Generation Nostalgia: #throwbacks and Romantics

My Spotify playlists are organized by decade. This sums up how I think about a lot of things: by eras. My longest playlists? A toss up between the 60s and 70s, the 80s follow closely behind. Most of the time when I play music loudly in my room my mother comes in amused, “Don’t you like anything about the era you live in?” “Of course I do!” I reply indignantly, except I am a loss for what to list apart from the two T’s: technology and transportation. I guess those are pretty big things, but my pause for thought has made me realize something. Our generation is frustrated. We take a lot for granted.

I know I am not alone when I say that I think I may have been born in the wrong era. Many of my peers seem to feel this way. My preference? Well, I possess a romanticized fascination with the late sixties. Hitchcock  released Pyscho and The Birds, political activism revolutionized America, hippies with flowers in their hair danced in a pot-infused stupor at Woodstock and Elvis couldn’t go on with Suspicious Minds. I just cannot help my desire to be transported by those gorgeous flowery images.

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Photo via sarahdigrazia.com

Perhaps this is a virtue or vice that only creatives experience due to our tendency towards escapism or maybe it is more of a generational phenomenon. When we are not condemning the music on the radio or the clothes on our high streets, we are blaming technology for our ever deteriorating ability to concentrate on any task for longer than a couple of minutes. Today our reluctance towards change and innovation was clearly exemplified by the changes occurring on Instagram. For those who haven’t had an Insta scroll today, allow me fill you in. The Internet flew into a ‘The Dress’ style frenzy today after it became knowledge that Instagram plans to change the way we scroll from a chronological feed to an algorithm, much like Facebook and Twitter. Not only did Instagram users from all walks of life collectively decide to lay down their pride in order to get their followers to “turn on post notifications”, but the backlash against this change was loud. Instagram has since released a statement via Twitter (lol why not on their official Instagram?!?) claiming that the changes will not be happening tomorrow as per the rumour, and that they are “listening” to the public opinion.

You would have thought that we would be used to changes by now. Every app we use seems to have new updates almost daily and most of the time despite the initial acclimatization period, users learn to adapt instinctively and actually benefit from the changes. So why do we fear the future so much? Even in film and literature our obsession with dystopia has illustrated that our projections are rarely positive; we seem to be waiting for some sort of apocalypse. Is it because we are becoming increasingly aware of our role in destroying the planet through global warming and climate change? Why do we think things are always getting worse? Is that because they are in reality? Or is it because we are so immune to the beauty in which we live in? Why are we unable to see the good changes too? Or do we resist change because the future threatens what we have right now? It does often feel like we are in perpetual editing mode. But still, I do not understand it. Most of us seem so indifferent to the allure our present so why does change always bring about controversy? Why is the past romantic, the future frightening and the present so characteristically dull? I borrow my the closest thing I have to an answer from the so obviously stamped Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris, “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

More and more, this has become true of our generation. We struggle to cope with the present because we idolize everything we never had, the people we never met and ideas that were once original. Any creative person will surely identify with the struggle that no idea we have is likely to ever be original because chances are, someone has had the same one before us. How mind-bogglingly infuriating is that? How can we possibly attempt to add something to the world, find a space for ourselves and live a life of purpose if nothing we do is ever original? I guess the answer is by not resisting the changes that we are lucky enough to be experiencing in our lives right now. I think we all need to practice the art of being a little more open to change.

I am always game for a #throwback. Instagram can vouch for me. It is the idea of living in the present rather than a perpetual state of reverie, that is the challenge. I find myself constantly torn between spending and saving, treating and refraining, observing and speaking out. Although my mother is bemused by my old soul 99% of the time, she is hardly surprised because she is forced to acknowledge that she is partially to blame. We even went to see Springsteen together and watched in awe as the 6o year old hard-core biker beside us cried whilst belting out the lyrics to Jungleland…I mean mum is hardly surprised by the child she raised. Indeed, I grew up in a household where Frank Sinatra played on in the background during dinner and Old Hollywood cinema was discussed at breakfast. While I enjoyed Disney and Nickelodeon as a child, I was much more interested in imitating Eliza Doolittle’s cockney accent from My Fair Lady. During holidays in Portugal my grandfather wrote on a fabulous 1940s typewriter. Now when I use it each press of a key transports me back to being sat on his knee with an ice cream in the 4o degree heat of our varanda. These are some ravishing memories to consider now and I am forever grateful to my parents for providing me with such a culturally and historically rich upbringing. That is why I am not prepared to renounce myself as a sixties kid just yet. My childhood has made me appreciative of the past and that it is worth embracing.

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Photo via Byrdie Beauty

With regard to the present, I hope to become less critical and learn to balance (in heels…on a tightrope…just joking…kind of…I do have this weird obsession with circuses though, but that’s a topic for another day). This balance I am attempting to cultivate is about learning to take pride in the things that the present can offer, while still enjoying the fantasies of the past. I feel like it is no bad thing to be more grateful, more appreciative of the opportunities that the present provides and to learn to see the world as if for the first time every morning when you wake. That childlike innocence and magnetic excitement is what the present is so lacking.

I should appreciate the opportunity I have to ramble on here for example. Some of my literary idols F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charlotte Brontë might not have ever conceived this possible. I must admit that the idea that one day perhaps a future generation might even think of this blog as romantic is quite enchanting. I suppose it is for this reason and others that Mahatma Gandhi said, “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it because no one else will”. He was right, but more than that, he was just like us (+ embodying every good trait ever, ok so maybe not quite like us then…) I guess at the very least we can all look forward to our deaths in the hope that we will be martyred and celebrated in legacy because that tends to be the theme doesn’t it? Scorned in life, celebrated in death. We are all misunderstood really and mortality is imminent. Death is a for sure thing. That is not news, so I guess I don’t really get why it is all so frightening still. Well until then, I’ll be over here watching Barbara Streisand slay in Hello Dolly! Peace and love…

Vagabond Think

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Wearing Paper Crowns and Breaking The Silence

If you live in a busy city like London, New York, Paris or Madrid, you probably have to deal with the bane that is public transport. If you live in London you may have met bae, otherwise known as the tube. Bae and I have a rather difficult relationship. I spend a lot of time with him each day, but I just do not feel like he always gives me the respect I deserve. Whether it be planned or unplanned engineering works, signal failures, overcrowding or not finding a seat, the tube is definitely not my idea of a good time.

On average Londoners work 252 business days each year. If we spend between 1-2 hours travelling on the tube per day that could mean a potential total tube time ranging between 252 to 504 hours per year. Just think about that in Netflix terms. The average series on Netflix might comprise of 5 seasons of about 13 episodes per season, each roughly an hour in length. That means the time it takes to get through one full series is 65 hours, give or take. Therefore, in the time we spend commuting around London in the dingey darkness we could have watched an extra 7.75 different series on Netflix in addition to what you already watch in your spare time. SEVEN POINT SEVEN FIVE SERIES! I will just let that one sink in for a moment…

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Photo via usatoday.com

And how do most people spend this abundance of time on the tube? Well seeing as most commuters travel alone and Netflix is sadly off the cards due to the lack of wifi connection in between stations, these are our options: read a book or the Metro, plug in our headphones and listen to some groovy tunes, accidentally fall asleep and risk ending up in High Barnet or Epping, or…(just take a deep breathe now and do not be alarmed by the words that come next) strike up a conversation. Let me explain.

A few months back after an absolutely delicious and obviously romantic date at Burger King with my “super handsome” (his modest words of self-description not my own) male colleague and friend, I boarded the tube to return home. All was normal apart from the fact that I had insisted that we both leave Burger King wearing the paper crowns that they offer customers for free that nobody actually ever takes. Hi, Burger King, I’m Gaby: the girl who likes to take jokes to the edge of the extreme and who enjoys making paper crowns ‘a thing’. Anyway, we parted ways and as my friend walked to the opposite side of the platform from me at Earls Court, I saw him sneakily take his off. Unimpressed, I pointed at my head to express my commitment to the cause. Minutes later my train arrived and I boarded it hyper and in full awareness of what a banterous individual I was. A few sideward looks aside, no one batted an eyelid. A paper crown on the tube is child’s play in this town.

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Photo via mweb.co.za

A change of lines later, I jumped onto the final carriage of a train where the doors were still open and took a seat by a man eating a footlong from Subway, “what healthy individuals we are”, I thought. I had my earphones in and was listening to a Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. I remember the song because of what happened next. A perfectly innocuous girl sitting two seats to my right with mid-length blonde hair and somewhat smudged eyeliner seemed to be reading her ebook on her iPad when a TFL train attendant came and stood in front of her. I noticed some uncomfortable faces and other passengers beginning to stare at the girl. She looked up at the train attendant with a look that resembled that of a child standing up to a teacher; an expression of feigned aplomb that is transparent and unconvincing. I detected such a bizarre shift in atmosphere in those few moments even without the sensory access to my ears, that I took out my earphones to hear what was happening. “– you get off the train with me?” were the words I caught the man ask the girl. Instantly defensive the girl responded in an eastern-european accent, “No, why?” “Because I saw what you were doing before the train came into the platform.” “I have no idea what you are talking about, I was just reading my book”, she muttered almost inaudibly, shifting her gaze back down to her iPad. “I saw you, and other passengers saw you too. We cannot move the train with you on it. I am sorry. I am going to have to ask you to leave the train Madam.” “Are you serious?  I was just reading my book. I don’t understand.” “Please Madam, you are holding up the train and the other passengers. We cannot allow the train to leave the station with you onboard. Would you just please talk to me on the platform so that we can let this train leave?” “Why me?” She asked desperately now, “What did I do? I didn’t do anything. I am not getting off.” At this point the attendant left the train briefly to speak to some other staff that had gathered on the platform to assess the situation.

The next few seconds of silence on that train carriage were so skin-crawlingly uncomfortable, they felt like hours. The woman sat opposite me shot daggers at the blonde girl through her eyes and huffed and puffed, before making a show of checking the time on her watch. A girl standing up looked worriedly over at the blonde girl, who was once again lost, or seemed to be in the world of her ebook. The most alarming thing was that no one else looked at the blonde girl. Everyone else on this jam-packed train carriage looked either down or away or busied themselves with something else, anything to avoid the reality that was staring us all in the face; we were all sat centimetres away from someone who minutes earlier had contemplated killing herself.

“Do you mind me asking what happened?” The words didn’t really sound like me, but it was me speaking, breaking that unforgivable silence. The blonde girl looked up at me surprised; all defenses vanished from her face leaving only innocence. “Yes. It’s fine. Nothing happened.” Silence again. A few twitches. “You don’t know what he was talking about?” Me again. What was I doing getting involved in this? Was I making this whole situation worse? How did I get from devouring The Whopper to this conversation? Her defense was mounting once more. “I was reading my book.” She said systematically. “Well if you want to see what he wants to talk to you about, I can get off the train with you.” She looked at me strangely with her eyes widening now. “I don’t understand. Why is he asking to speak to me? Why is this my fault?” “I have no idea. It is probably a misunderstanding, but I can come with you to find out.” “I can come too.” A softer voice, from the girl standing up. An impulsive decision caused the blonde girl to rise out of her seat in a flurry and walk swiftly out of the train, her eyes welling up with tears. The girl standing up and I followed closely after her.

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Photo via a-thousand-words.tumblr.com

The blonde girl broke down in tears by the entrance to the platform and sunk down to a squat. “I don’t understand. I don’t know why. I haven’t done anything wrong.” These words kept flying out of her mouth in a frenzy of confusion and desperation, by which time we were joined by various train staff. They turned to me and the standing girl, “Do you know what happened?” he asked me. Both the standing girl and I told them that we hadn’t seen what had occurred and seemed to have both joined the carriage late. The train attendant that had tried unsuccessfully to get the blonde girl off of the train came over and told us that he had CCTV footage that showed her clearly about to fling herself in front of the incoming train only to change her mind just in time. For whatever reason she had changed her mind and for whatever reason she was now sat here on the floor of the tube station; a disarray of hair, material belongings and tears. I felt an instinct to protect her. Police arrived seconds after in full uniforms with guns in their belts and the blonde girl lost it. She began thrashing out and trying to get away from them as they got closer to her, asking her to take the escalators to the office upstairs to “calm her down” and “have a chat”. I couldn’t help but wonder what good these men in uniforms were doing to the situation. I saw them then as menacing figures that were supposed to symbolize protection, but didn’t. They had caused a fragile individual to feel persecuted and intimidated. I am by no means an expect in the subject but this I am fairly sure is true, if  someone is determined to end their own life, they will. They will not change their mind, because there is only one way out for them.

A chat with some police officers in a badly lit TFL office at 11.30pm on a Thursday evening was not going to change this girl’s fate, I thought. But maybe she had already changed her own. It is possible that neither of these is true: maybe the chat did help this girl for a time, but maybe she would feel the same again, maybe next time she would not change her mind. Or maybe her own decision and her own strength of will had already changed everything. That I think (and hope) is most probable. As I watched her be taken up the escalators, at this point much calmer, I followed the standing girl back onto the platform and onto the last carriage of a new train that had just arrived. I sank into a red seat on the almost empty carriage of this new train with a girl that knew nothing about me or me about her but felt like my friend. We had experienced something together, the standing girl and I. It was about five seconds later that I realized I was still wearing my paper crown.

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Photo via a-thousand-word.tumblr.com

I still think about that blonde girl all the time, if she is alive and what she is doing if she is. I wonder if she has anybody looking out for her. I often remember her when I am getting on the tube or reading an ebook and reflection on that evening has made me realize this. Those hundreds of hours we spend on the tube are not a waste of a time. They are significant. It is important that we don’t waste them. Every moment of our commute is an opportunity for eye contact, to ask a question, or to make someone feel a little less alone. As much as I love Netflix, I think that it is just as well we have a break and a little time for self-reflection. That time when I am in transit, I no longer think of as a waste. Whether I am reading, chatting or eating a Whopper (a rare occurrence I must admit, I am more of a Maccy D’s girl myself) I try to look around and ask a question or awkwardly smile to the standing girl. It’s time, you might as well just own it. Peace and love…

Vagabond Think

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An Ode to Curly-Haired Imperfections and Expensive Stilettos

It is Sarah Jessica Parker’s birthday today, which means two things: I am spending my evening re-watching old episodes of Sex And The City (…it would be rude not to) and Parker looks absolutely incredible for her 51 years of age! Oh, that whole “you should never ask a lady her age” thing, yeah I don’t like that. People, both men and women get older, deal with it.

As I have previously mentioned Carrie Bradshaw as a fictional character had quite a profound influence on me as a writer and as a person. I was first introduced to Sex And The City by accident. I remember walking into the lounge one evening when my mother was watching an episode. I must have been about 11. There was a part that I guess my young eyes probably should not have seen, and noises that my young ears probably should not have been hearing; that was clear from my mother’s expression and she quickly diverted my attention before shuttling me out of the room. Encounter two occurred when my sister was moving to New York and I decided to buy her the entire series box set on DVD to get her into the Empire State of Mind. I watched a few episodes with her before she took both them and the rest of her belongings, packed them away and moved half way across the world from me. I was not hooked at all. I did not really get what all the hype was about and frankly I found Carrie Bradshaw for whatever reason a somewhat unsettling character.

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Photo via Pinterest.com

 

The third encounter occurred as I was on my year abroad and after having finished all the available seasons of The Vampire Diaries on Netflix, I decided to give Carrie Bradshaw another shot. I never looked back. The thing that made this experience so different for me was that simply this: I was older. I think that because I had more life experience at the age of 19, (although I know you will scoff at this because any age that still includes the word ‘teen’ is probably not too rich in life experience, but hey there was more to work with) than I had had at 15. I was just starting to realize what being a woman and being independent (by this I mean that I no longer lived at home, but rather in the bubble of university) actually meant. Up until that point the women I had seen portrayed in American television were often gloriously perfect: perfect looking, perfect acting, the perfect mothers, daughters, girlfriends, sisters or wives. They rarely raised their voices or talked about sex. Carrie Bradshaw was not perfect. She was not even close to perfect and that is why I love her. What I initially did not ‘get’ about her and recoiled from seeing represented onscreen was what makes her legacy so interesting: her verisimilitude to real, imperfect women. I now found myself celebrating because I identified with these real parts of her; parts that I was only just starting to know I possessed. So this article is an ode to Carrie Bradshaw and the many things she taught me about writing, relationships, cities, family and being a woman.

Carrie Bradshaw is an over-thinker, like me. Perhaps that is why she chose to become a writer. What I took from how Carrie Bradshaw writes is this: Writing does not happen by force, it happens by accident. The moment the worst things happen to you or to the people around you; that is the moment to pick up a pen or to open up your laptop. Writing can be healing, but also heart-breaking. You have to relive some hard things when you write authentically. What I used to think about writing was that I was practising the art of escapism in the most sophisticated of ways, but what Carrie Bradshaw taught me is that the opposite is true. Writing well for yourself, be it fiction or nonfiction is not about escaping but engaging and reconnecting with life. It can heal wounds that time alone cannot. Oh and writing seems to only happen at nighttime, which means often your days start at noon…with a cocktail. I volunteer, I volunteer as tribute!

Carrie Bradshaw for the most part absolutely sucked at romantic relationships. She would fall in love with the wrong men, flake on the nice guys, cheat on the man she should have ended up with in the fairytale and always, always went back to Big. Ultimately though, she was never afraid of love. She experienced life fully and deeply with every relationship she threw herself into, even if that meant getting hurt and being frighteningly vulnerable. Not only that but Sarah Jessica Parker described Carrie as “curious” and “interested in sexual politics”, she invested in relationships not just on the superficial level of wanting someone to chat to the girls at lunch about, but for genuine interest in the particular human being. I wonder what Carrie Bradshaw would have to say about Tinder and her whole entity trickling down to a mere swipe to the left or right…If you notice Carrie Bradshaw often brought people into her life who profoundly upset or jumbled the rhythm of it because she was so interested in power, sex and how men and women coexist in relationships.

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Photo via @carrie_br4dshaw

People have told me I am commitment phobe. I used to passionately deny this diagnosis every time it was thrust upon me, but recently I have come to realize that perhaps they are right. Whenever the first sparks of relationships threaten to rear their head I grab a fire extinguisher with both hands and expertly wipe them out without a moment’s thought. After an attempt at some psychological retracing I think I have figured out why. I feel like an incomplete person, a vagabond. I have so many plans and goals for the future, constantly thinking that: “once I get there then I can relax, not before”. If I am completely honest I have never actively sought or wanted to bring new people into my life because I feel that I am not complete and I am often planning to run away somewhere new anyway so what is the point in getting involved? Society conditions everyone to take a similar journey: to find yourself an identity first and become a complete person (preferably before your 20th birthday; an unrealistic feat by any standard), to find a job, then a boyfriend/girlfriend, then a family and SETTLE DOWN. What the hell does that mean? Settle down to what? The only thing I plan on settling down to is a new book and some Oreos on happening Friday night, not a whole bloody life. But that is what we were always told by movies, by the media and from history. Thankfully since then mentalities have shifted and we understand that life is not about arriving at point A or point B, it is about experiencing the murky grey walk in the rain in between. Carrie Bradshaw’s openness to love and relationships is an openness that everyone should work to cultivate in themselves too, irregardless of societal pressures.

Arguably Carrie Bradshaw’s greatest love affair was not with Big, but with the city of New York. Bradshaw was besotted with the city and the city loved her back. I first visited the city of New York back in the summer of 2010. I had finished my GCSE’s and my sister, coincidentally also named Carrie, had just moved there. Allowing her a couple of weeks to settle into her new life, my mother and I boarded an 8 hour flight to come and get a whiff of the thick, polluted air and boisterous streets. I am a city girl through and through, born and bred in London, and even so this city caught me of guard. People told me that New York could not possibly match my idealistic, Hollywoodized vision that I had created and conflated from movie after movie I had watched set in the audacious place. They were wrong. My 16 year old self fell in love the moment my mother nudged me into consciousness in that yellow cab as we came into the city in the dead of night from JFK. The glistening lights balancing on the Hudson River sharpened my blurry, sleep-stained vision into a state of alertness from which I never recovered until I flew back home 8 days later.

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Photo via @wildfiresss

Carrie Bradshaw made her friends her family. She was not afraid of intimacy with women in terms of being profoundly truthful with her friends and nurturing them like her own. She was supportive, thoughtful and always there for them. That being said, like any friendships they all made mistakes. They argued, had awkward conversations that need to be discussed, cried on each other’s shoulders and were not afraid to say, ‘I told you so’. For me, the friendship of Miranda, Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha was so revelatory because I personally had never watched a show where an actual group of women, (not just one or two) were the focus. The muddled and imperfect dynamic between the four characters screamed authenticity to me because in friendships of more than two the relationships can never be equal; some are more tenuous than others and the actors revealed this beautifully. The kernel of Sex And The City was that the heart of the show was female and womanhood was promoted and celebrated unapologetically.

From Carrie Bradshaw I learned a lot about womanhood. Of course there are aspects of the series that are incredibly improbable like how Bradshaw can afford lavish lunches, Manolo Blahniks, a trendy Manhattan apartment and occasional trips to stunning destinations with her girlfriends all on a writer’s salary… Carrie teach me your ways! However, what the series helped sparked for me was the idea of women calling the shots: in the workplace, in relationships and in the city. If I am truly honest, watching this series was when I first began to identity as a feminist. All the feelings I had felt for years that: I did not want to settle for certain relationships or that I was not one hundred percent sold on whether I wanted children when I was older, Carrie Bradshaw gave me reassurance. We do not have to have it all figured out before we hit 30 or even 40; most people do not and that is a good thing because if we did, how could we possibly fill the next 30 with all the ups and downs we crave so much as human beings?

Following my binge watch of Sex And The City I set my size 6 feet on a quest destined for failure by refusing to go out in anything but heels. Needless to say, I was studying at a university in Ames, Iowa of all places where the dress code for the bars was more Luke Bryan than New York Fashion Week. That in combination with the continuous snow over a five-month period and -30 degree weather soon put a stop to that pipeline dream. Bradshaw also said, “There are two types of girls in this world: curly-haired girls and straight haired girls”. I definitely identified with the curly-haired side of this, as thanks to my hard-to-tame Portuguese roots my hair is so dark and sometimes so curly that I do not look quite English, yet my blue eyes and not quite-tanned-enough skin keep me from being easily identifiable as Portuguese either. I am that slightly ‘in-between’ looking girl that does not quite fit into a type. There have been times in my life so far when I have resented that, and times when I still do but Bradshaw highlighted how it is a gift to be imperfect and indefinable because curly-haired means fabulous!

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Photo via @morjaneC

So here’s to SJP and her 51 years, without which there would be no Carrie Bradshaw to teach me world truths, and the importance of maintaining a sense of humour when Internet trolls tell you you look like a horse. NEIGHHHH NEIGHHHH. Peace and love…

Vagabond Think

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The Scenic Road to Authenticity and Being Pretty

This article is a form of confession I guess. When it comes to ‘pretty’, I am conflicted. I am not going to lie, I want to be pretty. People who tell you that they don’t care about being pretty are lying. I care about looks, appearance and the aesthetic of things, I do. It is the first impression, it is the surface of something, it is the front cover of a book or the smile or the frown that greets you from the shop assistant that immediately travels into your subconscious and tends to stay there, whether we like it or not. Nevertheless, I believe that pretty is just the roadmap, not the destination.

Our subconscious is particularly influenced by powerful images, so it is no wonder that images on social media are such a trigger for our generation; both in a negative and positive sense. Instagram is my absolute favourite social media app. Anyone who knows me is undoubtedly aware of this. I probably use it too much. On an average day I post around one to three times a day. Ok, so that sounds bad. Let me backtrack a little here. When I was at school, I was always the girl with the crappy phone. Don’t get me wrong I always had mobiles and no, I wasn’t using those 90s big boxes from Saved By The Bell, but my phone always tended to be a couple of generations behind everybody else’s. When Instagram came out and everyone had been on the iPhone (or android) hype for a good two to three years I was still using my Blackberry Curve 9300. BBM was out and WhatsApp and Instagram were in, and I was technologically stunted. Locked out of the golden gates of the Graceland that is social media.

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Photo via rubystar.es

Naturally then when I got a Samsung Smartphone and eventually an iPhone 5c, the first thing I did was treat myself to Instagram; the app I had been so cruelly exiled from by not having the latest mobile phone. I quickly became obsessed and as this transition to App-tastic inclusion coincided with my year of studying abroad in the US, I felt the need to play catch up. I took photos of everything: my dorm, the view from my dorm, the frozen lake that I wasn’t supposed to walk over but of course I did because hey I am reckless like that! I used to be a twitter avid and I still am, don’t get me wrong, but Instagram is #goals. Not only could I post an image of something that reflected ‘me’, my life or my interests but I could also caption it and ramble on about things that annoyed me, made me happy or the book I was reading…this idea was revelatory to me. (Not to mention my cool new friends X-Pro II and Valencia.) However, the problems with Instagram lie beneath the surface of that beautifully illustrated flower crafted on your soy latte or that stunning #nofilter #nomakeup selfie on the beach. The problems are subtle, but the effects of them can be damaging if we do not address them, become aware, and in the process become self-aware.

Instagram displays the finest version of ourselves in the best-case scenarios. In the worst? Well, in those cases it displays a completely false sense of self. Someone that we want others to think that we are, someone they will like, and in turn give us credit for being by throwing us a Like. This is psychologically damaging because by perpetrating an image of someone we are not, we separate ourselves from our authentic self: our identities may become cloudy or muddled and as a result, guilt starts to weigh in. I am in no way the first to broach this subject; the issue of the lack of authenticity on social media came to a head back in October of 2015. Essena O’Neill, the Australian Instagram blogger with over 62,000 followers described her personal losing battle with social media and the struggles of self-promotion. She deleted thousands of photos and rewrote the captions of others in order to highlight issues of sponsorship, futility and obsessions that she had hidden in an attempt to promote the ideal Essena. Essena was extremely brave and exposed a reality that was not what everyone wanted to see, but it is also important to acknowledge that this is not everyone’s experience with social media.

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Photo via @kathleend94

I have been continually impressed with the impact that Instagram and Twitter can have on change and opening people’s minds to new ideas and experiences. Our generation has been so empowered by social media and used it as platform to discuss topics they are truly driven by. My love-hate relationship with social media comes from a place of frustration at not being able to do more than write or post an image, but we cannot forget that there is where real life comes in. Life does not stop at the bottom of our newsfeeds. My mother frequently tells me, “Your generation is so nostalgic. You always wish you were born into an earlier era. I don’t know why. You only see the glamour of the fifties and the sixties. Life was harder then because everything was inaccessible. You have everything at your fingertips right now. I would love to be starting out in this era, now.” Yes indeed, my mother and I have often wished that we could have swapped places, but I am starting to realize just how right she is. Mum really does always know best. This is not a myth; it is a universal truth.

Other universal truths that social media has taught me? We shouldn’t try to impress people because that is the sort of pretty that people will see right through. From my experience the photos that get the highest number of Likes are the ones where we least expect it, the least planned, and those where we are the most authentically ourselves. And no, for the record I am not the sort of person that keeps track of Likes. I think that we all have better things to do, even if you are unemployed, not studying, counting the tiles on your ceiling or the number of times you blink in an hour; that is still working your brain harder! There is awareness and then there is obsession.

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Photo via @vctrxdx

There has been a recent trend of people detoxing from social media or trying to wane themselves off little by little. I think that there is a great lesson to be learned here. If you think you are addicted to anything: social media, cigarettes, alcohol or coffee (no, okay I’m sorry I take that one back. I can’t) then you should absolutely try and exact some self-control or restore order to your life. (For the record nowadays I only have a maximum of 2-3 coffees a day, so I am not as addicted as I make myself out to be, just merely dramatic.)

On the subject of being dramatic something that leaves my brain in a flurry of question marks is this trend of guilt-tripping social media users or hating on other users’ posts. If someone does not like what I post on social media, I encourage them to go ahead and unfollow me. I will not be offended (well, it’s all relative—if you are a close friend, I may have to defriend you off Facebook in retaliation. By the way passive aggression on social media is something that really deserves a whole article of its own). I do not believe you should guilt trip or call people out for expressing themselves online just because you hold them to your own personal standards or ideals; most people would not be brave enough to do that in person. It should be no different online. A recent example is Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie. Ok, she is a mother. Ok, the photo is pretty explicit. Ok, it might be unnecessary. But in the words of my favourite badass Portuguese character Alice Vidal “não gosta, não olha” (Sara Matos, O Beijo do Escorpião). Translation: if you don’t like it, don’t look. What could be a more perfect response than that?

No one was forced to analyse that photo of Kim Kardashian. If we didn’t like it, we could have just unfollowed her or simply kept scrolling. In reality, if we were honest the backlash came from a place of jealousy. The Kardashians represent what so many of us strive for whether we are happy to admit it or not: beauty, success and money. That naked selfie symbolized exactly that. The symbol of Kim’s success has, in part, been through the commoditization of her body. Whether that angers you as a woman or as person is completely understandable, but the photo was authentic in principle (regardless of the presence of photoshop). If there is one reason to respect the Kardashians it is because they do not turn their backs on how they got to where they are. I think that that naked selfie was authentic because Kim expressed herself in the way she always has: by claiming the spotlight. If anything, our generation created the Kardashian culture, so why do we condemn Kim for the things that we all wish for ourselves? Why do we praise Demi Lovato is being #brave and #aninspiration for posting photos from a recent naked photoshoot and bully Kim for doing the same thing? Demi has even openly admitted that she credits the Kardashians for making her feel comfortable in her body again and learning to love herself, curves and all.

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Photo via @kimkardashian

My experience with Internet trolling is so miniscule and verging on embarrassingly geeky that I have thought about deleting this paragraph multiple times, but considering that this whole article is in the name of authenticity, here goes my pride… Once upon a time I innocently posted a photo of a book I was reading on Instagram. It was Oprah Winfrey’s ‘What I Know For Sure’, (a lovely refreshing read by the way). A social media troll commented below: ‘Oprah’s stupid’. Obviously their comment reflected only their own ignorance and not that of Oprah’s or my own, but after laughing for a solid minute I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why? Why would you waste your time on posting a negative comment?” In those sorts of instances, if I do not like what someone posts I would simply not Like it, so I guess I just don’t understand the psychology of negativity for negativity’s sake on the Internet or in real life. Of course, I welcome everyone’s opinions the same way I do Mimosas for breakfast, but those senseless comments serve no purpose, no debate; they add nothing. Ok fine, it added a little laughter to my day and I guess that that troll even wormed their way into this article so snaps for them, but overall, I just don’t understand it. The only way I can validate it in my mind, is that said user was, in the words of my hero Lena Dunham, “expressing their truth”. Far be it from me to limit free speech or anyone from expressing their opinion.

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Photo via Pinterest.com

Instagram is a sweet app. I have the opportunity to see incredible photographs of islands far away, mountains or deserts that I hope and dream of visiting; photos of actors I admire and see the causes that drive them beyond their work; photos of my friends on the other side of the world whose lives are so different to mine but somehow feel that little bit closer. It’s pretty; it’s all very pretty, as long as you take it for what it is. It is scenic, it is only scratching the surface, and it is a roadmap. I’ve never been too good with directions myself, so I welcome a nifty roadmap.

But there is a reason we cannot zoom in on Instagram photos either. I am sure it wouldn’t all look quite so pretty if we could. Keep that in mind. Peace and love…

Vagabond Think

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Wasting Life on Tears, Wasting Time on the Wrong Fears

DISCLAIMER: I hope I do not offend too many people. All opinions are my own and I absolutely do not apologise for them #sorrynotsorry.

“We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.”        Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, The New York Times

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Photo via Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

I was in the shower yesterday morning when my dad called to me from outside the bathroom that “there has been an attack in Brussels”. My stomach flipped and my first thought was my best friend Annie, who lives in Belgium with her boyfriend. Although, they do not live in the city of Brussels, Tim, her boyfriend works there. In fact, right by the airport of Zaventem. I got in touch with her straightaway and she reassured me that they were both safe. They were lucky and so was I. So many others were not.

I watch the news. I acknowledge it is often not very neutral, especially with regard to events in the Middle East, Syria and the refugee crisis. Nevertheless, I try to watch it with an inquisitive eye. So many people’s lives changed forever yesterday; the victims and the friends and families of casualties whose precious lives were so cruelly wasted. As soon as I posted an image of the Belgian flag on Instagram, I wished I had included the hashtag #prayforTurkey too, #prayforSyria and #prayfortheworld. As so many have highlighted these senseless acts of terrorism and violence are taking place on a global scale, not just in the Western part of the world. I noticed people getting pretty passionate about this, commenting in a fury of punctuation with: “Turkey??????” underneath well-known celebrities’ posts that expressed solidarity for Brussels. And I understood, as best I could, their frustration. Imagine the country you were born and grew up in being bombed everyday for five years and people in the West only posting messages of solidarity on social media when it happens in their backyard or to their neighbours. It has been continuously drummed into us that we should “think globally, act locally”, but it seems that so many of us have forgotten to do the former. I am the first to admit to this.

Terrorism breaks my heart for so many reasons, most of which I cannot even express without shedding tears as I write. Maybe I am so sensitive about this because of my aforementioned idealist sensibilities, but I believe that the world is better than this. Life was not created to be wasted. I do not think that that was ever the plan, if indeed, there was one. And even if there was not a plan, why would we make it ours? What is the point of wasting time on fighting ideas and wasting lives on tears? It is illogical and sends my brain into furious overdrive. I recognize by reactions on social media that I am not the only one. I dedicate this article not only to the victims of yesterday’s tragedy, but to all those who are hurting because of violence and war around this beautiful, but also profoundly infuriating planet.

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Photo via thequotepedia.com

Yesterday Charles Michel, the Prime Minister of Belgium, described the events as a “black day” for Belgium. Not only did this comment irk me both because of the inherent complications of aligning the word ‘black’ with something as devastating as terrorism, but also because, he as a global figure and politician should realize that mindless racism in our everyday vernacular is a deep-rooted problem. A problem that I feel is so damaging that it actually triggers moderate people to turn to terrorist groups like ISIS because they are marginalized globally. You might think that I am nit picking, but the language used bothered me yesterday and I woke up this morning and it still bothers me today. It is not a simplistic view to hold. I believe that extremism is bred not from religion, but from a powerful combination of external factors.

Racism and Islamophobia are such a problem because they are so embedded. The saddest part is that moderate Muslims feel the need to live their lives on the defense; constantly defending their religious beliefs and prefacing their opinions with the fact that they are ‘not extremists’. I, albeit raised as a non-practising Catholic, do not have to preface my every opinion by saying: “I deeply condemn the sexual abuse of children from the Catholic church” because people are, for the most part, reasonable enough to understand that most Catholics feel this way and that those tragedies are completely inconsistent with the Catholic belief system. This is a purely arbitrary example of how a traditionally white, Western belief system is given a completely different treatment to a traditionally Middle-Eastern belief system. We should be reasonable enough by now to disassociate extremism from Islam. Misappropriation of ideas and decontextualized vernacular are the killers here, not the Islamic faith. Last Saturday, prior to the attacks on Brussels, there was a national protest that walked through London to draw attention to this issue. People with banners and posters that read: ‘Say No To Islamophobia’ stomped through town and passed right outside where I work. I smiled and was grateful that so many people felt drawn to action on this issue.

Undoubtedly, part of the problem lies in the media. The media, as neutral as it tries to be, perpetrates images and stereotypes that get people to watch and consume. That is why it is up to us to call out stereotypes and negative vernacular at its core. I was disheartened when I saw that #StopIslam was trending on Twitter yesterday. Surely not enough people to get a trend going can actually believe that Islam is interchangeable with ISIS? Evidently I was wrong. Admittedly because of how the word is used in the media and on television screens, until I looked it up for myself I did not realize that the Arab word ‘Jihad’ actually translates into “struggling or striving”, not “holy war” as it is often used to signify. The Arabic word ‘harb’ actually means war. I have a friend who is a Muslim who confirmed this for me. She told me that people in the West never hear the opinion of moderate Muslims, only through the filter of our media. Because of this we might not realize that the majority of Muslims passionately reject ISIS extremism and actually despise them for tainting their precious faith.

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Photo via woodturtle.wordpress.com

What about all of those Muslims who are victims of ISIS too? How can we possibly separate the millions of refugees that have fled from Syria and parts of the Middle East because of ISIS from the victims of yesterday’s events? Not only that, but those who are not refugees feel equally threatened by ISIS, as ISIS can attack anyone, anywhere without logic or reason. They did not stop to ask anyone at Zaventem or Maelbeek whether or not they were Muslims yesterday before they inhumanely blew them up. ISIS want to take over the world, not just the West, that is why refugees are coming to us for guidance and a new life. Unfortunately, however, it seems that we can only help up to a certain point because as yesterday illustrated: no nation is safe.

It is so important that we acknowledge that Islam is not intended to be a violent religion, it is intended to be beautiful and peaceful. However, the argument to this is the controversial and deeply criticized Sharia Law. Sharia Law is a strict and restrictive legal system, universally condemned by Muslims themselves for being extremely regressive. However, it is important to note that it still does not necessarily promote terrorism. The system is particularly destructive for women, and as a feminist, reading some of the laws genuinely makes me sick to my stomach. One of the laws proclaim: ‘A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.” 9 YEARS OLD?! How oh how can any faith possibly think it is okay to employ these downright backward laws on women and men in this day and age? The reason? The Islamic religion has not been updated or modified since its creation in 610AD, whereas most others have. Catholicism, Judaism, and Hinduism; all of these religions have adapted and reformed over time, but the Islamic faith has not. A specific group of Muslims in 820 AD called the Ashari who believed that the Quran should be followed “without consciousness” decided that the Quran was too precious to be changed and ever since, variations of the Ashari have fought to resist what should be natural changes. Thankfully, as it stands Saudi Arabia is the only country and region in which the Sharia law is openly still in practice. It is still one country too many.

Indeed, if practising modern day Catholics took the Bible from its creation at its absolute word (as extremist groups from al-Qaeda to ISIS have), then I am sure we would have many more violent attacks in the name of Christianity. We cannot limit our thinking by placing full blame on the Quran for the creation of these terrorists; extremists are bred from other factors, both personal and public. Education, abuse, environment and identity are all powerful forces at play in the radicalization process of moderate Muslims, just as they make murderous groups and gangs in the West. When murderers in our neck of the woods claim they committed whatever crime in the name of God, (which by the way does happen but it does not make for as powerful or engaging a news story), we brand them as ‘other’ or mad. We do not blame Christianity. Yes, the Quran contains violence, but the Bible does too. Don’t believe me?

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”                                    [Matthew 10:37]

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Photo via hippoquotes.com

Why ISIS is attacking Syria, the EU and Turkey I do not know for sure. What the solution is I do not know for sure. What I do know is that racism and Islamophobia are not the answer. Blaming Islam for a specific group of extremists that Muslims themselves live in fear of is not the answer. What a waste of time, of tears, of lives. Terrorism is the great war our generation has grown up in. Racism is a historic battle. Let ours be the generation that stamps out both of these, starting by calling a stop to racism and Islamophobic language in daily life. Solidarity and courage against those who try to drive this “sword” into our global household is what we need more of. The everyday greeting for Muslims to one another in the Middle East is ‘salamu alaykum’, which in English literally translates as ‘may peace be upon you’. So that is how I will sign off, salamu alaykum, peace and love…

Vagabond Think

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Mainstream as Hell

Everyone and their mother has a blog or a website nowadays. As much as I like to think of myself as far beyond the reach of mainstream influence and quite frankly, a brilliantly unique individual, the truth is I am far from either of those things.

I went to fairly academic private schools in South-West London and Surrey, I did school plays and I went off to a Russell Group University (#bleedgreen), whilst experiencing all the little hiccups that one does and a few horrendous yet formative ones along the way. These truths probably do not resonate too much with the definition of a ‘vagabond’, which is my choice of title for this thing. My constant craving to change and move from place to place is where that part comes in. For me, the vagabond is more of a state of mind than anything literal. Now I guess I am in the position of figuring out what it means to be an ‘adult’ and I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. “I just have a lot of feelings!”  What movie people? What movie?

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Photo via @carrie_br4dshaw

I have always written. I write because I have to get things off my chest, I write because there are some things that I cannot keep inside for fear of what they will do to my sanity, I write because sometimes that is all I can do. Sometimes I write to rant about things, sometimes I write to appreciate beautiful things and sometimes I write because I want to be more like Carrie Bradshaw. I recently made a vow to myself to become more connected to the world around me and more of a participant, not just an observer (although I do believe the latter is important). I made this vow because at 21 years old I do not know a lot of things but I really want to try and figure them out.

Up until this point, I have only written for myself or for those valued few to whom I show my work, but today I thought: “Screw it. Life is short and I’m pretty pissed off right now so who cares about whether people read this or not?” So -mainstream as hell- I am going to speak my mind, and no, I am not going to be too polite about it. I am not a swearer (my friends can vouch for this), but I am going to be blunt. So yeah, if you came here for pretty, you might be disappointed.

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Photo via @betches

Over the past year of ‘adulting’ I have found myself facing a lot of life’s big questions and now I want to discuss them. I like a good conversation and a hearty debate. I do not want to be hypocritical or contradictory (only in my fashion sense). And I do not believe in being critical for the sake of it, or having an opinion in order to appear ‘educated’. I do not want to shy away from issues I believe in anymore for fear of what I will look like to others. I do not want to look back on my life and wonder why I did not speak up when I could. So many people do not have the opportunity that I have right now; to put my fingers to my keyboard and type. Then, there are those other people who resign themselves to the belief that there is no point in doing or saying anything about anything because at the end of the day nothing really changes. I am absolutely not one of these people. My mother calls me an idealist and as much as I think labels are often damaging; this is one I will wear proudly, with a flower in my hair and Pierre Hardy heels.

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Photo via @the7oz

So yeah, I made this thing in order to talk about some things. And if you want to discuss them with me, that would be awesome. If not, then that is cool, go back to watching Netflix. They’ve just dropped a bunch of new shows tonight I believe, so I won’t keep you. Peace and love…

Gabriela,

Vagabond Think

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