Friday, 15 June 2018

Reflecting on my University experience

So, graduation season is upon us once again and more people are graduating with degrees and qualifications all across the country. (Imagine that sentence in Dumbledore’s voice. )
2 years ago (yesterday actually) in the month of June 2016, that was me, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music. So I thought it would be good to revisit the four years of student wonder, where funnily I had more money than compared to what I have now. It's still an experience I will remember for many years to come, as it was what made me grow to be the person I am today. Even though I may not use my degree to a great extent, I am still surprised to this day that I managed to get a degree under my belt, it's always good for conversation. 'Music huh? Wow, what was your first instrument? Did you just play music all the time?' No. 
In Scotland, the majority of degrees are four years in length compared to three years south of the border. Unless you go on to do a masters or PhD, and then you can add up to an additional 4 more years to your Bachelors. SAAS still pay the tuition fees for degrees in Scotland which is a huge relief compared to what you have to pay in England, however, it is still an expensive ordeal.

1st Year – The Year Eilidh was homesick yet actually made friends
So moving to Aberdeen was the first time I had ever been away from the Highlands for longer than a week, on my own as well to start off with, it was a bit of a struggle.
At first, I was excited to be in a city with loads more opportunities; I went out to nightclubs during Fresher’s week for the first time in my life. Unlike most teenagers, the only underage drinking I did was supervised with my parents so I never had a fake ID or went to clubs at home. I had shops and cinemas just half an hour walk away, as supposed to over an hour drive. Of course though, when you’re on your own, it can still be difficult to adjust.
It took a while to get used to the chores of living on your own but now its second nature living on my own.
I remember November of that year being a particularly stressful month as I lost my phone in the university campus (update: still never found it) and after going home to see my beloved musical friends in the music groups I played in, it made me feel really lonely. However, I did have the wonderful support from my online friends, Harriet (who sent me a 20-page letter with a recipe for chocolate cookies) and Shelley, who both had their baby boys during my first year at uni.
I also HATED halls, you had to shower and pee in cubicles, the kitchen was tiny and the noise & mess in the actual hallway was ridiculous, I literally had a bag of rubbish dumped outside my door for no apparent reason. I failed my first Music History essay and when I found out about that, I thought I was never going to get my degree, this was a waste of time and I should just go home. It really sucked, however, I handed in a resit after the summer and was able to carry on in my studies. I passed every class since then so it made me realise that university was no joke but I was still able to do it.
However, after Christmas, the 2nd term started and I actually made friends in my course! We made a little friendship group of 5 girls, a couple of those girls dated guys in their year. Of course, I was the fat and unattractive one in the group so no dates for me. I studied Gaelic both terms and enjoyed learning a new language, I also played in the big band and concert band. I was able to find my feet eventually and by the end of the year, I didn’t want to move back home for the summer. Although a week trip to Amsterdam did help with that. 
Advice for 1st years: Do not worry if you don't make the absolute best friends in your first term, even throughout your first year. There are loads of opportunities for friends as you go through your studies. If you feel homesick, you are not alone. There will be support groups at your local student union. But your family are just a phone call away if you ever need them.

2nd Year – The Year Eilidh actually went on nights out
As the majority of people in my life know that I am tee-total, have been since 2015 and do not drink alcohol now.
Back in 2nd year though, that was a different story. I had my first kiss at 19 when I was drunk at a flat party, then never saw the guy again till randomly next year when he popped into work with his girlfriend. I actually hid from him. True story.
I lived in a flat with two girls in my course and both of their boyfriends at the time stayed at the flat. One boyfriend, I got on really well with, the other stormed in my room drunk, spewed in my bedroom and to apologise, sent flowers to me… Yeah.
This year, my best friend from the Highlands started his degree in Aberdeen so we saw each other every week or so. We had another friend at the time and had hangouts together, just the three of us, so I finally felt that I was socialising, settling into life in the Granite City and having a great group of friends. Of course, it never lasted but still.
It wasn't all sunshine and roses, unfortunately, I do remember giving up interviews and hangouts to visit the hospital in April. My little cousin, who was 2 at the time, had to be rushed there suddenly. He's now 6 and is such a rascal but that is one key thing I remember from that year that took away the buzz, for good reason though. 
You definitely noticed the jump in the level of exams and deadlines though, I remember studying quite a bit for exams, I think failing the first History essay did it for me. I was still studying Gaelic and found it quite strenuous this time. The number of exams I had at the end of May was ridiculous, I think I had 8 in the space of a couple of weeks, just for 2nd year. The fact the grades still didn't necessarily count was quite silly, however looking back, I am glad I put in the effort. 
Advice for 2nd years: Make sure you take time this year to feel completely settled into your campus, city and feel comfortable. Have your group of friends and just have a lot of fun. If you can, find part-time work if possible to earn more money other than your SAAS loan, so you have a bit of extra support. 

3rd Year – The Year Eilidh found paid employment, depression & anxiety
The summer before 3rd year, I stayed in Aberdeen and had my first paid job (where I stayed till after I graduated). The colleagues I worked with became my true friends and I still have friends from there that I talk to today.
This was the year where the drama definitely escalated in this group of friends in uni, workload built uploads. I had to take subjects I didn’t particularly want to study but had to complete them for credits. Hell, I did Physics in Music and most people will know, I am not good at Science! Had a generous marker that gave me a B though. I knew this year counted so the pressure was definitely on, from family, the department but most of all, I put LOADS onto myself. This lead to me crying most evenings and realising deep down that I could have depression and anxiety issues. I went to counselling and didn’t tell anyone at the time. Apart from my best friend.
He lived with the same mutual friend from the previous year so I would often visit their flat and sleep on the couch, just to get away from awkward living situations at the time, get away from drama and pretty much just thinking 'What the hell is my life right now?'
I became ill to the point where I couldn’t eat a standard meal without feeling sick. I couldn't sleep well. I kept to myself from everyone else but put a strain on my relationship with my best friend at the time, as he was the only person I could talk to.
That was also the time where I would feel ill after getting physically close to someone. This was after a friend of the mutual friend was extremely flirty with me, to the point where he would stroke my hand and whisper in my ear. This was after I had just met him two hours before. I remember running to the bathroom whilst watching a horror film (perfect scenario eh?) just to get away from him. Yeah, my track record with guys is great huh?
At this point, I was terrified of the fact that I was going to go into my final year but also that I had no idea what was going to happen afterwards. I just remember it being an incredibly difficult year for so many reasons, definitely worse than my final year. 
Advice for 3rd years: It is quite a big step up from the previous year so be aware. Even though this may be the year where grades count, try not to put yourself under too much pressure, for sanity's sake. Look after your mental health, in particular, make sure you have days where you can rest. Put in a routine that works best for you and your studies. Most students may go on placement during this year so it is important for a routine to stick.

4th Year – The Year Eilidh came out, went on dates, volunteered and actually graduated
The summer before my final year started, I came out to myself as a biromantic asexual and became more attracted to women. So much so that my first proper ‘first date’ was with a woman from a dating app. It took a while to come out publicly but I still felt like a huge relief had been lifted. I also had dates and a plus one for my May ball, which was a huge achievement for me. I always went to events single and by myself, so to have someone by my side was such a wonderful experience.
I moved in with my best friend after we both had our own flat dramas with previous flatmates. This flat was so much bigger and more homely than previous living conditions. This was a home and dramas in the flat were very slim. As we know each other inside out, it felt like a safe haven to come to. 
However, depression and anxiety were still very much associated with me. I started my own treatment for it and gradually told a couple more friends about what I was going through. So four people in my life knew my mental health was a constant struggle at times. 
I separated myself from most of the people in my year and concentrated hard in trying to achieve my 2:1. My friends, once again were from my work and I saw them as an additional family.
At the start of the year, I had no idea what my dissertation question was going to be.
My contract changed at work so I had to work a minimum of 10 hours a week. However, I still took on more volunteering opportunities in my final year than I ever did throughout my degree. I volunteered within the department’s box office. I volunteered for the local Jazz Festival as a Front of House Assistant. 
I also applied for opportunities within the music department, such as an academic prize in performance and an opportunity for compositions to be played by respected ensembles. I may not have gone past my audition but a member of the judging panel, who was also a lecturer came back to me and said that I played beautifully and it was a tough decision to make. That meant more to me than going on to the final.
Looking back on my final year, this was the year where I was my truest self over my university experience, in self-confidence, work ethic, sexuality and knowing my health issues, how to get myself to feel better. I actually miss the end of that year as I was the skinniest I ever was, I achieved so much and had big dreams for the future.  
Advice for 4th years: Work hard, this is your chance to make your university journey worthwhile. However, do make sure you take care of yourself. Try to do uni work at sensible hours and prepare for deadlines, please try not to complete your whole dissertation in the space of 48 hours or less. 

The Graduation Day Itself
My actual graduation was a mixed bag of a day. I remember the ceremony being incredibly long and being a bag of nerves throughout for some reason. I guess it was because I had a figure-hugging dress and heels on so I didn't want to be the one person that tripped up the stairs in front of everyone. I didn't have anything to attach my robe onto so it strangled my neck throughout, my mortarboard didn't fit on my head but that wasn't a surprise, nothing fits my massive head.
The weather was terrible, it poured rain so you couldn't take nice photos outside. And yet Press & Journal still asked me to go outside after an interview for the local paper. I had an umbrella of course, but let's just say everytime I think of the word 'bumpkin', I cringe.
You had to apply to get extra tickets for the ceremony for family, in general, I can understand it. For someone who has a sibling on the autism spectrum, that leads to him thinking he wasn't invited and then the prospect of my family being separated in the crowd. Fortunately, they all sat together which was good.
The ceremony itself went for a while but it was emotional seeing your fellow classmates getting their degree, my friend from halls in 1st year graduated the same day as me so that was a lovely experience. My younger cousins and auntie travelled all the way just for my graduation ceremony and watched the ceremony with my best friend. So I was greeted by them once the ceremony was done, which was lovely. I missed the department celebrations as my family needed to have food, my mum is a diabetic so we ended up going to Subway in the student union.
Soon we went back to the flat, I got changed out of my dress and wore my graduation hoodie. So the dinner planned was going to be casual, it was with my family, my best friend and my good friend from work at the time. The dinner was, interesting to say the least, not the best thing in the world. I guess I was just so tired, I would have preferred getting a takeaway at home.
There were HUGE expectations that my graduation day was going to be absolutely amazing and I had pictured happy memories for a while before hand. However, it just wasn't as great as expected. But that was how I felt, if you are going to graduate soon, I hope it is more of an amazing experience for you.

Hope this was helpful, if it was not helpful, I hope it was entertaining, to say the least. Happy graduation if yours is on the way, if not, hope life is treating you well, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this lengthy post. 
<3 HEARTS TO EVERYONE! <3

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

'Friendlationships'

Definition from Urban Dictionary: Friendlationship(n) is a combination of the words 'friends' and 'relationship', used to describe a somewhat-platonic relationship that contains all the aspects of an actual romantic relationship, without any physical/sexual benefits. Basically, all the sacrifice but none of the gain. Often occurs when both people involved harbour some desire for the other, but neither is willing to take a chance and potentially ruin their friendship.

Throughout my shocking dating and 'relationship' history, I seem to stumble upon this situation a lot, particularly with the last person I was really close with. 

When I socialise with males, a lot of the time, I get the general comments from people:
'Are you dating? Is he your boyfriend? How long have you been together? Wait, you're not going out? You spend a lot of time together! Why haven't you made a move yet? Why hasn't he made the move yet? What are you waiting for? You clearly like each other!'

Frustrating isn't it? I mean for starters, the majority of my male friends are gay so it seems ridiculous. Also, if only people realised how hard relationships are for someone like me, riddled with social anxiety from a young age, struggling with depression and of course identifying as a biromantic asexual, meaning I am a minority in terms of the LGBTQ+ community. This post I found today describes the struggles I deal with my sexuality perfectly: http://bit.ly/2CKnUYr

We grow up in a world that still seems to portray a black and white outlook on life, for example, you're either in a relationship or not, you're either gay or straight, you either love something or hate something. Then you realise that life is not like that. Relationships are about two people being together so it's not as easy as it looks. It amazes me that people can move on and pass from person to person so quickly. 

When I first fell for this person, I was scared to open up to him but when I did, we ended up having this friendlationship that lasted for way too long. I ended up talking on the phone to him for over an hour, inviting him out to dinner just the two of us, we had many outings (visiting his home town, going to see a theatre show), he was my plus one at a ball, I met his family and stayed over at his house (I was in the guest room by the way). Nothing sexual happened, I never kissed him, even thought it was all I wanted to do for the longest time but I told him I loved him and felt a strong spark. There was a period in my life where I thought I couldn't live without him and didn't date anyone else during this friendlationship because I believed it could grow into something more. It never did. 

I take pride on being a friendly individual to friends, family, colleagues, even complete strangers I work with. So of course I am proud and privileged of the friendships I have and how I (somehow) make people laugh. But at the end of the day I am just like every other human being, everyone wants to be loved. So to not be 100% appreciated for who you does dent your confidence and trust in others. 

You often hear 'There's plenty of other fish in the sea.' but most of the time that metaphor does not help after a difficult situation like a friendlationship. Because you were so close, yet so far to reaching that final goal. All of the energy and time you gave that individual has basically been wasted. It also affects the surrounding people who know both you and the person you saw. 

I hope through this post that I have highlighted that it is ok for you to go through a complicated relationship like that and come out the other side. I hope you can see that the world isn't as black and white as people portray it but filled with colour and wonder.
So it's ok to realise that you can be in a situation that isn't necessarily concrete. It's ok to feel confused, scared and unsure, its human nature. 

Realise how important you are and that you deserve a full life, if that friendlationship is doing nothing but tearing you down, GET OUT. 
You don't exactly have to fall out or lose this friend completely, I am still friends with the person I was close with, just try to get past all the complicated thoughts and feelings that can weigh you down, don't contact them as much and try to look out for yourself. 
If you are going through a difficult situation, my heart is with you during this time because I know how much it can suck.


<3 HEARTS TO EVERYONE! <3

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Year In Review: 2017 - Thank God it's over!

So it’s that time of year again. I’ll be honest with you now, if you somehow like reading my Year In Review posts at Hogmanay, I really didn’t want to document this past year like I have done the previous ones. Even looking back on what happened just makes me feel really low. Last year I completed a dissertation, did my performance recital, got an honours degree and thought I finally found someone decent to love and be with. Let’s just say what a difference a year makes.

In general, this year has been really hard, soul destroying at times, lonely and just downright sucky. Yes, some good things did happen like seeing Queen for the 2nd time ever in Glasgow, cutting my hair for the Little Princess Trust and raising £250 for the charity, donating more of my money to certain charities, Social Bite in particular, donating blood for the first time this year (3 donations so far and I am loving it!), volunteering with Aberdeen Jazz Festival and Aberdeen International Youth Festival, playing saxophone with ensembles in different locations and finding a job which will hopefully be the dream combination of working in music and additional support needs education that I have been looking for.

However, the majority of this year has had several down periods: I faced real financial difficulty. I was bullied severely at a previous job, to the point where I was told I was completely pointless. I gave up things I wanted to do just to get my life back together. I injured my hand just by tripping over an uneven slab, where it was in pain for almost 4 months. I faced the worst spell of depression I had ever faced. A close member of my family had a heart attack. Another has been off work ill also. Just recently I fell out of love with someone I had unrequitedly loved for over 18 months, which made the loneliness and isolation almost unbearable at points.

Looking back on these resolutions I set for the year, I had only completed one: which was moving to my own flat. And have gone through periods of isolation and loneliness since living there. However, I am still going to document this year. As in the future, I will look back and think, ‘Damn, how I got through this shit, I dunno but I have come so far since then.’ This year has also made me realise who your friends really are and how people can surprise you.

At the end of 2016, I knew I was going to leave a difficult job, start a new one and will hopefully get my life back. Unfortunately, that was far from the case. It was promising the first couple of weeks and then I made a couple of mistakes, as you do when you start a new job. You think as soon as you leave school, you won’t face bullying ever again. Until it slaps you hard on the face and knocks you to the ground. I had never been felt so much hatred and fear towards someone as I have done towards this person. I lost all of my confidence in myself thanks to this situation at my job and got so ill I had to take nine days off with a sick note. Yet I still faced the heart-breaking decision of leaving the children I had met and had formed strong bonds with, for a while these children were the only friends I had. One of the hardest things I had to go through was not being able to say goodbye from them. It’s been seven months or so now, I have new jobs with staff that are in majority really nice but it still stings today when a child from my old job comes into my new work and gets startled.

After a rough start to the year, summer came when I went back to an old job and was going through a bunch of different interviews & faced really difficult decisions. I then made my choice and thought things were finally going to fit into place. Then I received that FaceTime on that Monday morning, last week in September. And nothing mattered at that moment in time. It was a huge shock to everyone in the family, so much so that it has changed their lives and their relationships. It did give you some perspective as to who are your friends and who are the people you can count on during difficult times. You regained some faith in humanity but felt like the world was taking it out on the nice people.

As for thinking I had finally found the love of my life, even I realised I was living in a dream land and noticed that this person was never going to love me the same way I loved them. Thankfully one day, I woke up and even though I still care about him, I fell out of love with him. Even though it was a relief, it was also heart-breaking as it made me realise how alone I felt. Whether someone else will come along in 2018, who knows but I do know I have little time off as it is working three part time jobs.

So, here we go. My goals for 2017, did I complete them? Oh jeez.

1.     Pass my Sign language classes in May
I did get my SCQF Level 3, which was the class I did in 2016. The exam was in January this year. Due to the stress I received from my job at the time, I decided to leave the next level, which I regret. However, I knew if I stayed, I would have affected my health even more. I would like to see if I can take part in the next level in the near future, especially as I am now beginning to use it working with ASN children & young adults.

2.     Start driving lessons and sit my Driving Test, at least pass my Theory.
I get so much pressure from so many people to start driving lessons, since my first lesson in October 2016, I haven’t sat behind the wheel of a car since. It is a constant struggle just to afford rent in employment that pays minimum wage. It is definitely something I would like to look into the New Year for various reasons.

3.     Move to my own flat somewhere in the summer
That goal I did achieve, in June, I moved into the Casa de Eilidh and have enjoyed having my own space. It has been tricky at times living on my own but I love looking forward to going back to my pad, with tea and a blanket and not worry about having to act sociable. I love making it a home for myself and feel so cosy and warm here.

4.     Travel to more places, ideally Orkney & Shetland
I started the year in Broughty Ferry & Dundee. A new Street Art festival was introduced to Aberdeen, which helped to make you feel like a tourist exploring in your own home. I was finally able to visit both Drum and Crathes Castle this year and with going back to work in tourism over the summer, it meant I went to Stonehaven for work most days. I explored Glasgow more in December. Whether I can visit Orkney or Shetland this year, I am not sure but it’s still something I would love to do. I would like to go to Bordeaux to visit my best friend during his placement, but yet again I am not 100% sure whether it would happen.

5.     Gain more experience in working with children, possibly start postgraduate
I guess I definitely had more experience working with children, full time, part time & casual whether it is in childcare, music, volunteering or working for a visitor attraction for children. I have attended more training courses and have really built up a passion to work with children. As for a postgraduate, that was something I was interested in, now I am not so sure. Unfortunately due to budget cuts, music education is getting cut left, right and centre. So there is a chance I may have to go down another career path, maybe more into childcare as there is a demand for it.

6.     Get better. In terms of mental health. <3
That I still need to work on, what I realised this year is how long of a process it is to recover from a mental illness, especially if the origins of it began in your childhood.

Now the main goal for 2018 is for it not to be anywhere near as shit as 2017. Then I’ll be happy. But here are some extra goals for 2018 that I would like to get close to completing.

1.     Gain my confidence back in the workplace, maintain a healthy balance between jobs and get fully settled in them all.
2.     Save money, for holidays or treats, mainly to pay back overdraft. Possibly to pay for au pair trip to America.
3.      Organise a birthday trip away. Even if the trip has to be in July. My birthday is in March by the way.
4.     Sit driving test by the end of the year. Pass theory at least.
5.     Start dating, eventually.
6.     Travel to Orkney/Shetland? Maybe?

Right, so this was a mess of a post. I’m now going to enjoy whatever I get up to back in the Highlands tonight, praying it will be staying in a cosy house watching Hootenanny. Happy New Year to you all, have a safe Hogmanay and all the very best wishes for 2018! Let’s all pray that it’s a big improvement on 2017.