How do I write about this year. I don’t know where to really begin, and I kind of thought that I could just start typing on a real computer and maybe things would come kind of naturally, but they’re not. I’ve scheduled a couple more fun and typical beauty posts and one on my top 2016 tracks, but I feel like I’m skating around really talking about the utter mixed bag that was 2016.
The summer was one of the best of my life. In fifteen years I hadn’t felt so much more myself. America brings out the best in me, and that’s always been true, it seems. My family is wonderful but at times dark and a little insane, very secretive. But at face value, and I do take most Americans at face value, they are the warmest, most loving and most supportive people on the planet. It’s neoliberalism lived out: individuals, capable of unique achievements. Tailoring experiences, building people up, telling them they can be the best possible versions of themselves. This feeling, the one this summer brought back out, has stuck. And I am so fucking thankful. I’ve never felt more myself – and more just unapologetically myself. I am silly and messy, sometimes book smart and sometimes downright dim, I love to laugh and laugh often, I am an open book and honest, I dress how I feel be it skinny jeans and jumpers or dresses and dark eyebrows. I like to eat! I don’t like to feel hungry. I like to go to the gym because it is fun. Stretching makes me happy. I am proud of myself for being at university and doing well. I don’t need to win a prize to feel proud; I don’t need a boy to make me feel proud. I am looking forward to having graduation with my parents and crying with happiness that I did it, that I did this.
I am very slowly but surely becoming the love of my life, and it’s so long overdue that it cannot come fast enough. Continue reading →
This September I sat for two hours at Castle Ink in Birmingham, and had the most magnificent piece of art done! A big Studio Ghibli fan, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favourite films. It was my first Ghibli film, and I watched it for the first time in 2012 with one of my best friends and instantly fell in love.
I’d planned on getting another rib tattoo for a long time, and I’d also planned on getting a Studio Ghibli tattoo – but it all happened pretty quickly when one of my favourite tattoo artists on Instagram had a cancellation for the following day and posted that she’d do reduced rates for anyone who could fill the spot. It was about midnight and I just went for it, taking it as the sign I’d been waiting for. She’d only done a rib tattoo once before (she’s just an apprentice, but my god she’s brilliant) so was a little nervous, but we talked it through and I told her I’d be happy for her to have a go regardless.
I was sitting in the cafe of the National Theater this morning, with a hot chocolate and a fruit and nut slice and book of poems (Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing) and note pad and pen, and was just suddenly smacked around the head with how familiar the situation felt. Friday night I dug through a folder I have carted across the world. It is a folder of poems and short creative pieces and drawings, but mostly poems. I was looking for lines by Cohen which I’d taken note of, but couldn’t find them. I remember so clearly sitting upstairs in the National Gallery of Victoria, between shelves, and being awed by this one damn line, and writing it down. And I couldn’t find it. I went out and bought the book, and still haven’t found this line (but found lots of other lines I’ve liked; the spine is already bent, the corners of pages already turned).
But I was sitting in the cafe of the National Theater. And this is something that I spent a lot of time in Melbourne doing: sitting in a very particular cafe, Thresherman’s, with its exposed brick and long wooden tables and dark red brick floor. I would sit with readings, with notebooks. I would write poems endlessly. Some of them are truly terrible. Most of them are stream of consciousness. Most, I have in fact pulled lines from, and inserted them into bigger and better poems. But that feeling of being alone, with a book and a notepad, writing and rhyming in your head – that has not been something I’ve felt for a long time. It is an isolating but comforting feeling. I distinctly had three out of body experiences in the theater, where I zoomed in and out on myself sitting there, perfectly centered, looking out the huge windowed front, rain and grey over the Thames. Everyone with umbrellas. Everyone seemed to be a couple. Everyone in the cafe was an elderly couple (I wrote a few lines on how we are not scared of old age; we are scared of being old and alone).
I had so many thoughts about this wonderful little book that I’ve been driven into productivity (which is saying something in itself). As much as I would love for this to be a review of the book in product-review format, it’s not going to be. It’s going to be reflective, because this isn’t just a book or a product or even a guide; it’s something wholly personal.
Something about self-care ‘guides’ has always rubbed me the wrong way. I think the list of alternate activities approach reminds me too much of “things to do instead of bingeing” (which, by the way, tends to look identical to the lists “things to do instead of self harming” and also, a little ironically, “things to do instead of eating”). Anastasia Tasou’s book does not look anything like this. Instead, unlike a set little list, this book caters to a wider audience. What works as self care for one person does not necessarily work for someone else: going for a walk or run might be good for you, could be detrimental to someone who’s fighting calorie counting.
What Anastasia knows well, and what works for her, is art. And whilst creative outlets perhaps aren’t for everyone, the way in which she invites you to just give it a try (she reminds you that what you create is for you, not for others) are welcome. There’s something incredibly personal about the book, almost in a relationship way: she has written it, shared her thoughts and been open without being negative or giving explicit detail (I think here of memoirs as a juxtaposition, perhaps), and then invites you (yes, you personally, and only you, it feels) to then reciprocate and react and share how you too feel and think. I’ve never owned any kind of book that feels like a two-way street. I like it a lot, it feels satisfying, and it feels like I am in someway important, too.
I feel like this book is a Class A example of how to combine personal experience and knowledge (because who is more an expert on our mental health than ourselves?), positive vibes and constructive energy, and also how to make the reader an active participant. Not just the use of “you” or creative tasks for us to do and blank pages to fill, but also because there is this shared understanding. Anastasia is talking to us (me) with the understanding that I am in some way needing this book, needing someone to remind me that though things are tough I’m pretty tough too (and if I’m not feeling tough enough, she’s handed me some exercises and tools to help me out in the means of drawing, writing and list-building).
Though, perhaps the most important thing I got out of reading Anastasia’s book isn’t just a reminder that I’m not so bad (and also it somehow reminded me that sometimes I use ‘self care’ acts as excuses to be unproductive .. Probably because I’ve had a pretty poo two weeks and read the book in the bath, instead of applying for much needed jobs or unpacking the new flat. Good one, Katya!) – it reminded me that there are people who are using their experiences for good and to help others. I’ve spent the last year wanting to go into schools and work with young people on mental health and alternative coping strategies, teaching body positivity and sharing personal experiences. I haven’t just thought about this: I’ve talked about it fairly extensively, to friends and contacts and even companies. But, I have done absolutely nothing practical in regards to actually doing it – which is pretty frickin’ dumb, as I’m wellplaced to pull something like it off. This book was a reminder, in the same way that Ruby Etc.’s comics and Hannah Snowdon’s openness and honesty in all that she does, and also in the academic setting an increase in service-user research (see amazing charity MQ, as an example) and my #1 Prof. Diana Rose, are all reminders that there are a group of people out there who are turning what could be a really shite time of their lives into something useful and educational. I cannot think of anything more helpful and worthwhile.
So, thank you to Anastasia for not only creating a book that I know I can sit myself down in front of when I’m feeling like the upside down smiling emoji incarnate, but also for reminding me that I have the ability to use my experiences for the power of good.
You can find Anastasia’s book here, for just £12! Make sure to check out some of her other products, too, and give her a follow on Instagram at @anastasia.tasou 🌿
It is the strangest thing, being with another after being with you for so long. Does it feel bad or wrong? No. Just different. (I do not seem to have a functioning conscience). His lips are firmer, with a metal ring to run your tongue along. The way he looks at me is different – he doesn’t love me, not like how I love you (how can I say this?) and how you love me (how can you do this anymore?) He may love me in an instant of pleasure, of gratification. Perhaps he may love things about me. He said I was slimmer than anyone he’d been with before. He tells me I’m cute, that I look good. You tell me I’m beautiful and I see it in the way your plain brown eyes come alive.
Now he is asleep and it is the afternoon, and I am uncomfortably writing in this dark, warm room that smells of light sweat and stale smoke. But I cannot hold this pen and I am tired, always tired, but that bed is not meant for two. I barely slept last night – even after the kisses had finished (though they began again in the morning; just as passionate as before, despite the bitterness of our tongues and the sobering pastel rays creeping across the sky). I fell asleep again and he watched videos on the internet and now I wonder if he instead watched me – did he glance over the way I just did to see him (one hand to his brow, the other folded across his chest, barely rising with his shallow breaths). You would have watched me sleep – and when, by chance, you sleep before I do, I marvel at the peacefulness in your closed eyelids, the softness of your veins and tendons, pushing against your skin. You are an angel. But I am sitting here, gold sun streaming through the gap in the curtain, and you are far away. A train ride through green hills and kangaroos and pretty lanes, thick with dust. Now you are in school, or perhaps it’s your lunchtime and you’re choosing not to eat because you hate spending money on food so you’re sitting alone on your phone in the park out the back – but now I’m not thinking of you. The black haired boy in my bed just rolled over, and breathed deeply. His hands are now behind his head, surrendered. And I am confused.
There’s nothing better than catching up with old friends! (And getting a good dose of tequila, window shopping, Lush, and girl gamer talk in, too).
Nina was one of my best friends at high school, but it wasn’t until we both encountered some post-graduation trouble that we really got to bond and became a lot closer. She’s visited London once before to see little meeeee! We have such fun. This time around, I also got to catch up with her friend Caroline, who I also went to school with.
We had the afternoon and evening together, and we met up at Oxford Circus with a hit list of shops to get through.
I did a Matthew, and Matthew was nothing but Jesus-meets-Van Halen and a bible in bed, so God knows I can do Josh.
Why now? Because Halsey’s new album, Badlands, and the song Strange Love.
Everybody wants to know
If we fucked on the bathroom sink
How your hands felt in my hair
If we were high on amphetamines
And everybody wants to hear
How we chainsmoked until three
And how you laughed when you said my name
And how you gripped my hips so mean
Josh was, and still is, an absolute alien. Six foot eight, double mohawk, metal in face. He used to do fashion design, and was fucking good at it. Made all his own clothes, and worked for some solid rave and alternative brands. I met him drunk. It was me and Andy, a Wednesday night just days after my long-term relationship was officially over. We went to see strippers, had drinks. I still love the skirt I was wearing that night, still love the top too. Andy wasn’t allowed in the club, and I was left to go in alone – which was an excellent reversion to my first weeks in Melbourne. Unexpectedly, my mini old crowd was there and I crashed about, heart-to-hearts and dancing and drinks, and I crashed myself down to Josh’s little table and who knows what I even said but it wasn’t a “hello” or “nice to meet you”, it was probably “I’m drunk as shit, do you have a lighter, I just gave a stripper a sponge bath across the road”. Numbers were exchanged, I buggered off to Sydney for a few days, came back and met at Ponyfish, hopped to E55, then to his.