Saturday, 20 September 2014

Shopping and The Pain of Walking - My Weekend So Far

When I was lying on my bed for no other reason than to sleep for eight hours straight on Thursday evening two nights ago, the weekend was a near, yet distant dream away. Of course, I could neither ignore nor deny the fact that it was indeed approaching, but my impatience to get on with it was truly winding me up. Once you fall into a routine - such as one involving school - which takes up most of your time during the week, a thankful reprieve like the weekend seems out of your reach, as though you will never get your hands on it.

In other words, I needed a break - from early starts, Physics lessons with a teacher whose wisest idea was to toss a basketball in a science lab and the deep purple bags underneath my eyes which looked like bruises - and the weekend was the perfect solution. But, unlike online shopping, you cannot buy the weekend on demand when the cravings become too much to bear: patience is required until it comes naturally to you. Unfortunately, the one thing that I didn't inherit from my parents - apart from my dad's in-need-of-being-plucked hairy eyebrows - was patience which, strangely enough, my younger I-want-it-now brother possesses in bucket loads. 

If I yearn to hop onto a bus and travel to the city on a school day - as I usually would at the weekend - there is no way that I'll rely on patience in the meantime. Waiting for things that I desperately need in the present bothers me which, in turn, resurrects the moaning instinct that literally defines me as a person. Sure, I'll put up with unfortunate circumstances and slowly, albeit not entirely recognize the fact that skipping Maths to shop around H&M - which, in itself, requires great mathematical skills when figuring out how much an entire season's worth of clothing will cost me - is neither an option nor a possibility. But do I accept it? No. And, thanks to my reluctance to let something completely slip from my mind, I complain about my lack-of-weekend woes until I catch the latest round of sore throats, rendering my oh-so-critical voice useless. 

Now that the weekend is here, I can thankfully push aside my weekday dilemmas and focus on the one thing that I love the most about Saturday and Sunday: relaxing. Although very little in terms of activities are achieved at the weekend, I personally find it as the most fulfilling time of the week because I'm granted relentless freedom; a gift that is even more cherished whilst trapped in a restrictive environment such as school five times per week. 

Teachers are no longer on the prowl once you escape from their classrooms for two days, giving you the freedom to let your guard down and be yourself - isn't it such a rarity while immersed in a place renowned for its conformist attitudes? Crowds of pupils you either know or dislike won't necessarily be crossed unless you reside in the same area, but at least you aren't forced to adopt such a friendly and socially acceptable persona while in their presence. And the time? On a Saturday morning, you will be amazed by the many minutes and hours that are in your control. Forget about timetables, classes and fifteen minute or so breaks until that deafening bell rings in your tingling ears. Once the weekend arrives, your time definitely becomes your time because you are allowed to spend it as you wish! Plus, there are many more from where that came from...

For me, however, this weekend hasn't been entirely based on the idea of sticking my head under the covers and hiding away from the world which, despite the two-day disruption, carries on as normal. In fact, I haven't had the pleasure of treating myself to the loveliest and most satisfying lie-in since last Saturday, so my body has mainly been running off adrenaline, motivation and maybe one or two Lidi cookies for the past week. Today's adrenaline-booster was the exciting prospect of travelling to the city - and going shopping. At ten in the morning. In an area where I only liked one shop. And had yearned to walk around in for ages.

Despite my fashionista/bargainista status, I hadn't actually gone for a proper shop - apart from the occasional dash into TK Maxx for a pint-sized umbrella (to pop into my schoolbag) - for months and, if I'm not already suffering from memory loss, over a year. During that time, I've relied on the internet and a few in-store purchases at the local supermarket to get my shopping thrills, having nearly abandoned a good old walk around clothing stores. It wasn't just related to time (which, without needing to say more, has been in very limited supply of late) and distance from my semi-rural surroundings, but also my interests. If local areas don't offer the shops and places that I like, why bother visiting them? 

Until a few days ago, I had hummed and harred over visiting the nearest city - courtesy of the lack of LikeATeen-approved shops - but, out of the blue, I changed my tune. Because of what, you ask? The historical buildings? Improved bus services? Or simply because I wanted to experience some city life? None of these reasons contributed to my spur-of-the-moment decision which, to some people, might be the craziest idea: I wanted to go to one shop. The new H&M store that had just opened in the city a month ago, which I hadn't even known about until reading the local newspaper the other night. As soon as I found out about it, my mind was made up: wherever it was, I had to replenish my need for Nordic fashions and style-conscious clothes that wouldn't risk breaking the bank. And, for the first time in over a year, I got my H&M hit in one go!

Having gotten used to ordering clothes on the internet, part of me had forgotten what it felt like to walk into a clothing shop, especially one as spaced out and large as high street giants H&M! In recent weeks, I had ordered some new clothes from H&M so, unlike somebody who had been stuck in the rainforest for the past six months, had not been fully deprived of any shopping experience - online or in-store. Nonetheless, my head was literally spinning as I took in the new surroundings, instantly comparing it to this shopping centre I used to go in my old county, which was home to one of the largest shops - let alone H&M store - that I'd ever stepped foot in. 

And, in the hours before I laid eyes upon it, was the shop as great as I'd anticipated? In a sense, it was a mixture of yes and no: yes because the range of different styles was eye-catching and, had my pockets been bulging with fifty pound notes, would have been added to my basket within seconds, but the size and ambiance of the store didn't completely win me over. By this, I'm referring to the old H&M store that I used to love going to, which was home to three large floors that were spilling with my type of clothes. At the store that I visited today, I wasn't dashing to every single aisle to look at dresses, tops or jeans as I used to at the other one; I only picked up two jumpers, a skirt and several accessories after heavy searching. Whether it is my tastes or the company itself that has changed since my last visit over a year ago, I cannot be sure for certain, but my overwhelming pickiness was out in full force - as was noted by my dad who, until today, I don't think quite realised the extent of it!

Still, I got some sort of shopping hit and, overall, I quite enjoyed my shopping trip into the city because it gave me the chance to get to know new surroundings which, compared to where I used to live, are of a better standard! I now know which places are most ideal for shopping and, after walking out of many shops (including one which I can only liken to the fashion world's equivalent of Poundland) empty-handed, I'm keen to try other cities until I discover my one true shopping heaven. Today, mainly due to rediscovering H&M, was a great start and will hopefully mark the beginning of a new shopping era - though I might wait a while until my pocket money increases!

However, we shopping addicts are definitely not fools when it comes to recognizing the negatives - except the credit card-related ones - of releasing our inner shopaholics every once in a while. Despite my stance against fooliness, I made the most foolish mistake ever - wearing high heels on cobbled streets! My feet were in agony long before I reached the food court, yet I never realized how painful they could be until I attempted - for I never reached the top of it - to walk up a street which looked like a replica of the Coronation Street set. Within seconds, I had returned to a school trip that I still wish to this day that I had never signed up for because it involved climbing up an extremely steep mountain - it baffles me as to how I survived it once, so I didn't want to push my luck on a second occasion. No wonder everybody else were wearing flats in the city...

Plus, I was beginning to feel the after-effects of attending a Zumba class the night before which, for those who have discovered the Latin American dance phenomenon, is a combination of a dance party and pour-buckets-of-smelly-sweat workout. Of all my limbs, it were my legs that I had been stretched, toned and moved the most, so trekking throughout the city wasn't exactly the best way to relax my muscles!

As if my body hadn't already been put through a shopper's equivalent of a gruelling bootcamp, I then faced the prospect of walking from the shopping centre - where the new H&M shop is based - to a main street where I would be picked up by my mum and half-asleep brother (as he had had the much-coveted luxury of staying in bed until past 10am), before whizzing over to seeing my two new kittens.

When I last mentioned the 'kitten' situation, my family had, at that time, only decided to adopt one female kitten, whom we had called Teddie. For one thing, she has the softest and fluffiest fur - which, in my opinion, is even lovelier than an actual teddy bear - and her face can produce expressions that make your heart melt into the kind of mush that is only caused by love (and the cutest meow!). She had been born in a litter of four kittens, two of whom had already found homes, but the remaining kitten - the only boy - had not yet been reserved, his Bourneville-black fur perceived as a reason for it.

Cut a long story short, my family decided to offer him a home because we didn't want to split Teddie and her brother - who is now called George (ironically sharing a name with the Royal Baby!) - up, as we have only ever adopted kittens in pairs. In less than two weeks' time, we will be bringing Teddie and George home, so the prospect of living in a house with four cats - all of whom have been adopted within less than a year - is looming. I cannot wait to give both of them as many cuddles and kisses as I want, so I can bear to be parted from them for another twelve days!

After shopping my heart out this morning, part of my afternoon was spent in the company of Teddie and George who, at five weeks old, are flourishing and asserting more independence as each day passes. I can already predict that Teddie will be the feistiest of the two because she never keeps still - unless she wants to fall asleep in your lap! As for George, he is one of the most laid-back cats that I've ever known, but I guess that it is a common characteristic in boys; the same also seems to apply to male cats! Whenever I see them, I remind my two cats, Bart and Benny, that they will be handed a major responsibility in looking after their new siblings, yet they are either taking no notice or aren't bothered at all!

In case you are curious as to what Teddie and her brother, the oh-so-handsome (and royal!) George, look like, have a look at the picture below - they are so besotted with one another that they must sit together!

George is on the left, while Teddie - who actually looked at the camera without wiggling or squealing like a hysterical One Direction fan - is on the right, fascinated with the glare of the intrusive spotlight. As I love using my camera, they better get used to being in front of it!

That, I must say, is one half of my weekend. So far, I've enjoyed it as much as any other, but this one has allowed me to escape into other worlds that involve shopping, dancing and hobbling on painful feet. Perhaps I'll avoid the latter next time!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Dreaming of the Weekend

Phew, I've almost made it. The finishing line, I mean. Just when I feared that I couldn't be further away from it, the end is now within sight.

After starting the week off with a down-in-the-dumps mood, the thing that truly makes my heart soar beyond the highest cloud is nearly in reach. Two sweet days of no school, ear-damaging noise and piles of homework that make you lose the will to live will commence in less than twenty four hours time.

From the moment that I hop onto the bus (if it even arrives or doesn't break down) and am travelling home, my mission will have been completed. Another week - five lengthy days solely about work, early starts and even more work - will have passed, firmly glued into the back of my book like the past is placed within, well, the past.

And, without boring you to the verge of sleeping through your deafening alarm clock tomorrow morning, the impatience to start enjoying my freedom right away is threatening to kill me. Literally!

Have you ever experienced that feeling which makes you crave something so badly - and definitely out of your control - that it is all that you can think about? And maybe what you are living for? All week, my heart has kept beating at the thought of winding down at the weekend, and temporarily escaping a routine that I've begrudgingly - for no teenager willingly sacrifices an extra five minutes in bed - embraced. That feeling has been present on my mind since the new week began on Monday, gradually gaining power as the days - which I worship like a chocolate Christmas calendar - have raced past me, at such a spectacular speed which would warrant a speeding ticket!

Although every day has required me to jot down the date, the numbers and day of the week don't mean anything to me; I feel numb, immune to any stirs or hints of feeling. It is only when a day like tomorrow - the oh-so-brilliant Fridays - approaches that I take notice of the date, and resurrect the emotions that have been stored in an airtight container since Monday morning.

Only when I'm doing something like this - unleashing my inner writer - that I come to life, and break out of routine. Of course, writing forms an essential part of my daily routine, but copying extracts from textbooks in class isn't quite in the same league as blogging, in which I can relate to my interests and write without any restraints. Despite the idea having nearly seduced me on a number of occasions, having a full-blown rant about why I despise week days might not necessarily be the wisest idea - for the reason would be associated to those who read my work!

And so, my existence as a part-human, part-robot is fading away, instead replaced with a girl whose spirit is burning like a lit candle. My skin is no longer sticking to tights as black as some girls' mascara, nor am I trapped in such tight garments whose proper title is school uniform. At the end of the day, clothes are clothes, and are generally materials that we place on our bodies to cover up the not-so-appropriate parts. But a compulsory uniform? Wearing such a nightmarish outfit which offers no favours for your developing body is like being handed a prison sentence! I already feel out of place because of being surrounded by unfamiliar people, so that feeling is further exaggerated if I'm wearing the ugliest - and the overall winner of the Most Shameful Clothing in my wardrobe - outfit known to mankind.

Anyway, only one more day to go until my blazer, skirt and white shirt that no longer smells of fresh flowers will be tossed in the clothing basket, unseen for several days. Seeing the obvious reminders of what we dislike - in my case, it also includes my bag, P.E. kit and so on - is hardly my idea of a great weekend because we should escape from that environment, otherwise we'll never get that break which we truly deserve. At this point, I can handle another few hours of bustle, classroom chatters and secretly smirking at the disruptive pupils receiving a dressing down because, unlike the horror that awaits you first thing on Monday, it won't last forever.

Two years of attendance somewhat horrifies and scares me at the same time because, along with the uniform, I could have been given a sentence for a crime that I did not commit - yet another one of life's cruel gifts! If panicking at the last minute each Monday is included in the package, God help me! My only hope is, over the space of time, that I'll get used to this routine and maybe not dread it as much as I currently do. Each day is another step towards making progress. Some things, like my countdown towards the weekend, may never cease to exist, yet I'm certainly able to help myself by not hiding away in bed until the last possible minute!

Overall, I think that, despite a few setbacks, I'm thriving in all my classes and actually enjoy being there once I've gotten off the bus in the morning. It's simply the thought of dragging myself away from home - and relentless access to the fridge, which is miles better than any capacious canteen - that forms my reluctance to go when I wake up, but it probably applies to most, if not all teenagers!

The first day was the toughest yet because, partly due to spending as many weeks off in the summer as I did during the summer term, I'd sort of forgotten what school life was like. Cue minor panic! Nearly two weeks on, that panic is easing, but is still there, its presence is the not-too-noticeable background. Long ago, I realized that I'm not particularly one who favours all types of changes, so it just seems that school has been placed in that unpreferable category.

For now, though, the battle is not yet over, but will shortly be beaten. This evening, I hope to equip myself with the necessary tools - like needle-sharp pencils - to defend myself in the fight that I recognize as school. The resting shall commence!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Final Hours of a Dying Weekend

As the saying goes, all things have to come to an end. Sadly. We pour over grief when struck with a hefty blow when the great things that we cherish - like thrilling days out, time spent together and endless trays of mince pies - are no longer in our reach. Sadness comes easily to us hormonal creatures who, if we ever had the luxury of doing so, would always put our feelings first. And our feelings as the end of a week lies around the corner are not particularly of an euphoric kind.

Now that they are the only time when I have, quite frankly, time to relax, I love weekends. Nothing quite beats waking up at half past nine on a Saturday morning, awaken by a stream of golden sunshine, which is reminiscent of the summer that I yearn to re-experience. Of course, I cannot entirely drag myself out of the previous day's events - I won't even bother giving you two guesses as to where I was - but the sleepiness clouds my brain, including the thoughts that were among homework a mere 24 hours before.

Like many people will agree, there is a lot to like about weekends, apart from having a two day break from the suffocating environment that is school. The relaxedness. No raised eyebrows at tucking into your breakfast at 10am when, had it been any other weekday, I would have otherwise been getting into a pickle over equations in class. Trawling around shops which, as the only time to visit them is mainly limited to Saturday afternoons, are as enticing as walking into a dreamlike sweet shop. And, depending on your tastes, you might fancy going for a stroll - as I did with my friend earlier this afternoon - or simply catching up with the programmes that you record on Sky, but constantly forget to watch!

The opportunities are endless once the weekend strolls around, but the problems appear once it escapes your grip come Monday morning...

Although plenty of Sundays have passed in recent months, you can bet your money on a sense of dread starting in the pit of my stomach the evening before the new week commences. After enjoying such a pleasant weekend, the thought of leaving it behind for another week pains me like a needle being inserted in my arm; I truly, truly hate it.

Two days since I waltzed through the door on Friday afternoon, I still feel somewhat exhausted and in need of getting some rest - hardly the image of enthusiasm you would expect the day before school! The oh-so-extremely-long lie-ins might have eased my headaches that throb like a constantly played One Direction anthem, yet there is still a way to go until I regain my classic spark and wouldn't stir at the prospect of dedicating seven hours of my day to schoolwork. If only I'd remembered how difficult the first week back at school is, because only this on-going experience has taught me this tough, yet frightfully honest lesson!

At least I'm not the only one who is suffering from post-summertime sadness (which, despite my unsaid allegiance with her, this is in no way associated with Lana Del Rey) because, if honesty was the only exception when producing an answer, fellow pupils' reluctance to settle down into a routine couldn't be more obvious. Sure, it saddens me to think my summer of fun won't resume until next year, but it won't motivate me to the extent that I'll become disruptive and cause trouble because of it. As much as it hurts us to do so, some things - including a routine as restrictive and boring as going to school - must be accepted. If we achieve thanks to the efforts that we make, these sacrifices will only do us the world of good. Even if it prevents us from appreciating the glorious sunsets and bright afternoons that are unlimited to us during summer.

Despite yearning to spend another day at home, it pleases me to walk into school tomorrow, holding tightly onto the thought that my weekend was as pleasurable as I could have hoped. For example, I

  • Saw my four week old kitten Teddie, who is striving and developing a feisty nature which might even be in a league with mine! There is a strong possibility that we could bring her home a week earlier than originally planned, so I only have to wait less than three weeks until a new kitty is on the block. 
  • Met up with my friend from school in the village, then went for a walk (with her gorgeous labrador) around a field, taking in wonderful sights of the countryside. Yes, a self-confessed living-in-the-city-wannabe actually likes Sunday walks, trodding along on grass and taking pictures of faraway fields. 
  • Might have discovered another handbag to add to my ever-expanding collection!
In some peoples' eyes, my weekend might hover towards the more basic side, but it provided the perfect escape from the drama that unfolded earlier this week. More often than not, simplicity works wonders when you're seeking a dose of happiness. Even if I go on a drive around the local villages, I'm happy. Though nearly six months have passed since I moved here, taking in new sights never bores me.

Oh well, here comes the inevitable which, if needs must, only the hardest of all wintery illnesses could get me out of tomorrow. I've had my fun, so I guess that working hard will re-compensate for my natural ability to have a very good time. Still, who really knows what is lurking around the corner? A snowstorm in September would be a miracle...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

One Week Down, Many More to Follow!

Phew, reaching the shiny ribbon at the end of a racing track has never been such a relief; the frantic race towards another end has been completed, placing that moment in the memory book that I call my past. This weekend shall be about relaxing, doing what I want and perhaps sneaking in a few naps if nobody notices - for today and tomorrow, paradise will be within my reach!

Until now, I'd somewhat lost my appreciation for the weekends which, only several months ago, struck me as a boring and lifeless end to a jam-packed week. Not only were the TV listings particularly disappointing, but it felt like everything - shopping hours, news and our general zest for action - had suddenly halted, its power button switched on until the following Monday. I would quickly lose interest in - shock, horror! - reading a book, humming along to my playlist on Spotify and even melting chocolate for another batch of gobble-'em-fast brownies because the time to take part in those activities was unlimited during the week itself. Or so it was the case until the new school year began last Friday.

Within a week, my life has been thrown upside down since piles of homework taller than my home, chasing after the bus and, of course, a noticeable lack of lie-ins made a spectacular return, like somebody had simply clicked their fingers. I have since been slowly recovering from the shock to my system - which hasn't had any spare time to settle down - while being swept up into the crazy world that we refer to as school.

In order to enter a foreign country, possessing a passport is always mandatory. However, what leaves me scratching my head is that, despite only being situated a mere four miles from home, my school is foreign territory. I don't care that it comes under the postcode for the county city or that it is classified as a British establishment because, if it were not for the English-accented pupils and teachers, it would most certainly be unknown land.

A school is so unlike other parts of society which, in a sense, separates itself from the outside world. Think of crossing a border. One side forms part of a nation that you know and love with all your heart, whereas the other is as unfamiliar as Lady Gaga wearing no scrap of dramatic make-up. Each day that I go and leave school reminds me of embarking on strange territory; it just doesn't share the warmth that you would discover in a place that comforts you, like a well-loved shop or even home.

Instead, the purpose of going there could neither be louder nor clearer: you learn. Above the numerous policies that are put in place - and most of whom are either broken or ignored by fiercely independent teenagers - trying your hardest is the most valuable requirement at school, otherwise your time there will be thousands of hours wasted.

A reason why I have grown to like school - for the sense of loving it was not instilled, but learnt as I got older - is that, if I'm obliged to attend it until I'm eighteen or whatever, I might as well develop a fondness for it because no world-class excuses will get me out of it. Sometimes, you must accept what you are given which, for 99.9% of children in this country, is the requirement to gain an education, most often at school. Letting your hatred of being forced to do something that you obviously dislike will only serve as a barrier from gaining freedom, or even extend your hellish time at school if you fail to achieve respectable grades.

My advice is grit your teeth, banish all negative thoughts and get on with it until you are waving your GCSE results, the air electric with ecstasy as you bid farewell to compulsory uniforms. Well, that's what I would be buzzing about on Results Day, but aim for the end result because, believe it or not, it will be coming your way in no time!

Now that I completed the final few weeks of KS3 and leapt head-on into GCSE coursework, I'm finally contributing to a means to an end, which is the sole reason why I went back to school in the first place. The sooner I finish assessments, revision and exams, the better - I'm already raring to enter the careers market, hopefully with plenty of brilliant qualifications behind me!

Yet, as I along with many of you will have discovered, the first week is usually the hardest time at school because everybody - teachers included - are adjusting to the return of a routine that, if we had our way, would prefer to not recognize. After six weeks of summer, who would fancy giving it all up in favour of early starts, testing lessons and the onset of chilly winter? Then again, c'est la vie; if that's a routine which has forever remained the same for previous generations, it is highly unlikely that it will change for us now. Besides, once the initial awkwardness has passed, our memories slowly shift from summer to schoolwork - and, until half-term approaches, we don't look back. 

A week since the new year commenced, it amazes me - though not in what you'd call in a good way - that my thoughts have shifted from relaxing to throwing myself into 'the deep end', otherwise known as hard work. Once I was handed my first homework assignment, it only felt like yesterday that I'd spent an entire week handwriting an essay, because that 'work-hard' instinct automatically kicked in. And as soon as I finished writing the final letter, a wave of relief swept through me - my personalized adrenaline hit. Some people get high from dabbling in the illegal kind or partying until all hours in a nightclub, but my addictive hit is sourced from working hard - and, as much as I begrudge doing it, homework!

Although life has gradually settled into, well, a more normal routine (for getting up at 5.30am to wash your hair in the dark is totally a rarity among even the most hair-conscious teens), my first few days weren't necessarily a walk in the park. For example, yesterday was the first day when my timetable hadn't been messed up which, as it hadn't been updated, caused me to attend the wrong lessons - talk about embarrassing when most of my classmates would ask me why I didn't turn up to their (and my) lesson!

Plus, the school made the most pathetic excuse ever about placing me in the lower sets, including my best-loved class - English. Since receiving an A in a creative writing assessment from last term, I've proved all my teachers - who cannot handle the responsibility to admit their mistakes - wrong! If an error is made, nine times of ten the computer will be blamed, but those excuses do not and never will fool me.

And my 'socialisation'? Never has such an issue existed, unless people are looking to cause problems that are not my fault. Anyway, I'll be getting my own back on some people by discussing it in full-on detail in next month's English assessment, in which we literally rant about a certain theme. If some of the teachers read it, perhaps they would never cross my path again! But writing from the heart is what earnt me that precious A grade in my previous assessment, so I'm keen to be as cut-throat and honest again. By the time that I've completed my coursework, perhaps my folder will contain enough material to publish an autobiography!

Indeed, problems will crop up from time to time, but I'm better equipped at warding off the idiots who threaten to turn my academic life into a living hell. My new friend and I stick together, which is a real comfort to me; at least I have somebody who has my back, while I look out for hers. Whenever difficulty arises, I keep thinking to myself, just less than two years until Sixth Form.

My future is fastly approaching, and now is the time to determine which path I shall follow. Me? I'm just as prepared and organized as ever because I have been waiting to work towards it.

One week down, many more - hopefully not as stressful as this one - to follow!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What to Expect in School

Over halfway through my first week back in the oh-so-new year, life has returned to the daily bustle of waking up at 5.30 in the morning to wash my hair in the dark (in order to preserve electricity), trotting out the door seconds before the bus arrives and embarking on miles-long treks throughout campus en route to my five lessons.

To this day, this routine still strikes me as an alien occurrence because, as it only came into force a mere few months ago, I sometimes have to remind myself that school has now become a part of my life. Each day promises a longer distance away from my previous existence as a home-schooler which, in many ways, fills me with bucket load quantities of sadness. As much as I crave to throw myself into studying for my GCSEs, I really wish that studying at home was still an option - instead of a memory that has since moved to my past. However, I stop in my tracks whenever a thought like this pops into my head, allowing the moment to pass before I resume with my work and, very much indeed, a new way of life.

Having attended a full term that originally began in June - otherwise the final six weeks before summer saved us from yet more maths horrors - I regained the month-and-a-half that I'd lost to school at my home, which somewhat resurrected my former means of learning: home education. Writing essays at my desk felt like second nature, along with not being tied down with stuffy uniforms (which nobody ever bothers to wear as demonstrated in the rules) and lining up in wait of picking up a mid-morning snack.

The difference between school and home education is that, while adults have the right to lay down the rules for you, no policies are enforced if you're home-schooled: the rules needn't be declared. I miss being entrusted with the freedom to make independent decisions - such as not being influenced or pressurized into choosing my GCSE options, or obliged to follow non-negotiable rules - but I live in hope that freedom will be returned to me in time, which I would prefer to be sooner than later or even never!

Therefore, I'd fallen back in my old pattern so easily that returning to school last week was a massive shock to the system; like 99.9% of pupils, I didn't want summer to end. And, in case you suspect that I'm over-exaggerating, I can assure that I'm not. No smartly-made-up lies could disguise my unease at losing the final moments of summer that I wanted to share at home, instead of being confined to a classroom that gave an unattractive view of the guttering.

My heart, torn between learning and freedom, struggled to resist cravings for unlimited spare time, afternoons out and, as a physical benefit, gaining the right amount of sleep that all teenagers need. Although the weekends traditionally promise trips to town, time spent enjoying my hobbies and, of course, significantly extending my hours in bed, they are mere flashbacks of the summer that you wish would return - less than a week on, I know what I would truly want. And would I be wrong if I represented most of the pupil population by saying so?

Anyway, school life shall hopefully settle into a (somewhat) peaceful routine in the next few weeks, or so I'm hoping for. In days, most of my lessons have been focused on gluing papers into my new workbooks and discussing the syllabus which, once you hit Year 10, involves a lot of hand-writing on the notes alones! Apart from Maths and Physics - which, after my first lesson tomorrow, could steal the undesirable crown that Maths has forever worn: my ultimate pet hate - I'm enthusiastic about my lessons and impatiently waiting until the getting-started process is over, when the real work can truly begin.

Without work, I get bored and, if ever taken on a journey to the Land of Boredom, I lose patience. Even when I am in a decent mood, patience is something that doesn't come easily to me, whose side effects also include throwing a strop bigger than a Hollywood screen siren, becoming withdrawn and eventually chopping off somebody's fingers with my ultra-sharp tongue. If entertained, however, this problem can be avoided - to the relief of mankind (and its many fingers). Learning is my entertainment which, as it will literally be all that I can do for seven hours each day, ought to become either my friend or arch nemesis. Needless to say, I didn't choose the latter, though several subjects have been regarded as enemies from day one - but who would I be if I didn't reserve some hatred for one or two topics?

While life itself features plenty of craziness, the madness more than doubles when placed in an environment like school - which, in some instances, might justify the teaching of fractions. As embarrassed as it makes me feel to say so, I was absolutely oblivious as to what to expect on my first day - even now this trend is still on the radar, as new lessons enter my timetable and I mix with numerous groups of various people. Long ago, my mum started to say that nothing surprises her anymore which, now that I've gotten older and gained more experience, is one of the most honest statements you will ever come across. Whereas my eyes would have popped out of their sockets if something unexpected occurred during my first week, I no longer waste vital energy in even batting an eyelid! You adjust, you learn and you accept what is going on around you, yet only if it doesn't directly affect you whatsoever.

The bottom line is that there is plenty to look out for at school. Unlike a public place or even your home, crowds of either cute-faced Year 7s - who look like they are descendents of the pint-sized fairy Tinkerbell - or grizzly-natured Year 11s are all that you will see, with a mixture of other year groups and  thrown in. People in need of the must-have anti-wrinkle cream will become semi-professional cry babies at the sight of youthful teenagers doing what they know best, sans qualifications: having fun with smooth, line-free skin. It's a strange world because there isn't quite an environment like it - unless you're attending the social event of the year, where will you find a building bulging with hundreds of teenagers?

If I'd been handed a guide about school life before I reached this point, perhaps my first few weeks would have been easier, potentially a so-called breeze. But it doesn't exist. Only knowledge and experience guides you in not only school, but various aspects of life. As much as I detested making simple mistakes and losing track at times, maybe these moments were necessary in order to progress then move on. Nobody is perfect, let alone myself. We have our weaknesses and our strengths, the latter of which we prefer to hone our skills on. Putting your entire heart into whatever you do is counts above the niggling issues and the stuff that lies in between. These are facts that are not published in a Dummy's guide or made available on Google; you just find out about them.

So, despite being slightly on the inexperienced side, it doesn't mean that I haven't learnt anything about schools in the term and past week that I've spent at mine. Some facts are as obvious as getting out of bed fifteen minutes before the bell rings, while others require a bit more understanding until you get them right. I'm well on my way to reaching the 'right' part, and will pick up more in months and even years!

1. Noise. A lot of it.
For those who are used to the peace and quiet that is commonplace in, say, a forest or the countryside (in my case), school will be like attending the loudest heavy metal concert on the planet. Your ears, and maybe your sanity, will face a great struggle until you adjust to the excessive noise levels - which are derived from classroom chatter, stern telling-offs from the exasperated teachers or a rare clip from YouTube being shown during lessons (thanks to the malfunctioning speakers).
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I first found myself in corridor, surrounded with a hundred pupils' or so voices and occasional shouts -  maybe what some people would define as a normal tone. At home, the TV and sometimes aeroplanes flying over the house are usually what I hear, so I was really amazed by the amount of noise that some pupils - especially the ones with a fondness for energy-boosting Redbull and the like - can make!
My advice: get a pair of earbuds - or, if you cannot risk getting into trouble, stuff some cotton wool into your ears - and save your hearing while you can. Otherwise, how would you ever keep up with the Top 40?

2. Queues as excessive as a day's worth of homework.
Even if your school is deemed to be of a lower-than-average size, you can bet your life that queues for anything - the canteen, classes or the toilets - will be very long, which seriously robs you of precious breathing space.
Time is also sacrificed if you're stuck in the queue for school dinners, so be prepared to wait a while until you indulge on a portion of chips whose calories you cannot bear thinking about. Well, you aren't short of time to contemplate about it, are you?

3. Knee-length skirts? Only kidding!
Enter any secondary school, then tell me what you see. Capacious corridors? Endless rows of stairs? Tons of girls, many of whom have started on the path towards adulthood? Look a bit closer, and you will notice something they wear. The answer is neither their layer-thick foundation nor numerous piercings that exist in all areas, but this: their skirts.
As most of you will be aware of, practically all schools enforce a rule which states that skirts must rest on or below the knee. However, teenagers will always be teenagers, which means that there are bound to be rules that we simply don't like - and pull out all the stops to break.
That's right, knee-length skirts are a rarity in schools, unless teachers with eyes like a hawk are in sight. In my first term alone, I laid eyes upon tube skirts that barely left anything to the imagination, Year 7s hardly much taller than my four week old kitten hiking up their skirts to above the shoulder and skirts so short that underwear was almost on show.
Decent, smart and law-abiding are definitely not the words that I would describe the knee-length-avoiding tactics that most girls have resorted to - for what purpose? A skirt is a skirt, but the thigh-length ones should be strictly reserved for the nightclubs and parties.
Meanwhile, my knee-length one has only served as a joke to the others, though I've recently gotten my own back: rules have since become stricter, and short skirts are no longer acceptable. Like Nelson Muntz says (or rather laughs), haha!

4. Homework, homework, homework.
The bane of many pupils' lives, our education wouldn't be complete without the presence of the one thing that we just love to hate: homework.
Intrusive, tiring and, depending on what it requires, sometimes pointless, homework causes many issues for some pupils, who crave to fall onto the sofa and go to sleep until their alarm clock goes off the following morning.
My brother and I don't always like it - especially if set with a task in an oh-so-detested subject - yet we have to accept it for what it is. Personally, I believe that, if a teacher is talented in his profession, giving out homework shouldn't be outright necessary; we go to school in order to be taught in a classroom, so why does home study enter the equation?
Of course, revising on stuff with particular resources - books, the internet, etc - at home ought to be encouraged, yet the distance between home and school life shouldn't get mixed up. Otherwise, homework will be forever begrudged for many generations to come - for too much of our time is focused on what we dislike!

And lastly, expected the unexpected. A trick that becomes easier over time, being prepared for anything helps you throughout your entire life, not just in school!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Problem With... Socialisation

If you have ever been home-schooled or known somebody whose education took place in their home, chances are that the S word - and definitely not of the profanity kind - has been uttered at least once. By this, of course I'm referring to the word that, in my experience, follows most home-schoolers like a horrible plague - socialisation. In recent years, socialisation has become a word that I've grown to hate even more than the thought of studying the Periodic Table which, if you had the slightest idea of how much I dread my Science lessons, is a pretty hard feat. The sound of it sends me into shock, making the hairs that I forgot to shave on my legs stand up and feel stubbier than ever. So, you would really need to get a hearing aid if you didn't know that socialisation is my ultimate dirty word - even the mess that my two not-so-angelic cats (who will soon be introduced to a seven week old kitten) produce on a constant basis can beat it.

For those who have yet to be enlightened with this oh-so-scary meaning - which makes The Exorcist as sweet as the U-rated Toy Story - behind 'socialisation' (I say this with my two index fingers pointed upwards, like an overly playful cat's tail), let me be your enthusiastic guide.

An essential part of life, socialisation is the foundation of getting used to others and mixing with all types of people. In our early years, we socialize with our parents and, if we have any, our siblings; usually, we make our first steps towards communication with family members, who know us best and have a valuable relationship with us. Then, as we begin to flourish, those social skills are further extended to other activities, such as playgroup, which we typically attend a few years before school is on the horizon. Through play, we meet fellow peers and learn how to be around people whom we don't necessarily know; for many of us, this is a point in which we discover how to make friends. And that cycle is continued once we start school, and so on for the rest of our lives.

Like the majority of children, I went to playgroup and school and socialized with various people - older children, kids my own age and, indeed, adults. In that aspect, my life has been the same as everybody else's, and socialisation has never been an issue for me. I've been best friends with a girl whom I met at primary school a decade ago, and we saw each other for the first time in seven years - due to my moving away - on Monday. We've texted, written letters and spoken on the phone many times over the years, the thought of which has never stirred a serious case of panicky nerves. I always enjoy talking to her and, since catching up six days ago, being in her presence. Socialisation? I haven't gotten any problem with it, but other people appear to have so.

As permanently inscribed in your brain, I returned to mainstream education - my fancier term for secondary school - several months ago, having been educated at home for seven years. During those seven years, I had contact with various people, including my close friend who vowed to stay in touch with me, despite living over hundred and fifty miles away. Never did I become a 'social recluse', but more of my time was dedicated to my studies - time that other kids might have used by hanging out with their mates instead of completing their Science project.

There are many stereotypes about home-schooled students, several of which break my heart. Type in 'are home-schooled kids...' into Google and the word 'weird' will show up on the suggested results. Typical really of people whose ignorance has cost them half of their IQ points, isn't it? Though my days as a home-schooler are long over, I still feel the powerful need to stand up for not only the current home-educated, but myself. Wherever I go, whatever I do, my past will never be wiped clean. And you know what? I don't want it to change one tiny bit because, regardless of the questions that people type into Google, there is nothing that I deserve to be ashamed of.

Everybody has a right to be different, and it just so happens that my method of gaining an education is in the minority compared to most others'. But does it honestly matter? As long as nobody is making a fuss about it, I couldn't care less about whether I've spent the past seven years in a classroom or at my desk because the principles always stay the same: you learn. When you think about it, people are only causing up a stir over where you are being taught, which doesn't justify creating cruel stereotypes whatsoever. People are afraid of the unknown, then channel their fear into ignorance, which then leads to idiocy and a remark from my mouth that is a sharper than a crocodile's set of pointy teeth. Yet home-schooled students -  whose aspirations to achieve in their studies are as great as their school-attending counterparts - receive that all-mighty blow, which knocks us off our feet in the boxing ring. And the repercussions continue to be strongly felt - even when you leave home education behind in the past.

Anyway, I started at my new school - otherwise my first ever experience at a secondary school - in June and have just returned after the summer holidays, which I treated like a gift from heaven. For six glorious weeks, there were no obligations to don a restrictive uniform that was merely an advertising outlet for the school, and my ears were given a thankful break from non-stop noise that you hear in between and during classes. As of Friday, the gift's duration reached an end, and reality resumed - in all its startling brightness. School is back and, at least for me, a pressing issue: socialisation.

Think back to those Google suggestions and pick out the 'weird' one. Why are home-schooled pupils perceived to be weird and not at all normal like their peers, who receive fair treatment for going to school? Some things are left unsaid because you cannot deny how obvious they are, but they are nonetheless shocking when you find yourself on the receiving end of it. Unfortunately, I discovered the horrific truth behind this almost from the moment that school re-entered my life, almost entirely thanks to the S word that I cannot bear to utter, think about or write down ever again. Well, like I said a few moments before, some things needn't be said - and perhaps it's for the best.

Let's get one thing straight: home-schooling and socialisation are not a great combination. Society seems to believe that, if you are not fooling around with the idiots that you call your classmates at school, you possess little or no social skills. Within a click of a finger, you locked away from the outside world, which is like a permanent version of Big Brother minus the drunks and wannabe Z-Listers. In some people's eyes, that's the way that home-schooling is, but the truth couldn't be further away from that incorrect belief. And, sadly, several teachers and schools have cottoned on to the view that the home-schooled cannot socialize, which has created absolute hell for me.

Without going into too great detail, I have faced several problems at my new school which, since bringing them up with the appropriate people, have been nipped in the bud. As far I'm aware, I came out of the other side intact, a bit stronger and resilient in my strength and ability to ward off insignificant others. However, some people take the view that I have the problem - because of 'socialisation'!

So, what these people - adults noless, who ought to have paid more attention to various forms of education during their teaching courses - are conveying behind their fancy terms is that, because some people were picking on me, I'm a social recluse. WHAT PLANET ARE THEY ON???

My head has been swimming with the words that several teachers have used which, behind the gentle smile, translates as I have a socialisation problem. The blame that ought to be placed on them has been shifted onto me, because they cannot accept the responsibility that they have to prevent their pupils from targeting their peers. But, despite the gruelling tests that I've been put through, I will never give in. Otherwise, I'd be giving them as much satisfaction as the bullies would gain had I buckled under their spiteful words. Yet should it be happening in the first place? No.

Alright, I've just gotten used to the whole school thing and lack the experience that many pupils have, but it doesn't mean that I'm oblivious to the tricks that schools can play. I might have spent my first few weeks in a bubble, taking in my surroundings and adjusting to the great change in my life, yet it certainly did not mean that I didn't understand anything. If I'm up-to-date with politicians' antics in The Daily Mail - whose lying skills I've analysed like a maybe Photo-shopped selfie - why would I not be able to spot the tricks that schools try to play? Many home-schoolers are smart, and I hope to be solid proof of that theory.

Just because I was home-schooled, it doesn't justify why several ill-minded pupils decided to use offensive language - which totally went against the supposedly 'strict' policies - towards me. In fact, it's another excuse that attempts to hide a problem that the school cannot control, yet the mask has already slipped; I see right through it. Bringing socialisation into the equation is the worst of all the excuses that could have ever been made, because it is highly irrelevant to my education.

Will mixing with the in-crowd influence my grades and, most 'importantly' of all, the school's league tables? If I really wanted to socialize, I'd go to a social club which, for many pupils, is the purpose for which they bother going to school each day. I study, I work hard and I try to stay on my teachers' good side - isn't that what matters most? School is about learning and pushing yourself further beyond your means; as much as making friends and getting along with your peers is important, I take the view that your main focus should be steered towards learning, instead of the social events of the year.

My rant over-and-done with, I hope that all people - schools and pupils included - realize that socialisation is not the be- and end-all of school life. Yes, we should be encouraged to participate in group activities and work as a team, yet that can be said about people who have attended school all their life - home-schoolers shouldn't have to take the blame because of being different.

If any of my teachers mentions the S word one more time, perhaps they will receive a dressing down about what socialisation - and its acre-long list of problems - truly means...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Accepting What Life Gives You

Depending on our levels of determination and instinct to fight or flight, people are not always accepting of what life gives them. Circumstances can represent themselves as a cruel reminder of what you wish was yours which, in turn, might drag you down the path of anguish. 

Usually, we are spoiled for choice as to which decisions we shall make - more often than not, the more options on offer, the harder we find to choose just one - but there are several exceptions to this trend. For example, you can either choose to find a solution to a problem that is eating more away at you than your appetite for a giant-sized pizza, or sink to the lowest point that you'll ever experience. Bucket loads of misery might steer you towards the latter if you've lost the will to regain control, but even a miniscule spark of hope could save you from even more outbreaks of hysterical sobs. It's that tiny piece of hope that we ought to search for whenever faced with pressing dilemmas, whose effects can either resurrect a shadow of our stronger selves or tip us off the not-so-far edge. 

And, I say, that is how you accept - or at least put up with - what life gives you. 

As much as almost all of us prefer to believe, the world is brimming with goodness, hope and lights as sparkly as chandeliers, whose gifts we are eager to benefit from. Of course, it is true that plenty of people achieve success in various ways - going up the jobs ladder, passing oh-so-difficult exams and residing in a house more luxurious than Paris Hilton's wardrobe - and we are often surrounded by positivity, yet our heads would have to be buried in sand to forget about the problems that affect not only ourselves, but also many others.

Personally, I like to think about it like this: for every dollop of good, along must come a drop of bad, which makes both sides equal. Without a doubt, we yearn for the balance to steer further towards the good because the bad creates tension and unwanted sadness - both of the slight and extreme kind - but circumstances like these are beyond our control. Long ago, I learnt that it was pointless to dwell on the things that I could neither influence nor completely change, but it wasn't my priority - and, in fact, there are sometimes occasions in which none of us are unable to alter the effects that negativity causes. Instead, our energy mustn't be wasted on the impossible, but on the dilemmas that we can do something about, which may or may not be later transformed into a positive. 

Like decent grades and fashion sense to rival that of an A-Lister, we crave positivity and, if I should be entirely upfront about it, we never get enough of it. More wishes are made than the entire world's population, often for both selfish and compassionate reasons. If we get our hands on our desires, happiness is the end result. But don't you realize the problems - or let's say the negatives - about wishing for positivity? For many people, it never satisfies our relentless hunger to experience that fluttery feeling we get whenever positivity is present in our lives. Perhaps I now have the answer that explains why the likes of obesity, alcoholism and countless issues plague many peoples' well-being - when the ultra-strong cravings kick in, would once ever be enough? 

Then, on the other end of the scale, there exists a bundle of people who, instead of endlessly seeking more and more positivity, struggle to achieve it. Sometimes, we play tricks on ourselves, believing that literally everything in our lives is wrong and not living up to the standard than we expect. Though we cannot deny the many faults that are found in life itself, something good and pure must be within our reach. However, it's simply easier to focus on the bigger issue at hand - the all-mighty bad stuff - instead of reminding ourselves of the small amount of good that we can claim to be our own, which promises the involvement of a task that requires expanding it into something greater and positive. 

Negativity carries many side effects, but the one that I typically find is brain drain which, for those whose minds are seriously caught up in it, is hardly surprising. I achieve a double whammy - mental and physical exhaustion - if a problem is bugging me, a feat that is a mere side issue to the dilemma that I wish to never face. As it is so hard to pull yourself away from the bad stuff and exercise your thoughts into positive ones, exhaustion is even stronger - which is why making that leap from one side to side is a decision that the most affected people struggle to make. 

Deep down, negative people want to escape from the hard-going side of life, yet might possess little or no motivation to make that move themselves. Determination is rarely in short supply if you're of a positive nature, whose absence is truly noticeable when dealing with troubling dilemmas. But building up the strength to move away from those feelings is usually the only way that your life will be freed from negativity; after all, baby steps are far better than taking none at all. 

At the end of the day, let's not forget about what we do have which, to some people, would be their dream come true. For example, you might be living in a house - what about the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who rest their heads on the pavement as a pillow each night? Yet again, some of us are blessed with a group of trustworthy pals who offer outpourings of love whenever disaster has struck; others might not be so lucky. Negatives can be attached to even the good things that typically make us happy - and the same applies if the roles are switched. 

As hard as we make efforts to avoid them, life wouldn't truly be a true reality if problems never cropped up. It's a learning curve for everybody, but it is up to us to determine whether we'll take those lessons on board. Bad situations either turn your heart into steel - shielding it away from future harm - or clutches away at your heartstrings, its effects felt long after you first experienced it. Although we wish to hold onto the innocence that defined our childhood selves for as long as possible, life has other ideas - and toughening up is a ritual that we participate in sooner or later. 

All doors leading to progression will be blocked until we embrace putting on a tougher persona, which is otherwise recognized as acceptance. Sure, we have the right to begrudge as much as we wish, yet moving on will be virtually impossible if we fail to do so. From time to time, sacrifices have to be made. If it was me, I'd rather let go of naivety that shielded me as a child than become a weakling in adulthood. 

And, lastly, we take steps towards accepting what life gives us. As a teenager, my presents are in the form of bumpy breakouts and  horrific hormones - ever such a glorious gift as I enter young adulthood, huh? However much that we grit our teeth as a craving to scream out loud grows stronger and stronger, there is far worse that is being experienced by other people. After all, if life gives you lemons, why not make the most of it by making lemonade? Cherish what you have and use it to your advantage which, if luck offers its blessing, could become what you were truly seeking - positivity. 

Sometimes, we make things ourselves, or change them to our liking. Accepting life for what it is will prepare you for whatever is ahead, and hopefully many great things that will come your way if you put your heart into achieving it.