Dear Matt Damon

Unsuspecting on a Monday night, an article popped up on my twitter feed from the Guardian about comments Matt Daman had made. I got mad, and wrote this:

Dear Matt Damon

You don’t know me. I don’t know you.  But you have what I don’t: a following of people, globally, who listen to what you say and give it (rightly or wrongly) some credence. You’re abusing this. Moreover, your comments are getting harder to ignore. I won’t talk about your (obviously thoroughly researched and carefully constructed) new doctrine of the Spectrum of Sexual Violence, Alyssa Milano did a fantastic job of that and frankly, you sounded like a tit and should have learned to shut up. But you didn’t. And what you’ve said now really takes the biscuit.

I’ll relay the whole quote because, in all honesty, no one part is more unconscionable than another: ‘we’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys – the preponderance of men I’ve worked with – who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.’

Congratulations for conceding that this is a watershed moment, you absolute fuckwit. But what you have actually managed to do in a few sentences was give a powerful (and before now, credible) voice to the asinine outcry of ‘not all men’. The well-known male excuse for shucking responsibility, to excuse their not being part of the conversation and an insecure feeble defence to what some consider as a threat towards their delicate and toxic masculinity.

Did it not occur to you that we don’t talk about the ‘shitload of guys’ who do not sexually harass or assault women because that should be the norm? We also don’t talk about men who refrain from mugging pensioners, robbing supermarkets, committing serial murder and reversing over cats either.

I am not going to congratulate you, or the shitload of other men you know, for not raping me. I will not idolise men as my salvation simply because they do not seek to repress me. I will not accept the atonement of men whilst women are still screaming out for recompense.  If you would like an example of our talking about these men, please consult a history book, which you will find jam-packed full of men who did not rape anyone. It will also be jam-packed full of men who did, but the raping will not be the focal point. Can you imagine how much the current conversation would be damaged if Salma Hayek had taken a moment to give a hearty well done to all the men she had worked with along the way who did not assault her or try to thwart her career because she did not want to sleep with them?

What you have also failed to grasp, perhaps the most crucial point, is that this moment is not for you. This moment, this watershed moment as you so rightly put it, is not for the shitload of men that you have worked with who do nothing wrong. This moment is ours. Because for decades, we were not being talked about. What was normal for us: threat, fear, intimidation and violence, was not talked about in the way your shitload of guys are not being talked about now. This moment is not about the absolution of men. Not in any of its forms. The wound is too raw to shift the dialogue to forgiveness and too fresh to acknowledge the men who sat back and did nothing. What is ironic about your comment is that those most empathetic to your plight of being routinely ignored and overlooked, would be women.

You want the dialogue to include you, and your friends, for doing nothing. This would be easier to swallow if pictures of you wrapped in the friendly embrace of Harvey Weinstein weren’t a dime a dozen.

What you’ve managed to do in the last week is what has been holding the conversation back for decades: you’ve successfully turned women back into the objects of a male centred rhetoric. For weeks, women’s rights and sexual violence have been the subject of a global introspection which travelled from Hollywood to British Parliament to the senate to broadcast journalism. With a few comments, you have pushed the male perspective back into the central focus. Women are now at risk of once again becoming objects of a male driven conversation – “this is terrible but what about the men? Why are we not talking about the men? But how is this affecting the careers of men?”

What’s more, how sure are you about the innocence of these men that you speak of? They aren’t rapists themselves you say? Jolly good. Have any of them worked on a film set where they knew or heard rumours of a female colleague being targeted? Did they know Weinstein just like you did? Did they do anything? Did they do nothing – in fact, is this precisely the nothing of which you speak?

At your most flippant, you astonishingly point out that these men’s lives are not going to be affected. You’re right. Why would they? Men who do not rape people, just as with men who do not shoot people, have nothing to fear. To clarify, as a general rule, women usually have zero problems with men who do not assault or harass them.

What is disparaging is that you could be a shining light. You could be leading the way, drawing attention to the fight we’re now embarking on, the change we have been longing for. You, and your shitload of men, could stand up, take our hands and help us pioneer a way out of the darkness. Instead of this hostility and defensive commentary, you could be our ally. Feminism, women’s rights, this watershed moment is not an offensive against men. It never has been. We simply want to have volition over our bodies, freedom to make our own choices and the power to speak out against those who harm us. Further, we want the comfort of knowing that when we do, our voices will be heard.

We want what you have and take for granted – the ability to conduct a career without fear of a tycoon using our bodies as a pawn. This pushing women to the point where we have to objectify ourselves to save or advance our own careers or to accept an inevitability, the sacrifice of our own bodies in the pursuit of professional success.

It’s obvious that you do not understand and why would you? Not only are you male, but you are a white male. You will have never faced prejudice, rarely feared for your safety because of your genetic makeup. Instead think of women you love, if they had been assaulted and silenced for years, when they finally had their moment and eyes were on them to steer the conversation, how would you react if the shitload of men who sat around and did nothing suddenly stood up and lamented their lack of inclusion?

Men have survived, powerful and unscathed throughout history and progressed stronger into new eras. Good men will survive this. Better men will help shape this new era. This moment is ours, do not take it from us.

 

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With the certainty of tides

Last week, a co-worker loudly exclaimed to the entire office that they were sick of hearing about new ‘sex scandals’ and new ‘victims’ coming forward in the wake of Weinstein. I have issues with the phrase sex scandal and victim but above that, I have issues with this becoming ‘old news’ and others to feel that they shouldn’t come forward and add their brave voice to the chorus currently being heard for the first time.

I love quotes. I don’t find it twee or ostentatious, intellectual snobbery or laziness to quote others: great writers, leaders, philosophers and scientists (also on occasion, my ridiculous sister). I find huge comfort in taking inspiration from those wiser than me, whose words resonate when I can’t find my own. There is nothing lazy about turning to the words of others when your voice seems lost.

Whatever you are going through, someone – or many someone’s – will most likely have gone through it before. If you cannot find the words to fit the moment, someone else can. That is why, in the current climate, those coming forward and using their voice to draw attention to sexual assault, harassment and abuse is so vital – not just because of the wider societal impact but also to those who cannot find the words to do the same. It is also why those who haven’t spoken out should not be criticised.

When I was deep into the worst of my PTSD and seeking ways to control the panic, the methods my therapist initially suggested were not working. I couldn’t hold onto the pictures of my ‘safe place’ long enough to conjure the sights, sounds and smells that should have calmed me. The panic drained the imagination straight from my mind and the exhaustion kept it away. After much trial and error, the way I focused myself and overcame the panic was to recite Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

When I started to recover (side note to anyone struggling, you will recover) I started considering why that poem. It’s not the only one I can recite, and also isn’t the only Angelou I know by heart. My private education means that I have a repertoire of go-to poems committed to memory. But never once, in the height of a panic attack, did it ever occur to me to start reciting Blake, Hardy or Wordsworth.

It wasn’t just the rhythm and repetition that was calming, it was also the words themselves. The lines and words gave me strength all whilst the rhythm calmed me. One line in particular, if I ever wavered or the panic threatened to overwhelm, I would repeat: ‘with the certainty of tides’. The inevitability of this line, the conviction and the power gave me confidence that no matter how many times I found myself shaking uncontrollably, crying or hyperventilating, I would recover.

At this time in my life, I had no words and no voice of my own. I couldn’t, poetically or otherwise, describe how I felt or what I wanted to achieve and so I turned to the words of others. What at first was a coping mechanism, turned into a mantra and a source of strength. Rose McGowan’s tweets are not insignificant, they are not hyperbolic or crass, they are vital to those who cannot find the words to say so themselves. Salma Hayek’s New York Times piece is not her jumping on the bandwagon, it is important, brave and inspiring.

Violence of this nature is isolating. Despite, logically (my therapists least favourite word) knowing that others have been though similar things, you feel utterly alone. You can’t have a bad day and explain to your boss that the Weinstein headlines have made you remember your own rape and so you’re, understandably, a bit sad and hyperventilate-y. At least, not in the same vein as explaining that the bad smog has made your asthma flare up and you’re struggling to breathe. Both have the same physical effect – one is easier to stomach over polite small talk in the office kitchen. This need to spare others from the nature of your despair makes you feel very alone. Your own voice, in isolation like this, is faint.

This is why these stories are so important, why it matters and will never be old news when another has come forward to share their account and say, loud enough for the word to hear, that this happened to them too. It matters because when one voice is brave enough to shatter the white noise, others can heed the call. One voice can shout loudly into the silence and when other voices join in, that shout becomes a roar.

This, is vital. Not least because to some, it can break down any barriers preventing their sharing and so add to the volume. But it is also vital to those who still cannot break the silence. Back when I was panicking and couldn’t find the words to say, and I couldn’t or wasn’t in a place to calm myself or imagine myself safer, I drew on strength found from the words of another, took comfort in those words and drew hope from them. People coming forward, sharing their stories means that others who may never be able to speak out in the same way can listen to the voices being raised for them and know that they are not alone.

Conversations have started, taboo subjects are being broached, consequences are being reaped and the uncomfortable is being dragged into the open.

I didn’t need to be a great poet to overcome my trauma, I was able to draw on the voice of another and use her words to lift myself up. Those like me who have similar experiences need never tell their tales if they are not able. Those who have already done and continue to do so, have already lifted us up. Comfort, strength and kinship can be drawn from what seems like constant news stories. That’s why this cannot become old news and the conversation must keep going both for those who are still to speak out, and those who will never be able.

Kindness is Free

This is a rant. And a plea for the masses to remember that we all share a common humanity and the old adage of ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’ should really get more airtime.

Moving to to the city, one thing I did not anticipate was just how many homeless people there would be around. This bothers me, not because they are there, but because I am not a dick and the fact that one of the richest countries in the wold allows its citizens to sleep on a pavement in the cold, sickens me. What bothers me more, is the way we treat them. Most of us are dismissive and pretend we don’t see them or hear them.

Kindness costs nothing. They may be homeless, but they are still people. Stop ignoring them when they speak to you. Yes, they ask if you have any spare change. Of course they do, they have none or they probably wouldn’t choose to live in their sleeping bag outside the train station.

Put yourself in their shoes: you are humiliated, cold, frightened and so alone that you have no one to call to take you home and give you somewhere to sleep. You have no choice but to ask a stranger for money. This could, theoretically, happen to any one of us. I would like to think that if it happened to me, someone would show me kindness. The people you walk past have nothing, the very least we can give them is acknowledgement. Do not continue to strip away their dignity by refusing to even show that you have heard them speak to you. Poverty is not a form of leprosy. You do not have to give them a wide berth, crossing the road to avoid them or pretend to be on your phone to prevent conversation. A series of unfortunate events, and any one of us could end up poor and desperate.  Financial poverty does not have to equate to complete emotional poverty. In this instance, your apathy is a cruelty.

I never have change, I always answer with a ‘no, I’m really sorry’. It’s not even usually a lie (contactless debit cards are magical and terrifying). This doesn’t result in my being accosted. In fact, I usually get a ‘thank you, have a nice day’. And because I live in the North, there is usually a ‘love’ tagged on the end.

It’s true, you could put your head down and pretend you didn’t notice. It avoids the embarrassment of not giving them the £1.50 you know you have in your pocket. You could, however, answer that person. Tell them you have no change using your words. Don’t just shake your head and speed ahead. Look them in the eye. If you’re feeling particularly humane and do have that spare £1.50, buy a cup of tea or a bag of crisps. Boots or Tesco do cheap ham sandwiches – buy one, give it to someone who could do with a ham sandwich. But at the very least, acknowledge this person’s existence and respond. Wish them well in return. Buy the Big Issue (sometimes, it isn’t entirely crap). Have a conversation with the person you buy it from. Just a two minuter about the weather. We’re British – irrelevant small talk for nothing other than self affirmation is what we excel at. It’s just as important to expand this skill to a Big Issue seller as it is to the potential business associate that you met over slimy canapés or your boyfriend’s great aunt Tessa.

Homeless people will not mug you or attack you or rape you or whack you over the head with a dustbin lid and then all steal your money to buy crack. Some will, because people are shit. But that person is not shit because they are homeless, that is just who they are as a person and would be as shit if they were a lawyer or a plumber or a builder or (based on recent events) a well know Hollywood movie producer who strongly resembles a bulldog. Stereotyping homeless people this way is as bad as assuming someone is violent because they are a ‘youth’.

One-night last month, I was walking home from work late, it was dark, and a drunk group of men started cat-calling and then following me. I couldn’t shake them and their comments started to get increasingly threatening. I was about to call the Police (or my mum who would have told my dad to call the police) when I spotted Simon, a nice man that I buy a cup of tea for if I walk past him on the way from work when I cross the bridge. He’s well beyond the six-foot mark, has an impressive beard with plaits in it and a dog who occasionally (inexplicably) wears a trilby. Simon noticed me, noticed the men, stood up and physically blocked the pavement to prevent them going any further. He told me to go on home, he’d make sure I was ok. He did nothing violent, just blocked their path. When I checked back just as I was about to round the corner, the men we’re filing back into the bar they were stood outside of when I first shuffled past and caught their attention. I went home, safe and sound. When I passed Simon the next morning, and gave him the remainder of my banana bread, I thanked him.  He shrugged and said ‘of course, I could see you were scared.’ Then he went back to sleep.

My point, rambling and incoherent as it may be, is to imagine you had to sleep on a bridge and had to accept exceedingly sub-par banana bread from strangers who cannot bake. That, in itself is pretty crappy. So please, next time you walk past someone sleeping rough and they say something to you, acknowledge them, apologise for having no cash, say good morning and wish them well.  This kindness will cost you nothing.

An Ode to Fellow People Pleasers

I am a pathological people pleaser. I don’t mean to be. I don’t want to be. But I am. With everything I do, I overanalyse how it will affect the way people see me and feel about me. It’s not even limited to people I like and so have a legitimate reason to care about their feelings. It extends to people I don’t like, people I barely know, acquaintances, work colleagues and superiors, my doctor, my dentist and it even my therapist (I got over that one really quickly when she shouted at me).

Having some self-awareness is definitely a plus, as is caring about people around you. Being a neurotic mess who second guesses everything is not. It is a big minus. And a colossal mind fuck. It also means you never have any time to do anything. Like sleep or ever leave work or eat where you want to eat or watch the film you want to watch.  It is also exhausting especially if it seeps into your working life.

The first step is accepting that you are, in fact, a pathological people pleaser. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out that I wasn’t just being a decent person, I was actually being a bit nuts. There is a difference between being a nice, considerate human and going out of your way to try and please everyone. One is a decent human being, the other is a crumpled pile on the floor because she was bending over backwards so hard she broke something. I only realised when my sister, a constant source of self evaluation and deep insight into my psyche, asked me why I cared so much about what people think. And followed it up with a trusty ‘because they’re all fucking morons anyway.’ She’s a delight. She’s also of the constant opinion of ‘fuck ‘em, I don’t care what they think’.

This got me thinking about my own attitude and why I was so eager to please. I am in no way qualified to answer that and think I would descend into further existential angst (or a straight jacket) but I did start to look into my own behaviour and thought patterns and have been trying to be more mindful of what I do. This is what I have come up with so far…

Here are my rules for getting a grip on yourself, split into work and social scenarios (because you can’t really tell your boss to go fuck themselves because you’re busy tonight sitting in your pants, alone, watching Netflix and eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon – if you can, then well done, you are living the dream and I will send you my CV immediately):

  1. You cannot please all the people, all the time

This is just a physical, emotional and spiritual impossibility.

Professionally, everyone works differently and wants things to be done in a certain way. Even if you have the best team in the world, you will disagree. I have been trying to stick to my guns when I know I’m right instead of constantly trying to water down my ideas or opinions to suit others. Sometimes, there can be too many voices at the table and so deferring to the person who knows the matter better can be the right thing to do. Sometimes, you know you’re right and your way is the best way. If this is the case, fight your corner, politely but firmly, even if it means pissing off your colleague who always needs to have their way. Chances are, someone will agree with you.

On the other hand, if you are being pulled in different directions by multiple people, make that fact known to them. If Boss A asked you to do something this morning and Boss B asked you to do something else two minutes later, tell A and B that you have conflicting tasks and make them battle it out as to who is more important. (N.B try to be subtle watching this sideshow, popcorn and 3D glasses are not advisable). If nothing else, it’s fun to watch them bicker over who is the most important. You will not please both of them, it is impossible. And letting them know you are in high demand and that they have to tell you which to prioritise is better than saying yes to both and not leaving the office until midnight. And repeat. This is how you end up working 60 hour weeks and crying on Sundays. Don’t be a machine.

Socially, if you have a lot of friends (you popular cat you), chances are something will clash. This is ok. Friends know you have other friends. If they resent this, then they are  bad friends. You don’t resent your friends having other friends (or you shouldn’t, shame on you). Be honest, don’t try to rejig your schedule to fit everyone in on the same Saturday. You are not wonder woman and cannot fly. Getting from Leeds to Oxford in one night for two different sets of drinks is not really going to happen. Side note, if you have a magic carpet, this is do-able and you have no excuses.

  1. Someone people are just wrong and you are right

See above. Sometimes you need to stick to your guns, trust your own judgement and believe that the work you are doing is good enough. This may not sit well all of the time with everyone you work with, that’s ok. Better the job be done well than it be mediocre because you relented in order to please everyone.

Similarly, if your friend wants to eat at the Mexican restaurant that you know will cause explosive diarrhoea, do not eat there just because you don’t want to upset her. You are right and she is wrong. The same principle applies if your friend wants to watch Spiderman 3 (unless your aim is to be so bored you seriously consider gnawing off your own arm for something to do).

      3. Sometimes it’s best not to know

This one applies more in a social context – if you’re of the tendency to say ‘I would rather know than not know’ then sit down and buckle up: Sometimes it is actually best not to know. This comes with a side order of letting things go.

Over the course of your life you are going to piss people off (even Gandhi pissed people off). And when you do, do you really need to know what that person said about you in the heat of their anger? Think of the things you’ve said about them when you were spitting fire. Did you mean it? Probably not. Would you ever want them to know what was said? Hell fucking no. Because it would hurt them. They probably feel the same, so stop fishing. Even people who love you are not going to like you constantly. Let them not like you without needing to know every detail. In the same way, some people get pissed off and you notice. Don’t badger (and hence increase their pissyness), ask once and if it is important enough, they will tell you why. If it isn’t, they’ll get over it, so let it be their problem. Serves them right for being pissed at something so unimportant they won’t share it.

  1. It is ok to say no

At work, there is a difference between wanting to do a good job and caring about the quality of your work and taking on too much work because you didn’t want to say no and let someone down, less they think ill of you. The reason that you are being asked to do the work is because you are good at it. If you say yes too often, your work will suffer (either because you rush it or, like me, you give up or essential life tasks such as sleeping and eating to complete it) and therefore people will stop asking you to do work. Hence prompting your conclusions that all your work is shit and they must hate you. Boom, you are propelled into a downward spiral of doom. It is ok to say no, you’re swamped. This does not make you a bad person…

…just like with your friends. If you don’t want to, can’t, had a bad week and want to hibernate, feel a cold coming on, still haven’t watched Stranger Things, then it is ok to say no to Friday night drinks. Your friends will understand on this one occasion. Better that than turn up grumpy or not able to join in the conversation about Stranger Things because you haven’t watched it yet. Or get spoilers.

In conclusion

Try to pause, think of yourself instead of constantly worrying over the opinions of others and really consider your motives for saying ‘yes of course’. If it is simply to please that person and will detriment yourself, then take a longer pause and evaluate whether it is something that you need to do (either professionally because this person can fire you, or because they are your friend and they need you) or whether it is just something you feel obligated to do because of your pathological need to please everyone. Just pause and breathe.

 

 

Home Alone

Living alone is a strange experience. On the one hand, there is no one around to judge you for eating granola at every meal. On the other hand, you often end up eating granola for every meal. Snore.

Having lived with at least one housemate for my entire adult life, when I started my new job in a new city last year, I was ready to venture out alone. So I moved in to my one-bedroom shoe box in the middle of the city. The one thing that no one told me about living on my own was that it would prove to me that everything that my mother told me (that annoyed me half to death) would turn out to be true:

  1. It is easier to tidy up as you go along;
  2. Cream cleaner is the answer to everything (I shit you not, next time your left over spag bol splashes onto your white walls on its journey into the bin, dilute a bit of cream cleaner and give it a try. You’re welcome.);
  3. Fabric softener is an important step in cleaning your clothes;
  4. Mopping is actually necessary, simply hoovering does not do the trick;
  5. You will eventually find yourself wiping down the skirting boards.

It’s hard at first because they don’t teach you how to compare electricity providers, call the water board or argue with the council tax department when you’re at school. Nor are there classes on finding the right replacement light bulb in Wilkos, defrosting your freezer or cleaning your toaster (yes, you actually have to clean the toaster, not just around it- unless you enjoy a light firey smell every time you want toast). They also don’t tell you that it takes at least two weeks to have your wifi installed and when the engineer in finally available, all they do is show up and press a button. It will be the longest two weeks of your life and you will watch a lot of NCIS re runs. Be prepared.

If you are an introvert like me then living alone is actually a relief. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I just have a limit. If I have been at work all day and most of that day involves meetings and actually conversing on a human level, then by Thursday, the last thing I want is to have to make small talk with my flatmates idiot boyfriend over questionable fajitas. Living alone gives me the opportunity to be inside my own head as much as I want to without having to be rude or pretend I didn’t hear anyone come home ‘because I had headphones in’.

It also means I can keep on top of my at home workout plan (and by home workout plan, I absolutely mean watching half of a Joe Wicks HIIT workout, exhausting myself, crying a little and then watching the rest whilst sat on the sofa wrapped in a blanket and eating an entire pack of hobnobs). I also can experiment with my new love of baking, fail spectacularly at baking and then settle on making banana bread because this is the only thing I can make and the only thing anyone ever really needs. And there is no one around to judge either of these things. Plus I can be naked whenever and leave the bathroom door open when I have a shower. It’s the small things.

Living alone though, can be isolating.  Especially if, like me, you’re in the midst of an existential crisis and already questioning everything going on in your life. So if you do live alone, make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of closing yourself off and becoming more introverted than before, particularly if you are somewhere new and unfamiliar. Make an effort to go out to see friends or have dinner with them. Invite people round for drinks or to watch Game of Thrones. Join a running club or a yoga class that means you have some form of human interaction outside of work. And then, once you have had your fill of company, go on home to your palace of solitude and bask in the need to not speak to anyone. Except of course, your houseplant called Mildred.

 

 

 

 

Existential Crisis – Part 1 (Adulting)

Being a grown up is hard. Being 25 is not what I thought it would be when I was 18 and assumed that by this point in my life I would have my shit together. Instead, I’m living in a flat that I’m not 100% sure I like, in a job that I’m 100% sure I hate and am about 110% fatter than I ever thought I would be.

I am not financially, professionally or emotionally stable and my most committed relationship is the one I have with Nutella. Sometimes, I cry for no reason and sometimes I know the exact reason I’m crying but really would rather not be. Regardless, I’m never particularly sad when I’m crying, just disappointed. In myself, my ‘career’, my love life, my bank account and, quite often, in the fact that I have to pay actual council tax.

It turns out that being in your twenties is not the easy, feel good joy ride that Sex in the City suggested it would be. Instead it’s a time when you’re trying to figure out who you are, what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. The latter being the most difficult because, if you’re anything like me, you probably know exactly what you want to do (namely, quit your job in the cut-throat legal world, live in a tiny house on the coast with a fluffy dog and write books) but realised very quickly that this is very difficult to do without money, a fluffy dog, or a legitimate plot idea that doesn’t include changing all the names and essentially just rewriting Harry Potter. Only with more dragons.

I always thought that by the time I was 25 I would be well on the way to doing what I wanted to do, be stable in my romantic life, my career and my living situation and have the kind of self awareness that would majestically manifest itself once I was out of full time education.  Instead, I’m more insecure than I was at 15, need my Dad to help me pay my rent and am having to begrudgingly come to terms with the fact that I hate the career that I chose. It’s a hard learning curve that I don’t think many of my generation appreciate is going to hit them so hard, so early on in life. We’re so focused on picture perfect Instagramable lifestyles that its hard to focus inwards and work out if what we are doing, saying, believing and sharing is what makes us happy.

I’m not naive, I know that happiness is not a state that I will constantly be in throughout my adult life and that it is something that my generation strive towards with an inflated sense of self importance. I know that there are more important things like compassion, kindness and realism of the necessity to pay bills and eat food. But I don’t believe that it is youthful naivety to aim for, and work towards, being happy. Not an instant gratification type of happiness, but a contentedness and fondness for things that fill your time and ultimately, define you.

It took me six months of being in my job before I realised that I wasn’t happy doing it and that actually hate it. On the surface, it’s perfect: high powered, faced paced, work-all-hours. But it wasn’t until I took a day off (one solitary day off) and was panicking about not being in the office, having missed something that someone else would pick apart, have done something dramatically wrong that would only manifest itself on this one day or alternatively, someone pick up something that I had been frantically working on and claim all credit for, that I realised I was completely and utterly unhappy. Before, I had been too busy to think about it. I sat there, opposite my parents when I should have been enjoying the time spent with them and relaxing, frantically refreshing emails and worrying about what was happening without me. I knew that the office would not fall apart without me. This was actually part of the problem – that things would run smoothly without me made me panic about having to be there simply to prove that they needed me to be there. I was exhausted and very, very sad.

This realisation came with some other hard-hitting truths that I think had been sneaking up on me for a couple of years – or at least since I finished my last stint in university. I live now in the middle of a city. Being from the country, I had always assumed that I would end up in a city, living the city life and having cocktails during the week, able to get home without having to pay a small fortune for a taxi. Walking to work and being in the midst of the hustle and bustle seemed inevitable and exciting.

Instead, it’s terrifying. I miss green spaces and clean air. Being able to go for a stroll by just setting foot outside my front door. I realised, during the many train journeys home that I physically tense in a city. As I get further into the countryside, I start to literally unclench. No part of me ever contemplated that I would not be a city girl. But now, I spend hours trolling through rightmove for houses on the coast in the Scottish Borders.

I also assumed that I would be in a serious relationship, or at least, be mourning the recent demise of a serious relationship by this point in my life. I’ve had dalliances and flirtations or just plain had sex but nothing has ever flourished into something serious. This is a difficult one for me because I never wanted a relationship in the sense that my goal was to be gooey in love or married. But I did assume something would have come along. That it hasn’t is difficult. Rationally, I realise there is nothing particularly wrong with me and this just hasn’t happened yet because I’m picky and won’t suffer fools. However, rationality is not a constant in my brain so I spend most of my time assuming I’m not in love because I’m psychotic. Despite having never been diagnosed with, or showed symptoms of any kind of psychosis.

I also have no money. I have three degrees and a shit tone of experience and am still earning peanuts for working sixty hour weeks. This is not a revelation, I assumed I would earn little before I earned a lot. I just did not realise how little it would be. Or for how long. Or that people who sit directly opposite me and work 10 hours fewer would earn far, far more. This hasn’t caused the same internal soul searching as other elements of my life, it’s just fucking rubbish and makes everything harder.

The most difficult part about your twenties, at least for me so far, is having to dispense with all the preconceptions, assumptions and expectations. Not that others had for me, but that I had for myself. Everything I thought would define me and that would shape my life and how I lived is being challenged. My ever academic mind welcomes the constant challenge of ideas and of beliefs, intellectual preconceptions and constant re-examination of opinion. But when it comes to how you thought you would live your life: career, home, relationships and money, this is difficult.  I went through a trauma at 21 which left me with PTSD (now treated) and residual anxiety. I was never an anxious person before but am now. How much this has changed and altered me going into my adult life, I don’t know and never will. But it adds an extra layer of existential crisis about how fundamentally different I would have been without it. Maybe, this would have happened anyway. Maybe not. This blog is my ramblings as I deal with this and free- fall through my life, one calamity at a time.