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At Childhood's End

Perspective

The biggest betrayal was that of my own mind

For putting you on a pedestal on which you never belonged

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University for Introverts

The cold, harsh truth of the matter is that university, like much else in life, isn’t made for introverts. Getting put in a flat with people you’ve never met before, and then having to make painful small talk with them, is probably (definitely) our idea of a nightmare. Couple that with massive parties full of strangers in Freshers’ week, and it’s tempting to refrain from leaving your cosy new uni room.

Personally, I managed to get through the whole of Freshers’ week without hiding out in my room – I made myself go to events that I thought looked interesting, I made the small talk with my flatmates, and I went along to the massive pres (yes, they were *kind of* uncomfortable).

And I lived to tell the tale! So, here are my tips for making the most of of university as an introvert…

 

1.Navigating freshers week as an introvert

Before you go to university, everyone will be talking about how great freshers week will be – then, you will get there and you will realise that it is like being on a weird, awkward and overpriced holiday.

The friends you make in Freshers week might be your friends for the rest of your life – but a lot of the time, they won’t be. And that’s fine! Take the opportunity to meet lots of new people, and eventually you will find your people.

 

2.Leave your comfort zone

This doesn’t mean making yourself go to every party when you really don’t want to, or trying to act like the most outgoing person ever – this will probably just exhaust you. Instead, go to events that catch your interest, and join societies that you would never have the chance (or the time) to join out of university.

Meeting people and bonding over a shared interest can be a better way to make lasting, meaningful friendships than the convenience of living in the same halls or being in the same classes, especially for …

 

3.Make the effort

As someone who has always had extroverted friends, I got comfortable with letting others make plans and just being caught up in the current. At uni, with a lack of regular contact hours and the sheer amount of people, you should take the initiative to make plans with people you click with. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no!

 

4.Make time for being alone

With the 24/7 socialising, it’s easy to become socially burnt-out, or get a ‘introvert hangover’. After freshers week and the first few weeks of classes, I came to a point where I felt exhausted and just wanted to be alone.

Listen to your introverted self when it tells you to take time to be alone. Cuddling up in your bed with some good TV/a favourite film/a book and food is one tried-and-tested way for introverts to recharge, but something that usually helped me even more during my first year was getting out of the uni bubble and exploring the city I was in.

 

5) It’s ok to not have a million friends and go out every night!

As I have said, university is full of social events and chances to go out, as well as big groups of friends in halls and courses. Don’t stress about having a massive group of friends! Small groups are also great! Uni is great! Yes, there are difficult times, but the low-points are what help you to grow as a person and become more resilient. Now, go and make some memories!

 

The night you finished with me

I felt the stars fall from the sky

The earth moved from underneath me

 

I’d realigned my world for you

So I guess it was inevitable

That you when you would knock it

I would fall

100 years on: Gagged and Bound

It is not news that the current US administration, like its conservative predecessors, is working to undo years of progress regarding female bodily autonomy. From President Trump backing proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, to the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, with his championing of religious freedom over contraceptive distribution, it is a worrying time for women’s rights in the States.

However, it is not only the bodies of women in the US that are being used as a battleground for political disagreements – the actions of those in charge have had, and will continue to have, devastating effects for women and their communities in developing countries. The ‘global gag rule’, or Mexico City policy, is not a new phenomenon. It was introduced under President Reagan in 1984, requiring that NGOs not perform, or even promote, abortions if they wanted to receive US funding – this included informing patients about the option for abortion and advocating for legal change, as well as directly providing abortion services.  Over the years, the policy has been revoked by Democrat presidents, and subsequently reinstated by Republican administrations, in a selfish (and dangerous) political seesaw.

And yet, this restrictive policy has (*surprise surprise*) not magically led to a fall in the number of abortions worldwide. On the contrary, the number of ‘backstreet’ (i.e. unsafe) abortions has actually increased – many have been left without contraceptives, as organisations that wish to continue their abortion services – and therefore must continue without US aid – face a huge loss in funding, forcing many organisations to shrink or close completely. Health worker Elizabeth Wanjiru told CNN the upsetting story of finding foetus remains in the streets of the Kibera slum, a sight that she hadn’t seen for many years.

Aside from the worrying increase in the number of unsafe abortions, numerous other healthcare services have been adversely affected. President Trump has extended the policy to cover approximately $8.8 billion in US global health assistance, rather than the $575 million in US family planning funds that it affected under previous Republican administrations. This means that funding for maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and many, many other prevention and treatment programmes, has changed for the worse.

Whilst I find the damaging (and easily avoidable) loss of health services to be devastating, there are also issues that should be taken with this policy on a moral level. What right does the US government have to be interfering with the autonomy of another country and its citizens? Women and girls have the right, protected under international law, to decide if and when to have children, and taking away from a free dialogue between health givers and patients undermines this right. Furthermore, part of a healthy democracy is allowing citizens to advocate for change. If the US claims to uphold and spread democratic values, shouldn’t they be encouraging freedom of speech, rather than ensuring that it is restricted?

Some may argue that the US government can decide how they spend their own funds. But one cannot deny that there is a dramatically uneven balance of power in the world, allowing the United States to be a country with greater financial power than most – and with this power comes a responsibility to protect, and not endanger, vulnerable individuals in places where it can be very difficult to be a woman.

100 years on: Is feminism still relevant in 2018?

Over the past few years, with the rise of terms like ‘feminazi’, and groups like “Women Against Feminism”, there has been much debate surrounding the relevance of feminism in the 21st century – 100 years after (some) women were granted the right to vote in the UK, is there really still a need for the feminist movement?

The very word itself has become controversial in recent years. When I was in high school – an all-girls high school, in fact – many of my fellow students felt uncomfortable with labelling themselves as feminists. Older girls set up a feminist society, which was mocked by the pupils at the local boys school. Fast-forward to sixth-form college, and many of the male students (and even some female ones) argued that feminism was pointless, even dangerous. I think a lot of the fear over the idea of feminism is down to a lack of understanding of what it really means to be a feminist – the ‘fem’ prefix leads people to assume that feminists are people who want female superiority. And I don’t need to mention the host of other stereotypes that we are labelled with – that we are man-hating lesbians, who shun pink and hair removal. But the very definition of feminism – “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes”, according to the Oxford Dictionary – contradicts all these accumulated stereotypes. It begins with ‘fem’ because women suffer more than men under the patriarchal society we live in – that’s just the plain and simple truth.

But a lack of clarity is just the beginning – many see feminism as pointless now that women have equal voting rights in the Western world, amongst other milestones such as the appointment of two female prime ministers in the UK, and a Canadian cabinet which is fifty per cent female. Whilst these are great achievements which we should celebrate and recognise, this point of view ignores the long way we still have to go to achieve gender equality in the developed world, such as tackling rape culture and the gender pay gap. But it entirely misses an even more key issue. We may have relative equality in the West, but the situation is very different for the vast majority of women across the rest of the world. Keyboard warriors will argue over the dangers of third-wave feminism, meanwhile in South Asia the reality is that there is an on-going rape crisis, as shown through the brutal gang-rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa Bano. Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects 200 million women and girls in 30 countries including Somalia and the Gambia, and in Latin America the severe lack of reproductive rights has led to it having some of the highest unsafe abortion rates in the world.

It’s clear that we cannot have a debate about the relevance of feminism without seriously considering the unjust – and downright dangerous – situation for women and girls in developing countries, and what can be done to improve it. I have skimmed the surface of issues facing women and girls here, but this is only an introduction to a serious about important issues that are still faced by half the world’s population, but rarely receive the sustained media attention they deserve, 100 years after (some) women were granted the right to vote here in Britain.

 

The Perfectionist Curse

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For at least the past year I have been meaning to start writing on this blog. I wanted to post a short introduction about who I am and what I wanted to share with the world, but I kept on stopping myself. A little niggling feeling kept on preventing me from sitting down at my laptop/notebook and seriously begin to write something. My ceaseless drive for perfection – and my fear of falling short of getting everything exactly right.

The word “perfectionist” appeared on my school reports for the first time in primary school, and would continue to crop up into high school. As a child, I don’t think I understood the full scope of what it meant – I just thought it was a posh way of saying I was doing well. However, as I got into high school, the word felt increasingly negative, even slightly destructive. In a highly competitive all-girls school that cared little about the mental well-being of its students, I was both pushed and pushed myself to do as well academically as I possibly could – and perhaps even more than I possibly could. And as GCSEs approached, I found myself constantly comparing myself to others around me, a bad idea when the majority of my fellow students were also high achievers. I even found myself crying when I received an A rather that an A* in a mock exam. I was more stress than girl, ready to explode at any moment, in my constant strive towards perfectionism.

Leaving the toxic environment of my high school and starting afresh at a sixth form college allowed me to leave behind some of my unhealthy attitude towards failure. I accepted that I wouldn’t be achieving straight As from day one, and I began to learn from my mistakes rather than be ashamed of them. I stopped not doing things out of fear of failure, and took every opportunity I could – even if the odds weren’t in my favour. I still have the occasional moments when I get frustrated at myself for not gaining the best possible grades or being as productive as I could be, but I’m slowly working on unlearning this toxic view of success. I’ve even begun to see some of my ‘failures’ as successes – it turns out there is some truth in “every cloud has a silver lining”.

So, who am I now?

I’m a first year university student who didn’t end up where they hoped (more on that in another blog post) and didn’t expect uni to pan out as it has so far (again, a story for another time…). I study languages, care deeply about fighting injustice, and am an aspiring journalist. If I’m not writing, I’m using my free time to buy more clothes and books than I can fit in my bedroom, and listening to a weird mix of music (think 60s girl bands, chill indie and Bollywood film soundtracks).

Thank you for taking the time to read this (imperfect) introduction and I hope you have a wonderful day (and stick around for what’s to come in the future!)

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