Open Windows

‘Ugh.’ I barely notice the complaint leaving my mouth, possibly because complaining is becoming like breathing at the moment. A wasp is buzzing on the wrong side of the window, and I barely have it in me to care anymore. I shift in my seat, wincing at the harsh lines of the chair tattooing itself onto my skin. A thin layer of sweat seems to cover me completely, and I pause in my gloom to consider the fact that I’m possibly the most disgusting human being in the world at this current moment. I look out the window to return the harsh glare the sun is sending my way, and mutter to myself again, attempting to conjure up the strength to deal with the wasp before it comes any closer to my done-with-summer self.

The wasp itself seems tired, the journey through the open window an exhausting adventure it regrets now as it bashes itself against the glass. I should deal with it before it stings me, I think, but considering this is the third time it’s happened today, it’s hard to find the motivation. Maybe I should just close the window?

I turn back to my book, remembering the darkness of winter. I remember candles, woolly jumpers…happier times, one could say.

IMG_3261The ever present mocking voice in my head chooses now to remind me that, actually, winter wasn’t all that great either – in fact, for most of it I was desperate for Summer to reappear.

Typically, now that it’s here, I’d rather it was anywhere else. I try and cast my mind back to winter, to re-embrace the rose tint that blurred my outlook.

Summer days start early, even though university is finished and I can sleep all I want. Habit tends to take over, and I wake up early (though I don’t get up early). My window is constantly open, and the summer air creeps in and wakes me with a maternal call. It’s the smell of freshly mown grass and summer mixed into a cocktail of warmth. It wakes me in a slow, contented start to the day – until the screech from somewhere far too near indicates that the baby birds who appear to be sharing a bed with me have decided they’re hungry.

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Points if you can see the baby starling that’s been my alarm clock recently

But I can still wake up slowly. All I really need to do today are the projects I’ve decided I want to work on. I’ll write, I’ll maybe go for a run, I’ll read some trashy books, some quality books, I’ll try and sort out my basic grammar knowledge (which is abysmal), I’ll message friends I’ve lost contact with during term time. I’ll organise, I’ll tidy, I’ll do all the things I can’t do when I’m drowning in uni.

But I don’t even need to think about uni. All I need to think about is what I’m doing now, in a way which is refreshing to an alarming degree – the previously constant worry about exams and assignments and lectures is a not unwelcome, but bewildering absence in my mind and my projects seem to be a way to keep it stimulated so that it has something to worry about.

If I get up early enough the sunshine has a slightly different glow to it, and the air has a different feel to it, like the day is just starting up, ready and waiting. There’s something about it that’s so refreshing: the commuters in the train seem a little less muted, the scenery around me doesn’t need a filter to be instagram worthy, the birds seem louder, happier. Even rain in the summer is beautiful – it sounds like it’s pattering down on a tent, reminding me of camp, of adventure, of other places.

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#nofilter

As I rise to greet the day, I realise I can wear what I want without really having to worry. Suddenly my hair is in fashion again – that messy beach look that I rock all year round is cool, my freckles are back, and I’m a little less pale than I normally am.

IMG_3325I turn to open the window wider. Open windows are surely the most wonderful part of summer. Driving with the windows down, letting the world breathe through into the house throughout the night, a cool breeze welcomed in when the heat is unbearable.

IMG_3079.JPGSummer in itself is a bit of an open window, I realise. Any other time of the year, the window remains closed and I’m left with one objective: to work on my degree, to pass, to succeed. During summer that’s not the case. I can drop everything and go to the beach. I can go away for a couple of weeks to do camps without worrying about missing things. I can visit friends who live far away. I can spend days writing. I can spend days reading. All these things are available to me in a way that they never are during term time…all because the window is suddenly open and I’m not confined to this one thing I have to do.

Summer is freedom and beauty. Summer is being away from the norm…but I get bored easily. There comes a day when summer becomes normal, when it becomes boring. When that comes, I’ll be wishing for the confines and boundaries of winter again. For schedule, for deadlines, for a closed window because there’s just too much air. I need focus, I need limits. IMG_3379

Nothing can stay perfect and free forever. But for a few months, before the wasps and spiders and moths decide to invade, an open window is exactly what I need.

 

 

My Little Jar of Happy Things

On my bookshelf sits a little, inconspicuous jar. It’s surrounded by beautiful books, make up brushes, box sets, study equipment and a little bit of mess. It’s quiet, it doesn’t shout out to anyone who sees it, other than it being a little bit hipster becauIMG_3166se of the blackboard sticker stuck on top. Even now, after having it for so long, it’s strange to me that such a little, seemingly meaningless jar can hold so much joy.

What this little jar is, in reality, is just a jar. But if you were to come and open it up, other than this being a bit of an invasion of privacy (what are you doing in my room anyway??), you would discover it’s basically fit to bursting with little bits of paper.

When I was in fifth or sixth year of high school (which is getting worryingly long ago now) I decided to write down little things that made me happy for a year and put them in a jar, to cheer me up wheneverIMG_3161 I was feeling down. And like most good ideas I have, I was sure it was probably going to be exciting for a month or so and then ultimately teeter out.

But as you can probably guess, it didn’t. Over the past 4/5 years, I’ve been writing down things that have made me happy and putting them in that jar. And this morning I looked back in that jar for the first time in a few months, and the warm feeling I felt in my stomach was enough to dispel the anxiety that has been rumbling away there for the past few days (exam problems, amiright).

IMG_3153What I didn’t realise when I first wrote down something like ‘I passed my prelims!’ was that I was about to start collecting little forgotten moments of joy in my life, moments that time extinguishes with bigger things and new challenges. Little moments of joy are, I think, what get us through life, and without them I don’t really know where I’d be. A good book on a cold night, making a new friend, laughing with my family – lots of tiny things that are forgotten within even a few weeks. But I wrote so many of them down, and now I might never forget them.

IMG_3146Looking back was honestly like reading a book of my last few years. I found excitement over being accepted into Glasgow Uni of all places, but then even more excitement about accepting my place at Strathclyde. I suddenly remembered the absolute horror of waiting for replies from unis, and the ultimate excitement in realising that yes – I was in, and four years of my life were now planned.

I found the excitement in friendships developing that I had thought would never happen – friendships which, even though I am incredibly thankful for, I do take for granted because they’ve become just like breathing to me. I forget that there was a time when I didn’t know these people, or that I was worried we wouldn’t still be friends when I got to this stage in my life – and the utter joy on those tiny bits of paper at the realisation that I was getting somewhere helps me to relive and re-appreciate the people in my life.

IMG_3155There are moments that I don’t remember, but bits of paper celebrating God’s provision and plan for my life, and though I don’t know why I was celebrating that at the time, it’s beautiful to see that God was working then, as He is now.

I found moments in Daniel and Nathan’s lives which were massive milestones tIMG_3147.JPGo me – the first time Daniel giggled at me, the first time Nathan smiled when I sung to him. Things that now happen every time I see them, but then were new and big and exciting.

And there are things I’ve taken out of the jar. Plans I had which were never going to happen, some friendships which naturally drifted apart, futures I saw for myself which I know now weren’t what was best for me – but instead of just putting them in the bin, I replace them with the lessons I’ve learned, with what I’ve been taught from the bad times, and what I have now that can go and be remembered in such a happy little jar.IMG_3151.JPG

I forget to look in it often when I am feeling down – typical really, but sometimes all I want is to feel a bit sad, and have a good cry. But on a morning like this morning, when all I feel is that studying is never going to end, that I’ll never reach where I want to be – it’s amazing to see the little things that used to make me happy that are now just life to me. It makes me wonder what, in a few years, I’ll be reading from today in my little jar and going…’Oh yeah, that was such a big deal to me back then? That’s normal now.’ There’s something so beautiful to me about the happy things in life becoming the normal things.

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Right, Wrong and Poetry

This semester in my creative writing class we’ve been doing a lot of work on poetry and place writing – ie, the effect setting has on place and what happens when you physically put poetry into setting. For example, for an assignment I’ve been writing a group of poems about the sea, so on Thursday afternoon I went to the beach and wrote some of it in the sand. It’s interesting because the writing will all be washed away, and so it says something about the subject of the poem. (If you want to know more about this just ask me, but that’s all I’m going to say about it in this post so I don’t bore you all!)

So Thursday morning (Thursday was a busy day) was our last class, and our tutor thought it would be good to go out and actually write some poetry in a place using chalk. This way we’re not actually doing any real graffiti as it’s non-permanent, but still has the effect of putting poetry somewhere. I just wanted to clarify that because a lot of people seem to think I used paint. I did not. It’s blue chalk. But she thought it would be interesting to take photos, put them on social media and see what happened.

Me and my partner Beth set out into Rottenrow Gardens, chatting about what to write about. With writing often an idea comes to mind and you stick with it, and on both our minds was Syria. The government had just decided to go ahead with the air strikes, which neither of us were happy about, and we were both agreed that we wanted to write something about that. We both liked the hashtag #NotInMyName and thought it would be a really interesting, minimalistic way to show what we were thinking.

I don’t know about Beth, but as we trekked up the hill my main thought wasn’t to make some big point, more that this would be a cool way to do the task and express my thoughts in the only way I know how really. I’m not very vocal with political opinions because I’m really not a big fan of conflict…as you’ll see further on. But this, for me, wasn’t me making a big political stand, it was more me just doing some work for class on the subject of something I care about. There might not seem to be a difference to you, but to me there is.

So we started working, and this was the result:


(You don’t/choose/birth/family/school/war/#notinmyname)

We were just going over our work when a security guard appeared. He asked us if we had permission to do this, to which we explained that it was for a class, we didn’t know if our tutor got permission and asked if they wanted us to rub it off.

Plot twist: They didn’t.

I left feeling like I’d handled the conversation pretty well, walking back to our classroom. As I walked further away from our wee bit of street poetry I immediately began to feel really anxious.

The blue chalk on my hands freaked me out, so in a Lady Macbeth-esque routine, I went to wash my hands of chalk (and, I hoped, this weird anxious feeling in my stomach). The chalk washed off, the feeling did not.

We had a long chat with our tutor about public space and whether it’s actually public, silenced voices and the purpose of poetry. On the way to the train station we peered into Rottenrow to see if anyone was looking at it (they were) and then I went to do some more poetry in the sand.

If you spoke to me at all on Thursday then you’ll know that this anxiety did not disappear. I had this horrible feeling in my stomach, I felt really warm, my hands were shaking, and I was little bit snappy because of how worried I was.

When I voiced these concerns to various people they told me not to worry, because it wasn’t like I was going to get kicked out of uni, I probably wouldn’t even get into trouble about it. That’s not what I was concerned about though, so this didn’t ease my concerns.

What I was concerned about, in hindsight, was this horrible clash of one authority figure telling me to do something and then another telling me not to. In a weird sort of moral dilemma, I suddenly didn’t know whether what I’d done was right or not. Was I in the wrong? Had I done something bad? But I’d been told to do it, so was it bad? But I’d been told not to do it, so it must be wrong?

I’m a bit of a goody-two-shoes (if you hadn’t already analysed that) and so this horrible moral dilemma put me in a sort of turmoil. I was worried what people would think and I kind of blew it out of proportion.  I’m feeling a bit more rational now that I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t really do anything wrong (other than not getting permission, but that wasn’t really up to me). I can appreciate now how interesting it is that in a piece about our voices being silenced, we were quite literally silenced by security. Or that in university, a place where we’re supposed to be expanding our opinions, we were told we’re not supposed to have them.

But what this really showed to me, something which I already sort of knew, is that right and wrong are not always obvious black and white ideas. There’s a grey area, but when you put me in that grey area, I don’t cope very well. I think that’s something I’m going to need to work on, because in my life I’m not always going to be doing everything the way people want me to – I don’t want to just be a people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be making a habit of writing political poetry in the street (IN CHALK). And I’m not exactly going to be picking fights everywhere I go. But I like to think now that I’m aware, next time I need to do something that is a more difficult moral grey area, I’ll be able to do it without feeling like I’ve just committed some sort of horrific crime.