life

Why It’s Ok To Do Nothing In Lockdown

The short answer to why it’s ok doing nothing in lockdown is because we’re in lockdown. It’s a scary time. We weren’t put in lockdown so we could finally finish that novel, we were put in lockdown so we don’t catch or spread a potentially life-threatening virus. Nobody said you had to use your lockdown time in any particular way.

We are in a bit of a weird situation right now (understatement) and nobody is expecting you to do anything other than stay home, stay safe, wash your hands and keep your distance. Yet, it’s only too easy to put ourselves under the usual pressure we put ourselves under by questioning why we’re not suddenly the most flexible yoga-doing women on the planet, or why we haven’t transformed into Nigella Lawson overnight.

As always, it is essential to remind ourselves that social media isn’t the truest account of someone’s life. I know that I’ve posted a happy picture moments after having a meltdown and crying, so I’m certain people with millions of followers have done the same. Nobody has found this easy.

As far as my lockdown experience goes, I have bought a resistance band and proper sports leggings, but I also took a week off exercising to handle my cramps. If I exercise, it will be minimal because I’m quite a lazy person, but I will do it once or twice a week for the sake of my sunlight deprived brain. I have not cooked a grand meal or baked anything exciting but I have eaten over half of everything my sister or mum has baked or cooked. I eat, I don’t cook.

I haven’t finished my novel, I’ve opened it and closed it because I wasn’t in the mood. I took part in Escapril for personal practice, writing quite poor poems, and gave up halfway through the month. I haven’t kept up with any of my writing books or diaries but I did read a book with my sister-in-law, catching up over FaceTime once a week, and I am on a pretty decent Duolingo streak (I’m still not good at the language though).

I could do more. I could try harder to write my novel or to start meditating but I don’t feel like doing it and I don’t see the need to force myself. I’m getting occasional fresh air, social company (with my household or virtually – don’t forget the 2-metre rule!) and I’m eating regular meals and drinking water. I’m lucky enough to still be employed so a lot of my time is spoken for, and my schedule hasn’t changed much.

As much as it’s a popular coping mechanism to keep yourself busy in times of stress (I’m guilty of this), it is just as important to make sure you rest. You need to be kind to yourself and take that time out every now and again. What you do to rest and to look after yourself is individual. You don’t need to feel pressured by your friends or family to be doing more or constantly working on a project. We’re in a pandemic, you’re allowed to binge-watch a television show and eat what you feel like.

Ultimately, this is me, on behalf of Anthem, promising that you don’t need to feel bad for not doing things in lockdown. If you want to craft, you craft, if you want to exercise, you exercise. If you want to, and can have a lie-in, or enjoy a movie marathon then you do that too. Whatever you want to do is okay. For now, I’m going to try to read some books, practice no more than 5 minutes of German a day (sorry Duolingo), and continue eating all the cakes my family produce.

 

Words and images by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

Apps To Help You Through Lockdown

We’re locked in, we can’t see anyone for who knows how long, so naturally our phones have become our main link to the outside world and source of entertainment. In case you need a few more apps on your phone, I’ve put together a few to help you through this lockdown.

ZOOM/HOUSEPARTY (free)

These two apps are now household names as more and more people have been using them to communicate with friends and family. We’ve been using Zoom to speak to my Granny, others have held pub quizzes, stag dos, birthday parties, group workouts and family game nights. Houseparty even comes with some games built-in, so you can play Heads Up, quick draw and trivia games. These two apps, along with FaceTime, have become a real saving grace in this time of isolation providing us with that much-needed face to face interaction.

ghdf

PSYCH (free w. in-app purchases)

In a similar vein, Psych is a great app for connecting with friends across the country. This game was created by Ellen DeGeneres, and the aim is to ‘psych’ your opponents and get them to pick your answer. You don’t have to be close to each other to play, you just need the code for your game and you’re away –  I have spent many a time cry-laughing because of this app which is something we could all do with right now!

image3

JENNIS (subscription)

Jennis is a workout app created by gold-winning Olympian Jess Ennis-Hill, so she really does know what she’s talking about. I’ve been using this for a few months now but it’s become more important to me since I’ve been in self-isolation – it gives me a huge psychological boost when I complete a workout, which has been every day recently, whether it’s a 5 minute blast or a full 20 minute routine. Exercise has always been important to me, but I think now more than ever more and more people are finding it a useful tool for coping with this bizarre situation.

One of the major selling points for me is that I have found this app to be really human; she does the workout with you and you can hear her getting out of breath just as you are, whereas I have tried other workout apps before and the trainer stays perfect throughout which can be a bit dispiriting sometimes. There is also a pregnancy and postpartum section on the app which will be really useful to all the mums who are having to limit what they can do whilst wanting to remain active.

image1

COUCH TO 5K (free)

Similarly, more people are turning to running for their one piece of outside exercise. This is a great app by the BBC and NHS to get you into running gradually so that you can have a positive, injury-free experience. As the name suggests, the aim of this app is to get you running 5k over the course of 9 weeks. You can pick who guides you through it (I had Sarah Millican) and the experience is a really positive one; I always felt really positive for completing my runs and even if I was struggling at points, to have Sarah Millican in my ear gave me that extra boost to reach my goal.

image2

BBC SOUNDS/ACAST/PODCASTS APP (free)

Podcasts are a great thing to listen to anyway, on your commute to work, on a run, in the gym or just at home – at home is pretty much the only option right now I’m afraid (unless you’re a key worker). BBC Sounds, Acast or the Podcast app on iPhone have some great ones to listen to whilst you’re re-organising your wardrobe, cooking or perfecting your nervous twitch. I always feel like I don’t have enough time to listen to my favourite podcasts so I’m really taking advantage of this time to catch up a bit.

efsd

CALM (subscription)

Calm is a meditation/mental health app and something we could probably all do with at the moment. I first got Calm back in 2016 when I was really struggling with my mental health – I now mainly use it for its sleep stories which knock me out cold, but it has some fantastic mindfulness courses which I have also found incredibly useful over the past four years. My favourite feature of this app though is the emergency calm feature which is designed to talk you through a panic attack and bring you out the other side. I have found this incredibly useful when I have had to use it and I think it’s something which a lot of people could find useful right now; it’s a weird time and we don’t know how our brains are going to react to this situation so sometimes it’s nice to know there’s something there to help just in case.

image8

HOLD (free)

Whilst we are all understandably using our phones more than normal, it is still a good idea to give ourselves a break and stop us looking at the news all the time. This app was introduced to me by one of my friends and I love it! The idea is that you put your phone on hold and for every 20 minutes you get 10 points, these points can be traded for rewards like reduced cinema tickets (when they’re open again), or you can enter competitions, you can also donate to a mental health charity with them. The longer you hold, the more points you get and the more rewards you can claim – it’s a simple idea but so so effective!

image7

 

Stay Safe, Stay Sane, Stay Home!

 

Words by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

Stop Underselling Yourself

Something that I believe unites a lot of us, is that process of having a conversation, going home and being kept awake by versions of that conversation which could have been. I’m always thinking about what I want to say to people, and I almost always get it wrong and wish I’d said something else.

It’s pretty normal but when you start to put preventative measures in place when talking, it’s possible to put limits on who you are. You can become more cautious and get too worried about sounding like you’re bragging or boasting or just being a bit of a tit. I find myself telling people that my work, or something I’m proud of, is not that great or that I had a lot of help to achieve it. That’s how easy it is to undersell yourself.

To undersell yourself means to make out as though you aren’t as talented or skilled or as valuable as you actually are, most likely so that you don’t seem big-headed or boastful or rude. Everyone is capable of underselling themselves, but it is a phenomenon that has been particularly linked to women in their professional spheres. That’s a problem. How do we stop underselling ourselves, whether professionally or not? How do we even know if we’re underselling ourselves, to begin with?

In terms of knowing whether you’re guilty of underselling yourself, it really helps to surround yourself with supportive colleagues, friends, and partners, because, from experience, they will tell you. I’ve been told by colleagues, friends, and by women I’ve just met, that I should hype myself up more or that I shouldn’t talk down the good things I’m doing. It can be difficult and even embarrassing, but those people are right, and listening to them will help you.

If you’re starting sentences with “It’s not much but”, “It’s just a little thing” or “I’m not the only one who can”, “I had a lot of help” then you’re probably like me and trying to turn down the impact of the things you’re talking about. But you shouldn’t. If you’ve put work into something, and energy and effort or skill and passion, and you have something to be proud about then why would you want to downplay that? It’s not logical when you lay it out like that but it can be an automatic response to do so.

So how do we stop? Start by keeping those friends who support you around. Continue to listen to them. If you don’t have them, I can’t encourage finding them enough. Surrounding yourself with smart, impressive women who will lift you up is so morale-boosting, regardless of whether you feel like you deserve it. I often feel like my friends are being silly if they boost me up, but it’s what they are there for, especially when you’ll do the same back to them without even questioning it.

Context matters, but a lot of the time, it’s key to remember that people are asking what you do, and by telling them what you do, you’re not being a bit of an arse, you’re just answering a question. I don’t know that I’ve ever fully explained what my job entails to people, or showed my super-proud and happy approach to Anthem when asked because I’m terrified of seeming like I’m showing off. I always bring up luck and good timing but I have also always worked very hard, and now I’m a few years out of university, I’m noticing people measuring my worth by what I’m saying (“no big deal”, “I had help”) rather than what I’m doing (being very exhausted from working very hard).

Sometimes, it bothers me and I complain to myself because I wish people knew how hard I was working. But it’s my own doing, and that’s why it’s on me to start talking about myself more fairly. You don’t have to start shouting from the rooftops that you did your job well today (unless you want to, of course). You just have to say to yourself and to anyone who genuinely asks you that you did your job well today.

Sometimes, people want to know your skills and passions so they can utilise them and I have found since being more open about what I’m good at, people have asked me for help in those areas. No-one has called me big-headed, and I’ve certainly not been shouting about it, and yet I’m now able to help other women working on their skills.

Find what works for you and test the waters with friends or performance reviews at work. Tell a family member if that’s easiest. But stop selling yourself short for your sake You have worked so hard to be where you are. Celebrate that.

 

Words by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

The Lionesses

Football1

I have been thrilled at how the World Cup has been received here in the UK. Record after record was broken, people were talking about it at work and at home and it felt like there was a real buzz in the air. Could this be it? Could this be the time we win? 

Unfortunately it was not to be, and after Tuesday’s heartbreak (and truly I have spent time mourning that loss), I think it is important to reflect on the impact that the Lionesses have made this past month. I wrote before about the Change The Game initiative launched by the BBC at the beginning of May and how excited I was by this prospect. But my expectations have already been exceeded and it’s only the beginning. 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the Semi-Final, just over 50% of the audience share and the most watched programme this year so far, what a result! 

Football2

I have been far more emotionally invested in this World Cup than I thought I would be, but I think that’s because it has been a real watershed moment for women’s sport. When I was growing up (which wasn’t too long ago – I’m not that old), the only time you could see women’s sport on the TV was Wimbledon or the Olympics. Now, across the country there are little girls turning up to football training sessions wanting to be the next Lucy Bronze, Ellen White or Nikita Parris and that just shows that representation does matter. 

Football3

My friends at work and I have been talking about it. Gearing up for every game. Talking about the one that was on the night before. I even got a wall chart (cool right?). I hope that enthusiasm continues not just over the summer but for years to come (anyone fancy going to watch the Euros in 2021 with me?!). The moment that really solidified what an impact this team have had on women’s sport came on Wednesday when I heard an interview on Radio 5 Live. A 17 year old boy called Abe had phoned in when they were talking about Tuesday night’s match, and he said that at the beginning of the World Cup he and his mates laughed at and mocked women’s football. But on Tuesday they were all down at the pub cheering them on, getting annoyed at VAR when the decision went against us and cheering VAR when it went our way. At the beginning of June, he knew nothing about the team, now he knows all their names and the teams they play for and he’s looking to watch the Women’s Super League come winter. Now isn’t that an achievement! They may not win the World Cup but they have changed people’s hearts and minds like you wouldn’t imagine and that’s arguably bigger than any trophy. Although I would still like to see them bring that bronze back!!

Catch the third place play off live on BBC One at 4pm!!

Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sq4 

Photo credit: @Lionesses (Twitter)

Winter is Coming – Finally!

giphy

The time has come, the nights are getting longer, the days colder and the spiced lattes are out in force…and I’m loving it!

I have always loved autumn and winter, it’s the time of year I’m always excited for; the crisp frosty mornings, seeing your breath as it hits the air and not sweating from blinking are particular highlights. However, not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about freezing their butt off for months on end, so here are a few ways in which you can try and make the autumn and winter months that bit more joyful and enjoyable and I’m hoping that I can convert at least one person.

1. COSY JUMPERS AND GIANT COATS

This is potentially my favourite part, as people who know me will know I have a minor obsession with both of these. The more jumpers and coats I get to wear the better in my opinion. So instead of being a classic Brit and whining about the cold, seize the chance to be a real-life Yeti and embrace the jumpers…and hats…and gloves…and scarves, basically anything warm and fluffy.

eleanorwinter

2. NIGHTS IN

Lots of people say that they find it more difficult to socialise in winter/autumn because people don’t want to go out. So you could switch it up and have a night in instead. Organise a movie night with lots of snacks, or have a games evening – as long as you’re prepared to lose friends over Monopoly or a finger over Irish snap!

3. FOOD!

There are some great foods that come out at this time of year. Lots of amazing veggies come into season, the roast dinners are in full force and it’s the perfect time to bake some sweet treats and eat all the cheese and all the pies (you see why we need such big jumpers).

4. TEAS

Obviously, you can drink tea at any time of year, this is Britain after all. However, I feel like, at least for me, teas really come into their own at this time of year. Aside from the traditional builder’s tea, I love a mint tea or anything with ginger in – it really helps to add to that cosy feeling and is super warming inside.

5. SPORT

I love a winter sport (I play hockey), as it’s a great way to get out of the house, make friends and keep warm – you may get soaked through by the rain occasionally but you’ll have fun doing it, so it’s worth the hypothermia right?! Also if you’re lucky and pick the right sport you may well get free food at the end of it. If an outdoor sport in the middle of winter doesn’t float your boat then there are plenty of indoor sports you can try out either with friends or a club, such as badminton, table tennis, squash, basketball or an exercise class. What’s more is that sport is perfect for battling the winter blues, not only can it be social but also the endorphins released can help boost your mood.

eleanorwinter2

6. ENJOY THE OUTDOORS

Autumn (in my humble opinion) is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The colours are changing, there’s that crisp fresh smell in the air (unless you live where I do – surrounded by fields – then it’s mostly just manure), and if you’re into photography then autumn and winter offer up some great shots – even grey skies can have their charm.

7. CULTURE

If you’re looking to do something at a weekend, other than lay around wrapped in a blanket, then it’s always worth being a tourist in your hometown and visit some museums and galleries. Yes, you can do this at any time of year but the advantage at this time is that the summer crowds will be long gone – making for a more relaxed visit. Alternatively, if you’re not still full from all the pies and cakes you’ve already eaten you could check out that restaurant or cafe you’ve been meaning to for ages. Not only does this make you get out of the house and experience something new, or learn something new but you also get to be warm and toasty whilst you explore.

8. TREAT YO’SELF

When it’s really grim outside (or you’re just feeling extra cosy), bundle yourself onto the sofa with a mountain of blankets, pillows and the odd duvet. Stock up on snacks and tea galore and relax into your marshmallowy pit with a stack of DVDs or a Netflix binge and maybe a face pack if you’re feeling lavish. This is made all the better when you think about all the poor sods who are outside braving the rain.

9. BOOKS

Now, I couldn’t write this whole post without mentioning books in some way. This time of year is great for reading books, the long cosy nights in front of the fire, or the long trips you might be taking to visit friends or family (please don’t read and drive). If you’ve had a long list of books to read or you had ‘read more’ as one of your resolutions but you haven’t made too much of a dent yet then why not set yourself a challenge; write a list of books that you want to read by Christmas, or New Year (realistically) and take advantage of the opportunities to snuggle down. Or, whilst you’re cocooned in your duvet on the sofa – or in your bed- take out an old favourite and travel back to Hogwarts or Hobbiton.

eleanorautumn

10. ENJOY THE FESTIVITIES

Autumn and Winter are full of some of the most festive times of year (Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas). Even if you’re not a big fan of some (or all) of these, you can still embrace the spirit in some way or another. I love Christmas (possibly to excess), and I love a good bonfire, but I’ve never really got Halloween. In the past, I have tried to actively avoid it and I’ve also tried to force myself into it – neither of which I have truly felt comfortable with, so now I’ve found my happy medium. I get a good pumpkin to carve (which is a great work out if you’re struggling to think of a sport you might like to do), I get a good selection of sweets and instead of dressing up in costume I dress up in my pyjamas and watch a Halloween-y film with pizza – always with pizza.

A FEW FILM SUGGESTIONS:

  • Beetlejuice
  • Nightmare Before Christmas (this is a perfect transitional film between Halloween and Christmas)
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Labyrinth (Bowie, not Pan’s)
  • Coraline

 

Words and images by Eleanor Manley for Anthem Online.

UT-WHY?

Thanks to people like Caitlin Moran, I knew about cystitis long before it turned up to put a dampener (as it were) on my day. She talked about it in public, in columns in The Times. There’s a lengthy passage in How To Build a Girl where the character Johanna locks herself in the bathroom, sits in a hot bath for two days and demands cranberry juice. If it wasn’t for old Caitlin, a whole generation of girls wouldn’t know why, sometimes, it appeared that their urethra was on fire.

For those who might still be unaware, A urinary tract infection (or UTI) is basically an infection in any part of your urinary tract, including your bladder, urethra and kidneys.

They began to plague me and my life about a year ago. I once moved the entire set for a play whilst feeling like I needed to piss every other minute and I consider it my greatest achievement.

“Well are you weeing after sex?” a friend asked me when I went to meet her on the way to uni, moaning about my urinary tract once more.

“In a way, every wee is a wee after sex now.” I answered.

“You get UTI’s if you don’t wee after sex.”

You… you what? You get them if you don’t… but then…

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS! WHY HAVE I BEEN DOWNING GALLONS OF WATER AND CRYING ON THE TOILET WHEN THE CURE WAS THIS SIMPLE?!

I looked on the NHS website. It’s true. Pee as soon as possible after sex (and also wear loose cotton underwear but that’s for another article about how women’s clothes aren’t really built for women). I’m not a complete idiot. I went to the doctors. I did a urine sample, but then wasn’t really sure of the protocol so had to sit in the waiting room holding a warm cup of my own piss for an uncomfortable amount of time. She gave me antibiotics, I took them, few weeks later, I was UTI-ed up once more. I assumed this would be my life now.

I was never taught about this at school; like I said I gleaned what I could from Caitlin Moran, but not every 15 year old is reading The Times on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t want to exaggerate here but learning that I should wee after sex if I don’t want to piss fire for the next three days was one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learnt so WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO LEARN IT? My sex education focused so much on me not getting pregnant, and the intricacies of every STI under the sun that keeping my vagina healthy and unhappy went rather neglected. You’d think the sex ed teacher, faced with 27 teenage girls, on the cusp of their sexual adventures and ready to face the world vagina first, might have thought to mention it.

“Pee after sex so you don’t get a UTI.” It takes 2.5 seconds to say. I just checked.

Ways to not get a UTI:

  • WEE AFTER SEX
  • It’s bad to use perfumed bubble bath or soap on your lovely lady garden (your vag has a delicate pH balance)
  • Nylon pants aren’t good
  • If you need to wee, don’t hold it in, FREE THE WEE

 

Words: Sian Brett
For September Sex Education Week 2018 on Anthem

How Can We Be Better Allies To The LGBTQ+ Community?

As a straight, white feminist, it can be really easy to just focus on your own problems and disadvantages, but it’s common knowledge that we can’t all move forward when half of us are being held back. Equality can’t ever be achieved if we don’t work together to boost everyone up so we ought to start closing that gap. 

As it’s Pride month in the UK, I wanted to focus on some of the injustices faced by women within the LGBTQ+ community. Someone I know pointed out just how frustrating gay clubs can be, especially when taken over by straight women trying to escape the sometimes literal clutches of straight men in straight clubs. When it’s pointed out, you realise how unhelpful you’re being in what should be a safe place for a community you’re not a part of. It was also pointed out to me that even gay clubs weren’t particularly welcoming to lesbians or bi women. It was pretty disconcerting to hear that they can’t even enjoy clubs intended for their use and it got me thinking. I decided I would try to learn a little more.

I reached out to friends and to colleagues,one of whom actually teased me, knowingly asking why I had chosen to question her instead of others I worked with. I wanted to know how a straight person could make a good – or just a better – ally. We need to band together properly, so I asked for the community’s opinions and tips, and here’s what I got back…

19905247_1374981289244266_3956408328056682353_n

LILY ANN PROCELLA 

“A  couple of simple things are calling out homophobia/transphobia if you see it. Often it is left up to the victims to call this behaviour out which is not a position everyone can accept for a whole host of reasons. Solidarity feels good because (from my experience) when you are lgbt/closeted etc it is incredibly isolating and there aren’t too many examples of people standing up to this discrimination in popular culture, straight or otherwise so it feels like you against the world. If your workplace or colleagues don’t respect other people’s identities or insufficient training is provided try suggesting training is provided. If someone tells you their pronoun, refer to them with that pronoun and treat them with respect. It can feel uncomfortable at first but it is way better to suffer slight discomfort than to invalidate someone else’s whole identity.

Others are; donating to or volunteering at local homeless shelters as not everyone is accepted by their family and there are a lot of homeless lgbtq+ people in the UK at the moment and not too many specialised services. Donating time or money to organisations or even just sharing news articles and petitions that are related to the community would be awesome. Try to respect that there may be lgbtq+ spaces where it is purely for the community not allies. These spaces can be vital in giving people who suffer discrimination and misunderstanding on a daily basis some much needed breathing room, in a similar way to how we have women/nb only spaces it comes down to celebrating yourself and connecting with others in a safe space. It’s not personal, and getting offended thinking you are being excluded can be very invalidating to people within the community. Also taking some time to research art, film, books by lgbtq artists and supporting them is a rewarding way to be an ally. I think a lot of lgbtq+ people feel like straight allies get involved for the big events like pride and that’s great but we need support in the small scale everyday stuff too so try to be a year-round ally not just a seasonal one. Pick just one thing you’re going to try to do for the next year/month etc that will help the community and try to do it”


LARA SCOTT

“My only note in terms of being an ally would be not to ask about labels straight away. Especially if your friend is having a new experience. I sometimes think the worst question to ask a queer person is: so what are you? It put a lot of pressure on that person. I think the best way to be an ally is just to listen to your friends story & their experience.”

36720171_10212619447262613_7460039218815827968_n-e1530970823123.jpg

REBECCA [surname removed for anonymity]

“Education of what LGBTQA+ is and all the differences etc. It’s still not massively talked about in secondary school, and why is labelling so important. Respect each other as fellow humans and not see differences. Most of the shit I have is from people from a different generation that don’t see it’s okay to be gay.”

AMBER BERRY

“One huge thing I want to emphasise is for people to be inclusive of bi* and pan* people. Despite us being a huge part of why pride even came about in the first place, and despite us being a large percentage of the LGBTQ+ population, so often we are missed out of conversations. This includes things like not assuming that two people who are together and masc presenting or femme presenting are always gay.

Another thing I’d say is that straight and cis folks should do their reading. Educating yourself is a great way to become a better ally. Sometimes I’m more than willing to help folks understand the bi/queer experience but other times I don’t want to because it’s exhausting and because I struggle with mental illness. Straight people can’t always rely on LGBT folks to educate them. A really good way of integrating LGBTQ+ content into your life could be watching YouTube creators, podcasters and by following/supporting people on Instagram. Not necessarily just reading books or articles!

Lastly to be aware that there are people who are LGBTQ+ and also POC or disabled or other far more marginalised identities than the average white gay man, and their voices should be amplified and supported.”

I am hugely grateful to all of the women who were kind enough to explain things to me and to share their own experiences and advice. I’ve learned a lot, and I hope you have to. To everyone in the UK enjoying pride, don’t forget to take note of the above advice, and to support the community all year round, through times of struggles as well as in celebration. Happy Pride everyone.

Words by Briony Brake with interviews from Lily Ann Procella, Lara Scott, Rebecca and Amber Berry for Anthem Online.
Images from Briony Brake and Lara Scott.

 

365 Days in London

Friday 23rd June 2017. I graduated from Oxford Brookes University at 3pm in the afternoon. I took photos, stole a bunch of mini scones and headed into town with my family. I then boarded a coach to London in my nice graduation dress, switching my new heels for my favourite beat-up trainers. 

19429755_10209139516542584_54795767582024060_n

Hooray for me!

A lot of people move to bigger cities after uni – some by accident, some with sincere intent to live a big city life. I didn’t plan on it and wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do. Five or six months prior, I had gone for an interview for an internship that was successful and so I was heading to London for at least two months to try that out. I arrived in London on a Friday night and got straight to work on Monday. Even as I moved into London, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay forever but knew that now was the time to try. 

It’s been a year since I moved to London – yes I’m still here – and I have a full-time job working on a different team at the company I started interning for last June. I live in a flat share, I have a cinema loyalty card that I don’t use as much as I should (the sign of a true grown up), and I’m staying here. I’m staying in London and I’m staying at my job. I have a set of great friends that also happen to be my colleagues, and have access to so many cool events and things going on in London.

I wanted to write this piece for two reasons – firstly to celebrate my first year in London, and secondly to share some of the things I’ve learned since being here. So let’s get to it!

ghfhgf

I live (near) here now.

Being a grownup is exhausting.  

The thing about London is that this all sounds really glorious, partly because I’ve written it that way and partly because I’ve totally omitted the countless times I’ve wanted to go home and all the stressed-out evenings and weekends spent fretting over work or social events. London is hella tiring. Very few people live close to where they work and if they do they don’t live near their friends and if they do they don’t live near their family or favourite market or museum etc. London is praised for having everything but if you thought about it logically, you’d realise how much space you’d need to have everything you loved. Everything is spread out and not everything is accessible when you want or need it. It’s very easy to glamourise London and say ‘well it has the best doughnuts and pizza’ which it probably does but you have to actually have the energy to go and get those doughnuts and pizza.

I moved to London and thought to pretty much everything I faced ‘it will get easier’, but I don’t know if it does. It’s not that you’re not used to it, it’s that it’s freaking hard. Travelling with hundreds of other sweaty bodies for hours a day, lugging bags around, working, exercising, enjoying a social life. It’s ridiculous. I had resigned myself to long periods of coming home, showering, cooking and watching a film before going to bed until my laptop broke. Now I watch TV on my Kindle.

The thing is that everyone is the same. I thought my London friends were London people and let me tell you, I think that’s a myth. London isn’t a fictional place where everyone is either a businessman or really super unbelievably cool. First of all, my London friends are all equally shattered and tell me how hard London is, and secondly, it’s a city goddamn it, not a club. Anyone is welcome. 

fghj

I won an award for always having biscuits at my desk. #Winner

There’s room for everybody.

Everyone is welcome in the Big Gherkin (is that right?). It’s a funny double-edged sword because nobody gives a shit what you do or wear (drags old merch clothing out the wardrobe) but also nobody gives a shit what you do or wear (sits in pile of Gryffindor t-shirts with a sad, hopeless face). I work in an office that deals with a lot of film and television. As expected, my office is filled with merch; we probably keep Funko in business and that’s cool. I had been to an all-girls school which although relatively progressive still separated out the nerds from the rest, and then a university where I didn’t make many friends. I didn’t proudly support things I loved in my possessions and clothing anymore, but I hadn’t realised until I started this job.

My desk has only just started gathering stuff but it’s great. My birthday presents were all cat or feminist related and what more could you want? I frequently wear a Bart Simpson printed shirt to work or jumpers printed with slogans about equality and quotes from Pride and Prejudice. It doesn’t matter what you’re a ‘nerd’ about, it’s all good. Nobody gives a fudge. It’s grand.

I went to a Comic-con for the first time in May and was taken aback at how little people cared that anime girls and Jon Snows were boarding the DLR. Princess Belle in a giant yellow dress? Didn’t notice. It was so nice that I actually got a bit emotional. These people were doing what they wanted and nobody was making fun or questioning them for it. I actually cried when I went to Pride last year too. I’d only been in London for a short while at this point, but here were all these people celebrating and mourning simultaneously with thousands of allies just happy to be around. Everyone was friendly and talking to one another and there was music and glitter and colour and people were allowed to be themselves. What a dream. 

ghjghj

I did not win this cat, and I am low-key furious.

I can be myself, whoever that is.

For the first time in years, I haven’t even considered dieting or getting fit to lose weight. Why you ask? Because I don’t care. Because nobody else cares. I had to stop wearing makeup earlier this year because my skin went to pot and although I started my internship wearing a full face of makeup every day, I have not worn makeup to work in at least a month or two. Nobody cares. It’s a great thing to embrace. Share what you love, talk about your passions. 

*I know I should’ve started this article with the disclaimer that I know I’ve been pretty lucky getting a job where I work and very occasionally being able to afford some of the fun things London has to offer (like DOUGHNUTS) but it’s too late now, the disclaimer is going here.*

I actually got to help on a friend of a friend’s short film as a runner this summer which was amazing. Suddenly I felt like filmmaking wasn’t off the table again (although realistically I don’t have time so it’s back off the table but still!). I’ve made friends who would gladly support or help my writing if I wanted feedback because they write too. Most of the time I can find someone to take advantage of cheap theatre tickets with me, and most excitingly I’ve discovered karaoke. Karaoke is fun damn it.

Then you have the fact that I can discuss feminism with my boss or Wonder Woman or Pusheen the cat or some obscure animation on Netflix with someone at work. It is no longer a secret that I’ve watched pretty much every Christmas movie available on Netflix, and not necessarily in December either. I like stuff and people know, and nobody thinks any different for knowing. Maybe it’s a growing up thing and not a London thing, but I feel like I belong at my current job. 

28879579_10210867006008741_2050475991_o

Get it, girl.

Difference will help you grow.

This last one is less something I have learned and more something I’ve always believed that’s confirmed on a daily basis. I know a lot of people that are quite old fashioned and think it would be better if we could just get rid of or stop dealing with certain people. The thing is, we cannot get rid of people we disagree with. I’m a proud feminist and if I got rid of people who disagreed with me, then there probably wouldn’t be a population crisis anymore. You will never ever learn or grow or change if you only spend time with people like you. I genuinely believe that you will learn way more from people you dislike and disagree with than you will from similar people.

Learning to get on with people you don’t like is one of the most valuable social skills you can learn. Learning and changing to not be like people you dislike or learning how to defend yourself and your argument against people who disagree with your beliefs is equally valuable. The thing about everyone in London being different is that you learn to be friendly with dozens of people for different reasons. Being able to talk to people and discover something in common is brilliant, and learning to deal with people you don’t like is only going to help you. Living somewhere where every single person you pass is different is an amazing confirmation of how much you’re going to learn and grow and become accepting of so many different people. So remember that. 

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-24 at 18.46.08

Treat yo’self to a good doughnut.

That’s it really. I just can’t get over how solid that message of acceptance has been since I’ve been here. I know it’s not the same for everyone but this is my personal account of London. People are either going to like you or they’re not, and there’s actually not so much you can do about that. You can be the most pleasant person in the world and someone’s still going to think you’re too pleasant. London is so busy and there’s so much happening all the time that it kind of forces you to just get on with it.

People who are very different end up being friends and that is so good for you. It is so unbelievably good for you to make friends with people who have different interests and backgrounds and lives. If you can support your friends and their super niche hobbies and interests then they will support you in yours. It’s a win-win. 

It’s been a tough year but an interesting one. I’m confident in my job and my personality in a way I haven’t been before. I’ve learned to take the bad with the good. If nothing else, I’ve learned to say “it’s swings and roundabouts” at least once a day. Welcome to London, I guess.

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake for Anthem Online.

The Best Valentine’s Day I’ve Had

I am single and it’s Valentine’s Day.

I will still be single on the 15th February, so why focus on this frequently overwhelming and loved-up day? Because it gives me a chance to reflect on a great night spent with one of my favourite women and a relationship, which after eight years, is still going strong.

Last year I had the best Valentine’s Day I have had in a long time with one of my best friends!

A few weeks before this lovely evening, I was having a low, self-pitying Sunday night. Sat alone in the flat watching an old rom-com, I started to think about my own non-existent love life. My mind was busy with the bad kind of thoughts: this is it, this is your lot, you’ll never find that person, you’ll sit and watch loved ones find new loved ones, all while you sit alone. The cycle of thoughts didn’t stop until I was a weeping mess, messaging the girls back home asking for advice and comfort. (This feels like an appropriate time to say that I love you all, and couldn’t imagine my life without you, to the women who have been a part of my life for nearly seven years).

The girls sent me messages of comfort, love and laughter. In the mist of this WhatsApp conversation was my friend, Mica saying we could and should go out on Valentine’s Day for a meal and a drink, lots of drink. My immediate response was “YES! But what about your other half?”, to which she replied that she would be back from a mini break with him and that she wanted to spend it with me. I was genuinely touched.

Fast forward two weeks and I was sat in an Italian restaurant in town waiting for my hot date. We had arranged to meet at the local cinema at 6 pm for a meal and a film but our poor organisational skills plus the fact that it was Valentine’s Day meant the cinema was fully booked. With Mica running late, I walked to the restaurant to secure our romantic table for two.  

Walking towards the candlelit table, I passed a sea of couples and actually had to stifle a laugh. I was laughing at the fact that this was my most romantic Valentine’s Day to date. Sat with a glass of water, I saw my date approaching, with the accompanying words “Is this the lady? Yes, this is my lady.”  

Neither of us could contain our laughter as we looked around at all the other diners at their candlelit tables. We were the only two women sharing a table together. Mica asked the question, “What if they think we’re a couple?”, to which I quickly responded, “And what a lovely couple we make”. It was a wonderful night filled with great food, lots of drink and the best company. We spent the meal catching up on everything we had missed since we last saw each other: her recent trip to Oslo, her other half, my last year of uni, films we had seen and loved, and as always desperately finding a time for all of us to meet up again.

Just as we were tucking into our dessert for two, Mica suggested a film next, returning to our original plan. She was still yet to see La La Land and I couldn’t think of a better film to see with a friend on Valentine’s Day. Mica fleetingly suggested seeing the new Fifty Shades film, but I protested. I would not be giving that film my money.

As we were waiting for the bill and getting excited to see La La Land, we joked that we were celebrating ‘Galentine’s day’ a day late. For those of you who don’t know, Galentine’s Day was thought up by Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope from the show Parks & Recreation as a day for women to celebrate the importance of female friendship in and amongst the build-up to Valentine’s Day.

Still waiting for the bill, we realised that we had missed the last screening of La La Land, and contemplated calling it a night. Mica pointed out that we had finished a whole bottle of Prosecco between us, and therefore might be drunk enough to endure the new Fifty Shades film.

Cut to us in our seats, a glass of wine in hand and already shocked at the number of couples around us. I genuinely thought this was the kind of film you would see on a drunken night with friends (hence me spending money on a ticket). Regardless, we laughed until we cried, and for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong places. We stuffed our faces with chocolates and ruined the romantic atmosphere for all of the couples in that screening.  

I texted Mica on the way home, thanking her for a wonderfully unromantic Valentine’s Day and for being a part of one of the funniest cinematic experiences I had in a long time.

This year, I will once again be using Valentine’s Day to catch up with a friend and will continue to treat this day like an extended Galentine’s day… which I hope would make Amy Poehler proud.

Happy Galentine's Day

The women who show me love, every day.

 

Words and images by Lara Scott.

How’s It Going?

Hello, there. Happy first week of February! How is it going? Have you given up on all your resolutions yet? Have you realised that you cannot alter your entire being in just 31 days? Will you promise to set yourself easier targets next year? No? Alright then, fine.

My new year resolution, if you can even call it that, is to watch lots of films – preferably ones I haven’t seen before. I did this last year and I did a great job and it made me feel better so I’m doing it again. I’m not really bothering because I don’t truly want to lose weight or eat better or run more. Sure, I’m trying to get back into swimming a couple of times a week, but I’m not totally grilling myself for it. What’s the point?

I don’t really bother with resolutions because not only do they not make sense (are you supposed to lose weight for the year, or forever? Is there a time limit on it?), but also because I have never once kept a resolution in my life that wasn’t something super easy like watching a bunch of new films. Surely, it is better to enter into a new year promising to yourself that you will look after yourself and endeavour to make yourself proud. So this year, I’m not really bothering at all, and so far I’m doing pretty damn well.

book.PNG

With no real resolutions or goals to fulfil, I have managed to finish three whole (and admittedly rather short) books in January that I loved, and I’m now halfway through a fourth. I’ve read an autobiography, a professional toolkit and a book on women in ancient civilisations. I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time, and I’m genuinely quite proud of myself. I never finish books, I just carry them around London until ultimately putting them back on the shelf the next time I clean out my handbag. So I’ve celebrated, and I’ve bought new books to try and keep myself going. I’ve not set a target, I just want to read some more books.

When I was ill in the middle of January, I had two days at home that led me to finally starting my self-taught British Sign Language course (which I paid for a long time ago). I had so much free time because I was off work, that I had time to complete multiple lessons from it. Hell, I even signed up for a free online screenwriting course this week, because why not? I’m learning, and learning is what really makes me happy and makes me feel accomplished. It’s what I love, and when there are so many opportunities available to me to learn new things, and for free(!), I’d be a fool not to have a go.

I’ve been proud of myself for also signing up new people to Anthem; for finding great new people to join this family. I’m happy that I made it to the cinema a few times, particularly when I missed so many releases last year. I socialised and met friends (see below picture of cake for proof) for dinner, which is frankly an achievement for anyone working full-time in London, let alone someone desperately trying to budget their spending, living with anxiety, and only knowing a handful of people in this big ass city.

cake.PNG

I’ve been struggling to finish off this article because everything I think sounds really lame in my head, but it’s got some truth to it. We need to celebrate the happy more and stop being such a pain in the butt to ourselves when we make mistakes or feel sad. Life happens and part of that is that we feel sad and angry and we do things wrong, but if we focused on the things that we did well and the fun times we have with the amount of energy we focus on the bad… we’d probably be a lot happier. The thing about happy and wonderful times is that we only recognise how happy and wonderful they are because we’ve experienced the kind of shitty times. If every day was wonderful, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them the way we can now.

So revel in the goodness. Make it your new motto to celebrate the teeny tiny victories. Buy yourself flowers and comfy socks. Go to a free exhibition or make time to see that new release in the cinema. I looked after myself this week by having one evening in to tidy my bombsite of a room, shower, eat, and watch a cheesy film from the 90s. You don’t have to spend all your money or scream and shout to do this well, you just need to remember that you saw a tiny dog in a tracksuit this morning. How great is that?

The next time you’re hard on yourself for not losing 1000lbs in two days, make a note to find a way of enjoying exercise so that you’ll actually want to go (Zumba, dance, boxing, swimming etc) and don’t waste your evening bullying yourself about it. The next time someone says you did something good at work, say thank you and smile and believe in yourself a little bit. The next time you spend a day reading in your room, be happy you had the time to read and be grateful that you’ve had the chance to learn more and experience new lives and worlds through that book.

There’s good and bad to be found in everything, it’s just up to you to do the searching. Here’s to February, guys. You’re going to do great!

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake