The Eternal Learner…

For me there is nothing greater than studying. I know that sounds clichéd, and like one of the sentences I’m spun at University, about becoming more than just a degree, becoming an academic – but its true. I love studying. Ever since a young child I loved school, I loved the idea of learning, of feeling myself getting cleverer, storing information in my memory banks to draw upon, having those light bulb moments when suddenly everything makes a little more sense, you understand everything a little bit more.

Of course when you’re a child that happens almost continually. You are more or less bombarded with a new slice of information, slither of experience or newly figured fact on a minute by minute basis. As we get older, that seems to change. Suddenly we understand the basics, we have the answers to the simple stuff, how to read, write, (in my case, attempt) maths, science… our biology. It’s all there and readily explained. We’ve drawn our conclusions on our basic views, our opinions on the big stuff, religion, family, politics, education… We’re already quite formed.

What do we learn as adults? Relationships. There’s a wealth of experience and knowledge we continue to learn there, about ourselves more, with each new experience comes a moment of self-awareness… learning to drive? That always seems an odd one, it’s the first time since a child when we learnt to walk, to ride a bike, to swim, we have to do something that seems completely impossible and illogical to us….

Studying, makes the world, my world, more interesting. The more I learn the more I feel I have to offer, to contribute, the more I understand the smaller things in life, the more opportunities I give myself. I reform opinions, have my ideas challenged and tested, have my intellect stretched, my own foundations undermined, and…. I love that feeling. I love learning something new. Studying English it’s almost something everyday, a new word for my vocabulary, a new concept or idea, historical, philosophical, psychological, sociological details I didn’t know before.

I love reading something I’ve never heard, researching something and discovering a new interest, going into the tiny details… I can feel myself brighten up with each new sentence or concept, my brain buzzing with questions, ideas, contradictions. I lose hours lost int he recesses of my brain processing, ordering, thinking, understanding. I love finding out about everything – anything. What really interests me  is the big picture stuff, culture, society, gender… to civilisations, history, the makings of man.

I study when I shouldn’t be studying, constantly undertaking a new course or programme to keep my mind active. I qualified as a TEFL teacher last summer and this took at Level Four, Educational Psychology, learning about studying – learning why I like studying, we like learning – studying about studying. It couldn’t have been a more perfect course… I’m reading and studying Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, after my degree I begin teacher training, a masters… I’ll never stop wanting to learn – it’s just me.

Everything is a learning experience. Reading, articles, the newspaper, novels, facts, watching programmes on life, on art, on culture, on history… Talking to people. Getting to know them, their story, imparting and sharing knowledge. Life is so rich, so full of amazing things; of knowledge, interesting people, of questions, I just want to enjoy and share it all. We never stop learning, so why don’t we embrace it whole heartedly and aim to learn something new, each and everyday. I certainly do, do you?

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A little bit Self Absorbed.

For the first time in a long time I can say I became totally absorbed in my life. Somehow, somewhere I have lost two weeks of my time to what I can only describe as a surreal reality. Not to sound overly vague or highfalutin, but literally time seems to have disappeared as I became totally immersed in my own world.

I’ve met someone.  Now that’s a big statement when only out of a relationship for 8 weeks, even if it was a long time coming, and I’m not saying that this is the one, the love of my life or anything like that. But we do seem to get on, too well. I am fully aware that what I may be feeling or experiencing is just a rebound, is a continuation of my past relationship of which I will snap out of, realise it isn’t me and need some time, that I may be feeling needy and lonely and wanting someone to fill a void in my life but whichever…

I’m happy. I’m happily being made happy and happy to enjoy being so. I believe in life we meet people for a purpose. I’ll go into it more one day and it might sound harsh but its true. So maybe my new beau’s purpose is simply to make me realise I need time, or that I’m not over my ex, or whatever but he’s making me happy – happier than I ever was before.

He makes me laugh till I cry, is immature and fun in a way that I’d forgotten how to be, is cute and cheeky and spirited, he adores me and makes me feel special, makes me feel important, respected, wanted… I’d forgotten how that had felt. Even in a long-term relationship I’d forgotten, because we didn’t have that. And its a lovely surprise and treat to feel so.

Do not get me wrong, I am not simply leading this boy up the garden path just for my own enjoyment, I care for him a great deal, having known him for two years, I respect him, treasure his opinion, care for his welfare, and like him immensely. This is not early doors in that sense. What I mean though is despite outcome, sometimes you just have to live.

It would be easy to say there are reasons this shouldnt happen or I shouldnt go along with it, get caught up in things when I’m vulnerable even if not feeling it whatsoever, yet why. Experience as I’ve said before should never be passed up. One of my favourite lines from a film is from the Bucket List, “Three things to remember when you get older – Never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on and never trust a fart” its crude in a way that suits me but its got a point. My own memento would be, “Never waste an experience, never pass up an opportunity, never forget a feeling.”

Dont wait and waste days thinking what you should be doing, do what makes you happy. Enjoy life and take every hand that s offered to you, never forget how it felt to be liked, loved how someone made you feel before it went sour, how pain hurts and experience scars, but learn from it.

I’m not one for being self-absorbed but the two weeks when my new beau was staying have flown by. I wanted nothing more than to just be with him, like a teenage crush or a virgins first touch, I wanted to just be near to stare at him, kiss him, snuggle him… and all the more adult less fantastical features of relationships. We walked. we cycled country lanes and down hill courses, slept and sun bathed on sun-kissed beaches, talked till the early hours, snuggled in bed, ate out, ate in, ate off each other… you get the picture. If you could imagine a perfect two weeks, I’ve had it.

And I’ve woken up with a bump. I’ve been one of those who forgets her friends, forgets her responsibilities, gets absorbed in a fantasy and forgets what life’s about… and yet arent I allowed? sometimes? To be selfish, to be absorbed and wanted and liked and quiet and irresponsible and childish and all those other things. Isn’t life, living for the moment? Capturing life’s essence and enjoying the time we have?

I may not be going on holiday this year, but I’ve had the vacation I needed, right at home, I’ve forgotten my life and my woes and been happily washed away to a foreign land where nothing but sun fun and frolicking were the order of the day. So maybe we should all take a day off or two, enjoy ourselves a bit.

And I’ll certainly enjoy this new little chapter and turn of events, whatever it may hold for me.

Coffee Houses: Kitsch, Cute and Comfortable Corners.

I read a post on ‘Freshly Pressed’ that made me think: It was about coffee houses, little unique coffee shops, that are as individual as the coffee blends themselves. Now I’m not talking Starbucks or costa, cafe Nero or wherever else you choose to frequent. I’m talking, family run, homemade, kitsch little gems that are hidden off the main streets, and have that, bohemian, individual, ‘totally comfortable at home’  feel.

If you don’t know of one, then I’m afraid to say, you’re missing out. Start poking around the back streets where you live, the cobbled rows of old houses, get off the walk or the high street and start exploring. Find all the little shops that are totally unique, the shop that is everything just cakes, the hippy clothes, full of incense and glorious handmade jewellery, scarves of every colour and pattern…

For me, a cup of coffee, or more specifically a mug, a heavy, broad handled steaming mug full – is an experience. Its an actual moment, a pleasure. To sit back in a comfy chair, with a book, on my own in my mind, with friends or watching passers-by, an experience I cherish. The mix of coffee beans and milk, of that bitter and rich taste, that smooth and warm feeling as you sip, warming your hands on the mug. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or now, ask anyone, everyone fancies an ice-cold beer or a pimms, both of which I am not adverse to, but nine times out of ten. I want a coffee.

Now lets clarify what I mean by coffee. If you’re talking about Tesco’s finest instant, then you mistake what I mean by coffee. If you’re a coffee hater and have drunk that rubbish, then there is your first problem. Lets set it straight, I’m talking proper ground coffee, fresh coffee, from a cafetière. I don’t need a fancy coffee maker, that makes me a cappuccino, or an espresso, or a mocha with all its percolating, steaming and shaking. I mean just simple, push down and filter coffee.

Now back to the place. If you are to sit and enjoy anything it’s not just about the activity, it’s the environment. Reading  a book is blissful on your bed with the sun streaming in, surrounded by cushions and quilt; on a beach, with the sun dancing off the pages, the wind ruffling them gently, sunning yourself at the same time; in a hammock, wrapped up, swaying gently, with a pillow under your head and the wind in the trees… it’s the whole experience not just the what.

I’m lucky to have two fabulous coffee shops in my home towns. I say home towns because as a student, I class myself to have two, the home where I grew up, the city I spent my youth, finding myself, exploring, feeling every bit the adult in my naivety; and my new home. The place I chose, the city I live on my own, spend my days walking about, studying, frequenting book shops and cafe’s alike. Norwich, and Lincoln, if you wanted a name.

First there’s Morellos, Norwich. Family run, quirky, girly, homemade and kitsch – This place is straight out of Cath Kitsons catalogue, before she even became a household name. With cute little momentos, signs, vintage pictures, flowery teapots, hand-made cotton flowers, hooks with straw hats and ribbons, and mismatched chairs, its perfect in its own way.  They serve fresh coffee, homemade lunches, handmade cakes and treats, and all with a friendly hug for anyone who stops through the door. It truly is a beautiful place to spend your time. For me is the place I went with my mum, girly and cute,  lunches sat after a hard days shopping, surrounded by floral prints and lace, it was like a little girls heaven, and to be honest, it’s still one of my favourite places in this world.

The second is the award-winning, rated one of the top ten coffee shops in the country, Cafe Aroma, Lincoln. Its got that charm of a proper Italian coffee shop. Coffee served on a board, with a glass of water as it should be. No fuss, no pretence, the coffee speaks for itself. The upstairs is like a bohemian dream, full of little corners to snuggle into and enjoy. One one is mismatched with large tables, odd chairs, window seats covered in cushions of every pattern, and the walls covered in music sheets, making the most interesting wall paper. There is artwork from local artists, all abstract and obscure, bright and colourful, much like the shop itself. Next through an arch and curtain is the den. Stacked wall to wall with a bookcase full of every novel and story you could ever hope to read, big comfy leather sofas, and coffee tables, the windows draped with rich fabrics and curtains… its like being in your own den, the sort as a child you’d have died to make, attempted to in your bedroom under a quilt.

Both offer an experience, a sense of belonging, a real atmosphere of calm, tranquility, of enjoyment and individualism. There the sort of places you frequent with friends for a quick drink and six hours, 7 coffee’s and a few shortbreads later, your still there, curled up in a big chair, or perched at a table, chatting away, hopelessly happy to stay there all day. If you live in either of these places, you must visit, absolutely without fail.

And if you don’t, isn’t it about time you found your own place? That special little corner of a room, a room that gives you a hug as you come in and a smile, to sit, to think, to muse, to dwell, to drink coffee, to socialize, to have a meeting, to read… to be you. What are you waiting for?

Engagements and rest.

“I’m happy to be the bridesmaid, the bride bit can wait till later…”

Today I attended my friends Engagement party. She’s 20, known he boyfriend for years and now a year later, on their first anniversary, he proposed, halfway up a mountain, with flowers, the ring, down on one knee, in a foreign land…It was devastatingly romantic, even for a woman like me, who doesn’t get soppy for compliments or gestures.

But it made me think. It’s not, what I want. For me, it’s all too soon, they’re ready as a couple but, they seem so young, to be committing your life. Is it wrong of me to want to, live a bit more? After a recent break up from a long-term relationship it made me realise,  I’m not ready for all that yet. For marriage, for the whole she-bang. I want to live more, to have a career, to live a little.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those pro feminists who says women shouldn’t be confined to their womanly role and should be able to be the businesswoman, the mother, the martyr all in one. I don’t mean that, for me you can’t be all those things. I don’t think you can be a mum and have a high-powered career and live your life to the full. Its splitting yourself in too many places, you end up doing two jobs half-heartedly well rather than one whole heartedly, and for me, I have to do everything to the best of my ability.

I want that one day, the marriage the kids. I want to be the stay at home mum like mine was, to be there with her kids, for every trip and fall, bump bruise, birthday, swimming gala, football match and Fete. I just, don’t want it now. I have so much more to learn as a person, I am not ready to give myself – all of myself – to another; to give up on my life, and my experience. I guess what ive realised is, I’ve not met that one; the one who I would do anything for, to put my own plans or aspirations on hold for theirs, to settle down and be nothing more than a wife, and a mother.

To say nothing more sounds as though I think it’s a bad thing, like we’re selling ourselves short as woman, but as I’ve already said, that’s not it at all. I’m kind of a traditionalist, I like the idea of cooking for my husband as he returns from work, for being a mum, having mothers coffee mornings, baking cakes for the little ones – being a mother, and a wife, are the hardest jobs I believe in the world. One of the most demanding and worthwhile careers a woman can have.

I’ve just not got there yet. For all my maturity, experience, relationships and loves, I’ve not had that. Or I did, but I messed it up, but that’s for another day. It hasn’t all clicked into place, and that’s exciting, that the world is mine, to explore again, to further myself, to build my career, and have fun finding that person who makes me happy, and you know, will for years to come.

I’m happy for my friends, that they’re there, beginning to build their lives together and support each other. I guess it’s that, I don’t need that now, don’t want it, if it happens, brilliant I shall embrace it whole heartedly, but I’m very much my own person, very much enjoying my life, and looking forward to all that it offers.

This time six months ago, I was planning an engagement for next year, my life in months to come, with a partner, a house, planning my further education around someone else’s career; how things change in a short space of time. It was naive, and needy, planning ahead hoping to resolve the cracks in my relationship with romantic fantasies and far-fetched notions and plans. Now, i’m celebrating with friends, looking at their relationship and realising everything that was wrong with mine, understanding myself, my mindset, my position and smiling, because despite everything… I like my life and I look forward to its next chapter.

Firsts, Experiences and that ‘New’ Feeling.

“I’m giving up on girls, I’m giving up on the heartache, whats the point in it all, in setting yourself up for heartache or disappointment, who wants that?”

I do. This is a question posed to me by a friend the other day. I couldn’t quite understand, as for me. It’s always worth it. There is nothing more exciting or brilliant as getting to know someone. Talking to them, getting to know them as a person, being interested in them, what they have to say, involved in stories and experiences. Getting to know how they react to stuff, what they’re like deep down, not just the superficial, but under the façade.

Having all those debates on subjects, hearing their points of view, learning their voice and the way they think. Having that buzz of excitement when they text, that ridiculous smile on your face around them, the incessant grin. Laughing uncontrollably at what they say, as though your hearing humour for the first time…

And then there are the first times. The first time they touch you, your arm, hold your hand, the first time they make you laugh, your first play fight, the first kiss, the first fumble, the first encounter, the first experience, first dates, first meal out, first cinema trip, first walk, first words… Everything is so new, so refreshing. The world suddenly becomes more interesting as you see the world from someone else’s perspective…

To me – that’s all worth it. Whatever happens after, whether it all goes tits up, whether it ends in love, lust or heartache, whether you find you aren’t as well matched as you thought, or they turn out not to be the person you thought, that feeling, all of that, I wouldn’t pass that up. The giddiness, the happiness, the excitement, the expectation, the anticipation. It’s a feeling that s unique. Whatever comes to pass, you always have that, you always remember those first days, and the way they made you feel. When you feel unique, special, appreciated. You’re at your best.

“I smile a lot these days, and everyone knows. Everybody knows it’s because of you, everybody knows except you”

I would never pass up on an experience that made me happy, that gave me that feeling, that made everything  a little bit better. If you live your life thinking about the consequences, you’d never do anything. You have to live life for the moment and maybe a step or two ahead, but only positively.

I love people in general, I love getting to know people, I love talking to people I don’t know, when you just get talking to people, on trains, at a coffee shop, in a queue. People are interesting, other people’s lives are interesting. This morning I shared a table in a coffee shop with a woman, and we spoke for nearly an hour about everything, her life, her kids, her plastic surgery, life, people, from the personal to the political to the philosophical and back again. And I loved it, it made me smile. It made today better. It made her day better. It was friendly, and kind, and open.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to get to know someone, to be with someone, to talk to someone, because of the what ifs. What if they turn out to be your best mate, your future boss, the love of your life? That person that you can’t imagine not having in your life? Live for the experience, the feelings, live life, for the now.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”  – Dale Carnegie.

Proud to have a past.

I read a lot of blogs on here, daily updates by those who have suffered, found difficulties and hurt in their lives. Been unfortunate to witness or have succumbed to life’s worst scenarios. We all have them, pasts. Things we would rather forget, things we are not proud of, things that make our lives a little more difficult – pain that we’d rather forget.

They can be on any scale, from the bigger picture to the everyday stuff, and it all affects us. It can be stuff we’ve done, stuff others have done to us, stuff that’s happened to us despite our own efforts for things to go right, or things we can’t help, we can’t come to terms with.

To all those people, to whatever has happened, is happening, the difficulty you are facing in your lives I would say. Be proud. Be proud to have a past, be proud to have overcome difficulty, to have surpassed expectations, to have found inner strength. Be proud to be coping, this minute, this day, this week… Be proud to have had an experience in your life.

Because from experience. We learn, we grow as people. We adapt and function, we become more rounded individuals. We are the people we are because of what has happened to us, what has happened in our lives; our experiences.

I am fortunate enough to have not overly suffered with strife or great ordeals, maybe to some they would be considered a lot, to others, a minor scathe, I guess that’s all down to our own lives, what we cope with everyday and consider normal. But I am proud, to be a person, proud to be the person I am, proud to be individual, with my experience and wisdom because…

I like me. I like who I’ve become, I like the way I cope with things. Like everyone I may not like my life at times, or enjoy the ride its taking me on, but I like how it changes me. How I change, how I grow, how I adapt, how I surprise myself.

Nothing in life we cannot cope with, with self belief, with determination, with the support of loved ones and friends, with inner courage. Be proud to be you, turn your hurt into a positive and remember. It’s all what makes you, you.