A New Start.

I finally said goodbye to my old blog Fanciful Reality, which was mainly for my beauty posts and YouTube videos, in order to focus my blogging solely within this space. I’m concentrating on variety: as someone who doesn’t really have one particular niche to zone in on, I’ll try to keep it more ‘me’, simply blogging whatever subject I feel like. Pretty much how this here blog’s been running so far, but now with the added beauty and YouTube stuff, plus all the new ideas I have. I wanted to consolidate things into one space for a few reasons: 1) so as not to feel overwhelmed with trying to upload regular content onto two blogs and two channels (which we all know I’m crap at, anyway) and 2) not dividing myself up into hobbies or likes/dislikes. I just wanted a space where I put myself out there as a whole person, not just as one facet of myself. I was never such a great beauty blogger, anyhow, and this also helps ease the insecurity I’d been having where I was wanting to compare myself to other beauty bloggers and wanting to be just like them. I will now find it easier to be happiest doing my own thing.

I know I’m not such a regular blogger, but I do want to increase how often I post without giving myself too much to work with. It’s just some fun, after all. As I said, I have a lot of ideas; some may be well received, some poorly, but at this point in time it’s just important that I get content up that I’ve wanted to post without second-guessing myself or feeling like I have to fit into a certain niche or ‘type’ of blogging.

(Edited to add: To complete the aspect of novelty to the blog, I’ve changed the name! I don’t think it’s fair to steal titles from Serj Tankian, anyway 😉 I chose Fluffy Owl Feathers because, well, I really love owls! The owl-Athena link is dear to my heart as well, as she is the goddess of wisdom and I am, of course, an ardent classicist. So I hope this will be a nice refresher for me to make this space something I’m passionate about.)

Here’s to a fresh start, then! Until next time,

Sascha x

How You Can Be Supportive To Someone With A Disability

I don’t profess to be the best advice-giver on this topic, but I’ll share my experience and throw in some recommendations based on what works for me and my brother, who has lupus. If you’re struggling right now as a family member or friend who’s trying to understand your loved one’s disease or disability and how you can best be a help for them, I hope my post will be something of a help for you. I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who’s been in the position of supportive family member, but of course I concede that your loved one and other disabled people are the priority when taking advice on a topic like this. Read what disabled people have to say on sites like Tumblr and Twitter, @EverydayAbleism e.g. and remember that their words are most important.

First things first: you will screw up. Okay? Particularly in the early days. No matter how much you try to understand what’s happening to your loved one and how their life has changed, you will end up saying selfish, ignorant, and often insensitive things. You will end up being visibly disappointed if they have to cancel that day out, especially if that bad news comes on the very day the event is planned. You will entreat them “but can’t you just come out anyway? We’ll be careful/slow/quick etc.” You will even be guilty of thinking in your head at least once “are they feeling as bad as they’re telling me today?” or something similar. You will think ableist things, and even say ableist things.

The quickest and best way to begin making amends on this front is: learn. Learn about the disease/disability, and how it affects your loved one personally. Listen to them and take what they say on board. Their words must become your gospel on the topic. This is particularly important if they suffer from an “invisible” disease like lupus; just because you can’t see the damage or pain doesn’t mean it’s not there. Listening will be your gateway to understanding the lifestyle changes your loved one now has to make to accommodate the changes to their health.

Do what you can to help, but do not take charge and override their decisions or thoughts. Ask. “Would you like me to help you with that?” “Will I push your wheelchair or can you manage on your own?” “Let me know if you need a hand.” Do not push their wheelchair without their permission. Do not, for example, swoop in and lift something off the ground if you see them struggling, unless they’ve asked you to – from my brother: “It can be patronizing, for one, and it’s frustrating to expend all that energy and pain in challenging yourself and then someone comes along and acts as if you’re helpless.” Set up communication, as mentioned above, and then you will be aware of what they want and don’t want from you, and stick to that arrangement.

Without making it a “poor family and friends” sort of comment, it is hard for someone in this position to cope with, particularly at first. It’s not easy seeing your loved one struggle and suffer, and it’s a tempting thing to want to help them as much as possible. But disabled people don’t tend to want to be dependent on you, or anyone, so it’s generally a bad idea to take on such a role. If you are a carer, it can take its toll, but keep in mind what they’re going through, and remember that they can feel guilty regarding their reliance on you, and your assurances that you will be there if they need your help eases that a bit, and makes it a little easier for you too. Doing every last thing for someone is something that quickly becomes unwelcome on both sides.

Important: Don’t beat yourself up if you screw up. Don’t use your “good intentions” as a backbone for a weak and rude defence of ableist scenarios. If you’ve said something that’s upset your loved one, apologize, but make an effort to understand why you’re in the wrong, and how you can amend that to avoid a recurrence. Don’t dismiss their objections as irrational just because you don’t understand why what you said or did was offensive. Don’t make the confrontation all about your feelings or how sorry you are; just apologize, learn, and move on. If your loved one says they don’t want to be the one to educate you on the subject and tells you to Google, Google. Don’t expect them to be ever ready for teaching Ableism 101.

Alrighty, that turned into more of a mini-lecture than I had intentioned, but do take it on board. Don’t dismiss the ideas because they seem too hard to follow. Open up communication; your understanding will be the key. And remember that my brother, who has overseen and added to this post, is not the only spokesperson for dealing with disability; everyone is different, and you should listen to the relevant person or people in your life for the best advice. Don’t forget to check out the @EverydayAbleism Twitter for a very small insight into the micro- and macroaggressions that disabled people go through every day, and look through relevant tags and blogs on Tumblr to make sure you’re listening to the people whose voices are important. lifeofalupie.wordpress.com is my brother’s blog for those curious.

Thank you for reading this post. Any feedback is appreciated if you agree or object to any of the advice I’ve given here.

Until next time,
Sascha x

Don’t feel disheartened with your content and minuscule audience!

There’s one aspect of blogging and making YouTube videos that is usually at the forefront of my mind at every stage, be it brainstorming concepts, planning out, taking photos, filming, editing: that little niggling question of “why would people want to read or watch what I do? Am I important enough or entertaining enough to justify putting posts out there for the world to see?”

The answer is, I believe: yes. Why not? I know I’m always comparing myself to others out there who are doing similar things or who have influenced me to start doing my own videos and posts; in fact, when I began my YouTube channel, being lost and confused as I was as to how I was going to go about it, I basically mimicked what I saw others doing – not in a cut-and-paste sort of way, not in an imitating voices or phrases sort of way, but rather it was a case of “they do haul videos and OOTD (outfit of the day); I can manage that!” I took on board which parts of their repertoire, shall we say, that were within my capacity as being relevant to me and went for it that way. But eventually it’s not something I wanted to continue doing that way; I am not the YouTubers I watch or the bloggers I read.

As I feel I am growing as a YouTuber particularly (and it’s more in an invisible-to-spectators sort of way, more to myself), I’ve begun taking steps so that I’m not aiming or tending towards a more immensely amateur and wannabe cookie-cutter version of my favorite YouTubers, but rather doing my own thing, and most importantly, feeling secure in doing it regardless. I have converged my two channels – what were essentially my “fashion/beauty” channel and my “daily vlog” channel – into one as-of-yet updated hub (www.youtube.com/FancifulRealityVlogs for those interested) where I will upload any video I film, be it fashion hauls, vlogs, tag videos, or even just rambly things no one wants to see. I’m not boxing in my channel as a packaged themed channel, because I don’t feel secure enough in any sector to be doing that. I don’t do extensive fashion stuff, I wear barely any make-up let alone make tutorials, and I am not the right person for a cool comedy channel. So, I’m going to be me, whatever that means to me.

The biggest hurdle, I feel, which really brings us back to the original question I posed, is feeling secure enough and confident enough to put your stuff out there, even if when comparing it to others you feel like a beginner, or you feel like your videos are completely rubbish, even if you feel like no one will want to watch or read what you post, even if you don’t have many views or many subscribers. Of course, this is only relevant to you if, like me, you’re interested in YouTubing as something of a hobby – as something I began for the sheer fun of it, and to get my general confidence with talking on film and being seen on film – but I feel like most of us on the site need to take a deep breath at some point and ask ourselves – what’s more important? Being true to your own creativity and enjoying what you’re doing, or the numbers? Yes, it’s very disheartening to only get a handful of views for your videos and even fewer subscribers, but I always like to console myself by telling myself that all my favorite YouTubers started doing boring old videos like me with their crappy cameras like me, and while I probably won’t reach their level of fame, and though I’m not particularly aiming for that, it still serves as a reminder to me to not feel bogged down by any sort of pressure to be as amazing as they are now.

And the truth is – maybe there aren’t a lot of people out there who will jump up and say “I want to hear what she has to say!”, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. It certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to put that stuff out there. The most important thing to remember when starting any site like this, where its intention is to relay something to an audience, that that audience won’t turn up overnight. Networking will really help to create one, but it will take time. Do what you feel is useful in order to advertise your content to people – via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. – but don’t forget in the meantime to concentrate on continuing to put stuff out there, stuff you enjoy making, whether the numbers say 10 people or 10,000 people are reading or watching.

Having said all that, maybe my words won’t necessarily serve as being anything of inspiration to any of you considering I don’t exactly have much of an audience myself – in fact, it may not even be relevant for probably most, if not all, of you reading this as it is published – and I haven’t been continuing to upload content for a while now (though this is for an unrelated reason or two), but hey, I’m heeding my own advice: I wanted to put it out there, so I did. People might read it, people might not, but I wrote and published it anyway. Because I wanted to. It’s not a certainty, but chances are, if I, and you, keep at it, more readers will come along, but it won’t happen if you don’t start now!

Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum.

So, Scotland’s independence referendum is edging ever closer (18 September 2014), and I, like a good many Scots, I presume, are still wavering and unsure what decision to make. Like any political move, both sides of the equation are full of propaganda, making it difficult to support either side with a completely informed mind. Both sides, as expected, also have a list of pros and cons that don’t necessarily supersede the other; certain aspects of each stance seem desirable, and others seem wholly unappealing.

How do we decide which set of cons is the most worth it? Do we choose to ignore the uncertainty over the currency situation, the surely inevitable increase in taxes, the proclaimed necessary increase in VAT of essential items such as children’s clothing and groceries, and fight for what our ancestors fought for 700 years ago against the first two King Edwards? Do we choose to throw overboard part of the academic research money that we are disproportionately receiving in our favor, potentially cut ourselves off from the EU and better chances to live and work in other European countries? Do we make that seemingly obvious decision to shrug off the evil Coalition and England’s constant lack of respect for Scotland, her politicians, and her citizens?

Many, it seems, are clamouring for independence in a bid to get away from the Tories. But here’s the rub: Scotland has Conservative politicians, and the Scottish Tories are far from invisible in our political makeup. Scottish Tories don’t seem overly more helpful to us than English ones, despite being officially nationalist; conservative policies are still able to affect us, and the party will surely not back down despite an independent Scotland being severely on their “do not want” agenda.

The SNP (Scottish National Party, the drive behind the campaign) are distinctly committed to eradicating poverty, but a target like this needs money, and surely it’s the lower classes who will suffer most if the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful? What is the future of tuition fees? Currently, Scottish students have their fees for their first degree covered by the governmental body SAAS – I hope this will remain feasible. Post-graduate students will suffer with the research fund essentially being cut. Will we retain the NHS?

As I still research all of these points, I have one overarching feeling, regardless of which decision I come to make, reluctantly or otherwise – it’s all too soon. It’s possibly transparent, but any camp I have dipped my feet into has been the ‘No’ camp, feeling that there are simply too many risks involved. Nowadays I sit more on the fence, disliking the tendency to propaganda and lack of clarity on certain issues on both sides, and I’m struggling to cement a decision either way. But I feel that the campaign would have gained strength if the referendum had been set for a later date, and if a more detailed plan had been made, with certainties instead of questions. If the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful, then the push for independence is expected to occur in March 2016 – again, I feel like it’s too soon. Immense plans like this need years of proper planning and although the SNP have been geared towards independence since its inception, this particular campaign, in my opinion, needed more to back it up.

Sometimes I feel like Alex Salmond and the SNP are too “Braveheart” about the concept, referring not to those who fought for our independence previously but to those Scots who remain blind patriots who will do anything to get rid of our old enemy, England, to the point where they are struggling under the huge chip that sits on their shoulders. I know plenty of people who are so focused on “I hate England” mentality that they refuse to do any proper research into the consequences of either vote, and won’t even think about realistic reasons to support their choice. They’re not thinking about how they will be supported.

It’s a grand idea, that Scotland should become independent and rule itself; of course, I believe so. But I do enjoy being a part of the UK, bad politicians and politics aside. But there’s the next rub: politics is a dirty, dirty area, no matter the nationality. I don’t necessarily believe we will be any better off in that respect in an independent Scotland; rich politicians will always tend to clamour to support themselves and their pockets, and we must remember that, and take with a pinch of salt their claims that our best interests are in their hearts. I support remaining an EU member, and there has been too much grey area surrounding that.

I like the inclusivity of a united UK; from a purely personal standpoint, I hate feeling walled in, and the thought of being a tiny country that takes up less than half of a tiny island, having only six major cities and nowhere to roam, well, that doesn’t please me much! I like having the opportunity, potentially if not currently financially, to travel and live in different places, and I don’t want those opportunities restricted by visas, passports, and country borders.

I don’t know what the right answer is: politics is never ideal, and governments are not made of money to give the public exactly what it wants and needs. Something always has to suffer or be sacrificed, and citizens will never be 100% happy with how things are run. But I guess, with only seven months to go until the decision is made, I will need to make up my mind one way or another. It seems like I will end up voting ‘No’ partially through unease at the future; we as the UK are experiencing such anyway, and I feel like we might be stronger if we stick together. I don’t necessarily want to take the risk if we are going to flounder. I don’t want to end up a bird in a cage.

Those are my thoughts. As disjointed as some people reckon the ‘Yes’ campaign is, as others reckon the ‘Better Together’ campaign is! I hope that as crunch time nears, my research leads me to feel more strongly about the decision, but for now, I rather dread it.

When Escaping the Post-Graduation Funk Seems Nigh Impossible!

Big announcement: I am a liar, guys. A freaking liar. This post might as well be renamed “how to be a coward and flail desperately about your five million future plans that you’ve done absolutely nothing towards accomplishing”. Basically, I have not applied for the courses I promised I would, I didn’t start the Couch to 5k challenge that I promised I would in order to run on behalf of Lupus UK, and I haven’t updated my blogs or YouTube forever. Okay, so the YouTube thing is because I’ve somehow, stupidly, managed to misplace the camera I usually film on, but, and I’m sure everyone’s heard it before, I procrastinated like Hell with everything else.

I guess this could be a lesson on how the real world is difficult. How sometimes plans don’t always fall into place after graduation, how sometimes aspirations are held back for financial reasons (or others). How you can be ready to embark on a new era in your life, but something stops you taking the final plunge. Or perhaps I’m trying to make my cowardice sound profound! But I do think that choosing a career and/or being an adult is pretty difficult; the transition is not always smooth. The Real World is terrifying.

So, does this mean I have yet been unsuccessful in escaping the post-graduate funk? For now, yes; while I am enjoying working where I’m currently for the moment, it is, undoubtedly, unfulfilling in terms of a life goal and ‘career’, and it’s definitely not something I’d like to prolong for too long. By the end of April it will have been a year, and, while I don’t want to say “well, I’ll decide then” in fear I’m simply trying to put it off, I guess then will be the real impetus for trying to sort out my next step. I have to admit to myself that my dreams aren’t going to leap out at me right now, but also that I have to keep progressing on them behind the scenes of what else is going on.

My new agendum should really be “don’t make any promises, either to yourself or to your small blogging audience”, shouldn’t it?

Escaping the Post-Graduation Funk: part 3.

Today’s topic could easily be my usual complaint: my lack of motivation in updating this blog! But instead I’m going to discuss that in terms of something else: cleaning. More specifically, cleaning my room. This is a combination of acquiring too many things whilst living away from home and not culling them upon returning, and that pesky emptiness that should be motivation and productivity. To be completely honest, I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder and someone who tends towards chaos rather than tidiness, but really, my current situation more than takes the cake.

My room, to hold nothing back, looks like the aftermath of a frat party. Too much dirty laundry, too many rubbish bags, and, it pains me to admit, right now there’s barely a piece of carpet visible. Stuff is piled high, and it seems only to be escalating rather than disappearing. It’s not as if there are tons of stuff that I can immediately pinpoint as “those things are hoarded, useless pieces of junk” necessarily, but things have gotten way out of hand.

Every week almost it seems that I attempt to clear a lot of the rubbish and then move on to culling stuff. I’ve made some headway into the culling, it’s true, but these days the mess is so big that I barely get to clearing it before my motivation just goes flat and I give up. Usually I could rely on my mum popping in and giving me a hand – that usually encourages me like nothing else – but nowadays things are too mad for her to want to even stick her head in the door. I know it’s a matter of telling myself “you need to do this; you can’t live like a pig forever”, but for whatever reason, I just can’t seem to put the theory into practice and sort it all out.

The culling will be ruthless this time, I know that; it has to be. No clinging onto all my favorite books that I could easily borrow from a library or store onto my Kindle. No clinging onto DVDs that I’m pretty sure I’ll never watch again. Same for jewellery, clothes (especially clothes, oh my gosh), and anything else that I simply have too much of. I’m sure that if I were living in my own place, I’d have no problem finding a place for everything I currently own, but realistically that isn’t going to happen any time soon, so I have to be pragmatic now. But again, how to even get started doing this?

I’d be culling all the time if I had a tidy space in which to get started. I’d have a tidy space if I would just get stuck in and de-fratparty the place. Yet I don’t. I use excuses – “oh, but it’s my only day off and I want to relax”, “oh, I’ve been working all day and I’m exhausted” – but how can I move past this if I don’t take the time to do it? Gone are the days when I could come home from school to find my room had been completely tidied and sometimes even rearranged completely by my mum who wanted a cool project for the day. I can’t keep relying on wishing that I could magic the room clean like Dumbledore and Slughorn do in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I need to act like an adult and create a clean, tidy space that I want to be in, that I want to work in. That’s the ultimate goal: to free up a desk space at which to be productive, and to have a tidy background for filming.

The thing is, I know in my head it’s a case of “get up early, and take the whole day to work on it”, so how can I push myself to do it? The most frustrating aspect of it is that my brother quite often has those days where he’ll wake up like “let’s do this” but since he suffers from lupus, his body is more often than not simply not up to what his mind wants to do. If we could combine my fitness and his motivation, we’d be there. I guess the answer is to have him bark at me not to stop until the place is gleaming, eh?

Is anyone else going through this at the moment? The mess has never been so bad, and yet it must have the potential to become even more chaotic, since at so many stages it’s been a case of “it can’t get any worse”, and it has done. Any tips for overcoming the vicious circle of mess? Put the internet away, no distractions, be a big girl and get it done, right? Easier said than done at the moment, but I’m hoping that the cliché of “new year, new start” will push me to fix my life. Otherwise I’ll drown in squalor and not live how I want to. HELP.

Escaping the Post-Graduation Funk: part 2.

Okay, so I have completely failed to update this blog as a whole, and especially this series that I was so set on doing, for quite a while! Yeah, I know; let’s all pretend we’re surprised. Here’s what’s going on in terms of my “being an adult and moving up in the world” strategy:

The most accessible plan, and the one I’m going for, is that I’m going to apply for some postgraduate courses at a smaller university that’s closer to home, so they won’t be classics courses, but it’s a chance for me to branch out a bit. One is the MLitt in English Language and Linguistics, which subject I briefly mentioned in my last post; I’ve been in touch with the admissions because I wasn’t sure whether I’d be completely out of my depth jumping right in, but I’ve been encouraged by them to apply! I’m not 100% sure what I will want to progress onto with that, whether stick in the field or branch out again, but this is getting to be my hallmark – taking another turn on the humanities path and see where it will get me! Not the most useful, but I’m a great believer in doing what I want to do providing it doesn’t leave me too high and dry.

The other course I know I’m applying to is Gender Studies. There’s a choice between the MLitt and the MSc, but I’d be taking the MLitt route. It’s an applied course, which means I’d do a research placement module and it makes that professional world a lot more accessible. As an enthusiastic feminist, but as of yet having not made any real mark in that world as a whole, the thought of doing the course really excites me as it will consolidate my thoughts and thinking on various topics and present many opportunities for a job in that sort of thing.

So, those are the two I’ll definitely apply to and see what happens. I’m thinking about applying to one or two more, like the Gothic Imagination one – a classics degree definitely puts you on the right track for writing English essays! I plan to commute through if I get a place, and continue working at Debenhams for the time being, or if another job opportunity comes up that is flexible and right for me, I would consider jumping ship. Depending on how busy I get/how much I can afford to do it, I might consider cutting my hours a bit, but I’ll push myself through as much as I can so that I can keep earning as much as I do while also making progress on the ‘career’ path.

The other ideas I brainstormed in my last post, like the YouTubing and novelwriting, are of course still milling about in the back, and I continue to keep those up (the YouTubing isn’t exactly happening right now, actually, but it will!) in the hope that one day they might provide opportunities too.

The next post in this series – I feel like if I pick a topic and mention it here, it will mean I have to make the commitment! – will be about having to move back home and trying to stay organized in that respect. Maybe that one will be a bit more useful for everyone! But as ever, thank you for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed this. And, as ever, I apologize for the huge time lapses between posts!

Until next time,
Sascha x