It’s the little things

 

Our shower curtain won’t stop falling down. The whole thing. The pole and the curtain and all the many, many products in between it and the floor, they come tumbling down every couple of weeks, sometimes more. It’s fallen on my head more than once. It makes a loud clatter as it smacks off the side of the bath and onto the floor. It absolutely will not go back up when I try.

I like to think I’m quite handy around the house, and I’ve become pretty good at fixing things. But this curtain? I can’t do it. It defeats me every time. I can’t get it to stick. And this defeat is made worse by the fact that it always seems to fall when I’m having an especially bad day. It’s become almost a cruel joke. And I know it’s only a curtain. It doesn’t matter. But when everything in the bigger picture is going wrong, it tips me over the edge.

Have you ever noticed that? Really important, worth-talking-about life things can be going wrong but it’s actually those little things that really push your buttons and make you feel like you just might lose the plot altogether. Maybe this is where the line about spill milk came from. I could probably deal with a bit of spilt dairy or a dodgy curtain if everything else in life was tickety-boo, but when is it ever? Work can be a clusterfuck of stress but I’ll deal with that until it’s lunch time and Pret have run out of my favourite salad at which point there may be tears. Or my messy flatshare home can be causing me to wonder whether it’s worth committing a crime just to get into a solo prison cell but it’s the fact that I can’t find my umbrella that finally tips me over, not the dishes that have been sat there for over a week.

Life can be falling apart at the seams but I can just plod on, keep on plodding, until that damned curtain collapses yet again and then I’m done. But who needs a shower curtain eh? Our shower’s so pathetic it wouldn’t splash over the side anyway… Ah, the joys of renting.

 

The online dating profile comments I really cannot deal with

via GIPHY

Yep, back on it. Nope, I’m not sure why either. It’s all positivity and optimism until you’ve scrolled through six Daves, four hotguy4Us and a million profiles that all seem to say the same thing. These are (paraphrased, I have better things to do than copy word for word) genuine lines that I’ve come across in just two days, and they seem all too common in dating app land. Someone save me, please…

‘I don’t like to talk about myself, I just like to get to know people and find out who they are.” That’s great Steve, but a little info would be helpful because we want to know you’re not a psychopath.

“I’m still finding out the boundaries of who I really am.” Umm, I can’t help you with that? Go travelling or do yoga or something, idgaf

“Hot, toned, rich, athletic male looking 4 sexy date.” Hello Modesty? Yeah, I’ve got someone I’d like you to meet.

“Looking for someone to be my partner in crime for plenty of adventures and escapades.” Oh shut up Ian this is not an Enid Blyton novel.

“I hope your not crazy.” I hope you’re not seriously unable to tell the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ but sometimes life is cruel, James.

“Books? I only really read Reddit.” Oh my god. Next.

“Please plan shoe shopping or whatever for when sport is on, it’ll make things easier.” Oh sure sweetie, shall I do your washing too and then have a pillow fight with my friends? *high pitched squeal*

“New to London and want someone to explore it with.” Maybe get a dog? Or a tour guide? I was just looking for a date…

“Looking for someone who just wants to meet rather than chat first.” Sure. That definitely sounds safe.

What I would tell my just-graduated, 22-year-old self

Recently, someone I had only just met asked me what my advice would be for getting through your twenties. As well as making me feel positively antique (yes OK I am over 30 now), it got me thinking – what the hell would I say to 22 year old me to make those years better?

In the conversation I was having, my focus was money (it was a work meeting after all). Take the trip. Take the risk. Get the credit card (sensibly). You will regret what you don’t do. That should be printed in every uni handbook, sent via email to every 20 year old wondering what to do next because it is the truest thing anyone will ever say. I have so many regrets, and almost every one is what I didn’t do.

So what would I say? I choose 22 because that was when I graduated from uni, spat out into the world with First Class Honours and barely a penny to my name, a freshly broken heart and zero plans other than ‘find internship’ since that seemed to be what everyone else was plotting. But if I could talk now to that anxious, lost 22 year old? This is what I’d say…

  1. Learn to be brave. Confidence and courage are things I’ve never had but perhaps if I’d started trying to find them earlier I’d be in a different place by now. You got a First! You live in London! You survived a flat share that almost broke you! You’ve got this.
  2. Get over it faster. It’ll take time, sure, but don’t let one person determine the rest of your twenties. Now’s the time to meet all those people you didn’t while you were at uni. Go on dates, the bad ones make great stories if nothing else.
  3. Talk to the doctor and don’t take no for an answer. You don’t have to live with constant worry. You do need to worry about that thing they’re brushing off as nothing. Just keep asking.
  4. You’re going to be poor for a while. No one can live on £10 a day (thanks, online internship), even if in 9 years you won’t believe how cheap your rent used to be (message from the future – it’s now almost double, soz). But once you’re not quite so poor, start saving. Everyone else is. Whether you spend it on the flat you desperately want or that trip to NYC one day, just save. And then once you can afford your rent and food? Get a credit card and use it – carefully – to do all those things that everyone else seems to magically be able to afford.
  5. See your family as much as you can. Open up to them. Spend real time with them. Appreciate them. Visit nan and grandad. Call your uncle every week. Be interested and listen. Realise that listening is so much more important than talking.
  6. Don’t watch Lost, at all, it is a proper waste of time. Damages, however, is excellent.
  7. The close friends you’ve always wanted are about to spring into your life. Don’t panic about the people who don’t make time for you anymore; everyone you need is right there in front of you.
  8. Do more. Learn Spanish. Play the piano. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Go to that weird fitness class. Drink tequila. Stay over at a friend’s even though you feel like the most awkward person to ever live. Visit that friend in Argentina (with that credit card I mentioned). You can make more money but you can never make more time.
  9. Know your worth at work. There are going to be bosses who tell you you’re nothing (yeah, to your face), who want to make you look and feel small, but that’s not about you. The one thing you’ve always been confident on is that when it comes to work, you do your best. Keep doing your best. It’s better to be good than to be popular.
  10. Twitter is going to change your life. Embrace it, but for god’s sake don’t write in text-speak. That shit will come back to haunt you via something called Timehop.
Image via GIPHY

2016: Turning 30 and why for me, the year wasn’t so bad (sorry)

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OK, so 2016 was pretty awful. Some of the greatest actors and entertainers we’ve ever known are dead. Half the country hates the other half. Half the country got us into a massive mess that we apparently won’t be getting out of even though the whole country is pretty much agreed that it’s a bad idea (understatement). An orange man who hates anyone who isn’t a rich white man, who goes through life with what looks like a bleached ferret on his head despite being rich enough, surely, to see a decent hairdresser, is in charge of America despite not actually having the majority of votes. No one likes Johnny Depp anymore. Brangelina have split. And then there’s the TV. The X Factor has gone beyond so-bad-it’s-good territory and is now just embarrassing. EastEnders’ biggest storyline up until New Year’s Eve seemed to be about the bins. We’re still waiting for the next season of Homeland. The John Lewis Christmas ad was so shit that it didn’t make you laugh OR cry*. Everything, frankly, is fucked.

HOWEVER. 2016 was also the year that I turned 30. And while I had a feeling it was going to be a huge, momentous year, the above wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Screw you 2016.

Nonetheless, *whispers* a few good things did happen in the year of my very big THREE OH, and just in case the world imploding gets in the way of me remembering that, I thought I’d write a few of them down.

Don’t hate me. I had an awful 2015 and really needed 2016 to be nice. And it was, because…

– I only went and went to NYC, didn’t I

OH YES I DID. I have wanted to go to New York since I sat in front of our little telly as a kid and watched all the films. Film after film after film; I never did and still never do get bored of films, bonus points if they’re set in NYC. I went with one of the greatest people I know for an entire week, and from the second I got into one of those yellow taxis I felt like I was starring in my own little movie. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more, and I can’t wait to go back one day. Just thinking about it makes my knees weak with love.

– I only met THE Carrie Bradshaw, didn’t I

OH YES I DID. Not in New York, funnily enough, but right here in London. My job has given me many wonderful things (hyaluronic acid, my favourite mascara and an award no less) but meeting THE Sarah Jessica Parker is by far and away the greatest gift of all. I stood next to, shook hands with and spoke to this utterly beautiful, kind and gracious woman at the launch of her infectious new unisex fragrance, Stash. She was everything and more. I love her. I think she thinks I’m weird (not that she’ll remember who I am) but that’s ok because I MET HER AND IT WAS EPIC.

– I only went and wrote an ebook, didn’t I

Yes, yes I did. Yes, it was while at work as it was part of my day job (it’s kind of hard to not do something when it’s like, your job) but I wrote my first ever ebook, a Beginner’s Guide to Sensitive Skin. It’ll never be top of the Amazon bestsellers list (it’s not on Amazon, you fools) but I’m still damn proud that it exists and can’t quite believe people have bought something I wrote. And none of them were even bought by my mum, because technology.

– I only went and got myself a date, didn’t I

Ok that’s getting annoying now isn’t it. But yes. A tricky summer and various ‘life is too short’ moments made me take the leap into dating again and I just so happened to find a normal one. It even went well for a while, until it didn’t. But for a few short months it was fun (and anxiety-inducing, obviously) to like someone again and sort of think that maybe they might like me back.

– I (ok, my parents) only went and got a bloody kitten

Which I named! Rocky is the friendliest, cuddliest, most affectionate cat I think I have ever met, and he earned his name on the first day they brought him home when he looked like he was trying to box with his little paws when I dangled some string over his head. He is adorable. He has brought so much happiness into my parents’ home in such a short amount of time, I just wish we’d found him sooner.

While everyone else couldn’t wait to turn their backs on 2016, I was sad to see it end – I was lucky enough to have a pretty good year, with things going well in my little life, and a new year just brings new fears of what’s to come. But now it’s 2017 (already. How did that happen? I’m 31 in 3 days. Oh god). Who knows what’s around the corner? EastEnders might find their scriptwriters. Trump might accidentally board a spaceship to the moon. Homeland will most definitely be back. Whatever happens, I just hope it’s a happy and healthy one. And I wouldn’t mind meeting SJP again either, in case the gods are reading…

 

*I just have to explain this. We needed you, John Lewis. We needed the little hare and bear back. We needed a cute penguin. We needed an adorable child who wasn’t a materialistic little bastard like those ones you see demanding toys from their exhausted mums on the high street. We needed the advert equivalent of little fluffy puppies playing with little fluffy kittens while a log fire roars, Mary Berry makes us cakes, David Attenborough reads us a bedtime story and Buble sings us a lullaby. We needed a giant cuddle of an ad. And what do you give us? You give us nothing. NOTHING. This year’s ad was so devoid of emotion that it just leaves you cold, confused, and angry at what the world has become; that even John Lewis can’t bring us joy anymore. YOU HAD ONE JOB, John Lewis. You fucking failed.

For a start, the dog isn’t very cute. The dog needed to be cuter. No offence, dog, you’re lovely, but you’re not Christmas-cute. The song is a terrible choice; it’s depressing. Saving grace, almost: the wild animals are sweet. But then comes the finale, and the dog, and you almost want to laugh, but the family aren’t laughing, they look horrified, and it’s as if the dog has ruined the girl’s Christmas, only you can’t understand why because surely, SURELY, if you loved your pet (as one should), seeing it jump on a trampoline for the first time with such gusto would surely make you laugh your head off. Or at least reach for your iPhone to capture the moment and share it on Instagram for #lolz. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT FAMILY?

What’s the rush?

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I know I live in one of the busiest cities in the world and that Londoners are rather known for having no time, charging through life at speed whether ‘life’ be a Tesco queue or a tube gate, but still. I am utterly exhausted. Not by everything that I have to do (which is quite a lot, when I think about it… *doesn’t think about it*) but by always, forever, every day being in a rush. Everything is a rush.

I leap out of bed in a rush. I eat my breakfast in a rush. I brush my teeth in such a rush that sometimes it hurts. I get dressed in a rush (and this is probably clear from what I am wearing and the fact I’ve recently decided trainers are totally OK for work). I cleanse in a rush (and I write about beauty for a living, this is not OK). I rush through the three tubes it takes me to get to work, sweaty and heart racing, as if my life depends on it. To be fair it sort of does, since I need my job, but you get what I mean.

I send emails in a rush. I pee in a rush*. I go and get my lunch in a rush and then I eat it at speed at my desk. Often followed by an anti acid for obvious reasons. I talk in a rush and work in a rush, hoping that I’ll get home in time to pop to Sainsbury’s in a rush before I power walk home and then cook in a rush, choosing the fastest and easiest thing to make so that the precious few hours afterwards are mine to rush through as I please.

One of my most upsetting rushes is the shower. I usually have this while my dinner cooks (read: heats in the oven). Living in a shared house aged 30 means it’s one of the only times in the day that I am truly alone with my thoughts and doing something for ME (and the benefit of anyone in whiffing distance). It’s soothing, too, or should be, shouldn’t it? But no. I have to shower in a rush, either because a flatmate jumped in before me and now my dinner is burning, or simply because I chose the fastest thing for dinner and surprise, surprise it’s nearly done. Then I forget whether I even did the shampoo (did I?) because I must get dinner finished before the house burns down, must watch that programme that I’m really into, must get X Y and Z done in between rushing through 40 WhatsApp notifications before rushing off to bed come midnight.

I can imagine certain people reading this and thinking, ugh, London life. But I don’t think we can blame London for this. I certainly don’t. In fact I’m fairly sure I was exactly the same when I lived in my little idyllic village in Sussex and worked at my local leisure centre. Everything fast, everything a little furious, too much to do, too little time. When has there ever been enough time?

The iPhone doesn’t help. Sometimes I’ll get to 6:15pm, standing and waiting on the tube platform wishing I could just be home like RIGHT NOW, and realise that I’ve barely looked at anything all day. You know, really LOOKED and *seen* it. And then I will put my phone away smugly, looking at everyone else who is neck-bent and hooked on their phones around me, thinking how silly they are; I’ll step onto the tube and stand next to a bunch of strangers and think, as hot and crowded as this is, at least I’m not doing anything, because I can’t. I have to just stand here and wait for four whole stops. Enforced slowness is the only way to slow me down.

Of course, someone who plans things, those weird, organised planners, probably wouldn’t have this problem. They probably waft through life on a perfect schedule of timed appointments, timed lunches and blissfully long showers, while I find de-stressing solace in four stops on the Circle line.

Wait, so is the tube – unreliable, clunky and expensive as it is – secretly keeping me sane? Now there’s a scary thought…

 

*This one is a worry. Please do tell me in the comments if you can relate to this, or of course anything in this post. Make me feel better. Thanks!

Looking in, or looking out?

Pic: Someecards

A mere few years ago, struggling with anxiety, I read every self-help article going. And, while I can’t remember the details of each and every one, there was a common theme. Look outward, they said. You’ll feel better if you stop over analysing yourself, overthinking everything, and simply look out at what’s around you. Friends, mentors, helping others, travelling, seeing what the world has to offer. There was an overriding theme of self-help: stop being so damn self obsessed and look at the bigger picture.

It’s struck me recently that our culture has moved in the opposite direction. We’re now selfie obsessed instead, constantly looking at ourselves, critiquing ourselves, adding filters to our faces before allowing anyone to see us; health retreats that tell you to look inwards; improving one’s self is about looks, followers, your brand, being strong not skinny, eating the right foods and filming every step you take, being at the latest ‘cool’ place and photographing it in the right way. Turn 30 and you’ll have endless people and articles telling you that this is the decade of being wonderfully selfish, of taking control, of doing what you want and to hell with any kind of people pleasing. While the latter is liberating, and I’ve definitely noticed a difference since turning the big 3-0, I’m not sure it can be so healthy to live in this ‘it’s all about me’ way.

Don’t get me wrong; I know we have to get to know ourselves, and to move with the times, and I probably sound older than my years already in mourning the past, pre-Instagram Stories and Snap-bloody-everything. But I’d bet money on the rise of this kind of self-promoting, self-obsessing culture being linked to the rise of anxiety and other mental health issues. Though I thought it sounded terribly hippyish at the time, I think those mags and books telling me to look ‘out’ were much more on the money.

If anything, it’s about distraction. Of course being overwhelmed is never good for anxiety and doing too much definitely triggers mine, but having regular plans, pushing myself to stop fretting and get out and do something, to distract myself from the detrimental thoughts that run constantly through my head, is what really helps me feel better. Having an interest in travel, reigniting my love of being creative be it with a piece of charcoal or an iPhone and a great view, listening to new music and learning things I’d never pay attention to before are the things that make me feel smarter, inspired, interested and interesting.

The more I look in, the less I like; the more I find to hate, criticise, obsess over, compare to others. Sure, that’s an issue in itself, but I’ve always believed being up yourself is a terrible trait and I’m not sure constantly looking at yourself is any better for you. In some ways I’m a hypocrite; having a personal blog like this one is probably the equivalent of self analysing, talking about myself or overthinking, only on screen – but I only post when I feel the need or feel it might resonate. In fact, recently, I’ve found it much more rewarding to write for myself, keeping unpublished posts in my precious Evernote app, purely for the joy of writing and getting the words out rather than to seek approval from readers (something which will often leave me feeling anxious, and yep, you guessed it, criticising myself again if the numbers are low).

I’m not slating those who do all the above – I’m part of that scene thanks to the career I’ve chosen – but it feels like the current trend is to be narcissistic, dressed up as self-development. I don’t think it’s going to change for a while, particularly as social media and blogging continues to grow and develop – but already it does feel like the tide may be turning when it comes to self-care. The sudden popularity of all things hygge, the move to video rather than images, or instant photos rather than ones that have been filtered and doctored beyond belief on social media – I think they’re a subtle reaction to the pressure to be a perfect person who has it all, and a step in the right direction for loosening the grip a little, looking up, and looking out. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Who do you look up to?

Beyonce

After a few recent conversations with journalists, PRs and friends, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about success, and specifically successful women – how they get there, and how they treat others once they’re there. I’ve started to think about who I look up to, too; thanks to a mixture of social media, my career progression and my many goals, it’s changing all the time, but one thing that remains constant is that I look to other women for my inspiration. What’s different, though, is that I used to see power, status or a job title as motivational, whereas now the women I aspire to be like are the ones who have got my back.

I grew up in a house full of women; with two sisters and my mum around me my poor dad barely got a say in anything (yes we will be keeping the kitten and can we please instruct you on how to move our bedroom around yet again?). I’ve always been a girl’s girl and aside from some light schoolgirl bickering it never occurred to me to compete with other girls – they were my friends, my sisters, my mentors, my idols. I wanted to be like every one of them and for them to want to be my friend too.

Working in the beauty industry, you get used to working with women; though my first job was in a place run by men in sharp suits, it was the women who managed the teams that I struck an instant bond with – supporting, motivating, understanding without an ounce of being patronising despite their broader experience, I’m proud to count them as some of my closest friends today and have relied on their advice and shared mine in times of stress at work and beyond. And beauty isn’t bitchy in the way that I expected it could be; sure, you get the odd person who likes themselves more than they like being nice to others but for the most part the beauty birds are made up of throughly good eggs.

It’s this that makes me love my work. I’ve met so many incredible women through it – thoughtful PRs, helpful interns, talented writers, inventive designers and smart editors, who without this career I might never have met. And girls may be girls, chatting and gossiping and sharing and conferring, but unlike school the ones you remember and look up to are not necessarily the coolest; not the prettiest or the most popular; not the ones with the most money, followers or the best wardrobe (though many have all of this and more, the sods). The women who stay in my mind and who I look forward to meeting again, or who I hope to work with one day if I don’t already are the kind ones, the smart ones, the ones who are generous with their time and who treat you as an equal. The ones who want to cheerlead your every accomplishment and buy you a glass of wine for your every disappointment.

Through Twitter and my job I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to women who have done just that – who’ve picked up the phone when I’m having a work wobble or who give their honest advice on everything from freelancing to half-hearted book ideas to this very blog. I can honestly say this is the most important thing I’ve learned in my career – to get ahead, you need support and to be supportive; from the intern at the bottom of the ladder who helps their team to nail a project to the editor who recommends that intern for their dream job.

We live in a time where comparison anxiety is rife; I have to remind myself daily to stop analysing my successes on the basis of others’, which is damn hard in this writing game where every day you hear of another person five years younger getting a book deal, or a job which you’re still working towards. No good can come of comparison, though, and frankly I’m happy to be the girl who works her ass off that nobody really knows, rather than the one who reached the top but who nobody wants to work with.

Social media doesn’t make this easy – we can all see a curated view of how someone is doing in their career and we all know it can cause jealousy, but on the flip side it’s also the place where we can champion each other’s achievements, recommend others and share what we learn as we go. It’s so true that the media and the opportunities within in it are very much about who you know… but that needn’t make it exclusive. You’ll never regret helping someone else out, be it with a contact or advice on their next pitch; and those you help will never forget that you did. Hopefully, they’ll follow your lead and will pay it forward next time someone needs that boost. That’s pretty inspiring in itself.