“Doing the maths” on imposter syndrome

Two things can secure you a relatively painless journey through secondary school: being pretty, or being good at sports.

Fortunately, I had the latter. Adventurous sports were my lifelong hobbies, I played netball in the local team, and enjoyed running so much that I never did that thing I do now and intermittently grab my own bum to see if it “feels any firmer” (it never does).

These traits granted me safety from any particular scrutiny from my peers. Such is the superficial hierarchy of the average British state school. Can you pull off a boxy jumper and polyester trousers, or do you know your way around the football pitch? It’s one, the other or both. Either way, you’ll probably do just fine.

Unluckily, there was one thing being seen regularly in lycra could not save me from: being abysmal at maths.

Numbers may as well have been a different language to me. They jumped off the books, shuffled around a bit somewhere, and returned to the pages totally indecipherable to me. Many evenings throughout my school years were spent hunched over living room tables with my dad, desperately trying to calculate a + x= c and how on earth you’re supposed to suss out long division. Consequently, my grades were below average for much of my school career. Maths went directly over my head, and while that in itself didn’t bother me too much, being repeatedly the only person in class who seemed to never be “getting it” certainly did.

When GCSE Maths started, it only got worse. That threat of “never getting a job anywhere” with less than a C grade was repeated to us constantly, and I was concerned this would blight my distinctly non-mathematical ambitions. So, maths was not something I would do for myself; rather, it became something “we” would do in order to get me through it. My teachers, my parents and I were a team deeply committed to my C.

Eventually, I passed with that all important C grade, supposedly securing me some kind of employment if that mantra was to be believed. My grades were a mixed bag, rendering me unworthy of that “academic all-rounder” title many of my university peers carry. But we moved on from that period, ceremoniously burning all the past papers, then I was free to progress to sixth form, then university.

Yet, a couple of years down the line from school, something was up, and it wasn’t just my weak tolerance for the cheap booze in the student unions.

I just could not shake the sense that I didn’t deserve my place at university.

I almost dropped out twice, the first time for personal reasons, the second for not succeeding in my original degree course. Suddenly, I found myself confronting my suspicions that maybe a university of this calibre was not for me. I didn’t deserve it like everyone else. They were the real achievers, the ones who did it all with flying colours and more.

I’ve since learnt that this feeling is best described as imposter syndrome, wherein individuals cannot internalise their accomplishments and worry about being exposed as fraudulent. And wow, was I worried about being exposed as fraudulent for my accomplishment of being at university! It felt like “Plan B” was permanently ready to go if necessary, as I waited for a stern man in a suit to barge into a lecture and announce “Floraidh Clement? Yeah, there’s been a mix up – we know about GCSE Maths”.

For me, that imposter syndrome was accurately characterised by the paralysing fear of opening my mouth in an academic setting and saying, God forbid, the wrong thing. In fact, it silenced me through most seminars. At university, those people who sit there sullenly are often resented, their lack of contribution accounting for those painful awkward silences. I was one of them, so concerned that my mouth might give me away, taking me back to those classrooms and answering that question on Pythagoras wrong for the third or fourth time that week.

It turns out that terror of being exposed was a pretty effective gag. But when you’re regarded as the one who never gets it once, detaching yourself from something so blunt isn’t such a clean break. It’s like the “dunce” hat gets removed, but your hair is still dishevelled, revealing that you were, in fact, not somebody naturally intended for the academic path you’ve set about on.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a path you can’t make work for yourself. Yesterday I handed in my undergraduate dissertation. It was 12, 000 on a personal subject, which was both a source of struggle and joy. Signing off my name on that register, it felt like a pretty poignant reminder that if the girl who couldn’t do maths was going to be found out by a stern man in a suit, he surely would’ve done it by now. And she wouldn’t have written bloody 12,000 words on political socialisation in the meantime.

As you’ll have guessed, I’m no mathematician, but that just doesn’t add up.

Veet and Lunch Dates: A Defence of Lifestyle Bloggers

Back in the day, I really fancied the idea of being a blogger – a real blogger, that is, not somebody who writes 800 words of misery, anger or outright self-pity when there’s nobody physically there to weep to.

I meant an actual blogger; somebody who builds a persona and eventually their own mini empire through their WordPress site, who talks solemnly about “stats” and gets paid to write about things like hair removal creams. Free Veet for 300 words? Hell yes, count 17 year old Floraidh in.

Alas, I quickly learnt that I had neither the commitment nor the kind of unfailingly smiley personality which seems to naturally cultivate followers in their thousands. Call me too lazy (or just too grumpy) but I wasn’t up to the task, and quickly settled for sporadically posting rants, reflections and the odd morbid soliloquy instead.

Well, I bloody missed a trick, didn’t I? Because blogging is big news now. Successful bloggers bag all sorts of perks because of their platforms nowadays, with brands flocking to offer them collaborations, sponsorship deals and business opportunities. As I repeated on an almost hourly basis during a PR internship, “bloggers get all the free shit!”

Blogging naturally has different areas of interests, with politics bloggers, sex bloggers, feminist bloggers, sports bloggers and health bloggers, all of whom have their own figureheads and devoted audiences. For the sake of this blog and the complaints I’ve observed, however, this blog will focus on the lifestyle blogger, who I have observed as receiving some pretty negative press recently.

For those less familiar with the blogging industry (or who isn’t an under-25 on Twitter, seemingly…) a lifestyle blog is a “niche which doesn’t have a niche“. From my own jaunts across the bloggersphere, lifestyle blogs cover vast ground, yet tend to remain pretty distinctive in their content. Think food, beauty, travel, fashion. Lifestyle blogging is a hugely popular area, and appears to be dominated mostly be women.

This particular area of blogging is not to everybody’s taste, of course. I mean, it’s not really even to mine. Indeed, I too am flummoxed when a two hundred word post detailing what somebody ate for lunch accumulates more traffic than this blog has ever received in its entire year of being alive.

“When’s my turn?” I’ve found myself wondering, admittedly.  I blog about important things, not a particularly admirable amount of course, but I daresay – deep breath – I think I am a good writer, and I do a lot to ensure these blogs are as readable and entertaining as my creative energy will allow. Yet, I consider this blog to be about showcasing Flo “the writer”, and not Flo “the brand”, and perhaps that’s why I still can’t bring myself to think all that badly of the lifestyle blogging scene.

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Honestly, it’s because I don’t think there’s much to think badly of. If bloggers can build a whole empire from a shitty WordPress account, talking about anything that just so happens to cross their path, accumulating thousands of followers and grabbing the attention of brands desperate for that blogger’s email address in the process…cool! Good for them! That is an entirely inoffensive way to make a living. To successfully create a blog with a sizeable following, there has got to be some skill involved in building that personal brand, successfully utilising online analytical tools, not to mention having unearthly levels of patience in writing and scheduling content.

Plus, let’s not forget as women in particular, we’ve faced enough terribly witty criticism for having interests regarded as vapid, useless and, ahem, almost certainly not as urgently important as football. If a blogger can make a decent living through posting about such things, what’s the rush to put them down for it? Dominating your own space on the internet just through talking about what you like is a seriously enterprising move.

Yet whilst I have a pretty relaxed outlook on it generally, there are two things that do continuously irk me. The first is bloggers neglecting to use their large platforms for at least occasionally discussing worthwhile causes. When I’ve had to scan through blogs for research purposes, I’ve been a little taken back by how many key events and issues were glossed over or missed out entirely by those who can only be described as “influencer powerhouses”. Like, do something! People clearly listen to you! We all like to think that if we were in any way influential, we’d use such a privilege for good. To see noted, recognised bloggers keeping quiet on important issues is extremely frustrating.

The second big annoyance is the onset of lifestyle bloggers calling themselves “journalists”. Such an assumption is misguided and a pretty big slap in the face to those who do graft their way into a notoriously competitive trade. Blogging and journalism are separate entities, both legitimate, and both with their own vast audiences. Do not lump them together.

However, these are where my criticisms of lifestyle blogging end. Honestly, in this current climate of divisive journalism and columnists intent on spreading fear among us all, it seems trivial to focus critical energy on bloggers who just so happen to be making a buck through talking about, well, life. Influencers are using their own platforms to discuss far worse and for much less savoury motives, making a few twee blog posts on lunch dates and Veet seem like exactly what they are – harmless.

@FloraidhCC

 

 

*Sort of notable life developments…*

  • I will be writing over at Positively Scottish soon, an opportunity which this little old blog happened to help me land! So a wee word of advice to all aspiring writers: write a blog. Write a bloody blog. 
  • I will be wrapping up a freelance project with social enterprise Aiding Your Way in the next few days. Please do follow them on Twitter, they’re lovely. 
  • I am fine. Tired, but fine. 

On the importance of giving yourself a damn break, already

This week, I have done absolutely nothing. I have barely lifted a finger. I could not have led a more idyllic lifestyle if I had been getting dressed every day only for afternoon tea and playing badminton.

It has been glorious. I have piled my hair up on my head, put nothing but much-needed cleanser on my skin and rarely left the peaceful haven of my neighbourhood. I have ditched my dissertation for the week, and shunned the office for sporadic social media updates from the comfort of my electric blanket. Instead of rushing around trying to do three tasks at once, by far the harshest task I’ve had to endure this week was the gruelling wait for my macaroni cheese to defrost. Life is good.

Right now, it is mid-semester of my final year, with dissertation notes ominously piling up and two jobs to maintain. On paper, this does not seem to be the time to have my foot off the pedal. But everybody needs to do so eventually if they’re going relentlessly at full speed for too long, and that is something I did not fully realise until one day off became four.

I have a lot on. As an anxious person, I do not always cope smoothly when faced with stressful scenarios where I feel I have many people to be pleasing at the same time, and I have a habit of not knowing where to tow the line. I kept going through the outer and inner strain, never stepping away from my phone and constantly checking the social media channels for outreach updates, cursing myself at 9pm in the evening should I notice the numbers not piling up where I wanted them to. The dissertation word count goals would be met every day I set them, even if I had to miss lunch or bail on plans. The day always had a start somewhere, but from there it felt like it never ended.

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And yet, the morbid thing about all of that is that a tiny part of me felt proud to be this state. Deep down, I was almost smug that I had so much on my plate and that I was soldiering through it, albeit at the expense of the basic joys of lunch dates and the occasional lie in. Going to bed stressed and worn out, constantly feeling low on energy, so zapped of zealousness that heaven help anybody who crossed me…well, in a strange way, I loved it. I relished it, because it meant that I must be a hard worker, right? Indeed, a hard worker who could barely achieve three hours of sleep a night, with a body which was crying out for me to slow down and not a single moment for anything but something “productive”.

Contrary to what I previously assumed, such traits are not trophies to be worn with pride. If you are straining under a lifestyle with little time for basic self-care, it is essential for your health to just admit “I need some time to just do nothing”. Whether your “nothing” is podcasts, music, movies or reality television – ahem – the time to indulge in that is so crucial, and for all your ambition and dreams, it cannot go forgotten.

For all of us, it seems to be regarded as somewhat shameful if you are seen as not maintaining this illusion of being rushed off your feet. In particular, for final year students like me, we’re not exactly living in “the moment” right now are we? Everything is for “the future”, long past the dissertation hand-in picture and picking up that scroll. It’s for post-university life, a time when perhaps you will finally know the answer to the constant, dreaded question: “what’s next for you, then?”

(I don’t know either)

We have much to be proud of at this stage in our lives, but it means nothing if we forget that underneath this thick skin and up-for-it exterior is still a human who needs time to recharge, the occasional chance to let our hair down and the odd afternoon inside, peacefully at one with The Cardigans.

With all of this said, next week will be business as usual. My alarm clock will be set for the crack of dawn, and every minute of my life from the moment I wake up will be planned meticulously via a diary. It is, quite simply, the only way I can get everything done. But this time round, I will not berate myself for failing should I not check my emails at least every half an hour, nor if I’m not seen in the office doing something every single day, and my disposition may even become a little less uptight (sorry about that, folks).

Hard work pays off, that’s a fact. Good things come to those who see opportunities and run with them. But it does not make you any less of a hard worker if from time to time, you kick  your shoes off mid-way through, catching your breath to celebrate how far you’ve come and how just bloody well you’re doing – because you probably are, by the way. Grafter, you.

Workin’ (Unpaid) Nine To Five…

“You’re still working for free?”

It takes all my strength not to visibly wince. Why does this comment always feel like a snipe? Of course it isn’t – this isn’t how it was done “in their day” – but it still feels like I have sold the hell out.

It is the summer, and I am on internship number three. The buzzwords of an ambitious young undergraduate like “contacts”, “value” and “CV” are spinning in my head, and I’m excited. Finally, it feels like I’m starting to work out what it is I want from my future job – not just a pastel pink trouser suit to wear and a decent enough wage to afford getting my roots done every six weeks. No, I mean the serious stuff. I want to work on social media. I want no two days  to be the same. I want to put these writing skills to work. This internship is another opportunity to do all of those things.

Alas, it is unpaid. For that, I feel as though I have failed a major test. This is my third unpaid internship.

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Exclusive preview of Flo’s Future Work Wardrobe (hopefully)

The grown-ups in my life are pretty incredulous about this. After being told of every new work experience gig, the initial excitement is always followed with tentative questioning over whether it’s a voluntary position or not. To them, it is weird. To me, it is a wearying necessity. But I’m optimistic; hey, it’s not totally ideal. But it will help.

This becomes a regular mantra of mine, one I’ve found myself repeating repeatedly throughout the past few years. It will help. It will help.

Because I needed a mantra. I desperately needed reminded of why I was doing them. While these internships were incredibly interesting, challenging and usually pretty fun, it all came at a price: my sanity.

That seems melodramatic, but I assure you this was the absolute truth. It was unbelievably hard. My work/life quota was uncomfortably imbalanced, leaving me exhausted, irritable and unable to find any time for basic recreational activities. This was because in order to intern for free, I had to keep my part-time job, as well as going to university.

This may not be a surprise to many of you, but all work and no play makes Flo (and y’know, anyone) a very dull girl. When my hair started coming out in second year during a period in which I was spending seven days a week either working or studying, it was me who had to pull the plug on interning.

But it felt like the mother of all catch 22s. I had to weigh up two less than ideal scenarios. I could be principled, demand a wage, and possibly not find that valuable, practical experience I was after, risking my fear of one day looking back and feeling like I had not done “enough”. On the other hand, I could just smile, say thank you, keep my head down and crack on. Nobody got anywhere without a little grafting – or a lot of grafting. Seven days a week of grafting.

It’s not even as though this has helped me feel confident about employment prospects any more. Recently, I’ve become concerned that my experience will actually work against me. Since landing two jobs in the past few months, I’ve realised quite how many professionals look badly on unpaid work, sparking an unanticipated sense of uneasiness. What some might regard as industrious, others might view as inferior. Will potential employers look at me and see a girl who does not recognise her worth? And if this girl doesn’t, why the hell should they?

It is a very real worry that I did not expect to have to confront.

Today, it was reported in The Guardian that a ban on unpaid internships is being considered. I think it goes without saying that doing so would be one of the most progressive, promising moves this government could pass through parliament. Although I can’t get excited just yet due to failed actions in the past (cheers Dave), it is a move I, and no doubt thousands like me, would welcome with open arms. Enrolling further initiatives like Adopt an Intern would also be handy for smaller businesses struggling to pay their interns (unlike larger companies, who have absolutely no excuse).

But I will not bite the hand that fed me, and I have nothing but respect for the small businesses I interned for. Doing so did end up benefiting me enormously; I wouldn’t have landed my current jobs without them. I have met so many brilliant people, received some valuable practical insight and felt more encouraged than ever to chase those career dreams.

But nobody should be losing their hair with the sheer stress of making sure they’re doing “enough“.

I deserve better. Every student with a goal to pursue deserves better. Each and every one of us deserves better.

 

@FloraidhCC

“I was looking for a job and then I found a job”: Flo’s first communications job

Typically, I had something in my eye when I found out I got this job.

It was the rain, chucking it down in the city centre. It was obviously a classic August day in Glasgow. Then I got mascara in my eye, and we all know what that’s like. Nightmare, right? Either way, I certainly wasn’t bloody crying.

Perhaps it would have been understandable to cry. It wasn’t as though I’d spent the past three years doing several unpaid internships, alongside my studies, my job in retail and my social life, often close to burning out with the thought of an end goal like this keeping me motivated. It wasn’t as though this was the kind of job I’d been working towards for after I graduate, let alone before doing so. Sure, it had felt like a pretty long slog to get myself feeling qualified and confident enough to do this kind of job…and it had all paid off.

But you know me, not exactly the emotional sort.

So, I am a month into my new job as Communications Officer (get me!) at the SRC, who are one of the student bodies at the University of Glasgow. Just a few of my responsibilities include keeping the social media accounts up to date with news and relevant content; liaising with the executive team and various departments in the building to develop their own communications strategies; and startlingly enough, managing a publicity team. I have a cute wee desk in an office. I do smart casual dressing. I contemplate on a daily basis whether Madonna’s Music is appropriate office music. You know, “big girl job” sort of things.

I have only locked myself out of said office twice, and introduced just the one meeting with a declaration of how terribly grown up it seemed for little old me to be chairing a meeting.

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Just a professional gal, doing professional things.

 

Anyway, a whole month has passed since I took up my new post, which did somewhat sadly mean hanging up my Superdrug lanyard for good. Honestly, I’m really enjoying the new challenge! Sure, it’s a little hectic at times and nothing beats the “just kill me” levels of embarrassment like noticing a typo on a Tweet, but overall I think I’m in for another month, at least…

Here are just a few of the things I’ve learnt about werkin’ 9-5 (or 12-4, whatever) in communications:

  • Time management is an art. You must perfect it. As a final year student, procrastination is something of a second nature to me. Any endeavour, no matter how unimportant, can be crafted into something far more worthy of my time than, say, a 4000 word essay due in tomorrow. But to do a communications job, you need to have your time management skills down. Too much needs done, with too many people relying on you to do your thing and to do it snappily. To stay on top of tasks, invest in Post-It notes. You will need them.
  • Know your audience. I’ve heard this repeated over the course of numerous internships, but now I’m the one at the helm of several social media platforms, I can vouch that it really is the centre of EVERYTHING you do! In this instance, my audience is the student body of the University of Glasgow. Thus, everything I post and write must be relevant to the student body, written in a way which is accessible to the student body, without any exception. Knowing this allows me to plan social media schedules in advance, and means I can spend time hunting for content which may be of interest to Glasgow students. I’m hoping to conduct some independent research on how students currently interact with the organisation, but we’ll see.
  • You might be in demand. But you can be diplomatic. If I’m in for the day, it’s not unusual to have several people asking me to do different things at one time. As a natural born flapper, it would be very easy for me to slip back into the realms of becoming Flustered Flo. However, nailing the ability to suss which task demands your attention most urgently is a virtue. Being able to determine this, as opposed to doing three things at once and doing them badly, means you can produce work of a considerably higher quality.
  • Keep an eye on your stats. When I first started this job, there didn’t seem to be much of a logical correlation between which posts received the most traffic and when they did so. However, through a process of trial and error I can now determine when posts are most likely to be seen, and track patterns on what kind of content gets the most traffic and when. By keeping a close eye on your stats, you can schedule content to be uploaded during times when they are most likely to be seen. That said, experimenting can be beneficial too. For example, I assumed students wouldn’t be on Facebook between hours, since they might be concentrating very, very hard on paying attention in lectures. Hmmmmmm.
  • Actually, just keep on eye on every single thing you broadcast. I can admit that this is something I have taken a while with perfecting. Self-editing has never been a strong point of mine. As I previously mentioned, typos are embarrassing, and people will always notice them (some are thoughtful enough to bluntly Tweet your account to inform you!). Everything you publish is a reflection of your organisation, so to get something wrong makes for an unprofessional image. I’ve since learned to ask a colleague to double-check my work – or to just triple check, myself.
  • Using chocolate as an incentive for anybody you manage to do their work is usually a good move. Well, they’re only human.

Of course, this is only a term-time job and with part-time hours, but it’s my start into the career I sincerely want to pursue. Some of those points took me longer to learn than others, certainly. I anticipate the list will expand over time, and I look forward to it! A communications queen I am certainly not…yet.

So that’s it, that’s me, that’s my first paid communications job. As I say, I really enjoy it and am glad to have it but like, a job is just a job a the end of the day. As I say, definitely nothing worth crying over.

@FloraidhCC

Debunking the #GirlBoss

 

So, who is this #GirlBoss?

The essence of the #GirlBoss is summed up concisely in her title. She is a girl, and she is the boss. She is an accomplished professional; a “career woman”, through and through. She leads a determined, fulfilled, meaningful life. She is meticulously tailored, faultlessly pristine and most importantly, she gets shit done. She most likely gets her nails done, too – every three weeks, without prompting. She is the GirlBoss, she is in control, and she is the personification of female success in 2016.

Now, where exactly did she come from?

The term was coined by in 2014 by Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO of globally renowned NastyGal, for her book by the same name. The philosophy behind the term is designed to encourage women in their own pursuits, declaring that #GirlBoss is a “platform for inspiring women to lead deliberate lives”.

Hey, this doesn’t like such a bad deal, right? Of course women should feel empowered to lead the lives they want, on their own terms, using their own resources. The term has since been adopted by businesswomen on social media aplenty, and it’s no mystery as to why this is.

Anyway, I’m an ambitious young woman myself. I admire individuals like Amoruso, who independently developed her business through one long, challenging slog. But something about #GirlBoss just doesn’t resonate with me.

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It’s yer gal, taking care of business since day one. 

My first qualm – are the guys doing this too? In this instance, I’m going to just assume that you have never ONCE heard your male manager hail himself as a #BoyBoss. We don’t include gender in our professional titles because it perpetuates the patriarchal norm that men are the expectation, women are the exception. There are no girl teachers, girl fire fighters or girl students. There are just teachers, firefighters and students. Adding “girl” only illustrates a divide between women and men, rather than drawing attention to how they are capable of working to the exact same standard as men (and let’s face it – most likely beyond it…).

Let’s talk about that “girl” thing, too. I don’t know about you, but to me calling yourself a #GirlBoss sounds like something your ten year old self would say if you’d sold a few Bratz dolls at a car boot sale in some dismal field with your mum. It is essentially infantilizing. For example, the UK is currently making history with more female leaders heading up political parties than ever before. Yet, I have to confess, not once have I heard somebody shriek “yassss Theresa babe! Slay, you GIRL BOSS!”

No, we should not have to make female success sound like a cute commodity in order for it to be taken seriously. We are so much better than that.

Finally, I dislike the assumed falsehood that feminism has somehow completed its mission as a movement because #GirlBosses happen to exist now. This should surely go without saying, but the work of feminism is nowhere near done because privileged Western women can thrive impressively in a professional sense. The increasing cultural prevalence of the #GirlBoss draws away attention from considerably more complex and challenging feminist issues which are still far from solved. Championing the credentials of assertive women is important, yes, but it isn’t easing the suffering of women around the world who face prejudice on a level which we cannot even begin to imagine. Let’s try and do our bit to sort that out, first.

Ideally, the arrival of a term like #GirlBoss would be welcomed. It positively celebrates the strong work ethic of women. It recognises their tenacity, industriousness and commitment to achieving their goals – and hey, I love that! As I reiterate endlessly, I relish witnessing hardworking women reap the rewards of their own hard work. I am fortunate to be surrounded by creative, conscientious and proactive women who inspire me daily to strive to better myself. But as a term, can #GirlBoss be really taken that seriously outside of the internet? Can we celebrate a term that in effect discredits these women – and ultimately, feminism itself?

Sadly, I just don’t think so. Make no mistake; I am reaching for the stars and beyond. I damn well hope you remember my name. I hope to thrive like all the women who go by the title of #GirlBoss…and yes, a little part of me hopes I can even one day afford to get my nails done every three weeks, too.

I hope I flourish.

But I do not want be your #GirlBoss.

 

@FloraidhCC

I moved in with a boy

Honey Glow, Peony, Red Raspberry, Fruit Salad, Spiced Orange, Hazelnut Coffee, Cinnamon Stick, Black Coconut, Clean Cotton,”Home Sweet Home”.

I cast an eye over the shelves and study each bottle.

I delve into rigorous analysis of these candles with an adviser who seems startled by my urgent requests for recommendations. I’m 21 and like “sweet things”, and that’s about the extent of my tastes. I’ve never really thought about it before, and now seems like a good time to figure our how our flat should smell.

“Our flat”. Mine and his. Less of an outright decision as it was a conclusion met quietly, without either of us feeling the need to verbally confirm it for a long time. Four months later and we live in our Hyndland flat, owned by a landlord who obviously lives in New Zealand. The walls are beginning to peel, the bathroom sink looks set to give up from the wall entirely and we’re frankly a bit distrusting of the oven. The rooms are large but far too cold, the drawers seem to break at the slightest touch and the utility room still smells slightly sour, but this is it, our Home Sweet Home, and we are completely in love with it.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about living with a boy, however nice he is, because boys are…well, they’re boys, at the end of the day. Boys never want to seem to talk about the important things like the merits of Tea Tree Oil, if palazzo pants are having another “moment” and who wants to get with who even though that person is clearly out of their league and don’t you think this person is too clever for them? (believe me, I’ve tried).

What if I run out of tampons? It’s not like he’ll have a supply waiting for me to steal. Boys just don’t make practical sense to live with like that.

Everyone was right about bickering. You never see every part of a person until you live with them, and we’ve both had some surprises (“you’re so messy” “well, you’re so pedantically clean!”) when trying to manoeuvre basic household chores. Naturally, we are unaccustomed to the more tedious rhythms of one another’s habits, trying to suss how to work best in harmony together. But this doesn’t bother me, not at all. If the severity of your clashes peak at how much pepper one of you sprinkled onto dinner, you probably don’t need to consider getting that deposit back.

My deposit will stay happily stashed in in some bank account in New Zealand, anyway. Everyone was also right about the constant sense of peace, security and support. He sits opposite me just now, brow furrowed as he concentrates on a game, our knees just touching, close enough to feel connected but perfectly content in our own elements. On the other side of the room, my tealights and flowers sit next to his comics and sci-fi novels, a contrast which nicely replicates how our differences just so happened to compliment one another these past 13 months. This is, without a doubt, the happiest I have ever been.

This is true even despite the past few days, when I have been seriously unwell. He regularly chases me around the flat with tablets and water, pressing me to drink more. I roll my eyes back at him, knowing he’s right and of course I must not be hydrated enough. I drink up. He just makes things easier – even the tasks like choosing a Yankee Candle, seemingly. We ended up choosing Moroccan Argan Oil.

This is now what burns next to me as I type; in our flat, mine and his. “Home Sweet Home”.