A letter to my younger self

*this is a letter I wish I could send to my younger self, with things I wish I knew then, and although this letter won’t be received by myself, maybe it will help someone else*

Dear Eleanor,

Reading through your thoughts in that ridiculous diary of ours makes me laugh and cry, in good ways and bad. You should really say some of those feeling out loud, but I understand – you’re better at writing things out. It’s like if you press you pen hard enough against the page, forcing the paper to absorb the ink filled with your feelings, all those emotions tumbling out from your body and embedding into the page, then that will help. That will work, for now. You’re a pretty emotional person, dramatic too, but most of your friends just see the sunny side. I know, I know; you think that if your friends see only light and laughter from you, then they’ll like you more. Any hint of sadness or tears or anything not just good an happy, then maybe people will like you less. Here’s my first tip for you: they get it. Your friends will understand it if you have a bad day and need someone to vent to. You might pride yourself on being a good listener, but it doesn’t mean you’re the only one that knows how to do it. So stop acting like a martyr, don’t arrogantly think no one will understand you, and start whining to your friends. It will help.

You’ll probably want to know what’s going on with me – how many books have we published, how many celebrities have we met, what incredible adventures have we had? Well, you might be a bit disappointed to hear that being nineteen-going-on-twenty does not an adult make. No great bolt of knowledge of how to be an adult has shot out of the sky and struck me – at least, not yet. In all honesty, I’ve still no idea what I’m doing. My plans change every day, the path on how to achieve the far-off dream of being an author twists and turns in unpredictable ways. What I’ve learned? Just go with it. Don’t bog yourself down with panic over the future. Don’t stress and fret and let the days pass you by. Just live in the present while you’re there – you’ll figure out what to do.

One thing I can say is I’m glad I don’t have to relive everything you’re going through right now. Homework sucks, and I can say that work from uni isn’t much better – but what I try to remind myself is at least I’m doing work on a subject I actually like and that I chose, instead of chemistry. Or physics. Or worse, maths. What I can say is that it will be over soon – just get through it all now, work your arse off, and you’ll get there. Don’t let other people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do – especially that person who says ‘what can you even do with a *insert humanities subject* degree anyway?’. They’re idiots. You can do whatever you want to do, as long as you work hard and keep your head on straight (and, please, for the love of everything, stop being such a drama queen).

Speaking of idiots, I’ve got some bad news for you. We were blessed and cursed with going to a good school. Unlike some other people, we can’t later sit back and watch our bullies end up with a shitty job and living in a shitty place and look down at them. We have to watch those bullies, those secondary school bitches, do well, and that sucks. Really sucks. We have to watch them and hear about them going to university, getting degrees, getting jobs, getting married and having great lives. But I’ll let you in on a secret – when you hear that one of them hasn’t done so well? It’s. The. Best.

Now for a bit of a pep talk. You need to bloody well stand up for yourself. And, again, I know, you’re rubbish in the moment. Even now I think of brilliant comebacks to insults hurled my way over five years ago. You’ll write what you think are fantastic stories (don’t worry, your ideas are good but your writing isn’t so great right now – that will get better) with these strong female characters that don’t let anyone hurt them, standing their ground retorting with the most incredible comebacks it’s a wonder their enemies don’t just fall at their feet. You get hung up on that a lot. So much so that you call one of your best friends the Comeback Queen, because she seems so unruffled and somehow manages to snap right back at anyone who tries to be mean to her. You’ll try to be like her for a while, convinced that she is who you want to be, but you need to stop trying to be other people. Honestly, you’ll figure it out soon, but just try and be yourself and stop getting hung up about everyone else.

Time for some good news: we get into our dream uni, we manage to get onto our dream course doing our favourite subjects, and we make fantastic friends along the way. We learn that it’s ok to be the one who’s obsessed with books, so much so that you start working at a well-known bookshop and start up a book blog to help control your addiction. You stop caring that you become that person who always posts dog photos on social media (oh yeah, did I mention that we get a dog? Because we do, and he’s our best friend) because really, it does not matter what other people think. You be you.

Now, keep your head up, keep going and, once more, stop being a drama queen. Don’t splutter at me, you know very well what I mean. Now go back to pestering Mum and Dad about getting a dog – I’m 99% certain they bought Pete just to shut us up.

All my love (and luck),

You from the future.

P.s – stay away from boys. They’re icky.

Shock Sharing

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Youtube. They’re huge platforms for anyone to access. It’s easy to say that social media has vastly changed our society, and with good reason. People can express themselves with just a few taps on their phone – suddenly, a lot more is within reach.

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Yet, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s surely our duty to use these grand opportunities to raise awareness for worthy causes – enough of these silly kitten videos and gifs of people falling over, we want to change the world.

And that’s where we start to go wrong.

You see, as we all have freedom of speech, this is where people will disagree drastically. Some will say that sites like Twitter and Facebook should be used for just fun. We want to see pictures of people’s holidays and their dogs pulling funny faces, and in no way do we want to face the harsh reality of life going on around us. Hell, that’s why we go on the internet, isn’t it? Others will argue that we shouldn’t be wasting our lives giving people money for giving up alcohol (I mean, fair enough if you’re doing it for health reasons, but asking other people to give you money to help yourself? Nah, mate), and instead we should be signing petitions to stop animal cruelty and spread news of suffering from around the world that maybe the mainstream media isn’t covering.

My opinion? Both sides are right. There is a place for both of these things in social media, and that’s what makes it so fantastic. You shouldn’t be shunned for wanting to look at stupid videos of cats or for taking those completely accurate quizzes that tell you what your spirit animal is. The same goes for raising awareness; if you’re passionate about something, why not post about it on social media?

This is where I think a problem starts to form, and it’s after months – well, years – of being subjected to something that maybe I don’t want to see. I’m all for people raising awareness and talking about something they care about. I completely agree most of the time – yes those people are barbaric, what they’re doing to those animals is unjust and cruel, the media not covering this is entirely wrong. Here comes the BUT. But, no one, no one at all, has the right to decide what people will see. There is no reason why you should be forcing people to watch videos or see pictures that are clearly upsetting – because let me tell you, seeing pictures of the many bodies from a school shooting is very different to reading a post about it.

Auto-play on facebook has become problematic in this context. I have unwillingly seen things that I will never be able to forget, and not in a good way at all. Instead of inciting me with your video of animals being tortured, you’ve made me not want to read what you’re saying at all. I will click out of Facebook upset and probably unfollow you – effectively meaning that not only has your attempt failed, but I will not read what it is your saying ever again in the fear of what I’ll see.

‘Trigger Warning’ is a phrase you might see a lot on the internet, and to put it simply is does what is says on the tin – it’s a warning to people watching a video or reading a post that it may ‘trigger’ someone who might find the content upsetting. It’s necessary, and likely vital, that people include trigger warnings because you have no idea what you’re posting can affect someone. Maybe your post about rape will trigger someone who was sexually abused. You have no idea what a few pictures or words can do to someone.

This is where I think we can do right – when you post something, it takes only a few seconds to think about whether or not what you’re posting is sensitive. You can put a quick trigger warning at the top to make sure you don’t cause harm to anyone, and there you go. I still believe that it is by no means ok to be posting or sharing videos directly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave a link for people to follow to read about it more. What I don’t want to see are pictures of elephants being whipped, or of dogs being beaten, or animals in cages, or live chicks being put into an industrial blender, or of dead babies lying out in the cold, or dismembered bodies after a terrorist attack. Raising awareness does not have to include such graphic images.

A video has been made recently by Youtuber Thomas Ridewell on the topic of shock sharing, which if you’re interested in you should watch here. He brings up another issue of sharing pictures and videos like the ones mentioned above, and that is of desensitising. By posting these things again and again, people lose interest and become desensitised when they see it. You’re making something that is abhorrent just a normal occurrence on someone’s timeline, and where the hell is the good in that?

So, for everyone’s sake, think about what you post on social media and make sure you’re not doing more harm than good. A picture may well say a thousand words, but that by no means is justification for not writing about something than sharing a graphic picture. And hey, if it’s a topic that you’re passionate about and feels like it deserves attention, then surely it deserves the time you put in to write those all important words? Just a thought.

Ten bizarre moments in Ancient Literature

When we think of Ancient Greece, we see a society of culture, dedicated to the highest forms of art. There are the great philosophers like Socrates and Plato, or great tragedians such as Sophocles and Euripides. The ‘Golden Age’ of our time, the people we aspire to be like. However, there are some scenes in the so called ‘great’ pieces of literature that aren’t exactly, shall we say, so refined. As a classics student, this is clearly a subject that I adore and what better way to share that love than with a fun list?

  1. Medea’s exit

Euripides’ Medea is one of the most well-known tragedies. Studied in schools, cited by scholars, revived in modern theatre – this play is a perfect example of how these ancient pieces of work still permeate our everyday lives. The Medea is known mainly for our central character, the bitter Medea who is known from another great work, Jason and the Argonauts. This is one of the only plays that has a female character as the central one, and it’s easy to see why. We follow her throughout the play, plotting her revenge against Jason, who has chosen to marry someone else – and a Princess at that – despite all that Medea has sacrificed for him. In true stereotypical jealous woman manner, Medea exacts her revenge, which ends up killing not only his fiancée, but so that he is utterly destroyed, she kills her two children. This is the part of the play that most of us can recall – ah, yes, the woman who killed her children to ‘get back’ at her husband. Well, there is one detail that is often left out and that is Medea’s uncommon exit. Just as she’s killed her children and laughs at Jason’s despair, she proceeds to exit on a chariot pulled by dragons. I’m sure many of us would like to know whether this was just accepted by the original ancient audience or laughed off.

  1. Ajax’s blind rage

Sophocles’ Ajax recounts the demise of the great, notable Ajax, a warrior who was present at the Trojan War, second only to Achilles. In Sophocles’ play, we see the great warrior enter a fit of rage over Achilles’ armour, gifted to Odysseus instead of Ajax, and so begins our tragedy. Ajax is known for entering this fury, only to end it by symbolically killing himself with the sword of Hector, the Trojan Prince. There are a few more details that need to be added to this common knowledge, however. First of all, Ajax’s rage incited him to murder some of the generals and soldiers of the Greek camp, but he is stopped by the Goddess Athena who adds a certain ‘blindness’ to his rage. Ajax so turns his bloodlust not to his fellow men but, and here’s the kicker, some sheep. Yes, we have a tragedy where the central killing is that of a flock of sheep, who Ajax believes to be men. There is even a scene where Odysseus and the Goddess watch as Ajax tortures a sheep, believing it to be Odysseus.

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  1. Aristophanes’ Frogs

Ancient comedies are known to be pretty vulgar, what with the giant phalli and poor slapstick comedy. Aristophanes is one such playwright that we have several works from, and one of the well-known plays is his Frogs. Already we can anticipate the nature of the play and shouldn’t be surprised that there is a chorus of, you guessed it, frogs. However, there is one particularly odd moment in the play that really deserves a mention. In the Underworld, we are with the God Dionysus and his slave Xanthius and, in true comedic fashion, they have encountered a spot of trouble. Naturally, the issue is proving themselves not to be a God and, as we all know, Gods do not feel pain, so they are whipped (most likely on their bottoms) to determine who is the God. The height of comedy does, indeed, come down to a spanking.

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  1. Aristophanes’ Frogs 2

It’s not surprising that there is another instance that deserves a mention in Aristophanes’ Frogs. This is at the beginning of the play, where we see conversations between Dionysus and Xanthius. Dionysus, the God of Theatre and Wine, is shown to be cowardly and not the brightest bulb in the box, whereas Xanthius his slave is the sarcastic, intelligent slave who often outwits his master. One truly enlightening scene to their characters, and why this has made the list twice, is when Xanthius tries to scare his master, yet his plan backfires. As in, Dionysus literally backfires. There you are, watching something by ‘masterful’ playwright, and in true slapstick fashion, a character opened his bowls over the stage.

 

  1. Women in charge

At this point, we can gather that women are not exactly given the best light – unsurprising with the background of Medea killing her children and the adulterous Helen causing the Trojan War. However, Aristophanes earns a third and final mention with his Lysistrata. This is a comedy about the lengths women go to in order to stop the Peloponnesian War. The central plot of the play, which is what most people remember, is the women withholding sex from their husbands until they stop the war – this, naturally, works, and succeeds in insulting both genders. As if this were not bizarre enough already, there is the dialogue that litters the play. Among the usual innuendoes such as ‘big and meaty’, we have discussions of the ‘lioness on a cheese grater position’ and women’s own personal pleasure with ‘big, black, leather jobs’.

 

  1. The Swan Child

There are many odd moments in Ancient mythology, but this one is a personal favourite. The God of Gods Zeus is known for having a large sexual appetite, and one day he decides that he wants the beautiful Leda. To do this, Zeus decides to turn himself into a swan and to rape her in that form. This act then produced, as it is want to do, a child – a swan child, if you will. This child is of course the beautiful Helen, who runs away with Paris and starts the Trojan War.

  1. Aphrodite’s birth

Many people can tell you that Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty – there is even some very poor modern literature out there where female leads are called Aphrodite. However, her birth, her ‘origin story’ if you will, isn’t exactly what you would call beautiful. Cronus, the son of Uranus and Gaia, ends up chopping off his father’s testicles and throws them into the sea. Foam begins to foam around them and it is from this foam that the wonderful Aphrodite is born.

 

  1. The Rock

The reasoning for hacking off his father’s genitals is due to Cronus wishing to help his mother Gaia, whom his father Uranus torturing by forcing their children back up her womb. (Suspension of belief is important for these stories, if you hadn’t already gathered). Cronus, however, also did not have a good reputation with his children as it was foretold that he would be overthrown by one of them. This then causes him to swallow each baby after it was born. In retaliation, Gaia hides one of the babies – the notorious Zeus – and instead hands Cronus a rock instead of a child. Cronus, the clever god that he is, does not notice and swallows the rock. Zeus ends up growing up and eventually frees his brothers and sisters, who are miraculously still alive. That’s mythology for you.

  1. Elpenor

We go back even further now to The Odyssey, the great Homer, the foundation of all Ancient Literature. Many of us know the tales of Odysseus, how he faced the Cyclops, slept with lots of women but still remained ‘faithful’ to his dear wife Penelope. We know all about the wily, cunning Odysseus, but it turns out that he isn’t always the smartest man around. This is shown when one of his men, Elpenor, gets slightly intoxicated, falls off a roof, and dies. As is usual in the ancient world, when you die you go to the Underworld. Back to the living, Odysseus decides to travel with his remaining men to the Underworld for certain reasons and, unsurprisingly, bumps into Elpenor then. It is at this moment, that Odysseus questions how Elpenor managed to beat them to the Underworld because, indeed, how could have his dead comrade reached the Underworld before him? A puzzling one, that.

 

  1. The Beetle’s entrance

I feel it’s only fitting to once again mention, and now end, with another classic moment from one of Aritophanes’ plays, Peace. The bizarre moment in this place – well, at least my favourite one – occurs right at the beginning. You meet two slaves who are gathering excrement to feed a dung beetle – not too out of the ordinary at this stage – who is owned by their master, Trygaeus. Moments later, Trygaeus enters the stage. Unlike Medea, Trygaeus clearly likes to make a dramatic entrance – but this time, it is not in a chariot pulled by dragons. No, Trygaeus enters the stage flying on top of a giant dung beetle and flies upward to visit the Gods. There is also a demand from him to the audience, requesting that they do not fart or poo so that they might not distract his mount.

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It’s safe to say, it’s all Greek to me.