Harsh words, I know, but I've always been the kind of person who prefers honesty no matter how brutal it seems. Not just with friends and family but also with myself – because if you're not honest with yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to be? The other night I finally said the words out loud, the ones that have been playing on my mind for the past six weeks. "I don't blog anymore. I'm failing as a blogger. I'm the worst at blogging that I've ever been." It pained me to say it because I love blogging, I love writing and I always have. I still remember so clearly the first moment I set up this blog and the solace and happiness I have found in it ever since, the successes and struggles. This blog has been with me through so many of the biggest moments of my life from studying and relationships, to careers, travel and more. And so have all of you, the amazing people who read this blog and support me every step of the way. But as much as it pained me to admit it, I have another, even more shocking confession to make.
I can't apologise for taking a step back from blogging because I don't feel sorry that life got in the way. I'm not sorry that I decided to prioritise other things and that actually it was the best decision I could have made. Because sometimes we have to accept that we can't be everything. We can't be superwoman. We can't all be amazing in our careers, our relationships, learn a new language and run a blog and keep a clean house. Eventually something has to give and it's always better we make that decision ourselves rather than have it forced upon us later on. As you guys know, I went on a 3-week road trip around Europe and on my return I started my new job alongside taking on various other roles. It soon became clear that I needed to sacrifice something in order to be able to give 110% in all my other roles.
It would have been easy for me to feel like I was failing as a blogger, failing at life. That not being able to do all the things meant I wasn't as dedicated as I should be – but that wasn't the case. I was just reprioritising which is one of the most valuable things you can do if you care about the quality of your work. It was much more important to me to deliver high quality work in my job, to give my friends my undivided attention, and to really genuinely enjoy my trip without guilt. My blog has always been about having a life and making the most of every second – well, sometimes to do that you have to know when to hold back.
It's easy to forget how much you have already achieved, but 9 months into the year is always a great time to think back. Instead of looking at how I'm failing as a blogger, I should remember that my big goals for this year were to focus on pushing forward in my career. Well, now it's September and I can say how proud I am of myself for such a huge year. 2018 was the year I moved to Germany without speaking the language but still managed to land a job as a content manager working in SEO without any formal training. It was the year I had a home of my own for the first time in nearly 5 years. It was the year I travelled around Europe in a van and scored some of my biggest blogging collaborations yet. And alongside this I managed to make some amazing new friends in a brand new city. To say it's been a pretty amazing year would be an understatement and failing as a blogger is such a small thing in the wake of such success. Sacrificing this blog for a short time has brought so much happiness into my life and I can't apologise for that.
But the great thing about failing as a blogger and getting out there and grabbing life by the you-know-whats is that I've got some pretty great stories and blog posts just waiting to be shared with you all. So I'm back, tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard and excited to be back sharing my life with you all. So let's start with last weekend when I had the best Sunday soaking up the last of the summer sunshine over a few cheeky cocktails and a Japanese feast. Sporting my fab new sunglasses gifted by Toyshades, a unique London brand who create both classic vintage eyewear styles and contemporary designs. I'm wearing the Rudge 2018 - Matte Tortoise Frame with Rose Amber Pentoptic Lens (£38) which I absolutely love and will be wearing until the very last rays of sunshine have disappeared this winter. After such an amazing summer, I'm really clinging on to those last remaining sunny days and how better to spend them than eating and drinking with your favourite person? We started at beach bar StrandPauli for drinks – one of my fave bars overlooking the river – then headed to Momo Ramen in Sternschanze for the most amazing meal of ramen, sake and gyozo.
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A final note on this post – a reminder that failure isn't always a bad thing. It's okay to be failing as a blogger, at your job, as a friend, as a girlfriend or even as a daughter sometimes. Because you're not super-human – I know I'm definitely not! It's time we stopped expecting everyone to give 110% in every aspect of their life all at the same time. It's okay to say no, it's okay to cut back and it's okay to fail. What's important is what you learn from it – how you grow and change. I'm placing less expectations on myself, I will always work my ass off but I'm going to stop taking on so much and feeling guilty when I have to say no. The rest of 2018 is about finding balance that works for me.
What have been your big successes this year? How have you failed – and what have you learned from it? How do you find balance in your life?
One thing the last few years of travel has really taught me, is the importance of well being. The truth is, when you're travelling solo, there is no-one else to look after you and if you don't learn to take good care of yourself, you're not going to get the most out of every experience. I've really taught myself to slow down a bit over the last year, I've accepted that I don't have to do and achieve everything, that sometimes it's okay to sit back and just appreciate life instead of giving 110% and exhausting myself. I'm still learning, every single day, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what makes me happy both mentally and physically than I did when I was first travelling. What helps me be my best self? Lots of exercise, tasty, healthy food, a wide open horizon and lots of time spent outdoors. I've realised that being online is my job and to a certain extent, is a hobby, but that I can't let it dominate in any way because it really does impact on my mental health.One thing that has really helped me to stay balanced over the years is gifting myself time. We're always so busy rushing around trying to do everything in our careers, relationships and in our free time, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to breathe. I was so guilty of never giving myself time to just be still, and I still am, but I'm trying my best to improve. And so, when an opportunity came up to review an Inner Peace Retreat with Psychologies Magazine, I jumped at the chance to spend a day deep in the countryside and really getting to know myself. Taking place at West Lexham Manor, near Norwich, the retreat offered a weekend spent focusing on psychology, mindfulness, creativity, meditation and movement set against the backdrop of the stunning grounds. What more could a girl want?Driving up to West Lexham Manor through frozen fields and breathing in the crisp morning air, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for restoration of my mind, body and soul. The stunning grounds were the perfect place for that and I couldn't wait to explore more later on. On arrival, the organisers gave a warm welcome and ushered us into morning tai chi in the beautifully restored barn which has been purposefully created for group events and weddings. With sunshine beaming through the windows and birdsong in the background, we started the day by warming up our aching bodies and minds led by neuroscientist Dr Tamara Russell, who was definitely one of the most memorable characters from the weekend. After the session, we went for breakfast in the sun-drenched hall, and it was clear to see the emphasis on well being from the delicious, healthy meal of locally sourced ingredients that awaited us.We were back in with Dr Tamara for our first session of the day, Practical Models for Exploring Body and Mind, which was a fascinating insight into neuroscience and psychology, but with a real life context that made it easily accessible for anyone new to the topic. Tamara used various exercises to look at the way we relate to ourselves and how that affects us in our daily life when we make decisions or react to situations. After studying a bit of neuroscience and psychology at university, I've always been fascinated by models like these and how they can be used to understand why we are the way we are. We all found this workshop so interesting and helpful that it actually ran over into the break and later I could hear many of those attending the retreat continuing the discussion over lunch.Later on we had another workshop, this time with Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies Magazine, which was one I was really excited for. Being a journalist, I'm always looking to develop my skills in any way I can, so a journaling/writing workshop with Suzy seemed perfect for me. This time we had an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and to take in the sights, sounds and smells as we wandered around the grounds. Nature is so soothing, and despite being based in North Norfolk, I find that lately I haven't had a chance to just get outside and appreciate it, something that I'm sure has caused me to feel a bit stressed out. We were told to just write freely, uninterrupted by others and uninterrupted by thoughts of how we should write. I let my hand glide across the page and all of us taking part felt our innermost thoughts and feelings pour out on to the page. I was amazed at what came out, what I'd been holding in and finally just had to explode across the page, pure stream of consciousness.We enjoyed a leisurely lunch - let me tell you the food was just incredible - followed by a chance to explore the grounds with owner Edmund Colville, as he discussed the retreat and the lay-lines around his family home. Later that afternoon, we had our final workshop of the day, which was easily my favourite and really left an incredible impression on me. The 5 Rhythms Movement workshop with meditation teacher Chris Connors forced the group to throw away all inhibitions, stresses and worries, and to really let loose. We're talking 90 minutes of dancing freely as a mass and an individual to various pieces of music, and by the end of the session, everyone was exhausted but liberated, making their way out of the barn with smiles on faces and a new sense of peace. I thought I was pretty relaxed before I walked into that workshop, but I can tell you I felt like a completely different person by the time I walked out of it and I know every single person in that room felt exactly the same. Sadly I had to leave after this workshop and didn't get a chance to chat to the others over dinner, but the whole experience was beyond anything I could have hoped.Whether you need stillness, a chance to slow down or if you are searching for inner peace, these workshops give you a chance to take a time-out in the unspoilt beauty of West Norfolk. If this sounds like something that would be right up your street, there will be many other retreats taking place this year which focus on yoga, mindfulness and body confidence, and another Psychologies Inner Peace Retreat is in the pipeline. Both men and women attended and while some were more interested in the psychology, others were going through some huge life changes, but all felt just as welcome and came away with a genuine sense of inner peace. Find out more and book at www.westlexham.org
*Images provided by West Lexham Manor
Have you been to a retreat? Would you like to attend one? How do you find peace in your daily life?