Marianne
Marianne is a lover of cats and chocolate. She enjoys pretending she is a local (wherever she is) and will gladly engage you in a philosophical debate about Harry Potter.
book books library libraries
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There is an old picture of me, taken when I was around five years old. I’m cuddled up against my teddy bear and holding a book, looking serious. Left and right, a tall bookshelf filled to the brim looks over me.

Growing up, I was always surrounded with books. My mom would take me to the library with her every week and we would borrow piles and piles of stories. And yet I never managed to like the library as much as she did. There was something about it that bothered me. It made books feel less… special. With those labels on their spine and that awful stamp on the first page, they never quite felt mine. And indeed, they weren’t, as I was always reminded by the looming date by which to return them. But that distance kept me from bonding with them. This may sound ludicrous to people who don’t feel particularly attached to books, but for me, it makes all the difference in the world. Owning a book makes me feel closer to its story, almost as if I belong to it as much as it belongs to me. With a book I own, I can relish in the relationship that only I may have with it; I can take my time and take in the story in small sips, or I can devour it and read on until the early hours of the morning.

There are things only that book will know of me as I get to know all about the quality of its pages and the bend of its cover. That is why it feels so wrong for me to have to give it back once I am done with it, having poured so much of myself into it and received so much in exchange. It feels like saying goodbye to a love I can never fully have because they never belonged with me.

So I don’t like libraries. Whenever I am in one, I sort of shrug along the alleys looking for something – anything – I might like. Bookshops, on the other hand, are a temple. They hold the promise of so many relationships, discoveries, travels… The promise of so many secrets to be shared. In a bookshop, I feel myself reaching for each volume as if it speaks to me. This one is beautiful. That one is intriguing. And this one has to be mine. The knowledge that I can come home with a new friend to cherish, a new teacher to learn from, and most of all, all the time that I need to appreciate my new book, is one of the best feelings.

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sea mermaid fantasy
Fiction

She lies on her back. The waves carry her, indifferent. She hears muffled sounds she cannot comprehend. She could be anywhere – floating in the middle of the ocean or drifting through space. The rest of the world does not exist anymore. Maybe she doesn’t either. For the first time in what feels like years her mind has stopped buzzing. She feels grounded. The sea agrees with her: there is nothing to worry about, for the ebb and flow of life will always take her wherever she needs to be. The only place she could be. The wind must have died down now because the ripples aren’t threatening to submerge her anymore. All is quiet, even the water. She feels her hair floating gracefully around her head and wishes that she were a mermaid.

She would sink head first into the deep blue and leave land to more brutal creatures.

She would explore all that remains unknown to humans. She would report only to the moon and to the sea. She would not miss the messy life she would leave behind. Buried underwater, secrets don’t seem as heavy. Everything is slippery here, and right and wrong don’t matter. She would not need to have a name, for her very existence would be enough to matter. She would become a myth; the Lady of the Deep. Her mermaid existence, only half human, would surely be more fulfilling than this half-lived life. She craves simplicity – to have no purpose other than that of being alive. Nothing more. Existing without thinking about it, without thinking about why. She wants to stay here all night; to leave humanity and its pointless search for purpose. Here in the sea, there is no such thing. A fish is a fish. And this – this is water.

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woman sport running sports workout
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There’s this woman, Leena, who feels like a friend to me. I have never met her, nor have I spoken to her before. But I have been watching her YouTube videos for a long time now and they always give me something to think about or reason to be inspired. Her latest one dealt with the issue of girls and sport; how we all sort-of gave up on P.E. as the teen age hit us, and how that was a very normal thing to do for all of us. What Leena said truly resonated with me – so I thought I would share.

P.E. was hard for me. I was a shy kid, and I was very, very afraid of other people judging me. Now that’s a normal fear for a normal kid, yes. But that fear held me back from realizing my potential because I kept telling myself and others that I sucked at whatever it was we would have to do. I never had that go-getter mentality of the confident girl that just ‘gives it a go’ and has fun in the process. I hated being watched and measured up against the other girls, because in my opinion, I would always be less than. It felt like torture to be reminded in such a cruelly physical way that I was not adequate.

Even though high school is behind me now, I still feel remnants of those feelings of inadequacy when it comes to sport. Although I have mustered up more of a go-getter mentality than ever before, I am still very self-conscious when I share my workout routine with others. I feel the need to put myself down before they get the chance; “yeah but I use very light weights”, “I am so weak, look at me!”, “I can only run for like 3 minutes so…”.

I lower other people’s expectations of my performance so they don’t make fun of me… because apparently I am convinced that they would.

It’s not all bad, though. I’m learning! And I am challenging myself to a… 7k obstacle run. That’s right – me! This quiet, petite me who always hated running is going to kick some ass at the Strong Viking run in a few months’ time. Yes I will. This time around, I am training with a friend. We’re a team. We’re going to have fun being active together, helping each other out. Fuck perfect, fuck ladylike. I want fun and I want challenging. And most of all, I am going to let myself have that.

Leena’s video:

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just do it, take the leap, live a little
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… and live a little.

I haven’t had the headspace to write much recently, so instead I have been focusing on doing things. I have listened to more music, seen my friends more, gone to the gym, attended extra lectures and conferences, taken day trips… Less thinking, more doing. And for someone like me, that is great practice.

Sometimes you just gotta pull the trigger. You’re not being crazy for going after the things you want. You are actually doing yourself a favour, holding yourself accountable for your own needs and aspirations. Makin’ it happen. There is no time to waste second-guessing yourself. I wish someone could tell me that everyday. Hey, maybe I’ll set an alarm as a daily reminder. There is just no point keeping yourself down. Because if you don’t challenge yourself and kick your own ass out of that slump you’ve been lurking in, who will? Fairy godmothers only appear for those that earn their help. There is no better time to live the life you want to live than right now. Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow doesn’t exist. (See what I did there?).

You have to be the joy you want to feel in your life.

Bottom line is: trust it. Whatever it is, trust what you want, or think you want, or think you might want. Just go for it and see what happens. Get that crazy haircut, apply for that job, tell that person you like them and just get that damned tattoo (but be sure you really want it because that’s forever). Do more things. No – do more things you like doing. Get a blog if you must (and share it in the comments). But whatever you do, don’t let things pass you by because the timing ‘isn’t right’ or because you are ‘not ready yet’ or ‘too busy’ procrastinating.

I’m going to go ahead and heed the words of Nike: just do it.

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dance dancer happy
Fiction

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I click on the playlist. It’s time to dance. I bump up the volume until it can’t get any louder – then I lower it a bit, because you know, I have roommates. But the first beat takes me on its back and we go for a ride.

Nothing makes me feel quite as good as dancing. I dance when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m tired, when I’m energised, even when I hear the clicking of a random girl’s heels in the hallway. I dance alone in my room, I dance on my way to class, I dance in the car, I dance anywhere.

dance dancing dancer

Dancing used to be a serious practice for me. I would go to the studio three times a week, my hair pinned back in a tight bun, and work tirelessly for hours with my pointe shoes on. I loved it; it was like a second home. Everything else disappeared when I went to dance class. It was only me and the music. Nowadays, even though I don’t get to practice ballet anymore, I still feel that way about dancing. It’s the most freeing expression of happiness I have found. The ultimate expression of love for yourself – for your life. Even if you’re only tapping your fingers to the beat while working at your desk, you’re dancing. If it brings even a smidge of a smile to your face, congratulations: you’ve found the perfect soundtrack to your current mood. For me, it always changes; electro swing, folk, rock, pop, a mix of all the above… Embrace aaaall the music!

I never understood the people that say they can’t dance. You don’t learn to dance. You just follow what moves your body feels like throwing. Who cares if you’re a so-called bad dancer? At least you’re dancing! And that’s more than that guy can say, the one standing awkwardly with a drink in his hand, not daring to move away from the wall.

It’s easy, really. Just choose to make your life a freakin’ party.

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adventures adventure nature
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Adventures are not just for jedis and hobbits. They aren’t contained solely within the pages of a novel or the frames of a movie. Adventures are for whomever pays attention – and has a little courage. You don’t even need to have outstanding life experiences to grow into the hero or heroine of your own story – chances are, you can make the right choices every day.

In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell analysed how the myths of humankind – regardless of culture or time period – usually work around the same structure: the hero’s journey. From Jesus to Luke Skywalker, our stories always end up resembling each other… whether we are aware of it or not.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

The founding myths of humanity, all based on the same plot.

First, there’s the call to adventure (“Yer a wizard, Harry.”), then its refusal (“But I’m… just Harry.”). The hero crosses the threshold (the barrier to platform 9 3/4) and faces trials and tribulations (Wingardium Levi-oooo-sa, a troll, a chess game and a big bad wolf at the end). Temptation leads the hero to the abandonment of their ego (“Give me the Sorcerer’s stone, I’ll bring your dead parents back”, “I’m okay thanks.”). Finally, the transformed hero returns home with his newfound wisdom and skills (“You could threaten to give your cousin Dudley a pair of ears to go with his tail.”).

This cycle goes on and on across stories.

  • So why do I claim that we can all be our own hero? What does that have to do with narrative structures?

brave courage art adventure

Oh, just about everything.

These stories resonate with us for a reason. We live them all the time.

We, my friend, are living stories.

We make the choices and the mistakes of the characters we love – or rather, they echo our choices and mistakes. It doesn’t matter which comes first. But it is important to recognise that where our own narrative takes us is ultimately down to ourselves. We were each given a different origin story and a singular set of hardships to overcome.

It is up to us to learn to recognise our allies and mentors; to accept the call to adventure when we are given the chance; to fail until we succeed and come out a better person. It is up to us to keep up the courage to go through that cycle every day, every month, every year. If you accept to be your own story’s hero, then you get to decide what meaning to give to life. (Damn!)

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technology phone smartphone laptop apple iphone digital detox
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There is something oddly comforting about technology. With it, I feel organized and involved in the world and its changing moods. Without it, I have to admit that I can feel a little lost… until I feel better. And I know I am not the only one.
I may love the Internet and all that allows me to use it, but I haven’t had the best of luck with technology for the past few months. My old phone died and so did other, borrowed ones; new phones I bought online wouldn’t turn on; my brand new mp3 player (yeah, I still use one of those) wouldn’t let me turn the volume down; and to cap it all, my trusty laptop stopped working altogether. Since then I have considered myself a bit of an expert on how to live a happy-ish, technology-modest life. And before you run away screaming: you don’t need to get all your devices to break like mine did in order to be a little bit more present in everyday life.

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Ravendor Gryffinclaw Pottermore Gryffindor Ravenclaw
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Yesterday the new Pottermore website (an official all-things-Harry-Potter website) re-launched its new and improved interactive platform where users get sorted into one of the four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. Naturally, I’d had a Pottermore account for years and knew that I was a Ravenclaw. But I took the test again – partly to make sure that I was indeed a true Ravenclaw, and partly because I love the beautiful illustrations that go with anything to do with Pottermore. Plus, who doesn’t like a good quiz?

I took the quiz, fairly confident I would get sorted into Ravenclaw again, when this happened.

Hold your hippogriffs – I’m a what?

Hippogriff Harry Potter

A Gryffindor. I am now a Gryffindor. What is this dark magic?

Obviously, this surprise got me asking a handful of tough questions. Have I not been a true Ravenclaw all this time? Is the test faulty? Have I changed this much since 2009? Am I not smart and creative enough anymore?

This identity crisis echoed the one I had almost 7 years ago, when the website first launched and sorted me into Ravenclaw House. I’ll be honest: I was disappointed. Ravenclaw seemed a little too brainy for my taste; I didn’t like how all the adjectives used to describe its students revolved around their intellect. I felt like I was more than just smart; I wanted the test to tell me I was brave. I wanted it to tell me I was cool. 

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dinner party
Fiction

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The ticking clock on the wall reminds me that it is past midnight. I had better hurry up and finish cleaning up the kitchen if I want to get up early tomorrow. Not that I have much cleaning to do, since mum has already taken care of most of it as soon as the party was over. She has this way of doing things quicker than I can process them, even after an entire evening spent managing guests and layering dish after dish on the table. I shake my head as if to get rid of the bits of sleep making their way to my brain and eyes. Must keep active, and give a little help for once.

The cat waits behind me as I wipe the counter, purring gently to herself. She wants some cuddles. The house is dark and quiet now – a stark contrast with the bubbling atmosphere of a few minutes ago. At times there was laughter, and later what sounded like grave conversations in the living room. I didn’t take part in it – apart from a polite appearance to say hello and entertain for a short while. But it is not my place.

All that remains of the party is a lingering smile on mum’s face as she kisses me goodnight, and the leftover pistachios to throw away. The evening feels strangely suspended in time, like one big timeless moment that has simply moved on from us.

Finally, after a last squeeze, I put the sponge down and turn around. The cat is gone.

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New York Travel
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My grandmother has always been fascinated by travel, though she didn’t get to do a lot of it in her youth. To her, nothing is more moving than the view of wide, untamed lands. The very first glimpse of a new place from her seat on the plane is something that sticks in her memory forever, never losing its magic and grandeur. She remembers each time she landed somewhere new; what it felt and looked like; the things she thought to be strange… down to every peculiar sight. I admire how her sense of wonder won’t wear out. She still recounts the stories of her travels whenever I see her. She’ll tell me about the blue plastic bag she had to wear at Niagara Falls and about the snake on the road in Guyana. It brings a rare twinkle in her eyes, one that replaces – for a moment – the pains of her age.

I wish to be more like her. I have probably already travelled about as much as she has but I don’t feel like I treat those experiences with as much reverence as I should. Travelling is almost a given for my generation and things don’t strike me as exceedingly different from home. Perhaps I am easily adaptable; perhaps the places I know in the world are blending together. But maybe I just don’t pay enough attention. I wish to be old and marvelling – not blasé of all the things I have seen and thought to be ordinary. This may be a privilege of the age – hardly realising how very lucky we are to find the world so accessible with our cheap flights and international opportunities. But I think that along with our privilege comes the duty to appreciate what we get all the more. Let us listen to the wishful elders that keep exclaiming ‘Youngsters are so lucky these days!’. Let us find ourselves lucky, because we are getting to go further than most people ever have.

Have you ever been cavalier about going abroad? Or do you make a point to savour it whenever you do? Writing down what I’m up to always helps me realise how great my experience is, so I shall do more of that in the future.

Love,

M

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