• Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7

I think we go back to our childhood selves when we become adults. With every birthday and every New Year's Eve I find myself saying I feel like I know myself more and I feel more like myself and I suppose that's an obvious thing, since we learn as the years tick by, but I think it's more than that. When I was a teenager, and I think this is true for a lot of us, I was obsessed with being someone else, someone I aspired to be, who I thought others wanted me to be. I wanted to get as far away from that weird child with the imaginary friend as I could, but that's me, that fearless, creative, introspective kid. And sixteen year old 2009 Mathilde was as well, she was just more insecure, more scared and wore too much eyeliner. Through my teens, and early twenties, I forgot about childhood me a little. I'm 26 now and nowhere near feeling like an adult yet, but I do feel like I'm finding my way back to 1999 me, year by year.

2019 was packed with experiences, joy, stress, life lessons and wonderful people. I lost myself and found myself again, at least twice. It simultaneously feels like it flew by and lasted for an age, especially when I look back at what my life looked like twelve months ago. Back in January, I had quite a lot of spare time, perhaps too much. I started a good routine for myself, including yoga every morning and I eventually started to take writing more seriously. This was enormously helped by meeting my wonderful writing friend in April and going to my first writer's retreat later that month. Writing became my priority and through the month of May I took on a writing challenge and started posting poetry to Instagram. I learned to let go of perfectionism and embrace creative self expression. In June I started this blog, which became an extension of that. I'm so proud to be able to say that I, with this fifteenth post, have successfully posted every fortnight since it started (yay me!).

June was an important month, giving me a blog, a second job and a band. The blog has kept me writing, which I've learned from previous years, is absolutely vital for me to do. The job gave me more security and financial comfort. Audiokicks have to be top of the list. They gave me music, belonging and friendship and joining them has meant more to me than I could ever have known back in June. Thank you, guys!

When Autumn came around, I had more work than I've ever had, I was writing more actively than before and I was back to creating music every week. I felt unstoppable, until I was forced to stop. I learned the hard way where my limits are. It turns out working six to seven day weeks, writing a book, being in a band and volunteering while maintaining a social life and putting everyone else first isn't a good idea. So I learned to slow down. I learned to take care of myself. Paraphrasing one of the new friends I made this year: I learned I needed to be less of a dog and more of a cat. I learned to start respecting my own needs.

2019 took me to Copenhagen, Jotunheimen, Edinburgh, London, Oslo, Trondheim and Iceland. I saw Spice Girls live in Edinburgh and fourteen year old me's dream came true seeing McFly live at the O2. I saw my childhood and teenage heroes and discovered a lot of new music. I met some wonderful people, made close friends and grew closer to older friends I was starting to lose touch with (even hearing from an old friend I hadn't heard from in 14 years!). I didn't quite manage to read the 25 books I set out to or run the 10 k, but I did run 7.89 km and I'm now about to finish book #21. I didn't send my book to an agent, but I made a lot of progress on the second draft. I didn't learn how to drive, or start learning Spanish again, but that's the nature of resolutions. They need to change and evolve as life does. We can't know what the year will be, but we can start it with intention. And for the things we don't manage this year, there's time next year. And the year after that, and as long as I'm getting to know myself better and creating a life for myself that fits me, I'll call that success in progress.

In 2020 I look forward to trips to the Alps, New York City and Orkney. I look forward to more time spent with friends, old and new, and creating music both for myself and with the band. I look forward to touring, recording, writing and learning. I step into 2020 with full time work, a band I couldn't be happier with and a novel in the making. I step into this new decade with more knowledge about myself and what I need, with the creative energy of my childhood self. Maybe I'll find some of her fearlessness along the way too. I say this every year, but I truly have feeling this too will be a good one. Happy new year to you all!

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7

It's that time of year again and this time around I've thought a lot about Christmas and what it means to me. In the parts of the world where Christmas is celebrated, we all have very different relationships to the holidays. Some of us love it, some of us hate it and some of us don't really care about it. Some of us go all out, some of us don't celebrate it and some can't wait for it to be over. There are so many sides to Christmas, both good and bad, spanning from materialism and consumption, to charity and generosity. Envy, love, loneliness, connection, kindness, greed. It's a time that can bring out the worst and the best in us and it's definitely not surprising that it's a complicated time that can take its toll on our mental health.

Knitwear and hot drinks: two of my favourite things in life

So here's me, reflecting on my relationship to Christmas in blog form, as I do most of my reflecting these days. First, I should disclaim that I am a very christmassy person, from a very christmassy family, what with my sister's birthday being at Christmas and all. I'm one of those annoying people who, come December 1st, goes into full festive mode. I love this time of year with the decorations, the treats, the music (yes the music), the giving (and receiving), the cards, the films and all that comes with it. Christmas, to me, is a time for appreciation, and after it comes that golden opportunity for reflection that is New Year's Eve, which I also love. More on that in my next post.

I'm incredibly privileged to have the family I have, allowing for Christmas to be as joyful a time as it is for us. We have countless traditions that have evolved and changed over the years, as our family has evolved and changed and in a way each Christmas is simultaneously the same and totally different. This year will be my second time spent away from my family, and my first time hosting. It'll be just me, my other half and my brother (so I suppose it's not entirely away from family), but it will be different. Tonight, I sit on the last day of my pre-Christmas visit to my parents, grandmother, my sister and her family and I feel incredibly grateful for all of them. Instead of missing out, I've been given a stretched out Christmas, in a way. It's been stressful, cold and dark, but it's also been warm, wonderful, and delicious (thanks mum and dad for the mountain of food!). I've already been involved in the decoration of two Christmas trees and I've been able to spend some quality time with a lot of the people I care most about.

This year, I've attempted to refrain from getting caught up in the madness, with the intention of giving myself a less stressful Yuletide, but despite my efforts I've found myself worrying. Such is the case with general anxiety disorder. And such is the case with Christmas a lot of the time. Have I remembered everyone? Have we sent the cards early enough? Are the presents I’m giving good enough? Have I spent enough? Or too much? Will I manage to see everyone before Christmas? And the ultimate terror of disappointing anyone. With the pressure of being in the festive spirit and the cold, dark days Northern Europe has to offer, it can be a difficult time, and I've definitely felt that this year. It's made me think about why I love this time of year and, to be totally clichéd, what Christmas is all about.

I know others think the same things and ask themselves the same questions I do, as if we care so much that we doubt others see how much we care. But maybe we need to trust that the people we love love us too and know us. They know we care about them and could never be disappointed by what we choose to give them. Or how the motif on the Christmas cards compared to last year's.

I'm incredibly lucky to have the close relationship to my family that I have, and to be surrounded by wonderful friends, both near and far away. Christmas gives us an opportunity and a reminder to tell the people we love that we love them, to remind ourselves of the things we are grateful for and showing our friends and family that we appreciate them. It gives us a chance to appreciate what we have and lend a hand to those who have less. We get to look at ourselves and the people around us and remind ourselves to be generous and kind. In the darkest time of the year, we dress our houses and trees in fairy lights, sing carols and spend time with each other. Especially now that I live quite far away from my family, Christmas becomes an important part of staying close regardless.

It can be a stressful and anxiety inducing time. It can be lonely. The fairy lights can be blinding and the carols deafening, so let's not forget to be kind in the midst of the madness. Let's not forget what truly matters to us in our hunt for perfection. In this post I felt a need to stop and reflect on this hectic time, and I'm not sure of its coherence, but to anyone reading this, I thank you. I see you, I hear you and I wish you a peaceful Christmas.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Recently, I discovered that when you put yourself through too much, your body will let you know when it's time to slow down. I knew this from before, but I clearly didn't take it to heart, because last Sunday, my body shut down on me and I spent four days in bed. I was exhausted. Looking back at what I've been doing and looking at the month I had ahead of me, there is no question as to why this happened. I've worked far too much, been terrified of saying no to anyone and I've been far too concerned with not compromising on my goals. What this meant is I compromised on myself, to the point of exhaustion.

There wasn't all that much that needed to change for my day to day to become less overwhelming, and what I realise now is that it mainly boils down to my perspective on my own busy-ness and my own stress. I also realise it has to do with a little bit extra here and there amounting to a lot extra here and there and that by chipping away at yourself like I've done in a desperate attempt to please everyone, you risk letting them all down. Including yourself. It's one of the big faults in being human, this need to go against everyone's advice and learn the hard way. Everyone else could see I was overdoing it, but I kept going until I physically couldn't keep going anymore.

Newt Scamander says that worrying only makes you suffer twice and this is true for so many aspects of life. I've been worrying about not doing a good enough job, not being able to keep up with housework, exercise, cooking, writing, music, volunteering. I've been worried about other people's opinion of me, but what I never thought to worry about was myself. Worry can be a necessary thing, if you worry about the things it's actually worth while to worry about.

Today, I needed to write this post as a reminder and a promise to myself. Last week was a strange one, but it was also an invaluable one. Overall, I now see it was a good one. In a sense I lost myself and found myself again and it was wonderful feeling like myself after losing that for a little while. I now know to prioritise and that in order to achieve the things I want to achieve, I actually need to take care of myself in the process.

It's December now, a busy time for us all, and the time for reflecting, resolutions and goal setting are around the corner. Looking back at last years' list of goals, I haven't achieved all I set out to, but I've achieved so much that I wasn't expecting, as is the nature of things. Goals are not carved in stone. They can be changed and need to be changed as life unfolds and it's okay to let go of the strict timeline we put in place, for no apparent reason. I'm not giving up on these goals, but I'm moving them around and adjusting them to fit what my life looks like now.

To anyone reading this, I hope some of it makes sense. I also hope, in this busy time of Christmas and end of the year, that you remember to take care of yourself. There's no compromising on self care, because as limitless as we can feel, our bodies know where that limit is. And for the things we don't get done now, I'll attempt to translate my favourite Norwegian folk singer: "You will be given a day tomorrow, with crayons and blank sheets of paper."

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