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Thursday, 4 June 2020

3 Simple Ways To Advocate For Long-Term Change In Your Daily Life

If you've been living here on planet earth, chances are you've heard it countless times that we are in the midst of "unprecedented times". Unprecedented which means never known or never been done before. Last Monday's protest was the first time in Irish history a crowd of people of that size marched against racial injustice both in solidarity with America and against systemic oppression in Ireland. That March was unprecedented but racism and oppression are not. Amidst all this, there were a lot of people throwing around the term 'virtue signaling' as a way to describe those whose outward actions were merely in line with the majority for face value. 

I personally believe this concept of virtue signalling falls into two categories. The first category, and most problematic, would be those who share or speak on the issue of race and oppression while holding an opposing view. The spiral of silence is always strong when there is a large majority speaking out on a divisive issue. In this category, virtue signalling is a false outward action to mask a belief or opinion which lies with the minority view. The second category is the individual who lacks the factual knowledge to be confident in their opinion but wants to show support. In this category, virtue signalling is an empathetic outward action based on human emotional connection but lacking in factual knowledge. Overall regardless of what category you fall into, there is a social pressure to make that known especially online.

In my last post, I highlighted an observation. The anger of the protests, the media attention, the clicktivism and the heightened motivations for change seen in individuals and groups will soon die down when the media move on. You may yourself already be feeling mentally, emotionally or physically drained. You may start saying to yourself 'there's not much I can do', 'I have to get on with me life', 'I can't fix the world's problems' etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to detach from issues that seem much bigger than our individual selves. At times, I disappear into my room and spend the day watching films. The difference between those who can detach themselves completely and those who can't is the same as the difference between something directly affecting you or not. I can't detach from my skin or the oppression that come with it.  

While your rage is raw and your energies are high, it is the perfect time to commit yourself to long-term action by addressing how you plan to be an agent of change once the media stage lights go off. You've very likely seen this or even shared it but 'let's not go backwards' is a very difficult thing to do when we haven't really gone forwards.  Franz Fanon (1952) highlighted that understanding or theorizing doesn't equate change. Change requires aspiration. Below are three simple things you can do now to ensure you can continue to advocate for change the way your Instagram or Twitter page says you do. 


1) MAKE YOUR AWARENESS VISIBLE IN YOUR FEED

Staying informed requires actively seeking and subscribing to the organisations that will keep you informed.

There are plenty of organisations and groups being thrown around right now. It is incredibly overwhelming at times swimming in this pool of information. With that said, your social media algorithms aren't going to push the kind of content you are seeing amid all the global discussions at present to your front page feed. Just have a look at your Instagram discover page and see how many posts you see about the protests. So to help with this you can ask yourself: 1) Have I made myself aware of the groups and organisations in my country/globally actively advocating for change? 2) Have I made these groups visible in my media consumption? In today's technological world, it is incredibly easy for things you may feel passionate about to be drowned in the distractions of entertainment and popular culture. Distractions that mass culture theorists Adorno and Horkheimer claimed impede people from taking political action. Not every group or organisation will be relevant to you. Global change is a combination of national changes. But you have to subscribe to your awareness. Out of sight, out of mind.

2) MAKE YOUR AWARENESS INFORMED

By actively seeking to learn more you will have the knowledge to do more. 

Once your media consumption is set to maintain your awareness and provide you the vision to see the changes through, it is time to inform that awareness. People who can afford to say they are not political are often people whom their society or their systems do not negatively impact. If you see the injustice of housing prices, corporation tax and complain about them while doing nothing, you are passively political. If you see these injustices and take the time to learn about the various political parties and how they have dealt with these issues in the past so as to inform your voting practices, the you are actively political. You can be content with your life but cannot assume that equates to the lives of those in your local, national or global community. There are plenty or academic resources both for the everyday reader and the academic minds that'll provide you with the knowledge to fill in the gaps. 

When you learn more, you can do more but don't expect the people of colour in your life to be your teachers. More often than not the only lessons we can share are experiences. Not everyone has the academic history or facts to give you a breakdown of their own historical oppression and some people may just not be comfortable with that. So if you want to sit down with a person of colour, come having laid down the foundations of your knowledge because you won't learn that listening to my racist experiences. I can't tell you the changes you can make because I do not know your resources be they emotional, mental, physical or financial. But if you seek to learn you will know how to make that change. To get you started, below you'll find further below a list of things to read, watch or listen to.


3) DONATE TO YOUR AWARENESS

Be it physical, mental, emotional or financial, dedicate yourself to acting on your awareness.

1) Physical: Volunteer. What can you physically do in your community to be an agent of change. Want to help the homeless? Volunteering in soup kitchens isn't just a Christmas thing. Volunteering your time to community groups for change can be a valuable way of bringing change to the present.

2) Mental: while you're learning, share your experiences with those around you. Write and talk about it in a respectful way. You're not boasting about how great you are but trying to lead by example.

3) Emotional: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another is called empathy. It's surprising to see schools having to actively teach these in classes because we are forgetting these important values in our drive for worldly possessions. Connect emotionally with others through thoughtful actions such as listening and checking yourself when needed. You may not be able to understand but we've all felt pain enough to empathize. This can get uncomfortable especially when encountering responses that challenge your own views or prior learning.

4) Financial: money can't solve everything and not everyone has the money to contribute but donate where you can. Sometimes this is the hardest thing of all. We live in a society that glorifies and celebrates material wealth. However, if you objectively can afford to commit to spare some financial resources to an organization or group dealing for something you care about, just do it.

Beware of thinking that by fulfilling any one of these three things on their own you are making change. You can have all the injustices plastered on your social media feed but seeing isn't action. You can learn as much as you want but if you don't apply your knowledge to your actions, its like reading the manuals to machinery and never using it. What's that going to do for anyone? And if you don't apply your resources, you are well and truly doing nothing for anyone. These are not mutually exclusive categories. They are simply ways to bring about long-term change. It's really up to you.

I am sharing very easily accessible content below for a light introduction to race and oppression discussions. Your individual learning should go much deeper than this. You can find more readings here.

Read

1) The Fact of Blackness by Franz Fanon
2) Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. (Penguin Modern 01)
3) The Master's Tool Will Not Dismantle The Master's House by Audre Lorde (Penguin Modern 23)
4) Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
5) Africa's Tarnished Name - Chinua Achebe ( Penguin Modern 28)

If you are in Dublin, all the Penguin Modern books are €1.25 in Chapters Parnell Street.

Watch

1) 13th
2)Do The Right Thing - Spike Lee
3) Boyz N The Hood - John Singleton
4) If Beale Could Talk- Barry Jenkins
5) Malcom X - Spike Lee

Listen

1) To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar
2) Ear Hustle Podcast - Radiotopia

Donate

Black Lives Matter (US): You can donate to a collective bail fund to be split across the various organisations here.
DIRECT PROVISION: In Ireland you check out MASI and DORAS

There are many other sources circulating social media but I don't feel comfortable sharing the ones I am not too familiar with. If you find any good ones, share below.

Pin It!



Till Next Time
xxx


Sunday, 31 May 2020

All Eyes On America, All Eyes on Us


Dear Reader,

Before I start. I feel obliged to remind you that this is one person's view on a significant problem in today's society . I urge you not to assume or accept my individual reflections on this issue as a representation for the wildly varied experiences of the millions of people affected personally, emotionally, mentally or physically. Above all else, I strongly caution against the belief that by reading this, you will have gained a comprehensive understanding of this issue. The topic I want to talk about today is what it feels like to be a black person watching as black bodies after black bodies are continually harassed, beaten and gunned down just because of the colour of their skins. This is not a black versus white issue. This is an everyone versus racists issue. 

Skin is the largest human organ. Mine is black. I am black first in everything I do. When I enter a room, my skin speaks before I do. More often than not, it is talked over with a narration that was pre-written by others before my time and forced upon many before me. When it is seen, it is viewed through a lens etched with a key of stereotypical images, caricatures and symbols, used to decode what is is view. A key pre-written by others before my time and forced upon many before me. I am black in everything I do because everything I do is presupposed and narrated as black. Skin is the largest human organ and yes, mine is Black. 

Frantz Fanon (1986) wrote that as a black person you are simultaneously responsible for your body, your race and your ancestors. In my body I feel as black as the sum of everything I have learned, through education and the experiences of my short, but rich, life. How does one feel black or white? Don't you ever feel simply...like you? As a black person, there is a sense that you are constantly fighting against a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness'; tormented between inner fears and outer resentments (Martin Luther King Jr., 1963). My body was blessed to me and my race has been continuously depicted as a burden to me. Growing up in Ireland, I wasn't so much trained to disconnect from my heritage but to be acutely aware of the differences between me and white people so I could compensate for my racial difference. This internalization of inferiority is what Fanon termed epidermalization. When you must be black in relation to the white person. (Fanon, 1952) 

It deeply saddens and angers me to see Martin Luther King Junior's (1963) words and reflections in 'Letter From Birmingham Jail' are strikingly applicable to the events of the last few weeks in America, the general socio-political climate in America and to a lesser extent, the world. It is so painful to watch the news and your social media feeds constantly exposing the tormented lives of millions of black people being smothered in an airtight cage of poverty and institutionalized racism in an affluent society. Etched into my eyes are countless images of black people hanged, drowned, lynched and beaten. My mental reel of violence against the black person plays from grainy black and white footage of police assaults, through to the introduction of colour and all the way to 12MP, 4K Resolution, 60 frames-per-second of an iPhone. No Blacks, No Dogs, No Jews, No Irish. No Blacks. Humanity's technical advancements are so vast and significant and yet it seems we skipped the advancements of human compassion and empathy towards others, be they similar to us or foreign. That they be seen as fellow human beings who breath, think, talk, feel and co-exist on this earth.

Audre Lorde (1981) described racism as the belief in the superiority of one race over another and thus the belief in the right to dominance. Malcolm X claimed hundreds of years ago that white people donned white sheets and bloodhounds to torment the black people. He observed in the 1980s and it remains a striking observance today that they swapped the white sheets for police uniforms and and blood hounds for police dogs but are still doing the same thing. People are hurting, hating and angry. At times like these I find it hard to pacify my own anger and refrain from developing an unconscious bitterness towards others. For me fear and anger are parents of hate. Hatred is the emotion of destruction and anger is the emotion of change (Lorde, 1982). Spending time with my nephew, I dread the day he finds out he is black. He is learning who is is and knows himself to be as he is. But there will come a day when some adult or child, will say something, do something or look someway at him, that'll change the way he sees himself in the mirror. That'll change the way he sees himself in his mind's eye. That'll change the way he sees the world's view of him. A definition of who he is pre-written by others before his time and forced upon many before him. And it will oppose everything he knows about himself and cause an internal conflict I hope he'll not have to battle for too long, if change comes. 

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's brought about so much change for black people in America and motivated many others around the world to become agents of change. Many prominent black leaders and voices throughout history have attempted to explain the anger festered in oppression. Many years later and millions of people are still explaining. I am not trying to educate you dear reader, nor do I want to. I am far too angry to pacify the rage that threatens against the guard of my lips every time I think of violence against the black person. Anger fed into every time a black person is killed for their colour. All these deaths are permanent reminders that my life as a currency is still seen as less than that of the white man. Black Lives Matter is The Civil Rights Movement of today. 

They say history is written by the victors. Because it is written in history books people might forget, assume or understandably misinterpret it as something that was a more prominent issue of the past. Not that bad today. At this point you might be thinking to yourself, I understand what you are trying to say but we live in Ireland. There is nothing I can do. The probability of me experiencing first hand American police brutality while living in Ireland is quite null. But attitudes and behaviors do not need plane tickets. They have countless audiovisual platforms and sadly many open hearts to root in. A child of 8 or so can bombard you with an honestly impressive string of racial insults on the number 14 bus from Rathgar to Dundrum while their father sits chatting loudly on the phone. Following the white supremacist and neo-nazi Unite The Right rally,  someone extended their right hand and coughed 'white power' into my face  on a sunny afternoon around 4pm on Mespil Road. Direct provision is an institutionalised form of oppression on Irish soil . There are many examples of how the seeds of racism still persist and evolve but I am not trying to educate you. 

In America, police brutality kills more people each year than mass shootings (Gilford's Law Center, 2020). George Floyd's murderer had many previous complaints and had crossed the lines of inhumanity many times. He is not the only person of authority to abuse their position of power and harm those they are meant to protect. And he won't be last. Racism against the black person has its roots in hundreds of years and reaches far into many other cultures. I have absolutely zero faith that it will be eradicated in my lifetime or perhaps more to be more frank, I have absolutely zero faith in you dear reader. I will strive to be a steadfast agent of change and I urge you to be too. Oppression has been institutionalized because it cannot thrive in the open, that was the victory and slap in the face to the Civil Rights Movement. Things have moved behind doors and above heads. It's piggy in the middle with black lives tossed between the hands of institutionalized oppression and naked actions of hatred that go unpunished even when noticed. Below trying to catch the lives being thrown about are the many countless people worldwide in the African Diaspora, like myself, or otherwise who weep in their bedrooms for AiyanaAmaud,Amadou, Atatiana, BothamCliffordCorey, Emmet, Eric,  Ferrell, George, John, Jordan D, Jordan E. Keith, Mike, Oscar, Philando,  Randy, Renisha, Sandra, Sean, Trayvon, Terrence, Yvonne, and so many more.

 To have a "heavy heart" is such an odd phrase. How can a heart be heavy? Now my heart is so heavy it sits in my stomach. Every life lost adds a stone that sinks in lower. It is sad to die, be killed, and limited in such a small world on this big earth. And it is sad to be known around the world having paid a whole lot more than most, for a little bit of time in Twitter's trending list. We must all be agents of change. I am not a religious person but I was raised as one. As such I sometimes fall back onto it in my times of utter loss for words and direction. Sometimes it is the chains that offer me restraint. The balm that attempts to soothe or somewhere I can go to be numb. We need to change the paradigm.  If you are a religious person, simply praying to your God won't help. Pray for the strength and courage to do something, because if you are a messenger of God, then start delivering. 
It is a historical fact that privileged groups rarely give up their privileges voluntarily (MLK, 1963). Individuals may do their best but efforts are fortified in numbers. There is not enough collective action to change the minds, attitudes and hearts especially from those in power and our own neighbors to challenge the powerful system of institutionalized racism and oppression. Language is how we communicate thoughts and actions. We have more ways today of being able to communicate and understand each other. How is it Black people are still being expected and forced to live in monologue rather than dialogue. Franz Fanon (1952) urged people to understand that action does not follow automatically from understanding. Action requires aspiration and desire.

Before I conclude, I'd like to point out an observation. For the past few years, there comes a time once in a while where the world is quiet and through the cracks in the theatrics of the media a significant issue manages to just about slip on the global news stage and claim the limelight for a little while. Race, Gender, LGBTQ+ , World Poverty, Climate, Human Rights etc. It'll spark outrage and outcries for change. When the iPhone and Android antennas bing, bong and pong with new fresh topics, many people forget what it was they were so hot and bothered about. We return to our daily lives because ultimately, we can only do what we can. In her reflections on the 60s, Lorde contends that in each of us is an awareness that we are not being served by the machine that orchestrates crisis. In order to bring about change, she urged that we must all school ourselves to recognize that any attacks on Black people, LGBTQ+, religious groups, is an attack on everyone who recognizes that their interest are not being served by the systems they support (Lorde, 1982).




We are in the middle of a pandemic that has killed millions of people. The whole world has stopped and began to engage in dialogue to pioneer together for a cure. Now everyone talks of a new normal coming out of Covid-19. I'd like to see a new normal in the discourse on racism and the killing of the black innocent because of the colour of their skin. I'd like to see people engaged in dialogue, not monologue, pioneering for equality so no more lives added to the millions of people already dead at the hands of black, gay or religious oppression.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
1) Franz Fanon (1952). Black Skin, White Masks. S.L., Penguin Books, 2019, pp. 82–97.

2) Martin Luther King (1963) Letter from Birmingham Jail. London, Penguin Classics, 2018, pp. 6-9,.

3) Audre Lorde,(1982) Audre Lorde, "Learning From The 60S" •. [online] Blackpast.org. Available at: <https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/1982-audre-lorde-learning-60s/> [Accessed 31 May 2020].

4) Audre Lorde, (1981) Audre Lorde, "The Uses Of Anger: Women Responding To Racism" •. [online] Blackpast.org. Available at: <https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/speeches-african-american-history/1981-audre-lorde-uses-anger-women-responding-racism/> [Accessed 31 May 2020].

5) X, Malcolm. “A Summary of Malcolm X Interview with Louis Lomax.” Teaching American History, <teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/a-summing-up-louis-lomax-interviews-malcolm-x/> [Accessed 31 May 2020].



Sunday, 10 May 2020

How I Set A Routine

Dublin, Ireland
In my last post I mentioned that I may share how I set out my routines in another post. Well...this is that. I just want to say, what I'm sharing is just a method that works for me. You may need to take this and build on it or make up your own to suit you and how you work. If anything, let this me a motivator to do something for you.

 I am a creature of habit. Don't get me wrong, I love adventures and being spontaneous when I feel like it. However, I appreciate the stability and familiarity of having a structure. I also accomplish more when I don't give myself the opportunity to overthink things.

If you know me, or have read this blog long enough, you might be thinking, how can you say you like spontaneity when you use 15,000+ books and endless lists to keep organized. Firstly, I just love stationery, the lists are just something boring and silly I enjoy doing. Secondly, setting a routine doesn't mean you are sentencing yourself to live a life that is minutely planned out. I find routines to be like the lines that divide lanes in the swimming pool. If you follow the lines you'll know where you're going and where you're coming from. But you can swim across the lanes if you want. 

And routines change for many reasons. For me it is usually to balance out time, energy and desires. The first month of a new semester in college is always different to the last month. I may scale back on work hours to allow myself to reintroduce having to use more brain power in classes or need to invest more time and energy into a personal project I'm really excited about. 

Having a routine doesn't mean I can't do anything else, it's simply my way of reassuring myself that if/when I step away from the routine, I can pick up where I left off. And with quarantine, my routine has changed a lot. And it's about to change again because I've finished all my college assignments and have more free time! So I'll share with you how I went about setting my new routine and give some tips about how I make sure I can stick to them! 

1. What do you want to do?
This is really the most important part of the entire process. I personally like to do this is a brainstorming session. Blank piece of paper and writing down whatever comes to mind. Big or small. 

Before quarantine these usually revolved around wanting to stay on top of college work, staying fit, eating healthy, being creative and sleeping better. My first quarantine routine was set on finishing my assignments, staying fit, eating more plant based meals and lying in the sun. This is what my brainstorm looked like for Quarountine 2.0. 

2. Identify The Patterns
This step is easier that it sounds. You're basically looking at what you wrote down and grouping them together. For example, I would like to work on my core, upper body strength, side glutes and climbing specific training. All of which I grouped into fitness. So you can see above my patterns are fitness, creative, active hobbies, identity and relationships/interpersonal. 

3. Set Frequencies
How often do you want to look at each area each week? How often do you want to look at each element in that area? Again using my fitness as an example you can see what I mean. Bear in mind that with something like fitness you should factor in rest days and make sure you have a good mix of exercises to target different parts of the body directly and indirectly. 

Doing the same thing too much will lean to muscle strain and injury. Which you do not want to happen. I injured my knee when I went from absolutely zero running to pushing myself at a 5K each day for three weeks. Do. Not. Do. This!

4) Write It Down
Draw up a simple schedule for each day of the week. You can see from my schedule that Saturdays and Sundays are super chill. I do most of my productive tasks between 10-2 because I have more energy then. 

Between 2-6 anything goes really but I've a few options to been me busy. And after 6 I don't have anything planned. I usually have Zoom Quiz Nights with different friend groups that'll fall within this time frame. I've had to leave early or not go to some in order to get enough sleep. Generally after 2pm I feel like I've accomplished enough to be lazy for the rest of the day so the things I do are based on what I'll enjoy that day. 

Sometimes I find indicating times helpful and at other times I find it puts me under pressure. With all this quarantine time, I chose to allocate time slots so I can be lazier without having to think too much about what I'm going to do next. 

This is where I usually break out the colours and go crazy. But on this occasion I wasn't feeling that tickled about it. I've been getting up at 6am each day, I know it's crazy. But I've been enjoying it so I haven't changed it. 

5) Just show up
That's it. Show up each day. Really show up with intent and do what you can for you.

Now it's easier said than done. And just because you know have a routine equivalent to Steve Jobs' polo and jeans doesn't mean you go on autopilot. You just get to do more without thinking too much about it. And just to share 3 tips so you can keep at it.

Tips for keeping at it.

1) Change the load. 
It's rare that I'll come to each part of a routine and achieve maximum output each time. I have an even mix of heavy days where I'll have things I want to get done and I'll be super productive. And there are days where I don't put so much on my plate and instead just do the bare minimum to feel like I've achieved something... anything. 

2) Take a chill pill
Just because you said you'd study from 10_2pm doesn't mean you can't take any breaks. I'm a big fan of 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes of YouTube. I've always got fruit and water within reach to try and limit my trips to the kitchen. You are not a machine so don't push yourself like one!

Similarly, if it is 18°C outside...in Ireland, you'd best believe I'll be lying out in the sun doing absolutely nothing. Somedays I try to get through as many videos in my Watch Later playlist as I can. Other days I scroll aimlessly online, read books, lie in bed, watch films and take multiple naps. I find all these things incredibly fun and pleasing so why would I stop myself doing them if I feel like it? 

Like I said, routines allow you to pick up where you left off. But you have to have the discipline to return to it. I learned a trick from Matt D'Avella that actually helps quite a bit with this. He advises that you don't take two days off in a row. I'd usually do a day of nothing, maybe two if I really need it but never three consecutive days. Like Matt, I also found doing nothing multiple days in a row makes it harder to stick to a routine. 

3) Be Compassionate to Yourself
Oftentimes I can be so mean to myself if I am not achieving something I set my heart on. It's like my head and heart turn on each other. Try to be compassionate to yourself in times like these. I like to take quiet time to allow my head and heart to "talk it out". I literally role play being my head and heart and share what I'm thinking or feeling. Then I try to me a friend to myself and tell myself what I'd say if my best friend came to me with those sentiments. It sounds silly but I put it to you to try it. 

There are many other factors that can influence the routines you set for yourself like your general goals in life, your sense of security either personally or financially, and uncontrollable incidents. But this is a simple place to start. I truly think having a system that allows you to address your desires and concerns knowing you are moving forward or staying content where you are is deeply fulfilling. 

What are your thoughts on routines? Let me know in the comments below!

Till Next Time
xxx

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Isolation

Dublin, Ireland
Ireland's lockdown began on Thursday 12th March 2020 and escalated to a complete lockdown on March 27th. Now it's May and we're looking at further weeks of this lockdown. Compared to other countries like Italy, France and Spain we haven't been quarantined so long.

A few weeks ago, it was so sunny I decided to break my routine and go for a walk with a mirror and my camera in the afternoon. If I leave the house it is usually before 7AM or after 8PM to avoid as many people as possible. 

On this day there were so many people in the parks in our 2KM restricted area that it felt like a busy summer's afternoon. Of course everyone was apart and the Gardai (police) were walking around keeping an eye on everyone. I tried to steer clear from as many as possible, partly because I was lying on the ground with a large mirror on my face and partly because well... people.  I recently deleted my photography website. I didn't like the pressure I was placing myself and the unnecessary constant self-shaming for not taking enough pictures. It was great to be able to mess around with it again without the voice in my head telling me off.


I didn't quite achieve the results I was going for with the mirror but still enjoyed going out and taking pictures. It's been nice having time to simply relax and enjoy hobbies. The images are very saturated because I was working on a college assignment about Agnes Varda and her film La Bonhuer. I wanted to draw from her use of saturation to subvert magazine depictions of domestic harmony and create a Utopian depiction of 'isolation'. 


 I've been thinking of making a post on my quarantine routine, it'll be changing next week so I'll be creating another routine. I'll likely talk about the goals I have in mind for the routines and the challenges I face with them. Is this something you'd be interested in reading? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. 

Before you go, tell me about a day in quarantine that stands out to you! I'd love to know how you're spending your days. 

Till Next Time
xxx

If you are a TikTok user or know anyone that is, I'd really appreciate your help with my college research assignment. Its an anonymous survey that takes less than 5 minutes and looks at why people use Tik Tok. You can check it out here! It would really help me out a lot. 

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Time on Our Hands

Dublin, Ireland
It was the sudden queiting of routines. No work, no college, no place to go. It feels as though mother nature has had enough and is deciding to fight back. I hear her laughter in the chirping of birds that mixes into the sounds of children gleefully screaming on my residential cul-de-sac. I see her victory in the frost the frost that covers the grass in the cold mornings, the dust the settles atop every surface right after it has been cleaned and the rust that's beginning it's decay. And I feel her in the changes on my body. A body well fed, well stretched, well rested.

The last time I wrote on the blog, I was looking forward to a summer of travel and discovery which was meant to be starting next month. Now I'm sitting at home thankful to have 2KM allowance to be able to go out and catch fresh air in before disappearing back indoors.


I am very fortunate and extremely grateful for that. I still have a job at a company that can afford to pay us during this time, my family may not be quarantining together but are all safe (and pray they will continue to be so). My housemates and I have a good routine that allows us to make it through quarantine enjoying each other's pleasant company. We truly are the fortunate ones. 

Before the lockdowns my routine revolved around work and college. Now I wake up at 6am everyday so I can go outside for a walk/run without encountering other people. Before the lockdowns my sister was looking forward to her 16th birthday party. This week she bore the sweet 16 badge as I sang to her two meters away because we don't live in the same household. Before the lockdown my mother was on holidays 'visiting' family and now 'staying with family' is more appropriate and luckily so.

It feels inappropriate to forget all the lost lives, lost jobs like my mum's, missed special occasions like the weddings of dear friends and the privileges of movement. The experience of this pandemic continues to open my eyes to the kindness of people. We are a resilient and resourceful species with tantamount capacities for change.

We work better when we act with others in mind be it staying at home or checking in with friends and family to see if they are mentally, emotionally, physically and even financially sound. The many wonderful frontline workers from food producers, to medical staff, governments, scientists, community volunteers to look after the vulnerable, parents etc. A lot of people are doing their very best and if everyone adheres to their social responsibilities, we could start to see the end of the tunnel soon.

 I hold a nervous, hopeful breath for a different kind of normal on the other side of this. I hope after this ends we become a species that looks back on this time with eager minds and hearts to learn and improve our ways of life. Not just for those of us here and now but for the earth and the animals, plants and people to come after us.

***

If you are reading this when it publishes on Easter Sunday, I hope you are having a lovely Easter! May it be much much different next year. 



Till Next Time
xxx

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Onwards Ever Onwards

Dublin, Ireland

Been cruising through life from an early age.

2019 was a strange one. There's been so much change and now we're at the end I feel equal parts appreciation and exhaustion. Last year I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in a way that resembles the slow burn of holding a stretch without brute force. Each push to explore has ignited or fueled a desire or habit I am now more grateful for.

An unexpected influence on how the year has shaped out is the teachings I've come across in college, more specifically notions of representation and media cultivation. The likes of Stuart Hall's Theory of Representation and Herman & Chomsky's Propaganda Model deeply affected my perception of the world. At times pondering these topics, I felt out of sync with the rythm of my immediate society. Now I use it to realign my priorities and fight off doubts or desires not rooted in my own principles. 

The topic of family is one I hold deep emotional wounds and issues around and exploring the concept of family has lessened some of those hurts. Similarly with friendship and perhaps most strikingly for this year, loneliness, as in spending time alone. This is my first year being single in my adulthood and at least in the last 6ish years. It's been a huge change. I've become more aware of how I spend my time, the people and activities I choose to spend it on and generally feel like I am getting to know myself more as a friend than I've ever done. 

Along with the self-exploration, I undertook a few activities that will be highlights for the rest of my life. 

Things I Did This Year

I Went Skydiving



When I was in 4th Year (age 16) I came up with 'Things to Do Before I Die' list which I seemed to lose immediately after penning. Regardless, skydiving was one of those things I put on the list. I didn't actually think I would do it but it was the scariest thing I could think of at the time of writing. 

Doing it however.... was waaayy scarier. There was three seconds of pure terror where my body tried to register the feeling of falling out of a plane 10,000ft, analysing everything that could possibly go wrong. After accepting that were the parachute and backup parachute to fail it would be a great way to go, I was able to enjoy the rest of the free fall and descent. 

Skydiving in Kilkenny Ireland is definitely not on par with skydiving in the likes of Portugal where the scenery is likely to be more beautiful but looking down at the green lush pastures and glimmering quarry still felt as exciting as ever.

I Went to Australia

Trying to get everyone into this picture proved too difficult. But here's a few of those present. 

I have two uncles, an aunt and 10 cousins  living in Australia. Until this year I had never met any of my cousins and hadn't seen my uncles and aunt in more than 17 years. 

Like I said above, family is a strange topic for me so this trip was kind of a big deal. I feel most people find their roots and identities through their families. Growing up in Ghana I spent about 25% of my day in my own home and the rest between the homes of my cousins and friends. Then I came to Ireland and having such widely dispersed family I didn't have the ability to go by my aunt's house after school or meet up with cousins even if it was just at Christmas or for 21st birthday parties like most of my peers. And if I didn't want to have that it probably would've been easier. 

So needless to say, I was really looking forward to this trip. There were strong elements of this trip that made it so spectacular. 

First, my cousin was getting married so naturally there would be a gathering of family for extended periods of time. My grandmother who lives in Ghana was going to be there, my aunt from Canada and an Uncle from England. It was set to the hottest wedding party of the year and boy it was. We arrived of the Thursday, the wedding was on the Sunday and each day in between to the day after the wedding, I was surrounded by family and everyone was in a good mood. I was in Heaven.


The wedding itself was.... indescribable. To use the word in its correct manner. I also got to meet my cousins through marriage and now have a new travel buddy who lives just across the pond in England. 



Throughout our stay, all the cousins really spent time together talking and trying to suss out where our interest, personalities, and opinions etc. lie and align. I personally think I've some pretty dope cousins. It just seems like my family are just great? I mean, maybe it's just me and the joy of being around them was getting to my head. 

This trip was so refreshing to my soul and I felt like there was a part of my identity awakened and reflected by being around all the family. I'll be visiting next year and look forward to forging stronger bonds with them now that we've made first contact.

Pancakes and smiles all round

Redbull Cliff Diving Final

 The legend that is Rhiannon Iffland and the equally awesome Gary Hunt.

Before flying off down under, I had the wonderful opportunity to go watch the Redbull Cliff Diving Final 2019 Series Final in Bilbao, Spain. I caught the competition while they were in Dublin watching across the Dun Laoighre harbour. However, when your travel companions know the athletes, the adventure is elevated 1000%. Not only did I get to meet and share dinner with the athletes I'd been watching and fangirling over for months, but Redbull also throws a wicked closing party which I got to attend.  All I can say is, I am definitely looking forward to celebrating another season with the fabulous athletes. 

Photo Diary



I've been doing a photo diary which I wrote about back in June so you can check that out here. Now that the year is out, I'm so happy with the results that I've decided to continue it into the new year. 

Motorcycle Lessons


This year I did my motorcycle lessons (I technically have like three hours left). Again, like the skydiving, it was something I said I'd do that I wasn't entirely sure myself I'd stick to. I love cycling and generally feel better and more in control on two wheels than four. I like the immediate exposure to my surroundings and the elements. Last year I knew there were activities I'd want to undertake in 2020 that'd take me to opposite sides of Dublin and public transport just won't suffice. As a result, I thought, why not get myself a motorcycle? The plan now is to actually put it to use.

New Job 

Back in April 2019 I quit my job rolling burritos and started waiting tables. The change was not something I enjoyed. I'd come from a very open and loud place to one that felt reserved. The staff demographic between the two jobs are complete opposites of each other. It took me a solid six months to begin to feel somewhat settled. I wanted to quit my first two weeks there. Things did get better and I have to enjoy the job a lot more and the people too.

Leaving my old job, I was exhausted and planned on taking a month's break before properly dedicating myself to looking for a job. However, after interviewing for this current job, I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass on. I can't say I regret that decision but I am definitely learning a lot from it and my time here.  I'm also leaving that job very soon for a travel adventure. Keep reading if you want to know what I am talking about.

Onwards Ever Onwards

Travel

 Bilbao, Spain

Still looking for two more people, a couch and some umbrellas.

Well first on the list is travel. I've booked my flights for about 4 months of travel. It'll be the longest time I've ever travelled and I am equal parts excited and terrified! I took out my first ever loan to buy all the flights as cheap as possible. I plan to have it paid off before I go so I don't have it hanging over me and also build a good credit score. 

In terms of locations, it's fairly diverse. The plan is to go from Dublin to New Zealand, up through Tasmania, Melbourne & Sydney, Jeju Island, South Korea, swing by Tokyo for the Olympics and back to Europe where I'll do a small bit of traveling. I'd love some suggestions for any of these destinations in terms of activities and cheap locations. 

Health



I want to be stronger by the end of this year. I've no purpose for the strength, just a desire I have to improve my bouldering abilities. I'll be targeting my upper body and core strength while upping my contortionist abilities with regular stretching for flexibility.

Relationships


I want to fortify my relationships with my family and friends this year. Fertilise them when time, attention and care.





I haven't set any rigid goals per se but just something to keep in the back of my mind for the year that will hopefully become lifelong benefits. 

This all sounds fine and dandy but let me just balance it out by highlighting that the  Bad Things happened too. We lost family, some friendships were lost or let go, witnessed other people's hardships and wished to be able to change it. But you take the good with the bad and sure it'll all be grand in the end. 

Saying 2020 will be great, as if there's no other time after seems a little short sighted so I'll just say, I'm looking forward to the times to come. And I hope you are too. Also maybe the times will see me posting more on here. 

Till Next Time
xxx



Sunday, 4 August 2019

Easy DIY T-Shirt Flips

Dublin, Ireland


Back in April this year I decided to treat myself to a sewing machine. I don't remember when or where I learned to sew but the act of sewing has been in my life as long as I can remember. Getting clothes tailor made was always an exciting time in my childhood. Birthdays, Easter, Christmas, weddings etc you name it, we were bound to be getting measured, going out with my grandmother to buy materials and waiting a few days to weeks for our outfits to be made. As we grew up we had more of a say in the materials and styles that would be sewn for us. More often than not sewing was a more cost effective way of getting clothing than buying them especially in the rural suburban area we lived in.


     When I moved to Ireland getting clothes tailor made meant multiple phonecalls, Western Union money transfers and waiting weeks for the post. I'd learned to hand sew from seeing it so often and regularly made little repairs to rips and tears over the years.
Back in February I made a list of some activities and hobbies I wanted to take up this year and the month of May I decided to take up sewing. With that I started scouring YouTube for channels I could follow from which I could learn to do some cool things. The first channel I connected with was With Wendy and she remains my number one crafts channel.


      A month ago Wendy tried Letitia Kiu's T-Shirt flip on her channel. This involved getting two shirts and sewing them together. You can check out Wendy's here and Leticia's here. I absolutely loved Wendy's use of a block colour with a graphic tee and really wanted to emulate it. So I tried to get that effect with this these two shirts. I owned one from a race I did back in my athletics days and the other I picked up from a charity shop called Oxfam. I watched Wendy's video and about 10 minutes later, I had two new shirts. 




 Although I am happy with this, I would've preferred it with a block red as I feel the white writing distracts from the clash of the red to the stripped blue and yellow. I'll be keeping an eye out for two block colours that I'll want to merge together again.



      Letitia went a different route and chose two graphic tees to put together. I found these Iron Man and Mario Family tees in a charity shop and knew I wanted to put them together. However, after making the first tee, I found I wasn't that much of a fan of the back of the tee shirt being split into two different colours. Instead I decided to keep one block colour for each shirt. I also initially planned to swap the sleeves on each side too but thought that looked too tacky so went against that.
Instead of simply cutting the two shirts in two, I completely dismembered each and then cut the front in two before sewing them all back up.







I was so delighted with how they turned out I wore one to work that same day! This was such a fun and easy project to do. Time consuming if you're taking the shirts completely apart to create a block back but also very worth it.





 I did a poll on Instagram of which shirt y'all preferred and it seems we all agreed the red sleeves just rock a little bit more.


Can you see yourself doing this fun project? Let me know in the comments!


Till Next Time

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