Man Up

It was with some misfortune that I woke up at 6.30 the other morning. Not merely because of the early hour which I’m not used to as a lazy, kind-off half employed student on his Summer Holidays which he doesn’t deserve. No. The real misfortune was my ill informed decision to switch on our flat TV which has been experiencing signal issues recently.

I mention these signal issues because the only channel available to my flatmate and I is ITV. Surely this isn’t an issue I hear you cry. There’s plenty of good programmes to watch on ITV. Perhaps, but at 6.30 am ITV viewers are greeted by the sounds of a certain loudmouthed presenter on Good Morning Britain. 

This presenter and former journalist loves the outrage he creates and could possibly be applauded for achieving huge notoriety in the same way Katie Hopkins’ types do. Like Hopkins, he has created a paradox in which more discussion about his views and controversial opinions is always a win for him.

That’s why I won’t mention him by name in this post. Though in all honesty it’s actually a pretty useless gesture on my part because you most likely know who I’m speaking about. Its a win-win situation for him anyway. You probably think I’m far too woke. Its okay. I know I am.

Where was I? Oh yes. I was sitting in my shorts in the kitchen enjoying a bowl of porridge like the millennial snowflake which I am, when the topic of discussion moved onto the topic of mental health.

I won’t recount the details as its probably on STV player or something. I also really don’t want to re-watch it on YouTube just so I can provide an accurate account of the conversation. I’m going to be a great journalist…

Anyway, it all ended with Piers Morgan (fuck it he wins again) ending the discussion by informing his many viewers that we all needed to “man up”. Now I don’t have any issue with the phrase ‘man up’ per say.

I would  be quite likely to use the phrase in jest if my mate or brother (mainly brother) hurt himself or was feeling physically poorly. I’m full of banter me. So don’t worry I’m not going to get all politically correct ‘millennial’ on your ass.

Actually hold that thought because there is one particular setting which I think the words ‘man up’ should never be used in. This setting being when speaking to people who are struggling mentally.

As well as those with mental illness, I’m also referring to anyone who isn’t feeling there selves. Which realistically is all of us at various points in our day to day lives. I’m sure even Piers Morgan wakes up and thinks fuck me I’m just a puppet for outrage who spends his waking hours shouting like the sound of dying dinosaurs about the younger generations because they can’t man up.

The comment about dinosaurs is taken from an interview with documentary maker Michael Moore in 2016. Moore was referring to a good mate of Mr Morgan’s. That close buddy of his being Donald Trump who at the time was on the precipice of becoming the President of the United States.

Its a good quote but I’m not sure it was necessarily accurate. President Trump was riding on a wave of populism which may continue in the next US elections. Who knows. However, I’m also not sure if it actually holds up when looking at the example of Piers Morgan.

Many of us, particularly young people, like to think we live in a society which is tolerant and treats mental health issues with the respect and relevance which they deserve. However, when it comes to telling anxiety sufferers to man up, for example, I don’t think Piers Morgan’s comment is coming from one of the last of some dying prehistoric creatures.

This is worrying because the pre-mentioned rhetoric is not only unhelpful, but also, in my opinion, dangerous.

Its at the point that I should point out my own hypocrisy. I don’t tell others struggling with mental health issues to man up. No, instead I constantly tell myself to man up.

Having a bad day Finn? Man up. Feeling so anxious that you can’t concentrate on any task Finn? Man up. Doubting yourself to the point of frenzy Finn? Man up.

It was perhaps an unusual coincidence that the rest of that specific day was shit. Well from my perspective it was pretty shit. Piers Morgan probably went home or read the papers oblivious to countless others who were having a shit day. Or perhaps he was also having a bad day. We’ll never know.

Ironically I spent the rest of that day telling myself to man up. Not because of anything which Piers Morgan or anyone else said, but because that’s how I’ve always coped (poorly) with the long term feeling of anxiety. Anxiety that returns every now and then like an annoying friend that you can’t seem to get rid off.

I suppose my point is that when people are struggling to control what’s happening in their headspace the last thing they want to be told is to man up. I can’t be the only one who tells themselves on an almost daily basis that what they’re feeling is non-sensical and a waste of time. In fact I know I’m far from being the only one.

For me, manning up doesn’t equate to being resilient. But, unfortunately it seems to be a phrase uttered often in freedom of speech discussion circles by those who forever hark for the old days when everyone had a stiff upper lip and we just got on with it (apparently).

Freedom of speech is massively important but it doesn’t mean I can’t call you out for being a dick. I’m not a snowflake who’s no platforming you if I think you’re being a dick. In my opinion, telling people with mental health issues to man up is quite obviously a dick move. Especially as we are reminded during Mental Health Awareness Week that suicide is the largest killer of men between 15-35.

Men who on hearing that might not go to the doctor or tell anyone how they are feeling. Lives are at stake.

I use this specific example not only because this is the age group I belong to, but also because this seems to be the group which those who take joy in labelling young people as millennial snowflakes take aim at. We aren’t strong enough. We aren’t resilient enough. We don’t know how to grow up to become breadwinners.

Anyway, that day passed and the next day was great. I went to the beach with my girlfriend. I had an ice cream. The sun was shining and I was happy to just be in the moment.

However, I know that there will be another shit day coming and I’m willing to face it with resilience. The reality is though, despite my best efforts, I’ll end up telling myself to man up. To stop being silly. I’ll beat myself up inside because I’m feeling miserable when I am so lucky in many aspects of my life.

And that’s why I don’t need to be told to man up or that I’m constantly getting into these ruts through negative behaviour patterns. I know and I already degrade and normalise how I’m feeling. I and anyone who feels anxiety likely doesn’t need help with understanding that aspect. Instead we need someone to talk to opposed to someone who will belittle us.

Lets be clear. This article wasn’t written as a direct result of watching early morning TV. I wouldn’t want to give Piers Morgan the satisfaction. It did get me thinking though so thank you Mr Morgan. I also apologise. This long ramble wasn’t meant to get particularly political, but perhaps sometimes it is necessary to do so.

 

Weekly Rambling

Issue 3 – Monday 4th February 2019

The Good

Its that time of the week again. That’s right its a Monday which means its time for me to write a long sugar induced account in the middle of the night about the last week in my life.

I therefore apologise if this drops off in the latter stages as the five chocolate digestives (rounding down) I’ve just stuffed my face with aren’t likely to keep me energised for too long. But now that’s the most cynical section out of the way I have to admit that this has been quite a good week by my standards.

If you inhabit the stunning city of Aberdeen you’ll have noticed it has been given a magical white covering in the last couple of days, with snow making a rare appearance on the Granite City pavements and rooftops.

As I elegantly and effortlessly run down white pavements in my stylish running gear like a slightly slower Mo Farah, popular tourist destinations like Kittybrewster look even more magical.

More exciting and surprising than the prospect of snow during an Northern Hemisphere winter is Six Nations rugby which began on Friday Night with a great game between France and Wales. This was followed by an entertaining Scottish victory on Saturday and a game in Dublin which I didn’t watch and don’t really have any thoughts on.

Perhaps even more excitedly, and importantly, I finally started Uni again on Thursday with a class on Broadcasting. Every lecture so far has been interesting and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again. I also didn’t get too lost trying to find new classrooms which was a bonus, though being a sheep and following the crowd did help.

I also rounded up the week with a bracing but rewarding walk up Tom’s Cairn, back in Deeside with three mad dogs and my mum. Who is also pretty mad.

The Bad

So I have to be honest about something. In the first part of the blog I was trying to appeal to the many people who love snow, by being upbeat about the white stuff which has fallen from the sky recently. The hope being they wouldn’t read on after that section because they have better things to spend their time doing.

I hate the snow. And the ice. And the sub-zero temperatures. Its just not my cup of tea. A cup of tea which I hold onto tightly when returning from the Aberdeen wilderness with no feeling in my poorly circulated hands. No gloves or socks seem thick enough when the mercury drops below -5 degrees Celsius, a temperature range which I call ‘Bloody freezing’.

Half-running and sliding around pavement corners, I probably look more similar to a dangerously unbalanced and human Bambi, a mess of arms and legs desperately trying to not break any bones. Unfortunately my dislike of the gym is still stronger so running in the icy conditions is a risk I’m going to have keep taking for now.

Also my dislike of the cold meant I didn’t do any more Deliveroo, which in fairness is a really poor effort as I still had quite a lot of spare time. The cold is a truly rubbish excuse and this coming week I need to get back on it and earn some pennies which have been spent on buying stationary and other important uni stuff recently…

The Ugly 

Br-exit eh?

Only joking! This blog is truly unpolitical as noted in the terms and conditions I have scribbled on a ‘Post-it’ note in my well organised and tidy journalism drawer. No what was equally as bad (or much worse, no political inclination shown here whatsoever) this week was sitting on an unheated bus for an hour.

I won’t mention the bus company but you can probably guess who they are. Having spent 2 ½  hours travelling between Aberdeen and Braemar on a largely unheated bus with no toilet in the past, they really need to do better. I realise this has nothing to do with the bus drivers by the way who have been very friendly whenever I’ve used the buses recently.

And having managed to time my inevitable sugar crash with a misdirected and pompous rant, that’s my summary of this week. Well done if you got this far but I don’t give out any prizes. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Rambling

What’s this I hear you ask? Well its an idea which includes telling whoever is unfortunate enough to have stumbled across this, some random thoughts on a weekly basis.

These thoughts will attempt to correspond with the previous week and will be posted every Monday. Also a quick warning this is likely to contain a significant amount of rambling which will hopefully make some sense.

Issue 2 – Monday 28 January 2019

The Good

And so its Monday again, a day often seen as being the worst day of the week. However, why not look forward to a new week which might have plenty of opportunities ahead. Though trust me as a student who hasn’t been studying in two months, I know exactly how difficult Mondays are.

For me this week has become better in the latter stages. Between Thursday and Sunday I was thankfully joined by my flatmates, which means I have company again and good company at that.

Thursday was also a good day because I did a really nice 12 mile run along the beach towards Balmedie in bright sunshine. The beach was almost deserted and I found the sound of the waves both soothing and relaxing.

I also completed two deliveries for Deliveroo without getting myself into a total pickle, which was good, and means I will hopefully get some more shifts over the coming week. Lets not mention the near collision with a pedestrian who was checking his phone while crossing the road.

If you don’t know me that well, getting into a total pickle is something I’m usually quite good at. Two examples I would use being when I found myself up a big hill in the dark with no head torch or during my last two jobs as a dish-breaker. So it was nice not to be in a total pickle for once.

Lastly, i managed to sit in a cinema for two hours. This was an achievement for me as I’m usually really bad for staying in one spot for that long or at watching films in general. I would definitely recommend going to see ‘Glass’ though as it was a good watch and James McAvoy is a brilliant actor.

The Bad

To be honest I didn’t have the best start to the week. Waking up at 5am on Monday after having a terrifying nightmare wasn’t great and probably explains why I am even more delighted to have my flatmates back.

During a very long-winded and weird nightmare, I was woken up when I was sure someone (or something!) was touching my arm. After several minutes of trying to calm down and  get my breath back I decided that some music might calm me down. ABBA if you must know.

My enjoyment of  ‘Dancing Queen’ was curtailed however, as soon after I was notified someone had tried to take quite a lot of money out of my bank account. Thankfully the transaction didn’t go through, but I did have to go a week without a bank card. Not the best start to day I’ve ever had.

The only other slight annoyance was my foot which seems to playing up at a time when I seem to be getting increasingly restless. I’ve been doing more running miles than usual recently in preparation for some challenging races in the summer.

However, I’ve also been running more because it helps me deal with this constant feeling of restlessness as it means I’m getting out and about and am blowing of some steam. This means I often fear injury or anything which prevents running. Although this time some ‘Deep Freeze’ and frozen peas seem to have done the trick for now.

The Ugly

Unfortunately sleep doesn’t seem to have been coming easy this week, and not just because I had that nightmare at the start of the week.

Creating a character to explain the feeling of something touching my probably didn’t help, but if you would like to know, Barry is a large hairy monster who is largely misunderstood by society. He is also the last of his kind (more details to follow).

Anyway, the pre-mentioned restlessness is obviously a factor, but so is the fact I tend to write better in the dead of night. It’s almost as if any creative ideas trapped in the recesses of my mind only manage to find their way out in the middle of the night when I should be in bed.

Which probably explains any spelling mistakes (my spelling is terrible at the best of times) and any excess rambling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Rambling

What’s this I hear you ask? Well its an idea which includes telling whoever is unfortunate enough to have stumbled across this, some random thoughts on a weekly basis.

These thoughts will attempt to correspond with the previous week and will be posted every Monday. Also a quick warning this is likely to contain a significant amount of rambling which will hopefully make some sense.

Issue 1  – Monday 21 January 2019 

The Good

So what’s been happening in the last week? Well, I’m back in Aberdeen, having fled the cold but beautiful Braemar and been doing lots of running. You know, for a change. My training has however been increased as I look to improve my fitness for the Edinburgh Marathon in May.

This will be my first ever marathon and although I already feel a sense of absolute dread and meaningful regret, it’ll be alright. Its a great aim to have and will hopefully be followed by the Highland Cross in June.

And if my training is going well I may even consider signing up for the Larig Ghru Race, a 27 mile epic through the Cairngorm mountains from Braemar to Aviemore. Watch this space.

That’s probably enough about my unimportant hobbies which I never prioritise over any more important stuff like… University, which will be resuming again at the end of the month. This is quite exciting as one of the modules I’ll be doing this upcoming semester is Broadcasting.

As a journalism student I often naively forget that there is so much more to being a journalist than expressing yourself through the written word. In fact I’ve always held onto the idea that I want to be an anonymous disc jockey, damaging the airwaves in the wee hours when most people are sleeping.

However, I’m not sure this module will include radio broadcasting but it is sure to be interesting. Actually, looking through my ‘Your Top Songs 2018’ on my spotify makes grim reading and I likely shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a platform in which I’m allowed to play music.

The Bad

In an attempt to keep these posts light, I likely won’t bore with you any existential crisis’s or hugely negative experiences I am having. So on that note, I only have three small complaints about the last week.

One complaint is that I need to fix a bell to my bike and pronto as I am becoming tired of shouting at poor pensioners along the Deeside Way, trying to be friendly while not scaring the living day lights out of them.

My other complaint is that I’m fed up of being told I’m quiet. I know I’m generally a quiet person and don’t need you to tell me while interrupting a perfectly good daydream I was probably having.

Parties might not be an appropriate place for daydreaming, but I am always trying to improve my social skills and will hopefully become less quiet as time goes on. Although sometimes I’m tempted to remind people that being obnoxious isn’t much better.

Finally, ‘Game of Thrones’ (the book) is too long. It just is. Although entertaining, the last 50 pages of the first book have been a real struggle and would have been labelled by my late grandfather as “affa slow”.

For some reason I opted to read the books over watching the show and the sex and violence, which I’ve gathered is a significant reason why people watch ‘Game of Thrones’, isn’t as prevalent in the book. Although it still does make for interesting reading, even if I do worry about George RR Martin.

The Ugly

Alcohol, although a staple of many students’ lifestyles, has done me some damage recently. It has done damage to my head, stomach, ankle, dignity and stuck up attitude about not going to Mcdonalds.

I seem to be either drinking too much or becoming less tolerant to alcohol. Neither are good developments, especially as I try to increase my running mileage and…focus on my studies…more importantly.

Nightclubbing update – still finding it fascinating while trying to enjoy the experience. Apparently my dancing has improved ten fold. There is still time.

 

 

Daydreaming

Is daydreaming good, bad for you or a little bit of both? This is a question I have been pondering over recently, often when I’m actually daydreaming. Yes, some parts of my life are seemingly similar to the 2010 film “Inception”, though perhaps a little less complex and thrilling. Which is a relief because I’ve seen that film three times now and still don’t understand what’s happening in many parts. Maybe it is more similar to my life than I’m willing to admit.

Anyway, daydreaming has always been an activity which I spend quite a lot of my time participating in, mostly when doing other activities which are arguably monotonous or extremely ordinary. For example, when waiting for a bus, or walking my three crazy dogs. I would imagine daydreaming while doing activities like these is highly regular among the general population, unless your waiting for a bus on Bolivia’s North Yungas Road (“Road of Death”) or scaling Mount Everest with your dogs.

But does being slightly aloof a lot of the time have a negative effect on an individual’s life? Straight of the bat, I’m guilty of drifting off into my own head space at inappropriate times. At school I would miss crucial information being given by teachers and at work I tend to loose focus sometimes. In fairness I wash dishes. Its a job which I’m grateful and very lucky to have, but its not the most stimulating. Anyone who questions why your not enjoying washing dishes for six hours needs to have their head checked. As I said I am grateful to be employed though and it is worth it.

So in an attempt to stimulate myself a bit more at work I daydream. I imagine riding my bike in le Tour de France, overtaking all the pros on the climbs with ease because in my dreams I actually weigh like 55 kg and have a really cool, expensive pair of sunglasses on. Its usually either that or thinking about being back in Fiji sitting under a palm tree, with no concerns or worries. Sometimes I’m thinking darker more serious thoughts, but usually there pretty bright and fluffy.

This sounds pretty harmless doesn’t it? I mean its not like I’m daydreaming about shoplifting, writing left-wing political graffiti all over the walls of the kitchen or verablly offending one of the Queen’s swans (probably with the graffiti). I’m not very hardcore so don’t think I would do anything much worse than that. The issue comes when I’m mid daydream and another human being tries to interact with me.

Now, I like speaking to people. I’m not amazing at it but I enjoy it as I don’t think life would be much fun without interacting with others. However, deafened by the sporadic dishwasher (the machine not the teenager drying the dishes beside me) I’m slow to respond when someone says my name. Seemingly slow processing doesn’t help as my brain seems to go through the stages of response slowly. Almost like its in too high a gear for its actual speed and is grinding painfully and slowly up a steep climb. “Come on brain respond!” I’ll stop the cycling metaphors there.

Some point to daydreaming as being a bad habit because it almost removes an individual from the here and now. Living in the moment is often seen as being a key to happiness for many, but I personally see it in a different way. Yes there are times when you should definitely live in the moment. Times that are special, which can’t just be captured and remembered on social media, and perhaps shouldn’t be (an argument for another day).

There is no point in pretending that life for everyone can’t be painful at times. No matter how good a life you live, there will be moments when you’ll have to pick yourself off the ground and will find it difficult to carry on. Its during these moments in particular, that I like to daydream. I’ll think about happier times in the future or the past, or I’ll just make believe at an attempt at distraction.

So to answer to the question of whether daydreaming is good for you. Well perhaps its a little tricky. Sometimes life is incredibly exciting but in other times it is incredibly banal. Maybe appreciating these duller moments makes the exciting or happier times even better. Though, as someone who isn’t a physiological or even that deep a thinker, I believe daydreaming helps me.

Yes, I’m often unfocused and do way too much overthinking about little things that happen, but I need my own head space. I have no evidence to support this being an activity which is actually helpful to my mind health wise. I did start reading an article about it but then I started daydreaming again. I may not have managed to figure out what is happening in “Inception” but I always know what I’m going to buy from the co-op with my tips after work. Guess I won’t be becoming the first Scottish rider to win the Tour de France anytime soon…

Highland Cross 2018 – Race Report

It is now Monday night and your legs are still sore from taking part in a 50 mile duathlon on Saturday. It was worth it however because you raised money for charities that do brilliant work in the Scottish Highlands. You also thoroughly enjoyed yourself and pushed yourself to the limits of endurance while travelling through some awe inspiring scenery.

Now its back to washing dishes though and your still pretty tired. So how did you get to this point. Well, 36 years after its conception the Highland Cross is still going as strong as ever with a field of over 700 taking part every year. Some choose to walk and cycle the distance while others, including you, choose to run and then cycle it. This is actually the second year you have taken part in the crossing across the Highlands from Morvich to Beauly, passing the stunning Sisters of Kintail and running through Glen Affric.

Organisation is a word you have always feared and has never ever been a strength. In fact its likely the reason teachers at school often became frustrated with you. Unfortunately a significant amount of organisation is needed to compete in this awesome event. Though fortunately the race organisation itself is top notch. To anyone participating in this event it is recommend to make a weekend of it. Take the option of dropping your precious bike in Inverness on the Friday evening to be transported to the transition point of the race after 20 miles.

Arriving in the capital of the Highlands, you will wrap your almunium bike, that you love dearly, in copious amounts of cardboard and bubble wrap while watching fellow competitors  wheel their carbon frames about. Its okay though because you’ve always believed its not at all about the bike and that the totally worn out tryes on your steed don’t make it easier to puncture. Basic science isn’t important right?

With the bike now at the back of your mind, as no last minute repairs can be made, you drive to Beauly where you will be spending the night with your team mate/mother in a hotel room. You have convinced yourself over the last week that the reason you couldn’t find anyone else than your Mum to join your team is that you are a maverick when it comes to running and cycling. You go it alone. Maybe its actually because you look shit in lycra. Oh well.

Anyway on arrival you meet with your team leader who you raced with last year. He is a strong athlete and therefore deserves his carbon bike (please write in), and has given you the great opportunity to do this event again. See you do have some friends in the athletic community.

The night before is less stressful than it was last year when you spent the wee hours pacing around your room and hoping you wouldn’t be using the bathroom as much when the morning came. Last year was more stressful as you really wanted to put in a good shift for your team leader to help him record a sub 5 hour crossing which you managed with 20 minutes to spare.

This year isn’t as stressful as you are purely racing for yourself, being given free lease to see if you can beat your previous time of 4:40. Training hasn’t been ideal and your health has been bit sporadic but you feel confident you can beat 4:30, not using excuses in a desperate attempt to provide a safety net for massive failure.

Feeling sick with nerves the next morning you force down some lumps of porridge which you are sure is actually a living organism, and head of on the 2 hours, 30 minutes bus journey to the west coast. This is where sheep have free will and the roads curve through towering mountains shrouded in low cloud. It is also where you will start the race.

Now standing on the start line your bladder gives it usual last minute reminder that its there, before the starting gun is fired at 11am. Your off at a storming pace and you feel great, strolling along a nice wide path through the beautiful countryside. At this pace you’ll get there in under four hours and you won’t even have to worry about finding a tree to take a piss behind.

Soon you hit the first climb and the legs aren’t the happy, reminding you there’s the best part of 17 miles remaining until transition. Slowing down you take water from every station you pass, commandeered by enthuasutic  volunteers with loud and encouraging voices. Taking it easy to the high point of the race you take in the amazing waterfall below and finally after an hour, relive yourself behind a small wall.

The descent to the halfway point is great fun and you revel in ploughing through deep streams which cross the path. Suddenly you are over two hours in and are still going well. You have munched through half an energy bar, finding out how hard it is to keep running while eating. Others are taking in gels and other food, but you think this will give you a sore stomach so keep going. You will regret this when your blood sugar levels drop through the floor after the race.

Its not long until you can hop on your bike and your getting excited about getting a seat of some sort. Your lycra is beginning to become uncomfortable and you want to start wearing it for its primary use, to protect your fruit and veg from the exertion of cycling. When running its heavy and feels like more of a hindrance than anything else. When thinking about all this you find yourself on the “Yellow Brick Road”, a seemingly endless hell of undulating double track which leaves cramp in almost every part of your body.

In reality this section only lasts five miles but it takes a lot of resolve to not start walking or stop. After a section of tarmac which adds to the pain, you arrive at the transition point to your absolute relief. This part of the race is brilliantly organised and you only spend five minutes here, changing into your circa 2012 cycling clip ins (I haven’t really grown) with the help of a friendly and patience race volunteer.

The cycle was great fun last year and you enjoyed it again this year, weaving through groups of slower cyclists and being passed by the quicker ones on the often technical run down to Beauly. It feels like your competing in a clean Tour de France. With your eye on the clock you power through the cycle in 1hour, 23 minutes, meaning your total time is 4 hours, 20 minutes. Success!

This joy at your time is short lived however, as you miss your team mates finishing as you pass out in your hotel room and sleep for the next three hours, obviously suffering from major calorie defiency. Both of your team mates ran storming times and you leave the Scottish Highlands with a great sense of happiness, hoping to return again to a great event for a good cause.

If you have been good enough to listen to my ramblings it would be awesome if you could sponser me a wee bit for completing the Highland Cross 2018. The work the Cross does goes back into the communities which play such a big role in helping the race continue successfully….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/finn-nixon1

 

 

 

 

Heading Home

First Draft – Monday 23rd April 2018

The Positives :

As I sit on the beach in Nadi Bay on the largest Fijian island of Vitu Levu, my emotions are hugely mixed. This evening I am heading home. No not my Fijian home, but my real home in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. A last run along the beach this morning only made me feel a deeper sadness that I would be leaving this small piece of paradise. The sun is shining as brightly as ever through the numerous palm trees and across the blue Pacific Ocean as though the weather gods our rubbing in the fact that I will leave all of this behind in a few hours.

However, I like to think I’m optimist by Scottish standards at the very least. Therefore I want to first list the obvious positives of heading home. One is probably the most obvious, being that I miss my family and closest friends, having not seen or really heard from them for two months now. It will be great to catch up with them and make them feel jealous as I flaunt my healthy tan and blonde hair. I realise these will fade quickly so I’ll actually keep the flaunting to a minimum I think.

It will also be great to return to sunny Braemar, my home village of around 450 people with a real community spirit which could perhaps be compared to the attitudes of Fijians towards the importance of community. It would be churlish to not admit that I have felt a degree of homesickness during the last two months.

As I’ve often said being Scottish is almost a disease. During the cold long winters and following cool, wet summers that we experience I’ll often be desperate to get away to a warmer climate. However, a week away and you suddenly miss Scotland and can have moments where you are desperate to return to the home nation and have to wear layers most days.

I have also of course had a truly amazing experience which I can take back with me and treasure for the rest of my life. It is by a long shot the best thing I have ever done and I would have laughed if someone had suggested I would have ended up in Fiji six months ago. This journey half way across the globe fulfilled my overall aim. To extend my comfort zone to the absolute limit.

During my time here I have learnt a huge amount about Fiji, its culture and its people. Not giving these islands another visit doesn’t feel like it should be an option for me. Although, lets not forget I have many things to look forward to when I return home. I am lucky enough to be returning to my job as a part-time dishwasher and hopefully have a university place lined up.

The Negatives:

On the other hand, there was a feeling of great sadness as I packed up my suitcase for the last time this morning. The colourful people, the wonderful school students, the postcard perfect beaches, fellow travellers/volunteers and the “Vinaka Fiji” team will be greatly missed.

While reflecting on my time in the Yasawa Islands it is tempting to go into great detail about the sand, sea and sun. However, you probably know these things about Fiji already. No I would rather write about what well and truly makes Fiji such a wonderful place, the people. Their overall hospitality, kindness, laughter, attitude and happiness are unlike anything I have ever come across.

In many ways they have made me consider my attitude towards life and the importance of their resilience, especially in the face of worsening cyclones. Most locals to the Yasawa Islands live a much simpler, less stressful life to us. An existence which is seemingly a lot less centred on the importance of materialism.

I also know it will likely be a long time until I get another opportunity to travel to this part of the world. Maybe I will return one day when I am a little older or perhaps I will have to wait until I am much older. Whatever happens I still have hope I’ll be back on these sun kissed beaches.

At 6.15 pm I start my mammoth journey home. A mini-adventure in itself perhaps, but one I hope isn’t too adventurous. If I make it home (fingers crossed) it will be back to the norm, if there is such a thing. Maybe it won’t feel normal though and it will take time to adapt to Scottish rural life again. I’m not too worried though. If I can travel to the other side of the world solo, then surely I’ll be able to wash some dishes and then roll up at a university less than 150 miles from home. Now how do airports work again?