Fe-liners, on the 29th of November 2014 I turned 28. I have never been one for birthdays but this year is so very different. This year I celebrated a year that changed my life and toasted all the wonderful things that are to come for my 28th year. For now though I am going to tell you about all of the wonderful things that happened in my 27th year.
I became a Fe-line Blogger
I’m sure that by this stage that you all know my fe-line story. However it is such a crucial part of my story it deserves a mention. When the lovely Jo advertised that she was looking for writers I was initially very excited and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity. However very quickly I left my negative thoughts take over, you know the ones. “Everyone else would be much better at that than I would be” “What would I even have to write about” “It’s a UK based blog, I wouldn’t be relevant” “I’m just not very good at writing really so just stop all of this silly talk”. Then I got some positive feedback from a friend on my writing from my old blog “Lashes, Lace and Ink” and I just decided to give it a go. So I wrote a begging letter to the lovely Jo detailing why I would like to be part of Fe-line and all of the things I would like to write about.
Thankfully Jo and her team decided to take a chance on me. It was quite a risk for them because I was still quite an inexperienced writer. I was so excited about my first post and I had fully intended that it would be a wonderfully positive uplifting piece. However it coincided with one of the most stressful times of my life. My yet to be diagnosed Anxiety was in full swing and I could barely function. When I was incapable of anything else I decided to get my sh*t together and start writing, and that is where my first post “I suffer with my mental health” came from. That post saved me that day, it dragged me out of my anxious cloud and made me realise that if I could write I could do anything. Even when I lost the motivation to continue my own blog I never gave up on Fe-line.
Since starting with Fe-line I have grown in confidence and capability as a writer, I have gained the support and encouragement of an inspiring group of women from across the globe and I feel as if I really am part of something bigger. For that I am eternally grateful to Jo, the fe-line team and all of you wonderful people who read what I write and give me the opportunity to pursue my creative bliss.
I fell in love with my body
I am the worlds worst for New Years Resolutions! I am a marketers dream, every January I would decide that I was going to lose heaps of weight, become ultra fit and that all of my body niggles would disappear. However this process was always fraught with self-loathing and negativity, therefore it never worked. I would always feel horrendously worse about myself come February. In cases by the end of January.
In 2014 I decided I was going to change all of that and that I would dedicate all that time and energy to loving my body. I mean really loving it, no more negative self talk, no more indulging in negative media, no more body snark. It took a while to get into it, I won’t lie. I’ll tell you what though, it has been one of the single greatest decisions I have ever made. Changing how I felt about my body impacted on so many areas of my life I couldn’t believe it. I was suddenly braver, I walked taller, what I wore was different and I took up space because I deserved to. No more shrinking into corners because I felt I had to. I became so body positive I stripped off for a nude photo shoot with Boudoir Girls. That was a step of epic proportions because prior to that I would barely stand in for family photographs.
My own body positivity has even encouraged other women to embrace their own beautiful bodies, regardless of their size and shape. That’s what it’s all about really, loving yourself and spreading that love around. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you have all of that time you used to spend picking yourself apart, to dedicate to other pursuits.
I embraced all of the F words
Fat, Fierce, and Feminist!! That is now how I describe myself. Why? Because that is what I am! Initially calling myself fat came as a big surprise to a lot of people. They were so used to the word fat being used in a negative context and they immediately rushed to assure me I was not all of the things usually associated with being fat. Of course I wasn’t ugly, smelly, stupid, sexually unattractive or desperate. My favourites had to be “Oh you’re not fat, you’re curvy” or “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful”. While we’re on it curvy is just a new term for sexually acceptable fat. You can have big hips, a big ass or big breasts and that is very attractive, because the fat is in the “right” places. However I have fat all over, they aren’t curves, they are rolls, they are mine and I love them more than I ever have. I am beautiful just as I am my size, shape and weight are relevant. I am fat and I am beautiful, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Feminist was another label people struggled with. They could not understand why I would want to label myself such a thing. Why would I openly declare that I hated men and that I wanted to forego being feminine? Feminist is another term laden with misconception about it’s meaning. Consequently this inspired another Fe-line article, full of the misconceptions of what it means to be a feminist. After going to see Caitlin Moran live and meeting the lady herself it absolutely cemented for me, the importance of openly identifying as a feminist. I now wear my feminist badge with pride, quite literally due to Ms. Moran’s wonderful merchandise.
As a direct result of embracing both of these F words, I have become fierce, a force to be reckoned with. Why? because it takes a whole lot of ovaries to stand up to people and challenge their misconceptions. As a rule people don’t like change or challenge. That said it’s tough to argue that a tiny, purple, haired, smiley, articulate woman is anything other than what she says she is. That, my friends is the type of confidence I have developed over the last year. Prior to that I would have hid in a corner unable to express myself without going red in the face and they could have labelled me whatever they liked and I would have agreed.
I got braver with my look
Prior to embracing my body and generally becoming more confident, my clothing choices were very safe and samey. My wardrobe consisted of many items in large sizes that would be baggy on me, so that nobody would see my body. There was an internal dialogue that if you couldn’t see the outline of my stomach, hips and thighs that they really weren’t as big as you think they might be. First off this is so very wrong because all over draping only made me look so much bigger. It also meant I had zero shape, I was lost in a sea of draped fabric, like an old piece of furniture hidden by many blankets so you couldn’t see what it was anymore.
On a shopping trip with my sister I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Forever 21 stocked plus sizes. Not only that but they fit me. So with the help of my beloved sister I invested in a wardrobe of fitted clothing in various colours and I have never been happier with my wardrobe. I’d be lying if I said I put on the fitted items at home and wore them without question. It did take some getting used to. Once I had convinced myself that I did look good, everything changed. I didn’t just wear my outfits, I rocked them. The power of positivity and confidence is a wonderful thing.
I embraced my mental health
This one can be a little bit of a sensitive issue for people. In Ireland the issue of mental health is not one easily discussed. There is an unspoken assumption that if you have an issue with your mental health you have to be minded. I don’t mean that in a positive way, people looking out for you, I mean that you are treated differently because there is an element of fear around it.
I consider myself to be a very capable, strong woman and the idea that people would see me as any less capable really bothered me. It’s why I refused to acknowledge that I wasn’t ok for so long. I let all of it build up inside me and took actions to make life as comfortable as possible for myself without challenging the situation. I would only go shopping at certain times to avoid crowds if there were crowds when I got there it impacted. I would become panicked and start to show physical signs of panic and stress. That’s what it came down to. I couldn’t cope physically or mentally with the stress anymore. So I got help. It wasn’t easy but I did it. Not only that but I started to talk more about what it was that was “wrong” with me. That way it becomes normal for me and for those I meet. Sure I have Anxiety but I have a quick wit, I have a creative streak, I’m a complete softie. None of these things defines me any more or less than the other.
Speaking openly about my mental health has lead many people I know discussing their own issues too. People I would never have suspected had any issue of any description. That’s one of the problems I guess, we just don’t talk about it so we can’t recognise it, we don’t know how to react to it, we don’t know how to treat the person with it. It’s all really new and the only times we do hear about it is when the very worst happens, someone has a breakdown or they commit suicide. To the best of my knowledge nobody has said anything negative to me about my “coming out” nobody has treated me any differently and if anything I am more capable now than I was because I am more aware of my issue and triggers.
I invested in myself
Another first for me in my year of positivity was investing in myself. Self belief is all well and food but I decided it was high time to put my money where my mouth is, quite literally. I decided to invest in my own talent, skill and ability and start my very own website. Since starting Rebelle-ution I have had a world of people contacting me for business opportunities and to share their stories of positivity and how the site has helped them. As a result of all this wonderfulness I have gained a bravery and confidence in my writing that I might not have otherwise. All in all it was worth every penny!
I guess the title may seem a bit far fetched given the stories and encounters I’ve just told you about. I honestly do believe it saved my life, not that I was in danger of losing my life, instead I have made a decision to actively participate and engage in my own life rather than passively existing. I’ve completely turned my life around, improved my mental health and opportunities by simply making choices. Was it easy, absolutely not, was it worth it, hell yeah it was. In case you were wondering I fully intend on making my 28th year my best yet, just watch this space.
I was recently watching Drifters, a Channel 4 show about a trio of twenty-something girls, when one of the characters said, “women are having their moment”. As much as I disagree with this statement, in that women shouldn’t have a “moment” but instead have just as much credibility on (and off) screen as men at all times not just for “moments”, the statement did get me thinking about a few of the great female fronted comedy shows around at the moment.
Being a BBC 3 comedy series about the trials and tribulations of teenage girls in London, I question whether I am the target market for Some Girls, but enjoy it nonetheless. Although, like in a lot of comedy, the characters have slightly formulaic personality types – the clever one (Saz), the hard one (Holly), the ditsy one (Amber) and then there’s the glue of the group (Viva). What makes the series so watchable is not so much the ridiculous situations the girls get into, but the way their characters are quite well fleshed out so you can feel sympathy for them and also even dislike them. Saz is really quite hard on her friends, Viva is really quite frustratingly constantly in denial: they don’t just feel like comical characters there for amusement, but real girls becoming women who aren’t always charming or beautiful but can also be angry or strong-minded.
Bunny, Laura and Meg are three unemployable lasses in Leeds, trying to make the most of their twenties and consistently getting caught up in embarrassing situations. This is comedy that makes you cringe and laugh at the totally awkward and excruciating moments regularly experienced by the trio. The characters are all pretty shallow, their lives and relationships slightly devoid of meaning or significance, but it is pretty entertaining. The main character in the show is played by Jessica Knappett who writes the series and has co-written with two of the writers of The Inbetweeners, so that gives you the gist of the style of humour. Think female Inbetweeners in a quarter-life crisis.
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, a few American series are doing similar things. Two Broke Girls, slightly similar to Drifters, tells the story of a high-society woman who loses her money and for no clear reason a street-wise waitress in Brooklyn gives her refuge, from there friendship and a cupcake business blossoms. I would also really recommend GIRLS, more of a drama than a comedy series, is all about being a twenty-something millennial lady. Strangely enough for a popular TV series, the characters are more often annoying and horrible than they are sympathetic and you end up laughing at them more than with them. Lena Dunham must be playing with our masochistic tendencies.
Despite what Bunny says in Drifters, female-fronted British comedy isn’t exactly new – the crazy sketch series Smack the Pony, comedy duo French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous were all rip-roaringly successful in the 90s, but it feels more like the next generation of female comedy legends are being noticed – and I look forward to their legacy.
About this time 3 years ago my eldest daughter, Caroline, went to live in Amsterdam. it was a leap in the dark, a real leap of faith. She had set herself the goal of living there for a minimum of 6 months. Despite many ups and downs and a 7 week stay in Seville she’s still living in Amsterdam.
Her Dutch is pretty fluent, she lives in a nice flat with her boyfriend, Arno, has two jobs and works as a make up artist whenever she can. On my last visit there last week I was chatting to the taxi driver about Caroline and he said “you know your daughter’s Dutch now, she’s here to stay”.
I took the opportunity whilst there to interview Caroline for this blog as she is very Fe-line.
Why did you decide to leave the UK and go to live in Amsterdam?
At the time I was working in London, I found the tube very depressing. I looked at the people around me looking miserable and I felt I needed to get out, out of that zone altogether. I went to Amsterdam for a weekend break and didn’t want to leave, so four weeks later I came back to live.
What was the hardest thing in the early days?
Housing – finding the right house in the right neighbourhood with the right people is really hard. The landlords here are not very respectful of you and how personal somewhere to call home is. But it’s also one of the most interesting aspects about living here.
You learn a lot about yourself when you live with people you don’t know. You also learn about other people’s mannerisms, characteristics, and cultures. You learn to compromise and lighten up.
What are your top tips for finding a place to live in a hurry?
- Planning is key but not always possible if you’re in a hurry.
- Try to meet the people you’re going to be living with before you sign any contracts.
- If you’re a graduate avoid living with students!
- Talk to everyone wherever you go, at the supermarket, when you’re out for a drink, anyone you are chatting to. Tell them you’re looking for a place to live and keep telling people. You just don’t know what might turn up.
How did you find a job?
I handed out CV’s where ever I went, shops, restaurants, anywhere and everywhere. I talked to lots of people and literally walked the streets. It took me about 24 hours to find my first job here. It wasn’t ideal but it meant that we could get out of the hostel and into rented accommodation as soon as possible.
Where do you work know?
My main job is at the Heineken restaurant in Leidseplein. It’s such a hard job. You’re dealing with people from all over the world and many of them are lacking in manners and think that waitresses are no better than shit on your shoe. I enjoy standing up for myself and have thrown people out before now for their bad manners.
The job has given me a lot of confidence because you’re at the sharp end every day. The work team is like family, you have to throw yourself into that or you may as well work somewhere else, you’re just not going to get on or enjoy it. We work hard but have a lot of fun too.
What’s’ been your biggest stroke of luck since moving to Amsterdam?
Meeting my boyfriend.
Awww does he know that?
I almost left Amsterdam to come back home. Things were really tough. I was sleeping on a friend’s sofa, I had a very large dog (that’s a long story!) to take care of and I was working all the hours. I was quite down. Then I met Arno, he’s lived in Amsterdam all his life but is half English and half Dutch. He’s shown me so much more to Amsterdam and my love for the city has developed further.
What’s your favorite thing about living in a foreign city?
I enjoy the language barrier. It makes you think about what you say and makes you precise about the language you use. There’s no room for laziness or a lot of fillers like “you know” and “I mean” it’s not understood so you have to cut it out.
Conversations then tend to be more interesting.
What do you miss most?
Your cooking Mum
You were never at home to enjoy it!
and Tom (Caroline’s eight year old brother). I miss seeing him grow up but I guess we appreciate each other more when we’re together. I also miss the smell of grass.
No mum, freshly cut grass that you mow – the smells of summer, you just don’t get them when you live in a city.
Do you think you’ll stay in Amsterdam?
I’d like to move somewhere else with Arno. I’d like to live in Paris for a while.
What are your ambitions?
I’m studying for and AMBOS make up artist degree and will graduate in January. I hope to work for Mac Cosmetics, that would be my dream job. After three years you can become part of their events team, if you make the grade. I would also like to be part of the Netherlands make up awards
I was with Caroline on 4 November – I just went for the day! And I’m back out there for a couple of days with Tom in December. I manage to visit about 4 times a year and Caroline comes over here about a similar amount so we see quite a bit of each other and our time together is very special. There’s always something to talk about!
I set myself the goal of blogging every single day in November. The rationale? I find November quite dull, I wanted to exercise my writing and I needed photographic motivation – read big nudge – to ignore the shorter days and low access to daylight; what better way to work on any of the above than blogging every day? Precisely!
Once I decided I’d be blogging every day, I took a few minutes to consider my approach. I’ve come to think of blogging as a piece of writing and accompanying images, so this became my only rule – each post had to have at least one photo and at least one sentence (image captions excluded). Freedom was queen; freedom of topic, mood, word count, anything. And this is what really worked for me.
I realised on day one of the challenge that the only way I’d get through it was by sitting down and writing. Just writing whatever came to mind and forgetting all the rules for successful blogging and consistency and themes. In doing so, not only was I able to actually blog every day, but I also found a lost love for blogging and the reason why I started doing it in the first place.
You see, there was a time on my path where I forgot those reasons and focused too much on what the ‘rules’ were and what everyone else was doing. It seemed to me that everyone else was blogging about incredibly useful things that were informative and beautifully styled and useful, did I mention useful? Whilst I had no desire to emulate any of those people I admired – my voice was not at risk, yay! – I began feeling like I didn’t add to that conversation.
I now know for a fact that I don’t add to that conversation! And that’s ok. This was incredibly liberating and creativity-inducing! All of the sudden, being random – what I would honestly define my blogging as being – was awesome and interesting. I wanted to write again and select photos and just be myself.
Whilst all of the above really works for me from a personal blog point of view, when I started writing this post I thought to myself – what can the Fe-line community take from it? Well, in addition to all the amazing advice, food recommendations, Christmas shopping, fashion tips, and so on, to me this community is also one where we can be openly lost. By knowing other people are as lost as us on occasion and shake on their tracks every now and again, we know we’re not alone; more importantly, we also know we’ll be alright.
If you’re looking for a good way to get through the January blues, I would definitely recommend you take the blogging everyday challenge. You’ll be surprised with what you take from it!
Have a lovely and cosy Christmas!
As I’d looked back at half the amazing ladies featured in my posts last month, I figured it only seemed fair to look back at the rest of them this month – these ladies are just as amazing.
Aside from continuing to be generally brilliant, Maxine Peake recently wrote and starred in another radio drama, My Dad Keith. It’s the story of a woman who loves drumming and sets out, with her Grandad’s help, to find out who her father is. The play aired on Radio 4 on November 28th and gave Mike Joyce, the drummer from The Smiths, his first acting role. You can find more info and listen to My Dad Keith here.
Perhaps even more brilliantly, however, she was recently quoted by the London Evening Standard as saying the following when asked about her continual casting in gritty dramas: “I thought maybe I would like to do something darker for a change and I got caught in that world. I want to do something ridiculously silly next year.”* Hurrah for silliness, I say!
Ok, I’m going to take this opportunity to briefly say something about the actress who played Bridget in the movies, Renee Zellweger. For anybody who hasn’t seen the recent fuss in the press, Ms Zellweger went to an event a couple of months ago looking a little different. This resulted in a media frenzy picking apart what work she may or may not have had done to her face, with just about every practicing plastic surgeon in the western world chipping in with their professional opinion.
This made me very sad, Fe-liners. Renee Zellweger has brought many beloved characters to life, Bridget included, and she has done so with wonderful care, attention, and warmth. So the fact that the press are gleefully picking over her every feature as though she were a faded waxwork without any other value seems very wrong to me. The way I see it, it really doesn’t matter if she looks different (regardless of the reason) because it doesn’t change who she is or how much talent she has.
Renee’s comment on it all: “Perhaps I look different. Who doesn’t as they get older? My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy. For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that.”** If she feels healthy, peaceful, and comfortable in her skin; then surely that’s all that matters?
Anita Roddick’s best known legacy, The Body Shop, is firmly on my list of Christmas shopping destinations. This years’ Christmas range includes Frosted Cranberry, Glazed Apple, and Vanilla Brulee. I was in my local branch this weekend and had a cheeky sniff; whether anybody I buy these products for this Christmas actually ends up with them or whether they accidently get put in my bathroom cabinet remains to be seen! On a more serious note, the reason I love giving people Body Shop products is that, while they do carry a higher price tag than other high street brands, everybody knows that they have been made ethically with everybody along the way being paid properly. I love that whoever I give them to will know that nothing and nobody has suffered as a result of their post-bath pamper – in my book, that’s a good feeling to give.
“I had absolutely no idea how totally, utterly, and brilliantly hilarious she was. Not funny in a very-talented-ventriloquist-and-also-quite-amusing kinda way, but in an I’m-laughing-so-hard-I-can’t-breath kinda way”
Nina Conti enjoyed much success with her sell-out Edinburgh “work in progress” show (which she has actually just brought to London, for three dates only – the final date being this Saturday, 14th), Nina Conti is Messing Around. She has also just released a DVD Dolly Mixtures – the trailer made me giggle a lot so I thought I’d share it:
As this year marks 20 years since the first episode of Friends and ten since the series finished, all anybody seems to be talking about at the moment is the possibility of a Friends reunion. Lisa Kudrow and the rest of the girls have dinner and this must be because they’re planning a reunion, couldn’t possibly just be because they worked together for ten years. Her co-star, Jennifer Aniston, flippantly remarks “I say we really wait until we’re really much older and be, just, Golden Friends. Because then we won’t have the comparison” while on The Graham Norton Show and The Independent reports “Will it happen, won’t it happen? Well, if Jennifer Aniston has anything to do with it then yes, a Friends reunion might just be on the cards.”***
Personally, I’m not sure I want to see a Friends reunion. I think the series ended well, they’d all gone their separate ways and their lives had moved on; trying to recapture the magic however many years later as though Phoebe and the rest of the gang have been sitting in Central Perk ever since we left them doesn’t quite feel right. What do you think, Fe-liners?
Kate Bush received The Editor’s Award at the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards for her recent concerts, Before The Dawn. The more I read about these concerts, the more amazing they sound and the more gutted I am that I wasn’t one of the lucky 100,000 people who managed to get tickets in the 15 minute window before they sold out. I’ve got my fingers crossed that a DVD’s planned at some point, but for now here’s a BBC Breakfast round up following the opening night:
I’m looking forward to talking about more inspirational women in 2015, but until then, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and sparkly New Year.