Monday, 18 June 2018

Hasty decisions, feeling blue, and asking 'why'

Every year, I sorta-kinda-maybe look forward to Christmas. I dread it too - it's cold and dark, and there's the mild stress of family and presents and visits, and by the end we're all inevitably going to be really grumpy with each other - but I do see it on the horizon and get a warm, happy feeling.

We'll pass over the fact that I also hate Christmas because it's cold
Then I stopped and tried to figure out why. It's something I've been attempting to do more this year, because paying more attention to my thoughts and feelings (and where they stem from) is proving really important in acknowledging that, yeah, I'm probably a bit depressed. That, and when I burst into tears after my doctor asked me if I thought I was depressed... that should've been a hint too.

So. Christmas. There's lots of things to like: snugly fires, spending time with my parents (and my cat), shopping for presents, a feeling of community, Christmas carols and movies and food... sure, there's a lot to love.

But the three things that I think rank above all else is: we always make Christmas cards (about a hundred, all handmade, every year), I always get a week or so off work, and I get to give things or do nice things for other people. That's my 'why' for Christmas.

I'm repeating this process with other things, such as:
  • why do I want to switch career? (because I'm not cut out for desk-based work)
  • why do I want to move house.... again?! (because I'd like a garden, I want to get away from noisy upstairs neighbours, I'd like a utility room and a porch, and I'd really like to have a pet)
  • why am I miserable this random Thursday (because I'm suddenly intolerant to every single food)

Last week, when I was staring longingly at the course outline of a part-time degree course, when I was seriously considering quitting my job and retraining for a completely different career, when I was so deeply in a funk that staring at spreadsheets for 4 more hours made my brain cry, I realised something:
For the past couple of years, I've been making big, hasty decisions and/or spending huge amounts of money to try to make myself happy: I moved out, changed jobs (twice), and bought a home, all because I wasn't 'happy'.
That was kind of a panic-inducing thing to realise. I bought a home for crying out loud; I now have an actual, real-life phenomenal mortgage because I was a bit depressed last summer and suddenly (four months later) I owned property.

What I really should have been doing was asking myself why I wasn't happy. The crux of it is that I didn't have a lot of independence, and when I did get some independence, I realised I wasn't financially secure.

After asking myself why I wanted to retrain, I recognised that I wasn't happy. I find my side-hustles (creative ventures, writing, and childcare) far more rewarding in the short term than my day job. It's almost certainly just a blip, but if these feelings are still lingering around in 6 months or so, I'll interrogate myself once again with the why why WHY? line of questioning.

(And then I'll probably take a huge gamble, get myself into a bit of a financial and career pickle, and later blame it on the fact that I just wasn't happy ;) )

-   -   -

It's Monday! And I'm posting because I'm finally having 3 days (but not evenings) off so this is my weekend! And I'm so excited!!

I hope you have a lovely week whilst I wander through the rooms of my home and struggle to find things to feel these totally empty days - what is 'free time' and what do I do with it?!?

Until next time, pleas remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others~

Saturday, 9 June 2018

What I Read: May 2018

The first week of June is already over, holy moly! So yeah, this is a bit late. But I'm trying to publish one post per week right now, so this is bang on schedule actually ;)

May was a bit of a rocky month in terms of reading: too many books which should have been DNFs (but have a weird personal rule that if I start a book there's no option but to finish it), which threatened to ruin my love of reading altogether.

But my choices picked up towards the end of the month, and June is looking good! My Goodreads challenge is looking.... OK? I'm 4 books behind. Only 4! That's nothing! I'm not stressed about it at all! Heh.

-   -   -

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift
This was barely worth the time it took to read, but I rated it 2 stars because there were a few (small) snippets of interesting history in there, and the settings were real enough. The characterisation was dismal, though, and I skim-read many, many pages so it would. just. end. already.

OK, say what you will about this book (this is my go-to phrase whenever I enjoy a ~problematic~ book, heh) but this got me out of a reading slump, at least. It wasn't a literary masterpiece, no, and it did have issues I admit - but it was gripping enough and I became attached to some characters. I rated this 3 stars, as a solid middle-ground book.

The Paris Enigma by Pablo de Santis
Aaand then this came along, and I began wondering if the old bookworm-me that emerged when reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter was once again lost, forever. This was dull. Tedious. Trivial. Confusing. One star, and I'm steering clear of this author.

Flowers in the Snow by Danielle Stewart
I opted for reading a novel on my kindle, because I've let it gather dust (and the battery had almost run flat). Unfortunately it's slim pickings in my kindle library right now - this had some good reviews, but I think those reviewers are very different readers to me. There was nothing I enjoyed about this book, and the writing was really disappointing. Again, 1 star.

A post shared by abigail (@tawwpie) on

Three Sisters Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
I knew Philippa Gregory could bring my love of reading back to life! A couple of years ago, I cringed at Philippa Gregory books and wouldn't admit that I enjoyed them. Now I've just accepted the fact: Philippa Gregory is a devoted historian, a wonderful writer, and a great plotter, and I love her novels. This was no exception. Although some people have critiqued it and complained that there's only one perspective shown, I thought it was a great insight into the (largely fictional and speculative) mind and thoughts of a complex woman. And now, I'm publicly going to say this: I am definitely looking forward to reading more Philippa Gregory - they are certainly not trash ;)

-   -   -

That's it for this month! As I said, my read list for June already has a couple of great books, and I acquired a few more yesterday which I'm looking forward to reading devouring sometime soon. (I was supposed to be on a book-buying/borrowing ban but.... it didn't last long. It never lasts long.)

Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and others; look out for each other and maybe read a book if you're in need of a bit of a pick me up.

What did you read in May?

Friday, 1 June 2018

Monthly Budget: April & May 2018

It's returned! I thought this Monthly Budget series was really boring, but I've had a few people say it's interesting and/or inspiring (and apparently people love delving into the nitty-gritty of other people's finances as much as I do?!) so, here we are. I've crunched some numbers so here's a quick round-up of April and May 2018!

OK so there's no nice way to format this so here's some spreadsheet goodness:

So both months I overshot my savings goal - SCORE! It went straight into my savings (I also auto-save £250 from my salary each month, which goes into a monthly saver which I never touch or think about). Right now I've saving for a new bathroom so both these months are solid steps towards that!

I still can't believe I earned over £2,000 in May! That's unheard of for me. This time last year I was bringing in just over a half of that each month, so it's really rewarding to see the difference that a promotion and two side-hustles can do :)

-   -   -

Babysitting - I didn't do too badly the past two months, so hopefully this stays fairly steady. I know there's going to be a slight dip, as one of my jobs is cancelled for a while. But it's nice to reclaim another evening each week to myself!

Saturday job - Uggghh I kinda hate this job, but the cash is going towards house renovations (bathroom! bathroom! my flat needs. a. new. bathroom!) I've decided to keep at it until I have saved enough solely from this job (saving which I've earmarked for the damn bathroom) and then I'm gonna quit ASAP. I'll have a post about my thoughts and feelings on this side-hustle soon...

Groceries - I can never quite get this right in my budget! Some months I overspend, some months I'm way under. Usually it depends if I go to the wholesaler (I bulk-buy nuts, dried fruit, potatoes, and anything which is going cheap) and if I go to Tesco at a time of day when everything's reduced ;) Not doing too badly, though.

Water bill - Lower than I expected (and way lower than Thames Water expected - ha!), which I guess is because my mum is still doing all my laundry (THANKS MUM XOXO) because I'm not actually a proper adult. This is billed roughly every 6 months.

Other earnings - I can't remember what the 'other' earnings were, so it was probably some very exciting cleaning. I'm also doing some sewing and mending, but that's paid in a lump-sum along with babysitting jobs, so I can't separate it out.

Other expenditures - My 'other' spending was a combination of eye drops and various prescriptions, because I developed excruciating dry eyes (probably another allergy) and nothing could stop it - I was spending WHATEVER WAS NECESSARY in order to be able to keep my eyes open for (no exaggeration) more than a second. I couldn't work, eat, read, or even sleep (FYI even closed dry eyes feel like they're bulging out of your head?!?). So yeah. If anyone wants a life-time supply of eye drops, you can have 'em, because 10 days later my eyes were suddenly better. Such is life. In hindsight, I should have purchased an NHS prescription prepayment certificate at the beginning of the 2018 because I've spent so much on prescriptions the past few months, but buying one is a bit of a gamble (you have to buy more than one prescription each month for it to be worth the initial outlay) and I couldn't foresee how ill I'd be (and I haven't filled a couple of prescriptions I've been given #frugalrebel)

-   -   -

Alright, still here? If you find these posts fun to read or really boring or really interesting - PLEASE LET ME KNOW! (So many caps in this post, no apologies)

I'm hustling away and trying to cling to some sanity. Summer is here! It's humid and I just want a day off from work! But we're plodding along alright. I'm super-pumped to be saving lots, and not worrying about the pennies so much; peace of mind is under-rated.

Until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words, and know that hustling is worth it, but you deserve a break too~

Saturday, 26 May 2018

How I stopped caring about what other people thought (and why I started again)

Let me preface this by saying I've never put a tonne of time or energy into my appearance; my standards are pretty low.

When many of my classmates were coming to school with bulging make-up bags (they'd devotedly reapply their foundation and mascara during breaks), I was repeating the excuse "oh, I couldn't find any concealer this morning". I was as self-conscious as any other teenager, but my parents and my non-existent finances instantly put an end to any plans I had to reinvent myself.

I relished the newfound freedom that college and university brought - with new clothes and make-up and a skincare regime - and although I was still far from glam, there was a creeping feeling that I had to look good, so I could compete with everyone else. Because that's essentially what this is: a competition to look the prettiest, to show off the most expensive clothes, and to tell the world that you care! so! much! about your flawless skin.

My days of full-time work began with at 6am with a carefully chosen outfit and a hastily applied mask of foundation, powder, mascara and eyebrow liner. Then one week I stopped applying mascara, the next I left my powder brush untouched, and soon I was going to work bare-faced. Bare-faced!! Oily skin 'n all.

Take the bus and meet other weird
humans (because we're all weird really!)
Then life started to get busy. And that's my number one tip for not caring what other people think of you: be busy. Once upon a time I spent half an hour in front of the mirror, plus an outfit change, each time I left the house. Now I'm lucky if I snatch 7 minutes to shimmy out of my work outfit and slip on an old pair of leggings and a fleece with a hole in the cuff.

I also take the bus or cycle or walk everywhere. Travelling by public transport has helped change my view of the world: no one really cares what you look like at 7am on public transport; we all just want to get from A to B. Also, there's almost certainly someone else who is as strange or dishevelled or worried as you.

My mental health and physical health have been a bit rocky, too, and I was low on cash. When you have to count on your fingers the days since your last shower - it might be 3 or it might be 4 - it's time to do something. I use the Spoon Theory a bit when I try to rationalise this: a friend asked if I'd booked a moving van for my upcoming house move, and I looked at her blankly and just said that I could either take a shower or do one chore each evening; I couldn't waste the energy on anything that didn't keep me alive, and often that meant foregoing a shower and skipping laundry.

My super-simple self care regime
So I started being busy, and I tried to do whatever I could to keep going. Often that meant I only washed my hair twice a week and wore clothes which other people would put in the laundry (and that's still usually the case). For a large chunk of winter 2017/18, I looked at best bedraggled - I got dressed in the dark, wore 5 layers of clothing, and the thought of taking a shower in my freezing bathroom actually filled me with a small amount of dread.

My wardrobe will always be full of clothes I've found in charity shops and sale sections (I can't remember the last piece of clothing I bought full-price). Some I've altered, some have holes I've patched up, many don't fit quite right but no one's looking too closely. Oh, and they're all certainly not on trend. I live in old sports clothes when I'm not at work, and most of the time I don't feel a bit embarrassed.
My daisy dress is for when I need a lift, and my PJs aren't always for night time ;)

Then I took a look at myself. I didn't mind the clothes (although they're sometimes in need of a wash, because in my 20s I still manage to spill food all over myself) or my appearance (I cut off all my hair and it was such a good decision) but I needed to make an effort.

This is different to caring what people think, because making an effort has more of an impact on your own mental health. If you make an effort, you're going to feel good about yourself. And that's important: if you're doing this for your own sake, there's no shame in spending 15 minutes extra choosing a nice outfit for the day. It's when you start wasting time worrying about what other people will think that it starts to become a problem.

So if you worry that too much of your time is devoted to what other people will think (of your appearance, home, career, lifestyle, goals, hobbies - whatever) do three things:

  1. Get busy! Don't give yourself extra time to fixate on these things!
  2. Take public transport! It's totally desensitised me to the thoughts and reactions of other people because, trust me, everyone on public transport is just a little bit strange.
  3. Figure out whether you're placing too much emphasis on what other people think, or if you're worried about these things because they have a direct impact on your sense of wellbeing.
And that's all I've got! The past couple of years have been a definite learning and growth experience in terms of how I feel about my personal image. I'm having more and more days when I want to look like Kate Middleton, or at least someone semi-successful and confident. But I also spend a lot of time in old leggings and PJs, and I don't put any weight whatsoever on what other people think of my career/salary/hobbies/food choices. It's been a long road, but it's worth it.

-   -   -

I hope you've had a great week! This post was lo-o-o-ong, so if you've made it this far CONGRATULATIONS. As we're nearing the end of the month I'll be recapping the books that I've read in May and possibly looking through my budget as I've had a couple of people say nice things about that series (and I thought it was super-dull, ha!). So until next time, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others - it could give their self-esteem a real boost!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

field notes #16

Hello! Long time no speak! I'm back today, very briefly, with a post in my long-standing but often-abandoned field notes series.

-   -   -

1. Blogging is tough when you don't have an internet connection or a laptop. I've lived without a steady internet connection for over a year, and it's usually pretty alright. That was when I had the weekends free to go to the library or visit my parents (and their wifi) or mass-draft blog posts. My laptop broke a couple of weeks ago, which is also partly why I've been AWOL. I'm still (excessively) active on twitter and instagram though!

2. Working 60 hours a week across 7 days is tough. So I've been trying to prioritise my mental health. Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with the topic this year being stress. I'm pretty aware of my mental health, but I tried to get out for a walk every evening, and one evening I had dinner with an old schoolfriend. I felt more energised after all that, somehow, but on Friday evening I crashed!

3. Meanwhile, my physical health isn't exactly stable, but it's not spiralling out of control right now. I have an appointment with a dietitian in 6 weeks! I'm terrified they're going to force me onto the FODMAP diet, but until then I'm plodding along trying my best to feed my body. Some days are tough, mentally and physically. I'm still plodding though!

4. I'm excited to get started on some DIY and renovation projects! The summer sun has given me a boost, and I finally feel at home in my own home! That, plus the feeling of financial security that working 60 hour weeks has given me, means I'm planning lots of DIY. Today I sent off my plans to a bathroom fitter, and I've got some shelves ready to put up, and next on my list is replacement windows (plus a boiler service and radiator fixes). I'm staying cheap 'n cheerful with it though - I'll be posting about frugal renovation and DIY projects later in the summer!

5. Reading isn't filling me with as much joy as it once did... When I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than a second, I didn't touch a book for a couple of weeks. I've struggled to get back into it since then, partly because I'm reading crap books, partly because of the weather, and partly because I'm tired 24/7! Reading just isn't doing it for me right now.

6. And nor is personal finance. I was hooked on PF blogs a couple of months ago (much like I was hooked on book blogs a year or so ago, ha!) but lately everything's been repetitive, or has made me realise how badly-paying my job is, or has made the whole thing seem futile. I'm still reading and thinking lots, but taking everything with a pinch of salt. I'm always looking for more down-to-earth, 'regular people' money bloggers - bonus points for 20-something females in the UK! There aren't many of us!!

7. I'm looking forward to a 'holiday', of sorts. Normally I go hiking in Wales in March and September. It's blissful. I've talked about it lots and lots. But it always comes with a certain amount of stress and preparation. This year I've accrued some extra holiday at work, so I'm planning a week off in June or July to spend at home doing day trips, no packing or deposit or budget required!

-   -   -

ALRIGHT, that's a decent catch-up! Hopefully I'll be able to get some more posts out in the coming weeks. Until then, please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and others, and get out and enjoy the sunshine :)

Friday, 4 May 2018

what i read: april 2018

I'm still behind on my Goodreads challenge for 2018! I know there's still a whole year to catch up, but it's starting to stress me out.

This month I didn't read much, as my eyes flared up with some awful allergy which meant I could barely keep them open for ~10 days. A whole week of no reading! It was strangely restful, and - with anything - once you break a habit of reading during your commute, at lunch break, and before bed, it's difficult to get started again.

Add to that a busy, exciting, scary week at work and well... that's partly why I'm behind. Hopefully May will be better! Here's what I managed to read this month:

-   -   -

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

Phew. Well. My first foray into Dickens, and little did I know that I was starting with a novel that some people claim is his most complex and confusing. The number of characters and twisting subplots - and the links between them - almost caused me to put the book down for six months and let it gather dust. Or just read it with Sparknotes open.

At around 40% of the way through, I watched this video and it really helped bring some enthusiasm back into my reading. That, and a goal I set myself of reading 2-3 chapters a day in smaller chunks (I had originally aimed to read 100 pages per day but my brain started to rebel)

Although the complexity of the novel was off-putting, I did really enjoy making the connections and the 'ah ha' moments. I also really really loved the social commentary and the depiction of Victorian London. Like, the social commentary was maybe my favourite part? Basically, watch the video above because Katie's thoughts are essentially my thoughts.

Would I reread it? Yes.... in a few years. (I will be reading more Dickens this year though!) I'm looking forward to watching the BBC series at some point too.

The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs - Christina Hopkinson

Wow why did I waste my time on this? I needed an easy read after Dickens and this was what my To Be Read shelf contained. There was some interesting stuff in here which touched on the emotional labour debate, but ultimately I gave it one star and can't even think of anything else to say about it. (This is a rare instance when reading the Goodreads reviews before starting a book would have been a good idea.) (Also, I have an irrational rule which says I have to finish every book I start. Hence why I finished this one.)

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

This had such promise! I really enjoy reading stories set in this time period, and a friend had really praised this novel, so I was excited to finally get to it on my To Be Read shelf.

Whilst the setting and dialogue was wonderful - and really very funny at times (I, embarrassingly, burst out laughing on the bus on more than one occasion) - I found the plot meandering and uninspiring. I didn't have anything invested in the overall outcome, so when the novel ended I was a bit... disappointed. There was some interesting exploration of the Shakespeare brothers' childhoods and backgrounds, which kept my attention (I know very little about them, and have only really study Shakespeare fleetingly at school).

Overall I gave this two stars: one for setting description and one for dialogue.

The American Boy - Andrew Taylor

I was prepared for this to be a bit of a 'meh' book - a cheap paperback which didn't have much promise. And while it's never going to be my favourite, there was nothing awfully wrong with it. The plot flitted around and seemed to take an age, but the chapters were short (often too short - it was written in scenes rather than chapters, which is one of my main complaints). The main character, Thomas Shield, also has to decide between two beautiful women who he's in love with (and who conveniently favour him too) - I rolled my eyes waaaayy back into my head at that.

Otherwise the mystery kept my attention well enough, and there was nothing too taxing about it. A safe three stars, but that's probably being a bit generous.

-   -   -

Until next time (whenever that is - I'm no longer promising anything, ha!) I hope you have wonderful days/weeks/months. Please remember to speak and think kind words to yourself and to others.

What did you read last month?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

what if everything turns out ok?

The past few weeks at work have been a minor stress-fest. Or a major stress-fest, depending on the day. It's been the kind of stress that bubbles away under the surface, so it hasn't been openly obvious to colleagues.

But it's certainly been noticeable to my health - my doctor will most likely conclude it's the reason I'm now intolerant to almost every food, and why this week an optician told me I didn't need glasses, I just needed to "blink more, you idiot, when you stare at a screen for 9 hours a day." Whoops.

In the summer of 2017 I was chosen to work on a project that combines two of my great passions, and was a big-ish deal in the organisation. It flies under most people's radars, but to those in our little world it gets people talking.

I was surprised to be given the job - being underqualified, flailing around in a new-to-me department, and not really understanding things like professionalism or how to talk to colleagues or how many smiley emojis is too many in a work email. Little things like that. And big things, like having no experience and only weird Wikipedia facts to give the impression of actual knowledge.

In the next few weeks, that project is going to be revealed. This is a fact I wasn't wholly aware of until about two weeks ago. Just typing about it makes my heart rate increase. And the thoughts begin: what will happen when everyone finds out I have no clue what I'm doing?

Ah yes, here comes an unhealthy dose of impostor syndrome.

For those who aren't familiar with this ~psychological phenomenon~, one article defines it as
a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful
Oh, and it means you're terrified that everyone will discover your true identity as a fraud.

Hey! I'm an incompetent failure! Do you want to tell everyone I'm a fake, or should I get onto a nearby rooftop and announce it to the world myself?

With these thoughts swirling round in my head, it's probably no surprise that I want to lock myself in a cupboard and/or move far away and continue life under a pseudonym.

But instead, I've been concentrating on the advice in this tweet:

If this is a success (which it will be! I've had the support of colleagues! So far no one has said anything bad! Everyone's got my back!) it could be really important to my career; there's loads of CV/application/interview fodder encapsulated in this experience. It's also something I can contribute to the field I work in - something which I can point to and see my little flag waving. And it's taught me lots, given me some passion, and opened up my mind.

If everything is well-accepted, the confidence boost will be amazing. From time to time I feel like I've hit my stride, but this will be proof.

If no one questions my work, this will be the culmination of so much work. I'm excited and terrified, but I think that's healthy.

-   -   -

So, I hope you're week was a bit better than mine! While I get settled into a new work schedule (and whilst I writhe in pain if I merely think about food) I'll be a little AWOL, but I hope to be back in a week or two, all things being well. Until then you can find me over on twitter, because I'm trying to get back into that whilst simultaneously doing my best not to be annoying about it.

Until next time (whenever that may be) please remember to speak and think kind words, to yourself and to others. Treat yourself well and concentrate on all the good things~