A Story of forgiveness, learning to trust again & my 10 years with Ed Miliband as my MP.

Now, I don’t want to preach, or tell you who to vote for in this upcoming election. Some of you have probably already voted by mail too. But I want to share with you a story of such, and hope that if you were feeling disillusioned, that you will use your vote for the better – and really vote!

I believe that everyone has the right to vote how they believe is right for them, and for their country.  Of course we all see and experience the world in many different and unique ways that our voting system often doesn’t come close to reflecting this – and can it truly do so? ever? Probably not. But it can try. Additionally, what is important to me (education, NHS, equality, social justice) may not be as high for on your own personal agenda.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time we’re mislead by a massive media elite that, as Marxists would put it, keep the working-person down for their own personal gain.  We see this with Rupert Murdoch acting as the Dark Lord sending tweeted threats to a Tory government failing to get a majority – because they work in favour of him and his $$$ million empire.

They (the elite) don’t want us to be equal, really. They plot us against ourselves, tricking us, lying to us, twisting the truth. Mashing up the narrative so much that we don’t even know what’s really going on, and what we believe any more. Who can be trusted? Our enemies become ourselves, our neighbours; immigrants (the majority of us are immigrants somewhere down the line); people who are on benefits; students; old people; people who work on minimum wage; mothers/fathers/single people; women; workers of all kinds; teachers, doctors, HCP, politicians, bus-drivers- whatever- you name it – they disguise the real issues,  hoping that we will never see past this vail of insecurity and fear that they continue to instil into us. Twisted pieces of the truth, so far from the truth it is a fabricated lie. Sold to you, as if it’s in your best interest. Now, not all media is evil – but a good huge chunk of it can be if it believes that it’s own interests are at risk. Media is probably the best-est social control agent that we have in society.

It is at the juncture that I have to admit that I too am majorly skeptical of politics, politicians and their hunger for power and unkept promises. However, we do need to trust people we’re not sure we can trust all the time – taxi-drivers, hairdressers, dentists and doctors, people on twitter, ect. It’s the bare-fabric of humanity being able to trust, and working in the greater good for all. And if someone breaks your trust – then shame on them, but we must be able to trust a vision we believe in, and we can rebuild trust. Forgiveness can be one of our most important tools in living.

That’s why I’ll be voting Labour in 9 days. Even though I voted Labour in 2010 (my first ever election – which was very exciting) it didn’t feel as right as I had hoped. The last Labour government, Blair et al, had strayed way far too neo-liberal capitalism-middle-of-the-road for my liking. If I wanted that, I would have voted Liberal Democrats. But still, I knew – despite many wrong doings over the 13 years Labour were in power – that in the heart of it somewhere, the real every-day struggling person was there in the value-system. Not just big media and corporation businesses and banks. I benefited hugely from many policies as a poor working class kid from Doncaster.

When Ed Miliband won leader of the Labour party I was very excited for a number of reasons. And so my story begins:

My background is – I was born and raised in Doncaster, a small ex-mining community. My mom fell pregnant with me whilst still in her mid-late teens, and she decided to do it all on her own. School was never her thing, a rebel in her own right, she left school with little qualifications. She fell in love with a bad-boy: my father – who turned out to be pretty violent and lazy (he was prison a bunch of times). Needless to say, I was brought up on council estates, hand to mouth poor, debt collectors and everything you can imagine. And it was miserable. My mom couldn’t escape this domestic violent relationship for the fear of not being able to afford to raise my bro & I on her own ( also lets not ignore the emotional and psychological tricks that get played into making the person believe it will be different next time, even though it’s not). They were never married. So little rights between my mom and father existed. We we’re made homeless when we did escape a dangerous situation, because – like – housing crisis. Duh. More shitty stuff happened, but I go on. I tell you this because it represents my struggle, past, present and future. It represents what is important in acknowledge what every-day-real-life living is like for the majoirty of people in the UK.

I’ve been following Ed Miliband’s political career for some time now. He’s been my MP for about 10 years? He won’t remember this but my friend and I went to visit Ed at one of his surgeries in his first year, maybe few months of being our new MP. My friend and I were 16/17. And had just applied to go to university (the very first in our families)- but UCAS had received our schools (NDTC, now Adwick-Outwood ) applications, cashed the cheque but not processed the applications – for months – making our applications super late, after the deadline.
We were so worried that it was going to affect our chances, already underdogs in the process. I’m not sure why we decided to go and see Ed, seemed like a good idea at the time – and I can’t remember  what he said. But everything turned out just fine – but I remember feeling like he really listened to us – and took our issue seriously. This had a profound effect, and one of the reasons why I know we can trust him as our leader. He asked us if we could help him come to our school because  he was new to the area. I think it’s really special & incredibly important how he acknowledged the younger voters and tried to get them interested in politics, genuinely – this wasn’t near any election at the time.
I went on to study Contemporary Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam. It was a dream come true & many of the best-est years of my life so far. I was able to do so much more than I ever thought was possible as a super poor, working-class kid from Doncaster. I got to work in a world class art gallery in Chelsea, NYC – so rare since the artworld is much like politics – you often have to either know someone, have a silver-spoon or grassroots your way up. I  worked in Chicago, scouting out social-engaged art practices, and political gatherings. I also worked for many summers for the YMCA of greater Boston, USA (This makes me a huge Boston Red Soxs fan too 😉 )
I tell you all of this because I think it’s so important that kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, like I was, to have a stable and good opportunity for a great education & then if they so wish – can afford to have the opportunity to go to university (£9,000 a year + living is just an insane amount of money). That all subjects – whether art or science, media or engineering – are worthy of the same merits. Things like EMA when I was at school made such a huge genuine difference, I was able to pay for my school dinners, and buy things for my classes since my school couldn’t afford them. AimHigher was also an important element in helping me have the right tools to know how to apply to university. Today, education is disjointed. Free-schools and academies run however they like – some amazingly, some absolutely poorly doing a disservice to students.
I believe and hope that Ed will help to restore the education system so it can help students believe in and reach their potential, or at least have the funding to do so. To re-invest in SureStart – which makes HUGE differences to struggling communities. And I believe he’ll  help to invest in the cultural, creative and technology industries in our country – because I believe that these are some of our most strongest areas as a nation, and not supporting or investing in them is hurting our economy as well as our nation. Take the British Film Council funding that the Tories cut for example. Film is a HUGE part of our industry, and a Tory government thinks it’s not worth it.
I  met Ed again when I attended his wedding reception party event in Bentley that he hosted for the area. Which I thought was an awesome idea, he is always putting on events (and has always way before he was leader of the Labour party – again prooving he really listens, wants to engage and wants to help local people).
In 2011 I was 22 working in Boston, USA when I  fell pretty poorly and got told some pretty messed up things about my health —- and my medical insurance at the time wouldn’t cover it. I was alone, 1000’s miles away from my family. I had a bit of an existential crisis.  My USA work-friends at the time covered my medical costs. So I  (eventually – I was in denial a bit) came home to receive some of the most compassionate and excellent  medical care I have ever seen and witnessed. My GP – still – gives me so much of his time, and i have great continuity of care. The experience of being in the privatized medical world of USA compared to the NHS of the UK made me appreciate what we have and proved just exactly why we can not allow the NHS to be privatized. Not only does the NHS save many lives – but also improves people’s quality of life – I would have been bankrupt if I was in a system where you had to pay for each appointment/treatment.
From this experience, I am now back at SHU retraining in Radiotherapy & Oncology. (I’m still working as a freelance artist!) I feel this undenying need to give back to a system that gives so much. I want to continue to give the best compassionate care, that I’m given, to everyone. I want to develop new research and tools that can help save lives, and my creative background has really helped me to do this. As a student working clinically at in Leeds – I see just how amazing the NHS is, what profound differences it makes to people & I can also feel and see the repercussions of this Tory government on the NHS. This is one of the main reasons why I want Labour to succeed in gaining leadership. Because the NHS means so much to everyone and Labour seem to be the only one willing to stand up and save it.  I know there’s the NHS Party, and the Greens have a pretty great NHS budget – but realistically – in terms of majority win – Labour is our only hope.
Additionally I met Ed again in 2013, outside Morrisons. I was helping out with Food Bank collection and he came to help and show his support. I thought it was necessary because he was acknowledging that local people are struggling so much to just put food on the table, whilst the Tories will pretend it’s not even a problem. Even stopping the official statistics of use of Food Banks because they don’t want the blood on their hands.
So, guys. After 10 years of Ed Miliband being my MP – having gotten to know him before it was super cool – I’ve grown up with him – he’s a bit like your family doctor. See him when you have problem; he always tries to fix it – and you both slowly get to know each other. I believe he really – genuinely cares about the gaps of inequalities we are all straddling and how we’re constantly tricked and decieved by corporations and the media. And we ALL deserve better. Especially better than what we’ve currently got. And he knows this. I think we can really call on him to be there for us.
 I just wanted to say thank you to Ed for his awesome 10 years of being our MP – and thank himfor running to be our future Prime Minister, because it was time to leave New-Labour behind. Sometimes it’s the most subtle differences, experiences, meetings that make the biggest of differences. The people of the UK need someone to believe in – need someone who understands what these services need and how necessary they are – and how people are struggling – and i think it’s Ed that we need. especially out of all the main running candidates.
And what’s even more impressive? Is that I wrote a similiar E-Mail to Ed a few weeks ago now. I didn’t actually think he’d read it – especially so close to the general election. But lots of the Labour Party Campaign people read it, the Doncaster Mayor read it, and they all made Ed read it. And he wanted to meet me again at his local campaign launch. It was awesome. There’s a charisma that sometimes doesn’t translate on screen thats genuinely caring and warm when you meet him in person. Everytime I meet him, he remembers that I’m an artist – now that’s pretty awesome you have to admit? 10 years running.
So guys, I’m hoping we can have Ed as our leader on 7th May. I hope you do too and will help me to try and get these votes. I know people are concerned mostly with the economy and are worried that Labour is not the party for this — but it’s a complete lie (again) that the Tories are competent at doing it. Our debt has massively increased, whilst our economy is barely moving and the most vulnerable and struggling are paying for a crisis caused my insane bank-lords, world-wide that exasperated the deficit of the UK. Not Labour. I will state again that the previous Labour Government did some shitty things and made some big mistakes-  but they’ve admitted their mistakes (which is good practice!) and we all benefitted to some degree with some  of their better policies. I can’t even name 1 policy under this Tory Government that actually benefits US?
And yeah, let’s save the NHS!
To learning how to trust again. Forgiveness and investing in the values that we really believe in: equality and compassion
Ed Milibae
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What being an artist, trying to learn how to code & feeling like I’m dying has taught me.

It’s kind of exciting not really fitting into pigeon holes. They say I’m a Smizz of all trades, master of none. I’m currently designing and coding an app in my (limited) spare time, which I hope will help to aid patients in having a better patient-centered-care experience. The app hopes to include all the information for their treatment, and later on become interactive- enabling the patient to get the support they really need (financial, emotional, physical, ect) by using a series of questions over a period of time, and documenting how they’re coping/feeling/side-effects, ect. It’s exciting stuff. But learning coding for this is a steep learning curve.

As an intermediate dabbler in website designing and coding, and now embarking on objective-C and swift codes I am no stranger to being able to take a problem and see the inevitable solutions, but also I’m pretty skilled now in being able to hypotheize the potential for disaster – what problems could I run into using a certain code with another, or ethically, or in language, ect. We use this kind of thinking in Healthcare too. It’s figuring out what our best practice is by eliminating all the problems for optimal experience and outcomes. In art, we use these problems too, to breakdown into manageable truths. As a Marxist, I’ve naturally developed a somewhat cynical ability to breakdown systems really easily into oppressive segregations & loopholes  & weaknesses.

But thinking like this naturally, or often, comes with its consequences. Your every day problems become disastrous in your mind. I catch myself getting caught up in this mind-set – Unanswered phone calls become bad-news,  someone being late becomes a car accident, late arrivals due to delayed trains and buses become missed opportunities. Being poorly and not doing as much as I used to became career stagnation.  The omnipresent of ‘but-what-ifs’ continue to grow.

However, now I try and use this unconscious worst-case-scenario as a way to panic myself into action. Rewards come from risk, and a life without risk is a life that’s probably pretty boring.

When I arrived in the land of the ill – i wasn’t sure i was going to survive. It was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. I made a list of all the things I’d do if I ever recovered. If I got a second chance. I mean, yeah, i had led a pretty interesting life up to that moment, but I had made sacrifices in the present for a future which I had no idea I’d ever get, as we all do. As a patient, I often felt misunderstood. I was demeaned within the healthcare system 1 or 2 times. I felt ashamed for being poorly. (As well as being shown amazing compassion).  I could see levels of the system that I knew I could instantly change if I was in the system (such as just simplying listening to the patient, making them feel heard). I also ferociously  read everything i could on cancer, & healthcare and compassion. The experience made me want to be the change I so desperately wanted to see as a Patient. I thought, mane, this system needs some more creative/different thinkers! I have this habit of trying to game systems. So when I started to get back onto my feet a little bit, or learning to live with what was happening, I began to realize some of those things on my list. After talking to a lot of people, I realized the potential possibilities so I applied & started my healthcare adventure.

Being told that it looks like you have a malignancy forces you to realize that life can end literally any time. And this quickly changes what you deem worthy of your attention. I was furious at myself for not being as present with friends and family as I should have been. All the nights-out I missed at university, all the times I wasn’t empathetic to my housemate for his anxiety with post-graduation life. I was absolutely Furious! These were things I hadn’t even calculated in my head until I got ill.

The junction between mortality and mundanity is an exquisite source of perspective.  I often sit on the bus, watch a sunset and I think about how these boundaries between are treacherous and illusory.  It’s hard to gain this kind of perspective, and it’s equally hard not to lose it, not to start slipping back into old habits. Partially for that reason, I enrolled onto my radiation oncology course. I love art, and it makes me happy and fulfils my soul.  But I do miss the way people think in art, and the discussions and dialogues when I’m working in healthcare. I miss the playfulness of the every day I had when I was a fulltime artist – but I believe there’s somewhere in between for both areas.

Art makes me the person who doesn’t trust everything I am taught in the healthcare system. Art is the reason why I can understand and empathize with a persons story, with the person and not just the disease that we’re treating. Healthcare makes me appreciate the edges of life, the possibilities, the beauty & tragedy in it. Designing something brings these 2 worlds together for me.

But coding has taught me about action. This is extremely important right now. We are standing in the middle of time, where great injustices go untouched. Architects of the financial melt down continue to swoon with the governments. & yet our laws and governments continue to value capitalism over humanity. Under-funding the NHS, profiting from education, trying to put laws into place to criminalize our movements when we try and mobilise against things that are wrong, cutting funding for those who are in great need of it, where we give up our freedoms, and allow ourselves to be spied on by the NSA, ect all under the guise of protection.

Change doesn’t roll in on inevitability, it comes with continuous struggle.

So, just as I promised my bleeding, puking, bruised former-self, I plan on raging against the bullshit, and make things that can help others, and keep the door open with kindess & listen. I will wander for a while: call this just 1 of many future sabbaticals.  Life isn’t linear. Neither is coding, making, changing.  In the end, I think my job over-all isn’t healthcare student, nor artist – but to remind myself every day that my time is limited. And so is yours.

As Aaron Swarts used to say, “What is the most important thing you could be working on right now? And if you’re not working on that, why aren’t you?”

 

Here’s somethings I’ve been working on:

http://livemappingsmizz.tumblr.com/

http://f-o-r-c-e.org.uk/

http://gravity21.org/

 

Constantly Lucky: 26 years

It’s my birthday in about 48 hours. I used to hate getting older because, well, I always thought i’d have my life way more ‘together’ by now. Like, I thought that maybe I would have met someone special. Maybe I’d have what my mom calls a “proper job” (by that, she means oppressed, clock your card-in, have to leave the house to do it, ect – the working class way). Maybe i’d have a proper house, I don’t think i’d ever buy (still don’t) but renting – like realll nice. But life interrupts, and actually those thoughts were never my real desires anyway. They were implanted into my head by what is deemed as acceptable by a capitalist society.

But now I just feel constantly lucky. Lucky that I’m making it to 27 & my multiple of jobs means that I’m always working and meeting with inspirational people. I kind of hate the wrinkles near my eyes (crows feet?) but now I sort of love them. They’re a welcomed reminder than i’m alive, I am living, and living with fun – with a smile & laughter.

I know that age is arbitrary. I’ve read that your 30s are when things start to work. Your 20s are supposed to be outgrowing our 21st century prolonged puberty.  But it’s all relative, really. Hitting those ‘milestones’ are all just part something. Part luck, part shit bad-luck, part working hard, part partying hard, part kindness, part optimism, part time.

When I fell sick, I quickly realized that I had quite a lot of my priorities mixed up. My artist-ego was getting inflated, and you know, i was starting to get recognised across continents, getting a few good-profile residencies, getting paid to do what I do. I spent months and months away from home, never calling, never seeing my home-friends or family. I wasn’t mean, or nasty, or unkind – but I wasn’t very thoughtful of others. I distinctively remember my 20 year old self not understanding why a depressed friend couldn’t join us because she felt tired. Now I understand why others can not understand fatigue in me. If you’ve never experienced chronic fatigue & pain, you won’t really “get-it”, unless you’re truly empathetic/compassionate. Which I certainly wasn’t 5 years ago. That’s not really how I wanted to live my life, being self-obsessed, that wasn’t the person I wanted to be.

Then when I fell sick, in the beginning it was nothing. Then time went on & it got worse. And worse. Until it made me feel helpless. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t believe it.

Life’s big decisions which were mine to make felt no more. My whole-life was tipped upside down. I was no-longer the worker-beaver I was- the persona I had so publicly built for myself crumbled – also publicly.  Still The Smizz of All Trades, just slow, really slow. No reply from emails for days… weeks. I just wanted to sleep. I had pain so deep. Nightsweats that made me feel like I had wet the bed, blood from anywhere. Everything we take for granted everyday, like holding a conversation, running up the stairs, having a shower took insane effort. I’ve lost days, weeks, even months of my life.

Despite my neglect of my friends & family whilst I  pursued my need for art-fame, when I fell ill – they caught me mid-fall & are still here, holding me up. Roadtrips where I was throwing up, or too weak to do anything – they stayed with me. Money I needed to cover my USA medical bills – they banded together and paid it for me. Christmas dinners, Thanksgivings – they do it because they know it makes me really happy.  Great drawing opportunities. Friends across the world donated time, money, connections, rides. Strangers sent mail. On the days I feel insanely shit, they mail and post super nice things on Facebook and Twitter. They keep me going. We always make a laugh about it. I owe them so much.

One thing I think about and often talk about when with friends is life and death. When I first got told that it looked like I had a lymphoid malignancy – all I did on my indenial roadtrip across the USA was research the odds, every McDonalds, Motel, Starbucks free-wifi connection – I’d update my status about some amazing thing we were doing & bookmark a page of research on lymphomas. That research and statistics still sits with me. I think about it with my patients. I feel a heavy weight that’s unexplainable in my chest when someone is dealt a devastating hand of event(s), when I’m writing my assignments, when I read peoples blogs. I don’t think about them every day anymore, which makes me feel like maybe time is a healer after-all.

Whilst feeling not the best, this year- my 26th year – I got to spend the year learning new things, all about the human-body, I see life on the edges every day. I got to meet many inspirational people, I got to do a few weeks in NYC, reconnecting with old friends, and returning to work at Doc/Fest. I saw my mom get married,  saw the sun set above the clouds and the clearest night sky in the world. I visited Denmark for the first time, and spent time working on some really cool projects with really cool people. Now I’m planning a trip to Thailand, Japan and Bali (Not all together).

Through these experiences, I realized how debilitating it all can be, and how rarely we take the time to understand pain in others. That was my main motivation to going to study Radiotherapy & Oncology. But this lesson is still being learnt. The experience is humbling and, more than anything, made me much more aware of – and empathetic to – the hurt that we ignore.

This, in particular, is my motivation going into my 27th year. My resolution is to take more time recognizing the pain in others and offering solace whenever possible. I aim to keep the dialogue open with all of you, whether online or in-person.

I am not sure about all that will come next.  I’m hoping my 27th year will be one of closure from this illness. But what I do know is that I’ve stopped wasting time (most of the time). I can’t help but feel the weight of its value each day. That awareness itself feels like a gift. I vowed that if I ever got through this that I would eat better, play harder, work smarter and love more. Never again would the significance of a moment pass me by.

It’s all just bumps along the road. Make sure you’re living life the way that is important to you. Don’t wait to be asked for help; you’re already being beckoned.

On the 9th, my actual birthday, I will be taking a flight to Lisbon, Portugal. I’ll watch the sunset, and toast to time & feeling really alive. Constantly lucky, y’all.

2014 moments: Hopes for 2015

My mom always says that on the first of the new year, you should do a little bit of everything good: small bits of good habits you want to carry through into the new year.

That’s how I’ve always tried to start every first day of the year, no matter where in the world I am.

This year, I am doing a little of the same here: going on (very) short runs, finishing unfinished books, starting a new one, do some writing, do some work, trying to be creative and challenge the boundaries. And then, because I’ll be in Lisbon, Portugal in a few days: I’m going to listen to some good music, go to galleries, eat whatever delightful food there is to wonder upon to and take a walk to explore and learn more about a new country, a new city and all it’s neighborhoods.

It allows for a little reflection, a little resetting, and a little bit of conscious forward-thinking about how you should spend the rest of the year.

That’s a little bit of everything good.

—->

I am, however, a kid of tradition (or superstitious – depends how you look at it). And if I find something that works – I go with it. i can’t take chances changing it.  Each year I sort of blaze over the best highlights, and then wish for the things I’d like to happen/achieve in 2015. It’s a good way to hold myself accountable – and additionally – i think it works 😉

2014 moments:

It was amazing. And bittersweet. And hardwork but full of laughs and adventures too.

Jan:

I sat my first ever exams in about 8 years. I can’t even remember how to do exams, but I passed all with Firsts. That was a trip!

My Slovakian Friends, Rado & Katka who I worked with for 2 years in the USA, came to live with us for a year! Exciting!

I did some cool work for TalkTalk

Gave a talk on #RONCrg twitter group that I run & recieved some great feedback.

Got Shep – the awesome German Shephard doggie!

Feb:

I started running & going to Row-Fit, which was really fun!

Found a new house for all of us to move into.

March:

Drew the International NHS Health Expo in Manchester, that was so rad!

Drew more stuff for TalkTalk

Got the HEADACHE from hell (which I still have as I type this).

April:

Had my first ever A&E admission [for worst headache ever], nothing like spending a night on an Emergency decision ward to make you appreciate the affects of life on people.

Went to NYC – got to see my friends exhibition, privately, and we got so drunk in the depths of Bushwick. I ended up seeing my first Brooklyn Bridge Sunrise (drunk), and worst hangover to date. I also had to take a plane to Vegas, hungover. So a bunch of firsts. It rained so hard that trip that I had to throw away my running sneakers.

May:

Saw my mom get married! Yay!

Went to Vegas from NYC – met with my great USA friend, Leah, and we had LOTS of including sneaking into pools and beach-pools that we weren’t supposed to & I accidently tipped a pool-boy $20. Call me generous.

Got Shingles – which I thought were bedbugs from NYC/Vegas – duh.

Sat some more exams which I passed pretty awesomely if I do say so myself.

June:

DREW THE AMAZING SHEFFIELD DOC/FEST!!!

More clinical placement antics. Really don’t remember anything of any value here. Just work, work, work.

July:

Got hit by a car & was pretty traumatised by it.

Was in our first ever HUGE house fire.

Started skateboarding again because my bike was fucked up.

Spent the last weeks of July trying to desperately do a whole years worth of ePortfolio in 6 weeks total. (I won’t be doing that again!)

Designed a website for my friend and her exhibition at YorkshireSculpturePark

August:

Passed palliative case discussion.

Got a super dope mark (SURPRISINGLY) for ePortfolio

Got mega cheap flights to USA – So went back to NYC & saw all my friends at Camp in New Hampshire!

Got Shingles AGAIN.

Got another old-puppy – Finnley the Border Collie!

September:

Was made a recluse because of Shingles.

Finished clinical for a bit – went back to uni. Moved back to Sheffield properly (rather than living in Leeds)

Did my first Pecha Kucha Talk! YAY!

Had an awesome house party!

Gemma left for New Zealand.

October:

Drew TEDXSalford

Drew stuff for University of Derby

Had an awesome Halloween pumpkin carving party at Charlottes!

WE ORGANIZED & HOSTED RAD conference successfully – YAY!

November:

Drew stuff for Uni of Sheff

Drew TEDXSheff

Had the bestest Thanksgiving!

December:

Went to Copenhagen & saw so much awesomely designed stuff!

Had an awesome Christmas!

HOPES FOR 2015

Here is my new list. It’s pretty much the same as last year with some re-thoughts. But I can’t stress enough my main goals are to:
STUDY-HARDER
BE MORE MOTIVATED
NOT WASTE TIME
WORK HARD (ER)
MAKE A DIFFERENCE (IN A POSITIVE WAY, SOME HOW)
MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS
HELP OTHERS
HAVE MORE FUN
ADVENTURE
WHAT I WISH WISH WISH for in 2015: Keeping the same values/wishes/hopes/resolutions as last year:
  1. That my mom, bro, nan and friends are all super happy, heathy and that NO ONE DIES! Including ME! But I would die instead of the above people if it has to come down to that.
  2. Last year, and the year before that I asked for a job  that I enjoyed. I ended up getting at lots of cool small ones!  So thank you 2013 & 2014 for amazing job years;  PLEASE New Year help me find these golden eggs of opportunity and help me reach my potential. Help me make GREAT/BETTER impressions at the places where I currently work. Let me move small mountains. Please find extra work to fund me through uni. Please find me more amazing opportunities. Let me be BETTER. WORK HARDER. Even more so, PLEASE provide me with opportunities to help others and to make a positive difference! Esp. in radiotherapy.
  3. Make extra time for friends, make sure i actually see friends who live else where. Don’t let money define this.
  4. This year I need to be more motivated. Be more time-focused. Less TV and more drawing. More studying less sleeping.  This is also very, very do-able if I just organize my priorities too! I need to make more great art-works rather than just research and develop ideas that never get shown. I need to remember the stuff I learn in class! I need to be more confident in clinical.
  5. I really really hope that i can make a positive difference this year, help others that need it, and make the world a place i’m proud to live in.
  6. More teaching opportunities PLEASE! This is a must if i want a chance at achieving number 5! too
  7. I would like to interact with people better, so I can communicate effectively and be wayyy more better and likeable esp for clinical placement.
  8. As with any artist, any exhibition/residential/print opportunities no matter how small or little they may seem all adds to the endless cannon of critical thinking and art practice!
  9. I need to become more motivated to learn my material… I can only make the difference I want to make if I am disciplined enough to sit down and dedicate the time to master my craft. Please give me the strength, the focus and the motivation – and mostly the energy to do this!
  10. I just want to feel normal again. Like not have bone ache, or nightsweats, where i could get up in the morning and not feel insanely hungover despite not actually touched alcohol in weeks. I want to not feel SUPER tired for NO reason anymore. I want to be fit, i want to be healthy again, i just want my body and health back from circa 2006 (that was a good year ha!) I’d even take health back from circa 2010/early 2011.
  11. I’d like to take up running, agaaaaiiiinnnn. By the end of the year I want to run 10K – like a fit person.
  12. I know I can’t travel like I have done previous years, but I would absolutely love to visit USA again & do lots of small local EU travelling like to Italy!

Thanks 2014 for a dope year, 2015 I know you’ve got my back. Here’s to hard-work, game changing, trying to stay focused, fighting against the ordinary daily events, challenges and finding ways or re-focusing when things might not work out exactly as we might want them to. TO FRIENDSHIP yo!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Hoping for 2015 to be a year where we open the doors wider & take care of one another

Whoa, 2014. You were such a supremely bittersweet year. Full of opportunities that I am endlessly thankful for and hardships that are unspeakable. You’ve made me even more grateful for every moment of grace and love that we get.

I saw my mom get married, my bro move out for the first time & find love. I lost 2 amazing friends to disease & suicide. I’m part-time raising two young cute dogs.

I’ve had Shingles like 2/3 times, 1 constant long 9 month headache & half a numb face, got run over on my bike & damaged my ribs, broke a bone in my hand skateboarding & was in my first ever massive house fire – where my friends and I helped to save a woman (who was a doctor) trapped in the kitchen (she started the fire, whoopz). I got so many emails from strangers around the world offering support and advise and tips on health-stuff.

I raised about £700 in total this year for various charities & donated over £200 to support others. I worked out earlier this week that I’ve written way over 80,000 words on cancer stuff this year including my ePortfolio. Which is kind of a lot. Endless assessments and 20 weeks of clinical placement (feels like so much more though) & maintained my freelance work of live drawing countless of amazing  & awesome talks & events, website design and teaching.

I moved house twice. Slept literally for some weeks, and weekends at a time. I tried rowing, running more, hiking and learning italian this year. All of which failed miserably. Or, every time i got somewhere, an injury or illness would happen. I’ve had 5 christmas parties, 2 Thanksgivings, 4 massive house-parties, 2 international flights, and visited 1 new country this year. I helped to organize the first student led- conference on Radiotherapy & Oncology in the UK & I got to do my own  Pecha Kutcha Talk instead of just drawing someone elses talk, Yay!

I did all of this (and some more) all whilst feeling really, really run-down, extremely fatigued & in pain.  I often find it hard to keep up with myself.  I look at the above sentences and just sit back and say “Wooooweeeeee!”

After all that, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learnt from this year:

I learned that a good way to force yourself to make more personal work is to travel. So I did.

I road tripped around Nevada with friends in a convertible like we were start-up founders. I explored the peaks of the peak district. I rode bikes through Brooklyn streets, and cruised the lakes of New Hampshire. I’ve taken countless bus trips across asphalted highways in many countries. I lived for half the year in a new city Leeds, traveled miles of sidewalks through Paris, Copenhagen and London, and danced in NY ’til sunrise.

I learned that focusing on things other than work, such as health and relationships, actually makes your work and life 500 times better. I learned to appreciate my good friends, and have learned to cherish good friend time over acquaintance time.

We talk a lot about what it means to be busy — both with work and life. But how much do we know about what it means to just be? To what end must we drudge on about our lives in hopes of becoming happy and healthy if only we just work hard enough to earn it? And not just in monetary currency do I mean that we work hard, but in social currency as well.  I’m slowly learning that a relationship is the most valuable gift we can ever expect to have in this life, and all kinds of relationships. From friendship, to relative, to love to relationships with strangers. How we can help one another?

Being sick has taught me that great relationships are about what you give to it that matters more than what you take. Because my friends and family have given more support to me in ways they probably don’t know how much it means to me.

We can overwork ourselves to the point of being absent from relationships – of all kinds, love, friendship – work. Thereby weakening it, or we can become lazy and miss the blessing that comes from tending to its daily needs. There is a great balance that hangs in the air between one person and another and it’s often a fight to find time just to just to stand still. The challenge here-to lies in making time for quality time. In true form – money is circulated – time is spent. You can never get your time back.  2014 reminds me that I need this to be a constant lesson to be learnt – in 2015 I hope to be able to manage my time better so that it’s spent and invested in wisely.

Additionally I’ve also learnt that time is already a tough customer, but it becomes torturous when you start measuring how much of it maybe left;  and  when you start measuring yourself to others by it. DON’T – DO – THIS.

I’ve learnt that words are often the most explicit example of clear thinking. (Alongside some drawings 😉 )

As someone who is obsessed with type – it’s hard to get away from being beaten over the head with typefaces, grids, and rules in the beginning – trying to learn it all —and rightfully so—but typography can act as a smoke screen. There is so much to learn about the letters that it’s easy to forget about the words.  Ugly words in beautiful typefaces are still pretty dumb.  I then fell into something I’m still attempting to understand: words are the most explicit example of clear thinking. We should tell people how thankful we are for them and the things they do, not only through gestures, but also words.

Life is a set of nested envelopes—the seed of you is held in the mind, which is in your body, which is encased in your family, your relations, workplace, society, ect.

But ultimately, if there’s anything I’ve learnt – is that 1. I love a cliche and 2) it’s this cliche lesson; The greatest part of life is found along the journey. The sweat, the blood and the tears are where we find our truest strength, our truest friends, our unknowing trust for kind strangers. The mountain top experiences are short lived. Yes, reaching the top of the summit is truly rewarding (as it should be) but you can’t expect to stay there for long. There’s new things to see, and do. But you do need to pack up your experiences, successes and failures, and head out on the next adventure. You grow. You get stronger. You learn to pace yourself.

But becareful to think you must journey alone. I’ve learnt that nothing great is ever achieved alone.

Thank you x 10000000 to all of my clients, collaborators and wonderful friends. You’ve been there for me in ways I can never repay. I’ve been shown kindness by strangers and love by friends and family that fills my heart. I now hope to take everything I’ve learnt from 2014 and the people in it – to open doors wider and hope we can continue to take care of one another.  I hope I can continue to have amazing opportunities to draw awesome events and stories, and design really cool things whilst being a really empathetic, compassionate and caring healthcare professional.  I want to be a better friend, a better student, a better time-user. I want 2015 to be amazing for you all.

As the proverb says, if you want to get there fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go together.

HAPPY 2015 Y’ALL!

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On Navigating Stuckness

I’ve loved a lot of cities, but I didn’t know what it was like to be *in love* with a city, until New York. 

Today I take my flight home (and i’m bringing the shingles back with me too). Whilst I’m not best pleased to leave, it marks another summer that I’m still here, kickin’ it and this fact feels good. After a year of falls, bike-accidents, too many punctures to count,  fires, shingles, doom-headache-facial-numbness-from-hell, treatments, steep learning curves, sleep-less nights, never-ending deadlines, constant doubt and having to rebuild my confidence to name a few – I’m feeling pretty [very] lucky. 

Time is already a tough customer, but it is torturous when you start measuring it. Becoming a new parent is a struggle (as most of my friends are now new parents! congrats, guys!). Starting a new course is a struggle. Staying with your values and staying healthy and keeping a good perspective is a struggle. But struggling is good. It is one of the only things that exercise the deep well of will and vitality within us. That help us dig into ourselves deeper, that push us to grow.

I went back to Sandy Island this vacation on different terms than previous years. And I was welcomed with so much warmth and posters everywhere that said WELCOME BACK SMIZZ! I felt like I had come home. I can’t explain the feeling.

When I think about my time at Sandy I just don’t know where to begin. It was there where I started to get the help I needed when I fell sick a few years ago now, and well, it’s always on my mind because ALL of my friends (sandy, donx, sheffo, nyc, everyone!) came together to help me through it all – and they still are. falling sick has taught me a lot about loss and resilience and the will to live and adapt. I feel broken, always. But when I start talking about the outpouring of love and support that I had received since my illness and accidents, ect, I become really weepy. Because I realized that for the first time in my life, I was truly letting love into my heart. Losing a small part of me has connected me to others in a way I had never felt. And whilst I feel broken, a sense of myself lost from feeling constantly tired and in pain, in a way, I feel as if I have gained much more.

This trip I’ve had the chance to see people I never thought I’d get to see again (or for a very long time). I got to see friends, and meet their friends, and meet their awesome boyfriends. I got to go to my first ever garage jamming session. I got to drink in brooklyn dive bars and see a record album release party! I saw a hipster version of charlie & chocolate factory store, got to see more of the sketchbook project, tried properly independently brewed coffee (still think coffee is gross), I gave up my seat on a bolt bus so 2 kid brothers could sit together and then the people on the bus all gave me an applause?! i went into the lake, felt sand between my toes, watched a new hampshire sunset. Went to my favourite chinese restaurant in  Meredith, NH with 3 great amazing people and the owners remembered not only who I was – but also what my favourite dish was! I went to my favourite thai-food place and managed to get really good Thai-iced tea. I survived 3 craz thunder-storms, including when I was on a BOAT! I made some cool new friends, and stayed up until 4am learning all about my new friends lives. I got a t-shirt with my artwork on ! And then managed to get a ride all the way from NH to Brooklyn, for free, so I could get there to NYC in time to see the US Open with another super special person who took me! I officially fell asleep on the streets of NYC whist waiting in line to get super awesome improve comedy free tickets. and I’ve drank enough delicious horchata to last until my next trip. 

I’ve done lots more, and ate a lot more food than mentioned here. But this stands out.

 I can say that i’m old enough to have a past with some regrets, but young enough to feel like I have a stake in the game for righting the course, and self-obsessed enough to have a hyper-vigilant sense of justice. I feel it. Life is a set of nested envelopes. 

“In the trade off between timeliness and timelessness, choose the latter. The zeitgeist rewards timeliness, but your soul rewards timelessness.” – Jonathan Harris

My trip reminds me that we need to work on things that will last.  I leave this here as a reminder to write the counter-point to this quote. My current belief is that after timelessness comes a second stage of timeliness: attention to quality time with people and interests you love, independent from their longevity.

As I’ve said before, I have some time left, and if I use it well, it will be more than enough.

Hopefully I will see you USA folks soon (without the gross shingles), and to my UK friends – I’m going to see you all super soon to catch up! 

Skateboarding produces space, but also time and the self.

My bike (which I made from scratch) is pretty mushed up from when I got hit by a car 2 weeks ago. The front wheel is about as damaged as my ribs. As a result I was feeling pretty lost at getting from A to B. Sure I can walk, but it’s slow and boring. I could take the bus but it’s expensive. I need to do the excerise too. I’ve never been a fan of walking about, unless it’s a new place or in a city, like NYC where everything is a sight to be savoured. But generally, I’d rather take my bike instead. Nothing beats having the wind in your hair, the sun in your eyes, the burn from a mad-dash up a hill, or the adrenaline of riding down a steep hill at 30-40MPH.

No bike, I was stumped. Until I remembered that I had my skateboard that I bought whilst living in Brooklyn during the summer of 2008. It was a way to ensure I’d get invited by skaters to rooftop BK parties. And I wasn’t in a position to turn down friends. I’d practice riding the -then – not very busy industrial streets of Williamsburg, of course now it’s really busy down by the waterfront. And if you’re not getting hit by a car you’re probably getting run down by some dude on a fixie.

So it’s been a while since I took my skateboard out. My mom had hidden it in the depths of the cupboard where inanimate objects and old clothes go to die. I waited until I could lift my hands higher that my clavical without wincing in pain, and decided to take out the skateboard. I’ve certainly lost my confidence in riding, but mane, nothing beats the sound of skateboard on concrete.

Last night I went to my local leisure center. I know it closes at 4pm on a Sunday ensuring an empty parking lot. And honestly, I feel back in love with skating.  There’s a freedom to it. A control. A beauty between architecture, being and balance. It’s almost zen like. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was content with just riding up and down and around a parking lot. Just doing something relatively banal which feels so exciting! I feel like a child again trying to master something for the first time.

I’m quite excited to start taking the board from A to B again. Skateboarding produces space, but also time and the self.  I’m reminded of The practices of everyday life, which in everyday space, are rich in agency, invention and subversion, as much as they are habitual, controlled and restricted. Such practices produce and reproduce social space in ways that are both planned and unforeseen.

Here’s some of my favourite videos that I’ve found that really capture that playful, architectural production of space and time. It makes me really want to go back to America.

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 01.35.16

QUIK from Colin Kennedy on Vimeo.

Balmorhea – Pyrakantha [official] from Colin Kennedy on Vimeo.

form from Colin Kennedy on Vimeo.

Four Corners: West – Episode 1 from Vans Europe on Vimeo.

Growing Up A Second Time

It was my good friends birthday yesterday. She turned only 19 years old. Still a baby. Although 19 was only 6/7 years ago for me, it seems so much longer. Being in your mid-20′s isn’t that old, but I feel like I’ve aged 2 lifetimes in the past 3+ years, I feel like I’m ageing in dog years. Maybe ageing like that makes you look back a bit more.

As I was out with my young course friends, I thought about what I’ve done so far in and with my life. And what getting older kind of feels like.

Philosopher Alain De Botton tweeted today that ” ‘Growing up’ in many ways a long process of learning to put up with stuff. Eventually, even the idea of dying.”

I came from an incredibly poor family, mostly it was just my mom, my bro, and me with my nan popping in often.    As a result I didn’t have many things considered as “cool” growing up. My clothes were cheap, and shabby. I was a bit weird, I loved hip-hop and animation as a 8 year old. I had this incredible imagination. And I was kinda fat. This made me such an easy target to be bullied every-single-day up to high school. I tried my very best to be “cool” and “likeable”, but we didn’t have the money and when I did save up to get some “cool things”, the clothes looked weird on me. It looked insincere & wrong.  Luckily, time and age taught me to slowly accept myself and follow what I like. And the strangest thing was, the more I accepted myself, the less grief I got from my fellow bully students. In fact, almost the opposite happened. I got more respected, and more known once I had accepted myself. Funny thing that, self-acceptance.

After my GCSE’s, we were made homeless (for too many reasons) for 6 months. We lived with my nan for a few months, until her landlord knew she was over exceeding her limit of people in the house. And then we went from temporary accommodation to temporary accommodation, all whilst I was trying to study for my AS levels. We finally busted the system and got enough points to get a council house. Crazy point: being homeless doesn’t give you enough points on the system to be eligible for a council house. Or it didn’t in 2004/5. How fucked up is that?  I remember at the time being incredibly embarrassed about this. I didn’t tell a soul for months. But it just reinforced my love for Marxism and social justice. I was voted, by the whole of Doncaster by kids, to be a Youth Councillor for the Donx Youth.

I lasted about 8 months (and resigned) when I realised we didn’t really do that much except organize fun pizza parties.

I met Ed Miliband, he was the new MP the North Doncaster then. My friend & I had gone to complain about UCAS taking our money and then not processing our applications making our application late, and after the deadline – potentially affecting our uni offers (It didn’t). I stated it was because we’re working class, and the system was against us (Marxist in me). Of course, it was just a person not doing their job correctly, some clerical error. I can’t remember what he said he’d do. But I do wonder how many 16/17 year olds go to see their MP these days? You guys really should if you have an issue!

Ed asked, since he was new to the area, if I could organize for him to come to our school. I was pretty stoked with this & ended up doing a lil work with Ed. I had no idea back then that he could be the potential prime minister of 2016! (Hopefully, eh?!) – People, strangers, you meet will always surprise you. Everyone has a story.

I then was head-girl of the school in 6th form, and then also got excluded (for political reasons) as Head-Girl. I was also embarrassed about this. But as time has gone on, I realized just how kind of awesome it was. And it’s just another crazy story I get to tell. This taught me that the system, if it really wants to, will make sure you’re screwed over if you try and disrupt corrupted power.

As soon as I turned 15 my mom made me get a job. I didn’t even want one.  And earnt a measily £2.50 per hour of my life. I knew my time was worth more than watching kids throw plastic balls at each other and fish dirty nappies out of the ball-pool. But as I got older, I realised why my mom made me do it. 1.) to instil a sense of labour and work and pride in earning your own way. 2) to learn how to interact with people you may never interact with outside of that environment. I swapped the wacky warehouse for scraping chicken fat off trays at ASDA in the rotisserie for 2 years every weekend & some more, but for £8.50 an hour. Not too shabby for a 16/17/18 year old. I saved all my money from this job, & EMA and took my mom to NYC for her birthday. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever had.

I went to study Fine Art at university, I’m not sure how I came to decide to go to university as I’m the first person & so far the only person who has gone to uni in my whole family. It’s something that was never discussed. I just came home one day & was like, oh I’ve applied to university! Like I’d just subscribed to a mailing list. I remember feeling very casual about it. I even thought that once I got to university, that I wouldn’t be smart enough, get home-sick and drop out.

But I was pretty wrong. I ended up bulking up my time an extra year & getting a BA & a MA.  I didn’t really return home for longer than 3 weeks for 4+ years.

My first uni year I applied to do Camp America. I ended up  being placed on an island in the middle of a beautiful, clear water lake surrounded by mountains and trees in New Hampshire. Once I arrived to USA, I stayed in an industrial part of New Jersey for a night, I had to catch another bus at 5:30am to take me to port authority bus station, NYC, where I had to catch a greyhound bus to Boston, switch to another bus in Boston to a Fullers Gas station in Meredith, NH. (a lonely, virtually empty – and closed gas station when I got there) Where a complete stranger from the camp was to meet me, alone. I felt like I was some tame, none-drug induced version of Jack Karoac’s On The Road at age 18/19. The age my friend just turned.

I had a decent enough time at the camp, but I felt like an outsider in a very -family orientated family camp, enriched in family tradition – where everyone had been brought up together. I counted the days down to when I could leave and be back in NYC. The strangest thing was, once I got to NYC for a whole week. I felt incredibly lonely. I hadn’t realized that I had accustomed myself to Sandy Island life and friends. That’s the thing about time, it punishes you later for wishing away your time.

I decided to do live my fantasy of “On The Road” I had about $500 in my pocket from my camp summer job and a flight home from LA. I was still in NYC. So I took a bus to DC (I didn’t have any sort of game plan, don’t ask how I was planning to get to LA?!) but ended up meeting some people around my age who were going cross country in  a van and camping. They asked if I wanted to join them so I decided to tag along. We did > DC > West Virgina and went Wild Rapid Boating > Virgina > Tennessee > Alabama > New Orleans — where my identity was stolen and I  was fruaded and had no $$ in my bank account. At this point I had about $150 to last me. I cried. I had no idea what to do. But  thing is, things work out. I was with good people. My mom wired me $80 >> we moved onto Texas, survived a mild hurricane >> Hitch-hiked over the border to Mexico, got really drunk and had to beg my way back into the USA >> New Mexico – saw some crazy bats > Went to Monument Valley and stayed on Native American land. I’ve never seen skies so clear. I slept outside on the ground in my sleeping bag instead of the tent – not even thinking about scorpions and crazy spiders and snakes that could have been hanging around – to sleep under the milkyway >> Went to Zion – hiked angels trek, and through rivers, went to Grand Canyon and we partied so hard we got asked to leave. >> We went to Vegas where I fake-ID’d my way into clubs, and bought nothing because well I had no money. But my new travel buddies help to pay for my liquor. We did a limo and ate at this super cool sushi place just off the strip. My first ever sushi experience> We drove to LA where we drank in a dive bar just near downtown LA, under a bridge. I felt like I was in some indie movie. This was the last night I saw my travel buddies. They were carrying on to San Francisco. I had my plane to catch.

That was the last time I saw them. I’ve seen a few of them since and we’re all still friends on Facebook. But this taught me to talk to strangers, take calculated risks, some times not having plans works out way better than having a rigid plan.

I once lived in this hip-apartment in Williamsburg one summer, that over looked the NYC skyline with a bunch of cool people doing internships for MTV, Saturday Night Live and The Onion – all on their daddy’s $$$ funds. I was funding my own dream. One of the dudes is an upcoming comedian on the West Coast and was in that Oscar winning Ben Affleck movie.

We were a mixed group of kids, with high energy, big dreams. Wide-Eyed in NYC. I ended up working for some of the most amazing and awesome people who changed my life in a then Chelsea Gallery. I remember how hot a NYC summer is… Coldplay Vida viva song was hot shit too. That album & Chris Brown Forever always takes me back.  I asked M, the gallery boss, what her story was, how did she and her husband open the gallery. She spoke about communist Poland, trips to Chicago that made her fall in love with NYC, a burning love for art & art-history, selling shoes, joining rich upperside ladies visiting studios and collections, borrowing money & opening their first gallery that’s still going strong 28/29 years later.

I remember every single piece of art in that summer show and if I even really think about it – how much each piece of art was being sold for. I’ve never been so upset about leaving a job (even though it was so short), some people, a place before that. But one of my distinctive memories is my last day there, i walked out of the gallery, turned left walked down to 9th ave, kind of holding tears back looking up at a clear blue hot sky. I walked to the first working pay-phone I could  find to call home to my mom to say how i was so happy that i had this amazing opportunity, but how sad I was to leave.  I thought that I’d probably never see the Postmasters crew again, I thought I’d get forgotten about because that’s how my life was/is… Important people just fleeting between moments.

Luckily, I get to go and see them every year and this makes my heart  so happy.

I left NYC and worked in a bookies (betting shop), trying to gain back the money I spent on my NYC wild adventure. I learnt how to bet, how to calculate all different bets like round robins and how to really bet on horses. That a favourite horse is statistically 33% to come in at a meeting, if you’re willing to chase your money around. I learnt how to follow soccer and do football bets. A great way to make money if it accumulates!  I saved enough money to take an amtrak train ride across USA the same summer with my good friend shivvers.

She made me a rule. I couldn’t talk about art the whole journey. I suspect that’s all I was bothered about back then. We stayed in the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas courtesy of her dad. Shivvers wouldn’t even let me open the mini-bar so we created our own from mini’s from the vegas giftshops. We had a cab driver who had some sort of turrets and cursed death on every driver he drove past. I learnt that it takes about 3 whole days to take a train from LA to Chicago, and that you should pack spare clothes and not just check them all in. There was a guy who was giving strangers Tattoos on the train (certainly not us). We sat on the train, making up our own before sunrise stories up for all the strangers. 2008 was a good year. I keep telling the kids on my course that 20 was one of the best years of my life.

I taught spanish kids english in Hastings for what I think was the Spanish Mafia. They paid me about £400 a week in fresh £50 notes, cash. I’d take it to the bank and every time panic that they might question me. They never did but I was sure they thought it was dodgy money.  These Spanish kids were clever, and spoke many languages. They learnt quick. I remember my favourite and most promising student failing her exam. She was the only one out of all 16 kids I taught, but I felt a sense of  responsibility & guilt for it. That I was the reason why she failed. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps it was my teaching. perhaps we were both complacent. I often wonder what they’re up to now and how their English is.

I went to Chicago and worked on social art projects, and at the university of Chicago. I saw proper Labour Activist movements, I worked with real poor communities. I wrote things for great art magazines. I lived with people who worked at the MCA and Hyde Park Contemporary Art Center. I saw Obama’s house, I saw the Home Alone house, I had my first ever real Thanksgiving, and lived through the coldest weather I have EVER EVER walked through (about -20). These experiences woke something up in me, I went back to standing true to what I loved doing. Drawing and comedy and truths.

I wanted nothing more than a 1st class degree in art, but I couldn’t figure what I was missing to push my grade in to the first category. When I decided to go back to what I love, not worrying too much about the marking criteria, I finally graduated at the last hurdle with that hard worked for first class degree. Another lesson to be learnt. Sometimes you need to stick to your guns and your integrity. Don’t just do something to please others or because you think it will sell. People can see if it’s not true. And remember not everything that glitters is gold.

I have since never had to use my degree. No one has ever asked to see it, except when I went back to study. i do remember my art lecturer sending me an email telling me what I got. my heart was practically in my mouth, I opened the email using Boltbus free slow wifi on a bus from NYC to Boston (On my way to work back at camp some 3 years later from my first experience). I was stoked. I just wanted to tell the world! But I was travelling alone, so I did the next best thing. I wrote an email to my mom, a few select friends, to M at Postmasters and to a past lecturer michael corris who I looked up to in many different ways.

The first year after graduating with an art degree can be pretty hard. They never really tell you that, you assume it will be hard but you’re hopeful that it won’t. I graduated in the thick of the new recession. people were loosing their jobs left, right and center. Companies were being acquired or forced into bankruptcy. I got lucky and worked part time in a bookstore with another group of amazing people. Nothing prepares you for the doubt that you feel about following what you love when you consistently get rejected. But with rejections come some lessons. Lessons turned into opportunities and more opportunities and more lessons to learn from.

Things started working out for me with making a basic living with art and drawing. And then I started feeling all funny. I experienced fatigue like I’ve never experienced in my life, I was having these drenching nightsweats, I couldn’t eat, I had nose bleeds constantly, I had pretty bad bone-pain. It felt like flu-like symptoms but without the flu. I went back to the USA where I ended up being told it looked like Lymphoma. Cancer. I was like, fuck.

My whole life view was flipped upside down. Things that I thought was important didn’t seem as important as they once did. The unimportant things felt way more important. Time felt heavy. I had to grasp, in that moment, that my life and everything I’ve known will eventually blink away in a matter of decades, if not years, if not hours, and I will cease to exist. Which is hard, because when you’re young – you feel kind of invincible. Like you can put things off, because there’s always tomorrow, next week, next year. But there’s isn’t always more time.

Things carried on as normal though. As if nothing had changed. Which can be the most annoying thing ever, because I guess I’m still hurting and I want change. I want more urgency in things. I learnt from being unwell to ask for help if I need it. We can’t do everything on our own.  I decided to learn from these experiences and use them to make a difference, so I went back to university and I am now studying Radiotherapy & Oncology.

I got hit by a car on my bike 2 weeks ago and broke & bruised my ribs. I flew over my handlebars and through air, I flipped upside down and landed on my neck.  And I realized that there’s far more probability in me dying from being hit by a car than most other things.

So, what does it feel like to be older?

From time to time something reminds you of the past. Things hurt that never hurt before. Music was definitely better 10 years ago than it is right now. You start to buy things because they wash well, and shoes because they’re much more comfortable to wear. Time goes way faster. Experiences mash together like a tie-die. Leaving only horrendous memories and those euphoria, bucket-listy, nice moments that help build who you are in this very moment. There’s nothing much else in between.

When you get older, things you thought were important when you were younger aren’t as important and those things you thought were unimportant become more urgent.

I’m left looking at my younger course friends, what life experiences are in store for their next 6/7 years on this life, and just how much different a 19 yr old mind & body feel like compared to a 26 yr old mind/body.

I ended  my friends birthday with this thought:  What if we celebrated our expected years left instead of our years already spent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to Understand Early Russian Formalism & the Smizz Life

1. ABSENTATION: A member of a family leaves the security of the home environment

Picture: It’s a few years ago. I left for America. I love America.  Except I wasn’t leaving home on my usual terms. I was feeling super run-down. I had been having nightsweats, bone pain, this insane fatigue that wouldn’t subside. The UK doctors told me it was just a “mono-style virus”, so I left for work & adventure. Except my boss in the USA was having none of me just waiting out the virus. She made me see a doctor, who made me see a haematologist oncologist, who then told me it looked bad & that I needed to go home & get it sorted ASAP.

I didn’t though. I thought that this guy is talking shit. I ran away from this statement. I suddenly felt the weight & value of time. I did a pretty amazing YOLO roadtrip visiting 3 coasts of America with friends, all with that thought in the back of my mind.

 

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In my younger days, I studied Media Studies as one of my A-Levels (& got an A, of course). We looked at a crazy Russian Literary Formalist called ladimir Yakovlevich Propp who came up with something called Morphology of the Folktale  which basically looks at breaking up fairy tales into sections and 31 functions/options of resolution and narrative. His elaborate categorisations of classifications pegs plots points: tricky, guidance, rescue, ect.

Propp claims that you can shuffle any of these into constant rearrangements. They mark a moment where an action takes us in a different direction. It’s a nice way to to look at disruptions. He says everything proceeds from us loosing our place.

 

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2.) INTERDICTION: An interdiction is addressed to the hero

We’re out of order and we’ve hardly begun. I was instructed to not stay in the USA and wait out what was happening to me. But I did.

 

3.)VIOLATION of INTERDICTION. The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale).

The villain and hero here are both myself. The villain is an illness. A feeling of ill-health. A feeling that has slowly taken over and taken everything that was me. I was just in my early 20’s. I had never been properly sick. Sure I had colds and sore-throats, and sickness bugs – but this felt different.

I was a self-absorbed young adult with gritted determination to make it in the art world.  I had learned to be different, to try harder – no matter who I left behind. I had started to get just a tiny-lil bit cock-sure of myself. Just a tiny-tiny-bit. I had just got a prestigious artist residency at Site Gallery when I got hit.

I’d arrived somewhere without being invited.  Maybe I didn’t have the right to be in that place. Maybe that didn’t make it right that I fell ill, but maybe I wasn’t purely innocent either.

 

4.)RECONNAISSANCE: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance. The villain (often in disguise) makes an active attempt at seeking information.

 

There was no tricky. But there was deception. For months and months, and months, this illness  hid away. Making itself really hard to put a name to. To be recognised. But, it knows who I am. It knew I stayed up working until late, that I was fairly active. It fed on my inability to get rid of it.

 

8.) VILLAINY or LACK: Villain causes harm/injury

The illness took virtually nearly everything. I no longer can work all day and stay up.  It made me work less, sleep more,  which in turn made people forget about me, helped me to ruin my own reputation I had worked so hard to get. It made me bleed in places I never knew I could bleed. I have days where I literally feel like I might be dying, I catch myself looking super tired & worn-down in pain in a mirror & saying to myself: “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok”. I’ve lost days, weeks, months of my life. I’m still  having pain which no one understands. This makes me feel alone.

 

17.) BRANDING: Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf);

I was branded. I have no scarfs or rings but emotional scars & a few physical ones. Somethings have shifted under my skin. Emotions and lymph nodes. Things pressing on things which present as neuralgia or headaches or bone aches or passing outs. Swellings around memory, swellings around my intellect and pride which hurts.

 

14.) RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT: Hero acquires use of a magical agent

Through this struggle, my whole world view changed. I gained this whole new perspective, this whole new weight of the importance of empathy. Before, I now realise, I had little empathy – towards everything. I wasn’t a dick or anything, but I didn’t or couldn’t understand others plights – because I was so blinded by myself. I just understood the system that affected others, not HOW it made them feel & how that affects them.

am more thankful. It’s just not in the way that’s immediately assumed. I am grateful for the pain, because now I understand it better. I am grateful for the struggle, because I can be of more use to those in the midst of it.

 

29.) TRANSFIGURATION: Hero is given a new appearance

I used to only work in art stuff. Now you can find me in both the art-world and in healthcare. I wanted to re-train myself to work in healthcare to both give back, and to be the person who understands because I felt (and still do) misunderstood on how the villain really affected my quality of life. The central question I now ask myself is “What’s the relationship between caring and understanding?”

 

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When I think about my life in these terms I see  all kinds of functions that I never asked for: struggle, challenge, trickery, frustration. There’s some fighting, and a lil bit of winning.  The gold-dust comes in the realisation of personal-growth and amazingly supportive friendships along the way.

The materials of my life, as memory recalls and deforms them, will always involve the villain: the stranger, the illness.

When I casually drop into conversation to people that I’m studying radiation oncology, as well as still working as an artist, and still feeling shockingly poorly, they look shocked. They think it’s a huge turn, or that art must not be working for me. But it’s not really. I sit in class, reflecting upon my own life like text. I feel like i’m still constantly shuffling together pieces of a puzzle i can’t see the edges to yet.

There is no function designated for this last part. Where the hero turns to studying healthcare & medicine alongside art to try and understand her own hurt and use it to try and help her to understand others hurt.

 

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23.) UNRECOGNIZED ARRIVAL

I could spend everyday like it was a holiday. I feel like I deserve to spend my life constantly on vacation. But you can’t. You have to return to normality. But this is hard. It’s hard to return to a familiar land, to return home, to do everything like you used to, when you no longer feel like yourself. Things have changed.