Opinion Pieces

The following are samples of my opinion pieces, including a discussion of eco-consciousness, graduate depression, Ross Geller and the concept of Bury Your Gays

It’s Not Easy Being Green…But It’s Worth It!

In recent months, a surge of climate change awareness has dominated over most media platforms. From David Attenborough discussing it in documentaries, to interviews with Greta Thunburg on newscasts, it is hard to ignore the pressing significance of the state of our planet. Seeing that information on full display tends to get overwhelming. It’s easy enough to say that you are helping the planet by putting recycling in the blue bin instead of the green one, but there are always opportunities to build upon that too.

One of the things that I promised myself I would do, is refrain from purchasing notebooks at every opportunity, reminding myself that I needn’t purchase a new pad of paper for doodles, and notes, and lists. I have been making sure every page of my pre-existing notebooks are empty before I buy more.

However, the above does very little if you do not tend to use notebooks. And, of course, the advice I give will not be best applicable for everybody. For example, by reducing use of plastic straws can pose issues for people with disabilities, and I acknowledge that although I was able to make those changes, they are not always easy to implement in every household.

A friend of mine has switched to bamboo toothbrushes and has purchased new bath products so she is no longer wasting plastic. However, due to needing an electric toothbrush due to sensitive teeth, I am unable to make this change. Alternatively, I am reusing ice cream tubs from the supermarket as Tupperware, while another friend of mine, that is lactose intolerant and does not eat ice cream cannot do. A former classmate of mine has set a goal for the year to only thrift new clothes to reduce her contribution to the fast fashion industry, and only shop for clothing in a supermarket, or a chain establishment if necessary. This is not always attainable if there are few places where you can shop to purchase second-hand clothes. For example, if your town has few charity shops then you may struggle to attain this.

Regardless, there are always ways to improve upon your environmental impact, every contribution you can afford to make is better than refusing.

The first change I made was switching from the use of plastic bags to tote bags. Although a bag-for-life is more durable and can be replaced by a supermarket, should it break, purchasing a fabric tote bag from a shop, especially if it is a charity product, provides you with a bag that is, usually much easier to store in a larger handbag, than a bag for life, which can only be folded several times before unfurling. With a tote bag, something as simple as a sock can be used to contain a tote, and keep it compact for if it is needed.

Another thing I did in order to reduce my impact on the environment was to reuse old metal boxes of plasters to not only store new plasters, but to hold items that would go in my handbag, so the containers are not being put in the bin. Although a minor change in my life, it means that my tablets are all going in one place, that I won’t lose lip balm or my olbus oil inhaler. It has really helped the front pocket of my backpack organised.

One of my most prevalent financial investments have been the purchasing of reusable cups. Between myself, my mother and my sister, we own five reusable coffee cups for hot drinks, four made of bamboo and one that is ceramic. My sister and I also have two reusable cold cups, one each, hers is made of plastic and mine is metallic. We made this change for a variety of reasons, my mother required one for work as open cups are not allowed in her workspace. My sister and I, however, purchased our reusable cups to help the environment and gain discounts when going to coffee shops. In most chain coffee shops now, if you request your drink in a reusable cup, you are entitled to a discount. This means that if you visit the shop often enough you can easily make the money for the cup back. I, therefore, have leant toward purchasing reusable cups for friends as gifts as well. For friends that prefer iced coffee to piping hot drinks, I buy cold cups and for friends that like hot drinks, I buy bamboo cups. Although I cannot guarantee that they will necessarily use them, the gift can prove to be a nudge. A friend of mine now does not leave the house without her reusable cup.

One thing that catches me and my sister out, however, is straws. My sister’s sensitive teeth get irritated by metal straws, so she cannot drink from them, but she does not wish to contribute to the plastic waste of single use straws, so we recently invested in a pack of reusable silicone straws. Of course, straws do not actually contribute as drastically to environmental waste as they were made out to, but we are able to make an easy switch. That way, should there be an option to use a straw in a fast food establishment, we can use our own straws.

As a family, we also attempt to purchase as much as we can second-hand. Mine and my mother’s love of literature is immensely scary and can prove an issue financially, and so, we buy as many books as possible second hand from either Amazon Marketplace, or, ideally World Of Books, a website which has an array of books available for purchase, with free UK shipping! Buying second hand books means that we can make sure the literature is loved once again and not thrown away.

Another thing we hope to do in the near future is plant some flowers to encourage bee activity in our garden. In our previous house, that we only recently moved out of, our garden was filled with gravel, and we, therefore, could not plant anything to encourage insects to come. Even though we still have four young dogs, we are hoping that by slowly introducing them to plants, in their space, we may be able to slowly make our new garden a place somewhere for the local bee population.

Although there are plenty of things that can be done for the environment, including travelling to the nearest protest, and speaking out, sometimes even these things are hard to access. For example, with travel costs, sometimes it is not always the best decision financially to attend the protest, but you wish you could. Sometimes, the only things you can do is make a little change, and I hope that these ideas can help you, if you were struggling to work out where to start.

Good luck changing the world. I believe in you! Let’s work together to make the planet a little bit greener.

Graduate Depression: A Catharsis

University: the slippery slope between vices on the seemingly endless pilgrimage to acquire the piece of paper that unlocks the rest of your life. Graduation is the day you can celebrate that you’ve made it and take a breath, and finally enjoy the view from the summit. But eventually, you must shed your cap and gown and make your way down the rocky path to whatever future you decide awaits you.

Graduate depression is, in essence, the crumbling rubble beneath our feet as we try to make our way back down to earth. It is a term used to express the low-like and despairing symptoms students can undergo following the completion of their studies. Leaving the world of education behind and given the chance to spread their wings and face the daunting world ahead, with varying levels of confidence about how the ever-special Degree will carry them into the next stage of life.

Graduates leave the world of 9am lectures in pyjama tops and yesterday’s jeans behind and are, generally, under the expectation to begin the next stage of a battle royale for the supposedly abundant positions in their chosen field of study. Usually, finding themselves stuck in the retail sector, feeling overqualified, underpaid and burnt-out. After getting into all of their debt, they find themselves at a crossroads, watching course-mates jotted around the country snag an opportunity and being so unbelievably proud but simultaneously jealous of their success.

My experience as an arts student epitomised this tenfold and left me without a leg to stand on – demanding onlookers desperate to know how miss big boots is doing and whether she has clawed her way through into the city of bright lights, big dreams and an hour-long commute: London. Some are desperate to know why constructing a compelling portfolio wasn’t a compulsory class and others relentlessly commenting that they knew a degree in the arts was a useless investment of money I didn’t yet have.

While course-mates continue their studies in a Masters I sit, contemplating whether the ever increasing university debt would be worth experiencing for a tryst with a stable and social routine. I’d wonder whether the expensive journey into the city would be worth spending all day in extortionate coffee shops, writing to deadlines and being surrounded by artists again.

And I believe it, as I acknowledge that it will cost me a minimum of fifteen pounds to consume, and perform poetry that used to be on my doorstep. That the town where nothing happens is a mine, and I live in the gap between a scab and the healing skin of our town, where there is nothing but friction. That any hope of escapism derives from a desperation to engage in a community I’ll have to seek out, that I used to be so dependent on my fellow artists in a city on the other side of the country that I don’t know how to talk to artists. I wonder why how to communicate with other human beings wasn’t in my syllabus.

But when I say this, I’m asked that surely if this is how I feel, then my degree was a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of potential. To that, I will say no, and I will never say anything else.

What I have learned from my experience with graduate depression is that hindsight is your worst enemy, and Time-hop never fails to fuel that loathing for what could have been. You find that you regret saying no to opportunities and you will regret not giving yourself a chance to relax and heal. You’ll want to go back and visit places where you all but lived, even if just for the novelty, I’m looking at you Ninth Floor Windowsill. You’ll learn a lot about what you’d wished you’d known, what you wished you’d been taught and wonder whether Google and its companions will ever prove as helpful a teacher as the lecturers who came in every morning to help guide you, or as wise a mentor as your housemate after a few too many glasses of wine.

One of the first things I was told when I went to university was that breaking into the arts was not an easy game. It is something I have to brand into my mind so I can remember that my efforts are never in vein. One of the first things I learned off artists on social media is that you are likely to feel guilty for having hobbies when you’re starting out. And one of the first things I taught myself when I left The University of Derby in July of 2019 was that if I really wanted to succeed as much as I made out I wanted to then I would fight tooth and nail for any opportunity that came my way.

Graduates fall into a slump of depression after they leave the routine of academia, and often, they need the time to pick up the pieces for themselves. Leaving university is ultimately much scarier than entering it and seeing others succeed can take a huge toll on our minds. The most important thing all of us need to remember is no matter where we are; struggling on Universal Credit, wading through the waters of retail, drifting from one freelance gig to another or just trying to focus on ourselves and work out what we want; our struggles are valid and we are going to make it. We are going to make it. You are going to make it.

You are going to make it.

Why I Dislike Ross Geller: An Analysis

Friends, the TV show was a comedy series which spanned across ten seasons, and was released between the years 1994 and 2004.

Now, a disclaimer before I begin. Friends is a show that has been a part of my life since I was young. I remember watching it when I was around nine because it was on TV. I always really enjoyed watching it, and it was something I could just unwind and relax, watching, and let all of time just slip past me.

When I was fifteen, I was gifted with all ten seasons on DVD and I remember, when we moved house, the following week, we spent every waking moment of the day, watching Friends on the TV. We burned through ten seasons in three weeks and were left, unsure of what to do with our lives.

I have been watching it on-off, sometimes because it is the only thing on the TV that I’ll happily have on in the background. When compared to most other daytime TV shows, knowing there’s always the welcome comfort of Friends on hand was reassuring.

Even now, it occasionally goes on in the background, to provide a soundtrack to my day. It’s a familiar comfort when you live with anxiety, knowing that there’ll be a welcome distraction available if you just change the channel.

I’ll be the first to admit that, with all of this in mind, I probably do sound like slightly more than a casual fan. But I am the first to say that my interest in it has slowly fizzled out, just because I know what’s going to happen in every other episode, thanks to my childhood and early-teen years being fixated with these people and their amazing lives, and seeing how it all unfolds relatively easily for each of the characters.

So, before I start laying into Ross, in particular, I would like to acknowledge something. Because I have had similar discussions at university and it always seems to be brought up as a counter-argument:

Something that is really important is that character development is done subtly. This means that a casual viewer, that is watching the show out of order would still be able to recognise the character from its core traits. With Friends, considering how long the series has run, it would be impossible to completely stagnate the way the characters behave and interact, otherwise there is no way that the show would have been as successful and have run for so long, still being loved for twenty-five years after its initial debut.

Character development in Friends was done through looking at parts of the characters and their relationships that would make sense to be stretched out. For example, the Ross and Rachel back and forth which took place consistently throughout the seasons, as well as how Monica and Chandler ended up in a relationship. The way that Chandler felt about Monica was discussed at as early as season three, where he began to make declarations that he would be her boyfriend if nobody else would. However, there were hints that they were quite close friends from the start of the show considering the way they interacted. Most of their banter toward the start consisted of jabs and jibes about their former relationships, particularly when they were single. There is always a small glimpser that there was a bit of romantic tension between them, and thus, at the end of season four, when Chandler and Monica sleep together, and any subsequent episode, you can see that their dynamic hasn’t changed too much, even though they are now in a romantic relationship. They still make comments about people they find attractive, even in the other’s company.

In short, sitcoms can’t have dramatic character development for the reason that they don’t want to detract the casual viewer from coming back to the show when they can, because the characters are so different.

This does, influence my perception of Ross’ character. It’s easy enough to criticise the way he is due to his lack of a capacity to change his behaviour, but if he was able to change that drastically, then it could impair the viewership. Changes with Ross, or any of the characters, were usually short-lived and took place within the space of one episode. Like when Ross made a New Year’s Resolution to do a new thing every day, and ended up changing up his image by buying a pair of leather pants. The same way that Chandler and Ross make a fifty-dollar-bet that he can’t go a without insulting his friends.

But, let’s get to the analysis.

I feel like Ross was one of those characters that could have been fantastic. You can see from the way he is quick to jump into new relationships that he struggles to validate himself, and, in a sense, does need someone there to reassure him that he’s on the right track, or doing the right thing. This is demonstrated from the get go in the immediate response to his marital breakdown with Carol. He expresses in Season One, that he felt that everything was okay, and that finding out that she didn’t agree and she couldn’t stay married to him was devastating. He couldn’t necessarily fault her in the sense of not wanting to try and make things work, which probably made things worse for him; after all she was cheating on him, and was in love with “the other woman”, Susan. After that point, he is struggles to pick himself back up. This is understandable, but for the sake of plot progression he quickly ends up fixating on the romantic feelings he once had for Rachel, who suddenly came back into his life. He let those emotions take over and when he eventually ended up with Rachel, he seemed a lot more stable in himself. Had the “we were on a break” thing not happened, I reckon that they would have stayed together for much longer. After all, Ross and Rachel’s relationship was incredibly strong at the start – with their arguments being real and easy to access as a consumer. However, TV drama and tension requires exaggerated reactions every once in a while, and thus the Ross and Rachel saga begins, from Season Three up until the Series Finale in Season Ten, they are constantly in a back and forth, trying to best each other, whilst not coping with their issues. The trait that is basically to his detriment is that desperation for validation that lead him to cheat on Rachel with the girl from the Copy Shop.

Another reason I dislike him is due to his character being presented as a serial monogamist, instead of his issues being handled properly. His divorce lawyer even makes quips about Ross being so quick to marry. It is shown in several instances that he has issues with commitment. He enjoys being married, he enjoyed the comfort and security of that relationship and has since ended up trapped in a cycle of it always being too soon, in one way, shape or form. When he married Emily, he hadn’t sorted out his issues with Rachel and ended up saying the wrong name at the altar. He ruins the opportunity to go onward and enjoy a happy life with her, because of this mistake and it is repeated several times for dramatic and comedic effects. Ross was still hung up on his breakup with Rachel when he got in a relationship with Emily and in his whirlwind romance, didn’t think of the consequences until Rachel was right there at his wedding, all of a sudden. Then, the second time he got married in the show, it was under even more dramatic circumstances. He and Rachel, his on-off romantic interest for several seasons got drunk in Las Vegas and ended up married. Ross is shown in many relationships between these marriages, never really taking time to enjoy life as a bachelor. Instead, he fixates on this blissful life he once had, that he once enjoyed and constantly strives to achieve it again. His fatal flaw is being so quick to commit to relationships and immediately wanting to spend his life with people, instead of giving himself the opportunity to adjust to the breakdown of one relationship. This wouldn’t be a problem, so to say, if his character wasn’t as fixated on commitment as he is. In short, instead of the sitcom focusing on the deeper problems, that could have still been poked fun at, Ross is just made out to be obsessed with marriage.

The last reason that makes me dislike Ross as a character is the way that he refuses to acknowledge his own hypocrisy. During Season Eight, when, after a one-night-stand, Rachel falls pregnant with Ross’ child. During her pregnancy, Ross resents Rachel for still having a romantic life, going to the lengths of hiding messages he took for her. Even though they didn’t discuss re-establishing their romantic relationship. However, during that period, Ross feels perfectly comfortable to start dating Mona for an extended period, during which, he neglects her own boundaries and constantly leaves her waiting for him when he won’t show up. Yet she is never shown to do the same thing back. Worst of all, in that period, he allowed Rachel to move in with him without telling her. Dishonesty, is a common trait of Ross’ character, where he will lie in order to deflect the severity of the situation he has found himself in. The fact that he never actively takes responsibility for the things he does is a negative character trait which is hard to find endearing as a viewer.

Of course, Ross, like all of the other characters, has reasons to be liked: he is diligent in the pursuit of his career, passionate enough about palaeontology to end up as a tenured professor at NYU, a distinguished position, despite his shortcoming in his role, like dating a student and not failing students because they claimed to be in love with him, he clearly did a good job and was very knowledgeable.

I believe that Ross really is a character that could have been amazing, and I wonder whether the rumoured reunion special will provide the audience with enough off-screen character development to have changed his outlook on love and life. I look forward to seeing the special!

Unbury Your Gays

The “Bury Your Gays” trope has been one of the greatest banes of the lives of LGBT people as they seek to find literature where they can see themselves – watching a character that you identify with being killed off for the benefit of the other characters has never been pleasant, but it has a significantly weighted meaning when the character is the token LGBT representation in the story. There are plenty of stories where these characters die and the counterbalance is only slowly starting to gain traction. But what is it that can oppose so many unhappy stories?

A surge in Young Adult literature being written about LGBT characters. From storytellers such as David Levithan and Becky Albertali, or Adam Silvera, to newer artists releasing their debut novels, the sudden influx in stories about young LGBT people shows a new generation a side of life that those before them were not privy to. The normalisation of loving the same sex, the normalisation of experimenting with gender and presentation and understanding that you are worthy of love and respect is so important, and was not a message that was previously declared to the teenagers of before.

If a LGBT person sees the characters like them being killed off at every opportunity, what does that say about them? What do they take from that? Nothing positive. Instead, after being exposed to the stimuli enough, a sense of doubt and fear can manifest. Which is why this change is important.

When I was in the demographic for YA, the only stories I knew about that were about LGBT characters were solely by David Levithan. Which didn’t seem to be through a lack of looking, perhaps more so through a lack of promotion. In the last five years, if that, however, a renaissance of the presentation of LGBT people and fiction has come to be, and finally, the people that never got a chance to see themselves as the heroes are getting opportunities to let those behind them, those still working out how to find themselves that not everyone is the same and there is beauty in the differences.

Recognising this change means that more of this work can come to be, which is ideal. Continuing to broaden a spectrum of fiction for a demographic which was not previously recognised as independent from the rest of the Young Adult population means that the supposed LGBT genre is going to inevitably grow and more prospective LGBT authors are getting the chances to share their own stories. The more “happy” endings, whether traditional “they lived happily ever after” like in ‘Simon Vs The Homo Sapien Agenda’ by Becky Albertali or a different type of happy ending where conflict is resolved and tragedy is averted such as in ‘Two Boys Kissing’ by David Levithan, there’s the chance for LGBT kids to understand that being in a relationship with the person of your dreams does not immediately equate happiness and fulfilment, and that you can be happy with all kinds of other things around you is an important part of making the transition from childhood to adulthood.

I look forward to reading the new releases that are due to come out in 2020 and am hoping to, someday, contribute to what will hopefully be an expansive pool of literature.

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