Things I Wish I Knew As a Teenager

​I’ve been an adult for a little while now and have spent some time learning a little bit about just what that means. Having said that, though, I’ve also had time to reflect on my time spent as a teenager. So here’s a few things I wish I knew back then.

1. People will bitch and backstab and gossip. As will you. Don’t take it to heart.

2. Work hard and save as much as you can. Trust me, you’ll need it.

3. Everyone has struggles. Everyone has their shit. Some just hide it better than others.

4. You don’t have to do things or squash yourself down just to fit in.

5. Before you stress about something, consider if it’ll matter in five years’ time.

6. Take pictures. Every chance you get. Everyone you love. You will treasure them.

7. It’s okay to not like things everyone else likes. And vice versa.

8. It doesn’t matter if you’re popular, unpopular or somewhere in between. It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference the minute you’re out of school and into the real world.

9. Find your passion and don’t let anyone laugh at you for it.

10. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. I’ve already changed the career I was working towards three times, and gone back into education twice since A-Levels.

11. Honesty really is the best policy. People value it and you’ll value it in other people.

12. No one has it all figured out. I don’t now, and I doubt I will when I’m 80. That’s just life, I guess.

Emily

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Wake Up, America!

It’s a cliché phrase, one which has been tossed around by conspiracy theorists for decades. But today, I mean it very seriously. Wake up, America.

Your children are being murdered en masse. In the first seven weeks of 2018, you have suffered no less than eight school shootings. Furthermore, the perpetrators are often not some kind of 50-year-old illegal immigrants who snuck assault rifles across state borders. They are overwhelmingly committed by young white American men, with legally obtained firearms. Men who were no doubt denied the help they needed, or whose victims’ reports to authorities were ignored. Some people have speculated that had the perpetrator been Black, or Mexican, or Middle-Eastern, the outcome would have been incredibly different. Trump said in a speech regarding the recent Florida shooting that “the difficult issue of mental health” should be tackled, when only last year he “repealed an Obama-era rule allowing the names of certain people on mental health benefits to be entered into a criminal database”. You made it a lot easier for people to access weapons, Trump, you cannot play the sympathy card now.

Moreover, gun-lovers, you cannot demand that school shootings should not be politicised. They must be politicised as soon as they happen, because we cannot dismiss this debate. I am not even an American, so technically none of this should affect me or my country, but it does. Europe is devastated by the preventable tragedies which keep occurring in America. There is a Zeitgeist, and this is evidenced by the students themselves, who are speaking louder than they ever have before against the defendants of the Second Amendment. One key example was the riveting speech of Florida school student Emma Gonzalez, who announced a student walkout and march on Washington, which she named “the march for our lives”. I cannot fathom why some American pro-gun parents are content to send their children to school, knowing that there is a high chance they won’t come home. I read accounts now where schoolchildren are dressing according to a school shooting drill: “if I wear these clothes, I can escape faster”, “I shouldn’t wear sneakers with lights because they could give away my position”. They’re children, not the CIA! They should not have to consider these things over their own grades!

Do you know what the Second Amendment says? “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. The quote which has caused so much bloodshed was originally a reference to militias. Military forces. Not civilians. America, you’re a self-fulfilling prophecy – you wanted guns to begin with, now they’re becoming a necessity. Are you going to send your children to school with little AR15s of their own next? Will you train them to shoot before teaching them to read?

Your government system has turned schooling into a real-life Hunger Games; here, the survivors are the ones who get to sit their exams.

I fully support the upcoming student marches. We know that marches are effective, and I’ve no doubt they will be this time, too. I would send my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims, but we all know by now that this does nothing to ease their pain. Instead, I send my support, and my hope that there will one day be enough pressure on the American Government to push through some effective mental health and gun legislation. Until then, perhaps America should focus on making more coffins.

“Home of the free, land of the brave”? To that, I propose a new, more accurate line: “Home of the ignorant, land of the murdered”. Wake up, America.

Angharad

 

A Bit Annoyed, Actually

A Note About The Lecturer Strikes

On average, I am scheduled to have 11 contact hours (lectures) per week, not including extra-curricular modules. There are 11 weeks in each semester. For my poor attempt at maths, if we multiply 11 by 22 (total number of weeks in the academic year), we get 242 hours. Then, 9,000 divided by 242 equals around £37 per lecture, most of which last only 50 minutes.

I have already been informed that so far, I will lose 2 hours of lectures due to upcoming strikes. That’s £74. I may then lose another 2 hours, which brings it to £148. Furthermore, there is a possibility that after my half term, there will be more strike days, including a planned five-day walkout from 12-16 March. If this does affect me, and all of my lecturers happen to be on strike, I and other students would have lost around £407 of lectures and valuable information.

Before I continue, I would like to stress my support for my university lecturers, and lecturers across the country: they are not to blame. They are doing what they are within their rights to do, which is defending their pensions. If the government succeeds in implementing this change, current and future lecturers could be left up to £10,000 worse off regarding pensions. This could mean that by the time they are ready to retire from their careers, they then might not have enough income to live comfortably. I don’t know about you but to me it does not sound like an attractive concept.

The government must understand that if there is no financial security, this will serve as a deterrent for potential lecturers. Why would you do a job if you are inadequately paid, or have no certainty of retiring with a decent pension? That’s right: you wouldn’t.

We have seen this happen already with the NHS – nobody should be surprised that we are suddenly in a “crisis”, because the number of doctors and nurses has fallen significantly. The Guardian has reported that since the referendum in June 2016, “around 10,000 EU nationals have quit the NHS” not only because of the uncertainty, but also because of overworking and underpayment. Similarly, in 2016-17, “just under 33,500 nurses” left the NHS. You can therefore see the correlation between working conditions and number of employees who quit. The same could happen for lecturers nationwide – lecturers who very much want to do their jobs, but who are reluctant to do so if it means making potentially destructive concessions to the government.

I am grateful for my education. Throughout my schooling, I have experienced some pretty low points in terms of government policy shafting people in the education sector, but there have always been a handful of truly dedicated teachers. Now, I find that my lecturers are the same, as some really do go all-out to help their students as best they can. In their position, I would be striking, too. In fact, I would like to take this chance to express my disappointment in the Cardiff University Students’ Union for denouncing these strikes and refusing to support our hardworking lecturers – I believe they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Students, I empathise if these strikes affect your education, I really do, but let’s not lose sight of the ones who are really behind the strikes – Theresa May and her cronies. All they are doing is making unnecessary cuts so they have more money in their own pockets. As you’ve probably now gathered, I’m a bit annoyed, actually.

Angharad

The Top Twenty Records Of All Time

I’m willing to bet that most people have a definitive list of songs they consider to be extra special to them – their Desert Island Discs, if you like. Mum certainly does, only hers is an ever-changing beast. The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr Blue Sky” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” seem to be permanent fixtures, but otherwise her self-proclaimed list of her top twenty songs of all time is never quite the same, sometimes from day to day. On occasion, it numbers more than twenty, and although I have challenged Mum on this, it seems I may never get a proper answer regarding what the actual fixed selection is. The questions, however, did lead to me considering what my own list would have on it. I’m not sure I could think of as many as Mum, but I’m confident that I can aim for eight.

On Desert Island Discs (which I only listen to when someone interesting is a guest – Murray Walker and Noel Gallagher featured on the last two occasions), the participant is asked to choose eight songs they would take away with them if they were to be marooned on a hypothetical island. They discuss their reasoning behind each choice before a snippet is played, and at the end of the programme they must also select one luxury (limited only by the imagination as pretty much anything goes), and one book (which they are granted alongside the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare). Following Mum’s indecisiveness, and an extensive pondering period, I have now concluded that they are as follows (in this post you can have the first four, with YouTube links – I’ll get back to you on the rest).

 

  1. “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. You need only read this to find out why the Space Cowboys make this list. And I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this song played live!
  2. “Your Love Alone is Not Enough” by Manic Street Preachers and Nina Persson. Whilst this isn’t a very heartfelt song, it gets the blood pumping and has all the hallmarks of a great anthem and crowd-pleaser. On my tenth birthday in 2007, I was given a CD copy of Now 67, on which it features. Along with Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes”, it was one of the hits on the album that really stood out as I listened to it on my cheap imitation iPod. I knew nothing of the Manics, their reputation or their success when I first heard this, but it paved the way to me becoming a fan, and I now eagerly soak up their music. I’m happy to report that their new single “International Blue” is another winner! Above all of this, however, it brings back memories of a simpler time of life in Year 5 at school. A time of fish and chips on Friday lunchtimes, green ties, house points and two pieces of homework a week. Next to no adult responsibilities whatsoever. Bliss.
  3. “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I’ve always felt drawn to this band, and their use of the piano as a lead instrument on a lot of their material. Perhaps it adds an extra sense of depth, grandiosity or profoundness to their music – I’m not an expert, so I don’t know. But what I am certain of is that I have always been awed by that special something, and it must be at least partially responsible for my decision to take up the piano nearly five years ago. This particular song is one of my favourites because, rather aptly, it always reminds of somewhere – or, more importantly, someone – particularly meaningful to me. It gained added significance in Year 12, when the appearance of the 2013 John Lewis Christmas advert in our Media lessons meant that I got to hear the equally sublime Lily Allen version of the song on a weekly basis for a while. It was a selection that suited the advert perfectly (maybe I’m biased, but I personally believe that John Lewis haven’t managed to top it since), and its use in sixth form made it even more special, since it would be forever connected with a great period in my life.
  4. Any one of four Muse songs (either “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Knights of Cydonia”, “Plug In Baby” or “Defector”). Yes, I know this is technically cheating because I’m supposed to choose a definitive eight, and I know that’s exactly what I promised would result at the beginning of this post. But as soon as I knew that Muse could not be left off of this list, I also knew that I would find it incredibly difficult to single out one of their many absolute bangers for inclusion on it. You know how some musicians talk in interviews about their formative moments, often from their youth? Whilst I will never claim to be a musician, hearing Matt Bellamy’s voice for the first time in Year 12 did – as I have often related since – send a shiver down my spine as the hairs on the back of my neck stood. It sounds clichéd, but it’s absolutely true. I believe his voice can be placed alongside the greatest in music, and its power is a perfect match for the two bandmates who drive the group’s monstrous sound, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard. The three form an unbeatable combination that I am desperate to see live – and, with new music arriving on the scene almost as I write, I might get that chance sooner than I’m expecting. I had hoped that by the time I’d finished typing Muse’s section, I might have decided which of those four songs to take to my desert island, but it seems that as with the next four (and my book and luxury, you’re just going to have to wait). Watch this space for the tunes to come!

Mason

Wrong Number Stories

My line of work, like many people’s, involves answering the telephone on an hourly basis. As I’ve explained before, this is something fairly nerve-wracking for me, but there’s also a substantial amount of curiosity to be found in the task. Recently, at one of my two workplaces, we’ve been receiving a steady and noticeable stream of wrong number calls from various people. When you answer the phone to them, some pre-empt what you are going to say, admit their mistake and immediately hang up on you. Others are ensnared in a moment of confusion; I will open with my usual professional greeting, and they will question why they aren’t speaking to their mate Derek before the penny quickly drops and they leave me be. In my particular experience, there have even been elderly people who – mistaking my workplace for the local hospital – have proceeded to describe gruesome ailments in considerable detail before my awkward admission that I am not medically qualified to deal with their complaint. They can put you off your lunch at times, as it happens.

Whatever their reasons for calling (albeit unintentionally), these people do all have one thing in common, at least in my view. Because they’re totally anonymous – the calls generally don’t last long enough for me to establish their identities – I always do wonder who they are, and what their stories are. Why might a phone call to the aforementioned Derek be so important? Was it intended as a simple catch-up between friends, or was he being sought out as part of the resolution to a life or death situation? When I am mistakenly contacted by confused hospital-goers, how worried are they about the problems they face? Are they looking for an answer to a simple question, or are they frantically searching for a second opinion on something that could potentially change life forever? All I can do is ponder, as any writer might. Whatever the truth may be, that’s what this is good for – imagination and inspiration. As annoying, inconvenient and brief as some wrong number calls may be, they do make me think – so maybe the people on the end, whom I generally speak to for no more than a split second each time, do have a much bigger impact on my day than I could ever have anticipated.

Mason

A Stiff Drink

Last night, Mum, Dad and I had a drink in the kitchen – a glass of pink gin and tonic, no less – whilst dinner was cooking. I eagerly accepted this, even though I don’t tend to drink very often, and the glass felt cold and refreshing as I held it in my hand. Mum told me not to neck the gin too quickly, so I made sure to raise it to my parched lips sporadically, giving me the opportunity to savour it for as long as possible. Each time I swigged from the glass, I would look down into the bottom, where the ice cubes were floating, and whenever I did so I felt a twinge – a distinct stiffness – in the back of my neck.

I had been feeling this all day, and can attribute it largely to the fact that I spent most of it looking down at my laptop screen. Like many people, I probably do far too much of this, but on this particular occasion my body gave me a reminder that was both subtle and consistently noticeable. It had been there for several hours, and yet I never paid it much attention until I came away from the computer. If anything could tell me my priorities weren’t right, that was probably the most effective thing (I say, writing about it on a blog). When I received my current laptop in July 2016, I intended to use it primarily for reading and creative projects such as Third Time Enabled, but social media and video games had other ideas. I’ll have to try my best to consume both in moderation if I can – although those could turn out to be famous last words! I am helped at the moment by the fact that I have university plans to focus on. These have left me happier and more optimistic overall than I have been in some time, and I am filled with joy at the prospect of continuing my journey to September and beyond – such happiness is more than capable of making any stiff neck bearable. It’s the perfect cure.

Mason

Citizen Journalism

I often look through some of my past notebooks on a hunt for blog inspiration, and it was on the very last page of one particular book that I found the scribblings I wanted you all to read about here. They came from the last year of sixth form – 19 November 2014, to be precise – and an A2 Media lesson that saw us focus on “citizen journalism”, something defined by a quick Google search as “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet.” I remember that it was a concept I found intriguing at the time, and something I definitely wanted to know more about. I liked the idea of these news vigilantes getting their hands dirty and plucking things the world needs to know about from under the noses of the big media corporations. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in something like that? Whatever we were saying about it in the lesson, we were obviously writing down some of the pros and cons associated with it, because these are what I found in my book in all of their black Biro glory.

The first pro I wrote is the one that caught my eye the most – it quite simply says that citizen journalism “allows normal people to create and collaborate”, and that this has the potential to “educate them in the process”. I like the fact that this is the first note on my list, because it immediately establishes that citizen journalism is a concept open to everyone, no matter who they may be. Furthermore, the “collaborative creativity” aspect of the whole thing is something I wanted this blog to aspire to when Will, Emily and Tamara all came on board, and I hope it can continue to do so as more people get involved in the future. Citizen journalism is already setting a few good examples for us, and we’re still only on the first bullet point on the page. The second says that it “reverses long-standing media hierarchies”. There’s a lot of very interesting stuff in the news, but we all know that there’s also a lot of bullshit which can heavily influence the unsuspecting victims reading it through widespread hegemony. With that in mind, it’s good to know that those who partake in citizen journalism can challenge this by taking it upon themselves to go solo and find out the truth. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that my notes end after this point and there are no cons in my book – because, unless everything goes catastrophically wrong, how many downsides to citizen journalism are there?

Mason