I’m off to India

I am incredibly fortunate.

My friends and I discuss this fact at great length during our stint at university – as we lounge in the sun, nursing our hangovers with an embarrassingly ample supply of happy hippos and coconut macaroons – between regaling one another with horrifying tales from the previous evening.

“We’ve won the lottery of life” says Baby M.

It’s true. We are so lucky.

Life is a lottery. A complete game of chance. None of us asked for this. Our lives are completely coincidental. A happy accident.

We were born into a country where education is not only free but compulsory. Where we are granted low interest loans so that we may drink away our youth for three years with gay abandon if we so choose.

Where if we are sick we are entitled to medical help, regardless of the amount of money we have managed to accumulate. So, if the mancunian has staggered down the Q bar staircase and broken her wrist, she may stumble into Royal Berks and receive attention (some of it medical).

Where we are only ever hungry if we want to be – usually because we have guzzled too much white wine and post-pub pieces of toast and are now fasting in a superficial attempt to look skinnier.

I was born into a loving family who wanted me. Who taught me to aspire to great things. Who continue to care for me long after I should have flown the nest. Because they can. Because they were never forced to send me to work at the age of 5 as they couldn’t afford to eat otherwise.

I’ve never had to fight for my rights. I’ve had them awarded to me as basic human freedoms. And I am incredibly grateful for that.

But – being the greedy western girl I am. I’m still unsatisfied.

I want more rights. For more people. I want more justice. I want every woman to have access to birth control – and to be educated enough to understand its importance. I want everybody to have to go to school. I want everybody to be able to drink water without fear of contracting disease. I want all children to grow up believing they have a fighting chance.

I believe that human rights are universal rights, not just rights for those fortunate enough to have been born in the Western hemisphere.

When I was 13, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Evocatively reporting from the frontline of the human rights battle. Bringing to the fore issues I felt were crucially important. I wanted to reveal wrongdoing and expose injustice. I wanted to ignite a passion in the people I reported to – to create positive change and cultural awakening.

Then I got to uni.

We lived in this lovely little bubble. Our lives consisted of laughter, dance floors and drinking games – occasionally interspersed with those unavoidable library trips.

In this hedonistic daze I somewhat lost my drive, I was so preoccupied by my lovely life that I forgot about everyone else.

I started writing about my wonderful friends, my education and all the opportunities that have arisen owing to the fact I live in this wonderful liberal metropolis.

You see, I wasn’t fighting for my basic rights – so I had a lot of time to focus on such creative pursuits.

But there is still so much hardship and suffering and wasted talent in the world – all owing to the fact that basic human rights still aren’t being treated as basic human rights.

And so, the fight still very much continues.

Now that my MA has come to an end I must face the harsh truth that I am no longer a student.

Now who do I want to be?

Mahatma Gandhi said “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I want to live in a world where people take chances in pursuit of positive change. Where the right to go to school is universal. I want to live in a world where – when we witness injustice we actually tackle it, instead of standing idly by and hoping someone else will do it.

Yes, I also want to live in a world where I can play singstar and drink banana milkshake and gallop up corridors; the silly stuff is still important. But I don’t want to live in a world where we allow it to overshadow everything else.

Here, in this magnificent nation-state, I am perfectly safe and comfortable. But out there, so many people are in danger for attempting to exercise fundamental freedoms. So really, in the long term, the safe decision is the dangerous one.

That’s why I’m going to India with VSO – to help in creating a cross cultural community based on understanding and support.

I hope this will be the beginning of something really amazing.

Of course I am no saint – otherwise surely I would be fighting these battles right here at home for starters. I have a selfish desire to travel – to learn about the world first hand.

I believe that ignorance stems from a lack of education. And I don’t want to be ignorant. I want to educate myself and in doing so gain a deeper understanding of the issues we face and how best to overcome them.

I’ll continue to write about the issues faced and how Pravah – the organisation I’m volunteering with – is working to tackle them. In the meantime I’m undertaking a series of exciting fundraising events including Bristol Half Marathon – so stay tuned for embarrassing updates and amusing anecdotes.

I’m raising money with JustGiving and any support however small is SO appreciated.

https://www.justgiving.com/sebarratt

In the meantime, don’t stay too safe.

Let’s fall in love

This post was initially supposed to go out on Valentines day. In my hopelessly romantic state I forgot to actually publish. Nevertheless, here it is – a mere 5 months late.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love love, it’s lovely.

Not lovely like a new jar of nutella or a full tank of oil. It doesn’t run out if you use too much – leaving you stranded and alone on the M25 at night or scraping the jar for the remnants wishing there was more.

The wonderful thing about love, well one of the many wonderful things, is that the more you use the more you seem to have. It duplicates itself. The more you give it, the more you feel it. I really think that if you approach life wholeheartedly with love, it’s love you’ll get in return. And that’s all we need isn’t it?

I know it is (was) Valentines day, but I’m strictly not just talking about romantic love – although I do love that kind of love a lot. I’m also talking about friendships, familial love, love of thy neighbour, love of the stranger who gave you his seat on the tube, love of marmite or some well-known brand of hazelnut spread… or banana milkshake (or C all of the above), about love of dancing in a most unorthodox manner, running at a medium to slow pace or galloping up empty corridors, about love of singing in the shower, sharing a really corny joke or doodling silly pictures instead of doing any work.

About all those other little and big loves which comprise our lives.

Gals, we’ve got to stop this inane, blinkered search for the ‘one’ to love. Please. It’s exhausting. No wonder the world is so cruel. – We’re each on this singular mission for one person to give all our love to, totally overlooking what should be a collective quest to love as many people as we possibly can.

I mean, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if this were the case?

There are 8.308 million people in London alone. Doesn’t it seem a little narrow minded to give all your love to one?

No, no, no you’re reading me all wrong. I am by no means suggesting we bring back the swinging sixties, glorious though I’m sure they were… (Although if that’s what you want to do, I’m not here to judge.)

I’m just suggesting we aspire to more than just romantic love to make us happy.

Romantic comedies depict epic, earth-shattering, inconvenient, ridiculously dramatic romantic love as the answer to ever-lasting happiness. But I disagree.

I think the answer to true happiness is found in completely platonic love too.

Be greedy in love. I think you’ll find, the more you learn to love other people, the more in love with your own life you’ll become.

Whatever form love comes in, it’s still fantastic, it’s still love. It should be celebrated in all forms, on the 14th of February and every other day.

Imagine being so incredibly in love with the everyday that Valentines Day just pales into insignificance – against the backdrop of the glorious romance of life.

So fall in love, but don’t fall in line. Don’t for a second believe that one sort of love is superior to another. Ladies, even if you don’t have the one, immerse yourself in all the other wonderful loves of your life.

And if you do – that’s wonderful, pour your love into that person – but share it with everyone else too – it’s unlimited after all.

Really, love doesn’t whittle down to whether or not you have a significant other to whisper sweet nothings to across a bucket of breadsticks. Love is all encompassing. It’s an attitude as well as an emotion. Approach life with love, and I think life will give love back.