What’s real anymore

I’ve been away from Facebook and Instagram for a fortnight now. It doesn’t mean I haven’t opened either of them, I have. It has been either for work or just to quickly check my notifications. But all this has been just a quick check. I haven’t scrolled through any feeds or posted anything.

On the one hand, it has been a bit hard. I am so used to still killing time by scrolling and finding what else to do with this time has been a strugglr. I went for a walk and got some nice photos but couldn’t share them. I still feel like maybe I’m missing something important. On the other hand, it has been incredibly easy. In fact, I feel like I have proved my point that I can step away but at the same time I don’t want to go back because nothing has actually changed.

I also realised that one of the reasons I have stayed away is the lack of authenticity. It dawned on me when I was speaking to someone. They had been out snow boarding just a few miles away from here when we still had snow. They showed me a video of them throwing a wobble after face planting in the snow. What made me realise why I wanted to stay away from social media was what was said next. They said, “I was upset because I had had the longest run of the afternoon before falling down but that wasn’t on the video. And I felt, what’s the point, the video wasn’t even on!”

Suddenly the alarm bells started ringing. The experience didn’t have a point for them because it wasn’t caught video and therefore it couldn’t be shared on social media. Wow. Maybe it wasn’t meant so bluntly but it certainly came out like that.

That moment I realised why I no longer wanted to do things that I used to like such as going for a walk or a run. Normally, I would share my experience by way of photos on social media. I wouldn’t go for a walk just to get an Instagram post out of it, rather I would just want to share the beauty of nature and the amazing feeling it gave me (garnished with a healthy amount of showing off). However, I have noticed with certain people around me that the reason for going out lies in getting a great post out of it that would make their lives seems so awesome. And I don’t want to play that game. What’s the point of complaining the whole walk uphill about the weather and how hard if is just to then post a dreamy picture of looking into the distance at the summit. #blessed #somerandommotivationalquote #NOTREAL

I genuinely used to love being outdoors. I could go and just get a rest from my brain and I wanted to celebrate that because getting simple joy out of nature was such a healing sensation. Now I feel like that experience has been soiled by the Instagram hikers who go out to create an illusion of an outdoorsy life. I feel like the things I used to love are not real anymore. They’ve become the “cool thing” to do and I’ve never been cool in my life. I feel that if I were to post a photo of a walk it would be classed together with those highly thought through Pinterest worthy compositions and it would just make the experience not real. Summiting a hill wasn’t about the photo oportunity for me, it was about the experience of doing it and about that moment of sitting down, sweating and out of breath, and feeling like I had achieved something. I now feel like a liar if I were to do it. I also feel like if I can’t have an amazing photo out of the walk, I have failed in the eyes of the society.

It sounds stupid and full of bullshit, but I feel like there’s so little that’s authentic in the life around me and that people have become fake too. When you struggle with self-confidence and trying to fit in/belong somewhere, this fakeness is so difficult to stomach. It makes me feel incredibly lonely because I don’t trust anything or anyone to be real. I can’t really feel any connection with anyone around me.

Worst of all, it makes me feel fake and I hate it.

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How one “should” look at the summit

(Source http://pinterest.com/pin/387942955383280331/?source_app=android)

How I look at the summit (or in this case, half way up to the summit)

How I didn’t go to Mosedale

For a few days I have been planning to come here and write about my sorry state. Today is my one real day off (i.e. I only spent an hour replying to emails…) and I was planning to spend it on whinging and asking for cyber sympathy. But then instead I decided to get over myself a bit and go out.

I considered going for a run but with hindsight I am glad I didn’t. Instead I decided to walk down to Mosedale, sit on a bridge that goes over the beck there and have a good think. So I packed my hydration pack with only a map, some water and a thermos cup of hot tea, put on my boots and headed out. I slid my way down to Keld and on to the concrete road and headed up towards the hills. As I was walking up the track I saw a herd of deer in running away in the distance. There must have been about 15 of them. I have never seen deer in this part of hills and never such a big herd. It was easy enough to see them thanks to the overwhelming whiteness of the surroundings.

The sky in the distance looked ominous, it really looked like the weather was coming in. Good, I thought, it goes well with my general mood.

One thing I hadn’t taken into account was how difficult the walking over the moor would be in the snow. I couldn’t see anyone else’s footprints going the way I was going. Even without the snow, there really isn’t a visible path despite one marked on the map. So what I normally do is to make a beeline to the dry stone wall I am supposed to follow for a few miles where there is a track that makes walking easier. The ground is bog central at the best of times. Today it was also covered with plenty of snow. It is hard work trudging through the snow up to your ankles, it’s even harder when every other step you sink knee deep into the snow and the underlying bog. It felt like a metaphor of my recent days: I can walk through my days like nothing’s wrong and the bang! Suddenly I sink knee deep into self-pity that leaves me sitting on my arse looking stupid.

After what felt like hours I finally made it to the wall but the track I was hoping to find had also disappeared. The walking didn’t become any easier. I gave up on the plans of going to Mosedale. It would be too much of a trek in these conditions. Instead, I revised the route to drop down to Wet Sleddale and make my way home from there.

Hardly anyone walks that route, especially in the snow like we are having. It’s a bleak part of the Lake District, even the names on the map suggest that: Bleak Dod, Peat Hill, Bleak Hill, Wet Sleddale. I have yet to meet a more descriptive place name than the latter. However, in the untouched whiteness it looked less miserable and more just completely removed from civilization. The wind was coming from the west which meant that that it didn’t bring with it the noise of the M6 behind me and kept my crackling of snow from the herd of deer I could still see in the distance.

I kept trudging on, falling every now and again and getting my feet soaked in bogs. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to get my moment on the bridge in Mosedale but it was actually okay. At least I was out, which is more than I can say about the last few months.

By the time I reached the reservoir at Wet Sleddale, I realised that the sky had cleared and the sun was out. The nasty wind that has been blowing for about a week was gone. The surface of the water looked like a huge mirror reflecting the snow-covered hills. I have never seen Wet Sleddale looking so beautiful. I have been there a number of times and it’s not a spot you’d consider classically picturesque. Its charm lies in its bleakness. But today I don’t think anyone can argue how gorgeous this valley looked. And that made me feel better. It gave me a tiny glimmer of something resembling hope.

The clear skies also seemed to clear the dark thoughts that clouded my brain this morning. No, I’m not saying that I am suddenly okay and happy and cured. No. But this walk managed to save the day which would have otherwise been spent sulking on the sofa. The very least, it helped to pass the hours quicker.

Altogether I walked 13.4K over 3 hours 45 minutes.

Why I am taking a break from social media

Today I deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps from my devices. Why? Because I need a break and a chance to see clearly without the filters. I have already written about how I live a life with an Instagram filter but only in the last few days did I realise how much I am actually influenced by social media and how anxious and depressed it can make me.

Over the last week, I have suffered through some pretty horrible nights. I have found myself unable to sleep and my brain has been working overtime. I have wound myself up to a point where I found it difficult to breathe or just to exist. As a result I haven’t been feeling great all around. I’m scared of going to bed because I don’t know whether I am able to sleep tonight or have to go through the ordeals again.

What has helped me a bit over these last few days has been shutting off my phone and making an effort not to check it after going to bed. It might seems such an obvious thing but it has given me a few extra hours each night. I realised that one of the things that I kept checking was whether someone was “communicating” with me. I was checking for acknowledgment from others in the form of likes and comments on my photos on Instagram and Facebook. I kept trying to figure out what to post to make my life seem more interesting and to collect more likes.

I realise that this a dangerous road to go down. There are never enough likes to fill the void I thought I was feeling. I have been feeling very alone and vulnerable recently, like I am isolated from people around me. I thought that Instagram and Facebook would help me connect with people, but in fact, they made me feel worse. I know that most people tap twice on a post on Instagram just out of a habit without giving it much attention. Tap-tap, scroll, tap-tap, scroll… I do that, so why do I expect anyone else to concentrate any more. So in the end, those likes that I was so desperately expecting didn’t really fill my desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be comforted in feeling alone and scared.

And when you are feeling alone and scared, other people’s carefully constructed and edited lives don’t make you feel any better either. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to what other people post on social media, but it’s difficult not to when you are feeling down. I felt like I am not pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough. I felt like I am not enough. So although I was scrolling through the feed in search for escape, it was getting even more locked up in my negative thoughts.

I didn’t delete my accounts and I have every intention to returning to them but I just need a week or two, or even just a few days of staying away. A few days where I don’t have to compare myself to what I could be. A few days when I don’t have to think about creating an image. I need a few days where I can feel my feelings and learn to not to mask them with filters. I need to learn not to look for acknowledgement somewhere where it’s not actually given.

Is it going to be difficult? I have no doubt it will be incredibly difficult. I have no problem admitting a certain addiction to social media. It will so tempting to scroll through Instagram posts first thing in the morning and refreshing Facebook feed as a break at work. It will take a while not to think about my day in terms of what interesting I could post on Instagram. It will feel even more lonely. But I hope it will hurt a little less, I hope I can sleep again with a bit more peace of mind knowing that I have chosen to miss it all. I hope I can at least for a minute stop comparing my life with others and feeling like a complete failure.

A stranger

I had a little bit of a rough ride emotionally in 2017. Looking at the big picture and everything that has gone on, I haven’t really had a bad year. Although this season was much more stressful at work, it also taught me a lot of things and somewhere deep inside of me is now a tiny corner of confidence named “Maybe I’m not completely shit at this”.

However, I’ve had a difficult year in controlling my thoughts and my emotions. Although there have been plenty of wonderful moments, there have also been some very, very dark days and nights. I promised myself at the beginning of last year that I will name my demons and thus be rid of them. The reality hasn’t been quite this simple. I have named a few of them but that hasn’t really helped me feel better. Instead, some days I feel even more desperate because although I know these demons, but I don’t know how to vanquish them.

Between all of that, the joy of being alive has slipped away from me a bit. I thought about it first a few months ago. This summer, my Employer took me along paddle boarding on Ullswater a few times and ever since then he has urged me to buy a board. I was (and still am) reluctant to rush into it as it’s expensive kit and I’m not sure how much I would use it. To that my Employer said, “Don’t think about it like that. I would think about it what brings you enjoyment in life.” Even then, I wasn’t sure how to answer that as I was struggling with enjoying life.

A few weeks ago, I had another bad day of feeling sorry for myself and my life and I realised again that it’s been a while since I have really felt joy. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and found pictures from my first summer in Cumbria. What stabbed me most deeply was that I didn’t recognise myself on the pictures. There were photos of the walks I had taken; of the night I spent wild camping at Grisedale Tarn and of walking back to Shap the next day. Who was that girl? She was clearly enjoying life, full of joy and feeling alive. She didn’t care for the mud and sweat. She knew how to switch off her brain. I cannot believe she’s me.

This year, I have struggled to get out of bed and out of house. I have hardly been to the hills. It would be easy to blame it on work but I was working on the same job last summer and was just as busy. In fact, this summer I actually had nights and mornings when I wasn’t working. Yet I didn’t find the energy to go out exploring. I think partly because I was too scared to ruin the hills for myself. I was afraid of not being able to find peace there and not actually enjoying it because my mind was troubled with negative thoughts. But also I was so exhausted by those same thoughts that I just couldn’t find the energy and the calling for it.

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I had plenty of happy moments in 2017 but I miss those hours spent out hiking in the hills. I miss the fells. I miss that girl who felt most alive in the hills. I wish I knew how to find her again because life without enjoyment is pretty dull and I’m getting really tired of it.

Tuesday with a difference

I have always disliked Tuesdays; they are definitely my least favourite day of the week. And this morning felt like it’s going to be just another usual Tuesday. I was feeling achy and tired like I had a cold coming. I had spent a sleepless night listening if my tap was still running. I moved into my new cabin and with the cold spell we have had, I woke up Monday morning with no water due to a frozen water pipe. Hence I left the tap running to keep it from freezing again.

I had plenty of plans to keep me occupied work-wise for most of the day from dealing with the emails to putting up Christmas decorations. So I forced myself out of bed about twenty past eight. I put my new whistling kettle on to make some tea and wrapped myself into my throw on the couch. No sooner had I sat down, than LA knocked on my door and popped her head in: “Do you want to go ice skating?”. Assuring me that there are skates that I could borrow, I was in the car 10 minutes later.

We stopped in Orton to pick up the skates from the Blues (quite a posh countryside family, but utterly charming) and headed to their secret hut and pond towards Sunbiggin.

The ice on the pond was amazing! The smoothest I’ve yet seen in nature. At first I was a bit hesitant as the ice wasn’t particularly thick but my confidence grew as I skated along. And the views were glorious: the snow-covered Howgills and the frosty winter sun! What a morning! And all of this in a secret little place with no sign of civilization anywhere!

I had so much fun skating and attempting a bit of ice hockey that I forgot that I hadn’t had any breakfast until someone mentioned sausages. Suddenly I was hungry! I am a firm believer in breakfast being the most important meal of the day. Every now and again it’s my only meal of the day…

The hut provided much needed break from the cold. The clouds and fog were gathering and the wind was picking up, so my fingers were getting a bit numb. The coal fire and the shot of The Kings Ginger Liqueur from Mr Blue helped to regain some heat (I must say it’s not often that I have stiff drink before my first meal of the day).

The barbecue was emptied of ice and lit, sausages and burgers were sent on it to make some sausage rolls. These really hit the spot! Unfortunately, the weather was turning to thaw and the conditions on the ice seemed to get a bit too scary for me. The boys had a game of hockey until they found it too hairy as well and called it a day. A quick warm up in the hut and we were back home by three o’clock.

It had been such a different morning and early afternoon. I had never imagined being able to skate on anything other than an ice rink in this country. The gorgeous weather in the morning, the great company of these mad but wonderful people and the pure magic of ice skating just completely turned my day around.

Yes, I felt frozen to the bone when I got back and only now, about 4 hours later am I starting to feel warm again. But I could come to my cabin, light the fire that is making the house so toasty, make myself a cup of tea and catch up with work on the comfort of my couch. Yes, there was plenty I couldn’t tick off my list but after the last two weeks of solid work, I almost didn’t feel guilty about that.

This Tuesday, in fact, was pretty alright!

Where’s Stanley?

One of the most used phrases over the last 11 days of renovations at New Ing Lodge Stanley being, of course, a Stanley knife – a tool that tends to just walk off as if to say “I’ve had enough of this madhouse”.

The process of renovations is always hectic and rushed in the house. Mainly because we are working to a strict deadline. We had to be ready by Thursday because we had guests checking in. Over the last two years that I’ve worked here, I’ve seen a few of those mad spells. Twice I’ve been completely ill while pushing through it. It’s not very much fun climbing on ladders and painting ceilings when you are fighting to stay conscious with a fever. But the show must go one; in a small place like this, it’s all hands on deck to get everything done.

This time we had 12 days to put down a new oak flooring in our lounge and dining room as well as in the halls on the ground floor. The hallway walls needed plastering (our hope of finding a double fireplace in one of the old walls faded on the very first day) and all the walls needed a fresh lick of paint and new skirting boards had to go on in the hall. Simples, right?

If there’s anything I’ve learnt over the last two years, it’s that things take longer than expected. I have become quite a pessimist just to balance of the unrealistic optimism of my Employer. But even I fall into the trap of thinking that things can be done quicker. After the living and dining room floor got laid, it was pretty much solely my responsibility to get it painted. I started on Tuesday at about 4pm thinking I’d have two coats of paint everywhere by the end of Thursday. I painted until 9 pm on Wednesday (with a break for dinner in between), throughout Wednesday, which happened to be my birthday (and 3 tradesmen and my Employer came in with a cake singing and Employer forced me to stop working at 5pm!) and only finished rollering and brushing by Friday noon time.

The tradesman aren’t always the most reliable of species. It took way longer to plaster the walls than it should have because of the plasterer’s inability to get on site in time. This obviously held everyone else up. If you’re working tao tight schedule, it can get quite stressful. Luckily for us, there were other who would come in on Saturday to help us get things done.

Weekends are also not ideal for getting work done, especially if you happen to go for birthday beers to the Fell in Penrith on Friday and they have some great stuff on. The Monk and the Employer have trained me to like craft beer and the Fell is definitely the place to go around here for some great ales. Unfortunately for me, they had, among other great stuff, an excellent mango IPA at 7.2% and a sticky toffee imperial stout at 10% on, which made for a very rough Saturday (and some completely inadequate conversations Friday night…). I ended up laying the floor with the Little Man From Sedbergh (our joiner) and we used a different type of glue which had an absolutely vile smell. It was nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t spill my guts there and then.

The Little Man From Sedbergh is from a completely different planet. The stories he tells (like of his 80-year-old uncle who got banned from a supermarket for inappropriate behaviour) are absolutely mad. And if you happen to work with him for more than a day, you’ll hear them several times. Those last two weeks would have been much more of a drag without his bad jokes (“I asked him how he can make so many mistakes in one day and he said he gets up early.”) and his constant singing. I find the thick Cumbrian accent also rather soothing to the ear.

With a help of a few later evenings and despite me slightly throwing my toys out on Wednesday, we actually managed to finish the work in time and by 5 o’clock on Thursday evening, we were as ready as we could be. Yes, there are still bits that need finishing but on the whole, the house was clean and ready for guests again. I must admit that I didn’t think that would happen as peacefully as it did. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the results, even the Off-White no. 3 that I hated look good on the walls! (The before and after photos don’t really look that different but in real life, the difference feel huge!)

When I started working here two years ago in September, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know that my job involved being part the crazy and unrealistic renovation projects as well as making beds and serving the customers. And as much as I hate being covered by plaster dust for days on end and waiting for your skin cells renew to get the paint off, there’s some perverse delight in the job. I have always been better at the theoretical than the practical but I like doing “real” work and being part of the renovations.

I, in a way, enjoy getting my hands dirty, literally. One of my pet hates is women who think that their gender is a reason they can’t do or shouldn’t be doing something. Women who say “It’s a boy job”. For me, if “the boys” are working, I want to be working. I don’t care that it’s not a clean or glamurous job, I’ll get on with it. I do stuff just to prove a point, which may occasionally end with me lifting heavier items than I should be and putting my back out. (However, after nearly two hours of spreading that horrible glue for floor boards, I did shout at the Employer that I f#%$ing hated that job. But that was mainly because that smell really didn’t mix well with my hangover.) There’s something liberating in walking around in old paint-stained clothes and a bun that is actually a massive knot in your hair that hasn’t been touched for a week. I’d rather impress people with my work ethic than with my looks (I can’t count on the latter anyway!).

However, I’m glad we’re done and now allowing my aching body to rest in my new little cabin and I am actually looking forward to catching up with the computer based jobs!

Home is like…

I had to write seven similes for my creative writing class. The idea of the task is to observe something really closely and practise your skills of description. I don’t feel particularly strong when it comes to describing anything, so instead I choose a more abstract notion and tried to find similes for that. The word I chose was home.

I have struggled with the meaning and definition of home for a while now, even before I moved out of my home country. I feel often feel “homeless” or “rootless”. I have never owned a place, so I don’t feel like there’s been a place that is mine alone, my home.

Obviously, there’s the home I grew up in. My parents still live there and I visit it as often as possible. (When I lived in Estonia, at least once a month, usually even more often.) For a brief period I moved back there only to realise that if you have moved out of home at the age of 15, it is difficult to move back again ten years later. I think a while ago I might have really hurt my mother’s feelings when I tried to talk to her about not having a home. She then in complete confusion tried to explain that I have a home there, with them. And I can’t argue with that. It is a home but It’s not my home, it’s our home.

For a brief period when I lived in Tallinn, I rented a small tiny bedsit in a slightly dodgy area (I always felt pretty safe there). This was the first time in my life that I didn’t live with anyone else. I had the whole flat to myself (the whole 16 square metres!), I didn’t have to share anything. I didn’t have to take someone else’s plans into consideration when making my own. I could have friends over whenever I wanted. I liked that freedom.

Although that tiny, tight space might have been just mine (even though I was renting it), Tallinn was never a place that I felt at home in. I have realised now that I am not a city person and as many perks as there were about living in Tallinn, I wasn’t a fan. The one place I had really felt like home had been in Cumbria and Lake District.

So I moved here. But I no longer have a space to call my own. For last two years I have inhabited a room in the loft (i.e I’m the madwoman in the attic!) where I needed to move out over weekends as the house gets taken over by groups. I then move into the spare bedroom of my employers. They have beautiful house but I can’t help but feel like a guest and out of place.

However, when it comes to my surroundings, I have never felt more at home. I love the life in a small village, where people are polite and if they don’t know you, they are likely to know of you. The skyline of fells in the distance has become so familiar and at the same time, awe-strucking and surprising every time I look at it. On the one hand, it has been difficult to fit into a small community and my almost non-existent social life is at its all the low. On the other hand, I have been welcomed so warmly by so many people around here. About 18 months ago, I was heading for a run when a woman stopped me just outside the village, “You live in the village, don’t you? Why don’t you join our running group on Thursday nights?” And that’s how I ended up meeting fun people who like to run together and who in a way helped me to enjoy my first half-marathon. A few weeks ago I was being lazy and went to the local cafe for my lunch and got greeted with a hug from the owner. These little things mean so much to me. So although I haven’t made any real close friends (my employers excluded) or met the love of my life, I still feel like I have been noticed and acknowledged in the community. (I still feel crippling loneliness and homesickness for friends and family often enough…)

Will I ever be able to join all the dots that would mean to have my home for real? I don’t know. I appreciate the fact that I will always have a home with my parents. I appreciate even more that once when I was talking to S, my employer about this feeling of homelessness he said that I would always have a home here as well.

What makes a home for me then? It’s not so much about what the actual physical space is like but about the whole deal. It’s having my own space, something that is really mine. It’s about having that space in an environment that feels like a community. And it’s about having my people, my friends within that community. Is it too much to ask? Perhaps. God knows I can’t afford to step on the property ladder anytime soon unless I win the lottery or dig up that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Maybe I’ll forever be homeless and rootless and having to compromise.

Estonia – a flying visit

We had another week at the guesthouse this August booked by a group for sole use and since I had been “on call” for the previous one, it was my time to go away. Since my last visit to homeland had been in January, it was time to show my face again and save the real travelling for after the season ends.

It must be a sign of getting older but travelling is no longer as exciting as it used to be. I used to love airports, how simple and straightforward they are. I now find them annoying. Especially if you are trying to be frugal and spend the night there for an early morning flight. Glasgow airport is especially annoying because their benches have armrests between every seat so you can’t even have a sneaky nap. It’s also getting quite exhausting that I can’t get a direct flight to Estonia from this end of the country. So when you land in Riga, it’s still a long way from home. Previously I have flown to Tallinn, but since the flights were super expensive, I decided not to this time. So by the time I landed, I was not only bursting for a wee (I’ve never used the toilet in an airplane and refused to do it when it was only half an hour before landing), I was also sleep deprived and exhausted before I even reached home.

My mum and dad volunteered to pick me up and we had a roadtrip back home with a compulsory sea break near Salacgriva and a booze shop just off the border (alcohol is much cheaper in Latvia). I only nodded off a few times on the back seat and kept the parents company most of the way.

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A little indulgence in Paisley before the uncomfortable night at Glasgow Airport

After a good night’s sleep and a slow morning, I was off to Viljandi to meet up with my adopted family. J, who now lives in California, and I overlapped in our visits to homeland and as we hadn’t seen each other for a good few years, a reunion was mandatory. Especially, since she had got engaged a few days before we met and I was in for a chance to meet the lucky man for the first time. Before I stepped on the train, J asked if I’d be willing to do a kind of engagement photoshoot for them. I reluctantly agreed, mainly because they (and I mean, she) wanted to do it in the wetlands and I was dying to go there.

I was reluctant because I am not a photographer. I have a DSLR that I can barely use (it’s not even mine) and my photo editing skills end with moving the scales for light and colour settings on Google Photos. Luckily it was a beautiful evening and the setting sun created a gorgeous light. J & C were naturals at posing, so I just needed to point and shoot. In the end, I’m really pleased with the photos that I took.

Dips in to the marsh pool and a sauna later made for a perfect finish to the night. After a leisurely breakfast I went to see my aunt who lives just outside the town. I never told her I was coming as she is always home, so it was nice to surprise her. It meant a lot for me to go and see her, as I am never sure when will be the last time I see her. So whenever I’m in Estonia, I make sure to visit her. It warmed my heart to see her in good form and spirits and it gave me hope that I’ll see her again Christmas time.

Friday night was booked for a meet up with the girls from uni. I met K and K at the airport as they landed from their trip to London as well as S who had come straight from the office in Tartu just to hang out with us. We had a quick meal and then took a bottle of wine to the roof of the now empty concert hall Linnahall to watch the sunset. We ended our night in Telliskivi and after copious amount of wine, I was in bed by 4am.

Saturday was Estonian Night Run and in the morning I was really regretting signing up for it. Not just because of the headache and tiredness but also because due to various injuries, I had only been for a run a couple of times in months leading up to it. In fact, I remember the day I signed up for it, I went for a first big(gish) walk after injurying my foot at a wedding in May. I came back limping quite badly again. My foot seemed to be properly heal by the run. It was just my general physical fitness that had gone down the drain in the summer months and the five extra kilos I am carrying don’t necessarily help.

However, the run went much better than I expected. It had been really stuffy and scorching throughout the day but as I was standing in start among thousands of people, I could see the massive storm clouds gathering. I thought it would start raining before we’d be able to even set off, but it was only 10 minutes before I finished that the heavens opened up and the biggest thunder storm of the last few years took over. I crossed the finish line with a very pleasing result of 1:02:40 absolutely soaked. Very ladylike, I just used my mum’s rain poncho to give some cover while I changed every item of clothing in the middle of a parking lot in town center. I had felt really good and strong throughout the run and even my dodgy knee kept it together. (It could be that my knee was just so pleased about running on flat ground that it forgot to give me grief!)

On Monday, I my dad insisted on going for a road trip and we headed out towards Lake Peipus on the roads less travelled. I had only one request for the trip: I really wanted some pelmeens (a kind of dumplings). We stopped in Äksi Motel, which according the the placard by the church, was opened in 1989 and I don’t think much of it’s interior has changed since them. However, they had pelmeens on their menu and that satisfied my cravings. It was almost nostalgic eating there, reminded me the simple lunch canteens of my hometown where we used to have occasional lunches when I was growing up.

The weather didn’t exactly feel like going for a swim, so our main attraction by Lake Peipus was cruising through the villages and buying some local onions (the region is famous for their onions!) and smoked walleye as well as some pickled cucumbers to go with the fish. It was a real feast that night for dinner at home!

On Tuesday, it was time to pack my bag and head to Tallinn, to spend the last night with my sister and her kids. I got us some chanterelles from the new market at the train station and after we’d put the kids to bed, we tasted some wonderful craft beers and stayed up on the couch till way past midnight. The bus that took me back to Riga left at 6 o’clock the next morning and I landed back in Shap about 15 hours later.

I noticed a few things during my visit this time. Firstly, the first day or so, I slightly struggled with speaking Estonian. More than once, I found myself automatically saying yes or no in English in answer to the question. Secondly, I’ve really got used to the code of politeness here according to which you say generally greet the people you meet, say thank you if someone holds a door open or let you cross the road. Out of habit, I said hello to few people I didn’t know in my hometown and got a very stunned reaction from them. I’m no longer comfortable with not saying hello to people although I know it’s not about being rude. Finally, as I was on the train back from Glasgow towards Cumbria, I found comfort in the hills that defined the landscape. The vast and empty flatness of Estonia had felt a bit alien for me; I couldn’t grasp it. I am forever bragging to guests about how beautiful the wilderness of Estonia is and I truly believe it. But it seems that I need hills and fells and mountains to make me feel comfortable.

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It was an emotional trip being back, I found myself fighting with tears more than once. A tiny part of me had hoped that maybe it would bring me clarity about what to do next, but the truth is, I’m even more confused. I’m unsure where is home: is it here or is it in Estonia? Maybe it’s somewhere else all together?

Life with Instagram filter

It is a popular talking point that social media isn’t an honest reflection of reality (no shit, Sherlock!). Our Instagram photos are edited and show triumphs and things we are proud of, our Facebook post aim to reflect how interesting our lives are and so on. I agree and I am guilty of the same crimes. However, I don’t think this is only true online. Many people put up a false front in offline as well.

I know I do. And I am pretty sure I am not the only one.

I’m one of those people who tend to walk through the days seemingly without a care in the world. I joke with customers and colleagues, I get on with work and find little extra bits to do. Every now and again I do some exercise and go on hikes. I talk about plans for future and seem excited about them. I can take and make jokes on my behalf. I talk about how lucky I am to live on the edge of the Lake District  and how much I love the hills. Every now and again, I attend social events and gatherings and chill out.

If you look at my Instagram account, it will probably tell you a similar story about me.

Someone meeting me for the first time might think I’m the most easy-going and carefree person in the world. And most of my friends, family and colleagues probably think something similar.

That’s my real life Instagram filter, a carefully constructed image. Just like no one would be impressed with mundane updates on social media, no one would find the reality of what I am particularly interesting or easy-going. Anxiety and depressive thoughts aren’t exactly the ice breakers that get the party started.

It’s as much about impressing other people as it is about self-preservation. I’m not sure if I could cope with day-to-day life without constructing this other (better) version of myself. It’s what keeps me going, it gets me out of bed in the morning. At the same time, it’s incredibly tiring and it makes it almost impossible to ask for help because my life appears to be so perfect, what reasons could I possibly have to be tired of it.

Just like we can’t see what’s been cropped out of Instagram photos, we don’t know what really goes on inside a person in real life. There are plenty of people who seem to be happy and genuinely are. But I bet there are just as many people who are using the happiness filter to hide the fact that this false front is the only thing that keeps them from falling apart.

The language issue

I am Estonian but I write in English instead of my mother tongue. It might seem like I’m just trying to shake off my national identity and score points in being cool and international but it isn’t quite that simple.

I have a degree in the English language and literature and I was trained to write coherently and clearly in this language. I live and work in the UK and I am the one who tells my employers, both native English speakers, how to spell words. Honestly, their spelling is quite questionable. For two weeks we offered deserts (sic!) as part of our menu. However much I’d like to take the mickey, I would be in the same position in Estonian. I haven’t really written much in Estonian after finishing school and I keep questioning the grammar and spelling. Bizarrely I feel much more comfortable and confident writing in English and this is one of the main reasons I choose to write this blog in English.

Obviously, by writing in English, I could potentially reach a wider audience. There are hell of a lot more people who can read English than there are people who can speak my tiny little language. Also, I know people around the globe who might be interested in reading what I write and not every one of them speaks Estonian, but they do all speak English. Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca of the world.

Besides those obvious reasons, there is a more personal and psychological reason for choosing English. As a member of a very small language community (approximately only 1 million people speaking the language), my mother tongue is a little bit sacred for me. It’s a language of secrets and personal stories. I feel that I am much more vulnerable and much more naked if I use my mother tongue. By using English language, I am as if building a barrier between myself and what I put out there. It’s me, but censored through translating it into English. I feel more removed from my feelings and thoughts if they are not written in Estonian. It’s still me writing here as honestly as possible, but English allows me to feel more comfortable about opening my soul because I am not using a secret code. It might also be the thought that my parents cannot read English and therefore I feel more comfortable using the language that would “protect” them from my thoughts.

I live and work in the English language environment, I think in English a lot of the time just to save energy. I read and write in English. The songs and the films around me are all in English. Estonian is my secret language, something that’s only mine in this place far away from home.
So by choosing to write in English, I am not trying to be pretentious and rootless. Instead, I am trying to protect my identity outside the world wide web.