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My Suitcase Full of Thoughts

Everything few and far between, it's in there.

Back Badminton

Coming into 2017 has lead with many decisions from 2016 looming over the fate of a variety of things in the United Kingdom, we all know that the country is in a large dip of uncertainty throughout the upcoming year. One of which that lies dear to me is the fate of badminton within the UK.

On the the 9th of December 2016, UK Sport released it’s funding allocation to sports for the new Olympic and Paralympic cycle on the run up to Tokyo 2020. Four sports; badminton, weightlifting, fencing and archery, had their funding completely axed.

Rio 2016 for badminton was the most successful campaign since it’s height in Athens 2004, where Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms won silver in the mixed doubles. Last summer, Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge beat multiple odds in achieving what they did for Team GB. After fighting tooth and nail, qualifying 2nd in their group narrowly due to fierce competition, they performed valiantly to qualify for the semi-finals of the mens doubles after beating the top Japanese pair. Sadly after losing to the now Olympic gold medallist pair from China, they were able to perform to the best of their abilities against the 2nd seeded Chinese pair in the bronze medal match.

I know where I was. At the Edinburgh Napier university on an internship, asking my supervisor if I could take some time between experiments running to be ablate watch the match. I couldn’t sit still. I could barely contain myself I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, two GB athletes giving it their absolute all in a match they weren’t expected to be in, let alone go onto win. For the whole 3-set thriller I was in a cafe making small shrills and screaming noses egging on the GB team in a match I won’t forget.

 

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To both Marcus and Chris you can see how much it meant to them to perform for their country, tears, collapsing to the floor in probably a mixture of exhaustion, ecstasy and euphoria. Both Olympic Bronze medallists. The GB badminton community thought that this would lead to building on a pedigree of quality badminton players leading by the example of these two. However, UK Sport did not see it that way. GB Badminton targets for Rio 2016 were to bring back between 0-1 medals, and due to the amount of badminton quality coming from Asian players, it was already an uphill battle from the get go. GB badminton met it’s target, but felt like an overachievement due to the standard of badminton in other continents around the world.

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Marcus and Chris responded, saying that the medals they won in Rio felt ‘worthless’. Others also have raised their voices. Kirsty Gilmour, the number one seed in GB women singles and 2014 Commonwealth games silver medallist felt disheartened from eh decision “If I ever do school talks I can’t go in there and say ‘if badminton is your dream and if you reach a certain level you are going to be funded, I can no longer preach that message.” By removing funding for top athletes, how does this show how hard work and commitment is treated when performing for your country in a sport that your love? How does this produce role models for children to look up to?

Raj Ouseph, eight-time English National Championship singles winner, thinks that success in the Olympics can transform a sport, where ‘the Olympics is the pinnacle for me and my teammates’ He goes onto describe how the boost in badminton happened after the silver won in Athens 2004. However how does funding pulling show a boost in any sport?

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Chris and Gabby Adcock, 2014 Commonwealth gold medallists both took to social media ‘struggling to understand’ the decision with no prior warning. I for one am not able to comprehend seeing a sport that medals in the Olympics to have it’s funding removed for the next cycle. UK Sport funding helped in all of GB’s athletes in the run up to the Olympics and tournaments along the way with transport, entries, support whether physiotherapy or sport psychology. That money was vital to the success of badminton in the UK.

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UK Sport responded to the reactions of members within the GB badminton community, saying “we would like to invest in every sport but the reality is we have to prioritise to protect and enhance the medal potential.” I for one do not see how removing funding is a way of protecting or enhancing a sports potential to win medals, especially to one that meets its targets.

Even without the brilliance of athletes in GB badminton, I for one have benefited from badminton as a sport. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. I am proud to be the president of the University of Stirling badminton club. When I started out in my first year of university it was scary like you can imagine. You know no one to begin with at all. I used to play badminton in high school so I thought from there I’d give it a go.

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From the first day I stepped foot into that sports hall I felt welcomed. I met people who even though have moved through the club, I’ll never forget. Spending multiple nights in post-training talking about life in general and things on everyones mind The friends I’ve met through the sport are some of the people closest to me, who’ve helped me through dark times and shared memories I will never forget, even with my terrible memory.

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Even when I’m not around these guys still do so much for me. I’m trying to pass on the baton of people who come into the club now, that they can find a place where they can have fun and find a friend. However being there for people in the club is difficult from where I am is hard and I’m seeing the challenges associated with running a club, juggling final year and trying to stay connected with people in the club. However, I do it because I love it. The sport and the people within it are what’ve made me the person I am today. I don’t know what kind of person I would be without the club but I can safely say I wouldn’t be as positive a person as I am now.

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Now enough of my sentimentality. UK Sport make a decision on the final funding allocations in March, however the petition below is to run till June 15th. There is still time to make a difference and every signature counts towards getting the role models of badminton in GB back they funding to continue to progress in their training and to be able to encourage the progression of the sport in the UK.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/175561

Please sign this petition. Whether you’re a fan of badminton, or sport in general. I urge the sporting community to be make a stand to help a sport that deserves to be fully supported by UK Sport. Help GB badminton get its funding back so it can continue to show that it can perform at the highest level and make role models for young sportsmen and sportswomen to look up to.

To all who sign this petition, I couldn’t thank you enough.

George 

 

 

 

 

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Kindness Costs Nothing

I haven’t written in a while due to a number of factors. My final year, incorporating study and a busy season of reports, reading and exams that will end up determining my degree classification. Running a sports club. Struggles with both physical and mental issues. That dreaded word – dissertation. However with all these things that have been going on a huge factor which has hindered me working through this is amounting excess pressure on myself. Whether it’s during revision, trying to keep tabs with friends, physical fitness in the gym and on court, we put pressure on ourselves to get the most out of abilities. This isn’t a bad trait, I think everyone should strive to achieve their maximum potential, but when you say miss a goal or aren’t satisfied with how you perform you take it out on yourself. This is can lead to beating yourself up about somethings that seems major at the time, but with hindsight can be quite minor. I know this from personal experience that during training sessions with badminton I try to win every point, rather than focus on improving my game – this lead to me physically screaming and having to take myself off court on occasion.

What I’m trying to say here is that many issues that rise within ones self can be solved through being kind. Here I mean this in two different ways.

1. Be Kind to Yourself

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives. This very second I could rattle a list off for you about what I could improve on, a few being; I’m bad at staying in contact with friends and family, I’m not happy with my physique and think I look too skinny, I wish I could write better (whatever that means), I constantly put myself down and have had a hard time getting back to a clear state of mind, I do too much at one time and panic about not being able to get a certain amount of things done in a day, I let lists cage me where finishing a list becomes a be all or end all motif, I find it hard to be able to talk about how I feel sometimes, I can be petty over the stupidest things.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives. But where does that get you? Nowhere. I know it’s hard focussing on the positives of yourself, trust me, however I think the reasons for this come from two mistaken identities. Mistaking selfishness and being good to yourself. Putting yourself first in a situation isn’t a crime, but people can see it as a selfish act by putting your own interests above others. Many of us find it difficult to say a very simple word. No. However if you say yes to too much, then all your best efforts can’t help you burning the candle at both ends. No one likes letting people down, but if you stretch yourself too far with pleasing everybody else you end up not being able to even please yourself.

Taking time for yourself is necessary to find peace of mind and to be able to let you discover things you might not have known about yourself.  Whether it’s finding time to read a book you’ve been meaning to for a while, running a bath for yourself or going to the pub with friends. If we don’t take time out for ourselves, we end up running ourselves into the ground and end up pretty unhappy.

Mistaking arrogance for self confidence. Granted this comes under a fine line, but admitting that you’re good at something doesn’t make you cocky – providing that it’s not to demean someone else’s ability. Everyone should be proud of what they’re good at. Some people overlook what they’re good at because either they think they’re being big-headed or they’re not content at whatever level they’re at and always look to improve. Everyone wants to improve, but it’s hard to see progress when looking from the inside. I know various people who are amazing at so many different things and they don’t even realise it. Whether performing in many different sports, writing blogs, being creative in all manner of ways, going the extra mile with friends, being organised the list goes one.

Take a minute, and make a wee list of the things that you’re good at. Or better yet, get someone close to you to make a list of things your good at at the same time and compare. I guarantee people close to you will see things that you’re good at that you never even knew about.

2. Be Kind to Others

There are many things that can lead to being spiteful towards others, whether they be strangers or close friends. One being the holding of grudges between two people. I understand that if someone does something to displease another it’s never a nice feeling. However if it’s trivial and holding a grudge from that causes conflict and the breaking of a close relationship, who does that benefit? No one. People can hold grudges over the silliest of things, I know I have. I’ve been petty and held a grudge based on friends leaving a reply to a message for hours (which I have no leg to stand on as I’m terrible myself for replying to messages). Grudges can be direct between two people, but it can also effect a wider group of people close to the two in question. Tip-toeing around what is said to whom can happen and before you know it, all hell can break loose. Some grudges are justifiable, however a large percentage of them are over topics that almost take you back to days back in high school. Leave the grudges, and focus on the bigger picture of what’s really important.

Admiration for someone else’s ability should make you want to better yourself, whether it’s a friend or a role model being able to admire an ability of theirs should be something that makes you think ‘I want to be able to be that good’. However, admiration can lead into envy and jealousy and that’s where things can get ugly. If you become envious of how good someone is at something, it can make you resent that person and put yourself down at the same time. I’ve done this with people very close to me in a variety of things; physicality, social ability, problem solving, thinking outside the box in an abstract manner, others as well. There’s a moment in everyones life when they deal with things like this and realise something that is so simple. Everyone is different. Peoples height, weight, range of abilities. Some people are better at certain things than others based on these factors and more. It all ends up to the same problem where people compare themselves to others. But the main thing to remember when you compare yourself to someone else as well as the above is this. Be a first rate version of yourself rather than a second rate version of someone else.  

Lastly is the concept of pride. Pride can be amazing when we look at things either ourselves or others have achieved and can make you feel the happiest you’ve ever felt on occasions when it’s something that really matters you people close to you. However pride is a double-edged sword. I’ve seen pride work in a way where it has torn apart friendships by people being too proud to be ‘the bigger person’ in either a matter of conflict or an argument amounting from petty circumstances. Trust me, they happen a lot more than you think. If you’re in the person in the wrong in these moments, it’s better to just admit what has happened and to move on from the situation. However it takes two people to form a conversation, meeting people half way if someone it reaching out to mend matters is the one way things can be resolved. It’s a lot better than two people spatting over nothing and resulting in possibly losing relations. I know I’ve let pride rule my judgment and turn me into a narrow-minded fool, whether arguing a point (and finding out I’m wrong part way through but continuing to shoot someone down left right and centre) talking about a moment of conflict to try and resolve it or just having a discussion. Don’t let pride get in the way of what really matters, and more often than not that’s keeping the people you’re close to.

Looking further up the page if you got anything from reading this, I hope that it’s to be kind of yourself and to others and to focus more on the positives than the negatives in life.

If anything else, t’is the season eh? See if makes it’s way into anyones resolutions for next year!

Keep Exploring,

George 

What do you want to be?

Coming into the final year of university as well as a large population of others the stresses of ‘life after university’ is becoming a very daunting prospect. With people ranging between not having a clue and to having their life planned out when they’re 35, married with 2 kids living in the suburbs of Edinburgh, it’s hard to think of where you’re going in life.

There’s lots of stresses that this causes when any chapter of life comes to an end, firstly is the ‘where do I go now?‘ worry of how to get the works in play to move onto the next chapter in life, whether it’s after university, within a career, or whether it’s a personal matter like getting a new flat or getting engaged, there’s always preparation for ‘the next step’. I myself always like to look ahead and prepare as much as I can, but something I would say when you’re looking forward, is to not forget the present. The now.

Staying in the now isn’t a crime, living within the moment is how we get so much out of what we want from life. If you don’t stop to see where you currently are, how can you enjoy it? There is only so much planning one can do, but to benefit from the future you must learn to enjoy the moments when they come.

One of my favourite quotes from any book I’ve read comes to mind when I think about this:

“What’s the point in life if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” – John Green

Until this point I’ve used this as a way of motivation, the drive that makes me want to accomplish something in my life. I still do, but now I realise that this quote has context. One thing I’ve noticed from this current generation is everything is very goal orientated, by which I mean that what careers we might pursue in later life or what goals we set ourselves are brought up at an early age. I mean this no way in bad light as it’s good to build dreams and to aspire to become what you want to be in life. However there is something I find that lacks in this. Whenever people as ‘what do you want to be?’ whether it’s in a year, a couple, a decade, a lot of people look towards earning large sums of money, success, fame, to leave a mark in history and and to be great. Where there is nothing wrong with this, one thing I will say is this.

Do you know what I want to be? Happy.

We’re so focused nowadays on being the best we can be and achieving those goals we set that in doing so happiness, a vast majority of the time, gets put aside striving to reach those aspirations that we set ourselves at all costs. I know people who have pursued degrees and jobs because ‘I’ll get a good career out of it’ or ‘it pays well’. You could be earning a 6-figure salary, but if you hate what you do what exactly is the point? If you don’t love what you do is there any real point at all? To be happy I think is one of the most difficult things to accomplish, because happiness changes at different stages in life, so you’ve always got to adapt to where you own happiness leads you. It can change dependent of your physical and/or mental wellbeing at any point.

If someone asked me now what I want to be, I would tell them a list full of things that have nothing to do with jobs or careers.

I want to be able to relax, without thinking of every little thing I have to do within a day. I want to be able to not be so time conscious that I have to constantly be wondering what the time is. I want to be able to focus on what I’m doing, and to not compare myself to others thinking ‘why can’t I be like them?’ leading to knit-picking at my own merits. I want to be proud of who I am. I want to be able to enjoy conversing with family and friends, to fully immerse myself in conversation, instead of thinking of other work I could be doing, to shut off the background thoughts. I want to be able to know that time spent not working is equally important as time spent working, as bodies and brains need time to wind down. I want to be able to reply to messages without an eon of time passing, and to try and make more of an effort to maintain contact with friends. Especially from Suffolk & Toronto. I want to be able to not rush everything I do, because rushing fixes nothing and leads to stressing out myself, my friends, my girlfriend, my family, everyone. I want to be able to look in the mirror be happy with how I look, rather than ‘have I lost weight again?’ or ‘why can’t I put on weight?’. For all the Great British Bake Off fans, there was one thing that resonated with me in Candice’s speech when she found out that she’d won GBBO – ‘I did it, I’m good, I’m good enough’. I want to be able to say this to myself and believe every single word of it.

Do I think that achieving these things will make me happy? To an extent yes. Do I think they are the only things that will make me happy? No. One thing to realise is that everyone has their own version of happiness. At this point in time, I would settle be being able to properly relax and to be content with who I am as a person. Other peoples versions of what will make them happy will be vastly different from mine as everyone has their own pursuit of happiness.

All I’m trying to say is, when you’re thinking about ‘the next step’, or thinking about what you want do or be regardless of where you’re at in life think about what makes you happy, because at the end of the day your happiness should be the number one priority when making an decision.

Keep Exploring,

George 

 

 

Rushing Fixes Nothing.

Have you ever found yourself bombarded with so many tasks in a day that you think ‘I’m never going to get these done’? Ever tried to do all these things you want to do at once and find more times than not it’s difficult/stressful/near about impossible?  Ever been labelled as ‘burning the candle at both ends‘ or said to be ‘always doing too much‘? You are not alone my friend, as I share your strife.

More times than not you can be overly optimistic about what you can do in a day. 24 hours seems like a long time, but when you really think about it, you’ve got to get dressed/cleaned, make breakfast, brush your teeth, clean your room from the night before and before you know it, it’s already the afternoon and you’ve got nothing to really show for it.

However, when the realisation hits you that the day is getting away from you and you haven’t even got 1 thing done that you’ve wanted to do on that day, don’t rush yourself. You know the feeling. The thought process (for me at least) goes something like this:

Oh shit. I’m never going to get finished. How on earth am I going to get all this done in time?

Maybe if I try to do little bits of all these things at once I’ll get them done!

Many hours later.

Fuck. All I’ve done so far is scroll through social media, like a load of photos, save some cat memes on my phone and made a list of new films I need to watch. I’m screwed. I still need to do A through to M before the day otherwise I’m well and truly done.

And then that feeling happens. That pressure on your chest, feeling like it could burst open. Your limbs go weak and you barely find yourself able to stand. You head is running at a million miles an hour thinking of all the things you haven’t done over the course of the day. Whirring around like a possessed drag racer, feeling helpless as you let your thoughts run riot in your head trying to start a protest to your brain of why you can’t accomplish anything in life because you can’t get a days work done, and then BAM. 

You feel numb. Your head feels hazy as if high in the clouds. You can’t focus on anything and you just feel blank. You lay down, trying to recuperate but you just can’t find it in yourself to get up. You just do nothing. Waiting for the above to subside before trying to make sense of it all.

This unfortunate series of events has happened to me a few times. I, and others like myself out there, rush too much. Rushing will never help a situation, whether you’ve got deadlines for projects or presentations due, or even day-to-day tasks needing to be addressed. Don’t rush. It’s difficult not to as you don’t want to let yourself or another for that matter down by not doing what you said you would on a given day. But trust me, it’s better than letting your mind run amuck, driving itself into the ground, because that helps no-one.

I can’t say much. I still rush things, but I’m trying to be better at controlling it. Here’s a few things I (try to) do to deter rushing:

  • Write a To-Do list – writing out what you have to do on a day makes it clear in your mind of what needs to be done.

However, make sure not to put too much on a list at once – otherwise you’ll stress about getting only some of it, rather than all of it, finished.

  • Be Realistic – when writing down what you need to do, make sure that you know within your capabilities of what you can and can’t do on a given day, whether that’s due to lectures/classes/prior commitments. If you get everything done and have time, by all means get at it, but if not then don’t stress yourself out by putting too much on your plate.
  • Sometimes, you have to say no to things – if someone asks you to do something out of the blue, see what you have to do already. I know it’s hard to say no to people as you don’t want to let anyone down, but wouldn’t you rather put do as good as job as you can rather than rushing something just to get it finished?
  • Prioritise – if something has to be done, then make it one of the first things you tackle on a day to get it out the way. If things can wait till another day and aren’t urgent, put them to one side for the time being. You can’t do everything at once. Trust me, I’ve tried.
  • Organise yourself – whether it’s a list, calendar, bullet journal, notebook, whatever. As long as you can organise yourself with something then you’re already halfway there. Seeing things written down on something makes everything clearer I’ve found.

All of these help to manage time better than blurring things together. However, out of all these, there is something far more important you should do when you feel things getting on top of you.

Stop. Take a deep breathe. Take a break.

You can only focus on something for so long until your brain can’t cope with it. When that happens, take a break for say 10-15 minutes to let your brain file what you’re trying to learn/do. If you don’t give yourself time to process it all, your mind won’t be clear of what it’s doing.

I for one am still trying to battle with not rushing things. It’s hard. However, it takes on average 66 days to form a habit. Just over a couple of months. Starting is never easy and having to remind yourself isn’t either. But in the long run, you’ll be way better for it. I’m still trying. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but it’s all a learning process isn’t it?

I hope sharing my experience and current fight with rushing to those who feel the same way I do about it is makes you feel that you’re not alone in wanting to kick it to the kerb. I mean, I sort of feel like I’ve rushed writing this but hopefully it helps!

Remember to stop, take a breathe, and take a break.

George

 

 

 

People Pleasing Pandemonia

In this day and age, everything is speculated & criticised. Your work. Your social media content. Anything you do, someone has an opinion somewhere that you might not even know about. This is the world that we live in.

If you’re like me, the thought of any of these being negative petrifies you, and you’d go so far out of your way to try and win over everybody that you’ve ever encountered, physically or virtually, that you sometimes can’t find end meets. You juggle events, meet-ups, social events, work etc so that everyone is incorporated into what could be a short or long timespan. But still ends won’t meet. Plans fall through, you double book a day so you’re forced to make a choice, work means you can’t plan as accordingly as you thought.

Your friends and family say something similar to you’re always doing too much at once” or “you burn the candle at both ends all the time!”. If you’re one of those people, I am with you. We try to do as much as we can because either are lives run by FOMO (fear of missing out) or that we always want to get the most out of opportunities so saying that dreadful word, no, seems impossible to even contemplate.

However, this leaves you with too much on your plate and then you stretch yourself until breaking point until this happens:

I took an emotional stumble of sorts a few nights ago. After returning from an amazing weekend with friends I hadn’t seen for at least a year, another event had been overthought to celebrate another event with others who I hadn’t seen in far too long the weekend after.

However, work was on the cards, and I did everything I could to try and get work off to attend but to no avail. This lead me to that evening wanting to go to the gym to let off steam from the situation that didn’t quite go my way. 

I laid down on the bed, and just wept. Prolifically. Uncontrollable streams of tears trickling down my nose to soak the duvet sheet below. I never felt sadness come over me in such a wave before. It felt like permanently wiping out on a surfboard and constantly being tumbled by the water above. I felt weak and if nothing was going to go right for a long period of time. Thoughts got dark. In trying to get up, I maintained my mood with my head in my hands for what felt like hours, having what felt like a million thoughts rushing through my head faster than a particle in the Hardon Collider. It felt like a whirlpool was sucking me down into the darkest depths at an exponential speed, thinking that I’d get lost in it…

It took some long conversations and some venting with my girlfriend to get me on the beaten path.

What can be learnt from this?

  1. You can’t please everyone. It’s impossible, and even if you could, the only people you should putting your effort towards are those who would do the same for you.
  2. Organise your time – and don’t put off doing it. To avoid getting all up in sorts like above, try and organise your time – use a calendar, diary, journal.My favourite is a to-do list as it sets everything out in an organised fashion.
  3. You come first before anyone else. Your mental and physical health come before all else, before loved ones, family, friends, everyone. You need to take care of yourself before helping anyone else.[Think of yourself on a flight when they say that speech about oxygen masks when the cabin loses pressure. You have to put your own mask on before helping others – it’s the same with your wellbeing too!]

 

I highly believe in a quote from the book An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?

The best part in that the term remarkable, to the individual, can mean literally anything. Trying to find that remarkable moment/achievement takes different amounts of time for different people – I think this is one of the reasons why people to do much at once. They’re trying to shorten that time to get to that euphoric stage of self-accomplish and happiness, not enjoying the journey along the way. Other reasons are not being able to manage time effectively so things creep up on you when they’ve been forgotten on the back burner.

What I’m trying to say is, do as many things as you want to do within reason, planning ahead and making sure you’ve got times & dates set will let you realise if you’re able to take on more things. And sometimes saying no in the long run is actually the best answer at that time before seeing what time you have available.

It would be a shame to say you can’t do everything you want to do, because I’m all for living life to the fullest and being able to get the most out of – but that comes gradually, not all at once.

Keep Exploring,

George

Togetherness in Toronto

There’s been many things happening over the past couple of weeks. Friends departing back to home countries and others flying in from back home. There’s been gigs, travels, photography, and adventures – but there were a few shining moments that really do make me thankful for being where I am today.

May 20th – Mothers Inbound

After not seeing the for the best part of 5 months, to have both of them here in Toronto (however short the visit was) was wonderful – especially when on a daily basis there was a quest to find the next best margarita to beat the one from the day before.

 

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Very first stop, La Carnita – divine margaritas here! 

 

 

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Mum escaped the awkward corn-on-the-cob bite, I, however, was not so lucky #ThatEyeContactThough 

 

There pit-stop in Toronto before heading off to meet some friends in Austin was the first of a few homely visits from back across the Atlantic. With the time I knew I had with them, I tried to squeeze in as much as I could to show them a less-touristy tour of Toronto with margarita and mezcal bars, fish and Italian eateries and shops galore for them to update their holiday wardrobe.

 

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Trust my mum to find the biggest Bloody Mary she could find, with a lobster tail in it to boot!

 

I have to say a lot of it was margarita searching for their final stop in Mexico to make an accurate comparison to what a “good margarita” was – I’m sure with their persistence they will find their perfect margarita somewhere on the Mexican beaches.

 

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A mezcal bar, where of course more beverages were had. 

 

May 23rd – BBQ’s done in style with Canadians, Scots, Englishmen and an Irishman. 

I already knew of a few family members in Toronto and other areas in Canada before I arrived and some I had met already like Scott and his wonderful family. However with a reunion of Canadian family around the corner, I couldn’t help but feel a tad nervous, like how when I first met Scott. Just thinking where to go with initial conversation seemed a little nerve-racking.

Those worries were soon doused by complete and utter Canadian genuineness. Whitney and Patricia, who sadly I was not able to meet until now due to being busy at different times, were absolutely delightful upon finally meeting them at Scotts! Hearing the Scottish accents from Scotts parents, George and Athelene, really did have a homely feeling to it, and both shared stories of living back in Scotland and Waterloo, Ontario – as well as some handy travel tips! Scotts and his two sisters, Jenny and Suzy, together as the three of them were just a riot as well as their collective S.O’s and the kids to boot!

 

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Myself, the kids and Gus seeing who can get the most skims of a stone….Gus destroyed the competition 

 

Everything clicked into place like we’d all known each other for years – it truly was one of the best days since I’ve been over in Canada, and to know that I have such a welcoming and vibrant family this side of the world is something I will always hold dear.

The only regret I have of that day was not getting a photo of all of us, however that just means we’ll have to have another BBQ in the future with all of us again! What a shame.

As if such a day couldn’t get any better, my good friend from university flew over from Dublin on the same day to top it all off. Hearing him knocking at the door of Scotts house, albeit looking a little lost, elevated a day that was already in the clouds. Since his arrival we’ve ran in colour runs, thrown axes in the greatest of fashions, kayaked to Toronto Island, as well as filling ourselves with the greatest food Toronto has to offer.

 

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Badly sunburnt men throwing axes, what else could do wrong? 
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A lengthly paddle battle commenced soon after this photo. 
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Running 5K in the blazing Torontonian heat whilst getting splattered with colour, I would do it again in a heart beat.

 

 

These moments are never going to be forgotten, which is a big thing for me to say as most people know that my memory is absolutely horrendous. And the best part is it’s not even over yet, with a trip to Montreal and then Adrienne departing in the next week to Toronto it still only gets better from here.

All this made me realise. I am a lucky guy. To have a, now extended, family and friends met whilst here in Toronto and before that all have one thing in common – a glowing personality.Each person with a different type and kind, and each other them owning them for them to be who they are today.

Keep exploring,

 

George

When plan A fails, make a plan B. If that fails? You’ve got the alphabet.

This week hasn’t turned out even slightly how I thought it would. With a week or so until relatives, friends, and significant others fly over to Toronto I thought it would be a good idea to explore Ontario for its wilderness. Plans to head to Bruce Penisula, Algonquin and Thousand Island were in the mix, all through the ease of Canadas car rental service. Everything was a go. Essentials were packed. Motels were booked. What could possibly go wrong?

9am. We’re up and out the flat early to get to Enterprise where we would pick up the car and set off to Bruce Penisula as soon as we met up with the others. Everything at the rental dealership was going smoothly, the time of the booking, the drivers licence checks etc. Up until the payment.

I’d like to add at this point that on the website it said that either credit or debit would be suitable for payment of the rental car. But, unknown to us until that point, you need to have a credit card in the name of the driver for the purchase to take place.

Destroyed. Broken spirit. Infuriation. Defeat.

These (and plenty others) were whirling through my head at this point – including one of my favourite expressions ‘rocking up like you’ve got your dick in your hand‘ – thinking that all that planning had ben for nothing, to fall at the first hurdle almost made it comical. Four students wondering to travel the natural parks of Ontario swept aside by lack of a piece of plastic. Brilliant. However Verena, a good friend of mine, said some very precious words – ‘we shall make a new plan’. I was so wrapped up in the disappointment of plan A failing that I thought there would be no plans that we could make.

Turns out plan B served pretty well to say the least – we took a GO bus over to Hamilton, where we heard there were many great nature hikes that lead to waterfalls. And that is exactly what we did.

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Crossing difficult landscape through the use of teamwork – no one wanted to get soggy feet.

 

From what I’d heard of Hamilton, which wasn’t a lot to say the least, it sounded like a pretty non-remarkable place in comparison to Toronto. But I’m glad to have been proved wrong through this hike. Natural beauty doesn’t even begin to describe the merits of this place.

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After finding a river we knew that the waterfall couldn’t be too far away…we hoped.

 

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About 45 minutes of hiking up some questionable paths we found sight of the waterfall, also realising there was a much easier way to get to the fall face from the roadside – but where’s the fun in the easy route right?

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Can’t remember the last time I was able to get that close to the edge of a waterfall, was quite something I have to say. 

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Gabriel found a tree to sit in, I already knew what he was going to ask before I took this. Always the tree-shot fanatic.

This plan B worked out pretty well. But sometimes not all plan B’s work out as well as this one in many aspects of life. Sometimes you can get to C, D, E, even further down the line before a plan is successful in what we want it to fulfil.

I’m not saying that there are only 26 plans you can make, I just like the use of the alphabet to assign plan identities. 

However, what this trip taught me was to just keep going. Keep pursuing with blind optimism to make a plan succeed whatever plan that may be. At some point, it will, and when it does you soon realise what all the time, effort, hours, were for.

Without a car, I won’t be able to explore the national parks of Ontario, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t spend the rest of my time in Toronto finding new things to do and new places to go by any means!

Keep exploring.

George

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are more than one exam.

The education system nowadays has a high pressure on people to attend university -> get good grades -> get a good degree -> enabling us to get a great job. I’ve realised that the more people that are attending university are making the actual bit of paper you get to summarise your achievements, well, less valuable to some extent.

I’m not saying that going to university is bad. If you know that what you want to do later in life requires you to enrol in a certain degree to be able to gain the skills that you need. That’s amazing. You do you and continue on your path to what you want to achieve. However lots of people sadly, and understandably, go to university because they don’t know what the want to do at that stage in life. Some find their calling once they’re there, but others I’ve seen in my own university sometimes feel that they’re not getting anything out of their degree. Sadly they thought it was “the only route to take”.

More often than not know, it’s the people you meet and the connections you make along the way that help differentiate yourself from the crowd. Getting that much-needed experience, to then gain more experience cycle that we all know and love.  Whatever is on your bit of paper that you think defines you as a person. It doesn’t. You personal qualities and experiences in life and in work are what define you as a person. When you’re setting across from a less-scary-than-you-think potential employer of somewhere you’ve really wanted to work. Just do you. Don’t think about the paper, think about what you want to say honestly, that portrays you for who you are.

It’s now nearing the end of the exam season, and people are beginning the feel that relief of the hours (well hopefully) of hard work they’ve put into studying or to craft what they need to get the grade they want. But I’ll tell you this now, as something I’ve only realised over the past week.

One exam does not dictate what you do in the world. 

I understand people want to do well academically, to further their goals. But if on the day it doesn’t go as planned and you think your life is over. Make a new plan. Failing in one thing can lead to success in another where you learn more from your failures than your success. I’m not saying failing an exam is something you want, but sometimes when the hand you’re dealt on the day isn’t what you thought, maybe the nerves sink in, maybe you didn’t revise something that was on the exam and was a big part. Don’t let it phase you. Don’t dwell on it, as there is nothing you can do about it now – the best thing to do would be to learn from it.

People in Canada are all about the grade point average (GPA), I’ve never seen people obsess about getting that 4.0 GPA than when I was here in Toronto. People thrive to get it because they think it’s an automatic switch that will give them the exact career they want instantly after getting it. I can tell you now it doesn’t. I would rather get a worse GPA and gained experience that I would cherish for life than study all day, every day, to get a 4.0. There is much more to life than that. So much more.

For example, one thing that I had set from the beginning of university when I started was “I want to get a 1st, no matter what”, this is because I thought that only the best of people get 1sts. To some extent you could consider this to be true. But now I feel that this is how I picture my degree. I’m (currently) on track to get a 1st, but if I gained vital experience in the summers between years that propelled me into a possible career that I might not have even thought about and didn’t get a 1st, I would be perfectly happy with that. No, not just happy, ecstatic. If you get too caught up in the study and the grinding (where there ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of) people sometimes lose track of what they really want to get out of life, and how to get where they want to go.

Next time you get a ‘bad grade’ or you didn’t do as well in an assignment as you wanted, keep in mind that that one thing isn’t going to define you for the rest of your life. Ever.

George.

What Toronto’s Taught Me (other than that Mark Dolan is fresh AF).

I can’t believe I’m here. I’ve left UTSC in Scarborough and am now living in downtown Toronto for the next 2 months to really explore the city lifestyle on a daily basis. To think that I’ve survived this far sometimes seems like the impossible considering sometimes I can’t even keep the toothpaste on the top of my toothbrush between placing the paste onto the bristles and bringing it to my mouth. Yes. It happens. More often than not. Let’s move past it.

4 months. I haven’t just survived in a completely new surrounding with different lifestyles and people, I really feel that I’ve been able to thrive and find new sides to myself that I hadn’t realised we part of me up until now. There are many things that I’ve realised since I’ve been here with many lessons learnt, all having their own effects on my life.

Enjoy the little things, and realise that work sometimes isn’t everything.

Back at university in Stirling, I have a very hard driven character, spending large sessions in the library revising material I wouldn’t need to regurgitate until months later – I’m a grafter. Whilst being here I still have the same mentality, you get out of life what you put into it and I still follow that philosophy. However, I’ve been able to appreciate that sometimes, to be able to really live you have to be able to enjoy life’s small breaks when they come. Going out with friends to a new destination, whether it’s a thoroughly planned holiday away or it’s going to a new restaurant or bar – making time for people, especially friends and family, is equally important as making time to work/study. Being in Toronto with the wonderful people I’ve met here has made me realise that sometimes, study isn’t always the number one priority.

Embrace the unknown, and don’t be scared of it.

There are many things I’ve done here that I’ve never thought I’d do ever, walk on a frozen lake and not get hypothermia from me being the one unlucky sod that fell in. Being able to travel to destinations like Montreal and New York that would’ve been a dream a year ago that I would even be this side of the Atlantic. Develop new sides to my being that hadn’t emerged of even existed until coming to Toronto. The point here is that the unknown opportunities you think you’ll never have are the most important. And whenever they come around, whether it’s the ability to live somewhere you’ve always wanted, or a job offer in a place you never thought you’d be able to get into – be like Shia LaBouf. Or Nike. If you stand back thinking of the ‘what ifs’ in life – I feel sorry for you. Whatever you think may be holding you back from achieving what you want to achieve. Just say to yourself ‘fuck it – this is what I want to do‘ and you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.

Throw yourself in at the deep end. Always.

I know it’s easier said than done, and there’s insecurities and mental health that comes into the barriers that stops people from being able to throw themselves into a situation. But, brick by brick, when that wall comes down, a whole new world opens up full of potential and most of all, fun. The people I’ve met here have really shown me that, and whilst some of them have left Toronto, I’m sure I’ll visit them in their home countries in the near future. Without the deep end dive, that probably wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have met such fantastically bright and interesting people and not been able to make the memories that I have now. And the further potential to make more for the time I’m still in Toronto for!

Make time for friends, old and new alike. 

It’s very easy to get very absorbed in the work you’re doing, whether it’s studying or career based. I love it when people are so dedicated to their work because for them it isn’t work as they love what they do so much for them, it’s living. However, sometimes you forget to stop and take a look around once in a while, and whilst you grinding through the books or organising meeting or whatever you may be doing, always make time for the people around you. Back in Stirling, even before it came near to final exams, I would be in the library for a horrific amount of time – and I know that I will be doing similar hours in the library coming into my 4th year with my dissertation to write as well as other things. But this time I’m going to spend my time away from the desk and the lab differently, I’m going to make sure I go and do things with the people that mean the dearest to me instead of feeling tired and broken after long hours. Yes, there may be a bit of extra tea drinking, but there’s never such a thing as too much tea. Making the most of your time of to try new things with friends is now something I’m going to try and do as much as I can, regardless of how tired I may feel because sometimes, life can catch up with you pretty quick.

I’ve got another 7 weeks in Toronto, where I’m going to be either doing something or going somewhere new every day to get the most out of a city that I’ve fallen in love with. There are a few things in the pipeline of events that will be coming through here, so watch this space.

Till then – Keep Exploring.

George

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