Life update: University ramble and gap year talk

I can confirm that I got my place at Warwick to read English Literature and Creative Writing! Ecstatic would not go to describe my emotions when I got the email! I am simultaneously excited and anxious to embark on university life which seems pretty common for many students in my place. I am also keeping in mind that this experience is a first (excuse the pun) for nearly every first year. Though I will admit, it feels like the "pre-uni" process has been painful regarding the anticipation of having to say goodbye to loved ones and my humble abode for the past 18 years, yet I know change is good; it keeps life interesting. Change is also vital for helping you grow and develop into the best version of yourself which I feel I am as ready as I can be for.

I believe there is definitely something appealing about being able to explore a new city; especially when you only have yourself to blame when you get lost ;) I will openly disclose that a member of my close family has been to Warwick, but in my defence, I am not familiar with the town itself at all, so I am looking forward to discovering new places (cringe, I know). Also, on a slight side note, if anyone has any recommendations about palaces to go to in Warwick or Coventry, don't be a stranger to hit me up (I will leave my social media platforms below).

Preparation wise, I am trying to be disciplined with myself by reading as many of the set books as I can. Looking back on pre-A2 Isabella, I seriously underestimated the number of books I would have to read doing an English degree ( I mean seriously 45 books?! We spent two years on two books at GCSE). But I guess I will not be the only one struggling to fathom how I am going to remember copious character names and complex plots. I have found it really helpful though, to familiarise myself with the texts I am going to be studying by pre-reading most of the blurbs, and as I said, reading 3-4 before the course unfolds. I know my enthusiasm for the crisp turn of the first page of a new book will wear off,  but I do have a glimmer of hope that I am really going to appreciate working with like-minded people. I remember the days of GCSE's when people used to moan about their next period being "Englishhhhhhhhhhhhh", so it is nice not having to be the quiet one in the corner who used to discreetly really enjoy deconstructing texts. Then again, to this day I do not understand how people can enjoy physics lessons...

I am also trying to give myself some breathing space before I begin my first year at university. By that, I mean being kind to myself a.k.a textbook self-care. I would definitely say my Costa card has taken a battering given the numerous coffee dates I have required with my Mum and Sister with the "Am I doing the right thing?" chat. In all honesty, I really think it is important to prioritise your time with family and close friends leading up to such a big transition. It is definitely interesting analysing who makes the effort to meet up with you without the strict constraints of school. I am a firm believer that the ones who do will be friends for life, even if you did not necessarily think you were that "close" during your academic days.

I also want to use this post to say that it is also completely ok not to necessarily want to go to university; whether that be this year or at all. For example, I only made up my mind that I seriously did want to go to uni about 2 months ago - impulsive Gemini much. It frustrates me how much pressure schools and also the media put on students to finish school and automatically go to university. Yes, going to uni is a very popular choice for many students at 18, but it is not the only option. Many would call me a hypocrite preaching that there is nothing wrong with taking a gap year given that I am going straight to uni after my A levels, but, at the end of the day, only you can make that decision. A year or so a go, I was very ambivalent about going to university as I hand-on-heart had no idea what I wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I am still relatively clueless about what I want to do post-university, but I know for sure that this is what feels right for me. To reiterate what I was saying, you do not have to be a sheep to the trend of being straight out of school, fresh into university. It really can be daunting imagining yourself going from an 8:15-16:00 day with Mum picking you up and cooking you dinner, to suddenly a very disjointed timetable, in an unfamiliar setting with people you do not know, on your own. If you need time out of the education system just to get your bearings and process the idea of having to live independently, DO IT. It is ok to want something else i.e do an apprenticeship, want to travel or work for a bit. Remember, many of stars in the media (ahem, David Bowie) and even well-known academics (Karl Marx, Charles Darwin) and writers (Terry Pratchett, Joseph Conrad) do not even have degrees themselves!

However, that is not to say that if you have a real passion to pursue your dreams by getting on your degree as quickly as humanly possible, that you should not go with that instinct. You just have to decide what is going to be right for you, and right now, for me, that is reading English (with creative writing). The battle for me to be even able to go to uni, has not been an easy one, and those that I love will always have concerns about me going, but I am determined to do this and not let any nasty mental health demons get in the way.

 I hope this post can be reassuring for anyone in a similar position to me, or even just entertaining to read whilst sipping your cuppa.

Lots of love,

Is xxx

Leaving A Levels behind

It feels like an immense weight has been lifted since my A-Levels have finished. After spending so long wishing that there could be more hours in the day, I am now left with daunting hours of emptiness where I  can figure out for myself what I want to do with the day. I never thought that the time would come where I was able to read a book for pleasure; where every page is not massacred by scribbles and highlights. Needless to say, these feelings are completely normal given such a prolonged period of intense studying. Though I will admit, it feels slightly alien being able to choose to read any book I fancy, instead of one tailored to fit my A-Level course. If anyone is interested, the last two books I have read were Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (author of the fabulous Gone Girl) and the Vegetarian by Han Kang. Both books are very different yet similar at the same time since they fall into the category of a psychological thriller. But before I go into a full book review of both novels I will keep it short and sweet: if you are looking for a murder mystery involving a psychologically damaged journalist then Sharp Objects is for you. Equally, the Vegetarian, as recommended by one of my best friends, is a "deep" read which will definitely make you reflect on your own life! In summation, I would 100% recommend both books so I would urge you to add them to your reading list.

Anyway, before I go off on a tangent,  I am also sad to be saying goodbye to my school days for good (fingers crossed baring in mind I am yet to find out my results). I would not say that I was the world's biggest fan of school, however, it inevitably nurtured a big part of my adolescence; I made many memories there which I will cherish for a lifetime.  I have also met some incredible people at school (both peers and teachers) that I hope I will stay in contact with longterm. Though of course there is a part of me that is also relieved to be moving on to the next chapter of my life... whatever that will entail. My aspiration is to study English Literature with Creative Writing at Warwick University but I guess we shall see. As for what I want to do in the future - that is a question I do not know how to answer. All I will say is that it would be my dream to be able to write my own memoir as I want to be able to share my journey publicly. I suppose it is quite a brave move, but I would love to be able to help others and show them they are not alone in their battle against mental health.

However, whilst I try and begin to embrace adulthood (probably naively) I am excited for better days ahead. I have already embarked on the holiday of a lifetime and am about to pack for another one. You can expect another blog post to follow on my time in Los Angeles! It was honestly such a big milestone for me to be able to go abroad, given that I have not been able to fly for four years because of this illness. Therefore, it was a massive deal for my family to be able to go away this year and I am really proud of myself that I have gotten this far. I resent the time my anorexia has stolen from not only me, but also my family, but I do truly feel that 2018 has been the year to regain that time and make some amazing memories (cringe, I know). I don't know if my family will see this, but I want to say thank you to them for being patient with me and allowing me to recover at my own pace. The holidays this year could not be more deserved for all of us. Though on a positive note, by not being "well" enough to travel, it has made me appreciate what I have so much more.

Lots of love,
Is xxx

 *P.S Sharp Objects is currently being made into a TV show starring Amy Adams - what better a reason to read it pre boxset-binge!

A Level survival techniques

It is a bit ironic that I am dedicating my blog post to the thing that is currently causing me the most stress: my A Levels. I suppose this might be useful for anyone currently choosing what they want to study or for anyone who needs any guidance on how I try to cope with A Levels.

Whenever I reveal what subjects I do, most people give me the look of fright. I am currently studying Philosophy, English Literature and Psychology – a tripartite of essay subjects. If I am honest, I would not recommend this combination to anyone in regards to workload; the essay writing is brutal. Though, in my case, there were no other subjects that I had a real interest in or desire to study for two years. Equally, content wise, my subjects really tick the boxes and I am definitely glad I chose them. Also, both English and Philosophy don’t exactly require correct, mathematical answers which really appeals to me; you can have whatever interpretation you want as long as you have the evidence to support it! So my main piece of advice would definitely be: choose what you love. Do not choose a subject on the basis that you think it will be an “easy option” as no A Level is easy. I initially was doing an A Level in Biology alongside Philosophy, English and psychology and found that the jump was too much. The subject just did not have the same appeal that IGCSE Biology did. So whether it be a more creative subject like Drama or a more practical subject such as Physics, every subject will be difficult in some form.

However, if you are reading this whilst being in the GCSE stage, you are probably sick of hearing the ‘you think it’s bad now, wait until you get to A Levels’ comment. I know it is frustrating to constantly hear but, it is true. You will only know until you are doing your A Levels! The contrast between GCSE and A Levels is a big one, but it does not mean that you are incapable of coping with the transition. I would also argue that in some ways that AS to A2 is an even worse transition (if you are doing the traditional A Level course). But as I previously stated, you will become accustomed to the level of knowledge required, I promise.

As expected, A Levels do come with a lot of stress. The pressure to keep on top of the work load is admittedly intense alongside the pressure to start thinking about universities and what you want to do with your life. All I would say is that you need to keep in mind your own mental wellbeing. It is ok to ask for extensions and sometimes take time out – be kind to yourself. I remember berating myself after getting an E in my first psychology test. I made one stupid mistake which led to basically the whole test being wrong – it was like one of those science tests where you if you get part a) wrong, you might as well forget the whole thing. But my teacher reminded me of the most important thing: A Levels are a learning curve and you need to get things wrong to get things right. We are not infallible and it is only in our nature to get things wrong, so do not give yourself hard time for not always having everything under control. It took me ages to learn this, and to an extent, I still am teaching myself it most days, but please try not to stress over “mock tests” or “progress checks” as in all honesty, they are irrelevant when it comes to the final exam. That does not mean to say that it is ok to take a f**ck it attitude to your studies, but it means that you are entitled to sometimes slip up.

My last message, is that you need to allow yourself time out. I still sometimes find this impossible to do, but it is so important to give yourself “me time” for your own sanity. I always find a walk outside is great because not only are you moving your muscles (leaning over a desk being sedentary for five hours is not ideal!) and also connecting with nature. Altreantively, you may want to go out for a coffee or take a bath with an aesthetically pleasing bath bomb– the message is, as long as it doesn’t involve reading a text book, it’s fine. At the end of the day, every person is unique so do not feel intimidated by seeing your friends gruelling six hour study timetable. What works for one person might not work for another. But what is important, is that you do give yourself sufficient breaks throughout the day. Also, if you are simply not in the right head space for revision some days, take the day off. Your mental wellbeing will always come first and one day away from studying seriously will not be detrimental to the end result.

Anyway, I hope this post has been useful and has maybe given you some reassurance into A Levels. As with all my posts, I am always very grateful for any comments or feedback. Most of all, good luck to anyone going through the same process or sitting exams in the Summer. You will smash them!

Lots of love,

Is xx

Goals and New Years resolutions for 2018

Hello all,

I want to wish all my readers a happy new year! It warms my heart seeing that some of my posts have been read by over 200 people; honestly, it means a lot. Hence I decided that I would use my first blog of 2018 to write about something quite stereotypical: resolutions and goals. I enjoy setting myself aims and aspirations so that by the end of the year, I can reflect on what I have achieved (or what I need to re-write for next year...). Although, I know many people who hate the idea of setting resolutions and that is totally ok - the phrase you do you springs to mind.

1. Continue as a vegan
I began my path as a vegan on 6th November last year and so far, it has been the most enlightening decision of my life. To be honest, this is a bit of a "cop-put" of a resolution, but I am going to put it on the list anyway. I do not think I could ever, ever go back. So no matter how many times you ask me: "what about cheese" or "BACON" it is not going to change my mind in the slightest.
Whilst I am at it - January is also the notorious month for Veganuary and as I have stated above, I could not recommend veganism more.

2. Be kinder to myself
I have spent so many years in the depths of nasty mental health issues that N O W is the time for me to give something back to my body. Whether this is allowing myself a run with nature or going for a coffee with my friends if my body is telling me no, it is about time I listened to it.

3.  Spend less time on social media
This is probably a resolution for many people of our generation, but I do think it is important that we try and minimise our time spent behind a screen. I know I am guilty of wasting hours on social media, and so I think it is time I tried to move away from it. After all, how beneficial can it really be when we are comparing ourselves to the airbrushed image of those around us? I am going to attempt to switch off from social media from certain hours of the day with the hope that it might make my mind a more positive and clearer place.

4. Pass my driving test
A pretty self-explanatory goal, but equally an essential one!

5. Complete my A Levels
Oh, the dreaded two words "A Levels". I cannot say I will be sorry once they are over. But nevertheless, I hope come August I will finally see the back of these and will have left the sixth form with my head high.

6. Update my blog more often
One I am going to make a consistent effort to achieve. I want this blog to be a place people can go to when in need of support, interest or even just light reading, so I am really going to try and keep this one up.

7. Read a minimum of ten books
This one should undoubtedly be reached though I could not be applying to an English degree and not love reading! I think it is so important to read; it does not matter what it is you are reading (literally magazine, newspaper, book whatever) just keep it up and you will notice the benefits.

8. Challenge my social anxiety more
Although I know am I just that type of person who would rather be at home, snuggled in a dressing gown with a cup of tea, I do not only want to be that person. So, this year I am really hoping to push myself out of my comfort zone - not drastically so that I sabotage my A-Levels, but enough that means I get a feel for both.

9. Reach out more when having a "bad mental health day"
I am someone who finds it incredibly difficult to tell others when I am having a really tough day in terms of my mental health - having said that, my Mum and sister are pretty attuned to it now! However, I want to allow myself to talk to others when I am struggling and not feel I have to suffer in silence; no matter how much grief your head is giving you, "bottling it up" will not ameliorate the situation.

10. Travel
I already know (fingers crossed) that I have two holidays scheduled for this year, so I am incredibly excited to be able to explore some other areas. Being able to travel has been such a huge incentive for me to get better so the fact I am able to do that is amazing as I have not actually been outside the UK in almost four years due to this illness. But with all being well, that could all change this year!
Santa Monica, California ©

I hope my goals may have inspired you or maybe given you some ideas on what you would like to achieve this year. As ever, I am so so grateful for any comments or feedback so feel free to reach out to me on any of my social media pages or by email.

Lots of love,
Is x