I Think I Might Be A Modern Day Ebenezer Scrooge…

A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite festive stories, mostly because I feel a certain connection with the central character.

Although I do not identify with Scrooge’s attitude and general approach to life, on some level, I do relate to his experience in the novel.

Like Scrooge, I frequently find myself awake in the early hours of the morning.

However, unlike Scrooge, the voices that wake me up are not those of supernatural beings sent to teach me a lesson about the joy of Christmas and the fundamental meaning of life.  Instead, they are anxieties that originate from my own brain, piping up for no discernible reason whatsoever.

So, this Christmas, I have reimagined Dicken’s iconic spirits so that they represent some of the anxieties that often haunt me in the early hours – after all, there’s no better way to get into the festive spirit than using classic Christmas tales to analyse your own mental health!

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The Problem With Inspirational Quotes.

When I am browsing (aka. procrastinating and generally wasting my life) on the internet, I frequently come across inspirational quotes on various social media platforms.

I’m sure lots of people find these quotes empowering.

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However, I tend to find them a bit overwhelming.

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Although I think that self-belief is a positive thing in many ways, I sometimes find that relying on myself to be the sole engineer of my own success can cause me to put a lot of pressure on myself.

I sometimes feel underqualified to deal with the task of leading my own life as if whoever is responsible for bestowing the gift of life forgot to include the instruction manual when they gave one to me.

I often try to be more proactive and make plans in an attempt to map out my future in a structured way.

Making plans makes me feel momentarily powerful as if I am the sort of person who can effectively navigate life and exert control over the things that happen to me.

However, what normally happens is that I end up sitting with the plan in front of me with absolutely no idea how to implement it – which is a bit like trying to use a map with faulty navigation equipment.

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I tend to make most of my life plans in January.

Like most people, every January, I decide that I am immediately going to reconstruct myself as a new healthier, happier, more productive human being.

For a brief period of time, I genuinely believe that I possess the ability to do this.

However, it soon becomes apparent that this is not the case.

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It turns out that making a change in your life requires more than temporary resolve.

It involves taking your initial motivation and transforming it into habit – it is a commitment to continue performing behaviours that may initially feel unnatural and are sometimes the complete opposite of those that you have exhibited your entire life until they become integrated into your daily routine.

It is easy to make a strong statement on January 1st, experience a setback a few weeks later and immediately assume that your entire self-improvement endeavour is doomed.

So this year, I am resolving to not to put too much pressure on myself, accept that setbacks are part of the process and to remember all that I can really do is try my best to navigate life whilst attempting to be the most functional, together version of myself that I can be.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How I Learned The Truth About Santa Claus.

When I was younger, my main ambition in life was to own a dog.

Unfortunately, my parents were reluctant to buy one because they both worked long hours and thought that looking after a dog would be impractical.

When I was seven, I decided to take matters into my own hands and actively wrote to Santa asking for a dog.

At the time, I thought that I was being really crafty .

I thought that I had devised a cunning plan to outwit my parents by going behind their backs in order to obtain what they had previously denied me.6 As a child, I had a very intense and vivid imagination and invested heavily in fantasies and delusions.

As a result, I had complete faith in Santa’s ability to provide, not only free 24-hour delivery of a live animal, but also a complimentary kennel construction and installation service.

I was therefore slightly disappointed when all that I received on Christmas Day was a DVD of Disney’s ‘101 Dalmatians’.

At this point, any sensible child would have learned to monitor their expectations and set their sights a bit lower.

Not me.

In fact, the following year, I decided to up the ante.1The prospect of having a magical flying unicorn excited me – not only would it be an efficient mode of transport but it could also act as a symbol of my inherent coolness which I could use to improve my social status on the playground.

Christmas day arrived and I rushed downstairs, only to find a distinctly non-unicorn sized package waiting for me under the tree.

Attached to the package was the following note:2Inside the package was a ‘My Little Pony’.

I’m not going to lie – the ‘My Little Pony’ was a MASSIVE downgrade from a magical flying unicorn.

I told my Dad that I ‘ho-ho-hoped Santa was very disappointed with himself’ but apparently this was ‘slightly out of tune with the spirit of Christmas’ so I brushed the hair of my ‘My Little Pony’ and tried very hard to look as if look like the process of doing so filled me with festive merriment.

Over the course of the following year, I discovered the Harry Potter books.

My favourite Harry Potter book was ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban’, mostly because I was borderline obsessed with Buckbeak the Hippogriff.

As a far as I was concerned, a hippogriff was a cooler, edgier version of a magical flying unicorn.

I decided that I wanted to go to Hogwarts and buy Buckbeak off Hagrid.

My dad once told me that if you want to get anywhere in life you have to learn to work your contacts so, that year, I wrote a letter to Santa asking him for a letter to Hogwarts.3At the time, I thought that relying on a fictional character to help me escape into a fictional world was a completely legitimate, logistically-sound plan.

However, on Christmas day, I was once again disappointed when I received a copy of ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ along with a note that explained that all I needed to go to Hogwarts was my ‘imagination’.

By this point, I was getting quite frustrated with Santa.

However, despite repeated disappointments over the course of several years, I still fervently believed that he was real.

In fact, my brother, who was two years younger than me, discovered the truth about Santa before I did.
4Evidently, I thought that Santa was having some sort of confidence crisis and that my pep talk would provide him with the self-esteem boost to cement his place in concrete reality.

I was quite upset when I didn’t receive a reply.

I saw it as a personal rejection.

After all, I had made the effort to write a letter to Santa and, even if  he wasn’t real, the least he could do was write back to me to confirm his lack of existence.

I obviously couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this lack of existence may have somewhat impaired his ability to reply to me – in fact, in order for him to reply to me he would have had to sent me a message from an alternate fictional dimension, something that would have essentially involved defying the laws of existence.

Nowadays, I have a better understanding of the boundaries between fiction and reality.

That being said, a small part of me still kind of believes Santa Claus is real.

However, I know that if he does exist, he is probably struggling to update his business model in order to remain competitive in an overly saturated, technologically-advanced modern market.

christmas-delivery.pngIf you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

4 Reasons Why Everyday Life Is Scarier Than Halloween.

Halloween is supposed to be the scariest day of the year.

However, I find it strangely calming.

I think this is because everyday life tends freak me out on a regular basis and, at least at Halloween, I have legitimate reason to feel this way.

Creatures such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves and witches are specifically designed to induce a sense of fear and anxiety and it is acceptable to be afraid of them.

It is less acceptable to be afraid of receiving a phone call from an unknown user ID.

To celebrate Halloween, here are four everyday things that scare me more than any ghost, vampire, werewolf or witch ever could.

1. Finances

As a fully-grown adult, I am expected to manage my own finances which is unfortunate really because I understand money about as well as I understand supernatural forces.

Just to clarify, I’d probably have a better chance of banishing an evil spirit from my house than I would completing a tax return form.

Fortunately, I have come up with some techniques to help me wrap my mind around my finances.

Unfortunately, these techniques aren’t very effective.

My current tactic for dealing with my student debt is pretending that it doesn’t exist which is extremely counter-productive.

Because it does exist.

And it’s going to be haunting me for years…

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2. Public Speaking

Sometimes, the fact that I am scared of public speaking makes me feel like a bit of a wimp.

People are scared of vampires, zombies and other Halloween creatures because they are legitimately dangerous – they either want to drink your blood, eat your brains or cause you some other form of significant bodily harm.

The only scary thing about public speaking is the collective judgement of others.

Unfortunately, the idea of being negatively judged by multiple people causes me to experience a paralysing fear that can be equated to the abject horror that Frodo Baggins felt when looking into the eye of Sauron.

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People often tell me that the way to conquer my fear of public speaking is to approach the situation with a positive attitude and visualise success.

However, whenever I try these visualisation techniques, I just end up unearthing the ghosts of all the previous times that I messed up on stage.

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3. Dating

Modern dating is terrifying, predominantly because it is so confusing.

Technological advancements mean that a lot of communication isn’t done face to face.

As a result, when you first start dating someone, most of your time is spent desperately trying to figure out what the other person is thinking.

Unfortunately, no two people think in exactly the same way and therefore trying to understand what another person is thinking through the context of your own thought processes is impossible.

For a lot of people, communicating with a potential partner is a bit like receiving messages from another dimension.

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Sometimes, you don’t get anything back at all.

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4. The Future

The future is scary because it is a complete unknown.

We can attempt to exert some level of control over the future by planning ahead but, for the most part, it is impossible to predict what is going to happen.

Some people find this exciting.

I find it absolutely terrifying.

I do not currently have a very strong sense of identity.

In fact, Halloween is pretty much the only time of year when I actually have a solid idea of who I am.

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Therefore, when somebody asks me who I am going to be in the future, my brain suffers a system malfunction and completely shuts down and I have to find a way to actively remove myself from the conversation.

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Whenever I can manage to haul myself out of my own narcissistic, self-absorbed, millennial mind bubble for a few minutes, I also get scared about the future of mankind and the planet.

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There is no need to invest in a horror movie when you can get the same effect by simply turning on the TV.

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I honestly don’t know how we all get out of bed in the morning…

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If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

The World Is A Harsh Place Full Of Unfortunate Baking Incidents.

A few weeks ago, whilst I was watching the Great British Bake Off, I decided that I wanted to become a baker so I impulse bought a guidebook called ‘The Ultimate Guide To Baking’ in the assumption that it would instantly transform me into the next Mary Berry.

‘The Ultimate Guide To Baking’ is full of images of expertly constructed, pristinely decorated cakes.

Each image is accompanied by a set of instructions which are arranged in a series of ‘simple steps’.

In theory, following these simple steps will enable you to accurately replicate the cake in the book.

The problem with guidebooks is that they tend to be written by extremely talented people who have spent years honing their craft.

Therefore, what may seem like a ‘simple step’ to them, is actually quite challenging for the average person.

In addition, each ‘simple step’ is linked within a co-dependant chain of other simple steps so, in order to successfully replicate the image in the book, it is necessary to follow every single simple step correctly.

If you mess up one simple step, it directly affects all the other steps and the entire thing collapses – like a game of ‘simple step’ jenga.

I first learnt that simple steps aren’t as simple as they seem when I decided to learn to draw as a child and made the mistake of believing that a ‘Drawing Made Easy’ guidebook would transform me into a skilled and masterful artist.

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It turns out that 23 year old me can’t cope with simple steps either…

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If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Interview Advice – Just Be Yourself… As Long You’re Being A More Organised, Eloquent, Functioning Version Of Yourself That Is Better Than Your Actual Self In Pretty Much Every Single Way…

Growing up and entering the real world can be a confusing and overwhelming process.

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A big part of becoming a fully-functioning adult is finding a job, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that finding a job can be quite hard.

Sometimes, looking for a job can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack and, when you finally locate the needle, another slightly more qualified person comes along with a big massive magnet.

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Other times, it can feel like trying to find Wally in a ‘Where’s Wally?’ book.

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But you’re up against a guy who already has contacts in the business.

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I have been looking for a graduate job for a while now and am therefore quite familiar with the application process.

A lot of job applications begin with a CV.

A CV is a summary of professional and academic achievements but it might be better described as a Verification of Awesomeness.

Sometimes, the pressure of living up to the sheer magnificence of your on-paper personality in an interview can be overwhelming.

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When I first started doing interviews, I used to get quite nervous, something that manifested itself in a somewhat debilitating tendency to panic and say the first thing that came into my head.

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Occasionally, I would find myself on the verge of an existential breakdown.

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I would practice questions for hours before an interview.

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Only to completely lose my grasp of the English language once the interview actually commenced.

dRecently, I have been actively trying to improve my interview technique, something that has enabled me to answer a wide range of questions more effectively.

However, I still encounter questions that completely throw me.

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Due to the increasingly saturated nature of the graduate job market, the hiring process is more complex than it has been in the past.

Modern technology has enabled the traditional face-to-face interview to mutate and evolve into various different subspecies.

As a candidate, you have to be highly flexible and ready to make a good first impression in any of these mediums.

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In addition, many companies now implement a multi-stage application process in order to gradually whittle down the high numbers of applications that they receive.

In order to access their suitability for the job, applicants have to face several tasks which is a bit like competing in the Triwizard Tournament but with less mortal peril and more collaborative group-based assessments.

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Due to the competitive nature of the graduate job market, it is important to remain resilient in the face of rejection.

Over the past few months, I have developed some coping mechanisms which have really helped me deal with some of the setbacks that I have encountered.

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Despite this, it is sometimes quite difficult to remain positive.

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3 Books That I Loved As A Child But Now Find Logically Problematic As An Adult.

One of the great appeals of reading fiction is the idea of escapism.

Books provide us with the opportunity to transcend our everyday lives.

As a child, I had a very intense and vivid imagination.

When reading a book, I would often become so immersed in the story that I would begin to confuse the fictional world with reality.

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When reading, I would enter into a self-enclosed sphere of imagination in which my immediate surroundings momentarily ceased to exist.

The material world no longer featured as part of my own personal reality and, as a result, the things that my body required in order to function properly became completely irrelevant.

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reading, books, joanne sarginson

reading, books, joanne sarginson

However, as I have grown older, my ability to become completely absorbed in a fictional novel has been somewhat compromised.

I come from a scientific family – my granddad was an engineer, my parents are doctors, one of my brothers is studying marine biology at university and the other one received a prize in Year 2 for ‘The Best Model of a Volcano’.

Therefore, although I like to consider myself a creative and imaginative person, there is a part of my brain that is inclined towards thinking in an analytical and logical manner.

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As I have progressed out of childhood and through the teenage phase, I have noticed the logical side of my brain begin to exert increasing levels of dominance over the imaginative side.

I have seen this transition manifest itself most noticeably in the way that I now perceive the books that I used to find so captivating as a child.

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1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar tells the story of (SPOILER ALERT) a caterpillar that is very hungry.

At the end of the book, the caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly.

Before completing this transition, he eats his way through increasing quantities of brightly coloured food items.

By the story’s climax, the caterpillar has consumed over 20 items of food, including an ice cream cone, a cupcake and a slice of Swiss cheese.

This was fascinating to me as a child.

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However, as I have grown older and my knowledge of the anatomy of insects has developed, it has become harder for me to get invested in narratives such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

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2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt details the story of a family who spontaneously decide to go out into the wilderness and search for a bear.

The structure of the book is similar to that of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Before locating a bear, the family is forced to traverse various obstacles in the landscape.

As child, I found the wide range of obstacles that the family encountered so completely captivating that I failed to think about the fact that they were actively looking for a bear.

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As I have grown up, I have spent some time watching David Attenborough documentaries and other educational films such as The Revenant.

I have therefore acquired a greater awareness of the physical threat that bears can present to humans.

As a result, I have developed a few issues with the basic principle of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

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reading, books, joanne sarginson

3. Harry Potter

Quidditch was always my favourite part of Harry Potter.

Whilst I found all of Harry’s magical adventures fascinating, I was particularly enthralled by the concept of Quidditch.

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However, I recently dipped my head back into The Philosopher’s Stone and, whilst reading, I became slightly alarmed at the rate at which Harry Potter learns to fly a broomstick.

Within the space of a one hour Broom Skills lesson, he progresses from barely knowing how to hold the broomstick to driving it at high velocity.

I am aware that Harry is special and Hogwarts is magical but this accelerated rate of learning still seems quite dangerous to me.

I also found myself slightly concerned with Madame Hooch’s conduct within Harry’s first flying lesson, particularly the point at which she leaves a group of 11-year-old children unsupervised with a load of flying equipment that is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph in order to take Neville Longbottom to the hospital wing.

It occurred to me that Hogwarts should probably run an INSET day before the start of term in order to properly educate its staff in Health and Safety procedures.

Then again, the fact that there was a massive three-headed dog, a massive poisonous snake and a massive ‘whomping’ tree on the premises at various points during Harry’s time at the Hogwarts suggests that Health and Safety potentially wasn’t a prioritised matter on the agenda at any of the school’s board of governors meetings.

If I were a teacher at Hogwarts, I imagine that my flying lessons would be a little less exhilarating than Madame Hooch’s.

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In fact, I’m pretty sure that I would be Hogwarts’ most hated teacher.

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Although I am no longer able to use fictional books as a form of complete and utter escapism, I often use them to inform my real life.

It is comforting to know that, no matter how crazy or fantastical a book is, the struggles of its characters are always partially drawn from the author’s real life experiences.

If I am going through something difficult, sympathising with a character can make me feel less alone.

Or alternatively, if I am facing a difficult decision, observing how characters deal with their issues can sometimes give me an idea of how to move forward.

Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and Harry Potter, for example, have provided me with some valuable advice on how to deal with my current quarter life identity crisis.

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