Are we actually losing our ‘best years? by Sarah Garner

The following post, I am delighted to say, has been written by the exceptionally talented Sarah Garner. One of the best people I’ve met during my time at Durham University!! Like myself Sarah is currently a final year student at Durham University studying for a degree in English Literature and Education Studies. After reading this post, evaluating the last year of life during a pandemic, you will see why Sarah is such a positive influence in my life. Sarah constantly finds the good, the success and the positive in any negative that exists.

If you enjoy this post be sure to leave a comment below saying so that we can convince Sarah to start her own blog !!


Our twenties are widely regarded as our best years. We have little or no responsibilities or commitments, we’re young and we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us. The twenties are also thought of as the decade where we meet our soulmate, get married, have children, buy our first house and settle into a career that will see us through the next fifty years. Now, if you are not in your twenties, this might sound like the ideal situation- to quote Wiz Khalifa, we are young, wild, and free.

However, this is an incredibly damaging mindset to have regarding this period of our lives; it puts unnecessary pressure on our twenties to be this perfect time. This probably explains why, when the pandemic hit and we were all confined to our homes with our laptops for company, our generation panicked and there was a general discourse going round about how we are ‘losing our best years’. But, I disagree, and here’s why.

This time last year (before the pandemic took its full effect), I was working 40+ hours at my job in a pub, studying for my degree at Durham University, playing football twice a week with a team and working on my role at Cygnet. Essentially, I was juggling too many balls, and something was going to drop.

When the pandemic hit, I suddenly found myself with no job and no hobbies which, as you can imagine, was incredibly confusing and stressful at the time, but slowly I learnt to make the most of this time that I had been given, and use it to have a long-overdue rest, reset and evaluate.

Because I was so busy with everyday life, I was yet to think about what I was going to do after university- I had no idea what job I wanted, or what I wanted out of my life. Following my little re-evaluate, I’ve got a stable plan for the next two years which includes working overseas, studying for a postgraduate qualification and getting my own flat (hopefully)! Now if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I don’t think this level of reflection would have been possible, I was far too busy to think about the upcoming week, never mind the next couple of years.

You may notice that even though i’ll be 22 once i’ve completed these goals, there is no mention of marriage, children or long-term careers. Now this isn’t because these things aren’t on my radar, having children is my ultimate life goal, but the pandemic has helped me realise that there is no strict timeline to life, we never know what is going to happen and I might as well make the most of this time whilst i’ve got it- the rest will come with time.

So, although it may feel like we’ve just lost eighteen months of the ‘best times of our lives’, I think it’s simply given us a well-needed chance for evaluation. I no longer feel I’m blindly stumbling my way through my twenties, I’ve got a stable plan to keep me on track to achieve my goals and this would. not have happened if we hadn’t been locked inside for the past year.

So yes, it might be disappointing that we’re not in the pub every other night and clubbing all weekend, but you’ve got to ask the question- was that really the best use of your twenties?

This means that despite all the fuss, I don’t think we’ve lost out on our twenties, it’s just taken a different path- not necessarily a bad thing if you grab it with both hands and make the most of what you’ve been given.

Doesn’t sound like a waste of time to me.



I Did The Chloe Ting 2 Week Shred…

If you’ve come here expecting to see a set of before/after pictures and lots of talk about my past/current body- you’ll not find it. Since 2018 when I left behind amateur dramatics and being a drama TA on weekends to do a degree…I just gave up on moving. I’m not exaggerating. I used to have the stamina to be able to do intense shows twice a day for two week runs, endless rehearsals at both Sixth Form and at Manor as well as helping run shows at my work. Without realising it I was pretty bloody fit but, because I was enjoying myself I never clocked it as being exercise or myself as being active.

University killed any ounce of fitness in my system. Dear God, stairs became a struggle. I have a phobia of gyms, no idea why but just the thought of them makes me heavily cringe. I have no understanding of how people actively take themselves out of the house to run- what on earth, are you ok? I just have, or should I say had, no desire. I always said, I just need to find a new dance class. The thing is I said that for two years and nothing happened, then a global pandemic hit and I used that as an excuse to fuel my hermit lifestyle.

In the last couple of months I’ve entered into my final few months at university. It’s stressful with a capital S. I have so many deadlines it gives me a genuine tummy ache. Being in lockdown alongside the stress of trying to wade against the tide of final year turned me into a ball of angst that could not go a day without having a cry or an unnecessary strop- I became a toddler in her terrible twos phase. I felt sluggish, unhappy, unmotivated. I found myself getting no work done, not being able to relax, snapping at my boyfriend, losing all inspiration, feeling completely useless.

It just happened that one morning a video came up on my Youtube homepage of a girl, with the same fitness levels as me, completing this Chloe Ting 2 week challenge. I’d never heard of Chloe Ting, never heard of the challenge but I was immediately completely enthralled. I must say the body transformation in the video I watched was one major motivator for me. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my body over the last year and I think above everything else I just wanted to feel confident again. So, I got out of bed. I emptied the entire content of my underwear drawer to find the one Primark sports bra I owned and headed into the living room to do the first round of videos for Day 1/14.

I genuinely thought I would need to call an ambulance. Endorphins?? No, just a constant wave of nausea as I attempted to do an up and down plank at the same rate as Chloe Ting who is a literal machine. I mean, I felt like I was a contestant on a show like The Biggest Loser. I was so embarrassed at just how unfit I was, so embarrassed that I decided to get up the next morning and put myself through it all over again. But, do you know what? The next day it was easier and it continuously got easier. In just two weeks my fitness levels have improved catastrophically, it’s actually unbelievable.

I found myself, for the first time in quite literally forever, sleeping through the nights and getting a full 9 hours sleep. The alarm would go off at 7am and I would find myself feeling actually rested enough to pull myself out of the comfort of the duvet. I found myself getting increasingly more excited to start my day off with Chloe. My concentration improved, I could work from 10am-4pm without feeling the need for a nap or without any distractions. I felt energised enough to joke, laugh, dance, and be happy at home.

I felt more myself than I’ve done in forever….from a workout challenge on Youtube. It sounds ridiculous I suppose but, I just needed that intense push. I needed something to really pull a u-turn on how I was feeling mentally. At this point any physical changes would just be an amazing bloody bonus to a prize I feel like I’ve already won. At no point during the two weeks did I change my diet, I still had a Mcdonalds on Sunday afternoon and my daily helping of white chocolate. I didn’t see the need for any of that. My only goal was to move my body.

I don’t think anybody ever talks about the clear mental impact moving your body has. I’d never understood it before and, now I’m addicted. I’m addicted to that stress release, to that motivation, to that fuel that carries me through my entire day. I absolutely love it, a sentence I never thought I would say.

As I’m writing this i’m beginning her 2021 28 day challenge and this morning I found myself actually laughing and having fun!?!?!?! whilst doing the exercises. I don’t even recognise myself to be honest. This is the girl who would rinse any excuse possible to get out of PE actively getting out of bed to make her body burn- it’s insane to me. Especially insane when this change has literally happened over the course of TWO WEEKS.

Is it cheesy to say that if you’re in a similar position of being weighed down by that working from home life, especially as a final year student, to take the leap and get your body moving? Maybe you’re already a lot fitter than me, you just need to get back into the swing of things. Or maybe, like me, you’re a newbie to the concept of moving your body (not involving walking to the shop for wine) and are just that tad bit nervous to do so. Just go for it.

Two week of commitment and pushing myself has completely changed my outlook. It’s set me off on a path that I would never have foreseen. I feel so much better and every aspect of my life is improving because of it.





Working From Home- How To Quickly Boost Productivity by Charlotte Dawson.

This article has been written by Charlotte Dawson. To read more from Charlotte, view her blog at http://www.writtenbycharlotte.com or contact her via Instagrams @writtenbycharlotte @copybycharlotte !!


Have you found yourself working from home for what feels like forever? The novelty of making a coffee every morning and watching the sunrise has probably worn off and well, now you’re losing motivation and your productively levels are lower than ever. This post is here to help you quickly boost your productivity to get more done every day. You will soon feel accomplished, and proud of your work once again!

How To Increase Productivity

We often get ourselves down when we aren’t being productive. Working from home can seem so much harder too. Sometimes even just getting out of bed can be a drag. Although it is a natural human reaction to feel frustrated during this time, it really doesn’t help, and your productivity won’t improve by just telling yourself off for it. So, give yourself a break, take a deep breath and let’s start fresh.

Here’s some helpful tips you can quickly implement at home to boost your productivity.

1. Create a ‘real life’ working schedule.
Wake up at the same time every morning and switch off at the same time every evening. This forces you to get your work done and allows you to relax at the end of the day. Creating a timetable for when you are working from home can also help with focus and mindset.

2. Remember to eat and drink.
Feeling lethargic or hungry will not help your productivity. So, always have a drink of water by your side and don’t skip meals. You still need to keep your body healthy too.

3. Write a to do list.
Create a list every morning of things you know you can complete, and things you HAVE to do. Order them by importance and feel satisfied when you tick them off. You can even organise your time to get things done by a certain time frame.

4. Schedule Breaks
Make sure you have time away from the screen. Go for a walk, talk to a friend, or just relax! Taking a break is important for your mind in order to not feel overwhelmed. Having a break away from the screen will also reduce headaches, and you will feel more motivated when you get back to work after your break.

5. Set timers for work
If you have a piece of writing to create, set a timer for an hour and focus until it is complete. You can also download apps that will lock your phone until the timer is complete, ensuring you’re not distracted in the process.

Ways To Boost Your Motivation

You cannot improve your productivity without boosting your motivation in the first place. When you feel motivated, you will find you are way more productive and feel so much happier for it. You will end up completing your work sooner and having fun whilst doing so.

– Start a Journal
Keep a daily journal of the things you need to do and include some mindfulness and gratitude too.

– Create an inspiring space
Find a place you want to work in each day and turn it into your office. This space will make you feel as though you are really at work, and not just lying in your bed fighting off the urge to nap. Keep this place tidy, decluttered and make sure there are no distractions around!

– Use your breaks wisely
You may find doing something physical helps you feel ready to sit back down at the desk. If you have hit a writing block, you will need to take a break otherwise you will find yourself staring at the screen, just hoping for some inspiration! You could start a new hobby in between your working schedule. Doing something creative will make you feel more productive and inspired.

– Read or listen to something motivational
Podcasts are amazing. There are tons specifically made for different areas of working. Listening to someone talk about inspiring and motivational topics will also make you feel inspired and motivated. You just have to believe it in your mind too.

Keep The Productivity Flowing!

Don’t stop there!!! To make sure your productivity keeps on flowing, and your motivation levels stay high, here are a few things to remember.

Hold yourself accountable.
You are the only person who is able to ensure you’re getting the jobs done that need completing. Hold yourself accountable by checking you have done all you need to do and tick it off your list. You are your own boss whilst working from home, so treat yourself like one (with a large coffee in hand at the same time). Stay on track and you won’t end up feeling stressed out.

Reward Yourself.
It is so important to reward yourself every single day, even if it’s just treating yourself to a bath or a takeaway…you deserve to feel proud of yourself for working from home, so give yourself some credit.

Remember To Switch Off
The most important rule when working from home is to make sure you switch off. It can be easy to continue working way into the night, skipping dinner (or eating cereal for dinner). So set a time to log off. Make sure you are still having a work life balance !!



Thank you for reading this post, I hope you have found these tips on staying productive whilst working from home helpful. Just remember to give yourself a break and take each day as it comes.
– Charlotte x

Grounding My Mind

My mind wanders frequently. My brain seems to be simultaneously reflecting on the past, stressing about the present and worrying about the future. I never seem to be able to ground myself within a moment, a habit I am trying my hardest to kill. In this post you can read about what I mean about ‘mind-wandering’ and strategies I’m using to reel myself back in.


“Please hold my hand. For every balloon needs a string to stay grounded”
– Wald Wassermann.

On Monday, in my Responding to Special Educational Needs lecture, my professor used an analogy that resonated with me straight away. Discussing classroom strategies Professor Ridgeway described the metaphor she uses with children who struggle to focus within classroom activities. The metaphor was about your mind being a balloon. A balloon that’s eager to get out into the world and explore, so will take any chance possible to begin drifting away. It’s up to you to maintain a strong grasp on that string, reel that balloon in and make sure you feet stay on the ground.

It was one of those moments where you feel almost a sense of relief that somebody has put into words exactly how you feel. I’ve always been a worrier. Always. I would say i’m a sensitive person, I take too many things to heart. If something happens in my life you can be sure I’ll be stressing over it for anywhere between 2 months to 6 years. At the age of 21, at night, I find my mind floating off to some unhappy memory from anything back to the age of 5. It’s actually ridiculous and a really detrimental habit. My mind does not let me move on from events that happened. I could be in the middle of a Greys Anatomy episode and suddenly my mind has been thrust back to remembering a conversation that happened when I was 14. Despite it being 7 years ago I relive it in my head as if it’s just happening, I find myself getting upset or worried and I have to remind myself- this is in the past.

As well as being stuck in the past, my mind loves to create numerous hypothetical scenarios about the future that leave me anxious. About three times a day my boyfriend has to remind me: why are you even worrying about that?? It’s not even happened yet. I seem to be constantly looking forward, planning what I want to happen, worrying about all the possible scenarios that could happen. I can never settle my mind. It’s flitting constantly between the past and the future thus, seriously affecting the future.

It’s pretty hard to be practical or stay focused on the now if my mind is filled with anxiety over past and future events. Worries that are necessary become more overwhelming than they should be because my mind is already at bursting point. Simple tasks become a bigger stress and suddenly I’m crying over the most ridiculous things.

It’s a bad habit and, I’m trying to break it.

The balloon analogy has been a revelation. I mean to have that visualisation of what my mind is doing really helps to recognise when my thoughts begin to wander and, reel it back in. Envisioning myself yanking on that string, winding it round my hand and pulling myself back to the present moment is really limiting the amount of time i’m spending each day unnecessarily worrying about matters.

Another strategy proving really useful is to designate time to ‘worry’. This might sound so over the top but, my mind won’t settle on just constantly pushing away the worries it wants to bring to my attention. It has to have some time given to them. So, I settle on a time. Usually the evening, when I’m alone with my thoughts. I’ll let my mind bring forward the worries, whether it be a bad memory that’s bothering me or a future stress. I’ll think about it for a few minutes before, deconstructing it. I’ll ask myself:

– what’s made you think of this?
– why does this make you feel [sad, angry, guilty, fearful, upset, anxious]?
– is this relevant to be worrying about?
– what can you do to make yourself no longer worry about this?

Depending on how I feel i’ll either write out the answers or just answer them in my mind. It allows me to work through those plaguing thoughts methodologically and by the time i’m done they almost always stop bothering me.

When we’re allowed to live freely once again in a post-covid world, I no longer want to be limited by my own mind. I long to be care-free and to just enjoy the present. I think we’ve all learnt the past year that it’s so important to make the most of every-day. I want to embrace every opportunity thrown my way and I want to make so many happy memories to make up for what’s been a year of, mainly, none.

Practising these little activities each day has already led me to be a lot more present. I feel more mindful, more present and I feel like I have more of a control over my own mind and thought processes- and, it’s only been a couple of weeks. So many of us are restrained by our own mind-sets, if that’s you reading. Try this.

Picture your mind as a balloon, grab that string and become in control.

Do let me know if this is something you struggle with also. If so, what exercises or visualisations do you use to feel more grounded in the present?

All my love,
Al x

we begin again…

I will write again. My new mantra. After what’s been a good few months off, I’m back. Back to writing on my little baby, Navigating Twenties. In this post I give you a quick catch up on where i’ve been these past weeks and, set forth my plans going forward. I hope you have a hot drink in your hand to keep you cosy whilst you read…


Well. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. I don’t think I have to give much explanation to the reasoning behind that. Lockdown, eh. My creativity seems dependent on experience. When you’re sat within the same four walls each and every day, doing the same routines, with the same person by your side- there’s not many new experiences to have. I’ve been lacking in inspiration, in creativity, in confidence to write.

Life seems a little unstable by now but paradoxically I also feel the most settled I ever have. Some of you reading this will know that I am now living with my partner, James, in Greater Manchester. This is what we’ve been working to for the last, gosh nearly, three years of our relationship. I met James just before I left to go to Durham University, so the first half of our relationship was mainly long-distance. Living together was what we’d always talk about to see us through the main train journeys, late-night calls, rushed texts. Covid-19 made those days arrive a lot sooner than expected. Albeit this is not what ‘living together’ actually is, being trapped together 24/7 with only 1 week to free us is not ‘living together’- it’s some weird social experiment haha. I expected to be heading back to Durham in January 2021 but, lockdown and Government restrictions made that impossible and now it’s unlikely i’ll ever live in Durham again.

My heart breaks for all the experiences i’ve missed out on in Durham, it’s something I just try not to think about. However, getting to build my own little home is exciting. Where we’re living now still doesn’t feel like my home, despite being here 5 months now. We’re on the look out for a flat which will, hopefully, be our home for the next few years and I can’t wait. I am so content, so settled and so happy to be building a home with James. So, in that sense I feel very settled in my life.

Everything else however, feels VERY unstable. University is coming to an end. I thunk because i’m working remotely it hasn’t really felt like that. But, here we are with only a couple months left of my degree to go and, only four weeks left of teaching hours (gips). I just can’t believe it. It doesn’t feel like three years have nearly passed since I opened that brown envelope and saw I was going to Durham University. It just does not feel real that that chapter of my life is over. Now adulting begins- wonderful.

I have no real idea what I will be doing after graduation. I’ve still not heard back from masters courses i’ve applied for, i’m still unsure on a career path. All I do know is it’ll be spent living in Manchester- at least that’s one thing sorted. I suppose this is what’s meant to be exciting about your twenties but, I think the whole global pandemic business just makes it a whole load of stress.

The one thing that I do know, is that I want my life to involve writing. I adore writing, it makes me ridiculously happy. I don’t want to lose it or, for it to only be a past-time. I want it to be something that is in my life every day, that sustains me and keeps me going. Thus, I need to stop moping around on the sofa and begin putting effort into posting on here more often!

Creating and writing on Navigating Twenties was a way to ground myself through the chaos of my twenties. I’m about to enter into a very stressful few months and, I need something for me that puts a smile on my face. On a practical level if I seriously do want writing to be a career-path, I need to begin building a portfolio.

I think I just hit a realisation the other day that now is the time to be active. If I want something, nobody else is going to get it for me. I have a vision for what I want my life to look like, so it’s time to begin making little steps to make it a reality for myself.

Today is February 12th and, it marks the Lunar New Year. Now that’s not something I necessarily celebrate but, I read the most interesting article this morning on the celebrations taking place. 2021 is the year of the ox. The Ox is a symbol of hard-work thus signifies movement. It means that the world will begin to move again this year, it will move on from its static nature in 2020.
That really spoke to me.

I am so ready for the world to begin moving again. I’m ready to begin moving with it and see where the road takes me! So, here we are back writing to you all. Just writing this post seems to have taken a big weight off of my shoulders. This is the most calming activity and, I just hope you enjoy reading.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Not the most exciting, but I felt a post like this was needed to mark this ‘new beginning’ of Navigating Twenties.

All the love,
Al x


a new year.

Hello lovelies, wow it’s been a while. My life currently isn’t allowing for much spare time to sit down with a coffee and write to you all. I feel I’m surprisingly calm at the moment for someone who has a pretty lengthy list of final year deadlines fast approaching. Maybe that’s a side effect of living through the mess that was 2020. I feel essay deadlines are nothing in comparison to living through a global pandemic. As I’ve said many a time on this blog, writing is like therapy for me. So, in what will be a very busy few months, I am vowing to make more effort to sit down for an hour and write to you all.

2021. A big year. It’s the year I will, hopefully, graduate from Durham University. It’s the year where I’ll figure out my next path and find my own feet in the big world. Those of you who know me or, follow me more closely will know that I haven’t physically been back to Durham since third year started. My personal circumstances within Covid-19 meant that the best place for me to be was nearer home, not isolating in my university city. That was a huge decision to make, especially when I’ve had to continue paying rent *cries*. Instead, since October 2020, I’ve been rooming with my boyfriend in his new flat in Manchester. It’s become our little hideaway, our cosy nest that just makes me feel peaceful- bar when he’s playing Call of Duty. I mean the current situation in relation to Covid-19 is still not the best, to put it lightly, so I’m not sure what my final months of University will look like. However, whether I’m physically in the city or sat at the dining room table in Manchester- my only care is that I am able to get my head down with zero distractions and smash it. It’s been a really difficult last two years at University with strikes and the pandemic. Academic expectations haven’t exactly been lowered so to maintain those same standards of work whilst the world seemingly fell apart was tough. It still is tough. So my main priority this year is to just stay focused and just finish this chapter of my life with a grade I am proud of.

I entered 2021 armed with journals, what’s new. My goal this year is to write more. Write more on here, write more for external sources, write more personally in formats such as diaries. I haven’t set huge goals for this year, well actually I suppose graduating and moving into my own home are slightly huge goals. But, I mean in terms of resolutions- i lowered my expectations a little this year. My ultimate aim is to just focus on me. We’re only three days in to 2021 but they’ve been pretty good days thus far. I’ve been reading, journalling, cooking and, just letting myself rest. I just want to be happy this year. I don’t want to overburden myself to the point where I’m just one big ball of stress. I want to take each day as it comes.

I have some dreams. Big dreams I guess. I feel like this is the year to slowly begin making them a reality. Taking more time for me and putting my needs first will be the biggest step I can make towards reaching those dreams. I’m a sucker for trying to please everyone. I attempt to live up to what I perceive are people’s expectations of me. Often that results in me deterring from a path I personally wanted to be on or, comes at the price of me being unhappy/not getting what I want. I think I need to learn how to be selfish during my twenty-first year on earth. I know myself best. I know what works for me, what dreams I have, what I hate, how I feel, what I want. So, I should have the ultimate say on what I choose to do. I think if people don’t agree with that and it has no impact on their life, it’s there problem- not mine.

Goals I wrote down in my journal for the next 365 days were.

– drink more water
– pass your driving test
– graduate from university
– write every single day
– read fifty books
– journal consistently
– cook and bake more
– stay afloat, don’t let stress take over
– find a new hobby: maybe yoga? get back into dance? idk find something
– build a home and start to build your future life

More than anything I just want this year to be happy. 2020 did leave me with some really lovely memories but, it’s hard to not remember the sheer angst, worry, fear, upset and pain that came from that year- i’m sure you’ll feel the same. I just pray that this year is happy. That I can look back on 2021 and think ‘what a year’ for all the positive reasons. I want it to be the year that sets me up for the rest of my twenties.

I do feel optimistic. I feel excited.
I know that with the current circumstances we are in those two emotions seem hard to find when thinking about the year ahead. Sending you all lots of love.

Let me know your thoughts for the year ahead in the comments below, I’d love to hear.

2021…here we go.

All the best,
Al x

lockdown 2.0, things you need to hear.

As I sat beside James last night, a glass of red in my hand, to watch Boris relay the news we all knew was coming I expected to be frustrated, angry, upset, worried, anxious. Yet, as I heard him say the words ‘Stay At Home’ honestly…I just felt a bit emotionless. There’s just an overwhelming tide of emotions that comes over you in a circumstance like this that just seems to blanket out your exact feelings. I felt vacant in my reaction. I closed off the news app, popped Insidious on the telly and just thought ‘ey, what can you do’.

I think what’s so unbelievably tricky to navigate yourself through understanding with Covid is that you just have no control. No matter the individual sacrifices you may make, it just comes down to you still being carried along and having to follow the words of people much higher. At this point we’re all ‘used to’, well as ‘used to’ as possible, to the lack of spontaneity within our lives. God how I miss being able to just go or do whatever I wanted with such ease. The darkness blanketing the skies at much earlier hours makes this next lockdown seem rather foreboding. The prospect of being held inside without the relief of stretching out in the garden or evenings spent sat out with a drink like we had in the Summer makes the months ahead of us seem much grimmer. Much harder.

I’m writing this on the first of november, the morning after the news. I do feel anxious. I feel anxious for my family and friends. I know so many people in precarious situations currently. It’s terrifying. My heart aches for those in our country that are in completely devastating circumstances. It’s something my mind flicks to several times a day. I, however, do not feel that this platform is the place to dwell on complete doom and gloom. You are all completely aware of the crap we’re wading through right now, I don’t need to remind you anymore of it.

So, find below, some little messages of motivation and ideas from myself to help you pull through the following month. I am sending you all love and care.

things you need to hear

This way of life is not forever. In the summer we saw some flicker of normality, albeit that may not have placed us into the best situation, that gave us hope. Hope that by the following summer we’ll be able to hold all the ones we call dear close to us. Hope that there will be a time where we can freely eat where we want, travel, see loved ones. This next month is going to be tricky, there is no doubt about that. In times where it feels really dark, repeat to yourself: this is a temporary way of life.

You cannot be against yourself, you need to be an ally to yourself. These are times are crap enough, the last thing you need is to be harsh on yourself. Take time for you. Oh gosh the pressure the first lockdown brought to be productive. To take up a new skill, take on a weight loss plan, become a star baker of banana bread. Do not bow down to those pressures over these next four weeks. Take it easy, do what feels right for you. I, for one, have a lot more work to be doing over the next four weeks. University work will keep me busy during my days but, it seems important to make sure my days fit in a lot of me-time.

I’ll hold my hands up to admit that in the winter months I become a hermit. I take one look at the rain or the frosty air outside the window and retreat back to a cosy corner of my bedroom. I enjoy snuggling up with a book, or having a study session with a candle-lit and a blanket draped over my knee. It’s often the temptation of a Sunday dinner out or a coffee trip with friends that drags me out of the warmth of my home during the winter. However, it seems important that during the next four weeks I make the effort to get a healthy dose of fresh air whenever I can. Whether that’s a walk exploring round where we live or, wrapping up in a bundle of coats and reading in the garden. Equally it seems important to ensure you move your body each day. Whether that’s a dance party in the kitchen or a morning yoga session- stretch your muscles out, don’t let the tempation of laying on the sofa each day win you over.

Keep in touch with your family and friends. Do so more than you did back in March to June. Everyone is facing different extremities of this situation and, so many people are about to feel more alone than ever before. Text, ring, facetime, zoom, send letters or care-packages. Reach out to those you live and ensure they’re okay, equally let them know how you’re feeling. Now more than ever it seems important to not mask how we feel. Own up to if you’re feeling crap, pick others up and let them pick you up in return.

If you need to- delete the news apps. Take your eyes away from social media. At the moment there seems to be an endless tide of posts speculating, debating and circulating covid anxiety. It isn’t healthy to be looking at that constantly, it’s precisely those outlets that will make the next four weeks unbearable. Be kind to yourself, don’t put yourself through it.

Look after yourself and look after those around you.
Al x

life update, october 2020

Hello, hello it’s been a GOOD while since i’ve sat down all cosy with my laptop and let myself write down all my thoughts for you all. Life is busy, life is weird. I thought I would sit down this gloomy halloween and update you all on the ins and outs as well as catching you up with my favourites for this month and, my goals for November! Sound good? Righttt then go grab a cuppa (or a huge glass of red ) and let’s get stuck in.

what’s been going on?

I think we can all agree, life is far from normal right now. What feels so bizarre about the national circumstance we’re in currently with regards to Covid is that this time we have no choice but to carry on. Back in March at least we had a moment to step back, have that time to process and feel all the emotions about what was happening. This time, we’ve just got to power through. I think I must stop at least three times a day to think what the fuck is going on.

Third year has begun and, I am not in Durham. You might have realised this if you follow my Instagram (cheeky plug @navigatingtwenties ). I initially delayed going up to Durham because I knew I had a specific event in Sheffield that I couldn’t miss, re-schedule or, cancel. So, I needed to make sure that I would be able to get to Sheffield easily and safely without breaking restrictions. Each week covid cases began to rise higher and higher and, the very day of the date we were working towards both Sheffield and Greater Manchester (where i currently am) got placed into tier three restrictions. With my course being transitioned to solely online, no face-to-face teaching at all it just seemed like the best decision was for me to not go back to Durham until the new year. It’s crap. Really crap because, I adore Durham. I feel so lucky to have been able to study there, to live in a house where I wake up to the Cathedral bells ringing. It’s a beautiful city and I miss it. However, I think what I’ve learnt this year is to really re-evaluate what’s important in life. Personally, going up to my student city wouldn’t do wonders for my mental health (which is already feeling a little fragile currently). I would be resigning myself to being sat in my room for the majority of every day working, chilling and, would be feeling pretty ripped up over the fact I couldn’t see James or be close to my family. So, the decision was made last week. My books have been posted to me by my beaut housemate and, for the time being I’m staying put.

So, where am I living? Currently I’m crashing at my boyfriends new apartment. If you’re a regular here at Navigating Twenties you’ll know i’ve been in a relationship for the last two and a bit years with James! James graduated from university (well I mean got his degree, the graduation we HOPE will be in Spring 2021) back in June and, now he’s already in a graduate job as a Quantity Surveyor. Very fancy. Well I mean, he spends a lot of time looking at pot-holes currently so it’s not that fancy but, he’s enjoying the perks of having a salary, a car and finally a space of his own (a bachelor pad that i’ve decorated with candles, fluffy blankets and, fairy lights hehe). Up until this year James and I had spent most of our relationship travelling to and fro on trains and, on constant facetime calls. Long distance has been simultaneously really easy for us but also just really bloody draining. From March we’ve both been pretty much inseparable. Not in a ‘oh I can’t be without you’ cheesey pathetic way but in a way, I don’t really want to be away from you anymore. We find life much easier when we’re together. I will say though our current living situation is like some weird social experiment. We have to keep reminding each other that this is NOT what living together in the future will be like. Being under tier 3 restrictions and, living in a city that has none of our family and friends nearby we’re pretty much stuck in on our own. As our friend Dave put it on zoom the other day, if our relationship can stand this we’re set for life haha.

Final year thus far has been actually my favourite term of university yet, work-wise. My modules this year are American Fiction, Literature of the Romantic Period, Constructing Childhood and Youth, Responding to Special Educational Needs and, then my dissertation counts for two modules. It’s all been quite interesting so far but, ooooooft online university involves a lot more hard work (in my opinion). Zoom seminars and tutorials require you to put so much more effort in I think, it can be quite draining. I’ve found i’m doing a heck load of prep work this year butttt, in a way I do kind of like that? It’s a weird love hate relationship. If there was ever going to be an academic year where I needed to be pushed harder and be pushed to be more switched on, it’s final year so in that sense I think online uni is doing me a favour. I’ve taken to working alongside James (as he works from home most days) so i’m structuring my days as literally working 9-5 Monday to Friday. That might seem like a lot to some people but, to me it works really well and means I can have my weekends free (something I’ve never really had in my previous two years at uni). This is not how I ever imagined my final year at Durham but, I’m trying to make the most out of my final year learning under these two amazing departments. I want to soak it all up and, fingers crossed i’ll be able to make the most of Durham the city in the final two terms.

What else to tell you. OH THREE YEARS LATER SHE’S ONLY GONE AND DONE IT…well, half of it. Alice Maher has finally completed her driving theory test. This might not seem that big of an achievement for some of you but, I’ve been putting off driving for ages. I’ve had on and off lessons for the last three years but I’ve just never been that passionate about driving. This year I set it as my goal to pass. Due to the back-log of tests it meant my theory got pushed back to late October so, my goal of having it all done and dusted by the end of the year is unlikely but, the end is a little nearer in sight now. I genuinely wept in the car after i’d passed it so god knows what i’ll be like when i actually pass the full exam!!

Also, those of you who don’t follow me in on Instagram might have missed the update…WE HAVE A NEW PUPPY. Our family dog Monty passed away last year, 2019, and it was just the worst thing ever. Unfortunately (and I foresaw this would happen), Stanley came home just as James and I moved out to the new flat. However, we got a couple of days with the little bundle of fluff and, when I popped home the other week he followed me round like a little shadow bless. Before I move onto the favourites for the month I just had to give you a dose of puppy cuteness.

Stanley, September 2020.
Stanley, September 2020.

october favourites

Had to sneak in some of my favourites from the past 31 days. Kicking it off with TV shows, if you’ve not watched Bly Manor yet- what are you doing with your life? It’s such a beautiful story and it had me balling my eyes out by the final scene. For an English Literature lover I must admit I geeked over the interpretations of Henry James’ works within the series, his differing characters and stories are so carefully crafted together into Bly Manor. For myself, and James, Bly Manor was far more beautiful and tragic than the first haunting installment ‘Hill House’. I adore gothic romances so it was just the perfect story for me, plus it scared the shit out of me on multiple occasions. There was a very specific moment that literally made me physically jump from my seat and shriek, loveeee it. Emily In Paris started out as a firm favourite that I could settle down to watch on my own in the afternoon. It’s cheesy beyond belief but I loved it. I mean I love anything with Lily Collins in, not going to lie. I will admit thought that I haven’t finished it yet so it didn’t have that full on binge element for me but it still gets to slide into my favourites for this month. The miserable days and being shut inside with nothing but depressing news popping up on our phones James and I turned to watching classic comedies this month: Outnumbered, Friday Night Dinner, Harry Enfield and Chums, Benidorm, Only Fools and Horses. We’ve watched them farrr to many times but, they’ve kept us going this month.

My reading content has switched back to uni reads but, there has been some really niche and interesting ones this past month. Firstly, ‘The History of Mary Prince’ a life narrative of Mary Prince- the first account of a black woman’s experience as a slave. It’s a heartbreaking, difficult but necessary read. Annie Proulxs ‘Close Range: Wyoming Stories” is a collection of short stories, including the infamous Brokeback Mountain, that aims to write against that stereotypical western narrative. It’s not my usual read at all, each story is incredibly gritty but would recommend if you’re after something a bit different to look at. I also read Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women and I highly recommend you read this book as soon as possible.

I fell back in love with journaling this month. Instead of pushing myself to write every night which leads to me inevitably forgetting and never making an entry again; I decided to sit down every Sunday to do a weekly summary. It’s worked really for me and, I’ve loved sitting down each Sunday to reflect and project forward my aspirations for the new week. It’s kept my mind feeling less cluttered and inspired a little bit of fresh motivation in me each week.

goals

This brings me onto reflecting on the goals I set myself at the start of this month. The first was to set a sustainable healthy eating and exercise routine- has that happened? Has it f***. I did try. For like a day lol. I think what’s so difficult at the moment is how can anyone find any motivation when the weather is gloom, your surrounded by crappy news and, you end up having to spend your entire life within four walls. I always seem to find excuses to not do something but, this is coming to a firm end and being left behind with this month. I don’t feel that great about myself at the moment and, it’s not going to get better the more I put it off.
So November goal one: firmly set off on a self love journey. I find that when I say ‘i’m going to diet’ or ‘i’m going to exercise’ i just don’t do it. My main priority right now is to start feeling better about myself, I want to be confident, feel a little less stressed and feel happier in general. I want to get into a habit of having ten to twenty minutes a day where i have a little meditation session, i want to start treating my body a bit kinder with what i put into it and moving it round, i want to just feel better in my own skin. I truly think if I focus on making my mind feel happier that i’ll be more motivated to sustain these new healthier routines. November is the month to begin the GLOW UP mentally and, if that brings some physical changes with it i shall welcome them with open arms.

One goal I have met this month was to get on top of university work and set up an efficient work routine. It was so important to me to settle into uni quickly in order to make sure this year didn’t overwhelm me. If you hadn’t already realised, it doesn’t take too much to overwhelm me haha. I knew I needed to make work a priority this year, i’m so close to the end and don’t want to let it slip at the final hurdle. As I said i’ve settled into a routine that works for me and overall i’m feeling fairly positive with regards to work!
In November I want to balance this with making sure I take time for me too. I don’t want work to take-over all aspects of my life. So far this month settling back into a university routine has made me neglect blogging and my Instagram. I adore writing and I adore creating content for my Instagram and don’t want that to stop. I need to make sure I save enough energy and time to put into my creative endeavours.

I’m manifesting November to be a month filled with happiness, self-growth, hard-work and self-love. It’s looking like it’s going to be a month spent enclosed within the four walls of our apartment so, I think it’s clear that this really does have to be a month where I place looking after me best I can as the priority. I encourage you to do the same. I’m sending so much love to each and every one of you, I can’t even imagine how difficult life is for so many people currently. It’s scary. Keep going, take it one day at a time. That’s what i’ll be doing.

Lots of love,
Al x

Reclaiming Your Identity After University by Ashlyn Baker

Before we dive in, let me introduce myself- I’m Ashlyn (@ashlynbaker.yt) from Liverpool, UK. I neverusally have to tell people I’m from Liverpool because they can guess from my accent. I don’t have an official title like ‘influencer’ that I align with so Content Creator will have to do for now. I create content for Youtube and Instagram at the moment. I’m introducing myself here as it gives you insight to why I am writing this article. 

I launched my YouTube channel on my birthday, the very beginning of my YouTube channel was university advice videos as that was what was relevant in my life at the time. I was 19 and totally in the University Bubble. I capitalise this as it is an entity in itself. If you, lovely reader, are in university at the moment firstly, god bless you for staying on during such a tumultuous time you have my upmost respect. Secondly, you may understand what I mean by the University Bubble without me having to explain. An analogy I can assimilate it to is reality tv like Love Island or Big Brother (you can tell what I like to watch here..). Those humans in the reality tv house are so invested in life inside the house they find it hard to think or relate to life outside the house. They take on the identity of ‘islander’ or ‘housemate’ and this is something which they will identify as for the rest of their life. Or as long as their Instagram account is popular for. In this instance, humans at university identify as ‘student’. ‘Student’ has connotations outside of the University Bubble and brings along a stereotype. Lovely reader, you may find yourself being pigeon-holed as a ‘student’ or ‘studenty-type’ for the rest of your life.  When you leave university, people will make jokes at your expense on account of your ‘student’ identity and you will feel differently about yourself especially around this ‘student’ identity. This is something NO ONE prepares you for. You’re welcome. For writing this article that is. Not for delivering hard truths. No nice person enjoys that.

Let’s talk about me for a while. (As a Leo Sun, that’s something I like to do a lot). During my time at university, I was so deep in the University Bubble that I struggled to maintain ties to people not at University. This included family and friends who hadn’t gone to university yet. I was accused of pushing people away and this wasn’t entirely untrue. To me however, it felt like there was such a disconnect between us and them that I didn’t know what to talk about. There was nothing we could relate to. My day-to-day living was not at all like it was when I was living at home and studying for my A-Levels. For example, I could work whenever I wanted and staying for extended periods at the library was a normal occurrence for me and my housemates. See, another similarity to Big Brother! At university, I finally understood why office hours are 9am until 5pm. I lived for the weekends to drink my exam stress away. I was surrounded by peers who could empathise with me 24/7 about everything. 

So what happened when the University Bubble popped? Well, lovely reader, I freaked out. There are so many emotions you feel when you graduate; important note here, I define graduating as much more than a one-day ceremony. Graduating is the gradual change from university to moving back home or moving into the working world. Makes sense why it’s called that now doesn’t it? When you graduate, you will feel relieved and apprehensive in equal measure. No longer under the duress of coursework or revision, it is like a weight has been lifted. On the other hand, how do you divide up your day, your week, your month or even your year? (I hope I can’t get copyrighted for that reference and I hope that you understood that reference!) It will feel like the blinkers have come off and you can see the ever-stretching expanse of the world unfolding in front of you. You will grasp at the tiniest idea of routine. This will feel even stronger if you don’t have anything lined up after university. News flash, no one really does. Even those who have plans, life will find a way to mess those up. Trust me, I was in my dream job before Miss Rona stuck her nose in. I wasn’t even good at my dream job but that’s a topic for another blog post…

Ashlyn, get to the point I hear you cry! How did you reclaim your identity after university? Lovely reader, I’m not sure I have. Who am I? Humans have been asking themselves this question for millennia. Here are some things I do know about my identity: I can understand ‘student’ issues and relate to how I felt back when I was in that position. but I no longer completely feel like a ‘student’. When trying to stick to short-courses during lockdown I found it really really hard to motivate myself. There are no deadlines to adhere to so why would I bother? Watching YouTube is much more fun. (Especially my channel *ahem*). With this said, I also still cling onto some aspects of being a ‘student’ in particular, binge drinking on a weekend with my friends (albeit via Zoom) to unwind. Not much has changed there! This may just be a character trait of mine though. I suppose what I’m saying is that when I see Facebook ads mentioning ‘student discounts’ or ‘back to uni’, I don’t click. They won’t grab my attention anymore. Studying content and pretty notebooks just don’t have the same gravitas. 

Identity is a bit of a grey area, lovely reader, and there are other aspects of it I’d like to comment on. Part of the process of moving home is reclaiming your identity not only for yourself but from others too. You can reclaim their previous perception of you/identity and show them how it has changed. Fingers crossed for the better. When you leave home, your parents/guardians worry about you because you’re not that ‘mature’ yet. Don’t get offended! More often than not it’s true. You haven’t had certain life experiences which they have had, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a simple fact of life. When you come back you probably will have had those experiences but because your parents weren’t at your side when you went through them they find it hard to accept you’re now more ‘mature’. Lovely reader, this is fine too!! This could be a whole other blog topic too so I’ll be brief here. Reclaiming your identity from others is harder than reclaiming your identity for yourself. There will be no guarantee that much of someone else’s preconceived ideas will change. Yet, you should still try! Hey, it may happen naturally. Lovely reader, who will you become after university? I’m excited for you to find out!

Thank you for reading and a MASSIVE thank you to Alice for allowing me to contribute on this blog !! Here are all my social links if you’re interested in hearing more from me…

Instagram | @ashlynbaker.yt
Youtube | Ashlyn Baker
Medium | ashlyn1baker
Enquries | ashlyn1baker@googlemail.com

August Readings

Every summer my ultimate goal is to read for pleasure. Doing an English Literature degree I can get swamped down by reading the classics so, love to take the time in summer to read anything I want. This summer, sadly, I swapped reading by a pool to reading before/after shifts at work. I didn’t get as much read as I would have liked but, the books I did read have been the best i’ve read all year. I thought I would do a quick review of each one and encourage you to pop them on to your reading lists!!

‘Caught’ Harlan Coben | Thriller, Crime | 3.5/5
Back in June I read ‘The Woods’ by Harlan Coben in one sitting. It was a proper page turner and I was eager to read another. Caught follows the events after a seventeen girl goes missing and, a reality tv show exposes a man they believe to be a sexual predator. What I loved more than anything was that there are crossovers between characters, i’ve only ever read two Coben novels but would love if all of them link through characters. It took me a little while to get into this novel compared to The Woods but oh my gosh once it gets going- you will not put this book down. Coben must be one of the most talented thriller writers of our generation- you must read his novels. If reading really isn’t your thing, Coben’s novels have been remade into multiple netflix series. ‘Safe’, ‘The Stranger’ and over lockdown Netflix even uploaded a Polish mini-series adaptation of ‘The Woods’.

‘Half The World Away’ Mike Gayle | Heartfelt | 3/5
This book popped up in my Amazon recommended and I thought I would just go for it (it had such a pretty cover). The story follows a brother and sister, separated when they were children by social services. Gayle splits the narrative between Kerry and Noah as you watch how their very different lives lead them back to each other. I reached the final chapters and just sobbed. Without even realising it I fell in love with Gayle’s characters and found myself heartbroken in the end. It’s heart wrenching but simultaneously completely uplifting. It’ll make you want to hold those you love most tight to your chest.

‘This Is Going To Hurt’ Adam Kay | Non Fiction | 5/5
I don’t know how to put into words how I feel about this book. It is just superb. In our current circumstances this book highlights exactly why we need to throw ourselves behind our beautiful NHS. I delighted in being able to read out the gory, grizzly tales Kay documents to my mum and boyfriend. I’m not a big reader of ‘non-fiction’ I often find it much harder to settle into reading. Kay’s book is a work of genius. It made me laugh, shriek, cry and fill with love (simultaneously) on nearly every page. I realise i’m so late to the party on this one but, now that I’ve read it I will forever urge anyone I meet to go read it. A masterpiece.

‘The Giver Of Stars’ Jojo Moyes | Romantic, Fiction | 4/5
My mum has not shut up about this book since she read it and from the first couple of chapters it was quite clear why. Moyes bases her story on the real Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky who, in depression-era America, rode on horseback to deliver books to the people of Kentucky. Moyes delivers a heartwarming narrative which above anything else highlights the beauty of female friendships. Topics such as racial abuse, mistreatment of women in a patriarchal society and domestic abuse make you wince and turn red with anger. I felt like I needed to scream at times I was just so unbelievably angry by the events that take place. I think that’s why I loved this book so much, it made me feel. It made me feel really bloody strongly and left me afterwards still reeling from the story. It’s a majestic narrative that would be suited for a big screen adaptation.

Where The Crawdads Sing’ Delia Owens | Romantic, Thriller | 5/5
I read this in two hours. I saw everybody and anyone talking about this on instagram and twitter so felt it was only right to see what the hype was about. Oh my gosh, the most beautiful book i’ve read in a long time. I completely fell for Kya as a character. I adore strong women and this is a strong literary female that should be marvelled at. It’s just wonderful. As an English Literature undergraduate I think it’s safe to say, i’m a huge romantic- what student of literature isn’t? Owens gives such a raw, honest, real portrayal of what it feels like to love. That gut wrenching surge of emotion that will give you everything you want or leave you alone in the marsh. For me, the sign of a powerful author is if the words on a page can fully absorb the reader. I felt every single emotion alongside Kya. For the two hours that I sat with that book in my hands, there was no difference between myself and the protagonist. I was in the story, I was Kya and with every page I turned I fell deeper and deeper into the trance. I think Owens has written a timeless piece of literature and that’s pretty rare nowadays.

Other books read since I came home from university in March include ‘Normal People’ (5/5), ‘Conversations With Friends’ (4/5), ‘Our Zoo’ (3/5), ‘The Woods’ (5/5), ‘Miss Austen’ (3/5), ‘Caging Skies’ (4/5), ‘The Testaments’ (3/5) and ‘Northanger Abbey’ (3/5). Going to go mourn a little bit now over the fact it’s back to the hard-core detailed reading of the Durham Uni English Literature lecture books but, i’m super excited to be honest about the narratives featuring this year. I’ve chosen to study American Fiction and Romantic Literature, very different and both full with such interesting novels. What have you all read this summer? Leave a comment below or come chat to me over on my Instagram (navigating_twenties). Till then, sending you a lotta love as always.
Al x