I am done and I quit.
Things have been quiet over here lately, largely because I had no creativity left. Life has been busy and if you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I’ve been desperately getting through some books.
I lost my creativity and got busy. I also walked through a season of discouragement which took its toll.
We all find ourselves discouraged from time to time. Unfortunately, it’s normal. However, paired with a prolonged sense of circumstantial isolation, it becomes harder to intercept discouragement. One minute I was enthusiastically running towards all things social justice, faith and travel, and the next? You guessed it. I felt like my small impact just wasn’t making any change. I also found myself being confronted by heavy faith questions I didn’t have answers to.
It took me a while to recognise all of this as discouragement. In the moment, confusion wins and disguises the discouragement as something ordinary or acceptable. Yet when we label it, it becomes easier to intercept. Naming discouragement as discouragement frees us to reject it and press onwards.
Hence, I took some time to have healthy conversations with friends and mentors. I read books and found some good encouraging answers to my questions. I travelled to see some of my dearest friends who showered me with joy and strengthened me with encouragement.
Looking back, I can easily see so much good in the past season. Life has been so full! However, continuous discouragement can lead to a cycle of negative thinking and cynicism. I became so cynical.
Cynicism is the dangerous cycle of doubt and expectation of disappointment. It’s believing that everyone and everything is unfair or just out to get you.
I stopped looking forward to things. Suddenly I refused make plans and believe that restrictions would really be lifted. I became a negative thinker. Thoughts such as, ‘I don’t deserve this,’ or, ‘life wasn’t supposed to be like this,’ often revolve in a cynical thought cycle.
Cynicism, based on disillusionment, is draining and toxic. I quit.
Jennie Allen, wrote a brilliant book on interrupting various negative thinking cycles including cynicism. This is one of the books I’ve been busy reading and I recommend it to anyone looking for a practical yet biblical book on negative thought spirals! Find it here.
Cynicism causes us to look for things to complain about. “The opposite of cynicism is looking for reasons to give thanks.” (Jennie Allen)
I quit believing that I am a victim. I quit being discouraged. It’s time to believe that every circumstance contains an opportunity to experience goodness. I choose to rejoice. I choose to be encouraged.
Life is so full of blessings. Every day gives us chance to experience joy, wonder and fun. If we allow ourselves to stay curious and optimistic, we can truly make the most of our circumstances.
Choosing to think, ‘my circumstances are an opportunity to experience goodness’ in place of self-pity, positions us to be more thankful, more forgiving and ultimately joyful.
So, here I am, choosing to share some light today. Having worked through the cynicism and found myself in a joyful place once more, I encourage you all to remain thankful. I encourage you to quit discouragement by reaching out to others.
I had been believing for a long time, that everything was against me and the only way to thrive, was to forcefully survive. The truth? People, places and institutions often want to elevate, come alongside and help us!
There is however one disclaimer. Circumstances can be hard and I’m not saying that anyone in hardship is cynical or should just ‘get over it with some positive mantras.’ Nor am I saying that you have to settle with your circumstance.
If you’re having a hard time, reach out for help and do something about it whether that means seeking professional help or taking action.
However, as Jennie Allen so wonderfully puts it, ‘we don’t have to like our circumstances, but we can choose to look for the unexpected gifts they may bring.’ Reach out but also be open minded to the unexpected blessings.
For more book reviews, head to the Coffee Time tag. I’m hoping to start this back up, especially now that I’ve been reading more.
Social justice and sustainability have become a modern trend label. However, do we truly know what it means?
Lately I’ve been part of a book club, reading ‘generous justice’ by Tim Keller. It looks at a holistic picture of these global issues and as a group we’ve been discussing, learning and asking questions. Through these conversations I suddenly realised how shallow my view of sustainability had been.
A Limited View
If you think social justice or sustainability is all about reducing your carbon emissions or refusing to buy clothing, then you are on your way. But there is so much more.
Social justice is all about allowing every single person on earth, to live a full life. It’s about generating equality, fairness, freedom and value in all global societies.
Likewise, the UN sustainability goals are not limited to responsible consumption and biodiversity. Others include equality, good education, healthcare, excellent work, economic growth… find the list here.
Go Beyond ‘Charity’ – Holistic ‘Social Justice’
Holistically, social justice views every individual as worthy; it looks beyond charity, restoring dignity and breaking boundaries. It requires us to think selflessly in all areas of life and continually question how we can use the influence we have, to provide (and not exploit) someone else’s stepping stones.
Whilst poverty is a huge issue, it’s more than this – there are rich people today who are outcasted or politically restricted and stripped from a full life. Older generations are increasingly lonely.
Social justice is complex. Encouragingly, we can get actively involved.
What lessons have I learnt lately?
- Poverty is complex and systematic. One huge issue is debt and the truth is, debt is a chaotic, overwhelming experience. Giving to charities such as CAP (who free people from debts whilst coaching them to make good financial habits) gives others the chance of a more financially-free life.
- In the workplace, justice can be as simple as being a good employer, paying a generous wage or encouraging initiatives that support local groups / schools / charities.
- Inclusivity is essential. There should be no social outsiders. Even as children at school, we witness a social ranking that always classes certain individuals as ‘weird’ or outsiders. Whether at school, in the office, or neighbourhood, living for social justice means intentionally conversing, and building life with those who are different. Don’t just give a charitable smile. Befriend them. Invite the person you wouldn’t normally invite to your gathering. Everyone has a right to flourish and be in your community.
- Advocacy has power. Those in higher classes or positions can do more than financially exchanging charity. Those with education, power, knowledge, business… should be pressuring officials to make beneficial changes in lower class neighbourhoods. They should be offering apprenticeships to local state school children.
- Whatever skill or treasure you have, you can use it to build up a family or community around you.
Local social justice can be simple
Social justice is often viewed on a global scale. Globally we can have a huge impact yes, but God is also in the details. Our holistic sustainability starts in the small everyday. We make 35,000 decisions everyday. What if we challenged ourselves to make more selfless decisions today than we did yesterday?
Locally, we can:
- Grab coffee from an independent business, supporting a local individual in place of a multi-million corporate chain.
- Buy an additional healthy meal for the food bank because no one in your town should be going hungry
- Consider how our political decisions can promote beneficial change in struggling neighbourhoods and schools
- Talk to our neighbours – you never know who may be lonely, feeling overwhelmed or in need of a non-financial helping hand.
- Take interest in how our banks invest money; move to good banks that support rather than exploit. It’s free and good to view society interest and not just your own 0.23%.
- See an issue? Write to your MP or local council. Or, get your community together to take action.
- Education is vital, and we can do this from a mobile phone! Last year, BLM protests sparked a new trend on social media. People were educated, and others shared infographics on social media to challenge us to rethink, sign petitions and better understand various issues. Let’s keep doing this!
Sustainability & Excellent Work
Finally, I want to highlight one of the UN goals: excellent work. Our vocation is one of the biggest influences we have. If we work excellently, to high standards and whilst considering others, we can see social justice.
I’m working in the field of architecture. Working excellently means always ensuring that wheelchair users, children, elderly, blind, deaf and many other ‘forgotten’ people can joyfully experience it. Working excellently means ensuring buildings are fire safe – avoiding a repeat of Grenfell. It’s designing good quality social housing that promotes good well being and values it’s users over the profits. Working excellently is encouraging clients to contribute to good public space, improving street safety and providing a place for communities to flourish.
What resource do you have? Can you make a non-financial exchange for someone’s life? What does excellent work look like for you?
Reality of Humanity
We desire social justice but sadly cannot see that 100% fulfilled. We are human. Humans make mistakes. I fail. There is grace and that grace should encourage us to try again. Try to selflessly use our generosity and caring capacity, to consider others in as many decisions as we possibly can.
You will make 35,000 decisions today. Let some of those be intentional decisions to give others a fair, full and free life. Aim to make more good decisions today.
Disclaimer: I’m far from many of these goals myself but I hope to try!
For more on social justice, click here.
Minimalism has become a ‘buzz word’ often linked to sustainability. The minimalist lifestyle is based around the philosophy that ‘less is more’ and freeing yourself from unnecessary possessions, purchases and utilities will allow you to live happier. Less cluttered lives apparently allow for life to be rich in experiences.
How does minimalism link to sustainability? Should we be adopting the principles?
Adopting a lifestyle that intentionally minimises possessions will naturally reduce consumption. Minimalism is more than decluttering. It is intentionally choosing to live without certain items. For example, minimalists will not buy new clothes or even purchase ‘party clothing,’ instead borrowing, or hiring dresses for those occasional weddings; the modern day world wrongly requires a brand new outfit.
Starting to list examples opens a can of worms. The list goes on and you can find some very interesting You Tube videos to get a clearer picture of: ‘things I don’t buy as a minimalist.’
Essentially, minimalism is about gradually reconsidering everything that you buy or consume, whether daily or occasionally.
- Do you really need them?
- Could you purchase something once, that would replace all those multiple purchases?
- Do you buy something because you always have, or because everyone else does?
- Can you live without a new arm chair?
- Could you reward your kids with experiences, rather than cheap collectable cars and toys they’ll grow out of?
Minimalism definitely reduces consumption which blesses both the environment and the bank. One of the biggest causes of waste is the idea that it’s good to renew items we own, leaving perfectly good ones redundant. Simultaneously, our consumption of disposable items is filling landfills daily. Buying loads of new toys for our children may seem kind but when they grow old, what happens to the heap of plastic? I know when I grew up, many of my toys were second hand but now consumerism has changed this.
Downfalls of Minimalism
However, as I’ve researched minimalism and begun to adopt some of the principles, I do have some disagreements. Whilst I support the refusal to consume, with minimalism comes a ‘declutter’ movement. To become a minimalist, we have to rid of a lot of possessions. Marie Kondo is famous for her decluttering programs on Netflix. Her ethos embodies the minimalist principles, stating that we must get rid of whatever doesn’t, ‘spark joy,’ – decluttering will make you happier.
Here’s the problem: we pull out all of our possessions and start to realise that 80% of what we own, is meaningless to us or completely useless. We feel guilty and decide to live without them. Where do these objects go?
Please don’t say, ‘the charity shops,’ because whilst charity shops are great for sustainability, if we as society continue to inundate them, without adopting the principles of actually buying things second hand, these shops will become land fills themselves. We can’t expect charity shops to just shift our junk for us. Give to charity by all means, but also consider other uses.
Perhaps, the process of becoming minimalist is a selfish one. We selfishly feel guilty about the items in our possession, and instantly ‘get rid.’ It would be much harder to accept that you have more than enough; living responsibly should mean intentionally deciding to keep, reuse or up cycle the objects we aquire.
I would also argue that minimalism doesn’t allow you to possess occasional use items which I massively struggle with. For example, I recently went completely paperless now doing everything (including reading books and digitalising all notebooks) on an iPad but I still enjoy painting. I don’t need to paint – I could do a Digital painting. But I occasionally feel like pulling out a sketchbook and painting. Why should I get rid of the drawer filled with artist materials?
I have 6 dearly loved children’s novels on my bookshelf that I will probably never read again. But in the future (if I have children) I’d love to share these and I feel its more responsible to clutter my own life by keeping hold of them, than give them away and later repurchase them.
The Truth About Minimalist Philosophy
Besides sustainability, I also want to warn you about the philosophy of minimalism. Yes in theory, having less does allow you to be more grateful and able to control finances. But as with anything, having less stuff can not make us happy forever – just as consuming more can’t. Long term happiness is not dependent on adopting a set of rules about what we own. Minimalism even bans sentimental objects which I would argue to some degree is healthy – those who have boxes and boxes of things they have attachment to, really should part with some of it. But to not keep anything, would also be a little sad. Memories are life-giving!
What then, should we adopt?
In conclusion, as I’ve attempted to do my research and adopt some minimalist principles, I think that looking ahead, a minimalist attitude towards consumption is incredibly beneficial. However, the process of decluttering can be dangerous unless we responsibly rehome what we remove.
Kickstarting the Goal
In my own life over the years I have made conscious resolutions and I’ll list some of these for you. I hope to continue to build on this and reduce consumption. The goal is to not buy anything new for a very long time (hopefully for 2021 but I don’t want to pressure myself to keep this).
I do this reasonably, not to feel ‘happy,’ and without feeling pressured. Some of these are things I have succeeded in, whilst others are aims I hope to adopt from now on.
- Clothes* – I rarely buy clothes. I store ones I’m not loving and bring them out again a season or two later. Those that I don’t love, I sell or put away for when I get that ‘I want new clothes’ feeling. I do give some to the occasional charity shop and I also buy from charity shops or swap things with friends. I have now got way too many clothes and so have told myself that I will not be adding anything until at least 2022. From then on it will be one in one out, when things wear out.
- Feminine Hygiene – I haven’t bought a tampon in almost 4 years. Menstrual cups are the way forward people – cleaner, zero waste and it saves you £25 a month.
- Disposable cloths – no kitchen roll, dish sponges or cleaning cloths. I bought 2 reusable dish clothes and 3 cleaning cloths. I wash them and reuse. Easy.
- Notebooks – just no. I don’t need to feel nice about a pretty wad of paper that can’t be recycled easily. I use Bamboo ‘Paper’ on the iPad for handwritten notes (which feels like a notebook) and keep multiple notepads all on a nice ‘shelf.’
- Books – I buy kindle, or (because I love paper books) charity shop books / swap with friends. Any new books I’m gifted, I always pass on.
- Old school work – whatever was necessary, I scanned and stored on my laptop. Then I recycled all paper, and passed the folders on to people who needed them / other students / charity shops.
- Gifts / rewards – I never treat myself with a purchase or possession. If I want to celebrate, I do so over dinner with a friend, or I buy myself flowers. I also only ask for gifts at Christmas that I need or have wanted for more than 3 months. Otherwise, I ask for a dinner voucher or nothing at all. Any birthday money gets stored for a few months and used to do something nice with a friend.
- Artwork – I love artwork. For me, this is my joy. I do regularly paint and hang artwork. But now I’ve run out of wall space, I still paint. Instead of hoarding it all, I enjoy it for a moment, before then gifting it. It brings a lot of joy to someone when you gift them something like that!
- Old electricals – I recently fixed something that was destined for the bin, just by reading up online. It made me realise how much we bin and deem to be worthless when after a repair, I managed to rehome it. I felt good after persevering to fix it too!
- Running shoes – this is my issue! I run 10-15miles a week and so get through shoes like crazy. They are no good for running but can still be used for walking and other low maintenance activities. I can’t keep collecting my runs. I guess with everything, reduced consumption is about balance and for me new running shoes are a necessity. All I can do is try to recycle the materials and buy less of other things.
These are just a few ideas, to give a clearer picture. I’m by no means perfect, or a minimalist! But I do encourage you to start to reduce your consumption. Question everything you dispose of, and question everything you buy.
What are you resolving to reduce?
*for more on clothes and sustainability, check out my previous blog: sustainable struggles. But, do read with gracious eyes – I wrote this long before my ‘charity shop dump’ realisation.
Has the BLM movement diminished good done by missionaries?
Disclaimers: a) I don’t for one second think that we should dismiss the BLM movement, b) what I’m indicating is that we could be in danger of dismissing something just as incredible if we don’t realise how wonderful mission is, c) I want to challenge people, not condemn, d) I know there are deep rooted issues with some missionaries and the BAME community. I don’t mean to ignore these. If you’d like to discuss this, please do comment below or contact.
Recently so many eyes have been opened to injustices, racial blindspots and inequality. But have we forgotten sustainable mission?
I have been so excited to see so many people use this strange season of pandemic to educate themselves. Suddenly the church is reading books on racism, discovering how slavery is more complex than the coffee they drink and responding to the needs of their local communities. I genuinely can’t quite explain how AMAZING this is.
However, in the frenzy of exposure there have been disappointments too. There are still shortcomings. For example, I 100% support the BLM movement and have spent time reading, advocating and also attending conference meetings where I can listen to BAME students challenge systems. But I also know that (like in all campaigns and movements) anger can work it’s way in. I know that fast learning over gradual committed research developments can not always be sustainable.
I am passionate about social justice. I am driven to advocate for victims of fast fashion or modern day slavery. I desire to see an inclusive society. I believe the church too has to look at it’s history and be challenged to address failures or unsustainabilities, yes. However I am also passionate about overseas missions and it has been a shame to see how this important ministry has begun to dwindle even more.
On a side note, I have found myself sitting in this disappointment a lot longer than ‘as of 2020.’ My purpose for this post is not to discourage or dwell on the bad but I must express how more and more churches are forgetting about the nations. We have become more focused on our individual salvation which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the bible is clear on our faith being both personal, and communal. Our calling to love others is both a radical, local calling, and also a worldwide prayerful love.
Sustainable missionaries have been at the forefront of relational cross-cultural exchange for years. They have done a lot of good in bringing light and sustainable development to the world. Yet they have over the years come under scrutiny as colonial, faith-pushing, ‘west is best’ crusaders.
Yes there have been (and still are) failing, imperfect missionaries. In the past the church did proclaim God in a harmful way that is now being criticised. Historic missionaries did get tied up in colonialism and slavery. I fully believe the church does have to own up to this and sincerely apologise for the massive damage it has caused to many nations. There is still a lot of work to be done.
However, many missionaries and charities all over the world today have already walked through the blindspots. Most missionaries today live out their faith in a graceful, empathetic, sustainable way and it’s a beautiful thing.
I believe God tells us in the bible to go to all nations and proclaim our faith, not because we are superior or want control, but because cultural exchange is powerful for both accounts. There are skills that we have and can use to impart to others, and skills we can also gain from others. We have differing perspectives which are vital for challenging, refining and also encouraging.
The bible is not just for white westerners. The bible is God’s word given to all races and black lives matter to God. I wholeheartedly believe that God also wants to use POC missionaries and bless the UK with diverse culture, anti-racism and leaders who participate in healthy, sustainable exchange.
It’s not just all about Brits going to develop other nations. We should be empowering our BAME British nationals to empower us and change us. We should embrace immigration and welcome people from both minority groups and other nations all the more. They have a voice and God-given gifts that we are to embrace. Sustainable mission works both ways.
Who’s Doing It?
‘Good missionaries,’ are doing incredible work all over the world. They are training those without skills to live, work and prosper. They are providing good education to equip children to achieve their potential and then one day become the teachers. Some are meeting with leaders and praying for them. In dangerous places, missionaries are providing mental health support or releasing prisoners. These organisations are employing locals and we are seeing a decrease in the number of White British missionaries – they are moving in the right direction!
We still need to reawaken to the fact that the world is broken. There are developing nations. There are places where girls are forced into FGM. Others are deprived of the hope and freedom that Jesus offers, because they live in a community where ‘Jesus’ isn’t known or allowed to be spoken without a death sentence.
Using our privilege to support – not self-impose
As a church we need to allow God to stir us to have respect for our sustainable missionaries. We need to be stirred to pray for them, encourage them, share financially with them if need be. This doesn’t mean we take our eyes off the UK needs around us, or all suddenly jump at a ‘2 week short-term white saviour trip’ which should never be encouraged and only serves ourselves. It means we partner with the people already doing it. We start talking about and exchanging more than our own self-healing. We learn from their community, share with them and if called, go with them in a culturally appropriate manner.
Missionaries are not on a pedestal. They are ordinary people, living ordinary mundane lives in another country. They simply live every day as we would, led to love and see gradual change. Missionaries are there to empower locals, not override them.
Are you aware of overseas missions? Are you praying for sustainable mission work?
Let’s start loving mission again. Take a look at these good, sustainable, faith-based mission organisations who are leading in bringing more than just faith, but abundant life to all nations. Sign up to their newsletters. Watch their appeal videos. Pray for their workers. Give financially. Let them inspire you to live as a missionary where you are.
Organisations to Follow:
BMS World Mission – I recommend their ‘Engage’ Magazine and ‘Operation Chad’ appeal. They have been working to sustainably transform 1 million lives by 2020, and lots of their work involves training and empowering local churches to themselves serve in their own cultural context.
Mercy Ships – these provide incredible healthcare and also train locals in healthcare professions too.
Open Doors – offering aid to persecuted believers and advocating for them.
IJM – this organisation works to free those enslaved all over the world
Are we raised to thrive on adventure? Are we constantly seeking an additive that adds flavour to our ordinary?
I would describe myself as passionate. I’m determined. I had big dreams as a teenager to travel the world, go on mission trips, get into a top university, be the lead in my field…
Today we teach our generation to aspire to great things. We inspire one another to dream of the impossible, whether that be the development of new technology, running a sub-2 hour marathon or moving half way across the world.
None of this is wrong.
Dreams & Wild Adventure
Dreams are in all of us. They are beautiful expressions of our identity. My dreams find their roots in my faith in God and a desire to know him more clearly.
At 17 I knew God was calling me to go overseas and at 18 headed out to Guinea where I grew in faith, served God, learned a lot. Then I moved to university and witnessed friends coming to faith. Last year God miraculously provided for a trip to Japan (read the story behind Japan here). This year I’ve lived and journeyed with amazing people and started to work in the city. Wild adventures!
Life was (and is) golden! I continuously thank God for all of these adventures. They weren’t easy but they were wild as I saw God move in each of them, I only desired more to keep being obedient and serving him.
Globally Stripped of Adventure
6 weeks ago our fast pace, free-travelling, adventuring world changed. Our adventure loving nation suddenly had all ‘adventure’ taken away. Initially, I couldn’t work from home and really thought that I should stay where I was, even as all my housemates moved back home in a matter of days. I knew God has called me to this job and that He was working in it.
I got so angry as everything was stripped away. What was the plan? What I was meant to ‘do’ in this? I was determined to stay in the adventure of where I was but then working in-office got banned. I stayed a week longer, expecting God to bring the next adventure that I still wasn’t seeing. It turned out that God was saying, ‘Eleanor it’s time to go home for a little while.’
A lot of people currently feel as though all the adventure has been stolen. Perhaps some are wondering if they will ever feel excited, or motivated or see a mountain-top moment.
Imagine you are hungry, probably bored and craving. It’s so easy to go to the store, pick up a cheap snack filled with sugar, salts and additives. We get a quick fix and a sugar rush that makes us feel good. But when the additive runs low we are hungry again.
Alternatively, you could slowly and methodically open a cupboard, take out what you already have and make something substantial. It may look less exciting and not have any additives but it can still taste good if you make it well.
My anger came because I was seeking the adventure. All my previous wild adventuring genuinely occurred naturally, as I lived to seek God and make the most of what I had in front of me.
A season for everything
Currently the whole world is pretty much on lockdown. We are going slow and unable to run towards a wild adventure of travel, day trips or socials. Our days look ordinary. But there can still be good in the ordinary. We can cultivate goodness in what we have. We can enjoy new things, share with family, spend time soaking up wisdom.
Being home has been wonderful! Doing life with mum and dad again is so special. I’ve reconnected with old friends and neighbours. I’ve had time to read books and learn new recipes.
We can live farming, building and raising family, crafting, and being faithful where we are. It’s not our job to find adventure. It’s not our purpose to constantly be the heroic, inspiring, crazy dream achiever. These dreams and passions are important, yes, but we must learn to have gratitude where we are and trust that the adventure will come in God’s timing and planning.
What are you chasing? Are you missing adventures? What small things are you grateful for?
If anyone is interested, I really recommend the book ‘Garden City.’ It’s all about the idea of Genesis and cultivating good in the things we do, and bringing God’s goodness to the every day.
There are so many more things to be thankful for!
Joy often comes incredibly naturally to me. I live to see light in all that I do and holding onto hope is a default. Not that I wish to boast, but things have pretty much been on track for the past few years.
Recently I have found joy a struggle. My grades have not been the best and I am daily finding it a challenge to keep on top of uni work. I feel burnt out and tired most days. I’ve experienced waves of complete homesickness…
Earlier this year I challenged myself to seriously step into a worry-free life. I finally owned up to the fact that I have anxiety. I actually accepted it as a fact and decided to do something about it. For three whole months (by the grace of God) I experienced absolutely no anxiety at all. How? I started to depend on God daily, pray and simply abide in Jesus. He answered and took all the anxiety away.
This year God has taught me so much more about his loving freedom and He has been so faithful in carrying all my burdens!
Unfortunately, now that I have entered the last two weeks of the semester, the work is piling up and I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t understand why but the anxiety has returned in full force. Admitting it makes me feel so weak but honesty is so important.
I have been so crippled in fear some days. Other days bring discouragement from tutors or peers. Sometimes I just need a bit more sleep and so my emotions run wild.
Living alone is hard too. I can’t run to my Dad downstairs anymore and cooking for myself is an added task.
However, this time around it’s different. I might feel like I’m drowning but I know that I am not. Every time something tries to steal my joy I remember to have gratitude regardless. Whenever I hear voices that tell me to give up, I find a slither of strength to fight back and persevere.
Gratitude is getting me through. It doesn’t matter how many difficult things you are facing today because there will always be so many more good things.
I know that God’s hand is on me and therefore the enemy will throw all sorts of anxieties at me, trying to steal my joy. I refuse to give in to that.
So what am I thankful for?
- Zara – my beautiful flatmate has been cheering me on, laughing with me in the hard times and cooking me dinner when I need it.
- Morning Coffee.
- Guinea Girls – we may not be living together anymore but their daily messages and encouragements are so amazing.
- Flatmates – we have become family for one another.
- Bath – what a beautiful city to be in!
- Course mates – these guys understand the work load and we can live alongside each other in the studio.
- Church family – seriously, what would I do without them? They have fed me, prayed for me and encouraged me.
- The opportunity to study.
- Financial Provision – I haven’t had to budget or scrimp this semester and I really do not deserve such abundant grace!
- Time stretching – God has just stretched time in every moment of feeling drowned and surrendering my control.
- Pink cafes and meeting friends on weekends.
- Musical moments.
- Instagram free Lent.
- Miracles in the every day.
- Lessons learnt when my work is criticised.
- The promise that my grades don’t determine my future.
- Struggles – they are an opportunity to learn and witness God’s power in my life!
I am so thankful in this season. I might be fighting a lot of anxiety, discouragement and stress but there is a light and hope greater than all of these things.
As Newton Faulkner would say: “people should smile more. I’m not saying there’s nothing to cry for.”
What are you thankful for?
What is it really like to study architecture?
If there’s any degree that receives bad press, it’s definitely the seven years of RIBA accredited study.
Let me start by telling you what architecture is not. It is not an impossible work load leading to hundreds of all-nighters. It is not going to steal all of your time. Architecture is not a boring, delayed transition into adulthood or a career. It is definitely not just ‘cutting and sticking’ either!
Architecture is an incredibly creative and structured course. The principles of design are integral to every aspect and at all points you are encouraged to express your own interests. Architecture is a rich, unique mix of subjects: arts; environmental sciences; engineering; culture; history…
Studio life requires discipline but it generates an exciting creative community that does life together.
Before coming to university, I was close to giving up on architecture. Every where I looked, course reviews and information panels painted this picture of a crippling course. The internet portrays the degree as this all consuming, never ending, impossible burden of work. It seems this is what many people have come to believe.
When I tell people that I am studying to be an architect, the conversation instantly changes. People gasp and make comments like, ‘wow isn’t that a really long course?’ Or, ‘will you really finish the whole degree?’ “All you do is glue paper models.’ The worst? ‘I know an architect who tells everybody to never practise the profession.’
Stop shutting us down
Seriously? ! I am fed up of people killing our passion for architecture! I’m pretty much wired to study this degree. Yes, it calls for a certain type of person but so what? That might just be me or you.
I delight in the long studio hours, working on a model that is worthy of a showcase. A huge enthusiasm is experienced every time a new brief is presented. Rejoicing is my attitude through the trials of not knowing where a design is leading. I persevere when my design looks like utter crap.
I refuse to let the anxiety of deadlines overload me. I actually sleep every night. I socialise and take weekends. Granted, there is a certain discipline required to prioritise my work but this comes out of an excitement for my design – not an anxiety.
If anyone is considering architecture, do it. Don’t listen to the people who make you feel like you’ll never be good enough or the worries about keeping up with the pace. The diversity of the course is incredible. Your interest in culture, design, materials and architectural history will increase rapidly.
Studying architecture is like going to a dressmaker. It is made to be a perfect fit – adjustable for all. This robe can be styled and purposed for individuals. It looks and feels beautiful. Architecture is worthy of an award – not a bad press.
Investigate architecture. Pay attention to what it has to offer and don’t just write it off!
How do you pay tribute to something as beautiful and complex as a musical instrument?
I’m sure you’ve visited multiple museums in your lifetime and found yourself bored to death and a little perplexed as you stare at something locked away behind a glass screen. Why is it that in museums, the things exhibited are actually shielded?
Ironically a precious object is presented as an irrelevant item, impossible to engage with.
As part of my Architectural design project this semester, I was asked to design an exhibition stand for a unique musical instrument. I was given the Componium (Holland 1821), a huge, mechanical composing-machine which is incredible in its industrial nature. Revolutionary in its time, the instrument can be played by a single handle yet generate infinite compositions of music.
Currently the Componium sits within a dimly lit box inside the MIM Brussels. Sadly, an instrument designed to be infinite, is prevented from continuing to engage.
Thus, I proposed Oneindig: a timber platform scheme that allows 360 degree views of the Componium. The altar-like plinth deifies the instrument and timber cladding shields most of its nature, creating suspense on approach. Organ pipes project upwards out of this envelop. Visitors to the exhibition can embark on a journey around the exhibit, resulting in a very individual playing experience that allows them to fully engage with the instrument.
The timber cladding is inspired by the Lavender-Planted Hill Temple in Japan. Enveloping the altar defines an intimate and pure space whilst the shear height of the Componium escapes and pays tribute to the idea of infinity. Steel infinity shaped brackets tie the timber beams within the cladding together, reflecting themes of infinity and paying tribute to dutch vernacular traditions.
Does Preservation Have to Mean Imprisonment?
Whilst preservation cannot be neglected, it does happen to ‘freeze’ a subject in time. As a child, visiting museums was one of my favourite activities because I could interact with the information presented to me by use of buttons, costumes, puzzles… Yet now, I can’t bear to wander around a museum and read countless, static display boards that detail something I can’t quite see, because of lighting-glares on glass displays.
I think there’s a real need to reconsider how we protect a precious object and still allow for it to be exhibited. Is a glass box really the way to do it? Or can we use paths, lighting, narrowing spaces or other ideas to control crowds, reduce touch, and maintain without limiting interaction completely?
Student life is no longer a future thought. Three weeks ago I was determined to love university but terrified to actually get there. When you’ve had something in the distance for so long, it’s truly daunting to stare it in the face.
I live in a flat with 16 other people, I spend most days 9-5 in a studio and I’m juggling a million other things in typical Eleanor-style.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of questioning what the heck I’m doing. There have been days of “I hate this course and I want to give up.” Not to mention, the late nights and early mornings of student life.
When you finish an adventurous season such as a gap year, things get a bit dull. Throughout teenage years, our lives are constantly getting more and more exciting. Last year I hit the climax and now I’m back at “school.”
Remembering what student life looks like
It’s vital that I constantly remind myself of this dull truth. A flatmate also pointed out how much they studied for A-levels… A-levels are a lost memory for me and I guess I have to remind myself that I can and will have to prioritise the studies for now. I did it in 2016 and now I have to learn to do it again.
I have to put last year’s adventure aside and stop comparing this season with the last. Once I do that, I can fully throw myself into experiencing life at university.
I am starting to find my passion for architecture again. I am loving the extrovert environment created by a house of 17 students. I have enrolled in (too) many sports and societies. I have made incredible friends. And I’m enjoying the variety of lecture content!
University is crazy. But it’s also such a great opportunity to live alongside people and try new things!
I’ve stepped down the adventure level and I’m busier than ever. But I’m learning, experiencing and loving student life.
Has anyone else started univeristy recently? How are you finding it?
Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!