Beside all the busy roads packed with mainstream
advertisements in the big city, I found this lovely avenue at the other end,
hidden like the town’s best hidden secrets.
Those hidden secrets, at some places you’d expect them to be
the least, so perfectly hidden and full of character.
It is one of those streets that smell like the artistic
combination of self-rolled cigarettes and artisanal coffee.
It is full of artists, residing in old, beautiful and
colourful houses, painted in every possible colour from pastel to bold.
It seems like one of these old, dusty unopened books, full
of magic and good stories.
Have you ever walked down such a road and wandered what
could have happened on there? Who would call it its home? Who would have spent their
whole life there? And who wanted nothing but desperately leave it?
All these questions, so many possible answers about a magical
street which has probably formed the essence of someone’s life. They might have
had the happiest days of their lives there, when they were a pure bundle of joy
sparking out the magic of simply being drunk on endorphins and pure love. They
also might have had the saddest days of their lives there, when they were breaking
down in tears like a dramatic waterfall, with a lack of any means of energy.
Some of them might have shared their lives with another
Others might have been loners forever, loosing themselves in
poetry, music and art.
Whenever I walk down this road, I see all the bars which
treasure memories covered in empty glasses of out drunken pints, I see vintage
shops with pieces I fell in love with but most of all I see a soul.
The soul of something real. Beside all the billboards, the
trouble, the hectic life. The place, where the soul chose to live.
When I walked down the road the other day, whilst the sunshine
tickled my skin, I saw a beautiful house covered in blue pained, framed by
greenery all around.
It looked like every child’s dream house, as if it came
straight out the Pippi Long stocking novel.
A glimpse of an eye later, a man was stepping out of that dream
of a place to live in. My humble daydreaming self could not resist the coincidence
and told him how beautiful his house looked like.
The old man in the denim dungarees, looking like a loving
father and grandfather, started talking to me. He told me how he bought the
house, how he started a family in there and how his kids spend their childhoods
in it. I imagined how beautiful it must have been growing up there, in a street
full of art. Next to his house is his beautiful store, full of vintage clothes
and other antiques. He has travelled around the world to fill it full of
Treasures full of soul and value like life itself.
Whenever I will feel the sun ticking on my skin again, I will always remember myself, walking down feeling the magic, the atmosphere and the art of one of the most beautiful and long winding roads in this world, wearing my best dress.
PHOTOS BY ASHLEY LOUISE SMITH THE REST INCLUDING ART DIRECTION BY MYSELF
Let’s just imagine something. Let’s shut the terrible news for a while. Let’s daydream of a better place, together.
When I was a child, god knows what age, I can’t remember it, I first heard the chords of imagine. A song. A simple combination of melody and poetry.
My father put it on a record player and sung the lyrics on top of his lungs.
Since then, the song never left me, it is tattooed on my soul, and with no doubt, it will be there forever.
Songs, Music, poetry, art, fashion, all the creative magic of this world saves my complicated mind from going insane, and it is a very personal and emotional thing.
When you look at the news, the view is devastating. You doubt that tomorrow will even exist. When you look at social media, in most cases, you won’t get distracted by the world around you, you will get caught up deeply in it.
Creative pieces of work, whether it is written, melodic or visual, show our desires to escape into another world.
A world without mass shootings, war, competition, sadness, depression and all the other dark sides.
Creativity allows us to create our own world full of peace. Everyone has a different definition of it, that’s why it is so diverse. For John and Yoko, a way to change the world was to do a bed sit in all day, for other creative activists was it to go and protest in the streets.
When I first heard the lyrics of imagine and understood them, I felt a deep connection with the song. It was a song that expressed me, without having me to talk. It summed up everything I was, everything I dreamed of and everything I could imagine to be.
I have always been classified as a “daydreamer”, a “loner”. People used to say it so often to me that I started to believe that I am the only person in the world who is like that. Growing up in a small town, that happens very quick. I felt alienated most of my life.
Music, art and fashion was my escape.
Looking back, the very simple lines of “imagine” sum up my personality and my beliefs as a person. For years, that song was (and still is) everything I held onto, it was the spark of hope that I am not alone in this world.
The song inspired me to live my life like I do now, living anywhere, everywhere, it does not matter, we are all one. I have a strong desire for peace, and I believe that all of us would be better off without borders and prejudice based on nationalities.
Living in country number three now, this belief is stuck very deeply into my soul. Once you have lived in various places like I did, you realise how unimportant nationalities are and that they are mostly just a reason to put someone in a certain box.
Every one of us knows certain clichés about several countries, and once we know someone else’s nationality, we immediately assume that they are an example of what we assume to know even though we know next to nothing.
Of course, not everyone is like that, but some people out there on the planet are.
Borders, passports, clichés divide us in times when we should support one another and change the world for the better.
Just imagine how peaceful, how big, and how beautiful a world without borders would be.
Looking back through all the years I have been listening to various artists, no song ever apart from “imagine” had that much of an impact on me. I have been adoring music my whole life and I love how it expresses human emotions when visuals fail. I love how we connect it to certain events in our life, how it allows us to travel back in time.
Some songs catapult me directly back into my childhood home, back on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand, watching my father cooking and singing beautiful songs.
The creative arts are mirrors of our human souls, they are reckless, they show every dark, hidden feeling. It is an inspiration to imagine new things, to change.
Just imagine what you want yourself and the world to be,
Journaling is a wonderful thing. It is like the written form of a picture of a moment. Something that we capture and share or keep it to ourselves.
I have been up to a few things lately, so let’s just sit down, shut the world for a while and have a read (grab a coffee if you fancy as well).
To recap it all, in all traditional chronological manner, we have to leap back in time to May 2019. My lovely Instagram feed and stories might suggest that the happiness is bursting out of my chest and I am having unlimited fun, all the time. Indeed, I had a lot of good times this summer, saw several gigs and festivals, but we have to get out of the dark to see the light in the end.
Even though some things might look as dreamy and beautiful as anything in life could possibly be, it might not be the complete thruth. Sometimes, life is like a matcha latte: astoninshly beautiful from the outside, the first sip tastes horrible, but instead of putting something that feels toxic away, we intake it until we get used to it.
For my part, I have developed excellent skills over the years of intaking toxins, instead of keeping it away from me, as I simply did not have enough self-respect, I thought I was not worth it.
One day, when the days started to get warmer, the pints started to double, and everyone was having their dinners al fresco, I felt that heaviness in my chest again. I felt tired, unconditionally. The knot was back. I woke up shaking. Welcome back, anxiety. My forever unrequired friend.
Not much later, I find my chaotic self again, hiding from my mind’s darkness, in a therapists office, pouring my heart out.
That felt like the right way of coping with it. Man, therapists have the potential to get rich out of this mind, I kept thinking.
Welcome back to rock bottom, here we go again.
Even though I feel miserable inside, every phase of mine refuses to admit it. My therapist is trying very hard to explain me that I have to take care of myself in order to leave hell again, but my mind acts like a stubborn toddler at its best and simply refuses to believe that self-care is the key to feeling good again. I wake up shaking, feel empty inside, take everything to fill that void, nothing works so I starve or overeat myself. My life is determined by unhealthy extremes, and there seems to be no way out. Heaven knows I am miserable now is on constant repeat, and as I get used to my suffering lifestyle, my mind is very set on not believing any doctor’s voice in the world that the activity of “self-care” is a necessity.
At that point, feeling stressed and burnt out my own unrealistic and toxic standards, it simply won’t go into my head that switching off will bring me further than overworking will ever do.
I officially declare myself as non-healable but knew at the same time that my mind as well as my body will stop functioning one day if I continue like that. I can’t understand myself. Looking back, I could have if I tried. But I did not even try.
One day, magically, due to a friend’s recommendation, I find Dolly Alderton’s book in a lonely WHSmith at a train station. The last one of its kind. I bought the book, and that is the point ladies and gentlemen, when I found my way back to one of my passions: reading and writing.
Like magic, once I started reading, I actually felt like I practise “self-care”- a term a refused to add to my vocabulary only a few weeks before.
As cheesy as it might sound, I started feeling better, and for some reason had the courage to delete everything toxic out of my life.
During the next summer months, fulfilled of warm wind seeking change, I slowly fell back in love with reading and writing. My self-diagnosed writer’s block started to make a permanent disappearance and I felt like I could use this platform again, without having the doubts of life before pressing the big, blue publishing button.
I realized that my creativity works very simple, what I perceive will be the inspiration to an outcome. If I don’t read, there won’t be any good written outcome.
Also, I realized how much I suffered from my own stress and intoxicating manners. I am fully aware of the fact that I am a born warrior, I simply need to learn how to handle it, not how to avoid it.
I decided to publish the truth, as I feel sick of all those perfectly written and visualised stories about summer. Of course, nobody of us wants to show how weak we can be, but if nobody even starts, nothing will ever change. I want to let anyone out there in this big wide world know, that you are not going alone through this.
If you hit rock bottom, don’t be afraid to speak up or seek help. Please do it before the rock rolls over you completely.
Even if your inside world is shaking like a never-ending earthquake, you lost sight of the light ages ago and you have to clue how to ever get out of this, please remind yourself that you are not alone. We are all going through this together and that makes it less daunting.
What kept me going, was not super healthy influencer approved smoothies or a weekly trip to the gym, it was the fact that a change is coming. The change has happened now, and for the first time in a million years, I feel balanced. By balanced I mean I haven’t had a massive down in two weeks, and I feel capable of handling stress without burning out.
The change was to move across the world. Changing countries. Again. Seems like a hobby of mine. With the difference that it is only temporarily this time.
For doing a term abroad, I moved to Toronto, Canada. I moved here roughly about a month ago. It is very lovely and the start of an amazing new chapter after I closed summer with going to a music festival in Budapest.
What I can say now, is that Canada is extremely different from my beloved Europe, but it is extremely interesting and challenging to live at the other side of the world.
Country number three, here we go again.
As I don’t feel capable or wise enough to write anything valuable about living in this strange new environment, I will postpone it to my next journal entry.
All I can say is that I am extremely overwhelmed by this new world outside of me, and I am constantly adapting.
At the end, I never thought that having a bath, reading a good book and listening to Aretha Franklin could make me the possibly happiest person in the world, but it really does.
Do things that scare you. There is a world outside there waiting to be explored by you.
Have the courage to say yes. But most importantly, take care of yourself, it is so important.
When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? Do you breathe the fresh air out of your wide-open window? Are you already preparing you low fat, soymilk matcha latte whilst deciding which yoga workout you are about to do? Are you having your first green smoothie aka your only meal till noon before your 10K run?
Or are you still snuggled up in a mountain of pillows, enjoying the calm before the storm and then you make the crucial decision to open Instagram?
For most people, I bet the last choice would be the most exact description of their first morning activity.
Once you open Instagram, still being half asleep, you spot all those perfect humans in perfectly curated setups, telling you one thing: you need to get your lazy ass up and lose weight.
According to multiple sectors that our modern millennial culture is built on, especially as a female human being, one of your main goals (or your main goal) in life is having a slim body, work out as much as you can and eat clean.
Back in the day, as a little girl in primary school, I first ever heard of the term “losing weight”. Looking back, these were the first hints to me that I am a girl and I basically have to lose weight, because that is what girls are supposed to want.
Obviously, I was way too young to understand it all. By that young age, I just did not fuss about losing or gaining weight. I just wanted to be happy and live my life.
Growing older, the influences grew and so the awareness, that especially in the generation I was born into, girls got obsessed about weight once they hit the crucial age of puberty.
To be completely honest, the first few years of puberty, I felt simply ugly. I felt so ugly that I saw not even potential in me. Looking back, I probably fell into the self-hate trap way too early- don’t get me wrong, in an ideal world, nobody should ever experience that horrible trap, but in the ugly reality a lot of people fall into it.
The reason for that was probably that a lot of people told me that I am not slim enough. And with a lot, I mean a lot. Friends, relatives, teachers, family- the list is very long.
Once I was fifteen, I was at my absolute down. This was the first time I went to see a therapist. It does take time to actually find the “right” therapist for you. In short terms, it took me a bit of time. When I was around 19/20, I was diagnosed with body dysmorphia, eating disorders and anxiety.
You probably wonder yourself why I share such an intimate thing on the world wide web, where literally my future employer could see it.
I do this, because I want to show others who suffer from the same problems as I did that they are not alone. For years, I thought that I was alone. Nobody should ever have to feel like this. If you ever feel uncomfortable in your own skin for a long time, please seek help. This should not be treated as a normal state, it definitely isn’t.
Florence Welch said once in an interview for British Vogue, that an eating disorder is a disease that constantly tells you it is your friend, that’s why you realize it so late.
You truly believe it is your friend because everything around tells you to lose weight, so an eating disorder, which is probably one of the top 10 most unhealthy ways to lose weight, seems for you like a suitable way to please the expectations that have been put on you since you were born.
At least, that was what I felt. That was the reason why I kept it all to myself for years. The reason why I might have been awkward in social situations. I did not want anyone to know, as I kept putting unrealistic ideals and expectations over my own mental health.
I am currently on a good recovery road, and I cherish how I feel from the bottom of my heart as I came from the mental hell. But still, when these pictures were being taken, I felt massive. That’s when the body dysmorphia kicks in: I tend to have a completely wrong body image. When I see the visual outcomes afterwards, I feel surprised about how I look.
In the end, that’s how recovery works. On some days you feel healthy as hell and on other days you feel like a -10 out of 10.
What we all desperately need to do, is to stop the need to lose a stone. Once that stone is gone, there is no guarantee it will make you feel a lot better. Don’t starve yourself. I have done it multiple times and believe me it is not a desirable feeling.
Our lives are too short to worry about a bloody stone.
However, you might feel today, even if you might be too blinded to see it, you are fucking beautiful.
The stone is not worth it.
PHOTOS BY ASHLEY LOUSIE SMITH.
STYLING, ART DIRECTION, EDITING AND WRITING BY MYSELF.
Photography is like capturing the moment through your perspective out of your own created bubble of reality that you live in. A snippet out of your own world. A snippet of yourself.
It shows colours, feelings, situations and emotions. To me, a spontaneously taken picture is one of the most personal things existing. It just captures the beauty of the moment, without filters, light correction or professional set design around. It simply is a visual document of a beautiful moment.
It shows someone’s perspective of a situation in a very personal way. It feels like looking through someone else’s eye, escaping into another body.
And if you ask me, that is one of the most intimate things to show someone.
Letting someone into your own created world, full of imagination, a piece of yourself, your personal created truth of things- that’s intimacy.
That’s why I love polaroid photography. It is unperfect, like life itself. We are getting such an overdose of perfectly curated photos on our Instagram feeds on a daily base, that we tend to forget the beauty of something real.
The other week, I went on a solo trip to Budapest, to join a friend at Sziget festival. It was a spontaneous decision, but that’s what life is made of in the very end.
The moments where the ones where you just did not care, the ones where you just lived.
Budapest is a very stunning and beautiful city, full of stories and life. It was very hot when I went there (apparently one of the hottest days of the year), and when I went into a small bookshop the owner told me that on the warm days, they make the best sales as people can’t do any other sorts of meaningful activities.
Whilst roaming through Budapest’s old alleyways, filled with heat and the smoke of cigarettes, I took a few snippets with my polaroid camera.
And when I went to the Sziget festival, I lived in the moment, enjoyed the atmosphere, and it was one of the best days of my life.
When Florence and the Machine were performing on the stage and she asked everyone to put their phones away. Everyone did. Everyone lived in the moment and loved life to the fullest.
However, in every situation, I tried to capture the moment, the feeling and the atmosphere in an unperfect way.
Simply, how it was. Messy, chaotic, lovely and utterly beautiful.
I know, I am a fucking juvenile, seeking its place in this big mess called life, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So, lean back, have some tea and enjoy the beauty of my Budapest adventure on polaroid.