Monday, 14 August 2017

Exiting the Comfort Zone

Guess what.

Chopped ma hair off lads.

Believe it or not, my hair has always - minus the one occasion when it was first growing when I was a baby - been long. And I mean lower back long, so this is kind of a big deal.

Honestly, I've been wanting to cut it off for years, as I'd grown sick and tired of looking after it and forking out a load of money on conditioner every month. But I think for me it does resemble more than just me having had enough of the hassle. It feels like I've just given away my security blanket for the first time, and I thought that I would feel awful and absolutely hate it and immediately feel like I'd made the wrong decision. But I am so, so happy with it.

I think me cutting my hair off shows how confident I've grown over the past few years. In a way, I used to hide behind my hair and just be that girl who's quite quiet but has pretty hair. Now I'm a little louder, a little prouder, and a little happier with who I am as a person. Cutting it off feels symbolic of that; I don't feel like I need to hide behind it anymore, because I like who I am. And it was pretty momentous when I realised all this. So much so, that I decided to donate my hair to a charity, in order to pass my safety blanket on to someone else who really feels they need it right now.

In the end, I donated a foot long plait of hair, so loose it would be somewhere between 12 and 14 inches in length. I sent it off to the Little Princess Trust, who use donated hair to make wigs for children who have had to undergo cancer treatment and have lost their hair as a result. It was important to me to give my hair to someone else, as, like I've mentioned, I always felt I needed my hair to feel comfortable in myself, and I understand that some of the children who receive wigs will also feel this way. And I hope that it helps them grow in confidence, until the point that they too no longer feel they need it.

I absolutely love how it looks short and I feel so happy whenever I glance at my hair in a shop window. And I feel even more like myself having let it go.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

I joined the gym

About time really.

I've actually been planning on joining the gym for about two years, but either never got round to it or felt it was an unnecessary expense. In some ways I still think it is (it's vvv expensive), but it's something I've been hoping to do for ages and am finally in a position to do.

Honestly, I'm really enjoying it. I think it's always a bit nerve-wracking trying something new or going somewhere you aren't comfortable and where you don't know anything. That's probably the main reason I've been putting it off. Comfort zones are both wonderful and incredibly restraining things. I feel like I haven't been letting myself get comfortable with exercise because I've had anxiety regarding the gym. It's all the standard stuff: I'll look like an idiot, people will judge me for not knowing what I'm doing, they'll judge my body etc, etc. But I finally had a breakthrough and realised, if this is something that I would like to do for myself, I need to do it and try my hardest to push those feelings aside. And I'm halfway there with that.

I'm now really comfortable with going to the gym. But I am still yet to gain the courage to use the weights room. It is intimidating. There are always men in there seeming like they own the place. And it's been making me not want to try out the equipment and get to grips with it. I think this is actually something a lot of women feel in regards to the gym: you become really happy with the cardio side, but the weights become daunting, not because of your own physical strength and ability, but because of the people you know will be around you.

Obviously, this shouldn't be the case, and I shouldn't, we shouldn't, feel this way. It is however a sad reality. I wanted to talk about it here just to get my thoughts and feelings out. And I've decided that August is the month that I'm going to start using the weights room. If, by the end of the month, I'm just using one piece of the weights equipment, that will be a success for me. I'd really like to achieve this goal, mostly just because as much as you can tone your legs a bit with cardio, it's not really easy to do that for your arms.

Hopefully by the end of the month I'll have found the courage (and found the gym during a quiet period) to test some of the weights machines out. That's my small and achievable goal for this month.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: @abbielour

Friday, 28 July 2017

July Books

I've recently been watching all the book videos I can find on youtube and have been absolutely loving them. It's always so nice to hear about what other people have been reading, what they liked about certain books, and getting some inspiration for my own reading. So I thought I'd try to do some monthly/bi-monthly book posts on here, as I'm nothing if not a book fanatic. Here are some of the books I've been reading throughout the month of July and what I thought of them.

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

I loved the concept for this text, but I can't say I loved reading it. It's a bit hard not to read a memoir, such as this one, as a fictional text, and I think that's where I found the book fell short. The descriptions and people in the texts were interesting, but the form just didn't work for me. It felt very - this happened, then this happened; I hate to say a bit Key Stage 2, but that's how I found reading it. The actual contents of the text was interesting, but unfortunately it was harder to enjoy because of the poor form. I think it must be difficult to structure a memoir though, so credit where it's due, as this is a strong text, it just lacks the stringing together that could have made it really great.

Lion by Saroo Brierley

After reading Out of Africa I plunged myself into another memoir, partially for comparison, but mostly because this one sounded like it would be formulated with a slightly more fictional flare. I believe the original title for this text was A Long Way Home and that was then changed to comply with the film, which is always a little disappointing, but nevertheless the title does work with the book. I'm yet to watch the film but I thought the book was incredible. It's written in the style I was hoping Blixen's text would have, with real substance and feeling, and ultimately a plot line. I know that plot isn't the point of a memoir, but it makes it so much more gripping and easier to read. Really loved this one.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I've had this book lying on my book shelf for ages so I thought I'd finally give it a go, and I enjoyed it. You gain a lot of different perspective throughout the text and it jumps around a lot temporally, which can be very hit or miss, but it worked so well with this book. It's a very heartfelt text, showing every side of family dynamic that isn't really working well. Ultimately, as the readers see each characters' perspective and feelings, the other members of the family become more aware of each others emotions. It's a text where everyone seems to grow whilst dealing with a great loss. Beautifully written.

Euphoria by Lily King

Euphoria was a really interesting book, with themes of anthropology, interaction, and loneliness. It seems a study of the study of humans, as while the characters themselves are anthropologists, learning about human culture in New Guinea, the author gives us an insight into western humans, ultimately unveiling the differences and extreme similarities that all humans bear. I really liked the character of Nell, who seemed passionate about the cultures she was engulfed in and about conveying them correctly in her research. However the other characters were a little more disappointing, but I think that was the point. Having a female with integrity in a research based field in the 1930s shows an empowered and intelligent woman, but sandwiched between two men who think they always know what's best helps create an even bigger bias towards her character. A good read.

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

The final book I'll mention is completely different to all the others, being more of a dystopian text. The novel follows a somewhat bizarre, but equally convincing, plot line, where women become obsessed with a new range of sex toys offering them the ultimate pleasure. Essentially it shows a man using these toys to gain absolute power over a nation of women, moving society back about a hundred years to when women were not in high flying jobs. I thought the character of Alouette was particularly interesting to read and, if anything, would have liked to hear more from her. Nevertheless, it's an interesting and aggravating text, with an easy-going style and I think it's well worth the read.

Until next time.

Social media/contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: @abbielour

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

12 Things University Taught Me

A week ago today, I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a better degree classification that I would have expected. And I'm thrilled. So I thought today I would talk about some of the things that uni taught me over the past three years, as there were just as many life lessons as academic lessons.

1. Though you may feel uncomfortable in a situation, the chances are everyone else does too.

2. Sometimes you have to be the first to speak. The more often, the better.

3. I can overcome pretty much anything.

4. Sometimes no matter how far from home you'd like to be, you need to be at home for a while.

5. Nothing gets easier, but you get better at dealing with it as the time passes.

6. A full time job would have been far less stressful than my degree. But I don't think it would have been as rewarding.

7. The feeling of accomplishment you will feel at the end of it all is completely worth all the hard work.

8. You won't necessarily meet your best friends at uni, especially if you've already got a great group at home - just remember to remind them you appreciate them while you're away.

9. I love language. My degree really cemented that for me and I know I'll be an avid reader forevermore.

10. Exploring new places isn't daunting and probably never was, and I now do it at every opportunity.

11. There are a lot of factors that will affect the quality of your work. And if you can do that well with all that going on behind the scenes, then you've done better than you could have possibly believed three years ago.

12. If you set your mind to it, you can do it, and do it really darn well.

Until next time.

Social Media/Contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: abbielour

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summer Soundtrack '17

This post contains just a few of the songs I'm going to be listening to all summer long. Hope you like a few of them too (links on each song title).

Want You Back- HAIM

Don't Know Why - Slowdive

The Place I Love - The Jam

Bad At Love - Halsey

Waiting for a Star to Fall - Boy Meets Girl

Most Girls - Hailee Steinfeld

Everywhere - Fleetwood Mac

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out- The Smiths

Dark Side Of Your Room - All Time Low

Without You - Parachute

Ride - Empire of the Sun

Homemade Dynamite - Lorde

I Wish You Were Here - Simple Minds

Love on the Weekend - John Mayer

Ultralife - Oh Wonder

Who Are You - The Who

If Music Could Talk - The Clash

Fake Friends - Sigrid

Endlessly - The Cab

Deep the Water - Lewis Watson

Until next time.

Social Media/Contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: @abbielour

Monday, 22 May 2017

New York, New York

Haha guess who skipped town a couple weeks before their dissertation was due. ME.

I've never done anything so uncharacteristic, but the trip of a lifetime was made possible for me so all responsibilities banished from my mind. I went to New York and had the best time ever.

It was actually about six weeks ago now, but with deadlines and exams I haven't had much time to write about it. But basically New York City is everything. I had the most amazing week and so I thought I'd tell you all about it.

We arrived late in the evening, meaning we got the most magical view of the city at night in the taxi from JFK to Manhattan. It also meant we were pretty exhausted upon arrival, but we managed to adjust to the time difference, waking at about 7am for a day of full on tourist fun.

We spent our first morning wandering Fifth Avenue, where we saw all the iconic buildings, from the Plaza and Tiffany's all the way down to St Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. It was a fairly dull morning but luckily by the time we got to the top of the Empire State Building (after a two hour wait!) glorious sunshine had emerged from behind the clouds. The views are next to none and it was well worth the wait. After a spot of lunch we headed further down to see the iconic Flat Iron building, before heading over to see the flower show at Macy's. All in all it was a very productive first day and we got used to the buses and subway as well as the grid system of Manhattan.

The following day was our one and only really rainy day, meaning we spent the day indoors at the Natural History Museum. In all honesty, I don't think it's one that's worth doing if you're really tight for time, but it was still a good day and a good way to avoid the poor weather outside.

The following day was still very cloudy but luckily there was barely any rain, as it was a jam packed day just like the first one. We started by heading across town and down to Grand Central Station, which was absolutely beautiful, but surprisingly seemed a lot smaller in person than it tends to in films. From there we moved on downtown and went for a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, which was magnificent, with a nice view up and down the East River. We carried on down to the very tip of Manhattan, where we caught the Staten Island ferry to get a good look at the Statue of Liberty, which was standing tall and strong even though the weather wasn't too great. On the way back uptown we hopped off the subway to have a quick walk around Union Square, which was a nice quaint area, before heading to The MET. One hundred percent the museum to go to if you only have time for one, it was brilliant. You're taken through so many different periods and cultures, and we thought it was amazing.

We spent Saturday morning in Washington Square Park and around Greenwich Village, which was a really lovely area that actually made the city feel a little small and sweeter, cosier if you will. From there we headed up to the High Line, and I loved it there. It's such a unique and interesting way to see the city, as you tend to always be on the ground looking up or somewhere really high looking really far down, so it was a nice position to see New York from. From there we went up to check out the Lincoln Center and then to see Columbus Circle. We made our way back to the apartment through Central Park, exploring the west side of the park on our way up.

Sunday was spent almost entirely in Central Park, which I absolutely loved. It was glorious sunshine and the perfect weather for a day outdoors. We started by having a walk around the Reservoir and then headed down the east side of the park, catching up on everything we missed the day before. We saw everything from the famous Boathouse to the Alice in Wonderland Statue and had the most wonderful time in the sun. We actually got the bus back uptown from the bottom of the park, heading up to Harlem so we could also explore that area of the park. It was so nice and so much calmer than the more touristy south end of Central Park. We went back to the apartment to get some after sun (having not realised that we were a bit burnt before it was too late) and went back out at dusk to see Times Square. It was really cool to see how bright all the billboards got as the sun went down, and there was a great atmosphere there too.

On our final full day, we went downtown to the World Trade Center and went up to the One World Observatory. It was interesting to see the city from this point of view, as rather than being in the centre in Midtown we were all the way down at the tip of Manhattan, looking back up. The views were great and it's well worth a trip (the queue wasn't bad at all either). Whilst we were there we also saw the 9/11 memorial, which was very moving and made you think about just how dreadful that day must have been. From there we went over to Wall Street and saw the Charging Bull, with the wonderful Fearless Girl statue stood defiantly opposite. We also had a trip to Bloomingdales and got some great cupcakes from the bakery.

Our final morning was spent having brunch in a typical American diner on the Upper West Side not far from where we stayed. We had some great pancakes, but man were they filling. A pretty great way to end such an amazing trip.

New York is the most incredible city and I would highly recommend that absolutely everyone should jump at any opportunity to go. I know I certainly can't wait to go back and have already inspired one of my friends to book a trip this summer. A truly wonderful place.

Until next time.

Social Media/Contacts:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: @abbielour

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

21 things for 21

I turned 21 a couple of weeks ago, so I've been thinking about some of the things I'd like to achieve in the next year - both the little things and the not so little ones. Here's what I hope 21 has in store me.

1. Cut my hair short (been a long time coming)

2. Graduate from university - cannot believe how quickly this has come around

3. Take more time to consider my small personal goals on a weekly/monthly basis

4. Pass my driving test (ticked this one off within four days of turning 21!), which leads nicely on to:

5. Buy a car - I've put a deposit down, so this one will be ticked off in a few more days too!

6. Stop caring what other people think of you - to an extent I've got this one sorted, but there's always a little thought in the back of my mind, and it's time it disappeared for good

7. Remember that not everyone will make as much of an effort as you, and try not to be so disheartened by this

8. Celebrate the small victories (they're often the ones you remember best)

9. Don't stop giving everything your all - the only regret you'll ever have is if you didn't do something to the best of your ability

10. Get a full-time job - I think I've got an area of focus in the field of job, but I'm still unsure

11. Continue to grow in confidence - university helped me so much with this, and I hope I can carry on growing both in confidence and as a person throughout my twenties

12. Make better use of my passport

13. Be proud of myself - I've already achieved more than I thought I would

14. Don't be discouraged by the negative attitudes of others

15. Become more active - when you're studying a book-based subject it can be difficult to find the time to get up from your desk and go for a walk/go to the gym, so I'm hoping once I've finished my degree this will be easier

16. Take every opportunity to look after friends' and family's dogs (nothing else will improve your quality of life so much)

17. Save, save, save

18. Breathe - everything seems like a big deal at this age, so just take a deep breath and keep going

19. Learn to not be afraid of the unknown, but to embrace the unexpected

20. Voice your concerns and upset - something I've never been fond of, but I know will make me feel better in the long run

21. Dream big - who's to judge

That's what I'm hoping my year involves, what are your aims for the next year?

Until next time.

Contacts/social media:
Instagram: abbielour
Twitter: @abbielour