To all those struggling…

I’m lying in bed with a very heavy heart tonight and I know it’s 11.24pm but sometimes you just need to get stuff off your chest. 

It’s been a rough 24 hours for the UK, the bombing in Manchester has shook all of us and I’m so saddened by the fact some people never made it home after that gig. But I’m so proud of my city, Manchester, for coming together and showing the world that we’re a strong and accepting community. I’m also proud of the UK and the rest of the world for showing such defiant solidarity during these tough times. It’s a beautiful slither of hope in world being attacked by unnecessary hatred. 

But this last week, I’ve had bad news pretty much every single day. I mean devastating news; nearly losing my loved ones, attacks on my loved ones and some of my loved ones feeling like they can’t live anymore. For someone like me who takes it upon themselves to go out of their way help others and to try fix up as many people as they can manage, this week has been emotionally taxing. The powerlessness I feel is really hurting me. I’m not saying I want to wash my hands of you all, I mean how could I? In life, I’ve made sure I surrounded myself with the best of people, people who will be there when I need them most, too.  I cherish my friends and family with all my soul and spirit, I get so much pleasure and inner peace watching you all grow and find your place in the world. But I just want you all to read this and know that you will never be alone, not as long as I’m around.

  • You are special
  • You are loved 
  • You are valued 
  • You have every right to need and want help 
  • You have every right to feel however you want 
  • You are not alone in this
  • Keep talking, keep the conversation about mental health alive
  • I will be there for you

Like I said before, this week has really tested my emotions, the grief and the bad news has pushed me. Ive had an introspective few days and I’ve had time to start to heal myself from all this heartbreak. I cannot stress the importance of taking time out for yourself and taking time to reflect on horrible events in your life. It’s so pivotal to self-love and self-healing. Reflection encourages me to accept what is going as a part of life, to accept I can’t fix everything and to accept that I can still make a difference.

In these hard times, stick together and talk about your feelings, it’s healthy and it’s a decent start. Don’t be afraid nor ashamed of who you are and what you are going through, you’re not alone. Make your words and movements count ūüíĖ

Lonely or alone?

What’s the difference between being lonely and being alone?

If I had asked myself this question two years I wouldn’t have known where to start. I would have been at the beginning of my journey with understanding how my brain works. I’ve had a quiet few months of reflection and I haven’t been writing much but today I had that need to write out my feelings.

And to cut to the point, being lonely is a state of mind and being alone is a state of being. Two years ago I assumed they were pretty much the same thing but

  • Being lonely can happen despite being in a room full to the rafters with your most precious ones
  • Being lonely is an unshakable feeling 
  • Being lonely keeps you awake till 4am on a Sunday night
  • Being alone on the other hand can be fairly empowering 
  • Being alone enables you to reflect on yourself and the world, with clarity
  • Yet being alone, for me, can also mean you have nobody to offload to

Two years ago, I wish I had known that being lonely and being alone often cross paths despite being completely different entities. I also wish I had known that suffering from the symptoms of either is completely okay and a part of life. Being unable to ask for help is a massive flaw in modern life, especially with the preconceptions of weakness but it’s good to seek support. We’re not invincible. The fast-paced and impersonal nature of life will eventually take its toll on everyone. I don’t feel ashamed offloading to a close friend or co-worker anymore. 

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s really okay to reach out to friends and family. They are friends and family for a reason. Or try and be that person who asks others if they’re okay, who privately messages someone on their birthday rather than just leaving a generic “happy birthday pal” on their Facebook wall. Life is too short not to look out for one another or to say how you really feel.

The importance of being idle

Time off and down time from the hectic schedules of modern life is something I’m starting to actively plan into my life. The timetable nature of life means you always have something to do but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Recently, I have started to practice a form of meditation. Many self-help guides to mindfulness start with the golden question: when was the last time you did absolutely nothing for ten whole minutes? Texting, refreshing Twitter and even touching my phone all pop up in my mind within seconds of sitting still. But over the last few weeks I have taught myself to enjoy switching off.

Until you try sitting still for ten minutes whilst focusing solely on your abdomen and your breathing, you have no idea how much mindfulness can contribute to the peace in your body and mind. Mindfulness is defined as¬†a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. And within the fields of clinical psychology and psychiatry, mindfulness practices have been proven to help with¬†various mental and physical conditions, such as¬†reducing depression,¬†stress and anxiety.

I wouldn’t say I’m a “workaholic” but I do enjoy the routine- it keeps me in check and it keeps me wholly occupied. And of course, money is money. I spend a lot of time making sure every hour of my day is accounted for- it’s a tough graft when you come to think of it. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a to-do list ever-present in the background on my Notes app. So it’s no shocker that slowing down in life is something I have always struggled with, being idle almost scares me. That’s primarily why it has taken me many weeks of resolute practice to get to the stage of acceptance I am at now. I am starting to learn to accept¬†my feelings and thoughts as they are, especially the anxious ones.

Being able to sit still without checking the Snapchat I’ve just received is a tough skill but being able to spend time with quietude is a hugely gratifying trait to have.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday and I hope it’s a restful one. Also, if anyone wants more information on mindfulness or wants to give it a go, check out Be Mindful¬†or Breathworks!

The beauty behind Lil Chano’s Coloring Book

Last weekend I¬†had the pleasure of seeing Chance the Rapper live at Manchester Academy. I couldn’t not blog about the experience!

I’ve been a huge fan of Chance¬†for a few years now but his latest mixtape¬†Coloring Book has to be one of the most beautiful projects¬†around. From the themes Coloring Book deals with to the fact that it was¬†free,¬†from his insane stage presence to his politically-fuelled¬†Twitter account, Chance the Rapper has reinvigorated the way I view music, spirituality and politics. For me,¬†Coloring Book is melodic, moving and the open portrayal of one man’s relationship with God, the music industry and his Chicago.

At first I wasn’t too keen on Coloring Book¬†but after spending much time with the mixtape and experiencing it live I now understand how much it means to Chance and to a lot of his local community, in Chicago as well as the rest of America. It’s catchy, it’s upbeat and it’s honest. Songs like¬†‚ÄúSummer Friends‚ÄĚ, featuring Francis and the Lights and Jeremih, explain what it is like growing up in West Chatham;¬†Chance muses on the violence that happens every summer and¬†I see ‚ÄúSummer Friends‚ÄĚ as a plea for¬†change. Chance brings his music back down to ground zero, flags up the senseless murders we see everyday and makes us question¬†our almost dormant relationships with politics¬†and in particular the way¬†we go about making a change actually happen.¬†During the US presidential election this year¬†his Twitter account was¬†a lively hub of discussion and activity. He used his social media presence to encourage people to vote. For example, he led his community through the streets of Chicago to cast early votes in what was hashtagged as a¬†#aparadetothepolls. Even after Donald Trump’s win, he remained calm and more importantly he was positive in his next steps. He spurred¬†people on to use their frustration constructively, to come together and to organise. Hats off to him.

The open way he also deals with religion has to be one of the most moving aspects of his live experience for me, he just beams pure joy and its infectious. Chance doesn’t hide away from the fact he is a Christian man who¬†has dealt with his demons and found inner peace in his life. He serves as a perfect example of how¬†faith in music and faith in God go hand-in-hand.¬†When you add these aspects to his effortless flow and the honest¬†narratives found in Coloring Book, you can see how he has taken the genre of gospel rap and made it even more possible for listeners to catch the Spirit. As he says himself, ‘the whole process of this thing [Coloring Book], it‚Äôs like putting God back in our hands in everyday life.‘ Also,¬†his cover artwork (painted by¬†Chicago-based artist Brandon Breaux) depicts himself¬†holding his baby daughter, who is out of the frame, just to capture the expression of his face- an expression of content and joy. Minor yet moving facts like that really add to his overall message.

His message is simple. Love and music is all we got.

Pokemon GO and exploring the outdoors


I’ve had Pok√©mon GO since its official UK release (14 July 2016), I haven’t been playing it day in and day out as I have a full-time job and the servers are typically down whenever I’m free. But it’s safe to say the legendary Japanese franchise has respawned in 2016 and launched itself¬†into our lives¬†again. 2016 has undoubtedly been a terrible year: we lost pioneers like Prince, David Bowie, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali, Johan Cruyff, Umberto Eco and Alan Rickman, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot dead by a terrorist in her own constituency, we left the EU, there have been unnecessary attacks and deaths all over the world, a Donald Trump presidency is looking like a real possibility¬†and Portugal won Euro 2016 ūüáęūüá∑ ¬†(I’m not bitter).

Sent from heaven in 1995 and conceptualised by Satoshi Tajiri, the founder of Game Freak Inc, Pok√©mon had “instant hit” written on it from the moment it was conceived. It is said Tajiri¬†wanted to create a game which embodied the collection and companionship of his childhood hobby, insect collecting. Now Pok√©mon is the second-most lucrative video game-based franchise in the world, behind Nintendo’s Mario franchise. As of 2015, the Pok√©mon franchise has earned a monumental ¬£43.53 billion in revenue. Tajiri has also had a hand in many Mario spin-offs as well as The Legend of Zelda, so it’d be hard to deny that The Force is strong with him. I think giving him the title “Mr. Nintendo” is perfectly acceptable, if not a given.

In case you haven’t played Pok√©mon GO (yet), it is a “free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game”, developed by Niantic. In jargon-free terms, it is an app which uses GPS and smartphone cameras so¬†users can capture, battle and train wild Pok√©mon which¬†crop up on the streets of the real world. If that isn’t enough excitement for all the Pok√©mon fans, Niantic are looking to release a Bluetooth watch which will alert users when Pok√©mon are close by. I never really liked Apple watches because they wouldn’t add much to my life but Niantic’s¬†device¬†means that I wouldn’t have to miss out on Pok√©mon ever again.

When¬†Niantic announced the app last September, Pok√©mon GO was instantly praised as it signalled a turning point in augmented and virtual-reality gaming. The nostalgia for and longevity of brands and trends from the 1990s meant that the game was almost destined to be a success.¬†It’s safe to say that the hype has been real. Just look at the man who quit his job to find Pok√©mon. Pok√©mon GO has had mixed reviews in the gaming sphere and within many other communities. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Destructoid = 3.5/10, “It’s not a bite-sized version of the iconic handheld games, as it lacks many of the systems you would expect from a Pok√©mon release. Most of the systems that are present lack any proper tutorial. The game is still broken, several days out from release. In any other title, these issues would be unforgivable.”
  • GameSpot = 7/10, “Its bugs and high battery consumption do not outweigh the old-but-new thrill of capturing Pikachu at a local park or vanquishing a Snorlax while conquering a gym.”
  • IGN = 7.0/10, “It‚Äôs not mechanically interesting, but it is socially very interesting…”
  • The Guardian = 2/5, “To put it bluntly, Pok√©mon Go is not good as a game. Until it gets updates that iron out kinks and offer the content promised in early trailers, such as trading Pok√©mon, group battles, or even just more interesting combat, this isn‚Äôt likely to change.”

Overall from reviews, it is fair to say that Pokémon GO is an incredible idea and a positive social experience but the technical side to game lets it down.

The app has allowed us to explore the world around us- the streets, parks and monuments we mindlessly walk through every single day. On the¬†second night of having the app, I walked through Avenham Park after work at 2am with a work-mate and I was shocked to see large groups¬†of people sat around monuments, setting off lures and socialising¬†with each other. “TEAM RED???” being shouted at me from young man lying on a park bench with his feet up, like he was in his own bedroom, has to be the moment that got me thinking. People are visiting neighbouring towns and cities they wouldn’t usually venture into in order to find Pok√©mon. Just from walking the streets and getting your bearings, you can’t avoid exploring and learning about these new places. If you’re desperately searching for a particular Pok√©mon, there is no shame in asking a fellow trainer¬†near to you whether they have seen that Jynx too. You cannot deny that the app¬†signals a change in gaming- discovery, prosocial play,¬†walking long distances and¬†sprinting short distances to find nearby Pok√©mon are all defining traits of the game. It has already taught me so much about the little city I live in and the thrill of catching ’em all¬†is¬†also encouraging me to visit other local towns and cities.

This being said the servers often crash, the app crashes with an even more frustrating frequency. That frustration often evolves into anger when the app becomes unresponsive when you’ve caught a Pok√©mon, when you reopen it to find that your prize from a fairly basic battle didn’t actually register to your Pok√©dex. Like many apps, Pok√©mon GO annihilates your phone battery. And I don’t know about you but I don’t know how what this Stardust matter is in my inventory and I don’t even know how to evolve my Pok√©mon. Many acknowledge that there is an tutorial at the start of the game, albeit it a very basic one, but there certainly isn’t enough information to make full use of the game.

Living in such a success-driven, “do or die” capitalist society which usually reserves play for children, I think Pok√©mon GO is a beautiful contribution to the modern world. Yes it is clunky, yes it often crashes but it is getting people out there. Play and gaming are good for the soul, they let us momentarily disconnect from our stressful lives and they feed into our creative souls (take The Sims franchise for example). Pok√©mon GO¬†lets us make friends along the way and it allows us to forget about failure. 2016 has been one of the most¬†difficult years to date, politically and socially, but Niantic have given us a taste of what is yet to come and that is also normal to randomly ask someone in a street if they are also looking for that elusive Dratini.

So, remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.

Minha casa √© sua casa

Anyone that knows me will know how deeply invested I am in my current job. Yes, it started off as part-time whilst I was at university, just a little bit of money for my everyday expenses. Many will say¬†it’s only Nando’s.¬†But to me, it’s more than just chicken and chips.¬†I’ll never forget the group of students who were sat on the table next to me whilst I was on my dinner break a few months ago. One of the girls said something along the lines of “the cooks look like they’re really focused, it must take a lot of skill to make all that food”. Then a male friend replied nonchalantly with “they’re not cooks, they just dab sauce on the chicken. I’ve seen them.” I nearly choked on my beautifully built extra hot/peri tamer chicken pitta with 1/4 avocado and halloumi cheese. And no dabbing of sauce was involved in the intricate process.

I want to explain why I happily work long hours, late nights, deathly early mornings and nearly every weekend.

The first thing is obviously money. Money is money. The money is good, very good considering the horror stories you hear from other people working in the restaurant industry.¬†My wages supplemented my lavish student lifestyle. My financial life was good… so good I never had to draw for the Koka noodles. Also, the hours and days I work have also always¬†been fully flexible and they would always fit around my university schedule. Despite working full-time now, I can still request particular days or periods off and they nearly always get approved… apart from that one weekend nearly 80% of the team tried to book time off for Parklife.

The second thing is my team. Using “my” shows the ownership I take as well as the fact that I obviously feel like I am truly a part of the group. The team I work with¬†are “grafters”; they’re the people I sweat with during a mad rush on a Friday night, the people I musically serenade when I’m on a kitchen close shift (and if anyone’s interested, I like belting out Rihanna ‘Complicated’) and they’re the people I¬†turn to if I ever need advice. We do nearly everything together (apart from loo breaks, that’s my me time). The¬†firm investment in the cultivation¬†of being a “family” at Nando’s is clearly visible in my restaurant (and many other Nando’s that I have worked at). We hug each other, we high five each other, we console each other¬†and we moan to each other. No job is perfect but I feel as though we can approach any challenge openly and honestly, purely because we are close to each other.

The third and final reason as to why I rate my job is the management team and my Patr√£o (restaurant general manger), Nikki. She looks after us, helps us to grow and listens to us. She¬†gives us the time and tools to build functional relationships in and out of the workplace. She is also¬†is leaving us for a new adventure soon and she really does show that being a manager at Nando’s goes¬†far beyond the profit and loss of the¬†restaurant. Many of you will be reading this and think she obviously knows what she’s doing, she’s consciously¬†maximising employee productivity (of course I know how positive management works). But I’d like to thank her for showing that not all managers are people who¬†hide in their offices, fixating¬†on the numbers in a spreadsheet. Of course, targets and margins are vital but so are the team. Nikki often jumps onto a till for us, she usually grills with us and she definitely doesn’t shy away from cleaning with us. She can do any role in the restaurant just as well as us, the people who do the job day in, day out.¬†During her shift, she is more than just visible, she is nearly always involved.¬†I’ve had many jobs since I turned 16 and I’ve worked with managers who couldn’t care less. That’s why I was devastated when I found out Nikki will be moving to a different restaurant. Nikki and her management team take the time to get to know me, they know¬†what I like to drink from Starbucks, they know it’s me on the kitchen close just from hearing Rihanna playing through my speakers and they know my taste in sarcasm very well. That is why Nando’s Preston Marketplace smash all their targets. Good business goes hand in hand with a good team.

Another manager, Millie, will also leaving our restaurant for a different one. We all have those friends who can really gauge your mood and know when you’re¬†lying about being okay. The fact that I see her as a friend speaks volumes. To see her as merely a¬†“manager” would be an insult to the time she invests in everyone. She asks about your life, remembers the minute details and brings them back up the next time you’re working together. She is sharp in terms of her own managerial role¬†as well as¬†understanding people’s personalities and mental wellbeing.¬†Who else will call me out for my excessive use of commas? Who else is going to pick on me for constantly listening to Rihanna or Drake in the kitchen? Who else is going to harass me about making sure it’s a vanilla latte and not a caramel one? Thank you, Millie, for listening to my stresses and worries all year and thank you for all the advice.

For me, people like Nikki and Millie and the way they manage themselves and the team are the reason why I can’t get enough of working at Nando’s. They make shifts smooth and they take care of me. They’ll do their managerial work and then they come and help me set up or close down. Businesses only thrive with great people in charge; people who treat their staff with real love and respect, people who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and people who understand what “circumstance” is. Running a business isn’t just about making all the numbers add up, it’s also about making sure the staff know that they can count on you.