2020

I know that most of us want to completely forget the past year and focus on a possibly brighter year ahead. 2020 was bleak and even though I was fortunate enough to not be affected by the pandemic in terms of loss and work, I still felt the heavy weight of this year on my shoulders. However I have to say that I have learnt a lot about many different things this year and so I really wanted to properly say goodbye to what has been a pivotal year for all of us.

I tend to only broach this topic during my yearly check-ins and I was really hesitant to mention that this year because it is something very personal. But I have mentioned this before and I don’t think anyone should be ashamed of their struggles – we need to speak out more on mental issues. As I said, I have hinted at this before but I’ve been struggling with my mental health for quite a while now, and I started the year in a very bad place. I had been hunting for jobs during the last half of 2019 but couldn’t find anything. I had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t get a great job straight out of uni, and so I applied to literally every entry-level job I saw. I was in a very bad place financially and I’m not someone who copes well with uncertainty and having no purpose, so this was a very difficult time. I then found a job and it was nice to get a little bit of money in the bank but I knew from the beginning it wouldn’t do.

When lockdown started in March, I struggled even more because I felt like my whole life was my job in recruitment and I didn’t even like it that much. In the day, I would look at CVs, cover letters and job descriptions. In the evening, I would edit my CV, write cover letters and look at job descriptions to get a job in publishing. It was all very repetitive, and I think my brain assimilated the two and I started getting very upset when someone would get hired at work because it felt like everyone was getting their dream jobs but me (which I know is completely ludicrous as 2020 has been terrible for many who lost their jobs and struggled to find a new one). I just felt so sad and empty, I couldn’t even sleep properly anymore.

I was on the waiting list for therapy all that time and I finally got assigned to a therapist in the Spring. It helped me so very much – I can’t stress that enough. It sounds silly but being confronted with your own thoughts and words on paper or in someone else’s mouth makes everything sounds completely different. I realised what was wrong and what I needed to do to let go of unhelpful thoughts. I am still working hard at giving up my old thinking pattern, but I already feel so much more like myself – something I hadn’t felt in years. The NHS is a wonderful system and we need to applaud it – not at our windows, but by voting for people that would fund it properly. I would’ve never been able to get the help I needed if it wasn’t for the NHS, and I know this is the case for many, many people in the UK.

In the summer, I’ve also been accepted into the Society of Young Publishers mentorship program, SYP Into, to help people get into publishing. I got paired with the most helpful and lovely mentor, and I’m so glad I got to meet such a wonderful person during such a grim year. I feel a lot more confident that I can get a publishing job and I’ve even had several interviews since I became a mentee. I also learnt a lot about what I want and don’t want in my career, and I think that’s really useful because when we start we tend to accept everything and that’s how we end up being taken advantage of. Publishing is a very competitive industry though, and it’s been even worse this year, but I’m hopeful I will find something for me this year.

Finally, last year I started this blog and photography again – two hobbies that are very dear to my heart. It’s been a joy to share my love of books on here again. I have taken a break recently because I’m still not quite healed yet and I know now that it’s better to just stop and rest, than desperately trying to exhaust myself and go around in circles. I have spent the holidays with my family in France, which was lovely as I hadn’t seen them for a whole year! I’m back in the UK and in quarantine now, so I hope to be able to bring some nice content in the coming weeks.

This was quite personal, but it’s nice to check-in every now and then. I hope you all have a good year, may it be filled with laughter and great books!

Mid-Year Review

Today, I won’t review a book but how my year has been so far. This is a very selfish post as it is a very therapeutic thing to write. It feels good to take a step back and see what I have achieved these past few months – something that can be difficult when you’re in the middle of… well, your life.


The first highlight of my year was to actually find a job after months of desperately applying to any entry-level role. Of course, I started by focusing on publishing jobs but I quickly understood that I had pretty much the same CV as everybody else and needed to seriously work on gaining new skills. So at the moment, I’m not doing exactly what I wanted but I’m very happy to learn new skills in a professional context – and having a salary, obviously. I realise how lucky I’ve been as I started my job just a couple of months before lockdown and was able to keep on working from home.


And how can I mention the beginning of 2020 without talking about coronavirus and lockdown? This has been a strange time for everyone. In the UK, I am not convinced that the crisis was taken seriously soon enough and as a result, we suffered from a very high number of deaths. Now that the lockdown is easing down people seem to be going back to normal, which feels strange to me. I am happy to be able to go out again but I’m being careful and conscious of others’ vulnerability. Yet, we’ve booked a little weekend away by the sea as we are slowly going stir-crazy in our tiny London studio flat. I miss fresh air and I’m really looking forward to stretching my legs and walk on something other than concrete for a couple of days. Lockdown has changed us all and I think we realised the value of slowing down, the importance of green spaces, and that it’s okay to not do much at all.


We are living in such extraordinary times, a lot of bad things have happened this year but it’s important to look at the bright side. It made me very sad that people needed to see a man die in a video to take full measure of the racial issues that are engrained in our Western societies, but I feel that things are changing. I hope that the momentum will keep going and that we will see our world become more diverse and open to others.


On a personal note, I finally found the courage in me to refer myself to get therapy at the end of last year. It was nerve-wracking to admit that I was unwell and needed help, added to the long wait to actually get to see somebody (not blaming our wonderful NHS workers here, obviously). I have properly started my sessions during lockdown on the phone, and I can already feel a change in me. I feel more motivated and have more goals: getting back to posting on here is one of them, and it makes me so happy. I also try to be more active in the book/publishing community (which is so incredibly lovely by the way, I still can’t believe how nice everyone is to each other!) and refocus my attention on what I want to achieve with my life – at least in the next five years. It’s a long process and it takes time, but I feel very hopeful. 


I’m not sure what the rest of 2020 is going to look like, and I don’t know if anyone needs to hear that but please, hang in there. We’ll get through it – with lots of books and cups of tea. x

How to Overcome Your Childhood, by The School of Life

It might come across as a bit of a cliché to claim that everything that we are now is a sum of our experiences as a child, but it is essentially true. This is what this book tries to explain, but endeavours to show that it’s not because this or that happened during our childhood that we can no longer do anything about it. On the contrary, this little book aims to help us find avenues to heal from our childish wounds.

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The School of Life is an organisation which strives to provide people with resources to find calm, resilience and self-awareness in their lives. They have a great YouTube channel, which I would highly recommend as they have lots of short films about different aspects of daily life. They also have very informative videos about key philosophers and intellectual figures, I found them really useful when I was studying Enlightenment thinkers last year! In short, The School of Life aims to make people understand themselves and feel better, but if you had seen me reading this short book (118 pages), you may not have believed I was feeling any better. I cried, and I cried, and I cried – through the whole thing.

As far as I can remember, I have always seen myself as an ugly duckling. I have always tried my best to please everyone and be a good little girl. I am still like this, a desperate people-pleaser who just doesn’t know how not to do things 200%. I still struggle with criticism as I experience it as a rejection of my whole being, and I demand a lot emotionally from people. I always thought that this is how I was born, however, I realised recently that it might actually have been a consequence of my childhood. I have heard the words ‘emotional abuse’ to refer to my own experience, but I am just unable to accept these words for me. I prefer to think I just wasn’t good enough from the youngest age (writing it down, I realise how ludicrous this statement sounds, though!).

With this book, I understood that there were quite a few things that I was deprived of growing up and which prevented me from being a mentally healthy adult. I found it useful to have concrete lists and tabs under my eyes, to really understand what I need now. I need to tackle the bad memories and really try to remember as much as possible. As they say, ‘We need the novel, not the essay’ in order to accept what happened and move on. It sounds fairly easy but when you have tried to bury those memories at the back of your head for many years, going back to them is an actual work of pain.

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Little me, aged 4 or 5, channelling my inner Dorothy

The one concept that they promote and which really stuck with me is that of a ‘bittersweet life’. How every good memory we have is tinged with melancholy and sadness, how nothing is ever all white or all black. This sounds fairly obvious but when we reflect on our childhood, we tend to lose this balance and tend to focus on just one aspect. Equally, when we experience a disturbed development we grow up forgetting about this bittersweet aspect of life and to see all in black – in my personal experience, at least. Yet it is important to accept that everything bad in our lives do not cancel the good things, life is a balance between the two:

‘Bittersweet memories force us to acknowledge that the positive is never far from being devilishly entwined with something more difficult.’

I am not a big fan of self-help books, in general. The ones I have partially read so far have been a little bit too spiritual for me, I just can’t get on board with gurus, higher-callings or revelations, which I realise is a matter of personal taste. However I found this one very useful as a way to start a long process of recovery, in order to understand ourselves better and feel a little relieved that we are, in fact, good people – if only we take the time to nurture our inner child. Of course, professional help will always be the best option as there’s only so much books can do to help someone to heal from their mental wounds.

 

Featured image is a still from Atonement, directed by Joe Wright (2007)