How I’m making 2024 last longer

 

Photo by Daniel Buckle on Unsplash

Happy new year! It’s still appropriate to say that, right?

January is grey and bleak. You’re broke, fat, depressed, and severely conscious of how far away you are from whatever goals you set 365 days ago, and the 365 before that. You can’t fathom where the entire previous year went; it all feels like a blur that passed you by far too quickly, and you’re desperate to go back in time to savour each and every minute you let waste away. But you can’t.

Cue the blues.

This is a feeling that, sadly, escapes almost none of us. No matter how fully you have lived, no matter how happy you are with how you spent the year, you’re always left with that gut-punching feeling of time is slipping from me. It’s painfully obvious that there’s only one solution to this, because unfortunately nobody has come into possession of Bernard’s watch:

Make the decision to live slowly and more consciously.

You can’t go back and relive those precious days, but you can do something with your newfound self-awareness. I like to think I do this already, but, in my desperate attempt, I actually end up doing the opposite.

My mind is always going at a thousand miles an hour and I wring my days dry until I’ve squeezed out every minute. The result is that I don’t feel like I’ve truly been living; I’ve simply ticked a lot of boxes off my to-do lists. In trying to be productive every day, I’ve ultimately made a full time job out of living in which I must fill a quota in order to be satisfied with how my day went. Wake up. Go to the gym. Go to work. Read this many pages. Go to the park on that day. These days don’t add up to a successful period of living: they are confined to what they are, which is a day of robotically doing things I pencilled in just to feel like I am making use of my time. I need to stop clocking in and out of my life and just live.

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash.

I am obsessed with poring over my calendar to make sure every waking minute is filled with useful things — but I don’t want to just have useful days. Those aren’t memorable. Reading and writing and a hundred walks through Richmond Park are not memorable; it is not the act itself that we remember, but the memories we attach to them. It’s the lessons in strength and perseverance that hundreds of characters have displayed in varying ways, it’s learning how to get our thoughts down on paper in creative ways, it’s when we stepped ankle deep in mud to get close to the deer and had to put our shoes into plastic bags before getting into my car. My point is, you should be living life and relishing both the ups and downs rather than letting it pass you by.

The way you do this will be personal to you. You should know how to ground yourself, you will know what makes you feel present and alive. It doesn’t have to be something monumental; it could be as small as sitting outside for ten minutes a day or as big as spending a weekend swimming in the ocean every month.

For me, it is the following:

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A Letter to the Influencer Who Thinks I Can Do Pilates at 1pm

Photo by Patrick Malleret on Unsplash

 

Hi babybotoxlifter,

I hope this letter finds you in the midst of a groundbreaking, spirit-awakening culinary creation involving oats. Just thought I’d take some time out of my day to write to you; I’m exhausted after spending nine hours in front of a computer screen, so apologies if you see any typos.

First, let me start by expressing my deepest admiration for your morning routine, your ability to redefine breakfast entirely. The way you do it is so *chefs kiss*; from the freshest ingredients straight from Waitrose, to the way you ethereally put the dish together. I would never have thought it could improve my mental health to slow right down and take the time to procure a healthy, nutritious bowl; your invention of turmeric oats with lashings of agave syrup, hemp seeds and dragon fruit seems nothing short of a masterpiece that makes for a transcendental experience. And well done for discovering cinnamon sprinkled over apples – ground-breaking! I don’t believe anybody has thought of anything so innovative before, so thank you for showing us all about it in your perfectly posed selfie video.

Unfortunately, as I peel my eyelids apart and stumble out of bed at 5:30am, my morning is less magical. Most days I can only muster a  quick, sad, film-topped coffee before I jolt out of the door to catch a train that smells of sweaty gym socks. Sometimes I manage buttered toast, if I’m feeling fancy.

I also applaud your commitment to dragging yourself away from the comfort of your post-breakfast reading time in your perfectly made cream bed to then reposition your camera in your pilates studio. Your very own pilates studio! I wish I didn’t have to share a gym with sweaty men who grunt during every rep. When the clock strikes 1pm, I am not donned in a cute, matching gym set. Instead, I find myself sat at a hot desk (that I had to book three weeks ago to secure, mind you!) convincing myself this £5 prawn cocktail sandwich from M&S was worth sacrificing a flat white from Caffe Nero for the office beans. In this moment, I am not gracefully extending opposing legs and arms and letting go of all negative thoughts. Instead, I find myself thinking this could have been an email. I could have been spared the torture of being trapped in a conversation about your children if you had just emailed me but saying ‘oh, I can’t believe it’s Monday again already! Honestly, where does the time go.’

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On Making the Most of Winter

Despite the incessant moaning and groaning of English Folk (read: Londoners, mostly) on the odd super cold day, I actually feel like winter has been quite forgiving so far this year. In fact, I admit I’ve woken up some mornings saying ‘Hey. You know what? I could go for a walk today because it’s so crisp and delicious outside!’ And, though my nose feels like an ice cube, I am content. I seem to have foregone the usual bout of SAD this year, though I’m unsure if that’s partly because of my recovery time off work.

Nevertheless, winter, to me, is a time for doing almost nothing outdoors except the bare minimum. Yes, the Christmas markets are up and running, enticing us to leave our cosy homes for promises of a bustling, vibrant atmosphere that includes Mariah Carey playing much too loudly on a speaker nobody can locate and a £7 hot chocolate that we could have made at home without being sardine-packed on the Piccadilly Line. But what else is there to do outside this cute, expensive little activity?

There is many a festive menu across all restaurants, and enough limited martinis that now have a generous sprinkling of icing sugar snow dusted on the side of the glass. We’re being reminded that, actually, there is a lot to leave your house for, guilted into staying indoors instead of venturing into the cold. It’s December and I haven’t even been to any Christmas markets! Or the outdoor ice-rink! I haven’t been to see a single flashing light and I’ve missed Winter Wonderland, a heaving extortionate waste of time that I now have to pay and queue up for!

So anyway, I’ve thought about the winter goals I have that don’t necessarily mean doing festive things because, truly, I very much enjoy the weather that forces me to stay indoors. What a shame, I can’t go outside, it’s raining. Damn it. Actually, I’m blissfully happy laying in bed with the lightbulb red, asking Alexa to play metal while I write, so I can really feel like I’m in a dungeon. Can’t do that when it’s sunny at 8pm.

I would, on a normal day, like to have some mulled wine and chestnuts, but it’s not something I’m going to pen down and venture into the crap weather and ginormous crowds for; don’t get me started on Christmas crowds because I’m exhausted just thinking about them. There are plenty of indoor and introspective goals to be achieved in Winter, especially for an introverted dopamine-chasing hermit who absolutely loves their own company and will look for any excuse to stay indoors.

Here are my five winter goals. Let me know if you have any of your own that I can draw inspiration from!

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The definitive guide to becoming burnt out

Is the relentless rat-race becoming too easy for you? Do you need to shake things up a bit, take things up a notch, show that you really love to face challenges? If full blown exhaustion is your goal, follow these eight steps to make sure you really empty the tank of all it has!


  1. Set aside some time to plan your work week on Sunday

What better way to make sure you’re ready for the work week than to go through all of your work tasks before you actually start? If you say no to spending time with family on Sunday, you can use your free, unpaid time off (of which you have two days – plenty!) to get a head start and make sure you’re raring to go at 9am the next day! Surely you can’t expect that planning for work would be part of your work hours?

  1. Say yes to absolutely everything

Can you take on this task? And that task? And this task is too much for your co-worker, can you help, even though you are drowning under the weight of your own task list? Of course you can! If you don’t have time to do it, simply find the time. If you want to be a good employee, you must say yes to everything before someone else does. You might not be compensated, but at least you can look in the mirror and say you did it! Read more

The Artist’s Dilemma


I sat down to start this post in my usual fashion; with misery, cynicism, and a little self-loathing. But then I remembered that negativity begets negativity, and the last thing I need is another reason to beat myself up. So, I’ve picked the next closest thing: honesty.

I took yet another break from writing in general. People have told me and continue to tell me they love my blog posts, my copy, my short stories — whatever it may be — but I just… don’t believe them. Imposter syndrome, I believe they call it. Feelings of inadequacy that block us from ever proving to ourselves that we are better than we think we are. It’s a vicious cycle that I often struggle to break out of.
We create art to express ourselves and resonate with people, so when they tell us they want to see us or hear us, why can’t we deliver? Why do we feel like frauds in our field –surely I’m not meant to be in this club? You’ll find that this club is filled almost exclusively with people who are, in fact, very good at what they do. Conversely, there are a lot of people who produce ridiculously sub-par work, but because they believe they can get to the top with it, they soar. Right to the very top. Read more

I think I’m here, therefore I’m here(?)


Or whatever Descartes said.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I have found myself drawn more to the throwaway simplicity of Substack; my creative (?) thoughts are sporadic and I have a very short attention span, even when it’s for myself. When I lay down at night, I jump from memory, to thought, to scene two in that same thought, to scene three, back to scene one to find out how else it could have played out, to a different thought altogether, to a horrible scenario that I hope will never happen but I’m now prepared for in case it does. Long blog posts don’t really do it for me, and I know they don’t really do it for anyone else, either. I talk about things succinctly (but often), I think about things forever and then write about them succinctly (I hope) (but often). Other times, there is waffle.

This is one of those times.

I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been writing anything over the past couple of weeks because I’ve had fake nails on. I don’t know how you were expecting that sentence to end, but I know it wasn’t like that – maybe you expected simple writer’s block, being bogged down with work, a crisis in the family. And all of those things are true, but, for a writer, not nearly as debilitating as having long nails that prevent you from typing efficiently on the horrible flat butterfly keys of a 2015 Macbook that just won’t die. Let’s not tempt fate now, though, because, being older and closer to real adult life, I can’t afford my Macbook to die on me the same way I could when I was 19 and didn’t want to think about the future. I used to look into the future and see a black screen because, as far as I was concerned, I should have been dead already and anything that was to happen after that is a miracle in itself. Maybe miracle is the wrong word. Now, I look into the future and I panic because I wasted so much time being dead inside that I now have so much catching up to do; now, I look into the future and it’s not just about me – now, I see the white picket fence. Not really a white picket fence because, living in London, I know a small Tesco lorry will probably back into it and ruin everything. Maybe a big, strong, robust wall. And some barbed wire. And lots of CCTV and gates and deadlocks. Maybe a rottweiler.

I digress. But it’s also a nice illustration of how my thought process works. I get antsy, I can’t sit still. I get anxious, I get frustrated, I don’t know how to be calm. I am, quite simply, all over the place, all the time.

But sometimes, all the chaos must come to a stop and I am nowhere.

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