Project H: Just Keep Swimming

breakfastI spend my days editing other people’s work. That’s fine; it pays (my parents) the rent, but a dream of mine would be to have my own column in a newspaper or a magazine. What could be better than having my own little space carved out every week/month, just for me to spill out my random thoughts and observations onto the page. I realised that if I can’t have that just yet, I may as well just do it on my blog and try to imagine all the thousands of readers. (Just picture my head-shot at the top of this with some witty bio instead of the sickeningly egotistical title ‘Project H’.) If anything, it will get me writing properly every week  (or so – that may be a little optimistic) and it’s cool if only my Mum and Dad end up reading it. Anyone outside of the family is an added bonus. (It also might help me learn to write without so many bracketed asides (sorry)).

Driving to work the other morning I was listening to Elizabeth Day’s podcast How to Fail. It is so refreshing and reassuring to hear successful people talking about their failures. Hardly anyone just arrives in their ‘perfect’ job/relationship/lifestyle without having gone through a hell of a lot to get there. I feel like I’ve had lots of failures in my life, just one example being that I dropped out of uni after 5 weeks. And of course, I’ve failed to hear back from countless job applications and I’ve failed to start the novel I’ve always wanted to write. (I also failed to meet my future husband at uni, but maybe 12-year-old me was being a little unrealistic with that one.) Despite feeling terrible about these things, I’ve definitely learnt from them, some more so than others. Listening to the podcast also reminded me that other people are often better at recognising our successes than we are ourselves. Someone who looks like a huge success on the outside might actually feel like a failure. I always feel as though I fail to assert myself, but other people are often surprised by this and see me as bubbly and confident. I think my brain still thinks I’m that awkward 15-year-old who can’t order a coffee in a café and is completely traumatised if her Dad tries to make a joke in front of the waiter.

The other day I read that eco-anxiety is a thing. Maybe not in quite the same category as an anxiety disorder, but a thing nonetheless. I worry about climate change and the environment most days, but I don’t do a great deal about it. Sure, I do the recycling and try to car share as much as possible, but I still drive to work, I still buy imported products and I still print out pages and pages of reports at work every day. I don’t necessarily agree that the only way to ignite change is by glueing yourself to a tube or by causing huge traffic jams across central London, but I do think that something fairly monumental has got to happen. Zero carbon emissions by 2025 seems optimistic, but maybe only big gestures are going to make any difference at this point. When I got this month’s copy of Be Kind magazine, I was almost scared to open the pages, knowing that reading about the damage we are doing to our planet on a daily basis would bring about a whole new wave of ‘eco-anxiety’ and guilt. But thankfully, the articles are less depressing and accusatory and more inspiring and hopeful.

Clearly someone read my latest article for Kettle Mag where I pleaded for someone to do for the climate what David Attenborough did for plastic. He’s made a programme about climate change, which was on BBC One on Thursday night. I haven’t watched it yet, but I know it’s not going to be the same kind of escapism my housemates and I would settle down in front of on a Sunday night. Like with Be Kind, I’m slightly scared to watch it, because I know I’m prone to a fairly crushing ‘eco-anxiety.’ But that’s the point I guess. We need to be scared into doing something drastic, otherwise something drastic will happen to us.

On a lighter, but equally as drastic, note, this morning (Good Friday), my Dad and I got up at 6:30 and drove to Hampstead Heath. We looked at the ponds and admired the hardy souls swimming breaststroke and chatting with each other in the Women’s Pond. It made me want to watch the documentary/film about them even more. We walked up to the viewing point and looked out across the London skyline. As a teenager, I competed in several cross-country races at the dreaded ‘Parliament Hill’, so being there again brought back the butterflies in my stomach. Thankfully, our trip today was more of a leisurely amble and ended in a coffee and an Insta-worthy bowl of porridge at the only café open in Hampstead Village at 9 AM on a Bank Holiday. I felt like I’d stepped onto a scene out of Notting Hill, and half expected Hugh Grant to appear with an impeccably well-groomed poodle at his side. Instead, we saw Bill Oddie with a pair of binoculars around his neck.

I do all my best thinking while I’m swimming (sadly not in Hampstead ponds). I’ve written entire blog posts and job applications whilst pounding up and down the local university pool near where I live. Yesterday evening while I swam, I told myself I couldn’t get out until I’d come up with a title for this week’s ‘column.’ As you can see, I felt inspired by my surroundings. But honestly, it does go beyond the literal. I think sometimes all you can do in life is ‘just keep swimming.’ I don’t mean that in a depressing way, I just mean that things aren’t always going to be amazing. Life’s tough, but it’s okay to admit that sometimes you’re barely keeping your head above the waves.

harriet x


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