Ten Questions to ask yourself
I can't remember what lead me to the 'Woman" series by clothing brand Apiece Apart, but as soon as I came across it I was hooked. Beautiful photography, engaging questions and interesting, creative people wearing beautiful clothes in beautiful homes. As I was reading the interviews, I realised that I wasn't sure I'd know the answers to many of the questions if they were turned on me. I felt like that was a shame, like I should know myself better and deeper and be able to draw on answers to such questions a little quicker. In the way that right there, just under the surface were the answers to some deeper questions about myself. In the last year, I've gained an understanding of how important it is to build yourself into your life and work. It's been a journey of really getting to know and understand my true self, so that I can infuse every bit of that into my life and work. To build a business that is unique to me, to attract the people, collaborators, clients and work that is right for me. I'm also fascinated by the way in which undertaking a journey of self realisation can help you get the most out of your days, weeks, months and ultimately your life. By discovering what it is you really want for yourself, you become hyper focused on the things, people and actions that make you truly happy and fulfilled.
I decided I would keep a list of all the interview questions I came across that I wish someone would ask me, and just ask them to myself. And then I thought, perhaps that's something you might like to do too. I'll be making a little series of these, every month or so posting another ten questions. It's a way for me to know myself better and for you to get to know me a little better too. If you'd like to join in, please do post your questions and answers on your blog or Instagram, but be sure to tag me or leave the link here in the comments so I can read it.
In what ways have you become the woman you’ve always thought you’d be? In what ways has that ideal changed over time?
I was an idealistic child, and I have remained idealistic now that I am all grown up. I was cynical of adults when I was younger, the way they filled their lives with the must-do's and must-have's instead of following the dreams they had when they were growing up. I had this vision of myself as someone who was happy, passionate and ultimately in love with their lives. An adult who hadn't lost the sparkle of childhood, the sense of wonder at everything around them and the ease at which laughter came to the surface. I had some difficult years between 16-26 and I found those values hard to cling to, and even though I faltered many times they were still there in the background, guiding me gently. Perhaps the very fact I held those values is what made those years hard to navigate, I'm not sure. I struggled to reconcile my dreams with my abilities, and the practical advice coming at me from every angle about what I should do with my time.
I always wanted to be a photographer and a writer. To live a life immersed in creativity, surrounded by artists and just doing what I loved. I lost my way for a while, believing I wasn't good enough or capable of following a creative path. Thankfully, I found the courage to pursue photography again in my late twenties, and it's been like coming home to myself. I think the ideal of myself as an adult has always stayed the same, it's just that my course varied wildly for about ten years. It was touch and go, for a while, whether I'd ever find my way back, but I did and for that I will be forever grateful. Ultimately the way I wanted to live my life when I was a child and the way I live my life as a grown woman have reconciled in my thirties, and it's beautiful.
Do you have any rituals, disciplines, or self care practices that help ground you?
As a parent of a two year old, self care is something that proves a little allusive at times. However, a huge part of my parenting philosophy stems from the mantra "happy mama, happy kiddo" and I subscribe 100% to the idea that when the plane goes down, it's your own mask you need to put on first. If I'm not taking care of me, then I can't take care of anybody else.
Eating well, and exercise are top of my list. I drink a lot of water, take my vitamins and cook meals from scratch almost every day. My work outs are done at home just now, but I try to get a sweat going 3-5 times per week, and move my body for at least 30-60 minutes per day. We walk the dog, run errands and get outdoors when we can. It's not always easy, but I make it a priority because I've learnt it's the best thing I can do as a parent, partner, and business owner. I also think that we teach children more through our actions than by what we tell them. If my daughter sees me taking care of myself, exercising and eating healthily then she will want to follow suit. She loves to help me make our morning smoothie, and does exercises on the mat with me too. It grounds us, bonds us and makes us feel good.
Gratitude is a daily ritual for me, sometimes practised as quickly as a list of three things I am grateful for and sometimes as a longer meditation or journalling session if I have the time. It grounds me more than most things, reduces stress and anxiety and increases the satisfaction I get from day to day life.
What changes are on the horizon for you?
The biggest change for me currently is that we are selling our South London flat and buying a house in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The process has been long, stressful and frustrating, but with any luck we're almost at the end. Getting out of the city, having the space we crave and a garden of our own is going to change our lives for the better. I dream about it all day and night, and it cannot come soon enough for us.
When do you do your best thinking?
Anywhere I allow myself some space away from the demands of daily life. In the shower, going for a walk and travelling (near or far) are the times and places where I find the thoughts flow most freely.
Is there anything you fear?
Not fulfilling my potential. Getting older and regretting not working through self doubt and challenges to build a life and career that will make me and my daughter proud. Also, death and spiders.
Do you have trouble turning off work?
Yes, absolutely. It's a problem for me, and something I am trying to be better at. I love my work and find so much of my self worth, confidence and satisfaction from it, so I think about work in some form almost all the time - from the nitty gritty business side down to the really fun and inspiring creative side. I've learnt that it's not good for me to think about work so much, and that time away from anything to do with photography is really important to my wellbeing. I've started reading poetry before bed to unwind, and let my mind go to another place.
Is there a skill or practice that you have always wanted to learn?
Languages is something I've never really got a handle on, but I'd love to be fluent in French. I think it's such a beautiful language, and since I go to the South of France at least twice a year it's definitely a skill I would put into practice. I studied it in school to GCSE level, so I have a very basic knowledge but it would be wonderful to be able to hold a conversation in French. I've tried a few times using various apps, but at some point in the next few years I'd like to take some lessons. Carve out some space to learn.
What are some of the current themes or projects that are holding your main focus right now?
Since I came back from New Orleans, I've been really interested in learning more about why women gather. Something powerful happens when women come together and hold space for each other to be vulnerable, be heard and be supported. I experienced it myself as I was there attending The Family Narrative, a photography retreat focused on the art an business of family photography. There was a lot of sharing, a lot of emotional stories being told and a lot of women connecting in a deep way in a short space of time. It made me realise it's something I want to seek out more in my normal life, a regular gathering of women where I can feel connected to something outside of myself. I know there's a history of women gathering, for all different reasons in all different cultures across the world. It's something I'm trying to explore through a new photography project and reading around that theme. It's big, but I'm going to find a starting point and just dive in.
What do you make for dinner by yourself?
It's very rare these days I eat dinner by myself, because I usually eat with my two year old daughter around 6pm before she goes to bed. I think it creates good habits for her to have us eat together, and often I am just too hungry to wait until she's gone to bed. But, if by chance I have to eat alone, I am typically very lazy and have some toast, cereal or something easy from the freezer. Cooking and eating is such a social activity for me, something I do for others, so I am terrible at making an effort when it's just for me. But...let's say I wasn't being lazy about it...I'd make a vegetable stir fry with tofu, mushrooms and kale. I could eat stir fry all day every day.
Please recommend something to us.
I watched 'Call me by Your Name" on the plane to New Orleans and it's the most beautiful film I've seen in a long time. The end monologue by the father of the main character gave me shivers. I do warn you, it will make you look at a peach very differently...