BIG VICTORIES – 2016

Each month, I put together a Small Victories post, telling the internet (anyone that will listen) what I would like to achieve over the forthcoming 30 to 31 days. The decision to set these targets for myself was born from a desire to cut myself some slack halfway through last year and endeavour to celebrate the smaller achievements in life that that I am inclined to overlook whilst striving for twenty-something life-perfection, or as the youngsters call it, #goals.

Although I enjoy reaching for these smaller aims each month, we’ve reached that time of year again – a time for reflections and resolutions – so I thought it might be a better idea to share with you some of my bigger, more overarching aims for the year ahead instead.

So, if you would like to hear what I have planned for 2016, read on. And if you don’t? Then don’t. But be sure to take the time to reflect on your own resolutions.

Here goes.

1. Organise Myself

I want to make sure that I actually use my diary beyond the 14th January this year. Always one to scupper plans, clash dinner dates and forget to schedule posts on time, I am going to be so organised it hurts this year. Hopefully, this way, I’ll do – and achieve – a lot more. Last year was a chance to gather my thoughts and this year is a chance to take action.

2. See Things

Starting with Oslo at the end of this month and ending in Paris in December, I plan to see lots more of the world this year. After accepting that I no longer have what it takes for lengthy stints of backpacking, I will be enjoying clean sheets and shorter trips away throughout the year, enabling me to see snap shots of the world instead.

3. Learn Something New

I am going to learn how to code this year. I went to my first class last night and am already thinking about the usual anxieties about the next one: What do I wear? Who do I sit with? WILL ANYBODY LIKE ME?

I need to remember that – much like school – I am there to learn, not to socialise.

4. Never Work A Day In My Life

I want to find a job I love. I don’t want to just enjoy it, I want to really, really love it. I am looking for something that involves being creative and dynamic with perhaps a little bit of tech and travel involved. Where that might be? I’m not sure yet. Hopefully this will be the year I find out.

5. Give 

Finally, and most importantly, I want to choose a charity that I really believe in and actively support them throughout the year. Instead of lazily donating money each month to a selection of appeal posters that catch my eye on the tube, I want to get fundraising and spread the word for a good cause or two. Know of any charities who need a hand getting off the ground? Let me know, I’d love to help out.

So now you think about it. What would you like to achieve over the next 12 months?

If you’re not sure what to commit yourself to just yet, think about what would make you really happy and then write down the steps you will need to take to get there. And these are your resolutions. Simple.

Be sure to let me know what you’ve chosen to focus on this year and, that way, maybe we can spur each other on.

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 SUNDAY ROUNDUP – 2015

large (20)I started The Sunday Papers a few months ago when I decided that I wanted to share my favourite articles of the week with you. The idea was to get people reading, generate discussions around important topical issues and discover some great online magazines along the way. However, when I sat down to write my final Sunday Papers post of the year, I decided that – instead of sharing my media highlights of the week with you – I would share my personal “life highlights” from the last 365 days.

I am a great believer in gratitude, optimism and glass half-fullness, so I’d like to share these moments with you in a bid to celebrate the goodness of 2015 rather than dwelling on the negative that sometimes seems to surround us.

So here goes.

Falling in Love with my Blog Again

Back in March, restless before my 26th birthday and impending nose-dive into my late twenties, I decided to invest in a new web layout. Although I will soon be able to do this myself, web design was out of my reach at the time and I chose to use Pipdig who were an absolute dream to work with. I was so happy with the design and ease of application and would recommend them to anyone looking for a change. The fact that I am still loving the layout after 9 months is testament to how pleased I am with the result. Best investment of the year.

One Room. All of my Favourites.

After a bit of a tumultuous few months, I decided to have a low maintenance birthday this year and invited all of my best ones to my boyfriend’s flat for drinks and a jaunt into Tooting. The best birthdays are the ones spent with food, drink and good people. Nailed it.

Watching Florence + The Machine at Glastonbury

By far my favourite moment of 2015. I’ve seen her perform before and since Glastonbury and I’ve never felt the way I did when watching her on the Pyramid Stage that night. Magical.

10 Year Reunion and the Realisation that Life is Good

My school reunion made me realise that things rarely change between good friends. After nervously teetering in stilettos, arm in arm with the same friends I’ve had since my school days, I had an epic evening catching up with the women of my past and celebrating our achievements. From engagements and travel to babies and career moves, we had all moved on but still shared the same (hilarious and sometimes shocking) memories that shaped us and even managed to find time to sing a rendition of Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All – a song close to my year group’s hearts – one last time. Ten years on, we were all still a long way from where we had predicted we’d be in our year books, but it was still reassuring to know that everyone was doing okay after all these years.

An all-girls BBQ in Beckenham and the night of a thousand Old Fashions

On the hottest day of the year, a friend of mine threw a birthday party in her back garden, which just so happens to be the size of a football pitch, with her parents, who just so happen to be some of the best around. A few Hungarian shots, home grown food and potent wine later, we hung out in the evening breeze, arguing over whether to have Kisstory or Magic on the radio and trying to make sure Helen (the birthday girl) was still standing (she wasn’t). That day spent in her garden was the most carefree I had been in a while and, just to add to it (because Summer evenings have a knack for surprising you) a friend and I ended up crashing a boy’s night out in Brixton and discovered a secret bar where we drank Old Fashioneds and talked until the early hours. For some reason this ordinary day became one of my highlights of the year.

The 4th of September 2015

Just a very good day indeed.

An Engagement to Remember

Finally, and most importantly, one of my oldest friends got engaged just before Christmas. IN NEW YORK. I cried, I screamed, I did all of the things that I thought I would do if I were to get engaged. I had no idea that someone else’s joy could bring me so much happiness, but it turns out it can. When you’ve grown up beside someone and shared their boy history along the way, seeing them so happy with someone you adore as much as them? Priceless. And the perfect end to 2015.

So that’s it from me and my year. What were your highlights of the last 365 days? Be sure to write them down and be thankful for them. Who knows what the next twelve months might bring…

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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 Nostalgia

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If this time of year is all about new beginnings, why do we find it so heart wrenching to tear down our Christmas trees and wave goodbye to our holiday weight? Maybe because they subconsciously remind us of a time, perhaps when we were younger, of home comforts and warmth. A fine example of things we try to cling onto.

At midnight on the 31st, we’re reminded that it has been yet another year since some happy occasion; for example, graduation. It’s coming up to two years since I left, some of you maybe even longer and all I keep thinking about are house parties, lazy days on the beach and meeting my friends in halls for the first time. My thoughts also return to the fun I had in the library at three in the morning, high on lucozade and playing “find the biggest book on the shelf”. What I forget about however is how much I disliked living in a small a city as Exeter, how lonely it was when I missed my friends from home and how much the workload actually was which lead me to being in the library at 3am in the first place.

My point is, that by dusting away the bad bits of our memories, we focus only on the good. This should provide us with a ten minute, positive trip down memory lane, but what it can do is make a dig at the here and now. We actually tend to be quite modest about our present. We too easily complain about how much weight we’ve put on or how much we hate our jobs. We barely ever think about how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the company of our colleagues on a Friday evening, or how much bigger our boobs have got. In comparison, our pasts are gleaming with arrogance and brilliance. A few years ago we were oh so slim, flourishing in our work lives, our purses were brimming and we had a line of prospective partners practically knocking down the door.

The first issue here is that we’re lying. Secondly, we’re pointlessly comparing. Although we’re the same person that we were then, we’re here now because of changes that we made happen. Sugar coating memories before comparing them to now is doing no one any favours.

That wonderful single life, free from the shackles of children? Think about how much better your Sunday afternoons are, watching them play rugby. Still living with your parents? Think about how warm it is in comparison to your uni house. Things don’t seem so bad when you look at them in the context of 2013 instead of 1997. Besides, the era of the Spice Girls will make anything look mediocre in comparison.

Nostalgia is more of a yearning than reminiscing, leading you to believe that your past is better than your present. This is damaging, so ban it. Think back to the fun you had in history class or on that trip to Croatia, but be sure to realise that the beauty of now is that you’re still yet to enjoy it. The sooner you get excited about that fact, the better.

Or you could just book a flight to Dubrovnik full of expectations.

The choice is yours.

Happy New Year.

The New Year

Despite numerous prophecies about the world coming to an end, more people than ever are excited about ‘that feeling’ that something huge is going to happen this year. I feel the same. Not because I actually believe that the world is going to end, but because I’ve come to the total realisation that life is what you make it. And what better time to start owning it than at the dawn of a new year.

So as everyone awaits for the world to spontaneously combust, I say what better time to take the opportunity to quite literally live each day as if it’s your last. It all began when I asked a friend if she ever sat still, to which she replied ‘You don’t make memories sitting on a sofa Olivia’. And this notion has stayed with me. I’m not suggesting daily sky dives or several spontaneous trips around the world, but make sure that this year, you smile each and every day. Or make someone else smile at the very least. Don’t talk about festivals, go to them. Desperate to talk to that guy you see every morning? Offer him a Wrigleys. Wish to learn a new language? Start with the basics. Take risks. Party hard. And be kind.

But most importantly, make every moment a Kodak moment. And by this, I don’t mean strive to permanently look camera ready, but make sure that 99% of the time you wish someone had a camera, because you know your life at that moment is something to be remembered.

Now, if the clock struck twelve and you had the chance to step into the next year or relive the last, what would you choose?

Make sure that next year, it wouldn’t matter either way.

Happy New Year.

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.