Life Lessons: what are you avoiding?

I don’t know what I want to do with my life.

This is one of the most terrifying thoughts I have running through the back of my mind. Day in and day out.

Simultaneously, everyone I know seems to have their lives figured out – Masters, Graduate schemes, careers, engagements and travels. And they’re happy to an extent. While I’m walking an unset path with this heavy sense of shame of falling behind.

A good friend told me to start with my interests, passions, things that I enjoy and go from there. I’ve been contemplating a lot whether to go back to university and study again. But there’s a part of me who is also afraid of graduating at 25. Is it too late? Would I be too old to compete with other grads at this age? Tuition fees aren’t exactly cheap. If I make the wrong choice I’ll be plunging into a pool of student debt.

You could say that I’m making excuses for myself – That I’m avoiding commitment. But at the moment I’m afraid of so many things that I can’t even begin to list. Nothing in life will get any easier. Hopefully, I will get better at dealing with all the inevitable crap and regrets that come along with the future. At the moment, I’m working on the courage to move forward.


Brotherhood Of The World Blogger Award: First Nomination

I’m a WINNNNNNNER. Now crown me, minions.

What do you mean that’s not how it works?!

image

Joking aside, as you can tell, I’m very excited and honoured to be nominated for the “Brotherhood of the World” Award.

Massive thank you to the brilliant Nancy Wang for the nomination. Nancy’s blog is a sassy mix of everything stylish! Reviews or DIY projects, you name it and she’s got it (perfectly photographed too). She also has an adorably chubby cat called Chloe who is too cute for words on Instagram. Definitely drop her a visit!

victory cat

“Victooooorrrrrry!!!!!”   Source: Pinterest. Disclosure: this is not Nancy’s cat.

So here’s rules to the award:
1) Thank and link back to the person who nominated you for the award.
2) List the Rules and Display the Brotherhood of the world Award logo to your post and/or blog.
3) Answer the questions set to you and then you may create your set of questions for your nominees.
4) Nominate other bloggers and let them know about the award.

Nancy’s Questions

1)What’s your morning routine?

GYM. I’ve just taken up working out every morning and it’s the best way to wake up. Trust me. One hour and it keeps me hyped for the rest of the day! If you’re running short on time try a Blogilates video – The Call Me Maybe Squat Challenge is one of my favourite fitness challenges.

2)What’s your favorite Fiction Book ?

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird hands down. It’s the only book that I’ve read over 4 times at fourteen (for exams) and has taught me countless of lessons since then. It demonstrates that majority rule is not necessarily always right, our justice system is horribly skewed, and that whatever action we take we must first ask our conscience and moral compass.

3)If you can give ONE advice to your younger self, what would it be ?

Please listen to Mum. She knows best. If you work that bit harder right from the very beginning, like she said, you would have made our life a lot easier.

4)Which movie you can watch over and over again?

Mulan!!

Mulan

Grandma Fa at her funniest. Says what she damn well pleases. Source: Imgur

This film has the best Disney soundtrack on the face of the Earth. It’s a light hearted with beautiful animation, powerful and hilarious characters that just perks up any rainy day in.

5)Do you have a role model? If yes, who is she/he and why she/he is your role model?

That’s good question. I don’t even know the answer. I don’t have a single role model but rather a group of influences that I heavily admire and aspire towards. From my family, my parents, their relentless hard work and sometimes irritating sense of compassion and patience towards to even the very rudest of people. My sister’s charming charisma and organisation.

Barack Obama. Wait what? Where did this come from? I’ve been reading his first autobiography and I’m amazed by his determination to do right, bring justice and hope. The odds may be stacked against your favour, but that only means you should press harder. Don’t quit and you can change the world in your own way.

Now it’s time to set my own questions for my nominees who are:

Steph from Hoppy Cow

Holes in My Socks

Twist Top in Flip Flops

Ingrid on the Grid

Fabrizio and Fabiana at London Life and Style

Sincerely, Jess

Here goes:

  1. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
  2. What’s the best joke you’ve heard?
  3. What’s the worst/silliest thing you did as a kid?
  4. Do you have any phobias?
  5. If your life was a movie, what genre would it be and who would you cast to play you?

Have fun following 5 Step Programme my dear nominees! Looking forward to your answers hehe.

Anyone else that feels like hitting up these questions, lemme know in the comments.

In the name of the Brother Hood of the (Blogging) World!


NCS or that time someone left me in charge of a lot of kids

Fifteen to seventeen year old teenagers to be exact.  That awkward mid-way point between not quite entering adulthood, and being almost too cool to listen to what you have to say.

For the past month, I’ve been busy working as a team leader/mentor for the National Citizen Service. While it sounds like a government ordered, mass conscription of young people throughout the UK.  Actually, it does has a worrying resemblance.. But rest assured! NCS is a 4 week voluntary summer scheme, filled with amazing activities, a chance to meet so many new people and an opportunity to work together to design your own social action project. The end goal of this national programme is to build up the soft skills of today’s youth, encourage self sufficiency and wider social mixing with the local community.

So how does it work? Well, it’s split into 5 phases. Beginning with two away-from-home residential trips. For my wave of 80 students, we had 5 sub groups each led by two team leaders. Our first stop was the sandy town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight. The activity centre was situated a good 45minutes drive away, just conveniently far out enough where phone reception was poor and mobile data service was non-existent. Just brilliant. I’ve had days where I’ve spent more time staring at screens than seeing people. The horror on everyone’s faces at this discovery was unforgettable. Did I mention that this was an island in the middle of nowhere? Escape was not on the cards.

Temporary shelter

Our accommodation….kidding. Temporary shelter building.


Phase 1 and 2: Induction and Team building. Four days and three nights away

The first residential was action packed at an adventure centre from; rock climbing, volleyball and water polo to learning basic survival skills like building a fire, emergency shelters and bush craft. Participants are pushed to their limits. NCS throws you into the deep end but it’s remarkable how quickly the teams, young people bond and support each other over the course. Watching the growing self confidence from the initially shyest of participants – who usually end up being the loudest – is definitely a proud leader moment.

3G Swing

My co leader and I setting shining examples as fearless NCS leaders for our kids.

The most popular challenge was the “3G” swing where two harnessed participants are hoisted up 45ft in the air by their team. With a tug of the ripcord, the pair are dropped. Plunged into nothing but the soul destorying swinging exhilaration of three times the gravitational force. Over and over again.

Until the swing and your heart eventually grounds to a stop.

Just kidding.

It’s pretty fun though! But a literal pain in the ass once you get off since your entire body weight rests on that single safety harness tightly and unflattering wrapped around your lower body for the entire ride. Picture a stuffed pork loin firmly bounded by a piece of string heading into the oven for roasting. We were a beautiful sight. Demonstrations of the crab walk after the ride were not uncommon. The rest of the team were in absolute stitches.


Phase 3: Four days and three nights living at a university halls of residence

EN SUITE BEDROOMS.

WIFI

CIVILIZATION

Nah I was just glad to have a room all to myself. At the previous residential, somehow, I ended up awkwardly sharing a room with my Wave supervisor, who kept on eating all my free apples that I thriftily stowed away from lunch. Curses. She thought it was room service but I prefer the term, “The Apple Fairy”.

Moving swiftly on, Phase 2 was a taster of university student life. Workshops and talks were given by local charities and individuals in the day to try prompt the participants into addressing the social problems that exist within their communities. All in prep for their own social action project.

Kent University flat

Flat kitchen at Kent University. Image taken from kent.ac.uk

Teams were placed into flats. And a twist to the challenge was having the groups set their own rota for cooking dinner for 15 people (the entire team). For most, this was a massive learning curve. And cooking is dangerous. There’s fire and very sharp knives. On the first night, I watched apprehensively as a baffled 15 year old boy struggle to turn on the gas stove – don’t worry he figured it out after 10 minutes and he still had four good fingers and half an eyebrow left.


Phase 4 and 5: The Social Action Project

Some things are easier said through pictures than words! The team were inspired by American artist Candy Chang’s “Before I die..” project and set their hearts on recreating the same chalkboard walls in their local park.

plywood boards

6ft by 3 ft boards: Before

After raising enough funds from a community litter pick, the team bought plywood boards ready for painting and stenciling.

Chalkboards

Chalkboards: After

“I wish” chalk board


Blogging 101: Who am I and why I blog

I am an immensely shy person. No kidding.

I also moult like a cat when I’m in serious need of a haircut. That was probably too much information. But I promise you this grotesque over sharing is completely relevant.

Growing up, I would wait until my older sister would get a haircut just so I could avoid going alone to the hairdressers. Talk about first world problems but that’s how socially inept I was. The idea of making awkward small talk filled me with complete and utter dread.  Yet having endured years of my Asian mother’s “wok” style hairchop and the disastrous experiences of my hereditary scissor happy mentality – to get a haircut at home was not an option.

 

Behold the “wok” cut that 9/10 Chinese kids would have had. (Note this is not me) Taken from tumblr.

However, after months of looking like the Grudge when my sister left for university, I finally plucked up the courage to get a haircut alone. But this time I was mentally prepped and ready. Like any rational 13 year old, I wrote a list. A series of careful thought up questions that could keep my hairdresser talking nonstop for a good 45 minutes – the entire duration of one haircut. This way I wouldn’t have to keep up the conversation by actually talking. In my head my hairdresser was the interviewee and I was a journalist. For the introverted me, it like a new found power.

And that’s kind of how I got into writing.  I have so much to say but, more often than not, I lack the confidence to speak up – unless I’m angry then all kinds of hell breaks loose. Paper scrunching, keypad warrior and timely incoherent outbursts of “AGREAAHFH” you get the drift. But through blogging, I’m slowly learning to share and develop these thoughts.

So tell me, why do you write?


Sex Education From Five Years Old: Preserving innocence or ignorance?

There’s a lot of things I expect a five year old to learn at school. The alphabet. Some basic maths. And that launching booger missiles is a big unhealthy, finger-wagging, “no”. So when this article came to my attention, “Sex Education should start from Key Stage 1”, I was more than lost for words. Are we forcing children to mature before their physical and mental age? How could kids who have just grasped how to spell their own name, have the mental and emotional capacity to understand the concept of puberty, relationships and intercourse?  The last thing on my mind over primary education were five year olds’ drawing what’s underneath Mummy’s skirt or Daddy’s pants. Describing the differences between a penis and a vagina. Let alone, find out how babies are really made. To feature and normalise these Sex Ed activities under “Childhood” feels somewhat, unsettling.

Disney Stars: Ariana Grande's retracted controversial album/ Fans emulate Miley Cyrus's 2013 MTV Awards performance

Disney Stars: Ariana Grande’s retracted controversial album/ Fans emulate Miley Cyrus’s 2013 MTV Awards performance

Yet our society is saturated with sexual images and messages.  From tabloids and magazines of scantily clad women openly displayed on supermarket newstands, to the border-line soft porn “music” acts and videos on TV and Youtube,  it’s difficult to argue that this growing myriad of hyper-sexualised content has no impact on the pre-maturation and development of children. Certainly, age restrictions exist and that, as American Apparel knows all too well with it’s latest seedy, Back to School campaign focus on “up skirt” shots of crotches and underwear, overtly explicit material is stringently monitored by regulatory bodies.

But here’s a slight problem. Sex sells. It’s attention grabbing and demands instantaneous reaction. It’s powerful because it draws on an intimate part of our lives and people are naturally curious, children more so. The effects of cumulative exposure from seemingly playful and subtly sexualised material (advertisements,  video games, toys and even songs) ingrains strict gendered roles where the masculine “Adonis” like figure dominates weak and permissive women. What’s worse is that this glorified bias and objectification is increasingly prevalent amongst children and young people in social practices like sexting. A study by NSPCC found girls, when solicited by boys, send explicit photos of themselves and or at least parts of themselves bearing a boy’s name in black marker pen. Collecting these images becomes a form of social currency, a way for boys to negotiate popularity in a competitive “lad” culture. Claimed “ownership” of a girl’s body served as proof of sexual activity in a society that markets and elicits a nonchalant attitude towards sex and relationships.

NSPCC Transcript with a schoolboy

NSPCC Transcript with a schoolboy

The heightened glorification of sex in popular media creates and reinforces a warped environment where recognition and self value is measured on sexual desirability and a narrow standard of physical attractiveness. The worrying consequence is that children, without guidance, gradually internalise these fictional representations as reality or at least how it should be anyway. In fact, a 2013 survey, supported by the Southampton Rape Crisis, found that the average age that children first started watching porn was only 11 years old. Sex appeal and desirability are accelerated into ideals to be emulated. More critically though, it’s delivered as a shortsighted end and isolated from the wider context of relationships, consent and protection. As Pope John Paul II aptly highlights, “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it show too little”. The failure to show and properly inform children of these major factors leaves them vulnerable to the lopsided realities, which are constantly presented to them through popular media. This is why unfolding Sex Education from an early age, beginning with very basic anatomy, is imperative in modern society. The rose tinted glasses of preserving childhood is not only untenable but harmful for children in the long run. If we don’t overcome this stigma to socially discuss and teach sex, puberty and relationships, this role is left to a biased and over glorified media.

References:

http://www.sexualhealthsheffield.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Not-in-front-of-the-children.pdf

Public Health England

http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/how-instagram-became-the-social-network-for-tweens/

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/resourcesforprofessionals/sexualabuse/sexting-research-report_wdf89269.pdf


The 30 Questions Challenge: Religion and inequality

3. Why do we call some religions “mythologies” (ancient Greek, Norse, Egyptian, etc.) and others religions? Is this fair? What does this show about how relevant certain ideas are as society progresses?

Every religion is built upon internal mythological elements – take Mount Olympia, Ganesha the elephant headed Hindu God and Noah’s Ark as examples.  What distinguishes ancient Greek, Norse and Egyptian “mythologies” to everyday beliefs like Christianity and Islam are the number of followers that continue to practise and uphold the faith. It’s not fair but that’s natural and I guess survival of the fittest in terms of religous groups and ideas as society progresses. Larger religions prevail and its principles are institutionally taught from a young age. While dead religions become eulogised into myths.

lobbyist-handshake

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Jesse M. Unruh

4. People often talk about the growing gap between the rich and poor. However, today’s poor (in the United States, at least) are much better off than most people (not just the poor) were a century ago. Does it matter that there’s an increasing gap between the rich and the poor if the standard of living for the poor keeps going up?

It’s great that the standards of living are improving for everyone. That’s societal progression. But it should never be a mask or deterrent from reacting to a widening inequality between the filthy rich and very poor. In the political playground, more often than not, wealth holds major leverage to indirectly influence the political processes towards the interests of the rich. For well filled tailored pockets, Washington D.C’s “K Street” is a lobbying gold mine for political clout. According to GreenPeace, oil billionaire barons, like the free market supporting Koch brothers channeled approximately $67 million towards a network of climate denial groups alone- essentially reshaping politics towards a low regulated libertarian society. Wealth inequality fuels and perpetuate this backdoor privatisation of democracy. It’s a never ending vicious circle keeping the rich richer and the poor poorer.

References:

http://www.pluginid.com/thought-provoking-questions/

Image Source


Date rape nail polish drug detectors – Creative concept, flawed in practice and misguided criticism

A recent rocket on media street is a new drug detecting nail polish , marked “Undercover Colors”. Created by four North Carolina State University students, it’s an innovative little cosmetic that changes colours after being exposed to date rape drugs like Rohypnol, Xanax and GHB. Simply stirring one manicured finger discreetly into any drink could alert a woman of a potential sexual predator.

Sounds pretty handy, (excuse the pun), right? A cleverly thought out mini stranger danger drug detector tailored to fit into many everyday female beauty regimes. While it’s a creative concept, unfortunately I can’t imagine women readily dunking their fingers into their glasses anytime soon. Neither is male nail polish ever likely to become a fashion trend in the near future. Worryingly, the product marginalises rape and sexual assault cases to only female victims and disregards that men are also targets.

But the problems don’t seem to end in practice. According to Animal New York’s Backdoor Pharmacist, date rape drug testers simply aren’t reliable. It’s a “false panacea”. The over sensitive nature of colorimetric indicators, the impossibility of compacting a universal indicator to test the extensive list of potentially incapacitating substances and the horrendously busy, bustling bar/night club conditions all skews the accuracy of the detectors. The consequential danger is a widened false sense of security and scope for damning false allegations.

Yet the most troubling criticism and rejection of the drug detector that caught my attention was by spokeswoman of Rape Crisis England & Wales, Katie Russell.

“It implies that it’s the woman’s fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf and detracts from the real issues that arise from sexual violence.”

This is absurd. Defence mechanisms have been developed to give people the means to protect and defend themselves when necessary. Far from victim blaming women for the burden of being raped by not taking adequate precautions, these tools are preparing and empowering people for our current reality. Certainly, these measures are not the solution to the matter of ending sexual violence. But in the meantime why shouldn’t we welcome and advance these efforts to minimise our chances of encountering a threat or danger? Being cautious is part and parcel of everyday life. Motorists shouldn’t be running people over and neither should people be drunk driving but that doesn’t mean we stop looking both ways when we cross a road or stop wearing seat belts. Taking responsibility and being cautious for one’s own safety shouldn’t be misconstrued as being responsible for getting attacked. Rape is wrong and the concept of consent is institutionally taught over and over again. But the world we live in is, sadly, not utopian so we need to take that extra step to protect ourselves.

Related reads
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/26/anti-rape-nail-polish-stop-rapists