A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Monday, 10 December 2018

Today's the Day! || I'm Off to New Zealand

LA, 2017
Happy Monday everyone! It's an especially exciting one for me because this evening I'm flying to New Zealand!!! Despite it feeling like it was years away at the start of my recent job, this day seems to have come around so quickly and I can't believe that in a few hours I'm getting on that first flight to get there.

This isn't going to be a very long post - just a quick one to check in as I want to go and soak up my last bit of time with my Mum before I go! But I wanted to mark this day on here in some way because this really feels like I'm starting a completely new chapter in my life and I think days like that are quite rare.

I thought I'd wake up this morning feeling really anxious about the long flight and the fact that I'm going to be away from home for a few months but I have to say the predominant thing I'm feeling is excitement. And it's so bloody lovely to feel this way.

Everyone always says that you learn so much about yourself by travelling and, while I think you learn a lot about yourself through everything you experience in life, I do think travelling teaches you things very fast and in an intense way. It's funny to imagine what kind of things I'll see and do and how they might change me by the time I'm back. (God I'm going to be that insufferable 'gap yah' person aren't I?)

It's just an amazing time in my life and if I don't completely lose my mind on the 30 hour journey there I can't wait to see what's on the other side of this world.

I'm going to leave it there and will hopefully check in again soon - I'm spending a few weeks at my sister's before I go off properly travelling around New Zealand so I'm hoping to have some time to blog but if not I'll be back here when I'm back here! I hope you all have a wonderful week and are enjoying the run up to Christmas!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Thoughts on Finishing a Year and a Half of Therapy

I was listening to a podcast the other day (I know I know, how out of character of me) with the amazing Emma Gannon interviewing Katherine Ormerod. In the episode Katherine talked about how while she thinks that sharing things publicly can be great and really useful to both yourself and other people, it's important not to put things on the internet while you're going through them/things that you haven't fully processed.

I'm probably what you'd consider an oversharer. Not with everyone, but as soon as I'm comfortable around someone, I'm usually quite happy to tell them things ranging from my entire life story, my religious beliefs and even TMI things like my toilet habits (I have IBS so you could say that they can be interesting - my friends are super lucky). I've never worried about sharing things on this blog. But I don't think I've mentioned before that over the last eighteen months I've been having therapy.

I have written very briefly before about having therapy when I was younger but this time I think I felt like it was something I only wanted to write about when I had finished it. Like Katherine said, it was something I needed to fully process on my own before writing about it. And so here I am, having had my last session with my therapist after a year and a half on Wednesday evening.

I've been aware of the benefits of therapy from a very young age. After my parents divorced when I was six, my Mum retrained to become a psychotherapist and it was the best decision she ever made. She loves her job and because of that I've always seen therapy as a great thing when it's needed - just like going to the doctor when you're physically ill, in periods where you don't feel completely right mentally, therapy can be amazing.

Eighteen months ago I wasn't very happy at all. I wasn't clinically depressed nor did I have another mental illness but I did have spouts of anxiety and mostly I was just quite miserable. I felt very lost and confused by my feelings and my Mum suggested therapy might help. So, with nothing to lose and with some positive experiences of therapy in the past, I thought I'd give it a go. And I'm so glad that I did.

For the past eighteen months during which I have gone through so much change and felt so many feelings, I have had the constant support of my therapist to help me through it all. And I can't tell you what a comfort and help it's been. While I think of myself as a pretty emotionally-healthy person, I've been through a lot and definitely had some baggage that was causing me to find life pretty shitty when I first started seeing my therapist. And while we started off discussing/working through that, she later helped me through some really difficult times that came up during my last year of uni.

In fact, she was the one who made me realise back in August that I was so upset and having anxiety for the first time in months because I wasn't acknowledging to myself that I didn't have to do the masters I'd signed up for. She made me realise that my fear of what people would think was stopping me from admitting what I really wanted to do with this year and that is what gave me the courage to take this year out, and is why I'm getting on a plane to New Zealand on Monday evening.

Our last session was one of those rare opportunities in life to reflect on the past year and a half. It was lovely. I'm not the same girl I was when I walked through her door midway through 2017. I'm so much more confident, unafraid to ask for what I want (for the most part) and, most importantly, happy. Of course I'm not perfect and never will be and I still have days where I feel rubbish or have moments of anxiety. But I'm so much better equipped to deal with those now than I was then. And it was so lovely to mark the end of this chapter of my life before I go away in that way.

I am so incredibly lucky to have a Mum who made it a priority to pay for my therapy (and to have one who was in the logistical position to be able to make that a priority) and I'm very aware that many aren't as lucky and that NHS waiting times can be awful. But as my therapist said on Wednesday night to me, therapy is something that one can benefit from throughout life because life will always throw difficult things at you. And when those things knock you more than you can cope with, therapy can guide you through. So if you are in any way able to get that support, I'd really suggest trying it. It's truly one of the best things I've done over the last year and a half and I can't recommend it enough if you feel like you need that support.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 49

Happy Wednesday everyone! I've only got two days left of work and I'm off to New Zealand on Monday (!!!), which is complete madness but I'm so excited.

This week's prompt is: "List your favourite books". 

As you probably know if you've read this blog at all before, I'm such a book worm and have been since I was little so it was a tough task to whittle my favourite books down to just a few but these are the ones I've decided on:

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - I won't go on about this too much because I've got a post dedicated specifically to it here, but this is the best book I've read in 2018 and the storytelling is absolutely incredible.
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - Again, you can read my full thoughts on this book here, but this is such a great and important read, all about race relations in modern America and I just loved it.
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult - This was the first Jodi Picoult book I ever read and it has stayed with me ever since then (which I think was around 2011). Picoult writes truly incredible fiction about ethical dilemmas and this is one of my favourites of hers. It's about a school shooting and the aftermath and I really recommend that you give it a read.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Now you probably won't believe me but I promise I was obsessed with this book before it went crazy big and the film was made. It was probably my favourite book that I read during my teenage years. I read it again and again obsessively and I think it's one of those books I'll always come back to and still love. 
  • Places I Stopped on the Way Home by Meg Fee - This is the best memoir I've ever read by my favourite writer. I've gone on about it enough (again full review here) but if you're in your twenties or just figuring out life in any way you need to read this book.
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald - What can I say about this book? It's set in the dreamiest decade, has a fantastic storyline and some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. It's a must. The Bazz Luhrman film of it is one of my all-time favourite films so I'd recommend giving that a watch if you haven't already too! 

What are your all-time favourite books? 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

My Favourite Podcasts Part iv

So today I thought I'd share part four of my favourite podcasts, following on from part three the other week. Here are six more podcasts which I've been really enjoying lately and which I hope you'll love as much as I do if you give them a try!

18 // Fortunately - I don't really know how to describe this podcast but it's absolutely brilliant. The fabulous BBC broadcasters Fi Glover and Jane Garvey meet weekly at the BBC and talk about the weird and the wonderful with a different guest every week. They even stop people who just happen to be walking by in the building and have a quick chat with them, you never quite know what you're going to get but it's always great. I first subscribed because I adore Jane from listening to Woman's Hour and have quickly grown to love Fi just as much. Fortunately is such an uplifting, entertaining listen and I highly recommend it.

19 // Desert Island Discs - This is the recommendation that you must have heard of. Desert Island Discs has been running since 1942 and in it guests imagine that they are to be stranded on a desert island alone for the rest of their lives but are allowed to take eight songs, one book (aside from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare), and a luxury. The interviews are just lovely and end up discussing in huge depth the guest's life and why these songs mean so much to them. Episodes make me laugh, cry and sometimes leave me with a better outlook on life. The particular highlights for me have been with guests Billie Jean King, Anne-Marie Duff and Stella McCartney but there are literally thousands in the archives.

20 // The Fringe of It - The Fringe of It is a relatively new podcast which launched this year and the premise is that friends and amazing bloggers, Charlotte Jacklin and Liv Purvis (both of whom I adore), meet to discuss what they've been up to, loved on telly, been shopping and eating, before talking about a dedicated topic, sometimes with a special guest. I love how they combine a catch up (which are often full of some fab recommendations) with getting into meaty topics like money, activism and women's health and never finish listening to an episode without having a smile plastered along my face.

21 // George Ezra & Friends - This podcast is another one which is a relatively new discovery and which was created this year. In each episode George Ezra interviews a different person from the music industry about how they got to where they are, what they've learnt and what's important to them. They're really great interviews and you can tell that the guest feels totally relaxed in George's company, giving you so much more of an insight than your typical media interview. I was a little bit in love with George Ezra already (just look at that face) but I'm even more in love with him now having listened to his great podcast and I definitely think you should check it out. My personal favourites so far have been with Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Sam Smith and Jessie Ware.

22 // Love Stories with Dolly Alderton - This podcast was a one-off (although it would make my entire life if Dolly released another series), nine episode series in which Dolly Alderton aka my idol interviewed guests about love. She asked each of them to tell specific stories to them of their first love, an unrequited love and an everlasting love - there are definitely more but those are the three I remember off the top of my head. Each interview is such a delicious conversation and it's the only podcast this year I've kept coming back to to re-listen, and I have a feeling I'm going to be coming back to them for years to come. My favourite Love Story interviews were with Vanessa Kirby, Afua Hirsch and Ruth Jones.

23 // Political Thinking with Nick Robinson - In Political Thinking former political editor of the BBC and current presenter of the Today Programme Nick Robinson "talks about what's really going on in British politics". Each week he summarises the key events of the time and then interviews a political guest about them and about their life, how they got into politics and their approach to issues and current affairs. From Diane Abbott to Jacob Rees-Mogg to Caroline Lucas, Nick has a range of guests on from week to week and there's never a dull moment, in my opinion anyway. I think that Robinson is a really excellent interviewer and the episodes I've enjoyed the most so far have been with Jess Phillips (love her), Sir John Major (didn't expect to find this one as interesting as I did) and with Peter Tatchell. It's a great listen and a great way to keep up with what's going on in British politics.

So there you have it. I've now recommended 23 of my favourite podcasts! If you haven't taken a look at them already you can find part one, part two and part three of my favourite podcasts by clicking on the links I've added. If you do give any of them a go let me know, I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 48

How is it week 48 of 2018?! I can't get my head around it one bit, it'll be New Year's Eve before we know it!

This week's prompt is: "List the things you want to add to your life" which I thought was a really interesting one. I'm lucky to have a pretty full life - it's definitely not perfect but I'm really blessed in so many ways that it took me a while to think of things I'd like to add to it but here's what sprung to mind...

  • Adventure - The past few months have been very vanilla in that I've mostly spent them just going to work to do a job that's pretty mundane although perfect in that I've been on a three month contract and it's funding my travelling! But because of that and the fact that my life before this year has pretty much been entirely spent in full-time education, I'm really craving a bit of adventure and something different. It's handy that I'm off to New Zealand in two weeks then isn't it?
  • Fun - There's definitely going to be a theme to this list I can see it already. But, again, I want to mix things up a bit and make room for more fun and spontaneity in my life.
  • Different experiences - Ok this is the last travelling-related one I promise. But although I've lived a great life so far it hasn't been filled with a huge range of different experiences and I'd like to try some new things and see what I make of them in this coming year.
  • Education - You might think this is an odd one to stick on the end when I've just been writing about how I've spent almost my entire life in education but I love learning and there's always more to learn. The past few months I've been educating myself in different ways to the usual - through podcasts, books such as Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race and even through some of the people I follow on Instagram. I'm learning how important it is to acknowledge my privilege and to make time to learn about and listen to minority voices and educating myself in this way is something I definitely want to keep doing. 

So those are the things I'm hoping to add to my life over the coming months. What kind of things are you looking for in yours?

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Recently I'm Reading // This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

As mentioned in my last 'Currently' post, I've recently finished reading This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay and loved it so much that I wanted to write properly about it today. If you haven't heard of this book you must have been hiding under a rock somewhere because it feels like everyone and their dog has been reading it lately, and for very good reason.

So if you are somehow one of those people who doesn't know what this book is about, it's written by now-comedian and ex-junior doctor Adam Kay and is comprised of extracts from diaries he kept during his years working as a junior doctor in NHS hospitals. The blurb reads:

"Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.
Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay's This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know - and more than a few things you didn't - about life on and off the hospital ward."

The book does exactly what it says on the tin - it gives a wonderfully (and sometimes painfully) honest account of what it's really like to work for the NHS under the pressure it's facing and it's so incredibly insightful. To be honest, I think it should be required reading because although much of it is written in an absolutely hilarious way (which is unsurprising given that Kay is now a comedian), it really illustrates what our country's doctors are putting up with and going through every single day to give us the care we need. I have never admired doctors more or felt so grateful for the NHS having now read first-hand what they go through day in day out to do their job. I think we take for granted just how lucky we are to have a free national health service or at least I know I do but it really is amazing and would be impossible without these amazing doctors, nurses and everyone else involved in the running of the NHS' dedication to it.

Some entries had me laughing out loud they were so funny (the range of things people put inside of themselves alone will have you questioning the sanity of humanity), while others had me weeping. I actually finished this book on a bus and I don't recommend that because the entry which really had me crying was one of the very last ones and we all know it's awkward as Brits to cry in a public place. It's just a wonderful book from beginning to end and by far one of the best books I've read this year.

After finishing it, I listened to an interview with Adam Kay on one of my favourite podcasts, Ctrl Alt Delete which you can listen to here if you're interested. It was so nice to hear Kay talk about compiling the book, the ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's reaction to it, and to hear him read an extract of it himself. I think I've seen that Kay is doing a tour of the book and I'm sure that would be amazing to go to as well.

The book has had so much success, being a Sunday Times Number One Bestseller and the Humour Book of The Year, that I probably don't need to tell you this, but if you haven't already please do read this book. Kay's writing is such a treat and you'll come out having a newfound respect for NHS staff and all they do.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and if you're interested in keeping up with what I'm reading outside of on the blog you can follow me on Goodreads here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Weeks 46 & 47

Good morning everyone (or afternoon/evening depending on when you're reading this)! I hope you're having a great week so far. I'm really not enjoying the cold turn the UK has taken this week and the ridiculously early dark nights. They make me so sleepy and groggy and I just can't wait to escape the Winter and head to New Zealand.

Anyway, this week it's a double whammy as I didn't get around to writing last week's list so I'll get straight into it without further ado!

Week 46 :: "List your greatest comforts."

  • My Mum - Nothing in the world is more comforting than my Mum for me. I don't think I'm alone in that whenever I start to feel ill, scared, sad or any kind of negative emotion the first thing I think is the same as what I've thought pretty much since I was a baby... 'I want my Mum!'. I don't think that instinct will ever leave me (although I can survive without her immediately being there now!) and for good reason, my Mum is amazing and she's such a comfort to me whatever I'm going through.
  • The amazing people in my life - I'm so lucky for many reasons but one of them is to have some truly wonderful people in my life who, no matter what I'm going through, I know will be there to make me feel better. Just a conversation or a message from them can be such a source of comfort to me and they're all bloody brilliant.
  • Books - One of my favourite quotes is by W Somerset Maugham who said "To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life". I couldn't have put it better myself - reading lets me escape into an entirely different world and makes everything feel a bit better. 
  • Music - Similarly to books, music is a great comfort to me. Whatever mood you're in or feeling you're experiencing, I'll bet you there's a song about it. And even when times are tough and you're in a shitty situation, I always find it so comforting to find a song which completely relays my feelings because it reminds me that I'm not alone in it.
  • Warmth - There's nothing like being cosy by a fire or having a hot water bottle to comfort me. I hate the cold (as I've already said in this post) and so nothing makes me feel more at ease than being warm and cosy.
  • Hugs - I love love love a hug. They're just the best. Nothing more is needed to say about them but that - such a great comfort.
  • People playing with my hair - This might seem like a bit of a random one, and I'd like to clarify that I wouldn't find it a comfort in the slightest if a stranger came up to me and started playing with my hair but (when it's someone I'm close to) playing with my hair is the most relaxing thing in the world. I completely lap it up and I bet I'm not the only one.

And onto Week 47 :: "List the things you are grateful for." 

  • The wonderful people in my life - As I've just mentioned, the incredible people I'm surrounded by are a huge comfort to me and I am so so grateful for them. They make my life so much better and nothing would be the same without them. 
  • My health - I think that health is something we take for granted until we have a scare. Even when we have a cold, we always claim we'll appreciate being fully healthy forever from then on as soon as the cold has cleared off... but of course we don't. When I actually stop and think about it though, being healthy allows me to live my life as I want to, in fact it's what allows me to still be alive! I'm so grateful to have my health and definitely need to appreciate it more.
  • My education - I've been so lucky to have had an excellent education. I went to a great state primary and secondary school, and then was granted a full bursary to attend an incredible private school for sixth form, following which I went to the University of Exeter to study my undergraduate degree. Education is so important and opens the doors in so many ways to the best things in life and I don't underestimate how blessed I am to have had such a good one.
  • My freedom - I'm so grateful to be living in the twenty-first century in a country which allows me to make my own decisions, to have the right to vote and to navigate my own life. It's what's allowing me to go travelling this year, to hopefully undertake an amazing career and to live my life how I want to. 

I could go on and on about the things I'm grateful for (there are so many) but since this is a bumper edition of the 52 Lists Project I thought I'd leave it there for today! 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

My Favourite Podcasts Part iii

I've been pretty much obsessed with podcasts for nearly four years now. They're just the best - whenever I'm walking somewhere, on the bus or train or rarely plane and don't fancy reading, trying to get to sleep and can't, they engage my brain and are so educational and fun to listen to. Podcasts have blown up in a big way, especially among my generation, so this is by no means a new thing for me to be sharing today. But a couple of years ago I shared ten of my favourite podcasts in two posts: one and two. And in the time since then I've discovered many more and have lots of new favourites that you just *have* to listen to.

So today I thought I'd carry on from that list two years ago and share part three of my favourite podcasts. Please let me know if you listen to and love these podcasts as well and pass on any of your own recommendations - I don't know how I keep up with them all nowadays but I'll always make room for a new, great podcast!

11 // Nobody Panic - This podcast is hosted by the wonderful comedians Stevie Martin and Tessa Coates and is described as a "guidebook to being a fully functioning adult without screaming all the time. Each week, Stevie and Tessa tackle life's big, small, fun and sometimes scary questions with the help of experts and special guests because we're all in this together, guys. So nobody panic". As I've mentioned many times recently, adulthood is pretty terrifying and this podcast makes me so happy because not only does it offer practical advice for facing adulthood from topics such as how to start a business, how to make a choice and even how to sleep well, but Stevie and Tessa give that advice in the most funny, down-to-earth way.

12 // Ways to Change the World with Krishnan Guru-Murthy - Ways to Change the World is a Channel 4 podcast with journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy in which he interviews a range of people on their views on the world, how they think it should be changed and how they think that change can be achieved. Some clips from guests Guru-Murphy has interviewed have gone viral such as the episode with Jameela Jamil and Richard Curtis so you've probably heard of it but I can tell you first-hand that it's really great. Every episode is so interesting and insightful and he's interviewed such interesting people from Lily Cole to Jess Phillips to Reni Eddo-Lodge and more. Definitely download an episode if you haven't already!

13 // The Guilty Feminist - If you haven't listened to The Guilty Feminist podcast you absolutely need to. It's hosted by comedian Deborah Frances-White who is absolutely amazing and each episode is recorded live with special guests discussing different topics and how we should approach them as feminists. The show's premise is based on feminism in the twenty-first century and how we can achieve feminist goals despite the things that undermine them. What I love about it is that it highlights that none of us are perfect (the 'I'm a feminist, but...' segment at the start of every episode is absolute genius) but that that doesn't make us any less good feminists and in and amongst the absolutely top-notch stand-up comedy are really accessible and informative discussions on how we can make this world a better place.

14 // The High Low - Now this is a bold statement, but The High Low has to be my favourite podcast of all time. I am completely and utterly obsessed with journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes who host it and each week talk about the latest news and pop culture, from the high to the low brow of events and issues. I'm truly in awe of the time and dedication Alderton and Sykes must dedicate every week to researching the topics they discuss so that they can have a conversation which is always so informed and undertaken with such care. If you couldn't tell I can't speak highly enough of it, their weekly recommendations for what to read, listen to, and watch and even Dolly recommending the Sainsbury's app of all things recently ensure that I'm clued up on all the best and most important things out there at the moment (or at least highly entertained) and listening to the episodes is an absolute highlight of my week.

15 // Jules and Sarah the Podcast - This is a very recent discovery for me but one that I have quickly come to love dearly. I've got such a backlog of episodes to catch up on but Jules and Sarah the Podcast is a podcast in which best friends Jules Von Hep and Sarah Powell meet and for half an hour have essentially the most random but hilarious and heart-warming discussions - from how their mothers are doing, to sharing quirky news articles from the north of the country to playing would you rather. I can't describe how funny I find Jules and Sarah and it's just like listening to two best friends have a catch-up every week which may not sound like the most entertaining thing, but I promise you it is. These half an hour podcasts are sound bites of pure delight and I've said it before but I'll say it again, I really would love Jules and Sarah to be my best friends.

16 // Table Manners with Jessie Ware - This podcast is a pure delight. Singer Jessie Ware and her wonderful mum Lennie have a guest round for dinner and they discuss all kinds of things but mainly focus on food. They've had so many great guests on, particular highlights for me being Sadiq Khan, Ed Sheeran, Dolly Alderton and Sandi Toksvig, and it's just such a joy to listen to such a lovely mother and daughter have such great conversations with really interesting people. It's definitely worth a listen.

17. Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel - This podcast is another recent discovery of mine which I absolutely adore. It's an insight into couples' therapy sessions as each episode is a recording of a one-off session for a couple with psychotherapist Esther Perel. All couples are kept anonymous which allows the episodes to remain true to the couple's feelings and experiences and it's just phenomenal. If, like me, you're super interested in other people and relationships (read: nosey) then you will love this. Not only does it teach you so much about love and relationships in this time but about communication and the very basics of human interaction. I am obsessed.

So there you have part iii of my favourite podcasts. There are so many I'm loving at the moment that I'm going to share part iv really soon too! I hope you're all having a wonderful start to your weekend.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Truth About Graduate Life

Today I want to talk about graduate life. That crazy time when (if you went to university) you're thrust out into the big wide world for the first time with no road map in front of you. This post has been sitting in my drafts for about a month now. And then I saw the lovely Holly's post about her experience of grad life so far and it encouraged me to polish this one off and send it out into the world.

As Holly points out in her wonderful post, we don't really talk about grad life, or at least not very honestly. I think for most of us we're the first generation where the majority of us go to university, and then come out and have a huge array of different options we can take. My Mum grew up in Communist Romania and the other day was telling me how, after being one of the very few actually allowed to go to university, she graduated and was told she could either be a teacher or a translator and that was it. Even the place where she would work was assigned to her. Bleak, right?

Because of that, I think the fact that it's now pretty widely accepted for grads to have gap years, to do further study and take other routes rather than going straight into work has led us all to think that we have it great and that graduating opens up such an exciting period of our lives. And it definitely does, especially in contrast to generations before us who didn't have as much choice. But it's also pretty damn terrifying and overwhelming at times and I think it's so important to talk about that.

Before I do, I want to write a disclaimer that I am fully aware what a privileged position I'm in to have all of these options in front of me and to have an undergraduate degree from a great university. Life has dealt me a wonderful hand so far and I am so grateful for that and don't for a second mean to suggest with this post that graduates like myself have it tougher than many people in this country who are suffering today and don't have many options at all. I'm also aware that not all graduates are in my position either and this is an account of my experience only. With that said I would like to open up a dialogue about the fact that it is at times overwhelming to have come out of full-time education which I've been in since I was four-years-old and to be attempting to navigate my life.

It's so hard to know what's 'right' and I think we have an obsession with taking the right path and doing the right thing when actually at this age I'm not so sure there is a right path or one right thing to do immediately after graduating. Heck I was so unsure about the right path for me that I nearly did a masters this year. It's so unbelievably confusing trying to consider what to do. And I just want to take a moment to say that that's ok, if for no one else than for myself.

I'm so unbelievably excited to go travelling in a month (!!) and have what I'm sure is going to be such an adventure unlike anything I've done in my life so far. But I'd be lying if I said that I haven't spent the past few months also questioning whether taking this year out is a huge mistake, looking at friends around me who already have amazing jobs with great security and wondering if I should have gone for that too or if by taking this year out I'm making myself unemployable. And that's even though taking time to travel is something I've wanted to for years and something which I know many employers actually admire nowadays and, even if they didn't, touch wood I've got my whole life to work but this is a once-in-a-life time thing. Yet I can't count the number of times that I've cried to my Mum because I'm scared of what the future holds and there are so many things I might like to do but I'm not sure exactly what I want to do and even if I can decide what I want to do, the jobs market feels so hard to get into these days that I sometimes worry I might never get a job. And, as you can see from that very long sentence documenting my train of thought alone, it's very easy to spiral, be completely panicked and wonder what the hell I'm doing.

But, having spoken extensively to my very best friends, all of whom are doing completely different things this year, I've realised that no matter what you're doing, everyone feels exactly the same way. My friends who have those amazing jobs and that security I can only dream of right now have told me of thoughts that 'this is it' for the rest of their lives, and worries that they'll now never be able to take time out to travel like I am. I have other friends who have started masters, realised they've got years ahead of them before they'll have finished study to do the jobs they want to do and feel behind everyone because of that. Whatever we're doing as new graduates, this is the first time we're really in the driving seat of our lives and that's damn scary. Amazing too, absolutely. But uncertain and terrifying in this world where so much is changing and unknown at the moment. Lord knows what Brexit will do to the jobs market, there's just no predicting the future right now. And that's a lot of anxiety to put on my generation's shoulders. So no wonder this period of our lives is scary and hard and difficult at the same time as being exciting, energising and freeing.

If you're a recent graduate who can relate to these feelings of uncertainty, I hope this helps you to know that you're not alone. However you're feeling about facing graduate life, it's ok. It's ok to be unsure and sad at the same time as being excited and over the moon to finally be in control of your own life. We're only in our early twenties, and with the help of wonderful people around us, we will figure it out I know it.

So the truth is graduate life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. But that's ok. It's a really turbulent time and it's real life, we've just all got to hang on in there.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 45

It's another Wednesday, and another 52 lists project from me! I'm writing this tucked up in bed where I've been for the past four days after I had my wisdom teeth out on Friday. Let me tell you, it's not fun and games having four teeth taken out under full anaesthetic. I've been so exhausted and my mouth's been really sore so I've been feeling a bit sorry for myself and taking it very easy. But I'm slowly getting better and better so hopefully in a few days I'll be back to my normal self.

Anyway this week's list has been a very welcome distraction from all of that! Now that it's actually November I think that it's perhaps acceptable to think about this list which reads: "List the things that make up your ideal holiday season."

Now this year for the first time I'm spending Christmas abroad, at my sister's in New Zealand so it's not going to be the traditional Christmas season I'm used to at all. But I couldn't be more excited for it and these are the things that usually make up my ideal holiday season...

  • Christmas film watching - I'm sorry but it's not Christmas if you don't watch Elf, Love Actually, The Holiday, Bridget Jones' Diary, and all the other classic Christmas films which never fail to put me in the festive mood.
  • Visiting Christmas markets and drinking mulled wine - I absolutely love mulled wine and having a warm cup of it when it's cold outside and looking around Christmas markets is my idea of festive heaven.
  • Time spent with loved ones - Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without spending some real quality time with my family on both the big day itself and in the lead-up to it. 
  • Secret Santa with my best friends - I think I'm going to have to miss it this year because I'll be away sadly but for the last I don't know how many years my best friends and I have done Secret Santa and had an evening where we all give each other our presents and it's always the most lovely and fun night.
  • Lots and lots of mince pies - Again, it wouldn't be Christmas for me without mince pies a-plenty. I'm going to have to get my money's worth in early this year because I'm not sure they're a thing in New Zealand and I don't want to miss out on one of my favourite winter treats!
  • Decorating the Christmas tree - There's nothing better than the smell of a Christmas tree and spending an evening decorating it with my Mum. 

I could have spent an age carrying on with different Christmas traditions but I thought I'd leave it there today. Writing that has completely got me in the festive spirit and as soon as I'm well enough to eat proper solid food again you can bet that mince pies are going to be the first things I'm after! What things make up your ideal festive period?

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 44

Happy Wednesday everyone. I've got an operation to have all four of my wisdom teeth out on Friday which I'm having a full anaesthetic for so I'm a bit nervous for that but otherwise my week is going pretty well and I hope yours is too!

This week's prompt is: "List the words that warm your spirit."  and, since I'm such a quote-hoarder, this was a very easy list for me because all it involved is me looking through my favourite quotes note on my phone and picking the ones that I think warm my spirit the most! So here they are...

  • "We read to know that we are not alone." - C.S. Lewis
  • "Have patience with all things, but, first of all, with yourself." - St Francis de Sales
  • "As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better." - Steve Maraboli
  • "The way you love yourself is the way you teach other people to love you." - Sophia Bush
  • "Never be so faithful to your plan that you are unwilling to entertain the improbable opportunity that comes looking for you." - Elizabeth Warren
  • "Contentment feels like knowing a phase of your life is done with, feeling grateful it happened and happy you're in the next one." - Dolly Alderton

So there you have it, some of my very favourite words. I hope you liked them too!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Currently #14

I was going to sit down and write a completely different post today but I've really been feeling like I want to check in. I've been writing a lot on here lately which I'm loving but it's been a few posts since I've taken stock of what my life looks like right now and so I thought doing a 'currently' post would be the best way to do just that. If you're interested you can find my previous 'currently' posts here.

Side note: Am currently wishing I was at this beautiful beach in Norfolk on this day when it was 30 degrees 

Reading :: I've just finished This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay and am starting Stylist's Life Lessons From Remarkable Women. This Is Going To Hurt must be one of the most successful books of this year and having finally read it, I can see exactly why. I think I'm going to do a proper post dedicated to it but for a preview, the hype is totally worth it; it's such a great and important read. Stylist's Life Lessons From Remarkable Women came out earlier this year and is made up of 25 chapters by 25 amazing women sharing an important life lesson they've learnt. I feel like I could use all of the great life-affirming advice I can get at the moment so I'm really looking forward to diving into this!

Eating :: Porridge. I am absolutely obsessed with it and breakfast has become my favourite meal of the day these past few weeks. I've been buying Rude Health's Fruity Date porridge which comes with dried dates, apricots and apple pieces in it and it's absolutely delicious with a bit of honey and some blueberries sprinkled on top. It's the perfect breakfast for this season and I can't get enough.

Thinking about :: Travelling, my operation next week and the future. Bit of a rogue mix but my mind is racing at 100 miles an hour lately, I've got so much going on in this little head of mine. Firstly, travelling. I feel like I spend every waking hour thinking a mix of 'I can't wait to be away travelling', 'how many weeks do I have left at work until I go away?', 'I can't wait to see and travel with Liam', aaand it goes around in a never-ending cycle until I go to sleep. When you're in a job that you know is temporary and which is pretty mundane (as grateful as I am for it), and have got travelling to look forward to at the end of it, I guess it's unsurprising that all I can think about is when it will be done and going away. I'm just so excited and impatient and feel ready to go right now. But, alas, there are still six weeks to go. So onto my operation. Next Friday I'm having a general anaesthetic in hospital to have my wisdom teeth out. I am the world's biggest wuss when it comes to things like this, hate hospitals, hate needles, hate pain. So all in all this is going to be a bit of a nightmare for me and it's been playing on my mind a lot as we're getting closer and closer to the op date. Finally, the good old future. Ah the future. My favourite thing to think about. While six months travelling sounds like ages I just know it will fly by and before I know it I'll be back and having to face the real world i.e. look for a proper job. And, ngl, that really terrifies me right now. Not because I don't want one but because I feel like it's going to be really bloody difficult to get a good one and I'm quite scared about that at the moment. But there's not much I can do right now so I'm just going to face that music when  I'm back from travelling and just enjoy being away before I have to do so!

Watching :: Press, Strictly Come Dancing & The Great British Bake Off. SCD and GBBO I feel need no explanation, they're classics and I love watching them both dearly. Press on the other hand is a six-part BBC drama series about two rival newspapers and the journalists that work at them. It's far more complex than that though and hugely gripping, tackling ethical dilemmas such as whistle-blowing and where the boundaries lie for members of the press. I hugely recommend giving it a watch on iPlayer if you haven't already, such great acting and such a great plot.

Listening to :: Podcasts. All day every day. At the job I'm doing I'm allowed to listen to podcasts as long as I get my work done and so I spend pretty much the entire working week listening to podcasts as I work and it's glorious. I've written about some of my favourite podcasts before but I've made lots of new discoveries since then and my favourites this week are Jules and Sarah The Podcast, The Guilty Feminist and Table Manners with Jessie Ware. Definitely give them a listen if you're into podcasts too. Music-wise you can have a nosey at my October playlist here if you're interested at what's been the soundtrack to my car journeys this month.

Loving :: Voice notes. I've got a lot of friends who are sadly not in London at the moment - they've rudely gone back to uni or on year abroads - and voice noting them is just my absolute favourite thing. I'm not the biggest fan of texting - it's not very personal and texts are easily misinterpreted - but sometimes finding a time to call someone when you're both free feels nigh-on impossible too. That's where voice noting comes in and is the best thing ever. Being able to listen to a lovely update from one of my wonderful friends in their own voice whenever is convenient for me to listen to, and the same for them when I send one back, is amazing. I am just the biggest champion of them and am so past the point of being self-conscious of voice noting that I'll happily walk down the street holding my phone and recording a voice note. They're great and if you've got anyone in your life who you're physically apart from at the moment let me tell you voice noting is the way forward.

So there you have it. You're all caught up on what's going on in my little head of late. I hope you all have wonderful weekends whatever you're up to!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 43

Another week, another list. If I wasn't already before, I'm now fully living and breathing my countdown until I go travelling... only seven weeks to go! I just can't wait to get away and to see my family and Liam.

Anyway, wishing time would hurry up aside, this week's prompt is: "List your favourite meals and treats." Now I *love* food almost more than life itself. I can't function when I'm hungry and nothing makes me happier than a beautifully cooked meal eaten with loved ones, so I was more than happy to sit down and think of my favourite things to eat this week...

  • Ham & mushroom pizza - I was going to just write pizza but I thought maybe I should be a bit more specific and, if I had to choose, this would be my favourite pizza. It's the one I always order in Franco Manca (one of my favourite pizza places in London, aside from Homeslice), although I do always add chorizo if I'm eating there too. You just can't beat pizza in my eyes, I could honestly live off of it.
  • Pasta - Seafood, meaty, tomato-y, whatever form, I adore pasta. Italian food is the best in the world and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me on this one. 
  • Katsu curry - I find katsu curry to be one of the most comforting meals of all time. The creamy sauce is so incredible and despite trying to be more adventurous, nine times out of ten if I'm eating at Wagamama I'm ordering a katsu curry and having zero regrets about it. 
  • Burger & sweet potato fries - Sometimes I get a craving for a burger and nothing will do but a really good one with sweet potato fries on the side. My favourite burgers are from GBK and if anyone suggests going there for food, I'm in right away. 
  • Avocado toast brunch - Brunch is one of my favourite meals and me and my school friends know how to do brunch just right. It's basic as hell, but poached eggs and avocado on toast is my favourite brunch meal. Combine that with fresh orange juice and if we're celebrating, a glass of prosecco, makes for a very happy Anna.
  • Fresh peaches - Peaches are my favourite fruit and have been ever since I was little and spent summers in Romania where they have the best home-grown peaches in the world. Peaches in the summer feel like such a treat to me and I'm gutted that they're out of season once again and I won't be snacking on them any time soon.
  • Ben & Jerry's ice cream - A tub of Ben & Jerry's cures anything - heartbreak, a bad day, frustration - you name it, cookie dough will fix it. My Mum always made a point to have a tub in the freezer when I was growing up just in case it was needed and it was the best thing ever, top parenting in my book.
  • Apple & salted caramel cake - This is very specific but I think that this is my favourite ever cake. When it comes to cake I'm more partial to lemon, carrot or some kind of fruit-based cake than chocolate. I make the best brownies (if I do say so myself) but they're not my favourite and I would pick my favourite apple & salted caramel cake over them in a heartbeat. My Mum sometimes buys me this cake from a local artisan bakery and it is *so good*. 

Ok well I've just made myself sufficiently hungry and am going to go and find something to eat! I hope you're having a lovely week whatever you're doing. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 42

Happy Hump Day gang, it will be the weekend before we know it now! I'm writing this on Tuesday evening and am feeling a bit sorry for myself because I've just had three jabs for travelling in my right arm and the aching is really not the one. As a complete digression I just want to share that I had the *loveliest* nurse sorting them out for me and as someone who hates needles it made all the difference. It just reminded me that the NHS is bloody brilliant and I feel so grateful to live in a country which has one.

Anyway, now that that tangent's over, this week's prompt is: "List the things that make you feel peaceful." 

Sitting down and having a little think about what makes me peaceful was such a great exercise to do because over the past couple of weeks I haven't been feeling all that peaceful tbh. I've been super busy (doing all fun things so I can't complain) but also I've been feeling quite angry at things going on in the world: Brexit, Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the US Supreme Court, need I go on...

Because of that I haven't taken enough time to make sure that I do the things which help me to relax and I'm definitely going to carve out some time this weekend for them. I know self-care comes with some mixed connotations at the moment but I personally think that when the world is full of so much uncertainty you can't beat taking some time out to make sure that you're ok; that you have inner peace despite anything that may be going on. There's absolutely a time and a place for anger, outrage and action (more on that in my next post in a few days' time) but you still have to make sure that your own oxygen mask is on first before you tackle those things and taking the time to do the things which calm your mind a little are perfect for doing just that.

So, with that said, here are the things which make me feel peaceful:

  • Being by the sea - This one is the ultimate cliche but it's a cliche for a reason. The sea itself, the sea air and the sound of the waves never fail to make me feel calm, contemplative and at peace. I need to spend more time by the sea this year for sure.
  • Listening to a podcast - It's no secret that I'm obsessed with podcasts and listening to particularly good ones while getting ready for my day ahead really relaxes me as I tune out of my brain and into whatever's being discussed. 
  • Chamomile tea - This is a very specific one but I love a cup of chamomile tea before bed, if I've got an upset tummy or if I just feel like I need to chill. It always relaxes me - it's honestly a herb with magical powers. 
  • Headspace - I have a subscription to the Headspace app and find that taking ten minutes to do the guided mindfulness sessions really refreshes/resets me and makes me feel like a brand new person if I'm having a hectic day.
  • Yoga - Much along the same lines as Headspace, doing some yoga or pilates is the perfect level of intensity for me while completely resetting me if I'm in a bad mood or stressed. I always leave the mat feeling better than when I came to it, no matter my mood beforehand.
  • Lavender - The smell of lavender completely relaxes me, especially before bed. I used to have lavender bags which I put in my bed and now I have a sleepy spray which smells of it which I use if I can't sleep. The smell always calms me. 
  • Reading a book - Much like listening to podcasts, reading books takes me to another world and allows me to really switch off and chill out. Reading with a cup of chamomile tea before bed is the ultimate way for me to feel at peace.
  • Going for a walk - If I'm feeling stressed, taking myself outside and just walking always gives me perspective and makes me feel better. It's so so good for you and I need to do this more often!

So those are the things that sprung to mind for me. It's funny that none of them are 'scrolling through Instagram and the like', which I stupidly spend so much time doing and which never calm me down at all - just an observation I had! What things make you feel peaceful?

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 41

Happy weekend everyone! I'm spending mine in Exeter with my uni friends and I couldn't be more excited to see them and be back in one of my favourite places. Anyway, this week's prompt is: "List your favourite things about Autumn."

Before I get to my favourite things about Autumn, I have to admit that it isn't one of my favourite seasons at all. I know for so many people you can't beat this season, but it just doesn't do it for me. I prefer it to Winter which is funny, given that I'm a Winter baby, but I just hate the dark evenings and late sunrises. They make me feel so sluggish, I hate the cold and all in all I just think nothing compares to how happy I am in the Summer. But there are still some things I love about Autumn so here they are....

  • The leaves falling from the trees - Even though the trees blossoming in Spring is one of the highlights of the year for me, I do appreciate how stunning it is to see the beautiful red and orange leaves falling from the trees preparing for Winter. 
  • Conker collecting - I don't do this any more really but when I was younger I was completely obsessed with collecting as many conkers as was humanly possible for a little one to carry (much to my Mum's delight I'm sure) and every year seeing the hundreds of conkers reminds me of that time and puts a smile on my face.
  • The feeling of a fresh start Autumn brings - Autumn will always signal a new school year for me. Even though this year for the first time I'm not starting a new school year, I have started a new job and the changing of the season marking Summer's end always feels like a new chapter is beginning and I really love that.
  • Guy Fawkes' night - November counts as Autumn right? Some of my favourite memories ever are from bonfire nights spent watching beautiful fireworks, having hot chocolates, and toasting marshmallows. It's one of my favourite nights of the year and one of the rare times when I really appreciate the dark and the cold of this season. This year sadly I'll be just recovering from an operation to have my wisdom teeth out so I'm not sure I'll be able to go to a firework night so I'll just have to save it for next year.
  • Bowls of warm porridge for breakfast - This might not be inherently specific to Autumn for everyone, but for me it usually marks the time when I switch from something like overnight oats to making porridge for breakfast and I just love how a bowl of porridge warms you up and fills you up for the morning - the perfect Autumn breakfast.

So there you have it, my favourite things about this funny (to me) season. What are your favourite things about Autumn?

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Recently I'm Reading // Places I Stopped On The Way Home by Meg Fee

I have read Meg Fee's blog for probably around seven years. In that time I have read of her ups and downs in New York City, how she's navigated both an eating disorder, dating and figuring out who she is. She has been my one of my favourite writers ever since I discovered her blog and, having been lucky enough to meet her when she was in London last year, I can confidently say that she's just as wonderful in person as she is in her words.

Two years ago she released an e-book consisting of sixteen essays which I devoured and wrote about here. Since then Meg has developed and extended those essays and in May of this year what was originally an e-book became a published book of the same title. I am a little bit obsessed with Meg's writing and so not only did I read this the month it came out, but I have just re-read it over the past couple of weeks. Now I very rarely re-read books and almost never re-read one so soon after my first reading of it. But Meg writes about navigating your twenties with such raw honesty that her words are such a comfort to me and while I'm currently at the start of my twenties and experiencing the uncertainty (and excitement) of them for the first time, I wanted to come back and lap up her writing all over again.

If you haven't heard of this book, here is its blurb: "In Places I Stopped on the Way Home, Meg Fee plots her life in New York City - from falling in love at the Lincoln Center to escaping the roommate (and bedbugs) from hell on Thompson Street, chasing false promises on 66th Street and the wrong men everywhere to finding true friendships over glasses of wine in Harlem and Greenwich Village. Weaving together her joys and sorrows, expectations and uncertainties, aspirations and realities, the result is an exhilarating collection of essays about love and friendship, failure and suffering, and above all hope. Join Meg on her heart-wrenching journey, as she cuts the difficult path to finding herself and finding home."

It is a stunningly beautiful book, split into chapters based on places Meg associates with what she's writing about. Everyone knows that living in New York in your twenties is something of a dream. I imagine it to be incredible, with opportunity on every corner and adventures wherever you look. But, like anything in life, the reality does not always live up to the dream. And this book feels like a love letter from Meg to this city in which she grew up and in which she learned some of the toughest lessons life can give. It is a love letter in which Meg writes about her journey to discovering what she deserves, what she wants out of life and love and how difficult it can be to honour that.

Along the way Meg describes friendships, both toxic and foundational, love that goes wrong, with men who are not in a place to love, and the searching for a home in the city that never sleeps. It is most simply an account of what it is like to go through your twenties as a woman in this world and I appreciate so much that Meg does not hold back in describing how difficult but also wonderful it can be at times. Meg writes:

"The twenties are hard. Everyone who is not in their twenties says this. And everyone who is in their twenties knows this. But when you are in the middle of it, hearing people who are not, say, 'Yeah it's rough', isn't terribly helpful. But then you start to crest upon a new decade and you think, 'Holy shit! The twenties are so, so hard, but the view from up here is incredible!'... There is not one thing I wish I had learned sooner. There is not one thing I think I was meant to know before I knew it. Because I learned about trusting my gut only after I didn't. And I learned about love in the trenches of heartbreak. And I understood the value of showing up only after I failed to do so. But it is how I learned each thing that has shaped the woman I am today, and the woman I'll be tomorrow, and the day after."

I can't recommend reading this book more highly. As the incredible Emma Gannon writes, "Reading Meg Fee's writing is like an act of self-care. Her words will fill you up and make you press pause." If you've ever felt unsure in life, uncertain of where you're going or what you're doing, you will relate to this book. If you've ever been through heartbreak, loved someone who for whatever reason doesn't have the capacity to love you back in the way you deserve, you will relate to this book. Above all, if you're wondering what your home will look like one day and what a sense of home even is, you will relate to this book.

Do yourself a favour and pick it up as soon as you can. And thank you Meg for having the courage to share your 'memoir of chaos and grace', I don't think I could love it more.

Sidenote: If you don't already, go and follow Meg's Instagram. She's currently studying for a Masters in Public Policy at Duke University and shares such important articles and opinions. She's just an all-round badass incredible woman.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Why It's Ok To Change Your Mind & Making Decisions in Your Twenties

If you've read my recent post updating you on the key parts of what's gone on in my life over the past nine months, you'll have seen that up until late August I was set to spend this next year doing a masters in International Relations at Exeter University.

Fast forward to now, and I'm living at home with my Mum and Gran in London, working in a temping job at Wimbledon until the 7th December, and flying out to New Zealand to spend around six months travelling on the 10th December. Oh, and I should probably mention that I had only decided to do my masters in April this year. Before that I wanted to spend this year travelling but didn't really have a clue how I was going to go about it.

It's safe to say that that's a lot of changing your mind and today I want to talk about why that's ok.

Those who know me in real life will tell you that I am characteristically not a spontaneous person. Sure, I sometimes love to have a spontaneous night out or unexpected plans every now and then, but I'm a planner through and through. I love lists and I love being organised. If we're talking Friends characters I am definitely a Monica, not a Phoebe... I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. And so I always thought that when I graduated from uni I would very much have a plan worked out and be raring to get straight to it.

In reality, three years at Exeter went ridiculously fast and before I knew it it was the Easter holidays of my final year of my undergraduate degree and I wasn't anywhere close to having that plan.

As I've mentioned before, I've wanted to travel for years but I always assumed that by the time I got to third year I'd have found someone to do those travels with. But it just worked out that none of my closest friends wanted to do the trip I dreamed of after leaving uni and I wasn't keen on the idea of doing it alone. More importantly, by Easter I was *terrified* by the fact that I didn't have this plan that I always thought I would and by the fact that uni felt like it was ending far too quickly for my liking and I just didn't feel done with it.

At that point I was hugely panicked but quickly dismissed my Mum's suggestion to do a masters to give myself another year by saying that it would be a classic 'panic masters' (where a student suddenly faced with the horrific thought of having to face graduate life decides to do a masters to postpone facing said life) and that no one would take me seriously.

But then, of course, over those weeks of Easter the idea of one more year to 'get my head straight' and enjoy studying in Exeter became more and more appealing. I mulled over the decision for a few weeks with my closest friends and family and eventually concluded that doing this MA would be a good option for me - it would be in a subject I'm hugely interested in, it would be another qualification and most importantly, it would give me another year of structure. Really, from the outset it was clear that this masters was not going to be done purely for love of learning, but it was going to be done because I thought I would enjoy this extra year of being a student and figuring out what I wanted to do after university.

And so I went full steam ahead, slightly scared that people would judge me but also aware that it wasn't like I was about to announce to my friends and family that I'd decided to pursue a life of crime - I was going to do something that is largely very respected. While this decision clearly wasn't one my heart was fully in from the get-go, I want to emphasise that it wasn't an inherently bad decision and I'm sure it would have been fine had I gone through with it - it just wouldn't have been following what I really wanted (but was afraid) to do.

In the meantime, I met my boyfriend Liam. Liam who told me when I met him that he was going to New Zealand in September and planning on spending nearly a year out there. Yep, Liam was going to the one place that has been top of my list since my sister moved there when I was thirteen and that I'd just a couple of months ago chickened out of doing myself. I'm not gonna lie, that was difficult to swallow. But I just thought from the very start of us dating and with this knowledge that he was going away that I had made my decision to do this MA and I was obviously going to see that through because I had committed to it. And you can't change your mind once you've made a decision like that, right??

Wrong. Of course you absolutely can.

Do you want to know one of the best things about being twenty-one, with the privilege of being able to live with family rent-free, having no children, no husband, no mortgage and it being the twenty-first century? You can easily change your mind. You can make mistakes and then correct them. You can try new things and make decisions that might seem a bit crazy and not really know what you're doing but go full steam ahead with them anyway. You are not trapped in any one direction.

Revolutionary, I know.

But two months ago, I could not for the life of me get my head around that. I was anxious and miserable for a few weeks and felt so lost, not realising that it was because my eyes had suddenly been opened to the fact that, you know what, I could actually do this travelling thing that I've always wanted to do. I wouldn't have to wait another year and I could actually do it now. And I could try to make it work with this boy who I really, really like and want to be with, whose plans kind of fit in with what I had originally wanted to do with this year. But I was so scared of changing my mind, of what people would think, that for a few days I let myself be a ball of anxiety refusing to acknowledge that I had a choice to make in front of me.

That is madness. In hindsight, I can't believe that at that point I was considering spending a year of my life doing something that no longer appealed to me at all and that would cost me an arm and a leg just because I was scared of what other people would think. When you hit your twenties you've spent almost your entire life being conditioned to think that life is highly structured and that you have to know what you're going to do after what's right in front of you and always be working towards the next thing. It's how the education system works. But it's not how life works. And if you are lucky enough to be in a position like I said before where you don't have many responsibilities, now is the time to put yourself first. Now is the time to think about what you really want, and not be afraid of it but to go out and go for it. And I was afraid to do that.

As a Monica, changing your plans last minute, going travelling to the other side of the world and not really knowing what it's going to be like when you get there and committing to a new long-distance relationship is far from the done thing. But, I have finally (for the moment) stopped caring about what people may think - and, side note: nobody I have told about my new plans has been anything but thrilled for me at finally getting to live what has been a dream of mine for years. And if they hadn't been then (unless it was because of genuine concern) screw them. Whatever I thought the 'done thing' was is just not in the slightest worth doing solely for the reason that it is the 'done thing' or because I was afraid to stray from that.

And so I have learnt that this period of my life is this amazing time in which I'm not tied down in any way and that I can go out, explore and try new things and live a life that isn't structured in the way it has been up until now, but that's one I've been wanting to experience for the longest time.

I am *so* lucky to have such supportive people around me and to have realised that I have the freedom to make decisions like this and, in case you needed to hear it, I wanted to share today that you have every right to change your mind and that you are not trapped on one path. Obviously that is hugely dependent on privilege and on personal circumstances but, if you have that privilege, by all means make the most of it. I am grabbing my freedom with both hands and, while I'm still a bit scared of what's to come over the next few months, I could not be more excited for this next chapter and to see where it takes me.

I also think it's important to note that even if changing your mind turns out to be terrible, you can change it back again. There's such a fear surrounding changing your mind which has caused a belief that you have to be so sure of whatever decision you're making. But life is not always that simple, circumstances change and you can only plan so far ahead. I might hate travelling and want to come straight back. I don't think that will happen, but you never know. If it does, it won't be the end of the world and I'll still have learnt some huge life lessons from it.

So know that it is ok to change your mind - the world won't stop turning, if it's a decision that's right for you the people who matter will be nothing but happy for you, and your twenties are the time to explore, change your mind and make a million mistakes. And I definitely plan to do just that.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The 52 Lists Project // Week 40

Happy Wednesday everyone! We're finally midway through the week now and I hope whatever you're doing that you're having a great one.

If you've been reading my blog for a long time you might remember a series I started called the 52 Lists Project. The project is essentially a book of prompts with a list for each week of the year which I documented on here last year. (If you want to read previous ones you can find them all here.) Sadly I stopped on week 25 and never finished the book. But I thought I'd like to try and pick it up and complete it until the end of this year.

Somehow we're now midway through the 40th week of 2018. That is absolute madness to me - to be honest I feel like it was only just my birthday but that was eight months (!!) ago.

Anyway, without further ado, this week's prompt is: "List your top mood-boosting songs." I love this list because there's nothing better than being in a good mood and having a collection of songs which just boost that mood even further and have you dancing around looking like a bit of a maniac.

I actually have a Spotify playlist called 25th days which is essentially a playlist of my happiest songs that I'll post at the end in case you want to have a nosey at a larger collection of the songs which make me happiest, but here are the ones which really stood out to me when I read this week's prompt...

  • There She Goes by the La's - This song always reminds me of Gilmore Girls (I think it's played in the first episode?) and that is one of my ultimate feel-good shows so There She Goes always gives me a boost.
  • These Days by Rudimental (feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen) - I adore the message of this song. It's funny because it's not actually the happiest, in that it's talking about times being hard and looking forward to a time when it won't be like that anymore and looking back fondly on those hard times. And yet to me it feels like ultimately such a happy song reminding you that no matter what you're going through, one day it will be in the past and you'll get through it. 
  • Fearless by Taylor Swift - If you thought I would write a list of any kind of my favourite songs and it not include at least one by Taylor Swift then you really don't know me at all. This song is so beautiful and will eternally remind me of being young and that amazing feeling of fearlessly falling in love. 
  • Loving You Tonight by Andrew Allen - This is such a feel-good song and one which one of my oldest friends introduced me to when I was around fourteen. I still love it today.
  • You Can't Hurry Love by the Supremes - This is such a classic and always puts a smile on my face.
  • Come & Get Your Love by Redbone - This song will forever remind me of first year and my housemate Tom who cannot for the life of him hold a tune (not that I'm in any way better sadly) singing/playing this on repeat for what felt like the whole of my first year of uni - it's a great one.
  • Dancing in the Street by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - This is another classic which I've loved from such a young age that always makes me want to dance.
  • Barcelona by Ed Sheeran - I love Ed Sheeran, I love Barcelona, I *love* this song. 
  • Classic by MKTO - I actually think this is the song on this list which boosts my mood the most. It's just such an upbeat and happy song and puts me in the best mood.
  • Waiting For A Star To Fall by Boy Meets Girl - I think that this song was in one of my favourite childhood films, Three Men & A Little Lady, and even now it reminds me of that and makes me so happy.
  • Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up will always remind me of my Dad who loves it. I used to dance around to it with him as a little girl, completely loving life listening to this song. 

So there you have my top mood-boosting songs! And below is the full playlist of the songs which never fail to put a smile on my face. Definitely let me know if you have any more which I desperately need to add to it, I'm always on the hunt for new song recommendations.

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