[This post was edited on 17/06/2017 with help from Juan Pablo Ruiz, this post was also featured on Labmosphere]
I’d been putting off this blog post for a while (I then wrote it and forgot to publish it) as I was waiting on the transcript from the first year of my PhD. I passed with flying colours (as they say). If the UK are good at one thing, it’s that during my MA, I was given adequate support, all courses were agreed upon before the semester (or term) began and changes weren't usually sprung upon students (with the exception of room changes, which I despise).
However, I didn’t start my PhD in the UK, but rather in Poland.
There were no undergraduate students there, funding wasn’t an option, and I worked full time. This was a very different institutional structure to anything I’d come across in the UK, largely due to a lack of organization.
No one thought ‘how will this affect the students’ but rather ‘what is easiest for the professors’: constant, unexpected, and inconsiderate changes were rife. I didn’t have anyone but myself supporting me financially, which meant the irrelevant classes I was forced to attend to gain credits were troublesome. My employer at the time changed my schedule accordingly (I worked as an interdisciplinary teacher). Then, the university changed their schedules, so I had to go back and change mine once again. This continued for a while: back and forth, back and forth. My employer became frustrated and my mental health suffered enormously.
Not long into my second year, I was told that my chosen classes were to be dropped and that I “could become a sociologist or political scientist instead.” “No thank you,” I thought. Imagine telling a philosopher that they can just change discipline. It shouldn’t work like that. I wasn’t there to waste time. I wasn’t there because I had nothing better to do and my parents were funding my student lifestyle. I was there to learn. I was there to gain insight from incredible human beings so that I might too be able to impart knowledge in a similar way.
I cried during my initial interview. I was overwhelmed and intimidated by the six men (and one woman) I’d never met before. They sat around a large wooden table. I was overwhelmed and distracted by the architecture, the smell of old carpets and coffee, the sounds of the Old Town and of people coming in through the open window. I was debilitated by my inability to speak in public without a script. I clutched my iPad. I was sweating profusely and incredibly aware of the marks my hands were making on the black leather of the iPad case. I would wipe my hands on my trousers then go back to clutching my device.
Perfectionism can be an issue when it comes to being an academic. I often felt as though I’d done something wrong, or that I wasn’t good enough, when in reality I’d done nothing wrong and I was good enough. One negative reaction could destroy an otherwise positive day. Professors who recognise this might be able to help in some way by reasoning with the student after a lecture or seminar. Perfectionism can be a good thing too, when it comes to organisation skills, note taking, etc. I have always been complimented on my handwriting, ever since I was younger. I think it was often my notes that gave me away as being different. I would be asked a question and know exactly where to find the answer in my notes. I also find that handwriting (or even typing up) information enables me to retain it more effectively than simply listening to information. I hear everything around me, all the time, so being able to write (or type) means I’m able to focus on listening and writing with nothing in between; it also keeps my hands busy. I have recorded lectures in the past but some professors don’t like it.
Had they even thoroughly read my proposal? This question came to mind on more than one occasion. I was asked heavily loaded questions about how my work was political even though at no point during my proposal did I mention politics. I composed myself, I began to explain my proposal, I went on to discuss why I wanted to study at their institution, how I intended to go about my research and what both they and I could gain from my doing so. My admission folder was white; it was new; I had bought it especially for the occasion. I’d say it was in pristine condition with every document carefully placed in the prefered order of the institution: my photographs, evidence, proposal and more. It was all in there. That’s when I first met the secretary. This woman saved my life. She was the only rock most of the students had. She knew everything there was to know about the institution, including its flaws. She was honest, kind and I will always be grateful to her for helping me when I was struggling.
On several occasions I had experienced misunderstandings with fellow students but as I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past, language barriers make misunderstandings easier. I don’t think there was ever a time that I found being around my fellow human beings to be easy. It has never been easy. I refuse to pretend that being autistic is easy, it is not. A misunderstanding in your own language between two native speakers can have a devastating effect on both parties involved whereas it’s easier to deal with misunderstandings when one of the parties involved has a language native to your own as a second (or third, or fourth) language rather than first, as it takes a little more time and effort. The statement 'you should come to class prepared' doesn't give me as an autistic student the chance to explain that I forgot my pen because something interfered with my usual routine. I didn't forget my pen on purpose but I will be thinking about it for the rest of the day.
I found that as an autistic in academia, the one thing I could’ve used more of was a combination of time and patience from others. A large number of the inspiring individuals I met whilst studying gave me their time and put in the additional effort it takes to get to know me. In the end, when I had left and moved to another city, I realised that most of the issues I have with people are in my head: people do seem to like me for me, even with my unusual behaviour or intense (sometimes viewed as aggressive or strange) conversational skills. I couldn’t understand why anyone would like me because more often than not, I don’t like myself, so I’d distance myself and lose out on forming strong connections with anyone.
I struggle to make relationships last and friendships have always been a problem. I miss so many people but have no way of explaining that to them in a way that doesn’t come across as ‘creepy’. This includes members of staff. How do I communicate with them without them thinking I want something from them? I don’t tend to ask anything of anyone, problems tend to build up, then I erupt, which is followed by, in the words of my father, “biting your nose off to spite your face”. The self destructive nature of my reactions is one way to lead an unsuccessful life, or in this case, an unsuccessful academic career. It’s no wonder I took such a keen interest in the philosophy of self, the rational and the corporeal. Perhaps I should one day write about autism, the self and Plotinus.
Ways in which institutions can help autistic students (based on personal experience):
When I was no longer able to concentrate on the lecturer over the sound of students clicking pens, flickering lights and construction site noises, I'd leave and wouldn't return. Lectures and/or seminars which last for several hours with one or two breaks are too long. I once had a meltdown in the toilets as no one but me had read a specific text and I felt as though I had wasted my time. Despite all of my issues, if I ever decided to continue my PhD (which I’m attempting to do remotely, without an institution) I believe I would be better prepared than I was initially. Education is a key part to growing as a human being so I do not regret negative experiences, instead I add them to my ‘to learn from’ list. Some of my work can be found on my site, Academia, the rest remains secret until such time as I’m ready to share it with the world.
Thank you for taking the time to read about some of my experiences, if you can relate to this post or you think I’ve missed anything important, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, ideally via Twitter.
All images used are by Kay Isabedra via Death to the Stock Photo.
23andMe is a personal genetic service that helps you understand what your 23 pairs of chromosomes, your DNA, say about your health, traits and ancestry. It’s the first and only genetic service available directly to you which includes reports that meet FDA standards. Customers receive a snapshot view of their DNA with more than 65 detailed reports on their health, traits and ancestry, plus tools to explore and compare their DNA with others. However, if you're really interested in migration patterns and analyzing your own data I recommend GEDMatch and DNALand for additional tools.
As some of you might know, I’m a big fan of open source software. Now although the calculator works to analyse your shared DNA (your raw data in a zipped file), you need to manually upload your DNA for each ancient individual. There is no way to mass compare the results which makes this process slightly more time consuming. Source Code at GitHub. You can find some more details here.
Shared Ancient DNA:
Ajvide 58: 0.58%
Altai Neanderthal: 0.19%
Australian Aboriginal: 0.85%
Clovis Anzick 1: 12.51%
Gökhem 2: 0.61%
La Braña-Arintero: 3.96%
Results based on my Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA):
Haplogroup: J1b1a (a subgroup of J1)
Maternal haplogroups are families of mitochondrial DNA types that all trace back to a single mutation at a specific place and time. By looking at the geographic distribution of mtDNA types, we learn how our ancient female ancestors migrated throughout the world.
Haplogroup J originated about 45,000 years ago on the Arabian Peninsula not long after modern humans expanded out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages of J, including J1, into Europe. Today the haplogroup extends as far west as Britain and as far east as Central Asia. (23andMe)
2.5% Neanderthal (average genome wide European percentage is 2.7%)
More about Neanderthals
Neanderthals were a group of humans who lived in Europe and Western Asia. They are the closest evolutionary relatives of modern humans, but they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. The first Neanderthals arrived in Europe about 200,000 years ago. Neanderthals — Homo neanderthalensis — and modern humans — Homo sapiens — lived along side each other for thousands of years. Genetic evidence suggest that they interbred and although Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago, traces of their DNA — between 1 percent and 4 percent — are found in all modern humans outside of Africa. Apart from the curiosity of finding what percentage of a modern human's genome is Neanderthal, the information has great value for science. By comparing our DNA with Neanderthal DNA, scientists can detect the most recent evolutionary changes as we developed into fully modern humans. Read more about the science behind this. (23andMe)
My ancestry results on DNALand using 23andMe data:
Northern European 84%
South/Central European 1.3%
These results vary depending on which site you use, my results according to 23andMe (Speculative):
18.4% Broadly Northwestern European
Using GEDMatch, I was able to pinpoint most of the British DNA to Orkney and there was a significant lack of any Roman DNA, which leads me to believe my ancestors were very much based in the North (of both Britain and Ireland). The Scandinavian and Northern European results also point to this.
I am using the old site (I'm based in Europe), without the updates currently available in the US. Once the European tools/site has been updated, I will add another post with visual data as they have aesthetically pleasing elements such as a colourful historical time line for migration patterns.
Women have two X chromosomes, men have an X and a Y, so I would also like to mention that if you are female, please remember that these results represent you (percentages inherited from your mother and father) and in terms of historical lineage, it's your mother's line (maternal line).
Men are able to trace both their maternal (mother) and paternal (father) lines, women can only trace their maternal lines using their own DNA. Other members of your family will have slightly different results as we are all individuals. It's recommended that in order to discover your paternal ancestry (and/or migration patterns), you should ask your brother or father to get tested too.
I believe that humans first evolved in Africa and ventured out around 60,000 years ago.
I started the 31 Day Challenge in September last year and despite my best attempts, I was unable to continue updating my blog with images and food diaries. I completed the challenge and I managed to lose some weight. However, I was ill, stressed, exhausted and still slightly overweight. Last year, I stopped taking medication for anxiety and I also came off the pill.
The challenge which originally started as a sort of transitory detox, fitness and health kick became much more than that. I started questioning everything I was doing and why I was doing it. I realised that if you don’t like something, it’s your responsibility to change it.
Since then, I dropped out of my PhD (having successfully passed the first year and started the second), I’ve been working on a book, I became more of a digital nomad than ever before, I said goodbye to a lot of wonderful people and by the end of January this year, I moved from Warsaw to Tychy (a town in the south of Poland).
Whilst visiting the UK over Christmas and New Year, I felt as though I’d lost any personal identity I once had, as though somewhere between sixteen and twenty six my sense of self had disintegrated. I’ve been living my life worrying about what other people think of me.
Advice: Just be yourself.
I’m currently waiting for my 23andMe results, once they arrive I’m planning on making my first real vlog (sans unboxing) since my disappearing act in 2009.
Genealogy is something I’ve mentioned briefly in previous posts so a DNA test seemed like a step in the right direction for me. I’ve spent fourteen years out of twenty six living abroad, with my parents and without. I grew up in the Middle East but have also lived in mainland Europe and Asia. I feel as though travel is inherent, so I’d be interested in finding out whether or not I have the ‘wanderlust gene’ DRD4-7R. I could only trace my ancestry on my grandmother’s side (my dad’s mum) as they’ve been in England for centuries, my grandad’s family (so my dad’s dad) was harder to trace but ultimately, they’re Irish.
In terms of my mum’s grandparents, my great grandparents, there’s hardly a trace of them. I even contacted record offices in Ireland and once hired an expert to try to find answers but hit a wall. This could be down to the Irish Civil War (1922) which destroyed some of the census records I was looking for in the Record Office in Northern Ireland. My mum was born in Belfast but moved to the UK during the troubles in the 70s.
I believe most of her dad’s side of the family worked at and lived near Harland & Wolff but those records are tough to access. “We [Harland & Wolff] regard all manner of personnel records and related material as strictly confidential and it is our strict company policy to refuse access for general research purposes.”
I’m not sure about my grandmother’s side (my mum’s mum), though she was in the circus, which is interesting in itself. I’ve never been to Ireland despite such a strong ancestral link. Family history is often rife with rumours so now I’m looking for facts.
I started a 31 day challenge to get fit, loose the SSRI weight, eat more often (but less) and drink more liquids. I've also decided to take better care of myself. When you look after your physical appearance, it really does wonders for your state of mind. This is a one month overhaul, an attempt to drastically change my lifestyle. Feeling positive about who I am inside is helping me accept and improve myself on the outside.
If you're happy and you know it... it's your medication. Except when it's a false sense of security, not happiness and you don't realise until you run out. I have never suffered from depression, to the best of my knowledge I've experienced sadness, sometimes even extreme bouts of sadness but not depression. It's always been anxiety. Autism, PTSD, PNES, epilepsy, every diagnosis I've been given has one thing in common, anxiety.
Taking brain altering medication is risky. It can help but it can also hinder.
Here are a list of pros:
Here are a list of cons:
I ran out of medication on the 17th, having taken my last dose on the 16th of this month. The forty eight hours which followed were pretty horrendous. When I started to push seventy two hours, my S.O. got me some Pyralgina from the pharmacy and I took an Aviomarin. It was as though I had stepped off a rollercoaster for three consecutive days. I'm lucky enough to have a job that enabled me to work from home as I spent most of the week working from my bed, sometimes the floor as I needed a hard, cool surface to lie on. I ended up on the floor yesterday for a very different reason. I stood up too fast and collapsed, I also remember loosing control of my body temporarily, all of my muscles tensed up, my back arched and I shook. I could see but not think, I could breathe but I wasn't aware that I was breathing. It was as though I was there but somewhere else at the same time.
Today was better but even though I had about eight hours sleep, I slept for around five, possibly more hours in the middle of the day. From what I've read, the dosage halves per day so if that's the case, it could be out of my system soon. However, I've also read that this depends on how long you've been taking the drug. I started last year, after October I think but I don't remember, I'd have to check. I think that the minimal social skills I had started to whither away around that point. Then by the fourth or fifth month, I was finding myself considerably more 'zombie like', being comfortable is one thing but it's far too easy to let yourself go.
Anxiety is as much a part of my personality as my native language.
I love food, cooking it, eating it and talking about it. My weight stayed the same for a long time, I'd say well over six years. My eating habits haven't changed. However, I now know that when I started the medication, I should've been eating a lot less. At first I thought it was simply my metabolism, I read that it slows down as you get older. However, such an extreme amount of weight gain, 10kg every five months? No way. I even wondered (for about 5 minutes) if I could be pregnant but that would've been impossible. My favourite trousers ripped, my shirt buttons popped, my underwear cut into my skin, my feet were swollen in my shoes and I just felt nothing. The medication had numbed me to the rate at which my body was changing! I even told my mum on the phone that I'd put on weight but that I was around eleven and a half stone. It turns out I'm closer to thirteen stone and about two dress sizes more than I was.
In the past, I was often told that I needed thicker skin but having experienced it with this particular medication, I'm not sure it's that great to have thick skin. To have thick skin seems to mean you're stronger, you're more tolerant to negativity, you handle change better and a plethera of other traits but it's my thin skin, my naivety, my positivity and my dislike of change which makes me who I am. My nervous disposition around others forces me to try harder (some say too hard but that's fine), my anxiety helps force me to do more because I constantly feel like I'm not doing enough, my sense of urgency means I'm more likely to be productive and worrying about what others think of me, means I make more of an effort, with my health, my appearance and so on. Without my anxiety, I feel like a zombie, a smiling cog in the machine of life.
Owning a puppy has got me out of the apartment more often than medication could. My puppy knows when I'm sad, she calms me down during a meltdown and she makes me laugh when I cry. She's adorable and I need to look after her. Looking after her reminds me that I should look after myself.
Lethargy is the enemy of a busy mind and I have a busy mind so I shouldn't try to slow it down.
I stopped visiting a psychologist weekly but still have meetings with my psychiatrist every few months (the next appointment being the 29th). I will of course bring up the information mentioned here with my doctor as it's important to note down any side effects which come with taking medication. Autism needs to be discussed, life is difficult to manage and being afraid to ask for help gets you no where, this I know from experience.
The next few months will be spent getting my life back on track, losing the excessive amount of weight I've gained, taking care of myself and my puppy, spending more time in the office and less time remotely as well as trying to repair all of the friendships I may have lost due to my complete lack of thought for others. Also, it's important to point out that taking any sort of brain altering medication (and this is not the first time I have), will alter your brains wiring, even after you've stopped taking it. I feel as though this is particularly dangerous when you are someone who needs a certain level of consistency in your head. I have a PhD to write, a relationship to maintain and a job to do, I don't want to lose what I worked so hard to achieve. My focus has always been insatiable and I want that back. Understanding my imperfections will hopefully lead to me being able to accept them.
This blog post is not to be taken as a substitute for seeking medical advice or professional opinion, it's simply a personal commentary on my own experiences with the SSRI (serotonin specific re-uptake inhibitors) escitalopram.
It's been such a long time since my last blog entry that I almost don't know how to start. I turned twenty six this month, I started playing Pokémon Go and at the end of last month my S.O. and I adopted a puppy (Check out Bułka's Facebook album) from Zwierzaki z Mińska. She went on her first walk a few days ago!
Let's start with my birthday. I went into work where I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers and some lovely sweets and chocolates. I had a steak for lunch and a generally productive day, which was awesome. I came home to a cake with lit birthday candles surrounded by IKEA presents from my wonderful S.O.! We ate the cake and headed to Plac Wilsona where I had a great birthday dinner (more food)! We then went Pokémon hunting and found ourselves at an amazing little park (park Stefana Żeromskiego) with a great café/bar called Prochownia Żoliborz.
Pokémon hunting is so much fun, unfortunately there isn't a PokéStop close enough to my office that I can work and collect Pokéballs but that's probably for the best. My apartment seems to spawn really great Pokémon occasionally so that's great, no PokéStop close enough that I can lie in bed and collect Pokéballs though, first world problems, eh.
I received some lovely cards on my birthday as well as jumpers, mugs and underwear from my family. Oh and a beautiful blanket from my grandparents. My S.O. bought me some gorgeous IKEA stuff, mainly because I love artificial plants and organising the apartment. The cat pillow (MATTRAM cushion) goes really well with my bedding and I'm particularly fond of my new BYLLAN laptop support (it's so comfy). I had a little birthday money too so I bought myself a new chair for my desk, it's a foldable metal one, nice and sturdy.
I can't believe it's already August, I started writing this post in July. The time seems to have just flown by. I know the quality of my writing has stagnated as of late but I plan on rectifying that. I've been trying to get used to my medication, trying to eat less, trying to work more efficiently and so on.
These things take time but let's hope my twenty sixth year will be the best yet and that I'll finally be able to pursue some of the activities I've wanted to start for a while. My PhD is going well and I've managed to get through the first year which is super. I feel as though there may be some loose ends which still need tying up as the system here in Poland is very different to that of the UK. It gets rather confusing at times.
I haven't done much today and it's already 1PM. I think I'll have to put away the clean (and dry) laundry, put another load in the machine, then take that out and hang it up, amongst other things. What a thrilling task! My puppy is sleeping under my desk again, it's a quiet Sunday. Panda the hamster is also asleep, she tends to sleep most of the day though as it's more natural for her to do that. I wouldn't feel right waking her up and forcing her to become diurnal when she's definitely nocturnal.
There were a lot of birthdays at work recently, luckily I'm in charge of making sure everyone gets fun gifts! It's hard to buy for adults though sometimes, there're only so many boring adult gifts one can receive without feeling underwhelmed so I like to give people a lot of cool gadgets, games and unusual candy as well as something personal to the individual. I think it's important not to take such things so seriously, otherwise it can just end up being super awkward! One of my favourite stores at the moment is Flying Tiger. It's perfect for nice gifts, I haven't found an Urban Outfitters in Poland so for gifts it's now my go to choice! Also, there's a great comic book store in Centrum Metro called Komikslandia, I went there for the most recent personalised presents including a Pikachu pillow and Dragon Ball mug, the staff are so friendly and they all speak English!
Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me via social. Links to my social accounts can be found in the footer at the bottom of the page.
I had previously written a review and made an unboxing video for Japan Candy Box's sister companyKawaii Box. I had joined their affiliate programme and applied for their reviewer of the month initiative. They emailed me regarding their candy subscription service and sent me a complimentary box to review!
Here's a list of all of the products they sent me:
Kabaya Karipori Candy Sticks
Fujiya Milky Peko X Sanrio Chocolates
Kracie Sea Animals DIY Gummy Kit
Bourbon Petit Grilled Pizza Rice Crackers
Calbee Sapporo Potato Vegetable Snacks
Meiji Mushroom Mountain Chocolate Cookies
Meiji Mini Grape Gummies
Coris Cola and Soda Soft Candy
Hi-Chew Chewy Candy Cola
Kasugai 100% Fruit Juice Gummies
If you would like to win your very own Japan Candy Box, please enter using the Rafflecopter gadget below! Good luck!
Unfortunately, my video camera isn't working at the moment so I wasn't able to film the unboxing video, I was only able to take photographs and create a couple of GIFs! I highly recommend this subscription box though, it's wonderful. More details about this particular subscription box can be found on their site, Japan Candy Box.
Saturday the 5th of March 2016
I'm ill. My SO is ill too. We've been ill for about a week but due to my various duties, I decided not to deal with it. Last night however, I developed a fever, my SO cancelled my hair appointment and I got into bed. My chest seared with pain, my head felt heavy and I coughed so hard it hurt. Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon with a hole in it? That's what it felt like, except my lungs were the balloons. I just couldn't fill them up, it was as though there was a hole in my neck seeping out air.
I'm writing this from the bed fort I've made on the sofa, where I've been all day and although I woke up with the intention of going to work, it would've been a foolish mistake. I ignored flu symptoms last year and ended up completely loosing my voice, twice. I haven't tidied my desk for a while so my laptop is beside me on the coffee table. The paper work has piled up as I've been doing a lot of cover lessons recently. I like the students but it's not easy, I wanted this year to be the year I took control of my routine, of myself and my own life but instead I've had to pick up the pieces of other people's shunned responsibilities. I won't be teaching after the summer holidays and instead I have decided to dedicate myself to the one thing I've ever actually been consistently interested in since leaving Taiwan.
I see a psychiatrist every week and I am still coming to terms with my ability to understand and interact with others appropriately, to approach topics of interests in a calm rather than overbearing manner as well as several other personality traits (or quirks) I happen to possess. I process information differently to other people and I need to learn to accept that. I recently stepped out of my comfort zone and took on an opportunity I have (without exaggeration) been dreaming of since high school. As some of you might know, last year, I successfully completed a digital marketing course with Google's Squared Online. I had considered applying for things here or there but it didn't seem like the right moment. Until, I saw a job offer on a Facebook group called Warsaw Startup Jobs, it was posted on the 10th of February and I got in touch with them on the 12th.
I started working on gaining the company followers as soon as we had arranged to meet. I wanted real data based evidence to show what I could do. I wanted there to be a noticeable difference in their digital presence, in their analytics, from the moment they met me. They sent me the brief for an article, which they had received, read and made notes on by the 15th. We worked on it together via Google Docs. I made several relevant changes and realised that during this process, it didn't feel like I was working. It felt as though I was simply doing what I loved to do, writing comes naturally to me and this was writing about something I was genuinely interested in, with people who truly seemed to have drive and vision! Here is the first article we published.
Sunday the 6th of March 2016
This blog post has taken me almost a whole weekend to type up. Half today, half yesterday. I really don't like having flu, it makes me so unproductive. My temperature has come down but the strange cough remains. Today is Mother's Day in the UK, so Happy Mother's Day to my mum and to every other mum I know. I'm cold, I've done two loads of laundry and the weather has been grey for several weeks now. I recently bought tickets for Pyrkon. None of this is relevant.
I visited the office on a Wednesday and I had started and signed my contract (with App'n'roll) by the Monday. I now have two jobs and I'm still studying towards my PhD. Since starting on this new adventure, I feel as though I've really grown as a person, I took a chance and I succeeded. Rather than my usual 'I'm worried, I can't do it', I thought 'I'm good enough, I should try' and it worked. Since that point I've written two more articles, here's one (The Startup Studio Model: The Team) and here's another (How to Prevent Burnout). Both of which have received some great feedback, I'm so proud to be a part of this.
My short term goals mentioned in the previous post have taken a back seat in favour of long term goals and of course, being ill at the moment means it's hard to do anything. However, I feel as though next week, or perhaps the week after, I'll be back on track. I planted sunflower seeds as part of a biology lesson with a Class 5 cover group. They were so excited to see their plants growing every week. I planted some too and I have to say, sunflowers grow surprisingly fast. I always feel as though I'm over or under watering plants and I'm very conscious of that fact. Last month was busy, I tried so many new things (including trampolining), met so many new people and learnt so much.
This month, I need to take control of my health. Do multivitamins work? I've heard and read mixed reviews.
January seems to have flown by. There were a number of meltdowns, hard days (and nights) but now it's over. It started off positively, my brother and dad visited me, which was really nice. I loved starting the year with them around, my dad especially as I don't remember the last time I saw him for such an extended amount of time. Work was stressful but it could've been worse had my schedule not been reduced before Christmas. A number of staff left, some have demanded unfair (salary related) conditions and others, like myself, just seem to be getting on with it despite the occasional spanner throw and often tedious nature of it all. I've tried to be helpful, I've tried to stay positive but January was a month where I found myself quite often getting worked up. I visited the psychiatrist, who has agreed that my escitalopram should be gradually moved up from 5 mg to 10 mg, which is in the process of happening at the moment. Anxiety is something I have had a problem with since childhood, I think early puberty was where it peaked and now as an adult, I've had enough. I know how ridiculous it is, I know how ridiculous I am but I can't help it. Sometimes I feel like a little girl trapped in the body of a grown woman and I hate it. I hate it. My mind overpowers me and I just shrink into myself, my petals fold over my eyes and I close up the way a tulip does when it protects it's pollen from the rain.
I have however managed to complete and submit three essays this year, which I'm quite proud of. I will upload them once they've been read, reviewed or marked (I'm not sure how it works at PhD level) and then I'll share the links on my blog and via social media. The essay titles are as follows:
My auto correct keeps trying to turn Bauman into Batman so I had to go through my essay on him with a fine tooth comb just to make sure there were no awkward sentences! I think I'm most proud of the essay on contemporary counterpublics, this was a relatively new area of interest for me and I managed to apply it to my prior knowledge of the artworld in a way I felt proud of. Although, I surprised myself whilst researching Bauman, I'm not his biggest fan but I spent an entire day (15 hours) reading his work. I fell asleep two or three times but as soon as I woke up, I got on with it and kept reading! There were some problems regarding submissions as I was unaware of protocol regarding physical print outs of essays. Higher education strikes me as being very different here in Poland when I compare it to the UK.
I planted some chillies recently too (from seeds) which have grown into little seedlings. I also planted some dill seeds which are growing a little more slowly it would seem. Hopefully they will catch up soon enough. If I'm able to grow plants and herbs at home from seeds, I'll be so happy. I've tried in the past but they always end up dying. The houseplants I a year and a half ago are still alive and thriving though, so perhaps there's hope for me yet. My January short-term goal was to drink more water and I feel as though I was relatively successful with that so I bought a hamster. It might seem like a strange reward for a month's worth of goal achievement but I've chosen a reward at the end of every month which I feel is very personal to me. For example, the reward for my birthday month of July is simply 'something special' and for August it's a 'cinema trip'. We (my SO and I) were looking once again at dogs up for adoption online but it's just not the right time. I'm willing to wait but when I walked into a pet shop and saw an adorable Syrian hamster, I bought her and named her Panda. I will write a post about her soon, she's lovely. I have also started a monthly chore chart which is helping me get at least two or three things that I have to do, done. It's monthly but I've chosen to use the chart slightly differently. Every day I have several chores to do so I've put a tick in the boxes which correspond to both the day and the chore. It just makes remembering to get everything done a little easier. On Saturday, I have the most chores and on Wednesday I have the least. It's working relatively well so far. My February short term goal list is a little more difficult as it involves exercise so I need to work a little bit harder.
I've never really been very good at making or keeping New Year's Resolutions but this year I've decided to give myself twelve. I've decided that sticking to one resolution all year round isn't worth it, we're under so much pressure to stick to our resolutions that life often gets in the way and we fail. People often choose to stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol and to stop eating junk food but if you enjoy these things, it should perhaps be a case of 'everything in moderation' rather than 'stop completely'. A a slice of pizza isn't going to kill you, neither is the odd cigarette (thinking of my SO) or glass of wine. Taking responsibility for your self is more important than trying to prove something to yourself. New Year's Resolutions shouldn't cause a person to feel guilty or unhappy, they're about embracing the New Year in a more positive way. I definitely could do with eating less sugar but I don't plan on cutting it out of my diet completely. Self-imposed guilt, shame and a generalised sense of failure isn't something anyone wants so why encourage this by making a resolution you can't keep? Why would you buy a gym membership if you don't like leaving the house or being around strangers? There are ways to set goals for yourself which are achievable and stress free.
This year (2016) I have decided to set myself a monthly goal, one thing I plan on changing every month.
January: Drink more water, four pints a day.
February: Twenty sit-ups, before bedtime.
March: Eat breakfast, every morning.
April: Eat off smaller plates, three times a day.
May: Meatless, no meat for a whole month.
June: Fruit and vegetables, at least one portion a day.
July: Treat yo' self, at least once a week (my birthday month).
August: Write more, at least one post a week.
September: Read more, at least one book a week.
October: Learn something new, once a week.
November: Cook one soup, every week.
December: Go out more, to somewhere other than work or university.
I searched for a short-term goal tracker and found a great free download via The Project Girl. The tracker contains six goals on each sheet so I printed two, thus creating a twelve month plan. I then did a couple of Pinterest searches and came across some ideas as to which goals I should set myself each month. Within the main goal, there are four mini goals (which could be a mini goal a week), I feel as though these will no doubt help me to successfully accomplish my resolutions efficiently.
This is a video of my sister and I opening and tasting Skoshbox products. Skoshbox is a monthly box of delicious Japanese treats delivered to your doorstep, plans start from $12 a month! More details about the box can be found here:
Here's a list of all of the products:
The Original Skoshbox (Green)
Torotto Choco-Bites, Crispy Outside with Chocolate Centre
Chocolate Pie Stick, Old Fashioned Chocolate Pie
Kimchi Senbei, Mini Kimchi Rice Crackers
Ramune Bottle Candy, Ramune Candy in Keepsake Bottle
Blueberry Plus Bar, High Energy Blueberry Wafer Snack
Kajiri-Cho Soft Candy, Grape Soda Flavoured Soft Candy
Nama-Ume Candy, Ume Plum Candy with Gooey Jam Centre
The DEKAbox (Orange)
Suppasugiru: Ume, Super Sour Hard Gummies – Umeboshi
Sakupan-Choco Monaka, Panda Face Chocolate Wafer
Sono-Manma Peach Gum, Seriously Mouth Watering Gumballs
Ika-Peanut Mix, Squid Senbei Balls with Peanut Centre
Koala’s March: Wata-Ame, Cotton Candy Cream Filling
Torotto Choco-Bites, Crispy Outside with Chocolate Centre
Kimchi Senbei Bites, Mini Kimchi Rice Crackers
Animal Grip Eraser
Otona-Zeitaku Chocoball, Chocolate Covered Peanuts
Kitkat Bake: Cheesecake
This is a video of me opening my Look Fantastic Beauty Box (Limited Edition 1/3).
Save 15% on your order by using the code: OCT15
More details about the box can be found here.
Here's a list of all of the products:
Elemis, Hydra-Balance Day Cream
Murad, AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Percy & Reed, No Oil Oil
Nuxe, Rêve De Miel, Hand and Nail Cream
Look Good Feel Better, Eye Shading Brush
Monu, Firming Moisturiser
Balance Me, Radiance Face Mask
"Founded in 1996, lookfantastic.com is the original online British beauty boutique. The ultimate Mecca for hair, beauty and all things gorgeous, lookfantastic.com offers over 14,000 products from more than 400 brands across hair, make up, skin care, nails, electrical, fragrance, health , home and organic. Attracting over half a million unique visitors a month, lookfantastic.com prides itself on competitive pricing, exclusive free gifts with purchases and fantastic member rewards on selected brands."
"With a dedicated team of beauty experts who receive regular training directly from brands, lookfantastic.com provides accurate, intelligent information on each product. Supplying some of the leading luxury beauty and hair brands such as Redken, Kérastase, ghd, Elizabeth Arden, Elemis, Benefit, OPI and Decleor, to the new exciting brands like Deborah Lippmann, Save the Blow dry and Alpha-H."
Through concentrating on polite blog etiquette, my spoken language changed, the edits which took place on digital paper, started to take place in my mind. I grew more familiar with the rules.
When I was sixteen, I kept a blog; it was full of inappropriate and nonsensical language. My dad was living abroad and I didn’t live at home, so he wanted to know how I was. He read my blog. He told me that I should change it as not to be judged by the use of swear words and the controversial opinions I had. I did. I deleted everything and started again. I didn’t understand why but I knew he was right. I knew that if what I had written wasn’t wrong, he wouldn’t have told me it was. I felt like I had disappointed my parents by using what I presumed to be normal teenage speech, in writing.
My teenage self, copied everyone else.
She couldn’t help it. She didn’t know who she was, or how to be.
She watched people, she listened, she mimicked.
As an adult, I appreciate my parent’s interventions with regards to my digital self because although at times, I regretted deleting or sharing various things, I learned from each and every experience. I became more articulate. I was able to edit my thoughts once I’d typed them up. I don’t post passive aggressive status updates or tweets; I don’t share things that may trigger others. I think about every time I’ve seen something and wondered if it was about me. I think about every time I’ve taken something literally. I’ve learned to control my emotions to a certain extent but every now and again, I snap. I’ll read something and react. I’ll hear something and react. I’ll be overwhelmed and react.
I haven’t posted anything for a while as my schedule has been a chaotic combination of university, work, university and work, with sleep thrown in there for good measure. I haven’t been able to function properly. I can’t take care of myself properly. I don’t have a routine. Changes are happening so quickly that I can’t process the information I’m being given.
My ability to transition between one thing and another is substandard.
She feels like a defective robot.
She's always felt like a defective robot.
What is haiku?
There is a traditional form of poetry in Japan known as haiku (俳句). Haiku poetry consists of a specific number of syllables (or mora) per line. There are usually three lines of five, seven and five syllables (moras), seventeen in total. Haiku are often about seasons, nature or both. They can also be about moments of clarity or inspiration, emotions, moving encounters and beauty. The origin of the word haiku is Japanese, a contracted form of 'haikai no ku' or 'light verse’.
Translated haiku occasionally don't have seventeen syllables but they're usually close (between eleven and seventeen). The context is rarely lost in translation and what is translated is often ubiquitous, such as changing seasons. My haiku method usually involves individually tapping the syllables with my fingers (as though playing an invisible piano) whilst saying the words in my head.
Here are some I thought of as I was writing this, please share your own in the comments:
Not something we see (5)
Incapable of working (7)
Winter is not here (5)
Yet the leaves are all absent (7)
The heating is off (5)
Lying in the bed (5)
Antibiotics inside (7)
Writing a haiku (5)
Grey sky, windows shut (5)
Pyjamas on, tea with milk (7)
No alarm clock set (5)
It's Autumn, I didn't go into work today as I started a course of antibiotics this morning. They make me feel so sick I can hardly move. There's a certain amount of energy I need to teach and the past few weeks has pushed me to my limits. Teaching children when you're unwell is hard. Studying and working full time is hard. The struggle is real.
This is a video of me opening and tasting my sample box from Taste Japan. Taste Japan is a monthly box of mouthwatering Japanese treats delivered to your doorstep for only £15 a month!
More details about the box can be found here.
Here's a list of all of the products:
Premium Umaibo (I kept calling it Umbaibo, sorry!)
Mix Pizza (No microwave, sad times!)
Matcha Oreo Bits
Shimi Corn Stick
Ultraman Battle Gummy
Takenokono Sato/Kinokono Yama (I couldn't find this one on the list, whoops!)
Fujiya Home Pie
My favourite was the Premium Umaibo (wasabi steak) corn stick, it was absolutely delicious although a little surprising as I wasn't expecting such a flavoursome experience. The information booklet which comes with the box also contains a lot of really interesting information about Japan as well as the product list. I enjoyed learning about autumn in Japan, reading about the nabe parties and moon viewings.
If you invite a friend to join and they sign up you might even get some extra snacks in your box, email them here!
I'll try to keep this post a little bit shorter than usual. Last weekend, I decided to decorate our apartment for Halloween. We're having a party and due to me not knowing how busy I'd be during the week (teaching, studying, cleaning and guests), it seemed like the best option. My SO helped me by drawing and cutting out the letters for our special banner, I then used some regular grey thread to string it altogether between two wall lights. The card was really cheap, I bought it in Carrefour a few weeks ago with the banner in mind. I blew up so many black balloons that my cheeks were sore and we've been walking into spiderwebs for about four days. The balloons are strung up in the same way as the banner, using regular grey thread. A darning needle through the knot works best when you're stringing them together but you have to be careful not to pop the balloon. Both the balloons and spiderwebs are from Party Box.
The party should be great, I've never organised a party like this before. I can't wait to see everyone's fancy dress costumes! Our Tesco delivery arrived today with enough food to feed an army, I bought a lot of goodies but forgot to buy alcohol... I think my SO and the guests will sort that out. I have a lot of sandwiches to make after work on Saturday.
My family and I went to the cinema when the film came out; I remember it being a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We went out for dinner beforehand, as was usually the case. It was a nice movie, a funny little fairy tale with a sweet ending. So, when Stardust was chosen as last month’s book, I felt quite enthusiastic.
I like a book which captures my interested long enough for me to ignore time or responsibility, Stardust is not that book. My excitement dwindled as I struggled to find time to read. Life got in the way of spare time. I eventually managed to get hold of an audio book so that I could at least listen as I commuted, tidied, organised and planned. As an expat (with nut-brown hair, and nut-brown eyes, and nut-brown freckles), I do appreciate fantastical stories set in Britain; a nationwide hankering for escapism is an interesting thought. The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and other books which allow us to access worlds deemed strange and unusual when compared to our own often still possess an air of familiarity. Whether accessed through a hole, a tree, a wall, a door, a looking glass or a wardrobe, all such stories enable us to imagine what could be.
The book is much more adult than the film, almost unnecessarily so. That being said, I feel as though had I read this as a teenager as opposed to reading it as an adult, I may have found the story more agreeable. We’re introduced to characters at the start of the book that seem only to exist in order to give us some background into how Tristran was brought into the world. Tristran Thorn (and Yvaine)’s adventures are relatively interesting but their overall relationship struck me as naive and a little strange. I didn’t like Victoria and Tristran’s relationship either, although Victoria’s reactions to Tristran seemed more realistic than the reactions of Yvaine. Perhaps it has something to do with Yvaine being a fallen star? It was easy for me to imagine Wall but Faerie could’ve done with more of a description as I struggled to envisage it as a location. I found the witches to be more absorbing as characters and their surroundings easier to picture.
Even though this wasn’t my favourite book, it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever read. It’s a fast paced fantasy, complete with lions, unicorns, mutton stew and pots of Shepard’s pie thrown in for good measure.
The audio book read by Neil Gaiman is about six and a half hours long.
If you're interested in taking part in the Infinite Variety Book Club: click here. If you would like to purchase a copy of Stardust: click here. This month’s book is Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini.
I haven’t posted anything for a while. I still have half a book review to complete. The reason for my lack of posts is simple, due to a series of unrelated incidents at work, I’ve been kept occupied. Schedules changing, university starting, new staff arriving, I’ve barely had time to think. I haven't been involved in any Twitter chats for a while either, I'm experiencing a creeping sense of isolation from within the blogging community.
On Monday, I started my PhD; I sat through my first lecture (logic) and a seminar on hermeneutics (I need to plan a presentation for next time). It went well, although, I realised that moving to Taiwan and then onto Poland straight after my MA may have caused me to forget a great deal of information I once considered of the highest importance; mainly the names of curators, directors, philosophers, institutions and everything else of significant relevance. I admitted to being better at writing than speaking, I am. As a teacher, I plan what I’m going to say and what I’m about to talk about meticulously. So, when a professor asks me to talk about myself, my anxiety kicks in and I blurt out how nervous I am before babbling on about everyone who has every written anything about art. Embarrassment level complete, I now feel intellectually inadequate and have to deal with this by making sure I read (and understand) all of the recommended texts for the course and figure out how to discuss them in a concise manner.
I’ve started working at a new school (as well as my old one) as part of the Primary Academy initiative. I taught there yesterday and although it wasn’t my first time teaching there (cover lessons), it was the first time I had my own classes. Maths and Science first lessons can be difficult when you don’t know what the students learned previously, one class had a full register of information, the other didn’t. I taught dinosaurs, it’s my go to first lesson for these subjects. Dinosaur Maths is especially fun as they relate it to dinosaur Science and enjoy it more than they would if it was just a regular Maths lesson. I taught Class 2 and 4, of course using easier (and less) material for Class 2. The projector didn’t work in the Class 2 room which was quite frustrating. They’ve removed a cable from it, on purpose I believe. Teaching Class 2 without songs or video clips can be a little frustrating. I managed to get them to sit in front of a laptop on cushions so we could watch the dinosaur songs from Storybots (YouTube).
My Kawaii Box giveaway was a success, congratulations to Sarah from the blog Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns! If you’re interested in learning more about Kawaii Box, please click here. I have also been sent a coupon from Pinky Paradise, they have 50% off all circle lenses before Halloween. I also have a number of subscription boxes arriving (woo, free stuff) so expect more unboxing and review posts in the future.
If anyone would like to write a guest post for me, or would like me to write a guest post for you, please leave your details in the comments or contact me via email. I recently moved to Diqus comments and lost a number of my old comments so hopefully it's worth it (being able to post GIFs is already a plus).
It’s hard to put into words how tired I am and it’s hard to be honest. I know I don’t have the most difficult job in the world ... but it’s certainly not the easiest. This week has been arduous, I still haven’t heard from the university and I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that I might encounter bouts of exhaustion once I start my lectures. I’m not sure how I feel about working from eight in the morning until well after eight in the evening, not to mention the tiresome commuting which adds at least two hours, if not more to the day. It’s not a single journey, there’re at least three forms of transport involved and going to two schools in one day just makes me want to cry. I’ve mentioned that I don’t mind it but when you work in one place all day, it’s easier, that’s obvious. I would switch in a heartbeat.
Teaching is great when you have time to plan decent lessons, I need at least a day to think about the week and at the same time, life isn’t just about teaching. It’s about living. There are other elements that come into play, the cleanliness of one’s apartment, of one’s self and lastly, any sort of normal relationship with another human being would be beneficial at the moment. I thought I would be teaching less because I would be studying, I thought it would work out better but as it happens I have extra hours, which means more money and less time. Less time ... I’ve met people who work on a pitiful amount of sleep a night and seem to function competently but I wonder how well they’d be able to teach six classes of students between the ages of 5 and 9 followed by adult learners. I wonder if the students would enjoy their classes. I wonder if I’ll be able to do it.
Last year made so much sense to me, this year my brain hurts from all the modifications, all the revisions. I understand the disruptive nature of change which enables a company to develop. I just wish I had taken a step back before diving in.
On a more positive note, I finally managed to update my blog with a post (albeit a slight moan).
Last month, I enjoyed a post written where a number of questions re listed to be answered in the comments section by the readers. Some questions haven't been changed (as the original post was so good) but I've adapted others to suit me (pizza instead of biscuits, even though I really like biscuits). If you would prefer not to comment, you can email me with your answers.
Answer as many or as few questions as you'd like, let's start a dialogue.
P E R S O N A L
+ What's your name?
+ How old are you?
+ Where can I find you (Twitter, Pinterest, Bloglovin etc.)?
+ What do you do?
+ How are you?
N O W & F U T U R E
+ What's your dream job? (No limitations)
+ Name three skills you have.
+ Name three skills you want.
+ Where do you see yourself in five years?
Y O U & I
+ How did you find my site?
+ How do you follow me?
+ Is there anything you'd like to ask me?
P I Z Z A S
+ What's your favourite pizza topping?
+ Are you vegan or vegetarian?
+ What's your favourite book?
+ What's your favourite film?
+ What's your favourite television series?
+ Do you have a favourite celebrity?
+ Name one song I need to go and listen to right now.
Here's a list of all of the products:
Kawaii Neko Plush
Tin Dinosaur Pencil Case
Macaron Ink Pen (I thought it was a doughnut, whoops!)
Cloud Memory Letter Set
Korean Deco Tape
Polka Dot Shoe Laces
Popsicle Squishy Charm
Mini Animal Spray Bottle
Alpaca Tin Case (I thought they were sheep, whoops!)
Puffy Paradise Stickers
Naru Naru Gumi Nomi DIY Candy Kit
Above is a video of me opening my reviewer of the month (August 2015) Kawaii Box and a giveaway where you can win your own! If you would prefer to enter through my Facebook page click here.
Pinky Paradise have accumulated years of experience in the beauty industry, making them a trusted and renowned online retail merchandiser. They specialise in fashionable and trendy circle lenses and colour contacts, both with and without prescription. Luckily for me there are toric lenses for astigmatism too (although the ones featured in the pictures are just a regular prescription)! I was searching for make-up I had used in Taiwan when I stumbled across their site. As far as the site itself goes, it's well designed and easy to navigate, which makes it quite pleasant to use. They also have a list of international delivery costs which includes how much one has to spend to be eligible for free delivery!
The lenses I chose are very similar to my natural colour, which is dark brown. I chose the GEO Grang Grang Choco HC-246 style as I felt that they were quite pretty. I wanted to enhance my look rather than completely change it. Perhaps I'll be brave enough to buy a pair in bright blue or green at some point but for now, I'll stick to brown. The lenses come with a free case, they sent me two really cute macaroon versions, one in pink and purple, the other in pink and blue. There was also a really nice little manual explaining how to put the lenses in your eyes as well as other safety tips. I love the illustrations.
I didn't find the make-up I was looking for but I decided that a box of face masks would be a worthwhile purchase. They have a lot of great beauty products, as well as wigs and other accessories. The face masks I chose are a brand I've used in the past and they really work very well. The brand is 'My Beauty Diary' and they're arbutin masks. My skin has some acne scaring so I find that using a mask helps and my entire face always feels so much better afterwards, especially if I've been at work all day.
This review was also posted on Trust Pilot.
I wanted to share another great recipe with you, this is another one from Damien Matter (check out his mussel pot recipe here). "This chicken wing recipe is one of my all time favourite ones. They are sweet, sticky and moreish. The whiskey marinade and sauce makes this a winner. Best cooked on a coal BBQ."
• Chicken wings
A little or a lot (you will want a lot they are too tasty for one).
Prepare them by twisting the wing so they cook flat.
• About a cup of whiskey
• 1 cup of stock (home made)
• Onion and garlic flakes
• Sea salt and pepper corns
• Brown sugar
• 1 onion
• 4 cloves of garlic
• Olive oil