So far this year I have taken 23 flights. This means a scary amount of time hanging around in airports, and in particular time spent waiting in the boarder control lines to get back into the UK. I snort laugh in the direction of any panicking Brexiters who continue to proclaim that the UK has no border controls…yes you fucking do.

Normally it is around 45 minutes per trip that I have to spend waiting in the snaking queue surrounded by jetlagged, hungry and confused fellow non-Brits. The worst was a two hour wait where I almost popped a ventricle because they only had three agents on. The best was like winning lotto after a trip to Berlin where there was not a single person in the line ahead of me.

I am normally the one that power walks (read: gallops like a millennial zombie) to the Border line as fast as my jandals will let me, just in the hopes of getting there before whatever plane of foreigners that has just arrived. But with the amount of flying I seem to be doing (and I am about to be in Germany for all of July) I was getting wholeheartedly sick of the hours I spent in that damn line. I’m not even going to start on a rant about those stupid landing cards and the people who forget to fill them out.

So I did what I should have done a year ago and joined the Registered Traveler Scheme. Essentially if you meet the criteria you can pay the government £70 a year for the privilege of using the e-gates (turning your 45min+ wait into a 5min wait). I think what took me so long to sign up is that I still consider it a bit of a rip off, and it’s not like waiting in a line for a bit is going to kill you. But when I only have two days in London between trips I just don’t have the time to waste. Government you win this round.

Anyway since this seemingly ends my interactions with the front line of Brexit, those hard working border control agents who have not smiled in 80 years, I thought I would bring you my most memorable ‘getting back into the country’ stories. Although in saying that, I tried to use the e-gates for the first time this week and it threw up a ‘Seek Assistance’ error and I had to go to an agent anyway. Sigh.

  1. Airport: London Heathrow

The very first time I came into the UK on my ancestry visa, all excited about moving to London, the agent asked ‘Who did you get this visa through’ and I answered “my Mum’s Mum”. “Your GRANDMOTHER” he angrily replied as if he had caught me out in a massive lie, before going on to ask if she was still alive. I said no, to which he said the sentence that still sticks in my brain to this day “Well, as least she was a bit useful then”. Fuck you Mr border control man.

  1. Airport: Stockholm Arlanda

This is still the best thing that has happened to me in an airport. After flicking through my passport for a good five minutes (and me getting more and more concerned about what was wrong) the good looking Swedish man checking it looked me straight in the eye and said “I’ve had you before”. I mean, I always have a good time in Sweden but not so good that I would forget sleeping with someone. After seeing my startled expression he turned bright red and clarified that he had stamped my passport before.

  1. Airport: London Heathrow

On the trip from Berlin mentioned above I was riding high that I got to go straight to the desk (after still having to walk through that snaking line even though there was no one there) but then the agent started quizzing me about my job in detail that I had never seen before. ‘What type of analyst are you’, ‘What are your hours like’, ‘Where are you based’ – I thought it was because I was dressed in a kitten t-shirt and ripped jeans so he was skeptical weather I was telling the truth. Nope, turns out he was incredulous that I was full time employed rather than going contracting. He said I was making a big mistake, and that if I went contracting I would be making far more money and have a better CV. Maybe that’s why the lines take so long, because they are not only protecting the border but also giving out career advice.

  1. Airport: Cologne

It was a late flight and I was feeling rather ratty, when I handed over my passport the boarder agent frowned as he flipped through it. He then called over his manager who joined him in the intense study of the pages. Then his colleague sitting with him in the booth got involved with the flipping and the feeling. At this point I was wondering if I was going to be on the next plane out of there but no, after all that he stamped and handed my passport back to me saying “New Zealanders have the most beautiful passports”. Thanks?

People keep asking me when I am going to move home. I don’t know if it is my advancing years (apparently at 28 I should have kids and an alcohol habit already…I have one of those things), that I have been in London past the 5 year limit or that recent terrorist attacks have made everyone work hard to justify London life – but it has made me really think about why I am still so in love with London.

I don’t know if it is even love any more. I have written time and time again about how much this city gives me life, I’ve written sonnets to its energy and beauty. But now? Now something has changed in my feelings towards London Town, it’s all becoming a little less exciting and a little more stretched out and comfortable around the edges.

I’ve always said that London is a hard city to live in, it steals your energy and your money. Unless you put effort in it is an isolating place to be and don’t even get me started on the practical side of things like rent and windowless bathrooms. Today though, today I think my perspective of easy and hard has changed. I am so time poor these days that I want to be able to experience life and friendship in small intense bursts because that is all I can manage. And my dear London is perfect for that.

Last weekend I had two hours free before hopping on yet another plane. I got the tube to Old Street, had breakfast at Ozone (massive benefit of dining alone is you never have to queue for a table), then wandered through the world of street art that is Shoreditch before heading to Heathrow once again.

In those two hours I got more stimulation, relaxation and felt more like ‘me’ than I used to in an entire weekend when I first arrived. I used to be so concerned about what everyone else thought of my life, that I was doing everything ‘right’ (shout out to my fellow perfectionists), that I got overwhelmed by the city. Now that I have to focus so much more on getting the most out of small bits of life that I have finally played into London’s sweet spot.

Forget trying to do everything. Forget long days traipsing between markets, attractions and halfway across the city to meet a friend you don’t actually give a shit about. London now lets me experience a world of amazing opportunities, just a little at a time. I spent so long caught up in what I was missing out on that I exhausted myself in the attempt. Now I am getting pure childish enjoyment in taking London one bite at a time.

If I was in New Zealand I would wait for months anticipating (hoping) a new brunch place opening up. In London with hundreds to navigate (download my app if you want help!) it was more a ticking off the list exercise rather than relishing the moment.

I don’t doubt that my relationship is going to change time and time again with London, but for right now I have no intention of moving on. This city is still full of likeminded friends, opportunities beyond what I could get in New Zealand, and pretty damn good coffee. And now that I am not killing myself to see it all, I can finally get round to enjoying it.

My heart is street art

A few bitterly sad things that have happened to loved ones recently, as well as the world reinventing the Nazis, has made me think quite hard about how I live my life. So often I feel angry over stupid things, resentful about what others have and I don’t, or like I have wasted my hours on nothing. It’s just such a colossal, not ok waste of energy. When so many have their time on earth cut short who the hell am I to be wasting the chances I have in mine?

This is the point that we need to talk about YOLO. For teenagers about five years ago this meant living with no consequences, doing utterly stupid teenage things and using ‘you only live once’ as the ultimate get out of jail free card. For the fifteen years olds this means sleeping around, getting tattoos, jumping off tall things and drinking every ounce of alcohol they can get their hands on. YOLO for adults is quite different. Well, maybe not the alcohol part says the girl with seven bottles of gin.

YOLO for adults is about making life count. It doesn’t mean success, or being the loudest in the room. It doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks (unless you want to) or pushing yourself beyond reason. It just means valuing the time you have.

Today I woke up with the best intentions of writing 6 blog posts. The next three weeks at work are going to be hella busy and I don’t think I am going to have time to write so I wanted to be prepared. But I just don’t seem to be able to focus, it’s taken me 3 hours to write 265 words. A snail could crap out alphabet spaghetti faster than I’ve been writing. The point is I am not beating myself up about it, regretting the time I have spent just shits all over those who don’t have any time left. Instead I have just done a full face of makeup for a casual dinner with friends; enjoying every single frivolous fucking colour that I put on my face, even that weird grey one that makes me feel slightly like a zombie.

Leaving this blog post to fade to a screensaver, I turned on Olympus has Fallen on Netflix and thoroughly enjoyed the outrageous silliness of it (while imagining what that plot would look like with the current President). No regrets, just making sure that I use my time in things that I enjoy.

No way in hell am I taking it easy this year, you only live once and I am going to grab it with both hands. I have three business ideas that I want to make work (hopefully you will see them soon) and a beautiful new niece that I can’t wait to hug in April. I don’t want to be pushed along in a current, I want to actively direct where my life goes.

Nothing can stop you from pursuing that business idea, or that relationship or that last bit of chocolate; you currently have the luxury of possibility and a chance to make it happen. Try not to waste time feeling that you are weak for being exhausted after a long week at work or like a failure when your mental health doesn’t play ball. Only living once means cutting yourself some fucking slack and allowing yourself to recover. Once you have recovered then you can continue the fight.

If you are in London think back to before you first arrived; what were your hopes and dreams for your time here? Are you adventuring as much as you wanted, or putting yourself out there to meet people? Why not, what is stopping you? Is it still important? What else have you discovered you want?

I think what this adulating YOLO comes down to is being deliberate. What do you actually want for yourself in the next year? What steps do you need to take to get there? If today what you need is to sleep and dream and eat then do it, but make it deliberate, make it indulgent.

Hug your loved ones tight, and if you can’t because you are on the other side of the world then make that Skype call to your parents that you have been putting off all week. Text your brother or sister and make sure they know how much you love and admire them, even if they are a pain in the ass.

Let’s do this YOLO thing right.

Do what you love

Expectations are a funny thing; icebergs that we keep inside. We actively recognise only the tip of the expectations we have about our lives, the bulk run just underneath our consciousness. “But I should” can come from society, from your family, your friends, or even just from some passing comment you took on as a kid and never really thought about again. All of a sudden you can find yourself on the other side of the world, stressing out because you don’t have a dress to wear on a date and you pause and ask yourself – ‘why do I have to wear a dress on a date?’.

The big expectations can be easier sometimes; the I need to have babies, get married and go to university type (possibly not in that order). At least when the expectations are big enough they are easy to recognise. If you are aware they are coming towards you like the brick wall of doom you can make a call on it. You can decide if you accept those opinions from others, or if you want to make your own mind up. Sometimes having a bitchy career counsellor (a big FUCK YOU to the teacher who only gave me two choices in life) or a tactless aunt can be a blessing in disguise; at least you get the chance to argue your way to your own opinion. If it comes in black and white from an external source you can rail against it.

Where the big expectations can be tricky however is when they were never actually expectations in the first place is.

I studied accounting. After university an internship and a year of work I realised what a terrible life choice that was for me. When I talked about my choice to leave the profession my friends and family resoundingly said “yeah, we didn’t know why you did accounting, it never seemed like you”. Thanks team, next time tell me earlier.

My parents never told me they wanted me to be an accountant, they were just stoked I finished school. But somewhere along the line I felt this worldly pressure to succeed, and ‘success’ clearly meant a proper career in a sensible firm. I think I made this pressure up myself; building it from offhand comments, assumptions about my sisters career and the promise of a three piece suit. I wanted to make my parents proud and thought that “I should” become an accountant. Since this was something that was never explicitly told to me, I never sat down and considered my decision – at least until I had become an accountant and the horrific decision closed round my heart like a grey cloud.

The big expectations you at least have a hope in catching out, but the little ones? Good luck. A great example of this (and test of some of your own unconsidered expectations) can be how you react to Lena Dunham. Right now go on her Instagram and take a look at some of her selfies, what do you think? If you find yourself thinking “she shouldn’t have put that up” chances are you have some internalised expectations about how females should be presenting themselves to the world. Just some of those little ‘I shoulds’ that you picked up on the road to being an adult.

Who said you should only post a picture that makes you look skinny? Seriously it is one of my favourite things to watch people who talk about being body confident take a look at Dunham’s pictures and be somehow repulsed by a stomach being on display. Why shouldn’t she post pictures of her body and be proud of them? You can’t claim not to be influenced by Barbie, celebrities and advertising, when you cringe at a photo of a girl with normal sized thighs.

But this isn’t actually about Lena. What does your reaction to her say about how you think about yourself when you look in the mirror? How you think about other people’s bodies will have a direct link to how you think about your own. This little “I should” that you never really considered could be having a daily negative impact on your life every morning when you look in the mirror and hate the way your stomach outline can be seen against your t-shirt.

Looks is a very easy one to elaborate on, but these expectations invade every moment of our lives. Next time you are feeling anxious, stressed or upset about something instead of just considering the emotion (and thinking you are failing) take a look at the “I should” that is driving it. Is it an expectation you are happy to have in your life? Or is it just a little bit of bullshit that you picked up along the way and can happily burn in a bonfire.