Towards the end of last year I mentioned on my Instagram Stories that I was due to start CBT. After an assessment by my local talk therapy service, they suggested counselling instead but gave me the option to choose. I took them up on their suggestion.
It’s been four weeks now. What is discussed and the process is private, but I did want to share something I was thinking about after the conclusion of yesterday’s session: that sometimes we are so convinced we aren’t loved, we miss the signs that show we are.
Someone innocently not replying. An ill-though through comment on social media. There are so many little signs we seek out to prove our anxious hypotheses are legitimate; we’re not mad, we’re just not liked. And social media, that feeling of being outside of the party, feeds anxiety like blood to Audrey II. In person, I have experienced unkind interactions I should have tackled in the moment but instead walked away, from, not placing the importance of my own feelings on the same level as those others, even though confrontation doesn’t have to be confrontational and clarifying tension can reveal the moment was never even intended to be taken as an attack.
So what if, instead of looking for the things that prove that we are hated and don’t belong, we open ourselves to the idea that others care for us, because the signs are there to be found. And you in turn have the power to project that care outwards too.
In this particular climate, where we are physically further apart from one another than we ever thought we could be and our personal worlds are shrinking, it’s never been easier to make someone’s day. It’s as easy as moving things away from social media, where 280 characters feels like an exchange for social currency, and going direct. You don’t need to tell your friends you love them – even messages them a photo or a link or meme works wonders – because it’s the thought that counts.
I know we can’t all afford to send flowers to everyone. But maybe you’re having a clear out and you stumble across something a friend might like. If you can’t send it right now, keep hold of it for them. Share a recipe and compare notes. Meet up online for a multiplayer game. Take turns recommending films to hate watch on the same evening and exchange voice note reviews (as they do on the Kermode and Mayo Film Review podcast with their Lockdown Correspondents).
I have one friend who is so excited about the house I’m renovating into a home with my partner that he bought us a hand wash several months ago and sent me a photo of him removing the wrapping. It’s incredibly kind of him to be so thoughtful, but I’m more touched by the fact he’s so supportive of what we’re doing and he’s keen for the project to move along. He’s top of housewarming invite list (eta 202?). (This same person, who I went to for watch advice last year for also literally made a video of recommendations simply because he appreciated being asked.)
I’ve also had a couple of moments in the past couple of months that also changed my outlook, simply by hearing from third parties about how much a guesture was appreciated. (Oh and a hilarious video of my animal-mad niece cuddling the cuddly bear I was gifted at a Brawl Stars event at the end of last year and thought she might like.)
Personally I’ve spent too long on social media feeling like I’m outside of an exclusive party, forgetting I’m actually part of a different one where people want me to be. Don’t be that past me, wasting time before you discover you’re where you need to be. Reach out to the people who are important to you and make those little moments count.
Recently I have developed a thing for girl groups.
Actually that’s not true – I’ve always loved a great girl band and probably been overly harsh towards those that don’t impress me in the same way – Girls Aloud? Yes please. The Saturdays? Hmm, I’ll allow one or two of their songs. I even did a podcast episode about the greatest songs by girl bands (which I probably would change because great songs get released all the times).
So really I should say; I’ve developed a thing – nay, a fascination – with BLACKPINK, the South Korean K-pop quartet.
I’m not sure when I first became aware of Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé. Their group name was on the fringes of my conciousness for a while (probably aided by the success of League of Legends’ fantasy K-pop act K/DA), but when I heard their collaboration with Lady Gaga, Sour Candy, I still didn’t realise their status as the world’s most popular girl group. Then one night, home alone and not feeling like going straight to bed after a long day of watching and working on a CSGO broadcast, I saw Blackpink: Light Up the Sky on Netflix and instinctively hit play.
If you’re not familiar with the K-Pop idol industry the documentary gives a good overview; tweens and teenagers are auditioned by management companies (BLACKPINK are a YG Management act) where success means taking a place in a training boarding school, but does not guarantee a trainee a “debut”, where they are unveiled to the world as part of a new act, or that they won’t be cut during one of the managements’ monthly showcases. Some trainees learn their craft for the best part of a decade, learning the art of singing and performing choreography at the same time. Dancing is a hugely important part of the training school – BLACKPINK’s songs are hard to imagine without the iconic dances that accompany them and there is even a “lead dancer” role in the group, attributed to multitalented rapper Lisa.
The standard set for and by these idols seem impossible; impossibly thin, impossibly perfect. Moves on point, epic delivery. In some ways you should not relate to these women because you cannot be them. Their girl power anthems are about how they are “pretty savage”, as opposed to how you are beautiful on the inside and should love yourself. And it’s intoxicating; do I want to love myself for who I am, or do I want to go out and show how awesome I can be? BLACKPINK most certainly strive for the latter; they go out and slay, and rather than be torn down for their confidence, they are worshipped for it.
However, in their Netflix documentary, we actually get to see behind the precision and polish witnessed in their numerous performances. (I’ve been binging them on YouTube to pass the time during weight training over the past week, discovering that the group’s discotography is shorter than their global domination would suggest.) We understand that these women have grown up together – unlike the pop groups seen on Top of the Pops in the noughties – and we see their initial auditions for YG Management, which show talented but fairly normal young girls who might be passed over by X Factor producers, let alone reach Simon and co.
However, reaching the goal that is unattainable to most can mean sacrificing who you are, in order to become who you are needed to be.
In one scene, Rosé is seen playing her keyboard and talking about her insomnia. Later, in one of the more vulnerable moments of the film, the emptiness experienced after performing to a packed arena is explained. I think that’s the moment that most resonated with me and led to the obsession. Because last year, the year of travelling the world doing my dream job, was the loneliest of my life.
But I’m not a k-pop superstar, I’m someone who talks to star players and tells their stories. At LAN events , I watch them strive for the top, achieve their goals or fall short. And then I go back to my hotel room and prepare to do it again the next day. In the arena I soak up the emotions of the people I speak to, take a plane home and spend two days (if I have them) either in a weird void where I can barely communicate as the adrenaline suddenly drops off, or buried in my laptop preparing for the next trip. In Cologne recently the best nights were the ones where I got to play CS with people I knew, replacing the rush of being live with the excitement of trying not to die in a virtual environment.
This year, when everyone’s plans changed, isolation and FOMO set in and continues its hold on me and many more. Now I weight train to BLACKPINK. Skid on the floor in my socks mimicking their DDU-DU-DDU-DU fingerguns. Google what the “netizens” (internet citizens) are saying about Jennie in an attempt to understand why she’s somewhat controversial. During my pre-show hair and makeup routine, I’ve discovered rapper CL of BLACKPINK’s precursor 2NE1, who doesn’t have a 24 inch waist like most of her peers, but does have the flow and the stage presence of a global superstar, holding court in a way I could only dream of.
I’ve found escapism in the fantasy worlds portrayed by these women in their performances. Where you can be a “bad bitch” and be celebrated for it rather than feared or despised, and selling yourself short is unheard of. I indulge in those three minute moments of musical joy, knowing deep down, it’s an illusion, but one that’s easier to attain than loving myself for who I currently am.
Next week I’m recording a song in an actual recording studio – something I never imagined I’d get to do. Working with a producer who sent me an instrumental he was working on, I’ve written a lyric and melody that – like a K-pop song – reflects the person I wish I was, rather than who I am. But I’m hoping in the studio I can become her. When I walk out at the end of the session, I’m going to try and take that with me.
I’m in the middle of some rare time off. It turns out this doesn’t come naturally to me, although this time round I’ve relished the opportunity to stop treating Spider-Man on PS4 as a to-do list (get the rucksacks! Beat up the criminals in their hideouts! Catch pigeons etc…) and actually have the time to enjoy and finish the surprisingly emotional storyline.
I know I need to reset – the issue is that I feel horribly guilty if I don’t have Twitch open with ESL Pro League [EPL] on watching every moment like my life depends on it, but I need to get trains and see family I’ve barely seen in the past year or so, go out with friends before they think I’ve abandoned them (or disappeared entirely) and play some games for myself offline.
However, I’m also trying to get in at least one game a day of League of Legends to learn more about the game, and streaming CS:GO whenever I can. And when I stream it on my Twitch Channel, I’ve noticed the same comments and questions frequently popping up. So, while I watch a rerun of Luminosity v MIBR playing in Montpellier from the comfort of my sofa, I thought I’d answer a few…
“Why are you streaming and not watching EPL right now?”
I’m now trying to find a balance when I have time at home, adding streaming into the mix so I can start playing CS:GO for myself and learn the callouts I’m less familiar with, feel the effects of patch changes and enjoy the feeling of getting better – I have approximately 23-24 hours in the game; I have quite possibly watched around 400 hours this year at eight events spanning five continents – some days I could be watching for up to 14 hours if it ends up being a 16 hour broadcast day, so those hours do add up.
We’re very lucky in CS:GO to have HLTV. I can look at at least any tier 1 or 2 match and see the story of that series in numbers form, plus highlight clips. Essentially, it means I can retell the story for myself if I can’t watch every tournament. It’s a bit like when I’m covering A stream matches as an interviewer, and can’t watch the B stream as closely – I’ll recap those results at the end of the day and add them to my notes.
Also, fantastic podcasts such as Richard Lewis’s By the Numbers and HLTV Confirmed are brilliant for deeper analysis as well as a wider view for what’s going on in the scene. I’m desperately awaiting the return of Globally Offensive, from HenryG, Stunna and Spunj, as it’s a joy to listen to when I’m travelling.
CS:GO isn’t just my occupation – I genuinely do love it, and now I’ve started playing, I can’t stop thinking about my next opportunity to hit the server.
How are you a host in CS if you can’t play the game?
Just because I’m currently playing barely above the level of “horrible”, it doesn’t mean I don’t understand what’s happening when I’m watching CS – the more I cover the scene, the more I’m learning. I also get to work with fantastic analysts who I can ask about things that happen in game that I need breaking down. However, I do understand what I’m watching, and I do a ton of research before each event and have formed working relationships with the teams.
However, I do hope that playing CS:GO more regularly will help me even more when I’m working – I’m not perfect and there are areas in my role that I would like to strengthen. I can lack confidence discussing gameplay, despite knowing what I’m talking about – so I want to be more fearless with the questions I ask, and be more direct.
Why does she look down at the keyboard? She doesn’t play video games!
I’m still learning a few of the key binds. When I first learned to play Overwatch a few years ago, I had a similar issue – I just started playing it off stream so no-one saw the most awkward stuff… Also, as I keep playing, I really don’t do it much anymore – in a few streams, my movement has noticeably improved as those things become more intuitive.
In terms of playing games, I’ve been playing since I was five years old, starting out on Monkey Island II on my dad’s laptop and Sonic the Hedgehog on the SEGA Master System,
What’s wrong with your crosshair?
Nothing. I haven’t felt the need to change it, and just because it offends you, doesn’t mean I have to change it. Same with knives, skins etc…
Why aren’t you [insert unsolicited gameplay advice here]?
I’m not taking tips from Twitch Chat. I spend far too long when I start each CS stream communicating with backseat players. I’m getting better as I keep going; sometimes I’m playing a map for the first time – today I played Inferno for the second time. And it’s REALLY hard. Overpass and Mirage are currently my favourites – I’ve only played Overpass twice and Mirage four, maybe five times; the latter is my most-played map.
Luckily, I’ve watched so much CS that certain aspects of rotating, positioning on the CT sides come naturally – but I don’t know every single callout yet, so I’m trying to learn those, but it can lead to stupid mistakes where I look offscreen at a callouts diagram and get shot in the back – I’m going to download something to add this to my actual radar to solve this issue going forward.
And I didn’t buy kevlar just then because I decided to buy more firepower instead.
Why are you so rude?
When people ignore my requests for them to let me enjoy playing and learn through experience, and keep writing “tips” and critiques in chat, then I will be a lot firmer in how I dismiss their feedback. It quite simply isn’t valuable to me and it’s patronising. It’s my stream, so I set the rules. I have a mature channel warning that displays when you first visit my stream – I swear quite a bit.
I’m 30 years old. I have no fucks left to give.
What rank are you?
I don’t have one. I don’t play ranked. Less than 25 hours in the game, mate…
Why don’t you play ranked? It’s the best way to learn…
I had such a bad experience solo queuing before I started streaming CS, that I’m going to avoid that route for the foreseeable; I play video games because I enjoy them. What I enjoy is playing with viewers and having a laugh when I fail – and I get so excited seeing my teammates and opponents make incredible plays too. At the start of each match, I post a PopFlash link in my Discord and Twitch Chat so that the community can jump on and play – and it means I don’t fill up my Stream friends with people I don’t know personally.
Everyone I’ve played with from the Twitch community has been funny and supportive – and that’s exactly why I’m facing public humiliation by learning the ropes on stream; I’m becoming better because of these fantastic people, and I’m very lucky to have volunteers willing to join me on the server.
Here’s a few clips to show some of that progress… And it gets a bit sweary, sorry kids.
Written while – yes, you guessed it – sat in an airport…
Hoodies with internal pockets (or clothing with pockets in general) are a godsend. I recently discovered a hoodie I was gifted while working at last year’s DreamHack Austin has two massive internal pockets I can keep boarding passes, passport and my phone in, with room for plenty more. Flippin’ game changer, mate.
Pledge allegiance to an airline, especially if you’re flying long hauloften. I have decided that this is the year I politely request British Airways from the tournament organisers I work with. The higher status I earn, the easier travelling will become – I’ll start being able to reserve seats without paying, for example. (I absolutely begrudge having to pay simply to sit in a window seat when a long haul flight isn’t on a budget airline).
If a seat in your preferred location is not available upon check in, all may not be lost. The check-in desk can sometimes sort you out…
… That being said, make sure the miracle final seat you were changed to isn’t in an awkward location. I’ve been traumatised from ever sitting in an aisle seat on long haul flights ever again after I was moved to an aisle seat in the central block on an Aer Lingus flight from LA. I had been sleep deprived due to jet lag and post-show adrenaline for two weeks and was desperate to catch-up on some sweet shuteye. Unfortunately, my seat was across the aisle from the loudest airplane bathroom in existence – and my seat neighbour decided crossing his arms and forcing me sideways into the edge of my seat was perfectly acceptable. Every time someone used the bathroom or walked past by seat they would knock into me. But I couldn’t be moved because the flight was completely full. I’ll never fly Aer Lingus long haul again – it’s one of my few non-negotiable terms when accepting work overseas.
If you’re flying long haul on a budget airline like Norwegian take your own blanket and food. It’s extortionate to book an in-flight meal, so I’d highly recommend taking your own food and water. Blankets cost extra, and you’ll probably never use it again. In fact – have mine.
Research for comfort and value for money. Norwegian Airlines themselves fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliners on their LA and San Francisco routes – the same planes used by Virgin on the same flight paths, but have been subject to issues around delays and flight cancellations, so double check their policies. United Airlines premium economy offering is no more comfortable than Virgin’s economy service. Virgin premium economy is fabulous – but it’s going to cost you. Delta legroom isn’t great, but Sky Team rewards is apparently worth it. Star Alliance aren’t quite as generous with their upgrades (going by word-of-mouth on the latter insight).
Recently I was lucky enough to visit Shanghai to work with StarLadder and ImbaTV – wearing my favourite flying hoodie (photo below)
Some airlines still don’t offer vegetarian options straight off the trolley.I experienced this on KLM recently while travelling back from Brazil. British Airways’ route from Shanghai has a menu that caters to their Chinese customers, so is less likely to feature vegetarian too. As I am intolerant to the pulses usually present in pre-booked vegetarian meals, I always have a quiet word with the staff once I board to see if they can reserve me a vegetarian or fish option, and they’ve always been very helpful.
If you suffer from migraines, avoid alcohol. Ultimately, you know what works best for you, but wine and dehydration on flights usually ends in disaster for my brain…
Bring earplugs and an eye mask. Good noise cancelling headphones are worth every penny. I’m never without anti-bac gel and always have a clear wallet with my toiletries for security on my person (currently I travel so much it doubles up for taking on set in case of emergencies so it never strays far from my rucksack). Decant your favourite toiletries – miniatures are a ripoff unless you’re road testing a new product. I’ve recently invested in face masks to try and protect me from getting ill (I’m particularly susceptible it seems), but I’m lacking the courage to actually use them for an entire flight.
Almost every airport I have visited has water fountains after security. Take a recyclable bottle – particularly useful for those shorter flights where refreshments end up costing you a second mortgage. Plus, it’s better for the planet – and flying really isn’t, so I guess it’s a minor consolation.
One of the amazing things about having a growing social platform is having an instant connection to people.
But also – let’s be honest – it’s also because sometimes people invite you to things because people are following you on Twitter, and invite you to stuff.
At the start of last year very few people knew who I was. Now a handful do – I’m not famous by any means (I’m more recognised for being the “maneater from E3”, or the “girl who interviewed Doc and Shroud at that PUBG thingy”), but my social profile went from a few thousand on twitter, to five times that (my barely updated Instagram saw followers increase by 12,000 in the hour that I co-hosted the aforementioned PC Gaming Show at E3 in June).
Similarly, more people watch when I stream on Twitch – again, not massive numbers (I couldn’t maintain a regular schedule and be a full-time host), but enough to keep chat moving.
Social media is very important to what I do – it’s where I can announce which projects I’m working on next, connect with friends and followers, and keep up with news. Having a healthy number of “likes” can be the key to booking more work – and although I’m resisting being labelled an influencer so far, sometimes that’s why companies will book me.
But this near-constant communication with the wider world has some side effects, and one I realised when I took up one of those free invites.
I was asked if I’d like to try out a new escape room – AIM Escape in East London. I took one of my oldest friends, and we brought our other halves too. The room was dark and atmospheric. At first, we flew through the initial puzzles of the Psychopath’s Den room – team work on point. Then in the next stage, myself and my friend worked out exactly what we had to do – there was just one detail (I’m trying to be vague with the details to avoid spoilers) that we got wrong. For some reason we didn’t fix this detail right away, and that’s when I noticed it; the voice of the Psychopath was back-seating me. His robotic voice was telling me what I needed to do – even though I was clearly already doing it.
I want to put a disclaimer here before I go further; I don’t think the staff (who were fantastic) could hear me; the priority of the venue is entertainment and storytelling and the delay from the first time we got stuck, we must have lost time, so they were trying to help us catch up. I genuinely enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to everyone.
After it happened a few times, I lost it; I was being back-seated away from my Twitch screen, away from my mobile phone, away from everything. Escapism in the escape room was not going to be possible.
Would this have bothered me in a world without Twitch or Twitter? Maybe – but certainly not as much.
Recently, I’ve found streaming increasingly hard to do; “why didn’t you pick up that AR [in PUBG]?”, “Put your hips into it [Just Dance] more!”, “jumping is easy if you switch it to your third mouse button [in Half-Life]”. The instructions and critiques feel endless and never ending. As they mount up in mentions and Twitch Chat, they also become harder to ignore. People have invested their time and attention in me – and for that I am grateful – but some expect me to morph into something I am not and cannot become.
Then there’s the comments on my appearance (always from men); “that shade of red doesn’t suit you”, “this lip colour isn’t your best”, “if I found you sleeping… I would iron your hair”, “I prefer your hair when it was long” (the latter is odder when you take into account that my hair is around the same length as when I started streaming – but some keen commenters have scrolled back through three years of photos to find me fringeless with long, flat curls). If I reveal on Instagram that I’m getting my hair cut, I lose followers before they’ve even seen the results.
I’ve started to react more strongly – or even overreact – when I sense the comments are coming now. I sometimes try ignoring them, but occasionally I see things I can’t ignore, or a weariness about continuing the broadcast pervades.
So, as I begin my Half-Life 2 play through, I’m going to do my best to stop responding to the people who tell me to “press shift to run”; my stream, my rules, my right to ignore “feedback”
Occasionally I see comments on social media that remind me of naive days as an eight-year-old, when insults could reflect the attitudes of a seventies sitcom.
This was back in the days when kids (and some parents) weren’t educated on what it meant to be gay – calling each other a “gay lord” was the insult of choice, second only to calling a girl a “fat bitch”.
But we are older now. We know this is wrong – we would be horrified and tell our kids so if we heard them speak the way we did on the playground.
Or so I thought.
Language is power; Martin Luther King had a dream, Harvey Milk gave us hope, a teenage Malala Yousafzai wrote words so eloquent they scared grown men. All three of these peaceful orators inspired the world – and drew such fearful opposition, they risked – or lost – their lives in the pursuit of fairness.
We live in a world where people are still killed because of the sexuality or the skin colour they are born with; sometimes both. Even in countries where steps are being made towards celebrating and championing the one publicly marginalised LGBTQ+ community, homophobic manifests itself in the most common of places; offices, public transport, street corners. It is highly likely that someone in the Western world, who has not been born with white skin, or is openly not straight, has had some level of verbal abuse thrown their way.
Certain words have been used to portray groups of people as “other” and, as language is an ever-evolving thing, these words can change, while communities can also reclaim words as their own.
Compassion is a simple thing – we can choose to feel it, to bestow it upon others, or we can decisively ignore any inclination towards it. Recently, I’ve seen people online decide that being compassionate would impact too greatly on their rights. “It is a slippery slope”, they say, “to give up words that meant so much to us growing up”.
I have the ability – nay, the right – to say whatever I like, but I also have the responsibility – particularly given the public platform I am lucky to have – to be the change I want to see in the world. The change I want is for all people to experience equality – to not face the stinging slap of a derogatory word meant to hurt someone due to a characteristic that is categorically not a flaw, but is treated by some as if it is.
While you have the right to say what you want, the choices are there; your friend being a dickhead doesn’t make them gay; it makes them a dickhead. Therefore, why not just call them a dickhead? (And besides, it’s hardly fair to tar the gay community with the brush that is your annoying friend.)
When I’m streaming and find myself in a spot of bother, the f-bombs come flying out of my mouth. But I’m directing the aggressive language at myself, or at the game I’m playing. It can be funny – but I’m not tearing anyone down at the same time.
Bringing things back to compassion; people make mistakes – just like my generation did on the playground way back when. I don’t believe people should be hunted, or lose their jobs, or suddenly find the world at their Twitter handle if they do use these words. And besides, these moments are usually followed by a public apology where the issue is highlighted, hopefully making more people aware that their favourite derogatory term maybe isn’t worth holding onto anymore.
At the end of the day, you still have the right to call me anything you want, but when I’m being a dickhead, call me one.
At the end of this year (27th December to be exact), I’m turning 30.
When I tell people this they often want to relay their deepest sympathies, or feign shock; “but you don’t look older than 26!” etc. (By the way, I enjoy this – keep it coming, people.)
Oddly, it’s not the birthday I’m fearing, it’s simply “the end”. My OCD likes to latch onto the smallest seed of dread and replay it in my brain until the echo becomes too much to ignore. Late into the night, my mind calculates my life expectancy and the eventual absence of everything once it’s all over. And it simply started because I one day realised I had reached a level of happiness I hadn’t experienced in years.
I’ve been trying to be better recently at taking in my surroundings, enjoying seeing the world as part of my job, and – perhaps my age is a factor in this – I’ve become far more aware of my environment. Instead of inwards thinking, I’ve moved towards the opposite, and the idea of losing it is terrifying.
It turns out that the hardest part of being a freelance host is the downtime – I love working, I love being busy. Suddenly at home in an empty house, while friends work towards the weekend, I find myself thinking too much.
But I was always a self-starter – and so now I need to kick myself into touch and make something of my time off; be it heading into the outside world, streaming, podcasting and writing.
So let’s reflect on the good stuff; here are some of the life lessons – frivolous or otherwise – that I’ve learned so far.
Girls are natural born leaders, but we’re told to be quiet and commonly called “bossy” as a negative trait as soon as we start speaking. This often follows us through our teenage years and even into the workplace. After being bullied for years at my primary school, I took the 11 Plus exam and ended up going to a totally different school from everyone else bar one girl, and found my voice. I’ve lost it again in previous workplaces, but I’ve found it again in the past year or so and it’s incredibly freeing.
Losing a job doesn’t mean losing everything. Admittedly the biggest heartbreaks I’ve experienced have been from work rather than relationships. I’m absolutely someone who throws themselves into work – especially given that it takes up so many hours of the day. However, just because you didn’t “fit” somewhere, or there wasn’t a perceived need for your area of expertise, there’s a place for you and people who will love you and your work.
If you want to do something, do it. So, if you want to be a writer, write a blog – practice and publish. In this day and age, there’s no reason why not. If you want to be an esports caster, cast your friends playing a competitive match or watch out for events that allow you to “co-stream” tournaments with your own commentary. Although my break into hosting was through standing in for people onstage when I was a producer, I also made my own video content for years and got practice through interviewing people, so when I did stand in, it wasn’t obvious I was new to being onstage in that kind of environment.
Endings can make the best starting points. Work hard, and be good to those you work with and it’ll pay off when you really need it to.
That said… If someone isn’t nice to you, you don’t have to be nice back. It’s not unprofessional to not pander to someone who is making your life and your job difficult. Be firm, and stay focused on your own lane. And make sure you share your experience of this behaviour with someone you trust, so you know someone has your back when the going gets tough.
Focus on your strengths. Don’t worry so much about “weaknesses” – collaborate with others and delegate according to each others’ strengths. Team work makes the dream work, after all.
When I was younger, all I wanted was a place of my own. I managed it – buying a shared ownership place in Bow when I was 23, with savings and by selling some shares my late granddad had left to me and my sister.
However, in the process I sacrificed freedom to move; I could not leave my place for long periods of time or take risks in work. But the same time, I loved living by myself – with subsidised rent I wasn’t paying any more than any of my other friends in London; I could play guitar, bake without feeling guilty about taking up space and exercise freely.
Being a single woman in a city like has its disadvantages. Pre-Uber I’d want to get the night bus home but I’d also be terrified of walking late at night on my own. I armed myself with door keys and occasionally ran part of the way on the nights I did “risk it”. One time, I even went into the MacDonalds at Bow Roundabout and stuffed my valuables in my bra before I took the 4am trek.
I look back now on my fervent savings and my fear of the dark and wonder how much I missed on my “responsibility-free 20s”. (It’s probably why I rarely miss an after party these days.)
Exercise is a tough habit to form, but feels awful to break. Although I did some ballroom dancing classes at uni, I didn’t really have a routine as such. Several years ago I discovered Davina McCall DVDs and got hooked. I do associate my thinnest periods with my saddest – nightly solo DVD workouts followed by a lonely microwaved fish fillet in Willesden Green is apparently an incredibly fast way to lose weight (do NOT see this as a recommendation) – but I’m bereft without my near-daily sessions of Fitness Blender or Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube. Exercise puts me in control of my body, and gives me energy; dumbbells have made me feel powerful, and public classes have pushed me to give it my all.
When you lose a friend, they’re never truly “gone”. My friend Ben passed away just over a year ago. I’d never experienced the death of someone so young before, or so unexpectedly. Without him, life continues, but when those milestones – weddings, christenings and the like – arrive, we raise a glass to our absent friend, and in the day-to-day we see him in the most ridiculous of observations.
My older sister recently gave birth to her first child. My impatient niece arrived a month too early while I was in the middle of a production meeting about the Overwatch World Cup. I finally got to meet her a couple of weeks later and, while it was lovely to finally see the new arrival, I was also very much overcome with just how incredible my sister is – I’ve never been prouder of anyone my entire life.
It appears to be a horribly unfair reality that a lone woman in a workgroup of men will represent “all women”. Whereas if there is more than one woman, then they will be pitched against one another. When I appear onstage or play games online I always have that lurking within my subconscious. However, I also use it to drive me forward; if you want to place me on that “all women” pedestal, I’m going to show that women can absolutely knock this out of the park.
It’s very easy to give up part of your life to accommodate your partner’s. It’s not even always your partner’s fault – women in particular will make the effort on entering their other half’s life and feel guilty about asking their partner to reciprocate the effort. Don’t lay your identity down for anyone. After years of automatically doing this, I had the most “selfish” year of my life, spending long weeks (often consecutively) away from home – and it turned out my boyfriend just wanted what would make me happy. And when he was offered a three-month theatre tour, I supported him back.
If you start to feel like a shadow of your former self, leave. Even if you’ve got a mini break to Venice booked and you know for a fact he’s already bought you a Christmas present.
Just cos your mate fancies him, doesn’t mean you have to fancy someone else.
Jealousy is natural. Making someone change the way they behave because you don’t trust them isn’t. If you can’t get past that sinking feeling, maybe they’re not “the one”.
Nan knows best. Or at least she does in my case – she decided my boyfriend was a catch when they first met six weeks into what became a long-term relationship. Although explaining you met on Tinder to someone close to 90 is quite the challenge.
Dating apps aren’t bad, but they get repetitive. Although I’ve not used Tinder for close to four years now, I lost count of the number of profiles that featured men skiing, surfing or in groups where you couldn’t determine who the eligible bloke was. Sometimes profiles were solely comprised of the latter. I have only met one man who I couldn’t impose my Tinder profile feedback on (I’ll admit, I’m terribly nosy on this front).
Arguing doesn’t mean you’re going to break up – just don’t be stubborn and talk it through. If both sides aren’t out there, it’s going to be hard to move forward.
If someone doesn’t like you, that says more about them than it does you. That goes for all aspects of life.
I realised recently that my boyfriend is my best friend. It’s quite helpful as we share many things (including moisturiser, inventing our own catchphrases and doing impressions of Tom Hardy in the vastly overrated BBC drama Taboo), but if anyone wants to know our “secret”, I think our relationship works because we’re privileged enough to be able to afford a cleaner.
It had taken me time to adjust to being abroad for holiday, rather than work, one day bordering on a panic attack as we swam in actual seawater on an otherwise idyllic boat trip, powered by Aperol and a French skipper, (who had casually mentioned jellyfish before our group jumped in). Ben had noticed my fear and paddled towards me, guiding me back to the boat. He was not someone who left his friends behind.
I didn’t realise that the last time I would see Ben would be on that train.
And yet – here’s the thing – Ben was never going to not be around. He lives on at gatherings, in the WhatsApp group his devoted friends created in his memory. In stories, impersonations of his unique mannerisms and phrasings, and in the bizarre newspaper articles we send each other that he would undoubtedly have discovered first for our amusement.
I’ll never be able to understand the decision of taking away one’s own life, but I know that it is an internal debate that effects so many people. Therefore, I’m planning to hold a fundraiser for Mind (a UK-based mental health charity) in October, and I want to call on members of the PUBG community to get involved.
If you’re a competitive PUBG fan, you may have seen me pop up at various PUBG tournament desks, or brandishing a mic onstage. I love talking about the game at its highest level, and the teams involved.
However, if you’re familiar with my Twitch stream, you’ll also be aware that I’m a horrible PUBG player.
I panic, I wail and scream, I shoot bushes. Oh, and never, ever let me drive. Seriously.
So I thought I’d call on the pro players I get to discuss at events such as DreamHack and WSOE, and see if they’ll give up a bit of their time to try and make me a better player, along with the talent I share the stage with – my chicken dinner count is currently two and during the first of those my computer died mid game, so I wasn’t even there to see it. It’ll be an arduous task for them, so in a way, you’re kind of sponsoring them more than me…
Although the details are still flexible, the action will most likely play out over an eight hour stream on my Twitch channel, while my fellow squad members will be encouraged to stream and do some fundraising of their own (I’ll likely invite Twitch streamers to join also). I’ll be rotating squads every hour. I currently think Saturday 29th September Sunday 30th September may be a good date, but there may be clashes with online leagues, so will be happy to take feedback on whether this date is suitable.
I’m looking for pro players and Twitch Partners who are interested in joining me to get in touch asap – a DM on Twitter or emailing me is the best option. The same for sponsors, or anyone who would like to be involved in some way.
Does it offend you? Don’t worry – there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, I’m just being curious. Because – unlike what you may have initially thought – I’m not offended by this advert; I’m merely bored by it. I’m bored by the slim blonde woman. Sent to sleep by the block colour background and statement lettering. Yawning at the implication that not only is the packaging small, but the model is draping herself over the phrase, physically linking herself to it; “think small! Drink our small drink and be small!” Don’t make yourself big, don’t be big and don’t think bigger than this. After last year’s Protein World “Are you beach body ready?” debate, you would have thought portion ads marketed at women would have learnt a thing or two. Here the ad team must have seen the ban on outright body shaming ads and thought; let’s move the woman left of centre! And we’ll make it seem all about the product, even though there’s a yoga toned model in the corner, by only describing its ingredients and lack of gluten (perfect for the ‘clean’ eating brigade), rather than demonstrating its efficacy. I don’t want to body shame the beautiful model in this ad, but where are her flexed muscles? Where’s the sweat? The look of intent one gets when someone else has the machine in the gym you keep missing due to poor timing? Where’s the glint of pride earned from surpassing one’s own expectations in the hand weights section? The answer is not in this advert. It’s in gyms across the country. In parks, in living rooms and community centres. It’s in Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. It’s even in the recent Adidas Woman campaign where they invited loads of uniformly slim followers to don their three stripes and give thanks for Karli Kloss. I had a response on Twitter calling out my original tweet about this ad, picking up on protein not being a weight loss tool (I’d argue the visuals of this ad position it as one) and the common ‘would you say this if it was a man in the picture?’. But here’s the thing – of course it wouldn’t be a man in the picture. It’s a product aimed at women and their tiny lady hands and bags! A print campaign ignoring the fact that – going by my gym anyway – women’s gym essentials often include a hairdryers and a bag big enough to carry that and much more. If it was a male marketed product, the ad minds wouldn’t think small, they’d think huge! They’d focus on strength, power, size, stamina, sweat and inspiration.
The successful women’s campaigns make us feel empowered and part of a unit; we all sweat, we all experience an intense adrenaline rush from reaching our goals. But the goal of this ad is to look like a yoga-toned blonde white woman. And I ain’t buying it.
After all, what’s empowering about thinking small?
Recently I did something I never thought possible; I built a PC.
Despite what one misogynist visitor to my Twitch stream, women can build PCs – we have hands and brains just like men do (whaddya know)!
However, I would be honest and say that for this individual, PC building wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, so I’ve compiled this handy help guide in case you get a hankering to put your own rig together.
1. After saving for months on end, peruse Amazon and get mind blown by how many varieties of Intel i7 Core Processors are, what a PSU is (power unit, it turns out) and how much wattage you actually need to get the final thing to turn on.
2. Settle for a *slight* shortcut by buying a bundle from a third party Amazon vender called Components for All, featuring the CPU (Intel chip), CPU cooler (a fan), motherboard (brain) and RAM (not a sheep). Realise after buying that this lot is going to be put together by the company, meaning you’re less likely to blow the bloody metaphorical doors off and can just ‘stick it in’ to the case.
3. Order PSU, case, graphics card and settle on hard drive (HDD) because you don’t realise SSDs (solid state drives) can actually work without one. Then buy Windows on a USB stick because Linux would be a step too far.
4. Speak to dad. Audibly sense the disappointment in his voice when he discovers you’re owning something not created by Apple (that could one day end up in his graveyard collection of Macs).
5. Find initial enthusiasm of components arriving wears off very quickly when the various instructions in each box is ridiculously vague.
6. Find internet also ridiculously vague. What’s BIOS when it’s at home?
7. Put motherboard into case. Get confused by instructions about PCIe. Cry out “What’s a PCIe? WHY DIDN’T I BUY A PCIe?” Routinely hug the case, partly because of worries about static and the need to ground oneself, partly because everyone needs a bosom for a pillow, and if you haven’t got one a cold metal case will have to do.
8. Discover you own a PCIe in the shape of a graphics card. Spend 20 minutes wondering how to take off PCIe cover from case. Finally have guts to peel metal off while crying about how much this business has all cost, in money and tears.
9. Broadcast a Twitch IRL stream to get advice from lovely community about order of I/O front panel connectors. Then give up for the night.
10. Discover that it would have been an extremely good idea to connect those little front panel cables in the case up to the motherboard before the graphics card went in… Give a moderate scream as the cables keep popping out.
11. Breath a sigh of relief as build ends. Connect up to fancy BenQ screen.
12. Let out a scream of insanity as nothing happens.
13. Realise that part of the motherboard was lacking power. Discover from colleague and all-round life coach Iain that this was due to the 8 point cable from PSU was plugged into graphics card instead and actually this 8 point cable splits into two parts, one of which now goes into the motherboard, with a modular cable used to power the graphics card. Rage that none of this information was included in the PSU instructions box.
14. Try again; lights on front and the graphics card now turn on, as does the CPU cooler, but nothing happens on the screen. Scream. Repeat stage 6 and the latter part of stage 8.
15. In airport on way to Dreamhack Leipzig, speak to lovely man on phone from Components 4 All. He mentions that actually, the problem is probably using the wrong side of the 8 pin split and that’s why the thing isn’t turning on.
16. Get home from work trip, now a massive fan of German Twitch broadcasters and a self-confessed pretzel addict (I’ve gone cold turkey). Switch side of 8 pin in motherboard. Try to boot again. Light turns on, fan turns on… but nothing happens on screen. For once do not panic as nice man from step 15 also mentioned trying to turn on again without the graphics card.
17. Take out graphics card. Plug power and screen in again and switch on.