My Thoughts on the Education System | Collab with Debbie!

Along with many other people in the UK, I’m very lucky to have a good education. However, there are still a lot of problems with the education system that those who don’t experience are quick to dismiss. In a collab with Debbie – you can read her post on her blog – we’re going to write about the issues that are closest to us.

For me, the transition from GCSEs to A-Levels was particularly difficult, an opinion shared with a lot of people in my year and the year below. With the transfer from “less challenging” GCSEs to “more challenging” A-Levels, most teachers and students alike were struggling. We had no idea what was really expected of us as in many subjects, there were either very few or no past papers at all. Those who took GCSEs recently or are going to take them soon will have had a similar problem. We were told to learn independently, to “go beyond” the subject but GCSEs, or pre-GCSEs, hadn’t shown us how to do that. It felt like we were jumping in at the deep end of a swimming pool with no markings as to how deep it was. There’s this idea that figuring out your own independent learning style is all part of the process of learning but we were expected to do that, not having done that before; we were expected to learn so much content, apply it in ways we’d never done before, all whilst battling our own anxieties and personal pressures. If we couldn’t keep up; if we learned in a different way or if our concepts of success didn’t match up to the exam board’s or government’s or the vague “threat” of universities or employers, it felt like a failure.

It’s not all to do with the last 4-5 years of schooling, in that expectations of “how we should learn” go right back to the start. We’re told what books would best suit us – you can read more about that in this post by Izzy – given “advice” on careers based on predicted grades and behaviour, and examined from such a young age that the constant banner of success is waved over people’s heads and those who don’t achieve that are automatically labelled by teachers and others as not being “academic”, when academia isn’t the only way that someone can live a life which makes them happy. I’m making massive generalisations here but often, the way in which we learn is subject to these same generalisations. People are crammed into smaller boxes of 1-9 or A-G, into “smart” or “not smart”, into “likes to read so should be good at this” or “likes Maths so should go into this profession”. That’s not even touching on the idea of “one learning style fits all”, which restricts so many people.

Blaming “the school” as a whole would be counter-productive and wouldn’t solve any problems as a lot of the time, it’s a student’s willingness to learn – or lack of it – that stops people from learning. However, people are too quick to entirely blame students’ “laziness” for the difficulties that they face. How can it be an individual’s fault if they’re never given encouragement by teachers, never shown a way to learn that fits them and never shown that their aspirations don’t have to fall in line with the academic, English-Maths-Science expectations that are pushed so forcefully onto everyone so that they can “be successful?” With the new system of GCSEs and A-Levels, it’s even harder to achieve the top grades and so those who don’t work in the way the exam boards want are more likely to feel unhappy and so less likely to work as productively.

Most people work in different ways to each other. Some prefer group work and some prefer individual study; some need to revise in one session whereas others need to spread their revision out; some need support from teachers and their friends whereas others find that support within themselves or in other places. I don’t feel as if enough support or emphasis, on the whole, is given to those individual learning styles – it would be incredibly difficult to cater to everyone’s needs when in a large group of students but it’s too often assumed that everyone can work in exactly the same style. The good thing about A-Levels is that much more support is given by teachers as they have more time to do this but by the time A-Levels come around, it can be difficult for some people to know that they can get support if they haven’t had it before. In GCSEs and before that, those that received a lot of one-to-one or individualised support from teachers most often come from fee-paying schools. There are many exceptions but teachers in an average state school don’t usually have enough time to help the students that need it most.

With coursework disappearing and linear subjects being prioritised, there’s a huge importance given to exams. Yes, this system worked better for me in some ways but not in others and for a lot of people, examined subjects won’t be the best way to help them learn. SEN (Special Educational Needs) funding, which directly affects me and people I know, is being cut; resources aren’t being provided for SEN students in education but because of the constant pressure to get better grades, to improve your chances of getting into university, thoughts are being focused more on the students who attain more 9s or A*s. The problems with SEN deserve a whole other post and I’m not sure I’d even be the best person to write about them.

There are positives to the current education system, of course. More vocational courses are being offered at colleges; apprenticeships are being encouraged more widely and different learning styles are slowly being taken into account. Saying that, this is only the start and more needs to be done. Performing and visual arts subjects have been dropped from the curriculum of some schools which restricts those who are more creative from expressing themselves. People need to become more aware that not everything should be based on academic results and improvement of exam achievements doesn’t always mean improvement of people’s lives.

What do you think about the education system and how people learn? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out Debbie’s post! It was amazing to collab with her and to get my (complicated and somewhat ranty) thoughts out!

Love from Elm 🙂

Why Pride Is Important – My Thoughts and Yours

Today is the last day of Pride Month and it makes me a little sad that I haven’t written posts pertaining to it. However, there are a few reasons why Pride is a special month and I want them to be celebrated. In fact – this is a post mostly for you.

Simply put, Pride is important both as a way to express awareness about the LGBTQ+ community to those who aren’t LGBTQ+ but it also helps to let people find a place in the world who don’t feel like they fit anywhere. It’s a form of belonging but also a way to let people question who they are, as safely as they can. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to Pride Month but the conversations that can be started when acceptance is promoted so strongly from so many sources can be invaluable and can start the process of somebody feeling happy enough with how they feel about themselves to begin to ‘come out’, or to be more open with who they are.

Expressing your identity’ in the age of the Internet and modern technology may be easier nowadays then it was 50 years ago but it isn’t easy for everyone. There are still countries and communities in which being attracted to someone of the same sex or gender isn’t accepted as readily; social stigma against many parts of the LGBTQ+ community is still high, even within the LGBTQ+ community itself. Just because I, for instance, didn’t experience much homophobia growing up, doesn’t mean other people haven’t or won’t. This month can allow people to feel a little more secure in their identity, to belong to a community that accepts them when others may not.

Some may ask why Pride is necessary, if the world is more accepting now. However, not only is it necessary for those who aren’t accepted but also for those who don’t fit in with the ‘traditional’ binary idea of sexuality, romantic attraction or gender; for those who wish to celebrate their identity, it’s important. It can take any form, not just marches or parades or material things, but in discussions and collections of thought. It shouldn’t be limited or constrained to inaccessible forms of expression. Everyone is involved in Pride, not just those who speak the loudest.

What makes Pride amazing is the community surrounding it. So many people express their identity, in whatever way they wish to. It is – and should be – about positivity and inclusivity. On that note, I want to share with you a list of bloggers and blog posts who have done, and are doing, just that.

Kirithika opens up about her bisexuality on her blog, especially on how she felt about telling the important people in her life and how her understanding of her sexuality has developed over time.

Lia discusses Aphobia in the media and characters having happy endings that don’t depend on a romantic plotline.

Kel guest posted on Bethany’s blog about people’s perceptions of LGBTQ+ (in a hilarious way), as well as celebrating identity and discussing his sexuality.

Em explains her thoughts about her own identity and how confusing it can be, particularly highlighting how it can and has changed over time; it’s a truly beautiful post.

Bethany writes about her sexuality journey as part of her Pride Month posts, discussing asexuality and how school influenced her; all of her Pride posts are amazing!

Lu discusses 4 LGBTQ+ things she wants to see represented more in YA as well as talking about internalised homophobia, in the first part of her Coming Out series.

Victoria wrote about whether labels were always necessary to identify yourself in a really thought-provoking and inclusive post, taking into account all sexualities and genders in the community.

All of these posts are wonderful and I’d encourage you to read as many as you can; each has a unique voice and highlights different parts of the community, raising important points that should be talked about.

Pride goes beyond the month of June. I shouldn’t be sad about not writing posts to do with it because by expressing my identity, and by others expressing theirs, we keep the spirit of Pride alive. We show ourselves and others that being who we are should be respected and understood and that the world can be a bright place, if you give people the chance to make it so.

Love from Elm 🙂

Feminism is BS ☯

Disclaimer: Hi everyone! It’s Elm here. Ally wrote a guest post for me and though I don’t agree with some of the content of the post, I don’t want to ever censor my readers as I fundamentally agree with the concept of female empowerment and respect. I want this blog to be a place of open discussion and so because of that, here’s Ally’s post. She worked really hard on it and I want to thank her for writing it!


Hey y’all! This is Ally from Cute But Awkward, and I’m so excited to show off my bomb skills try to let you like me 🙂 here at the stunning blog of Elm. This is a post about feminism and my take on it, so sit back and enjoy! (how cheesy was that intro, amirite?)


My tagline is about me being a feminist. I used to have a category called feminism. I put that because I thought it made a short and nice category name, right? (I changed it to Girl Power, now) But actually feminism is just something women say when they feel threatened, stumped .etc The Urban Dictionary says this about feminism:

It is pretty hypocritical to expect to be treated special because you are a female (such as tighter laws concerning rape or more leniency if a woman becomes pregnant) yet they get upset when they aren’t being treated exactly like a man. The feminists need to realize that women are not better than men. They are EQUAL. You don’t see any laws that provide special treatment for men do you?

I mean, whoever wrote this should really be writing a guest post here, instead of moi. She knows that there is a clear difference between women empowerment and feminism.

Feminism is when women start posting pictures of the finger up and a pink banner with girls run the whole world on it on Instagram; I mean, that’s just plain old LAME.

Women empowerment, however, tells a different story. It’s when women support women, when somebody starts telling people that periods aren’t taboo, like Amika George (related: #ThePeriodParty +  posts by me, Elm, Astrid and Ash and a lot more); it’s when you get that the two genders are totally equal, that you realize how insanely off on logic you were.

Can I just say, that we have bigger problems in this generation to discuss? I mean, even racism has gone down by the million and I’m a dark-skinned person saying this! Ladies, we are free, slavery is abolished, we can vote and now tell me what crap you want to give me under the name of being a so-called freakin’ “FEMINIST”?!

*a long silence* Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So, I hope you all liked this post. Elm will be sparkling her wonders on my blog too, so don’t miss that!

❤ Ally

I Have No Time

I was going to begin this post with a “It’s only (insert number here) days until my A-Levels!” and then I realised that the very thought of doing that stressed me out to the point where everything felt cold and I wanted to slip under the school desk I’m sitting at and never emerge again. That’s nothing unfamiliar from the usual and that’s the issue: I’m constantly stressed, constantly terrified and unable to find time to do anything I want. Blogging, talking to friends, relaxing, reading – all of these I’ll be talking about in this post, as well as sobbing generally over my lack of organisation.

On Tuesday, the day I was supposed to be doing my history mock because I was ill the Wednesday prior, our school gave us an assembly that totally fucked up my day and, in short, made me cry. They told us that we should be more panicked, more stressed because our A-Levels are soon, that we should start taking responsibility for our own learning even more than we already do. I’m sure they meant it as a way for us to realise the “urgency”, as they put it, of the lack of time we actually have but it did the opposite for me. It increased my panic, to the point where I could barely breathe whilst listening; I walked downstairs and sat there for a good 15 minutes unable to do anything but breathe raggedly in utter fear.

I never ended up doing that mock in those 3 hours, lying that I’d finished it – I was doing it in my own time anyway – being wildly upset when I was doing other work that ended up helping me in the long run and eventually doing it in the evening where I worked far more productively. But that cut down on my time to do other things; it piled up and I cried twice that day: once in the toilets before lunch so nobody would see and another time at home. In counselling yestarday I told Jane all this, bursting out in a rush along with my general frustration and anger. All that screaming negativity made me realise something, properly for the first time: I don’t have time to do absolutely everything.

There are some people who can balance work with a social life, whilst having good and consistent mental health, can do a few of their hobbies and still have time to relax afterwards. I’m not one of those people. At the moment, I have extremely unstable mental health, no two ways about it; I’m barely able to keep afloat with work; I haven’t read a book for fun in months; my communication with friends has worsened if that’s even possible; I’m always tense. I try to do so many things that I never end up doing any of them, leading to so much stress and I suppose you’d call it anxiety. I withdraw myself, making myself feel so guilty that I try my best to be a good friend which makes me feel guilty for not doing work. It’s quite the cycle.

I love my friends; they’re the ones that have kept me going. Talking to some of my blogging friends at weekends has made me smile and gives a bit of routine to my mind. However, I haven’t been meeting people outside school and my energy for socialising has decreased dramatically. Instead of attacking myself for that, I need to remember that I don’t have an obligation to talk to people all the time: my brain has a lot going on within it and I’m always stressed. I don’t need another stressor on top of that because friends shouldn’t be a stressing factor at all. They’re friends and understand what’s happening, or they will when I explain it to all of them.

What makes me quite sad is that I haven’t given myself time to relax. Apart from extending my skincare routine on weekends, I just haven’t put any effort into making myself feel calm. My logic is that if I don’t have time to talk, I also shouldn’t give myself time to relax either. That’s crap logic. To try and get past that, I bought a few books recently and I’m re-reading Ink and Bone which I bloody love. I’m also trying to go to bed early; my sleep patterns have been so awful for the last few months and I want to fix that. Relaxing is so important, more important than working yourself to the ground. Now, if I could only take my own advice…

*3 decades later* well oops, looks like that might take a lot more work.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting recently. I mean you might not have, I’m kind of an insignificant dust speck in space and AAAAHH I’ll just stop talking… Anyway, the reason is simple: I’ve had even less time for blogging. Unlike with GCSEs, I’d rather be writing than studying but I don’t have much of an option. Every time I realise how much I miss blogging I feel quite upset and guilty but that gets me into a horrible mindset. I don’t know what my posts will be like, or when I’ll post them, over the next few months. I could pick myself up or I could slither away into a hole of despair but no matter what, I’m not leaving this blog. Posts just might be a bit short or infrequent but it’s coming up to my 3 year anniversary on here and I want to do something for it.

Schoolwork hasn’t been as monstrous as I thought. I’ve caught up on some notes, written essays, completed bits of homework and almost finished my english coursework, I’d like to say tentatively? things aren’t good but I don’t want to hide utterly right now which is a positive. I’ve kept up more of a dialogue with teachers and I just want to get that work done and not keep crying out of fear and desperation again. It’s an exhausting way to live and as I said to Jane yesterday, I hate it.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do from here. As I’m feeling rather erratic because of work, uncontrollable feelings and confusion, I can’t very well predict my own behaviour. Bare with me because I’m trying and my trying may not be enough but if it is, things may get a tiny bit more bearable. All I know is that time is running out and I don’t have much more time before exams but in that time, I plan to be as alright as I can be.

How do you manage your time? Also, do you have any ideas about what I should do for my 3 years?

From Elm 🙂

I Fear Intimacy

A while ago, I wrote a post about how I was scared of losing my virginity. That post has been on my mind a lot recently, simply because the fear I’ve described has increased so much and it’s only now, after a recent experience, that I’ve started to delve into the reasons why.

In this post, I’m going to be talking about some topics that could make people uncomfortable; if you aren’t comfortable with reading about fear of “physical things”, you shouldn’t have to read this post. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this all and I’m still not there yet but bare with me. Maybe, if I’m a little more open on this blog, I’ll properly start to process this. If you relate to this, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

I’m neither the type of person who talks about this a lot, nor the type of person who never talks about it. I fall somewhere in the middle, only talking about it in terms of what I call The Fear or letting people know things that have happened; I never feel quite comfortable with talking about this to people who haven’t directly seen me being afraid because it’s difficult to explain. I contradict myself and that’s part of the issue.

What overshadows pretty much all my thoughts on “intimacy” (that word makes me cringe URGH) is experiences of the past. They’re not bad (the opposite, from what I can remember because it’s kind of painful to re-think them) but they happened and the fallout, or the effects that people have had on me, have caused what I can only describe as those memories to “warp”. Without going into graphic detail or sounding like I’m involved in a science fiction novel, I find it impossible some days to think of certain people, certain dates, certain events or even the topic of sex without getting worried, upset and paranoid at myself. I’ve never had a bad experience, no traumatic experiences or events, but I have a habit of holding onto memories to help me get through. Some of them are of specific people – and when those specific people make me unhappy, or something changes, I can’t think about it any more without feeling wrong or guilty, so those memories go into the “Don’t think about it” box I talk about in this post. I think because I’ve been unable to let myself process them, I’ve become scared of the memories and scared of intimacy in general. Whoohoo, my mind is glorious sometimes.

On the subject of processing things, I have a lot of trouble sometimes registering things when they actually happen. In a recent situation, it took about 10 minutes for me to understand that even the smallest thing had happened and I was getting panicked, just because it didn’t feel wrong. With other memories, I’ve lived in the moment as much as possible and then got confused afterwards and second-guessed myself; a long time ago, when I was prone to being a bit of a dick with my emotions, I only realised that I was desperately unhappy when it was blatantly pointed out to me. This has made me always worry that next time I even kiss someone, next time I want to be involved with someone, I’ll take it for granted and not understand the significance of it until it’s over: I either don’t live in the moment at all or live in it too much that I forget it when it’s over. I’m extremely scared that I won’t approach situations in a good way and that I’ll accidentally screw people over because of my inability to trust my own emotions or responses. (Also, just a side note, I half-love and half-hate how I’m being so vague about all of this shit).

Above all recently, trusting people has been so tricky: back in May last year, when I wrote that post about virginity, I had a lot of “trust issues” which have still remained and have actually got worse. Before anything happens, I worry that I’ll just be replaced; afterwards, if and when I am replaced, I take it too personally; my trust got absolutely trampled on by a herd/gaggle of elephants last year to the point where I would think about sex, or even kissing someone, and would nearly cry and so I’d repress it all. Not a healthy way to be but I did it, partly because I didn’t see any other way and also because to me at that time, I believed everyone would lie to me and let me trust them before throwing that trust so hard into the sea that it sank to the bottom of the ocean. (Crap, did I come across as too bitter then?).

Okay, this one’s kind of awkward for me but I’m going to go for it anyway. I have a persistent fear of losing control, whether that’s control physically or emotionally. The former makes me uncomfortable and I’m still trying to figure that one out but the latter is relatively simple: I’m terrified of getting feelings, of trusting people that I shouldn’t, and of repeating everything I’ve done before. Separating the physical from the emotional has done irreparable – at least for now – damage to the way I respond to emotions which means that I’ve had to be overly self-controlled, on top of my already existing fear of being vulnerable. People who have tried to help me with the former “problem” have made the latter problem come to the surface without knowing but it’s still there and so if I’d ever want to get involved with someone, they’d have to understand that despite me sometimes rushing into things, I SHOULD NOT DO THAT because it makes me panic and afraid.

The last thing, and possibly the one that boils more towards the surface and that isn’t repressed is that I’m wildly insecure about my body. This has been a recurring theme on a few posts, casually mentioned sometimes but it’s very real and gets in the way of me feeling wholly comfortable. I don’t do enough exercise and so I think I look drab and boring; I’m very small, utterly unremarkable in my own eyes; I dislike my skin; I just don’t think I’m appealing whatsoever. I know this is something that can be worked through and is about self-esteem and self-confidence, the willingness to try, but I get this incredulity whenever I think that anyone would be remotely interested in me. Yes, it’s damaging and yes, I can solve it easier than the rest but the insecurities have been around for just about as long as I’ve been criticising myself.

All of this stops me – not from getting close to people, because I do that far too often for my liking but from me utterly engaging or feeling happy with everything. I feel like people will get sick of me talking about it but it’s good to talk about and to open up. Whenever I get paranoid that this will always remain, I shut down and don’t think or talk about it because I never take people’s advice and I end up despising myself and becoming absolutely furious. If I could learn, inside my own mind, that shit was okay and that my own self isn’t something to be hated or desperately frightened of, that losing control won’t destroy me, that the people worth trusting are the ones that don’t get tired of you or who are only interested in you for one thing only – the Fear might get a little better.

As you can see, all of these reasons tie into each other; I can’t address one without another one cropping up somewhere. I think I need to find someone I truly trust to help me through those issues but I don’t know how to go about doing that without looking stupid, crying, sounding pathetic or doing all of those. The one person I do consistently trust to talk about this with has helped reassure me but the Fear is increasing. I know this can be considered “normal” but the entire thing worries me, considering that I always seem to wait for things to go wrong.

Whereas before, in the post I linked at the top of this one I thought it was all about my lack of ability to trust people, really it’s a lot more complicated than that. For me, it wouldn’t just be fair to say that I hate losing control or that it’s only past experiences that have made me like this because one affects the other hugely. To get through it, I might need to be more trusting or need to help myself get over my fear of helplessness and you could say that this could be done with the help of someone else but I don’t know if I trust anyone right now. Trusting in myself is the most difficult thing of all.

This has been such a cathartic post, where I’ve let out some emotions and confusion. I’m still figuring it out and this is so disjointed because because I’m unclear as to what I feel, how to solve it or where it all came from. This is an introduction – or rather a re-introduction – into me being more free with my thoughts.

The post that inspired me to write all this, that made me think a lot about my own feelings, was written by Kirithika and it’s one of the best ways to talk about it – casually and reassuringly. You should seriously go and read it!

This post isn’t to tell you how to get over the fear because as you’ve read, I haven’t yet. I don’t have any tips, any advice – just my own personal experiences and worries. If I tried to tell you how to help yourself, I would be a hypocrite. I just hope that, at least, anyone who has gone through a similar thing can feel comforted that they aren’t alone here.

One day, my fear will diminish and I won’t simultaneously want to get close to someone whilst also wanting to shy away and explain, numerous times, why I’m afraid. My mind is complicated but at least I have an outlet for it.

From Elm 🙂

Why I’m Not Applying for University This Year

Around this time, if you live in the UK and are in year 13 or equivalent, the majority of people will be in the process of applying to 5 universities, getting their personal statement ready, getting references from teachers and finally submitting their application. A fair few people will have already applied, received some offers or even got unconditional offers. I’m not one of those people. Instead, I’ve decided to apply next year.

A year ago, I was all set to do it all this year. I started thinking about open days and in June, I went to my first one in Birmingham. Since then, I’ve gone to 4 more open days, really got a feel for the course I want to do – English Literature and Creative Writing. Although I didn’t work on my personal statement in the summer, I was going to start in September. Why, then, did I change my mind, when everything seemed to be in place?

To explain all this, we’ll have to go back a bit. The first thing to say is that I’m “Severely Sight Impaired” – in other words, I can’t see much at all, or much to be useful. My independence is very lacking; I concentrated on GCSEs so much that I think I let my mobility and drive for independence go to the sidelines. That’s a whole other issue but the point is that I don’t have much independence; just being visually impaired isn’t the sole reason because there are so many VI people who lead independent lives and are happy. For me, instead of going to a special school for Sixth Form, the idea of going to one for a year after my A-Levels finished to increase my independence was suggested to me and I finally started to realise that not only would it be a great idea but it would make me much happier and more confident.

I applied for 2018 entry, got a place on what they call a Pre-Entry Assessment and went there in October. I can honestly say it was such a great experience – I spoke to the teachers there and the people who could really help me to get funding to go. It was then that I started to truly realise that applying to university whilst I was there would be a better option, for reasons I’ll get onto in a minute. After coming back from the assessment, I got a phone call saying that I had a place (in my usual fashion, I was shocked and I think I genuinely squealed?).

Up until 2 months ago, the resolution of applying and deferring held. However, I had some reservations about the whole thing. Firstly, I thought, if I got a place at the college for the year after, I could just apply there and that stress would be reduced. Going there and discussing it with them helped with that: they were supportive and one of the staff members mentioned to me that deferring might actually cause me more stress in case something went wrong. At the moment, the less stress I have, the better.

As well as that practical side of things, I have extremely bad mental health at the moment. In no way is that an excuse to not do something but many things are going on in my life, such as new opportunities but also personal issues, which means that my stress levels are off the charts. University applications have made that so much worse. I know that just delaying it isn’t the answer, that I should work on it, but for me it doesn’t feel like delaying or avoiding. It just feels like I can apply when I personally feel ready.

There are many reasons why applying now would be a good idea and I get that. First, it gets it out the way; it also gives me a goal to work towards. It puts me in the mindset of higher education and also would make my future a little more certain, yet this can all be done next year. This has all been said to me, both by others and by myself, but those arguments don’t convince me. Because I know that I’ll be able to apply next year, that I’ll have more time and I don’t feel right about applying this year, I think that applying next year will be the best option for me. It won’t be the same for many people but we’re all individuals and what works for someone won’t work for someone else and vice versa.

A lot of my teachers have told me to apply this year and defer. I’ve explained some of my reasoning to people; most understand but some don’t at all. However, I know that plans and people and lives change. Hell, next year I might decide I don’t want to go to university at all, that I want to do a different course or that I don’t like the unis I applied to. Also, it means I can apply with the results I already have: motivation of getting a certain grade has never held me up. Because of that, I’m not going to be putting that awful pressure on myself that made me collapse into myself before; I just feel that it might be better for me all round. It will probably make me feel the most healthy, the most put together and the least stressed out of my options.

I want to apply when I know I’m giving myself the best opportunities I can. My personal circumstances – where I know I’m taking a year out next year – have allowed me to do that. At the moment, pretty much everything is uncertain compared to what it was before. That’s okay. Life doesn’t always have to be about certainty.

Whether you apply this year, the next or the year after, remember that you should always put yourself first. There will be things you do, decisions you make, that people won’t understand, where they think you’re not being sensible or that you’re just taking the “easy” way out. Remember, though, that life has a thousand different roads you can go down and it’s fine if your road doesn’t run in the direction you thought it would.

Don’t be afraid of doing something that’s not “typical” of what people usually do. For whatever reason, you might decide that doing what the majority of your friends are doing isn’t for you right now. Consider all your options but most importantly? Don’t let university applications be the most daunting, most terrifying thing ever. You’ve got a life to live besides that, after all.

I hope this has helped anyone, whether that be to realise they do want to apply now or not, or just to let you think a little. I’ve done enough screaming over uni – I don’t want you to do the same if people are being shitty about your decisions.

Are you applying to uni this year? Did you decide to take a year out? Let me know in the comments!

From Elm 🙂

Locking My Thoughts Up

There’s a little key, silver, that my mind holds in shaking fingers. It’s so real and so there that you would think I hadn’t imagined it up. That key is the words said to me; that key is the words I say to myself; that key is the “Don’t think about it!” key. Sometimes, that key feels like the only thing separating my mind from screaming but most often, it feels like the key that, if lost, would unlock things I’d love to be able to say.

The key locks a box – a basic one on the outside, plain wood and inconspicuous if it wasn’t sitting right in the middle of my mind. Among other boxes, you could not pick it out: it has hinges on the lid that creak; they aren’t used to being opened. The lock itself is surprisingly ornate, as if a lot of thought had gone into it and the key usually fits in perfectly. When it doesn’t, it makes a horrible screeching noise and no matter how forcefully you try and turn it, it won’t budge. That box stays locked.

When it does open, though, it’s a mess. Little dividers separate compartments of thought: here’s terror, here’s being left behind but they’re only small. They get released a lot more now. Next to them are the beautiful memories that I’m too scared to think about; they collide with the last time I said “I love you” to create a whirl of sick, sick happiness. Crossing over them is the knowledge of love, the lake of confusion and hurt that flows into it so that I can no longer distinguish one from the other. The neat little boxes within the box have had their walls broken down so that if one emotion is released, another will surely come along with it.

Sometimes, little thoughts trickle out of the keyhole. A bit of sadness when I hear a song, a sharp twang of remembered beauty when I’m sitting alone with nothing to distract me; an echoing emptiness that’s a follow-up to being forgotten. The key lies on top, taunting – “I’m only going to let a little out, just so you feel like crying but not enough to make you cry.” Is the key being kind? Does it want to shield me from a breakdown or is it letting me go to the brink of tears and not giving me the satisfaction of crying them?

There are knocks on the box, from fists that are gentle and fists that are not. “Let me in, will you?” they ask the key and the key laughs and cries in their face, somehow unable to move. It would love to and when it does, the box opens with a squeak of joints and lets out a torrent of “Why, why, why!” before slamming shut so hard that it’s a wonder the key doesn’t get cut in half.

Outside the box, it is a little silent. Blank. Imagine it lying on paper, blue lines snaking out from it to create a picture of an ocean. A week and a half ago, when the happiness snuck out of the box to find its freedom and was so sharply pulled back, it left a silver spark on the paper. It’s still burning there but it isn’t as bright; the key came over and called it back. “Look, it’s over,” it said. “I know you want to stay but you had your fun.”

I ask myself now: is this box my whole mind or only part? Does an emptiness subsist around it or is it speckled with complex stars of love, thought and poetry? I can’t tell. The only thing I can think of now is that box and how I would love to open it. The only thing I can think of is that box and how I’d love to rip it open, tear the wood to pieces and expel the key. The only thing I can think of is that box and how opening it might break me, worse than I feel already.

That box and that key are what has kept me silent. That key is the key that makes me feel guilty when I explain how I feel to people who should not hear it, to people who should be speaking themselves about how they feel. The thoughts in the box are the desperate ones that ask why things went so wrong; those thoughts are the ones that I don’t let myself feel any more for fear of making people think I’m pathetic. Wood, hinges and rivers of thought swirl around inside that box, faster and faster, until they will all explode outwards. I want to avoid that.

I want to open the box before it opens itself. Slowly, so as not to scare anything, until all the thoughts are mixed together and the box has disappeared. I would like to write about them, to tell people how I really feel without being afraid. One day, I will. I just hope that day can be soon.

I’m sorry for my silence. At some point, a proper explanation will be posted; I don’t feel like myself at the minute and I feel very very out of control and so attempting to sort through it all will make no sense and you’d just get capital letters everywhere in my posts and phrases like “AARGHH WHAT THE HELL!” all the time. I can’t quite express how I feel currently but I’ve tried with this and I’ll succeed. Hopefully, it can let you understand a bit about how my mind works.

From Elm 🙂

An Update about Feelings, My Mind and Blogging

Heyy, for the first time in what feels like way too long. I really want to say some things and whether you get to the end of this or not, I really appreciate you reading even one sentence. This is long and not very positive; if you’re feeling especially negative at the moment, please don’t feel like you have to read this because feeling as positive as possible is the most important thing.

There are currently a few things which I know with all uncertainty and they are the only things which I can say I definitively know:
• Things in my life are steadily becoming more and more hectic, including something which has flipped my life upside down and could potentially change a lot of things
• Currently, I don’t know how to deal with these changes and I’m falling way, way behind in my subjects
• Situations from the past keep on cropping up and I’m discovering a lot of new things that don’t sit well with me, so much so that I don’t know how to “get over” these situations
• I have closed myself off to many, many people around me; I neither talk nor write any more like I used to
• I desperately miss writing and the inability to express myself, my disappointment in myself and my fear that I’m somehow broken because I don’t feel invested in my own feelings is having a direct and unhealthy impact on how I feel on a day-to-day basis
• I am deeply and worryingly unhappy which is not something I know how to write about or that I feel I can write about on here
• If I tried to write about it on here, every single one of my posts would be negative and I really don’t want to spread negative energy – I want to do the opposite

Right now, I’ll hold up my hands and say I don’t know what to do. I’m telling you all this to be honest, to be as transparent as I can be because I feel like I’m slowly getting more and more unhappy, more and more blank and that’s not a mindset I like. I won’t romanticise this or overly complicate it: I am unhappy; I have been unhappy for a long time and I do think you need to know that. Maybe I can explain some of the things that I’ve been doing or not doing, to give you an idea of what I feel.

For the last few weeks, I’ve read no posts. None. The key to getting inspiration for my posts was always the world around me which included what other people had written. As I slowly realised my mental health may not be as great as I claimed and then I decided it would be a fucking great idea to ignore the problem, I stopped reading everything. I pretended to some people in real life that I was satisfied with this, that it was the best thing for me but really I was furious with myself and that mentality isn’t constructive because reading posts isn’t a chore. It should be fun and thought-provoking before anything else.

On the subject of talking, I’ve barely replied to messages, even worse than usual. This is most, well, noticeable on Twitter where things piled up and I thought that if I did reply, no one would even care and that I was pretty much a waste of space who just pretended to be funny or insightful. With some people, I put a lot of effort in to prove to myself I can because I love them; with others, I’m so terrified of putting effort in that I shut myself off even though I respect them so incredibly highly. If I haven’t replied to your messages or emails, please know it’s not because I dislike you – that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have barely enough energy to think properly or even create a plausible reason but I’m so, so sorry. I’m not making an excuse for my stupid thoughts because there isn’t one and I can’t just blame it all on the mental health.

I’ve said I’ll do things but haven’t. This includes posting guest posts for people that I’ve written, organising collabs or even emailing people back. In essence, I feel like a shit blogger and I wish I could be less honest with you and come up with some bullshit excuse but the truth is that I have no motivation to do anything, including schoolwork. Thinking of that, I still haven’t done an essay set 3 weeks ago and I feel so sick now at the thought of going into school that I shake violently and want to scream for hours. Again, that’s a poisonous attitude for me to have, blaming myself all the time for things I haven’t done. Yes, I should have done it all but sometimes I just can’t. At all.

One of the most unhealthy things I ever do to myself is to close myself off. LIKE ELM STOP YOU SHOULD TALK MORE!!! I’ve stopped talking to friends properly, have little desire to go out when before I would have jumped at the chance to do something different. Often, I feel apathetic to a lot of things and my love for company has both increased wildly and decreased, depending on who it is, how I’m feeling on a certain day and the context of the situation. I spoke to my Head of Year this morning and she said it was surprising to see me so composed but the reason for my calm was not because I felt any better. It was because I felt numb inside and 100% didn’t want to talk. Today, I don’t really feel entirely there – “spaced out”, as I call it. I’ve downplayed all of this to my friends, partly because I think they’ll get sick of it but also because I think I’m lying to myself and if I tell them the truth and then realise I was lying, it’ll be much harder to undo. That’s incredibly nonsensical but sometimes I genuinely feel like I’m faking stuff inside my head to make excuses for things.

Sometimes, I say positive things I don’t feel and pretend to feel fine like I did with my Head of Year today when really, I feel the opposite. I don’t feel awful every day but I do feel sad or disconnected a lot of the time. I went to see a counsellor on Saturday and though I didn’t cry, it was the least fake I’ve been in months, potentially years. I didn’t have to know how I felt and in school, I put such a mask on that I don’t know what’s me any more. Essentially, I’ve forgotten what I really feel, how I work and what I’m doing; I’ve lost sight of it – excuse the pun – so that on a day-to-day basis, if someone asked me how I felt I’d either give them opposing answers on different days or just say “I don’t know”. Mostly, though, I pretend I feel better than I do because going into depth exhausts and confuses me because I never know if what I’m saying is what I’m feeling.

I don’t like myself for all these things. It panics me; I feel like a failure – but that’s the problem. I shouldn’t feel like a failure because my mental health will always come first but I can’t help it; I can’t help screaming at myself and sinking further and further down into this well of negativity when in theory, I know how to change my mindset. I know that beginning to think more positively will start a chain reaction which will make things feel better but I can’t seem to stop hating myself and feeling miserable which is incredibly damaging to myself. People around me have tried to convince me I’m not affecting me and yet I won’t listen; I will directly say to people I have no idea what I’m doing or how I’m feeling and that I mistrust people I should love. I neither want pity nor sympathy and I’m deeply scared people will think I will and that I’m attention-seeking, which is another reason I no longer talk.

That’s why I’m writing this. To tell you I’m not coping and to explain to you the decision I may have to make, or the changes that might happen – especially here. The truth is that things are getting so overwhelming that if I tried to post about it all, this blog would be filled with rants and anger and fear. I don’t want that. That may be a thing that a lot of people say but I’ve become really aware, recently, of how my words can affect people.

I’ll continue writing but I’m not sure in what capacity. Writing was and is still my safe haven, where I go when I need help. However, it’s become something of an effort that is an unhealthy effort. My entire mindset, focused on negativity that I don’t need, might just be made worse by constantly writing about that negativity. I DON’t WANT TO BE NEGATIVE.

I always tell people, “If you start to feel like writing is too much, that you feel like you have to continue it for other people and to make sure people read it, stop doing it for a while or cut it down a little.” I think I have to take my own advice. I may not want to but it might be what is best for me and I want to show you that things won’t be great all the time and sometimes you have to make shitty decisions that make you unhappy but that might make things more bearable in the future.

I have too much to say and so that’s why this is so long. I know that you’ll understand because if you’ve got this far then I know you care in the slightest bit and I appreciate that so, so much. This isn’t a goodbye or even a temporary farewell. It’s an explanation of how I’ve been feeling, why all of it is unhealthy and the steps I may have to take to make myself feel more like myself. Does that make any sense?

There isn’t a conclusion to this post. I’ve come to no realisation except that I’ve missed writing and that telling you things have lifted a bit of the weight off, for a while. At some point, I’ll update you on what’s been happening event-wise as opposed to feelings-wise and so things might make a little more sense then. I needed to say all this, even though I’m really afraid of what people may say and the advice they may give because of how right they will probably be. I trust you though: people here have helped me through so much shit and I forgot just how much writing does help, despite my worry.

No matter how much I write or how little, I’ll still be here. I’m here to support anybody that needs it, regardless of how I feel, because at the core of it all I want to help people. That’s not just a bullshit phrase; I really mean that. Never be afraid to talk or do what will make things easier for you because your life is about you. It’s not about the wishes of others.

Love from Elm 🙂

Little Positives

In the rush of life and in the mayhem of everything, I feel like I sometimes – scratch that, always – forget that there are tiny little things I should be proud of myself for doing. It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the huge things you should be doing that we can forget that yes, we’ve done important things but there are also the things that others might overlook. They’re important too; they’re what keep me going.

I saw my Head of Year today and I cried until I felt too hollowed out for words. Seeing her wasn’t as helpful as I’d have liked it to be but she did say something really worthwhile: I’ve done small things recently that are positive. In the pit of negativity I’ve plunged myself into, there are ways of looking at the little bright sparks.

Here’s a list, for you, of a few things that you might not even think are worth mentioning. They’re obvious things but that’s the beauty of it: I’ve done them, I’m still here; I’m still going. That’s what matters.

1. I got out of bed this morning, despite not wanting to.

2. I keep up my skincare routine every day, even when I don’t feel like it, because I know it makes my skin healthy.

3. I read a page of my book for English and when I wanted to give up, I read another page.

4. I spoke to my friends this morning and didn’t make an excuse that I had to do work.

5. I replied to my Twitter messages.

6. I did a little bit of singing a few days ago, just to myself, and felt the smallest thrill of happiness like I hadn’t in a while.

7. I smiled at someone as they walked past; I didn’t even know them but it felt nice.

8. I had an idea for something I might write for the school newspaper and I’m planning to write it down.

9. I didn’t want to disappear much after I cried with my Head of Year.

10. When I got the urge to message someone who’s been messing with my head recently, I didn’t do it.

11. I’m writing this blog post.

12. I have a work plan for this evening – I have an objective.

13. I’m breathing regularly.

14. Things are feeling more real than they usually do.

15. I thought the words “I love you” and didn’t get scared.

If you can take a little inspiration from this; if you can be helped by this or if this makes things feel a little less like everything’s screaming in your head, then it will let me realise that words are as powerful as ever. This list won’t magically help but it’s done a little something for me and maybe, you too. Remember that you aren’t a superhero and every single little thing you do that makes you go “Oh, I’m still going” is worthwhile. Those little achievements are impressive because you’ve completed them and only you know what that means to you.

Don’t sweep over things just because they’re small. They’re still relevant; they’re still things you’ve done. Those little things are what you should be proud of yourself for. I’m certainly proud of you, for simply carrying on as yourself and doing the smallest things which build you up, day by day.

When you start to feel down, maybe have a go at creating a list like I’ve done. It helps to show yourself what you’ve achieved and how you can move forward.

Keep going. You’re not invincible but neither are you someone who gives up, no matter what you tell yourself. Small things can make you stronger, bit by bit. You aren’t stupid for cherishing the little moments. You should smile at yourself for them.

Love from Elm 🙂

The Future is Alright | My Day at Warwick Uni

It came to me, as I was walking out of the English talk at Warwick uni, stumbling slightly with my eyes widened, that I had absolutely no idea what the future would hold for me. I realised then that I was far too terrified for it to be rational and that for the next 15 minutes, nothing would mean anything in a mantra inside my head and really? That was okay.

Let’s backtrack a bit to 7 AM. I’d woken up an hour before, feeling strangely energised yet exhausted; my dad and I hopped in the car on our way to the uni, the journey taking around two hours. Unlike when I travel with my mum, I didn’t feel tense and had intelligent conversation, punctuated by my usual listening to music. When I’d booked the Open day before, I’d spent about half an hour planning what I’d go and see. I double checked it, like I always do, and a curious sort of excitement grew: I’d been looking forward to Warwick for ages and most of my friends who went there said they loved it and that it was amazing. Of course, they were right.

We took a bus from the Park-and-ride service and it didn’t take long, the trees sweeping along the roof which I found funnier than I should have. We got there, got out and got pointed to the registration place. I said “Thank you!” far too enthusiastically to some helpful staff and then I took about a year to get my barcode up. That was… Significantly awkward. Once I was scanned, we walked into the campus itself and the day started. Surrounded by other students, the sounds and smells of food cooking out in the open and music, it felt so relaxed and smelled so much of greenery at one point that I almost forgot I was in a university campus.

The first talk was why we should choose Warwick as a university and I thought, for the first time, that a place felt right in a way. It felt vibrant, the way they spoke about challenging you to think critically and not just to get the skills for a job but to get skills which you would be able to apply anywhere, for the rest of your life. That’s what I’d want for a degree: not just a means to an end but rather, something that would be truly useful and something that would make me fall in love with learning. They managed, in one talk, to make me feel like maybe, I’d get that there. If I got in, that is, which isn’t an easy feat: I’ll sit on my hope for now but not too much. If that wasn’t enough, I went and spoke to the Disability Advisor and a Postgraduate student who set up a around disability awareness after that talk ended. ⠠⠮ way they spoke about the uni made it feel welcoming. I saw the Literature Society, where I displayed a lot of excitement over the existence of it (I’d have been embarrassed if I cared) and found out that yes, there was a Writing society. Cue even more excitement. I spent about half an hour in that hall, wandering round and talk to a few societies to find out what kind of things were on offer, far more than I had at UEA or Birmingham.

The problem that didn’t even register as a problem until afterwards started when I went to the “Applying to Warwick” talk. They spoke about Personal Statements and what Warwick specifically wanted in Undergraduate students and I started to tell myself, quiet but still insistent, that I didn’t have those qualities. I’ve barely started on my Personal Statement because I have no idea how to structure it, despite all the advice and so I panicked. I panicked a lot, a cold harsh feeling in my stomach but I shoved it back. I realise now that I do have the ability to structure it, to write concisely and in a focused way and that all I have to do is start but in that talk, it turned into a raging monster inside my head because it was too big, too much. That was another mantra I repeated throughout the day, “too many things, too much, too quickly.”

Accommodation, both discussed in the talk and seen by me when I went on a mini tour of it, was really nice. That filled me with no fear because I could see myself living there, with or without a Guide Dog; it was close to everything and the anxiety of not being able to drive was stopped because the campus is connected to places around it. The loneliness was negated, too, because there would be people and a nearby city (Coventry). Things weren’t registering as much in that talk but when I went to see them with my dad, thought I’d broken the toaster in the kitchen and found out the differences in the halls, I started to feel a lot better about it all.

After lunch, we had the Students’ Union Talk; it was nothing too groundbreaking. I liked how one of the people spoke about her experiences because it was refreshing to know that loads of different societies existed. Still, it was nothing I hadn’t heard when I was walking about before.

The most important talk was the talk on English and this was where things started to really get confusing in my head. On its own, the talk was great: four sections (English on its own, then with history, theatre and Creative Writing) were really well explained as to make it exciting; there were political jokes and the lecturers who did the talks were both hilarious and thought-provoking at times. Somebody who had graduated spoke to us, as well as another undergraduate talking about a program which encouraged secondary school students to go into higher education. I loved it, so why did I walk out of the talk feeling sick?

The abbreviated answer is that I don’t know if the writing part of it was something I wanted to do. I’d lost focus in that talk, zoning out as I thought about nothing; I was unable to concentrate on the words. The future seemed absolutely bleak to me then and I sat there, shaking with the knowledge that everything felt like it was meaningless and worthless and like I was somehow broken in a stupid way. It was more than me feeling just sad; I felt desperately worried at the sheer amount of uncertainty. I kept on thinking, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I good enough?” and although I knew I was, that second-guessing shocked me. I didn’t want it there, in a room full of people who loved reading and writing just as much as I did. For a while after that, I was very silent and honestly terrified because my apathetic reaction to the talk confused and upset me. When I went into the drop-in session afterwards and spoke to a student doing the course I wanted to do, everything felt better but I presented myself as quite uninterested, bored even, despite the fact that I wasn’t. I wanted to know but the excitement seemed to have been drawn out of me, somehow.

When I got home, I had time to think. Yes, I was feeling unhappy and not thrilled at the prospect then but now, I see what a great course it actually is. I love the university and people there were passionate about their subject and where they were studying. Only when I look back can I understand that although I can’t quite remember what was said in the talks, I know that I enjoyed myself.

Perspective doesn’t make it “all better.” Even for my more positive attitude, I still feel desperate and sad and very panicked, for various reasons. Things are looking up though, in at least one aspect of my life – the university aspect. My work ethic and personal issues are weighing me down but my future’s a little less scary. That counts for something, right?

Was it my fearful reaction to me being emotionless that marred the English talk slightly? Is Warwick really the right place for me? Will I have a definite idea of what I want to do in the future, without feeling panicked? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. I think, though, that I don’t to know just yet. I still have time ahead of me.

Have you been to Warwick and what did you think? Do you know what you want to do in the future?

From Elm 🙂