Scared To Blog?

A blog post about not knowing what to write for a blog post? How meta.

I’ve gone quiet online over the past few weeks, not just with my blog, but social media and even just private messaging. I found it so exhausting to keep up with and I needed a bit of a break from being so connected all the time.

However, specifically with this blog, I have drafted numerous posts then deleted them because they either sounded painful and forced, or were too personal to share online. I can’t seem to put together a coherent view about what’s happening in the world right now. I’m increasingly frustrated by the news, particularly with US and UK politics, and I think there are only so many ways to ridicule the politicians in power before it starts to feel like I’m repeating myself.

And then there are the commentaries I want to make which add to already-volatile debates. I haven’t received backlash for expressing my views on here yet, but that’s not to say that someone won’t pick up on something I say and misconstrue it.

I am the first to hold up my hands and say I’m very much an amateur when it comes to forming opinions on politics, news and society in general. I’m only just becoming more aware of and engaged with what’s going on in the world, so I’m a bit of spring chicken in the conversations about bigger issues. That means that my worldview is continuously evolving and changing as I educate myself, so something I say in one post could be different to how I feel six months later.

As soon as you click ‘publish’, there’s a sense of permanence. Yes, you can delete and edit content but it still existed at some time on the internet. We’ve seen in the past how one slip up can create uproar (remember the girl who was getting on a flight, joked about being a bomber, and when she landed, she was arrested?).

Jon Ronson, the journalist and writer, released a book called ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ which shows that one mistake in the era of social media can mean paying a heavy price.

When you see the mob mentality online, it’s easier to choose not to say anything than to open up discussions or add your two-cents to the conversation.

Maybe I shouldn’t be scared to speak up. I may be keeping quiet about little things in Brexit, but if I don’t use my voice now, what about when it really matters? What about when something affects me and I want to be heard? I don’t want to be scared then, but what sort of precedent am I setting if I’m backing off now?

I want to write regularly; I like being able to pull together my thoughts about news stories as well as talk about what’s been on my mind lately. It’s just a matter of believing my voice has value.

Do other bloggers worry about what they’re saying, whether in terms of censorship, or whether it actually matters what they post? I’d be intrigued to know if I’m on my own on this one.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Why I Love Wimbledon

British Summer means two things: complaining about the weather and tennis.

Every summer, the British public retreat indoors for two weeks, away from the little bit of sunshine we are bless with, to watch people hit balls over a net for hours on end. And we love it (is that tennis pun?).

It’s Wimbledon season and suddenly everyone is a tennis expert. Who cares about the other fifty weeks of the year? When the world’s best player descend upon London, we are fixed to our screens, entranced by the ball going back and forth between grunting figures in all-white.

Hands up, I am guilty of this. Although I adore watching tennis, both on TV and in real life, I never actively seek out coverage or follow the world’s rankings. At the end of June, I get swept along by tennis fever along with everyone else and names that would be unknown to me usually are filling every conversation – Kerber, Raonic, Djokovic, Konta… Forget the football players raking in their millions, the players on the court steal the limelight.

Why do I get so caught up in this? Okay yes, I know that whenever there’s a big sporting event, it seems to sweep across the nation and everybody becomes a fan. Just look at the Olympics, the Six Nations, the World Cup… It’s hard not to want to be involved in the drama and the atmosphere to support your team with every other temporary fan.

But Wimbledon holds a special place in my heart that no other big sports event ever will. Be prepared, this is one of the rare occasions I will get soppy.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but tennis culture has this indescribable dignity that feels so stereotypically British. It’s the hush that falls over the crowd at important moments. It’s the head-to-toe white sports kit. It’s the shots of the spectators dressed like they’re going to a wedding rather than a match. It’s the presence of the royal family.

It almost makes you want to shout about how it’s all just ‘jolly good fun’, don a bowler hat and drink a cup of tea.

There’s also a personal connection I have to Wimbledon because on the day of the Men’s Final, my mum and I have started celebrating it by drinking Pimms, and eating finger sandwiches and, of course, strawberries and cream for dessert.

I love being able to share something like that with her and being able to spend time doing something completely and unashamedly indulgent together. There’s something to be said for tradition; it guarantees that you make time for each other amidst everything else.

Maybe that’s why I get so caught up in Wimbledon – because, to me, the big finale means something more than just who wins that year; it’s an excuse to be with one of my favourite people.

Or maybe it’s just the fruity booze.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Tackling the Tinder Taboo

Everyone in their twenties who has ever used Tinder will have a disaster story for you. The guy who would not stop sending nudes. The girl who was actually in a relationship. That one person who turned out to be double the age they said they were.

They’re fairly normal in comparison to some of the experiences I’ve heard about, some of which are funny and some of which have every level of creepiness covered.

The basic format of swiping the people you like the look of one way and all the people you find unattractive the other is shallow. Most people aren’t looking for commitment – let’s be honest, even friends with benefits is a bit too intense for most Tinder users.

Except for the fact that it isn’t.

I’ll admit that the reason I first downloaded the app was because my friend was having boy problems, so all the girls in our flat got it together and spent a night together having a bit of a laugh at the whole thing. Since then, I’d repeatedly deleted it, then downloaded it again when I was drunk, desperate or bored.

The thing about Tinder is that it’s easy to just mindlessly swipe right on hot people, chat to them for a bit if you match, then never make contact again. If you’re sat in watching TV re-runs on a weeknight and trying to pass the time, it’s entertaining to see what chat up lines people come up with. And yeah, it gives you a bit of a confidence boost that people think you’re attractive.

So the first time I got asked “do you fancy meeting up for a drink?”, I honestly didn’t know how to respond. My first instinct was scepticism – I presumed it wasn’t really their intention to have a few drinks and get to know each other, it was a precursor to sex. That’s fine, but just not my thing.

It took a while but I got over myself and have been on a few Tinder dates. Some were obviously just looking for a one night stand, and I left pretty quickly after my gin and tonic (never mid-gin and tonic though, can’t waste a good drink).

What surprised me was that some of the people I met in real life were genuine. They were on a dating app to date. Absolutely shocking behaviour.

A few of them have turned into second dates. A couple became third and fourth dates. That’s kind of been it for me because they lost interest, or vice versa.

Tinder is a bit of a guessing game. Correction: a massive guessing game. A selfie or two, a line about where someone is from and their age… That’s all you get to judge whether you’re interested. You might get a match, you might start chatting but they could literally be anyone. And if they are being honest in their profile, you still have no clue what they want or whether they’re anything close to what you want. Tinder is an effort and you can’t blame a girl for being a pessimist.

But, and this is a big but, it’s possible to get a real-life relationship. Amidst the guys and girls trying to find someone to sleep with, there are a few of us who are looking for something else.

Yes, desperation probably drove us there and we’re really not hopeful that anything will come of it. We’re not really committed to the search for a relationship otherwise we’d be paying for match.com, but it’s nice to flirt and date a bit when you don’t know how else to meet people. Pathetic as it sounds, I don’t really care about putting that out there. A relationship has never been the be-all and end-all for me, so it’s not like it’s a last resort to find The One (even typing that makes me vomit a little). You can’t look at someone’s profile and attempt to work out if they’d be a good boyfriend or girlfriend because come on, that’s ridiculous and you’ll never find anyone that fits your “type”.

When it comes to dating apps, don’t knock it until you try it. At the end of the day, if it ends up being horrific, at least you’ll get a funny experience to recount to your friends (with exaggerated voices and everything).

Everyone has a Tinder disaster story, true, but I think everyone has also heard at least one success story too.

I’m going to my cousin’s wedding in September. She’s marrying a guy she matched with on Tinder.

Have you ever used Tinder, or any other dating app? What’s your best story from it, good or bad?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Three Things I’ve Learnt After Three Weeks of My Internship

This time four weeks ago, I had just started my summer internship in Newcastle. Nervous doesn’t even begin to cover how I was feeling walking into the building. However, after three full weeks here, I think I’m finally finding my stride, or at least have stopped the nervous gabbling long enough to get some work done.

I still have another ten weeks to go, so there’s plenty of time for me to fuck up learn more. I have already learnt some valuable lessons in these first few weeks, though, which I think were pretty important for me to get on board ASAP.

  1. Make a good impression

    On top of wearing that look of ignorance that every newbie can’t hide, I was also so over-dressed in my black dress and boots when everyone else was in jeans and jumpers. I’d wear ball gowns every day if I could, so being over-dressed doesn’t really embarrass me. Under-dressing is a different matter altogether. If I had rocked up in my dirty Nikes whilst the rest of the office were in suits and heels, I don’t think I could have gone back for a second day.

    Also, you have to brown-nose a bit. Without cutting corners or being sloppy, power through all the work they give you and ask for more. In fact, suck up like an oversized teacher’s pet and offer to do all the crappy jobs no one else wants to be stuck with, like filing or doing a tea round. Eagerness might make you feel ridiculous but it’ll benefit you in the long run when you become known as the intern who actually does work – which can be a rare occurrence in some companies.

  2. Sometimes, you won’t have anything to do

    An intern is there to help out and get work experience. You really don’t have much responsibility at all because most of the time, you’re just assisting rather than heading up any big projects. I mean, that’s great because you can make a few mistakes without major repercussions, but it also means that sometimes, there’s nothing for you to do whilst you wait for everyone to do the high-priority stuff. Occupy yourself if you can with extra work, tidying up what you’ve done… Just don’t moan about being bored, or keep pestering the people who have actual things to do.

  3. You are temporary

    You weren’t there last month, and in a month or two you’ll be gone again. Although I’ve been lucky with the team I’m on (quick note: they are the NICEST people to work with), you cannot expect everyone to suddenly become your best friend. I’m not saying don’t talk to people because being the moody kid* is just as bad, but don’t jump into all their conversations or try to get involved in their personal lives. If you’re not asked to a team night out, don’t invite yourself along. It pays to be friendly, but not desperate, or just plain creepy.
    *yes, they will probably consider you as a kid if you’re a student.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about internships, from hours of pure boredom to being treated like shit on someone’s shoe. I’m definitely one of the lucky few who has stumbled into a position with lovely colleagues and interesting work, like publishing original content, interviewing incredible people and being able to see the outcome at event days. I am so grateful that I chose to take a bit of gamble by applying for this internship and living alone, away from home, rather than working somewhere I have no interest in at home.

Maybe it seems like bragging but I’m just happy that I seem to be giving myself a bit of direction. Let me be a bit smug.

I can’t wait to see what happens over the next two months or so. Maybe I’ll find a career path. Maybe I’ll finally learn how everyone likes their tea (oh my god I am useless at this, I always make it too strong).

How is your summer going? Have you started a job or an internship?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

How Do I Feel About Veganism?

Short answer: I haven’t a bloody clue.

I’m aware that by even bringing the word ‘vegan’ into the online sphere is a death wish so this post may seem like a poor idea. Nevertheless, I’m clearly a maverick and so I enter this topic with reckless and carefree abandon.

I am not vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, plant-based… I am a plain old omnivore. Growing up in a household that ate fairly simple, traditionally British meals meant that those concepts didn’t even exist to me until I was much older. We’ve always been a meat-and-two-veg kind of family: think roast dinners, sausage and mash, cottage pie and so on.

The first vegetarian I met was a girl in primary school whose family had never eaten meat. This was a foreign concept to me and I thought she was some exotic creature or something. It was baffling to me that she had never had chicken nuggets.

Since then, I obviously came across more people who lived vegetarian lifestyles and the idea became normal to me.

And then in high school, I was introduced to the elusive vegan. No longer a naïve and sheltered four-year-old , I reacted as any intellectual, mature teenager would: I regarded them as an alien.

Now, as a twenty-year-old who spends a lot of time online, I have discovered a diet for every person and nothing seems to surprise me anymore. There seems to be a lifestyle that cuts out every type of food, from meat to all animal products to only eating food that humans would have had in the Neolithic period. There are a lot of great books and online resources that show you how you can still get all your nutrition with substitutes. All good so far.

I would like to put it out there that I have no issue with these. In fact, I think that some of the reasons are entirely valid: factory farming, inhumane killing, and environmental harm caused by agriculture are problems that I am on board with finding solutions for.

What I disagree with is the restrictive nature and the psychological impact this can have. Diets that require you to cut out food groups suggest you can never eat that product again. There are some people in the online communities for these diets (no naming and shaming) who have an almost cult-like attitude to it. I fully acknowledge that this is a minority and not representative at all – please don’t hurt me. They make out that if you are a vegan and you have an egg, you are a disgrace. The guilt is piled on, suggesting you are an awful human being, that you are advocating immoral methods of farming. You are as bad as the factory farms. I’ve seen YouTubers and bloggers inundated with hate if they slip up even slightly. Even if it’s by accident.

And what about if, despite trying to find substitutes, you still aren’t getting the nutrition you need. Is it worth risking your own health to be able to say you follow one diet or another? Some of them don’t seem to allow for discrepancies and the rules are rigid. It feels like you’re all in, or not at all.

I eat meals that are predominantly meat-free. I bake vegan cupcakes and cookies. I make sure I shop for free-range eggs and meat, and I only buy honey when the bees haven’t been harmed in the collection of it. I don’t really fit into any of the diet categories, except I have habits from all of them.

Surely the fact that I eat less meat and I’m mindful of where my food comes from is still a good thing? Just because I can’t label my diet because I don’t eat a certain way 100% of the time, doesn’t mean I agree with the disgusting and barbaric ways that some animals are farmed. Shopping local promotes animal rights. Choosing to reduce my consumption of animal products contributes in even the smallest way towards reducing the carbon emissions from agriculture. What if everyone did that? What if we just opt for the alternative sometimes, without feeling that vegetarianism, veganism and everything in between, are exclusive clubs?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that instead of making it a matter of ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’, we can make small changes to our habits to help the planet. We don’t need to overhaul our entire lives from murderers to eco warriors.

I’m bracing myself for a negative response but I’d just like to finish this post by saying that this is the opinion of one person who is still trying to work out where she stands on this all. I would genuinely be interested to here people’s reasons for sticking to these lifestyles and start a conversation about it. I’m open to persuasion.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

What It Means To Be An LGBTQ+ Ally

I’ve been thinking more than usual about LGBTQ+ issues for a while now, probably as a result of seeing more people on Twitter and YouTube opening up about their experiences, as well as an increase in the mainstream media covering it. Riyadh from YouTube created a mini-series on BBC3 called Queer Britain; the news is covering the Turkish ban on Pride… It is becoming a more prominent topic in every day conversation, and rightly so.

This week, I went to a few book signings at Waterstones, one of which was for Juno Dawson’s new book, The Gender Games. (Rapid review: I’m only a few chapters in but I am already in love with this memoir. Also, Juno is one of the most hilarious, articulate and friendly authors I have ever met.)IMG_0918

The tagline on the cover is “The problem with men and women, from someone who has been both.” Juno touches on something important with this: she is able to talk about both perspectives because she has lived them both. She knows rather than presumes about what it is like to experience society when she is seen as a man and then when she transitions to a female body. It’s about telling the story she has experienced herself rather than letting anyone else speak for her, or speaking on behalf of anyone else.

What I’ve been thinking about more specifically is where I fit into the LGBTQ+ conversation. I’ll warn you now, this post is definitely going to be more of a thought-dump than a structured argument or a response to anything in particular.

I guess I personally identify as bisexual because I am attracted to both men and women, but I definitely sway more towards guys than girls. I’m sure there is another label I could put on this but bisexual seems to be the best way to communicate it.

So technically I am part of this community but I feel a bit like I’m on the margins of some of the discussions about struggling with sexuality, coming out or discrimination. I have been lucky, very lucky. No one has ever bullied me, I didn’t have to “come out” and it hasn’t affected any of my relationships with friends or family.

LGBTQ_Symbols

I have had the privilege of discovering my sexuality and then just continuing on with my life. It’s just a small part of who I am and no one really cares, because it doesn’t define me. In essence, I have been allowed to exist as myself in a way that most people who identify as LGBTQ+ aren’t, and my god, am I thankful for that.

As a result, I think I see my role in the community as an ally more than a participant because it will never be my place to talk about the hardships that other people have to face in society regarding their gender and sexuality. I’ve been trying to work out what it means to be an ally – should I be promoting marginalised voices, speaking out, supporting campaigns, vocalising my anger when I see news stories such as the exposure of the detention and torture of gay men in Chechnya?

In short, yes. Prejudice and hate will continue to fester if we stay quiet; in fact, I believe that silence can sometimes advocate it (another topic, another time).

However, my voice should be part of the chorus rather than taking centre stage as a soloist. I should show my support, I should bring attention to issues, I should celebrate the community’s victories.

I should not speak for them. It would be pure egotism and ignorance to believe that my opinion is stronger and more articulate, and that it has a greater significance than the experiences of the people I’m supposed to be supporting. To speak on someone’s behalf and tell their story for them is presuming that their voice is less important and holds less weight.

For me, an LGBTQ+ ally’s first job is to listen. Listen to the voices that have never had an ear before, who are muffled by hate and are accustomed to being silenced. Give people the platform and the safe space to discuss their problems, to open up about their worries, and to celebrate their victories.

It all comes down to the fact that I cannot speak on anyone’s behalf but my own. The only experience I can fully know is my own. The only story I can tell is my own.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

An Introvert’s Guide to a Night Out

It’s Friday night and you have two options: a night on the sofa with a glass of wine, your favourite movie and your comfiest sweatpants, OR reply to that text inviting you to head into town for the sesh.
(NB: ‘sesh’ is a word I haven’t nor ever will use seriously, don’t worry)

Don’t get me wrong, I love a drink as much as the next girl, particularly a good gin and tonic. Some of my best nights have been dancing until the early hours, or making my way down the cocktail menu in a bar until I can barely stand in my heels. However, I’m always an advocate for getting a few bottles in from Tesco, calling round some friends, and being able to have a proper laugh when we can actually hear each other.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a twenty year old grandma. That means I also have no issue getting into a bubble bath with a good book and a glass of prosecco – in fact, I’ll go one step further and say I actually enjoy spending the occasional Friday night in with myself.

bath-988502_960_720

So when I’m really not in the mood to go out, taking off my sweatpants to squeeze into my jeans is already an unappealing idea. Add in the prospect of queuing to get into a sweaty club full of drunk strangers spilling their drinks on the floor and bumping into me, and I’m already considering retreating to my duvet.

My understanding of introversion, at least for the purpose of this post, is that feeling of being drained by social situations, even if you do have fun, and just needing to take the time out for yourself. Put that in the context of university, where the student lifestyle almost demands regular three-day benders. There is so much pressure to drink until you forget your name, then drink some more. If you don’t go out more than twice a week, it’s like there’s something wrong with you.

Fear not, my fellow introverts. 

Whether it’s a birthday, work do or some other unavoidable night out, it is possible to have a good time rather than intensely staring at the clock until it’s an acceptable time to scarper. One of my biggest worries is that I’ll disappoint my friends or dampen the mood if I don’t seem to be having as much fun as them.

cocktails-1149171_960_720Think about where exactly you’re going. Pubs and bars are always so much more low-key than clubs. You can grab a drink, head to a table and it’s all very relaxed because there’s no pressure beyond having a catch up with your friends.

If the plan is to head to a club though, I like to suggest somewhere that plays the kind of music I’m into. Personally, house bores me to tears, whereas I love funk, soul or R’n’B. I’m lucky that in Newcastle there’s so much choice for different music tastes, and I’ve quickly found my favourite places to go to now. Ignoring the crowds of dancing drunk people is pretty easy when the playlist makes you want to join in with them.

Once you start looking, you’ll start to notice other introverts cropping up too. We’ll be in the toilets taking a minute to recollect, or at the bar ordering a drink just for something to hold. Although it goes against the nature of introversion, these are the people I like to get to know on a night out. No one else will understand how uncomfortable, shy or exhausted you feel.

Even simply acknowledging one another lets us know we’re not alone in the way we’re feeling. I don’t know about anyone but I’ve always presumed I’m just boring because sometimes I want to be by myself instead of surrounded by people. It’s okay though – some of us feed off being around others, and some of us have to recharge on our own before we’re back to our usual selves. Extroverts, please bear with us whilst we grab a cup of tea and some much-needed me-time.

Candle Book Glass Of Wine

Any other introverts out there? How do you cope on a night out? 

Best wishes,

Siobhán