in between

 
6F9A0C5E-C573-402A-B0D8-BB60B281A3CB.jpg
 

Someone told me recently, I should make space for love before I go looking for it. 

But there's clothes at the foot of my bed since I can never remember to hang them up, and empty breakfast plates on the floor since I never have time to put them away. I sometimes switch my phone off for hours on end and I am a terrible, terrible texter. I hate making Sunday plans because there’s nothing I love more than the golden stretch of morning that is mine, mine, only mine. I hate sharing desserts, and I hate sharing my time. I don't own a spare toothbrush, I always run out of milk and sometimes I look at my thighs as if they were separated from the rest of my body.  

Planning takes energy, but making space takes a village. 

cafe chappe

 
Anna Myers | WRITING
 

Hugging a lamppost in solidarity with 17 year old me who used to live two streets down from this glorious establishment and spent many a night there, naively downing 3€ shots (lol) and excitedly making plans that she had exactly 0 chances of seeing through.


She used to go by a different name and dream of very different things, but as I walk the same streets all these years later I’m reminded that really, all she wanted was a tiny spark of magic. Back then it meant mattresses on rooftops and kisses under arches, cameras rolling and desperately loving anyone who’d admit to feeling the same. A language I’d come to claim as my own and one I would look for on every stranger’s lips (as I type this sentence I realize that in therapy this is what they call a breakthrough, and holy shit).


These days, I’ve given up on the show. I look for quiet magic instead. A letter from my grandad, a dog licking my cheek. Warm baths on a friday evening and really bad chinese food on the wonky piano at tottenham court road long after the last train has left. Still, I carry the lines I’d memorized for our final scene and the one our teacher spoke that july afternoon, and I know I owe them everything.


Also good to know I’m just as partial to a diy experiment resulting in accidental red hair at 25 as I was at 17. Watch me do it all over again.

new romantics

Anna Myers | WRITING

We took about 1000 photos that evening on the balcony, as I fixed my hair and sucked in my stomach and tried to think of anything other than the fact that March made me sadder than I‘d been in months; which is to say the words printed on my eyelids were cruel but familiar, and sometimes pushing back is a bitch but that only makes it so much more important; which is to say I love this picture because I look like my mom, and I look happy because I was, and all things considered that’s good enough.

We got all dressed up ‘cause we were supposed to go to a boat party but it turned out to be closed down so we sat in front of the eiffel tower and drank wine and took polaroids and if it all sounds too chic it’s only because we got drunk and went to mcdonald’s right after. I lost a shoe. I didn’t think cruel words once.

The post-it is a metaphor

Anna Myers | WRITING

“The post-it is a metaphor, Kristi,” I yell.

We met three hours and a few drinks ago, after she texted the WhatsApp group asking if anyone else needed company on this sunny but stupidly lonely Sunday.

It’s the first warm day of the year and I’m wearing the only item of clothing I own with superimposed French text on it, because ‘drama queen’ wasn’t only my MSN screen name when I was fourteen but also very much a life choice I committed to then and clearly haven’t since renounced.

On any other day, I’d almost find it funny.

t w e n t y f i v e

 
Anna Myers | WRITING
 

24 was fun.

I broke two ribs! Read a lot of books! Ate more meals than I skipped, sang out-of-tune songs in bed with Fab, had sunday rituals with myself and heard the words ‘You’re doing good’ for the first time in a while.

It was more work and less sleep than I thought I could get used to, but also -not as hard as I’m used to. I didn’t break, I didn’t heal. I didn't —lose— myself. I stopped trying to —find— myself.

24 started with Helena and Kristi surprising me with tiramisu & balloons and ended with me surprising even myself, because holy hell, there’s a lot of stuff I could have fucked up by now and somehow still haven’t.

Sometimes not for lack of trying, but I guess there’s poetry in that, too. Just like there’s poetry in scary nights, and messy parts, and crying with your head in the toilet on the morning of your twentyfifth birthday, because it all works out in the end but that’s never going to be what’s interesting, so.

I made a wish. I’ve had leftover cake every day for a week. Life is fine. Fine, I tell you.

m&k

Anna Myers | WRITING

Accidentally wandered into an old bookshop, serendipitously found a Stones biog I haven’t read.

Page 64: “Mick and Keith at the time were living in Hampstead, at 10 Holly Hill.”

I walk out of the café, turn right, and, well.

I am so in love with my little corner of the city it sometimes stops my breath —but sometimes it’s for a different reason. Both are mine, mine, mine. And I am grateful, grateful, grateful. 

fingers in cheese, feet in water

Woman reading, Alexander Deineka

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

you get what you need

Anna MyersAnna Myers | WRITING

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.

Make this feel like home

hampstead

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. 

 

Dear Damsels Get Together

Anna Myers | WRITING

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.

 

41C0277E-D923-48A7-8BB4-E06C220174BD.jpg

 

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!

the joy of pretending

Anna Myers | WRITING

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.

new york, from me to me

Anna Myers | WRITING

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.

In repair

IMG_0189.JPG

So, the last couple of months have been tough.

Can't get out of bed tough, like, ignoring calls and texts and deadlines and meals tough. And while I love escaping from my problems as much as anyone, this time I'm very aware that they're just gonna be waiting for me at Heathrow with open arms, looming and cruel and snarky. Oh and it's probably gonna be raining, too. 

 

But.

 

But, there's something about big skies and shimmering lights, or are those stars, or are they your eyes, something about walking for miles every day and crying whenever you damn feel like it and drinking sangria at a table for one and meeting strangers in taxis and singing along to your favorite songs together with 6000 people on a hill under the stars swaying and swaying and swaying 'til you gotta hold each other lest you all go down. 

 

And go down I did. 

 

I spent July pretending I was fine, skipping lunch and dinner in favor of an entire box of chocolate cookies at one in the morning. Every morning.

I went home and kissed my parents and brother and dogs a lot, and thought maybe, the worst was over.

At the end of the month, I dialed a number I’d been avoiding for longer than I care to admit, and thought fuck, the worst hasn’t even begun.

 

I spent August working working working pretending pretending pretending dodging questions invites emails worried looks and frantic phone calls from my mother. I took down pictures from my bedroom walls and bought a lot of plants in an effort to feel like an adult, but they died within two weeks because life just, doesn’t work like that. 

 

I cried in a tiny pharmacy in Kentish Town and a convenience store in Dalston and on Embankment bridge and at Waterloo station at rush hour where a woman asked if I wanted a hug, which only made me cry harder but in retrospect might have been the nicest thing a Londoner has ever said to me. 

 

I went home again because my parents’ ultimatum was “either you do or we’re getting the first plane to you” and because twenty-three might not be that young but it might just be young enough for parents to still know best. I locked my phone in a drawer for ten days and read a lot of books, ate more pizza than anybody with a dairy intolerance ever should, and smiled in pictures for the first time in a while. 

 

At some point I turned my phone back on and asked for help. I asked anyone who would have me, and I tried my damn hardest to actually listen, for once in my life, to accept the help I so desperately needed. 

 

One friend suggested I dive back in the madness, one that I go back to university, one that I move home, and one offered me a job. 

 

I got on a plane to California instead.

 

Before I left, my mother said to look for signs wherever I could find them, so I did. I looked for one in Silver Lake and Malibu, on Wilshire and on top of the Hollywood Hills, on boys’ lips and in songs and in friends’ warm hugs, in a sketchy vintage store where I found a Mick Jagger vinyl I’d wanted for months and in overspilling American portions of what could be described as “comfort” but definitely not food.

 

I watched the sun set in a blur of blue orange purple fireworks and cried a little, fell down the Griffith Observatory stairs, twice, got lost more times than I can count, walked out of a couple of pilates classes, sang, well, screamed every word to What Makes You Beautiful surrounded by teenage girls having the time of their lives, cried some more, mumbled something unintelligible anytime I got asked “what do you do?”, and decided that I like making signs up as I go along more than I do looking for them. 

 

It’s an Aquarius thing. 

 

It’s also a stubbornness thing -the stubbornness I’ve inherited from my father and two out of four grandparents, how we just can’t accept that sometimes you try and you try and you plan and it’s all for nothing, because when you think you’ve finally got it down life shuffles all the cards and finds a way to bring you right back to start. 

 

So from that start you’re gonna have to come up with a new plan, and fail at that too, and fall on your ass so many times that you’re never gonna want to get up again. Until you do.

 

And like I said, go down I did. 

 

But I'm also luckier than most, surrounded by so much love it makes my heart burst, and looking down at the city of angels with supernovas in my eyes as my plane takes off towards rainy Heathrow, right and wrong turns, real life. 

 

It sings back to me, you're in repair. Not together, but you're getting there.

 

To the ends of the earth

IMG_6639.JPG

I’d been eighteen for less than three days when I first said it out loud. I’d been thinking it for a long time, but eighteen is when it came to a head and I was forced to lay my cards out on the open. Saying this is it, this is why, can’t you see? This is why I’m leaving. Why I can’t stay.

 

I think it must have always been at the back of my mind, a voice I never managed to shut up completely -half for lack of trying and half because eighteen is when the voices get louder, not weaker. 

 

I couldn’t tell you when it started -maybe when a High School teacher suggested I pick up Chinese as it would have been ‘a terrific advantage to my introduction to the job market’, and I had to push my nails deep into my thighs to stop myself from screaming. Could have been earlier, when I sang louder and moved faster and laughed harder than all the other kids at my school recital because I’ve always wanted to make an impression. Maybe somewhere in between, when my name was on all the boys’ lips even though I wasn’t the prettiest or the smartest or even the one who’d let them win at class games but because I was loud, loud, loud, and they had no choice but to remember me. 

 

Somewhere along the line, recognition turned to validation and I wanted more, more, I wanted it all. I was powerful because I was the most, and I fed off it, I thrived off it, clutched to it like a lifeline and forgot how to live without it. Then I said it out loud. 

 

Three days into it, eighteen was bad until it got worse. Eighteen was slammed doors and skipped meals and loud headphones and heartache like I'd never known before. It was a single phrase, uttered between gritted teeth then repeated louder just to see my mother cry. “I’d rather die than be like you. Do you hear that? I’d rather die than be ordinary, live a wasted life”. In the words of Avril Lavigne, anything but ordinary please -and say what you want but if there’s one thing Avril Lavigne knows how to do, that’s teenage angst. 

 

Teenage angst, which is in great part what my outburst was about. But also: fear of being anonymous, being forgotten, being one of many. Interchangeable. If not her, a hundred others just like her. Fear of everything and nothing, of not leaving a mark, of empty days and drunken weekends and the monotony of tick tick tick, blink and you’ve missed it. My heart shrunk and twisted on itself, screaming not if I get a say in this. Not on my watch.

 

So I did. I left and I tried and I lived by that, anything but ordinary please. 

 

Then I had a change of heart. 

 

Last week, I read an essay by Zosia Mamet about success, in which she says: ‘We are so obsessed with "making it" these days we've lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn't enough—that's settling, that's giving in, that's letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime.’

 

Safe to say it resonated. Deep, deep within, it struck a chord.

 

Then I went to Brighton, where rhythms are slower and smiles kinder, warm like the sun rays I soaked up sitting alone by the beach one afternoon. And I went to Italy, where rhythms are even slower and whatever had been worrying me in London suddenly seemed so insignificant, as small and artificial as all city life troubles do when examined from a solitary bench overlooking a lake in the north of Italy, swans and dogs making small noises in the water while German tourists take pictures of their gelatos. 

 

Suddenly I was hit with a thought: what happens if I get there and nothing’s the way I dreamed it up? What happens then, when I’ve used up all my cards and every trick up my sleeve, but the promised land just won’t turn to gold. When there’s no promised land at all. 

 

A change of heart, maybe in plans. Maybe.

 

Comfort and Gold

IMG_0058.jpg

“I found this necklace in a shop in Morocco, where tourists weren’t allowed but we made friends with the owner so he let me buy it anyway ‘cause I said it was for my sister. I think he knew you were the right person for it.”

 

My brother and I sit sprawled on the floor next to the fireplace, even though it’s September and it really isn’t that cold. But it's coziness we're looking for, it's comfort found in closeness and in tea in the kitchen at 4pm and the kind of hugs that are reserved for family. 

 

Three years ago I wouldn't have allowed myself to admit I miss it, but these days it's all I talk about. Home home home home. Take me home and never let me miss my mother's embrace again, for breathing feels a little easier here from the quiet of my childhood bedroom.

There’s a new painting in my old room because a thing that happens when you leave home is that your parents re-decorate the whole place. It’s yellow and white and there’s a pink flower growing in the middle and I think it stands for a new beginning. Dad is listening to Einaudi and the dogs are alternating between licking his leg and my feet, where it tickles the most. His hand reaches out between songs and he caresses my arm, kisses my forehead. 

 

Is it good to be home home, he asks.

 

I’ve lived here for 19 years and I’ve never felt more at peace with this whole damn country than I do right at this moment, I think.

 

One of the dogs moves away from our legs and scoots closer to my chest, tries to lick my face. I act like I’m not gonna let her for a whole 5 seconds, before caving and turning her over so she has free access to my face while I kiss her neck. 

 

It’s a good afternoon.

Things that make me worse, things that make me better

IMG_2123.JPG

Things that make me worse:

 

Being away from people I love.

Waking up at 4AM to eat a three-course meal.

January.

Crying in the shower.

Pretending.

Forgetting to drink enough water.

Comparing myself to others.

Fitness blogs.

Chaos and crowds.

Googling 'Kendall Jenner bikini pics'.

Staring at my thighs as if they're not part of my body.

Too much makeup.

Peer pressure.

Fear of failure.

Sinking my nails into my arms when I cry.

Waking up sad on a sunny, summer day.

Instagram.

Bad kisses.

Cold, windy days.

Cynics.

Boys who turn out to be assholes.

Girls who turn out to be assholes.

Dumbing myself down.

Shutting myself off.

Saint Saens.

Leaving crumbs all over the bed.

Convincing myself that someone doesn't like me.

Not doing enough.

Photoshop.

Regrets.

Bad auditions. 

Overworking myself.

Looking up the girl who made my life miserable in high school on Facebook.

Staying at the party even though I want to go home.

Things that make me better:

Eating cereal in bed.

Watching re-runs of Friends.

Asking for help.

Walking to the top of Primrose Hill and feeling very, very tiny.

My dogs.

Going for a long walk by the river.

Warm soup.

Writing it all out until it's not just in my head anymore.

Home (the place).

Home (the song).

Running in the rain.

Calling my mom/dad to have a good cry.

Calling my friends to have a good cry.

Good kisses.

Changing out of my pyjamas.

Smelling my favorite perfume.

February.

Dancing at 3AM by myself in my room.

Hampstead.

Dessert.

Extra portions of dessert.

Re-watching 'Wish I Was Here'.

My brother.

Shutting off my computer.

Christmas.

Singing in the shower.

Favourite books.

Making lists.

Fairy lights.

Ice cream cocktails.

Acknowledging the pain and giving it the respect it deserves.

Hot baths with candles and a jazz playlist.

Cleaning my room.

Tea and honey.

Waterstones.

Old diaries and boxes filled with memories.

John Mayer.

Re-reading JK Rowling's Harvard speech about failure.

Good poetry.

Bad poetry.

My happy music playlist.

Getting up from the floor.

This is how you start over

IMG_2196.JPG

The first thing you notice is how green his eyes are. The second is that you’ve seen him before, and you’ve had the same thought, and your heart skipped a beat last time, too. Old habits.

 

Then you’ll notice how you gravitate towards him, and that your lips tilt into a smile every time he looks in your direction. Which is often. You steal a glance and he returns it, you bump your hip and he takes your hand. It works.

 

Next comes a revelation: that maybe, maybe this is how it was meant to be all along. Maybe this is why it didn’t work out with that other guy, and the one before him. Are you crazy, lady, you only just met. But we didn’t, this was months in the making. Don’t you see?

It’s the blind leading the blind.

The fifth thing you notice is how you can’t stop looking, touching, laughing, wishing. How you feel like a teenager again, and for the first time in a long time, that feels like a good thing. Maybe it’s a new start. Smile for the cameras, here comes the good bit.

 

You can’t stop fixing your hair,  your ankle, your mascara. You angle your body the right way and look out into the crowd in what you hope is a wistful pose, a grainy black and white shot with a cigarette and rain and jazz playing in the background. It’s not.

 

Your hair is flat and there’s black smudges all around your eyes because your mascara is running out and has gone lumpy and your feet hurt and probably smell a bit, too. But you’re happy. So damn happy.

 

You go for the candle instead of the straw and you laugh, you laugh, you laugh.  He laughs with you.

 

Looks like your brain to mouth filter took an extended vacation, because none of what you’re saying makes any sense and all of it falls into the “things not to say to an attractive guy” category but hey, you only live once. His eyes sparkle. You’re doing good, kid.

 

The next thing you notice is how you never want this to end. 

 

You say goodbye and he says he’ll call. You almost get the wrong train, you almost forget where you are. Your legs are shaky and your head feels fuzzy, maybe you’ve had one too many drinks. Maybe you didn’t think this through.

 

Are you gonna wake up tomorrow and wish you’d never talked to him at all, wish you’d said you weren’t ready? Would you have meant it?

 

You go home to an empty house. You spend 25 minutes taking off your makeup because your hands are useless when you’re drunk so you sit on the floor while you do it, while you wait. Wait for what? Water, you need water.

 

You’re suddenly cold and maybe it’s the alcohol in your system or maybe you’ve been sitting on the floor for too long but it’s not a good sign and it’s not a good start and you panic. You’re terrified and shaking and this was a bad idea.

 

Maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you’ll sit on the floor a little longer.

 

Yesterday he asked what your type was and if anyone at the bar had caught your eye. You tripped on your words and mumbled something about bankers, and how this is not your kind of bar. “So, hipsters, then? You like them weird?” It took all of your willpower not to blurt out, I just like you. I don’t know what to do about it, but I like you.

 

What if you’ll never be ready?

Get up from the floor. Stop waiting for the perfect guy, the perfect night, or the perfect moment, and savour the taste and the touch and the feeling instead. Savour the moment. Kiss boys under streetlights, drink strawberry cocktails, get on the wrong train. Miss the train completely. Hide in the toilet, laugh 'til it hurts. Get yourself together, and then get yourself out there. Sparkle, sparkle, sparkle.

Actual words of wisdom from my 17 year old brother

SYIC9814.jpg

Actual words of wisdom from my 17-year-old brother:

 

You don’t have to be scared. 

I believe in you, we all do.

It’s gonna be okay. 

You’re so strong, you’ve always been.

 

I’ll make you dinner, it’ll be great.

 

You need to experience as much as possible, and forget about figuring out who you are and what you want. 

All that damn pressure you put on yourself. 

It will all come in time. 

You need experiences in order to create who you are. 

You need to experience it all, and decide for yourself, and make an honest choice. And how could you do that if all you’d ever known was a safe life?

You don’t want a safe life, you’ve never been that kind of girl.

You did the right thing, you chose your own path.

I’m proud of you.

 

Here, have some risotto.

 

Who cares what anyone thinks? They don’t matter.

Facebook sucks.

You need to focus on you, and only you, and not care about anything else.

I know it’s scary and I know you feel lonely, but you’re not alone. 

You’re doing great, look where you are. 

Fuck everyone.

 

I’ll get the wine.

 

We’re so lucky.

You’re doing great. 

I love you.

 

And when I tell him I’m immensely proud of him, and that he’s so amazing because when I was his age I’d just lock myself in my room and cry and scream and skip meals, he tells me everything happens for a reason and that he’s sure those experiences helped me get where I am today.

Which only makes me prouder, really.

 

Let’s go sit by the fire, I’ll bring wine and we can cuddle the dogs, he says.

I love you too, and thank you, I think. 

 

When you don't feel at home but Mom's isn't home either

IMG_7922.JPG

"Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. You can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done."

 

I first read these words what feels like a million years ago, and I remember a sharp pain in my chest and thinking ‘ah, this tells me something’, but I was wrong. 

I hadn’t felt like this, not truly, not until now.

 

Until this morning, when I woke up in my childhood room bed and sipped lukewarm tea from my favorite red mug and cuddled my dogs and everything was the same until it was all different.

It’s a strange feeling, and it doesn’t sit right. 

 

I shut my eyes and I so desperately want to pretend I’m 12 again, but there’s lines around my eyes now and a heavy weight in my stomach and I am not 12. I will never be 12 again.

 

I will turn 22 in February and my childhood room doesn’t feel mine anymore. There’s boxes full of things I’ve never seen and shelves filled with books I’ve never read. My diaries are still in the grey box on the top where I left them at 19, but I know what’s going to happen if I start going through them, and I’m not quite ready just yet. 

 

My tea is cold now, but I keep drinking it because I need to feel something besides this paralysing stupor.

This is not my home anymore, and it’s not my city. 

London is my city, but I don’t have a home there either. 

 

Somewhere in between here and there is the last three years of my life, and in between now and the next three is the choices I make once I finish this tea. And that… that’s terrifying. 

 

Will three years be enough to forget this version of myself, too? Will I recognise her? Will I be proud of her?

I hope I can. I hope they’ll be the right choices. I hope I’ll find a home that can feel like one. I hope 2018-me will have a lot more things figured out than I do right now, but above all, I hope she remembers how she got there.

 

I don’t want to feel like a stranger in my own skin, I don’t want to forget about twentytwo the way I seemed to have sixteen. I want to remember the journey, I want to honour it. 

 

Three years from now and three years after that, until there’s a wrinkle for every memory and I hope I can remember every single one. 

 

The poem at the start is by Kalyn RoseAnne, Sometimes you're 23.

Anti-Bucket List '16

IMG_7468.jpg

This post first appeared on She Did What She Wanted.

 

I’ve decided I’m not gonna write a bucket list for 2016, because if there’s something I’ve learned is that they always end up ruining my expectations and start making me feel guilty 5 days into January, which really, really isn’t a good way to start anything.

 

Enter the anti-bucket list. It first appeared in this month’s Glamour UK issue, but I read about it on Girl lost in the city, a blog by the wonderful Emma Gannon, and when I did, all I could think was yes. YES. 

 

Because why shouldn’t we reflect on all those little (and not so little) steps that we’ve managed to take, instead of forgetting about it as soon as the clock rings the new year? So that we can start feeling terrible about not keeping that lethal ‘will go to the gym’ resolution? Yeah, no thanks. 

 

I’d rather focus on the good bits a little longer, because it’s been a hard year and I think we all deserve to acknowledge our efforts a little bit more. Blow our own trumpets a little more often, be our very own cheerleaders and all of that. 

 

Maybe that should be our new year’s resolution.

 

 

ANTI BUCKET LIST 2016

 

  • I graduated from drama school! After a lifetime of dreaming I could be an actress, I can finally call myself one!

  • I watched my graduation movies on a cinema screen. At BAFTA. Woah. 

  • I started writing again, which took more courage than I ever thought I could muster but made me the very happiest, so. A big yes to this one.

  • I rewatched all six seasons of Sex and the City, because if there’s something a girl needs at 21 is some good old Carrie Bradshaw in her life.

  • I let go of more fears and demons than I could have possibly dreamed of, and let myself enjoy my very first serious relationship. Yay for letting ourselves feel things, wholeheartedly and unapologetically.

  • I moved in with my very first serious boyfriend. 

  • I moved out of the house I shared with said boyfriend.

  • I learned to fall in love with myself again.

  • I surprised my best friend of 20 years by showing up at her birthday party in Milan when she thought I would be in London. She cried tears of happiness, and it was a very good day.

  • I started having wine and cookies for dinner whenever I felt like it, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

  • I got an agent. An actual acting agent. All by myself. Woah.

  • I rode a horse! Four times! It was terrifying! I still have nightmares about it!

  • I went to see One Direction at the O2, and Harry wore glittery golden boots and we cried and laughed and danced and it was everything we could have hoped for. 

  • I went months without wearing foundation. The last time I did that I was 13, so… big achievement. 

  • I read more Bukowski. 

  • I started working out again for the first time in a long time, and eating healthily for the first time in forever, which shocked my body into losing fat and gaining muscle super fast. For a while, I experienced looking the best I’ve ever looked. 

  • I watched all four seasons of Scandal in less than two weeks. No regrets.

  • There was one time I danced all night, had pancakes at 5 AM, slept overlooking Canary Wharf and felt infinite. It was a good time.

  • I booked myself & the boyfriend a surprise trip to Italy. We went to the seaside and ate our body weight in pizza and got really really tan. Yes.

  • I discovered and fell in love with Amy Schumer. One time I laughed so hard I inhaled my tea and almost choked to death. But really, I don’t hold it against her, we’re okay.

  • I burned my entire face due to my stubborn (stupid) refusal to put on sunscreen anywhere other than under my eyes. Looked like a weird red and white koala for a while. Learned my lesson.

  • I got my very first acting gigs! I was in a Durex commercial! It was hilarious!

  • I flew business class for the very first time and felt like one hell of a classy lady. Got lost on my way out of the airport to balance it up, I guess.

  • I saw Taylor Swift at BST with Nic and Jess!! Cried my eyes out!! Danced for hours!!! Yes!!!

  • I fainted and hit my head on the bathtub, which meant I had to go to the hospital and be very scared for a while, but also lead to me taking more care of myself. Yay for self-care.

  • I got drunk by myself and broke into a very loud performance of Perfect at midnight on the Millennium Bridge, wearing the silliest, widest grin on my face. Harry Styles makes me happy, what can I say.

 

 

From me, to me, for the new year: you’re doing good, really, stop freaking out. Love you loads, always.