We’re all walking paradoxes

Despite trying to categorise ourselves into many clear cut boxes, quite often we’re full of paradoxical traits. It’s one of the things that makes getting to know other humans more, let alone yourself – so interesting. Many that know us well will learn and understand this, but for those that don’t it can often be a source of confusion, frustration or even resentment.

I see conflicting traits in myself quite often. For some example:

– I’m pretty hard working and proactive in my view; I love to plan, do research and make things happen. However, I can also be incredibly lazy at times, meaning things may slowly sink to the bottom of my to-do list that I mentally pledged to complete two weeks before.

– I also tend to be quite a realist; I don’t tend to tire of being a reminder about the potential ways an event can unfold or what history tells us about certain beliefs or ideas. Simultaneously, I can also be fairly fantastical; a trait that every now and then causes me to mould idealistic versions of people that widely differ from who they really are.

– Lastly, I love people; getting to share their struggles and joy; receive encouragement from their words when it seems I have none left to motivate myself with. However, I can also be quite antisocial and quiet, a trait that does sometimes make social situations hard to navigate and enjoy.

I doubt I’m alone – I think we all have these conflicting traits in us; some go under the radar of our consciousness and others we are fully aware of. Perhaps you love fiercely but can also be very spiteful if someone gets on your wrong side. Or maybe at times you can be shamelessly selfish whilst there are many moment you find yourself in where you’re moved with compassion for others. We tend to just paint a picture of consistency because that’s what makes sense to the world most in certain situations. For example, if I’m working on branding myself for a business I own, people want to know I’m dependable, a good leader and one that’s confident. They don’t want to know that I have moments of doubt and periods of low-confidence that make leading people hard. It may be very real, and very true but being upfront about it won’t necessarily get me clientele.

Yet, it feels quite important when we can to be honest about these conflicts within us; otherwise we perhaps fall into the habit of creating a version of ourselves for others that isn’t entirely truthful.

This is why having close people who you can expose all sides too without judgement is beneficial. Being able to freely be you and let your guard down around people -or even just one close person – is an incredible source of peace. Mentally, it’s like how a person might feel when they get finally home after a long day, loosen their tie, or remove their bra and just flop onto the sofa. Rest and ultimate comfort at last. I was reminded of this when reading the tweet above, since I think it articulates my thought very well – you don’t feel the need to censor yourself or put on a forced façade when you’re around the right people. You can be yourself in all your flawed, paradoxical glory- and that’s the way it should be.

Home: there’s no place like it

“They say home is where your heart is set in stone

It’s where you go when you’re alone

It’s where you go to rest your bones

It’s not just where you lay your head, it’s not just where you make your bed…”

Home by Gabrielle Aplin

Don’t you love travelling? Particularly as many of us have spent much of the last 18 months cooped indoors, the travelling bug has been gnawing away at us as people have just patiently waited for the moment they could jump on a train or plane again. I love the sense of discovery, especially when you go somewhere new. The overwhelming of the senses – smelling and tasting unfamiliar/new foods, witnessing the indescribable beauty of nature or city architecture, watching as residents come and go; it’s really fun.

However, I do always get to a point where that willingness to explore and absorb new things is threatening to expire. For me, at that point I long to be at home – somewhere familiar and snuggly where I can properly rest and eventually slide back into my normal routine. I understand this might be a rare feeling – I see on social media and speak to people all the time who have travelled for months upon months, or even years and never gotten tired of exploration. I even talked with a friend casually after church about having this feeling and she gave me an incredulous look. At the time I thought okay maybe I am weird, but perhaps this feeling is a good thing; it does have some benefits. When travelling back from an amazing holiday it makes the transition from rest -> back to business as usual a lot easier. Of course, it doesn’t mean the grass won’t always be greener; when I’m back home, making my way through my week, I will, every now and then, definitely wish I was back in country x and y, still on holiday and getting more sun and sleep. But 80% of the time I’m happy and grateful that my journey has come full circle and that I’m back and settled.

Home Sweet Home

The Gabrielle Aplin song quoted at the start of this post is one of my faves – it highlights that there is more to the concept of home then we think. The comfort that we associate with home can typically transcends a building or the four walls of one room. Home can be an escape but is also you’re an anchor. For some reason that feeling never properly dawns on me until I’m thrust into a new environment and blindly trying to find my way around – an experience that can be both simultaneously fun but frustrating. A funny example that comes to mind was when I was trying to reunite with my friends whilst in the States, in Manhattan (New York) and instead got completely lost. The reality check of not being in the UK, where I call home and where navigation personally comes a lot easier for starters, was never stronger than in that moment.

I can’t really explain it but often when you travel to a new place there is a lot of energy that has to be spent to gain a feeling of comfort, mainly because everything around you is unfamiliar. Whether voluntarily or by force, you’ve been uprooted from all you know and have to adapt so you can navigate yourself around confidently (even if level of confidence is fairly limited.) After a period of time its therefore nice to be able to just rest and return to somewhere familiar where things are easy, flow naturally for you are and known well.

Being rooted

I think being cooped up in my house this last year or so, as frustrating as it has sometimes been has also helped me become more grateful for having a place of stability in such a time of upheaval and unpredictability. It’s definitely a privilege to have somewhere – or even someone you can label as ‘home’. For those that are still on the journey to finding a home- in whatever form that may be – I pray God provides it for you soon so you can finally feel settled and at peace.

Book Review: Memory of Love

Grove Atlantic
Cover image from Grove Atlantic

I haven’t written a book review in a while! But, to be fair, as an admittedly slow reader that is to be expected. For the last few months I have mainly been making my way through this book which – I’m pleased to now say – is (very nearly) complete! Yay!

I discovered the novel Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2010) very randomly through the ebook library site I use. The blurb pulled me in strongly before the book did and I read it and thought ‘woah, that’s going on my reading list!’ Then the time felt right to start the book and the rest is history.

I’ve put the blurb I read online below so you can marvel at its beauty yourself:

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1969. On a hot January evening that he will remember for decades, Elias Cole first catches sight of Saffia Kamara, the wife of a charismatic colleague. He is transfixed. Thirty years later, lying in the capital’s hospital, he recalls the desire that drove him to acts of betrayal he has tried to justify ever since.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Kai, a gifted young surgeon, is desperately trying to forget the pain of a lost love that torments him as much as the mental scars he still bears from the civil war that has left an entire people with terrible secrets to keep. It falls to a British psychologist, Adrian Lockheart, to help the two survivors, but when he too falls in love, past and present collide with devastating consequences. The Memory of Love is a heartbreaking story of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Overview

Without repeating the blurb too much, this book straddles the storylines of free different men – Elias Cole, Kai and Adrian Lockheart. It also alternates between the past and present – with much of Elias’ storyline being told from the past perspective – when he is a young man navigating the pre-civil war era in the country. In contrast, the civil war has past in Kai and Adrian’s era, with nothing left but the devastating ruin it has caused; ‘fixing’ this is something that is central to both Kai and Adrian’s jobs as doctors.

However, interweaved within the stories of these three characters are also love stories – from love that never was to love that was but was barren, and love that blossomed but was brief. These play a central part to the development of each narrator and the trajectory of their lives

My thoughts

Aminatta undoubtedly does a great job of painting a country holding great beauty but also dealing with the deep scars of war. Mentally, people are suffering but yet life forces them to go on to ensure survival. Two stories that particularly stood out to me are of patients Adrian treats during his time at a mental health clinic in Sierra Leone. First is Adecali – a young man who formerly was a child soldier and due to horrors witnessed has a strong aversion to the smell of burning meat. There is also another female patient who repeatedly visits the clinic and is treated by Adrian; Agnes – a mother who mysteriously tends to disappear from home and be found days later in a destination with no recollection of her journey. She becomes a fascination for Adrian who tries to get to the root of her behaviour throughout the book – when her backstory is revealed it is honestly so heartbreaking.

Interestingly, despite being set in a predominately Black country Aminatta decides to have predominately white characters as protagonists of this novel; both Adrian and Elias are white English men who reside in the country within different vocations. Elias, is a lecturer on a university campus, whilst Adrian Lockhart – living many years later – is a psychiatrist. This set up inevitably creates the dynamic of Black stories being told through a white lens. However, this is not something you read the book and are completely oblivious too. Constantly throughout the novel, Adrian (and to some extent Elias) is reminded that as a white man and foreign national he is ultimately outsider. He will never fully understand the culture, let alone the post-war mental scars within the patients he treats as someone who swooped in after the war and never experienced its horrors himself.

In a similar vein, although there are many women within the book who are pivotal to the storylines of the narrators – Mamakay, Saffia, Agnes, Illeana – because all the narrators are male, they’re forced to the sidelines, which didn’t seem very satisfactory to me. Don’t get me wrong, we do indeed get to learn about them in detail, but it’s always through the lens of the male gaze so we don’t necessarily get to chance to gain a fully intimate connection with them.

My main qualm with this novel, is its length. The ebook itself, which I read, was nearly 1,000 pages I believe – waaay too long for my liking 😥. I’m more of a fan of a shorter books (ideally 500 pages maximum.) Succinct storytelling is celebrated because it is a difficult skill to master but its really not a strong point in this book and I do wonder if the long length was necessary.

Final verdict

I would recommend this book – the story is beautifully written and unfolds in such an interesting way. It’s also always refreshing to have a book with a non-Western backdrop. However, due to its length be prepared to invest more time than usual in this book and it characters.

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Want to have a read for yourself? The book can be purchased (physical or ebook) format here.

You can also find out what others what thought here on GoodReads.

My new current read: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The higher we climb, the harder we fall…

Trigger warning: I touch on the topics of mental illness, addiction and eating disorders in this piece.

Watching Demi Lovato’s docu-series on Youtube ‘Dancing with the Devil’, which chronicles their journey with addiction and their road to recovery, got me thinking this weekend about just how fragile we as humans are. We are flawed, often egotistical yet constantly learning as we navigate each stage of life. Why is it then that we love to put fellow humans on pedestals, elevating them to a standard even they themselves often feel they cannot reach?

This is one of the things Demi touches on during the documentary, as over the years they have become somewhat of a role model for many when it comes to mental health advocacy. However, what no-one knew was that they were battling with addiction on the side lines; making the public perception of them and what the real Demi was like as different as night and day.

I honestly could not imagine the amount of pressure such expectations can place on a person. You have 5,10,15-year-olds saying your art has changed their lives or got them through a hard time and that one day they want to be like you. It would be impossible to shrug that off without feeling some sort of burdensome weight of a duty to live up to this fantasy they have moulded of you.

Humans were not designed to be worshipped (for several obvious reasons.) A key one being we don’t have it all together, we don’t possess the perfection that is exclusively associated with God. Being idolised can definitely build ego but it can also create a quick path to inner destruction. Celebrity worship is often reductive – individuals are often being lauded all the time for a carefully crafted perception of themselves they and their teams have worked hard to portray. Or more simply, it could be because of looks alone or a talent like basketball or singing that makes people all googly eyed. Unfortunately, such talents are fleeting – they can take years to build and be gone in a matter of minutes.

So, in other words, we’re never really worshipping celebrities for who they are because we’ll never be privy to the real them, we’re in love with who we think they are. The unrealistic expectations of others become internalised which can then manifest themselves in toxic ways – for Demi, for example this was through disordered eating. This coupled with the toxic nature of cancel culture means there’s also a pressure to never step over the line. Making mistakes (whether publicly or not) is part of growing up but nowadays, one wrong step and your career is in jeopardy.

Demi isn’t the only one who has recently grappled with mental health in the public eye. Naomi Osaka recently withdrew from the French Open after being forced by event organisers to since they wouldn’t allow her to pass on media interviews for the sake of her mental health. Jesy Nelson, former member of the British girl band Little Mix recently left the band, stating reasons related to the protection of mental health. Similarly, in the past many other celebrities have been open about their struggles with mental illness – Billie Eilish, Kanye West and even Mariah Carey, to name a few.

Of course, fame hasn’t been the direct cause of mental health struggles for many celebrities but it can certainly exacerbate them, especially if they previously existed before fame. For Naomi and Jesy it seemed as if they had reached the point where mental wellbeing and peace could not exist alongside the environment they were working in, so an ultimatum was reached. The fact many people, famous or not, have to choose between their work or mental wellbeing is very unfortunate. It shows – despite or the lovely ‘discussions’ we are having around mental health – we still have a long way to go in properly providing the related support people need for recovery, treatment or prevention.

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Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading more on celebrity culture I wrote about some thoughts after watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary which you can read here.

The Evil within: A review of Girl From Nowhere

‘Underneath it all we’re just savages, hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages’ – Savages by Marina and the Diamonds

Many theories have argued throughout time that without the laws, social conventions and norms society has created, humans would truly not function properly. The result? Think Lord of the Flies/ The Purge type anarchy. Of course, we’ve never been in the conditions to truly test the validity of this line of thought but if many true crime cases, past and present, have taught us anything is that in the right circumstances humans will naturally care about nothing but themselves.

Recently I’ve been watching the Thai drama on Netflix, Girl from Nowhere. The series centres around a seemingly innocent girl named Nanno who joins a school and starts causing havoc by bringing out the inner demons in those around her. In each episode she operates in a new school and deals with different characters who battle with different individual vices. For the most part she acts as their tempter, the snake to their Eve, honing in on their deepest desires and dangling in front of them something that will unlock them if only they take the bait.

What distinguishes this drama from many others is that not much is revealed about its mysterious protagonist at all – all we do know is that she is devious – borderline genius, borderline maniac. She also doesn’t appear to human meaning the lengths she goes to to teach people the error of their ways will undoubtedly shock you. A Thai audience may perhaps see Nanno has an executor of karmic justice, avenging those who have been wronged and punishing wrongdoers for acts that may have otherwise gone unpunished.

However – and bafflingly so – in some episodes she does seem to torment people that don’t necessarily seem to deserve it. (TK from season one (ep8) and Jenny X from season 2 (ep7)) come to mind.) Yes, they have their issues but then again who doesn’t? Does makes you wonder a bit about how exactly Nanno goes about choosing her targets…

Lots of questions are raised and I enjoy the subtle social commentary found in each episode. Ultimately at the heart of each episode is the question, can this person change? It seems like the assumption to this question in most of the dramas episodes is ‘no’, although we can never say for sure with certainty.

Season two was recently released (which I have now finished 😅) and definitely ups the ante whilst, interestingly, revealing a possible more ‘human’ side to Nanno.

Note that although I would recommend the drama, I would do so cautiously since it has very dark themes (it is rated an 18 on Netflix). A few twitter users have circulated guide with trigger warnings for each episode of season one, which may prove useful. For those who liked the popular drama Black Mirror (also on Netflix) then this drama is definitely for you.

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Have you watched Girl from Nowhere or do you perhaps have it on your Netflix list? Share below and we can discuss! 😊

Some films I’ve recently watched on Netflix include: The Woman in the Window, Run (Netflix film featuring Sarah Paulson), Love Squared, Rich in Love and Atlantics.

*Featured image belongs to Netlfix.

Image description: Protagonist Nanno stands leaning on a wall within a corridor, wearing a school uniform whilst looking into the distance.

Investing in Rest

‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work.’- Genesis 2:2

True story – in the process of writing this post I was looking for a nice little quote to compliment it on the topic of rest. I was quite surprised to find the quotes on rest that I found were mostly negative. Some examples below:

‘You’ll have time to rest when you’re dead’ – Robert De Niro

‘If you rest, you rust’ – Helen Hayes

Rest vs work

Embedded deep in the mentality behind such quotes is the belief that rest is counterproductive to getting work done. However, to avoid falling for such fallacy it is important to always think of the bigger picture – a period of rejuvenation helps us not only get more work done in the long-run, it also helps us get better work done. Of course, I found some more positive quotes later on but these quotes indicate a wider problem in our society – we really don’t know how to rest. I’ve written a bit about this topic here in a previous blog post, but as we continue life post-Easter break in the UK (which was hopefully filled with rest for many), I wanted to touch on it some more.

The social media hustle and grind culture, which primarily focuses on non-stop working in order to be wealthy can be quite counterproductive at times. For example, the rise in young people having a ‘side hustle’ – has been very transformative to some, I’m sure, but it also means a now blurred line between rest and work since an activity which used to be part of the former for you, has now become the latter. Statistics from 2018 showed 40% of people in the UK who were surveyed had a side hustle. 40%! Someone tweeted the other day an observation that this trend of young people in particular monetising their hobbies is really not normal, and I’m inclined to agree. As mentioned in the article just linked, the rise of side hustles is due to increasing job insecurity, an issue which, like many others, has likely only been exacerbated by the pandemic. All I’ll say is, nothing – not even the alluring promise of success and wealth, is worth killing yourself over. Do note, I’m not anti-side hustle, but I do believe with such endeavours it can become all to easy to stretch yourself thin, that’s all.

Rest = doing nothing?

You may have noticed that above I referred to activities that help with your rest. Contrary to the way it is sometimes portrayed in the media, the art of resting is not just limited to sleep or doing nothing at all. Certain activities we enjoy have a calming effect on us and are perfect for unwinding – whether it be stretching, baking or going for a stroll.

A month or two ago, for example, I did a colouring in activity as part of church weekend retreat (done virtually this year, of course) and I have to say it was surprisingly very refreshing. It’s quite a mindless activity and honestly it was the first time I had done it since I was a child. For a split moment of your day, your only and foremost concern is co-ordinating colours and colouring within the lines of the image outline. I can now understand why in recent years adult colouring books have been trending.

Here are some things that could perhaps restore your work/life balance and help you get better rest:

  • Know the signs of burnout – physical tiredness, headaches, irritation, lack of concentration etc. Being burnt out makes it harder to work so it’s important to know the signs so you can quickly dial things back in and get some rest.
  • Say NO – it is important to be possessive with your me-time, don’t make it ‘us’ time bybending to the needs of others
  • The importance of discipline – put that work device away – it can wait till after your holiday or weekend is over!
  • What is your escape? – have a magic carpet – something that can you can temporarily dive into to relax and distract you a bit from the world’s madness. For me it’s definitely books and TV shows; what are yours?

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Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

Make sure to follow my blog on IG @TheArtofChatter

Why Sharing is (not always) Caring

I realised quite a while ago that I hate borrowing things to people. As most things do, it probably stems from my experience as a child in secondary school (high school, for the non-British folks).  

Back then I was always eagerly borrowing people my pens, pencils – and even money but rarely getting my items back. At the time I had just started getting into graphic novels; I was reading a fantastic graphic novel series of Manga-version Shakespeare novels which I had borrowed from my local library. After talking to a friend – let’s call her Janie – about the series, something possessed me to borrow her the book, no harm, right? So I thought. After all, I saw her everyday so receiving the book back should be a straight forward process. Janie was in the year below me but we always hung out in the library together since we loved books, they were the main building block of our bond. Days stretched out to weeks and each time I asked Janie about the book she always had an excuse. After buying herself a few months she eventually coming clean that she had lost the book. I remember feeling a sharp pang of disappointment, although it was basically a confirmation of what I had already suspected. 

Don’t lend what you can’t afford to lose 

Now, as a fully-fledged adult, you wouldn’t dare catch me borrow one of my books to someone – they’re prized possessions. Also, my secondary school experience taught me something – once you borrow someone an item of yours, you do so with the optimistic belief that they will treasure it like their own. Of course, this is hardly the case in my experience. A random experience that comes to mind is when I watched someone use my pen in class (which I had loaned to them) and they started biting it. BITING IT. It was probably an absent-minded gesture, something they do with every pen or in the throes of concentrating, but COME ON – biting takes the mick. 

Nowadays I try to control the variables when it comes to borrowing or giving – it has to be something low value, that I can deal with losing or that I have many of, and has to be to someone I trust to a certain degree. So, chocolates or sweets – yes. Books or a prized pen gifted for my birthday – No, absolutely not. Boundaries such as these, I’ve learnt are the key to stress-free borrowing (if such a thing exists.) 

One of the reasons I take this seriously is because – like it or not – not being able to trust someone with your things can negatively affect your relationship with them. You may have to start reassessing their character or the things you trust them with. Of course, there may be legitimate reason why something can’t be returned to you but if this is a frequent occurrence? Then, yes – questions may need to be asked. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Inspired by Kindness 

I think the slightly sad thing about my aversion to borrowing is that it sometimes makes it a lot harder to give – especially in circumstances where it counts and can actually be lifechanging. For example, tithing in church used to be a constant struggle (things have changed in that department though, thank God.) Or even donating to a homeless person – my heart will be moved to action but my mind will put up a road block by whispering ‘won’t you need that money later, Hannah?’ 

I remember going for a walk with a friend and as we passed an off license, we came across a homeless person sitting opposite the shop. Without hesitation she offered to buy him a drink and listened as he weighed out his options. As we went into the store and hunted for his final choice – orange juice – I was moved by her kindness and the readiness she possessed to give. 

Admittedly, I’m still working on being more giving (so I’m not in much of a position to give advice) but I’ll end with that scene because to this day it still makes me smile. 😊 

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Have you had any bad experiences with borrowing people items or money? Comment below and let’s talk!

Follow me on Instagram @TheArtofChatter!

Behind #FreeBritney

I was watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary on a weekend two weeks ago and it got me thinking a lot, so I thought I would share some thoughts. In particular, it made me think of how sad a word we live in where people would start to capitalise of a person’s low points in life. For those unaware of the much talked about The New York Times documentary, its release comes at a time when the #FreeBritney movement is in full swing. Although I am aware of the rough purpose of the movement, I wanted to watch the documentary myself to learn about the wider context of how Britney Spears’ conservatorship came to be.

Conservatorships, from my understanding seem to be legally binding arrangements made when a person is deemed unfit to make decisions concerning their own welfare. The parties these arrangements concern are often mentally ill or elderly. Conservatorships cover different areas of a person’s wellbeing, in Britney’s case the documentary explains that her’s means she is no longer in control of her finances or medical care – theses are controlled by other people, which up until recently has mainly been her dad. This is where things get iffy and become quite speculative – we don’t completely know how Britney feels about the arrangement or what her dad’s intentions have been all of these years. However, the documentary does give some indication to these questions so it’s definitely worth a watch.

You want a piece of me?

People spent years taking photos of Britney Spears. But did they ever  actually look? | The Independent

“I’m Miss American Dream since I was seventeen
Don’t matter if I step on the scene
Or sneak away to the Philippines
They still gon’ put pictures of my derriere in the magazine”

– Piece of Me by Britney Spears (2007)

One magazine editor admitted that at the time of Britney’s well documented breakdown, paparazzi photos of her were going for $1 million apiece. Yes, you read that right. Can you imagine? Naturally, this has caused a frenzy over the years with blood thirsty paparazzi seeking to snap Britney in compromising positions. There were disheartening scenes of Britney’s breakdown being the question on a family game show – something I found highly shocking and distasteful.

It’s interesting that we seem to often detach the idea of personhood from celebrities which makes it easy to criticise and cuss them. They often feel so far removed from our lives that their feelings don’t seem to matter too much. We are living in a different time (supposedly) but I don’t think it would take much for this to occur again – another celebrity being hounded and pushed to breaking point by the media. We could shrug and argue that is the way the cookie crumbles but consumers are arguably the most important part of the media machine. Yes, tabloids create the horrendous content but we never fail to eat it up! They rely on us buying magazines and engaging with online content in order to create demand and make money. So, we may play a much larger part than we think in all of this…

Holding On to Hope

What does the future hold for Britney? Well, we don’t know. But I’ve been careful to not use the word ‘downfall’ since the connotations are of a point of no return. Yet, I feel that is far from where she is at the moment – she’s fighting her conservatorship and has a very loyal following behind her as she does. There’s been a recent victory in her legal battle as a professional co-conservator, Bessemer Trust has now been appointed by the courts, meaning Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, no longer has sole control over her estate. Not quite total freedom, but a small victory to celebrate in an on-going war.

How to save a life: My Grey’s Anatomy journey so far

First Impressions

There’s something I love about getting to dig into a show – falling in love with the characters, getting immersed in their drama and making their home town/ hangout spots your second home. Currently, I am watching (for the first time) Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime – which is making for quite an experience. I’ve heard a lot here and there about the show over the years but it started when I was quite young so it’s never really been on my radar as something to watch. I was slightly worried when I first started the show since I found Meredith Grey slightly annoying; someone who seems to be in head a lot, quite indecisive and a wallower in self-pity. However, over time she does seem to mature quite amazingly and become more bearable. Nearly reaching the end of season seven (of 15 available on Prime) so, this is a mid-point review; I may have more or very different thoughts to share by season 15.

Image result for grey's anatomy meredith
‘Dark and twisty’ Meredith Grey with best friend, Cristina

For most people, this show is how is the main way they were introduced to the Shonda Rhimes (or ‘Shondaland’ as her body of work is often nicknamed) but my main introduction to her work was through the more recent shows, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder – both which I admittedly never completed but was definitely hooked on at one point or the other. They were refreshing watches at the time due to both shows having no-nonsense, gets-things-done Black female leads. With Grey’s the character turnover is quite significant but you do slowly grow to care for newbies to the drama such as Lexie Grey, Teddy, Arizona and some of the Mercy West lot – Avery and April.

Series Development

Often, I’ve wondered how people have remained with the show for so long – this is because I usually tell those I talk to about shows that my rule is that more than five seasons of a show are typically unnecessary. With most shows, after a while you see character development and story arcs get increasingly sloppy and more unbelievable. As mentioned, I’m only on season seven of Grey’s but so far, I would categorise it as one of the exceptions to my hypothesis. I like how the show occasionally has episodes that experiment with formatting – In season 7, they have a musical episode where characters mix songs previously used in the drama with their script. Another episode in the season is in documentary format, as documentary makers come to the hospital to see how staff are doing post-shooting incident in season six.

Image result for grey's anatomy scenes issy and dennt
One of the series most memorable – and tragic – relationships; Izzie Stevens and Denny Duquette

The Characters

It’s probably fair to say that compared to comedy shows, dramas create a deeper sense of connection with their characters because they can’t constantly hide behind the smoke screen of humour. They’re hit on all sides by life, put in difficult situations (professionally and personally) and are forced to make difficult choices. For example, In Grey’s Callie at one point has to make the difficult decision to split with her girlfriend since they couldn’t agree on whether they wanted children or not. Or Mark Sloan suddenly finding out he has had a grown daughter all these years – and that she’s pregnant. Or Miranda’s marriage breaking down because of the demanding nature of her job meaning she’s spending less time with her husband, which was leaving him dissatisfied…and angry. The list could go on with Grey’s – the only thing that is probably a stretch is that despite all the personal drama, the doctors are able to put their lives on pause and actually do their jobs.

The Secret Life of Doctors

Image result for grey's anatomy alex kerev and babies
Hospital bad boy, Alex Karev takes an unexpected liking to paediatrics

Every time I get into a show, I usually tend to wonder what it would be like to be in the same profession as the main character(s). In this case that would mean removing appendixes, fixing dislocated bones or even delivering babies. I honestly, could not imagine myself doing any of it; it may not be entirely in line of the reality of doctors but it does give you a newfound appreciation for their skills and ability to endure gruelling 12-hour shifts. However, it does also make me worry slightly for medical professionals, especially for their physical and mental health. You see in Grey’s that the doctors because of the bonds they often form with patients, the doctors often struggle internally as they’re forced to watch those patients disintegrate – or even die. Additionally, hospitals and clinics are always stretched when it comes to resources and funding which can lead to very difficulty situations and choices that have to be made.

A prayer for frontline workers

I feel it’s only right to end with a small prayer for medical workers currently working on the frontline, in the UK and worldwide. This is undoubtedly a difficult time to be in the profession but they continue to press on and we’re thankful for that.

May God hold you in his loving arms

We know tide waves of hopelessness often threaten to make you stumble

And that calls for help seem to fall on deaf ears.

We pray that despite the overwhelming fear you feel each day

That he comforts you

building you up so you’re filled with strength

Ready to face the next challenge that comes through hospital doors.

Why don’t you like me?

I think this dance we do through life for the approval of others is interesting. On the one hand you’re told to stop seeking such approval, all you need is your own validation. But does that really transfer to real world? Honestly, the answer is no. Every now and then in certain situations you’ll find yourself hiding or exaggerating parts of your personality in order to be liked or gain the approval of the people in your company. Job interviews? You hide your insecurities and fact you can easily get overwhelmed. Instead, you exaggerate your intellect and ability to work with others. In that very moment you want to be liked, even admired if you’re lucky.

Relatable? This doesn’t make you superficial, don’t worry. However, is does make my point that to some extent we are all walking shapeshifters; adapting our personalities or perceptions of self to gain likability to various social situations. It’s actually necessary for survival and to achieve life goals we have; without being likable to others, we most noticeably wouldn’t be able to inspire or influence others. Teachers and coaches giving pep talks wouldn’t inspire their pupils or team respectively without the recipients of the talk liking their teacher enough to listen, if not respect the words they’re saying.

I was thinking more about this human longing to be liked, to gain approval from peers as I binged watched the first few seasons of The Office US during the first lockdown. For those familiar with the show. you’ll know that Michael Scott, the show’s regional manager and protagonist yearns to be liked by his colleagues a little too much, despite being their superior. This leads to him often pushing the boundaries of his working relationships with them which makes for uncomfortable yet hilarious viewing. Despite how exaggerated the trait is in Michael, it is a relatable one nonetheless, particularly in this age of social media where everyone is a small business of one – hoping to get more views and more likes on their content.

Love me or Hate me

So, we’ve established that people long to be liked and care more about it than they would admit. Yet, it’s impossible to be liked everywhere by everyone, so how do we reconcile our fantasy with our actual reality; that more often than none, people will strongly dislike you for no (obvious) reason.

Two things should be noted here:

  1. In the face of hatred always remember the people that love you – they’re the ones that see something special in you, and will always be your biggest fans. You realise how rare such people are when you realise how unkind the world can be. Never neglect these people or take their appreciation of you for granted!
  2. Be open and willing to take criticism: Dare I say it; sometimes a person’s disliking of you may have valid roots. I remember being close to a friend at university; we would often have random banter or go to society events together. After a few months had gone by I realised we hadn’t met up in a while and messaged her because I missed her company.‘Hey, we haven’t met up in a while, I hope you’re okay… blah blah’

As we discussed how quiet it had been between us, she admitted honestly ‘you always bail out of things we arrange to do and it’s annoying’. At the time I was obviously a bit annoyed and met that response with a flurry of denial. But looking back, what If she was right and in pointing out my flakiness had highlighted a bad habit I had overlooked?

That last point in particular makes a case for importance of self-reflection – sometimes it can be the key to spotting not so obvious bad habits in us before others do.

Then again, self-reflection can be a double-edged sword sometimes, as I find with myself, if we do it too often, too deeply we may find ourselves annoyed about traits we don’t need to change or can’t change [easily] but feel pressured to do so anyway.

There are no simple solutions to staying out of these mental thought traps (unfortunately.) It is worth reimagining it as a tight rope balance between self-worth and likability. The former shouldn’t depend on the latter, it should be something unshakable at our core. Of course, the reality is much different from this ideal, but there’s no harm in keeping it as something we can aim towards, right?