Friday, 24 February 2017

Doing enough vs doing too much

Ironically, writing this post has taken an entire week of umming and ahhing, hesitation and procrastination, largely because it has seemed so difficult to put into words. I'm writing it now however, with the hopes of clearing my head by getting physical words down on my blog and also potentially to strike a conversation with others on a feeling I'm sure I'm not alone in experiencing! So. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Like so many others my age, I'm currently completing my degree (potentially this is why I'm having an existential ~what am I doing with my life~ crisis) but also attempting to balance my blog and social channels, search for internship opportunities and write endless amounts of cover letters, whilst finding time to attend lectures, do my food shop, get enough sleep and see family and friends. This potentially doesn't seem like anything out of the ordinary when so many others are facing the same expectations, however university brings a new level of independent learning in which I've struggled increasingly with where to draw the line of working. Worrying I'm working too much, or sometimes that I've given myself too much free time is a constant concern, and coupled with my determination to succeed in my placement year and the need to keep working to secure an internship is EXHAUSTING. This post sounds like a whole lot of complaining, but really I just want to share my thoughts on the anxieties of an uncertain future (how deep) and how my brain is struggling with that a little. 

My anxiety and eating disorder are very much based around control. If you've met me in real life, you probably know me as a v stressy yet v organised person, largely because I like to know what's going on at all times and be prepared in every eventuality. The control side of my personality is struggling a little (to say the least) with not knowing where I'll be or what I'll be doing after I finish my second year of university in May, and as a result I'm going crazy in terms of trying to prepare for it. Despite the fact I'm juggling a degree, attempting to keep my blog up to date and search for placements, my brain is still convinced I'm not doing enough and am too lazy to succeed. Perhaps it's not wise sharing these thoughts online, but if you're anything like me I'm sure you'll understand the stresses that come along with the constant fear of not being good enough. I think this is really where my struggles with balancing work and life come into play, with my main problem stemming from the worry that if I'm not constantly working, then I'm not doing enough. This term the introduction of more group based as opposed to individual projects on my course have come into play, and with that feels like a lack of control over certain parts of my degree. I'm so used to working non stop in the library on my own assignments and completing things early to satisfy my brain that I have a bit of extra time for emergencies or printing problems (so far things have always gone to plan) that having more free time as a result of completing work in a group feels totally alien to me. In actual fact, having free time then pushes me to think I should be doing more outside of my academic work to further my knowledge and learn new skills, which I in turn beat myself up about when I watch YouTube videos or scroll Instagram instead. Anyone reading this is probably thinking that yes, if I have free time then I should be making the most of this and brushing up on my Adobe skills, but sometimes, just sometimes, I would rather do nothing. AND THEN THE CYCLE OF WORRYING IM NOT DOING ENOUGH BEGINS AGAIN. It's exhausting let me tell you, and really I just want some reassurance that I am doing okay, and it's fine to not be working and bettering myself 24/7. 

Of course self improvement is a hugely important part of life, that as an adult (still not over the fact I'm 19 years old) I should be motivated to be doing, but I think often it's important to just take time for yourself and realise the world isn't going to end if I don't tick every single thing off my to-list, every single day. From writing this post, the realisation of how harsh I am towards myself is quite evident. I really don't think I give myself enough credit for the fact that I'm completing a degree and doing tonnes of other things, whilst struggling on a daily basis with multiple mental illnesses and IT'S OKAY to take time off. Sometimes doing the simplest tasks can be a challenge, so battling with that and an extremely demanding degree  is definitely something I need to give myself credit for. I feel so much better for getting these words down on a (digital) page, and so despite already feeling guilty for not completing an uni work today, I feel a little more reassured in the knowledge that I'm doing okay, and there's so much more to life than academic and career success. I really feel like I place too much emphasis upon these things, and although I desperately want to succeed in the fashion world, I need to accept that life is a much bigger picture and perhaps my focus is sometimes on the wrong things. 

Please let me know if you ever experience similar fears and how you overcome these in your life, I would love to know I'm not alone in worrying about these things and I hope this post has given you a feeling of that too! Sending love! 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Celebrating 5 Years of Blogging

Hello! Despite the fact that today is Valentine's Day and all other blog content is likely to be very lurve centred, I wanted to share a different style of post to the others floating around the internet, as the 14th of February 2017 marks my blogs fifth birthday! It seems so surreal to me that it was 5 years ago that I sat with my group of secondary school friends, whilst they fathomed blogger and how to create me my own site, and I brainstormed the ideas I wanted to create and how Charlotte's Web would take form. In hindsight, I almost wish I had gone with a less cliche name for my blog and social media platforms, but being the nostalgic gal I am, can't bring myself to switch to anything else. To celebrate the occasion and mark 5 years of ~pretty much~ consistent uploading, I worked with surface pattern designer and all round girl boss Amy Hodkin to create the above piece which I simply ADORE. I wanted something that summed up my blog and it's style, whilst including a few of my favourite things to create a really personal illustration that I would treasure forever. I will leave links to Amy's social media and portfolio at the end of this post, and I highly recommend browsing through her blog also because she is uber talented and deserves a 'lotta love! 

In celebration of 5 years of Charlotte's Web, I've gone back through the archives (so to speak) and picked out some images from my time online to share and further document the journey I've been on, not only with my personal style but also in my writing and myself and beliefs in general. It's an odd feeling having 5 years of your life (albeit the best parts) so easily accessible, but at the same time I've loved revisiting those memories and remembering the emotions and motivations I had at different points throughout. I was only 15 when I began my blog and so a lot has changed during that time for me, and although I'm often overly self critical about my efforts and successes, after scrolling back through my posts I feel super proud of what I've achieved, even if it is small in comparison to most! Enough with the rambling, here are the past 5 years of Charlotte's Web:

2013 was really a year of experimentation on my blog, as I tried to figure out what sort of content I wanted to produce and how to go about taking and editing photos (note: not very successfully, as demonstrated above). I was almost reluctant to share some of my first blog images in this post, despite the fact the original versions are still live, but I quickly realised that this post is really about celebrating development and progress and I think the above photos really show how at the beginning of Charlotte's Web I was posting purely for the love of posting and not with any real aims for growth. My blog was initially very heavily beauty based, and I think looking back over my posts from years gone by I can gradually see my gravitation towards fashion focused content and how I got to where I am today as a fashion student! It's crazy to me that although I have been blogging for 5 years, throughout which so much has changed, for the duration of that time I have remained in education and with blogging purely remaining to be a hobby and spare time activity. I think it's really important to recognise that in the scheme of my online ~journey~ and give myself credit for keeping passionate and consistent with what I love! One of my favourite posts from 2013 was a Catching Fire inspired nail art design which I remember being so proud of at the time! I think it's a great reminder to focus on the things that excite you (original Hunger Games fan over here) and as a result, only good and positives outcomes will be had! I definitely put too much pressure on myself now to write the perfect posts with high quality images, and that's perhaps why I don't upload as regularly as I did when I started CW and was all about spontaneous sharing! My blog doesn't provide me with any source of income and so really there's no pressure for me to execute perfect posts every time, and I think looking back to my 2013 beginnings has reminded me of that!

I think it's particularly clear from the 2014 photographs above that this was the year I really got into the swing of blogging and found my groove in terms of aesthetic (lol please don't think I'm pretentious) and the content I wanted to focus most on. 2014 was my busiest year in terms of blogging, in which I published over 60 posts which was a real achievement for me as someone in education and with all the other teenage problems going on. It really sounds like I'm blowing my own trumpet in this post, but reminiscing over my blog has made me super proud of the consistency and volume of posts I've produced whilst juggling so many other commitments. 2014 was the year I fully made use of the Canon camera I had received later in the previous year, and I began to experiment with photography and taking personal style photographs outside the realms of my garden or village. Some of the photos above are my favourites to date, in particular the outfit photos shot in Brighton by my lovely sister, whom up until I met Scott, acted as my resident, albeit reluctant photographer. 2014 was the year I began the birthday series which I still continue to this day, in which I look back over the previous year and discuss the lessons I learnt throughout that period of my life. This is one aspect of my blog I love to look back over, and reminds me how important it can be to document your thoughts, fears and feelings at a particular time in your life in order to recognise how much you have grown! Looking back at my '16 Things I Learnt Whilst Being 16' post is especially important to me, as this was a time in my life where I had struggled intensely with my mental health, yet was in such a state of denial that I really wasn't recovering at all. Despite this, noting how happy I was at SO many other points throughout 2014 is really important to me, particularly when remembering that this was probably my peak One Direction fangirl year, a fact that brings me so much joy to remember. 2014 was a really great year in my life, and I'm so happy to have recorded so many memories from it!

2015 is the year Scott and I became a couple and so of course the addition of a boyfriend meant an increase in outfit photos and photogenic brunches as he took the role of my Instagram husband (lols). We went on our first trip together in the August of that year to Brighton and it's some of the fondest memories I have of our relationship, largely due to the perfect weather, delicious food and genuine happiness whilst strolling the beach, sharing ice cream and wandering the lanes. Brighton also happens to be the most photogenic place on earth so obviously the pastel backdrops were utilised to their full potential, despite how nervous I was to let S photograph me after only feeling comfortable with my sister acting as my photographer until then. OH HOW THINGS CHANGE because since he's got used to the constant "Will you just take a photo of my outfit for Instagram?" and "Can you do it again but a bit closer?"; I probably haunt his dreams with the number of times he's taken photos for me. 2015 was also the year I moved to university and everything began getting a little rocky from September onwards, hence the lack of posting as my anxieties, issues with eating and general panicked state were on the increase. The first term of university was the hardest period of my life, and although I know so many other people feel loneliness and anxieties when first moving away from home, I feel like that period of darkness was a lot more intense than most deal with. I was living with people I either didn't feel any sort of connection with or simply that I wasn't close to, was struggling to eat after feeling conflicted about my ethics and no longer wanting to eat meat but also whilst dealing with an eating disorder, all whilst feeling the weight of my crippling anxiety increase by the day. I'm not looking for pity, but I want to highlight that my Insta feed showed something completely different to how I was actually feeling. I was very open on Twitter at that point and think it's important to portray university accurately, because SO often it's described as the best time of your life and for me, it just isn't. I'm so glad I persevered with it but I do still struggle being away from my family (especially cats) and Scott, but luckily my support system now is so much better than in 2015. THINGS GET BETTER PEEPS. 

2016 was a year of SO MANY HIGHLIGHTS. Despite politically and socially the year being a time uncertainty and sadness, in my personal life there were a lot of happy times and achievements I'm really proud of. Brexit was the first time I had been old enough to vote and so despite being able to have my say, I was left feeling even more helpless and disillusioned by the decision, as I struggled to accept that not everyone was as compassionate, accepting and diverse as those I follow online. In terms of blogging, I think 2016 was the year I really upped my game and I'm so unbelievably proud of some of the imagery and content I produced! I was kindly gifted a 50mm lens for my birthday from my dad, which was timed perfectly a few weeks before my trip to Amsterdam and allowed Scott and I to experiment even more with my personal style shots in the most wonderful and exciting city. These are definitely my favourite outfit images of mine, and being able to have so much fun exploring Amsterdam whilst shooting my outfits every day that week was challenging and exciting, as we found new corners of the city that we loved and have memories in. Completing my first year of uni in 2016 was a huge achievement and allowed me to share different parts of my experience on my blog which I had amazing feedback from and felt so rewarded in doing. Overall 2016 was a really exciting year for me online; I started my YouTube channel and branched into a style of content I had been consuming for the longest time which was also a hugely rewarding experience which I have also had so much support with! 2016 was the start of a lot of opportunities and I'm so excited to see where they go from here.

So that's it! It's been so nostalgic looking back at photos from the past 5 years and seeing my growth personally as well as in my content and blogging abilities which I think we can all agree were quite dire to begin with. Thank you the people who have supported Charlotte's Web throughout the years; it really does fill me with joy every time someone says they have enjoyed the content I produce, so from the bottom of my heart thank you if you've ever expressed kind words about what I do! I'm super excited to see what's to come for my blog in 2017, and I hope you stick around for it! ALL THE LOVE <3 

Monday, 6 February 2017

The coat of dreams: Pastel collar lovin'


This outfit has fast become one of my most worn in recent weeks and so sharing it here on my blog was a must when getting in some last minute shooting before coming back to uni after Christmas (hence the gorgeous wreaths decking this street). In the month leading up until Christmas I really struggled with my personal style and shopping for items that I felt were totally ~me~. I couldn't find anything I really loved, which is a somewhat rare occurrence for my usual spendy happy state and I started to fall into the slump of feeling like a potato (albeit a sweet one) in my usual go-to outfits. It wasn't until I was browsing the January ASOS sale on a daily basis (totally normal, right?) that I came across what can only be described as the coat of DREAMS. Ultimate Shrimps vibes, the softest faux fur ever and a pastel collar that could only be described as perfection. I think it's safe to say it was love at first sight. It might seem like I'm being overdramatic, but when you finally find something that  makes you feel totally amazing after weeks of wallowing about your appearance, a little love for that item definitely doesn't go amiss. The equally dreamy silver plissé trousers I've been pairing it with religiously for the duration of January are another item I cannot get enough of. I've never been a huge jeans lover and so when culottes and wide leg trousers came into my life last year I couldn't have been happier! I find that although the silver colour can look quite jazzy, when paired with converse and a jumper it can tone down how dressy they are and be the perfect combination for looking put together day to day. I love how they look with the leopard print of my coat and have been super obsessed with mixing textures and colours recently for a more fun and experimental look! In terms of my jumper, I think we all know by now my love for ruffles is a little bit next level. The combination of shoulder ruffles and layered fluted sleeves with white piping had me head over heels the second I saw this Topshop number and I've been wearing it not stop ever since. 

Scott and I shot this outfit on one of my last weekends at home for Christmas, and looking back at these photos makes me miss even the little things like wandering the streets of Cambridge and making endless trips to Yo! Sushi (my favourite pastime) even more. He's making the 3 and a half hour trip to Huddersfield on Friday to visit for the weekend and I am BEYOND ready to see him after almost another month apart. I really am getting better at the whole long distance malarky, but there's nothing like counting down the last few days before seeing each other and knowing the weekend will be filled with relaxing, amazing food and forgetting about the stress of uni work and placement hunting, even if that is only for 48 hours or so. If you're also in a long distance relationship, let me know your tips for surviving the weeks apart when you're feeling down in the dumps and let's help each other get through what can otherwise be a totally sucky situation.

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