On the road again

20160228_142407Firstly, happy leap day everybody! Secondly, apologies for the recent decline in posts, I have been grappling with more than one coursework crisis involving group work or technology. I keep saying if InDesign was an object I would have burnt it by now. And don’t even get me started on making your own mini book with an online printing company.

Mercifully, last weekend I had an actual holiday. A cold, grey, 48 hour long holiday. But a holiday nonetheless. Anyone remember the Leicester Navigators, Christian mission/Bible study group extraordinaire? Either way, Navs groups across the UK like to gather for a yearly weekend in Blackpool, and it was for the third time that I joined them. Fun times.

The main people I hung out with were the Leics Navs leaders Jonny and Ruth. I’m mentioning them now partly because it was their taxi service I ended up using that weekend, but also because they are great leaders, people and friends even if they don’t admit it (shout out!). Anyway, when we got there, I was left as good as broke after a trip to the nearest (card machine-free) chippy, where I was 5p short. I think the man was joking when he said he’d stick posters of my face on the shop window for theft. Otherwise… I’m innocent!

After eating chips in the car till it stank some real fine dining, we arrived at the hotel – an old, formerly pink castle. You know when the view outside is just perfect, with sand, sea and sky as far as the eye can see? If so, enlighten me. My window directly overlooked a turret full of murky water, and on closer inspection, half decomposed boxer pants full of moss and algae. Beautiful.

And the nights. After the first night I complained about being disturbed by shrieking seagulls. In hindsight, I should have taken that as foreshadowing for the second night, when I was woken up by a (probably ex) couple fighting at 2am. Both were swearing, crashing and doorslamming. The woman in particular was hysterically crying and screaming* that she was done with him, and that he would find her dead outside the room the following morning. This went on until 4am with futile intervention by a member of hotel staff. But hey, it was a good breakfast conversation starter.

Disturbed nights aside, I genuinely had fun, despite all the above. Or maybe because. Come on, so many things to laugh at! I might not have caught up on sleep, but after some inspiring Christian talks and some quality bonding time, it was a real emotional and spiritual boost. Plus I made a pact to not worry about not doing coursework, and got there – eventually.

I also deliberately kept a balance between socialising and alone time, and made the most of both. This meant being alone without worrying about being antisocial or missing out, and socialising in a meaningful way, instead of just tolerating being around people. Ruth and I went for a walk along the beach and had a meaningful conversation about different forms of loneliness, and how a pair of boxers can end up outside a 2nd floor window.

Out of all the talks, one of the best ones was about conversations and listening, by a Christian counsellor. Long story short, it taught me three things: 1) actually looking like you’re listening IS important. 2) social skills and writing have one thing in common – both have lots of rules, none of which apply to every situation. 3) we all have very complex stories, which are all part of a much bigger story.

In other words, to wrap up, what I’m trying to say is similar to something Jonny told me on our last morning: the accommodation doesn’t count for everything – it’s the learning, the bonding and the good times that count.

 

 

*As a writer, I don’t usually like using ‘screamed’ as a variation of ‘said’. But then neither do I like being woken up by Jeremy Kyle-esque domestic violence.

Us versus them – which is which?

You know what they’re talking about on the news at the moment? You can bet it includes people, politics, and prejudice, no matter when you’re reading this post. On Facebook these days I see about a gazillion hot topics trending. I don’t know if Facebook has become more news-y or if I’m just better at noticing these things, but I’m going to talk about one particular controversy: people’s attitudes towards race and religion.

Yes, you heard me. If you see another blog post from me, you’ll know I didn’t commit social suicide today after all.

As a student living in today’s society, I have seen more online articles and videos than I care to count. Am I alone in that? Somehow I don’t think so. Looking through comments sections following numerous topics of discussion sometimes makes me feel like losing faith in humanity. People often seem to hype up hate towards Christians, Muslims, refugees, anyone who falls under a social category that may have caused problems for other people in the past. But to me, they’re missing the point. It isn’t having beliefs that’s wrong, and it certainly isn’t heritage. It’s cruelty. Which anyone is capable of and anyone can choose not to commit.

As for ‘we should help our own people first’: why do we prioritise people based on race and not on how much they actually need help? We are all people; there should be no ‘our own vs others’.

One thing I have learnt in recent years is this: we live in a society where too many people think that the way they see the world is the way it works. As a Christian, I don’t know whether to be more saddened by the fact that Christians get labelled as prejudiced, bible-bashing bigots or by certain individuals who do nothing to kill that stereotype. Is Christianity meant to show people how best to live, love and learn? Absolutely. Does it make a believer any more or less of a person? I don’t think so.

Atheists who freely post on the internet that all Christians are indeed prejudiced, bible-bashing bigots are being no better than the people they are accusing, in my opinion. Why should it be right for some social groups to shove certain people into a box but not others? Sadly it’s not just religion versus atheism wars where this is apparent. Cats versus dogs, introverts versus extroverts, Harry Potter versus Twilight? You name it.

I mean, just look at the conflicts that arise as a result, and you will see where I’m coming from. I could think of a million and one comments to add to such things, but am no more likely to do so than a football fan turn off the TV to drive all the way to Manchester so they can shout insults at the losing team. In other words, my stance on topics like that are for me, myself and I. And my blog, occasionally.

One of my principles in life is that the world is too big and complicated for us to ever understand it. I have my beliefs and am always trying to improve my understanding of God, faith, and the world in general. If any belief or opinion of mine is right or wrong, it will be one small thing compared with everything else I am right or wrong about. In short, no one on this earth has all the answers.

So with this principle, what morals do I go by? Keep an eye on your own thoughts and feelings. Accept you won’t always be right, and try to understand where other opinions come from. Above all, treat others with the same care and respect you expect to be treated with; at the end of the day, they are your equal.