One of the motivations for moving into my own flat is so I could have people over without it feeling weird. Not that any of my previous flatmates would have minded, but I was always hyper aware that my having friends over pretty much put the living room/kitchen off limits. We have all had that moment of walking into a room in pajamas only to see your flatmate and friends gathered around a wine bottle or two.

But dinner parties are something I love, they are a shed load cheaper for people than going out to a restaurant and a lot more relaxing without the rest of London breathing down your neck. The problem has been that I am a complete newbie when it comes to cooking. I can cook a multi course feast under my Mums watchful eye (aka, she warns me when I am about to do something irreparably stupid) but on a normal day I struggle to feed myself without burnt bits, strangely runny bit and awkward flavours that never quite work. I mean I guess if I followed a recipe I might have more luck, but I don’t deal well with being told what to do…

Previously I knew that putting time in would work, the Christmas feasts take two days to prepare. But particularly in London no one has time to spend all day cooking, no one has time for anything, if I had to spend that long cooking I would never throw dinner parties. So instead I have just leapt in feet first and decided to figure it out along the way. Because SPOILER you only get comfortable cooking for other people….when you cook for other people.

I have had four dinner parties in my new flat and so far have not killed anyone (that I know of, if I have please let me know). Each time I do it I cut the time down by half (the Galentines dinner last night only took me an hour to cook and that includes cleaning the flat), I learn another little thing to make it easier and of course something goes wrong. So far over my collection of dinner parties I have learned:

  • Make the first person who arrived in charge of getting everyone else drinks as they arrive. Trying to get someone wine while the food is burning and you just got chili in your eye is less than fun.
  • Heat up your dishes (like whatever you serve the food in) before you put the food in, turns out that when you have a group of people food cools down really quickly.
  • Literally no one flatting in London has enough plates or cutlery for more than four people, people are happy to bring their own or steal from your closest friend.
  • If you keep drinking it won’t matter when all the food goes wrong

What I have learned is that even if the food does go terribly wrong people are NICE. They wont say anything because at the end of the day it is more about getting people together than perfect chef made food.  And I’m learning, each time I cook for someone else I am slightly less stressed, slightly less drunk, and enjoying it far more.

Sorry this turned into a ramble. What I meant to say was, you can’t expect to be good at something overnight and you can’t let inexperience stop you from having fun. If you want to have people over, start with paper plates and pizza and step by step work your way up.

And if anyone can tell me how to figure out how much food a group of people would eat it would be much appreciated, at the moment there is an equal chance of cooking twice the amount I need or everyone starving.

Typing Room Bethnal Green  for a celebration dinner

London can keep you on a panic high for months. You are so busy riding the London stress train with flats, friends and visas all going wrong at once and there never seems to be an end point. Soon, you tell yourself, I will be done and I can relax and enjoy life. I will be one of those girls on Instagram eating pulled pork next to a live band while some guy in a beard and three quarter chinos takes my photo. I will start enjoying London just as soon as I have figured my life out.

Truth cliff: you never will.

There is always something in life, particularly in London. Just when you figure one visa out, the next immigration stress begins. As soon as you have settled into your new flat your landlord announces they are going to sell. Work is a rollercoaster that depends on colleagues, projects, lunch options and the weather. And don’t even get me started on relationships. There is never a perfect time. You will never reach the point that it is all working out. So, you need to draw a line in the sand.

Typing Room Bethnal Green  tasting menu

You need to accept that life will be messy because we are all humans trying to figure it out. But messiness should not stop you from enjoyment, it should not stop you from living the life you want.  All that stress you are going through that seems so heightened and tough, is because you live in London. You live in London not for the bad bits but in spite of them, London was your end goal for a reason. If you forget that? Unhappiness reigns.

I combat the malaise by celebrating my London anniversary every year, it is my line in the sand. On April Fools day (the most auspicious day for starting life in a new country) you will find me dressed to the nines, solo dining at one of the top restaurants in London. I save for this for months just to have my moment of careless abandon, of self-celebration. This year it was the Typing Room in the Bethnal Green Hotel eating a seven course dinner and drinking wine in a burbling room.

I sat at that table and emailed my sister to tell her what she means to me. I scrolled through the photos on my phone to remember the best parts of my life in London. I messaged the friends I have made here to say how much I love them. I read some old blog post from the bad times and the good. I for a moment separated myself from the sometimes overwhelming life stress and exhaustion to remember that I chose this, I chose a life I love.

Typing Room Bethnal Green  sweets

This is my way of celebrating London, but you seriously need to find one of your own. It could be travel, seeing a play that would never make it to your home town, capturing monuments, or even drinking in a pub with a friend. Remind yourself that you have chosen London, and all the crap is just what you put up with so you can live the life you want. Don’t let yourself drown, find your line in the sand.

P.s. Dinner was awesome, the marmite butter slightly life changing and you need to go if you have the time and the money.

Find your own fuck level

  1. It’s ok to turn off the news if it is scaring or depressing you.
  2. Never wear a jacket to an interview, they should hire you for your brain not what you are wearing.
  3. Always say hello to a cat if you see it on the street, their time is more important than yours.
  4. Don’t hang out with people you don’t actually like; your energy is too precious to waste.
  5. Clothes that make you smile are just as important as clothes that make you feel stylish.
  6. Always tell friends when they have done something amazing or brave, we don’t get enough credit for adulting.
  7. Don’t feel bad for giving too many fucks or not enough fucks, find your own fuck level.
  8. When someone tells you how to live your life, mostly it is because they want you to be happy and the advice is how they managed it.
  9. Give yourself as many options in life as possible.
  10. If you hate it that much, leave.
  11. Never start an email with ‘I just’.
  12. Make your own measures of success, everyone’s milestones will be different and all of them are worthy of celebration.
  13. You don’t have to smile unless you want to.
  14. Do scary things every day, but you can decide for yourself what counts as scary.
  15. Never feel guilty for what you are eating as long as you are enjoying it rather than eating it mindlessly.
  16. Take time to tell people ‘they can’, other people did it for you.
  17. No one else’s success will take away from your success.
  18. You can never guess what someone is going through, they might not be a bitch they might just be hurting.
  19. If emotion is overwhelming you check to see if you are actually just hungry.
  20. Silliness is important.

Trust your own madness neon sign

If anyone has the perfect life please speak now. Please. We will flock to you like butterflies to rotting fruit and commit acts of worship until we learn your ways.

Sadly no one has the perfect life; the Queen has Phillip to deal with, One Direction are probably rife with STDs and Jesus had his daddy issues. Everyone is fighting their own battle regardless of if they are visible or not. The question is, if everyone experiences negative emotions why the hell are we so bad at admitting it?

Life will have its ups and downs – fact. If you are happy all the time you are either a psychopath, on some phenomenal drugs or are actually a puppy. None of these are particularly great things (except being a puppy, puppies are true life goals). Regardless of how you are feeling right at this moment, in the future you will be happy, sad, angry, hungry (totally an emotion), resentful, excited and every other fractal of emotion.

We are striving for a perfect horizon, a point in life where everything is roses and happiness all the time. But even if you reached that horison you would still feel the negatives, you would probably feel bored, sad and restless. Look what happened to the citizens of the Capitol when they had everything they wanted? No one wants to see the London version of the Hunger Games; tributes choosing between a mating fox or a can of Strongbow as weapons doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Nothing material, medical, or relationship-al can stop you from experiencing negative emotions in your future.

Given that we all 100% experience down times why exactly don’t we talk about it? Why don’t we have the language or the phrases to tell friends that life at the moment feels like the fuck-trumpet of doom and you just want a kitten delivery service to be a real thing? Instead what we do is cancel plans with flimsy excuses, we drop out at the last minute, sub-tweet, laugh too loud at parties and pretend that it is all ok. We build up a front to stop the world seeing what is actually going on, and in the process make what we are feeling ten times worse.

Millennial burnout is something that has been written about quite a bit recently. Short story is that we are giving so much passion to our jobs, and never switching off so by about 30 we burnout. It’s a symptom of our inability to talk about the negative that we hear from the burned but not the ones in the flames. We can look back and reflect, but actuating in the moment? Not a chance. I am the worst for this (and I talk from genuine experience). It’s not that I don’t trust my friends or think they would be anything other than supportive – it’s that I didn’t know things were that bad until suddenly they were.

Follow that dream neon sign

We all ‘hate Mondays’ we are all ‘super stressed out’ we all ‘have a lot on’, this is our 20-something baseline of emotion. If that is the average then how do you know when these feelings reach dangerous levels? When every single person at the table says how stressed they are, you instantly assume that everyone is feeling the way you do – you just aren’t able to cope. So we keep on keeping on, blaming ourselves for being deficient in some way instead of realising that the work/relationship/travel situation that we have ended up in is not right. We can’t even recognise in ourselves that something is majorly wrong, how the hell can we explain it to friends?

That is my experience at least. I had a job that I’m pretty sure would have killed me in the end, but I kept marching on because I thought that the stress just meant I cared, the tiredness just meant I was working hard and the fact that I had turned into a sharp and entirely unlikeable person was just who I was. I was doing everything I was supposed to, the fact that I felt terrible all the time was surely just something inherently wrong with me, not something that could be fixed.

So what did I do? Well I was absolutely fine, until all of a sudden I wasn’t. I wasn’t to such an extent that all I wanted to do was run away, I considered leaving London and going home. I fantasied about menial jobs where I didn’t have to be in charge, good lord at one point I thought “man if I had a baby I wouldn’t have to stay in this job”. Bad, bad, bad.

So I quit. I quit a company that I loved more than anything because my mental health was more important than a job was ever going to be. I took a month off to put myself back together. A month were I basically just cafe hopped and drank a lot of coffee. It was magical. Three weeks in I found myself smiling as I walked down the road, an event so unusual and shocking that I still remember it. What a state did I get myself into that spontaneous smiling was unusual?

I am me again. I am me with a new job that I love. But I am a little wiser now, I am not going to let myself burnout again. I now go to a cafe and write this little blog every morning because it makes me happy. I now repeat “Not my monkeys. Not my circus” to myself endlessly (not EVERYTHING is my problem). I let go. I have a life outside work that is of equal importance to my job. And I am doing my best to look, really look, at how I am feeling so that if I get to that point again I will know to raise the red flag to my friends.