When in London- sunrise in Richmond Park 

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There are some things that are worth a 6am alarm on a day off. There probably aren’t many, but I’ve definitely found one. Richmond Park might not seem an obvious ‘London’ excursion but it’s so easy to get to there’s no reason it shouldn’t be- and it’s at it best just as the sun comes up. It’s also now officially the first of ‘When in London’ posts for 2016.

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Being obsessed with sunrises means a lot of early starts when travelling, and I never mind a pre-dawn wake up call on holiday, but I’ve never done it at home. My boyfriend has been looking at photos of Richmond Park sunrises with deer and lakes for a while, so we finally took the plunge and crawled out of bed at 6am to watch the last sunrise of 2015. If you’re ever in London and can face the early start I suggest you do the same. It was serious heart eye emoji business.

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You can drive in from around 7am and park for free or get the train to Richmond and stroll in 24 hours a day- in case you fancy a 4am picnic obvs. Winter is probably a better bet for sunrise- later and quieter. If you can get there on a nice crisp January morning with a camera you definitely should. Just do yourself a favour and wear gloves. I started to wonder if I had frostbite after a while. It was jolly.

  

If you do it try and walk up the hill from Robin Hood Gate to see the view of London poking through the trees looking all moody and misty, and then stroll off across the grass down to the lake. We were walking down to the water at peak sunrise and there were dear scattered around in the trees and it was all very ‘woah Mother Nature you mega babe.

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So basically chuck on your new wooly hat and get up early- this is worth it, even if just for the photos you’ll get. Oh and FYI, the hat in these photos is from Matalan and profits from sales go to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Charity.

Also FYI my boyfriend took a few of these but he has loads more on his beautiful website: https://dannyboyjnr.exposure.co/

If you’ve got a little stint in London planned to be a tourist try and fit this in. You won’t have to fight through crowds or book online in advance and you’ll come away feeling all serene and at one with the sun- always a good way to be.

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Easy peasy gingerbread men for your leftover Christmas sweets

 

 I’m currently sitting surrounded by food. There’s food everywhere-mostly sweets and chocolates. The whole ‘eating for sport’ that we do over Christmas is fine and I love it as much as the next person. There’s few things in life as good as having a nice bowl of salt and vinegar crisps and a chocolate santa chaser for breakfast. However, if you have endless tubes of sweets and packets of chocolates that you’ll likely still be getting through come easter- MAKE GINGERBREAD.

I mean, what better way to use up sweet treats than just making more sweet treats? Also gingerbread is not just for Christmas and to be used as an Instragram post throughout December. It’s bloody delicious AND easy to make. Like, you can’t really go to wrong- apart from burn two feet like I did.

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LEFTOVER CHRISTMAS SWEETS GINGERBREAD MEN ARE GO.

Ingredients:

350g plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, 3 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 130g butter, 175g brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 or 5 big glugs of golden syrup.

Measure out your dry ingredients and sift the flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon together, mix them up a bit and put your butter in the microwave for 15 seconds, then add this too. Use a hand blender (or full on food processor if you’re that way in inclined) and mix it all up.

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Keep mixing until it’s breadcrumby (technical baking term) and you’re done with the dry powdery bits. Crack your egg in a separate bowl, add in the syrup and beat together.

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Once you’ve combined the egg-syrup mixture with the dough, kneed it all together and then take it in giant clump, wrap it up in some cling film and put it in the fridge. About ten minutes is enough time. Don’t leave it too long or it becomes too stiff to roll out properly.

Flour your work surface, roll out the dough to an even thickness (not more than 1cm if you can judge that accurately) and then cut the little fellas out- AND BAKE. About 12 minutes on 180 degrees, but keep them in a little longer until they feel harder in the middle if need be.

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Decorating gingerbread is almost as good as eating them, at which point you won’t want to because you’ve spent all this time crafting them and creating hair and outfits out of icing. But the point is- ice them up and chuck allll those leftover sweets on top.

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Beauty bits worth buying in 2016

There’s currently about 30 different kinds of new beauty products scattered all over my bed and erm, floor.

My focus of 2015 was sorting out my skin. It’s been bad for years- not horribly spotty but congested, lumpy, dull and prone to outbreaks. Oh and it loves nothing more than having an allergic reaction. I think it’s some sort of fun game it plays when it’s bored or feeling a bit hungover from a wild skin  nigh out. Anyway, I think I have finally got on top of my oily, flaky, angry (sexy) skin and I’ve moved on to my aim for 2016- learn how to do make up.

Is ‘do make up’ even the right term? Who knows- quite frankly who cares- I just want to learn how to apply it without looking like Ronald McDonald and spend my money on stuff that’s worth while. I’ve found a few but I’m soooo far behind the game I will continue searching.

These are a few favourite things well worth a few of your hard earned pennies in the coming year:

Dr Lipp Miracle Balm 

  
I have angular cheilitis (the corners of my mouth crack and bleed) and excessively dry lips. It’s safe to say I am not bringing sexy back. The cracked mouth thing is actually pretty miserable and stops you eating apples and burgers properly, which is tragic in equal measure. This stuff- which is meant for lips or any other patches of sandpaper skin you might have going on- is bloody miraculous. It turned my lips from chapped to cheerful in about eight hours and three applications. I also used it around my nose when I had a cold and it soothed all the sore skin overnight. uch better than ANY lip balm. So worth getting to shove in your handbag. It’s like a sort of rescue remedy superglue without leaving you sticky. 133433 out of 10.

Bee Good Lift and Brighten Eye Cream   

This baby is made my British bees which is just one reason to buy it. I’ve always sort of happily ignored eye cream like ‘noooo thanks I’ll just wait until I have bags down to my chin’ but actually, I am wrong. Eye cream is right. I didn’t think I was doing too bad in the under eye region, but this has made the skin noticeably less rough very quickly. You can also use this around your lips to tighten the skin.

Eyeko FAT Liquid Eyeliner 

 

I Struggled to ever find an eyeliner I can be myself with and really let my guard down with as much as Collection 2000 circa 2013- and lord knows I have tried. I’ve only just got this stuff and I LOVE it. It’s like a felt tip for adults that goes on your face and makes you look more hot and less tired.

La Roche Posay Effaclar Daily Face Wash

Never thought I would be able to use a foaming face wash again after becoming locked into an everlasting love affair with Elemis resurfacing wash, but since you can resurface your face all year round- I went on a hunt. This stuff wins. It’s gentle, soap free, fragrance free and doesn’t dry you out to the point you feel like you’ve slept in a dry sandy cave for a hundred years. It’s perfect for every day, has kept my breakouts t bay and noticeably reduced how oily my forehead and nose are when I use it. It’s also a bargain at £12 from Boots and I’m on my third re-purchase. I use this on my chest too during times of bad skin there.

 

 

 

 

9 resolutions for 2016 that I might actually stick to


I’ve made loads of pointless resolutions before that make me hate myself a bit for wasting my own time. Not even the usual weight loss, healthier living, better diet, habit changing kinds. I’ve made ridiculous, completely out of reach ones. ‘Don’t get so drunk it causes hangovers’ was a fave from 2013. Safe to say that lasted about 36 hours and here I still am trying to work out why we drink at all while wondering when I’ll next be having a gin. Waste of time. Waste of a resolution. My internal secretary won’t be scheduling any of that crap for the start of 2016.

Last year I don’t think I bothered beyond ‘eat more green vegetables’ which actually, I think I’ve done- massive respect to myself. I do actually have some resolutions for 2016 which I’m excited to not keep, but i do think the more stupid and slightly meh they are, the more likely they’ll stick.

1) Get more than one haircut. I currently look like Tarzan in ankle boots.

2) Don’t talk to myself on the tube.

3) Don’t let coffee go cold then take a mouthful and almost vomit. Currently a weekly occurrence in the workplace.

4) Learn what the correct amount of pasta for one person is.

5) Learn how to pipe icing so I can make cakes that bring people to tears and make them think I am a baking sorcerer.

6) Stop assuming a sports bra is unnecessary at the gym.

7) Be more positive about cats.

8) Stop staring at my phone screen EVERY night before bed and then laying awake wondering why I’m seeing white dots when I blink.

9) Learn about pensions.

Not the most exciting. Not the most life changing. Also you might laugh at pensions but I’ll be the one laughing when I’m 70 years old on a beach in St Lucia.  And these Definitely are not particularly challenging. It shouldn’t get to the point in life that you have to promise yourself that 2016 will be the year you talk less to yourself in public, but that’s where I’m at with life.

Gonna now go and get my dog in from the garden as she seems to be trying to upturn a stone Buddha.

Reflecting on a year that’s been bad but with some amazing thrown in

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2015 has been pretty bloody cool in lots of ways. There’s been travel, adventure, mountains, snow, road trips, new jobs, conferences, big achievements, new ventures, amazing food, big nights out, big nights in and all kinds of other hilarious, fun and cosy times with friends. But it’s also been a year of panic, worry, ill health, long nights and frustration.

It’s been both a very good and a very bad year but luckily I feel like I’ve managed to strike the balance and keep myself breaking even on life. The bad times have been pretty bad but the good have been there, just bright enough to saunter along and cheer everything up a bit.

To start with the good is they right way to do things. There’s been a trip to Sri Lanka with some of my best friends, travelling down the country with nothing on the agenda but wild monkeys, climbing mountains and rolling through the jungle in a blur of mosquito repellent and inappropriate footwear. A few weeks previous to this was a whole other kind of trip- a pretty epic 16 hour road trip from South London all the way to the tip of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, driving through snow covered valleys and past frozen lakes- like I said, it’s been a pretty cool year.

There was also a new job, a step up in the world of work from something I wasn’t sure about to something I really love. There was a big decision to leave my trusty little zone two flat that I shared with friends and had endless wine and cheese and late night box set binges to go home and save hard for a few months. I’m still not fully on board with all the adulting, but I think it’s best to sort of pretend it’s not happening so it all happens quicker.

I’ve explored new cities, delved into Scandinavia, traced family roots in Ireland, presented a scientific poster, worked on a clinical trial, got very drunk, made new friends- when you start writing it down like this it seems impossible to think 2015 could have been bad at all. But the catch to all the good times and the travel and the late nights with good friends was my mum and oldest, best friend battling cancer. Something you don’t want to happen to anyone in your life- let alone to two of the most important people at the same time.

Their immense strength and show of ‘up yours’ to the whole thing has given me an entirely new perspective on life. If they got through 2015 then I owed it and continue to owe it to them to keep on sailing by. The sleepless nights and the waiting by the phone for news of if things are bad or things are good was truly awful enough for those of us who were the supporting group, so who knows how it really, truly felt for them, yet they handled it all like pros. Like they knew what to do or had received some sort of training. I’m not sure if a true reflection of this stress will happen in 2015. Maybe it’ll rear it’s head next year, but here’s hoping for a calmer, less seasick 2016 for me but all the more for them.

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14 of the best things about Christmas drinking

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I was stood in Waterloo station on Friday night, quite tipsy, in a Christmas jumper, watching festive drunken high jinx unfold. It was pretty late, last trains were leaving, people were doing drunk running, McDonald’s was packed and I heard a man asking staff in M&S if they could bake several pots of pasta into a bake for him. What a hero. While I stood against a wall waiting for my boyfriend to meet me I spent ten minutes having a right lol to myself over the ridiculousness of the intoxicated British public. I know binge drinking gives us a bad rep but it was so happy and smiley and littered with awful yet amazing knitwear in that I kinda had to accept how much I love Christmas nights out. I’m now on the sofa after a fourth day of festive wine and eating wondering if I can open another box of chocolates and reflecting on all of these:

1) Tinsel as accessorises. YAY put tinsel in our hair. YAY wear tinsel as a scarf. YAY wrap ourselves in tinsel. YAY get home drunk and wrap the cat in tinsel.

2) Watching drunk people sway around bars in paper Christmas crowns, Santa hats and novelty Christmas glasses. Also a big fan of men drinking manly pints while wearing casual reindeer antlers. Bless them.

3) Mariah Carey- All I want for Christmas coming on in a club and uniting everyone in a massive erratic, drunken, jumpy, group kareoeke. You can also be 98% sure strangers will hug before the song ends.

4) Hangover food goes up ten notches. Breadsticks for example- simple yet effective and much more likely to be in the house at Christmas. Also- mince pies. Just mince pies from the moment you wake up feeling awful to the moment you crawl back into bed in your seasonal Primark PJs.

5) Making time to see ALL your friends and just spending £40 on shots because screw it. It’s bloody Christmas.

6) Doing secret Santa exchanges and buying the most inappropriate, probably fairly rude present you can get on Amazon but not caring because you know you’ll be drunk in an hour and they’ll blatantly leave it in the pub anyway.

7) Watching random office Christmas parties while you’re out and about and counting how many situations will definitely result in resignation/regret.

8) Drinking ANYTHING mulled you can get your hands on.

9) Spying people fast asleep after one too many on the late train home in a reindeer jumper and a bag of wrapping paper (And hopefully some fast food wrappers if they’ve done things right.)

10) Going through your Instagram in a bit of a drunken haze on the way home and getting enraged at how many times you see ‘Christmas drinks with this one’ captions.

11) Going for festive meet ups amd always stopping all conversation/eating/ activities to form a circle and sing whenever a Christmas song is played.

12) Doing the ‘I will definitely behave at the work Christmas party this year’ speech but then waking up with a drill in your skull and vague memories of subway and doing tequila with your boss.

13) Sending drunken, heartfelt Christmas texts to people you’ve not seen in 7 months. Festive feelings be real.

14) Having maximum enthusiasm for buying alcohol from wooden sheds at extortionate prices and eating churros in the cold.

Cocktails and bar training at EBS London

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Last weekend I spent a few hours doing something anyone who loves cocktails needs to do. I was invited to have ‘bar’ training at the European Bartender School in London.

I had no idea how hard making proper cocktails is. Like seriously, it is not an easy art to master. I’m usually too busy balancing several gins when I’m out to actually realise what’s going on behind a bar- like there is actually a way to stop pouring without just lifting up a bottle and it’s super fancy. Who even knew?

I knew I was going to be a fan when we arrived to a tray of mojitos with ALL of the mint- the exact way mojitos should be- and got a drink in us before the schooling began. I’ve heard of cocktail courses and such things before and a friend who had been on the EBS course got me all excited with tales of learning to spin bottles and making four cocktails at a time like an alcohol wizard- and it didn’t disappoint.

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I’m used to getting a massive bucket, inviting friends to bring a bottle round each and then throwing all manner of spirits and lemonade in and consequently dancing on the kitchen table. Pretty poor cocktail form (or ideal form, let’s be honest) so EBS have done me a favour.

If you do their basic course you learn how to pour properly for starters (pouring it turns out, is not easy) and how to count out measurements like a total professional in your head. Maths and cocktails.

There’s a reason you can’t drink on the job.

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What I was really excited for though, was flaring. You know the bit where the bartender throws bottles in the air and like juggles with glasses and makes everything look like a fancy show? Well I was well up for that thinking my strange bendy arms would hold me in good stead, but basically- No. IT’S SO HARD. There are flaring world championships. This is serious business. The EBS staff are so good at making it look like a total breeze that I thought something was wrong with me until I looked around and saw people hitting themselves with bottles and chasing straws across the room. After 45 minutes of throwing and finally mastering some moves I felt like I’d been to the gym. Who even needs a treadmill when you can just flare?

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If you’re looking for something really fun to do with the girls or are seriously interested in becoming a master of mixology I would definitely recommend. It’s fun, you get to play with all sorts of alcohol, stand behind a real bar and feel like Tom Cruise, see flaring being done by a master and the staff also provided us with a few insanely good cocktails and a recipe list to take home and fail hard at everything they tried to teach us. If you do go ask for the cocktail that tastes like fizzy cola bottle sweets- I don’t know what it was but it was a dream come true.

The London school is a short walk from Bermondsey station, but they’re in 24 cities world wide including Vegas. So yeah. GO GO GO GO GO.

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Best dreams of 2015

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I’ve always had, shall we say, sleep issues. When I was little and shared a room with my sister she once woke up and found me holding a doll’s head and repeatedly banging it against a wall, totally deadpan, in my sleep. Yep. I am my own horror film.

Basically I’ve always been a sleep walker, had very vivid dreams, had a childhood recurring nightmare(a man who shot pigeons out of a gun and kidnapped my mum- terrifying) and have recently taken to sleep talking. Some of my lines from the last few months have included “Oh I’m covered in coffee”, “There’s a green plant in the bed” and “You should put that back really.” My boyfriend is a lucky man. I also do a lot of thrashing around and jumping out of bed on account of seeing ‘insects’ and other such things. I mean, at least I’m not boring.

2015 has been a weird year. I don’t know exactly why or what it is but I just feel like it’s been a bit of strange one and my dreams reflect that. These are three of my faves that I actually remember. There’s nothing worse than waking up from a good dream but then literally feel it leaking out of your head so you can’t recount it to anyone at work over your morning brew.

Dream 1- The boat in Cornwall

I don’t think I’ll ever get over or forget this dream. It was one of those ones that just happens while you’re snoozing your alarm in the morning and feels days long but in reality lasts about 45 seconds. I was on a massive wooden pirate ship (skull flag and all), with some uni friends, sailing clean through the streets of Newquay. It was kind of like a pirate ship car casually squeezing through the tiny little seaside steets and we were all wearing bandanas (in a serious, absolutely genuine way) and shouting about how late we were, while simultaneously batting away giant birds that were trying to eat the sails. Totally normal. We also stopped to buy ‘ I LOVE NEQUAY’ hoodies. Lads on tour. Our trusty ship then got stuck rounding a corner (massive shock) and we had to get out and pull it, but unfortunately it suddenly turned to night time and we had no torches. Hate it when that happens.

Dream 2- The drugs bust

I watched a TV documentary about drugs in south America in September and then I went to bed and obviously dreamt I was a smuggler and was storing drugs of no name or description under the bed in my Fulham flat (disclaimer- I absolutely was not). My hiding place of choice was in a black New Look clutch bag, in my plastic box of handbags, because where else would you store your illegal goods? I think part of the dream escaped my memory because I went from clutch bag stashing to suddenly coming home and having to hide in the airing cupboard because my landlord was in my room with several large dogs and men in suits. BUSTED. Then I went on the run and drove around London for a few days. Then I was back in the flat and put the clutch bag in the recycling and took the recycling outside. Moral of the dream- I’d be a bad criminal/drug dealer/gangster.

Dream 3- Sri Lankan night out

I would like to dream about Sri Lanka every night. It’s a dream come true of an island, and nothing like this remotely happened when I was there (sadly), so WHO EVEN KNOWS where this came from. I basically dreamt that I was half way through trekking up some sort of jungle hill (which did happen when I was there) when someone started blowing bubbles at me, so I walked over, had a little investigation and ended up in a sort of 80s dance rave, but only drinking tea. I then left and was no longer in the jungle but a really busy town and couldn’t find anywhere to buy a new bag that I needed for work. Standard. Asian jungle work bag shopping in a pop-up city post-sober rave. Life.

I love dreams.

Hygge: what it is and why we all need to embrace it

  
Lots of people claim that the lead up to Christmas is their favourite time of year. Things get wintry and we all lose our shit over mulled wine, fairy lights and pop-up ice rinks. We’re adorable really. Oh and if you know what’s good for you you’ll be well into experimenting with putting toppings on mince pies- peanut butter, vanilla cream, Biscoff, jam (seriously, get involved). 

 A good friend of mine emailed a BBC magazine article about Denmark and the concept of hygge to me a while back and I fell hook, line and sinker. It’s exactly what I want to embody in life and it makes me want to take my savings and run away to a new life in Scandinavia immediately with a wood cabin and my own sleigh. 

As the article says, hygge is all about shooing away the darkness and using your loved ones and happiness to create a feeling of warmth and joy. It’s also about being cosy, making things comfortable, feeling safe and contented and coming together to get through the harsh winter months. Now, I may not live in a freezing country (ahem) and I really usually wouldn’t go in for this stuff (in fact I would normally screw up my face and be all ‘urrghhh hand me a mulled wine and shut up’) but this is too adorable. I want to be cosy and contented with twinkly lights and friends and candles etc etc.

They really do life well in that part of the world. 

 

I ended up sheltering from gale force winds and rain after journeying an hour across London to go to a Christmas market with friends last week only to get there and see it being packed up. We then walked around, freezing, and ended up at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich hoping to get mulled wine, but the hut had also closed (sort it out Greenwich, 6pm is not late). We ended looking out at the city sparkling on the other side of the river and then after running to get out of pouring freezing rain we fell into a nandos, ate until we could barely move and laughed at pretty much everything from a warm, comfy corner. That was pretty hygge. I felt fully hygge. I’m going to make it happen or try my hardest until people start telling me to ‘stop trying to make hygge happen. It’s never going to happen.’ 

In all fairness, hygge is so fetch. I like to think Regina George found hygge.

Anyway.

There’s so much going on in the wider world right now that terrifies and horrifies us all on a daily basis. It’s grim and it’s bleak and at the moment Christmas is just about breaking through and making things feel a bit better. Not even better, just.. More bearable, even if it’s temporary. I’ve even stopped watching the news everyday to try and escape some of the misery, so hygge is welcome. If we all let a bit in and tried to feel content with what we have the world might slightly improve on the happiness scale. Hygge won’t be solving world peace or bringing an end to crisis, but I like to think it could bring a bit of joy, even if it’s one night in with wine, food and big bobbly socks.

   

When did our 20s become the era of paranoia?

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I’ve read enough articles, lists, blogs and spent enough time on social media (believe me) to know that a lot of people in their twenties spend a massive proportion of their time worrying. Girls especially, but that might just be my skewed view as I follow more girls on social media, read women columnists more and generally get a lot of my material from blogs- predominately written by females.

I fall into the worrier category. I fall into it so hard I would like to put myself forward as team leader, get us all uniforms and arrange the Christmas social so we can talk about what we’re scared of over some gins and then get cheesy chips after. (Genuinely, I would be up for this).

I don’t know when it happened, it certainly hasn’t always been this way, but I literally spend my life paranoid and it’s mostly about health, money and other people. Having a chronic illness nestled within my body wreaking havoc doesn’t help, and I have plenty of very good, medically certified reasons to be worried, but I go beyond those. I just worry for worry’s sake. It’s pretty much my hobby now. But thanks to the power of the internet and very few thoughts being sacred, I can (sort of) relax in the fact I’m not alone.

My peers are just as paranoid as me.

God, we need to sort ourselves out. Whenever I read a tweet from a friend who’s worrying about something to do with health or finance or any other young adult topic, I just want to reach over and whisper “don’t worry pal, me too.” That sounds creepier than I intend it to be. But if you are one of these worrisome people, please try and take a breath and lessen the teeth grinding and anxiety in your stomach, you’ve got some company. There are others out there right now doing all the things we know are bad for us- Googling symptoms, scrolling through unrealistic Instagram accounts, comparing careers to people older and much more experienced and staring at our banking apps and thinking ‘where’s the money gone?’

Exhausting though, isn’t it? As much as I want to take a chill pill and feel the way I felt when I was about 20 (which by default was tipsy, warm inside and free) and roam around like I’m indestructible and totally on top of everything, I just can’t. The paranoia and the concern have crept up and taken hold and they’re not just here for a sleepover, they want to stay longterm. Cute. NOT.

It hasn’t been all bad- it’s given me ambition. It’s made do things outside of work that create work that ultimately make me extra money, help me get contacts and help me grow audiences for things like this blog- all because I was worried I wasn’t doing enough career wise. People actually read this blog, which is still amazing even now, and people actually reach out to talk to me off their own back and tell me they like my blog- even more amazing. So yeah, in some ways, I’m kind of thankful for it, but there has to come a time when it stops.

There’s only so much time in one day, and wasting too much of it worried about every ache, pain, thinner looking friend or more retweeted article than your own will only result in a downward spiral of misery. And making other people happy above ourselves, despite the fact we’ll carry on doing it forever anyway, is no good. It’s just no good.

Worried about your fertility? About your chances of buying a house? About your liver? About those headaches you get? Your overdraft? Your credit rating? Not being travelled enough? Not going out enough? Not getting enough attention from certain friends?

The list goes on and it could just get bigger and bigger and evolve the older we get, or we can learn to accept, which as someone who hasn’t got to that point can contest to- it ain’t easy.

This era of worrying might pass, and who am I to even speak for people in their twenties, I’m only half way through. I just want to worry less and I think I could round up a small (or maybe world domination size) army of people who would like to join me in that. Throwing away youth on endless amounts of worry and paranoia sounds awful and I do not want to look back and realise that’s what I did. I want to do EVERYTHING and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it.

Let’s go start a revolution shall we? (Or let’s just have an early night and not Google ovary disorders for a while). Baby steps.