A Tale Of A Social Media Burnout

It’s been a while since I’ve logged on here and written something. While there are a few honest excuses I could throw out there (uni has been intense, I’ve felt a little uninspired, I even forgot my password for a while there), the true reason is that I’ve become deeply burnt out on social media.

In my undergrad, I majored in Media and Communications and now I’m doing my master’s degree in Publishing and Communications. Obviously, this entails being constantly plugged in and logged on. Most of the time, I love it. I haven’t yet met a postgrad subject I don’t like and the thought of class and assignments gets me excited. But at the same time, I had no idea the mental and emotional toll my constant social media use was taking. It took me until it came to a head in an explosive argument with someone I love to realise that I was in too deep.

While I’m certain that I’m not the only person who’s experienced personal issues caused by social media, I still couldn’t believe that I had let something so seemingly trivial come between me and a loved one. I’ve never been that person before, and not once before did I stop to self-reflect and consider that I was becoming someone I didn’t necessarily like.

Social media was causing me to excessively compare myself to others, and as a result my self confidence plummeted. I became obsessed with people I’d never met who are leading what seem like perfect lives and I began to question everything I’ve accomplished (or, more accurately, everything I haven’t). Instead of unfollowing accounts that made me feel bad, I somehow got sucked into a void of self-loathing and followed more and more of those accounts. I couldn’t pull myself out of this hellscape of people with perfect bodies and families and jobs and houses. I was finding validation from likes and comments from people I barely knew or didn’t know at all. I was taking everything personally and my mental health was suffering because of it.

After a whole undergrad degree plus a little bit of a postgrad degree, suffice it to say that I know a lot about social media and how it works. I know that everything on there is carefully curated to convey a very intentional, specific message. I know that people show a highlights reel rather than a BTS look at their lives. I know that you can create an entire life that isn’t real on social media. I know all of this. But it’s so easy to forget all of that and get sucked in.

But the solution isn’t necessarily to use social media less; it’s to use social media right. Deleting all my social media and pulling a Carrie Bradshaw Throwing Her Phone Into The Ocean move isn’t really an option in my field of study. So I’ve had to set some rules for myself to keep my emotional and mental wellbeing intact:

  • Before I mindlessly open an app, I analyse my headspace. I ask myself how I’m feeling and what purpose that app is going to serve in changing my mood. If I’m not in a great mood, I should probably take a step back or choose a different app to open.
  • Unfollow without feeling guilty. The thing is, very few people actually notice that they’ve lost a follower/friend (if you are someone who notices: welcome! You’ve found the right post to read). If a person or an account is making you feel discontent, anxious, sad, self-conscious, etc.: unfollow them! There is ONE person who controls what you view on social media—you. There’s no reason to keep following someone who isn’t making you feel your best. If you are worried about unfollowing someone you’re close to or someone you know will notice and care, try just muting their posts for a while.
  • On the flip side, follow more accounts that make you feel good! I’ve begun to follow tons of accounts that motivate me, inspire me, make me happy, and make me think critically. Less bad, more good! It’s so easy!
  • Are there certain features that make you feel bad? Avoid them. At all costs.

Social media is a very weird phenomenon that we’ve invented for ourselves and it’s up to us to make sure we’re using it consciously and responsibly. I firmly believe that humans were not created to comprehend the reality that social media presents. We have constant access to news (most of which is bad news); anyone, anywhere, at any time is able to tell us exactly what they think of us with almost no repercussions; we can see highlights from everyone’s lives, but we see the gritty realities of very few of them.

We forget that social media isn’t real life and we treat it as though it’s the ONLY life. It’s imperative for your mental health and emotional wellbeing that you’re kind to yourself on social media and prioritise your state of mind above how you’ve been conditioned to act. Safe scrolling, kiddies!

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4 Ways I Start My Morning To Ensure A Productive Day

If you’ve been following along with my (sporadic) blog posts, you’ll know that my main resolution this year is to really take care of my physical and mental health. One thing I’ve realised in striving toward this resolution is that I operate best when I have a routine, so I’ve established a few small morning habits that help me have a more productive, fulfilling day. Most of these things are things I used to think I didn’t have time for; but as they say, it’s not about time—it’s about priorities. Of course everyone is different and our bodies don’t all work the same way, but these routines have helped me personally feel my best so that I can enjoy my day better.

Early morning workout

I like to get my daily workout in as early as possible. On a normal weekday I wake up a little before 7am so I can get to the gym while it’s still pretty empty. Working out in the morning gives me more time in my day for other tasks, gives me more energy throughout the day, and doesn’t leave it hanging over my head until the evening. Plus, my brain and body love getting that little endorphin rush at the beginning of the day! My go-to is a full-body weight training circuit—weightlifting makes me feel super strong and empowered, especially when I push myself to lift heavier weights or do more reps. But if I’m not feeling up to that, I like to throw on a podcast and hop on a treadmill instead.

Breakfast

I never used to eat breakfast. In high school I was either sleeping or swimming in the morning and I never made time to eat anything before school. That habit stuck with me for years after I graduated—until I started exercising every morning. Recent research has shown that breakfast actually isn’t as essential as we used to think it was (so don’t stress too much if you can’t squeeze in a morning meal) but I get starving after working out and I like having the little morning energy boost that breakfast gives me. My favourite breakfast is a long black and a protein shake—I like to load up on the protein in the morning and save my carbs for my bigger meals later in the day.

Devotion

I’m a religious person, so I like to start my morning praying and reading the bible. I subscribe to different devotions and reading plans through She Reads Truth so that I can get more out of what I’m reading. It brings me a huge sense of peace and purpose every morning by connecting with my faith. If you’re not religious, try meditating or even a little bit of yoga. They’re all great ways to clear your mind and get into a positive headspace before you begin your day.

Getting dressed

This one might be kind of dumb, but I’ve discovered recently that the way I dress myself everyday has a way bigger impact on my mood and motivation than I previously realised. Lounging around in my activewear for ages after getting home from the gym de-motivates me and can even put me in a grouchy mood. If I shower and get dressed (into something nice—not just sweats and a t-shirt!) as soon as I come home from the gym and then eat my breakfast while I do my hair and makeup, I feel infinitely more motivated to get things done in my day. You can read more about the psychology behind this here—it’s a super interesting read!

I love my little morning routine, and practising it nearly every day for two months has formed it into a habit. These little habits make my day more fulfilling, productive, and enjoyable. Have you got a morning routine or little habits you couldn’t live without? Let me know in the comments!

How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

I’m no stranger to travelling, and living in Australia makes it hard to fly overseas without taking a flight less than 8 hours long. Over the years, I’ve learned to perfect the art of travelling long distances without feeling like a greasy, bloated, smelly monster when I disembark on the other side. Here are my best tips and tricks.

Skincare

I never bothered with in-flight skincare until a couple of years ago, and it has totally changed the way I travel. Before I leave for a trip, I pick up a couple of travel-sized moisturisers, face wipes, and sometimes (if I’m feeling extra boujee) a tiny bottle of hydrating mist. My favourites at the moment are from the Essano SuperFoods range – they’re made of natural, organic ingredients and the sample pack is perfect for travelling. I try to clean and moisturise my face throughout my flight—before I sleep, when I wake up, and at the end of my flight before landing. I also make sure to throw a small bottle of hand sanitiser and hand cream in my carry-on. It’s a super easy way to feel clean and refreshed throughout your entire flight.

Know the do-s and don’t-s of eating and drinking

It’s super tempting to take advantage of the free food and drink offered on your flight, but don’t give into the temptation too easily—think carefully about what you put in your body on a long-haul flight. There’s nothing wrong with a coffee or a glass of wine, but over-indulging in caffeine and/or alcohol will only serve to dehydrate you, make you feel groggy, and make it harder for your body to fight jet-lag once you arrive at your destination. Drink as much water as possible and try to keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum.

If you’re not a huge fan of plane food (who is?) and you’re planning to pack snacks, try to stick to protein-filled foods like protein bars or peanut butter sandwiches that will keep you fuller for longer. As I’m a vegetarian and my in-flight breakfast options generally consist of either some type of meat or a couple of measly pieces of fruit, I generally try to pack my own meals. As well as a homemade sandwich, I often carry protein bars onboard with me and I also like to throw in a cup of instant oatmeal; then I just ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water to cook my oats instead of breakfast. But if you’re planning to take your snacks off your flight and into the country you’re visiting, make sure you read up on that country’s customs restrictions first!

Don’t forget that you can special-order your meals to fit your dietary restrictions—there are tons of options: vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, and heaps more. A perk of this is that special meals come out before the normal meals, which allows you to get your mealtime over with and fall asleep earlier.

Zzz

I always hear people say, “I just can’t sleep on planes!”. False. Everyone can sleep on planes. If you think you can’t fall asleep on a plane, you’re probably just taking the wrong approach. Sleeping on a plane is exactly the same as sleeping anywhere else, except probably just a little less comfortable. Stay away from caffeine if you want to try to get some sleep on your flight (obviously); try drinking something more calming instead, like decaffeinated green tea, or just hot water or milk. Make sure you have an eye mask and ear plugs if you need total darkness and silence to sleep. Wear comfy clothes and pack an extra sweatshirt or scarf in case the airplane is cold. Be mindful of the music you’re listening to before you sleep (maybe upbeat pop or rap isn’t the best option) and try to limit how much you’re looking at a screen pre-sleep (try reading a book or listening to one of those 1,000 podcasts you always said you’d listen to but never did). Take a sleeping pill if need be! Most airlines will provide a pillow for you to sleep on—I suggest bringing your own pillow or neck pillow anyway. This way, you can put the provided pillow behind your lower back to keep back pain at bay, while not having to compromise your sleeping comfort. Most flights will adhere to the time zone of wherever you’re flying to, but if they don’t, you should anyway. Try to sleep when it’s nighttime in your destination; this will help you stave off the jet lag a little.

BYO power

Always, always, always bring a spare power pack as well as your chargers. You never know when something you need is going to die unexpectedly and this can be stressful if you’re on a flight with no other way of charging your device. PS—as a general travel trip, DON’T FORGET to pack power converters! They’re an obvious essential when travelling but are also super easy to accidentally leave out in your night-before packing rush.

Be realistic

I think most people who’ve travelled can relate to having a “holiday self”—basically a version of yourself that you hope to magically turn into once you leave for a holiday. My holiday self is suuuuper chill, way more spontaneous than anyone you’ve met before, and has tons of time to read tons of books. Holiday Monique prompts Real Monique to pack way too many books in my suitcase and tempts Real Monique to leave hotel bookings and holiday activities to chance and spontaneity. Realistically, though, I’m going to get stressed if I haven’t planned my trip. I’m relatively spontaneous, but still like to book things ahead and not leave too much to chance. I love to read, but I know that I’m not going to be sitting down with a book my whole trip.

Make sure you’re being realistic with the things you’re bringing on your trip; this includes in your carry on. Do you need more than one box of crackers? Are you actually going to read 3 whole books on your 10-hour flight? You don’t want to get stuck with a bulky, heavy carry-on when you’re not even going to be using half the stuff inside it,

Bring a change of clothes

Okay, I know that most normal, grown people don’t tend to spill stuff all over themselves while eating or drinking, and I know that you’re most likely not going to sweat through all your clothes. BUT you never know what might happen while you’re travelling. I once had a flight attendant spill a cup of hot tea all over me when we hit turbulence and I couldn’t do anything except dab at it with the 2 paper napkins he dropped in my lap before moving further down the aisle. Situations like these are why you should bring at least a spare t-shirt. I always bring an entire change of clothes—t-shirt, pants, undies, socks, the lot. I feel SO much fresher (and less stinky) if I can change my outfit toward the end of my flight.

I’m not a total expert on travel, I’ll admit. But I’ve definitely taken quite a few flights in my day and I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about. So follow my advice, or don’t. Be smelly and greasy with gross skin and raging jet lag. That’s your call.

My Favourite Apps I Use Daily (That Aren’t Social Media)

To anyone who refuses to update their iPhone on principle: first of all, power to you. Personally I’m a sucker for the promise of new emojis, but kudos for resisting the temptation to check out Apple’s newest, probably arbitrary features.

However, if you are participating in la résistance contre Apple, that means you probably haven’t seen the new Screen Time feature that Apple rolled out. The feature shows you how much time you’re spending on your phone each day, and what that time is being allocated to. It’s super confronting to see how much time you (I) spend on your (my) phone, and especially how much of that time you (again, I) have been spending scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Looking at my daily screen time now, it’s 3:40pm and I’ve spent 3h 38min on my phone of the 5-ish hours that I’ve been awake. Granted, an hour or so of that was just spent on Apple music while I worked out this morning. But 2 whole hours of it has been on social networking sites (mainly Instagram)! I’m almost embarrassed to even put those numbers in this post (please don’t judge me).

So a couple of weeks ago, after dissecting and neurotically obsessing over how much time I was wasting on my phone and all the productive things I could’ve been doing in those hours instead, I made a pact. I vowed that I would make an effort to make the time that I spend on my phone more productive. Instead of opening the same social media app for the 3rd time in 15 minutes, I downloaded some apps on my phone that will (hopefully) benefit me more than just seeing memes and fitspo posts and Barbie doll-esque influencers float across my screen. So here’s a list of my favourites that I use regularly, if not daily.

Remente

I randomly stumbled across this one on the app store, decided to give it a go, and haven’t looked back since. I guess it’s kind of life coach-y, but it’s more so just an app to help you stay on track with/accomplish your goals. It also has features that allow you to evaluate and talk about how you feel about different areas of your life (the categories are Love & Relationships, Health & Fitness, Career & Education, Personal Development, Family, Friends & Social Life, Fun & Recreation, and Finances). You can set goals within these categories, or just general life goals. The app sends you articles and resources based on how you rank each category, as well as various courses like meditation courses and workout courses. It’s really helped me to stay motivated, especially with regards to exercising and staying active, and I love that I can jot stuff down that I’m thinking or feeling without feeling like I’m having to officially ~journal~ everything.

My Fitness Pal

Part of my 2019 resolution to take better care of my body means making sure I’m staying active and eating right. While I’m not trying to become a calorie nazi, I do still want to make sure I’m consuming a good balance of macronutrients everyday and not putting things in my body that aren’t going to help me feel good. My Fitness Pal has made it so easy to track what I’m eating everyday and gives me a really clear view of how many carbs, fats, and proteins I’m getting in everyday. It also shows me how much Vitamin A and C, iron, fibre, calcium, and other goodies I’ve consumed each day. It’s helped me get a much better sense for the portion sizes I should have at every meal and I love that it connects to other health and fitness apps I have like Nike Run and the Apple Health app, as well as showing me healthy recipes and exercise and wellness tips.

Flo

This app also goes hand-in-hand with my resolution to make sure I’m on top of taking care of my body. I’ve tried tons of different period-tracking apps, and have given up on most of them because they’re inaccurate and/or hard to use. Flo is super accurate and allows me to enter tons of various symptoms as well as other things that can affect ~that time of month~ like exercise, medications, diet, and sleep; then the app recommends articles based on the info I’ve entered. It helps me take care of my body better and recognise signs and symptoms.

She Reads Truth

Here’s something I never thought I’d say a year ago: I’m a huge morning person. I love getting up early and working out, making breakfast, and having some time to myself. Something I’ve started doing before I get my day started is reading a devotion every morning. I’ve found that the ones on She Reads Truth are the best and they have tons of different daily plans to choose from. If you’re religious and looking for a devotional, definitely try this one out!

Headspace

Headspace is an awesome way to clear your head at the beginning or the end of your day. They have tons of guided meditations based on what you want to focus on or accomplish and you can choose different areas of your life to focus on, such as work and productivity, falling asleep or waking up, personal growth, life challenges, physical health, education, etc. I never used to really ~believe in~ meditation, but this app has been really beneficial for me getting into a great mindset before my day starts each morning.

 

How Therapy Changed Me and Saved Me

I feel like I need to start by mentioning that this post has been lingering in my drafts for quite a while. I’m not sure “embarrassed” is exactly the right word to describe how I feel about sharing my struggle with mental illnesses, but it’s somewhere in that arena. Despite the recent spike in mental illness-related memes, which have opened up a more casual conversation about mental health, mental illnesses and their treatments still remain heavily stigmatised.

After a close friend disclosed to me recently that she’s been seeing a therapist, I decided that letting this post hang out in my drafts was only perpetuating the stigma surrounding mental illness. I think I can speak for everyone who’s ever struggled with their mental health when I say that this stigma is AWFUL. It not only makes you feel isolated and shameful and alone, but it also compromises many people’s ability to get the help they desperately need.

So before I get into the nitty gritty, let me just say this: this post is not easy to write. At all. And it’s going to be even harder to click “publish” once I’ve gotten all my words out. I’m not writing this because I owe anyone an explanation; I’m not writing it for pity or attention; I’m certainly not writing it because it’s a topic I enjoy discussing. I’m writing it because I hope that by doing so, I can chip away a little at the stigma. Maybe my words will touch someone and encourage them to seek help or speak out about their own struggle.

In high school, around year 10, I began feeling things I’d never felt before. I started feeling empty, directionless, sad, tired, ugly, self-conscious, and tons of other emotions that a 15-year-old shouldn’t have to feel. Basically, I thought of myself as a waste of space. No matter what my friends and family told me, and no matter how much love I was shown, nothing got through to me. I would’ve given anything to make those feelings go away. Eventually I began to feel like everyone would be better off without me, and I started having suicidal thoughts. Months passed and I felt like I was in total darkness all the time. One night found me in the emergency room, and as quickly as I’d been taken there I was taken back home with a hospital bracelet and a list of further options. That’s how I wound up in therapy.

Therapy was an easy choice for me because I knew I was no good at remembering to take daily pills and I’ve always liked to complain about my problems to anyone who’ll listen. But the first time—hell, the first 5 times—walking into my therapist’s office were HARD. It took me a few different therapists to finally find one whom I trusted and felt comfortable around, and when I finally did, it took a session or two before we were completely on the same page about everything. Every time I walked into the waiting room, I was consumed with the anxiety that I’d see someone I know.

But before I knew it, I was feeling better. Much better; better than I had thought was even possible. I finally started to step out of my darkness and see that life was worth living. I got to talk to someone for an hour a week with no interruptions, no judgement, and no outside biases. My therapist was always on my side in every situation, wanting to help me. She didn’t know me outside of her office, and she didn’t know anyone from other parts of my life. She existed in my life solely to bring me healing. She didn’t make me feel guilty or shameful for the things I’d felt in the past, and she put things into perspective for me in a way that no one else could have. Therapy not only changed my life, but saved it—week after week, session after session.

There is a massive stigma and lots of vast misconceptions surrounding therapy. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re crazy or messed up. You don’t need to be experiencing any type of mental illness or other struggle to benefit from therapy. There are tons of different reasons people seek out therapy, not least of them being the chance to simply vent and rant to a listening ear. There are no ink blots or leather couches you have to lie down on. Nobody is “reading your mind” or “shrinking your head”. Someone is there to listen to you and offer insight. They’re not going to judge you or share what you’ve told them; they know what they’re talking about and can offer you tips and advice that will actually help you.

While my mental health struggles have taken on different—fortunately, less severe—forms since high school, I can proudly say that I haven’t fallen back into that darkness. Knowing that therapy is an option I can lean on at any time is comforting beyond words. I wouldn’t be in the place I’m in now—mentally, physically, academically, emotionally—if it weren’t for me taking the scary steps that I took in high school toward the help that I needed. And, of course, I never would have taken those steps if it weren’t for the encouragement of my family.

If you’re in need of someone to talk to and don’t know where else to turn, consider therapy. If you’re struggling with your mental health, consider therapy. If you’re going through something tough at the moment, consider therapy. And if you’re considering therapy, try reaching out and letting people you love and trust know that you’re considering it; they may give you the extra push or support you need. Getting rid of the stigma and normalising these methods of self-help begins with understanding.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, call this hotline.

If you’re worried about someone you know, here are some resources that will help you help them.

Never feel like you have to stay silent. There are so many people who love you and want you to feel whole.

2019 Resolutions

This post is so cliché and overdone that I almost hate myself for writing it. But I figure putting my resolutions out onto the world wide web for all to see will help me stay accountable, so here goes.

Until last year, I’d never been one for new year’s resolutions. I had always found them a little trite and every time I’d attempted to implement them in my own life, I lost interest and failed miserably within a few weeks. But as I’ve written about in previous blog posts, I set (and stuck to!) a resolution last year that had a huge positive effect on my life: being more optimistic. I think a big reason why that resolution stuck was because I found something about myself that I genuinely wanted to change for myself. I didn’t do it because I felt like I had to or because others were doing it or because I felt guilted into it. I did it because I sincerely wanted to better myself. So this year I’ve decided to stick to that method and identify things about myself that I can realistically work on for reasons that mean something to me.

Strengthen my immune system

This year I found myself getting sick a lot. A lot. I started the year out with a double sinus infection and the flu (which I had to endure on a 15-hour plane trip—would not recommend), ended it with a bad chest cough (happy new year to me!), and got sick multiple times in between. I think it’s fair to say that a portion of that can be attributed to the stress I experienced being in my last year of uni, but if I’m being totally honest, I know that my poor diet and lack of exercise was the real antagonist.

Being sick is exhausting, especially when it’s happening constantly. So this year, I’m going to make a conscious effort to get into habits that will help strengthen my immune system: regular exercise, remembering to take all my supplements and medications daily, plenty of water, a consistent and healthy sleep schedule, and a diet that doesn’t primarily consist of McDonald’s and Mad Mex.

I’ve tried to set resolutions like that for myself in previous years—lose weight, drink more water, eat healthily—but I’ve failed every time. My motivation for those things has always been extrinsic (i.e. to fit certain beauty ideals, to impress other people, etc.), and I’ve found that extrinsic motivation simply isn’t sustainable for me personally. Working toward bettering my immune system wasn’t a conscious choice—I’m just so sick of being sick. I feel really good about this resolution, particularly since I’ve already gotten myself into a great exercise routine and a healthy sleep pattern (though the diet part still needs a little work).

Better money management skills

I am the QUEEN of drying up my bank account as soon as it gets a little money in it. I’m seriously so bad at managing my money. I don’t even know where it all goes (just kidding. I totally do. It all goes to Maccas). Since I’m planning to travel this year, it’s imperative that I get my act together ASAP and learn how to save. I’ve already taken significant steps toward this resolution like keeping a written log of when, how much, and where I’m spending my money, as well as transferring a good portion of any money I receive into a locked savings account as soon as I get it.

Putting in an effort in uni

Okay so this one is a cliché at its finest. I know. But I have good reasoning behind it! Being honest, I didn’t put my best effort in for the first couple of years in uni. I slacked off, not considering how it would affect my future in any way. In my last year I realised I needed to pull it together and really start putting in some work. Once I started receiving great marks instead of average ones, I felt like I was on top of the world. It made me wonder why I hadn’t been striving for that the whole time!

This year, I’m determined to put in the hours it takes to get really great marks. I’m going to do the things that make me uncomfortable or that I haven’t been bothered to do previously, like actually utilising professors’ office hours and following up with grades I’m not happy with. I love learning and I love uni, but what’s the point if I’m not trying my best?

I love challenging myself, especially if I know that I’m only going to benefit from the goals I’ve set. Of course I don’t expect any of these changes to happen overnight, nor do I anticipate them being easy. But after experiencing last year how one resolution can unexpectedly change so many different aspects of your life, and how easy it is to make new behaviours become habits, I’m so excited to see how I’ve changed by the end of 2019.

Holiday Traditions: Me and Mine.

Christmas was almost a week ago and everyone has moved on and is now posting resolutions, reflections, and photos of glasses of champagne. But I decided to take a small break from blogging after graduation to really enjoy the holiday season and time with my family, so I missed out on all the fun Christmas blog posts. However, anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is never truly over in my household anyway. Plus, I consider this week the post-Yuletide mourning period and I’m never in much of a party mood on New Year’s Eve (and also, yes, I just like to go to bed early and mind my business), so here I am at 11pm on New Year’s Eve, writing about Christmas. And I’m not sorry.

Christmastime has always been the best time in my family; we spend quality time together, we get to see family and friends that we don’t see the rest of the year, and we get to celebrate the birth of Jesus. My family has a list of Christmas traditions that we observe every year. Some of them have been around since we were kids and some are more recent; as my siblings and I have grown older, we’ve also developed our own personal traditions, each one as special as the last. Here’s a few of our favourite Christmas traditions…

Carols by Candlelight dress rehearsal at Sidney Myer Music Bowl

We’ve been going to the Carols dress rehearsal on the 23rd of December every year since I can remember. Although now we usually go with friends instead of family and we sit in the seats at the bottom of the bowl instead of picnicking on the lawn (not to mention the $20 it costs now for a ticket, as opposed to $2 back in the day), it’s still so much fun singing carols with a bunch of B-list celebrities and radio presenters.

Christmas cards

When we were kids we’d sit down on a Sunday night, put a Christmas CD on, make hot chocolate, and write Christmas cards to our friends, family, and teachers. Not everyone in our family kept this tradition up, but it’s one of my favourite things to do at Christmastime with my mum. Hearing from people who receive the cards makes me beyond happy, and it’s such a sweet and simple way to remind people that you’re thinking of them and wish them well.

Wreath-making workshop

This one only started a couple of years ago. Flowers in a Vase—a florist in Woodend owned by the lovely Arnie Way—runs annual wreath-making workshops (amongst a plethora of other Christmas floral workshops). The workshop includes morning tea and champagne and Christmas carols and is worth every single cent. I truly can’t think of a lovelier way to spend a day in the lead-up to Christmas.

Christmas Eve night

Back when my siblings and I were kids, our Christmas Eves consisted of letters to Santa and carefully arranged bikkies for Father Christmas and carrots for the reindeer. Nowadays, you’ll find us on Christmas Eve night huddled onto the couch in the family room watching a Christmas movie, the coffee table chock full of homemade finger foods courtesy of my amazing mother. Pictured above is a sliver of this year’s spread: coconut ice, apricot and white chocolate truffles, strawberries, veggie patties, crackers, rum balls, spring rolls…

Helping the less fortunate

First and foremost, Christmas for us is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It marks the beginning of a lifetime spent serving others and spreading love and peace. That’s why a few days before Christmas, we go into the city and hand out food and water bottles to the homeless population of Melbourne. Christmastime is tough for many who live on the streets, both physically and emotionally. This is my absolute favourite tradition, because for me, this is what Christmas is about.

Reading the Christmas story from the Bible

The whole reason Christmas exists; there would be no Christmastime without this story. Hearing my dad read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible always brings tears to my eyes, no matter how many times I hear it.

What’s Mine Isn’t Yours

For the one or two people that regularly read this blog (shoutout to my mum and my boyfriend), you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while—nearly a month and a half, to be exact. There were a few reasons for this: uni becoming overwhelming, working, getting into new routines. I’ve had a lot on my plate and needed to cut a couple of things out for a little while to focus on what’s important.

But one big reason I took a small break from blogging is because I felt as though I was turning my personal life into a commodity. Looking through my previous posts, I realised just how much I shared about my personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. And I realised that despite the varying reasons that I post those things, anyone who reads them views them simply as entertainment; as a way to pass a little time while they’re waiting for the bus or bored in a lecture.

Maybe that’s a totally wanky thing to say seeing as very few people, if any, are actually truly invested in this blog and ever give it a second thought. I don’t have a crazy amount of followers and the things I post aren’t ever going to go viral (nor are they intended to). And, of course, I realise that in some way or another, everybody has turned their personal lives into commodities through social media, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

But for me, writing—and by extension, blogging—has always been an outlet not just for my creativity, but also for my mental health. Angry? Write. Stressed? Write. Need a rant? Write. Happy? Write. Learned something new? Write. I have dozens of drafts saved and hundreds of ideas swimming around in my head. But how much of that does everyone else need to know?

I get so fully immersed in every post I share. Of course I don’t expect anyone else to feel quite as invested in my blog as I am, but to share such deeply personal feelings and experiences is often a tough thing to do; by turning those feelings and experiences into commodities, I began to feel as though I was cheapening them. I’ve always valued everything tough that I go through as a lesson to be learned, but constantly sharing my personal life online made me see those experiences as stories to tell instead of lessons to learn. It can also be disheartening when you share something intimate online and receive a reaction that’s different than what you had (maybe naïvely) hoped for.

So to realign my priorities and check my mental health, I took a little break. By no means do I plan on stopping sharing my life. But I’m going to focus on giving each experience and feeling that comes my way the weight and attention it deserves and requires; blogging is—and will always remain—a creative outlet, not a means of processing my emotions.

2018 Book Recommendations

I’m a huge bookworm. For me, books win over movies and TV every single time. My favourite smell in the entire world is the smell of a new book (as my boyfriend so eloquently put it, “I got that when I noticed you sniffing your books like a crackhead”). The worst thing is being unable to find a good book to read; it’s so frustrating getting halfway through a book and realising it just isn’t your cup of tea, or searching for ages in a bookstore only to come out empty-handed.

So for anyone else who despises that lull between good reads, here’s a list of my current favourites. I’ll update this list as new books worth reading hit my shelves, so check back if you need fresh reading inspo. Note—these aren’t all new releases! They’re just my current favourites and books that I’ve finished fairly recently.

If you have any books you think I should read, please shoot me a message or comment on this post; I’m always looking for something new!

Happy reading!

Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling

Duh. This one is a total given and anyone who knows me knows that this will always be top of my list. I always feel like I need to defend Harry Potter, though, because I think people tend to be under the assumption that you have to be into the fantasy genre to like this series. This is so far from the truth! I didn’t get into Harry Potter until I was in high school, the year the final movie came out in theatres. I had literally zero interest in the series until I was forced to watch all the movies with a friend for—no joke—lack of anything better to do. After that, I became completely hooked and have since read the series through a few times. I don’t read or watch any other fantasy novels/movies, even though I’ve tried to get into the genre, but I remain in love with Harry Potter. Must must must read!

Conversations With Friends

Sally Rooney

This novel is about an Irish college student named Frances, her best friend/ex-girlfriend Bobbi, and their separate, but equally as problematic affairs with a married couple. There’s a pattern of self-destruction within Frances that makes it hard to decide whether you hate her, love her, or see yourself in her (maybe all of the above?). To me, this novel feels strongly like a modern-day rendition of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. It’s one of my all-time favourite novels; I’ve read it about four times (certain parts even more) and annotated everything in it to the point where there’s no longer any room in the margins. I can’t say enough good things about this one!

Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair

Ed. Graydon Carter and David Friend

This is a collection of the best essays and articles from Vanity Fair throughout the early 20th century. It’s definitely not the book for everyone, but I was enamoured the whole way through. It provides a really interesting look into the minds of journalists, essayists, and consumers in the 1910s/20s/30s. Also very cool seeing subtle nods towards the beginnings of different social movements like feminism and civil rights!

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

Have the tissues ready for this one. This is a novel set in Afghanistan and follows two women, very different in age, who end up married to the same man; the older, Miriam, helps the younger, Laila, escape their abusive husband. It has obvious mother-daughter and self-sacrificial themes throughout the novel, reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner (another one I highly recommend).

Me Before You; After You; Still Me

Jojo Moyes

I’m a big fan of all of Jojo Moyes’ writing. Her books are generally easy reads, but super captivating and emotional at the same time. I’m especially in love with her Me Before You series. I initially got hooked after watching the movie with Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. I was worried that the sequels wouldn’t live up to the first, especially considering how the first book ended, but all three of them are amazing reads! Highly recommend if you’re looking for a “fluff” read or a romantic novel.

Jasper Jones

Craig Silvey

This one reminds me so much of To Kill A Mockingbird, only it’s set in 1960s Australia and focuses on an Aboriginal man instead of an African American man. It details the story of high school-aged boy named Charlie who gets caught up in a murder case of a girl from his school. Jasper Jones, an Aboriginal boy and town outcast/scapegoat, is thought to have murdered the girl, but matters become complicated when Charlie finds out that Jasper was in love with the girl and the two had been planning to run away together before her death. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading this book, and shed real tears (maybe even more than once).

Outline

Rachel Cusk

This is a really interesting novel. If I’m being honest, I picked it off the shelf at Reading’s simply because it had a nice-looking cover. It’s a novel set in 10 different conversations/narratives; each chapter is a new dialogue between the main character and a secondary character. The book teaches a lot about relationships (especially failed ones) and personal losses. It wasn’t what I had expected when I bought the book (not that I was really expecting anything in particular seeing as I hadn’t even read the description), but it didn’t disappoint. Not exactly a light read, but a good one nonetheless!

 

Got some suggestions for me? Comment your favourite books below!