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Wednesday 3 January 2024

Let's talk about: maternity leave

Bittersweet: the only word I can find to capture my maternity leave.

A totally unplanned for birth ✅
Sleep deprivation ✅
Ironally, insomnia ✅
Laundry ✅
Binge watching Netflix ✅
Living in leggings and baggy t-shirts ✅
Rocking her to sleep ✅
Contact naps ✅
More laundry ✅
Tears (sometimes more from me than her) ✅
A bout of postpartum depression ✅
Making mum friends ✅
Coffee dates ✅
Baby classes ✅
Taking her swimming ✅
Random trips to big Tesco ✅
Garden centres ✅
Walks to the park ✅
Walks around the block ✅
Walks, walks, walks ✅
Even more laundry ✅

In the last nine months, I have felt more love than I knew possible yet such heartbreak and loss in unison. The moment I held my sweet baby girl in my arms for the first time, my life changed forever. Who I am changed forever. Yes, I met my daughter, but I met someone else in the fleeting moments in-between the hushing and swaying: I met the new me. She was broken. She was frightened. She had her running shoes on and her bags packed. Yet somehow, with incredible support and a discovery of (very deeply hidden) self belief, she found her way through. She found strength. She found joy.

In true Kassi style, I've been very open about the struggles I've endured becoming a first time mum. Gaining such an enormous responsibility (over night, might I add) is no mean feat. I've cycled through feeling happy, angry, sorrowful, anxious, exhausted, bored, blissful, overwhelmed, burnt out, excited, lonely, overstimulated, on edge... but more than anything, right now I feel grateful. Yes, some days I've torn my hair out with frustration. Yes, some days I've counted down the minutes until bedtime. Be that as it may, I am overcome with gratitude that I've been able to spend such precious time with the absolute light of my life, watching her grow and learn new skills every single day. Her infectious giggle can turn my day the right way up in an instant.

Tomorrow, I start a new journey to meet another new me: a working mum striving to regain some of her old identity whilst desperately clinging onto the fierce, resilient woman whose heart could burst with love every time she looks at her baby girl. Will it be smooth sailing? No. Will I cry three times before 9am? Most likely. Even so, I have every faith that I will find a way to amalgamate the old me, the new me and the new new me. Rosie, you are the reason.
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Friday 16 October 2020

REASONS TO: FEEL JOY THIS YEAR



To put it, er, mildly, 2020 has been... unique. A long and winding (and extremely tiring) road, shall we say. There has been more tragedy, anxiety, and uncertainty than any of us ever thought possible for one single year to bear. Yet, in the midst of such unruly chaos, most of us have stumbled upon undeniable pockets of joy. Cruddy year or not, we all deserve to celebrate the happy moments from our lives – no matter how small. So here are mine.

1. After leaving my job in April, I decided to change careers and try my hand at teaching. A brave leap, a scary leap, but an incredibly gratifying leap to make.

2. I have built an entire kingdom on Animal Crossing.

3. Despite living in different cities and barely seeing each other this year due to lockdown, my best friend and I have never been closer. There's a lot of love that has been shared this year.

4. I have had cuddles with at least three dachshunds in the last six months.

5. Jord and I celebrated our one-year anniversary in July. He's alright, I guess.

6. Strawberry picking, lavender and sunflower fields, and pumpkin patches. Yes, I've been one with nature this year. And I've loved every dang minute.

7. The year began with a (very) drunken night out with some of my oldest and dearest friends.

8. The few times that I've managed to see my family this year have been full to the brim with love and laughter.

9. It wouldn't be a good year without squeezing a trip to the zoo in, so that's exactly what I did.

10. Chain restaurants? What chain restaurants? Although I miss Nandos more than my heart can bear, I've supported far more local eateries and pubs in the last six months than ever before.

11. I haven't worn mascara since March. I can't see it making a comeback.

12. Living in jogging bottoms for two months straight was liberating.

13. Hamilton. No explanation needed.

14. Jord and I have found a b-e-a-uuuutiful new flat that we'll be moving into very soon. The moving itself will not be joyous but the unpacking certainly will be.

15. After all is said and done, I'm in the comforting refuge of my home, wrapped up in my dressing gown, with a mug of milk in one hand and my loving boyfriend by my side. Despite the odds, my year hasn't been the unapologetic disaster that so many others have battled. 
And for that, I am irrevocably thankful.

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Thursday 13 August 2020

LET'S TALK ABOUT: THIS BLIMMIN' PANDEMIC

Howdy, guys and dolls. It's been a hot minute since I've poured my heart out onto this here blog, but can you blame me? The world turned upside down this year – and yes, that is a Hamilton reference. We entered a worldwide pandemic; we were only allowed outside once a day earlier in the year; hugging your mum was technically illegal; Donald Trump almost got impeached; Australia suffered 240 consecutive days of bush fires; the Black Lives Matter movement grew at an unprecedented pace (come on, I had to throw that word in there somewhere); and we've been living in the centre of the sun for the past two weeks. Aces.

On a personal level, my world turned upside down too. I came second in the running for three or four new jobs at the start of this year; I left my job as a writer in April and became unemployed; I decided to change career path entirely and train to become a primary school teacher; I went the longest I've ever gone without seeing my parents; I spent over 600 hours creating my dream island on Animal Crossing; and – here's the biggun – I've not left the country all year. Bummer. It's been a S T R U G G L E for so many of us this year, for so many different reasons. But the biggest thing we've had to contend with? The lockdown that came hand-in-hand with this pandemic.


It may sound obvious, but I feel like my emotions have gone on a top-speed loop the loop ride through the entirety of lockdown. Ignorant, sceptical, apprehensive, scared, sad, lonely, lost, relaxed, satisfied, excited, anxious... the list goes on. Because I'm a walking cliché, I just blimmin' hate change. Change from normality into lockdown? Panic inducing. Change from lockdown into slightly lifted lockdown? Nerve-wracking. Change from slightly lifted lockdown into almost back to normality? Terrifying. When it comes to change, it's the uncertainty that tags along for the ride that worms it way into my mind. Should I be following the rules to a T? Are there exceptions to the rules? Can I hug my mum? Am I helping the economy or endangering others by going shopping? Am I wasting the sunny weather by staying inside? So many questions were flying through my mind on a daily basis and still are. Hey, we're not in the clear yet...

But do you know what? I'm allowed to feel those things. You're allowed to feel those things. We're all allowed to feel exactly how we feel right now as this is something that none of us have ever lived through before. It's okay if you haven't met the goals you set yourself at the start of lockdown; it's okay if you haven't created a masterpiece; it's okay if you're still struggling to go outside and meet with others. This is a completely unique experience that will no doubt shape all of us. You see, we're never going back to normal. We're getting ready to welcome something a heck of a lot better. Hang tight, the rainbow is on its way...

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Friday 20 December 2019

TAKING STOCK: 2019

With 5 sleeps to go until Christmas and 12 until the turn of the decade, it felt necessary to dust off my copy of Jim Carrey's How The Grinch Stole Christmas... for the umpteenth time. And as I sit here and listen to my green alter ego, I've found myself reflecting upon the 12 months that have just passed us by.

Not to be my typical ~melodramatic~ self, but the final year of this decade has been a bigg’un. 
The last 365 days have featured 12 planes, 11 marathon-making runs, 10 cities, 8 airports, 5 countries, 4 travel buddies, 3 gigs, 2 flats, 1 tattoo, 0 £££, countless memories... and I guess my incredible boyfriend deserves a shout out, too. Yep, a pretty magical combination if you ask me.

But here comes the bad news. Despite the upbeat Instagram appearance and the constant smile painted across my face, 2019 hasn't been completely hunky-dory for me. In fact, it's has been one of the more difficult years of my adult life. I made the (some would say brave, others would say foolish) decision to unstitch my life and start afresh. After I'd done some soul searching (i.e. a one-woman trip around Italy) and the adrenaline had worn off, I felt quite deflated about my attempt at adulthood 2.0. Who was I? What was I going to do with my life? Where was I going to live? Let's call it a quarter-life crisis, eh.

Yet somehow, 8 months into this 'new' life of mine, I'm happy. Well and truly happy. Looking-like-I've-got-a-coat-hanger-in-my-mouth happy. Dancing-for-no-reason happy. Living-for-the-moment-and-not-the-future happy. It turns out my hunch was correct – everything happens for a reason, after all. When the clock rang midnight on December 31st, I had little to no idea who I really was. And beyond that, I wasn't a huge fan of what I did know about myself. But this New Year's Eve? I can honestly say that I love myself, which has made all the difference. I found myself, which meant that Jordan could find (and love) me.

2019, you’ve been one hell of a year. I'm leaving you stronger and fiercer than before, holding the hand of the man I love. Come @ me 2020.
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Saturday 16 November 2019

WHEN IN: THE CAYMAN ISLANDS


It may be cliché to say it but this year has been a roller coaster – and that's to say the least. Without going into too many details, I unstitched my life and started again. I went from quietly unhappy to obviously all over the place and have somehow landed in a brand new happy place; a happier place than I thought would be possible for me this year. It brought with it a new favourite person, a new home, and a new destination to explore. Everything happens for a reason, right?

Like the kind soul he is, Jord took me on an unforgettable adventure to meet his Camanian family and welcomed me into his world. We watched sunsets on the beach, danced in the streets of George Town, stroked baby turtles, went out to sea in a kayak, drank endless milkshakes, had a tan off, and (somehow) fell even more in love with one another. It was the perfect trip and I'd relive it again in a heartbeat.
 Thank you for finding me, Jordan. I love you with all that I have.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, so here's are a few of my favourites from our glorious 8 days in the sun.

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Sunday 22 September 2019

LET'S TALK ABOUT: HAPPY PLACES


Happy place, you say? You’re looking at her – well, one of her at least. I've procured a few happy places throughout my (almost) 25 years roaming this here earth and, to go hand in hand with my recent look-like-I-slept-with-a-hanger-in-my-mouth mood, I wanted to share them with the world. Enjoy.

In the North corner? Altrincham Market, Manchester. Come on folks, it was pretty much ~a given~ that Manchester would be on this list – and here it comes, roaring in as numero uno. Finding this bustling-come-tranquil spot back in 2017 was a game-changer for me. Thinking I'd explored all of the magic that my favourite city had to offer, it went and proved me wrong. Typical Manchester. In the two years (quite literally ~today~) that I've been living in the South of England, I've visited the North West three or four times. Sadly, this little haven hasn't featured on the agenda – but I can feel a reunion on the horizon for 2020.

In the South corner? Christopher Place, St Albans. The last 12 months have been extremely trialling for me – and that's actually an ~under~statement. But last October, when I first started to get an inkling that I would never feel at home down South, I stumbled across this hidden gem within St Albans. My heart was suddenly full once more. Buntings decorating the pathway, a handful of my favourite shops scattered across the street, kids playing in the courtyard, the scent of pudding wafting over from a food vendor... there's nothing quite like it. Thank you for finally helping me feel grounded, St Albans. I owe you a hecka lot.

In the European corner? Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence. Yes, Manchester may be my favourite place on the entire planet – but this spot in Florence is a close second. Having climbed what felt like a gazillion steps in the burning heat, I finally made it to the most beautiful view Florence has to offer: Michelangelo's Square. From the South of the River Arno, overlooking the magnificent Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, I felt at peace. I plonked my tush on a wall slightly below the square, away from the mayhem of a thouand camera flashes, and just sat. And breathed. And reflected. And smiled. And sighed. And found happy.

In the international corner? Washington Square Park, New York City. Smack bang in the middle of NYU campus and with the most breathtaking view of the Empire State Building sits a dainty park with a fountain. What an extraordinary feeling it is to stop in the middle of the city that never sleeps and revel in absolute silence, to feel an overwhelming sense of calm amongst the madness of the Big Apple. That's exactly what I found in Washington Square Park. Studying in NYC had never seemed more dreamy. And maybe I ~was~ dreaming, but I could have sworn I saw the stars beyond the bright lights of the big city.

No matter your happy place, may it shower you with peace, strength, and – most importantly – unrivalled, unprecedented happiness that'll last a lifetime (or two).
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Wednesday 24 July 2019

LET'S TALK ABOUT: NOSTALGIA


"Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed". Discuss.

Okay okay – I'm not going to make you write an essay. Don't have a cow, man (there’s one for nostalgia, eh). Having said that, I might write one myself. And, like any A* essay (toot toot), I'm going to look at all sides of the debate. That’s right – the good, the bad, and the oh so ugly.

Let's mix things up and start with the bad, shall we? Oh nostalgia, you rotten old thing. You've tricked me into romanticising the past one too many times. Be it a fake friendship that I was blind to, a toxic love that I was blinded by, or a bad decision that – quite frankly – should have been blindingly obvious, you possess a mysterious power that makes me miss bad memories. And the real kicker? Those bad memories seem like hunky-dory ones on reflection; memories that I wish I could relive. Yet, I know deep down that they're not. I know deep down that they're a lie. I know deep down that they're trying to kid me into believing some half-cut, fancy pants version of the truth. Gold star for you, nostalgia (naaaaht).

But, honestly? I'm quite grateful that you can shed an ultra-violet light on distant – and sometimes forgotten – memories. Y'know, those that felt perfect at the time yet I later grew to loathe. (If you haven't already guessed, we're onto the good). As someone who refuses to regret anything in her life – no matter how dumb or childish – it's a bitter pill to swallow to look back on happy memories and realise that they were lousy ones in disguise. It's a major buzzkill (insert hilarious HIMYM joke here). And that's why you're a shining light, nostalgia. Yes, you may spin the truth. Yes, you may be somewhat of a cruel tormentor. But I'll take a white lie over a shattered memory bank any day of the week, thanks.

Oi, get your cursor away from that 'close tab' button – this essay ain't over yet. You didn't think I'd forget the ugly, did you? It's the plot twist you've all been waiting for (and by you, I totally mean me. I'm on tenterhooks, I tell ya). Nostalgia, you've done some pretty crappy things to me over the years. You've guided me to fall back into bad habits. You've made it difficult for me to let go. But the worst thing of all? Drum roll please – you’ve allowed me to lower my standards. Every time that I reflect on the past and conclude "oh it wasn't that bad", a drop of my self respect goes straight down the drain. It's all well and good feeling nostalgic for old places and past events, but when you bring people into the equation? Letting others walk over you and regarding that as a happy memory – that's the ugly, front and centre. I'm happy to put a positive spin on my crappy memories for the most part, but allowing it to affect my future behaviour is where I draw my line. I refuse to look back at episodes of being mistreated, disrespected, and downright ridiculed with a smile on my face. I refuse to allow friends, ex-boyfriends, or anyone else back into my life in the spirit of nostalgia. You can bog off, mate. I’ve locked the door to my standards and swallowed the key. (Let's hope I don't choke).
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Sunday 30 June 2019

LET'S TALK ABOUT: 'FINDING YOURSELF'



The 'perfect person' that I always wanted to be – and, for a long time, saw myself as – was kind, sweet, and could do no wrong. The girl that everyone liked; the girl that everyone could depend on; the girl that was described as 'innocent'. Somewhere down the line, it dawned on me that, whilst I share some of the same traits as this 'perfect person', I am definitely not her. And that's okay. But, who am I? (A big can of worms to open – believe me, I know.)

If you cast your minds back to last year's ramble on 'belonging', you'll realise that I haven't really known who I am for a little while now. Hey, that's what entering adult life does to ya! The more people in their twenties I speak to, the more I realise that everyone is a smidgen lost. No one ~really~ knows what they're doing or who they are. Combine that confusion with a hecka lot of change over the last two months (i.e. new flat, new car, new life), setting aside some all-important 'me time' seemed like the perfect way back to myself. Y'know, to concentrate on who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. But how, you ask? Italy.

It may be corny, but part of me thought if I swanned off to Italy on my tod that I would 'find myself'. That I would discover this whole new me who had always been hidden away somewhere in the background, biding her time until she was ready to come out and play. That I would return to the UK confident in who I am. But here's the thing – I didn't find myself. I wrote a little travel diary whilst I was away and I wanted to share an extract with you folks.

"Did I find myself? No. Because I haven’t found this new person that I’ve not yet met. Instead, I’ve realised that I’m already pretty awesome. That the person I already am is someone I actually want to be. And she’s 100% fine by herself. She’s sassy and confident and full of fire. And she’s also compassionate and caring. Fairly impatient. But all round, she’s a good egg. And I’m happy to be her."

Yes, I still feel somewhat lost. Yes, I'm still none the wiser about what my life has in store for me. I've always been a sucker for thinking about the future and planning my life out to the very last detail, which means uncertainty is one of my biggest fears. Uncertain where I'll be in 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years. Uncertain where I'll live, who I'll see, what I'll be doing. But do you know what? None of that really matters when you know and – more importantly – like who you are. As long as you do the things that make you happy day-to-day, the rest will follow. And ~that's~ what I'd call finding yourself. So hey, maybe I found myself after all.
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Thursday 20 June 2019

WHEN IN: ROME (FLORENCE, VENICE, VERONA & MILAN)








Have you ever fallen head over heels for a foreign land that you've never even visited? Welcome to my TED talk. For as long as I can remember, my heart has longed for (and belonged to) Italy – a place that, until earlier this month, was still on my travel bucket list. So what's a girl to do? Get her Eat Pray Love on, of course. And that's exactly what I did, with a month's warning. That's right – eight days, five cities, one girl, and a ~very~ heavy rucksack. Andiamo!

City no. 1 – Rome ★★★☆☆

My first stop (as well as my last) was in the Italian capital – aka Roma. On my first full day in Italy, I spent most of my time wandering around Vatican City – cathedral climb of 545 steps, included. If you've visited yourself, you'll know that what I'm about to say is no exaggeration; St. Peter's Basilica took my breath away. I'm talking both inside and outside – as well as on top of. The Vatican Museums were also spectacular, but they actually made me feel slightly uneasy. Walking through the ~many~ galleries (I genuinely got lost at least 3 times), I couldn't help but think about how expensive they must have been and how expensive they must still be, whilst there are so many people in our world that struggle to get by day-to-day. Yes, they may be beautiful but does that justify not using the space to serve a better purpose? Such as sheltering the many homeless on the street? Moving ~away~ from politics, I also fitted the Trevi Fountain – aka the busiest tourist attraction I have EVER visited – and the infamous Spanish Steps into day numero uno. On my return to Rome at the very end of my one-woman mission, I spent the afternoon exploring the Colosseum and the surrounding area. Another breathtaking building, for sure, but incomparable to others earlier in my trip. All in all, Rome is a typical capital city – full to the brim of tourists, historical sights, and more graffiti than I could have ever envisioned. I wouldn't say that I disliked it, but Rome was definitely my least favourite Italian location.

City no. 2 – Florence ★★★★★
My oh my did my heart beat for Florence. I can honestly say, hand on said (beating) heart, that I have found my new happy place in the city of Firenze. Such a stark contrast to Rome, Florence felt far more quaint and packed with far more culture than I ever expected. From strolling around the streets in the early hours of the evening – market stalls, included – to reading my book on a park bench as the night slowly crawled in, I felt two glorious feelings – a) safe and b) at home. The galleries were overwhelming (in the very best way), the squares were brimming with incredibly talented artists, and the streets were lined with gelato shop after gelato shop after gelato shop. I know, priorities right? Of all the cathedrals (i.e. one for each city) that I gazed upon during my Italian adventure, Florence's took the cake. And the icing. And the cherry on top. One late afternoon, I climbed up a hill and ~many~ stairs to Michelangelo's Square, which gifts the most incredible views of the city that stole my heart. And right in the middle of the skyline? That cathedral – that duomo. Florence, you made me feel like me again.

City no. 3 – Venice ★★★★☆
Having heard quite mixed views about The Floating City, I opted to only spend 24 hours in Venice – and what a 24 hours it was. Yes, ~massively~ overcrowded in the popular areas, but a small piece of my heart belongs to the endless bridges that line the city's backstreets. Walking into St. Mark's Square, I audibly gasped at the sight of the cathedral – what a magnificent building. Climbing (via elevator) the tower to the side of the cathedral – St Mark's Campanile – offered incredible views of the water and the smaller islands opposite. As evening rolled in, I decided to take a stroll to Ponte dell'Accademia to take in the Grand Canal in all its glory. Sat on the other side of the bridge, and overlooking the large span of water where cruise ships come and go, was that night's restaurant. I scoffed a pizza, obviously – but also treated myself to a gorgeous glass of Rosé. After enduring the hectic nature of Venice in the day, it was the most wonderful feeling to experience the peaceful side of the island, too. It really is a beautiful city.

City no. 4 – Verona ★★★★★
It would only be right to describe Verona – the city infamous for its connection to Romeo and Juliet – as both dreamy and romantic. Besides Juliet's balcony, the Arena, and the the cathedral, I didn't have much on the itinerary for Verona. Instead, I took the opportunity to spend 48 hours relaxing, shopping, and taking a gazillion photos – 10/10 would recommend after 5 days of non-stop sightseeing. Having found my happy place on a hilltop in Florence, I stumbled across a close contender by the River Adige. Sat on a wall overlooking the water, switching between reading my book and people watching, I felt more zen that I have in a very long time. When I did take a wander, I was overwhelmed by just how many 'Letters to Juliet' (most of which written on the walls themselves) there were. And they weren't just limited to Casa di Giulietta – the city's walls were overflowing with them. I actually managed to walk by the cathedral just as Sunday mass was taking place, meaning I got to experience an authentic Italian service, and I spent an afternoon getting lost in some magnificent gardens. Verona, you did not disappoint.

City no. 5 – Milan ★★★★☆
Last but by no means least, Milan was the last 'new' city on my tour before I headed back to Rome for one last night. Having spent the week prior in three small and peaceful cities, my hopes for Milan weren't quite so high. Originally super excited to visit one of the world's fashion capitals, my expectations had taken a nosedive. But – to my surprise – my heart adored Milan just alike every other city. Everything about the city was so intricately designed – even the train station took my breath away. Despite being the only cathedral that I did not enter on my trip, the view from the outside was alike no other. Right in the middle of the city, I strolled around the surrounding shops whilst I took its glory in. My favourite find? A three-storey chocolate and sweet shop, of course. They even had a bakery. A BAKERY. I also had the chance to set my sights on Samuel L. Jackson, live in the flesh – but I didn't realise it was him until my brother confirmed via text a few hours later. Oh Milan, you really were unique. I'll definitely be back.

My heart always has – and I can confidently say now that it always will – belong to Italia. Just you watch this space.
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