Happy new year, everyone! The collective mess of 2016 has finally drawn to a close. Never has a year carried such a weight of anticipation as 2017. I know you can’t really blame a year for being ‘bad’. The loss of celebrity idols doesn’t equate to a ‘bad’ year (although Bowie and Alan Rickman within days was a bit sore). If we’re being really pernickety, time is linear and the concept of it is a man made construct, so we can’t constrict bad times to a 12 month period.

Still it’s always nice to put a full stop on a stressful time, which is what 2016 was for me- and a lot of friends, too.

It wasn’t all bad though. One of the good things about reflecting on the past year is remembering how much good actually happened. Upon reflection there was a lot to be thankful for. Even before I started blogging again I liked to have a wee look back on the year that was- it’s something I’ve always done at this time of year. Now that I have a blog again it’s nice to have a snapshot of different times of the year. I can see how my writing has developed (if at all- you tell me). It shows me how far I’ve come in a lot of aspects of my life. In this year of big change that’s been especially welcome. As is tradition I’ve compiled a wee list of some of my favourite posts of this year: ones that are special to me, that I’m especially proud of or ones that have had memorable responses. Let me know what you think of my choices… I haven’t even been blogging again for a year so I guess I’m still learning!

FYI, clicking on the post titles will take you straight to them.

Norwegian For Beginners

This was my first post of the year, although it took me until February. I’d meant to write a travel post after our first Berlin trip in November 2015 but graduation, work and Christmas sort of got in the way. Three days in Oslo seemed like the perfect way to break myself back in to writing, and try something new with travel writing. It also meant I could show off the sweet skills of my new phone camera (alas, we can’t all afford the tools we’d like) and new found love for VSCO. Writing about something new helped to refocus me. It enlivened a love for writing that had lain dormant. I also wrote that Berlin blog after our second trip, which you can find here and here.

In hindsight

Despite being an early entrant, this was one of my favourite posts of the year. It wasn’t written with any agenda or expectation. I was completely free in writing it. It was just a nice way of documenting a spontaneous adventure, something different after a hectic 2015 and the start of (what I thought) would be a year of adventures. If there’s anything to take from this post, it’s that I should learn to just write for the enjoyment of doing it. It’s easy to write yourself into a rut but getting out of it can be tricky. It’s definitely something I’ll be taking with me in 2017.

A Protest

In all honesty I got a little complacent after graduation. The job market started to pick up after new year but- other than just apply for ’em- I wasn’t doing much to make myself a Top Candidate. I fell into a routine of applying for jobs during the day, working in a bar at night time and being thoroughly miserable for the entirety. In March, I received a shock when I was let go, over the phone, without any warning or explanation. I wrote this post after weeks of trying to explore other options (such as employment tribunals) and realising that I had none. My case met all of the criteria for a tribunal, but as I was on a zero hour contract I had no entitlement. It left me feeling at the end of my rope. I felt like no one could help me- or wanted to. I wrote this post to make people aware of the conditions that zero hour staff worked under- regardless of the establishment. After posting it, I went for a walk to prepare myself for the negative feedback. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The outpouring of support was pretty overwhelming and I even got a new job- and a reconnected friendship- out of it.

In hindsight

This whole debacle was one of the biggest hidden blessings of the year. It forced me to rethink where I wanted to go, and look at areas in which I was lacking. It made me take action. I’d gotten lazy. I started looking into volunteering opportunities, and got more involved in the online blogging community. I took my story to my local MP who was immediately on board (because she is amazing). She took my case to Westminster and used it as part of a campaign against zero hour contracts. Unfortunately the DWP still thinks they’re a great idea but there’s a long way to go. The DWP is also headed by a man who allegedly believes in gay conversion while also getting embroiled in extra-marital sexting. Workers’ rights are really close to my heart but I didn’t get as involved as I would’ve liked last year. I’m excited to see what 2017 brings.

Speaking of unexpected twists…

Little Surprises

Writing about personal issues has never been my forte. For all that I post on social media, it’s never that deep. I’m just not a very open person. Some people aren’t. I admire the openness of people who can wear their hearts on their sleeves, but that’s just not me. However the feedback from A Protest gave me a boost in confidence. I found that I could write about personal issues if I felt they could help other people. It didn’t make me feel all that vulnerable if I knew that other people might take something from it, or use it to further their own knowledge.

Our pregnancy announcement was met with an influx of congratulations but I felt like a fraud. It had taken us a long time to get to a happy place with the news. It was a shock for which we weren’t ready, or even sure that we wanted. My first reaction wasn’t excitement. It’s hard when every pregnancy announcement, blog or website talks about the joy of impending motherhood when you don’t know how you feel. The two weeks in between taking a pregnancy test and sharing our news were the loneliest and most terrifying of my life. We didn’t know how we were going to proceed and I couldn’t tell anyone until we did. I wanted to put a little contribution out there in my corner of the internet for anyone in the same position. I wrote this thinking that if at least one scared expectant mum saw it, she’d know she wasn’t alone. It was still scary to publish, but it turned out to be my most-read post thus far and the response was pretty overwhelmingly positive.

In hindsight

I could never have predicted the reaction this post received. This was only my third post of the year. I had no following. I wrote it so my friends could see it. The amount of shares, comments and messages that I received, from people who had felt the same, was unreal. It just showed that the way I felt wasn’t weird. It didn’t mean I was going to be a bad mum. It was normal. It was what spurred me to keep writing, but with the same honesty I’d put into this. To everyone who read this, or who will read it, I hope you manage to take something from it- and please know that however you feel, you’re not alone.

Baby Talk

After months of writing pregnancy updates, I’d hit a wall. Writing about pregnancy had been a great way of helping me navigate it. There had been a few missed weeks where I’d been lacking in inspiration, working back shifts and getting home late or just felt a bit deflated. I’d tried to write different kinds of posts but a creeping self-doubt had set in. Posts where I’d tried to make a serious point descended into hormone-fuelled rants. Deviations from my usual content felt forced, uninteresting, unfunny. I couldn’t think of how to get out of it, but opted to stop trying to make it happen. In that time I’d noticed a pattern in comments people were making about me, my bump and pregnancy in general. The more it went on, and the more I smiled through gritted teeth, an idea came to me. I started taking note of the more common ones, mentally noting the things I wished I could say. Stuck at home with a bout of the lurgy one day, I wrote them all down and voila- a list long enough to make a post out of. Again I almost resigned this one to draft post purgatory in case it came across as ‘woe is me, no one understands my life choices’. To combat this I scheduled the post and busied myself for when it was due to launch. When I came back to it, it had already been shared by some new and expectant mum pals as well as- the ultimate test- child free pals, too. Not too shabby.

In hindsight

I guess a common theme here is to have more confidence in posts that I think people will hate. I know, you should write for yourself and not care what people think. The fact is, as much as writing is cathartic for me, it’s also about connectivity. Getting comments from people who’ve read what I’ve written, and have their own take on it, is the biggest compliment because it means they’ve engaged with it. Even if people don’t agree with me- well, it’d be boring if everyone thought the same. Pregnancy is such a topic of contention- I’d read a few posts and they can come across as a little sanctimonious. I made an effort to not come across that way, and I think it worked. This one taught me that just because a topic has been written about, doesn’t mean mine will be the same. My voice isn’t the same as anyone else’s. If I can take anything into my 2017 blogging agenda, it should be this.

29 Things

Again there are so many “X Things Before x Years” posts out there, I never thought mine would be any different. However, approaching 30 felt like a big deal to me. One that should be marked. I’d never made a “30 things to do before I’m 30” list because, well, I didn’t really know where I was heading. All ambition and no direction has always been my downfall. The place I’m in now as a result is far removed from what I imagined. I thought about listing 30 things I should’ve done, but what would’ve been the point? Listing your regrets, and things you didn’t do, is a waste of time. It’s not going to make them happen. Instead I went a little more introspective and looked at what I’d learned instead.

In Hindsight

Writing has always been really cathartic for me, and none more so than here. Not only that but it was revealing. Thinking about what I’ve learned in the last ten years made me realise how much I’ve actually done. It made me see how far I’ve progressed- maybe I’m not where I thought, but it’s been a hell of a journey getting here. Again I used a sick day (this time muscular pain which had pretty much left me bed-bound) and typed until I had a complete list. The first few took time but once they did, they kept coming. It helped me focus on my achievements rather than my failings. It reminded me that even when I thought I’d gone the wrong way, I’d still taken something from it. Reflection is eye-opening, and it can be scary, but this taught me that it’s worth checking in every once in a while.

His Story Chapter One and Two

OK so this one is a bit of a cheat since it’s technically two posts. One is a continuation of the other though, and they tell the same story, so it’s cool right? These posts were important for a couple of reasons. First of all, superficially, they were the first posts on this, my new blog domain. It seems trivial but it was a big deal for me. Blogging has always been a sideline for me, even with my increased content this year. It was never something I’d invested in (other than time). Investing in a new domain and theme meant paying actual money, which meant I had to really believe in what I was putting out- or rather, in where I was taking it. Going self-hosted was a big step for me and I looked into a lot of options before I did. I haven’t had much chance to get the best of it but it’s still early days.

Secondly- obviously- it gave me a chance to reflect on my birthing journey and share it with whoever might be interested. I didn’t want to present a sugar coated view of labour, but didn’t want to go into the blood, sweat and tears either. I like to think that months of writing about pregnancy in that way had made it easier to write about the birthing part, too.

In Hindsight

I’m not sure I was prepared for how emotional this would be to write. After restarting my blog to document pregnancy, surely I knew all along that a birth story would be the natural end. As I said though, I’d gotten so used to pregnancy that it was hard to associate this baby with the bump I’d grown to love. The birth story was a definite full stop to a previous chapter. In the weeks that have passed, I’m glad that I have pregnancy posts to read back on. It’s nice to see everything that we got up to, and how it felt at the time. However, a very distinct new story has very definitely started. I might be a little melancholy to leave the old one behind. There was so much help along the way, check ins every few weeks, a definite end. The new one doesn’t have an ending, or much direction. That’s what makes it scary, but it’s also what makes it exciting.

After a bad week and a good week I was a little worried how this one was going to go. I thought they might alternate and I’d have to ride this one out and wait for next Monday. As it turns out, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Like the preamble to bigger and more exciting things: necessary, full of potential but not quite there yet.

skinny jeans

Although finding maternity skinny jeans was pretty exciting.

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starbucks-media-uni-poser

You would think, after school, college, an undergraduate degree and finally a Masters, that the art of studying and preparedness would have been honed down to a finely chiselled point. I always presumed that Masters students were the cooler kids of the academic hierarchy, the ones who wear all black and huddle together to smoke those really thin cigarettes and talk in depth about politics and literature and social injustice and knew what they were talking about. They were experts in their fields. They had it together.

Or so I thought, until I became one.

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So, with uni deadlines looming, a busted, virus-ridden laptop, a distinct lack of employment, it’s not been the hottest start to 2015 so far. I was humming, hawing and rebooting my laptop while watching Nick Broomfield’s new film (I know how to procrastinate well), thinking that since it’s March, surely the year is worth some quarterly review.

Obviously that was way more work that I was willing to put in when it’s howling with sleet and rain and there’s imaginary holidays to plan. Poking about with blog settings and figuring out how to work Bloglovin’ seemed like a much better idea.

Then I found an old post from a previous attempt at a blog, that I’m not sure why I actually gave up. Apparently not blogging, and making up excuses for not doing so, has been an ongoing habit. This post first featured in January 2014 and it’s still more relevant than I’d like it to be…

New Year, New Start. Or New Calendar, At Least.

It’s the end of the week but I’m all about the new. New year, new post, new attempt at telling myself I’m ‘totally going to keep up with blogging this year’. I said the same thing last year with scattered and infrequent results, and I’m in no way promising myself that I’ll follow up on it this year. But still, if you can’t kid yersel’ on in January, when can you…?

I always make New Year’s Resolutions and rarely actually make any progress with them. Or they’re so broad (‘totally get fit’) that any attempt at completing them is a vague win for progress (‘sign up for one class a week. In September’). In any case, I’m most definitely not alone, as less than 10% of us actually make good on our promises. So, what’s the problem?

Mine was always that my resolutions were vague and impersonal. The same ones everyone makes. Lose weight. Get fit. Learn to drive. Luv lyf. 2013 was… lackluster at best. I sorted out my love life, but the rest has a way to go. Still, I made some headway. I done some exercise. I got trainers for Christmas to support this. I passed my theory test. I got Instagram like all the other cool kids who eat food and wear clothes. Totally onwards and upwards, right?

I decided to actually put in some research this time. 2014 was going to be a good yin, and the internet was going to help me, because as everyone knows, nothing is official ’til it’s on the internet (scientists also support this theory, as does NASA, and most journalists). I had a look at the most popular resolutions, and had a wee think about how I could adapt them for myself. Make them more personalised. That way, I couldn’t fail, no…?

1. Appreciate others and, in turn, appreciate yourself.

That’s a song we can all dance to.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the internet, it’s that if I dislike or disagree with someone or something, it’s because I’m rotten with jealousy at this snarling, empty hole in my life which this person or opinion is fulfilling in their own. To try and generate empathy I’ve started wearing those celebrity masks you get out the Newsbox and walking around with a giant hashtag of my own name following me wherever I go. So far some One Direction fans have built a shanty town outside my house and my mum’s super pissed because she can’t get her car out the driveway for work in the morning. I tried to explain that I’m just putting myself in other people’s shoes.
2. Let go of your phobias and fears.
My biggest phobia isn’t dying alone, or failure, or never spawning potential bone marrow donors. I don’t like cows. When I was a child I playfully clambered onto a country fence and mooed at some cows residing in a field. The cow mooed back right in my face and I fell off said fence, seriously winding myself and embarking on a lifelong fear of the bovine. It was also my first day of school, so the whole experience made me hate school too. It’s also a tiny reason why I became vegetarian.* I’m hardly going to start eating meat again, so I’ll have to focus on eliminating my fear of looking foolish in public instead. I could overcome this by mooing at some cows and nail two birds with one stone, but I don’t want to progress too much, too fast.
*This isn’t even any word of a lie. It’s a true story. Ask my parents.
3. Dance like no one is watching.
 
Whenever I hear someone say “I dance like no one is watching”, I don’t imagine them swooshing their hair in rhythm to that song from Hair, holding hands with a commune of other happy, dancing, free spirits. I imagine them furtively drawing all their curtains, pumping up the Q Lazarus and jerking around awkwardly wearing their next door neighbour’s scalp. This is perhaps one to take under advisement, because the thought of touching other people’s hair gives me the boak.
In saying that, people have worn less on nights out and gotten away with it. Hmm.
 
4. Ditch the car and fit in more exercise!
This one seems to be pretty popular in that it’s often cited as the easiest way to squeeze exercise into your busy, busy, busy lifestyle. Everyone seems to have one these days, amiright? I for one just don’t know how I’m supposed to find the time for exercise in between The Real Housewives of New York and their counterparts in Beverly Hills.
This one also angered me because it felt like it was actively trying to mock me. I walk pretty much everywhere that doesn’t require transport. Also, I was so successful on my first attempt at a driving test that they want me to go and do it again. I then realised it was myanger that was holding me back. This is the year of letting go, I thought to myself. Instead, I would face the elements with a smile, rain lashing my face and ruining any attempts I’d made at taming my hair or hiding hormonal face breakouts, and grin like a sweet natured simpleton at all the fools with cars then can afford to run because they have jobs, as they roll their way to an early grave. And a double wide coffin. Joke’s on you!
5. Go after your dream job and stop living to work.
I don’t live to work. I would very much like to. I like to think of myself as a professional interview attendee. I’ve gotten quite good at it. I’d like to go after that big promotion, which in this case means actually getting past interview stage. There’s apparently an economic upturn, from here on it’s going to be like the old glory days, when recent graduates walked into CEO positions and blew their noses with £50 notes and tramps and aristocrats discussed their favourite caviar because everyone was equal and better off.
That being said, maybe I shouldn’t wait for the opportunity to come to me. Maybe I should just make it happen myself, become a self employed business type. I watch alot of films and frequently binge on TV shows, mostly once their popularity has waned (I’m only just feeling the horrific loss of the Firefly crew). I could become a professional lamenter, telling people how much better things were back in the day. Or I could take a tip from Breaking Bad and start punting drugs. I live near several schools and underpasses, so it’d be easy money. By this time next year I might even have my own caravan!*
I also own a hat like this and it makes me look both super professional AND #ootd cute.
*I may be missing the point of Breaking Bad, I’ve only ever seen half an episode, and it was the second one.
I felt like 5 was a decent number to round up on. Making ten resolutions seems a little far-reaching at this moment in time. Baby steps. Don’t run before you can walk. Make small changes and the big changes will happen themselves. You get the jist. By next Hogmanay, I’ll be such a new and improved specimen that resolutions will be a daily occurrence, I’ll be a walking good deed and a powerhouse of physical and mental strength. I will be actualised ambition in human form. And I’ll have done it all without once resolving to quit smoking. SUCCESS!

Well, that was quite a week.

After starting off somewhat middling- I’m about 2/3 of the way through my middle semester in uni, it is what it is- I was finally feeling a little smug about getting assignment work started early. I have six assignments due in the space of two weeks and I tend to fly pretty close to the deadline. For the first time since I’ve been in education I had started on three of ’em and was pretty proud of myself.

Then BOOM. I went home, tipped my bag out and my USB drive- the device upon which my life depended- was gone. I spent a full evening and the following day checking everywhere: the security office, every classroom I’d been in, every reception desk in Caley Uni- which is a lot- and even walked up and down my route to the train. I’d done a dramatic sweep of all the crap off of my bedside table and achieved an awesome sense of drama, but not much else.

In the meantime, I was also getting a bunch of job rejections, which sucked. Since finishing up at the film festival I’ve been looking for something, anything, that I can fit around uni for at least the next couple of weeks. Dissertation term doesn’t count, obviously, that’s like free time. I didn’t have a whole lot else to do with my time since I couldn’t exactly go out spending money. Plus the weather was shit.

Underwhelming eclipse photo.

Underwhelming eclipse photo.

It took a full couple of days of walking around in a grey cloud- in my mind and, y’know, the weather- before the sun broke. Walking around feeling crappy wasn’t making me feel any better. It just made me feel more crappy. Moaning about my lost USB wasn’t going to get any more work done. I looked at how much work I had lost, and it was nowhere near as much as I thought. I was a week behind at the most. I got a call for a job interview. Not such a bad humpday after all.

Slightly more whelming eclipse photo.

Slightly more whelming eclipse photo.

Then, today, there was an eclipse, and that was kind of cool. It was officially the first day of spring. After a long ass winter, it was nice to feel some warm sunshine and not that lying bastard winter sun that just makes driving hard. Then, out of nowhere, I got a phone call from uni saying my lost USB had been retrieved. I’m not one for getting all deep and writing down feelings, but it’s always nice to end on a high note. There’s definitely a shift in the air. Plus once it gets heavy into spring, I can crack out my pastel lilac skinny jeans again, they’re just not a valid winter option. Happy Friday!

Words to end the week on indeed.

Words to end the week on indeed.