Thursday, 25 June 2015

I thought I would have more time...

I thought I would have more time than I have had... Hence why it is gone 1am and I am writing this now. I must admit, one of the reasons I am writing is because I have been on a shoot today with somebody who has just begun writing her own blog and it reminded me of why I started mine. She was concerned that writing about what interests her might appear self-absorbed or others might not feel inclined to read it. I promptly responded that I think it is a common feeling for people who publically publish their writing, particularly about subjects that mean something to them. The personal nature means that it is about you/me/I (the first person). But I also said that I wonder what is the point in our thoughts if we just keep them to ourselves... It is a shame that we should think discussing our interests is merely self-absorbed. I think it is good to share the things that we care about. Anyway, my point here is that this conversation reminded me of my own blog, or more-so the recent neglect of my blog, or perhaps the changing frequency that I write... It has been another couple of weeks, and I really assumed I would have more time than I have had over this past week.

We finished Uni (minus one last and final deadline) and my students have all either gone home from Uni or finished their final A Level exams. I have said goodbye to a lot of people I have worked closely with all year.. And I have been waiting for something to hit me, but it hasn't hit me yet because the time has not been there. I go to Barcelona next week and I suspect once I feel the passing of time more and I have some space to sit with my thoughts then I will be aware of this period of change. A lot will be changing but I don't dare write about it yet just in case...... Yes, impatience and uncertainty are key words in my mind right now. A few weeks away writing and working (and enjoying some time off drinking some cheap red wine in the sun) will be pure bliss.

A piece of work has just been sent to print in preparation for a supervision meeting tomorrow and I am finally ready to catch some sleep. I have had a pretty wonderful day, I learnt that I have pretty good balance when I am not wearing heels (thanks to yoga) and I learnt a little more about F8 or F5.6 something about space and flashes and lighting in photography... Sorry Chris, I have now forgotten... And I learnt that no matter where I am, I will rant about feminism if given the opportunity!! Here are a couple of pictures!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Stories we tell

In the spirit of writing at what I usually call my 'prime time/weekend/late night/it's been a sunny day and I've been at yoga' blog post, I am doing just that. I don't like doing those posts, as it couldn't misrepresent my life more if I tried! But what will be will be - these are the stories I tell and these are the times I find I can write. It makes sense; when I am working I cannot focus on much more. It has indeed been a beautiful day, it is indeed late night and the weekend, but I didn't actually make it to yoga this morning because I was captivated by the book I am reading and lost track of time so missed class. Again, misrepresentative as I haven't read a book for myself and seen it through to the end since last simmer... Anyway, book aside, I decided that this afternoon was as good a time as any to get my running shoes on and go for a run. There was a time when I was running very regularly and very much enjoying it. But over these past 6 months I have had to sacrifice a few things, my sanity, and my running to name a couple. However, it must feel like I have a little breathing space now the course has 'finished' otherwise I would not have driven over to the reservoir to run. (I say finished, but not really since we have a mountain of work still left...)

Just an aside... The book I have been reading and have of course been captivated by is Yalom's 'Staring at the Sun', which is a book about facing the dread of death. But ironically his writing is so much about life and the living that the fact that it is fundamentally about death is something I keep having to remind myself of when I end up posing certain questions to myself. I suppose there is a message in there somewhere...

I also came across a wonderful writer named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has done a very powerful and articulate TED talk on the 'dangers of the single story' which similarly captured my attention for the full 18 minutes she speaks. Here are a few of her words:

'It is impossible to engage fully with one place or one person without engaging with all of the stories of that place or that person... Stories can be used to empower and to humanise.'

She speaks about the stories that we tell and the stories that we live by, and subsequently the stories we hear about others who may not come from the same place as we do. She speaks about power and equality and that despite the one thing that brings us together, despite the fact that we are each human and have capacity to love and hurt and to feel all emotion inbetween, there are still things that make us different too. That is the fabric of life, but the moment we begin to assume we know another based on the one single story we know of them, is the moment we disconnect. I have not only been reminded of how this fits with my work and my jobs, but also for myself. My assumptions about different cultures and how I may or may not inadvertently create barriers between 'them' and 'me', and the paradox of trying not to build a barrier and creating one through the very act of trying not to. You can probably tell I could rant about this for days on end. My point is, and I think Chimamanda's point is, that stories, although they can set us apart, they can also build something, build a person, and they can connect us too.

One of my students said something last week that has stayed with me, and I think it fits quite well here; he suggested that we make a spectacle out of things or that we might judge them because it would be uncomfortable to accept them as the 'norm'. We see a transgender story hit the media and there is a big social media frenzy about what this means, but is it just that we are really uncomfortable with the concept that there are human beings out there who exist that are different to us? If we begin to accept our differences, I think we may be a little more accepting of ourselves too. Perhaps the two go hand in hand... But as the talk reminded me, it is important not to turn a blind eye to the stories that we don't want to hear, and it is important to make sure that we try to hear as many as we can . There is a marked difference between the love of power and the power of love, as I probably keep writing in one form or another, and it is important to keep reminding ourselves of what that means. It can make a real difference.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The day before the last day

It is June, approaching midnight, and I am at home with the curtains drawn and all I hear is howling rain outside my window, and I am certain there was a flash of lightening earlier. It is June... I know where I would rather be. On the balcony in Barcelona to be exact. But I am not there just yet, and I do have a few more things to get through before I can take some time for myself. But instead I am posting a blog - I wanted to post about last week but it turns out that what I'm going to write is really a flow of consciousness which may or may not make sense at the end. It usually works out, so here goes...

June is the month my students take their final exams and I finish my course, and I go back to Spain to take my 'writing break'. This break in which I plan to write my final assignment and begin my research (and to think about the grand purpose of my life) has now expanded it's purpose naturally. Now it has turned into an adventure of potential mountain retreats, mountain trecks, exploring more beaches, and visits from some wonderful human beings. But this is ahead - I must not while time away when what I have is right now is not something I want to wish away; the rain and sounds and the fact that tomorrow I will be waking up to the end of a quite spectacular era.

This past weekend has gone in a blur of pain killers and many attempts at 'feeling better'... yoga, walking, juices, wine, tea, coffee, sleep, friends, isolation... Not much has worked, so today I have chosen the alternative which was just to attempt to 'crack on'. I have completed an essay in record timing - a grand total of three days (really only today) have been spent on this assignment and now it is all printed and ready to be submitted tomorrow (the penultimate assignment of my course). I have to say, I felt a huge wave of emotion when it was finally printed and I realised that what acted as a buffer was no longer there - tomorrow is indeed the day. There is now nothing standing in my way between this evening and tomorrow morning apart from a few hours of sleep.

There was something quite freeing about writing this assignment once I got into the flow of it. I realised that I found the joy in it because my voice was in it. I hate having to tell my psychology students not to write 'I think...' at the end of their essays because 'the examiners don't want to know what you think'. I really hate having to say words of that nature because I question the integrity of our teaching and the integrity and philosophy of education as a whole. If we do not teach students to have a mind of their own, to use their own thoughts to create something wonderful and new, then what on earth are we teaching them at all? If we don't support the expression of that and create a space in which new perspectives and ideas are welcomed rather than shut out, I do truly wonder what the purpose of a classroom is at all... This was not intended to be a rant about the education system, but it does have a significant place in my life. I am a tutor and a mentor, both in full time and higher education. But I am also a student, at least for one more day! Part of the way I tutor is to encourage students to consider their own perspectives as I believe this is how they often learn best. Theory becomes meaningful then, and it becomes more than words on a piece of paper. Even studies of cognitive information processing and memory capacity and duration suggest that when a memory has a meaning attached, we are more likely to engage and recall that piece of information when needed. So I think it is a great shame - I think it is more than a great shame, that most students must go through an education process of never being told that their thoughts are worthy enough of being written on an examination paper because 'it's not what the examiners want to read'.

This does take me back to my own work; my enjoyment in writing it and the freedom I have found. It may well be rambling words, but at least I have a voice and it had a place on my sheet of paper that I can happily sign my name to. Soon I must get some rest if I have any hope of getting through tomorrow. Tomorrow has a lot of endings in store. It will begin in a civilised manner I suspect, and will gradually progress to the point in which the 'drinking game' will be well and truly raised. I am looking forward to the day with both excitement and sadness. It will be the end of something quite significant, but it will also be a celebration... It is not a secret by now, that I have a true love for Grey's Anatomy. Recently the concept that the 'carousel never stops turning' has been going round in my mind. I think it is true for this too; the carousel really never stops turning. I wish I could pause it just for a little while this evening. Just to take stock and pause time before tomorrow happens. I am not sure I am ready, but then nothing I do (really nothing I do) will stop the clock from turning. It must keep moving and we must move with it. Fighting against it only means we fall of and get left behind. So onwards I go - keeping on keeping on.