Thursday, 28 April 2011

sun & ink

You know that shivery feeling you get after spending hours in the sun? That's what I have right now. (Also, teeny-tiny freckles have begun to appear around my cheeks, which is surprising and very welcome, as I never tan and I rarely even get freckles. Success!)

Sitting on the slightly damp grass during lunch break and again after school, drinking ice tea and tossing around silly ideas for next weekend. Wearing pegged trousers, ankles bare. I'm immensely tired and school is a pain but the sunlight and my friends and these drawings by Stephanie Kubo make things easier.

What made you happy today?

Monday, 25 April 2011


Boys of Milan & Paris FW2011 from Justin Wu on Vimeo.

This holiday has treated me rather well, what with all the sunlight and the warm breeze and parks and friends. I hope you've all eaten an adequate amount of Easter eggs as well.

And here, have a video of male models goofing around during fashion week. (Sent to me by my friend V. Yes, I added that information to save face, because I obviously tend to do more intellectual things on the internet than ogle male models. Ahem. Anyway, you should thank V for this, not me.)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

a bit too much

(Some flowers in photo form to cheer me up.) 
There's a bit too much going on, what with everything yesterday had to offer. Parks before sundown and walks at midnight and music threaded through the night, Antti Autio Trio and Neat Neat. Also writing letters on the train home just to stay awake. And missing people, because I always do. 

Right now I'm sitting at my desk with the open window on my left, staring at the fading stamp on the back of my hand, trying to knock some sense into my head but failing. (I don't mind though, remember what was said about failure yesterday?)

(Also: the new series of Doctor Who. Whew. Please discuss. Any fellow Whovians out there or are you all too cool for sci-fi?)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

on success and why it matters

I'm going to switch into full-on essay mode for this one. Hope you don't mind.

I'll begin this train of thought by recounting a mini-breakthrough from a therapy session a few weeks back. I was frustrated by my slow progress, going on about how I know that I'm being too hard on myself, but I just can't do anything to change my way of thinking. My therapist asked me the same question he's raised several times before: what would happen if I stopped berating myself for everything? What is it that I am afraid of?

And suddenly I had the answer. I'm afraid that if I stop asking too much of myself, I will never achieve anything again.

Breaking it down, that means I choose to live the way I do, constantly berating myself, constantly being disappointed.

It means that I choose to be miserable because I'd rather be successful than be happy.

And still, I am now going to tell you this: I am sick of people telling me that success doesn't matter. 

In the fast-paced highly competitive world we live in, people are constructing dreams of a life not ruled by success, when in fact, a world like that is both impossible and frightening. Yearning for success is base-level human and trying to rid ourselves of it is a perplexing thought. 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful. It is our stilted sense of success that's the problem.

Just think about it. What if being successful was measured by happiness? What if we stopped accepting awry outsider definitions of success and started building our own?

Only during the past few months have I begun to realise how immensely important success is for me. All my life I have been told by parents, teachers and friends to stop being so hard on myself. I expect a lot from myself, always have. There is nothing more embarrassing than not knowing something and there is nothing more scary than failure.

And now I'm beginning to realise that I have been chasing false dreams for eighteen years. For my entire life I have striven for approval, for intelligence, for good grades in school. I have beaten myself again and again over not being good enough, not trying hard enough. I have made my life miserable because I have been running away from failure too desperately to think about other options, other ways of life.

This is not a good way to live. This is not what I want.

Why am I accepting norms of success from society, from people who are not me? 

I am the only one to determine my own dreams. I don't need my life and my happiness to be validated by anyone except myself.

For me, success would mean, for instance, being able to read the books I want to read, study the things I want to study, go the places I want to go and surround myself with the people I love.

These are the heavyweight dreams, the important ones, the things that actually matter. These are achievable dreams and they are all my own. They are dreams that do not scare me shitless, they don't make my teeth chatter out of panic. Instead, they make me feel hopeful.

So, with the risk of sounding like a bad self-help book: close your eyes and breathe deep for a bit and think about what you want. 

And, if you are anything like me, please stop blindly pushing yourself out of fear of failure. Because, as the wonderful J.K. Rowling said in her Harvard commencement speech (which you should absolutely watch because it is one of the most powerful and inspiring things I have ever heard),

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."

Friday, 22 April 2011


The delightful Camilla has launched an online magazine. The first issue absolutely floored me, full of beautiful photography and a certain sense of calm that I haven't found in any other magazine to date. (Also, the magazine includes a piece on beauty written by the impeccable Meg Fee. So you should definitely take a look.)

how i want to live

There, I think. Books stacked against the walls, creaky whitewashed floorboards and so much light.

I started writing something a few days back. It's been a few months since I've last worked on something. Now I'm writing fragments and joining them together, bits and pieces involving sunsets and lawns and the quiet of a city by dawn.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

on breathing

Spring makes everything so much easier to bear. Time assumes a strange quality. Suddenly, after months upon months of darkness, there are sunrise-tinted mornings and those exquisite, almost absurdly long evenings when everything seems to stand still. The sun sinks slowly across the sky and I lose track. Of time and of myself.

To be honest, I'm tired of my feelings. I'm tired of feeling and crying and so very bored with talking about it all. Right now I just want to be, which in itself is an astonishing way to be. I'm quite unused to this.

I'm for once not keeping a track record of every thought, of every trace and scent of feeling, and sometimes it bothers me. But it's also a relief; not caring about how I feel, because then I am free to feel things without them escalating. I'm resisting the urge to start thinking about things too much, because it only tends to get me in trouble.

Thinking myself out of happiness (and into sadness and self-hate) is intuitive for me, etched into my spinal chord. So to avoid that right now, I feel things vaguely, fleetingly. I know there's a point where I'll have to think things through and in a few weeks' time I'll most probably be back to normal again, nosing around the nooks emotion. But right now I need a breather, I need a few days of calm.


A reminder, for myself. And for you as well. (Although there's nothing more difficult than asking, is there.)

Monday, 18 April 2011

sad eyes

Remember this sad-eyed boy (as drawn by Marc Johns) from a month back? Well, here are two more. I kind of wish I could adopt them all, the sad silly beautiful little ones.

(Incidentally, the electoral results weren't really to my liking. At all. Oh Finland, what has become of you? I mean, seriously.)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

oh captain, my captain

Casey O'Connell's paintings are beautiful. They make me want to grab a paintbrush and a canvas and get working. 

Today I'm going to vote in the parliamentary elections, which is slightly scary and also very very cool. (Ja muistakaa piru vie äänestää!)

Paintings by Casey O'Connell. From top: How Am I Not Myself?, Intuition and Oh Captain, My Captain.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


I promise I won't turn this into a fashion blog, but I simply have to post these photos by The Sartorialist. Just look at that light and the lack of warm clothes! Something that's still around the corner in Helsinki. (Fingers crossed for next week's weather forecast to be accurate. Please?)

Friday, 15 April 2011

friday flowers

Some flowers for your Friday. Aren't they lovely? (My Friday consisted of school and cafés and skipping ropes and sunshine and an impropmtu picnic and old friends and some nice, sturdy beer. What a way to begin a weekend!)

Yesterday evening I did some ship maintenance. I spent almost three hours up on a yard, at about 25 metres, with the Uspenski cathedral to my right, the mostly unfrozen sea before me, the setting sun on my back. It's gruelling work, but the view more than makes up for it. I hadn't realised how much I've been missing climbing. My hands are dry and full of cuts and plasters, but I don't mind, it just makes me feel like I've been working hard.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

tuesday blues (and a bit of hope)

My hands shake when I'm upset these days. Upset or nervous or sad or anxious or just in need of some kind of reassurance. Generally the fits last for most of a day and they tend to make me feel even worse. Sometimes the shaking spreads, making my teeth chatter and my throat feel thick with impending tears.

So my hands shake in my lap and they shake around my pencil and I clench them into fists to make it stop. And I try to laugh it off and complain about it but really I'm just terrified, because it's scary to see your feelings manifest themselves in something so physical.

But then there are friends to hold my hands still and to hug me close. There are hopeful text messages and a bit of wan sunshine. And gradually it eases. The knots I've twisted myself into begin to unkink. I spread my fingers out in front of me against the spring wind and I can hold them still again. And I breathe out and close my eyes.

Monday, 11 April 2011


I am only responsible for my own heart, you offered yours up for the smashing my darling. Only a fool would give out such a vital organ.

Anaïs Nin

If she were a writer she would collect her pencils and notebooks and favourite cat and write in bed. Strangers and lovers would never get past the locked door.
Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient

Sunday, 10 April 2011

sunday morning

Last night / this morning was definitely an interesting experience, what with being in an unfamiliar town at a party with mostly unfamiliar people. Strobe lights and sunsets and holding my own quite well, despite my initial case of shaky hands and tattered nerves.

I also managed to get on a wrong bus and find myself in the middle of nowhere. At two in the morning. With only a vague idea of how to find my way back. I then managed to get on the right bus and fall asleep so I almost missed my stop. But here I am, in one piece, tired and uninjured and really quite happy, what with this sun and this wind and my recurring dream of a white Vespa.

How has this weekend been treating you?

(And I think I'm beginning to crack this adulthood thing. I have maybe held this naïve thought of adults never being nervous or getting lost. But what if being a grown-up simply means holding my own despite my nerves, and coping with getting lost at night with a shrug of my shoulders?)

(Also, you should take a look at this post  on Meg's blog. If you're in need of some reassurance. Because I think this might be one of the most helpful, hopeful things I have ever read.)

Friday, 8 April 2011

an education

An Education is one of my favourite films, ever. Carey Mulligan is my absolute favourite young actor. And, really, combining the 1960's with Paris and university and falling in love, what's not to adore?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

faces in negative spaces

Marc Johns says he loves to put faces in negative spaces. I will never think of chairs the same way again.

(Also, exam week is finally over! After gruelling hours of social studies, philosophy, Swedish and Spanish. Huzzah! Hello free time!)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

tiny green things

Listening to this song, because last night I dreamt of a road trip. Running out of petrol at sunset and climbing onto the still-warm roof of the car to watch the stars appear like blots of ink. I think I'd like that. It was one of those rare dreams that linger after you've woken up, their remnants etched into your spine for the rest of the day.

I've been nervous all day, my hands shaking and my teeth biting into my lip on their own accord. Trains being late and pens choosing to malfunction in the middle of an exam have been pushing me to the edge. Some days are like that. I wish it stopped raining.

But then there are the better things as well, like cute elderly couples on the train and quiet libraries and unexpectedly running into friends. Like the first hints of green in our garden. Like James Blake performing at Flow Festival in August.

Monday, 4 April 2011

"You know what I am going to say. I love you. What other men may mean when they use that expression, I cannot tell; what I mean is, that I am under the influence of some tremendous attraction which I have resisted in vain, and which overmasters me. You could draw me to fire, you could draw me to water, you could draw me to the gallows, you could draw me to any death, you could draw me to anything I have most avoided, you could draw me to any exposure and disgrace. This and the confusion of my thoughts, so that I am fit for nothing, is what I mean by your being the ruin of me. But if you would return a favourable answer to my offer of myself in marriage, you could draw me to any good - every good - with equal force."

Charles Dickens: Our Mutual Friend

I haven't read any Dickens in ages. I can't see why. This paragraph must be pure perfection.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

the garden party

I've been obsessively reading Katherine Mansfield's short story The Garden-Party to keep going.

And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. 

And, to continue with the theme, something from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

There was music from my neighbour's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

I wouldn't plan anything quite as extravagant, but flowers and watermelon and jam jars with little candles in them - that I could do and will do, once the season creeps in.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

claws of summer

I feel like summer has sunk its claws into my skin. Sometimes I literally ache with longing. And this song by Regina only makes my desperation sharper. Because (and yes, I know I've said this before) there is nothing I love more than Helsinki in the summer.

(By which I don't mean to devalue any other cities. But this city is mine, which means I live and breathe through these streets. And all the dull darkness and slippery slush ceases to matter come June. I don't know what it is, exactly, but somehow the sky seems further away in the summer. Somehow, it's easier to breathe.)

pale grey saturday

The first lazy Saturday in who knows how long. Studying Swedish and Spanish and getting slightly mixed up, planning next weekend and the one after that, thinking on which artists to go see live. Lying on the floor looking at the atlas, because that's how I spent hours on end as a kid, and what do you know, it's still incredibly entertaining.

I've also been fixing the layout of my blog, which I've been meaning to do for quite some time. Just look at all those pages I've stuck in the header! A brand new About Me page! And all those fun lists! (Yeah. So, um, you can check them out if you feel like it.)

(Also, all the snow outside? You're tacky and I hate you. It's April, get your act together.)