THE DOLLAR

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Before I begin, I would just like to point out that if you have invited me to your wedding/birthday party/hen/bar mitzvah or even your grandmother’s coming out party this year, I love you, I am looking forward to it, I will be there and it will be great.

I am just terrified.

Not terrified about meeting new people, getting too drunk, saying something stupid or figuring out what to wear, how to get there, or whether or not I’ll have a good time. In actual fact, I have growing concerns about the hole that is currently burning in my back pocket (or more realistically, purse).

I’m not tight. In fact, I’m pretty frivolous with cash. And yes, I do understand that due to my age, invitations to elaborate affairs are to be expected, but four weddings in four months seems a little excessive, don’t you think? Add to that a festival, a hen and a few birthday parties, as well as a new car and things begin to add up/I start to feel sick about how I’m going to afford it all.

I know.

Don’t even say it.

This post couldn’t be more first world pains if it tried.

I know that there are children missing in Calais and bombs going off around the world. I am well aware that global warming is a losing battle placed at the forefront of literally no one except Leonardo DiCaprio’s minds and basically all of the good celebrities are dying this year, but seriously, this influx of expensive weddings in exotic locations, matched with sky high estate agent fees and other unearthly costs are getting to me. And although I care about these aforementioned global issues, please just humour me and allow me to nab just five minutes of your time to moan and bask in our mutual (because I just know that I’m not alone in this) hatred for all things money related.

And if you don’t want to hear it? Click away now.

Basically, being 27 in 2016 is quite difficult.

The majority of my friends are living with their parents. Some have only just left home and others are returning home to save money on rent. We still drink before we go out, if we’re having a big one, in order to save cash on cocktails and we jump at the chance to use a 50% off key ring (who wouldn’t) to buy pizza from halfway across the city. We swap clothes and buy and sell online and we can still barely make rent (that’s if we’re even paying any). And I’m sorry, but I just can’t help but feel jealous of the generations that came before us who had probably bought a home and were two thirds of the way up their chosen career ladder by my age.

The problem is that I don’t take money too seriously. I like to earn it so that I can spend it on seeing a new part of the world or to eat dinner with friends. I never like to miss out on celebrating something wonderful with people I love – even if does mean forking out money from an overdraft – and saving, in this climate, seems like a waste of time to me. But I’m angry. Angry that I’m not alone in not being able to afford a fucking thing (despite having a full time job) and angry that I have to think so much about sheets of paper that, essentially, are nothing more than bog roll.

This post is pointless. I know that. I’ve just spent half an hour moaning in writing about having lovely weddings and birthdays to attend this year. I’ve just whined about having to fork out money in order to spend five, blissful days in a field with my boyfriend and I’ve moaned about paying for a new home with said boyfriend, something that other people would kill to be able to do.

So, although I had planned on berating the world for making money a necessity and had intended on putting all things cash-related to shame, all this post has done is remind me how lucky I am. Lucky that I have friends to share my money with and to spend my money on. Lucky that I have a job that allows me to enjoy such experiences. Lucky that I get the opportunity to have so much fun. And lucky that, although I might not be minted, I am happy.

So, although I haven’t achieved what I had set out to (which was to moan about the things I don’t have), I have instead been reminded of what I do have and have been rewarded with a huge (and much needed) dose of gratitude, which is never a bad thing.

Suck it up, Olivia. Life is good.

THE LAUGHTER

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Not a day goes by where I don’t laugh. I mean it. It’s not a conscious thing, I just don’t think my subconscious would allow for anything else.

I’m not saying that I laugh my tits off at funerals and I certainly don’t always see the best in everyone. I don’t have a constant, deranged smile on my face, but nor do I succumb to frowning more often than necessary- not only because it gives you wrinkles but because it’s just plain ugly. School reports would often ask why I found things so funny, why I couldn’t sit still in class and stop messing around with friends. I think I just realised – perhaps a little too young – that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

And by that, I don’t mean the big things. Of course, there are elements of life that we must treat with a little more tact than making a cheese and pickle sandwich on a Thursday afternoon, such as raising kids or forging a career.

But when it comes to the small stuff? Don’t sweat it.

I’m talking about the rude people you encounter on your morning commute and the self service tills that just don’t seem to work, despite it being 2016. I’m thinking of the times your friend cancels on you at the last minute or the promotion you missed out on at work. I’m thinking about losing bank cards or missing the 28 day curfew on a return. You know what I’m talking about: the niggly annoyances of every day life that make you just want to scream (until you get a little perspective, of course). The same niggly annoyances that make everyone look so grey and miserable as they move around the city.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re permitted to be annoyed – in fact, it’s healthy to react to things – but negative thoughts lasting longer than 30 minutes? You’re wasting your time. You won’t get that half an hour of wallowing back, that person is still going to have been rude to you and you won’t be able to change the past: so why are you still making it your problem? Instead, find the strength to turn the situation around: laugh at their ill manners and know that it will come back to bite them on the bum; shrug at your boss’ poor decision making skills and, most of all, keep your goddam chin up.

Whether you are the CEO of a billion dollar corporation, a cleaner at the cafe around the corner or an overworked NHS nurse, the truth is, the perils of daily life can get us all down at one point or another. Things bother us and, in our own little worlds, the small gripes become big gripes and, when they add up, it can become really difficult to get up in the morning.

But there’s not much we can do about bad days, sadly. They happen to the best of us.

What I am trying to say though, is that we should try to deal with them better. In fact, I suggest you do one (or all) of the following: Feeling ill? Take your favourite colleague out for a warm bowl of soup and spend your lunch hour (and actually take an hour) talking about your love life, your aspirations or simply what you did at the weekend. Do not, under any circumstances, discuss your 9-5. Feeling undervalued at work? Find a hobby or start a blog and showcase your talents to those who want to hear and see them. Feeling lonely or out of touch with things? Set up a Twitter account and search for a hashtag relevant to you. Start a discussion. Ask a question. It’s free. Feeling demotivated? Sign up to a half marathon, join a gym or go for an evening walk. A little exercise really does go a long way.

But most importantly? Find a way to laugh at least once a day, no matter how hard it might seem sometimes. Find out the name of the person who makes your morning coffee or greet the TFL worker at your station. Force a smile in the face of difficulty and chuckle away the negativity. You burn calories, you acquire fewer wrinkles and – I promise – your world will become a much better place for it.

Still not feeling the fun? Click here. This clip is never not funny.

SMALL VICTORIES – AUGUST

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So, apparently July didn’t happen.

I genuinely feel as though I have just lost 31 days to grey skies and a whole host of Wintry dinners, in what feels like the space of about five seconds. I must say though, despite the need for long sleeves in July and what seemed like the quickest month to pass in human history, I seem to have come out at the other end of my unseasonal hibernation feeling invigorated, energised and ready for August.

But, as always, I will first let you know how I got on with last month’s Small Victories.

Firstly, my intentions to find a musical instrument and begin to learn how to play it just didn’t happen and well, let’s be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised. And I’m sure you aren’t either. However, my plight to organise my music collection did work out well and I now have six playlists which are lovingly (and somewhat unoriginally) labelled: Love, Party, Tunes, Albums, Guilty Pleasures and Pump. Albums is my favourite: it’s full to the brim with great records spanning decades and genres, from Time Flies and Caustic Love to channel ORANGE and Parachutes and I love it.

As for reading books outside of my comfort zone, I have yet to read anything completely untoward but I was gifted with ‘Very Good Lives’ by J K Rowling. A far cry from Harry Potter or The Casual Vacancy, it is a transcript of Rowling’s commencement speech that she gave to a group of Harvard graduates back in 2008. Her words focus on ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination’ which basically means that she urges us to find strength in our failures and to do what we love. Definitely one of the most perfectly timed – and equally gorgeous – presents I’ve received in a while.

As for my fourth and final promise to party and drink more gin? I think it’s safe to say I passed this one with flying colours.

Now, for this month’s Small Victories:

1. Write more.

Not just blog posts, but simply scribbles in my notebook. It’s great writing for an audience but sometimes it’s even better writing solely for yourself. You can be crudely honest and completely unabashed- very liberating.

2. Surround myself with art.

I live in London. So why is it that the only two galleries I visit on a regular basis are The Saatchi and The Tate Modern? Yes, it helps that I like modern art but, come on. The National Portrait Gallery? Amazing. The V & A? Inspired. I need to just do some research and then get off my bum and explore.

3. Travel somewhere new.

This one is actually pretty easy, seeing as I am going on holiday. The only problem is, I haven’t actually booked it yet. I want to find somewhere with the bluest sea and the whitest sands and I want to stay somewhere where I don’t have to lift a toe, let alone a finger. I want serenity and nothingness. A break from London, basically.

4. Work at working out.

I have joined the gym, which means that I feel a little less guilty about the musical instrument promise from July because I have joined an ACTUAL gym, like an ACTUAL grown up and I ACTUALLY really like it. At the moment I am just getting a feel for what I enjoy – experimenting with classes, machines and pace – but I’m hoping to work out a routine that works for me over the next month. My brother said he’s going to train me to kill. Watch this space.

So there we have it: my four goals for this month. By the 31st, I will be a muscly creative on a beach. But what about you? What are you going to achieve by the end of August?

Remember: keep it constructive, manageable and – most importantly – possible. Be kind to yourself.

Have a great month.

SMALL VICTORIES – JULY

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So last month was the beginning of my ‘Small Victories’ series, where I try to stop focusing on the bigger picture and look to the little things that I can do to make my life that bit happier. And, let’s face it, less scary, because being 26 in 2015 is harder than people warn you of, THAT’S for sure.

So let’s look back for a second.

At the beginning of June, I promised to prepare for Glastonbury. And that I did. Although the lead up to it was a little stressful as I made daily dashes to Poundland and Wilko for cups and all important birthday hats, the fact that I had been so organised pre-festival meant that my trip ran smoother than James Bay’s chin (messy antics not included). All the lists I’d written and ticked off meant that the only thing I had to worry about on arrival was where to get cold mixer from and whether The Libertines were actually going to be the surprise guests. And as it happened, they were. So I didn’t even have to worry about that. A few years ago I would have turned up to a festival with alcohol and a tent. Turns out it takes more than that to make it a success. Experience is everything. (Side note: Glastonbury is a wonderland for hedonists and life lovers so, if you haven’t already, do all you can to get yourself there at some point. It is a 100% life must.)

As for yoga, it has become as much a part of my daily routine as peanut butter on toast. Whether I do it for fifteen minutes or an hour, I make sure that it happens every goddamn day. Not only does it give me a full body stretch, but it’s a chance for me to process my thoughts – or forget everything – for a fixed amount of time. This intention varies daily.

I also promised to stick to a blogging schedule in order to show this space just how much I love it. I guess you can be the judge of how well I did on this one, although I think I did okay. However, although the timetable has helped to keep me on track, I do miss posting when I want to, as opposed to when I have said I will. So I think I will relax this one for July and then compare how I feel about both approaches to blogging at the end of the month.

Lastly, I promised to organise my music collection on Spotify. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. But I’m only human. I’m too busy listening to it to file it. And music is supposed to be a little chaotic, right?

SO THIS MONTH I WILL:

1. Stop making up silly excuses and actually sort out my music collection on Spotify.

2. Read some books outside of my comfort zone. Some Conrad or Coleridge, perhaps? University was great for forcing me to read things I would have otherwise ignored. I must stay curious as I dive into my late twenties.

3. Pick an instrument that I want to learn. And then find someone who will teach me how to play it for free or a very small fee. And then start a band, get rich and live like a rock star.

4. Dance more and drink more gin. Partying is absolutely my way of letting off steam and I’m not hurting anyone in doing so, so why have I stopped? I’m not even sure of the answer to that one but as the summer months roll in, I will be reigniting my penchant for partying every weekend.

So that’s my four foci for the month. But what about you? What small victories are you hoping to achieve by the end of this suspiciously sunny July?

Remember: keep them constructive, manageable and – most importantly – possible.

Have a great month.