SMALL VICTORIES – JULY 2016

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I have achieved three out of four of my small victories this month, which is pretty good going considering how busy I’ve been.

We finally found a mirror that we both sort of like, I have somehow managed to avoid the sales and we have booked all of our flights for the summer. Naturally, the one thing I didn’t do was to exercise more, although I am yet to join a gym in Bristol.

Excuses, excuses. I know.

Anyway, looking forward to the next few weeks, I have decided that I am going to focus all my efforts on enhancing this little space of mine on the Internet. Not visually, but behind the scenes.

Here’s how:

1. Get SEO Savvy

I want to ensure that my voice is being heard by the sorts of people who might be interested in hearing it, so I have started an online course with The Digital Garage (a free programme run by Google) in order to wise up on keyword research, to understand what ‘long tail phrases’ are and to find out what other SEO jargon means in a bid to strengthen my skills. I am certainly learning a lot from these tutorials as the landscape of search engines and SEO shifts and changes.

2. Master Google Analytics

Analytics has been a friend of mine for a while now and, of course, I have taught myself the basics over the past couple of years, but I am keen to get to grips with the more advanced features of it. Any suggestions as to how I might find out a little more would be much appreciated.

Until then, kinesthetic learning (otherwise known as trial and error / feeling around in the dark) is my friend.

3. Write More

I have lots to say and I finally (sort of) have the time to write it all down and get it out there. I want to commit to three posts per week at least.

Any topic suggestions are more than welcome…

4. Spread my Seed

I really love when people send me guest posts to publish and share with my readers and I can imagine that you, as the reader, find it refreshing to hear a voice or opinion other than my own.

So, this month, instead of only posting on here, I am going to share my work with other bloggers (if they’ll have me) so I’ll keep you posted on that one.

5. (And completely unrelated to the Internet) Bend and Stretch

Basically, I want to get back into practising yoga on a regular basis. When I have some time out, I forget how great it makes me feel, so I think it’s time to hop on the mat and remind myself.

And those are my goals for July.

Think about what you would like to achieve over the next few weeks and go for it; there really is no time like the present.

Good luck!

THE LATE TWENTIES

large (2)And just like that, I turned 27.

It seems like only yesterday that I didn’t want mum and dad to leave me alone at the school gate; since I had my first boyfriend; since I was put into detention for talking too much and since graduation. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was too scared to ask for mayonnaise in restaurants, since I drank prosecco despite the hellish hangover to follow and since I bought all my clothes in Primark. Basically, time flies, whether you’re having fun or not.

And so here I am. In my late twenties. Young for some, ancient to others.

But what’s it like?

Well, when people asked me at 17 where I thought I’d be in ten years time, I certainly wouldn’t have painted a picture of my current Hannah Horvath infused lifestyle. I wouldn’t have been living at home and I wouldn’t do what I do for a living. I used to think that when you were my age you were an adult: mortgaged, engaged, successful, maybe even pregnant? I was so excited about turning 27 that I used to stick apples down my shirt and prance around the house pretending to be as old as I am now. I had so many expectations for this year. And in truth, now that I’ve arrived, it’s a bit… weird. 

It’s sort of a halfway house between feeling capable enough to have a mortgage and raise children, but not wanting to. It’s a confusing mix of wanting to eat snacks on a comfortable sofa over going out dancing but then dearly missing the stories from epic nights out. It’s wishing that you had more responsibilities than you do but being secretly happy that you don’t own a dishwasher. It’s that fine line between crop tops and tees. It’s the knowing that you’re not old enough to feel stable just yet but also being very aware of the fact that you’re not young enough to live a completely carefree and frivolous lifestyle anymore.

But for all it’s uncertainty in some aspects of life, being 27 means that I know who I am and that all I want is to be happy. I finally know what clothes suit me and that it’s okay to wear winged eyeliner on the daily. I know that my freckles aren’t my own worst enemy. I know that my legs might not be my favourite feature but they’re not the worst that could happen to me. I smile everyday. And I know who my friends are.

But most of all? I recognise that it’s important to be grateful and that things will work out if I try hard enough.

Being 27 might come with a few more grey hairs and the pesky ability to put on weight far easier than being 26, but the understanding yourself a little better is well worth the wait.

Happy Birthday to me.

A GIFT FOR YOU

Just before Christmas, Penguin Random House sent me two copies of a book. One for me and one for one of my readers.

Not one to normally frequent the Self-Help section in bookshops (there’s nothing wrong with doing that by the way, it’s just not where I personally seek solace) this is one that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered. It is a sort of dip-in-and-out-of book with the aim of setting you on the road to mindfulness, painted in soothing pictures and calming words. I don’t want to say too much about it as the best gifts are given as a surprise, but I believe this this book should go to someone in need of a break, who enjoys the beauty of print and needs a little help in taking some time out for themselves at the moment.

So if you know someone who you think deserves this as a new year treat – whether they have just gone through a major break up or if they just need assistance in stopping for more than a coffee – then comment below/Facebook/Tweet/Email me with their name, why you think they deserve a copy of the book and I’ll be in touch with details about sending it on its merry way. The catch? I’ll give it until the 25th January when I’ll choose a winner at random. Oh, and your nominated reader needs to live in the UK.

Help someone beat their blues this January.

Good luck!

THE NEW YEAR

large (19)I feel like I have learnt more about myself in the past year than I have in the last 26 put together.

I started 2015 on what can only be described as the lowest I have ever been. I had no job, my relationship was hanging on by less than a thread and I was suffering quite severely with anxiety and low self esteem. I looked to the year ahead and couldn’t see past March to be honest. I felt as though everything I knew about myself was wrong, I didn’t know where I was going to be by the following January and, when things were really bad, I didn’t care.

But here I am. With a job I don’t love but I need, not for the money but peace of mind, a relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything and a healthier outlook on the future.

Cliché or not, I genuinely can’t believe how much can change in a year.

Back in January, those closest to me kept saying that time was a healer and that things would change. They would remind me that nothing is permanent and that I wouldn’t feel this way forever. As you can imagine, I didn’t believe a single word of what they said. Instead, I chose to just bury my head in the sand and carry on with things by ignoring the stuff that was bothering me. This, of course, only made things worse. Until I decided to hit the reset button, chill the f out for a bit and start again.

And then just like that – or rather, six, quite long, quite difficult months later – on an ordinary day in December as I walked home from work, I realised that I didn’t feel sad, anxious, hurt or disappointed anymore. In fact, without knowing, I had grown in confidence, I was happier, more optimistic and driven than ever, but I didn’t feel these things outwardly, overwhelmingly or life-changeingly. I felt them in the most beautiful way possible: I simply felt okay again. And that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve when I hit the reset button back in July. I just wanted to feel like I was in control again and – finally – I do.

So, although I have friends who are joining me on a high of happiness at the close of the year – from engagements and career moves to pregnancies and new relationships – I also have those around me who have recently lost loved ones, who are caring for those who might not be with us for much longer and those who are nursing not broken, but completely shattered, hearts. And it is to those people who I am dedicating this New Year’s post to. Because I was you this time last year, waiting for midnight, hoping for a fairy godmother to appear and wash all of my troubles away with her magic wand. So, although you know as well as I did that she’s never going to come, I am here to remind you that, over the next few months, your luck will change, that there is still time to fix whatever it is that is broken and that by this time next year you will look back and almost be grateful for what you’ve just endured. It will take a few months of cutting yourself some slack, a dash of hard work and a whole lot of me time, but I promise, you will get there.

So, whether you’re excited, apprehensive or nervous about the coming year, be sure to surround yourself with the people you love tonight and give thanks for the things you do have, because that’s really the only thing that matters in this life.

See you in 2016 for another adventure.

Happy New Year.

THE SUBSTANCE

4639f10cf6d22f795ac20caa63594174As I watched a guy snort coke off a nightclub table top last week, I thought… well, I didn’t actually think anything to be honest. But that in itself made me realise that it just (rightly or wrongly) isn’t something that shocks or surprises me anymore.

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Londoner or not, but drugs seem to have been a staple on the party scene since I first stepped off the tube and into the bright lights of Piccadilly.

During sixth form, Nu-Rave was at its peak. And it wasn’t just the 80s clothing that people were replicating, but the whole rave culture. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, 2005 – 2007 (for people of a certain age) pretty much consisted of pill-popping, endless bottles of Evian and a whole load of shit music that you wouldn’t dream of dancing to sober.

Then came university where, cliche or not, weed was pretty popular in halls and student houses. I’m sure you can picture the scene: a host of sweaty post-pubescents, surrounded by piles of pizza boxes behind a green haze. Then came graduation, and with that came jobs, money and easier access to the stronger stuff. Having never entered the heels and suit-jacket type of workplace myself, my knowledge is minimal, but I’ve heard countless stories of coke in the staffroom, sharing grams with the boss and week-long benders that started out innocently as a client lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that Class As are used in places outside of the banking district, but I think you can see why I’m using this as an example.

Sounds like fun, right?

It probably is, until the time comes for our generation to feel the effects of this hapless drug use on our bodies.

We look at pill heads from the eighties, now in their 40s and 50s, and you can see it. The hours of partying etched into their deep seated wrinkles, some still clinging onto shaved barnets with ink scrawled across their bodies with the 6am musings of a barely-conscious paralytic. And we’ll be no different. I know some really quite successful people who use on a daily basis, there are tons who dabble each weekend and very few who have never tried some sort of substance. The scary part about recreational drug use is that with all the new types available on the market, we just can’t be sure what the effects will be and what sort of long-term damage we might be faced with; we just have to sit tight and wait.

A good few of my friends, however, are already feeling the effects, with a slow demise into depression, anxiety and addiction and most of them are under 30. I’ve watched people I know go from being the life and soul to quivering wrecks, unable to even go to the shop for a pint of milk; these are intelligent, good looking people who are now shadows of their former selves. There are also people I know who have turned to it in times of desperation, as a way of blocking out reality and existing in what they deem to be ‘a place of peace’. You might think I’m exaggerating, and so be it. Maybe in twenty years from now, you’ll look around you and realise that those people you partied a little too hard with are now looking somewhat dishevelled. And then you might look in the mirror and realise that you’re one of them.

This post isn’t here to judge or point fingers and lots of people who dabble end up having only great memories to show for it, but my intention is to hopefully make you think about maybe giving your body a rest- for at least 1 weekend out of 52. It’s already trying to cope with the alcohol running through your veins, let alone the crap that you’re shoving up your nose as well.

A night out V your future? I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s more important.

To me, it’s obvious.

Have a good week.

100

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No, my blog is not one hundred years old. I have, however, published one hundred posts since it all began back in December 2010. And that, I believe, is cause for celebration.

As I sat in my tiny – and very chilly – bedroom in Exeter in my third year at university, I wrote my first few posts. I think they were about tea, or lipstick, or chips; a little insight into what I thought was important at 21. As I threw words out there, somewhat naively, into the internet, I didn’t picture my blog lasting past the Christmas holidays, but here I am, four and a bit years later, writing my 100th post.

I started The London Ladybird as a way to write something other than chapters of my dissertation – which was centred around Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and therefore not wholly uninteresting – as well as to hopefully try and persuade people in the working world that I could string a couple of sentences together and that they should pay me to do so. But not even just that; I hoped that I could make people laugh, or feel a little more understood than they did already.

The feedback I get from people is why this site is still up and running. Those who have provided guest posts to me over the years always say how nerve-wracking they found the whole experience and a lot of people say they would never submit anything to me for fear of being ridiculed. I won’t lie, I still feel a little anxious each time I publish a post – not because I don’t want people to critique my work, in fact, I welcome constructive criticism – but I fear that people won’t enjoy the next as much as the last. However, the conversations that my posts inspire amongst friends and the comments I receive from strangers (be them agreeing with what I have to say or not) make it all worthwhile.

I’ve decided to celebrate all of this by choosing my top three posts since it all began, so here they are:

The Freckle – because it was my first ever.

The Fart – because I can’t believe I wrote about something so grim.

The Betrayal – because it was hard to write and even harder to post.

So, for as long as you are (hopefully) still enjoying this little space of mine on the internet, I’ll continue to write about everything from relationships to embarrassing bodily functions, because, why not? And if you’re contemplating starting one of your own, my advice to you would be to go for it; you really don’t have much to lose.

My one piece of advice? Always remember that:

‘The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink’

The Social Network. 

Only post what you really mean. Be honest, be smart, be open to other’s opinions.

Thank you for all of your support over the years. Here’s to the next one hundred posts!