shetland

This past week, Ben, Alven, and I took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Considering the events of the week before which included learning I’d lost a friend I’d known since childhood, my parents calling to let me know my faithful dog of 12 years was gone as well, and then deciding to move back to America this August for a Masters – getting away seemed like the thing I needed to do.  The trip was planned quickly, with ferry and train booking happening Thursday to leave Saturday.

Shetland, if you are interested, are the northernmost islands of the UK.  The islands are very close to Norway and have a very strong Norse heritage with plenty of archaeological sites.  One of the really significant ones is Jarlshof which has everything from Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Early Medieval, and Late Medieval on one site.  If you’re interested in the complete history here’s the Wikipedia page.

But, anyway.  We spent the week traveling around the Mainland and working on our dissertations.  All three of us brought work with us, so it wasn’t a total escape.  But the change of scenery was something I dearly needed.

Instead of a normal blog post I decided to make a video to attempt to capture the week.  The video is at the end of this post because I want you to read everything first.

I’m going to be honest here, I fell in love with Shetland.  Everything from its remoteness to rainbows created by the crashing waves to the ancient stone brochs and finally to the long roads to the edge of cliffs.  It felt like there was something familiar about it nagging at me the entire time.

Back in August of 2015, I began the long process of packing up my life and moving to Scotland.  That process included picking and choosing what parts I wanted to take with me and what parts I would decide to leave behind.

Maybe I am a sentimentalist, or perhaps that is just a nice way of wording Kennedy-is-a-hoarder, but one of the things I packed and moved across the Atlantic with me was a worn copy of Selected Poems of H.D. and a typewritten note by one of my English teachers.

A portion of that note reads:

Dear Kennedy,

In his poem ‘Tollund Man’ Seamus Heaney writes:

 Out here in Jutland // In the old man-killing parishes // I will feel lost, // Unhappy and at home. 

I would never wish you unhappiness, however, I know that desire is in you to find a home in the lost places, in history, in poetry, in the bog, in the ruin, amoung the relics.

So my wish for you is an unending quest often satisfied but never for long.

If you’re a nosy reader of my blog here you’ll probably recognize those verses from my About page.  They’ve been there since the beginning.

The book is one of the few I keep close within arms reach next to my bed.  The others, if you’re curious, are Tomorrow is Now by Eleanor Roosevelt, The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I have thought of those words often, I’d admit.  When I received them at age 18, I knew that it would be something that would plague me for years and I think my English teacher knew that as well.

Living in Scotland these past four years has become that ‘unending quest.’  And truthfully, my English teacher was right.  It has been satisfying – but at each turn I make, I discover something new and once again I am… on another unending quest.  Traveling to remote places, exploring in wet and windy weather could make someone feel lost – but again, and not to sound like pretenious piece of shite, I have never felt more at home.

I am so close to finishing my degree with only two essays and my dissertation left.  Especially after the events earlier this month, going to Shetland this past week allowed for me to escape everything and find my next move.  It also showed me a place I would happily return to and live unbothered.

 

 

 

 

a logistical plan

Since you’ve last read about my life I’ve made a few decisions.

If you remember from my last post – I had two offers for graduate study.  The first, continue here at the University of Edinburgh for the Human Osteoarchaeology MSc.  The second, return to Lawrence for the Museum Studies MA.

This past Sunday was a beautifully sunny day in Edinburgh.  To sort my thoughts and make a decision, I went for a run in Holyrood Park.  I thought back over the last week as I threw myself down the grassy hills and up rocky paths.  Finally, I found myself at St Anthony’s Chapel overlooking the beautiful gorgeous city that has taught me so much.  St Anthony’s was built some time in the 15c and pretty much the only thing that remains is the front facade with a doorway and two windows.

The window to the right of the doorway has always been a great place sit and think.

Over the past four years, I’ve found myself at St Anthony’s a lot.  It’s fitting, I suppose,  to gravitate to a chapel dedicated to the patron saint of lost things to make all my biggest decisions.

So, I weighed my options in respect to my major concerns:

  • Program suitability and how it fits with my general life plan: 1) do something good for someone other than myself and 2) tell stories
  • Job prospects after / phD
  • Stability but ability to continue to travel and excavate

Below are my condensed notes.  Trust me you don’t want or need to see all the flow charts.

Stay in Edinburgh.  The program is something I love.  The subject is a direct link into the past in ways I can’t really describe.  Logistically, I would get to live in my flat another year.  However, a masters in Edinburgh would lend itself directly into a phD.  I don’t know if I want to do everything back to back.  I also want to do something good for someone besides myself before I find myself behind an academic desk.  A masters at Edinburgh would be in a subject I love, a city I love, but might be too narrowed and would put me right into a phD.

Brexit has complicated matters as well in respect to companies who can sponsor work visas and minimum income required to apply (which falls outside of the graduate jobs range).  As someone who has watched current immigration trends in the UK and researched all types of visas, it’s not like the movies.  You can’t just pack up and move to the UK.  There’s not really a guarantee even with a phD.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Complete masters but do phD based on current job market.
  • Worst: Do masters, don’t want to do a phD straightaway, can’t find a job, have to leave Scotland.

Return to Lawrence. Again, the program is something I love.  I basically grew up in museums.  The program would also keep my academic interests more broad but still specialized.  I’d be able to work in a variety of heritage fields.  Logistically, I would live at home for the duration of the program.  The program has a required internship component.  I’ve already found internships at the Met Cloisters in New York City to apply for.  I also like the flexibility of the final project which would allow me to make a historical documentary!  A masters at KU would allow me to take time out after, get a job, do something good for this world, and collect my thoughts for an eventual phD.

Brexit and visas are not a concern.  I can always continue my summer fieldwork in the UK and it’s not like if I move away I move away forever.  If anything, getting a good job in America will give me the professional experience to re-apply and get jobs back here in Scotland when things settle back down.

  • Best: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Likely: Get a job after masters, work for a few years, phD.
  • Worst: Live forever in my parents house (yikes)

So, I guess if you’ve read this far into my general life rambling you’ve probably come to the same conclusion I came to myself: Museum Studies MA at the University of Kansas.

I said both options out loud and the Museum Studies MA just sounded right.  But, I would be lying if I said it was not a bit sad when I realised how much I would be leaving behind here in Edinburgh.

This city has become my own as much as I have become part of it.  I really don’t know the words to describe my love for Edinburgh.  Trust me, I’ve tried and all that’s come of it are some shitty poems and four drafts of a fantasy novel.

But, I do know that just because I may be moving away doesn’t mean I won’t ever be coming back.

I spent the next few days thinking over my decision.  It was not one I took lightly.

Tuesday morning I spoke with my personal tutor about it and he agreed.  Both were very good choices, but a little job security doesn’t hurt.  On Wednesday, I went to speak to the course organizer and thanked her for the offer.  It was really important to me that I went to speak to both of them as they had helped me immensely over the years.  I mentioned that I would like to return to Edinburgh in the future for a phD and they told me to get in touch when I do.

So … that’s me in August.  I’ll be a Kansas Jayhawk for the next two years and then … who knows.  My phone call with the Peace Corps went well and I have more information about applications.  I’m also weighing a few other options.

I’m going to write a larger love letter to Edinburgh one day.  I hope to express everything these past four years have given me.  Honestly, the confidence I have found in this city is why I know returning to America is best choice for me now.  I’m excited to see what lies ahead ‘across the pond.’

But, for the next week I’m bouncing to Shetland. Byeeeee.

 

3 drinks.

Monday night, I went to Sandy Bell’s to listen to live folk music with Tuva, Erling, Gregor, and Alven.  I had one drink for an old friend, one drink for a faithful companion, and one last drink for the future moving forward.

I’ve learned that words can never truly express enough, and I’m never quite sure if I even say the right ones.  And truthfully, the scariest part is you don’t know when your words might be your last.   But, I hope that I’ve shown the people around me how much they mean to me.  It’s something I fear that never do enough and as I realized  is something I should probably do more.

My dear friends both old and new, you have taught me so much.  I deeply adore you all.

So, I guess, now, I’ll speak about the that second drink.

I knew when I left home after Christmas that I probably would never see my slobbery, stubborn dog again.  My dad had told me for months that Mulan was on borrowed time.  At 12, she was well beyond the life expectancy for a large breed such as a Newfoundland.

Monday in class at 5.30 pm I felt something in my chest.  I’d be the first to admit that I haven’t been as religious in recent years as maybe my parents would hope.  But, sitting in class then I knew something had happened.

Thirty minutes after the hour, my beautiful, loving, slobbery sod fell asleep at home surrounded by those she loved and who loved her.

Mulan was hard to train and never graduated puppy school.  She never did what you asked her to do but she always did what you needed.

And for that I am so, so grateful.  I am thankful for the time that I had her and the life she shared with me.

Her favorite season was fall, just as the leaves began to change and the temperature started to cool.  She’d go outside and sit under the trees and let the wind blow her fur with two long strands of drool dripping from her jowls.

She was gentle.  So, so gentle.  Last December, when my dad found a half dead kitten on the porch, it was Mulan who stuck her head in and breathed hot air onto the the kitten’s face until the kitten gasped and my dad realized that my mom would just have to deal with another indoor cat.

To know the love of another creature who expects so little and offers you everything is truly a gift.  To know that love and see it in their eyes is blessing beyond measure.

I will miss her forever, but, if someone offered me the chance, I would do it all over again.  Without hesitation.

Mulan, I love you to the moon and to the stars.  I love you beyond the stars and wherever else we will go.

And, now time for that third drink and a decision.

I have been accepted into two Masters programs.  The first, here at the University of Edinburgh for the MSc in Human Osteoarchaeology.  The second, back in Lawrence at the University of Kansas for the MA Museum Studies.  I’ve also received a very positive email back from the Peace Corps recruiter I emailed prior to the government shutdown who wants to set up a Skype meeting/interview.  And finally, I waiting on the outcome of a few internships I applied for.

Chances are, I will complete a Masters before embarking on any other work – but I want to gather as much information as I can.  At the moment, I’m getting my TEFL certification and plan to double down on learning a foreign language this summer.  It’s actually quite lazy that I don’t speak more than just English.

Which, leaves me with a lot of choices – none of which I realized are bad decisions.  I’ll just have to figure out my next plan of action and move down the field from there.

I do know two things however. I’ve always known them, but I think this week just made it a little bit easier to define them.

First, forty years from now, I don’t want to think about what I have done and realize that I simply waited for the storm to pass. If anything, I love thunderstorms.  But, I’m not throwing myself into a thunderhead for the sake of making history.  I honestly could care less.  I’m not a white man, my chances at being taught about in school are already slim. I’d do it because it is the right thing to do.

Secondly, I want to tell stories.  That might be in a museum or as a novelist or maybe as a documentarist.  I’m no quite sure yet, but I know I want to tell stories I believe in. And, sure, I’m not in a place right now to do that.  I’m still collecting the stories I want to tell.

But, I guess, what I learned this week is this: I hope those closest to me know how precious they are to me.  There will never be enough time, but what you learn from the time you do have will guide you forever.  Just like the rainbow I followed this morning which led me to one of my favorite coffee shops.

 

 

 

 

shit i have learned through bumbling around, pt 2

All over the land the kids are finally startin’ to get the upper hand.
They’re out in the streets they turn on the heat
And soon they could be completely in command.
Imagine the sensation
Of teenage occupation

– ‘Teenage Rampage’ SweeT (1974)

Welcome!  Come on in.  It’s time again for me to share some things I have learned from  my constant international flailing before I turn 21 and can drink the Devil’s Water in America! Never mind, that at 18, I could already vote in state and national elections, get married, join the military, or, you know, show up to Walmart with an expired ID and buy an assault rifle.

I started this post with lyrics from a song written by the 1970s arena rock band SweeT.  They’re also know for ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Fox on the Run.’  Both very good songs that I highly recommend… but anyway.

To celebrate 2018 being the ‘Year of Young People’ here in Scotland…

The topic of this post: Young People and Potential 

Remember that bit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the Ministry of Magic refused to do something about Voldemort and instead it was Dumbledore’s Army, a bunch of kids, who actually did something?  Yeah, more on that.

Growing up, there were few things I was told I couldn’t do.  And, this isn’t meant to be construed as me being a spoiled brat.  I mean it more in that my parents had total and complete faith in my abilities to accomplish whatever I sent my mind to.  And because I knew they believed in me, I believed in myself.  At 8, I have a black belt.  By 14, I published my first book.  I made the JV/Varsity basketball and track and field team in my freshman year.

In my junior year, when I saw gender discrimination in girls’ sports over guys’, I wrote to the Athletic Director and then met with the Principle to ask why Title IX protocol wasn’t being followed.

Title IX if you are unfamiliar:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

— Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (20 U.S. Code § 1681 – Sex)

At the meeting, I was told that my high school didn’t have a Title IX director (which is Federally required to qualify for funding btw) because apparently we didn’t have any Title IX issues… despite girls’ teams lacking funding in comparison to their male counterparts, were denied equipment due to cost, weren’t sufficient publicity, and had a lack of general respect from our peers.  But you know, I’m not bitter or anything.  I just wanted to be treated fairly like the rest of the sports teams.  Which is why, even now, I’m a massive advocate for equality in sport.

But, now, at 20, I’m sitting in Edinburgh writing this and, arguably, I am still being a massive public nuisance.

And just to be clear! I’m not telling you all this to pat my own ego.  I’m telling you all of this to explain where I stand on issues and why I do the things I do.

So, flashback to the 2016 election, I felt so alone.  I could not understand why it seemed my country didn’t care about me.  Why they voted against their best interests.  Why they chose to represent themselves to the world in this way.  But, at least, I had a vote in that election.  The worst part of that election was explaining to my, then 17-year-old, sister why her country didn’t care enough about her to vote for her future as well.  I reminded her that it won’t be forever. We have the chance to do something.  We just can’t sit still.  And, I think a lot more people realised that as well.

More recently, I have seen young people feel a thousand times worse than what I felt in 2016.  I’m going to be frank, the circumstances that have put the young people of Parkland in the spotlight are fucking awful.  I wish they would have never been put in that situation.  But, they have.  However, they are refusing to accept that ‘this is just how things are.’

I could go on and on about gun safety.  For example! Did you know you often have to go through more background checks to adopt an animal than to buy a gun?! Or, how people care a whole awful lot about making sure a baby is born but once it’s here they do nothing to protect the kid?  Or, you know, if you really want to shoot guns, you could join the military instead of playing military?  Guns are tools.  There is not a job in today’s society that warrants the need for a civilian to use or own an assault rifle.  It was not designed for recreational hunting, it was designed to kill humans.  And sorry if that came across as preachy, but it’s the truth.

… but that’s not the point of this mini-essay.  It’s always too soon to talk about guns, isn’t it?

Anyway, young people are refusing to accept that this is just how things are.  They are putting the pressure on companies, local politicians, and national leaders to reject money from the NRA.  (The NRA which comprises roughly 5 million members out of 323.1 million Americans.  Truthfully, they are nothing more than a loud minority.)

It is sad that so much pressure has been put on today’s young people.  It’s forced too many to grow up a lot faster than they should have.  But, sadly, when the adults aren’t doing their jobs, someone has to.

This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.  I like to remind people, important figures in history weren’t the grumpy old people we see in museums.  In 1776, Alexander Hamilton, who later established the National Treasury, was 21.  Joan of Arc was 17 when she was leading the French army during the Hundred Years War.  Henry V was 29 at the Battle of Agincourt.  Victoria was 18 when she became Queen.  Alexander the Great created an empire at 18.  Phillis Wheatley published her first book at 20.  Mary Shelley, also at 20, published a book you may have heard of, Frankenstein?  The book that created the horror genre.  At 23, Nellie Bly was exposing poor conditions in asylums.  She also traveled around the world in 72 days… just to beat Jules Verne.  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were 28 and 29 when they exposed the Watergate scandal.  Nadia Comeneci scored a perfect Olympic 10 at age 14.

So please, just give the younger ones time to be old enough to vote, and us older ones time to be old enough to run for office.  Young people have a lot more power than they think.  I truly believe that.  Gift or curse, the internet generation is using their voices to unite for something greater than themselves.  I think it’s really amazing how high school and university students from around the world can come together in solidarity.

And maybe it’s a warning, but probably more of a promise: Change is coming.  It’s coming from the ones too young to vote in 2016, but foaming at the teeth to vote in the bi-elections this year and in 2020.  it’s coming from the university students who grew up reading Harry Potter.  And, it’s coming from the older millennials who are a realising that things are still to be done.

So, that’s what I’ve learned is the true power and potential of being a young person.  We don’t see limitations as walls to stop us, but something to be climbed over.  Just because something works does not mean it cannot be made better and just because something has been that way for a long-ass time, does not mean that it is not time for change.

Progress happens whether we want it or not.  You can either fight it or help us out.  Your choice.

And sure, my generation made eating a spoonful of cinnamon and TidePods national news but we also are going to be the leaders of the future.

 

neither this way nor(that)way

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*smiles into the void* // photo @tuvaod

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Last night I got home and scratched another country off my scratch world map.  Tuva, Erling, and I spend the last week in Oslo the capital of Norway visiting museums, going skiing, and eating lots of fish.

For those who don’t know Tuva and Erling are two of my three flatmates.  They are both Norwegian and grew up in Oslo.  They are childhood friends with Anna and Elsa.  And, they very kindly and graciously invited me to come back to Norway with them over this year’s Innovative Learning Week, Festival of Creative Learning, Reading Week, Innovative Skiing Week? week in February with no classes.

The week was amazing.  I’ve never been to Norway, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I sort of just went with the flow.  I knew I wanted to see the ‘Scream’ and the Viking Ships but beyond that I was happy to hang out and see the places Tuva and Erling knew best.  Which I do think is one of the best ways to travel.

The first full day we went to the National Gallery to see the paintings.  I got surprised by a real and true painting by my girl, Artemisia Gentileschi, an absolute baller female baroque painter.  Tears were shed.

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Artemisia my girl ❤

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After the museum, we went to a coffee shop near to where Erling’s brother went to high school and where they all spend a good amount of time in their teens.  It was very Scandi and hip and everything they say about Scandinavia I can confirm as true.  But, jokes aside, going to places of importance to the people you are with is one of the best ways of seeing the character of the city.  Cities are massive and you’re never going to see everything, but you can see the places that mean something to the people you are with.  It makes the place come alive a lot more than just ticking off the ‘Top Ten.’

The next day, Tuva worked on an essay for uni and Erling and I went to the Viking Ship Museum.  We walked there from Tuva’s flat.  The museum was purpose built for three viking ships uncovered in Oslo in the 19/20c.  The most famous of the ships is the Osberg Ship.

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♑️⭕️🌾🔱🅰️✌️

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Seeing the ships was such a surreal experience.  I know I say this a lot, but as a kiddo growing up in the middle of the USofA interested in European History, there isn’t much to do except for read.  And, I read a lot.  I didn’t live near to massive American museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Smithsonians in DC so I didn’t have opportunities to see things in real life.  Looking at pictures online or in books was what I had.  So when I see something I’ve read so much about I do tend to tear up, it’s like finally meeting an old friend you’ve only talked to in letters.  I spent so much time studying and wishing I could see things… that when I do, I get overwhelmed.   When I see artifacts in real life I always learn something new.  The ships were bigger than I thought.  The wood was darker.  The carvings more intricate.

 

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That evening the three of us saw Black Panther in the Oslo cinema.  The film was amazing and I want to go see it again.

On the third day, we went cross country skiing.  Oslo has a green belt around the city full of forests and ski tracks.  This was the second time I have gone cross country skiing and I think I loved it even more.  My knees didn’t hurt at all, I got to see some fantastic scenery, and got to ski on parts of the World Cup course (and didn’t die).  Not a bad day out.  We stopped twice during the day at two different mountain huts.  The huts were started from the old summer farmsteads for cattle in the mountains but now are places to stop and get food, water, etc.  The ones we stopped at were very traditionally Norwegian and were made of wood with all kinds of funky old mountain and ski gear inside.  They serve cinnamon rolls and waffles.  I got a cinnamon roll and cried because I love cinnamon rolls so much.

 

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The second hut was pretty much the only part of the day I really truly struggled.  Tuva and Erling abandoned me and I got stuck in a snow drift.  Tuva went looking and found me crawling up the drift with my hands with my skis dragging behind me.  Eventful.  All in all, however, I would 11/10 do it again.  Each hill I went down I fell down less and less.  I properly face planted a few times (once after I got distracted because I saw a women being pulled on skis by a dalmatian!!!), but I managed to get up quickly.  I’m an American not an American’t afterall.

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⛷⛷⛷

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I left early yesterday to get back to Edinburgh and sort an assignment that is due Monday.  I had to do some stuff on the computer and didn’t want to leave it late because I don’t trust technology.  But, I had an amazing time.  Oslo is an amazing city, so thanks again Tuva and Erling (I know you’re reading this, either because you want to or because I made you #supportchagirl).

Classes resume soon, but the university is striking so I may have more free time.

shit i have learned through bumbling around, pt 1

‘unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. it’s not.’ – dr seuss

Hey pals!  This is the first part of a blog series I plan on writing leading up to my 21st birthday in April.  The topics will be on ‘shit I have learned through bumbling around.’

This week’s topic: ‘giving a fuck’ v. ‘not giving a fuck.’ And how, at nearly 21 years of age, I have discovered that you need to give and not give both simultaneously. 

Forward, I’m not going to write deeply about politics this time, I’ve done that before and if you want to read that you can go back to the November 2016 or January 2017 section of this blog. It’s no secret that I, a twenty-year-old student who lives in Europe and studies history and archaeology, is left leaning.  If that was a shocker to you it’s okay to sit down.  It was a shock to me as well.  That being said, politics shroud everything and to ignore them is naive and will be a point of discussion below.

First, as any academic analysis demands I will define my terms.  ‘A Fuck’ will be treated as a noun.  It is the feeling, idea, or concern given or not given by someone about a given topic, object, person, etc.  To ‘give a fuck’ means that the individual expresses interest or care about a given, topic, object, person, etc. Reversely, to ‘not give a fuck’ means that the individual does not express interest or care about a given topic, object, person, etc.

Okay, definitions out of the way.

In the following essay I will explain why an individual should first, ‘not give a fuck.’  After, I will counter with why they should ‘give a fuck.’  Lastly, I will take this dichotomy and create a new thesis based on why ‘giving’ and ‘not giving’ fucks can and should coexist peacefully within an individual.  The basis of my study will be from my own personal experiences.  This is what I’ve experienced and should not be treated as the be all end all guide.

Part I: ‘Not Giving a Fuck.’

So long as an individual is happy no fucks should be gifted to the surrounding community.  If the individual is acting independently and without harm to themselves or others, they should exist as a balanced atom: all valence fucks intact. 

I was never a popular kid.  For a long while, I cared a whole awful lot about what others thought of me.  I used to tailor who I was to fit some sort of idea I thought others thought of me.  It was wildly twisted and really confusing.

I did not fit in with the jocks because I was too much of a nerd.  I did not fit in with the nerds because I was too much of a jock.  I felt like I was constantly shifting how I presented myself because I wanted to fit in and did not want to be seen as weird.

It was a disaster that had me running between the locker room and the Latin room.  Each time I left a part of what made me Kennedy behind and I really hated it.  I knew that I couldn’t be one part without the other and that I needed to figure out how to be both.

It was not until I decided trying to tailor myself was just too much work.  Instead of being a weakness, I turned it into a strength.  I stopped caring about what others thought of me and just did what I wanted.  I continued about my day filled with things that I enjoyed.  I spent a lot of my time reading, going to museums, playing basketball, and running.  While I do admit, that did make things lonely.  I had rejected a large part of what made being a teenager such a ~dramatic~ time.  But, it wasn’t for long.  By continuing to do things that I enjoyed regardless of whether or not people thought it was cool, I soon found others like me.  They did exist!  It just took a while to find them, because like me, they thought they were alone.  And so instead of going to museums alone, I went with friends.

Now, I still do things that I enjoy without really much worry.  I like going to museums, so I go.  I enjoy studying, so I do that.  I enjoy mountaineering, so I do that.  I also spend a lot of my time alone, but I enjoy that too.  I’m here to learn so I’m not really concerned with asking questions that may make me look like fool.  I’m not particularly afraid of making fun of myself or making a fool of myself.  Within reason, of course.

Which, I think, is how I learned to ‘not to give a fuck.’  I finally reached the paradise of ‘No Fucks Given Nirvana’ when I realised it’s not about not caring about anything, it’s about caring about what makes you happy and not letting other people convince you that it isn’t worth your time.  It’s about fully being yourself and accepting all aspects of yourself all the time versus certain aspects of yourself some of the time.

Part II. ‘Giving a Fuck.’ 

Once I learned how ‘not to give a fuck,’ the next lesson I learned was when and for what I should actually spend my precious amount of fucks.  I care deeply about history and archaeology and my cat and my family and my friends.  I would drop anything at any moment to help a friend in need, that’s true.

It’s about caring for things that are important to you.  It’s about standing up for things that mean something and it’s about representing yourself the way you want to be respected.  My dear friend Betsy always says that ‘you attract what you exude.’  She’s totally right, if you spend your fucks wisely on things important to you, you’ll live a pretty happy life.

And, here’s a truth.  If you give a fuck about someone, chances are they’ll give a fuck about you too.  But obviously, don’t spend time on people who don’t care about you.  That’s fucked up and will just make you sad.

For myself, I’ve spend a lot of my fucks on caring about what’s going on in the world around me.  Personally, I don’t like to live in a bubble.  I like to understand what is going on in my community.  I like to help.  I don’t like just standing by and waiting to see what happens.  I hate feeling like I can’t do anything.  I need to be involved and a large part of what I care about it making sure that everyone gets a fair chance.

And just for me personally, I think it’s pretty damn selfish to not care about others.  Just because it might not personally affect you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care.  Maybe you shouldn’t be in the front for the issue, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in it.  You can help by listening, clearing a path for others to speak, or sharing what they say.

But, I always ask myself if I’m giving a fuck for the right reasons.  If it’s to pat my own personal pride, I need to sit the fuck down.  I’ve learned quite a bit from growing up in a military family and one of those things is that the most important shit happens without anyone knowing.  So, maybe no one will ever realise how many fucks you’ve spent… but to be honest, that’s not why you’re spending them.

So, yeah.  Personally, I’ve spent a lot of my fucks on politics and current affairs.  After all, actions speak louder than words.  I’ve written my fair share of words about topics I care about both to this void of a blog and to the relevant government offices.  I don’t know if anything ever gets read, but they might one day… but if I stop then they won’t ever.

Tldr; spend your fucks on things you care about, be active in you community, care about your fellow humans.  But do it for your own reasons not just to look cool. 

Part III. Living Harmoniously

I often point dramatically toward a window and and ask people if they see it too, my last fuck fluttering away into the open, summer breeze.

Of course, that’s not entirely true as I still harbour many a fuck within my heart.  But, those are the good ones.  The ones I spend caring about people and things important to me.  The reasons I get up and bumble about.  They are the desire to learn and not be afraid to ask questions in class.  The ability to meet new people and not feel as if they judge me straight away.

The fucks flying away are the bad ones: the ones filled with insecurity and fear and anxiety.  I wave to them as they drift away.  But, in a way, I am thankful for their existence.  They taught me how to react to change, how to stand up for myself, and how to be proud of myself.  By leaving, they make room for more time for things I actually should be caring about.

So I’m going to close with the quote that I started this post with, scroll back up if you’ve forgotten (shame on you!).  It’s not about not caring about anything, just caring about the right things and for the right reasons.  You can’t control what others think of you, but you can control what you think about yourself.  So it’s not that I don’t care.  I do care, I care a whole awful lot because I know that it’s the only way things are going to change for the better whether that’s being more self confident or working to better my community.

 

 

 

 

im stumbling, im bumbling

Hello friends, it’s been awhile that I’ve welcomed you into the dumpster fire of my life.  So, come in.  Welcome.  Take a seat.  I’ve been stumbling around and may have actually figured out the secret to eternal youth…

Just kidding, but I did get mistaken as a child on the good ‘ole Lothian bus the other day.

The semester has been working along smoothly.  My final marks from last semester are back and I’m pretty proud.  I have the first of my assignments coming up in a few weeks.  It’s for Archaeological Illustration and I have been drawing a lot of rocks in Adobe Illustrator.  It’s actually really cool, but really time consuming.

Caitlin and I had a bit of an adventure last week.  I read about this local perfume company in Edinburgh called Reek Perfume that make scents inspired by historical women. The first of their perfumes is called ‘Damn Rebel Bitches.’  It’s inspired by the Jacobite Women. They don’t test on animals or retouch their photos, which I thought was pretty cool.  I got the address from their website and so Caitlin and I decided to go.  As it turns out, the address on the website is actually the flat of the lady (Sara Sheridan) who owns the business.  We felt a little embarrassed at first to have mixed it up, but she not to worry, a lot of people do that.  Sara invited us in and we chatted for a while about the perfume, feminism, and history.  They were actually shooting photos for their next perfume launch as well.

And as it turns out, she’s a historical novelist and written like over twenty books… including tie-in novels for the iTV Victoria series.  She said that if I ever wanted to write something for the Reek blog to just send her an email.  Which I totally think I will, I just need something catchy to write about!

On Wednesday, I was at the RBGE from 3- 9.  I helped to cook a Burns’ Dinner for about 40ish people.  The garden is hosting ERAMUS professors from Italy, Portugal, and across the UK for a weeklong workshop.  It was a lot of potato peeling and mashing, but I didn’t mind.  I joked that this was always my job during Thanksgiving as home, which was true.  I got a chance to chat with a few of people who work at the garden as well as speak with a few international professors.

Things have also been falling into place for my dissertation next year, which I hope to be able to finalize soon.  I’m looking at exploring the archaeology of the Botanic Cottage.  Think historical buildings, public engagement, social memory, etc.  I’ve had a few meeting with different professors and I’ve got another one on Wednesday.

Thursday night was the EUMC Burns’ Ceilidh and I still have bruises on my arms from popping sick moves.  Things got a bit confusing after the ceilidh when it circulated that we were all heading to Wetherspoons, but then failed to clarify which Wetherspoons out the six (6) in Edinburgh we were going to.

But, my dudes.  Never fear, the EUMC reunited and  I still made it to my 9-11am seminar.  It’s required and please don’t ask about the state I was in when I left the flat.  I made it to Starbs and when I walked in I was nearly brought to tears when the kind women behind the counter asked if, ‘I wanted the usual* and a muffin as well?’

Yes, o kind woman.  I do.

After my seminar I picked a burrito and went home.

*’the usual’ is a grande vanilla latte and a blueberry muffin

 

 

innovative castle week

Hey all! Welcome to the blog that apparently I forgot I had. (Sorry Mom).

Anyway.  This week was Innovative Learning Week… or Festival of Creative Learning… or Innovative Skiing Week… Long story short, the university shuts down for a whole week to give us students a reading week and the staff a week to breathe.  Last year, the university offered a whole bunch of cool classes, if you remember I took a class in osteology and got #inspired. This year because the university realized that not everyone is a huge fucking nerd like myself and does normal things on a week off, like go skiing instead of wanting to learn about bones, they cut back on most of the extra classes offered and just gave us a week off.

Week off? Cue parental visit.  So mom booked a flight out a few weeks back… and then promptly lost her passport two days before she was supposed to fly out.  #notsmart.  Many long phone calls to the airline later, my dad boarded a flight to escape from the dystopian anti-First Amendment America we now face.  This is one of the few times I am glad that Alexander Hamilton is dead so that he doesn’t have to face this blatant disregard to his baby, the US Constitution.

Dad landed Sunday and stayed until his flight early yesterday morning.  It was really nice being able to see him considering my parental visits are often far and few in between.   Usually, I get to see my family about twice a year.

I spent the week showing my dad around new parts of Edinburgh that I’ve found since living here.  He took me to the supermarket and bought me a bunch of food.  It was great!  On Tuesday we took a train down to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and then a bus to Bamburgh to visit Bamburgh Castle.  In case you’re new, Bamburgh Castle is the long held Anglo-Saxon stronghold of the north.  King Oswald was the first major inhabitant, who, after returning from exile on Iona, drove out the Saxons.  Oswald had a huge bromance with Aiden, a local abbott.  He gave Aiden the nearby island on which Aiden built a huge monastery – Lindisfarne.  In 793 AD, Lindisfarne was the first site of the Viking incursions into Britain.  Erling will proudly inform you that those first vikings were in fact Norwegian.  I’ll be excavating for five weeks at Bamburgh this summer as one of my three excavations this summer!

Dad, while still very keen on the history… I mean who wouldn’t be?! was also excited that the castle was the fictional home to Utread, the protagonist from Bernard Cornwell’s Last Kingdom books.

Here’s photo from the day out.

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Here’s photos of the excavation:

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And here’s photos of the most metal desk I have ever seen in my entire life.  It’s made of wood from Hadrian’s bridge across the Tyne at Newcastle.  I have never wanted anything more than how much I want this desk.  I’m not even kidding about how much I want this desk.  This thing is so metal and I am so jealous that I do not own this.  If anyone reading this knows how I can own this desk hit me up I will gladly sell non-vital organs for it (jokes… but seriously).   

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Castles are fucking cool kids, stay in school!

On Thursday, Dad and I went to Holyrood Architectural Salvage to look at all the cool pieces moved from Edinburgh during renovations.  There were so many cool fireplaces doors.  If it’s not clear already, Dad and I really like looking at old stuff.

Anyway.  It was great to see my dad again and talk about medieval history in person versus talking about it over the phone for 2.5 hours.  I’m working on my Medieval History essay at the moment.  It’s over the Hundred Years War and I may or may not be more than rightfully excited about it.  Class starts back up on Monday with ‘Death Monday.’

yay.

Scotland Soundtrack XXIII

Hello friends.  I’ve had a long week and I am very tired.

Just an update on life, I had two assignments this week.  My Medieval Europe presentation on ‘Death Monday’ and today I handed in my short report for my Roman Empire class. (‘Death Monday’ is so called because of my Archaeology Lecture at 11, Medieval Europe Tutorial at 1, Roman Empire lecture at 2, Archaeology lab from 3-5, volunteering at the NMS from 5-6, and usually a EUMC committee meeting around 7.30.)

The report I handed in today was a source crit about a cross-section image of the Colosseum.  I’m pretty happy with my submission.

The weather here in Edinburgh has been all over the place all week.  It’s been rainy and relatively cold, but today was actually sunny and sort of warm.  I’m done with classes for the next week so I’m excited for some down time.  Next week is a university wide break in classes so while Mom’s here I won’t have to work too much.

Anyway, here’s some jams I’ve been listening to this past week.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hey all.  Sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week here on the blog. I’ve been very busy working on various projects.  I had a presentation for my Medieval Europe class yesterday which I think went really well.  Now, I’m treating myself to a coffee because it’s Valentine’s Day and I luvvvv myself.  Just need to finish up my Roman World short report about the Colosseum which is due in on Friday.  Mom flies over to visit me on Saturday.

Okay cool beans, because it’s Valentine’s Day I figured I would write this blog post about things that I luvvvv…. which considering that my cat is in America, defaults to coffee, thunderstorms, osteology, and medieval history in no particular order.

So (partially because I feel bad about nothing exciting happening in a while to exploit here on the internet… unless you count me reorganizing my history books into chronological order the other night) here’s the transcript of the presentation I gave yesterday in class about a topic I luvvv.

To what extent did chivalry motivate men to fight in the Hundred Years War?

Introduction

Chivalry affected many aspects of medieval life. But what is it? Chivalry was a set of moral, social, and religious codes men were to follow both on and off the battlefield. This included the treatment of noblemen and the soldiers fighting for them and against them.

To what extent, if any, chivalry motivated men to fight in the Hundred Years War will be explored in the next ten minutes. Special attention will be given to separate the motivation of nobility as well as the motivation of the common solider.

Nobility

First concerning nobility. I’d like to start with a quote from Sir Thomas Malory’s work The Death of Arthur, which I believe perfectly, encapsulates the sense of chivalric pride sought by men of nobility:

“And when they heard of his adventures, they marveled that he would jeopard his person so, alone. But all men of worship said it was merry to be under such a chieftain that would put his person in adventures as other poor knights did.”

Malory was writing during the reign of Edward IV and many people credit his work to be an attempt to link Edward IV to Arthur but also to link Edward IV to Henry V.

At Crecy, Edward the Black Prince is described as fighting valiantly, even when outnumber, his father Edward III insisted the day’s honor be given to his son. So, at age 16, the Black Prince earned his ‘spurs’ at Crecy. At Poitiers, similarly, John II, the French king, fights his way into the city. Even though, the English capture John, his honor is still kept in tact. John is an English hostage. However, later that evening at dinner, the Black Prince compliments his honor and valor… and then ransomed for three million ecchos.

This is due to both Edward and John upholding the chivalric standards of the time; they respect the rights of nobility, especially the rights of kings. Because, battlefield conduct was dependent on the capture and ransom of kings and princes, when John II was captured, he had no reason to believe that he was to be killed. He knew that he was worth more to the English alive as well as the rules of chivalry condemned the killing of kings who were anointed by God.

To put simply: while both Edward and John had put themselves in the thick of the battle, they faced no real danger because if captured, they knew, albeit they would be ransomed back for a large sum of money, they would be returned relatively unharmed. The reward, the motivation of chivalric glory, outweighed the risk.

Later kings emulated this sense of chivalric duty, especially the notoriously pious Henry V. Although part of a work of fiction and not to be taken at face-value, the famous St. Crispin’s day speech before the battle of Agincourt from Shakespeare’s play Henry V perfectly encapsulates the chivalric values of glory and remembrance of great deeds with the lines behind me.

So, the motivation for nobility to fight for personal glory was high. Jean Froissart writes of King John of Bohemia, a blind man, who wished to fight. His men tied their horses together and rode onto the battlefield while directing their blind king. Did this really happen? It’s debatable. But nonetheless, it illustrates the desires of the nobility to fulfill chivalric values.

Personally, I do believe that the nobility saw warfare as a means of gaining personal glory and to assert their divine right to rule. But, perhaps we give it too much weight and overlook the realities of war. Before each chivalric victory was a bloody battle, which exposed the brutality of noble knights against their enemies. As the pious Henry V is credited, ‘War without fire is like sausages without mustard.’ Spoils of war were used for building projects or funding royal courts. Although, hard to trace, it is widely believe that Edward III used the ransom money he gained from the capture of John II to renovate and expand Windsor Castle.

Common People

Meanwhile, the common people… While yes, there were rallying cries for patriotism, fueled by royal propaganda featuring the English kings as King Arthur, or even the establishment of the Knights of the Garter, a ‘new version’ of the Knights of the Roundtable. Huge victories after Crecy, Poitiers, and even Agincourt saw men enlisting on their own accord. However, sense of nationalist pride, or a chivalric epiphany, was not the main call to arms for the common people. There was no money in the ransoming of common people or chivalric code for them to obey, as chivalry was seen as something only the nobility could hide behind. The motivation for their allegiance was predominantly gold, not glory.

However, to be clear this was not the monetary reward in the sense of a salary. While mercenaries and some soldiers did receive payment, especially the English longbowmen who were enlisted in archery troops, the payment was small and rather unreliable. What they relied on was battlefield spoils, like the capturing and ransoming of prisoners, seizure and later resettlement of land, and other miscellaneous sacking and pillaging. Truthfully, it was smart. They played off of the nobilities’ strict adherence to chivalric values and used it for their own personal gain. In fact, Edward III had specific people who controlled and redistributed the spoils collected while on campaigns. Some knights, if they happened to be lucky and take hostage or win the favor of the nobility could in fact earn a large fortune. Sir John Fastolf was gifted land in Normandy by Henry V after his performance on campaign. Fastolf established a household in France and continued to make large sums of money. However, this was not the case for all and truthfully was a gamble with some winning big and others not.

Further examples of this motivation are seen at the battle of Crecy. The French had hired nearly 6,000 Geonese crossbowmen. However, when called to fight, they attempted to flee from the battle by cutting the strings of their crossbows. They were not motivated by chivalric values, but by the possibility of monetary rewards and when it was clear there were none, and they would likely die instead – they fled. This is in direct contrast to the actions of the nobility on both sides prior.

Conflict of Interest: Agincourt

As previously mentioned, the motivation to fight is not always as black and white as contemporary chroniclers make it out to be.

At the battle of Agincourt, Henry V orders the execution of many of the French hostages, which included nobility. This is detailed in Monstrelet’s account of the battle. The act was in retaliation to the misconduct of a few of the French nobles who had outflanked the English and slaughtered their baggage train, which would have consisted of non-combatants. It was widely held that warring factions would not attack the others’ baggage train. The English viewed the attack as a violation of the codes of chivalry, especially that of protecting the innocent, and acted in retaliation. However, because Henry ordered the execution of the prisoners did he tarnish his own chivalric reputation? What were his motivations? Executing nobility on the battlefield was against previous chivalric precedents.

It’s a tricky case. If Henry were indeed motivated by chivalry, he would have strictly obeyed the rules against the killing of hostages. I think it is worth a discussion on Henry’s motivation to order the execution of the French hostages. Did he view his order as a just punishment for the ‘misconduct of the French’ and slaughter of the innocent? Or did Henry disregard chivalry and act in a pure vengeance?

As I earlier mentioned, the chivalric code had a religious burden. In my own opinion, fitting with his pious personality, Henry’s motivation was in line with his interpretation of chivalry. In this case, Henry was motivated to act because of his chivalric and religious responsibly. He couldn’t leave the French slaughter of the innocents unpunished; the slaughter of innocents called for the ultimate penance, death. This brings into question of who really had the authority to define the codes of chivalry.

Summary

It is important to remember what accounts we have and how we analyze the Hundred Years War. We must not forget that while the various primary sources depict great deeds of heroics and valor of nobility, the common soldiers are marginalized. The intention of medieval chroniclers was to tell a story and the best stories always centered on great knights and heroic acts. What we are reading is what they wanted us to read: a lengthy ode to chivalry.

However, while the nobility did appear to have a higher sense of moral value and pride when it came to warfare, to say that they were solely motivated by chivalry would be naïve and simplistic. We must remember the Hundred Years War is first and foremost a war. Likewise, while most accounts concur the common solider was not in the fight for chivalric pride but for more economic means, we cannot deny that some soldiers must have felt strongly about their cause. So yes, chivalry did motivate men to fight, but for the majority it was not the primary factor.

Works Consulted

Primary

De Monstrelet, E. ‘Battle of Agincourt:’ http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/130/Agincourt.html (accessed 8 Feb 2017)

Froissart, J. Chronicles, trans. and ed G. Breeton: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/froissart1.asp (accessed 8 Feb 2017)

Malory, T. Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript, ed Helen Cooper (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Shakespeare, W. Henry V, ed T. N. R. Rogers (Mineola: Dover Publications, 2003)

Secondary

Bennet, M., Bradbury, J., DeVries, K., Dickie, I., Jestice, P., Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World AD 500-1500: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005)

Currry, A. Great Battles: Agincourt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Cole, Tersea, Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King and the Battle of Agincourt 1415 (Gloustershire: Amberley, 2015)

Fowler, K. ‘Froissart, Chronicler of Chivalry’, History Today, 36.5 (May 1,

1986), 50-55

Kaeuper, R. Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Tuck, A. ‘Why men fought in the 100 Years War’, History Today, 33.4 (Apr 1, 1983), 35-41.

Keen, M. The Penguin History of Medieval Europe, (London: Penguin Books, 1968)

Neillands, R. The Hundred Years War (London: Routledge, 1990)

Are you feeling the luvvv yet?  Because I’m enveloped in a scholarly hug.