The stars and the sea.

There’s something intense about the beach at night.

I prefer the beach at night to during the day. When it’s totally empty, it’s just you and the sand and the waves and the moon. I was lucky enough to grow up very close to the sea, the beach was never something that was off-limits. I guess that’s why I find it such a relaxing place. I love beach bonfires and chilling with my friends on the sand or watching my dog play in the waves don’t get me wrong, but I love it when I’m there by myself, too. At night, it’s a good place to think or to figure things out. There are no distractions.

It gives me a feeling I can’t really explain. You’re totally alone, but at the same time you’re not. You know that somewhere in the world, someone else is looking up at the same moon you are, asking the same questions. You know that someone somewhere is swimming in the same sea that’s rolling up the shoreline metres away from you. You feel connected, but comfortably isolated at the same time.

To me at least, the beach is the perfect metaphor for life anyway. What is one grain of sand on a beach compared to the beach as a whole? It’s nothing. And that’s who we are – we’re that individual grain of sand that’s falling through our fingers as we play with it. We don’t matter, not really. We could disappear and it wouldn’t make a difference to the beach, or the world, as a whole. Our individual problems that we face, they’re huge to us. But they don’t matter in the long run. Soon enough, that grain of sand will be washed away by the waves, and nobody will ever know it’s gone missing. As the waves wash away my footprints that led me to sit on the beach at that moment, so too does time erase the past that led to the reason why.

It’s the perfect place to be if you’ve got issues. It makes you think about things, it puts your entire existence into perspective and it makes you realise that maybe things don’t matter as much as you think they do. It’s nice.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

I wasn’t going to post about today’s daily prompt. In fact, I opened up wordpress today with the sole intention of blogging about something different entirely. And then I read it, and that changed. Because actually, it’s kind of an interesting one. 

Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances?

It’s actually the second part of this question that I find most intriguing, but for fear of stepping out of line and doing something different, let’s stick to the order we were asked in. As it’s currently 2:10am, I’m going to avoid the mirror for this. It’s been a long day and I’m very tired, but I reckon I’ve looked in the mirror enough times in my life to be able to answer it without doing so again now. So here goes. Maybe we’ll just treat this photo as a mirror, so we all get an idea of who I’m talking about (and if you still don’t get it – it’s me).

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I guess first I need to explain who the person I feel like on the inside actually is. Herein lies the first problem for, alas, I have no freakin’ idea. Yeah, I’m on of those people. One of the ones who feels the need to travel and figure out exactly who I am and what I want in a comfortably unique yet obnoxiously cliché way. Through my life, I’ve kind of relied on other people’s perceptions of me to find out who I am. This led to overwhelming self-doubt and complete lack of confidence in my early teens, though I got through this in the same way that every other sheepish, bashful teenager manages to and finally decided to stop letting other people’s opinions matter that much. Though through my late teens this led to a more developed sense of self and happier mentality, my lack of care for other people’s opinions also landed me a dreadful sense of style. I’ve often thought this as I scroll through my old facebook photos thinking something along the lines of, ‘what? I was really allowed to go out looking like that?‘. It was a step in the right direction, but I still wasn’t quite there. It was then that something wonderful happened. University.

With University came an entirely new lifestyle (and an entirely new wardrobe). I was surrounded by new people who had no pre-conceived perceptions of me. People who thought I was different to the people I’d gotten used to at home and people who thought, god forbid, that I was ‘attractive’. This was a hugely exciting prospect at the time as, prior to this, it was never something I’d considered myself to be. I learned a lot about myself over those first two years, but it’s really been this last year that’s allowed me to learn the most about who I am.

I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in summer 2013. This was the first turning point as I realised that I was far, far stronger than I’d ever thought I was, both physically and mentally. I was forced into a situation where I was entirely outside of my comfort zone and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Returning from this trip and becoming an Adventure Leader for a company called Student Adventures, I’ve learned that I’m more organised than I thought I was. That I’m a better communicator, and that I’m harder working than I realised I could be. So that’s great. I’m strong, I’m organised, I’m a decent communicator and I work hard. But I don’t feel that’s who I am. Which sucks. Because I’d like to know me. There’s still so much I have to learn about myself.

So does that match who I see in the mirror? Well… no. Not at all. The person I see in the mirror has things sorted out. I’m not one to let things show on the outside, and I don’t give a lot away from my face unless I’m with someone I know really well. It’s hard for me to talk about certain things, so I don’t let the outside world realise that those things even exist. I’ve got that down to an art. Every morning I wake up and have a shower and style my hair and decide what I’m going to wear for the day. I’m in control of that. I know how to do it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to who I am. I’m not in control of that and I don’t know how to find it. Bummer. I make a point of acting like everything’s totally cool all the time even if it’s not, unless I’m with good friends – friends who I don’t care if they see me angry or upset. It’s rare, though. I don’t know what it would be like to meet me as somebody else, but hopefully I would seem like someone who has their next move figured out, whatever the situation. And I’m really not that. This is why I believe that how you look actually is important. It completely defines how other people perceive you. Which brings me nicely onto the second question.

How much stock do I put in appearances? A lot. How you look is very important. I’m not talking about whether you’re attractive or ‘ugly’, fat or thin, tall or short, whatever. I’m talking about how to carry yourself. Okay – so nobody falls in love at first sight with your personality. That’s true. But having self-confidence and taking care of yourself can be so much more important. If people want to go around not caring what others think then I’m not going to stop them, but I can’t do it. Not anymore. It needs to be thought about – whether you’re trying to get a job or simply give someone else a good impression of you, you’ve got more chance of doing it right if you make an effort with your appearance. It’s as simple as that. Do naturally attractive people have it easier? Probably. But people who care about themselves do as well, no matter what they look like before the morning routine. It’s true that I judge people by how they look sometimes, but I’m human. And if you deny that you’ve ever done that, I don’t believe you. I think a person’s appearance can be a reflection of what they’re like, in one way or another. And though we all have days where we look like we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, a person’s appearance can be their gateway to somewhere else entirely. It is by no means the be-all and end-all, but it’s that little boost along the way.

So go for it. Be daring and care what people think. When you care about your appearance, you feel more comfortable in yourself. When you feel more comfortable in yourself, you feel more confident. And when you feel more confident, you feel happy. And really, at the end of the day, that’s all anybody really needs.

Captive’s Choice

Despite having a ridiculously busy schedule in almost every aspect of it, my life has not been noteworthy enough as of late to write anything out of the ordinary or super interesting on here. I know, it sucks. I’ll work on that. But today’s daily prompt is too good to pass up. For those of you who haven’t seen it – or don’t want to click on that link in case it drags you away from a blog entry that already has you captivated – check it out;

You’ve been kidnapped and given a choice: would you rather be stranded on an island, dropped into an unknown forest, or locked in a strange building?

It’s a good one, huh? I thought so.

I think the first thing to note here is that actually, my kidnapper probably isn’t all that bad. I mean, look at him. He’s giving me a choice of where to go, and that’s not something you get every day. This is a luxury kidnapping if ever there was one. Given this, the conditions at any of the three locations possibly aren’t all that bad. My mind is already at ease, letting me think logically about where I’d like to end up on this little adventure.

Let’s think about the island. There are a huge number of questions that have to be answered her – first and foremost, where is the island? Realistically thinking, my answer would vary hugely depending on whether the island was in the South Pacific or off the north coast of Scotland. Long, sandy beaches with swaying palm trees, or ginger men wearing kilts in the rain. I would of course be the only ginger man wearing a kilt (as long as hair dye and a kilt were provided), but you can see the issue here. Aside from the cabin fever and potential to develop some kind of solitude-related illness and probability of never being rescued, an island might not be that bad. Especially if it’s thirty degrees every day and you can make a little beach hut. Maybe this would be a good call.

We then have the forest. Now, I’m one of those weird outdoors-y people who loves forests and woodland. It’s beautiful. Whether the forest is unknown to me or not makes no difference; I have a compass tattoo on my left wrist but this in no way is a sign of any sense of direction on my part. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a forest with birds flapping about, leaves rustling and an ominous animal noise in the distance. It’s exciting. It’s fresh. It’s alive. And, as a result, you begin to feel alive too. Advantages of choosing the forest option would almost certainly include a treehouse (hey, if I can build a shack on my desert island, I’m building a treehouse in my forest), and an unlimited supply of food and water – even more so if it’s a rainforest. However, we cannot ignore the fact that it’s more than likely there’s going to be something bigger me in said forest who may see me as an unlimited supply of food. Not ideal.

This point actually brings me on to the final location – the strange building. Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned from TV and movies, it’s that when one finds oneself locked inside a strange building, there are almost always zombies in there with you. Despite the obvious excitement of fighting off the undead for a bit, I can imagine this would get boring very quickly. If it was a small building, like my island shack, probably not a massive problem. Kill one or two and boom, you’re okay. But if I’m trapped in an apartment block… not so lucky. It is for this reason alone that my immediate answer to the strange building is no.

So that narrows it down to two; the island, or the forest. Despite the whole ‘feeling at one with nature’ that I might achieve in a forest, I’m not entirely keen on the idea of a puma feeling at one with me in its belly. Besides, if I’m lucky my desert island will have a little forest in the middle. Though this forest may also be inhabited by pumas and the like, LOST went to great lengths to teach me that you’re safe on the beach… most of the time. And that’s a major factor for me. It’s got to be the island.

It’s almost exciting, actually. Sun, sea, sand (unless it’s Scotland). Getting back to basics with bonfires and hunting. Building a little shack. Actually sounds pretty fun. So, Mr Kidnapper, I’d like to jet off to the island please. I appreciate the choice, I just hope you’re as generous with your chosen location. Just FYI… I’ve always fancied Fiji.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

This is my first post as part of the weekly photo challenge. As I saw the theme this week – ‘grand’ – a million of my photos dashed through my head and my immediate thought was, “Yep. On that.” Only now have I realised that actually, maybe that’s not a good thing. How can I choose only one?

2013 has seen the best experiences of my entire life. I don’t have a flashy camera or expensive lens, but it’s been through it all with me. It’s been battered, it’s been bruised, it’s been dropped in the sea and scraped along concrete. It’s been from the beaches of Greece to the summit of Kilimanjaro, it’s been dropped in mud on a Tanzanian safari and next year no doubt will suffer its fair share of abuse when I hike to Machu Picchu in Peru. But I love that. Travelling changes you as a person, so there’s no reason my camera should have to stay the same.

My point is, with my crappy little camera, I’ve taken thousands of photographs. Whether it’s my friends and I at parties or feeding seaweed to wild turtles, there is a never-ending list of photos to choose from. ‘Grand’ is incredibly vague.

After much decision making however, I have chosen one that I took only a few months ago. This summer, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity and it was the best experience of my life. This is one of my favourite photos.

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It’s not the best photo. It’s not the clearest photo. But it’s a photo that means a hell of a lot to me. I took this on the way back down – the day before, I had summited. Through a mixture of altitude sickness and tiredness alike, my time at the top almost feels like a dream. At the time, I hadn’t realised just what I had done. But the reason I stopped on the way down and took this photo was because that was the moment it dawned on me. I had just climbed that monster of a mountain. And I had never, ever been prouder of myself or felt more of a sense of accomplishment in my entire life.

The mountain is grand. The miles of trees and forest is grand. But the true reason this photo is grand? It’s the feeling that it brings back to me every time I look at it. It’s the knowledge that we climbed to 19,340ft, and stood at the top of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. For a minute, we ruled the world.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – or possibly will ever do – in my entire life. But my god, do I miss it.

Tom Daley is dating a guy. But should we even care?

That’s right world – I’m back on wordpress. It’s been nearly six long months but I’m here once more, and what better thing to write about than the recent news that Tom Daley, Olympic diver for Great Britain and heartthrob for teen girls all over the world, has revealed that he’s now in a relationship with another guy.

In case you’ve been living under a rock and missed this (for some reason) headlining news, he released a video in which he spoke about the situation, the loss of his dad, and Rio 2016. Have a watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJwJnoB9EKw if you feel like you’re missing out.

It’s safe to say that people have held varying views about Daley’s recent admission. Just looking down the #TomDaley tag on twitter, it’s not particularly difficult to come across homophobic tweets even from people who before considered themselves fans of his; @eden_edge explained “tom daley is a queer, now get the fag off my trends list”, whilst @alltomyself mentioned “Tom Daley is gay I am now ashamed of my country ew we can’t have a bloody fag representing us”. Of course, right at the other end of the spectrum famous faces and normal citizens alike have been wishing Tom nothing but the best; @MattyFreeman told the twittersphere that he was “proud of Tom Daley” going to to explain “I don’t see the big fuss though and the hate, he is bi, accept it” and legend @StephenFry tweeting “I opened the second door on my advent calendar and Tom Daley came out. Seriously @TomDaley1994 congratulations. So happy for you.”

Now, this is my blog, and by reading it you’re obliged to accept that at some point in every entry my opinion is going to be made known, and it’s not going to be subtle. This is that part. Yes, okay… maybe we could have called it before, but I have nothing but massive respect for Tom for confirming people’s suspicions in such a bold way. Ignoring the fact that newspapers and magazines would probably have paid him a vast, vast amount of money to have the exclusive interview, he videod himself and stuck it on youtube. No editing, no script, no PR agent telling him which angle he needs to approach it from. It was all him. And it would have taken guts. 

At the end of the day, he is a person. And he is dating another person. And that makes him happy. It doesn’t matter whether that person is male or female, he’s happy and at the end of the day, that’s all we should ever want anybody to be. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his, but my respect for him is through the roof. People who know me will know that I’m an avid supporter of gay rights and marriage, despite not being gay myself. At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be news. It shouldn’t be something anybody – famous or not – has to make a video about, or try and justify. As he says in his video, he doesn’t think it should be a big deal. And neither do I. He’s happy and he’s in a relationship. Good for him, that should be that.

On that basis, there isn’t really a lot more to say about the issue apart from congratulating him on lifting what I’m sure was quite a heavy weight from his shoulders.

Good for you, Tom. Good for you..

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Tomorrow!

I can’t believe tomorrow is only a day away. At 20:15 tomorrow night, I’ll be stepping on-board an Emirates 777-300ER and flying first to Dubai, and then on to Nairobi. Not only is Kenya somewhere that I have literally always wanted to go we’ll ignore the fact I’m only there for 2 days of the trip, but the next few weeks are going to be possibly the most exciting, liberating and possibly hardest of my life to date.

Before 2011, I’d always lived in relatively small towns where not a lot happens. After that I made the move to Uni, and have been living in Cardiff – a slightly more exciting city, but not exactly filled to the brim with exciting opportunities. I have never done anything like this before, or gone to anywhere like this before. I’ve never been that far away from home without my parents – or possibly even with them – and I don’t have words for how exciting that thought is.

I can’t wait to get back and tell everybody all about it, but more than that I can’t wait to get going. I’m incredibly nervous about this but I don’t have words for how much of an amazing experience this is going to be. I guess I’ll see you on the other side!

Why.

Why.

So here’s a fun story. I tweet that I listened to a song a lot today and that it’s really good but that I usually hate the person who sings it. I go away, do my thing for an hour, come back and my twitter mentions have gone off the scale. I’m confused for a second, trying to figure out why this might be, then realise that the singer has retweeted it. I didn’t even tag him in the tweet, I mean seriously.

And now my mentions are full of either people agreeing or telling me to “#sitdown” for not liking him. How does that happen.