Why I’m all for taking risks…

I have never been more scared about anything in my life than I was about coming to university. Anyone who knows me well will know that I am (or was) a complete and utter home bird. I love being at home, I love being with my family, and I hate change. The thought of going through the biggest change of my LIFE- leaving home, not seeing my family every day, living alone- was something I quite literally could not imagine myself even doing, let alone enjoying, last September. There were times when I genuinely didn’t think I would be able to do it. The joy of results day, for me, was overshadowed by the fact that now I actually had to leave home. I considered, more than once, staying at home and commuting to London every day. It seemed to make sense, and to be a lot easier, to stay in Welwyn.

It was a risk: I genuinely wasn’t sure I would be able to cope. And if I couldn’t cope then a lot of money, time, and effort would have been wasted. BUT, I took the risk, and 6 months down the line I cannot express how happy I am. I ignored the fear in my stomach and the thoughts in my head, listened to my parents, and moved here. It was scary, and the first few weeks were hard. But now I can honestly say that taking that risk is the best thing I have ever done. Hands down. Pushing myself far outside of my comfort zone has changed me irrevocably in so many ways, and I like the person that I am now much more than I liked the person that I was in September…

I go out more; I’m more independent; I’m more aware of how much money I’m spending; I’m less controlling (I think); I’ve learnt to love my own company. I’m more confident around new people. I’ve made new friends for the first time in years. I can do my washing (I know it’s bad but I never did this at home). I’m more accepting, more open minded. There’s been bad changes too…I’ve become more nocturnal, I spend more money, and wine is my new best friend…but even these changes I’m grateful for.

By far the biggest change, though, is that I’ve become a lot more chilled out. I’ve written a blog post before about my need to plan incessantly, and how I feel anxious if things don’t go as I’ve planned them to. Uni has started, albeit slowly, to change this. I’ve noticed (and I think my family have noticed), that I’m more laid back. I no longer have a fear of doing things last minute, and I don’t say no to things anymore just because I haven’t planned to do them. I’m learning to live in the moment, and I feel so much better because of it. I feel like I’m actually making the most of my life, rather than just wasting it living according to an excruciatingly detailed plan.

Everyone says that university changes you, but I think it’s hard to believe it until you actually experience it for yourself. Being almost one year down (I can’t actually get over this), I can honestly say that I feel like university is turning me in to the person I am meant to be. I appreciate that this sounds UNBELIEVABLY cringey, but it’s true.

I am obviously not saying that everyone needs to go to university to ‘find themselves’- what I am saying is that, if I had to pick the one thing that university has taught me, it’s that taking risks is so important. I could have easily stayed at home, but instead I took a risk. And I think that everyone needs to be a little less scared and do it a lot more. I appreciate that this is easier said than done, and that some people enjoy ‘risk-taking’ more than others. I, for one, am definitely not a risk-taker at heart: I like to have a safety net around me. Moving to uni tore me away from this net, but I can honestly say that I’ve never felt happier- all because I shut my eyes, and took a step (in my mind it was more of a HUGE leap) in to the unknown.

My favourite quote on risk taking is “if you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories”- in other words, if you want to stay in the same place your whole life, then that’s fine-don’t take risks. But if you want to move forward, to better yourself, to better others, then be brave and take the plunge, or spend your whole life wishing you had.

Megan x

Ps. I know i haven’t written a blog post for almost a month now- honestly I just have not had the time, and I’ve been lacking inspiration. I am, however, in the process and completely revamping my blog so that it looks exactly how I want it to. I have no idea how long this is going to take, but watch this space xxxxx

 

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Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s Day..the new, improved, less depressing (at least in my eyes) version of Valentine’s Day.

As you’ve probably never heard of it (I hadn’t either), I feel like I should start by explaining exactly what Galentine’s Day is.

The term was first used in 2010 by US comedian Amy Poehler, in her sitcom Parks and Recreation (I had no clue either). I’ve never heard of this either but apparently it’s hilariously funny.

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Poehler’s character describes the day like this:

“It’s the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.”

This is Galentine’s Day in a nutshell. It’s basically Valentine’s Day except that instead of focussing on your boyfriend/partner/husband/significant other, it’s a day for women to celebrate other women. If you know me, then you’ll know already that this whole idea is massively up my street. I can’t believe that I’ve only just discovered that it exists!

unknownMy new favourite day of the year is celebrated on 13th February (this Monday!), so even women who DO want to celebrate the ‘conventional’ Valentine’s Day can still take part in the fun. I say fun, because that is exactly what this day is. It’s a day for all us females to really appreciate our girlfriends- because, let’s face it, even if you’re not single, no male will ever be able to fill the space that best friends do.

And, if you ARE single, the excessive romance that comes with Valentine’s Day can be enough to make the most independent of women feel a teeny tin
y bit lonely- or at least want to kill someone (for me it’s the latter). Galentine’s Day makes up for this: it’s a way to make singletons feel appreciated, and to remind us that this appreciation does not need to come from a man.

Owing to the fact that I’d never heard of it before, I genuinely thought that Galentine’s Day was a pretty small, unknown thing. Turns out I was wrong. In the last few years, with

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One of my favourite Galentine’s Day cards

the rise of the ‘girl squad’ mentality thanks to the likes of Taylor Swift and Kendall Jenner, Galentine’s Day has actually become pretty popular. So much so that big businesses have started jumping on the bandwagon: Moonpig are selling ‘Galentine’s Day’  car
ds this year, and Etsy have a whole page dedicated to ‘Galentine’s Day gifts’.

BUT whilst I think this is great, gifts aren’t really what this day is about. It’s a chance for us to be thankful for our female friendships, and everything that
comes with them. For me, that’s advice, support, a pair of ears, open arms…I would be here all day if I listed everything that my girlfriends bring to my life.

So, this 13th February I think all girls should take the time to show some appreciation for our girlfriends. I know I’m going to, because I literally could not live without them. You know who you are, and I love you all infinitely.

Happy Galentine’s Day!!

Megan x

 

5 things I’ve done this month to beat the January blues

I usually hate January, and most people I speak to say the same thing. It’s cold, it’s dark, and summer seems an age away. This year, though, I decided to make a concerted effort to turn January in to a really good month. I wanted to start the year as I mean to go on, instead of just counting down the days until February. Don’t get me wrong, this month has been cold (in fact more than cold, it’s felt like the Arctic at times), dark, and summer does still feel like an age away. BUT, thanks to a few little things, I’m finishing January feeling really good about 2017 so far, and excited for the rest of the year.

  1. Thanks to a timetable change I now finish at 1pm instead of a 4pm on a Friday. So, I’ve decided to give myself a break from uni work on Friday afternoons. Instead, I have started using this time to explore London, or to meet up with friends. So far I have had coffee with one of my besties, been shopping on Oxford Street, and visited Spitalfields Market (if you love good food and cute, quirky shops then I seriously recommend here). Doing this gives my brain a rest from studying, and also makes me feel like I am actually making the most of my time living in London.
  2. I’ve read lots of books. This was one of my new year’s resolutions, and so far I’ve stuck to it pretty well. Really well, in fact- I’ve managed to read 4 books this year already. This has made me feel more positive for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because a) they’ve all been really, really good books, and b) if I’m reading books, I’m spending less time on my phone. And spending less time on my phone genuinely makes me feel more productive, and helps to clear my head. I feel as though I’m actually doing something worthwhile with my time, instead of just rereading pointless social media posts.
  3. I’ve started writing things down. For Christmas, I was given a calendar which has a different quote for every day of the year. Every day (well most days), I’ve written something about my day on the back of the quote. My aim is to keep it up for the whole year, which probably won’t happen, but for the moment I’m enjoying it. It forces me to reflect on what I’ve actually done with my time. It’s so easy just to let life pass you by, but I find that doing this makes me appreciate each day a little bit more.
  4. I’m watching more TV. This sounds ridiculous, especially as I usually don’t watch TV at all. But, this month there have been some really good shows on, and I have really enjoyed getting home from uni when it’s freezing cold and watching good TV. In a month where there’s not much to look forward to, knowing you have good TV to catch up on really does make me a happier person.
  5. I’ve been using all of my new cookery books to cook some really good, healthy meals while I’m at uni. I’ve made turkey chilli, homemade meatballs in tomato sauce (both recipes I kind of made up). I’ve also done a fish dish, as well as home made chicken kievs from Jamie Oliver’s Superfood for Families book. All of them have been really nice (or so I’ve been told), and I am determined to keep cooking all year. I find it relaxing, and I genuinely love doing it.

I cannot believe that January is nearly over- this year is flying by already. Whilst I wouldn’t say I am sad to see this month go (I’m excited for warmer weather already), I am going in to February having already made a really good start to the year. I’m putting myself first, making time for things that I love doing (reading, cooking, exercising), and trying to live in the moment. Because of this I can genuinely say that, January, you’ve been great.

Megan x

Why holding a grudge is bad for you…

This week I have discovered something new: podcasts. I am well aware that these are not a new invention, but for some reason I have only just decided to start listening to them. For those who haven’t heard of them, they are FAB. They are basically like a TV series, but to listen to instead of watch, and most of them are free on iTunes.

I have been listening to all sorts (history, food, lifestyle), but my favourite so far has to be Glamour magazine’s ‘Hey it’s OK’ podcast, which comes out weekly. The podcast is so relaxed, and the topics include everything from more serious subjects such as Brexit and Trump, to the more fun and the potentially more enjoyable (ok definitely more enjoyable) Glamour’s 100 sexiest men poll. But, having had a slight podcast ‘binge’ one night last week, the episode which really resonated with me was one which discussed the subject of holding grudges.

I am entirely lacking in the ability to hold a grudge- I just cannot do it. I hate confrontation of any kind, and I would much rather just smile, move on, and forget about it than waste hours of time and energy being angry: for me, it’s just not worth it.

When the families of the victims of the Charleston shootings spoke to the killer, Dylan Roof, you would have expected them to be torn up by hatred, overcome with rage. Instead, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of Roof’s victims, told him “I forgive you”. This show of strength in the face of absolute tragedy would be incomprehensible to many of us. And yet there have been many more cases like this, where people who have experienced the worst that life can give (murders of relatives, rape) have somehow found the strength to forgive.

These people all have different reasons for forgiving, but in many cases they say that it is not until they have forgiven that they can begin to move on: as late psychologist C R Snyder quoted “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different”. By holding a grudge, we are holding on to the pain of the past. Forgiving and forgetting allows a weight to be lifted from our shoulders.

And that is exactly what holding a grudge is: a weight on your shoulders. An unnecessary, heavy weight which weaves its way in to all aspects of your life, feeding negative energy to your brain. There is proof that holding grudges can be harmful for your health: high levels of suppressed anger are linked to increased risks of coronary heart disease, particularly in older men (Men’s Health, 2013). There is also evidence that people who hold grudges are more prone to ulcers, high blood pressure, and headaches.

As well as physical health, holding grudges can also be detrimental to mental health, too. It causes stress, makes it harder to think clearly, and harder to sleep. This means we find it harder to look at things from a rational perspective, come up with new ideas, or negotiate. Also, people suffering from stress are more likely to smoke or develop bad eating habits, which can lead to a whole other host of health issues.

Holding grudges, evidently, is not good for your body or your mind. Personally, I don’t hold grudges because, quite frankly, I want an easy life. I find that I am much less anxious and stressed, and in turn much happier, when I am not angry at other people. In my my mind, it is a waste of time to hold grudges for things that have already happened and cannot be changed. All it does it clog up my mind with toxic thoughts, which in turn have a negative impact on my life.

My favourite quote from the podcast which I mentioned before sums this up perfectly:

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick”

This is exactly it: by holding grudges we want to punish the people we are angry at, but in actual fact the people we end up damaging the most are ourselves. Learning how to forgive, therefore, is the way forward. Life is too short.

Megan x

The War on Women

I posted on Facebook last week about a book called ‘The War on Women’ by Sue Lloyd Roberts, which I received as a Christmas present. I have read hundreds (I’m not exaggerating) of books in my lifetime, and I can honestly say that none have had the same impact on me that this book has. It is eye-opening, overwhelming, and heart-breaking, and I think everyone, whether you are a woman or not, should read it.

You may or may not have heard of Sue Lloyd Roberts- I for one didn’t know who she was until I read this book. Sue was, in fact, one of the most decorated journalists of the last 50 years. In her career that spanned over four decades, she produced reports from some of the most volatile places in the world (such as North Korea and the Soviet Union) focussing on a range of issues from human rights violations to political corruption, and making changes wherever she went. However, whilst this work was often ground breaking, it is her work on the female population that made her such a stand out reporter. Sue travelled across the world to document the struggles that women face, from honour killings to female gender mutilation. It is her experiences with women that are the focus of this book, which was released last year. Sue tragically died of Leukaemia before this book was finished, but thanks to her children it was released early last year in spite of this.

Whilst there is no doubt that Sue Lloyd Roberts was one of a kind, this book, and this blog post, are not about her. And she wouldn’t want them to be. The people who are more important here are the women who’s stories she tells. Maimouna, the woman forced to become a “cutter” in Gambia. Mary, a “fallen woman” who was an inmate at Ireland’s infamous laundries. Lara Logan, a journalist sexually assaulted whilst reporting on protests in Egypt. The list of inspirational women in this book is endless, and it is them, not Sue, who take centre stage.

Whilst all of the chapters are powerful, one which has stuck the most with me is that which is titled “Saudi Arabia- the World’s Largest Prison”.  Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative muslim country in Western Asia. Here, women are not allowed to drive, or even leave the house unless escorted by a male relation of chauffeur. They have to wear the bhurka, which covers their bodies from head to toe, and every aspect of life is segregated. Wahhabis, the dominant minority in the country, believe that females are “perpetual minors” and “mentally defective”, and women therefore are forced to ask males, in some cases their young sons, for permission to do anything. Whilst I was aware that Saudi Arabia was conservative, I did not realise the extent of this conservatism. I take for granted the fact that I can drive, that I can wear what I want, and that I can do what I like without being reprimanded for it by a man. In this country, we are not expected to serve men, to be submissive, to worship the ground they walk on. Saudi Arabian women are.

I am not going to discuss all of the chapters in the book because 1) that would take all day, and 2) I want you to read the book itself, not just my post about it. But, there is one other chapter which I think it is important to mention. This is the last chapter in the book, entitled “Sex inequality in Britain”. Whilst it may seem wrong to talk about inequality in this country when women are facing much, much worse in other places in the world, it is one which really struck a chord with me. It shows that even in one of the most developed nations in the world, women are still discriminated against.

In England, this discrimination comes mainly in the form of unequal pay. Until reading this book, I was not aware of the scale of this problem. In fact, Sue explains, women working full time hours earn on average £5000 a year less than men. In some job, this can be up to 3x as big. For example, amongst health professionals (where the biggest pay gap exists), the average gender pay gap is 31%. In hourly terms, that’s £25.54 (for men) compared to £18.32 (for women). How is it possible, almost 100 years after the suffragettes won women the vote, that figures like this STILL exist?! Another statistic which riled me (well they all riled me-this one just a bit more), is that which states that 80% (80%?!?!?!?) of people working in the lowest paid sector (care and leisure), are women. And women make up 60% of those who earn less than the living wage. These numbers show that inequality still exists: no matter how many times people tell you our society is equal, they are lying. Our society is not equal. Whilst we may be able to drive, and we may be able to go out on our own, this does not mean that sexism does not exist to some degree. I want to go in to a job knowing that I will be earning the same as my male counterpart. I want to feel assured that when I have children, I will not have to start again at the bottom of the ladder. It is for these reasons that we cannot get complacent in the UK, nor in any Western country. Things are, obviously, much worse, and much more terrifying in other countries. But that does not mean that we should stop fighting our own battle here, especially not when there are still so obviously things to change.

 

Evidently I got a bit carried away there, but that just shows how passionate I am firstly about this book, and secondly about gender equality. Women do not deserve to be treated as less than men, for religious reasons, for the fact that we can have children, nor for the fact that that’s just “how it’s always been”. No reason is good enough to justify inequality, and I challenge you to read this book and not feel the same way.

The War on Women has made me angry, heart broken, and unbelievably sad. But above all, it has made me proud to be a woman. Reading about the women who continue to fight, day in, day out, for their freedom even though it continues to fall on deaf ears was both overwhelming and inspiring. I have always called myself a feminist, but I know many women who choose not to identify themselves with the word because it has “negative connotations”. The dictionary definition of feminism is “advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes”. Equality of the sexes, obviously, is a long way from being achieved. So, if anyone reads this book and continues to say that they are not a feminist, then I will be forced to question their sanity. We should all be feminists, for the sake of Maimouna, for the sake of Mary. For the sake of any woman, anywhere in the world, that is or has been a victim of discrimination.

Megan x

 

 

 

 

Megan x

 

My 2017 goals

Firstly, I want to say a big happy new year to anyone and everyone that reads my blog. I had possibly my favourite New Years ever, spent in the middle of nowhere in Lincolnshire with all of my mum’s family. It was a weekend full of food, laughs, and walks on Skegness beach: the perfect way to finish a really good year, and to start what will hopefully be an even better one. This is why I haven’t managed to write my first blog post of the year until the 4th of January- well that, and the fact that I have two essays due next Monday which I am frantically trying to write. But anyway, better late than never.

This time of year is always a time of ‘fresh starts’ and ‘new me’s’ and whilst I hate how stereotypical it makes me sound, I would be lying if I said that I don’t get caught up in the feeling of starting a new chapter.

I am someone who always makes  New Year’s Resolutions, and this year is no different. Generally I am quite good at sticking to them (except for biting my nails- I’ve never managed to stick to that one), but I find that I’m always telling myself to STOP doing thing. STOP eating chocolate, STOP biting my nails, STOP being bossy. Whilst I would love to be able to stop doing these things, telling myself I can’t do things makes feel like I’m constantly fighting a battle- as though I am constantly depriving myself. So this year, I’ve decided to turn my resolutions in to goals, and they’re all about things I’m going to START doing, rather than stop. I’ve also decided to be really ambitious- because life’s too short and I feel like I’m too sensible.*

My 2017 goals

1- Start being more spontaneous

I’ve already written a blog post about about how I like to feel in control, and how I have an obsession with planning my life down to the smallest details. In 2017, I am going to try to change this. I want to be more spontaneous, start doing things last minute instead of saying no because I’ve not planned it. It’s not going to change overnight, and it’s going to be baby steps, but life is too short to always be thinking about tomorrow.

2- See more of the world

I am very lucky to have visited a lot of places in my short life so far. This year, I want to expand my horizons. I am currently planning a trip to Fiji to spend 3 weeks volunteering in schools out there. I want to go on a long weekend to a European city that I haven’t been to yet (if anyone fancies joining me on a trip to Venice, let me know), and I want to see more of England- somewhere like the Lake District, or the Peak District.

3-Start taking more risks

I am a very sensible person, and whilst this isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t always a good thing either. This kind of links with the spontaneity goal- I want to start being more adventurous instead of always thinking about reasons why I SHOULDN’T do something.

4-Read more books

I love reading. If I could spend the rest of my life reading books then I would do it without a doubt. I always find I never read as much as I want to though, (except for when I’m on holiday when I get through a book a day), and it’s because I’m either reading uni books, or on my phone. Whilst I have to read books for uni (its the nature of a history degree), and I do not have to spend half an hour scrolling on my phone before I go to sleep. So from now on, I’m going to try and read before I go to bed every night. It will mean I get to read more books, and experts say people who turn their phone off before they get in to bed have a better night’s sleep. So it’s a win-win situation.

5-Cook more

If you’ve read any of my blog, you’ll know that I am passionate about food. I love to cook, but as I am usually cooking for one I often find I can’t be bothered to cook creative things- I end up with chilli for 4 nights of the week because its easy and versatile. So one of my goals is to make more of an effort to cook different, adventurous things more often.

6-Keep blogging and writing

One thing I loved about 2016 was the fact that I FINALLY found the courage to start this blog. I had thought about it for so long, but it was only when I moved out and started uni that I felt confident enough to actually do it. I find blogging about my life and my thoughts very cathartic, and I genuinely love writing posts. I’ve also loved writing for PI media this year too- it feels great to finally be having a taster of what I want to do once I finish university. So this is a big goal for me- I want to keep writing, and keep improving what I write. I’m not bothered about having huge numbers of viewers- I still find it amazing that anyone other than my parents is interested in what I have to say!

7-Stop biting my nails

I know I said I wasn’t going to say I wanted to stop doing anything, but I really do need to stop biting my nails. It’s annoying, it makes my nails look ugly, and it does nothing for my already short fingers. I absolutely hate that I do it, so I am going to try and make 2017 the year that I stop FOR GOOD.

These are all I can think of. Well except for my ultimate goal, which is to always be positive and smile, because life is too short not to. This doesn’t really count because this is always one of my goals, so it’s not really a ‘New Years’ one, but it is something which I am going to try to continue to do every day.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year

Megan x

*Nb- This does not mean I am about to start drinking excessively/smoking/clubbing/cliff jumping/rock climbing. I am still going to be sensible (I think this is built in to my genes), but just sensible with a bit more spontaneity.

Love actually is all around…

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The chances are most people who read this will recognise the words above. They come from my all time favourite Christmas film- Love Actually.

Usually, I watch this film and feel the same every year- depressed that Hugh Grant is not prime minister, angry at Alan Rickman for cheating on Emma Thompson, and jealous of the love that Sam has for Joanna. Yesterday, when I watched it for the first time this year, I still felt all these things, but I also felt like the story took on a whole new meaning, precisely because of the words at the top of this post.

It is easy to look back on 2016 and see nothing beyond politics. It feels, at times, like all that has happened this year are Brexit and the US election. Whilst both were incredibly important events, and rightly deserved a significant amount of press coverage/time/conversations dedicated to them, the impact which they have had on society has arguably been less than positive. In the Brexit campaign, we had to listen to hours of scaremongering on both sides, countless low blows, and personal attacks. Times this by 10, add accusations of corruption and sexual abuse, and you’ve got the US election campaign. Neither events showed human nature in its best light, regardless of which side you supported, and both have, understandably, led to nearly 50% of the British and American population feeling disillusioned with the state of the world.

So, if you think about 2016 merely in terms of politics, it would be deemed by many people to be an ‘annus horribilis’. If you look at the media over the past year, it is also more than likely that you would come to this conclusion; newspapers hardly show the world in a very positive light, nor does the news. Even twitter seems to be turning into a world of negativity based around people’s political thoughts. These days, with the people at the top hardly setting a good example for us to follow, one could be forgiven for thinking that  we live in a world of hate.

Which is why it is important to look beyond the politics when thinking about this last year. Yes, they have played a dominant role, and the after shocks of the earthquakes will continue for years to come. But there has also been a multitude of positive things that have happened since January. Love them or loathe them, Britain got its second female prime minister, and we very nearly had the first female president (#GIRLPOWER). Scientists got closer to developing an HIV cure. The number of tigers increased for the first time in 100 years. Thanks to the ALS ice bucket challenge, massive strides were made in finding a cure for motor neurone disease.

A perfect example of being blinded by politics, I also nearly forgot that sandwiched between the referendum and the US election we had the Olympics in Rio.Whilst they may have been surrounded by controversy, nothing can take away from the respect, peace, and unity that the Games represent. All ethnicities, genders, religions, sexualities competing alongside each other, in one competition. I challenge you to watch the Olympics and still think of 2016 as nothing more than a year of hate stirred up by politicians.

And so this is where my favourite Christmas film comes back in to play. Of course, not all of us were involved, or even watched, the Olympics. But even in our own lives the same values are often existent. Like the taxi driver who only charged my £10 instead of £13 because that was all I had on me at the time. Or the little boy who I saw give his seat up for an old lady on the tube. Or the man who let me go in front of him in the Cafe Nero queue because I was carrying about 5 bags at once and was close to dropping everything on the floor.

Of course, I am not suggesting that we should all ignore everything that happens outside of our own little worlds. That would be ignorant, and quite frankly plain stupid. What I am suggesting, however, is that we take more time to appreciate the good, if small, things which happen on a daily basis. They might not be published on the front of every newspaper, and they might seem insignificant compared to events such as Brexit, but they do happen- every single day. I see them everywhere- in train stations, in coffee shops, on the street. And they should act as a reminder, especially at the end of this year, that human kindness, but more importantly love, is actually all around.