In the grand scheme of it all, 2016 is best summed up with this tweet:
maybe if we put 2016 in rice?
— JamieDMJ (@JamieDMJ) November 9, 2016
Brexit and Trump were two shocking headliners for an overall abysmal year (so bad, a parody but very realistic horror film trailer has been made for it), yet despite all of the monumental political fuck-ups that’ll send 2016 down in the history books as one of the most turbulent ones yet, in my own personal bubble, life has never been better. But God, it hasn’t all been great. In fact, I couldn’t have had a worse start to the year. I saw in 2016 partying on a beach in Thailand – an ideal scenario for many, I know I know, but unfortunately the reality didn’t quite play out like the joyous paradise Instagram photos might have suggested. I was recovering from a horrific bout of food poisoning so I felt as shit as anything that my body had expelled within the past 24 hours, I was in a toxic relationship, and felt trapped on an island where I should have been having the time of my life but paradoxically, all I wanted was to be back in London in my pyjamas.
But this year certainly was the proof to the old saying that when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. To quote the ever so quotable Drake (as I always do), this year started from the bottom, now we’re here! (Where *here* even is I don’t know, but right now it’s in my bed on a Friday night in my PJ’s…). I never really get too personal on my blog, telling you much about my life rather than my opinions on topics I’m passionate about, so I figured why not get a little bit real right now? 2016 has been an interesting one – something of serious personal growth. I’ve learnt some huge lessons on life and love especially, so I’ve tried to shortlist the major 10 when really I could have wrote so much more.
This is a serious all-rounder rule, but let’s start off by applying it to relationships. I’ve dabbled a lot in dating apps between and I’ll always rate them simply for the fact that in a city like London, which is populated with thousands and thousands of potentials, it is actually fucking impossible to meet someone because nobody talks. No, not even when you’re out, drunk in a bar, full of boozy confidence. Dating apps may have their downfalls, but they allow you to make connections you wouldn’t have otherwise made. I’ve always said that I know if there’s a future with someone within the first 10 seconds of meeting them. I’m not talking foreseeing a future of marriage and babies – I’m talking knowing that I like them enough to see them again. It’s all about feeling that instant spark of chemistry. It’s just instinct. If you know it’s right go with it, if you have doubts but can’t quite put your finger on what it is or why, there’s a reason for that. Proceed with caution until you figure out what the hell it is that’s niggling you. I’d love (hate) to work out exactly how many hours I’ve wasted this year on things I could have cut short, just because I ignored my instincts.
It applies for so many things across the board too: I interviewed for a job earlier this year which would have been a big step up in my pay from the role I held at the time, but it was only a 6 month contract, and was a sector I hadn’t trained in at a start up company which would have taken so much time and commitment. On being offered a second interview, I had a feeling it wasn’t quite the right move to make at the time, so I declined it. Truthfully, I felt it was taking on too much. Some people might say I made a mistake, but I trusted my gut and instead, three months later, I went part-time at my job because my blog was doing so well and I haven’t looked back.
At the beginning of this year, after my trip to Thailand ended, I finished a relationship with someone who was a good person but the whole thing had become totally toxic. There was a lot of reasons for it turning sour, but the truth is, he was never right for me. We fell into the relationship because we got on, but perhaps it got more serious out of obligation rather than anything else. On the outside, it looked like it should have worked out. To quote that big phrase used over and over on Love Island this year, we seemed totally right for each other on paper. But that should never be a reason to force something that doesn’t work. It’s like trying to fit into a size 6 dress when you’re an 8 -looks great on the hanger, but it’s a challenge to get in to, feels uncomfortable, and everyone else is looking at you thinking “nah that ain’t right”and deep down you feel like a twat because you know it too. Still, you try to make it work and go to the party wearing the dress, get a bit drunk and rip it and go home thinking fuck yeah, maybe I should have worn something else.
Can’t remember if I’m talking about clothes or relationships anymore? Anyway… It was the classic millennial story of game playing, one-upmanship, and both being too afraid to talk about our feelings because we’d played it so cool for so long (or deep down was it because we both knew it wasn’t right??). After a while, I started to feel I was losing my autonomy and unable to do the things that my coupled-up friends were allowed to, I was self-censoring my actions and thoughts because I didn’t want to cause arguments, I was always having to explain myself when I’d done nothing wrong, and started to feel like I was being controlled. It’s the first time I’ve put my thoughts to paper (well, keyboard) on this subject because I felt so low about it all that I wanted to erase it, but the truth it shit happens, you deal with it and move on. And I suppose writing is a stellar form of catharsis!
Break ups are a bitch – no matter how wrong you are for each other, you still care about the person a lot and you really don’t want to hurt them. But sometimes you have to be selfish, put yourself first, and stop faking and pretending it’ll ever turn into something more, because as my last point said, your instincts know it’s going nowhere. Don’t try and fit your beautiful circular shape into a square shaped hole okay?
If you fake it, you’re just hurting yourself in the long run.
(Interestingly, I also applied this exact same theory to orgasms for 2016 and had similarly great results.)
I have had some killer nights out this year – from the Easter weekend bender where I went out drinking and partying until around 4am Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun and was left shaking, blood made up of 90% alcohol, with some wicked memories and sickeningly embarrassing Snapchats, to going on a date that landed me dancing in Dogstar in Brixton and walking home hand in hand as the sun had just risen at 5:30am. But sometimes you really really really just cannot be arsed. YOLO becomes just a song lyric rather than a life motto to live by. Prosecco tastes nasty. And all you want is to get into bed and turn of your phone whilst diving into a really great book. But what if you’re missing out on something fun? What if you turn your phone on to see your pals tagged in some v cute pics on Facebook at that cool new bar?
This year I totally got over FOMO because I learned to love how great staying in for a little bit of me-time (chill, not naughty me-time) can really be – so much so that I wrote about it here. Joy of Missing Out, or JOMO, is definitely my new kind of vibe.
Part of saying “fuck you, FOMO!” was learning the role social media has in it. I’d go on nights out and end up tagged in photos on Facebook that made the night look awesome, when actually, I bailed at 12:30am to get an Uber home because I was having a shit time, the queue for the overrated pub-club was too long and my feet fucking hurt in my new heels. It sounds silly that someone like me, a blogger who regularly posts nice pics on Instagram when I’m still in bed with no makeup on hasn’t quite grasped that social media makes things look better than it really is. But there you go. Anyway, fuck YOLO, someone please put the kettle on.
2016 has been the year I’ve learnt to stand up for myself in relationships – and to be honest, it’s really sad that it’s taken quite so long. I’d be preaching independence and strength when actually I had doormat written on my forehead.
As women, this culture can sometimes encourage us to act certain ways in order to get men to like us (Hello Cosmo magazine articles titled 50 THINGS YOU KEEP ON DOING THAT TURN YOUR MAN OFF, MAKING HIS PENIS SHRIVEL INTO A RAISIN). When I was in my late teens I’d laugh at sexist jokes rather than criticise them just so guys liked me more, I’d hold back on saying my true thoughts so that they might fancy me, and I used to play it cool and never say I liked someone in fear of being ‘that kind of girl’ who gets all attached. Basically, I’d happily play up to the male fantasy of what a woman should be like (easy, sexual, fun, relaxed, non-committal, feminine but ‘one of the lads’), rather than what a woman really is like – well, what I was really like – and that’s not fair nor right to myself or any other woman they encounter after me.
I’d want to be the cool, casual girl who was totally ‘chill’ (vom) and ‘not like other girls’, but I’d never ever be the kind of girl who wants to Define The Relationship and ask deep meaningful questions – but absolutely fuck that. But this year I’ve realised the person who’s actually a lot lot cooler is the one who asks “right, so where is this going?” after developing feelings, so that you’re not stringing yourself along with a fuckboy who doesn’t see a future. Why pretend as though you’re cool that the guy you’re dating might be sleeping with other girls when you’re really not okay with it?
It has a lot to do with power. I once read that the power in any relationship lies with the less enamoured of the two lovers. Actually, the power lies in knowing your worth and being able to stand up for it. I used to think being ‘that kind of girl’ meant that you were needy and had no respect for yourself, whereas actually, I’ve learnt that those kind of girls who seek to know where they stand and question a man’s intentions have so much more respect for themselves. They aren’t doormats. I’m just so sorry it took me so long to realise this.
I deserved so much better, and so do you, and it’s easy to get if you don’t want to waste your time – you just need the guts to ask questions you might not like the answer for. (Read my post on being a psycho girlfriend for more on this gem of a topic!)
Sexism is an insidious little bitch. It is literally all around us. But half of the problem isn’t the dirty bouts of it we see in newspapers, the DM’s sidebar of shame, or in the twitter replies to Ched Evan’s acquittal (this still makes me want to be sick tbh) – half of it lies in the small subtle nuances we don’t quite understand so can’t always call out. This brilliant article on the Huffington Post outlines how as women we’ve learnt to minimise incidents of sexism and brush them off because they happen so frequently and we don’t want to cause a fuss. But what the piece also highlights is that because men haven’t experienced sexism, they simply don’t see it in the smaller subtleties that it lives in.
Now that’s something I’ve never thought of before. But this is why it’s so important to call it out when we see it – even the little things. I look at the tweets that the EverydaySexism account retweets and think how the hell do we try and combat this? How do we even start tackling a wall as large as this? But if all of us start to call out sexism when we see it, we’re chipping away at the problem, little by little. I get that some of us don’t want to be the ‘boring woman who can’t take a joke’ but fuck that. Sexism isn’t a joke when it’s stopping you from being paid the same as men, making it harder to get promoted, making harder to be taken seriously in the work place, or when you are sexually harassed and assaulted, and you’re treated differently in court, and you get cat called in the street. Need I go on?
After gaining my voice back with every man I dated, I learnt to speak my mind and call them out on any bit of sexism or misogyny – not that any of them were sexists or misogynists – that might have cropped up. This year I’ve had zero qualms in telling it how it is to any man who says something weird. Plus, the look on their face when you say “ugh that’s actually really rapey. Why would you say that?” is priceless. The truth is, 9 times out of 10 they don’t even realise what they have said or done is rooted in sexism because it’s never affected them negatively, and if you turn it round and explain to them why it’s wrong, they see it for what it really is. My current boyfriend had no idea how frequent catcalls happen and the kind of abuse women get online until I started talking to him about it. It’s as simple as that. So the more we start talking about it the better.
It’s a conversation that has got louder and louder in 2016: here’s to it becoming a chorus in the new year.
Earlier this year, I had the realisation that I put a bit of weight on and I completely freaked the fuck out. I cried my eyes out, threw away loads of my clothes, and cried some more in the gym toilets on the phone to my mum wailing:“BUT *sob* I *sob* AM *sob* SOOOOO *sob* FAAAAAAT”
In fairness, these feelings were intensified by the fact I was heading off 10 days later on a trip to LA, but still, I needed a fucking reality check. I wasn’t fat then and I’m not fat now. The problem was, I felt I had let myself go and lost control – I even wrote about it all here – and I had gained more weight than I was happy with. But I was missing the big problem – I am more than just my looks.
Working in the blogging industry puts a huge emphasis on aesthetics, so it’s easy to let yourself get caught up and start valuing yourself based on that. But you forget how smart, funny, caring, kind, or talented you might be. Those are the things that matter – you are so much more than your looks. It’s one of the silliest, smallest, yet most important things I’ve learnt all year.
Looks fade, so try not to be a boring bitch or you’re going to be fucked by the time you are 50.
I was a bit meh over this whole “Girl Gang!!” trend everyone was going loco over this year. It seemed like my Twitter and Instagram feeds had been lobotomised with a pink spoon. Whilst I’m always so pro-female and pro-woman, it felt like the Girl Gang BS was actually an excuse for females with bitchy tendencies to get together and act all superior – basically playing out the Mean Girls-esque nightmare that was my years in secondary school once more in adult life. It was all a little Taylor Swift and her squad – just another way to include, and more importantly, exclude others.
That said, I can’t help but think this sugar-coated wave of feminism has helped women out there to be more supportive of one another. I have always always been a girls’ girl, and I always will be, so to see more and more women all over the globe supporting each other has been an incredible thing for 2016. We had the inspiring female athletes in Rio. Repeal the 8th. Lemonade!!
But it’s not easy – in fact this year has been hard on women. So let’s take a lesson from Michelle Obama (my absolute idol BTW) and her support of Hillary in the election and raise each other up whenever we can. Plus, men die first anyway so you gotta keep your gal pals close because we’ll only be left with each other!
I hope you’re sitting close to a bin because this is going to get a little sickly. Let’s get this straight: I’ve fallen in love before. I was 18; he was 20. And whilst I felt like such a grown up back then, the reality was I was just a 6th Former, so young and inexperienced living in the tiniest small town bubble. I fell in love quickly (so did he, I think?!) but the biggest most meaningful part was over in 6 months, before the awks 18 month on-off period began. When he ended it after the first 6 months, my heart was so broken and since then I’ve compared every relationship not to him, but to the feelings I had towards him. My friends and I would talk about our first loves and say how we never imagined we’d ever feel those feelings for someone else ever again.
And I didn’t, until I did feel that way again in 2016, yet this time, so strongly that it eclipsed that old relationship, relegating it from the benchmark for all comparisons to a distant memory of “ahhh yeah, I was so young back then!”. This summer I met someone so incredible, he has completely changed my life for the better. There was instant chemistry, absolutely zero game-playing, none of that not knowing where either of us stand bullshit, and the kind of openness with someone I had never felt before. It all happened so quickly (I’m pretty sure we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend by our 7th date) and nothing has ever felt more right in my entire life. We’ve been together just over 6 months but it feels like I’ve known him for a lifetime.
This cynical, emotionally-reserved Ice Queen has melted into a slushy puddle of “love you sooooo much” texts and actual PDA (I am SO sorry if you’ve been unfortunate enough to see us out in public). He’s the kindest man I’ve ever met, likes Taylor Swift and he’s better looking than David Gandy – I swear to god it feels like a dream. In fact, I’m still kind of waiting for him to murder me and throw my dismembered body in the Thames because this shit is so good it can’t possibly be real.
(Mum, if you’re reading this, you’re not paying him to be my boyfriend are you?)
So please don’t sit and wait around for that fuckboy to change, hoping something will click and you’ll just fall in love – you deserve better than that and there is someone out there who can treat you like the queen you bloody well are. You one million percent can and will find that magical kind of love again so long as you keep your standards high. We accept the love we think we deserve – think about it.
This goes for comparing yourself to others, and to your old self. My boyfriend gave me a book about happiness by the Dalai Lama, telling me it’ll change my outlook if I was to read it. In fairness, I’ve only read the first three chapters but my god does it really put things into perspective. As humans we have a shitty habit of comparing ourselves and our lives to those who have things which appear so much better. Of course, social media can only make this worse as we’re following all these people with #GOALS-worthy lives. What we really need to do is compare to something or someone worse off than us and it’ll soon put our own reality into check. Be grateful for what we have, and how far we have come.
OMG somebody press the snooze button because I’m about to go all parental on you and tell you something you don’t want to hear – hard work fucking works. It pays off. Sure, we’d all like to get paid to lie in bed all day and binge-watch a new Netflix series but the reality of that is pretty unlikely (although if anyone from Netflix reads this hello I am available for the binge-watching position). This year I worked my arse off at my full-time day job, spent evenings and weekends cancelling plans (or was that just JOMO kicking in?) and instead I spent it blogging, researching about social media strategy, filming and editing videos, brain-storming new topics, styling outfits. I was drained and tired and it was a bitch and when Monday came round I was just as exhausted as ever, but in the end I got to a point that from working like a little farmers donkey I could drop my full-time job to part-time and support the rest of my income – in fact, earn even more – from doing this blog.
I’m not saying any of this to be big headed, because trust me it’s not been pretty! I say it so that you don’t give up. Whatever you’re doing or wherever you are at. Perhaps you’re saving to go travelling and your hours are hellish – I promise you when you step off that plane and the heat of an exotic country hit you it’ll be totally worth it. Perhaps you’re a student and you’re heading back to finish your dissertation or do exams after the Christmas break – I feel you. I’ve been there. You can do it. Wise up, get smart, and be a total boss.
And lastly, thank you to everyone who has enjoyed reading Fashion Slave this year from the bottom of my very full heart RN – I honestly couldn’t (and wouldn’t) do this if I knew it was just my mum reading (I do love ya though mum!). I would love if could share any of the big things you learnt in 2016 in the comment box below.
(Also would be fab if you give my New Year’s a boost by subscribing to my channel and liking my latest video!)