23 February, 2014

Nek Nomination, Being Invincible and My March Challenge


Generation #NekNomination have a problem. We slightly believe that we are invincible. For me, this belief started when I was 17 and the normal way to socialise was to sneak into bars with your sister’s ID, down VK Orange and Malibu at the speed of light, have more fun than you ever had in your life (music, dancing, boys, oh my oh my oh my!) and wake up the following morning in your parent’s house feeling great, just a little bit giddy. Then set off quite happily for school. 

This was highly unfair social conditioning. It taught us that 1. getting hammered to socialise was the norm and 2. our bodies can cope with it. A decade later and I cannot remember a birthday, Christmas, reunion, New Year, holiday, wedding or any other vaguely joyous occasion that hasn't involved a lot of drinking. True enough, we aren't the first generation to enjoy a sherry at Christmas, but when you start including in that list First Dates, Last Everythings and queues for Santa’s Grotto, then 2014 has a real problem.

I used to think I was invincible. Not long after the VK days I shipped myself off to University and learnt for another 3 years that ‘socialising = drinking’. Since graduating, I have stumbled home at 7am barefoot, clutching my tiny handbag like my dignity might just MIGHT be in there. I have been to work on 1 hours sleep, wild eyed and napping every so often in the disabled loo (sorry, agency). I've drunk so much wine that I've been sick for 48 hour’s straight afterwards (sorry, New Year’s Day 2008). In short, I have pumped my body with more than its share of toxins.


Over the past few years though, I've realised I hate wasting so much of my precious little spare time hungover, I hated the mess I could create of my life in a mere 4 hours on the sauce, I hated how much I hated myself during and after booze, and how emotional it would leave me for days afterwards. I wanted to be a proper grown-up, who owned it at work, who could enjoy weekends and who didn't lose her phone/purse/life every other week, in between cocktails.

It was only when I stopped going out every single Friday, Saturday and celebration in between that I realised just how unhappy I’d been. My first few months of hangover free weekends were like waking up on a sunny beach, after 10 years in The Congo during the wet season. I’d had no idea my long-term sadness, anxiety and manic moments were so linked to alcohol. You might be thinking 'duh', but although we are told about hangovers, we aren't really told about lasting mental or emotional damage. When I woke up to it, I questioned; did other people feel like this? Why did I experience such increasingly negative effects from booze while my friends could still cane it and barely have a headache the next day?

Me when she doesn't drink over a prolonged period is so happy, healthy, balanced and confident, you almost want to put her in a telly-tubby costume and send her off to teach toddlers about cupcakes, I like this version of myself much better. So I now only drink about once a month on average, but when I do, my body goes mental. I usually get ill afterwards with some virus, and have to miss about a week’s worth of exercise. It also leaves me feeling inherently less happy and secure, and less in control of my own life, for about 5 days. And this is after say 3 – 4 large glasses of wine, which is loads less than I used to sink in a night.

My parents tell me it wasn't always like this. Although men have long since gathered around a pint and women have oftimes needed a gin in darker hours, drinking to so much excess, so frequently, is definitely our very own Generation Y badge of honour. It is only in the past few years that I have questioned this huge part of our culture that so many of us just accept. Yes, a lot of people binge drink, but no, that doesn't mean I have to.

It is easy to abstain when I remember that alcohol has been the ignition for almost every single bad decision I’ve made in my adult life. This isn't exclusive to me - so so many people damage their lives irreversibly via drink. Let’s not forget when Philip Laing peed on a war memorial whilst under the influence, became a national target and got kicked out of uni. OUCH. I felt so bad for him, a victim of Carnage, a victim of his own culture.

It is harder to be strong when I also remember that drink has been the glue which has helped me bond with new people, formed the foundations of many friendships and been a happy release when reality is just far too much. 



I have no doubt it would be harder to make new friends minus booze, not least because we have a lot of questions for someone who doesn't drink; we eye them up like they are about to steal our sandwich and dismiss them as either a bit weird or not fun. Lately, when I have made a conscious effort to not dilute my blood with wine during a social event, it has been a big deal; not so much for me as for those around me, who are like WHY!? WHYYY WOULD YOU DO THAT. Sometimes I just don’t go to things, purely because I don’t want to drink and it’s easier just to not be there than explain myself.

This is really, really bad. Come on, us, can’t we bond over ice cream instead, like Spongebob?

It might be a few years too late for my body, but I'm glad I've questioned this ‘social norm’ and realised I can actually design the social life I want. I will still drink because I seriously love a cocktail, and it would be very hypocritical of me to condemn drinking all together, but I am becoming almost irritated by how big a part of our culture it is. It was only last week that I heard the most ridiculous story about a-friend-of-a-friend who was buried in sand on his stag do while his mates poured an entire bottle of gin down his neck. And not one of those mini bottles you get on the plane. It made me a bit angry and if that had been me, I am fairly sure I would have died.

I do know now that I am not invincible, and that I can feel my body getting weaker with every time I drink to excess, and quite frankly the thought of going Out Out on a school night gives me hives (I did it recently for the first time in years and it was terrifying). I am however not ready to give up drinking all together, and to be honest, I don’t really want to. I want to be able to have champagne at a wedding, and have a few glasses of wine with the girls, but what I am slowly but surely erasing from my life are those episodes I described before, those times from days gone by where a night out ends up looking like a terrorist attack on my body, on my mind and on my life. 

Have you ever wanted to give up booze or questioned how big a part of your life it is? Do you think you could go without? Answers on a postcard!

x

MY CHALLENGE

Usually now I only let myself drink when a special occasion merits it, but there have been so many special occasions already this year that those units are slowly creeping back into my bloody stream. SO, I have set myself the challenge to not drink at all March. I have chosen this month because I have been ill for most of 2014 and really, really need to get healthy again.

A lot of people do Dry January when nothing is going on because everyone is doing Dry January, but for me in March I have: a friend's birthday session, the girls up for a night out, a work night out, a weekend celebrating my boyfriend's Mum's 60th and my own Mum's birthday. I would have at least a glass of wine on all of those occasions. Holy crap this is going to be hard...but now I have blogged it, I have to do it. I will report back each week on how I find it, and how my friends react. Someone please put the Rose on ice for April...


08 February, 2014

Dating: 5 Years, 10 Lessons


My new found favourite dinner-time viewing is Dinner Date. This crazy-ass show where people have to lure in a potential partner via their 3-course menu (that is not a metaphor) and then wait to see if their pork loin is enough to woo their potential suitor. If so, it’s ALL fun and games when they have to knock-up said 3-course meal and entertain a total stranger, with a camera in their face and a burning crème brulee. I watch it and think holy cow I am glad I am not on that programme and also a tiny bit that looks all kinds of weird fun.

Between my new Dinner Date obsession, the imminent Valentine’s Day (gah!), and a few recent D&M conversations with friends about their own dating adventures (through which I live vicariously) I have had plenty of time to reflect on my own dating persona (it wasn’t pretty a one), what I learnt from 5 YEARS of singledom, and what I’d do differently if I were to go back and do it all again, but with 3 year’s worth of loved-up hindsight under my belt.

Admittedly it has been a few years since I left the dating game, hung up my sword and took to the restrooms for a snack, exhausted from years of T R Y I N G. So I might not be best placed to comment anymore, but I have a back catalogue of ‘Single’ experience big enough to build a stairway to Cloud 9. It breaks my heart though, when I watch my single friends get so down and so hard on themselves with every single he or she who doesn’t work out.

I understand it– man, have I been there. For the first half of my singledom I did it terribly. It was one big car crash. Then I got strong pretty much overnight, and then I did single really well. You know, how you’re ‘supposed’ to, like in the movies. I enjoyed my own company to the point I wasn’t sure if I would have time for a man in my life, I worked on my confidence, I became proud, I re-evaluated what I wanted from a man, and I learnt that the unknown is exciting not scary. I also learnt that when it is meant to be, there are no questions, no games, no chasing or guessing. It just is.

I learnt to work the field confidently, swaggering even, in such a way that Beyonce would have personally called me up to congratulate me. And LO, I received the respect I finally demanded and I was rewarded for my strength. Who knows what heartache I could have saved myself if I had demanded that respect years ago, if I had placed more value on being treated kindly than I did on being with someone?

What changed me so suddenly had a lot to do with realising I was more important than finding someone to be my ‘him’. I was valuable and had all the ‘resources’ any one person needed to be happy, why was I letting a few unsuitables stop me from being happy in the only life I will ever live? And also, as every girl knows, WE ARE BEYONCE.

When my friends come to me now, struggling to find their Single Swagger, I recall everything I learnt from my mistakes, and I do everything I can to impart onto them that same strength I discovered. My mates come to me if they need ‘sorting out’, because they know if anyone has been there, HANNAH HAS! This is highly embarrassing a person to be, the friend who has been through EVERYTHING, but what harm can it do to share my lessons with the world?

Behold, go forth and date impeccably! What would your number 1 dating lesson be?

x

5 Years Single, 10 Huge Lessons


1. Behave how you want to be treated (not in a ‘do unto others’ way).

It sounds obvious, but it wasn’t to me. It was only when a very good friend pointed out to me that I was behaving like that girl, instead of the girl I wanted to be, that I was able to see I was behaving like a moron.

2. Take the god damn hint

If someone isn’t interested, you will know. If they are, YOU WILL KNOW. Don’t create an idea of someone or something in your mind to the point you ignore what is happening in reality. If someone wants to be with you, you will know about it pretty quickly. Rip off the plaster and move on.

3. The science part

Having a partner in your life is supposed to enhance what you already have, not make or break it. Knowing if someone is right for you is easy as science. Meeting someone is about them complimenting your life and making it even more colourful, thus bringing POSITIVE thoughts and feelings. The moment someone brings negativity to your life – and this applies to people in relationships too – that is the moment they are no longer worth your time. I wish wish wish I had known that 8 years ago.

4. Trust and dependability start from day dot. If it is not there now it never will be.

5. Don’t blame yourself

Some people focus on one thing about themselves which they think must be stopping them from meeting someone. And then obsess and obsess and obsess over it. Whether it’s how you look or where you come from or the things you like. It isn’t any of those things. It is simply that you haven’t met the right one. That is all. We can’t be special and attractive to every person we meet. If we were, we would all be going out with the boy next door.

6. Have other passions

Nothing is more attractive than someone just so happy living out their own life, that they don’t notice they are single. If I didn’t have my friends, family, interests and passions, I would feel like I needed a man more. Not least because of the voids of time spent alone. Even when I was single, I looked forward to my alone time, because I made the most of it doing things that made me happy.

7. Hold onto your ‘you’

I have worked hard to hold onto those interests and passions, because it is those things which make me the person I value, and it is those things I can rely on no matter what. People who have a passion are attractive because it gives them independence, and people who enjoy their own life all by themselves are bloody priceless. BE ATTRACTIVE & PRICELESS.

8. DO feel Blue

I could write for days about the importance of being strong and proud, but ultimately I know heartache is inevitable at some point for everyone, single or not. It is easy for people to feel they ‘should’ learn to be okay and happy at all times. NO. That is just not possible. I am in a relationship and I have down days. My single friends have down days. We all have down days, and sometimes those down days are about Love. Accept it, cry, and wake up the next day ready to smile again.

9. Have fun
I am grateful for most of my mistakes, because I can clearly see how they shaped my life today, but my biggest regret is not having enough fun with dating. Dating can be a minefield, but it can also be a freaking fairground, with the right attitude. Some people just know how to work the dating scene , others have to learn it. If I ever find myself back there again, I will remind myself every day to enjoy it and not worry so much.

10. YOU ARE THE TREASURE. Quit hunting.

04 February, 2014

Happy birthday Facebook; For Better, For Worse


Today marked the 10th anniversary of Facebook. For some, this doesn't mean much other than that a website has been live for a decade, but for a whole generation, it means much, much more. A decade on, it has felt emotional looking back at our first Facebook days, when we had no idea this ‘website you can poke people on’ would change our lives forever.  

As our news feeds filled up today with ‘First Profile Pictures’ and Facebook Look Back, it was difficult not to recognise the ways in which Facebook has dramatically changed our world, in our time. Every relationship it’s helped to build, every conflict it has caused, every moment it has shared, every individual it has inspired or comforted – all these things have added up to a brand new world.

Working with Facebook daily, I’ve often had the thought; “how different would our lives have been if Mark Zuckerberg hadn't turned his ideas into reality?” Aside from the fact my entire career has been built on Facebook’s foundations, for me it kick started a brand new culture, a culture which has 100% carved our paths.  A little culture they call Social Media. Facebook came along and set-off an avalanche. It’s thrown this new, global, scary ingredients into the already mental mix we call earth, and there has been an explosion.

Oh, there have been bad times – let’s not forget the drawbacks to Social Media. It can be so destructive, it encourages narcissism, people have developed FOMO. There is the unhealthy insight into other people’s lives, the unfortunate rise of the selfie that we just can’t help but take, perceived loneliness...there’s a lot of questionable side-effects in there. Then there is the safety factor. Who can see our photos and details of our private lives? How do we share in this way whilst staying out of harm’s way? Bringing people closer together also means bringing bad things into some people’s lives, and we are still learning as a society how to manage that.

All of this has been recognised and discussed endlessly, in the same way any society continues to evolve and reflect. Countless magazine articles have talked about Social Media addiction, news reports have warned of the dangers of over-sharing online, campaigns have begun when lives have been lost over social media bullying. On a less serious note, we also sometimes just get damn fed up of it. More than once I have deactivated my Facebook account, needing a break from it. As my wise mother once said “being on Facebook is like being at a constant party” and I think there is something in that – how else do we explain the correlative rise of  'Popcorn Brain' and need for Headspace amongst young people?

Yet with all that said, today Facebook has over 1 BILLION users. That’s China. No community of that size is going to be 100% safe, 100% happy or 100% healthy. Asking for it to be is a pipe dream, but are those downsides really enough for us to throw it away? Of course not, because for all the question marks around this untamed beast, to say Facebook has done a hell of a lot of good would be an understatement.

What other community can bring so many people together in a matter of seconds?  What other community allows you to learn so much more about the world you live in and see more of it than was ever possible before? What other community gives each individual a voice? We see everything on Facebook, from global disasters to Tom McFlys baby announcement to Mavis from next door’s Victoria Sponge, and I can’t imagine the world any other way.

For me, Social Media is still very much on a learning curve. It is a wild creature and an entire new way of living, communicating and learning. It is so, so young. I am so passionate about Social Media, all that it has done for our world and all it can do for each of us, but I also know we are the cavemen of its time. In years to come, the Social Media era will go down in history, and how they will laugh at us newbies, using it so unwisely, still paving the way. I feel proud of being part of a generation who believed in something new, brave enough to do something different and become founders of something incredible. For better or for worse, Facebook will always have a big place in my heart and I think there is a whole lot more opportunity to come.

x

02 February, 2014

January 2014: The Month I Lost my Mojo


I have always been a bit bemused by February, because it is so bland, ordinary, non. At least in January we can really wallow in the fact that it is January – we are fat, poor, soba, and  everyone feels the same. January is the one time of year when you can pretty much guarantee no-one is as happy as they were two weeks previously. We can torture ourselves by living off cucumber and staying ‘dry’ whilst struggling to stay remotely dry because of all this inconvenient drizzle that you can’t see but you know it’s there because your hair is massive from precipitation. January has a theme. It’s the antichrist of Christmas and we can throw ourselves into it 100%. We know what is expected of us and that’s fine, we will just get on with it until a new, brighter day dawns.

Having said all of the above, I am going to now say that for me, January usually isn’t that bad. I don’t really partake in the “isn’t January awful culture” because I refuse to let almost 10% of my year instantly be deemed ‘miserable.’ Despite all the hurdles a New Year brings, it also brings fresh hope, new found motivation and endless opportunities to shop (vouchers, sales, mindless desperation). So I usually go into it with stoic determination to treat it like any other month and give it the love it deserves.

Despite my best intentions, this has not happened this year. January 2014 has for me has been like walking up the downstairs escalators in roller skates. Ineffective, exhausting and downright dangerous to be around. In case you haven’t heard, I have been ill for around 80% of it (literally, I counted the days) and drunk/hungover for the other 20% due to a succession of big occasions which meant there was no way January was going to be booze-free for me. This has caused a knock-on effect of a hideous sleep pattern, no exercise, feeling the chub, feeling unhinged, and my eating habits gradually declining to the point that last night I had a Crunchie for tea. What have I become.

As always with me, at first I tried to resist this unfortunate sequence of events, but after a while it became clear that no matter how hard I tried, I was still going to be going up the downstairs escalators with roller skates on, so the best I could do was sit the hell down, be transported to the ground-floor and just stay there looking pathetic until things change for me again.

Once I sat down, I felt better. I’ve borderline enjoyed this drastic, unwanted change in my routine. I have become the person I have always resisted. Lazy. Lethargic. Moody. I have done nothing but sleep, sit on a bus, sit at my desk, sit on a bus, eat, watch crap TV, go to bed and wait to feel better. That has been my life. For SEVERAL WEEKS. The only progress I have made has been in the form of my mushrooming waist and bum. Both of which have so many additional bulges it feels like someone has mistaken me for a cloak-room in the 90’s – puffer jackets everywhere.


Safe to say, when February stumbled onto the horizon yesterday and I felt well for the first time all year, I got pretty excited about the coming month and getting my god damn mojo back! I have a lot of ground to gain. I need to eat better again because now that I’m off the meds, “feed a cold” won’t wash anymore. I need to revisit Headspace and get my sleep back on an even keel (what is an even keel? does anyone know?) I need to get back to the gym, I may need an extra locker for that cloakroom I’m carrying around but I can’t wait to feel strong again. I need to stay off booze for a bit and spend time outdoors and just calm the hell down. Lots to overcome, not much excitement and a detox...does this sound familiar?

It feels a little like I am being forced to do my January now, because I refused to accept its meaning the first time around. Lesson learnt – next year I will not go into January with positive determination, I will accept that it is at best an unsatisfactory month and I won’t ever underestimate its power to take one down. January is my new evil god that I will bow to once a year. Amen.

My course of antibiotics ended on January 31st and Hannah 2014 finally begun – this symbolism is not lost on me. I am very excited for all that February has to bring (pancake day anyone?!), but most importantly I want to end it feeling strong and confident again, having made good choices and rediscovered the upstairs escalator. 

What does February mean to you this year?


x