The January Blues

In the run up to New Year most of us tend to be able to muster a bit of get up and go. The idea of the clean slate of a new year is super appealing and new years resolutions seem like a great idea. In 2018 I’m going to be better, thats what I told myself, but the January blues have a way of sneaking up on the best of us and it’s not an easy month to slug through.
All the excitement is over, money gone and we realise that we still have to plod through the more mundane parts of life. I’ve had a great start to the new year; feeling good and surrounded by great people, motivation should be surging through my veins.

But it’s not that simple really is it?

Life starts feeling a lot more lack luster when everyone has to go back to work and school. I miss my family back home and boyfriend who lives away and the people who give me purpose and drive can’t always be right there to cheer me on. I forget why I ever thought I could be bothered to cook more or to do more excerise and even though I’m remaining positive in general, another long year stretches ahead of me and it’s hard to pick something to look forward to that doesn’t feel forever away.

Those are the January blues.

It feels like a bit of a come down after the exciting Christmas period but when you really think about it its nothing worse than life returning to its everyday and normally the everyday is something we can all be content if not happy with.

Janurary sometimes doesn’t feel great because we sort of forget that things dont change on their own. It’s not the stroke if midnight that gives us that clean slate so much as us deciding to do things differently. That being said, doing things differently when everythings falling back into routine is difficult.
Fighting the January blues is tough but I try to remember that in order to remain true to that clean slate feeling I have to make the changes that I want to see in the new year.

But,

I think another really good thing to do in January as well as trying to make changes is to remind yourself about what you don’t need to change, what you should be greatful about in the day to day.

Maybe then the return to the mundane won’t feel so bad after all.

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Femininity and Being a “Girly Girl”

I don’t think there’s a single girl who didn’t hate being deemed a “girly girl” while they were at school. There was always a negative association; the girls who didn’t have any fun because they were too worried about getting mud on their shoes or liked the colour pink too much. The truth is though, you were deemed a girly girl if you liked anything that could even vaguely be associated with femininity and everyone always liked the “tom boys” better.

They were smarter, more hard working, liked doing all the of fun stuff and were pretty for not liking to wear makeup, or so the stereotype would say. It just goes to show why Feminism is still needed today as somehow we still can’t seem to disassociate anything girly and pretty from vain and shallow.

I would have argued with you until the cows came home if you tried to call me a girly girl in my early to mid teens. I hated it. I made jokes at the expense of people who enjoyed makeup and pink and all things pretty and I wanted boys to see me as smart and easy going and not someone who obsessed over their appearance. I got good grades and had a rep for being the smart shy one, I wasn’t particularly confident in my appearance and so through jealousy and default continued to tell myself that the smartest, kindest and better girls in the movies were always the ones that weren’t into all the pretty stuff.

But things have changed now. Now, I LOVE all things pretty. I love wearing makeup and having my nails done (even if I could use more practice at it), I love pretty feminine clothes and colours. I love my little height, and my dainty hands and feet and I love that people associate me with soft, warm colours and fabrics. I present myself in a very feminine way and I feel most myself this way.

That being said,  I am in no way “small” in way of personality and position. I also love books and writing and learning new things. I’m working towards a degree. I also love cartoons and QI and sarcastic British comedy. The point? I’m complex and I’m more than just a girly girl. So is any girl or woman that’s ever been deemed as much.

Now I associate femininity with a specific kind of strength. One that I admire to an equivalent extent as every other kind of strength a woman has. Every time someone calls me a girly girl, which believe it or not I still get on occasion, I fight an internal battle and have to take pause in order to stop myself from jumping to my own defense and denying the title. I force myself to remember that it’s only an insult if I take it as one, and if I do, I’m only giving it a power and connotation that it shouldn’t have.

 

Iceland’s Yule Book Flood

Christmas time is fast approaching and I’ve always been a real sucker for quirky family traditions. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve watched Arthur Christmas, binge watched Stephen Fry’s series’ of QI and stuffed my face with mince pies and Ferrero Rochers. Lush bath bombs and new pyjamas are always called for on Christmas Eve and stockings must be opened in bed in the morning.

Now that I live away from my childhood home, have to work over the holidays and can only visit my family, my Christmas traditions are having to morph and change with my new lifestyle. It’s because of this that I’m always looking for new traditions to adopt that feel more like mine than my family’s, ones that I can add to the ones I’ve had since childhood. It was in my search that I came across the Icelandic tradition known as the jolabokafloo. 

I seem to have found that basically the tradition is that they give each other books as presents on Christmas Eve and will spend the rest of the evening reading and eating chocolate. How great is that? Bookstores will host events and publishing houses will release hundreds of new titles for the occasion and it is said there begins a sort of city-wide literary festival.

According to my research, the tradition comes from WW11. Paper was one of the few things that wasn’t rationed and so books became popular while other gifts were in short supply.

As a complete bookworm and cosy chocolate enthuiast, this seems like the perfect tradition to begin practicing for myself. I love giving and receiving books and reading has long been part of my Christmas time routine anyway. I love the idea of getting all cosy and hygge and curling up with a good book under the twinkling Christmas tree lights.  I could grab some hot chocolate and a cookie and be content for the evening. After a day at work it would be an especially relaxing way to spend the night before the big day.

Having recently stumbled across the tradition, it just seemed all too lovely to ignore and I just had to look into it and talk about it here. Quirks and traditions seem to be so important to people and so vital to the celebrations this time of year.

What are your personal Christmas traditions?

The Frustrating Image of the “Put Together” Young Adult

At nineteen years of age it seems like I still have nothing worked out. I’m in a solid relationship, studying a degree, have a part time job, good family relationships and some wonderful friends and yet my life still feels a mess.

I see my boyfriend only once every two weeks and I feel like I spend more time missing him than anything else, motivation for uni rises and falls with pointless lectures that have spun me into student debt, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life after uni and my eating and exercise habits are a disaster. I constantly feel like a bit like I’m hanging off a cliff with my pinky holding me up.

Yep, I’m a student. A run of the mill young adult with no time, energy or money. (I’m actually not as miserable as my complaining makes it sound.) I haven’t really worked out who I am yet or what I’m supposed to be doing. But you know what, I’m doing the darn best I can.

And yet it never seems enough.

I’m not alone in this feeling. A whole generation of people sit with the same thoughts, trying to fulfil this idea of what a real adult is. An idea that I am convinced doesn’t exist.

The “put together young adult” is something that I believe has been somehow been contrived on social media. They are the Instagraming 20 year old’s with successful YouTube channels and blogs and personally owned businesses with hot boyfriends (soon to be husbands) and insane morning routines. They’re glam young Mum’s with flawless make-up and a spotless house. They’re the hipster guys in their mid twenties with brief cases and fancy shoes and girlfriends they call their Mrs. They are regular people who unintentionally create a standard online that doesn’t exist. They are aesthetic. They are goals.

But ultimately, they’re personas.

And that’s not their fault. Because thing is, I’m pretty sure they’re trying to meet the exact same standard, feeling just as lost as the rest of us.

I don’t think feeling a huge amount of pressure to pull things together when you start to reach the end of your teens/ early twenties is a new thing, but I certainly think that this pressure seems to be morphing into an expectation based on an ideal that social media has manufactured. Not to mention university culture which is basically a group of newbie adults trying desperately to impress their fellow “intellectuals”. (To the 18 year old guy in my English class who said his favourite book was Ulysses on the first day; no mate, no it isn’t).

The point is, though I could very well be wrong, I firmly believe that no adult really knows what they’re doing. They’re just human and they’re just winging it like the rest of us. There’s so much pressure put on older teens and young adults from student debts to balancing work, studying and social lives, to an introductions to bills, mental health issues and expectations from family and friends that I think the extra pressure we put on ourselves to be have everything together and demonstrate as much is really nothing but damaging.

They say that teens try to grow up too fast, what if young adults are doing the same thing? What if that’s because they’re expected to be good at all the adult stuff from the moment they turn 18? What if all of this is me attempting to justify the fact I don’t feel like a proper adult yet?

Could be.

Are Personal Blogs too Personal?

Writing my blog, I think I’ve always been treading a line. I moved from reviewing books and talking about my reading habits to writing about my life and experiences. I was always cautious about putting too much of myself out there both with regards to internet safety and personal boundaries, and somewhere down the road, the fine line I was treading definitely got blurred.

Being a writer, you become hyper aware that everything you write, even the fiction, contains a massive part of yourself. Letting someone read that means giving them an insight into your inner most thoughts, whether they know it or not. Imagine then the extent of this when you’re actually writing about yourself to start with.

I’ve always tried to write about my personal experiences with just a little bit of distance. I’ve tried to phrase my old blog posts as questions or advice, or even tried to present my own experiences as the experiences of the masses. I’ve never known quite how to find a good balance between personal writing and being aware that what I’m sharing is going to be out there on the internet for people to find but then at the same time, writing in the first person, as I am now, and creating content that people relate to based upon my own ideas and experiences, has always been what’s felt the most natural to me and I believe in many ways it is an area of writing that my talents seem to lay in.

The problem arises when I ask myself what it means to have a personal blog? I read a lot of fashion and beauty blogs, a collection of personal blogs that don’t seem to actually get all that personal and then a small handful written by people who really get into the nitty gritty of their own experiences. The bulk of the nitty gritty personal blogs I read come from YouTuber’s (Lucy Moon for example). They’re people who, at least to a certain extent, have become very used to sharing a large part of their lives with people on the internet.  I personally love reading these types of blogs. They help me. And not only by allowing me to see great examples of the kind of writing that I enjoy doing, but also with many of my life experiences.

Over the past year for example, I have been struggling with some mental health issues (once again something I’m still not even sure if is appropriate to share on the internet for me). Reading blogs about people with depression and anxiety and other such difficulties has played a massive role in my feeling better about it all. In this way, I really think super personal blogs are a wonderful thing. But this is the thing, as I reader I’m wholeheartedly for a writer sharing as much of themselves as they can whilst still being comfortable in their work. I believe some of the best writing comes from this. That having been said, as a writer, I’m still not 100% what’s professionally appropriate for someone who wants to make a career as a writer to share.

A lot of my decision-making process comes down to asking myself the question “what is it I want to get out of blogging?” and the answer to that is mainly for people to feel something when they read what I write. I think even further, that’s a goal in my writing as a whole. Aside from improving my writing, getting my name out there and almost documenting my growth as a writer and person, that’s always been the subconscious focus. The best way I know how to do that is use my own experiences to relate to people, and hopefully evoke some sort of emotion in them.

And even as I’m writing this I’m realising how personal my style is. It’s all “I” focused, my thoughts and feelings and dubious voice. And I don’t know if that’s a problem or if in that lays my strength as a writer.

So, are personal blogs too personal? I think the opinion varies from person to person, reader to writer. Is my blog too personal? I’m still trying to figure that out. I want to find a balance, one that doesn’t involve compromising the emotional integrity of the content that I create or my personal privacy and professional persona.

There are lots of ways to be genuine on a personal blog.

 

Standing on One Foot: Balance and Time

I haven’t been a very good blogger recently. I haven’t posted in a very long time, especially considering I was posting every three to four days not so long ago, and I apologise for that.

I’ve been struggling a lot with balance recently. It’s been really panicking me a lot. Between work and finance, university and deadlines, relationships and promises, I feel really wobbly; kind of like I’m standing on one foot. Balancing is hard even when you don’t have a lot on your plate. How any student remains sane is beyond me. Mental health goes out the window for good grades or grades for mental health. Social lives either collapse or thrive always at the expense of something else and honestly I, and I’m sure plenty of other people along with me, usually want to end my day by collapsing onto my bed and screaming blue murder into my pillow in a teary rage. You’d think that’s all a bit melodramatic but no, balance can actually be that hard.

I think we can all try and balance too much. I realise that the nature of life is having to find some balance somewhere but I don’t think there’s anyone I know that doesn’t take on more than they really should or need to. Saying no is one of the hardest things in the world, and even when you make the decision to use it, knowing when to say no and when to say yes and seize opportunity is still tricky.

It’s so easy to feel like your drowning and while taking a breath is an amazing temporary solution, it doesn’t always fix the stress and pressure that sits on your shoulders and weighs down your mind. The solution then? Uh! To do lists, saying no and plenty of rest I suppose? But honestly I know it’s not that simple.

So instead, I’ve been practising just taking some credit where it’s due. Life is damn hard and we all have some heavy stuff to deal with. Pain and struggle shouldn’t be considered to be relative in many ways. We’re all doing the best we can and it’s important to try and remember that our best is in fact enough.

It’s alright to need to lean on others when your trying to balance on one foot, all the good yoga videos tell you that.

Validation and Support: Our Need for it as Writers

It’s no secret what-so-ever that as human’s we are in constant need of validation and support from others. Some people may rely on it more than others, but we all need it in some way. We want acceptance. We want people to agree with us, believe in us and aid is in pursuing our passions. Maybe this is why, as writers, we can be particularly eager for that validation and support.

Following any dream is difficult, but a creative one especially can feel extremely trying. It’s easy to convince ourselves we’re no good at what we do or that it’s a silly idea in the first place or that ultimately, we can’t make money doing what we love. Validation and support plays a massive part in motivating creative people to do what they do best.

We can’t always get it from the people we wish we could, and sometimes the people we love aren’t sure how to show it, but beyond that, when it comes to writing, validation and support from our fellow craftsman and people we admire in the Industry is vital to our growth in terms of confidence in our own abilities.

Ultimately as a writer, your aim is for people to read your work. Whether that be a book or a news article or a poem etc, you want eyes on the page. And yet that can be a completely terrifying concept for the majority of writers as handing over the words you have spent so long crafting can often feel like handing over a piece of yourself. Anything you write is going to say something about you, whether you like it or not, and as writers we know this. That’s another reason why we’re so desperate to know that what we’re working on is good, is well…worth it.

Recently, I was published in an online magazine called Into the Fold. I wrote about body confidence and Instagram. I’ll link the piece here. It was an unpaid piece and yet I have never been so excited and honoured to see my work out there. I love the magazine; a recent discovery that lead to a complete binge of the entire site. I looked at it and felt inspired. I went out on a limb and pitched an idea to the editor and holy smokes, she liked it! She asked me to write for her and within the week my piece was up. I was honoured. I felt (you guessed it) validated and supported. The editor of one of my favourite magazines looked at my work and told me that she thought it was good enough to publish! I was mixed in with the other amazing, thoughtful and well crafted features and writers on the site and for a moment I felt like maybe I wasn’t so bad at this writing thing after all.

When I look back its always moments like these that mean the most to me. A high grade for a creative writing project, a supportive pep talk from a lecturer and writer at university or someone who writes like me telling me that they really love something I worked hard on. To follow a passion like this, of course you have to have the will of your own to work at it, but you also need that push you get from people who understand how hard you work and think it’s paying off.

The writing world is one full of rejection and that’s why I think it’s so important to hold on to those little victories or those little moments when someone believes in you. I’m lucky to have amazing support for what I do and what I want to do from family and friends but I always crave that professional validation. I want to know from the people who’ve made it if they think that I can make it too.

So, writers need validation and support, just as any human does. I think as a community we’re particularly good at offering this to one another and it’s always been something I’ve adored about writers in general.

How do you balance your need for validation and your confidence in yourself?