Lessons of 2016

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2016 was a good and bad year. It was good professionally – I secured my first full-time job working on a magazine, but not so fantastic on a personal level. This year has actually taught me more about myself and made me more resilient. So I thought I would share with you the lessons I’ve learnt from 2016 (it may even help you!)

NEVER PUT UP WITH B***SHIT

I had this friend who I had what I can only describe as a love/hate relationship with; sometimes I really loved her and other times I really didn’t like her. She would call me names, bombard me with phone calls and get jealous if I got a new boyfriend. I put up with her behaviour for years, because despite all the emotional abuse she was sometimes really nice to me and couldn’t do more for me. Earlier this year I made the mistake of moving in with her, even though deep down I knew she was a bad friend. She picked on me and accused me of things that she herself was guilty of. So I decided that enough was enough. I moved out of the flat and texted her that our friendship was over. She was like an abusive boyfriend, shouting at me one day, then showering me in cuddles the next. I couldn’t live like that; she made me anxious. No one should put up with this. Not ever. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been friends; you don’t owe anyone anything. Never keep someone in your life if they make you unhappy.

PAY ATTENTION TO RELATIONSHIP RED FLAGS

2016 is officially the year of bad relationships for me. Earlier this year my ex boyfriend dumped me. In hindsight I should never have got together with him. At first he was lovely, but as the months wore on the mask slipped and his controlling behaviour was unveiled. Towards the end of the relationship, he ridiculed me and insulted me so much that I couldn’t believe I had been with someone so inherently nasty. How had I not noticed any signs? Then someone said to me: “If you think back to the beginning there must have been red flags, but you probably ignored them.” And she was right; even if I couldn’t see his controlling behaviour at the beginning, he used to talk about his ex girlfriend so much, to the extent that it was obvious he still loved her. MASSIVE RED FLAG. I deserved better. And yet I was probably so desperate for a relationship and to be loved that I ignored the warning signs. Never again will I ignore the red flags.

DON’T DO THINGS YOU DON’T WANNA DO

Have you ever gone to a party you didn’t want to go? Just cause well, you felt like you needed to show your face. In future, don’t bother. I read this book over the summer called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – everyone was reading it, so I thought – what is this all about? That book definitely opened up a new window in my brain. Sarah essentially says that you should do exactly what you want to do, and never feel the need to put in an appearance at something. For example your friends keep inviting you to quizzes but you hate quizzes, and you don’t want to seem rude by turning down the invite. Guess what? You don’t have to go, just explain that you hate quizzes. I’m such a people pleaser, so it was great to think that there’s a way of putting a stop to this and putting myself first. The friend I mentioned earlier, who I used to live with would pressure me into watching TV with her when I came back from work, but I really didn’t want to – I was tired and needed some alone time. Yet I would always agree to sit with her for a bit because she guilt-tripped me. Never do this; do what you want to do and if people don’t like it – well that’s their problem.

TURN DISAPPOINTMENT INTO OPPORTUNITY

Over the summer I desperately wanted to take a holiday, but I had no one to go with. It seemed that most of my friends had already booked stuff up. I was gutted and had no idea what to do. I certainly didn’t feel confident enough to holiday on my own. But then I just thought – come on, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to get more independent and this is the perfect opportunity. So I started researching organised group holidays – and ended up travelling around Croatia with a bunch of people I’d only just met. I even got a holiday romance out of it. So it pays to be a bit more fearless.

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These are my three big lessons of 2016. I’m sure there’s smaller lessons I can think of, but they seem insignificant compared to the one’s I’ve mentioned. So with that, I hope that I form better relationships and stand up for myself more in 2017.

Moving to London

Last July I moved to London (ok, admittedly I no longer live there – maybe I’ll save that story for another time), but the fact is I experienced it, even if it was for a few months or so. I’m proud that I managed to take the leap and move there as I had convinced myself it was impossible for a number of reasons.

I was sucked into the propaganda widely distributed by the press and pretty much every human being that London is VERY expensive and consider yourself lucky if you can find somewhere half decent to live. It was drilled into me that you have to have a wacking great salary (probably from working in financial services) to be able to rent there or rich parents. Therefore, moving to London felt like a lofty dream that probably wouldn’t come true.

I imagined moving to London and struggling to pay my rent. I had visions of being on the doorstep of a wealth of culture and experiences, but not being able to leave the house because I couldn’t afford a bus ticket.

Then there was the fact that I was scared. When I was a teenager I remember reading so many newspaper reports about crime in London which thoroughly convinced me that it was an unsafe city, with danger lurking at every corner. For a girl from a small village you can see how London seemed daunting. I imagined being mugged, having my house burgled and all sorts; the reality is that these things can happen to you wherever you live.

However when I moved to London I found that my preconceptions were not accurate. It really is possible for a young professional that works in the creative sector to move to London. I wasn’t struggling for money, I didn’t get mugged and I managed to find a nice flat with reasonable rent. I wasn’t living in a bedroom the size of a small cupboard eating tins of beans, which is how the press often convey London life. I ate quite well and had a massive wardrobe and a beautiful fireplace in my room.

I really loved living a short tube ride away from Central London. I had a real feeling of independence and excitement; I couldn’t actually believe that I was living in the capital. I’m so glad that I did it and can’t wait to move back there when the time is right.

I suppose what I want you to take from this is that sometimes you need to try things out yourself rather than listening to what other people or even the media say. It’s better to try something out and realise you made a mistake than never take that leap of faith.

Solo travel and me

Taking the plunge and holidaying alone seems scary but can be very rewarding…

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Hong Kong. Image credit: Anna Fearon

For the first time in my life I am going on a solo holiday. A couple of months ago I would never have dreamt of going on holiday on my own. It sounds way too scary and also has the potential to be very lonely. But, just recently I have pushed myself outside my comfort zone and taken a few risks and this is one of them.

It’s probably one of the most fearless decisions I’ve ever made. But it’s not a decision I arrived at easily; I certainly never intended to go on holiday on my own.

I desperately wanted to go on a summer holiday and after asking around a few friends I found that they already had holidays booked and other commitments. The thought of not getting some sun, sand and sea was quite depressing as I’m definitely due a summer holiday.

So I toyed with the idea of solo travel. I was THAT desperate to go on holiday that I would go on my own. But it seemed way too scary and would take a lot of planning, so I was naturally hesitant. I also felt quite sad about the fact that a solo holiday was something I had to resort to and not a choice. In an ideal world, I would be holidaying with friends.

You don’t really hear of many people going on holiday on their own, especially women. When I think of holidays images of big groups of friends spring to mind, so naturally the idea of a solo holiday seemed bleak.

I stalled the decision for weeks. I then chatted to a girl at work that had been on a holiday with a tour operator which organises group holidays for solo travellers. That chat set the wheels in motion; if someone my age had holidayed alone then so could I. Yet there was still doubt in my mind. I then read a travel feature in Stylist written by journalist Anna Hart about her solo travelling experience. The whole article was so positive about it, that it made me seriously think about it as a possibility. I began to see solo travel as a good choice and not just something you resort to.

Around the same time I read another feature in Grazia about how one female writer actually chose to go on holiday alone and really enjoyed it. Seeing that other women had taken the leap and loved it was enough persuasion for me. If the only way that I was going to get to go on holiday was on my own, then so be it. I started to see it as an empowering and brave decision to make in a world where most people holiday with someone else.

I’m not afraid to be on my own and experience things on my own. I’ve explored Miami and Macau on my own, so I know I can do it.

And so after doing my research I booked a holiday with a tour operator that runs an organised group trip to Croatia. I don’t know anyone booked on this holiday at all, so in that sense I’m going as a solo traveller.

My solo holiday with a bunch of strangers is a scary prospect, but it could be the best experience of my life. Who knows? It’s a real chance to make friends and one I probably wouldn’t have if I’d holidayed with a friend.

If there’s one thing that I would like you to take away from this post is that there’s no shame in holidaying alone. It’s a bold and scary thing to do, but it’s also very exciting and full of possibilities.

Would you consider solo travel? Have you been away on your own? Let me know in the comments box below.

My relationship with blogging

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Image credit: www.pexels.com

I haven’t always had a blog, in fact I believe this is my fifth one. I’ve written this post so that you can learn about my background in blogging. Just because as readers, it’s nice to find out about the person behind the blog and why they write it.

My blogging journey began when I was a teenager and created a website domain called ‘Pink Lady’ with a publishing platform similar to WordPress, which allowed you to create a blog for free. I called it Pink Lady because I was obsessed with the colour pink. It feels like so long ago that I set up this website that I can’t even remember what I put on the webpage – probably images of Orlando Bloom who was my teenage crush. This blog was a small way of expressing myself on the internet and getting across a bit of my personality and interests. There was no strategy to take the internet by storm or create an online brand for myself!

After Pink Lady, which I have just realised is a type of apple, I had a blogging break which lasted for several years. It wasn’t until my third year of university, when I decided that I wanted a career in writing and editing that I started blogging again. I set up a blog called something like ‘The life of a History and History of Art student’ because yes, as you’ve probably guessed I was studying History and History of Art! Although the blog title implied I was blogging about what I got up to as a student I actually wrote about really random topics such as a celebrities outfit.

It was just a space online where I could write when I wanted some time out from my studies. I also set up a blog about the life of a single girl with the intention of honestly writing about my dating experiences. But after writing approximately one post which made me cringe after reading it back to myself I decided that I didn’t like sharing this part of my life on the internet.

After completing my first degree I was unhappy with my result, (I narrowly missed out on a 2.1) which lead me to worry about my future career. I appealed my result which meant that I had to delay my graduation ceremony from the summer to winter. In the meantime I created a new blog as a way to exercise my writing skills and boost my CV. I called it Creative Energy Makes The World Go Around (or Creative Energy as I abbreviated it to). I gave it this title to reflect my creativity and belief that creative energy makes the world a more exciting place. I initially wrote about fashion, beauty and lifestyle and later went on to include celebrity gossip. I didn’t want the blog to be about one subject in particular as I have wide ranging interests.

I kept blogging on Creative Energy during my Masters in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University until I had to set up my own website as part of a digital module. This took up a lot of my time so I put all my efforts into making the new blog a success seeing as I was being marked on it! I established a street style blog called Chic to Street which mainly covered South Wales street style with some additional fashion posts as well. The meaning behind the name was simple – chic people bringing their style to the street!

Running this blog was a great experience for me as I got to engage with a massive fashion blogging community. It was fun dressing up for posts which featured my own style and I really enjoyed seeing what other people wore. It was also a weird experience because for the first time I was managing a website and producing content for it without my name being overtly attached to it. For example, all the social media accounts that I set up for the blog were named ‘Chic to Street’. However it was good practice as if I manage a companies social media in the future, I will be producing content as the brand rather than myself.

This finally leads me to this blog which you may be wondering how it fits in. Well quite simply, one of my long-term goals was to set up a website in my name so that as a digital writer people can find out about me and read my work. A lot of professionals use social media networks such as LinkedIn to promote their work and connect with others. So it’s a good idea to create and manage your own online identity/profile. I also set up this blog so that I could showcase my writing style and the topics I am interested in.

This leads me to….

What I’ve learnt about blogging:

  • It’s important to write about subjects that you’re passionate about.
  • It takes dedication and time.
  • You don’t have to be an expert in anything to start your own blog.
  • It’s a fantastic hobby and looks great on your CV! 

Why do you blog? Has it made a difference to your life? I would love to hear your stories.

4 ways to find an awesome restaurant

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I am a total food lover. I love good food – I suppose you could call me a foodie! Although I don’t cook from scratch that often I enjoy eating out and trying different cuisines. Wherever I go in the UK or abroad I am always eager to go to restaurants that I haven’t been to before. It’s often the independent ones that have a particular atmosphere which enhances the dining experience.

However, it’s so easy to habit the same, familiar restaurants just because you’ve never bothered to find out what else there is where you live. If you fancy trying somewhere new then read on to discover how to find places without the hassle of too much internet research.

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1. TripAdvisor

An obvious suggestion, BUT I can’t stress how great TripAdvisor is! Restaurants are ranked in order of their popularity based on people’s reviews of them. I have previously eaten at specific restaurants because I read a gushing review on TripAdvisor. Equally, I have also been put off going to places by awful comments! Never underestimate how good this website is!

2. Facebook

Without sounding like a total Facebook stalker, a good way to find somewhere new to dine at is the social networking site. Some people go out and tag themselves at the place they’re eating at and/or upload a picture of the food. Pay attention because this is your way of easily coming across somewhere new without googling anything!

3. Instagram

Celebrities use Insta frequently to post pictures of their meals and they might just mention in the caption where they’re eating at. I’ve already made a mental list of restaurants in London that I would like to try based on scrolling through on here! Pictures give you a great indication of what the food is like as well. Bingo!

4. Word of mouth

An oldie but a goodie! With the instancy that is Google Search we neglect actually speaking to people and asking them for recommendations! If you’re ever stumped for somewhere to eat then text a friend or ask a work colleague – they may just know somewhere really great.

Do you stick to the same restaurants or do you try and eat at different places?

P.S. If you want a restaurant recommendation tweet me at @Anna_Fearon. Always happy to help hangry* people!

*hangry = when you get angry because you’re hungry.

The alternative to Glastonbury

Ever felt like the one millennial that has never been to a music festival? You’re not alone.

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I’ve got a confession. I’ve never been to a music festival. Don’t get me wrong I like some music and I like dancing, but I’ve just never found the money / time to buy tickets / group of friends to go with.

Mud, tents, porta loos and not being able to wash scare me. I just about managed a night camping in a forest, whilst doing the Duke of Edinburgh award at secondary school. After this frightening experience which involved me doing a dash through trees in the early hours of the morning to a toilet, the sergeant major overseeing this activity wrote in my logbook something like, “This one’s a dark horse, but I’m not too sure about her undertaking the Silver Award”. What he really meant to write was, “She’s high maintenance and a stay in a lavish hotel will suit her better than scrambling about in the countryside”.

So you can see why I am not overjoyed at camping. I do not like clammy armpits and unwashed hair. Yes – I know there’s dry shampoo (but, the longer I don’t wash my hair the darker it looks). I’ve toyed with the idea of festivals over the years but never seriously considered going. It’s the money. Too expensive – she says. Then the next week I’m ordering a dress off ASOS.

Maybe I’m too geeky for Glasto. This is something I realised when I got more excited about a new play based on Harry Potter coming to the West End than watching bands play at Glastonbury on the TV. When JK Rowling made this announcement I said to my mum and dad, “I need to go, I’m paying whatever the odds”. Cue images of me refreshing a website for tickets in the next few months or so, which is essentially what Glastonbury goers would have done.

After this, it dawned on me that I do have interests and I will pay over the odds to go to something. My interests just happen to be culture, theatre, literature, cocktails, good food and holidays. I have seen Hamlet twice and I would probably pay again to see Benedict Cumberbatch, who will be staring in a new production of the Shakespeare play.

For some reason I feel abnormal for wanting to pay to do this but not go to a music festival. I feel, like all other millennials I should be itching to dance in the mud and rain to The Libertines and drink my weight in cider. But, I’m not. Give me a sun lounger on South Beach in Miami with a copy of Grey by E.L. James and tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando and I’m happy!

So I guess the moral of this post is… it’s ok not to want to go to a music festival, it doesn’t make you weird if you don’t go. In fact it shows that you’re an individual who doesn’t follow the crowds!

Gymphobia

Concrete jungle where fears are made of…

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Exercise class. Image credit: LocalFitness on Wikipedia.

I have gymphobia. What’s that?… I hear you ask. It’s quite simply a fear of the gym. I first came across this word in an issue of Cosmopolitan’s Cosmo Body and it really rang true with me.

I have always imagined the gym to be a place where ripped men flex their muscles and pose on the equipment. If you’ve ever watched the gym scenes in The Only Way Is Essex then you will know what I mean! Plus the idea that people can see me attempting to use equipment and failing freaks me out! If you’ve ever watched the BBC comedy series Miranda and seen her at the gym then you can imagine the epic scenes that may unfold.

Thankfully, things are changing, not just for me, but also in society. Firstly, a campaign called This Girl Can, which was developed by Sport England and a wide range of partnership organisations, was launched earlier this year. It encourages women of all shapes and sizes to exercise. It was started after findings that some women don’t exercise because they have a fear of being judged. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a size 6 or 18, the gym can be a very daunting place and it’s fantastic how empowering this campaign has been.

At the start of the year I made a New Year’s resolution to get fit. I got a pay-as-you-go gym membership and undertook a variety of exercise classes. Whilst I did find some posey types hanging out by the lockers chatting up girls, I found that my expectations were largely wrong. Most of my classes contained older folk who were clearly just at the gym to exercise.

That is not to say that it has been plain sailing. I tried out one class and found the instructor to be patronising and unhelpful. Whilst I was doing my best attempt at a plank the instructor came over to me and shouted, “THAT’S NOT A BLANK, YOUR BUM IS IN THE AIR”.

Rather than helping me to correct the position, the instructor went back to the front of the class. I felt this moment, brief as it was very off-putting and didn’t do anything to change my perception that some people look down at people like me who have no idea what the difference is between a plank and a push-up.

I’m trying not to let this put me off as I realise that there will be some professional personal trainers out there who go above and beyond to help their clients. I would not say that I’ve fully got over my gymphobia, but I have made some progress since the start of the year. It’s just a matter of baby steps and trying to establish a routine.

My top tips for helping to overcome gymphobia:

Get a mate to go with you

If you have a friend with you you will feel more at ease. Plus you have someone to chat with and spur you on!

Stop caring

What I mean by this is stop caring what other people think of you. Go to the gym with no makeup on, workout, get sweaty. Who cares? It’s the gym after all and everybody *should* be there for one reason: to get fit.

Set yourself a goal

You may have a summer holiday booked or a wedding to attend that you want to look your best for. Set yourself a goal – for example – what you want to have achieved by a certain date.

Do you have gymphobia like me? Have you got any tips for overcoming this? Let me know in the comments box below…

For more information on This Girl Can go to thisgirlcan.co.uk