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 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 see 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.

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‘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.

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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

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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?

5 Struggles with Adulting

What is it about being an adult that is so hard?

I guess for me personally I still feel like my 18-year-old self at times. To explain that further, when I turned 19 I felt no different than I felt when I was 18; this feeling happened pretty much every birthday until next thing you know – BAM, you’re in your 20s. Yes, you’re technically an adult and everyone is treating you as such but your mind is still in the teenage zone and not ready to adjust. The only way I can describe the feeling is like when as a child you were prematurely pushed down the playground slide before you felt ready; usually by an impatient child crouching behind you. The things that make being an adult hard can’t really be pinpointed or reduced to one thing so I’ve placed five I’ve thought of below. I can guarantee you there is more than five but since I’m writing a blog post and not a book, five it is.

1. Fending for yourself.

Love makes the world go around and so does money – and you start to understand that more as you grow. The inadequacies of the education system coupled with traditional financial institutions leave one very confused adult. Three areas to master are; spending -making wise purchases, budgeting – looking for opportunities to help you spend less and saving – putting money aside for a certain goal or future rainy day. Key to mastering these areas in self control – something we can have in droves and at other times not have at all. It’s especially hard when your#’re about to purchase an item on a website’s check out and have to ponder the question ‘do I really need this?‘ – trust me, I’ve been there way too often!

To avoid your mind scrambling I recommend getting a ‘money manual’ a go-to guide explaining some finance basics that you can keep in reach on the shelf; mine is Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley.

2. Navigating the World of Work.

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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Especially when you’ve never had a full-time job before – the world of work can be quite confusing to navigate. From job applications and interviews to steering through office politics, difficult colleagues and performance anxiety on the job – it can all be very daunting. I remember reading my first payslip and thinking ‘what does this evening mean?!’ On top of that, there are the indirect things linked to work like figuring out your ‘personal brand’ and networking which aren’t exactly necessary but are advised. These are things no-one properly talks about in-depth, or they expect you to get used to such concepts very quickly. The truth is, that it can definitely take some time – and a lot of googling!

3. Balancing Self-care with other’s needs

This is one of the never-ending tightropes we have to walk in life. I’ve written in the past about listening to others and how caring for others is linked to our self-care; this is because as a Christian I believe that loving others as much as you love/care for yourself is very important.  

That being said, don’t lose yourself in the process. Seek to help others but do so whilst being rooted in an unshakable sense of self-worth. One way this might manifest itself is by you demanding your time be respected; yes, you’re giving it freely but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a fool. Additionally, find those that will pour into you when you feel your most down – there’s nothing better than receiving some TLC from close friends when you’re at your lowest. Because yes, it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes village to keep an adult sane!

4. You need to figure out who the hell YOU are

Adulthood undeniably forces you to face the question of personal identity upfront. What are your passions? What makes you tick? What are some life long goals of yours?

Some people may find that their childhood has helped them to answer these questions very clearly. But for what I expect is the majority, it takes a lot of trial and error experiences to properly know these things. Passions and goals have a habit of even changing over time which is why you may meet people in their 40s or 50s who still may not know what they want to do with their lives.

For me, my identity journey has involved embracing what it means to be black, a woman and a person of faith. Society talks very loudly – all it takes is a 30 minute scroll through Twitter to feel like my brain is going to scramble from subconsiocusly absorbing eeryone’s thoughts! Making it a daily point to take a step back and look upwards instead of outwards or inwards is important.

5. Confrontation becomes unavoidable

When I was younger my mum would happily march to my school when she thought  anything or one was getting in the way of me having a positive educational experience – i.e incidents of bullying.

Adulthood still has its bullies – they have similar traits but just look different. They’re often people with little regard for others, who have unchecked previlege and are in a position of authority in some form. Although my mum is very much around, I know she can’t fight my battles for me anymore – I have to confront problematic people head on. The need for necessary confrontation will likely psotively correlate with age as you realise the growing importance of accountability and proper communication. It cna make all the difference if you are able to say – whether to a partner or manager etc – ‘You doing [x] makes me highly uncomfortable so please stop’. 

I’m by no means a master of confrontation so envy those that are. One thing I do know is that it has to be done with tact – there’s a right place, time and way to do things so it is worth covering these bases before jumping on the confrontation train!

The World as We Know It

I told myself I wasn’t going to write a post about COVID-19 but I think that would be a disservice to the extent of the situation if I didn’t. With the exception of this post, I will try to post minimally about the topic simply because I’m sure everyone is a bit overwhelmed with information – possibly to the point of fatigue. As I sit working from home each day; I switch on the news on the radio and hear about COVID-19 for several hours straight, so I for one can testify to this.

It’s a weird phenomenon we are currently experiencing where it feels like we are receiving too much information, yet at the same time, we know nothing at all. From what I’ve seen it’s clear this ‘being in the dark’ feeling extends all the way to political leaders who are primarily acting reactively to the situation with the little information they have. We are still learning about the virus and each day it seems something new is revealed.

Deaths in Britain have reached over 28,000 which is just astonishing to even think about. My heart goes out to families having to currently grieve during this ordeal. Many report their loss is magnified by the fact they didn’t get to stay with their loved one during their last moments because of the safety measures currently in place. Similarly, many who may have wanted to attend the funerals for those now passed could not due to number restrictions on who could attend.

We have witnessed the pandemic bring out the best and worst in people as the nation has experienced feelings of fear, panic and sympathy all at once. Initially, people started to panic buy in droves with items such as hand sanitiser, toilet roll and dried/tinned goods proving most popular. It was all well and good for individuals who managed to get what they needed but their selfish buying, unfortunately, was disproportionately affecting the elderly and NHS workers who would go shopping for groceries – only to find most of the items they need are gone. This led to several heartbreaking scenes being shared on social media like the one below:

Luckily, this behaviour has died down in the UK now due to the excellent response from supermarkets who decided to implement measures such as rationing in order to ensure as many people as possible could purchase what they need.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen undying acts of generosity and kindness. Big brands are donating goods, offering NHS worker discounts and manufacturing high demand items like PPE and ventilators. And to balance that we also see individuals and charities working to feed those that may have been forgotten through all of this such as those in homeless shelters and elderly individuals living alone. Additionally, I’ve seen people cook homemade meals for keyworkers and school kids, as well as landlords, offer accommodation rent-free to NHS workers. Lots of heartwarming stuff really!

 

I remember reading on my Instagram this weekend a post that said ‘The World as we know it has changed.’ In other words, there is no ‘normal’ anymore. Returning back to business is not a choice because the definition of ‘normal’ has changed from here on. But the post went on to say we should embrace this change – because the way we were functioning before was flawed and in need of adjustment. I think this perspective is a useful one to adopt – it allows us to look forward and be filled with hope, as we should.

From the way we communicate, spend our leisure time to the way we work  – this pandemic has opened a new way of doing things that may become a new normal. I’ve seen everything from IG streamed concerts, pub quizzes and weddings over Zoom to virtual conferences and church services.  I look forward to seeing how this manifests but I personally will be taking a well needed from Zoom calls and webinars of all forms – post lockdown!

There’s hope on the horizon with several talks of vaccines being tested and countries like Italy and China slowly relaxing lockdown regulations as deaths decrease. The UK itself is likely to follow suit in a few months now that we have experienced the peak of the curve; meaning deaths from here on should steadily decrease. That is of course as long as people KEEP THEIR BUTTS AT HOME!

Lastly, to those reading – stay strong and hang in there!

 

Mid-read Reviews: April 2020

One of my resolutions going into the New Year was to read a lot more which I think I am definitely doing; although I don’t have many books to show for it since I seem to, unfortunately, read at a snail’s pace. Of course, I try not to get bogged down in hitting arbitrary goals because that does tend to suck the fun out of leisurely activities like reading.

I thought I would talk a bit about the books I am reading and my thoughts on them – although they are yet to be completed (so no spoilers, please.)

So my current reads are:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Blurb: racial tensions rise in a small community when Atticus – the father of the To_Kill_a_Mockingbird.jpgprotagonist Scout- takes on a rape case, defending Tom Robinson – the black man falsely accused of the crime.

I started to read this a few years ago but never completed it because the copy wasn’t mine and I had to give it back. This read is, therefore, technically my chance at redemption. The part I am currently at is the trial; which I believe the whole book is technically meant to build up towards. It goes without saying that this book is considered a classic, although I am probably reading it more critically and with higher expectations because of that.

It’s hard not to view the protagonist Scout really fondly; I love her curiosity and brave spirit. She also seems to be amazingly intelligent for her age and in many scenes holds her own in conversations with her adult counterparts. Part of me does suspect this is due to the fact she is looking back on childhood events using language natural to her as an adult, as opposed to how she truly spoke as a child.

It would have been interesting to read this at a younger age and compare it to what I know now. Lots of people I speak to about the book mention fondly that they studied it at school; so it appears I must have attended schools that were statistical anomalies in that regard.

One profound part I recently read involves Scout’s friend Dill who runs out crying after witnessing how Tom is questioned on the stand. As Jean consoles him one of the adults observes them and says Dill shouldn’t worry – he may cry now but when he gets older he won’t get as emotional when he witnesses any racial injustice. That scene really does make you realise how desnsitised we easily become overtime to the struggles of others. Most of the time it’s a protection mechanism but it’s rather the fact it happens without us noticing which makes it more insidious.

My Dark Vanessa cover

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

Blurb: The book centres on Vanessa who at 15 years old was abused by her English teacher Jacob Strane. Vanessa, – adamant Jacob was her first love – now in her 30s struggles to come to term with past events in the light of the #Metoo movement.

This book is a recent release from HarperCollins but even before then, it has been making the rounds on social media; for some good reasons, and some less so. I was no doubt excited to delve in – the cover alone looks fantastic. From the blurb it goes without saying that this is not an easy or light read; it also does mean I have to take it small doses.

One thing it does make you realise is that victims of trauma come on a spectrum and the road to recognition and peace is not an easy one. Vanessa was ultimately deprived of normal teenage years – instead of giggling with friends at corner shops or gossiping about crushes – she was weighed down with the responsibility of keeping her ‘relationship’ with Jacob a secret. He’s honestly a despicable character; frequently using emotional blackmail to maintain the secrecy of the abuse. The book switches between past and present quite seamlessly; so we are able to witness how the abuse started and its present effects on Vanessa as an adult.

Vanessa as a protagonist isn’t the most likable of people but I don’t think that’s the important thing about this book.  As pointed out skillfully in this article; a lot of well known narratives on abuse revolve around the  perpetrator –  most notably, Lolita; which is referred to often in this novel. Narratives like these then are about women taking ownership of the narrative and finally having the space to share their story.

So there you go – a nice mix of modern and class I like to think.

If you’re looking for more detailed thoughts/ exploration of themes of My Dark Vanessa I would recommend this fantastic round table discussion on The Book Slut – a site I also write for.

Please do feel free to comment & share any thoughts you have about either book!