I don’t think I would ever have enough time to respond to all of WordPress’s ‘daily prompts’, but this year I hope to do some of them when the mood takes me. Today I feel the urge, so here I am responding to the challenge of sharing my favourite quote and explaining why it moves me.
Here’s the one quote I always return to:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)
I think it’s fairly obvious why I like this quote – it’s all about following your dreams, throwing caution to the wind, and not being afraid to have a go. Although that’s not a philosophy I’ve always stuck to in my life, it is something that is generally in the back of my mind when I’m making big decisions (like when I quit a well paid job in publishing to go and live in Japan).
This quote usually comes to mind whenever I see the sea. The sea calms me, but also excites me, because it makes me think of adventures and travel. I love the idea of literally throwing off my bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbour, off into the distance, in search of adventure. We’ve got it all too easy these days, what with hoping on planes and being able to communicate so easily with people on the other side of the world. Sometimes I long for the days when people had to go on epic journeys because there was no other way to get from A to B, and when the journey was all part of the adventure. Now everything seems to be about how fast we can get from A to B, and how much we can distract ourselves with technology along the way. When we get to our destination, we already know what we’re going to find, because we’ve seen it all online already.
We must never forget to explore, dream, and discover, wherever we are.
2012 has been a busy year for me. I started a new job in August, which has kept me out of trouble, and I’ve been working hard outside of the day-job too, trying to get more freelance writing work and make more connections in the UK-Japan community in London and also with street artists in the UK. I haven’t written on AliMuskett.com as much as I would have liked to, but have been busy with Haikugirl’s Japan and Picturing England, my two main blogs.
Still, I’ve managed to post 54 times on AliMuskett.com and have received 15,487 views in total this year, which is wonderful! My top 5 posts in terms of views this year were:
1. Brainwashed in London (August 2012) – 932 views
2. An interview with graffiti artist Paul “DON” Smith (April 2012) – 766 views
3. Sex & the City? Do it yourself! (February 2012) – 312 views
4. The locks of love… (January 2012) – 233 views
5. Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party (August 2012) – 213 views
As you can see, it’s been quite a year! I’ve really got into the street art scene in the UK, and hope to be able to meet up with some more artists next year and conduct a few more interviews. I’d also like to write more about London, because it really is an amazing place to live and there’s an awful lot going on here.
I’ve been looking at the handy annual report WordPress.com has produced for me, and was very interested to see that most of my readers this year have been from the UK, but that the US and Mexico (?!) are in second and third places, closely followed by Japan in fourth place and Spain and Canada in joint fifth place. It seems my blog is more international that I imagined, and I’m delighted to know that people all over the world are stopping by.
Wondering how people are finding my blog, I looked at the popular search terms which lead people to AliMuskett.com. The top five this year were all to do with the Big Egg Hunt, and yet my Big Egg Hunt post featuring photos of the 209 eggs I found hidden around London earlier this year didn’t quite make it into the top five posts (it was sixth, actually, with 178 views).
Anyway, enough of these statistics! Anyone who is following me on Twitter is probably wondering what’s got into this girl who used to hate stats so much at school, as this will be my third ’2012 review’ post this afternoon! Thank you all for reading, whoever you are, and please do keep reading in 2013! Leave me some comments, introduce yourselves, suggest things you’d like to read about, and do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a review or interview, or some freelance writing work.
Happy New Year! See you in 2013!
When I was a teenager I didn’t fit in. In fact, as soon as I realised that I wasn’t like most of the other kids, I actively tried to do everything I could do be different from “the norm”. I thought other people were sheep, and rebelled against wearing labels or doing anything that was seen as mainstream. I dyed my hair every colour you can imagine, and got quite a lot of piercings. For anyone who’s interested, I looked like this.
My friends and I used to talk about how one day the “freaks” like us would rise up against the rest of the people. I had dreams about people coming up out of the sea like an army of pirates, ready to stand together and do battle against the people who tried to put us down.
I know now that I was just being a teenager, for the most part, but there is still an element of the non-conformist in me.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I really don’t care much for the Olympics. However, I felt that, as I was going to be in the area, I really ought to try to make the effort to be interested and watch the torch go by. It was, after all, probably the only chance I would ever get. I arrived at Great Eastern Street about half an hour before the torch was due, and there were already people lining the streets. I tried to feel their excitement, but couldn’t quite get in the mood. People banged on Coca-Cola sponsored drum things that were being handed out, drank free Coca-Cola and waved flags.
Prior to arriving, I had been at the Whitecross Street Party, dubbed “The Rise of the Non-Conformists”.
I had wandered up and down the street, happily snapping photographs of street art and artists at work, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I chatted with the artist DON about his recent work and watched him stencilling a new piece out on the street.
Then I popped in a gallery and a lovely girl dabbed glitter on my face and took my photo to put on Facebook, and I felt like I belonged.
Standing waiting for the torch, I listened to some people talking next to me. They were full of almost obsessive excitement for the Olympics, and I felt like turning around and just asking them “why?”, but I didn’t. They wouldn’t have understood me any more than I understood them.
When the torch came by, it was all over in a flash and something of an anti-climax. I barely saw the guy who was carrying it, and didn’t have a clue who he was anyway.
So I headed back to Whitecross Street, back to my people. When I got back there, the streets were buzzing with life, colour, good smells and great sounds. Eating a delicious chocolate brownie, I happily mingled with the non-conformists, and watched an artist called INKFETISH painting this somewhat anti-Olympics piece…
And another artist called FETCH painting this:
Enjoy the Olympics if that’s your thing, but these are my people, and this is where I’ll be.
Quitting a job is a bit like finishing a relationship – you never know how the other person is going to take it. Sometimes there are tears, raised voices. They might even beg you to stay, tell you they’ll change or try to make you an offer you can’t refuse. Or perhaps they’ll just say “meh” and accept it. But you always know in your heart that you’ve done the right thing. No matter how good you felt when it started, no matter how sure you were this could be the one, you just know when it isn’t working and it’s time to move on.
In fact, it occurred to me recently that jobs and relationships actually have an awful lot in common. In both cases, aren’t we really just searching for “the one”?
When we’re young we have casual, part-time jobs and casual, non-committal relationships. These days, people often don’t really settle down until they’re over 25 – some take considerably longer. But by the time you reach your 30s you start to notice everyone around you getting more serious. Words like “career”, “commitment”, and “marriage” are used. As we grow older, we start looking for the one we can commit to for the long haul. Finding “the one” can be just as difficult if we’re searching for a career, or searching for a long-term relationship.
Like the pair of skinny jeans you look at longingly in H&M, sometimes we try things on just to see if they fit. I know I’m guilty of this when it comes to relationships and jobs (and skinny jeans). I’ve tried working in record stores and dating musicians, I’ve tried working in offices and dating men in suits. Just like the skinny jeans, you try them on even if you’re not sure they’re right for you. You try them on, but when you look in the mirror you just know something isn’t right, something doesn’t quite fit.
Dream jobs and dream relationships can both, in theory, be found online. I know a couple of friends who have recently found love through online dating websites – one even got married. In both cases, all you have to do is create an online profile and look for a match. Sometimes, they even come looking for you. But it’s not easy. There is a lot of rubbish out there, and you have to sift through a whole pile of lies before you can find the truth. Whether job hunting or looking for love you really shouldn’t lie on your resume, but you should be aware that others will not necessarily be as discerning. Both potential employers and potential partners might promise something they can’t deliver. We’ve all been there: you turn up for the date/interview and something feels wrong. He’s not quite as tall, dark and handsome as he said he was, or the office doesn’t look quite as bright and shiny as it looked on the website.
But sometimes you get lucky – whether it’s from a website, a newspaper, or through friends, it is possible to find “the one”. As far as my career goes, I’m feeling quite optimistic about the future. Since graduation I’ve tried various careers on, but none of them really fitted. However, in August I will be starting a new job at a company where I feel like I might be able to build a career and have a real future. I caught a glimpse of myself in the office window when I went for my interview, and it seemed to fit. It’s time for me to get serious, make a commitment, and build a future.
As for relationships, well I haven’t really had time for a while to be honest, but my eyes are open and I know “the one” must be out there somewhere…
As I walk through a cloud of hairspray and perfume I realise the true meaning of the expression “a fish out of water”. My fins are flapping and my gills desperately gasping in the foreign air.
London fashion week.
All around me are paparazzi pointing their lens at preening fashionistas. It’s sort of like being on safari. I walk past, utterly unnoticed, and slip in to the west wing of Somerset House, where I visit the Japan: International Fashion Showcase 2012 exhibition. Slipping out again, I squeeze past more models and photographers and hastily exit in my frumpy flat shoes. (I couldn’t go anywhere hastily in heels.)
(Image: London Fashion Week)
As I leave, a woman passes me. She is dressed entirely in black, head to toe. Her hair is black, her clothes are black. On her face she is wearing what appears to be a black pvc balaclava. Her legs are clad in a similar shiny plastic material. Her eyes are hidden behind large black sunglasses. She strides on high heels and is painfully thin. I wonder for a moment if it is Lady Gaga.
This is not my world.
Fa-fa-fa-fa fashion? Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Then run away. Fast.
I did it – I went out to play. I set my alarm for 6.30 this morning and went out just before sunrise. The snow was so thick and clean, and ready to be played in!
I decided to walk to Friary Park, which is only about 20 minutes away from my house (well, 30 minutes in the snow). On the way I passed a few men out scraping their cars. We exchanged good mornings and I marvelled at how snow makes people more friendly.
As I reached park, I couldn’t see another person. It was mine.
Armed with a few accessories, I built a little snowman:
It’s actually quite hard to build a good snowman and, as you can see, I’m not very skilled when it comes to snow sculpting!
I liked my quirky little creation though.
As I stomped through the snow I saw a couple of other people, but it was still very quiet. When no one was looking, I made a snow angel:
(Not easy to take a photo of it though!)
There was one dog in the park, and he was about as excited as me!
As I crunched back home I felt very satisfied and happy (and wet). Playing in the snow – fun and free!
There are not many times in my life when I wish there was a child around, but right now I do. Or a flatmate. Or even a dog. You see, it’s been snowing all evening here in North London and I want to go out and play.
If I had access to a child (of course, I don’t want one of my own!), a flatmate or a dog, I would have an excuse to go out and enjoy the snow. As a single, 30-year-old woman, it might seem a bit odd if I pop out in my PJs and start making a snowman next to my front door. But oh do I want to!
Actually, what I’d love to do is lie in the middle of my road and make a snow angel. I’ve never made a snow angel before, and that snow out there is so virgin white, it would be perfect. Of course, I’d need someone to take a photo of it though, else I’d just be a crazy woman lying in the road.
It’s sad that I have to worry about how people would perceive me if I did decide to go out and play on my own. It’s also sad that, being close to midnight, I would have to worry about my safety, too. As I am all wrapped up in my PJs, playing in the snow probably isn’t an option tonight. I’ll have to settle for a quick step out my front door instead…
I hope it’s still there in the morning…
One of the things I loved about living abroad was that I could be a tourist all the time. It didn’t seem strange to whip out my camera every five minutes and take photos of buildings that locals just walked by. It was perfectly acceptable to spend my day off in the museum, or visiting the nearby tourist spots.
When I returned to England, one of my biggest fears was that I would lose that spirit of “being a tourist”. One of my good friends reminded me how important it was not to lose that quality, and so I decided to start my daily photo blog, Picturing England.
It was more difficult to keep inspired when I first came back to England and was living back in my hometown, but now that I am living in London I’m finding that all I have to do is hang my camera around my neck and step out with my tourist head on.
I can be anyone I want to be in London. I can be a tourist, I can be an art student, I can be Ali, and it’s ok. London is such a diverse melting-pot of people, and you often can’t tell by looking at someone if they are a tourist or not.
Today I was a tourist/art student as I wandered about my city. I went on hunts for famous graffiti, aided by Internet searches and the GPS on my phone, and I visited the British Museum. I’m lucky to live in London where there is so much free stuff to do. Most museums and galleries are free (except for special exhibitions), and there are interesting things to be found if you look up at the roofs or down at the corners of buildings, if you’re in the right part of town.
So, wherever you live, if you’re starting to feel bored, just grab your camera and get out of the house. Go to where the tourists are, or wander around the back streets. You’ll be surprised what’s been under your nose all this time.