21 blog posts series ease eleven

21 blog posts series ease eleven

Eleven “Managing your money”

We’re always told about saving for that “rainy day” occurrence. It’s something that’s planted into our minds from an early age from pocket money to cashing in for brithdays or special events. I agree with saving for the rainy day and rightly considering that you might not have an influx of money in the near future. But sometimes, with the money demands that come with being a student, it can feel like it’s constantly overcast and the rainy day is happening constantly, just above our heads.

Never fear, these challenges can be tackled with a small bit of planning and some self control. Before I get into this I will say that it isn’t very good to live your life in fear of spending. What I’ve learned is that with each purchase or investment we make, we must decide on the how worthwhile the action is that we’re taking. Start with devising in your mind whether the thing is a want or a need, like a form of pro or con list. At the end of the day, every time we make a purchase we are making a choice whether something is worth it or not in terms of parting with your money.

However it is you get your income, money comes with responsibility attached. It can easily enough become something scarce when not handled or managed properly. A smart way to go about spending less is to get yourself well set up to deal with the unexpected. There are some great apps out there for money management which are worth a try for sure. But what I’ve found most useful is having two accounts to work off one as a spending and one as a saving account.

It’s not really that much of a hassle, it just divides your funds more fairly so you can attempt to stay on top of things, having something to fall back on if you really need it. I think there’s something built in us to love spending money, I don’t really know of anybody who doesn’t partake in the act. But I think surrounding yourself with people who you know may entice you to spend can sometimes be an act of harm. But this doesn’t have to be a thing you avoid if you put a bit of planning into it.

If you’ve arranged to meet a friend out somewhere, say a café or restaurant – familiarise yourself beforehand with the price range of the place. How much are you willing to spend here? What’s your budget? For me, budgets and weekly expenses can fluctuate. I’ll have more money in if I get more hours at work but I won’t if that doesn’t come together.

So what do I do? Lock myself away from the world if there isn’t a certain amount in my account? No. I would say, always do the thing if at all possible, but think ahead of what you might need to draw in on and make sure you keep your wits to do that. Plan out what the likely expenses will be and see if there are alternatives to these in the situation. This can be applied to any sort of social event when you really give it some thought.

Student life can bring with it huge pressures, from money to exams and really the balance is sometimes impossible to get right. Should you get more hours at work or in the library this week? It’s hard to know. So I’d say if you’re really stuck, don’t be afraid to go for the student loan option, be that from a bank or another source. We all place value on our degrees and if a loan is what you need to get that done, so be it. Grants are great things and should be thoroughly appreciated but when it’s a tough time financially, do what you have to do.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

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21 blog posts take ten

21 blog posts take ten

Ten: “Learning from mentors, appreciating wisdom”

I’m learning to drive at the moment and I now see exactly what all the fuss is about. You hear about the trying times and the challenges it brings along and I get that totally. You’re placed in control of a machine that has potential to be very powerful and it’s not something you should take on lightly. But I will say, when you’re learning to drive to make sure that you’re surrounded by those you trust when you’re in the car. Be this the instructor, family members or friends. These people are forms of mentors and rightly demand the respect that experience brings in these situations.

Sometimes it’s better to shut your own inexperienced mouth and listen to what the other person has to say, but I will say don’t be a robot. It’s about striking the balance of self trust between taking on the instructions of others. Appreciate the fact that skills take time to learn and practise is very much key, a little reward or two is fine as well during this time. So the point being that I would see my driving instructor as something of a mentor to me, but I’ve come to realise that mentors and wisdom can come from many sources, not just your elders or those with a certain skill set.

Everyone can possess wisdom and I feel it’s something very disrespectful to doubt the thoughts and ideas of a person just because they’re younger than you. Sure, young people are trying to find their feet and place in an ever changing world but really, it’s not your job to make that task even harder by placing doubt in their abilities. I think wisdom comes from understanding, and each and everyone’s youth is something that was involved in that process.

Alongside appreciating the worth of youth, is respecting the place of the wisdom age brings with it. With this I would say, place value on the time you spend with older people. The stories they can have of their past lives and challenges they faced can be something truly fascinating. No matter how highly or lowly educated these people are, they’ll possess knowledge of things that you really wouldn’t think.

It just takes a little bit of time to dig this information out. But once you dedicate yourself to doing just that, it can really be something eye opening. The most important thing when it comes to this is how indeed you can apply this wisdom into your own life. The past generations had some good ideas and qualities and of course I know that times have and are changing, but it doesn’t mean that this way of life be completely lost.

For the most part anyway, we all love our grandparents and we cherish the fact that we are lucky to have them around. Show that you respect that fact and give your free time to sit down and lend them an ear. It doesn’t have to all be stories from way back when, you can throw in some of your own as well. The best way to start a dialogue is to simply freely open it. This can be something truly rewarding.

I attended a family reunion last month which had over 160 attendees of relatives from near and far. Looking around the room at happy faces it could be seen how although everyone lives separate lives, there was a respect and honestly about the room as everyone wanted to listen to one another and just simply share a joke or an old story.

This is something we should place value on. These stories get passed down through generations for a reason and I think we all have a part to play in keeping this alive.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series know nine

21 blog posts series know nine

Nine: “Don’t apologise for your preferences”

This week NUI Galway held their annual societies awards ball. This is the first year of being on college that I didn’t have the pleasure of attending the event alongside friends that I’ve made and met through societies. Although I was a little saddened by this fact, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on what being in a society meant to me and the difference it made to those first two years in college. I realised how different things would be if I hadn’t have given my time to it in that way.

First of all, societies are wonderful things. Sure, they are known to involve heavy commitment which can be a challenge at times during college, but it being something that you love, it shouldn’t feel in any way like a chore. Societies in their essence should be inviting, welcoming and open to those who wish to be involved. This comes particularly true for first year students or those on Erasmus or an international study abroad, trying to find their feet in college through the platform of societies.

Truly, societies within their structure and place in college show us that nobody should apologise for their particular preference, no matter how mainstream or very particular it is. NUI Galway welcomes new societies each year and often they’re something completely different to the 100+ that exist already. From my experience, societies open doors and pathways to new friendships that you probably never imagined.

As I write this, in Dublin this evening, the national inter-varsity student poetry slam is taking place in NCAD. When I came to college, I had written a few poems and mostly they had never gone further than a drawer in my bedroom. It was only when I came to college that I realised I wasn’t alone in the solitary act of writing. Skip forward some time, I was competing in this national poetry slam which was something entirely new to me with an original poem of my own. (I link here for those interested: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/a-political-poem/).

These niche interest we  might have can often go under the radar during secondary school times which can be a shame. But I think for the most part college brings with it a new confidence and sense of freedom that can be enriched through taking part in societies. Whether it be dance, drama, anime, film, debating, fashion – these are unique interests that can really come to life and be celebrated during the college years and I don’t think these interests are too likely to fade after the gown and cap are given back.

I don’t think we need to justify to ourselves or anybody else why we have the interests we do and why we give it our time, it’s simply just something we do as an all important form of self expression. I can give dozens of reasons why being involved in societies was good for me from the friends I made to the unique events we ran together and the new connections even outside of college that were made.

But it’s more important to say to those who aren’t involved in societies in college, I can put my hand on my heart and say that you are missing out. Even if you only start by going to the odd college event, it’s important to challenge yourself to get somewhat out of your comfort zone or college dorm. There’s so much happening and it’s easy to see the hard work that each society is putting in in order to make sure something good is up and running for students to take part in. So seriously, the next time the weekly email comes in telling you what’s happening in the world of societies this week, don’t place it in the trash or skip on – give it the glance and a half it deserves. You could pleasantly surprise yourself.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series ease eight

21 blog posts series ease eight

Eight: “The curse of social media”

Love it or hate it, social media is something that has marched into our lives with some amount of force. Gone are the days of giving the love on Bebo, sending mini messages on MSN or updating your presence on Myspace. Bigger players have taken the scene and trust me, it’s hard to block out the bad form the worthwhile in the online world even more than it is in reality.

The outliers who have chosen to avoid social media have proven to me that it can be something good. These examples are the infamous Ed Sheeran who threw his phone away and went on a years hiatus. Not saying that’s something that could really be in our paths, but it’s not something to be knocked either. My aunt is giving up social media for Lent and I think that’s a little bit more up our alley for the minute.

I think social media really can draw us in and with the constant updates available by simply refreshing a page or feed – you can really get trapped online sometimes where it’s very hard to switch off (literally). The fear of missing out is a factor, whether this be a Facebook competition, a funny meme or a shocking Snapchat story. Is it a crime to miss the latest scandal, a Snapchat streak or a Twitter argument between two celebs? I’d like to think it isn’t but I strongly believe that social media is growing in power.

Actually, there’s a lot of similarity going on across the boards of social media. Within the last couple of months, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat have gotten quite similar and maybe that makes it easier to update them all. I don’t know about you, but I preferred when each had something different to offer and I’m just not sure if that’s going to continue to be case.

I ask you this honestly, do you think that having social media accounts now is essential for living in the world? As regards jobs, more and more now businesses of all types have social media accounts and it can be seen as essential that employees have something to contribute on that front if needs be. Maybe social media is something now part of every day life that we can’t possibly avoid.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some toxic things out there. Social media encourages gossip and even the very real and annoying, “keyboard warriors”. I don’t know what it is that makes people think they’re more powerful when looking at a screen than someone in the eye. It’s hard to know whether we are unintentionally contributing to this world of social media. As it’s primarily us providing the content for the most part on these various platforms.

I sometimes find social media as a huge place for unfiltered bragging and sometimes people can share to much leaving nothing really else left to know about a person. Is that the best way to live and allow people to get to know you? How much of that is real? I’m no psychologist but it’d be interesting to see how having a high social media following could affect a persons self-esteem. Friends or followers, which is better for a person socially (without the media part)?

One thing I find to be the real curse of social media is that of the time stolen from us by it. Time does not seem to exist when it comes to social media as it can really hook a person and I feel social media demands our time. But it could be us after all that are placing high importance on it. So take a step back, it’s actually not that important.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series seven

21 blog posts series seven

Seven: “Appreciating the lessons of history”

They say that history has a habit of repeating itself. Of course I’d agree with that to a certain point, but some things are and should be allowed to be fresh and unique in their own way as new ideas and trends come into the way we live. Without doubt, there’s a lot we can learn from history and I think it serves its purpose in that sense and should be studied and taken seriously with a high level of respect and dignity.

Context is essential for looking at history, before we make our own judgement based on that time versus the way we are now. A couple of years back, I looked into the concept of historical revisionism, something truly different in the way we look back at history. Although revisionism is very much heavy critical thinking for the most part, it’s something that makes us think deeper about a time instead of just accepting whatever it is we hear, in the way history is written about. I actually posted that study to my blog if you fancy reading it here for a bit more understanding: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/a-look-to-historical-revisionism-commemorations-and-1916-ireland/.

Now, recently someone told me that having a history degree is something unique and special, providing a better and more profound world view. Doing a degree in something I understand can open your mind to independent and different thoughts around an era and of course is highly academic, but I don’t think it’s essential that everyone have a degree in order to appreciate and learn from history.

Getting back to history repeating itself; originally, I found that concept a very scary thing. That mistakes could be made again and even the sense that humans never learn. Could that be the case? I know for sure that that world view isn’t the best for us in general. But I think that if we all kept our eyes on history, potentially we could avoid this repetition and even stand in the way of allowing history to repeat itself when it comes to the things we dislike or are uncomfortable with. If we all gave history the time and respect it deserved, we could all lend a hand in spotting things in politics and even socially that feel a little too close for comfort, that we may have seen before historically.

History has shaped how we live and who we are, that fact can’t be denied. To really understand the present and look to the future, the past is as important as any other contributing factor. Quick thinking and irrational decisions really stand out historically and can be spotted fairly easily.

I went to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam recently and it was something I’d always been drawn to seeing obviously because of the mark the Holocaust and World War II made in our history as a people. The heartache of the innocent and the wrong of the powerful, those ideas stick. Being in the house itself felt solemn and I will admit that some parts of it brought up emotions in the pure sense of wrong and the desperation of this family who had their world turned upside-down.

A particularly interesting part of the tour was at the end though when everyone was invited to sit and watch a stream of comments from previous visitors and admirers of Anne Frank’s story. The message hit home that this cannot and should not be let happen again. The idea of history repeating itself was stuck in my mind that day. We hear a lot in the world’s media about changes to immigration laws, the strife of refugees and just a lot of underlying unrest with the rise of right wing politics that people don’t necessarily voice publicly.

I think looking to history might help us contemplate better the time we’re currently facing. I watched some of Martin McGuinness’s funeral last week, attended by those of opposing views as well as family, friends and admirers. Really, I had never seen such a positive farewell in the form of a service. I do firmly believe hatred can be conquered and if we don’t try to do so, each and every day – we are doing our history a disservice.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series six

21 blog posts series six

Six: “Loss happens and plays a role”

As I’ve gotten older and I suppose in some sense matured, I’ve started appreciate the role that the happening of loss plays in our lives. Life is a fragile thing, even when it doesn’t feel that way all of the time. I’ve experienced loss in my life, I only know of a few people who are yet to experience it. Circumstances play a part in terms of where to place blame on the sadness and even anger that you feel from loss. But sometimes the circumstance isn’t great and the loss simply shouldn’t have happened.

I think loss rattles us and brings up feelings you never even knew you had in you. This year and late last year I saw two dear friends experience loss and both had completely different situations that brought about the loss. But it was interesting then in contrast to see how both of my friends  has similar experiences in terms of how to possibly deal with the emotions of loss.

I write this on Mother’s Day, thinking of those I love who don’t have their mother to spend this day with. It’s something incredibly hard because that person who was once in your life is truly irreplaceable. No matter the individual strength of the relationship between mother and child, it is something that holds importance and is special in its own way.

When it comes to loss, I would firstly say that it’s something that happens and is something we must accept as part of life without a choice in the matter. I know that’s crappy and doesn’t really have a lot of positives but maybe, there’s something good to take from that about appreciating the time you have with a loved one. When somebody dies we are left with memories to cherish and hold dear, which of course we all do in our own way.

But for those left behind, death acts as a reminded of the frailty we are faced with. It gives the renewed chance to try our best to appreciate the time we spend each day, month or every once and a while with the ones we love and maybe even make more of an effort to appreciate that the power is in our hands to make the time for people that deserve it, be they family or friends.

Always place value on those around you that we may be sometimes guilty of taking for granted. It’s really about recognising that fact that you’ll truly miss these people when they’re gone and vice versa. Make the most of your time with them and create the memories yourself as I think we all have a role to play.

A slam poet I know recently realised a video for his spoken word poem that deals with appreciating our mothers and the role they play in our lives, demanding our love and respect for simply being themselves. The Irish Times did a feature on it too and I think it’s something spectacular, having seen him perform it himself. Follow the link here: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/watch-mother-s-day-video-reminds-us-we-are-only-given-one-mother-1.3023336?mode=amp

We have a bit of a habit here in Ireland of not talking about the difficult things and I think death and how the ways that people die come into that. I get that it’s uncomfortable and we create these nicknames and things as escapism from reality. But, from what I’ve seen and experienced of it – dying by suicide is the worse than death as a result of any disease. It leaves behind a heavier grief, an impossible one. So please, if you’re having any form of suicidal thoughts be they big or small, seek the help that you deserve and should get. Your life is as valuable as anybody else’s.

http://www.yourmentalhealth.ie/about-mental-health/common-problems/mental-health-problems/suicidal-thoughts/

http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/different-ways-you-can-get-touch/what-happens-when-i-email

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series find five

21 blog posts series find five

Five: “Valuing and appreciating individual friends”

Friends are valuable things and I’ve come to realise recently that really, you can never have enough. They’ve addictive things, like a good box of chocolates. Now what’s good about the fancy chocolates you get? I’d personally say that it’s how each is a specially selected chocolate that has its own specific identity, and you have your favourites sure but you appreciated the individually of all.

You’re not going to be ungrateful for a box of chocolates just because you like some more than others.

This is the same of friends. What I’ve found is that sure, it’s great to have your old reliables, the quick fix that you know exactly what to expect from. Keep those close as they’re a necessity. Always appreciate the role they have in your life in terms of them always being there and close at hand.

But, have the oddballs and irregulars too. I find that a great way to do this is to have specific friends that are based on the mood you’re in or the mood you want to be in. If you’ve a bitchy or gossipy friend and you’re in the mood for a goss sesh, go straight to them. It’ll be a laugh if you’re in a foul mood.

If you’ve a friend with opposite views to you on things, don’t underestimate the value of this. If you don’t surround yourself with people who have varying views possibly different to your own, you aren’t being challenged to new thinking. You can even get yourself into something of a bubble affect where you only see one world view. Not ideal I’m fairly sure I’m right in saying.

Basing friends off your mood can be something great as you spread your friendship about. But no matter what, always appreciate each friendship no matter what level it’s at. The great thing about friendships is that they’re entirely unique to just you and somebody else. But as well as this, it’s a two way street.

You have to make time for friends. If you really do care about somebody as your friend, not having the time to meet them for a coffee or a quiet drink is something that can really hurt someone or even get on their nerves. Even if there’s no badness intended in your action, do you really want your friend feeling like that?

These sorts of things can cause bad feelings between friends and the last thing you want to do is fight with friends. It’s something that digs deep into you. Friends are people we’ve given our trust to, time and of course dedication. So feeling an unease there is something that leaves a definite uncertainty.

So with things like that, I’d always say it’s better to have things out in the air to settle it as soon as possible. Time moves very fast and allowing things to build up can have a real ripple effect and even appear in the form of an outburst that can change a friendship completely. So, best to be avoided wouldn’t you agree?

On that note I’d finally say: never exclude and always give some form a chance to people, out of simple respect. For the sake of the time you’ve given to a person: all the text messages, snapchat streaks, lazy days in front of the TV and adventurous summer activities among secrets and all important laughs shared – everyone deserves a second chance. If not, were all of those things meaningless? Prove to the friend of yours that they weren’t and don’t be the first to give up.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/