everyone, I have a dozen things I’d like to change about myself, but, I’ll tell you what, nothing grounds a person quite like actually seeing just how far they have come so far.

 Suddenly the meteorites don’t seem as big or as catastrophic. Actually, they seem like they might be a fun ride. Maybe I’ll hitch a lift…

(And to Jonathan, the best boyfriend/chauffeur/shoulder-to-cry-on a girl could ask for, I couldn’t have dealt with today without you – so, cheers pal! x)

The A-Z of a Masters Degree

A is for Anxiety – when you’re loosing the plot

B is for Booze, a little (or lot)

C is for Chocolate – to deal with the strife

D is for Dissertation – the bane of your life

E is for Exams – that make you despair

F is for Frustration – when life isn’t fair

G is for Goofing off – to help you unwind

H is for Hand-ins that get you in a bind

I is for Ice-cream that you’ll eat by the tub

J is for Just Eat: the source of your grub

K is for Kleenex to mop up fresher’s flu

L is for Lectures that you may sleep through

M is for Mug (you’ll build a collection)

N is for Noodles (a marvelous invention)

O is for the OED that’ll help you define

P is for Professors, their help is divine

Q is for Questions, I good thing (I swear)

R is for Revision, don’t you despair

S is for Shots that you down at the bar

T is for Tantrums (I’ve had ten so far…)

U is for Utensils – R.I.P missing spoons!

V is for Vexed – when you’re feeling marooned!

W is for Weeping – I’ve done my fair share

X is for Xeniathophobia – Look it up (that’s a dare!)

Y is for Yo-yo, when you feel low and then high

Z is for Zoom – how this year will go by

 

(Dis)Ability

Labels.
They’re on everything and, thanks to the digital age, everyone.

I’m not talking about those sticky things that you put on your shirt at mixers that say “Hi, My name is:” I’m talking about social labels that we metaphorically stick on each other to describe and classify them.

I am not a stranger of being labelled. Throughout my life I have been labelled as many things; dancer, student, runner, friend… epileptic. The last one in that list is the one that sticks. I remember in my first year of university being introduced a little something like this: “This is Hannah, she has epilepsy” (as a side note, I cannot explain how annoying this introduction was when the person being introduced to me was a cute guy!). The thing is, I am one of thousands of people who have been diagnosed with a medical condition and yet do not know whether we deserve a label slapped across our chest reading HI! I am disabled! because the truth of the matter is that often I don’t feel that I am.

Type disabled into google and the definition is: (of a person) having a physical or mental condition that limits their movements, senses, or activities. Technically, I could be classified as having a condition that fits the above definition, even if the limitation of my movement is only for those few minutes in which I am having a seizure.  Talk to me on a good day and I will say I’m able bodied; talk to me after I have spent the night awake, worrying that a seizure might strike any minute, and I’ll say I definitely have a disability. What I’m trying to explain is that not all disabilities are visible, sometimes even to the people who actually have them…

But here lies my problem with my particular sticker. I don’t agree that being disabled means that you are dis-abled. I guess that you could say I agree with the school of thought that re-brands people identifying as having a disability as being differently-abled. But even that, I feel, has negative connotations. The whole point is that I don’t want a sticker slapped on me that says Hi! I’m different to you! 

I want a sticker that says Hi! I’m unique. As are you! I was made the way I am because that what was planned for me. I may get upset about it sometimes but I can promise you that there is so much more to me than a silly label – let’s have a coffee and hash out the details!

…but that might be too long to fit on a sticker…

40 Ways to Procrastinate in a University Library

  1. Spend 10 minutes scouting for the best seat available
  2. Stand next to the person in the best seat available tutting and sighing loudly until they leave
  3. Spend five minutes laying out your study materials with painstaking precision
  4. Text your study buddy letting them know just how bored you are already
  5. Text your study buddy begging them to save you from the boredom of revision
  6. Play one level of that highly addictive game on your phone to kill time before your study buddy arrives
  7. Realise not only that you’ve spent 30 minutes on that highly addictive game, but that your study buddy has arrived and is already on step 3
  8. Obligatory gossip with study buddy
  9. Convince yourself you need a book on the opposite side of the library to be able to complete revision
  10. Get sidetracked while retrieving the book by a fellow group of procrastinating students
  11. Agree to go out the night before that big exam because that one friend who’s always out promises to buy you Jägerbombs all night
  12. Plan outfit for night out with study buddy
  13. Remember that you need fuel in the form of sugary food to complete a successful revision session
  14. Buy half the student shop’s supply of dairy milk
  15. Do an online quiz to settle whether you are the Thelma or Louise of your study duo once and for all
  16. Play a game of would you rather and decide that having having the arms of the gorilla is better than having the legs of a lion
  17. Curate a personal revision playlist with all the songs that will motivate you to finish the work (that you haven’t started)
  18. Have a competition with your study buddy to see who can catch more sweets in their mouth
  19. Convince yourself that to successfully revise you need that other book you  maybe saw upstairs that one time
  20. Complete 5 minutes of study and reward yourself with a ten minute break
  21. Think about how useful the books in the oversize section of the library would be to make a book igloo
  22. Devise plan with study buddy to one day create said book igloo
  23. Compete in the national study buddy swivel chair sprint with fellow group of procrastinating students
  24. Obligatory argument over the correct rules of the national study buddy swivel chair sprint
  25. Spend five minutes trying to get pen to start working
  26. Steal a pen from unsuspecting student who has left pen unattended*
  27. Have competition with study buddy to see who can steal more unattended pens than the other*
  28. Google how long it would take to walk to Prague (10 days if you’re wondering)
  29. Throw stolen pens at that one friend that has completed more work than you have
  30. Play a game of tag in the silent section
  31. Play a game of pacman with fellow group of procrastinating students
  32. Decide that life is short and book igloos deserve to be built
  33. Google the best method for building an igloo
  34. Slowly steal books from the oversize book section over the course of two hours
  35. Find quiet corner to construct book igloo
  36. Decide life is short but the prospect of being kicked out of the library outweighs the glory of being the person to construct epic book igloo
  37. Abandon half constructed book igloo in quiet corner
  38. Tut loudly and complain about people taking up space in the library not doing work as you swiftly gather up your clutter and exit
  39. Realise you’ve been studying for the wrong module for the last few hours
  40. Give up and decide to go to bed

*Please note I do not condone the stealing of pens from unsuspecting students, they may, in fact, be fairly attached to the pens they are using

The Ten Commandments of a Two Week Roadtrip.

This summer marked an important event in my family’s life. Remember the atrocious dress shopping experience I wrote about a few months ago? Well, lucky for us we managed to resolve the dress problem as the big day arrived! That’s right, after more than 6 years in our lives, my mum has married her partner to become Mrs Pinder!

When we were told that the wedding would be in France, my boyfriend and I decided that this was an excellent opportunity to take our first road trip together. Fourteen days, Two thousand miles, One tiny Kia, what could go wrong?! Well… these are my ten commandments to surviving a two week road trip through France…

  1. Thou shalt not over pack the car. 
    We pitched the road trip to my mother by pointing out that when at said destination, the need for transporting people to and from the nearest city may be prudent. It also meant that Jon and I could keep up with my brother, Felix, and his girlfriend, Madara, as they interrailed their way down to the wedding. In each city, we would check into the hotel, meet Felix and Madara, go out for dinner and drive them back to the hotel. If we had packed the car full to the brim, we would have had to strap Wix and Maddy to the roof… Which, given that he’s my little brother, was mildly tempting.
  2. Thou shalt not judge the hotel rooms.
    In case you didn’t know already, France is a big country, and driving from Bognor Regis to Carcassonne in three days is a tight stretch. We were lucky enough to have a budget to spend on hotels and decided to spend less money on hotels we spent less time in… So what if you could pee while you shower?
    …Nobody actually did that…
  3. Thou shalt learn at least some of the native language
    Our first night saw Jon crumble spectacularly at dinner time. We arrived in Saint Quentin four hours before Maddy and Felix’s train was due to arrive so decided to grab some dinner. Our first oversight was that it was Tuesday and EVERYTHING in Saint Quentin closes early on Tuesday. We didn’t have time to walk to the top of the town which, we found out the next day, was where all the restaurants were. We ended up at an Italian restaurant with waiters who spoke very little English. Now, I think my ropy french might had got us through the dinner, but Jon was another story. It may have been the moment in which a waiter asked him in fluent french where we would like to sit. It was like watching Bambi caught in the headlights as he sat at the closest table and almost cried when the waiter asked him if he’d like a menu. It wasn’t until I said ‘en anglais s’il vous plait’ that the waiter clocked on to Jon’s expression. I have included, for your pleasure, a picture of Jon on that fateful night: DSC03076.JPG
    From that day, Jon made an effort to know how to say ‘Parlez vous Anglais?’ (and took full advantage of McDonald’s self service machines)
  4. Thou shalt try to be cultural 
    A road trip with two art students and two religious people meant one vital thing: all the architecture and street art we could possibly see! Each city we stayed in would have at least one church and one art gallery to look around!
  5. Thou shalt not be afraid to be touristy (but not too touristy)
    After Felix and Maddy left, Jon and I stayed one night in Saumur and three nights in a hotel just outside of Paris. I cannot communicate just how excited I was to see Paris! A few years ago, my mum, Simon, Felix and I saw the gardens of Versailles but that’s the closest I have gotten to the French Capital. This time I was determined to get into the centre of Paris and See everything I could. We went up the Eiffel Tower, Round the Notre Dame, sat outside the Louvre and managed to do all of this by taking advantage of the Velib Bikes, which are like Paris’ answer to London’s Boris Bikes. There’s something about cycling down the toe path of the Seine, seeing the sights Paris has to offer that makes you really feel like a part of the city! I’m so glad that we didn’t spend €50 on a hop-on-hop-off bus!

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    Full Disclosure: The Velib Bikes require a deposit so make sure you have extra cash!
    …and yes we did go to Disneyland…

  6. Thou shalt always respect the driver
    Jonathan Gath is a saint. There, it’s in writing. Most days we travelled over 400km with Jon as the only driver (I’m a month away from being able to apply for a provisional- touch wood!), so if Jon wanted to sleep and not go out then that was allowed.
    I also learned that respecting the driver means comforting him when he is stung by a bee on a road just outside of Monflanquin, or giving the man in the car next to us at the Paris Autoroute tolls trying to cut in a very stern look, or letting him have a few minutes alone when his windscreen cracks just after we get through said tolls.
    The Paris Autoroute Tolls are the busiest and most stressful thing I have ever experienced in my life…
  7. Thou shalt not forget to pee before you leave
    It’s a long journey. Don’t forget to pee.
  8. Thou shalt not forget cash
    We learned this one when Jon’s card was swallowed by a toll machine somewhere between Carcassonne and Monflanquin. Luckily mum was close by (about five cars behind in the chaos we caused) and supplied us with enough cash to get to our next stop!
  9. Thou shalt rest when possible
    After three days of straight driving, it’s necessary to find some time to rest. The wedding venue had, perhaps, the best pool. Similarly, after the wedding we stayed with a family friend for two nights which meant two glorious days of late night swims.
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    Just don’t get tripped up by french sun loungers…And finally:
  10. Thou shalt not forget why you’re on said roadtrip
    Congratulations Mr and Mrs Pinder! Here’s to many happy years together!
    Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing, wedding and outdoor

I Was Never Going to Be a Performer.

I was never going to be a performer.

I cannot recall how many times in the last four years that I have said this sentence aloud. It’s been said even more in my own head. This sentence is used to justify, placate, and reconcile for the past (almost) five years of my life. Basically since I was diagnosed with epilepsy and I lost faith in the thing I love the most: performing.

Before you tell me, I know. I know that there are many famous people who have had epilepsy. To list a few, Vincent Van Gogh, Richard Burton, Theodore Roosevelt, Prince, Neil Young, Lil Wayne. All these people were or are in the public eye and all had or have Epilepsy. I mean, Katie Hopkins manages to deal with Epilepsy  and still be one of Britain’s most controversial public figures… Okay, fair, Theodore Roosevelt was the POTUS once, but Katie Hopkins seemed more surprising to me…

Here’s the thing, sometimes I wish I had fought harder to stick to what I loved. I wish I had found a way to continue pursuing a career in dance performance; but at 16 years old, faced with the magnitude of a complete life shift, I just don’t think I had it in me. I did go on to study dance at University (albeit more theory than practical), and am graduating in November with a 2:1, and yes I’ve officially been accepted to study a masters in dance research at the same university for the next year but that doesn’t mean that from time to time I don’t miss the rush of landing a triple pirouette or feeling the heat of the stage lights beating down, literally melting my stage makeup as I try to hold an arabesque for eight more counts.

I miss dancing more than anything. But here’s the thing: I gave it up. For that I have no-one to blame but myself.

This isn’t a boo-hoo feel sorry for me post. I’m not being self deprecating to get views or reads or to make myself feel like a victim. I’m saying it because if I hadn’t have decided not to perform, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And where I am today… is exciting.

As I mentioned before, for the next year of my life I will be studying Dance Research, a new masters course for the University of Chichester. A course that, I hope, will allow me to find ways to provide people who, due to injury or illness, find themselves unable to cope with the rigorous training undertaken when pursuing dance as a career, with a way of dancing that will suit them and their bodies and minds.

The past five years have been a massive learning curve in how a chronic illness can effect a person’s life so deeply, and how helpful the ‘act of doing’ can be; how, just by completing something that couldn’t be done yesterday, or a week, or a month, or a year ago, can shift a whole outlook. So, while I keep telling myself ‘I was never going to be a performer’, I’ll be darned if I don’t try my hardest to make that sentence into ‘I was never going to be a performer, but someone like me could be.’

…And to be honest, I love that sentence so much more.

 

You’re running how far?!

PHEW! It is HOT!

I feel like English people, no matter where in the country we’re from, have a compulsion to start every conversation from June to August by commenting on the heat, or lack there of, of the Great British Summertime.

What’s new with me? Apart from it being 30 degrees centigrade out and slightly too muggy for my liking, I’ve just signed up for a half marathon. That’s right: 13.1 miles. Oh, and I have only 13 weeks to train (two of which I will be on holiday in France for), so yeah, call me crazy.

Why am I doing this? A few of you will remember a while back, my stepbrother, my mother and I planned to do the Brighton half marathon to raise money for the Epilepsy Society. About a month before the marathon my meds changed and I was too ill to train so my dreams of aching legs and blisters got put on hold indefinitely.

Cue yesterday when my stepbrother asked if I’d like to do a half marathon you know just for fun‘. (Disclaimer: I don’t think the words half marathon and just for fun belong in the same sentence) yet in a crazy moment of what I can only call pure insanity I replied ‘Chichester have a half marathon in October’. Fifteen minutes later, my stepbrother, boyfriend and I were signed up to the Chi half as (drumroll please) Team Twinkletoes.

We’re running, as it turns out, not just for fun but for the charity that puts effort into organising the event every year, Children on the Edge. Children on the Edge work to provide protection, education and support in trauma recovery for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh and internally displaced children in in Kachin State, Burma. If you’re interested in their work head to http://www.childrenontheedge.org/ for more information.

So 13 weeks and counting! And to prove that we’re serious here’s pre and post run photos of me (with crazy hair) and the boyfriend after our first run today:

 

No run photos from the stepbrother as he isn’t on the same training programme as us… looks like I need to step up my game if I’m gonna beat the boyfriend!

 

Too Tired to Enjoy the Sunrise

The sun is rising spectacularly outside my window. There’s orange stains creeping across the sky, pushing the deep blue of the night further to the west. And I can’t enjoy it because I’m flipping exhausted. Trust me, it’s all I can do not to use a bad word to reiterate how rubbish I’m feeling.

Before I get into why, I have two apologies to make before I begin. The first is that the spelling in this post may be abominable as I’m functioning on zero sleep and it’s now 4am and I’ve given up hope for sleep to come tonight/this morning. The second is that I haven’t posted in a while, things have been busy and it’s stressful working out the next steps to take!

 I really just want to talk about epilepsy right now. Not for sympathy or attention, but to educate. It’s so important to me, and I’m sure to many others, that people around me understand the condition that I have.

 Tonight I cannot sleep. I haven’t slept for nearly 24 hours. I’m exhausted and I really want to, but it’s not a case of closing my eyes and drifting off. I’m going to try to explain it in a way that most of you will understand but obviously it’s not exactly the same. Do you know that feeling when you fall asleep and you suddenly jolt awake? The one that everyone says is related to our evolution and it was to stop us falling out of trees as primates? Well imagine having that multiple times each night, except instead of falling, the feeling is one of panic that you’re going to loose control of your body and black out at any second. Then when you wake up you’ll be back to square one and not seizure free for 8 months like you were five minutes ago. Worse still, you’ll be completely alone when it happens as you won’t have time to call for help.

 That’s what I have right now.

 I want to be clear this isn’t just down to the Epilepsy, it’s also down to the medication I take to control seizures. The scary side effects listed on the side of the pack? Insomnia effects about 10% of people taking Levetiracetam (Pronounced: Lever-teer-a-see-tam, just in case you were wondering). Those side effects also include: tearfulness and anxiety, both of which I experience often, as in… right now.

 In case you were wondering, there is no moral to this ramble. Except that right now I really really don’t want to have epilepsy. Oh, to be normal.

An Open Letter To My Generation

To my Generation,

Our generation is the generation that people complain about. We are the smart phone addicts, the tablet fiends, the Instagram stalking, Facebook friending, Twitter following brats. For this, we get a lot of stick. We get told we live life in tunnel vision, that we are disengaged with the world around us, that we form relationships through a computer screen, that our minds are being pumped full of useless information about piano playing cats and reality TV.

For a long time I defended our generation. I would vehemently deny accusations of binge watching and brainwashing. I was up in arms when anyone mentioned that we are a generation of watchers. That we judge the world through a screen and we don’t act until it is too late. Yet I find my self agreeing that, at times, our generation is unkind. We look resignedly up from our phone screens to criticise another celebrity’s child, a singer’s new album… a friend’s religion

Let me get one thing clear. My religion is none of your business. Who or what I choose to put my faith in is between me and that higher power. Yet I am scorned, sometimes by those I consider closest, for believing in something bigger than me; I am written off as just another bible basher trying to mercilessly shove religious nonsense down your throat; I am told not to be so illogical, ‘don’t I know that science proves my faith wrong’?!

That is not what I stand for.

I am not here to force my beliefs on you, but I have something to say and I need to speak out. My religion, like so many others, is about forgiveness, kindness, and strength. Those who have a belief system, whatever it is, are not all self-righteous or pompous. The actions of the few that do terrible things do not represent the other 84% of the world’s population that do have a faith. This statement does not apply just to Christianity. It applies to all faiths. Yes, including those who believe in Islam. Let me reiterate: The actions of a few do not represent the beliefs of the majority. 

We have an obligation- to ourselves and to each other. I am not writing this to convert you to believe in something that you do not wish to. I don’t believe that the God that I put my faith in would wish to force anyone to believe if they did not want to. I don’t believe in God the oppressor, but in God the benevolent. And, by the way, my words are conveying only my own beliefs- many other Christians may feel very differently than I do about many things.

But I have to speak up, to the person who laughed at me and anyone else that feels the same way as them. Yes, I do pray to a higher power. Yes, I do attend church, a place in which I can meet new, like-minded people who will enrich my life in multiple ways. Yes, I do believe that my faith plays an enormous role in my life. But I must also stress this: My religion does not make me weak or boring, it does not mean I am deluded, and it most certainly does not mean that I am narrow-minded. My religion makes me who I am, and if you have been my friend for this long then maybe you shouldn’t have such a problem with that.

With sincere apologies for the rant,
Hannah Bounford

P.S: Is it ironic that I felt the only way I could voice this was through my own social media?