Exploring London…

A couple weeks ago I realised that I had never been to London on my own. I knew the reason for this was my anxiety, but that same week I had decided that I was going to fight this. I was going to fight my depression and anxiety head on and not let it beat me.

So here I was on a Wednesday morning, packing my rucksack with everything I thought I would need and off I went. After a quick stop off at Dad’s church, he dropped me off at Watford Junction and I was on my way…no turning back now…trust me, the anxiety was winning…my illogical part of my brain was telling me that everything would go wrong and I should just go home and lie in bed. But I thought the better of it and pushed through.

After a quick check to make sure I had enough on my Oyster card, I ran into one of my old school friends and instantly the anxiety reduced. Instantly I was calmer. Turned out that he was headed for the Science Museum which is directly behind the Natural History Museum. The anxiety for travelling had almost completely disappeared at this point and the other fears and anxieties built up. But again, I didn’t give in. I powered through.

About 30 minutes later and there I am, standing in front of the Natural History Museum. Now my plan had been to spend the day there, meandering through all the different sections and reading as much information as possible. However, the second I walked through the doors, I realised that that wasn’t going to happen. It was so incredibly busy, and boiling hot! Not a great combination when you are already struggling with anxiety!

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I tried to enjoy myself as much as I could but after about an hour, I gave in and left. I moved on to the Victoria and Albert Museum, hoping that that would be quieter, unfortunately, it wasn’t. So after a quick dash through the V&A and a quick pep talk from someone special, I picked up the guts, ignored my anxiety and decided to go to the British Museum.

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The British Museum has always been one of my favourites as it includes a lot of ancient Egyptian history and Ancient Greek history, two of my favourite topics!! Yes, it was busy and hot like the other 2 museums, and yet my anxiety was a lot less there.  I was able to distract myself with all of the awesome history that surrounded me. I drowned out the illogical brain and all of my anxieties, I was actually able to enjoy myself!

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Multiple hours were spent here just wandering around looking at all the different artefacts and then realising two important things:

1) How many plaques said ‘now missing’ or ‘now destroyed’ and it made me sad to think about how much history we have already lost and would never be able to discover!

2) That the Natural History Museum didn’t have any information that I saw about the current crisis and what we can do to help to stop more extinctions, etc to happen.

The journey back really tested my anxiety and fear though. It was just before rush hour, but people were already there and pushing. I decided to let one train go as it was so busy and full that I knew it would be a recipe for disaster. The next train was practically empty and I was able to avoid a near-certain panic attack.

Now for those who don’t suffer from anxiety, this day just sounds pretty calm and ‘normal’. For me, however, it was a HUGE step. It allowed me to see that I can push through and not let anxiety run my life. It also showed me that London isn’t such a scary place to explore on your own! Would I do it again? Definitely!! I’m already planning my next trip in!!

If you suffer from anxiety…what do you do to stop it? How do/did you overcome it?

Why Are We Afraid of Sharks…Should We Be?

When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.

Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?

I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!

This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?

So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.

Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.

So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!

Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.

What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~

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Boston

These last days have been an eye opener, in regards to America history. Someone commented ‘what history’ and to be honest…so did I… after all, the country is young if you compare it to some of our European countries… how wrong I was…

I already mentioned a few things in the previous blog.. this blog I will share some more things I have learned…

We walked part of the ‘freedom trail’ with guidance from a knowledgable guide. A phrase often repeated was ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny’. This phrase was to be the beginnings of America’s independence. Characters like John Hancock, Samual Adams, James Otis and Paul Revere are the most well known names from that period. We visited their tombs, and saw some of the landmark buildings in the history of Boston. We visited the 2 ships involved in the ‘Boston Tea’ incident. We went to the North Church, where peers of them had pews. We saw the house of Paul Revere. All names and buildings I had not even previously heard of!

We went to Salem and heard how the fear for the unknown, the devil and the invaders caused mass hysteria and 19 people died by hanging, accused of being a witch. This was the only incident in America… we know many more died in Europe accused of the same. All names were exonerated, but you can’t bring people back to live!

We visited Plymouth rock, the rock where the pilgrims allegedly stepped on land. We saw the plimoth plantation, where characters from the 1600’s were keen to share their way of live…

I am saturated…. I had no idea… I feel I need to read up more… but most of all, I am now really looking forward to Thanksgiving in a couple of months. I know it’s not really a Dutch celebration.. although I have always liked the thought of acknowledging all that we can be thankful for to the One, I will celebrate this thanksgiving with a lot more knowledge of how the feast of ‘Thanksgiving’ came about!

Some other tidbits I picked up these last days:

Malcom X served in the kitchen of the Omnipark Hotel

Dunkin Donuts started in Massachusetts, there are 106 stores in Boston

The Italian district in Boston has 100 restaurants

Liberty and Freedom are 2 core American values

Boston was Home to the first US chocolate factory

The first US underground (Subway) was built here

For now: I had a blast!!!! Time to go home to St Paul.

Disguise so no one knew we were going to throw the tea overboard

History

History is a funny thing. Each story has 2 sides, and depending on whose side you hear, it’s the perspective you get….

Let me start at the beginning…..

After having spend last week in Taiwan for work, this week Melody and I were looking forward to a trip we have been planning for months (close to a year). Yes, the timing was off, with work very busy, but plane tickets were booked, hotel and car arranged. Friends connected with….we were going to Boston! 

So Tuesday evening Mel and I drove to Chicago to catch a plane from there to Boston – saved a lot of money, even if we lost a night of sleep… I am still jet lagged anyways! This morning we set off for Boston. So excited! Our friends Kim and Marty met us at the airport, and then it was full steam ahead! A full intinery planned around…. yep… historical sides! One of my favourite activities, learning about how the American nation was established, build up, and the impacts on the original population.

Driving into Boston is like being back home in England… which I miss. It’s strange to see all these English place names, sometimes pronounced a little different than back home. Woburn, Worcester, Gloucester, Essex, Cambridge etc. We were off to the presidential library of JFK. Learning about his political rise and his election to president. He had made various trips to Europe, his father was at one time the US ambassador to Great Britain. However, some of the statements he made I could not recognise from the history taught to me in school or university. “Japan has surrendered, the end of the Second World War”…. wait… what happened to the European countries and the part of the war there? It was interesting to hear the lead up to the first bill of equality signed in 1963/4, were all people should be treated equal. Maybe that’s something to go back to when we discriminate each other due to differences in thinking, sexual orientation, religion etc! It was awesome to see and hear the inauguration speech, with the famous line ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. It reminds me a little of church…. don’t ask what the church can do for you, but what you can do for other people… don’t go to church, but be the church.

Tomorrow we will visit the spot where the English tea was thrown overboard, as the American colony no longer wanted to pay taxes to the English without getting any benefits in return. Another side of history, the American side, will be revealed these next coming days. Am looking forward to it already!