2019 in Review

Yet again, I’ve managed to take an accidental two months off from even looking at this blog. No, once again, I have no legitimate explanation as to why I keep doing this; all I can really say in my defence is that although I love the festive season, it’s a lot of bloomin’ work. I have almost a whole turkey, half a pecan pie and fifteen pigs in blankets in my fridge as proof of this. And as for the pine needles matted into my dog’s fur and sprinkled around the house like confetti, I’m now just pretending not to notice. Still, it’s only once a year, eh? (Low key wish I’d done a Christmas with the Kranks and skipped it all though; joking…a bit).

Anyway, it’s been a pretty big year for me; although a year is a very long time when you really think about it so it’s not actually that surprising that I managed to cram a lot in. Still, I’ve been doing some reflecting, as we all seem to do at this time of year (though it’s mostly fuelled by Buck’s Fizz and a lack of anything better to do in the absence of anything worth watching on TV), and have compiled a list of the main life lessons I’ve learned this year, to pass on to you as a gift of wisom because I’m just nice like that.

Wedding Planning is like Childbirth

Okay so I haven’t actually ever given birth, so I can’t confirm this with ny real certainty, but if we can accept the premise that childbirth is painful and horrible while it’s happening but produces something lovely at the end, which is so lovely that the mother forgets all the pain, then this analogy works. My struggle with planning my wedding this year has been well documented, and whilst I think it’s really important to acknowledge that it can be quite a lonely and really challenging time and never dismissed as “one of those things” we must endure, the one piece of advice I would give to anyone in that scenario is that all the horrible bits are quickly forgotten. I would say this is the one piece of advice which I wish I had been given, but every married person I know told me this at the time, yet I just chose to ignore it whilst I was in the midst of a stress akin to the level of pain during the ‘crowning’ phase of birth. I genuinely thought that the damage done to relationships between myself and various family members and friends during the hard parts was irreprable, but that was honestly forgotten by about three seconds into the vows, and I was having normal conversations with said individuals within forty eight hours of getting married; as if the last ten months of absolute warfare had not happened at all. Trust me, just wade through that mud because it does get easier and all is forgotten.

Pretty much everyone has mental health issues of some kind

Mental health is one of those things that we talk about all the time on social media to try and “break the stigma”, which is great, but unfortunately I think sometimes it’s like the polar opposite to your address and phone number; something we’re happy to discuss with strangers on the internet but not our own family and friends. For various reasons which I won’t bore you with, I found myself in a position this year of needing some extra support to feel ‘okay’ again, and each time I mustered up the courage to try and explain it to a friend, colleague or family member; every time I was met with some variation of “oh yeah that happened to me too” or “oh that’s nothing, when I was in that position I…”. It could just be that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are supportive, but even people I don’t know that well met this with the same response. Basically, if I’d known it was pretty much a normal, run of the mill thing to have those kinds of issues at some point in life, I wouldn’t have ignored it for so long and let it get worse; so don’t do that if you find yourself in that position at any point.

Smear tests are fine

I’m not even going to bother labouring that point. This year I hit the age bracket to be eligible for smear tests (when did the things you become eligible for on birthdays stop being fun? I’m guessing at 18). I wasn’t particularly nervous but honestly it was so uneventful in every single way that it’s barely worth mentioning, except to make the point that they’re not an issue at all and I don’t understand why some people turn it into one.

Eating healthily and exercising actually does work

Again, this sounds obvious, but like most people I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to instantly lose weight or tone up in some way through the next fad – I have a Nutribullet in the cupboard gathering dust to prove it. For various reasons, including a desire to not die at fifty if it can be helped, I started doing a mix of different exercise classes and eating a bit better on weekdays (weekends are junk food time; and that is a habit I will never be able to change); and quite unexpectedly became fitter and healthier. I don’t know when it exactly happened, I just sort of noticed one day that I could get up the stairs without stopping for breath and could fit into clothes a bit more easily. Whilst I realise that my variation of specific eating patterns and exercise routines would not be healthy or advisable for everyone, I’m just making the point that it is literally that simple. It takes a while yes, but there is no magic Joe Wicks-inspired, keto-ing or Nutribullet-ing formula; it’s pretty much just eating better and moving more. Who knew? Certainly not me.

If you’re not sure about eggs, put them in water

I’m not just mentioning this on account of my love of using prime numbers and therefore a desire to include five points, but also because this is a genuinely useful life hack I learned this year. My uncertainty about whether eggs are good to use always seems to occur on a Sunday before 10 a.m; specifically before the shops are open so I have no real other option than to use them. Well, unless I were to not have Sunday morning pancakes, which would be entirely ridiculous. But yes, fill a bowl with water and if the egg is off it will float to the top, if it’s fine it will stay at the bottom, and if it’s okay but not the freshest, it will stay at the bottom but stand up vertically. You’re welcome.

 

Bullet Journaling

“Mindfulness” is the buzz word at the moment. Actually it has been for a while, and I will happily raise my hands and confess to the fact that I am a sheep and follow the ‘mindfullness’ crowd by reposting motivational quotes about ‘making time for you’ and ‘being in the moment’ whenever I can; which is entirely hypocritical because my idea of savouring the moment is having a slightly slower walk back up the path after taking the bin out. Which, usually I just find tedious and an unnecessary waste of time after 0.5 seconds. I had an hour long, full body massage last week (not a typical Thursday afternoon for me, it was a post-wedding, mourning the loss of my Thomas Cook honeymoon treat), and even in a darkened room where the only sound is music specifically engineered to relax you, with someone physically relieving the tension in my body, I spent the hour thinking “am I relaxed enough yet?”. Ah, the perils of being an impatient, anxiety-ridden overthinker. However, despite being unable to achieve a state of even moderate relaxation without first receiving a general anaesthetic, I recently tried my hand at bullet journaling.

Bullet journals are something I have admired from afar for a while now, and by ‘afar’ I mean by looking at my Instagram feed and thinking “that’s too faffy and technical for me”, much like the satisfyingly organised homes and perfectly contoured make-up. I spent an embarrassingly long time researching which bullet journal to get before realising that they are all, essentially, just paper. Having said that, I’m not a monster so of course I spent money on a lovely smooth, pretty new notebook in which to do my bullet-journaling; along with some fun stickers because you’re never too old for stickers.

What I noticed about the more expensive, more technical bullet journals was that they were mostly segmented and had different prompts to help you think about what to write, but there are a lot of ways to manage this without spending a fortune. A lot of ‘fancier’ bullet journals are divided up by day, but that’s essentially just a desk planner or a weekly diary – readily available for less than a couple of quid if you look in the right place. I personally didn’t want to get into a weekly view, it felt too similar to planning my work schedule, and I like the idea of being able to close the page on each day – I haven’t re-read any of my previous entries, I just don’t find it beneficial or enjoyable. My journal came with some emjoi stickers (how very 2019), which I really liked, and prompted me to buy some specific ‘bullet journal stickers’ with little quotes and mantras on. To get the juices flowing, I start each day’s entry by choosing an emoji sticker and a quote which best fit that day, then using the written part to elaborate a bit on why. Even if my emoji for the day is the crying face because it’s been horrible, I’ll jot down a summary of why it was so horrible even if it’s just “busy day at work, am exhausted”. Something about putting it in that onto the paper and closing the page does, to my pleasant surprise, make me feel a bit lighter. It’s like that bit in Harry Potter when Dumbledore uses his wand to drag thoughts out of his head and put them in the water – who doesn’t love some de-cluttering?

The easiest counter-productivity traps to fall into with bullet journaling which would then put you off doing it again are to dwell too much on the negatives, and to write too much. I’ve managed to tackle both of those with some nifty tricks which were so useful I may have to consider copyright. First, although it’s perfectly fine and sometimes beneficial to write down negative things, for every negative point about my day I make myself write a “but”. For example, if I’ve had a difficult day at work I tend to follow it with “but, I did my best and that’s all that can be expected”. Ending on a positive definitely made me see the ‘point’ of bullet journaling, because writing a list of everything that was rubbish about your day is quite draining and just makes you feel worse. So, keep that little weighing scale of negatives and positives even.

Also, for someone like me who is a rambler (someone who talks a lot, not an old person who likes getting lost in the countryside), it’s very tempting to start writing War and Peace and listing every aspect and emotion of your day. To overcome that, I started being quite deliberate with the time slot I allocated for the journaling. While setting a timer seems like a nice idea, I personally would just stare at the timer and feel like I was taking an exam which would be totally counter-productive, but I’ve started using a limited time slot like waiting for the bath to run or for my dinner to cook – there’s a clear end point but it’s not a race against the clock. I did see someone else post online about how they like to see it as a challenge to write something that will summarise their day in thirty seconds, as if there was a trailer for the film version of that particular day in your life. That is also a fun and non-restrictive way to think about it; but sadly I’m from the North and talk really fast so could probably still get a feature length film out in thirty seconds.

So, after doing some research on bullet journaling, and from doing my own, I came to the conclusion that it is a genuinely useful and healthy habit to get into, but that it really needs to be bespoke to the person doing it. I’ve seen some journals online which have so many boxes, each demanding to be filled in with separate thoughts or ideas, or some which set targets for the week which, to me, just seems like a trap for self-induced guilt like New Year’s Resolutions. Although I started off by forcing myself to do this each day, it has quickly become a habit, and a useful one at that.

25 Lessons Learned in 25 Years

Now, obviously I’ve learned more than twenty five things in my twenty five years spent on this Earth; but I don’t think writing about how I learned to walk, drive or use a ‘big girl’ toilet would make very interesting reading. So, in honour of my twenty fifth journey around the sun, I decided to compile twenty five useful things which I have learned at some point in my life, in the hope that it might offer some assistance to your own. Although, if you’ve followed this blog for a while you will probably have gathered that my life is a hot mess and in no way an example of success or inner peace, so this may also serve as a useful guide of twenty five things to avoid doing, for fear of becoming like me.

  1.  Drink water.
    It sounds obvious, but it makes a huge difference to everything; skin, waistline, staves off the dreaded cystitis, wakes you up, and it’s free – what’s not to love?
  2. Take vitamins.
    Obviously consult a doctor before taking anything you aren’t completely sure is safe for you, but I swear by Zinc for making a cold recover quickly and taking Vitamin D every day last Winter gave me a new lease of life.
  3. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to friends.
    I have probably four or five friends, and that’s it. No wide circle of acquaintances, no huge group chats, I simply can’t be bothered. All of my friends know how often I pee, where I would go if I needed to go off grid after killing someone and who I would invite to my fantasy dinner party. It is far more beneficial to have one genuine friend who has your back than fifteen who don’t.
  4. Have an exercise routine.
    Whatever that means to you; whether it’s walking the dog each night, swimming, going to a gym or doing yoga in your pants on the living room floor. I’ve had a variety of routines with varying levels of effort in the last few years, but there has always been one consistent theme – I have felt better physically and mentally when I have had some sort of exercise habit, regardless of its intensity.
  5. Good bras are worth investing in.
    I rarely replace my bras. I buy about four sturdy bras and keep them for about two years. It is worth paying the money up front, rather than buying fifteen Primark bras a month. Especially so with sports bras, because back pain is not fun. Life is too short to spend it with your boobs hanging round your knees and breaking your shoulders.
  6. Do the job which you enjoy the most, not that which pays the most.
    I have wasted too large a proportion of my life and happiness on horrible jobs which were everything I wanted on paper, but made me loathe the thought of getting up in the morning. I was at my happiest when I left that job for a significant pay cut to work somewhere that made me smile every day.
  7. Be with the partner who makes you laugh.
    Obviously other qualities are important to overall compatibility, but looks change, interests change, life changes; and I’ve found that the best way to get through the tough bits is to have someone with you who is on your level of humour.
  8. Read as often as you can.
    Even if it’s just a magazine or the odd newspaper article, reading something printed on paper is good for the imagination and healthier than looking at a screen. Unplug yourself from the Matrix once in a while and exercise that brain.
  9. Eat less meat.
    I’ve been pescatarian for four years now. Do I miss meat sometimes? Yes. Did I enjoy meat? Absolutely yes. But, my blood pressure is down, metabolism is up and the planet and the animals are thankful for it.
  10. Have a ‘treat yourself’ beauty splurge habit.
    When we feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside, and I think this goes both ways. When we feel confident in our appearance it affects everything positively, so whether it’s having a quick face pack at home or something more indulgent like a spa day, have something in reserve that you know will always make you feel fabulous. I always feel like I can conquer the world with a fresh manicure.
  11. Have a proper de-clutter at least once a year.
    I usually do two big de-clutters a year. I don’t even plan it in, it just consumes me at certain points. I’m currently basking in the after-glow of a good clear out, and feel more relaxed and centred for it. Plus, donating things to charity and recycling things properly is good karma all round.
  12. Invest time and money in making your home how you want it.
    You spend too much time at home to not feel totally comfortable in it. I wasted years in crappy flats which I never bothered to improve in any way because they were “only temporary”, but your home is your castle and feels much better to come home to when it reflects your personality.
  13. An extra spin and drain cycle on the washing machine makes an incredible difference to drying time.
    I thought this was common knowledge until about a fortnight ago when a colleague complained her washing was taking ages to dry and steaming her house up. It takes ten minutes after a normal cycle but means my washing is dry overnight. Simple choice.
  14. Use sun cream.
    Skin cancer is not a joke, even if you think you don’t burn. Most daily moisturisers have an SPF in now anyway, so you don’t have to think about it as much.
  15. Mental health is important.
    It’s possibly more important than physical health. I have experienced physical health problems as a result of mental health issues, between which I never connected the dots. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced some form of mental ill-health in their life; I learned the hard way that it’s better to deal with it early on and not bury your head in the sand, because that doesn’t actually fix it.
  16. Look after your teeth.
    Dentist bills are not fun, and fillings are not fun. Avoid both by flossing every day and using an electric toothbrush.
  17. Don’t ever lie to fit in.
    I wasted a lot of time and energy doing that as a teenager, it is exhausting and attracts the wrong type of friends. Real friends don’t care if you don’t go to clubs every week and prefer to watch Teen Mom in your pyjamas – find your tribe because they’ll sit next to you doing the exact same thing.
  18. Before posting anything on social media, do the boss/grandma test.
    “Would I care if my boss/grandma saw this?” If the answer is yes, probably best said privately or not at all. It’s far too easy to spy on other people’s content now, and some people like to ‘grass’ other people up as we say in Sunderland. Employing this has definitely saved me from some awkward situations.
  19. Wash your hair as little as possible.
    Nobody can actually tell if your hair has that slightly greasy, in-between-wash feeling. I have managed to get my hair washing down to twice a week and yes, the lie-ins are worth it. Plus, it’s good for your hair and the great Jonathan Van Ness swears by it so that’s good enough for me.
  20. The world does not end if you go out without make up.
    I used to put foundation on to take the wheelie bin out or go to the petrol station. Then I joined a gym which is next to a supermarket and often pop in on my way to or from a workout. Guess what? Nobody is even looking at you because this is Britain and we all look at our phones/the floor when in public. Make up is expensive and a faff to put on, don’t waste it on five minute trips to the shops.
  21. It’s not a race.
    I wasted a lot of opportunities for happiness by comparing myself to other people who were ‘further ahead’ than me in terms of careers and relationships. We’re not all playing the same game, it’s like entering a race but looking at the person throwing a javelin – it isn’t like for like, it’s you vs you.
  22. End relationships which are not beneficial or productive.
    It sounds harsh, but sometimes, through nobody’s fault, relationships break down or stop serving a purpose. It’s wasteful to both parties to continue flogging it if it’s faded, whether that’s a partner, friend or even a family member.
  23. It’s okay to say no.
    Whether it’s a work commitment, social event or even to that little voice in your head who is telling you to feel guilty if you don’t get x, y or z done. I’m a Brit, I’m used to people pleasing and then complaining about it behind their backs. It’s far easier to just say no from the outset.
  24. Tampon applicators serve literally no purpose. 
    Other than polluting the planet and taking up extra space in your bag. I have never used one and do not see the point. It’s not a difficult target to miss, that’s all I’m saying.
  25. Take photos.
    We all hate that annoying friend who makes you stop and take photos every two seconds, but I have multiple photo albums which are ordered chronologically and I love looking back through them. I’m not saying take a photo every morning when you arrive at work, but when you spend quality time with loved ones, take a photo to commemorate it. I will always remember one specific occasion where I saw a group of close friends and we forgot to take any photos, I actually used the phrase “we’ll take some next time”, and one of those friends died a week later. Making memories is important, but it’s also important to capture them so you don’t forget when you look back.

The Bridezilla Diaries – Lessons Learned

It’s currently T-minus twelve weeks until I become a married woman. That is terrifying. In one way it feels like I’ve been planning this wedding for my whole life (probably because it’s aged me about fifteen years within ten months), but in other ways it’s flown over. With hindsight, like most things, I look back over it now and there are definitely things I could have done differently to make it easier for myself, and things that I wish I’d known before starting the process. So, like the generous person I am, I thought now is about the right time to pass on the wisdom from one bridezilla to the next cohort of bridezillas. It’s too late for me, but with the following suggestions it’s not too late to save yourselves!

People will be interested in your wedding. 
It sounds obvious, but I definitely underestimated this. The only thing I find more boring than going to other people’s weddings is hearing about other people’s weddings (well, that and maybe Star Wars films). I have no interest in how much someone spent on a cake, what flowers they’ve chosen, or the difference between ivory and off-white (spoiler alert: they’re the same damn colour); because I am a normal person. Sadly, not everyone on this planet is normal, and some people feel a need to ask you about your wedding plans every time they see you. So, if you see a lot of people in a given day, that’s a lot of small talk. The best way to handle this is to not answer honestly. I made the mistake of providing an honest answer to “how much does your cake cost?” in the break room at work and got an uncomfortably long lecture about what else I could have bought with that money. My advice is to rehearse a set “yeah it’s ticking over nicely, it still doesn’t feel real though and I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten”, because you will be saying it approximately ten times a day for at least a year.

Give an early RSVP deadline.
Again, I am a normal person; so when someone invites me to an event which is a significant time away, I immediately provide confirmation as to whether I can or cannot attend, and write the date down. However, other people are not normal. Other people think that it is perfectly acceptable to spend ten months providing vague excuses about possibly going on holiday or possibly not having a babysitter; or confirm they are coming and then decide they have a better offer, and even decline but are then unable to find anything better to do and so backtrack and decide they are coming. I know, it’s stressful – there is a reason my hair started to fall out during this process. So, do not make the mistake of assuming that your extended family and friends are competent adults. I made the fatal error of giving people a nice long time to RSVP, which just allowed for people to change their minds and/or drag out the clearly very difficult task of ticking “yes” or “no” and putting a stamp on a piece of paper. I know, it’s a challenging task which clearly takes months. Make an early cut-off date and stick to it.

Enjoy the lull in the middle.
The start of planning your wedding is so fun. Bridal magazines, Pintrest boards, wedding fayres; just spending time soaking up ideas and enjoying having a ring on your finger is great. Also great is the last couple of months when everything falls into place and your venue show you how everything will run like a well-oiled machine on the day, so you can finally picture it all coming together. There is however a quiet interval between those two time periods, which I found incredibly unsettling. Going from constant shopping and reading endless reviews of various suppliers to having nothing to do but wait for RSVP’s (see above, that can take a long time if your family are inept), is unnerving if you’re a stress head like me. I had a constant fear that I should be doing something, and a paranoia that my wedding had been forgotten about – why was my planner not emailing me? Why were suppliers not checking in? Answer – because they have other things to do. Like the brief minutes of relief between contractions during labour, the down time is important to recharge for the challenge ahead. Do not make the mistake of wasting it by endless worrying about the wedding like I did – find a hobby or just take a long nap.

Look after yourself.
Easily the most important thing to remember, and the main thing that I wish someone had told me. I have never had so many colds in such a short space of time until I started planning my wedding. Stress makes my immune system crash and prevents me from being able to get a decent amount of sleep, so Olbas Oil and Vitamin C have been my friends for the last few months. Mental health is an important thing to keep an eye on too; this is something which has unfortunately always been a bit of a struggle for me, but the process of planning what has to become the happiest day of my life (no pressure) was so overwhelmingly stressful that I had to speak to a doctor about getting extra help to alleviate it and make it bearable. I thought I was bordering on insane, and that there was something wrong with me for not enjoying every second of planning the blissful union which other people would kill to have, but according to Google it’s not uncommon; and I wish someone had told me about that so I didn’t spend months crying silently in the bath so nobody would notice. Look after yourself, however that is best achieved for you: take breaks; delegate tasks to other people; have set times where all wedding talk is banned; do what you need to do to get through.

Don’t become too reliant on advice from others.
This is an easy mistake to make when planning your first wedding. Surely other people who have been married or have helped plan weddings in the past are the best people to assist you? To an extent, yes, but experience planning weddings is not an adequate substitute for knowing your own taste and comfort zone. There is definitely such a thing as too many cooks spoiling the broth, and everyone has strong opinions on weddings. At the end of the day, you and the person you are marrying know best what you like and what kind of celebration you are both comfortable having; and whether something is popular, quirky, expensive or “just what you have to do” should not come into it at all. Stick to your guns and have the day that you both want, even if people take the huff because, trust me, they soon snap out of it once you make it clear you’re having it your way.

 

Losing My Mojo

Disclaimer: this not an April Fool’s post.

I realised over the weekend that my last blog post was a month ago, now, I’m not egocentric enough to believe my followers are waiting with baited breath for my new posts, nor are they losing sleep over my welfare due to the recent lack of activity. However, I do feel a need to briefly apologise for my recent lack of attention to this blog, the reasons for which I will now go into – please have violins at the ready.

I’m just going to hold my hands up at this point and be honest in saying – I lost my mojo. I wasn’t actually going to write about this, I intended to just draw a veil over the last few weeks, pick up another book and review it like nothing had happened. But, I saw a tweet last week from Jill Mansell talking about how she lost her love of reading for about eight years and recently got it back. Anyone who’s even skim-read this blog will know that me losing my love of reading for eight years is extremely unlikely to happen, but, people responded to Jill with so many similar messages about losing their mojo for reading, as well as other things, and I was really quite surprised.

I am one of those people everyone hates, who seemingly crams 48 hours’ worth of activity into 24 – I work full time in a fairly demanding job, I’m planning my wedding, I read, I blog, I work out, I see all my friends and family, my house is always immaculate and I always have time to cook great meals from scratch. Sue me, I like to appear perfect, okay? Or so I did. Up until about three weeks ago I was spinning all of those plates perfectly; if anything, I was standing on one leg while spinning them all and making it look completely effortless. Like the proverbial duck, I was gliding along the water gracefully without anyone seeing the mad paddling of my legs underneath. But, like all people who attempt this and think they’re invincible, I made a mistake. I took my eye off one of the plates to focus more on another which was starting to drop. And what happened? Within about two days, they were all on the floor smashed to pieces, with me left standing like a lemon and feeling a bit sheepish. At that point, I didn’t want to pick any of them back up. I didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to blog, didn’t want to plan the wedding – for a few weeks it was a case of putting one foot in front of the other as best I could and trying not to cry in public (I failed at that, unsurprisingly).

Around that time, I saw someone on social media post that ridiculous Elizabeth Taylor quote which is always doing the rounds, about pouring a drink and putting lipstick on and acting like nothing is wrong. Well, I tried that, and even a large drink didn’t help. I know it absolutely wasn’t meant to be malicious, but seeing that quote just made me feel ten times worse. The plates were smashed so badly at that point that there was no way I could kick them under the sofa, put lipstick on and pretend like it never happened – all I could do was start gluing them back together and I just didn’t want to. So, what did I do? Nothing. I did nothing at all for about three weeks. I didn’t read, I didn’t write, I stopped bothering with the gym, I even sacked off wedding planning for a bit and I felt awful about it. I went to work obviously, I have a contractual obligation to do that, but I did little else. However, taking that time somehow allowed me to recharge and start formulating a plan to put the plates back together, and then once I’d managed to glue one back together, the others didn’t seem so bad.

So here I am, a month later, gluing the ‘writing’ plate back together. Thankfully this is the last plate to get back in the air, and it’s getting there. I have no reviews to post yet because I’m only just getting my reading mojo back, but, thanks to Jill Mansell, I know that’s alright. It’s slowly coming back, and eventually it will be back to where it was, and now I know that’s fine. Your patience is appreciated during this period of self pity.

Not to be Dramatic – But I think I’ve Found the Secret to Life

So it was A Level results day this week here in the UK, and it’s GCSE results next week which means we have a whole fortnight of celebrities tweeting variations of ‘it’s okay if you don’t get the results you hoped for, I failed x, y and z and I’m still happy/successful’. Personally, I find this so completely unhelpful and frankly hypocritical. With the exception of those two days, we spend the rest of the year beating ourselves, and other people, up for not being exactly where we should be in the life plans we’ve set out for ourselves. I definitely think this is getting worse with the whole ‘millenial’ culture of ‘oh Milennials are such snowflakes and don’t work for anything, when I was your age I worked 7 jobs and walked 25 miles to each of them and still had time to find a husband’, and you know what? It’s A, pissing me off and B, so completely and utterly inaccurate and not the case for anyone.

Here’s the thing, I don’t consider myself to be some wise, life affirming, philosophical guru, I got an A in AS Philosophy and even that was only because I memorised the textbook and regurgitated it word for word on the exam paper. But, and I don’t mean to be dramatic, I think I legitimately might have just discovered the single most useful bit of life advice ever; I mean, this is like the boolprop cheats in Sims, this is *the* hack, something more useful than the elastic bands in Spy Kids 2 (still not convinced they ever found 99 uses for those). Are you ready for your mind to be blown? Here it is. *Clears throat*:

If you are happy in an overall, all things considered, general sense, you are fine.

I’ll say it again for the people in the back:

If you are happy, you are fine.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious” I hear you say, but this is something that I went twenty four years of my life without realising. I spent three years at a really good university, the best university in the country for my subject area actually, and although there were pockets of happy times in there, I made some great lifelong friends, it was overall a very negative experience. The people who attend this university are generally not very nice, the culture is not very nice, and if the only thing ‘Eton’ means to you is a messy dessert, they will make it very clear that you are not welcome there. I finished that university with a first class degree, which I am exponentially proud of, but all people say to me is “oh my god you got a first from x, that’s amazing”. Is it? Was it worth needing counselling and feeling generally miserable for three years? In a word, “no”.

Fast forward 2 years, I’m on my second job out of university and my career is exactly on the path I want it to be, it’s all mapped out and everyone is telling me I’m amazing for doing what I do. But again, I am miserable. The job I was doing was very psychologically challenging; I had to accept some really quite disturbing things as normal, things that if they were portrayed in a film people would say “well that wouldn’t ever happen in real life”. And, great for the people who can handle that, seriously well done to you, but for me I didn’t like the person I had to become to be able to cope with doing that job. Also, the company I worked for was not right for me. There was a general bullying culture, immense pressure to do a difficult job with few resources and not enough staff, and people in my imminent team who were just generally not very nice at all. That’s about as far as I can politely go without really offending certain people, much as many of them 100% deserve it. It took me getting to a point of genuine mental breakdown and being unable to leave my house without having panic attacks that caused me to collapse, to realise that having my career in the ‘right’ place was just not worth it at all. You are not successful if you are coming home most days in tears and unable to sleep from the stress. It does not matter what your salary is or how much fantastic experience you are getting, if it’s affecting you negatively, that is counter-productive and you are actually unsuccessful.

Once I learned this, I realised it was applicable to basically everything. Not to go completely Charlotte York about this, but a question people often ask me is why I’m not married or engaged, because of the length of time I’ve been with my boyfriend. I’ll say it again, we are happy, ergo we are fine. I’m not saying it will never happen and I’m not a feminazi ‘men are the devil and marriage is oppressive’ type, but for now, things are completely fine. We are happy and, as they say, if it ain’t broke…

So here I am, at 24, working a fairly mundane job which I know is a beneath my degree and experience, unmarried despite being in a position where I easily could be; but here’s the plot twist, I AM HAPPY! For the first time in about a year I am, overall, happy more often than I am unhappy. Yes, things aren’t perfect, nothing ever is – I do sometimes get stressed at work or argue with my boyfriend or feel upset when something goes wrong, but on balance things are good. I honestly think this is the secret to life, and I’m not going to lie – I feel like I’ve found the Holy Grail. ‘Success’ is such an arbitrary term and you’re realistically never going to feel like you’ve achieved everything you meant to, so just stop stressing about it and do what you enjoy – I absolutely could’ve saved myself so much turmoil and mental distress if I’d known this earlier.