Self care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and scented candles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

I am notoriously terrible at self care. Those memes that say things like *drinks one cup of herbal tea after chugging espressos all day* “I am a self care goddess”, yeah, that’s me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot more ever since my Mum was diagnosed with a mild form of skin cancer, meaning I picked up a host of new responsibilities when she had her first (and hopefully last) operation recently. I had to miss some uni to head back home and help her out, so I obviously did the sensible thing and contacted my department and lecturers in advance so that they’d be able to support me.

Now, up until this point I had myself on the straight and narrow of helping my Mum and making sure everything was logistically in place to make sure her and my brother would be okay when I came back to Durham. I hadn’t really considered that, to put it bluntly, I’m now the daughter of someone with cancer, at the age of 19. Add on the fact that I’m caring for my Mum whilst juggling a degree, a year abroad, a blog, political activism, fitness, and a social life. Not exactly sure how I didn’t notice that this was going to be difficult for me…

Anyway, back to telling uni about all of this. To begin with I just figured it would be fine and I’d work it out when I got to it, but a few friends (thankfully) talked me out of this ridiculous mindset. I dragged myself to a college support meeting and rambled on for a bit about what was happening, it was going all well and good, until they asked “so, how are you coping with all of this?”.

If I’m honest, it was quite difficult to respond with anything other than “uhhhh…. fine I guess? Hadn’t thought about it.”. My actual response was hopefully something a little more concrete about the fact that, well, I have personal problems that make everything more difficult, and that the emotional strain of the situation I’ve been in would inevitably make my mental health problems worse. That meeting was literally the first time since the day my Mum called me about her diagnosis that I’d realised that I was allowed to find this difficult too, that I’m not meant to just solve everything, and that I’m allowed time to heal.

Since then I’ve been trying to do a lot better with self care. After emailing a lecturer about the situation last week and being told that I’m more than entitled to a deadline extension I’ve since asked for that extension, and had it approved (as an aside, I’m very entitled to these for my mental health – why do I refuse to ask????). I didn’t go to a lecture on Monday morning so that I could get a gym session in, because yes, for me exercise really is at the core of my self care, for a whole host of reasons. Tonight I finished up in the library at 5:30, headed home, made myself a (quite lovely might I add) huge bowl of homemade soup, and now I’m in bed watching Netflix and writing.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that it’s far too easy to get caught up in life and forget to look after yourself every now and again. Even before this all happened I was definitely guilty of doing that. I have a pretty busy life, often meaning that after a full day of classes and studying I’ll be out doing something with my friends or at a society event in the evening. I’m not saying that work and socialising isn’t necessarily an important part of life, but there’s no reason as to why it isn’t as important as having a few hours in the day to yourself. Sometimes for me it’s spending my Saturday afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the rugby (autumn internationals mean the start of a new season and I’m very happy about it), other times it’s taking the long route home to listen to the rest of my favourite podcast.

I guess now I’ve written a blog post about it I better practice what I preach, right?

-Megan, listening to Dorothy (what a mix between Southern rock, blues and hard rock)

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On Being The Only Gay in the Village

Hello lovely people!

In my coming out story I shared what it was like to come out as a bisexual human at the age of 17. However, something I didn’t talk much about was what it was like to exist as an LGBT+ person in the place in which I grew up, mainly because I’ve only recently realised that it was a very unique experience in how isolating it was. In the last few weeks of university I’ve thrown myself into LGBT+ events, and even now as someone who’s been pretty solid in her identity for a lot of years I suddenly feel very empowered by my sexuality. Here’s why.

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I was born and raised in rural Cumbria, right in the very North of England. It is far from a diverse area; my town only had a handful of BAME families, most people are Christian, it’s been a Tory constituency since it was created and what’s more relevant here is there really aren’t many LGBT+ people. I’d never met anyone who identified as transgender until I came to university for example, and there were only a handful of gay kids in my school.

As a result representation was something I just didn’t have in my social environment. Considering that bisexuality was almost entirely invisible in most forms of media until very recently, I couldn’t even turn to films and television to explain how I felt or find other people like me. Looking back this was incredibly isolating for a number of reasons.

Firstly it meant that whilst I was going through that classic babygay confusion I didn’t  have anyone to talk to about it. I think it took me about 5 years to finally become comfortable with the idea of being bisexual, after playing around with just about every label under the sun in private. Secondly when I started getting to the age where people were going out and partying I was placed in an environment where bisexuality was seen as illegitimate. Straight girls always kissed girls when they were drunk and this was seen as cute and quirky, whereas wanting to date them was very different.

Perhaps the most important thing is that I just didn’t have the chance to express my sexuality. I didn’t have friends to relate to on LGBT+ issues, go to nightclubs where boys were allowed to kiss boys or chat about gay culture over coffee. As I got older I gained a few friends who were part of the community sure, but because we were all stuck in this social isolation we never really had an environment where we could be unapologetically ourselves.

This is exactly the reason why I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with love for the LGBT+ community recently. In my first year at uni I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved with any LGBT+ groups, because I didn’t think it was right to be that outspoken about my sexuality. Yup, rural Cumbria affected me even up to the age of 18. However, everything has changed going into my second year. I want to experience everything I missed out on growing up, and I definitely have in the last few weeks. I’ve been going to our little college LGBT+ events and met some amazing people I’d now consider friends, adopted some first year students to mentor through the LGBT+ association and been on my first association social and night out (and I’m absolutely knackered from it but anything for a drag queen DJ playing ABBA all night). It still astounds me that I can walk into a room and be proud to part of a community I once felt so distanced from, a community that is full of genuinely lovely and accepting people.

I never want to have to hide my sexuality again, and to be honest I don’t really feel like I have to anymore. Having an LGBT+ support network is so so so important, and you should never feel like your sexuality isn’t worth celebrating if it’s safe to do so. I’m just really bloody gay at the minute (even though I still like boys hahah I’m not about bi-erasure).

 

-Megan, listening to Citizen and getting very hype for their supporting slot at The Story So Far this week

Milano, Italy; The Ultimate Travel Guide

Hello lovely people,

Milano is considered the fashion capital of Europe to many, but I think it’s Italy’s best kept secret when it comes to backpacking. Situated in the Northern Lombardy region it is a vibrant and thriving city, with everything from urban neighbourhoods to Italy’s largest church. Whether it’s relaxing with an aperativo or taking a ride to the nearby Lake Como, Milano has something for everyone.

Quick Facts
Currency: Euro
Language: Italian (very few people speak English, which is great to see!)
Airports: 3 – Bergamo, Linate & Malpensa
Public Transport: Metro, buses & tram (€4.50/day)
Safety: 4/5, I travelled here alone and never felt at risk, except a few catcalls

Visit Duomo Cathedral
Duomo is far from underrated. The building is quite the feat to behold, with some beautiful white architecture. You can enter the cathedral and attached museum for €3.50, but I chose not to because whenever I looked the queues were always pretty long. I still loved sitting in the square and just taking in the architecture instead (because we all know I love a nice building).

Walk around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Now, you can probably tell by the way I dress myself that I know virtually nothing about fashion, so it might seem unusual for me to reccomend the main high fashion shopping mall. However, to bang on about architecture again, it’s a stunning building. I adored the glass roof and intricate wall design, so just walking around was definitely worthwhile. I’d also reccomend going to the nearby streets for cheaper shopping, you’ll find the awesome European brands Bershka, Pimkie and Pull & Bear.

Explore Santa Maria Delle Grazie
I love me a good church, always necessary to pray the gay away (too spicy?). This one is much smaller than Duomo (obviously), so I was able to visit the quieter interior and grounds easily. Inside there were lots of different Catholic shrines and art, which I actually found really interesting.

 

Eat & walk in Semipone Park
This is a fantastic place to eat a picnic lunch and watch as people cycle through the park (why do Europeans cycle so much?). After eating my lunch I wandered a little and it was really lovely to be back in a green space after the bustle of Duomo.

Discover Isola’s street art & the Bosque Verticale
Isola was one of my favourite districts. It’s a working class area with a huge community feel that has progressively been gentrified with the introduction of industry. The Bosque Verticale is a pair of residential towers that appear to have trees growing out of them, and it’s so cool to see nature in the middle of an area dominated by skyscrapers. However, the real gem of Isola is the street art. There’s some truly stunning pieces that are best discovered by wandering, but if you’re short on time head to Porta Garibaldi station and see the way artists have made it their own.

Eat gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale
Could you really go to Italy and not try out the ice-cream? Located in the heart of the Isola district, this gelateria is family-run and classically Italian. There’s lots of choice and the gelato is so tasty!

 

Visit Lake Como
Como is around an hour away by train, and definitely worth a day out. I want to write a full post on this truly stunning location, but for now I’ll just say DO IT.

Drink aperativo (tbh I’d go just for this)
The Italians have got this one right. At around 6pm bars and pubs begin to fill with people going for a post-work cocktail, but there’s an amazing catch. Buying a drink means that you’re entitled to a pre-dinner buffet! I don’t understand how this only happens in Northern Italy, because it’s fabulous. I paid anywhere from €2.50 – €6 for my aperativo depending on what drink I ordered and where I was. You cannot miss this one.

 

Head to the Navigli district to see the canals
Fair warning, this area has become a little overrun with tourist traps, but the canals were so worth it. I visited at sunset and loved seeing the sunlight reflect on the river, truly stunning. There are also a lot of small artists’ studios alongside the river to watch out for. This is considered a “good” location for aperativo, but I found that the prices were ridiculously inflated in comparison to less touristy areas, so I’d say it’s one to avoid when you’re drinking.

Learn something new at the Museo Nazionale de Ciencia e Tecnologia
This was a really interesting museum, and absolutely huge. I specifically loved their exhibits on nutrition, the history of CERN and television. As a pansy humanities student science is usually quite foreign to me, but this place was very accessible for those of us who aren’t scientifically minded. Furthermore it was housed in a great building, and I loved the way the exhibits were laid out. Definitely one to remember your student card for, as the entrance fee goes from €10 to €7.50 when you present one.

 

So it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved my trip to Milano. It was the perfect balance of relaxing and adventure before university begins again, and I would really reccomend it. Aperativo has absolutely ruined me though, when is the UK going to wake up to that one?

Have you ever visited Milano or Italy? Where should I go next?

-Megan, listening to Radio X and writing with my housemate BECAUSE I HAVE HOUSEMATES NOW AND IT’S EXCITING

My Europe Bucket List

Hello lovely people!

Can I get political for a second? Fuck Brexit. I hate it and everything it stands for, whether that be nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment or economic liberalism. I hate that it stands in the way of defining myself first and foremost as a European citizen, and I hate that it’s almost certainly going to restrict my future. I absolutely adore Europe with all my heart, and I want to continue roaming around it’s streets forever.

My trip to Milan this week has inspired me to keep travelling, regardless of what my government want to do to stand in my way. Travelling alone has helped me find my feet and discover some amazing things and places; if I’m honest I just want to drop everything right now and disappear across Europe on my own for a while. I’ve spoken to people doing round-the-world trips, interrails, or travelling for work, and I want to do it all. So, this is where I want to go.

europe bucket list

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Milan was very nearly Copenhagen. The flights were just as cheap and even more convenient, but accommodation and mere existing was a little out of my budget for this trip. Scandinavia isn’t an area I’ve ventured into as yet due to the aforementioned high prices, but for some reason I’m drawn to Denmark. Perhaps it’s the canals, perhaps it’s the Scandi lifestyle; whatever it is I’m determined to make it there.

copenhagen

2. Rome, Italy
Having visited Milan, Como, Verona and Venice I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Italian culture. The people are always welcoming, aperativo is the best idea anyone ever came up with, and their relaxed approach to life is something I hugely envy. I’ve chosen Rome because I’ve been recommended it a thousand times over, and it’s historical sights look amazing. Perhaps this is a linguistic trip for if I ever learn Italian…

rome

3. Andalusia, Spain
Considering Spanish is my third language I’m honestly ashamed that the only time I’ve ever visited Spain was to a holiday resort when I was about 12. It’s just never quite made it; too far off-route for my 2017 interrailing trip and too expensive for this month. My current vibe is for the region of Andalusia. After studying Frederico Garcia-Lorca in first year and getting deep into Andalusian history and culture it’s been somewhere I’ve been dying to visit.

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4. Bordeaux, France
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that my heart is firmly in France. I aim to settle there and after 3 years of exchanges over in Brittany I have a huge group of friends in that area. However, I’ve never been further south than La Rochelle, which is a huge regret of mine. Add my love of wine into the mix and Bordeaux just seems logical to me. It’s near the coast and next to a national park too so I’d love to do a more relaxed holiday there someday.

bordeaux

5. Moscow, Russia
This is the only place on this list that I’m not wholeheartedly down for. Russia (quite understandably I think) absolutely terrifies me. As an overt member of the LGBTQ+ community I’m not sure if I want to visit a country that still persecutes people like me everyday. However, I’m also big into my cold war/communist history, and Moscow really is the centre of that. Maybe someday.

Moscow

7. Cologne, Germany
I loved visiting both Munich and Berlin, but I’ve never been further west in Germany. I’d really love to see how that compares to the Bavarian culture of Munich and the heavily modernised Berlin, as well as explore the Rhine valley whilst there.

cologne

8. Barcelona, Spain
I keep saying that I don’t need to go to Barcelona, because as a linguist it’s pretty useless to me, being that its inhabitants speak Catalan. However, I don’t speak the languages of most of the countries on this list, and that doesn’t make them any less viable as destinations. I really want to see the sights of Barcelona, and after hearing stories from countless friends and family members I’d love to see how great it is for myself.

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9. Kosovo
Kosovo is politically quite turbulent, which I think is a great shame. It has a pretty negative image as a result of its civil war in the late 90s and self-declaration of independence from Serbia (which, as an aside, Serbia still doesn’t recognise, that’s nuts), but if you take just one look at it’s geography all of this blurs into insignificance. The countryside of Kosovo is absolutely stunning, and whilst it’s not the conventional walking route I’d love to hike in it’s mountains.

kosovo

10. Paris, France
9 is an annoying number so I’m adding Paris because it’s my favourite city in the world and I constantly want to be back there.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list, as given the chance I’d love to visit every corner of Europe. It’s just the places I’m dreaming of right now, as year abroad saving has pretty much halted all my travel plans until summer 2019. Have you visited anywhere on my list? Where do you want to visit next?

-Megan, listening to the new The Story So Far album (hint, it’s awesome) in Milan airport (guess who got inspired after a week off)

 

*all pictures in this post were sourced from Google Images, except the final image which is my own

The BEST Student Homeware Finds for 2018

Hello lovely people!

I want to dedicate this post to my lovely friend Alex. It may seem weird dedicating a simple haul to someone, but as a fellow homeware lover she was as excited as I was when I was decorating my new second year house. She also keeps me sane, and is constantly supportive in everything I do, including this blog. Love you man.

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As I said, I’ve recently moved back over to Durham and into my house. I’m in the process of making it feel more homely, or as homely as it can be without my six other housemates. This has meant I’ve spent far too much money on random pretty stuff, and in the interests of self-justification I thought I’d write this post.

Bedroom

My bedroom is mostly decorated with photos and old tickets, but there’s always room for some extras. If anyone wants a room tour, let me know!

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Duvet Cover – Primark – £11
Now, I can’t stress enough how much I didn’t need this. I have two perfectly good duvet covers, and obviously I can only have one on my bed at any one time. But I’m an absolute sucker for mustard, and at £11, you really can’t go wrong. It adds a different pop of colour to my room, so I’ve decided it was a worthwhile purchase.

 

 

img_20180914_142421007.jpgBasket – ASDA – £2
I was looking for a way to store my toiletries, as having them loose on my shelves was resulting in them regularly getting a bit haphazard. Enter ASDA, which as an aside, is full of amazing homeware bits that are super cheap (£5 for a kitchen bin? I’m still excited). I love this basket, as it’s a bit more sturdy than a wicker approach. I chose white to match my walls and desk, in some vague attempt at creating a theme.

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Frames – Primark – £1.50 & £2
Feminist quotes at a cheap price in beautiful white frames? Did you mean; MY DREAM?! I absolutely love the pastel colours of these prints, and the typography is equally as stunning. I have these set up in the corner of my desk as a constant reminder of how badass women are as I work throughout the day.

 

 

img_20180914_142533047.jpgPlants – IKEA – £0.95 & £3
Now, I had a cactus last year named Dave. Sadly, Dave is no longer with us, so in the interests of not causing any more plant deaths I decided it was time to downscale nature’s influence in my room. The smaller of the two is actually artificial, so I only have one plant to mother for the year. They’re a really cute addition to any room though, again adding to my white theme.

 

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Makeup Bag – Primark – £4
Now, this technically isn’t homeware, but I still think it’s adorable! My makeup bag broke, and I thought it was about time I downsized anyway to save space when I’m travelling. Grumpy cat is my absolute spirit animal, and I love cacti too, so it’s the perfect combination.

Kitchen

I was self-catered in first year so didn’t need to add much to my kitchen ensemble, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t down for some cute extras.

img_20180914_142714140.jpgMason Jar – Home Bargains – £1
I’ve been looking for somewhere to store my ground coffee for a while, as because I’m a bit of a coffee snob I’m very aware of the importance of keeping your coffee in a sealed container. At just £1 this mason jar was the perfect solution, and looks a little classier than a basic glass jar or plastic box. Now I just need to work on not smashing it…

 

img_20180914_142646607.jpgBottle Opener Plaque – The Range – £2.99
I love a good multipurpose item, and this plaque is definitely that. I already know it’s going to be a great addition to house parties, because I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to hunt for a bottle opener. Well, that won’t be a problem for us anymore. I also love the motto that comes along with it, as I’m a firm craft beer lover (there’s a free little-known fact for you!).

Bathroom

I’ve only got one item here, as my bathroom is pretty small and I’m yet to think of more creative ways to decorate it. If anyone has any ideas let me know!

img_20180914_142810260.jpgToothbrush Holder – ASDA – £3
I spent ages convincing myself that I didn’t need a toothbrush holder, but I’m sure when my housemates get back this will be a great way to avoid sink clutter. I chose a bright and multicoloured design to give a little pop to an otherwise pretty drab room.

 

 

 

I feel like I’m a real lifestyle blogger now I’ve done a homeware haul. I’m sure there will be more to come, as for some reason I have no restraint when it comes to cute little trinkets (am I 40? apparently). What essentials do you reccomend for a first time liver-out?

 

-Megan, writing in my new favourite Durham coffee shop (it’s full of vegan goodies and I am EXCITED)

University 101; My Freshers Week Story

Hello lovely people!

I’m back in Durham, I’ve rebuilt my pasta stocks and town is beginning to fill up with returning students –  it must be the start of a new term. Those of you heading to university for the first time will be eagerly anticipating Freshers Week, probably feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The internet is filled with tips and tricks about how to get the most out of the week, so I thought instead of repeating that advice I’d talk about my experience in hopes that I can give you some peace of mind that it’s all going to be okay.

freshers

Every good story starts with an introduction, so here’s some context to my time as a fresher. I study Modern Languages at Durham University, and my freshers week was in October 2017. Freshers Week at Durham is a little different, as it’s a collegiate university, so most of the events are organised by the college JCR (think student body committee). I’m a student at St Cuthbert’s Society and lived in self-catered halls in first year.

Move-In Day

I arrived in Durham with my parents and then boyfriend who had come to help me move in, and I was terrified. After getting my keys and unpacking I completely broke down on my poor boyfriend, as even though I could not be more excited to start my degree I was very worried about making friends and settling in. But, after everyone left, I picked myself up and told myself it was going to be okay, and it really was!

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My room on day 1 looks so bare compared to how it was at the end!

My favourite story from that day is how I met my lovely Welsh idiot Ffion. She totally catfished me. I was in my flat corridor, when a random girl just turned to me and said “Hey, I know you”. I was extremely confused because I didn’t recognise this person at all. Until she said “yeah I know, I really don’t look like my Facebook profile picture”. Turns out we’d been talking for weeks beforehand after meeting on our college Facebook group chat! We continued bonding instantly, and Ffi became the extrovert I attatched myself to for the whole of first year.

I met the rest of my flat pretty quickly. We were 6 girls of 6 different nationalities, which has always been our little claim to fame. I bonded with my now college wife (more on that someday) Oana because she was wearing a My Chemical Romance t-shirt, and my American buddy Anna because I was belting out Hamilton far too loudly with the door open. You really do make friends in the most random of ways in freshers!

College Events

Each night throughout freshers my college organised a night out and a more chilled night. I went out I think 3 times; to a white t-shirt party (think signing shirts), a subject social and a space party. They were okay, but not really my thing, as I’m pretty uncomfortable going clubbing when it’s with people I don’t know.

 

 

Our white t-shirt party was the first event I went to, and took place in our lovely (and ridiculously cheap) college bar. That was the night when I met my now housemate Callum (you got your shoutout, do I get a pint in return now?). At that point I obviously didn’t know the bar has a card limit, so I ended up buying drinks for myself, Ffion and Callum when we’d only known each other for all of 5 minutes. I’m pretty sure we bonded over music, which makes a lot of sense considering at every party we have now it’s us two who dictate the music.

Durham being Durham, we also had a formal and matriculation that week. It was the first and last formal I left sober, and I’m pretty sure I was hungover throughout the entire matriculation ceremony (that’s the fancy one in the cathedral that makes us officially Durham students). It was also absolutely pouring down on matriculation day, meaning I had my first experience navigating wet cobbles in heels. There’s a reason why you never see me in my formal pictures with heels on anymore!

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Can’t get over how different I look just one year ago! (I’m on the far left)

 

 

That time I cut my finger…

This is the main story I have from freshers week, and the one which still gets told at almost every house party. I cut my finger on a potato peeler whilst washing up, and then didn’t stop bleeding for 2 hours. 2 HOURS! The flat had me bandaged up with my arm above my head for most of that 2 hours, as the porters were largely unhelpful and basically left us to deal with it. Obviously I did eventually stop bleeding, but it was a pretty embarrassing bonding experience with my flat. Pretty sure I didn’t go out that night…

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Final feelings

Freshers week was weird. You’re thrown into a new city with a bunch of people you don’t know, away from everything that’s familiar to you. You spend a week introducing yourself time and time again and having to be up for social events 24/7, something that doesn’t quite work for my introversion. I have some good memories from the week, but I also spent a lot of time sleeping and hiding from the world.

My main piece of advice is not to put too much pressure on freshers week. Yes, if you spend the whole week hiding in your room you probably won’t get much out of it. But, by the same token, if you’re not into going out and partying all the time you shouldn’t have to. Seek out chilled events and chat with people in the canteen instead. Freshers isn’t a universal experience and should fit whatever you’re into, so have a good time!

 

-Megan, listening to Badflower (tiny band, would reccomend!)