First things first – sorry for the total radio silence, as you can see I have been updating the blog over Christmas and decided to take the opportunity at three weeks off writing. I am now back and hopefully, probably, better than ever.
So let’s get to it. A few days later but here nonetheless…
2017 was a year that I will never, ever forget.
Despite my tender age, and resulting lack of years to choose from, I know already that 2017 will always be an incredibly important year to me; one that has defined me, shaped me and given me memories to cling onto for a life time.
This year, a dream that I didn’t ever consider a possibility, came true. And in doing so it taught me more about myself than I ever thought I’d know.
In amongst the hangovers, the deadlines, the unpaid bills, the dishwasher breaking, the washing machine breaking, the drain leaking, the dog getting the shits, the laughter, the early starts, the sweltering heat of the summer, the holidays, the tears and the nights on the sofa, my first book, Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? was published by Simon & Schuster and it has meant more to me than I ever thought anything could.
Growing up I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. As a child I rather fancied being a lawyer, mostly because my dad told me I was good at arguing. Later I decided I wanted to be Secretary General of the United Nations after I realised that arguing for good and important causes would be a better use of my time. In the back of my mind, as I wrote my painstakingly depressing journals throughout the early noughties, I conceded that my real dream was to be a journalist.
I didn’t admit this though, I never thought it was a possibility for me. Although I enjoyed writing, education wasn’t particularly easy. Offered learning support by the school way too late and noticing my teachers’ lack of faith in my abilities never did anything for my confidence and by the time my English GCSE teacher told me I was going to get a D in the forthcoming exams, I had put the dream of writing firmly to bed.
When I left school, opting not to go to university, I was utterly lost.
I spent time working for a charity, I later moved to Ireland where I started as a takeout delivery driver and when I came back to London the following year, tail firmly between my legs, I took an internship doing social media marketing for a nursery, I thought that was what my life was going to be.
A job that I didn’t love but one that afforded me the luxury of a Byron burger every now and then and a career ladder to climb.
How I got from there to here I don’t know.
People are quick to dismiss bloggers. People were very fast to dismiss me.
To many ‘blogging’ is not a real job, an easy pass time for girls born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I don’t know about the spoon but I’d be an idiot to ignore the fact I was born to a famous dad. A book deal at my age seemed abhorrent and as a result I spent a lot of the writing process feeling that I didn’t deserve the success that I was enjoying.
Maybe I didn’t. I don’t know and I probably never will. I never started blogging with the intention of making it a full time job. I didn’t do it because I thought it was an easy career choice. A way of making a bit of money fast. A good excuse to sit at home and get free shit.
I started Pretty Normal Me before I was even aware that other people blogged. I started blogging because I was so sick and angry of society telling me that I was too fat or too ugly to wear clothes. I started blogging because my sister was scared to go shopping and I didn’t think that was fair.
And I’ve done it totally blindly. Eventually I quit my job and went at it full time, or full time-ish at any rate, I spent all of last year sitting in the back of a fireplace shop, finishing my book all the while pretending to know what I was talking about when someone asked me the origins of a £30k fireplace they couldn’t even use in London because open fires are banned.
Was it the easy option? I don’t know. I never gave anything else much of a chance. Sometimes it’s the easiest job in the world, sometimes it’s utterly depressing and lonely and capable of making you doubt every decision you have ever made.
So I spent the first half of this year feeling undeserving of the opportunity that I had been afforded. I was nervous about the book coming out, I was constantly worried about what people would think of me, I convinced myself that people didn’t like me and wouldn’t like me.
Unfortunately this feeling was validated for me; in April someone who I had looked up to and respected totally, for lack of a better expression, fucked me over, and it was the final straw for me emotionally. The pressure of the book really was massive and I was mentally drained by the whole thing.
Although it killed me at the time, it taught me a valuable lesson about life if I’m honest. On top of the internal anxieties I was already facing about the world’s perception of me, I learned the importance of not trusting every one and more importantly how truly incredible my friends and family are.
It also taught me how important it is to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and get the hell on with it when something like this happens. I had worked for two years on this book, I gave it everything I had, and I’d be an absolute moron to let the actions of one person ruin this for me. It hurt, but I bounced back.
And I’ve got a LOT of moral high ground, which always feels nice.
This year has taught me so much.
To be given this opportunity, this platform, this dream, didn’t just serve as an ego trip, a surreal feeling when I looked at my tagged photos on Instagram or a childhood fantasy come to life, as I thought it would be before it happened.
Instead it has given me a new outlook on life, a new perspective, a hunger I didn’t know was inside me and the realisation that anything is possible. It taught me that working hard pays off, that dreaming big ought never to be something to fear and that it is always worth going after what you want.
It also taught me that there is only so much you can apologise for. And success, no matter what shape or form it comes in, should never be one of them.
I’m so lucky. For so many reasons I am so, so lucky.
I’m not one of these people that necessarily adheres to the idea that you make your own luck. I would never presume to tell someone that if you work hard enough your dreams can come true and I’d never in a million years want to suggest that anyone is any more deserving of anything that anyone else.
But this year has taught me the meaning of hunger. It’s made me want to work harder, to want more, to channel my passion and give everything I have got.
It has taught me to have faith. In myself and in the world and in the knowledge that you can only do your best. Luck will do it’s thing, you will do your thing, and if it’s meant to be, then it will be.
It has taught me gratitude. At the risk of sounding like Hugh Grant in About A Boy, I very much realised this year that no man is an island, or anything close to it. If it were not for a patient boyfriend, a ridiculously fabulous team at Simon and Schuster and my friends’ relentless encouragements, this would never have happened.
But most importantly this year has taught me the importance of self belief, or trusting yourself, rewarding yourself, loving yourself and having pride in yourself and your work.
Guys I published a fucking book this year.
I know how hard that was, I know how much time I put into it. I know how much it hurt and how much it took from me. (I wrote this piece about it the day after it came out back in July). I know about the late nights and the early starts and the twice daily crises of confidence. I know, no matter how hard it is for me to admit, that whilst my surname might have opened the door for me, I was the one that barged through the frame and stayed there.
For the first time in my life I feel deserving.
And that’s just the most phenomenal thing that could have come out of this year.
What a gift.
What a thing to learn.
It’s hard to keep grinding all day every day. It’s hard to put your all in for a year. It’s therefore really hard to look back at the year you have had and feel that you have done enough.
I could have done more, I could have worked harder, I could have seen more of my friends, I could have saved more money.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Nothing you can do about it now babe.
All that’s left to do, as we stumble into a new year, good intentions glittering all around us, is look back at what we have done and smile. We learn our lessons, we take things, we leave others.
Didn’t do your best? Try again next time.
Look for the good though, because it’ll be there. Along with a lesson learned. There’s always a lesson learned. Learn from it and love the fact that you’re ready for something new, wiser and more ready than you’ve ever been before.