17 August 2017

11 Things to Expect in Year 11 + FREE Year 11 Calendar

Hey everyone!  Back to school season is nearly here, and to 'celebrate' I thought I would share some wisdom! I just finished year 11 and there are certain things you don't really anticipate, and sometimes you just have no idea what to expect at all.  In short, this will be the hardest you've worked in all your life so far. So, you're gonna need some help!!!

1) More independant work

The biggest change in year 11 is the shift in who decides what work you do. It changes from your teachers drilling what they want you to do into you, to you deciding what work you do and when you do it. You've got to be aware of this from day one and start implementing it immediately if you want to be even slightly successful in your exams. I don't mean you have to revise all night from the off, but taking responsibility of your actions in class and at home will set you off right for the rest of the year, because you will have to come up with a timetable and stick to it ( see how here and here).  Embracing this shift is going to be your key to good results, because YOU become the one telling yourself what to do rather than everyone else, which gets it done.

2) Chaos in classrooms

As well as the fact that you are stressed out with the amount of work, your teachers are stressed and your classmates are stressed. Contrast to your probable expectation, this often doesn't lead to harder work and silence in classrooms; often it leads to chaos.  Everyone responds differently to the pressure of year 11, and some people respond throwing pens at teachers, doing pranks, and basically pissing everyone else off. The people who aren't putting the work in at home often feel an underlying stress, so they lash out in classrooms with teachers who give that extra bit of leeway or show any lack of control.  During this chaos, you have to put your head down and DO YOUR WORK.  You've got to accept that you have to respect your teachers this year because they are your lifeline. Everything you learn in class is going to come up in the test, and although it might seem like ages away and you have time to catch up, you don't have many lessons left and odds are those lessons are going to be filled with something different every time. Basically, if you miss something, you've missed it for definite and there's no going back in class.  It is your responsibility to not get caught up in what everyone else is doing and focus.

3) Increase in Assemblies

You will find that your teachers are trying really hard to boost morale and keep you motivated for this year. While this constant pushing can be irritating, boring and sometimes a little scary, you've got to remember that they're trying their best. It is important to listen in these assemblies as often you are being given important information that may seem irrelevant to you now but will prove very useful in a few months. Revision technique, information about sixth forms and exam details are all very important to you and you should definitely look out for them.

4) You get less delegated homework

This slightly coincides with the first point, but as the year goes on the teachers stop giving you homework. In the first few weeks there will likely be a surge of homework tasks to carry out as they want controlled assessment stuff done and they want to break you in to the pressure of year 11 like a pair of shoes. However, after this there will be almost no homework at all as the responsibility is given to you. The fact that there's no homework does not mean you shouldn't be doing homework. You set your own work, and you make sure you do it. Keep a planner and record given homework, and your own homework

5) You will need to drop your activities and clubs in the new year (Jan/Feb)

While it is important to have a good range of activities to put on your sixth form applications and to talk about in sixth form interviews, you need to drop them in January or February mid year 11. This is when it starts getting tough as you may have mocks going on or mocks about to happen. You need to start focusing solely on those exams as these are good practise for when the real thing comes around, which will happen sooner than you think. If you don't drop theclubs, you'll soon find them getting in the way of the work you should be doing. 

6) More responsibility in school activities

Although you're gonna drop these early in the year, when you do take part in things like school shows, concerts, competitions etc, you will be given more responsibility and leadership tasks. While it's important to do this as it looks good on sixth form applications etc, you don't want it to take priority over revision. I was the lead in my school play throughout my first set of mock exams and I just about managed to balance it, but it is hard to do this and you need to make sure that you are prepared to work, a lot!

7) Unreliable teachers

When you have a teacher who has a sudden illness midway through your exam year, it can be really stressful. I didn't have an english teacher for the majority of year 11, which meant we had a different supply teacher every lesson for one of the most important subjects. Those doing media in my year also didn't have a teacher.  Being prepared for such an event is important as it means it doesn't have to be the end of the world. You need to attend any after school classes that you are offered and perhaps look into investing in a tutor. You can also do some research into the exam: how many papers, the mark schemes, types of questions or look at YouTubers (see my post on good revision youtubers here!). Do the work for yourself without relying on the supply teachers, who often don't have the right qualifications or the right experience.

8) Increase in workload

This is kind of an obvious one, but you're going to do more work during the school day as teachers won't let you just do nothing anymore. Your school day is going to be longer, not only due to after school classes, but to revision at home. Accepting that you're going to be tired a lot is a really good thing to start straight away haha! Don't cram into your nights though, I always stopped around half eight with many breaks in between. But yes, there will be more work!

9) Mocks. Lots of mocks.

Although mocks are not as important as your final GCSE exams, it is important to work hard for them. The results you get from your mocks are not important in the sense of getting anywhere in life, but they should be important to you as they show you exactly where you're going wrong and where you need to improve to get a better grade. Mocks are extremely useful as you experience what its like being in your exam hall and having multiple exams on the same day. Don't let those grades get you down if they're not what you want, in my year 10 mocks I got a 5 in english language, in my november mocks I got an 8 and in my march mocks I got a 9 (I shall update you on what I got at GCSE next week!!!).  Make sure you revise for them to get a taste of what you like and how much is best for you.

10) Friendship groups may shift

The pressure of revision and exams definitely changes perspective between friends. Your friendship group may change during this year as some simply can't tolerate others anymore while they muddle through. Try and avoid drama if you can to avoid distraction. It's really important to surround yourself with the best people so you can support each other through this really really really tough year.

11) The realisation that everything you do is the LAST TIME

I very often felt many surges of sentimentality over little things like buying something from the canteen or  walking into certain classrooms. With events such as school shows or special days you realise that its the last time and so you're left feeling sad in regular intervals throughout year 11!! On the flip side, you get many opportunities open to you that you didn't before and many events that you have looked forward to for many years, that finally come around, like leavers day, prom and leading events like competitions you may have at your school. Its a weird year, with so many feelings floating around. That last day is going to be one of the weirdest you ever experience because you have so many emotions!!!!

For me, year 11 was tough, but a good year. There's a lot of character building as you learn to stand on your own two feet and expose yourself to how much work you are really capable to do. I learned a lot about myself, as I hope you will do too. 

Good luck guys!!

// Jeani

13 August 2017

Coursera - Super or a scam? // My Experience + Free List of 25+ MOOCs

Hey everyone!

Some of you may already be aware of sites such as Coursera and edX, which offer short, free, online courses from many universities across the world, known as MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course and the concept is almost too good to be true: anyone and everyone (13+) can just go onto the site, sign up, and take the course!

I found out about MOOCs from UnJaded Jade in the following video. I thought it couldn't be possible to take a course without paying anything, so I gave it a try.

When I first searched for MOOCs into google, I was directed to this site where I could search for a course I was interested in.  I did not have a clue what kind of course I wanted, but it was not hard to find a course that grabbed my attention.

My course was an introduction to HTML5 from University of Michigan, as I am interested in developing my web skills as a blogger.


The first surprise was that the term 'free' is used quite loosely.  I discovered that to take any of the quizzes or graded assessments I would have to pay £37 a month after a 7 day free trial as the course was part of a specialisation, which means it was part of a 5 course series. Introduction to HTML5 is supposed to be taken in three weeks, which posed a little bit of a problem. You always have the option to audit the course, which would mean you would have access to all the material bar assessments and the certificate; however, I didn't want to go through the effort of learning to make a website without receiving a certificate in the end of it, so I challenged myself to take the course in seven days.

I did it in two. 

In my first few day of taking the course, I had completed week 1 and 2, which equated to around 2 hours plus quizzes and reading. But after having completed two thirds of the course, I decided to look at some reviews of coursera to make sure the site was safe after speaking with my mum. I found out that although partaking in a free trial, others had had money taken out of their account for the following weeks even though they had every intention of cancelling before the end of the free trial.

Furthermore, I questioned whether the five star reviews praising coursera were really genuine as they had script-like language, all sounding quite similar.

But of course there is no way to be sure if those reviewing with one-star reviews simply didn't read the guidelines properly and if the 5 star reviews are just from particularly enthusiastic students. My advice, if you want to do it for free, is to sign up for your free trial, enter your details and then immediately remove your details and unsubscribe from the course. You will still be able to complete your free trial with all assessment materials still available.

Course Quality

The course itself was very professional and was run by a professor with a PhD in computer science..  I had access to several instructional videos which very clearly explained each step to creating a website, as well as highlighting ethical issues such as accessibility and explaining what the computer does with the information you give it. The instructor immediately told you what would and would not be included in the course so when we ended up with a basic website no one was disappointed! I learned the difference between CSS, Javascript and HTML, syntax and semantics. This is what I ended up with in the final project:


The assessments on the whole were quite good. We were given small quizzes at the end of each quiz and slightly larger ones at the end of each week. All assessments were auto-graded, which was a problem for the final assessment as you could never get the html code exactly as the professor originally wrote it; however, she did a good job of making sure you could still pass the exam and test the skills required to code the website with added questions. I was impressed with the quizzes as it was made sure that the students learning was constantly tested. Your final grade was an average of scores from all quizzes, and not just the final one.


The second surprise came when it was time to receive the certificate. You had to give them a picture of your National ID?! I was very confused as why they would need that kind of sensitive information just to give the certificate after spending two and a half hours watching videos and roughly another hour experimenting with code and reading the material.  The reason Coursera needs the information is so that they can verify your identity. So far, I haven't had any problems regarding people stealing my identity!

Would I recommend coursera?

Yes, I would.  Despite slight fears over money and national identity theft, I found coursera to be a very rewarding experience and would suggest anybody use it.

Would you use coursera? Comment below!

// Jeani

9 August 2017

Why I didn't attend my own prom // Story time!

Hey everyone!

So today I am going to tell you the story of how I ended up missing my prom (and why I don't regret it AT ALL!).

About this time last year my mum, my grandad and I started planning an around the world journey. We knew we would go to Samoa, where my great Uncle lives, but we had to plan where we would go on the way. After much deliberation, we ended up with India, Singapore, Auckland and LA.

There were many obstacles in the way of our adventure: the easter holiday was too expensive, my mum had to work through the summer holidays and I was doing my exams in May. The only possible time to go on our holiday was directly after I finished my last exam!

We only realised a few months later that this would mean I would miss my prom and leavers day! I had to decide between a month-long adventure of a lifetime, or go to an evening-long prom night that I had been dreaming about since I saw High School Musical 3 when I was 7!

I asked my friends what they would do and they were divided.  Some were adamant that prom was the clear choice, and others were shocked at the idea of missing a holiday like this over a night where you wear a pretty dress. I soon realised where I stood in the conversation, and knew that the right choice was to go on the incredible once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world.

Above are pictures of what I looked like on prom night ^^^ on a beach in Samoa. Although it happened to be raining (quite a lot, for the whole holiday!) I realised that I had made the right choice.  I know that my friends had an amazing time on their prom night and really enjoyed seeing each other in their beautiful dresses and suits and partying in a beautiful hall taking photos that they will reminisce on in fifty years.

 I do feel dismayed that I am not in those photos, but I have my own photos to show my kids one day if I have them. I can show them the cows that feed in the rubbish with the poor men in India, I can show them the blue sea of the ocean in Polynesia, I can show them the architectural trees of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, the bright saris of the women in oppression, the open-sided wooden huts people sleep in in Samoa and the streets of a modern city with no gum lining the pavements like we have in cities at home.

Old Delhi

Elephant in Jaipur
Gardens by the Bay

Climbing a cliff in Samoa

I have seen so much of the world, and I have no regrets.

// Jeani

6 August 2017

GCSE Revision YouTubers // Summer Revision + Free Checklist

Hey everyone!

Today I thought I'd share some useful knowledge I gained during the last few weeks of exam season. I wish that I had known about this so much earlier as there are so many moments during the start of year 11 and during the summer before (this summer for many of you) where you feel like you should be revising but really can't be bothered but end up doing nothing. This is what I suggest:

These YouTube videos should not replace your kinaesthetic revision (e.g. flash cards or notes) but they can be useful addition. They should be used for refreshing information you've already learned but perhaps forgotten, or for a quick summary of things you are about to learn in the next year so that its a little easier to understand.

I don't have YouTubers for every subject, but for a lot of subjects using videos won't even help you, and so the ones I put below are the ones which were useful for me. Please feel free to add any in the comments if you know of others!

Mr Bruff - English Literature and Language

Mr Bruff has a very detailed and extensive list of videos covering every book and poem on the AQA syllabus. I'm not sure if he covers other exam boards in his videos, but I know he has revision guides and stuff for you!  I found his videos extremely useful as they had SO much detail and taught me many techniques and how to portray my point of view. If it turns out that I am successful in English, I will at least partly owe my success to him!  Remember that with poem analyses, or any analyses really, that your opinion is what is going to impress that examiner and while its important to learn other points of view and what the text could mean, however you see it is what will get you the marks!

Primrose Kitten - Science and Maths

I found summary videos like the one above extremely useful in the last few weeks to refresh all the subjects, as I really struggled with science in my first year and a half. After doing past papers and watching videos I finally managed to get my head around it. As I said, these videos in particular are good for refreshing basic information that you may have forgotten, and they do it very quickly! Primrose Kitten has other types of videos too so make sure you go through and find some that are useful to you.

Christopher Thornton has quite short videos which explain simply, but efficiently, majority of subjects on the syllabus of most exam boards.  I used these to try and get my head around subjects that I could not understand by reading my original notes or the textbook as they explained the subject in different words and in a manner in which I could actually I understand. I would take the video and transfer what I was being told into a mindmap or a set of notes to prove to myself that I understood. 

Others like Christopher thornton: Free Science Lessons, My GCSE science

UK Maths Teacher - Mathematics

I didn't actually use these videos, but I thought I better add some maths in here! I think videos can be very useful for maths as it can be a difficult subject because it isn't very visual. Watching a video allows you to visualise the problems and remember the process the teacher in the video goes through. The way to improve maths is to practise and do past papers, but the thing about maths is, you really do have to understand the process and isn't that easy to just wing it. 

Eve Bennett/Revision with Eve - General/How to
I discovered Eve Bennett quite early this year. Eve is year 12 currently and is about to go into year 13 but she got all A*s (I think) so I would certainly take her advice!  Eve's second channel Revision with Eve mainly contains how-to videos, such as "how to revise for languages" featured above. These are good if you want to start revising but you don't know how to go about it for each subject. There are other types of videos as well, such as the recently uploaded "how to have the MOST productive summer EVER".

Others like Eve Bennett: UnJaded Jade, Ibz Mo, Holly Gabrielle

I hope you found this useful and that you will watch a few videos to relieve the stress you may be feeling right now about the upcoming year. You will be shocked at how quickly this year will fly by, so its good to start preparing now, even if it is just by watching a couple of videos here and there!

Good luck!

// Jeani

2 August 2017

How to make a GCSE revision timetable pt 2 // flexible and no time constrictions

Hey everyone! For this blog post, you should read part 1 here which will make this a lot easier to understand.

In part 1 I explain how much you should revise per day and how much you should revise each subject per week. in this post, the same two week format applies, but with more flexibility.

What to do 
The first thing you need to do is buy a weekly planner with each day of the week like mine here:

Once you have bought your weekly planning paper, you need to split your page into week A and week B as shown above. Next, you should indicate which subjects you will study on each day using your study timetable.
You should choose four subjects from each day (obviously the ones which are relevant to your revision, excluding mandatory PE for example). At the end of the two weeks, you should have the right amount of subjects as dictated by your priority subjects, which I explain in part one.

Where to buy


Hope you found this useful!  Make sure you subscribe to the mailing list for reminders about future revision blog posts!

// Jeani

21 July 2017

How to make a GCSE revision timetable + free timetable template

Make sure you check out part 2 for a more flexible timetable guide
Hello again! This may seem like a strange time to post about revision timetables to you as this is the last day of school for most of you out there and you're probably thinking "no, no way, I'm not thinking about school for another six weeks!", and while this is a lovely idea, for those of you who've just left year 10, this is about to get really tough. Sorry to dampen the mood my friends, I know I'm just such a bundle of fun!

To brighten the sudden cloud of grief that has just began to loom over your head, I thought I would share some advice from a very organised, disciplined student. I may be the only one in existence, so listen close!

How to split up your subjects into a two week timetable:

I started thinking about revision very early, I started just before the year 10 mocks, obviously for the year 10 mocks, but after that I developed a very well thought out revision timetable. My actual timetable was not electronic, but I have decided to translate it onto excel in a way you can understand it, other than my quick scrawl on a notepad!

Step 1) Decide which  subjects are a priority for you
It's very easy without a timetable to fall into the trap of just doing the subjects you enjoy or don't feel quite so painful to study. However; what you should be doing is prioritising subjects either where there is lots to learn, like history or geography for example, or a subject that you struggle with, which was science for me.

Step 2) How many times in two weeks?
You now need to split up your subjects into levels of priority, this will determine how many times in two weeks you should be studying that subject, for example, this was how I split up my subjects:

Maths: 6 times
English Literature: 6 times
History: 6 times
Business: 5 times
Biology: 5 times
Physics: 5 times
Chemistry: 5 times
French: 4 times
Music: 4 times
English Language: 3 times

Step 3) How many times in one week?
The reason we start with two weeks is because it can be tricky doing as much as you want to do in a week, in a week. Let me explain: in the perfect world, we would do three business studies sessions and three biology sessions every single week for example, but in reality you just can't fit that much in and you begin to set unattainable goals, meaning the system breaks down and nothing gets done. The two week system allows a little leeway because you're not studying as much of one subject as you would with a one week timetable. But don't panic about that, you will definitely revise more than enough for each subject this way, it just makes it easier to handle!

Step 4) Where to slot each subject
Use your school timetable for guidance. Revising subjects you've already sat through in the day makes it a lot easier to make yourself revise as you feel more familiar with the subject, rather than starting from scratch.

Take the subjects you've done that day, if you go to a state school you probably have five subjects a day or around that. You shouldn't revise all five subjects obviously or you would tire yourself out, so what you need to is pick four of those subjects and slot them into your timetable. It works pretty much like trial and error as you have to get the right amount of that subject in per week, so just count as you go along for each subject and make sure you've got the right amount of each subject at the end of the fortnight. There may be a couple of times during the week where you have to have a priority subject on a day where you haven't studied it that day, such as english. Obviously you have to be flexible to make the timetable work for you!

How long should I revise for?

I revised for approximately 2-3 hours every night as I approached my final exams. For mocks before this, you do not need to revise that much. I shall do a blog post later about how much to revise for mocks, please comment below if you would find this useful!

In the timetable template, I revise for two hours with a dinner break in the middle, split into four half an hour study sections. Forty-five minute time periods are good, although I often changed this to an hour if doing a past paper or essays. I also often revised for much longer on weekends too as I literally had more time to fill up.

Having quite short bursts of revision means your brain stays active longer, meaning you stay more focused and get more done than long two hour periods of revision of the same subject. It is important to stay interested and awake, or the information will not go in, making the whole exercise a very boring waste of time!

The important thing to remember is that your plan should be flexible to how you feel and to your life, and although you should stick to your timetable, you should allow yourself to be in control of your decisions and your time.

I hope you all do well in your upcoming exams, whatever they may be. If there's anything else you'd like me to add here e.g. A-level timetables or GCSE timetables with more subjects options, please let me know in the comments!

// Jeani

17 July 2017

4 Crucial Planning Resources Every Blogger Needs // advice

Hey everyone! Welcome back if you've been here before , and if not, welcome to my blog!  Today I am one of those returning to my writing as I realised yesterday that I have not posted since March due to my extensive revision schedule I set myself over the months that came after, in preparation for my GCSEs. After a month of taking my exams, prior to a month travelling the world, I am finally back in a position where I can begin writing again.

Blowholes in Savai'i, Samoa

During my time away, I found myself with a lot of spare thinking time that I hadn't had for a long time, which led to lots of planning for my return to this blog. If you do happen to be a frequent visitor, you may have noticed that Jeani Thoughts has had a makeover (featuring many aesthetic photos from my holiday - you gotta utilise your resources!), which is my way of symbolising my fresh start now that high school is over.  This extra time for mind-mapping, thinking, writing, noting, listing, designing and planning showed me how important it is to plan and how, if at home, I may have jumped straight into blogging this summer as I would have the resources, like wifi and a laptop, to do so.

So, now we get to the point at hand: what are the best resources for planning? Often we find ourselves with so many thoughts whizzing around our brain that we just want to get them out, but struggle to choose the best way to do so; you don't want to risk misplacing your ideas, you want to quickly access the resource before you forget your ideas and you want them to be permanent. So, here is my list of resources (for dummies):

1) A3 paper and coloured pens - for creating visual plans
Blog plan mindmap

Above is a photo of a mind-map I put together in a maximum of ten minutes for my blog plan. Paper is definitely the best resource when trying to quickly jot down ideas as they easily flow from your brain and you have something you can see and visualise afterwards. I keep a stack of A3 paper by my desk and I used this a lot when revising. The use of colours means a) it looks pretty and b) it looks pretty, which tricks my brain into enjoying the process of planning and jotting down those ideas, or revising. The pro of paper is you can stick or pin your plan up where you can see it

2) Notes (on apple products) - for ideas

Blog plan mindmap draft
This app as upped its game recently; I love the fact that you can now draw on it (I don't actually know how new that feature is as I'm always five updates behind as my storage is always full, but it's new to me!). Anyway, this appears to be the only useful app that apple forces you to have on your phone, as you constantly have a notepad with you, presuming you always have your phone on you, which is good for sudden ideas, for writing casual lists of things to do and now jotting down images!

3) Pages/Word - for planning blog design

On a tablet, or even a laptop, despite being word processing equipment, I've found these very useful for designing, including my plan for a future home when I was seven - in hindsight, it probably wouldn't qualify for planning permission.
During my holiday, I discovered that pages was particularly useful for plan of a blog as it is equipped with shapes, ability to insert photos, and obviously text. I ended up creating a simple, yet effective, plan of what I wanted my blog to look like. Compare the image above with my blog now ( if you're not reading this in five years of course) and see for yourself.

4) Pinterest - for collecting ideas

When I first downloaded pinterest, I struggled to understand the buzz over this app which was seemingly pointless to a thirteen year old girl who used pinboards for displaying photos of her family - you can understand the confusion. But three years later, I am addicted and have pinned over twenty five thousand photos to over 65 different pinboards. Woah, I didn't even realise!

This clever app helps you to formulate an image or aesthetic by collecting images together in one place, allowing you to then click on the board and see a summary of your idea. For example:

A book I was gonna write

Future wedding plans (don't run from me boyfriend, I'm not crazy)

Style plans

Or collecting images around a specific theme so you can come back to it later either to read or pick from the ideas, for example:

Selection of tumblr posts surrounding feminism
Compilation of motivational quotes

So, there you go, my top four resources! Make sure you come back and read some more posts; as you can see on my mind-maps, I've got lots of good stuff coming up!

// Jeani

27 March 2017

Summer Storm // poem

Rays of light creep along hardwood floors
They seep through the cracks of open doors
Flood through the windows that have curtains flung back
They touch my skin you can still see their track

I reach a hand out, the light covers my skin
like a coating of paint. How can it be thin
When it pours down my arms and seeps into my eyes?
The thing about sunlight is that it surely dies.

Drops of water escape onto where I lie
But the heat ignites the once mizzling sky
Flashes of bright light scream in the air
I'm frozen in wonder as I watch them tear

Through the velvet sheet dropped across fields
Children peep through their lashes at the gods revealed
Shocked to my core as the sky inhaled
It spat out its fire like a bride unveiled

Then the moon brings the clouds across starlit skies
It breaks through my slumber. I watch the sun start to rise
Reds, oranges, pinks seep into the cotton
I sigh in wonder as the storm is forgotten

// Jeani

23 March 2017

28 things I am thankful for

1) I have a good family
2) I can go to school
3) I have a healthy body
4) Colour
5) My friends
6) I have a boyfriend
7) He thinks I'm great
9) I have a best friend in the form of my mum
10) Summer
11) The opportunity to grow mentally
12) Modern technology
13) My home
14) The education my parents have given me about living
15) Winter is going!
16) I've got a chance to start afresh next year at sixth form
17) The colour pink
18) Zara
19) Google and the answers for my homework that it gives me
20) My Claudia Tripp CD which arrived yesterday
21) The sun is shining today
22) The french language
23) Fear
24) David Tennant as the Doctor
25) Ed Sheeran's new album
26) I'm going to India
27) My FRIENDS box set
28) The number 28

 It's important to remember the good in your life, especially when you're feeling down. Challenge yourself to write a list of ten things you are grateful for everyday! There is so much good in the world, don't let it go unnoted.

// Jeani

14 March 2017

Equals // Excerpt from a story I'll never write

"ELLIE!" I froze. My reflection stared back at me in confusion as we tried to process the shout of my name from the street below. I furrowed my brows and tilted my head towards the window, hovering on the edge of my seat, heart hammering in my chest with confusion and fear. "ELLIE!" I knew that voice. "Oh no." I whispered as the flood of realisation hit me. I turned my head back towards the mirror and acknowledged my naked face and unwashed hair in horror as laughter erupted from the street. "Shit."

I could just ignore it... Defying all my instincts, I slowly rose from my stool and tiptoed towards the window in a low crouch before peering through my cotton curtains, hidden behind my bedroom wall. I drew in a breath as I saw the gang of boys on the pavement opposite my house: red caps facing backward, monster cans resting on the handles of their £10 scooters, adidas jogging bottoms hanging just a little too low. You know the type: think they're invincible, don't have a single functioning brain cell, arseholes by blood, bored and irritating. My 13 year old self was terrified.

As I stood, back pressed against the wall, I longed to hear the roar of my mum's car bump up to the drive or the blare of the television in the living room below to indicate that my dad was home, but nothing. Deafening silence. Deafening silence and the continuous, manic laughter from the boys who had now chosen to perch themselves on the curb of the pavement, waiting like crows for dead meat. Try to understand: my thirteen year old self was confused, self-conscious and a little too excitable for her own good, so when this situation presented itself to me, I was conflicted; I could just ignore them, but I knew if I waited much longer they would start throwing stones or calling me up just to freak me out. Plus, there was a small spark of excitement in the pit of my stomach that was urging me to go out and see what it was they wanted.  Ten seconds must have passed, but it felt like ten years had gone by while I stood by my window observing the boys who had chosen to annoy me on what was supposed to be a relaxing sunday morning. I sighed, dropped the curtain, sat back on my stool and surrendered to the inevitable by picking up my mascara brush and starting to apply.

In hindsight, I realise that we were more alike than we had assumed. At 13, we were both confused and frightened by a world where people judged you whatever you did. My perseverance and creativity was heavily mocked and criticised, which, despite my outward appearance of nonchalance, left me feeling scared and a little lonely. Their lazy attitudes and stupid hats were mocked but their embarrassment resurfaced in the form of anger and defiance, leaving us both frightened and confused. I knew they wanted me to be frightened, I knew they were the cause of my distress, I knew that I was an easy target, but I didn't know why. Perhaps we related to each other.

As I sat on my stool, I played over their teasing and mocking and humiliating in my mind and felt myself getting angry. They had no right to be here! I put down the mascara brush and looked myself in the eye. What the hell was I doing? I didn't need to be frightened of them! I pictured the scene: I would run downstairs and fling the door open, my face would be composed as I walk across the street, pause in-front of him then punch him in the jaw. There would be uproar. I would hear their shouts fade behind me as I walk away feeling powerful and satisfied, an equal. I smile.

I jumped off the stool and ran down my stairs, tripping over my own feet. I flung the door open. The shouts and sarcastic claps began to erupt as I took a few steps forward. My face was composed as I walked across the street and looked him in the eye. I stopped in front of him. For a moment, there was silence. I felt everyone draw in a breath as I stood there, frozen. I was so tempted, I could almost see the bruise and the tears welling up in his eyes. My hand itched; it would be so easy to do it, I could have the final say after all this time. Maybe I just wanted an end to this, because before I knew it, I was holding out my hand. A flicker of confusion passed across his features and he hesitated. Suddenly, he smiled and he held out his own hand. As I feel my hand hold his as we shake, the torment we put each other through is shared between us and acknowledged for the first time. Equals.

// Jeani

I hope you enjoyed this piece of creative writing based on an event from my life. Writing this put the whole situation at rest for me and helped me understand myself a little better. Thank you for reading!

25 February 2017

River of Life // Verbal Spill

So, it's nearly March. In a normal year I would probably say "blimey look how time flies, I can't believe it!" and then carry on with my day. This is not something I can do in 2017.

Every day is one day closer to my upcoming exams and that makes it very easy to feel like I'm being swept away in an ocean of paper and ink towards the inevitable. It's terrifying. It feels like I have no control, as if time is whizzing right past me and dragging me along with it.

My life is moving so quickly. I'm teetering on the edge of my future; my sixth form plans are in full motion which is leaving me excited but dizzy because the last thing I remember is walking into primary school for the first time. I'm still waiting for the day that looking in the mirror and seeing a fifteen year old ceases to shock me.

I know this is something everyone goes through, and I unfortunately know that this feeling is going to be mirrored in five years when I'm leaving university and teetering on the edge of a career. Nevertheless, it feels like I'm being pulled through rapids on a river and it doesn't matter what I try to hold onto I'm being pulled forward. I suppose that's just the passage of time.

Today I visited a wood where I used to go as a child. I reminded myself that the first time I came here was around eight years ago, which was a totally bizarre concept. The reason for that is, after all this time, everything is the same. The trees are the same shade of green, the pathways created by dog walkers remain, the length of the grass is still the same and the sky is the same shade of grey. It reminded me that although my life is charging full speed ahead, some things just don't change. This was my one thing to hold onto on my river and for one moment, a beautiful moment, this kept me stationary.

My entire life is changing and constantly morphing into something new, something different, and that's okay! My hair is darker, I'm taller, my face is thinner, my heart is full of more love than it ever has been, my life is more complicated than ever and yet it's as simple as it ever will be. But the roads I walk down, the shop I buy my sweets from, the building on the corner that was once a hairdressers but now isn't - these things will always be there. I can always rely on the world around me to stay, it might change, but it's always going to be here.

I think my message for today is this: you've got to go with the flow of your own  river of life, I know it might sometimes seem like it controls you or pulling you forward, but it's the one thing that's keeping you moving!

Maybe this post has been a ramble, but it helped me think at least

// Jeani

6 February 2017

Lost chances // poem // Verbal Spill

A never-changing photograph
Tinted so lightly with colour
But mostly monotonous gray scale
Like the crease of an old crumpled dollar

Change brought excitement and hope
My life was moving so quickly
I refused to be one who chose to mope
Then plans were painted over so thickly

Bubbling joy and suppressed excitement
Just going for the ride and the chance
But a single second of experience
Made my heart want to grapple for more than one glance

Daydreaming and thinking
Suddenly I want nothing more
How can only a week have gone by?
When it seems like years have passed over my door

I told myself I would not take the blow too hard
I guess truth be told I always knew it was coming
Yet disappointment sits lodged in my heart
The image is gone of what life was becoming

I try to convince myself of the positives
I always knew the situation seemed strange
All I can do now is accept the obvious
Life will go on as if nothing has changed.

// Jeani

5 February 2017

High // poem

Wild eyes and thrumming heart
Sounds like romance or alluring art
I smell smoke on their blatant lies
How can I help but roll my eyes?

Not my place. I cannot judge
I'm leaving soon but I can't budge
It nags the corners of mind
Like moulding matter I cannot find

I put my faith in them 
Four years together like a sewn skirt hem
But they pick each sewing thread apart
As if it does not hurt my heart

I feel disgusted; their indifference!
Justification - it's just plain ignorance
Searching for the next kind of high
Not bothered by those left behind

I hold the hands of those kicked out
At risk of their incriminating doubt
But I will stand for what I believe in
Regardless of what life has been

They bring their bottles to their lips
Its all I can do to not be sick
To watch them waste our years away
As if they cannot hear the things I say

Remember blackened lungs cannot cry out
It does not matter how loud you shout
The actions of your past catch up to you
Consequences always do

I know that I must rise above it
It's difficult I must admit
Watching those I've strived to protect
So simply and easily forget

Tap. tap. tap. Each footstep further away
Sounds grow distant I know I can't stay
A new path laid out right before me
I say goodbye to those who couldn't see

I will never turn back. Not now. Not ever
Because no matter what, I will remember
The way I reached up for the sky
While they found ways of getting high.

// Jeani 

4 February 2017

Is Gender Real?

First of all, a little piece of background information for you all: today I attended a conference which involved a 30 minute talk on gender and sexuality, hence the perceivably unprovoked content of this post - it's okay, there's a method to my madness.

Foucault and Freud
French philosopher Foucault believed that gender is something forced upon you by the world, or people, around you. This belief falls under the idea of Freud's invention of the unconscious mind. Both these men essentially said that your character is formed through the storing of information in the unconscious part of your brain. Little confused? It's okay, stick with me.

Gender falls under an attribute formed through the unconscious mind according to philosopher Foucault. Society presses certain characteristics onto different sexes unconsciously through the media and through each other, I'm sure that as a child your parents either bought you barbies or car toys in alignment with your sex. If I'm wrong, please correct me, but most children I'm sure are raised this way. Without ever truly being aware of this indoctrination, children slowly become moulded into their typical gender without a single moment of doubt or debate. I hear your scream of horror at my use of the word "indoctrination" because of course, you have not exactly been deliberately raised to hate an entire race of people similar to the children of Nazi Germany, but the process is arguably similar. 

Natural or social construct?
So I bring us back to the question - is gender real? Or, is it a social construct formed over the millions of years of humanity? As brought up today in my conference, gender norms originate from our caveman days where humanity was a lot more animalistic i.e. men hunted and brought back the food while women were gatherers and looked after their children. It's shocking to think that millions of years later, humanity has only slightly altered or developed itself from its original heritage.

Of course, over the past hundred years there has been a huge increase in movement towards gender equality; however, there are still a lot of basic thought-processes instilled in us through hundreds of years that have not changed. For example, the undeniable conclusions we make when thinking of people of authority or servitude, the undeniable assumption that a girl isn't good at sport, the undeniable presumption that if a boy wears makeup he must be gay. Part of the reason these assumptions are there is because through society these ideas are enforced through media, drama, advertisement, education, family.

Genders and sexes
 There is a prominent argument that there are merely two genders, male and female, one of these will be assigned to you at birth and for the rest of your life you will follow a certain path laid out for you by people from previous generations which dictate which toys you should play with as a child, which clothes you should wear, the length of your hair. With an external point of view, it seems quite outlandish, preposterous even, to think that the shape of ones body can change the entire path of your life. 

As discussed today at my conference, there is a distinct difference between "sexes" and "genders". Your sex is your body, how you were born at birth, your internal and external body. But gender? Gender is a lot more complicated: gender is what you associate yourself with, how you present yourself, how you feel. As far as I'm concerned, the way a person chooses to present themselves is all that matters, it is certainly not anybody else's place to say whether or not that person is right about themselves.

Except, a lot of people do take it upon themselves to decide whether or not a person is right about their gender. This leads to bullying and increase in stigmas against transgendered people because people are afraid of the unusual, of what is not like them, resulting in defensive behaviour.

Conclusion - Is gender real?
So is gender real? Perhaps, there is certainly evidence to show that it is natural to label and categorize people into different groups. After all, animals are male or female and there is no questioning the gender of horses or puppies, are we not mere animals?  On the other hand, humanity has evolved from simple animal characteristics into creatures with complex minds and personalities which certainly have capability for release from perhaps unnecessary labels.

You tell me, leave your comments below!

// Jeani