Memories

Memories are curious things, one song or smell and we are taken back to a time or event that is just a something from our past. I sit writing this in Aberdeen, at the campus of the university I attended for degree and first masters and finished almost fifteen years ago, but it is like a different world from my time at the university as now based by the River Dee as a very modern single site campus not spread out over the city. I have have visited twice briefly since my time living here, once for a job interview eleven years ago and seven years ago for a gig, making memories of the city mostly from when I lived here before.

Upon arrival by coach, just as I had when I first visited Aberdeen to an university open day in early 1997 the city’s grey stood out, it is not nicknamed the ‘granite city’ for nothing, one could say it had fifty shades of grey before it was cool! I wandered briefly around before taking the bus to my current destination with a mix of memories that flooded back and new ones being made. Sites like the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre that brought back music to my ears from concerts to musicals I attended there and others that had been the soundtrack to my days living there. Street names jumped out in my memory of the events that took place on them, Market and Union Streets and others such as South Silver Street I finally knew the name of. I laughed upon seeing a bar called The Grill on Union Street that famously did not have a woman’s toilet until 1998 (it did not allow women at all until 1975) and smiled on remembering my project management lecturer saying he’d be propping up the bar if needed help with his course.

Shops and bars that were like friends but now had changed but not gone either; Ottakers bookshop where I sat many a Saturday afternoon with a tea and book is now Waterstones, and Triple Kirks the pub which was a firm favourite of many studying at Schoolhill and St Andrew’s Street without its pew seats. This in turn reminded me of an event forever ingrained in my memory – my friends doing a pub crawl with a 6ft inflatable alien called Hilary, who did it all from karaoke with Fraser to Iain’s attempts to keep it blown up before either Ewan or Rich put their cigarette out on it until they were no more. Nobody knew if Hilary was meant to be male or female, perhaps they were truly gender fluid before we mentioned such things as do now. There are also many statues in the city centre such as Edward VII and William Wallace but it is the lion war memorial that is the one I remember most as forever an almost unspoken right of passage by students in the near by Woolmanhill halls of residence to ride the lion during their fresher’s year when drunk (no reader alas I never did).

I come back to the university and sat in what is now where students would go to learn similar to I had in my day. One friend from my student days remained here and is now a lecturer. I had went to see the university library, which in my time had been a subject specific one in my part of the campus and remembered someone sneaking in fish and chips to it! I usually hid in the jurnal section so not to be disturbed but in later years  Alex and MC joined me with MC’s pile of biscuits and donuts that never got even a tut from the librarians! Computers around everywhere for students to use where as we had a few open access rooms in the building and one specifically for us within Applied Sciences; giggling at the thought of a lecturer searching for water sports but got the wrong kind, which led to a firm talk at the start of every year on being careful when surfing the internet. I thought of people I had known then and those I have contact with now, how life had panned out for us and what we expected it to.

Recently I read something that said our past is just stories we tell ourselves in the present, and being back in Aberdeen made that statement feel so very true. All the memories I have sat writing about are just stories of the five years I lived here, the city has changed but so had I in so many positive ways, equally there are many parts that remained just the same and can say the same of myself. The past may make us who we are now but the present is all we truly ever have, for the future is a whisper and not a promise. We do not skip to the end of a book to see what happens in the end, we take it page by page just as life is a page in the book of our life. Finally, life should be led like a piece of music, it can only be truly enjoyed in one direction with all that it brings with it, and dancing the rhythm of our life not anyone else.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Greatest accomplishment

I was recently asked what do I considered to be my greatest accomplishment to date and why?

I took a moment to think. Many may expect it to be my academic qualifications, after being almost written off  at a young age due to developmental dyspraxia to end up having a degree, two masters and a PhD by the age of 32 is a fair accomplishment in anybody’s books. However, I see what I learnt formally as an experience, the qualifications say nothing about me as a person, or the journeys that took to get there. Some people in this cannot read or write, so I am humbled to have such gifts. Equally, life is all about learning and as a friend’s mum showed in Pakistan it is never too late at 65 to learn to write your own name.

I thought of the people that have come into my life, which I have helped (directly and indirectly) to get on the path they want to be on or been there when they needed someone to listen. However, I felt that was egotistical as it was what I had done for them, and almost felt like I was trying to take possession of what they had achieved, or belittle achievements that they should shout across the world not taken as something I achieved. I would never want to take such ownership, as prefer to sing songs along with my friends than autotune it with my own beliefs, traditions, and interpretations on how their song is sung.

I considered posting my recent photo post to Facebook during the “make up free selfies” for cancer of me without my wig (as make up free is the same as any other picture of me). Although that took a lot to post and the response from friends old and new, near and far, overwhelmed me like a tsunami of support. That photo became a symbol of something beyond the vanity of some that I read about online for me. However, I could not say it as again to me showed was a thing of ego and pride, for as proud I am of making a statement it is not an accomplishment as it is part of me and not any different to posting any other photo.

Perhaps I was being hard on myself over the selfie, for a few years back I could not even look at a photograph of myself or look in the mirror such was my poor self-image. However, does posting a photograph of any sort if it is of us really become an accomplishment worthy of praise? I know last year I was in tears with myself posting a photograph to an exhibition curated by Yoko Ono as knew I could not have done it a few months before, it was like self-evolving to the point I could post the above photo. Was I was being adversely harsh on myself, and did not want to sing my song encase others laughed, mocked and judged me?

I finally decided my great accomplishment was self-acceptance and love. From the internet to magazines, printed press, friends and family all have an opinion on what we should be like, who we should be, and what should matters to us – when in reality the only one that walks this journey is ourselves. Those that are closest friends accept us for who we are, the flaws we see they see as part of our character, it is a shame we often cannot accept ourselves. For it is being able to put both hands up and saying I accept this shell of a body I have, I may not have the looks, the money or dream job but this who I am – 100% human.

 

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