2018 – what I’ve loved, learned, done and become

I say it every year, and today is going to be no different – this year has been easily one of the best of my life.

2018 has been packed full of adventures, achievements and amazing memories. I always feel really sentimental at the end of the year; I’m lucky to lead an incredibly privileged and exciting life and I feel so grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had.

What I’ve loved in 2018

I feel like this year was my “year of realising things”, in the words of Kylie. Particularly with regards to my taste in music, I’ve found the artists and genres I love, whereas in previous years some of what I “liked” stemmed from what was cool to like. One thing I have loved is this year I finally gave in to a free trial of Spotify Premium, and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I became dependent on it! I’ve discovered Jorja Smith and Rex Orange County (both of whom I now ADORE) through using Spotify premium (honestly I don’t know how I’ve not discovered them up til now) and my love for The Wombats has resulted in me buying tickets to their tour in January, waheyyy.

I’ve fallen in love again with reading. Not that I ever fell out of love with it per se, but this year I’m head-over-heels for it. I’ve been reading a lot of classic literature this year, partly in preparation for uni next year but also just for fun, and I’ve found some of my fav books from doing so. I’m writing this post on 29th December so we’ve just celebrated Christmas – I was given 3 books as gifts, and then with some of the money I was given I’ve ordered 12 more from World of Books. 12. In hindsight maybe that’s a little bit ridiculous but I’m also SO excited to read them all. Another thing I’ve loved this year is buying books second-hand (I wrote a post about why you should buy pre-loved books which you can read by clicking here); there’s something thrilling in walking into a charity shop not knowing what you’re going to find, then coming out with 3 or 4 books you’ve been looking for for a while.

I’ve loved not having exams this year. I had mocks in July which I found slightly stressful (more due to their timing than for the actual exams, as I had various open days and holidays and not a lot of time to revise). Next year a lot of my focus is going to be on doing well in my A Levels, but this year, it’s been such a relief to not have to be revising intensely. I feel like I really needed a less-pressured year than GCSE year.

On a lighter note – TV! I’ve loved The Apprentice and The Great British Bake Off and I’ve watched some amazing films this year too; Paddington 2 was great and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again was incredible. Some of these films were watched with my friends – we had a cancelled alpaca trek so decided to go to the York cinema, then the film we wanted to watch was cancelled so we ended up on The Spy Who Dumped Me, which turned out to be fab. Mamma Mia 2 was also iconic; picture two rows of 17 year olds all bopping along and singing all the lyrics…amazing.

The long, frickin’ hot summer we had. I. N. C. R. E. D. I. B. L. E. It was 37°c whilst I was in Berlin – not good news, being a ginger. Saying that though, I love the heat and sun so I was flourishing in summer.

What I’ve learned in 2018

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself extremely blest – blest beyond what language can express.” – Jane Eyre

This year I’ve concentrated on self-growth a lot. I’m seeing life as one big lesson, an experience which you can learn from and ultimately which will make you a better, more developed (and maybe more wise?!) person. I read somewhere that you should “fill your life with love” and I’ve decided, that’s going to be my motto for 2019. What else should you live for? Life is so short so we all really need to live for our loves. Mindset = everything. Let’s stay positive.

I’ve learned that worrying gets you nowhere helpful. In fact, it makes you suffer twice, in the words of Newt Scamander. I need to live life fully, embrace it and stop worrying because… I can’t think of any other (non-cringey) way to put this, I’m so sorry…YOLO. You only live once, so what’s the point in wasting time worrying?

You can be unapologetically yourself and you should be comfortable with that. It’s hard sometimes, but your friends and family should know the real you and not some version or facade that you feel you have to project. Be y o u, and be confident being you.

There’s a silver living to every black cloud. If something bad or unwanted happens, it’s to make room for a desired, positive thing.

Finally, I’ve learned that whenever I fall completely head over heels for a musician or band, they’ll always, always be on tour, meaning that I can’t get tickets to see them. It’s a nightmare guys, honestly.

What I’ve done in 2018

I’ve done a lot – I’m 80% sure on the night before I publish this post I’ll be frantically adding all the experiences I’ve forgotten to include.

Academics first. I sent off my UCAS Application to 5 universities. I received an interview offer from the University of Cambridge, and got offers from the other 4 unis too (buzzing!!!). I went on a road trip around Warwickshire and Herefordshire. I visited Shakespeare’s house. I saw a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company (The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich). I visited Amsterdam again. I also had a fab time in Den Haag, exploring a city that was completely new to me. I went to Spain. I made it onto Spanish TV (it’s only a glimpse but hey, it counts!). I explored Berlin, another city I’ve never visited before and, like with Den Haag, one I completely fell in love with. I was nominated for the UK Blog Awards *screeeeeams*. I’ve read some amazing books, and I’ve watched some incredible films. I’ve had my heart broken a lil bit, but I’ve also had some of the best times with my friends and family.

What I’ve become in 2018

I like to think that I’ve always been quite a calm, laidback kind of person but this year I’ve become more chilled. I’m trying not to base my moods on other people’s actions – for example, getting annoyed when people leave me on read lol – which used to really affect my mood. I’ve become more content with independence. I think I’ve become more time efficient?! I know now that you don’t have to be revising for every waking minute of the day, and that the key to maximising my time is getting rid of distractions and really focusing for shorter periods of time.

I think I’ve become stronger in terms of my fears. They have much much less control over me than they used to, and I’m so inexpressibly proud of myself for that.

My goals for 2019

  • Change the way I procrastinate – you might look at this and think “whatttt??? She’s encouraging procrastination?!” And yeah, I am in a way. It’d be unrealistic of me to say I want to stop procrastinating because we all know that that is literally never going to happen. Instead, I want to change what I do when I procrastinate. Normally, I’d just flick over social media for hours. In 2019, I want to do something productive but fun and relaxing, such as painting or writing.
  • Run more often – this isn’t going to be a hard resolution to complete, because I only run about once in every 6 months lol. I want to become fitter and I have no excuse not to run – and I bought some Grace Fit resistance bands so even if I don’t want to run, I’ll have something to do at home!
  • Keep up with my bullet journal

Thank you to my family for everything we’ve done this year, all the places we’ve visited and all the fun times. Thank you to E, B, M, G and D for being some of the best friends. I’m excited for our holiday next year (lol if we ever get one booked!!! C’mon guys!) Thanks to S for putting up with my existential dilemmas and constantly giving me life advice. Thank you M for always cheering me up, for providing mathematical memes I don’t have a chance of understanding and for always insulting my choice of subject. Thanks B for a great year and please, let’s do what we said. To A, thanks for being an excellent form buddy. Thank you to Z, A and N as well, for being amazing friends and people. You all constantly crack me up.

None of my friends or family know about my blog but sooner or later they’ll find it. And when they do, I’d like them to realise how much of an impact they’ve all had on my life. I love them and I’m so grateful.

Happy New Year!

Book Gift Guide

If you’re starting to panic about Christmas presents – or, more accurately, lack of – don’t worry! I’ve compiled a few of my personal recommendations for some of the people in your life…

For the amateur detective:

A classic, but definitely worth the read! Every page brings a new turn to the story and the ending is still unexpected. This is the sort of book that you could easily tear through if you had a few (blissful) hours to yourself. And, maybe this is superficial but I still think it’s important 😉, you can get copies with beautiful covers!

For the feminist/dystopian fan:

If you (or someone you know) enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll love this. The world has been flipped upside down; women discover they have the ultimate power and are able to hurt, even kill, men with a flick of the fingers. A fast-paced, gripping novel, this is sure to go down well as a Christmas present.

For the “I-don’t-read-fiction” friend:

I’m going to be studying English literature and linguistics at uni hopefully, so this was a really interesting read for me. Even if you have no knowledge of linguistics or no plans to study it in future, you’ll enjoy this. Linguistics probably isn’t the first choice of non-fiction for many readers but as language is crucial to everyday life, the topic is intriguing and I guarantee readers will be hooked.

For the young adult:

This is probably in the top 10 books I’ve read in 2018. Being set in a high school makes it all the more appealing; McManus so accurately depicts the different cliques in high schools. It genuinely feels like you could be living in the story. I love how the narration is from different viewpoints as well – you truly get to know the characters (and yet, you also don’t know who to believe!)

For the traveller:

“Us” follows the holiday of a scientist, an artist and their son, an attempt to save their failing family. If you love travel and art, you’ll enjoy this. Several famous galleries and landmarks feature, along with the adventures of each character – for a lighthearted read for anyone, I’d recommend.

For the teenage comedian:

An oldie but a goldie. Need I say more? Everyone loves Adrian Mole and his teenage struggles – a fabuloso Christmas gift, if you ask me 😉

Thanks to my friend for the inspo to write this post 😉 if you buy any of the books I’ve recommended (for yourself or for someone else) let me know what you think!

state of mind

– photos from pinterest –

I’ve been musing a lot lately. Partly as a form of procrastination, but partly because I feel like I’m on the brink of a new start and I’m just waiting for it to happen.

These last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on trying to maintain a positive attitude at all times. Not just for my own benefit but for everyone who surrounds me, because we all need a little more happiness in our lives. Instead of sending typical snapchat streaks (yesss, I still have them, I don’t know if they’re still cool or not?!) of a black screen and ‘streaks’ written across, I’ve been sending my pals fun messages in the mornings. Motivational even, as some of them have said 😉 I’m feeling really motivated for life in general at the moment, and I really want to share that with other people. I find, when I’m feeling down, even a simple reminder that I’m loved, or that I can do something, helps me a lot so I’m trying to reciprocate that with others.

In time for the new year I’m trying to instil some habits on my life which I think the moodboard at the top of this post quite accurately summarises. I’m trying to set up a sense of calm before the chaos of next year by being present at all times, and really focusing on the here and now. I want to make sure I have a lot of fun in between revising for the dreaded e*ams, so next year I’m trying bullet journalling. As well as being a hobby, I’m hoping having a journal will motivate me and organise me (a win-win situation for everyone hehe).

I just feel like I’m in limbo at the moment – I’m working towards a goal that at the moment I’m 8 months away from knowing if I’ve achieved or not. Whilst I am trying to focus on the present enjoy every single moment of sixth form since it’s my last year of formal education, it’s hard, despite me being the most content at school I think I’ve ever been. In summer I have so many things to look forward to – seemingly endless time, travels with pals (hopefully!), days out to various cities. I want to learn about natural history and visit lots of museums and art galleries and stare into space looking at constellations but at the moment I just don’t have time. And I desperately want time. 17 isn’t going to last for ever and I want to feel like I truly made the most of it. Because then it’s 18, and that’s when the tough adult shiz starts. Everything seems to be in preparation for university – I keep saying things to myself like ‘oh, when I’m at uni I’ll join the gym’ (you guys need to hold me to that!!). It just feels odd to be working towards something so far in the distance but which is in reality not that long away.

This definitely has not been one of my most eloquent posts but I just wanted to put down my thoughts. I seem to be stuck in-between two phases of my life, not that that’s necessarily a bad place to be stuck: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

September + October book club

Since going back to school in September, reading (unfortunately) has taken a step back – as much as I love it I just find it hard sometimes to sit down and read because I’m always thinking of school! Over the course of the next few months, my book club posts are going to become much more sporadic: instead of posting a bimonthly round-up of everything I’ve read, I’ll probably wait until I have 5 or 6 books to talk about which, judging by how little I’ve read recently, will be around every 3 to 4 months.

I was talking to my English Language teacher about dystopian fiction and how much I love it and she recommended me a book called Station Eleven which I hadn’t heard of. I told her I’d look into it because her summary of it sounded really interesting. I forgot to look actually, but I’m glad about that because in my next lesson with her she’d bought it for me! *cue heart melting* I really really enjoyed reading Station Eleven; there are several different viewpoints and settings which the narrative flicks between, and you’re left trying to figure out how all of the characters interconnect which I love! I won’t give away many spoilers, but around the time that I started reading it a plane was put into quarantine, and I was genuinely so immersed in the story that I thought it had started to come to life (a scary thought, huh).

Talking of scary, I also read We Need to Talk About Kevin. I never usually say this about books, but I hated it. I really and truly hated it. I didn’t connect to any of the characters – not even cute lil Cecelia – and I disliked the whole plot line; you know from the outset that something awful is going to happen, but you have to read alllll the way to the end to find out what it is. Parts made me feel physically sick, such as when Kevin is in the bathroom with the door deliberately left open and his mother can see everything – I won’t go into much more detail, reader, but if you fancy a disturbing read, I recommend. Personally though, I won’t be returning in a hurry 😅

After my draining experience with We Need to Talk About Kevin I decided to relieve my brain a little, so I started Bridget Jones’s Diary. Again, this is unusual, but I preferred the film to the book! Maybe it was the winning combo of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth…who knows? 😉

Finally, I’ve read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, because I again just wanted something lighthearted. I hadn’t actually read the cover before I started but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – I’d bought it spontaneously after seeing it for £1 in a charity shop, I hadn’t been specifically looking to buy and read it. That said, I’ve read one of Nelson’s other books and enjoyed that, so I don’t know why I had low expectations – overall though, it was a cute story (if a little weird in parts haha, I’m looking at you Lennie + Toby!)

Currently I’m reading Jane Eyre which I love: I remember, when I was 7 or 8, my mum read it aloud to me because I loved everything about learning and education and Jane is a governess, but I haven’t read it since then and suddenly got the urge.

Have a lovely rest of the week x

(PS – unusually, there are no photos for this post: my apologies!! I’m at school for most of the day everyday and before I leave for school, it’s too dark to take photos. When I come back, the light isn’t great – so enjoy an unrelated photo, plonked in the middle of his post! #makingthebestofthings)

(PPS – I’ve been put through to the second round of the UK Blog Awards, which is SO exciting!! I’ll leave links on all my social media accounts so that you can vote for me if you’d like to – if you do, I’ll be forever grateful! Although I don’t expect to win anything, even to have gone to the second round is such a privilege ❤️❤️)

November Goals

I honestly do not know where 2018 has gone. We have 2 months left before 2019 which is probably going one of the biggest years of my life so far, and that’s terrifying.

On that note, I thought today would be as good a day as any to set some last minute New Year’s resolutions.

Numero uno: I really want to focus on not making things into an (unnecessarily) big deal. I mentioned this on twitter a few days ago – I build stuff up into a huge insurmountable task that can never be completed which then stresses me out completely. But school isn’t like that, and neither is life; everything is achievable.

Two: my time management is getting better, but it needs to be better still. I’m so so so guilty of requiring a break after doing literally anything – I’ll do an hour’s work, then allow myself 3 hours rest 😂 and similarly, if I know I’ve got plans for the day I’ll immediately write the whole day off an unproductive. I desperately need to fix this (I’m getting better at it too) so that’s going to be a focus on mine for the remainder of this year and next.

Three: save some money!!! I have spent a ridiculous amount of money recently, but *please* let’s not talk about that.

Four: upload on my blog weekly – let’s see how that goes, hm! I’ve been saying this all year, but now I really want to focus on keeping the quality (?) content coming. Especially since before long, my life will have succumbed to revision so I want to make sure I have everything prepared for my (inevitable) break in spring.

I know this has just been a little post but I hope you’ve enjoyed it regardless! I love taking time to reflect on my goals, seeing what I have and haven’t met, as it just helps me to realign my priorities. Have you met your New Year’s resolutions, or are you setting a few more now like me? 😉

Reasons to buy second-hand books

My love for buying books second-hand has been reignited recently – I watched lots of thrifting hauls over summer and I realised that there are literally only benefits from buying used items! Today, I wanted to share the love –

  • As a student this is very important to me – it’s cheap!!
  • It’s good for the environment – less paper and production energy is being used, less transportation and delivery costs and waste, so what’s not to love? I’ve recently been making an effort to reduce my waste (especially plastic, but paper as well), and this is a fab, easy place to start.
  • You never know what you’re going to find – it’s rarely what you want but there’s always something good. It’s the thrill of the chase! The other day I felt this really intense draw to Oxfam and I just knew that in there would be a book that I’d really like and, sitting there on the shelf waiting to be picked up by moi, was a collected works of Oscar Wilde. I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray and I’ve been meaning to buy some more of his work, so I was ecstatic to find this!!
  • Generally the books are in great condition – I’ve bought a few that look like they’ve never even been opened.
  • There are always hundreds of classics: I swear, every single charity shop stocks One Day by David Nicholls. Every. Single. One.
  • This is a whimsical reason to be honest, but I’ve seen on Instagram a few times that people put cute notes into books – I definitely want to find one!
  • You’re getting cheap books and helping charity too.

If you don’t buy from charity shops, have a go! On books, they excel – honestly, you’ll struggle to limit yourself to just one or two!

Exploring Spain

3 weeks back into school and I’m really in need of some sunshine, so I thought this was quite a fitting post to write. I visited Benalmadena at the end of August and I won’t lie, I had some preconceptions – I was imagining an English-tourist-ridden place with skyscrapers right next to the beach, but I was very pleasantly surprised!!

I want this to be primarily a photo post, because I feel like words can’t do the entire holiday justice to be honest, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • We hadn’t planned it at all but we found out that La Vuelta (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) was passing through very near to where we were staying, so we decided to go and watch that – we made it briefly onto Spanish TV too which is cool!!
  • Benalmadena is split into 3 sections – there’s the coast, the Pueblo and Arroyo de la Miel, which is where the station is. We visited all three; the coast, obviously, was beautiful despite the sea being approx -8°c, the Pueblo was a pretty little traditional whitewashed town, and Arroyo de la Miel (which literally means Creeks of the Honey – how cute!!) had a lovely market, shops and restaurants. I had the nicest tapas ever there in a bar called La Alternativa – defo recommend.
  • We took a cable car up to the top of a mountain!! I think it was around 800m high and the tracks passed right over one of the motorways. It was a little bit terrifying but definitely worth doing, the views are incredible.
  • Being able to wake up, go to the window and see the sea from my room was ridiculously cool. Everyone should be able to experience that, it’s the best thing to wake up to.