2017: The Year of Cautious Optimism

Despite the many terrible world events that happened in it (Brussels, Paris, Nice, Orlando, Syria, Turkey, Brexit, Trump, Berlin to name but a few), 2016 was a great year for me personally. I married the love of my life after five years together, had the most joy-and-love-filled celebration with friends and family followed by a two week trip around my favourite places in northern Italy. I also had not one, not two, but THREE fantastic hen celebrations in London and Las Vegas (!), a relaxing break with friends in the beautiful Belgian Ardennes and an amazing holiday to Vietnam (thanks to Tom and Lily for having their wedding there!), plus numerous other special moments shared with special people. And for all of this I feel incredibly thankful.

The instability in the world has proved our future is far from certain, and that every day is a blessing and not a guarantee. I am therefore approaching 2017 with an attitude of cautious optimism. From a personal perspective there is much to look forward to, and potentially big changes afoot, not least my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology starting in February.

From a wider world perspective, I do believe that we can, to some extent at least, be the change we want to see in the world. Even if it’s only on a micro rather than a macro level, when individuals come together to realise a common goal – whether it be helping other humans, animals and/or the environment – something magical happens. If we never look outside of ourselves and our own immediate concerns we not only lose perspective but we also fail to make a positive impact on the world around us. Whenever my time comes to shuffle off this mortal coil I hope it can at least be said I made some progress on that front.

So here we stand on the threshold of a new year. The future may be uncertain, but it is also what we make it. I don’t know about you, but I plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Happy New Year.

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Nostalgia Rules

Tonight, over dinner with my best friend, we took a stroll down memory lane and revisited our memories of the family holiday we spent in Corsica when we were 15 (dare I even speak aloud that was not too shy of 20 years ago now?!) On a recent visit to her family home she found a wallet of photos from the holiday, and we spent a good couple of hours poring over them and recalling all the funny moments we had shared and the people we had come across during our time on the island.

Whilst the nostalgia trip was in itself a wonderful and long overdue experience, what interested me most was that we were able to remember things that had long since been consigned to the depths of our memories – so much so we thought they had been lost forever, when, in actual fact, they had spent all these years gathering dust in boxes at the far recesses of our minds.

The prompted recollection of names (like Ingrim, the lifeguard who rescued us three times from sea when our newfound windsurfing skills failed to render us proficient enough to turn around) and occasions (like the time we found a litter of kittens in our luggage on a previous childhood holiday to Italy, or the time we blagged our way into a Corsican nightclub foam party) has triggered so many other, related memories in my mind (did I really wear underwear from Knickerbox as outerwear?!), which has sprung open like Pandora’s Box.

It’s comforting to know nothing in life is lost, but rather pushed aside by other, newer and more relevant memories. And that all it takes to recall what’s been forgotten – and remember what it was like to be in those long forgotten moments – is some visual prompts and an animated conversation with a good friend.

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Crawling towards Christmas

I’d have liked to have found the time today to write a festive piece of fiction; a story about the spirit of Christmas or some such like, or a heartwarming tale of inspiration and frivolity. Instead, I’ve been chasing my tail with marathon training, present wrapping and holiday packing, topped off with a final pre-Christmas evening with friends at a beautiful mews flat (what I wouldn’t give to have the kind of money to afford one of those) in Paddington, where mulled wine and homemade festive turkey offerings were plentiful (and gratefully received after the aforementioned training).

Tomorrow morning a two hour run awaits, after which it will finally be the long-awaited time to pack up and leave London for the holidays – this year being even more exciting than usual given the two week trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines that has been tacked onto the end of them.

Despite being two days into my break already I’m finding it hard to switch off and relax. I guess it’s not surprising that it takes our over stimulated minds a while to adjust to the slower pace of life that holidays bring, especially given how rare such occasions are for the vast majority of us. And it’s not just our minds-all too often our bodies go into a state of collapse the second we give them the chance to as well, resulting in unwelcome holiday illnesses that prevent us from enjoying the time we have been looking forward to for weeks or months in advance.

But rather than tempt fate by talking about ill health I shall stop here and retire to bed, in order to give myself the best chance of a truly Merry Christmas. The festive season so far has been joyous, here’s to the lovely days that still lie ahead.

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Privacy in a world of self-publicity – does it exist?

Today I’d like to talk about privacy. In case you haven’t seen the latest message that’s spreading like wildfire across Facebook statuses the world over, I shall post it in full below to get you up to speed:

Dear friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family and friends that I’d prefer strangers not have access to. With recent changes in FB, the “public” can now see activities on ANY wall. This happens when our friends hit “like” or “comment” ~ automatically, their friends see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way.

 PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on “COMMENTS & LIKE” and also “PHOTOS”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will remain private.

Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same. Thanks!

In response to this message I today felt moved to update my own Facebook status as follows:

Dear friends who want to stay PRIVATELY connected to me, I’m interested to know what it is exactly that you think the big bad “public” are likely to do with those pictures of your sister in her Christmas jumper? Sell them to the online Christmas porn industry so Rudolph can get his kicks over in Lapland? If you think Facebook (which is, incidentally, a PUBLIC forum) is so evil kindly stop cluttering up my timeline with paranoid privacy status updates and revert to more traditional forms of communication such as email and telephone – and keep your treasured personal pictures in a photo album on your shelf. Thanks!

Perhaps you’ll think my response flippant, and perhaps it is, but if a prospective employer was shallow enough not to hire me because of a few pictures of me wearing silly hats and drinking alcohol I’m not sure I’d want to work for them anyway. Also, quite frankly, if they’ve got time on their hands to search through all the pictures of me on Facebook with the sole purpose of finding something incriminating I’d not only say good luck to them, but would also seriously call into question their business practice and resource allocation.

What irks me is that in this age of self-publicity, where every other person has a Facebook account through which they delight in making people jealous about their holidays and other (ironically rather banal to a complete stranger) happenings in their lives (please know I don’t exclude myself from this group of individuals – quite the opposite), those very same people are so ludicrously sensitive about having their information shared. Admittedly they may not want the whole world to see their holiday snaps, but it’s the fact they so egotistically think the world will care in the first place that’s so ridiculous. There is no privacy anymore – welcome to the digital age, wake up and smell the tweetable, shareable coffee!

It’s true that sometimes bad things do happen to people’s information – accounts get hacked, photos get posted on porn sites, people’s reputations are sullied through no fault of their own. But it’s important not to listen to the scaremongers and get a sense of proportion. These things don’t happen all the time. Employers do not have time to trawl through all their employees’ personal photos in search of one that will give them a reason to send them packing with their P45. Providing there aren’t photos of you shooting up heroin in a dingy bedsit it’s highly doubtful you’ll get fired for a few pictures of you having a good time.

What is it people are so frightened of really? Losing control? Of their photos, their reputations, their minds? Personally – and this may well come back to bite me in the proverbial arse – I think this privacy nonsense has gone too far. If you’re that terrified of seeing your face staring back at you from OneHotMomma.com then it may be best to remove yourself from the world of social media altogether. Perhaps you’re just not cut out for involvement in the digital world. Cut your losses and be free (and safe)!

But if you’re a sane, rational being who is relatively careful with what information they share on the worldwide web, is it really the end of the world if the world can see?

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Having written this post I did a quick search through my own Facebook photos to try and find one that was suitably incriminating – this is what I came up with. It’s a picture of me and a friend (who I’m pretty sure will be reading this!)’s boyfriend, taken on new year’s eve in 2011. I’ll admit it looks somewhat dodgy, but I refuse to believe my professional integrity would be called into question on the basis of what is clearly a silly picture taken at a party. OBVIOUSLY in real life I don’t walk around in a pink wig pushing my boobs in the face of bespectacled shellsuit-wearing men. OBVIOUSLY I was just HAVING FUN. Last I checked this wasn’t a crime. Or am I not moving fast enough with the times?