Life

Why I read.

I wasn’t always the type of person to enjoy reading a book. I’m only 18 now and frankly I didn’t start to enjoy it until about a year ago, which was lucky because by then I’d already settled on studying English Literature which, as you might guess, involves a lot of reading.

Just finishing up my latest venture into the written word and I had that amazing feeling of clarity. That feeling is what I search for in novels.

I love beginning a book not knowing what’s going to happen, it’s that feeling of stepping off the stairs into the darkness below trusting that there’s another step to catch your fall. I like that feeling, and it escalates as the novel continues, throwing facts and details at you that individually make no sense but in a bigger picture with context make a world of sense.

You start to draw conclusions and links between things that haven’t quite happened yet, in the hope that they will and prove you right. Eventually you end up with a web of speculation, the novel is the torch shining through those intricate details, just waiting to illuminate some major plot point to tie it all together.

Eventually it gives you a glimpse towards the end and it’s suddenly locked on and focused to the end goal, the big reveal, when it all concludes in sudden realisation. Everything falls into place, those loose ends? Consider them dealt with. Characters become fully rounded and you’re left to ponder what may happen next.

It’s sad though, I find it sad at least, that books have to end. Sometimes I think I’d be quite happy to suspend myself in this world created by the author and go about my days following a main character and their interactions but that’s the reality of it. It has to end, I have to come to acceptance with this every time I read a book.

Just some musings I found myself thinking of while finishing a novel. Hope you agree!

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2013, A Summary: Quotes of note.

Every now and again someone says something or I read something and it really resonates. It doesn’t happen often, not truly, but when it does it sticks in my head and I remember it. So here are some of the quotes from this year that have meant a lot:

Gatsby? What Gatsby?

I think I can speak on behalf of myself and a few of my friends when I say this was our mostly highly anticipated film of 2013. After studying the novel for a year as the first half of my A-Levels I felt a connection to the wonderful world of words married together by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was a definite must watch and when I did, it exceeded all expectations.

I cried most of the way through it, either that or I was verging on tears. It was beautiful, not only were there a fantastic range of actors and actresses but the visuals were stunning. The story itself wraps around my heart strings and tugs for the full two hours and twenty minutes.

I could have very easily quoted the entire film because there are so many poignant lines, most of them spoken by Daisy, that really struck me. This one though umbrellas all of them. The thought of someone from your past suddenly falling back into place and being flung back to a time where you were truly happy, highlighting just how unhappy you are presently. The thought is heartbreaking, as is the entire film. But this idea sticks for me. Incredible.

Yes, you have a place.

This quote is an email from the admissions office in Glasgow University. Note the lack of social etiquette or any kind of professional trimmings you’d expect from a University representative. Results day had obviously taken it’s toll on all of us because the email in it’s entirety was simply the above quote.

This is because, in context, I’d been hounding the admissions office for hours on end. This was in the heat of results day, I’d been rejected definitively and rather harshly from Lancaster and within the space of a few hours my future hung in the balance. Everything depended on a yes from Glasgow. Evidently I got it, but for several hours I was sick with the thought of going nowhere.

I’d called them thousands of times, and that’s no exaggeration. I was sitting in the school library with a desk phone in one hand and my iPhone in the other and I was just constantly pressing redial every time it failed to connect. I couldn’t have expected anything more, everyone who’d failed to get into their firm choice was doing the exact same. Eventually I sent them an email in desperation, they replied with something semi-positive but vague like “you’ll hear officially from UCAS tonight” which wasn’t enough. I needed solid confirmation. So I asked for it to be spelt out and voila, that short, rather abrupt email hitched my wagon to a place in Glasgow University.

So the above quote encapsulates the ultimate feeling of relief and panic suddenly leaving my body all in one swift sentence.

You chose your heart over your head, and your head triumphed!

Of course I have to include a line from one of the most quotable figures in my secondary school. A past English teacher of mine, suddenly turned prophetic in a moment of absolute clarity in regards to my future education.

I’m not saying choosing Lancaster University as my firm choice was a wrong decision, but it was right that I ended up at Glasgow.

I’d fallen in love with the idea of Lancaster and what it could’ve held in store. It was remote and it was safe, security was definitely to be found in Lancaster, which is what I felt I needed at the time when I had to make the decision. Was it the right place for me then? I guess I’ll never know, which is for the best.

It’s evident to me now that Glasgow University was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I needed out, I needed escape, independence and Glasgow was my clean slate with no dirty laundry or skeletons in the closet waiting for me.

This quote taught me that I know what I want, but what’s important is what I need. I think this is a battle a lot of is face at times, when what we want is right in front of us but to grow we need to turn to the thing that’s farther away and go for that which we need.

I made it.

These were the first words uttered in my new room, my new life, in Glasgow. I’d spent all day travelling and I was knackered. Most people who know me will know I’m not one for crying in front of others. I like to stay strong in the moment and deal with the emotions later, privately. So when I said goodbye to my mum and my sister I kept it together and held it in. After a stressful couple of hours on the road, however I was ready to break. And so when I burst into my new home, I dumped my bags, called my mum and I burst into tears.

I couldn’t even say it at first, but she knew what I wanted to say: I made it.

Not taking shit from anyone, not depending on people, this year is my year. Bring it on.

These were the closing words in my very first diary entry on the 31st December 2012. I’d decided the year just gone was a complete and utter write-off and that 2013 was going to be better. I think I can safely say without a doubt that it was. It took a while to turn it around but it blossomed into an amazing few months from the beginning of summer onwards.

I felt it was poetic to end this post with the quote that began it all in 2013. It was a year of self-discovery, a year of independence, and most importantly it was my year.

2013, A Summary: Expecting too much from friends, making an effort and a bad date.

I feel like I’ve learnt not to expect things from people that really can’t be bothered. I think at this point in my life I don’t have the time to be messing around with those that don’t want to be around. If someone wants to see me or be a part of my life then they’ll let me know. If not, then that’s fine, people go on the back burner for a while. Sometimes friendships fizzle out and light up again with time, it happens.

*mini rant*

In saying that though, it’s become apparent that some people look at you for what you’re worth to them. And I’m sick of that, I shouldn’t valued by what I can do for someone else, I should be valued because I’m a good friend. Anyone who expects to phase me out when I’ve grown boring can go do one.

*mini rant over*

I had such a bad time with people leaving, 2012 was worse, people would just leave without a second’s notice. I didn’t understand and I wallowed in it for months, more than I care to admit (even to myself). Eventually I had to open the curtains, take in the world outside and move on. It’s meant that if anything comes to the end of the line with someone it can just happen naturally. It doesn’t have to be a major dramatic event. People leave, but sometimes they come back.

This has led me to really appreciate people when they do make an effort. The most basic example of this is just sending a text. As the year has gone on I’ve sent less texts just to see who actually dishes them out. Surprise surprise, I was waiting a while but eventually someone takes the time to say hello and usually they’ll have something worthwhile in mind. Thank you to those people who have made this year worthwhile, chances are you’ll know who you are.

People have genuinely surprised me this year, I look back in my diary and one day I’ll be going about my daily business and the next I’ll have written pages about someone who’s just exploded back onto my radar out of nowhere. It’s been a great year for that, I’ve loved those moments, they were fantastic.

As for the relationship front I’ve tried to make a point of not writing about it on WordPress at all because it’s just redundant. It has been prevalent this year, so I’ll mention it in jest:

Still no developments. Cue the audience of “awwh”s.

I have tried! I went on dates, as date-like as they could be, anyway. I went on one just after I moved to Glasgow and it was awful. The guy didn’t even make eye contact, just stared into his drink and didn’t make any kind of attempt at conversation. Not being one to give in to awkwardness I tried to ask him things to try and get him to open up. Nope, nothing. He wasn’t budging. After about ten minutes of this I gave up and I’m not one to just turn around and be nasty to someone so I sent out an SOS:

Call me in about a minute, DEMAND I come help you with something, doesn’t matter what. JUST GET ME OUT OF THIS.

90 seconds later I was well on my way home to bed, to Bridget Jones and copious amounts of whatever cured a serious case of cringe (probably chocolate or something at that time).

That encounter pretty much sums up my dating life up to the present day. Awkward with no eye contact and a deep sense of a need to escape. Great.

Losing my glasses.

My sight became an issue a few years ago, suddenly I became aware of the fact I had to squint to see anything that wasn’t directly in front of me. This then became annoying to the point of seeing an optician and so on and so forth. Since then I’ve had glasses which do their job, can’t argue with that.

What’s annoying about glasses, though, is that they go walkabout sometimes and leave me stumbling around trying to find them. They do this on purpose, they play the most cruel game of hide and seek. They know I can’t see, so how am I supposed to find them if I can’t see them?! Setting me up for failure from the start.

I don’t like short-sightedness, it leaves me feeling vulnerable or somehow of less value than people who can see normally. Sometimes people instantly turn off on someone as soon as they don their spectacles and this is why I go without sometimes. I personally think I look better without them, and after long periods of time without them they give me headaches from straining to see so it’s a losing battle.

When I’m stumbling around, trying to find them I can’t help but think this is life taunting me. This is a physical representation of what goes on in my head every single day.

I’m an over-thinker, I always have been and right now I can’t see that changing without some severe mental-reconstruction, if that’s even possible. I’ll stumble around in the dark and construct scenarios with only the tiniest shred of evidence to go on and I’ll end up in an elaborate world of a million possibilities, all worse than the one before.

I’ll play out future conversations, interactions, arguments, failures, uneasy situations over and over again to exhaustion with no real conclusion other than:

I’m blind.

No one can see the future. No one can precisely pinpoint exactly what’s going to happen in any given situation, this is the blindness that frustrates me most, and losing my glasses plunges me into this turmoil every single time.

When I lose my glasses I realise how futile it is to worry, how pointless it is to squint to try and catch a glimpse of details just out of my reach. Eventually they’ll come into focus and everything will play out when it’s meant to.

I think it’s going to be my life’s struggle to battle with the fact I’ll never quite find my glasses in that respect, I’ll always feel that little bit more vulnerable because inside this head of mine there are a million and one of me finding new ways to screw up before I even get the chance to.

Seriously? On the subway?

We all witness people doing weird things day to day, most of the time we just wave it off and carry on but, being me, I have to document them. People are entertaining though, you have to admit.

A few weeks ago an elderly party of two men and one woman were at the window buying tickets and the eldest of the three, one of the men, was making quite a fuss. Being in a rush I did what we all do and shuffled on my way but I picked up some complaints going past about the quality of the subway and how efficient it was etc etc. Sometimes the elderly need a refresher, automated ticketing systems are a good thing, this man wasn’t buying it. Just as the man was handed his own ticket, the other elderly man mutters “now, we need two of the same…for us.” and all I could think was: ‘I hope the other two don’t come with added ear-ache.’

It was just my luck that the three of them plodded down the stationary escalator to my side of the platform. After some more unnecessary blethering the eldest clomped his way back up (I assumed to complain some more, no doubt he did on his way). His company soon followed suit and they emerged on the other side of the platform for the other train, missing not only the train on the platform they were originally on, but one for the platform they’d just graced with their presence. The look on his face made my day, it really did. Some people have misfortune coming to them when they treat people with such disregard as he did.

Another more amusing observation from my adventures underground was short and sweet. It was raining above ground, the only thing worse than a subway train full of people is a subway train full of damp people. Anyways, a woman had just crashed onto the platform after flying down the escalator and she was struggling to close her umbrella. In the rush to throw herself into a train she gave up, to her dignity’s peril. The umbrella popped open, throwing the glasses off her face and backwards away from the train altogether. I did feel sorry for this woman but I giggled the whole way to University. It was one of those things you see and has you ricocheting into laughter all day long.

Worst death of dignity witnessed on the subway (so far) I sadly experienced myself. I don’t think I’ve been more embarrassed, ever. Probably an exaggeration but you’ll see why.

I was sitting beside a guy, easily twice my size (I’m not particularly well built, this guy was biiiig). He got up to leave and his keys fell out of his coat. Being the kind soul that I am I reached for the keys and went to indicate to the man that he had dropped them. Unfortunately I just flung out a hand and, without looking, grabbed the first thing that came into contact with it.

His backside.

I just…I don’t even know what one can do in that situation, I flung the keys in his direction in a distracting ‘I actually helped you, please excuse the bum-grab’ manner and got back to reading a book on my phone without acknowledging any kind of thanks (…or more likely horror) from his direction. Never have I been so glad to emerge from a subway train, trailing my dignity behind me in tatters.

The subway can be an altogether stressful experience for all involved. All it takes is a bad day; it’s either your best friend or your worst enemy. Only way to find out is to descend those steps and hope for the best.

Did you really just…? Lectures.

I see some ridiculous things day-to-day, but sometimes people really take the biscuit. Lecture theatres are a perfect example of an isolated situation in which I can relate with everyone around me when someone does something stupid. Here are just a few examples:

I was in an English Literature lecture and I started to think I could smell nail polish; knowing this was the last place I’d smell it I waved it off as one of those random smells you just can’t quite place. Then I looked down to the row in front of me and sure enough, to the right, a girl was sitting painting her nails a metallic purple for the entire hall to witness and whiff. The smell was pungent to say the least but the very fact she thought this was, not even just appropriate, but productive to her own studies was hilarious to myself and my peers around me. When she’d finished coating herself in this noxious liquid, she realised she couldn’t type or touch the screen on her relatively new laptop. So she sat and flailed while she missed the best chunk of the lecture. I personally had to hold my nose, not from the smell, just to stop myself from chuckling at her misfortune.

It’s always tense when someone leaves early during a lecture. I’ve never had to, so far, thankfully; but for the people who have to regularly really don’t make it easy for themselves. There was a girl in an English Language lecture that plonked herself down  right in the middle of a row with no easy way to leave early. Generally, I assume, people leave five minutes early to go to another lecture across campus that starts when the current one ends and so they need travel time but help yourself out, people. If you know you have to leave, sit at the end of a row near the door. This girl made the entire row stand up so she could squeeze past with her unnecessarily large bag, so unnecessary for everyone involved. I know that I, with my ounce of humility, would’ve sat through it and just embraced being late to the next lecture; rather than cause that ruckus.

The worst example of someone being absolutely stupid in a lecture so far is, sadly, a result of my own actions. I was in an English Language lecture, we were parsing a sentence (basically, splitting it into nouns, verbs, adjectives, phrases, clauses etc) and the example sentence was: “Tom’s chair broke because he sat on it” or something to that extent. The lecturer was analysing what that sentence was made up of and what it needed to make it a certain type of clause/phrase collective and he said: “So, Tom is a noun and he’s speaking about his chair which is also a noun but what does Tom need to make this a sentence?”

To that I answered (out loud I might add), in front of 150+ people: “a better chair.”

It was one of those horrid moments when you think ‘did I just say that out loud?’ I wanted to curl up into a ball and only emerge when people had long forgotten this cringe-worthy moment. There was a deafening silence for about five seconds, which felt like forever, and the lecturer replied “…yes, that’s a pragmatic approach but I was looking for a verb.” He was a decent guy and ran with it but I felt so idiotic. Shut up next time, Jonathon; keep your thoughts to yourself!

A month of the rest of my life.

I began this blog a few weeks ago, I’d played with the idea of blogging for years and after pursuing many attempts at something solid I couldn’t hold it for any longer than a year. While it was quite successful, I deleted it all. Then I thought long and hard about the title of this blog: The Next Chapter.

I have spent so much of my life worrying about the past and it’s consequences over what might happen in the future that I haven’t been able to enjoy it like I should have. Looking back, that just wasn’t right, nobody should live that way. This is why the title is relevant. I’ve moved to an entirely new country for University, I’ve left my old life and it’s baggage behind and now I’m starting over again. This is the next chapter of my life, and hopefully I go on to live many of them, each more exciting than the one before.

That’s not to say I’ve forgotten what I’ve lived through so far, while I may not be willing to remember certain things there are so many I could ponder on for days, so many amazing experiences and conversations with people from home that I am never going to forget.

It’s so weird to think I’ve been living on my own, away from home, for an entire month now. University was always an idea, a thought, never a reality; now I’m coming to terms with the fact that time is flying and I’m more independent than I ever have been.

That doesn’t mean it’s been completely perfect, oh no no, far from it. From stumbling into lecture halls 20 minutes late to spectacularly sprawling over the subway platform, it’s all already happened and I’m sure I’ll write about those unfortunate events in posts to come.

The wonderful thing about living independently is you get to learn a whole new side to yourself you may not have known. Turns out I can be quite motivated when I want to be, like right now for example; I’ve wanted to post this for a whole month and here I am blasting it out in one fell swoop. I’ve also learnt that I cannot cook, (I’ll be honest and say I always knew that…really) but from that I’ve learnt it doesn’t mean I can’t make do. I’ve known I’m a resourceful person but it’s always been from an academic perspective; I work well under pressure, deadlines and so on, but this time the focus has shifted slightly to include domestic responsibilities. The emphasis is now on what I’m spending daily or what’s for dinner rather than what I’m going to say for third period English Literature in school the next day.

I have heard countless people say that University is just as much about the experience as it is about the education and at this point in my life I think I needed that change. I have time to focus on hobbies such as this blog for example (that I hope I can continue to find time for as University life progresses). I have time to go out there and find new friends, new relationships, a new life entirely.

This is The Next Chapter, and I’ll be damned if it’s not going to be anything but spectacular.