10 Things I’ve Learnt In 2018

I know we all say every year that we can’t believe how fast the year has gone, but it really doesn’t feel that long ago since I wrote my last end-of-year blog post! This time last year, I had just moved back to Sheffield to start my new job and everything felt a bit overwhelming, yet exciting. Now, one year on and feeling much more settled, I thought I would reflect on ten things I’ve learnt this year.

1. You are of value at work

I think many twenty-somethings like myself worry about their place at work, and often don’t realise how much value they can bring to a company. As I went through a lot of job rejections last year and then was temporarily made redundant at my current company earlier this year, it can make you feel pretty worthless. However, since getting kept on at my current role, taking on more responsibility and receiving good feedback, I am finally starting to believe that I can be an asset to a company and that I have a lot more useful skills than I realise.

2. You need to let yourself be happy too

All my life I’ve been a serious people-pleaser, and I’ve always worried about people not liking me or not being happy. This falls into my relationships too, where I let myself feel unhappy because I’m so worried about hurting the other person. However, as tough as upsetting someone is, I’ve learnt that you need to be honest with yourself and other people so that you can all move on and be happy.

3. You never stop making new friends

One thing I’ve loved most about this year is how many new people I’ve met and become close with. The great thing about starting a new job and moving into a house with new people is making new friendships, and I’ve been so lucky to become close friends already with my housemates and colleagues. It’s mad to thing that the people I spend the most time with these days are people I’ve only known for one year!

4. Veganism is amazing for your mind and body (and the environment!)

One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to complete Veganuary. Not only did I go vegan for January, but I’ve actually carried on for the entire year. Now, I can’t imagine ever going back, as I’ve enjoyed it so much and I truly feel better knowing that I’m helping the environment and the welfare of animals through just the one simple change. Another huge factor that made me carry on the vegan lifestyle is the fantastic health benefits: my skin is clearer, I’ve got tons more energy, and it’s helped me lose a lot of fat!

5. My goals (however small) are achievable

As well as completing Veganuary, I set myself a few other New Year’s resolutions last year. I’m pleased to say that I’ve achieved them all, which is a great feeling! They included learning to do 1-5 pull-ups (I can now do a couple of sets of  3 at a time), being on my phone less (I’ve certainly been trying to stick to this) and visiting two countries (I ended up visiting 3!) I know a lot of people joke about people never sticking to New Year’s resolutions, but I think the key is to set small, achievable goals which you can measure easily. So for this year, I’ve chosen another health related month-long resolution of taking part in Dry January and another fitness-related resolution of learning to do pistol squats. 

6. It’s okay to hang out with yourself

This is quite an important one for me as growing up, I was always terrified of going to things by myself, even to the point that I would be nervous to pick a certain subject at school because I didn’t want to be in a class without a friend. Of course this has gotten better throughout the years since going away to university by myself, and flying to and from Thailand by myself last year, however I still think it’s something I’m working on. I’m certainly starting to get comfortable being by myself, and I am learning that it’s okay to go to the cinema or to a gig alone, or to even enjoy a meal on your own in public.

7. Everyone else goes through shit too

With everyone’s lives looking so perfect on social media, we forget that everyone else is going through stuff too. I’m  guilty of comparing my life to others and sometimes feeling a bit sorry for myself when me and my family are struggling, but we need to remember that we never know what’s going on behind closed doors. I’ve comforted many friends this year through relationship and job problems, to dealing with the death of loved ones, and it makes you realise that sadly we all go through problems. However, it’s important to turn that around and focus on the friends and family you are still to have around.

8. Exercise and hard work really does pay off

I’ve been documenting my physical journey throughout the year and it’s awesome seeing the progress I’ve made along the way. I’ve had down days where I’ve felt like I’m not seeing much difference in my physique, and then bam, another day you’ll be looking in the mirror and noticing all sorts of changes. It’s pleasing to see that hard work and dedication really does pay off, and I’m excited to continue getting stronger in the new year.

9. There’s no such thing as too many holidays

Of course, money dependent, there probably can be such a thing as too many holidays, but what I mean is that time spent travelling is invaluable experience. I ended up taking three holidays this year to Amsterdam, Malta and Germany, and although it’s stopped me saving as much money as I would have liked to this year, it was money and time well spent. With the cold weather continuing to creep in, I’m already starting to think where I could head to in 2019…

10. 2019 will be a good year

Okay, this isn’t something I’ve learnt, but it’s something I’m positive about. After quite a tough start last year losing my grandad, I’m confident that 2019 will hold good things. I’m finally in a more stable position in life, and I’m excited to see what will happen next. Happy New Year!

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Amsterdam: Bicycles, Coffee Shops & Brass Bands

I’d heard so much about Amsterdam that I felt as though I’d already been there and could already picture the bike-cladded streets winding around the canals. For years I’d been desperate to see the city for myself, so me and a few friends decided to head there for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday.

Amsterdam has an amazing transport system – car, bike, boat, tram, train or bus – you can take your pick! Even though we were staying a while out of the city centre, our weekend public transport passes were a fantastic way of getting around the city.

As we arrived quite late on the Thursday night, we grabbed some food for breakfast and a couple of beers and relaxed in our hotel apartment.

Friday

In the morning we headed off to the the museum quarter with pre-booked tickets for the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Having studied art at school, I was really keen to see his work in person and learn a bit more about his back story. One thing to note with attractions like this and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, is that most places require you to book tickets and a time slot in advance.

Having a time slot worked well with the Van Gogh museum and the floors feel very spacious, giving you lots of time to explore each section and read the information about each piece. I’ve been to a few big art galleries in the past, but this is the first gallery I’ve been to which focuses entirely on one artist’s work. And you can truly see why Van Gogh holds such fascination for many people. I was already familiar with his post-impressionist style of painting, but it was interesting to see the other art styles he experimented with over the years, such as pencil drawings and peasant character studies. I also particularly enjoyed the self-portrait section, as I feel as though it’s unusual for an artist, who you’d usually expect to distance themselves from the subject of study, become that study themselves.

We spent the afternoon exploring the city by foot, which I could honestly spend hours doing! The architecture is so beautiful in Amsterdam (reminding me very much of Paris at times) and there are so many cute cafés and shops to look around. We ended up venturing into one of Amsterdam’s infamous ‘coffee shops’, where you can enjoy legal marijuana. We picked one with a cat called Bowie who is pretty popular with tourists!

In the evening, we ventured out to De Pijp, a popular strip full of bars. As it struck midnight, we celebrated my birthday with some shots and sparklers before heading to a Jazz Bar called Bourbon Street Music Club. This is a fantastic venue if you want to get away from the busy, touristy bars and we joined a few locals dancing to an awesome Blues band.

Saturday

Despite being a bit hungover from the night before, we left the apartment bright and early to visit the Anne Frank House, as we’d already booked an early time slot. I knew that this visit would be tough, but I’d heard very good things about it. The museum didn’t look how I expected to from the outside, as I didn’t realise that they had built it around the original annex. The tour takes about an hour and you are provided with a free audio guide, which I found very informative and moving. There is no furniture left in the annex, but you do get a feel for the enclosed space that the Frank family shared with the van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer during their two years in hiding. At the end, you hear some accounts from Otto Frank and others survivors who had been close with Anne. It’s a sad but very moving experience, so I’d definitely recommend it. Upon recommendation of a friend, we then stopped by the pancake house outside the Anne Frank house to enjoy some traditional dutch pancakes, which were really delicious!

Then it was time to head home for a quick nap, before heading back out into the city centre. We took a little ferry from the train station to the A’DAM Lookout, a tall building with a panoramic view of the city. The cost to go up the  tower is quite expensive and you do have to pay extra to go on the swing. I didn’t realise that the swing slots also book up in advance, and as there was a two-hour wait, I decided not to do it. However, the view from the tower is stunning, and we enjoyed the rooftop bar and music in the sunshine.

Me and two other friends bought a bundle ticket for the tower and a canal boat ride afterwards. However, we spent 45 minutes queuing in the heat and as it was getting on a bit in the evening, we decided to head back to the apartment instead. It was a shame to waste the money, but I think you’re better off paying for a smaller, independent boat company, rather than going for one of the big ones. The smaller boats themselves also looked much nicer to ride on when it’s sunny, as the big ones we were waiting for all had roofs on.

In the evening we headed back to De Pijp for a Mastino Pizza, which we had read rave reviews about. I had a really tasty vegan pizza with vegan-style brie! As it was a lovely day and the restaurant is quite small, we took our pizzas to a nearby park and enjoyed them with a few bottles of wine. Later on, we explored the infamous red light district. I’d heard lots of stories about it, yet I still found myself feeling surprised and disturbed. We had a few drinks in one of the bars around there, but soon decided to head out of the district! We finished the night in a really fun club called Club NYX, which had a drag queen show on. The music and atmosphere was great in this club, but don’t be put off by people dancing right next to urinals on the second floor!

Sunday

On Sunday we decided to explore the city by bicycle and make the most of the hot weather. We cycled to Vondelpark, which has beautiful lakes and fountains. In the park, we also stumbled upon a Dutch brass band called Gallowstreet. They were so much fun and really got the crowd dancing. As well as being extremely skilled with their instruments, one member even used four different seashells to play music! The atmosphere was amazing and this was easily the highlight of my trip.

We enjoyed a pleasant cycle home before getting ready to head back out for the evening. After a few drinks in the flat, we got an Uber straight to a club that sounded like it had a good night on. However, once we paid loads to get inside, we found it to be completely dead and playing terrible music. I think that’s the quickest I’ve ever gone in and out of a club! We headed back to the apartment instead to take some ‘magic’ truffles, which you can buy from various shops in Amsterdam. I think they truly rounded off the Amsterdam experience!

I was sad to leave Amsterdam on Monday morning but I definitely intend to return in the future. While it’s close enough to travel to just for a weekend, there’s so much to do there that I think you’ll end up wanting to stay longer!