Social Media Detox...

I've recently realised I'm addicted to social media.
I mean really, who isn't these days? Practically everyone I know is on Facebook, uses Twitter to get up-to-date information, and shows off how wonderful their lives are on Instagram. And as for Snapchat, that dog filter has become iconic. Social media has become an integral part of life. We wake up and check our social medias. We go to bed and check them before we sleep. And we periodically and repetitively keep checking on them all day long, refreshing screens to show us the things we've missed in the last 5 minutes.
However, for every good thing social media has bought me, such as contact with family and loved ones, it also brings me abundance of negativity. Negativity is contagious on Facebook. There is always someone airing their dirty laundry, bitching and moaning, and creating a breeding ground of negative vibes. These negative vibes are infectious, and can be a serious downer on our moods, yet we subject ourselves to this on a daily basis.
It's not only negative vibes bringing us down on social media. FOMO is real. FOMO (the fear of missing out) proves that nothing makes you feel more miserable than seeing all your friends having fun without you. And even though this might not even be true, social media amplifies this feeling, and makes you feel forgotten. We are constantly reminded that our lives are not as good, or exciting, or successful as the next person who comes along, and it's such a terrible feeling. But we are all guilty of trying to make ourselves standout, and boast about how wonderful we are to try and gain a bit of approval from others. I post on Instagram and hope I get enough likes that the names turn to numbers. I hope my Facebook status' get more likes than anyone else's. I edit my photos so I look better, or to emphasise my surroundings. Am I doing these things because enjoy doing it, or is it much deeper than this? Could it be that I base my worth on the acceptance of my peers. If so, then how do I get away from this?
My love/hate relationship with social media is too ingrained to escape. I'll admit that I do enjoy posting photos and updates, but I'm always conscious of what other people think, and read into, what I post. And perhaps it's all too ironic that my chosen form of expressing these feelings is by blogging now. Maybe there is no escape, and no way to discern between posting things to boost my peer-assessed self-worth and the things I post because I gain pleasure from them and enjoy doing so. Maybe the line is too thin between these two conflicting narratives for why I use these websites, but one thing is certainly true; I use them too much.
I'm fed up of watching my life through a screen, so I'm turning mine off. Well, at least for a few hours a day. I debated deleting a few social medias (I all but said goodbye to Snapchat and Instagram), before I realised my problem lied predominantly in moderation. I'm not going to go cold-turkey and block out social media completely; it's almost become essential to our modern way of living. Instead, I'm going to adapt my way of living, so I'm not waking up every morning and staring with bleary eyes at my bright phone screen, only to learn more useless information about celebrities. And trust me, I feel like I know far too much about Taylor Swift, more than I will ever be proud of. I'm cutting down on my social media time, and will be spending more time looking at the world with my own eyes.
It's time to stop endlessly scrolling through newsfeeds, filling my brain with more unnecessary information, whilst constantly seeking approval and showing off to impress people on social media. I'm going to embrace the world and find my own happiness, somewhere other than endlessly looping between the same social media apps on my phone.
(And yes, I will be posting this to Facebook and Twitter. This is something which certainly falls into the pleasure and enjoyment category rather than the attention seeking one.)
Much love

Make America 'Great'....Again?

Donald Trump has won the 2016 Presidential Election.
Trump. Won. Election. President. No combination of these words will ever make sense to me. Today I am filled with sorrow and disappointment for the US population, for those who wanted this to happen, and those who protest this as much as I do. I am beyond disbelief that a man who cannot even be trusted with his own Twitter account for fear of ruining his own campaign, will now be in charge of nuclear weapons and become the most powerful man in the world.
America, you now have a president who sexually abuses and permits the degradation women. Who makes jokes about the disabled and the elderly. Who is homophobic, and appoints a second in command who thinks homosexuality can be 'cured'. Who is thoroughly opposed to immigrants no matter their benefit to society and the economy. And a president who is a racist and honestly doesn't care about the Latino and African American population he now presides over. Trump does not believe in equal rights.
And perhaps the scariest thing about Donald Trump, is that this isn't really even about him anymore. He has become the face of a faceless movement, a whitelash, within the United States. His ideas have spurred on a collective, and he has brought out nothing but negativity among citizens. Many disillusioned voters have been persuaded by the wild ideas Trump seemed to almost make up on the spot during his election campaign, because of how wild and extreme they were. He is unlike any candidate America has been presented with before, which aids his popularity, particularly within those desperate for change. The core of his election campaign was based on fear and ignorance, which gathered a huge amount of momentum, highlighting racist undertones within the country just as Brexit did with us in the UK. People like Trump and Farage bring out the worst in people, because if you can't make people love you, you can certainly make them fear you.
I've had several people ask me why I feel so affected by this as a British citizen. Firstly, I have a degree in American Studies, and am completely passionate about the country, and will definitely live out there at some point in my life. Secondly, this will impact us. It's like throwing a stone into a body of water; the effects ripple out. It may not be now, it may not even be next year, but soon we will face challenges from this. Also, as a millennial, it is my generation that will deeply feel the effects of these global decisions we are making now, yet we are not the generation voting of this. Much like Brexit, the millennial generation voted strongly in favour against the eventual winner, showing the extent we feel we will be impacted by this.
So go on Trump, make America great again. When was America even so great? Was it back to a time where people from different races felt even more marginalised within society, with no rights? Or back in times where powerful women were unheard of? I am desperate for Donald Trump to prove me wrong. Despite everything he has said or done leading up to this point, a part of me must remain optimistic that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance that he could take this role seriously. That he will respect, be accepting and considerate towards everyone in the United States. And most of all, that he doesn't completely fuck the world over.
I am in shock today, but this is the hand we have been dealt. So it is with great reluctance that we must do our best to make what we can of this situation, and remain vocal so our opinions are not silenced by this decision.
Much love

Introducing Hazel Anne Coleman, B.A....

Ladies and gentlemen, my time as a university student is officially over.
I've sung my last song and had my last hurrah, as a week ago I attended my graduation in the almighty Winchester Cathedral. It was one of the best days of my life, filled with a few tears, plenty of laughter, and as the day turned to night, many fabulous drunken selfies. Plus I can now officially call myself Hazel Anne Coleman, B.A.
The ceremony itself was surreal. I was the second person to go up, and the whole thing was a blur. Alan Titchmarsh, who is the Chancellor at my university, was there to shake hands with us all and congratulate each person who nervously stumbled across the stage (several in some very shaky, but equally glamourous heels). When it was my turn, I honestly cannot accurately remember a single word that exchanged between us. I assume there was some form of congrats and thanks, but I pray to God I didn't tell him that my mum loves him, or that I've enjoyed many reruns of Ground Force whilst hungover. Later on in the evening, I attended the Graduation Ball in Winchester Guildhall with the girls on my course. It was such a wonderful and drunken way to celebrate the end of this chapter in my life, and to let my hair down with some of the best people I've met at uni.
I think I must have hundreds of pictures from my graduation, with friends, family and lecturers. I'm so grateful for every single person who has helped me through my degree in every which way possible in Winchester. From those I lived with, worked with, or studied with, I couldn't be more grateful for their support over the three years. Sure I've met people I will happily never see again, but this is overwhelmingly outnumbered by the many people I will now treasure as friends. I've had the best time getting to know everyone, and I miss being in Winchester so much.
Highlight of the day? This picture at Graduation Ball, which is clearly an indication that my true calling in life is to be model. (This is now the picture I will be using for almost everything; first book, headstone, missing posters, whatever is required really.)
Aaaaaaand finally, a little spam of pictures to summarise the occasion.

Much love 

Chapter 22...

In the words of Taylor Swift...
So on Saturday, I turned the grand old age of 22. The first age where people seem to stop celebrating, you get told you're too old for cake and presents, and you sadly realise that the next time you'll see your age on a card is when you turn 30. I now begin a slow and steady crawl into the depths of my twenties, the decade where 'my life falls miraculously in place and everything ends well'. But is this really the case anymore?
(I protested until I got cake, and yes, I got an electric toothbrush and an electric blanket because I'm an old lady now and that's what old ladies ask for on their birthdays)
Being in my twenties has made me realise that when I was younger, I was under the false illusion that by this point I should be in my dream job, engaged, thinking about children, and happily set up for the rest of my life. I'm now beginning to look upon my twenties as my formative years. These are the years where I have to put in the legwork, and push like hell for the finish line. These are the years where I need to make some serious life changes, and think about what will make me happier and healthier. These are the years I'll look back on and realise I worked damn hard for everything I have. Looking ahead, it seems that being in your thirties is the new twenties, as this will be the time I'll be able to settle down and enjoy everything I have set in place now. Or maybe I'm just making excuses for myself, and pushing my goals even further into the future.
I have genuinely no idea what it is I want to do with the rest of my life yet, something I thought I would have figured out years ago. But maybe this is the best place to be. I'm comfortably swanning along at the moment, and I'm honestly perfectly content with my life. I'm enjoying the journey of wherever it is I'll end up, because I know I'll have to end up somewhere.
Chapter 22 begins of my life, and I'm excited to find out where this one will take me.
Much love

Things I learnt about myself at Reading Festival...

They always say that life begins outside of your comfort zone, and last weekend I saw exactly why. Maybe I'm a bit of a princess, but before last week, I had never been camping. Sleeping in a tent is something I've never done before, because I fail to see why it would be fun for anyone. I don't mind the cold and the rain, but when it comes to sleeping, comfort is key. So deciding to go to Reading Festival was a big deal to me, with the prospect of four nights of sleeping in a field and no showering. Having been born and bred in Reading, I vaguely knew what to expect, but that didn't stop me feeling any less like a fish out of water. It was an all-round challenging experience, but in hindsight it was totally worth it, because I learnt a few things about myself there.

Gal pals: Emily, Me, Emilie, Aimee and Rianne
  1. I am not a camper. Pretty obvious to be honest with you. The nights I spent in a tent were pretty horrible, and I'm not sure if it was because psychologically I was aware I was sleeping in a field surrounded by strangers, or that my tent was pretty rubbish. I felt claustrophobic and trapped in my little plastic prison on the ground, and my only reprieve was that it didn't actually rain that much whilst we were there.
  2. I am an over-packer. Even when I think I've only packed the absolute basics, I've still overpacked by a tonne. And that gets pretty heavy after you've lugged it around on trains, boats and through fields.
  3. Heatstroke is very real, and if you don't look after yourself you will end up in a medical tent. I spent a good chunk of my Friday being beyond dehydrated and exhausted, after suffering from heatstroke. It wasn't exactly the highlight of my weekend, but it taught me that you need to always look after yourself.
  4. Family are a godsend. After the Friday fiasco, I called time on sleeping in a field, so I could look after myself. Thankfully my grandparents only live down the road from the festival, and they let me stay there each night after the bands had stopped, and then dropped me back each day. Without them, I think I would've quit altogether. Sometimes you need to ask for help.
  5. I am pretty comfortable being alone. A few times I found myself going to watch bands on my own, and that was okay. I didn't feel lonely, or that I needed anyone else to be with me, I just got on with it. As I did when I trekked in and out of the site everyday to meet my grandparents. Basically, #MissIndependant
  6. I am a lot stronger than I think I am. Even though to begin with things all seemed to be against me and I was so ill, I didn't want to give up. I'm proud that I still managed to spend two nights sleeping in a field. Although it might seem pathetic to people as an achievement, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and I'm happy I actually gave it a go. I believe if it wasn't for getting so ill I would've done the whole thing and been so much prouder of myself, but I really did do my best. And that's all that counts.
Left: Biffy Clyro (ft. giant inflatable giraffe)   Right: Raleigh Ritchie
Regardless, I had the most amazing time. The music and the crowd atmosphere was incredible. It was liberating and freeing, and just so much fun. I saw so many of my favourite bands, (Disclosure, Raleigh Ritchie and Chvrches) and a few I wouldn't have normally gone to see (Blossoms and The Hunna). Plus there's the added benefit that I saw a few cast members of Game of Thrones whilst I was watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers (hello Bran Stark and Khal Drogo!) And maybe I really am crazy, but I would definitely consider going to Reading again next year.

Camping; the aftermath
Em and Aimee trying to fold up a pop-up tent in the rain
So to clarify, I didn't die in a field, I genuinely enjoyed myself, and I feel like I came out it a lot stronger. It definitely pays to step out of your comfort zone and do something new.
Much love

Vacanze Romane...

I have recently got back from the most incredible week away in Rome.

Rome has always been on my bucket-list for two reasons; history and food. Both of these passions were thoroughly explored during my week long Italian adventure, through eating as much as I could physically consume, to spending my days diving into the historical depths of the city. Rome exceeded my expectations, and I completely recommend a visit during any European travels.

 I thought I'd share with you a selection of pictures from my week in Rome, as well as a few little anecdotes, basically just to brag about how great of a time I had (sorry not sorry), and a few tips for you to plan your own Roman Holiday...

Inside the Basilica of St. Peter, in the Vatican (My mum thinks she was touched by God in the first picture because of the lights on her head...)
Vatican posing and one of the incredible ceilings in the Vatican Museum.
Even more Vatican selfies. I recommend doing a tour around the Vatican, it may be pricey, but it's a great way to avoid the long queues, as well as getting a guide who will show you around. The highlight of the tour was going into the Sistine Chapel. It's so still and the artwork is iconic.
Trevi Fountain! Guess which idiot managed to sit on the edge with her skirt hanging into the fountain? Oh yeah, that was me.
Seriously, could this place be anymore postcard perfect?
Mother and I outside the Colosseum (Photo cred: A very lovely American couple)
Inside the Colosseum, it was so much bigger than I thought it would be. Make sure to get here early if you don't want to queue. Mother and I took part in a three hour tour around the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Although it was very informative, and interesting (particularly in the Colosseum), our tour guide was an incredibly slow walker, which made the tour in 38 degree heat tedious and at times unbearable. I think it is totally manageable doing these things on your own with a guidebook, in your own leisure. It will save money, and be much more enjoyable.
Outside the Pantheon and by the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. These are all free to see, and are great things to plan a walk in the city around seeing.
Two very different dining experiences: On the left, a relaxed lunch in a backstreet cafe. On the right, drinking Limoncello, a palate cleanser they offer after meals, and I absolutely hated it! It was like doing a shot of cough mixture.
The Spanish Steps! I wanted to have a Lizzie McGuire Movie moment, but they were closed for refurbishment.
The view from our hotel rooftop was beautiful, and watching a storm roll in was pretty incredible.
So we decided to climb Mount Vesuvius... It's not as bad as it sounds, you get a coach most of the way to the top, then there is like a half an hour steep climb up to the crater. But the view across the bay of Naples is genuinely breath-taking (and literally breath-taking after you've climbed the volcano...)
We took a trip to Pompeii, (which was why we ended up climbing Vesuvius, it's all making sense now!), and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Our guides were so much fun, we saw so much of the preserved ruins, including a theatre (above), a preserved man (below), went into an old brothel with some *interesting* preserved artwork, and a few preserved fresco's such as the one showing Icarus below.
Any trip towards the Vatican is not complete without a stop at Castel Sant'Angelo. First commissioned by emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family, it became a fortress, and now a museum. If you climb all the way up to the top, the views of the River Tiber, The Vatican City and across Rome are incredible.
Little selfie at the top of Castel Sant'Angelo with the Vatican behind me
Left - My attempt of an arty shot showing one of the many backstreets in Rome
Right - Circo Massimo at sunset, an ancient chariot racing stadium, which could hold up to 300,000 spectators.
What trip to Rome is complete without a stop to see the Trevi Fountain at night? I completely recommend scheduling a trip to see the fountain both at day and at night, because both views are completely stunning.
A few more tips:
If your trip is long enough, I recommend planning a day trip away from Rome, just to see more of Italy. We chose to see Pompeii and Naples, but it is just as easy to venture to Florence and such alike. The tour we went on is here.
Food-wise, trying the gelato is a must! The best food you'll find will be down the backstreets away from the tourist attractions. Here, prices will be cheaper, and the food will taste so much better. Restaurants around the tourist attractions tend to have a 'hit it and quit it' ethos, as they try to make money off of tourists, so stay wise!
Never buy anything from the illegal street vendors. These guys are everywhere. They will try and force you into buying selfie sticks, umbrellas, and ice cold bottled water. It might seem like a bargain at 1 Euro, but many of these guys refill bottles they dig out of bins from local fountains, so don't even consider buying one!
Be wary of local transport. It's a good idea to figure out how you'll be getting around the city, whether it's walking, or if you book a hotel out of the main centre it might be worth getting the metro. The metro is super easy and super cheap (1 euro 50 for a one way journey), but be careful as they often strike without warning. Another way is to buy a ticket for the tourist hop-on-hop-off bus. This will enable you to see all the sights of Rome, and can be great if you plan to do it all in a day, but it is considerably more expensive than public transport.
Go out there, eat as much as you can, see everything, shop until you drop, but don't feel awful if the heat beats you and you have to go back to the hotel for a siesta and freshen-up. We totally did, it becomes too much, and it's the nicest way to feel fresh and alive to enjoy the evenings.
Until next time!

Much love