Sunday, 6 January 2019

Hello 34!

I'm not a huge fan of celebrating my birthday. Not because I don't like growing older, it's because being a January baby is the *WORST*. It has always been difficult to celebrate my birthday because come January,  everyone is broke, detoxing, suffering from the January blues, giving up alcohol or embracing Veganuary. I often let my birthday sneak by with a very lowkey celebration with a couple of friends. But since I turned 30, I've enjoyed celebrating and realised how important it is to talk about my age. In a world obsessed with youth, it feels like a rebellious act to be loud and proud of being a 30-something.

When I was younger, 30 felt ancient. As I've grown older, I've realised this is a total myth which is mostly maintained by the media. Rather than bucking the trend, the blogosphere has followed suit. It's seen as a 20-something's game and you often see ridiculous things like someone in their early 20s promoting anti-ageing creams because - God forbid - they actually have someone who age-appropriate who looks like their actual customer base in their campaign. What a revolutionary concept!

We live in a world where age equates beauty; you're at your most beautiful in the first flushes of youth after which your beauty fades each year. Well, I beg to differ. Each morning before I hastily apply my make up before rushing out of the door, I study my face. I see laughter lines around my mouth from giggling with my godson or that time in Capri when an old man started stripping on the table of a club (true story). I see little crinkles on the corners of my eyes from laughing so hard I can't breathe and from squinting at the sun while visiting somewhere beautiful. Tell me, what's more beautiful than seeing the signs of a life that has been lived fully? What's more captivating than signs of a happy, joy-filled life?

Years ago, a friend of mine made a beautiful analogy. He showed me a plain piece of paper and asked me to look at it, which I dutifully did. Plain, white, straight edges. He then screwed up the piece of paper and attempted to flattened it out and asked me to look at it again. It wasn't smooth and sleek anymore, instead, it was full of bumps and crinkles. He explained that the first sheet of paper looked perfect but it didn't make me feel anything. On the other hand, the second sheet was interesting, it told a story. Each crumple was like a line in a sonnet. He made me see that perfect gets boring very quickly but there's beauty in imperfection. The crumples and crinkles are intriguing, fascinating and draw you in. I thought it was such a lovely way to look at life, it really stuck with me and helped me to appreciate my wrinkles, stretch marks and scars as beautiful.

Truth be told, I rarely think about my age and I often forget how old I actually am. Occasionally someone will ask and I'll need to pause before answering. I don't see age as very important, most of the time I feel like I'm still 26 so when I answer and remind myself of how old I am, it comes as a bit of a shock that I'm actually 34!

I've really appreciated the last decade of my life and I've found a peace which you only really feel after you turn 30. I feel like I've unfolded into myself. I've spent a lot of time appreciating who I am and what makes me tick. It's almost like having a friendship with myself, peeling away a layer at a time and learning who I really am.

Each year feels like another exploration of who I am and it feels so glorious. Last year, I wrote about turning 33 and wanting to celebrate the fuck out of life. And over the last twelve months, I've had a riot. I visited 9 different countries during 13 trips abroad. I've had crazy nights out, done rum shots for breakfast with a tobacco farmer, hiked to picturesque waterfalls, stayed up to see the sun come up and added to my collection of laughter lines. I'm so grateful for the best 33rd year.

And what am I hoping for from my 34th? Well, I want to grow up. Stop procrastinating. Get on with it. I have a ton of things I need to tick off my list, they've been languishing there for quite a while. I'm gifted with great language skills but haven't been able to commit to learning any properly. I love photography but I'd rather watch Netflix than hone my craft. In a way, I want to go back to school this year...just with better shoes and school trips. Travel-wise, I want to continue venturing off the beaten path to lesser-known destinations like Uzbekistan and Namibia. Not bad for someone in their 30s, right?!

Top - Halpern x Topshop | Skirt - Halpern x Topshop | Shoes - Aquazzura
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year 2019!

Guys....we made it. Is it just me or has 2018 felt like a marathon? I usually feel like time has flown but when I look back on 2018, it was so bloody eventful! It was the year of #Beychella, celebrating love at the Royal Wedding, people inexplicably eating Tide Pods, declaring Wakanda Forever and of course, Cardi B throwing a shoe at Nicki Minaj. What. A. Year. 

As the sun is setting on 2018 and I feel like we can all give ourselves a pat on the back for making it through an eventful year relatively unscathed. This time last year I posted a personal reflection on 2017 and what I'm hoping for 2018 and I wanted to undertake another personal reflection this year. 

Work Life

As I wrote my post last year, I had instigated a catalyse of change. I had been unhappy in my job for months and in December, I decided to quit. I had no idea what I was going to do, I just knew that I was desperately unhappy with my current situation. Instead of feeling fear and uncertainty, I felt a wave of relief; I was ready to make room in my life for something much bigger. 

And that is exactly what happened - I started my year landing a dream job working with influencers and over the last ten months I've really found my groove. My job is rewarding, challenging and has stretched my abilities but ultimately I feel like a butterfly that's emerged from a cocoon, spreading my wings and taking flight. I work with the most incredible, supportive team, I have the best boss ever and Monday has become a joy. I'm so blessed to be in the position I'm in and I'm grateful every day. 

The lesson I learnt from this is to be fearless in protecting your happiness and do not be afraid to take a leap of faith. Life is short, way too short to be unhappy and we all owe it to yourselves to live our best lives. Don't be afraid to say goodbye and make room in your life for something better. 

Blog Life

While my work life has been flourishing, my blog life feels like it's been resurrected. As a someone who is a part-time blogger, my working life and happiness has a direct impact on my blog - the more stressed and busy I am, the less I'm able to blog. This year has rekindled the joy and happiness in blogging, I've blogging pretty much weekly and been very consistent.

I've really worked on honing my skills and working on time management so I can prioritise my passion. I'm proud that I've kept up with my blogging schedule and I'm talking about real issues that matter rather than not using my platform for good. I hope that I come across as a real, relatable person who experiences ups and downs in life rather than just showcasing a "perfect" life. I respect content creators who have the vision and discipline to create inspirational content but this year I realised that being genuine and relatable are important values for me. I'm just trying to live my best, authentic life :)

Personal Life

And lastly...onto my personal life. I'm going to cut to the chase and hold my hands up. I gave myself a year off from dating and it's been glorious. I ended 2017 a little heartbroken so I wanted to give myself time to heal. This is something I really believe in, I really need to process my thoughts and feelings to consolidate a situation rather than jumping feet first into the dating pool. For me, the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else! 

One of the hardest parts of the healing process is trying to open up to someone new and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Over summer I did just that. I started seeing someone long-distance...I wouldn't really call this dating but I guess because of the distance it felt like a "safe" way to test whether I was ready. And...I kinda was. It was nice to be in a relationship and share some beautiful moments, it was good while it lasted but ultimately I decided that it wasn't meant to be. 

So I end the year single, as I started the year, but I'm much wiser and more in tune with myself. I don't believe in regretting relationships, each one helps you grow as a person and realise what you are and aren't looking for. 

I realised I'm looking for an equal, someone to love me as I am but appreciate my potential and challenge me to be bigger/better. Someone who supports my dreams as a multi-hyphenate. I also need to be someone who loves travel as much as I do, someone who wants to explore the world and has a curiosity about our planet as well as the bravery to embrace new experiences, cultures and people. That is what I love about travelling, getting under the skin of a place rather than just seeing the sites.  Will I settle down this year? Who knows, but I sure as hell won't settle for less than I deserve. 


And so, onto 2019.  I'm not one for dramatic "new year, new me" declarations,  we don't need to redesign ourselves because we're pretty good as we are. I've realised that the only person I need to be in competition with is myself. I just want to be better, learn more, give more and grow. I don't really believe in resolutions per se, as long as I live those values and continue to challenge myself this year, I'm happy. But there are a couple of things I want to work towards this year and I'm sharing in the interest of accountability! 

- Rebrand the blog (!)
- Rekindle my passion for photography
- Learn a new language
- Travel to 5 new countries
- Start working with a charity

What are you hoping for in 2019? 

Top - Zara | Trousers - Daily Paper | Belt - Off White | Bag - Off White | Shoes - Miss Selfridge (old)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Reena Rai wearing Ashish x Warehouse red sequin dress for Christmas

The parties are done, the out of office is on and the only thing left to do is put your feet up for Christmas!

This year, I gave myself a big, early gift - a plane ticket to Cuba. I'm currently gearing up for a big festival in a tiny little town to celebrate Christmas Eve before slipping away to an island to soak up the sun on a beach. I'm incredibly grateful to past Reena for having the intuition to book a trip away, the last few weeks have been quite tough and a blissful day by the beach is exactly what I needed for Christmas. Travel is such a tonic, rejuvenating, inspiring and relaxing all in one. 

Anyway, enough about me! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, whether you're celebrating it or not. Whatever you have planned, I hope it's restful and you manage to disconnect even for a little while. Prioritise yourself and your mental health during the festive season. 

I hope you have a blessed day. 

Lots of love,

Dress - Warehouse x Ashish | Heels - Gianvito Rossi (similar)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Monday, 17 December 2018

Guide to Conscious and Ethical Sale Shopping

Once upon a time, I lived for sale shopping. A total fashion fiend, the thought of topping up my wardrobe for *gasp* up to 50% off was alluring. I'd wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Boxing Day to drive to the local shopping centre to scoop up an entire new wardrobe. It became a ritual and my family, slowly stirring after a post-Christmas lie in, would wait for me to return home to see the spoils from the early morning hunt.

My attitude is very different now, partly due to working in fashion and partly because the world is becoming more environmentally conscious. When I worked in fashion, I learned about how retailers would utilise discounts and sales to boost trade and that certain pieces are produced at a lower cost and bought in specifically for the sale period. Ever spot anything hanging on a sale rail that you haven't seen all season? It's probably a sale piece. Suddenly a discounted dress doesn't seem so appealing.

The behind-the-scenes knowledge is interesting but the real change for me came when I started becoming increasingly conscious about consumption. I'm so glad that as a society we're becoming aware of the effects of our collective actions on the planet and the people living in it. Plastic has rightly become a dirty word with plastic straw bans and plastic bag surcharges. The effects on the oceans and sealife are devastating. I've also researched into the human cost of fast fashion. It really makes you question what you buy and whether you really need to shop.

I've cut down in my personal consumption hugely in the last few years. I never have, and never will, do a haul video or post. But...realistically, we do still need to shop. There's a huge middle ground between over-consumption and conscious consumption and it's really important to reach a balance. Cutting down and consuming more consciously is a great step to take. So instead of sharing a list of products that you absolutely should buy, I wanted to share some tips to shop the sales more ethically:

1. Ask yourself if you would you buy it if it was full price? It's easy to get seduced by a saving but a bargain is only a bargain if you value the piece in the first place.
2. Shop classic pieces. You will get much more longevity from a classic rollneck than a seasonal piece.
3. Buy better quality - not fast fashion. I try to steer clear of fast fashion retailers if I can but mid-tier or designer brands are expensive. During the sales, I like to invest in quality pieces which will last longer and I'll cherish for years to come.
4. Carry some tote bags to avoid using plastic or paper bags. We've all got a ton around the house, it's time to put to good use!
5. Check out this list of ethical shops and retailers.

And if you're making space in your wardrobe for a couple of new additions, think about where your clothes are going. I stopped throwing away clothes years ago. I tend to take clothes and unused makeup to my local charity shop. I sell designer pieces on Vestiaire Collective, Depop or eBay are also good options. I also wrote a Black Friday post about how to prepare for the sales and snap up exactly what you want.

I hope you found this guide useful. I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below.

Jumper - H&M (past season) | Skirt - Topshop | Heels - Nicholas Kirkwood (past season) | Ring - Saint Laurent (past season)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Hola, Cuba!

I feel like I've been talking about this non-stop for the last week or so but just in case you missed it, I'm currently on a plane on the way to sunny Cuba! I'm spending the next three weeks here, exploring everywhere from Havana to Baracoa via Santiago, Cienfuegos, Remedios, Cayo Santa Maria and Vinales.

I remember shooting this look months ago in a car park in Peckham. I've never been to Cuba before but the cool turquoise and zingy yellow just screamed "Havana" to me. I feel so blessed that just a few months later, I'll be seeing Cuba for myself and spending Christmas and New Year exploring a new country. 

The internet situation is a little ropey to say the least but you *should* be able to keep up to date with my adventures on Instagram and I have a weekly post going live every Monday. 

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