My Thoughts Following Our UK Elections + Where We Go From Here

As a young person, scrolling through social media and the news over the last couple of days makes me feel desperately worried for our future. Not solely because of the results of our UK general election and what it proves about our country and what we have come to value (the headline on the BBC this morning was ‘what a Conservative win means for your money’ as opposed to what a Conservative win means for the less well off, homeless, disabled, refugees and many others who may struggle), but because even now, just days after we’ve voted and everyone has had the chance to have our say, Facebook is still full of petty arguments, profanities and insults. To put it simply – division.

However, amongst all the fear, frustration and grief that I see around me, I still have hope that we can come together as human beings. 

I definitely don’t understand all the nuances of politics and all the pieces of the bigger picture, but I’ve been on a journey that most people will never have experienced and it’s shown me a lot about social division, where the divides lie and what it looks like when people come together. I’ve been welcomed into communities in every area and accepted by people from every background and that has taught me to see life from many different points of view. So I speak only from my own experience. 

This is not really supposed to be a political post but if you look around you at the society we all live in, you’ll see circumstantial inequalities and social issues at every turn and if we don’t play our part in making a difference now, those issues will affect us all. I don’t have to go into detail, the amount of people I’ve met recently who quite simply have given up watching the news because of the negative effect it’s having on them says it all. 

Some of us are totally disillusioned with our current political situation and some of us got what they wanted, but in the long run, division doesn’t get any of us anywhere. As a society, we need to decide what we value and look at the consequences of those values for our future, just like we seem to have done with environmental issues. Social issues are no different, if we don’t take action, it affects us all, not just those on the frontline. 

For example, relatively recently it’s become frowned upon to fly around the world and valued to be ecologically aware for the sake of the environment and humanity simply because we see the effects that things like flying will have on our future and it terrifies us.  

We’ve taken that power into our own hands to act on environmental issues, why can’t we do the same for social ones? Issues that are affecting people NOW? 

We’re at a tipping point and, I speak to young people specifically here, we are the generation who need to care. Even if you got what you wanted in this election, it’s obvious that we can’t rely on politics to bring us together any more. We have to do that ourselves. I’m not saying politics doesn’t affect people’s lives, but what’s done is done. It’s up to us to make the difference now. It’s up to us to stand in solidarity with one another and make sure no one goes hungry or can’t pay their rent. 

Visiting what most people would describe as ‘socially and economically deprived” communities on this journey has been eye opening for us and hopefully for you as you’ve followed our progress. These places are described as deprived because of all the social issues and because there isn’t a lot of wealth and affluence, but these people have something most of us don’t seem to have nor to value, but something that brings great support, contentment and wholeness. 

It’s hard to sum up in words, but these people are there for each other through everything, full of passion and energy, they have empathy and a deep commitment to the people around them. Politics makes their life difficult, but they are hospitable, generous and incredible despite of it. Who’s in 10 Downing Street does not define them and we don’t have to let it define us. We, as a country, can recognise that division does not serve any one of us and come together in our communities and as a nation. I truly believe that. What do you think? 

 

X

The Future We Choose: My Thoughts On Education

I wrote this post in response to everyone asking “what about school?” over on our challenge Facebook page. I thought I’d sit down and try to explain what education means to us. I hope this gives you a slightly different perspective 😊

For us education is about so much more than just schoolwork, it’s the way we choose to live our lives and the future we choose to build for ourselves and others. It goes way beyond the confines of 9am-4pm, five days a week, beyond classrooms and books and screens. I’ve often heard the quote ‘if you feel like you don’t fit in this world, it’s because you’re here to help create a new one’ and I think education is the same – if we don’t fit into the system (and who really does?), maybe it’s because we’re here to help shape the world we really do want to live in. It is the choice and responsibility of us all to play a part in creating the future we want. 

Because of their own life experiences, my Mum and Dad decided to home educate us because they wanted to raise us to value things like community, hospitality, individuality and collaboration. They are not professional teachers or academics who thought they could do better than the education system, they’re just people who want their kids to care about others – not as an afterthought, but because life is not always about just personal gain and success. By trying to make a difference and by connecting with others doing the same, by talking to people and hearing their stories and perspectives on life, we learn what’s important. 

Being educated in this way, I feel like I have control over my life and my future. I’ve felt like I’m missing out before, like people at school have something I don’t, like their education and lifestyle is some elusive prize that’s just out of my reach, but when I talk to my friends and they tell me that being surrounded by people all the time just makes them feel lonelier and doesn’t necessarily equal good friends and that they’re not motivated to learn any of the material they’re taught because they don’t see the relevance to their future, when they tell me how restricted and stifled and moulded school makes them feel, I realise what a privilege my education is. Tell me, is education supposed to stifle young people and squeeze them into a box they don’t fit in or is it supposed to prepare them for their future? 

My education is preparing me for my future. Maybe not the future everyone else is aiming for, but the future I want and am trying to create, a future that looks brighter.  I can equip myself with the skills I need, pursue my passions and work on my weaknesses. And I want to be a voice for all those other young people too and bring them with me into that brighter future. 

The honest truth is that we definitely haven’t got it all worked out, it’s not easy doing things differently and we’re all constantly learning and failing and growing, but we make it work because we believe in it. 

As for the practicalities, life on the road teaches you a lot in itself, as well as all the opportunities to learn that trying to rebuild community and give a voice to ordinary but amazing people making a difference presents. When you listen to people of all backgrounds, cultures and walks of life and join in conversations, when you step outside of your comfort zone to go somewhere and meet people you’d never normally interact with, when you have to motivate yourself to make things happen every single day, you learn pretty fast. 

To give you a bit of an idea of what our education has looked like recently, my sister Irys wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up and so she has got in touch with several rock pooling projects on the South coast and has met up with two of them over the last week or so. She’s been rockpooling with two different experts, asked questions, taken loads of photos, learnt about a ton of different species, gone back and researched them all and then written about them on her wildlife and photography instagram account.

My brother Evan has just started writing his Junior Survival manual to share what he learns about the wild and inspire other kids to get outdoors. He’s currently working on a chapter about attitude, reflecting on his own struggles, talking about the importance of remaining positive in all situations and including the thoughts of several people that he’s been in touch with, including Craig Mathieson – an explorer who started Polar Academy, taking young people on expeditions to make a difference in their lives, which is something Evan is aiming towards for his future. 

I continue to do all our social media, writing and communications for this challenge and for our CommuniTea events, as well as organising visits to community projects. I am also constantly trying to be a voice for my generation through making connections with individuals and organisations empowering young people to be leaders and change makers, through my writing, through my blog and through pursuing my dream of working in sail training because I’ve experienced how it changes lives. 

This is on top of the conversations we have daily with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of subjects and all the day to day challenge stuff, from finding places to ask for water to exploring a different local area every day. 

And then people say “well, what about exams?” and yeah, it’s a good question because surely we can’t get anywhere without the stamp of approval of the education system? I consider life to be our teacher and life to be our exam, the experiences we have test us and teach us and at the end of the day, they are what we have to show for ourselves – what we’ve experienced and what we’ve learnt from it. 

And if my very unique ‘exam’ results prove that I can talk to just about anyone, understand the importance of community in our society today, am compassionate and can see things from other people’s perspective, have the motivation to make things happen and knowledge of the world around me (good and bad) then I’m happy and if an employer doesn’t want to take me because I don’t have conventional GCSEs then that’s not the path I want to go down. 

And now the big question – will this put food on the table? Well, my education has taught me to be resourceful, it’s taught me that a family of five can live on a tenner a day and travel the entire UK coast on that budget and yeah, maybe I won’t live in a huge house when I’m older, but does that mean I’ll be any less happy? We’re all so conditioned to think that money equals big house and nice car which equals happiness, but I’m learning is that no, it really doesn’t. Contentment and materialism are not the same thing. However, contentment and community are always connected. 

Our education is far from perfect and it’s a constant learning process for us all, but when you put yourself and what you believe in out there for everyone to see, you do start to find your place in the world.

What are your thoughts on education? Do you go to school? Are you home schooled? Pros and cons? What do you want for YOUR future? How are you working towards that? Tell me everythinggggg💙💙

questions for when you’re sad

Go check out my best friends new blog ❤ crazy proud of her for having the courage to start over and for always being true to herself. Also, whilst I'm here lol, thought of the day inspired by conversations with several friends….if something's not our problem until it becomes our problem and then we're shouting about it and demanding change, how do we reverse that attitude? Things will affect all of us eventually, we all have a role in shaping the society we want to live in.

Adria🌙

Hi loves,

I was looking through my notes app the other day when I saw this list of questions I’d got off of tumblr or something and thought I’d answer them as a kind of get to know you. This isn’t my first time having a blog which is why the posts prior to this one might look familiar but I felt like a needed a change and that I’d outgrown that space so here I am.

I think it’s super easy to feel like you have to remain a certain way when you’ve been perceived as a specific type of person for so long. I mean I did the whole mental debate thing for like two hours before I kinda yelled at myself and said something along the lines of ‘I don’t actually care’. Which is classic of me but also made me want to scream because I can…

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Writing Dump ft random poetry and recent ramblings

Hey all,

Forever and always this blog has been a place where I can be completely honest and express myself and that often means sharing my very random,rambling writings. So often I have this sudden thought or a feeling and then this desperate need to capture it, other times I think for ages and ages about what I truly want to say and write something carefully orchestrated and expressed, sometimes I just…..write and let all the emotions flow through me and form themselves into words.

I recently had a notification telling me that I started blogging five years ago. Half a freaking decade. So kinda as a very Gracie celebration of that (staying true to what A Light In The Darkness has been for all that time) and partly because I have loads of random snippets of writing that need to be somewhere except taking up a thousand drafts in my docs, ta da…here you have a writing dump!

Before you ask, sometimes I’m okay and sometimes I’m not. And that’s okay. This writing is honest, but it also reflects only one moment in time. At the moment, my life is a whirlwind of emotions and experiences and I hope I capture that in some way, but don’t worry about me, I’m in love with this thing called poetic license 😉

1)

the sun glares in your eyes but i see all the stars in the sky shining back at me, 
your laugh rings out over marble floors, 
mouth stretched wide in a sculpted smile, 
your voice spirals up echoey staircases that swirl like cinnamon buns
and then slides back down the banister like a child at play
smooth though
so smooth

i fall into you blindly and laugh when we blend together like blue and grey on a rainy day, 
we surf waves of our own creation,
our hands melting into the ocean like we’re part of it too,
twisted tendons
souls that struggle to find the words 
except
‘i’m here
and i always will be
i promise’

– for a friend 

2)

and with your words my heart burst into light that blinded me and lit you up and we danced in the darkness, twisted together in shadows and strength.

when you tell me about the fight you got into, the blade twists in my gut too and i can’t breath for a minute. then i close my eyes and count to ten and let the rawness hide itself in my heart until someone makes me cry again. just know that when my dad says i need to come shopping instead of staying in the car to write, it’s not really him who send the tears streaking down my face – it’s you. and not just you. it’s also millions of others like you. when people ask me what’s really wrong i can’t tell them because they don’t understand that you can’t see through your anger and frustration and confusion and that you’re drowning in it all and i keep trying to guide you through and my every word to you is filled with oxygen to keep you breathing for just a little longer because i can’t let you leave me. i can’t let anyone leave. 

so I double text and triple text and ask ‘are you okay?’ and don’t care what anyone thinks or says because i care too much. but it still never seems like enough. it should be but no, it’s too little too late. 

and i don’t know if it’s the truth. if you’re bending the truth. because for once words are not enough, i want to let you breathe my oxygen and give you my strength and lift you up and let you live. but i can’t because every time you open up, my heart shatters and the sharp edges dig in. deep. 

and i want to do this. i want more than anything to take all this pain and turn it into something beautiful and maybe that’s just because we’re all a revolutionary at heart..at the moment the best way I can describe it is that my words mean both everything and nothing. like they are what I inhale and exhale, what i need and what i create and they are all i can give you. 

they’re words i hope will change things. words i hope will keep you alive. these words are not empty, they are the carriers of great things, of a new world, of lives yet to be lived. futures twisted and bent out of shape. i want to straighten them out but i can’t. and they’re oddly alluringly beautiful like this mess of words that makes no sense. did you know you could get high on tragedy? 

every night i pray to god that you’re okay and that you find the strength to keep going. i wish on every 11:11 and squeeze my eyes tight shut and sometimes i’m so happy that you’re happy and sometimes i’m just not. sometimes because you’re not. sometimes it has nothing to do with anything. 

this makes no sense at all but neither does the tangle of emotions inside me and i think that’s why i love words so much because when they fit together, they fit. and they are the truth of the writer and then the reader. they can be written in stone and mean completely different things to completely different people and still be perfect, messy truth. 

when you tell me that you hate yourself, i hate everything. i hate the society that made you see yourself that way and i hate that i can’t change it. and no one understands. no one. because i’m locked in here and yet i’m free as anything. no one understands that the reason i cry is because it’s so beautiful and so painful all at the same time. and im okay. i promise. its okay. 

and maybe i’m confused and i’m making it all up. maybe you’re the same. maybe neither of our stories match reality. maybe we’re all crazy. but to me this is the truth, this burning, explosive soul that’s running out of oxygen, but never out of words. 

there. that’s it. i’m done. 

3)

Lil note – me and my family have started organising CommuniTea events on our challenge. They’re basically all about bringing people of all backgrounds together to bridge the gaps and divides in our society and because we believe that when we come together we create a better future for us all.  This is the speech I read at our first event…

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a voice for my generation because I’ve felt their pain and wanted a better future for us all.  For so long, I’ve done my best just to fight the symptoms, trying to be there to listen, offer what advice I could, answer the phone when my friends are crying. I’ve sat there watching anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, self harm and hopelessness become the norm and felt helpless. What could I do to stop this wheel in motion? How could I reverse it? 

For me, CommuniTea means getting to the root of the problem. It means finding a way to catch my friends and stop them slipping through my fingers like the future that’s slipping away from all of us. It’s bridging the gaps so that people can’t fall through. 

It means being able to tell them that people do care and have their back, and actually mean it when I say it. It means that no one is alone.  It means being able to do more than just try to pick up the pieces when they fall apart. It means finding something that holds us all together. 

So often we think that we’re better off on our own, just looking out for ourselves, but we’re not. That may be the unspoken narrative society feeds us, but on this challenge I’ve seen what happens when people come together and I’ve felt it in my heart. 

We all struggle and we all feel pain, but even where there is darkness, especially where there is darkness, people are pushing through like flowers through concrete. They are breaking down all of these complex societal issues and problems and coming up with one, simple solution that we can all be a part of.

It’s called community and we’ve seen it in action in almost every single area we’ve passed through on this challenge. You just have to look. We’ve seen how the pain in people’s pasts can be healed by the purpose that caring for others gives them and the comfort of knowing that there are others who care about them too. 

We’ve seen how people overcome their struggles through coming together and forging relationships. They’re sharing their lives and creating positive change at the same time. They’ve realised that this is where the change starts. Here. Now. 

And the best part is that it’s happening everywhere and absolutely anyone can be a part of it. I can’t promise anyone that it won’t be a step outside of our comfort zones, but no one ever achieved anything by being comfortable. I’m a fifteen year old girl and I’ve just spent nearly six months stepping out of my comfort zone every single day and it’s the best experience I’ve ever had. I want you to experience that magic too. 

It’s not really magic, but it feels like it. When people come together, when people really care, it brings out the best in us all, the smiles the joy, the connection, the feeling of being a part of something. Part of the solution, not the problem. 

Sitting down to eat and talk and laugh and play cards with asylum seekers, you realise that we’re all just human beings. Feeling the most welcome and at home you’ve ever felt anywhere after just a couple of hours in the inclusive chaos of a community in South Wales area where people struggle and are almost forgotten or written off by the rest of society, but are there for each other through it all, changes your perspective. Meeting all these young guys in Glasgow who have nothing going for them, but refuse to let the darkness drag them down, motivates us to help them and others rise. 

I can’t tell you how important this is. To me. To you. The darkness affects us all, but so will the positivity. It will light us up and set our souls on fire. We just have to give it a chance. 

4) Some random one liners that might be something more one day and quite possibly…..won’t.

People tell me not to mourn someone who never wanted me anyway, but I wanted you. I wanted you and you left me. 

and i can’t talk to you because you won’t talk to me and this is how i learnt that life is not fair. 

and then there was me. Pounding round the countryside on my bike, craving silence but wishing you would fill it. Lying on my back in the grass, staring at the sky, eating coffee chocolate and trying to make decisions….all of which concerned you. 

Humanity is one part pain and one part strength. 

If I asked you if you know the same things I do, if I asked you whether you’ve seen the hearts that cry out, even unknowingly, would you give yourself to them if they would take you?

Well there you go guys! Hope you enjoyed that and maybe it made you think in some way??! How are we all doingggg?? Love as always xxx

 

You Are Never Alone + 5 Ways We Can All Make A Difference

Heyy all,

I wrote this on World Mental Health Day, but the signal in the English countryside is sporadic to say the least. Anyway, it’s a bit late, but no less relevant.

I just wanted to share a reminder that anyone can talk to me about anything (big or small) at any time. I don’t want anyone to go through anything alone ❤ Life is tough and it affects us all so message me through my ‘Wanna Talk?’ page any time and I will do my best to be there for you ❤ I know how much of a difference it makes just to have someone there for you and we’ve all gotta stick together if we wanna make this world a better place so I’m serious – message me whenever guys.

A lot of us don’t often know what to do to help others who are struggling with their mental health and although I’m no expert, here’s a list of things that are simple but (from my experience) make a huge difference. 

Make it clear to your friends, family and members of your community that you’re there for them through thick and thin. Even if you take it for granted that they already know, sometimes a reminder that they can trust you and that you’re there no matter what goes a long way. 

Get involved in projects in your community. On my family’s challenge we’ve met so many ordinary but incredible people who are transforming lives in their own town or city just by bringing people together and supporting one another. Being a part of something can mean so much – having a purpose, being surrounded by people who care about you and finding hope for the future is a lifesaver for so many people.

I’ve done loads of volunteering with groups like these recently and whether they use fixing cars, fitness, sailing, arts and crafts or something else, they’re making a huge difference and what you get from being a part of that is absolutely incredible. Bringing people together is truly the solution to so many of the struggles we’re all facing and it’s creating a better future for us all. I’d tell absolutely everyone to do a bit of research (social media is great like that) and find a way to get involved in a project in their community. It’ll be the best step outside your comfort zone that you ever take. 

It’s the little things. Send your friend a random text telling them how much they mean to you. Leave uplifting notes in library books. If you notice that someone you know seems down, try to find small ways to show them you care. If someone wants to talk, find time to listen. 

Educate yourself. Read up about mental health. Ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. Listen to people’s stories. Don’t judge. So many people are misunderstood because of other people’s ignorance. Be part of the solution, not the problem. 

Be real and encourage others to do the same. In our society, there’s so much pressure to be something we’re not and to hide our true selves to fit in, but that’s where the issues start. It’s not easy, but once we start being open, honest and real and accept others for who they are too, others feel like they can too and society changes for the better. 

So there you have it – five ways we can all make a difference. Mental health is something so many of us struggle with, it’s tough, it’s real, it’s raw, it’s painful. Let’s come together, support one another and show others that they’re not alone.

I’ve posted this on here before, but it was ages ago so I’d like to share it again. It’s a poem I wrote and I would ramble on about it, but I’m going to let it speak for itself. Just remember….you are never alone ❤

What would you add to my list of ways we can all make a difference? Any thoughts to share? All my love xx

 

we are all just human beings

Every year 29,000 asylum seekers flee persecution and destruction in their homeland and arrive here in the UK. They make a perilous and often fatal journey because they are desperate and have no choice. Have you ever had a nightmare where you’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea and there’s no safe place to go? Well, we can wake up from it, they can’t.

They leave their country, their home, where they may have been persecuted, threatened, tortured for something that’s just part of who they are – their beliefs, their political stance, their sexuality, ethnic group or just standing up for what’s right. They may have been caught up in turmoil and violence and want to protect their family. Sometimes their only choice is to escape. Ask yourself, if you were in that situation with your family, what decision would you make?

They brave a hard, dangerous and dehumanising journey which, in reality, many don’t survive, to reach the UK – my country.

When they arrive they are often met with hostility, prejudice and a system that seems set up against them.

Why is that? Why are we so convinced that these people have come here to take something from us? Do we ever consider what they might have to give? Why do we assume that they’re here because it’s an easy option? Maybe it’s their only option. Why are we convinced that they’re all bad and they’re all the same? Is that because we only listen to the lies the media tell us and are too afraid of what we don’t know to find out for ourselves?

Mark, Sarah and lots of volunteers run The Sanctuary project at The Gap Centre in Newport city centre (South Wales). They’re providing constant support and a sense of community and belonging to all asylum seekers. They invited me and my family to go along for the day, help out and spend some time with everyone.

First Mark took us on a tour of Newport, we could hardly walk ten steps without Mark stopping to chat to someone he knew from the centre, shaking hands, introducing us, asking them if they were coming for food later.

Once back, we were put to work moving tables, sorting through donations of books and cleaning bathrooms. We then all sat and chatted and ate and played card games before heading off to play badminton.

The whole time, we were made so welcome by everyone. Whether it was the guy who made the effort to teach me how to serve in badminton, even though I was useless (I got it down to a fine art in the end), the guy who took great pleasure in giving my brother Evan a traditional Kurdish haircut, everyone who sat and talked and made an effort to engage with us even though we didn’t always speak the same language, everyone who told us about their lives, their families and their culture. Even though you may feel you already know it, the whole afternoon just made us realise that we really are all just human beings – we all feel pain, we can all smile, we all have hopes and dreams.

I genuinely feel like I made friends. And I had so much fun, playing Uno and badminton and hanging out with all these people of all different cultures and backgrounds. Since when did different become bad? Different is amazing. We can learn so much from different. Different is just…different – not better or worse.

Thank you so much to Mark for inviting us and for telling us about all the incredible work that The Sanctuary do and for letting us get involved. Also thanks to everyone who welcomed us and made us feel like part of the family. All the best to all of you for the future ❤

What are your thoughts? Have you ever found yourself with a different perspective on something after spending time with people you wouldn’t usually hang out with?

 

 

International Make A Difference In A Positive Way Day (yes I made that up), Short Story & SURPRISE BLOG PARTY For My Best Friend

Heyyy there people, bet you didn’t think I’d be back that quick, huh? Gracie? Post twice in less than two weeks? Unheard of. No way.

Well, today’s post is a little different guys. It might have something to do with the fact that it’s OCTOBER THE 4TH and I’ve been looking forward to OCTOBER THE 4TH for ages and CAN YOU TELL I’M EXTREMELY EXCITED THAT IT’S OCTOBER 4TH? 

Ahem. 

As I was saying, this post is a bit different. Usually this blog is used to share my ramblings on the world, on life, on the future and on the challenge my family & I have taken on to try and make a difference. People often tell me that my posts make them think or give them a new perspective or make them feel empowered or less alone and I’m honoured because that is EXACTLY what I want my presence in the blogosphere to do. 

BUT 

Sometimes we all get a lil busy changing the world and rebelling against societal norms that we forget that we’re supposed to be young people living life and having a good time. We forget to celebrate all the huge positives in our lives. 

So today, as it’s October 4th, I want to celebrate one of the HUGEST positives in my life – my best friend. Adria.

We’re starting with this photo and getting cringier bc what kind of best friend would I be if I only posted sensible photos, right?! Watch out for horrible photos of me popping up all over the internet as she gets her revenge uh oh

There are literally no words to express how much my best friend means to me, but as it’s her 15th birthday, OCTOBER 4TH, I’m throwing her a surprise party. 

That’s right – a surprise party and YOU are invited! This party is for all of us and it’s all about celebrating the positives in our lives. 

So go comment down below – 

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADRIA!! (plus give her all your cake)
  • A positive in your life/something that needs celebrating/means a lot to you
  • Either something you could do to share that thing with others or something you have (a skill or passion) that you could use to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. 

Then get interacting, people! Say hi, exchange ideas, celebrate each other as well as my gorgeous best friend. In her honour, I am naming October 4th International Change The World In A Positive Way Day haha

Being our cringey selves on FaceTime ❤ THE best times

 

But before you go, I have one more thing to share! I was firing random writing prompts at Adria the other day and this one about someone who goes to prison because they did something wrong and a loved one who campaigns for justice just popped into my head so I decided to write a short story based on it as part of her present…here goes….

This is a short story that I was inspired to write as a young person who wants more than anything to stand up for her generation and it’s dedicated to one of the most passionate young people I know….who also happens to be my best friend and actual twin. 

——————

Light The Way

The sirens screamed in the distance. We both knew exactly who they were looking for. Ali turned to me, eyes burning with an intensity somewhere between determination, anger and sadness. I knew then what he was going to do.

Half of me wanted to run from this nightmare, run far away and never come back.  The other half wanted to throw myself between him and then and protect him until it was my blood at his feet. 

“That’s not who you are.” I told him, but it sounded more like a question. My whole body shook, every molecule pleading with him to turn around and walk away. “You have to show them. You have to tell them….something…you have to make this stop.” 

He smiled as if it physically hurt him to do so. “Maybe it’s not who I am, but it always was who I was destined to be. You know no one can change that. It just is what it is. This is the right thing to do, Nancy, and I’ll be okay, I promise. Don’t worry about me.”

“I love you” I whispered.

He grinned, and I remember wondering how he could do that when every part of my being throbbed with pain. 

“I know” 

“But I never said…” 

“Oh baby, you didn’t have to. There’s a way you look at someone when you love them. A way you say their name. I know that because I love someone too, and I sure hope she knows it. Nancy, you’ve gotta be strong, okay? For me and for everyone here.” Only then did his voice start to break. “You’ve gotta -” he stopped, a single tear running fast down his cheek. 

I reached up to wipe it off and smiled up at him. “You think this is the end, Ali? I will fight for you. Damn, I will fight for us all. Now go…let’s both do the right thing.” 

He walked away and I watched him go. The blue, flashing lights lit the way. 

Five Years Later

“The arrest of then seventeen year old Ali Johnson for theft and various alcohol, drug and gang related charges, took place five years ago to this day. Now, the 22-year-old is due to be released from HMP Brixton after serving his five year sentence. Johnson will be warmly welcomed back by many, but none more than childhood friend and activist Nancy Jones. Miss Jones has spent the last half a decade fighting for the futures of the young people in her local South London neighbourhood and, from his prison cell, Johnson has been her biggest supporter. With his help, the 21-year-old has made a hugely positive impact on the lives of many young people and greatly reduced the crime and violence rates of her community.” 

 “I love you” were the first words he said to me as he stepped outside as a free man for the first time since we were both teenagers. 

I stared out at the crowds waiting to meet us, a tiny smile threatening to break out across my lips “I know”

We stood side by side on the steps up to the prison and looked out at the colourful sea of people before us. It seemed like the whole of London had turned out. There was a murmur and then total silence, broken only by the distant traffic. I took a deep breath.

“We believe in young people choosing their own destinies. Why should where we come from limit our right to dream?” I shouted. My words were met by a roar of agreement and approval. 

“People like Nancy here light the way for us all” Ali spoke up “Take the opportunity to change and be who you are, not who society tells you to be. We will not be limited by the place we call home. The people we share our lives with will not watch those same lives be thrown away.” he turned around to point to the prison buildings behind him. 

“Our communities are special.” I continued, “They are what make us who we are, they are beautiful and unique and that is why we cannot let them stay like this. At the moment, that beauty is buried under a layer of dark and dirt and our young people are starting to forget what it looks like underneath.”

The energy that had been building up erupted and the crowd went crazy. 

“Look,” I fought to be heard over the noise. “it won’t be easy, maybe no one will listen to us, maybe no one will help us, but we’ve got to try! We’ve got to create a brighter future for us all!” 

Ali looked at me and smiled. “I think we did the right thing,” he said. 

I grinned. “Me too.” 

—————————

NOW go comment down below – 

 

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADRIA!! (and give her all your cake duh)
  • A positive in your life/something that needs celebrating/means a lot to you
  • Either something you could do to share that thing with others or something you have (a skill or passion) that could make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTEDDDDD……

it’s a beautiful mess but i’m learning

Um hi everybody. My words are all a mess in my head whenever I sit and try to write this. A beautiful mess. A mess of faces – thousands of them – all shapes and ages and shades. A mess of conversations. Snapshotted moments. Of emotions. This post should really be called Phases Of My Heart. Like phases of the moon, but way more unpredictable. 

Hello there. This post is going go be full of random photos from the last four and a half months. You’re welcome.

I’d say these past few months have been a rollercoaster. Sure, it’s a cliche, but sometimes the reason things get said so much is because they’re true. Not always, but sometimes. Anyway. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve definitely felt sick, I’ve been packed in a small space with a group of people, I’ve clung on for dear life and I’ve come very very close to screaming several times. And yet …I’ve loved it??? 

Driving round the entire coast of the UK living on a tenner a day with your family in a tiny camper van is hard, y’all. Giving everything up to try and make a difference in a crazy world is hard. It’s hard when you’re questioning what the hell you’re even doing, whether people even care, trying to find a way forward, trying to survive and thrive and function in such a tiny space. Yeah. Sometimes it’s crazy. Sometimes it’s oppressive. I knew it would be tough, but I’m motivated. I push through. We all do. But it’s hard. It’s hard when we’re all sitting in heavy silence in yet another supermarket car park and I can feel the tension in my stomach. It’s hard when I’m physically pushing myself to keep going, keep smiling, when mentally and emotionally I’m crying on the floor. It’s hard when all our voices rise above each other, filled with fear and tears and frustration. Its hard when it’s all too much and I feel like throwing up. It’s hard when no one gets it right. 

But when we do – when we do get it right – it’s incredible. That’s what I’ve been wanting to tell you about. About all the incredible people I’m meeting, all the lessons I’ve learnt, what I’ve experienced. What I’ve made happen. It’s tumbling out of me and I’m afraid this is going to be a mess. I’ve decided just to let it be what it is. 

I’ve spent four hours painting faces at a barbecue that was all about welcoming refugees from all over the world into the community, we laughed together even though we didn’t all speak the same language and ate the most ridiculously delicious food I’ve ever had in my entire life, cooked together by people from so many different cultures. I’ve spent time with people who’ve hit absolute rock bottom in their lives and then made the life or death decision to rise up and bring others with them. I’ve witnessed their strength and motivation. I was never a shy person before, but I’ve learnt to genuinely smile when the hundredth person of the day knocks on the van door and asks me about the challenge. I’ve learnt to believe in what I’m doing enough to walk into a cafe or restaurant, tell them about our challenge and ask if they’ll fill up our water tank, even though I used to dread asking people for anything because it felt wrong to me. I don’t know why. I’ve learnt about different people and places and what makes them who they are. 

New friends 🙂

I’ve swam in the freezing cold sea, huge waves crashing over me and felt that power and elation and freedom. I’ve stood up in front of a group of strangers my age and talked about our journey and how we, as young people, are not helpless or hopeless and how we can make a difference. I’ve made so many new friends, given hugs and received them. I’ve jumped off of cliffs into the icy water below, been swimming in the sea at midnight to see bioluminescence which looks like tiny fairy lights underwater and I’ve climbed the highest mountains in England, Wales and Scotland. I’ve learnt how to harness the positive power of social media, make connections and use hashtags. I’ve also gotten used to going for days without wifi.

I’ve met other young people determined to make a difference and been inspired by them. I’ve experienced the true meaning and definition of community and seen how people can come together, care about one another and make their town or city a better place. I’ve drunk endless cups of tea in strangers houses, chatted to countless people on the streets or in car parks. I’ve achieved some of my dreams, qualifying as a bosun and sailing to Holland and back. I’ve marched through city streets for equality and acceptance. I’ve cooked for people. I’ve danced all night. I’ve experienced so much kindness. 

I’ve met people who are so dedicated, so full of energy and ideas and visions that I’ve been so excited by the fact that hopefully one day I can be like them. I’ve (almost) stopped having anxiety attacks when someone invites us for lunch or wants to give us something because I just feel so uncomfortable taking from people. I’ve learnt to say thank you from the bottom of my heart and allow them to be part of our journey. 

Friendssss

Yes, I’ve burned myself out, giving and giving and giving. I’ve spent entire days on my phone, writing long posts for our social media, planning where we’re going to visit next, corresponding with people in communities all around the coast, phone calls and emails, one after another. I’ve used all my energy up and still been an exhausted mess of emotions at the end of the day, ready to explode or run away or cry. 

I’ve cried a LOT.

Even on days when I’ve decided that I’ve got to take a break and get outdoors and live in the moment, I have to keep checking my phone because I know what some of the people I love and care about the most are going through and it kills that there’s nothing I can do except be there for them when they need me. So I make sure I’m always there. Always ready for the tearful phone calls and mid-breakdown rants. I have to accept that all I can do is love them and try to help in whatever way I can and make sure they don’t go through it alone. That’s all I can do and some days it just doesn’t feel like enough. But I’m insanely grateful for them and for the fun we have and the conversations which I won’t even talk about because we would get judged so bad haha. I’m so grateful that they trust me and that we’re there for each other. Even though I can’t be with them, they mean the world and more. 

My dad might be nearly as crazy as I am

I’ve learned that some people aren’t worth crying over and that staring at your phone screen willing them to text you or sending message after message won’t make them care. I’ve learned both how deep and how shallow people can be. 

That’s what it’s like. Life’s tough and I’ve got it so much easier than most people. But one of the biggest lessons I’m learning is that when you get out there and try to make a difference, you absolutely will. If you have a positive attitude, you will find like-minded people, people will get onboard with what you’re doing and you will not be alone. 

This whole experience has been incredible and I feel like I’m a different person to the girl who started it almost five months ago. I’ve been places and met people I never thought I ever would and been part of things I never thought I ever could be. 

I now know a whole lot more about who I am and who I want to be. 

If you take that step into the unknown I can’t promise you that it won’t be scary and that you won’t struggle. You will. But since when did anyone ever achieve anything without coming up against hardships? 

Honey, it might be a mess, but it’ll be a beautiful one because its born out of your desire for change. 

Showing the sea cadets our van

So how’s everyone?? Tell me absolutely everything you’ve been up to and all the beautiful messes you’ve been creating!! I’m so happy to be writing on this blog again. I’ve been posting daily on our social media (Round The UK On A Tenner A Day – look us up), but I’ve missed having my own personal space to write and rant and ramble. Remember that if anyone ever wants to talk, pls hmu, no one goes through anything alone on my watch 😉 love to you all x

 

It’s time for change: The Cultural Genocide of Uighur Muslims in China – ft Bayance

Is this what our world has become? Do you want to live in a world that values financial gain over humanity? HUMAN LIVES? We’ve got to start changing things NOW, in our own communities, all over the world. We’ve got to start making steps towards something better, FOR US ALL. We’ve got to stand up and shout ‘THIS IS NOT THE WORLD WE WANT TO LIVE IN!!’ It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless, but you’re not. Even just one small act of kindness, positivity, acceptance or sharing goes a long way. So I challenge you to do that today, do one thing to rebel against this crazy, messed up world and then comment below and tell me what it was. REBEL, PEOPLE, REBEL!

Take a step outside your comfort zone, go talk to someone who looks lonely, message your friend who’s been feeling down, get on your computer and research what community projects are going on where you live (then bake a cake and take it down to them) or write a post online about something you really believe in, tell someone you care about them, get to know someone who’s completely different to you, be creative!! We’ve all got to come together to conquer all this negativity. What will you do?

Aqsa Says What?

Hello everyone! I hope that all of you are doing well. Around a week ago, I reached out to my fellow blogger Bayance regarding a recent topic that I feel the need to speak up about. We both created posts that talk about the cultural genocide in China of the Uighur Muslim’s being thrown into concentration camps. I decided to write my post around a poem I wrote about the situation, while Bayance wrote a very informative post that I highly recommend to everyone, as it contains all of the recent details and historical evidence you need to know about what the Uighur’s are going through. Check it out here!

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I’m Officially A Bosun (Rant About Achieving Your Dreams + Another Post About Sailing)

Wow. I’m an official, qualified, Ocean Youth Trust Scotland trained bosun now and I won’t shut up about it. Note: the official definition of a bosun is ‘a ships officer in charge of equipment and crew’, but that’s just a fancy way of saying we have to clean up the sick, cook the spaghetti bolognese, organise games that involve picking up cereal boxes with your teeth, be the rescue swimmer in the unlikely case that anyone goes overboard (but demonstrate every voyage just for good measure), help with the sailing, carry out engine checks and maintenance, and do any other odd jobs onboard the boat. In that order.

Photo creds to Charlotte ❤

I admit, I had my doubts before I started the training weekend. I was going to be the youngest (they only let me go because I hassled them so much I am so passionate – you’re supposed to be 16 haha) and I wasn’t entirely confident that I’d know things or remember things like, at all. To be honest, I was pretty sure I was going to end up in a pathetic and impractical mess on the deck whilst everyone else buzzed around perfectly competent and experienced and knowing exactly what to do in every situation.

But I love sailing and I love working with young people and in those situations I always remind myself that I am an overthinker and nothing ever ends up as bad as I think it’s going to be. Plus this is my future we’re talking about here and I want this more than anything. So if there are challenges that I have to overcome to achieve my dream, bring them on!

Not my pic – just one of the boat we sailed on 🙂

The weekend ended up being intense, but awesome. Everyone was there to learn and I surprised myself by picking things up a lot better and quicker than I thought. I was absolutely determined to get the most out of the opportunity and I did.

The best part is when you’ve been shown something, you practice it and then bam! eureka! You’ve got it. That’s the best feeling in the world to me right now. The BEST. 

I made some really cool friends. I love it when you’re with people who are all aiming towards the same thing and everyone is focused and enthusiastic. That’s another awesome feeling.

Just like proving yourself wrong. Just like realising that ‘hey, I am capable! I can do that.’ I’m not saying I’d know everything or remember everything, but I can honestly say I could get on a boat as part of a team of sea staff with a group of young people now and know what my role as a bosun was and carry it out. That is so empowering for me.

Dancing round the galley with new friends making jokes and trying not to burn the food reminds me why I love this. Leading games instead of just taking part in them feels like moving forward and that is so exciting. I’m moving forward with my dream, I’m actually GETTING SOMEWHERE.

It’s not just me rambling on about how much I love sail training or how much it means to me anymore. I am now a bosun and I am on my way to making a difference. I am on my way to the future I’ve dreamed of for so long.

So what’s next? I guess I’m pretty focused on the challenge at the moment (and that’s fine because I can’t officially volunteer on voyages as a bosun until I’m 16), but as soon as next year rolls around you can be sure that I’ll be out on the water putting all those skills I learnt last weekend (and throughout all the other time I’ve spent with The Island Trust, OYT Scotland and CatZero ) about sailing and about making a difference in the lives of young people.

This past weekend taught me a lot about myself too. When I tell people about sail training I’m always sure to mention how incredible it is for boosting confidence and how it changes lives. Sail training has transformed my life, given me purpose and a way that I can help others of my generation and what the bosuns training has done for my confidence this weekend is incredible.

I wish I could give everyone in the world the opportunity to go sailing, to fall asleep at night straight away and not lie awake overthinking everything for the first time in years because you’re exhausted but content, to dance around that galley and laugh and then serve up a meal you created to hungry and appreciative people, to huddle up on deck in the wind and the rain with windswept hair and oversized overalls and not care about what you look like for a while, to heave those sails up as part of a team and then feel the effect of powering through the waves.

And just in the last couple of days, I’ve been able to give just one young person that opportunity. Because of the challenge we’re on, I had to drop out of a voyage with OYTS and instead of getting a refund, I decided to give my place to someone who would get a lot from the experience.

When I heard the story of the guy I’ve decided to give my place to, I knew it would really help him. And I AM SO EXCITED FOR HIM. Like, SO EXCITED.

I’m so happy to be able to give someone else the opportunity to have their life flipped upside down (in a totally positive way) just like mine was. My only fear is that he may get the bug and never be able to stop sailing again….oops….

One day I’ll help give more young people that experience, one I’ll be a part of that. I can’t wait.

How’re you doing?? What are your dreams????? How are you working towards them?? ❤