Sun-induced Serotonin Boost & Sebastian Stan

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Henry James

Blogging from exotic locations once more, I will start by promising you that this post isn’t entirely an excuse to share an abundance of fun vacay pics of me frolicking in the sun alongside as many literature references to the sunny season as I can squeeze in.

In many ways, it’s a bit of a housekeeping post and a catch up because I forgot to write about Comic Con! I’ve got a million and one drafts waiting to be polished and published about life, travel and books, but there’s so much that’s happened in the past couple of months that I haven’t shared because I’ve been on my woe-is-me bullshit. Plus, I couldn’t be more thankful to be in the summer sun.

I am doing fine. Thanks to everyone who took the time to send me a message on the socials (especially you lovely lot on GoodReads!) and by heartfelt email. I sincerely didn’t expect the post where I opened up about attempting to take my own life to generate the numbers it did and while it’s still slightly terrifying to know that I have essentially bared my soul in front of so many people, I can only hope that post, and these subsequent posts after it, can be of reassurance to someone that they’re not alone in their feelings and that help is there. Because it actually is.

I might be writing this from a completely different place geographically to that post, but I am also writing from a different place mentally too. Mulling it over with a few friends, we came to the conclusion that aside from downing copious amounts of red wine with them, writing again definitely got me out of that dark rut. All the emotion that I’d bottled up has – and still is – being unleashed so don’t worry, new readers, I know you’re here for the snarky travel content and I will happily continue to oblige alongside my regular book review schedule.

I’m not going to lie, I find the new increase in stats since I’ve branched out with less literature heavy content quite daunting. What do I say? What do people want to see? As scary as it is, I have been more content-conscious and whether that’s a good or bad thing in the long run, it does mean that I’m shedding the stuck-indoors-slaving-away-on-a-manuscript writer stereotype that I’ve been inhabiting for the past few years. It’s prompted me to say ‘yes’ to more things, for both work and leisure. If anyone’s in the Big Apple, I shall be seeing you in a day or two to clap at some books in a big room!

Apparently, it’s good to get outside instead of shunning sunlight by shutting yourself in your room and having a little cry over writer’s block. Who knew? Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic, notes that “the sun works through a number of receptors in the brain to affect our mental status and alertness”. Moderate exposure to sunlight and fresh air helps improve mood and focus and even reduces anxiety by boosting serotonin levels. Catch me reading, listening to the new Vampire Weekend album and soaking up the sun this summer!

when the foliage is a #mood

I’m fortunate to be able to make the writing thing my primary focus when term time ends, so much of my vacation time is spent staring at a screen, catching up on overdue admin and headbutting my keyboard when trying to write. That’s the fun thing about freelancing. One day, you’ll be researching and covering a topic like social media’s influence on plastic surgery and the next, you’ll be dedicating hundreds of words to reminiscing about the dark ages aka the time when Alexander Skarsgård shaved his head bald and you thought the world would end.

It also leaves me with the ability to set time aside for self-care. Something that I’m quite lousy with. At one of the many rosé-fuelled picnics I’ve graced with my presence, we discussed how people often spend ages prioritising the endless stream of tasks we have that we forget to make time for ourselves. I head back to Brizzle in September and while that seems ages away, it really isn’t. So, I want to make the most of my time before I return to agonising about Victorian literature by filling it with as much as possible that allows me to have that little reprieve from the stress of book and writing deadlines that have built up since I was last away. A return to Bali with London’s best photographer and my fave Emily is being prepped as well as other very exciting things with the family.

A few weeks ago, I could never have imagined feeling happy. Not just about life, but also about myself. You know when you look back and you’re like ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘Wow, I was really in my feelings about that person? Was I blind?’. A constant conversational topic for rosé-fuelled picnics is my terrible taste and you know what, they’re right. Brb going to my local Ace and Tate to get my eyes checked again!

Now, onto the part you’re here for. Sebastian Stan. Some of you may be asking, “Who is he? What’s he got to do with all of this?” Frankly, nothing. But we did meet and thus, I subsequently filled what was 2014 Samantha’s number one dream.

I’d only ever been to Comic Con once before in my life and that was way back in 2015. My memory of that is a lot of sweat and a very crowded Olympia exhibition centre, but when I found out that my 2014 celebrity crush Sebastian Stan, aka Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier in the Captain America movies, was attending MCM London, I caved and decided to brave the sweaty scenes once more like the trooper I am. Also, I have never dropped £84 so quickly in my life. Even though I’ve long outgrown my Marvel phase (literally haven’t seen any of the Avengers movies since Ultron and only just saw Black Panther last month in a Malaysian hotel room), I was committed.

Now, for timeline purposes, Comic Con was the day after I cried my eyes out on a train to London and strutted my sad stuff around Holland Park before grabbing espresso martinis and trash-talking/sobbing over how boys are the worst. Funnily enough, I almost didn’t make it. You see, after rounding up our philosophical chat with a 1am Maccies feast, I headed back to my hotel and checked-in.

Alas, I found that I could not sleep and it wasn’t 2014 Sam getting all giddy about meeting Sebastian Stan. After celebrating seemingly getting upgraded to a suite due to the very late check-in, I lay down and realised I was in a lot of pain. I ignored it for an hour until I noticed that my calves and ankles were quite dramatically swollen. After consulting with hotel staff and security about what to do, they whisked me to A&E which, thankfully, was practically next door.

While being wheeled in a chair across Waterloo Bridge clad only in my pyjamas at 5am isn’t my finest hour, I have to give major props to the security team at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. They really looked after me. One of them even sat with me while I waited to be seen which I thought was really lovely and they were kind enough to check up on me afterwards. With all the travelling I’ve done in the past month or so, it’s almost poetic how the best hotel service was essentially at home – big thank you to the team at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge!

I essentially did not wait for my results because I was determined to secure that Sebastian Stan photo op which is bad of me because health should come first, but I’d had a hellish 24 hours so sue me. I was out of there by 8am to make the lengthy taxi journey all the way to the ExCel for that 9:45am slot.

The mystery of the swollen legs can be attributed to the stress and sadness of the train ride the day before and not blood clots as feared. Nevertheless, I hobbled across the ExCel exhibition centre with my chunky legs and yesterday’s curls. Also, the MCM Comic Con staff were angels for letting me skip the loooong queue so I could fulfill 2014 Sam’s dreams, but also not over-exhaust my legs with excessive standing and make it in time for my train. While I’m thrilled I did manage to make it to Comic Con in the eventful end, I’m not in love with my photo as I had zero sleep, literally just left the hospital and had to rush getting ready.

I’m also mad because I’d been telling said person for awhile that I was going to Comic Con specifically on that weekend and he decides last minute that’s the weekend he wants to be a colossal arsehole. As one pal summed it up; “I have never seen you hate anyone more in your entire life.🐸☕️

However, Sebastian Stan was actually incredibly sweet and arguably the best person I’ve ever hugged in my entire twenty-one years. 10/10 would leave the hospital early again.

Before I can successfully wrap up this post, one last ‘thank you’ is in order to the phenomenal woman I am pictured with above: my mother.

She’s been my favourite shoulder to cry on since I was a baby, but her unwavering support throughout everything I’ve gone through these past dismal six months or so has meant the world to me. Also, I think I speak for everyone who’s joined me and been keeping up with the travel blogs, when I say that she is clearly a better photographer than Tinder Boy ever was.

Now, I’ll go back to stuffing my face with carrot cake and sipping red wine in the sunshine. I promise there’s lots more travel and book content scheduled while I’m off trotting the globe – but first, a little relaxation is in order!

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