6 Apr 2019

Aftermath: an ode to Brexit

April 06, 2019 0 Comments
Brexit’s got me in a spin, what about you? 


I sit and look 
at a nation divided
and witness the effects
of those you misguided

“a man of the people!”
cries the privileged white male
(just another lie
in this nightmarish tale)

the time bomb ticks down
already past zero
and the fight still ensues
to be the Conservative Hero
that clings to the bone 
of the lies that were fed
unaware of this
unraveling thread

our future decided?
because all I see
is a nation 

30 Sept 2018

KB Abroad: A delayed roundup

September 30, 2018 0 Comments
Well hello! It seems I (and probably you) forgot about this little space around here... I'm very sorry for neglecting my corner of the internet but I'm back and raring to go with a bit of a roundup of my year away. (Can't promise it will be as good as Woody's..)

I'm back in Leeds now, with the year officially kicking off tomorrow. What a ride hey!! My fourth and final year at Leeds University has arrived and actually I'm quite looking forward to it. I honestly feel like the Netherlands has taught me so many invaluable lessons to be thinking about this year and further ahead; so in a similar format to 10 things I learned in my first 10 days - these are 10 things I learned in 10 months.

1. It's okay not to be okay

Buzz phrase of the decade, I know. But it's absolutely true and I will carry on repeating it until people start believing and remembering it. It's absolutely no secret that I had huge mental and emotional struggles during my year abroad, it could hardly be a secret anyway when I decide to write them out and post them on the world wide web... Anyway, there were troughs during my year, (big ones!) but there were also many, many peaks too. I completely surpassed my own expectation of my resilience, independence and ability to take on new challenges. What will stick out most for me this year was that it was the year I took my mental health into my own hands and by opening myself up to the more difficult aspects of life and emotions, talking to family, friends and professionals was an extremely empowering and defining moment.

2. Take pride in the moments that earn it

You're allowed, in fact it's positively encouraged to take pride in your achievements. However, there is a fine line between being proud of yourself and arrogance, I feel. I went through a period of time feeling like everything I did wasn't good enough, but this year I experienced that small smiley feeling after achieving something I wasn't expecting and I really enjoyed those moments, instead of finding something negative to improve upon. There will be plenty of time for that afterwards!

3. The importance of time alone

This was a complete revelation for me during my year away and something I was neither happy or comfortable doing before moving abroad. Spending time on my own became such a luxury, finding time to read, write or watch a new film helped me to work through any anxious or difficult thoughts and find ways of navigating my own emotions.

4. People care

Well the good ones do anyway... True friends will be at your side (physically or metaphorically) in both bad and good moments. I guess this can relate to my first point - when people care, they won't mind knowing you're not okay and will do what they can to reassure you. Similarly, they'll also celebrate with you the achievements and successes as if they are their own.

5. Time in nature is a natural form of medicine

I remember during the winter months when I started going for walks in the morning as I'd heard it was a good way to reduce anxiety. I think at first I was very dubious about this and I'll tell you for why. Just imagine me, puffer jacket, hood tied up tight around my face with just a hole to see, rain hammering down, wind battering me any which way... it's not the picture of perfection really. Although at the time I was thinking why the hell am I doing this?!? It may have helped reduced my anxiety levels and now I do love taking a walk by myself. One thing's for certain, it most definitely made me more weatherproof.

Oh and when the sun did come out, that really was the perfect start to a day.

6. Saying no

Learning to say no for the sake of self-care (millennial buzzword #2) is SO important. We aren't robots guys and can't just do everything in order to try and appear like we're #productive #smashinglife!!! Finding balance is hard but the consequences of overloading yourself are detrimental to your mental health. Do the things which make you feel energised and excited, not drained and half-human.

7. Beer

Having a beer with your friends after a long day is a priceless pastime (preferably in the sun. but I'm not fussy) and luckily in the Netherlands they have some quite yummy beer.

8. Family is a beautiful thing

As Lilo said, 'family means nobody gets left behind'. My year abroad brought me closer to my family in a way I didn't think was possible. We seem to have all found our groove now and for that we're able to support each other far more efficiently.

9. You're more capable than you realise

9 times out of 10, you are way more capable than you give yourself credit for. For me this came in so many forms during the year in performance, linguistically, emotionally and musically. We're British after all and are probably the one of the most self-deprecating nationalities around but sometimes we just have to take the plunge and throw ourselves into a new activity or situation.

10. Life is random

My very wise mum said this to me the other day and she is spot on. Life is so random. I know this is the most vague and unspecific sentence to use but sometimes it is just important to remember that. I mean we're probably on Planet Earth by chance anyway so why should the rest of life be any different! Life is so situational, we can expect one thing but another happens, but it doesn't mean that one would have been better, because how can you know that anyway? You never experienced the other one! I originally wanted to study in Spain and I didn't expect to go to ArtEZ but now I can't imagine having been anywhere else now.

The final five months of the academic were probably five of the best of my life and despite some of my lowest times too to start off with, I wouldn't change my year abroad for the world.

Catch you again in an indefinite amount of time.

Lots of love

KB xxxxxxxx

Some photos of the summer post-Netherlands

14 Jun 2018

a poem of love and loss

June 14, 2018 5 Comments
When did this civil war begin
inside my own home?
What caused these toxic seeds
to be sown
that equate self-worth with dimensions?
That suffocate and taunt with physical conventions?
Who started this vicious rumour that the curve of my stomach
was something to fear?
That the crest of my breasts
was never to appear?
The light lies within, not on the surface,
but society has exorcised it for a new purpose.

16 Mar 2018

KB Abroad: A little life update

March 16, 2018 0 Comments
Well hello, I am returning a little sheepishly to my blog, so thanks for coming back and reading, even though I have neglected this little space for a while.

In the last couple of years, I've become more and more at ease opening up to people, especially when it comes to mental health and emotions. If someone asks how I am, 9 times out of 10 I will give them an honest answer. However, for a number of reasons, the last two and a bit months have had me doing a lot of self-reflection, which wasn't always easy and at times pretty sobering. Emotions are pretty complex and, using the analogy my good friend Shrek used to describe himself; have layers - and I wanted to sort out my little jumbled brain privately rather than through my blog.

A lot has changed since I last posted on here! I moved rooms in January (within the same building but living with different people) which came at a good time, despite the initial mare of not sleeping through the night for about two weeks when I first moved. I took a pretty spontaneous visit home in February, I returned with a new attitude and perspective on my studies here. I'm not entirely sure what it was that changed in that weekend, perhaps it was admitting that I needed more support, or maybe allowing myself to take some time away, or just TLC from the family and my soul-mate of a best friend. Whatever it was, it worked - I'm finding it far less difficult to cope with being away and a lot less stressful when I encounter new challenged; I can hardly believe that I only have three months left! And when I got back, I made a snap decision to get a fringe cut - at first it was quite off-putting when some friends pointed at me and said 'Pony!' but I soon realised that it means fringe in Dutch.. We have a love/hate relationship and I spend most of my time either thinking how great it looks or debating whether to grow it out.

I went back to Leeds for five days to visit my friends, also having a lesson from my teacher Sarah (and successfully took on the beast fro the east to return to the Netherlands!!). Being back in Leeds was huge fun, I was reminded how much I love the city and how excited I am for final year, but also of what's changed since I finished second year last May. This year has felt like a hell of a lot of changes, I've probably said it before, but I'm constantly reminded that the challenge is not in the change itself but in how you deal with it. We encounter changes at every point in our life so embracing vulnerability is pretty key to really living.

This week has been a little hectic to say the least! I started in rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday with Consensus Vocalis to sing my first Matthaus Passion in five concerts, opening a week today! On Wednesday I was in Amsterdam to see Tom Misch playing at Melkweg, which was a pretty special gig. After buying the tickets in November, this day had been highly anticipated and boy, it didn't disappoint. 12 hours after it finished, I was in the Dutch National Opera for New Vocals as part of the Opera Forward Festival in which we had a masterclass from the Chorus Master, Ching-Lien Wu. She is a fiercely enthusiastic person and hilariously sarcastic, so it was a great privilege to be able to work with her yesterday. The day ended with a talk from Pumeza Matshikiza, a South-African soprano who gave a talk about her path into opera from a township outside of Cape Town and her visions of how to bring opera to audiences in the future. She was extremely humble and had a very refreshing attitude to western music, perhaps because she wasn't brought up here! A week full of musical diversity in every sense, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Have a fab weekend one and all

KB xxxxxxxxxx

Some pictures from the last couple of months x x


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2 Jan 2018

To 2018!

January 02, 2018 0 Comments
Well here we are, another new year looming ahead of us, full of possibilities and opportunity. For reasons I won't delve into on this space, it didn't quite end the way I had expected. Life has a way of doing that sometimes, throwing the unexpected in our face and leaving us to deal with the leftovers. As exciting/daunting/overwhelming as we may find the prospect of a new year, I'm finding that looking ahead is actually pretty medicinal right now. 2018 is the year that I will finish my Erasmus, turn 23, (how on earth did that happen???) enter my final year at university and start thinking about where I'm going to direct my life post-university. So, in order to try and sort out this spaghetti brain that I proudly call my own, here is a nice shiny list of some aims for 2018.

Slow down, take time out and be more present

During 2017 I began practising meditation and my aim for 2018 is to meditate at least once a day and take one full day off social media every week. Both these things have become really important for me in order to take more joy in life and to live more in the moment. For 4 days over Christmas I took part in a digital detox, where I took time away from social media in order to be more present with my family and truly enjoy family time without being distracted by the subconscious infiltration of social media. I massively benefited from this, as whether we realise it or not, social media does infiltrate our thoughts and when I took time off it, my mind felt clearer and healthier. 

Let go of perfect

Not just for 2018 and definitely not something I will fully achieve in one year! It's so easy to evaluate and compare yourself with the hundreds of people we see on our feeds and it's certainly not healthy. Something I will make a conscious effort of is to let go of those nagging thoughts about self-worth, appearance and ability.  I feel this ties in quite nicely with reducing the time spent on social media and practising more meditation as these are definitely things which affect how we think about ourselves. Time to shake off those self-destructive demons and 110% back yourself.

Reduce plastic consumption

As the years go by, I'm becoming more and more fascinated by the Earth. To David Attenborough, I will always be grateful. We are very lucky people to be here and we should recognise that and respect the planet we live on. Plastic pollution is a massive problem, which we are becoming much more aware of. Our oceans are full of it, our ecosystems are damaged by it and our wildlife is suffering from it. If there's one small thing I can do, it is to use plastic more consciously, by which I mean, to use it less and recycle it more.

Invest in seeing more live music

As a music student, I probably see a fair share of live music already but there is definitely room for more of it in my life, particularly professional concerts. There is nothing like seeing an artist/band/singer/orchestra live, no matter what your musical preference - it sets the senses alight and makes for an unforgettable evening. I'm VERY excited to see Tom Misch in March, but having looked at the programme at the Concertgebow in Amsterdam, there is a strong chance of seeing a few concert there before leaving the Netherlands.  So instead of indulging in buying jumpers (guilty), I'm going to set that money aside to see more concerts. 

These are some  broader 'resolutions' for the year, there are a few more specific and music-focused aims that I have in mind for the year too. The start of a new year, academic or calendar, can feel pretty overwhelming; so much lies ahead and we're not sure where we will be by the end. To 2018, whatever it may bring - I hope for everyone it is a happy and healthy one. 


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