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Life is Long, if you Know How to Use It

A good travel buddy of mine introduced me to Stoicism a few years ago and ever since I’ve started dipping my toe into various other philosophers’ writings. Lately, I’ve been reading Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It. The title itself was enough to rattle me, let alone the content inside. It’s a tiny book small enough to fit in your back pocket, yet it’s filled with punchy observations that splash yo ur face with a proverbial bucket of icy water and make you think: Thank God I picked this up now, before it’s too late.

Like most stoic philosophers, Seneca cuts to the chase. He doesn’t sugarcoat any aspect of how we humans take our liberties with this gift most of the time. The Stoics think very pragmatically, logically, in a detached fashion, which is perhaps how they’ve gained a pejorative reputation of being emotionless – when in reality emotions don’t have anything to do with their beliefs at all. In this book in particular, Seneca asks the difficult questions of why we waste so much of our time, knowing that we really are only here for a brief moment, because it could end at any second. And stripped of semantics, it is as simple as that.

One quote which inspired me to write this was: Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die’ (p. 10).

At one point, he uses the adjective ‘arrogant’, which threw me too. But I found that I agreed: We really are a bunch of arrogant humans to believe that we are all going to live ’til our mid-80s. When Seneca attaches the ego to our mortality in this context, it is very sobering indeed. Because supposing that you’re going to live to see your old age as a given is actually a very bold claim, isn’t it? Assuming that you are going to Iive out a long life with your family and friends is quite ridiculous, and yes, arrogant isn’t it? What Seneca is saying with this particular adjective is that no one on this planet is guaranteed anything, so how egotistical is it to assume that you will live out a long, full life? That you or one of your loved ones, may not die tomorrow or next week? This isn’t a dig on anyone’s sense of morality, but an earnest observation.

To live in such an abstract future so as to miss your entire life because you believe that your life will last forever – you will end up missing out on all of the truly beautiful moments: talking on the phone to your Grandpa, cooking with your mother, conversations in the car after your dad’s picked you up from the station, listening to the radio with your grandmother. All of those precious moments – because your loved ones are here and still alive – seem meaningless and even boring when we think everyone we love is immortal.

Seneca, like the above thought, is quite a savage, but to sum this up:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last… You will hear many people saying: ‘When I am fifty I shall retire into leisure; when I am sixty I shall give up public duties.’ And what guarantee do you have of a longer life?”

This is the chief point he is getting at here: we are so attached to the idea that  – unconsciously – we believe that and behave as if we exist in the future, that the present is worthless. We are so preoccupied with the longevity of life that we forget completely that we could die at any given moment. Someone you love could drop dead of a freak aneurysm in the next five minutes; a close friend could be hit by a drunk driver next week; maybe a colleague is suffering from a fatal heart attack right this second – and the list goes on. It’s a terrible tragedy that we humans don’t realise is a tragedy until it’s too late – and ain’t that just the way of human nature? Seneca couldn’t have said it any better when he notes that ‘the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over’ (p. 14).

The main problem here is that we do this unconsciously – we assume, we bank on, we rely on, we believe that our life will last ‘forever’. But while this is an arrogant act, we don’t consciously attach this ego to our mortality; we don’t maliciously live our lives with this recklessness because we can (although, some do). We are just naive to the shortness of life and indeed, to the simplicity of it all. We want to protect ourselves by believing that we are safe, because we have so much time. But once that lightbulb pings on, we realise that actually, we have no time at all – it isn’t possible. As a classic example of irony, it’s at that moment when your days and moments begin to expand, each second becoming richer than the last, when you realise the gravity of your mortality. 

This idea links to another stoic mantra Memento Mori – which roughly translates to ‘meditate on your mortality’ – remember that you or any of your loved ones will eventually die. As morbid as it sounds, it is sobering as hell. It may sound depressing, but meditating on this fact every day instils a great load of gratitude. Said phone calls with your grandpa are suddenly worth more than any nugget of gold on this planet; those interactions with your grandma on Facebook are one of the most precious things on earth; a simple text message from your mother asking what you’d like for dinner is enough to burst your heart. Because you know that they – including you – could go at any moment. And thus, you take none of it – the previously mundane, even annoying things – for granted.

And when you are that present, not stuck in the future, your life becomes the beautiful 3-dimensional piece of art it has always been. Seneca says that we are too busy ‘arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in ours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately’ (p.13). As soon as you abandon the anxiety attached to living in the future, you will start living: really living.

So (within reason) live as if you may die tomorrow, love as if you may lose your close ones at any moment – because life is long, if you know how to use it and as Seneca says: ‘our lifetime extends amply if you manage it properly’. 

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Ditching Planxiety or: How to Start Living

Sometimes I have moments where an idea will pop into my head out of nowhere and on the train the other day, that happened to my pleasant surprise. Catching myself getting stuck in the future, as I often do, the term ‘Planxiety’ came to me and I laughed to myself and thought: Is that ridiculous? But then I thought, actually, maybe not. 

How often have you found yourself daydreaming or worrying about what might happen, making plans, finding yourself anxious about not knowing what’s going to happen and getting lost in endless hypothetical situations? (No? Just me? Kay.)

The answer for me is countless times. While some people find themselves deeply entrenched in their past decisions and experiences (a place I can often find myself too), I find myself unconsciously floating off into another dimension of possibility which isn’t even real. When you think about that, it’s a bit mad isn’t it? Why am I spending so much time and expending so much mental energy on something abstract that isn’t even real yet? Even the past isn’t technically real anymore, it’s been and gone. Nevertheless, I realise now that this being stuck in the future is fundamentally a self-soothing tactic. It’s our overprotective brains trying to ready ourselves for any potential threats by predicting potential scenarios or outcomes, but man, it’s exhausting being stuck in the land of ‘What If?’. And on the flip-side, as the great John Mayer says: “I can’t keep running after yesterday.” 

After having read and studied Eckhart Tolle’s massively acclaimed book The Power of Now, it blew my mind how he was able to simplify our anxieties as humans in such a stripped-back way. He discusses the present moment and how if we can tune into it more and more, it will change our lives. And his viewpoints on this certainly shook up my own perspectives and allowed me to feel more grounded by the day, rather than floating up with the clouds of the past or the future. 

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment | Eckhart Tolle |  9780340733509 | agreatread.co.uk
This book may change your life. No pressure tho.

He explains how all of our anxieties that we feel or create live either in the past or the future, what he calls ‘psychological time’ as opposed to ‘real time’. If you are completely connected to the present moment – that is, really feeling where you are right now, being so aware that you almost feel electric, really seeing your surroundings – all of those anxieties will simply dissolve. There have been a few clashes with Tolle’s logic, which I can understand – obviously this doesn’t apply to you if you’re in the middle of a car crash or something else immediately traumatic; any anxiety experienced in that particular present moment isn’t going to dissolve, quite the opposite, so you have to take his thoughts with a handful of salt (especially the spiritual jargon). But the premise of his theory is quite hard-hitting like a splash of cold water to the face:

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”

When I read this quote for the first time, I had to reread it several times. Time… is an illusion? Time is an illusion. Damn. It’s something we’ve entirely made up as a species. The only that really exists is what’s here right now. So why should anything else (future anxieties, past regrets, anything keeping us stuck) even matter?

Once I’d digested this idea, I went for a walk to chew on it even more, putting his words into practice. To really feel what it was like to ‘be’ present or to just ‘be’. Leading up to that point, I thought it was just a load of self-help nonsense and didn’t really understand the concept at all, in fact, I resisted it entirely. 

But then I absorbed this book so much that what I’m about to say will actually sound a bit bonkers, so perhaps take it with a wheelbarrow of salt: I felt like I could actually see for the first time. When I immersed myself in the present on this walk, I noticed the detail of the leaves on the trees, the grooves in the buildings, the textures of the brick houses, the curves of the roads; I felt that electric feeling of being ‘alive’ – and yes, I was completely sober. Perhaps that was my first taste of transcendental meditation? Or freedom from tired, old thought loops? Or perhaps someone slipped something into my vegan sausage roll that morning? Who knows. 

That feeling was calming and grounding, so I tried to do this more and more every day – which is not as easy as it seems. But lo and behold, my Planxiety did begin to subside and it really did dissolve when I tuned into where I was at that moment, when I realised the distant future didn’t matter, because it simply wasn’t real. And what can be more important, more precious, more real than what is right here in front of us, right now? We could be wiped out by a comet in the next ten minutes and we’d never know, so what a tragedy it would be to know that we’ve wasted our lives in a universe that doesn’t even exist yet. Indeed, Eckhart writes:

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”

So whenever I catch myself with classic symptoms of Planxiety – worrying, mostly, about future plans, events, relationships, life path, career stuff, read: ANYTHING – I pull myself back down to earth like a humble helium balloon by just looking around me, noticing what’s happening, or not, and in truth, getting a little spaced out by it. But once you find that space, you will realise how ridiculous the human condition is and how much joy and freedom exists in the here and now. As soon as you can make that distinction, it’ll lighten the load of whatever you’ve been fretting about, because most likely, while it may have been once or may potentially be in the future, it isn’t even real! *Insert mind-blown emoji here*

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Detaching from Goals: If you want Something, Let it Go

If you want something, let it go. How many times have we heard iterations of that phrase in modern rom-coms? Too many. Turns out, I discovered recently, that it applies to life as well. Once more, I am unashamedly applying trashy movie premises to my life and just as unashamedly benefitting from them. And I’d like to share my latest nugget of rose-tinted wisdom that I stumbled upon the other day with you. After all, I’m just a girl standing in front of an abstract audience asking for them to get on board with my cheesy logic.

Many, if not all, of us have goals in life. No matter where on the spectrum they lie, we generally want to achieve something, whether that’s acquiring a new job, losing a stone, obtaining your driving licence or simply getting out of bed in the morning. Some people amble through life without having a specific purpose and that’s totally ok, too.

As a society, we’ve been prescribed with the notion that goals come with intense hard work. Constant focus. No distractions. A path that is saturated with black and white absolutes. If we swerve off that path, because, life happens, then we suck. We’re not that committed, we’re worthless, why did we even bother trying in the first place? We have been led to believe, through consuming whatever countless mediums exist, that attaching to a goal in this way is the only way to achieve relative success. 

But what if this same attachment is the very reason we are failing and stumbling all those countless times? I’m gonna come at you with a quote from the great Buddha himself, which you totally knew was coming…

The root of all attachment is suffering.”

Now I’m closer to being a stack of pancakes than a Buddhist, but I know something that makes sense when I see it. This is taken from the second of the four Noble Truths, which he came upon after meditating under a tree for a long ass time – all four Noble Truths form the essence that is Buddhism and for now we’ll stick with this one. 

What is attachment? Why is it so bad? It’s probably only something you’d associate with an infant and their mother, when in reality many adults are sleepwalking around on this planet attached to all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily good for them. Many of us are attached to toxic relationships, destructive routines, old tired habits, limiting beliefs and a consequently low self-esteem, religion, politics, drugs/food/alcohol – basically all of the stuff that keeps us stuck in dissatisfaction in our lives. And yes, that list includes goals! 

Attachment in its rawest form is the identification with something, something that you tie your self-worth to, that serves what you believe to be your purpose, even if, and especially if it’s not good for you. If you attach yourself to the idea that you’re just a lazy person and you won’t achieve anything in life, then you have identified with being a sluggish underachiever. You have accepted that’s who you are, when that may not be the case at all. Under that attachment may lie a whole host of ambitions that you can’t access because you’re so identified with being a couch potato. But even if that attachment is toxic, it feels secure, it feels safe, it feels predictable. And thus, those old patterns and routines persist, because you’re more attached to them than the unfamiliarity of being free of who you have believed yourself to be til now.

So what happens when you detach? How does one even do this ‘detachment’?

Take for instance an example from yours truly. I’d quit my job in June to go freelance and had that rough goal in mind. I didn’t necessarily have any plans to get any gigs, I just gave myself the month off before I planned to start the dreaded application process. In that month, I’d landed myself not one, but two, incredible gigs for someone starting out as a freelancer. I hadn’t sent in a single job application anywhere and somehow they landed right in my lap. I’d detached from the goal of getting some, if any, work at all and in the process just let life happen – and what d’you know, I got more than I originally bargained for. Previously, when looking for work, I’d get up at ridiculous hours in the morning, spend so much time on job applications, fret over the status of them, be let down when I’d get rejected and continue that lethal loop of application overload. I was too attached to the idea of getting a specific role and with that, probably ruining my chances of getting to the next stage at all.

With attachment comes so much pressure that we put on ourselves. We rely on said attachments (to jobs, to people, to habits, to things) because they provide a false sense of security. But when we detach, though it’s scary not having that concrete/abstract ‘thing’ to identify with, even if the outcome isn’t as desired, we can make peace with that because our worth wasn’t in any way tied to it. Now I’m not saying forget your ambitions, goals or intentions completely, by detaching this doesn’t mean you are abandoning your precious mission – on the contrary. By detaching, you still have a rough manifestation of what you want – it’s simply more abstract, more futuristic than immediate, but very much still there. But rather than pinning all of your hopes and dreams on said goal(s), you instead surrender to letting the process happen and all those doubts and inner criticisms suddenly become white noise. All you have to do is get comfortable with not knowing the outcomes of something, but that’s a post for another day. 

So whether you’re trying to master a yoga pose, learn a new language, try a new sport, cook somebody a new recipe, foster better habits in your life, buy a house, drink more water every day, whatever it is – try detaching from that goal and watch as that resistance dissolves, as the pressure is taken off you and then how those results will flow to you as organically as water does down a stream.

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Organic Creativity and Rest

Creativity is one of the most misunderstood concepts around. 

Most of us think of it as being a wonderful gift bestowed on some of us, through a passive-aggressive, neon pink-tinted lens. While it is certainly a gift – to be able to paint, to create music, to write screenplays, to make art and more – it’s far more a messy battle than a wonderful carefree journey as it’s generally perceived to be.

You may have heard creativity as the chronic artist’s struggle, a trade-off for having a life, a constant uphill internal conflict to wrestle with inner demons and such. I think these are absolutely true to the journey of making sense of the world through your own eyes by means of artistic creation. Despite the emotional pain that comes with it (and is more often than not triggered by it), this is said to all be the most noble part of the process – the self-sacrifice, the excruciating jabs to the self-esteem and generally the existential crisis that so very often accompanies any artistic endeavour. 

But what we don’t talk about enough in the artistic/creative world is organic creativity and rest. 

There’s a misconception that in order to be a successful creative, you have to then be constantly creating. Every day. No days off. Just do it. It’s that simple, right? You’ve been blessed with this talent, to not use it every day is to throw it back in everyone’s face. Right? 

Lord, no! This toxic mindset may work well to motivate you physically or with general discipline in life. But absolutely not can this be applied to the creative process.

The creative process is messy, is beautiful, is complex and is a timid creature. It must be approached gently, with compassion, with a tender curiosity. When you are in that creative space and you are generating ideas, feeling inspired and bursting with colour, it really is a beautiful place to be. Your inner child has never felt more seen, you have never felt more understood, more comfortable with expressing your deepest feelings through your art. But if you flip over onto the other side of the coin and you aren’t in that space, even the thought of creating anything, let alone creating anything at all, can be the worst kind of pain – not the noble pain of self-sacrifice, but the pain of just feeling completely at sea. 

When you force creativity when you aren’t in that organic place of inspiration, you’re essentially going deeper into the dark forest, getting more and more lost. Your projects become ego-driven, your thoughts become saturated with self-loathing and full of stories that you aren’t good enough and that you should just give up entirely. And that’s the most painful part of it all. If everyone had given up on their art, can you imagine how bleak the world would be?

This is why it’s so imperative for artists to trust their intuition, to tune into their feelings when it comes to not just their creative projects, but their daily life. If you aren’t in a good place mentally, it’s likely that you will suffer from your art rather than be empowered by it. Sure, you may be able to write a great song when feeling vulnerable, but being vulnerable is very different from feeling altogether worthless and quite literally lost for words or ideas.

Rest in all aspects of life needs to be normalised. If we’ve learned anything from the latest pandemic is that it’s not only ok, but good to slow down. To pause. To not constantly be churning out external things and exploiting our mental health in the name of art, because we feel obligated to. I used to beat myself up for not writing consistently on my blog or writing anything in general and that just perpetuated a shame cycle that made me not want to return to the keyboard at all. 

But when I started getting curious about how I was feeling, when I started being compassionate to myself, understanding that life happens and gets in the way, it shedded a heavy old layer of skin that I’d been carrying around for years. Now I can happily not write in a month and come back to the keyboard knowing that it’s ok. I’ve been busy socialising, having a life, experiencing things, meeting new people, doing stuff! If anything, that’s a great bonus (and of course, potential material for my next idea – writers just don’t stop looking for material, even if it’s on their own deathbed). When I let go of the idea I ‘had’ to be writing to serve a purpose or to feed my ego, I finally started having ideas and – while that may be not a big deal to a lot of creatives – that moment actually made me quite emotional. It had been years since I had had any kind of idea at all, I’d been blocking myself because I was forcing ideas – and thus scaring them away. But when I let go of all that internal resistance and swapped it for curiosity, things changed. I signed up to a writing course last September and have been writing Morning Pages ever since (and about 4 novels’ worth of words – most of them haven’t ended up as any kind of project, but THAT’S OK). I started writing short stories again. I started to get genuinely excited about writing again, when I thought I’d lost the will entirely.

So to sum up, creativity simply cannot be forced, especially if it’s coming from the ego – and by that, I mean you punishing yourself as motivation to create. We only create our best work when we are in the right place and I encourage you to be organically creative. Listen to your intuition. Tune into those feelings of excitement (rather than fear and shame). If you feel like making something – go for it. If you need rest or a break from your projects, take them. While some people can make incredible art in the state of darkness, pain and suffering, it’s far kinder and sustainable to being healing those parts first instead of dragging yourself over a bed of nails in the name of art. From kindness eventually comes beauty. 

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Mindset over Matter

Our brains are weird spongey machines that are capable of so much (arguably too much). While we know so much about how they work, there is still so much we don’t know about their potential. What blows me away the most is their malleability; how we actually aren’t confined to a terminal state of mind. How we can change it over time, with creating new habits, learning new things and going out of our way to encourage what the scientists have called neuroplasticity.

This word means exactly how it sounds – we can mould our brain into different ‘shapes’, like play-doh! Almost. So we are in fact capable of change, as easy as it is to say that people can’t or won’t – it’s a matter of whether you are open to the discomfort of the process: reframing our perspectives, changing our behaviour and ultimately, our lives (and more often than not, admitting that we are wrong sometimes!)

Sadly, there’s the darker side to this malleability as well, where unfortunate individuals are subject to the traumatic experience of brainwashing/negative conditioning. But most of us luckily have the freedom of conscious choosing and can decide whether to change our lives for the better and make that commitment. 

There are many ways you can encourage your mindset to shift, whether you find that through reading books, learning new skills, moving to a new country and picking up the language/culture, meeting new people, but mostly it’s picked up in the every day small things: we are after all creatures of habit and we are what we repeatedly do. Those small habits that we choose to change and consistently practice – it might be exercising before work, meditating in the mornings, journalling every evening, eating healthier, reducing consumption of X, Y or Z – are the ones that eventually mould our brain into the better version of ourselves. All of the above, amongst many other little microhabits, are what we can pick up incrementally to shift our mindsets, perspectives and motivation to – long story short – get unstuck from our habits that we previously believed defined who we are. 

For me, I’ve found that journalling, being more creative, exercising more, reading more and generally having more personal boundaries with myself and others has absolutely helped me reach a certain level of emotional maturity I didn’t previously have access to. But, until recently, I still felt stuck; unable to break free of the one self-sabotaging habit that had its hooks in me pretty deep, my drug of choice: food! 

While I read all the books about health, knew all the risks about eating junk and yo-yoing between good and bad (and not having a generally stable, balanced diet), I couldn’t get unhooked from this habit of essentially feeding my emotions with food, whether that was anxiety, fear, doubt, boredom, you name it. My mindset was fixed on the fact that “This is just my identity, I’ve been this way since I can remember, better just surrender to it.” I knew it was all just a chemical reaction in my brain that helped calm and self-soothe and that I could make better choices, but but but! My brain was holding onto this habit and stubborn mindset pretty hard. UNTIL. 

Until I came across an article in Mark Manson’s newsletter, the author of the awesome bestselling no-nonsense The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. (If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Literally drop everything you are doing and go and buy it.)

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a  Good Life: Amazon.co.uk: Manson, Mark: 9780062457714: Books
This badboy will change your life if not make your ancestors cringe at the use of expletives.

His ‘Mindfuck Monday’ emails do prompt a bit of a chuckle but the ‘How to Reinvent Yourself’ snippet (below) has actually been the one thing I needed to know this *whole* time. What I took from it isn’t quite as dramatic as reinventing myself, but instead ‘Trying on an Identity.’

Manson writes: 

Often when we want to change, we focus on the individual behavior and then work up the nerve or willpower to do it. As you’ve probably learned, this rarely goes well. 

Part of the reason it goes poorly is that by “forcing” yourself to do X, you are simply reinforcing to yourself that you are the type of person who doesn’t do X. 

Simple example: For years and years, I struggled to not drink at parties. I could abstain if I really put my mind to it, but it was always in the form of the thought, “Man, I love drinking at parties, it’s going to suck to not have a drink, but I’ll do it anyway.” 

This was setting myself up for failure. I’m already deciding that it’s going to suck before I’ve even done it. 

A way to make this much easier is to think of change on an identity level. For example, “What if I was the type of person who hates drinking at parties? What would that feel like?” 

And so the proverbial penny dropped. I thought: What if I chose to be an athlete? To have the mindset of an athlete? What if I thought/lived like an athlete? 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am closer to being an elephant seal than an athlete, but the reason I chose to ‘try on’ this identity is because I actually want to prioritise health and take it seriously. Maybe it’s the pandemic or the general state of the planet, but I’ve realised that actually I won’t be this young again. And why wouldn’t I want to remain in this healthy state for as long as possible? So then I started reframing my thoughts and urges in those wobbly moments pre-self sabotage: What would an athlete do right now? Would they scoff down this extra portion they don’t need? No, they would eat just enough to fuel their bodies. Would they buy this cookie for the sake of it? No, because that would impede their progress. Would they make this unhealthy dish for dinner? No, they would choose something that would nourish and energise them. And right before I knew it, I broke free of those proverbial chains, giving myself solid hard proof that it was possible! Man it felt good.

And finally, after trying so many (SO MANY) keys in the lock, as it were, I felt like this nugget of mindset-shifting advice has actually worked. I think we humans tend to doubt ourselves by proxy and especially today, it’s so common to be running stories in our minds that make us believe our abilities our limited. But this ‘Trying on an Identity [of your choice]’ tool eliminates all of that – for now – until we begin to believe in ourselves more and more and build that integral level of self trust that will carry us through in life to giving ourselves everything we’ve ever wanted. 

What’s holding you back? Probably yourself. So why not try on an identity? Someone you admire or look up to? See how that shifts your state of mind into going from limited to limitless. Told you: our brains are pretty incredible.

Still not convinced? Give this a read.

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Life is a Squiggle

Life is not a line, but a squiggle.

Ah yes, that famous quote from that influential Greek philosopher. 

I’ve had a setback recently due to a shoulder injury, which has definitely stymied me somewhat. Not being able to do yoga (when I was finally on a damn roll), not being able to go to dance classes I *just* signed up to and all the rest of my millennial melodrama. Being the weirdly flexible, double-jointed praying mantis that I am, I recently discovered my joints are prone to popping out of themselves if they happen to be worked at a certain angle, resulting in some soreness and moreover, an annoying inability to do certain things til that pain goes away. In the words of Elton himself, it’s a sad, sad situation and pity is very much welcome, but it got me thinking about how precious our bodies actually are and how much we take them for granted. And also how life has that tendency to screw you over literally at any point it feels like it (which is not always a bad thing).

Doing things as simple as putting on a jumper or pouring a cup of tea nags at my tendon, which is all fine and I know that (all being well) this is temporary – but what about people who suffer with chronic pain, who have to live with this terminally, as it were? Day in, day out, not being able to do the most basic of things? Athletes, even, who may be desperate to do the one thing that makes them feel most alive, but it’s been taken away from them? It really is the classic human tragedy that is experienced in many facets that we just don’t know what we have until it’s gone.  So ultimately, we should be treating our bodies like absolute princesses, because that’s what they are – think about EVERYTHING they do for us, without us even having to ask. It’s incredible, in the most literal sense of the word.

Ranting aside, I’ll come back to my very intellectual squiggle theory. We all suffer setbacks in many ways, with whatever we are trying to improve, whether it’s a project at work, your career in general, a relationship, a physical endeavour, personal/spiritual growth, or indeed, even vegetable growth in your very own humble allotment patch! Those metaphorical and very real slugs can eat away at your months, or even years, of hard work and sometimes yank you right back to square one, cause, Sod’s Law. Sometimes, it’s not even a matter of buying all the pesticide in the world; it’s on a much more complex scale that’s totally out of your hands.

Related to this theme of setbacks and overcoming them, my friend introduced me to the artist Henri Matisse who has an inspiring story. Matisse was a French artist and painter known for his pioneering use of bold colour in his print works and art, one of the few leaders in the ‘Fauvism’ movement. He died in 1954 of a heart attack, but before that became bed-bound due to developing necrosis from a surgical wound, that disabled him from being able to stand and paint. Nevertheless, he kept making art and original art even still, known for his ‘Painting with scissors’ technique, from his bedside.

So to put it mildly, he’s a pretty badass example of not letting life screw you over, even if you are an artistic icon. With this in mind, though, if you view life spanned out on a very basic graph, it isn’t supposed to be linear or easy. We aren’t supposed to shoot for the stars like a rocket in one straight line, as much as we are told to aim for said proverbial stars in our youth. For one, that would make life increasingly boring and – you know what’s coming – you wouldn’t ever learn or grow.

As much as I loathe the idiom What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger it applies to this context (even if my personal example is just another episode of Alice’s Pity Party). Without setbacks or stumbling blocks, we wouldn’t be forced to question our strength, our morals, our intentions or our purpose on this planet; we would become very two dimensional human beings and we have so much more potential to be more than that. Despite considerable, painful physical setbacks, Matisse found a way around them and moreover, didn’t let them stop him from creating. Life presented a tangled disarray of a squiggle to him, which is an understatement to say the least, but let Matisse, and many, many other resilient human beings throughout history, be examples as to how, hardships mostly are mind over matter. And that life’s just a squiggle. Sometimes a stupid annoying one. Sometimes one that leads you to previously unimaginable places. Enjoy the unpredictable messiness of it all.

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Our Inner Child

As soon as anyone hears ‘Inner Child’ it’s 99.9% guaranteed fact that they will roll their eyes and mentally disengage and pretend to placate the other participant in the conversation.* But why is this? Like many spiritual buzzwords, they’re easily misunderstood and thus even easier to make fun of. Spirituality in itself is widely misunderstood as a hippy-doused lifestyle comprising of mystical rocks and voodoo magic, when that’s simply a stereotype. But that’s a whole ‘nother conversation for another day – right now I’m going to talk about our inner child and yes, even if you don’t believe in them, you have one too.

*ok I made that up

As a disclaimer, I definitely won’t articulate everything as scientifically as many psychologists do, but offer my own interpretation and experience of books I’ve read and what I’ve learned about this topic thus far.  This is a great video to fully understand the concept.

During the 3rd lockdown, I got my hands on the hotly anticipated book by Dr. Nicole Le Pera: How to do the Work. The title in itself is enough to send anyone running for the hills, but I speak not just for myself but millions of people when I say it’s mind-shifting. One of the chapters talks about the inner child, what it means and how we can nurture it.

Our inner child is just that. It’s a manifestation inside of us of who we were as little kids and that shows up in our day to day adult lives in myriad ways, unfortunately leaning more towards the ‘bad’ side of the spectrum. It’s a manifestation of our core beliefs that we picked up as a child, our fears, our experiences, our trauma, our learned behaviours and ultimately, our responses to how we initially perceived or experienced anything. Le Pera describes it as ‘the lens through which we see the world based on past experiences’. 

As children, many of us experienced trauma, whether big or little. While a death of a family member, car crash, natural disaster or house robbery are all traumatic, the trauma of not having basic needs met, not feeling seen or heard by a caregiver or growing up in an unstable, boundary-less household can leave just a big of an impression on your inner child. Having your experiences invalidated by an adult (‘That didn’t happen’, ‘Stop crying’), being told to behave a certain way (‘That’s not how we do things’, ‘This is a family secret’), or simply witnessing parents unable to process emotions healthily (storming out, yelling, adult trantrumming) can have a significant impact on how your brain perceives things at that young age, where our brains are sponges and take everything to be the truth. Because of this, we will adopt these similar behaviours when our emotions are activated as adults because of what our emotional intelligence was modelled on as a child. We know no different, until we do.

Essentially, what is not addressed – your emotional wounds – you will carry through and project in your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours as an adult. For example, you may adopt fear-based beliefs of scarcity or lack because there was never ‘enough’ for you when you were younger or you were not seen or considered – a basic need of all children who are unable to look after themselves. Perhaps a sibling was prioritised over you, perhaps your parent was an addict and so that consumed all of their attention or maybe you were bullied and made to feel insignificant, but no one knew. All of these experiences (and more!) can then lead to defensive, reactive, impulsive behaviours when you feel threatened as an adult (or with any emotion for that matter).

Say you’re out with your partner one day and you catch them checking someone else out. This activates your inner child’s wounds, making you feel as small and unconsidered as you once did. That feeling is manifested in the need of being seen, causing you to lash out or have the inability to regulate negatively active emotions at all (rage, anger, panic, anxiety). This then may lead to impulsive behaviours to numb those wounds (substance abuse, addictive behaviours as coping mechanisms, sometimes even physical violence), which is inevitably followed by shame. Perhaps an example that’s grasping at straws, but ultimately, for any adult who hasn’t ‘met’ their inner child’s needs or explored unhealed emotional wounds, this familiar but vicious cycle continues whenever that person is triggered throughout the day – and depending on the scale of the ‘wound’, anything could be triggering. But how on earth do you start with healing a wound so mammoth? 

Brace yourselves, I’ve got another spiritual buzzword for ya. Reparenting! Check out this video from Le Pera on the topic for a more comprehensive breakdown.

There’s another misconception with this word because it implies that our parents did a terrible, shitty job and we need to start all over again. This isn’t the case at all. You could have been raised in an immaculate home with no conflict at all and could still benefit from this. Reparenting essentially is the act of guiding yourself through difficult emotions and learning to feel comfortable with discomfort or pain using sustainable ways to self-soothe (as opposed to relying on addictive behaviours or crutches, like drugs, food, online shopping, sex, your phone etc). It’s the compassionate act of noticing your feelings and asking yourself: “What does my inner child [read: most vulnerable part of me] need right now? Why are these feelings of (insert here: rage, anxiety, fear, sadness) coming up?” If you ask yourself those questions when you feel yourself stuck in those familiar cycles, watch how your life changes. Once you become the objective observer, the ‘wise parent’ to your ‘inner child’, you can make informed, healthy decisions to move forward instead of blindly repeating impulsive, reactive and often damaging behaviours over and over and not understanding why things aren’t changing in your life.

Say, for example, your best friend bails on you again. Understandably, you’re fuming! She’s done this so many times before and you feel unconsidered because you’ve set aside time for her in your busy schedule and you’ve missed out on something else you could’ve been doing. It feels like you are giving more to the friendship than she is. When you reparent yourself in this moment, you give yourself the opportunity to pause, notice and rather than reflexively fly off the handle as you may have done previously. By reparenting yourself here, you can remain calm by asking yourself: “What am I feeling right now?” And answering those questions objectively. “I am feeling rage because I don’t feel considered. I feel this friendship is not reciprocal. I need to distance myself before I reply and communicate that I am hurt.” When you give yourself that space, when you listen to what your inner child needs (through what is being manifested in your present emotions), you are able to give yourself (and others) the grace which is the foundation to all emotional healing. Perhaps that same friend was feeling anxious and overwhelmed and couldn’t bring herself to leave the house.

So if you find yourself stuck in these reactive cycles of anger, anxiety, shame, rage, any kind of ‘hot’ emotion, or better yet ‘cold’: regret, doubt or depression, seek to connect with the most vulnerable part of you who has been there waiting for you for so long. 

We’re all tender humans who have experienced pain. But once we acknowledge that that pain has manifested as our inner child, we can begin to start healing those old emotional wounds that are keeping us stuck in these cycles. Be curious; see how your present really is a reflection of your past and know that that isn’t you – it is simply who you’ve been conditioned to think you are since childhood.

Right. Time for a stiff drink after all that. Congrats if you made it this far!

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Choice Architecture

When you break it down to its bare bones, life is just a series of choices. One choice after the next, either contributing to or taking away from your future.

I got thinking about this concept when I spotted the phrase ‘Choice Architecture’ online and how you can build your life simply through the choices you make. It kind of blew my mind. We all know that we are in the driver’s seat of our own lives, but how often are we sat on autopilot, coasting through, day after day? I’d wager the majority of our lives are experienced on this setting and therefore most of the decisions we make are made unconsciously.

Of course you have the fundamental choices that keep you alive: I will have a drink of water, I will eat something now, I will run away from this fire. That’s all fine to be on autopilot in that context, otherwise life would be exhausting and potentially quite deadly. But when it comes down to character, the choices you make will be a direct reflection of just that: I’ll clean up after myself, I’ll help this lady carry her shopping, I’ll go to the gym today, I’ll start reading that book vs. I’ll leave someone else to pick up after me, I’ll let the old lady struggle with those bags, I’ll sit on the couch and watch TV again, I’ll spend the evening doom-scrolling and avoiding that thing I really should do. 

I don’t generally like to see life dichotomously or in black and white – I think our options are so much more limitless if we choose a perspective that’s across the ‘colour’ spectrum and you’re open to flexibility in all areas of your life. But when it comes down to choice, it really is down to two opposing things: you choose to do or choose to not do. But there’s just the one teeny caveat to this.

As humans, we all have this built-in survival instinct/an identity construct that is designed to keep us safe: our ego. It’s the part of us that we think we are, that’s been built up of our life experiences and what we believe has shaped us. Though it sounds like it is, it’s not our friend (nor our enemy, more a teacher). While it likes the familiar, it thrives there because said familiar place is a dark and limiting one, built on the basis of fear. This is why we are so often stuck in the same tired (and often self-destructive) patterns that we can’t seem to change. But old habits die hard, right? Because we are creatures of comfort, because comfort = safety and for our minds (and ego), safety is the utmost priority. For our ego, this ‘safety’ is being stuck, even if that place is uncomfortable or even dangerous, because it’s predictable. But this illusion of safety makes it not so great for the conscious creatures that we are, because unlike other animals, we have the intelligence that provides (most of) us with this thing called morality.

Good/bad, right/wrong – some more dichotomies which also I don’t disagree with in this context – I think morality is a very subjective scale and there are always reasons behind why people do bad things (though not always pardonable). Like many things, morality – especially in the context of one’s behaviour towards others – is a muscle that should be trained often.

I don’t necessarily think morality boils down to solely the terms of other people; it also pertains to the individual. How you treat your mind and body and Self. How you go about your own life should also be in line with your morals (on the better side of the spectrum), because if you’re unkind to yourself and/or live without virtue, most likely, that’s coming from a place of pain or fear, which will inevitably be projected onto others one way or another. And there we have the full circle.

So in the context of making choices, the ego almost always will sway to the making of ‘bad’ ones, because the outcome is predictable and therefore safe. But in order to keep making healthy, empowering choices for ourselves (keeping in mind others too) we must first observe that we have an ego in the first place – the distinction between who we think we are and who we really are. Only then can we notice that we actually have a choice to be the architect of our own futures, rather than succumbing to years-old patterns that no longer serve us, that we never thought we’d be able to break away from previously. With every choice you make that serves who you really are, you will notice that while life starts to become a little more scarier in the unfamiliar, it will also become so much more colourful and humbling.

So there you have it. To sum up, life really is quite simple – it’s made up of the choices you make in every next moment.

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Choosing Practice over Routine

My friend sent me a list written by Ryan Holiday, a modern stoic influencer and author, which comprised of ‘100 very short rules for a better life’ which I’d recommend giving a read. While it’s actually a lot to digest despite the brevity of each ‘rule’, I think it’s a good exercise to read them (quite quickly) and see which ones stick out to you/stay with you the most. That way your subconscious desires of what you really want to work on will be revealed and voilà! Off you go. Onto the next realm of self-development.

For me, the ones that stuck out the most were:

  • It’s not about routine but about practice
  • Think progress, not perfection

And I’m going to talk about the former. 

I’ve always been a very routine-focused person, almost religiously. I get up around the same time every morning, make myself a cup of tea, do my morning pages first thing, journal, go for a walk/run, shower, get ready for work, go to work. It’s taken time to build these little rituals up, but I know they’re good for me and help start my day off on the right foot. Nevertheless, a fear-based belief I think many of us have is that if we break our precious routines, that’s it. It’s over. One slip-up and that’s solid evidence that you are, in fact, a big fat failure. Secret’s out! Now you can go back to being the gross couch potato you really are.

But what if the opposite were true? What if, actually, routine were the death of creativity? If routine were the proverbial silent killer of who we fundamentally are? 

A dangerous way to live which I’ve talked about here is in black-and-white, or ‘this or that’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking. There’s no room for possibility and very little wiggle room for change. Routine, though disguised as a good friend, actually instills this dichotomous belief that you’re either a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’. Should you continue your solid routine, you’re an awesome person. You’re capable of anything. Carpe diem motherfuckers! But should you slip up, then just give up completely. It’s over. You POS. And whoops! Before you know it you’re back at square one. AGAIN.

This is why flexibility is so important. The ability to adapt is one of our most underrated tools, across myriad contexts in life and it pertains to routine especially.

If we can be flexible with our day-to-day patterns and healthy habits we are consciously building, I guarantee we’d be better at problem solving, facing conflict or dealing with any other kind of crisis, big or small, in our lives. 

But being flexible with our routines requires discipline – the foundation of all that we do/want to do/want to be. That’s all. As long as we show up for ourselves somehow at some point during the day, no matter the order, that’s all that matters. If I can’t be bothered to exercise in the morning, I’ll make sure to do a yoga class in the evening. If I’ve no time on a weekend to do my morning journaling, I’ll find time in the day to do it, because it’s important to me. As with anything that is truly important to you, you will find time to do it one way or another. But don’t let your ego convince you otherwise! Trust your best self who isn’t rooted in your insecurities and old patterns, who wants the best for you: that is not your ego – that is who you really are. Even though your ego will try and convince you otherwise.

So embrace falling out of routine – it’s a pandemic for crying out loud. Embrace experimenting with it and shaking things up a little. Embrace the fear of falling off track knowing that actually, as long as you stay disciplined (however that looks to you), that same fear is redundant and is actually holding you back.

Indeed, what matters the most is practice, no matter how small, as long as it’s consistent, over time you will see progress and get where you want to be. And that consistency will eventually quash that fear that made you ever believe your potential was limited.

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The Human Trifecta

During lockdown, I’ve managed to get myself a little morning routine. I won’t bore you with the details, but if it’s a nice day, I’ll squeeze in a walk before I start work. Luckily, I’m back in the north of England so these walks are relatively peaceful and sometimes I get lost in my thoughts a bit. Sometimes I stumble on a nugget of pseudo-wisdom (that I’ve probably definitely picked up elsewhere) and have an Aha! moment. More specifically an Aha! This’ll be something for the blog, moment. (Writers can’t let shit go. They are always trying to squeeze potential material out of literally every single thing they do.)

Anyway, my latest moment of this led me to think of what I’m going to call the Human Trifecta (which I’ve just googled and it looks like it doesn’t exist – yay). And to me, this is the three essential things that make up or contribute to what we need to feel satisfied and dare I say it, happy.

On this walk I was pondering on what it would take on the most fundamental level for us humans to not only function, but thrive. I boiled it down to the three following things, in no particular order:

  1. Ambition (more specifically, career-led)
  2. Creativity
  3. Physical activity

With two of those things, we’re fine. We’re bumbling along. With just one, we probably won’t be all that satisfied, if, say, your career is thriving, but you never move your body or stimulate your creative side. Or if you’re a ripped athlete, but you don’t make nearly enough money to sustain that lifestyle or have time to explore other aspects of creativity (though one could argue bodybuilding is creative, therein they’ve bagged 2 out of the 3 and may well be satisfied – but not maximising their potential.)

But if you’re stimulating all three of those areas, then I would hedge a bet that life’s (objectively) pretty good. You’re focused on personal growth in your career (at whatever stage it may be), you’re moving your sacred body and keeping it youthful (and the brain chemistry active) and you’re finding time to get lost in your creative, playful side – which is arguably the most important one of all. 

But you might then say: “Well, Alice, not everyone has this much time to be able to juggle all of those things.” Except, you do. Everyone has time. It’s just about how you manage it. If you really care about it, you will make time for it (in most circumstances).

But aside from the career, making time applies mostly to carving out opportunities for physical activity or creativity. The former, if you are physically able, is relatively straightforward, once you get past the mental resistance, if that’s where you are. The more you do it, the more your brain craves it. But with creativity, that’s a whole ‘nother ball park.

Unlike exercise, you can’t demand creativity to happen. You can’t (try as one might) sit down and say: “Ok. I’m going to make something right now.” It just doesn’t work that way – and by all means, it shouldn’t. 

For starters, if you’ve been in a bit of a creative lull, or even still, have never approached the idea because it scares you to death a little, be gentle. You have to approach it like you would a timid lil bunny. You have to start with curiosity and experimentation, asking yourself: “What did I used to enjoy? What would I find fun? What have I always wished I could do?” Is it drawing? Painting? Collaging? Embroidery? 3D train model-making? Poetry? Architectural blueprints? Rapping? Salsa dancing? Making sock puppets? Or Play-doh mansions? It could be anything. All you have to do is channel your inner child’s curiosity: the untouchable, priceless innocence only kids have before puberty comes along and quashes our self-esteem and makes us question everything. Moreover, don’t force it, or that lil bunny will just run away. Coax it out gently, slowly, then when you’re ready, get going, with that reckless abandon you’ve always heard of but never experienced!

One thing to remember with creativity is that it’s so personal. It’s so individualistic. We can often get caught up in the ego-driven perspective that art only has to be something you physically make, but that’s not true. Creativity doesn’t have to be concrete – if you can let yourself out of that self-limiting belief and know that whatever you create, in whatever format, is unique to you – that’s what’s beautiful.

If that still feels completely out of your depth, then read about creativity. There are so many books out there that discuss fear in relation to it, how so many ideas pass us by because we don’t think they’re worthy, or we don’t think we’re capable. A great start is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. A laugh-out-loud, non-serious account on how to claim your creative spark because it’s out there waiting for you, you just need to go get it. Once you’ve overcome your chronic feelings of doubt and self-loathing, of course! Easy peasy, right?!

(In all seriousness, be kind to yourself – don’t criticise your art before you’ve even made it. Would you say all those mean things to little you? Probably not.)

Well, looks like Alice went off on a tangent there again. But to sum up, right here is what I think we all need especially at the moment. If we’re fortunate to have a job, great – let’s try our best to move forward. If we’re fortunate to have a physically able body, excellent – let’s move it as much as we can. And if we’re at the place where we feel like we can approach our creative sides – do it. Jump in. That scared feeling is good! If you’ve got all (or at least 2) of those areas of the Human Trifecta down, then you should be on the path to satisfaction. But if not, be kind to yourself and recognise you are on the way! God, maybe I should start a cult. That’s a creative project, right?

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A Note to Remember Today and Every Day

Something my best friend – let’s call her Jessica Day – said to me around this time last year jumped into my mind (while I was cleaning the toilet, how very symbolic). And it being valentine’s day, it couldn’t be more fitting!

Picture the scene: it was about a year ago, right after someone had broken up with me and I was totally out of my body, panicking, crashing back down to what felt like square one. The relationship (if you can call it that) was never, ever right for me anyway – it was purely a source of validation and conditional at that. I came to realise it was one which was purely based on what I thought was ‘supposed’ to be right – because we had a few mutual interests. Oh honey, don’t fall into that trap. Anyway, my golden ticket out of the hole I’d promptly dived in after he broke up with me in a busy shopping centre Costa – of all places – was in the form of the following words: 

“You don’t deserve that kind of energy. If he’s expecting you to be a certain way or to have to change for someone it is not right.” 

I was sat on the bathroom floor like the disgusting cliche I am and those words literally hoisted me back up. Before that point I was scrambling around (I’m quite embarrassed to say) asking him to tell me that even if he had split up with me, that I was good. That there wasn’t anything wrong with me. But then Jessica told me that and I jumped up like I’d just been dunked in a bucket of ice water. In that sharp moment of realisation I knew that…

I am enough. I am absolutely complete. I don’t need anyone’s validation but my own. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I am worthy, because I know that I am. Honestly, if there were a lightbulb over my head at that moment I guarantee it would’ve exploded. I probably would’ve tripped the whole electrical system in the flat, Carrie-style.

But there’s no way I would have believed any of that before that moment. I grew up believing, learned from chronically digesting rom-coms in my youth (and a string of horrible boys no doubt), that love is something that must be earned. Love is something for which you have to perform. Love is where you lose yourself in order to find someone else. Where you become selfless, quite literally. Sadly, it’s often not until these ‘big’ moments in life happen when the penny finally drops.

So let this be a message to all y’all beautiful souls who find yourself sacrificing yourselves for love that you don’t need to do that anymore.

What if you believed that you as your own person, is the most beautiful thing you can be? What if I told you that getting to know (and then one day, because it does not happen overnight, love) yourself is the most precious gift of all? What if you truly, wholly believed that you were never incomplete, you were always whole and that anybody else who comes along will simply amplify your greatness? Hun, you would be an unstoppable force. 

But as I just said, loving yourself isn’t accessible to everyone, yet. In fact, to someone who is feeling a little lost, having someone tell them to love themselves only sounds toxic and will backfire. What you have to start doing is simply be kinder to yourself. Talk to yourself how you would speak to a friend. Give yourself little presents now and again. Find the discipline to do the things you don’t want to do, but you know you should, little and often. That’s the biggest form of self-love – carving the path for your future self right here, right now.

Moreover, make time for yourself to be alone. Learn to be uncomfortable (and eventually, comfortable) in your own company, because then you will find that actually, it’s the best thing ever. And at the end of the day, you are the only constant in your own life, so being there for you is the most important role you could have.

And can I please give a shoutout to one of the best people on the planet – Jessica Day – who puts up with my shit and empowers me on the daily.

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Nostalgia: a denial of the painful present?

You guessed it. Here comes a quote:

“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present.”

I watched a movie with my dad the other night, a Woody Allen classic, but not quite Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona (hard to top that IMO). It was Midnight in Paris, with Owen Wilson (if you hadn’t already guessed) as the protagonist, getting lost and entangled in the charming streets of the inimitable city. I don’t know if I cared too much for the time-travel parts, but I understood the allegory in relation to the feeling of wanting, of being lost, of wandering aimlessly looking for answers. One of the characters – a pretentious university professor portrayed excellently by none other than Michael Sheen – said the above quote and it got me thinking. I don’t think I agree with it at all.

You just know exactly who I’m talking about even without the reference.

Nostalgia is a beautiful tool, and like anything, can be locked, loaded and used for you or against you. But to associate it with bitterness and lowkey resentment is just a shame and begs the question: so, what’s the point of even having memories? Of doing anything? Of trying to make things happen? And that makes me a bit sad. 

Nostalgia is a beautiful source of escapism, a portal into a dreamworld that allows us to feel gratitude to the strongest degree. It’s a warm, safe space where you can dive into those universes and times again and again. It’s reflecting on the wonderful opportunities that were available to us, the beauty of coincidence that led us to meet the equally wonderful people in our lives. Whether you’re looking back on travel memories at the moment, your childhood, or even to any kind of (what we deemed as an insignificant) social occasion (remember meeting friends at a café?), nostalgia allows us to relive those perfect moments – no matter how small. And to even have memories and the ability to relive them is a gift in itself.

Of course, chronically reliving memories in the wrong context will feel like a denial of the painful present. And sometimes that’s ok, like grieving a loved one or missing a friend. A healthy expression of emotion to an extent. But to put a blanket statement over such a beautiful concept like that – oh! Especially today, when it feels like memories are all we have sometimes: don’t you take this away from me Mr. Allen.

I feel ya, Owen.

And here we are at a full circle once more – would you look at that?! Alice is prattling on about gratitude again! But in all seriousness – with anything in life, you have the power to choose how you perceive it. Whether it’s nostalgia or something else entirely. By choosing (and realising you even have a choice to begin with) to be thankful for things that happen no matter their context, knowing that in some way they will shape you, is the most powerful tool of all.

Now go and dive into (proverbial or literal) shoebox of souvenirs and escape down your own beautiful rabbit hole of nostalgia, just because you can.

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Déjà vu and the Pandemic

Well there’s a concept sandwich you never thought you’d put together.

Déjà vu. You know that feeling. You’re jolted into a visceral present moment that almost takes you by the shoulders, rattles you and whispers insidiously in your ear: “You’ve been here, right here, right in this exact moment, before. BOO!” And then it vaporises into a proverbial poof of smoke and leaves you there with an uncomfortable lump in your throat.

There are many theories as to what it means, where it stems from, but to me it’s still a spiritual mystery. I read some logical scientific explanation somewhere once, something to do with triggered memories, but I don’t believe this. I think it’s an indication of your future, if anything, not your past.

Generally, I’m really not one to believe in mysterious, paranormal rubbish, but I do like to think that we humans have a purpose on this planet than to merely reproduce and be on our way. I do like to think that this planet is guided by some kind of stronger spirit or entity we can’t see, that makes us human. There’s gotta be something more, otherwise this whole life thing may as well just be a simulation. We don’t know what ’it’ is, but it certainly isn’t some big old white man with a beard that I was taught to believe was God. But anyway. It’s too early in the day for that discussion [current time of writing, 6:52AM GMT].

Recently, I had an episode of déjà vu that lasted about 30 seconds – which felt like the longest 30 seconds of my life. I remember saying to my mum:

“Oh. Nope. Hang on. Not finished, it’s still going. Nope. Is this my life forever, now? It’s still going???”

Until it stopped and I was kindly plopped back into the world by whoever was messing with me. But sometimes I’ll get flashes – as other people will, too – out of nowhere, in the supermarket, on the local trail, anywhere. 

To cut the story short, I think déjà vu is the universe’s (or whatever’s) way of telling you you are exactly where you need to be. Whatever you’re reminded of in that flash feels as if you’ve been there before, right? Well, what if that means that everything that’s happening right now is exactly how it should be, because it has potentially already happened? (I know it hasn’t but stick with me). It’s difficult to grapple with this idea, that everything happening is ‘meant to be’, when the world is on its arse and things are bleak and the future looks grim and life feels like a despair buffet. But I think we could all take some comfort in this, in knowing that all of this shite we’re collectively going through – and arguably, any general shite anyone goes through – is actually serving a purpose. 

To strengthen this whimsical theory somewhat, doesn’t ‘déjà vu’ literally translate to ‘already seen’? MinDbLoWn. So basically, stripping back the semantics: You’ve been here before, you’ve seen this before. Therefore, you are more than equipped to deal with whatever the world throws at you. That is your purpose. 

I know, I KNOW – this is the last thing you want to hear right now: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Please be comforted by the fact that this is not what I’m saying. Personally, I think that toxically positive phrase can go and kindly cover itself in peanut butter and make itself at home outside a grizzly bear’s den. What I’m ultimately saying is, and what we all really need to remember right now, when things are so uncertain and crap:

Whatever happens, you can handle it. 

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Things to Take Away From 2020 (apart from fast food and beers)

You’re probably not going to want to hear ANY of this and you fully have the right. You fully have the right to proverbially flip the table and say ‘Get off your righteous high horse and fall in a pile of cow pat’. But if anyone is really feeling in the pits of despair right now, all I want to do is offer my nuggets of hope that one can bring into the new year and hopefully start 2021 on a more optimistic note.

There’s a fine line between being toxically positive – the ‘It Could Always Be Worse’ mindset versus the ‘Things Will Get Better’ – and the latter is what I’m hoping to go for right now in this post. Things suck and have sucked for a long time, but please don’t give up yet – if anything I hope you can take something away from this list I’m about to share; what I’ve personally taken away from this difficult year. Here goes.

  1. Resilience

Collectively, we have been turned into rhubarbs. I know it’s not the most elegant analogy, but stay with me. We’ve all been forced underground completely in the dark, which has in turn stimulated a forced growth of sorts. We may not be a juicy rhubarb just yet, but one day we will make it into a delicious apple crumble and… be proud that we taste good…? Ok, I’m abandoning that analogy. 

This year has been like a giant tug of war. Back and forth, hope and despair, good news, bad news, all in a tight little circle with hardly any breathing room. But with that has come a resilience and inner strength we never knew we had. We’ve been able to endure this pandemic right from the start, where we knew hardly anything and were frozen in fear, to right now, where we already have a vaccine, multiple, in fact! Yet still we remain in the same place, it seems. Nevertheless, we are still here. With the multitude of obstacles and setbacks and losses and pain we’ve individually gone through this year, you better believe we are still here! If anyone told you a pandemic would sweep the globe this year, do you think you’d predict you be as strong as you are now? Probably not. Give yourself some credit. 

2. Flexibility

If humans are anything, we are plastic. We are malleable creatures. This year people have had weddings cancelled, funerals of loved ones people couldn’t even attend, workplaces closing down, relatives abroad people couldn’t visit, friends they weren’t able to see, long awaited travel plans in the bin – but with the power of the internet and human creativity, we somehow made most of them work. Now of course the virtual version would not ever replace the real thing, but we found an alternative. We were able to sustain the human connection we now find so valuable, in some way. Which brings me onto my next point…

3. Compassion

Human connection has never been more valuable, at a point where everything has never been more virtual – it only takes a pandemic for us to see this! But in human connection is the overarching thing which unites us all – compassion. In having compassion for all of our fellow humans is the kindest gift of all. Everyone has lost something this year, so many of have been devastated by losses of close ones, there has been a mass, collective loss in general and I’ve found that if we can just see everyone as the fragile, sensitive, hurting humans that we are, the world will be a better place, especially now.

4. Patience

God above, if anything has taught us to be patient – with ourselves, with others, with the unknown – it’s this year. We’ve had no choice really, but to have had the opportunity to flex this muscle as well can only be a bonus.

5. Present Awareness

The power of just noticing is so grand. The act of noticing where you are, who you are with right now – not stuck in the past or fretting about the future – is one of the most precious tools we can have in our arsenal against this thing. In the liminal space of the present, that transient space, nothing can really hurt us. We are fully attuned to where we are and can absorb life that is happening right now so much more richly. Also, unconsciously committing oneself to being stuck in the past or the future is to live in a perpetual cycle of fear. Flexing the ‘Present’ muscle little and often (I am yet to try a full sit-down meditation myself, so I’m not talking about this here) and bringing yourself back to earth again will help ground you and make you feel more in control of what’s around you right now, of what you can influence.

6. Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers, apparently, and it’s not til now that I get it. Hope gives us the ability to take flight and move forward, eventually. It’s the prospect of possibility and we simply must believe that there is hope, the alternative is too bleak. Compare where we are right now to where we were in March – there is hope, even though it feels like it’s all been spent. If you believe that things will get better, even if you don’t yet, your mind will be convinced eventually.

7. Healing

I’ve learned over anything this year that we humans are one of three things: hurting, healing or both. So going back to my point on compassion, let’s all be gentle with each other. People do bad things, people hurt others, but deep down, that always comes from a place of hurting. 

8. Ephemerality

Or, according to the rough definition from the trusty WordHippo.com: “The state of being subject to death.” Or, THIS PANDEMIC IS NOT FOREVER, FOLKS. This will not last forever, even if it seems like it will. Everything in this precious life is temporary; some things just outstay their welcome more than others. Channel your energy into this and just hang in there, friend, there has never been a storm that has lasted forever, even if it seems like this is it. 

9. Gratitude

Grateful? What on earth is there to be grateful for? You might ask. Totally valid question. Gratitude is like the buzzword that makes you want to slap someone round the face with a wet fish if you yourself aren’t feeling grateful. Gratitude is a muscle and one which must be trained regularly. This year, I started journalling every morning out of curiosity to see if it’d change things up in my life at all – and it really has. As well as writing down affirmations, visualisations of who I want to become, positive traits I’d like to have, what I want to practice more, habits I want to build, I write down at least 3 things I’m grateful for.

I think incrementally over the year, this has been instrumental in shifting my mindset into a more positive one, because I too, used to be the person who rejected the concept of gratitude – it just made me feel more ungrateful, if anything, and it pissed me off. But the more I practiced this notion, lo and behold, the more grateful I felt. And especially as the Corona Chaos as I like to call it set in full swing, it made it easier to ground myself and notice just how much I had/have.

I had a home, I had friends and family who were healthy and OK, I was safe, I had a job, I was able to see my Grandpa, I was able to go outside, I was physically able to walk, cook myself breakfast, to spend time by myself should I so wish, down to the tiniest of things that are actually massive, that we take for granted every day – I could see, I could hear, I could – once the Covid was out of my system – taste and smell again! All of these wonderful miracles that we are blessed with that we just won’t know are blessings til they’re gone – the ultimate human tragedy.

If I can say anything, for crying out loud WORSHIP your sense of taste, friends. Because when life’s really shit and you just want a bloody beer and you CAN’T TASTE IT IT IS POSITIVELY THE WORST. So to sum up, notice what is around you, see the tiniest things as a blessing and when the shittier things happen you can bring yourself back down to earth once more and realise that none of that really matters in the end.  

10. Being kind first

Over everything, be kind to your damn self. You have come so far, fought many battles you never knew you’d be capable of confronting, seen parts of yourself you never thought you’d see, learned sacred things about life that have made you flourish into a person you may have never seen were it not for this year’s events. Things will get easier, we’ll be able to hug friends and relatives again, we’ll be able to pop to the movies just because we feel like it, we’ll be able to go down the local for a spontaneous after-work pint with a mate, we’ll be able to do it all again, I promise. We just need to keep hanging in there a little longer and support each other and most of all, ourselves. We are stronger than we know – and 2020 has proved that. So, in the empowering words of one notable scholar, ahem, Christina Aguilera:

Made me learn a little bit faster

Made my skin a little bit thicker [lockdown lard is real, people.]

Makes me that much smarter

So thanks for making me a fighter [!!!!!].

Image may contain: 1 person, close-up
This is the energy we want for 2021.

Now please excuse me while I go and put this on full blast and make a humble cup of English Breakfast tea. WE’VE GOT THIS.

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What is Abundance, Really?

There’s a dichotomy of thinking that I’ve learned can either hold you back from life so much or conversely open every door: living by a scarcity complex or living with abundance, respectively. And I KNOW a recent post was about the dangers of living in opposites, but this is different, because. It just is. Trust me.

I used to live with a fear-tinged perspective that glazed over my worldview. I used to think in terms of scarcity, that there wasn’t quite enough for me (but plenty for everybody else), that there was always something missing. This way of thinking led me to essentially living on autopilot, with fear in the driver’s seat. I’d consequently live in a state of constant comparison, low self-esteem, with a general belief that my life was lacking something at the core. There was an overarching anxiety that was telling me that there wasn’t time to relax because there was something to constantly be striving towards. I’d be quite reckless with money, fill various voids with booze and the rest of it but it never filled those holes – there was this persistent undercurrent of lack. A belief that I wasn’t enough, what I had wasn’t enough, where I was going was never enough. Lack, lack lack. As you can imagine, it’s a bloody exhausting way to live and to think. And as we know, if we let our minds run the show on autopilot, things will never change.

I read a book I thought was going to be really preachy in an obnoxious way, which then surprised me in the most pleasant way. It kind of took me by the shoulders and rattled me til I felt a bit motion-sick. That kind of oh moment. The book was You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. The title alone is enough to put you off, but stick with me. 

If you are at the point where spirituality n shit is absolutely not for you, might I suggest this book. It encourages you to explore the gross, dark parts of yourself in a pretty hilarious way. Sincero’s approach is no-nonsense at the core and explains things so well, on a sincerely (pun actually not intended for once) human level, such as gratitude, meditation, learning how to surrender, the importance of personal discipline even right into the depths of your murky subconscious (ew). All of that I’d never have given my time of day for, because I was rejecting it subliminally – I wasn’t interested, because I knew that it would help me and I didn’t want to be helped; I was too proud. This book though turned out to be one of the things that pulled me out of the proverbial water. There’s a lot to say about it, and something I’ll explore in a more detailed post another time, but one of the things that struck me most – that’s relevant here – is something called abundance. 

I give you permission to cringe away for a sec, or sigh or take an “Ugh”. Go on.

Abundance is one of those spiritual buzzwords that I think people don’t fully understand; I certainly didn’t til I read more deeply into it. On the surface, abundance connotes a happy-go-lucky image of – for me – a lady in a wheat field, swaying her dreamy white linen dress in the breeze, picking fresh strawberries, laughing while she skips along because she doesn’t have a damn care in the world. She’s abundant! There’s nothing going wrong in her life! I bet she’s got one of those signs that says ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ above her wine rack!

That’s what I pictured, anyway.

Going back to the point, abundance is misunderstood. Misunderstood as ignorance, I think. The ‘nothing can hurt me because I have wrapped myself up so thoroughly in cotton wool to the point where I can’t hear you because I’ve actually stuffed some in my ears, tra la laaa.’ 

But what abundance fundamentally means is thinking without limits – living without that fear-based perspective, living instead by embracing that everything you want is within your reach and wholly believing that (even if you know that really, not everything is – but that’s ok). It’s by living with a love-based perspective, by knowing there is always more and that there is enough for you (and there always was). By living without that undercurrent of fear, imagine the possibilities! I, myself, was more excited about life, open to trying new things – I joined an acting course for crying out loud – and moreover, was more forgiving when things did go wrong. It was all ok because there was always more – more opportunities, more people to meet, more experiences to be had, wherever I went. I decided that was a better place to be rather than living by ‘What if?’ And ‘What’s the point’? 

So personally, if you’re feeling stuck or stagnant – which is totally acceptable at the moment by the way – then I invite you to look into this concept, read that book, see how you feel afterwards. I’ve banged on about it a thousand times but I really do believe the most powerful thing you can do as a human is shift your perspective, if you use your malleable mind to its full potential and keep it open to new possibilities.

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Thinking in Colour

You’ve heard the terms of thinking in black and white, right? Today I want to think about what happens in life when you start doing the opposite, when you start thinking/living in colour. And that previous point is fully ironic in that I’m about to tell you why you shouldn’t live in terms of contrast. Painful.

One of the most insidious things we can do as humans is live in a black and white world. When I say this, I mean metaphorically; living with the dichotomous perspective of ‘right or wrong’, ‘all or nothing’ and yes, black and white.

Not only is that restrictive but it’s potentially dangerous. That is a land where there is no room for possibilities, for change, for progress, for potential – your worldview is fixed and there’s seemingly no way out. A rather Trumpian way to live. And as we know, this is pretty problematic, especially today where the tides of change/progression are constantly crashing against the choppy shores of ‘how it’s always been’. Being on planet ‘right or wrong’ or ‘all or nothing’ effectively is a pretty extreme way to live. That’s generally not a word that has particular positive connotations or something with which you’d want to associate yourself, right?

To get political, it’s a conservative way of living, it’s a restrictive, binary-led perspective that pigeonholes people into one of two boxes. The reason I’m here writing this is that I myself used to think in these terms. Not much happens in your favour. You aren’t a happy person, deep down. Things never go your way, you take it out on others or yourself. But living in grey means you see everything as it is and learn to love it. There are myriad possibilities, not just one or the other. Things aren’t fixed. Things change, whether in your favour or not. And that’s good.

For example, I used to think all men were emotionally unavailable (lol – I have since grown up), that if I didn’t get this job I wouldn’t be happy, if I wasn’t a certain size or weight I wouldn’t find the perfect partner – a lot of daft things to be quite honest with you. To achieve one thing, I had to be the other. There was no room for any kind of possibility. I’d jump to conclusions and let my mind run away with overthinking and catastrophise one unanswered text and automatically assume that because they hadn’t replied, it was the end of the world. So, in these most ridiculous examples, you can see the problematic nature of tunnel-vision. The same can be applied to other things like politics, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, dis/ability – all of those things are so easily put into two boxes and this is where it gets dangerous. When opinions sneak into the show through the back door uninvited and end up running the whole thing. To be clear, I’m not saying don’t have an opinion; I’m saying have an open mind that’s receptive to others’.

So, what happens when you start thinking in grey terms? When you smush black and white together? The door of possibility opens wide and how much more liberating is that? What if you took it a step further and began to think in colour? The world would be much more beautiful place to be (if I could choose between a black and white rainbow and one in colour, I know which I’d go for). In that place, you’d give the benefit of the doubt more. You wouldn’t assume the worst of everything. You’d have more understanding. Compassion. You’d have a more educated insight into why things may happen and learning to accept the way things are. I can promise that abandoning a black/white world is a massive weight that will feel like it’s catapulted off your chest straight back into the past, where it belongs.

So what I’m trying to say is 1+1 = 2. Fine! Sure I accept that, that’s totally true.

But 0.5+1.5 also = 2. BOOM. And yes this example definitely came to me after a few glasses of wine.

So at the end of the day folks, it’s a perspective shift. A seismic one at that. One of the few things in this world that is fully in our hands, yet is so quick to be disregarded. Having said, in the land of all possibility, some people may not sadly ever have the opportunity to understand that there exists another perspective at all. Some people may live in an environment where it’s just not safe enough to think like that. Places like that exist, sadly.

But if you’re privileged enough, you have the chance to make something rotten, beautiful (or perfectly adequate if you’re thinking in grey terms, but for the sake of an example, a binary opposition works best here – IRONYYYY). You can start to see there are infinite possibilities for whatever happens or for whatever exists on this planet. Life gets lighter and easier to digest, especially when it sometimes makes no damn sense.

In short, thinking in black and white keeps you in a box, thinking in colour lets you out.

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Some Lighthearted Late Night Sunday Thoughts


I read a quote the other day (do I do anything else these days? No) from Austrian Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.

This got me thinking. In that space, there is so much potential for us to choose accordingly: to react unconsciously or to respond thoughtfully. Whether it’s a split second moment, a few days, months, years, even. That is the space where you have all the power in the world to either do good or bad, whether you choose for your current self who’s desperate for convenience and pleasure, or your future self, who cares about the after-effects of what will come with this decision. Between the ego and the ‘best’ version of yourself.

It’s the space when you learn to walk away. When to leave the party. When to be the good guy. Or start a war, if you should feel so inclined.

In that space, we may feel panic, we may feel the threat of the unknown. But we know more than we think we know. It’s in our physical, most innate self. Our bodies often tell us things before we’re conscious to the facts; they are wired to be receptors to threat.

Said threat doesn’t always have to be perceived as a threat. It may be more of a signal that something is off-kilter, out of balance. At the very basic level, for example, we know intrinsically when we do something wrong, whether it’s good or bad. Yet most of the time we do the bad thing anyway, sometimes just for the sake of the tired, clichéd rush. We rush right through that split-second space of potential and careen right into the middle of a self-made mess before we even know it ourselves.

But what if we sacrificed that rush, that in-the-moment-indulgence-or-transgression-that-ultimately-leads-to-regret for the ‘right’ thing? The harder thing? The thing we don’t want to do but we know we should?

You might not get that pang of excitement, but you get that long, sustainable, extended joy of knowing you did the right thing, right? And this can only happen if you use that split second of space to your advantage. Choosing long term joy over short term joy. Using that space as an opportunity for total awareness, of total conscious choice, of choosing whether to move forward or stay stuck going round in circles.

The thing with choosing ‘right’ is that it doesn’t always feel ‘right’. And that’s alright. Can you imagine how boring life would be if we just coasted along and there were never any moral dilemmas? There would be no growth, no development, just total stagnancy. Being a human with emotions and a conscious awareness, we have the responsibility to be of moral service and to have compassion for other fellow humans and sometimes that comes in the form of doing the right thing when it benefits others instead of yourself more. All of this may seem like pretty basic, even biblical, information to most people, but it is still valid. And we need to remember it these days more than ever, cause we’re in the middle of a frickin’ pandemic, my dudes.

We need to not only be conscious of our own bubbles – pun intended? – but be aware of not trying to pop others’ as well. Even without this pandemic, everyone has experienced some kind of loss, grief or pain and we should treat people accordingly. With sensitivity, with patience, with compassion. It might be easier to stare at the drunk man on the tube and get pissed off, but perhaps that’s his way of grieving. It might be easier to boil over with silent rage at the person who just shoved past you in the shopping queue, but they might be boiling over with their own levels of stress. And it might be easier to wave your fist at someone who just cut you off at a junction, but perhaps they’re rushing to the hospital because they’re significant other’s just gone in labour.

So be kind to yourself and to others. Use this big mess of a year as an opportunity to be aware of other people’s pain. Give the benefit of the doubt as if it were an unlimited currency. Be gentle with everyone walking this earth; this is all our shared home and we are all each other’s family and we all need each other now more than ever.

So to sum up another episode of my jumbled up verbal waffle, JUST BE A NICE PERSON. The end.

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The Power of Amor Fati

I never thought I’d utter the following sentence, but: Instagram is an excellent tool – if you can manipulate it to work in your favour.

A while ago, I had a big cleanse of all of the things that were actually affecting my mental health. I followed all of the Victoria’s Secret models, a sprinkling of Jenner-types and even more models upon models (don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with them, just the way I was consuming their content). It wasn’t healthy. I considered, since I spend so much time on this anyway, that I would curate a lovely wholesome feed full of plants and crafts and general joy! What I never thought Instagram would be good for would be to teach me about ancient Greek philosophy. You guessed it: another article about how best to live your life by some idiot on the internet!

I stumbled upon this video the other day on the ‘gram (@thedailystoic) by American author Ryan Holiday that briefed the viewer on one of the principle Stoic philosophies: Amor Fati. You can probably take an educated guess that that literally translates to ‘love fate’. In the words of Marcus Aurelius himself: it’s “not merely bear what is necessary, but to love it.”

Putting this in a modern context, especially today, seems insane. If your leg falls off, you get fired, you’re cheated on, or someone dies, even, it seems to be a mentally unstable decision to decide you love that it happened. The fundamental principle here is that we take everything in life as it comes, accept it and embrace it in all its forms (even if it’s painful or traumatic), knowing that it will only make us a better person for it having happened. As Holiday puts it…:

“No amount of resentment, no amount of sadness [can change what happens/happened]. So you take what you can from this … you use it as fuel, you become better from it, you become improved by it.”

A fine example of this that I can’t stop thinking about is Holiday’s reference to Thomas Edison. Although not a perfect person all-round (this is the inventor of the electric chair, guys) he does stand as an excellent practitioner of Stoicism (whether consciously or not). When his factory was being swallowed up by flames, he didn’t panic or melt into despair. He stood there with his son – who was rightfully stunned by a blind panic – and said: “Go get your mother and all her friends, they’ll never see a fire like this again.”

And I think that’s a pretty bloody cool way to look at it. There was absolutely nothing he could do there to change that circumstance, so he completely embraced it and better yet, enjoyed the view. Now I’m not sure I’d have the emotional capacity (yet) to respond like that when your whole pride and joy and most likely main source of income is literally on fire in front of your eyes but I feel we can all certainly aspire to have that. What is the alternative? The alternative, quite honestly, is pretty bleak. You’d soon get consumed by a cocktail of despair, regret and sadness, which would only leave you with a long-lingering hangover that’ll eventually rot you from the inside out. I imagine.

After the fire died out, Edison started again and built the same factory from the ground up. The very next day, he told a reporter: “This is going to prevent me from getting bored.” And for want of a more poetic phrase, that’s some big dick energy right there. Now I can’t count on fire extinguishers having been installed (let alone even invented) this time, but you can count on how that Stoic mental attitude helped him keep his shit together so he could focus on moving forward and literally rebuild his losses from scratch.

The bottom line is that, whatever happens, accept it, knowing that it was meant for you, no matter how trivial or life-changing. Of course that takes practice – and time – but remind yourself that ultimately, whatever happens is going to serve you in some way and it makes it all more bearable and dare I say it, worthwhile. And if things do monumentally fuck up, as much as you can, be gentle with yourself and know: Amor Fati – this is happening and I love it because ultimately – in time – I’m going to be a better person for it.

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Choosing Reality Over Expectations

Disclaimer: Obviously disregard this – and virtually everything I’m about to say – if you have an anxiety disorder/mental illness.

Let’s talk about expectations vs reality for a quick sec. To use inspiration from one of my favourite movies 500 Days of Summer, I want to talk about the following equation: expectations < reality. Not the opposite. One could even take it a step further and say that the equation ought to be expectations = reality, in that they should be quite literally equal. Because living your life as expectations > reality just ends up sucking, a lot.

Being a chronic optimist, I’ve had to learn the hard way to live life without the whichever-shaded tinted lenses. I’ve tried to find ways around fate and reality, to manipulate things to go my way. I’m quite the expert, actually. Ever tried the ‘I’ll imagine the worst so it won’t happen’ approach? Or better yet, the ‘prepare for the worst, so you aren’t ever disappointed [when it does inevitably happen]’? Man, that’s just sad. And it’s even worse when the worst does happen, so who’s the winner there? Isn’t there more to life than expecting things to go badly all the time? Why, yes, there is! Enter me and another episode of an idiot on the internet tells you how better to live your life…

Have you ever heard a rags-to-riches success story or powerful CEO or lottery winner (etc.) ever say: “Oh, this isn’t a big deal. I expected this. I knew this was coming.”

Probably not. They probably had a giant stroke of luck or a gruelling life of hard work to get to where they are. I really doubt they were meddling with the universe’s plans in their spare time to try and get this exact outcome, for them to get to their level of success. It’s very likely they – and similar scenarios – were down to what I want to focus on in this particular piece of verbal waffle today: the organic process.

Letting things evolve gradually, naturally, slowly, in other words. In our hyper-charged world today, it seems like this idea is pretty redundant; we simply don’t have time. Or do we? Yep, my friends, we do. It’s just about whether we make the time to give ourselves space for this. Whether you’re applying for jobs, working towards a project, entering a new relationship, basically going for anything that you want, at some level you need to surrender your grip of control. *Cue metaphorical image of baby-throwing-all-of-the-toys-out-of-pram*

Again, in a world where everything is at our fingertips, everything is so accessible. And sometimes by just a single word (oh hi, Alexa), so it’s hard to let go of the fact that we aren’t in the driver’s seat for all of the moments in our lives. But that’s exactly what we need to learn; to let go. To – as wonderfully as James Bay puts it – leave it to the breeze, no matter how many anxieties we attach to it. If we can detach from the belief that we need to be in control in order to get what we want, things will, ironically fall into place. Life’s really annoying like that.

Now obviously this doesn’t always apply, like the U.S. presidential election of 2020, for example, but I’m talking about the smaller things in our everyday lives. The incremental shifts that eventually take you to the final outcome – that’s where the magic happens. It’s finding that sweet spot in that surrender, in the submission, that state of not knowing what will happen, but knowing in your gut you’re trying your hardest to make it happen and trusting that somehow it will. The act of fully putting your faith into fate/destiny/God’s/whoever’s hands is a really courageous act and takes balls. The way we’ve been conditioned to live and think – that is, to live in a state of chronic doubt or anxiety, whether severe or subtle – isn’t something you can unlearn overnight, but it’s definitely something you can leave behind you over time.

Just keep asking yourself: What insecurities am I projecting into the future right now that are keeping me from being right here? Because you guessed it, this kind of living, this need to be in control for fear that things could go badly, all boils down to good old worry in the end. This undercurrent of stress is nobody’s friend, rather, it’s just a giant proverbial meth-coated roadblock that we can’t resist – unless we try (if meth isn’t your thing, might I suggest just a regular sugarcoated roadblock metaphor?). As always, with anything you want to change, consistency is key.

Ultimately, this takes us back to one of the Stoic’s main principles – letting go of what you can’t control. And this ties in nicely with the organic process. If the anxiously-based approach really doesn’t serve you – and I doubt it does – try this. Try letting go (yeah right! As if it’s that easy!), letting things happen without trying to catastrophise or predict or overplan around the clock. Separate yourself from those thoughts by depersonalising them, by recognising them by simply saying: “I’m having the thought that I’m going to mess up today,” rather than letting the worry be embedded in your mind, running the show on autopilot.

At first, your brain will do everything in its power to reject this unfamiliar way of thinking, but don’t resist it, let those mental protests come. They will die down eventually and it will become easier to live life from moment to moment rather than being habitually and unconsciously stuck in a potential future.

As long as you you know in your bones you’re trying your best and that you’re choosing morally conscious decisions, life will surprise you in the best way. Better yet, when you’re not even trying at all, life will plop a wonderful gift in front of you when you least expect it – and that’s the big fat golden key to life’s best bits.

Choose – better yet, trust – the reality over projected expectations that are rooted in insecurity. Trust yourself to know that you don’t need to feel insecure in the first place. Trust that no matter what happens, all will be well.  

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Happiness vs. Satisfaction

I think we all wish there were some kind of potion to make us happy and sustain it. Billions, trillions even, have been made from the ‘happiness’ industry in many forms. But happiness is perhaps the wrong word as to what we are truly searching for as humans (who are friggin’ hard to please). When I was working my third job when I lived in Sydney, cleaning houses, the man who lived there with his family decided one day to get stuck in and help me. That day we formed quite an unexpected bond and one thing he said about life and happiness has stayed with me ever since.

It was quite a modest Sydney-style semi-detached town house, tucked away from the chaos of Bondi Junction, down the road from Bondi Beach herself. Beautiful, sharp interiors; his wife was Swedish, so it had that effortlessly stylish minimalist touch with a twist of Bondi-chic – think black marble countertops in the kitchen, proud brass taps, pale wooden floorboards, odd-shaped statement chairs dotted around the house with art-decor lights craning above them, crisp white duvets and blankets, wrought iron framing the balcony, massive, wide French windows. Anyway, he decided to help me start the cleaning process and we got chatting. The place was tidy, but it was filthy. Over the next few weeks he needed me to scrub the place from top to bottom, which was fine. I was in my final few weeks before I was due to leave, so I was grabbing any cash I could. I had three jobs at the time so that statement was quite literal.

Throughout that Saturday, we formed said unexpected bond probably because he had two Swedish speaking daughters himself. We talked about my future, my family in Sweden, what I was doing in Australia, what my plan was when I went back home. At that point, it was a sunny mid-December in 2018, the end of the year was wrapping up. I didn’t really have much a plan other than to get to Bali as soon as I had my last day at my main job, an activewear store in a giant, awful, polished Westfield shopping centre.

“So what do you want to do?” He asked as I helped him move the bed back after we’d hoovered behind it. Ah yes. The million dollar question. I told him I wanted to work in publishing, maybe write at some point in the future, get paid for it. That tired, old naive dream.

“Honestly,” I started, “and I know this sounds so airy-fairy – but I just want to be happy.” I replied wiping the bedside tables. (Ahh how young I was.) He – let’s call him Bob – had an Argentinian folk song on in the background that I still can’t get out of my head to this day. The melody was full of colour, trumpets, passion, trilling away in a perfect chaos – I swear it unconsciously sped up our movements as we polished the skirting boards.

He paused: “Now, that’s a dangerous statement and I’ll tell you why.” 

The sun strode through the open double doors and drowned the room in an bleached amber midday glow. I watched him as he finished his sentence, peeling a pillowcase off a cushion. 

“You can go down the pub with your mates on a Friday, have a few beers, have a good time, and you’d be happy, right?”

“Right,” I replied.

“But would you be satisfied?” 

And I’ve been thinking about that bloody sentence ever since. Thanks Bob.

While happiness and satisfaction are two completely separate things, they are not mutually exclusive. You can be both, but the two concepts exist in entirely different worlds. To be happy – in the abstract sense – is to chase short term joy, to sustain that for as much as humanly possible. But to be satisfied, that shit takes work and isn’t as finite or accessible as being happy is. Being satisfied is a constant work in progress and requires discomfort and indeed, some measure of unhappiness, to get there. In short, happiness can effectively be bought, but satisfaction needs to be earned, to be constantly worked on. Everyone can be happy, not everyone can be satisfied.

Ultimately, it shows the division of short term joy and long term joy, in my mind. In order to live a balanced life, you need both, but to feel truly content, you must ask yourself: does – whatever you are pursuing – this satisfy me, deeply? Does this align with my moral values? Does this not only make me feel good, but does it make me feel good as a person?

I guess what I’m trying to get at is to keep asking those deeper questions. What is it that’s missing? What do I need more of? How can I get that? Not from other people or things, but from myself? Those might seem the most obvious questions – or equally, the most ambiguous – but satisfaction is probably not something you can simply acquire in the first place. What is my point here? In this tangled mess of verbal waffle, I guess I’m trying to say there is – contrary to what we’ve been sold – something way more valuable than being happy – being satisfied.

What Bob said that day rattled me; it inspired me to look inward, to stop chasing material things to replace happiness, to really get to the root of what will sustain contentment for longer, without worrying when I’ll next need to top up my joyometer – isn’t that what we humans are constantly chasing? What we’re afraid we will lose? 

While it’s infinitely more challenging to go after what you know is good for you – whether this makes you happy or not, a bonus if it does the former – in the long run, choosing satisfaction over short term happiness will always serve you the most. And we all deep down know this! Yet being human, it’s in our nature to keep doing the things we know we shouldn’t do, because the thrill of the rebellious is just too sweet. But to consciously choose to do the right thing, even in the face of discomfort or inner protests, it will always feel right and with that, you won’t only feel happy, but truly, genuinely satisfied.

And if you still aren’t feeling inspired, may I suggest a humble tune by the Stones?:

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Why Stoicism is Relevant Now More than Ever

When travelling, if you’re lucky, you get to make some lasting friendships, wherever you both end up on the planet. You don’t know it at the time, but they may come to have a profound impact on your life. Joe was one of those people.

I stumbled into the hostel, quickly made friends with him and his mates and stuck around with them for a good few weeks. We watched lightning storms from the roof, played many games of ‘President’, lounged by the pool and shared bbq food and many beers together. Joe, however, was one of the first who sadly had to leave. That was January 2019 and we’re still in touch to this day.

I followed his journey ski resort-hopping across the globe and actually managed to snag him for a beer that rare time he was in the same country as me. We went for a couple of pints and a stroll around Soho after a lovely lunch about a year ago. It was just before my birthday and as a gift, he gave me a book that – in the least dramatic way possible – changed my outlook on life, like a lot.

Now personally, I think giving someone a book (that you’ve read yourself) is one of the most precious things you can give. It’s not a shiny polished version that’s been perfectly packaged and mechanically placed on your doorstep, it’s a book that’s been read from start to finish, pages dog-eared, marked with various wrinkles, tea stains; someone’s literal imprint that’s travelled with them literally and spiritually. But it’s not just the physicality of the book that matters but the subject content, too. Thinking of a particular person who would also enjoy a certain book takes a lot of thought and consideration. But I digress. My point is, not only did I love the act of receiving someone else’s book but what was in it. I can safely say that it’s been read back to front multiple times and (I’m sorryyyy) highlighted and scribbled on and, essentially, worshipped the fuck out of. I sincerely apologise for defacing the sanctity of the written word, but it was only for good reasons!

The book he gave me was How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci.

For those who aren’t familiar, Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that – to boil it down into a short sentence – focuses on living life in accepting it for truly what it is. This comprises building a stoic (ahhh that’s where it comes from) mental attitude when going through hardships, learning to release things out of your control and ultimately living a contented life by accepting things just the way they are. Way easier said than done, but the premise is that while we can try and manipulate things to happen a certain way, we cannot control them. And we humans waste so much time trying to do this and come up empty most of the time.

While there are a fair good stereotypes about the Stoics, Stoicism really is just, as Pigliucci so humbly puts it…:

“about acknowledging our emotions, reflecting on what causes them, and redirecting them for our own good. It is also about keeping in mind what is and what is not under our control, focusing our efforts on our former and not wasting them on the latter. It is about practicing virtue and excellence and navigating the world to the best of our abilities, while being mindful of the moral dimension of all our actions.”

Massimo Pigliucci, How to Be a Stoic, ‘The Unstraightforward Path’, pp. 1-16 (p. 2/3).

So it’s not just about letting go of things we can’t control but it’s also about being a decent human, asking yourself whether your choices align with your morals. Now I’ll be honest, that takes some work. But that angle I will save for another day.

Firstly, after reading this book, I really felt my perspective shift. It was almost as if I’d been flexing my ‘control’ muscle for so long, but just let it go, letting it wobble around in its unclenched glory. Whenever something happened that would usually piss me off – something as trivial as a reckless cyclist on the canal or a rude person in a restaurant – it would just wash over me. I wouldn’t even think to let myself get annoyed. Then when worse things happened, like my poor old dog Ruby dying (as heartbreaking as that was), I really think I processed that much more healthily/successfully than I would have done before. I accepted that there was nothing I could do to ease her suffering or stop her from dying, so I let her go in peace. I realised it would cost me more emotional pain to focus on the uncontrollable than the reality of what had actually happened.

I also detached from other things like external validation, opinions of others, anxieties about particular outcomes and so on. All of it (and more) was so far beyond my reach and viewing it stoically I saw that so much is out of our hands – and that is ok. It is not a bad thing. It’s actually quite beautiful, coasting on the agenda of the universe, taking things as they come and not having the burden of but what if. Rather, I found, that you come to adopt, so what? I’m not saying everything happens for a reason (perhaps it does), but I’m saying that things happen, period. I’m also not saying that you should abandon your emotions entirely, either, otherwise my ambitions and purpose in life would be pretty meaningless. I’m saying everything is inevitable, so in the most poetic way possible: strap in for the ride and thrive in the uncertainty, folks, shit’s gonna go down whether you like it or not!

I’m aware that now is really not the time to be preached at by some idiot on the internet – we are living in extremely unique times. Now is a time when we’re all very much grappling to some kind of control to try and make sense of everything that is happening. To try and self-soothe. That is human nature, that is our survival instinct kicking in.

But what if you considered the alternative? What if you decided to just embrace everything as it comes, in all its profound shittiness? (And let’s remember, not all of life is as bleak as it is today.) It’s coming to terms with what is, by surrendering your impulse to know everything. Ultimately, it (whatever may happen) is not up to us – whether you’re religious or not, that stands for every kind of belief or lack thereof. You may find it easier to just say the age-old it is what it is and you wouldn’t be wrong. But what if you turned that dejected tone into something hopeful? Now is actually the perfect time to learn about Stoicism in a more sustainable effort to do all of the above.

It’s easier said than done to just mentally ‘drop it’ (and especially if you suffer from something complex like a mental illness), but with practice and putting in the time to really learn about the philosophy behind Stoicism is truly worthwhile. A shift in perspective is all it takes to distinguish a flower from a weed (yes that is an AA quote from a TV show) or a pet from another animal on a dinner plate. It’s the same principle that applies to living daily life: you can choose to have a victimised, individualistic perspective (as I did) shadowed with pessimism, or an open, all-accepting global perspective. Your life will shift accordingly, with practice and patience.

So um, yeah, to sum up, read this book I guess? (And to Joe, THANK YOU.)

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Waking up

The past few months for me have been kind of testing, because of what I can now identify as a big ass period of realisation. Which is what’s brought me back to the keyboard. It’s all been a time for unlearning, learning and processing, all coming from the catalyst that was myself and my past behaviour/trauma. What’s a better wakeup call than you getting sick of your own shit/old patterns? 

Just to clarify, I haven’t partaken in any kind of arson, or general illegal shenanigans. This is all just a product of a rapid period of growing up. And don’t cringe away from the ‘T’ word – trauma. We have all, to some extent, experienced it one way or another, whether as a kid, adolescent or adult; it’s a non-discriminatory spectrum.

Right, enough with the ambiguity and onto the juicy stuff: said ‘Waking Up’.

Call it what you will: ‘Realisation’, ‘Awakening’, ‘Waking up’ or quite simply: the ‘Holy Shit’ moment. Capital H, capital S. It’s all a part of the same thing and in a nutshell, encapsulates the one thing that most of us humans neglect on the daily: consciousness. But the thing is, most of us unconsciously neglect this. Oh, the irony. Can’t deal.

A couple months ago, I stumbled upon Dr. Nicole Le Pera and started looking into her more. She’s a PhD-educated clinical psychologist from Philadelphia, who, by observing traditional methods of psychotherapy decided it did not serve her own desired approach, which was namely a holistic approach. 

As well as going by some traditional psychology, she would moreover take into account everything in the body to help heal the mind; starting from gut health, incorporating breathwork (admittedly, I’m yet to be convinced by this) and encouraging mindfulness as the main triangulation of her practise. Having suffered from chronic anxiety her whole life, she now claims she is mostly anxiety-free and has all of the tools to manage it more effectively because of said holistic approach. May I emphasise here that we are not disregarding psychology as a science completely here, but rather, supplementing the practise with holistic work. Focusing on past behaviour and analysing thought processes is just as important as flexing the human consciousness muscle. 

Le Pera breaks down the mammoth concept of the consciousness into bitesize pieces which in turn helps you understand it further. The main gist is that we have two parts to our ‘self’/individuality/character, whatever you want to call it: The Ego and the Authentic Self: Who we think we are (who we’ve been conditioned to be) and who we actually are. If you want to read/learn more about the science (in a way that has not been severely butchered by myself), she explains it so well both on her YouTube and website:

https://yourholisticpsychologist.com/how-to-do-ego-work/

When we separate ourselves like so, we come to realise just how conditioned we have been; sometimes in extreme ways, like being raised in a Satanic cult believing that we are all doomed to perish in a pit of burning flames peppered with the ashes of our enemies* .. and then sometimes in more subtler ways… like being told that crying is bad and we should always hide our feelings. 

*Just to be clear, I am not in a Satanic cult; I just have a rather overactive imagination.

As kids, we are such tiny impressionable sponges and we soak up every ounce of what happens to us, which paves the way for our emotional responses, our attachments, our understanding of relationship dynamics and even the understanding of the world around us to this very day. We simply wouldn’t have known any different and some still don’t also, to this very day, in some cases. When we realise this or ‘wake up’ to this fact, we come to understand that we are not our past; we are not defined by what has happened to us. Whether that’s being bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything under the umbrella of ‘bad’.

As the consciousness grows, we equally grow to recognise which thoughts are driven by the ego; the proverbial devil on our shoulder, if you will – (bit of theme going on here isn’t there? Concerning.) And then there are the thoughts which are our authentic (real, ‘actual’) self. It takes a lot of work to divide these conflicting thought processes. Once we notice this, we can respond accordingly and ultimately, choose to respond (not react) in a way which is more sustainable, for example: calmly responding with an objective mind rather than mindlessly lashing out; it all depends on how you’ve been made to believe is the ‘correct’ way to react. Some believe yelling is the only answer, some believe avoiding the situation and withdrawing entirely is the solution.

Certain things trigger certain people and we then react the way we’ve always known to be appropriate. It could be something as simple as someone taking longer to reply to your text message than usual. ‘Ego’ tells you what Le Pera terms as ‘false narratives’, namely: ‘This person doesn’t want to talk to you and actually hates you’. Which is (generally) not the case. Unless maybe your friends have recently discovered that you are, in fact, part of a Satanic cult. Sorry. I digress.

When we step outside of our subconscious, we realise that actually instead: ‘They are busier than usual and will respond when they have the time because we are all leading busy lifestyles right now’. A typical ego response would be to fixate on this all day and even feel feelings of resentment toward that person. A conscious response would be to stay objective, depersonalising the situation and sitting in that initial discomfort until the consciousness eventually becomes second nature. 

Putting the separation of yourself and your ego into practice on a regular, consistent basis helps us continue to ‘Do the Work’ – because this isn’t just a one time lightbulb moment (as the featured image otherwise suggests). This is forming new neural pathways into more sustainable thinking and essentially, a mind free from constant negative, triggering thoughts that simply aren’t true.

I’m very aware that your attention is probably waning at this point, so to sum up: this concept is what’s helped me wake up to the proverbial sleepwalking I’d being doing hitherto and how radical this new way of thinking can be, which is why I’ve wanted to share it.

Now, rather than blindly jumping to conclusions and back down the self-destructive rabbit hole, I’m mindful of my thoughts and stand as an objective witness and try to understand those negative thoughts, then adjust my responses accordingly. It’s no quick fix but it’s a start and I truly believe that it’s helped me become more emotionally independent and a more compassionate person.

There’s so much to unpack in this whole ‘waking up’ process, but this is just the beginning, the actual becoming aware – becoming aware that ultimately, everyone is a walking product of their own conditioning – and whether they’re aware of it or not, we must be compassionate and understand that there is always a reason why people behave the way they do, whether they’re your mother, your sibling, your grandparent, your great aunt Dora, or a complete stranger.

We should all be more gentle with each other and remember that, while some people will never be aware of how to grow past their conditioning, everyone has experienced pain at some point in their life. 

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Who you think you are VS who you really are

My last post was on the heavier side wherein I talked about a lot of general beating-self-upness, which aptly brings me to something I’ve been thinking about for a while:

Why do we do it?

I read a quote recently somewhere which went something along the lines of this:

Girl: “Mum, I saw a girl today and she looked beautiful, but the first thing I thought was: Why is she trying so hard? But then I instantly thought: no, she’s owning it and looks amazing. Why do I think this way?”

Mother: “The first thought is who you’ve been conditioned to be. The second is who you really are.

And that struck me like a fresh slap to tha face.

Conditioning is a term which is crucial to be aware of. I think it can make a huge difference in conscious thinking, which leads to more self-awareness and ultimately, more compassion for oneself and other beings. That boils down to simply being a better person; treating others and yourself with respect to make life as bearable as possible for one another. How lovely!

Conditioning is defined as: ‘The process of training or accustoming a person or animal to behave in a certain way or to accept certain circumstances, i.e.: ‘social conditioning’’.

Stripped even further down: what we are raised to believe is true. IMO, far more nurture over nature.

But the good thing is, whether we have been conditioned to believe or think bad things as a knee-jerk response, we can change that. Our brains are but metaphorical lumps of play-doh.

I absolutely find my brain judging people before I even know it, sometimes thinking awful things when I’m having a bad day – which is of course just a classic projection of my own insecurities.

But if I can be conscious of that and turn that thought around every time it happens, I know that that kind of negative and ultimately self-deprecating thought process will slowly start to be replaced with positively conditioned thoughts. And don’t we all just love a full circle. It’s also an absolute banger by George Fitzgerald. As I was saying…

I believe that it takes two active components to stop this negative thought pattern:

  1. Consciousness

  2. Action

Being aware of your negatively conditioned beliefs or thoughts is one thing, but if you’re only acknowledging they’re there, that’s only going to ingrain them further. We have to actively make the decision to greet them and respectively tell them to fuck off, with an optional sarcastic smiling emoji. 🙂

Training the brain can be a sticky job, but it’s a matter of repetition until it’s a habit, like most things. There is no point beating ourselves up over the way we have learned to be due to our external environments/influences, so long as we are willing to correct it and therefore grow. Mind over mind, if you will. Brainception. All of the things.

So next time you find yourself thinking something rather dreadful or simply a bit mean, just give yourself some space to think: “Is this really who I am?” and distance yourself from those toxic judgements, no matter how big or small. Over time this will ultimately make space for more positivity in your life, which we could all use.

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On Stigma and Self-harm

The title of this will probably be enough to make you turn away and cringe, and that’s exactly why I’ve written it. World Mental Health day was recently upon us, which happened to coincide with my own personal 10-year anniversary, so I felt like it was appropriate for me to say the following; something I’ve been needing to talk about for some time.

While we’re making such progress with talking about mental health these days and awareness is growing, I want to push that even further by shining a light on something within this bracket that still has a huge stigma around it today. I’ve been back and forth as to whether this is something I ‘need’ to write about, or ‘need’ to share, because, maybe it’s TMI for some people, or something too personal no one ‘needs’ to know about, or worse, something that will alienate me from friends or family – or at the very least, make them think differently about me. Nevertheless, despite all of the above factors, I owe it to myself and to everyone who has ever suffered with depression, suicidal thoughts or self-harm, especially that last one, to spread awareness of it for all of the right reasons.

When I get on the tube in London, more often than not you’re fully in other people’s personal space. Generally, it’s boiling in there, so I roll up my sleeves to cling on to the bars for dear life. For me, though, there’s always a bit of hesitation. It’s quite horrible to know the scars on your arms are never more visible to the naked eye than they are in that compressed space under the unrelenting lights of the tube. And people stare. People stare as if you’re an axe-wielding psycho killer about to lunge for their throat. Or that’s how it feels.

I get it, it’s quite a startling thing to see on a Tuesday morning, if not upsetting. Maybe they have similar scars. Maybe they know someone who has. Or maybe it’s something utterly alien to them because no one talks about it/they don’t even realise it’s something that happens. Either way, I’m confident if we can talk about self-harm as openly as we do with depression and anxiety today, it will improve the lives of many, and may even saves the lives of many more.

People can talk about depression and where to get help today (in the media and education especially) as if it were a topic as trivial as treating a cold. Ten years ago, that wasn’t so. Depression (and anxiety) were topics that anyone would pay to specifically not talk about, and I remember so vividly because I had them both and I didn’t even know what they were/what it was I was going through, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I was 15 and had never felt more alone. I am so happy to see how much we have progressed with suicide and depression becoming more and more destigmatised these days, but we have so much further to go with the stigma behind self-harm.

I was bullied throughout primary school and high school, which led me to the inevitable depression in year 10. I was spat on, I was called anything from ugly to fat to weird to smelly on a daily basis, preposterous rumours were spread about me, friends turned against me and some even ended up laughing with the bullies. Every day felt impossible, but as a natural disciplinarian I still went every day in an attempt to just get my GCSEs and get out of there. I developed unhealthy eating patterns, among other unhealthy coping mechanisms then came self-harming. I had convinced myself that I was not worth anything to anyone and that I deserved to hurt. What I later discovered was anxiety/social anxiety, answered a lot of questions as to what was happening to me as well as the, at times debilitating, depression. I was afraid to go outside, and when I did, this figurative inner voice would tell me ridiculous things like I was walking stupid, that I looked disgusting, that people were laughing at me, to the more heart-breaking things like I would never find anyone who would want me, that I was worthless.

On a school trip mere months later that same year, I met two people who are now two constants in my life and always will be. Without sounding melodramatic, they changed my life. I was completely myself around them and they showed me what it was to have a real, caring, loving friendship – and that I mattered. This was the catalyst to me beginning my path to healing.

But as I later discovered in college a few years later, depression/self-harm isn’t something that just disappears like a poof of smoke. It’s something that will keep coming back and is something you have to manage. At 17, I still found myself going back to self-harm and drinking and feeling isolated as I had a few years before.

At university, despite making friends for life and equally having the time of my life, I went on anti-depressants in the beginning of my second semester in first year. Self-harming is something I did relapse with but I’m now ‘clean’ as of August 2018. Nevertheless, it’s something I am learning to manage and something I know I must talk about. Not just for myself, but for anyone else who is stuck in that same place I was when I was 15 – no doubt there are so many younger people out there going through the same thing today.

I soon turned 18 and was at the point where I was tired of waking up every day feeling that I just didn’t want to live anymore. So, with the support and suggestion of a close friend, I made an appointment to try and do what I’d been endlessly stalling. I sat across from the doctor as I tried to come up with some kind of sentence to explain what was going on inside my head. I broke down crying, feeling humiliated while the doctor sat there with what I can only describe as an expression of indifference. He wrote a prescription for antidepressants and… That was it. All that provided was even more sleeping problems.

And it’s this stigma that made me worse and the same one that exists for God knows how many other people today all over the world. I may be able to manage it better now, but it’s exactly for that reason that I haven’t been able to bring myself to therapy. I know I will get there one day, but what about everyone else who doesn’t find themselves in my position? Who are still just as alone, who are still at risk as I was then, because they feel like they can’t talk to anyone in fear of being shamed?

I heard someone say once that nothing worth doing comes without fear, which is why I’ve finally decided to share my experience. Part of me wants to apologise if this has made you uncomfortable, if you now see me differently. But in the same token, I don’t want to apologise. Experiencing this is something no one should have to be sorry for, and the notion that it’s wrong to share something because it makes people uncomfortable is quite honestly, so 10 years ago (if not many more).

We need to talk to each other now more than ever. I appreciate it’s easier said than done, but if collectively, we can make depression and self-harm more understood, I guarantee it will change the lives of many for the better.

I must emphasise this over anything else that my writing this does not make me a martyr. It’s something that will hopefully start the conversation to end the stigma against self-harm, for good. I know this blog is only minuscule and the reach may be tiny, nonetheless, I’m hoping me publishing this will provoke some kind of positive ‘Butterfly Effect’ wherein this rotten thing will affect fewer and fewer people as time goes on.

We must debunk the myths that self-harm is attention seeking. We must dismiss the stereotype that it’s something only ‘emos do’ (which is a horrible stereotype in itself). We must eliminate the fact self-harm is something to be ashamed about.

And finally (if you’ve made it this far) while it’s all good with preaching ‘It’s ok not to be ok’, we must now also start preaching in the same urgency that ‘It’s ok to talk about it [be it depression or self-harm], with anyone’.

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I’m back!

Hello friends – time to do some cobweb-dusting, isn’t it?

After a loooong hiatus, where I’ve been mostly gallivanting and exploring the nether parts of the earth for 15 months, I’m rather pleased to declare my return to my little blog.

And with my travelling, I picked up a lot of things along the way – some things you absolutely DON’T want to know, and then some things that could actually be worth knowing. And so with that I had one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments.

In short, I’m starting another blog!

“Oh God, another travel blog!” I hear you cry. No no! Fear not. Well actually, it technically is a travel blog. But rather than plaguing you with tips on where to go, what to see, what to do, I will respectively advise you exactly where NOT to go, what NOT to see and what NOT to do, with first-hand experience from yours truly. Travelling was incredible (more on that later), but boy, do I have some wisdom to impart.

It’s still currently under construction and will be ready so so soon. I will also still be keeping this blog running, but angling it more at opinion pieces, film/book reviews, things happening in life – a general rundown of what’s going through my mind that I need to get out at a certain time that may happen to also be relevant to you.

Even though this is just more of an update rather than an actual post, it feels good to be back! I promise I am going to tend to this baby and my newborn (as it were) much more and you will have lots more things to peruse, starting… NOW.

P.S. here is a photo of me being a dork in Canada earlier this year.

It's a sign!
It’s a sign.

 

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Dopamine – the drug we’re all taking

phone-690091_960_720
via pixabay.com

I watched an interesting video recently and its rhetoric has, although taken a backseat in my mind, still nonetheless been stewing in my thoughts. I’ll walk around and bumble through life but see it through Dopamine-tinted lenses.

Having been in London for a month or so now, I’ve noticed it so much more than at home. I’ll see people on the tube, on the street, in cafés, at restaurants, their necks craned down at an awkward angle, staring into their screens as if they were having a casual hypnosis session as part of their daily routine. Nope, just playing Angry Birds or mindlessly scrolling… And don’t get me wrong; I’m guilty of this myself, however, I’m far more aware I’m doing it after having seen the video (below), which I’ll get to.

Being glued to your phone isn’t an abnormal thing these days; most people retreat to their devices almost as a reflex or response to any kind of emotion – bored? Phone. Sad? Phone. Just found out your house is being repossessed? Phone. And so on. I know this behaviour has gradually filtered itself into a ‘normal’ category in our society (even our grandparents have smartphones now, people), but it was only recently that I realised, although it might be normal, it’s also really sad. Here’s the science:

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in response to something that ultimately makes us feel loved – a kiss, a cuddle or, yep, getting a few likes on your latest Insta. A reward chemical, if you will. That winning makes you feel good (personally I’m still not over the fact I came first in the egg and spoon race in year 4). But, without getting all scrambled by horrendous puns, that same winning feeling is pretty addictive – hence why social media has pretty much taken over most of our lives. We’re addicted to ‘winning’ and winning, in this context, is ‘who can showcase their highlights reel in the best possible way’. Here is the video for reference (which I’m sure many of you have seen, anyway) and apologies if I’ve paraphrased anything – Simon Sinek hits the nail on the head of everything that is wrong with our generation and as you’ll be aware, his words have been all but branded into my brain:

 

If you’re anything like me, you came away from this video feeling pretty ashamed and deflated that our lives have become so reductive and reclusive. What is life without an iPhone now? But it’s not even the technology that is the issue; on the contrary, it makes the fast pace of life today far easier to keep up with. It’s the media that manipulates around the technology that’s the problem. I mean, it’s nothing less than a painfully obvious observation to say that we’re steered by likes, thumbs-ups, pings, messages and memes. But what is this doing to our minds?

As discussed in the video, it’s the constant fuelling-for-validation that we thrive off now, whether we like to admit it or not and that’s nothing but destructive. If we’re constantly trying to find value in ourselves through what it is we claim to be our lives, then how long will it take before we just fall apart? Living for likes is like running on fumes – you’re gonna burn out soon enough and it’s no coincidence stats of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression have sky-rocketed since we were all swept away by the cult-like influence of social media.

It’s scary and it’s tedious to talk about. But why? Because we’ve either all just accepted the fact we’re bound by the proverbial shackles of social pressure or don’t want to admit we’ve inadvertently bought into the ‘cult’ (I’ll say that loosely) – even me, I’m far from innocent. Though I’m certainly not impartial to an Instagram filter and love a good location sticker, I can appreciate that real life isn’t that superficial. Alas – that’s just the way life is now.

But to divert away from the lecturing tedium of my recent contemplations, I’ll end on why I think being mindful is more important than ever. Mindfulness, sure, the practice is only going to help you be sharper and more in touch with yourself (and kinder to say the least) – but it’s not something everyone can take seriously.

Being mindful, however, just being aware of more things; putting down that damn phone, taking in the views around you, noticing the different smells in the air, appreciating what is in your life, that, anyone can do. And I can guarantee since I’ve started to try looking down at my phone less and start looking up around me more, I’m far more grateful for the things in my life – the real, raw, things, even (if not, especially) the darker days – more than ever. So next time you go to reach for your phone, just don’t. See what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Just see more.

Choosing depth over width

I’m one of those people that finds meaning in just about everything. Even in the greasy pigeons outside my window who quite frequently don’t hesitate to procreate but 2 metres away from me (does this mean I’m forever alone?? Even pigeons can find love?!!) Anyway, I know that it’s just an anxious pattern to unconsciously (or consciously) seek reassurance when feeling a little on edge, but it can also be quite handy to conjure up some content – so, win win. (Thanks anxiety, for once you come in use for something!)

But alas, randy pigeons aside, I read a quote in a magazine by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh in which I found some actual profound meaning:

To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width

Whether you follow this blog or know me personally, you’ll also know that I’m leaving the country soon. Like, in 9 days soon. (And before you ask, no I of course have not begun to process this in any way shape or form! Wahoo!) So this quote hit home quite a bit.

While my time has been ticking down in London, I’ve been quite flustered in trying to do all of the things, see all of the sights, spend as much time as possible with all of my friends, tick off all of the bucket list stuff, because I don’t know when I’ll be back – and I don’t think anywhere could replicate London’s unique charm, identity and of course, history.

I walked the equivalent of three half marathons in three days, around central and east London in various loops, because I believe the best way to soak up a place is to do so by foot (or by bike). I finally tried the restaurants I’d been meaning to go to for ages. I went and strolled through the Royal parks I’d been ashamed to say I’d only just been to now as I’m leaving. I took myself up to Sky Garden for an impressive panoramic view of the place I’ve lived in on and off for four years. I popped to Brighton for the day and ate vegan fish and chips on the beach in the sun. I took myself on some bike rides, had old friends stay for a long weekend and revisited streets and places that hold some nostalgia for me. But still, it didn’t feel like I’d done enough. It still feels like I haven’t made the most of the city, I still have that nagging feeling of I haven’t got enough time to see everything. What a shame.

But then I stumbled across this quote again that I’d originally read a year ago. It made me think, actually no, I can’t possibly see or do everything. That’s a ridiculous idea! I can’t expand the width of my activities and choices or things I’m doing any more. I need to focus on the depth of what I’m doing instead. I need to enrich the experiences I’m having by not needing to do more. To be fully immersed in the now, in other words, and not in a future which is not real. To make peace with that you simply cannot do everything. You can’t! And that’s ok. What’s more important is making the most of the time you do have. 

And of course – full circle – this applies to everything in life, right? Instead of constantly seeking out more, thinking about what’s lacking, worrying about what needs to be done, fixating on scarcity and that time is running out, what if you tried the inverse? What if you threw yourself into everything you did, from waking up in the morning to the big events in life? What if you absorbed every fraction of every moment so richly that you didn’t actually feel that nagging need for more? 

It might feel like a cop out, or that you are wasting time, or that you are being uninventive or lazy – trust me, your ego will stop at nothing to perpetuate these narratives. You simply have to release them knowing that they aren’t true. When it comes down to the fundamentals, there is no moment that is more important than the moments we have right now, because nothing else is as immediately real. 

So in my context, I’ve decided that I’ve done my best, I’ve probably even got to the point of semi-exhaustion from trying to fit everything in and run around like a headless chicken on speed, but ultimately, and realistically, there’s no way I could ever complete that list, which is fine. I am simply so grateful for every second I’ve been able to spend with my precious friends who I’m going to miss so badly. No other people could fill those gaps and life will certainly feel a little strangely empty without them. For every glass of wine clinked, every delicious mouthful shared, every eye-wrinkling laugh had, every crunch of the twigs from our feet walking on the forest path, every warm tear-stained goodbye hug, every moment of pure comfortable silence, for every song sung in taxi rides home, every space shared in the warmth of the spring sun, every cosy moment sat inside in awe of the ancient London pubs, every split second of joy luckily captured on camera, every spontaneous ‘Shall we order some food?’s. All of it. 

A lump has just risen in my throat thinking about the reality of leaving. Like I said earlier, I’ve barely started grasping the fact that I’ll be out on my own again soon with only the company of two rucksacks. But deciding to cherish the depth of every interaction I’m lucky to have left with the people I love, I am sure that each memory will remain as sharp as ever, if not sharper than ever.

So, I implore you to do the same in life. Don’t focus on width, focus on depth, in whatever you do. Whether this is in creative endeavours, relationships, your career, your health, your purpose, throw everything you have into whatever is important to you and I can almost guarantee that your life will become a richer picture for it. Instead of life being short, life becomes longer for all the right reasons.

Quitting

‘Quitting’ is a dirty word. It implies that we’re not strong enough, that we’ve given up, given in, that we’ve stopped caring. But recently I’ve learned that it’s actually one of the most empowering things you can do. 

Quitting shows that you know what’s best for yourself, what you won’t stand for anymore, even if the act of quitting might be not be the best decision at the world, timing-wise. If you’re quitting something at an uncertain time in your life, whether it’s a job, a manuscript, a relationship, a friendship, a project, life plans, anything, it makes you all the more stronger for making that decision in a bumpy time. And you can quit the smaller things too! Quit the habits no longer serving you. Quit your own pettiness. Quit being productive if you don’t feel like it. You can quit most things in your life if you have the privilege/safety to. While it certainly shakes things up in our lives, ironically it’s the quitting that makes everything else become clear. That ‘everything’ being what you need the most right now. Like Glennon Doyle quoted on her Instagram: “Quitting is my favourite. Every day I quit. Every single day… Begin and quit! Only way to survive. Embrace quitting as a spiritual practice, loves.”

When I left my job, I was so torn as to whether I could actually leave because I didn’t have another gig or job offer to go to, despite piles of applications I’d sent out. I spent months going back and forth because of this; eventually I decided to just bite the bullet and trust that I would figure things out. One month later, I was back on my feet and pursuing the freelance life I’d been dreaming of for a while and life was pretty sweet. Don’t get me wrong; the process of deciding to leave, actually handing in the notice and leaving in itself were all terrifying prospects, but I knew that it was my time. After the execution itself, it felt so empowering, even if scary. The former both outweighed and outstayed the latter.

More recently, I left another job and went through the same process – but again, it was the right thing for me to do at the time. In anguish over said execution, how it would be received, what colleagues would think (I know, I shouldn’t care), I did it anyway despite all of that egocentric chatter that gets very loud when you take a risk in any context. But after it was done, once more, I felt so much lighter. In quitting, I felt like life was in my hands again and I had the privilege to be able to choose to do anything I wanted (or not). 

It applies to creative projects too. Sometimes you try so hard to make something work and no matter how much you believe in its potential, something just isn’t clicking. Round hole, square peg; you just have to surrender to the fact that it just, for whatever reason, isn’t working and quit. In doing so, you automatically give yourself a wealth of new, more exciting, more rewarding, more interesting ideas to explore – like opening a door on a busy street and on the other side is this wonderful meadow with the backdrop of a stunning valley and dramatic snowy mountains. A creative Narnia, if you will. In short, by quitting, you liberate yourself.

Sometimes you have to quit places. Sometimes you’re yearning for a change of scene or your time has simply expired there. It makes me sad to think of me quitting London, because that implies that I don’t want to be there anymore and I’m leaving for good, which isn’t necessarily true. But generally, sometimes we do need to quit our environment, whether that’s leaving a city, moving to a new place, a new country, a new house, a new county, a new planet; wherever. Conversely, you can also quit the idea of constantly moving around and fall in love with putting your roots down, too. Quit what doesn’t feel deeply good to/for you, essentially.

Sometimes you have to quit people. This is the toughest type of quitting, because it seems impossible. This doesn’t have to be in such black or white terms as the phrase suggests, simply a decision to move through your life without them – either at all or in certain contexts. Sometimes, friendships run their course, which is arguably even more sad than romantic breakups. People change as they age, experience various things, grow into/out of themselves and sometimes that won’t always align with you, despite your history. I’ll say it again, but choosing to quit certain people in your life (whether this is active or passive) is one of the hardest things you can do. But, it’s usually in your best interest. Luckily, I haven’t had to experience this much yet.

So many of us say But I don’t know if it’s the right time to quit. By even toying with the idea, you have already decided. The resistance you feel is simply your ego trying to keep you safe in the familiar, even if that familiar place is painful. The other part of you that is yearning for something else, something new, something more, something better, that’s the part you should trust. That’s your Knowing – the wisest part of you that feels like a gentle tugging in the direction of the path you were meant to follow.

So, give yourself permission to quit the damn thing. Even if it’s not the ‘right’ time – consider: when is it ever the right time? Especially if it’s hard. Free yourself of the internal conflict, but make the decision out of a place of love for yourself, rather than a place of hate and pain. It will be hard to choose to do so, but on the other side is the clarity you’ve been needing and deserve to give yourself. Imagine who you would be on the other side. Are they lying on an inflatable doughnut, bobbing on a pool, sipping a margarita in the sun, living their best life? Quite likely. 

Knowing

I reread Glennon Doyle’s powerful Untamed recently and something particularly stuck with me. 

In one part of her empowering memoir, she talks about her Knowing. Others may know this as intuition, gut feeling and so on. That instinctual feeling you have when you are pulled to do the thing you should do, that’s underlying all the opposing tugging feelings of what you want to do. And up until recently, I really discounted this as a general rule going through life. I thought ‘Eh, gut feeling, gut schmeeling – what is it really useful for?’

A lot, it turns out.

As I’ve been getting more in touch with my emotions and – I don’t know why I resist the word, but alas – ‘spiritual’ side, one recurring theme in the non fiction I was reading was aligning with your intuition. Coming home to your body. Connecting the mind and the gut. It wasn’t until I’d read Untamed again that I really started putting it into practice and understanding this more concretely. 

I think the word ‘intuition’ never really connected with me, but Knowing did. It implied that somewhere in my body had the best intentions for me because it just knew from previous experience – on a level I could never really put my finger on. It just knew that a choice I was about to make was not the one for me, as if it was the future coming back to say: Don’t do this, because I know that this isn’t what you really want. Every time I was about to (or am about to) do something that sabotaged my progress deliberately, I felt that tugging that said: Honey, we know how this ends, walk away. Yet the opposing, seductive force of desire was just too strong. Time and time again, I’d get swept away with it and shortly, after betraying my knowing, regret it, of course and feel deeply ashamed. 

The more I started understanding and tuning into my Knowing, though, the more I noticed it in those ‘crossroad’ moments – where I could either choose to abandon myself by way of self-sabotage or choose my authentic self by way of just listening to my gut. This could look like anything from bingeing on food right after a great gym session, or drinking the drink when I know I should sit with my feelings, isolate myself when I needed my friends or procrastinate until the very last minute, making my work a shoddy version of what it could have been. All of course ending in regret, shame and a host of other emotions that I deep down know I don’t deserve to feel anymore. It’s all ultimately rooted in self-worth, but that’s an ongoing process.

So, one day I started not only noticing the nudging of my knowing in those moments, but following it. Allowing myself to have the curiosity to think: ‘I wonder what would happen if I trusted my gut in this very moment and followed that path instead?’ And it turns out, wonderful things.

On that path is peace! On that path there’s no regret! No shame! Ahh!! Only empowerment and stillness. All things that every single human on this earth deserves. After – in the heat of the moment pre-binge – I chose to close the fridge door, breathe, calmly walk away, I felt this buzz I’d never had before: the buzz of self-generated power. I almost felt old layers shed beneath me as I stepped closer to my true self; not the version that I’d been conditioned to be since, well, forever. It sounds crazy to think that one small act can be so eye-opening, but in that moment I thought: What if I followed my knowing in each moment like this, regardless of the context? I’d be fucking unstoppable.

Of course, there are periods when all we want to do is self-destruct or self-sabotage. Sadly, it’s what feels familiar and the familiar feels safe, and the safe feels easy. We don’t have to expend as much energy concentrating on becoming anything different to what we’re used to being. We can accomplish more things, have more time to do the things we want to satisfy our desires. But, having had this conflict between resistance and surrender for so long, I decided that over my desires, my quest for pleasure, for ease, for joy, my emotional/spiritual needs just had to come first, even if they’re uncomfortable as hell to face. 

Following your Knowing isn’t easy. Choosing your gut instinct when you’re having that ever-tempting, nagging ‘but but but but but look at this shiny thing’ sensation brings up a whole host of emotions, shame included. Choosing what’s right for you rather than the thing you so desperately want (not for the right reasons) can provoke a lot of questions related to: Why can’t I/Why am I like this/Why is it so hard/Why am I here narratives. But that’s just your ego throwing a tantrum because you’re in unfamiliar territory; territory that you’re about to discover is so beautiful if you can just make it over the hill to see the view that lies beyond the discomfort.

And following your Knowing doesn’t have to always be in the heat of the moment; it can apply to anything in your life that ultimately comes down to a decision. Whenever there is conflict within you, you already know the answer. Whenever you feel stuck, you know the answer. Personally, when I am stuck, I ask myself: What is my Knowing telling me here? And the answers always reveals itself. And it’s usually doing the hard thing. But like Glennon says, We can do hard things.

The answer to whatever you’re struggling with always lies within you – you just have to notice it, get in touch with it every day, feel for it. We all know what a gut feeling sensation is like – the drop in your body as if someone is tapping at a door in the back of your mind waiting for you to answer, while your stomach grips the handle. Putting that physical feeling into the emotional context it is designed for, by connecting the mind and gut this way, is how we can start using our Knowing to come home to the best versions of ourselves: the one who wants the best for us, the one who is their true self. To me, that’s the ultimate goal in life – to break free of all of your past conditioned patterns to come back to who you are before the world got to you.

So while I’m very much a novice myself at this, I implore you simply notice. Notice in those crossroad moments, the fork in the road that leads to either ‘What you want to do’ and ‘What you know you should do instead’, and listen to your Knowing: it is the kindest gift you can give to your future self. Your Knowing after all is your future self coming back to you as a messenger, telling you that this is the path that was meant for you – it’s all connected, in the end. Trust the discomfort and the rest will follow.

The Value of Space

I bought a snake plant a few years ago, which, unsurprisingly, started to look a little sad last summer. They’re very low-maintenance, yet somehow I was still draining the life out of it. Not being a huge plant expert, but committing to learning on the go (if you can even commit to that strategy), I wanted to try and make him happier without giving up and palming him off to a neighbour or… welp, the plant graveyard AKA: the bin.

I’d tried under watering it, overwatering it, sunlight, no sunlight, so I thought I’d try and do the thing I’d been putting off the most: actually touching the soil and getting my hands dirty to repot the thing. A moment of silence, please, for my nails which I’m sure still have remnants of stubborn soil still lingering under there. 

So, I uprooted him – temporarily – and decided to essentially split the plant in two, tugging hesitantly at the roots, separating him into two medium-ish pots to see if that would work. I just wanted to make the poor bugger look less droopy – and droopy is the antithesis of what this plant should be; its nickname is Mother-in-law’s tongue, for crying out loud. So, a few fresh cups of soil later, a bit of patting down and some healthy doses of water, my one plant, became two! (There’s a Spice Girls song there somewhere…)

And happily, it worked! Alice not only helped the plant survive, but helped it thrive! It didn’t take much time at all for the little snake plant babies to shoot right up and for the leaves themselves to stand to attention proudly, as they should have been doing all along. They grew so fast and filled the space of the pot so easily it was hard to think they were ever in the same pot. It was no wonder all the little individual plants and leaves were so unhappy. And then, of course, Alice had a burst of inspiration…

This is PERFECT for a blog post!

You knew it was coming. If you read my posts, you know by now I grasp for inspiration in the most tenuous of places in my life. 

So, I had a thought: space. That’s all he needed to thrive. Despite everything else I was trying to give him to fix him, that’s the only thing that worked. And sometimes, it applies to us humans too.

I won’t go down the route that obviously we need to be figuratively watered, be in the sunlight and yada yada yada, because *that* would be far too millennial of me. No, I’m just going to go down the route that humans just need repotting from time to time. (Ugh, alright fine, that’s just as bad.)

But in all seriousness, sometimes we do get stuck. Sometimes we do feel like we can’t uproot without a bit of help. Sometimes we don’t know that’s the problem ’til someone outside of ourselves gives us a helping hand or the inspiration. And no amount of ‘watering’, ‘sunlight’, ‘shade’ or ‘plant food’ can shake that feeling.

Sometimes all we need is some space to get some clarity to find out what it is that we want. And if anyone has ever told you your happiness doesn’t matter, then start ditching that belief right now. Take the space you need to figure out what makes you happy, what brings you purpose, what gives your life meaning, because we only get one chance to do it all. (This got very serious very fast.)

For me, this means making the choice to uproot once again. This means packing up and selling all my stuff, saying bye to everyone I love again and leaving London once more. I’ve always felt a bit like a balloon and everyone around me a tree; I’m never quite able to firmly set my roots down, I’m always kind of floating around, easily moving to somewhere else if I choose to do so, even if that’s the other side of the world (bearing in mind that, while this notion is all very poetic and romantic, I am also in a very privileged position to be able to do this, which not everyone is).

While I adore London, that same balloon-y sensation has been tugging me in a direction outside of the capital city, where I have so many memories. Where there’s still so much potential for my future. A plethora of different paths I could go down. Where there are so many people I love and simultaneously so many new friendships blossoming. I’m not sure why, but I know I have to honour that intuitional tugging that’s nudging me, saying: Imagine how much you could bloom here too, and for now, here is Canada.

So I’m finally doing what I’ve dreamed of doing since I was 15. I’m uprooting to somewhere that has a very special place in my heart. A place full of snow globe-like childhood memories, a place bursting with the kind of striking beauty that makes me feel at home, that makes little Alice glow. I’ve been yearning to be away from the city-life for a while; a reason I’m sure is easily if not lazily assignable to the pandemic and lockdown after lockdown. A reason I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling.

And the space. I’ve been yearning for a different kind of space to find out what it is that I want next. London gave me everything I wanted for a period and more, but as you do, you grow older and you start to want different things, which is no dig on London. I’ll be back. She’ll be waiting and I’ll be embracing her with warm arms again one day I’m sure. Apples and oranges, baby.

To give yourself the gift of space – if you have that privilege – is one of the kindest gifts of all. And it can be in whatever form. Whether you carve out alone time in your day-to-day, go on a solo holiday, take a new course, pick up a hobby just for you, or yeah, uproot and move somewhere new by yourself. Space gives you the opportunity to be your authentic self, to give yourself the time to figure out what you really want, to experiment and play with the trajectory of your life – and by the way, you’re never too old to do this. While feeling stuck seems an impossible rut from which to break free, give yourself the patience and compassion to allow yourself to have space in your life, in whatever form.

And here we go – with that space, not only could you thrive just like my little (now big) snake plant, you could give yourself the potential to bloom into the strongest, most resilient version of you. Step outside of your day-to-day, be with yourself in the silence, listen. What is your intuition telling you? In which direction is it tugging you? Follow that urge and you may find the answers you’ve been searching for. Your potential won’t just be something that’s too far out of reach. You’ll embody it. And that’s pretty bloody empowering.

Read Once for Information, Twice for Transformation

Over the festive period, I love reading. It’s a great chance to catch up and scramble to tick off all those titles you promised yourself you’d get around to reading that year. And also who doesn’t love going into the new year feeling all smug and bookish? (Cause it gives you a free pass to watch more Netflix instead of reading when the inevitable January blues come along.)

I re-read quite a few titles in 2021 (in no particular order): Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, Dr. Edith Eger’s The Gift, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Anthony Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name and Massimo Pigliucci’s How to Be a Stoic.

Now you might be thinking: What a waste of time! You could have read so many other things in that time. 

You’re not wrong. But also, you’re wrong.

What I’ve found through revisiting books, particularly non-fiction, is that while I’m reading the same material again, I’m processing it in a new way. All of those ideas are absorbed by my mind in a much richer, deeper way to the extent I can begin applying those insights to my life, rather than letting them fly right over my head. This may seem like a common observation, but I really feel like the words sink into you more personally and stick. They strike a much more resonating chord. The words come back to revisit you throughout the day at moments when you need them the most. Those punchy snippets that made you think absently the first time but perhaps seeped out of your head that very same day are the same ones that are echoed through your days having read, if not studied, those books again.

It’s such a simple – and overlooked – way to deepen your knowledge on something. You may remember various passages that gripped you initially which end up hitting home even more – for me I underline/write these down and come back to them when I need them. The words feel more like a steadfast foundation of support rather than a fleeting whoosh of an idea that you may never think about again.

Some examples I had which especially resonated was one passage from Glennon Doyle’s incredible, empowering, shocking, rattling book, Untamed:

It turned out what I needed most was inside the one place I’d been running from my entire life: pain. Everything I needed to know next was inside the discomfort of now. As I practiced allowing my hard feelings to come and stay as long as they needed to, I got to know myself. The reward for enduring hard feelings was finding my potential, my purpose, and my people… I can’t imagine a greater tragedy than remaining forever unknown to myself. That would be the ultimate self-abandonment. So I have become unafraid of my own feelings. Now when hard feelings ring the bell, I put on my big-girl pants and answer the door.

Glennon Doyle, Untamed (London: Vermillion, 2020) p. 261.
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living: THE NO.1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER:  Amazon.co.uk: Doyle, Glennon: 9781785043352: Books
Read this. Then read it again. And again.
Pic from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Stop-pleasing-start-living/dp/1785043358

And from an equally empowering book, but perhaps more softly so, are some nuggets of gold from holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger’s The Gift:

The language of fear is the language of resistance. And if we’re resisting, we’re working very hard to ensure that we go nowhere. We deny growth and curiosity. We’re revolving, not evolving.

Dr. Edith Eger, The Gift (London: Rider, 2020) p. 138

When you’re free, you take responsibility for who you really are… you reconnect with the parts of yourself you had to give up… You break the habit of abandoning yourself.

P. 66/67

With feelings there’s not way out but through. We have to be with them. It takes so much courage to be, without having to do anything about anything – to just simply be.

P. 46

A feeling is just a feeling, it’s not your identity.’

P. 35

And my favourite…

‘If you sit with one butt on two chairs, you become half-assed.’

P. 71
The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life: Amazon.co.uk: Eger, Edith:  9781846046278: Books
Then read this. And read it again.
Pic: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gift-Edith-Eger/dp/1846046270

I mean… take a moment to let all of that sink in. The more you read this kind of stuff, the more likely you will start to live by the same things and your lens through which you view life will shift. We’re humans. We love repetition, we love patterns – they’re predictable. And what’s better than making empowering, healing knowledge part of your day-to-day thought patterns?

Most of the books I revisited that shook me the most were non-fiction. But the fiction books I reread had the opposite effect. They softened me. The nostalgia of coming back to a place you’ve been already, but perhaps a year or so later when you yourself have grown and changed, makes you reflect on just that. How you perceive certain ideas or characters or events now, a kind of soft grief unravelling for who you used to be; how you used to think, what might have happened to be the catalyst of that change, no matter how subtle or obvious. It’s why I always reread Memoirs of a Geisha every summer – it’s a reminder of not just how beautiful the story and prose is, but how my perspective has evolved over the last year, how my curiosity has deepened. And loads of other mushy shit, as you can imagine.

So if you have *those* books that you absolutely adored or inhaled in a day or two, I encourage you to read them again! And again! See! It’s even there in the word – a gain!!! There really is nothing to lose but the time you spend dawdling on whether or not you should read it again. If you think it would be boring because you already know what happens, trust me, it will be the opposite.

And with all of the above, I really do stand by that we read once for information, twice for transformation. (And might I suggest one could lightly skim over something for inspiration!) There will always be new layers to peel back as you grow older and experience new things. And it will amaze you at how you can learn new tricks from an old dog (or book, in this case). Read something once and it will catch your attention. Read it again and it will give that same attention the momentum to change you.

An Equation for Life

Before I started university my social anxiety was probably at its peak. I was overplanning, overpreparing and catastrophising every little thing, worrying I wouldn’t make friends and/or that I’d have a lonely time. Before moving into my halls of residence, I remember cursing the fact there was no Facebook group setup so we, the flatmates to be, could start chatting and getting to know one another, like a friend had had when she’d started a few weeks earlier elsewhere. (Little did I know that that would be a blessing in disguise.) 

The day before, I felt like a bag of worms; nerves, excitement, anticipation all squiggling around inside my stomach and from my head to my toes. The buildup was quite excruciating – after the rollercoaster that high school was*, I couldn’t wait to move away. Then the ‘Day Of’ came and I felt something alien and unfamiliar. 

(*that would have been nowhere near as bearable had I not had my core group of best friends – you know who you are.)

I thought to myself: I don’t know anyone I’m about to meet. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I can just be completely myself. No masks. No weird awkwardness. No anxiety. It all just melted away. I woke up that morning and it all dissolved, like the moment you drop a bath bomb into the water. That feeling of surrender felt like the explosion of colour and wild fizzing as it bursts into a beautiful unique marbled painting on the water’s surface, the end result you can’t possibly predict. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked by flowery metaphors.

So I got into the car that morning with my dad, buzzing with this sense of anticipation, but this on this occasion it was expectation-less. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I was completely ok with it. I felt like for the first time in so many years, I’d returned to my body, my authentic Self. I was open to receiving fun, joy and newness without the need to defend myself, by chronically living in a threatened state of ‘survival mode’. I felt lighter. I felt taller. (It’s difficult to describe without sounding like you’ve taken a dose of hallucinogenics, but I can confirm that was not the case.)

After a last minute dash to Tesco to grab some pots and pans I was missing (that sadly were probably never used, sorry dad), we finally arrived on campus. You probably could have charged your phone from the amount of electricity bouncing off me at that point. But that evening, after dad left me to my own devices with a teary goodbye, I met the people who would become some of my closest friends to this day, over 8 years later. I met the bunch who I’d have the time of my life with during one of the most pivotal periods of my youth away from home. I met the group of friends I never saw coming, that I never knew I needed. You guessed it: by expecting nothing, I actually received everything.

It’s hard to describe the amount of luck we had in those halls, if not impossible. The odds of you ending up with two or three friends in your corridor are probably the most likely. But to end up with having a circle you’re still close to now that made up the majority of your floor; there’s some kind of alchemy involved somewhere there. Without getting too mushy here, we had the most insane luck and have friendships for life borne from the legendary top floor of block 3E/4E (and beyond) and I’m still so grateful to this day for whatever forces brought us all together. No forms of distance, time or events have seemed to separate us yet – and since the science says once you’re friends with someone for 7 years, it’s for life, it looks like we’re happily stuck with each other!

What I’m saying here is that strange, weird, beautiful things happen when you release all forms of expectation. When you let go of the anxiety of what might happen, when you stop living in the land of What If and emigrate to the planet of The Beautiful Unknown. You aren’t ruled by the restricting forces of anxiety or fear; you are open to anything could happen and are far better equipped to live life as it was designed to be lived: freely! Once you release yourself from that cage of projected worry that’s mistakenly trying to keep you safe, you are much less a canary in the coal mine (if that’s not too dramatic an idiom) but better yet, a duck to the water, or as free as a bird – take your pick (there are actually so many bird idioms/metaphor/visual-language-related-things out there, guys).

So especially now while life is all things unpredictable and unknown, try letting go of all said things. They’re too heavy to carry around constantly and you deserve a break. It’s much easier said than done, but what happens if you’re curious about it to begin with? What happens if you decide to try letting the restrictive forces of control fade away like that bath bomb? You may find that life becomes less like a relentless march but more of a gentle, easeful flow. Think about the soundtrack to your life being more Enya, less My Chemical Romance. And then go from there… 

Expect nothing = receive everything.

Love is not a transaction

Whenever I’ve made a cup of tea, I always refill the kettle. That means the next person who comes to use it won’t have to; they can get their cuppa quicker. Now, I’m the furthest thing from a martyr, but to me, there’s nothing more annoying than when you’re gasping for a brew but the bloody kettle is empty, so you have to stand there for an eternity filling it up, waiting for it to boil, slowly descending into madness throughout the whole process.*

*Alright, perhaps having to do tax returns is a bit more annoying

But what prompted me to make this small gesture a daily habit was something I’d read about in relation to the purest form of love and kindness, that neither of them are a transaction. Love is not a transaction. And kindness is not a transaction. I’ll let you chew on that for a bit.

That statement made me think; of course we know that love and kindness are generally selfless concepts, but if we could cultivate a more conscious practice of this in our lives, how much fuller would said lives be? How many times have we experienced a random act of kindness from a stranger and felt so warmed from it? Even random acts of kindness from those we love? What if we could return that every day, stripped of any entitlement?

When we give love so openly, so freely, not thinking of it as a transaction, not expecting something in return, it makes the act of giving so much richer; you realise that you have such an abundance of it that you actually don’t need it at all – your ‘supply’ of love, as it were, becomes bottomless – and with that you start to see life with far fewer harsher corners and more softer edges. When you see life as an opportunity to give love and kindness rather than a rolling event where you are always waiting on the next moment love will come to you (or perhaps giving love only as an attempt to have it mirrored back), your ability to love and expand your kindness will become effortless. And then sneakily, you’ll find that love and kindness will appear in your life more and more. When you aren’t always seeking more, but giving more, there won’t be any scarcity of love; only a juicy abundance of it, wherever you go.

My mum and dad came to visit me this weekend and when they’d left, I discovered dad had rearranged my hideous Tupperware cupboard. He’d put all the lids together in one place and all the boxes stacked together adjacently, all in the right sizes, whereas before it looked like a scrambled mess of chaos. He hadn’t told me, he just did it knowing it would make life a little easier, even if the gesture was small on the surface. It made my heart smile.

My yoga teacher, a beautiful, kind, warm person, saw that I’d rushed into class one evening in shorts on a day which was definitely not built for shorts. Right before class as everyone was getting into their zone, I was just sitting with my eyes closed, tuning in, defrosting. I opened my eyes as the flow began and saw she’d brought a blanket and put it by my feet. Call me soppy, but this almost brought a tear to my eye. I made sure to thank her afterwards and the small act of kindness made me feel all fluffy for the rest of the week.

As I was frantically trying to make the last train home from London before lockdown was announced, I came downstairs to the foyer in my flat, where all the mail is stored and sometimes people in the building write post-it notes to one another. Someone had left some food with a note saying ‘For those isolating, please take!’ And I thought – what a huge difference this seemingly small gesture would make to someone’s life right now. Again, that feeling of warmth spread through me.

Stripped back of mushiness, what I’m trying to say is that: what if we told someone close I love you or I’m thinking of you for the sake of it? Or put someone’s washing away because we knew they’d had a bad day? Or gave a seat to someone on the tube because you didn’t need it? Or offered someone your umbrella at the bus stop on a rainy day? Or baked bread for an ill neighbour? Or wrote a letter to a friend you’ve been thinking about for a while? Or bought a sandwich and coffee for a homeless person? Or helped someone up the stairs with their pram? All without needing to receive anything back?

When you see love not as a transaction, but more as an opportunity to encourage warmth and kindness, you will find that the love in your life is more profound, infinite, even. Eventually you’ll see the love you’re giving out there being returned to you without even trying – and with that, completing the cycle. Until the next opportunity, and the next, and the next – because Lord knows we need more love and kindness on this planet, eh? And that’s what life should be about – spreading love and kindness as much as we can with our limited time here.

Romanticising the Ordinary

Last week I was fortunate enough to go back to Sweden to stay with my grandma, who I haven’t seen for about 2 years because of – you guessed it. Normally, it’s a week spent seeing family over there (and I’m lucky to have a lot of it), spending afternoons in the nearby woods, by the lake, going into the local town some days and then just *being* at home with Mormor (the Swedish name for grandma). Though we did all of the regular cosy things we normally do, something about this time was different.

I know a lot of people have had some inevitable personal shifts because of the trauma (micro and macro) that the pandemic has caused and I’ve definitely felt that effect too. If being forced to move back home and spend every waking minute with your family without anywhere else to go for an extended period isn’t somewhat stressful and/or challenging, hats off to you. Being stuck inside with anyone without anywhere to go is, needless to say, stressful in itself. But over that cooped up period, it gave me – as well as everyone else – so much time. Time to stop, to think (not always a good thing), time to really look at myself and what’s around me. Time to really bloody appreciate all the blessings I have in my life and in fact: how my life is made up of an abundance of them (thank you, whoever’s/whatever’s up there).

In that chapter, I learned about what this wishy-washy term of ‘presence’ really means. And the role of gratitude in someone’s life, when it doesn’t feel like a suffocating shame-inspiring mechanism. And when those two are put together, it gave me the opportunity to see life in a stripped back way I’d never seen before – most likely because my vision was clouded with heavy layers of unresolved trauma/personal issues (I’m by no means anything special BTW, everyone has some levels of trauma whether they know it or not).

But as I said, that time over lockdown gave me the space to stop resisting the discomfort of facing my shadows and look them directly in the eye. It was liberating, having moments of realisation where I’d think: ‘Oh! I don’t actually need anyone to validate me at all to feel worthy’, or ‘Oh! I’m not actually the victim of anything unless I choose to be’, or ‘Oh! It was actually me in the wrong the entire time!’ Hilarious little nuggets like that, yeah.

Anyway, to get back to the point, shedding these layers, slowly but surely, eventually gave me clarity. That clarity came in the form of simplicity, which brings me back to the title of this piece. When the mental chatter died down a little as I tuned into the present moment more and more often, the inner chaos was replaced with quiet. The constant narrative of thought/judgement in my mind was replaced with stillness. While I was out and about on my daily walks, noticing the marbling colours of the sky, or the elegant swooping of a wagtail or even occasionally the bounding motion of a deer in the distance – as cheesy as ALL of that shite is (and inevitably what’s still to come will be) – everything else abstract didn’t matter. Nothing mattered right then apart from the beauty that was around me. And it felt ridiculous and wasteful to be anywhere else but right there at that moment. Sometimes you’ve gotta give into the cheesiness and just choose peace, bro.

I felt this same feeling when I was in Sweden recently, which I now realise is because I was actually present – not only physically, but mentally. I was nowhere else, not planning the distant future or worrying about what was coming next. I was completely absorbed in the environment in which I was. I soaked up every moment – from the feeling of standing barefoot on her linoleum kitchen floor, to noticing the tiny rose motifs on her wallpaper, the pile of sudoku resting on the midnight blue table mats, her ‘90s style cooker with small framed photos of her every grandchild sitting on the shelf above it, the little seal sticker stuck to her radio that she’d turn on every Saturday morning. My days were filled with rich moments of noticing all the beauty in these details, all of which represented something of my grandmother – what she likes, where she’s been, what she’s seen, who she is, how those things are also in me somehow. And I really think this is why I remember this particular trip so vividly, as if it were barely a few moments ago. Every second was rich with my feeling of being completely there and when I say completely, I really mean it in the literal sense.  As a whole, grounded person; not someone who is half there and half in a future universe that doesn’t exist yet.

In learning to romanticise the ordinary, the previously mundane and even boring, that instilled not only an intense, electric presence, but a full sense of gratitude and love within me. Gratitude for having the ability to see and feel and hear these things, to even be there in the same room as my grandmother whom I adore so much. I think now, ‘Why wouldn’t you romanticise the ordinary?’ Because once you do, you realise just how ephemeral life is and how special everything in it is – and brace yourself for some more cheese, here – from the bricks that make up the building in which you live, to the hug from a friend after a tough week, from the smell of a vanilla-scented candle to the unexpected smile from a stranger. All of it is beautiful, simply because you’re alive to witness it.

Well, ahem, after all that mumbo-jumbo nonsense, I reckon it’s time for a stiff drink and a pack of Doritos, don’t you?

Memento Mori in Modern Life

One of the Stoic mantras is Memento Mori – translating roughly to remember that you could die at literally any second of every day so you better live life to the fullest!*

*ok I once again made that up

It’s a phrase I learned when reading up more on Stoicism and one that stuck with me, as has Amor Fati. I’ve written briefly about the former before, but I want to talk about how to make this seemingly morbid symbolic concept more accessible in 21st Century life.

The phrase itself sounds laden with heavy, philosophical schmance, but in reality, it’s just a very sobering, grounding reminder of how fleeting life really is. The Latin directly translates to: ‘Remember that you have to die.’ And yeah, alright, alright, it is a tad on the dramatic side. But let’s break it down.

The more we’re aware of the fact that we – and everyone around us – are mere mortals, the more we enjoy the present moment. Life becomes richer, even in the most mundane moments. Doing the food shop becomes an experience full of colour, walking round the block becomes a vast exploration, a conversation with another friend turns into a slice of magic in your day. You’re still here and have had all of these opportunities to keep living! Not only do you become more in touch with what’s around you but you also become so much more grateful. Once you remind yourself on the daily that the precious people in your life could disappear from the earth (yourself included) at literally any moment, the little trivial things in life dissolve and cease to matter.

While it’s quite a heavy thing to grapple with – ‘Hey, we’re all gonna die and it could be any moment right now!’ – I quite like to use the phrase ‘All Being Well’ after most of my thoughts/sentences to channel this particular philosophy with a softer spin:

I’m going to the pub in a few hours! All being well. 

I’m seeing my family tomorrow! All being well.

I’m going to go for a long run this weekend. All being well.

I’ll book that restaurant for tonight. All being well.

I’ll jump on the tube tonight on the way to dinner. All being well.

You get the gist. Because all of those things could happen according to plan! But what if you end up having to stay late at work? What if (God forbid) there’s been an accident or a fire? What if you injure yourself? What if that restaurant’s closed for unforeseen circumstances? What if you get a flat tyre? Granted, most of those are unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they’re not possible.

Thinking this way might seem quite apocalyptic, right? Why would you automatically assume that things would go wrong? Why live in a negative mindset, why not be optimistic and assume the best? Aren’t we told to not live in fear?

While you have the best intentions living through an optimistic lens, life (read: reality) isn’t generally optimistic; it’s realistic and sometimes in the worst ways. And that’s what we constantly resist as fallible humans; we live mostly on autopilot forgetting the reality of what’s here right now because we’re so occupied by being mentally elsewhere, perhaps stuck in fantasies of the future, or ruminating on the past. This is where another Stoic framework comes in: negative visualisation. 

Negative visualisation ties in quite nicely with Memento Mori. Ultimately, it’s subliminally expecting the worst possible outcome (though not as explicitly as it sounds) so that you are then prepared for the worst – anything else is simply a blessing, no matter how mundane. Not to be confused with living solely with a negative mindset, this is more of a precautionary reminder on the back burner in your brain; not something that lives at the front, driving your day-to-day experiences. It’s easy to view this philosophical modality as living without hope or in constant resistance, but this isn’t the case. There’s a very subtle difference between “Everything is shit, life’s unfair, so what is the point?” And “Life’s great right now, but I’m also prepared for that to change at any moment and I’m ok with that.”

It’s making peace with the inevitability of reality: at some point something awful may well happen, but if you’re prepared for it subconsciously (and somewhat consciously) then those blows won’t hit you as hard. And if you regularly meditate on your mortality, it will ultimately make your life more precious and you’ll appreciate those around you so much more deeply. If you think about it, we’re stupidly privileged to be living the lives we lead on this earth, and despite all the badness that inevitably happens, we must appreciate the good through not taking any moment for granted by reminding ourselves how limited our time here really is.

Just what you want to read about on a Friday morning, right?!

Revisiting: Girls (HBO) part 1

If you’re a regular reader of my blog (read: probs nonexistent) you’ll know that I love Lena Dunham’s semi-autobiographical TV drama/comedy/romance show, Girls (and wish more people would too). And once again, I’m having a bit of a Girls moment in life, wherein I return to the show and rewatch the entire thing (all six seasons, probably within about 4 days) simply because I can’t get enough of it. One might find this a rather mundane concept, rewatching something you’ve already seen, but for me, I absorb new details from every episode every time – much like when I was 11 years old and would watch Finding Nemo almost every day after school. And yes, surprisingly, I did have friends. Anyway…

I like interacting with TV in different ways. I love watching shit shows like The Hills and knowing that it’s literally sucking what brain cells I may have left by the minute. I love Arrested Development because its humour is so fucking weird and clever. I love Grey’s Anatomy because it’s not afraid to upset the viewer. I love Ugly Betty because while it’s totally unrealistic, I can weirdly relate to it. I love Friends, because, well, I’m a normal human being. And so on. But I love Girls on a much more intellectual level because while watching, I’m constantly analysing the shit out of it – something which I do in life constantly anyway (oh hi chronic overthinker).

So rather than broadly fangirling over the show in a very generalised way, I thought I’d just get stuck into the main characters and spew whatever thoughts I might have picked up while watching. However, since it’s such a niche show, it probably makes more sense to summarise the characters in the show before heading straight into the deep end. So without further ado:

Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham)

The protagonist of the show – and ironically, probably one of the most unlikeable characters at times. Hannah aspires to be a writer and works at Ray’s café to get by and lives in a dingy apartment at Green Point, NY. She’s a polarised character, being both totally self-involved yet the most thoughtful of characters at the same time. Probably the best at the art of not giving a shit, which is sometimes quite problematic for her life and her career.

via hercampus.com

Marnie Michaels (Alison Williams)

Marnie is Hannah’s best friend and they went to ‘college’ (or what you and I’ll call uni) together. She’s an aspiring curator – or some kind of artsy career person – who eventually turns to making indie/folk music. Incredibly uptight and sensible, she gets away with a lot because of her traditional beauty. Nevertheless, though she might seem like a judgemental arsehole at times, she probably does know best.

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Shoshanna Shopiro (Zosia Mamet)

Shoshanna is the closest thing to a living cartoon character. Though she might seem naïve, being the youngest out of the group (and having only just graduated), she’s incredibly intelligent, independent and won’t put up with anyone’s shit.

via giphy.com

Jessa Johannson (Jemima Kirke)

Jessa epitomises the definition of bohemia mixed together with a stash of crack cocaine. Having been in and out of rehab – and to various countries in between – she returns to New York clad in floor-length gowns and stylish hats to build some kind of stable life; by draining the life out of her friends with her toxic energy. But deep down beneath her bitter surface, Jessa is deeply emotional and cares about those around her, just not herself, at all – which causes her to keep making shitty decisions despite her history.

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Adam Sackler (Adam Driver)

Adam is the guy we’re introduced to as the mysterious assumed sociopath with whom Hannah falls in love. We later see Adam’s sensitive side as the show progresses and that he is in fact a massively multi-layered character; virtually a hermit, painfully conflicted, extremely private, little to no patience for anything and would quite happily survive on his own forever – if he weren’t addicted to materialising his dark, violent sexual fantasises, that is.

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Ray Ploshansky (Alex Karpovsky)

Ray, bless him, seems to be the one who is constantly stalked by bad luck. The oldest – and most intellectual – out of all of them, he is perpetually angry at everything and everyone. He is secretly sensitive, but his constant defensive guard means he rarely finds happiness with anyone – and so, said cycle continues of him just continuing to be angry at everything and everyone.

via mic.com

Elijah Krantz (Andrew Rannels)

Hannah’s ex-boyfriend from ‘college’, who reveals himself to be gay early on in the development of the show. Incredibly sassy and outspoken, he genuinely cares, almost to a possessive extent, about the people around him. But will judge anyone before he’s even met them.

via popsugar.com

So, that’s enough for now.

In the posts to follow, I’ll get into some deeper character analysis and my personal favourite moments from the show. Girls is admittedly very niche, even a cult-y show, which will probably be more for those who are interested in TV that really reveals raw and authentic truth of young-person struggles, rather than a strictly plot-driven show. Nevertheless, this doesn’t minimise the show’s quality, only its audience appeal. In short, if you’re sick of shit TV and want to watch something meaningful I’d really recommend Girls.

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We need to talk about GIRLS

Something which constantly irks me is when things are underappreciated. Mostly said things are abstract, like when someone’s efforts go unnoticed or someone’s kindness is completely disregarded. Yeah that’s pretty shitty when that happens (I’ll probably get to that some other time), but under-appreciation is also very relevant with material things too. And when it’s art and it’s underappreciated then I feel there’s a lot of sadness that accompanies it, especially when cheaper things in the same field are praised just for being mainstream and likeable, or even ‘easy’.

You’ll probably laugh when I tell you that HBO’s TV Show Girls is art. It’s an extremely niche show and one which you’ll only really appreciate if you understand it. It’s a very complex show and not your standard tea-time millennial romantic-drama series. The plot lines, the concept overall and its rhetoric is very unique and something I admire the creator, Lena Dunham, so much for. It’s raw, it’s painful and most of all, it’s heartbreakingly true. No matter the range of weird situations the characters wind up in, more often than not, you can translate them in your own way somehow.

I think people find it so difficult to get into because the relatability is so disguised, because the narrative makes you think and ask questions about your own life. With Girls, if you just simply sit there and watch, you’re not going to enjoy it, you have to analyse the characters and almost become one of them. It’s stimulating and it’s provoking and it isn’t conventional and that’s not a bad thing. Hannah Horvath, the lead character, for example, is absolutely infuriating at times. No main star of the show in reality is ever perfect and that’s what’s embraced – the absolute opposite of the norms.The cast aren’t exactly glamorous, the sex scenes are far from elegant and the relationships are impossibly complicated yet so normal at the same time.

Another important thing is how the show deals with the curses of mental illness in such a tasteful way. Though to some, the representations may seem brash and overbearing, the actors portray the chaos, the pain and the anguish so fucking well. Apologies for the expletive, but I’ve not yet come across a show which is so poignant in so many ways, particularly in portrayals of crippling mental afflictions. Girls is not made to entertain, but to create a dialogue which sadly I feel is very under-discussed – if that’s even a word.

I’ve babbled on enough about this for today, but I simply wanted to get my appreciation for this TV show (and it’s so much more than that) out there in the world. Ironically, sadly, it’s a show that barely anyone I know watches but is at the same time one which would provoke so much rich conversation. It’s weird, it’s ‘out there’, it isn’t your run-of-the-mill polished sitcom, and that’s why it’s so beautiful. And that’s why I think it’s so sad that it’s (as far as I know) so underappreciated, so unknown. First world problems, eh?

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Dude, chill.

“Mum, I’m so old. I’m 22! How can I get this to slow down?” I asked, with a waiver in my voice. Her reply was something I always come back to when I’m having a millennial-inspired mini breakdown about how fast I’m growing old:

“Look back to when you were 18,” she said, “would you want to do all that all over again?”

“No.” I said, which sent my brain into a whirlwind of all the prospects that the future held.

Us 20-somethings are constantly worrying about two things: not being adequate and growing old. One thing we should be worrying about most, ironically, is the fact that this is actually suffocating our ability to do anything.

We’ve been there (at least some of us), feeling utterly useless and empty: ‘why should I bother? This person (let’s call them Bob) already achieved x, y and z by the time they were my age, so it’s far too late for me to get started.’

You may want to look at it that way, but may I interest you in an alternative perspective?

A) You’ve no idea what Bob’s circumstances were like.

B) It is completely arbitrary to compare your journey to Bob’s.

C) And finally, turning a certain age does not debilitate you from pursuing what you want to do with your life.

Basically, fuck Bob.

It’s hard to ingrain this message into your brain when you’re constantly looking at others, admiring their motivation, their energy and their drive. Sadly, this just makes you want to do anything but related to your future or your personal growth. Whether it’s down to a lack of confidence/self-belief, I don’t think it’s wholly down to laziness. That is optional, but not believing that you are able to do what you are meant to do is a whole other kettle of fish.

Sharing these seemingly meaningless anxieties may help others who are doubting themselves, too. I’m sure it’s incredibly common for people to question their abilities and their purpose, but it’s nowhere near as common for people to actually air out this issue and express this anticipatory fear that feels like it’s drowning your brain and putting a gun to the head of your creativity simultaneously. Big sentence, but then again a big old weight off the chest.

So, whenever you find yourself thinking about your looming mid-20s and the impending despair of underachievement, just remember about that smug bastard Bob. Bob has no influence over your life, and even if he is more successful than you, does that mean he’s happy? No. Bob’s life will probably come crashing down around him sooner rather than later, not that we’ve had time to fantasise over that..

ANYWAY, without getting too distracted over Bob (who may well be a very real person), just take your time, keep going and remember if you never questioned anything about your life, you wouldn’t be evolving.

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How to not hate HIIT

Well that title was a bit of a mouthful.

As many people increasingly vow to change their lifestyles for the better, the most common denominator of all goals is of course, losing weight. Now I’ve been back and forth with this love/hate relationship with exercise; I’ve spent literally years figuring out how to shed those kilos and the research has somewhat paid off. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts when it comes to this.

With one of the (albeit most hated) most effective ways to burn fat, HIIT has become rather popular over recent years, and I myself can see why. If you’ve not fallen asleep yet do read on as I’m going to share my tips with how to make a seemingly unbearable form of weight-loss training be actually bearable (and why it’s so bloody effective):

I guess we’ll start with ‘why it’s so bloody effective’

Type in the key words ‘weight loss’ anywhere these days and you’re guaranteed to stumble across the term HIIT, which stands for High Intensity Interval Training. And yep, it’s almost as awful as it sounds. ALMOST. But we’ll get to that later. This form of exercise has been proven to be highly successful as it revs up your fat-burning system to the nines, both during and after your workout. Through having short bursts of high-intensity cardio training (running/cycling/rowing/cross-training etc.), it basically makes your body go ‘whoah’ (or for a more technical term, the constant back-and-forth speeds shakes up your metabolism to burn even more than if you were doing cardio at a regular pace).*

*Disclaimer: I know there are many more fancier technical terms for this actual process but I’m not about to claim I’m a fully-qualified fitness trainer, I’m just spewing out what my tiny brain has managed to actually absorb.

It’s not as hellish as it seems

I’m not really selling this very well, but hold that thought. There are plenty of ways you can fit this into your routine if your goal is to ultimately lose weight. The main focus is that with HIIT, you don’t need to spend nearly as much time as you would normally during cardio. Of course it varies from person to person, but for me 20 minutes and I’m done (and see results if I’m not also eating like a starving pig). So, with that, if you try just a little bit harder for a little less time – you’re actually gaining so much more time, and actually losing weight. Oh the irony.

Don’t be afraid to start out small

That phrase probably made better sense in my head, but the main thing is to not jump in headfirst. When I started, I remember only being able to do 3 interval sprints in 20 minutes. After doing HIIT running for easily over a year now, I can do 5 interval sprints in 10 minutes. That may not be much for some, but it’s progress nonetheless.

Keep it simple

Don’t burn out too quickly. On the non-interval periods, keep the pace steady but don’t push yourself too hard. You’ll need that energy for the 30 second intervals, where you need to push yourself as hard as you can.

A fire playlist is EVERYTHING

Honestly, I swear by this. By updating my ‘Gym Playlist’ every time I go (or at least not playing songs I know inside out), this helps me focus on the harder parts so much more. You can’t sing along and you’re more distracted  and therefore forget you’ve just completed your 4th interval already. Genius. And nothing pumps a mood up better than a banging tune (I literally couldn’t think of a better/worse phrase, sorry).

Mix it up

Although you may get used to HIIT and may actually start liking it, sticking to one exercise on one machine won’t be effective in the long run, cause, Sod’s Law. Your body simply gets lazy and can’t be arsed to work hard cause it’s gotten comfortable. If you use a different machine every time you go to the gym, however, your body won’t be able to keep up and it’ll automatically work harder. And then you’ll be able to say you can boss 3 different types of HIIT training. Goooooooals.

So there you have it. If you stick with it, it can become your best friend. It’s gruelling at first, but you’ll be amazed how your body can adapt and how GOOD it feels to be able to feel your fitness progressing. And unfortunately, I can’t come up with a HIIT-related pun, so I’ll just leave this here:

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via thetylt.com

What to do when you fail.

When I failed my driving test for the first time, God was I embarrassed. I was sat behind the wheel, after having been told I’d have to retake the test and knowing this all the while, crying like the wet lettuce I was (/am). I almost ran over a woman in an electric wheel chair, for God’s sake. In hindsight, I think it’s fair enough that the guy failed me.

Nevertheless, I was still pretty miffed that I’d failed after the amount of hours spent preparing for it – many gruelling hours as well. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the most coordinated of people to say the least, so imagine me learning to drive… In fact, I have a few testimonies of people who have shared a journey or two with me:

God awful, she almost killed me” – Hannah, 23, sister.

“Ahem, not the smoothest of journeys” – John, 56 (?), Dad.

“I’m sure it will come with practice!” – Heléne, 54 (?), Mum.

“What the bloody hell was I thinking getting into this battered up spaceship with you?!”  – Laura, 21, gal pal.

So the point I’m going to make, before I get even more sidetracked, is what happens after you fail the test.

When I got home, I avoided all family members, naturally and shut myself in my room and thought about what my instructor told me, Dave, the lad. He said the first thing I need to do was to go home and rebook the test straight away. Because otherwise this initial failure will get the better of me and I’ll never get round to beating it. So I did.

I rebooked the test for a few weeks later and it all went swimmingly. A couple of minors, here or there, but I’m not perfect. And I did that reverse round a corner like a boss.

This moment occurred to me recently, after having been disappointed with a few things careers wise. Although I felt embarrassed again, unworthy and disheartened, I knew that this wasn’t going to help me secure any application. I thought of the moment Dave told me to effectively suck it up and get back on the horse, because that’s the only way you can overcome things like this. They happen and you simply have to accept it and use the rejections as motivation to make yourself better. From every bad thing in life, use it as an opportunity to better yourself, otherwise it will just break you down, and you’re not worth that.

So the moral of this rather long-winded story is to keep going. No matter how forced it feels, no matter how little self-belief you have at the moment, just keep trying. It’s far easier said than done, but the more you try the less you will cry. Lol.

No but seriously, don’t let inevitable things like this block your road to success – utilise them to prepare yourself for similar situations in the future, and you’ll thank yourself. And personally, I thank Dave for giving me the kick up the bum that I needed.

 

The world’s now a darker place

And so the world has taken no steps forward and fifty steps back.

Just when you thought the world couldn’t be more divided by hate, Mr. Donald Trump becomes elected the President of the United States of America. Waking up this morning, I could have laughed or cried, but I simply just stared at the phone screen in shock.

Generally, I try to have faith in people because otherwise what is the point? I try to believe that people are good, and for the most part, they are. But on a level, by trying to be optimistic in thinking that, I’m being totally and utterly blinded by naivete because the world is rapidly being swallowed up by evil. I may not be a US citizen, but especially as the daughter of an immigrant and as a woman, America’s decision resonates even more deeply with me, in some of the worst ways.

And here comes the sh*tstorm of rhetorical questions, because it is simply impossible to comprehend or even collect thoughts after the result of one of America’s most heartbreaking decisions in history:

How can a country of 318.9 million people come to the decision that they want a racist, inexperienced, hypocritical, sexist bigot to become the leader of their country?

How can women have been partly responsible for electing a man who has sexually assaulted victims of their own gender? Who thinks it’s absolutely fine to grab [women] by the p*ssy?

How can this guy be even considered when he says he would definitely ‘date’ his own daughter, if they weren’t blood-related?

How can a guy who believes China has staged global warming be taken seriously as a leader?

How can a guy who has gone bankrupt four (maybe even more) times be responsible for one of the world’s largest economies?

How can someone who wants to ultimately exile all immigrants be praised for that?

How can a person who openly wants to ban the world’s largest religious group of 1.6 billion people from entering America because of his own xenophobic opinions be allowed to run a country?

How can someone believe that only heterosexual people have the right to love and express their love? How can he squash the minorities because he simply doesn’t think they’re proper?

Moreover, how could the world have been so duped and brainwashed that this monster is fit to run one of the most influential, and now one of the most frightening, countries on this planet?

The world feels like a heavier place. Hate, division and a lack of understanding, empathy and general humanity has consumed the planet whole. People are driven by greed, lust and indifference and it’s tearing the world apart. The kind, the wholesome and the good are seemingly now outnumbered by a race of individuals that I don’t even consider as human anymore. Women, immigrants and minorities are living in fear, and living in the fear and violence, simply because they are different, and that is one of the most upsetting things I have come to learn about the people living in this world.

America has failed, big time.

 

The Fine Line

One thing I find, personally, is that actually using your past experiences to help others is something that benefits everyone. If you’re easily cringed-out, this post may not be for you, cause I’m gonna delve a little deeper which might not be your cup of tea for this time of the day(!)

The topic which I’m going to share my thoughts on is self-love.

The reason I’ve titled this post ‘The Fine Line’, is because people often mix up self-love and vanity a lot – two very highly concepts which people (including myself) find/found so hard to separate and understand. Self-love and vanity can be misunderstood as the same thing, because both things, on the surface, do encompass an appreciation of the self. But this is just at the very basic level. What people fail to understand is how vanity is incredibly destructive, while self-love has the power to completely transform your outlook and attitude to yourself, in the most positive light.

Another difference is that learning to love yourself is incredibly difficult in comparison to constantly having the need to polish your image. Many people are frightened of ‘loving yourself’ and reject the concept simply because they deep down don’t accept themselves as something valuable at all. Some may even be convinced that loving yourself is being in love with yourself – which is just not right at all. Insecurities do get the better of you – you behave in ways which are justified simply by the fact that you are punishing yourself for not feeling worthy. This can come in many forms, but the main point is, you are being the most unkind to yourself. But at the time, you won’t realise it.

Self-love is something which will come with time. For some, it might not even be something they need in the first place. For some, it may be a simple lightbulb moment: I don’t need this, I don’t deserve this, why am I doing this to myself? Or you might even sit and have a long think: this must stop, and I’m worth so much more than this. You will be amazed at the results on the other side once you stop treating yourself like shit, to put it bluntly.

If you know how much you’re capable when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself, just think of how much you can achieve when you finally become your best self. You’ll discover a new kind of understanding and compassion you perhaps never had before, and generally, a completely refreshing outlook on life. You’ll know how to tackle things when they get tough, will be better equipped than ever to get past it and grow from it rather than being completely squashed by it.

If you do take anything away from this post (and if you have even got this far, I applaud you), just know that, at whatever point you are with yourself that:

You are capable,

You are amazing,

You are kind

and above all, you deserve the best, whether you believe it yet or not.

Some food for thought.

*DISCLAIMER*

This isn’t going to be a gruesome, graphic article about animal cruelty and the meat industry, but solely how greatly it is immediately affecting our planet. I can’t, however, promise that I won’t get ranty at some points; you’ll understand why afterwards.

I can, however, guarantee that many will stop reading this article right after this sentence – which is fine – but I urge you not to. This isn’t going to be a lecture, but more a making of points to raise awareness of mass agriculture specifically with regards to the rapid downward spiral of our planet. Points which you will probably have never known otherwise.

A few days ago, I finally got round to watching Cowspiracy, a documentary/feature film created by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn and executively produced by Leonardo DiCaprio himself. I was initially put off because I thought it would be a painful 90 minutes of watching merciless slaughter of animals, and no one neither wants nor needs to see that. But 10 minutes in, I was intrigued. These guys had clearly done their research, and they were about to drop some heavy truth bombs about something that has never openly been exposed to the general public before.

Andersen and Kuhn had embarked on a project where they sought to research the effects of mass-agriculture on global warming, one which has never really been considered before with regards to climate change. Ultimately they found that meat and dairy farms across the world are the main reason why climate change is so rapidly developing. But surely it’s all the fossil fuels we’re burning? All the fumes from our cars and factories? Shockingly, they actually found that the meat/dairy industry contributes towards global warming more than the fumes of cars, lorries, trains, ships, ferries and planes COMBINED.

On their quest, they wanted to figure out why the world has not been informed of this huge contribution to global warming, as we’re constantly fed that it’s our relentless energy use – which is simply not true. They contacted many environmental organisations, including a massive advocate for a more sustainable planet, GreenPeace, and found that they were unwilling to discuss agriculture with regards to global warming. Some, even, refused to be filmed and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer as to how mass-farming (deforestation, transportation of animals, waste, growing of crops, water/crops/land for all of the cattle and more) was the number one contributor to the depletion of the world.

Before I go on to my next point, here are only a mere fraction of the facts:

  • For 1 hamburger, you’d need 660 gallons of water to produce it – or the equivalent to 2 months of showering.
  • In the US, only 5% of water use is domestic, compared to 55% needed for livestock.
  • 1 acre per second of the Amazonian rainforest is being chopped down for farming land.
  • 91% of the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest is due to making space for cattle to graze.
  • It’s expected that the oceans will be completely empty by 2048 due to overfishing.
  • 100 species of animal, plant and insect species in the rainforest are wiped out per day due to their habitats being destroyed.
  • Humans make up 7 bn of the population, compared to 70 billion livestock who require 45 billion gallons of water and 135 billion lbs of food every day.
  • Only 2% of animals on this planet are living wild and free, where 98% are taken up by cattle and humans – in comparison to 10,000 years ago, when humans took up only 1% of the space on earth.

All stats: http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/

And why, you ask, are environmental organisations not aware of this? Why are they so apathetic towards this issue? Of course, money!

As stated, mass-agriculture and the entire meat and dairy industry is the number one cause for global warming, but it’s also a tricky topic that people don’t want to pry into. If they communicate to their sponsors and fundraisers to stop eating meat, they’re going to lose a shed load of money. And of course, that can’t happen – but apparently, letting the world dwindle into further peril is absolutely fine, as long as they keep getting their steady amount of funds on the reg. This is ultimately what this documentary exposes: the rigged shitstorm of a conspiracy that this industry is.

People seem to believe they just cannot live without meat and shun those who try and make them see that life is possible without it. People say they feel bullied into being vegetarian, but the truth is that they simply don’t want to hear it. Many bury their heads in the sand knowing that, yes it’s cruelty to animals, but still, they don’t have to see it, and so it’s not their issue. At this point, it goes further than animal welfare, which is in itself a whole other world of abused power. The fact of the matter is, people know that when they do know the facts, that they won’t want to eat meat anymore – and that is simply too great a sacrifice.

As you can probably deduce from the facts above, the planet isn’t going to replenish itself anytime soon. Millennials’s grandchildren will never see the world like we do today, all for the fact that people will not accept that they have to change in order for the planet to change. As pointed out in the documentary, people can change their lightbulbs, cycle more, recycle more, but most wouldn’t ever consider changing their diet – which is what must happen in order to see a difference. The world is going to continue deteriorating and eventually (which is evidently not far away) it’s going to be too late, all down to the fact that we simply aren’t willing to change ourselves. And no one wants to talk about it.

Environmental and Ethics author, Dr. Will Tuttle, compared this huge issue to his own brilliant analogy, the family alcoholic: “When we have a dysfunctional family and the father’s an alcoholic, that’s the one thing that no one talks about. Everybody goes around that, and yet it’s the one thing that’s causing the devastation in the relationships in the family, because no one wants to talk about it” (Cowspiracy, Netflix, 17:21-17:37). And I don’t think I can sum it up any better than that.

I’m not saying GO VEGAN, because as obvious it is that this is the answer, it’s equally as obvious that that choice is up to you. At the end of the day, everyone on this earth has a responsibility to help repair and sustain it.

Every little helps as you gradually start to give up animal products – we don’t need them to survive, and like the physician featured in the documentary, Dr. Michael A. Klaper, he proves that after over 30 years of veganism, he’s never been in better shape. There are so many alternatives to meat and dairy now, and though you may miss the taste, your body and mind will adapt. Not only that, but your health will thank you for it! If not for the animals, do it for the future of this planet – whether it happens in your lifetime or not – as you will now know, nothing is more devastating to our planet than the meat and dairy industry.

I would really recommend watching Cowspiracy (Netflix) simply because of its unique insight into how we can really help save the planet, and with far more immediate results.

Nevertheless, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Veggie/veganism: common misconceptions and frustrations

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*Slight rant ahead*

So many diet trends fly round social media these days like they’re the latest fashion statement, and more often than not, that’s how they come across. ‘Gluten-free’ this, ‘soy-free’ that, seem to be all the rage, and for a very good reason (if you’re actually intolerant). For some other reason, however, as soon as the word ‘vegan’ gets thrown into the works, everyone FREAKS THE F*CK OUT.

Now I’ll clarify before I delve any deeper into this topic that I’m not a vegan, as much as I would like to be. I still eat pizza and chocolate and one day I would like to cross those two final things off the list. And I’m sure that this will provoke many-a-question with regards to my sanity, cause trust me, I’ve heard it before:

“So, what do you actually eat, then?”, “how are you alive?”, “I couldn’t live without my bacon!”

And nope, it’s not just a phase or fad diet.

One thing which really does grind my gears is how much stick vegetarians/vegans get for having chosen this lifestyle. Of course, if you’ve been raised eating meat, there’s going to be some questioning. But, then, why does the vego community receive so much backlash, when it has no direct impact on the meat industry? And especially as it’s always going to be a more compassionate way to live? I don’t mean to be biased or a straight-up dick, but it’s fact – veggies simply aren’t living creatures. You wouldn’t eat a horse, right? So why a cow?

Back in the day, I was also a meat-eater! I lived off sausage butties, scrambled eggs every morning, takeaway burgers, the lot. The thing which made me effectively reverse my lifestyle were two simple things: the first, perspective. I started thinking about where the meat on my plate actually came from, and was disgusted. If you’re raised that way, you simply don’t think any differently until you begin to question it and fair enough.

The second thing that made me go veggie was awareness. If we are going to ignore all the awful things that go on in farms and slaughterhouses, then we’d all sleep better at night. Having seen distressing and truly upsetting videos pop up on Facebook of what happens to the poor animals behind closed doors threw everything into fresh perspective. So many people are unaware, and therefore makes it so much easier to mock vegetarianism.

Admittedly, yeah, it is tiring listening to veggies harp on about how ‘meat is murder’, but, at the end of the day, they’re just giving a voice to the animals who have no way of defending themselves.

As much as you probs don’t want to, just think of this for one second:

  • The planet is deteriorating a hugely worrying rate because of the meat industry – it produces more harmful gases more than all the boats, planes, cars, jets, trucks and trains COMBINED.
  • If over-fishing continues at this rate, your grandkids probably won’t be seeing any fish in the sea, as the oceans are expected to be empty by 2048.
  • And, I don’t want to bombard you with horrific images, but like Paul McCartney put so very well, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.

There are many misconceptions about this lifestyle, that it’s a hipster trend and a great way to get more likes on Insta, but it’s simply one which is so widely misunderstood. There’s also the common stereotype that vegans are just raging bellends that just want to shove a load of green shit down your throat – but the one thing we just want is awareness – this planet isn’t going to be around forever.

If you take anything away from this article today, just spare a thought for the lives behind the packaged meat and milk you pick up on the shelves, and think of the SO very many alternatives there are which are cruelty-free. Yeah, it’s hard to avoid animal products (not just in food) in this day and age, but it’s just as easy to choose a more compassionate way to eat – and tofu doesn’t taste that bad, come on now.

(Also, if you’re curious about the actual facts, definitely watch Cowspiracy)

It’s ok to feel lost.

You may feel like you’re on the right path – kinda, but what if you’re not? This is such an unstable age where unanswered questions become your way of life. And it’s bloody exhausting to say the least.

Your 20s – people say  – is an age to be selfish, to explore and to make mistakes. It’s certainly the time when you’ve the most energy to do all of these things, but what if you find yourself having doubts, not knowing and feeling lost? These are the parts of the 20s that aren’t talked about, when really, these should be the larger areas of discussion.

Your 20s are first and foremost one of the most uncertain decades of your life.

When everyone seems to have their shit together, it makes it so much harder to believe that you’re on the right path and things are going to work out. Yeah, you’ve got a degree, some work experience here or there, but there’s just something fundamentally missing. Money is a constant restraining issue, you don’t know where to start and everything is overwhelming. It’s easy to become consumed by this common anxiety, and that, don’t we all know, is just a recipe for despair.

What you need to do

Acknowledge your worries

Getting swamped by a whirlwind of stress will just make you sink further into it. Take your time to figure out what is worrying you. This could be anything from questioning your LinkedIn profile (it’s just so bare!), to really, honestly just not knowing where you want to go with your life. List down everything bothering you about your future, and this will make it easier to identify how to rectify them.

Identify short-term, realistic goals

Looking at the bigger picture is never economical when it comes to problem solving. Instead, write down micro-goals that you want to accomplish, and once these are out of the way – giving yourself plenty of time – you may feel better-equipped to tackle the bigger issues that have been nagging your mind.

Do your research 

Finding a career path isn’t black-and-white, unless you want to be King or something. Without going off on a complete tangent (see before), narrow your research down with regards to the particular skills you have and how you could potentially apply them in a job. You can complete compatibility tests online which may fill in that huge gap. Who knows? You may even discover your passion through sifting through various forms of social media, or be inspired, at least.

Ask yourself 

Do I want to live abroad? Am I happier at home? Do I need to be alone? Am I searching for something more challenging? All of the above are vital in narrowing down where you want to be later in life. Don’t let fear hold you back, either, because that’s a crucial ingredient which undisputedly leads to the greater things in life. If it scares you, do it.

Change something in your day-to-day life

If you want your life to change, you can’t expect that everything in your life will stay the same. By changing something in your daily life, be it starting a new fitness class, learning meditation or even just taking more time to read, this could help kick-start your motivation to change even more things in your life. As they say, nothing wonderful happens in the comfort zone, so delving into the unfamiliar will make you more flexible to change, which is what you need if you’re just. Not. Satisfied.

Trust your gut

It’s frustrating AF being stuck in limbo, simply not knowing. But in this in-between stage, there has to be a fundamental level of belief – or you’ll just give up entirely. Trust that this is a shit time, that this isn’t because of you, but that it is just purgatory – career style. If you know you are trying to make something happen – when absolutely nothing is happening at all – trust that your dedication will eventually take you to where you’re supposed to be.

Well, this post ended up somewhat on a spiritual note, but it’s important to have faith in the abstract now and again when there’s nothing materialising in the concrete world.

Sometimes, if you are feeling lost, it’s simply life’s calling that there is something more for you in the world that you are simply yet to discover – you just have to keep going.

 

 

10 Health Facts you wish you knew earlier

Health-Fitness-Resolution

Health, fitness, lifestyle – it’s a triangulation which social media can’t get enough of these days, but rather get spammed with weight-loss tips than constant hate, right?

It’s stretched over a good number of years, and it’s been gruelling, frustrating and at times, rewarding, but for me, working to achieve a lifestyle of health is not an easy one. By no means, I’m a long way away. But if, like me, your life is/was built up of what you thought were harmless habits, you’ll soon find out that they’ll actually result in a bit of a startling wakeup call.

As a result of my own wakeup call, this acted as the catalyst to get up off my arse and change something. I’ll reiterate – I’m by no means anywhere near the finish line.

So, I did, and am doing, my research. I discovered by looking at the bigger picture, having bigger goals and, worst of all, bigger expectations, this would just get you back to square one on numerous occasions. I researched many a field, looking into (and I mean really looking into) nutrition and effective and goal-specific exercises which would help me get to at least where I wanted to be for now. I’m no fancy nutritionist, I’m just a regular person that has an iPhone.

Some of the tips I’ve discovered across social media platforms and countless websites have been as simple as eating certain foods, but also teaching me why our bodies need these certain foods (and exercises) – which in turn makes me more likely to eat them. In light of this, I’ve decided to compile a list of some tips I’ve picked up along the way which are simple, yet equally as integral in your beginning to finally embracing that healthier lifestyle*:

Metabolic Boosters – what, which and why?

Exercise will help boost your metabolism, obviously, but drinking lemon water or cinnamon tea (1 tsp in hot water) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach will really wake it up. Adding spices such as turmeric or cayenne will rev it up even more, and as rank as that sounds, you’ll still be just as good to go if you just down it – no harm done. Drinking iced water will also help, as your body needs to put in extra work to heat up the cooler temperature of the water. Not enough? Exercising early in the morning is a foolproof method to boost your metabolism. Those of you who have a naturally fast one, please disregard the above and kindly leave. Ugh.

HIIT – just do it!

It’s proven that the most effective exercise to lose weight is High Intensity Interval Training – this is simply doing any cardio exercise (running, cross-training, cycling, rowing) on the highest intensity you can manage for a short burst (say 30 seconds), and then resuming to a low level for a little bit longer as a rest, and then repeating the cycle for around 30 minutes (or as much as you can manage). This makes your heart-rate yoyo back and forth, and makes your body work harder, making burning fat much more effective. You’ll still be burning calories long after you leave the gym after HIIT, so get it in your routine! Don’t forget to mix it up and vary your training technique as your body easily adapts (if all you do at the gym is run, for example). The shock and variation will make your body react far more to the exercises you do if you ensure you don’t stick to the same old.

Drinking during meals – why you should never.

Ever sit in a slump after finishing a meal thinking “I CANNOT MOVE”? This will probs be why. It’s natural to want to drink before, after, even during a meal, because, well, wine. Unfortunately, this isn’t the best news for your digestive system. Drinking throughout a meal especially disrupts your digestive tract, causing serious bloating. If you stick to either drinking before (preferably) or after a meal, you’ll be less likely to feel like Shrek, like I do.

Hydration – what and when you should drink.

While asleep, your body goes into a deep state of repair and flushes a whole load of toxins out whilst doing so – hence why ‘Morning Breath’ is a thing! This is why you need to rehydrate first thing in the morning. You’ll kickstart your body’s digestion and your metabolic (fat-burning, basically) speed for the rest of the day. You’ll know the average adult needs 8 cups of regular  water a day (if not more), and this does wonders not only for your insides, but your general complexion too. Coconut water is full of electrolytes, which is hugely beneficial if you’re extra dehydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day (especially in the morning), and if your pee is looking pretty much transparent, then you’re good, basically.

Extra tip – drinking a warm drink before eating, such as tea, also aids digestion, as your stomach needs to be warm up before any kind of digestion party can happen.

Belly burning – foods to target this area.

The magic words here are wholegrain shiz and FIBRE. Feeling fuller for longer is a sure fire way to quit reaching for the snacks throughout the day and feel satisfied for longer. You’ve heard it all before, but if you make at least half of your plate stacked with veggies, including dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, anything else remotely rabbit-food looking), you will simply feel fuller. And just eat the brown stuff – just do it. It will keep you fuller and you can still eat your beloved bread and pasta. And apples? They’re your best friend when it comes to belly-fat-burning foods, as they contain a chemical which prevents fat cells from forming specifically in the abdominal region. Protein (nuts, lean meats – if you must – beans, specific veg), of course, is a no-brainer. It builds muscle, which burns fat, so… you do the math.

Tea – get it in your life.

Green tea is the one that’s raved about the most when it comes to health. Why? Because it’s full of antioxidants (which, to put it bluntly, stop your insides from rusting) and other wonderful things, such as catechins, which help protect your skin from harmful sun-rays, and hence, fight cancer. Green tea also naturally speeds up your metabolism, and is a natural diuretic and hence, detoxifier.

If you want to go crazy, matcha green tea contains the equivalent of 10 cups of green tea in just one cup (1 tsp of matcha powder) – and a shed load more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is because it’s green tea in its purest form – the green tea leaf is ground down into a powder which is then brewed into tea. It’s a bit more expensive (and slightly more hassle), but definitely worth the investment!

Peppermint is great to soothe the stomach and curb an angry appetite, while oolong tea invariably helps weight loss. Like green tea, it also contains polyphenols, which contribute to the speeding up of metabolism. Obviously, it’s full of vitamins too, and the caffeine content helps speed fat burn when resting even more.

Calorie counting – why you should.

Weight loss is really simple. All you have to do is make sure you’re burning more than you’re eating, and the easiest way to do this? Calorie counting. You will have heard, I’m sure, from all over the place that calorie counting is a fad and it’s ridiculous, but in reality it’s just plain logic. I use MyFitnessPal and this app is great, because you can set goals, track what your weight and what you’re eating and know exactly which nutrients are going into your body.

Juicing – don’t be fooled.

Juicing was another rage that I bought into. If you do it right, it will work wonders for you, but people often are mistaken to believe that fresh fruit smoothies are the way to go. Sorry, I’m about to shatter this image… After blending anything, you should always aim to drink it around 15 minutes after blending, otherwise the nutrient value will just continue to plummet due to the ingredients being exposed. Also, by juicing fruits, blending breaks down their nutrient content, too, so you’re basically left with a heeeeell of a lot of sugar – despite it being less calories anyway. And sugar, well, basically rots you from the inside out. The best way to go is to juice veggies, and even though it’s guaranteed to taste worse, just know you’re getting much more value nutrition-wise.

Immunity – oranges aren’t your only vice.

Did you know that red bell peppers and broccoli have far more vitamin C than a regular orange? Throw them into your meals wherever you can, and you’ll not only be better prepared for your next cold, but notice a brighter appearance in your skin. Garlic is also an absolute saviour for your immune system, but if you don’t like the taste, you can buy odourless supplements to still reap its benefits. But, like, who doesn’t like garlic??

Bone strength – why you need to act now, and why milk isn’t actually your saviour.

Vegans -they’re all the rage at the minute, and there’s a reason. Dairy isn’t natural for our system, as for the majority, our bodies really struggle breaking down the lactose, and did I mention cow hormones? Ew. Though you can’t deny its high calcium properties, you equally can’t deny that you can just get calcium elsewhere, which is both better for your body and the cows. Broccoli – just a general superfood that does everything – has high levels of calcium, as does kale, cooked spinach, spring onions, leeks – mostly green stuff. If you are dairy free, get some calcium supplements in you – and of course, exercise now while you’re young. This builds up bone strength while your body is still more adaptive, which trust me, you will not regret in 20 years’ time when it may be too late.

I know I’ve rambled on, but hopefully these few tips will help get you started at least! Just remember that doing your research will do you good, and focusing on the smaller picture rather than the bigger will undoubtedly make your goals far more attainable in the near future.

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*I’m not any kind of scientist, these are just tips based on my own experience.

Why is Generation Y in such a damn hurry?

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I’m sure I’m in the very same boat as many people my age now – that old group that the world now refers to as the Millennials.

For those who aren’t quite sure what tf this means, it’s basically those born, well, around the Millennium. The boat to which I am referring is a very unsteady and rocky ride, and one which more often than not make you feel just a little sick to your stomach. Basically, to simplify this awful metaphor I just conjured up, if you’re terrified about the future, you’re not alone!

For some reason, young people who will be the next working generation are in the biggest effing hurry in history. Whether this is because the inevitable speed of technology which just keeps on giving, or, once more, social jeffing media, the reason why is irrelevant.

Millions of people are in this exact same said boat right now, at any given point at this time in life. This includes recent graduates, those who have never gone past high school education, those still in their first job, those who can’t find a job – all of you. If there’s one thing you will take away from this post today, is that you’ll remember that the pressure of our generation is the reason for career-induced anxiety, it is not you.

Life right now seems to be a competition of who has their sh*t together the most: who’s the first to get their second credit card? Who’s the first to apply for a loan? Who’s the first to be a CEO? I can’t tell you who but I can tell you that none of that matters. At least not yet!

If you’re panicking and flapping that you’ve not done half as much as other people, or you should have achieved more, or that you should have done x, y or z, then STOP. The fear of the future is a terrifying one because you just don’t know what you want and just don’t know how to get there. But this fear is just as terrifying as it is universal.

One thing you must remember is that you have so much time. Live life at your own pace, and the pieces will fall together in your story just like they are supposed to. If you work hard, well, then you know you will be rewarded. Remember also that it’s okay to take a time out. It’s okay to not know.

So, although Generation Y are in such a damn hurry to do things, don’t let this make you panic even more about your future. Everyone should preach that comparison is the thief of joy. Furthermore, know that everyone’s individual circumstances are unique, and so, the most fundamental thing is trusting your gut and focusing on where your path in life will lead you.

(Also sorry for all the effing and jeffing.)

Girl, give yourself some credit!

It’s 2016, and the pressure for our generation to be the best is at an all time high. Thanks to the various platforms of social media, constant reminders of people’s achievements and goal-busting moments (how authentic they are, we’ll never know..) don’t really make our immediate lives any easier. Though it’s nice to sit back and dream, it also makes it so much harder to actually achieve said dreams, be it washboard abs, a holiday or simply trying out a new recipe.

The main problem here? It’s not social media, it’s the fear instilled by social media. The mountains of pressure we keep relentlessly piling onto our backs and where we direct our focus is one of the main reasons the fear sticks. And fear, well, that’s just not a good enough reason to not be your absolute best.

One of the things we need to start doing is giving ourselves more credit. For anything and everything. As long as you’re not giving yourself credit for eating 3 whole pizzas in a day. Think about it: how easy is it to tell yourself that you’re stupid, incapable and not worth it? It’s extremely easy. But learning to grow and help yourself is never an easy journey, especially if it’s one you’re very unfamiliar with. So take the leap (or baby steps) and do it, watch yourself grow.Whether they’re tiny steps or a massive improvement, arguably, the smaller steps deserve more of your recognition and encouragement.

For example, I had a bad week, or shall I say months, food wise. It’s been peak work time university-wise, and honestly, I’ve neither had the energy nor time to be making decent food regularly. Admittedly, yes, I’ve been diving headfirst into packs of biscuits and eating pizzas almost on the daily, and have been equally as horrified and proud of myself – if that’s at all possible.

But it gets to a point where you are ready for change, you just know. And so, after work is officially all completed, I’ve no excuse. But I’ve given myself the recognition no less for acknowledging that I need to change – and ladies and gents, that’s where it all begins. Baby steps.

In the gym, I managed to complete 6 intervals rather than the standard 3 today. Pat on the back, job done. For breakfast, I managed to turn down a load of biscuits, and there we go, pat on the back once again.

Call that the dullest anecdote you’ve ever heard, but the morals are there. There are significant stages that you simply must push past in order to banish any fear from stopping you getting what you want. And in that process, it’s crucial to keep giving yourself lil pats on the back, because, well, self-improvement must of course be partnered with the recognition that you deserve, even if it’s choosing the ‘skinny’ fries, it’s a step, and that’s all that matters. The speed at which you get where you want to be is nothing you should ever consider as defining.

So, just keep going – you are awesome! 

(don’t ask)

Why TF the RBF is utter BS.

Hi there, I assume the only reason you’ve clicked on this link is because you’re thinking WTF does RBF mean cause IDEK LOL SMH.

Let me enlighten you: the infamous ‘RBF’ stands for the much-too relatable ‘Resting Bitch Face’, one which many of us women fall victims to, through no fault of our own. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not impartial to a good RBF meme and using it as an excuse for the ‘slapped-arse’-face-by-default that I apparently exhibit. Everyone’s gotta make fun of themselves. And now for said RBF meme:

Now, if you’re all for the RBF and what it actually stands for, you probably won’t enjoy the following. Or like me, you may actually be like WTF, how did I not notice this?!

Reading an article from Cosmopolitan shed a whole new light on this seemingly harmless term which has frequently used within the millennial vernacular. Even googling ‘Resting Bitch Face’ just now has sent me to a page filled with photos of poor Kristen Stewart just looking, well, just looking like she is. And how the eff is that fair? I don’t mean to put my crazy feminist ranting hat on, but the ratio of women to men on said search was a hefty 8:1. And yes I know that calculation is probably wrong because I haven’t done a maths equation since 2011.

Maintaining my point, and one which was so very aptly raised on Cosmo’s Snapchat ‘news’ feature: why should women have to look so damn happy all the time? Do men have this issue? Oh no, if anything they are encouraged to look ‘smouldering’ and ‘mysterious’, yet when we’re doing whatever we’re doing with a nonchalant expression, we get yelled at to “Cheer up, love!” – works every time, lads! Not.

I’m not suggesting that this is a radical thing that MUST CHANGE EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. I’m just giving y’all some food for thought. Are we seriously still judging people by what they look like? Are we still there? If anything, this is just valourising the fact that women aren’t allowed to naturally feel how they feel, look how they look and do what the eff they want without anyone having to pass judgement – wouldn’t that be the dream.

So, though the Resting Bitch Face, or shall we say more constructively, a face which happens to not be frozen in a permanent toothy grin, is a real 21st century issue for some gals, this doesn’t mean that she has to change to make people complain less.

Hey, maybe she had a shit day

Hey, maybe she lost someone recently or just

Hey, maybe that’s just her bloody face.

Rant over.

Just do it.

Nothing quite like a harsh, get-your-arse-into-gear phrase to wind you up in the early hours, right? No one likes getting up at 6am (or earlier), unless they’re a registered psychopath. But if you make a habit out of it, eventually, it will sink in and you will see some great benefits.

If you’re not much of an early-riser, below are some reasons which may make you rethink your morning routine. Coming from a part human/part sloth, this shows that even those who live in bed are able to resist slamming the snooze button:

Just get the F up.

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It is painful to get up earlier, but once you’re up, you’re up. Fight the temptation of drifting back off, haul yourself out of bed, then crack open your window and down a glass of water to wake up your system. Having a gentle alarm as opposed to something that sounds like a cockatoo getting stabbed will help definitely you wake up less pissed off – for me, anyway.

You’ll have more hours in the day (obvs)

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Us millennials always have something to be doing – there’s just so much competition out there we can’t really afford not to. Getting up earlier will mean you can accomplish so much more in the day, get that to do list finally ticked off and the post-it notes chucked away for good.

You’ll have more energy (not lying)

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Once you start becoming an early-riser, you won’t be able to think of anything less than I’m just tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired. Just keep on going with it. This brings me onto my next point…

EAT BREAKFAST.

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If you find yourself not having enough time to even make toast in the morning, you will if you get up earlier. They bang on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and they’re right. It gets the old metabolism going and obviously, gives you energy that you gon need. Speaking of which…

You’ll give your metabolism a boost (goals)

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Why does everyone keep going on about metabolism? Because it burns fat, without having to do anything! May I reinstate, GOALS. Having a regular sleeping pattern allows your body to regenerate any damage done (providing you get 7-9 hours at least) and kick-start your metabolism. If you’re going to bed too late, then it just throws it out of whack. Having a regular sleeping pattern will maintain your metabolism to keep burning off your morning croissant while you’re sat in a 9am. Throw in 3-5 green teas a day for an extra gold star to speed it up even more – but avoid having one a couple hours before you plan on hitting the sack (not that sack) to ensure sleep.

You’ll be more positive and productive (promise!)

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Getting more done will help you feel better about yourself alone. No one enjoys knowing they have an imminent tonne of shit to get done, and getting out of the way during the day may well leave you more time to wind down to some TV and of course, snacks.

You’ll sleep like a baby 

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A bit of an obvious one, but if you’re struggling to get some decent kip – just go to bed earlier! Having a routine of winding down every night is guaranteed to help you drift off. Turn down the lighting on your devices, get your stuff ready for the following day, take off your makeup – whatever, repeating the same things each night does register in your brain and will help you nod off more easily each evening. Calculating what time you have to get up with the hours of sleep you’ll need is also ideal to get your standard 8 hours.

Can’t get up, still? Make this your alarm:

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If you only read one thing today…

REMEMBER THIS:

No matter how rocky your relationship with yourself may be, no one, ever, EVER will have the right to tell you that you are a bad person.

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Indeed.

People can be sh*tty. Mankind has a great whopping capacity to essentially do whatever the hell s/he wants. And this in itself, as you can imagine, has the potential to cause a lot of mayhem.

But one of the most important personal, spiritual journeys you will encounter is the one you have with yourself.

This is life, and in case you haven’t already heard, it comes with a wonderful concoction of side effects, consequences and of course, a tonne of bullsh*t. The point of this? It’s to see how you bounce back and rebuild yourself after you tackle said shituations. You will make bad decisions, you will regret it, you may not, but the fundamental thing is that learn to, at a point when you are ready, step outside of yourself and know you have grown.

You want to be feeling something like this in your mind:

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Not this:

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or, less melodramatically:

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Being swallowed by self-hatred and fixating on the things you may have done, the mistakes you may have made the wrong turns you may have taken – well, we all know where this will end up. It’s the easier option, no doubt, but you certainly do not deserve to suffer for things you are now clearly repenting for. To acknowledge it, learn from it and grow is the best step forward – and you will feel so liberated after releasing yourself from that oppressive arsehole that is regret.

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#AmIRite?

Ask yourself:

Can I change it?

Am I gaining anything from this?

Is this making me happy?

If your response to the above is a resounding no, then this is the first step to letting go and embracing who you deserve to be.

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Ultimately, you are the judge of you – you know yourself best, and therefore don’t ever deserve to be told who you are by someone who is clearly talking about themselves – and someone who is equally as clearly unhappy with themselves. At no point do you deserve to believe that you are the cause of someone else’s misery. In the word’s of the mighty Justin Bieber: you should go and love yourself. But in the non-aggressive, bitter way that Biebs is clearly feeling – but we won’t get into song lyric analysis just now.

The best thing to do, to put it bluntly: be kind to the knobs of the world, because they probably need it the most.

And finally, some Ryan Gosling to brighten your day:

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Sometimes, you need to listen to your own advice.

Ever find yourself handing out advice to your friends like there’s no tomorrow?

You don’t mind it, in fact you genuinely enjoy helping your friends in whatever crazy circumstance which may arise. Rain, shine, wind, hail, whichever hurricane’s next on the list, you’re there for them. You may not even have had that much experience with the problems they’re going through, but you still manage to crack a solution every time. You take time to evaluate the situation with an objective viewpoint and come at an angle which will at least help your gal/pal/galpal stop feeling so down.

But what happens when it’s you that’s got caught in a smoking pile of bullshit? You’re lost. You’re the advice giver – and more often than not, your worst enemy.

Being so preoccupied with helping others, you prioritise your friend’s emotional and mental wellbeing; you are simply fulfilled knowing that you have helped someone through their struggles.Focusing on others this way leads you to not having the first clue as to how to approach your own mess.

Sound familiar? Below are the signs to tell when enough is enough, and that you need to start taking care of yourself:

You put yourself last

Having time to yourself is not selfish, it’s essential. By prioritising other’s problems and solutions entirely, you end up neglecting your own, no matter how big or small. This will cause your own pile of worries to build up and eventually boil over – which could get ugly. Take the time to approach things practically, making your own time for you whilst balancing the support your provide for others.

Your general well-being suffers

Not only could your mental health take a bit of a dive, but your physical health too. Stress is such a horrific thing for your body to experience, causing a range of problematic issues such as heart problems, premature aging and a weakened immune system to say the least. If things begin to get on top of you, find ways to release stress which make you feel comfortable. If you don’t know where to start, introductory meditation tutorials and breathing exercises via YouTube may help you focus and clear your head.

You don’t know how to approach your own problems

You don’t take your own advice because you don’t know what to suggest. By physically picturing yourself outside your mind and body, this makes it easier to make an objective overview of the situation. Ask yourself how you would approach it were a friend to be experiencing the same thing.

You withdraw yourself 

Asking for help is one of the KEY things we need to do, but often, don’t. Why? Because we believe we aren’t worth the hassle. Though it’s hard to approach others with problems of your own, you will see they will be more than happy to help you; if they aren’t willing to reciprocate your support, don’t stick around.

You do things despite their consequences

Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. By lowering your self-worth, you may feel an unhealthy relationship build with the devil on your shoulder. You ignore your issues although you probably shouldn’t, but forget about the consequences because your self esteem simply has taught you that you don’t matter.

Indeed, sometimes you just need to listen to your own advice, and actually take it. Never put yourself last and believe that you matter.

 

17 Times when Jessica Day Nailed Life (not literally, lol)

Jessica Day plays the lead in a comedy TV show New Girl and does a good job in providing some good old fashioned entertainment.

If you read my last post, you’ll know that New Girl has the potential to get weird, very weird. But that also doesn’t go to show that we learn a few good lessons here and there, oh no! The lead gal just seems to simplify everything that can seem like a whirlwind to process in ‘Real Life’. So, without further ado, and without any more banging on from myself, below are some moments when Jess Day really got it right about life. The nitty bits, the gritty bits and quite frankly the shitty bits, too:

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Don’t ever be afraid to speak out about what you’re all about! (Yeah go on Al, say ‘about’ one more time). But yeah, do it, especially if it involves channelling your inner Sass Queen.

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And don’t be afraid to tell someone otherwise and speak your voice if you feel that way. Pointy finger optional. Sassy head wobble obligatory.

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Embrace the sweet curse of the pink wine every once in a while.

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Don’t forget that this is a perfectly good excuse to be sad.

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Sometimes, just grab life by the balls. Just do it.

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And accept that sometimes it may not work out. And…

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… it’s completely OK to just go borderline insane once in a while.

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And be utterly melodramatic to cope with life.

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OK, I realise this post has rapidly dwindled and I will promptly turn this around.

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There we go. Back on track.

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A sense of humour is honestly your best attribute. If that fails, just memorise some knock-knock jokes. They’ll open that door. Ha ha. Oh God that was awful. I certainly wood-n’t tell that again. Oh just make it stop.

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Some light sass is always your best weapon. Unless you’re in an interview. Speaking from experience, I wouldn’t try it.

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NEVER FORGET YOUR FRIENDS – #Girlcode101. Also, quoting the Spice Girls is a completely viable way to justify yourself.

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Life in a nutshell – if you f*ck up, just sort it out.

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Don’t worry about ‘love’ it is just not worth the time wasted with over-thinking. It will work out if it’s supposed to, if not, then leave it to the breeze. #JamesBae

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And never waste time on not being who you are – it’s futile. You are the fundamental part of why you exist.

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Well, this once more ended on an unexpectedly soppy note, but hey.

In the way of New Girl gifs, keep doing what you’re doing and have confidence in that fear and the odd panic here or there means you’re doing it* right!

*”it” being life. If you’re panicking about the Cheeky Girls making a comeback, then you’re doing it wrong.

Schmidt Happens: Some of New Girl’s Best Moments

New Girl – one of the most quotable TV shows that has come to our screens.

For those who haven’t seen the sitcom, it’s a simple idea. A charming, dorky gal Jessica Day must move in with a loft full of boys because of her cheating boyfriend. And so all the fun (and drama) ensues. But for those who have seen – you know how to live. I’m looking at you, Laura.*

*we spend our lives bingeing on this show with a side of egg-fried rice and pink wine.

Hold onto your hats, I’m about to hit you with some of the best moments and greatest gifs from New Girl.  For all the Monicas out there, I’m sorry, but it’s not going to be in order of seasons. Who has that much time?!

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Back in the days of Cece-Wooing. What makes this quote is Schmidt’s strangely soothing way of pronouncing ‘chut-a-nay’.

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No caption needed.

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It’ll be all but impossible to forget the most awkward relationship on TV.

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Not forgetting this moment…

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Jar.

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Again, jar.

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When Winston got weird.

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When Schmidt coined the slogan for life.

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And Nick the terminal grump did his thing.

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When Schmidt kind of went nuts. #ThatHatTho

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And Nick also got weird. At some point they all get weird.

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When they accidentally crashed Prince’s house party. Also, why does Jess look like she’s doing a party move from my 5th birthday?

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A direct foreshadowing of myself in 5 years’ time.

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The original Turtle Face.

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Damn you CAROLINE. You made Nick stretch a perfectly wearable two-piece. Which weirdly accentuates his collar bones.

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Schmidt’s initial attempt at being gangster.

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Coach just generally being angry at everything.

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Schmidt throwing some elegantly-executed shapes.

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And not forgetting this beautiful moment of pure joy.

To be continued, of course, because no one can number the iconic moments of weirdness on this show.

 

Go Getter – Do Better.

Ok, I have stolen those lyrics from Disclosure (pls don’t sue me), but they are so relevant nonetheless. The ‘bold’ effect on the text doesn’t really stress it enough.

On my way home from the gym this morning, this track came on and inspired me to write this post which has been brewing over in my mind for a while:

Ambition: The Drive to Live to your Best.

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Growing up, you get to the point where life isn’t just about successfully waking up for the day any more. You feel like you need something more, and that burn can be quite infectious.

I’m quite a passionate person and I love what interests me, and now I am (technically speaking) an actual adult, I’m doing what I can to make my dream a reality – and that is of course to become the world’s biggest cliché that y’all have ever seen. IDC – it makes me happy. I really want to have my own office overlooking central park, and be the editor-in-chief of Cosmpolitan magazine, whilst writing some cracking novels on the side and of course making the world laugh, and I’m gonna see about making that happen one day. Joanna Coles is literally living my dream and I admire her so much!

Although this is a dream, what’s stopping me from making it happen? It’s ambitious I’ll give you that, but at what point is Regina George going to tell you:

“Stop trying to make your dreams happen. It’s not going to happen.”

Although she will probably tell you that “fetch'”is not going to happen, spoiler alert.

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Ambition is what motivates me to get up in the morning, whereas in earlier years I’d just worry about getting through A levels – and fair enough. Now, I’m a finalist in my last ever semester as an undergraduate and the fear is really beginning to kick the fuck in. Now I wake up almost annoyed that there aren’t enough hours in the day – have I suddenly just become middle-aged?

No – it’s exciting. Imagine if you used every minute in the day and put it towards achieving your dreams, how much closer would you be? The intrigue alone is enough to make me keep working. Admittedly, there are days when you just want to order pizza and just stay indoors all day, but that’s fine, it’s all about balance. Just as long as you know that you have your shit in control – you good. Just look at Stephen King for example. Every single day – apart from the 4th July and Christmas day, the slacker – he writes. He just writes and writes and writes and I absolutely admire his work ethic and drive. And look at what he has achieved! That says enough. He’s only written a gazillion novels and a bajillion short stories and had a jabillion novels adapted into films. If that’s not enough to make you think twice about how much you’ve done today, then…

But there are days when you just have little if no self belief whatsoever. You think, how am I ever going to make this possible? Why do I bother? Well, take Joey’s extremely wise words:

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No. The dinosaur would most certainly not give up, and neither should you. Accept that there will be off days and know that it will work out, if you put in work, it usually does. Go get ’em! You are an incredible individual and no one else can contribute to the world just like you.

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Must-see Movie: Panic Room (Spoilers!)

If there’s anything you must not do, DO NOT PANIC. Unless it’s because of how incredible this film is. Then that’s ok.

The name David Fincher may sound familiar to some. I know we shouldn’t be talking about it, but this is the guy that directed Fight Club (1999)! The same guy also directed Se7en (1995) and not to mention Gone Girl (2014) (also an outstanding film). How envious are you of this guy’s talent? And I’ve not even started my fangasm of Panic Room (2002).

Jodie Foster is totally awesome, as always, and this is the film where we get to see a wickul baby-faced K-stew, and personally, one of her better performances:

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Set in New York, newly divorced Meg Altman (Foster), moves into her new home with her daughter Sarah (Stewart). The most prominent feature of the house is its ‘Panic Room’, where any victims can take refuge in a sealed and stocked space on the top floor.

On their first night, three burglars break in – personally I would have preferred a house-warming party. Anyway, after the hoo-ha ensues, guess what they’ve come for? Oh yeah, that huge mothafuckin fortune stashed in the floor of the panic room itself. Both Meg and Sarah and the burglars manipulate, attack and chase one another through the winding labyrinth of the town house. May I iterate just how huge the house is. For two people, it’s just bloody excessive. Could easily fit residents of London Zoo in there, and I’m not actually joking.

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There seems to be no conclusion that the viewer can anticipate, which keeps us right on our toes. If you were unfortunate enough to be watching this with me, by this time, I will have probably have crushed your thigh bone into smithereens and burst your eardrums. And this isn’t even technically a horror movie.

The characters are SO well-cast! I cannot stress this enough. It’s one of the most underrated things which goes into a movie. They absolutely hit the nail on the head for each character, and Foster fulfils a sterling job as a socially displaced but wicked/badass mother. Kristen Stewart plays what could be seen as one of her most resounding roles as an intelligent child, placed in an incredibly scarring circumstance. You’ve got to give her credit for such an intense role at that age. I probs would have invited the burglars in for a tea party and been killed off in the first five minutes.

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Underdog Jared Leto, albeit a more brief appearance, is outstanding as a vicious, greed-driven attacker. And, can we take a moment to appreciate the heartbreaking performance of Forest Whitaker.

*A moment*

Thank you. Whitaker effortlessly plays the role of a morally troubled accomplice, who by the end we undoubtedly sympathise with. You just know he isn’t the bad guy, you just know. He’s been sucked into the wrong crowd and just wants to put food on the table for his wife and kids. But his fate is so bloody troubling I had a lump stuck in my throat – I will let you discover what happens for yourself.

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Dwight Yoakam as the party leader plays an electrically eerie thief, making the audience shudder at each moment he both is and isn’t on screen. Personally, I think he a massive dong and thoroughly depise him. To give the guy credit, this only means he’s doing a great job at acting.

 Especially in a thriller, setting is key. With the rainy New York streets overlapping with the domestic household location, the events which unfold shatters our illusion of the comfort of home. The film takes place mostly in the house, but with clever filming techniques and use of space, windows and shadows particularly makes it effective.

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Fincher is known to employ a fluid tracking camera, which works as a ‘fly on the wall’. This gives the viewer full access to what the characters cannot see, and exposes us to what both the victims and attackers are plotting simultaneously. And he’s just awesome anyway, of course. Fincher is also known to have a subdued colour scheme in his films. This is very subtly yet efficiently applied in Panic Room, both in props and costume. The darker hues project a sense of ambiguity – as the viewer have no indication of mood, or how to react and the neutrality contributes further to the paramount build-up. If this is a book, I’m going to have to get on this right away because this kind of suspense on paper would just be absolutely palpable.

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Receiving 6.8/10 on IMDB, the success of Panic Room is definitely underrated. Whoever reviewed it was definitely drunk or scrolling through Instagram at the same time. In that case, you an idiot. With faultless acting, unrivalled tension-building and meticulous directing, Panic Room undoubtedly raises the stakes for psychological thrillers. The initial confrontation is a little delayed, and perhaps becomes a little tedious, yet here is where the only major fault lies. Overall, the simple, yet distinctive, idea is almost perfected by all accounts – Fincher’s directing, the talented acting and casting, seamlessly choreographed fight-scenes and of course, the originality of the plot itself.

NOW GO AND WATCH IT. 

What Customer Service Taught me about People

I wouldn’t say this is a rant, more of a piece that has something you can take away from it.

Most people will have had some experience with customer service. You’ve most likely been on one side of the counter, either way, whether you’re the one buying the stick of gum, or whether you’re the one selling the gum. This post goes into not just the general customer service of those working behind tills, those dealing with people in general – be it on the phone or via some kind of abstract platform – but the working folk that must face people and their crap that comes with it every day.

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Working in customer services teaches you so much, and I’m speaking from experience of being a waitress in a local pub/restaurant – nothing too glamorous, and certainly not glamorous behind the scenes. Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s not necessarily an industry looking for high-end qualified employees, but you take so much more away from the job than mere ‘experience’ or ‘hospitality skills’. How about phrasing it, ‘learning to take a lot of crap from shitty customers’, or ‘putting up with a beyond bad circumstance for more than you should’, or even, ‘learning to recognise just how awful some people can be’. I’m not bitter (ha – you may think otherwise), I just see this as an opportunity to shine a light on the darker parts of the catering industry and give hope to those still struggling to get by through the truly exhausting experience of waitressing.

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Waitressing, I think, can be classed as one of the most underrated jobs, it is so much more than what meets the eye – LONG SENTENCE ALERT –

You’re on a below average wage, run off your feet for over ten hours straight, minimal breaks – if you get that privilege – constantly stinking of hot fat, dealing with rude people who direct others’ faults at you, have a million different tailored orders to remember, being barked at by anyone and everyone, risking losing your job after mucking up one dessert order and all the while, you have to keep those pearly whites gleaming for the next group of bustling patrons who will no doubt demand you to recite the entirety of the menu – FRONT AND BACK. At the end of the day, you could argue it’s just delivering food back and forth, and delivering back the empty plates back to the kitchen. And if you think that’s the end of it, you’re an idiot.

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It’s not all bad, I know it’s not and there are so many people who thrive off being in the industry. It’s great for people who love high-pressure working atmospheres, and enjoy a challenge. And I’m sure those people who love the industry received a high-level of quality training and decent practice of their role before even receiving their official uniform. People – particularly small business owners – forget the price they pay sometimes, and poor training, if any is provided at all, will result equally in poor results. What more could be expected?! But you will still probably get shouted at when you lay the table the wrong way anyway.

Which brings me onto my next point – what you learn about people through working in this industry.

When people are out in public, they can be completely different. They say how you treat your waitress sums you up as a person. And that’s spot on. You’re the one being treated, served, provided for with what should be of great quality. You’re the one paying the bill at the end and therefore, in theory, you’re the one with the power and authority, the one who contributes to our wage and the one who we as waitresses need the most. But you, as a customer, you know this. It’s just about whether you choose to abuse this level of power, and more often than not, that’s the case.

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There are lovely customers which genuinely stay with your thoughts for years; the classic regular who you have a weekly chat with, the ones who always bring you chocolate bars and the ones who just generally care about how you are. But unfortunately, sometimes the bad can outweigh the good.

Difficult customers can come in a range. They can choose to pick on you, and only you, through finding a fault in any aspect of their culinary experience, make any excuse to challenge your temper and knowingly test you in general. These kinds of people are great. And when I say great, I mean that all in earnest. Looking outside the picture, who is the better person? You. You resolve the problems with a smile on your face, deal with any issues they might have without a quarrel and they walk away the same person they came in –  rude, arrogant, pompous. You however, walk away having grown from the experience. It’s difficult, extremely difficult, to keep your cool, but these kinds of people want you to crack. And what does that show? They find entertainment from other people’s weaknesses, which essentially just goes to show their own weaknesses.

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The easiest way to deal with shitty customers is to realise that something has made them into the person that they are. They may have experienced something otherworldly that has made them embittered and rude. But the one thing you must always remember is to never take any kind of shit personally. I remember the days when I ran to the bathroom to cry in secret, thinking how much I hated my job. It still stays with me today, and every single job I go for now, it has negatively affected. Because of this first experience, which was incidentally the worst so far, for every other job I go for I’m just terrified it will be the same. I left my first and worst job over four years ago now, but that fear and anxiety still lingers and will still for a while to come. I absolutely dreaded every shift I had and honestly, I was a pretty useless waitress – how could you expect me to excel in a place I genuinely loathed? If I didn’t have my friends there to relax with while the boss wasn’t looking, I would have easily thrown my apron on the floor and left mid-shift. There were perks I guess, a free drink at the end of a shift, but certainly nothing that could have made me stay longer than I did.

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The experience has opened up so many doors, because I know surely nothing now can be as bad as that. And jobs I have had since have been a wonderful breath of fresh air, a huge relief, which goes to show that if you are sat here thinking you’re in the same situation, it gets so much better. To discover that all jobs weren’t like my first one was a massive weight off my back and hugely refreshing. Being in my final year of university, I can’t imagine leaving the part-time job I have now!

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No, waitressing may not have been swimming through sewers or working in a slaughterhouse, but this experience wasn’t a physically impacting one, it was an extremely mentally impacting one. In some cases this can be even worse – but with the fear I still have in going for new jobs, I hope to use it to grow. I’m now at the stage in my life where I’m thinking about building a career (crap). Knowing it’s doing something I absolutely love, I’m going to make sure that it will be anything but as horrible as that first job as a timid, awkward 17 year old. Now I have the confidence to know when to say enough is enough.

I’m Done. Bye.

Having had a terrifying nightmare last night, this has inspired me to rant about something that has been pressing on my mind a lot lately.

There are good things happening in the world, of course of course, we cannot forget this. But this is a rant, in which I am wholeheartedly going to fixate on the negative. Because this is necessary sometimes. How can we afford to be optimistic in such cataclysmic circumstances, in every corner of this stupid planet?

I dreamed that I was on a balcony in New York, and from a distance was admiring the beautiful skyline with a friend. The sun was a beautiful blaring orange and the buildings looked like silhouettes against the wonderful sunset. The matter of ISIS subconsciously was there, and as if on cue, that very view was destroyed by a nuclear bomb – grâce à ISIS themselves. We didn’t die in the dream, but that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that for some, this is their horrifying reality.

And so I head onto my next point. The world is officially tits up – as if it wasn’t bad enough, and as if you weren’t already aware. I’m so done with it.

Where do I start? I just don’t know.

We’re solidly in the 21st century, and still, we haven’t learned that KILLING each other still isn’t solving anything, still isn’t the way to banish conflict. We haven’t learned that CRUELTY doesn’t achieve anything, yet people still insist in its efficacy. People still believe that EVIL is the way to have a functional planet. And the worst bit? There’s absolutely nothing neither you nor I can do about it. You could give to charity, donate stuff etc. but will this immediately help anyone, realistically?

You could sit there and say “What’s the use in worrying? It won’t change anything.” “Don’t waste your time on something you can’t change.” “Why get sad, it’s still going to happen regardless.”

You’d have a very valid point.

But having this attitude makes you no better person.

I’m tired of the tragic things people are going through every day, the preposterous attitudes to ‘solving’ issues, the horrific things people are doing to each other, and to make matters worse is it’s only getting worse.

Poor people have suffered natural disasters, and manmade disasters alike. It’s just even more humiliating that we are able to cause such traumatic damage ourselves. Their homes and lives are now shredded pieces of rubble, precious people they will never meet again have disappeared within mere seconds. Callous terrorist attacks worldwide have destroyed nations and every single thing that lies within it. Innocent victims have to desperately flee their native countries, with their lives under constant threat and raw fear. And then there are actual, real people that have the NERVE to cast these people into the dark, because IMMIGRANTS ARE BAD FOR OUR COUNTRY? The absolute fucking nerve.

What is the difference between us all? The fundamental thing we all share is that we are HUMAN. And when you narrow it down to that, it’s sickening that we are continuing to slaughter each other the way we are. The world needs compassion, emotion, a huge dose of sympathy and kindness.

But I guess without it, the world will continue to spin anyway.

Well, I apologise if this was a bit dark for a Thursday afternoon but that’s our reality, sadly. We can’t carry on sugar-coating things and ignoring what’s happening in the world – and I’m looking at you, Social Media. But again that’s just how the world operates now. Here’s hoping that something will turn for the better, sooner rather than later.

*Rant Over*

 

 

 

Bright Eyes’s Most Beautiful Songs

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You could call this a continuation of my ‘Sad Playlists’ article I posted a few weeks ago. Bright Eyes is one of my favourite artists, and their songs really gets you in the feels. There are a range of mellow tracks from the soothing melancholy to the borderline crazy, but if you don’t really understand the artist you’ll never understand their music. They are great to listen to if you’re generally feeling low, or if you want to just get drunk by yourself and hate on the world in peace. Bright Eyes’s music is quite particular, and some of their lyrics are so profound. Below are some of Bright Eyes’s most beautiful songs, and their most moving lyrics:

The First day of my Life

But I’d rather be working for a paycheck
Than waiting to win the lottery
Besides maybe this time is different
I mean I really think you like me

Easily one of my favourite songs. I would call this a short film rather than a music video and it’s one piece which has managed to move me to tears each time. It’s just so beautiful. Go and watch it right now!

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what is simple in the moonlight by the morning never is

Such a matter-of-fact yet moving song which simplifies it all.

Smoke Without Fire

And dream of smoke without fire.
Just come see me again when it burns.

The poetry, rusty voice and swaying melody together is simply stunning. Don’t think I could get tired of this.

It’s Cool We can Still be Friends

So I’m pouring some whiskey, I’m gonna get drunk
Yeah, I’m pouring myself some whiskey, I’m going to get really fucking drunk
I’m pouring some whiskey right now, I’m going to get so, so drunk
That I pass out, forget your face, by the time I wake up

You follow a painful story which is masked by a simple four chord tune. It will without a doubt sound like a shrieking cat to some, but his shaky voice sounds so endearing and real. The melody is dissonant and the lyrics are haunting, and whether you’ve been in a similar situation before, you will feel like you have after listening to this. The imperfections – as cliché as it sounds – simply perfect it.

If you’re concerned at all about the poor old singer, there are plenty more songs by Bright Eyes which aren’t quite as harrowing as the above, and those I also enjoy listening to. I felt especially strongly about the mentioned tracks, and when you feel strongly about something, you want to share it with someone. So I shared it with you. Big old huge internet full of unknown faces lurking amongst the world wide web. There you have it.

Best TV Show Couples: Spoilers Alert!

If you’re like me and really get involved with TV shows, you won’t stop wishing that the (fictional) couples in them could just be real couples in real life. They have such undeniable chemistry on screen, why can’t they just be together for real?! All I’ll say is if you can’t tolerate heartbreak very well, I wouldn’t get too attached to the list below.

Here’s are some of my favourite TV couples. And before you ask, most of them didn’t work out in reality *insert broken heart emoji here*:

Derek and Meredith (Grey’s Anatomy)
You knew from the beginning they would end up together. There is no show without the most compatible relationship known to man, thanks to their 5* acting. Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey portray a previously turbulent couple who after life-threatening traumas, huge losses and intervening other women survive through and through.

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Nick and Jess (New Girl)

Or as I otherwise like to call them, ‘Jick’ or ‘Ness’. Jess’s adorable dorkiness is too much for Nick to resist, despite being a chronic grump. Their relationship builds until they finally FINALLY get together. After being thrown together in a flat, with two other rowdy boys, the banter and building sexual tension between them is too real. When they finally call it official in a huge burst of passion, it’s personally one of the best satisfactions I’ve got from a TV show yet! Long live Ness.

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Jesse and Jane (Breaking Bad)

A truly heartbreaking plot twist, and absolutely savage way of ending it. Jesse and Jane had such an endearing romance, but it was cut all too short. And neither Jesse nor Jane had a choice. Walter White is an eternal bastard for this stunt.

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Ygritte and Jon Snow (Game of Thrones)

It’s difficult to sympathise with a relationship in a fantasy TV show, but there was nothing quite like Jon and Ygritte’s raw  playful passion. Born enemies, but of course they fell in love anyway. Ygritte’s fiery hair was just as fiery as her personality, and that fire I’m sure won’t leave Jon Snow anytime soon (assuming he’s still alive). I may have shed a tear when the most tragically beautiful couple were slowly torn apart forever. WHY GEORGE RR MARTIN.

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Phoebe and Mike (Friends)

Probably not the first couple that comes to mind when Friends is mentioned, but Phoebe and Mike I thought were a special couple. Phoebe always struggled to fit in completely, and Mike ultimately completed her. She was a quirky, bizarre yet hysterical character who didn’t change for anyone and thank God for that. Phoebe and Mike are the concrete proof (although it’s a TV show) that someone somewhere will love you for exactly who you are.

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Amy and Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory)

I don’t think there has ever been such an organised couple in TV history and I absolutely love it. Though it takes a while for Sheldon to come out of his Shel (ha ha), it’s heart-warmingly adorable to see Amy’s reaction when he finally says the 3 words. Shamy 4 eva ❤

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Jenna Marbles is a Great Gal

She’s been knocking around for a good while now and I remember back when her first video being ‘How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking‘ became an online sensation overnight. It was sarcastic, dry, creative and hilarious and nothing has changed about her no-nonsense, yet colourful and wacky personality. Now a hugely successful YouTube star, Jenna Marbles just keeps on rising. She might be incredibly popular with millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions of views across her channel, but what is best about Jenna is her character. She’s had an incredible journey and her career appears to only be improving, but enough of the stats and generic boring stuff which everyone’s heard, here’s why Jenna Mourey really deserves her recognition: –

She doesn’t need any fancy effects

Literally, all she had for her first huge video was a single, run of the mill webcam in her dinky front room. It goes to show how valuable your own personality is to be noticed, and that really is all you need – unless you’re just a dick.

She doesn’t hang up on any pretences

She’s quirky, hilarious, unique, kind yet isn’t afraid to say when something’s ‘fucked up’. And that’s good. She may enjoy the odd swear word or two but sometimes it’s necessary, chill. She isn’t afraid of anyone’s criticism which personally I think is hugely brave, especially with such an outrageously massive audience (and savage at times, might I add). She’s done a number of opinionated videos, including the classic relatable ‘People that piss me off at the gym‘ and ‘People that need to pipe the fuck down‘, and just a huge range which crack me up every time.

She is human

She isn’t afraid to show she has emotion too. In a raw and endearing video called ‘Draw My Life‘, she goes through her whole life so far, both the ups and the downs. It’s very philosophical and shows there’s far more to Jenna, of course, than just her fabulous false eye lashes and amazing abs. Watching the video showed me how much we have in common, and how weirdly similar we are: we both played the clarinet and the piano, both love animals wanted to be a vet and/or zookeeper when we were younger, both used to do dance and gymnastics, both have a shoebox full of memories of absolutely everything (though I’m sure loads of people do). I’m clasping at straws now, but still, how similar are we?! I feel we would get on extremely well. Cause I am also kind of crazy, enjoy being a general child and getting drunk.

She’s motivating

Ok. Have you seen her bod. On her separate vlog channel, she has a video detailing her exercise and diet which she received thousands of questions about. Her determination and personal discipline really is admiring, especially as she goes into how strict her vegan diet is and the effort she makes with her exercise regime. It’s not just her body which is motivating, but her success. She moved to LA from her home in Boston after her popularity began to soar, and her fame grew onwards. If coming from the dinky front room to where she lives now isn’t motivating, along with all her nominations, awards and achievements, then what is? Not to mention she also has a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. (Yes, people save lives everyday, but that’s not why neither you nor I are here).

She has the cutest dogs!

Not biased. Not at all. Her name comes from her Maltese (I think) dog named Marbles, and Kermit and Peach, the Italian Greyhounds, complete the dog squad.

It’s easy for personalities to get lost over the internet with the amount of criticism there is, and she’s no stranger to the trolls of the world. But Jenna Mourey understands struggles of life. She’s remained down-to-earth and the fame hasn’t got to her head at all, and it’s hugely admiring to see she hasn’t changed a bit whilst entertaining millions everyday all over the world. Jenna’s a great gal, and actually a role model of mine. It’s absolutely awesome to be yourself, no matter how weird. Who cares what people think? Focus on yourself and forget toxic people and you will soar through life and do great things.

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Optimism

Things can and probably will get hard and you don’t need me to tell you that. And when they do, you have two choices: make them better, or worse for yourself. But you didn’t need me to tell you that either.

It’s not entirely black and white, being able to instantly make everything better through having the appropriate mindset. It’s a lot more complicated and you get better at it as you grow. You also have to be willing to make things better.

Let me paint a lil scenario for you: you’re on the way to work, it’s a big day, and of course it’s raining outside. You’re already in a hurry as it is, but then you miss the bus by the last second. You step in a huge puddle soaking your feet in freezing water on the way to the next bus stop. Great.

Scenario A: You throw your coffee on the floor for it to backfire onto your dress. Furious, you storm into the office with a toxic mood and ruin what should have been an awesome day. Your boss isn’t impressed which just makes things even better.

Scenario B: Realizing the potentials of Scenario A, you try to make the best of it and not let it ruin your day. You’re always early anyway, and the wet feet makes no immediate difference to your appearance. Soon enough you’ll be inside, warm and dry and you’ll laugh at this by tomorrow morning. You get to work in a mild fluster nonetheless, but you end up forgetting about the morning’s melodrama and focus on instead having a great day at work.

Bit of a generic situation that we’ve all seen on some kind of tampon advert, but it’s relatable.

In a broader sense, you can’t expect things to change if you’re negative. You need the attitude to be prepared to embrace something new and the effort required that comes with it. Living by the motto ‘it could be worse’ is gold. Used a million times, it still is valuable to remember, because say although you did get pooed on by a seagull, at least it wasn’t on your face. And I speak from experience, it’s not great.

If it’s fear that’s your issue, translate that as holding you back from something that could be great! Fear is always a healthy thing to have; it motivates you and once you have conquered it how liberated do you feel?! But using fear as a barrier from what could be so great is not the way to approach it. Embrace it with open arms, then kick it out of the way. You’ll see you’re so much bolder and confident than before and you can achieve what you had never expected. It’s easier said than done, but being positive about any situation is the ultimate way to start. Being grateful for what you have, who you are, how far you’ve come so far is something to always be optimistic about.

I know, it’s exhausting being ordered around and pushed to be positive when you’re not feeling it, which is completely fair. But everyone has a starting point. Everyone has their lows on a wide range of levels, and it’s not always easy to be motivated. Always remember that even if you think it couldn’t possibly be worse, just think of 2007 Britney.

‘Sad’ Playlists

You know when a song comes on shuffle and you can’t help but be thrown into the past with a startling jolt? It’s a powerful feeling of mixed, but potent emotions. Like smell, music has a strong ability to remind you of things in your life as if you were reliving it. It’s unpleasant and can twist your stomach into uncomfortable knots.

But sometimes you just need a good cry, and a ‘sad’ playlist is one of the best things to let it all out. I’m sat here hoping I’m not the only one who has had too much time on their hands! ‘Sad’ playlists are great for dark evenings if you just want to wind down and are perfect if you’re in a nostalgic mood and of course, are willing to face the rough memories again (and punch them in the face).

Below are some of the absolute belters which have been added to my own ‘sad’ playlist over the years:

  • David Gray – Forgetting
  • Washed Out – A Dedication
  • Iko – Heart of Stone
  • Eminem & Dido – Stan
  • Eminem – Mockingbird
  • Editors – No Sound but the Wind
  • Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
  • Antony and the Johnsons – Fistful of Love
  • Glen Hansard and Marketa Inglova – The Hill
  • Kings of Leon – Pyro
  • The Swell Season – The Moon
  • Robyn – Eclipse
  • Des’ree – Kissing You
  • Coldplay – Warning Sign

Each track represents a different time, reminders of people who have come and gone or a specific event in my life. And so I decided to compile the collection into one playlist to essentially torture myself with! It sounds a bit sadistic, but I believe you need to remember the bad, horrible, shitty memories as much as the good, because you’ve gone through it all and you are still standing here today.

Why Ugly Betty was Always The One

Not very well known, and probably completely forgotten about, but Ugly Betty actually taught us a lot more than the obvious.

Having recently rediscovered one of my favourite shows, I remember how much I used to love adorable little Betty. It was 2006 when it first aired and I was (wait, what’s 21 minus 9?) erm, about 12? No, surely not!

It’s the perfect programme to binge watch, but I wouldn’t label it trash TV as I’ve learned a good solid amount of lessons from Ugly Betty. Call it cringey, but here are the reasons why Ugly Betty, both the show and protagonist (flawless actress, might I add), should have had more recognition:

  • It shows us the importance of kindness.
  • How the material doesn’t actually matter.
  • How important it is to appreciate and love your family.
  • To not be afraid to be ambitious, especially as a woman.
  • That actually achieving your dream is a thing.
  • Remember you are ALWAYS good enough.
  • To value true friends – and actually do it.
  • Don’t waste your time on toxic relationships.
  • No matter how much you try with some people, they won’t change, but don’t let it slow you down.
  • Once someone has f*cked you over, don’t bother going back.
  • No matter how much you bicker with your siblings, remember you still love each other.
  • Everyone is beautiful.
  • Freebies are always a good thing.
  • Always have the extra slice of pizza.
  • And always drink champagne where possible.

I could go on. But yeah, this show is always a good decision. It has the romantic flings, the comedy elements, the easy watching, celebrity cameos and good old drama and if you’re not a fan, who even are you?!

Perfect for a cosy night in with a pizza or to spend an all-day hangover with. It’s both comforting and gives you a little perspective on some things in life; plus you can laugh at the outrageous trends of almost a decade ago. If you’re looking for something more masculine, may I suggest Homes Under the Hammer.

Adventureland is Seriously Underrated

I bet you don’t have the slightest clue what I’m talking about. A theme park? Something going on this weekend? No, actually, the 2009 film directed by the same guy who did Superbad. Yeah, that got you interested didn’t it?

Not to mention the stunning soundtrack, but a pretty good cast too. They’ve thrown in a rather odd mixture of Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig, Jesse Eisenberg and Bill Hader among others. Set in the 80s, it’s really something different to what we generally see in the movies these days. It’s minimal, yet effective. It’s dramatic without being tacky. I like that.

Back to the soundtrack, since the plot is set in the 80s, so is the music (attention to detail, also a good thing). There are no generic, four-chord songs which have been overused a thousand times over, but tasteful choices which blend well into the background as well as the narrative. One of my all time favourites now, because of this film, is Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. As is The Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes. The OST is perfect to listen to either on a shitty, rainy day, on a painful bus journey or whenever, I find it extremely comforting. Another favourite is the Stones’s Tops. Please just bloody go and watch it already so I can nerd out about the soundtrack with someone else other than myself.

I appreciate a realistic plot, and this one is very believable. Not only a teen drama, but the film deals with domestic dramas within and outside of a married household in multiple families. It mirrors many day-to-day lives, but the uniquely tweaked details make you feel. It does get quite deep, and to qualify the level of ‘deep’, I found myself saying “ah shit” a good few times under my breath. And of course there is heartbreak. What’s a good movie without at least one?

The movie will seem bleak to some people, which I can equally appreciate. As for the excitement and ‘rush’ level, it’s nothing down the lines of Fast and Furious, or a Bond film, but you knew that when you watched the opening credits. I would describe it as thought-provoking, although the film isn’t designed to change the world. Give it a chance; for me, it’s one of those films I can watch as many times as I like without it getting monotonous.

To Be Continued: – Kristen Stewart is Seriously Underrated!

The Clunky 1st Post

Looks like I’ve hopped on the blog bandwagon a little later than the rest, but there you go. I’ll be using this blog like a diary entry. If something has pissed me off, moved me or just baffled me in general I will come and post it here. I like to write to entertain as much as I enjoy writing ‘deep’ things. I’m a very awkward, uncomfortable person, but bear with me, and I’ll get used to this whole thing as I go along. There may be a variety of stuff to read, but as long as it’s insightful, enjoyable or just something to do, I hope you find it a good use for your time and hopefully I can use this platform to build something worthwhile. Al x