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Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Fairytale Of New York.


On this day, exactly one year ago, I was awake to see the sunrise. This was due to the unfathomable amount of excitement and adrenaline coursing through my veins. Why you ask? Well I was about to go on the trip of a lifetime with my gorgeous boyfriend to New York City.

We had scrimped and saved all year, every last bit of extra money was put away in to "The New York Fund". We had packed all our clothes which consisted of mainly thermals and winter jackets because we had heard just how harsh the winters are over there. We had counted down the days since early 2013 and now, it was finally here.



This trip was significantly important because of several reasons:

    1. We left on the 28th of December and my birthday is on the 31st of December. Earlier that year I had decided that I wanted to do something memorable for my 21st birthday. This was the "something memorable". 
    2. We returned on the 6th of January and my boyfriend's birthday is on the 5th of January. So not only did we get to celebrate New Year and my 21st birthday in New York, we also got to celebrate his birthday.
    3. My boyfriend had never been to the U.S.A, let alone New York.


After a quick stop-over in Dublin airport, we eventually landed at JFK airport. I'll never forget the rush of excitement as we stepped out of that airport to realise we had finally made it.

We hopped on a tram, then trudged onto the subway with cases in hand and were greeted by an extremely friendly guy. Clearly we had the look of "We have no idea where we are or in fact where we are going" because he was instantly asking us where we were from and where we were staying so he could guide us there safely. I've said it before, talking to a stranger is one of life's greatest gifts.

After our newly found tour-guide had shown us the way to the hostel we were staying in, we dumped our cases and immediately set out to find times-square. Thankfully, our hostel was only a 10-15 minute walk away from times-square so it didn't take very long.




Honestly, this is one of the times in my life that I hold most special to me.

I will never forget the feeling of walking down 7th avenue, and being greeted by the over-whelming sights of that place. Like I mentioned, my boyfriend had never been to the U.S.A prior to this trip, let alone ever been to New York, so the fact that I was able to share this poignant time with him was such an incredible feeling. We held hand, kissed each other beneath the awe-inspiring lights and just, watched. Watched the sheer amount of people in this place. Watched every single animated billboard we could find. Breathed in the smells of the city, the traffic, the food stands, everything. We were completely enveloped by the pulse of human life running through the veins of this city. We could've stayed there for hours and hours and hours, however jet-lag had began to take it's toll and so after a couple of hours we retired back to our room.


We awoke extremely early the next day because of the time-zone difference and the trip of a lifetime began.

I could go into extreme detail about every single day that we were there, but I would probably end up writing a trilogy of books because of the amount of stuff we did. So, in order to avoid boring you all, I will just list things and expand on the extremely experiences that stood out the most to me:


  • The first day we were there, we explored central park, and were interviewed by CBS morning news about a mugging that had occurred (which we knew nothing about) and how we felt about safety as tourists. Later that day, a British couple approached us and said "We recognised you from the news, we saw you on it this morning". It was extremely bizarre to be recognised in this concrete jungle of a city
  • We ventured to the top of the rocker feller centre, both during the day and at night so we could see this beautiful city in all it's glory.
  • We spent hours exploring the natural history museum. The size of which was completely over-whelming.
  • We walked for miles and miles through the streets of downtown and found Little Italy and Chinatown. I think it's extremely important for anyone who is going to New York to take the time to literally just walk around the city. You get the best feeling for what New York city is other than the main tourist attractions when you just stroll around. 
  • We rode the ferris wheel located in Toys 'R' Us
  • We took a horse and carriage ride around central park as it lightly snowed all around us.
  • We dined at Ellen's Stardust Diner. Which, if you haven't heard of, you MUST do some research and if you get the chance to go, I would highly recommend it.
  • We took a bus tour around New York.
  • We visited the Brooklyn Bridge
  • We took a boat tour around the statue of liberty. I'll never forget how cold that day was. I genuinely feared for my life. However, the view of the city that we got to see was absolutely magnificent. 
  • We dined at the hard rock cafe in Times Square
  • We visited the Chrysler Building and The Empire State Building
  • We got to see "Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark" the musical. I booked the tickets way in advance and happened to have booked them on it's last performance on Broadway before it went on tour. It was insane. 
  • We visited ground zero and got to the the memorial. The emotions you feel when you are in that place are just indescribable. 
  • On my birthday, we ice-skated outside of the Rockerfeller centre, underneath the most phenomenal christmas tree. We then did a studio tour of NBC studios where we were able to see the set of Saturday Night live. I was then able to buy my first legal drink in the U.S.A. We spent the rest of the day exploring New York and then welcomed 2014 in watching the celebrations from Times Square. 
  • We dined at Joanne Trattoria, which is a restaurant owned by Lady Gaga's family. The meal and service there was absolutely incredible. 
  • We explored central park zoo
  • We were greeted by one of the most insane snow storms I have ever seen and we got to explore the city covered in a blanket of snow. New York is a gorgeous city regardless, but when it is covered in a blanket of snow, it becomes even more magical. 
  • We explored grand central station. 





And finally, to commemorate turning 21 in the best city in the world, I got a tattoo. I went to a parlour located in Downtown Broadway. The statue of liberty holds a tablet that reads " July IV MDCCLXXVI", the roman numerals on mine read " X X I " for "21".

As you can probably tell, this trip means so much to me. It was one of the best times of my life and I quite frankly I can't think of any better way to celebrate your 21st birthday than being in New York City with the person you love. 

New York City will always have a special place in my heart and I can't wait to be swallowed up by that city again. 

-Harry


Saturday, 20 December 2014

First Position: First Term Complete






14 weeks of getting up at 5:30am, being at urdang for 8am and not leaving until 6pm is done.

14 weeks. 
Five days a week. 
Completed. 

Firstly, I don't think I have ever welcomed a christmas break as much as I have this year. My body feels like it has gone into a complete state of shock. With muscles torn all over the place, the last few weeks have been the biggest struggle since I began. Even the simple task of walking required so much more effort than usual. To be able to chill out for even a little while is going to be the best christmas present this year. 

Secondly. I have never been pushed so hard in my life than in these past 14 weeks. When you are close to tears in the warm-up of our first class because of how stiff your whole body is, all the while knowing you have the rest of the day packed full of lessons left to face, it's hard to draw the willpower out of nowhere and carry on. When you have 8 hours worth of lessons in a day and only a combined total of 30 minutes to eat throughout the entirety of that day, it's very hard to soldier on. When you're doing a routine and right at the end you are thrown the curve-ball of " Four counts of eight of freestyle" it's extremely hard to not let the pressure make you crumble. When day after day, no matter how hard you try, you don't feel like you're progressing anywhere. To not let all of these things and more consume your passion and your drive, is the one of the most difficult things I have faced. 

When I started the course, I was completely overwhelmed with the difference between this style of life and the style of life at university. It has taken me a while to adjust to it mentally, let alone the physical battles we have faced everyday, but I have come out fighting for my dream even more. 

Thirdly, I think the main thing I have learnt this year is to not care. 

I know this may sounds strange, but what I mean is to not care about the person standing next to you. 

Don't get me wrong, I have made some incredible friends at Urdang, all of whom are incredibly talented and I would want nothing more than to see them succeed.



What I meant by not caring about the person next to you, is to not measure your success by someone elses standards. 

So what if the person next to you can do splits on both legs and is flat in their box split? Just because you might not be there yet, doesn't make you any less of an able performer. 

What I have realised is that, you have to be the most lovingly selfish person you can be. 

Love thy fellow dancer, but look out for yourself.

Don't live your life comparing yourself to someone else. It's a poisonous way of thinking, and the sooner you realise to not care about what others are doing and you focus on yourself, the sooner you will notice a progression.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes competition can drive you to achieve even more than you imagined, which is great if you can use it like that. But as soon as you begin to doubt yourself based on the competition, a problem occurs. 

Other than the improved dance technique, flexibility, acting and singing ability, physical fitness, body shape etc, I would say that this is one of the most important things I have learnt over the 14 week period.

You got to be in it to win it. 
Look out for yourself. 

Judge yourself on your standards and not by anybody else's. 
"My only motto in life is don't lose"



Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity to say how immensely proud I am of my fellow course mates. We have had an absolute roller coaster of a time this term. Even though I am saying that you have to look out for yourself, which you do because it's your life and your dream, I think it is equally as important to show your appreciation for the people around you. I have had the pleasure to meet some incredible people over these 14 weeks and I am completely overwhelmed by the progress we have all made, not only as individuals, but as a unit. It has been a struggle, but we have supported one another as best we can in hope of all achieving what we are setting out to achieve. I am so thankful to be around these people and I can't wait to see how far we come in the next term.

So, Bring on the final term. 

-Harry 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Exploiting Insecurites For Profit


This is absolutely fucking disgusting.

I honestly don't know where to begin with this.

I was scrolling through Tumblr, as usual, and came across the following pictures of the following gifts.

At first I thought they were just going to be some gag gifts, maybe with a joke or something written on them, but as I looked them up further on the original website, I was sadly mistaken. 
























The plates and bowls that you see above have phrases such as:
"It's hard to be around you when you eat like this"
"Do you really need that second helping?"
"Please stop eating, we're worried about you"

Amongst other horrifying things. 

As you can see these items are called "Intervention-ware" dinner plates/bowls. 

I am absolutely horrified that companies are beginning to actually make products like this. Anyone who has an eating disorder or has suffered from an eating disorder in the past could easily have a thought triggered and send them spiralling back into habits that may have been detrimental to their health.

Eating disorders are not a fucking joke that companies should be capitalising on and exploiting in order to make money.

As much as they may think that this may be a revolutionary new way to make people lose weight or gain a healthier lifestyle, what they seem to have failed to identify is just how damaging it can be to someone who suffers from an eating disorder.

I just think it is an absolutely vile product that is exploiting people's insecurities when it comes to their weight. Who in their right mind would think that this is a good idea?

To make it worse, on of the products was actually "sold out" at the time of me having the misfortune of viewing it. People are actually buying these things. Meaning that the potential for eating disorders to spread to other people is occurring.

I am absolutely disgusted with this product. Coming from someone who has struggled with their weight and their self-perception for a while now, I cannot think of anything worse than finally plucking up the courage to eat a meal I wouldn't dare normally touch, to finish it and be greeted by a message saying "Big Mistake".

In all honesty, I'd want to run to a toilet as quick as possible and throw every single mouthful up.

And this is what this product is exploiting. Those of us who aren't strong enough in their own bodies to be completely and utterly comfortable with their appearance. It is encouraging this way of thinking into a society that is already way to obsessed with it's appearance and conforming to the medias standards of "beauty".

These products are vile. 
The companies that are capitalising on these messages are vile.

Pay no attention to a disgusting message plastered across the bottom of your dinner plate. 
Your beauty lies in your mind, not on your waistline. 

-Harry

Sunday, 14 December 2014

New Year Baby







My birthday is on the 31st of December

Having a birthday on this day seems to cause people to react in one of two ways: 

1) I'd hate having my birthday around that time, no-one is celebrating for you, everyone is celebrating new year and the day doesn't become all about you. It's so close to Christmas as well I bet you get so many "Joint Christmas and birthday presents" 

2) I bet that is amazing, everyone is up for a good time, everyone is in a good mood and it's around the best time of the year. 

I guess what it boils down too is a pessimist/optimist, glass half full/ glass half empty conundrum. 

However, the way I look at my birthday is completely different to the way most people view it. 

Being at such a poignant time of the year, like it does for most people, it encourages me to be reflective of the year just passed. 

I don't really care that much for the possibility I might get combined Christmas and birthday presents. 
I don't really care that much that people are up for getting completely shitfaced, exploding party poppers at one-another, spending the entire night chasing down a stranger with a glimmer of hope for a new years kiss and watching the same mundane firework display from the year before. 

The one thing I care about the most, is being able to look back at my year and be happy. 

Happy with the fact that I lived that year. Not lived as in, I was alive and I went through the motions, but truly lived 

I like to be able to list experiences, achievements, lifestyle changes etc and be completely satisfied that I was happy with the way my year played out. 

Now that 2014 is drawing to a close, that moment is creeping ever closer. And as I sit on the train, gazing out the window as a blur of autumnal colours flash past, I start to think back. 

And my god, It has been one hell of a year. 

At the beginning of the year, I returned home from the trip of a lifetime after turning 21 in New York

I knuckled down in my final months of University with unwavering determination to graduate with a first class BA (Hons) Degree, which I managed to achieve. 

I waved goodbye to Winchester, the place where I has lived, grown and blossomed for the past three years. With a car packed full of, not only my things but my boyfriends things too, our things, I left to start a new chapter of my life.

I went to magaluf. 

I started at The Urdang Academy. 

I started this blog.

I got to return to Winchester for my official graduation ceremony. 

I attended the daily mix & team gleam "AsDarknessFalls" halloween party. 

I attended the EMA's in Glasgow. 

These are just parts of the year that really stand out to me and I can wholeheartedly say that I am happy with the way this year has panned out. 

I can honestly say that I can't think of a better day to have my birthday. On my day of birth I get to reflect upon my year and be able to be content to turn my back on it, and begin a new one. 

This is how I live my life. Constantly being aware that I want to be able to look back upon it with nothing but a smile. 

To me, there is no other way to live. 

-Harry

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A New Christmas









Christmas will always be my favourite time of year. 

The time where you can reminisce upon the year past. 

Enticing smells of Christmas cooking and exquisite decorations turn ordinary streets into walkways of delight. 

Shopping malls become an all out warfare for any soul brave enough to venture into them to attempt Christmas shopping.

When wearing a horrendously bad taste jumper complete with flashing lights becomes stylistically acceptable. 

When awful jokes that you are blessed with after triumphing the tug-of-war Christmas cracker challenge are spoken out for all to hear and in a style that is similar to a Greek chorus the table responds "ohhhhh.....hahah...very funny".

The time where refusing to wear a flimsy paper hat whilst indulging yourself at the table, makes you appear less "Christmassy".

The time where you forget the world outside and everything that matters lies within the four walls of your home. 

All these things and more combine to make Christmas a special time of year.

And this Christmas is a particularly poignant time for me. 

It's the first Christmas that my parents have been separated.


To most, this would seem like a tragedy. How, after twenty years of my life, do you even begin to comprehend a Christmas that is different to the tradition you are used too? 

To be completely honest. I'm not upset at this fact. 

This year has been an incredible roller-coaster for me. I have had a bucket full of phenominal high points and a pinch of some devastating low points. 

And the thing that has kept me going, kept me sane and kept me from deteriorating into something toxic, has been one thing.

Love. 

I came to realise very quickly that, even though your parents splitting up can initially be extremely devastating, if you keep at the forefront of your mind that nothing can shatter the unbreakable amount of love a family can have together or apart. It's okay.

It's okay that, this christmas might be a little different to normal. It's okay that, you have to split your time in order to show thanks and appreciation to both of them. It's okay that you might not be used to it. 

I will never shy away from the fact that, if it wasn't for the love that me and my boyfriend feel for each other, I would have struggled immensely throughout this year. 

If it wasn't for the love that me and my brothers feel for each other, I would have struggled immensely throughout this year.

And if it wasn't for the love that, even though they are separated, my parents individually showed me and my brothers, our family would've suffered. 


We might no longer have the "traditional" Christmas. But fuck it, in today's day and age, what even is tradition any more? 

A family doesn't have to be united by four walls. A family is united by love. We might not all be in the same household and we might be lacking on the ability to all sit down together for chrismtas lunch. But there is one thing that my family does not lack, and that is love.

Christmas is my favourite time of year  because it makes you appreciate the love your family has for each other. 

And this year, more than any other before hand, has helped highlight this. 

-Harry

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Destroy What Destroys You






Following on from my post about my body transformation, I was contacted by someone who wanted to interview me as part of their research for their dissertation. 


One of the questions was: 

"Do you feel that the pressure is greater on women or men to conform to these standards?" 

Recently, I was scrolling through tumblr, filtering past all the pictures of Lady Gaga, Naked Men, Pokemon, Incredible pictures of nature etc and I stumbled across a post that was comparing the realistic male body to the heightened standards of male beauty that we are exposed to in the media. 

And it's something that I feel a lot of people, for some ridiculous reason, either ignore, overlook or are unaware even exists. 

What people need to realise is, yes there is a crippling amount of pressure around women to look a certain way, and the standards of "beauty" that we are presented with in the media are completely ludicrous and because of the heavy amount of photoshop that is used, essentially un achievable. However, this is not just a problem that is experienced by women. Men experience it too. 

This was my response to the question I was asked in my interview:

"I feel like this is a subject where men and women can unite in their sense of feeling the pressure. Not only are we over exposed to images of women in various states of being clothed/un-clothed, but this also applies to the men. There has been a rise in men buying self-grooming and beauty products in the past few years, and why do you think that is? Because the pictures we are shown in the media are all of men with washboard abs and perfectly chiselled pecks. And every man strives to be that. We see these images and think, "I want to be him" instead of being happy with who we are. I think the crippling weight of the pressure to conform to a certain body type is shared equally amongst the genders."

I fully stand by my answer. I think it is absolutely crazy that people have this perception that it is only women who struggle with idealistic body standards compared to realistic body standards. You think men don't see images of other men and strive to achieve what they see? Most forms of advertising are based upon sex appeal and for some strange reason we think sex appeal lies upon physicality rather than inner beauty. 

Just because the problem may be "worse for women", does not mean that it doesn't exist for men. 

I don't understand why this issue is almost disregarded and put aside like it doesn't exist. Body dissatisfaction is just as damaging to men as it is to women. For some reason there is this pereception that "because they are men, they don't have that problem. They don't have to worry about their body image like women do. They don't feel the same social pressures that women do. They have it easy".

Quite frankly, that's bullshit. 

You think men don't see images of other men and wish to look like them?

You think men don't often aspire to be thinner/more muscley/ have more or less hair etc? 

You think the fact that so many companies now have "male grooming product" lines is a coincidence? 

Body positivity and realistic body standards is as important for men as it is for women. 

It's about time we united together to conquer it before everyone achieves one type of body image and individuality ceases to exist. 

-Harry