Whew, 2019 went by in a flash, as all years seem to do, as I get older and life gets more mish-mashed. I wanted to say thank you, first of all, to everyone who reads this little blog, and especially to those of you who reach out to tell me how much you enjoy reading it. Those messages have truly kept me writing all year, so thank you.
Next, let’s recap 2019. I graduated with a First in my undergraduate degree, I became part of a performance art collective, I worked far too many hours, went to far too few parties, and learned, above all, to heal. I started 2019 by attending CBT and EMDR therapy, and left with a set of tools to help my health, self soothe as much as possible, and grow away from the experiences of poor mental health that 2018 encompassed. I began 2019 on SSRI medications, and exited the year med-free. Those things are only personal accomplishments, and I don’t outline them in order to boast about my brilliant achievements of coming off the medications, or going to therapy, but really, to acknowledge that the work I did for myself this year was important. If you’re ongoing in treatment, medication, therapy, or even pre-treatment for whatever your health is throwing at you, well done. You’re amazing! The work you do every day for yourself is important, whatever small or seemingly negligible bit of work it is. So, be proud. I know I am.
2019 was a hard year for our world. In every sense. It seems apparent and undeniable now that we don’t have much time left, as a species, before we burn ourselves up. It can feel helpless and crap, all the fucking time. The changes that will come with the budding generations, mine included, who have sworn to Satan they won’t take shit from anyone any more, might come all too late. With that small, sad truth in mind, here are a few pieces of advice this New Year.
- Keep reading! I, for one, fell off an intellectual precipice in the past few years. Especially during the particularly stressful, busy periods, I found myself lying in bed at night scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, and barely picked up a book, sometimes for months at a time. If that’s you, too, that’s fine. Do what you need to utterly switch off. But this year I took a stand against myself: stop scrolling three years into Lily-Rose Depp’s Instagram page at 11.43pm for no reason whatsoever, you absolute fucking idiot (me), and read something instead. Anything. Even if you don’t like it, that’s good, too! This year I finished twelve books, which still doesn’t feel like enough, but it’s a start. 2020 is the year I really throw myself into reading again.
- Say what you mean. God, this is a hard one. Really hard. I learned this in my relationship, most of all, about saying what you actually fucking think in this moment, instead of pretending to say what you think, but actually producing a washed-out version of your emotions. It’s much easier to dilute things, to stop yourself hurting someone, or to stop yourself hurting yourself, but don’t. Really don’t. Drawing lines under your emotions is of utmost importance if you ever want anyone to know you. And believe me, people want to know you.
- Prioritising yourself doesn’t mean you can duck out of the emotional labour of friendship. Often I hear people say that this year will be about prioritising me, because I deserve self improvement, and me doing me is my most important thing. Obviously, sometimes putting yourself first is necessary, and if you really need to be selfish, go ahead and don’t feel guilty. If you need space, rest and alone time, take it and be firm with the people who try to invade it. That being said, shutting yourself off as a habit isn’t a good idea. Your friends love you, but you can’t abuse that love, and nurturing your social group, whether it be friends, family or partner, will make you really fucking happy. Trust me on this.
- Don’t take shit off your employer. Ever. Alright, I know this is a super cheesy girl-power statement, but ain’t it true? After having worked in hospitality now for seven years (SEVEN, fucking hell, get me out!!!), knowing the line when it comes to what’s asked of you is super important. If you feel like your boss is taking advantage of your role, your time or your emotional labour, which, let’s face it, is the hardest and least frequently acknowledged labour there is, say something. Ask, politely, for a raise. Lay out all the reasons why you’re amazing and deserve to be invested in. If you don’t acknowledge your skills, they won’t.
- Work hard at being an ally. This might be the most important one in our current socio-political climate. The Tories are in power, again. Life will get harder for those less privileged than people like me. I’m a white, cisgender woman, and I was brought up with some money. That makes me privileged. While it’s a waste of time and energy apologising for being privileged, or pretending that you aren’t, it’s crucial that you recognise it. Ask questions to your friends who are from marginalised groups. Do your own research. Raise other people up, not for your own attention or self congratulation, but because you love them. Love is a good enough reason on its own.
- Unfollow the Kardashians. OK, that’s a bit contrived. Not JUST the Kardashians. Unfollow anyone who makes money off your insecurities. Find replacements for them in your algorithm. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: these people do not care about you. They want you to feel not enough. If you felt good and whole as you are, you would have no reason to aspire to their “desirable” attributes – their wealth, their beauty or their lifestyle. They wouldn’t have a business if you were happy with yourself. That sucks. I’m sorry. They’re tricking you. Unfollow.
- Get some houseplants. Anyone who knows me is going to laugh at this one. I was gifted my first houseplant this year, as a present for my graduation – a tiny cactus in a pot that says, ‘You grow girl!’ on it. I now own two cacti, one sansevaria, two calathea, one golden pothos, one tradescantia, one rubber plant… You see where I’m going with this. I’ve got a lot of plants. If you’ve got a spare shelf, a windowsill or a corner of a desk, get a plant and put it there. If you live in London I recommend Flower Warehouse in Cambridge Heath for affordable, beautiful plants. I started loving having plants because they made my room look prettier, but now, in my second year of being a plant mother, I’ve discovered that there is nothing more therapeutic than nurturing another living thing, gently and carefully. Especially if, like me, you don’t or can’t have pets. Getting home from a stressful day and taking a moment in the quietness of your room, to check, water, or even chat to (don’t laugh) your plants will bring you meditative bliss, even if just for two minutes.
- Call your mum more. Or if it isn’t your mum – your dad, your siblings, or your best friend. Or Samaritans. Call more. Say hi. That’s it for this one.
- Spend more time with animals. Animals teach us how to live. They live in the moment, without prejudice, and they need precious few things to stay alive and happy. Find a friend with a cat or a dog or a horse or a cow, and spend some hours with that animal, in the quiet. Learn how living peacefully works, in a world of noise.
- Silence. That brings me to my final bit of advice, take it or leave it – enjoy silence again. Since living in the city I really tuned out of what it means to be quiet, getting home from work and immediately switching on some music, or leaving Netflix to play in the background. Take some time to have real quiet, if you can, and see what it does for you. The silence might feel like it’ll break you in half, but it won’t.
That’s it from me. Advice you’ve probably heard before, but that’s because it’s good stuff. Look after yourself and each other, and thanks again for all the support. 2020, let’s see what you’ve got.