Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Yearly Review

This is the fourth and final installment in a reflective series on this blog leading up to the New Year.

28/12/14 - My Faults
29/12/14 - My Strengths
30/12/14 - New Year's Resolutions
31/12/14 - Yearly Review

I'm going to do this in chronological order, because I need somewhere to start.


Source
January

I spent the first seven days of 2014 finishing off that year's Young Scientist project, and then spent the 8th to the 11th exhibiting at the RDS. I got a Highly Commended ribbon and my friend Anna won the whole Biology section, so that was cool. I also met a bunch of friends up there.

 It was a stressful but pretty incredible experience, and so I immediately started working on my 2015 project. I read buckets of research papers in January and February trying to get acquainted with my topic, and I'm glad because that work really paid off later on. 

In late January, the Mullingar regional semifinals of Briery Gap happened. Briery Gap is an annual light entertainment competition that the TYs enter, and our entry was called The Evolution of Music. We all performed as one famous musician from each decade (50s - 2010s). I was Madonna. It was so much fun. Oh, and we got through to the finals! 




February

If I recall correctly, I broke up with Cahal at the start of this month.


I did a lot of work experience in February - three weeks, actually.

I did one week in The Irish Times (big national newspaper) from the 10th to the 14th, which was awesome. Because it's such a big place we didn't really get to do any work of consequence, but we got shown around all the departments and had a lot of fun. We got to doorstep Ruairí Quinn. There were nine of us there that week but I only really talked to one guy - Cian. At lunchtime we sat off in a separate table and he talked about poetry and philosophy and how money is a flawed system. It was all very romantic. And by the end of that week, I had a huge crush on him. Pity he lives in Galway. I thought that was the last I'd ever see of him.

During the Irish Times work experience I pulled a big navigational faux pas by taking the wrong bus and going an hour in the wrong direction. I was an hour and a half late for "work" and completely soaked. Around this time I was also teaching my brother (who was in first class) how to multiply. He loved it. I should start doing that again.

I then did two weeks of work experience in a local analytical chemistry lab, Fitz Scientific. I can't be sure, but I think it was from the 17th to the 28th. I really enjoyed working there, because while it wasn't as glamorous as the Irish Times, I got to actually do stuff - dilutions, colorimetry, stocking shelves (has to be done), locating samples, pH tests, precise measurements, etc. It was really good basic lab training and it's stood to me.

I did miss two days of the Fitz Scientific work experience: one for a different work experience, and one for Briery Gap.

On the Thursday I went to Trinity College to do a one-day work experience in Astrophysics. It was alright, got to have a lecture in Schrodinger's Theatrre, make a fake comet and do a sunspots activity. I remember meeting some nice girls there but unfortunately lost their numbers so will probably never see them again.

On Friday myself and the Briery Gap girls went down to Cork to perform our show again. I'm proud to say that we came 3rd in the whole country and our Mad Scientist Aoife Dunne won Best Individual. The bus journey up and back took like eight hours and I had DMCs with some unexpected people at 3am while everyone else was asleep. Amazing.




I look a bit more normal here. I'm in the front, second from the right. You can see Niamh and Jayne holding prizes.
I wrote up a proposal and sent it to Trinity College and Intel asking for lab space for my Young Scientist project. I had a Materials List and Budget drawn up as well, and Fitz gave me some chemicals I needed. 

March

According to Facebook, nothing of note happened to me in March. I did start working for Stein Study as a Rep, though, which gave me €20 a month for liking and sharing all their posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and trying to convince people to sign up to them. I resented the way it clogged up my newsfeed. And I really disliked the fortnightly updates I had to send because it felt like I was laying myself at their mercy. I'm not good at working for other people.

I did a synchronised reveal for Kim Curran's Control after her publicist Caroline contacted me about it. It felt quite special. 

I failed to qualify for the national round of the Linguistics Olympiad.

In mid-March I made the shortlist for the Drogheda Young Innovators competition and was invited to a conference at which the boy who came second in the 2014 BTYS spoke. It was cool. 

I also did the Coca-Cola debates. We lost, but I was still sassy as hell up there and it was fun. The topic was awfully weighted against us, though - an all-girls school and we had to argue that it's no longer a man's world and that sexism is a thing of the past.

Myself and Anna went to DKIT this month to get medals for our involvement in the Young Scientist and then talk to kids about our project. Don't really know why, but it was pretty cool. The co-founder of the YS, Tony Scott, came to talk. 

On the 20th of March, we went to an army barracks near Dublin which was pretty cool. 

Look, it was lashing.


We spent three weeks in March working on our Mock Trials thing. I was originally solicitor/Team Leader but after I missed one day I was dramatically banished. I was completely distraught. However, I then went on to enter in the individual category, as a journalist. And this is really petty, but:

We went up to the Courts (early April) and I was the only one to win anything! I came third in Ireland for my article after they kicked me off the team. Revenge is sweet.

Around this time, a girl in my class won a nationwide journalism contest and I was so angry because, though I wrote it, I missed the deadline to send in my entry. She got so much publicity and ... Yep, I was really jealous because I knew I could have won it. Guess that teaches me a lesson.

April

The Mock Trials in the Criminal Justice Courts kicked this month off. It was a pretty cool experience, and winning was nice.

Yearbook had been steadily heating up over the past few months and now, with two months left in the school year, it was frenzied. People quit, got kicked out, joined up, brought pizza, started fights, ended friendships ... It was a very chaotic part of TY. 

In mid-April, Prof. Georg Duesberg emailed me back and said I could meet him to discuss the project and possible lab space. I was elated, but terrified. However, he was away on holiday so I didn't actually meet him until much later on.

My sister's birthday was on the 18th and my best friend's on the 20th. That was nice. The pictures are awful though. Like so:





Cliodhna looks lovely though.

Towards the end of April I joined a new literary magazine for teens, In It For The Long Scrawl. It's kind of faltered now, but I'm not sure I agree with its tagline - Serious Teens. Serious Writing. It seems awfully pretentious, and I hate when people act like writing is sacred. It's fun, but it's only human. 

The Yearbook went to print at the end of April/start of May. Phew. 

Derek Landy also replied to me a few times, woo!


May

In early May, there was the Drogheda Young Innovators competition. I just entered my Young Scientist project (the gift that just keeps giving) and won Individual Science. I got €50 and some vouchers. It was nice. Smiling for all the photos got sore after a while. I'm glad it gave me a lot of practice in speaking about my project though, because that came in handy in June.



I met Prof. Duesberg and Nina, and then a little while afterwards met Sinéad. 

My sister came 5th in the All-Ireland under-18s Chess Championships - proud.

On 22nd May, we graduated from TY. It was a hell of a year. A very gay one too. Literally.

On May 31st I submitted an article to Listverse for the first time and get rejected. Many rejections followed. I also tried to join a hell of a lot of content mills but usually couldn't because I'm not American or over 18. I'm glad now, Listverse and TopTenz are a lot better. I also submitted to Cracked.com but got rejected. 

June

June was huge. I went up to Trinity a lot (as I did in the months before and after). Morgan (friend from primary school) found this picture of us when we were like 10. It's so adorable. 



On the 15th of June, I got my very first freelance article accepted. It was "Top Ten Historically Important Notebooks", and TopTenz.net gave me $50 for it. I was so thrilled that I went out and bounced on the trampoline. That whole week was pretty incredible, actually.

On the Thursday I worked on presenting my project, and then on the Friday I went to Belfast for the Sentinus Young Innovators Competition (basically the N.I. Young Scientist). The project was the same but I'd gotten a hell of a lot better at communicating it, because I got 11 judges rather than 3 at the YS. I won the 2nd prize overall plus the Queen's University Award for Mathematics, and Anna won first prize overall and will be going to America in May to represent Ireland. Our teacher also won the Educator of Excellence Award and will be going to America too. I was meant to be going to England to represent Ireland but sadly can't as I'm not an N.I. citizen. It was a huge success for the school, going there and taking the three top prizes and another besides that.


Yes, I know I look insane. But look at the pretty trophies rather than my hair.



July

I joined Codecademy, sold two more articles to TopTenz and one to Listverse (!!!). But the most important part of July was my beloved CTYI, and there's a whole post about that here which you should definitely check out. I was still going to Trinity every week this whole time. It was fairly hard to co-ordinate.

But you'll never guess who I saw sitting in the CTYI canteen - that guy I'd had a crush on in February in the Irish Times. I could not believe my luck, it was like something from a book. I got an even bigger crush on him during CTYI and he turned me down. Oopsie. But anyway, I had an amazing time with my friends, and I love and miss them all so much.

August

August was sad, because CTYI was over and I missed it so incredibly badly. I couldn't write that whole month. My best friend there this year lives in Cork, my crush in Galway - even the closest ones lived an hour away in Dublin. Myself and Cian started dating, the family went on holiday in Donegal, we met Dad's girlfriend. 

My 16th birthday was on the 11th so on the 9th my friends Morgan, Ciarán and John Joe came down to help me celebrate. We had a lovely relaxed party in my garden and got our faces painted. Then on the 11th I went to see Cian in Dublin and Jerry, Ciarán and John Joe came. It was wonderful. Ciarán and I held hands in the morning and I thought we would go out, but then that afternoon Cian gave this dramatic speech and told me he was in love with me. I was too easily swayed and went with Cian. I regret that now, because I hurt Ciarán's feelings and ruined the prospects.







That was the best day.













I also started using Duolingo as my French was rusty, which was a great decision.

Oh, and I started this blog.


September

This month, I got back to writing my 1000 words a day. I also went back to school, and found 5th Year pretty damn overwhelming. I went up to Dublin a few times but really nothing much that month.


Oh, but I did find out I'd qualified for the National Finals of the Science Olympiad. So I started studying Biology like crazy.

And I was still working on the Young Scientist project, and feeling under pressure.


Very photogenic, I know.


October

Working on Young Scientist and studying Biology for the Science Olympiad.

I got another article published on Listverse.

My school Open Night happened, the last one I'll be around for. It was poignant and lovely, and filled me with school spirit.

I also joined the school Chess club. I was bad at it then, I'm still pretty bad at it now. But I quite like it. I started to enjoy Physics and settled into school.

November

The Science Olympiad was on the 1st. I didn't qualify for the International team, but I'm proud of how I did because I got a huge amount of the questions and at least it motivated me to study Biology. Oh, and I saw Jack, Gráinne and Andrew up there.


I went on a week of work experience up in AMBER. It was meant for TYs but as I was up there working on Young Scientist they invited me to come along. My favourite part was going to St. James' Hospital where they have a nanotech research lab in the basement, where I met AJ who's a translational neuroscientist and is pretty awesome. I also had a lot of fun with PJ (a CAT who I'd never spoken much to before) that week, we got on like a house on fire pretty much immediately. People alternately thought we were siblings and shipped us. Incidentally, hospitals have a lot of cool things in their basements. Blackrock Clinic has a particle accelerator. We also went to the Tissue Engineering lab in RCSI, which was cool.

I finally completed a Codecademy course (HTML & CSS), which I'm pretty proud of even though it's an easier course. Maybe I'll get up the nerve to try Javascript again at some point.

Cian and I broke up somewhere around now, I think. Or maybe it was October, I can't remember.

In good news, I won the local heats of the Soroptimists Public Speaking competition, and advance to the Regional Semifinals in Athlone in February. Woo!

Saw friends in Dublin too.

Also, my book blog passed 10,000 total views and I won NaNoWriMo.

And I was extremely stressed about Young Scientist.

December

Three words: Young Scientist stress.

I started updating this blog daily, and found it's doable. Really heavy emphasis on Young Scientist this month though. I finished this year's novel, so I don't have to think about that for months.

And now we're here. Today itself has been pretty shitty, but I'm sure things will turn up.

Happy New Year! 


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions

This is the third in a four-part series leading up to New Year 2015 where this blog gets a bit reflective.

30/12/14 - New Year's Resolutions
31/12/14 - Yearly Review

I don't really believe in New Year's Resolutions, but I'm going to use this opportunity to think about some general changes I want to make. I have some projects on the go that feature, as well as general aspects of my life. 

Oh, and perhaps surprisingly: even though I'm utterly unfit (though I'm still thin), I have no intention of exercising.

1. Be More Organised

Disorganization seems to be one of my personality traits, but I'm going to make an effort to remember to do and bring in homework for school, to avoid losing my possessions and to prepare (reasonably) far in advance for things.

I know it would reduce my stress levels a lot and so I'll give it a go - but it'll be a process.

2. Think About Others More Often 

After that post about my faults, I've realised that I need to fight my natural selfishness and so I'm trying to focus more on my friends. Some of them really need a good self-esteem boost, and I'm hoping I can transfer some of my ego over to them. 

Everyone else has their own stories to tell, and I should listen to them more.

I'm also going to pay more attention to my family. I think I'm a nice sister, but I don't spend as much time with the siblings as I should. I've been under a lot of pressure lately but I still need to make time for them. 

3. Look After Myself (Kinda)

This may seem contradictory, but it's not. Everyone tells me I need to have better eating habits because I'm too underweight, need to exercise, need to take time to relax, etc., and most of the time I brush them off --

And let's face it, I'm going to continue to do that for another while. I eat when I'm hungry. It can't be that bad.

But when I'm off working on my various projects I forget about the mundane things, so I need to remember to brush my hair and teeth more often.

Simple as they are, those are the things I'm liable to forget.

Also, buy more bras. 

To my projects...

4. Get Better at Coding

I've completed one Codecademy course in HTML & CSS, so I know the basics of that. I've almost completed another course, but that's just practising HTML & CSS. I did try to learn Javascript this year but it didn't really work out. I might give it another go after I strengthen my HTML skills, because HTML is very basic. 

5. Writing

I'm not making a hard-and-fast goal on this one just yet. I've written one novel a year the past two years, but I'm feeling a bit fatigued at the moment so I don't want to commit to another (though I very likely will start another in Spring/Summer), but I at least have to revise my recently-completed novel.


I'm not even going to think about school, but I really have to fix that somehow...



Monday, 29 December 2014

My Strengths

This is the second in a four-part series leading up to the New Year where this blog gets a bit reflective.

29/12/14 - My Strengths
30/12/14 - New Year's Resolutions
31/12/14 - Yearly Review

Societal norms tell us that talking about our strengths is a bad thing, particularly for women. And I am of course afraid of letting my ego get too big. But for the end of the year, I'm being honest with the good just like I was with the bad yesterday.

And remember: All of these are my opinion of myself. Of course it's biased.

Intelligence

Yeah, I'm not going to deny it. I'm clever. Before anyone starts, I don't think I'm the cleverest person ever or better than you. Since I'm a big fan of evidence, I'll give you some. 

My parents always gave me books when I was younger, and we didn't own a TV until I was four. So I've been a voracious reader for a very long time, and though I know you've heard this a million times before it is true: reading from a young age is crucial. It is the one thing I am most grateful to my parents for.

Getting on easily in school is a pretty good indicator. It's simple, really; although I didn't start learning to read until I started school at 4, I caught on very fast. Because of that, I got positive feedback and reinforcement from teachers almost immediately, and was motivated to keep going in school. Basically, I got off to a good start and that just kept on giving.

Of course, it might not all be nurture. I read somewhere that 80% of a child's intelligence comes from their mother, and my mother is smart. She's not into science like me, nor is she particularly mathematical, but she reads, is quite creative and has something I totally lack - practical intelligence, or street smarts

But I do have to bring it back to nurture, because the most important part is that she values education and learning, and she passed that on to me.

Onto some actual evidence: to get into CTYI, you have to be in the top 5% for mathematical or linguistic intelligence in your age group to qualify for the programme. I took that test and did really well, since I got a merit part-scholarship. I don't brag about that in everyday life but it's a neat little fact to prove this. 

Being smart is a huge part of my identity, because I project it outwardly in my nerd image. I'm comfortable being a nerd, and given the propensity of teenagers to settle into a group, I think this one isn't half-bad. It helps that I have CTYI to act as de facto nerd camp. 

Again, I don't think being nerdy makes me better than you. I love to read, occasionally to fangirl over books, and I love learning and doing science. They're just things I like doing that happen to have a label.

And being smart has made that path a lot easier, so I'm grateful.

Work Ethic 

I mentioned the downside to this yesterday, when I talked about my weakness for Compulsion. While it can be hard to maintain, this compulsion translates into a ferociously strong work ethic that means I get things done. I do have to be reminded to slow down and take life easy once in a while, but I'm pretty happy to listen to people telling me to take care of myself if it means I succeed first.

I've been working on my BT Young Scientist 2015 project for almost a year now, and it has taken an incredible amount of work. In January, I obsessively read journal article after journal article, beginning the steepest part of the learning curve. I'm very, very glad I did that now - the project wouldn't have been possible without the extremely hard work at the start - but after the thrill of discovery faded I had to just keep plodding through, and work ethic was so necessary.

Work ethic is also necessary for my writing. It ties into self-motivation -- no one is forcing me to write. I'm doing this because I like it, but I don't like it enough to keep putting so much work in. I'm also motivating myself by looking at the end goal. I believe that self-motivation will be a hugely important skill to have as an adult, and so I'm cultivating it now.

Curiosity

Curiosity is probably the most fun strength you can have (unless your strength is a superpower, like flying, or simultaneous bungee-jumping and solving quadratic equations with decimal roots). Seriously. 

Curiosity is what leads me to put my hand up all the goddamn time in class, and has since I was little. Along with reading, that's the reason I have whatever success I have; because I'm interested in class, and instead of trying to just absorb the information given I ask questions to help me link it to other things in my mind, because I would MUCH rather understand something than memorize it.

(And rest assured I don't think I'm unique here, I'm just trying to explain this to people who don't do it.) 

At the end of first year in secondary school (age 12), I tried to drop science from my classes. Thankfully, a guidance counsellor wouldn't let me, and throughout second and third year a great science teacher turned my burning curiosity into a passion for science. 

Scientists need to be curious.

That may not be the way it always happens in the world; people get into science for the pay (ha!) or whatever, but I believe true science is about curiosity, and trying to find out about the world around you. 

Confidence

This one may surprise some who know me, but being curious wouldn't be much good if I didn't dare speak out and ask questions (even stupid ones) in class, or if I didn't dare investigate something that interested me (even something risky, like this BTYS project). 

I’m not confident socially, I must say, because that’s not my arena. I do have trouble making friends and getting alone in social situations. But I believe in myself, and I believe in my projects, and what I stand for. I think that’s important, and it’s good to have the conviction to stand up for what you believe in.

If only I weren’t so confrontational about it.

Individualism

This is, I suppose, the flipside of the selfishness I mentioned yesterday. A consequence of thinking about myself so much is that I’m comfortable on my own.
I’m an introvert, yes, but it goes further than that. I’m not a team player, and while that seems like a weakness, for my purposes it doesn’t matter. I’ve always felt that it’s very important to be comfortable in your own skin.

Don’t be afraid to form your own opinions (though do make sure you’re  supported by evidence, if possible). I don’t tend to think or talk much about things that can’t be proved or disproved by evidence, like religion, because I’ll admit they make me uncomfortable. Oh gosh, this one isn’t turning out very positively at all.

Anyway. You can’t go very far if you’re constantly afraid of the censure of other people. So, be like a molecule; remember that you can exist on your own, but you want to be surrounded by friends most of the time. Bonds form and break transiently, but once they’re there you’ll be okay.

#deep #chemistryphilosophy

Friendship Stuff

I used to think I was loyal. But I’ve realised that being blindly loyal is not me, nor is it something I want to be. If someone leaves me, I can forget about them soon enough – I just turn off the part that cares about them for a while, somehow. That wasn’t meant to come out so emo.

But I want to be a good friend. I do care about them, and I’m trusting and easy with my affections. I’m also very forgiving. And I'm apparently quick to give out compliments, though that just feeds into being honest because if I see something good about someone I wouldn't hide it.

There's a girl who bullied me for two years when i was 13 and 14, and a few months ago she had nice hair and I told her so. Apparently that was stupid, and she laughed because she's a total sham, but (a) it was true (b) she probably needed to hear it. 

Honesty

This one does not make me very popular, but I believe it's necessary. I am brutally honest almost all of the time, to the point of annoying people. Still, I think it's best to just confront a problem and I don't really let people off the hook.  

I get really angry when people lie to me. I'm so honest with them, and lying is one of the few betrayals I care about.

Don't do it. 


Enthusiasm
John Green said that nerds get to be unashamedly enthusiastic about things, and while I’m not one of those people who consider John Green their Messiah, I agree.
I seem silly sometimes, or “embarrassing” according to my sister, when I wear a big jaunty flower headband or whatever. And maybe it’s childish, but if I enjoy it and it isn’t harming me or anymore else, what’s the problem?

I’m not ashamed of the things I like. I like Taylor Swift and Pentatonix, not some “cool” band you’ve never heard of. I’m not really into fashion, but if you are, feel proud of what you wear.

I think the world is lacking in enthusiasm.
Sure, it’s cool as a teenager to be apathetic, to be “above it all”. But oh my god it must be boring. Find your passion and practise it, and fuck anyone who thinks you’re uncool.



At least you’re doing something. 

I hope all of the above are true. As I write this and to my knowledge, they are. 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

My Faults

This commences a four-part series leading up to the New Year. 

28/12/14 - My Faults
29/12/14 - My Strengths (because it's good to end on a positive note!)
30/12/14 - New Year's Resolutions
31/12/14 - Yearly Review

What with all the New Year's Resolutions and turning over a new leaf etc., it might be nice to do a little reflection for the last few days of the year. 

Without further ado...

Selfishness

This is probably the big one. I'm sorry, but I am at heart a very selfish person. When I'm buying presents for people, I sometimes buy myself a copy of the item too, or take the better one for myself. I'm terrible at sharing with kids, because I take the best stuff. I spend a lot of time in my own head, and while that's good in some ways (writing in particular) it means I don't spend enough time thinking about other people. 

Which is bad.

I like to think this doesn't necessarily make me a bad friend. Being selfish does include my friends, as I consider them an extension of myself (*naaaarcissism*), so I want them to succeed. But still. 

The inability to think about other people is probably my worst trait.

Bragging

I have improved with this one, I think (oops is that a brag too?). Nevertheless, my sister doesn't let me forget it - she constantly tells me I'm bragging. I guess it's good to have an alarm. She says I have this particular laugh I do right after I brag, which suggests that I know I'm doing it - and I do, but I can't seem to stop. I always want to prove myself to people for some reason, I mean I always have something to prove, and mentioning awards is the most convenient way to do that. There's probably an underlying problem there. 

Annoying

I think the majority of annoying people know they're annoying. I've been told it by bullies/family etc., obviously, but I can even see it myself. My personality (partly coming from the bragging) is just an annoying one, and so I'm grateful for the people who've stuck by me even though I'm so annoying. Jesus Christ, how many times have I used that word?

I'm annoying in different ways to different people. With friends in school, particularly when I was younger, I was very insecure and constantly needed reassurance that they were my friend, and so I repeatedly asked them if they were, even though I knew as I was doing it that it was annoying. I can understand where it comes from, though. I essentially had no friends in primary school, so when I came into secondary school I was desperate to make some at all costs. A lot of people can't handle that responsibility - it's more like babysitting than friendship - and I don't blame them. I've grown up a lot since then, thankfully, and I don't worry so much about how many friends I have. But the annoying personality remains.

Another way I can be annoying is my stubbornness. For example, my friend Jerry is doing a challenge to write a haiku a day for 365 days, and when he's not in the mood to I force him to not miss a day (he's missed one but he's allowed miss four in total so it's okay). I know it's his choice but I really want him to finish what he's started and get a sense of accomplishment for it, so I am honestly doing it in his best interest. And so I start arguments over him not doing it, and I won't back down even though I am deadly afraid it'll damage the friendship. That's a little selfless, I guess, except that I also have to remember that ...

I Project Myself Onto Others
Not everyone else follows my life philosophy. I think Jerry will feel proud when he finishes the challenge, but maybe it doesn't mean as much to him. I think my sister's unambitious for wanting to be a secondary school teacher, but that's her choice, and she's a different person. To me, it's a weird choice and feels like "settling". But if it's what she wants to do, I have to remember that she doesn't have my personality. She's doing Ordinary Level maths, and that's her life. I need Higher Level maths, but she doesn't, and that's okay. It is particularly bad with my sister because for so long we looked and acted like twins, so seeing-her-as-an-extension-of-myself is exacerbated. 

I view my interests as the best ones, STEM degrees as better than Arts ones. And why? Because that's why I want to do. It's bias, and I should be getting rid of it. Or at least not expecting other people to follow it. 

In Jerry's case, what I'm projecting is my...

Compulsion
I don't mean to suggest this is OCD, because I'm not one of those self-diagnosing people and I can't afford a doctor's visit. That sounds ominous. I'm grand (denialism: another fault. But far, far better than science denialism).

But anyway, when I start something I can't bear to fail at it, to not reach my arbitrarily huge standards. I must do Duolingo every day. I must write 100 words a day (during that challenge). I must write 1,000 words a day (while I'm in the throes of writing a novel). I must achieve this impossible goal because I said I would.

What would even happen if I failed to do this? For the vast majority of these things, nothing. They're just things I've arbitrarily (that word again) decided are important, are part of my identity, and I'm terrified of disappointing myself. So I work hard (yay) even when it's not good for me (not yay). I'm young now, so I can deal with it. But people warn me about burning out, and though I basically tell them to eff off, well ... I fear it too. Ironically, the only times I feel close to burnout are when I'm not succeeding, so to offset burnout I work harder, telling myself If you work harder you'll succeed. 

That could be just my ego talking, though. I mean, I have won some things, but I'm not that great. Sometimes I think I have Imposter Syndrome, because I feel like everyone has too much faith in me and shouldn't trust me to achieve all the time - what if my meagre success so far has just been luck? But then other times I think I'm actually not that great (insert all of the above). Which would be Imposter Syndrome. Can you guess what mode I'm in right now?


Anyway. 

Sometimes I'm productive. But I'm incredibly prone to ...

Procrastination

I'm 16, okay? It's normal for sixteen-year-olds to sleep in and procrastinate on their homework. 

My age is not an excuse and I shouldn't try to use it as one. I know I sleep in because I stay up late (like, till 2 or 3am), often because I'm working, but I still feel disgusted at myself when I wake up and see that it's 11 or 12 am. Look at me wasting this day, I think. I have so much to do, and now I've just ruined the day. And then I do it again. I know if I really tried I could change that habit. But I don't.

I procrastinate my homework to a ridiculous degree. Everyone thinks I'm the perfect student because I get good grades (although they're slipping, they're usually As (French, Physics, English) or Bs (Maths, Chemistry, Irish, History, etc.) without studying), but until now I've just been relying on my intellect. Oh God that sounds so egotistical but it's true. 

Now that I'm in 5th Year, it's getting harder to get As just by coasting.

You know why I haven't been studying? Because I've been doing my own projects. The Young Scientist project is a big one, as are the novels and freelance writing gigs. I prioritise those because there are bigger and more immediate rewards (as well as the fact that I love them, yes, because they were my choice). Is my English teacher going to pay me $100 for an essay? Other people will. 

But that's fallacious thinking. I have to think in the long run, towards the Leaving Cert. Obviously I'm hoping I'll get some kind of big break before June 2016 (is this a sign of immaturity?) but I still have to work at school. It's a terrifying kind of arrogance, and it just keeps sneaking in.

I just do what I like, and those happen to be studious-looking things so people let me off whereas they give out to my sister for wasting time on Facebook and going to discos.
Thing is, neither of us are studying. We're both doing what we want.

But no one worries about me.

Jealousy

I'm such a jealous person, and it's really awful. I get jealous of my best friend's other friends. I get jealous of people I don't even know. I get jealous of people with better lives than me. I get jealous about other people getting complimented, even if I am too, because my brain spins that. I get jealous of people younger than me doing better than me. I even get jealous of my own friends' successes, sometimes, though I have mostly got rid of that because it's a really awful thing to do. My best friend in school recently won something big that'll get her a trip abroad, and I'm glad I was 99% purely happy for her. It's still not perfect, but I've improved. It helps that I know she deserves it so much more than I do. 

Funnily enough, the one thing I don't get jealous about is boyfriends dating other people. At least, I don't think I do. To my knowledge, none of my past boyfriends have been with anyone after me, though they have told me about crushes on other girls, and I'm pretty fine with that. I guess I successfully severed the emotional dependency. Emotional dependency is never good.

Confrontation

Another refutation of the good-girl image: I just cannot follow authority. I will easily do what someone asks me too if they provide good reasons and treat me with respect. But I refuse to "Respect my Elders" if they don't respect me. I don't think they get to boss me around just because they're older. Of course, many older people are wiser, and if they act wise then there's no problem. But arbitrary power makes me angry, because I'm very analytical and want explanations for everything.

Which makes me seem disrespectful.

I get by well in school with the administrators because our goals are very similar. I want to learn, I recognise that they're here to teach me, and as long as they don't make any unreasonable demands we get along happily. It's not because I'm obedient, it's because I'm doing what I want, which just happens to be what they want too.

When my desires don't align with authority figures', though, I come across as rebellious and confrontational. I find it very difficult to just shut up and accept things.

Wow. That was honest. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Fate of Bookstores

You want your book to sell well, of course. You have to remember that it's not just up against all the other books published every year, in every country, throughout history. It's also up against all other forms of entertainment; that's movies, Netflix, music, plus everything available for free (hint: all of that plus stuff you can get for free, like blogs and radio).

But the stakes are raised when you realise you're not the only one this affects. There's a whole ecosystem around a novel's publication - publisher, agent, copyeditors, blah, blah, blah. But the part I wanted to highlight today are the bookstores.

I'm worried for bookshops. I know for a fact that I'm naive about a lot of things, and I know bookshop chains are corporations too, but with book piracy and ebooks and the rise of the internet and TV, I am afraid. One of the two big bookshops in my town shut down this year to make way for a cinema. Thankfully it wasn't my favourite (that honour goes to Waterstones), but it still shows you something. I can't see the profit-loss records of Waterstones right now, but I can only hope that since it's in a popular shopping centre it's doing okay.

Because some aren't.

Bookstores are wonderful places, guys. Especially the ones that accommodate their customers by providing chairs and comfortable lighting and design. I once read an entire book in my local Waterstones in two sittings, and they didn't once try to kick me out. I know shops usually don't want customers to get anything without paying, but I'm a loyal customer to this Waterstones and buy lots there whenever I do have money.

Anyway.

Books like Harry Potter and hell, even Fifty Shades of Grey are godsends, because they get people into bookshops and even into reading. Harry Potter did that for a whole generation of readers, and Fifty Shades of Grey got middle-aged housewives out from in front of the TV. I know you don't have a social responsibility with your book, technically, but don't you secretly want to do that?

One business model (well, kinda) that I love is that of second-hand/charity bookshops.They're problematic too, in that they don't pay the author or publisher, but in fairness someone's already paid the author/publisher once to buy the book and then given it into the second-hand shop. Books are cheap in these shops, meaning more people can afford to read them (like me), and the charity shops then give the money to people in need.

I think that's wonderful.

I also wonder if some kind of merging would be possible, but that's a thorny problem for another post.

Friday, 26 December 2014

My Best and Worst Christmas Presents Ever

Now that we're past actual Christmas but still in the seasonal mood, it's time for me to recount the best and worst Christmas presents I've ever received. I'll start with the worst, because for news to matter, heads have to roll. Right?


Worst 

Tinkerbell Art Set


Source

This one was particularly bad because it was just insulting. I think I was 13 when I got this, maybe 14. My clueless uncle (I just spelled that "unkle", what) decided that a Tinkerbell paint set was a totally appropriate gift for a teenager. I admit that I did end up using the markers. They were useful, okay?

A Laptop Stand-Thing
BRÄDA Laptop support IKEA

I don't even know what the purpose of this thing is. It's from IKEA, so you expect it to be a bit quirky, but Mam bought it for Christmas 2013 and it was difficult to pretend I like it because ... you know ... it was completely useless. I also got clothes that year. It was like Santa mixed up my presents with some weird person who wants "standard teenage" clothes and a useless laptop cooler. 

Actually, I'd love to do the same with the name of this laptop-prop as is done with Benedict Cumberbatch/Benetton Cabbagepatch/Beetroot Cumbersnozzle's name, because it's amusing. Also, laptop-prop rhymes. It's more honest too, because that's pretty much all it does. Who even wants to use their laptop at an incline anyway?

Hannah Montana Pen


Hannah Montana Singing Pen - Rock Star
Source
Got this from my aunt. It was fun the first three times, then the obnoxious blaring of NOBODY'S PERFECT, WE ALL GOTTA WORK IT, AGAIN AND AGAIN TIL WE GET IT RIGHT got incredibly annoying. Again, patronising. Apparently it's pretty common for relatives to underestimate your age.

First world problems, right?

Anyway, now for some presents I loved.

Best 

iPod

I've been given three iPods by my mother. All but one were second-hand, don't worry, I'm not spoiled, but the latest one was a 4th Generation iTouch that had a camera (two! This was a shock in comparison to my previous 3rd Gen, which had none). I got a lot of use out of that iPod and have photos from a lot of memories, including my first and second boyfriend. I got it two years ago and it's lost at the moment, but even if I never find it again, it served me brilliantly. A huge bonus of it being secondhand was that it came with over 1000 songs already loaded on, which got me into Marina and the Diamonds and some KT Tunstall. 

(Somewhat worryingly, when I got my Samsung tablet (for free, I won it), it had automatically downloaded all the photos from my iPod. I do not know how.)


Headphones

A present from this year, these headphones are both practical (i.e. I use them all the time) and fun. Sound is better (unless it's a variation of the placebo effect), it looks cool (my definition of cool, okay?) and they're affordable. 

Books

This one's obvious. Where would I be without books? 




Feel free to share your best/worst Christmas present stories below, entertain me. 



Christmas Book Haul 2014!

This Christmas I got six books (and let's face it, I'm going to "borrow" some of my brothers' ones, because they have tons. The 7-year-old got like 17 from Santa.) At the moment I'm "borrowing" The Knife of Never Letting Go from my 7-year-old brother. Anyway.

Here's what I got from Mam. Just one book and it's historical fiction which I don't usually read, but sure I'll give it a go. My sister got me a gorgeous notebook too, and I LOVE notebooks. 


This is everything I got from my Dad. It pretty much exactly matches what I asked for, which is predictable but cool.

I also have the books I bought secondhand a while ago (already blogged about), plus my brothers', which include The Knife of Never Letting Go, Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (think I've read it before, but it's worth another re-read, it's pretty funny) and the entire Series of Unfortunate Events. I probably won't be reading that last one, but when you add in the review books I have (if they ever download properly), I'll have tons to read over Christmas. 

The Dying of the Light Cover

I've been waiting for this book FOREVER. Well, okay, since late August, but whatever. I'm on page 51 right now and apprehensive to see how the series will end. It's not encouraging that the cover has the protagonist's skull on a bonfire, but hopefully it's just Derek messing with us. 

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This is the final book in Dan Wells' Partials trilogy (you can read my reviews of the first two, Partials and Fragments here and here). It's been so long since I read Fragments and unfortunately I got it as an e-ARC so I can't reread it, but hopefully going back over the reviews will help. Anyway, I adored Fragments so I'm looking forward to this.

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Another sequel to a book I adored (and reviewed), this is the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. It's lucky I have Christmas and people to buy gifts for me, because otherwise I'd never bother to buy sequels. Anyway, this has phenomenal writing, stunning twists and an original plot, and I can't wait to get back to it.


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Finally, the start of a series rather than a sequel! I've wanted this since I read a review by Aylee, and I finally have it. The plot seems compelling, and I really should read some hard sci-fi if I profess to be such a sci-fi fan. 


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Honesty time: I got this because of the film that came out recently, because I didn't really know it existed before. I saw a Tumblr gifset of her boyfriend talking to her and it was just so adorable ... I'm only human, okay? I did find a pirated copy on the internet accidentally (I swear) but it's all good because it's been properly paid for now and I only read a couple of pages. I really dislike the apparent spoiler in the TITLE of the second book (Where She Went). I mean, honestly. Don't ruin it in the title. 


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The book Mam got me is historical fiction about Lady Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughter. It's not top of my priority list, but here's hoping it'll be an unexpected gem. 


I "borrowed" my brother's The Knife of Never Letting Go (don't worry, he's fine with it). I'll be honest, it's not really my thing so far. I can't stand phonetic spelling (at least there's only a little - it was AWFUL with Blood Red Road, I couldn't finish that one). But I'm two chapters in and I'll read it after Skulduggery Pleasant: TDOTL, if just because of all the rave reviews. 


Have any of you read these? Feel free to comment below with your Christmas book hauls