*freaks out that we are almost halfway through the year*
As Mental Health Awareness Week falls in May, I wanted this months reflection questions to prompt us to focus on the things that make us smile, as well as addressing whether we are looking after ourselves enough.
Here are the questions:
What made you smile this month? List those things.
When did you feel happiest in your skin? Why?
Did you maintain balance in your life this month? Is there anything you need to change in order to achieve this?
Did you have a particularly bad day this month? What happened? How did you handle it? Is there a way you can handle it better?
Why are you unique? What makes you, you?
How did you practice self care this month? How can you make sure you practice it enough in June?
This month I felt amazing when…
all my love,
(p.s. you can sign up for my monthly newsletter here)
I think that we can all agree that April was a pretty depressing news month (apart from the Old Town Road remix release obvs). We’ve seen natural catastrophes, horrific acts of terror and political chaos hit the headlines. Being constantly bombarded with news like this can lead us to feel helpless and apathetic, so I have decided to include some reflection questions that allow us to think about how we can make changes to our communities, and in turn, the world.
Before we start, I would like to acknowledge that doing too much can lead to burnout, remember that to be able to help others, you need to love yourself first. If you need a reminder of the importance of self care, read this.
As always, you do not have to answer all of these questions, they are merely a starting point for you to use in order to dive into your own time of reflection.
Take a deep breath, here we go:
Which adjective describes how I feel about this month?
Which colour represents how I feel about this month?
Is there a particular news story/issue that has bothered me recently? (e.g. climate change/terrorism/lack of democracy/homelessness) Why is it bothering me? How can I turn this negative emotion into a positive?
Can I get involved in volunteering in this area within my local community?
Are there any books/podcasts/online courses that will help me to understand this issue on a deeper level?
Can I make any small changes to my routine to save the planet? (e.g. investing in a reusable water bottle, walking instead of driving, remembering my reusable bags at the supermarket, eating less meat) If yes, what is that change and how can I turn it into a goal?
How does watching the news/reading the paper/scrolling through Twitter moments make me feel? Is it a positive, negative or neutral emotion? Can I change my browsing patterns to advance up the emotional scale?
How can I bring more harmony in my life?
I hope you enjoyed reflecting this month, here’s to a happy and healthy May!
p.s. If you missed the previous monthly reflection posts, find them here:
This month we’re going to talk about gadgets/social media usage and the impact it has on our self-esteem/mental health. We all fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the pristine personas presented to us online, even though we do not know the trauma and challenges that individual has faced behind the scenes. We want their success and to know how they achieved it, but we don’t want to know about or experience any of the messy stuff.
For the LONGEST TIME I had vehemently denied that social media has a negative effect on my self image. Nowadays I’m happy to post an ugly photo of myself and my 74 chins on insta, but when I was in my teens I would take hundreds of selfies in different poses until I could find the ‘perfect’ one, and even then I would focus on it until I hated it entirely. Although I’m fairly body positive now, there are still occasions where a combination of comparison and endless scrolling gets the better of me.
Obviously I am a big believer in using social media for good, there are so many exciting social justice initiatives that have been born out of/promoted by social media. Y’all also know that I love insta, I post something every hecking day BUT it can sometimes be overwhelming and quite frankly a waste of time that could otherwise be spent productively. The new screen time feature on my phone has really helped me to check myself.
My hope is that these questions will help us all to evaluate how we are using socials currently & how we can use them to cultivate healthy mindsets and relationships with ourselves going forward. Here we go:
Am I spending too much time on my phone? If yes, what activity could I replace this with? (personally attacked by this one)
Do I need to unfollow some social media accounts that make me feel negatively about myself?
Did I see something on social media that made me feel positive/good about myself?
Have I learnt anything new this month? Why/why not?
When was the last time I changed up my routine? Do I need to do this more often?
If you missed them, check out the previous reflection posts from January and February.
My April challenge to you is: post about how you REALLYYYYY feel on instagram. (I know this is not helpful/applicable to everyone, but if you feel like you can put yourself out there, give it a go). Here’s to more transparent and honest interactions.
I was born in Salford, a working class area of the North West. We were skint at times and therefore absolutely loved a bargain. Huge hauls from Primarni, getting pirated dvds off the local market and buying other people’s junk at car boots were the norm.
Growing up, I always bought my clothes from high street shops, starting off with Tammy Girl at BHS and moving onto New Look, Forever 21, Zara, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge (the very predictable list goes on and on). At one point when I was around 16 almost every single item of clothing I owned was from Topshop. If I’m honest, I wasn’t completely ingnorant to the unethical nature of the sweat shops that these clothes came from, but at the time all I was concerned about was the cost to me (aka my mum).
Those of you that have followed me for a while now will know that I’m pretty passionate about calling out the fast fashion industry for being damaging to both people and the environment. However, I only really got into buying vintage and second hand clothing when I began earning my own money just before I started university.
FACT: Buying from ethical clothing brands/second hand shops is more EXPENSIVE. I don’t need to cite 83 sources for you to believe me, we all know that a 5 pack of primark undies is a whole lot cheaper than one pair of knickers made from recycled fabric in an all female studio in East London.
Thinking about the cost of sustainable clothing has led me to this question: Is investing in ‘conscious fashion’ a viable option for low income individuals and families?
As somebody who follows and interacts with others from the ethical fashion community, I have encountered blanket statements such as “if we ALL changed the way we shopped, we could save the planet!”. I have been guilty of using this kind of rhetoric myself in the past. Now that I think about it from a more critical perspective, can we ALL change the way we shop?
Are we assuming that those who don’t buy from sustainable brands are doing it because they don’t want a more ethical world for all? Or is it simply because they don’t have enough/any disposable income? Are they just thinking about how they are going to put food on the table?
Are we privileged if we can buy ethically?
Are we asserting that this is the best way to live and the way that everybody should be living?
I realise that this is just a stream of consciousness stemming from my thoughts about ethical fashion, but I hope it helps you to think about this issue too.
Instead of shaming people with facts and figures about those that suffer at the hands of fast fashion, perhaps it is time for us to offer cost-effective solutions. Let’s encourage people to make small changes that have a significant impact over time. We can swap clothes with friends, recycle old clothes, wash our clothes on a lower temperature, buy from charity shops etc.
We are lucky that we are able to shop ethically, we shouldn’t take it for granted. We shouldn’t use our privilege to humiliate others.
As always, shout me on instagram with your thoughts.
I hope February has served you well so far and you are ready to reflect! This month contains more general reflection questions that I like to ask myself regularly. In the coming months, I will focus specifically on different spheres of life that we can all work on like career, family and health. Until then, enjoy the following reflection time!
Find somewhere cosy, pour yourself a brew, get your notebook out and be ready to reflect on your February victories, lessons and inspirations.
This months questions:
What was the most memorable part of this past month? Describe it.
What were the three biggest lessons you’ve learnt this past month?
What events/books/films impacted you the most this month?
Did I fully enjoy whatever I was doing this month? Was I really here or was I just showing up?
What was your most empowering moment this month?
Did I have an authentic conversation? Who was it with? What was it about?
Happy Valentine’s Day hunnies! I’m here to talk about LOVING YOURSELF for once.
Those that have known me for a long time know that I have always wanted to be doing all of the things all of the time. Since I was around 16 years old, my desire to live a big life has driven me to fill my schedule until it’s bursting at the seams. I never wanted to miss out on any opportunity to expand my life or the lives of those around me.
Growing up in church, I was always told that I will go on to do big things and have a large influence in other people’s lives. This, along with my passion for changing the world, drove me to volunteer as many of my spare hours away on top of my school, work and personal life. I consistently felt like I could ALWAYS be doing more, even when the only free time I had with myself was when I was in bed asleep.
This trend continued when I moved to London to go to uni. I quickly became involved in a plethora of activities. As well as working and studying, I volunteered at a local care home, ran fundraising activities for my netball club, played netball 3 times a week, served in church at least twice a week, attended various political/activist events around London regularly and tried to have some sort of social life. At one point in my second year, I was going to bed around midnight every Friday night after leading a youth connect group and getting up at 5am on Saturday morning to work a shift at Sainsbury’s (having also got up at 5am on the Friday to work).
It’s safe to say that I was exhausted, most days I wasn’t eating properly and when I did eat a meal it was usually microwaved. However, I kept going, people told me I was a girl boss, “you’re so busy” was a compliment to me. I found it difficult to take time out for myself to relax, one of my housemates used to take the mick out of me because I’d have a bath for 15-20 minutes and then have to get out.
This all came to a head in February 2018. I had been making regular visits to the doctors at uni because of various symptoms that were unusual for me. After multiple blood and other tests were conducted, my doctor delivered the verdict: all of your symptoms are stress related. This wasn’t deduced from the state of my physical health alone. Every time I visited her I was carrying a fundraising bucket with me or some other piece of netball or volunteering equipment. She told me that if I carry on living for other people I eventually won’t have anything else to give. Although I had been told this countless times in the past by friends, family, leaders, managers and pastors, that was my moment of truth. I realised that consistently burning myself out like this was costing both my mental and physical health. I broke down in her office and knew that this was the day that I had to change the way I was living.
I started to make changes. I was more honest with people when I felt that I didn’t have the time or energy to complete a task. I stepped down from a few of my responsibilities. Initially I experienced feelings of guilt because of this, particularly when I stopped serving in church. I didn’t share these feelings with people because I felt that they were silly, I knew that I shouldn’t be feeling that way when I was prioritising my health.
On the surface this was a really successful time of my life, I graduated with a First in my degree, the netball club won loads of awards and I was seen as some kind of wonderwoman. Although I did still have fun times during this period, a lot of it came at a great cost to my mental and physical health.
Fast forward to February 2019. I’m living in rural Norway and I’m about 586% more relaxed than I was 12 months ago. In fact, I only realised whilst writing this that it’s been a whole hecking year since I was at breaking point. When I visited my doctor on that day in February 2018, she told me that I needed to have the most selfish 6 months of my life. This was one of the things that motivated my decision to move to the middle of nowhere instead of taking an office job in London.
Moving to Norway has been a massive help to me. I’ve learnt the importance of living a slow life. Busyness doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity. Even though I’m a lot less active in this community, I’ve learnt not to feel guilty about it. I’ve spent a lot more time working on my personal development, reflecting on my feelings, reading, crafting, baking, meditating, just being.
If any of this resonates with you, please understand the importance of your NO. Not every opportunity is for you. Please understand the importance of time out, time to feed your soul, time to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Your mental and physical health is so so so important, you only get one body in this lifetime, please look after it.
Conclusion: You can’t be booked and busy 24/7. Find ways to practice self care that work for you. Schedule them into your weekly or monthly routine. Whether it looks like a long bath or a cross country run, please get it done.
Recently I delivered a presentation on African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to a group of second year IB students and it felt like studying linguistics at university for three years was actually worth it! So, I’ve decided to turn it into a lil blog post about AAVE. This article will cover the origins of African American Vernacular English, the attitudes towards AAVE as a variety, AAVE and viral internet culture and the appropriation of AAVE features by non-native speakers.
What is AAVE? Where did it come from?
African American Vernacular English is a variety of English natively spoken by some working and middle class African Americans, particularly in urban communities. It is worth noting that not all black American’s speak AAVE and not all those who speak AAVE are black. Just like any other language, AAVE is spoken by those who grow up around other AAVE speakers.
Although there are opposing linguistic theories in regards to the evolution of AAVE, there is no denying that the variety was born out of slavery. When people of different cultures and languages were torn from their homes and transported to North America, they needed a way to communicate with each other. One theory called the Creole Origin Hypothesis argues that, “the first contact between English speakers and speakers of other languages led to the formation of a Creole language with an English superstrate but strong pan-African grammatical influences — meaning lots and lots of English words, but still a distinct language from English” (languagejones.com).
AAVE is also sometimes referred to as “black vernacular English” or “ebonics” (however this is a term that is not favoured by linguists). For more information about the origins of AAVE, check out this short YouTube video.
What does AAVE sound like?
In terms of language families, AAVE shares are large portion of it’s grammar and phonology with the rural dialects of the US. Instead of boring you with a list of linguistic features of AAVE, I will instead reference a few videos (many of which became viral internet sensations) which feature speakers of AAVE. Here are three examples:
Other examples of AAVE features include: “he be workin” “he sleepin” “she a student” “I ain’t see nothing” “Wes’ Side” “dis/dey/dat”
Attitudes to AAVE
Although as linguists we know that AAVE is a legitimate and fully fledged variety of English, this is not how AAVE is viewed in popular culture. The layperson’s attitude to African American Vernacular English is often one of deficit. People may often refer to speakers of AAVE as ‘uneducated’ or ‘ignorant’, asserting that the variety is simply standard English with mistakes and slang added in.
Although this could be brushed off as a non-issue, we know that the stigmatisation of AAVE has serious implications for institutions and services that do not recognize AAVE as legitimate. For example, during Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign trail Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commented that Obama “could be successful thanks, in part, to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”” (CNN). Evidently, Reid is suggesting that in order to be successful in politics, one must not converse in a dialect that is indicative of his or her blackness.
This prejudice towards AAVE is particularly prevalent in the courtroom, as evidenced in the 2013 trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. You can find the fast facts of the case here. As Zimmerman has already admitted to shooting Martin, the trial was to determine whether he committed murder/manslaughter or if he was acting in self defence under the Stand Your Ground law in Florida.
The star witness for the prosecution was Rachel Jeantel, a 19-year-old black high school student and Trayvon Martin’s best friend. She was on the phone to Trayvon moments before he was approached and shot dead by Zimmerman, she was the last person to hear his voice. Evidently, her testimony was a crucial piece of evidence in the attempt to convict Zimmerman. However, this testimony was dismissed as “incomprehensible and not credible“, never being discussed or acknowledged in the 16 hours of jury deliberation. Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter. The jury stated that he was acting in self-defence. Critics argue that Jeantel’s testimony being discredited played a major role in Zimmerman being found not guilty. This trial also demonstrates how speakers of AAVE can be demonized and treated as unintelligent, particularly by the media.
The linguistic discrimination Jeantel experienced from the defence attorneys, the newspapers and the public is abhorrent and unjustified. There are few things so disenfranchising as being silenced for the language that you speak.
AAVE and Viral Internet Culture
The rise of viral internet culture has seen speakers of African American Vernacular English gain traction on YouTube, Vine, in memes and on Twitter. As well as African American people gaining notoriety and references like “eyebrows on fleek” and “ain’t nobody got time for that” becoming commonplace in the vocabularies of young people, we began to see non-native speakers of AAVE starting to use features of the variety. Many of these people used AAVE to sell their brand or product, in the punchlines of their comedy sketch for example.
Take singer/rapper Iggy Azalea for example, as she was born in Sydney she is a native speaker of Australian English. When interviewed, Azalea speaks in her native Australian English (example here), however, in her Hip Hop tracks she utilises features of African American Vernacular English (example here). PhD student Christian Ilbury wrote a research paper that studied her appropriation of AAVE and found that Iggy uses zero features of the variety in interview.
Why does she choose to use features of AAVE in her music only?
Is it okay to use AAVE features if its not your native language?
Does society teach us that black culture look better on non-black people?
This is my ALL TIME FAVOURITE RECIPE. As I’m living in Norway, sourcing creme eggs is lucrative business. Thankfully, my dad visited last weekend and gifted me with 24. LET’S BAKE!
185g dark chocolate (I recommend Bournville)
185g unsalted butter
85g plain flour
40g cocoa sugar
275g caster sugar (yes that much)
6 Creme Eggs (fridge cold and halved)
makes 12 brownies
One Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Melt the butter and chocolate together, the easiest way to do this is by using the microwave in 30 second bursts. Can also be done in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Once melted put to one side. I recommend using a PYREX jug like the one pictured below.
Two In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until almost mousse-like. This will take a good few minutes and it will be pale and have doubled in volume and size. Although whisking by hand is a pain in the backside, the texture is better than when using a mixer.
Three Add this to the cooled melted butter/chocolate and combine it all together.
Four Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and gently fold it in. Make sure that all of the dry ingredients are folded in, checking the bottom of the bowl thoroughly.
Five Pour mixture into a regular baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Six Whilst the brownie mixture is in the oven, remove the Creme Eggs from the fridge and halve them, which should leave you with 12 halves. (don’t worry if this step is messy, I’m convinced this task is more difficult than open heart surgery).
Seven Remove the baking tin from the oven and place the Creme Egg halves on top of the brownie, evenly spaced, before placing back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
Eight Remove the brownies from the oven and leave in the tray or on a cooling rack until cooled. When cool, cut into 12 slices. If the brownie mix still appears rather sticky, DON’T PANIC! They will eventually become more solid but with an excellently gooey middle.
Have a crack at making these at home! Send me photos of your finished products on Instagram and Twitter.
For me, January has absolutely FLOWN BY, I can’t believe it’s already the last weekend. I’m writing this from my hotel room in Bergen whilst listening to Floss’ General Bops on Spotify. My dad is visiting so I’m escaping from penniless volunteer life and getting treated to meals out, new lush products and a lovely hotel stay for the weekend!
My hope is that you’re reading this and feeling that your year has got off to a good start, but, I know from speaking to a few of my friends that this hasn’t been the case for all of us. DON’T PANIC. There are still 11 months of potential left (and literally YEARS left after that!). The reason I decided to share my experience of reflecting is that it really helps me to identify areas of my life that I am paying either too much or not enough attention to. Sometimes life passes us by so quickly that if we don’t take time to reflect, we won’t evolve or advance.
I find that the easiest way to reflect is by asking yourself questions. I will provide a different list of questions each month to guide your reflection, but feel free to look back at the posts and continue using the bank of questions each month.
In terms of the areas you can reflect on, have a think about your progress in these areas this month: career, finance, education, health (mental and physical), family life, relationships, social life, attitude. This is obviously not en exhaustive list but perhaps a good place to start.
I find it helpful to write down my answers so that I can go back and look at them later on in the year to see if I have progressed. I realise that this does not work for everyone, so try and find something that works for you? Perhaps recording your answers via voice note or video. You may also find it helpful to share your reflections with a close friend so that you can keep each other accountable.
What were my top 10 achievements this month?
What did I learn this month?
What were my distractions/mental blocks/fears?
How did I make myself feel good?
Who were the people that I learned from and who inspired me?
What did not happen? Why? What actions can I take to improve?
What are the greatest insights I have gained over the past month?
How do I feel about my progress this month? How did I stay in the flow of allowing and enjoying the journey regardless of the outcome?
What obstacles or fears did I encounter inside myself?
What did I learn from watching my emotional vibration daily? What was the most common negative emotion? How did I accept, let go and move up the emotional scale?
Use your responses to these questions to help set goals to achieve in February. We typically think of goals as adding things to our lives, but remember that a goal can look like maintaining an achievement/mood/habit or doing less of something.
Tusen takk for reading! Please contact me if you have any queries/feedback.