Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015; A Reflection and Review of Sorts

2015 was quite simply, an adventure filled, adrenaline fuelled year. I cannot recall being on such a positive upward spiral in one year. I suppose after having so many negative, depressing years, I was bound to have a year I could actually call my own.

 In my mind this year is split in two parts. The first being the Leaving Cert and the second, After the Leaving Cert. This year was utterly surreal and probably the most fulfilling year I've experienced, developing as an adult with responsibilities, becoming braver and more willing to speak up and be counted for.

 As I went through my photo albums for photographs to insert, I was pleasantly surprised at how many photographs I had at my disposal to use. In my mind I felt that I did nothing except study, sit exams and work. It seems I actually did do some socialising! Here's my 2015.


The year started with the hilarious meme of 'New Year New Ewe' sent by Grace, which still makes me giggle. I succumbed to buying a selfie stick - which is presently in Limerick, oops. I visited my future college, Mary Immaculate College in January on their Open Day. As I walked around the campus, covered in frost and ice, a shiver went up my spine, I could sense that I needed to be here. If only I knew that in December 2015 I would be running around the campus doing exams and completing assignments!

I was studying, which explains the books and flashcards. I have issues with my writing hand so I had to start wearing the muscle support as seen below as my left hand was in agony. Thankfully it sorted itself out but I wore the support in the exams in June. I also questioned if animals did the Leaving Cert and wanted to become a cat.


Mid term in February consisted mainly of the first ever blogger meetup Grace and I attended! We met up with Jane, Chloe, Sarah, Aoife and Celine in Dundrum. We had all been talking online for a lengthy amount of time before we actually all met up face-to-face. It's a strange experience meeting friends from the internet, you feel as if you know everything about them, even though you don't know what their voices sound like. 

Grace and I also filmed an AwkwardSprinkles video (I think?) We went to get hot chocolate and have a gossip session and took tonnes of selfies. My friend Maeve turned 18 and the squad was out in force to celebrate. 


Grace and I went to Dublin Zoo with Spleodar, where I fangirled over goats, took photos of green lizards and we ate amazing pizza. Grace turned 16 and had a party to celebrate. I also took a horrid selfie from the St. Patrick's Day Parade on the main stage, oops. I was deep in the throes of sraithpictiúr and needed any excuse to try make myself laugh. I still think An Criú Craiceáilte are the epitome of squad goals. 


My favourite Easter tree was in my room. Grace and I met up to film. I just realised that we filmed possibly a couple of times during the year but never uploaded the footage. My friends Maeve and Caítlín both turned eighteen so a couple of nights out were had, photo below (a couple of the girls were accidentally cropped out as the photo was too large to fit properly, sorry!) The Vote Yes to the marriage referendum bus arrived in the car park of my old secondary school one afternoon and handed out lots of Yes/ Tá badges. 


I voted for the first time in May. I also finished secondary school. We all got hoodies, mine said 'Queen of Peasants' in reference to a long-running joke that year. We had our awards ceremony, took photos with all our friends (some of whom got cropped out of this photo, I am so sorry!) I wrote a number of articles for the yearbook, in particular this piece which I forgot I even submitted! It was a strange sensation to leave a place where I had been to school for six years. We had our grad mass and the year group went out to celebrate afterwards. (Photo in the first collage) 


The days passed quickly as the exams loomed. Cue mental breakdowns, anxiety and relief repeated for each individual exam, oh yes, the Leaving Cert! It feels so long ago thankfully. June was dominated by sets of booklets and pink paper. I was disgusted as Bono appeared on English Paper One in a comprehension. I watched Game of Thrones a lot between exams (I made the mistake of watching the last episode the night before my business exam and cried for a half hour then resumed revision) I liked the quote in the middle a lot, I knew these exams were the key to unlocking everything I wanted to study in third level. 


I relaxed and recuperated for a lot of July. Grace and I went to another blogger meetup in Dundrum, meeting Sarah, Jane, Cliona, Karolina and her friend Sarah! My friend Caítlín sent me a photograph of the Blogger t-shirt which most of us ended up buying! Starbucks spelt my name right, a worthy cause of celebration. I did a number of shopping hauls too, a strange choice for me.


Ah, the Leaving Cert results were released on the 12th. I might have had several existential crises in the run up to their release. ie crying, watching Netflix for hours on end and eating copious amounts of ice cream with nerves. I don't really recommend experiencing inner turmoil, it's not very pleasant. It all worked out in the end, I got more points than I needed for primary teaching, which was surreal. I accepted my CAO offer at 6.04 as the offers started at 6 am. The squad was out in force once again, having cupcakes and pink lemonade. A week later was our Debs. It was fantastic to see everyone dressed so wonderfully and in such high spirits. It was hard choosing which photos to put in the collage. Grace sent me a supportive photo of my favourite things, sheep and flower crowns. The Sibling also graduated from University too.


I started college in Limerick, which was a huge change from how life had been beforehand. My little 3 year old cousin gave me this lovely card, which is still on my bookshelf in Limerick. The first few weeks are an absolute blur, I made lots of new friends, joined various clubs and societies and went on nights out. I turned nineteen which still freaks me out. 


Katie Taylor visited Mary I in October, between lectures a couple of us went to see her. I hung up a Halloween decoration in my room, just to liven things up a little. The grounds around Mary I are beautiful, with gorgeous autumnal leaves surrounding the pitches. The Foundation Building looks stunning at night too. A couple of the girls and I went exploring and found an amazing ice-cream place which was wonderful. I went to see Ed Sheeran's 'Jumpers for Goalposts' as well as other films. A number of us ordered an obscene amount of pizza one night, as seen below. Only in college!


I participated in my first ever colour run! The Mary I Art Society held a colour run on campus which was utterly fantastic. We went to see Spectre and Brooklyn in the cinema in Limerick and to see The Unlucky Cabin Boy in the Lime Tree, all of which were excellent. Sam and I went to see Nathan Carter. It was my second time seeing him live and meeting him, he's so lovely! I met up with my friend Maeve for our first catchup since my birthday in September. The Lime Tree put up a #WakingTheFeminists sign too which I definitely support. The Parents and I went Christmas shopping and had amazing hot chocolate in Butler's. 


My brother turned 22 so I made a terrible meme of Taylor Swift's song, referencing, 'I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22'' along with a photo of him in a pram in the snowy garden, oh well. Cliona, Kate and I went to the Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow which was amazing. The Strypes performed too and were just surreal. I got the setlist from the stage (thanks again Kate) We saw The Strypes before the gig but didn't get any photos, maybe next time! I got my hair cut a lot shorter which warranted a selfie. In Limerick city I got a 'goats in trees' calendar which basically summarised the meaning of my existence. So for my room in Limerick I have a goats calendar and for home I have a Sherlock calendar for 2016, delighted. I went out Stephen's night and bumped into lots of old friends which was great. I accidentally created an optical illusion by photographing a mini Coca Cola bottle in front of our Christmas themed tea pot. I also got a Sherlock colouring book among my Christmas presents, it's just so fun! Among other things, I got Adele's new album, an Orla Kiely notebook and a Hogwarts notebook which all coordinated so I couldn't resist a photo.

I also did shopping in the Christmas sales, I'll have a haul up soon as it hasn't arrived in the post yet. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed 2015 but I know that the past few days for many of my old classmates has been a terrible and upsetting time. The 252 heart beats and people in our school year that were united by the exams and Leaving Cert became 251 this week. As we approach the New Year, I hope everyone finds the comfort and strength they need. 

2015 is swiftly approaching it's end. I wish you all a happy, prosperous, safe and healthy New Year.

Stay strong and fearless
Aveen x

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Things I Learned Since Going To College

As I have officially finished my first semester in third level, I decided it was an apt time to discuss some realisations I have come across since I started college. This idea has been playing in my mind since I began college in late August. The memo notes in my phone are filled with various paragraphs and passages detailing several weeks, as well as the highs and lows that accompany the college experience.

The first important realisation I came to is that,
1. You don't have to be who you were in secondary school.

 Over the five or six years that we're in the secondary school system, regardless of your
year group size, it becomes obvious that everyone knows everyone. We all knew what people got up to on nights out, how they acted at lunch time or in the classroom. Opinions were moulded and limits were imposed on the supposed normal behaviour of each individual. That's utterly normal, we're human beings after all. Yet, these restrictions can be well, frankly restrictive on people. Some may feel shackled to these opinions, fearful to break the mould of what everyone supposedly thought of them.

I know I was.

At the time, I thought I was happy during my final years of secondary school, yet now I realise how many people I had to tiptoe past on a daily basis, just so their opinions of me and my identity would remain intact. I felt censored in my writings and musings, both on paper in my notebooks and on this lovely blog. The decline in my writing content and regularity is evident to see. It's only now that I've gained the confidence back to write my own thoughts and opinions. I felt so horribly trapped in boundaries imposed by others that I wondered would I ever get back to blogging at all. It took time to regain the confidence to do so, along with months of lying to myself, justifying the lack of content with 'a lack of time.' A lack of time it may have been, yet it was also a fear of reactions.

I realise now that I cannot live to please everyone. It took me an even longer time to realise that I shouldn't let unimportant people try take over space in my head or in my creative elements such as my notebooks and this blog. I turned my back on The Random Life of Aveen due to the fear of what others think. If we were to live by others definitions of us, would we really achieve our goals and self-actualisation? I think not sadly.

I read a quote by Nelson Mandela recently and which hit me profoundly. 'I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.' I delayed writing this blog post for months due to fear. Adrenaline courses through my veins as I swiftly type these words. I am no longer afraid of what others think of me. 

Life changes, people move on. I moved to the other side of the country to pursue my dreams. I'm hit with the same question often, 'Why Limerick, why not somewhere closer to home?' The answer is simple, I wanted to become different to who I once was.

2.Going somewhere where you know nobody is liberating.

I decided to go to a college on the opposite side of the country, knowing absolutely nobody who was also starting there. Some may scream at the thoughts of that, clutching their friends as they stumble through an unknown campus but God, it was like being released into a new world. A new world where I had a new identity, personality and persona.

I can still recall sitting in my room, first night in Limerick. My parents had just dropped me off, all my things were strewn all over the floor, waiting to be placed into drawers and cupboards. As my parents left, my Mam told me that some girls had already arrived and were in the kitchen at the top of the hallway. My room is down near the bottom of the hallway but I could hear quiet small talk and nervous throat clearing as the door was ajar.

I decided to go into the kitchen, 'to introduce yourself' as my parents would put it, and maybe see if I could make some friends. My thought process went haywire. With each footstep I made in the direction of the kitchen, I knew the first impression would be vital in a place where I was unknown by everyone. I left that messy room as a quiet, unassuming and ultimately shy person, afraid of so much as looking at anyone. I entered the kitchen with a smile, straight posture and an air of confidence I had evidently stolen from a passing gust of Autumn wind. They had no preconceptions of me, I could mould my own personality to become whatever person I wanted to be, and it felt wonderful.

3.You can be friends with people all over the country.

If you are unfortunate enough to listen to me over an extended period of time, I talk about friends from all over the country. (Mainly Cork, Kerry and Clare though). It's so strange, having no friends 'from home' in college, as most people do. It was an intentional choice which I'm happy I made. It gave me a further incentive to be more outgoing and confident in making friends and talking to people.

You can wear your hair curly, people don't care if you straighten your hair to within an inch of its' life everyday.

In secondary school, I literally refused to leave the house unless my hair was in a perfect bun, put in place by a nauseous amount of hairspray or heavily straightened, to remove any imperfections or life in my hair. I'm typing this post with my hair not straightened, curly and wavy. I used to despise my natural hair for many years yet I've come to appreciate it now. To emphasise the waves, I even got my hair cut shorter, just for the curls to fall more naturally. If I was to go back in time to this time last year and tell myself that I go to lectures and even exams with curly hair, I probably would tell myself where to eloquently go.

Those feelings of confusion and of being homesick will pass.

The first few weeks were marked with feelings of homesickness which is always a bundle of laughs (not). I found a memo note in my phone from around my second or third week in college.

''The bouts of sadness come in waves yet they last longer than a rough, salty wave at the beach. Homesickness is an upsetting emotion. When your physical being aches for home, yet you know deep inside that you must leave in order to better yourself both academically and as a person. Maybe that's what hurts the most. The necessity of leaving all you know, to come back better.

The loneliness is an ever constant ache in my chest. The longing for my usual support network of home wreaks havoc across my soul. I know this feeling will soon subside.
Yet as I walk to the bus stop, as another anonymous face in the midst of an ever-changing crowd, the feelings of sadness find ease in existing and flourishing.''

Thankfully, those feelings passed as I slipped into a weekly routine and rhythm which has become part and parcel of my college experience so far.

I have to admit that I quite enjoy college and it's various differences. I feel that I'm changing into more of an 'adult' that I previously thought I would be. I went down town at home during the week with my Sixth Year friends for the first time probably since September or before then. We bumped into a good few people from our year. As we walked, chatted and caught up on our lives since we last spoke in person, I realised how irrevocably different my life had become over the space of a few months.

As a creature of habit, I used to despise change and what such changes entailed. For the first time in my life, I have embraced this change and owned the change. I miss seeing the Sixth Year girls every day, but when we meet up, it feels as if we never really left each other. Technology is a superb way to stay in touch but will never beat the euphoria of sitting with your friends in a warm coffee shop, a warm cup of hot chocolate in hand, talking about all these new and fascinating adventures and experiences we experienced separately but discussed together with humour and laughter.

First Semester was filled with a lot of life lessons and was a time of maturation of my character and who I want to really be. I had an absolutely supreme experience which was utterly fantastic. I am no longer afraid of the opinions others hold about me. I can grow, I can change.