Tone of surprise

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” – Alan Turing

I thoroughly enjoy surprising people – my friend is repeatedly surprised every time he hears that I can play the flute, primarily because his memory is shocking but his reactions are brilliant so he’s forgiven. Last year I choreographed for a production of FAME and the cast seemed surprised when they realised I could “actually dance, like, properly”, as if they hadn’t expected me to able to because it wasn’t something they knew about me. This summer I was asked to sing at an event some of my co-workers were attending. One of them came up to me after and said “well you kept that quiet”, as if belting out musical theatre numbers would have been appropriate in the office. The thing that amuses me about this is how shocked people can be when they uncover something new about you, as if you had been keeping it secret from them. I personally consider myself an open book and yet people are often surprised when they discover something about me whether they are an acquaintance I have met a handful of times or one of my best friends but I know I am guilty of this too. I just feel that we seem to forget sometimes, in a world where information is usually at our fingertips, the lives of others often go as deep as our own.

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Make it happen

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” – Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

When I first moved over to Belfast and realised there was no Musical Theatre Society at Queen’s, I was amazed. With Musical Theatre being a large part of my life, I wanted to continue with it as it would provide a sense of normality in the move to university across the water. Initially I heard there was a group starting a society which I was very excited about but nothing came of it. When I went home for Christmas, my performing arts friends asked me what I was doing in Belfast and, after I explained the situation, they said “well why don’t you start something then”. They were right: if I wanted something that wasn’t there, I had an obligation to myself to start it. So, I emailed the Student’s Union that night and started to pull together a group who also liked Musical Theatre, drafted a Constitution for the society and arranged to speak at the first Student Council meeting after Christmas.
Cut to May 2017 and, in fifteen months, the society had received £5,880 thanks to a hard-working team, produced three showcases, organised socials, staged a full-scale musical with help from various people and groups around Belfast and had been shortlisted for Most Improved Society and came second for Society of the Year at the Annual Student’s Union Awards. All I wanted to do was sing but creating the opportunity for fans of Musical Theatre to come together and perform led to so much more. I could not be more proud of what the committee and I achieved in the society’s first fifteen months and, while none of this had been in the plan, I will be forever grateful.

Who, me?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have danced for years, performing and competing. I was never a typical Festival competition dancer: they were covered in glitter and strutted around with cheesy grins plastered across their faces which just wasn’t my style. But I was doing something I loved and that was more than enough for me.
Three years ago, I was lucky enough to perform an incredible routine that was entirely my style, choreographed by my brilliant teacher. At the end of our section, all dancers were called on stage for the places to be awarded. My school’s dancers were numbered something like 5 to 16 so they were the numbers we were listening for. Third place went to one of our girls, Second to another dancer and First was tied between number 14 and a dancer that we had seen perform and immediately thought “show’s over, everyone go home, he has it in the bag”. But number 14 was one of our girls. I looked along the line and then down at my own number. I had just placed joint First. Thinking there had been a mistake, I took a small, hesitant step forward, bowing ever so slightly when I noticed my dancer teacher’s wide eyes in the audience. I walked forward to stand next to the other winner and receive my medal. The adjudicator then asked me to give it back and I was so embarrassed, of course it was a mistake. And then she said something I will always remember: “Now go back and walk forward like you won”.
Doing something I enjoyed and being myself not only won me joint First but also the joint highest mark in the entire Novice category. From this, I have learnt a valuable lesson: Never underestimate how high a love for something can lift you.

Honey I’m Home

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

I hadn’t intended to ever leave it this long between posts but having moved back to Belfast (and failing to sort out Wi-Fi), I think I have an excuse.

I love A.A. Milne for several reasons but particularly for his beautifully simple expressions. Throughout school I never really felt like I fitted in so my parents repeatedly told me that I would find “my people” one day but the longer it took, the more sceptical I became. Nevertheless, they were right. It is the twists and turns of my life that have brought me into contact with some of the most incredible people I am honoured to all my friends. If I had stayed at my high school’s sixth form I don’t think I would have had the guts to go to University in Belfast or spend a summer in America. My first day of college was terrifying: I only knew three people that would be at the same college as me, where there would be thousands of other students. I then chose one of my subjects, taking up Photography, and had no idea what to expect but if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog and I certainly wouldn’t have had such an incredible experience teaching it at camp last summer. The biggest change by far was moving to Belfast, a new city in a new country where I knew no one. If I hadn’t decided to go to Queen’s then I would not be the person I am today, have met such wonderful people, experienced things that have helped shape me or been a part of something so much bigger than me. The scary part now is going in to my final year and not knowing what will happen next. I am certainly not planning on leaving Belfast forever, it has been such a big part of my life and there are some people here I don’t know if I could live without. I love the life that I have created for myself here and (despite the lack of Wi-Fi) it truly feels like home now.

A long year

“This moment will just be another story someday.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A lot can happen in a year. This time last year I was already back in Belfast after an incredible summer, looking forward to another great year at Queen’s. At that point in time I never saw myself being where I am today. It seems to me that change is the nature of life but that doesn’t make it easy or enjoyable. Often these changes are beyond your control, the result of a change in direction or an experience that you go through. Sometimes it can be unavoidable and sometimes it can be permanent. As I am getting ready to move back to Belfast I have been sorting through some photos which I have found quite hard until my sister pointed out that I was making a mistake: I was feeling sorry for myself over what I no longer had instead of appreciating what I did have in that moment and the people in my life now, a trap I know others also fall into.
So while I am now concentrating on the good times, I have noticed that in the past my feelings have blinded me to people’s lack of regard or respect. I have seen and experienced a lot of loss in the last twelve months but I have also gained a lot through new friendships and experiences. Having simultaneously one of the best and worst years has taught me that life is too precious to be wasted on those that care too little for you. Every person is worth at least as much as they give so if someone does not appreciate your attention, treasure those that do and forget about the rest.
 

 

No offence, but…

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, This Is My Story

I regard offence as ‘taken not given’. Someone can intend to hurt and cause offence but to a certain extent it is up to you to take offence or not. Over the years I have taken offence at many comments, whether the intent was malicious or not, but I have recently come to the conclusion that this is firstly a waste of energy and emotion, and secondly futile. It has never helped me to find something offensive, I have never benefitted from it and I have realised that actually, I do not care what other people have to say about me unless they are someone I truly value. But I know the people in my life that are that important to me would never set out to say something insulting. I have encountered people that do and say inappropriate things but if they matter to me then I can look past that (unless it becomes a careless, repetitive thing in which case, who really has time for that kind of negativity?). During a certain discussion with a boy who was intent on getting his own way, he referred to me as “sassy”. I saw no problem with that as many of my idols are labelled as sassy, confident, powerful women. So I said “thank you”. Clearly this was not the response he was after as he went on to inform me it was not a compliment and it would be stupid to take it as one. But for me that is not the point. For me the point is that it is important to me how I, and my favourite people in this world, view myself. For me to take offence at what someone has to say, I first have to value their opinion. So sorry sweetie, but I couldn’t care less.

Temper to match?

“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats” – Mark Twain

I have been told many times that I scare people before they get to know me. Some of these people then get to know me and we become great friends. Others get to know me and find me even more scary, but that is beside the point. When I was younger, I got picked on a lot for my hair colour but my parents told me that it was just because I was different and children can be scared of ‘different’. As I result I think I was always self-conscious of my hair and so never considered myself the confident, fiery tempered stereotype. However, over the last few years I have decided I have no problem with being different and am in fact proud of it. So I have quite grown into my hair colour and I love it. When I started at high school, I met a girl who quickly became, and remains, a very good friend. After being friends for a while, she confessed to me “I used to be scared of you” and explained it was because of my red hair. We both laughed at this because, as my friends know, you would be hard pushed to find someone softer than me; I am a girl who weeps over puppies and cries at every Disney film. That being said, I am also the determined, passionate (and occasionally stubborn) individual I am often perceived as, like many of the redheads I know and love. This makes me wonder: is it a part of the redhead gene that makes us strong, fearless creatures or am I simply fulfilling a role I have been conditioned to take on?

 

You got this

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt” – William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I spent the summer of 2016 in Maine, USA at a beautiful all girls camp where I worked as a counsellor and Photography instructor. I have been wanting to write about this ever since as it was the most immense experience but I have been struggling to find the words. However, one year on I think I have worked out a small part of what I want to say.
Spending 8 weeks working with children, being switched on and prepared for anything 23 hours a day, 7 days a week was the most physically, mentally and emotionally draining thing that I have done. But it was also one of the most rewarding. I refuse to sugar coat anything: it was hard work and at times I was not sure if I could see it through. On returning my mum told me that to watch me struggle while on a different continent was one of the hardest things she had done. But she helped me to focus on the many positives of camp life, like the stunning surroundings, my wonderful campers and the incredible staff. I will forever be grateful for my experience, both highs and lows, as it was an adventure that I would not be the person I am today without and so I would not change it for the world. I learned a lot and connected with many people I would not have otherwise met so it was more than worth the trials and tribulations. I believe that if there is a single reason anyone would do it then they should because I am yet to discover anything quite like it, it is a one off. Just be sure, when the going gets tough, you remember to breathe.

Why limit yourself?

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr Seuss, Oh The Places You’ll Go!

At dinner with my family I complained about feeling wiped out from working full time to which my dad replied “just wait until you have to shop, cook and clean for yourself too”. I subsequently left the room making a dramatic exit (as is my forte), declaring that “I don’t want to grow up!”, which my mum laughed at, dad muttering under his breath “I don’t want to be a grown up either”. As children we are continuously asked what we want to be when we are older, as if there is only one answer. Well, now I am older and I have no idea. Going in to final year I am told I have to start thinking about my next step, whether it be a job or to continue my studies, and what I want to do for the rest of my life. But I don’t think I mind what comes next, as long as it is something that I love as my only fear for the future would be spending the rest of my life doing something I didn’t enjoy. I have realised that it is not the growing up that scares me, it is the idea of growing into a bored, unsatisfied person who receives little joy from their life. I can imagine I will go back to university at some point to carry on learning simply because I don’t feel like I have finished yet, nor will I in the next twelve months. But maybe that won’t be for a while. Maybe I will go on to be a journalist, an author, a barrister, a civil servant or all four at different stages. So, I suppose it isn’t true to say I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, I have a lot of ideas and may end up trying them all because, as my mother reminds me, “just like recycling, the possibilities are endless”.

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