Confusing, saddening, anxiety-inducing, maddening, mind-boggling, frustrating, upsetting; it’s impossible to pick one word that encompasses the cocktail of emotions 2020 has stirred up so far.
I haven’t felt much like writing about reality this year because living it has been daunting enough. Creating my own fictional world has helped me to escape, but I can’t keep sticking my head in the sand while I wait for everything to return to normal. I want to live in the moment, now. That’s easier said than done when our lives are still so restricted, but it’s the small wins that need celebrating to get us through this. At a time when everything is too big and scary to comprehend, now more than ever, it’s important to take each week, day, hour at a time and look for the things that will ground us in the present.
This week I’ve been…
Inspired by: Elizabeth Day
This week and every week Elizabeth Day inspires me. Sometimes it’s an Instagram story influencing me to buy fluffy slippers, but usually it’s her philosophy of embracing failure. I religiously listen to her podcast, How to Fail, and wolfed down her book under the same name. Perhaps it’s because I’m an anxious over-thinker with perfectionist tendencies that I find hearing “successful” people reflect on their failures so reassuring.
During the live stream for the launch of her new book, Failosophy, she mentioned how her guests often choose their twenties as one of their three failures because it’s such a puzzling decade to navigate. I couldn’t agree more. Now I’m in my late twenties (terrifying), some friends are married, others are single. Some are homeowners, others are living with their parents. With no handbook that tells you what to do, it can be so disorientating. Many work their way up the career ladder in their twenties but what if your profession doesn’t come with ready-made rungs? Mine doesn’t, so every year since university I’ve faced new challenges and big changes at every turn. Some have been self-imposed. Others were curveballs that threw me off course. I still haven’t figured out where I’m headed, but each time I take a new fork in the road, I hope it brings me closer to where I want to be.
It was refreshing to hear Elizabeth Day discuss how she has learnt to live without a plan. I’m not the sort of person who thrives on the unknown but, as she pointed out, things never happen how you expect them to, so you’ll only ever be disappointed if you set immovable goals. Even though a blank canvas fills me with apprehension and stepping one foot out of my comfort zone incites panic, I’m going to remember Gloria Steinem’s wise words, which Day frequently quotes; ‘Being brave is not being unafraid but feeling the fear and doing it anyway.’
Watching: Emily in Paris
As a fan of Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, and [insert any series set in a city break destination with a high-fashion costume department and easy-to-follow storylines], Emily in Paris should be right up my rue. However, ten episodes later and I was left questioning what I’d spent five hours watching. Yes, it’s aesthetically pleasing and comforting escapism, but it’s also littered with clichés and stereotypes.
I’m not the only one that feels this way and it’s come under fire for portraying French people as rude and lazy. I’m in no way a TV snob (I watch some actual rubbish), but it’s disappointing Netflix invested in a show that is so lacking in diversity and substance – surely there are thousands of talented screenwriters out there armed with scripts that explore important issues in a light-hearted way?
Also, I worked in marketing for five years and I didn’t come anywhere close to Emily’s glamorous lifestyle! What marketing exec can afford to rent a central Parisian apartment on their own or shop at Chanel?! It’s fun to fantasise but it would be more relatable if she experienced struggles, other than having too many attractive love interests to choose from and battling with her bitter boss (who is obviously a jealous older woman). That said, I watched every episode and I’ll be donning a beret this autumn, so maybe I should just accept that I’m the basic millennial audience it’s aimed at!
Speaking of big life changes in my twenties, I’ve moved to Bath! The first few days or so passed in a flash, with lots of sorting, exploring my new neighbourhood and getting to know my lovely housemate. But come the weekend, my anxiety kicked in. Frozen and trapped in my own head, I had no idea what to do. It was no different to any other weekend, but I felt detached and discombobulated (great word).
It just so happened that Saturday was World Mental Health Day and I found comfort in reading candid posts on social media. That’s why, however difficult it is to talk or write about, I will always try my best to be open about my mental health. Nothing is ever as it seems on the surface and I’m constantly falling into the trap of assuming everyone else has their shit together. But we’re all just trying to make sense of our place in this strange world.
In the end, I did all the things people suggest when you’re anxious – even though they’re annoying to hear and feel too arduous at the time, they work – I went for a long walk in the autumn sunshine, Facetimed family, cooked a comforting meal, watched an uplifting film etc and slowly my anxiety eased. Although it was uncomfortable to sit with, it wasn’t my first rodeo and I kept reminding myself that it would pass. No feeling is permanent, sometimes you just have to ride it out.