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I haven't done a chatty lifestyle post for ages. I guess with some stuff I've had going on with me personally this year, it just never felt like the right time... But today I still wanted to share the year I had, the year I hope to have in 2022 and chat through my lifestyle favourites.
I think maybe we all went into 2021 with unrealistic expectations. We had a vaccine, we were expecting it to be some sort of silver bullet and after a year of lockdowns, it felt like normal life would resume. Of course, that isn't what happened - here in the UK we actually had our worst wave of COVID during winter 2020 into 2021. I remember January to March 2021 being such a difficult, seemingly-endless and miserable time. I was on my own for that lockdown in a city centre flat in a place I didn't feel especially safe. The days were short and the weather was cold. Of course restrictions eased but it's fair to say it was a year of uncertainty, mismanagement and false promises, with a strong air of fatigue. Life felt stunted: for many people, work wasn't the same, you couldn't look forward to things like a holiday and one of the more serious consequences is that trying to access medical help for non-emergency issues has moved further and further out of reach for many people.
Despite that, seeing friends and family in the Spring was amazing - I've never been so grateful for things I'd always taken for granted. Overall, I had a nice summer, but unfortunately caught Delta in July (when I'd had my first vaccine but not my second). My enduring memory was a crushing headache and lying on the sofa with the fan pointed directly at me because it was 30 degrees outside, I was on my own and really struggled to eat much. The general fatigue clouded me for a few months after, but I did recover, so I really can't complain in the grand scheme of things.
At the end of summer, a relationship I'd been in for three years came to an end in a way that was unexpected for me and felt very abrupt. The life I'd thought I was living was terminated suddenly and I really had my confidence knocked in my own judgement. I can't really blame myself in the cold light of day: life is about loving others and opening yourself up to that knowing it could be great or it could be painful, and all I can control is being genuine and loyal towards the people I care about. What they choose to do with that is for them. The three months I spent in the flat I'd hated for a long time, surrounded by reminders of the past were some of the longest and hardest of my life, but I'm here! And I'm lucky enough to have bought my own place. I don't have furniture or a fridge, as I write this back at my family home for Christmas, there are boxes everywhere and it's a total mess. But, I'll figure it out, I'm so grateful to have this space.
I know so many people have had a tough time this year: whether it's your own health, a loved one's health, job or money issues relating to the pandemic or your relationship has been one of the many lockdown / COVID casualties out there. All I can say is: you're not alone, reach out to those around you and let's all hope for a 2022 that's better, without overly idealising it or setting unrealistic expectations.
All that being said, am I hopeful for next year? Yes, I won't bore you with cliches but there's something quite satisfying about the thought of starting 2022 in a new place of my own, and I don't want to discount it. It's going to be expensive, it's not going to be perfect from day 1 and I'm sure I'll have moments of stress and exhaustion. But, I'm also very fortunate to be doing this and I feel much more resilient against bumps in the road than I did when I was worrying about if the purchase would go through, all whilst my old place was sucking me dry of energy.
I really don't know what 2022 will have in store for us, and after last year, I don't want to build things up too much. I'll be happy if I'm content in my new place and if I've built a life for myself there by the end of the year. I am hoping to get a laparoscopic excision for what I've long-suspected is endometriosis. I would also love to do a big trip next year, though that could be pure wishful thinking so I'm trying not to get too attached to the idea! I've also started a new Instagram page for all of my more home and life-related content so let's see where that takes us! I also still love creating beauty content here and seeing what unexpected directions 2022 could take me in. I would never have expected that in the past 2 years I'd have had a photoshoot and interview with Cosmo magazine and had the opportunity to meet people like Caroline Hirons, Ruth Crilly, Jordan Samuel, May Lindstrom and some wonderful creators in person. I hope for more of that this year!
I've read, watched and listened to so much great stuff this year, so I'll try to stick to new releases when it comes to TV and film or we'd be here all day!
TV: Squid Game | Would any TV roundup of 2022 be complete without a mention of this easter egg-laden, infinitely anaylse-able South Korean capitalism-as-childs-play allegory? For me, this was a little slow to get into, but stick with it because by episode 3 it was one of those shows I was staying up late to watch just one more episode of, then was left wondering at night what was going to happen next! If you still haven't seen it: the hype is real, stop trying to resist it, but as a word of warning, don't go for the distractingly-bad dubbed version, go for English subtitles (not English [CC]) because it offers the best viewer experience in English.
TV: Back to Life | Clearly I'm really into British comedy-dramas at the moment, based on this list of favourites! This is such a rich and complex mix of genres and the tone shifts throughout each episode without missing a beat. It's about a woman released from prison after 18 years - having missed a vast chunk of her life - for a terrible crime she was involved in as a teenager. She's ill-prepared for the modern world and is subject to harassment from the community but approaches life with a sense of naive optimism that's admirable in many ways. It's sad, funny and heartwarming all at once.
TV: Feel Good | This couldn't be more perfectly-named because it did make me feel good! It's a semi-autobiographical series by Mae Martin about a Canadian aspiring comedian in London trying to move forwards from her addiction issues. She meets hitherto-straight George, a romance begins and of course hilarity ensues but also a really realistic look at mental health and some moments that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
TV: Motherland | This is more of a straight sitcom, which I discovered through last year's Christmas Special. It's a self-aware journey through the trials and tribulations of a group of middle class mums at their best and their worst. Honestly, it just has me belly-laughing at least every few minutes. If you need cheering up for any reason, I can't recommend it enough.
TV: It's a Sin | I don't even know where to start without getting emotional! This story starts in the 80s; a group of young gay men leave their respective small towns for London, to live authentically and have some fun. But the dizzying excitement (accompanied by an A+ soundtrack, might I add) comes to a grinding halt as the AIDS epidemic begins, as well as the prejudice, misunderstanding and misinformation that went along with it. Of course, the premise of the show means heartbreak is on the cards for the viewer as you really grow to love and want to be best friends with these characters. I won't say any more, other than you need to be ready for the emotional beating you are about to receive! And the way this show hits really is a testament to how well-rounded and real the characters are, thanks to superb writing, acting and directing.
Film: Dune | This is one of the few films I saw in the cinema during 2021 and I loved the entire experience. I'm almost a little annoyed I didn't read this sci-fi classic before the film came out, because this was a really intriguing opening to the series with world-building that sucked me in and made me want to know more. If you're looking for a narrative that's open and closed in a single film with perhaps some overarching themes carried forwards to a sequel: this is not for you! It's pretty unashamedly the start of a story about intergalactic colonialism, possible realities and prophecy.
Film: Promising Young Woman | Honestly, this was one of the most topical, smart and well-executed films I've seen in a long time. It makes a statement and it makes its point perfectly with equal measures of nihilistic despair and dark humour. Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, who dropped out of medical school several years ago before living out her own twisted revenge fantasy on 'nice guys' and those who have wronged her. It doesn't pull any punches...
Podcast: The Murder Squad | I've realised over time that I actually favour serious and factual content when it comes to true crime podcasts. The Murder Squad with Billy Jensen and Paul Holes (who played a huge role in catching the Golden State Killer a couple of years back) examines cold cases - including ones that have had very little publicity - to look at the facts and generate new lines of enquiry. No matter how old or how forgotten a case seems, I love how they tackle each one with a fresh pair of eyes and a 'let's do this' attitude. I can imagine that the families of the victims discussed find a lot of hope in the fact they always look to find ways to solve these crimes and to generate renewed interest that could lead to answers. I think in a way it's also very intellectually satisfying, as it gives you an insight into how investigators take these cases apart and find connections, which sort of trains you in a way to be analytic and think laterally, but also to be open to new information rather than having tunnel vision. This is essential listening if you're at all interested in this angle of true crime.
Book: Natives (Akala) | There was something about this polemic on race in Britain that really spoke to me - perhaps because I'm half British and half Jamaican like Akala. I think for a lot of years, discourse on this topic was heavily coming from the US, but in more recent years, there's been a lot of literature out on the uniquely British experience of race and racism. And a significant part of this is that people in this country don't really want to engage with it; largely, they've received a very superficial and flattering education on the Empire, they think Britain ended slavery first so it's the good guy, they think that because there was never legal segregation on British soil that institutional racism is an 'American problem' when in actuality (for all its flaws) at least the United States is able to have an open dialogue about the matter. This mixture of autobiography, history and socio-economic analysis takes concepts that might sound hypothetical to the average white British person and brings them into sharp, everyday focus through Akala's personal stories.
What have been your highs and lows of 2021 and what are your hopes for 2022?