Schmoozing and Boozing: #IRLPanel

My favourite thing about the internet is having the ability to surround myself with people who are smarter than me.

My Twitter timeline is constantly full of amazing, inspiring women; women with stories to tell and brilliant, brave voices to tell them in. Women who are grabbing life with two hands and making it work for them. Women who have overcome unbelievable, devastating things. Women who really, really give a shit.

I’ve written before about Laura Jane Williams, one of the best and most beautiful writers I’ve encountered. I’ve followed her blog for a while now and had the pleasure of hearing her speak at a Debrief event a couple of months ago. So when she and fellow fabulous person Emma Gannon decided to throw a real life get together for these great Twitter women, I basically fell over myself in my hurry to get a ticket.

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Fittingly, the theme of the evening was friendship, so I took a deep breath, put on my big girl pants and decided to go along on my ownsome and make as many friends as I could. I had chatted with a lot of the folks who were going on Twitter, but I suffer from that eternal writers’ conviction that I am infinitely funnier and more charming on the page than I could ever hope to be in person, so I was pretty nervous.

I headed into the room, made a beeline for the prosecco and spun around to introduce myself to the nearest person before my confidence had the chance to desert me. Reader, the Universe sent me an angel. Halfway through our introductions, I realised I had met the woman I was speaking to before but hadn’t recognised her, due to my vision being impaired upon our first meeting by a knight’s helmet. We were taking part in a non-sexy pants photoshoot. No, really, we actually were:

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Me being unsexy in some pants.

She was the excellent Daisy Buchanan, whose writing you will probably have read if you have picked up literally any newspaper or magazine this year. Spurred on by this realisation, I introduced myself to another bunch of ladies standing nearby and spent the next half hour pouring prosecco for people and enthusing about how great Daisy’s writing is.

The panel of speakers took to the stage and I quickly scurried to an empty seat. I smiled shyly at the girls beside me, only to have one of them ask “Sorry, are you Fiona?”

Turns out that curly red hair and a big Scottish accent are good identifiers. My favourite thing about events like this is that everyone introduces themselves with their Twitter handle.

“Oh hey! Aren’t you @EscapologistGl? I’m @flo_robson!”
“SHUT UP, it’s so nice to meet you!”

The panel was made up of Nadin Hadi, Lucy Sheridan, Jade Coles and Emma and Laura themselves. The five women were strikingly different but equally excellent as they picked their way through the thorny topic of friendship.

Wisdom was doled out in bucketloads:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
A good friendship is one where you don’t both fall out of love at the same time.
You can have unrequited love, but not unrequited friendship.

But the wisdom was cut through with fast-paced, biting hilarity: Lucy recalling how her husband falls in friend-love at first sight, Nadin outing herself as Helen from Bridesmaids, Laura exclaiming Oh god, I’m Kristen Wiig and I HATE YOU.

I frantically tapped half nonsensical, typo ridden notes into my phone and nodded furiously at every word spoken. The truth is, these women could have been talking about anything in the world and I would have listened. There is something so uniquely wonderful about a group of women who are absolutely owning it. I wanted to stand up and high five everyone in the room when Nadin followed up her Bridesmaids comment by saying “People are intimidated by me and that’s fine. I am intimidating.”

In no time at all, the panel was over and people started to mill around the room. Self-consciousness soothed by prosecco and shared experience, we poured out our stories of love and loss, of friendship breakups, finding your tribe and whether or not you always want to sleep with your friends just a little bit. Scrolling the hashtag on Twitter, I found that a couple of my favourite bloggers were in the room and went around squinting at people’s faces until I found them. Once I met them, I tried to be cool, but ended up snuggling them instead. Such is life.

Snuggling Katie from Scarphelia.

Snuggling Katie from Scarphelia.

Snuggling Grace from Almost Amazing Grace and Hannah from Hannah Billie Perry.

Snuggling Grace from Almost Amazing Grace and Hannah from Hannah Billie Perry.

There’s always something a bit magical about meeting people you admire and this night was absolutely no exception. If you didn’t get a ticket for this one, make sure you come along to the next. But be warned, I’ll probably snuggle you.

My Perfect Imperfection

The first thing I ever posted on this blog was a coming out story, of sorts. A literal moment of truth. I guess this whole blog has been a coming out story…a story about who I am and how I’m learning not to live up or down to people’s expectations of me. My adventures. My stories, my scars, my pretty things, just like it says up there in my header.

That header represents a promise to you guys, and to myself, that I won’t just show you the pretty things. I’ll show you the scars, and tell you the stories behind them. Writing that first post was one of the most terrifying, painful, cathartic things I’ve ever done. But so many people reached out to me afterwards and told me that they’d been going through the exact same thing. The post-graduation slump. That reading it written out like that had made them feel less alone. What I had seen as imperfection, other people saw as strength and beauty.

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I went to see a comedy show this week by the fantastic Juliette Burton. Look at Me follows Juliette’s struggles with eating disorders, lorded over by Tanya, the super-slim, effortlessly beautiful girl who peers out of every magazine, telling Juliette that she isn’t good enough. I have a Tanya of my own, but she’s more insidious. She’s the hardworking blogger who juggles a burgeoning digital marketing career with insightful think-pieces and glamorous events. She has thick, swishy hair, a grown up girl blazer, a capsule wardrobe and beautiful handwriting. Her world is made of Pinterest-white-walls, Instagrammable brunch meetings and pretty print notebooks. She’s beautiful and funny, and of course she has flaws, but they’re endearing ones. Like in Sandra Bullock movies where they’re worried she’s too perfect, so they make her clumsy, or ditzy, or make her snort when she laughs.

And the scariest thing about my Tanya? I could conceivably pretend to be her. Online, at least. I could pitch myself as glamorous and sweet and unfluffable and relentlessly positive. But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is my little corner of the internet in which to tell my truth. And that’s what I’ll do, forever.

My Tanyas fill my social media streams every minute of every day, each perfect cappuccino and flawless white apartment a tiny reminder that everyone seems to be moving faster than me. And I’m not gonna contribute to that. I have an amazing, wonderful life, and I am so, so grateful for it. But it, and I are both so far from perfect. I want you, my lovely readers, to share in my joys and celebrate my successes. But to pretend that they’re not balanced out by flaws and tough moments is dishonest to you and to myself. I won’t be somebody else’s Tanya.

This weekend, I was invited to speak to a lovely bunch of aspiring beauty bloggers and thinking about what to say really forced me to think about what kind of blog this is, what kind of girl I am. And the truth is, I am imperfect. Wonderfully, outrageously imperfect. I know in my heart that my strength lies in my difference, but that doesn’t stop me walking into rooms and wondering whether everyone in them is staring at me. I procrastinate endlessly because sometimes that’s easier than trying my hardest and failing anyway. I self-sabotage because sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve the amazing things that I have. Sometimes I am so afraid of my own potential that I want to run away. Sometimes I wonder whether my life has really changed since I graduated. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m letting everyone down. Sometimes, something knocks my confidence and I cry myself to sleep.

Tanya wouldn’t do any of that.

But Tanya also wouldn’t spend an evening with her family attempting to fit a party popper on her nose.

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She wouldn’t write an obscure semi-paranormal young adult novel just because she suddenly felt inspired. She probably doesn’t know the cha cha slide, or the entire script to Fried Green Tomatoes. She doesn’t make the world’s most delicious, but ugliest cakes. She definitely doesn’t have a weird obsession with German cinema or true crime stories. She does not love Cluedo. Or eat meatballs straight from the pan with a hunk of bread. She doesn’t throw open her windows in the middle of storms because she loves the smell of the rain, or shiver at the sound of church bells. She doesn’t have a huge, mad, sprawling family. She never played a pregnant dominatrix in a show that her father watched from the third row.

387980_10150515779825809_1150577696_nShe can’t make balloon animals. She has never danced so enthusiastically that she fractured her auntie’s cheekbone and gave her a black eye. She doesn’t dream of owning a frog called Oliver. She probably would never have been broken enough, and brave enough to start this blog.

And if that’s what I would have to trade, I’m sorry folks, no deal. I don’t want to be Tanya. If you’ll have me, I’d love to keep having a go at being Fiona.