Things I’m no longer embarrassed about

Like most people, I spent my teenage years in a constant state of embarrassment. I felt somewhat guilty about my own existence and did everything I could to limit my impact on others, suppressing my more obnoxious quirks and wearing dull colours to try and physically blend in with my surroundings. It felt wrong to take up more space in the world than was absolutely necessary.

Let’s play the fun game of comparing Rosie from secondary school with the twenty-two year old Ro penning this potential masterpiece:

Small RosiePhysically the Same Size but Older Ro
– Blushed easily– Only blushes when it is culturally insensitive not to
– Afraid of mirrors, selfies– Obsessed with my own self image (see instagram)
– Terrified of being noticed– Craves the attention of peers, strangers

As you can see, Small Rosie was clearly more self-conscious than PtSSbOR AKA me_irl. Whilst I value introspection, teenage me was so self-aware that my very existence felt burdensome. Not so anymore.

Sure, I have my off days, but when asked to place myself on the egg scale I’d rate myself a solid Good Egg. What can I say, the people love my branded mixture of low-effort comedy and occasional incredibly long treatise on The Black Cloud. The public seems to respond to my daring mash-up of low talent and high self-belief. Passersby and peers alike are drawn to my brave fashion choices like moths are drawn to cliches.

I know I’ve used that moth/cliche gag before but I love it so much and I do what I want. Expect to see it again.

In the spirit of honouring self-improvement and immortalising self esteem, here’s a list of things that used to weigh on my soul. Whereas I would have cringed at the mention of them, these are now sources of (at worst) ambivalence or even (at best) pride.

having big rips in my trousers

When I was at school, I thought showing off a bit of knee was shameful. Not because it demonstrated my hatred of shopping or financial insolvency, but because it was just a bit too tryhard. It’s hard to exude an air of cool apathy when you’ve very obviously invested your spare time in making your trousers look worn in exactly the right kind of way.

Nowadays, I’m unrepentant about trying very hard at lots of things, including spending a long time figuring out exactly where to slash my trousers. YES, I tore the bottoms off these jeans on purpose. YES, it took a while to figure out where to rip. NO, you can’t have my autograph. Just keep moving.

my shit czech

A mere four years ago, when I first started my journey into the Czech language, a large part of my self-image was founded on the idea that I was a masterful linguist who could absorb foreign words and grammatical structures like sponges absorb spilt coffee. My long, long journey into Slavonics has taught me that I am an averagely capable language learner who can absorb foreign idioms and constructions like sponges absorb gravy. Some of it goes in, but most is left to congeal on the work surface.

In this metaphor, the sponge is my brain, the gravy is the target language and the work surface is a foil to my consciousness.

The great thing about spending many years studying something you’re not very good at is that it engenders a certain humility. In Sixth Form, my Pride was my Downfall, in that it made me quite a cunty person. I was so intoxicated with the idea that I was great at languages and studying in general that I forgot that the most important language human’s can learn – is the language of kindness.

Now, because I’m no longer embarrassed about saying things wrong, or obsessed with the idea that nothing I say could be wrong, I’m a much more communicative person, and – if I do say so myself – at least 20% easier to get along with.

how few followers my blog has

Sure, there’s only like 10 of you reading this – but you’re absolute gems and I couldn’t fault one of you. If I had the chance to swap you for a readership reaching the millions, of course I would do it. But I would take the ad revenue from such an upswing in popularity and buy you all one (1) beanie baby or similar novelty plush. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what reading blogs is all about?

An End to Sweeping Statements

-or-

A Tentative POstponement of Sweeping Statements

It’s Saturday morning – or, at least, my body clock is telling me as such. In reality it’s gone five p.m. and I’m still in bed, consciousness newly thrust upon me, eyes squinting against the invasive light streaming through the gap in my curtains. I turn my body away from the light and bury my face deeper into blankets. I try to burrow away from the realities of the day – the need to feed myself, to put clothes on; the responsibility not to stay in bed all day. If I cover myself in enough pillows, I can hide from the piercing lights and noises. My phone dings cheerfully and the tone bounces around inside my head, seeming to slam against whatever brain cells survived the events of last night. I vocalise a nonverbal complaint. I am still wearing yesterday’s socks.

Reader, I am not in tiptop shape.

“I’m never drinking again,” I say.

“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever again,” I say.

The thought of alcohol makes me want to leave the country.

From now on, I text my friends, it will be just orange juice for me.

How did you get this number? they reply.

But still, life goes on. Your headache fades. You fancy a pint. I’ve got to the point now where I swear (sincerely and wholeheartedly) that I’ll never drink again at least monthly. How long does it last? Honestly, reader, not long.

And the alcoholcangettofuck mantra isn’t the only unrealistically hardline thing I repeat to myself. I’m also a big fan of i’mgoingvegan, iwillexerciseeveryday and nomorethrowingrocksatpigeons. Within a couple of days I’m sprawled out in an armchair, swirling a gintonic, trainers dustridden, fitting pebbles into my slingshot.

Well, no more! To err is human; and I must allow myself room to be a twat. From now on I will edit my resolutions. For instance:

Veganism is the only moral choice and from this moment forth I shall eat only plants and their seeds.It might be nice to eat 20% less cheese.
Alcohol is the devil and ne’er a drop shall pass my lips.It might be nice to limit myself to a couple of drinks a time.
My body is a temple and I shall not rest until I am able to save babies from burning buildings and crush walnuts with my thighs.It might be nice to do a sit up or two.
Pigeons are worthwhile members of society and I will no longer pursue them with violence.It might be nice to verbally rather than physically assault pigeons.

It might seem ironic that I’m making such a sweeping statement about never imposing sweeping statements on myself, but that’s life, really, isn’t it?

things i miss about being a child

No matter what popular culture insists, being an adult is great. You can drink, you can go to bed when you want, no one tries to teach you about osmosis, and you can get tattoos of skeletons without anyone being able to tell you off. If I’d tried to eat as much cake as a child as I do now, the police would’ve got involved – but as an adult I’m free to poison myself with chocolate to my heart’s content. It’s a dream.

That said, there are a few things about being a child that I miss. I wouldn’t body swap with a toddler for all the tea in China, but occasionally I’ve been known to glare at my niece with unconcealed hatred in my eyes. Here’s what’s been raising the green-eyed monster…


Being carried

Picture the scene: you’re me. You’re tired. You’re constantly tired and, what’s more, you’re chronically lazy. It’s late – you’ve been out with friends (because, as your Twitter bio clearly states, I’m interesting, cheerful and sociable). You’ve walked a whole bunch today, and the rest of the way home is uphill. Your feet hurt. Your friend is significantly taller and stronger than you. You overheard them mention that they wanted to start going to the gym more.

Is it really so unreasonable, given those circumstances, to ask your mate for a cheeky piggyback home? I’d even see it as an act of kindness on the part of the person soliciting a lift – after all, in today’s society, plagued as we are by the pressures of staying thin, any opportunity to work out is a godsend. What could be better than the chance to bond with a friend and work up a sweat in one fell swoop?

And yet, unbelievably, my requests to be transported like a lil baby in a sling have been met with ridicule and derision. Having been laughed out of town by those that purport to love and support me, I often find my mind wandering back to childhood, when simply scuffing my feet along the floor would result in me being scooped up by some accommodating grownup.

Wearing what you want

It’s a sad fact of life that not all of us are as confident in our dress sense as my dear friend and hydration advocate Oliver (pictured).

Whilst some people might not baulk at wearing all yellow outside an iconic club (pictured), most people’s journey to adulthood includes a movement away from primary colours, towards a more subdued palate. My secondary school’s uniform was a deep maroon, and I believe that the Powers that Be were trying to speed up this process in order to better prepare us for the realities of the adult world.

Sure, OK, there are those among us who have the joyful hearts of children, who take pleasure in matching their shoes to their hair (pictured), but the vast majority of adults robe themselves in the least remarkable colour combinations possible. I myself, as I write this, am dressed in only three different colours, and all of them are shades of black.

Potato smilies

I don’t have any media even remotely related to potato smilies, but please enjoy this gif of me absolutely loving a Curlywurly.

School dinners. Once a greasy heaven of turkey twizzlers and deep-fried goodness, now a shadow of its former self. I entered the school system just before Jamie Oliver, like Margaret Thatcher before him, took it upon himself to snatch lipid-rich dishes from schoolchildren’s sticky hands. As a result, I was present during the heyday of the British school system’s grease-driven mania. I remember how, as a tiny Reception pupil, I would load my tray with ribbons of undefined meat, lashings of creamy rice pudding, and, crucially, a massacre of potato smilies.

Potato smilies, for those who had a healthier childhood than me, are deep fried potatoes (think croquettes) in the shape of smiley faces. Truly, now I come to think of it, the forerunners of the modern-day emoji.

All that had changed by the time I entered Year One. Turkey twizzlers had been replaced with meat in recognisable shapes, potato salad substituted my beloved smilies. Whilst rice pudding remained, it didn’t have the same artery-clogging full-fat deliciousness as before. The tide had well and truly turned.

I haven’t seen a potato smiley for many years now – for almost two decades, in fact. Sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of a yellow grin behind the frozen prawns in Tesco’s vast freezers, but when I do a double take, it’s gone. It’s just my imagination playing drinks, my long-suppressed desires resurfacing. I heard rumours of them being openly sold at Aldi, at Costco, at the Polish shop down the road, but as yet I’ve been thwarted at every turn, left clutching a bag of chicken dinosaurs or potato circles.


And one thing I don’t miss…

My appearance, cos i look exactly the same

Marvel at this image. It’s almost impossible to differentiate between 22-year-old me and 4-year-old. To give you a clue, the Ro with the black border around her is the child Rosie.

Fatigue

I’m tired. Not in the sense that I had a late night and not enough coffee and now I’m feeling drowsy – I’m permanently tired to my very bones. Sometimes I feel like I spend my whole waking life figuring out when I can next have a nap and doing whatever I can to bring that moment closer.

Here are my top tips for dealing with those days when responsibilities and adulthood prevent you from dipping in and out of consciousness. Today’s unsolicited advice is accompanied by some sweet rain pictures I took sitting on my windowsill, because – well – because no one can hold me down.

beans

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “full of beans” (meaning perky, lively, energetic) comes from? Well, wonder no longer!

Coffee beans are the classic, of course, but even the humble haricot, lovingly prepared, can give you a cheeky buzz. Beans of all kinds are so densely packed with energy that they give you a natural high. I think it has something to do with photosynthesis, but I’m not sure about that because in secondary school we were too busy burning holes in each other’s exercise books and blazers to absorb any useful information.

leaves

If you don’t have access to nature’s cocaine (the humble bean), you can make do with leaf-based alternatives. Tea is the typical remedy of choice, but I’m a big fan of rubbing stinging nettles behind my ears when I’m feeling a bit drowsy.

Hope this helps!

remember nightmares

You’re never more wide awake than when you surface, sweating, from a particularly nasty night terror. If you feel yourself dropping off at work, simply recall the most terrifying manifestations of your psyche. I’m not sure how it could backfire. All the best.

water

Drink water, sure, but don’t stop there. When I’m feeling the sheep encroaching, I tend to immerse myself as fully as possible in water. I jump in lakes, run about in the rain without a brolly, sit fully clothed in the shower. Sometimes such dramatic water-based relief is not possible, and so I’m resigned to e.g. vigorously rinsing my hands, splashing my face, doing the washing up etc etc etc.

Being thirsty contributes to feeling tired, but so does (in my opinion, at least) being dry. The human being’s natural state is damp, so grab a hose and let’s get moist!

don’t think about sleep

Even though it’s all you want and the weight of tiredness drags on your bones, DON’T THINK ABOUT IT.

Hope this helps.

Featured: good boye likes the rain

look at yourself in a mirror and pull all your face skin as far back as it can go

This has the added benefit of being very, very attractive.

how to tell if your father is popular comedian Bob Mortimer

Father/child relationships are almost always complicated, and with such an important figure, it’s hard to know how to go about making the best of a fraught relationship. I don’t claim to have all the answers – I prefer others to make that claim for me – but I do know one thing: creeping doubts about Daddy’s identity only make things more difficult. That’s why I’ve compiled this comprehensive list to help you figure out whether your pater is secretly popular alternative funny man and one half of Vic and Bob Bob Mortimer. Some people think it’s better not to know, but I believe that the truth will out.

There’s a chance your dad’s actually Robert Renwick Mortimer if…

he supports Middlesbrough United FC

Because Bob Mortimer is MUFC’s* biggest, most well-known fan. He claims to attend every home match, despite living in the far corner of the country. Middlesborough’s football hopefuls really aren’t all that hopeful, so if your dad’s a passionate Borough supporter, there’s a decent chance he’s actually Bob Mortimer.

*not Manchester United, despite the confusingly similar acronym.

he tweets things like this

An absolute classic Mortimer tweet. It has all the necessary elements: the northern slang, the suspension of disbelief, the £8. If your dad’s taken to publishing stuff like this, perhaps he is popular comedian Bob Mortimer.

he sometimes disappears for weeks to film a fishing show with Paul Whitehouse

This is an absolutely typical Mortimer move. Barely a day goes by when he’s not packing up his bait and show biz makeup kit and getting ready to gift the British public hours of wholesome, non-vegan content.

Sure, the trope of the disappearing dad is overdone, but be warned: this isn’t your typical ‘popped out for Rizla’ situation. If your dad is specifically leaving to film heartwarming fishing scenes with his contemporary, signs point to Mortimer.

he looks like this

The one on the left.

This is amongst the clearest signs. If your father looks like the gentleman on the left hand side of the pic, perhaps he’s actually Bob Mortimer. Conversely, if he resembles the gentleman on the right, there’s a high chance that he’s Paul Whitehouse, and I don’t know how to help you if that’s the case.

he is a big fan of cats

One of Mortimer’s trademarks is his love of the feline companion. Through vigorous and creepy trawling of his Twitter, I’ve concluded that Mortimer has at least two cats, one of which is called Mavis. Mavis, regrettably, has been battling substance abuse:

We’re praying for you, Mavis.

If your dad is Bob Mortimer, and if we assume that he’s trying to conceal this fact from you, it seems likely that he’d hide Mavis somewhere to throw you off the scent. Maybe he’d even send Mavis to rehab, as she so clearly needs. One thing he’d never be able to hide, though, is a fundamental, deep, undying love for cats. Keep your eyes peeled.

he is called bob mortimer

I mean, it was staring you in the face.

Soul Healing

Yesterday, the person I’d been seeing ended things with me in a very respectful, understandable way that didn’t make me feel like I was to blame. But no matter how respectful, understandable, notmakingmefeelatfault it is, getting dumped by someone you care about still hurts.

I’ve decided that I’m going to dedicate myself to healing my soul today, to pursuing things that make me feel like a person. Everyone’s way of doing this is different, and I thought I’d take the time out to share my personal methods here. The classic, of course, is to get a new look, but since I got a brutal haircut moments before the aforementioned heartbreak, I’ve been forced to go down different avenues.

If you want to find me today, this is what I’ll be up to.

Throwing rocks at culturally significant buildings.

watch yer back, building

E.g. places of worship, castles, museums, government offices, large Tescos, and so on.

There’s something extremely cleansing about railing against society in such a large and stupid way. Prague is the perfect city do this in, especially in comparison to Macclesfield, because of the density of culturally significant buildings, and also because the pavements are made from loose cobbles absolutely perfect for launching through a hallowed window. In Macclesfield, you’d be lucky to be able to flick a pebble at a Costa Coffee.

I’m told that this is illegal in the Czech Republic. I’ve yet to face any comeuppance for my regular acts of rock hurling and am forced to conclude that’s illegal in the same way that weed is – in letter only.

Buy sushi, remove the fish element, flick it at passersby.

This works best with the kind of sushi that’s just a bed of rice with a fillet of fish on top. I don’t enjoy gouging fish from the centre of California rolls, but if that’s all the shop has, then needs must.

I think this is pretty self-explanatory as far as its soul healing capacities go. It’s especially satisfying from some kind of a vantage point e.g. rooftop, tree, tall friend’s shoulders.

OK, buying fish-based sushi is pretty iffy for a vegetarian, but I’ve tried it with plant-based equivalents and it just doesn’t have the same satisfying schlop.

Insist everything is fine, you’re fine, not even bothered, didn’t even like them anyway.

[Despite what I’ve been telling everyone who would listen.]

Jump in a lake.

Since I had that wonderful lake jumping experience on Monday, I’ve accepted this as my go-to soul healing technique. Whenever I’m undergoing any kind of mild to severe malaise, from hangovers to heartbreak, I shall simply leap into a body of water and let the creatures lurking in the depths do their worst.

I fear that this particular mechanism will only work during the summer months. Even though I insist I prefer cold weather, I’m far too nesh to dive into literally freezing water.

Eat everything.

I will take any excuse to do this. I’m going to eat my feelings, and let me tell you – I’m feeling a lot.


Love, kisses,

Ro

The Black Cloud

is back, but what’s really strange is that it’s not just me under it. All of my closest friends seem to be suffering at the moment – from relationship woes, work troubles, and, most upsettingly, from a general feeling of pessimism.

I went through a phase of wondering whether my depression infected the people I care about. When I was at home, at the very low point of this year, I avoided seeing my three-year-old niece because I kept having intrusive thoughts that she’d end up like me if I spent too long around her. That’s quite an egocentric way of thinking about things – supposing that everyone’s fine and living in the mental health equivalent of the Shire until Ro rocks into their lives and fucks shit up – but it is true that a lot of the people closest to me seem to be suffering, especially over the last couple of weeks.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, or maybe it’s because I feel closer to people whose experiences are more similar to mine, but I can’t think of many close friends who haven’t been through a rocky mental health period. That said, I wonder how many people on earth haven’t had those kind of moments.

Worrying that, actually, the black cloud was me all along is probably a futile pursuit. For one thing, it stops me from accepting that my friends have autonomous, inner lives (how can they be experiencing something so profound if it’s not related to or even the result of me??); for another, it puts needless blame on me. I am not the weather. I am not the concept of depression.

I do wonder, though, how much people’s individual wellbeing is connected to other people, whether we’re all responding to each other, or whether we’re all responding to the same rhythms – whether there really is a cloud overhead and it really is raining on all of us. This last week, truly, all of my best friends in Prague have been really down and I wonder whether it’s connected, although you could attribute it to a bunch of independent stuff – the pressures of working as a freelancer coming to a head, relationship problems, working underground for eight hours a day like a gremlin. It’s enough to get anyone down.

I want to help the people I care about who are struggling, but I don’t feel like I’m in a position to help in a meaningful way. I’m more capable of truly loving people than I’ve been for a while, and I am almost always available as a shoulder or an ear; but I wonder – will my perspective, filtered through my own problems, help or hurt my friends? Will I not just make them feel worse? Am I part of the problem?

I don’t have any answers.

And what about the people I try to reach out to who don’t respond? I know that all I can do is express my love and good intentions, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The best thing to do, probably, in absence of any other options, is to try to care for myself and to let my friends and family know that I’m there for them and I love them, in whatever capacity I can.

Yesterday I took the metro to the end of the line and walked to a lake. I put my phone on flight mode and hid my rucksack in a bush and jumped into the lake. The water was a murky green colour and freezing, but I felt like it was washing the mess from my mind. I spent the whole day in and by the lake, getting burnt by the sun and bitten by ants, eating apples I’d brought with me and reading my book; and when I left I felt profoundly calm. It felt like my soul had been healed.

I’m waiting for more bright days, for me and for the people I love.

An Resolution

So here’s the thing –

[This, by the way, is how I’ve decided I’m going to start every monologue from now on. I think it’s a subtle and elegant way to let people know that I’m gonna be dropping one of my patented pearls of wisdom.]

– I’m, like, fully addicted to coffee.

This is a side effect of working in a cafe. In a similar vein, all of my bartender friends are high-functioning alcoholics and I don’t know an English teacher who isn’t chemically dependent on New English File – Intermediate – 4th Edition. It’s just a fact of life that you end up abusing whatever substance you spend eight hours a day peddling.

Of the three named addictions, caffeine is definitely the least dangerous. Whereas you can’t drive under the influence of alcohol or phrasal verbs, it’s perfectly safe to chug a double espresso and operate heavy machinery, for most people, at least: I’m so deeply clumsy that putting me in the same general area as a car seems like an unnecessary risk.

Coffee is readily available, uncontrolled, cheap, and relatively harmless. The worst side effect I’ve ever had from drinking too much coffee was a slightly elevated heart rate – overdosing on English teaching makes one prone to overusing unnecessarily complex grammatical structures; and I’ve already mentioned the hangovers that plague me after a night of alcohol abuse. That’s why I’m not too worried about the addiction – it’s not going to bankrupt me, it probably won’t kill me. The worst that’ll happen is I’ll spend my life slightly more aware of the shit that’s going on around me. Yeah, that’s not ideal – I’ve always striven to float through life letting the smaller stuff pass me by – but it’s not so bad, all things considered.

But addiction is addiction and, as I tritely put it to a friend, it’s not nice to be dependent on a substance. I’ve decided to cut back my coffee consumption, but this is a tricky resolution to keep for two reasons:


I work in a café

Classically, the café is the home of coffee. I spend eight hours a day, three or four times a week, wrist deep in coffee beans. Even if I were to somehow, through sheer grit, abstain from drinking whatever spare coffee happens to be made, I think the caffeine would still work its way into my bloodstream through my skin.

I’m not sure about the science of that, but it seems right.

Plus, for someone as consistently exhausted as me, eight hours is a long time to spend in an upright position. When I’m not behind the coffee machine, I’m fluctuating between freelance work and unemployment (just like, it seems, most freelancers); so those shifts are by far the longest periods I spend upright. Even when I’m at my most industrious at home, I’m still able to maintain a nice pool of blood in my brain by tippity tapping in a reclining position. No such luxury at work. I tried frothing milk from a sitting position once, but it was, frankly, dangerous.

Coffee is an ideal remedy to an unavoidable problem – the problem of being by nature incapable of functioning for more than four hours in a row without a little break.

Coffee is really nice

I like it a lot!

It plays a sort of similar role in my life as tea would if I were a more traditional/stereotypical British woman: it’s the foundation of most social interactions. If I meet up with a friend, we go for coffee; if someone drops by my flat, I offer them coffee, and I’m mildly put out if they don’t want any. There’s a ritual in it, and there’s something lovely about sharing a beverage. If I imagine my alterego, existing in a parallel universe, the Rosalind that never left the UK, her life looks a lot like mine, except she goes out for tea with her pals and for some reason she has a Yorkshire accent.

After about 6pm though, I suppose, we swap out the coffee for alcohol, and the rest continues in much the same way.

I don’t want to bring everything back to the whole depression debacle, but in our second or third session my therapist and I made a list of things I’ve enjoyed. Not things that I did enjoy or was enjoying – at that time, I wasn’t deriving any pleasure from anything – but just stuff that historically I had enjoyed. It was a very difficult task to complete, because, as I’ve talked about at length, I find it really hard to relate to my joyous self when I’m depressed and vice versa.

Eventually, we compiled the following rather bleak list under the even bleaker heading ‘things to live for’:

  • Going to art galleries
  • Clubbing
  • Seeing flowers
  • Drinking beer
  • Listening to music
  • Going through Žižkov tunnel
  • Going on tram no. 6 through the forest
  • Drinking coffee

Even though it feels like work, said my therapist, you have to do these things. Eventually you will relearn how to enjoy them. I initially wanted to write being with people I care about, but we agreed that that was too much for the time being.

Anyway, you can imagine how highly I value coffee, not just as a substance, but as a sort of event to look forward to.


This is reason enough not to give up coffee cold turkey, given that it’s a genuine cornerstone of my happiness. Even so, I’ve decided to cut back.

I’ve set myself the challenge of only drinking coffee at work. This has another benefit: the coffee at work is much, much nicer than the shit I bought at Albert for, like, 150 czk.* My recently developed taste in coffee is in constant conflict with my deepset refusal to spend any money on anything ever.

*= a pittance.

I think this is an achievable, reasonable goal, and, hey, guess what? I’ve already broken it. I woke up at like midday today, late for an appointment, head groggy, mouth claggy, soul aching. I was rushing out of the door with my cheeks full of piping hot Joe* before I had a chance to think through my actions and remember my brave resolution. Clean living would have to wait.

*minds out of the gutter

But tomorrow is another day, and I have cunningly hidden my coffee on top of the fridge and committed myself to an early night in preparation.

I must not fail!

Stuff I know now that I didn’t know a year ago

It’s good to recognise personal development. Most of my growth over the last year has been in the ‘coffee’ and ‘general waster’ spheres, but this is, in my opinion, still valid. I’ve completed this short – but still comprehensive – list of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired since the first of June, 2018.


  • Coffee vocab
The author hopes this image will convey the concept of working in a cafe.

(Mostly Czech vocab, of course, like káva and hrnek. Sure, it’s insane that I accepted a job in a cafe without being totally clear on such fundamental words as coffee and mug, but life’s a journey. Weirdly, though, I’ve learnt loads of coffee vocab in English, simply because I’d never been exposed to this particular area of jargon. For example, I had no idea what we call that lever you put the coffee in and stick in the coffee machine; my best guess, based on my love of using anthropomorphisms to make work responsibilities more interesting, was coffee arm. It turns out it’s actually portafilter. Man, who knew?)


  • How to deal with hangovers.
The author hopes this image will convey the sensation of deep malaise.

(I think I do drink less now than I did in my heady ‘study abroad’ days, but mornings after have been hitting me harder. Whilst a year ago I could bounce out of bed after a night of revelry ready for the day, it’s getting really difficult to force myself to rise and shine.

I feel like this might have something to do with my body prematurely ageing, i.e. I’m convinced I have the physical form of a woman in her mid- to late-thirties, despite my passport’s insistence that I’m still some ways away from twenty three. Still, it’s not all bad – sure, I might have killer hangovers, but (if we assume the corollary to be true), I’m probably slightly less likely to get pregnant. (Best not to test this theory.)

OK, and sure, my way of dealing with hangovers is to hide from sunlight and loudly insist I’m never drinking again, but it’s a system of sorts, and I’m proud of it.)


  • That, if you’re trying to shoot film, it’s really, really important that you load the film correctly.
The author hopes that the expression on this dog’s face will convey the sensation of embarrassment in the face of one’s own stupidity.

(You’d think that this would be obvious; but I am a semi-professional idiot.)


  • If you don’t know a word in Czech, sometimes you can just say the word in English and everyone will nod.
The author hopes this image will convey the effect of the language barrier.

(Czech people who’ve never studied English still have better passive comprehension of my language than I have of theirs. I will never bother to learn the actual, pure Czech word for fancy; why bother, when you can just say fency and everyone gets what you’re on about?)


  • That, if you’ve taken lots of pictures on your digital camera, you shouldn’t delete them all before you’ve made any kind of back up.
The author hopes that this self portrait will convey the sensation of embarrassment in the face of one’s own stupidity – a sensation she finds herself trying to convey often.

(Me: presses ‘Delete All’.
Camera: Are you sure?
Me: I definitely do not want to delete all of these photos. I am certain of this. So, in answer to your question, yes, I’m sure.
Me: presses ‘Yes’)

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while.

I’ve barely posted anything here in the past five months, and what I have published has been – if I do say so myself – shite. After a year of semi-regular, decently funny blogging, I seem to have fallen down the proverbial well into the proverbial underground lake of unfunny, rare content. Not to be overly critical, or whatever, but my recent output has been a joke – which you would think would be good for a comedy blog, but actually isn’t.

Artist’s representation of the proverbial Dark Cloud
(Proverbial well; proverbial underground lake not pictured)

I mean, I promised myself I’d never revert to the dark days of spamming your timelines with haiku, and yet February was like a Japanese library.

(If you accept that Japanese libraries are full of half thought-out, largely unbaked haiku, and I’m not saying that’s the case. I’ve never been to a Japanese library.)

Anyway, I spent the last ten minutes blasting every memory of those second-generation haiku into oblivion, and pray God forgive me for my poetry transgressions.

So, like, what happened?

I’ll be honest, so far, 2019 has been really hard. Like, just stupidly hard. I don’t like to use medical-ish terms without fully understanding them, but I think it’d be fair to say that I’ve had a mental breakdown.

I suffered from depression quite severely as a teenager and during my first year at university, but my second and third years were great – I felt healthy, broadly happy, basically no longer weighed down by the world. Although I didn’t have anything concrete to attribute this recovery to – it seemed like my medication had just suddenly started to work better – I felt confident that this was the end of my mental health troubles. Depression, I figured, was just a very dark, quite long period of my life which had, quietly and without fuss, come to an end. If that sounds horrifically naive, that’s because it was: new year’s eve 2019 marked a crash I didn’t anticipate, the severity of which I wouldn’t have thought possible. It felt like overnight I went from being a largely functional person to just – not.

I’d forgotten what it was like to have severe depression, to have suicidal thoughts and a constant desire to self-harm, and to find even the simplest tasks difficult. I tell you what, I hadn’t missed those experiences. Suddenly everything was a thousand times harder; I realised why the stuff I’d achieved in 2018 had felt like such a revelation: this was what had come before.

Unable to e.g. dress/feed myself, unable to put my shoes on, let alone plan a curriculum, I quit my job as an English teacher and retreated into myself, spending days, weeks, even, at a time without seeing anyone. I even went home to the UK a couple of times for a few weeks each to let my mum take care of me and to pursue medical intervention.

This, unsurprisingly, has had a negative effect on my ability to blog; there’ve been entire months when I’ve not wanted to get out of bed, let alone pen the high quality, bland content you’ve come to expect from me.

I’d quite like to journal my experiences to some extent here – partly because I feel like it’d be weird to just go back to writing dumb jokes after such a dark time; partly because my therapist said it would be a good idea; and partly for my own sense of fulfillment.


That said, writing about depression is really hard for a whole bunch of reasons:

1. I’m not sure it’s interesting

and, what’s more, it’s fairly self-indulgent: after all, I’ve just spent *checks watch* three days writing about myself, and I’m not even part way done yet.

Writing a blog is self-indulgent at the best of times, but when it’s just about an experience that I personally have been having – it stretches the limit. Even worse – imagine illustrating a two-thousand word mammoth about your own suffering exclusively with moody selfies.

2. It’s definitely not funny

and this is, at its heart, a comedy blog.

3. I know the people reading this

and that makes it a bit embarrassing. I get incredibly detailed stats on my readership: graphs, heatmaps, the whole schabang. I know everything except your credit card details.

Wow, who would’ve thought it? Most of my clicks come from the UK!

I can understand the value of this if you have a massive blog and consciously tailor your content to your readers; but I’ve got, like, 300 followers, so knowing where in the world you all are just feels invasive. I can’t wait until I get my first Greenland-based reader, though – that giant grey patch is getting me down.

The nature, I guess, of writing something insanely personal on a blog mostly read by people related to you is that you end up feeling really vulnerable in front of your family. I trust that if anyone reading this finds it too uncomfortable, given their personal relationship with me, they’ll just stop reading; but I feel like this is something I need to do. Whether you feel like you need to read on is, naturally, up to you.

Feeling edgy about being vulnerable is, I reckon, pretty natural and normal and not unhealthy; but I think there’s a level on which I also feel ashamed – exactly of what, I’m not sure, but I think of my general incompetence. What could be more indicative of my global failures as a person than my experiences over the last five and a bit months? Everything I have historically valued about myself has been undermined – from my ability to make friends and connect with people, to being able to support myself financially, to just the very fundamental capacity to care for myself as an adult in the most basic ways, like getting dressed, getting myself food. Stuff like that.

That’s something I don’t think is reasonable – it’s one of those naughty thoughts I’m meant to be combating – and by not posting this, I think that’s what I’d be listening to. Honesty and vulnerability are things I think people should broadly pursue.

To think of things from a purely logical perspective – which, admittedly, is out of character for me – you, the reader, fall into one of two discrete categories. You’re either

internet strangersmy family
and being vulnerable in front of you doesn’t faze me; orand if I’m going to be vulnerable in front of anyone, it should be you.

I suppose I’m worried about writing something unexpectedly gruesome which might upset someone I care about; but there’s a simple fix to that –

Don’t write anything unexpectedly gruesome.

4. I’m afraid of romanticising mental illnesses

and it’s a trap I think people quite often fall into. School and university were dreadful places for this: it felt like, rather than creating a support group, people suffering from depression engaged in a weird kind of competition: who’s suffering more, who hurts themself more, whose medication has the worst side effects. Maybe that’s just my perspective, and I’m sure that some people develop really supportive networks in those kind of environments, but I felt a really strong my brain is broken = I’m interesting or even a hint of I’m more fucked up than you and that makes me more valid. But maybe I’m just projecting.

It probably doesn’t even bear saying, but having a mental illness isn’t romantic – it doesn’t make you special or interesting. Depression objectively makes me a less interesting person. Yet I fall into this way of thinking myself sometimes: it’s such an encompassing experience that it’s hard not to define yourself in that way – I’m Ro, 22, British, depressed – and once you start doing that, I think it’s hard to avoid feeling like this kind of suffering makes you important.

There’ve been moments when I’ve thought that I wouldn’t take the chance to be cured of depression if it were offered to me. I struggle to imagine what I would be without it – what would be interesting about Ro? Who would I even be?

I think it’s important for me to explicitly and categorically say that that’s bullshit. It’s clearly one of those evil thoughts that’s trying to ruin my life. But when you think that way, you really believe it. I’m trying to appreciates healthy aspects of myself, but it’s challenging when, overall, I’m still really not healthy.

5. I don’t understand it

and that makes it tricky to describe.

I’ve noticed this a lot lately. Since I’ve been feeling somewhat better/more functional, I’ve reconnected with some friends I didn’t see at all during those really dark months. Naturally, their first question is, “What happened to you?”

I don’t know.

I have some quite obvious physical signs of depression – or, at least, obvious to those that recognise them – and sometimes people (pretty insensitively, I think) ask things like, “Why’d you do that?”

Don’t know.

(Actually, I don’t mind that question in itself. I get people being curious – it’s a curious thing if you don’t know anything about it. I just don’t like it when people I don’t really know ask me in stupidly public places, especially when I’m at work. After all, it’s pretty personal, and I’m tryna froth milk here.)

On a day-to-day, if someone asks how I am when I can feel myself getting sucked down, I tend to answer in euphemisms: “I’m blue; I’m down; I’m a bit low; I’m under a black cloud.” These are meant to convey that I feel depression soaking in and I feel helpless and afraid – but it’s a bit intense to say that in so many words, so I’d rather be a bit indirect about it. Perhaps that’s the British in me.

This is especially tricky when I’m talking to someone in Czech, because those metaphors don’t always translate nicely – and if I say, “I’m depressed,” that sounds too intense to me and too superficial to whoever’s listening. Depressed is such a big word if you mean it medically and so small if you mean it colloquially.

I thought about drawing a similar Depression Spider to include here but I thought I’d find it triggering so please accept this underexposed, angsty selfie.

When I was in Sixth Form, I had an excellent counselor who I spoke to for an hour every week in a small room next to the toilets. Our conversations were interrupted every time someone used the hand dryer, which I reckon made them feel less overwhelming. It definitely injected a certain light-heartedness into the goings on.

Those sessions were always something I really looked forward to: going to school was incredibly difficult and speaking to her was a relief from everything else. I think I was probably the oldest person she talked to, since I was in the last year of school, and she did like to use techniques that seemed to be intended for younger teenagers and children. I’m not complaining, though, I think they really helped me. One of the things she asked me to do was to draw a picture of what I thought my depression looked like. We had poster-size sugar paper and felt tips, but I opted for a biro and a page torn out of my notebook; it felt a bit odd to use the same material for self-expression as I would’ve for, say, a Year 7 geography project. I drew a picture of a giant spider holding a caricatured Rosie in its legs.

It was so strange – when she suggested the exercise, I thought it was a bit stupid. I couldn’t really separate the depression from myself (maybe that was the idea) and it seemed contrived to imagine this creature that was meant to symbolise all these things I was feeling. But when I’d drawn that spider and was sitting looking at it, I had this visceral, panicky reaction, like I really was looking at something that I recognised, that I knew caused me harm. She asked me if I wanted to tear it up, but that felt needlessly symbolic so I just left it there.

My therapist now, similarly, seems to want me to conceive of the unhealthy thoughts I have as separate from me, like independent, malevolent beings that exist in order to make me suffer. “These thoughts are really good at convincing us of things that aren’t true” she’ll say. She talks about those thoughts as wanting to make me feel a certain way.

Like everyone, healthy and unhealthy, I have better days and worse days. What’s really unsettling is that when I’m bad I feel disassociated from Ro who feels good, or who is even capable of feeling good; and when I’m feeling lighter, I can’t remember what those low moments feel like. As in, I remember my actions, and I know that things must have been pretty bad; but it’s almost like it’s something that happened to someone else and I just heard about or read about in a book. If I think really hard, I can muster up a conception of feeling both empty and hurting, but I’d rather not, I suppose, try too hard to remember those feelings.

I think that’s why, despite being depressed on a medical level, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to describe me as a cheerful person. When I’m fine, I really am fine. It’s just when I’m not OK that it’s a problem.

I don’t remember how I felt as a child, but I suspect I’ve been depressed for at least all of my adult life, to varying degrees – not that I suppose it’s especially important to put a start date on it – and with that in mind, given my general love of the written and spoken word, it’s extraordinary that I’m finding this so hard to describe.

To give you an idea, I’ve been writing this single blog for *checks watch* four and a half days and counting.

I suspect that’s at least partly because it’s so hard to separate longterm mental illness with your own personality – how many of these difficulties are because of, say, Serotonin deficiency, and how many are just because of Ro? And what’s the difference, anyway?

This is one of the scary things, I guess, about mental illness: it’s hard to grasp what’s happening to you. My therapist has suggested it’s fruitless to try and conceive of depression when I’m having better moments – so describing it is hard. Maybe it’s pointless to even try, but I’d like to.


But the needle swings a bit when you compare it with these reasons to write about what’s been going on:

1. Depression affects piles of people.

We’re getting better at talking about it, but we’re still not great. I think it’s something we should talk about more openly; it’d help people suffering feel less alone and less monstrous. As it is, I struggle to express myself properly even to those people I love the most in the world – I don’t think I ever really verbalised to my dad that I have depression in so many words; I think he just saw medication on my dresser and scars on my arms and put two and two together. The one nice thing, I suppose, about having such visible, obviously self-imposed scars is that I don’t often have to pronounce the words, “I’m depressed.”

toes

I appreciate that people find talking about stuff like this uncomfortable, and I think that people are often trying to be sensitive to my feelings. I don’t know if I’d rather people avoided the elephant in the room or tried to talk to me about; it depends on the person, I guess.

Friends and family sometimes ask what they can do to help, and I really, really don’t know. If I knew, I’d ask for it – I’d do it. I do, genuinely and deeply, want to get better, but the hard thing is knowing how. I don’t know what I need from people or what I need from myself.

2. They say you should write about what you know

and, even though I just spent a million years telling you how hard it is to write about depression, this is something I’m pretty well-versed in.

3. I think it’ll be helpful.

I’ve been doing significantly better lately. I’m still not well, that’s for sure, but I’m not in the same dark place I was. Even so, I’m still motivated to pursue things that I think will make me feel more secure; maybe that goes without saying – after all, what that effectively means is, “I like doing things that make me feel better.”

What was so scary about new year’s was how quickly the life I’d built and the stability I’d cultivated both collapsed. Sure, before that night, I’d felt an onset of depressive thinking, but everything was still manageable: I was coping. It felt like a few hours destroyed however many years of improvement. I was left asking myself the question, “How did I get better last time?”

an image heavy-handedly symbolising the unreliable nature of human memory

And, honestly, the answer to that question is that I don’t know. I don’t remember how I got better – it seemed to just happened. I mean, I did go to various therapists and counsellors, and I’ve been taking Citalopram since I was a teenager, but I don’t remember what I, Ro, did to help myself out. I couldn’t call on any techniques or coping mechanisms because I didn’t remember having any.

Journaling these experiences, then, seems like a smart move for posterity: at least this way, I’ll know what happened. I think through describing things we understand them better, and I’m the kind of person that needs an audience, even if it’s a contrived one.


What do I mean when I say, perhaps ignorantly, that I feel like I’ve had a mental breakdown?

It’s hard to analyse the last few months with any semblance of clarity; after all, it’s really hard to see patterns in yourself, especially without the benefit of hindsight. Instead, I’ll describe January and February through an anecdote. This is the most concise, least brutal memory I have to illustrate the place I was in:

I was in my flat, and the lights were off, and all the dishes were dirty and my clothes were on the floor. I hadn’t been outside or opened a window in a couple of days, and the air was stale and thicker than it should’ve been. I was sitting on my rug; I’d taken all the cushions off my sofa to make a nest under the kitchen table where I spent most of my days. My phone had run out of battery and the silence was deafening – I’d been trying to fill the flat with noise, listening to endless podcasts and clips from panel shows I’d already seen a bunch of times. I couldn’t stand music – it seemed to cut through the flesh of my brain and invade my being – but I needed to hear something other than the sound of my own breathing and my own thoughts. My phone charger was plugged in on the other side of the sofa, and I was sitting and looking at it and looking at my dead phone. I remember writing in my diary that I felt like a hole had been drilled in my head and that all my willpower had drained out. A car drove past and I abruptly heard loud American voices from the bar across the street as someone stepped outside for a cigarette; the door closed and it was quiet again. I didn’t know what time it was, but since the bar was still open I guessed it was around midnight. Time seemed to flow differently – sometimes a whole day passed without me noticing, but more often hours stretched out achingly empty in front of me.

I reached out to take a drink of water, but my hands were shaking and I knocked the mug; it fell with a loud clonk but didn’t smash. The water spilled over the floor. I lifted the mug away. My throat felt unbelievably dry and I stared at the puddle. I didn’t remember how long the water had been sitting there, probably hours, but in my mind it was the freshest mountain lake – you know you’re properly thirsty when you start fantasising about gulping down a glass of water. Fluorescent orange from the streetlamp outside was leaking in through a chink in the curtains. I could see flecks of dust floating in the puddle.

I keep my towels on the floor of my wardrobe. The wardrobe door was open and my clothes were spread about the room in piles, clean mingling with unclean, but my towels were still neatly folded from whenever I last brought myself to do laundry. I needed to reach out and grab one of the towels to wipe up the pool. They were slightly more than an arm’s length away; I didn’t even have to get up – I could just tilt my body and I’d be there.

Some of the water had been soaked up by the edge of the rug. I imagined getting up and grabbing a towel. I knew what it’d feel like, the texture, and I knew what I had to do to get one – but I felt too tired. I felt achingly, deeply exhausted, not physically, but in my soul. I didn’t have the willpower to lift up my arms and cover that short distance, and, instead, I just sat still, thirsty, barely blinking, and watched the puddle dry up on its own as the sky got lighter outside.


I don’t really feel like detailing the medical interventions I’ve pursued. For one thing, they’re not that interesting – perhaps with the exception of my visit to a Czech psychiatric hospital, which was an incredible culture shock – and for another, they were singularly upsetting and, frankly, humiliating. I feel like I’m filling this post with trite phrases, but medical intervention is just so invasive.

What’s more, although I’ve certainly felt the benefit of having my medication increased, I’m not sure any of the other medical routes I tried have had such a lasting effect. I’m sure that for some people something like the psychiatric hospital would’ve been a godsend; but as it is, I’d attribute any improvement up to this point to medication and CBT, as well as to my friends’ and family’s unending support.

Clean yer mirrors

I’ve taken the same medication – Citalopram – since I was eighteen. Citalopram is an SSRI, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, which works by preventing Serotonin from being reabsorbed into the brain.

Please don’t quote me on this. I’m a humble barista and don’t really have any business talking about drugs. That said, though, a lot of people who should know a lot about antidepressants seem not to. Before I started taking Citalopram, I told my counsellor that I was feeling edgy about taking medication when I didn’t know how it worked. She replied, “Oh, no one really knows how they work.”

Like, dude. Come on. Although, to be fair, the more I read about antidepressants and other neuroactive drugs, the more I accept that no one really knows exactly how they work. Still, not a comforting response from a mental health professional.

A couple of very close friends who feel comfortable enough to ask this kind of question have wanted me to describe what antidepressants are like. Is it, as is so often said, a numbing of everything? Are the lows less severe, but also the highs levelled?

I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to speak for everyone: I am one person who has only ever taken one kind of medication, at varying dosages. My experiences with Citalopram have been largely positive; I’ve experienced some side effects, but nothing as bad as *cough* untreated depression. Taking the right dose of Citalopram seems to shift my base level from dreadful to OK. That sounds pretty weak, but when you’ve had a few months of feeling dreadful, feeling OK is amazing.

That kind of context – ie I’ve only felt the effects of antidepressants after, obviously, having been depressed – might explain why I don’t relate to the idea that antidepressants lower your capacity to feel good. When it’s been so long since you’ve experienced a high of any kind, it feels kind of by-the-by to have that capacity limited. I’ve heard people who are hesitant about taking antidepressants cite that as a reason – that they don’t want to have their emotions limited, or have the possibility of experiencing intense happiness taken away from them. It’s a matter of perspective. I don’t feel like antidepressants have had that effect on me, since I was already so limited anyway.

The worst thing about taking this medication is the way I’m affected if I skip a dose. I’m sure a large part of this is placebo, but I’ve definitely noticed massive effects, both on my mood and on my body. Missing one dose makes me more anxious and prone to feeling depressed, but I also sweat more, shake a bit, and even get the sensation of electric shocks through my body. I’m told this is normal. Skipping one pill isn’t really the end of the world, but it’s very physically uncomfortable, and it’s always accompanied with much stronger feelings of, to put it theatrically, doom.

Missing several doses is a lot more serious. I’m certain that this was a contributing factor to what I’d term the Y2mentalbreakdown – I’d had a stomach bug over Christmas and it occurs to me that I couldn’t keep water down for a few days, let alone a cheeky antidepressant. It’s significant, I think, that it wasn’t until I’d had the right dose of medication in my system again for a good few weeks that I started to feel any better.

The author hopes this photograph will convey the concept of neutrality

A couple of weeks into February, I remember waking up and being overwhelmed by the sensation of feeling OK – I lay in bed and savoured the innocuousness – nothing hurt. If depression feels like a huge, aching emptiness, then being on the right level of medication is like being filled with neutrality. You don’t feel good, but suddenly your resting state is just fine. And fine, after a long time of feeling dreadful, can be euphoric.



I’m not in crisis at the moment. The last month or two have been much better, although still not good.

The good

  • I’m holding down a job (this would’ve been impossible even relatively recently, and I feel truly proud of myself every time I have a shift);
  • I’ve been pursuing some creative hobbies (which would’ve been unthinkable when tapping into my creative side sounded like a terrifying prospect);
  • I have a full and vibrant social life (which is a hecking success); and
  • I’m working on developing positive thinking patterns and strategies to help me when everything feels bleak.

The not so good

  • I still struggle with thought patterns I recognise are unhealthy; and (as a result)
  • I’m still self-harming regularly, perhaps even more seriously than before.

It’s strange, then, that even though the self-harm (which is what people most quickly recognise as a sign that things are not OK) is worse, I’d still say that I’m doing better. I think this is linked to the idea that people have that self-harm is in and of itself a problem, which I don’t think is really accurate. The greater problem is the depressive thought patterns, which sometimes, but not always, leads to self-harm. Strangely, although I’m getting better at dealing with those thoughts, I’m cutting myself more regularly. I expect that as I get even better at combating those naughty thoughts, I’ll feel the urge to hurt myself less, or be able to withstand the urge better. I hope.

Self-harm, naturally, really freaks people out, but depression is bigger and more frightening than those relatively superficial wounds. However, depression is less visible.

I owe a lot of any even minor recovery to people who support me. Caring for a person with depression, be it as a friend in a relatively casual capacity, or on a more day-to-day bring-me-food-and-hug-me level, is really demanding. I recognised that even when I was putting loved ones through genuine hell, not that knowing that made me any less of a burden.

I’ve made an album of all the lovely things people have said to me so I can look back and feel loved. I was going to share it here, but that level of PDA made me gag so I’ll leave it. I’m so grateful for my friends and family, though. They’ve shown patience in the face of me being seemingly endlessly rotten, and I look back on those messages often. Sometimes I feel very alone, but I have an entire album of evidence: Ro, there’s people that care about you.

Prague feels like home now, and a lot of that is down to the people I know and love here – people I can talk to about my darkest thoughts, but also share joyful moments with.


Work is both an indicator of and a reason for the fact I’m doing better. I mentioned before that I quit my job as an English teacher – partly for practical reasons (couldn’t leave the house) but also because teaching is pretty physically and emotionally draining. I took a lot of pride in teaching in an interesting way; I’ve been a languages’ student for long enough to know just how shit bad language lessons are, and I was determined to be the kind of teacher I’d want.

I got pretty decent feedback from my students and from the schools I worked at; I was inexperienced, sure, but I do think it’d be fair to say that I was a decent teacher. I have a good grasp of English and being a student of languages means I’m fairly well placed to explain the intricacies of our language beyond the classic native speaker line: “It just is.”

After I came back from a particularly long break in the UK (which I spent, mostly, in or under my bed), I translated my CV into patchy Czech and sent it to every café in a two region radius of my house. Although the thought of going outside was still deeply troubling, I sensed that I’d spent enough time breathing my own air. This was probably a week or so after the not-having-the-strength-to-grab-a-towel incident; it’s strange how quickly things can change after having been the same for, seemingly, ages.

I got a job at Prádelna, a café round the corner from my house. I love my job. The girls I work with are singularly lovely, and now I have a concrete reason to get out of bed. Plus, and I know this doesn’t make my mother happy, I’m completely addicted to coffee, and working as a barista gives me near-endless near-free access to espressos. Best of all, the job provides me with victims to test out my shoddy Czech on – I now speak, if not well, at least reasonably quickly and with a somewhat less obnoxious accent. This, as I see it, is a success.

Language learning, I think, is quite humiliating – possibly especially when your first language is English. Not only do I struggle through even the most basic Czech phrases, but I’m also acutely aware that almost everyone I speak to would be able to communicate with me better in English. That said, once you get to a level where you can express your personality and get across most of what you want to say, there’s something exhilarating about it.

I’m not a very good barista – I can froth milk now, but latte art still escapes me – but I love café culture – people are kind, the stakes are fairly low, there’s down time for me to catch my breath if I ever feel overwhelmed. I expect that this will be the most laid back job I’ll ever have, not that I anticipate pursuing any kind of high-powered career. Imagine me in a blouse.

I’m not really sure where I want to go from here in a where’s-my-life-going sense, but on a day-to-day, I feel pretty secure in what I want from life. I want to

  • work in Prádelna;
  • get better at photography;
  • write more; and
  • spend time with people I care about.

Luckily my lifestyle allows me achieve all of those things, so that’s all positive. I have to leave Prague in September at the latest to finish my degree, which feels pretty brutal since I feel like I’ve only just started building a life I enjoy for myself here. Still, university terms aren’t that long and, as I’m reminded by adults in my life, Prague’s not going anywhere.

Even though I had some really shaky moments last week, I’d say that I’ve started to feel something other than bleak about the future.

The truth of the matter, I guess, is that life’s a combination of the lights and darks, but I seem to only be able to see one at once.