Chapter 2 Of My Family’s Story

Heyy everyone!! I’m so sorry that it’s been awhile, I’ve been crazy busy lately and will definitely be back with a life update soon as I’ve got loads to tell you all, but for now I thought I’d share the second chapter of the book I’m writing to tell my family’s story. For those of you who haven’t read Chapter One, you can find it HERE. Enjoy and please do let me know what you think x

Chapter 2

Our journey began for real in late April 2019. With one turn of a key in the ignition and the low rumbling of a fifty year old Morris Traveller engine, we were on our way to Hull. A new journey was beginning, a journey that was the next step in lifetimes spent searching for solutions and, although our life experiences and motivation were all very different, each one of us was ready for a challenge.

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When I look back now, I see our challenge as a whole and as this incredible, epic, life transforming journey, but when you break it down,  it was and still is a tapestry of daily ups and downs and small connections with human beings. It was not completed in leaps and bounds, but in lots and lots of small steps. Small steps which eventually led up to all of us sitting in a tiny Morris campervan, about to embark on a challenge that, to our knowledge, no one else had ever been crazy enough to take on.

What holds so many of us back from doing so many things is the fear of stepping outside our comfort zones, of going against what we’ve always thought of as the norm, of choosing to live our lives differently. We’re so often afraid to take the first step towards creating a better life, for us and for others, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. As a family, a big part of us taking on this journey was to show anyone watching that ordinary people can make a difference and that if we could do this crazy challenge, imagine what they could do! In choosing to live differently, to focus on lifting those in need as a priority and not just an afterthought, we wanted other people to look at us and see that we aren’t extraordinary or special, we’ve just made a choice, and they can too.

I remember it all feeling so huge and so unknown and so full of possibilities at first. If you know anything about us, you’ll know that we’ve never been a family who’ve shied away from living life differently or going completely against the norm in pretty much every aspect of who we are, but there is something about that first physical step on any journey that feels so significant. You can spend months and months planning your big adventure and talking over every little detail, imagining what your step into the unknown is going to be like, but nothing prepares you for how it really feels to be on the threshold of change, to not know what’s around the next corner or the hundreds of corners after that, to not have anything more defined to stick to than just the UK coastline and a tenner a day.

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On our way up to Hull we needed somewhere to stop off so we pulled up in the car park of the Gordon Boswell Romany History Museum in Lincolnshire. As we ducked out of the streaming rain into the huge warehouse to see if anyone was around, we found ourselves surrounded by a massive collection of the most beautiful traditional travellers’ wagons and other memorabilia from the Romany gypsies’ colourful culture and history. As we wandered around, an old lady came out from behind a wagon and introduced herself as Margaret, the owner of the museum and the wife of the late Gordon Boswell, a well known and loved advocate for the Romany people and their way of life.

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We spent the day sheltering from the storm with Margaret and her daughter Lenda, both strong, proud and incredibly generous Romany women. At first, they didn’t really know who we were and what we were doing there, but after we explained that we were just about to set off on a journey of our own, they were so eager to tell us all the stories of the journeys their people had taken – be it all the way from northern India over a thousand years or to the Appleby fair over the course of a few weeks.

Their hospitality was incredible. As the high winds brought on by Storm Hannah made the thin metal walls of the warehouse groan and creak, they made us the first of countless cups of tea on our journey and told us all about their incredibly rich and diverse history, all the negative and false stereotypes and misunderstanding they face and how hard they’re working to educate people and show them who they really are. Just sitting round the table talking to them for one day, we could see the strong and long held values the Romany gypsies have, how genuine they are, how they look out for each other, their hospitality and their unbreakable family ties.

Wandering around the museum itself was like stepping into another world, a world of simple, timeless colour and vibrancy. Gordon is infamous for how he could capture people with his stories and you can still hear his voice on a film that plays on repeat as you gaze in wonder at everything the museum holds. I remember thinking how that must be for Margaret, to spend her days amongst all those memories, with his voice narrating it all.

We felt a strong connection to these people – not just because of their wandering way of life – but because of what they value. We got a small glimpse into that in the time we spent with Margaret and Lenda and their stories of days gone by and their current very large family. We experienced how hospitable they were when they let us stay the night and when Margaret came running out the next morning to humbly give us a very generous donation to CatZero.

Hospitality, family and welcoming people no matter what their background or circumstances have always been really important to us and a huge part of who we are. For a long time, we’ve just put our beliefs into action in our everyday lives, whether that be by making sure our home is always somewhere that people can drop in for a cup of tea and a chat or whether that be through cooking for all our neighbours and providing the opportunity for them to forge friendships. We’ve always strived to be the catalyst for connection as we know how powerful it is, but we haven’t always been successful and the things we value are often hard to come by in general society. We’ve always searched for this true sense of community, both consciously and subconsciously, I guess. Maybe this would be the chapter of our lives where we’d discover it. Margaret and Lenda had given us hope, even though our challenge hadn’t even officially begun.

And that wasn’t the only major thing that had happened before we’d even started. We were having issues with Mo. As we swung into a park just south of Hull and Dad got underneath the van to investigate, we discovered a hole in our rear axle which was leaking oil all over the place. On top of that, we’d been experiencing some undiagnosed problems with the engine, which was really frustrating as we’d had it all checked out and serviced before we left. Little did we know that this was only the beginning in what would be a saga that would span pretty much the entire journey and thousands of miles, involve many mechanics, breakdowns (from both us and the vehicle) and the kindness of strangers, and result in us zigzagging back and forth across the country in a desperate bid to get Mo fixed. Unaware of what was to come, we temporarily patched up the axle with some tinfoil and a butterknife (brought along not for buttering bread, but for oiking limpets off of rocks as we didn’t know when our £5 a day for food would need supplementing). The engine problems were a bit more worrying though, as we had no idea what was causing them. We had no choice, we had to keep on going. We had to reach Hull.

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From the moment we pulled up on the dock at Hull marina, all leapt out of Mo and climbed the stairs to CatZero’s brightly painted offices, we were welcomed into the CatZero family with the same enthusiasm, smiles and openness that they welcome everyone. As we sat around the table with the team drinking tea, Louie the famous therapy whippet at our feet, people constantly popping in to say hi, I felt like we were really doing something that mattered. That feeling was only amplified by getting to see CatZero’s work in action when Pete took us along to a celebration event for the participants who’d just finished one of CatZero’s programmes.

Seeing all these people, young and old, who’d had a really tough start in life or fallen on hard times just due to their circumstances, stand up and talk about how CatZero had changed their lives, showed them what they were capable of, believed in them when no one else did (least of all themselves), taught them skills, given them a support network, pushed them out of their comfort zone and helped them build themselves a future, was so motivating. Seeing their newfound confidence, even when their voices trembled slightly as they stood up to speak, and the deep bonds they’d obviously forged as a team, I couldn’t stop smiling. They talked about all their highlights – from going sailing after never having even stepped foot on a boat before to cooking for and eating with all the local businessmen and women at their pop up cafe after never having cooked hardly anything in their lives and from doing outdoors team building activities like raftbuilding and camping to gaining loads of qualifications to help them get into work or education.

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After the presentation, we hung around chatting and everyone was overwhelmingly supportive and grateful for what we’d decided to do on CatZero’s behalf. I remember talking to a couple called Lee and Katie who shook mine and Evan’s hands over and over again, telling us that we were their role models for, in their words, ‘giving people who want to change their lives the opportunity to do it’. It was the same when we met Jim, an incredibly successful businessman who was one of the three founders of CatZero. He came up and shook our hands with tears in his eyes and told us that, even though he’s had such a prosperous career, founding CatZero was the best thing he’s ever done.

Over those few days in Hull, we also got to hang out with and really get to know Callum and Caz, two young people whose lives have been completely turned around by CatZero.

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Before he joined one of their programmes a few years back, Callum was addicted to drugs and alcohol, had fallen out with his family and was homeless. He’s now working for CatZero fulltime as a really positive role model for other young people who want to turn their lives around. He’s a capable and talented sailor and actually completed a leg of the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race last year, from the UK to Uruguay, right across the Atlantic ocean. I was extremely jealous.

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Up until a couple of years ago, Caz would never leave her bedroom, really struggled with her mental health, would drink and self harm, didn’t have a great relationship with any of her family and had given herself eight weeks before she took her own life. That’s when she discovered CatZero and they saved her life. She’s now one of the most positive people I know, constantly busy doing something to push herself out of her comfort zone or help others in her community, whether that be volunteering as a Beaver leader or inviting elderly neighbours for dinner. Having never been able to ride a bike or swim, she’s now part of a triathlon club and completed the Coast To Coast Cycle Challenge in 2019. After living on only chicken nuggets and toast all her life, she’s also faced her greatest fear – fruit!!  Raspberries are now her absolute favourite food, but she’s still not too keen on kiwis. Not knowing how to eat it, she once bit into one like an apple and has had nightmares about it ever since!

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Callum and Caz are both huge inspirations to me, with their motivation to change the lives of others and with everything they’ve overcome. They always had the potential to be such incredible people, but up until they came across CatZero, the world was geared against them and they were never given that opportunity. It goes back to a story Dad often tells us, of a boy he once met who wrote a note saying ‘I want to be a good boy, but there’s no one there to help me…’ and then crumpled it up and threw it away. Everyone should have a choice and that’s what CatZero gives them.

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Soon, it was nearly time to leave our CatZero family behind and set off into the unknown. I write this now, looking back on our family sitting in Mo, staging our departure for the TV cameras whilst knowing we’d have to turn around and do it for real again soon. I now know everything that journey held in store for us and I’m so excited to live it all again and share it with you as I write, but at the time, we didn’t know what would happen over the course of the next ten months. In fact, we only planned on being on the road for six.

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People had been telling us for months how crazy our challenge was. In fact, when we got our first taste of being on the radio in the BBC studio in Brighton, the host opened the interview by telling all the listeners that he was going to try and talk us out of it. Obviously he didn’t succeed. I guess in theory, we knew it was crazy and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it didn’t feel reckless or even particularly scary. When it came to it, we knew it was the right thing for us to be doing, for CatZero and for our continued search for community and a way to truly make a difference. We’d taken lots of little steps to get this far, we could take this one too.

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We took the step, turned the key, started the engine and, just like that, we were off.

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Deeds Not Words ~ A Lil’ Rant

When I sat down to post today, I was going to share some quotes that have inspired me recently, but then I thought differently. I am surrounded by people talking about things whilst the problem just gets worse and, although I definitely see the importance of communicating and sharing thoughts, I also see the need for action.

My Dad has always told me  ‘deeds not words’ and I believe he’s right. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the darkness around us, but we have to use the emotion, that anger, sadness and confusion, to make a difference.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put my energy into solving problems and creating solutions and I want you to do the same. This applies to everything – relationships & friendships as well as bigger issues that affect our families, communities and society.

 

 

Empty

Sad eyes on smiling faces. I can’t bear it when I see my friends and other young people of my generation hiding their pain behind this mask of fake confidence and a don’t-care attitude. I’ve seen them cry, I’ve heard them talk and sometimes we don’t see what’s deeper down. So why don’t we all quit hiding and start sharing. Here’s a poem lol 👇

Empty

emptiness.

they say it’s like a blank space.

they say it’s so shallow.

they say it’s a defence,

but what does it replace?

what i want to know is

-honestly –

does it make it better?

or does it just numb the pain?

just for awhile, of course, ’cause we both know it won’t stay away.

 

well, i guess maybe i wouldn’t know ’cause,

i am not the suicide joke,

or the false laughter that follows,

i am your tears as you sob into my shirt,

’cause this is your story

and i ask you ‘why joke about what almost killed you?’

 

that laughter makes me angry.

why, why do you make this into something funny?

all i want is to tell you it will be okay,

don’t be ashamed of your pain.

you’re not empty. you’re not empty.

 

you are made from heart-shaped scars,

deep breathing, panic rising,

you are talking to the stars ‘cause you’re hurting

and they’re the only ones listening.

you are biting your lip and tasting blood and screaming

you are strength because you are tired of feeling weak

this is your story

you are anything but empty.

 

you are made from shattered glass and picking up the pieces

you are made from getting hurt and feeling like you’re worthless

there is ugliness in your pain

but from that truth comes beauty

do not hide behind that mask of empty, empty, empty.

Positively Rebellious™

I am a total, self-confessed rebel. I love going against the grain and, of course, I love my rock hands 🤘, but recently I’ve been thinking…how can I put that spirit to good use? How can I use it to really make a difference?  In our society there are so many negative things that we can rebel against and so much that we should do differently.

 

I’ve come up with this list of things both you and I can do to be Positively Rebellious™. If you’re up for a challenge, have a go and let me know how you get on!

  • Dance in the street (or wherever you like really…supermarkets are also pretty good)💃
  • Just forget about what other people think of you for awhile. Prepare to be liberated!
  • Tell someone that you love their smile 😄
  • Speak your mind and be honest. It will get you so much further than faking it and if people don’t like it…well…tough 😂
  • Stand up for something you believe in 💪
  • Turn your music up, up, up 🎧
  • Stop dwelling on the problems and put your energy into coming up with solutions.
  • Do something you’ve always been too scared to do before. You’ll be fine! ☺️
  • Commit a random act of kindness ❤️
  • Use something you’re passionate about to help someone else.
  • Let go, laugh 😊
  • Take crazy photos 📸
  • Consciously put someone else before yourself 👍
  • Tell people you care about that you love them 💕
  • Share whatever you can in whatever ways you can 🤝
  • Be a pirate (or whatever else you feel like being) for the day ☠️
  • Don’t just follow the crowd, always make the decision to do the right thing 👍
  • Swim in the sea – it will be cold, but I can promise you it’s worth it 🌊
  • Don’t walk – run! Or hop! Or skip! Or jump! Or sail 😏😏
  • Forgive someone for their mistakes ❤️
  • Wake up early and watch the sunrise 🌇
  • Send someone an encouraging text 🤛
  • Most importantly, think for yourself! Act upon what you believe in, do something about what you care about and dare to be different ✌️

If you have anything to add, don’t hesitate to comment down below! Also, I would absolutely love to hear how you get on being Positively Rebellious™ so be sure to let me know. I hope this inspired you and made you smile 😊 so, what are you waiting for, Positive Rebels?! Get out there and go!

2018 – The Year Of The Ship

2018. Where do I even start?

I’ve honestly been staring at this screen for over six minutes and I still have no idea. So much has happened this year and it’s all going through my head right now and I can’t even….it’s just….a whole year is such a long time and I’ve changed so much and experienced so much and I don’t know how to begin explaining that.

I’ve called this post The Year Of The Ship because that’s what it is in my mind. Sailing ships and friendships ☺️ here goes….

Life’s weird. I wasn’t expecting to go on a sailing voyage and come back like ‘Bam, I know what I’m gonna do with my life now’ but hey, that’s what happened! That first trip sparked my love for sailing and the ocean and the whole seafaring way of life and I realised that I could use this to make a difference. 

I’ve been on three voyages since and, in total, have spent a whole month at sea this year! I’ve met some of my best best best friends and have completely and irreversably fallen in love with sailing and sail training.

This year has been really hard and full of challenges.  I feel as though major changes are constantly being thrown at me. Teenage life isn’t easy as I’m sure many of you well know and trying to juggle relationships, my future, feelings, new responsibilities and changing the world is pretty demanding, ya know? 😉 

I honestly think 2019 has made me a completely different person and that I’ve changed so much, in a positive way, for sure 🙂 

I think I’ve finally found a world I belong in and at the same time, a way to make a difference. I feel both lost and found, if that makes sense. As if I’ve found a place and people to belong to and yet I’m still searching and still trying to make the world a better place. 

I also just want to mention all the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with this  year – blogging friends, real life friends, the crew of Pegasus voyage 1 & 2, the crew of Alba Explorer and all my Small Ships Race mates. 

2018 hasn’t been an easy year for anyone and I’m so so so proud of everyone for getting through it and being the incredible people that I know. Love ya all. Stay strong. 

I think that pretty much sums up my unsum-up-able year lol. To listen to my soundtrack for 2018 click here for a playlist I made for a few friends. It’s full of all the songs that mean the most to me and I’d love for you to give it a listen 💕 

How has your 2018 been? What’s been the most important thing to you this year? Would you say that you’ve changed a lot? Did you listen to the playlist? 

 

 

Moving On

I’m sorry for my silence…I know it’s been a while. Autumn is well and truly here now and winter is definitely feeling close. Life is very cold and summer is long gone.

We’re leaving where we live in a couple of weeks. I look around me and I see my home, the only home (other than the open road) that I can remember. I see the ghosts of warm summer nights under the stars with my best friends, campfires glowing in the dark, a million mudfights, ten years worth of childhood adventures and stories. I could walk around this place blindfolded, I know it a hundred times better than any other place in the world because, for an entire decade, these woods and fields and rivers and buildings, were my world.

But life goes on and things change and now I’m leaving it behind. I’m ready to move on – we all are, but I’ll still miss it. A part of my heart lies here and always will. The child that I was belongs to this place. From the barely five year old to the almost fifteen year old, she belongs here – climbing trees and running wild, blissfully content and free.

I am ready for the future, full of dreams and plans, I’m filled with excitement at the prospect of going out into the world and doing something to make a difference….

How are you all? How’s life going? Any big plans or changes happening for you guys? What does December and the new year hold for you? 

What Can We Do?!

This is the top headline I see when I open the news this morning.

Fifth of 14 Year Old Girls Self-Harm

Out of the 5,624 girls who responded to the survey, 1,237 said they had self-harmed.

109,000 children aged 14 may have self-harmed across the UK during the 12-month period in 2015 – 76,000 girls and 33,000 boys.

Those who felt boys should be tough and girls should have nice clothes were least happy with life.

These are all sentences that jump out at me. It makes me think – this is it. This is my world, this is the society I’m growing up in. This is it. I am a fourteen year old girl. It’s my generation they’re talking about here. What can I do?!

I can try my best to be ‘a light in the darkness’ in the only ways I know how, but what am I really doing? How am I reaching the people who really need help? Even if I could, what difference would I make? I don’t understand what that 20% of fourteen year old girls have been through. I don’t understand what it’s like to be that desperate. And I can’t claim to, but I do have to do something.

It’s not because I’m a nice, selfless, caring person. No, I just have to. I can’t sit back and let this happen. We’ve allowed these issues to settle in our society and now we’re paying the price. No, the more vulnerable of us are paying the price and they deserve everyone’s help and support to get out of the place they’re in.

I feel extremely sad and angry. And I feel helpless, I feel like I can’t do anything. The only thing I can do is be a friend. That’s something I can do.

This post isn’t a pretty poem. It’s not well-written. It’s a rant fueled by emotion and desperation. I can see my world being dragged down in front of my eyes and all around me people are getting on with their lives and telling me that everything’s fine and will sort itself out. It’s not and it won’t. Not unless we do something about it.

Thing is, what can we do?

Story Time: Thinking Differently + Not Being Influenced By The Media (Even If Your Peers Are) ~RANT ALERT!!!~

Everyone knows that media influence is an issue, right? But, as I’ve discovered, it’s only when you experience the power of this influence first-hand amongst people you know and care about that it really hits home. And when it does hit, it hits hard.

Here’s what inspired this post. Story Time!

Please note: I am not attacking my friends by sharing this story. I love them all very much and do not blame them at all. It is the media that should be held responsible for this incident. 

A couple of days ago I was hanging out with a group of friends – mixed ages, boys and girls. The boys were having a conversation and so the girls and I decided to wander over to see what they were talking about. It turned out that they were discussing what they look for more of in a partner – personality or looks? After laughing at them for having such a weird conversation we started listening and joining in. 

It all got a  bit technical when they started breaking it down into percentages. At first us girls were just laughing our heads off. It was so amusing, but then it became a bit more ‘interesting’. Much to our surprise most of the guys seemed more interested in girl’s looks than in their personality :0

One of them was like ‘oh, 100% looks, definitely’ and so one of the others asked him to describe what his perfect girlfriend would look like. To my shock and disappointment he started listing every single beauty stereotype that the media projects at us – blonde, skinny, etc.  All the other boys agreed with him. These were kids I had spent my childhood with, boys I had grown up playing in the dirt with. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 

I admit I got a bit cross with them 😉 ‘Guys, come on’ I said ‘That’s such a messed up view! And plus, it’s not even your view, it’s what you’ve watched on TV, read or seen online, it’s not you. You’re being influenced, told what to think! Surely that’s not what you want? Your view of beauty should not be what a corrupt society has put into your head!” I didn’t say all of that in exactly those words because looking back now I am not so blinded by confusion and sadness and frustration, but I did rant on along similar lines.

Some of the boys’ reactions was defensiveness. “Oh, well, I did say I valued personality more”, one said. But what really shocked me was what one of my friends said. He looked at me, smiled and shrugged. “What’s the point of having a girlfriend if she’s not pretty?” 

I felt like screaming. ‘You have no idea what you’re saying!” I thought. ‘You’re young and all around you that’s what people are telling you’ I just shook my head sadly and that was the end of the conversation. 

However, that whole incident stayed in my thoughts for ages after that. It made me wonder what sort of a chance my generation have and how they’ll ever learn what’s right when they are constantly being told otherwise. It also made me think about my place in all this – I may have different opinions at the moment (due to the way I’ve been raised), but how long until this starts to affect me too?

For example, all of my friends (these same ones, but the girls too) are obsessed with the TV show Friends. Ok, ok, I know this is going to be controversial.  I know Friends is widely loved, but hear me out, alright?

They keep trying to get me to watch it, gossiping about what episodes they’re on and squealing about the latest inappropriate stuff they’ve learned from it. That’s after they’ve whispered about spoilers, discussed each character in the finest detail and sobbed  on each other’s shoulders because they only have two more seasons to go before they have to start re-watching episodes. Seriously, my eyes hurt from so much rolling.

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But it really isn’t this that I have a problem with. I’m as much of a fangirl as anyone when it comes to favourite TV shows. I recently jumped up and down more than I’d care to admit when the trailer for Anne With An E Season 2 was released. Any fellow fans out there?

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The thing that gets to me is the fact that the programmes I watch have positive messages, strong characters, great portrayals of real life relationships, as well as being amazingly entertaining! Whereas things like Friends are full of negativity, fakeness, inappropriateness and although they may make you laugh, if you think about it they’re just trash. Even when I ask my friends what’s good about Friends they struggle 😂

I have made the decision not to watch Friends – even though all of my friends are. In fact, I make the decision to think different and act differently just in general. This isn’t easy – I’m a teenager growing up in the same society we all live in after all, but hey ho, I’m giving it a go.

How about you? 

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One Life – Live It, But Live In The Moment

I’m constantly worried that I’m not making the most of my life.

I only have one (duh) and I want to make the most of every moment.

I start to panic – I could be doing this, I should be trying that, I want to experience EVERYTHING this world has to offer me.

Then I slow down. What kind of a way to live your life is that? Constantly worrying about cramming things in, trying to do everything. It wouldn’t be a happy, content one – that’s for sure.

So I’ve made a decision. I’m going to take my one life and live it, but I’m going to live in the moment. Make the most of the present, be spontaneous and find joy in the little things.

Family. Community. Society. Humanity.

There is so much negativity building up at the moment. Within families, within communities, within society, within humanity as a whole. These things, these things that are the pillars of our world – they’re breaking down, being replaced.

It’s a massive challenge as anyone really, but particularly teenagers, to grow up in this world. It’s so essential that we, as the future, hold on to what is important. Family. Community. Society. Humanity.

This is a huge struggle, but I’m trying to make the decision to understand and believe in these things.

Soooo, that was the thought of the day! If you guys have any comments on that please do let me know.

Now, I’m going to do like a mini update/catch up thingy with everything I need to tell you all. There’s quite a bit!

  • The amazing Bri has just started blogging again after a couple of months. This is such good news. Please go check out her blog and introduce yourself, it’d mean the world to her.
  • I’m participating in Hannah’s photography contest! No, I am not a photographer, but I wanted to try something new and Hannah is just the sweetest, loveliest person.
  • Remember the social experiment a load of you helped me out with a couple of months ago? Well, I’ve nearly finished putting together all my results and I’ll be sharing them on here very soon. Stay tuned.
  • I’m staying at my Nan’s at the moment looking after her as she just has a knee replacement. She’s doing really well as she’s super determined. She ALWAYS reads my blog so please give her a quick ‘get well soon’ in the comments. She’d be thrilled. 😀
  • I’m going to be doing a ‘day in the life of me’ post soon. So I’m quite excited ’bout that. Also, I’m thinking maybe a little Q and A sesh maybe?
  • I think that’s it??????

What was your thought for today? Tell me all your news! Are you excited for all my future plans on this blog? Lemme know….