Do you know, I’m having an absolutely lush day today and just wanted to take a couple minutes to ‘smell the roses’. Woke up at 7am, on a Sunday too, had a wee cuppa in bed and promptly fell back asleep… until 12pm… that wasn’t on the cards, but I’m still a teenager at heart. Had a wee mosey round the neighbourhood park, which was very soothing. Although the Berlin winters are incredibly grey and depressing, one thing that brings me warmth is that people leave out food for the birds – they just pop some fat balls in the twiggy trees or hang them off railings – anywhere really. I haven’t seen that in any other city… or maybe I’ve just never been as desperate to seek out morsels of positivity in such bleak winters.
As a side-note, I hate calling them ‘Fat Balls’, having being scarred with embarrassment as a teenager when mum dragged me to the local market and said to the stall-holder: “I wanted to ask for fat balls but I might as well ask for big boobs”. Of course, the older I get, the more I accept that I too will my scar my children with such tongue-and-cheek statements.
Anyway, in the spirit of January, and as I sip a large G&T with my treat-yourself-gin from Duty-Free, I think now is as good a time as any to *insert sparkles* reflect and jot down my goals for the year. Fun fact (for those who don’t already know): the month of January is named after the Roman God ‘Janus’, who had two faces – one looking back; one looking forward. Go figure.
Looking back, 2021 was a great year for me! Sure, it wasn’t ideal but all things considered, I’m so grateful I got to see friends and family back home (several times), saw two of my very good friends tie the knot, had a paddle at the seaside, had the best fish & chips of my life at the seaside too, got a promotion, became more involved with mental health, supported loads of small businesses, supported charities, entertained my friends with crap, beige food (admittedly that one’s a little weird, but the people love to see it), learned to follow my intuition and stand up for myself and… as smooshy as this sounds: I found a part of myself that I didn’t know was lost, and that was such a clutch turning point for me… but maybe more on that another day.
For 2022, I have fairly high expectations for myself. The overarching theme is to push myself more. I have a terrible habit of refraining from things because I don’t want to do them, or because I’m not “in the right frame of mind” – whether it’s a tough conversation or doing the dishes. I need to push myself more and not be so apathetic when I avoid something because that does me no good. I’m still young but I don’t have all the time in the world. I can’t just leave something for another day, nor put it off entirely simply because I can’t be bothered.
I’ve set myself a couple of really basic, small tasks to push myself. One is to write every day – even if it’s just for 20 minutes and it’s absolute garbage, I should still do it – I’m delighted to say I’ve stuck to that so far! I know we’re barely a week in (and I actually missed a couple days) but the point is I’m doing it most days, it brings me joy and it’s good for me – well done me! I’m less enthusiastic about my other task though: not to let the dishes pile up – again, teenager at heart. I just can’t describe how much I hate doing the damn dishes. And don’t even suggest a dishwasher to me. I have no room – no, not even the wee slimline ones, just don’t. Anyway, deep breaths, back to my happy vibes. I’m a grown ass woman and will no longer huff and puff about the dishes… and hopefully this year will get a flat with a bigger kitchen and *fingers crossed* a dishwasher. All thoughts and prayers welcome, thank yew.
Ultimately I want to see what opportunities come as a result of actual hard work, and I’m hoping that doing little things for myself will lead to a greater sense of accomplishment and do wonders for the ol’ schmental health.
For the first time in months, I genuinely feel very chilled, confident in myself and completely at peace. I hope this energy fills you up too and wish you an excellent year ahead! Namaste.
There’s a few key moments in my life where I distinctly remember thinking how corrupt the world is and how awful the humans are that strut across it. Hearing things about school shootings for example, or these casual genocides all over the world that our governments seemingly ignore… but on a less dramatic scale, it was surprisingly an episode of the classic Brit culture TV show “Come Dine With Me” that truly disgusted me. I couldn’t wrap my head around this one contestant.
I’m willing to bet nobody else will remember said contestant. Nobody accused him of leading a sad, little life, and as far as I know he can’t fit a balloon whisk in his mouth. Instead, he was overly cocky and talked incessantly about his ‘gains’, bragging about eating at least 3 (three) steaks a day. A DAY! I think I was still in school when I watched that episode and it’s stuck with me all this time. I just can’t fathom the sheer greed and how unnecessary that type of consumption is. And for what? So the pillock can wear a shirt two sizes too small? The nerve.
I wouldn’t really call myself a vegan. If anything, I call myself a ‘pretendatarian’. For a start, and there’s no way to sugarcoat this, I’m quite apathetic towards most animals, which is why I often scoff at calling myself a vegan. I find the narrative ‘if you love animals, you should be a vegetarian/vegan’ is over-exploited. It’s still relevant but if you’ve watched ‘Seaspiracy’, ‘What the Health’ or any food documentary, you’ll know there’s more to veganism than just freeing the little piggies… but if their snuffly, wee snouts are enough to make you want to lead a better life, then great!
The other reason I don’t like labelling myself ‘vegan’, is because I think if you really want cheese, eat the bloody cheese. Just make sure it’s good quality and you’re not eating it in excess. Whatever your reasons are for trying out veganism, there’s no point making yourself miserable and then giving up and returning to your old ways because the raw vegan overlords have banned you from a cheese toastie. Maybe one day you’ll reach the point where you don’t want any animal products but until then, do what makes you happy, in a responsible, considerate way.
Ideally, we’d all be growing our own veg and living off the land with humble hens pecking around our back gardens, supplying our eggs for breakfast… but that’s not the world we live in – at least for the majority of us in the Western world.
As you well know, I grew up in rural Scotland where farming is people’s livelihood. Mum used to take us out to see the wee piglets and lambs and the smell of cow muck in the air was ripe. I kind of miss it. When I watched ‘What the Health’ though, I was repulsed at the farms they exploited, but those aren’t the kinds of farms I grew up around; those are factories – that’s ‘farming’ to meet outrageous human gluttony, so we can pig out on a cheap double cheeseburger with extra bacon and extra cheese. Why have 6 chicken wings when you can pay 50p extra and get a bucket of 20? I know all that sounds yummy, but try the vegan nuggets – they taste pretty good and you’re only responsible for a small patch of wheat instead of 10 dead chickens for a quick bite to eat (hey, that rhymes!). I do believe that farming in a better way, like the olden days, would be the best option, but our indulgence and selfishness has gotten out of control and plant-based diets seem like the only viable way to counteract this.
The first time I cut out meat (it’s been a sweet-sour relationship for years) was for a really simple reason: I was curious. I wasn’t looking into the impact on the environment or animal welfare; I just wanted to learn more recipes and learn to use veggies for something other than soup or reluctantly adding them as a side, so I challenged myself to go veggie for a month and it stuck, for the most part. When I decided to cut out dairy, it was purely for vanity – I wanted better skin. I can’t say that part’s working out for me but to be honest I don’t eat my 5-a-day or drink enough water either, so I’m not surprised.
Nowadays, the more I think about consumerism and greed, the more I think plant-based is the best thing since sliced bread. If everybody took up a predominantly plant-based diet and allowed themselves a ‘treat’ every now and then, the overconsumption and mass production of animals (and all the food they eat, and all the water that food needs to grow etc), would reduce almost tenfold. I’ll admit, the fake cheese still doesn’t quite cut the mustard but I did find a great vegan feta the other day, and if you’re prepared to pay artisan prices, you might find some good options, but again, if you want cheese, just eat cheese. It’s not about cutting things out; just cut down. Make switches that make sense.
For example, I only drink milk with my cereal and even then I hardly eat cereal, so I switched to plant-based (oat) milk years ago because cow milk wasn’t necessary for me. In any case, we’re the only animals that drink milk in adulthood, so how necessary is it at all? After that, I got curious about how other vegan substitutes tasted and started switching out more and more and you know what? My hair still grows and my joints are fine! It’s been a piece of cake! Side note: I find it much more fun to bake vegan cakes – it’s like science! Flax eggs and aquafaba? Sign me up!
If you’re wondering where to start with plant-based diets or how to cut down, think about your weekly staples – there’s probably not much variety in your weekly diet as it is. Unless it was just me that lived off frozen pepperoni pizzas and halloumi kebabs? Get curious and look up a couple of vegan staples that are easy and you can eat time and time again. A good place to start is looking into veggie options of what you already eat: vegan mac & cheese (that recipe might surprise you), veggie lasagne, veggie burgers, soups, curries, etc – sweet potatoes are going to be your new best friend. I also recommend buying dry beans – white or kidney beans for example – and if you’re thinking about making a stew, or a salad, or anything, you can soak them overnight and cook them the next day (follow the packet instructions). You can get the tinned ones too, I just feel more wholesome doing it myself and the dry beans take up less space in my cupboards. Namaste.
Another important tip for going plant-based is planning ahead (which I’m crap at) and more importantly: planning realistically for the weekly food shop. “Realistically, am I going to eat this whole bunch of bananas imported from Colombia? No. Do I really need a pumpkin in April that was imported from South Africa, just to meet my nostalgia for autumn? No. Do I really need a wedge of lime all the way from Vietnam in my tonic? No… but I’ll allow a lemon from Italy, or an orange from Spain”. Be considerate when you’re buying your produce and don’t fall into the ‘convenience’ traps. There’s no point introducing more plant-based options if all your veggies are pre-sliced, wrapped in plastic and imported from Timbuktu.
Our choices matter. What we watch, what we wear, what we eat – it all matters. Personally I just really hate waste, inconsideration and excessiveness, and what a privilege that is – to not be limited by dietary or financial means, and just be (pretendy) vegan to minimise my impact on the environment and because I want to be. In saying that though, there are a lot of studies about the health benefits of veganism and actually, it’s not too expensive either.
At first I thought I’d have to fork out loads for veganism and sure, it costs more than your cheap-as-chips, Tesco value processed ham, but compared to more sustainable or ethical organic meats and cheeses, it’s not that much difference. I say ‘sustainable’ lightly here, having felt the burden of Seaspiracy too. If you’re buying all the synthetic substitutes, it probably does add up, but if you base your weekly shop on natural, fresh (loose, plastic-free) fruits and veggies (and/or frozen), you won’t spend that much.
In the past 4 years, I’ve noticed a huge uptake on veganism and the amount of different products hitting the shelves these days is incredible. Berlin is a really good place to test out veganism but a lot of cities are catching on. Most restaurants and street vendors in the cities offer vegan options and there’s even specialised supermarkets. The regular supermarkets also have aisles brimming with new plant-based options – you’ll probably find them in their own little section, but they might be mingling with the regular food, because a lot of food is naturally vegan – bread, pasta, crisps and sweeties (watch for milk and animal jelly though, they love sneaking that in).
If we all ate more responsibly – whether it’s introducing more plant-based food, only choosing organic, monitoring our carbon footprints with the produce we choose, etc – it would force supermarkets and suppliers to reassess the demand and implement changes along the whole supply chain.
That’s what being plant-based is about for me. It’s making small changes and feeling encouraged and hopeful that these changes are catching on and making an impact. Müller is now bringing out a vegan line with rice puddings and milkshakes (and they’re tasty). Greggs, the UK’s pastry staple, brought out the vegan sausage roll and they sold like hotcakes! Pret-a-Manger completely removed their meatball sub and replaced it with the vegan option ‘due to demand’ – that’s amazing! That’s because of our choices. Of course these big consumer brands are still an issue but they’re trying. I’m constantly torn between supporting them to show there is a market for vegan options, or flat out boycotting them. Either way, we’re too far into globalisation and they’re still going to succeed with or without my money… but if I support them, I could get a nice milkshake out of it.
There is always going to be meat in the world, and I can’t deny, it does taste good. Even though the vegan brands try their best, they’ll never beat yer ma’s Sunday Roast. I’m a pretty crap vegan but I try. The majority of my weekly shop is plant-based and gradually I’m making more switches in other every day products – like toothpaste, soaps, shoes. It’s all a learning curve. For sure, the odd thing ‘may contain milk’ because they put damn powdered milk in everything, and every now and again I do just buy a wee cheese because I fancy it. When I order a takeaway, I go for the veggie/vegan option because I can’t guarantee the conditions the meat was reared but I still drool at the thought of a greasy cheeseburger, knowing it’s likely come out of a hefty sack of frozen meat from some over-capacitated factory farm. I probably don’t get all the nutrients and protein that I need because I don’t do protein shakes and supplements, but I doubt I got all that on my old frozen pepperoni pizza diet either.
In a nutshell, there’s always going to be a reason for people to snub the plant-based diet but make the little changes where you can. If you can go fully vegan, then great, but for me it’s not about cutting out, it’s about cutting down. Try switching milks, try vegan butter or cream in your cooking, get the veggie nuggets or vegan schnitzel instead. Add a couple vegan recipes to your weekly staples. Don’t be greedy. It probably won’t make much difference to you individually, but globally it makes a huge impact, and at the end of the day, your skin might get better and you’ll fart less – just go easy on the chickpeas.
*********** If you’re looking for inspiration, try following #veganrecipes and #vegan on instagram or tiktok. There’s tonnes of pictures and videos that will pop up on your feed to help you with your dinner – most of them are cakes.
Another good account to follow is @maxlamanna, who has great recipes to reduce food waste – big fan of the lentil and broccoli stem tacos, also good with nachos!
There’s also concepts like @MeatFreeMonday, which might be a good place to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed at making changes. But again, only make the switches that makes sense.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge and there’s a lot of things I’d like to challenge when it comes to feminism – like the F-word, “a female” – a female what? A lot of people don’t understand why ‘female’ can be derogatory and bring up the old ‘well, medically and, er, technically…’. Yes, thank you.
Out of curiosity though, how often do you use the M-word, referring to a man? For instance: ‘Look at that male over there’; ‘We’ve hired a male’; ‘Quotes from inspirational males’.
Anyway, I’m not choosing to challenge others’ language. Instead I’ve pulled the Frida Kahlo and decided to go with the subject I know best: myself. I want to challenge my own battle with feminism and some of the things I’ve got wrong in the not-so-distant past (there’s actually tonnes) and things I’m still getting wrong today (again, tonnes). For instance, up until this morning, I didn’t really know what ‘intersectional feminism’ meant… I know, I’m sorry. I was just too lazy to Google it. I’m all for equal rights and opportunities, lifting women up and celebrating each other, but just like the people who use ‘female’ interchangeably with ‘woman’, I’ve made mistakes too, and I still do. This may even be one of them, we’ll see.
My first reaction to feminism is embarrassing and downright stupid. I was in high school when I scrunched my face up and scoffed ‘nah, I’m not a feminist’. FOR SHAME. I’ve mentioned before that I’m from a small town, where we sing songs about men being brave, honest heroes and occasionally women are cited, only as ‘bright-eyed daughters’, i.e. pretty. There’s a stigma there about women and Satan forbid you anger the little Shire folk and speak out about inequality – I’m not exaggerating when I say you’ll get wet paper towels thrown at you, hissed at in the streets and probably a couple eggs thrown at your house. It’s a quaint wee place, bless.
The problem with my dear hometown is that a lot of women seem to be fairly happy being naught but ‘bright-eyed daughters’ – there’s even a club bearing the name that seems to promote and preserve male chauvinism (although they prefer to call it ‘tradition’). As a side note, the townsfolk also sneer the word ‘female’ to talk about a woman and that’s likely why the word irks me so much.
I’ve always taken umbrage with that side of the town and was brought up well aware of gender inequality, so I wonder why I said ‘nah, I’m not a feminist’. Was I ignorant? Naive? Scared? All of the above? Why was I so ashamed to say that I believe in equality and want women to have the same opportunities? But back then we didn’t have social media the way we do now. Women didn’t have ‘platforms’. There were no activists and educators on Bebo – certainly not in my top 16 anyway. Women were constantly degraded and shamed in magazines – I don’t recall anyone to look up to in an intellectual way; women were only valid if they were skinny and pretty (and white). At that time, my only concept of feminism was the Germaine Greer types, who the media belittled as difficult old women or spinsters, prattling on about men holding doors open. I shaved my legs and didn’t mind a man holding the door open, ergo, not a feminist, right? I’m so disappointed.
My mum never really spoke to me about feminism either and I wasn’t interested in reading about it. I remember a friend asking whether I believed in equality and declaring me a feminist on the spot ‘right, so you’re a feminist then’ – I was probably late teens. I still felt uncomfortable then because of the stigma from the media, and it was years before I would stand tall and say ‘yeah, of course I’m a feminist’ but unlike my clear memory of denying feminism, I don’t have any particular memory of accepting feminism.
The truth is I still find the idea of feminism quite intimidating. In a bizarre way it’s similar to why I don’t openly call myself a vegan – I don’t really eat meat or dairy, but every now and then I’ll sneak in some real cheese and eggs – it would be hypocritical and dishonest of me, but I try. To admit outright that you’re a feminist these days implies that you’re an activist fighting for trans-women and BIPOC women and refugees and sex workers. I’ll be honest, I don’t do any of that. I want to be that woman but… actually I have no excuse, I’m just another shit, cis-, white ‘feminist’, lazy and not worthy. I do find comfort and solace in the Jameela Jamils, who speak up, seemingly without fear of getting it wrong or offending people, and admit they themselves have come a long way and still have a lot to learn and I think that’s where I am now. I know I need to read more, speak up more, do more, and I’m working on that. I know I said a lot of things in the past, or worse, didn’t say anything at all, and that was really shit of me and I don’t know how far I can use my youth as an excuse.
One thing I’ve noticed about social media is how quickly opinions and concepts change. I only recently found out what a TERF was, when did that sneak in? There’s a lot to keep up with and sometimes it overwhelms me, with so many different voices talking and ‘educating’ – it’s so easy to be misguided and follow the wrong people. Recently I joined Twitter and accidentally followed some TERFs, thinking they were just your average, inclusive feminists, but no-no.
For all that I said I’m not here to challenge others’ choice of language, the words we use matter. Recently the streaming platform Twitch came under fire for using the term ‘womxn’ in their latest campaign. It’s something that I questioned myself when I wrote about women’s health and smear tests. I used that term throughout the article because it’s what I’ve seen online, and even in my ‘diverse’ workplace, but I felt uncomfortable when I used it because it felt like I was differentiating between cis-women and trans-women, which is exactly why Twitch was called out for being transphobic and the term is already outdated – arguably was never in-date either.
I’m not transphobic (and to be clear, I no longer follow TERFs), but as I said before, I can do more to actively fight, especially for trans rights. When I used the term ‘womxn’, it was because I wanted to show that I’m aware it’s not only cis-women who menstruate and need to book their cervical screening tests, and I thought it might be the more ‘progressive’ language to use but it didn’t feel right to me and I should have trusted that gut-instinct. I won’t remove my article or edit it for now, I’d rather it served as a reminder and learning point for myself.
I’d like to say I’m at an age now where I will listen to my gut instinct, be stronger, and stand up for myself but I also know I’m not the type to confront people and that worries me. To take inspiration from Ru Paul, if I can’t stand up for myself, how in the hell am I going to stand up for anybody else? It’s a real concern and I hope I’m never put in that situation (again) but if I am, I hope I can handle it without regret. I admire the women who can just confront injustice head on, as soon as they see it or hear it, call people out immediately, but I’m not that woman (yet).
It’s not that I’m shy or cowardly; I’ve just always preferred to stay quiet instead of making a mistake, and that’s a huge problem. If I’m personally involved in a situation, my first response is denial – that I must be mistaken and somehow in the wrong. Afterwards comes the anger and that’s not a good look on me either – think ‘angry jigglypuff’ – but it’s a better response than denial. In general, I prefer to take a step back and see where the other person is coming from, but it takes a lot to put anger aside, and when some creep on the U-Bahn is groping between my legs, or a colleague is calling me a stripper, or, or, or… my first thought isn’t ‘let’s just take a step back’. I shouldn’t have to explain to these men why what they said/did was inappropriate. They have no plausible excuse or reason that I’m prepared to try and ‘understand’, but equally, I think change is borne out of level-headed conversations, so sometimes you do have to put that anger aside and say ‘hey, let’s have a talk’. Although to be honest, not once have I sat down with a harasser and talked it out, it’s not that simple.
Maybe I’m naive to think we can all be civil and build understanding through calm and collected conversations, but in today’s world, how many problems have been resolved through anger? It’s a start, for sure. Encouraging people to ‘stay angry’ is all good and well to raise awareness and pressure people, but encourage them to stay smart and collected too, otherwise we’re all just butting heads and shouting at each other and nobody is listening.
So yes, I’m a crap feminist, I really am, and I’m sorry. I don’t know enough about marginal groups. I haven’t read Maya Angelou. I get scared to speak out and voice my opinions, for fear that I’m wrong, but feminism isn’t about being part of an angry mob of women. Feminism is an evolving learning curve that I won’t ever master. As long as I’m trying and educating myself and holding myself accountable along the way, then I hope that’s enough.
I turn 27 today and as I tuck into yet another slice of the world’s most beige birthday cake, I’m thinking ‘this isn’t half bad’ – the cake for sure, and life in general.
When I was a child I got the idea into my head that I would be a ‘proper grown up’ at the age of 27. I defined ‘proper grown up’ as being married for min. 2 years and expecting my first child. My parents were much older than the parents of everyone else in my class and it embarrassed me. I don’t recall being teased about it but when all the other parents were turning 30, mine were turning 40 (and then some) and there was always a shock-horror-gasp reaction when I said it. I decided I didn’t want to be an older parent and took an average of the ages and decided 27 was the Goldilocks age to start a family.
It sounds so naive and laughable now, but I was only about 8 years old – I have a distinct memory of thinking ’27’ when I was walking through the halls in primary school: the coarse, blue carpet underneath my little gym shoes, the smell of acrylic paint, lots of children scrambling and shouting (maybe break time). I don’t know why I was thinking of it, but I was. Of course I knew nothing of life and careers, options and realities, and all the amazing things women can do – if you give them an extra 10 years than your average man.
It’s quite sad that to an 8 year old girl, the “significant stages” of life are marriage and children – nobody asks about graduating or founding your own company, but this isn’t news or my soul opinion. At least from documentaries and basic knowledge of society, those thoughts rarely cross a boy’s mind – and certainly not so young.
My friend called me recently and we were discussing how strange it is that girls, from a very young age, are expected to be in relationships – even though boys obviously all have germs at that age, we still need to be ‘with’ them. I remember politely smiling and looking awkwardly at my mum when her friends asked: ‘Have you no got a boyfriend yet?’, ‘Are ye no with anyone?’, ‘Aw, dinnae worry, I’m sure you’ll find a nice laddie soon’. Even more disturbing was the string of adult women who told me that if I stood in the shower and held the shower-head across my chest, my breasts would ‘pop right out’ and then I’d ‘get a laddie, no bother’. I was 6.
Maybe it’s a small-town-thing, or maybe it was specifically my-hometown-thing, but what a strange culture to raise a child in. All girls have some elements of those ‘expectations’ pushed upon them no matter where they’re raised, but the shower-head one was weird, and totally perverse.
Nowadays I’m a 36D and face away from the shower in case they grow any bigger. I’m pretty happy with ‘me’ and my body – sure, we’ve had our qualms and I don’t always love her but she’s aright, and if she gets bigger or smaller over time, we’re not going to worry. I don’t need my body to do extraordinary things, I’m just happy she keeps my noggin on my shoulders and carries me from A to B. That’s all I’m asking for… oh, and good buns! Namaste.
Despite this refreshing confidence and acceptance of ‘who I am’, as soon as January 1st rolled round, it dawned on me that I’d be turning the big two-seven, and I can’t say I handled it very well. For all that I understood I was spraffing absolute tripe as a teeny 8 year old, I still couldn’t shrug this ‘ideal’ that was so deeply ingrained into my little mindbrain.
I didn’t feel lost, but unaccomplished. I started to worry that I wasn’t as far along as I ‘should be’ – career-wise and relationship-wise. I have this image of people in their late 20s, running around as managers and going home to their partners. Some people have that already, but I don’t, and for quite some time it really bothered me.
Recently though, I’ve done a few workshops – one was through work, where we teamed up with an agile coach and created our mission statement and core values for the Mental Health ERG (Employee Resource Group). The other was a ‘Marketing 101’ Workshop I signed up to independently, for my own curiosity. Both workshops were incredibly valuable and allowed time for reflection, which really helped with my direction and regaining my confidence.
Suddenly the clouds parted and I started to realise that I am taking the right steps and I do know where I’m going and what I want to achieve – those plans and the end-goal might change, but for now I’m pretty savvy. Things are good. I started to get really excited about turning 27, what a great age! The year of confidence, of empowerment, of success. Eight-year-old-me is probably having a mild panic attack, but I see you, Inner Child, just trust the process hun, we’ve got this.
I might not be doing exactly what I thought I would be doing, and I’m still a long way off from where I want to be, but I’m laying the foundations and everything is perfectly clear. So, happy birthday me! I’m doing great… and my cake is really good.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Abba recently so now seems like a good time to introduce myself.
First of all, I wouldn’t normally consider myself an Abba fan, so in the event you’ve found me through some kind of online Abba forum (I’m sure they exist), I’m afraid you may be somewhat disappointed. If you must know, according to Spotify, my top artists are Mahalia and Joy Crookes, followed by the timeless Fleetwood Mac… and also Cardi B, for a balanced lifestyle. Macaroni, anyone?
It should be noted that I lead an extremely boring and antisocial life, so I can’t say the content on this blog will be at all interesting. During the lockdown I’ve learned that I really don’t need much to keep myself entertained – a simple Netflix subscription usually does the trick! I like cooking though and apparently I make an excellent vegan sponge cake, so maybe they will appear on the blog. As a side note, I do eat a lot of vegan food but I wouldn’t call myself vegan or veggie, because occasionally I have a sneaky not-so-plant-based dinner, forgive me Satan.
I’ve been wanting to get round to this blog for such a long time, done writing classes, bought books and scrapped lots of drafts in preparation but finally someone told me what I needed to hear: ‘just get over yourself’, so here I am, all fresh and shiny ready to kickstart the new year with an actual site for my writing. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be up your street but thanks to all the space and time during the lockdown (proud sponsors of this blog), I have found my groove again and it’s time for me to write once more like I did before!
Alright, nothing more to say, no more ace to play! Happy reading!
It’s that time of year again where I see an influx of fad comments like ‘roll on 2021’ and ‘can’t wait for next year’ – not out of excitement, just pure exasperation. People make these comments around this time every year, but this year people have been wishing the days away for the past 9 months and now we’re reaching an exponential rise of post-festive doom and gloom as more and more people jump on the annual groaning bandwagon, ’tis the season! I’m generally known for being miserable but even for me, it’s exhausting being around so much negativity.
Yes, 2020 had its challenges but, dare I say it, I’ve had a great year! I understand this has been a difficult year for a lot of people and it would be callous of me to ignore that. People have lost loved ones, jobs, purpose, self-worth and more – I do see it. Realistically though, the majority of people on my Instagram still have their jobs and family and have it pretty good, but they’re still going to complain about it because it’s an end-of-year pastime – like when people say “I hate Mondays”. Really it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, if you’re anxious to go back to work and dreading your inbox, I doubt ‘Monday’ is the problem, but it’s something we mindlessly say to each other in the lift and I don’t know why.
I’d say I’m quite well-versed in depression and I know that even when you seemingly have it all, you still feel the effects. I don’t want to dismiss or invalidate feelings but for the most part, these bleak comments seem to just be a thing we say at the end of the year as we start looking forward and forgetting all the goodness and growth we experienced earlier on in the year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find it to be all sunshine and lollipops, although being an introvert I did feel cruelly smug. There were a lot of things that I really struggled with during the pandemic. Some were just irritating pet-peeves like the ignoramuses who enter a shop via the designated exit, or wear their masks on their chin – but this type of irritation can be cured by a quick meme share on the ‘gram. Other things that I struggled with were tougher to accept and overcome, like not being there for someone, missing birthdays or feeling trapped and undervalued (and the natural guilt and discomfort for feeling glum in the first place). Of course the recurrent lockdowns and restrictions were arguably the root cause for those feelings, but on the other hand, I also found the lockdown offered a welcome solution.
When my friends were going through a tough time, I felt awful that I couldn’t be there to hug them and/or pour them a wine, but instead I actually had time to call people, which was really nice – even friends I’ve never really thought about calling would call me to check in and tell me about their day and I loved that! We’d find time to chat in the early hours because we didn’t have to get ready to go to the office. We could take long walks in the morning, babbling away to each other, leaving nonsense voice notes, and then collapse back into bed with the work laptop and a cuppa and still have a productive day – sans bra! That’s how I’ll remember the start of the pandemic – snorting with laughter as I walked round the park, talking to a friend a thousand miles away.
The lockdown forced us to think outside the box and reevaluate our consumerism and commercialism to find alternative solutions. There was a call to arms to support small businesses and local stores and I’m delighted that all bar one of my Christmas and birthday gifts to others were sourced either through Etsy or small businesses’ websites, sorry Jeff. I’d been planning mum’s birthday since late 2019 but it all went to pot. It hurt that I couldn’t be there and treat her but I made up for my absence with thoughtful gifts – I organised a local florist to deliver an eco-wreath, and put money behind the till so she could treat herself to beautiful, fresh fish from the local fishmongers (a bit of a weird gift I’ll admit, but she was thrilled). I realise I’m basically saying I replaced myself with fish, so let’s move on…
I almost lost my job due to an unfortunate, ill-timed combination of Brexit and Pandemic. I think had it not been for the lockdown, I probably would’ve just accepted the end of my contract and wombled around lost in the job market, but knowing jobs were scarce made me realise that simply not renewing my contract was not an option. So, after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I was proactive and managed to secure a position in a different area of the company… just like that! That was a difficult time for my little mindbrain but really when I look back I see how my strength, resilience and good old Scottish grit got me through and I’m proud that I fought for myself. I can’t take all the credit – I’m very grateful that I had strong managers to support me – but I did have to do quite a lot of shouting and legwork to get myself there.
As it turned out, the new job wasn’t right for me but after a few breakdowns and many sleepless nights I had a really honest and open discussion with my manager to address my unhappiness and as a result, (perhaps for the first time in my entire life) I realised what I wanted and that felt really good! I’ve left previous jobs because it wasn’t what I wanted, but it never occurred to me to sit down and work out what I wanted and needed from my job. Having the time and space to think about that was really gratifying. Although I was still working, being away from the office was the much-needed sabbatical that provided a fresh outlook and new perspective.
I’ve spoken to friends and family and we all feel quite guilty about having a good year. We gingerly bring up the taboo subject and mutter a hushed ‘well, actually…’. Perhaps this isn’t something to go out onto the balcony and clap about, but maybe this is the little morale-boost we need now, amidst the doom and gloom, to hear that people have found good in this year.
I know the pandemic hasn’t been good for many, but I do think it’s the sabbatical we all needed. Our environment, economy and society needed a harsh reset and hopefully we’ve all taken something good from this year that we can take forward into next. Dare I say it, with enthusiasm? ‘Roll on 2021’!