The Importance of Having Hobbies

Having hobbies when you are trying to adult you way through the the world can seem nigh on impossible at times. At the end of the working day, it can be hard to do anything else other than put on your pyjamas and watch Friends all evening. There are definitely some days, especially in the winter, when my first thought upon waking is “tonight I’m going to bed at 7pm”. But fitting in some ‘extra-curricular’ activities can actually be more beneficial for your state of mind, in the long run, than vegetating all night.

Hobbies can help you let off some stream (or relieve any work-induced stress, kickboxing anyone?), meet new friends, develop new skills or simply have some you-time. And it doesn’t have to get in the way of you crashing in front of Netflix – even one hour of doing something different in the evening can make you feel less like a hamster stuck in a wake-work-sleep-repeat cycle and more like a well-rounded, energetic bunny.

Struggling for ideas of what you could squeeze in to your evenings? Here are a few:

– exercise

– learn a new language

– take an art class

– go to a free talk

– go to the cinema

– go for a walk and listen to a podcast

– read a book/magazine

– have a bath

– hang out with friends/family

– have a date night

– work on a side hustle, if you have one

The possibilities are endless and don’t have to involve any money or new equipment. The idea is to do something different, change up your routine and feel more spontaneous as a result. Of course, let’s not be hasty and completely remove ‘crashing in front of the tv in your sweats’ as an option – sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to just chill out.

What Julie Andrews taught me about confidence

Recently I’ve been making full use of my Spotify daily mixes, one of which features songs from various musicals (it really is the best kind of music). A few weeks ago, I was listening to the playlist on my way to work and one song in particular, which I hadn’t heard in ages, struck a chord with me – ‘I have confidence’, sung by Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

The reason this song was probably so spine-tinglingly appropriate for me at this particular point in my life is that I have made some pretty big changes lately. First of all,  I left my job to start my own business  – I keep having to correct myself to say I ‘left’ my job instead of I ‘quit’ my job because the latter conjures up images of a Bridget Jones-style showdown and it definitely wasn’t that dramatic and there definitely wasn’t any Aretha playing in the background as I left. This was a pretty big decision that took almost all of my guts because who leaves a permanent job? It is so difficult to land a job nowadays that when you finally get one you feel as if you should stay no matter what and that if you leave you’re jinxing yourself for all eternity and starting the countdown to the day your naysayers will smugly say ‘told you so’ (I have to admit, I haven’t had any naysayers, or, at least, none that I give two hoots about).

The second big change coming is that I’m fleeing the country: my husband and I are moving to France (where he comes from). Somedays I am so excited for this change, other days I feel like Rachel in Friends when she’s moving to Paris and she says ‘they’re really going to hate me over there’ – how can I make them see that a cup of tea is a staple drink and should not cost more than a glass of wine? Of course the other thing that makes me falter in my/our decision to leave Scotland is that I will also be leaving most of my family. Yes, FaceTime and Skype and WhatsApp all exist and are overused to the point where I probably see more of my friend who lives in Florida than my next door neighbour, but there’s just something so different about knowing that to meet up in person you’ll have to take a plane. Inevitably, the rest of my family will have get togethers when I am not there and I’ll probably have the worst FOMO known to (wo)man and just have to cry into my baguette while I bemoan the fact that nobody gets my jokes because they just don’t work in French.

The point is, I have these two big changes that are happening and while, for the most part, I am so excited and happy that they are happening, I am also, to put it mildly, shit scared. I think that about 70% of the time I function at a confident, ‘what a time to be alive’ sort of headspace; the other 30% is basically internal me screaming into a pillow. There is so much that could go wrong!! But then, there’s so much that could go right.

What does Julie Andrews have to do with all of this? Well, the song in question comes at the part of the film when Julie’s character, Maria, is leaving the convent to go work for the Von Trapp family. She sings “what will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be? I wonder. It could be so exciting, to be out in the world, to be free….now here I am facing adventure. Then why am I so scared?”  It perfectly sums up the weird mixture of excited and nervous that you get whenever you make a big decision in your life, sort of like you want to run around joyfully laughing and be sick all at the same time.

We all go through this, whether we are deciding to leave our job, move country, change career, get a fringe, get married, have a baby, speak in public…we need to remember why we want to do something, listen to your excited self, instead of getting caught up in the reasons why not to do something. As much as I hate this term, sometimes it needs to be said: YOLO. Yes, we only live once (so, really it should be WOLO) and we need to face our fears and chase our dreams instead of being scared.

We need to listen to Julie Andrews:

“With each step I am more certain, everything will turn out fine. I have confidence the world can all be mine! They’ll have to agree, I have confidence in me”.

Listen to Julie! Go face your fears and I promise everything will be fine. (And if you haven’t watched the Sound of Music in a while, or ever, watch it! But be warned that it’s like 3 hours long. Maybe just listen to the soundtrack instead.)

Why Having Big Dreams Can Be A Little Scary

I am sure that most of us have at least one dream or goal. Maybe it’s to get a degree, start a business, make a name for yourself in your chosen career…whatever it is, I bet that at some point it has scared you. Why do our dreams scare us? Why is it that in one moment we can feel crazily excited and motivated, ready to take on the world and do whatever it takes to make the dream a reality, and in another moment feel the doubt creeping in – this probably isn’t going to work, how could I be good enough to to do that? – and see all the hurdles and hoops that you’ll have to get through along the way?

You can picture what it is you want in your mind, you know who you want to be and where you want to go, and you have some idea of how to get there, but sometimes it can feel like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff; you know it’s time to jump but you can’t quite bring yourself to do it.

Fear of failure, fear of not living up to your own (or others’) expectations, fear of ridicule. But what if we stopped focusing on the ‘bad’ possible outcomes and start thinking about the great ones? The amazing possibilities and opportunities that may come your way if you just believe in yourself and take the leap. Yes, maybe it’s a leap of faith – but aren’t most things in life?

So what if you fall down? You’ll get back up and try again.

This is exactly what I have been telling myself for the last few months.

I first had the idea for She on my daily commute to work. Like a lot of women, I have BIG dreams (and possibly a bit of an overactive imagination) which means I am constantly doing whatever I think I need to do to get where I want to be. In this mighty quest, I really derive a lot of inspiration from anecdotal evidence – blog posts, websites, podcasts, interviews – usually by women who seem to be kicking ass and who seem to speak right to my soul. I find that by hearing that other women are going through the same things as I am, having the same doubts and insecurities, it makes me feel like I am not alone.

Another source of inspiration is magazines – or at least they used to be. On a few separate occasions I have found myself in the supermarket staring at the wall of women’s magazines and not one of them had the content that I was looking for. I wanted proper articles I could get my teeth into that talked about the stuff I wanted to hear – how to advance in your career, how to build your reputation, look at this woman’s trajectory and here is how she did it, this woman did it her own way and you can too. I was sick of the endless fluff, the articles about diets and exercise that made me feel like crap and the lack of relatable content. I wanted to know about issues affecting women and what one can do to help, I wanted to feel empowered and proud to be a woman. In short, I wanted more substance. When I need inspiration, I look to Instagram and to the many female bloggers and vloggers I follow who tend to be girls just like me, who I feel I can relate to because we are all going through similar things.

I was on the train and had just finished reading a piece on a well-known website about having the guts to start your own business. But the piece was short, too short to impart any real inspiration or advice, and as I sat there thinking “BUT I WANT MORE“, I thought to myself “why not do it yourself?”. Suddenly, like a lightbulb, I knew that’s what I needed to do. What followed next was a rollercoaster; one minute I was elated, frantically scribbling down ideas and plans, the next I was overcome with a feeling of despair – isn’t this just like what someone else has done? Why would anyone want to get involved? Don’t I need to have loads of money to set something like this up? Why would this even work? What if it doesn’t work?  Everyday I would have this battle in my head – on one shoulder was my optimistic dreamer of a cheerleader, on the other was Negative Nelly.

It would have be so easy for me to listen to Nelly (she’s a bit of a regular) but instead, this time, I didn’t. I fought back and told Nelly where she could go – yes this may not work and I may fail. And in putting myself out there on the Internet and on Instagram I cannot do this anonymously so people will know it’s me failing, but what if it does work? What if I can create a platform for women like me who want ‘more’, who could really benefit from having a community of like-minded women to lean on for advice and inspiration?

So I took the leap and here I am. I really hope you’ll join me.

Ciara

Women in 2018

Before she became the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, in her role as UN Women’s Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership, gave a speech at the UN to mark International Women’s Day 2015. In it, she described being proud to be a woman and a feminist and talked about how far women’s rights have come. But she also hit on an important, and sometimes overlooked, point: we have come so far, but we still have a long way to go.

The landscape of being a woman has changed massively over the last 100 years. In 1918, after years of the suffrage movement, women were finally granted the right to vote. This right was not extended to all women, however, with only those women who were over 30 years old and who owned a house (or who were married to a man who owned a house) being allowed to vote. Still, it was an important and crucial first step towards a more equal society and ten years later, in 1928, the women’s right to vote was extended to all women over 21 years old. In America, developments occurred within a similar timeframe: in 1920 the 19th amendment was passed granting the right to vote to women. However, this right was not extended to all women: it wasn’t until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed that black women were allowed to vote. This period of history represented a turning point in the rights of women both in the UK and in America. Finally, they were being seen as equal members of society, whose voices and political opinions deserved to be heard. But, as Barack Obama so astutely put it, ‘progress doesn’t travel in a straight line’, and this turning point did not immediately lead to the total emancipation of women.

The strident efforts of previous generations of women cannot be understated; it was they who protested against women’s oppression and the roles that had been attributed to them for decades, and they who fought for their right to be seen as equal to men. In 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted by the UN. It was the first treaty that outlined an objective to end discrimination against women. However, progress was still zigging and zagging. For example, rape within a marriage did not become illegal until the 1990s, and in some countries it wasn’t until the early 2000s that marital rape was finally outlawed. Only in 2002 did the UK parliament pass a law which allows lesbian and unmarried couples to adopt children. It wasn’t until 2013 that the ban against women in military combat in America was removed. And it was as recent as May 2018 that Ireland voted to overturn the abortion ban that was put in place in 1983.

In 2018, it is not uncommon for us to be or to know women who run their own business, who pursue higher education, who have children and work outside of the home, who have children and work inside the home, who choose to get married, who choose not to get married, who choose not to have children… The greatest gift that our foremothers gave us, surely, is the gift of choice, the freedom to choose what kind of woman we want to be and the confidence to know we can do whatever we want.

But has wider, global society progressed at the same pace? Can we really say that the battle for equality is won?

One of the UN’s seventeen sustainable development goals is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Their aim is to have achieved this by 2030, which is just 12 years away.

If we continue as we are going now, it will take another 100 years to close the global gender gap.

But women in Saudia Arabia have only just gained the right to drive in a move that is thought will increase women’s employment in the state, which currently stands at just 20.9%. Worldwide, only 57% of working age women are employed compared to 70% of men. In 2017, progress towards closing the gender gap (which includes factors such as employment, pay, education, health and political empowerment) was at 68%, meaning that, on average worldwide, there is still a gap of 32% between men and women. Western European countries take the lead towards ending the disparity, with a gap of 25%. Middle Eastern and North African regions are lagging behind with a gap of 40%. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, if we continue as we are going now, it will take another 100 years to close the global gender gap. Globally, 76 million young women are illiterate and less than 40% of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education. 130 million girls are not in education and 15 million girls will never enter a classroom. Period poverty is thought to account for many girls from low income backgrounds missing out on days of school every month. And this is not restricted to developing countries – in the UK some girls miss up to a week of school every month when they are on their period because they cannot afford sanitary products.

The ramifications of simply ‘being a girl’ on education, health, employment and, frankly, the right for women to hold equal status to men is shocking and sad. Worldwide, there are only 14 female heads of state and just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women. Women account for less than 30% of the world’s researchers.

Without having women in the position to empower girls and other women, the road to gender equality will continue to be long and bumpy. But how can we improve the situation when it seems like an impossible task? And what difference can one woman make to this global situation? Well, like most things, small efforts lead to big results. Stand up and be counted. Use your voice. Support other women. Talk about the issues. Get educated. Lean in. Whether it is fighting for the pay rise you know you deserve, refusing to stand for sexism or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, donating to non-profit organisations, being a mentor to other women, following your dream, speaking out or simply not judging other women for their personal choices, you will make a difference. There are numerous initiatives out there that are dedicated to empowering and educating women (and men). Movements such as Plan International, International Women’s Initiative, Lean In, HeForShe, Empower Women, 30% Club and, we hope, She, are dedicated to the cause.

As Meghan Markle said in her closing remarks:

‘It isn’t enough to simply talk about equality – one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to simply believe in it – one must work at it. Let us work at it, together, starting now.’

What are you waiting for?

Written by Ciara Gigleux