“During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, an apprehension of illness, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone...Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.” - Joan Didion
On the second Sunday of the month I wake up early to have breakfast in the garden. In the sweltering heat, on a flimsy burning chair, as I listen to the neighbors' kids play on the other side of the fence and laugh easily as they throw water from their makeshift pool directly onto my feet.
I wear my best French-woman-going-to-the-market-to-buy-bread-and-olives-and-flowers outfit and make my way to my favorite spot in the city. I walk behind two dads pushing a pram and my heart does a little jump because London Pride was just yesterday and I will not apologize for being an Emotional Aquarius Baby. I get my usual order at the creperie stand and pick flowers to press and send to my grandmother in my next letter.
I dip my fingers in cheese and my feet in water, and tell myself it's okay if my breath still catches from time to time.
I have been good for a while now. Which is not to mean I haven't had bad days, but I have been doing good. Day after day, for more days than I could have hoped for less than a year ago.
With that in mind, I walk slowly, with no real purpose. I try so desperately to commit these moments to memory, as I've been doing ever since I realized things had shifted -I have rarely put as much energy into anything as I did trying to crystallize perfect solitary mornings spent on Santa Monica beach into souvenirs for my heart.
Timestamps of a tide turning burned to my eyelids, a resolution.
Like my high school teacher once (really, actually) said, "Anna, if you put half the energy you dedicate to your own personal drama into studying, you'd be top of your class".
I mean, she was an asshole but she wasn't wrong.
Thing is, I believe there's power in paying attention to small victories and slow days and big moments because everything else just --goes so fast. I forget birthdays and cancel plans as weeks and months blur one into the other, I forget to water the plants and do laundry and come home at a reasonable hour and to remember to breathe. I answer too many emails and listen to too many podcasts on my way to and back from work, I take too many calls during lunch hour and never answer my texts or drink enough water and never ever go to the gym when I said I would, I spill sauce on white clothes and stay up late investigating conspiracy theories and I am terrible, terrible at taking care of myself.
But I want to.
So when I stick to the only routine I know is good for me, when I cancel out the noise and the messy and the complicated and just focus on here, now, still and silent, I am taking care of myself.
When I press play on Storms by Fleetwood Mac for the sixth time in a row just to hear the last minute one more time, when I get my skirt wet by jumping into the pond a little too hastily, when I spend five minutes watching a ladybug walk from one of my rings to the other and back, I am doing exactly what my heart needs.
I've been scared shitless of change and questions I want answers to but do not have the energy to start asking myself. I've been scared to write, ever since I turned my back on so much of what made up my identity. I've been slipping and slipping and wondering if this is how it starts or if I'll only notice when it's too late.
I’ve been restless and hard on myself and I’ve been wasting time waiting for something more, always something better. Always waiting for whatever comes next when the pieces align themselves and you’re not breathing underwater for the first time in years but still expecting something to drown you.
So I walk slowly, commit, commit, commit.
I tell myself perfect moments are worth celebrating more than a perfect life ever might be, and I breathe out my fear with every shaky breath.
I crystallize every moment, just as it is. Timestamps of a tide turning burned to my eyelids, a resolution
Mom visited for the weekend and she feng-shui’d my room and moved my Mick Jagger vinyl ‘cause it sat where the divinity and spirituality spot is in relation to the cardinal points and she wouldn’t hear me out when I said that worked quite well because Jagger is, in fact, my god.
I told her the story of good ol' Swifty in 2012 and we laughed and we laughed and we couldn’t stop laughing when we realized what it meant now in retrospect because, life is funny. Sometimes it takes a few years for it to sink in, for it to spin the right way, for it to stare at you right in the face -but it always does.
And it sure does so better when you’re not working against it like I have been my whole life, so.
That’s where I'm at.
Sat on a new pink stool mom put in the ‘dreams, ambitions and opportunities’ chakra-spot-corner, not really trying to get anywhere but letting it get to me.
Me and my eyeliner-wearing, lipstick-sporting, songs-that-make-my-heart-go-kaboom-writing divinity, obviously.
I also loved this from Chani Nicholas' weekly horoscopes very, very, very much:
I relax knowing that all I need to do is show up in this moment as myself. For myself. In service of what needs me. This is the place I plan my days from. This is the place I run my life from. This is the place that I return to.
I am enough. I am everything that this moment needs. I am discovering who I am one situation at a time. I am not a mystery solved, I am a mystery revealing itself. Anytime I find myself struggling to get it right, figure it out, or fix myself to fit in, I remember that isn’t the point. The sharp edge of life’s sword is always asking me to cut through the self-doubt that inhibits me from doing what I can, when I can, as often as I can.
Might just hang it up on my wall.
Right next to Mick.
"Fight for the rebuild", a friend told me a while ago.
"You've got to fight for the life you want," she said. "It's worth every ounce of struggle."
Back then, I had no idea what that rebuild would look like. Six months ago today, I boarded a plane at LAX and landed in London tired to the bone but wide-eyed and weirdly excited about starting over, about building something back up from scratch.
I didn’t know what the life I wanted looked like, which made the whole affair harder than it maybe needed to be, but.
I’d just discovered what I didn’t want it to look like, and that had to count for something, right?
It was raining because of course it was, and as the plane touched down the speaker system started playing Carolina and I laughed into my pillow because I really don't like Carolina one bit but it still means something, you know.
Six months on, I think I'm starting to realize what it meant.
On my last night in Milan, the night before I moved to London, I walked around the empty (and rainy! what an omen!) streets of the old city center listening to Sweet Disposition and wondering what the future would bring -wondering if I was making the right choice, how long it would take before I crashed and burned.
It meant a lot to me in 2013, that song. I loved the promise of it, the sheer possibility of it.
I’m only half kidding when I say I moved to London for the way Sweet Disposition made me feel, walking up Primrose Hill one morning and thinking well, isn't this nice. (Mom, do you like the Alanis reference? I do.)
I might have crashed and burned, but I sure as hell haven’t forgotten that.
Another friend said to me the other day, “Every day of your life since 2012 has been leading up to this moment.”
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and she isn’t wrong. I have no way of knowing what else it’s leading up to, what else this rebuilt of mine might bring. But I know this: I have built something.
I’ve worked tirelessly at it, day and night at it, cried all my tears for it and waited patiently for it in a way that was so un-typically myself it shocked me with every moment passing.
Still I built it.
It’s small and fragile and sometimes struggles to stay upright. It breathes funny and walks slowly and I get so scared it will not survive, I am terrified I will wake up one day and it will be gone, built from scratch and gone in a single night.
Runaway renegade, just like its architect.
I am scared it will do to me what I've always done to those of its kind, killed them off before they could grow legs good enough to stand a single chance. I'm scared to meet the person I'll have become next time I set foot in Los Angeles. I wonder if I'll recognize her, if I'll even like her.
I'm scared I'll go back on my words, I'm scared of long summer nights and faint promises and my friends getting tired of me pulling the same tricks, of the pictures losing their meaning and words I've marked in pencil on the books on my nightstand turning sour as I chew on them like I have any right to.
Still, I built it.
It’s small and fragile and sometimes struggles to stay upright.
It breathes funny and walks slowly and I get so scared it will not survive, but it's alive for now.
It's trying its best now.
And the promise of it. Oh, the sheer possibility of it.
Happy six months back from LA to me. And happy birthday to Sign Of The Times, because some coincidences are too good to be overlooked. I think I'm starting to realize what that means, too.
"Peut-être que ma vie sera toujours ainsi,
on doit se résigner, bon,
il y a des gens et ils sont le plus grand nombre,
il y a des gens qui passent toute leur existence là
où ils sont nés
et où sont nés avant eux leurs parents,
ils ne sont pas malheureux,
on doit se contenter,
ou du moins ils ne sont pas malheureux à cause de ça,
on ne peut pas le dire,
et c'est peut-être mon sort, ce mot-là,
ma destinée, cette vie."
Last night I had a conversation about identity and belonging, about the meaning of Home, and I found myself thinking about it a lot today. About how I've always felt split between cities and countries and languages and cultures and people, and how I've anchored myself to the places I call Home in hopes they start feeling like it, too. Places and songs and books and memories and foods: anything can feel like Home when you don't really have one. A few come and go, and some linger and shine just a little brighter, just a little longer, as if to say 'you picked us but we picked you, too, baby' -which is exactly what I imagine Home would say if she was an old lady with a kind smile wandering the streets of Hampstead. You picked us but we picked you too, baby. You picked us but we picked you too.
They say home is where the heart is, but that’s only half the story.
Home is the cake my mother made for Christmas when I was twelve and my father’s favorite songs, walls painted red and dogs barking in the distance. The weekend trips we used to take out to the lake, red boots filled with snow, books stacked near the fireplace and camera rolling in the background.
It's my heart split between three countries. A fake, a joke, a mix I say I never wanted but spent my whole life secretly running after. My soul a patchwork of cultures, languages and airports, suitcase packed at the end of the bed, rewind, repeat, start all over again.
It's sunlight through the windows and Van Morrison playing through the speakers, green hills and red trees and that one spot of the Heath that I know better than I know myself.
Home is the friends I know will pick up the phone no matter the hour, a really good book, the bench on top of Primrose Hill at sunrise, dancing on Millennium Bridge at sunset, walking my best friend home, my ex-boyfriend’s favorite poem, waking up to snow covering the streets outside my window,that one dress that makes me feel like I could conquer the world, free brownies because the waiter’s in a good mood, the Alanis Morissette album that’s lived in my mother’s car since we were kids, rain in the summer, a friend showing me around their hometown, the buzz of a third cocktail, warm rays on my skin, that time Jackie and I slept on a roof in Paris, the smell of real Italian coffee in the morning, that one paragraph in A Little Life, my grandmother’s perfume, my grandfather’s favorite dish that his mother used to make, swans on the lake in May, running after my brother in the garden in Clusone, the second verse of Sweet Disposition, my flatmate knocking on my door at 2AM when I come home crying and drunk, knowing my best friend of 22 years' phone number by heart, hot soup on a cold evening, my favorite corner of my favorite bookshop, the building painted green that was my heaven and haven for the better part of my childhood, that one video set to Feel This by Enation I still can't watch without breaking down in tears, the first house I lived in when I moved to London, the 214 bus, the last bridge in Gravity by John Mayer, the ice cream place in the square near my parents' house, the nook by the steps of the Griffith Observatory, the chinese restaurant on the way to my high school, my best friend and I filling our bags of candy up to the top before going to the movies, my mother making us tea and Gocciole, being the last person out of their seat at the cinema, unexpected kindness, a tuscan sunset, takeaway pizza on the beach in Sestri Levante, seeing the sea for the first time in Pescara, the chorus to Ruby Tuesday, my family making fun of me for Leviosa, not Leviosà, Nic welcoming me back with homemade limoncello, walking along the beach in Santa Monica, a helping hand when you need it most, the buzz of the radio while my dad has breakfast before work, crying at least once when I go to any concert, my mother’s favorite cocktail, the lights on the patio at the pub near my flat, my favorite Bukowski poetry collection, the chocolate birthday cake I've had every year since I was 9, the hallways of my high school, the parties I snuck into and had a terrible time at, the Rothko room at the Tate Modern, the boy I was desperately in love with for the better part of a decade throwing me into a pool, the last line of the last Harry Potter book, my first imaginary boyfriend, my brother burning incense by the fireplace, that year I spoke in a bad british accent, moments of fleeting bravery and reckless abandon, the photo my best friend gave me when I moved away and the one on my parents’ wall where I look exactly like my mom but have my dad’s smile.
Home is a crowd of 6000 girls singing my favorite song back to me, dancing till their legs give out, screaming, kissing, living, so fucking ALIVE
It’s that one line of that one song that makes my heart crumple up every single time.
It’s the language I taught myself at ten years old because I'm as stubborn as they come but also because part of me somehow must have always known, the first time I watched an english movie without subtitles, the purple notebook I used to write all those poorly translated Avril Lavigne lyrics in, the surname I chose for myself.
Not out of spite, but out of love for this home I’m building.
It comes in waves, bright and harsh and just out of reach.
Every time a little closer but never quite enough.
Here’s what you’re missing, it seems to say; here’s what you gave up, vanished westward into smoke but stayed closer than you realized,
push it aside
but know it’s never the last time.
It feels good to linger until it doesn’t.
I trace the days and months and years backwards until I find it and press down like a thumb on a bruise,
purple and swollen and mine mine mine
all mine to keep secret.
Words I was born to speak pressing at my teeth, pushing for release, saying you’re not fooling anyone and least of all yourself. Words I keep safe in their locket waiting for a better time, for a not-so-secret life.
It comes in waves, on nights like these but sometimes when I least expect it.
It’s in the lies I tell strangers with practiced ease, in the shot to the heart when a friend says just the right thing. It’s an itch to scratch and sweet bliss come passing, heart ringing with remorse and hearing gone static.
Moments I wish I could change,
but I was carried away.
"I'm a little lost at sea
I'm a little birdie in a big old tree
Ain't nobody looking for me
Here out on the highway
Baby, I'm a runaway train
Baby, I'm a feather in a hurricane
Maybe it's a long way game
But maybe that's a good thing
I will be found when my time comes down
I will be found
A friend recently told me, completely unprompted, that she was worried for me. Specifically, she was worried my life wasn’t ‘fun enough’. When I asked for clarification, she explained that my social media feeds didn’t look particularly fun: it’d been a while since she’d seen any group outings or nights out on my Instagram, there was no drunk dancing on my Stories, and I just stopped using Facebook altogether. Twitter is the one I do use the most, but it’s mostly yelling about politics and gushing over Harry Styles, so I didn’t tell her that.
Confused, I assured her I was having a great time and didn’t give it much more thought. It was almost funny to me at the time, how she seemed to jump to conclusions based on what my feed showed – first, because this is a friend who knows me quite well in real life, not someone I talk to once a year whose only way of keeping in touch would be through Instagram. Second -because she must have known, on some level, that not posting anything for a couple of weeks does not equate staying in bed and actually doing nothing for two weeks… right?
I started to wonder, and then to panic.
Abby & Bridie created Dear Damsels in January ‘16 to champion creative women, give them a voice and the best platform they could wish for. Six months later I submitted my very first piece This Is How You Start Over and last night we celebrated their second birthday (!!) with the most incredible & supportive community, women I admire and am endlessly inspired by.
It does not go unnoticed, how incredible it feels to be surrounded by brilliant, fierce, brave, talented creative women coming together to find their voices. Entering a space where you know you could fall flat on your face stepping offstage and still all you'd feel is love and support. Saying hi to familiar faces and meeting new ones by opening with 'I read your piece last month, it was amazing', and meaning every word.
It's rare, and precious, and powerful.
Maria Ilona Moore read her piece A Personal History of Remembering and Forgetting, Sinéad Gordon read Ash (A Love Story) with Ash present to hear it (my heart!!!) Tutku Barbaros read her poem Coconut, Molly Alexandra Cooper read An Extra Grating of Parmesan, Hattie Clark A Window of One's Own, and Jen Burrows Your Call.
Bride Wilkinson read a piece she wrote for The Riff Raff called Women, we must find out voices, and we all cried (I cried three times, but oh well).
Abbie & Bridie, together with all the other damsels, championed me & my #feels like no one else, I’m forever thankful and can’t wait to see what else they get up to. Big plans coming! 💁🏻
Check them out!
Submit your work to Dear Damsels!
Buy the annual here (you definitely, definitely should it's so good)!
Cry with me! Let's always cry together!
She says we should go out because it’s my last night and warm outside. There’s an underground bar by the park where we used to hang around as kids, between the house where I had a very bad kiss on the back of a ratty red couch and the stretch of road where she fell off her bike and called me screaming because she thought she had a concussion, but she promises it’s not gonna be as depressing as it sounds and I believe her.
I pretend not to see them when I do, blame it on the wine or the dark or the fact that I haven’t seen their faces in almost six years; but I have, and I do, and soon they’re the ones approaching me.
I’m suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that I’m wearing a bright yellow coat, big glasses and no makeup -which, retrospectively, might not have been my greatest idea, not tonight. I feel small, insignificant. Ugly. Sixteen.
There’s only one person I would have wanted to see and I know he’s not here, which should ease my tension a little but doesn’t -because if this is how I react to them, how am I ever gonna survive that?
I say stupid things, make myself even smaller.
They ask about work and I downplay it to the point where it sounds like I’m just hanging around doing nothing, which couldn’t be farther from the truth but makes me mad because why, why would I do that, what’s the point in pretending?
I’ve spent the last four years pretending for a living, but the last two getting closer to the truth and the last six months being so unabashedly honest I could hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth sometimes. And for tonight, none of that matters.
For tonight, I can only smile and nod and try my best to conceal the fact that I’m jumping out of my skin. The smell of smoke in the air is making me nauseous, and the mulled wine they’re cooking in the corner won’t be ready for another thirty fucking minutes, and the jazz music coming from the other room is slowly fading which means the concert is almost over. Applause roars over our heads and a new stream of people walk in, all in various stages of inebriation and probably, definitely, intoxication.
I don’t belong, not with my big glasses and bright yellow coat and all the guilt and remorse and fear of not fitting in, still after all this time. I don’t belong, but for tonight I can pretend.
I pretend I don’t remember the things they used to call me, all the different ways they had of making it hurt. I pretend I don’t have a home and people who love me somewhere thousands of miles away. I let my gaze linger a minute too long on the tall guy with the long hair whose name I desperately wish I could remember, and let myself wish for the kind of life I never wanted.
I could still live down the road, come down to the bar for a smoke and a chat, gossip about the one who’s become a model and the one who left for Australia and the one who can’t be named. I could still run into their mothers at the Thursday market and spend balmy summer nights by the water and the castle, laughing at nothing and crying at everything.
I’d still be in school, probably, and I wouldn’t know what it feels like to break and heal and be reborn the way I did in the last four years. She sounds sweet, this different me. I wish I could envy her.
Maybe I do, for only a moment -if only because the room is dark and the smell is intoxicating and it’s always, always easier to pretend we could have been different.
She asks if I want to get out of there, and I say we should wait for the mulled wine at least. She gives me a look, and we walk out hand in hand minutes later. My flight home is in less than ten hours. I’m done pretending.
It feels fitting, to run into you and your beautiful new girlfriend today of all days.
Thinking back on how badly I wanted to start anew, even back then. Even when I was completely oblivious to everything else that was going to happen, as that summer unfolded in a haze of color and stardust -part of me probably already knew.
It took the rest of me almost two years longer than I thought it would, but I got there in the end.
It's still a little crazy to me. I still don't know how to talk about it. I don't think I'll ever be ready for your smile changing as I listen and take my punishment. Soft and pitying, your eyes zooming right into my face as I ramble and swing my hands around like it doesn't cut a hole in my chest to be saying any of this out loud -please don't make me hide in the bathroom again. Look away, make it easy, just this once.
Timing is a funny thing, and baby so is hindsight.
I wasn't meant to stay in that flat, or the one after that one, just like I wasn't a lot of other places, metaphorical and not, that I ended up at. I wasn't meant to be brave, not with you, not that time. I wasn't meant to live the life I was living, but I wasn't to realize that until much later.
It's almost comical. But it's also real life, not some fantasy I made up at seventeen. And god, does the real thing feel better than the fantasy ever did.
Not because it's perfect, not even remotely close -but because I've worked so fucking hard for it.
I had to learn how to be brave after finding every excuse not to.
I couldn't have done that with you.
But you see, I also think I couldn't have done that without you.
You hold the door open with your foot as your girl looks on and our friends come calling. I've got two years on my mind and one evening at heart. It's over now and it was when it started but it lives on as it lived then. Another life, maybe.
(I would not make the same mistake twice)
"Low moon don the yellow road
I remember something
That leaving wasn't easing
All that heaving in my vines
And as certain it is evening 'at is now is not the time
I remember something
Finding both your hands as second sun came past the glass
Love, a second glance it is not something that we'll need"
the pink umbrella diaries: got caught in a snow storm in brooklyn, celebrated a kid's party in greenwich, got lost in tribeca, saw a lot of art, ate the best tacos of my life (sorry Nic ily), got approached by four different girls who winked and started a conversation over my 'treat people with kindness' bag, which greatly confused my dad but made me the very, very happiest, thought I could ice skate for a brief second then realized I really shouldn't, wore a lot of yellow, was very very cold, found broome and greene and cried a little, talked to a lot of strangers and cried some more, saved dad from a killer squirrel, met a dog named maisie, met a boy named Connor.
Made peace with New York.
I used to wonder how things would be different, had I ended up in NY as planned instead of London. I used to think I'd be a different person, perhaps happier, perhaps less lost -because however bad things got, I still had shiny new york as an ideal image of how life could have been. Because… that's the kind of thought an eighteen year old girl has, I guess.
And god, do I kinda wish I could still believe that.
In the end, it wasn't the dream that died nor me who killed it --it just twisted on itself one too many times and fizzled out without a sound. Without me noticing, really, until I walked the same streets I did all those years ago and struggled to recognize them. I struggled not to compare them to the ones I found across the ocean -the ones I made my home, broken bones and all.
I found a way to bury the dream and only keep the memories I wanted to keep.
The smell of coffee as I walked into a gallery on 26th and 10th, the spot I cried all those tears at when I was fourteen, the bagels by the bookshop. The square where I sat for 20 minutes trying to gather myself before going into the building because I was so nervous, road signs making me laugh, brooklyn in the clouds. The people, the volume, the glitter, the gold.
Myself at fourteen, and seventeen, and nineteen. At twenty-three, saying goodbye to a few things but also saying thank you.
Until next time.
Your gut instinct is almost always right. Oil on toast is not dinner. Stop making excuses for people who gratuitously & continuously hurt you. Water the fucking plants. Support your friends’ art. It's okay to struggle: that's probably what makes this whole thing worth it. Learn your favorite songs on the piano even though you’re not a virtuoso. Drink more wine, less tequila. Drink more tequila, less coffee. You're allowed to change your mind. Take more baths. Stop saving the nice candles for special occasions. Unfollow Kendall Jenner on instagram. Your mom is probably right, just accept that. Realize there’s a difference between eating an entire cake at 3AM and getting a second serving of the same cake at 10PM: one will make your stomach hate you, the other will make you very happy. Go to the cinema by yourself. Call your grandmother more. It’s okay to want what you want. It’s okay stop wanting what you don’t want. Send thank you notes. Get over your fucking self and stop sending emails two minutes before deadline. Try not to pop a coronary every time you open twitter -you really can’t live like that for the next three years. Never go months without listening to your favorite One Direction album again, that shit is happiness in a bottle and you know it. Take more bad pictures, take more good pictures. Fuck the bullshit you don’t wanna deal with anymore, just fuck the bullshit. Fuck the fucking bullshit. Delete those numbers off your phone. Listen to your body. Accept that some days you won’t have the energy to leave your bed, and that doesn’t make you any less of a good person. Eat more pasta. Wear your red boots more. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, not people who make you want to cry.
Keep showing up. Keep coming up with reasons to keep trying.
Forget your new year's resolutions on the first of january, do whatever the hell you want.
Treat people, but especially yourself, with motherfucking kindness.
Happy 2018, baby.
This piece was first published on Dear Damsels.
It was a split second, barely even noticeable. One moment I’m handing my card to the woman behind the counter and trying my hardest to tune out the song blasted through the speakers. Something about a bird, freedom, driving down a midnight road. Groundbreaking lyrical genius, undoubtedly. I’m bitter, and cold, and I can’t wait to get out of there. One moment I’m counting cheese, pesto, red peppers, batteries and liquid soap, and did I forget anything? why can I never just make a fucking list, why did mother never teach me that becoming the kind of person who makes lists will solve like, 70% of my problems, why can I not just pretend I’ve got this under control. The next, something cracks and hisses in the air, I feel my knees buckle and my hands lose their grip. It was a split second, barely even noticeable. Anyone could have missed it.
I wish I had. I really do.
The drive back to the house is short and silent. I don’t turn the radio on, you don’t ask me to. You leave the bags in the back and I lock the car, we walk to the door together, but not really. You leave the light off and the living room door open, but for the first time in a long time it feels more mocking than it does an invitation. I scrub the snow off my boots, watch slivers fall to the carpet like traces of diamond dust I wish I could bottle up, like fragile unspeakable secrets that grip my heart and shake my shoulders as I listen to you whispering into the phone on the other side of the wall. Little white dust for little white lies, I think, and I suddenly can’t stop shaking. I walk up to the bathroom and turn the tap on, wait until a thick fog has settled on every surface then step under the scorching hot water, alone.
Winter brings a few surprises, old and new. A frosty wind runs through the house and my frozen bones, my insides grey like mold, weak and rotten like I’ve never felt before. The car keeps stopping and starting. When we get it checked at the place in town they say it’s only old and run its course, and I feel like crying although I’ve never even liked that stupid car. I start shopping at a new supermarket further down over the hills. Their vegetables are mostly brown and they never have my favorite brand of pickles but I can walk around the neon-lit aisles without looking over my shoulders, so I think that’s a plus. I start making lists. It doesn’t solve anything, but it’s a start. The neighbors’ dog runs away and we spend two days looking for him. We find him on the third day, curled into a ball by a log near the lake, quivering and terrified and small, so small. I hold him tight and stroke him softly, thinking I know how he feels. I start working late. The phone is always ringing. You take your phone calls in the bathroom with the water running, loud, and I shut my eyes and feel my body sinking into the bed, into the floor, into the foundations of the house, deep at the center of the Earth where I won’t hear whispers and I won’t make a sound. We eat melted cheese on stale bread sticks sitting on the armchair by the fireplace, flames cracking either side of us as I dream they’d rise higher and higher and engulf us, destroy us, forgive us.
Hi hi hi! Well. I've always wanted to do a monthly roundup of things I've been loving, if only so that I can look back after some time has passed and cringe at my nonexistent (read: excellent) music taste, or count the number of times I can recommend the kind of books that make you want to stay in bed all day / buy a large bottle of wine before my friends start yelling at me again (sorry, guys).
And I mean, if anyone gets recs or ideas out of this, I'll definitely be happy about that, too. I mainly expect yelling, but we'll see what happens.
So, here it goes: some things I've loved in November! Things that made me cry! Things that taught me something! Things that made me want to curl up in a ball and die (in a cool way -get it? get it?)! Things, things, things! All the good things!
I started off things in November on a very happy note (lol) by reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I carried it in my bag for a month before finally forcing myself to start it -not because I thought I wouldn’t like it but because I knew it was gonna break my heart into a million little pieces… and boy oh boy, was I right. Here’s what I wrote down when I finished it: how something could rip your soul out and heal it at the same time I do not know. What I do know is I have never, ever read anything more hauntingly beautiful, and though I might never find the words to describe what it meant to me, I can borrow Willem’s (and someone else’s, which is a whole other story) to express what it felt like: home.
‘So tell me this: I must be absolutely sure. This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?’
I bought The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith at a time when I desperately needed to read it (funny how that works, isn’t it?) and I 100% wholeheartedly recommend it if you don’t know what to do with your life / want to feel better about the state of humanity (all of us, right?)
Everyone’s favorite thing in the entire world is currently Call Me By Your Name, and I am everyone. It is my favorite thing in the entire world. I saw the movie twice and haven’t been able to shut up about it since. I still wake up in the middle of the night whispering ‘Is it a video? IS IT A VIDEO?’ and start crying again. It’s THAT good -and if you haven’t seen/read it, I don’t even know what to say to you. If you have, come cry with me on Twitter.
ps. shoutout to my flatmate who had to witness me bawling my eyes out in the fetal position first thing on a monday morning, courtesy of the last 50 pages of the book. André Aciman, you know what you did, you bastard.
My dear friend Bianca Bass took me to see Battle Of The Sexes and MAN, IT’S SO GOOD. So!! good!! Thoughts:
1) the trailer doesn’t do it justice at. all.
2) I love Steve Carrell
3) I really really love Emma Stone
4) I FUCKING LOVE WOMEN
5) I cried so hard (in a good way… sense a theme yet?)
Let’s talk about this season of Crazy Ex Girlfriend. Why? Oh, it’s only one of THE BEST shows currently on television. Rachel Bloom is a major badass and ever the source of life inspiration when you feel like you’re never gonna get out of bed and do adult things with your adult life again. I’ve felt like that a lot in 2017, and a lot of my friends have too, which is why this show is so important. I’ve never seen mental illness depicted the way it is in Crazy Ex-gf, and for that I am forever thankful.
Onto the Nonexistent Music Taste Section, my favorite part! Because even though I've been yelling I HATE ALL MUSIC FUCK THE MUSIC INDUSTRY since the Grammys failed to nominate my baby Harry (f u grammys), I really really love music. Some stuff I’ve been playing on repeat this month:
Recite Remorse by Waxahatchee, whom I discovered through Laurie Anne. THANKS LAURIE ANNE! I love Waxahatchee now!
mood: hampstead early on a sunday morning, coffee in hand, leaves crunching, doggies playing
Magnolia by Eric Clapton & John Mayer, which I’m aware is technically is a summer song, but it’s John fucking Mayer. There’s never a wrong time to listen to John Mayer.
mood: lights off, candles lit, bathtub filled, quiet paradise
Cherry by Luna Shadows, but listen to all her songs because she's so so good.
mood: friday night walking through crowded London with headphones on. bonus points for views from millennium bridge
Miss You by Louis Tomlinson, because if you thought I was gonna get through an entire post without mentioning 1D, you don’t know me at all.
mood: HELL YEAH, THE POP PUNK 1D KING WE DESERVE!
Your best american girl by Mitski. Thanks for rec’ing it and making me cry, Ally, ily.
mood: I have a lot of feelings
Burning by Sam Smith, because boy, the boy is good. Like, really fucking good.
mood: I miss my ex (I don’t really, but this song almost makes me wish I did)
Relief next to me by MUNA because it makes me wanna DANCE and SCREAM and LAUGH HYSTERICALLY for reasons I am not gonna go into since I don’t *really* want people to yell at me
mood: I miss 2014 / I'm not gonna open ao3, I'm not gonna open ao3, I'm not gonna open ao3
Landslide (cover) by The Japanese House, since my Spotify Discover playlist is A LITTLE BITCH whose only mission is to reduce me to a sobbing mess. Not that it takes much, but still.
mood: writing and feeling like I’ve got my life together until the last chorus hits and I just stare into the void forever
Bye Bye Blackbird by Joe Cocker. Listen, it’s fall and I’m a nostalgic 90s baby, sue me.
mood: Meg Ryan old style rom-coms, autumn in New York
Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens. Do I even need to explain this one?
mood: literally just crying until the end of time
Some other stuff:
Australia voted in favor of same sex marriage! The world is (occasionally) a very good place!
I went to Emma Gannon’s CTRL ALT DELETE podcast live recording on the topic of Money x Starling Bank, found my friend Martyna there, had a very good evening and heard some very good advice on a topic that usually makes my throat close up. Stop tapping that damn card anywhere and everywhere, Anna, and learn how to budget. And for the love of god, don’t leave your taxes until half an hour before deadline like you did last year.
I did a photoshoot with a team very very talented women and I’m in love with the results / the side of me they managed to capture. You can see them here.
My friend Jackie hosted a Thanksgiving dinner (two turkeys! five pies! three servings of mash! ‘MURICA!) and it was the perfect evening, complete with lots of wine and cute hand-drawn menus and familiar accents and me losing at charades but loving every minute.
This got very long! I’m kinda sorry but I also had lots of fun writing it, so I’m not really that sorry at all. Love you all (and by all I mean my one faithful reader, my mother, but also anyone else who bothered to read this entire thing, you’re my heroes).
I just realized that next time I do one of these it’ll be 2018 and now I’m sad. Bye.
It starts as a lie, but it doesn’t really feel like one because you’re lying to yourself more than you are to others, and somehow that makes it okay.
It goes like this, you’re walking alone and looking for a sign. You’re paralyzed with fear and shaking in anger, because everything is difficult and nothing’s the way you imagined it. You can see how it ends and it’s not the way you dreamt at seventeen. But it’s real and it’s messy and it’s always been all or nothing with you but if there ever was a time to be brave, this would be it.
There’s a song in your heart and it’s one you haven’t heard in a long time. Maybe this time, it sings, maybe now.
It goes like this, you walk ’til you reach the top and take comfort in the silence of the night whispering sweet nothings in your ear. The moment is fragile, almost breakable. But you walk that line, and it’s yours, and it’s glorious.
It takes a song, and a hill, and a blanket of stars. Or maybe they’re city lights, asking to be seen. Begging you to remember. Shining brighter than they have in months, in years, since you last let your eyes wander and your knees buckle on this same muddy ground, because you’ve always been a sucker for tradition.
All the places you’ve seen and the lives you’ve lived merge into one with every new intake of breath, and you can almost see it. How it goes. How maybe, it doesn’t have to end.
It goes like this, home is a foreign word on the tip of your tongue but it feels sweeter than it ever did, and that in itself is a victory.
It goes like this, the life you dreamed up at seventeen is nothing but a reminder of all the ways you’ve changed, and you’re starting to like how that feels.
It goes like this, there’s greatness in small moments and big moments and in yourself. There’s supernovas in your eyes and the echo of a song worth singing, worth coming back to.
It goes like this, there’s a hand helping you up and a sprint to your step; there’s four empty boxes of brownies in your bag and a black notebook with the words ‘we don’t know where we’re going but we know where we belong’ written on it; there’s candles on your nightstand, art on your walls, and the neighbor’s lilac tree is starting to blossom again; there’s an open tab on your laptop, a plane ticket you almost bought. Almost.
There’s the promise of it, shining brighter than anything you’ve ever known, telling stories you’ve already told but you’re only now starting to believe.
Maybe it’s time, it sings, maybe now.
It goes like this, you stumble on the same notes you did four years ago on a sunny afternoon, and you remember to say thank you this time. You remember what they’ve done, and you look down at your feet but you’ve stopped looking for signs.
Green like the grass, the eyes and the light. Like that (and this) glorious, glorious start.
I’m a big believer in sharing feelings. As an actress, it is quite literally my job description to share feelings with the world on the daily. As a human person alive on Earth, I think it's nice to do so regardless of whether I’m getting paid for it or just chatting to a friend.
I’ve always been an open book, and a very enthusiastic one, too: I was my High School friends' laughing stock, and have been labeled crazy by more than one ex-boyfriend because of my… eagerness, shall we say. And while at seventeen, of course, it did feel like the worst thing in the world to be different and weird and too much, what the last five years gave me, besides a lot of UTIs and a chance to truly perfect my karaoke rendition of every single one of Celine Dion's songs, is perspective.
And now? I fucking love it.
I LOVE being an open book. I love getting excited about things, getting so excited that I start crying in the middle of London or jump around my room at 3AM (come on, doesn’t everyone do that?).
Loving something so much that your heart starts racing and your stomach jumps up to your throat, your brain short-circuits and you just want to JUMP UP AND DOWN LIKE A FOOL? It’s the best feeling. Be it a book, a song, a film, a boy, a girl, a new friend, a puppy, an upcoming trip -anything works, as long as it makes you feel alive.
It’s a feeling I wish on everyone I love -but lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe some people I love don’t wish it on me. Not in a mean way, necessarily, just in a ‘I don't really get what you're saying nor am I interested in learning more about this thing that makes you happy' way. Which, while not mean spirited, still hurts like a bitch.
I thought I’d left the "you’re so weird, Anna" years behind, which is why I didn’t really know how to react when, over the past couple of months, I started feeling like the odd one out again. Again. Five years on, still the weirdo with the big hair who gets too attached and cares too much, feels too much, laughs too hard. And I’m sick of it.
I don’t understand it, and I don’t want anything to do with it. Maybe it’s a British thing (nothing against Britain, obviously, which I love -just a note on stereotypically British reticence), which is why I’ve always felt at home in crazy-sister America, where no one will spare a second glance if they spot you jumping up and down the street in excitement -or even better, they might join you. And look, I know, America has a lot of faults. So do I, for that matter. But at least we’re trying. We might fail while we're at it but at least we're trying. And we’ll be the weird ones, we’ll be the odd ones out, but fuck it, who the hell cares.
Seventeen-year-old me? She would have cried a lot and obsessively studied the cool-girl’s moves to try and change herself, try to be quieter, more complacent, more appealing. But here’s the funny thing: twenty-three-year-old me couldn’t care less.
Twenty-three-year-old me is going to be as loud as she wants, and as enthusiastic as she feels like being. She’s going to talk about the books she’s reading, and the songs she can’t stop singing, and the films that have changed her life. She’s going to keep gushing about cute boybanders and that one cute puppy she saw on her way to work, all the while dramatically singing along to Celine Dion.
She’s done trying to appease you. She’s done trying to change you and your cold, cold ways. Wondering if she’s being too much if she should stay quiet, if she should bite her tongue, if she should pretend this song doesn’t make her want to dance when it really, really does.
So many songs make me wanna dance, and I want to dance to all of them. I want to talk about what inspires you, what infuriates you, what makes you FEEL something, anything. I want to spend time getting to know you and loving every minute of it, not waking up one day and realizing I never knew you at all.
Thing is, our time is limited. And how we spend it matters. For every bad date I leave wishing I'd stayed home watching Friends re-runs, and for every coffee date with people I haven't seen in years, whom I have nothing in common with anymore, I could have been doing creative work, playing with a puppy, or eating the best pizza of my life.
For every conversation I have that leaves me wondering if the person I'm talking to cares at all about what I'm saying -or worse, leaves me feeling belittled, patronized and uninspired- I could instead talk to someone who ENCOURAGES, MOTIVATES and EMPOWERS me.
Someone who might not necessarily like the same stuff I like, but will love that I'm excited about said stuff. And in return, I'll listen to them telling me about what they love, because isn't that what we're here to do?
To love people and things and places and puppies (but especially puppies), as much and as hard as we can. To cry at movies that touch our hearts and be the last ones to leave the theatre. To laugh really loudly and jump up and down and dance in the street and share these experiences with as many likeminded people as we can. Because that's when the magic happens.
When we share feelings, instead of simply feeling them, we contribute to creating more art and inspiring more people than we would just going, 'uh, I kinda like this' alone in our bedrooms.
Fangirls are the ultimate proof of the power of enthusiasm and LOVING STUFF SO MUCH YOU WANT TO TELL THE WORLD ABOUT IT. Yes, they get a bad rep (wonder why, uh? Funny how it's all good and dandy when it's men caring about football, but as soon as a teenage girl likes a boy with a floppy haircut it's the end of the fucking world as we know it) but they are the prime and sometimes sole driving force behind multi-million dollar industries, providing just as many jobs. And their voices are loud, so loud you can't ignore them: which is why you all know about Justin Bieber and that guy from Twilight but nobody knows anything about sports unless they're really into sports.
That doesn't mean you have to like Justin Bieber, just like I don't have to like sports. What it does mean is that if your twitter bio reads 'A bit of madness is key' but you make fun of people for being too much, and make them feel guilty and apologetic about their enthusiasm, then you might not be that #mad (UGH) at all. Really, you're just an asshole.