Where I am Now

It has happened – I have finally got to the point where I can say that I have finished university and my time in education (unless I’ve failed my final exam and messed up all my coursework so will have to do retakes in August, but hopefully that won’t be the case). Finishing university has always been a huge milestone for me, and tied up with the fact that I have never not been in education, it’s a big one. When you’re in school, you dream of the day that you won’t have to be in school any longer. No more exams, no more essays, no more petty childish drama – and pretty much all three happen still in university. I say ‘you’, which realistically is a big assumption to make on behalf of everyone reading this, but what I’m trying to grasp at is that feeling of anticipating the next stage of your life. I, for one, had big expectations of what I would be like once I’d finished in education. I had hopes, dreams, and plenty of those pesky assumptions which I’m now having to reflect on.

The first big thing is independence, which in essence I have achieved in terms of living away from home during university months, doing my own washing, cooking etc etc. Yet when I was younger independence did not look like going down to tesco just before it shuts because you needed to put a wash on and have run out of tablets. It did not look like eating the same meal for three nights in a row because you want to save money. It did not like forgetting simple things every now and then because you’re tired, such as hot ceramic dishes do not mix with cold water. I know, I know, it’s all about living and learning and growing and bettering yourself, but that mantra does no good at 1am drying your bed sheets with a hairdryer because you forgot about the wash you put on.

One big thing I always thought about was what job I would have – and the dream job has changed many, many times. Becoming an author (and by that I mean a good author who has people who like their books so much that they can making a living out of it) has always been a dream job, but there are always others that pop in and out of my mind. First I wanted to be a professional horse rider, then a pop star, and then deciding I wasn’t a good enough singer so a songwriter. Recently, the dream is to be in publishing, and I certainly expected to have a job lined up and ready once university was finished. Yet, here I am, and all those hopeful publishing applications I sent out have been returned with a ‘thanks, but no’. You’re always told that you go to school, then to university, then you’ll get a job – but nobody really talks that much about the in-between. When applying for universities, no one told me about how, even if I do well and get a great degree, a job won’t be there waiting for me. They didn’t tell me that even if you work your arse off not only at your degree but at applying for jobs, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll get one either.

With the job dreams also come the social life dreams, and I always assumed that by the time university was over I would be in a committed, happy relationship with someone who could celebrate with me over all those job offers I had coming in. Again, Little Miss Assumption over here, but when I was younger that was what I thought was the most important. It was like a list of items to take the Life Goals Supermarket, and you would tick each one as you went along. Job? Tick. Relationship? Tick. What else was needed?

I knew I was going to forget a big one, and that is the dream I’ve had for a long long time, probably starting at about 10 years old – and perhaps the saddest one when I look back at it. What I wanted all through secondary school was beauty. And isn’t that just awful? Sure, sure, we can just argue and brush it off by saying that society makes us try to value what we’re born with (looks, parent’s wealth, lack of both) over what we earn for ourselves (perseverance, patience, kindness). And sure, we can all stand around and say that no society, we will not be partaking in that thank you very much. But at the end of the day, when I would go home at 12 years old and look in the mirror, all I would see was acne, a big nose, un-styled hair, and chubby patches all over. I’ve spoken a lot about acne and appearances in the past and how I now feel more confident, but I’m still filled with the memories of standing in front of a mirror and wishing that there were no mirrors in the world so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. Wishing that there was some way to exchange your face for a new one. Wishing that there was a way that meant I could live my life without anyone looking at me. And I wished for that day in the future, the day when I finished school for good, when puberty should have been and gone and left me unblemished, with clear smooth skin, great hair, and a body I was happy with. That was what was going to be my biggest marker of how far I had come.

But, as is the way of life, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Here I am, university finished, but just after the days of stress with my emotions all over the place and a few days of very hot weather, I’ve had another skin breakout. I have red spots dotted around my face like some flicked paint at me with a toothbrush. I’ve got black heads on my chin and nose, and something resembling Mount Etna on my neck. You stare in that pesky mirror and it’s pretty hard to think that you haven’t come that far at all.

Then I have to slap myself for being so melodramatic. Because I am not that twelve year old girl thinking that people won’t like me just because I have a spot on my chin. Like, jesus christ Eleanor, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it kinda hurts when you poke it, but it’s just a spot. There’s the magic of makeup if you’re feeling super downhearted but other than that, your face and your looks do not define you. Twelve-year-old me hardly knew how to write paragraphs, and here I am having just written a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic I love on top of my various other coursework and exam revision. On top of that I have worked every single weekend for almost two years now so that I can keep living in London and support myself. On top of that I have been going to different opportunities to make contacts and get work experience. And on top of that I’ve surrounded myself with friends who I love (and who assure me they love me back when I’m not being so ridiculously melodramatic).

And so, like most of these blog posts go, this has turned from reflection to being a self-affirmation that whilst all my hopes and dreams haven’t exactly come to pass, I’ve realised that they’re allowed to change a bit. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a bestselling author telling the story of how she almost let a pimple keep her from chasing her dream, and everyone will say, “Man, she was a melodramatic child”.

The Dating Game

The internet is weird. I think we can all relate to that, but when you throw in dating as well? Utter. Madness. It’s become a pretty normal thing in modern culture to meet a partner online, and for that matter meet friends online as well, and there are thousands of people using online dating. From Matched.com to Tinder, you may try one profile for a week then delete it or have five on the go. After a few years of living, and attempting to date, in London I’ve had my fair share of weird and wonderful messages, and from them I’ve had some great dates and some even better anecdotes.

Maybe it’s the romantic in me, and I’m sure there’s a little one in all of us, that ideally wants to meet someone not online. The classic meeting whilst out in the evening and they buy your drink, or you buy theirs, or the friendly encounter on the street. But the truth of the matter is that if someone approaches me on the street and asks for my number, no matter how cute I think you are, I’ll probably automatically say ‘Sorry, I’m in a relationship’ and make a hasty exit. Partly due to the culture we live in now, or maybe just in London, where social interactions between strangers on the street isn’t considered ‘normal’, and partly due to the many horror stories of being kidnapped and harmed that play on your mind whenever a stranger approaches. So, at least for now, online dating it is, and what better way to discuss it than with a post with my favourite ever messages – all of which are on the weird and whacky side.

Just a side note before we begin – some of these will be typed out instead of posting a picture to protect the identity of the person contacting me, whether they deserve my so called ‘protection’ or not.

To start with, an honourable mention to the random chap on my instagram who, in regards to a photo that showed my feet in fluffy socks, a book, and some chocolate, said, “Sexy stocks @stammydodger I’d so worship them and reply inbox”. First off, thanks for the instagram like and comment, I can always appreciate that, but I’m not a girl who really thinks giant fluffy polka-dot socks are sexy, and to make it worse the sentence loses all meaning at the end. First rule of making contact: grammar.

Let’s have a look at some opening lines – a very important thing, of course. You want to come across as friendly, but also interesting, without looking desperate or weird. A difficult feat to pull off, I know, but that line will guarantee how far that conversation will go. So here are my first two examples:

The first “lol whats up my lil croissant” and the second “Your dog looks very loveable/And So do you/Hahaha” to which I replied “Yes hilarious”. The first one, whilst bizarre, made me laugh – so I continued the conversation. It’s weird, it’s whacky, and definitely hit or miss – starting off with ‘lol’ is definitely a risky move. The second conversation I ended straight after replying. Starting the conversation off in reference to my dog is usually always a winner (I do love my dog) and extending the compliment to me is a bit off a ‘roll your eyes’ move, but what tops it off is the ‘Hahaha’. Overall, a hilarious interaction, just not one that I was going to continue.

Pictures are always important, and if you’re online dating they are even more so – because, let’s face it, we’re all vain, shallow little creatures. So sometimes if you send someone a message, they may comment on your photos – especially if you can’t actually see the person in any of them (as was what happened in my case). In response to these comments, or anything at all really, many people like to use a comeback or set up a joke. In the second case the guy wanted a recent picture, to which I made a joke and he responded with, what I assume, was a classic line. Corny as can be, and whilst it may work for you, it ain’t for me.

Sometimes it’s good to know what the other person is looking for, and other times it is not.

The first image makes me laugh to this day – in retrospect, it is perfectly friendly but stating exactly what the other person is looking for. Whilst I replied with a negative response, the other person was perfectly friendly and wished me well. However this second opener of ‘I honestly don’t remember liking you’ referencing the act of ‘liking’ each other to ‘match’, was an instant thumbs down. Definitely would not recommend. Not pictured is a message I received from someone who says “Hey, I am quite taken with your photos, would you like a sugar daddy style relationship? If so I would like to discuss it to fit my lifestyle”. Although this was definitely not for me, the message made me laugh a lot before deleting it. First off, the formal nature of the message is above and beyond, and to end it stating that you need something to fit your lifestyle with no mention of the other person? Brilliant.

And, finally, my favourite ever interaction. I’ll just leave it pictured below, for your enjoyment.

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Take note people: get the name right of the person you’re messaging. And on that note, I wish you all luck in your online dating adventures.

 

Insultingly funny

I will admit, I love Britain’s Got Talent. For years I’ve watched that show, and I remember watching Connie and opera singers and dog acts that just gave me such joy. These days I only watch clips of the auditions off of Youtube, and completely forgot that it was that time of year again. So, in procrastination mode, I watched a few clips from the first week of auditions only to see an eight year old boy do a ‘comic’ routine in which he used each of the judges along with Ant and Dec as the butt of his jokes.

There have already been a myriad of articles covering this, particularly that of his so-called ‘joke’ involving Amanda Holden in which he said, “Why were people so excited by that talking dog on Britain’s Got Talent? Amanda Holden’s been on it for years”. At first everyone was shocked, several people are being shown to cover their mouths as they laugh, and Holden slams the red buzzer. The routine continues however, everyone laughing and the boy goes through to the next round. Yet what struck me is how every single one of his ‘jokes’ relied on insults in order to be funny. Everyone screams ‘savage’ and how he ‘roasted’ them all, and seem to get serious joy from watching a little kid stroll on stage and, essentially, be rude and nasty to a bunch of celebrities. Now that I’m seeing more and more about this, particularly about Amanda as people switching between calling the joke ‘misogynistic’ to ‘well deserved’, it’s just getting to a point where I don’t understand why people find such delight in such nasty unkindness. Because that’s what it is, essentially. What does it teach, to laugh at someone insulting another? It reminds me of school corridors and bullies poking fun at the unpopular kids to a jeering crowd, using extravagant insults to get a laugh.

Why do we accept this kind of ‘humour’? If it were a 40 year old man delivering those jokes, there would be no doubt that he’d get four red buzzers and a swift exit, along with a slew of media claiming him a misogynist. But from an eight year old boy? It’s cute, it’s savage, it’s hilarious, you just don’t expect it! Forget the fact that his dad wrote those jokes, he’s just such a talented little soldier! It’s fine if the insults come from a little kid, because he doesn’t mean any harm, he’s just an innocent, take a chill pill for gods sake. That attitude, the one where people say those things, just shrugging and saying it doesn’t matter, is what gets me. Why should we just laugh it off? Sure, the ‘Your Mama’ jokes have always been popular, but they’re fun because, in reality, they’ve nothing to do with the other person. You could say ‘Your Mama’s so fat’ to someone whose mother is as skinny as a rake, because that’s not the point. You don’t go out to hurt that person or their feelings, you go to make a stupid, ridiculous joke. Directly insulting someone to gain some laughs should not be funny.

I find a good comparison is a previous contestant, Jack Caroll, who made it to the finals. His opening round poked jokes just at himself, making fun out of his being disabled. Although some weren’t entirely sold on the audition just being him insulting himself, it was more of an ’embracing your flaws’ moment. He was turning what is otherwise an awful situation into one of humour, one that got him to the final of a national talent competition and turning a disadvantage to an advantage. Insulting others, however? There’s a way to do it that’s amusing, and that something is called moderation.

There’s a difference between a taunt and a tease. A tease is done between friends and family, done in a way that you know it is not malicious because the recipient of the joke trusts them. There is a line, and your friends and family know where that line is drawn. There’s sensitivity in the art of teasing, so anyone claiming that he’s just teasing them is dead wrong on that count.

Maybe you think I’m overreacting. Maybe you’re thinking ‘it’s just a joke’ and you’re rolling your eyes. To that, I want to ask you something. What happens when people suddenly think it’s ok to call women dogs? What happens when people think it’s ok to make jokes about crossdressing just to get a few laughs? Sure, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m overreacting, but seeing a little boy insult others just to get some laughs struck a chord with me – a dissonant one, at that. As always, I want to live by the motto of ‘choose kindness’, because that’s the kind of world I want to live in. With the society we’re currently living in, the people in power who we’re currently trying to live through, I want to see more kindness. And yes, I want laughter too – but not at the expense of others. Because at the end of the day, we all deserve happiness and kindness, and any laughter caused out of insulting someone is not laughter I want to participate in.

The Eternal Anxiety of Being Liked

I’ve always liked having friends, and for a long time I thought that my happy buzz when it seemed people enjoyed spending time with me was just that. It’s nice to be surrounded by other people who you like and who like you. It didn’t really hit me that I had this anxiety of being liked by everyone until my latter years of secondary school, even though I know that I am not alone in this feeling.

If I find out that someone doesn’t like me, or if I’m around someone and get the feeling that they don’t really like me, I obsess over it. For hours and days and maybe even weeks I’m thinking about what I did wrong, what it was that made me unlikeable, whether I should have acted differently – and it goes on. Of course you are never going to go through life being liked by everyone, and that’s something that I’ve come to terms with over the past few years, especially in university, but I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to avoid coming to this realisation.

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I think back to my first year in secondary school when I talk about this anxiety of mine. I think of how I didn’t really have a specific group of friends, and instead I flitted from one to another – which, for a while, I enjoyed. I liked having the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, and the fact that at lunchtime it didn’t matter who was in the form room because I could just sit with whoever was there. I liked being friends with everyone, because in my head it meant everyone was friends with me. Then, one of my most embarrassing memories comes to mind – and this in particular really shows off that crippling anxiety of not being liked.

In my class, when I was about 11, we were given a seating arrangement for our form time, which was just at the beginning and end of the day for maybe 10 minutes. I was sat next to a girl who was incredibly popular, and she was one of those types who was good at everything; she was sporty and on the hockey team, musically inclined and could play the piano, was cast in all the school plays and musicals because she was a great actor with a great voice, was incredibly intelligent and aced every test, and, what was sometimes the most frustrating quality, she was also infuriatingly nice. Seriously, she was so nice you couldn’t get angry that she was brilliant at everything, and that just made you even angrier. Anyway, we were placed next to each other for the first term and we got on well – or, rather, we were both nice and friendly and acted that way with each other. We never really hung out that much outside the classroom, just did the usual of inviting each other to our birthday parties and things like that. But then, lo and behold, the following term we were told we could sit next to whoever. And what does 11 year old me do? She sits there and says something along the lines of “I wonder if anyone will want to sit with me. I think I’ll probably end up sitting on my own” and, although I don’t remember exactly, I’m pretty sure I even went on to say how much I liked sitting next to this girl and may have even dramatically sighed. So, this girl being the nice girl she is, plonks her arse back down and sits next to me for the following term.

Mortifyingis the only word that comes to mind when I think back on this. I’m pretty certain this girl doesn’t even remember this incident, but dear lord do I remember it. I knew what I was doing, sitting there acting all dramatic and sullen and ridiculous, hoping that she would sit next to me again. Yet, I also think how upsetting it is to think that, even though 11-year-old me knew she was manipulating a situation, 11-year-old me thought that that was her only good chance of sitting next to someone because there was a voice in her head saying “No one actually likes you. No one actually wants to sit next to you.” Of course this wasn’t helped when the popular pretty girl kept sitting next to me, because it meant that this voice told me she was only sitting there to be nice, that she didn’t actually like me but sat there because I acted like a drama queen.

Then I think of the following years, up until the age of about 16, and how I acted with my friends. Even though they chose to hang out with me and be around me, there was still a part of me that felt that I needed to prove myself, be that extra bit likeable. I would change depending on who I was around – with one I would talk about music I knew she liked, another I would talk about completely different music and claimed I only liked that music too, or with some friends I would just try to be the goofy one, the funny one, the one that everyone likes. It wasn’t until I was in sixth form and developed a very bad relationship with another girl who was one day a bully and one day a friend depending on what suited her, that I realised that there was no point. Why should I change depending on who I was with? Why did I crave being liked?

I’m only fully able to say with certainty that I don’t do this anymore. In my first year of university I definitely adapted with the different groups I was with, trying to fit in and act cool and be likeable. Now? I really don’t have the energy to be anything other than myself, and have found, to my great relief, that it didn’t really make much of a difference. It seems people like to surround themselves with people who they like for being themselves, which is a terrible way of trying to say that others don’t give a shit. If you don’t like their music, so what? It’s something to discuss and talk about. It ties in with having the confidence to be yourself and not be self-conscious about every little thing.

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I’ve always been a ‘worrier’, and this anxiety of being liked is one of the many things that have plagued my mind daily for years. I’ve talked previously on this blog about my anxiety over my weight, my skin, my looks, my talents – and it all boils down to having the self-confidence and self-worth to know that none of it matters. It comes to remembering to think of yourself, and not of other people, when you’re looking at your skin/face/clothes/body. If you’re happy with yourself, then why worry about anyone else? You shouldn’t have to change for someone else, from styling your hair a certain way to saying you like a certain kind of music. I obsessed over my acne because I thought it made me look ugly, and part of that was because I obsessed over what other people saw when they looked at me. She just looked at me, and I bet she saw my spot on my chin. I bet that when she smiled at me she was laughing at how awful I look. Etc, etc. I could go on.

So the reason I’m trying to get to amongst all these ramblings is that not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok. What’s important is your own happiness, and that happiness will never come from making sure everyone else likes you. I learned the hard way that you just can’t keep up all the various personas you put on to please everyone else. Be yourself, be healthy, be happy, and try not to worry about everyone else, because they’re probably worrying about the same things.

We Need to Talk. Period.

It’s safe to say that women are far better off today than 50 years ago, but there’s nothing that reminds me more of how much further there is to go than the stigma around the time of the month when Satan – I mean, ‘mother nature’ – comes to visit. It’s amazing how many people are ‘grossed out’ and pull a face whenever someone mentions anything to do with periods. A tampon falls out of your bag and suddenly everyone is looking at it in horror. I mean I could understand if it was a used one, but when has anyone ever had a used tampon in their bag? That’s not what happens.

I went to an all-girls secondary school, so luckily was in an environment during the dreaded teen years where everyone was pretty accepting about periods. The times girls used to bring it up to male teachers to see what would happen occurred fairly often, and nine times out of ten the male teacher would pale, panic, and send the girl to matron. The only negative experience I’ve had about periods in school was when one teacher literally yelled at the class about how girls just needed to ‘man up’ (great use of language there) and stop asking to leave the class because you felt ill from your period, which was then repeated in an assembly. This was only made up by the fact that another teacher completely disagreed, explaining that when she had her period as a teenager she would often have to call in sick. It seems to me that not many people understand that, like bodies, everyone’s period is different. Some girls have light periods, some girls get heavy periods, and some girls have different kinds every cycle. Some throw up, some get cramps, some get excruciating headaches, and some barely notice their period come and go.

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So why don’t people know these sort of things? Well, despite the fact that are society is improving, the ‘period’ is still a taboo topic – and when you really think about it, it’s difficult to understand why. Those who have periods, whether they identify as women or not, are made to feel ashamed for bleeding each month like it’s disgusting, as if we can just choose not to. Is it just not common knowledge that periods are 100% natural, aren’t unhygienic, and literally happen to everyone who has a vagina? Hell, it’s still front page news when someone posts a photo of themselves with blood spotting through their jeans. There are protests and campaigns with women free bleeding that make people lose their minds. I didn’t know that everyone experiences something different when they have periods until my late teens, simply because we just don’t talk about it. It’s like we have to act like having our period is some dirty little secret, despite the fact that everyone knows about it anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently due to the campaigning about the moon cup, known in some places as the diva cup depending on which brand you use. Typically there are two main ways to handle your period, which are using tampons or sanitary towels or both. Both of these aren’t good for the environment with a lot of packaging, but it’s all that was on offer. There are some other options like some birth control that stops your period all together, but who knows the long term effects that has on someone’s body – you’re literally using drugs to stop a natural cycle the body goes through.

Despite this, there have been some new products being introduced. The two that I’m aware of are the THINX underwear, which are underwear that you can wear on your period that you can just stick in the wash after wearing them for a few hours, holding as much as two tampon’s worth of blood. Reusable, completely hygienic, and far less hassle. The second is the moon cup, something that’s recently taken a real spike on social media and has won plenty of awards. Essentially it’s a cup that sits slightly lower down than a tampon does and it collects the blood. Again, it’s reusable as you can easily clean it out, and overall better for the environment. I decided to give one a try and, when I had some positive results, I talked to a few friends and family members about it. I was mildly surprised to find that some just didn’t want to know about it, the very mention of the word ‘period’ striking such horror in their hearts that they couldn’t bear to go on. The mere idea of blood leaving someone’s vagina just as bad and disgusting as discussing explosive diarrhoea. And it’s simply mad.

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Why is society still enforcing this stigma around periods? Why are we still teaching young kids that this is something you don’t discuss or talk about, that it should be kept ‘hush hush’ because people just don’t want to hear about it? Why must those who have periods have to suffer because of everyone else’s unwarranted distaste? Again, a period is 100% natural, and trust me – it is far worse for the person who actually has to have the period. When I was a young teen I became physically sick each month, and still get excruciating cramps that I have to pretend aren’t happening and just breathe through, feeling sick for a good couple of days. Why should I have to keep quiet about it? Why shouldn’t I be talking about it? Why can’t I discuss something natural about my body without worrying that someone else will be uncomfortable?

This is why we need campaigns like the moon cup and THINX. We need to normalise periods and stop tolerating those who punish us when it’s mentioned. I was going to talk about these campaigns in an application for a job answering a question about important campaigns, but was advised not to because it might put off any men looking over the application. This is not what we should have to be concerned about, and it is not a precaution I should have to take just to protect someone’s sensitive ears from talking about what so many of us have to experience. We should be making a move to stop this kind of behaviour. We need to march up to them, sit them down and say:

“We need to talk. Period”.

Revisiting the Classics – Narcissus

I’m in my final year of university now, and the thought that in just a few months that my experience of education will end is as much exciting as it is terrifying. One of the things I love, but often forget that I do is learning. Sure, I hate exams and essays as much as the next person, but sitting in a lecture or a seminar and listening to someone teach me something entirely new is a thrill. Sharing knowledge is a lot like telling stories, in the way that you’re opening up someone’s mind and imagination, helping someone grow with every word. And that’s something that I don’t want to lose. Of course, no matter what job I do, I will be learning something – whether that’s continued on in the bookshop for a while and learning about new books, or if it’s in a new job and learning how to sort out accounts, or even if it’s learning a new trade. But, at least for now, my formal learning of Classics and English is coming to an end. Which is why I want to start a new series on this blog, an infrequent one much like ‘On Being Happy’ and ‘Guide to University’.

So, here is the first post of ‘Revisiting the Classics’. 

I want this series to be about ‘Classics’, predominantly ancient classical myths and stories but also occasionally looking at the more recent use of the classic canon, from Milton to Bronte and beyond. The revisiting of ancient stories is a common trope, and there’s a reason for that – hell, it’s what I’m doing my whole dissertation on. Everything from phrases like ‘Achilles’ heel’ to references of Herculean strength and flying too close to the Sun all stem from these ancient myths. Throughout all my years of study, I haven’t even come close to covering all the various myths that we know about, so through this series I want to look at a few favourites, ones that I know and ones that I don’t.

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So here’s a short one for today: Narcissus. Most people have a vague knowledge of the myth, and it stems around a beautiful man who falls in love with his own reflection. There are other aspects that go with this myth, like that of the cursed Echo who can only repeat the words others say, who falls in love with Narcissus but is scorned and turned away. Because of this, Nemesis lured Narcissus to the pool in which he saw himself, and he died from longing and frustration of loving himself.

Today, Narcissus remains in our language – the word ‘narcissism’ means to be fascinated with yourself and associated with extreme vanity. The myth is used as a cautionary tale on pride and self-love, and it is evoked throughout literature. It’s within Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Eve sees her reflection and falls in love, and within countless sonnets. For the vast majority, Narcissus is used as a negative portrayal of self-love, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if maybe there can be something positive to be gained here.

Often people want to be the opposite of Narcissus, to not be vain or arrogant or proud – but surely there should be some sort of middle ground where we aspire to have certain aspects of Narcissus, but not fall in too deeply. It shouldn’t be that we don’t love ourselves to the point where we hate our reflection, but rather that we love ourselves, as we all should, just not to the point that we can’t see past our own reflection. To have the ability to love yourself, but still be able to see past that, to be able to act selflessly with others and have empathy for the sufferings of those around us. After all, Narcissus is originally punished for cruelly dismissing Echo, and his punishment is an extreme version of his inability to look beyond himself. It is not the fact that he’s beautiful that causes his downfall, but his own cruel disposition to those around him.

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Narcissus is a cautionary tale, but there is more to learn from it that some let on. But one thing myths like this demonstrate is how they are still relevant today, and that is why Classics is so important that it deserves to be revisited over and over again.

Or, at least, that’s what I think.

Moving on to 2017 [Part 1]

2017 marks as a fresh start for a lot of people, and not just because it’s a new year. 2016 for most of us was an awful year, filled with bad memories, bad politics, and bad people. Deaths, terrorist attacks, and fear have made 2016 an awful year in almost every way, so it’s no surprise that people are jumping into 2017 with hope for some grand miracle. At first I was in full agreement, thinking that my 2016 has been particularly difficult not just because of Brexit and Trump, but also losing my Grandma last July. Mourning never really ends; it acts more like a wound, that slowly heals and can be reopened, but eventually scars over and fades over time, but still does not disappear.

But there was one thing that I’m sure she’d want me to remember – the reason why she called me ‘sunshine girl’ every time I saw her – and that’s to find the positivity and light that exists. And so instead of posting a blog post about my hopes for 2017 along with deciding if I succeeded all those goals and wishes I had for the past year, I’m going to talk about my favourite moments of 2016. (And I’m not just doing this because I’ve left my diary in London which is where I write down all my goals…)

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First off, 2016 was the year in which I got my best results so far in university. It was the first time that I’d received results and had a response that wasn’t equivalent to a shrug. I think I was used to doing well in school, so doing really well of course made me extremely happy, but only for a very short period of time. University of course is a completely different experience, and everyone you study with is just as good as you, if not better. I had pretty average grades through first year and for the start of second year, so it wasn’t until I had my final exam results that I really saw an improvement. It finally felt like my hard work was rewarded, and it has continued to spur me on today – even as I sit here with unfinished essays and an unread Paradise Lost.

2016 was the year when I re-evaluated what I wanted to do in my life, and decided that the realm of journalism isn’t quite ready for me yet. It’s where I thought about what I loved (dogs, books, chocolate), what I could probably make into a job (dogs, books), and what I could actually live off (books). After a year and a half of being a bookseller, the world of publishing seemed like the perfect fit – and getting that summer internship only heightened my excitement.

On that note, 2016 was the year in which I was promoted at my part-time job as a bookseller. It’s become my favourite job of all time, surrounded by books and brilliant people every weekend who have become friends. It’s where I’ve made some of my closest friends, where I’ve discovered new books and authors I would normally not choose, and where I’ve seriously made use of my discount.

And 2016 was the year I went to New York with one of my best friends and saw a musical that I also first heard in 2016, which changed my life (in small, not insignificant ways). Travelling is something that I love and wish I could do more of, but constraints like money (and time off university that isn’t filled with work) hold me back. Being able to go to a place like New York was a marvel in itself, filled with awe and wonder at every turn. And to see the musical Hamilton? Just incredible. The music, the messages, and the sheer majesty of the performance made it the best musical I’ve ever seen, and I salute Lin Manuel Miranda for such an incredible piece of art.

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It’s important to find the light in the darkness, and not look back (in anger) with regret. 2016 may have been a year of bad things and terrible experiences, but there were also good things and brilliant moments that shouldn’t be swept aside with the rest of the rubbish. No, 2016 was not the best year, but it also wasn’t an insignificant, unsalvageable one.