Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Hi, I’m Yen. I am a girl that’s super independent. I grew up believing in my strength, was taught to think that I am bold, that my words carry weight and can help change the world. I learnt that I am a force to be reckoned with when I’m standing on my own two feet, and when I must decide, for myself, I know what I want.

Throughout my early 20s, I had everything: a semi-successful startup brewing, found the greatest group of people I still call my best friends today, moved to the other side of the world, travelled alone and graduated in the top two percentile of my university. Yep, all before 22.

I always knew I was super independent, it probably came with being the eldest sibling and a Virgo (think Beyoncé, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sheryl Sandberg: just to name drop a few). 😉

I was used to walking fast, spending my own money and opening my own doors. I learnt to trust myself and knew who I was through falling down and picking myself back up. I found my niche in the world, paving my own way, presenting my own smile and sense of self to whoever I met. I wasn’t used to balancing myself with another person. I wasn’t used to needing someone, or allowing anyone to help.

YEN

My independence definitely contributed to the destruction of my relationships in my early 20s too. I drove men crazy because I didn’t let them do everything for me. I didn’t let them cater to my every need. I refused to let them pay for every date.

I sometimes wouldn’t let them be the manly-man, the savior, the strong suitor that they so desperately wanted to be for me. It’s wasn’t on purpose; it’s just because I was used to being my own savior. Someone even told me to ‘pretend and be a little less independent, just so they can feel you need them’.

Somehow, something still didn’t feel right. And along the way, I lost my independence: I became that friend who disappeared off the face of the earth because she got a boyfriend. But I fell into this trap, of believing I had to dumb myself down just to make a boy feel better about himself.

My last breakup reminded me how much I needed to put myself first again and regain everything I knew about being independent. Although that breakup shattered my world, it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be in a relationship with anyone else but myself.

Maybe it was a time for me to fix myself and change. Appreciate myself more and to never make the same mistake. To achieve more goals and more importantly find happiness. To hopefully one day understand, that I’ll attract the right things when I have a sense of who I am.

I had spontaneously decided to accept a job in London (the other side of the world) and pack up and leave within weeks. I had lived in London back in 2011 while studying there and had always called it my ‘home away from home’, so when the offer came through I couldn’t reject it. I called my best friend and told her I was coming, and recalled saying “I have nothing to lose”. I didn’t make plans to come home, or let alone have a plan? I was ready to accept whatever it was that the universe had installed. I felt so free.

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yen 3

The week my visa appointment with the UK consulate got booked: I met a guy who I never imagined would mean so much to me today. You see, I was so focused on my life that I was completely blind-sided; a relationship was the last thing I was looking for. On our second date, I had no choice but to tell him I was leaving the country. I felt like I owed this to him and was super nervous delivering the update. That’s when I knew, I really liked him.

I asked for answers “Why throw me a bone now universe? I am about to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Do you want me to stay in Melbourne?” I even went to church and a temple to find clarity. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.

I still left for London and to my understanding we weren’t official. But the distance didn’t change how we both felt about each other. Sure the different time zones were hard but we made it work. Last minute, I booked a flight home so I could surprise this guy on his birthday.

I was super super nervous, I mean, who was I to him to do that? We weren’t even official or anything exclusive! I knew I was taking a big chance. I guess that’s the whole issue with being independent yet a hopeless romantic too. Naturally, we then agreed to a long distance relationship because he acknowledged my dreams and supported it no matter how tough it was going to be.

You see, when you fall for a girl that’s independent, you will get frustrated. She’s used to doing things for herself and by herself. She’s used to following her own rules, making her own decisions, being selfish with her time. It will take a bit for her to get used to putting someone else first, to moulding her life to shape both yours and hers together. Don’t get me wrong, she won’t have trouble loving you, but she might, at first struggle to let you in.

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A long distance relationship ended up being the best thing for me. I learnt to prioritise a relationship; scheduling in calls with confusing time differences, improving communication skills and letting someone into my life, knowing I can still continually work on myself.

I learnt to let the small things go, had to invest a lot of trust in someone, believe that not all guys are bad (something that doesn’t come easy for me), to compromise and have patience, extreme patience. And finally, I learnt that when time and luck crossed paths the universe would find me a guy who will fall in love with my driven, spontaneous, independent character.

Go travel the world, battle your demons, set up a business, find people who value your heart and yours will attract. Don’t apologise for working hard, for having goals and being independent: we need more girls like this.

When the right person comes along, they will support you unconditionally and when you do come across that person, know that you deserve them.

I hope you love yourself enough to recognise the things you don’t like about your life, and I hope you find the courage to change them. And I hope somewhere out of the unexpected, a person comes along who will love and support you on your journey too.

Yen started her career in public relations with aspirations to work in the fashion industry, she became curious with e-commerce and technology and evolved her career to where she is now. Awarded Australian Best Young Marketing Talent (2016) for spearheading numerous innovations in her field, she is a passionate marketer with an entrepreneurial edge focused on overachieving outcomes. Competitive at heart, she never wanted to settle for just a nine-to-five job and saw an opportunity start her own business while still working a full-time job. People often mistaken Yen to be quite timid on first impression, but little do they know that she enjoys confrontation, is super opinionated and will definitely shut down dickhead behaviour (if she sees it). Her upbringing has been quite colourful (a story for another time) but as a result she is now super passionate about raising diversity issues (in every form) and empowering young girls to chase their dreams through running mentorship programs and teaching at a university outside of her side hustles.

@yhoang

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Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

Guest Kween: JANAE BRANDIS “My Angel Baby.”

The last Friday of June in Australia is Red Nose Day and I’m one of the unlucky parents who this day has a very significant meaning to.

For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to be is a mother. Growing up all my friends had specific career goals that they wanted to achieve but for me, all I knew for sure was that when I ‘grew up’ I’d be a mum!

Well, as they say ‘dreams do come true’ but my journey into motherhood has been far from what I dreamed it would be as a little girl.

On Monday, the 22nd of August in 2011, my dream became a reality when my first son Nate Lachlan Brandis was born. My labour was long and if I’m honest, waaaay more painful than I could ever have imagined. I ended up in an emergency C-section but it was totally and 110% worth it when my big 9lb 9oz baby boy was handed to me.

The first week was tough, Nate’s blood sugar levels were so low, he needed to stay in the special care nursery. My milk never came in, which after my third baby I finally discovered I had IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue) which is quite common with women who have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). Recovering from a C-section was also no walk in the park! After that week, I caved and decided I was going to bottle feed (my now starving) child.

I have to admit, it was one of best decisions I ever made. After his first full bottle, he slept!! He slept so well that I was the mum at my mothers’ group who lied to all the other poor mums because I felt so bad that my now three week old baby was sleeping eight hours straight a night! (While they were up every hour to attend to their baby.)

Nate was the easiest, crusiest, happiest, cheekiest baby I’ve ever met. (I’m not even joking, he actually was!) He fitted right into our world so perfectly. My husband Paul and I both thought life was pretty damn sweet.

When Nate was ten months and three weeks old our lives were irrevocably changed when he passed away from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I was totally blindsided. How could this beautiful, innocent soul be taken from us so soon?

I was that mum who never put the cot bumper in the cot and dressed my baby in a sleeping bag instead of blankets (as that was the SIDS recommendation). I did it all and it made no difference!! It just didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense!

The next few days, weeks and months were a total blur. All I can remember is the amount of love that surrounded Paul & I from our family and those few friends (who know who they are) that we now consider as family.

I remember in the days after Nate died, I was peeing on a pregnancy test just praying for my baby to come back to me; like I was asking for some sort of miracle.

The pain of losing a child never leaves you. You just learn of ways to cope and live with the pain, as if it’s a new part of you.

So that’s what we did. Paul and I decided to live life. We both took nearly half a year off work and travelled the world together. We did so many amazing things on that trip from learning to scuba dive in the Greek Islands to skydiving over the North Shore in Hawaii to learning the art of making traditional Spanish sangria & paella in Barcelona. It was exactly the escape I needed but it was also such a bittersweet time in our lives too.

In the back of my mind, I expected to return from that trip pregnant and it devastated me that I didn’t. However, after nearly four years of struggling with infertility and having to go on a range of fertility meds, we were finally blessed with our rainbow baby, another son Luca. Luca’s name (as well as being a family name) means ‘bringer of light’ and that he certainly is!!

Two years later we were blessed again in a rather suprising & unplanned way (due to some of my own serious medical issues, which is a whole other story in itself) with the birth of our third son, Hudson.

Being a parent after the loss of a child is hard, I mean ‘parenthood’ is hard in general but it adds a whole other level. Those fucking ‘mum guilts’ creep in way worse when you’ve just had enough but it makes you appreciate the little things just as much too.

Nate’s still every bit a part of our family. Luca knows all about his big brother ‘Angel Nate’ and Hudson will grow to know about him too.

So this Red Nose Day (as I do every day) I will be thinking of my darling Angel Nate and sending love not only to him but to all of the other angel babies and the families they have so sadly left behind. Please join me.

Find out how you can be involved and support Red Nose Day here. Help reduce nine deaths a day to ZERO and donate.

Janae Brandis is a Bunbury girl, born and raised. She’s been married to the love-of-her-life for 10 years and she’s a mother to three gorgeous children; one of whom lives in heaven. Janae is obsessed with wine and cheese but thinks chocolate is life. In other words, don’t come between her and her Snickers bar.

📷: Red Nose

Guest Kween: TONI LODGE “My Membership To The Dead Mums Club.”

Guest Kween: TONI LODGE “My Membership To The Dead Mums Club.”

“Hey Mumma, sorry I missed your calls, I just finished work, do you need me to grab something for dinner?”

“Toni, it’s Dad, I’m at the hospital with Mum – she’s not feeling well, they’re saying she’s had a stroke. I need you to go home and feed the dog and your sister is going to meet you there and you can drive here together.”

“Toni are you there???”

I went to the hospital with my twin sister (who, coincidentally, is actually 12 years my senior) and we arrived with a stuffed bear and all of my family in one little hospital room. There is no way I could forget the smell of that room, or the sticky feeling on my cheeks from crying in the car with Libby.

“What’s going on, what’s happening?” we rushed in and asked, grabbing Mum, all six of us, looking at each other.

“Um.. Mum didn’t have a stroke” my Dad said. “Fuck me, that’s amazing! Awesome! Well come on mum, let’s go home, why are we still here?!”, I said (tenderly). She looked at me, and my big brother gave me this shoulder squeeze that silenced me.

“I didn’t have a stroke”, she said, starting to shake and fight back tears, “I have a brain tumour.”

My whole world crashed. This perfect world I was living in where the only reason I could have a few missed calls from my Mum would be because ‘she needed something extra from Coles’ was gone.

I was in my first year of uni and feeling pretty damn invincible. After going to every WAAPA open day since I could understand what university was, I was there. I’d been accepted and I was on my way. I also had a job at Coles at nights and on the weekends, which gave me enough money to buy clothes, fuel, booze, and cigarettes to socially smoke (because that’s what you did at uni).

As soon as Mum got sick, that money changed to having just enough to buy fuel for my red Hyundai Getz to take me from the hills of Perth, to Mount Lawley, to Nedlands (where my Mum was in hospital), to Maddington (where I worked), and back to the hills. Paying for hospital parking and trying to look after myself as best I could to take any burden off my parents. (Definitely get private health insurance if you are reading this, it saved us.)

Eleven months later, she died. I had a Mum – this amazing Mum. Like, ah-maz-ing. And then I didn’t. Huh?

We got called into the hospital at around 3am on the 9th of September 2013 and she’d died. My Dad drove him and I, and we met my brother and his wife, my twin sister and her husband, and my other sister in the wee hours of the morning in the hospital car park to clean out her hospital room.

And then I just needed to prepare for my first funeral – my Mum’s.

I went with my sisters to buy a dress for this thing that we could barely believe had even happened yet. The shop assistant did the age old “Oh that’s pretty, what’s the occasion?!” and when I told her it was for my Mum’s funeral and she clocked all of our dreary faces she almost shat herself.

I wrote a eulogy and tried to fit my Mum’s amazing life into a couple of pages.

After that, so many people changed the way they spoke to me. Things like “I’m having the worst day, I missed the bus” or “I was late because I forgot to get fuel” or “My life is over this guy will NOT message me back” was always quickly followed by “Ohhhh Toni, I’m so sorry, you’ve just lost your Mum, this is nothing in comparison.” As much as this chubby girl with a brand new membership to the Dead Mums Club is horribly appreciative of the fact that my life seemed SO horrendous that it was the benchmark of shitness, everyone also has their shit too. Just because my shit is my mum being dead and your shit is that you were late for work, or a waiter said “Enjoy your food” and you said “Thanks, you too”, that’s okay! Your bad thing is your worst thing. We shouldn’t be on this planet to fight about who has it worse.

When I started at WAAPA I remember telling Mum that all I wanted to do was leave Perth and make something of myself. Then in 2016, I got my first job away from home (she’d been gone for a couple of years) and by this point, I was with my incredible boyfriend Alex, and we’d had been living away from home for a few months anyway. I moved a couple of hours south of Perth to pursue my career. I was finally doing it– making my Mum proud! Even though everything I’d done so far was coupled with her telling me she was so proud, it was the first big thing I had to do without her.

September rolled around and I spent the anniversary of her death away from my family. I dealt with problems at work, triumphs both professional and personal without her, and desperately wanted more than anything for her to be able to give me advice. Something I took comfort in was being able to imagine what she would say to me, or hoping one of my older siblings had gotten into the same mischief at some point and asking them what Mum said.

I made so many promises to my Mum as I grew up. I was the youngest child by a number of years which meant we spent a lot of time alone together. I told her all about my hopes and dreams, how I was going to have an amazing job that was going to move me around the world so she could come and visit whenever she wanted, how I would be famous (that one’s coming along really fucking well), and how I would be happy (workin’ on it. getting there).

But one thing is for certain: I took everything that happened to me on board and am now stronger and better for it. I am, of course, so heartbroken that my Mum is gone. In my moments of weakness where I miss her so much, I feel like I don’t know where my next breath of air is going to come from but somehow I always manage to inhale and exhale once more.

These days everything I engage in has a part of me that does it for her. Nothing changes your perspective and state of mind like recovering from loss, whatever the case may be.

Right before I jumped on the plane to my new Sydney life, I dropped in to visit my Mum. I cried. I wished she was here with me, then I realised she was, because there’s no way in hell I could have even thought about getting on that plane without her. Yep, for the second time, I was moving (across the country) to pursue my career. I am here for me, I’m here for my future, but she’s here too. And now here I am writing this for me and my fabulous Mum in my new fancy Sydney office instead of doing the job they hired me for (wait, is this being published somewhere?).

So my promise is to see the world with Mum in my handbag. To achieve everything I promised her I would because I’m fucking tough and I’m fucking strong. I am who I am because I knew my Mum, and also because I lost her.

Toni is a young 20-something year old trying to have it all. After the comedown of a brief brush with internet fame for having a Harry Potter event shut down due to it’s unfair under 15 age limit, she now spends her workday producing many National night radio shows for KIIS and iHeartRadio in Sydney.

@tonilodge

Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS “You’re Under No Obligation To Live Your Life A Certain Way!”

Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS “You’re Under No Obligation To Live Your Life A Certain Way!”

Let’s be real Kweens- adulting is HARD!

I could not wait to grow up and make all my own decisions and create my dream life!

I thought it was going to look a certain way. You expect to get married, have babies, have a great career, buy a house all by the age of about 25. The earlier the better!

SPOILER: it didn’t happen for me this way at all. Well to be honest not even one part of that has happened.

I am about to turn 40, very single, with no kids, no house, (and I don’t mean I rent, I mean I have a storage locker with my stuff in it and no fixed address) and I chucked in my career to work for myself. Absolutely not the life mini-Jane planned out but what did mini-Jane know anyway?!

I spent almost ten years working in media in Sydney and I LOVED IT. It was my dream gig. My workplace was listed as one of those ‘top places to work’ in Australia. I interviewed there 3 times before I got a job. I had great friends, a great boss and great perks (think lots of parties, tickets to the best concerts and a beer fridge that was permanently open). But I left it all on a whim (and with a lot of tears) for nothing. For wide open space. To chase dreams that I hadn’t even figured out yet what they even were.

I flailed around for a good six months afterwards. It was terrifying. I regretted it. A lot. I went back casually. I felt so vulnerable. I wasn’t achieving anything. Basically I got scared that I’d made a HUGE mistake.

Thankfully, just before I reached the point of begging my boss to take me back I scored a contract to produce a two month tour for someone I hugely admired. Literally my dream gig! And I learned that your dream gig can change. You can change. What lit you up yesterday doesn’t have to be it for you. Sometimes you need to wait for the right timing. And waiting can be scary.

Flash forward and today I contract regularly creating events for people I admire. I work for myself. I can roll out of bed anytime I want. I can work in my pjs. I’m on the road so much that I currently do not have an actual home. I see my friends so much less than I did before.

I don’t always have a steady income. Some months are better than others but I always get by. I cannot imagine going back to setting an alarm every day AND doing my hair. No thank you.

I do miss working in an office. I miss the camaraderie, having like-minded people around, the office parties, the office crushes (ammmiirighhtt??), the birthdays with office cake or when something big & exciting happens and you can just turn to the person next to you and share it. It can definitely be lonely and there’s no Christmas party (alright there’s a Christmas party but it’s just me singing Taylor Swift songs).

This year I spent two months living in New York, two months in New Zealand and two months on the Gold Coast. Some for work and some because I can literally do my job anywhere so I picked New York. I’m not an idiot.

This sounds pretty glamorous but let’s be honest, in New York I was sleeping on an air mattress next to my niece’s cot (actually that bit was pretty fabulous!), I wasn’t going out to the coolest New York bars, I was negotiating time differences and working ’til midnight cause that was when the Australia market was online. Most days it was exactly the same as being in Australia, but better. Ok, it was definitely better!

Sometimes I feel like I’m always making life harder for myself. Leaving good jobs. Moving cities. Being away from my friends and my support systems for long periods of time. Finding my comfort zone and leaving it again.

I swing wildly between loving being a gypsy living out of a suitcase and seriously craving bed linen and throw cushions and wanting to buy groceries. I really, really miss owning food. You can’t cook shit if you have to buy all the ingredients from scratch. This is a fact. But I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even if I don’t always know what I’m doing or where I’m living.

You’re under no obligation to live your life a certain way. Not the way your mum says you should or the way your friends do or even the way mini-you thought you would. Live life your way. Do what lights you up. Set your life on fire! I mean not like real fire. I mean like the Rumi quote says. But also sometimes burning stuff can be cathartic, so if that’s what you need I am not here to judge. You do you.

Pave your own way Kweens! And then find other Kweens that have done the same thing and have a long lunch on a Tuesday because you can do whatever the hell you want!

Jane Connors is a Freelance Tour Manager specialising in not being in one place for a long period of time. She loves Taylor Swift, TV Crime shows and is a very fast walker. 

@Jinny_Jane

Things people say to single thirty-something year olds.

Things people say to single thirty-something year olds.

“What do you mean you can’t afford it? It’s not like you’ve got 3 kids to feed at home?”– No, I don’t. Thank you Capitan Obvious. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t expensive for me too. I’m responsible for my rent, my bills, my groceries (which don’t come at a ‘discount rate’ because I’m single) and I don’t have the luxury of sharing those costs with someone else.

“I don’t know how you travel so much, don’t you want to buy a house?”– To quote the little Mexican girl in Old El Paso ad, “Why don’t we have both?” It doesn’t have to be one, or the other. And even if I wasn’t traveling so much, I’m sure all my money would be going on smashed-avo-on-toast right?

“You’re soooo lucky, you have all this free time to yourself, you get to do whatever you want.”- Yes, I do. That’s my choice. You had that option too and you chose a different lifestyle. Accept it. The grass isn’t always greener.

“I wish I had your life. I miss having one-night stands.”- Ha! I spend most weekends at home. I hardly ever go out. I haven’t been to a club since Ja Rule was a thing. I’ve had sex once this year.

“Let me go on your Tinder and choose a guy for you.”- Oh, what a fun ‘game’ for you. Go ahead.

“Do you think you’re just too fussy? Loosen up a bit and date someone!”- Forgive me for not throwing myself in front of every bachelor. If choosing to be single over shacking-up with ‘Basic Barry’ (because I don’t fear being alone) is wrong, sue me.

“So, why don’t you have a boyfriend?” Followed by “Oh my god, don’t get a boyfriend, they’re so annoying.”- Stop asking single people ‘why’ they don’t have a boyfriend. 98% of the single-population don’t know why and the other 2%, well… be prepared for a 5-hour conversation about dating apps, how dating is harder these days, how no one dates anymore etc. Also, there’s no need to play-down your relationship in front of your single friends. You’ll find most of your single friends are happy that you’re in a relationship- even if they’re not in one. Seriously.

“So, don’t you want kids?” Followed by “Honestly, don’t do it, kids are the worst, mine is being such a little shit today.”- You don’t have to talk your single friends into having kids. You also don’t have to tell them about the bad stuff in order to make them feel better about not having kids. Single people aren’t getting around all ‘single’ because they don’t want to reproduce. For some, that might be the case, but majority of singletons just haven’t found someone they want to start a family with yet. And some are struggling to get to the 3rd date stage, let alone the baby-making stage. OR maybe, just maybe they’re not ready yet and have other things they want to get out of the way first. Like, numerous Sunday bottomless brunches that involve smashed-avo-on-toast.

“Can we go on a girls night? I just wanna get drunk and do random stuff like you.”- I’m in bed by 7pm most nights. Is that random enough for you?

“Are you one of those weird feminist types? When will you people stop complaining?”- You first.

“Are you a lesbian?”- Lol! I wish. But since your sexuality isn’t a choice, let’s just settle for the fact that it’s not as simple as switching teams and Bob’s your uncle, your single days are over. Thanks anyway Detective Dickhead.

So to conclude, try some of these instead…

“Wanna just have a night at home instead? I can’t afford to go out and you probably can’t as well?”

“Where are you off to next?”

“I’m free this weekend, let’s drink all the wine!”

“Fuck, how shit is Tinder? And how many dic pics are you gettin’ on the reg? Not cool man!”

“Hey, congratulations on surviving any single-person stereotypes today!”

“Screw the haters, you do you boo!”

“You’re amazing and your life is amazing just the way it is.”

“Slay girl, slay all day!!”

Ok, ok. I think you get my point. 😉

Big love,

Carmela

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

2am phone calls: what we don’t share on social media.

2am phone calls: what we don’t share on social media.

I’m Carmela. This year, I packed up my life and moved back to London for the second time. I’ve also spent numerous weekends in Brighton, traveled to Dublin with my two besties, been to Ibiza for a wedding, spent a long weekend in Cyprus, celebrated a birthday with an old friend in Berlin, eaten every kind of gelato in Florence, did that weird pose next to that tower in Pisa, indulged in too much pasta while checking out the Cinqua Terra, drank Chianti dry, swanned around in Paris, pretended to be Mariah Carey in Capri and had way too much fun in Positano. I just came back from Prague and I’ll be in Copenhagen before Christmas. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m obsessed with the ‘socials’. All my escapades are thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly) documented on every social platform: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Friends in Australia are constantly messaging me with curiosity ‘do you have a job yet?’ as it would seem all I’ve done since I left was exchange currency and plane hop from country to country. Friends I’ve made in London are constantly saying “If I have to see one more photo on Facebook” or “Of course you’re going on holiday again”.

This made me start to evaluate the kinds of things I was putting out into the big-bad-world-of-web and whether it was reflective of what my day-to-day life was like since I had put everything I owned into two suitcases and made my way to this cold, dark city.

The answer: obviously not.

On one hand, I wasn’t ashamed of the things I had accomplished and I guess ‘boasted about’ on social media this year. This was a result of (as a 31 year old) spending the previous year back in my hometown, in my parents’ home, in my old bedroom (which was shared with my 2-year-old nephew whenever he would sleep over) and it definitely took its toll.

To give you some background, this exercise was so I could secure an Italian passport (as my working visa had come to an end) but mostly it was to save enough money so I could return to the UK this time round and not find myself broke, job-to-job, miserable and a little lost. But considering everything I’ve ‘posted’ about since I landed back in London, how could anyone possibly know that?

How could they possibly know that in some sense I was here because I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere anymore? How could they know that maybe I was sadly and selfishly reveling in the fact that I had no one to be accountable for: no partner, no children, no mortgage, so it was easy yet somewhat necessary to make this choice? I wasn’t showing that aspect of my life on social media now, was I?

To think of it, was I really showing anything that was going on in my world? Maybe not. Maybe, it was just highly-filtered travel pics and funny hashtags. Maybe, it was lacking of the struggle to be alone, the struggle to find somewhere to live, the struggle to find work and the constant struggle with money.

The moment that really hit me was when I received a phone call at 2am from my Mother on a Thursday. I was living with Carly. I answered thinking Mum, the silly woman, had gotten the time-difference wrong. A minute into the conversation I could see she was in a car and looking pale (still oblivious to what that could mean). She continued on about how my Uncle Tony was taken to hospital earlier that day and even at that point I didn’t register that something could be wrong. I thought that my Aunty’s brothers and sisters were just on their way to the hospital because it was a close call. That’s how wonderfully naive I was in that moment.

It’d been 15 years since we had lost anyone in our family, so I was out of action when it came to thinking the worst in these situations. I remember saying “So he’s ok right?” Mum broke down in tears and started to shake her head “No, he’s gone” (actually, I don’t know if that’s what she said, but it was something of that nature). Immediately, whether it was the shock or the sudden sadness, I started crying and screaming, waking Carly up in the process.

“Carmela, what’s going on?” She shouted. “My Uncle just died” I replied.

With those 4 words it was like time froze. Did those words just come out of my mouth? My Uncle? My favourite Uncle? The one that would always ask me, never if I had a boyfriend but how work was going? Or how life in Sydney with his son was?

Carly and I lived in an open space, our bedrooms were like cabins on a cruise ship but with no doors. I spent the next 3 hours in the bathroom crying, trying to not to wake her. I dreaded the next morning, worried of how this would feel in the light and how I would even broach the subject with my Aunty and cousins (one cousin in particular that had become like a brother to me). It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real.

Carly and I have had numerous conversations in the past about what we saw on social media but mostly, about what we didn’t see. Was it a mask? Was it a lie? Was it just the shiny stuff? Or was sharing about the difficult things just too hard and portals like Facebook an escape?

I was apprehensive about sharing my Uncle’s story on social media. Thoughts of it being cheap and cruel ran through my head. But this was my life. This possibly was the real story of my life since I returned to London. It was clear now, that it was never about overseas travel, disposable cash, copious amounts of alcohol and naked dancing. It was about something more. There were lessons to be learnt here.

I had to hear about the news of my Uncle passing via FaceTime. I went to work the next day, puffy faced and red-eyed because I had just started a new job but most importantly, I desperately needed the money. I had missed out on grieving with my family. I missed out on being at my Uncle’s funeral. So yes, this was the real story of leaving your old life and moving overseas. This was what it was really like to be away from home. Suddenly, my passport wasn’t shining so bright anymore, the days felt long and the nights even longer.

So these days, whenever my Mum calls me at an ungodly hour, my heart skips a beat, it’s almost like I can’t breathe. Phone calls at 2am from now on will never be the same.

I still catch myself crying in the most ridiculous places because they remind me of my Uncle (a deli section of a supermarket) because I haven’t dealt with this properly yet. And the truth is I may never. Because I wasn’t there. I’m going to have to live with that forever.

I read his eulogy over a pint in a London pub. I called my cousins after the wake. I message my Aunty most days to see how she is. It sucks.

So, I’m Carmela. This year I moved back to London from Australia for the second time. I’ve traveled numerous parts of Europe and it’s been amazing but it’s also been fucking hard too. I’m not sure if my social footprint reflects this. I’m not even sure if it should or if it has to. I just know if you asked me you’d always get the truth and so maybe I need to continue telling my truth on here too.

Big love,

Carmela

x

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼