Awkward things.

Asking is an Art


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No matter how much of a badass you are, at some point in your life you are going to have to ask for something. It might be something small and stupid, like a piece of gum, or it might be something big, something life-shatteringly, heart-flutteringly, floor-crawlingly important, like a phone number. Either way, it can be a pain in the ass to put yourself in that position. But it doesn’t have to be.

Amanda Palmer, the queen of badassery herself, has just published her self-helpography ‘The Art of Asking’, and it reads like a how-to of getting exactly what you want. I definitely suggest you check it out yourself, but here are a few things it taught me:

  1. It’s OK to ask.

Yep, you’re allowed, and the best thing is, unless you’re asking someone dangerous for something inadvisable, it probably won’t kill you. You can’t keep building it up into this massive event, when really all you need is one quick question and, BOOM, you’re done. Finito. Voilà. And other foreign words. Chances are that the person you’re asking will say yes. Maybe they’ll say no. Either way, the world keeps turning, you keep breathing and life keeps moving. You’ll never know if you don’t take a deep breath and spit it out.

  1. Sometimes you don’t NEED to ask.

A lot of the time, I find myself nervously asking people permission to just, I don’t know, be myself. But I’ve had that permission my whole life and I usually don’t wonder where my certificate is. Like, am I allowed to be this me? Is it OK? The answer is yes, all of the yes. You are allowed to be who you are, but you don’t need my permission. You are a grown-ass woman (or man. Hey guys!) and you can do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want, unless it constitutes a crime, and even then, you can just close your curtains and lie low, no apology needed. You do you and I’ll do me and that’s all fine and dandy.

  1. Sometimes you’re standing in your own way.

You know the voice in your head that knows all the words that sting, all the memories that make you want to jump off something high, and all the right spots to prick you just to watch you bleed? Yeah. That voice is a dick. Most of the time it isn’t your sane, reasonable, epic, brainy brain that’s telling you that you’re not worth it, it’s The Voice. And clearly The Voice knows screw all, or it wouldn’t be telling you how much you suck. The Voice wasn’t watching when you graduated, or when you got promoted, or when that dude checked you out. The Voice didn’t read that letter from Mensa, or your recently published article or that letter from the people who love you. So obviously The Voice needs to skip out of your life and along to the opticians, because you’ve got shit to do.

  1. You shouldn’t feel guilty for what people are willing to give you.

You are not a fraud because you grabbed someone’s hand on the way up. It may sound crazy, but people do actually WANT to help you. Think about it. How great does it feel when you do someone a favour? When someone gets somewhere with your help, it’s like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. No-one is an island because being an island would suck. It’s lonely and not to mention impossible to do everything in a vacuum. It’s ok to ask and it’s ok to take, but it’s not ok to beat yourself up about it.

  1. Most people are only after one thing.

No, get your mind out of the gutter, at least for a moment, and then you can stick it back in again. A lot of the time when we’re asking for something, what we’re actually asking for is love. There’s not enough of it hanging around and waiting to be grabbed, so sometimes asking is the only way to get it. We all want to be accepted and we all want to be liked, but sometimes, for whatever reason, we can’t see the evidence. So we ask for a hug, for a ride, for them to stay the night. Do you like me? Do you want me? Do you love me? We ask the question in such simply worded, convoluted ways and hope to God that the answer is yes.

  1. Sometimes the answer is no…

…And that’s OK. Life is like a box of chocolates, after all, and sometimes you’ll get caramel and sometimes you’ll get rhubarb, and sometimes you’ll get praline and die because you’re allergic to nuts. It sucks, but it’s a ride, right? It’s an unconditional relationship and if there wasn’t even the slightest chance of being shot out of the sky, it wouldn’t mean as much. Let’s look at it this way: If there was no chance of a no, the yes would mean nothing. It’s only a risk because the answer’s not certain, and the risk makes it worth the question, otherwise you might as well be asking a tree for a hug. Don’t ask, just hug. The tree’s cool whatever.

  1. There is a massive difference between asking and begging.

When Amanda asked her fans for help, the best comment on the difference between asking and begging was this: “Asking is like courtship; begging, you are already naked and panting.” And that image, gross as it may be to those of us with overactive imaginations, totally works. There’s nothing icky about asking. They could say no, they could say yes. Hakuna matata. Begging implies arms wrapped around legs whilst Adele plays in the background and everyone is crying. Not good. When you ask for something, it needs to be able to go either way, or you’re verging cliff-close to begging, and the no will make you both feel bad.

  1. Asking is an art.

Anything that’s worth something is hard. It’s the fight that adds value to the prize. But while it might be difficult, it’s light years from impossible, and, like all the things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So what’s the solution? Practice. Ask. A tampon, a ride, a hundred dollars, their hand in marriage. Make it a daily task to ask for something. It doesn’t have to be big, especially not to start with. How hard is it to ask to borrow a pen? Exactly. Sometimes you will hit a wall and it will take a while to clamber over it, but you will, I promise. And pretty soon you’ll be in the International Space Station or the White House and you’ll wonder why you never asked before.

So what’s your hardest ask, and was it worth it?

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The Little Big Things


Lately I’ve been feeling a whole bunch of adjectives – exhausted, hopeless, resigned, gloomy, despondent… And I haven’t wanted to do anything at all, least of all create. My main daydream at the moment is to get a week of sleep and to wake up as a modern day Pollyanna version of Shakespeare. I know, I’ve been told my expectations are a teensy bit up there. But I’m so tired and I want so much out of this life.

Life is about living, after all, right?

We’ve all had it drummed into us – how we only get one and we need to make the most of it. We get fed all of these inspirational messages that feel more like guns to the head. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow. Have no regrets. And it’s so much external pressure building up internal pressure, and you have no idea whether you’re going to implode or explode before you’ve made your myriad goals. Our western world has given us so many gifts that if you aspire to be anything less than a world famous, cancer-curing, bestselling, doesn’t-look-a-day-over-eighteen astronaut, who runs a multimillion dollar Ayurvedic juice company raising money for starving African children, then it seems like you’ve given the whole western hemisphere the middle finger.

I’m sick of physically wanting more all the time. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling. I mean, reaching for the stars inside is admirable, but when you’re making yourself miserable and panicky, when your heart seems to be wrenching itself out of your chest, when you can’t sleep and you feel sick and the world is shrinking around you like some crappy Indiana Jones spoof, well, that’s just not healthy.

You can work so hard and tick all of the boxes and network all you want, but sometimes your ducks don’t want to sit in the damn row. So what then? Does trying and failing make you a pointless person? Um, no. But if I know that, why do I find it so hard to apply the lesson to myself? I mean, I’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life an embarrassing amount of times, and I know that we do so many great things that we don’t even think about, but still I feel like if I’m not at the top of my chosen ladder, I’m at the bottom.

But you know what? You don’t have to have it all and do it all and be it all. You don’t. I don’t. I’m done with thinking that my life is pointless if I don’t get to the arbitrary destination I’ve stabbed on a metaphorical map. It’s just not true. I am a living being and I make my worth felt every single day. We are all constantly making ripples in the water and waiting for a splash. But something is happening under the surface, something is moving. There is life. You matter.

You are the creator of your own world. It is yours to do with what you want with. Only yours. You might not be Shakespeare or Einstein or Mother Teresa, but you are you and that is good enough.

I think it’s time to pay attention to the little things. We are so focused on climbing all the mountains that we don’t stop to make daisy chains. When I was a kid, I was so happy to colour and roll down grassy banks and make puppy palaces out of cardboard boxes, but now the idea of getting something so big out of something so small seems ludicrous. That’s the problem though.

When North Korean defector, Joseph Kim, was asked what surprised him most about life outside the dictatorship, he spoke about barbeques and lying on the ground. The thing is, we don’t notice the little things right now, because we’re too wrapped up in the big things, but if everything was taken away from us, the little things are the things we would miss. Can you imagine a life without hugs and high fives and photographs of friends and sitting in the park on a sunny day? Can you imagine a life without the people you love? Can you imagine them thinking that they’re not important because they’re only halfway up the ladder? It might be nice to see your novel in the window of Waterstones, but it’s also nice to hold hands and share coffee and in-jokes.

Sometimes I make my goals into rods to beat myself with. Sometimes I need to stop and figure out how to break down the brick wall, but instead I just butt my head against it. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to get anywhere, and it’s during those times that I need to remember to bake cakes and doodle, because those are the stupid and important things, ropes waiting to tug me right out of bleak moments, to remind me that having it all isn’t really having it all without a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Yes, I have goals, but I also want a life which is enough on its own without the ladders. I need to stop beating myself with my own ambition, and I need to stop making monsters out of my hobbies. In the words of Katie Green, “How do I explore and honour creativity as a gift, not an obligation?” I think the answer is with love, for myself and for the world. This life is a gift, and yes, we might only get one, which is all the more reason to drink it slowly and savour the flavours. There are bigger things than bestseller lists, and those things are so small that I forget them.

This misery is my wake up call. Happiness is a way of life, not a destination, and I’ll never get there if I’m following the wrong signposts. So I’m going to keep my eyes open and follow the road of little things, and it won’t be so bad if I never get anywhere, because this road is a good enough place to be.

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Lopping off Limbs


When I am stuck and struggling, when my pockets aren’t deep enough, when all I can gather is buttons and fluff and paper clips and IOUs and memories of a fiver that somehow disappeared somewhere, somewhen, I like to lop off my limbs.

My left leg was the first to go, swiftly followed by my right. My left arm went in a moment of vending machine desperation, as moths fluttered out of my purse, taunting me with a trail of grey babies. We have to do what we have to do to survive. I held on to my right arm for some time. It is my most useful limb, and I have the fondest memories of it, but in the end it went with the rest, cashing in enough for a muffin and a macchiato on the sort of rainy day we were taught to save for.

This is the madness happening behind our backs, but bigger. Our brains are being melted down and sold in bricks as books burn in the background, and we’re letting it happen, wandering sleepily into a world where knowledge is no longer free.

We are turning out library lights.

We are losing our minds.

The mistake that we make is thinking that libraries have a price, that there is an amount of money large enough to meet the return a working library would provide. These buildings are not brick and mortar book houses, but homes. A library is a home for books, a home for people, a home for ideas.  We are selling histories and futures as if they are made of stone.

Reading is about learning and exploring and discovering. It’s about fact and beauty and magic. It’s about seeing in new ways, seeing in old ways, speaking to the dead and the living, the wrong and the right, it’s about the freedom to know the truth and the lies and to decide for ourselves, to not be told and take it.

Reading is time travel, it’s telepathy, it’s rebellion, it’s remembering, it’s the greatest thing that you will ever learn to love. When you are lost in a book, you are in the safest kind of danger, and when you are lost in a library, you find yourself amongst the stacks, trailing inky fingers over dusty hardbacks, cracking spines that have forgotten what it feels like to be open, discovering sentences that haven’t been read by living eyes. In a library, we can be Columbus, Neil Armstrong, Isaac Newton.

We need this knowledge as much as we need our limbs. We need libraries more than the cash it will save to close them. As Anne Herbert said, “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”

We need to stand up and stop what is happening, to let the world know that our libraries are our limbs, and that they are not for sale.

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You’re Doing Fine


If you’ve ever experienced depression you’ll know that it sits on you like a suit made of stones. It’s as if your bones are suddenly made of cement, being dragged towards the ground. It hurts to move, you’re so tired and all you can contemplate doing is lying in bed and crying.

Well that’s my experience.

The thing with depression is that people think of it as a mental disorder, as an emotional thing. You are sad and that’s that. But it’s actually something that hijacks your entire being. Everything in you that can be screwed with is. Yeah you’re sad, but there’s so much more. Your taste buds suck, your attention sucks, your brainpower sucks, your energy levels suck, your sleep sucks, your strength sucks, your life sucks, everything sucks and you can’t just snap out of it.

But there is so much pressure on us to do things, so much pressure to work hard and play hard. You need to get a degree, start early, finish late, write that novel, save orphans in Africa and elephants in Nepal, get a good car, get a nice house, get good friends, have Instagram-worthy weekends, get a husband/wife/whatever, have kids, use your time, drink it dry. DON’T WASTE IT.

And I’ve fallen into that trap, of trying to use the whole thing, of freaking out at myself when I’m sitting still, of checking whether I’m going to regret this on my deathbed. But it drives you freaking crazy after a while, especially when you realise that most other people are not worrying about living, they’re just doing it. Yeah, maybe they’ll look back when they’re seventy and think ‘Shit, I wish I’d…’ but surely that’s better than worrying right up until you’re seventy and beyond?

If you’re a worrier like me, when you’re depressed, the worry is still there, but it’s amplified. Not only are you not doing any of the things you’re ‘supposed’ to because you can barely find the strength to push your covers off, but you’re also seeing your whole life through the foggy kind of glasses that tell you that you can’t do anything right. Everything you’ve ever been proud of is skewed or disappears. Everything you’ve ever wanted is impossible. Everything is bleak and black and there is no light because there is no tunnel. There is only fog.

You forget how you did life when everything was fine and your brain was balanced. It’s incomprehensible that you were able to achieve anything with the same body and the same bones that now feel like bronze anchors scraping against the ground. It feels like you’re looking through the magic mirror at an entirely different person who is somehow able to navigate the quicksand and the sludge like they’re only air.

But you’ve got to remember that different people are capable of different things, and when you’re depressed it’s as if your brain has flicked a switch and swapped your body with your not evil, but less-capable twin.

For a baby, walking is a crazy awesome achievement.

For a heroin addict, not taking heroin is a crazy awesome achievement.

For a learner, driving around a roundabout without causing a five car pile-up is a crazy awesome achievement.

And for someone who’s depressed, staying alive is a crazy awesome achievement.

There is a baseline for what we, as human beings are required to do, and that is eat, drink, sleep and breathe. If you are doing those things, you are amazing. If you are doing those things whilst working or going to school, you are epic. And if you are doing all of those things, plus work or school, plus extras like dealing with strangers/friends/children/parents/etc. then that is some next generation level shiz, and the Queen needs to send you a medal.

Nobody is expecting you to invent a cure for cancer or start a colony on Mars. Nobody is expecting you to save the world. The world just wants you to save yourself.

I can guarantee you that there is at least one person that cares about you, even if it’s some random on the internet like me. I care about you. You are an important piece of this gigantic, mysterious puzzle. And if the people who care about you knew that one more straw would break your back, they would never expect you to take it. They would rather you were here and their dinner came out of a packet. Trust me.

It doesn’t matter if today you don’t write that thousand words, or finish that assignment, or paint the fence, or wash the dishes, or even shower, because as long as you are breathing, as long as you are alive, you are doing just fine.

You’re not failing if you don’t do what you ‘should’. A wise lady once told me that ‘shoulds are shits’ and I tend to agree.  You’re not failing if you’re alive. If you’re not giving into the darkness, then you are winning one of the hardest wars that you will ever fight. Just because there are no guns or spears or cannons doesn’t mean it’s not a battle. You’re fighting and while you’re alive you’re winning, remember that.

It’s hard to admit that you’re failing.

It’s even harder to admit that you’re not.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad.


So it’s Father’s Day and I’ve been thinking of all the things I gained from knowing my dad. First off, background check. My dad died five years ago. We didn’t really get on that well, but he was still an important part of my life, and even though I didn’t tell him until he was too drunk on drugs and cancer to even hear it, I did love him. It was a funny kind of love, the sort that veers into hate with the wrong look or a sharp word, but it was definitely there under my prolonged teen angst and constant confusion between what I had and what I wanted.

For a little while my dad’s death made me mad. I didn’t get what other people get. I felt like I’d been shortchanged. I’d already been stuck with a bunch of dead grandparents, and now I had no dad. I wanted someone to walk me down the hypothetical aisle, someone to put my hypothetical child on his shoulders and feed them sweets before dinner. But some people don’t even get what I had. At least I knew my father. At least he had a slim grasp of what the word ‘dad’ meant, even if to him it went along with the word ‘no’ and a stinging slap that burned red for hours after. At least he was there. At least he tried.

The older I get, the more I marvel at how hard my parents worked to keep me on their version of the right track. They wanted all the good stuff for me, and even though I didn’t want those things, I’m glad that they thought that they had raised a daughter who deserved it. My dad and I were so different though, so different that my whole life I’ve questioned whether I’m actually related to him at all. He was an omnivorous smoker with an army background. I was a pristine pacifist vegan. But the older I get, the more I think about the ways that we were the same.

We were both stubborn, both grumpy, both given to thinking that we were right and everyone else was an idiot, both vain, both smart in the pretentious sense, both bespectacled. And it makes me guilty that everything that I dislike about myself, I shared with him. My good bits aren’t my dad’s, and that makes me sad.

I only have a few memories that stand out, and they’re for the wrong reasons, like the time I brought home a dog that was running into the road. It was early morning, school rush. I’d been walking to work and I’d yanked him out of the path of a van. The dog warden was on the other side of the county all day and nobody I phoned could help me, so I did the only thing I could think of, which was to take the dog home, where at least I had a lead that I could put on him while I tried to figure out what to do. As soon as I walked through the garden gate, my dad exploded in anger.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I rescued him. I need to find out where he lives. Maybe his owners-“

“You’re not having another bloody dog.”

“I know. You’re not listening to me, I said-“

“We’ve got enough bloody dogs as it is.”

“Would you stop being such a bad person for once?!” I screamed the words, screamed them. There were tears building up in my eyes. I was just trying to help, but he always thought that I had bad intentions, always thought that any good I did was a sneaky way of winning. Those words came right back when I was sitting beside his hospital bed, studying the fat veins bulging through his tissue paper skin. He was completely out of it, breathing softly into a tube, and I wondered if the same words were whirling through his brain too.

I remember him getting angry when I used the front door instead of the back, despite the fact that a Dalmatian had ripped off a chunk of my hand, getting angry because a friend of mine lied and said that I demanded a drink, when I’d told her to ask politely, getting angry when I accidentally smashed a vase hoovering, when I broke my ankle, when I stupidly stuck a knife in the toaster, when I threw up because he bought me non-vegetarian sushi.

He always had so much anger, especially for me, and I wonder how much he kept with him up until his final moments. When they said that he couldn’t come home, that he had to stay in the hospital, his mind was already gone. He would stare blankly at the television set, mouth open, not listening to the words my mum was saying to him. I made him chocolate cake and he’d forgotten it by the next day. I’d spoken to him about getting better and going to Blackpool, but when I mentioned it again he didn’t know what I was talking about. He couldn’t focus his eyes, but drifted away somewhere else, somewhere far away, somewhere that hurt.

His last words were “Help me.” And I couldn’t. It was like watching someone being burned from the inside, but without any flames to kill I was useless. All I could do was wait and watch him die. I said my last words as he was writhing against his sheets, tangling them around his legs, exposing his sucked ribs and his grey hairs and all the signs of age and weariness. I cried because he was dying, because it was slow, because he knew where the pain was taking him to, and, most of all, because he was my dad and I loved him and he never got to know.

So whoever you are, however you feel, please say it out loud, to your dad or your mum or your best friend, to your children or your pets or your crush. Time is like a road stretching out in front of us. It might look like it goes on forever, but everything is finite and you might get to the end of it quicker than you think. You need to tell the truth because you won’t get a chance after a point. Don’t wait until the people you love are bones and blurry eyes. Don’t wait until they can’t untangle the words to figure out their meaning. Let them know now, while you can. Love is only powerful if you let it out. I always wonder how much hate I could have stemmed with a little bit of honesty, by just saying the words that he never knew.

I guess it’s irrelevant now, but I hope it’s not. I hope there’s a part of him that understands, that hears the words and knows how I meant them the whole time, despite it all and because.

Wherever you are, Dad, I love you.

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Dear Jamelia…


Dear Jamelia,

I was trying to find a nice way to say this, but I’ve decided that it’s unnecessary. I was trying to figure out how to take your feelings into account when you metaphorically beat a bunch of women down with the back of your hand. But I try to be polite, so here’s my compromise:

I’m sorry, but you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

You don’t want larger and smaller ladies to be able to buy their clothes from mainstream shops. You want them to feel bad about their size. You want to shame them into achieving healthier bodies. Well I can’t speak for smaller women, since I’ve never been one, but I used to be a size 24, and I repeat:

You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

When I was morbidly obese, I never once felt like society was making allowances for me. I never got cushy. I never felt like I had a place anywhere. No, not even in New Look, where I could buy skinny jeans and flowery tops, like (shock, horror, panic, alarm!) a normal person. I think that you think that society has built us a place, that just because there are bigger seats and mobility scooters and, God forbid, clothes that fit, we are happy in the world. Nope.

When you’re outside the normal size guidelines, even with easily bought accessories, life is pretty shitty. You get stares in the street, comments, sniggers and worse. It hurts to move, it’s hard to breathe and you don’t even bother entertaining the idea that someone might find you attractive because that would be absurd. It is almost impossible to carve out a normal existence, because you are encased in this body that defines you. Even if you’re able to buy a bikini, society will insist on calling it a fatkini, and half the world will label you brave and the other half will gouge their own eyeballs out to escape having to look at you.

When you’re obese, there is no normal. We are simply not allowed to live like other people. I want you to imagine it, Jamelia. Imagine spending an hour queuing for a rollercoaster, clambering into the seat and struggling to strap yourself in. You tug and you strain and you feel the circles of sweat welling at your armpits. You call to the attendant who informs you, loudly, in front of everyone, that that’s the furthest the seatbelt goes. You suck your belly in as tight as you can and click the seatbelt in. you spend the whole sixty seconds of the ride hoping to God that you don’t fall, hoping to God that if the belt breaks you only kill yourself.

I want you to imagine waiting your whole life to live. You live on nothing but water for one week, apples the next, willing the needle on the scale to go down, down, down so you can be the person that’s trapped inside this mess of a body. Imagine tugging and pulling at the lumps of fat, taking a pair of scissors to your folds, trying to carve out the lard, hating yourself so much that you don’t care if you die from it, because you’d rather die than be stuck in your own skin. You buy unmarked pills off the internet. When you swallow them down they taste like poison and they speed life up, blur the edges. Your heart crashes against your ribs like it’s trying to beat its way out of you and you think that this might be the answer, this might get you the body that fits.

I want you to imagine being the butt of every joke, having to learn to be funny because it’s the only way they’ll leave you alone. You sit in your room and build new identities on the internet, escaping into being someone else, someone that somebody might like, or want, or love. In real life you cross the street, you cower, you hunch. You have problems with eye contact. You say sorry too much. You don’t know how to be yourself because you never got to find out who that is. Confidence feels a lot like audacity. You don’t want to cause trouble by standing out and you don’t fit so you can’t fit in.

I want you to imagine hurting so much that life is like a punishment. I want you to imagine being the fat friend, the weirdo, the loner. I want you to imagine being made to feel like you don’t matter just because your body is different, because society doesn’t like it, because society gets confused between the words ‘fat’ and ‘unhealthy’ and can’t be bothered to think, so throws them into the same pile. Now I want you to imagine being that girl, living that life and finding clothes that fit in a mainstream store. How do you feel now? Do you feel like you fit? Are you happy? Do you want to eat and eat until you break into the next size and the next? Or does it not make the slightest bit of difference, apart from the fact that you can clothe yourself?


Society spends way too much time judging and blaming and it needs to stop. I know that this is an obesity crisis and everyone’s freaking out, but flailing around and pointing fingers isn’t going to help anything. Reactions breed reactions. Basically, we all need to calm down and look at this problem like empathetic grown-ups. I know that you’re not the only one, but you’re the biggest example of a world gone wrong right now, and I know that you won’t read this, but maybe someone will. Maybe someone like you, who’s never ventured into someone else’s head will read this and think and feel and understand. That’s what’s missing from this picture, feeling and understanding. So get out of your own head and into someone else’s, because you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, but you could if you tried, so you should.


Rejecting Rejection

Rejection Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.

I was all ready to write something that mattered today, something that was heartfelt and well-observed, something that clicked and flowed and ticked all the right boxes of awesome.




So instead of the soggy piece of wet flannel nonsense that I was writing, I’m going to write a rant about the stupid Catch-22 that I seem to be in, in the hopes of clearing out the crap and unclogging my brain.

Failing that, at least I’ll have produced something that hasn’t been crossed out, crumpled up and tossed into the trash.

Basically, there’s a site that I really, really, REALLY want to write for. I have sent them a bazillion pitches, (not exaggerating) and have progressed from form rejections to personalised rejections. Woo… They’re still rejections. And I’m getting to the panicking point where I feel like I’m running out of ideas, like I’ve wasted my good ones and now I’m down to nothing

And I feel like the world is ending. It’s stupid and self-centred and so bloody millennial of me, I know, but this is IMPORTANT. I am the girl on The Face, crying and humping Naomi Campbell’s leg, because this is the only thing that I can do, and the only thing that I want, and now I’m being told that I can’t.

It’s not the end of the world. I know. There will be other things, other times, and there are a lot of corners and God knows what’s around them, but right now I want to punch Naomi in the face and run away and hide and cry until I fill the room and find the dodo.

But hey, who doesn’t, right?

It’s all part of life, this rejection thing. It just totally sucks. Wouldn’t it be good if we could win at everything? If we could get picked for every team? If we could get medals for spelling our names right and getting out of bed in the morning? If there were no more red pens and frowny faces and men in suits telling us that CVs shouldn’t be written in crayon and include photographs of Nicholas Cage wearing various hats. That would be pretty sweet. But until the world crowns me supreme overlord, I guess we’re stuck with rejection, and maybe we should start getting used to it.

So here are my top tips for dealing with those times when you want to punch supermodels and earn strait jackets…

  1. Do not punch anyone.

No, not even Naomi Campbell, however much she seems to totally deserve it. Violence is never the answer, unless the question is ‘what is not the answer?’ But then we enter into a weird time-travel style paradox that encourages yet more anger and violence.* Basically, if someone rejects you, it’s not because they’re a terrible, horrible, shitty person, but because they have terrible, horrible, shitty taste. Don’t hate them, pity them. They probably don’t understand the value of S Club 7, stick on glitter tattoos and Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. Think of how empty their black and white lives must be.

  1. Give up.

If you’re trying and trying and trying and getting no cigars whatsoever, then maybe you’re never going to fit into their hole. Maybe it’s time to look for a different hole. Not necessarily bigger, just differently shaped, something that you don’t have to suffer to squeeze into. If you’re working hard and producing stuff, then you HAVE to be improving. It’s like the law. So if after a long time trying you’re still no closer, then you might have to admit that you’ve come as close as you’re going to get. Take a few photos and turn around. There are people around who will appreciate your art, trust me.

  1. Go at it with a battering ram.

If you’re really super sure that this is the place for you, then keep swimming upstream, but up your arsenal. I’m talking heavy duty machinery. Bazookas mainly. And chainsaw blow torches. Basically, you need to use everything in your toolkit to get your foot in the door. You have a connection? Stalk them until they panic and give in. You have a good reputation? Big it up. Obviously they’re not getting the message of how epic you are, so make sure they do. If they still don’t get it, there are always power tools.

  1. Stop being yourself.

The usual stuff is not going to cut it, obviously. They said no, so they’re probably going to keep saying no unless you alter your approach. Look for what they like and imitate it, or at least digest enough of it that your own style merges with theirs. Be who they want you to be. I know it sucks that they don’t appreciate your awesomeness as it stands, but if you want it that much, you have to be willing to compromise. It’s not a dirty word, it’s just another trick for getting your own way, but in a different format. Ok, it’s slightly selling out, but sometimes you have to sell out to sell, you know?

But seriously.

If you’re any kind of artist, you’re going to have to deal with this sort of stuff, and in my experience it really doesn’t get easier. Every time someone says no, I am the kid getting picked last for sports. It hurt like hell then and it hurts even more when you’re getting rejected for something you can actually DO. Sure, don’t pick me for hockey. I suck at it and will probably score ten own goals and break your ankle, possibly not even by accident. But if I write something for you, if I pour my heart, soul, blood and guts onto the screen, if I let you inside my screwed up mind and let you look around, then your no feels like a hot poker to everything that matters.

But still we keep swimming towards something we know exists, even though we might never have seen it before.

We write until our fingers ache and our minds are empty buckets.

We stumble uphill in the darkness, our feet searching for ground that might not be there.


We reach the top.

We see the sun.

We get the yes.

And we realise the nos are nothings and it’s been worth every single one.

*Bonus tips: Don’t ask stupid questions and stop trying to make time travel happen, Gretchen.

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I Give Myself Very Good Advice…


Sometimes I don’t take my own advice.  Ok, so most of the time I don’t take my own advice, or anyone else’s for that matter. In fact, I’m usually way too busy metaphorically speeding down the M4 in the wrong lane wearing a blindfold to even bother opening my ears. I like life a little exciting, but terrifying will do. Anything but dull is appreciated, but I’ve realised recently that that’s a really stupid way to live your life. I look back over the years and there are so many horrific situations that I have sleepwalked into, all because I’ve been looking for a story.

I really should take my own advice.

But it’s one of those things, isn’t it? It’s easy enough to tell someone else not to look down, but when you’re the one on the tightrope, you just want to see how far you’ve got to fall. And it’s a long way down.

Lately I’ve been trying to listen to myself more. It’s not that I think I’m that great at advice, although obviously I wouldn’t give it to my friends if I thought that it was somehow going to result in them screaming out for Spiderman. It’s just that I want to practice what I preach in life, and I want to see what sort of gift I’ve been giving, and whether I should keep doling it out.

This is shaping up to be a super interesting year, and everything’s gone crazy in my world, so it’s the prime time to be looking for some semblance of control, and control to me always comes in the form of rules. I use them to bar my way and beat myself with, but I also use them as what they’re designed for – structure. And some structure right about now would be pretty sweet.

So here are some of the things I say when times are tough and I’m asked for advice, and the reasons I’m starting to listen:

“Be kind to yourself”

Why is this so hard to do?! When I look in the mirror, my knee-jerk reaction is to pick myself apart. I grew up with a mother who grabbed at her stomach and yanked it hard, whilst moaning how fat she was, and I’ve started to do the same. It’s not just physical either. Every time I make a mistake, I can’t help but call myself stupid. The worst F word is failure, and it’s right there, on the tip of my tongue. I can spend all day beating myself up emotionally, and where does it get me? Sulking in bed with a large tub of Booja-Booja, watching America’s Next Top Model and hating them ALL. Hardly a dream destination. Clearly this needs to stop. If my friends had the same masochistic approach to their self-esteem, I would knock some sense into them with a self-love stick.

So I’m updating my vocabulary. Now if I don’t know an answer, I ask, and I’m not dumb, I’m learning. If I look in the mirror, I’m Bootylicious, not fat. I am challenging myself to reframe everything, to look at it all from a new, sunny direction. I am reminding myself that I am a human being, with feelings and needs and all the squishy emotions of a child, just packaged differently. And it feels so much better so quickly! I am no longer terrified of my own reflection, despite making no change to the size of my derriere. I am nicer to other people too, way more understanding. I think I’m just more aware of the battle they might be having inside their own heads for the silliest reasons, and I want them to know, subconsciously, what I’ve learned: “You are beautiful and you are doing just fine.”

Put Into Practice Rating: 4/5 (I’m not Tyra fierce, but I’m getting there!)

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fiiine!”

Yes, I am one of those annoying ‘glass half full’ people, and I do say it with exactly that emphasis. It’s in my nature to be so enthusiastic and positive that it’s irritating, verging on ‘calm down dear’. I believe in the goodness of life, I believe in my friends, and I believe that they will land on their feet with a million pounds in their bank account and a free teacup pig. Unfortunately my sunny side up stance doesn’t translate to my own life. It’s not because my positivity ends at my doorstep, but because I examine every possibility in my life with the finest of toothcombs.* Of the myriad futures that flow out before me, there is a large amount that will be negative. If you look at the theory of the multiverse, somewhere, somewhen, there is a version of you that’s in prison. Another one’s considering suicide. Another one is about to be probed by aliens. Another one is a fan of Robin Thicke. All these things could happen to you, or me, or any of us, and that is utterly terrifying.

But I’m trying not to think about that.

Lately I’ve been turning my back to any possibilities with a hint of gloom. I’ve barely spent any time considering the likelihood of my worldwide televised embarrassment, which, really, I should get a medal for.** My future is being hardcore shined with a J-cloth and a bottle of Cif. Everything is supposed to be amazing unless proven otherwise. If I have an interview, it will go awesomely. If I take a test, I’ll pass with all the flying colours of Rainbow Dash. If I have a date, he will fall in love immediately and whisk me off to the beach. Of course, these things might not happen, but so what? Does being prepared for failure make for less bruises? Nope. It just means that you get a double dose of misery, and who wants that? I’m liking the sunny side of the street and I intend to hang out here for the foreseeable. At least if I trip, I’ll have had fun on the fall.

Put Into Practice Rating: 5/5 (I may not be realistic, but I’m happy!)


This is related to the last piece of advice, but is less about wandering around with a big grin on your face, and more about wandering into the Danger Zone with the same big grin. My friends could be about to make a really stupid/impossible/insane complete mistake, involving rabid dogs and Z list celebrities, but if they ask me what to do, I tell them to jump. Now this is not because I’m an awful friend, but because I don’t know for sure if it’s a bad idea, but I know that jumping is the way to find out. A lot of things look bad close up, but when you step back or turn around to check them out from the other side, they’re actually brilliant. So many impossible things have happened in this world that wouldn’t have even been bothered if someone hadn’t been blinkered against the massive pile of cons and said f**k it. And even if it all goes horribly wrong, hey, at least you’ll have a story. An anecdote about the time you tried to drunkenly ride a dog and discovered that it was a little old lady named Dorothy, who was wearing a fur coat and bending over to rescue a dropped Werther’s Original ALWAYS goes down well at parties. Trust me.

So I know all of this, but can I take my own advice? Hahahahahaha…No. I think it helps with this one to have a devil on your shoulder prodding you with a pitchfork, or at least a best friend threatening to tell all of your secrets to the FBI*** if you don’t do the awesome thing right now and take pictures. Doing crazy, impossible, epic things is scary and hard. And it’s sooo much easier to push someone else off a bridge than jump yourself. It doesn’t help that I have a habit of building things up and up and up, until they can only be disappointments. Even if the apocalypse started right now, and buildings were ablaze and aliens were tweeting their mass murder plans from a spaceship that looked EXACTLY like a glitter ball, I’d be like, “Where the hell are all the zombies?” So I become unwilling to risk day-to-day humdrum for the mediocrity of a poor apocalyptic performance, and when Jesus comes back and is all like, “Now?” I’d shake my head and say, “Not now, Jesus, not now.” And he’d be sad and I’d be sad and where would that leave us? Exactly.

Put Into Practice Rating: 0/5 (I am a coward when it comes to the big, scary, possibly life-threatening stuff.)

The lesson here is that I give awesome advice, and someone should really pay me for it. I’m thinking a Ricki Lake-type show, with added unicorns. Ooh, and a gunge pit for men who fail the paternity test and anyone who tries to wrestle the security guards. And the security guards will be dressed as Smurfs and carry tasers! Yes. This is brilliant.

So for my final thought****, I just want to say that life is really difficult sometimes, and sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world, but it’s all the same life, all the same journey. Everybody is going through some stuff. Even when someone’s smiling, you really can’t tell what pain they’re smiling through. So the best advice I can give you, and the best advice you can take and use and share is to:

“Take care of yourself, and each other.”

*You NEED to Google toothcombs. The universe is epic.

**Not even joking.

***Please note, government spies, that my secrets are the really boring sort, and you’d be as pissed as me if she told you. Plus I’m British, so all of my secrets involve things you wouldn’t understand, like Marmite and top hats and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

****Sorry Jerry!

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The New Valentine’s Rules


So it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m not a crying mess. This is progress.

Usually I’d be on the super-fast roller-coaster of Hate-Yourself Day emotions.

It starts with: ‘I don’t care. It’s all a greetings card, Illuminati-funded conspiracy to guilt the vulnerable into buying up all the chocolate so they get fat and feel sad, then they buy all the diet pills and feel great, then they buy up all the bikinis. So clearly there’s a Scientologist company that produces a surplus of crappy cards, raspberry ketones and itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis… And garage flowers.’

Which morphs into: ‘Oh my gosh, I hate myself. Nobody loves me. Nobody will ever love me. Why can’t I find a man to last minute panic buy me wilted flowers and cherry Lambrini?!’

Then: ‘It’s because I’m fat and ugly. No. It’s because men are evil. And stupid. All the men are complete bastards. I don’t want one anyway. Maybe I’m a lesbian? Nope, too into lumberjacks to be a lesbian.’

‘Hey, hold on. Equality! There are probably definitely female lumberjacks.’

‘With beards?’

‘Maybe. Don’t be so negative.’

‘Are there even lumberjacks anymore??? I’ve never seen one, so maybe they’re extinct…’

‘You’ve never seen a manatee either. Do you think that manatees are extinct?’

‘Oh my gosh, Tilly. This is why you’re single. You’re comparing lumberjacks to manatees. You’re going to die surrounded by unread paperbacks and a family of cats that can’t stand you.’

‘I’m allergic to cats.’

‘That’s how you die. Duh. Let’s add stupid to the reasons you are incredibly, unbearably, pathetically single.’



That’s not where I am right now, which is like happy.

This Hallmark-funded farce of a day, (Ok, maybe there’s a teensy bit of resentment still lurking) I will be using it to spoil myself. I am starting a revolution.

I will be my own true love.

Self-love is a thing I’ve been into lately, since I’ve finally come around to the idea that if you don’t look after yourself first, you can’t look after anyone else. You know, when the plane starts to dip and rumble and there’s smoke and everyone’s screaming and flailing their arms around, it’s important to put your own oxygen mask on first before you help the child next to you. Because how helpful is a child going to be when you crash land on a deserted island? I’ve read Lord of the Flies and I wear glasses, so I’m not taking any chances with that.

So how can you be your own true love and avoid throwing yourself out of a top floor window with a V card scrawled in your mum’s handwriting strapped to your chest? Luckily for you, I have it all figured out. Here are my tips…

  • Be Nice to Yourself

If you’re anything like me, you might not be too great at this. There’s that bitchy part of your brain constantly telling you that you’re not good enough, that you’re too fat/skinny/ugly/spotty/stupid/boring/whatever. Well today is an important day for you, because you’re going to learn how awesome it is when you send that bit of your brain out for a loaf of bread and then lock all the doors. Extra points for cutting up its clothes and tossing them out of the window. Today you need to tell yourself you’re awesome and beautiful. Use the opposite of whatever ex-brain says, because ex-brain doesn’t even know there’s a spare key under the mat, so how could it possibly offer any real insight on your value as a person? Every time you catch yourself flirting with nastiness, I want you to chuck it out and then dowse the area in kindness like it’s bleach. Three kind thoughts for every mean one. You’ll be feeling like Beyoncé by the end of the day.

  • Feed Yourself Good Food

And by good food, I do NOT mean all of the reduced chocolate in the world, drowned down with rosé. That’s not what’s going on here. Spoiling yourself isn’t literal. A teensy bit of chocolate is awesome, as is a teensy bit of wine, but choke down the whole corner shop and you’ll be feeling like you want to die. Then you’ll get on the whole pills-bikini merry-go-round, and it’s pretty damn hard to get off. So spoil yourself, but in a kind way. You love yourself, right? Or at least you want to. So you need to act like you care when you’re deciding what to eat. Think healthy, lots of fruits of vegetables. But this is a special day, this is YOUR day, so make it pretty. Make an effort with your food. Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant and eaten something so delicious that you vowed to make it at home, but never did? This is your chance. You’re awesome so you can do it, and more importantly, you DESERVE to do it.

  • Pamper Yourself

Pampering doesn’t need to be expensive, and that’s where a lot of people go wrong. If you put stuff in the box of ‘one day’, you are never going to get around to it. And this is important. All you need to properly pamper yourself is a book, (I like easy, cheesy reads when I’m chillaxing, maybe something you got free with a magazine) a bath, some incense or a candle, (salted caramel Yankee candle – you’re welcome) a bath bomb, bath salts or bubble bath and some sort of oil (baby oil is fine). The trick is to take time. Don’t rush things. You have the rest of your life to do the things you need to do. Today is your day, so use it. I want you to relax in the bath with your book until your fingers and toes go pruney, and then I want you to massage yourself with the oil, paying attention to the body parts you hate, and I want you to be kind to them. Remember the bitchy brain is outside banging on the back door. Today you love your wobbles and your wrinkles and your bones, because they are yours, and you are pretty damn awesome.


I saved the best tip until last because, if you’re anything like me, you see the word ‘presents’ and this pink, sparkly haze descends and you lose control of your limbs. I love presents. But the thing is, I much prefer giving presents than getting presents. Getting presents can be hit and miss, and you have to act all grateful when they hand you a singing fish that only knows one song and NEVER SHUTS UP. But giving presents lets you be thoughtful and excited and watch the smile explode onto their face when they realise that their gift is not something they’re going to have to beat with a hammer an unreasonable amount of times in order to get some sleep. Today you need to do that for yourself. Not the hammer part, the presents. But don’t go crazy, this isn’t about going bankrupt. Set yourself a limit, and then think hard about what makes you truly happy. I like to buy lots of little gifts, stuff like candles, luxury teas, and books that have been on my Amazon wish list for so long that they’ve got bored of nagging me to buy them. You know what you’d love to be given and this is your opportunity.

So there you go. Follow these and you’ll have an amazing day, which will hopefully prompt you to be kinder to yourself in general. One day your lumberjack will lumber along, but he’s going to be looking for the future you, not the you now. So kick that bitchy brain out into the cold and start pampering. This day is all about you, so use it, because you are the kind of awesome that a card could never describe.

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My Make-up Free Week!


The other day I had to get my passport photo taken. Cue crippling anxiety that can only be cured by becoming suddenly invisible. Or a supermodel. I bet supermodels get passport photos taken for fun… So I went and I got in the booth and I did everything right, including not hiding my hideous face with my hair and not disguising my dark circles with my glasses. Stupid machine. The photo came out, as expected, really badly. It is worse than bad. It could be used to torture uncooperative warthogs. If Pumbaa saw my photo, he’d be crying for Simba so fast that I’d be hurtling down a cliff to my fiery death. Which I could totally go for considering my face is so gruesome. Also, I look like a terrorist. Apparently this is a common thing, but if passports are supposed to protect us from terrorists, why would they make everyone look like a terrorist?! My brother looks like he’s about to poison spies with radioactive tea*. And in his passport photo it’s way worse.

So how does one deal with photo booths basically calling you fat, ugly and so far over the hill you’re in Mordor? Well I could put a hit on the damn machine and hire my dodgy brother, but he’s not really as murderously trained as his passport photo makes out, so instead I decided to rage against the machine in a non-violent fashion. I decided to stop wearing make-up for a week. I know that this makes no sense at first glance. I mean, how does wandering around with my hideous face on display counteract the fact that I will have to display my hideous face in every country I set foot in?

The thing is, yes, the photo booth is a tool of Satan and I hope it gets hit by an asteroid with herpes. But no matter what ‘accidents’ befall that machine, my face will still be my face. I will still be going about my awesome life, flying country to country with my passport photo tucked away under my make-up, and I thought that I should probably get used to what I look like, because I’m not going to start looking like a supermodel just because I refuse to confront a mirror. So I stopped wearing make-up. I let my dark circles show, didn’t fill in my super sparse eyebrows and walked around looking like a strangely yellow corpse with an iron deficiency**.

I will now tell you what I’ve learned so that you don’t have to suffer the trauma of going face naked against the cruel world…

  • Men Either Don’t Notice or Don’t Mention

Now, I’m not sure whether this is because they are not paying attention at all, honestly think we’re beautiful either way, are completely blind, or are just being stealthy and protecting their testicles, but not one man has batted a mascara-less eyelash at my lack of make-up. Not one. And it’s not like I’m a goddess with a glowing complexion and a natural rosy glow. The first morning I tentatively looked in the mirror and nearly attacked my reflection with a ukulele. It is obvious to anyone with two eyes and a working brain that I look different without a layer of all the things on my face. And I was expecting it. I was expecting to be annoyed. Once, my best friend wasn’t wearing make-up and my brother told her that she looked TIRED. He’s dead now. Ok, so he’s not dead exactly, but scarred, definitely scarred.

Enlightenment Level: 0/5 (Too confused to reach Nirvana)

  • Beautiful, Glamorous Women Turn up When They’re Not Wanted

I’m a feminist, ok? Just slipping that in there before anyone accuses me of letting down the sisterhood with my unsisterly nonsense, because I am not. I was a Spice Girls fan right from the beginning. I have the entire collectable photo album in pristine condition, Walkers limited edition crisp packets and body spray. I am all about girl power. You know who isn’t about girl power? Every gorgeous girl I’ve crossed paths with this week. Let me tell you ladies, it is NOT sisterly to be all pretty when people have taken a vow of hideousness. Feminism is not about being effortlessly attractive while girls with low self-esteem mentally knock back a lifetime’s supply of Doritos, which they can’t actually eat because they’re on a juice fast right now. You are selfish. It is really freaking selfish to be that beautiful and to be able to colour co-ordinate clothes and not get stains on everything. It is selfish to know what to do with your hair and to never have plucked the majority of your eyebrows out. You should be ashamed of yourselves. And in case you can’t detect it, there’s a sarcasm sign. Girl power.

Enlightenment Level: 0/5 (Too jealous to be any kind of Zen)

  • My Face Doesn’t Look Like My Face

I don’t know if you’re the same, but I pretty much have a picture in my head of what I look like, and it is nothing like what I actually look like. Every time I look in the mirror, even when I’m wearing make-up, I get really confused, because that person isn’t me. And it’s not even a little bit not me, it’s like, REALLY not me, so not me that I might as well be brushing my teeth to a picture of Nicholas Cage. And when I’m not wearing make-up, it’s even more pronounced. Have you seen Tom Hussey’s ‘Mirror’ series of photos? It’s basically elderly people looking in the mirror at who they used to be. It’s upsetting and inspiring and wonderful and so, so sad, and THAT is how I feel when I look in the mirror. Like, who is this girl and how is she in my house? Somebody fetch my ukulele because stuff’s gonna go down. But when I’m away from the mirror, I’m Natalie Portman again. Maybe the solution is to smash all the mirrors and replace them with pictures of Nicholas Cage… Yeah, I’d be into that. Viva la revolución!

Enlightenment Level: 5/5 (According to Nicholas Cage)

  • My Skin is Loving it

The only one who’s happy about this whole thing is my skin. My pores are discovering what snow is for the first time ever, and I’m pretty sure that if they could, they’d be bounding off into it like excitable puppies. My skin is clearing up, figuring out its own thing, and becoming what it was always meant to be, before I got involved and smeared it with every chemical I could find. Speaking of my skin being happy, I can also see crazy changes day to day that I don’t think I would have noticed if I was covering it up. Being forced to expose my dark circles to the world like a creepy old dude in a mac has meant that I can watch them as they darken and lighten. This is TMI time btw, so if you’re of a sensitive constitution, suck it up buttercup, because this blog is not for sissies. Ok, so, my period, moon time, shark week, whatever you want to call it, drained me of all my delicious iron. Result? Dark circles reached serial killer level. But when I started juicing wheatgrass the dark circles were reduced, rendering me almost human looking! That’s science. Nobel prize, anyone?

Enlightenment Level: 5/5 (I have reached Nirvana, where there are no dark circles and everyone smells like patchouli)

So there you have it. I did some stuff and learned some things. The biggest lesson*** that I learned during my make-up free week is that it’s not that bad. There are children starving in Africa for God’s sake. You’re not going to die from not wearing make-up, and that is freaking awesome. Think of all of the things that you can die from, like radium and mining disasters and overenthusiastic sharks. On the first day, yeah, I was freaking out. Seven days is a long time if it’s in front of you, but not so much if you’re looking back at it. Am I going to chuck the make-up? Hahahahahaha… No. My dark circles will have to say adios to the sunlight, but I am going to go lighter with it. And I’m definitely going to become much more acquainted with Nicholas Cage in the near future, if you know what I mean.

*Yes I know news things. I’m not just a monstrous face.

**I don’t have an iron deficiency. I have inherited dark circle genes from my parents. I am losing faith that I was adopted and my real dad is Will Smith…

*** Which I didn’t bullet point because sometimes you’ve got to say screw the system, even if it’s your own system and you are a really big fan of bullet points.