The Dawn

large (15)If you’re not fussed about the forthcoming 365 days, or you roll your eyes at those looking for a fresh start, then count yourself lucky; it means that you’ve probably had a decent year. For those of us who haven’t been so fortunate, midnight tonight is more important than Christmas Eve, Cinderella losing her slipper and the Super Bowl, all rolled into one.

I now sympathise with those who secretly hope, as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, that something will happen to make them forget the past and magic a whole new them. I haven’t understood this ideal until now because I haven’t ever wanted to do either of those things, but this year is different.

For those of you who know me or follow my blog, you’ll know or have picked up on the fact that 2014 hasn’t, shall we say, been the best. Between bad choices, unavoidable familial catastrophes, a lack of creative umph and a steer in the wrong direction, it has all been a bit bleak, culminating in a tremulous blow on November 30th which served to ensure that my year, would in fact, end on a downright low.

After the final whistle, as I sat on my bathroom floor surrendering in floods of tears, I knew I had reached rock bottom with a big, hard thud. But, alas, what happens when you hit rock bottom? Things, thankfully, start to look up. And in this case, I started to look at the positives: I regained a good friend this year; I finally got to see New York; I’ll turn 26 in March; I have tickets to that long-standing festival in Somerset and my birthday falls on a Sunday which means there is a high chance of an epic brunch and a cycle along the river in springtime (following a night of gin and debauchery, of course; I’m not that old). So I guess things aren’t all bad and the horizon is looking warm; sunrise is soon.

It hasn’t helped that I’m not the only one suffering; the whole world has taken a battering it seems: missing planes, deadly viruses, famine, war, sex trafficking in the North, an abysmal World Cup, hacking scandals, violent protests; riots; Black Friday; Frozen being legal and X Factor just not giving it up.

So after this gloomy year that most of us have had to endure, why don’t we, for once, stop history repeating itself? Instead of letting go of everything that went wrong, or taking for granted what has gone right, learn from it all and take charge of your own story; this time without making the same mistakes twice. My resolutions this year are simple: drink more water, be more creative and do things that scare me, as often as possible. Be brave, be kind, don’t be afraid to be hopeful.

I’ve started to realise that 2014 and the negativity that it brought with it was just a dress rehearsal for the year ahead. I’ve gotten rid of all the bloopers, the lazy, half-arsed run-throughs and am now ready for opening night. Which, for me, will be midnight on December 31st. Or after dinner on the 1st, once I’ve eaten off my hangover.

So today, take the time to freshen up for the show of 2015: exfoliate your skin, trim those beards and sort your lids out so we can start the year as fresh as can be; looking great, feeling optimistic and sure as hell a lot more savvy than this time last year.

So until we meet again next New Year’s Eve, with more lessons we’ve learnt and happy memories to share, here’s to the next 52 weeks. They’re yours for free. Own them, and enjoy them.

Happy New Year.

X

The Travel – A Guest Post

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Seeing The World: What Better Way To Spend Your Time?

Throughout my teenage years and early twenties, travelling was always something that I felt I probably should do, rather than actually wanted to. Being the painfully OCD freak that I am and so very attached to London’s home comforts, the grim logistics of backpacking oddly never appealed to me. Needless to say, not showering for days on end, scooping dinner out of a tin (if at all), and nursing foreign hair infestations was not on my list of things to do. Regretfully at the ripe old age of 27, I’ll happily say I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s the best thing I’ve ever chosen to do.

Obviously there were holidays over the years: family trips to Spain, boozy city breaks with mates, South Africa with Seany, jollies with the missus and music festivals, all of which I’m hugely fortunate to have enjoyed and loved. This trip, however, is something else entirely. The places, people and cultures have been so dramatically diverse, heart-meltingly humble and astoundingly helpful, to the extent I often believed these encounters were an elaborate scam or robbery. They never were.

Views so beautiful they have literally taken my breath away, surroundings that no iPhone, digital camera or even SLR can truly capture and I can’t even attempt to describe in words the sheer size and scale of these places. And the beer, let’s not forget the beer; at any time of day and more wallet-friendly than water on most occasions; smashing three course lunches for about £1.50 in Bolivia and frankly inhaling the dirt-cheap steaks and red wine of Argentina, as if someone were about to steal them from under our noses. The people we’ve met along the way have also been (for the most part, I’ll get to that) terrific human beings and I wouldn’t think twice about putting any of them up in the big smoke.

But despite those seemingly endless praises, travelling does carry its darker undertones. So’s not to put you off, I’ll try and keep this brief. Here’s what those Lonely Planet books don’t tell you:

The Comfort Zone

Travelling with my girlfriend has been hugely rewarding both on a personal level and in terms of our relationship. We’re now so close, it’s become common place to discuss the consistency, colour and volume of our shit, after EVERY trip to the toilet. Sometimes it’s even reported through the bathroom door, bellowing with sheer joy and relief that it’s a, ‘SOLID ONE!’, having beaten the diarrhoea roulette. Your partner’s face is also seriously important, you better really, really, like it, for the only time you don’t see it, is when you’re asleep or during those brief milliseconds of respite when you blink.

Tossers

I’ve made a point of mentioning how amazing the people we’ve met are, and on the whole, we’ve been very lucky. Of course, as a law of averages, there are going to be exceptions, or, ‘tossers’, as I like to call them. Company so intolerable, that it makes you think perhaps you’re being punished for something in a past life. Wankers so unfathomably annoying, that I frequently found myself pushing an imaginary sock into their mouths, in the hope of putting a plug into the know-it-all, anti-government, anti-commercialism, anti-job, anti-McDonald’s, anti-fucking-anything to be honest chat. One chap in particular spoke at length to us at how large household brands and corporate companies were destroying the world and killing people, as in actually murdering them for land. The same cock sat there telling us all of this in a pair of Nike tracksuit bottoms, guzzling a can of Coke with his Marlborough Lights, showing us ‘proof’, on his sodding iPHONE. We got some comic mileage out of this knob though, so not all bad.

Dormz

Even after nearly thee months, the concept of this still unnerves me. “Hi eight total strangers, so we’re all just going to sleep in this hotbox of a room together, stacked like free prisoners, pretending like this is all completely normal behaviour?”. It has to be done at times and there’ll be a good few more to come I imagine, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. The sound of incessant snoring, persistent crotch scratching, phlegm-hocking and and bilingual sleep talking will always hold a dear place in my heart. As will the Venezuelan girls puking solidly between 3-4am, then ignoring their 5:30am alarm call for what felt like an eternity, until they were literally shaken to consciousness by my main bitch – she can get scarily Belfast when she needs to. Thankfully we’ve not bore witness (that we know of) to any camel-feeding, sausage-eating, todger-pulling or finger blasting. Yet. We did however come across one harrowing account of a dorm experience, where a charming Aussie girl insisted her new love conquest refrained from, “Spitting in her fanny”, at which point the neighbouring bed occupier had enough and threw them both out. Bravo.

*

Having digested all that, I’m sure you’re busy clicking through Sky Scanner web pages with your calculator, and so you should be, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make. You won’t remember that car or designer handbag you bought on your deathbed in years to come, instead it’ll be some naked Slovakian boy on the opposite bunk, who in his sleep-induced state decided he was going to sit on the end of his bed and glare into your soul, while you pretend to be engrossed in the latest free download on your Kindle. Good times.

photoWritten by Alex O’Brien, my real life older brother. No we are not twins, yes I am the better looking one.

If you want to keep updated on his escapades, home or away, follow him on twitter here. He’s kind of funny.

The Clear Out

I never usually buy into the whole ‘New Year-New Me’ mantra, but this year feels different.

2011 brought with it some massive highs such as graduating from university but it also decided to drag me through some tremulous lows; the main culprit being a lengthy break-up with the perfect guy. And although I don’t actually believe that I can create a whole new me, and I probably wouldn’t want to given half a chance, I can improve me. So, I took to my closet, my chest full of treasures, my boxes of university crap and even braved the monster under the bed to get to organising the dusty boxes from days gone by.

Although the whole experience was admittedly rather cathartic, I have to say that amidst the cringe worthy glittery sequin numbers from teenage discos and joy on uncovering old Spice Girls CDs, the main things I discovered were both enjoyable and painful memories: most of which I would rather lock in my brain, rather than my bedroom. So what I thought was going to be a day full of liberating groans, actually turned out to be a weepy, yet powerful few days. Throwing away old bank statements, ticket stubs from pointless dates and sifting through cards from ex boyfriends meant that I got to choose what memories I keep from now on, as I realised that without these little reminders, I probably would never have even remembered ice-skating that December with some twat from the year below and that I once wore denim-on-denim: No matter how hard people try to tell me, it is not, and never will be, a good look.

However, aside from all the doom and gloom, there was a plus side to clearing out my room. I found hundreds of hilarious photographs of me and my girlfriends, reminding me why we’re still the best of friends. I found tons of clothes I would have once thrown away that I now love and will definitely be rocking this weekend. The love letters from ex-boyfriends, although saddening, reminded me that although after every break-up you feel like you will never find that with someone again, you always do (or at least something similar). But my most important find of all was my fourteen-year-old attempt at a diary. This little pink Paper Chase number exposed the insecurities of my younger self, and at a time where I am still deciding what to do with my life, surprisingly gave me some great advice. Scrawled throughout were cut-outs from magazines, brochures about journalism from LCF and Brown and all my ‘In ten years time I will be…’ statements read ‘Editor for VOGUE’. Although this would mean I’d have to climb the ladder from unemployed to editor within the next two years (an impossible feat), I can give it a good whack. And as I dwelt on my future for a while, I began to notice what lay before me: my past. And I then started to realise that where I am now, is a consequence of everything in this room. I realised that everything I do now, will one day be a memory, stacked away in a cardboard box. So I’d better make the next year or so great to ensure the next clear-out is just as worthwhile.

So if you’re wishing away 2011 and feel like wiping the slate clean, I would recommend having a bit of a clear out. But be warned: prepare yourself with a box of tissues, lots of tea and a cracking playlist to pump-it’s going to take a while.

So two days, three sacks of clothes, two bags of recycling and a dust-cold later, I am done.

Let’s just hope it looks this spotless come February.

I guarantee it won’t.

The Decade

This year I saw in one of my most potentially life changing years.

In contrast to previous New Years Eve celebrations which have been clouded with anxieties about the future, seeing in 2011 felt so liberating! Although we already saw in this freshly squeezed decade at the start of 2010, 2011 is the year that I and the rest of my gap year tragified friends graduate, it is the year I will see one of my best friends go off to travel the world, I will lose friends, forget friends and gain new ones, but more importantly I will be affirming my new phase in life: my twenties. By 2020 I will be 31 for god’s sake. I could have babies and a husband, converted to Islam or even become a lesbian by then!

I see this decade as pretty much the start of my life and I cannot wait. As much as I’ve enjoyed the entire university/whole further education experience, my god I can’t wait to leave. I want to be back here in London; feeling the buzz of city life again, breathing in dirty air, befriending people on the tube and just generally being free again.

Bring on this confuzzling phase I say! It’s pretty much our parent’s version of the 80’s, recession included and they seem like they had a blast!

On the other hand though, Nostrebumnus or whatever his name is, predicted 2012 to be the end of the world, as did the wonderful Jay Sean (both of which, very reliable) which makes me think maybe I need to just focus on the year ahead rather than the next ten. What if the world does end in 2012? Guess I’ll have to live it up in 2011 just in case.

I think it’s going to be a good one. I can feel it. And if not, at least we know it’s going to be eventful!

Happy New Year you beautiful people.

The Career

large (9)On looking at the picture, I’m sure you’ll have gathered that it’s not what you think.

I’m not going to sit here and spout to you about how petrified I am about being in third year and not having a job, because quite simply, I’m not that scared. I mean don’t get me wrong, the prospect of leaving university with no real plan does  indeed worry me a little… but it also fills with so much excitement. How boring it must be to know you are headed for a job as soon as you leave three years of “endless fun” only to walk straight into something you will be doing, and will most likely be sick of for the rest of your life.

For those of you who have a job lined up after university, this is NOT a criticism. I think it is wonderful if that is what makes you happy but this is just a little reminder to both myself and those of you who have absolutely no idea what you are going to do with your life that it is ABSOLUTELY FINE. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Yes, that’s exactly what it is: fabulous.

You can live the dream… go travelling, experiment with narcotics, take up smoking, have sex in bins, act like you know everything when really you know nothing. Do anything that you will look back on in four years time and cringe about. That’s the fun of being an adolescent, something I will be until the age of 30 by the way, because let’s face it, that dude didn’t write the song “Forever Young” for nothing you know.

So girls; keeping wearing those miniskirts and smoking Marlboro lights and boys, keep being drunken fools and kissing far too many girls of an evening. That’s (apparently) what our early twenties were made for. Learning lessons. We have all the time in the world to be successful writers, bankers, teachers and business men; it’s our last chance to be young.

Embrace it. Live it. Look back and love it.