Friday 9 October 2020

Me at 21

So now I’m 21 (technically, my birthday’s tomorrow but I don’t post on Saturdays…). Somehow I think turning 21 has had more of an impact on me than 20. 20 is a bit of a trial run, you’re still a bit of a teenager and not a proper 20-something, and 21 is, well, actually 20-something. There’s no pretending now, I am an actual adult and have to deal with that fact. 

It also feels like 20 kind of didn’t happen. 20 started off great, it was amazing for a few months, but then kind of came crashing down around me, even before the pandemic happened. My mental health plummeted in a way it hadn’t done before (even if I’ve always generally been a relatively anxious person) and it made me rethink a lot of things, particularly my boundaries and what effective self-care actually is. It’s taken me what feels like a long time (most of being 20 in fact) to claw my mental health to be back at a reasonable level, and while I’m doing well now – most of the time – I’m also incredibly aware of the effort that maintaining and improving that level of wellbeing is and will be very difficult. 


I’ve learned a lot in the past year. I’ve had to do a lot of inner reflection and confronting the ways I’ve internalised certain things I had previously thought I was pretty open and progressive about. But you know what, learning those things is good and allows you to not only improve your own wellbeing and relationship with yourself, but also the relationships you have with others and to make the impact you have on others more positive as a whole. 


So 21 is going to be the year of self-care and learning boundaries. While I’m still very busy, maybe just as much as I was this time last year if not more so, I think I’m preparing myself better through setting myself certain restrictions. I’m ignoring those messages about projects I’m involved with that come through at 11:30 on a Wednesday night, and leaving them unopened until at least 9am on the next working morning, something I may have been tempted to answer straight away previously. 


I now have Audre Lorde’s quote about self-care being ‘an act of political warfare’ framed on my bedroom wall and am taking it incredibly seriously, especially in terms of the ‘warfare’ aspect. Aggressive self-care is sometimes required and I’m going to have some tough love on myself to effectively look after myself and prosper over this coming year. I can then hopefully just have those things in place or as routines to ensure self-care becomes an actual habit and not a chore or something to do on a whim.

Somehow I’ve got 400 words into this post without even mentioning uni or anything other than my brain, but I guess that goes to show what’s been on my mind lately. 


I am now in my final year of my undergrad. Yep, this is my last ‘Me at…’ post as a student (unless I end up doing a panic masters of course but I hope that won’t be the case). Normally, I’d be in the full swing of uni by now, but when this goes up it will be the last day of my induction week. Although I think it is, I’m not entirely sure, I’m kind of confused with what’s happening with uni at the moment. I did get my dissertation deadlines through at the beginning of the week. No communication other than that, so that’s fun for a brain which automatically goes into panic mode. But it’s fine. I’m trying to focus on planning and doing little bits here and there and gradually building up my workload so I don’t overwhelm myself. 


I’ve got another week before teaching fully starts and I’m trying to make sure I stick to the boundary goals I’ve set myself. Now that my volunteering time with N.E.S.T is much more flexible (i.e. not on the weekends), I’m hoping to use the weekends as proper downtime and as a chance to make the most of Newcastle and the North East as I don’t know if I’ll be living here this time next year. I’ve got a small list of places to go and things to see, and honestly if 22-year-old me is reading this and hasn’t done a lot of those things I will be disappointed. Come on future me, get your act in gear! 


One good thing which has come out of the pandemic for me is having been able to do more campaigning in terms of slow fashion and being able to write more on the topics I love. I was put on furlough for my usual holiday job (eventually being let go in August), so I was effectively paid to educate myself in more detail on the fashion industry and racism, as well as to write for my blog and for other platforms (particularly The Tab), organize projects for N.E.S.T and prep for FemSoc. With my mental health being what it was this year, particularly earlier on, I’m glad that I was able to take things super slowly wherever I wanted but still have some things to do and eventually get me motivated, and I count myself incredibly lucky that I was in such a comfortable situation for lockdown.


I am now an ambassador for the organisation Remake, which does amazing work advocating for systemic change within the fashion industry to improve it for both people and planet. I still kind of can’t believe I’m actually officially involved with this organisation. It was a pretty cool moment when I was accepted and I still have to pinch myself a little bit when I’m on group calls with such cool people.


While I had dyed my hair a few times when I was 19, 20 really became the year that having red hair became more of a permanent thing for me. I feel so comfortable and confident within myself having my hair red, and I know this may sound cringey, but I do feel more well, ‘me’, when my hair is dyed. Whatever the hell that means… I now only do my hair at home, and haven’t been to the hairdressers since I had my major chop back when I was 18. I mostly do trims by myself (or get my flatmate Jude to have a go) and was really happy with some of the shaping I did at the front a few months ago. Obviously nowhere near professional level but I thought I did a pretty good job. I’ve been getting urges to cut myself a fringe over the past few months too. I’m not sure if it’s lockdown induced, however I would be surprised if I hadn’t succumbed to those temptations before the year was out. 


In previous years, I have tried to look after a couple of plants and have completely failed. I killed off Enid, Enid 2.0 and Enid 3.0 in the space of about a year and a half. I’ve now decided to steer clear from cyclamens and go for some hardier plants. In the 6 weeks I’ve been in my new flat, I have acquired 7 new plants. Firstly, a replacement cactus for a pot whose original occupant I had killed over lockdown (yes, I did manage to kill a cactus, leave me alone I was sad). I then got a snake plant called Stevie (after Nicks) and a creeping fig called Billy (after Ocean) who now lives in my bathroom. I also got a succulent my brother decided to call Dennis, a spider plant I named Octavia after an Instagram call out for names, an aloe vera called Brenda (because Brenda Blethin plays Vera. I thought it was hilarious…) and I now have a crocodile fern my brother gave to me as a birthday present and who I’ve named Delilah. Ooh, and I nearly forgot, I have a chive pant I’ve called Clive, who sits on the kitchen windowsill next to my regrown spring onions. I guess that’s really 8 plants. I guess I am now a fully-fledged plant mum, and believe me when I say I am learning a lot more about their needs this time! Who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough to get an Enid 4.0 at some point in the future!

It’s a bit scary thinking about this time next year. I have some potentials for paths I could take but that’s dependent on many things, and in all honesty I don’t know what my life will look like at 22. For now, I’m just going to focus on looking after myself, completing my degree to the best of my ability, enjoying Newcastle and student life while I can, and trying not to kill any of my plant children. Not too much to ask, surely? 

If you liked this post you might like: Me at 20

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