Campaign Bootcamp Part 2

Disclaimer: there won’t be much about the actual bootcamp day in this post.

So some time has passed since my post about anxiety and how it was affecting my time here at Campaign Bootcamp. Straight after that post and a nice reassuring chat with my friends Tara and Lucy, a lovely lady named MJ brought out her ukulele. For those of you that know me, you know exactly how much I love my ukulele and music in general. It relaxes me in my mind and body and gives me confidence like no other object or activity could.

I know I’m not a professional musician. I’m not a professional singer. But when you give me a guitar or ukulele it seems to transform me into a performer and a character. It turns me into a musical parody of myself and one that I wish I could be without my instruments.

It’s partly because I’m doing something I love. It’s partly because it makes people smile. Every time I perform in front of people I’m terrified, no matter who I’m with or where I am but the instruments put a physical barrier between me and the people. It’s like a reliable friend that has transformed into a musical instrument. It’s not just a tool for me, it’s a safety net and a trustworthy companion.

It might sound strange that a ukulele or guitar could be so important to me. In fact it is strange. But it’s a way for me to relax, collect my thoughts and give me confidence. This confidence may not last long but it’s a huge step for me to feel that good all the time. It helped me really connect and open up to people and it hopefully put a few smiles on their faces too. Music connects people in a way that can’t be matched. Even those who “aren’t musical” can create and participate in music in so many ways.

This evening has proven that music is a powerful tool. I sang with a lot of people, people sang together, we did a song from Kenya, songs from London, songs from Australia and the states. Music is truly universal and the most powerful tool for unity.

A

Campaign Bootcamp

So for the last two days and for the next four, Campaign Bootcamp is my life. It’s an intensive week long campaign training course. It’s not a cheap thing to do but luckily I managed to get a scholarship to get on the course which means I didn’t have to pay a thing!

Around 225 people applied. People from all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, genders and even countries have applied and I was one of the 35 people to be selected to be on the course. It’s an amazing group of people who are campaigning and working all across the sector from climate change to immigration. From youth work to positive money. The range
of people who are here is astounding and the skills and knowledge they have is not only impressive, but humbling and somewhat intimidating too.

Luckily everyone is remarkably nice which means that my perception of intimidation from them is all down to my own mindset. For those of you who know me well will know that I kind of hate making new friends and it really does make me feel extremely anxious. As I’m typing this, I’ve briefly retired to my bedroom to listen to music and to relax and calm my nerves. It does almost feel like a shame at the moment that I’m not making the most of the social opportunities here but I’m hoping that my anxiety will subside over the next few days and I can overcome my fear of meeting people!

Day one was all about getting to know one another and trying to make us feel a little more comfortable around each other. While I know that I can chat to people without them turning me away my own nerves and anxiety are currently preventing me from doing so. To a lot of people it’s really easy to just strike up a conversation with people and click with them but for me I find it infinitely more difficult! I have of course spoken to people in group activities and when they talk to me but I have been finding it really tough to approach people, especially since my most recent breakdown. That has left me in a particularly anxious and delicate state but I’m determined to make the most of my opportunity here and not let anxiety hold me back.

Today was day 2 and was all about strategy. It was a very up and down day, my mood was pretty low coming into the day and again, it’s made the social side of things really difficult. I learned plenty and heard a seriously inspiring story from a lady about her experience of surviving a forced marriage and how she dealt with her own depression and anxiety and turned that into various campaigns and powerful articles. What a lady!

My main take away from this so far is that my anxiety is currently debilitating and in turn is greatly affecting my depression but I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t ruin my week. I just have to keep reminding myself of the pride that I have that I made it on to the course, the importance of why I’m here and the appreciation for the opportunity. Don’t waste this opportunity, brain.

A

P.S. Look how nice this place is when it’s sunny!

Mental Health Awareness Week

So this week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and it felt like a good time for me to get back into the bloggosphere, even just for this one post. It’s been nearly two months since my last post on here and the reasons for that are various.

Life has been hectic. Lots has been going on, good and bad! And so I thought it would be a good chance to tell you all about all the things that have been going on with my mental health. So I’m going to write about the good, the bad, the achievements and the setbacks.

The Good

I’ve had lots of good things happen the last few months and I’ve been able to get a lot done. I’ve achieved a lot and am generally feeling really proud of myself. Work is going great, I’m really getting my name out there and getting s*** done!
I’ve spent the last few months trying to get my life on track and I’ve been doing my very best to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to do more things by myself which I’d always struggled with. For example, I went to the cinema by myself for the first time ever. It might sound stupid and it might be a bit weird but I did it! It wasn’t easy though. I had to invest a lot of time and effort into it. 
First thing I had to do was spend money. I booked the ticket online in advance, VIP seating, 3D screening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also went out to get some food an hour before the screening started. 
The next thing I had to do was tell people I was doing it! Once I’d told people I was going to go, I felt like I had to go. Backing out was no longer an option! 
The last thing I had to do was compose myself! After having eaten my meal I went into the cinema and very nearly had a panic attack so I had to compose myself. I just tried to think about the mission. 
I made it through and saw the film, beat my anxiety and ended up having a really good day. Don’t get me wrong I left the cinema feeling very shaken and completely overwhelmed but once it all sunk in, I’m really proud that I made it through that day!

I’ve also done a lot of stuff on Instagram with the #cheerupchallenge. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, my #cheerupchallenge is a series of posts highlighting all the things that I do to keep my mood up. If you’d like to follow the journey just follow me on Instagram @alexquang or click the link at the top of the page in the social media section!

The Bad

My mood has been undoubtedly lower than usual however my mental health in general has been a lot better! I can’t figure out a reason why my mood is lower but there are a few contributing factors. 
There’s been lots going on with my family which has contributed to my mood dipping. Lots of my family have been having troubles. My aunt is ill and my gran took a tumble and I’ve been doing what I can to help out. 
As a result of my lowered mood and family commitments, I’ve been seeing my friends less which again has a massive impact on my mood! Hopefully I’ll be better soon, with more free time and be able to go up to see the gang in Newcastle and of course those a little closer to home! 🙂 
Unfortunately also, I’ve been able to make good on the idea for my #OnYourMind project. It’s something I’d definitely like to come back to soon but at the moment, I’m not able to manage the idea as well as I’d hoped (hence the much simpler #cheerupchallenge). If you would like to help out though and contribute/organise, any help would be appreciated. Just email me at alexquang1@gmail.com! 

Overall

All in all, it’s been a mixed month. Right now I’m feeling a bit down but my mood overall and my resilience and ability to deal with my depression and anxiety has increased massively! I’m productive, able to pull myself up a lot easier and a lot less likely to fall into a deep depression. All the hard work seems to be paying off! 
If you’re interested about mental health and have any questions, by all means drop me a line and ask away! I can’t guarantee a clear answer as the topic is very rarely clear but I’m more than happy to share my story, the things that worry me most and how I cope. 
Alternatively if you need more structured help check out the sites below, find your local mental health services and counsellors or visit your local A&E if you’re fearing for yours or someone else’s life. 
A

#CheerUpChallenge

So I wrote in my recent post that I’ve set myself a challenge to cheer up. It’s imaginatively called the #cheerupchallenge.

I’ve spent a long long time figuring out what kinds of things make me happy. It’s a brilliant combination of music, fantasy, food and friends. Have a little look see at some of my posts so far and set yourself a little challenge to keep your mood up! 🙂

I don’t want to make this post too long as it’s going to be 99% pictures chronicling my quest to get better so I hope you enjoy and please feel free to give me a follow on Instagram (@alexquang) and leave a comment/like/share! 🙂

View this post on Instagram

Got myself some treats today as a little retail therapy. I've been so run down today I've broken out in some very painful stress spots so I thought I'd get some sunglasses to cover up parts of my face and some new cologne so I can at least smell nice! Lots of people forget that men can have anxiety about their looks too. It's something that I'm trying to be more open about but it's seriously tough. These things take time, energy and guts. Hopefully if I'm more open about it in future it'll encourage other men to do the same. Men are judged by society if they open up about their emotions and feelings but I say bollocks to that. #depression #anxiety #mentalhealth #therapy #cheerupchallenge #bodyimage

A post shared by Alex Quang (@alexquang) on

This is why I work!

So once again I’ve failed to keep on top of the blog. It’s been a hectic few weeks and I’ve been up and down and round and round.

I thought I’d write a little post about work this time. I’m sitting in my hotel in Derry, Northern Ireland after a ridiculously long but rewarding day which has reminded me why I do the job I do. I went around three groups in Northern Ireland today, across three different organisations and facilitated by a fourth and spoke with a lot of young people about their project ideas and how they can apply for funding.

Most of the groups started out extremely shy, reserved and probably very nervous. There they are doing their daily thing, when a random guy from London struts in to talk to them. After a few minutes though, they started to open up about their ideas and JEEZ! They weren’t only good ideas, they were BIG ideas. The young person that impressed me the most though, was a young lady of 8. She was by far the youngest one there and even though she’s too young to apply for funding herself, the group that she was part of wouldn’t have been able to come up with their ideas without her. Time and time again throughout the hour and a bit that I was with them she came up with idea after idea and blew all of us away. It was clear that none of them had ever seen this side to her and she’s clearly destined to go far.

She got the group enthused and excited about the ideas that they were talking about. All three groups had amazing ideas but hers were by far the best and they came from such an amazing, teeny tiny package.

By the end of the day I’d met three groups of incredible people all eager to work with me to develop their projects. Days like this get me excited and enthused about working in this sector and getting other young people confident enough to take up the opportunities that I was lucky enough to have. I’ve seen and experienced first hand the power that volunteering can have on a person’s confidence, life skills, professional development and career prospects. I’m just excited to be able to spread a little of that in my job and wherever I go. I only hope that others like you reading this right now have the same experience I’ve had in your own lives and careers.

A

You’re Only As Good As The Company You Keep


With the recent happenings in my life I’ve been very aware of the people that I surround myself with. I’ve recently started uploading songs I’ve written and had a really nice response from my friends. Alongside this I was also featured in a video for vInspired that you can watch here. Again the response and reaction I received was fantastic.

It made me think though, my story isn’t unique. It’s not exceptional. It’s a story that I share with so many incredible people albeit with a few details changed.  Today, I’m going to mention very briefly some of the people who inspire me most.

First of all, Kate. A good friend of mine, surprisingly I haven’t her known that long but it feels like I’ve known her for years. Also you may well have seen some videos of us singing together online. She suffers with ME but not once have I heard her complain about it. Instead she works tirelessly (and often to the point of making herself ill) to help others. She’s putting packs together for parents of severely I’ll children, she’s a top class dance teacher and she mentors. These are just a few of the things she does. Well played, kupkake.

Danielle, another close friend who is not only one of the smartest people I know, but the most thoughtful, kind and ethical people I know. She recently secured a job with an amazing charity in Newcastle. Besides that she constantly supports me to be better, more confident and for some reason finds my bad jokes funny. If I could have half the brains you have, I’d be a happy chappy!

Victoria is a close friend of mine who not only inspires me by regularly overcoming the things that make her feel most awkward. She’s got the brains and the guts to do things that scare her and for me, that gives me the strength and courage to challenge myself and do things I’d otherwise never do.

Naomi is another one of my closest friends who battles through everything with gusto! She’s the person who taught me that even when things go wrong you have no choice but to battle through it. If you don’t do that, if you just give in, how will you be able to help those who depend on you?

Pete 1. My previous boss and the gent who gave me real world experience of helping people. Sustained goodness that is still going on now. I was but a mere cog in a complicated machine of organising but I was always made to feel like the most important cog. I was taught, supported, guided and mentored and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the time this man invested in me. Check out Citizens UK for more info on what the organisation does.

Pete 2 moved down here recently from Newcastle to gain more access to theatre and work. Let’s face it, moving to an entirely new city takes guts. Not only that, but Pete is one of those people who just exudes friendliness. I challenge you not to love the guy.

Rob, my bae. Another man who moved down here for work. In his dream job for a year. GUTS. Also one of the people who you don’t have to pretend around. He taught me to loosen up a little and enjoy life a little more.

Zahrah. Old 6th form classmate who I fell out of touch with until she got in touch about the work I was doing. Now she works at vinspired and is kicking arse there. Zahrah teaches me every day to just be real. Do what you need to do and love whatever that is. No one is as real as kiwi.

These are just some of the MANY people who inspire me. These are some of the people who make me a better person and I’m so thankful for it. Don’t forget to notice those around you and how they impact your life in a positive way. I wish I could list more but this is already an insanely long post. Make sure you appreciate those around you. They are the people who help shape the person that you are.

A

Pillars of Friendship

There are several things that I consider to be essential to a good friendship. Some of which I’m good at, some of which, admittedly, I suck at. There are also loads of things that I think we should all be getting out of our friendships and I think I’m really lucky to have friends who stick by me and I get so much from, despite occasionally being a bit rubbish. Hopefully I’m able to give back a little as well!

In terms of the things that we should all be giving to our friends below are my most important.

1. Time

Give your friends a bit of time whenever you can and a lot of time when you’re able. Friendship is a give and take and it’s always going to be tough when you’re working, volunteering, studying etc. but it’s worth it. Time is something that we all feel like we’re short of but for the people that are most important to us we need to make a conscious effort to make time. This admittedly is something I’m a bit rubbish at. I work quite a few evenings and weekends and volunteer a lot of my spare time. I’ve recently been trying to make more of an effort to see people I love and if not see them, at the very least text or call them to let them know I’m thinking of them!

2. Energy

Energy is something that I lack generally. A normal day takes it out of me completely and by the time I’m done at work I just want to sleep. However, I forget that whenever I see the people I love spending time with, it gives me energy. No matter how tired and miserable I feel my friends give me energy and hopefully I do the same for them! 🙂

3. Support

Whether it’s support with a particular topic, or support with a piece of work or even just supporting the fact that they hate that celebrity for wearing odd socks, supporting your friends is important. When your friends really need your support, try to help in any way you can. After all, you only get what you give and when the time comes where you need support, it’s always nice to have someone in your corner. 

4. Appreciation

Being grateful for your friends is key. Don’t take them for granted and assume that they’re always going to be around. Appreciate the little things they do for you. The random texts just to see how you are, the stupid un-funny in jokes which somehow make you cry with laughter. Don’t just appreciate what they do internally though. Let them know that you appreciate what they do for you. Whether it’s by subtle little gestures like buying them a coffee or a little gift or just by awkwardly telling them outright “I appreciate you”. If you do that without blinking, eyes wide as possible, looking them dead in the eye and smiling showing all your teeth, they’ll love it. Trust me.
It’s all swings and roundabouts. You only get what you give. What goes around, comes around. These principles apply to family, friends and everything in life. I chose to apply these four things to friends though as today is the day I’m feeling extremely grateful for the people in my life. I’m a very lucky guy and I really do appreciate the people I have in my life. 
A

A Glorious Return

So I’ve been experiencing some pretty awful writers block recently which may be a result of my recent panic attacks and dip in mood. However, I’m feeling significantly better now and I’m keen to get back on the blogging scene!

I’m very lucky to have had a really good week and been able to do the things which often lift me out of my funk. I even managed to socialise four times in one week! Tuesday night I went up to Newcastle to stay at some friends new flat before they headed down to London for graduation. On Wednesday night I went for dinner with an old friend in Newcastle. I went for a lovely dinner with people I volunteer with/volunteered with on Thursday and got the worlds messiest burger. Friday I managed to head out with some more old and new volunteering buddies for a chilled out evening in a nice bar by work. Good food, drink and company. What more could I want? I also had a really great week at work, speaking to hundreds of young people about running their own community projects and receiving some fantastic feedback from the event organisers. This set me up for a dynamite weekend.

So far this weekend, I’ve been writing songs, rewriting old songs, listening to music, playing music, singing along with music and reading about music. It’s been a pretty music fuelled Saturday. But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, music is something which I love, something which makes me feel better all the time no matter how low I’m feeling.

All the songs that I write though, aren’t just to cheer me up. I always try to write songs for people who might also be going through a rough time and need cheering up. Besides music and friends, the thing that always cheers me up the most is knowing that I’ve made someone happy, made someone smile and helped to change someone’s mood for the better.

As some of my Facebook friends know and some of my twitter followers know, I’ve uploaded a few of my songs for people to have a gander at. I received some really nice feedback saying that I managed to put a smile on faces. This was pretty ace for me. My mood was dipping, my body and mind were exhausted, but the fact that I managed to make my friends smile with the music I created means that I was able to combine the three things that cheer me up the most.

If you don’t believe that cheering someone up will make you feel better about yourself, your mood and life in general, I challenge you to give it a try. And just a bit of shameless plugging, please find the three songs I uploaded just below. Right there. If you’re having a bit of a lousy Saturday, hopefully I’ll be able to brighten it up for you! Enjoy, smile and have a good weekend.

A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Fjci_OX2Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDP0CDO4UsU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RarOWXqrWTQ

The Three Amigos – Journey to the Best

So, what the hell do I want to do with my life?
I’m Jade and this is my story so far…

Having spent four years at university studying Music Performance, I thought it was a complete waste of time and money. I love music and believed that university was the only way to get into that industry. But when I wrote my dissertation I thought “hang on, I just proved to myself that I could get into the industry without doing a degree”. I spoke to lots of people in the industry, the majority of whom got to where they want to be without getting a degree first. I had to go through my degree to realise that this wasn’t the only way to get to where I want to be. I’ve spoken to loads of people who have been trying to get into the industry, they asked me how I got the job at the Think Big Hub and I really wanted to tell them that degrees aren’t the only way to get into the creative industries. It really gets me aggy thinking about it!

As long as you’re passionate, are willing to volunteer and  get the unpaid experience, it gets you so much further than if you just have a piece of paper. No one has ever asked me for that piece of paper. Unless you absolutely need a degree to go into a career you should consider alternatives. I’m not knocking university, I learned a lot about myself there and it was great for me on a personal development level, but career-wise, not so much. I did also get a lot of events experience there, which I may not have got my current job without. I have thoroughly mixed feelings about university. Degrees prove a certain type of intelligence. Lots of people are viewed as stupid if they don’t go to university, but people forget about the other types of intelligence. For example, hard work, grafting and moving up the scale.

Now that I’ve got some experience in the events industry it’s helped me a lot as it’s helped me get experience to move on to start a career rather than just looking for jobs. After however many years of “education” it took this 4 month internship to help me narrow down exactly what I’d like to do. I always knew I wanted to work with music but this has confirmed my choices for me.

So, Anisa, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, I spent a whole year applying for uni and from age 5 I always thought that I wanted to go to uni to study maths. About two weeks before results day (or D-day) I sat down with my family who told me “you don’t have to go to university if you don’t want to”. In that split second I decided that I didn’t want to go which was really strange for me as I thought I’d always wanted to go. From then my plan of action was to look for apprenticeships and jobs but a lot of the jobs I was looking at required lots of office experience, so I decided to go for an apprenticeship. On results day I realised that I could have got into uni and I declined my uni place. I was a bit upset but I thought I could pay £18k for uni or I could spend time earning that money.

I got a call from Future UnLtd telling me that they had an opportunity for me, within a week after that, I had an interview with them and then another with Think Big and I found out that I had an apprenticeship. This was all really fast paced and from the 3rd of September I started with Think Big as a business admin apprentice. No one expected me to get an apprenticeship that quickly, myself included. It was a fantastic boost for me and my own confidence.

The youth sector wasn’t ever a path I expected to take but it’s given me experience in different sectors and while I’ve been set in my ways to go into corporate and mathematics, but this has made me an all rounder. I’m going to finish my apprenticeship and see how it comes. Things are always changing. Myself included.

So, Alex, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, my life has had a series of twists, turns and unexpected events. I followed my family’s wishes and went through the education system. I was awful in my A-Levels and ended up having to do an extra year in college. Eventually I got into university and went to Birmingham City for a year. I hated it. I left and ended up training as a chef for a year. While I was working and studying, I volunteered.

This was a turning point for me. I have suffered with depression for a long long time and volunteering helped me and is still helping me recover. I fell in love with the sector and was lucky enough to volunteer with a gent named Pete and eventually got the job I’m in now.

It’s a short version of my story, but I’ll upload my full story of self soon. Much like Anisa and Jade, I never intended to work in the sector. Unlike them both, this, at the moment, looks like the sector I want to stay in. Experience is what I want, returning to my previous role in community organising as a full time employee is what I’m hoping for one day once I build up my resilience, experience and knowledge.

A big thanks to Jade and Anisa for joining me on the ol’ bloggosphere today! #Collaboration #TeamworkMakesTheDreamWork #DreamTeam

The Power of Positive People

I’m currently still buzzing from going to see Paolo Nutini in Newcastle last night with two extremely inspirational women and felt the urge to write a blog post. Obviously I’ve mentioned multiple times about the love that I have for music and gigs etc. so I’m not going to write too much about that again. Instead I want to have a little natter about people.

One of the greatest gifts I ever received from volunteering was the people that I met along the way. Some of them have become colleagues, some have become my closest friends and others have unfortunately disappeared from my life, but everyone has taught me something about myself and about the work that we do and why it’s so important. Besides the learning that I get from my peers, friends, family and colleagues, the main thing that I’ve gained from a lot of them has been health.

People often underestimate the power of positivity and how important it is to surround yourself with people who can help keep you positive. Some of the people I used to acquaint myself with felt a constant sense of entitlement, a belief that they were destined for great things, but another belief that they shouldn’t have to work for it. All that they thought about was what they didn’t have and trying to understand why they didn’t have it.

The people who I’m closest to now couldn’t be more different. I’ve cut negativity out of my life as much as possible and it’s brought me along so much. The people I know now are people that I admire greatly for so many reasons. For one, they’re people that just care so much about making the lives of people around them better. They work tirelessly to make sure the people they love are as happy as humanly possible. I’ve spent a couple of days with a family who inspire me constantly with their unity, strength and drive to make the most of their lives and the cards that they’ve been dealt.

Another reason I am constantly in awe of most of the people I know now is that they’re grateful for every little thing in their lives and it really is the little things that make a huge difference. A nice cup of tea, a bit of time with family and friends, a nice walk along the river. They’re appreciative of having a roof over their heads and having food on the table. They take nothing for granted.

The third thing that I’m so happy about is that the people I know, know that praise is an incredible tool to lift someone out of a slump. Praise is something that is earned and shouldn’t be doled out any old time. However, when it has been earned and when it is deserved, it shouldn’t be awkward to dish it out. This blog post is praise to all the people I know, respect and love and hopefully you should know if this applies to you.

Respect – another thing that must be earned. It’s hard to earn but so so easy to lose. However, I treat everyone I meet with respect even if I don’t respect them. Everyone should be given a chance to earn respect. People make mistakes, it’s human nature, it’s how you learn from your mistakes and how you deal with them that earns respect. No one is perfect, not even the people I respect the most, but they can acknowledge that in themselves and others and that’s so important. If I struggle to respect someone I struggle to talk to them and I struggle massively to keep in touch with them.

The thing I love most about the people I’ve surrounded myself with is all of these things and more. Their resilience, passion, hard work and general being good fun, fill me with positivity every time I see them, makes me a better person and keeps my mood up which believe me can be tough. All I have to do now is try to pass on the positivity to others.

To close, I’d encourage everyone to consider this little quote.

“Don’t be a drain, be a radiator”

If this baffles you a little bit I’ll leave these here too.
Radiators – People who give out warmth, kindness, love, honesty, positivity, energy, enthusiasm and all the good things which people need and respond to.
Drains – People who are negative, downbeat, suck the energy out of others and don’t like themselves.

A