Interview with Award-Winning Film Director, Christina Xing

Budweiser: This Bud’s For You (DC)

Hey, guys! Long time, no blog. Things have been crazy hectic on my end. Lots of moving, job changes, and general ‘adulting’. However, I’m back with another interview. An American blog called Oneul asked me to interview a great talent, and as someone that loves to get into minds of artists, I couldn’t say no. So unfortunately, this isn’t original and so the interview can also be found on the site. But sometimes I like to reshare the work I do on to my blog too, just to expand the reach. Read the feature below, enjoy!

Christina Xing has created an alternate world that everybody wants to be a part of. Saturated with youthful yet nostalgic imagery along with surreal dreamscapes, she has made it impossible to look away. Seeking inspiration from watching classic Americana and the French New Wave movement, the Asian-American director looks everywhere in hopes to find herself.

The director’s catalogue ranges from the most influential brands and companies, collaborating with Crayola, Snapchat, Tinder, and dabbling on the music side too, with Sony, Warner and Atlantic records, having created music videos for Kenzie, Frances Forever, Victor Internet and many more.

But her creative reach doesn’t end there. She directed her first musical feature, ‘How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed’ at only 17. The former garnered national attention on Twitter in Thailand, and it all snowballed from there. At 19, she was selected to be a ’Semi-Finalist’ for MACRO (the studio behind Oscar-nominated ‘Fences’) and The Black List’s episodic lab.

With nothing short of a bright future ahead, we caught up with her to discuss wanting to collaborate with Apple, coping with imposter syndrome and the value of friendship.

This Old Dog (2020) – Short Film

First of all, how have you been lately? Do you work according to how you feel?

It’s been really strange for me lately. There’s a lot of horrible things happening to my fellow AAPI community so I’ve been trying to navigate my emotions towards that. I’m also taking some time off of work to finish my vaccination rounds and also to write my newest short. It’s the first break I’ve had in over three years. It’s been so strange. I usually make a checklist of all the things I need to have done and organise my week that way. So often, my emotions don’t impact what I need to do.

When did you know you wanted to become a director?

I was always making little films around my house and telling stories ever since I was in 4th grade. I was always sure I wanted to be a screenwriter, but then I went to film school and completely realised I was a terrible writer and that the parts I was good at and felt the most at home doing, was working with actors and the more intuitive parts that come with making a movie. I dabbled in a bit of everything before that realisation sunk in because I always felt like the world didn’t need more directors (haha). But I think the moment I really knew was when I’d find myself reading screenplays and thinking about the ways I would execute them, rather than reading screenplays and learning the craft of how I’d write them, if that makes sense!

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you best come up with creative concepts?

My real life plays such a huge part in my creative concepts. I’ve written so many music video treatments for people from afar. I’ve used the emotions of being hurt and my dumb fantasy sequences as fuel to make creative things. As corny as it sounds, I would say real life experiences mixed with my love of old films and movies. I try to watch a film a day to expand that vocabulary.

What has been your favourite project to work on so far? And why?

“Space Girl” by Frances Forever was truly a passion project. I’ve loved the song for a long time and when I first heard the song I had a slight idea for a creative but never thought it’d be possible. But by some crazy miracle I got to work with Frances and their incredible team and amazing partner. It was such a blast.

That sure sounds like a blast! How did you come about working with Frances Forever on the music video of ‘Space Girl’ and how do you feel about it?

It was so much fun. It was really difficult because the idea was very ambitious for the budget we were working on along with a lot of my core crew being from LA having to go to Boston for the video. It’s def the first video I’ve made where I’m like, wow, that was 100% the treatment and came out better than what I saw in my head.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

If you could collaborate with anybody or any particular brand, who would you work with?

Apple! I love the risks they take in their commercials and I love how they value story in a lot of their work.

How have you kept inspired during these times?

My friends are everything. They keep me going through their work, advice and friendship.

You have a signature style of nostalgic, surreal yet dreamy landscapes and saturated visuals. How did you come to this creative conclusion? Will you ever evolve even further?

I think in my personal work a lot of my work has become quite the opposite of that, strangely enough. I think there is so much room for me to explore and discover more about my creative voice as I mature as a storyteller. I’m so young right now there’s so much more I haven’t tried yet. I came to that style of dreamy and saturated through my love of classic musicals and classic films. I loved how those movies made me feel and really provided a spectacle for me. I always hoped to do the same in my work.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you cope with imposter syndrome – if you have ever felt it?

I feel it every day. I think the best way to cope is to not look too much into your work and just focus on moving forwards. I find myself spiralling and hating everything I’ve made when I let myself think too much about it all. When I get in those mindsets I always try to push it to being productive and focusing on the next thing.

Your bio says that you strive to eat vegetables and always keep your nose clean. Is there anything else you aim to always be in life? What are your ultimate goals for the future? Where do you hope to be?

I’d love to make a feature in the next two years or start directing TV. That’s the real dream. But overall, I value my friendships and family above all. I hope to spend more time with them in the next few years.

Lastly, do you have any advice for young creatives who are interested in the film industry?

Watch as many movies as you can! The movies have taught me everything I know in film and in my life.

Claud – Wish You Were Gay

KEEP UP WITH CHRISTINA XING:

Website : https://christinaxing.com/

Instagram: @christinaxing

Twitter: @christinaxingg

How a global pandemic affected my mental health

Calm in Chaos: a general rambling post from me amongst the uncertain times which are COVID-19 and how I generally stay sane when it feels like the world is ending.

As I’m writing this, I can hear at least three different species of birds chirping, couples laughing and friends gathered together basking the glory of the sudden sunshine. Despite this, the context shows an entirely different tone. It’s March of 2020 and the world is in an incredibly strange state right now, just two nights ago Boris Johnson had announced that the United Kingdom was officially going into lockdown for the next couple of months, which basically means that everyone needs to self-isolate and remain in quarantine apart from “essential” workers. Understandably, everyone is freaking the fuck out. With thousands of events getting cancelled like weddings, holidays, festivals and even educational institutions having to shut which means exams have been cancelled for the time being and teaching has been transferred online. Right now, we really are living in the midst of a historic moment which will affect millions of people across the world. A real dystopian Black Mirror episode, if you will.

Despite this, this is the happiest I have felt in months. I know, I’m not making the best impression so far. I’m sat in a large nature park right now where other people are when I’m meant to be isolating (Sorry, dad) and I just said that a massive pandemic is making me happy. Well, allow me to justify. I use the term “happy” very loosely here. I know 2020 has been shit show from the get go; from shock deaths (RIP Kobe and Brianna Bryant), floods, wildfires, potential world wars, nation-wide drought, Brexit (which commenced on my birthday for fuck sake), climate change acceleration and now an international pandemic. And it’s ONLY March. I can understand why you’d read my naïve indifference as arrogant.

It feels like everywhere you turn, there’s bad news after bad news. Like, not to be dramatic, but life is feeling a lot like that time Edward broke up with Bella in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer made all the chapters during the break up empty pages with just “September.” “October.” “November.” written at the top. All of the days are blurring into one and are filled with uncertainty. Every social media platform that you log into, including Instagram which is usually a form of escapism, are only constant reminders of the virus as well as productive things we’re meant to be doing throughout this period of isolation, even though I’m fully aware that I’m meant to be chasing a degree (I know, what the fuck) while constant stats remind us about how deadly and scary this virus is. It truly is overwhelming and I do not blame anybody for feeling especially scared and anxious in this time.

I rarely get personal on this blog, despite the fact that it IS my personal blog. I’m usually quite general, but I’m going to share how I’ve personally felt the calm in all of this. I mean, I speak from a place of general privilege. I’m not exactly calm about the death, collective grief, global poverty, deadly exploitation of working-class people of colour, financial ruin and ever-callous leadership that sets the scene for this time. Furthermore, circumstances for a lot of people are desperate and financially there’s bound to be some kind of crash, I understand that this is a scary time for us all. Yet, for some reason, I find the collective feeling of worry, the resentment of this current year, holding billionaires and the 1% to account for their greedy money hoarding as well as everybody’s combined efforts in improving our circumstances to be extremely reassuring of humanity. Even the NHS has had over 400,000 people offer to volunteer to help those directly infected by the virus when the government were merely expecting half of that. That’s something to celebrate within itself.

Overall, my person issues pale in comparison to refugees and more vulnerable groups who are far a lot affected by this this virus than me personally. This isn’t ideal for anybody. However, if I’m too think in a way that makes the glass appear half full- I’d talk about the environmental impacts, for example; did you know that air quality has improved significantly in major cities since tourists have stopped occupying them? And think of all the free concerts all of your favourite artists have intimately live-streaming!! From Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend, James Blake. Miley Cyrus has started a cute livestream platform where she interviews celebrities and medical professionals on remaining positive while being aware of your surroundings. The sheer quality of MEMES that have come out of this are…incredible. And lastly, the newfound respect the general public now have for service workers and our community.

Apologies if this blog post seems lazy compared to my usual work, I’m still adjusting. I know this is hard, I’m scared too. I’ll probably add more positive outcomes and more informed updates of this in due time. But for now, I know it’s easier said than done- but do try to make the most of this time of peace and quiet. Get creative, contact people you’ve grown distant from due to busy schedules. Whatever you want. There’s bound to be some form of humanity to come out of this and it’ll be beautiful. We can’t see it now but we will. There’s no telling what’s ahead but I do truly believe that in spite of everything, we’ve got this. Look after yourself reader.

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

What sobriety taught me about being a better friend

Most of the blog posts I write are heavily influenced by events that have taken place in my personal life, I would love to say that everything I write about is thoroughly and thoughtfully planned out, but the majority of the time, it isn’t.

Why do I say that? Well, the other night (I would give specifics but I’m not sure which date I will publish this on) I met up with a longtime friend of mine from secondary school, and like all Brits so typically tend to do in the evening (any time after five, most of the time) we met up at the local student bar and had a few drinks whilst catching up with one another’s lives within the last six months.

Then while sitting at this bar with said friend, I suddenly realised that it had been six months since I even had a ‘proper’ drink, and even more surprising- I hadn’t actually gotten drunk in an entire year. My last honest feeling of a pounding headache, aching stomach, sickness, embarrassment, regret, overbearing self consciousness, and overall sense of self-loathing hadn’t surfaced (least, via intoxication) in a very, very long time.

I’ve always had a decent relationship with alcohol, especially recently. In secondary school I often exaggerated how drunk I really was and never suffered from severe hangovers. I’m not sure whether it was because my tolerance was significantly higher so I was able to drink vodka like it was water, or what. But I think students can universally agree when we say that from the age of eighteen onward, usually indicates a shift in everything, and hangovers become more severe.

When I first moved to Nottingham I tried to fit into the culture by drinking everything in sight; which I did. It was bad, but only freshers week bad- I woke up with a massive receipt from Subway (yes, the sandwich place), I’d have other people’s clothes on (God knows how that happened) and at some stage I was spiked which resulted in me losing feeling in my legs for the night. I took it easy from then on onward, I mean, I got really messed up (accidentally) during a day drinking session once but that didn’t stop me.

On my 19th birthday, I got into a random mans’ car and didn’t get out of bed for over 24 hours. Then on my 20th, it was more or less the same thing. It was all okay, though. Right? I’m a young, university student, I’m British and it’s the way of life. Which is fine. But it’s about time we had an honest conversation about how alcohol really affects our mental health. In an era where drinking to excess has become heavily normalised, it can be difficult to navigate the culture; to see who is just like everyone else and who is actually struggling.

At the age of 21, I’ve come to a realisation that getting drunk casually isn’t for me. And, no. I don’t hold some sort of god complex (that’s exactly what someone with a god complex would say) and I certainly don’t look down on those that drink, at all. Especially as the summer approaches along with the alarmingly high temperature rise, causing people to crack open ‘a cold one’ before the afternoon. I can fully understand the urges. But the U.K. has a drinking problem. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t drink less than the recommended units and the shared mentality has always been “As long as no one is getting hurt then there’s no problem with it”. If alcohol were a new discovery, this wouldn’t be okay, but because this is what we have always known, heavy drinking has become glamorised and almost celebrated. Whereas drugs, understandably, are still a massive taboo. Depending on where you live.

The NHS recommendation of 14 units per week, which is about 6 pints or 7 glasses of wine. But who can keep track? Drinking is everywhere. We drink to celebrate, we drink when we are sad, we drink to relax – we drink on any occasion for any excuse. As a collective we normalise blackouts, frequent puking and humiliation. We need more awareness that alcohol affects our mental health as well as our physical health: while we may be enjoying ourselves, alcohol is also a depressant, the viscous cycle of feeling miserable and anxious was something that I personally couldn’t handle anymore.

Whenever I tell people that I once went an entire year without drinking (that’s a story for another post) it is always met with all kinds of strange reactions, as if I told them that I just won the lottery. Actually, more pitying than that. As if my dog just died. I mean, I don’t have a dog- but you get the gist. However, you never gain this sort of reaction when you tell people that you went on holiday and binged for an entire week? Last summer, I was the only one not drinking at a garden party and a girl there felt the need to tell me that staying sober was really sad and pathetic.

Look, I’m not trying to convince people to stop drinking. The total opposite, actually. However, the main point of this blog post is to explain how the idea of getting too intoxicated regularly is one that seriously needs to be looked at and re-evaluated. That we need to look at how much we consume and start being more responsible. I learnt a lot in my year of sobriety. Did I ever miss drinking? Absolutely. But I became more focused on my work and priorities, I saved money, I felt fresh everyday to the point where I just never wanted to turn back. And I felt like I was overall becoming a better version of myself. Believe me, I am far from perfect, but since leaning more towards regular sobriety I have just been happier. And as a generally rather unhappy person, I am continuously aiming towards that. It’s a peculiar feeling- like stepping from the clamour of a street riot, stepping into the house, and locking the door.

What I learnt from celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’

The closing of a year is often lead with great anticipation. Halloween, bonfire night, Thanksgiving (for my American readers), Hanukkah, Christmas celebrations and then finally…the New Years build up. Then creeps in January, dragging its oversized shoes on the floor. January is like the Maroon 5 performing at the Super Bowl of months, despite my own birthday being during this month, I too, have to admit that it overstays it’s welcome. A guest that you were once looking forward to seeing, but is now refusing to leave.

Then, after this excruciatingly dull month of broken resolutions and “I’ll start tomorrow”-s, comes an infamously suffocating day for singles and even couples alike. Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the day because it allows you to show appreciation to your significant other, plus the aesthetic of pink and red hearts everywhere may appear as obnoxious to some but I personally think they’re beautiful and uplifting. In a world that seems to forever filled with fake news and depressing headlines, then to suddenly be hit with flowers of all colours and love hearts is pretty encouraging to me. Lord knows we all need it.

But there is also a capitalist, ‘do it for the gram’ element involved which takes the real fun out of it. An haughty, pompous aspect that places couples to compare themselves to other couples. As though your relationships’ depth and meaning is measured based off of your financial income. A factor that is unfair and shallow to say the least. Personally, I’m a working-class student with low earning parents. Therefore, I don’t get any help from them. I simply rely on myself and how often I work, when I can. But with juggling a degree, a long distance relationship and other prospects; it can all get a little (VERY) strenuous. So with this continuous obligation to flex our lives on social media adds even more pressure on this particular occasion, minus the others- birthdays, Christmas etc.

In fact, just yesterday I was speaking to a work colleague who did not hesitate to tell me all about the expensive trips and gifts that her much older boyfriend so lovingly gives. Of course then, this was met with my own romance interrogation; “Where did you go?” “How much did they spend on you?” and “How much did YOU spend on THEM?” So whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a pain. Don’t worry single people, least you can treat yourself to a cheap bottle of wine and a Netflix marathon then call it a night, it’s not as pathetic as everyone makes it out to be. I promise.

Anyhow, so due to my long-distance relationship circumstances, this year I decided to celebrate my first ever Galentine’s Day with my single friends. Because being single doesn’t mean that you’re alone, at all. This is a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day. To quote main character Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” So for context, back in February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, a described ‘civic crusader’ and ‘friend extraordinaire’. As Knope explains it, each year on February 13th, she gathers together all her best female friends, including her mother, to celebrate what she loves about her female companions over waffles.

However, the biggest lesson that I learnt from Galentine’s Day isn’t to only challenge hetero-normative romantic relationships and gross gender roles and forever pining over ‘the right one’ but of also finally normalising the idea that being single IS NOT something to be distracted from. As someone that is currently in a relationship, I can understand why you’re reading this whilst rolling your eyes. Or how this advice would fall on death ears. Take this with a pinch of salt if you must, but the most significant rule to remember is that you’re able to be by yourself and not hate it. I know right, wild(!) I apologise if this sounds patronising, but you’re allowed to be single on purpose and enjoy it.

Galentine’s day doesn’t have to be surrounded by the concept of filling some sort of ‘romantic void’ otherwise you’re not full. That’s a complete lie. People speak to me nowadays as if by having a boyfriend, I have been “blessed” and that I have been changed for the better. As much as I love being in a relationship, I can be strong and empowered whether I’m in one or not. Galentine’s Day is for all female-identifying folks celebrating themselves, no man-dominated underbelly included, please.

As well as this, Galentines Day should be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Not everybody has this Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars-esque girl group. Sometimes our closest friends live in different parts of the country and so seeing all these cliquey squads can emphasise on the loneliness. I often feel it. So another lesson I have learnt is to keep open-minded and productive when it comes to this kind of thing. Galentine’s can be a beautiful day, but always remember to show love and support for women throughout all the other days to.

💚

Erasing “toxic positivity”

“Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn to new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough, we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy, always”.

S.C. Lourie

It’s been exactly five months since I’ve last published a blog post, which is pretty unbelievable to me! Not only have I failed to keep to my manifesto of coming up with new content every calendar month, but this realisation that five whole months have passed by is something kind of surreal altogether. Alongside the dreadful pressure of maintaining an online presence despite having no cool social life to flex, I’m also having to continuously convince you (my very limited audience) and myself that I’m vaguely fun, creative and relatable to read about. However, these feelings of doubt and inadequacy don’t need to be acknowledged or explained, only lived. So anyway, I’ve recently noticed a growing trend of people becoming overly positive. Though there is nothing wrong with seeing the glass as always half full, it can be ultimately damaging to entirely dismiss any natural emotions of anger, sadness or any feeling that isn’t completely positive. I understand the need to surround yourself with “positive vibes” which is mostly good, the majority of the time it can just come across as disingenuous and forced. So without further ado, here is an update on why I personally believe that we shouldn’t focus too much on what the chemicals in our brains are weighing and my newfound mentality of not caring. Not to seem generally insensitive towards people with genuine mental health issues of course, I couldn’t recommend therapy enough. However, this is just a personal mantra that keeps me afloat.

Okay, so I’m currently living in a house with three other girls, and in typical student-house fashion we have seen the worst and the best of each other. Emotional breakdowns over deadlines and assignments, momentary, short-lived ‘heartbreak’ over guys that won’t text us back anymore, financial restraints further exacerbated via fast fashion, year-long next day delivery and Klarna (you know, that whole ‘buy now, pay later’ deal that’s going on?) ASOS, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal, Missguided- I’m looking at you, please let me live my life.

But once I came to discover that 2/3 of my housemates were on antidepressants and anxiety tablets, whilst regularly making appointments with therapists, the realisation forced me to have a serious think about my generation and our newfound outlook on mental health. Despite stigma decreasing by over 6% within the past decade, the overall outlook hasn’t REALLY changed all that much, I recall one of my housemates telling me “I just got tired of not feeling normal, I felt so embarrassed about crying all the time!”- which is of course, a very much valid emotion. But, I have to meet it with some critique.

Why has it become an embarrassment to say how we feel and why must wesolveor fix” these emotions? Throughout my time in higher education, whether that be in secondary school or university, the main lesson that I have learnt is to just tell people how you feel. The collapse of a lot of my friendships penned from being dishonest, antisocial and just an overall lack of real communication on how I feel. I’m still working on it, actually.

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary,” observed Cecil Beaton, who was born in 1904.

For so long, I thought that the past 2-3 years had been dedicated to recovering. I fully committed myself to feeling better about things. I wanted to recover from the trauma that secondary school brought me, my home life, and other disappointments. Then I learnt that there’s absolutely no avoiding it. You can go your whole life insisting that it only gets better from here onwards, but you’ll always be faced with something new that will kick and punch you. And you’re not wrong for feeling bad about these things.

For example, when I was seventeen I went through my first brutal heartbreak. It’s never been easy for me to talk about, even today. Without going into too much detail, he was a drug addict with eyes for someone else and I was a lovesick teen with no sense of self-worth, we were only 16-17 but it had a profound experience on me as a teenager. It may not have been real for him but it certainly was for me, and it was one of the worst emotional experiences that a 17-year-old could go through. So after that, I recall thinking “Okay, I’ve experienced this thing and now it’s over” but then once I turned 18, it happened again, but with a slightly different narrative. Cheating boyfriend, not a drug addict but instead emotionally abusive; and on top of that he quickly began to hook up with my friend who I thought would never do that sort of thing, and nobody seemed to mind, either. Nobody checked in to see how I was doing. As if this was just “normal”.

Then throughout the years as I became older, things took another bad turn. I was having very bad family problems, I lost jobs, I lost friends that I thought would stick around forever, I hated my university and began doubting my place on this earth (I’m going somewhere with this, don’t worry) I knew that I wanted to be a journalist but I began to hate my course and the people in it, so I didn’t see the point anymore. I had completely lost all motivation. And I felt bad about it.

People will always tell you that you serve no purpose being sad, that it’s a major sign of weakness and that someone out there is always going through something worse- which is indeed true but that in no way should invalidate whatever it is that you’re feeling. There we are again, feelings. I used to hang on to that word by a thread, like I said earlier, there was always this belief that you would experience something tremendously bad but it was okay because it will eventually stop. One day you’ll wake up and everything will calm down a bit and be…better. Which is to some extent true, but let’s not dismiss the fact that this is real life. Bad things happen all the time, but so do the good.

I read a quote on Man Repeller once which said You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels“. And that’s it, bad emotions aren’t exactly bad overall, we often treat our uncomfortable feelings and emotions as if they had no real right to exist, inconveniences to be anesthetized or bludgeoned into extinction. But emotions aren’t really the enemy. They are feedback sent from within, messages sent from our deeper self that tell us how we are doing. As such, there really are no bad feelings — only comfortable or uncomfortable ones.

I know that there is this ongoing pressure to always seem busy, I get questioned all the time on what it is I do all day. I also know that there is this urgency to escape the hardship through grit and sweat, that any form of negative emotion has to be immediately wiped or otherwise you’re a depressed failure. Like say, if you submit one exam or essay that didn’t get the best grade, then you felt like you weren’t made for academia and that you should give up wanting a degree. But that’s not the case, it took a very long time for me not to treat these emotions as a blanket diagnosis but rather a stepping stone to something else. And I like to think that being able to bare this in mind keeps me up a level. You’re not doing it wrong, sadness and frustration aren’t just the shitty parts to make the good parts feel better, but just parts — the logical means through which get through to the next one.

Maybe I’m not the best person to take emotional advice from, and within the many times in life that I’ve been wrong and have poorly misjudged a situation, I can guarantee that I’m kind of right about this one thing. Without sounding corny or tedious, you can’t appreciate a good meal without having starved (not literally, I mean don’t deliberately go hungry) and you don’t appreciate a hot shower unless you’ve been out all day and you don’t appreciate the summer without going through the miserable months of January, February and March first. There’s something amazing in just riding it out and going through it. It’s not always good, but it makes a hell of a story to tell afterwards. Life is a far more interesting that way, like literally every movie that you will ever watch will have a point where something supposedly sad happens halfway through- both the cheesy and the epic ones. So don’t feel weird for having negative emotions, do not apologise for the inconvenience and then try to immediately jump to fix them. They always say it’s better to have felt something rather than nothing at all, it gives everything substance and meaning, and isn’t that what they’re meant for anyway?

How to overcome pressure throughout summer vacation

“Depression in summer is weird. It’s not dark and brooding, for me – it’s white and hazy and confusing. You feel very absent from everyone and everything. And all the light seems a little too bright for your tired eyes.”

“I feel like a time traveller: June, July, August. Summer dissolves in my mouth and I can’t remember what it tasted like.”

-Zoë Lianne, Erasure.

As the end of the summer approaches, the strawberry moon is emerging and Mercury is in retrograde, it’s time to reflect. While most people would be feeling sad that they’re forced to return “back to reality” I personally cannot wait. The combination of extra light, 80-degree weather, and FOMO can do real damage. More damage than what most people could imagine.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is traditionally associated with the winter months, a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, often reaching its nadir in December and January. Which, of course, is reasonable. Some sufferers with depression, however, find the summer sun unbearable.

Like myself.

I’m not going to go into people that genuinely suffer from reverse SAD disorder because it would be rather unjust of me to speak about something that you should get actual professional help for. However, I will talk about why I hate summer. We’re currently living a weird period, as Sylvia Plath once wrote “August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”

I know, I know. I’m going the total opposite direction of my blogs’ philosophy. So instead of talking about what I HATE (I have literally changed my mind as I’m writing this) I’m going to write about how loneliness can affect us all and how to get through the summer when you’re a little short on cash.

With social media feeling like the only safe entertainment that we can all turn to, nowadays it’s a whole lot easier to just watch what everybody else is doing and sinking into your own despair, scrolling aimlessly through your social media while staring longingly at other peoples’ deliberately calculated summer pictures. The glittering girl group festival photos, Ibiza boat party bikinis shots, poolside hotdog legs, giant inflatable unicorn floaties, awkward bopping boomerangs; but this isn’t the case for everyone.

Meanwhile, you’re getting ready for another gruelling shift at your rubbish part-time minimum wage job and you’re left to think, why is everybody having fun except for me?  

I always liked to think that once the summer came round that I would feel better, but that’s not how depression works. The sun will shine (sometimes), the birds will chirp, I’d wake up, go to my job and do what I need to do, but mentally my brain remained stagnant. This feeling wasn’t just a random Saturday occurrence in the summer. The scenario continued for days at a time almost every summer. As I started to become more aware of my body and surroundings, I realized it might not be normal.

According to the UK’s leading mental health clinic, Smart TMS there is currently no treatment for Reverse SAD, but getting some exercise (no matter how intense) and catching up on sleep are both thought to help. That’s pretty shit advice, but instead of being bitter because I wasn’t travelling around the world like all my peers appeared to be, I kept myself busy. Like I said, it really isn’t that easy, especially when you’re short on funds. However, there are some cheap alternatives in order to not be feeling like Death™ would be a cute look this summer.

At home

I understand that staying in your room all day everyday is mind numbing and overall, extremely unhealthy. If you living within a open, supportive and loving environment then here are a few ideas as to what you can do in the house.

  • Paint/redecorate your room– even if it means just changing the position of your bed, organising your closet and adding in a new rug. However this isn’t a possibility for you, you could even try grabbing a few plastic bags and throwing away old stuff that you don’t need anymore. Never underestimate the power of feng shui and the feeling of emptying out.
  • Plant trees and flowers- Okay, this may sound like granny activities to you but it’s been proven that the feeling of productivity doesn’t only help with your mental health and soothes your mind, but having plants within your space actually acts as an air purifier, through photosynthesis, they convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen, and they can also remove toxins from the air we breathe.
  • Movie marathons- As someone that studies film as part of their degree, I hardly ever watch any films. If you need to escape, dive into some fantasy or keep it light-hearted with a romantic comedy if that’s how you’re feeling. I know it’s pretty obvious, but films are a great distraction from the BS that is real life.
  • Try cooking new recipes- With the Internet age, there are absolutely no excuses to not teaching yourself anything new. IT IS ALL ON THERE! Summer is the time where most kids are getting their A-Level results, so maybe learning some meals in advance before moving to an entirely different city isn’t a bad thing. Mum and dad ain’t there no more kid, welcome to survival mode. Cooking and experimenting can be really fun, anyway. You don’t always need a purpose for that kind of thing, it’s almost 2019 do what you want.
  • Decorate cupcakes or other deserts- The other day my boyfriend took me to this old market in our town where he bought the most basic cupcakes just because they made him feel nostalgic. Since then, I suggested that attempting to make bake goods could actually be a super fun and cute activity, my grandmother regularly makes Welsh cakes for the hell of it so why shouldn’t you? Or if you want to spice things up, make some weed brownies. If you’re into that.
  • Throw a party/bonfire/barbecue- I know it can feel like your friends are always too busy living their lives but I promise that they will appreciate hearing from you. Whether you’re in the UK, America, or anywhere else around the world there is one thing we all have in common; we look for any excuse to drink. So invite some friends around, crack open a cold one (Christ) as long as things don’t get too out of hand.
  • Read- Don’t have streaming sites like Netflix or NOW TV? Parents can’t afford Sky? Mine can’t either. If you ever find yourself feeling bored of watching the same programmes there are other forms of escapism and that is the wonderful world of books! If you can’t afford to keep buying books, then there are sites like Wattpad and Project Gutenberg allow you to read books online for free. Or buy them super cheap from Amazon, to be fair Waterstones do take the piss a bit.
  • Draw and paint- Even if you’re absolutely shit at it. Who cares? Paint a butterfly, paint a naked body, paint a rocket. Anything that fascinates you, go ape. Emotionally, it helps to just pour all your emotions on a canvas. Acrylics aren’t too expensive, and when you’re done you can put them up on your new bedroom wall! (refer to tip no. 1)
  • Learn a new language online- I would personally recommend this one, not only can it enhance your CV and look good to future employers, but it’s also good brain training and can benefit you in all kinds of ways in the long run. Definitely a good investment!

Outside activities

I know for some young people, staying in the house isn’t an option. Some people suffer from physical/mental/emotional abuse from their family and relatives and just need an escape route. I completely understand this; so here are some things you could do to keep busy that doesn’t involve staying in. Some outdoor activities to do if the weather isn’t utter wank where you are.

  • Hike/go for a walk
  • Have a picnic
  • Go camping
  • Learn how to drive
  • Go swimming in a lake/swimming hole
  • Work at a summer camp
  • Stargaze
  • Clean up litter at a park or river
  • Go canoeing/sailing
  • Go tubing
  • Go surfing if you live near a beach
  • Pick berries
  • Take photos of different flowers, birds, etc
  • Walk your dog/someone’s dog because dogs are great
  • Go see a movie (it’s cheaper early in the day and with your student id!)
  • Have lunch with friends
  • Visit the library (this has quite literally saved my life a few times)
  • Go to a museum
  • Check out somewhere you’ve never been
  • Take a class for fun at a community college
  • Volunteer (animal shelters, food banks, etc)
  • GET A PART-TIME JOB
  • Take a trip to a neighbouring town and explore
  • Pretend to be a tourist in your own town
  • Try a food truck
  • Go to a festival
  • Go to a drive-in/outdoor cinema
  • Get ice cream
  • Look up free events that your town hosts
  • Go to the pool

It’s not always easy to cope with the immense pressure to always seem like you’re having a good time. I know summer days can be isolating and place a real emphasis on your depression, where the days feel long and hazy as you spend everyday watching the clock while never knowing what day it actually is, feeling as though you exist in a trance of melancholy and feel detached from everything but please, hold on. Time can do some amazing things so while this period feels like it is never ending- it will, eventually. Maybe prepare for next year? ☀️🍦

                        “Summer 2018” by Allison Kerek