She looks better out of her clothes than in them. And she looks pretty good in her clothes.

She looks better out of her clothes than in them. And she looks pretty good in her clothes.

These are the words that I have chosen to define my twenties. Not because I spent them naked. Or because the decade was defined by how I look, but because I seemed to do alright when really I was over the top incredible.

That said, the phrase has been expressed more than once (if with variations in vocabulary) and other girls boyfriends have nodded sagely, their eyes glazing over with brief remembrance, before coming to their senses. They’ve never actually had the sense to date me for more than a couple of months, but that had nothing to do with me. Probably. Hopefully.

Anyway, there’s more to life than love, and there’s been plenty to love. Three careers in, I started a company in a foreign country with no money and while it’s mostly felt like a Prometheus and the rock sort of experience looking back I’ve done quite a lot that I’m really rather proud of. Happy clients, rent paid, and a few astonishingly supportive friends. My threshold for thriving possibly needs to be reassessed.

While still secretly baffled at what winning at life would actually look like, I’ve decided to give the woman I’ve been a break for not exceeding every expectation on the grounds of having chased every dream, and more than a few whims. Not to say that they were all met with rampant success, but, especially in that case, I did it anyway and I can forgive myself a host of other mistakes on that alone.

I’ve tokened myself the queen of trying, and the failure analytics are irrelevant when there is some success to focus on and an almost entirely empty slate of regrets.

As with every new year, I will look to take the good into the next decade with me, and leave the mistakes behind. My clothes will have to do their best to keep up.

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Relative Happiness

Yes, of course, happiness, like beauty, is all about the eye of the beholder and perception is objective, and blah blah blah. Tailor your expectations accordingly and the world is your oyster, or possibly  some other less slimy delicacy.

Not going to be blowing the lid off of that one today. Instead we are going to take a minute to discuss the happiness of your relatives. More importantly, how fickle and unimportant it is. Maybe don’t read this aloud at Thanksgiving.

Some of us have always been the type to try and make everyone around them happy. Some of us have been the type to make themselves happy and wait for everyone else to fall in line. With any luck both of these people grow up to realize that the people around you matter and should be treated with consideration, but no more or less than yourself. And now humanity is universally self-actualized. Or not.

 

Assuming a slim majority of us claw our way somewhere into the median spectrum, our work is not yet done. Even when we’ve determined how things should go the people closest to us always seem to present an exception. They aren’t ‘just anyone’. They deserve more time. Or you deserve more of theirs. Or they will forgive you because they have to. (This is not universally bad, and when your mother asks you for help, you do it.) When this throws the happiness scale out of balance its a problem, and its no way to treat people you care about.

Despite how tempting it can be to indulge our desires to control the feelings of loved ones we cannot take responsibility of anyone else’s happiness. That’s their job. We can try not to hurt them. We can empathize when someone else does. But sacrificing your own for theirs is only for married people. And sometimes your children (though their teachers would appreciate it if you told them no sometimes, just for the fun of it).

The pleasant shiny person you’re going to be when your happiness matters as much as everyone else’s will make them happier anyway. Maybe not right away. They’ll have got used to you being their emotional on call chef. But eventually, if they care about you too and see you truly happy, they will be happy too. And then you can skip and frolic and stuff.

Cardigan of Doom

I’ve developed something of a lip product addiction, which does not on the surface seem to have much to do with cardigans. But it does. I think about which lip gloss to put in my handbag more than what shirt to wear (an unheard of anomaly) and lust after the clicky packaging on Chanel lipsticks with, admittedly, too much enthusiasm. It’s a bit extreme, a little shallow, and not like me. Or, it wasn’t like me.

The version of me with the laser focused lip preoccupation wears more make-up all the time. She wears dresses and tights more than jeans and jumpers. And only uses tote bags to carry her groceries back from Waitrose. One year ago me had a lot of cardigans. A cardigan for every day of the week, and then some. This had everything to do with being a high school teacher, because adding a cardigan to skinny jeans and metallic flats was my conception of a cute, professional, yet still recognizably feminine, and not completely irrelevant person.

When teaching started to become that thing that will be my job for a while, instead of that thing that I’m doing in between cool and creative writing jobs, a slow creeping terror began to set in. It was subtle and kind of had a poltergeist demon whisper thing going on.

“…this over air-conditioned classroom is the only place you will experience human interaction and it will be with children with the intellectual capacity of grapefruits….”

“…your only creative activity until you retire in 40 years will be to slightly differentiate the same curriculum year after year…and no one will care…”

And other funny things, like

“…you might die here. Wearing a cardigan…”

Hahaha. Not hysterical at all, really. Honestly, eating toddler ravioli cups for lunch was also getting to me. But it was the closet full of cardigans, shoving my over-indulgent dress collection into the dark dusty recesses that most clearly signified the need for change.

Fast forward a year, and I live in the greatest city in the world with amazing friends, hobbies (!), and an unscheduled freedom that gives me time and space to be spontaneous, adventurous, and wear all my dresses. With full awareness that this is a temporary state of being, I’m soaking it up for all it’s worth. Part of me knows that the cardigans are waiting in the aforementioned recesses. And their day may come given the student loan statement I’m currently ignoring. But that day is not today. And there is also a glimmer of hope that another sartorial future awaits. Fingers crossed for lots of hats.

Drinking in a Toilet

Not out of the toilet, in the toilet. Or the room where the toilet was. Except there are still a couple toilets in there. But there is also a bar. And a piano. All makes sense now, right? No? Well then you are clearly not cool enough to grasp the trendy awesome that is the oh so cleverly titled new dive (haha, that’s funny because it’s underground) Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, London. The good news is that I am hardly cool enough to leave Zone 1 at all and they still let me in and gave me booze. They waited for me to ask for directions, or an actual bathroom, when I first walked in (blonde ponytails being something of a rarity in this part of town) but let me sit down at my upright piano of a table all the same.

ladies&gents

Even though I knew exactly where I was going I still managed to walk right by it. There were a few minutes of exploration of North London at night that we can get into another time. This is very easy to do because it does in fact appear to be a loo- with cement stairs leading to an industrial metal door. Luckily, contrary to all appearances, things did not evolve in a Saw 7 direction, and instead went to a more hipster speak easy place. When you, literally, come through the curtain the bar is small, but not cramped, cosy and charming- not least because of the jolly beardy bartenders. The Ladies’ Old Fashioned is in no way an anti-feminist statement (which you would know just by the generous alcohol content, if you try it) but a complement to the name of the establishment. Their very tasty and most Instagrammable cocktail is the Rhubarb and Custard. I hate gin, and it has gin, but you can not taste the gin, only sweet dessert-y goodness served in a custard powder tin.

custard drink

If you are anything like me, your first thought is how many times can one reuse a custard tin as a drinking receptacle before it disintegrates through washing and use? Approximately ten times. Or possibly that never occurred to you and you don’t care. Or, now you are wondering what happens to all the custard powder…

The music is not so loud that you can’t catch up with friends without screaming, and not so quiet that you can hear everyone else’s friends (and they can hear you forgetting the chorus to the oldies cover that just came on). All in all it made for an excellent mid-week night out that I intend to repeat.

Would a fishtail braid make me look more edgy?

kentish town

Dreams Come with Tiny Nightmares

In this case I am not referring to dreams when you are asleep dreams (though obviously those can also be nightmares; like the one I had yesterday where all the hardware disappeared from my handbag and my laptop crumbled in my hands…*shudder*) Anyway. I’m talking about the other kind of dream. The “Dream big!” kind. The “Dream come true!” kind. The kind that has the thing(s) you really, really want in this slice of existence.

Depending on personal philosophy, parenting, mental imbalances, and available cash we all have different perceptions of how possible acquiring or fulfilling our dreams will be, and deciding what our dreams are. Sometimes our dreams choose us, but either way people and circumstances are going to get in your way and every challenge presents the possibility of giving up on the dream, or getting past what’s in your way and getting a little bit closer. This part we’re all familiar with.

But what about when you find out you are finally going to meet your dream and you’re plagued with a month-long panic attack that you are going to completely fuck it up in some way? No one talks about that part. That’s where the wands come in during Disney movies. And upbeat music montages are edited in during all other movies. No one shares the step between trying your hardest and singing on the mountain top, where you hyperventilate, and eat chocolate with every breath, and you develop a twitch trying to suppress crazy eyes every time someone asks if “you’re excited??” (It is also possible I have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, but lets ignore that for the time being).

girl-crying-2

To be clear, I am not saying “be careful what you wish for”  because I do not believe that dreaming is the time to be careful. I believe the opposite in fact. Dream as if there are no consequences whatsoever. But this phase, the post-struggle-pre-having stage is the time for care and planning and details. Evidently it is also the time for alcohol. Or whatever form of relaxation and heart rate reduction you prefer. Because the reality of something that has only ever manifested in your imagination is overwhelming and feeling all the feels associated with its fruition is part of the experience. I wouldn’t give up these moments of helpless emotional and physical gasping (even if I will self medicate them) because it just goes to show how monumentously great it is to wrap your hands around the object of your obsession/affection/heart’s desire.

If it isn’t an overwhelmingly great thing to have, is it worth wanting in the first place? I’m calling it a win. I’m also calling my mother. If you haven’t let anything get between you and what you want, don’t let fear be the thing that does.

You can take the girl out of the concert; but actually, you can’t.

While it’s surprising to everyone else when I go to intimate rock concerts by myself I couldn’t be more fine with it. I might go so far as to say it’s actually my thing. I haven’t been to a concert with another person since Jingle Ball 2004 with my dad (Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mariah Carey killed it). The truth is I do a whole lot of things on my own and tend to enjoy them more when I do.

I generally make friends with the bouncers and have a nice, cute and vulnerable vibe that has, more than once, resulted in a personal visit from band members (“Why yes, I’m fine, just don’t want to get caught up in the crowd” blink, blink “Yes I would like to hear your unreleased song in the green room”) Things didn’t go quite that swimmingly this evening, because of very silly responsible concerns like getting home safely, but I was compensated with a spontaneous Christmas jazz performance on the Northern Line. See previous post for further eruptions of Christmas spirit of this sort in London.

Unlike every other concert I’ve been to in my life this one was eighty percent grown men singing along like tweens to Taylor Swift which lended a unique and cool dynamic. And every one was extremely polite. No pushing, no yelling (except that which was encouraged by the band) and not one drink spilled by an unruly passerby. Oh, British people.

xcerts 2014

Everything about the concert was improved by the headliners, The Xcerts, being Scottish. They were also super engaged and grateful and happy to be there, which makes such a big difference. Taking the intimate show vibe one step further, the lead singer switched to an acoustic guitar and sang along with the audience with no mic. The adults shushed each other and we all had a little campfire moment.

Mirrored pillars in the venue lent some sexy mystery as you could covertly watch large beardy men singing along and bopping. Decently priced beer rounded things out nicely, but the highlight of the show was when, realizing everyone knew the words, the band said, “You sing, and I’ll be Tom Petty.” And we did.

Needless to say, I will be going to more concerts while I continue to live in a city. Maybe I’ll even let someone come with me.