Where to start? Well, it’s not my birthday just yet so the carefully penned essay bemoaning the cruel fate that is ageing is still to come. However, I will turn twenty-one on Friday 29th March and I’ve just been home in the rainy paradise that is Wales for some early at-home celebrations. It’s official, I’m old and obsolete! But, rather surprisingly, I’m having the most fun!
It’s no secret the end of the first year of my twenties was gruelling, but it’s ushered in a new change. I’ve talked extensively on the topic of self love and my journey towards being a far more positive person in a bid to better my mental health after being diagnosed professionally with severe anxiety and major depressive disorder and another large health concern that I wish to refrain from discussing in detail just yet. In those last few months of being twenty, I was truly convinced that there was no hope for me. Life would never get better, I wanted to die. Being in a suicidal state is a strange thing to ponder on once you’re seemingly through the worst of it. You often wonder how you could ever allow yourself to get to such a low point. However, the truth is that you simply don’t have control. Especially when your natural predisposition is to think melodramatically. For me, every little mistake is innately the end of the world.
I wish there was a fix-all cure or step-by-step self-help guide that would work for everyone. It’s tough feeling so lost for so long and feeling so unsure about yourself that you can’t even begin to fathom how to pick yourself up. As eye-roll inducing as it sounds – and believe me, I have rinsed the hell out of people who dared utter this phrase in my direction – it does get better. I can’t tell you precisely how because it’s so different for everyone, but right now, as much I am wallowing self-pity about getting old and leaving twenty behind, I have never felt better.
Over carrot cake, surrounded by balloons, gift wrap and the ones I love the most, I felt a sense of renewed energy about all the exciting opportunities and things I’ve got planned for the months ahead. This blog is my baby, it may not look it, but a lot of time and dedication has gone into it. Words can’t express how dearly I hold it. It can be cringeworthy to look back not just at my face, but at my writing style way back when I started it, but it was my sanctuary during the darkest of times. It’s unbelievable to me how there’s about five years worth of me, my life, my passions and my emotions on here. And that’s what prompted me to make a huge monumental blogging decision.
You see, other than a few creaky joints here and there and a couple of budding wrinkles, I don’t tend to feel the effects of being older due to being cursed/blessed with a baby face (I’m forever getting ID’d, the struggle is real). However, when I sit back and look at what’s happened in the past five or so years since I took up blogging seriously, I have actually grown up and achieved quite a lot. Since I started this little space on the internet to shout about literature, I’m studying at one of the top universities that I never believed in my wildest dreams that I’d get into aka University of Bristol, I’ve actually committing to a novel idea and making ok-ish progress, I’m having such fun exploring PR/writing ventures and, to top it all off, my mental health has drastically improved.
So, with this real life personal renaissance, or rebirth, of Samantha Kilford, I thought it was only right for the blog to reflect and commemorate this new era. We’ve had a few looks over the past few years, but this new makeover comes with the massive move to WordPress. It was a long and rather heart-wrenching process to reach the decision to migrate as I’d grown attached to the Blogspot, or Google, way of doing things, but it was time to say goodbye to Blogger and jump into the world of self-hosting. It was a choice largely prompted by the controversy surrounding Tumblr’s deletion of user blogs paired with Google’s decision to shut down Google+. A quick dip into Google’s TOS began to concern me and while there’s no plans to oust the Blogger platform yet, I saw the undeniable benefits to self-hosting and quite simply having more creative control was worth the swap. This post by Vicki Davis was extremely useful in helping highlight Blogger’s shortcomings and why moving to WordPress is ultimately better so I recommend it to fellow bloggers and writers who are still undecided. I’ll follow up with my own post at some point going into depth about getting to grips with WordPress and how I’m finding it.
A massive thank you to Pipdig for helping me make this change! Phil, who handled my migration, is absolutely terrific and got to work straight away. I’ve honestly never loved the layout of my blog more! Also, their customer support team is absolutely faultless. Their replies to my nagging questions about customisation and other tech queries were speedy. I also purchased my hosting plan which you can find here. So far everything seems to be running smooth as can be so I highly recommend them for all your blog needs.
So, what’s this about Made in Chelsea? Does my personal renaissance now mean that I’ve warped into a Sloane Ranger? Did I suddenly find out there’s a whole Kilford dynasty out there with serious bank? Alas, no such luck. I will, however, be on Made in Chelsea. Yes, arguably in the background, but I’ll still be in an episode of Made in Chelsea irregardless – Hollywood, I’m ready for my close-up.
All jokes aside, I had the marvellous opportunity to go to an omg-top-secret-MIC-gig to cheer on the lovely Holiday Sidewinder and watch #drama unfold between the MIC gang in attendance (trying to be vague as possible because NDAs but reality TV is a lie and nothing is real, folks). I discovered Holiday by chance through Twitter and immediately fell in love with both her and her music. If you haven’t listened to Holiday’s premium pop bops, I recommend you get yourself on over to Spotify and stream her tracks now. She’s an absolute babe and you won’t regret it. Seriously, she’s the coolest. I mean, she dedicated a whole day to critiquing boyfriend resumés on the gram and is funding her debut album release on pantie sales – what a legend! Madonna who?
Also, I owe a big chunk of my new found confidence to Holiday Sidewinder. I found her carefree attitude both musically and on social media as well as owning her sexual power really positive and honestly, very empowering. Like, why isn’t she a feminist icon already? Just check out the badass videos for Leo and Tra$h Can Luv. Music was actually really instrumental in helping get me through my recent bout of depression and after listening to Holiday’s music, I just felt absolutely re-energised and like I could take on the world in six inch heels.
Connecting with female authors by running this blog and Literary Women and being able to hear about their experiences not just in the writing world, but in life in general has been an excellent way to see stories or voices that echo my own and to learn how to find my own inner power. Part of the huge overhaul that I’m making in myself is learning to stop being such a yes man. We’re so used to hearing ‘No means no’ in the content of sexual consent, but I’ve definitely noticed myself going along with something because my, let’s be honest here, petite Asian frame and rather feeble appearance paired with a polite nature can often be mistaken as someone who is a pushover and I don’t want to rock the boat for fear that I won’t be taken seriously due to my size and stature. I used to often worry about being belittled if I stood up for myself or to even voice my own opinions whether agreeable or contrary. There have been times when people in professional workplace settings have purposely changed the tone of their voice and spoken to me as if I was actually a child and not only is it very degrading and upsetting, but it adds enormously to my anxiety and body image issues that I already have.
I recently read this essay by Korean author R.O. Kwon (The Incendiaries) and this particular quote really resonated with me;
I inhabit the body of an Asian woman, which means I’m also, at times, particularly likely to be thought pliant, submissive, willing to please. I’m just trying to be polite, to be kind, but here I am, smiling and receptive, and what this can mean is that I get underestimated. People often assume I’m harmless, someone who’ll let them get away with unacceptable behavior, and what I hope to convey, a little, even if it’s just with a centimeter of extra makeup, is that I’m not, I won’t… every day I’m out in the world, I’m trying to offset what I fear you’ll think of me. I’m costuming myself for a life I’d prefer.
I’ve spent a lifetime putting up with a very similar pliant expectation unwillingly enforced on me like Kwon. I, too, spend hours meticulously crafting a version of myself that hopefully diminishes any of that expectation, but also because I’m ashamed that I’m naturally quite unassuming and lovely as that’s classed as quite weak and I don’t want to be seen as weak even though I might be. For Kwon, it’s make-up that allows her feel fierce and become a version of herself that is deemed vocal, powerful and strong. For me, it’s clothes.
When I wear a carefully chosen outfit that flatters my frame and a good pair of heels, I feel empowered. When I look in that mirror, I feel strong and confident. No matter how fancy the outfit may be for the menial task I’m doing or how much those heels are tearing apart the flesh on my feet, I feel a rush of confidence in the persona that I put on and I’m thrilled when people buy into it. I’ve been told it looks like I’m well put together and have my life in control which is honestly quite the opposite, but does it make me feel good to hear that as opposed to being treated like a child by my peers? Absolutely. Clothes are essentially my armour, they’re my way to fight back against the judgements that people make when you’re 5ft, look like a passable age twelve in your twenties and are far too nice for your own good.
Kwon also penned another essay for the New York Times which, again, I think perfectly encapsulates my thoughts above on Asian women consistently being labelled as ‘adorable’ and the like. As a five feet half-Asian twenty-something, I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of times I have been dubbed something along the lines of ‘a dainty doll’ or someone has told me something ridiculous like ‘they could just wrap me up and put me in a box to keep forever’. I shamefully brushed it off in my teens, but as a female adult trying to find my footing in the world and aiming to be taken seriously, this odd fetishisation and need to treat me like a cute child is becoming unbearable.
I cannot express my gratitude to Kwon for those think-pieces and for quite simply, being her. She has managed to perfectly express this plight far more articulately than I ever could and I truly think she is one of the most important new writers on the literature scene. Her articles have made my concerns feel validated and have given me a new sense confidence to try go out and test the things that bother me. Seriously, I have all the love for her!
If you haven’t already, please check out Kwon’s debut novel The Incendiaries. I was very fortunate to be on the UK blog tour for it and you can read my gushing review here.
Stay tuned for the birthday essay as I’ll go into much deeper detailer about depression, dealing with antidepressants and other general reflective babble. (and for those wondering – it’s not just any cake. It’s M&S carrot cake, dahling!)