November/December 2016: Four Sticks

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Things are going pretty well this month.

These past few months might have been my busiest yet between studies, film projects, and travelling. In the U.S. it was Thanksgiving break, so I took the opportunity and planned to take the time off as most students I knew would be away from school for the majority of it. My friend (who shall henceforth be referred to as “Garth”) came to visit in that time too and we took a road trip to Arizona/Utah for 5 days. In that time we visited Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, which was just stunning. I’ll post some pictures below that I took on my iPhone 6S.

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Monument Valley from John Wayne’s allegedly favourite spot
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The view from Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon
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South Rim, Grand Canyon

It was a great break away from all of the university related stuff I’d been experiencing, albeit exhausting at times, having driven 12 hours to reach Flagstaff from San Diego and visa versa, plus journey times elsewhere. It was overall a great experience in which Garth and I rekindled our friendship after not seeing each other for many years, even though we still kept in touch. His visit was exactly what I needed at the right time.

On a materialistic front; for a while I’ve been thinking about getting a DSLR camera. As a film student it would come in handy, giving me hands on experience that is more beneficial than any class will teach, but also as a film student it’s just stupid not to have a camera. My knowledge of lenses and focal lengths is still basically theoretical and I’ve been thinking for over a year now about getting a starter camera. Coming back with iPhone pictures of these incredible landscapes at Monument Valley and The Grand Canyon were great, but I really wished I could have taken better pictures. Basically, the trip gave me a kick in the arse to actually buy a DSLR camera.

The reason why I’m discussing this at length is that it is a pretty big deal to me. I try not to spend much money on myself for “things”, more so with moving around frequently, but also because I don’t especially have much in the way of money. I don’t really write about it any more, probably not since the days of 2012, but money has never been my friend and tends to trickle through my fingers like sand.

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In recent years it has become a lot better, or perhaps I should say I have become better with money. Meh, it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. I’m lucky enough to not only be funded for my education by the government, but also through university scholarships, and even some financial support from time to time from my family. Even so, typically, it can be difficult to make ends meet, even more so now I’m studying abroad. So spending a three-figure sum on myself was a tough decision and one that I had to talk myself into, because this is not a luxury item. This is not just for fun. This is something that will help me academically and professionally.

I mention all of this because of the anxiety money gives me.

It makes me feel extremely uncomfortable, and spending big sums makes me feel like I’d be making a huge mistake in doing so.

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I didn’t even want to tell my father I’d spent money on it, but I didn’t want to lie when I spoke to him on the phone when I expressed slight disappointment in the photos I took, he said, and I quote;

“You have a good eye for film and taking pictures.”the-flash-i-may-have-skullfucked-it

This gave me the courage to tell him I’d spent money on a camera (even though I don’t have to justify anything to him). Instead of an anticipated put down or derogatory remark he was actually supportive of my choice. He completely agreed with every rationale I had made and even suggested that I probably should have made the leap sooner.

It was validation I didn’t know I needed, something I never seek openly from my father because of our tumultuous history. Our relationship seems to be have repaired to a more standard familial dynamic, which is something that I’m not sure how comfortable I am with. This did however make me feel better about my choice, again, something that I wasn’t sure I was seeking from him.

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On the social front, the past few weeks have seen a marked improvement.

Seeing Garth and participating in so many film shoots over the past month, interacting with people, has helped improve my confidence and allowed me to become more extrovert – something I haven’t seen of myself probably since before I began this blog. In days of old I viewed myself as someone who, whilst introverted, had a large circle of friends with whom I could be extroverted with. This recent feeling of confidence has been a huge boost to my self-esteem.

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But having been so busy with film shoots and being an editor for most of them has left me with limited time. In fact, several weeks have passed since I began writing this post, which means it’s going up later than initially anticipated and is now encompassing December as well as November.

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This is what studying abroad has taught me; that studying at university level in the U.S. is much more hard work than anywhere else. Many European students that I’ve spoken to have also expressed a similar sentiment. Honestly, I have no idea how any student here finds free time to have a social life with the workload – and this is coming from someone who’s a borderline workaholic!screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-57-12So yeah, this workload has been intense. There have been sleepless nights, there have been all-nighters, and there has been an incredible amount of stress to get the work done.

I got to a point where I rationalised dropping the ball on some papers in order to get other projects finished, whether or not this will come back and bite me in the arse remains to be seen, but as I wrote above, I have no idea how anyone gets through their workload in the U.S. and no wonder it takes 4 years or more to graduate for a lot of students.

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But that’s all over with now. At least for 2016. In 2017 the pain begins all over again. (I’m only half joking).

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For now though, I want to look towards the future.

Last year ended downbeat. Okay, to be completely honest, most of the past year or more my reflections month-to-month have been fairly downbeat. However, I don’t really feel like things are all that bad. Sure, my mental state is constantly in flux and that probably reflects in the negative posts. I’ve still not secured a therapist to work through my longstanding issues, but I think now I am a lot more aware of where my thoughts, and my ‘rules for living’, come from. I’m acutely aware now that these rules, or at least some of them, are the the reason why I make myself isolated as opposed to isolation happening to me. It’s something internal that needs work.

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I’m spending Christmas and New Year alone for the most part. From what I can work out I think 2 of my roommates will be around at different times, but mostly I’ll be alone – and I’m kinda okay with it. Sure, I miss my family, and I wish I could be home to spend it with them, but I also don’t feel so much like it’s going to be soul destroying. I’ll be able to FaceTime home and sort of spend some of Christmas with them in a long-distance way. It’s not ideal, but I think it will service both my emotional needs, and my family’s emotional needs. What I’m trying to say is that it is going to be hard, but it won’t be as hard as what some people would believe. I’m not likely to be found staring out of a window at the rain whilst wallowing in self-pity… despite San Diego being scheduled for (and even as I write this) rain most of the holiday weekend.

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My plans for the holidays were going to involve going to the beach, but the state of the weather will likely wash away any hope of getting out that way at least until after Christmas Day. Mostly the reason why I wanted to get down to the beach was because it’s somewhere I’ve not been in San Diego/California yet, but I also want to get some use of the DSLR. I was also thinking about using the beach as a place to sit and catch up on my reading… Well, comics. See, I have a digital pile of comics that have stacked up for the past year or more than I haven’t read. In my mind I’m trying to work out if there’s a reason why I’ve let it stack up. Have I grown out of comics or have I just legitimately not made time to allow reading of any nature in my life? I kinda want to find out this holiday. Aside from that I’ve a bunch of films/TV shows to catch up on. There are also still a few films out at the cinema that I’d like to get to see (I actually saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story today as a treat to myself).

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I also got back on Keto this past Monday.

Readers will be aware that I stopped Keto after I was hospitalised earlier in the year and went home to recover. Keto was something that I had researched plenty into and prepared for to help drop the vast amount of weight I physically carry. I know a lot of people have had success with it, and for the 3 weeks or whatever it was that I was on it had me feeling a lot better about my physical appearance and even in my mental state I felt better.

Now that I have some free time and I’ve got an opportunity to prepare food for myself away from the university’s meal plan I’m getting back on the horse. Hopefully I won’t be hospitalised 3 weeks from now.

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But in all seriousness, I’m back in the mindset. Perhaps not as strongly as when I started it earlier this year, but at least strong enough to know what I need to do to enable the diet and keep to it. I now have cooking instruments and food storage containers. I let it slip a little today as I went to the cinema (like I said, it was an absolute treat for all I endured this past month or so for uni). I’m currently resisting the urge to take this cheat day to the next level and order pizza whilst watching Die Hard (because, Christmas!), which is taking all my willpower to convince myself that it will undo any of the progress in the past few days… But then again, I won’t be doing Christmas dinner this year… 🤔

So then the last thing I’ll be doing this break is getting the 2 short films I made edited to a more professional standard. I think both the stories are great and they (for the most part) look great, but they need more TLC in post-production. I’m picking up some new skills in sound and special FX that will hopefully remedy the issues with the shorts. I think if I apply the knowledge well they’ll turn out much more professional looking and would be something I’d be proud to show off to not just friends & family, but also to others at film festivals.

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This post has rambled on way too long, and I’m going to have to go back over it to see what could be trimmed down, or wether there is an appropriate GIF or meme that could be inserted to help pace this out. Regardless, I know the holiday season is not the best time for everyone. If you’re one of those out there that struggles, keep on struggling. If you feel like you need to reach out to someone at this time, you can reach out to me or please contact professional support from The Samaritans or similar organisations:

The Samaritans (UK & Ireland): http://www.samaritans.org

(The Samaritans also have a hotline to call: 08457 90 90 90 (UK), 1850 60 90 90 (Republic of Ireland))

The Samaritans (USA): http://www.samaritansusa.org

For the most part, however, I want to wish you all a Happy Holiday. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or don’t celebrate this season at all, I hope the New Year finds you in good health – both physically and mentally.

Until 2017 and the beginning of year 6 of this site….

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Much love  ❤️ ❤️ ❤️