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University Life (and first ever post! Hello!)

After reading a close friend’s blog, I felt a sudden bout of inspiration. As someone who will find any excuse under the sun to furiously procrastinate and put off anything that will cause even a remote amount of stress, this is incredibly rare. Therefore, I have decided to attempt to compile my thoughts into a sort of mishmash of paragraphs, in the hopes that someone might find it entertaining – or, better yet, helpful.

Right now it’s 11:30pm. Currently I’m on break from university, sat at my desk at home, surrounded by four dark purple walls (a colour that angsty, fifteen-year-old me thought would be adequately representative of my rapidly evolving personality. She was wrong.) It’s very quiet. This is also something I rarely experience, because at the moment I live in uni halls. Usually at this time one is able to hear the slamming of doors, faint thuds of footsteps, laughter and sometimes even drunken bellowing, if it’s Wind Street Wednesday. Or Skint Monday. Or Sin-Savers. Or Tooters. Actually, pretty much every day. Oh, and if you’re my flatmate, you’d probably hear a ball being kicked at full-pelt against your door. Thanks for that by the way, boys. Always my favourite part of the evening.

Anyway, I’m probably getting off track. Yes, I’m a student – even worse, a ‘fresher’. As my first year at university draws to a close, I am getting the chance to reflect on everything about my life that’s changed. Because, truly, a lot has. Back before Summer 2016, I was riddled with social anxiety. It got so bad I couldn’t even send a text without having to wait 3-5 business days to actually decide if it was appropriate. I couldn’t make phone calls – even ridiculously trivial ones like phoning a pub to see what time they served food ’til. I’d feel uncomfortable asking friends to spend time with me because I didn’t want to seem “needy”. I grew bitter when people wouldn’t message me first and would subsequently push people away. I constantly felt like I wasn’t wanted, and my self confidence was at an all time low.

Things like phone calls and ordering food in restaurants admittedly do still freak me out, but the major difference is that I can do them. Sure, it takes me a while to pluck up the courage, but eventually I do, and that counts. I have to remind myself that it counts, and that I have made so much progress in these 9-ish months. I’ve been to job interviews; I’ve driven from my house in Berkshire, to my flat in Swansea, all by myself; I’ve ordered taxis, I’ve gone to clubs, I’ve felt secure in a room full of people I don’t know. I’ve made so many friends and I’ve felt comfortable being introduced to new people. Sometimes – and this one is a doozy – I even tell people when I want to hang out with them. It is honestly remarkable how much university has changed me. I suppose, when you’re thrown into such an unfamiliar situation, the best you can do is just get on with it.

It takes so much strength to put your anxieties to one side and reassure yourself that your worst fears might not come true, but honestly once you manage it, it is so satisfying. Like almost everyone, I have bad days, and I have days where getting out of bed feels akin to climbing Mount Everest, but it’s important to acknowledge that I have really good days, too. And more often than not, they are good.

Thanks for reading, pal. :^)

~ Tia

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Travelling

I love travelling. I love getting to places. I probably enjoy it more than actually being in said place. I’ve felt that way since I was a kid. Waking up at an ungodly hour to catch a flight for a week away somewhere sunny, trundling through the airport with butterflies in my tummy and a rucksack full of specially-bought coloured pencils, a notebook and my favourite teddy bear.

My parents would stand in the queue at customs, stressed about luggage and boarding passes and keeping my little brother still on the plane, whilst I hopped from foot to foot eagerly, wondering where all the people rushing around were off to. I’d be trying to read the flight announcements and imagining what all these amazing places I’d never heard of could be like. It felt like such an adventure.

I loved flying itself, too. I would always wish the aeroplane windows could open wide, so I’d be able to stick out my hand and touch the thin rows of fluffy white clouds. I loved the sensation of taking off, looking down at the tiny, ant-sized houses.

Now I’m older, I haven’t lost that sense of bubbling excitement. I adore road trips; long car journeys with just myself, my thoughts and my favourite music. Trains, too (when they cooperate) – one of the most calming things in the world to me is sitting by the window, letting the rhythmic whooshing of the wheels on the tracks send me into a trance.


I think the reason I like journeys so much is because it almost feels like time stops for a while. You’re in this little pocket of time where you’re constantly in motion, yet everything else in your life comes to a stop. Anything you could be apprehensive about – a deadline, a meeting, a task – it doesn’t really exist in that moment. Maybe it’s just me, but while I’m going from A to B it feels almost like I can put all of my anxieties on pause and just focus on the present: something I do tend to struggle with usually. For someone who is constantly worrying, being able to stop and breathe, even for a little while, is a blessing.

I’m going to be travelling on a plane for the first time since I was fifteen on Saturday, and I’m excited to see if it will still have the same sense of magic it had back when I was little. A lot of people hate the idea of flying, but I like the idea of the rest of me finally catching up to where my head has been for a long time – in the clouds.

Moving Out

It’s 2:30am. Everything is eerily quiet, but for my computer screen quietly playing me episodes of a TV series I’ve been binge-watching for the past week or so.

The walls are bare. My walls, which are usually covered with posters and photos and funny quotes and fairy lights: they’re empty. I’m in the process of moving out of a room that has been my home for the past ten months. It feels like years have passed, yet also like it’s been no time at all.

My life is in boxes sitting at the foot of my bed, and the only signs that I lived in here at all are the few books still strewn on my shelf and the ukulele leaning against the creaky, metal bed frame.

This academic year has been packed full of changes. Self realisations, life lessons and so many doors have been opened. I’ve gained and lost friends more rapidly than I could’ve hoped, and I won’t lie and say I’ve been entirely happy.

There were times this year where I wanted to give up. I wanted to run back home and let my parents take care of me like they always have done – I wanted to reject adulthood and all the stress and heartache associated with it and I wanted to give in to my anxiety and hide away from my responsibilities.

I’m not letting those few times define the year I’ve had, though. Because I came out the other side, happier, stronger and more willing than ever to carry on and chase the dreams I’ve had since I was a child – and I believe we should focus on how we get back up after something knocks us down. That’s what I’m going to remember when I look back on my first year. How much I overcame, and how I didn’t give up no matter how badly I wanted to.

Now I’m lying on my mattress, which groans with every movement I make, staring up at the ceiling, at the fire alarm which has rudely awoken me so many times and I am considering how I will miss being here. Despite the flatmates I don’t necessarily get on with, the noise that kept me up for so many nights, the ugly orange/brown curtains that I lamented over when I first arrived here… I am going to miss it.

I’ll miss walking down a few stairs to get to my friend’s flat and sitting in their kitchen for hours, listening to music and chatting and laughing until we ran out of breath. I’ll miss being able to walk just a few feet to get to the library, the cafeteria, all of my lectures. I’ll miss the silent pact of camaraderie that passes between the people who live in our building.  I’ll even miss the old, faulty elevators with their flickering lights and perpetually sticky floors.

It’s going to be an incredibly long summer, and I will be anxiously waiting to return to my new home, but I’ll be sure to make the most of the coming months, and I’m sure I’ll have some apprehension about leaving home again this time in September.

Living between two, such starkly different places is difficult and I sometimes feel like I’m at war with my brain, but I also feel incredibly lucky. I have two amazing places to call my home, and my world has broadened because of it. I’ve realised in these remaining weeks of first year that it’s not necessarily about choosing between university and home, but it’s about embracing the good parts of both places. Who I am in Maidenhead may be different to who I am in Swansea, and that’s okay. We weren’t built to live in one box.

Swansea, I will miss you… but Maidenhead, it’ll be good to see you again.

— Tia

Albums I Adore (and How I Discovered Them)

“Music… A magic beyond all we do here,” – The wise words of Albus Dumbledore. I have to say I completely agree. Music is something I don’t think I’d be able to live without. As I’m sat writing this, the 1975 is blaring out from my phone. I irritate my neighbours constantly with my attempts to play ukulele, and I would never go for a drive without my trusty Road Trip Playlist.

Music has the incredible ability to whisk you away to somewhere else. It’s a distraction for when life is getting you down, but it can also motivate you and give you so much energy whether you’re over the moon or under the weather. Therefore, in no particular order (well, actually, they’re in alphabetical order) here is a list of albums I adore, and a bit of backstory as to how they ended up in my extensive music library:

  1. AM – Arctic Monkeys
    Ah, my angsty college years. I had a best friend who was super into Arctic Monkeys (to the point where she’d get cheesed off if I called them the Arctic Monkeys) and at the time this was still a fairly new album. It was the first I’d heard of them, besides ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, and it was a turning point for my music taste. There are definitely some bangers on this one. Especially ‘R U Mine’ and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’… Hey, there’s a nice synergy between those two song titles as well, I’ve just realised.
  2. Bad Blood – Bastille
    Bastille were the first band I properly obsessed over. I remember clearly the day my little brother called me into the living room, saying, “Hey Tia, I bet you’ll like this band!”
    I saw a man on TV with very swoopy hair (my weakness) jumping about onstage, singing ‘Pompeii’, and hey presto, they became the loves of my life until about 2015. I saw them live at Reading Festival in 2013, the first proper ‘gig’ I went to. They were fab. I’m pretty sure I cried. ‘Overjoyed’ and ‘These Streets’ are probably two of my favourites from this album, which still holds a special place in my heart.
  3. The Balcony – Catfish and the Bottlemen
    One of my best friends made a mix CD for me a couple of years ago, and one of the songs on that CD was ‘Hourglass’ from this album. It was a quirky tune, and I wanted more. Not the most interesting discovery, but I can attribute much of my music taste to that mix CD. It introduced me to a lot of good stuff. Thanks Niki!
  4. Beachcomber’s Windowsill – Stornoway
    I can’t actually remember how I discovered Stornoway. All I know is, one day ‘I Saw You Blink’ appeared in my music library and it gave me a really chill, sunshiney vibe. I recommended the song to a friend, and they linked me to the whole album. If you like really sweet, folky kind of tunes, you’ll love this. ‘We Are the Battery Human’ also has a political element to it, which is pretty cool.
  5. Calm & Normal (EP) – Rusty Clanton
    Rusty Clanton. An adorable cinnamon roll. He’s an artist from YouTube, and I came across his song ‘Socks’ one day and fell in love with his music. This EP actually does make me feel Calm & Normal (ha..ha). I thoroughly recommend the song ‘Novels’. I cried. Lots.
  6. Colour It In – The Maccabees
    ‘Toothpaste Kisses’ was the first song I heard from the Maccabees. I was 11, and I’d just watched Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (a true classic). I thought the song was so cute, and I’ve had the soundtrack for the movie ever since I first saw it. In fact, I think it was one of the first CDs I actually bought. Anyway, after hearing Toothpaste Kisses I knew I’d like the Maccabees, and I was correct. ‘Good Old Bill’ and ‘The Real Thing’ have the same old-timey vibe and the album as a whole will feed your hipster soul. Go listen to it in a coffee shop while writing a novel, it works really well.
  7. Costello Music – The Fratellis
    This album, again, reminds me of my friend Niki. We’d drive around listening to ‘Baby Fratelli’ and ‘Ole Black ‘n’ Blue Eyes’, and that’s what I remember whenever I listen to it. It also has classics like ‘Chelsea Dagger’, which I’m pretty sure everyone has sang along to at their top of their lungs at least once.
  8. Halloway (EP) – Tessa Violet
    Another beautiful YouTube musician who released an EP. Tessa Violet is probably one of the only artists who makes me want to dance around the room with but also makes me experience all the emotions at the same time. ‘Haze’ and ‘On My Own’ will make you feel powerful yet jazzy.
  9. How Will You Know If You Never Try – COIN
    This is a fairly new one – I only got into COIN a few months ago, when my friend sent me a link to ‘Talk Too Much’, which instantly became one of my favourite songs. It is so catchy.  I don’t have much to say about this album, other then go and listen to it. It’s fab. Go. Now.
  10. I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it – The 1975
    This is probably in, like, my top 5 albums. And right next to that would be their first album (which is number 18 on this list). The 1975 have got me through some tough times, and they honestly changed how I felt about music. ILIWYS came out at the beginning of last year, and I anticipated the release of each song until the full album was launched. ‘The Sound’ has been played essentially everywhere, but I personally love the song Matty wrote about his relationship with God – ‘If I Believe You’ – and his social commentary, ‘Loving Someone’ (which I learned all the words to. Yes, I’m very proud.)
  11. Intertwined (EP) – dodie
    Another YouTuber?” you ask. H*ck yes. dodie (lower case D, because indie), full name Dodie Clark, is my aesthetic in a nutshell. If you love flowers, tea and feelings, this is definitely the EP for you. It will make you smile, it will make you cry and it will empower you. Definitely another album in my top 5, even if it is technically an EP.
  12. Made of Bricks – Kate Nash
    Not only are Kate Nash’s songs really easy to play on the ukulele, they’re also really funny and charming. I’ve loved this album ever since I heard ‘Foundations’ back in the day. It’s coming up to its tenth anniversary and I’m hoping to go and see her perform it on tour in the summer, if I can get tickets. ‘We Get On’ is a track which I think the majority of girls (and probably boys too) would be able to relate to.
  13. Ocean Eyes – Owl City ‘Fireflies’ was the only song I downloaded onto my old LG Cookie phone back in Year 9, and I remember one school trip where I forgot my iPod and literally listened to this on repeat for the entire coach journey. Yeah, it got pretty obnoxious. But even so, I feel that not a lot of people appreciate Ocean Eyes as an entire album – the lyrics to each song are so cleverly thought out. If you can get past the electronic, pop-y, cheese of it all, they’re very endearing songs.
  14. Oh Wonder – Oh Wonder Another recent find – dodie did a cover of ‘Drive’ on her YouTube channel, and I loved the sound, so I downloaded the whole album. I love listening to this while reading or doing work, as it’s super relaxing and makes for good background music.
  15. Pretty. Odd. – Panic! At the Disco Unlike most people, I actually didn’t discover Panic! until a couple of years ago (thanks Niki. again.) ‘Nine in the Afternoon’ and ‘I Have Friends in Holy Spaces’ are happy, lighthearted songs that I love singing along to. This whole album, actually, was a change in sound for P!ATD and has a more indie vibe to it.

    (I don’t know if you can tell while reading this but the more I write the less creative I am becoming with my word choices. This list is a lot longer than I anticipated…)

  16. Talon of the Hawk – The Front Bottoms
    No, I actually didn’t add this in just because the name of the band makes me giggle. Yet another choice I can thank Niki for, after listening to ‘Funny You Should Ask’ on the mix CD he made me, I grew enamoured with Brian Sella’s less-than-perfect vocals and the completely American-ness of their songs. I went to my first concert to see them back in December in Kentish Town, and my goodness, did I cry. I was very excited. I’ll insert a picture:
    IMG_1479
    I did have to pee. Like five times. I was like a puppy. It was a bloody good night, though.
  17. You’re Gonna Miss It All – Modern Baseball
    This was an almost accidental discovery, through the suggested section on Instagram after I followed the Front Bottoms. The two bands are very similar in genre, except some of the songs on this album are bit more sad and slow. Especially ‘Notes’, which coincidentally is one of my favourites. Go figure. Anyhoo, this one is perfect for those moments of despair when all you need is a song about someone who doesn’t like you back.
  18. The 1975 – The 1975
    Chocolate. Sex. M.O.N.E.Y. Yes, these are song titles. Enough said.
  19. 1989 – Taylor Swift
    This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure, because in secondary school I had an inexplicable vendetta against Taylor Swift, thinking her too ‘girly’ or ‘cheesy’ for me. Yeah… I was one of those kids. But still, I grew up, T Swizzle released 1989, and now I will unabashedly admit that this album has me singing at the top of my lungs.
  20. + – Ed Sheeran
    Last, but definitely not least, the love of my life. This is probably the first album I fell head over heels for. I don’t listen to it now as much as I did, but I feel like it definitely belongs on this list as it was all I listened to from about Year 7 to Year 10. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll stick this on.

I’ve provided links to iTunes (because what even is Spotify) for each of the albums. You should really check them out. Trust me.

~ Tia :^)