Sunday, 19 January 2020

How I'm Trying To Be More Zen

Yes, really. I'm that gal now.

It's January, which means it's the season of sorting your life out. Taking up new habits. Being productive. All that good stuff. But with the end of final year looming, I have felt the pressure racking up. So, I decided to make a few small changes to my daily routine to help manage my stress, and all in all, become more zen. So far, so good!


Morning and night yoga. This one is definitely the most potent change I've made. A few years ago, I went to weekly yoga classes, or when pennies were few and far between, I followed along with YouTube videos. It turns out just popping 10 minutes of gentle stretches and deep breathing, at the beginning and end of every day, really helps to release any tension in the mind and body, and slow stress down in its wake. Since doing this, I can't explain it, I just AM more zen.

Steadying my body clock. For years I've heard of people saying how our beneficial it is to stick to a routine body clock. No more accidental late nights or 3 hours hitting snooze. I've found that I'm my most productive in the mornings, so that's my time to be up and bouncing around. It's all to do with our body's natural tendencies; after 3pm I know I need a break or a walk, then 7pm I can push myself over one last study hurdle. But if you work better after 12pm, you do you boo. All that matters is your body knows what's up and feels all the better for it. Such zen, wow.

Creating a weekly master to-do list. I've always been a list kinda gal. Love em. Would surely flail without them. But creating a master to-do list for each week has taken my planning game to the next level. I detail everything, from tiny tasks to daily classes – even the morning and night yoga – so I can power through and see those tickboxes piling up. The more I realise how much I'm getting done, the more motivated and satisfied I feel. Bye-bye millenial guilt!

Actually winding down for bed. In the age of mobiles, tablets and laptop screens, it feels like I never really switch off. Especially in assignment season, I often used to work late and jump straight into bed, then wonder why it took me an hour to fall asleep. So, alongside the night yoga, around 30 minutes before my routine bedtime, I take myself away from the devices, stick on some relaxing music, slap on my skincare routine and hop into my pyjamas. Post-sleepy yoga, I clamber into bed and fall asleep almost instantly. It's miraculous! 10/10, would recommend.

As my final tasks pile up over the coming months, I really hope I keep this up.
Between publishing a book, looking for jobs, writing a TV pilot and numerous film essays,
I'll be looking for more zen in my life come Spring.

Here's hoping.


Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2019 Reflections and 2020 Goals

It's the dawn of a new era as the decade ends and the 2020s begin...

It's that time of year again. I love reading everyone's yearly roundups and it's great to be able to look back and re-evaluate where we are with our lives and where we want to be. Despite the last three years taking its time, my twenties seem to be hurtling by and the idea of embarking on a new decade is really quite daunting.  2019 hasn't felt like a winner but hasn't been bad. So, let's take a look...


In last year's post, the overall feeling was one of aiming high and actually doing things. I wanted to grasp the steering wheel of my life. Put myself out there. Feel the good feels. In terms of achieving my goals, I've certainly done all of them in some way, shape or form; from minimising my food waste, planning purchases and shopping sustainably where possible, I have tried to be less wasteful. For having more fun, I went on holiday, got involved in new societies, went on dates – I became more of a 'yes-man'. It didn't always work out, but more often than not it led to something good. As for recognising the good, my gratitude definitely increased this year. It might not have been a pivotal year, but it wasn't a bad one either.

Some personal highlights from 2019:
  • Saw my favourite band, The 1975, live for the third time in January.
  • Performed at poetry open mics throughout the Spring and won a prize for one of my scripts at Varsity.
  • Learned to make recipes like chilli and shepherds pie from scratch.
  • Had the best first date I've ever been on.
  • Nailed 2nd year, achieving a 1st for all of my assignments.
  • Posted some of my short stories online and submitted them for competitions. One small step 'n all that.
  • Visited my favourite place in the world (Dublin) in September.
  • Started hosting a radio show for DemonFM with one of my best pals, it's an absolute hoot.
  • Got to grips with honing my style and started refining my capsule wardrobe.
  • Discovered more about my writing style and gained a solid understanding of what kinds of writing work I want to pursue after university.
  • Saw my favourite musical, Blood Brothers, live for the 6th time in November.
  • Got a new cat! Her name is Smokey, she's a rescue and is such a q t. 

The Man by Taylor Swift

Of course, it wasn't all good. While it's great to look back, like everyone else, and say how wonderful it was, the internet is saturated with the good and to pretend every moment was a great one would be a lie. We're all human and my 2019 was still peppered with lonely nights and the existential crises of turning 25 while still being at university, plus the ever-growing presence of the climate crisis, not to mention the disheartening landscape of British politics. I don't feel like I'm skipping off into the sunset. But with the end of university on the horizon, I'm getting the itch to move on to new pastures. Hopefully, 2020 will be the year I see all the hours of work I put into my degree come to fruition, in a job I love to wake up for every day. In 2018, I wrote that I didn't know where I wanted to be but the murky waters are clearing and I'm starting to see at least the silhouette of who I may be after graduation, be it in one or five years time – if the planet hasn't burned by then.


Keep writing and keep learning. While of course the big goal is to literally be writing for a living, I know it's not easy. So post-grad Hollie will have a grace period, just in case she's not able to get a job in the field straight up. Plus, if university has taught me anything it's that brushing up on skills and knowledge is highly rewarding. After three years of it, it's likely there will be a deflated lull come September. So I hope that by the end of 2020 my nose is still keen to sniff out a new book and my hands are still busy scribbling away.

Keep doing my bit for the planet. Sustainability remains the name of the game. Despite my reservations on actually how much carbon I'm personally contributing to the atmosphere in comparison to all the big businesses out there, I'm still committed to doing my bit. Whether that's hitting up charity and second-hand shops, buying less in general, to meat-free Mondays. Maybe even hounding the supermarkets as to why the feck they still sell cucumbers wrapped in plastic also counts... Food for thought, eh lads.

Be kinder to myself. I am a serious sufferer of millennial guilt. In just this Christmas break I have wracked my brain with feelings that I should be doing more! But I also deserve to rest. As a perfectionist, I impose impossible standards on myself 99% of the time and it might get great results, but at steep prices. This last stretch of university is the most important, and now, the hardest because I'm also ready for something new. I must remember that no grade is worth ill health, my degree will not govern the rest of my life and that nights hanging out with pals, doing new things and letting myself off the hook to just chill and watch a bad movie, is just as valuable. It's all about balance.

So there we go. I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve, whether you're staying in or heading out.
Be safe, be kind and I hope both yours and my 2020 is a real corker.


Sunday, 24 November 2019

5 Goals before 30

I'm ready for my next existential crisis.

I turn 25 in a matter of days. How horrifying. Nevertheless, there's nothing I can do about it so I figured, feck it, let's embrace the next chapter of my life and make a list of all the things I plan to do before I turn 30.


1. Graduate with a 1st class degree.  When I started uni at the ripe ol' age of 22, there was never any question about my end result goal. When every tutor reminds me "it's not about the grade", I nod – solemn and humble – but really, I'm gunning for that 1st. With just the rest of third year to go, I'm on track and hoping to tick this one off very soon.

2. Live abroad in Dublin for at least 1 year.  I've visited the emerald isle twice now, and I can't quite explain why, but I feel as though I belong there. Taking a gals holiday there in September showed me that it is possible to travel alone (bc I am adult now), so I have no excuses for not spending longer there. Life is short, just do it.

3. Permanently move out of my childhood home.  Being at uni kind of has this one covered but there's no guarantee that once I graduate, I'll be able to afford my own place. With the changing economic climate, it's increasingly difficult for us millennials to finally fly the nest, but by heck, I'd better have done it by 30.

4. Enjoy my day job.  Bold, I know. But I spent 4 years doing a job I hated, plus summers in between semesters; enough is enough. By 30, I hope I'm finally on the ladder of a career I actually enjoy waking up for.

5. Keep writing. Confidently.  As much as the big goal is to be writing as part of the above goal, I know it's not easy nor entirely sustainable. So at the very least 30-year-old me, please still write. Don't let all these lessons and techniques that we've picked up at university fall down that drain in your brain. Commit to them, submit them, shout about them! We paid a lot for this, you deserve to keep your skills polished and still love telling stories that matter to you.


Adopt a cat.  My beloved furry friend from childhood sadly departed this life in April 2019. I'd had him since I was 3 years old. Life without him just isn't the same, and I'd love to share it with another some day.

Live with a best friend for a bit.  Don't get me wrong, living alone is an absolute dream, but I feel like I may have missed out on living with friends.

Travel more / go on more holidays.  Oh, how I'd love to go to Paris again. Maybe write. And see more of Ireland, like Galway and Cork. I stopped really having holidays after school, but after the last three years of uni, gawd, I need one.

Finish writing a script. Either a TV episode or film. I've had so many projects on the back-burner and new ideas popping up; now I have all these new skills, I hope I'll actually finish a whole minimum 60 page project – lol, gud luck Godderz.

It's a lot to do in just 5 years, but I love a challenge. What's on your bucket list?


Sunday, 22 September 2019

On Film: Dublin 2019

An unexpected return to the emerald isle.

If you've been with me on this blogging journey for a while, then you'll know that Dublin is a place I longed to return to after my first foray in 2016. So, after the fireworks on New Year's Eve – a little giddy with the power of a clean slate – Hannah and I booked our trip, with zero regrets.






Trinity College Library.  For my fellow bookworms and old-building-lovers out there, Trinity College is well worth a visit. Think the Irish Hogwarts, with 18th-century cobblestones, home to the original manuscripts of the book of Kells, and the magnificent Long Room – 65 metres, with stunning high ceiling, guarding 200,000 famous old books. You guessed it, it smells uhmazin'.

Those Bunsen Burgers Tho.  If there's one thing I truly miss about Ireland, it's the food! I'm pretty sure I will never eat a burger as phenomenal as those in Bunsen, with every option you could possibly want, sweet potato fries to die for, and well catered for those of us cursed living with a #GlutenFree #DairyFree lifestyle. Definitely worth a visit.

Sandycove Beach / Bay.  On our third day, we headed out of the city to the seaside. While some excursions on the tourist buses were anything upwards of €30, the Dart trains were quick, cheap (around €5 for a 30-minute journey) and easy. Keen on finding hidden gem spots rather than just the tourist areas, Hannah also wanted to dip her toes in the Irish sea. As suspected, it was bleedin' freezing. But the views were pretty darn stunning, with unique heritage scapes, including the lighthouse and Ireland's own Balamory houses. Shame the rain drenched us, as per.

Quays Bar.  It's not a trip to Dublin if you don't hit up Temple Bar and the music scene. An evening at Quays was the perfect tourist-y taste of Dublin nightlife; young, talented musicians bopping away to all your favourites, with some traditional Irish tracks thrown in for good measure. Great atmosphere, with plenty of room to join in the singing and dancing, and – if it's your thing – booze. Nowhere else seemed to be buzzing quite like Quays, so, definitely on my list for next time.


We'll meet again soon, Bunsen Dublin.


Sunday, 4 August 2019

Stranger Things 3 Review

80s sci-fi horror? Turns out there was a Stranger Things shaped hole in my life...

Okay, I'll admit. I only watched all three seasons from mid-June this year. You know me, I'm not one for jumping straight on the popular train. Turns out Stranger Things is completely deserving of its praise and totally up my street. Sci-fi / fantasy, teen nostalgia, mild horror, 80s fashion and music, and near-perfect storytelling; it's bold. Cinematic. Heartfelt. The scariest season yet but also, the funniest season yet? Season 3 definitely takes the crown for me. I can only dream of creating a show as accomplished as this.




Season 1 and 2. A sure-fire recipe for success, season 1 takes us on a journey through Hawkins (and the upside-down) to find little Will Byers. The second season again takes this further, with a vengeful monster returning to plague poor Will once again. The series is built on a backbone of the classic Monster In The House story; it's simple, yet with enough creative flair to mark it out from the rest. But what really makes Stranger Things special is its characters. From classic archetypes such as Steve the Jock, the nerdy boy gang with Mike, Lucas and Dustin, and 'over-emotional' mum Joyce Byers, the Duffer Brothers utilise the hours of content per season to push and pull their characters in new ways, snubbing our preconceptions to ultimately lead to unexpected and brilliant revelations. Of course, season 3 is no different.


The Story Craft. As a creative writing student, second-year taught me some of the key patterns in storytelling and boy, oh boy, does Stranger Things employ them – because they work EVERY. DANG. TIME.  Not only is it jam-packed full of nerd references, foreshadowing and easter eggs, but that gripping first and last five minutes still keep you glued to the screen. Plus the continuing exploration of depth to their character development, relationships and world-building – with the most terrifying Mind-Flayer ever (that scene where everyone fell to their knees and melted tho) – continue to raise the Stranger Things bar to grow stronger with each season and leave us all desperate for more.

The Cast/Characters. There are no weak players on this stage, sunshine. From the agent and kickass Joyce whose motherly protective instinct which used to be dismissed by her male counterparts, continues to be her intuitive strength that ultimately leads them to unravel the mystery; the blossoming friendship between Eleven and Max; plus, Steve 'mom' Harrington's entire arc – amirite? There's something for everyone in the diverse array of personalities that make the show all the more interesting with each remix.

The 80s Setting. The time period definitely played a bigger role this season; the music, fashion, technology and politics of the 80s step further into the foreground, adding an extra dose of nostalgia. From the neon brights of the mall, the fairground, Eleven's entire wardrobe, plus, the iconic Never Ending Story cameo (a film you already know I love) in the final episode sent me OFF, bringing pure joy in a crucial moment of peril.

Favourite Scene. Anything with Steve and Robin. A brilliant comedy duo eventually underpinned by genuine friendship and emotional connection. Let's also not forget Robin's coming out scene, played carefully and quietly, which ultimately made it all the more powerful.

If you haven't seen it yet, or just fancy another watch, check out the trailer for season 3 below.

Have you watched Stranger Things? What did you think?

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