Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Second Summer: what now?

Good afternoon wallflowers and wildflowers,

 To be frank, toddling out of second year and wandering, dazed, into third has felt a bit like this;

Hercules. (1997). [film] Directed by J. Musker and R. Clements. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

I've started to hear the word "dissertation" spoken aloud as though it is now an impending reality. Those of you who already have their degree, and may even be brandishing a Masters or a PHD, will likely look back on your dissertation as comparably easy to the work you tackled from then on. However, that does not take away the knock-kneed, trembling-lip, nervous-stutter approach I'm going to take to mine (though that is my general demeanour when I approach anything remotely new). I'm sure I'll let you know in the coming weeks when I have finally decided on a topic, though I imagine it will definitely reside in the field of stylistics. I must make sure that, before I leave, I thank one of my lecturers for the infinite amount of confidence and reassurance she has given to me throughout my two years at university so far. I began by regretting the aspect of language in my degree and was thinking about changing course, but her enthusiasm and excellent teaching style has meant that, not only do I love studying language now, but I am opting to do an independent study in it. Then again, the entire English department at my university are nothing short of wonderful, in my humble opinion. 

Anywho, aside from work-related business, I will admit that my summer is still very much in full-swing, despite some wobbles in trying to pin down a specific study topic for next year. 

  A while ago, I made a Summer books list for what I wanted to read this year and in accordance with this I have started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is long awaited and I will likely make slow progress on it, but reading it I am. In an exciting turn of events, I am also attending one of the book signings that Matt Haig is holding this summer! I don't think I could possibly explain my excitement for this, but if I tried it would be that my boyfriend observed that when I hear the word "author" said on the tv I always look to see if it's Matt Haig, however unlikely. As far as other reading goes, and I know I said I'd stop talking about this, I think the majority of it is going to be about research methodology and stylistics, which I'm weirdly looking forward to planning and making some notes on. 

   Also on the agenda; video games. I will admit, with only a hint of shame, that my teenage years were spent mostly playing video games. After starting university, naturally, they took a back seat and I very rarely make time for the lengthy gaming sessions that I used to (all of my waking hours). However, as it's the summer now, I am very happily slotting back into Stardew Valley. This is easily one of my favourite games and is a welcome substitute for gems such as Harvest Moon which I used to play on my battered baby-pink Nintendo DS. Though I haven't quite found a suitable exchange on PC for Animal Crossing, games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon have always been appealing because they aren't based on real-time, whereas Animal Crossing requires that you are logging in regularly to ensure that your neighbors don't start to hate you or, at the very least, you don't end up with bed hair or a weed-infested town. Although I was able to take on Stardew' in the place of 'Moon, I don't think I could replace Animal Crossing quite so easily, as it's a staple of my childhood in gaming. 

  Additionally, I have also managed to one-hundred-percent Grim Fandango on Steam. For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is my favourite video game of all time. This masterpiece by Tim Schafer, who also gave us the Monkey Island series (good ol' Guybrush Threepwood), was genuinely my favourite game to play since I was old enough to use a computer. My uncle Rob used to let me and my brother play it on his Windows 95 PC and had never-ending patience with us as we tried to work out the pretty obscure puzzles. Now I can, quite proudly, say that I have completed all of the in-game achievements, one of which included completing the entire game in the original tank controls. Strangely, I preferred the tank controls as it was what I was used to playing the game with as a child, though I did enjoy the smoother graphics that the remaster offered. I could not have been more thrilled that such a classic, that happened to be so close to my heart, was given a full remaster and put on Steam. 

  Finally, in terms of gaming, I am half-way through Alice: Madness Returns. Now, I'm not a huge fan of EA Games, but ever since I saw the teaser trailers for this I felt compelled to purchase it. I love Alice in Wonderland and fully intend to complete this game and it's individual take on the story and upload a review at one point or another. 

  Books and games aside, I'm hoping to complete some art and series I've been meaning to watch for a long time now. Art takes a lot of time, motivation and enthusiasm, so I imagine I will begin churning it out when my plans for my dissertation have been submitted. Series, on the other hand, will have their own post in the form of anime - my favourites and must-watches. Hopefully my blog posts will consist of less catching up and more specific themes from now on, I have some as work-in-progress pieces.

 Be green, 

 Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Playing Catch- Up: Mental Health Awareness Week

Good evening fellow mammals,

After what I can only describe as a turbulent couple of months, my second year of university will be officially completed on Thursday 18th of May. You might be thinking, "why the heck are you writing a post if you're not even finished yet omg" give or take a few words. The honest answer is that I'm resting in the name of self-care after a day of panicking and revising; do with that information what you will. 

Unfortunately, due to assignment stress I was unable to get around to writing a post last week. I regret this particularly because it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which naturally I feel very strongly about. The truth is, talking about mental health is really difficult. You might not think so if you've spoken to me recently, as I've been making a conscious effort to be a lot more open about it to help eradicate the stigma, but actually being open about having a mental health issue can be terrifying. The truth is, I wrote an entire paragraph detailing some specific experiences I have with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and deleted the entire thing out of fear; 

"What if they think I'm self-absorbed?"
"What if someone thinks I'm an attention-seeker?"
"What if everyone just reads this and thinks it's pathetic or insignificant?" 

This in itself shows me that we have a serious problem with how we approach mental health. 
Talking about mental health is vital because right now it is often quicker and easier to get a box of emotion-altering tablets than it is to get someone to sit and talk to you about your emotions for an hour-long appointment. 

If you have mental health issues, advice or have a personal story to share - my advice is to allow yourself to talk about it. As I have demonstrated above, sharing personal experiences can be daunting but letting yourself share it in a way that you are comfortable with (counselling, family, friends, online) is a healthy way to raise awareness, receive support, fight stigma and encourage others to speak up as well. I truly believe that human connection and compassion is the best possible way to combat mental illness. 
If you're worried about what people will think, remember- "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". 
Of course, my pal Steph has written a beautifully eloquent piece for Mental Health Awareness Week; check it out here. I will always commend my friend for how wonderfully she tackles the issue of mental health and the experiences she has had. 

In other slightly less serious news, I drew a comic about anxiety and also purchased a stress ball. 

Firstly, the stress ball (product link)was an unfortunate impulse buy on amazon and I didn't think to check the reviews before just adding it to my basket of stuff and clicking check out. I realised that most people had managed to burst it within the first 30 minutes of use and had been covered in sticky gel. So when the bubbly sack of strange slime flopped out of the cardboard Amazon box, I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that I could potentially have it explode in my face. I took it upstairs, held it over the bath and squeezed. Low and behold, my freakishly limp, cold hands were literally too weak to force the little gel bubbles to pop out of the black net. Anyway, after some cautioned two-handed crushing I managed to loosen up the rubber, or whatever, to make it so I could squeeze the weird bubbles out. After doing this for about five minutes, leaning over the bath, I realised that I was never going to be able to actually use this stress ball the way I want to because I'll be constantly terrified that it's going to burst and I was probably going to end up causing some injury to the tendons in my arm if I had to keep squeezing it with as much effort as I was. 

Basically, you guys, I bought a ball that is causing me stress. A literal stress ball. At this point in my life, I'm not even surprised that I've managed to achieve making a stress ball actually stressful. 

With that tragic confession out of the way, I'll leave you with the doodle I made during Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Have you ever thought you were a fraud because you deemed other experiences of mental illness as more valid than your own? You didn't think yours were that bad or that you are somehow wrongly claiming you have something when you don't? I do this all the time with anxiety and have realised that it's just best to trust how you feel. If you feel it, it is real. 

Merry May everyone, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet