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Normally in this annual blog post, I look back on the year I've had and set some goals for the forthcoming year, but 2020 has been anything but normal and I honestly think it would be a bit depressing to look at all the things I wanted this time last year whilst blissfully unaware of what was in store. Instead, I want to try and put into words what this year has been like and what I'll hopefully appreciate more than ever in 2021. As always, I'll also cover off the standout things I watched, read and listened to this year too...
Where to even start... Honestly, there have been difficult moments for me this year outside of the whole 'global pandemic' situation, but we'll steer clear of that! I think one of the most surreal moments I remember having experienced was walking through Birmingham city centre at 11am on a Saturday and it was deserted. Every shop and restaurant had a sign in their window saying they were closed indefinitely and we walked through a deserted shopping centre. Suddenly the sounds of ambulances were the only traffic noises blaring through our city centre flat. I couldn't see my friends or family, and suddenly living in a different city to them was a huge barrier because there'd be no hopping on a train up north or down south and there'd be no hugs and hanging out. Unless I had a very good reason, I was trapped working, living, eating and sleeping in a one bedroom flat with my partner. I feel like I cooked, I went running, I cried, I did a lot of quizzes... I can't complain about my experience when it was largely an eerily quiet waiting game, because on the front line I'd imagine it was a terrify, dangerous, uncertain and probably chaotic time. I'm also immensely grateful to work in a job that allowed me to easily work from home; I wasn't being let go and nor was I risking my life to go to work. But, I also can't say it wasn't a difficult time.
I think 2020 has really made me consider what I value in life. Although I walked to work immediately before the pandemic, when I lived down in Woking, I was losing 2 hours a day to commuting. Having less social time has helped me put my energy into other things, like cooking delicious meals, taking up running and dedicating more time to my blog and social media channels. Whilst enforced working from home hasn't always been ideal, there have been pros; like making use of lunch breaks to work on personal projects and, without the need to get ready for work, I can take things a bit slower in the morning. I like waking up, having a cuddle and casually reading some emails as I make a nice coffee and a breakfast smoothie. I like having a lunch that's not of convenience, I like being able to go for a run at lunch time and not worrying about looking less-than-polished at my desk! Whilst I miss the social element of being in the office, I very much see the future as being the best of both worlds.
In terms of personal successes; I was in bloody Cosmo mag! Back when life was simple back in February; I went down to London and had a proper photo shoot for the first time in my life and a few months later it was there in print. My face in an article about Skinfluencers. Madness! I also released my own collaboration with my favourite K-beauty website Tonic 15. It was a great experience to get a real behind-the-scenes look at how something like this is pulled together and to really get the creative input to make my concept a reality with my favourite products. So, as difficult as 2020 was, I can't say I didn't experience personal highs.
- LOOKING FORWARD TO 2021 -
It's nice to have big plans but, to be honest, I'll take what I can get next year! Being realistic, I hope that I can have a good old get-together with my friends by the time my birthday rolls around in June and can get away on holiday a couple of times over summer. I'm trying to be reasonable with my expectations and accept that an incredible trip to somewhere like Bali or Sri Lanka, which is what I'd wanted for this year, is unlikely given the air industry is going to take a long time to recover (if it can at all). I fear that even a hop across to Italy could be extortionate in the post-COVID world. It'll be great to see my grandparents, at last, which will hopefully be a bit sooner because they've just received the first round of the vaccine. I also look forward to getting home and seeing my mum more often. Hell, I'm looking forward to just sitting at my local with my friends and having a laugh without worrying.
- YEAR-END LIFESTYLE FAVOURITES -
Book: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams | I have to admit I've been terrible at reading fiction this year, however this is one book that truly sucked me in. I couldn't put it down and found myself reading for hours. I feel like it's one of those stories that a lot of us young millennials can really relate to; a young woman trying to find her way in the world whilst having her finger firmly placed on the 'self destruct' button after a relationship breakdown. It's chatty and informal so you feels as though you're experiencing everything through the main character, who goes on a real personal journey throughout the narrative. It also explores themes of race, family relationships and trying to 'make it' in London on a pitiful salary.
Book: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker | I'm a total psychology and true crime obsessive; for whatever reason I seem to have this need to try to rationalise the human psyche when taken to its logical extreme. Before the FBI Behavioural Science Unit was formed, the term 'serial killer' hadn't really been coined and no one was trying to use behavioural clues to profile who might be committing the most serious of crimes. This book takes you case-by-case through John Douglas's career and how he built his method.
TV: The Crown | I actually haven't even got a chance to share this because my lifestyle posts have been pretty infrequent this year, given the whole 'not up to much' situation! I didn't watch the Crown for a really long time because honestly; nothing you can say will convince me that monarchism is a reasonable philosophical position, and I honestly assumed this would be pro-royal propaganda. However, it was a bit judgemental of me to think that the showrunners would let political leanings get in the way of telling a fantastic story (with opulent sets and costumes to match, of course). As someone who was born when the queen was already pretty elderly, I'd never really thought of her as a young woman and Claire Foy portrays the character brilliantly. In the more recent series, we've of course seen current affairs like the ill-fated marriage of Charles and Diana and Britain under Thatcher's Prime Ministership. It's compelling viewing and the actors do an incredible job of replicating the mannerisms, intonations and facial expressions of their real-life counterparts for some really convincing performances. It plays out like the story of modern British history told from a perspective I'd never really given much thought to before.
TV: Normal People | I honestly can't think of any TV show off the top of my head that's given such a real, raw, intimate and true-to-life look at first love. And that's probably why this one got me so badly! Connell and Marianne go to school together and have a bit of a fling, during which he betrays her, before leaving for university. Over the coming years, the universe brings them together and pulls them apart as they both try to find themselves in young adulthood. You need to watch it to experience the rest!
TV: The Midnight Gospel | This is another really unique TV show. Duncan Trussell's Family Hour is a really popular podcast and this show takes that format and does something unique with it. In psychedelic multicolour, Clancy uses his multiverse simulation machine to jump into a different world each episode to interview someone for his 'spacecast' and they end up having conversations about life, death, love, the universe and everything in-between. Plus, it's pretty damn funny!
TV: The Queen's Gambit | I do love a good standalone miniseries that focuses on weaving a great narrative without worrying about setting up the next series. The Queen's Gambit tells the story of Beth, an orphan who soon reveals herself to be a chess prodigy. However, as her chess success reaches each new height, her personal demons do too. It's smart, gripping, beautifully produced and incredibly well-acted.
Film: Just Mercy | This film was honestly gut-wrenchingly painful to watch, but it's an important story about a broken system, well-told and with moving performances. A young, recently-qualified lawyer begins working on dubious death penalty cases in the southern states of the US and meets an African-American man whose life is wasting away on death row despite very little evidence linking him to the crime in question. I probably don't have to tell you why this story was so emotive and really feels like a political call to action.
Film: Marriage Story | I think this is another rare insight into how love and relationships often play out in real life, when things get difficult and complicated. This is the story of the breakdown of a marriage and all the messy, emotional stuff that comes with it. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson put in terrific terms, both of whom I've not really seen in this sort of role.
YouTube: PBS Eons | I've pretty much binged most of the content on this YouTube channel because it's fascinating yet accessible. It takes little snippets of topics from earlier in our species's history and our planet's history then explains them in a way that's interesting, digestible and makes you want more. If you're interested at all in prehistoric topics; you have to subscribe to this channel!
Podcast: Casefile | As I've mentioned; I'm very much into true crime and this is probably my favourite podcast on the topic. The anonymous host covers cases from across the world (as opposed to sticking to the 'well known' ones) and puts an incredible amount of research into each episode. The stories are told factually and actually more from the victim's perspective than anything else (he doesn't actually cover that many 'serial' killers, which are stories that naturally put the focus more on the criminal), there's nothing salacious about it which sometimes grosses me out a bit with certain podcasts in this genre. I also think he injects a lot of interesting social commentary into his retellings of these stories.
How has 2020 been for you? What are you looking forward to most in the new year?