Lesson 19: celebrating festivals

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Festivals have different rules to reality.

At festivals, I wear gold Lycra. I fall over in the mud and genuinely don’t care that it’s in my hair. I wee in strange places. I talk to strangers. I survive on warm cider and cereal bars. I’m drunk as a skunk at 11am. I dance with my eyes closed like no-one is watching. I’m covered in glitter. Glittery mud. I’m on a permanent high from hearing my favourite songs. With my favourite people.Feeling so much love as a collective. I’m part of a group. Part of an atmosphere. Utter contentment.

Festivals aren’t for everyone, but for me they are the epitomy of the Great British Summer. The anticipation, the planning, the unpredictability – all shrouded with hope and excitement. We unite in a mission to make this year the best-year ever. It’s addictive, infectious and something to focus on. There is nothing I enjoy more than packing up four outrageous outfits and heading for the fields with a crate in my arms, breaking away from the monotony of everyday life, if only to learn how to fully appreciate flushing toilets again.

I love festivals for exposing a part of me that remains hidden for most of the year. The part that doesn’t worry over the tiniest problems, like chipped nail varnish, or hoovering, or holes in my tights. For a few magical days, the most important things in the world are who’s on stage and who’s on next. And beer. And burgers. And more beer.

Some of the most memorable moments in my life have taken place at a festival. I sparked up an instant friendship with my now long-term boyfriend, bumping into him as I emerged bleary eyed from a porta-loo. I cried to Elton John singing Rocket Man on my birthday, while dressed as Elton John.  I danced for 12 hours straight and forgot to eat, covered in sequins and wearing a blue wig. There is something magical about being with a huge group of friends and knowing, just for a minute, you are all thinking and feeling the exact same thing. You’re all detached from real life but not from each other, and the bond you already shared is eternally stronger.

There is no hiding at a camping festival. Everyone sees you in all your glory. For someone who never leaves the house without makeup on, this is both incredibly scary and profoundly liberating. You remember that it’s ok not to care sometimes, and to take yourself a little less seriously. Suddenly there are more important things in life than deadlines, work and money. For four – maybe more – blissful days, having fun becomes your sole occupation. You’re a teenager again. The beauty of it being that you eventually crave the routine and cleanliness of your old life, ready to return to your bed and dry clothes.

Anything that encourages creativity is to be commended. To ensure people learn to let go, dance, have fun with their friends and listen to amazing music. Life really is too short not to. If you haven’t already planned to go, to treat yourself to a few precious carefree days this Summer, I can’t stress enough how much you should.

 

Lesson 13: getting drunk

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When we’re blessed with not one, but TWO bank holidays, this often only means one crucial thing – lots of time to drink lots of alcohol. We’ve all been there, going out on that particular Thursday purely because we can get horrendously and unashamedly drunk without the worry of dragging ourselves to work the next day. My issue isn’t with our excited urge to embrace some well-deserved time off, it’s with the fact that so many of us do so by getting so very drunk. We live in a culture where that’s ok. More than ok, it’s completely and utterly the normal thing to do. Anyone who doesn’t drink is deemed a bit weird. But why?

Our drinking culture says as much about modern society as it does our individual personalities. It defines us more than we care to realise. We are judged not only on how often we drink, but also by what we drink. From age to class to gender to sexual orientation, stereotypes are rife: Malibu and WKD for teens, cider and VKs for students, pints of beer for the manly men and the women who like a drink, G&Ts for those who like to think they’re sophisticated, Whiskey and ginger for the hipsters, rum and coke for the cool kids, vodka for the all-rounder, rosé wine for the dolled-up blondes, white wine for the classy brunettes, red wine for the grown-up couples, cocktails for the attention seeker, champagne for the ballers. You get the gist.

I fall into four categories: beer, gin, red wine and champagne, which means that I like a drink, I like to feel sophisticated and I’ll always take the fanciest thing going.  There is a conflict going on here: my urge to drink more than I probably should and my desire to look good doing it. I’ve accidentally set myself an impossible task, which is probably why, nine times out of ten, I wake up feeling like my night didn’t quite go to plan.

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If you list everything you associate with a big night, you’ll find that, initially, most things are fairly negative:

Falling over and waking up with mysterious bruises

Losing your phone/wallet/keys/dignity

Ruining your shoes/dress/chances of getting lucky

Not remembering your favourite DJ/band playing

Kissing someone you definitely shouldn’t

Throwing up/passing out/falling asleep at the table

Eating terrible food and undoing all your hard work

Oversleeping the next day/calling in sick to work

Incriminating photos being taken/arguments with friends

Generally embarrassing yourself and being an idiot

A lot of the time we wake up the next day feeling sick, guilty and annoyed with ourselves, and yet we keep on doing it. When you think about all the positive things however, it’s easy to see why:

Relieving stress and being less uptight

Taking your mind off things

Laughing so much you cry

Bonding with work friends

Reuniting with old friends

Making some of your happiest memories

Having fun and pretending you’re younger than you are

Feeling carefree for a few precious hours

Having the confidence to do things you wouldn’t usually do

Hearing your favourite song and just being in that moment

Dancing like nothing else in the world matters

Simply forgetting all the bad stuff

When we get it right, the good things far outweigh the bad. A night out can be an uplifting, positive, memorable thing. The stuff that dreams are made of. The thing that reminds us that it’s ok not to take ourselves too seriously. That moment when you actually don’t care and are just laughing and dancing and hugging your mates. The only thing is; we all seem to think that practice makes perfect, and have dedicated our social lives to mastering the unattainable task of having the best time, every time, doing it more and more and more, until we’re well and truly addicted to the gamble.

Alcohol is addictive. Plain and simple. From the post-work glass of wine to the tenth Jager bomb of the night. As well as the fact it helps us define the sort of people we are, we are addicted to how it makes us feel, the fun we associate it with and the contextual markers it gives us: cocktail says ‘I’m on holiday’, champagne says ‘let’s celebrate’, mulled wine says ‘it’s Christmas’, tequila says ‘let’s party’. As a nation, we are incredibly dependant on these markers and definitions. Ignoring them by not drinking is like ignoring the rules. It’s ingrained. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – these unwritten rules remind us of what’s acceptable. For example, when we see someone drinking whisky in the morning we don’t think ‘LAD!’ We think, how fucking awful.

The two most important things to think about are a) the reasons why you drink and b) whether drinking brings out the best in you. Only you know your individual relationship with alcohol. Take some time to assess it and the role it plays in your life. Weigh up the good and bad and if you find some sort of imbalance, take the time to address it.

It’s ok to love going to raves, festivals, gigs, clubs, bars, pubs. I know I do. Some of my funniest, most incredible memories belong there, and that’s the most important thing: drinking to remember, not to forget. I met the love of my life at a party and was too drunk to even talk to him. Luckily for me, our paths crossed a year later, we bumped into each other at a festival and clicked instantly. It’s simple really – quite often, the more you drink, the higher the chance of ruining your night (and your chances of something amazing happening). I know it’s hard when you’re in the moment, or if you’re having a hard time, but if you can control how much you drink then you’re one step closer to being the best version of yourself you can be.

Have fun this Easter – go wild, let go and be the life and soul of the party – just try to do it without being too drunk to remember how great it was…