My 100km running challenge

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When I first decided to run 100km in January, my only intended goal (other than to cover the distance, obviously) was to raise money and awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis UK. IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) can drastically impact somebody’s life. It’s not curable and the symptoms can be extremely debilitating. There’s so much research that needs to be done in to the disease and also the sufferers often need a lot of support both mentally and physically. I’ve wanted to do something for a while to raise money for this cause that’s really close to my heart and running 100km in a month (which is probably further than I’ve run in total in the last 6-7 years) seemed like an excellent place to start, naturally. 

When I initially decided to do the challenge, I told my good friend Vanessa and she told me I was crazy but kindly put together a six week training plan to get me up to a solid 5km distance before I started my first run. I then brought the challenge forward by a month and only ended up training for 2 weeks… Ness was less than impressed but very supportive of this decision (haha love u).

At first I thought that it was going to be possibly the most idiotic decision I’d ever made. During my extremely short training period I injured my foot and spent much of the time panicking that I was never, ever going to complete the challenge. Like, what if people sponsored me and then I couldn’t do it?! My hips could barely handle the only run (at a sum total of 2km) I’d done in the last six months, so why was I even attempting this? But I put on my (really old and slightly disgusting) running trainers and took a whack at it anyway…

1st January, 2021, hungover as fuck, I set out on my first 5km run. With every single step I thought my head was going to explode (thanks to the mega hangover) and about 3km in I had to stop and try very hard not to throw up on the side of the road. When I got home I was very good and did my extensive stretching routine, a bit of yoga, and then watched 6 episodes of Bridgeton and didn’t move from the sofa for the rest of the day.

Day 2 I set out on another run. This time the sun was shining, it was above 0 degrees and I smashed out another 5km. I took my time on this run and completed it in an almost embarrassingly long time but it felt so good to be out and about and running my little legs off. Also, I couldn’t quite believe I’d just run two 5kms on two consecutive days and I wasn’t ~completely~ exhausted (just a little bit). 

Day 3 and the motivation was low. I posted a cute boomerang on my Instagram stories for some motivation and validation (obviously) and some of my lovely pals replied and told me to get on with it. So I did. I ran just over 4km. My total reached 14.99km on my Apple Fitness app and I’ve never been more irritated with anything in my life. 

Day 4 and I had my first rest day. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any kms to cover on my first day back at work at the Christmas break, solid decision from yours truly, many thanks to previous me for that one. 

Day 5 and I got up at what felt like the crack of dawn to run before work. Winter is pretty depressing when you’re leaving the house at 8.30am for a run and it feels like 5am because there is no warmth and no light anywhere to be seen. But I managed it. I did my stretches just in time for my morning team call. I was feeling good. 

Day 6 another rest day – my ‘coach’ aka best pal Ness told me I was to do some workouts but I was so exhausted that I swapped the resistance bands for a nice tub of Ben n Jerrys. Another excellent decision on my part.

Day 7, another run. Not much else to note other than I was pretty over the moon to have reached the 25km mark in a week!!! Woop!

Day 8, another rest day. Less ice cream this time but still no workout (sorry Ness). 

Day 9, I smashed it out the park and ran 6.3km like some sort of bloody miracle. The furthest I’d ever run before in my life. I felt on top of the world. I literally couldn’t believe that me and my stupid old woman hips could run so far and still be able to walk the next day!!!! The sense of achievement was real. 

Day 10, I came crashing back down to earth… with a poor 2.6km and a very painful foot. My training injury appeared to have come back, in the ~other~ foot because that makes sense?? I called my mum half way round my route to pick me up and spent the afternoon on the sofa sulking, panicking and icing. I’d started to raise quite a lot of money and was feeling the pressure. 

Day 11, everyone told me I was, under no circumstances, to run because I needed to rest my injury. So obviously I listened to absolutely nobody and went for a run anyway. I would usually suggest that this makes me a bit of a dickhead but my foot was absolutely fine thanks and I was just relieved to be back on track. 

Day 12, I ignored the rest advice and ran again (obviously).

Day 13, I took the rest day I was meant to take a few days before.

Day 14, 15, 16 and 17 I ran every. single. day. I was just so ~into it~ I was like ‘look at me gooooooo’ I took screenshots of my runs and sent them to my honorary PT/coach/cheerleader Ness (she’s not a PT by the way she just took it upon herself to help me with this because she loves exercise and she loves me x). 

On the 17th, I actually ran SEVEN whole kms in one go. It took me 50 minutes. and I got VERY muddy. But I felt so incredibly impressed with myself. Little Kath with her little legs running some real distance (ok fine no marathons here but 7km is pretty far you gotta give me that!!).

The day by day is getting a bit boring for everyone now (as was my Instagram content and I think I lost a few followers this month lol) so basically this was my next 4 runs… I, for some bizarre reason, didn’t quite make it up to the 5km mark once haha, it’s like my body was just a bit like ‘nah’. I ran 4.93km, 4.95km, 4.95km, 4.99km, 3.06km, 4.98km (in that order). Clearly my route was JUST short of that 5km mark… But I was, evidently, in the spirit of things and running my little legs off every day.

I got into the routine of doing it during my lunch break and it was the best addition to my day. Half an hour (ok slightly longer because I’m slow but let’s pretend) outside moving my little legs to make sure I covered the distance I needed to. The donations started pouring in and I felt more and more motivated.

On the 29th, I set out on a morning run (something I had only done twice before I figured out the lunch time window was preferable temperature wise). I had 7km left to run and I intended to split it up into two runs (because clearly my 7km was a little fluke and I was much more comfortable at the 4km mark). I had 45 minutes until my first meeting of the day. Plenty of time to run for half an hour, stretch and sit down at my laptop feeling a little sweaty (but working from home means that this, my friends, is not a problem). Roughly half way through my run and I randomly decided to that maybe I should just go for it and do the whole 7kms. 

This was an exceptionally stupid decision. 

The last 7km I had run took me 50 minutes on a Sunday, in the sunshine, after an excellent breakfast. 

For my final run of the challenge, I ran 7km (5 minutes quicker than my last 7km) and made it back JUST in time to sit at my desk and take my first call of the day. Actually, when I stopped my watch it said I needed to run 0.05kms still so I set off back down the road again once I’d ended the run haha, ya girl was not going to end on 99.95kms!!! 

I then literally couldn’t walk for 24 hours because I didn’t stretch properly and my achilles was completely *fucked* (told you it was stupid). 

But…I’d completed this enormous challenge with two days to spare!! 

After my work call I got my mum to take a photo of my holding up my trainers to post on the ‘gram to show everyone I’d ACTUALLY done it (obviously). I was flooded with messages of congratulations and more importantly donations. I’ve now passed the £1500 mark and I couldn’t be more chuffed with that. In a time when everyone is struggling and dealing with their own things, the generosity was genuinely overwhelming. I *definitely* cried a few times.

And aside from the obvious achievements and milestones I passed (running 100km and raising £1500) this challenge taught me a few things…

The first being that I can literally do anything I put my mind to (or so it feels that way). I made excuses about why I couldn’t run for literally years. I do have a lot of problems with my joints, that is a real issue BUT with the right physio and a bit of attention to how my legs are feeling, this clearly didn’t stop me completing the challenge. So, I intend to put this energy behind other things in my life that I’ve been telling myself I can’t do. 

Running wise I learnt that a good skrillex remix will make you run 1.2x faster, yoga is your friend and an orange hat makes you feel cool even if you don’t look it. 

Also running wise, I finally learnt that exercise really ~is~ good for my mental health (I know, who have thought it). I really hated reading this because I kinda really hated exercise, except from running and spin class, both of which hurt my hips a lot and therefore kinda made me pretend to hate exercise. Hate is a strong word and I did DO exercise before, I wasn’t a sloth, but I’ve never been a particularly exercise-orientated person. Am I making sense? Anyway, to state the obvious, the pandemic sucks. I feel stressed, anxious and angry a lot of the time, you know like the whole world, but this challenge helped clear my foggy head so many times. Literally yesterday during my lunchtime run (because guys I am still running, I know I know I’m a ~runner~ now, it feels virtuous) I figured out the solution to a problem/concern that I was struggling to work through. As I said, I used to hate reading that exercise would make me feel better mentally because I resented it but genuinely I now can’t ~stop doing it~ because it has made me feel so good.

And I guess the last thing is that I have grown so much and I’m so bloody proud of myself. The last year has been such a challenge for me, I’ve had to do a lot of healing and without the option to be surrounded by my friends and distract myself constantly, it’s been really really rough at times. But I’m so god damn grateful for everything I’ve learnt and everything I have achieved. The running challenge feels so emblematic of that for me. It’s not necessarily the distance or the amount raised (although these are both exceptional obviously) but more just the whole ‘I decided to do this and I did it’ kind of energy. 

I was asked the other day what I considered to be my biggest achievement and actually, aside from the obvious things like my degree, I think that the way I’ve handled everything this past year and how now I’m literally the happiest and healthiest version of myself I’ve probably ever been is arguably my biggest achievement to date. 

So, I say to you my friends… you are stronger than you think. You can do it. And don’t try and run 7km in 45 minutes before a meeting to complete a challenge you have two more days to complete. 

By the way you can still donate to my challenge here if you’d like

And to learn more about Crohn’s and Colitis UK and the amazing work they do, click here.

Erasmus, heartbreak, and Brexit: 2020’s finale.

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I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been feeling pretty angry of late. Angry about the pandemic, angry about Brexit, just angry about a lot really. This morning I was mindlessly scrolling on my phone (this is a habit I vow to stop in 2021) and came across an article titled ‘I was an early Erasmus scholar, and I grieve for what British students have lost’… 

The day that I woke up and found out the UK had voted to leave the EU was honestly one of the most heartbreaking days of my life (not to be too dramatic obviously). At the time, I was living in France, in the home of an Italian-Franco couple with trilingual children, a family that was virtually a product of the EU. The people I worked for understood (as much as they could) just how upset I was and gave me the day off after hugging me and telling me ‘it would all be ok’. I spent the day in bed with a jar of nutella, crying and wrote a blog called ‘a sad day to be British’, the last I wrote that year.

My host family’s EU passports allowed them to travel from Italy and France respectively, to meet in London and start a little European family together – along comes their British, French-student, aupair for the summer and you’ve got a little European utopia. A utopia which will now no longer include the British. During the rest of my time at that job, my friends (most of whom were EU citizens) repeatedly asked me why the UK had made that decision and I repeatedly told them I didn’t want to talk about it. Every single person I met, the gardener, the bartender, the bus driver, that found out I was British was like ‘uh oh Brexit’. It followed me around everywhere. Being British suddenly became very, very embarrassing. 

The things I gained from that year of my life will never leave me. Before I spent the summer aupairing in my little EU utopia, I lived in a lush place called Chartres and was an English Language Assistant at three primary schools. I spent my weekdays teaching cute kids English and my weekends travelling. I met the best people, I drank more wine than I thought humanly possible (wine tastes better in France, don’t fight me on that one), and I lived my absolute best life. I don’t think anything will ever compare. The friends I made, the experiences I had and the things I learnt are priceless to me. I genuinely believe that any of other period of my life will struggle to enrich my life that that year did and ~ ok fine I am getting a ~bit~ dramatic now…  

I do want to highlight though that I now have friends all over the world and being in a family that spoke so many languages only inspired me to further my education and get my Masters degree in Applied Linguistics. Studying for my MA ultimately gave me the time I needed to discover my passion for writing and has directly contributed to where I am in life now.

The year that directed the course of my life was only possible, easy and attainable because of the Erasmus scheme. The Erasmus scheme that the UK is leaving – collateral of Brexit and quite frankly, a tragedy.

I won’t get into the details of Brexit and what I think of it. I don’t have the means to articulate it in a measured way because I think it’s frankly a shit show and there’s plenty of other people who can articulate the ins and outs of the deal much more eloquently (and without swearing). But what I will say is that every time a Brexit milestone (for want of a better word) is reached, I feel a twang of that heartbreak and anger that I experienced so vividly back in 2016. It’s like that one toxic ex that won’t leave you alone, that keeps popping back into your DMs just when you think you’re moving on. 

The Erasmus scheme has offered opportunities for students to live, study and work in EU countries since 1987. According to the Guardian, “under the latest version of the scheme, Erasmus+, around 200,000 people have taken part including around 15,000 British university students each year.” The numbers speak from themselves really – all those people that will now miss out on having the life affirming experienced I was fortunate and privileged enough to have myself in 2015/2016.

Boris Johnson has announced a ‘replacement’ scheme called the Turing scheme which will allow UK students to go around the world. The issue is that it’s not an ‘exchange’ in the same way that the Erasmus scheme is. We don’t benefit here in the same way. It’s not the same and it’s not a consolation prize. It’s like buying a fake designer handbag that says ‘Prava’ instead of ‘Prada’.

I resonate with the Guardian article I read this morning, about grieving what British students have lost, because I truly believe that loosing the Erasmus scheme is one of the most heartbreaking things that could have happened to British students. All I can say is that I truly hope that for the sake of the next generation of students that this scheme offers some sort of consolation worth having and I also hope that we can still welcome EU students into our UK universities in some way or another in the future.

Oh and also I’m still on the hunt for a husband with an EU passport if anybody wants hit me up xx

52 books (and counting) in 2020

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Hi friends,

Yesterday I finished reading ‘Ever Greener’ by Ruth Jones and thus completing my 2020 reading challenge of reading 52 books! I started the challenge for a bit of fun but have genuinely loved reading this year and updating my Dad and my pals on where I was at with my challenge. I think next year I’ll set different reading goals and focus on what I’m reading rather than ‘how much’ but easily met my 52 this year (there’s still three weeks left of the year after all) so may keep the number the same. Took some screenshots from my Goodreads as I thought it looked really pretty:

I tried to order/rank everything I read but honestly from numbers 20 – 40 I could probably bunch them all together. Apparently I rate a lot of books four stars on Goodreads… like for example I really loved all the Cara Hunter novels but they somehow ended up quite far down the list?! I did have some definite favourites and a few ones I really didn’t rate that much so anyway here’s my ’52 in 52′ for 2020:

  1. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
  3. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
  4. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
  5. Educated by Tara Westover
  6. Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  7. The Switch by Beth O’Leary
  8. The One by John Marrs
  9. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  10. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding 
  11. How to Fail by Elizabeth Day 
  12. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams 
  13. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo 
  14. The Truants by Kate Weinberg
  15. Testaments by Margaret Attwood
  16. Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
  17. The Rotters Club by Jonathon Coe
  18. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  19. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  20. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  21. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
  22. I See You by Claire Mackintosh 
  23. Never Greener by Ruth Jones
  24. The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
  25. Close to Home by Cara Hunter 
  26. In the Dark by Cara Hunter
  27. What a Time to Be Alone by Chiddera Eggerue
  28. Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner
  29. No one is too small to make a difference by Greta Thunberg
  30. Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner
  31. No Way Out by Cara Hunter 
  32. All the Rage by Cara Hunter 
  33. Women Don’t Owe you Pretty by Florence Given
  34. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
  35. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
  36. Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
  37. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  38. Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
  39. Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari
  40. After the End by Claire Mackintosh
  41. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  42. The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
  43. Us by David Nicholls
  44. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  45. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  46. Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Hollerman
  47. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  48. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  49. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout 
  50. The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriquez
  51. All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison 
  52. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

DNF: 

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

Bunny by Mona Awad

Tangerine by Christine Magan

One Summer by Bill Bryson

There will always be books

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Do you ever finish reading a book and just hold it for a while because you’re not sure what to do with yourself now? The world you just immersed yourself in has ended and you’re not sure how to react? This happened to me last night as I finished my 51st book of the year (!!). I then Tweeted about this feeling (because I’m a millennial okkkkkk) followed by ‘books really have saved me from some dark places this year’.

And damn, I really feel that.

I remember so vividly being in the middle of the hardest week of my year – very very sad and completely alone, unable to see any of my friends and family but needing them more than ever, finding some solace in words on a page. 

When I moved out of the flat I was living in at that time, it was a gradual process with a few trips back and forth, but in the first, I packed up half of my tiny little VW UP with my books. It was so weird that I just so strongly felt as though I couldn’t leave them behind.

When I was younger I remember my mum saying to me ‘you’ll never get bored because you like reading and there’s always books to read’ and whilst I don’t think we ever expected there to be a global pandemic and shoved in our homes for months on end, I do feel like there is some truth in this (also am very lucky to be privileged enough to always have access to books). So many people, myself included, spent many hours of lockdown reading. There’s some sort of collective feeling that books helped us, are still helping us, get through the pandemic slightly. 

This year has taken so much away from us but it’s also given me a lot to be grateful for. It’s given me strength and resilience, a new perspective and fresh lease of life. To speak more literally, it’s also given me my very own bookclub, the opportunity to solidify so many friendships (in talking about books and other ways), and many, many great books.

Before Covid (I’d love if we all started referring to this as BC lol), I set up a bookclub at work and we only managed to meet up once at the bar before we got thrown into lockdown and the shit storm of 2020 began. And yet organising the bookclub, meeting new people and seeing familiar faces every month (even if it was just on Teams) to talk about books has brought me so much joy. Discussing the books we’ve all read and collectively deciding whether we loved or hated it (or completely disagree with each other!) has been so great and I’m so grateful for it.

A solid bookclub member and my work wife, Elle, has been an absolute rock for me this year and has supported me in countless ways and so much of our friendship is routed in reading. Right in the heart of the first lockdown we sent parcels of books to each other. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone to each other talking about books (and other shite.) And I think we’ve pretty much liked every single one of each other’s goodreads updates, so if that’s not real friendship I don’t know what is. 

My lovely Josie sent me the most beautiful book ever for my birthday this year; The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy which can only be described as a book that can save your heart. I think its marketing copy is “a book of hope for uncertain times” and it really, really is. It’s almost like she knew that a month later I would need those words more than ever and at a time when I couldn’t actually see my best friend, I felt as though she was with me telling me everything would be ok every time I picked up that book. 

Some of my other fab friends have leant me books, recommended books to me and asked for my recommendations. I’ve spent countless hours drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of day, literally just talking about books. My Dad and I have read countless of the same detective novels notably the Cara Hunter series and the Susie Steiner series and discussed them at length. I’ve even promised my brother to read a 1200 page long epic fantasy novel (!) just so he can chat to somebody about it. 

I think, basically, what I’m trying to say here is that reading gave me solace in my loneliness but it also gave me friendships and company in so many ways this year. In a year where there’s been so much uncertainty, stress and sadness, there has always been books and I find so much comfort in that thought, and I hope you do too. 

And to leave you with a quote that emulates what I really want to say here: 

“When I think of all the books still left for me to read, I am certain of further happiness.” – Jules Renard

Video calls, why ARE they so exhausting?

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2020, the year of the Zoom call. The year of virtual meetings, virtual quizzes, virtual catch-ups, virtual workouts (well, Instagram LIVEs lol), virtual ‘pub’ nights, virtual concerts. The whole world locked down and online. Every in-person event cancelled and moved online. Bit weird isn’t it?

It was fun to start off with, the virtual pub nights, Houseparty – the app that lived fast and died young – and everybody was well up for quizzes for at least the first 16 of them. Now, we’re in our second national lockdown and the whole of the UK sighs a sigh of desperation as the virtual quiz is suggested again and video calls are, once more, the only way to chat to friends and family. The whole office environment disappeared over night and entire organisations moved all their communication online. My 97 year old Grandma knows how to FaceTime… it’s mental if you really think about it. Even dating is online as apps have rapidly adapted to include new ‘video chat’ features. Imagine this time last year telling your current self that you’d have attended approx 67.5 virtual events, spent approx 7689 hours on Zoom and you spent more time caring about your Zoom background than you did your next Instagram post…

We’ve all become used to video calls being part of our day to day lives now of course but the fatigue is reeeeeal. My work day is, sometimes, basically one long Teams call and on those particular days I always feel really, really tired. Am sure that in person meetings never did that to me (although maybe I’ve a rose tinted view on that). Why is that? I’ve done some research (obviously) and to put it simply, when on video chat it is more harder to process non verbal cues so we have to pay more attention and basically is uses more energy (so yes go have another coffee you deserve it x). 

Essentially, everything we’ve ever learnt about socialising and communication in person has been completely destroyed and we’re having to relearn social cues, relearn non-verbal cues (or the lack there of), and basically relearn how to read someone when we can only see their face and their choice of background (which is likely to be something super distracting). 

Non-verbal cues and communication are the little things like eye contact, gestures and posture that can communicate a lot about a person before they actually say anything. Most of them, then, disappear when you move online. You can’t make eye contact. You can’t really see someone’s posture. You can probably only see a very fuzzy, small image of somebody’s face and therefore might not be able to interpret their facial expression. So it’s much harder to understand what somebody is something, or how they want to say it. And, you yourself have to use much more jarring and obvious ways to communicate. You can’t necessarily just nod or smile like you can in person as it may be missed. Unmuting yourself to say ‘yeah’ quickly to show that you’re listening is something of an olympic sport. Miss the moment and you’re done. (Also why is it still funny when somebody forgets to unmute and everyone else simultaneously goes ‘YOU’RE ON MUTE!’?!) You also don’t have eye contact on your side. You can’t make eye contact with someone to suggest you want to speak, you can’t catch your pals eye to say ‘I know right’, you are literally staring at pixels (usually of a pretty shit quality) on a screen. 

I’m usually alright at making my voice heard in a room of people but I’ve really struggled with it on video chats. I find I get way more nervous and anxious to speak up than I would in person. I can’t move forward slightly in my chair when I’ve got something to say so people know I want to say something. We have to very purposely unmute ourselves and actually say something (and hope that the wifi doesn’t stop working at that exact moment). We had a conversation about this at work and I think it’s pretty clear that the virtual environment actually makes it a lot easier for some people but a lot worse for others. I am in the bad side of it. 

As an extroverted person I find that video calls only fill a small whole that I have from the lack of socialising this year. On the one hand, it’s great to chat to people from work, catch up with my mates and see their beautiful faces but on the other hand I find that the energy I get from people around other people is virtually (pardon the pun) impossible to achieve over a video call. It actually drains more energy than it provides. 

And this leads me on to the point that it’s not just about the lack of non verbal cues that make video calls quite draining. In this article written by the BBC I found this point quite hard hitting. Gianpiero Petriglieri, an Associate Professor at Insead, says ‘the video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, that reminds you we should really be [together]’. And whilst this is a bit dramatic, I really do think he’s got a point. It’s like, when I see my team on calls I often wish I could see them in person and share our Netflix recommendations over our morning coffees. Or like when I FaceTime my cat (I’m not joking) I find myself feeling soooo angry about the fact that I can’t reach out and give her a cuddle. And when I organise a catch up with my pals I really do wish we were sharing the bottle of wine (partly so I don’t just drink the whole thing myself)…

Petriglieri also says ‘most of our social roles happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed. Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t that weird? That’s what we’re doing now…’ isn’t that nuts?! Pretty much every single social interaction we have is in the exact same physical place. The other day I moved into the lounge to take a call and I felt like a new person (now who’s being dramatic lol). And for some reason I also end up taking social calls sat in bed but maybe that’s because otherwise it does feel a bit like work?

On a completely different note, you also have to look at your own face and isn’t that just a bit weird? Like imagine there being a mirror every time you spoke in real life showing what you look like, because that’s basically what it is. And also, horrifying to discover that the image you see is a mirror or what everyone else sees so you are basically guaranteed to look better in your own image than somebody else’s (sorry to break this one to you). 

Whilst I am very, very grateful for pretty much every video call I’ve had throughout the pandemic, and do suggest them to all my pals and also find days without many meetings a bit lonely (we strive for a happy medium ok) – there really is something to be said about video call fatigue. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, we continue to find innovative ways to move the world online and adapt to the virtual world we are living in. But, all I’m saying is, get me back to the office and the pub 2021 pls I’m counting on you x

Let’s leave the trash in 2020, an ode to ghosting…

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Apparently, my blog is now a Dolly Alderton stan account… I just finished reading Ghosts and I loved it. So, I have a lot to say. Buckle up boys.

Ghosts, Dolly’s debut novel, captures the pure evilness of being ghosted in a funny, heart-warming and emotional way and becoming such a brilliant self-assuring novel. 

Nina is 32, living in London and she gets ghosted. BIG TIME. It is INSANE and yet so terrifyingly relatable… at many points of the novel I found myself laughing out loud in a this-is-so-scarily-relatable kind of way. 

My Dad asked me the other day what ghosting was. I told him it’s when a person you’re dating just suddenly stops replying and ignores you completely as if you (or they) never existed, they’re like a ghost. 

He replied ‘oh I thought it meant that they haunt you’.

And, well, he’s not wrong is he… because when you’re ghosted you spend an extremely unhealthy amount of time thinking about that person. They occupy space in your brain you never knew you had. Every single spare moment of the day is spent thinking about what’s happened to them. Are they dead?! Are they in hospital? And of course you know deep down that they’re just a complete arse, because there’s literally no valid reason to ever ghost a human being. The audacity of it shocks me every time I hear about it or experience it. 

In Ghosts, Nina, the protagonist and ghostee, says ‘you made me beg for you to speak to me, to even acknowledge I existed. You made me feel desperate and deluded. You made me feel like you didn’t exist, like I’d made it all up… and I couldn’t say anything because whenever I questioned your coldness, you made me feel like I was crazy’ 

And just to say it loud enough for the people at the back, it is not and never will be ~crazy~ to expect somebody you are dating, somebody you have given time and energy to, to just simply not disappear of the face of the earth without explanation. Remember that. 

Dating apps have made it so easy for people to move on to the next person, disregarding someone for the most minor thing. There’s literally a list of people in your pocket with crap bios like ‘I like running, beer, a girl up for a good time’. Great, Paul, and I like men who are honest but we can’t have it all x

And whilst I firmly believe people should never settle for ~anything~ less than you deserve, everybody does has ‘baggage’ so to speak. There is not a single person in the world who is society’s idea of ‘perfect’. But, there will be a perfect person for them. That’s just how it works. So, having a rotation of people to call upon if you find a single flaw in the person you’re dating is weird, it’s unhealthy and honestly it’s just mean. It makes people feel worthless. We’ve well and truly f*cked it as a generation of swipers.

The bar is now so low that we congratulate men when they are, simply, honest. All they have to do is send us one honest sentence (just one) and we’re like ‘wow, really appreciate that thanks’ and then tell our friends ‘at least he was honest, he’s a good guy’. I’m sorry but what the hell is that all about? That should be the bare minimum not the indicator of a good person (it helps make them a good person of course, but it seems to be the level at which we decide right now).

It’s not comfortable to tell someone you don’t want to date them anymore, sure. We can all relate to that, right. It’s not like a fun activity but it’s not like anyone’s asking you to write a thesis on nuclear physics. And it’s not like we can’t handle the honesty. I can guarantee you that Every. Single. One. of my friends can handle the truth. Just like you know full well you can get back on the app and get swiping, so can we. We have just as many opportunities open to us as you do. We can play the game too. In the words of Beyonce, do not for one minute think that you are irreplaceable, to the left to the left…

I’ve watched my friends get hurt, I’ve been hurt myself, I’ve seen it too many times. The words need to be said. People need to be called out on their behaviour, enough is enough.

I recently read a quote on Instagram (you know, those accounts that post motivational quotes so that millennial women like me will repost them to their stories, you know the ones? lol) that said ‘choose yourself. You’ve got shit to do’ and I immediately took a screenshot of it and sent it to my best friend (because I validate following too many of these accounts by sharing them daily with her, she loves me). Anyway, this is the energy that we all need to embody every single day. Men are not going to stop ghosting us. It’s become integral to the society of the f*ck boy (might have to explain to my parents what this means after they’ve read this post, hi Mum) and frankly we’ve got to care less. It will hurt every time, of course it will. But every time, we can choose ourselves again. Feeling loved and being loved is not always about romantic relationships. It’s about surrounding yourself with people and things that make you feel good. Sometimes this is a romantic relationship, sometimes it’s spending the day in bed with an entire tuna pasta bake. Do you, boo. Always choose yourself.

Even though ‘men are trash’ is my favourite thing to say, I know that there are good, nice men out there. My friends have brilliant husbands/fiances/boyfriends (can’t believe I’m old enough to say this), I have incredible brothers (both in long stable relationships in which I presume they treat their girlfriends like queens), I have male friends who are lovely, genuine people. I just hope that, as a society, we can leave the likes of ghosting in 2020… along with Trump (boy byeeeeeeeee), Covid and all the other terrible things that have happened this year. Let’s leave the trash in 2020.

And if you find yourself being the victim of a serial-ghoster, in the words of a millennial Instagram account: choose yourself, you’ve got shit to do 

Also read Ghosts by Dolly Alderton. 

‘Everything I know about love’ in 2020

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2020 has been a sh*t show from the word go. Along side, you know, the global pandemic and the colossal impact on the entire world, personal trauma’s have been experienced by many. Dealing with the normal waves of life on top of the constant fear, anxiety and uncertainty has been almost impossible for lots of people. 

I feel extremely grateful for the health of my friends and family and insanely fortunate to still have a job that I absolutely love (shoutout to my Purple family for getting me THROUGH). However, I have, unfortunately and like many others, been through the shitter (for want of a better phrase) in my personal life this year. And whilst I am now thriving/living my best life so far as the pandemic allows, keeping my houseplants alive (Twitter fam, the glow up is still going well) and well just generally not having a meltdown all the time (just occasionally) it’s been quite the journey. Really, f*ck you 2020.

Anybody that knows me, is aware that I have the best parents in the world (hi guys I know you read everything I write), and I am eternally grateful for their endless support. I also have the best friends anybody could need or want in their lives and generally just an incredible support network. 

A while ago, I read ‘Everything I Know About Love’ by Dolly Alderton and ever since I’ve really wanted to put into words how I feel about friendships, female friendships in particular, and how far I’ve come since my turbulent relationship with friends I had as a teenager. Yet, despite many attempts and drafts, I’ve never quite found the words.

Today I’ve been inspired to put my thoughts down on paper, so to speak, as I feel an insane amount of love for my best friend as she supports me (yet again) on a bad day. My best friend knows exactly what to say to me every single time I WhatsApp her in a stress (which I can tell you is much more often than I’d like to admit on the Internet). She knows when to tell me to grow some balls and when to tell me my feelings are valid and justified. She knows when I need to rant and when she needs to just distract me. She sends me thoughtful post and texts me to check in at just the right moments. She’s just great, period.

And in general, I am so lucky to have such a plethora (isn’t that such a great word?) of people in my life who understand me, appreciate me and champion me. My friends have kept my head above water in the darkest times this year. They have been such a solid, grounding base for me, listening to me cry, scream and shout about how angry I am and reminding me that I’m a strong, independent woman (read: bad bitch) at JUST the right times. All I’ve had to do is grab my phone and reach out and somebody has always, always been there on the other side to help me pick up the pieces. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in a world where we are constantly separated from our loved ones, a world where social interactions are limited to a virtual environment, and a world void of hugs and physical presence, I feel so, so much love (virtually) around me.

In a year when, without wanting to sound toooooooo dramatic, my whole life has been turned upside down and everything I fundamentally believed about love and relationships has pretty much been destroyed, I’ve ironically been loved harder and have loved harder than ever before.  

Dolly Alderton says it better than I ever could so am just going to leave you with this quote:

“When you’re looking for love and it seems like you might not ever find it, remember you probably have access to an abundance of it already, just not the romantic kind. This kind of love might not kiss you in the rain or propose marriage. But it will listen to you, inspire and restore you. It will hold you when you cry, celebrate when you’re happy, and sing All Saints with you when you’re drunk. You have so much to gain and learn from this kind of love. You can carry it with you forever. Keep it as close to you as you can.”

And I say, to all my amazing, incredible, best friends (that includes you Mum x), thank you, I love you x

Slow Sunday thoughts

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The clocks went back today which means we’ve been dealing with this pandemic shite for eight whole months now. Eight months of stress, anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic on top of the qualms of day to day life. It’s been a rough ride…

I am back living in London now and every time I get on the train I feel, weirdly, a little sad that my face isn’t squished up into tall sweaty man’s armpit and I also do kind of miss being a bit sassy to guys who piss me off in bars (don’t mess with me after two wines is all I’m sayin’), and really I just miss being in busy places around lots of random people without having to worry about picking up a deadly virus… 

We just don’t interact with strangers anymore and it still feels so WEIRD sometimes. When we were in lockdown-lockdown, not able to leave the house, ‘you must stay at home’ times, we had zero social interaction and in some ways that was easier to process because we knew where we stood (note ‘some’… lockdown was terrible in so many ways am sure we can all agree on that). Now, with social distancing and tiered restrictions, does anybody really know what they should or shouldn’t be doing? And, when people do interact with others, it’s people they love and care for, not complete strangers (for obvious reasons).

And yet…

I’m still not used to it and I still kind of hate it. As an extrovert I’ve found the social elements of the pandemic quite difficult to come to terms with. I firmly believe that restrictions are important and we should all do our bit to curb the spread of the virus. However, usually, I thrive off meeting new people, seeing new places and being around people, generally – not even just my friends but strangers too. I tweeted back in like April that I missed strangers in coffee shops a worrying amount and I still feel that way. The other day I went and got a coffee by myself and sat outside with my book and it’s the most normal I’ve felt since March.

I have found ways to cope, like we all have. For example, I now send my friends an excessive number of voice notes (soz, love u) just because it feels a bit nicer than texting and I miss them (so much – the disadvantages of long distance friendships are REAL right now). And sure, I like my own company, and appreciate the time I’ve hard to work on myself (the glow up is real guys, you are not ready). I am more confident in who I am than I have literally ever been and frankly am pretty impressed by my strength and resilience to the last six months of my life. 

And it’s not the big parties or sweaty bars I miss (although get me back to the CLUB PLS). It’s really the small interactions, then ‘happen’ moments, the small parts of our day to day that just no longer exist that I desperately want back. One of my favourite things about being in the office was the morning chats I had with the guys who at the coffee place, the small ‘hi how are yous’ and ‘good mornings’ are literally now a thing of the past.

It genuinely feels like we’re mourning a whole way of life, because who knows really when we’ll go back to ‘normal’? Will we ever? What even is ‘normal’? (not to get too existential on you…). We’ve had to learn a whole new set of social norms in record time. 

Will we forever wear masks on public transport and in shops and never smile at strangers again? How long will it be virtually impossible to meet new people naturally (i.e. without a dating app)? Will our relationships with our colleagues change forever? Is the office a thing of the past? Will we order our pints on an app forever? (this one we can keep actually). 

A bougie candle will not fix your problems

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Self-care. The Instagram influencer’s favourite phrase. It’s everywhere. Marketing campaigns, product packaging, Instagram feeds. But, what does it actually mean? The image of self-care presented to us by the media is a set of fairy lights, a nice candle, and a face mask. The ‘looking out for yourself’ vibe, however, is dominated by these images curated for Instagram. The cosy den that was clearly only set up for the photo, the really bougie face mask that actually isn’t much better than the £2.99 garnier one (trust me), and the Neom candle, of course. And yeah I’m a completeeeeeeee sucker for all of these things. I LOVE a facemask, a bubble bath and a set of fairy lights – and I’m an even bigger fan of fluffy socks and candles. 

Yet, something that’s been on my mind recently, having been through a pretty tough time (like us all but), is that the Instagram version of self-care barely made a dent in cheering me up or making me feel good about myself again. I was trying to think of a good way to describe this – I feel as though it’s like trying to put out a big fire with a miniature fire extinguisher – it might put out a few flames but it’s never going to put out the fire.

In order to put out the fire you need something a bit more robust. You need things like therapy, routine, and tried and tested coping mechanisms that you’ve established for yourself. You need to tackle your problems head on, you need to book that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off, you need to actually talk about your feelings. The candles, bubble baths and hot chocolates are only the tip of the iceberg, the icing on the cake. They are almost like the superficial bits of self-care – very much the Instagram highlight reel of it all. 

It makes sense, the pretty bits of self care takes a good photo – and the other side of self-care is pretty personal. But, what annoys me is that throughout the whole pandemic and the rest of the 2020 shitstorm is that there’s been such a superficial agenda of self-care. I’ve seen a few people promoting the more serious topic of actually looking after yourself (in ways that don’t involve putting a photo on Instagram) but there’s been a lot of bullshit about #selfcare.  

So, my (poor and unsolicited) advice is to start focusing your energy on the real shit that improves your life. 

Start talking about your feelings. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL. Your feelings are valid and they deserved to be given the time to be explored and dealt with. 

Do the life admin. Putting off your smear test? Need to cancel that direct debit? Need to renew your insurance? Do it now. I once heard on a podcast that if something is going to take you less than a few minutes to do, you should do it when you first think about it. Otherwise it’ll sit on that ever-growing to do list and you will literally never get round to it. It will stress you out more and more every time you go back to that to-do list and then no amount of expensive candles will de-stress you. 

Start saying no. Don’t want to go to Becky’s fancy dress Zoom party? Say no. That is all. It is as simple as that. YOU come first, you must start saying no. I literallllllllly hate saying no to people. It makes me feel so bad! But I can tell you that my life has significantly improved since I started saying no to stuff I didn’t want to do – politely of course and only when necessary but it really does help. 

Write down your positive affirmations, spend less time on your phone, go for a run, prioritise your to do list, stop putting pressure on yourself, form healthier habits for your body and your mind. Stop thinking that a bougie candle is going to fix all your problems.

I wish I’d paid attention to how I needed to actually care for myself years ago. Now that I understand what stops me from feeling stressed and anxious, my ‘self-care’ routine still includes the odd face mask and chill but it also means that I prioritize my to-do list, am proactive about my life admin, and have taken a much healthier approach to dealing with how I feel #selfcare. 

Thanks for coming to my Ted talk, goodnight x

Repeat after me: it is impossible to ‘waste’ your 20s

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I’m sooooooo fed up with the pressure we all have in our 20s. Like why is our generation so obsessed with doing things before we’re 30? Like what’s so different about being 30 instead of being in your 20s? Especially as women we no longer need to think so hard about things like our fertility (thanks medicine love u) so why do we still feel like our 20s are so weirdly precious and can be so easily wasted? 

This whole post has come from the fact that I keep feeling like I’ve wasted the last six months of my life (and the height of my 20s – I am the ripe old age of 25) due to lovely miss rona. I had a absolute meltdown the other day because I felt like my 20s were running away without me being to enjoy them – which firstly is so melodramatic I need to get a grip but secondly it is based of the pure b*llshit spread to us all day everyday about how important our 20s are and it’s about time we stopped that rhetoric. 

Yeah, our 20s are important, of course they are. They’re when you make your biggest and best mistakes. When you discover who you really are and establish what you want in life. They’re when you become a real full blown adult that makes their own decisions (instead of calling your mum to ask what toothpaste to buy, you know). They’re so important for our own personal growth without the added pressure of ‘making the most’ of them. 

What does that even mean anyway? Because I’m sure that every single one of my friends would give you a different answer, and yet none of them are wasting or have wasted their 20s, because that’s the whole point – you cannot waste them because there is simply no wrong or right way to live your 20s (or ever but let’s stay focused). I truly and firmly believe that your 20s are for making mistakes and figuring out who you are, so if the ‘wasting’ bits are when you make mistakes – then isn’t that the whole bloody point?

I think that everybody, of all ages, feels rubbish about the timing of coronavirus. If you’re young, you feel like you’re missing out, if you’re old you feel like you haven’t got much time yet, if you’re middle aged you probably have way too many responsibilities anyway without a global pandemic to think about. There’s been no ‘good time’ for this pandemic for anybody. And actually, for a while, I considered myself pretty lucky that I was in my 20s during this time. Because I don’t have exams and university to worry about, I don’t have the added concern of being ‘old’ and more at risk and I equally don’t have kids to worry about (because wow homeschooling like that, no thanks). 

And actually, I have learnt more about myself in the last six months than I have done for the last 25 years. OK, I had an added change in my life that others may not have, but I think most of us 20-something’s can agree – the pandemic has only helped us grow into the people we want to be, no?

I have learnt how to be a better friend and a better sister. I have learnt how to enjoy my own company and stop being such a dick to myself all the time. I’ve learnt how to work smarter and harder (because I am, quite frankly, a work-a-holic let’s be honest). I have learnt how to process and deal with my emotions better than I ever have before. I’ve started focusing on my body and treating it better with consistent (note, not necessarily frequent lol) exercise and yoga, and also wine (wine police don’t @ me). I have learnt how to forgive myself and how to grow – without sounding like a dick – I genuinely feel like this year has been a year of growth and change for me like no other period in my whole life. 

So, in short, there’s no such thing as ‘wasting your 20s’ and coronavirus is not an excuse to have that pity party. Of course, coronavirus is a good enough excuse for pretty much any other pity party because it well and truly sucks – but it is not going to ruin your 20s and it will not last forever. I wish I could go back to my insecure and emotional 16-year-old-self and tell her that I’d be a strong, independent, successful 25-year-old in 10 years time. Once I’m out living my best life again, there’ll be no stopping me. Watch this space x