When the world is telling you to be alone

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I was sitting on my bed per usual stroking my cat Lily when she decided enough was enough and swiftly jumped off my lap. The rejection stung for a mere 20 seconds and I got on reading my book. That’s something I’ve always respected about cats, when they want to be alone, they make it happen. No worrying about people’s feelings, no second guessing.  I used to be like that, when I wanted some alone time from the bustle of my life I took some time away from it. I would travel alone, climb a mountain, read a book, anything that allowed for those precious moments on my own.

Don’t confuse being alone for loneliness. I enjoy one but not the other.  Breaking up with friends, even if you haven’t fought, or splitting up with a boyfriend can leave you feeling lonely. I was rebounding from both. The problem wasn’t necessarily either, but this overwhelming obligation to go finding new friends and a partner almost immediately. You see being in my late 20s I’ve heard the phrase ‘you’re not getting any younger’ a lot. Despite my reluctance to ever be tied down by a husband or children, those words start to wear on you. The worst part is you start to believe that you should be following what society is ordering you to do.

However society and the world are not the same thing. As I aimlessly went from date to date, the world was giving me strong hints that I wasn’t ready to settle. Job offers from abroad started to appear in my inbox.  Friends living in different parts of world extending invites, my father at almost 82 reminding me it’s my life and telling me diligently on his hospital bed about his regrets for not experiencing more from life. I kept ignoring the signs, until one day lying in Bloomsbury Square appreciating the London sun while listening to The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, a final attempt to elevate my spirits, a student from South America asked me for directions. He was meeting friends at The Museum Tavern, I directed him the best I could with my broken Spanish. He thanked me back in English, not before saying ‘everyday is an adventure in London’. That’s when it hit me, I had lost the adventure in my life. My depression, lack of self esteem and excitement was down to my routine, the shear boredom of repeated days. When I got into that routine, I felt the time slip through my hands and it frightened me. No. It terrified me.

Then I went back to the library, opened a tab up and started searching for interns abroad, cheap plane tickets, field schools, anything- just adventure. And when I do find it, I’ll make sure to make the most of it.

Rule no.1 don’t fuck up

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So I’m sitting in A&E with a bag of ice on my head wondering where have I played out this scenario before? Was it that time in Tokyo I got so battered that I fell to the ground head first on the subway? Or was it that time when I was playing a game of rounders in secondary school and got distracted by that weirdly attractive IT teacher? Whenever it was, I had clearly fucked up many times before now.

I’m used to being the one that accidentally spills their morning coffee on their new Zara blouse or CCing in that person I had called a wanker in the email. Reply all is not your friend. Actually I think they should delete that feature immediately it would save so many careers. I’m so used to ‘fucking up’ that I’m constantly aware of my next big mistake and I don’t even need to drink four or five G&Ts to do it.

The odd thing about being an adult (not even young adult I’m just adult adult, which I’m sure  because of some sexist societal expectation is mildly terrifying) is that these fuck-ups are being racked up against you by self-righteous friends, exes, family (the list is endless). For those people it shows your lack of responsibility,  maturity and this is one is only for the ladies -elegance.

Now I’m not saying we should allow ourselves to be complete messes, inept of taking ownership of our lives or careers, but what I am saying is that we should be allowed to fuck up (occasionally) and for it not to held against us at every corner. We are human after all (or most us I assume).  I’ve made my inner peace with a lot of my past mistakes, for overspending (investing as I used to call it), overdrinking,  for being too honest, for not being honest enough. I refuse for those mistakes to keep hanging over me, like a credit card bill I haven’t paid yet. Forgive and forget is a cliche, not because it’s true but because people sometimes need it.

Hot Feminist

 

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Image: pexels.com

I’ve been reading a book, I know! Somehow miraculously through all the editing, dog sitting, university assignments, and you know generally fucking around I’ve had time to pick up a book and read. Don’t worry I’m already patting my head in self-gratification, I also get brownie points for completing it in a week. The book, Hot Feminist delves into the identity of the self-labelled, Hot Feminist. A woman who takes pride in the way she looks but still holds onto feminist values, such as gender equality, ending sexual assault and closing the gender pay gap. Although these are important issues, many modern feminists see the obsession of vanity equally as horrifying. Wanting to shave your armpits or wanting to wear those three-inch heels are seen as tantamount to succumbing to the patriarchy.

Reviews for Hot Feminist varied considerably,  many reviewers seemingly not understanding what the book was trying to convey. She’s not saying, I’m so much better than you because I buy MAC and shop at Karen Millen, she’s saying it’s ok to be hot. For years, I always wondered if somehow by wearing a dress made me less of a feminist, merely fodder for male fantasy.  The problem it seems and I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Polly Vernon on this is that Feminism is so disjointed, everyone’s idea of feminism is paramount and if you somehow don’t agree with theirs then it somehow makes you a lesser person. It wasn’t until university that I started identifying as a feminist, I don’t know what it was about the Creative Arts, but it makes one ultra aware of their privilege and others as well. You can’t help but compare how much easier certain groups of people have it over you. And of course how much easier you have it over others.

And for many years, I wore jeans, baggy jumpers, and converse to tell the world: I’m not here to be objectified. I won’t ever be blamed for unwanted attention because of the length of my skirt. My validation will not come through meaningless comments from people on the street (or Tinder matches).  But as I look back at that period (Ah Facebook, a constant reminder of how shit one’s life was and or still is) I shudder, I don’t look happy, I look mildly amused at the very best. The truth was I felt hollow. Even though I had started on my quest to be an archaeologist I was deeply unsettled, displeased with my shitty part time job, worried that potential dates would judge me about still living with my folks, and last but not least scared that this whole caring about not caring facade would eventually break. Everyday, I dressed like I had some adventure waiting for me as soon I left university, and this was all due to my belief that people would take me more seriously. But did it?

The short answer is: no. I was constantly belittled by others, reminded that ‘I was only a student’ and that I dressed like a 13 year prepubescent boy (slight exaggeration). The criticism I received not only knocked my confidence in my academic work, but also in my relationship with others. I had intentionally made myself unhappy. And I was so unhappy. Because I wanted people to think I didn’t care about my appearance, but I did and probably always will. This is not to say I have an unhealthy obsession with my outward appearance, I like to think that I have a ‘normal level’ interest. Shopping, scrolling through  H&M’s website in the office (while that foreboding deadline comes closer), caring about your appearance doesn’t necessarily make you a bad feminist. It’s just one of those feminist non-arguments that routinely gets thrown around. It’s amusing that columnists or just people in general don’t dish out criticisms on decorating one’s home or office spaces or keeping the garden hedges nicely trimmed. Yet somehow, caring about make up, hair, and clothes is criticised as as being vain or a victimization of the patriarchy. This what I call Negative feminism, mostly seen through Twitter and endless Tumblr posts, creeping into women’s psyche making them question every decision in fear of being judged. Let’s face it, Twitter/ Tumblr feminism has become extremely self-righteous. Isn’t feminism suppose to be about allowing women to make their own choices? That’s the feminism I signed up for and that’s the one I’ll keep marching for even in heels.

Can you fall in love after a day?

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‘Six months from now, we’ll meet here,’ those are the parting words Jesse tells Celine after spending an incredibly intense day with her in Vienna. They promise each other to meet at the same spot in six months. Instead of dismissing it as simply a holiday fling, they recognise their love after just a day. During their time together they had connected, chatted about the existence of a god, reincarnation, death, and their failed romantic relationships then consummated their love in a public park. The first time I had watched the film (almost 10 years ago) I was left wondering: is it possible to fall in love after just a day? Is it totally plausible to meet someone,  connect on a deeper level and then realise that they’re your soul mate, love of your life, possibly even  life partner? The 19 year old me was a total sceptic but nevertheless kept returning to that movie and its sequel Before Sunset.

The truth was my 19 year old self loved the concept of Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise, but as the years went by I realised I was more like Tom from 500 Days a Summer. But how do you define love or being in love? Does it matter if someone feels the same way? Does the depth of that love change when it takes longer for romantic feelings to develop? I’ve always wanted the sort of love that Celine had for Jesse.  Then it miraculously happened,  we met in an unconventional way but after the first exceedingly awkward ten minutes, we delved into social identity, travel, and archaeology. We would sit in the pub and talk for hours while slowly getting more and more drunk, we ‘d discuss the universe, parallel dimensions, photography, anything going. The next few days were invigorating, almost like I had only started living at 28. And like Celine, I can pinpoint the very moment I had fallen in love, he was standing in the kitchen talking on his phone and he looked up at me. I’d known him the grand sum of three days. Like Celine and Jesse I knew we would eventually part ways, I was too neurotic, while he was too laid back. Remember, the saying is not staying balanced in love, it is falling, losing your self to love.

Duration doesn’t matter,  it was surprising to me that I could have such intense feelings after three days despite being in long-term relationships that had lasted more than a year. Often it is that simple because being “in love” has so many variables including longevity. Being in love is such a beautiful thing and while it can be all-consuming and most definitely destructive, not everyone gets to experience that raw and deep connection. The experience is dramatic, intense and overwhelming. There are a lot of crazy choices you’ll make in life. If you get the chance, you should definitely allow yourself to be open to falling in love like Celine and Jesse… Even if it only lasts a day.

Tinder: Ego-boosting one-night-stands

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After a tough break up, I wanted to discover what it was like to go on a few casual dates. Casual being the key word. As a trailblazer for optimism I decided that I would try Tinder, after getting a bit of a repetitive strain injury in my thumb from swiping right and left all the time I decided on three guys I would go on dates with. It’s quite amazing, we are in the age of fast-food dates.  Who cares about getting to know a person, right?

Tinder is a basically ‘would you fuck or not?’ app. I got bored with messaging them; avatars don’t feel like real people and  I’m from a generation where sex is similarly instinctive along with appetite for immediacy. My narcissistic curiosity and appetite for constant validation were fuelled by Tinder’s addictive swipe function.  And I can only assume feeds that caveman part of a male brain that places women in hot or not  categories, viewing them as a piece of meat a la Sports Illustrated.

So you’re asking what about the dates? First there was Dan, member of a band, bartender in the evenings. He was the nicest and  I can safely say (in hindsight) authentic. He was the kind of guy who liked to hold your hand under the table.  He let me watch him play in his band a couple of times, and gave cute kisses on the cheek before he went on stage.  He was a keeper, and not the poster boy for Tinder. Why the hell was he on Tinder?

Then there was Oliver, exactly the sort of 20-something that Tinder or OkCupid would welcome: trendy, active on social media, possibly polygamous (a cheat), but honest about it. We went on a couple of dates, it was easy to talk to him, nothing was off the cards.  That made everything almost too comfortable. I felt my 16 year old self come out again when a cute but undeniably self-involved hack shows interest, but at 28, why let myself be deluded?

Last but not least there was Dean, Shoreditch, 29, who I never even managed to meet up with. As he thought it would be a good idea on his first phone call to ask if I liked big gentalia. But unfortunately that’s the typical male message on Tinder. Dean gives me the impression he has Tinder-banged so many women in London that three in 10 children born in the next generation will be his.

Unlike some of my male friends, I was going on dates and receiving messages – but I felt ugly. I thought being validated through compliments and matches would give me a sense of confidence. I mean after 24 hours I felt a little uglier as a person. You put a picture of yourself up, and after 48 hours, you get men messaging you. But the experience just left me feeling hollow. I lost all my looks. I no longer had it. The world might not have  decided I was ugly but I did.

I wanted to be one of the guys, to think I could have casual flings. I realised I can’t switch it off; the need for real deep connections. Call me old fashioned, but what ever happened to that amazing moment where you bump into each other in the supermarket or meet at a party, and start connecting? I’ll wait for that moment. Tinder deleted.

Never regret change

There are a number of reasons why I wanted to make this post. Looking back at previous posts I was surprised by my overall anxiety. I’ve spent most of my life concerning myself with the need to make changes to my life, to feel like I’m always progressing and not regressing. It’s destructive, because progression shouldn’t be forced, it needs to be a natural result of your experience. I had a mini crisis regarding my current life choices a few months back, while I was on a dig in Spain profusely vomiting from heat exhaustion, lying on my bed wondering if I had made a huge mistake. We all have those moments, where we meditate on our live choices. We look back and wonder if that was the right thing to do, was splitting up with him or her what I really wanted? Was quitting that job financially short-sighted? But after thinking it through for a long time, I can honestly say we should never regret making choices that change our lives for the better. Especially conscious choices to improve our lives.

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Looking at Aztec codices

When I was living in Japan as a journalist and later in London, I was depressed because when you get to the bare bones of it; creativity and writing are not mutually exclusive. I had known for awhile that I wanted to venture back to university and take a degree in archaeology. But at 26 I was reluctant, societal expectations for a woman my age is not to go back into education. Most women cave under this enormous pressure; they feel like they have to comply by this timeline that they don’t necessarily want to follow.  The importance of doing what you want regardless of others is a sentiment I’ve held onto dearly throughout life. Unfortunately it has and always will make me somewhat of a social pariah.

I’m in my second year of my time at University College London and although I’ve had moments of overwhelming anxiety mostly monetary I’ve not faltered. You are always going to be letting down someone in your life, just don’t make it yourself; everyone owes it to themselves to live a fulfilling life, whether that’s family or a career, or just a life of pure adventure. Making changes to ensure that you are happy even if they don’t follow certain societal expectations is critical to being true to yourself.  These changes haven’t been easy, there have been negative reactions, there have been assumptions about my reluctance to join mainstream society. You must block out those voices, never regret positive change. 

Why hunting in Africa is a white person’s privilege

Rebecca Francis smiling next to a giraffe she had just killed.  Photo from her website.

Rebecca Francis smiling next to a giraffe she had just killed. Photo from her website.

Let’s be honest how many times do you see the natives of Africa smiling with glee after killing a giraffe, lion or elephant? Not many. Why?  Let me explain the concept of a canned hunt: Canned hunting is a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a closed off area, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the chances of the hunter obtaining a kill.  Africans who indeed hunt for subsistence, do not have the luxury of an enclosed area. The hunt can take days, and requires precision and skill.

There is no such thing as a fair chase during a canned hunt. The animal’s death is an inevitable result.  So who are the people who ultimately pull the trigger?  Statistics (Lindsey et al 2007) show that the majority of the “hunters” going to Africa for a kill are white Americans, with a selection of white Europeans.  Now listen, I’m going to be quite controversial here because I believe this practice is quite racially and classed based. In simple words: It’s a white person privilege.  Don’t get this confused with racial prejudice,  for the same amount of white people who go around hunting, there are people trying so hard to conserve and protect our earth, our home.

“But black people hunt too!” I hear your white privileged self scream. Let’s get down to it then shall we? There is a noticeable difference between black Africans who “kill”, and white foreigners who “hunt”. When the native Africans kill elephants, it’s called illegal poaching. Poaching although wrong, is a way of trying to survive by making a living in the illegal ivory trade business. When the white tourists kill animals, it’s called legal hunting. White tourists are allowed on game reserves where they pay big sums of money to hunt and kill privately owned animals for the sake of sport and trophies.

While Africans are out there risking their lives to stop African poachers being funded by terrorist groups and Asian countries, who believe Rhino horn has some sort of medicinal properties, white Americans and Europeans are happily killing animals a few miles away because they have the dollar to do so.  By using this argument you’re  justifying privileged white people hunting lions, elephants and rhinos.

Ricky Gervais (Yes! A white conservationist!) recently caused some media frenzy when he posted a picture of Rebecca Francis an “experienced” huntress who killed a giraffe and laid next to it in a mockery of nature, land and life.

“What must’ve happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?’ a furious Gervais tweeted.  As a conservationist who lives within the means of a restricted budget I attempt to live within the borders of the basic laws of ecology. I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to make friends, I only want to be reveal the truth, just like Mr. Gervais.

In his book, Tourism and the Consumption of Wildlife, Brent Lovelock states that over 16% of the adult population in America participates in some form of hunting. Canned hunts are strongly concentrated in Texas (Lovelock 2011, p.20),  which includes animals such as coyote, deer, wolves and a number of endangered species.  The majority of people who participated in canned hunts in Africa come from Texas. Hardly surprising.

South Africa has an established hunting tradition but few people express much enthusiasm for its corrupted canned alternative. It is still legal to bring a lion carcass back to US (or anywhere in Europe or North America) as a trophy, and much of the demand comes from overseas.

Kendall Jones posted a photo of herself riding a lion corpse.

Kendall Jones posted a photo of herself riding a lion corpse.

But people like Francis, who epitomise this trade, will not comprehend or even accept responsibility for their actions.  Rebecca Francis has argued that she did it for conservation purposes as well as to “feed a village”. But her out of the salon hair and made up gleeful face says otherwise and that is the problem. Kendall Jones, a teenage cheerleader caused similar outrage last year, when she posted a photo of herself riding a lion she had just killed. This pattern has not gone unnoticed by social media, or the media in general, and there are many calling out the end of this privilege blood sport.

As a proud advocate for the “sport”  Francis has travelled the world in search of the latest ‘trophy’.  But by calling it a ‘sport’ – this gives it some small veneer of respectability when there is none at all.  It goes beyond the one blonde hunter. It represents that canned hunting points at a flawed system of values and corruption, a bunch of incompetent leaderships completely unworthy of their mandates and powers.

It’s not simply about being self righteous, its about showing empathy and compassion towards animals (and humans) helpless against human barbarity and white supremacy.

London? We need a word

What happened to you? You’ve become clamourous, and I’m not sure I like this new personality change all of a sudden. Or is the honeymoon period finally over? Do we call it quits now? I don’t want another ex, it was hard splitting up with Tokyo. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this break up.

The truth is we are getting irritated with each other, I can no longer stand your fast-pace lifestyle and I’m sure as hell you think I’m getting a little boring. I just can’t keep up; your cereal cafes, toilet bars are getting a little ridiculous and your schedule a little hard to keep with. You have good traits too, I mean for every porridge cafe, there’s a cat cafe.

But your quirkiness seems false, as if you’re trying to hard to impress the new guys. I’m kind of getting sick of you playing up all your good points and brushing aside your faults. We all have them and its okay. It’s okay to be a little misunderstood, at 27 I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be fully understood. And you’re what pushing 2100? Or something like that?

Let’s talk faults, you’re getting rowdy, a bit too big for your boots per se. There was the Olympics and you throw a good party I’ll give you that but you also overspend.  And you don’t delve into your own pocket enough, you borrow, borrow borrow and then spend, spend, spend. Sometimes I’m wondering when I’m going to get all this money back that I invested in all this glam.

I’m not trying to rub your nose in all of your faults. You do have good ones, remember that day when you held that shindig for William and Kate? Or when you made all your museums free? Score one for you. You’re multicultural, you have friends from all over. Unlike Tokyo you’re pretty accepting of all their cultural particulars as well. That’s awesome.

London: Liverpool Street

London: Liverpool Street

But London, this competitive streak you seem to be having with New York has to stop, your once beautiful face is full of craters, cranes and smoke.  It’s painful to see you go through this downward spiral, just because of a little insecurity. I know New York is your younger, more popular sister. But let it go, don’t try to keep with the youngsters; be who you are, be that beautiful crafted storytelling older sister, we love to have around for a pint. Not this pretentious overspending, sometimes obnoxious New York mannequin. You’re better than that.

Keep Exploring

There are a lot of things I wish I could turn back the clock and change. Obviously we can’t. We just have to deal with what graces we have in the present and move on. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Going back to university has been tough and not only because the last few years of my life have been about jetting around the world with my best friends. I’ve never been one for routine; I actually despise it. The worst thing about routine is it makes us placid, lazy and boring.

At Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire

At Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire

It’s true, routine makes me bored and to some extent –boring. So I’ve been tackling this boredom with trips around the UK. Just like I did in Japan, when the world was getting too repetitive and depressing. I’ve seen the wonders of Scafell Pike, Yorkshire and Sussex. I never knew there was so much to discover in my own backyard. Climbing mountains, exploring ruins, meeting the locals will always be imperative to who I am.

Being the person who lets life’s pass them by, is not a blessing: it’s a curse. Being aware of your own mortality is quite scary but can also be very liberating. What I’m saying is don’t be that boring person, live without regrets, live like everyday matters, live for today.

Becoming an archaeologist – My Journey

Outside the British Museum in Dec. 2013

Outside the British Museum in Dec. 2013

At 26, some people, probably not most, have decided what they want to want to do with their lives or where their path is leading them. Unfortunately for someone as indecisive as myself, I’ve nearly really had that resolve.

I dabbled with a number of careers, I studied Creative Writing in Bath, and later moved onto Japanese Culture and History, while I lived in Tokyo. But, I never felt fulfilled with any career I chose. My journalism has played a key role in my life, since the beginning,  despite my grades being unsatisfactory in English and higher.  The industry is vast, so despite having a BAHons, you need experience in the area you wish to write in. That’s the challenge, to balance your  passion with the drudgery of actually making a living, and most will find their day-time job completely clashes with their real writing.

My desire to become an archaeologist, didn’t develop until late last year. I had always been interested in Ancient Mexico and Ancient Peru, since I was a child. I had written my second year piece about an Incan warrior captured by the Spanish conquistadors. I received a first, mainly due to detailed environment I had created partly thanks to my knowledge of Peruvian archaeology.  Before then, when I was only a teen  I had been obsessed with the idea of the “Temple of the Sun” in Cusco, and the Juanita mummy found in the Andes, a sacrifice to the sun. This obsession later developed into a general interest in all Native cultures of Latin America.

After a four-year stint in Japan that took me all around Asia, exploring the ancient temples and mountains of the Far East, I knew that I had to focus my energy on Central/South America.  It pains me to confess that I knew more East Asian history than my own European and South American heritage.  When I returned to the UK, I frequented the British Museum to expand my knowledge and familiarity with Mexican and South American history.

After hours of troweling through boring filings I knew I had to take the plunge so I began looking into Archaeology courses in September 2013, knowing little about the individual institutions,  only driven by my desire to travel and history. I applied for archaeology master programs at UCL, University of Bristol and Kings College London.  Whilst doing my research, I came to realise how much UCL was the place where I wanted to study. Not only because of the prestige, but mostly due to its variety of topics covered, as well as the quality teaching staff available.  The open evening welcomed people of all ages, which put my nerves at rest, being the oldest in the class had been a concern of mine from the start.

Now, its time to give up  the career that I have been chasing for more than 5 years, not because I got bored, but because I found something that intrigues me even more. Hopefully in the future I can work at National Geographic and fuse my love of writing and archaeology, but to make that a reality –I just have to dream big.