22

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I'm pretty sure this girl, tired and confused and worn to the bone in Denver, Colorado, waiting for a plane to the other side of the country, knew that 22 wasn't going to be her year. If she didn't know it as she took this picture, she knew it when it turned midnight and she was uncontrollably crying in a bar that Ginsberg used to drink at with his friends.

Sometimes, particularly since coming back to a city that means too much to me, I strike off this year. Six months in, and it hasn't been particularly simple or easy or fun. The dips and dark days and stress and amount of time spent in the fetal position would certainly be enough to throw it all in and hibernate until graduation. But I can't and I won't and I wouldn't even if I could.

In the midst of everything, the mess, the tears, the loneliness, the anger, the situations that tangle themselves in knots with or without my doing (mostly with), there is good.

22 year old Sarah has been on adventure after adventure. And not the twee, Swallows and Amazon's style adventure, though I did finally get to swim in my beautiful river with my favourite people, but hard and heartbreaking and tiring and wild and incomprehensible adventure after adventure.

So far, since May 18th, I have traveled from San Francisco to Las Vegas to New York to Bethlehem to Atlantic City to Washington DC to Philadelphia to England. I have watched the most perfect human being as she was born into this world, been one of the first people to hold her, watched as she's learnt to smile, blow raspberries, laugh and make a whole delightful range of noises. And I get to squish her gorgeous chunky cheeks. I came home and learnt how to be happy at home and to appreciate the people there, to love my mother like she deserves to be loved, to talk to my brother like the man he is, to support and laugh and paint pots with squirming baby hands with my sister. I flew back to America. That was another adventure, but one I hold closer than the public space of this blog but which meant so much. I moved into an apartment on the other side of the (very small) city I had never seen before with people I had never met before and didn't completely shut myself in my room scared to talk to people, slowly I made friends. And more than ever I have realised that there are friends that will always, always be there.

And then there is this thing. This little secret that isn't a secret that I have been working on since I skyped Helen from a stolen sublet in June that's nearly ready. It's called I Speak My Truth and its scary and beautiful and powerful. And there's a space in that conversation for you, just you wait.

So 22. Half way through and often awful. But I'll make something of you yet. Because without realising it, I already have.

















I don't want to be ill

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I don't want to be ill, but I can't pretend that its easy to pull the corners of my face into a smile.
I don't want to be ill, but I can't receive the help I need when I lie to myself and those around me.
I don't want to be ill, but I can no longer tell myself that I am just miserable.
I don't want to be ill, but I fell back down the hole.
I don't want to be ill, but somehow here I am.
I don't want to be a pity-case.
I don't want to feel weak and agitated in places I have a right to be.
I don't want to seem incapable.
I don't want to second guess every message, every conversation, every interaction.
I don't want my words to be stuck in my throat.
I don't want to put my life on hold for when I "get better".
I don't want to be back where I was two years ago.
I don't want to be ill.
But I am.

Class Evaluations

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First day of class 24/08/2015


Last day of class: 05/05/2016


First things first, the stripes were completely unintentional, I didn't even think about taking a picture until I thought about writing this blog post! But what can I say? I have a predictable wardrobe.

Over the course of my year here at Lehigh, I have taken seven classes, some that have been interesting and engaging, and some that have been downright tedious. At the end of each class we have to fill out an evaluation form, so I thought it would be fun to do a little recap on my blog.

The best class: Black Lives Matter

Normally, I am that annoying person who is always willing to talk and offer an opinion in class. In Dr Peterson's class, I listened. I joined the module completely and utterly ignorant of the ongoing racial struggle in America, and, indeed, ignorant of the intricate racial narratives of my own country. What I heard, saw, read and processed in just one short semester has dramatically altered the way that I view the structures and systems that are so readily accepted in society. It was a powerful class, and one that was taught with intelligence, sensitivity and authority. Armed with the list of British authors and theorists that Dr Peterson gave me to further my study, I will continue to learn and educate myself on issues and struggles that I have been blind to.

The worst class: Biblical Women

Initially, I was excited to take this class. It seemed to be the perfect mix of my educational interests; religion, gender and literature. However, in the end I don't know anyone who enjoyed or found the class informative. It was a new class, jointly ran by two professors (I will leave them unnamed), and it all just felt a bit... messy. They sort of threw a ridiculous amount of information at us with very little direction and then expected us to craft something intelligent and academic out of it. Coming from a university where I spent the last two years in independent study, this should have been fine. However, the sheer amount, and the lack of coherent information on the pieces we were given, meant that it was just tedious.

The most enjoyable class: Advanced Horror Film

The clue is in the name, really! It was so fun to read books that were written for pleasure, and to read the stories behind some of the classics. I particularly enjoyed Jaws, I loved the book way more than the film, and We Need to Talk about Kevin. Everyone was engaged in the discussions and the classes always went fast. I loved the professor, Dawn Keetley, and even enjoyed the assignments!

The most social class: Asylums and Literature

I don't usually go out of my way to make friends in classes. I have a finite amount of energy for socialising, and I would prefer to invest it outside the classroom. However, in my first semester I took a basic level English class with a bunch of sophomores, taking on an independent study to bring it up to the right academic level, and everyone was just so chatty! It was an all-girls class which I would have normally avoided like the plague, but we all just sort of clicked. Everyone would get there early before Laura, the grad student running the class, arrived and just talk about their lives, or parties they had been to, or boyfriend problems. It was really nice to feel a part of a group for once, maybe I'll try harder next year to make seminar friends... (jks)

The most unpredictable class: Short Stories

I have wanted to take a creative writing class for a long time, and if I could have taken some creative writing modules at Kent without it being a joint degree, I would have done, so I was determined to take a class whilst in the States. In some ways, I am very glad I took this class. I hadn't written prose in years, and this was the perfect push to start writing stories again. Throughout the semester I wrote three solid pieces that I am proud of and happy to keep working with. It was encouraging to receive feedback in a more formal environment and important for me to learn how to properly edit my work and not be defensive over changes. However, the course itself was just all over the place! It started off with a schedule and a structure which rapidly deteriorated until all our deadlines and assignments were pretty much whatever we wanted them to be, and the classes themselves could be anything the professor felt like doing! On the whole, though, I think it was good to have a definite reason to write- this semester I have written nothing without that incentive.

There are another two classes that I took, Early American Literature and Jane Austen, which were both pretty good, but I don't really have anything interesting to say about them so I'll just leave it here! I have enjoyed my classes at Lehigh so much more than Kent, partly because there isn't the pressure to get good grades (though I am way to competitive to let my averages slip), and partly because my second modules were so bad! For the first time since starting my degree, I have really engaged with the reading and really felt like I am learning. There have been days when I have been amazed that my "job" at the moment is simply to read! Particularly when I have been assigned books that I enjoy. Being a literature student hasn't come easily to me, I have found it frustrating and unstable, however, this year I saw what a privilege it was to have four years of reading and writing and discussing and learning new information. I still want to start work and find a more concrete purpose, I know that academia is not for me, but I have found the work this year fun and rewarding.

I have three more papers left to write and hand in and then I am done for the year! It seems crazy, but I am ready. Ready to travel and see this beautiful country. Ready to go home and meet my niece. Ready to prepare myself for the final push at Kent. Lehigh, I needed you.

Angry

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When I wrote this post almost a year ago, I had no idea what our dear Conservative government would do with the political mandate bestowed upon them by the election result. I had lived five years under a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, I had lived under David Cameron's leadership before, would he really do any more damage with a full Tory government?

This past year living in the states, I have spent a lot of time educating myself on the American political system, and, as a result, my own country and its failings have been placed temporarily on the back shelf. But what I have heard has left me incredibly angry.

The response to the opposition of junior doctor's to Jeremy Hunt's contract proposal is not just cowardly and stubborn, it is downright dangerous. I could write a post about why I believe the contract itself is wrong, but others have written far better articles and blog posts about it. The reason why I am so angry goes beyond the awful ideas of our health secretary to the fundamentally flawed and ultimately terrifying state of the so-called democratic system.

As the government push through legislation to impose a life-changing and NHS-destroying contract on the junior doctors, they refuse to acknowledge any opinion or idea other than their own. They are deliberately and maliciously ignoring the voices of the people they apparently represent. Not even in the face of a two day strike that could potentially endanger lives. Like children, they put their hands over their ears and pull faces at the young men and women who are fighting for the right to a safe and sustainable NHS. But David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt are not children, and their refusal to acknowledge the needs of their people is not childish, its tyrannical.

In the past year the government has repeatedly ignored the cries and protests of the people it has authority over. And with another four years of almost absolute power due to their majority win, it seems like there is little that the public can do to stop the destruction of our NHS, power hungry military attacks such as the unnecessary missile strikes in the wake of the attacks on Paris, cuts to disability and welfare benefits, or indeed anything our leaders stubbornly set their mind upon.

Their message is loud and clear: you can protest all you want, you can march the streets, you can quit your job, you can write letters and make videos, you can scream in their faces or lie bleeding at their feet, but they will not listen.

And that frustrates and terrifies me. We are at the mercy of indifferent and unfeeling politicians who we voted in. Under the name and authority of "democracy", the Conservatives can do as they please.

I want to believe in the voice of the people, in the role of art, in the force and power of intelligent and motivated activists and groups to influence and bring about justice. But right now I feel suffocated and helpless.

I'm writing this post, angry and upset, with the freedom to say how I feel. But what good does that do when anything other than the opinion of those in leadership is discounted, muted and ignored?

We will continue to protest, we will continue to fight, we will continue to pressure and push the government towards compassion, as I wrote back in May last year. But I no longer shout it or truly believe it will be effective. And, sadly, that is what they want. For those who want to cry out to realise that they will scream until their voices strain and break to no avail and therefore not say anything at all. It will be an exhausting fight, but in the face of such opposition, we cannot stop, we mustn't stop. Or we place the autonomy they so ardently desire in their hands, and I for one cannot live with that responsibility.