Sunday, 22 January 2017

Like a girl

"I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives". - Jane Austen

When my mum was pregnant with me she knew she was having a girl even before the scan. They'd had a boy name picked out for me but my mum knew she was having a girl. She'd wanted her first child to be a girl and here I am.

Growing up I never really felt that being girl was something negative. I grew up in a bubble in the Middle East in a world that hadn't yet really discovered the internet let alone wifi. We didn't have a television with a satellite dish until 9/11 so my exposure to the outside world was rather limited. 

As a white girl from a pretty middle class family I know that my experiences as a female are just a tiny part of the bigger picture and that I live within a privileged world.  I try and make up for this as much as possible and educate myself out of the realms of what affects just me. Just because something doesn't affect me directly, doesn't mean that it's not important. In fact quite the opposite, it's vital that I understand the even greater picture, anything else would just be me resting on my privilege. 

But as I've gone through my life as a growing woman my eyes have been opened, I've realised that girls have to constantly put up with being part of an endless and contradictory balancing act.  

We're either too fat or too skinny. Too loud, too self-conscious. Too independent, too needy. Too self-obsessed, too shy. Too slutty, too prude. Too outgoing, too boring. Too high maintenance, too sloppy. Too confident, too uninspiring. Too beautiful, too ugly. Too educated, too stupid. Too intimidating, too bland. Too guarded, too easy. Too fierce, too meek. Too vocal, too silent.

It doesn't seem as if we are allowed to just be.

We're indoctrinated to believe in gender norms, that women can only inhabit certain spheres whilst others are reserved for the boys. We're brainwashed to believe the Beauty Myth - the obsession with physical beauty which traps us modern women in an endless spiral of self-consciousness and self hatred as we're told we have to look a certain way in order to be happy and fulfilled, as if beauty is our only priority over motherhood. We're told that there are certain tick boxes we have to accomplish in order to live a worthwhile life: get a certain level of education, find a partner, get married, have children, and whilst you're at it have more children that then continue to live out the prescribed gender lifecycle. If you don't live your life according to these standards you're questioned continually and deemed to have failed as a woman.

But the fight back is on.

"Like a girl" used to be that insult that boys used to throw around in primary school. But 'like a girl' is being reclaimed. Women have always had to fight that little bit harder to get where we need to get, and if we do that 'like a girl', well then you damn well know we're giving it all we have.

I revel in being a girl. I revel in being a girl that makes her own career choices, that makes her own reproductive choices and her own life choices. I revel in being in a position where I can make those choices all the while bearing in mind that I'm very privileged in being able to do so. Because for so many women out there, being able to have the opportunity to make those same choices as me, is a lot harder.

I've been incredibly inspired by the news yesterday. Seeing all genders, all ages and all races come together for the Women's March not only in Washington but all over the world, has brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. It makes me realise that I've been sat back too long, that I need to do something with what I have and who I am. I'm more motivated than ever to do something worthwhile.

When women work together to support each other amazing things can happen.

So; be confident like a girl. Be strong like a girl, kick ass like a girl. Fight back like a girl and always remember to stay nasty.

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants."

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Starting Over - New Year, Better(ish) Me

Photo by Gold Cut

New Year New Me right?

Well not necessarily.  

I’m still very much the same Nina that left 2016 feeling slightly disgruntled about this stagnant period of my life. I’m still the same Nina who watches bad reality shows and can eat a ‘To Share’ bag of crisps in one sitting whilst wearing a cat onesie. 

2016 turning into 2017 doesn’t magically throw up a totally new me over the course of an evening. As much as I sometimes wish it did. There’s that scientific myth that we replace all the cells in our bodies so that after 7 years we are a completely new ‘person’. Whilst that’s a beautiful thought it seems that biology just doesn’t work in that way, so I can’t rely on my magical and amazing cells to help me become who I want to be.

So instead of relying on a biological myth, I’m trying to employ the ‘New Year, Better(ish) Me’ mantra.

I’ve always wanted to be that girl with the clear skin, who goes to the gym in the morning, sleeps like a baby and does constructive things with her time (maybe like not writing a blog on the internet but there you have it).

So this January is all about taking those baby steps into the journey of becoming the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

I finally signed up to a fancy gym again. The result is that I’m paying an eye watering amount of money per month, but at least that guilt trips me into going more than twice a week. This week I made it to the gym at 6:30 and swam 36 lengths in the pool for the first time since I was a teenager. I was asleep at my desk in work by 9:10 and ate three digestive biscuits. Like I said, baby steps. Kayla Itsines I am not nor will I most likely ever be.

Every evening before I go to sleep, I write down five things that I’m grateful for from my day, because even on the worst of days there’s always something to be happy about. 

I’ve stacked the books that I’ve bought to look good on my bookshelf by my bed instead. This year I’m determined to feed my mind with words rather than Instagram photos.

From Monday to Friday I’ve planned to step away from the crisps and try to curb my love of pasta. But the weekend is a free for all because life is also for the living and eating all you can eat at brunch.

I like the person I am fundamentally. I know I make people laugh, that I’m caring and fun to be around. But I also know I can be clingy, annoying and sometimes crippled with self loathing which is masked by being a bit full on in social situations.

So like I said, ‘New Year, Better(ish) Me’ because I care enough about myself to acknowledge that there’s parts of me that don’t need any work at all. But some parts of me need a little extra care, love and focus. It all sounds so simple but it’s never a thought process that I’ve paid attention to or had the determination to follow through.  

Let’s see how I get on shall we? 

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Monday, 26 December 2016

2016 Was...

January: Ringing in 2016 standing on Copacabana beach with about 2 million people. Coming back to Wales and cutting off my hair into a bob. Also going to speak with a journalist at Wales Online about my self harm recovery which was then published online and in the newspaper. Lots of tears as the messages come pouring in.

February: Going for muddy runs in preparation for running my first ever race. Time also spent seeing City & Colour live and focusing on spending quality time alone. Spend Valentine's Day with Fiona because who needs a boy?

March: Turning 25 and spending the Easter weekend in a cold and wet Dublin with Fiona but still having the best time ever. Spending a lot of time with friends eating in my flat or trying the new restaurants that open up. The daffodils bloom again. Signing up to run the Cardiff Half Marathon in October.

April: Enjoying spring days with friends. Going for coffees in the sun, or taking a drive down to Barry Beach. Trying to eat less of the white carbs but failing miserably. So early gym mornings to keep focused on the half marathon.

May: Flying over to Barcelona for Fiona's 25th birthday. Eating too much cheese and drinking too much red wine after days of sightseeing. Still eating out too much but making new friends through blogging events so what's the harm? Enjoying the lazy spring bank holidays and the later nights.

June: All birthdays seem to fall in June. Mum comes over for her birthday weekend, we eat lots, laugh lots and see her favourite singer in concert. We also go to Bristol. I get to meet Jon Snow and end up on the news.  Wales end up doing surprisingly well in the Euros 2016 and the Brexit vote happens. BeyoncĂ© plays in Cardiff and slays. A boy and I start texting.

July: Wales beat Belgium in the football but break Welsh hearts in the semi final. Jade gets a brand new job and moves to London so we have a big pizza party to give her the best send off. It's not a goodbye though. I celebrate my 5th year of being self harm free and my best friend from Australia visits. I meet John Doe, the boy I've been texting, and we go on dates.

August: Lots of prosecco gets drunk, Fiona and I go and see Years and Years in Bute Park. I get my copper IUD fitted and blog about it (but not until October because I'm an awful blogger). I fall off the exercise wagon and end up eating more than I do exercise. I visit Jade in London for the August bank holiday, we drink too much and laugh until our bellies ache. I get ghosted by John Doe, bruised pride but heart intact. 

September: The half marathon fear sets in. Less than a month to go. Jade comes back to Cardiff for her birthday and we have a fun night out in Swansea and drink too much again. Cardiff celebrates 100 years of Roald Dahl and my little brother comes to stay for a weekend. He's my unofficial running coach and lets me carb load before taking me for a 15km run. Fiona also gets a brand new job in London and we have Japanese food for her leaving do. I decide to stop dating.

October: I run the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2 hours 50. It's the hardest thing I've ever done but also the best thing I've ever done. Rosie's family treat me to brunch after and for four days I can't walk properly. I spend two weeks with my family in Brazil, making it out there in time for my dad's 59th birthday. When I come back to Cardiff the heating goes on and the leaves are brown.

November: November is a hard month for me. I don't feel like doing anything and feel lonely, but being around people is exhausting. I stop running and just about make it to the gym a handful of times. Netflix and by myself in an endless pity party but it's okay because soon it will be December.

December: Rio de Janeiro in winter is my saviour. It's hot, I can see the sea from our living room and I am with my family. We eat healthy and sometimes argue but that's what family is. I'm reading books, having naps and just enjoying a slower pace. I have big plans for 2017. The last two months of the year haven't ended how I wanted them to so I need this time to readjust and focus on what I want for the future.

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, 
Whispering 'it will be happier'...” ― Alfred Tennyson

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