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Best in beauty 2015: EYES.

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Oh hey there make up lovers, future employers, and friends I’m forcing to read this. Happy 2016, and welcome to a new year of blog posts, now with bonus product focus. Hurray, consumerism!

As I welcome in an exciting new era, I thought it may be fun to look back at the beauty products that made 2015 such an exciting year for me makeup wise, and for my self-expression and growth.

No, seriously, it actually was.

Makeup has the power to inspire and empower, and so although I feel a bit vapid writing about it, I genuinely love it.

I love it so much, in fact, that I spend a lot of money on this hobby. As such, there are a lot of products to talk about, and the Best in Beauty 2015 series will be split into a few different parts.

So, without further ado, welcome to part one.

EYES.

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Oh eyes, you windows to the soul, you.

Eye makeup, I believe, will always be my favourite kind of makeup.

And for me, 2015 was the year I mastered eyeshadow blending.

These are the eyeshadow palettes, three of which were released in 2015 that stood out most in 2015.

Gwen Stefani x Urban Decay Eyeshadow Palette:
If the words “Gwen” and “Stefani” next to each other weren’t enough to sell this to you, then the borderline perfect colour selection and quality should do it. Released on December 26th in Australia, this late addition to 2015’s eyeshadow offerings has firmly cemented itself as one of my favourite. Although at first glance it seems like a lot of the colours are very similar, at least on my fair skin it has an incredible range of versatility, and for once, the palette I can take with me and have all I need.

Urban Decay Naked Basics 2:
A simple little iPhone 5 sized palette of cool toned matte shades. Perfect for the crease and blending, they are a perfect match for a red lip. If you’re feeling like getting all kinds of use out of this palette, the shade Frisk works pretty excellently as a cheek contour shade on fair skin.

Urban Decay Spectrum Palette:
After experimenting with more neutral tones, I wanted to challenge myself to use colour more on my eyes. The Spectrum palette was the perfect way to do this. The limited edition palette comes in a luxe, velvet lined box, and the colour selection is divine. With everything from a duochrome navy/green, to hot pink, and a rose gold, its perfect to pair with a Basics palette and challenge.

Urban Decay Smoky Palette: 
Notice a theme here? Yes you sure do. Urban Decay’s Australian arrival in Mecca Maxima back in March 2015 can in itself be considered a solid favourite. The smoky palette added a mega versatile selection of cool shades to my stash, and the pale shades are some of my most use shadows in my entire collection.

Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette:
Must be included in any list of favourite eyeshadow palettes, simply as it was the first higher end palette I ever bought, and remains one of my most versatile and most used items. Another palette I can take with me and have every shade I could need. Yes, it does smell (and taste, don’t pretend you haven’t tried) like chocolate, but that gimmick isn’t what gets it across the line as a solid performer.

Colourpop Supershock Eyeshadows:
These shadows are a firm favourite on the eyes front for 2015, despite the ridiculous shipping cost required to get these suckers across the ocean from the USA to my hot little Australian hands. The unique, creamy to powder texture glides on in a vibrant, ultra pigmented pop of colour. Each shade comes packaged individually in a little pot, and at only $5USD a piece, are an absolute steal. I’m a particular fan of Lala and Bae.

BROWS:
Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade:
 
Oh, dipbrow. How did I cope without you? As a lady that has been filling in her brows since she was 14 – it was in fact the first form of makeup I ever ventured into – I’ve tried everything from powder to pencil, to wax or gel, and consider myself a bit of a pioneer of the natural brow. Dipbrow is undoubtedly my favourite brow product I’ve ever discovered, and don’t see myself straying from it any time soon.

LINER:
Urban Decay 24/7 Pencil Eyeliner:
Although some of these are hit and miss, and I’m not the biggest fan of the need to sharpen, the colour range, lasting power, and pigmentation of these eyeliner pencils has firmly cemented them as my favourite eyeliners of the year. I especially liked the pictured holiday set, with the limited edition rose gold shade Trick, as in the shade Trick from Urban Decay Naked 3.  Here’s hoping it’s added to the permanent line in 2016.

Maybelline Hypersharp Liquid Liner:
Included simply because I’ve strayed from liquid liner over the course of 2015, and didn’t wish to splash out on the Stila Stay All Day Liquid Liner for it to just sit there unused and dry up. This liner has exceeded all expectations, lasting me months at a time without going dry, and performing flawlessly throughout the day.

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MASCARA:
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara:
Well I’m not one to judge what gets the product namers over at Too Faced going, so no comment on the name. Each to their own and all that. This is however my all time favourite mascara, the one that each time I use, I regret straying from its hourglass bristles thinking theres something better out there for me.
Pro tip: I don’t use it on my bottom lashes due to its annoying habit to transfer and smudge, however on the top lashes will provide luscious curl, volume and length, akin to lash extensions. 

Nars Audacious Mascara:
Makes my lashes look outrageously spiky and voluminous, doesn’t transfer at all, and provides intense, flake free drama. What more could I ask for? Except winning the lottery, or for Liam Hemsworth to hurry up and realise his love and uncontainable desire for me.
Pro tip: Apply carefully as its easier than it should be to stab yourself in the eye. 

SHADOW STICKS:
Laura Mercier Caviar Eyeshadow Sticks:
Pretty simple concept, these eyeshadow sticks by Laura Mercier are easy to use: twist up the pencil, draw on, smudge in with a finger if you feel so inclined, or a brush if you’re feeling fancy/excessive, and congratulations, you haz eyeshadow. Special mention to the shades Rose Gold and Amethyst, but unfortunately they don’t quite measure up to…

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Cream Eyeshadow:
Providing a sophisticated sparkle unlike anything else I’ve come across, and extremely unique shades, these shadow sticks are in a league of their own. Misty Rock is by far and away my fave shade, a purple toned bronze, with Frozen Quartz, a soft pink, a close second.

Excited and ready for more? Fear not, for part two is just around the proverbial corner.

Want more makeup goodness while you wait? Why not read all about Becca Champagne Pop to sate yourself, while I type away about other parts of my face.

Is you cat constantly stomping around, driving you crazy? Click here for a solution. Meooowww.

 

 

 

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2015: A cliche/reflection/massive indulgence

“Been waiting on change, but I don’t know if its coming.” – Brooke Fraser

If one year ago, you’d told me all that I would go through in the coming 365 days, I would have curled up and sobbed, perhaps laughed that it couldn’t possibly be that bad, but mostly expressed that theres no way in hell I’m capable of withstanding that level of pain. Guess what? I was.

I don’t know about you, but, besides feeling 22, my social media feeds are currently filled with sometimes long, mostly self-indulgent claims of resolution and determination. Well, that and jeering snarky remarks about how resolutions suck, (which they pretty much do).

This divide in social media discourse has made it hard for me to find a way to write on the topic without being just another wanker, thinking they’re so inspirational and wise, talking about their years, past and present.

I wasn’t going to write anything, but considering how excited I am that 2015 has finally taken a hint and fucked off, it seemed appropriate that I muse on what was the most excellent and awful year of my life.

I really, really hated 2015 at times. It was a hard year for not only me, but many people I hold dear.

I faced and continue to battle, some of the biggest challenges of my life thus far. I experienced pain at the hands of people I loved and trusted, and at the mercy of my own body. I’ve had my heart broken more than once, in many of the most painful ways. I lost my dog, one of my best friends.

I hit some points that were so low, I didn’t know they existed, or that I could continue to exist at such low mental altitudes.

But somehow, in spite of the utter shit that  2015 threw in my face, the son-of-a-gun had it in their heart to sheepishly toss me moments throughout the year that were undoubtably some of the most exciting and beautiful of my life.

I have experienced career progress this year that I didn’t know I was capable of. My work earned award nominations and garnered praise from my peers, lecturers, and an audience. As a reward for my hard work, doors have opened for incredible opportunity, and I am working every day to hone my craft further.

I felt my confidence leap and bound ahead of where it once was. Although I may still stumble along the way, I can firmly say I am in the best state I’ve ever been in.

I totally nailed eyeshadow blending, as well as the fine art of makeup, and in the process, found one of the most helpful techniques for dealing with my rampant anxiety I’m yet to find. I also wear black and purple lipstick out of the house regularly, like some kind of adventurous goddess.

I’ve met people who have become the greatest friends to me, and I am lucky to have such a divine selection of the most beautiful humans on this damn planet on my team.

Although it was the toughest twelves months I could’ve imagined, each and every step I took outside of my comfort zone proved to me that I am so much braver than I believe, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think. 2015 was the year I became a proper, fully fledged adult-person.

I could sit and dwell on the bad things, but theres no point. When I look back on 2015, I can’t help but think of the bad things, but the beautiful things were the most significant of all. I like to think that in the great scheme of my life, I’ll remember those precious moments more than the pains.

If one year ago today, you’d told me all that I would accomplish in the coming 365 days, I would have cried with happiness and utter disbelief, exclaiming that there is no way I’m capable of achieving so much, and to such a high standard.

Guess what?

I did.

And I’m so unbelievably proud of myself.


“A toast to the lessons not yet learned, and to the trials that will teach them.” – Brooke Fraser (again(because there’s no such thing as too much Brooke Fraser))

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Would the real Claire Varley please stand up?

Take a minute to absorb that headline, if you will.

I am aware that it is the best I’ve written in my career thus far, and possibly the best I ever will write.

As a journalist, my byline is everything. My name is my brand, but that brand is not quite as unique as some.

I am a writer and journalism student, with about three chapters of my opus novel in a file on my hard drive that will possibly never be read by anyone other than myself, and maybe my best friend, if I’m feeling brave.

So imagine how perplexed I was when back in August, Booktopia tagged Pan Macmillan and I in a tweet, congratulating me on my novel.

The Bit in Between is the debut novel by Claire Varley, a writer from Melbourne.

I am most certainly Claire Varley, a writer from Melbourne. But despite my best intentions, I have definitely not written a novel, let alone published one.

I was shocked to find that there are, in fact, two writers named Claire Varley floating around Melbourne, and the other one had written this book. A quick search revealed that although she had a website, she did not use Twitter.

I sent a screenshot of my predicament to my friend, amused by the mistake, and we had a chuckle. I threw a few sarcastic tweets into the Twittersphere, and thought nothing else of it.

Just how remarkable this coincidence was didn’t set in until my situation escalated.

Bloggers, book distributors, and avid readers began sending me tweets and tagging me in their posts. Every day my newsfeed lit up with new messages.

Apparently this novel was actually really good, and the fans couldn’t get enough of me.

Yet not one of these professionals or fans cared to take the simple, one-step research process of checking if this account belonged to the right woman.

Confused? This should clear things up.

You’d think that if I’d written a debut novel, I may want to publicise it. Throughout my entire Twitter timeline, not once had I mentioned that I’d written a book, but no one who had mentioned me had picked that up.

Interviews with this other Claire Varley were published, alongside photos of her, and still attributed to my Twitter handle. Now, we both may be caucasian women with brown, curly hair, but we definitely don’t look similar enough to be mistaken for the same person.

I was fascinated by the ethical conundrum presented to me. By sitting at my desk laughing at the case of lazy PR on my phone, sending screenshots to my friends, and not outing myself as the wrong Claire Varley, was I being dishonest?

Considering I hadn’t lied about writing the book, or received any benefit from the misunderstanding, I mentally cleared my conscious of any wrongdoing.

I made the situation all the more complex for myself writing back to a tweet, for no reason other than to amuse myself. I couldn’t resist making jokes when the opportunity arose.

Even my friend, a law student, expressed that the other Claire Varley may not be happy with me.

“But why?” I replied, “what have I done?”

“She may think you’ve stolen her identity, and you’re taking credit for her work. Be prepared for it to go horribly wrong,” he answered.

After much discussion with my peers, I was left with no other option: I had to contact this woman, this other Claire Varley whose book had created such amusement in my life, and as far as I knew, had no idea any of this was going on.

Despite that small fear that she may be upset with me, I took the plunge and contacted her. Within two days of emailing the other Claire Varley, we met in the flesh, and joined powers. It wasn’t hard, considering we were shocked to learn we live a mere 20 minute drive away from each other.

She was equally amused by my predicament.

“The only reason I would have been unhappy with you in this situation, is if you’d be rude to people, or tarnished my reputation. You’ve just made a few funny quips, you’ve done nothing wrong,” (the other) Varley said.

Yes, our situation is all good and funny, and no one has been hurt. But the case of Varley v Varley is just the tip of the social-medial ethics iceberg.

Mistaken online identity isn’t always as harmless as my experience.

In an extreme example, activist group The Yes Men purposefully impersonate entities that they dislike, or whose actions they disagree with. They do so by creating websites near identical to the ones they are attempting to impersonate, and the lack of research into the authenticity of these websites results in invites to interviews and conferences.

“The places we trust, TV, news outlets, we know we can trust because they should have fact checking processes in place. But everyone else is on Twitter, and we trust Twitter more than we probably should,” Varley said.

Unlike traditional media, which should have professional editors, in the realm of social media, fact checking is the readers responsibility.

“We have to do our own fact checking, and we’re not used to it,” Varley mused.

Back in July, Andrés Iniesta wrote that his Instagram account was shut down, and given to the Spanish professional football player of the same name.

Although it was later restored, the Communications Manager of Instagram, Gabe Madway explained that Instagram purely made a mistake, did not research, and assumed that Iniesta’s account was a fake.

Even people in my own life didn’t bother to check facts, assuming again that there must only be one Claire Varley.

Fact remains, its a phenomenal book. Still totally worth the express shipping, Soham.

 

This experience has served as a great reminder of how important it is to check the facts, and how in the age of instant communication, how easy it is to get things wrong.

Before I became a professional writer, my name didn’t really matter, but now it has great significance.

Claire Varley and I are both building a career in a remarkably similar arena, using our name as a brand.

If we were a doctor and a social worker, no problem. But we’re both doing things that revolve around making a name for ourselves.

This raises so many questions.

Can we both exist as writers from Melbourne with the same name? Considering our brand is so similar, can only one of us keep it, and if so, who? Should it alternate on a basis of who is more successful at the time? Do we flip a coin? Does one of us take on an initial? Do we combine ourselves to become one super-being of industrial, writing proportions?

Rather than feel threatened by this other Claire Varley roaming my neighbourhood, and stringing sentences together, I have chosen to embrace her.

For I am a writer, and so is she, and this remarkable coincidence has given me something wonderfully unique to write about.

Instead of fighting for supremacy as the real Claire Varley, I think it best that we revel in the uniqueness of this situation.

Hopefully the world, and Internet, is ready and big enough, for two Claire Varleys.

I know I’m sure as hell proud to be one of them.

This article was originally published, in a far more glorious and pretty way including some of the Tweets from the saga, here on Medium.

Since publication, the other Claire Varley has relented and joined Twitter (she may have realised its usefulness through this experience), you can find her here.

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Seizing the throne: The rise of Kingswood

Considering they started out as an AC/DC cover band, Kingswood are a fitting supporting act for the Australian rock legends.

Currently opening for AC/DC alongside The Hives, Kingswood are continuing their steady ascent into the Australian music scene, and recently released a deluxe edition of their 2014 debut album, Microscopic Wars.

I caught up with them earlier this year.

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PHOTOGRAPHY by Kane Hibberd http://www.theartofcapture.com

I witnessed Kingswood’s electrifying performance for the first time back in May 2014 at the Hi-Fi in Melbourne.

When I tell frontman, Fergus Linacre, to my surprise he immediately responds “The pizza gig!” recalling that during the performance, he had brought a pizza out from backstage, claiming they had too much, and thrown the box into the audience to be shared.

The fact he remembers this small detail from that one gig in such clarity is impressive. I get the feeling he has just as much fun at shows, and makes just as many memories, as the cheering audience.

The pizza was just one of many memorable moments that made up the impressive gig. Their vibrant rock energy filled the room, firmly establishing themselves as one of Australia’s foremost, upcoming rock bands.

Hailing from Melbourne, the four-piece rock outfit, made up of Fergus Linacre, Alex Laska, Jeremy “Mango” Hunter and Justin Debrincrat, has been on a steady rise to fame since forming in 2009.

In August 2014, they released their wildly successful Aria nominated debut album, Microscopic Wars, and have since been touring and playing sold out shows across the country. I spoke to Linacre about their busy past year, current tour, and what’s next for Kingswood.

Microscopic Wars was produced by Vance Powell, who has notably worked with Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys, did you actively seek to work with him?

We actually put the feelers out before we really targeted anyone. Someone gave him our EP and he said that he was interested in working with us, so we had a few Skype chats and talked about how we wanted to record, and one of the things that attracted us to him was he records to tape, so you can’t just go over and over again to fix things, you have to get it right once you’re in the studio. So we liked that, and we really loved Blunderbuss, Jack White’s solo record that was recorded all on 8-track, which is just crazy, and it sounded so good. So we really wanted to work with Vance, and when he said yes, we knew we had to go to America. 

Did you find you worked differently being in a new environment?

Definitely, it was completely new experience. I mean we’ve recorded before, but never like that, never to tape and never with so much freedom. That’s what encouraged us to be more daring than we thought we should be. We’d write a song and think, that’s all okay, that’s all good, but a million songs have been done like that, let’s try and make it different. I think the result of that is a really diverse record that we’re really proud of, and I think a big part of that is from allowing and encouraging us to be as weird as we possibly could be.

Microscopic Wars was nominated for an Aria award, it didn’t win, but you were a part of the winning album via your collaboration with Dan Sultan on his Aria winning album, Blackbird. How did that come about?

I was sitting on the phone outside Blackbird Studio in Nashville, and he’d just recorded his record, his Aria winning record, in the same studio we were in at that time, and he was in another section of the studio doing some overdubs, and he came up and was like “Hey man, I need some backing vocals, can you guys sing?” So not only did we get to sing on Dan’s record, which is wonderful, but we got to work with Jacquire King, who was Dan’s producer, who’s done a lot of the Kings of Leon records, and stuff like that. So it was pretty crazy being in there, being in the little Nashville world, where there are people who recorded with Lennon who would just pop in to see Vance; it was great.

What would be your dream collaboration?

We’d love to work with Jack White. Vance records almost all of Jack’s stuff, so we heard all the stories and learnt about his process, which was great. I love his process; it’s really honest. His band is so good that they record straight to tape. We did overdubs, he doesn’t do overdubs, its just 12 people playing in a room and eight mics recording them, and what they play in that room is what you hear on the record. So I’d love to work with him and do something crazy like that.

You’ve said in a few interviews that anything can affect song writing, not just other musicians, so what’s been an influence on your process that we may not expect?

Definitely your environment can influence you. We all moved into our Kew house, which is where we got together and wrote the album, and created these shells of songs, which we left open to be moulded once we got to Nashville. We set up this house and we had drinks and parties in there, where we would jam all through the night cause we had no noise restrictions. That whole environment, I can’t say how directly, I can’t put it into a specific song, but that environment definitely shaped how we all recorded and played together.

You have a classic rock and roll stage presence, is that something that’s come naturally or have you had to work to really hone your craft?

I would say the latter; I think it just comes with time. You can’t psyche yourself up and say, “I’m going to go on stage tonight and be Steve Tyler,” it doesn’t work like that. If I look back at how I used to be, I don’t think I’m some kind of crazy frontman or anything, but I was a lot more nervous, and I didn’t have confidence and stuff like that. But rather than faking it, I think as you keep going, and as you play more shows, you don’t get nervous anymore and you enjoy it more. We don’t just say, “lets go out there and just go crazy.” I think our presence has just come from the fact that we just love playing and we’ve been doing it for a long time, and we enjoy being out there.

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PHOTOGRAPHY by Kane Hibberd http://www.theartofcapture.com

What’s your favourite song to play live?

Mine is I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me (ICFTYDLM), I love it. Alex sings lead on that, so I just get to sit back and play tambourine, and look around the audience. I like to look around and take it in, I mean I still get to do that when I sing, but I guess I’m focusing a bit more on my role. Whereas in that song, I sit back and do harmonies, and take in the room or the festival or wherever we are.

Despite your songs being on a grand scale and having a big sound, there is definitely a raw, emotional vulnerability to a lot of your lyrics. Do you find it cathartic to play these songs?

You do think about it when you’re singing, and if it’s a song I’ve written, I think it’s easier to feel that emotion when you’re singing it. But I will always embrace that; I’ll never hide away from it. The more you’re in touch with the song on stage, the better. With songs that Al’s written – or anyone else, but Al writes most of our stuff – whatever he was going through at the time that made him write those lyrics, I was there next to him and talking about it. Because we’ve been with each other forever as a band, all of us, all those things in our songs, we were all around each other when it happened, so [I] do feel like I understand it. It’s not like I’m singing random lyrics, I know how he felt, I was there, so it’s easy to get in touch with those emotions, definitely.

Your cover of Wolf by First Aid Kit is one of my favourite covers of all time. What is the process of putting together a killer cover like that?

We wanted to do Alt-J, but then we found out someone who did Like A Version before us had done Alt-J, so we couldn’t do that. So we really loved that song Wolf, and I don’t know if we thought we could do a good cover, but we thought we’d just do a song we really liked. I think we did it in a night, and made it our own as much as we could, and drew from different aspects of their song, and took different backing vocals and made them more prominent. It was very fun, I’d like to do it again actually.

You’ve had a huge 2014, and 2015 is already filling up fast with tours, what can we expect from Kingswood next?

We haven’t got together and started writing as a group yet, but I’m sure everyone is making terrible recordings into their phones, it’s always funny looking back at voice recordings, they’re always terrible, but we’re definitely going to think about recording another album. We’re going to try to do that this year, but I guess our main thing is we’re going to go over to America and tour the album, and then Europe as well. So if all goes well, and we’re busy doing that, then we’ll do the album next year, but if no one wants to see us play, then we’ll record another album.

Linacre told Veronica and Lewis on Triple J this week that they’re planning to record a new album after they’ve finished their tour with AC/DC.

You can also catch Kingswood at the Beyond the Valley festival over the New Year.

This article was originally published in Rabelais Magazine.

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To the friends of a person living with a chronic illness (in this case, me)

Dear friend,

I know when you first met me, you had no idea what went on beneath my skin.

I know that the first time I told you I was having surgery, or the first time you asked about my scars and you heard just how many operations I’ve had, it came as an almighty shock. Especially because I’m so pedantic about hiding my chronic illness as best I can, but also committed to being as honest as I can be when asked about it.

There have been times where I’ve felt like I’m falsely advertising myself to prospective new friends. Here you are, meeting this bright, vivacious young woman, brimming with love and appreciation for life, when underneath all that, I’m not as shiny. There are moments where I feel so far from jubilant, like I wish I could curl up and let the pain stop.

But I’m aware I’m not the only person my illness affects.

I’m writing today to apologise to you, for all the times that my chronic illness has impacted on your life.

I’m sorry for the tears you may have cried when my surgery went wrong, and complications dragged it out hours beyond when you expected to hear from me. I’m sorry for the seemingly never-ending wait where you didn’t know if you’d see me again.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve called you sobbing, crying and screaming unintelligibly as the sadness consumed me. I’m sorry for the times I’ve fainted, and you’ve had to catch me, or nurse me in a concussed state.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that has followed my physical illness, for the panic attacks you’ve witnessed, and the emotional strain they caused. I know seeing me like that must be terrifying, and so incredibly hard, and you’re so strong and kind for sticking with me while I shake, cry and hyperventilate.

I’m sorry for the anxiety that I’ve caused you, and for the toll I’ve taken on your body and mind.

I’m sorry that you have had to see me in helpless, sick states, and felt there was nothing you could do.

But I want to thank you.

Thank you for being here with me.

Thank you for sitting by me, holding my hand, and making sure I never felt alone. Thank you for your never-ending optimism, for not giving up hope, even when I felt I had. Thank you for always being there when I need you, and for bringing joy into my life when I need it most.

Thank you for being my friend, above all else. Thank you for not running at the first sign that things weren’t perfect, and instead assuring me that nothing in life is perfect, and this is small in comparison to what else I have to offer.

I want to thank you for each and every little thing that you’ve ever done for me, but writing the list would require a lifetime of typing.

There’s not a day that goes by where I wish I would wake up to a miraculous cure, where I wish that the pain would cease and my body would function perfectly, but that’s not just for myself. I wish I could take the hurt away from you, I wish I could lift the weight of my illness from your loaded shoulders.

I am adamant that loneliness is a far greater pain than any symptom my bowel could produce. The fact that I am no longer lonely is the thing I am most thankful to you for.

Sometimes people run, for the idea of befriending a chronically ill human seems daunting or hard. At many times in my life, this left me feeling unlovable and worthless.

Your friendship has helped show me that I am a person with value, that my illness means nothing in comparison to all the other parts of me, and your support has helped me grow and blossom into the woman I was born to become.

I used to identify myself as a sick girl before anything else. Thanks to you, I now know with that I am so much more than that.

You’ve helped give me courage to take on things I never thought I could do.

I am a journalist, a high-achieving university student, a musician, and according to you, I could be a part-time model (though I’d probably have to keep my normal job). The fact I have a chronic illness may be a part of me, but it by no means defines me.

Most importantly, though, I am your friend too, and I will always be there to support you in return when you need me. It is my honour to return the favour for as long as I am on this planet, or even on a spaceship, or mars, if I’m unable to avoid the inevitability of space conscription.

I don’t think you realise how wonderful you are, and how much I admire, appreciate, and love you.

I have to stress that: you are incredible, and not a day goes by where I am not thankful for your presence in my life.

Things can be really hard sometimes, but without doubt, the pain I’ve endured in my 22 years pales in comparison to the happiness I’ve found with you.

Love and thanks, always,

Claire.

This may be a personal account, but according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, chronic illness affects about half of the Australian population. 

Please be aware that chronic illness exists in many shapes and forms, and is often invisible.

I hope this personal thank you can show just how much a simple friendship can mean to a person who may be suffering more than you realise. 

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I can’t get no body satisfaction

Trigger Warning: Eating disorders and body image issues are discussed in this article.

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I’m not proud to admit I’ve spent much of my life dissatisfied with my body.
And it seems that most people within our so often mocked first world feel the same. Sadder still, there is no age limit for this dissatisfaction. From an elderly woman complaining about the ‘spare tire’ around her middle to a young man slaving at the gym to bulk up, appearance and weight have become an obsession and an absolute priority in modern life.

This body obsession is lucrative. The flourishing diet industry, gyms popping up on every street corner and the hordes of people signing up for these services are testament to this fact. These businesses sell the message that if you are fit and thin you will find ultimate happiness, but while fitness and diet are incredibly important aspects of living a healthy life, when an underweight model delivers this message of health, the line between healthy and unhealthy is blurred.

As the Victoria’s Secret fashion show filled my Instagram feed just a few months ago, I found myself regretting the burger and chips I’d had for lunch. Gazing at their concave stomachs and knowing that none of them had eaten a meal like mine in a long time, I mentally scheduled a salad for dinner.

We’ve all heard that the media fuels the modern obsession with appearance by providing an unrealistic image to aspire to. However, working at a gym for a short time last year opened my eyes to how a place supposedly campaigning for health could contribute to the problem as much as the media.

The fitness professionals I worked with were entirely preoccupied by their appearances and obsessively dieted. Their hatred of carbohydrates was particularly baffling. The manager would often buy lunch from Subway but of course, she cannot eat bread, for it is the mortal enemy of the thigh gap. Instead she would return with a salad and a large coke. That’s right, not even a small one, because nothing washes down a carbohydrate-free meal like bucket of sugar water. Logic.

The only thing the staff discussed at the gym, besides Crossfit (apparently Crossfit is the way, the truth and the life, even if it destroys your joints, form, and ability to have a conversation about anything else) was calories, and the body weight of themselves, the gym clientele, and me.

“If you had no cheat meals, go paleo, eat clean, cut out grains, and do Crossfit, you could lose all that weight,” they would tell me, “you’d look and feel so much better.” At one stage, I was advised a diet of one thousand calories a day. A ludicrous amount considering I am nearly six foot tall and require double that simply to sustain life.

Though I knew their diets would likely leave them with osteoporosis, and I felt physically fine, their words fuelled the message that my body was inadequate and unattractive. Despite standing at 180cm and wearing a size 10, nowhere near needing to lose weight, over time, I sadly began to believe them.

The body shaming didn’t stop with me. What was more shocking was their attitude towards those who trained at the gym. I would listen in bewilderment as my co-workers told me overweight people are impossible to help, because they are lazy, gluttonous, and don’t want to change.

Leaving the gym filled me with such relief, but I’ve since become hyper-aware of how this industry affects every aspect of our culture. During university lectures, girls talk about their 12-week challenges filled with no carbs, no sugar, and lots of exercise. Tea is advertised on social media promising that simply by drinking it, you will achieve toned abdominal muscles, when in reality, they are selling laxatives, and robbing your body of electrolytes and hydration, a process anything but healthy.

During time spent in a paediatric ward as a teenager, I met many young women with eating disorders. One ten-year-old girl in particular brought me to tears. I witnessed her painfully thin arms being strapped to a bed while the nurses forced a feeding tube into her nose. Her screams filled the ward for what seemed like an eternity, until she was suddenly quiet. She had been sedated.

School bullies calling her fat had brought on her disorder, mocking her to breaking point. It is simply not good enough that children her age and even younger than her are now preoccupied with their weight and appearance. Body obsessed culture has gone too far.

Despite the fact this culture of body shaming has become so ingrained in daily life, I believe change is possible, as more people are becoming aware of how important it is to change their attitude towards body image.

Hopefully we are not far away from a day where there are no airbrushed photos in the media, and we are no longer encouraged to strive for a ‘perfect body’.

But until then, the more important shift must take place on a ground level, wherein people no longer comment on another individual’s appearance or body in a negative way, and acknowledge that appearance is the least important aspect of a human being.

We must also be aware of how the media is influencing our mindset, and strive to logically process how nonsensical body hatred is. We must stop buying into the lie that we are inadequate.

In the last few months of my life, I have come to terms with the fact that my body dissatisfaction is unwarranted. I am now working each day to embrace my body. This isn’t easy and I still feel inadequate more than I care to admit, but I have resolved to love myself and am slowly learning to appreciate my own, unique beauty.

Our bodies are the most amazing contraptions we will ever come across. They work tirelessly each day to keep us alive, healing us, propelling us forward, and allowing us to do all the wonderful things that make our existence worthwhile.

It’s time we stopped hating them simply for the way they look or measure up to the media’s unrealistic standards, or starving and overworking them in an attempt to change. The least we can do is nourish them and take care of them so that they can continue to exist healthily.

But we must also learn to love them, no matter what shape they are.

They deserve it; you deserve it.

If you are struggling with body image issues, an eating disorder or just needing to talk to someone, please reach out to the Butterfly Foundation.
Ph: 1800 334 673 Email: support@thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

This article was originally published in Rabelias magazine

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22 things I’ve learnt in 22 years

  1. There’s nothing wrong with caring about your appearance. If you want to take an hour in the morning to do your makeup, do it. If you like wearing tight dresses, go right ahead. If collared shirts are your thing, don’t listen to that girl you’re seeing who ribs you about it. Just because you like to feel good about yourself, doesn’t mean you’re vain.
  1. If in doubt, wash your hair.
  1. It’s important to make time to play musical instruments, and enjoy music. Don’t talk about how you’d like to learn to sing, or play the drums. Go out and buy the damn instrument, and get the damn lessons. It’s a lifelong skill, and in 30 years when you can still find the same level of enjoyment through music that you do now, you’ll be thankful you invested time and money.
  1. Family members don’t always have to be there, they don’t owe you anything. Just like anyone else, they can disappear if they really want to. So appreciate the ones who are here, and don’t ever take them for granted. Conversely, just because someone is family, doesn’t mean they deserve your respect.
  1. No one owes you anything. So don’t go expecting things.
  1. There are few things as refreshing as simply going outside. For extra special bonus points, go for a walk, or to the beach, or a walk on the beach.
  1. Don’t spend money you don’t have. But don’t forget to treat yo self.
  1. It is important to listen to other people, and heed advice from those who have either been in similar situations, or have the benefit of outsider perspective. Be intricately aware of your own fallibility.
  1. Doing things for yourself, or being a little bit selfish, doesn’t make you a bad person. It is necessary to think of yourself if you’re ever going to be capable of helping anyone else.
  1. There is no substitute for hard work. But there is also no substitute for talent.
  1. Crying is one of the most beautiful, natural things in the world. Don’t be ashamed for releasing the emotion. Its whole purpose is to help when you’re feeling shit, so go on and enjoy.tiLL3
  1. There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Do what makes you happy! Be proud of every little idiosyncrasy that makes you so gosh darn unique, and revel in the beauty of individuality.
  1. There is nothing better than a best friend.
  1. Asking for help does not demonstrate weakness. It’s a sign of strength, courage and maturity. Even though it almost never feels like it.
  1. It’s important to step outside your comfort zone, and do things that scare you. Start a degree, go on exchange, become a commentator, start a blog. All these things may seem impossibly hard at the beginning, but I can’t remember a risk I’ve taken that didn’t pay off somehow.
  1. Natural brows are best. Eyebrows make the face. Don’t go too thick. Don’t go too thin. Pluck and wax minimally. Bold brows may be on trend, but practice filling in those motherfuckers to avoid looking more Bert from Sesame Street than Cara Delevingne. Also, Claire, be thankful for those naturally nicely shaped brows. Be really, genuinely thankful.
  1. Scars are just scars. The flesh is so genuinely unimportant in comparison to the other parts of a person, and as cheesy as it is, the right people will love you for the right reasons, deeply and unconditionally.
  1. It is never, ever okay to abuse or put up with abuse, whether emotional, verbal, physical, or financial. The good never, ever, ever outweighs the bad in an abusive situation. If you feel like you have to lie to cover up the bad parts of someone, then you need to gtfo.
  1. Seasons change. Things might feel enduringly, unbearably painful, but in every hard situation in my life thus far, things have either improved, or I have come to accept the situation for what it is, and proceeded to move forward onto better things.
  2. Appreciate the moment, right now, this very second. Time goes stupidly fast, and forever wishing away the day results in nothing more than depression at the lack of productivity and perceived happiness. Be mindful, be present, just be.
  1. No one is as perfectly jubilant as they appear in their online presence. Absolutely fucking no one. Don’t sit at home, staring at the computer, and hating yourself because of your comparison to your “friend’s” profiles. Never forget that the Internet is a carefully curated space.
  1. A cup of tea is always a good idea.
  1. You need to be kind to yourself. You are your own worse critic, by a long, long way. You have achieved so much, and every day you need to take a moment to appreciate that. You are so much more capable than you feel. You truly can do anything you put your mind to.
  1. I still have so much to learn.
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Cafe Zen Den

Here it is, the first post in my journey to fall back in love with food.

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Fact: hipster’s flowers will die if not stored in mason jars or glass milk bottles. Sugar will not taste as sweet if not stored in a similar fashion.

It’s mildly depressing that making myself leave the house to go eat something, so I could write about it here, was a serious effort. My lacklustre approach to food is really getting out of hand.

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On the suggestion of my friend, Rudi Edsall, and after researching gluten-free friendly eateries close to my home, I chose Café Zen Den, which recently opened in Eltham.

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Menu. Note: no bill splitting.

The menu included a few vegetarian and vegan options, but as far as gluten and lactose intolerance combined goes, my only option on the savoury front was rice paper rolls.

Considering I usually eat them at least twice a week, I wasn’t excited, and getting excited about food again is the whole point of this blog.

Instead, my eyes locked onto the vegan, raw, gluten free cheesecakes. “How?” I hear you gasping. Hazelnuts, almonds, coconut oil, dates, and cacao, apparently.

Nuts can be tricky with fructose malabsorption. Some are quite high in the natural sugar, and the Internet is full of conflicting information about how to consume them. Monash University, pioneers of the low FODMAP diet, recommend avoiding cashews and pistachios, and consuming other nuts, particularly walnuts and almonds, in moderation.

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Such chocolate. Very vegan. Much raw. Wow. So rose petals.

The cake was pretty great. Not overly sweet, as I’d expected it to be. Just the right amount of creamy, chocolate flavour. The base was chewy and packed a punch of sweetness.  It was very heavy and rich, though, and I did feel a little sick afterwards.

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Ugh. Soy.

I also indulged in a flat white, made with soy milk, of course. The fact this coffee tasted good was a testament to the ability of the bearded barista, cause lets be honest, soy milk is just the worst.

As I’ve stated previously, I’m writing this blog because my largely ornamental gut has stopped me from finding any joy in eating. Yet, while I sat alone in this cafe, listening to the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast and devouring cheesecake, I was quietly content.

I left with my pretty photos, a full stomach, and a desire to return so I can try the bright pink raspberry cheesecake. This is as close to food making me happy as I’ve been in a long time.

Although I did enjoy my brief but passionate affair with Cafe Zen Den, there weren’t many options for people with dietary restrictions. One great raw, vegan, gluten-free cheesecake does not an accommodating eatery make.

I’d recommend Cafe Zen Den to food intolerants who want a slice of a killer cheesecake and a decent coffee, but not much else, I’m afraid.

Three and a half bearded baristas out of five.

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Good thing I’m not allergic to petals.

Have you been to an excellent eatery I may like? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, or Tweet me: @missclaireh