When moving to a new or big city, staying safe can be a big concern. I moved to London for university and I know that one of my major worries was crime in the capital, especially since there's so much on the news about it. It can even be enough to put you off, but there are plenty of things you can do in order to stay safe.
First of all, it's important to know your routes. Before I moved, I found a few different ways from my flat to the tube station; one is quicker than the other but the longer one is more public and well lit. So, when it's dark out, I take the safer one even if it takes a bit longer because it's a small price to pay for feeling safer. It's also worth having a few alternative ones for your everyday journeys - for example to college, university or work - in case a road is closed or public transport is down.
Secondly, it's good to get to know the public transport links in your local area. I learnt my tube route to university as well as a bus route, because if one is not available it ensures I can still get there. It may take a while for it to become familiar but once you've fully learnt them and got used to them, it will be like second nature. It may also be worth getting an idea of wider city transport in case you are visiting a friend or somewhere a bit further from your local area.
Routing apps are also very helpful. It ensures that you will definitely get to where you need to be without worrying and they usually have live updates as well. One really useful one is the Official TfL app, which has live updates on tube statuses, as well as any planned closures and works. Another really good one is CityMapper, as it applies to other major cities outside of London and includes more methods of getting to where you need to be, such as cycling and walking.
I’ve also found that Uber is amazing when the night tube isn’t on. It costs quite a lot more than public transport, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more then it is totally worth it. Always make sure your driver has a proper picture, good ratings and check the type of car and number plate before you get in. You can also connect your app up to your friends’ phone so they can get live updates as well.
That brings me onto the following point, which is keeping your friends informed. I usually get mine to message me once they're home, and vice versa. You could also use things like Find My Friends or Snapmaps; these have been super useful for me on nights out when people have left before others and not been able to tell everyone. I don't keep mine turned on all the time, usually only when it's agreed with my friends so we can make sure everyone is in the right place.
Personal safety is also a major thing. For example, keeping a bag that is not easily accessible on public transport or in busy areas. Pick-pocketing and theft are huge issues in busy cities and people who do it are more subtle than you might think. Keeping things like your phone, laptop and wallet in a properly shut backpack or zipped up bag will usually help deter things happening.
I also carry portable chargers and emergency cash in case I need it. For example, if my phone dies and it means I cannot access Apple Pay to cover a tube or bus fare, having the emergency money is super useful. I've also been using my phone for a lot more since I moved, so the portable battery is usually an everyday item that I carry. You can get very light and small ones in Primark and on Amazon, and I just charge it every night before I sleep and take it with my phone the next day.
Big and busy cities can be intimidating, but don't let it put you off. The amazing experiences that it can offer massively outweigh the negatives and I’m so glad I did it.
Joker is one of the most highly anticipated films of 2019, and that’s saying something when you consider other big films that came out this year. It feels like the character might have been exhausted a bit, with several different actors taking on the role over the last few years. It leaves the question of how much a new actor could truly bring; hasn’t it all been covered by now?
(Image courtesy of Variety)
Yes and no.
I went into the film knowing very little about DC, simply because every one of their films and shows seems to branch off into its own universe. It’s hard to keep up with - it was just a few years ago that Jared Leto was the Joker, and a few years before that, Heath Ledger. And, it’s Ledger than seems to be rated by many as the best of them all, even if his rendition is totally different to Phoenix's.
Regardless of previous takes on the Joker, Phoenix totally holds his own from the very second that the film opens. The film is very much an origin story - at least part of an origin story - and at first, he establishes himself as Arthur Fleck. Fleck is a former patient of Arkham Asylum, and works as a clown at kid’s parties to financially support his slightly senile mother.
Even though the Joker is traditionally an antagonist, it’s easy to feel sorry for him. He’s mistreated by his co-workers, ignored by members of society and taken as a joke due to his condition that causes him to laugh uncontrollably. Society is the main villain in this film, not the Joker. It’s the rejection of his peers that causes him to snap.
By the end of the film, Fleck has dyed his hair green and is the version of the Joker that we all seem to know and love, but having seen his origin story, it makes you feel different that you might have with other portrayals of the character. Phoenix brings an element of humanity to someone who seems otherwise physcopathic.
However, his performance would not have been the same without the director, Todd Phillips (who also directed the Hangover trilogy). Phillips take a retro approach to the film, with a lot of being it based on old style, gritty crime films. Gotham is portrayed as a poor city, riddled with crime and gangs - something that is likely based on New York in the 1980s (Joker is set in 1981).
And although the events of the film happened a few decades ago, a lot of its commentary is relevant today. The main character suffers as a result of budget cuts, and Gotham is seeing protests and uprisings as a result of social unrest, with Fleck being at the forefront of it all.
Another major talking point for Joker was the involvement of Batman - or lack thereof. A young Bruce Wayne does make an appearance, but unlike previous renditions, he is not the main driving point behind the Joker’s antics. Phoenix proves that the Joker can be a stand alone character, and a good one as well. At no point did he need to be driven by his arch-nemesis to be interesting.
Overall, Joker is a good film. There are moments where the plot seems slow and occasionally repetitive, but on the whole, the main character is entrancing and unpredictable and ensures that you want to keep watching.
If someone had told me four years ago that I would have gotten everything I’d ever wanted, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I would have laughed. Perhaps I was (and am) a pessimist, but it’s not something I ever thought would happen.
But it did happen. All the goals I set myself when I was 14 were reached. And amongst the craziness of growing up and dealing with adult life, I simply forgot about it. It all happened and I didn’t even realise it.
I visited New York City, which was a life-long goal of mine. I passed all my GCSEs and my A-Levels. I shaved the side of my head and dyed it bright blue. I got a nose piercing and I got tattoos. I moved to London to study journalism. I saw Paramore in concert and Hayley Williams even replied to me on Twitter once. That was everything my fourteen year old self wanted.
When I realised that the other day, I began to cry. I was living the dream life of my former self and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. I still found things to complain about, and I’d completely forgotten where I’d come from. I forgot how depressed I was at that time in my life and how all of these things happening then would have solved that. They’re small and dumb things, I know, but having a bright hair colour or getting a piercing mattered to me then.
So why weren’t these things helping me now?
We change. We all change. We have to change.
The things I dreamed of when I was fourteen aren’t the goals I have now. To me, having blue hair or a shaved side is just a thing. It’s trivial. Seeing Paramore in concert was amazing but it wasn’t the best day of my life. I appreciate all of them but they aren’t essential to my happiness now like they were then.
I’ve grown up and the things that used to mean so much to me are just...Things.
It’s not bad to change. It’s not bad to grow up and lose interest in things you used to love. If anything, it’s natural and part of life. It’s not healthy to stay the same forever. We’re growing and changing every day and sometimes we have to accept that.
I had a hard time doing that at first. I couldn’t understand why I had to change. I didn’t want to - I was pretty happy staying fifteen forever and writing fan fiction and not having a worry in the world. The idea of becoming an adult and getting a degree or a job seemed so dull to me. But, ultimately, aging and growing is something we don’t get a say in. It’s not up to us whether we grow up.
Ironically, everything that fifteen year old me wanted, she got - because I grew up. I became the person I wanted, even if I don’t always see it now.
You might be feeling that right. Being a teenager is a weird time; you’re constantly changing and growing and getting to know yourself. I had a million different identities and obsessions and interests when I was in early teenage years. You have to grow to get to know yourself. Dealing with the growing pains of your teenage years is simply a stop on the way to becoming who you’re meant to be.
It’s sad to grow up and say goodbye to our childhoods. It’s sad to see our goals change and see our old hobbies and interests gather dust. It might not matter too much now, but it mattered to you at one point and that’s the important thing. The things we used to want, our old goals and hopes and dreams, were the axis of our whole lives.
Don’t let yourself get down about growing up and changing. The person you are now is probably exactly who you wanted to be four or five or six years ago. The life you have now, although you might feel unfulfilling or not quite where you need to be, might have seemed so exciting when you were younger. We owe it to our past selves to remember that.
I was really motivated when I first moved out. I had a schedule for my laundry and cleaning, I did my meal planning and I even went to the gym regularly. For the first few weeks, I kept thinking ‘adulting is easy! I’ve got this’.
Then, the novelty of having so much freedom worn off and suddenly, adulting was terrifying. I had no-one to force me out of bed in the morning. There was no-one to force me to eat proper, healthy meals. I was suddenly, completely in charge of my own finances and I no longer had my mum around to raise her eyebrows at my questionable spending. I felt like I could handle it but it was a learning process.
Then, October rolled around. The days began to get shorter and the weather got worse. It was getting dark before I even got home from university: I’d get on the tube when it was still light and get off at my stop to total nighttime. That could mean only one thing; the start of my seasonal depression.
I’ve anticipated every year since I was about 15 (ironically, the same year I was diagnosed with the not-season-kind-of-depression). Whenever it gets colder and darker, it feels like my head does too. I lose all motivation to get out of bed, sleeping becomes an escape and my energy simply disappears.
It’s different to the other kinds of depression that I’ve experienced. There’s no invasive or scary thoughts, there’s no deep dark place that I go to. It’s just apathy. For example, I was able to force myself out of bed to go to my lectures at the beginning of the year. Now, I turn off my alarm and go back to sleep for ten more hours just because I don’t have the energy nor the motivation.
That’s why seasonal depression is scarier when you’re living alone or as an adult, especially the first bout of it. I’ve had to adjust and make changes to my regular solutions, mostly because a lot of them involved the help of my family.
There are some things I’ve learnt that can help:
Moving out is a big deal. I’ve been terrified about it for a long time and now it’s very real. I was so scared that I barely thought about what I needed to bring, right up until I was stood in the middle of Argos bordering on a breakdown. That’s my first piece of advice - bring an adult. Not someone who’s just a legal adult, but an adult adult. Someone who knows the difference between a frying pan and a wok.
Terror aside, it’s an opportunity to get creative. I made Pinterest boards for some inspiration - what patterns do you want? Themes? Colours? I ended up going for black and gold. University halls are notorious for having terribly coloured curtains and carpets. It’s also worth thinking about where you’re living in terms of location. I’m in central London so the weather is easily predictable. Grey. Rainy. Cold. I brought a lot of blankets.
It’s also important to feel comfortable. At first, university halls might not feel like a room. I remember visiting mine and thinking it felt more like a Premier Inn room, but much less glamorous. With that thought in mind, I spent a regrettable amount in the Primark home section. At least it’ll look nice.
I almost completely forgot about this part entirely. I was so focused on making it look nice that I blanked on the things I needed. To narrow it down: knives, forks, plates, bowls, pots, pans, utensils and tea towels. Bare in mind that you’re mostly cooking for one and cheap sets from Ikea and Argos will suffice. I got a great kitchen set for £32, and it included a potato peeler. I truly feel like an adult now.
My bed at home is my haven. You’re going to want to feel comfortable at uni as you do at home. Realistically, this won’t happen, but you can sure as hell try. Primark is really good for bedroom shopping, and reasonably priced too. I was at a slight advantage because I worked in the home section for a few weeks (perhaps a story for another time) and I’d eyed up some things.
I’d recommend getting two sets of sheets, because that way you’re not spending forever waiting for them to dry once they’ve been washed. Mattress covers are also a must - it’s likely that they cleaned the beds before new students come in, but it’s a bit of extra reassurance. They can also add a bit more comfort.
This will differ for some people as bathroom situations vary. Some halls will have en-suites whilst others will have shared bathrooms. Some halls I looked at had bathrooms between two people whilst other had up to six. Some universities will provide shower curtains and toilet brushes but others may not, but they often provide lists of what they do and don’t have. If you’re sharing, you may want to buy a shower caddy or bag to get your stuff there and back. Some halls may also have cleaners, but it’s worth buying some basics - toilet cleaner, mirror cleaner - just in case.
I also brought a laptop case and bag, as I’m going to be taking mine on the London Underground twice a day and want to keep my computer safe. If you’re commuting or even just walking, it is a worthy investment as laptops are super important. On top of that, I also brought some drawing pins for the board in my room. We’re not allowed to hang anything up so pinning pictures to it can add some color and life.
The Butterfly Effect, according to Wikipedia - In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.
That’s a very complicated explanation. It confused me at first until I did a bit of further research. The Butterfly Effect, in layman's terms, is when a small action - sort of like a ripple in a pond - can have a much bigger effect than you initially realise. The original name came from the idea that action as small as a butterfly flapping its wings in Chicago can cause a tornado in Tokyo (shout out again to Wikipedia for that one).
Think about small changes you’ve made to your life, and how different things might be. Every action, big and small, has brought us to where we are today. I’m not the kind of person who likes to think about things on an existential scale. I’m too much of an anxious wreck for that - yet, the idea of the Butterfly Effect really got me thinking. Some of the minor decisions in my life have probably had massive effects on where I am today and who I am today.
For example, my mum - on a whim - decided to apply for a job as a receptionist at a company in 1996. There, she met the man she would marry and have three kids with (I’m the second one). I wouldn’t exist if she hadn’t made that decision. Those who believe in fate might think that they would have crossed paths no matter what, but I don’t personally believe in destiny. However, I do believe that everything happens for a reason.
Every decision I’ve ever made up until this moment has brought me here. Admittedly, I haven’t done much with my eighteen years so far but some of the major flag points in my life have come from whims and in-the-moment decisions. For example, I applied for an NCS program completely at random and without thought, and I met one of my best friends. My dad liked a Facebook page randomly for selling and buying in my local area, and that’s how we have our two dogs.
The Butterfly Effect isn’t always about your decisions - it can be actions beyond your control. Both good and bad things have brought you to where you are today and I believe - again, not by fate or destiny - that it’s where we’re meant to be. I’ve experienced some really crappy things and yet, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.
My parent’s divorce was something that deeply affected me. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with, and yet I’m stronger for it. Without going into details, some of the changes in my life made me who I am today. I’m better at dealing with abrupt changes. I’ve grown up and matured far quicker because of it. Again, I would never choose to deal with that life event and yet, there’s some tiny bit of silver on the otherwise grey, stormy rain cloud.
I wouldn’t have chosen to be bullied either. I used to be very shy and I’d let people walk over me. At some point among all that chaos I learnt to stand up for myself. I learnt to have a backbone and put people in their place when I needed to. It took a few years but again, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I speak up now and I don’t let anyone push me the wrong way - I’m tougher because of the crappy hand that life dealt me.
Bad things are going to happen in life. You can really only roll with the punches but I think the Butterfly Effect can change the way you see it. A bad thing has happened to you and yes, it sucks. You’re allowed to wallow and be sad for as long as you need, but when you’re ready to move on, you can look at it in a new light: that bad thing can change everything for the better. Whether it’s majorly bad or minorly bad, the later effect it’s going to have on you might make you who you are today.
Take a step back and look at things - where you are now and who you are now. Maybe things don’t feel great. Maybe you made a bad decision and you’re feeling the effects of it. I’ve stressed a lot in this article that I don’t believe in fate, but I sure as hell believe everything happens for a reason and that every decision we’ve ever made will eventually bring us to the place that we need to be. Hang in there.
It’s not a longshot to say that almost every teenager in the Western world has a social media account. Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter, the internet-based platforms have taken over ground that was once firmly held by texting and calling. For the most part, they can be very positive. It pulls together the latest news, trends, messages and calls into one place, which is massively convenient - but what about the negative impacts?
The photoshopped bodies. The political echo chambers. The hate. The negativity. It’s easy for it to get you down, especially when you’re a teenager. It can make the world seem like a really naff place, and that is also paired with detailed insights into other people’s lives. Seeing famous vloggers, models and singers documenting their private jets and upmarket lifestyles can make you question your own.
I follow a lot of Instagram models - they have industry-standard bodies. Flat tummies, abs, a perky butt and toned legs. That’s in no way to body shame them, because they work hard to achieve that. That’s the part that is easy to forget. It’s their job to have a camera worthy body and so they spend time and money on achieving it.
However, that’s not what you bare in mind when scrolling through your feed. I know all I can think about is how my thighs jiggle way more compared to Kendall Jenner’s, or how my stomach isn’t as flat as hers when I’m sat down. Our body types and lifestyles are miles apart - so why do I compare myself? It makes no sense, but that doesn’t stop it happening.
I also find that the internet can cause me to spiral. It can trigger my anxiety to no end - whether it’s about my health, global politics or global warming, I find myself hyper fixating on the end of times because of a tweet I saw. It distracts me from my work, from college and from doing productive things. Surely, that is not beneficial to anyone.
It’s also easy to fall victim to the marketisation of social media profiles. British actress Jameela Jamil recently brought light to the issue, discussing how celebrities promote harmful products such as appetite suppressant lollipops or the infamous Flat Tummy Tea. It’s because of Jamil’s warnings and through personal experience that I know not to use them but what about other teenagers? What about other insecure young people who see it is a potential quick fix? It has the potential to be extremely harmful.
With that said, social media doesn’t always have to be bad. As aforementioned, Jameela Jamil has used her platform and following to promote a positive message. Other people are also joining in, with Instagram based blogger Emily Clarkson using her website and profile to promote self-love, body positivity against media stereotypes and the side effects of photoshop and food suppressant tablets. The message is starting to spread thanks to the likes of them and their followers.
Furthermore, social media is also a platform for people to grow. I’ve used my Tumblr blog to earn a fairly large following, allowing my confidence and skill to grow. Artists have also made a living from promoting their art online and getting commissions.
It’s become a staple of our everyday lives, and it can be hard to spend time away from it. I know I’ve tried to remove all the apps from my phone, only to redownload them moments later. It’s as though it has become human nature. It is entirely possible to live without it but the question is whether or not we want to.
I made an article not too long ago on understanding British politics. That, in itself, is a whole process. However, if you zoom out on that and look at the bigger picture, our government on a global scale, it seems so much more complicated. That’s truly saying something as domestic politics is already a whole tangled web in itself, so where could you even start?
The world is essentially governed by institutions. At first, you might not think you’d know about this but their names come up all the time. This includes the European Union, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. Most of these institutions work as forums for states to have dialogue and use conversation and negotiation to avert trade wars, military conflict and the escalation of tensions.
Most of these institutions are have some kind of hierarchy, whether or not its official. The United Nations Security Council, for example, has five permanent members who hold a veto. This puts them above states who don’t. This can also be seen within the European Union, where EU law will always take precedence over laws created by the state. This takes away some of their sovereignty, which was a key campaign issue for the Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Ah yes, world leaders. Don’t we all love them?
They’re at the forefront of world politics, often representing their states and governments at world events and forums. Different states will offer their leaders different levels of authority but for the most part, they are the number one representative. It is their job to lead their state through negotiations and engagement with other countries. It is not uncommon to see world leaders visiting another state or having phone calls with another head of state.
Possibly the scariest part of world politics - but ironically, perhaps the thing that has stopped world wars. That is obviously a huge statement to make but the idea of mutually assured destruction, since 1950 and onwards, has been enough to deter major powers from engaging with one another directly. This has been seen in the example of the USSR and the US - they were in the Cold War for decades but never exchanged direct military confrontation. This is comparable to the current situation with the US and Russia - the tensions are not on the same level as that during the cold war but the threat of nuclear conflict has driven the two rivals to a more dialogue based bilateral relationship.
Civil wars and proxy wars
There have been several civil wars since the turn of the century - Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are just to name a few. A civil war is fairly self explanatory; a war between two or more sides kept within the borders of a state. A proxy war is slightly more complicated; it’s when great powers, who don’t want to engage in direct conflict with one another, support the opposing side to their rival in the civil war. This can be seen in the Syria, again with Russia and the States. Russia is currently supporting the Assad regime whilst the States are backing rebels (however, it should be noted that there are more than two sides to the Syrian conflict and there is far more to it). It allows them to spread their sphere of influence and show a military might against their rival without having to worry about large scale consequences.
Different kinds of governments and world leaders
As explained in my article on British politics, the UK currently holds a representative democracy with a bicameral decision making Parliament. That, however, is just one type of government among many. We also have a Queen, who is listed as the head of state of Australia and Canada, despite having their own independently elected President or Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Russia has a president and a prime minister and North Korea has a supreme leader. Saudi Arabia has a king and a crown prince, and the States has just a singular president. There are so many different kinds and combinations of state governments and their heads, and chances are they all function differently.
Military alliances are another major factor in the world balance. The biggest and most notable is NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), who recently celebrated 70 years since the signing of their first document. It was created during the Cold War to counter threats from the USSR. Meanwhile, there are several smaller military alliances and doctrines that require one state helping the other(s) in the event of a military attack.
Is it all bad?
It’s easy to assume, based on current world news, that global politics is depressing. It certainly could be seen that way, given the current internal divides of countries and tensions between others. With that said, it’s hard to give a simple yes or no answer. It’s important to remember that the media purposely portray things as negative or shocking - they get more clicks that way. In reality, there is always dialogue going on between countries and it’s important to remember how newspapers and online sources spin things to make appear as one thing, when they are in fact another.
I wrote an article about a year ago about being a learner driver. A few weeks ago, I went from having L plates to having P plates and as I learned, there is a whole plethora of new things to learn again. As it turns out, you might actually learn more as a newly independent driver than you do as a learner driver. I’ve probably picked up more in the last fortnight than I did in the forty hours of lessons I’ve had over the last year (but that’s not to say they weren’t useful, because I wouldn’t be driving without them). Every new driver is in the same situation and even if some are more confident than others, there are some things that everyone should bear in mind.
Becoming an adult doesn’t simply happen overnight - sure, that’s exactly what happens when you turn 18 but what about being an adult emotionally and mentally? One day it feels like you’re a child on your own and before you know it, you’re working or you’re off to university. It feels like it’s so quick that we don’t even acknowledge it until it happens. Even if the law recognises someone as a child or an adult, it’s what we feel inside that truly defines our identity.
I remember being 11 years old, and I wasn’t allowed out on my own after eight o’clock nor was I allowed past a certain point. Now, almost seven years has passed and I’m getting trains across the country by myself, learning to drive myself places and I’m moving to the capital city in six months. Seven years is long enough for me to become mature enough to do that, but when did it happen? I can’t quite recall. It feels as though I was a dependent child one minute and now I’m doing things all for myself, and I don’t even remember learning how.
When it hits you - and it’s likely that it will, and at an inconvenient time, whether it’s during your first driving lesson or on your first night in your own place - it’s hard to deal with. It can feel terrifying; the realisation that you’re suddenly alone in the big world.
* Talk to your parents or someone who you grew up with. No matter how old you are or where you’re living, chances are that they’re more than willing to help, whether you need advice on making an appointment or just someone to listen. They probably went through a similar thing when they were in their late teens.
* Talk to your friends. It’s better to go through something with other people than do it alone. You can pool your wisdom as newly independent young adults.
* Get out. The world might feel a lot bigger, so why not experience it? You could try something for the first time like going out to a night club, going to a bar or going on holiday.
* Put yourself through your paces. Do things that you know will make you scared (within reason - don’t do it to the point where it’ll be detrimental). If you haven’t done a long journey on your own before or the food shopping on your own, now is the time to learn.
* Think about the future. What do you want to do? Do you need to save up for anything? As scary as it seems, that’s the kind of thing our parents and grandparents have had to do as adults - plan ahead.
It would be wonderful if there were some kind of classes or lessons that would teach us how to ‘adult’ - sadly, there’s not.
It’s simply a learning process that we have to go through and deal with in order to progress through to the next stage of life. Plus, it’s important to remember that no one truly knows what they’re doing entirely. No matter how put together someone seems, chances are that they had a lot of learning to do to get to where they are now.