Thursday, 28 June 2012

Online/Offline.

Why do people make friends online? Why do people sustain friendships online? Why do people value their online peers more highly than their "real life" friends, the ones they see on a daily basis?


Social networking is an unavoidable part of modern life. For my generation, it's our oxygen. We spend hours indoors hunched over our laptops, headphones in, world out. We draw our curtains to prevent the glare of the sunshine on our screen. Going outside is overrated.
Recent statistics show that young people (aged 13-24) are spending an average of 31 hours online per week, and while this is a particularly negative view of our generation, it doesn't seem at all surprising to me.

When I tell people I am going out to meet up with "a friend from Twitter", I am met with disapproving and concerned looks. I explain to my friends I'm not texting a boy from our college, he's actually a friend from Tumblr, and I can see them judging me. There may be a social stigma still attached to forming friendships or relationships online, but considering how technologically advanced we are nowadays, surely it's only a matter of time before everyone has two circles of friends: online and offline.

"When I was younger, I was afraid of people online finding me in real life. Now, I'm afraid of people in real life finding me online."

Unfortunately, there is a voice inside my head that cannot be silenced when I hear a friend talking about the amazing people they talk to every night on Skype, or I catch my sister tweeting someone from America... The voice wants to know: are your "real life", offline friends not good enough company for you? Must you spend more time talking to people you've never met and may never meet than you do with the people who live right down the road? And when you're feeling down, would you seek advice and comfort from your Twitter/Tumblr followers rather than ringing someone who can actually come over, talk it out in person and hug you better?

As an avid blogger, I understand the desire (often mistaken for a need) to pour all of one's thoughts and feelings out and into cyberspace. I also understand just how magical it feels to have someone, even if it's a complete stranger on the other side of the world, read what you have to say - and more importantly, find themselves able to relate to it. Whether it's a deep and personal blog post, a plea for two characters in your favourite TV show to fall in love and get married, or a particular joke you find hilarious... Knowing that someone out there feels the same way can make all the difference.
We can be different people online; we can be our real true selves, the people we're afraid to introduce to the real world... Or create someone totally new who we've always wanted to be. The choice is ours.


I absolutely understand and identify with the need to branch out and meet new people who share our interests and opinions, and the internet provides the perfect platform for this. We can connect with others all over the world and yes, make some really good friends. I am not against this at all, but I do have a piece of advice for you online dwellers... Don't make your entire friend base online. Remember who will be there for you when the internet crashes.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Ode to Uni (I): The many joys of halls.

I miss halls. Simple as.



It seems so strange saying that, considering that after just a week in my little student flat I was climbing the walls due to boredom and banging my head on the table in despair as it finally dawned on me that I was expected to wash my own dishes and make my own bed... I also wasn't too keen on the fact that I shared shower and toilet facilities with six people I'd never met before.

However, a few weeks into the first term I had my morning routine perfected (dash from my bedroom to the shower, ignore the thick dark hairs in the plughole, run back to my bedroom and lock my door), the awkward conversations with flatmates when we collided in the kitchen were slowly getting more comfortable, I'd mastered the dish-washing and trips to the campus laundrette, and I'd successfully completed my first solo grocery shopping mission.

I learned very quickly that while you live with a certain group of people, they may not necessarily be who you spend all your time with. In fact, for most of the months leading up to Christmas I would spend the bare minimum of time with my flatmates, keeping our encounters exclusively in the kitchen for dinner or when we left at the same time in the morning for lectures. I spent most of my time down the road visiting friends in the other halls.
By the start of the second term, however, I started to appreciate my flatmates more. At the end of the day, they were who I came home to; drunk and disorderly, sleepy and worn out, happy and relieved, stressed and angry... Our kitchen encounters became lovely bookends to my days. By the end of the year I was watching movies, playing video games and having Nerf gun wars with them all in the communal areas. I had 2am heart-to-hearts with the American from room 2, hungover exchanges with my Pompey girl from room 4, music swapping sessions with the Brummy food-stealer from 7, chats about different cultures with the Chinese student from room 1, cooking tips from the sweet country girl from room 5... And we all agreed that the lesbian in room 6 was a ghost who hid in the cupboards.
Whenever I was having a bad time, one of my six built-in friends would be there to cheer me up with a cup of tea, Nutella on toast or a game of Amnesia. Obviously I'd never let them read my blog, but I owe them all a big thank you.

One of my absolute favourite things about halls, however, was the fact that I could walk just a few feet out my front door and find a friend. The people closest to me were literally the people closest to me. I could run out of alcohol at predrinks and be able to slip out and dash across the street to my place for another bottle. When it was sunny and hot, I could step outside and sit with a group of friends on the grass. We had barbecues at the front of the village, happily came and went from one another's flats and I could stay at a friend's until the small hours and just be a short walk from my bed. I once had to do a Walk Of Shame that only lasted five minutes door to door.
It'll be different next year I'm sure, what with everyone living in houses and being a more substantial distance apart, but hopefully it'll still work out. A few people have even said that it won't be so different to halls next year - pretty much everyone at uni ends up living within the same housing estate during the second and third years there, and nobody is really miles apart. We'll see.

Another thing I adore about life in halls is the privacy. Okay, in my flat we once found an open condom wrapper on the stairs and stuck it to the fridge with the note "own up you kinky bitch" attached to it, but still... Bedroom doors all had locks, 
you could have guests round whenever and there were no objections, nobody told you when bedtime was or banged on the door when you took too long in the shower. Even when your flatmates overheard you having sex, the worst you could expect was some playful teasing and a pat on the back (whereas at home, if my family overheard me having sex, I'd be executed).

Being at home for the summer, spending nearly every night on the sofa watching Family Guy with the volume turned all the way down so I don't wake anyone, having to arrange to meet up with friends and drive to their houses or to town, waking up in a bedroom that still has my Rupert annuals and Toy Story jigsaw puzzles in plain sight... The thought of staggering through the student village after a night out, watching all the Dominos delivery vans whizz up and down Main Street, bringing friends back to mine for cheesy chips and having really noisy sex before breakfast is sounding pretty good right now.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Goal: achieved.

On midnight of January 1st 2012, I compiled myself a list of goals for the new year. The usual items were included, such as losing 30lbs and getting a decent grade for my first year at uni, but right at the top of the list (and honestly the one item that I thought was less likely than me losing weight) was reaching 50,000 blog views by 2013.
Well, here I am, on June 19th 2012, just over halfway through the year, and my handy view counter says 50,001. Goodness me.

All I can say is thank you to all of you who read my silly ramblings; I appreciate every single click when I post the link on Twitter or Tumblr, every comment or rating at the end of a post, all the tweets I receive from readers saying all kinds of lovely complimentary things... You have no idea just how much it all means to me. My confidence (with writing, at least) is sky high these days and I have all of you to thank. Thank you thank you thank you. x


13.

Hi, my name's Gracie. I am buying a pet tortoise soon, I have recently discovered I am a jealous person, I desperately need a job, I believe life is much better when you have purple hair, I can be swooning one minute and bitching the next, when I'm upset I delete annoying people off my Facebook, the movie Donnie Darko repeatedly blows my mind, I have had car sex, it's my birthday in 43 days, I could watch the musical Wicked a million times, I make excellent nachos, my dream is to have someone write a song about me, I love the idea of working out but in reality I am too lazy to even get in my car and drive up the road to my gym, I am romantically attached to my SLR camera, every day I become more and more like my mum, I hate writer's block more than anything in the world, I love anything retro, I let the littlest things upset me, I am at home for the summer, and I'm completely lost.

I do one of these posts every month.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Love is love.

So, following recent events and discussions, I've decided to write a post about something that is not only a hot-button topic at the moment, but is also very dear to my heart.


I have spent this evening arguing with my parents to let me have a boy sleep in my bedroom over the weekend (I won), and later arguing with my Dad about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry.
It may sound like I am jumping on the bandwagon here, but in actuality it is the complete opposite. I have always felt that two people in love should be able to marry; regardless of their age, race or gender. Supposedly the reason to marry is for love, but even in my comparatively average everyday life I have seen people marrying for money, for security, and in many cases due to an unforeseen pregnancy. Shallow and scantily-clad women marry ancient billionaires every other day all over the world, and then spend their married days simply sitting around and waiting for their significant other to drop dead so they can get their claws on the fortune. How is that less of an affront to marriage than two men or women who have been madly in love for years and are desperately wanting to solidify their commitment to one another and be together for the rest of their lives?

I remember sitting in my Year 9 Maths class many years ago, and my gay best friend turning to me and saying sadly: "I really don't think homosexuality will be accepted in our lifetime." It really stuck with me; I hate the thought of some of my closest friends growing old with their other half, still being mocked and pointed at when they walk down the street hand in hand.

"No-one should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding hands with the person they love." - President Obama.


University has introduced me to people from all walks of life; I have met people who believe things I have never considered, people who define things differently to me, and sadly, some people who are more ignorant than I could have ever imagined. I have also met a significant amount of homosexual individuals during my first year at uni, and although they are somewhat still oppressed within society, our campus was a friendly safe haven for them to be whomever they wished. I know of two guys who came out during the first term, and both have told me how free and accepted they feel among their peers.

My generation have really surprised me with their open-mindedness and warm acceptance of those who are of different backgrounds and have different preferences. I am constantly disappointed with the older generation and their stiff resistance to anything alien to them. I feel the need to remind them that things like homosexuality have always been there, under their noses, they just weren't as public or as accessible as they are today.

What upsets me most especially today, and what led me to write this post, was tonight's news report about gay marriage now being condemned by the Church of England. Firstly, I went to a Church of England school, and we were always taught that any two people can fall in love and be happy. I feel slightly double-crossed right now. Also, wasn't the Church of England founded by Henry VIII, purely for the purpose to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragaon and marry another woman so he would not be found guilty of adultery? Oh yes, it was. So founding a church in the name of annulment/divorce is perfectly acceptable, but when two people want to get married, they frown upon it? Nice one, CofE.
According to them, gay marriage "could undermine the status of the established church," and "would strip marriage of its significance." The Church of England believe that "marriage should be about procreation", and by allowing gay couples to have civil partnerships they are "giving gay couples sufficient equality."

Homophobic bullying is a real danger in our society. But as it turns out, it's not just done by teenagers behind computer screens posting anonymous comments on their gay peers' online profiles... Homophobic bullying is carried out by responsible and respected adults, and takes place in public for all to see.


I am not an avid news-watcher, nor am I a passionate activist who spends every weekend protesting outside the Houses of Parliament. But every now and again, a news story emerges  which makes my blood boil and before I know it, I'm typing away. The latest stories to have this effect on me include: Josef Fritzl, student fees rising, Nick Clegg backing down and Southeastern trains policy for lateness changing. I always assume that other people share my opinions and agree with me on such important issues; this particular topic however, I am not sure about... We'll see.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The blank pages and everything in between.


What do I want?

Is it normal to know what you want when you're eighteen? No, I would think it's severely abnormal to have your life totally planned out and all your goals set in stone when you're only just old enough to buy a bottle of vodka. It just doesn't seem possible. For me, thinking ahead can vary drastically; usually between what I'm going to wear tomorrow, where I'm going to be come September, and who I'm going to marry one day.

So far, these are the only things I know about my future: I am going to wear jeans and my owl T-shirt tomorrow, in September I will be in a big red house around the corner from my university (which my housemates and I have now named Cafe Rouge), I am going to get my degree and become a writer, and I'm going to marry my best friend. Everything in between these events are blank pages, like the pages at the end of the exam booklet that say BLANK PAGE on them for some unknown reason.

I have a seemingly unique disorder in that every time I think I know what I want, exactly what I want, it suddenly changes. One day I will be convinced that I want to move to Paris, by the following week I'll be looking up places in London. I'll say I don't want a relationship, and then think about just how wonderful it would be to have someone to call randomly just to say "I love you". I'll be absolutely certain that I need a night out, then as I'm walking into town half-pissed and laughing with friends I'll realise that all I want is to snuggle up in bed and watch trashy TV with a mug of soup. Maybe I'm just hard to please.

Does it matter what I want?

It took me years to realise what I wanted to be (profession-wise) in the future, but when I finally decided for real that I want/need to be a writer, it dawned on me that this had been my only option all along; since I was seven years old and filling up countless notebooks with my dopey little stories and make-believe news reports, since I was writing poems and song lyrics in my Maths textbook at school, since I was writing in a new diary every week. So now I am finding myself wondering if these life decisions we all supposedly have to make are actually already decided for us; I am asking the age-old question "is our life already mapped out, or is it a series of choices?"
As many of you already know, I am a girl who believes in fate and destiny, and that everything happens for a reason. And while I don't think that my life is already completely set out before me by a higher power, what I do believe is that there are a series of subtle clues and opportunities already put in place for me to find and use as I will. I have found myself drifting around aimlessly at one time or another, and often I will get that undeniable sense that something is meant to happen to me to pull me back onto my path. Actually, I'm not even sure there is a path. I just think we are dealt a hand and allowed to do with it what we will.
The moment that yellow motorbike appeared in my peripheral vision was an opportunity, as was the morning I got the phone call from Winchester University to tell me my offer had been changed to Unconditional, and the night I was asked to kiss a stranger. I could have said no to any one of these, and my life might have been completely different.

This is why I will never regret anything; it happened for a reason, and whatever it was made me happy at the time. The last time I regretted something was when I was sitting in my GCSE Art Textiles class, listening to the bitchy girls gossip and pricking my fingers on needles and pins while making a hideous batique dye dress - I was constantly thinking "why oh why did I take this class? I'm miserable, the teacher hates me, everyone in this room is better than me..." And I walked out of that classroom two years later with an A*.

Do I want you to want me?

I go for days/weeks/months thinking I want a simple, uncomplicated, no-strings-attached totally casual relationship (using that term loosely) with someone I am friends with so that the "fun stuff" is just a happy not-so-little bonus. Then for just a brief moment somewhere within the days/weeks/months of simplicity, I think that I would prefer to be in a committed, loving and exclusive relationship (in the proper sense of the word), with someone I really love who would drop everything for me at a second's notice. This train of thought lasts only a few seconds, before I banish it back into the darkest and most pathetic corner of my mind, but still manages to confuse me and completely throw me off my perfect track. While I am definitely not a Relationship Girl, I must admit the idea of such a closeness with someone is somewhat appealing from time to time. However, I am adamant that you should never want that kind of relationship just for the sake of it, or because you like the sound of it; you should want it because you've found the person who makes you want it, the person you want it with. Maybe I'll find them someday. Until then, I'm perfectly happy as I am: casual, carefree and absolutely terrified of being someone's girlfriend.

Would you want me any other way?

I don't think I'll ever change. My opinions and beliefs will always remain the same, unless I have some divine intervention or someone manages to convince me otherwise (yeah, good luck). I just like to stop and question things every now and again. I like to let things happen, too; for instance, I had no idea how this blog post was going to turn out when I started the first paragraph. It may well be the most fragmented, indecipherable and downright stupid piece of ramble and waffle that I have written in a very long time, but hey.
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