NZ Twitter Secret Santa 2016

This year I partook in NZ Twitter Secret Santa again, which takes place on Twitter and is run by New Zealand Post. I’ve been playing since 2013 at the suggestion of my sister, as Twitter is the social media I interact with the most and I love doing cute things like this.

I won’t go over all of the boring logistics, as it can all be found here, but basically you get given a person on Twitter (who has signed up to play) to buy a gift for, using their tweets and online presence as a guide for what they might like. You are given to someone else, who will buy a gift for you, and so the chain continues. It’s like a normal Secret Santa, only on Twitter and with strangers.

In 2013 I received only a jar of marshmallow fluff spread, which to be honest I don’t know how my gifter came to the conclusion that I would enjoy it. I didn’t eat it, but that didn’t matter. I sent a calendar from Typo to my Santa that year and they never tweeted about it, so I’m guessing they hated it. Come 2014, I wasn’t feeling amazingly hopeful but I sent a Lush soap bar off to my person and in return I received homemade fudge, a $20 iTunes voucher and some Whittaker’s chocolate, all wrapped up in a gorgeous box. I was very stoked by this gift, and actually became friends with my gifter! Last year I sent off a Star Wars mug and some chocolate for my Santa, and in return I received a generic body wash/lotion pack that was obviously from the Warehouse. With. No. Card. I was very gutted, as I am more than active on Twitter, as well as my other social media which I shared as a hint for my buyer. So this year, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful.

But I still sent off a personal gift for my Santa, full of beauty treats and cute things. My Santa enjoyed it, which makes me so happy! And then mine arrived and I received a 365 day rip-off calendar with positive affirmations and quotes, which is so, so perfect for me! My Santa also included handmade crochet coasters for me – they are so stunning and the handmade quality is a personal touch that made the gift even better. The card they included was so sweet and thoughtful, it actually brought me to tears. I’ve had a tough year but I’m feeling really hopeful for 2017 and I just know that a positive message to start my day off will help with keeping a positive attitude!

I’m so glad I decided to have faith in Secret Santa this year! Thank you so, so much to my Santa and to the Elves at NZ Post that run this whole thing. I truly can’t wait to play again next year. ♡

‘Joanne’ – Lady Gaga

Joanne is finally here! Lady Gaga’s fifth album – affectionately named LG5 up until about a month ago when Gaga revealed that the album would be named after her late aunt who died of lupus at 19; Gaga never got to meet her, but is middle-named after her and has spoken about Joanne many times before in the past – was officially released today. Despite the fact that the standard edition leaked this week and hardcore Little Monsters have been thrashing it since Tuesday, I decided to wait until today to listen to it.

I’ve read countless fan reviews all over reddit (specifically r/popheads and r/ladygaga) and some official ones today (this unfriendly New York Times review and a Celebuzz one that sings Gaga’s praises) and I thought I would add my opinion into the mix.

In all honesty, this is not my favourite Gaga album. In fact, it’s probably my least favourite (we’re not counting Cheek To Cheek here). And that’s truly saying something, considering the crucifixion ARTPOP received in 2013.

I’m a little bit disappointed. Apart from a striking ballad that Gaga wrote with Diane Warren for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the sexual assault epidemic currently taking place on US college campuses, we haven’t had any original new Gaga music since 2013. The lead-up to Joanne has been an excruciating one, as Monsters have watched Gaga embark on a tour with Tony Bennett singing jazz covers, act in American Horror Story, write a cookbook with her father, work on her charity The Born This Way Foundation with her mother, and document her dog’s life on its very own Instagram. All of this has been fine, and Gaga has treated us to a number of beautiful live performances, however it hasn’t quite been enough. LG5 was hotly anticipated, at least it was by me and all the other 64.1 million Gaga fans. When she revealed that she was working with Mark Ronson, I was so excited. Aside from his work with Amy Winehouse and, of course, “Uptown Funk”, I actually really love Mark Ronson as a producer and musician.

And yet I feel sad that Joanne is what we got. I’ve seen some fans angrily declare the Gaga owes us The Fame Monster 2.0, which I don’t agree with at all. But I do think it’s unfortunate and kind of sad that Gaga has departed completely from her dance-pop-electronic roots, especially given the hints that were dropped in the lead-up to the release. This album, and in fact this whole era so far, is extremely stripped down. I don’t mind this so much, as I never really cared for Gaga’s more outlandish looks. But it seems to me that Gaga has cared so much about making her music more accessible for new fans (by tearing down the “weird” image that she’s been creating since 2008 in favour of something more relatable to the general public) that I fear she has possibly alienated some of her loyal fans.

Gaga teased us with the prospect of a return to boppy hits by working with RedOne – producer of “Just Dance”, “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance”. However the only song that ended up on Joanne with RedOne is “Angel Down”, yet he’s credited as a co-writer, not a producer. This doesn’t even matter because Mark Ronson literally created the song of 2014, that dominated a huge chunk of 2015 too, and BloodPop produced Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” – yet we didn’t get any pop magic from the three together, at least not in my eyes. Gaga also told us that the album would be a bit darker, à la The Fame Monster, yet this darkness is presented as kind of depressing rather than empowering. She also said there would be enough pop on the album, but I just really don’t think there is. After hearing the whole album, I could only name one or two other tracks that are radio/chart friendly. And I get it – Gaga doesn’t care about charts anymore. I don’t either. But I want some bangers, not an album full of country ballads.

The songs on Joanne aren’t awful. Some are pretty catchy (“John Wayne, “A-YO”, “Diamond Heart”), some are really beautiful (“Million Reasons”, “Joanne”) and I love that Gaga seems so happy with her life now and the direction of her career. But the country influence isn’t really something I can get down with and I really would not have picked Florence Welch (as much as I love her!) as someone for Gaga to collaborate with on a song. “Hey Girl” is nice but it feels a bit trite.

I could never slam my queen Gaga, as I want her to make whatever music she wants to, but I will say that I’m disappointed, purely just because we waited for new music for so long. The album will grow on me no matter what and I’ll be blasting this well into next year – but is it Gaga’s strongest work? I don’t think so. And that’s okay, because I think musicians should be allowed to experiment and make whatever they want to. I can only hope that LG6 brings back some of that Gaga flair that made me fall in love with her in the first place.

A sad goodbye to vegetarianism

There’s really no point in me beating around the bush here, so I will just say it: I am no longer a vegetarian.

I haven’t taken this decision lightly, in fact it’s one that I’ve been mulling over for weeks, maybe months. I didn’t want it to be a big deal, but of course, in typical Kezia fashion, I’ve decided to write about it because I write about everything that happens in my life. Also, I was quite open about being a vegetarian and so proud of it that it seems disingenuous to not write about this and admit to this change.

I have felt unhappy with my diet for a long time. I decided to stop eating meat at the end of October 2015, inspired by the discussions I had had with my vegan flatmate at the time. It was one of those things where it just logically occurred to me that eating meat is strange and weird and wrong and I didn’t want to partake in it anymore. My two biggest reasons were 1. the environment (our planet cannot sustain mass factory farming) and 2. it didn’t seem right that we grow food to feed animals to feed ourselves, when there are about 795 million hungry people in the world. My main focus wasn’t an act of defiance against animal cruelty, although that came later.

I watched Cowspiracy a week later and decided that I really, truly could not call myself an environmentalist if I continued to eat meat. Over the month of November, I started to phase all meat out of my diet (yes, including fish) and moved to a mostly plant-based diet. I decided not to tackle dairy and other animal products just yet, as cutting out meat seemed daunting enough, but I tried my best to cut out unnecessary eggs, cheese and milk.

If I needed to eat meat, if it was going to be inconvenient for my friends and family, then I would eat it if I had to. But a situation like that never arose and it allowed me to throw myself right into a meat-free diet. I learnt how to cook tofu (and enjoy it, though that didn’t last long), I started adding chickpeas and spinach to everything I could to keep my protein and iron levels in check, I ate feta and spinach quiche with my roast vegetables at my family Christmas lunch. I didn’t struggle at first; it just seemed like fun.

Around the time of my birthday, at the end of January, my anxiety flared up badly. I had handed in my resignation for mid-February at work and was planning my return to university, which meant needing to find a part-time job – a seriously daunting task on its own, made worse by the fact that I was transitioning from a comfortable salary office job into (hopefully) a minimum wage customer service job. Add in the drama from my love life and my car that was due for a WOF (it was an old shitbox and I was more than certain it wouldn’t pass without needing some expensive work done – not ideal when I was planning to leave full-time work within three weeks and was still trying to do some last minute saving before dropping back down to $14.95 an hour) and I was one stressed gal. So I caved. I went out for dinner with my best friend and ordered a cheeseburger from Burger Liquor. I went home and cried.

On my actual birthday, a Monday, I was still severely hungover from the Saturday night. A whole goon box and one too many cigarettes will do that to you. I decided maybe some meat would make me feel better. So again, I had a cheeseburger with my best friend, this time at Five Boroughs. Thick, chunky meat patties that are pink inside made me want to vom pre-veg life but after a couple of months with no meat, it was definitely too much. I had a margherita pizza for dinner, which helped. But later that night I shared a sneaky ten-pack of chicken nuggets with my other best friend – and anyone who knows Maccas nuggets will know that they are either REALLY good (crispy, hot, wonderful) or REALLY shit (soggy, lukewarm, squishy???). These ones were really shit. Like, really shit. I went home feeling seriously awful. The next day, I stayed at work for two hours and then had to go home sick. Mystery stomach issues.

And so I knew I wouldn’t be eating meat again. At the end of February, I met my now-boyfriend and we instantly bonded over both being vegetarians. It hadn’t really occurred to me until we started dating, that I probably couldn’t ever date someone who ate meat. It just wouldn’t work. And so we enjoyed many margherita pizzas and vege burgers from Burger Fuel together in our first few months of dating. He cooked vege stir fry for me (sometimes, when I felt like it) and I cooked mac & cheese for him. It was honestly perfect.

And yet there came a point – I’m not sure when, but I started to feel really depressed about my diet. Maybe it was when uni got really stressful (I mean, more stressful than usual. It’s always stressful) or maybe in the middle of winter when my mood always seemed to match the weather: grey and dreary. Soon, I started to feel really trapped. I didn’t want to eat meat, but I felt miserable about how restrictive my diet was. I have always been a fussy eater, my parents can absolutely attest to that. I used to joke about having the appetite of a five-year-old American child because I absolutely love junk food, sweet things, foods like burgers and pizza, and pretty much everything that’s bad for you. My favourite thing to order when I went out with my family was a stonegrill. As I got older, I stated to enjoy “sophisticated” foods a bit more and dining out is one of my favourite things to do. My friends and I have been grabbing dinner from Sweet Mother’s or Nicolini’s since we were sixteen years old – we’re Wellington kids, it’s innate.

And yet I was finding that Jamie and I were restricted to the same old places to go and eat at: Burger Fuel, Hell, Little India (yes, there’s a common theme here) and pretty much the only “nice” restaurant we could go to for special dinners was Portofino. Most places offer one or two (if you’re lucky, a couple more than that) vegetarian dishes and when you have two vegetarians that don’t like a lot of vegetarian food, shit gets kinda hard. We both don’t like mushroom, Jamie doesn’t like avocado or halloumi, I hate onion (especially caramelised), I only like falafel sometimes, we both hate vegetarian salads, I am not a fan of rice or noodles or curry which rules out most vegetarian Asian/Indian dishes. I was on a mission to find the best vege burger in Wellington, but promptly gave up after realising that they’re usually just shit. I used to like a simple cheeseburger and it didn’t seem like there was a simple vege burger anywhere other than Burger Fuel. Too many places complicate it by making it too gourmet aka douchey (looking at you, Fidel’s, your pineapple salsa is fucked) or overloading it (Bristol’s burger has a huge chunk of falafel and a huge slice of halloumi – why???) or just being plain gross (sorry, Five Boroughs, but your brioche buns aren’t good).

Something had to give. A couple of weeks ago, in a fit of resignation, I complained to J about how much I hated eating most days. Food is primarily our source of fuel, so as long as it’s giving you nutrients it’s doing its job. But what kind of life is it if you can’t enjoy the food you eat too? I couldn’t find enjoyment in any food anymore. The lack of options made it so hard, because eating the same thing all the time was so boring. We’d joke a lot about one day going on a meat-binge to KFC in a fit of desperation, yet Jamie would always end with a “naaaahhh, we wouldn’t do that”. I was disheartened. I missed meat a lot, but the trap was so hard for me. The thought of eating meat made me feel sick and made me want to cry, but I was so unhappy not eating it. It seemed impossible. I started to wish I had never cut it out in the first place.

Until Jamie ate meat one day. I was shocked. It was out of the blue and I seriously couldn’t believe that he’d done it. I cried, realising that I wanted to, too. But that meant changing. That meant disregarding my beliefs, ones that I’d built so thoughtfully. I was a compassionate person, what kind of evil human ate meat?! I noticed in my journey of vegetarianism that I had become quite judgemental and harsh towards those who continued to eat meat. I wrongly felt superior over people who ate meat, deeming myself good and them bad. I am an idealistic person and it’s hard for me to not see the world in black and white, to not categorise people into “good” and “bad”. I thought people who claimed to love animals but still ate meat were hypocrites. I thought my environmentalist friends who still ate meat were hypocrites, too. But that’s such a dangerous mindset to be in. People surely cannot be labelled as one thing or the other. We don’t work that way, humans are far too complex to be boxed in. I realised that day that there is no black and white answer to a lot of things. There are plenty of good people who eat meat and plenty of bad people who don’t. It’s not a cut-and-dry rule.

I didn’t want to change. Being a vegetarian had become such an important part of me and I truly saw it as a permanent life decision. Jamie once asked me if I would eat meat if we ever went travelling (he said he would) and I was horrified. “No!” I asserted. “I would never!” And yet the appeal was falling away. All of these things that I thought were so horrific suddenly could be justified in my head. All of the values I held suddenly felt like one side of an argument or debate rather than pure fact. My perspective changed.

So I ate fish, and I cried. I ate chicken and felt sick with guilt. Then I ate chicken again, and then beef. Beef was too much, so I think I’ll eat it sparingly. But I feel like the whole world has opened back up. I feel excited about food again. We’ve already gone to a couple of restaurants that I had to blacklist because there were no vege options on the menu that I liked and enjoyed their meat options. Jamie has cooked for us again and enjoyed it; he loves to cook, but lost the passion for it somewhere along the last two years of his meat-free diet. Cooking without meat requires a lot more effort to make up for the flavours lost. I’ve somehow managed to reconcile in my head with the fact that it’s “wrong” (which is just a perspective, I’ve learned, not just a fact). We’re only here on earth for a short amount of time and while I want to make a positive change in my environment while I’m here, I also want to be happy and enjoy my time. There are enough things in my life that drain the goodness from it, like uni stress and being a young person in our current shithole of an economy that can’t promise me or my peers a job or a house and trying to dismantle the patriarchy to seemingly no avail, that if I can find happiness in one thing out of the pile of utter shit that is life, then I’m going to make the most of it. And if eating meat is going to make me happy, then I’m going to eat meat.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat meat like I used to and I am still going to cut it out where I can: I prefer vegetarian pizza and curry, I don’t like pork, lamb or processed meats, and I do not need to eat it every single day or in large quantities. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll cut it out again. I wish that I could have stuck with vegetarianism, but it wasn’t for me. At least not now. Right now, I’m happy eating meat again. And my mental health and my wellbeing come before everything else.

Pansexuality Erasure

To begin with, I have two important terms to define:

Heteronormativity: the belief or assumption that a heterosexual relationship is the norm. It is drenched in gender roles and in the assumption that only men and women belong together. While not always necessarily homophobic, it’s a dangerous privilege that is hurting queer people and hinders the progress in queer people becoming more than just a “minority”.

Bisexual erasure: “the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, news media and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists.”

I am pansexual. While similar to bisexuality, it is not the same thing but the above definition of erasure is spot on for both identities. Pansexuality means that I am romantically and sexually attracted to all genders: man, woman, transgender, non-binary, genderfluid and genderless. It’s often described as being gender-blind, however I do not identify with this definition. I see gender, I acknowledge it because to be blind to gender is to erase it. And I don’t want to erase anyone’s gender or identity; I just am attracted to people regardless of gender. Meaning while I pay attention to it, it’s not a factor in my attraction to people. It’s also super important to clarify: attraction is just attraction. It does not necessarily involve acting on anything, nor is it a guarantee. Just because I feel attraction towards something, it does not mean that I am getting involved in any way. So while I always have the potential to be attracted to all people, it doesn’t mean that a) I necessarily am (because attraction is a very personal thing and just because a straight girl is attracted to males, it doesn’t mean she’s attracted to every. single. male. she meets; attraction doesn’t work that way????) and b) it doesn’t mean that I’ll act on it (if I were straight and in a relationship, I could still find other people attractive but I’m obviously not going to act on that because attraction ≠ action????)

Personally, I have dated women. I have dated men. I am currently dating a man. I have not dated anyone who is outside of these two binaries (purely coincidental, I’ve not met too many people who identify outside of the two binaries) but this is irrelevant. If my boyfriend said to me today that he identified as genderless, genderfluid, or even transgender I would still be just as in love with him and would still want to be in a relationship with him. Yes, I am currently dating a cisgender man. But this does not erase the part of me that is attracted to people who are not male.

So, to get back to my main point here: my biggest struggle with being pansexual is that it’s really hard to feel “authentically” pan when I’m not single. When I’m single, everyone is fair game. I can date, see or sleep with whoever I want and generally no one tends to question my pansexual-ness (not a word, but I’m rolling with it). But now that I’m in a relationship, I feel that I automatically get placed into the “straight” box. This is because the new people I meet will assume that I’m straight – and that’s not their fault. Society conditions us to believe that a woman dating a man is straight, and that this is the norm. For me, it’s not my norm. My last relationship before Jamie was with a girl. I was struck with the same assumptions, only in reverse: most people I met just thought I was a lesbian.

In between these two relationships, when I was single, I casually dated both men and women. Pansexual. But dating a woman? Must be a lesbian. Dating a man? Undoubtedly straight. It’s frustrating to feel like I can’t be authentically pan when I’m in a relationship because some way or another, I’m met with the assumption that I’m one thing or the other. This, my friends, is known as pansexuality erasure. I’m not a lesbian. I’m not straight. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, but it’s just not how I identify. And it’s really hard for me to come out to new people I meet because it seems so extra to mention my boyfriend, and then try to follow up with a, “oh but I’m also attracted to women and have dated them before, along with my attraction to other gender identities”. How awkward if it’s not context-appropriate?!?!

A lot of my feelings behind erasure stem from my own actions too, though. I find myself falling into a pattern of “rejecting” either part of my sexuality when I’m in a relationship – usually because I’m afraid of upsetting the person I’m with. When I was dating my ex-girlfriend, I felt weird consuming media that was heterosexually-based, in case my partner felt like I missed being with men or felt that I found hetero relationships cuter. So I’d try to consume only media that featured queer girls: Orange is the New Black, Faking It, Carmilla, Tegan and Sara, and many other TV shows, films, artists, etc. But, because of the heteronormative society we live in, it’s pretty hard to avoid hetero media. When I’m single, I tend to enjoy both queer girl and hetero media equally. Now that I’m dating a man, I feel weird watching anything that features queer girls, especially because queer media is so limited. You have to actively seek out most queer girl media, which makes me feel paranoid that I’ll upset my boyfriend, so I stick to hetero media – despite the fact that he really doesn’t care, is very supportive of everything I do and actually said that my being pan was a “plus” when we first met (along with the fact that I’m a vegetarian and a writer, hehe!). So it’s illogical, I know, but you’d be surprised at how insecure people can feel when they date someone who is pan or bi. And I know it can be kind of scary to date someone whose attraction isn’t limited to one gender but it’s so important to remember that pansexuality/bisexuality is not the same as polyamory. Sure, people can be both but I’m not. I’m only interested in monogamous relationships, so if I’m with ya, you can bet that I won’t stray.

I don’t quite know what the solution to erasure is, but I guess it just involves people being a little more open-minded to the idea that people aren’t always just one thing or another. I’m a little bit in between. I’m a shade in between two colours, and that’s totally fine by me. I tend to be in all other aspects of my life: mixed race, middle child, vegetarian. That’s okay. I suppose it all just comes down to the thing I try to remember the most about people: what you see is not always what you get. People are vastly complex and what is obvious about them – physical appearance, surface details – is not the only thing that they have to offer. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, yet you wouldn’t know it by just looking at me or meeting me once or twice. Just like how my being pan is not explicitly obvious, because I’m dating a man right now. Humans are all just lovely little onions with several layers that don’t usually peel back straight away, and that is such a beautiful, beautiful thing ❤

After-thoughts on The Shallows

Despite being the biggest baby in the whole world who is terrified of any piece of media that isn’t a rom-com, last night I went to see The Shallows. I watched the trailer a few weeks ago and was instantly intrigued. I’m extremely sensitive to anything remotely scary or confronting in any way and I’ve endured sleepless nights thanks to films like the remake of Carrie and This Is The End. The last few episodes of season four of Orange is the New Black and even Pretty Little Liars have scared me into insomnia. These films and TV shows aren’t scary at all. It’s just that I’m just a sensitive, anxious soul and find literally anything scary and/or upsetting. Yet I find myself so fascinated by things that scare me and I watch these things anyway just to fulfil this twisted thrill-chasing part of me.

So anyway, I went to see The Shallows. I read the entire plot on Wikipedia beforehand, so I knew exactly what was going to happen, and still ended up completely terrified. The entire way through I was gripping my boyfriend’s hand and had my mouth covered to stop myself from letting out any embarrassing screams or gasps (side note: I fucking love when there’s one person who does this in the cinema, it’s hilarious hahaha!). I awoke at 2am last night and didn’t fall asleep for hours, images of this man-hunting shark on a loop in my mind. Obviously today I know how ridiculous I was being and after doing some reading online, I’ve realised just how dangerous films like these are, because of the misinformation they spread to ignorant minds.

Too often in the media, sharks are portrayed as evil killing machines. This could not be further from the truth. Sharks do not actively hunt humans. Most shark attacks that occur are known as hit-and-run attacks and occur only because sharks mistake humans for prey. They usually attack once, realise that the human isn’t prey (sharks don’t like the taste of humans, as we’re not blubbery like seals or other sea animals) and then leave. That’s why there are so many shark attack survivors. On average, only about four or five people per year die from a shark attack. Most people survive, and even then you have a one in 11.5 million chance of an unprovoked shark attack. I won’t spoil anything about The Shallows, but basically the whole film is factually incorrect. While it is entertaining, it is extremely inaccurate in depicting how sharks actually hunt.

The most important thing to remember is that the ocean is the shark’s home. I’m certainly not condoning shark attacks (even though, really, it’s not their fault) but it’s so, so important that we remember that sharks are just chilling in their natural habitat. We humans decide to go into the ocean, to invade their territory, so you can’t really blame sharks for doing what they naturally do. It’s also important to note that there are over 440 shark species (!!!!) so it would be absolutely ridiculous to generalise a whole group of fish.

Yes, this is just a film. But after the popularity of Jaws, many people engaged in shark culling and hunting because of misconceptions about sharks. Sharks shouldn’t be killed to protect humans, nor should they be hunted for soup or meat. Ignorant people are swayed by media like this, as sharks are portrayed as mindless killers. But they are social, sedentary, intelligent and playful creatures. It’s fine to see films like The Shallows – because I’m an animal activist, I would never just take a film like this at face value and I found the film entertaining purely because of how ridiculous it is. I know that none of this would ever happen in real life. I already know that sharks are magnificent animals and don’t deserve the reputation that the media has forced onto them, nor do I believe at all that they should be hunted and killed for any reasons. However, what I worry about is ignorant people viewing this film and believing that sharks actually do what the shark in The Shallows did. All it does is further reaffirm their beliefs that sharks are dangerous and vicious, which just isn’t true at all.

There’s plenty of information out there for anyone who is curious, and I really do urge anyone reading this to do their own research before The Shallows if they intend on seeing it, or after if you already have. Films are first and foremost made for entertainment (and profit, if you’re big-budget Hollywood) and while it’s all good and fun, it’s also imperative that we remember that films play a big role in shaping the minds of its viewers. The media is powerfully influential on vulnerable minds and I would suggest everyone view every film, shark-related or not, with a critical mindset. This website, Save Our Sharks, has some great information on sharks and all it takes is a simple Google search on shark conservation and endangered shark species to learn more about why these gorgeous animals should be protected.

“Anxiety, Depression, and Being a Downer”

I’ve been wanting to talk about mental health lately, only I haven’t known how to. I’ve spoken about it plenty of times before (most notably here) but honestly, that doesn’t really make it any easier. I like to talk about these things openly because I don’t see the point in suffering in silence. It’s a characteristic that I absolutely loathe in New Zealanders – or rather, the whole world. Everyone seems to get so weird when it comes to feelings, but feelings are so inherently human… so why wouldn’t we talk about them? And properly, at that. Not just the good (although Kiwis aren’t really very good at that either) but the whole spectrum, the whole array of human emotions. That we’re able to feel is so beautiful, why not talk about it?

Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s really hard to talk about feeling down when you’re in the middle of it. We all like a good success story, which I guess is why I haven’t wanted to talk about how I’ve been feeling lately. It felt somewhat easier to talk about my struggle with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in October because I felt like I was “better”. It’s hard to explain what “better” even feels like, but it doesn’t feel like this. This, right now, is not good.

I’ve been drowning. This whole year has felt like a constant battle, a new challenge appearing every goddamn day. A lot has changed for me in just eight months. Studying full-time is taking a huge toll on my mental health and if I’m honest, I really miss working full-time. I miss the easiness of it, the financial stability, the routine of having an 8-4 weekday job. I’m really glad that I chose to return to university, but it would be a total lie for me to act as if I were loving life and backing my decision 100%. Some days I really regret leaving my job; other days I can’t imagine how I ever considered staying longer than I did.

I moved, which was stressful in itself, into a place that isn’t too perfect. I’m with my boyfriend, which has helped immensely with the little things, like cooking and having my strongest source of support around most of the time. But, like so many couples do, we fight a lot and it’s left me wondering why, when we’re meant to be in the “honeymoon phase”. I’ve now realised: that shit does not exist. Who the fuck decided that you’re meant to be utterly obsessed with your partner for up to a YEAR without realising that they’re just as much of a shitty human being as you are?! The fact that my boyfriend and I aren’t acting like honeymooners has been a source of sadness for me too this year, until I realised that life doesn’t wait for anyone. Everything else in my life is far from perfect at the moment and that is bound to spill over into overlapping categories. It’s been a tough year; a new relationship wasn’t going to magically fix everything else or make the other shit not matter. I’m just glad that I have a partner who is supportive and strong and will tolerate my tantrums and panic attacks and, above all, absolutely loves me. I’m a huge bitch around people I see everyday, so it’s honestly a miracle that Jamie hasn’t kicked my sorry ass out on the street.

I guess I just wanted to let my readers (which consists mostly of Facebook peers hahah) know that it’s okay to feel down and be open about it. This whole year has kind of sucked for me, mental health-wise. Why should I wait until next year or until I’m happy again to talk about it? And I really, really don’t want to come across as whiny or ‘poor me’ – I just want to have an open and honest conversation about mental health. I saw Charlie McDonnell’s video today about mental health (from which I’ve appropriated my title) and I knew I had to talk about it. It’s okay to be down, it’s okay to not be mentally well. Basically, I just want y’all to know: I got you. And I’m with you. And we will get out to the other side ❤

Not-so-social media

A lot of people seem to have a lot of negative opinions on social media- it encourages anti-social behaviour, it is influencing generations of entitled narcissists, it’s quickly unravelling the very fabric of society… Plenty of negatives. I say ‘fuck that’ to all of those arguments, as I think social media is a positive and powerful tool in our modern society. I think it’s amazing how social media connects the world, gives voices to those who otherwise would not and could not exercise them, and allows people to make and maintain friendships otherwise gone unfounded or unpreserved.

Social media has helped me in a multitude of ways. It has lead me to discover what my strengths and passions are, which is why I’m studying Communication. How cool that now it means that I can hopefully get a sick job one day? Social media has helped me to make friends that I wouldn’t otherwise. My active presence on Twitter has introduced amazing, hilarious, wonderful people into my life and has brought me to like-minded people: feminists, people on the LGBT+ spectrum, vegetarians/vegans. I was once painfully shy, but social media allowed me to get comfortable talking to people online in my own time. The most important person in my life, my boyfriend Jamie, and I interacted pre-relationship by exchanging text messages as a buffer for our shared anxieties. Dating with GAD is hard; social media is often a safe and comfortable middle ground for people with anxiety disorders or even just people who are shy.

In saying that, though, I know social media has become somewhat of a negative presence in my life. I know that I’ve been “addicted” to it for a long time now, incessantly wanting to check my Twitter, updating my Instagram every few days, pulling up Facebook probably a hundred times in one day. I never really thought this was a bad thing, until this year when I realised that social media can actually make me feel really awful about myself. I spoke about it on Instagram and Facebook a few months ago, about how the comparative nature of social media can lead you to believe that you’re not good enough in contrast to your peers (which, by the way, is absolutely untrue).

So I’ve decided to cut down. I want to impose some real guidelines soon but for now it’s enough to just make mindful decisions with my social media checking and posting. When I reach for my phone, I find myself now asking myself, “Do I really need to check this now? When was the last time I checked my phone? Could I wait maybe a little bit longer before checking it again?” Last year I started this by turning off my notifications for all apps except for Twitter and Facebook Messenger. There’s no need for me to check Facebook or Instagram every time I receive a like or whatever.

I also sometimes leave the house without my phone now, usually just when my boyfriend and I are going out for a walk or we’re going out for lunch and I don’t feel like I’ll need to be reached within the next few hours. It sounds silly in theory, but leaving the house without your phone these days can actually be dangerous in some ways and, as someone with anxiety, it can be scary to not be able to reach someone or be reached in case something goes wrong. Social media aside, without a phone you can’t reach emergency services, check/transfer money on a bank app, let someone know where you are or otherwise important things. But when I’m with my boyfriend, he has his phone so there’s no need for me to have mine.

I now try to not obsess so much over posting so much content. A lot of this was fuelled by the realisation that 2,400 posts on Instagram is just insane. All power to you if you get there, but a lot of things in life just don’t need to be shared. I’m not one for judging others on this, but I think only sharing what I really need to makes social media not dictate my life so much anymore. I want to be more mindful about what I share with the world and have the things I say be worth listening to.

I love social media and it’s what I want to do professionally for the rest of my life. I’m good at it, I understand it and I want to contribute to our social media landscape in positive ways. But I now know that it’s important for me to take a step away sometimes, to stop comparing myself to others, and to learn to enjoy what’s actually going on around me.