Twelve is going to be a big year for you. It’s nice to meet you, by the way. I think you’d recognise me. That wouldn’t sound silly if you’d seen me a couple of years ago, because I don’t think you’d have recognised me then, honestly. I’m Katya, I’m 23. I’m currently sitting in the middle of an empty room in an empty apartment, drinking cava. I keep trying to lean against the radiator but it’s too hot. I am very tired because this is the end of a very long two months. I am single, though not quite alone – you’re single too (but not for much longer! Ditch the eyeliner, even if you tight line – which you definitely cannot do yet and are still pretty piss poor at – it’s gonna make your eyes look smaller than they are, and you don’t want that because they are lovely), and you’re definitely not alone. Bonnie and Christina are still two of my best friends. They’re going to stick by you through everything. Christina will remind you of this, she is a rock. Bonnie will cry in your kitchen when you tell her things you never shared in school. They love you so much, and without judgment.
There are so many things I want to tell you not to do, so many people I want you to stay away from. Things not to say, even to wear. Twelve is the peak. Continue reading →
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).
So, in my opinion, the Environmental Protection Agency in the US has been doing a commendable job of trying to steer politicians, corporations and citizens in the right direction. The right direction, just by the way, is reducing carbon emissions, replacing fossil fuel and natural gas use with sustainable means of energy production, and, in general, living cleaner and greener lives. One of the ways the EPA has been working on doing this on a local, citizen level, is through what’s called the Village Green Project. I wrote this blog post over the summer whilst I was a climate change intern for Physicians for Social Responsibility (an environmental, anti-nuclear, Nobel Prize winning NGO head quartered in DC). So here’s a bit about the project, and their latest pop-up. It’s something that I’d love to see the UK use as a tool of education, especially in areas like London where air pollution is a real issue. I honestly don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen to the EPA (80-90% budget cuts? new global-warming skeptic to head it up?!), never mind great projects like this, under the incoming administration.
The Village Green Project, initiated by the EPA, was first piloted by Durham County’s South Regional Library, North Carolina, in 2013. The project places a bench, powered by wind and solar and equipped with air sensors, in a communal location to encourage local residents to engage with the issue of air pollution. At the library in Durham, local Citizen School volunteers have created entire classes based around the bench – teaching students how to collect and display data, discuss issues of air pollution and climate change, and educate on the health risks. The EPA itself organises community events and has formed partnerships with local schools and the library to create educational programs around the bench.
Most recently, the Project was introduced to the Jane Addams Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois. Continue reading →
This post has been started and left unfinished so many times. Talking about mental health is something that I do often, and am pretty passionate about. But, even as someone who is happy to allude to their own experiences, I still talk about it in fairly abstract terms. I think I constantly make the assumption that, in some way, my history (and current battles) are somehow obvious, or that because of my research and career interests, people should make some kind of natural connection and go, ‘ah, she cares because it’s personal’. But people aren’t always like that, and also, for someone who wants so badly to preach and advocate, I am shockingly private about my own mental health except for with maybe two or three girl friends.
Looking even at this blog, which is meant to be a pinnacle of transparency, you’re going to hear an awful lot more about smelling good and bathbombs than you are my actual, real-life experiences. Even when I pat myself on the back for being vaguely open by sharing creative writing or poetry, that’s still mental health talk in the abstract. I’ve written and shared pieces of creative work that seems to look at how other people have peeled me off the floor. Those were old pieces that I shared, and I shared them as if they were still relevant.
A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with someone about working hard. They had a talent, and I said that I didn’t; at least not one that I had to really work for. This is so telling. I thought straight of academia. I coast along, I don’t work hard. I thought about skills; I decided I didn’t really have any. And I left it at that. That I had not worked hard at all, at anything, not ever. It took about five hours for it dawn on me that that was such a fucking lie. I have worked so hard, and constantly have to work so hard, to stay even vaguely afloat. Especially, especially, especially at the moment. To tell that voice in my head to go fuck itself. To eat and sometimes to stop eating; to wash, and sometimes to stop ‘exfoliating’ in the shower by scratching; to not weigh myself; that no, the world would not be better off if I were no longer in it; and that no, physically hurting myself is not ever a good idea. It is exhausting. I am exhausted. I have spent months worth of hours in doctors offices, in therapy. It takes energy to be put together, to be dressed and to be funny, to make quick jokes and laugh loudly, to have my eyebrows penciled in. Sometimes it isn’t hard at all, but most the time it feels hard to do anything at all.
I’ve wanted to try one out for a while, in part because obviously I want to try out every Lush product ever but also because I heard how many washes you can get out of a single bar. 84! Incredible.
But why Seanik? Well. I was drawn to the colour, first of all. But mostly it was the wonderful smell and the promises of beachy salt hair. Having just come back from a week at the ocean, I was seriously missing the feeling of beach hair. The smell is truly of the ocean, and very reminiscent of one of my #1s, Rub Rub Rub. In fact, a quick comparison of the ingredients list (Seanik on the left, Rub on the right), shows that there’s a fair amount of overlap:
Definitely makes sense as to why I was so drawn to the product. Rub also advertises the fact that you can put it in your hair, if you’re looking for extra volume, but I can’t say I’ve tried that out.
I was both skeptical and curious about how a shampoo bar actually works, so to see the really quite incredible lather that the little bar worked up seemed like nothing short of magic. You can build up a lather in your own hands, then get your hands into your hair; or you can begin to build a lather up and then actually rub the bar itself on your hair a little bit too!
What happens to the seaweed bits?
They dissolve! I was glad of this, as I had images of me having bits of seaweed glued into my hair.
Does the colour stain?
Nope! I was a little bemused by the colour that initially comes out of the bar, but that had no effect on my own hair colour. Makes sense, especially when I think about some of the more extreme colours that come out of bathbombs – and they’ve never stained me!
How do you store a shampoo bar?
Lush sells little round tins that you can store them in, but bizarrely this shampoo bar doesn’t fit in it – or at least, my particular shampoo bar doesn’t fit. I’m thinking that after a couple more uses it’ll be okay though! For now it sits where a soap bar would normally sit, and my boyfriend has strict instructions to not get it wet when he has his shower!
Does the smell last in your hair?
Initially, yes. I was pretty impressed actually by this – I used a non-Lush conditioner that reeks of shea but even after drying my hair I could still smell the Seanik. In fact, just gave my hair a good smell and can confirm that after 13 hours I can still smell it, even though I used a different scented conditioner afterwards!
Does it really effect volume?
Honestly, it’s hard to tell because I do use a conditioning product afterwards, and my hair is naturally pretty big and wavy. Sorry I can’t give a better answer!
Any detrimental effects?
Sadly yes, I find. So I have to take pretty decent care of my hair after putting it through actual hell with bleaching and dyeing and stripping and bleaching and dyeing etc., and even though my hair is now 100% my natural colour, it can still be pretty delicate. I have a lot of broken hair and my ends are super dry – I found that this shampoo bar was pretty drying, and perhaps because of the stickiness of the salt, my hair also got pretty matted afterwards. I’ve rectified that now by making sure that after its dry I get a good brush and braid in, and I use a good restorative conditioner to lock that moisture in. A bummer, really! I think once this one has run out I’ll look at getting something a little more hydrating, rather than stripping.
Anyway! That’s all folks. It’s good to be back. Have a good week ❤️
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 🌿