Aside

Imagination and Logic in Tanzania

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Hello everyone,

For the duration of July and a portion of August, I traveled to Tanzania meaning that the last time I blogged was in June. So enjoy another rambling installment direct to you from my mind –

Imagination Vs. Logic: Tanzania 

 

I have lived a life categorized by lines and neatness. For as long as I can remember, I have felt calmer when my bedroom was clean and I have tackled any problem in a linear fashion. Identify the problem, weigh the options, choose a course of action. Yet as my teenage years faded into a hazy sunset and my twenties rose into a horizon of colours I had never before seen, the lines of my life got shorter. To my absolute dissent, I lost my health, and my ability to occupy myself with the organisation of my life. I no longer had energy to think from one week to the next, or even one day to the next. Each moment became entirely void of any purpose other than surviving life. I began to resent everything that came past the age of sixteen.

 

But like all horizons, this lengthy patch of pain passed. It is still ebbing from my life with each day taking me a step further from who I was forced to become. And as all those limitations left, I was filled with a sense of possibility that overwhelmed my thoughts and disrupted my dreams.

In June of 2016 my friend traveled to Tanzania for five weeks. Barely a week after his return, I pulled myself from the depths of my brain fog to see him and hear all he had experienced. Later that same evening I told my parents of his experiences and they commented on how phenomenal it would be to see Africa at such a young age, through an organisation with such positive aims. When I said that I wished I could go, my relentlessly supportive mom told me that perhaps my path to Africa was not going to be as direct and maybe I would see the continent later in my life, if my health gave me some reprieve. For some inexplicable and quite illogical reason, I felt particularly miffed at this. Despite having to sleep for hours after simply meeting a friend for coffee, despite the pajamas that were my uniform and despite the cement in bones and fog in my mind, I mentally demanded an answer to the question of why my path had to be different.

 

One year later, on the last day of June 2017 armed with two of my best friends, I sat on the first of three planes that would take me to Tanzania. The thirty-six hour trip to the Olive Branch for Children’s Zion Home, did not exhaust me more than the average person. Just one year on, and I was filled to the brim with being gloriously average – a feat that made me feel like pounding my chest about and screaming about to the arrivals of Mbeya airport.

 

Over the course of the next five weeks, every aspect of my personality was challenged. Yet what was challenged the most was the labels which I had given myself my whole life. As a race, we self-assess on a near constant basis. Physically, we have mirrors to hone in on those aspects of our bodies we like or dislike. Emotionally, we watch our reactions to situations and judge ourselves either sufficiently decent or lacking. However, what we don’t account for is the filter which we use to assess our gifts and shortcomings.

 

Indeed we have logic. We can see when we succeed or fail. But we also have an imagination which is specific to each of us. Dependent upon what we have experienced, our perceptions of ourselves are altered. Before this trip, I deemed myself to have a terrible sense of direction because my father and sister always take control of such situations. My imagination had dramatized my inability to think for myself. The reality was very different, but my imagination outweighed my logic.

 

Tanzania taught me that as a race we may all be watching the same TV, but no one sees the same channel, when it comes to perception. Therefore, can we truly disregard another’s view on the basis that ours might seem less tinged with imagination?

 

A child, a wondrously gifted child took my hand one day. We were playing dodgeball and a layer of dust of a thickness which I had never previously experienced coated my face. In the midday sun, my sun cream that smeared my freckles made me feel sticky and uncomfortable, but there was a game to be played. This child who holds an uncanny ability to grip one’s attention held my sticky, freckle-ridden hand and told me that I looked beautiful. Fighting back the knee-jerk reaction to laugh and brush off the compliment, I was hit with the understanding that we were both looking at the same TV yet our channels were different. I had chosen to see myself as unattractive, allowing my imagination free reign over my insecurities and causing the worst kind of introspection known to man. Whereas this child saw something entirely different, whilst looking at the same picture. How could either of us be wrong or right?

 

In truth, we’re not. I was both beautiful and ugly at the same time, both unhappy and blissfully content, depending on the point of view you stood with. Just as the view from a mountaintop differs depending the direction you stand, the view of yourself differs depending on if you choose to see reflection or reality. Imagination or logic. Africa gave me the gift of that understanding. All one has to do is tilt their view and hatred can become love, because all things are linked and utterly dependent on our choice of emotional filters.

There is something freeing about having your every breath for five weeks be something new. Nothing that I saw, smelled, tasted, heard or touched was as it was at home. Except for me. I stood at the mountaintop, remaining firm and true while I craned my neck in every direction possible and saw the dangers of looking only one way, for your whole life.

Had I not gone would I have known the power of acknowledging that there is a different kind of beauty when you are present in each moment with both imagination and logic? Perhaps I would have, in time.

 

I don’t know if the power of this knowledge will stay with me, or it will fade and disappear the further my life travels from Tanzania. Though I don’t doubt that the knowledge of the difference a year can make will always remind me the importance of placing both feet on the cold floor, and getting out of bed. One day, it will be with the aim of meeting a friend to hear of their adventures and smile. Another day, it will be to drive to the airport to travel to a different continent. Both days start the same, and lead to the same place. With a single step to a mountaintop.

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Write soon,

Jennifer x

Unpublished Whispers – Queen’s Independence 

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“Queens rise and fall with your breath. A sharp intake, stunned at my intellect, perhaps? A low hiss, affronted by my confidence? 

Let me ask you this, and only this; 

What happens when you stop breathing?” 

– Unpublished Whispers, Queen’s Independence 

Creative Writing in Tanzania

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Hello there,

My name is Jennifer O’Connor, and as you likely know, this is my blog. I am so grateful for you, for clicking onto this page. In short, I am a twenty-two year old Irish student and this summer, I am travelling abroad to Tanzania to teaching story-telling and creative writing in the Olive Branch for Children.

The Olive Branch for Children was founded in 2005 by Deborah McCracken. Our main objective is to help remote communities in Tanzania assess their primary needs and establish programs that target the most vulnerable.

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The primary aims of the Olive Branch are the following;

To help the most vulnerable individuals and communities become empowered through community-specific and community-led programming.

To reduce the impact of the HIV epidemic through a multi-faceted approach; prevention, care, education and empowerment.

To support vulnerable children in their efforts to regain their health and to pursue their academic goals.

To reduce the injustice in the world by ensuring that the most vulnerable communities receive access to their basic needs and rights, including access to lifesaving medications, and to lobby on their behalf for greater equality in the future.

To develop new ideas that can be used by The Olive Branch for Children and other organizations and communities in their efforts to develop and change nations like Tanzania.

This summer I am so excited to be able to contribute to this organisation with all of the skills, enthusiasm and hard work that I can offer. 

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Travelling with the National University of Ireland, Galway  society Draíocht, I will teaching a morning class to young children with a more limited knowledge of English and in the afternoon, I will teach teenagers and we will work towards running a short story competition.

In order to purchase books, to pay for printing and other administrative charges for teaching both children and teenagers, we have to raise a minimum of three hundred euro.  You can find the Olive Branch on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=olive%20branch%20for%20children

If you’d like to donate, which I would appreciate more than words, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/olive-branch-for-children-tanzania

*All money raised on this page is directly donated into the bank account of the Olive Branch for Children.*

CheckYou can find them here:www.gofundme.com/Jenschronicfund

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The Writer’s Personality & ILF 2017 

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Hello everyone, 

I’m back again with more musings and ramblings. This time I wanted to speak about the personality of a writer and how difficult it can be to understand, which came into focus for me at the International Literary Festival in Dublin where I won a ‘Date with An Agent’. 
Enjoy, 
Jennifer x

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Why are you the way you are? 

This question has been in my mind almost every moment of the last few weeks and has even disturbed my dreams. For the next two weeks, I am on holidays with my family in Spain. Family is, to me, a source of comfort and grounding. However, there are still moments when I become a juxtaposition as I adore my family’s company but find myself feeling so terribly isolated within my own mind. 

Like in all families, though thankfully less than most, we argue and disagree, we call each other out and spare little time for feelings in doing so. Honesty is the defining emotion in my little family of four. Growing up with the same level of honesty, means that I cannot help but be honest with myself as well. And this means that despite the level of security I indulge in with my family, I am hyper aware of my differences to them. None of us are carbon copies of each other, and my sister and I are far from similar in our temperaments. She is held up like a mirror against me and I to her, where we have to identify our differences and move around them and grow closer despite them. 

Yet at times when I find us walking down the street, an intense need for silence overcomes me which I cannot explain. I grate around the edges of other people who enjoy constant talking, as this exhausts me as socialising always has done. 
At the age of twenty two, I have not yet been able to compromise an acceptance with my own sensitivities. Instead I am bombarded with the hateful part of my mind that questions why must I need alone time so often, and pushes the knowledge of how hurtful that may be to the fore of my every interaction. This effects my happiness even in the moments when I am meant to have cherish the memories I am forging with my family and swells my mind with doubts of how could they possibly like someone as temperamental as me. 

On a recent Saturday I attended the International Literary Festival in Dublin as I had secured a ‘date with an agent’ by being selected on the merits of my novel. In truth, I had not given the day an exceptional amount of thought as my final college exams loomed over everything until I felt smothered. What I had considered, however, was the benefit of meeting other writers like me. Like me. It was a promising thought. I was excited because I never feel saner than when my feelings are validated by someone with my equally high aspirations.  

I had to leave Galway at half-past five in the morning and though I was tired, I was vigilant about following Google Maps through Temple Bar with a friend. The theatre where the event took place was thronged with people sporting messenger bags (not unlike my own) and coffee cups. The ages of the writers varied greatly but everyone held the same energy that arises only when you are actively enjoying your passion; uniqueness. It’s a funny thing to witness first hand the special energy which we all hold when pursuing a creative pattern in life. We all feel the same type of unique, which is in itself an oxymoron in practice. Everyone wishes to be different, even though we already are.

 
When I was upstairs with the other Young Adult writers who were selected, I made conversation through nibbled bites of my energy bar. Everyone was apprehensive about meeting the agent, the wonderful Polly Nolan is Greenhouse Literary. I felt little to no apprehension about this. No, my nerves centered around trying to predict my reaction to seeing all of these talented writers and an agent who is excellent at her job. It is the dream come alive for me, straight from my positive visualising mind and onto the hardwood floors of Smock Alley Theatre. Would I find myself envious of everyone else or intimidated beyond words by Polly? Already, as with my family, I was preempting my possible poor reaction which might hurt someone else. 

I tapped my boots against the floor until I made the whole bench shake. When Polly arrived and the questions from my peers began, I realised how ridiculous it was of me to ever expect myself to feel jealous or intimidated by these people who are just that – people
The rest of the day felt as though I was moving in a fog. I had not purposely isolated myself but once again, I found myself disagreeing with other people, though I didn’t say so. When I need to write like I need air, then the answer to any question I could ask is to keep doing. How can anyone expect to achieve results without doing and backing up their ambition with action? Agents and publishers may reject you, but the solution to every rejection is to keep writing. To do otherwise is to accept failure in an industry that thrives off of a good work ethic. Habitual actions bleed success. 

That day, my why am I like this question was answered. It is up to me to control my level of self blame. I am a thinker. I need silence more than conversation in the ratio of any one day. I am who am I because of what I do everyday. I am always seeking means to improve upon myself, my work and my own success. My work ethic is strict and because of it, I achieve days like my time with Polly Nolan. I will continue to work for opportunities and drain them dry whenever I can. I am at odds from other people because I am at odds with myself and each stage of my personality as I try to evolve to do better and work harder. How can I possibly understand the harsh opinions of others when they are at odds with my most recent upgrade in morality.

Perhaps everyone at the event that day felt the same. Perhaps they too felt a little at odds with the formal organisation of the place. I will never know, most likely. Regardless of the uniqueness of my emotions, I am happy to have taken part. From the first step into Temple Bar to the last round of applause for authors Catherine Anne Howard and Hazel Gaynor, I was trapped by my own contemplation that to be as reserved as I am was wrong. 

If I am as preoccupied with doing as I say I am, how could I possibly waste more time with perceiving myself as being anything? The bottom line is always happiness, and the event on Saturday brought home that there will never be any other life for me other than writing. To achieve this, I need to do, not think and perhaps one day it will be me on the stage in Smock Alley Theatre advising others to keep writing. 

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts & I’ll write soon,

Jennifer

Unpublished Whispers #2 – Distance Between Us 

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(This is the beginning of my new series, Unpublished Whispers, which  I’m going to start where I publish the snippets of books I’ve started and never finished, and likely never will. They will all be short and sweet, for the aim of expressing the main themes I adore writing I hope you enjoy!)


The Distance Between Us 

Your eyes glistened in the darkness. A perfectly blue, wide-eyed gaze, all iris and no pupil. 

I was watching you and you were watching the ceiling. This was in perfect symmetry with our love, the awed and the distant. Yet now, I watch only the future. 

  • Excerpt from a book I will never write, Unpublished Whispers #2

Unpublished Whispers #1 – Beating Your Chest

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(This is the beginning of my new series, Unpublished Whispers, which  I’m going to start where I publish the snippets of books I’ve started and never finished, and likely never will. They will all be short and sweet, for the aim of expressing the main themes I adore writing I hope you enjoy!)

Beating Your Chest 

The professor’s green leather chair was perfectly streamed in moonlight. Her glasses slid down her nose as she surveyed the young girl who was arguably her favorite student.

 

“I don’t know where to go now. Or what I’ll be, without this security.” The girl said, somewhat ashamedly.

 

The professor leaned forward and the girl’s chin lifted in response.

 

“You will climb through mud, to the highest mountain with the steepest peak. And there, you will stand with your hands beating on your chest, echoing for all to hear, commanding the attention of the world. You will make them do much more than listen – they will hear you.”

 

The girl’s answering nod was enough to cause new, towering waves to break a resounding crash against every shore of the world.

 

  • Excerpt from a book I will never write, Unpublished Whispers #1

The Fear of Forgetting

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Blog Post May 2017 – Redefining Memory

(Apologies for the prolonged absence, I was so busy with college exams! But now, life hereafter begins.)

Hello everyone,

 

I have always been obsessed with memory, though ‘obsessed’ does not feel like the right word. Truly, my preoccupation with memory is ingrained in how I live. I document everything and save every morsel of information any important experience. When I was seven, this translated into saving the chewing gum packet from the day of my cousin’s christening – I wanted to remember the day I realized I adored her. Now, I keep more practical records and less general rubbish, but my fear of forgetting has in no way diminished. If I was to psychoanalyze this I might come to the conclusion that I have been forever effecting by my grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  For now, I’d rather not, because the result is the same, whatever the cause. I savor memories above all else.

 

I was ten-years-old when I discovered the joy that an autograph book can bring to a child. It was late May when I took my book to school, tucked into the front of my red Sporthouse rucksack. I asked everyone on my classroom’s side of the basketball court to sign their names for me. I watched as my best friends painstakingly drew love hearts on the corners of the pages with a glittery, silver gel pen. I watched as the boys tried to think of something both funny and rude to write before they handed it back and ran away laughing. I didn’t care, in truth, what they wrote was the immortalisation of someone’s signature and felt like I was holding a link to their lives which they had unwittingly surrendered. I felt sacred.  

 

When I came home from school that day I made sure that my sister and cousin, who lives only a quick pedal up the cow’s road on my metallic pink bike, also signed. When there was only two pages left, I remembered my parents- arguably the most important signature I could possibly procure. My mother was in front of the kitchen window when I thrust my book under her nose. She laughed and asked me what I wanted her to write. I shrugged and said that it didn’t matter once I had her writing on record, forever more. Handing the little blue book back to me, she told me that she wrote one of life’s most valuable lessons for me to always remember. And there, where the childish scrawls stopped, her adult font began was inked;

 

Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.

 

This is not the part in this post where I say that at the time I didn’t understand the relevance of that message, but now I do. No, in truth, I think that the number of people one should love or trust in life is all too dependant on the selection of people you encounter.  

What I do believe in, however, is attraction. It is my belief that I attract certain people and experiences to my life, depending upon the experience which I exude from who I am each day. Each day, I strive to consciously be kinder in both my actions and thoughts. I work to do this despite the bad press I may gain as being unwilling to have fun, or simply laugh at someone else, however innocently. Yet, it is my belief and experience that should I exude an inner inability to be cruel at another person’s expense, I will attract people of similar ways of thinking into my life.

 

In short, I do not believe in many of life’s usual tropes and ‘meant-to-be’s. Should we accept the pain or happiness which our thoughts, words and actions can enact, than we might see that our experiences in life are far from fated – but much more likely to be self-created.

 

I try to use this knowledge whenever I have to make decisions. Besides my initial consideration of whether or not my would-be action will hurt someone else, I try to only consider how happy it will make me. To my mind, there is no meant to be. There is only what brings you experiences of happiness and what doesn’t – and our ability to prioritise our happiness.

 

Of course, I don’t always do this. I prioritise appearances over exhilaration often. For example, I recently gained an exclusive meeting with a literary agent at the International Literary Festival in Dublin where I was selected by an agent to come and speak with her about how best to pitch my novel to publishers. Hundreds and hundreds of authors applied for this and only fifteen were chosen based on the merits of their novels. This is both an honour and a direct manifestation of my diligent work ethic and creativity. I am tireless in seeking new opportunities and executing them until I succeed. And yet, I felt anxious when it came to posting about this victory to social media, in case others perceived me as self-centered or egotistical.

 

Yet that evening I logged into instagram and saw a boy from my hometown had posted a picture of him holding a football trophy into the air. In the photo, he looked exhilarated, just as I felt when I receive the email of my success. For him, this was one more step towards the championship, for me, this is one more step towards publication. There is no difference in these two experiences as the emotions which are stirred up are equally as joyous. What is different, however, is how quickly our motivations changed as I became motivated by a fear of inac

curate perception. In doing so, I immediately lost sight of my own happiness as being inherently more important than the nanosecond opinion of others. This is no better than being queen of a distant island dependant upon its natural resources, and concerning myself with the changeable weather of the mainland.

 

This is how I shall remember such a success of my work at writing my novel. I painstakingly crafted every inch of the 140’000 word count and I do believe that this invitation to the Literary Festival is just a beginning of my professional writing career. Yet, I will always remember how I felt shame at screaming of my success. That’s the problem with memories. When you make it your business to recall every milestone perfectly, you cannot pick and choose between the positives and negatives.

 

So, this is me. Now, learning from one experience and meshing it with another. I am shrieking, bellowing and booming, standing on top of the highest mountain and screaming of my success. I am stamping my feet and shouting, willing others to remember me as I invent my new memory. If every coming day was to be my last, than my memory would be redefined over and over again – and from now, my memory will be born with pride.

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As always I’ll be writing again soon, so goodbye for now,

Jennifer x

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The Girl That Was Before  

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The Girl That Was Before 

Four Years Ago – Age 19 



It was 2013 and the lights were flickering too fast for my liking and everywhere smelled of the  closeness of warm bodies. Sweat and warmth. In the nightclub light, we all glimmered. The music that played was a repetitive, lyricless beat but still everyone was dancing. Under my Converse I could feel the crunch of glass. From where I stood, at the edge of the dance floor with my two best friends, I could breathe a little easier. Even then, even when I was glittering just as much as the most beautiful girl in the room, I could not seem to remove my inner set of glasses that meant my eyes honed in the sticky floorboards or the fallen speckles of mascara under every girls eyes. I have always seen too much detail.

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Abbey, in Tralee, was one of my first stomping grounds as a sometimes underage attendee of the average teenage thronged nights out. My group of friends, all eight of us, were celebrating the Rose of Tralee in August 2013, and it was nearing two o’clock in the morning. It was the summer after we’d finished school and I already felt a huge distance between myself and our ankle length tartan skirts. I’d been wishing for the night to end for sometime and I could not even fake a smile when I spotted my friend lifting the tie off an Longford escorts neck and placing around her own.

(This is me and one of my best friends on that CAO night in August 2013).

I had turned nineteen two weeks beforehand on the night of our Debs ball. The clammy Sunday night that had morphed into a Monday morning, was the day that our college offers (CAO) were being released at 6 AM. During my leaving cert, I got glandular fever and staph infection in my throat which meant I spent the entire exams period in a drug-fed haze. It had been nearly eight months since I had last felt well.
Whilst nowadays I acknowledge time as my greatest asset in achieving my ambitions, four years ago, I had a warped view of self-worth. Nights out only reinforced my inability to enjoy myself during crowds, and I spent much of any night wondering if was a burden on my friends. That particular night though, when the floor seemed to rise up to meet me and my chest felt like it was full of drying cement, I found my sister and her trusty inhaler, and went home. Between the hours of 2AM and 6AM, I could not sleep. Instead, I watched footage of the past three Olympics whilst my mind whirred with the knowledge that 50’000 students sat the Leaving cert every year and my writing course had only fifteen places.
When I read my email at 6:01 AM, I fell off my chair, entirely literally, with happiness before digging my nails into my knees and crying so heavily that I developed a headache that lasted three days.

Two Years Ago – Age 20
The house smelled of smoke and the carpets were covered in glitter and UV paint. Over the fire place, make shift bunting was strewn and a playlist of Disney songs blared. It was Halloween and two pumpkins were propped near the couches. In the tiny sitting room, my friends were glittering once more. Dressed as Disney princesses, the playlist was obligatory listening for all present. People were crammed into every little nook of the house. I was Cinderella, but I’d spilled some of my drink down my dress.

University was the cure for the venom that my life had become. I was a second year and was now studying words in every form – literary and linguistic. Here, I met friends who bring such light to my life that I count my blessings that I was late for my first class and the only remaining seat was the one behind my now best friends.

Everything would have be ideal – perfect even – if it wasn’t for the ‘health thing‘. I’d only been in college for three months, when I developed the energy and general health of the average ailing eighty year old. It was okay then, though. It was still new and undiagnosed and there was hope in every new medication I took or vial of blood I gave. I didn’t know then how long it would be and how bad things could get.
Over the next few years, I lost myself in who I wasn’t. I had never been inactive, yet I couldn’t play badminton anymore, the only sport I have ever loved or excelled in, or walk around town without needing to sit to recharge. I has never been lazy, yet one hour’s work now equalled over four hours in bed. I wasn’t a picky eater, yet now my stomach hurt every moment of everyday. I wasn’t queasy, yet now I would faint or lose vision after every time I’d stand up. I became what I wasn’t and within the grey areas of my anxious past and now horribly ill present, I was finding it harder and harder to define myself.

At the Halloween party, half of our friends hadn’t even arrived when I was readying myself to go upstairs to sleep in my friend’s bed. I’d spent the night trying to dance and having to sit and monitoring my pulse when I thought no one was looking. These few hours were going to cost me heavily in pain and energy tomorrow, but fear was the fuel of my life now. I was forever fearful that I would lose my friends or my then boyfriend by missing out on too many of these parties or opportunities they suggested. I fell into bed upstairs with my body on fire from exertion. I wouldn’t make it til tomorrow without crying.

(I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done without the kindness of my friends as I slept on every available surface, even mid conversation…)

Now – Age 22
There is mud everywhere. It is in my ears and under my toenails. I don’t have time to stop and check if it’s inside my nose too because I’m only 2km in the 11km total and I keep waiting for it to happen.
It‘ is such a perfect, small, all-encompassing word for the overwhelming swell of dizziness or exhaustion that would give me the sensation that my whole being had been robbed of blood, oxygen and life. After ‘it‘ I would collapse, as I had been doing for nearly five years. After ‘it’ I would be the Jen Who Is Never Able again.
Yet ‘it’ has not happened in a long time – months, even. In truth, I am entirely, absolutely happy beyond expression with my life right now. It seems that all good things that happen to me now come from my improving health. Nowadays, I am as normal as my behaviour shows because I am healthy enough to exercise, study and be social in the same day. I am only building back my reserves at the moment, and yet if I was only ever ‘building‘ for the rest of my life, than I would love in a state of absolute happiness.
For the first time in five years, my mental and physical health have aligned and I am well in every sense of the word.
By being well these last few months of final year – such a convenient time to be well – I have learned as much about myself as I did whilst I was ill. Through my illnesses, I learned empathy first and foremost. And now, by being whole, I am realised how much being healthy impacts the level of determination one can employ for their ambitions. There is such a difference in wanting to work hard and your body failing on you, and simply wanting to succeed but never to work hard.
I have my life back. If you have never lost yours, entirely and indefinitely, then I do not think I could make you understand the glory of this feeling. These past five years of my youth have been the slowest drowning a person can experience. Little by little, with every event you miss or friend or boyfriend whom you disappoint, your lung capacity shortens. Soon you cannot breathe in more than small wheezes and you lay in bed for the majority of everyday. You will learn to flinch as you look at your phone in fear of the social invites that you will have to decline. Worse still is the fear that they will stop coming – which they do.

Reading has always been hand in hand with writing for me and so I thrust myself into fictional worlds, despite the effort reading became. Game of Thrones took me over a year to finish as a book series purely because of the mental concentration it took to take it all in. And yet, in my reading, I grew such an affection for those characters who were physically active – the sword fighters and warriors.

Now, my life is a photograph developing in rainbow tinted water.
Everything is brighter and more beautiful, including those around me. I feel everything more forcefully and more genuinely. My hunger pains are now palpable to a sharpened degree and the laughter of my grandparents is loud against my eardrums in the most beautiful way.
Yet, with this new life comes a downside I never foresaw. With having an alertness, a sharpness, I have an unquenchable desire to do everything, so much so that I find myself overwhelmed at the sheer wealth of tasks I can achieve in a single day. Oftentimes I will find myself climbing into bed early in the evening out of habit rather than necessity, yet I will lie there wide awake lest a relapse hunt me down if I spend too much energy. There is a huge disparity now between who I was for five years, and who I am trying to be now.
The girl that was before was a tax payer in her town life, always the tenant and never the landlord. Now, I am in ownership of my everyday with an innate knowledge of what it is to be unwell and incapable, so much so that I will never take this joy for granted.
And so, I crossed the finish line of an 11km struggle. After spending years on my knees, wishing for a wheelchair at times, I crossed the finish line and I burst into tears. A passing man asked me had I injured myself and I just mumbled incoherently in response, looking at the blue sky, my mud soaked legs and the beauty of my friends – who saw me achieve something so momentous. Even when the tears and mud had long since left my face and I was in bed, warm and dry, I pinched the inside of my arm, wondering if it had all been a dream – and if it had, I was hoping I would never wake. 



Until next time, 


Jen x

Cutting the Bullshit 

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I am not sure if everyone in the world feels emotions as I do. Or experiences anything the way I do. How can we be sure that one person’s experience of a rainbow or the flickering light of a candle is really the same? 

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. Yet as a race we agree to an understanding of the experience of certain emotions, despite knowing that there are shades of experience in between. 
We all know happy. 
We all know anger. 
It is due to this knowing, that I ask if you have ever felt a deep sense of certainty that overrides all else in any given moment? 
It is a feeling of unshakable, undeniable certainty towards a situation or experience. 
I know I do and have done ever since I was very young. Yet now that I am (unavoidably) an adult, I am having this sensation much more frequently. It is at moments of this overwhelming concrete knowledge that I understand the extent of my limitations as a writer, as I fail to infer an emotion to you. This certainty roots itself in my chest. As strongly as I know that I am alive, as palpably as I can feel my heartbeat, I know this certainty to correct.
From the first time I recognised that words were all I needed in life to feel completely Jen, I felt a certainty that I would succeed within this arena. 
I know, I will someday experience people enjoying my words on a far larger scale than now. It is a given. A truth. The truest narrative of my life, that this success will be mine. 
This knowledge is not rooted in a belief that I was born special, but rather a belief that I was born with the useful combination of ambition and action. I walk my talk and will never stop working for this goal. 
Ideas are useless and execution is key. 
What good is this knowledge of my success, without the putting in the hours/years to see it come to fruition?  
Recently, I started to write a new novel, having completed my first one and redrafted it completely. 120000 words done twice, and it’s far from perfect. When I spoke about this new novel with some fellow writer friends of mine they asked me an extremely valid question that struck me in the midst of my excitement at a new project. Why? Why write another book during the final and most stressful year of my undergrad degree when my first one isn’t even published? 
The answer is thus: Querying for a literary agent takes a monumental amount of time, and receiving replies takes even longer – sometimes up and beyond six months. Whilst having received some promising replies from some agents within the first few weeks, one truly stuck out to me. An agent I have admired from a distance in the industry for many years, replied to my email personally, overriding her assistant. She wrote to me to tell me that didn’t accept books of my genre anymore but was impressed with my writing style. She told me that if I ever wrote any other book of a different genre for me to remember her email and that she was rooting for me to find my way back to her. 
In the next few months, I may receive an acceptance for an agent for that initial novel that was my life. Perhaps more than one, who knows? Yet should I not want to be ready to return to the one agent who has expressed an interest in me when I know that I am worth that interest?
I am hungry for literary success. So hungry that that I will be patient. 
If you want your dream badly enough, you will make it your every breath. If you are unwilling to maintain the grind that it takes to do this, you simply do not want it enough. 
I do twenty-six hours of college in four days. Between the hours of nine until six, I am consumed with classes. After that, I have college work to do for another four hours, minimum. Yet this is not my love. This is my occasional ‘like’  and this is not where my future will reside. 
For months I told myself that writing, that I claim is my everything, could wait until my degree was done. Then one morning I was brushing my teeth and I caught sight of myself in the mirror and really looked. It was time to speak the truth; 
I am a grade A bullshitter and excuse maker. I was willing to wait for my everything, my way of breathing and sanity, in order to complete my college degree which I do not even fully like half of the time.
It was time to call myself out and realise that if I didn’t have time for my passion and dream, then I shouldn’t have time for Netflix and ten-hours of sleep a night too. I was making so much time for other people’s narrative through reading books and watching Netflix that I was willing to throw my own under the bus.
It was time to grind and to rearrange. I can sacrifice sleep  because my dream is worth more. I need to succeed like I need to breathe and it was time to start acting like it. 
I am blessed. I’ve won the lotto of life. To live as a privileged female of the a developed country where I am in charge of my choices. It would be a disservice to those girls and woman who have much, much less to use my every advantage. 
And so, every night that I finished college work and assignments at ten, I am only beginning my writing day. Sometimes one, two or three in the morning vanish until my word count clocks up at least over two thousand new words. 
Short stories, poetry, newspaper articles, the new novel – I was utilising my time to walk my talk. Pontificating, fantasizing and hoping are passive. Only action is active. 
There is no time for doubt, and no room for fear. Within those hours, I am exceptional at what I do – unstoppable even. In fact, I am writing this at half past four in the morning. I’ve woken up with a stomach ache and I know that I won’t be able to sleep for another hour or so. I could read, or I could hustle – there is no longer a question on what I do anymore. 
I am now living my morals, my true narrative. 
What good is a certain knowledge that you can make it and your ambitions will be realised when all you do sit around with those with similar dreams and talk about what you will be one day?
We are young. We don’t feel too panicked with achieving our dreams just yet, not when we have a lot of life left to live. Yet, time borrows time, and regret mounts each year.
It’s time to place all of your chips on your talent and show your hand. 
Stop lying to yourself. Accept that you are full of false excuses and jealousies towards those who are ahead. Accept and change. 
The early mornings, late nights and working through sicknesses is the real difference between setting yourself up to be the winning player at every table and the losing player. 
Don’t call someone inspirational when they are doing what you are capable of too. They’re not inspirational, but motivated. The difference is huge and defines what you will think of as a regret when you wake up on your last day on this earth.  
It’s time to join the grind, and cut the bullshit. 

An Unstoppable, Unchangeable New Year 

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​Hello everyone,

Jen here, as always – bringing you my most erratic thoughts, which you never asked for. 
Time to dive right in:

Several events sparked my thoughts for this blog post, which may seem rather disjointed when written down. The picture I see in my head when my words are sewn together is never quite as succinct as that which is finally published. As always, I will try my best. 

As we saw a little over a week ago from our overwhelming access to social media, so many of us spent another New Year’s Eve dressed in sparkles and waiting for the count down. In recent years, I can describe those minutes before a new year begins as euphoric, tiring, vapid and empowering – sometimes all at once. Yet what each of these rather distinct experiences share is the well-wishing tidal wave from those in our personal and online communities, wishing us a prosperous and healthy new year. 
This new years, I sat in a bar with sister and cousins staring into at the brimming top of a tequila shot as I was passed salt to tip onto my hand at a minute to midnight. I didn’t hesitate. I’m not new to tequila, as my gag reflex will attest to. It was in that moment when the year on my phone’s lock screen changed that I recognised that so much had subtly changed about me and my behaviours over the past year. That realization was almost obliterated by the burn of tequila on my throat. But not entirely.
This post in itself is not a memorial to the wisdoms 2016 has taught me, of which there are many. There is no great shortage of those posts on the internet at the moment, and I am sure that others would summarise their year better than I could. 
Instead, I cannot remove from my thoughts the idea of what truly defines a year to us as humankind. This is the type of moment when any one of my sarcastic family members would tell me that 365 days defines a year, and 366 every four years. But truly, the idea of a year carries as much weight as concept of a cloud. Both would be without its name, definition and worth should humans not have deigned to give it one. 
I read recently that if no one is there to see a rainbow in the sky, it does not exist. I immediately rejected this thought until I grew to understand that without our presence, our experience of fractured light through our eyes, the rain and sunlight would be entirely null and void and may as well not exist. Thus, by this understanding, the beauty of the world is entirely dependent upon those who experience it. This gives us humans an equal exceptional status to the universe as all matter in the galaxy.  
Without our human experience of a year, the power of change that a new year holds would be lost entirely. Perhaps you will disagree with me, or may not understand me, for which I would not blame you. But in summary, all this means is that if we were to award ourselves such importance as we give a rainbow, the sound of the wind, or even a new year, the change we could enact would be insurmountable. 
If you had told me several years ago when my mind was at its weakest, that my mental illnesses, my obsessions, my passions and my oddities held the same worth as a very moon to the experience of the earth, I would have dithered between laughter and discomfort. I would have laughed because of how ludicrous the idea sounds, but I would have been uncomfortable perhaps because this understanding of each of our earthly experiences as vital, would have removed the antiquated teaching that I was merely a small drop in a large ocean. Life would have been more terrifying should I have recognised my worth as equating to the whole ocean. 
Each of us at varying points in our lives has experienced the terror of our own smallness in a universe who’s vastness cannot be truly grasped. It is from this horror that our self perception of an all-knowing universe and a little-old-me is born. 
Yet, without you the birds would cease to sound as it is your eardrums that make such noise possible. Without you, the smell of freshly cut grass would cease to hold value. Without you, the twinkling of the stars would remain unknown altogether.
Without you, a new year’s eve kiss would lose its importance. Your participation in life is what makes it worth participating in. 
I don’t write this in the hopes of bringing our new year’s hopes into sharper reality which will suddenly make our resolutions seem silly or meaningless. Instead, I write this as much for you as I do myself – to remember that our dreams carry equal weight and importance of the sunrise. Without us, neither would exist. Our beauty, our strife, our anger and our complexity is the glue which tenuously holds the universe together. Our existence hinges the experience of all non-living phenomenon and by that knowledge, we are truly exceptional and so are our dreams. Unstoppably and unchangeably so. 
Throughout my life, no matter how long or short that may be, I will no longer view my dreams as arbitrary or my opinions as being ‘out there’, as I create the very definition of ‘out there’ by my experience of it. The same goes for you – your experience, your universe and your life, unchangeably so. 
Now you only have to decide how you use it. 

Write soon, 

Jennifer x