21 blog posts series take twenty one

21 blog posts series take twenty one

Twenty-one: “The final, the future”

So as we draw this blog series to a close together, we come to the number that represents the age I am now. I think birthdays remind us that we’re equal, being celebrated for being born and growing older. Nobody can take your birthday away from you, no matter what age you are. So as we draw the curtain on this series, which I hope you enjoyed or got something out of, I’d like to make this post about the future. I see the future as something positive, with the sense of unknown possibilities to come.

Now this wasn’t always the case for me. I spent my secondary school life waiting and dreading the Leaving Certificate and often I thought about the hassle of final year when I began studying in college. It’s because we know we’ve to face challenges in our future and in the present time, we may not feel ready and so that creates a sense of fear. A good few friends of mine are in final year, preparing for exams and ultimately finishing their undergraduate degrees and for some, being finished with college forever.

Should that create a sense of panic? I guess it depends on how you look at it. But in so many ways, the future is inevitable and really being scared about it proves little purpose. Change is unavoidable and it’s really up to us whether or not we change with the times. But honestly, we probably aren’t being very fair to the idea of progress if we don’t at least try along the way. I’m excited for the future to see how much the world will change in my life time and how I’ll react to that change.

It’s amazing to think of what the future might bring about. Whether that be new friends and family members, relationships, break-ups, jobs, joys and challenges – all aspects that make up a life. I think a weight is lifted once you decide to accept life’s positives and negatives simply as they are. Blame the universe or God or whoever you want, even yourself if there’s an element of fault there but that acceptance of life happening without your complete control is often a hard lesson to learn but one we all must face up to.

The future is ever changing and honestly, exciting enough. All these blog posts I’ve done covering pretty varying topics, I hope will stand the test of time and be carried on into the future. Life doesn’t really change overnight a lot of the time and often we’re too wrapped up our own things to notice the future happening. Age for the most part brings wisdom and we must remember that we are setting examples for the generations to come, whether this be close relatives or even work colleagues – we all have a part to play in this.

I don’t think age matters when it comes to having an independent thought or opinion, having an “established voice” in order to be right about something. That’s not always the case and young people should be encouraged to speak out, with importance placed on their confidence and ability to speak their minds without being deemed “cheeky” or ill mannered. We’re all being educated well and I’d like to think we can form a thought or two, and shouldn’t be afraid to voice it when we have it.

So thinking to a future without fear, may you: reflect, appreciate the ability to travel, attend the events that mean something to you, avoid the pitfalls in relationships, value and appreciate individual friends, understand that loss happens and plays a role, appreciate the lessons of history, know the curse of social media, not apologise for your preferences, learn from mentors and appreciate wisdom, manage your money, respect the responsibility nature demands, appreciate sport and athleticism, question in order to understand politics, be kind to your body and yourself, find common ground within family, recognise change in journalism, know and trust the power of your own voice, expect the unexpected, be welcoming to refugees and finally – understand that the future is not something to be afraid of.

(And if you realised that they are all the titles of these blog posts, well done – I now declare you’re a fan).

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

21 blog posts series know nineteen

21 blog posts series know nineteen

Nineteen: “Expecting the unexpected”

Now not to steal a line from the RSA, but not only does driving involve expecting the unexpected, in life we should remind ourselves to try and maintain that same mentality. We don’t know what might happen tomorrow or next month and so on, the unexpected is never too far away. Does that mean that we live in fear and refuse to go outside the door? I’d like to hope not. The unexpected occurrence doesn’t necessarily have to be negative, but for the most part – it can mean something that’ll change your lifestyle or how things were before this vital change of events.

Whatever your opinion is on fate or things happening for a reason, it’s impossible really to have complete control over what is going to happen in our lives. Not to scare the control freaks out there, but this is very true. You don’t know who you might meet, what you might see and what could stay with you in the form of a lasting memory or something having a lasting affect. I think these things often can give us an opportunity to reflect as well, which shouldn’t be knocked as I’ve said before somewhere.. (https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/the-first-of-21-blog-posts/).

What I can say is that life is going to shock you and leave you feeling a little insecure at times. But often, it’s a form of a test, if you want to look at it that way. Can you overcome a challenge, big or small or will you crumble in defeat before it? I think both reactions are respectable and understandable and it’s about having the support around you when these things happen in order to tackle the challenge knowing that you’re not alone. I don’t think that life waits for anyone and it’s up to us to keep up and keep going, constantly.

The unexpected things also teach us not to take things for granted in terms of the way they are simply. This is true of people as well. When someone falls ill unexpectedly, it’s really up to those close by to pick up the pieces and really play their role in the time of need. When someone of any age falls ill mentally, physically or even discovers a disease or disability – this presents a new changing challenge for the person and those around them. It means we all pull our weight a bit more to help and that we get on with it, living in hope that together it can something to overcome.

I think that this brings about something that’s universally understood: that this sort of unfairness that happens to people can happen to anyone. This challenges your sense of humanity and I think that’s when your humanity is challenged, in terms of whether you help or whether you turn your back to the reality someone else is facing, this is the real test of who you are. Our impressions of how people react to these situations also helps us to understand people at their core, individually. We don’t know how we’ll be in that sort of situation until we face it head on. I know it’s not something we desire to be in, but the reality is that we will have to face it in some shape or form.

These challenges change us and shape us and although often difficult, they should be embraced in some way, I suppose even in a process of reflection. I would recommend, holding on to your values as much as possible throughout these times. Whether it’s a loss or a gain you encounter, you must prove to yourself that one incident isn’t going to change who you are and what you value forever. Possibly easier said than done, but over time can be something to accept.

All photos are taken from my personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series sixteen

21 blog posts series sixteen

Sixteen: “Finding common ground within family”

They say you can’t choose your family, like this is a bad thing. But it’s not necessarily, because you can choose to accept your family members for the individuals that they are and appreciate the role they play and have played in your life up to now. We all know families are complex, family secrets and irregularities are fairly common place when you think about it. But when you begin to appreciate your family, you can then go about coming to terms with your roots and be proud of the differences within family more than anything else.

Change occurs in the lives of those in your family and I think the best thing for anyone to do, is to accept this change wholeheartedly. This brings about the realisation that you can’t really pack up and start an entirely new family from scratch. Those connections we are born with and make along the way are still going to hang around. Individual things such as shared memories stick in your mind and honestly, others can always trace you back to where you started from so there’s no point in trying to hide where you came from.

More often than not, a family is a place to call home in terms of them being settled in a place or being surrounded by certain people easily identifiable. They’re never too far away and it’s important to remember and appreciate that fact. There’s a connection there that is unique and it comes in the form of knowing that something special that you share with your relatives. Whether this be parents or grandparents, these people know better than your friends what those people mean or meant to you and the relationship you once shared.

One thing of importance to note about family is that absolutely guaranteed, they’ll know you better than you can possibly imagine. They’ve watched and seen you at every stage, every phase and you really can’t hide too many things from them. I can also say that for the most part they’ll have your back and defend you to the bitter end. What we need to realise that a family isn’t complete without its people to make up the pieces, and play their individual role. We can have a laugh and reminisce on the similarities in the family, how we might do things alike or even follow the same interests – this is really important. But the differences are essential too. Outcasts shouldn’t exist in families.

Disagreements, arguments and fall outs can happen within families and really that tarnishes things if they aren’t handled in the best way. What I’ve learned is that losing an argument is not a hard price to pay in order to keep the peace. There’s a little bit of self control involved in this is knowing your relative well enough to know where and when that point is, that point of no return, to be aware of it and not to go on further. I would say voice your concerns if you disagree with someone’s actions but remember: you will still have to look this person in the face again tomorrow and the next day, so definitely decide beforehand if it’s worth it. A little bit of forgiveness goes a long way in family.

To those reading this who may not identify with any of this, I’d recommend reaching out – no matter how difficult it may seem. Rekindling a family relationship is probably something tougher than that of a friendship. But, if a small bit of forgiveness is what it takes to reconnect with someone you’ve lost who you once cared for, that’s not such a big thing. You can still remain headstrong, knowing you were right deep down but for the sake of peace, keeping it to yourself when you need to.

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

21 blog posts series find fifteen

21 blog posts series find fifteen

Fifteen: “Being kind to your body and in turn, yourself”

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Body Image Movement’s Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary film “Embrace”. I would highly recommend seeing this as a woman, as it brings about the feeling of acceptance of yourself and appreciation of other women. The piece expressed simply joys within celebrating our differences in a completely positive way by hearing personal stories while exposing the harsh realities of plastic surgery, dieting and the role of mass media. The documentary covered continents and we met some very different people along the way, but the one topic of embedded negativity towards body image prevailed. Some exposures were made of the darkness within the modelling world and the film also looked to aging and how this is seen as something to be tackled instead of embraced.

A magazine editor and a fashion photographer were also met with, who exposed the harsh truths of the unbelievable power of photo-shop as well as the often cruel world of designers as well as the misleading terms used in fashion, such as “plus sized” describing a UK size 12 woman, who fit in with average sized weight and height guidelines set. It’s a crazy different world that we’re exposed to and shown as normal every single day. The picture perfect model was often described as an “alien” due to the fact that with the work of photo-shop, this woman actually did not exist in terms of looking how she does in the magazine.

Every issue that came up from the women who told their stories, (who are incredible in their own right, I might add simply as modern women) – was rooted in beauty standards we see as normal and set in our world. Depression, self-harm and even a near suicide arose as difficulties faced when these women felt they didn’t fit the mould for what a woman should look like and in turn, be – with such a high value placed on appearance in our social norms. We are sold an idea through the mass media of how we should look like, what’s in trend this season and what new fad diet can “change your life” in order to make things better.

Taryn showed how indeed, even when you’ve reached the “perfect body”, (the bikini body example we are all too familiar with) that there’s absolutely no guarantee that this will result in happiness. It all comes back to positive versus negative thinking around our bodies and which outweighs the other. These fad diets promote negative thinking towards body image and can develop into obsession that is in no way healthy. I think in the way that these diet plans work and hook a person, we are taught the idea that the body you have is something bad that needs correcting or to be fixed and worked on. But that simply isn’t the case.

Naturally, your body goes through changes throughout your life. The documentary also went about looking into our war we have with aging and this embedded fear that the beauty companies are cashing in on. It made me realise that whatever stage you’re at in life, your body is going to be with you regardless, so really – you don’t want to put yourself against it. Bring it back to asking simply, why would you want to do that?

As a woman, you can undergo pregnancy and your weight can and will fluctuate, how does it make logical sense to hate your body for doing what it does and should do naturally? For creating your family and providing your baby with the nourishment he/she needs and craves. Now, going on a health kick for yourself from time to time is something good in order to feel refreshed and energised, resulting in proven health benefits but really the idea of punishment – this has no place in your workout routine.

It’s okay to treat yourself and it’s okay to work hard on you, it’s not okay to feel bad about either of these. We need to change our mentality around weight and weight loss. The celebrity diets and the scandalous headlines about losses or gains cannot continue to influence us. It lacks dignity and respect for the minds and souls of women as individuals. So I suggest approaching the magazines with caution, be aware on social media for negative body imaging or messages and allow this natural and positive change into your life. Your body will stick with you no matter what, as a friend rather than a foe.

If you wish to find out more about the Body Image Movement, check out the website here: https://bodyimagemovement.com/.

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

21 blog posts series find fourteen

21 blog posts series find fourteen

Fourteen: “Questioning in order to understand politics”

Politics is a tough thing, ever-changing and ever unpredictable (for the most part). I have understanding for those who can become disillusioned with politics because of the nature in the way that it is. But I would hope that this disillusion would be something temporary. I understand that when the results of elections, referenda on a big or small scale don’t come together for you – that could push your interest away on a human level due to disappointment or lack of support.

But I think once something has been passed into law or someone has been elected in, the debate has not stopped, the playing field has just changed up a bit. Are your views or opinions going to change over night? Not exactly. Often, election results present to us the view of the nation. The winner or loser knows their place and the citizens must adapt accordingly. But is that the real picture? If you look to the amount of spoiled votes and those who didn’t cast a vote at all, sometimes those levels can be astonishing and honestly, disheartening.

So what can we do to get people more focused in on politics, to act out their role and entitlement in contributing to the future of a country? I’m currently writing an academic paper on political satire and it’s place within mainstream journalism/news. One scholar notes how political satire can act as an introduction to political issues on an larger scale, being that bit more engaging and emotive. Do we need to be emotionally driven to go out and vote or is the element of duty strong enough?

Both are up for questioning here. If we aren’t happy with a politician, political party or even a Taoiseach, I think we have the right to hold them to account as members of the electorate. We were the ones who voted them in their based on what we conceived as their ability and commitment to the policies they wished to evoke. If they aren’t doing what they said they would do, peoples’ own power should come into play here. Or else, what’s the point in being involved at all?

We are seeing a lot of this recently with the number of strikes and public protests or rallies in the last number of months. I find this public participation something to truly admire. It shows the lack of fear that exists and of course the belief in the power of having a voice to back up your view. I think this activism allows us to question the way things are and really if our way of living is up to scratch. Protests are rooted in history and marked for a reason so I feel we should never live in fear of voicing our views.

As well, support is key in political protest in terms of lending a helping hand to the cause of our fellow citizens. This can come in the form of men marching at the Women’s March or those who took part in the Strike 4 Repeal campaign on International Women’s Day. Last week those with physical disabilities spoke out at the Irish Government for their lack of supports and the fact that standard law regulations set by the EU/UN has not been passed here on disability rights. Here we could see people from all different backgrounds supported by family and friends out for the cause.

I think this encouragement is vital when a group has the courage to step up against an oppressor. Even at the moment with the Bus Eireann and public transport strikes, I have seen those with no fixed personal involvement stand with these workers who feel they are up against it. The question remains, do we all have a part to play? We have the choice whether to participate in any of these campaigns, but as we know, politics is unpredictable. Each and everyone’s role as individuals is vital in some shape or form.

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

21 blog posts series take thirteen

21 blog posts series take thirteen

Thirteen: “Appreciating sport and athleticism”

Sport means something, that’s what I’ve come to learn. Whether it be the community hall annual table tennis tournament, the premier league or even the junior league. Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, team or individual – sport has a deserving place in our lives. Love it or hate it, I feel that you can’t help but admire it. The fact that individuals go to lengths to better their skills and abilities, commit to a team or even follow various ones, it shows a dedication that’s something to think positively about.

Now in all honesty I may not wholeheartedly love a certain team or sport fully, but I do enjoy watching how passionate others are about it and of course the inclusion of those of every age. This comes as I remember the most read article on this blog, a piece from two years ago I did on a football game and triumph from an underdog team locally here in Wicklow. I link to that post here: (https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/newtown-united-come-out-of-their-shells/).

That game was something incredible to be witness too, particularly in the celebratory time afterwards you could really just see and feel how much it meant to everyone and that has stayed with me since. When I was younger I pretty much tried every sport under the sun to see what would stick. There were a few faithful favourites but even now I know I could never be as good again as I once was. This month marks ten years since I competed in the Irish Gymnastics national championships in Belfast and was placed 8th in trampolining. My only claim to sporting fame, really seems like a lifetime ago.

I’ve friends and family who always think back to the sport that was theirs in their youth and there’s often a sense of regret that we didn’t stick at it. I understand that but it’s okay to accept that circumstances change and life moves on and sometimes sport can get mixed up in all of that. Facilities come into play as well as the time you have available to commit to these things. It’s tougher than it may seem and I think these athletes that give it their all week in and week out are champions in their own right for simply doing this and training hard.

When you look at the bigger tournaments like the Olympics or World or European Championships, you can’t help but admire the athletes coming from across the globe to represent themselves and their country in so many sports. I really think that sport is something simple to unite a country rather than segregate it. I know there’s such a thing as hooliganism and often cases of racism in sport, but for the majority of supporters – they’re simply involved to follow a team and to purely enjoy seeing what their men or women do best.

Athleticism is something excellent. Whether you work out alone in the gym or you show up for your team each week on the field, you’re doing something worthwhile in my view. Not only is being active rewarding for your mental and physical health, it’s something that sets an example for others. I’d love to have a personal trainer just to be in awe of what he or she can do and push others to do as well.

There’s money to be made in sport and I know there are plenty of various outlets cashing in on it but I don’t think it’s all bad. People feel good wearing the emblem of their team or the colours of their country and that little bit of pride goes a long way. The support is so rewarding for athletes that it can nearly be seen on their faces. So go to the matches, watch it on TV, clutch the match day programme tight – because you’re involved in something good that’s unique and special in its own right.

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

21 blog posts series take twelve

21 blog posts series take twelve

Twelve: “The respect and responsibility nature demands”

Recently, NUI Galway students took an initiative to bring about the college to divest money in fossil fuels. Following a petition and an independent report, they were successful and supported by the University and the Students’ Union. What was remarkable about this was that they did not stop there. Following their success, they held a public meeting to generate further ideas about what to do next to the challenge facing the human race and the environment.

I think that this speaks volumes in terms of what we can do and must do as citizens of this planet. It is the people that must have the strength to change their ways and then encourage others to do the same. When we look at the big contributors to climate change, of course the indicators point to large businesses/factories and of course the oil and gas companies. We are consumers and this is the service we are receiving. If we aren’t happy with the service provided in terms of how the environment, our home is being treated – don’t we have the right to demand a change?

I would think that we do. Climate affects everything from what we do, how we do it to the food we eat and clothes we wear. It really is everything and without a healthy climate, wouldn’t everyday life be utterly changed? Change is never easy especially when we’re used to doing things a certain way, but when you look at the bigger picture here, it’s clear that changes are needed. We have endangered species, changing landscapes and ozone layer above our heads to protect. To really get the idea into our heads, it’s important to think ahead to the future of the planet.

The population is rising and technology is booming, as the first world grows – there’ll be more demands on resources and if current trends follow on, the inequality gap between rich and poor is surely to extend. This in turn could result in more people on the poverty line and a climate trying to cope with change as well as its people and governments. Interestingly, last month NUI Galway hosted TD Simon Coveney to present a discussion on how Ireland will be in 2040. Topics were discussed about what we can expect and plan for, from how people will work to where they would live. Obviously this is much down the line, but again it was something rewarding to experience that the country is investing in planning and realises the importance of input from everyone.

It comes back to the power of peoples voices to tackle challenges that we all face. I think the planet we live on demands respect, dignity and we each should have a sense of responsibility embedded into is. We’re being terribly careless if that is not the case. I understand that we live busy lives but with this, we must think long term. We’ve learned that decisions we make today can change the outcome of tomorrow and this is true too with the climate but on a much larger scale.

We all know that Trump has done a lot of things since coming into office early this year. But one thing that really upset me was the change in direction of dealings with climate. I felt this was an insult to everyone and especially to the idea of progress. It was also an insult to the people behind the previous findings, the academics and those on the ground who had put years of research in on which to base past policies on. I’ve heard the idea that climate change is bad for business but really, it’s about adapting a new way of doing things in order to improve on the current mistakes being made.

Nature is beautiful and we are so rewarded by it each and every day. Think of the beautiful sights within your own land as well as those abroad and it’s clear to see that natural beauty is an extraordinary thing that doesn’t compare to man-made beauty. This is what we are conserving, the enjoyment of nature. We don’t want to take that simple and quaint joy away from future generations.

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