The summer of living fearlessly

I realised a while ago that I was letting fear hold me back. I had many ideas and new things I’d like to try, in all areas of my life, but I was afraid to give it a go. I wanted to make a conscious effort to put myself out there, meet new people, try new activities, do the things that scare me. Because having a vague sort of resolution doesn’t work very well for me, I decided to make this summer a time for fearlessness.

The summer of living fearlessly

For me, this summer of living fearlessly means signing myself up for new courses, saying yes to things I would shy away from, taking a few more risks, and not letting fear determine my choices. I must say, so far it’s been going really well.

So, what have I been up to?

Last month, I ran my first ever 10K race. It was a local, low-key fun run and the route weaved through the beautiful countryside I am very familiar with. So I didn’t let my fear of finishing last stop me from participating and I did it! I felt strong and able, and even though it was slightly strange running with other people, I really enjoyed it. Having people cheer me on at various intervals felt great! (I kind of wish we did that for each other in everyday situations too.) By the time I ran the race, my goal was just to enjoy it and reach the finish line, I didn’t care if I came last. Just for the record, I finished somewhere in the middle and stayed on to cheer for everyone who crossed the finish line afterwards.

Rock climbing was something that often crossed my mind as an activity I would have liked to try but I was never brave enough to do it. I looked at descriptions of climbing courses online and that was as far as I got. Sure, I was worried about the very real possibility of injuring myself or falling to my death (far less likely to happen). But there were also silly concerns like “What if I’m too heavy for the ropes?”. I finally signed up for a novice climbing course and I’m so glad I did. After four hours of lessons so far, I love it! It’s just the right amount of challenging, it’s a great workout, and I’ve met some really awesome people. It’s even made me look forward to Mondays which is a minor miracle. Yay for being fearless!

Another small act of bravery was making a silly little video about my capsule wardrobe. You can watch it here!  It was something I had been thinking about for a while but was always too shy and self-conscious to actually try. But instead of pushing it to the back of my mind, I found a way to make it work for me. I found a format that I was comfortable with, while still trying out something new and working on new skills. I actually enjoyed working on it and I plan to have a second filming session soon.

Finally, there are all those unplanned moments and opportunities. Living fearlessly means taking little risks, and choosing to do the little things that scare me everyday. I had great success with this new attitude at a party a couple of weeks ago. My impulse would be to just hang out with my boyfriend and the people I had already met before. But I gave myself a nudge and struck up a conversation with new people. I found myself chatting with a girl who also has countless pictures of random cats on he phone. A kindred spirit indeed!

A successful experiment

I must say I am surprised by how much happiness pushing past my fears has added to my every day. I’m excited for what else comes my way this summer! If you have something you’d like to try but are too scared, I would highly recommend taking a deep breath and maybe saying yes to it. And please do tell me how it went, I’d love to celebrate everyone’s moments of fearlessness this summer.

A little update

I’ve tried writing this post half a dozen times but it’s been difficult to write down my thoughts in a coherent way. The fact is that I am sad, and that’s why I’ve been quiet in the last month. Sad, angry, disappointed, and worried.

summerwalks

In the months leading up to the EU referendum I saw the campaigns become uglier and more extreme. Hateful things were being said, things that people should be ashamed to even think let alone say out loud. There was widespread distrust of experts and suddenly being well-educated was not necessarily a good thing. Newspaper headlines were outrageous lies, spreading unsubstantiated fear every day. All working perfectly to manipulate ignorance and despair.

It was relatively easy for me to ignore all this. In my Oxford bubble I am fortunate to live in a reasonably prosperous, liberal, and diverse neighbourhood. Every day I interact with well-educated and open-minded people of different nationalities and backgrounds. In the almost seven years of living in this country, practically all my interactions with Brits showed them to be welcoming, kind, empathetic, good people. So it was easy, when confronted with all the ugliness in the news to think that it was only very few people who would actually share these beliefs.

However, since the referendum result was announced we’ve been plunged into a crazy nightmare. It’s as if a switch was flipped on the morning of Friday the 24th of June and this country lost its colour and stopped making sense. I think the worst part of all the madness that followed is the disgusting wave of racism that was released. Some of the very things I cherish about this country like its openness and diversity, many people see as flaws that need to be fixed. In some twisted way, the result of the vote is seen by some as license for racist abuse. I never thought this would happen in the UK and it breaks my heart.

In the first few days after the referendum I was worried and filled with anxiety. It’s terrible and absurd to have to wonder if I will be allowed to stay in this beloved country I chose to make my home for so many years. But now I’m also starting to wonder if I want to stay. I don’t want to be somewhere where I’m less than welcome. I work, I pay my taxes, I contribute to the society. Do I want to live in a xenophobic, racist, intolerant, and anti-intellectual society? These thoughts have started to creep in and so, I’m sad.

But I’m not giving up just yet. I’m trying even harder to focus on the beauty and kindness that I see every day to get over this sadness. Most importantly, I will try to find more ways to make a difference and do my part to help spread love and kindness in the world.

EDIT: Just as I was getting ready to post the above, I heard the news about yet another terrible terrorist attack in the world, this time in Nice. My heart is heavy once again.

The Capsule Wardrobe: Everyday Spring & Summer Edition + Video

It’s been over the year since I embarked on my capsule wardrobe adventure. I was fed up with always feeling like I had nothing to wear and being generally unhappy with my clothes. So I made up three wardrobe resolutions (one, two, and three) to help me out of my rut and to guide me as I tried to reinvent my style and my closet.

capsule wardrobe_ss16

I spent the winter months in grey or navy cashmere jumpers but a couple of months ago the sun started making tentative appearances and I began to think about warmer weather clothing. It dawned on me that since I was writing up my thesis and preparing for my PhD viva last year (which I basically did in pyjamas and lounge-wear), I really needed some decent spring and summer clothes. So this year I had a great opportunity for a fresh start.

Of course I had to follow my wardrobe resolutions: I went through what spring and summer clothes I had and only kept what I loved to wear, and then I tried to make a few well-researched purchases to fill the gaps. I didn’t want anything too complicated or requiring much effort, my goal was to have a capsule wardrobe of a small number pieces that I can mix and match easily every day.


I came up with two simple wardrobe formulas:

Workday = Light-coloured blouse + skinny jeans or tapered leg trousers + black or blush flats

Weekend = Breton top or simple shirt + skinny jeans or girlfriend jeans + flats or trainers


Of course, the above are just general guidelines; I sometimes wear my stripy tops at work (just add a little blazer) or a “fancier” blouse on my weekend pursuits (just dress it down with trainers). I should mention here that I work in a tech start-up company, with virtually no dress code, which is why I basically live in my jeans. When I’m meeting customers I switch my jeans for a dressier pair of trousers and on very special occasions I throw on a pair of block heels. I understand that if you work in a more conservative environment you may well need a whole separate wardrobe for workwear but even in that case I highly recommend coming up with a few simple formulas that work for you and make getting dressed every day easy.

I’ve had my spring and summer capsule wardrobe for a couple of months now and I’m surprised at how well it works. Using the formulas as general rules means I don’t have to really think about what I wear, which definitely makes my mornings easier and happier.

I was feeling creative (and a bit silly) the other day so I filmed a little video of everything that’s in my everyday capsule wardrobe for the warmer months. Let me know what you think!

Now the weather is not just warmer but actually getting warm I think I’ll need to rotate in a couple more short-sleeved tops, a few pops of brighter colour, and some summer dresses. So look out for a High Summer update of my Capsule Wardrobe coming up in a couple of weeks.

I’m dying to hear from other capsule wardrobe adventurers, tell me what works for you and what doesn’t, and any tips you might have to share.

On running

I’ve tried running many times in my life but it never actually became a habit. Every so often I’d decide to give it another go and start the Couch to 5K program once again. But it didn’t work. Most times I would quit halfway. Even when I stuck with it and was running consistently a few times every week for a while, it never actually felt good to run. Running was always unpleasant at the very least. I don’t know why I kept on trying, I guess I just had this dream of going on long runs in the countryside, of being strong and fast and slim. My dream runner self just seemed like such a better version of me.

More recently I had just about given up on this dream self and was beginning to accept that I’m not built to be a runner. But then Laura kept mentioning running and I could see how she was getting hooked on it (and also looking fantastic). And then she shared this post. And that was it. I decided to give running one more try.

I don’t really know what made this time feel so completely different, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying it but, I love running! I’m running faster (still very slow by anyone’s standards) and longer than I’ve ever done but that’s not the important thing. This time, running actually feels good, it’s something I enjoy and look forward to. I seem to have found my stride. I no longer make excuses to skip a run, and while I’m running I’m not counting down the seconds till it’s over. It’s great!

This time around I didn’t use the C25K app which is beloved by so many, instead I downloaded the Nike running app and started using the 5K beginner program in the Coach function. These two programs are very similar. I must say however, that I think the Nike Coach Beginner 5K isn’t as good as C25K, mainly because while most of the runs in this program are a mixture of walking and running, this app doesn’t actually tell you when it’s time to switch from walking to running and vice versa (at least in the Android version). So one would have to keep checking the time and when a run involves alternating walking and running every two minutes that can get annoying fast. Which is why when I first started this program I thought I would simply keep on running.

In my case this turned out to be a brilliant idea, as I think it was the mix of walking and running, all the stopping and starting that was putting me off in the past. So I just ran and to my surprise I could easily do the whole 5K by week 3. I found it so much easier to find a rhythm and stick to it and just keep going. This in turn gave me a confidence boost, I felt stronger and running became a positive experience. This is why I was so uncharacteristically diligent with it and never missed a run day.

All this was back in mid-November and I’ve maintained a reasonable consistency since finishing the 5K program as well. Not that long ago I ran my longest run ever: 7 miles or approximately 11 kilometers! I’m really surprising myself, and I get a sense of pride with every milestone I hit. I’m so very happy I gave running another go. I really needed to find some kind of cardio activity that I actually enjoyed, plus I find running to be a great way to gather my thoughts, make mental lists, de-stress, and catch up on my podcasts.

Next up is my first ever 10K race in a few weeks. I can’t wait!

A sleepless night – Train of thought

Is it hot? Maybe sticking my leg out from under the duvet will help.
It hasn’t…
If I like people’s Instagram posts at 3am will they think I’m a weird stalker-type person?
I love all the styled shots and flat lays on Instagram. I’d really like to start doing stuff like these. I would feel slightly ridiculous and pretentious though. So, maybe not.
Is the light from my phone going to wake up my boyfriend?
Maybe I’m thirsty.
This would be a great chance to tend to my long-neglected blog.
But all the updates and scary/boring admin I’ve been putting off will still be there. Oof. Will I ever get back into it? Should I just delete the whole thing and forget about it?
I do need to get some more social hobbies anyway. It would be great if I had more friends in Oxford. A course in making friends perhaps?
Perhaps, more spontaneous blog posts will keep me interested. Sticking to a posting calendar feels incredibly daunting at this point. And no checking of stats. Hm…
How early is too early to start my day? Is 4 am ok?
I’ll probably need to nap between meetings tomorrow. Is the stand-up session at 10:00 or 10:30?
Oh look, it’s already starting to get light. I love summertime.
Probably no point in getting back to bed now.
I should do something useful like meal-planning or something. Or clean the bathroom. Oh sure, watching Youtube videos also works.
I only ever dipped my toe in making films for Youtube. Why did I feel so self-conscious about my accent? I should try again. I could do recipes, maybe.
Ooh, do we have any of the banana bread left?
Okay stale cheese is fine too.
I’ll wait till 5 am before having coffee.
Mmm, coffee coffee coffee!