2019, wow, that feels so strange to type and I can’t believe another year has passed. I know, we say it every year but I feel like these last 12 months have flown by particularly fast. While we all indulge in those deliciously cosy days of hibernation at home in a Christmas haze, eating leftover turkey and grazing on the cheese board, it’s a great time to think back about what 2018 has bought.
I’m not one for New Years resolutions but I definitely like to honour the end of the year by congratulating myself on the things I’ve achieved (something I’m notoriously bad for!) and thinking about what I want from the year ahead. This year has been the craziest of my life and I don’t say that lightly! It even tops the nightmare house move of 2016. There’s been some life-changing highs and some super frustrating lows, and while I reflect on what 2018 has bought me, I thought I’d share some of them with you…
WE GOT MARRIED
OK, so the big one is that I went from a miss to a mrs in June. Eeeek! Without a doubt, the best day of my life surrounded by everyone we love in our special place, Tuscany. ’They’ say that getting married is up there as one of the most stressful things you can do and that’s when it all goes according to plan, so you can imagine the internal dialogue when you throw a cancelled wedding venue, a Ryanair strike and house renovations into the equation. You can read all about it HERE and HERE.
Getting married abroad is no mean feat at the best of times but living with family, out of a suitcase when your house is being ripped apart by builders and working out of cafes, hotels and the gym made everything 100% more difficult. We flew back and forth to Italy for most of the Spring and the whole process meant that I didn’t work for around 2 months – NOT ideal when you have shit loads to pay for!
But it all worked out for the better and although there were some hiccups and I was a walking zombie on the day, it was the most magical time. When Toff and I look back at it now, we can’t believe we actually pulled it off and I feel incredibly proud of us that we did. If there was ever a time that tested our patience and ability to work as a team, it was then and we passed with flying colours.
WE GOT A NEW KITCHEN
Never have I been so happy to see a tap in my whole life as when I saw our beautiful antique brass one be fitted upon our ceramic sink. It was a movement-us day, after months of dust, rubble, snow, broken windows and builders using our wonky walls. When I think about my dream house, a big, open plan kitchen was always top of the list. A place that’s the hub of the house where we can hang out with friends, cook big family roast dinners and dance while we drink gin on New Years.
I love our kitchen very much and it’s exactly how I imagined it would look when we bought our house two years ago. And while we have a long way to go with the next stage of renovations next year, it’s a big step towards getting the house we’ve always envisioned. You can see the kitchen transformation HERE.
I WENT IT ALONE…AND IT WAS SCARY AF
When I quit my full-time job a year ago (read about it HERE) to go freelance, I had no idea what that was going to look like for 2018. With so much to pay for this year, it was the worst possible time but it was a huge leap of faith. I have learnt so much being self employed this year and there has never been so many ups and downs.
I’d heard from fellow freelancers that the first year of a new business is the hardest and you’re more than likely to make a loss. Strangely, this is a really comforting thought because, as you are working alone 90% of the time, any feedback / advice / thoughts from anyone other than yourself is a major feat.
There have been a lot of down days where I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I’m worried I’m not going to make the mortgage or have a 1am panic attack that I haven’t put enough aside for tax. But there have also been a lot of amazing days where I’ve met incredible people, have scored a dream brand partnership or just had an email from a reader saying how much they love my blog.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to celebrate the small victories and don’t dwell on the missed opportunities. There are no appraisals in this role. No one to tell you you’ve done a great job or where you can improve. You’re flat-out on your own. So cutting yourself some slack is so important to your motivation and sanity. Sure, there’s no set pay day and I know the accountants team of brands and magazines better than my own family from chasing invoices, but navigating your own rules and creating something with longevity is pretty cool.
Plus, I’ve managed to make all the bills so far! Read about my tips for freelancing HERE
I BURNT OUT
And with that, comes burn out. Well, maybe not for everyone but it certainly did for me this Autumn as I was diagnosed with glandularfever. When the doctor finally told me after two months of blood tests, sleeping at my desk and swollen glands I wasn’t at all surprised. Catching a mother of a cold or needing to sleep til midday is something that happens very rarely, but always when I’ve had a busy or stressful few months so this one hit me hard.
As someone who is incredibly passionate about health and fitness (it was my job as deputy of a national fitness mag after all), I’ve really neglected my wellbeing in 2018. I haven’t exercised half as much as I usually do, opting for something high intensity on the rare day that I can make the gym and thrashing my body every which way to try and make up for the shortfall, putting it under more stress.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve turned to rich, comforting foods and the odd glass of gin to wind down after a stressful day instead of a workout and a nutrient-dense dinner. I’ve done myself a massive disservice this year, asking way too much of my body and it’s reminded me how important it is to put health first.
I WORKED WITH SOME AMAZING BRANDS…
Blogging was always this really fun side hustle that I adopted as a creative outlet alongside my day job as a journalist but 2018 has let it take a little bit more of the spotlight, unintentionally. I don’t have a huge following and I’ve let it do it’s own thing organically but I’ve been afforded some incredible opportunities regardless.
I went on my first blogger press trip and made some lovely new friends in Ella Gregory (Cocos Tea Party) and Monica Welburn (The Elgin Avenue) as well as all the girlies that came on the Philips retreat, as well as countless meetings, press day, product launches and brand dinners that I was lucky enough to be invited to this year. Listening to like-minded ladies and all-out girl bosses has been invaluable. Listening to how they work, their experiences in the industry and bouncing ideas off of fellow bloggers has been a huge source of inspiration for me this year.
I always feel very flattered to be asked to work with a brand that I love and a little bit of imposter syndrome creeps in from time to time. From Bare Minerals, LK Bennett and Gant to Next, Olay and Amara, I can never quite believe that it’s possible to have a job that’s this much fun. It blows my mind and I’ll never take these opportunities for granted.
See some of my favourite collaborations below…
…AND HAD A CAREER HIGH
Actually, two career highs. I am the epitome of the multi-hyphen career (if you’re thinking about starting this journey, THIS book is for you!) this year and I’ve an amazing highlight for each. The first was my blog being nominated in the Best Use of Photography category in the Amara Living awards. That. Is. Mental. I have never been nominated for an award before and the recognition made all of the late nights and 7-day weeks worth it.
The blogging industry is massively saturated, and I put off starting TwentySixStyle.com for around two years for this very reason and I really wish I had just gone for it. I’m very aware that fear and self doubt have probably held me back from evolving in this role faster but I’m OK with that. This isn’t a race and I’m fine with tentatively throwing my hat into the ring with this very new venture for me. But next year, perhaps I’ll be a little braver!
The second career highlight of 2018 was writing for Tatler. Anyone who is a freelance writer will know that it is INCREDIBLY difficult to ‘break’ into this sector of the industry. It’s very competitive and everyone wants that dream scenario of working from home, writing for a select few glossies consistently. To get ‘in’ with those publishers is very difficult and you’re effectively ‘cold-emailing’ pitches a lot of the time in the hope one sticks. It takes a long time.
There’s a lot of rejection and you have to learn to build up a thick skin. This is something I’m slowly achieving this year but it’s taking time not to take the ‘no’s’ personally and having to move on from what you really believe is a GREAT idea. So, the fact that not one but two Conde Nast titles (Tatler and Brides) have commissioned me is an amazing feeling. I’ve also written for The Express, YOU magazine, Healthy, The Sun, Waitrose magazine and many more this year that I’m so grateful for.
With so many successes in 2018, it’s made me more determined than ever to smash 2019. The strangest part about this year is the change that I’ve noticed in myself. With so many milestones ticked off the list and so many firsts to content with, it was inevitable that 2018 was going to be one of the most challenges years yet. So, I’m beyond excited to see what 2019 has to bring. Although I don’t have any ‘resolutions’, there are a few goals that I want to reach next year…
Feel my best yet
A new exercise regime, targeted supplements and plenty of screen-free downtime.
Make significant house progress
After the mayhem of this year, we’ve been really slack with the house renovations. But 2019 will be the year to put in our dream bathroom and decorate every single room in the house. Wish us luck!
What can you expect from the blog in 2019. Well, after looking at some of the most successful blog posts of 2018, expect to see lots more house renovation posts, beauty and wellness advice and how I’m navigating a new style ethos (stay tuned). Any suggestions are ALWAYS welcome.
Boss the freelance life
It’s taken a long time but I’m finally starting to carve out a bit of a working routine which I’m hoping to hone next year. With a little more focus and a lot of determination, getting back to writing features for some of my favourite titles is going to be my biggest challenge yet.
Lean into it
For a few years now I’ve felt at battle with myself. My dialogue would be full of ‘shoulds’ – I ‘should’ be here, I ‘should’ be doing this, I ‘should’ be earning X amount. It’s too much pressure on one person trying to run two consecutive businesses. Adopting a more laid-back, positive attitude is going to be a huge focus for me next year and believing that I ‘should’ be exactly where I am.
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Blazer – Zara