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life-rules1I was recently tagged by Emilyannlou to take part in her 5 Rules I Live By series and I’m ready for something unique on my blog, so I agreed. Some (maybe all) of these will make you sit back and think “what a weirdo” but as Emily said in her post, we all are and we should embrace it. Ok, so here goes:

1. I never eat lunch before 12pm.

I don’t know why but I never have and never will. It doesn’t matter if I’m starving from having had no breakfast (which is nearly always), I still have to wait until 12. What is even weirder is that it is only lunch that I have this rule for. I don’t have a similar rule for breakfast or dinner. The more I think about this, the stranger it seems and I really have no reason for it at all.

2. Be kind to everyone until they are unkind to you.

Might seem an obvious one but you’d be surprised how many people I seem to come across who don’t live by this rule. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t offer my seat on public transport to someone who clearly needs it more than I do. I don’t think anything of helping someone or making someone’s life slightly easier in some way and you know what? It makes ME feel good. Writing that reminds me of the Friends episode where Phoebe tries her hardest to find a selfless good deed. I say that it doesn’t matter if you do it for selfish reasons. If you’ve put a smile on someone’s face, who really cares about your motives? Taylor Swift once said “Being kind is a wonderful legacy to leave behind”. Yeah, yeah it is.

3. I cannot control every little thing in my life and I must be OK with that.

This is something that I learned when I was in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy for those of you who don’t know). I have written about it on this blog before but it was a while ago. Around two years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression because I could not stop worrying about everything AND I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt happy so I began taking medication and attending therapy. My therapist was amazing and over the course of a year, she taught me that although I would like to, I cannot control how everything turns out. One of my biggest problems was obsessing over making sure that nothing went wrong in my life. Ever. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that but it is incredibly stressful and really really tiring because *drum roll*… it is, of course, impossible. Who’d have thought, eh? For some reason I didn’t know that a couple of years ago but I have slowly learnt to accept that devastating fact and live with it.

FYI,  I actually JUST had an anxiety-fuelled half an hour while writing this post where I just stopped and couldn’t write because I realised that my house cat had been out for almost the whole day. My chest seized up and my breath shortened for an entire 30 minutes until he showed up at the door. So yeah, I’m not sure that demon will ever be completely exorcised.

I also still have days where I feel incredibly alone and sad especially since my six year relationship ended last September. There are days where I’d much rather stay in bed than go to work and face the world but I no longer take my tablets or go to therapy because finally, it’s not every day anymore. Sometimes I am actually happy to be alive and embrace those days wholeheartedly.  Progress!

4. Escape reality at least once a day.

For me, it’s mainly books. I am very into fantasy and a world full of magic and mystical creatures is as far from the bleakness of reality as possible and so it works for me. As well as the Harry Potter series, which has actually been my only constant companion since I was 10, I also love anything with princesses, superheroes, dragons, demons and ghosts. Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Disney. Throw me into any world that is farfetched, ridiculous but completely beautiful at least once every day forever, please.

5. When in doubt, think “What would Taylor do?”

It will be no secret to anyone who knows me that Taylor Swift is my queen. I love her in the way that most people love Beyonce. Not only do I love her music but I also love her image, her style, her strength and her determination. Whenever I’m scared or confused or feeling a bit shit about myself, I honestly do think to myself “what would Taylor do?” Taylor would always tell me to be fearless, dance like I’m 22 and to never grow up. So I’ll try my best, girl, I really will.

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I tag YOU to carry this series on. I found this really therapeutic and enjoyable, so I really think that anyone reading this should dig in deep and realise your rules. Even if you don’t have a blog, write down your rules and read through them every now and then. Who knows? Ten years from now, you might look back and realise what a strange, awesome, unique person you were.

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different

 

Hello to anyone who may be reading this.

Those of you who used to read this blog regularly may have wondered where I’ve been for the last five months. The answer is nowhere apart from a small pit of stress and despair.

Showmesomethingdifferent used to be a daily review site for music, films and books. The posts then began to fizzle out until it got to the point where I had posted nothing for a very very long time. For those of you who enjoyed these posts, I apologise wholeheartedly but my reasons for doing so were pretty serious, I can assure you.

As well as being incredibly busy over the Christmas period working long hours in retail, I then spent the entirety of January until the beginning of March on a magazine journalism course. It was a very intensive nine weeks (six days a week) and I really did not have any time at all to do anything that I wanted to do, let alone blog.

Which brings me to my next point: It’s true that I began the blog as something that would allow me to showcase my work to potential employers. However, as I was running it for free, it had to be a bit more than that -it had to be fun. For a long while it was and I really didn’t mind taking an hour or so out of every day (every day) to write a review. However, as I began getting more and more PRs and artists/bands interested in being featured, it got a bit much for the one-woman-show that Showmesomethingdifferent has always been. It started not being fun because I felt under pressure to listen and review music that I would never normally listen to and actually had no desire to review.

I have never been a fan of websites who seem to be able to “review” whole albums in 150 words. Big famous names do it and I hate them for it because I believe that reviews should be detailed, informative articles. In my opinion, simply saying “This was awesome” or “This was crap” is not enough for either the readers or the artists who have taken the time to make that album. You have to say why it was good or bad and give enough information about what the music is about, where it sits in the artist’s career and what tastes it suits. This means that my reviews are always quite long and are packed with information about what the music is actually made up of as opposed to just my opinion on it.

Reviews also have to be balanced which is why I am sad to say that I can no longer accept requests to review from certain artists. As I run this blog for free (now without a job alongside it), I won’t take the time out to review genres of music that I just wouldn’t normally listen to. I just don’t enjoy some genres and therefore it’s very difficult for me to force myself to listen to them in their entirety (which is what I believe all good reviewers should do) and I can no longer write about them.

Unsigned artists or bands who wish to be featured on Showmesomethingdifferent will now be very carefully selected but in order to be considered, they must fall within the following genres: pop, alternative rock, pop-punk, indie, acoustic. I understand that some acts will not fall definitely into any particular genre but they must have an element of one of these five genres in order to be considered.

I will still occasionally write about big releases from the genres I am not accepting as I still want to give my analysis on them and stay relevant. Book and film reviews will all be big releases, so please do not send any requests for me to review or feature any independent films or books.

I hope you can all understand. I have missed blogging terribly but writing about things I wasn’t enjoying got me down. It would be a different story if I was being paid to run the blog but I can’t do things that I don’t want to do for free anymore.

Thanks and love to you all,

Alex x

So it has now been a whole year of AskAlex and I’d like to thank everyone who has ever read or commented on a post. I’m afraid this will be my last post of its kind. I feel like it has been a great interlude to my reviews but it has now come to an end. I hope it has given you an insight into me as a person and I only hope that you continue reading my blog.

What can you do today that you couldn’t do a year ago?

Such a fitting end to a year-long feature! One thing I have definitely improved is my ability to write without fear of others’ opinions. I feel that this is really important for bloggers and journalists. You have to be honest, especially if you’re reviewing something and if that means a negative write-up, then that’s the way it has to be.

If you read my earlier posts, you’ll see that I used to be quite complimentary of pretty much everything I reviewed. However, recently I have reconsidered this. When you’re first starting out in the blogosphere, you want to gain friends and followers and so giving a positive review seems like a sure-fire way of doing so. Of course it works and you get a lovely reply back from the band/author/brand and a friendly professional rapport begins. For me, even back then, there was always a niggling doubt in my mind that perhaps this wasn’t the best way to build a blog or website upon.

I was immediately concerned that I wasn’t being honest with my readers and that really bothered me to the point where I did decide to change tack. Reviewing music as often as I do isn’t always easy. Quite often, I listen to an EP or album that someone has sent me and I just think “my god, this really isn’t for me at all” and my heart immediately sinks. Not only have I got to write a less than glowing review but I also owe it to the musician to listen to the entirety of the record -a real chore if I already hate it at the start. However, I do force myself to do this because I feel I can’t really give a fully informed review of something I’ve only heard half of -I suffer so you don’t have to!

So definitely, writing more balanced reviews is something that I’ve learnt to do in the last year and I’m really proud of myself. I feel like my blog is now more of my honest opinions rather than me trying to gain friends. Having said that, I do always look for the positives in everything and therefore, I’ll probably never give an entirely bad review -future reviewees, don’t be afraid!

 

A little look into the side of my life that isn’t often seen again this week. This answer will probably show me off in an extremely nerdy light but I guess that is what these AskAlex questions tend to do.

What is a weird quirk about you that very few people know?

It probably won’t come as much of a shock to the people who know me but I do like some rather geeky TV shows and films. I’ve said before in AskAlex posts that I love children’s TV and films and I still regularly watch Disney films but this isn’t something I really hide much. However, I don’t often mention my love of shows such as Blue’s Clues and The Hoobs. Kids shows that make you think a little bit and have some air of mystery involved really enthral me in a way that adult equivalents often don’t. Kids presenters make me laugh too, so I think it’s that innocent happy atmosphere that I love.

My love of game shows is another weird quirk that doesn’t often come up in conversation. I especially love retro game shows such as The Crystal Maze and Knightmare. I’m pretty sure I’ve just alienated all non-British readers but these are basically adventure game shows that used to be on British TV in the 80s and 90s. However, thanks to Challenge (a Sky TV channel) I can now watch them and many others and this is something that I’ve loved doing since I was really young. I was too young to know about them when they were on mainstream TV, so they are all new to me!

I also love doing crosswords, wordsearches and any other word puzzle. I love words and challenging myself with them is really fun. It also distracts me from other worries I might have and I find them really relaxing for my mind. When it just won’t calm down inside my head, a word puzzle normally does the trick.

I can’t think of any other strange quirks I have but I’m sure my close friends will be able to tell you!

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve reached the 50th AskAlex post! It is almost at the year milestone too, so that’s pretty exciting. Once again, I’m always up to questions from my readers and I’ll always answer them, so please leave them in a comment!

What are your top tips for becoming more likeable?

Seems a fairly obvious answer to this question. Smiling more and showing an interest in other people are clearly positive qualities that come off well when you meet new people. It feels weird answering this question when I have so much social anxiety myself. I know that I am incredibly shy and as a result, I can come off as quite stand-offish with new people. However, I know what I like in people I first meet and so I’ll impart that to you.

I like people who ask questions about me and are receptive to my views on things. People who talk about themselves non-stop or immediately shout down my opinions when it took a lot of courage for me to express them in the first place really get me annoyed. Smiling and maintaining eye contact throughout a conversation is also really important. Any of the little things that make me feel that the person is interested in me and what I have to say ticks all the boxes in my opinion.

Of course, it can be hard to focus your attention on one person especially in a crowded setting but I think it is really important for getting to know someone. I also love people who are open. As a curious person, it really irritates me when people are obviously holding things back or keeping secrets. I can always tell too, so I can go away from interactions like that really irked.

Apart from that, it’s just little personal taste things really. I love people who are kind to animals, creative people, ambitious people and those who are genuinely comfortable in the skin they’re in. There’s nothing more inspiring and refreshing to be around than someone who is happy with the way they are. Of course, arrogance oversteps the mark but those who don’t complain about their looks are a really uplifting influence.

Ok, so I put my sad lame hands in the air on this question. I’ll save myself the jeers and not make it too long!

What is the lamest accomplishment that you’re proud of?

I’m afraid it’s memorising ridiculous, useless information! When I was younger, I could recite the entirety of the Matilda film script -stupid, I know but I remember being so proud of myself at the time. Forgive me, I was no older than nine years old!

Nowadays, my memory still works very well and I can list all 50 US states (despite being English) without using the internet and I can also give you all the names of the 151 original Pokemon, although that does take me a while!

My memory is definitely something I’ve always been proud of and it certainly has served me well when it comes to lame achievements!

An interesting question this week that is unlike anything I’ve answered before. I’m not sure where the answer will go but it’s definitely exciting and intriguing!

What is something you believe to be true but have no actual proof of?

I am not a religious person and never will be. On the whole, I wholeheartedly disbelieve anything where there is no concrete proof because what am I then basing my belief on? Speculation from other people who also have no proof? I don’t understand where people find the blind faith needed to believe in a God and a religion so much so that they dedicate their lives to it.

However, I do believe in something else after this life. I don’t believe in a Heaven, a God or a Hell but I do believe that every living thing has a spirit and that there are spirits everywhere. That may be a pretty creepy thing to think about but I don’t think many people can deny that there is a spiritual quality to humans and animals. The fact that we have the ability to love unconditionally and the power to inspire others is something that surpasses the concrete mundaneness of the real world. I believe that everyone’s soul is made up of who they are -their hopes, dreams, fears and loves- and when we die, that life with those things ends. The soul leaves our body but remains close to those we leave behind. We don’t suddenly sprout wings and become angels or join with an all-powerful deity -we are our own afterlife. Whether we meet up with dead relatives and friends, I don’t know, but if there is nothing after this life, then what is the point? What would be the point in living one life and then that’s it, that’s all you get?

I’ve always been very interested in the supernatural and I love stories of people who claim to have had encounters with the dead. In some cases, I really think there is some truth in it because there are some things that simply cannot be explained without dipping into discussions about the possibility of a spirit world living invisibly alongside ours. Maybe we are also living invisibly alongside them and they are as afraid of us?

Similarly, I also believe that there is life on other planets and possibly stars. It’s ignorant to think that we are the only life in the entire galaxy and the idea of aliens is wholly believable. They probably don’t have as much interest as we do in them which may explain why they have never contacted us but there’s no reason to think that we are an isolated population amongst the vastness of the galaxy and indeed universe. I’m not sure if we’ll ever find them but that definitely isn’t to say that they’re not real.

So although I don’t normally believe in things without proof, spirits and aliens are definitely things I do believe in. We have no real proof of their existence but we also don’t have any proof that they don’t. However, we do have considerably more proof of both these phenomena than we do of any kind of omniscient God.