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Is it really that time again? As much as it can sometimes stir up mixed feelings, I love sitting down to write these lifestyle-focused posts at the end of each year; it's an opportunity to take stock, see how far I've come in various areas of my life and I somehow never quite end up where I expected...
I guess I should start at the beginning! I went through a really difficult breakup with someone I lived with at the end of Summer 2021, so I didn't just have to deal with the emotional upheaval but also with the practical implications. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to buy a small place on my own, so that's what I did, and I was also fortunate in that I was a first time buyer and there was no chain on the seller's side, so the process (whilst stressful) was as smooth as it could've been. On the 17th of December, in the darkness of a winter evening, I collected my keys and let myself into this place, which felt so empty and alien back then! A couple of days later (after repeated painful negotiations with a tiny passenger lift in my old building) I moved my boxes into my new flat. I didn't own a single piece of furniture and the previous owner had taken the fridge! But I had a box with a mattress, and that would do... I went home for Christmas and everything was left a problem for the new year.
There's absolutely something cathartic about leaving that old flat I'd never much liked and all the difficult emotions it was now associated with at the end of 2021 and arriving at my new home in 2022 with a blank slate, ready for a fresh start and a new challenge. Over weeks of concentrated effort, my flat was redecorated, furniture began to arrive, I stayed up all night single-handedly assembling furniture, learning how to use a drill and perform household tasks, not going to bed until I'd finished unpacking at least 10 boxes. First there was bare flooring, then there were rugs, then there were candles and pictures on the wall and photo frames and plants. Slowly but surely, this place became my home. A place I feel safe and comfortable and that's adapted and designed to my preferences, that I spend hours cleaning every week, somewhere to host friends and just look forwards to spending time in. I've also really loved sharing this journey and my other passion (cooking) on my new Lifestyle Instagram account.
I've discussed my endometriosis on the blog before, but it's something that's interfered with my life for as long as I can really remember. This year I finally had the opportunity to get excision surgery to remove the uterine-like tissue growing throughout my pelvis and on other organs that had caused me extremely painful periods and increasingly-debilitating gut issues. That I'd been told for years was probably my imagination or some sort of exaggeration. After years of medical care that had ranged from incompetence to indifference to straight-up gaslighting: I'd finally been heard. For me, the recovery was pretty straightforward, the scarring was minimal and the improvement was pronounced and pretty immediate. I'm not saying it's the right choice for everyone, but I'm endlessly grateful I had the opportunity to do this. I will discuss the process more during Endometriosis Awareness Month, but I just had to talk about the impact it had on my life this year.
Travel unfortunately didn't get a look-in this year given all the costs I saddled with getting my own place, but by around Springtime, I felt I was ready to start subjecting myself to dating once again... I must've been on a dozen spark-free dates, which I guess are character-building; it's always good to meet people and learn how to spend time one-on-one with strangers. I made a strong connection early on with someone who turned out to be far from ready for it, which was a pretty devastating setback when I'd only just hyped myself up to start dating at all. However, I eventually got back in the saddle; there were guys who were nice but who I didn't want to string along, guys who seemed the right type of person but perhaps at the wrong time, guys who were emotionally unavailable... I was searching for a connection that didn't seem to be there for me, in a sea of repetitive pineapple on pizza jokes and every other profile declaring their love for dogs or Harry Potter as though these were incredibly niche interests. I'd pretty much given up on the idea of meeting someone any time soon and the process was really starting to get me down. But then I actually met someone... I'm pretty protective over it because it's new and it's going to be a challenge to try and make things work, but in terms of who they are; it really does feel like I've met someone I didn't think existed or even really could exist, and for that I'm truly grateful.
I've long since given up trying to see into the future! But for 2023, I hope there's some more financial stability on the cards for me, after an expensive year of living alone, boilers packing in, blocked drains and broken washing machines... I also hope that along with it, someway, somehow, I'll get to spend more time travelling in 2023; it's been long enough! And, of course, despite the uncertainty and the obstacles I'm pretty sure will find their way into our path: I want this new relationship to work and to strengthen in the new year. I guess it's pretty simple, really, in that I just want a bit of peace after so many ups and downs - let's see if 2023 allows for that!
Podcast: You're Wrong About | Journalist Sarah Marshall (initially co-hosting with Michael Hobbes, then joined by a new guest each week) wittily, effectively, intelligently and compassionately debunks moral panics, historical events and social phenomena in a way that's easy to understand and led me to eat through this podcast's entire back-catalogue. Topics include the Satanic Panic, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, the Y2K Bug, the Stonewall Uprising and much more...
Film: Smile | I love a good horror film, emphasis on the good. Whilst Smile delivers on the horror classics like jump scares, it executes them so effectively that it never really feels like you're rehashing horror tropes. The twists keep you guessing until the end, and the plot is simple but oh so effective! And I think what really takes it to the next level for me is that the acting is exceptionally good and it does have an emotional core, about grief, mental illness, isolation and facing your personal demons. It's not just about being scared, it's about really feeling the film.
Film: Good Luck to You Leo Grande | What can I say? I love films that are 90% just two people talking to each other! This is a sensitive, funny, heart-warming and beautifully well-executed film starring Emma Thompson about female self-love and sexuality in middle age. After the death of her husband, an older teacher realises she's never actually enjoyed or explored her sexuality, so recruits a young male sex worker to help... Far from crass or seedy or explicit, it's actually touching in other ways!
TV: Love Life | This anthology series follows a young woman in the first set of episodes (my personal favourite) and a young man in the second, as they go down the winding path to true love. The chapters of the story are told through the lens of their romantic interests but there's also so much full-realised character in there and self-discovery and plenty of other relationships going on at the same time. What I truly enjoyed about this series is that it felt real; it felt like a true depiction of love and how relationships come and go in our lives and serve our different needs at different life stages we go through. Paradoxically, by being somewhat unromantic, it actually feels all the more poignant.
Book: Block Delete Move On by Lalalaletmeexplain | As an avid reader of Lala's Now column and a follower of her Instagram account (packed full of dating advice and how to set healthy boundaries with the people in your life), when I found myself single, I had to pick up her book!
Book: Why Did You Stay by Rebecca Humphries | Honestly, I got this for Christmas, started it a few days later and just now finished it at the end of the New Year Bank Holiday! I have to say (given this post is about to feature several): I'm usually not one for a celebrity memoir, but I love good writing about meaningful experiences. When actress Rebecca Humphries is cheated on by her boyfriend whilst he's on Strictly (very publicly, with his dance partner), it sets off a chain of self-discovery. Through a dual timeline we experience both the shattering breakup and the early excitement of a new romance simultaneously before the narration is united as a new, stronger, more sure voice towards the end. Far from being a book about a breakup, it's really a book about discovering your self-worth and not accepting love that's controlling, manipulative, gaslighting or belittling. It's about the power of being vulnerable and truthful about what made you stay, as well as the power of leaving. It's also very funny, well-written and I'm sure relatable to many.
Book: I'm Glad my Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy | I never thought I'd pick up a book by a former Disney star, but I'd heard great things and the title obviously grabbed my attention! This is a raw, honest, darkly humorous look at the less well-understood side of child abuse and difficult parental relationships. It dives into eating disorders, the true cost of child stardom and what happens when you accept the taboo: being happy you're no longer under the control of a parent who has never allowed you to have your own space, thoughts, hopes and dreams. It definitely comes with a lot of trigger warnings, but if you're out of the woods on any of these issues and think you can handle it: I think this is a must-read.
Book: My Body by Emily Ratajkowski | Supermodel Emily Ratajkowski's book really wasn't on my radar until I caught her on a podcast and she was interviewed on it. I decided to give it a go and was really taken with how sensitive and immersive her writing style is. As the name suggest, the book charts her relationship with her body; how it feels to be a commodity, to disassociate from your own body, to be observed in ways you don't quite yet understand but to be cognisant of how others are reacting to your body... The book also deals with sexual abuse and the generally-abusive nature of the modelling industry. My only negative is really the lack of exploration around the curation of image and the impact this has on normal women and girls, but I suppose it's intended as a meditation by Emily on her own life and body, and in that it does succeed.
Book: Spoon Fed by Tim Spector | I pretty much read this book on my journey to and from Paris to visit my best friend back in November; it's a real can't-put-it-down because it speaks so much sense! Tim Spector has been a medical doctor, an epidemiologist and now focuses his research on the gut microbiome. Each chapter of Spoon Fed debunks a fad diet, 'common wisdom' about nutrition and weight loss and the demonisation of various food groups that's occurred over the decades, aimed in various directions. It's a great read if you just want to cut through the misinformation and start to challenge the status quo a little. And there's something refreshingly intuitive about the underlying theme that, yes, we should all be eating as many whole foods as possible, with different colours and lots of vegetables!
How was your 2022? Did you catch any of my lifestyle favourites? If so, let me know your thoughts on them!