My Journey into Freelancing

With the end of my education fast approaching, and my funds quickly trickling away after spending the last of my student loans, I started thinking a lot about how I was going to support myself after my MA.

I’ve been making ends meet over the past couple of months with a bunch of side hustles – an event assistant job here, a bit of bar and kiosk work through a staffing agency there, dog walking, taking part in scientific studies – you name it. I found this the easiest way to make a bit of money after a period of poor health, as I still wanted some control over my schedule, and I only wanted to work extremely casual hours.

I don’t like the concept of selling, particularly myself. I mean, how much am I actually worth? I don’t celebrate or talk about my successes much, I don’t have instagram or post selfies – basically, I find marketing and networking awkward, and I don’t like pushing myself on others.

I used an online salary calculator the other day, which takes into account your education and work experience and comes up with a figure. Mine was around £19,000. But this felt like too much. Or am I underselling myself? I’ve had a bit of experience with selling old clothes online through Vinted, but even something as simple as that throws up anxieties – how much is too much? I hate the thought of ripping people off, but I’m also aware that I need the money.

Anyway. I’ve always really enjoyed proofreading. I was lucky enough to work for a company for a few years, perfecting my technique and realising that I did actually have some kind of knack, a talent. I also proofread friend’s and family’s essays and dissertations in my spare time; sometimes I charged, sometimes I did it for nothing. Eventually, I started to wonder…could I make this into a business? Could I become…a freelancer?

In reality its quite simple to start doing it alongside your other jobs. All you need is a product or service (maybe you make cool bags, maybe you design logos), a place or platform from which to sell it (like Etsy), a price…and that’s it.

I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I just dived into it out of necessity. I started out by signing up to a website called UpWork, which allows you to make a profile, and sell your talent, be that programming or SEO. It took me ages to research how much other people were charging and work out what my services were worth, but eventually I managed it.

After getting a few proofreading jobs through that and building up my experience, I took a couple of evenings to create a WordPress site, and made a few posters as well.

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Its been a gradual learning curve. I’m in need of a professional proofreading qualification (which isn’t cheap), and still hungry for all the experience I can get, but so far I’ve learned a few things about freelancing:

  1. You need a lot of tact: You might have to deal with some tricky customers, so you need the patience of a saint. Some clients send me stuff that needs such an extensive amount of reworking, as if they made no effort whatsoever before submitting it to me, that I just hold my head in my hands and think ‘I’m not getting paid enough damn money for this’. But you have to remain polite and cheerful, even if the other party is being short with you.
  2. Excel is your friend: I’ve never been one to meticulously keep track of my money. Yes, I don’t spend much; but I also don’t have online banking, and rarely open my statements. It quickly became apparent a while ago, however, that I would need to create a spreadsheet to keep track of my earnings, the rates I was charging, and when I got paid. You will need this data for invoices, for tax, and for your records.
  3. Keep a diary or die: If you don’t keep track of what you need to do every day, things will get very messy, very fast.
  4. Be quick: People expect instant responses to messages and fast results. There will always be someone quicker off the mark. So do your best to be as engaged and responsive as possible.
  5. Decide on your limits: Learn the power of no. Taking on too much work will be your undoing. Be clear about exactly what you will be doing, and for what price.
  6. You’ll be in the Broke Bitches Club for a while: It’s not going to take off straight away. It will take a bit of time to get the word out about your services, and you’ll have to wait until you have loads of experience before you can charge more than the bare minimum. Trust me, I’m not making a lot from proofreading, but its a labour of love; I enjoy it, and I want to keep getting better.
  7. Create a portfolio: Keep track of everything you’re writing/editing/selling. Keep an updated CV, and, on top of that, you might want to create a blog showcasing your work. I personally use Contently to organise my portfolio of previous work, which is really easy to use.

Its inherently risky to rely on freelancing as your sole source of income, and not everyone can/should do it, but its a good supplementary income, and would look great on your CV because it shows independence, perseverance, planning, and resilience. I see people all around me setting up their own stuff, and I love it. So don’t be afraid to start selling your cool shit, or consulting or pitching or tutoring! Its possible. And if you’re considering it, this complete guide to setting up as a freelancer should help. I’ll keep you updated with my journey…I’m just taking baby steps and testing it all out, so lord knows if this proofreading thing will be sustainable, but I’d really like to continue doing it for as long as I can alongside my next proper job! More tips to come…

 

 

CV of Shortcomings

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On a day when I was thinking particularly deeply about my life and my failures, I decided to write a CV. Not a normal CV, mind. I’d already spent hours tweaking and perfecting my real one, applying to a job pretty much every other day for weeks and weeks. And I was proud of my real one, and my LinkedIn. But I was also becoming cynical about the whole process; the process of rejection, the process of selling myself.

So, this CV was a bit of a joke. And also partly true. It helped me to write down all my perceived failings and laugh at them. Some of them are real, and some of them are imagined and only exist in my head.

I’m not alone in doing this. Some of the most popular Tumblrs and Twitter accounts consist of little more than a person tearing themselves down, making cynical asides about how shit they are at everything, engaging in a kind of jokey, culturally accepted faux-self hatred designed to achieve the optimum amount of likes. People love a good self-hater.

I was taking melancholic pot shots at myself on a day when I felt particularly bad about myself, yes. But there are other people who do this. Granted, not people like me. Successful people. There have been a spate of academics and professionals who have created CV’s of Failures for all the world to see. Why would they do this? Well, we are all human. The path to success is never simple. We all err. We don’t get every job or accolade we aim for. We are not perfect. We make mistakes, which we learn from.

Johannes Haushofer’s CV of Failures details all the degree programmes he didn’t get into; all the rejections he has received. It shows that life doesn’t always runs smoothly. And we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.

Saying that, mine wasn’t made for any kind of deep or productive reason – I was just trying to create comedy out of a fit of self-hatred. Hey, I managed to amuse myself for an evening. And ironically, getting that all down got me thinking about what I am good at, and what my talents actually are, of which there are many, if I allow myself to remember that. We should focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.

How to be Happy – a beginner’s guide

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Enjoy your food

Be grateful for what you have

Throw out your scales

Wake up early

Learn, unlearn. Educate yourself and others. Seek the truth.

Don’t wear tights of less that 100 denier

Stop buying so much shit

Drink more water

Don’t plan so much – love the unexpected

Collaborate, and great things will happen

Make time for your hobbies and talents (preferably make them your career)

Keep an open mind and don’t just do what’s expected of you

Be creative – whether it’s through your hairstyle, gardening, piercings, or painting

Play your music loud. And sing along

Quit smoking, drinking and drugs

Commit, love and learn from it. Don’t be afraid to share your heart.

Hang out with people who inspire you and make you laugh. Don’t hang out with people out of habit, just to network, because you’re secretly jealous of them, or because you feel too awkward to say no. Your time and energy is precious.

How to Recognize your Quarter-life Crisis

You’ll want to ignore it, but don’t.

I’m from the ‘generation’ before this one that had it pretty good. We had £30/week EMA payments while we were at secondary school, we paid £3000 uni fees rather than £9000, and we lived in a simpler time before everyone was plugged into technology 24/7.

A lot of us feel like we peaked too early; now, anyone and their dog can become rich and famous and viral if they have the right skillset, which tends not to include the old type of skills that we were told were so important. The job market is so competitive, with everyone jostling to stand out, new job roles with impossibly vague titles, vast technological skill requirements, and a need to have a perfect online persona. We’re encouraged to be selfish, chase our dreams…but how we gonna pay for it when everything’s so expensive?  We end up feeling cheated. That degree didn’t get us a dream job. Leaving higher education leaves us standing at the edge of a very steep cliff. DzigRPTrRGm42zNJpbLf_223 edit (1 of 1)

We now live in the age of the selfie (which, arguably, we started in front of mirrors with flip phones), meaning that every inch of our bodies is up for scrutiny, and our daily self worth is often dictated by how good our selfies were that day and how many likes they raked in.

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If this sounds the like the perfect environment for a quarter-life crisis to fester in, then you’d be right.

The world is exhausting and fast and ruthless right now. We’re being sold broken promises. We’re trying to buy happiness. We don’t know what we really want. We have other people’s ‘perfect’ lives shoved in our faces all the time. We’re being told to remain young (keep having fun, keep spending money like a 5 year old with a stolen credit card, don’t age or get wrinkles, dress like a teen for as long as you can, 90’s revival WOOO), and yet be grown up at the same time (you gotta look hot and sexy and have perfect makeup, you gotta have a well paid job and your own house by age 20, be super fit and healthy, isn’t the world a shitty place look at the news LOOK AT IT, learn some life hacks and get your shit together and start a business already), which is obviously really confusing and can cause a lot of internal conflict.

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Now, your quarter-life crisis might present differently. But you’re probably going to recognise yourself in some of the following symptoms.

  • You haven’t really changed in the last 5 years. You keep the same bad habits, and have the same problems and dilemmas over and over again. You also wear the same clothes and make-up, and you might still be in education, prolonging the safe sameness of your young life using postgraduate study.

  • You seem to be having a second childhood. You were all about that independent life, but now that adulthood is looming, you suddenly want to rely on other people again. You go home to your parents for your birthday, to eat, and to do laundry. ALL THE TIME. And your room’s messy and you’re not gonna tidy it OK?? You’re hanging out with people younger than you (say, 18 -21), and its not even consciously, you’re just hanging out where they are hanging out and doing the things they do…is that bad?? Also, for some reason, you seem to be attracting a lot of motherly figures/carer-type friends into your life. That’s probably not a coincidence tbh.


  • You are doing everything you can to escape those feelings of lostness, rather than dealing with them. You’ve travelled extensively, but you’re still no closer to knowing what the fuck your life is about. Better book another ticket, then. You just keep skipping from job to job, idea to idea, dream to dream. You might be partying a lot as well; you refuse to say goodbye to your raving days. Fuck an early bedtime! You might also be exercising excessively, or spending too much time on Netflix and social media – anything to make you feel busy. photo-1457466066908-9c1cfbf05a0e


  • You feel like a small fish in a big pond. And you keep beating yourself up for it. It’s like Year 7 again – you’ve gone from being oldest in your school to youngest in a new school, and it doesn’t feel good. You might panic about feeling inexperienced and like your CV is meaningless. You keep comparing yourself to you at 17 – you were so much smarter and more diligent and together and prettier back then, right? Basically, you’re plagued by self-doubt. You don’t think you’re up to the job of ADULTING.


  • Your relationships are all over the shop. You’re either committing too soon; settling down for the sake of it because you’re scared and you have a five year plan which you need to stick to…or you refuse to get close to the people you’re seeing because there are so many fish in the sea and feelings are scary and deciding is hard.


  • You feel really fucking down all the time. Maybe you’re even a little bit depressed. Being direction-less does that to a person. You just don’t care about anything as much.


  • Inertia. You’re stuck. You can’t make decisions. You make plans but then don’t act. You are scared to be spontaneous. You are still mourning the loss of old friendships and relationships (you probs drifted apart) without making up with them or moving on with your life.

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The way to deal with all the issues is to find yourself – find out who you are, what you like and don’t like, and what you truly want out of life.

You will need to develop strength, independence, and resilience. This comes from practice, doing things that scare you, and celebrating your achievements, however small, to increase your confidence. 11934961_1097177736961634_1772499705165185909_n

If you need it, get help. Don’t feel weak for seeking advice. You might need a mentor, a counsellor, or someone older who’s been where you are now.

Don’t isolate yourself. Its OK to need your friends and family. photo-1455734729978-db1ae4f687fc

Apply for jobs that interest you. Believe that you can make a living doing something you want to do. Don’t worry about what other people think, you’re the one who’s going to have to be there 7 hours a day. photo-1447758902204-48010b87c24d

Stop comparing yourself to other people, its not a race and everyone is different. There’s no set timeline for what you should have achieved each year like there is in school. Bin those to-do and to-achieve lists.

Try not to let capitalism, racism, ableism, sexism and homophobia get you down. Its everywhere and its nowhere. Its embedded in lots of systems and mediums of communication we encounter every day. Educate yourself. Stand up for your (and other people’s) rights. If the media is irritating you, you don’t have to read or watch. Find your own credible sources of entertainment, or write/make something yourself. Keep believing we can change things in some small way.

Build some kind of stable home. You need your own space, whether its just a room or you have the whole house. It won’t be perfect or what you always wanted, but do the best you can with it and decorate! photo-1455400522506-9ea14453b775

Be nice. Try and project your energy outwards rather than focusing on yourself and what others may think of you. In reality, they have their own problems. Too much inward thinking equals death.

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Just a Little Writer’s Quiz

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*I’ve forgotten where I adapted this from so forgive me, plagiarism police!

Three things you wouldn’t know about me…I can play the cello, I’m terrified of horse statues (but not real horses), I was a tall kid – but now I’m shorter than everyone 😥

I could have been…a sprinter

I focus by…putting some chilled out music on, working outside of my bedroom, making hour-by-hour timetables, doing some bicycle crunches

My literary heroes are…Simon Armitage, Miri Song, Toni Morrison, Kate Le Vann, John Agard, Nichelle Gainer, Nella Larson, J.K Rowling, Warsan Shire, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Jon Ronson, James Baldwin, Anthony Horowitz, Maria P. Root, Bill Bryson

My real heroes are…Serena Williams, Mo’ne Davis, Bjork, FKA Twigs, Mark Anthony Neal, Solange, Cecile Emeke, Amandla Stenberg, Mick Jenkins, Ta-Ku, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jeremy Corbyn, Pewdiepie, Malia Bouattia, Chescaleigh

I unwind by…reading, planning my meals for next week, playing online games, watching pointless buzzfeed videos

My idea of relaxing is…an empty diary, a few friends and some good food

The centre of my world is…my boyfriend, Nick, tbh

There was a time when…I wouldn’t leave my bed, barely ate, and truly believed I wasn’t good at anything

The future is a place where…I have a dog

If I could go back in time I would…have kept playing the saxophone

I get down to writing by…being comfortable and warm, and having a flash of inspiration

I know I’ve had a good day when…I’ve got out of bed before 10am, I put eyeliner on in the morning, I’ve done some exercise

My readers are the people who…exist somewhere in virtual space. They are the stats on my blog. And I’m grateful for every one of them.

Writers are important because…they create characters and worlds that we can love and hold on to, and they capture the feel of their era

If I could give one piece of advice to any inspiring writer it would be…get more people to read your work

Female collabs and why they matter

I’ve fallen in love with collaborative working!

I mentioned in my last post, but I’ve recently entered into a little collab with a dear friend. Working alongside another person has really given me a lot of drive and motivation, and it has made me excited to see what we produce as a duo.

Collaboration can be a way of pooling resources, and creating strategies to get your work out there. It makes you feel more confident that your work is good, and that you’ve got someone who’s watching your back. Through collaboration, ideas can be changed, minds can be expanded, and new things can be created which would never have existed otherwise. Collaboration is a way of expressing outwards, which is especially good for someone like me (INTP, ughhhh) who is not usually good at tooting their own horn or making useful connections with others. It also helps me to focus on one thing at a time, as I tend to write many things at once, but struggle to find the motivation to finish many of them.

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We are planning a poetry book – I’m doing the words, she’s doing the images. To be honest, poetry isn’t even my main bag. I prefer writing short stories. But she read my poems and something just clicked – we both suddenly had a vision for this project. And, maybe no-one will read it. Maybe no-one will notice. But we want to create something we’re proud of, and we want anyone who happens to find our work in their hands or on the screen in front of them to feel different after having read it – whether that’s more understood, stronger, or even confused and like their world-view has just shifted slightly.

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That sense of friendship and solidarity is so life-giving, and is especially useful when working on creative or social endeavours. It can also be especially important when you’re both 20-something WOC trying to get yourself out there and realise your dreams; when you’re trying to carve out a niche for yourself and others which has not previously existed, or been allowed to exist. It’s easier to overcome any barriers you might face when you’re together, and its more exciting, interesting and affirming to document your experiences and plan stuff with another person.

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And collaboration doesn’t have to come in such an official form, either. We collaborate every day, with our friends and people we work or study with. We build each other up, support each other, give advice, encourage each other to do new things and believe in ourselves. Hell, even a night out with your besties can be an act of collaboration.

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As someone who helped people set up a Black Feminist reading group (and eventual society) at my uni, and who was part of a group of three girls who worked together to create campaigns on behalf of BME students, I really feel the importance of strong women working together to change things. The sense of purpose, solidarity and creativity that accompanies brainstorming with similar minds is so precious.

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There’s nothing I like to see more than all-female groups creating and innovating and changing the narrative. And that’s where I get my inspiration from – from projects and artists who put the female experience at the forefront of their work, who create things which make you think, which are spiritual, intellectual, and comforting to those who are lost or invisible.

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I look to these groups (and the individuals in them), and seeing their output and their existence in the world, seeing them take up space, is enough for me – no tangible physical connection is even needed; this stuff can have a real impact virtually and visually on a person’s life, outlook, and perception of themselves.

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I look forward to being part of more groups in the future, where the people become parts that fit together, where each has their own role, where all act as a soundboard for the others, where light is perfectly balancing with dark. Sometimes to get something done, you just need to join forces.

Are You a Writer?

I haven’t done much creative writing for ages, and I don’t want to go neglecting my first love, do I? I’m getting back into it, but it’s not easy when all I’ve been focussing on this year is articles/opinion pieces, and academic essays.

I like to have a lot of things on the go at once so I don’t get bored; the downside of this is that I now have about 5 unfinished novel drafts which I’ve got to try and do something with (preferably finish!). On the bright side, though, I’m currently working on an exciting poetry collaboration, so there’s that 😀 I’ll give you more info when it’s closer to being finished, but I feel like we’re going to be proud of it when it’s done.

I haven’t got any extracts that I want to share right now, so I’m going to write about writing instead.

I’m going to ask in this post: Can the artistic act of writing, or the state of being a writer, be defined in any concrete way? I’m also going to consider if writing is actually an art form and a gift, or whether it’s a technique which can be learned and honed in order to make a living. Is it something you’re born with, or something you need to keep practising to prevent the skill from disappearing (gulp)? Maybe its just being able to overcome procrastination?

Historically speaking, the stereotype of the writer is very androcentric. Famous writers have typically been alcoholic males with typewriters – tortured European men like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King and William Faulkner. Androcentrism has tended to be a definite pattern throughout fiction, owing to the fact that men have traditionally had more access to education. Within our Western culture, teaching, publishing and reading was preoccupied with and overshadowed by the imitation of ‘dead white males’. However, defining ‘a writer’ is no longer as simple. Times have changed, and while there are still minority voices which are under-represented, the barriers to being heard are slightly less gruelling to overcome, and different narratives are popping up which can’t and won’t be ignored anymore.

A more black and white way of way of defining a writer is as a self-employed person who produces works of fiction or non-fiction, and is motivated by the drive to write and the satisfaction they gain from engaging in a creative pursuit. From this, we can learn that writing is connected to emotions; to desires, satisfaction. It is also sadly true that few writers achieve mass-market success, so if the financial yields are low, there must be another reason why people choose to do it. This leads us to consider whether it actually takes commercial success, monetary rewards and mass acclaim to become a ‘proper’ writer.

Caro Clarke, on her eponymous website, has created a quiz for visitors to take which tells them whether or not they have what it takes to be a writer. Do you write because you enjoy reading, or simply because you like typing? Do you use adjectives ‘sparingly’ or ‘vigorously’? Can you accept rejection? Clarke suggests that a real writer wants to write because they have characters in their head which they need to give life to, and not because they just want to see their name in print and win literary prizes. Again, it is not just to do with acclaim, technique, or success – it’s about some kind of desire. However, Clarke also goes on to suggest that being published is actually important; perhaps she doesn’t mean this in terms of making money, but rather the realisation of an idea into something tangible, and the positive metal effects this can have. Either way, Clarke seems to brush off the idea of keeping a ‘writer’s journal’, an oft-used tool for exploring creativity and writing for pleasure. Fiction skills, in her opinion, can only be gained through discipline and refining; mood pieces and character sketches have no place. And to some extent she is right. Keeping a journal (and, I guess, a blog :p) doesn’t necessarily make you a writer. So maybe its the interpretation of your thoughts on a page by an audience which make a writer? Personally, I have always kept a journal, but it was only when I started connecting my thoughts and turning them into more finished, coherent entities, and when I started to tell people about my work, that I felt like I was starting to become a bit more legit. Before then, I was just someone who liked to write. But if writing is about ploughing towards the holy grail of being published, then many have failed, and are failing (including myself), and are falsely claiming to be writers. It depends, then, on what kind of writer you are, and whether penning a novel is the goal of your craft.

Can we look at what it means to be a writer in terms of their traits? Justine Musk states that a person must choose writing over everything else, thereby becoming solitary and mentally tough. And it must take someone mentally tough, or at least different to everyone else in society, to decide to sit in a room by themselves, assigning thoughts to paper for the majority of their time; and also quite a large amount of ego, unrealised or not, to believe that your own thoughts and musings might warrant appreciation and remuneration, or that they are vital enough to be distributed across the world. She references Margaret Atwood when she says that writing begins with an inwards focus, but then, after exploring the self, the true writer extends outwards; develops their craft and doesn’t just write about their own thoughts and feelings. Atwood herself says that writers as a species have no common motives. We are all brought up in different places and in different times, so have different ideas about what the social function of a writer is, or even what good writing looks like. We construct our own self-image as writers; our own job description. It is an activity, a profession, or an art, according to the individual. Writers record the world as they themselves view it. This is reflected in the fact that being a writer has changed vastly over time. The advent of blogs means that anyone can get their work read. People can self-publish, create e-books, and advertise their work in different ways.

To revisit Atwood’s point about expanding outwards after an inward focus, John Scalzi approaches this by relating the process to growing up, suggesting that a writer is someone who has come through adolescence. He claims that, when you are young, you have no perspective and wisdom, and that teenagers are too obsessed with cultural influences and role models to produce truly original work. Scalzi says that it is essential to experience life, and practise your skills, before you can be a writer. And I can relate this to my own work. The way I write, both in my spare time and for purpose of education, has changed and become better over time. During this process I have grown up, and my writing is more original (I hope) and reflects what I have learned about the world. I have also kept the desire to write since it appeared, and not just seen it as consigning myself to doing what is essentially extra homework for the rest of my life. We are taught a lot of rules about writing at school, but perhaps a writer is someone who will eventually cease to see writing as a technical instrument for acquiring grades, and start to attach sentimentality and meaning to it. The writer is the one who sees writing as more than a means to an end.

So, being a writer is not about following rules (set out by schools, or even the numerous creative writing courses which exist), but breaking them – transcending them and converting rules into your own sentient thought. It is just like art in many ways. Art students have to study great artists and practise drawing in proportion before they are allowed to rip up the rule book and create formless art unconnected to any movement. Writing is about creativity, and producing images through the written word. But it also comes with some responsibility; after all, ‘we inherit words with invested meanings’ (McNeill, 1992), and so writers can use words to oppress or to challenge. They have a responsibility to their readers to be conscious of what they are conveying, and how they are conveying it.

It is clearly difficult to define exactly what it means to be a writer. The meaning attached to being a writer varies depending on the standpoint from which the problem is being looked at. So, I’ll finish by saying that a writer is both a self-defined entity and a product of their era. To be a writer is to have a burning desire to write and create. A writer is someone who takes care over their work, actively trying to improve it with a view to it being shared with other people, or even just one person.

So, are you one of them?

5 Things I’m Thinking About

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1) I’m fucking sick and tired of ASOS!

I used to be so addicted to that website. It was part of my ‘still up at 3am for no reason’ life. I would spend hours searching for clothes and saving them to my favourites and then umming and ahhing painfully over buying them before realising the birds were singing and I was still broke 😦

But the main reason I’m tired of ASOS is the fact that the models they use all look the same – long hair, 7 feet 4 inches tall, and approximately a child’s size 9 yrs with a 10 inch diameter waist (or thereabouts…). It’s just boring and unrealistic and, more to the point, it puts me off buying because I can’t figure out how the clothes would actually look on me most of the time. Seriously, would it kill them to hire models who don’t look like they are unwell? Why are ASOS so in love with bones? Why do they hate hips so much? Like, it literally confuses me because models are supposed to be ‘hot’ and ‘aspirational’, right? So why don’t they also use girls that are hot in real life terms, with a shape, like a BODY? No offence to the girls they use, it’s not their fault they have a boyish figure, I mean, I kinda do too. But a LOT of people don’t. So why don’t they represent the full beauty of women? And also this isn’t high fashion, this is supposed to be a more down-to-earth way of selling clothes, with trends led by street fashion and what customers actually (supposedly) want. So, why don’t they want to appeal to us by using normal-looking people? But, this is like shouting into a well. Noone will answer, nothing will change…yet. I kind of want to boycott them but then I know there will probably come a time when I’m eating cookies at 4am and wanting a cheap dress. FUUUUUU

2) Sandra Bland’s death is horrifying

If this is sad for me, then this is horrifying for people actually living in America. How does this shit keep happening? It’s disgusting. Sandra Bland was just a normal woman driving to work. Like your mum. Like your aunty. Like your teacher. She didn’t indicate correctly or something. And now she’s dead. People are saying that she was already dead in the mugshot. The police killed someone who shouldn’t have been in jail anyway, and are claiming that it was suicide. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said, nothing much I can do from here (sitting on my butt in York), all I can do is speak her name and hope that activists in the US will gain the upper hand and things will change. We must stay aware of what’s going on.

3) Is it wrong that I want a dog more than a baby?

Every time I see a dog, my heart skips a beat and I am overcome with the urge to hug it, and then I get sad and start planning when I will be able to have one of my own. I really love dogs, all dogs. All of my life plans, since the beginning of time, have involved dogs. Don’t most people feel this way about children, not animals?!? Oh well

4) I’m taking my twists out tomorrow ughhhhjjjjbdkjsandjkamdupdnsjwkdbh

I’m scared. It’s not gonna be pretty. I haven’t been caring for my hair at all the past couple of weeks. Might post a video for your amusement/to show you what not to do…

5) Why can’t women get on with fucking exercise in peace?

I bought Look magazine this week (dunno why, I never buy fashion magazines because they are full of damaging bullshit IMO) and there was this article about something called Blotox. Apparently it’s becoming super popular. It’s botox you have along your hairline to stop you sweating while you exercise (to protect your blow-dried hair). Women really aren’t allowed to be human anymore, are they? Not only do we have to be super thin and willowy (and yet still somehow still able to be strong and lift weights and shit), wearing expensive revealing lycra, have perfect make-up, be 100% hair free and smile for instagram while we exercise, but now we are not even allowed to produce a little sweat from our brow during physical exertion? I give up. These ideals are so removed from reality, what are they even doing lol.

Women WILL keep exercising in baggy t-shirts, sweating, grunting and taking part in ‘unladylike’ sports which give them ‘unladylike’ muscles, and still remain beautiful and amazing; yes, even without makeup and blotox…soon, the media is going to have to catch up and reflect that. Also, let’s keep increasing the visibility of women’s professional sport while we’re at it. I personally really look up to female athletes, much more than I do actresses etc. Women who show us that it’s ok to be strong give me hope!

I’m gonna leave you with Serena

WHO GETS TO WEAR BRAIDS BY NAOMI ANDERSON WHITTAKER

Here’s a piece I wrote for the blog Not Your Exotic Chick. It’s an issue I feel pretty strongly about – the increasing free-for-all when it comes to black women’s style and adornment, coupled with the invisibility of black women themselves. I literally wrote loads and loads, had to cut it down so much. I wanted to bring in broader stuff about cultural appropriation, I wrote stuff about body politics, wanted to bring in some stuff about class, and light skin/mixed privilege etc etc but at that point I was pushing 3000 words; sometimes you just can’t say everything. But anyway, hope you enjoy!

not your exotic chick

I remember the first time I got twists. It was for graduation. I’d always loved twists and braids. I used to look in awe at old pictures of my mum and aunty wearing them when I was younger. Fast forward to 2014. I wanted a neat, pretty style which wouldn’t take much looking after. When I got Senegalese twists, it cut my getting-ready time in half (much to my boyfriend’s relief). I ate beauty vlogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, learning all I could. After the takedown, I kept looking on blogs and YouTube, and began to love my natural hair. I’ve only just started properly caring for my hair to be honest. I had lots of failures during my teens. There was a lot of crying and wishing for long straight hair. Then, I started seeing more people with hair like mine doing great things with their locks. It…

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Solidarity with Bahar Mustafa

As my time as a BME Student Campaigns Coordinator comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on what we have achieved.

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The BME Liberation Campaign was set up to help Black and Minority Ethnic students to organise around issues of concern, and address discrimination affecting students and staff of African, Caribbean, Asian or Arab descent. The campaign also sought to educate the general student population on issues affecting BME students, and generally encourage discussion and change concerning issues of race and ethnicity. There are also liberation campaigns running at the University of Leeds for Women, LGBT students, and students with disabilities. These volunteer officers work closely with the Equality and Diversity officer on the student exec, to ensure that their work is well-rounded and all-encompassing.

The role was very flexible and open. We were able to choose what campaigns to focus on (led by students), and could decide how to organise and utilise allies/non-identifying members. We even changed the name we had been given by the union, from Black Students Campaign to BME Students Campaign, to better represent our goals, who we were, and who we wanted to work with.

Myself and the two other BME Student Campaign Coordinators achieved so much this year! We created a Facebook group for students who self-identify as BME and started an email newsletter.

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We had multiple meetings, guest edited an issue of the student paper, helped to organise events for Black History Month and International Women’s week, and created a poster campaign about cultural appropriation during Halloween (using the picture below as our inspiration).

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We also were involved in bringing the Ferguson tour to Leeds, and led an eye-opening workshop called “The Privilege Walk” at an event called Summat New. On top of that, we helped a student to set up a black feminist society at the University of Leeds, which had a great weekly reading group.

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We signed petitions, attended training meetings, assisted a student in organising a vigil for the victims of Boko Haram attacks in Baga, and just generally got a lot done! Of course, there were areas we could have improved upon, and I hope that the role can grow, increase in importance, and reach even more students with each passing year.

Because of the work I was involved in this year, then, I was saddened to see the storm erupting around Bahar Mustafa, the diversity officer at Goldsmiths. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, things kicked off in April, when an article in the Tab (an online student paper) was picked up by mainstream media, and boy did they run with it! The offending comments included:

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Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t read these as aggressive or divisive posts. When organising ways to uplift and activate BME communities, sometimes it is most helpful if only BME people are present. She even said she would give allies things to do! What more do you want? The whole point of being an ally is only being involved when it is helpful so as not to take over the issue and make it about you! Being an ally involves learning and support. I mean, I’m trying to educate myself about trans issues at the moment. If there was a trans-only meeting going on where they were discussing their experiences or organising a private event, I wouldn’t get angry. I wouldn’t demand that they let me in. I wouldn’t say “THIS IS AGAINST EVERYTHING BRITISH UNIVERSITIES STAND FOR, HOW DARE YOU NOT INVITE ME!!!” I’d be like, cool, let me know when something comes up that I can help with. If not, fine. I’ll just keep learning and trying to support groups and causes which work with trans people/issues. And keep trying to analyse/combat/address/get rid of any transphobia I may express or have buried within my subconscious. And that is all.

I stand in solidarity with Bahar Mustafa because if people are attacking the right to a safe space, they are also attacking the work that I have done, and the work that many other BME officers do. I mean, our Facebook group was for BME only people. I think that it is our right, as students studying at institutionally white, eurocentric universities (this is not a criticism, this is a reality which we need to tackle, examine and work through together), which can struggle when it comes to making students of different races/ethnicity/cultures feeling fully equal and included (not just socially but in terms of the curriculum etc), to have spaces for us to discuss issues of discrimination. Sometimes, some people don’t feel comfortable enough to honestly say everything they feel about discrimination in front of people who are part of the dominant group in society/members of the group in society which broadly oppresses them. However, we obviously also worked with non-BME people. We organised events which were open to everyone. It is a delicate balance though, and it can be hard to keep everyone happy. I would say open and closed spaces are both important though. It is also important that university officers are held accountable, and that complaints against them are taken seriously. If people had felt I wasn’t doing my job this year, I could have been removed from my position. Leaders should not be allowed to say whatever they like. However, these complaints also have to be backed up by fact and consideration of social and historical context, as well as not totally witch-hunty!

What people seem to be missing is that there are many ‘safe spaces’ for other groups, although they are not labelled as such. And in society, you could say white heterosexual males, for example, are spoilt for choice when it comes to safe spaces – spaces which are built for them, spaces which protect their interests alone. A safe space doesn’t mean a private, secret room where you can trash talk anyone who doesn’t agree with what you believe and plot against ‘outsiders’. It just means a space where everyone is on the same page. It merely means a space for open discussion, where noone is at risk of being attacked or derided for their identity, and they can talk about their experiences as black, or lesbian, or disabled, or whatever, without being judged, belittled, or misunderstood by people who do not empathise with their issues, or have never experienced that kind of discrimination before. And where you are not slowed down by offensive questions which could have been avoided by some simple research before-hand. These are often spaces for discussion which facilitate activism and change; which have a positive, active purpose. They can also be recreational spaces. But anyway. That is all we are asking for. It does not affect anyone else negatively. It is not detrimental to those not included in said space. Unless FOMO is now a serious negative, detrimental thing to experience which warrants your butthurt-ness being placed above the concerns of people who aren’t yet seen as equal in society…

I think it is really sad and disappointing that Bahar could not organise an anti-racism event for BME women and non-binary people within an academic setting without being accused of reverse racism and reverse sexism. People have signed a petition for her to lose her job. People have said she was inciting racial hatred and committing an act of terrorism. Lecturing BME people about discrimination and segregation is extremely hypocritical. Whether people want to believe it or not, Black, Asian and Arab people often find themselves in spaces where they feel unwelcome, unsure, at risk – purely because of how they are dressed, the language they are speaking, the colour of their skin, what their hair looks like. This is a huge problem. Not a few people being left out of one one small BME meeting at one solitary university in London.

I get that people who are members of groups in society which are higher up in the social scale and more accepted/catered to by society/media/government etc. (white, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, middle-class) might be alarmed that minority groups are trying to organise, and creating words to describe negative experiences of oppression which they don’t understand. The ‘balance’ has been upset, and people are freaking out. But the balance NEEDS to be upset. Equality requires change. I get that activisty people can be a little annoying and holier-than-thou. Don’t I know it. Some people are all about using the right words and calling people out over tiny, questionable things (I am aware that what is ‘tiny’ is subjective) which waste time and energy, without ever stopping to wonder if they too have issues/prejudices to sort out, or wondering if they are creating discourse which leaves people out when it would be helpful for them to be included. Some liberal peeps seem to think that only ignorant working class people who don’t know the correct discourse/language can be racist. I imagine that people feel like they are being attacked by the PC police. (There is no PC police except the one which the media creates to infuriate you into disregarding everything BME people say about race because it must be an exaggeration and an attack on your liberty – when really, all BME people want is for you to believe their experiences, treat them like humans and let them create some damn equality!).

What we need are honest discussions where people are open and willing to learn and work together, and not constantly defensive. What we need are discussions about race which leave loyalty to ideology, and automatic suspicion of anything which a BME person says about race or their experiences of discrimination, at the door. And we also need a society which doesn’t instantly drag down, fear and castigate groups of Black people, or Asian (or whatever) people coming together as a group, in a private space, to uplift their identity, de-construct their oppression and oppressors, and create positive change for their communities.

 

12 Reasons Meaningful Relationships Are Becoming More And More Rare

All very true…

Thought Catalog

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1. We’re looking for relationships as though they’re something you order. We think that people are consumable, and connections are accomplishments. We only value what they appear to mean, not what they actually are.

2. We regard love as something you “have” not something you “experience.” Most people aren’t conscious of this fact, but they’re only desiring a relationship for what it will mean about them (that they’re worthy of love, for example) or what it will save them from. It’s a thing they get to use… not something they choose to experience.

3. We’re the generation of disconnect, ironically enough in the age of nothing but connection. We’re depressed and comparative and living our lives through images and screens. We can’t put our phones down long enough to focus on one conversation in its entirety… and we expect to build and develop meaningful relationships with the people with…

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To Sum Up

This was always meant to be a blog which focussed on my writing; on short stories, on essays, on articles. Not my feelings and stuff – I hate sharing that. But, I haven’t written anything for a while now. And if I can’t write about what’s happening in my life on my own blog then where can I write about it?? This was kind of easy to write, but also really hard.

This academic year will be one I will always remember. After getting a first at undergrad, I decided to carry on, and my enthusiasm propelled me into a master’s degree on a subject I loved. I dived straight in without resting or stopping to congratulate myself on what I had achieved already. I hoped that the master’s degree would give me the edge when applying for jobs, bringing me closer to my dream of working for a race equality think tank. I also hoped that the degree would give me confidence in myself. This was my big mistake.

This is sooo dumb but I have, for many years, felt like a little kid compared to others my age at times. I hated my shortness (I stopped growing when I was 11 pretty much lol), my baby face, my body in general, my quiet demeanour. I loved who I was deep down, and who I was with the people closest to me. But I couldn’t be like this with the majority of people.There was so much sharpness in my head, but my general exterior was…I guess just a kawaii potato.

University gave me a lot of confidence; I made a few friends, did quite well academically, tried a lot of new things. But still I often felt not as good as everybody else, out of place. I thought that people saw me as ‘cute’, as young-looking, or even just weird. And this presumption sometimes made me shy around people I didn’t know that well. I wanted to be respected. I wanted to look older. I wanted bewbs.

But seriously though, I pinned my hopes on that masters degree, sure that it would make me feel more adult, more serious, more qualified and confident in my own abilities, more equal to everyone else (ridiculous right?). That it would give me the strength to show people what I knew that I was capable of. (I also hoped it would be fun!) But you can’t expect a masters degree to give you that. You have to find that shit in yourself.

I took on a lot this year. Maybe too much. Alongside the studying I became an LUU (Leeds University Union) BME Student Campaigns Coordinator in August. I normally shy away from positions of responsibility but I wanted to challenge myself. The first term was great. I did things I never thought I would do. I connected with so many people. I felt like life was going in the direction I wanted it to. I was involved in setting up a Facebook group for BME students who wanted to run campaigns. We had meetings. We helped to organise black history month and I interviewed someone and wrote an article for the student paper. We ran a workshop called ‘The Privilege Walk’ and it was an eye-opening success. We collaborated. I learned and felt energised. I worked at Dominoes for a while as well and kept myself really really busy.

However, this all began to fall apart in the second term. I started feeling really drained and  dropped the ball. Triggered by a late essay (I thought I had handed it in, but I actually hadn’t, I guess because I was so stressed about assessments), I stopped being able to cope. I couldn’t handle meetings, talking to people, organising or planning. I didn’t want to be a leader or have any responsibility any more; it started to feel really unnatural. I started to socialise less. I became less involved in everything I had once loved. I began to feel sad and worthless all the time. My uni work suffered. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. I pride myself on my resilience; my ability to reinvent myself, cheer myself up, enjoy my own company, persevere and succeed when time and resources are against me. But as the months passed, I ran out of excuses. It wasn’t my period. It wasn’t a lack of new clothes. I couldn’t snap out of it. It wasn’t going away.

Why couldn’t I study? Where was my passion for my subject? Why couldn’t I walk along the street with my head up? Why couldn’t I eat or get out of bed or stop crying? I stopped going to university because it was filled with the echoes and shadows of my failures. I lost motivation. I stopped speaking to people. My bedroom became a prison where my reflection taunted me until I was too self-concious to leave the house. I lost track of time because I was going for up to 3 days at a time without sleep, with the curtains shut all day. I felt like my body was deteriorating; I had no energy. I started mostly wearing dark baggy clothes. I didn’t shower regularly. My skincare and haircare routines stopped.

I gave up. I felt alone.

In March, I started researching my symptoms and taking online quizzes. My family were starting to notice something was up. And I was getting dehydrated from all the crying. Lol. This research seemed to indicate that I was depressed.

It took a lot to accept this. I didn’t want this to be medicalised. I was terrified of talking to a professional – a STRANGER – about my feelings. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be depressed when people I knew had been through so much more and had shittier lives than me; surely I didn’t have a good enough reason to be so down and numb and self-hating. I felt like asking for help was the same as me showing weakness or being self pitying.

I am in the process of working through all of this. I currently plan to drop out of my part-time master’s degree after finishing this year; academia is not for me. I don’t have enough confidence in my academic ability any more. Although theoretically I could do it, and the capability is definitely there, I feel like my de-motivation is a sign that I’m following the wrong path. I can’t express myself verbally in class. I feel like I can’t live up to my own standards, and I don’t even want to. I want to be free from it all, that academic life – no more bullshit, no more stress. I want a break from learning. I want to make positive change in the world and connect to people, and not just live life theoretically. I need to take time out to decide what I want to do; what would make me happy. And I need some sun! Being in cold grey Leeds all year hasn’t helped.

I’m working on it

Some days I’m ok; others, I can’t think straight and I feel like everyone hates me and I have no future. It’s been so bad that I’ve gone down a couple dress sizes since December, recently had to turn down a job, and missed countless social engagements. I would be nowhere without the constant support of my caring boyfriend. These past 4 months have put him through so much shit and stress and drama. He’s stuck by me. My sister has been very supportive as well. She even spent her own money coming to visit me, and did my food shopping and cooked for me. My aunty and dad have come to visit me too. Noone else has been that much help, but that’s because I have been too shy to ask anyone else for help or even tell them the extent of my problems. I don’t have the self confidence to approach friends and family or let them in at the moment, even though I want to more than anything. I feel like I’m living in a bubble away from the real world. I know that that will eventually change though. I will remember the things I liked about myself (I can always see what’s good/beautiful about other people but never myself) and start doing the things I used to love (like writing and learning Spanish). I will be my old self again!

I never truly realised what depression was before. I once thought it was just being really sad for a while, and then eventually getting through it. Like, kinda bad, not such a big deal though. But DAMN! No. It fucking stops you achieving your goals. It can make you physically ill. It distorts how you see the world. It convinces you that your whole life will be shit and you are worthless and all your friends and family secretly hate you. It makes you lose track of time and forget things. The longer you leave it, the worse it gets. I doesn’t matter how much chocolate you eat or how many dresses you buy or how many times you fake that you’re fine to other people. It won’t get better until you try and get some help. 3 websites that have helped me help myself though, which you might find useful one day: Happify, Start2, and Blah Therapy. And two books (one I found by chance, the other was lent to me) – The Confidence to Be Yourself (Brian Roet), and The Way to Love (Anthony de Mello).

Hope reading this didn’t depress you too much (ughhhh excuse the pun). I hope it makes you feel less alone if you feel this way. Hearing other people talk about their experiences has helped me, and allowed me to feel less shame in admitting my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, minor though they are compared to some other people’s. There is not only one path to the life you are meant to live. If one thing fucks up, something else will come along. And depression is not a permanent state. It can happen to anyone. You can never tell. So you should be nice to everyone!

Maybe this post will help you recognise symptoms in someone else. Just be there to listen and let them know you are thinking of them. They will probably be feeling too shy/miserable to get in touch first.

Oh god I’m glad I got all this out of my system but I actually kinda hope noone reads this lol…

Next post will be happy shit prooomise