Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Life lately

A picture of smiling at the camera standing next to a lake surrounded by greenery wearing blue jeans, white trainers and a leopard print top
Happy Wednesday! How is everyone? I hope you’re all well.

I feel like you can’t start a ‘life update’ post without mentioning the pandemic and how life under lockdown is treating you. I’m staying indoors until 2021 with the occasional exception for outings with friends and family. I’ve developed some anxiety around going outside and I feel a lot safer indoors. I’m grateful to have a lot of space, a garden and be in a position where I only need to leave my house to go food shopping. 

A lot has changed in my personal life since I rebranded my blog in April. Firstly, I’m a business owner, I founded Black Geographers on Thursday 23rd April and I’ve been working tirelessly to get it to where I want it to be. Not only do I write from my blog, but I’m also a writer for My Mind Matters Too, an innovation hub for Youth Mental Wellbeing driven by Young People and an ambassador for 5050 Parliament, a campaign to tackle gender imbalance in Parliament and get more women elected. I sort of miss being able to laze around and play Animal Crossing from dawn till dusk but I love everything that I am working on and I feel like my work aligns with my values. 

An increased workload comes with increased pressure and the ability to switch off becomes harder. If you read my ‘dear overachievers’ post then you might remember that I said I needed to start taking accountability for my workaholic ways and how the way I work contributes to my periods of bad mental health and pending burnout. In an attempt to prevent a possible burnout, I no longer look at my social media or emails until I’m out of bed, showered, dressed and have eaten breakfast to avoid feeling overwhelmed before my day has even started. I’ve also become a lot strict about the hours that I work and as soon as it hits 5 pm, I turn my 'out of office' on and any work that is left can be completed the next day or at another point in the week, I can’t produce good work if I allow it to consume my personal life and I feel overwhelmed by it. Everything I do, I have passion for and I don’t want to lose that passion so, I’m slowing down. I’ve voiced this with the people I work with and I felt relief, I think as people we forget that we’re humans and can’t work like robots, you can pause and still achieve everything you want to achieve. Pausing doesn’t mean failure, pausing means you’ve recognised that the way you’re working is self-destructive and you need to rewind, assess your current situation, revise your goals and start again. If you ask me, that’s a sign of success.

In a bid to slow down, I’ve been dedicating my evenings to activities that bring me joy and allow me to relax. The other night, I started painting again, I haven’t painted since art in year 8 or 9 so it was great to pick up a paintbrush and just let my creative juices flow. 

I want to end with something positive that happened recently. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already heard this story but for those of you who don’t, I lost contact with my oldest friend when I was 18 and last month, she found my Twitter and we spent that evening reconnecting. I didn’t realise how much I missed her and valued our friendship. She reaffirmed to me that everything I’m doing now is what I was destined to do. Reconnecting with her has made my year and I’m positive that there are more good things to come out of 2020 now that I have her by my side. 

How’s life treating you?


Wednesday, 15 July 2020

My favourite brunch spots in and around London

A plate of poached eggs in hollandaise sauce with a side of spinach
I asked on Instagram if you guys would be interested in a post about my favourite brunch spots in and around London, you can guess what the majority wanted.

A new one to my list of favourite brunch places is Grind, specifically the Covent Garden location. It's hidden away on Maiden Lane and has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for winter and summer brunch dates. If you’re a blogger, the seating area outside is a great place to shoot Spring and Summer content as well as the downstairs seating area which has marble tables and pink neon lights. As for the food, I think there’s a good range of options for vegetarians and I went for the eggs Florentine, I’d never tried it before, but the presentation and flavour were a solid 10/10 for me. They also serve granola, acai and porridge bowls as well as smashed avocado, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and of course, a range of coffee and tea.
A stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup and summer berries on a white plate on top of a wooden table

If you find yourself in South London and you’re looking for a new place to eat, Burnt Toast is where you need to go. Their pancakes are second to none and I’ve tried a lot of pancakes from various brunch places before so this is a bold statement.
A plate of vegan pancake covered within almond butter, blue berries and a wedge of lemon
This is a new addition to my list, Chia Naturally Healthy. It’s located in Hitchin which is about 55 minutes by train from Kings Cross or just over an hour by car. I believe, it’s the first plant-based cafĂ© in the area and if you’re environmentally conscious like myself, you’ll be pleased to know that they don’t use any plastic products including their takeaway packaging. Everything is biodegradable, plant-based material. I tried their Organic Blueberry Cinnamon Pancakes and I'll admit, I was a bit iffy as to how they would taste as I've never had vegan pancakes before but they were incredible!

What are your favourite brunch spots in and around London?


12 reasons why you should take a gap year

With just two weeks left of my gap year, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on the last 12 months and document what I have learnt following a year out of education. 

01. If a situation makes you unhappy, leave.
At the beginning of my gap year, I worked at Mcdonalds as a 'Customer Care Assistant' aka a glorified cleaner. I started working there as a crew member and I was promoted to the customer care role after a year. As my 2nd year of working there approached, I started to feel unhappy. I would often call one of my friends while walking home, to cry down the phone to about how awful the shift had been, customers speak to you like shit when you work at Mcdonald's, I know this is the case in most customer-facing roles but the abuse you face from customers while working at Mcdonald's is next level. Or to cry about how nasty a particular shift manager had been that day. I quickly realised that a job that reduces you to tears is not a job worth having. I identified the reasons and the people who were making me feel the way I did and filed a grievance against a certain shift manager and my business manager. I felt relieved. I started applying for new jobs almost immediately and landed a job at ASOS. Within two weeks of filing my grievance, I'd handed in my notice and left. I instantly felt a lot happier. I told myself that from this day, if a job made me unhappy, especially to the point of crying, I would leave. 

02. The grass is NOT always greener 
Remember when I said my first day at ASOS was the best first day ever? I lied. It wasn't bad but I didn't feel how I thought I should feel about a new job. I walked into the office and felt anxious. The fashion world was not my cup of tea. This feeling went on for two weeks and on Sunday, the day before my third working week, I woke up, emailed the relevant person and quit the job with immediate effect. 

03. Your mental health should always come first 
This is pretty self-explanatory but nothing should ever come before your mental health. Your mental health can make you or break you, take care of it. 

04. I am privileged
I am privileged to have a roof over my head, a loving family, a solid group of friends, a job, the ability to walk, talk, feed myself and so on. Every one of us is privileged, to live in a country free of war and dictatorship is a privilege. 

05. Being single really ain't that bad 
With my current level of independence, I can see myself dying single and I'm not mad. I used to think marriage was the be-all and end-all but there's more to life. There's nothing a man can give to me or do for me that I can't give or do myself. Children? I'm happy to adopt. I have found peace with myself. 

06. Food is expensive.
I can get a pack of 5 Whirlz aka Twister mini dupes from Aldi for 79p vs going to Tesco for a pack of 8 for £2.20. For 17p more, I can buy 3 packs of Whirlz from Aldi.

07. Outgrowing your friends is normal.
I lost a friend in the first few months of my gap year who I had been friends with since the age of 12. I was upset at first but after a few days of letting it digest, I realised that we had outgrown each other and our friendship had served its time and that's okay!

08. Always keep money saved
Do you have a savings account? No? Open one immediately and put whatever you can, weekly or monthly and do NOT touch it unless you're in need. Wanting a new pair of shoes Fran is not a need and does not warrant taking money out of your savings!

09. Take every opportunity you can, especially the ones outside of your comfort zone
At the beginning of this gap year, I was terrified of heights. A friend of mine asked if I would do a skydive with him to raise money for a charity close his heart, I couldn't say no. I did it and conquered my fear of heights, read the full story here 

10. Don't compare your journey 
Over my gap year, I have found myself comparing my journey to those around me, particularly my peers. "So and so just bought a brand new car", "So and so just graduated" "So and so bought their first flat", you are on your own journey, going at your own pace, I will buy my dream car one day, I will graduate even if its years later than my peers and I will buy my own property when my time comes. 

11. Take time out.
A day, a week, a month, a year or a few years, it's good for the soul.

12. It's not bullsh*t, you find yourself.
365 days, 525600 minutes, 8760 hours... a year is a long time! I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this journey and in a month, I won't be the same person who is writing this. You learn new things, bump into new people, overcome hurdles, conquer old fears and develop new ones. You're on a constant journey to discovering your full capabilities and the true purpose of your life.


Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Dear overachievers

A shot of the outside of George Orwell's former house in London
I saw a tweet that said, ‘Black women have a serious problem with resting and relaxing. Honestly, abysmal. We don’t know how to do it and when we actually do it, we feel guilty and it defeats the purpose. Operating in a constant state of exhaustion and guilt’ and I felt attacked, so I got my laptop out and started writing and now you’re here to read my word vomit.

How do you practise self-care? I know what it is, and I know the things that make me feel good but how do you completely switch off from the outside world and give your mind and body time to heal? It’s funny because I have Sunday’s marked on my calendar as “self-care Sunday’s” but no self-care is practised on a Sunday. I preach about self-care too, especially to my employees and close friends, but I don’t practise it. Why is that?

I think the only way to figure out my issue with practising self-care is to find the cause of my incapability to relax. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best because I was an overachieving child. A few weeks ago, I read through my school reports and found that I’ve always performed above the national average, been on the school council, represented at national sports, played the violin, went to ballet school etc and now as an adult, I’m never satisfied with my achievements so I’m always striving for more so I can get the same buzz that being an overachieving child gives you.  

I enjoy working, some may call me a typical Capricorn. My life revolves around work and when my workload decreases, I will find a way to increase it just so I feel "me" again. Working provides me with a sense of security that I perhaps don’t have in other areas of my life. I can control my work, from start to finish and what I produce is a reflection of me, so I work tirelessly to make everything I put out immaculate. No one expects this of me but me, I feel like if I decrease my workload then I become meaningless. I’m no longer Francisca who has her sh*t together, I’m just Francisca and I don’t want to be “just me”. Well, I do but I want to be me with purpose and working gives me that.

Lockdown has definitely increased my unhealthy working habits. I find myself answering emails until 3am in the morning, creating graphics outside of my team's agreed working hours or signing up to more free courses in the name of "self-development" and "productivity". I want to do better and by writing this post, I'm holding myself publicly accountable and I hope former or current overachievers take comfort from my words. 

How people around me can help me to practise self-care is by saying no when I offer to help you. I love helping people, but I often put helping others before helping myself and that’s how my periods of bad mental health begin. 


Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Book review: The Prison Doctor

A black hand holding up The Prison Doctor at an angle infant of a off-white wall
contains graphic references to self-harm, suicide, sexual, physical and emotional abuse
Before buying The Prison Doctor, I was volunteering with ex-offenders and looking for literature to increase my understanding of the prison system, in the UK, from the perspective of people working within prisons. It took me 8 months to finish as I found the content to be really heavy and graphic at times.

The book is split into three parts: Where It All Began (2004-2009), The Scrubs (2009-2016) and HMP Bronzefield (2016-present). Each chapter builds on the stories from the last and by the end, you have a better understanding of Amanda’s work and the experiences of the patients she treats. 

Amanda takes us through the journey of her sudden career change from being a village GP to a prison doctor. She was angry over the government plans for new GP contracts which would reward surgeries for meeting certain targets. She felt that it was taking away from her role, as a doctor, by turning appointments into impersonal exchanges and so, she resigned. After writing an article for a GP magazine, Amanda received a call from a recruiter with the opportunity to be a prison doctor at HMP Bronzefield.

I felt that Amanda let the stories and the people speak for themselves and the simplicity of the writing made it easier to digest. I've read various reviews that said this made the book seem childlike but I think, the writing style worked really well at making the contents of the book more accessible to all reading levels.

Going forward, I want to do more volunteering in prisons or with ex-offenders, particularly women's prisons. The stories women shared in this book were harrowing and I would love to offer them support in the form of conversation and teaching them skills to survive in a world that shames them.

Here are a few organisations, if you’re looking to volunteer:
Princes Trust – look for contact emails and ask if you can volunteer 
England Shelter – homeless shelters that house ex-offenders 
Khulisa – social and emotional skills development support to disadvantaged young people (11-25)
Charity shops – some have rehabilitation programmes with local prisons 

Related posts: June TBR
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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