How to keep your Resolutions

It’s already nearly two weeks into 2017. Statistically, most resolutions that were made will be broken. A good portion, already so. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on them entirely. Just because you’ve had a blip, or maybe you haven’t even started working toward your goal, it doesn’t mean that the other 50 weeks of the year are automatically written off. You can just pick yourself up and start again. Why discount 50 weeks of progress, just for two of inertia?

Resolutions are there to be reminders of our self-improvement. We get to re-evaluate ourselves every 12 months and decide what we should aim to work on, to be kinder, healthier, happier. Of course, it is only a promise to you, in most cases no one else will be affected if you make a non-attempt. But you will be. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to follow through, even on arbitrary promises, because if you don’t respect your own word, how you expect others to?

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It is also probable that you didn’t bother making any resolutions. After all, 2016 has widely been held as not such a great (read: actually terrible) year for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. From the loss of so many famous faces in all aspects of public life, to the frequency of terror attacks, to the election of some questionable people across many governments, to any number of personal reasons – surely this year can’t be so bad, even if you do nothing to help yourself along. And who knows? Maybe it won’t be. Maybe this year won’t be one that we can’t wait to be through with. Perhaps humanity will turn over a new leaf, and we’ll all smile and be kind and agree to peacefully disagree. But how can we expect this to happen by itself?

Anyway, here’s my top five for keeping your resolutions on track:

  1. Keep track of your progress on a calendar, whiteboard, app or something. This can help keep you going when everything seems pointless.
  2. Make yourself accountable for whatever it is by telling people. Tell your mum, partner, bestie, or, if you’re brave, online community. If you’ve got someone checking up on you, you’ll feel more obliged to keep it up.
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  3. Create a plan of how to achieve your goal. It’s much easier to lose five kg by exercising and eating healthy, than just by saying you’re going to. If you’ve got a strategy you can break
    it down so it’s much less scary.
  4. Let yourself slip up. Everybody makes mistakes, and that’s okay, just make sure you pick yourself up and keep going – rather than letting the mistakes define you.
  5. Remember why you thought this was important to begin with, and what you wanted to get out of it. It might be hard, but you wouldn’t have started if you didn’t have good reason. And besides, imagine how great it’ll feel on December 31, knowing that you are one of a select group who actually accomplished what they set out to 364 days prior.

Good luck!

 

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The Girl on the Train || November Review

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel was thrilling and engrossing and creepy. This took the idea of the unreliable narrator to the next level.
As I’m sure everyone is aware of the plot, I’m not going to go into detail. There’s a woman that catches the same train every day, who imagines the lives of the people in the houses she passes. One day, a woman she watches goes missing, and the girl on the train becomes involved in the following investigation more deeply than she could ever imagine.
The story is told from the perspectives of three women, and two time periods. As the novel progresses, their lives become more intertwined and the true similarities between them are uncovered. Each woman is, honestly, pretty messed up in her own right. Each one is less dependable than the last in terms of providing an honest account. And therein lies the challenge.
Hawkins crafted a plot filled with so many twists and turns. Very unpredictable, and yet the final twist was perhaps not as surprising as it could be. I did very much enjoy this novel. I didn’t like a single character much at all – but, I think it was wonderfully paced, and thrilling. An interesting character study as well. It left me questioning everyone and thinking about it, even when I wasn’t reading.

*I didn’t really want to review this, but it’s the only book I completed all month – oops!*

View all my reviews

An Open Letter to You

Dear you,

There’s no such thing as a waste of an experience. Or a period in time. Or your life. You cannot live your life without personal growth and development. And you cannot live without impacting upon others. So there is no waste. Unless you live in a hole, with no outside interaction it is literally impossible. And even then – if you allow yourself to learn new things and think new thoughts, you are simply not a waste of space, or of anybody’s time.

It is easy to think that if you don’t achieve what you set out to, or are going day-to-day without striving for any new goals, or without any major life changes, that you are wasting your time. That you should be doing something more. More important or impressive or useful. But sometimes we all need a break. Sometimes it’s a day or two. Sometimes a year, or even more.  Studying for years and doing nothing resembling your qualification, isn’t a waste – it’s personal growth, determination and self-reflection. It is the able to re-evaluate your life and all you’ve learnt and decide that, maybe that’s not what you want after all and that’s okay.

It is so essential that you let yourself take the time that you need to sort through everything. You need to let yourself remember what it is that you truly want, and learn how to make yourself happy again. It is too easy to go through life doing only is expected of you, or what you think you should be doing, without asking what it is that will actually make you happy. It is so easy to pin your hopes on the next thing, and the next after that; “I’ll be happy after I leave school”, “I’ll be happy after I get a car”, or find a partner or get a full-time job or whatever it is. It is so easy in this way to let life pass by without being happy with what you have and who you are in that very moment.

And easy too, is to compare ourselves to others, seeing that we are underachieving, or worthless compared to them. But any comparison that you draw to another is unfair on you. There is no one else on this little blue planet who is you.  Nobody has the same life, experiences, thoughts and feelings as you. Even if you are in outwardly similar positions, there is no knowing what is actually going on. If you see them as successful compared to you in one aspect, it is unbelievable they are more accomplished in every aspect. And even supposing that maybe (impossibly) they are, who is to say that they are happy and don’t look at others the way you view them?

As cliché as it is, you really do only get one shot at being alive, so you must try to be you. By attempting to be somebody else, you are depriving yourself, and the rest of the world of the chance of seeing who you can really become. And you know what, it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to feel lonely, or sad, or frustrated – they deserve to be felt too (didn’t you learn anything from Inside Out?)

Suppressing emotions never ends well and only leads to more heartache further down the track. Let yourself feel. But then do something about them. Talk to a friend, watch your favourite movie, write it all out. Do not let yourself sit in your pyjamas pretending like everything’s fine for the fourth day in a row, without trying to help yourself. If you do not ask for help or support, people will assume you don’t need it. But everyone needs it at some point. And that is very okay. It is only human. We all hurt, we are all damaged and flawed. But we can all help each other. And that’s the best part.

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Disclaimer: This is mostly a letter to myself, these are the important things I need help remembering sometimes. I am sorry it is so ramble-y. 

All around the World

The Internet can be a really great place for a great many things. And friendships is one of them. Of course everyone uses the Internet to keep in contact with their ‘real life’ friends, and to stalk people they met at a party/ kindergarten but haven’t spoken to since (no shame, we all do it). But making brand new friends? Stranger danger! All those online safety seminars from school start to trigger something way in the back of your mind that, perhaps, this isn’t the best idea.

But maybe it is.

Imagine this – you have a friend who you talk to literally every day, you let each other into your respective lives and you find you have lots in common and a real connection. You support each other through everything and it becomes a real solace knowing that you can just pick up your phone and they’ll be there. Wouldn’t you want a friend like this?? Or, if you have one already– another?

The only problem is, that maybe, they live in another city, country, maybe a different continent even. But with the wonderful World Wide Web right here for us, why should we let a few thousand kilometres get in the way?

This is what happened to me! Three years ago, I sent a little message reaching out to someone I followed on Tumblr. On my England trip earlier this month, I was sleeping in her house. In the interim we shared practically everything with each other. We bonded over music and books initially, but soon we were sharing advice and our days and just being great pals. The 17,000ish km proved little barrier to our friendship. Sure the nine hour time difference meant that we were each usually asleep for the majority of each other’s day, but that just means we made time in the mornings and nights.

I was so excited and nervous when they day came to finally meet Lauren, my boyfriend tried in vain to calm me down. After three years, it seemed like we knew each other so well on the inside. But I didn’t even know how tall she was! It was quite an odd experience, but so wonderful. I cried when I got there and I cried when I left. It was so very special to actually be in the same room together, this person who knew me so well – and we finally got to have a conversation with no screen between us.

We are just like old-school pen-pals but in the digital age, although we occasionally do send physical post. We have learnt so much from each other – both on a geographical / cultural level, and on a personal level. I’ve learnt to how to be present without being present. And we still discover differences between our societies all the time (who would have thought England would be that different to Australia?)

In short, be smart – don’t give out personal info to complete randoms on the Internet – but friendships that you make can be some of the best you have. I’m sure we’ll be friends for a very long time yet.

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My beautiful friend Lauren and I in her town.

What is it with sequels?

As far as film categories go, sequels are often the most contentious. Simultaneously most anticipated and often worst received, sequels have the potential to enthral or disappoint viewers, more perhaps than original movies.

When you watch a new movie you are able to explore the world, meet the characters and understand relationships for the first time. You are surprised and your imagination is sparked with interest. As soon as the movie ends, you are able to make your own decisions about the fate of the characters.  With the announcement of a sequel, conjecture becomes rife and arguments proceed about where the story goes and which characters will do what. Fans of the original are usually equally parts excited, to become reacquainted with characters they love, and nervous, that the studio is just using this as an easy money-grab and they will be bitterly disappointed.

Sequels unfortunately fall into that disappointing category alllll too often. And I think it is a combination of factors that lets them down. Most films are not made with a sequel in mind (aside from those common book-to-movie adaptations but I’ve got other problems with those!) and so are usually self-contained stories not necessarily lending themselves to any further exploration. It is way too common for a sequel of a well-received film to be churned out way before there was any chance for a properly engaging story to come to fruition. This shortened timeframe often results in the second (or even third) movie to be essentially a copy of the first.  However, just because the formula worked once, does not mean it will necessarily work again and again.

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22 Jump Street made light of its own flaws as a sequel

 

Another predicament faced by sequels is that of the creative team. When the writing team or directing/ producing team is different, or when members of the cast are unable to return for whatever reason, it often leaves the audience feeling dissatisfied. Chemistry, particularly on-screen, cannot be formulated, and when an ensemble is left wanting, even if the hole is filled it never feels quite the same. If a new director, for example, is brought on mid-way through a franchise it often feels as though they never quite realise the dream of the original director and captive audience. Or they again go back to the predictable formula of the first.

The third major problem I often find with sequels is that they are not often standalone films. A sequel is most successful, I find, if it doesn’t rely too heavily upon the audience having seen the first movie. While it is nice for there to be references to the original film, maybe incorporate some running jokes for example, it can be quite an ordeal if every joke is replayed or every scene references events that occurred before this film began– particularly if there are several years between film releases. Not everyone can be an avid fan, and people will inevitably watch the second film without seeing the first, so it is important for the film to be able to be enjoyed alone.

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The Hangover trilogy suffers from a repeated formula.

So taking all these things into account, what is a good sequel then? For me, one of the best movie franchises is Toy Story. The three films were created a span of 15 years. This left ample time between helpings for a fully engaging, interesting and believable story to be created within the universe. The creative team was led by John Lasseter for each movie. This ensured the vision of the films followed and continuity was on point. Also, the majority of the wonderful cast reappeared with each instalment and renewed the magic.

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A critically acclaimed family favourite

Andd, each film is a touching ride in and of itself. There is no real need to understand the first before viewing the second, or third, but this only heightens the emotions. Each film scored close to 90 on Metacritic and was nominated for at least one Oscar, which in and of itself is quite a feat. Let alone for a movie about toys.

This wonderful tradition is being sustained by Pixar’s latest offering Finding Dory, the much-awaited 13 years-in-the-making sequel to the smash hit Finding Nemo. With the perfect amount of Easter eggs for lovers of the first, and a captivating story for children of all ages making their first trip under the sea, creator of both, Andrew Stanton has created another family favourite and Pixar classic.tumblr_o50nzg5jyh1s68u0xo6_12801

Inspired by this article.

Feminism in Young Adult fiction

I have recently been thinking about how the stories we consume have the power to shape us, particularly at a young age. The books, films and narratives that surround us as youths can often have long lasting effect.

But it’s the characters that we discover, love and admire most as adolescents that perhaps shape us the most. And revisiting these characters and their stories always leaves an effect. I have always been a reader, but discovering Aussie Young Adult fiction really gave my younger self some inspiring role models.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great characters for young people to look up to elsewhere. Determined and quick-witted Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables) has been a lifelong favourite. And of course with the resourcefulness, love and pure magic of Harry P9780140360462otter and co. But they have always been separate from me, by time and space.

When 13 year-old me read Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (published 1992) that first time I immediately fell in love with it. There was no more than 15 years and 50 kilometres between Josie and I. She was growing up in an Italian family in modern Sydney, and so was I. She did not lead a perfect, or even a particularly exciting life – but she was taking charge
of her own destiny, in whichever small way she could, and I admired her. Marchetta’s beautiful prose formed her heroine more real than any I had previously encountered.

A year or so later, I picked up the Tomorrow, When the War Began series (first published in 1993) and found myself faced with another cast of fierce, intelligent, yet still flawed female characters. John Marsden writes painfully realistic teenagers, which is not as easy to do as it sounds. And not only are all the characters believable but they are wonderfully active in their own stories. Too often are female characters reactive, rather than being active themselves even if they are framed as heroines. Ellie, Robyn, Fi and even Corrie are often braver and bolder than their male companions, and it is so important for teenage readers to have characters like them. Despite their action, they are still framed as desirable and feminine, traits that often disappear when the “take charge” attributes are given in novels. (I have just watched the first episode of the new TV series and it is so good!)

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Ellie is played by Molly Daniels in ABC’s new series.

These novels were both written before “Young Adult fiction” came into its own as a legitimate genre, rather than just being for “older children”. Now with the YA category thriving, it is important for current authors to take note. Whilst sales in adult fiction are declining, YA sales have been on the up for a number of years. Also, the readership is ageing, with a majority of YA sales going to those over the age of 18. Readers are demanding more realistic, more active female characters. And rightly so.

While we have certainly bridged some of the gap between the sexes in the last 100 years, there is definitely more to go. And there is no better place, I think, than to educate our teenagers, of the importance of feminism, than between the covers of the latest bestselling novel.

 

Who’s your favourite feminist Young Adult character? I’d love to have a discussion!

How to: regain your motivation

Struggling to stay motivated after a long and lazy Easter weekend? Here are some handy hints to keep you going through the cooler months. (Disclaimer: This is mostly a letter to myself!)

Remember why..?

Why is it important to do the thing?? Motivation sometimes escapes us all, but we’ve all got things that need to be done. You should write that essay so you don’t fail that class! You should probably wash your clothes so you can wear your favourite shirt again. And you should definitely write your blog because you promised once a month!

Make it known

If you are struggling to concentrate on your task, making those around you aware of what you have to do and why is useful. They will (generally) not actively distract you from your task and will probably keep reminding you to get off Facebook do the thing until you actually do it. If you make your goal to get fit / write a blog / learn a new skill even broader public knowledge then you may (if you are anything like me at least) feel a healthy sense of guilt spurring you on until you actually do it.

Break it down

Everything big can be made smaller. If you can break down your daunting task into more manageable pieces it won’t seem so scary! If you need to clean the house, start with one room. If even that seems hard, start with one surface – the kitchen table or whatever. Then once you do that, set your next target a little bigger. If you’re writing an essay, each paragraph is an accomplishment in itself.

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Have fun

Try to make whatever mundane task it is more enjoyable. Listen to your favourite tunes to make writing or cleaning easier (but don’t spend hours making a playlist!) If you’re doing something mindless but necessary like ironing, put your favourite show on to keep you going. If you try to enjoy it, you might find that the whole thing is not so hard after all.

Get your heart pumping

If you are really desperate for a break and a bit of extra inspiration, doing some physical activity will help keep your mind on the job. Sweating it out will often bring new ideas to mind, as well as boosting your endorphin levels, keeping you positive and motivated. (I have very rarely used this technique myself- although I am partial to a manic dance break on occasion. But it does work!)

Treat yo’self

But only after you’re done! Whether it’s I won’t ‘watch another episode’ or ‘eat anymore chocolate’ or even ‘pick up my phone’ until after you’re finished, it will work. Whilst this is essentially bribing yourself, a little bribery goes a long way sometimes! It will force you to do the thing and strengthen your willpower for next time. Annddd all that delayed gratification makes it all taste so much sweeter.

Just do it!

Starting the task is almost always the hardest part. If you just force yourself to begin the rest will flow. The words will come, the clothes will find their way home, and the rubbish will begin to disappear. Once you get over the initial struggle, the rest will follow –promise!

Now listen to Shia go do it!