Stepping Stones

It’s a funny old thing, isn’t it, this life business?

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In a little under a month, it’ll be three years since I graduated from university. That got me thinking. Dangerous, I know.

The older I get, the faster time seems to go. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that one. But sometimes the nostalgic question “Where the f*ck did the last three years go?” twists and distorts until it becomes something much more sinister:

“What the f*ck have I done with the last three years?”

This is the question that creeps into my mind right before I fall asleep. It’s the question that guilts me into making plans when staying home would make me happier. It’s the question that sparks the constant desire for “self improvement”, even when I’m exhausted and would be better off pouring a glass of wine, lighting a candle and reading a book.

I don’t think I’m on my own here. Twitter has opened up our inner monologue to each other like never before and the prevailing theme for almost everyone over the age of 20 seems to be “What the hell am I doing and is it what I’m supposed to be doing?”. Having spent the entirety of our teenage lives fighting to get out from under the control of our teachers, our professors, our parents, a lot of us find that we miss the comfort of having someone tell us “This is what success will look like and these are the steps you need to achieve it”.

All through my life, I’ve had stepping stones to hop between. Markers of success to tell me when I’m doing a good job. Things progress logically, one milestone fluidly melting into the next. Pass your exams, move out, graduate university, get a job…as a child, and even as a young adult, the path is laid out. But once you reach the end of that path, once you step off and wander into the unknown, the world is suddenly your oyster. You can do literally whatever you want. And I know I can’t be the only one who sometimes gets vertigo from that realisation.

It’s not so much that I want somebody to tell me what to do. It’s more that I want to be reassured that I’m doing something. Anything. I asked Niall the question quite recently, “What the f*ck have I done with the last three years?” and he pushed me off of my chair. Affectionately, of course. Because I’ve done lots of stuff in that time. I started this blog and gained an amazing band of people who actually enjoy reading my words. I moved to London and survived there. I have raised almost £3000 for Cancer Research. I wrote a book. I have baked countless apple pies. I have made lots of people laugh. I have made a few people cry too. I have taken joy in a thousand tiny moments that no one will ever remember. When I really think about it, I know that I have done a million things in those three years since I graduated. So why does it sometimes feel like I have failed?

I think it’s because as an adult, milestones are few and far between. Maybe you get married, buy a house, have a baby. But I’m not planning on doing any of those things any time soon. So what do we cling to in the vast space between the last milestone and the next? How do we keep from drowning without that reassuring pat on the head, without the checklist to be ticked off?

We’ve all seen the articles on social media:

50 things to do before you turn 30
What your twenties are really for
7 signs that you’re really a grown up
The 5 secrets to getting your shit together

We devour them, pick them apart and swallow them. Turn our lives into bucket lists, a neat little path of experiences with “adulthood” glimmering at the end like a pot of gold. We create fake milestones, which we collect and wear like trophies: the Mulberry bag, the glamorous holiday, the ten thousand Twitter followers. We hoard them like misers, using them to tell ourselves stories about us. The truth is, once you step off the path that’s been laid out for you, there is no next step. There’s no grand scoreboard in this game of life, no quantifiable measure of success or adulthood.

It’s hard, to come to terms with that. To realise that you’re the only one who can assure yourself that you’re doing a good job. That you’re living just as you should. That you are meaningful. It takes real courage to strive for happiness, to stop trying to measure yourself up. What the f*ck have I done for the last three years? I’m not sure. But I’ve lived. I’ve tried.

Stuff I Wish I’d Known At 11

So this month, my gorgeous baby sister turned eleven.

What’s that? I should stop calling her my baby sister? I WILL NOT!

Both of these guys will be my baby sisters always and forever.

Both of these guys will be my baby sisters always and forever.

This totally freaked me out because I remember being eleven and I basically thought I was the most grown up ever. I had my denim jacket, I had my braided bangs with beads on the end and I was coming to get the world.

Which is funny, considering that now that I’m 23, I feel like an overgrown child.

Anyway. I thought, since I’m officially ancient and all, I would write a list of stuff that I wish people had told me when I was eleven. Obviously, if I listed everything, we’d be here for the rest of time but here are the highlights.

Don’t use those horrible acne pad things.

If I had a TARDIS, I would travel back to 2007 and slap those boxes out of my hands. Your skin is fine, baby Fiona! Put those things down! You’ll pay for this in dry, scaly skin foreeveeeeeeeeeer!

Time spent reading or hanging out with your family is never wasted time.

Both of these things might seem silly and wasteful sometimes, especially when you’re busy. But these two things will build you into the person that you end up becoming, so cherish them.

Your quirks are your strengths.

I absolutely promise you that the things you hate most about yourself will be your favourite features when you get older. The things people tease you about, that mark you out as different…hang onto them. These things are your greatest strength.

The best revenge is to live well.

I wish I could say that I meant this in a super forgiving, zen, unruffled way, but I’m just not that big a person. The best revenge is to live a good life because then you can feel entirely smug about how well everything is going. Sometimes, I think about how happy I am with my life, in comparison with how rubbish my bullies tried to make it, and that makes me feel really, very pleased with myself. There’s nothing like going home and surprising the hell out of everyone by being hot and happy. Not my best feature, but true nonetheless.

Some people suck. Be nice to them anyway.

People can be really, really nasty. But it turns out that most of the time, they’re really, really nasty because they’re scared. This doesn’t excuse their meanness or mean you should let them walk all over you. But it is much, much braver to be nice to someone than it is to be mean.

Sometimes you will suck.

Here’s a thing that will definitely, absolutely happen to you at some point: you will be nasty to someone that you like to gain the approval of someone more popular than you. And when you make that popular person laugh, it feels brilliant. You feel like you’re climbing. Let me tell you now, this is not ever, ever worth it. Be loyal, be kind, always. If someone brings out the worst in you, you don’t want them as a friend anyway.

Kissing is so much fun – when you’re ready for it.

Kisses that you want to have are loads of fun. Kisses that you don’t really want to have are totally rubbish. Only you know when you’re ready for your first kiss (and all the kisses after that!), so don’t let anyone push you around. This will also apply to something else a little further down the line.

One just for the girls: You don’t ever have to be a certain way because you’re a girl.

Girls come in all shapes and sizes, just like boys do. Some girls wear loads of makeup. Some girls do kickboxing. Some girls like to read. Some girls like to kiss all the boys. Some girls would rather kiss all the girls. Some girls do all of these things. Don’t let anyone put you in a box or tell you what girls are supposed to do. And I know this can be hard but don’t be mean about other girls because they’re doing things different from you. We’re all different…that’s what makes things interesting! Girls all get further when we build each other up rather than tearing each other down.

This will all be a funny story someday.

I promise, no matter how bad things get, you will always look back and laugh about them. In fact, the worse they are, the funnier they’ll be. Me and my best friend can now laugh about the time that she broke up with her long term boyfriend and then her guinea pig died the next day. I’ve just pitched an article about the time me and my friend decided we were witches and hosted a hilariously inept Wiccan circle in my bedroom. I can now gigglingly, if still a little haltingly, tell people about the time that everyone at a fancy dress party thought I’d come dressed as a slave (I hadn’t). Honestly, the more completely mortifying you are at eleven, the better you’ll be at dinner parties in ten years. The other side of this coin is that there is literally no point wasting time trying to be cool. Unless being cool makes you happy, in which case go for it. But doing things that make you miserable to try and fit in is a rubbish idea, because you’re totally going to look back and cringe, no matter what. Embrace it.

What do you guys wish you’d known at eleven? What is the most mortifying thing you can remember from your preteen years?

Helpful Thoughts

So mindfulness is really having a moment, huh? It’s a word that, for better or worse (probably worse), I sort of zone out. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, it just always seems to come from the lips of women who spend their time talking about “toxins” and making sweet potato brownies, which by the way, are a MASSIVE HEARTBREAKING LIE. Awesome if you’re into it, but I struggle to see it becoming a part of my world. It seems like it’d be a lot easier to be mindful strolling down a beach at sunrise, freshly picked coconut in hand than it is standing at your sink at 10pm, chiselling cereal off the bowl that you didn’t soak this morning and trying to summon the fortitude to wash your damn hair.

I don’t live an especially glamorous or zen life. But one thing that I do believe in in a big way is happiness.

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Happiness is, at base, the thing we’re all striving for. It is the very definition of everyday magic. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, if you are bringing joy to yourself and others, you are succeeding (within reason guys, not condoning flagrant selfishness). One of the most important things I learned during my CBT was that happiness isn’t something that just happens. It’s something you choose. And sometimes, it’s really bloody hard to choose. I’m a pretty positive person overall but sweet jesus, I can sulk. Ask Niall. There’s something wonderfully maudlin about nursing a good grudge, even if it’s actually making you miserable. I’m not sure why this tendency is so strong because given the choice, who wouldn’t want to be happy over being miserable? I think it stems from that old chestnut where we’d all rather be right than happy. Everybody loves playing the martyr. But actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel like that’s a huge waste of time. The number of brilliant days I’ve wasted stroppily waiting for someone to recognise their perceived slight and apologise doesn’t even bear thinking about.

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Me being livid that Sophie is attempting to feed me a kumquat.

So whatever is to be done? Well, I’ve collected a bunch of principles that help me to live a happier life. I call them my helpful thoughts. Again, this is probably a throwback from my CBT, which focuses on getting rid of unhelpful thoughts and self talk. They’re basically affirmations for people who don’t do affirmations. And I promise, they’re just as relevant when your face is squashed against an oily rush hour bus window as they are on top of a mountain doing sun salutations. They’re specific enough to be helpful (to me anyway) but vague enough that they can be applied in a bunch of big and small ways to lots of different situations. I hope they help bring you some happiness.

“There’s no rush.”

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Little meaning: I sometimes feel like I’m in a hurry to get everywhere, all the time. I walk at an uncomfortable pace, even if I don’t have anywhere to be, driven by the innate feeling that I should be really busy. Sometimes tiny, insignificant things can happen to slow me down and this has an actual physical impact on me. A webpage takes more than a second to load. Someone walks slowly in front of me when I can’t overtake them. My kettle takes too long to boil. My phone charger gets tangled around the leg of my bed. When stuff like this happens, I can feel myself getting physically angry. I get hot. My heart starts thumping. My skin itches. And for what? For the loss of a couple of seconds. When I feel like this, it’s easy to see that too much stress is probably gonna kill us all. Every so often, I force myself to slow down and take my time. Whether that means taking a deep breath as the woman in front takes forty years to get her suitcase off the tube, consciously walking slowly or taking an afternoon to make an apple pie.

Big meaning: I am a huge worrier. “What, you? Fiona, surely not!”, I hear you cry. Alas, it is true. I am constantly measuring myself up against every arbitrary standard I can find and finding myself wanting. 30 things to do before you’re 30? Oh god, only seven years until I haven’t done these and am a TOTAL FAILURE. That girl has a book deal, so why have I been stuck on 5000 words of my novel for about a million years? Maybe I should buy a house. Maybe I should become an investment banker. Maybe I should get a sensible haircut. Maybe I should have a five year plan. Goals are awesome, and seeking inspiration from the people around you is awesome. Working yourself into a frenzy because you feel like your life is a failure at 23? Not awesome. I constantly have to remind myself that not only is my life not a failure, I barely even have a life yet. In most people’s eyes, I’m still pretty much a child. I’ve got so much time, and I’m wasting it by worrying that I’m not using it effectively enough. How utterly dull it would be if all the good stuff happened in the first 25 years. What on earth would you do with the rest? There’s no rush. Good things are coming, and they’ll get here in time.

“Let it go.”

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The little meaning and the big meaning for this one are pretty much the same, just on different scales. Remember the aforementioned sulking? This often means that a single, tiny bad experience can ruin my day. But here’s the thing: sulking about it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. In fact, it means that I’m letting a bad past ruin a potentially happy present. Take a deep breath, make like Elsa and just let it go.

Bus running late? Let it go. Stand on your favourite makeup palette? Mourn, and then let it go. Friend made a mean comment? Confront them or let it go. Boyfriend didn’t do the dishes? Confront him or let it go. Embarrass yourself at work five years ago? Everyone but you has forgotten, so let it go. Forgive others, forgive yourself. I stopped keeping a diary because reading my old rants was helping me hang onto grudges that would otherwise be completely forgotten.

Obviously I’m not saying that you should be a pushover. If someone is treating you badly, you absolutely should not let that go. But I think all of us waste so much time being angry about things that really don’t matter that much. Take your time, process your feelings but don’t hold onto them after that. None of us are strong enough to carry all the baggage we’re dragging around. Ditch that old unhappiness. Travel light.

“Be here, right now.”

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This one really came to the forefront when Niall and I were long distance. Every time I saw him, I would ruin the last day by spending the entire time with one eye on the clock, becoming increasingly miserable that we’d be apart again soon. And the truth is, that deadline was coming, whether I had an eye on the clock or not. Being gloomy didn’t stave it off, it just wasted time that could have been spent making memories. I spend a lot of time with my eye on the next amazing thing. And a lot of the time I really have to stop and look around and remind myself that actually, this moment, right here, could be amazing if I let it. You know those awful people who talk to you at parties while constantly searching the room for someone better? I’m doing that, but with my life. And that is uncool because my life is lovely and excellent and fun and complicated and wonderful just as it is.

“What are you waiting for?”

affirmations self careLittle meaning: Stop saving your best stuff for later. I mean, don’t totally blow your load and spend all your money and burn yourself out or anything. But wear your pretty dress, even if all you’re doing today is cleaning out the fridge. Use that fancy, expensive candle your aunt gave you. Dance like a mad person when that song comes on, even if it’s in the background of a car advert. Sing in the shower. Make the cake. Ask them out. Book the holiday. If you’re gonna be living in the moment, why the hell not make the moment as wonderful as it can possibly be? Some of my best decisions have come from asking myself “why the hell not?”. This includes organising Take Back the Beach, going on holiday to Iceland, writing a book and bullying Niall into getting back together with me after he casually made the worst decision of his life. What have you got to lose? As someone very clever once said, none of us are getting out of here alive, so you might as well live while you’re here.

Big meaning: Again, the big meaning is really just an extension of the little one. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission. I’m like a labrador when it comes to desiring approval. I want someone to come along every so often, take a look at my life and say “Yes, well done, this is correct”. When really, correct is a great big massive lie. Not everyone is going to understand you and the decisions that you make. The only correct life is the one that makes you happy. Don’t try to find the textbook in the choose-your-own-adventure book. Do what feels good. Your life is yours and everyone else can just deal with it. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case, you should probably take a long, hard look at yourself.

I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect and live in a constant state of peace and serenity using these statements. They’re guidelines, not magic spells. But they’re a handy little map for the kind of person that I want to be and the kind of life I want to live. So take them, use them if you like. And have a ridiculously, beautifully happy life.

Broke Folks’ Guide to Self-Care

Money can’t make you happy. But a lack of it can make you pretty unhappy. Being skint sucks. It doesn’t matter how cool being poor becomes, how many warehouse bars you open, how many pairs of ripped jeans you buy, the realities of actually having no money are pretty horrible. Even if you’re not actually living in poverty, which I never have been, thank goodness, having to obsessively count your pennies and swither over every purchase you make can take a nasty toll. And it’s easy to forget about looking after yourself when you’ve got bills stacking up. But honestly, self care is the most important thing. The most important. If you don’t take care of yourself and be kind to yourself, you’re going to burn out. Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself happy and healthy, even when my budget looks bleak.

1. Get the basics right.

Eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day. Drink two litres of water. Get eight hours sleep. Take 10000 steps.

Getting the basic stuff like this right is probably the easiest and most effective way of improving your physical and mental health. All of the things I listed up there are things that aren’t hard to do, they just take a little bit of effort. I know that I need to micromanage myself, or I would never do anything with my life. So I bought a 1.5 litre bottle for my desk. I fill it up in the morning and I make sure I finish it before I leave work. I have a pedometer which allows me to see exactly how much or how little I’ve done. When I’m feeling particularly organised, I make myself little lists where I can check off each glass of water or portion of fruit and veg. I’m basically a gigantic toddler, but I know how to make that work for me.

2. Make your space beautiful.

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Not loving your home is absolutely rubbish for your state of mind. Your home should be somewhere that makes you feel safe and happy and…well…at home. But on a budget, a lot of us aren’t exactly living in Buckingham Palace. I’m really lucky that I found a beautiful flat in London, but I’ve dealt with some horror stories in the past. A university halls room with salmon walls, a resident tarantula and a carpet worthy of a penny arcade. A flat where the mouse infestation stopped us worrying about the seemingly unstoppable cracks in the ceiling and walls. An endless parade of heinous mouldy bathrooms. It might seem like putting lipstick on a pig, but dress your home up. I promise, it’ll make more of a difference than you’d think. I have an enormous, brightly patterned bedspread and it makes me smile every time I look at it. I love to buy fresh flowers and put them in my bedroom, even if it’s just a 95p bunch of daffodils in an old peanut butter jar. I put photos of people and places that I love on every surface, on pinboards, on the walls. A set of fairy lights across my desk took my halls room from magenta nightmare to cosy boudoir. Candles can change the whole feel of a room. Surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and peaceful. And try not to worry about that weird stain on the wall.

3. Move your body.

Most of the time, there is nothing that I want to do less than move my body. I sometimes think I was destined to be a large shrub rather than a person. And this only gets worse when I’m feeling low. But my very wise mother, who taught me most of the clever things that I know, taught me that everything feels better after a little dance in your kitchen. Grab your laptop and put on a song you love. You Shook Me All Night Long, Little Bitty Pretty One and the Power of Love (the Huey Lewis one) are my guaranteed brain pleasers. Now start dancing. Really dance, with your arms flailing about and everything. If you’re feeling down, this will probably feel totally contrived to start with, like some awful teambuilding exercise. But persevere, by the end of the first song, you’ll be loving it for real. Nothing gives me a bigger boost more immediately than an emergency danceathon.

4. Don’t move your body.

We spend most of our lives rushing around, doing a million things at once, competing with each other to be the most busy. This, shockingly, is not very good for you. Spread a blanket out on the ground. Put on one of those 10 hour meditation music mixes on Youtube. Lie down. Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind wander. Don’t feel guilty about pressing pause for a little while. It’s amazing the good that taking ten minutes to be still and shut the hell up can do for you. Some of my best epiphanies come from lying on my floor with my rabbit licking my forehead and wondering whether he can start eating me yet.

5. Go outside.

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Fresh air and sunlight and exercise and pretty things are all totally good for your wellbeing. Know where you can find all of these things? OUTSIDE. I know, outside sucks. If I was a shrub, I’d be an indoor shrub. But once you get off the sofa and through the door, outside is actually sort of great. If you live near a park, go and take a wander. Trees are good for the soul. If it’s a nice day, take a picnic. Food tastes better outside. Bonus points if the park has a pond or a lake…being near water makes me instantly about 42% happier.

6. Treat yo’self.

One of my favourite things in the world is a really scalding hot shower. Yes, I know it’s bad for my skin, but you can pry it from my crusty old hands. Buy yourself a really incredible smelling shower gel and take time to relax in the shower. I’m still eeking the last out of a Rituals shower gel I got for Christmas, but Dove and I Love have genuinely gorgeous scented products for brilliant prices. I’m a sucker for anything scented with peach, orange or jasmine. Cover yourself in gorgeous bubbles, close your eyes and pretend you’re in a Japanese spa. This is one of my top everyday pleasures, and I refuse to berate myself or feel silly for taking joy in such an insignificant moment. There are no little pleasures. There should be no guilty pleasures. Don’t be afraid to take happiness at every available opportunity. A lot of people might make fun of this, but that’s only because being cynical is the easiest way to pretend that you’re smarter than everyone else without actually having to learn stuff. Cynics suck. If people are trying to dim your happiness, it’s usually because they’re unhappy themselves. I will never stop being delighted by hot showers, long, long hugs, swipes of red lipstick, lazy cups of tea. I know I bang on about this all the time, but that’s because it’s important. Happiness is a choice, and you should choose it every single time you can. It’s also a habit, which you need to practise. And the more you practise, the easier and more reflexive that choice will become.

7. Feel grateful.

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This one comes right off the back of the last one. Just because happiness is a choice doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. It is so, so tempting to mope instead. This seems like a fundamental flaw in the human psyche, but it’s true. We would rather be right than happy. We would rather be the martyr. We love a moan. For the past two weeks, I’ve been having a really rubbish time. With the exception of a completely life changing holiday, I have been miserable. Every little thing that could go wrong, did. Over and over again, and it really wore me down. These things pile up, and they can really get to you. So on my lunch hour, I went to a cafe, bought a hot chocolate and made a list of things in my life that make me happy. They ranged from travelling to new places, to having freckles, from Facetiming my mum, to baking apple pies. And actually, I found that I had a lot to be grateful for. I filled two notebook pages. Nothing had changed, the crappy things had all still happened, but suddenly the good was shining through. Lying on the floor like in number 4 is also an excellent time to have realisations like this. I don’t want to sound self righteous, or like I’m suggesting that if you’re unhappy, it’s your fault. It absolutely isn’t. And I’m no Pollyanna, it took me a fortnight of sulking and some very good advice before I got my head back on properly. But you can choose to see things differently. It’s really hard, and requires a bit of sacrifice, but it’s possible. Give it a go.

Life can be hard. It can be really, really hard. And when it is, it’s tempting to think of yourself as unimportant, and spend time focusing on everything else. But taking the time to do something good for yourself is so, so vital. You are important. You’ve got this. You deserve to be happy. Be gentle with yourself.

One Year On

So today marks one year exactly since I started writing my blog! Happy blogday to me!

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I have, of course made cupcakes, because any excuse, right?

But it’s also given me a really great excuse to look back over the past year, and it’s been amazing to do that. I know this blog is generally full of makeup, and my shoes disintegrating and me dressing up as Winnie from Hocus Pocus, but when I started, I wasn’t in a great frame of mind to think about any of that kind of stuff.

If you’ve never read my first post, here’s the short version:

I created this blog because I was depressed. I had been working for about a year in my “dream job”, and had known for quite a long time that it wasn’t making me happy anymore. But when I told people what I did, they would go “Ooooh, that’s amazing”, and look totally impressed. I had my big girl job, I was on the way up, I was A Success. I fell in love with this image of myself, and told myself that as long as nobody knew I was miserable, I’d be okay. Eventually, it got too much for me and I told everyone I knew, including the internet, in a crying jag that lasted about a week. I started this blog to let other people out there know that maybe it’s okay not to be okay, and to stop me shutting people out like that again. Two weeks later, I quit my job and signed up to an online counselling service. This was basically a collection of all the scariest things I could ever imagine doing, all happening at the same time.

Skip forward a year. How am I doing?

Well, I’m doing pretty great. I know lots of you have been following my blog and seeing me living it up in London, and to be honest, my life is going pretty damn amazingly. In the past year, I’ve seen this blog grow to be something that I’m really rather proud of, and it has charted my journey to being someone that I am really rather proud of. I’ve done some incredible things this year, and realised some really important stuff.

Firstly, don’t let anyone else ever, EVER tell you how you should go about being happy. People don’t come out of cookie cutters. Different things make different people happy, and we don’t ever get to judge someone’s success by our standards. Don’t ever be ashamed of what makes you happy, it’s such a waste of time and emotions and energy that would be better spent being smug about how happy you are.

Also, our idea of success is the most fucked up. The most fucked up. Apologies for swearing, most of you have probably noticed that my personal posts tend to get a bit sweary. I mean, how crazy is it that our primary, and sometimes only, barometer of success is the work that you do? Our careers have become the most important thing to strive for, we fall over ourselves to be busier than each other, to talk about how absolutely crammed our lives are with meetings and suits and serious-looking charts. Stop. If you have a high flying career that you adore, hats off to you. Seriously, that’s amazing, and I hope that it continues to bring you happiness. But what about the woman who spends her days pouring coffee and her nights making beautiful art? Or the guy who works a boring office job and struts out of the office at 5:01 every day, work forgotten. Or the stay at home mum whose life revolves around her kids. We look down on these people and we judge them because their lives don’t fit the specific image of success that we’ve spent so long building up. I did that to myself, and it made me really, seriously ill.

Doing stuff that scares you is incredible. This blog has pushed me to do so many things that I would never have done in a million years. I went to a champagne tasting in a skybar on my own. I handed my business card to a Radio One DJ. I blagged my way through countless beauty and fashion events where I felt in over my head the entire time. And it’s been one of the best years I can remember. Seriously, 2014’s photobook is gonna be an absolute corker. I try to say yes to things without even thinking, because I know that once I think about it, I’ll talk myself out of it.

The people who love you are the most valuable asset you will ever have. At points in this past year, I have had literally nothing. No money, no job, no self esteem, no idea what I was doing or where I was going. All I had were those people. They have mopped up buckets of tears, picked me up when I felt like I couldn’t take another step, forgiven me time and time and time again when I hurt them in fits of self destruction. I will never be able to express the gratitude and love that I feel for them. For my family. For Ruth. For Niall. For every single person who got in touch with me after I posted that first blog and told me that they felt the same. For the hundreds and thousands of hands that came out and took mine when I thought I was completely alone. People love you, I promise. Give them a chance to show you and you will be blown away by the kindness that they can show you. I know that I was.

Okay, I’m definitely crying a bit now.

When I started this blog, even when I started to get better, I was determined not to show you some squeaky clean, shiny, happy, perfect vision of my life. I wanted to be real, always. If people loved my writing, I wanted them to love my dark days, my mishaps, my swearing, my awkwardness, my everything. I wanted them to read it and go “Oh my god, thank god someone is talking about this”. Sometimes that means you have to write about porn. Sometimes it means admitting that you almost set yourself on fire taking your cute blogiversary photo. Sometimes it means you have to spill your entire heart on the internet. Social media is a god damn nightmare for making you think that everyone else has their life together. If I hadn’t started this blog and had people get in touch to say thank you, I would think I was the only one of my friends who felt like they lost control of their lives the second they graduated. We lie all the time on social media, and here, on my very own little corner of the internet, I don’t want to lie.

My life isn’t perfect. Depression isn’t the kind of thing that you just brush off and never think about ever again. There are days when I look in the mirror and all I see are flaws. There are days when I don’t look in the mirror because I don’t want to get out of bed. Despite everything that I went through, and all that very good advice up there, there is still a little voice in my head that goes “You’re working a nine to five? God, how embarrassing. You’d better say that quietly. You should probably become a space octonaut instead.” Seriously, I still have that fight with myself. But at least now, the bigger part of me knows that it’s bullshit. So I’m a little further along the path than I was. And I’m working on it every single day. I hope that some of you will stick around on this journey with me, thanks for coming this far.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

You know the strangest thing about feeling like your world is falling apart? Having to deal with the fact that it really, really isn’t. The world keeps right on turning, oblivious to how shitty you are feeling. Even on days where just putting one foot in front of the other seems like too much effort, you still have to brush your hair, and wash the dishes, and clean your clothes, and pay your bills, and go to work, and eat things that are not chocolate digestives.

Functioning so hard right now.

Functioning so hard right now.

I am not good at completing small tasks like this at the best of times. I still haven’t changed my address with my bank after moving last June. Parents, feel free to commence nagging, but you’ll have to get in line behind Niall.

I am useless at putting the rubbish out. Every day, I will open my front door, look at the black bin bag lying outside it, convince myself that I am far too busy to take down the rubbish, even though my walk to the train station takes me directly past our bins and leave it there.

Doing the dishes requires such a momentous amount of willpower that I always feel a bit cheated that no one is there to shake my hand and give me a certificate once I’m done. And upon discovering that a couple of hours later, dishes are once again piling up next to the sink, my mind reels at the injustice of having to wash them again. Like, seriously? I did the dishes! I earned my dish doing badge! Isn’t that enough for you, world? I just want to have a sandwich without facing the horrifying consequence of having to wash a small plate.

So, for somebody who is naturally very lazy when it comes to personal admin and daily chores, the fact that these little tasks still exist when I’m feeling low is utterly exhausting. Sometimes, the mere thought of hanging up my clothes, or washing my hair, or socialising with people makes me want to crawl into my bed and take a two week holiday from existing.

But two week bed-holidays are neither socially acceptable, nor, based on my experience with two day weekend bed-holidays, are they very effective at making you feel better. So I stumble on: catching trains, cooking food, taking phone calls, cleaning the rabbit hutch, paying my rent, all the things that the world requires of me on a day to day basis. Sometimes this makes me feel better, but a lot of the time, it just makes me feel tired. How do you cope when it’s not the world that’s falling apart, it’s you?