Sunday, 21 January 2018

where you've left me

you made me forget me
and i loved you for that.
usually, i wonder and then worry
how i sound
what they make of me
if they like me
how i can do better,
how i can be friendlier,
nicer, prettier, finer.
but it stopped with you.
it was rare and beautiful,
and you didn't see it.

now i'm back home again.
i'm back to broken routines
that i make new every day,
i'm back to wondering what they think-
i know i should stop-
and you're not here
and i'm okay with that
i don't mind that you're gone,
but i suppose i don't know what comes next
and i feel silly for even saying it
but that's how things are
and i'm okay with that too
so thank you for then,
i'll go and find now.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

I heard about 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' from fellow blogger Emma, who wrote about it in her Favourite Books of 2017 so Far. I've been living under a rock these past few months, so I didn't hear about this book when it was published back in January. As soon as I read Emma's brief description of the novel, I knew I had to go out and buy it, and so I did.

Here's the thing; I didn't buy it for the love story, or the cute boy, or the fact that it's YA. I bought it because the main character, Steffi, has Selective Mutism. I've never heard of it discussed in a novel, with very little representation in general mainstream media. Youtuber Jessie Paege occasionally mentions her history of Selective Mutism, which I appreciate, but really, it's rare to hear about it anywhere. The reason this matters so much to me is because I had it when I was a child, and still deal with different types of anxiety, connected to my past.

When  I was little, I didn't know that anybody else had the same problem I did. Everybody I met could talk, and spoke easily and happily. I just couldn't, and when I began to be able to more, the most common question I got, even at age six and seven, was "why didn't/don't you talk?". Even now that that's well behind me, people who've known me that long, or who I tell, always ask the same question, and honestly, it's really difficult to explain.

Mental health, and anxiety are really very intricate. They cannot easily be explained. The symptoms/side effects are different in everyone. Some people feel some parts more intensely than others with the same diagnosis, and others might not even display some aspects of their anxiety at all. However, Barnard manages to convey Steffi's struggle with Selective Mutism in a way that I can relate to, even if I don't act that way myself.

The novel is half anxiety based, half love based.

The anxiety in not romanticised, not overdone, not underdone. In my mind, Barnard expresses it perfectly, beautifully. She makes it seem okay. It's obvious that Steffi is struggling with it, battling with the thought- do I want to 'get over it'? It's obvious that the ability to speak is important, without making Steffi look like some sad loser who can't manage. Throughout the novel, I felt that Barnard had complete respect for her characters, and for me, that was deeply reassuring.

The other main character, Rhys, is deaf, and I'm sure that for anyone else who is also hard of hearing, reading this novel would give them the same sense of warmth that reading about Steffi gave me. He is portrayed as a handsome, desirable, sweet teenager, with an amazing capacity for love.

The characters are not what you would expect of typical teenagers- but this is no object in the beauty of the love story. In fact, I think it makes it better.

I loved this book. I wish it had been out when I was a little bit younger, so I could know for sure, sooner, that I was not ever alone. I'm so glad I read it now too, I still feel like I've gained a lot from it, and kind of want all of my friends and family to read it now.

Barnard's writing style is nice. It's not overly poetic, or richly descriptive, like the novels I tend to like best. It's sophisticated in itself. It doesn't feel like it's dumbed down for the purpose of being YA. I feel that Barnard trusts her audience enough to say exactly what she wants, in a style that is accessible but not boring.

Overall, I have to rate this novel five stars. I have to. I have never before in my life felt as strongly as this, that the author understood me. That she wrote it for me, and for people like me. The dedication, "for the quiet ones", was enough to delight me from the start. It's good in a way books have never been for me before. I'm not in love because of the description or the easily grab-able quotations, but because of how it made me feel. I laughed out loud at various moments too, which is rare for me in literature.

Thank you, Sara Barnard, for writing this book. I will be thinking about it for a long time to come.

endnote: I've had this post written for months, but I felt very unsure about posting it, because it is kind of revealing. Last night I heard about another child with the same issue that I had, and I knew that like Barnard, I had to spread the word to make things easier for other children. Awareness sometimes is the best way to aid people in solving these kinds of issues.

Anna x

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 Recap and 2018 Goals

I kind of can't believe I'm writing this post. I am in disbelief that 2017 is over, although it already feels so distant. I'm also not usually one to write a trendy blog post, but I've enjoyed reading posts by other bloggers, so I thought I'd compose my own too.

2017 was one of the weirdest years I've had in a long time. The first half was rather unpleasant as I had scary life-defining state exams in June, with things like practicals and orals scattered from February to May as well. In Ireland, there isn't any continuous assessment, so your exam performance is literally your whole final grade that determines whether you get into the college course you want. Thinking back on it, it was really tough, and sucked the enjoyment out of a lot of simple things. I couldn't even go shopping without feeling guilty about missing time studying. So glad that's all over.

In May I graduated from secondary school, which was quite surreal. I'd been in that same school for six years, and had experienced so many wonderful things over the course of that time. However, graduating felt totally right, because it hadn't all been good, and I felt ready to move on. In July, I turned 19. I've already written about my thoughts on the matter here, but now almost 6 months later, I can tell you that being 19 is definitely way more fun than being 18.

In August I got my exam results and my university offer- I got into my first choice! I was relieved, really. The fact that I had to wake up at like 5:50am to check if I'd gotten my place at 6 meant that I was way too tired to be excited. But it was exciting, and I began to really try to imagine what it would be like to go to university, and how my life would change.

In September, I went to Milan with my parents, and we had a really lovely time. I felt like my photography and editing skills really improved with that trip, and seeing Da Vinci's Last Supper was amazing. Totally amazing. That same month, I started university. It was intimidating, and I immediately felt like a small fish in a huge pond, but really interesting.

I've since made a few new friends and have settled into my course somewhat. I feel like I've a long way to go in terms of getting to know people in each of my classes and feeling comfortable on the whole, but I made a decent start, and I did well in the couple of assignments I had, so I hope to try harder next year. I struggle so much with self acceptance, I always hold myself back, so that has been something that has really gotten on my nerves about me this past semester.

One thing that I'm happy about, a process that has begun over the past year, is that I've started to get into fashion and develop a style that I really like and that others seem to like too. For some reason it was something I could never get right as a younger teenager.

2018 already looks like it could be a very exciting year. There are a lot of things that are going to change for me, some that I can't really reveal at this point because they involve other people, but I'm sure that I will let you know when the time comes.

It will be my first full year as a college student, which is in itself a crazy thought! I also have a few trips lined up, which I am so unbelievably grateful for, as I did not expect to be able to travel so much. Oh, and I'm turning 20.

I like to write a set of resolutions for myself every year, but this year I've decided to make some of  them more goal-oriented, because if they are tangible, I'm more likely to do them.

1. Start learning how to drive
2. Publish a blog post every week (I might be crazy to tell you this)
3. Eat better
4. Exercise twice a week
5. Work on self-confidence
6. Use up an entire body lotion (I know it's strange but if I don't make it into a goal I'll never do it)
7. Save money 

Wish me luck!

What are your goals? Happy New Year!!

Anna x

Friday, 29 December 2017

How to Travel on a Budget

Following my most recent series of travel posts, I received a couple of requests for a post about how I manage to travel as much as I do. I've got to be honest, I wasn't sure whether I was going to write the post, because I really don't want anything to come off the wrong way. But it is a good question, and any wisdom I have on the topic, I'll relate to you now!

I don't actually travel all that much
So the main reason I was hesitant about writing this post is because I don't want to come across as an imposter. I usually go abroad once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes not at all. This year I went to Italy, and explored a few places in Ireland easily reached by bus and train. I wrote some posts about Madeira from the year previous, and Germany from 2015. Basically the time had moved on by the time I got to write the posts, so perhaps it seems like I travel more frequently than I do. However, I do still have some tips!

Visiting friends and family
When you have friends and family who live in different cities, towns or countries to you, travel becomes a lot cheaper. My visit to Cambridge cost very little because I was able to stay with my sister, and flights from Ireland to London plus a train journey can be quite inexpensive if you go at off-peak times. My visit to Madeira was similarly not too expensive. The flights were definitely above what I'd normally spend, but seeing as I had around 10 days staying with a friend, I had to pay for very little else. Certain explorations of Ireland were made possible by mere bus/train journeys and staying with relatives.

Make the most of your time
When I went to Milan over the summer, we decided we'd spend a day in the nearby Vigevano, again, only a train journey away. Adding in extra towns or cities, even just for a day trip, can really help you to see more of the country you're visiting.

Speaking of day trips...
These are genuinely the best thing ever. I went to London a couple of years ago for a day, getting up for an early flight and returning home the same night. It was tiring, but totally worth it! Obviously when you only go somewhere for a day, you probably won't get to see everything you'd like to, but for a simple breath of fresh air, it's a very good option.

Really want to travel?
If your parents ask you what you want for your birthday, or your boyfriend is completely stuck for ideas as to what to get you, you can always ask them to contribute towards a travel fund. Hotels in particular can be really expensive, but if you get some help in terms of flights being bought for you, then saving up for a hotel room (or braving a hostel) seems a less daunting task.

Another way to travel inexpensively is to do an exchange. Depending on your age range, this might not be possible as it's definitely a rather teenage thing to do, but language exchanges are very cost-effective as usually all you'll need to pay for is transport and host your exchange partner in return.

I hope this post was of some interest/help to you! Please don't hesitate to ask me any more questions in the comments, I'll do my best to answer them!

With love, Anna

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Happy Holidays

This post is temporary, and here to say:
I'm not gone, I haven't gone away
I have some plans of things to write
And hopes to write some more
But as always things come up,
But I'm not here to bore,
So Merry Christmas one and all
And to those who celebrate not
Happy Holidays, have a ball!
And I'll see you soon, next year.

anna x

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