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!

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.

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.

A life update

At the start of the summer holiday I said to myself that I was going to upload a blog post every other day 😂 whilst that hasn’t happened, rest assured I have been doing equally important things.

I’m currently in Spain on holiday and having such a good time, but I just got the urge to write something – a form of procrastination? Yes. I’ve brought some books I want to read for school as well as for my personal statement but ya know, it’s the holiday…I don’t have a lot of motivation right now. Anyway, blogging/writing counts?? I take 2 English a levels, surely it’s at least a relevant form of procrastination!

It’s Saturday as I write this, which means I have one week and 2 days left of the summer holidays, and I still have a lot to do. However, I’m also promising myself (and vowing that I will definitely not break this promise!) that I’m going to write at least 2 posts before the end, as a mini back-to-school series. I’ll definitely do a study-oriented Q&A and I have a few ideas for another post, but is there anything you’d be interested in hearing my opinion about? For context, I’m studying in the UK and about to go into year 13, and I study English lit, English Language and geography and I took my GCSEs last year. Leave me a comment, I’ll answer it regardless of whether I also write a post about it!

I bought my first bullet journal the other day and I’ve got to say, I’m possibly too excited about it. As soon as I get home (I didn’t bring it with me) I’m going to start setting it up because I just can’t wait until 2019! I’m hoping it’ll provide some motivation throughout the year and give me an accurate record of what’s possibly going to be the biggest year of my life – the year I turn 18, sit my A Levels and go to uni!

So…next year. I’m disappointed in myself, to be honest, that I don’t post on my blog more than twice a month or so, and I’m going to change that. Next year is going to be more pressurised but I also need to bear in mind that I’m allowed to switch off from school and indulge in hobbies, and therefore I’m going to be making a really conscious effort to post at least once a week. I think I’ll have a set day where a post will go live and then there may be extras throughout the week, so watch this space 😉

I’ve also set up a new Instagram account which may be a little drastic but I was just feeling a bit trapped with my other – if you’d like to give me a follow, you can find me @avo.cara.

Hope you’re having the best summer!!

Boilin’ in Berlin

Hallooooo, wie geht es dir? (As they say in Berlin)

At the moment, if you asked that to anybody, whether tourist or resident in Berlin, their reply would be something along the lines of “bloody hot”, or the equivalent of that in German. I thought I’d learned to adapt to the heat since we’ve had an actual heatwave here in England, but throughout our entire trip the temperature was constantly about 32°c in the daytime. Pffft.

Incessant and suffocating heat aside, my trip to Berlin was lovely – it was a holiday, after all 😉 – but unusually for a holiday, it also was really quite a depressing place to be. Wherever you go in the city you’re reminded of the atrocities that took place there, some of which only happened in very recent history, and that was quite a terrifying thought. There are hardly any older buildings, because of course they were bombed in the war; the only old ones you’ll see are commemorative ruins (such as the Anhalter station which was used to deport Jews) or new buildings built in an older style.

Our hotel overlooked the Ministry of Finance and a huge tethered balloon, so that was pretty cool. We were about a 10 minute walk from the Topography of Terror (one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall that’s still in nearly perfect condition that’s now been turned into a museum) and, in the other direction, Potsdamer Platz (where the Mall of Berlin and first ever traffic light are located!) so our hotel really couldn’t have been much more central. On the first day we wandered over Potsdamer to the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate (obvs – if you want to find the tourists just go to Brandenburg). The Reichstag is home to the German government and there’s a huge glass dome on the roof that you can walk up, which would have been made much more enjoyable had it not been 37°c outside; it felt like a huge greenhouse lol.

We went also to the East Side Gallery, the longest section left of the Wall (which was knocked down only in 1989, how scary!!) that now has been turned into a graffiti art exhibition, so that was cool. Around a mile’s walk from the East Side Gallery is the Molecule Man statue which, if you can be bothered (it felt like a lot longer than a mile, although maybe it was just the heat) is really interesting – it’s basically just a sculpture in the river but it’s funky. I recognised it but I couldn’t think where from, but when we’d got back to the hotel I remembered; there’s also one at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which isn’t too far from where I live!

If you have a spare 3-4 hours and are willing to spend those hours in a museum learning about Hitler’s rise to power and the War, I definitely recommend you visiting the Hitler – How Could It Happen? museum – one of the coolest/most nightmare-inducing parts of the whole museum is that it’s held in a WW2 bomb shelter with walls 4m thick. Despite being more interested in arts and humanities subjects I couldn’t help being engaged in the museum; it’s so terrifying to see how such a huge amount of people could be indoctrinated, and the victims of this.

I’ve only been to Germany once before in my life, and that was on a coach to Austria so this holiday was pretty much my first impression of the country. Everyone we spoke to was so friendly and nice, and also the food was amazing (and really cheap!) if you’re ever in Berlin and looking for somewhere to eat, I recommend:

• prinz bistro, near Anhalter bahn (I had a halloumi doner kebab!)

• Berlin burrito company – I think there are two in the city but the one we visited was near the Rosengarten

• grand rocka cafe is definitely a more touristy choice – it’s in the hackeshe markt, for a start – but their spinach pizza is literally everything omg

• nafi’s is a hidden away Iranian restaurant which I think is more residential than tourist but nevertheless the food was amazing!

Have you ever been to Berlin, or would you like to one day? I think there’s a lot more to do so I’d definitely like to return one day!

Cara xx

Exploring Den Haag

This post has been a long time in the making: I went to the Netherlands on 27th May, and it’s now late July. Hey ho! Here we go 😝

I’ve been to holland many many times before, although never to Den Haag so it was lovely to explore a completely new place, although I feel that a lot of Holland looks quite similar so in a way, even though I’d never been before, I felt like I knew it.

The streets of the Netherlands all feel so warm and welcoming, and Den Haag’s were no different. In contrast though there seemed to be two quite distinct areas – the modern, businessy side of the city, then the more historic, typically Dutch-style buildings. The Sting’s building (also know an the candy box because of its funky colours!) is home to a really nice shopping centre and if you’re in Den Haag, definitely have a look inside – aside from the clothes (obvs I bought some), it’s spectacular and the roof is a beautiful stained glass dome!

The government buildings were absolutely beautiful too, and what’s really cool is anybody was allowed to meander through. We also stopped off at the Mauritshuis (the yellowish building on the left of the photo right above) which is the current home to The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch paintings – I was so excited to see The Goldfinch after reading the book by Donna Tartt, hence the cheesy grin on my face 😉

On our second day we visited Scheveningen on the coast, which is only a 10 minute tram ride out of the city centre yet had a completely different vibe about it. I can’t begin to stress how hot it was that day and how much of a relief the freezing cold North Sea was (despite the look of slight pain I was enjoying myself, I promise!).

I’d like to think I’ll live in the Netherlands at some point in the future, and I’ve got to say I wouldn’t be too unhappy if I ended up in Den Haag!! Despite it being the 3rd largest city in the Netherlands it felt more like a town in some places, very friendly and welcoming yet brimming with culture and diversity and things to do!

The ultimate summer bucket list

I have precisely 6 more lessons until summer, but sadly they’re spread out over 3 days…ugh, nearly there!

To get into the summery vibe well and truly (I say that as if I’m not already haha, I’ve literally done no school work this past week since my mocks have finished!), I thought I’d write all the things I’d like to do this summer – my purse may not allow everything haha, but hopefully I’ll achieve a lot.

  • Book tickets for a concert
  • Read 50 pages of a book per day (at least!)
  • Rebrand my blog (ooooh, exciting!)
  • Go book thrifting
  • Go alpaca trekking!!!
  • Write my English language coursework (fun fun fun)
  • Get started on English lit coursework as well as geography (again, fun!)
  • Explore towns and cities nearby
  • Go on trains!
  • Plan an interrailing route
  • Try at least one new food
  • Run more
  • Start drawing again, especially mandalas and portraits
  • Go shopping for clothes
  • Have a huge clear out of stuff (I’ve come to the realisation that I am actually a hoarder)
  • Try at least one new cafe
  • Visit at least one new place
  • Buy some posters for my wall
  • Get up early enough to see the sunrise
  • Learn Spanish again
  • Write blog posts every other day (let’s see how that goes!)
  • Do some baking
  • If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen (or will soon see) that I’m temporarily deactivating my account. I feel like Instagram has changed and I’ve not completely adapted to this new version; I’m not drawing as much as I used to, which is what I used to feature mainly on my account and so I’m struggling for photos; I’ve lost so many followers in the last couple of days because of the stupid algorithm and I’m just generally not enjoying posting. I’ll probably only be gone a couple of weeks, just so that I can get back into the zone, but I’ll be focusing much more on my blog and twitter (hint hint: if you want to keep up with me, follow me on here and on my twitter!)