Monday, 7 August 2017

A letter to 18 year old Me (part 1)

Hi, I am Joe. 

I've just graduated from Cardiff University, with a BA in Ancient History & Religious Studies. I'm now working as much as possible in Cardiff, in the not-for-profit sector, and I am really enjoying it.

I've changed a lot over the past three years, this right here is a letter to me, three years ago.

Hi Joe three years ago. 

What a smelly boy you are. Good music taste though. That guitar you don't put down will be a really good friend to you, look after it. 

Here are a few words of advice, from future you. Hope they're helpful. 

And seriously, have a shower.

1. Takeaways are wonderful. But don't get them every week, they're really expensive.
That big loan and grant you have, don't spend it on takeaways. I know, you come from a family that didn't do takeaways. And it's so easy isn't it, to treat your body really badly, when quick tasty MSGy (it's a word) food is just round the corner. But the novelty factor of them will wear off, after way too much money spent on a variety of Chinese food that a Chinese person will punch you for calling Chinese food. And God it's not good for you. Future you will need to eat healthy for a few months at the end of University to drop that tummy.

2. Packed lunch
Spend £7 a week on lunch, big sandwiches/yogurts/grapes/crisps. 
Spend £17.50 a week on lunch, pasta/drink/crisps. 
Meal deals are the same as number 1, convenience = expensive (and not as filling as homemade)
This one's a no-brainer. Stop playing FIFA and drinking all the time, spend ten minutes making yourself lunch. Go on. You'll have so much more money to drink with. 

3. Blog more/Write more
Write a blog, boy. My blog has been for me, one of the most enjoyable explorations of self & ideas over the last few years. My journal similarly, the one you haven't written yet, has been amazing fun, and quite poignant every now and then. I find writing about my day, every day, is such a good habit, because in 5 years time when I look back to the 'bliss of university' I'll remember the mold on the ceilings and the bowl of plain pasta for dinner you just ate. 
In a less negative light, blogging and writing will create some awesome opportunities for you later. If you start now, who knows, future you could get paid to do it.

4. Do the things you enjoy
You will one day stop caring what people think of you so much. I know, I know. The crippling anxiety of what the person in the flat next door thinks of your new shirt is painful, but you won't live near them for much longer. Soon you'll be living with some equally awesome people, and you know that imagination you have, you'll be playing all sorts of awesome games that use that imagination. You'll meet some of the coolest people in your life, and have some amazing conversations with them. Stay close to them. Stay close to people who are just as odd as you are, and who don't care about it.

5. Trust your support network, you dummy
Sorry to say it, but there's going to be a lot of hurt in your next three years. You're going to get kicked about a bit, punched about a bit, and occasionally mistreated. The police won't be too much use, and I'm sorry about that. But remember, you little shit, you have one of the best and most supportive groups of friends you could hope for. Use them. You know your Dad? He's actually pretty good at listening for an hour to your ramblings. You know your sister? Believe it or not, she's experienced a lot of what you have, being your sister and everything, and she cares about you. You know your friends? Well you will lose a few, but the ones who stick around are the most worthwhile people in your life. They'll really help. And those takeaways I mentioned at the start? Don't feel bad about getting them sometimes, when you're feeling really low. I don't mind eating healthy now, so you can feel a little bit better on that evening. You'll know the one I mean. 

And look, me from three years ago, I know you didn't think it would be possible, but you turn out to be alright. You have a few amazing friends, too. You will develop. You will quite like you in a few years time. 

Sorry for getting emotional on you. I'll write to you in a few days with some more things you might want to know. 


Sunday, 23 July 2017

I hate dancing in the rain

There's a really interesting quote I heard recently: "It's never your successful friends who share inspirational quotes".

I had a big think about that statement. I am naturally quite a cynical person, a Christian upbringing has taught me to sniff out hypocrisy from a hundred yards. So I was pre-disposed to agree here. It ticked my box of hating quotes like "It's not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about dancing in the rain".
Grrrrrrrrr that quote makes me want to break every picture and rip every tee-shirt emblazoned with it.
The pure butterflies and everything is happy-ness of it incites a primal rage inside me, in a way only queue-jumpers and people who walk slowly normally incite.
(How British am I?)

Don't get me wrong, I bloody love a good quote - I started my last blog with one - but the sheer twee-ness of some occasionally drives me up the wall.

NB. I think, just to restore my faith in quotes (and to balance out the good/bad ratio of quotes in this blog), I'm going to put in some bangers for the rest of the piece.

I eventually calmed myself down from that pinnacle of rage, and had another think. I realised that there was a time a few years ago, hell, 12 months ago, that I worked in epiphanies.

I'd go through a funk of making it through days, being directionless, ("If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favourable" - Seneca the Younger) days were obstacles to climb over until the next thing happened. Then every few weeks, I'd watch a really inspirational video, or I'd see the most beautiful sunset, and then for the next day or two I would smash life, doing all my work, eating healthy, staying on top of everything, and nicely tiring myself out for a few weeks until the next inspirational video or beautiful sunset came along.

The thing was, I didn't have any responsibilities, I didn't have things to do. I could afford to be directionless.

University began to change that, I suppose. But starting full-time work again was a bigger challenge to my epiphany-led life. Before I had others relying on me, I could afford to share inspirational quotes to Facebook, because I could afford to live a life of peaks and troughs.
I guess that is part of growing up, isn't it. I guess that's part of not being quite such a hormonal shotgun of emotion all the time.

I have noticed a lot of blogs I write are about things I realise. And every few months I'd look back on the last blog, and have developed a more refined understanding of thing X I cataclysmically realised all that time ago.

I guess that was my own form of inspirational quotes.

For me, life's not about inspirational quotes, life's not about constant 'epiphanies'. It's about the slow grind of progress, edging your way towards something you believe in. And God, I'm young. I've got all the time in the world to slowly grind towards something I believe in.

The only 'inspirational' 'motivational' thing I have in my life, and it's right at the front, and the only one you might ever see me share, is about not working to sustain.

Whatever I do, I want to create.
Whatever I do, I want to be in the deep end.
To quote a song from a very different time in my life: Whatever I do, I never want to be comfortable.
As long as I'm out of my depth, I'm happy.
"Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone, and think till love and fame to nothingness do sink." - John Keats

Monday, 17 July 2017

*BREAKING* Votes@16 in Wales?

Starting today, Welsh government are introducing a consultation on electoral reform, designed to make voting more accessible and more available. It's to be a 12 week consultation, with some fairly major changes being discussed. 
When it's all said and done, it looks to implement the biggest change to the Welsh electoral system since 1970 - when the voting age was lowered to 18. 

Here are the highlights of the new Local Government Bill:
  • 16-17 year olds given the right to vote in council elections, under powers given to the Welsh National Assembly under the Wales Act
  • Councils given the right to determine whether they implement a First-Past-The-Post system, or a Single Transferable Vote
  • Electronic voting at polling stations, and mobile polling stations
  • Welsh Government are examining whether all foreign citizens resident in Wales should have the right to vote in local elections
  • A "root and branch" review of town and community councils
You will have heard this blog demand Votes@16 for a long time now. Theresa May and the Tories are the only major six party to oppose it. Cabinet Secretary for Local Government Mark Drakeford, agrees: "There’s no reason why 16 and 17 year olds can marry, pay taxes and join the army but can’t vote in our elections." With turnout of 18-24 year olds at a high in the last general election - around 55%, and turnout of Scottish youngsters in the Scottish referendum at a huge 77%, there is no better time. 

However as British Youth Council chair of Trustees Anna Rose Barker states, "what is severely lacking is the government's response to young people" . She is correct. UK politics seems to view young people as a nice sub-section, and a group to meet to tick a box, not a group of people, who want to be listened to. 

And voting rights for 16-18s is all well and good, but it feels a little like Welsh Government are fumbling around trimming branches while the roots remain bad. There needs to be Votes@16, there also needs to be PSHE lessons for young people, taught in schools, so they grow up as Voters, that the young people in Wales learn the benefits of the youth vote. 

Young people are fed up of being talked about. 

Welsh Government are hopefully going to implement another step in changing that.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

"The World is worth fighting for"

I've had a lot of time recently for reflection.

A lot of the reflection has been internal - about how I have been shaped over the past three years, and about what university has meant to me.

Some of the reflection has been external. Into the insanity that is modern politics at the moment, and the frequency with which terror and tribalism have crept into lives.

The first year or so in Cardiff was full of naivety on my part. I used to walk at all hours, anyone walking behind me didn't make my pulse quicken, didn't make me cross the road, twice, to make sure I wasn't being followed.
I wasn't bothered by aggression.

A few things which I have previously written about shattered that naivety. I was going to say "a little", but you can't shatter something a little. Once something is shattered, piecing it together is quite tricky.

The second year in Cardiff was full of a sense of purpose, purpose I hadn't experienced before.
I was in a city I could do things in. I was in a city where I could make change happen.
I got into youth politics, I got into social action. I did some really cool things.

A few things which I have previously written about honed that purpose. As I cultivated some awareness, the burning desire to do things, the burning desire to throw time at people and action threatened to overwhelm a bit.

This final year in Cardiff has been full of replacing role models, and learning to be kind to myself. Learning to pick battles. Learning the importance of an early night, and sometimes of cancelling to catch up on myself.

Trump has been a thing for almost all of my final year.
Brexit has been a thing for almost all of my final year.

They're two crazy things I'm still not quite familiar with.

The sector I would like to work in and devote time to is hugely reliant on EU funding. How well the 3rd sector will cope when EU payments are phased out, I don't know. It will survive, I'm certain of that much, charity always survives change, it has to.
Whether the government will pick up the slack though, I'm even less certain.

I talk about characterization of the past three years, well these past few months have been characterized by uncertainty.

But with every storm is the end of that storm - the petrichor, the clouds scuttling away, the fresh rays of sunlight.

I guess I'm saying with this entire post that I'm looking forward to the end of this storm.

"The World is a fine place and worth fighting for" - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Memoirs of a (nearly) ex-UK Young Ambassador

                                                       National working group with UKYA – Hard at work! 

All good things come to an end. The classic proverb.

All fixed term positions come to an end. The slightly less classic proverb, but just as true nonetheless.

I am sad to say that as of July I will no longer represent the young people of Wales as UK Young Ambassador, with the British Youth Council. There's an odd comma in there, because of course I'll continue to champion the young people of Wales, and more widely in the UK, just without the title.

I’m writing this blog as if I was talking to an elderly family member, attempting to explain to them how I found the experience, because by necessity I’ve gotten good at this talk.

Joe, what actually is a UK Young Ambassador?

So, in my role as a representative I voice the views of young people in Wales, particularly through the medium of structured dialogue (If you want more info on SD, Click here). Structured dialogue is a way for young people to get involved with current affairs & politics; we asked them a whole lot of questions through surveys, round table events, and in working groups just exactly what they thought about some key issues.
The key issues we examined were Community and Diversity, particularly important with Brexit looming. That boiled down to a lot of hard work, a lot of frenzied scribbling at the back of coffee shops, late night phone calls, a mind-boggling number of train journeys, and being way out of my depth but learning to swim.

With my wonderful co-representative for Wales, Arooj Khan, we met with representatives from each major political party in Wales, we met the councillors and we met the Welsh Assembly members. In and out of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament building) about three times a week at one point. We talked to young people, in centres in Cardiff and in London.

(Actually one of my biggest regrets as a young ambassador for Wales was that I didn't remove myself from Cardiff enough. Even though I was in my final year of university, I still wish I had made more of an effort on that particular point.)

As a full team of 8 UK Young Ambassadors we also surveyed many young people across the UK. Several of us then wrote our findings on Community and Diversity into a 5000 word report, (you can read my summary of that report here) on a roasting afternoon in a sweltering London office. 

I also got to travel a lot, and represent, a lot. I did some work with the Royal Commonwealth Society in Wales, chairing a meeting of about 80 young people, I got to go to the International Culture Summit in Edinburgh as a delegate – I was and am very lucky to have these opportunities.

                                                      RCS Commonwealth Youth Summit in Wales

So that’s what you did, how did you find it?

I think I was a left-field candidate for the role. I am older than most of the other ambassadors and my experience of representation has been a little more hands-on than most.

So for the first six months? I was utterly out of my depth. I didn't know the relentless acronyms, and not having the officially recognised youth representation experience that everyone else seemed to have felt like it was counting against me.
I remember midway through the first residential, texting my Dad, telling him I shouldn't be there, everyone there had been through so much, and knew so much. 
They all knew the acronyms.

And I was just J.o.e. (Just Observing Everyone)

But quickly realising I was a little rough around the edges in terms of traditional youth representation was the best bit, as I could make it my business to be the one who put the most effort in, at every meeting, on every task. 
And I learned.

In summary, I'd say I found it nerve-wracking, and easily one of the best experiences I have had so far in my life. The responsibility and platform to demonstrate my abilities has been amazing. I have had the opportunity at opportunity, which is priceless at this age (or any age!). These included:

·         Co-authoring a national report.
·         Representing UK young people in Scottish Parliament with Secretaries of State from around the world.
·         Working with Google at Google HQ to improve data analytics for our surveys and online material. 
·         Getting to talk at several secondary schools about the charity sector and how to get involved.
·         Using the skills learned to improve other representative systems at my University.
·         Being brilliantly over my head, and clawing my way to the surface. 

It's been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun. I have learned so much. I have met so many amazing people. 
And I can't wait to continue in my representation. 

I'll hand the badge over (there's not actually a badge), but UKYA has enabled me to continue championing the rights of young people wherever I end up.

If you want to read more of my blogs, you can find them at:

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can at:

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Choosing Life

It's so easy to forget, isn't it.

I find it really easy to forget where I put my glasses - when they're not on my head they're mysteriously absent, and when I take my contacts out I can't see, so I generally can't find my glasses. If only I had my glasses, I'm sure finding my glasses would be easy. See the catch 22?
God I'm tired.

I find it easy to forget that there's 7 billion other people, living life. Every second I live, 7 billion people are living that second also.
The billionaires, the homeless, people working and sleeping.
How many tens of millions are on Facebook? If you're reading this, you're probably guilty, but you're reading my blog so I'll let you off.

That thought has been the one that's driven me through most of this block of finals revision; that when this draining horrible block of my life is over (and it will be over by next week), I can go for hours of walks around sunny parks, cook the most amazing stir-fry you've ever seen, play pool with friends. I can live life again.
I'm realising that I am unlikely to find a job that uses my incoming degree much, and I'm increasingly OK with that.

I might go to college, and take a vocational course. I might do an MA and a PhD in 30 seconds of Egyptian life in 672 BC, or something equally specific but enjoyable.

All I know is that I want to do more with my seconds.

I look around and realise how little I know in comparison to people my own age.

I was talking to an older friend a few weeks ago, and he said how much of a shock it was turning 25 and realising that the up and coming entrepreneurs and businessmen were younger than him.
I'm reaching that age. People my age are beginning to have global impacts with the work they're doing, people my age are changing the world for the better.

I want to do more with my seconds.

I want to learn more, I want to inspire more.

One of the key things that got me into youth work and youth representation was a picture of Malcolm X, in it, at the height of his popularity, when he was working 20 hour days, and under threat of death.
He was in a school classroom, in front of four or five school children, talking about the importance of politics to making a difference.

Love him, hate him, at that point in his life he was one of the most influential men in America. And he thought that talking to young people about politics was important enough to take time out of his day to do so.

I'm not the most important person in my house. popularity is not something I want or have ever particularly had. No death threats for me. I haven't worked a 20 hour day in months.

What's my excuse?
I don't have one.

I'm choosing life, being passionate about things I care about, and less time on social media. (But seriously, I appreciate you being on Facebook long enough to click this link, really appreciate it x x)

Cause the alternative is bumbling along, and watching people with more motivation and drive do stuff I can't come close to.

And I've only got one opportunity to do this, one opportunity to do some amazing things on the canvas I've been given.
In (hopefully) 60 years time, I want to look back and know I made the most of these years.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

How I'm Learning to Get Angry and Hate the Bomb

I was trying to work out a Dr Strangelove reference in the title, I'm not sure it quite fits but look, I'm all cultured and stuff.

In the wake of the near-miss I encountered (nearly got stabbed over £10 - see previous blog) about three weeks ago, life has been very, very odd.

I got an extenuating circumstances on my dissertation, and I've been desperately trying to have my superman mask on whilst revising for finals, finishing my dissertation, and saying goodbye to a lot of friends, whilst indulging myself in takeaways and lazy weekends because 'I can start again on Monday'.
Anxiety and depression I spent a lot of last year throwing off my back have made an unwelcome re-appearance due to the stress of dealing with the police and the workload of a final year who really would quite like a decent job after university, please thank you.

How have I pulled myself out of that miserable pit?


Oh, and my mum's forever appreciated care packages.

I have raged in the shower about the stupid fucking man who I let really shake me up.
I have raged whilst looking at my ceiling for hours about how I'm just laying there, looking at the ceiling, feeling not very much.
I have raged about the suicidal political scene I am growing up in.

And it's helped.

I guess it's the Christian upbringing; the only Jesus I ever really got on with was the version not often talked about in popular Christian circles today, the one who threw tables and hated injustice. I always felt a little more similarity with that Jesus.

I am increasingly a fan of righteous anger, often I feel I've nodded my head when inside I'm rejected everything someone is saying. And believe me, there's nothing that drives you more than a righteous anger.

My head is still a mess, but I'm picking myself back up again, and going again.
Doubtless I'll trip over my shoelaces soon enough, but the hope is that I'll fail just that bit further along the line next time.

I guess I'm bored of nodding along. I feel like I'll nod along, then eventually nod off, and that's not what I want my legacy to be.

"Joe Stockley - good at nodding" is a crap epitaph.