Pied by Piper

It's no secret that I'm an avid watcher of Carmen Elaine's content. I've always found her delivery super calming (maybe it's the accent- I don't know) and the topics she chooses to speak about always seem to resonate with me. Her latest video: 'THE EXPERIMENT: Curiosity not goals' was no different and it made me think about my own personal goals in a whole different way.

In the video, Carmen talks about the fact we live in such a goal-orientated world, about the pressures that come along with it and how this can actually stunt creativity. The solution being to treat creative projects with more curiosity. Instead of mapping out every step in order to reach a set goal, wonder where you could end up if you did x, y, and z.

As many of you already know, I often struggle with my own mental health. Suffering from Bipolar Disorder has meant the topic of goal setting has always been a hard one for me. Adopting the typical forms of goal setting (SMART, New Years Resolutions, etc) and having multiple setbacks along the way have often left me feeling like I haven't achieved anything at all and have in fact failed. Approaching goals with a more curious mind will help me to achieve more without the added pressure. Instead of ending the year asking myself "did you achieve this?" I'll be asking myself "what did you achieve?" and "how far have you come?".

I understand that for some people, setting hard and fast rules are what helps you to stay on tack and get to where you need to be. I also understand that some things in our lives offer no option for this kind of flexible thinking (time-critical work goals, paying off debts, etc). When it comes to our creative endeavors, though, I think we could all benefit from simply creating more and worrying less about the end game. I don't know about you but I enjoy creating and produce some of my best work when it's not expected of me to do so.

I plan to go easier on myself this year. I want to learn to simply enjoy the process of creating again without the pressure of needing to get somewhere or have something to show for it.


How do you like to approach the goals you set for yourself?

I am currently reading Johann Hari’s book “Lost Connections” and it’s got me thinking a lot about the way myself and those around me are currently living and the society that surrounds us. It’s lead to a lot of in-depth conversations with my boyfriend Ali and more than anything it’s made me realise just how lonely I am right now and I wanted to write some of those feelings down.
I never usually set myself new year resolutions but this year I had a thought to come off social media and 3 days in, I’m already feeling the benefits. I am not going to sit here and tell you all the negatives that social media brings because I’m sure you’ve heard it all before but from a personal perspective I didn’t like the unauthentic “social” aspect I was receiving from scrolling through my feed. I would constantly unfollow people that weren’t making me feel good or whose content didn’t feel authentic to me and it ended with my following around 20 people for the last 6 months of 2019. They were people who I considered friends and whose lives I wanted to ‘keep up with’. I realised, though, this stopped me reaching out to those people. If I felt lonely or I was missing someone I would pick up my phone, scroll through Instagram, like their latest picture and I felt as though I had my fix. Instead of picking up the phone, calling them and asking what they’ve been up to, how they are, arranging to meet up sometime… I had my fix.
Me and Ali currently live together in the midlands in a gorgeous cottage. It’s coming up to a year that we’ve been living here and although I love the area, because of circumstances regarding my health I’m unable to work for a little while and so- socially- I know my life is lacking. Meeting people is a lot more challenging when you aren’t leaving your house much due to lack of reason and finances.
Social media has stopped me from challenging myself to meet more people. If I need a fix of contact I should be going to the shops, volunteering, going to see Ali’s mum for a cup of tea. But why do that when I can swipe up and have the feeling of connection right away?

ONLY IT ISN’T REAL. NONE OF IT IS REAL.

The time I’ve spent so far off social media has got me reading more, writing more, seeking out opportunities to keep me busy and seeking deeper connection from those already in my life. The thing is, boredom has always been an uncomfortable feeling for me, as I’m sure it is for most of us. Having a device on us 24/7 that can almost instantly rid us of this feeling sounds amazing but I’m learning that boredom is good. It tells us that we’re missing something and it can lead us to either productivity or procrastination and I don’t want to waste this opportunity by scrolling when I could be learning, helping or organising.
I know the vast majority of us use social media and so I know not everyone will relate to this feeling but I do think we all need to be a lot more cautious about the way in which we use these sites and apps.
I lost the connections I’m seeking so hard when I signed up for all of these sites that are supposedly intended to bring us closer together and I think that tells me all I need to know about the relationship I have with apps like Instagram.

The act of sitting at a desk with the intent to write is slightly daunting, I won't lie to you. There have been many occasions in which I've wandered over to this space and almost immediately walked away again. What is it about the pressure of writing which scares people away so much? I guess when you're passionate about something you want to do everything in your power to 1) do it justice and 2) encourage others to feel that same passion and excitement. The truth is that I've felt unable to do this recently and that's down to my own indecisiveness on what I want this space to become.

What happened to you?

Finding the time and energy to work on something you know you can't publish until absolutely perfected, is tough work. Somewhere along the way I somehow forgot this. I piled on a full-time charity position and started to climb the ladder. This in someway took my focus away from what I really love to do and that's ramble away on here to an audience full of like-minded, oversensitive, introverts who just want to giggle whilst watching me try to make my way through life- and ultimately fail. But in the best kind of ways. I want to get this back. I need to get this back.

So what's new?

Actually... quite a lot. I finally took the step to move away from Leeds and so I am now living in a beautiful cottage in a small town in West Midlands with my partner, Ali. It feels so surreal to be writing that because I am so, so happy here. Even before having made any real connections here, besides my hairdresser (who is an absolute babe), I already feel like I'm starting a life and not just stagnating. I also turn 23 this year. That means I have been writing here for coming up to 7 years now. WOW.

What's in the pipeline?

No fancy website rebranding, no major content change. I actually just want to add a little more freedom. I want to write about funny experiences, thoughts and anything I think about at 3am and want to fill you in on. Expect more frequent posts about all the random, crazy stuff I get up to here in Newport. I'm going to be more active on my social media platforms so be sure to follow me @pipeshill on Twitter and Instagram.

I look forward to seeing you around here more often!

Piper.

I notice everything I do not have and decide it is beautiful. - Rupi Kaur

It's been said that I have a tendency to create problems for myself. Admittedly, I can agree (somewhat) with this analysis. Although I've become a lot better at controlling this, every now and again I start to hear that same voice again telling me "you're not where you should be," and it can so easily take me back to square one. I guess that's where it comes from: pressure that I put on myself to achieve more and to be constantly chasing the next thing. It's funny, really, because the result of this is never the pain nor hindrance of anyone but myself.

Is it the busy millennial trend that seems to have swept me up? Is it a security issue? Or is it simply a longing for success?

Comparing my life 2 years ago to where I am today is less like looking at a caterpillar bursting out of it's  cocoon and more like watching a worm have multiple segments torn away from it's body and standing by as it grows from the trauma as if nothing ever happened and I'm still trying to master the act of the regeneration process looking natural and seeming, therefore, unscathed.


I've found a strange comfort in uncertainty and chaos and therefore chaos seems to arise as a result of sudden tranquil. You see the full circle of madness I find myself revisiting? It should be said that I'm not the kind of person to always leave a trail of drama behind them and I take no enjoyment out of these situations what-so-ever. It all just seems to be internalised drama. Drama that I create myself, for myself. I start to question things that are actually going well for me. Wondering why they're going well for me and awaiting their inevitable downfall.

There are many aspects of my life that are going well for me right now and it terrifies me.

Appreciating what you have whilst also not taking for granted it’s fragility is the fine line I’m still feeling around for. Also understanding that the outlooks and behaviours which got you through one experience won’t necessarily be effective for each journey you take.

As I’m writing this I realise my words are laced with some sort of out of body cynicism that couldn’t be further from my true outlook on life.

During these periods of self-doubt what gets me through is realising that my feelings and life experiences don’t always align. And that’s OK. I can find smiles in the darkest times and reasons to cry in the happiest moments. Feelings of guilt for not feeling the way you think you ‘should feel’ only feeds the negative head space further.

“You’re happy now, right? Of course bad shit is going to happen. It always does. But who’s shit is that to deal with? ... Future Piper.” - A good friend

"I hate the quote 'you can't love anyone until you love yourself', I don't think it's fair to tell anyone that they can't love someone unless/until anything."

During a drunken chat with a friend last night the subject of self-love in relationships came up and, honestly? It has shifted my entire way of thinking. So, whilst feeling like a massive hypocrite I'm going to let you in on a new revelation.

She explained that she hated herself when she first started dating her boyfriend and she loved him more than she ever has anyone and still feels the same 5 years later. She's learnt to love herself now, heck, she's even got into modelling and I've even witnessed her confidence grow (go on, gal). She has a point though. A very valid one. And it got me thinking...

After working a lot on myself these past couple of years, my self confidence has sky rocketed. I have all the love and care in the world for myself until I'm asking someone to love and care for me in the same way. Learning to love my body was a very difficult part of this but again, I never expect anyone else to love it. Embracing all my quirks and (sometimes, admittedly annoying) habits was an important part but I never expect anyone else to find these endearing.

I realised that I have no drastic confidence issues until I'm trying to build other personal relationships in an unfamiliar situation and there seems to be a lot of this happening in my life right now all at the same time. As a result, my confidence has definitely taken a blow. Censoring, questioning and covering myself have become norms that I'd like to give a pink slip.

It's just incredibly strange to me that my confidence around new people has become worse since I've become more comfortable with myself. Maybe I'm scared that someone is going to shatter my confidence again or maybe I'm struggling to understand how I can expect anyone to understand or care for me when I know how much work it's taken for me to feel that way about myself.

Nobody has to right to insist that certain things need to be ticked off before you can feel any kind of love for anyone but does that make me a hypocrite to say? Does that mean I'm going to have to get off my arse and find a "real hobby" instead of documenting my ramblings on here?

It's a funny one.

I guess I've always thought that loving and accepting yourself leads to love and acceptance from others and I now realise that it's not to be viewed as such. How you view yourself is important, please don't misconstrued. Learning to accept that someone else can view you in the same way, without all those flaws you paint in front of your eyes every morning, well that's a different story all together. Never mind acknowledging that if they don't see that: it doesn't matter.

I'm still learning and that's okay. 
I MYSELF AM MADE ENTIRELY OF FLAWS, STITCHED TOGETHER WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. - AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS.

Spending my life apologising for things that made me happy got boring real fast. If it wasn't "cool" or wasn't "in" I'd keep those things to myself. They were always super small and I suppose insignificant things but really important to me nonetheless.

I never really cared what people thought about me on a superficial level but I've always been someone who thinks quite deeply about everything and so when it came to the real shit, I'd keep that to myself and save it for my writing.

As an adult, I've learn to embrace this side of me and it's actually made me really understand and appreciate the way that my mind works. Not only that, it's helped me create strong bonds with those around me.

I think the phrase "lifes too short" is both overused and rarely practised.

I live for the feeling you get when you discover a new song and wonder what you did before you heard it. The sight of watching a couple of strangers fall in love and the sensation of reaching that "fuck it" stage when you've been out in a rain storm for too long. I also realised that I valued the drunken 3am chats whilst chain smoking around my friends house than I did the actual night out.

Although I love nothing more than fitting into a group of people, recently, I've found a solid group of friends that I feel content with. No boundaries, no bullshit and no judgement. Just pure love, support and understanding. I feel privileged and accepted and it's the best feeling in the world because it's genuine.

2018 has really taught me so much about myself. It's been such an important year for me and it's only June. The most important lesson is that ~ I'm still learning to be me ~ and that's OK.
Surround yourself with people who make your soul feel caffeinated. - karen salmansohn.

If you're a self confessed coffee addict like myself, you'll understand the importance of always having a mug at hand, cafe's nearby and a weekly allowance to stay fuelled. Since I've had my new phone I've seen an array of apps build up, dedicated solely to fulfilling this need (laugh it up, guys).

Costa

I know this doesn't need much explaining but it's surprising how many people don't know that Costa have an app. Not only can you scan the app to earn rewards (more coffee? yes pls) and add the barcode to your apple wallet but you can also search the area for nearby branches which is so useful to me when I travel for work as much as I do.

Starbucks

I'll be the first to admit that Starbucks is incredibly overrated, sorry not sorry. However, no matter where I am I can guarantee there's a Starbucks near by and if that means buying overpriced coffee but earning rewards, count me in. Coffee tastes better when it's free, you feel me?

Best Coffee

This app is a new one for me but I've instantly fallen in love with it. Not only is the layout of it incredibly pleasing but it's super handy when I'm travelling and looking for a good coffee place with little time to spare. All the cafe's listed have been tested and approved so you never have to worry about paying an arm and a leg for bad coffee. I love to favourite the coffee shops that I rave about and save the ones that I'd like to visit.

Greggs

The last of the reward apps is the Greggs app. The reason this one has made the list is because Greggs is my go-to when it comes to cheap coffee (beside Prett, of course, because 99p for a coffee- hello)and the rewards on here are insane. I got my first coffee FREE just for installing the app and also a bottle of Coke Zero. Can't go wrong, really. I was also a huge fan of collecting the stamps from their reward scheme where you'd buy 10 coffees and get the 11th free. On the app, however, you only need to buy 7 and then your 8th is free. Amazing. I also have an allowance setup on the app where I can send money over to the account straight from my bank account and so always have money set aside for caffeine. Priorities, eh?

Coffitivity

The final app to make the cut today is an app called Coffitivity. If you're like me and do a lot of online work you'll understand the importance of a productive work space. This could be as simple as working from a desk instead of your bed or as dedicated as heading over to a shared office work space. For me, I also felt most inspired at a coffee shop. Sipping on a good cup of coffee, hooking up to the free WiFi. There's something about the sounds of chatter from other busy people that motivates me. Sometimes, for whatever reason, I haven't been able to access a coffee shop so failing this I'd work from my usual set up at home and use the Coffitivity app. I'd hook my phone up to some speakers and use one of the installed sound clips of a busy coffee shop. Don't knock it before you've tried it.

I have many more reward type apps dedicated to coffee shops but I only shared a few of my favourites that I know other people may use and benefit from as much as I do.

Ah. I'm so blessed to have my own corner of the internet where it's semi acceptable to write an entire post about apps dedicated to coffee...

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. - Dr Seuss

I was walking back from work the other day when I heard the sound of a bell, signalling that someone was leaving the shop across from me and it's something that I hadn't noticed before, besides taking this same route to and from work every day. It was the type of bell that you hear in old movies and it got me thinking: thousands of people have probably walked down this street before me, hearing the same chime and thousands will after me too. It was a strange revelation.

There'll be fashion statements, celebrity household names and political triumphs that will define our generation but something that won't make it onto newspapers to be read years later are the seemingly unimportant small talk that we have with our friends and family, the inside jokes that we share with one another and the small impressions we make on strangers. This is left to the hearts of those who felt it and passed down, through their own words, to those they care about enough to share with and that's what makes them special. The raw, untarnished beauty of the small things in life.

Blogging is a great example of this and why I spend so much of my time reading through the work of so many people whom I may never meet. The way that different people experience the same thing and can share their average lives with an open space full of countless people waiting to listen, will forever fascinate me.

I've always been one for the "dull" moments. I am not a thrill seeker and I'd much prefer to sit in a field all day talking with friends about anything and everything. I'll openly discuss any topic and share my own experiences with anyone who wants to hear them but more than anything, I love to listen. I collect small observations and memories as if they were fossils and write them down as if someday everyone's going to want to hear them.

The big moments are often the focus of our efforts and the goals for our lifetime but the things that you'll take with you, the things that will give you that true feeling of nostalgia are the small moments others may forget...

"Sometimes I forget that putting myself first isn't selfish, but necessary."

Since I've been speaking a lot about self-improvement on this old blog of mine for a while now, I thought it was time I shared with you my biggest personal insecurity. It's something that I've struggled with for a long time and a weakness of mine which I want to combat. There's a fine line between being a nice, considerate person and being a pushover. It's a line I'm still, myself, trying to find and I've since made the decision to sit down and get it all off my chest.

I hate confrontation. There, I said it. And it isn't because I can't handle it. I genuinely just don't like the idea of upsetting anyone, or in the workplace, making someone's job any harder and so I often find myself saying yes to things that I really should say no to. Honestly? It does come from a good place but when you really want to make a good impression in your new work place, it can be hard to know if your positive intentions are coming across.I'm a big team player and I love to help people out. I'm also a firm believer that your workforce needs to be happy in order to make customers and therefore, the business, happy too. I'm just trying to learn to find that work-play balance that I am so desperate for.

The truth is, I'm a people pleaser, through and through and I always have been but in order to function at my best I need a little time to myself, maybe to do some writing or watch Catchphrase. No matter what it is, I just need time to refuel before saying "yes, of course" again. Now, I'm not expecting for this to change over night but it's certainly something that I need to work on and I'm sure there's many others who often find themselves in the same predicament as me, offering more of your time out than you actually have. It can be difficult to say no sometimes but you just have to do it.
It's easy to think that people will like you more for agreeing to anything and everything but actually, it can have the opposite effect. Don't stretch yourself too thin, trying to help everyone all at the same time. Once you start to value and prioritise your time realistically, the jobs you do will be appreciated that little more.

That being said, don't let anyone make you believe that being a kind-hearted person who just wants to help is a bad thing. People appreciate a helpful, selfless person but sometimes you have to respect yourself and your time enough to say no to optional jobs that you don't think are worth your time or effort. This is especially important for any other freelancers out there. Offering too much and overworking yourself isn't the answer and people will only take advantage. Charge what you are worth and nothing less than that.

So here's to the just-as-helpful-more-realistic-less-soft version of myself. Wow, that was a mouthful.

"When you say 'yes' to others, make sure you are not saying 'no' to yourself." - Paulo Coelho

I've been going to the gym 7 days a week for a long time now but this particular morning felt a little different to any of the other sessions. My heart was pounding, I was out of breath but I was struggling to keep my head in the game. I had an overwhelming feeling of, what I can only describe as, emptiness. I had music blaring through my headphones at max volume but my thoughts were suffocating the music, disallowing any distractions.

I was only 25 minutes into my session at this point but I had to stop.

Going to the gym, for me, has always been about maintaining a good level of fitness. I don't want to be the next Jodie Marsh. Instead I want to worry less about the outside and aim to ensure that I'm healthy on the inside.

Whether I'd pushed myself too far, I don't know but the day before this, I'd injured my calf. Piers advised that I take a couple of days off to let my body heal before going back at it again. I was okay with this idea (to begin with anyway) until I woke up the next morning and although I was in pain- decided to push through anyway.

The thing I had failed to notice was why I felt that I needed to go. It wasn't because I enjoyed going but because I knew I would feel guilty if I didn't. To push through, I was imagining being skinny again, thinking about all the clothes I could comfortably wear if I lost a few inches off my waist. I even thought about life in the bedroom if I lost a couple of pounds. It's kinda embarrassing to admit that these are what came to mind in pursuit of pushing through.

"If you could see yourself, just for a day, you'd see how everyone else sees you. And my god, you are fucking beautiful."

It was honestly so innocent to begin with. I was soon to be starting a new job (yay) and I wanted to get as much exercise in as I could before I started. I'd recently given up smoking and so wanted something to fill my time with and most of all: I actually enjoyed going. It became a part of my morning routine that I looked forward to. I loved the feeling of achievement after a hard session and I loved, even more, the sheer amount of energy I had in my day-to-day life. Somewhere along the way, I lost that. I'd never congratulate myself unless the scales agreed that they second those cheers.

I was starting to adopt an unhealthy mindset. Since then, I've made the decision to stop weighing myself and to not take any pictures of my progress and most importantly- listen to my body. This way, I forget about a specific aim and concentrate on simply staying active and healthy.

I suppose this is less of a blog post and more of an apology letter to myself. Learning to love myself and my body is one of the hardest things I've ever done. Sometimes I am going to slip up and I need to learn to forgive myself for these mistakes. After all, I'm only human.

Is there anything that you need to forgive yourself for?

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