Weight Off my Mind

The other day I stumbled across an article which read: “18 Amazing Untouched Photographs of Marilyn Monroe” and, acting from a place of minimum interest, I clicked an image which showed Marilyn laying in bed with her arms up. “Holy shit”, I thought. “That’s what I look like – but she looks amazing!”

I’ve always had a complex about my arms, even at my skinniest I felt they could be thinner. I began this phase of self-judgement as a fifteen year old, when I overheard some friends at a party discussing how big my arms looked. Despite redetermining my friendship group, it seems that even twelve years on I’m still witnessing the same negative physical attitudes.

As I went on to read the articles comments, I was reminded that any body adhering to a rounder shape would immediately be rejected. “OMG, look how swollen her arms look!” and  “Jesus, somebody needs to photoshop that shit!” were left in response to the post. I’ll admit, I did contemplate for about 2 seconds whether I should just live off air and water for the rest of my life but then I thought, fuck it, I’m keeping with the notion of being real and am going to finish this doughnut.

I blame the media for feeding us limited standards of feminine desirability. For instance, even when the exception is made i.e. Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian or Nikki Minaj – all celebrated for being curvaceous – their curves are only desirable for being in the “right places”. There’s been a so-called shift in mainstream attitudes given that it’s okay to have a round ass, however, if your waist isn’t small and your stomach isn’t flat, don’t expect an invitation to the hot bodies club.

The pressure bestowed upon women to physically conform is astounding. Mass control; where the only females we see on billboards, in film and in advertisements are below a certain size; thus setting unfair limitations regarding what we should class as normal or even worse, better. Our vision can’t adjust to seeing rolls of flesh on screen; when a fuller size 12-14 makes an appearance, we label them as “heavy” or “big”, segregating them from their dainty peers.

Our society is such that unless a certain shape, women are ostracized and sneered at for dressing in attire “unsuitable” for their figure. Where people think it’s perfectly acceptable to say “OMG, did you see what that girl was wearing? Her thighs are chafing together in those shorts!” or, “She’s hot but she’d be even hotter if she lost a few pounds”.

Sorry, who asked for a fucking running commentary on the shape of another persons body, or how they choose to dress it?!

Unless somebody asks for advice on their appearance, no need to offer shallow and unwarranted comments. If you’re lost for words stick to safe subjects such as the weather or your dog. It’s not rocket science, I’m sure most people are aware they need to eat more greens and do cardio to reach that “physical ten”. But you know what? Maybe they’re comfortable as they are. I know I certainly was until people started filling my head with their own unkind, neurotic thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to work out seven days a week and feel better for it then please do, just remember the same freedom applies for those preferring to stay at home and bake. Let us be kind and embrace one another for who we are, as opposed to how we look.

The benefits are countless when it comes to exercise and nutrition; whilst it’s important to retain balance, my main priority is far from trying to “look better”. I am constantly trying to find the happy medium between work, friends and family; beating myself up for not doing enough writing; setting myself goals and how to reach them. I can’t afford to lose any more sleep over a mere shell; the way outsiders respond to my body or letting them affect the way I feel about myself.

I’ve had stretch marks for as long as can remember and though they’ll probably fade over time, I’ll have them forever. They’ve been a way bigger deal in my life than they should’ve been. Stretch marks occur because the skin has stretched during weight loss or weight gain, no biggie. They are as much a part of my body as anything else, so why have I found them so hard to accept?

The few articles I’ve read to normalize stretch marks only do so if the women have had children. I find this is offensive. ANYONE can have stretch marks: men, women and children alike. Again, it has everything to do with skin type and weight fluctuation. They are our bodies way of adapting to physical changes; they needn’t be rejected.

unnamed-3

My arm before being photoshopped, my hips before being airbrushed.

It’s a shame the world hasn’t invented a filter for real life; women are constantly being told they’re not good enough. We hide our faces beneath makeup and our curves beneath dark and baggy clothes. That said, if I want to wear a pair of shorts this summer I’ll do so without plastering my legs first in sun-beige foundation: stretch mark and cellulite galore baby! Like it or like it.

Our culture spends SO much damn time focusing on the outer shell, idolizing celebrities who do little to promote awareness outside of a self-indulgent bubble. It’s all well and good, but why?

Try to imagine meeting your best loved celebrity: there they are, airbrushed and contoured, smiling and perfect…and then they step on you. They believe you’ll never be as good as them, boring you with stories of how beautiful everyone finds them. They claim you should eat more salad ’cause it will help you gain more insta-likes. They look down at your hopes and dreams, because in their mind without “looks” you’re inadequate.

Is such behaviour worthy of admiration?

Sounds extreme but I’ve met many people like this, who think they’re better than others because they fit some kind of man-made, mis-represented illusion. Personally, I think they’re lost, conceited and boring. Their energy is ugly and it drains me; they go from swans to scary monsters in a heartbeat.

A word of advice: remove the pedestal from beneath the feet of those who walk past you and the ones who walk all over you; this includes our friend, the media. Idolize those who inspire the good change, place more focus into your loved ones. Try to go deeper by sorting out your nature, cause no amount of bronzer is going to fix your soul.  The most beautiful people I know are the ones who consider the feelings of others, who can acknowledge when they’ve fucked up; who work on themselves from within.

Dearest Media,

FUCK YOU.

Sincerely,

A living, breathing, real-life girl.

 

 

 

 

The Power of NO

A friend of mine recently recalled several interactions (with the majority of them happening on the underground), where men have found it appropriate to cop a feel of her because well, they’re disgusting pigs. At the time of conversation we were having a laugh about it because A) These situations have  been and gone and B) My friend has “balls” of steel and punched every single man in the face who put his hands on her. Obviously she’s my hero.

Upon reflection, I  started to remember times where I have also been subjected to unwanted physical contact; how powerless I felt within these moments. When I was 16, I remember getting off a bus and this guy with trousers hanging below knees and a creepy smile to match grabbed my bum and hopped off with me. In reflex I remember screaming “don’t touch me!” and his response: “Well you shouldn’t be wearing a skirt that short”. In those days I thought very little about consequence and could easily tell someone to fuck off. In reality, that guy was towering over me – physically bigger and stronger; if he wanted to assault me he could have.

Another friend of mine found herself on the daytime tube (what is it with men getting brave on public transport?) and the man opposite her decided to have an explicit fondle. There were about 6 other passengers on the carriage that day. These are the sort of men who have been so sexually repressed that they exude normality regarding sexual harassment. They do not care whether they are in public, or how uncomfortable they make other passengers feel: their goal is to overpower and intimidate. They literally get off on the notion that they can do whatever they like, whenever they like, to whomever they like. No.

hot girlys

The same friend also told me that she’d witnessed a man rubbing up on a girl in front of her and mouthed to the victim “Is he trying to touch you?” The girl replied “I think so” and so my friend began to video him, making sure the harasser was named and shamed. What concerns me is that the girl just stood there feeling timid and small. She felt so scared and overpowered that even on a train packed full of people she couldn’t defend herself. She’s not the only one – there are countless young women who’ve experienced assault without reacting.

I think it’s time self-defense classes were introduced as a compulsory part of the national curricular. 

Over the years I’ve found myself in situations where distant relatives, family friends and even friend’s boyfriends have crept up behind me and acted over-familiar; from massaging my shoulders, to holding my hand longer than a handshake requires. Instead of plucking up the courage to just say “You’re making me feel uncomfortable”, I’ve simply shrugged them away, stunned. It’s pretty clear that as women we’ve been trained to endure far more than we should. We’ve been taught to be respectful, polite, courteous and graceful at all times. And I’m fucking sick of it. It is every persons right to take full ownership of their body: if you don’t like somebody touching you in a particular way – don’t have to let them, simple.

My best friend doesn’t like hugging strangers and avoids the whole “London greeting” thing, when we stand up and kiss strangers on either side of the cheek. Whilst this is a notion I’m pretty much comfortable with; people shouldn’t have to abide by “political correctness”  if it makes them feel uneasy. If we allowed people to be more authentic in the way they relate, perhaps women wouldn’t find themselves being silent when a man touches them in an inappropriate and over-familiar way.

So, my question is, how as women can we protect ourselves if we feel threatened? The solution should be easy but it isn’t; we’re too scared to offend, confront or be judged.

I started talking with my mum about possible solutions (FYI, whilst growing up my mum would directly ask men to stop staring at my chest, which I found SO embarrassing) and together we acknowledged the powerlessness women are subjected to.

I live in London, which means that if a man tries to touch me up on the train, I can defend myself and feel confident that most will offer support. But what about the rest of the world? The places where women undergo rape massacres, female-genital mutilation; stoning-by-death and nobody responds to their cries. Countries where women aren’t allowed to drive, work or roam the streets unless accompanied by a man? Where girls younger than 12 are married off and forced to breed whilst they themselves are practically babies?

It’s all too overwhelming to comprehend. Imagine, if I feel uncomfortable because I’m too scared to request my own personal space, how on earth are women with zero support ever going to find their collective voice?

trump

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging you to start displaying extreme behavior by turning up to meetings and then refusing to shake your clients hand, or meeting your boyfriends parents for the first time and then attacking them with the barbecue griddle should they reach for a hug. What I am encouraging, is to put the barrier up when you feel uncomfortable.

If a man tries to feel you up on the train and you find yourself stuck, tell the nearest person to you. Regardless of who it is: family friend, friends boyfriend, teacher, colleague etc – if you don’t like the way they are behaving towards you, your instinct is probably right.

I’ve been writing about women for over a year now and  STILL I am a hypocrite: I haven’t yet mastered the power of no. If a person is confident enough to put their hands on you, then you should be confident enough to tell them not to. And if they persist? Well, that’s how you know the uninvited attention isn’t harmless. That’s when you know something truly isn’t right and you’re entitled to take action: Pepper Spray £12 on Amazon and bricks are free on Gumtree. You’re welcome 😉

 

Queen of My Castle

Last week I spent my first Saturday in a very long time, housebound and alone. I had intentionally declined all social offers in a bid to go through cupboards, sort out paperwork and relax somehow. I wanted something quiet, with plenty of food and lots of rest. Despite everything going to plan, I felt tremendously lonely and bored.

Usually I would fill my weekend gaps with the pleasure of outside company, so on this particular day I found myself struggling to just be. Why am I not enjoying my OWN company? Do I not feel good enough to be with myself? Why do I feel like I’m missing out by staying in? These were the questions I needed to ask myself based on the unshakeable restlessness I felt ‘being with self’.

It had never been a plan of mine to live alone; the thought seemed unimaginable due to a constant desire to “self-surround”. As someone who is generally anxious, I’ve found much comfort in having somebody – anybody – by my side, most of the time. I grew up in an open home where our front door was literally, open. Friends were constantly in and out, sharing our food, time and space. My mum longed for privacy, which was impossible as my dad worked from home and encouraged an influx of visitors. Needless to say when my parents divorced (by this time we’d moved into an even bigger house), there was no holding back from a slew of open invites.

I became much like my dad in nature, developing into a young person who was rarely alone. This was wonderful as my personal entertainment was constant and my moments  never dull. I didn’t have time to think or dwell or reflect, I could just live in the moment, surrounded by characters. The quirkier the better: I enjoyed the buzz of having a variety of peers distracting me; the feeling of a full house left me with a full heart. It was an unconventional lifestyle, in the sense that our family was constantly extended with non-blood relatives.

I had a more “normal” living experience with my mum: eating ’round the table as a family, limiting sleepovers to weekends, conforming to parental boundaries, having someone overlook my homework etc. It didn’t matter though, by the time I turned 17 she caved and we would host around 6-7 girls within her tiny apartment; a safe escape for a rebellious girls.

From 23 onwards I lived with different friends, which seemed like the most natural thing to do. Movie nights, a person to travel with, eating meals together and house gatherings were few of the wonderful things to come from it. I had no plans to live alone, it was initially a temporary step before going off to travel. Understandably, when I did make the decision to move, my intuition screamed fear, fear and more fear. How on earth could I cope without having a person live with? More importantly, would I be able to make a friend out of myself? Would I be able to fill a void I hadn’t acknowledged was even there?

The first thing I did when I moved into my private little space, was make the place MINE. Having complete control over the decor, colour theme and even pictures on the wall enabled me to mark my own territory. I no longer had to keep things neutral by considering another’s taste. Surprisingly, unlike any other place I’ve ever lived, I felt right at home from the very first night. This was because I was in a space which felt familiar and personal…It was mine.

image2-2

The second wonderful thing I became aware of living alone, was having complete freedom. It didn’t matter if it was 1am or 6am, I could have over whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. I could create my own boundaries – controlling the status of my private space. That in itself was essential to my personal growth – I needed to learn that I could be the dictator of my own environment.

I’ve finally reached a milestone that allows me to be more assertiveI trust myself on every level and whilst I reflect, I do not regret the moments where I’ve spoken my truth. By knowing what’s in my heart, the opinions of others matter less and less. Again, my opinion of self was clouded when spending too much time with other people  – I needed to know my own thoughts and trust them fully.

It’s funny. On that rare Saturday, once I began to reflect, I realized how unappreciative I was. Having a place of my own, a safe haven, is a privilege. There is nothing boring or lonely about it. In the end I watched a couple films, slapped on a face-mask and finalllllly reveled in my own company! Sometimes when I’m alone I get out “The Family Box”, which is a box I keep stashed full of old pictures of letters. These are the moments I connect past to present. I reflect on my learnings and growth; creating moments I could only really have alone; private and necessary.

I intentionally waited a year to write this piece, because I wanted to see if there would be a transition from the time I moved in until now. I think due to constantly being surrounded by people as a child, I never claimed my own identity. I would put people’s demands before my own, swallowing thoughts because I was too scared to offend or interject. Now I have time to truly understand without being tainted by the opinions of others. I cannot be swayed. I am alone and better for it.

Living alone has allowed me to be selfish, to make my own rules and dominate my own space. One day, when the time comes and I choose to live with others, I’ll be able to communicate self-assuredly, considering others without forgetting myself. Until that time, I’ll be reveling in the gift of self, meeting my own needs and feeling not an ounce of guilt for it.

 

 

Always look on the bi-ght side

In analyzing and exploring my feelings and views; I’ve reached a crucial moment in life where I can finally embrace the possibility of change. Acknowledging that my identity has been conflicted in terms of restriction and liberation, this is simply an explorative piece based on the natural desires of self.

chelsea3

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to both men and women. It’s not something that has ever made me feel uncomfortable, as I believe deep down we all harbor the capacity to love either sex. I often wonder if there is really such thing as “sexual preference” or whether we limit ourselves based on our own fears.

I’m aware that homophobia thrives in our shared world – some parts more affected than others – creating unwarranted secrecy, taboos, shame etc. I still don’t understand how or why people can be so offended by the lifestyles of others, but perhaps a bigots main discomfort stems from an insecure unknowing. Maybe they are too afraid to embrace their own desires, creating a resentment which fuels more hate into this world.

Exempt from a few drunken kisses with girls on nights out, I’d never actually gone “the full mile” to have “evidence” of being open to both sexes. Irrelevant, as I knew such feelings existed, I just didn’t feel a strong urge seek them out.

image

 

The amount of times people have asked me whether I’ve found a boyfriend yet – I mean, is that what my life should amount to? Having a boyfriend? Forget about working hard to achieve career-orientated goals or the fact that I’ve been paying my own bills since 23, what I really need to make my life complete is a heterosexual relationship. Yawwwwwn.

A couple of weeks ago I was in an Amsterdam nightclub when something unexpected happened. No, I wasn’t on the lookout for a hookup nor was I romanticizing about love, but I happened to notice this totally striking girl. What fascinated me so much about her was that she didn’t appear to have a gender. She could have been either – male or female – and everyone seemed drawn to her because of it, myself included.

Prior to this, I’d always believed I had a type: that any girl I’d go for would be dolled up, overtly feminine and polished. But nope, there she was, jeans and a tank top, shaved head and petite. And she was perfect to me. Really, I don’t think I have ever seen a lovelier face in my whole entire life: tanned, with freckles on her nose. For the first time ever, I found myself physically seduced by another, totally non-conventional, female. It scared the shit out of me.

By the end of the night my friends tried to get me to speak with her – Jesus take the wheel.

I did what any respectable 26 year old would have done: ran away and hid behind a tree in the rain. How was I supposed to approach a female if I’d never even tried to pursue a male? Suddenly the feelings I’d acknowledged without action were staring at me. It was no longer a case of “I just want to explore”, I felt a genuine longing to know a person better. I wanted to talk to her and understand the layers of her mind and soul. Hmm, so this is why men get cold feet.

When I got back to London, I asked mum if she’d be fine for me to bring a girl home. “Of course not! You’ve been hinting at this for years!” she said. “But maybe keep it private ’til you know you’re sure”. Infamous for neglecting my mothers advice, the first thing I did was type a blog up.

It’s sad, despite my mothers liberal acceptance, the part of her which urged me not to share my “orientation” came from a place of fierce protectiveness: the worry that her child will be judged and shunned.

She was right to have her reservations. In the space of one week, I had one girl ask if I fancy her (I mean, I rarely meet guys I like let alone women) and another who exclaimed how “freaked out” she was (girl bye).

It was my first small taste of how it feels to be on the outside. My first tiny insight on what it would be like telling strangers you have a “partner” rather than a girlfriend. The first awakening to a restriction people face, not being able to kiss their lover in public. It’s not right – people should be allowed to just be, without worrying whether their sexual preference makes the general public uncomfortable. Nobody should have to live in fear for being themselves.

“Coming out” is a daunting exercise because nobody wants to be ostracized or rejected. I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2016 Orlando shootings; all my brave and beautiful LGBT friends; how painful the hate-crime must feel for them. Some haven’t even come out the “closet” yet and can you blame them? So, I take a chance in addressing my own sexuality: the fact that I am open to both men and women and refuse to feel an ounce of guilt for it.

Whilst the UK is undoubtedly more open than other parts of the world, it’s still a work in progress. The more we address our social concerns and vocalize isolating behaviours, the more we pave the way for a culture of full-acceptance.

celebrate-pride

Travel Therapy

Three weeks ago, I found myself staring at the walls, feeling trapped and indifferent. When faced with particular situations (which I’ve unsuccessfully tried to blank out), my subconscious hasn’t let me rest until I’ve processed the problem. For example, if there’s been a dispute at my workplace, I’ve gone home and ignored the issue using mediums such as my smartphone or the television. My attempt to find “inner peace” has been thrown: I’ve ended up having nightmares about the event; falling sick due to being inadvertently stressed.

I’m not planning on turning this into a pity party – I  actually think it’s perfectly normal to be overwhelmed by life sometimes (especially living in a fast-paced city like London). Waking up early to be met with grey skies and concrete, holding out for pay day and spending all my earnings on bills and travel; constantly looking to the future wanting to achieve more, feel more and be more isn’t exactly my idea of serenity. London has plenty to offer sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride. For instance, not many people my age can afford to rent a place, let alone buy. If these are the common problems my generation face, all we have to do now is add some fall outs, heartaches and health scares to the mix to realize life can feel pretty fucking shit.

image

I have this constant need to control everything so that my life feels orderly. When a curve ball is thrown, I find myself wanting to hold on and solve the problem, even when I know I can’t. Thinking too much about the past and future is typically a waste of thought – I guess that’s why it’s so important stay present.

Two weeks ago I went on the adventure of a lifetime. My cousin and I (along with a couple of friends) visited Rio De Janeiro – a HUGE tick off my bucket list. Before the trip,  I’d been contemplating whether to go for therapy – you know – just to offload and get an objective, less biased point of view. What Rio offered me? More support than a shoulder to cry on. Black and white swirling designed pavements accompanied by blue skies, sandy beaches and tall trees all introduced itself to us as Copacabana. The vibrant locals, sitting outside of our apartment playing indigenous music, assisted the tropical theme from the moment we stepped out of our taxi. That feeling of aliveness – despite the politically corrupt and tense undercurrents – followed us wherever we went. I was finally able to surrender to the thrill of the moment, fearless, whatever the outcome.

Just imagine a built up, spacious, wondrous city, thriving in the middle of the mountains – everything about it dazzled me. From the gritty, expressive street art, to the friendliness of the towering palm trees. The magical lure of  architecture was met by a beautiful rawness of the favelas and it was just…wow. Everywhere I looked I was reminded of a world that didn’t centre around me and I was freed by it – liberated from self – no longer troubled by my thoughts and just an explorative observer.

image

There was something I found godly about rekindling with nature, our real earth, usually hidden beneath concrete slabs and foreign objects. Being able to hike through forests, swim the ocean and lay under a blazing sun brought me right back to the present.  As well as this, there was something rather magical about our natural encounters with strangers, no matter how big or small the interaction.

Think about it. We live in a world where we use Facebook, Tinder, Instagram and Twitter – we are constantly providing conscious images of ourselves, we seek recognition implicitly; putting ourselves under a microscope for everyone to judge. To then go and meet people without preconceptions, knowing nothing about us and judging based on the then and now opened me up in a way most humbling. This for me, was and is always a healing and necessary experience when traveling. I returned home with a little more room in my heart for those outside of my circle.

Laughter happened a lot during our stay. I’d say that at least every second hour we’d laugh until tears fell from our eyes – the kind of laughter where you gasp for air and feel like you’ve done about 100 sit-ups. Isn’t it funny (no pun) that in moments of laughter the mind can’t think of anything else? I shall be keeping our jokes like souvenirs, that way every time I feel a sadness emerge, I can reminisce back to our hilarious times.

I don’t want to bore you too much with my holiday stories, but there’s one particular, inexpensive moment, which will be etched in my mind for as long as I can remember. It was one of our last nights in Rio, a cool evening, where we rented these bikes and simply rode up and down all the posts of Copacabana. I had music in my ears, the wide streets were lit up with trees on either side; the sky and ocean followed as we rode. It was this moment, where nothing else mattered. I remembered myself as a six year old, the first time I’d learnt to ride a bike without stabilizers and that exhilarating feeling of freedom. The fact that I could control the bike, monitor my own speed and provide myself balance is like a metaphor for the way I wish to deal with life.

Returning to London, the first thing I did after 15 hours of traveling was rearrange my bedroom. It sounds crazy but I needed the energy of my little to shift. It was a new chapter. I know this post will resonate with anyone who loves to travel ’cause the truth is, we’re humans, not robots. We need time out to reflect, to accept, to learn and to move forward. There is no place that captured my attention the way Rio did – in fact, there is not even a man who I fell for as quickly. We live in a magical world with so much beauty and once we are exposed to it…Well, that bitterness of life becomes that tiny bit sweeter.

image

 

 

 

 

Waste Girl

“So what are you doing with yourself now?” The most dreaded question in the whole entire world and yet somehow most common. Since graduating in 2013, I’ve gone from working on Reception to becoming a Personal Assistant, Helpdesk Administrator and then back to being a Receptionist again. My reason for climbing my way back down the career ladder is this:- If I’m going to work in an environment which leaves me uninspired and swept off my feet, I won’t do it for an industry I care very little.

The “what am I doing with my life?!” moments have been frequent, but I have a vision. Doing a menial job means I concentrate on what I want to actually do, writing, whilst getting paid pretty darn well. Please see smug face below:-

chelsea work blog

I was never studious during school, in all honesty I spent most time skipping class, smoking in fields and generally dreaming about boys. Any time I had coursework I would make the font really huge so I wouldn’t have to put effort in and I NEVER read over my work – the first draft was always the final. I’m not saying I’m proud of being a disengaged rebel but honestly, not everyone has pushy parents. As for my teachers, well, they were only interested in the pupils who “shone”, so of course I was going to opt for things which stimulated my mind at the time. Unfortunately, none of those things related to school work and I watched my grades deteriorate.

With this said, I managed to find myself in the “G & T” (Gifted and Talented aka Pretentious Snob) set for English. I hated this because I never felt courageous enough to put my views out there. I couldn’t relate to my ambitious peers and always felt that my teacher disliked me. In hindsight, she was a condescending bitch but I appreciated her quick wit and enthusiasm for the English language.

University was a similar experience, I missed nearly all of my lectures and slept through the ones I attended. I was predicted a 2:2 for my final results and I couldn’t give a flying fuck. It was only when my older brother – 6 months into my final year – said I shouldn’t receive anything below a 2:1, that I decided to put some effort in. My mum sat up with me for hours, making cups of coffee and researching what materials would work best for each assignment. I managed to get that 2:1.

Some of the most talented and interesting people I have ever met are all gritting their teeth through life working as sales assistants, baristas and cleaners. Some of them don’t even work full time, doing labor work when and if they’re needed. There is a constant pressure in London to financially strive and thrive, go through your Facebook friends list and compare yourself to all the go-getters who’ve established themselves by the age of 25 – if it doesn’t make you feel sick you’re clearly one of them.

Our society tells us that money and status is everything. At my last work place, we opened gates only for those on the highest wage, treating everyone according to hierarchical structures. I resented the way people would talk to me, spelling out surnames  like “S-M-I-T-H” and then shoving their business cards in my face, as if  a receptionist couldn’t possibly know how to spell.

I was born into financial stability – money was never an issue; our house was big, we traveled often and ate good food. This meant nothing. Our private issues would have been the same regardless of the size of our house and our respect for each other (and others), guaranteed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the things I’ve been privileged to have, but I’ve learnt that money comes and goes – respect costs nothing.

On the days where I’ve felt down based on a work title, my biggest issue has been caring what others think of me. But, it’s not easy knowing where to start on the road to success and furthermore, not every bright person is sure of what they want to do.

During the early hours of Saturday morning I sat talking with a friend who said he’d blown his chance at becoming a top athlete. Little did he know I’d been entranced by his talent all weekend. Every time he picked up a guitar I was amazed by how beautifully he played; the only pity I felt was for the people who couldn’t hear him. Truth is, we don’t need to be paid or acknowledged for our capabilities. If we wanted to be really selfish, we could keep them to ourselves so that nobody in the world would ever be granted the pleasure of them.

Don’t let the world’s hype fool you. So what you made a couple”bad” decisions? You were experiencing life for yourself, at your own pace, on your own journey. When you’re ready to do more, you will. And if you choose not to? That’s fine too. People don’t have to see you for you to know that you are there – take pride in being the underdog and one day you might surprise someone: that someone, being you.

Why we shouldn’t kill our friend…ships

Growing up there were three interweaving families who would spend all their time together; the adults would drink wine and discuss life and the children would play  and make a mess. They planted a tree of friendship, proving that if we nurture our bonds correctly they can flourish into something everlasting.

Anny and I bonded over being the rejects of the group. Our siblings weren’t interested and made us sit at the “baby table” which was basically a table with a highchair and one baby. We soon realised we had much more fun without them (after all, we now had our own small person to bully) and alas, it was the start of a new era.

I was 4 or 5 when I met Anny. Our friendship was unique because she was two years above me in school and unlike my other friends, we began to heavily depend on each other. By the time we were 11 we were inseparable, spending all our weekends, holidays and even weekdays together. When we were apart we would call each other just to sit there in silence and still feel connected.

image

Anny and I became each others life reference and loved each other completely. We were constantly getting in trouble for being loud; we would laugh until we cried and make up wild stories. We argued a lot too. I think I dominated the friendship with my loudness, whilst Anny was more shy and reserved. I had no qualms revealing my anger which meant my outbursts caused her pain. This pattern grew followed into adulthood because we never quite learnt how to hear each other; we never got to the root of what was truly bothering us…

Anny went through everything with me: we shared a grunge-phase, urban-phase, our first kiss, first beer, first joint, first fight, first boyfriend, first breakup, first holiday, first rave and even first adult movie (when we accidentally strolled into a screening of Ali G and missed Russell Crowe’s A Beautiful Mind – yessss)!

Over the years we’ve collected so many hand-made cards, filled with private childhood jokes. We went from from kids, to teens, to adults and I honestly can’t think of a single person who knows my history better than she does. And that’s because she is my history. There was even a time when our parents felt we should spend less time together, so we pretended we had other friends to visit (yeah right) and spent the night on the train. 14 years of age, I remember being so tired that when when we reached the last stop my shoe came off and almost left with it.

At 23, Anny found me a job at her workplace and we were practically running the office. To say we took the piss is an absolute understatement. We would bring in so much food into work (having buffet breakfasts and lunches every day) and then spend all our money on dinner and drinks because we still wanted to be together. Some days one of us would keep guard whilst the other went shopping, but mostly we would just watch movies, eat popcorn and plan what we’d be doing at the weekend.

Within a few months of working together we saved for a deposit and moved in to our first flat in Leytonstone. It was initially a magical time, we felt liberated and free, young and independent. Apparently our families placed bets on how long it was going to last, nice! But I guess they were right in having reservations, 9 months later were tense. We were upsetting each other so much and not communicating without shouting or bitching. We didn’t want to be nice or considerate or even share with eachother any more.

There were a several factors which made our house-share unsuccessful: splitting finances, too many visitors, not enough space and even a rodent infestation! It became a living nightmare. Our friendship felt like it’d reached a point of no return. We behaved  so petty towards one another, showing that we could be two-faced and selfish. To be fair it was a brave face to show – one that could only be provoked by significantly deep rooted pain and care.

When Anny and I went our separate ways, we didn’t speak for a year. It was the closest thing I have experienced to a divorce, with people forming their own opinions and naturally picking a side. I guess it makes sense, when you hear one version of an account and feel pain on their behalf. I’m grateful for the people who stayed neutral during that time because whilst everyone was trying to show support, sometimes the best thing to do is take a non-judgemental stance.

Things became awkward, any time our mutual friends were in town we’d see them separately – things were too raw and fragile to be swept under the carpet. Weddings, birthdays and more were missed, based on a dispute between two girls who were once friends. Needless to say, with the right amount of space and time, our ill-feelings subsided and we started to move on.

In 2015 I visited Amsterdam knowing Anny’s sister would be there. I didn’t reach out because I didn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable situation. To my surprise, it was her who reached out to me and we had drinks near Westerpark, at a gin and seafood restaurant. The gesture alone was healing for me; I was so grateful and even now, I’m pretty sure it’s thanks to her that Anny and I were able to rebuild.

I know that things can’t be the way they were, Anny and I can’t be attached at the hip because we’re adults on separate journeys. Sometimes people ask how we’re still friends and I just think, how could we not be friends? If something happened to Anny and she left the world believing I held a grudge, I could never forgive myself. I would much rather have her in my life and shower her with love. Whilst it’s true that we may be responsible for tainting the perceptions others have of each other, one thing can’t be untouched: the permanent place I have for Anny and an everlasting love for our friendship.

image