6 Things I Learnt From 3 Years at University

Earlier this year, I graduated from university and, what with lockdown and no proper graduation, it’s been an odd end to 3 years, but an end nonetheless. Looking back, it’s hard to put 3 years worth of memories into a singular blog post, so instead I’ve decided to write about 6 key things I’ve learnt during my time at university – perhaps some of you can relate!


1. How To Be Responsible

This is an obvious one to start with, but it is what university teaches us all to do – how to become independent and live apart from our family. For some this is more difficult than others, but for all of us it’s new territory. I remember the first night staying at university and it felt like I was in a hotel, yet all of my stuff was there. It’s a scary moment for us all, but then the food shopping, utility bills and renting rooms becomes normality, and quicker than we know it, we become adults.

2. Who I Am As A Person

I think most people have some sort of idea about who they are as a person before university, but during university is when you truly experiment with hobbies, societies, meeting new people, and you learn how you react to all these fluctuating circumstances. I think we all try out at least one different version of ourselves at university, just to see what it’s like, whether that’s pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone or befriending someone we wouldn’t usually talk to. Eventually, you figure out how you actually want to spend your time, and I felt like I left knowing a lot more about who I am and who I want to be.

3. Self-Discipline

It’s no surprise that university teaches you how to take control of your life. Because no one’s going to do that for you. The teachers no longer spoon-feed you exam content, and no one is there to tell you to study. It really is down to yourself to manage your time effectively to get work done. I think this is something I was already fairly good at, but it did help me set up a schedule and be more proactive in seeking help and guidance when I needed it.

4. Who Your Genuine Friends Are

As cliché as it sounds, university makes you realise the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. It’s crazy the amount of people you meet when you first get there, and it’s so different to anything I had ever experienced, but it was so interesting seeing the similarities and differences between everyone. I often found myself in those stages of “friend acquaintances” and not knowing who was a proper friend and who wasn’t. But ultimately, it’s those that still make the effort to contact you and who are there when you need support. I’ve always preferred having a few really close friendships than lots of surface-level acquaintances, and I found that by the end of university, even after experimenting with both, I was back to my roots.

5. Confidence

This one plays a massive role in my time at university. I used to be a really shy person (and still can be, in some ways), but exposing myself to so many new people and new situations, which were way out of my comfort zone, really helped me become more confident. One of the things I learnt during university – mostly towards the end – is that it’s good to do things that scare you. That’s how you overcome those mental limitations you put on yourself. So now I am actively trying to do things that scare me, and letting myself lean into them with confidence.

6. The Importance of Self-Development

The university fresher in me would look at this one with utter confusion, but I think that’s a statement as to how far I’ve grown since beginning university to now. Particularly in my third year, I realised how important it was to work on my self-development. After struggles throughout university with my mental health, alongside falling ill in the middle of second year, I learnt that overcoming these difficult moments in life require self-care, self-acceptance and a desire to take action and make positive change. Self-development is called self-development for a reason – only us, the self, can do it. And when we put our mind to it, we can achieve a lot more than we think.

We take steps, not knowing where we’ll go or where we’ll end up, but knowing one day it’ll mean something.

Have you also been to (or currently go to) university? What have you learnt during your time there?

Let me know in the comments below!


‘The Man I Think I Know’ by Mike Gayle [Book Review]

I’m afraid I have been led astray by high rated reviews again… because this was another popular book that just fell completely flat for me! A wonderful premise, not so great execution, and I may have loved the cover more than the book itself…

Summary

The Man I Think I Know follows two male protagonists who once were acquaintances at school. Brought together by a string of unlikely circumstances, they meet again. With James’ slow recovery from a brain injury and Danny’s lack of a job, they develop a friendship and help one another fight the struggles in their life.

My Thoughts

As you can see from my (not so great) attempt at summarising this book, I really don’t know how to describe my experience with this book. I’m always tentative starting something with high expectations, and yet I always find myself wondering how my opinion of a book can be so overwhelmingly different to the majority of the people who have read it. It just proves the power of perspective.

The main reason this book did not resonate with me was that I felt like there was very poor character development. With a book on such a sensitive topic, speaking about brain injury, alcoholism and depression, I would expect to have some emotional attachment to the situations at hand, but I found myself completely detached. Although the perspective was switching between the two main characters, I often lost myself on who was speaking because there were no differentiating characteristics. It was like they just moulded into the same person, with the only difference being one calling the other “mate”.

However, the dialogue was the most frustrating part for me. It was unbelievably unrealistic and it felt stilted and forced. Normal conversations were turned into arguments in a matter of seconds with no build up, and there were too many clichés in this book to count, including the typical argument conclusion “it’s not fair!” from a grown woman, and the classic “my heart feels like it has just broken into a million tiny pieces.” I have no comment.

I so wanted to like this book, and I think that’s why I kept going until the end. There had to be a redeeming quality, right? It had such great reviews, after all. And I don’t think it was a pointless book – it got me reflecting on what it would be like to have to start life over again, for things to not go the way you had planned, and the importance of family and friends in supporting you. However, the switch never flicked. I got to the end – to the cringey, predictable and unsatisfying end – and I felt nothing.

I wish I could see this book through the eyes of all the four and five star reviews, but it just wasn’t for me. Instead, you get to read another of my ranting reviews!

Pick this book up if you like – maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did – but for now, I’ll happily move onto the next book in my to-be-read pile, and hope it goes better than this did!

What book have you been reading lately?

Any good recommendations?

Let me know in the comments below!


Why Do We Feel Emotions For Fictional Characters When They Don’t Exist?

Don’t you just love that feeling when you dive straight into the world of a book, becoming almost like a secondary character to the story that unfolds, feeling the character’s emotions as if they’re your own?

It’s only when we think more about the process of reading a novel that we realise the emotions that arise are for non-beings. We are feeling a story that doesn’t exist in the real, physical world and yet it feels as real as anything. Why is this? How is this? How is the brain capable of translating a fictional text into a real world inside our own minds? And why do we believe in it?

I don’t think there is an answer to any of these questions – not definitively – but I do think it’s interesting to reflect upon. I find that when I’m reading a book, I often lose track of time. It really is like entering a new world. But I also know that I become the world. Not just in my mind, but my emotions are intertwined with that of the characters.

I think perhaps this is down to humans being, at heart, social beings. Whether a character is real or not, we relate to them in some way. After all, the characters are written by real humans and often those real human authors slide parts of themselves into their characters. It is almost like a lens in which we see the author through the character, yet in our minds it is still the character, but it allows us to relate to another life wholly different to our own.

Perhaps we feel the emotions of a character as our own because we read to feel something – I know, on some level, I do. We read to find something to latch onto – something relatable, something meaningful, something real. We read to understand the human condition better – whether we realise it or not – or we read to see a different perspective. Essentially, we must read for the same reason we read a film or watch a TV show – they are almost one and the same.

The Theory of Mind says that reading improves empathy and I agree; reading a book is like meeting a lot of different people at a party except they are in their natural habitat and their thoughts are sometimes expressed and they’re unique and not real but could easily be real, if they were fathomed into existence.

Ultimately, our mind is capable of wild imagination. Reading a book is, at its core, simply reading words on a page, and yet we create this whole world in our minds – the way it looks, the way it feels – from these words. It is our capability to imagine that makes it so real. Without our mind transferring these words into a little film inside our head, perhaps we wouldn’t be so emotionally attached to the journey. Perhaps we wouldn’t really absorb any of it at all.

The truth is that reading is a truly unique experience. One book has millions of different versions inside the heads of every single person who reads it. And no one can enter that other experience. No one knows what it’s like to see those words through the lens of those eyes, because they only know their own. Reading becomes a personal experience. It has to be. We connect with it in the way that we want to connect with it, even if the link isn’t even really there. And I think we do that with a lot of things; we find ourselves in art because that’s how something becomes meaningful – when we can relate to it. It’s both self-indulgent and curious and sad and enlightening. It’s many things that can’t really be put into words.

And I think this post is mostly me typing out a load of my thoughts with no coherence to them whatsoever but, like reading, it’s just one single personal experience and to you it’s a whole other personal experience, but they all join to one point: the love of reading. And I think that’s pretty remarkable.

Why do you think we feel emotions for fictional characters?

I’d be interested to know what you think.

Let me know in the comments below!


4 Wellbeing Tips To Help You Through Lockdown

For those of us in the UK, we are now in a national lockdown. We’ve been there before, we made it and we can do it again, but that doesn’t always make it easy. I thought I would put together some tips to help any of you struggling with your wellbeing, and to remind myself of the ways I can stay in a positive mindset too!


Find a Purpose

When we think of finding a purpose in our lives, it can seem super daunting. We think of it as this giant thing looming in front of us, trying to work out what it is that is actually driving us forward. However, finding a purpose doesn’t have to be some “big goal” – it can be as little as playing your favourite song each morning.

I found that, during the previous lockdown, finding a purpose was what helped me each day. It took me outside of the situation and helped me focus on a project, rather than think about the uncertainties of the future. For me, this was finally writing the first draft of a book. For others, it may be an exercise regime. For some, it could be starting up a new hobby, like cooking, or art, or starting a blog! Find that little something that makes you excited.

Embrace the Quiet

Lockdown gives us a lot of time to sit with empty space. I think this is one of the reasons why it can seem terrifying; when we’re busy with our lives, we often don’t give ourselves time to think, and it’s only when we think that we face emotions and circumstances that perhaps we were trying to avoid.

As a result, this time is necessary. For some it may be uncomfortable. Emotions may rise we didn’t know we felt. It teaches you how to breathe when there is only the present moment, and I think that is really powerful.

Get Moving

This is undoubtedly an obvious tip, but I find that it’s so easy to let the days pass and forget to go on that walk that I’ve been planning to do all week! And during lockdown, it can sometimes feel like the world is on a go-slow.

Getting moving doesn’t have to be about doing a 10 mile run. It doesn’t even have to be about leaving the house if you don’t want to (although fresh air helps). It can be finding a YouTube workout, or dancing to your favourite music, or walking up and down the stairs before lunch. Just a little something to get your heart rate up and release positive endorphins.

Stay Connected

In an age as technologically advanced as this one, it should be easy to stay connected, but sometimes it can be a little challenging. Keeping up with text messages, wanting to reduce screen time, not feeling like it’s quite the same as in person – however, it is so important for our wellbeing.

Staying connected doesn’t have to mean being glued to your phone 24/7; staying connected means dialling in when it really matters. Schedule in video calls with people you want to see, or reach out and message when you have a free moment. No one is expecting you to be there all the time, even during lockdown, so make sure to give yourself some space amidst it all.

What is your number 1 wellbeing tip for lockdown?

Share your advice in the comments and let’s help each other out!


5 Things I’m Grateful For This October (2020)

Here’s my monthly gratitude reflection – a little late, but here nonetheless!


Autumn Leaves

One thing I really love about Autumn: the beautiful colours of the Autumn leaves. I’ve done a fair amount of walking this month (mostly on the weekends) and it’s super nice walking through crunchy leaves, which sounds almost childlike, but it’s nature coming alive in its own sort of way.

I’ve been wanting to stop and collect Autumn leaves for some book photography too, but haven’t had a chance yet! Will hopefully take this task into November.

Resilience

This is something I’ve really been working at lately and I think this October, more than any month, I’ve surprised myself in the way I’ve dealt with things that haven’t gone to plan. It makes me grateful for opportunities of self-development where I’ve really pushed myself to be more and do more than I ever could have thought. This is something I hope to take into the following month of lockdown, despite any difficulties.

Celebrations

This month I turned 22 and I was super lucky to be able to take a day off to go to The Ritz for the first time with my Mum! I feel like it’s been so long since we’ve had a chance to dress up for something nice, and I don’t often go to fancy places so it was amazing just admiring the building! The afternoon tea was delicious, and there was unexpectedly a live pianist too, which was very atmospheric. I feel like this will be an experience I’ll be grateful for for a while!

“Spa Day”

Earlier this month, my Mum and I re-created a spa day in our home to have a day full of relaxation! We did yoga, meditation, listened to a podcast with tea, cake and a candle, and even did back massages with hot stones and aromatherapy oils! It was such a peaceful day, and it was a really lovely way to unwind after a busy week. I’m very grateful for these simple yet happy moments.

Music

This month I’ve been flicking back to old music on my iPod and re-visiting all these songs I used to listen to all the time! I forgot how much I love them and it’s so nice to reignite that feeling you get when you hear a song for the first time. It’s a weird sort of way to travel back in time.

I’m hoping to do more of this over the next month, as I’ve missed my daily walks at university when I would listen to music all the time. It’s nice to turn on the speaker and blast something whilst doing the cooking, or even putting the washing up. Makes anything that bit more exciting!

What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

5 New Habits That Genuinely Changed My Life!

Surely it can’t only be me who is wondering where this year has gone? We’re somehow only 3 months away from 2021!

Looking back on this year, it’s been an unusual one for us all, but this post is not going to be focusing on all of that – instead, I’ll be sharing 5 new habits I started doing this year that have genuinely had a huge positive impact on my life. (Feel free to share yours in the comments below too!)

Gratitude Journalling

When I was younger, I used to write lots of diaries. Sometimes I find them in the depths of my cupboard and cringe at all the things I used to say, but journalling is always something that has been cathartic for me. It’s a release.

However, this year I started journalling with a different approach in mind. Instead of writing down everything I was feeling (positives, negatives, the lot), I only wrote down what went well. Every night I do this same routine, writing down 3 things that went well, and reframing one negative situation into a positive. As much as writing a diary is cathartic, journalling with positive words helps reinforce that positivity, rather than dwell on bad events. I am convinced it has helped me stay positive and strong, even through difficult moments, and I’m excited to look back on it in December and see all the amazing things that happened this year!

Phone on Airplane Mode Before Bed

This is a very specific habit I’ve started this year but one that has helped my sleep hugely. I’ve always been a classic overthinker, especially at night, but I never really realised until this year how much blue light, from phone and TV screens, was exacerbating this.

My routine is to now put my phone on airplane mode at least an hour before bed, giving me time to really think about my day, how I’m feeling, and read a good book. I think in a world full of so much noise, we often drown ourselves out. This is my moment to try and reclaim that back.

Reframing Negative Thoughts

I feel like this is one topic I’ve covered in a lot of my blog posts this year, and there’s a reason for that! It’s because it’s the most effective way to get out of a negative slump.

None of us have positive brains 24/7 – that is just unrealistic. However, we can try to change those negative thoughts when they start creeping in. We can do this by rationalising any unnecessary thoughts or changing our focus onto something else. It’s not easy, and I still have moments where I struggle with it, but once you know it’s achievable, it really can help with the most difficult of situations.

Writing a To-Do List

Not only is writing lists super productive (and fun – if you’re like me), but it is genuinely the best way to stay on top of everything that needs to be done. Since the beginning of this year, even on the days when I was in lockdown and had nothing scheduled, I would write a list of what I was going to do that day. And it helped me stay sane. It gave me a purpose.

Lists don’t have to be boring. Write with a colourful pen. Buy yourself a beautiful notebook. Jot down fun things you want to do that day, like watching your favourite show or seeing a friend. A list can be full of anything you want it to be. It’s a nice reminder that you have autonomy in the world.

Reading Before Bed

I’ve always been an avid reader – ever since I was a child. Entering new worlds and understanding new perspectives has always been interesting to me. However, on the road of education, it’s unsurprising that I lost my passion for reading a bit.

It was only at the start of this year that I started reading regularly again. Books for fun weren’t just for the holidays, but something I could read everyday. And the way I managed to do this was by reading before bed.

It’s funny looking back, because in hindsight it’s so obvious, but at the time, I didn’t realise that all this TV I was watching was eating up my reading time. Now, I do both, and I love having the variety. I’m finally making my way through my overflowing bookcase!

Have you taken up a new habit that has genuinely changed your life?

I’d love to know – please share in the comments below!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens [Book Review]

Beautifully unique, and full of intricate descriptions of nature at its most vulnerable, Where the Crawdads Sing is different to any other book I’ve read.

Summary

Kya Clark, known as the “Marsh Girl”, lives amongst the gulls and the sand, residing in a shack on the edge of the marsh with no true company than herself. When a murder echoes across the town, rumour has it that it is the “Marsh Girl”. But what can be said of an isolated girl, with nothing but the wild beauty of nature by her side?

My Thoughts

This was one of the only books I’ve read where I felt immersed in the world within the first few pages. Owens has such a unique writing style that I couldn’t help but feel nature right at my fingertips, authentic and all-consuming as soon as the story began.

There is a meaningful slowness to this book, a capacity to really breathe in every empty space within the marsh as if it is your own. And I imagine that is what it felt like for Kya, to have a home deep-rooted in the earth itself. It is an inspiring reflection on what it means to truly be connected to life.

I’m not sure I really knew the character of Kya, even by the end of the book, but I feel like this was entirely the point. It was all about an isolated and misunderstood girl who doesn’t speak her truth, not in the way that she’s always wanted to. Instead, her passion for nature rings her soul.

This beautiful debut novel, with a truly wonderful ending, had me consumed in a world I’m sure won’t leave me for a long while. This book isn’t to be understood, but to be hugged from the inside, to feel life on the flip side, to be grateful for our feet on the ground and the people by our side.

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


5 Things I’m Grateful For This September (2020)

Here’s my monthly gratitude reflection!


Meeting Friends

At the end of every month, I write in my journal how I feel about the month just gone – what went well, what didn’t, but also what I want to achieve in the next month. At the end of August, I set out to make more social plans in September because, now that I’m working from home, it’s easy to get into the habit of just following a routine and forgetting to leave the house!

I’m so glad I set out this intention because, in true law of attraction fashion, I had a few friends reach out to me and I organised meet ups with friends I hadn’t seen in ages! It meant that I had something to look forward to in the evenings and at the weekend, whether that was going out or simply video calling a friend!

Trying Something New

This is something I try to do every month, because it’s always great to extend your capacity to do things! However, this month, I did some particularly unexpected new things. One of these was embracing a life without cow’s milk – sounds a lot more dramatic than it was! I’ve now replaced cow’s milk with oat milk and have been trying out lots of meals with this new variation. Turns out having oats milk in macaroni cheese tastes exactly the same. And the same for porridge too!

I also baked French baguettes with my Dad a couple weeks ago! We watched Youtube videos on how to perfect the kneading technique and then gave it our best shot! It was something different to try on the weekend, and it’s so easy to get lost in the cooking that the time just flies by!

My Cats

Although my cats can sometimes be a little distracting, it’s really nice having them around during the day when I’m working! Jasper has already introduced himself to the team with his super loud purring, and I love going downstairs at the end of the day to be greeted by Monty’s loving enthusiasm!

Having Lunch with Mum

Sometimes, when working from home, it’s easy to get sucked into the laptop screen and forget to make time for in-person contact. Luckily, my Mum and I have had our lunches this month at the same time during the day, despite our different schedules. I’m really grateful that we can have that time to chat, recharge and motivate each other for the rest of the day!

New TV Shows

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was excited about The Great British Bake Off coming back to TV this month! It’s such a homely and inspiring show that I always find perfect for relaxing in the evening.

I also started watching the TV series of Little Fires Everywhere, which I read the book of a couple months ago – check out my book review here! Although it took me a while to make adjustments between the in-my-head version of the characters and those on screen, I’m now really enjoying seeing one of my favourite books brought to life! So far, it’s stayed very faithful to the book.

Monty being his usual cute self!

What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments below!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi [Book Review]

I bought this book on a complete whim when I was out in Waterstones for the first time since before lockdown, and I was super excited! I loved the cover, had heard the name flying about somewhere on bookstagram, so thought: why not give it a go?

Summary

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a Japanese bestseller in translation, all about a little coffee shop in the back alley of Tokyo with unique powers – the ability to send people back in time. If a visitor sits in one particular seat, they can travel back to any moment they choose. But there’s a catch: they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold.

My Thoughts

First of all, I just wanted to say how much I love the concept of this book. I have such a vivid image in my head of what it would be like to live in this coffee shop of a world, where travelling in time becomes a way of finding purpose, of understanding others, of understanding yourself. I found myself telling my family the plot of the book in so much detail, because it’s such an inspiring story, I couldn’t help talking about it!

However, there is a but. The but is that I really did not enjoy the writing itself, and that disappoints me so much. I really wanted to like it – I tried so hard to like it – but I couldn’t connect to the characters in the way I wanted to. It felt like standing in front of a brick wall and I just couldn’t get past it.

For me, a good book is one I can connect with on a deeper level, one where the characters come alive and exist in themselves, and I think with this one they felt a little bit like templates that hadn’t fully formed inside my head yet, which is such a shame, but that’s my honest opinion!

Overall, I feel like this book has so much potential – there are so many different directions it could have taken. The key message by the end of the book did swing it for me a little, because I liked the way it was concluded (I won’t reveal spoilers, don’t worry), but I can’t give it more than 3 stars.

This book won’t be for everyone, and it was a very conflicting read for me, but I still feel like I got something out of it – I’m sure the plot will stick with me for a while, regardless.

Have you read Before the Coffee Gets Cold?

Let me know in the comments below!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Removing Toxic Labels That Others Have Assigned To You

Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re something so many times that you’ve believed you are defined by it?

Perhaps someone has told you that you’re bossy, impatient, sensitive, that you don’t think about others. Perhaps you’ve been labelled as smart, funny, but these things have become something to live up to. How has it changed the way you live your life?

The truth is that we often define ourselves through the lens of someone else. When we are asked to describe ourselves we often use adjectives we’ve heard other people say to us, because we think they know us better than we know ourselves, but is that really true?

When we use labels other people have given us, we are focusing on them so much that they become the truth, even if they’re not. It’s the law of attraction in play. We are constantly giving these thoughts attention and unintentionally they are becoming detrimental to the way we live our lives.

Personal Example

For me, the one label that has become toxic in my life is being called “Quiet”. It’s something that I was told throughout my whole time at school. I would go to Parents Evening and I would feel good because I was doing well in class and I was getting the right grades, but the teachers would constantly tell me that I was never putting my hand up in class. I’d heard it so many times across countless years that being “quiet” became something negative. It became a limitation. It made me feel like being a good student didn’t matter because I wasn’t very good at talking about it.

Turns out, there are so many positives to being “quiet”, but I forgot what these were because I was told so many times that it was bad. I forgot that quiet could mean reflective, observant, calm. I forgot that it could mean being conscientious, intuitive, sensible. But it can mean all of these things and so much more!

Finding our True Selves

It’s interesting because the labels that become toxic in our lives don’t often stem from a singular source, and even when we know roughly where they came from, we can’t blame those circumstances. I’m sure no one intended for the word “quiet” to completely change the way I lived most of my life, but it did, because of the way I personally experienced it, and that’s okay, but it’s about breaking the mould and fighting to regain our true values, not those other’s have given us.

When we start to believe we are the labels others have given us, that’s when we lose who we are and that’s when the label we’ve been given is then accentuated by our behaviour because we feel like that’s all that we are. Or, we go in the opposite direction and try to become someone we’re not, because we think that’s what the world demands of us. But there is no limitation to who we can become, and one label doesn’t mean you will be that kind of person forever. We must accept ourselves as we are.

What is the Solution?

I don’t think there is any simple solution to this; I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. But I do think it starts with getting to know yourself and exploring what does make you a good person. It’s about letting other people’s thoughts of you go, because they don’t matter. You know who you are inside, and if someone doesn’t understand that, that’s not your problem, right?

So, next time you have a free moment, sit down and think about what labels have been given to you over the course of your life. They could be negative, or they could even be positive, but what negative experiences have occurred as a result of them? Has it caused you anxiety in a certain situation, or have you felt like you are defined by the negative parts of yourself?

If you’re feeling confident, share it with me in the comments below. Let anything you’ve been holding in go and encourage positive change.


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud