Hey you! So I’ve been cooking up a creative storm in the last few weeks and I can’t wait for you to join me on my journey!
First of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: I no longer have a job … technically. However, I am a blossoming freelancer, so let’s see how long I can go on for with that income …
Phew, now that’s done, let’s talk about my newest creation, which I hope to use to inspire other badass females such as myself (yes, I consider myself BADASS, #sorrynotsorry).
So, yes, I am starting a podcast called ‘Badass Female Podcast’, and I’m sure you can tell what kind of content will be involved, right? I aim to talk with my other friends and acquaintances about anything and everything … but from the female perspective. Us women go through SO MUCH every day, no matter our background or status. Being a woman in today’s society is still so hard, and I think it’s only right that we get a space to discuss this. No matter how big the issue, we want to TALK about it. By we, I mean me and the friends I’m going to drag into this. We’ll discuss everything from culture and society to relationships, gender equality, our childhood dreams VS. our current reality, financial worries, female health, and just everyday thoughts and comments tbh! My guests will mainly be women of course, however I won’t say no to a few men joining if they want to!
I have only just recorded the trailer so hold your horses, folks! But do give the trailer a listen and subscribe to the YouTube channel if you fancy – I’ll be posting the podcasts there too. You will also be able to find them on Spotify and hopefully on the purple Apple podcast app in the near future.
I also have a designated Instagram page for the Badass Female Podcast too! You can follow us at: badass_female_irl.
This month, I went home to the UK for the first time since before COVID-19 set in. And, oh boy, was travelling on a plane straight-up weird. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be flying home wearing a face mask and gloves the whole time, I would’ve said they were crazy. Well, well … it just goes to show you never know what can happen. As well as COVID-19 affecting literally everything right now, the idea of going home for an expat is a strange concept. Let’s talk about it.
Being an expat is like being a chameleon
When you settle abroad, that place then becomes your home. But the best part about it is that you also have this other original home that’s just a flight away. And when you go to said place, everything is just as you left it. The food you so miss when you’re away is there. Everyone’s speaking your language. Your family and friends are there – the best part. But then after a few weeks ‘at home’, you then leave to return to your other more exotic ‘home’. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I first started living in other countries, my idea of ‘home’ was my home in the UK. And I think the reason behind this was that I was always abroad temporarily. When I went to Greece to study, I was there for half a year, when I went to work in Austria, again it was only for half a year. Then I went to Brussels for an internship and, you’ve guessed it, I was only there for a short time. This time, in Poland, I am here indefinitely, and I have a settled life here more so than what I had in any other country. So since I’ve lived here, my idea of ‘home’ has changed for me. I have my own apartment, my own balcony, a job, an actual legit Christmas tree (that was a big adult moment for me last year), and I also have a boyfriend here too (this list is not in order of importance). All of this is the kind of life stuff you expect to have when you’re settled somewhere. And if you were to ask me if I feel like I have a settled life here? I’d say yes. Now when I go to the UK, it is still like going home, but I do end up yearning to be in my little space in Poland after a few weeks. And now, as I write this blog post in my comfy clothes, on my bed in my little apartment, I’m having that ‘agh, I’m glad to be home moment’, which I never thought would happen to me abroad. My life here is small, strange, unique, amazing and stressful. But it’s mine, and I love it.
This is a reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad
One of the main excuses people might give for not moving overseas is that they’d miss home. But they forget that, actually, your idea of home changes as you progress through your time in a foreign country. They forget that they will set up their own digs abroad and maybe they’ll start comparing what they have abroad to what they didn’t have ‘at home’. They forget that they can come home anytime they want! So, you can reap the rewards of a life abroad and also enjoy the perks of going back to your place of birth? Yes! What’s not to love!? This is the reason why people shouldn’t be afraid to move abroad. People get so anxious about the distance they’d be away from home that they end up thinking it’s a permanent thing. But once you calm down and embrace the opportunity, you become aware that there are regular flights to your home country and it really isn’t that far. Also you don’t have to live there forever. People move around all the time.
being physically far away from your home country helps you grow the heck up
One thing I’ve noticed about being physically far away from home is that I have grown up. A lot. When I was a child, I used to cling to my Mum’s leg. I was a real mummy’s girl and I’m pretty sure that the last thing my family expected me to do was move abroad! Yet, here we are.
When you’re abroad and your Mum can’t just pop over for a cup of tea or your Dad can’t just come over to fix your washing machine, you start to rely on yourself and only yourself. And that can only be a good thing! I think one trait shared by all expats is independence because you have to be independent to survive living abroad. Then when you go home, you go home feeling accomplished. Repeat after me: I am a badass woman who can handle living abroad and that’s pretty cool. This is what I think every time I go back to the UK.
Then when you finally get to that stage of calling your place abroad your real home, that’s a sign you’ve truly grown up. You no longer rely on your parents for support, and you no longer need the home comforts to make you feel whole. However, I do appreciate an order from the British Corner Shop every now and then. Hint, hint, family and friends.
And when you finally call your home abroad your ‘actual home’, you start to notice the difference between ‘going home’ when you head to your home country and ‘coming home’ when you return to your hub abroad.
I learnt something in my working life lately. I have not been working with my worth in mind. And only after being burnt do I now realise my mistake. And it’s not the other party’s fault as most people would say. As a freelancer, it’s so important to have standards and know how much your work is worth. Earlier this year, I failed to do this.
So earlier this year, I took on the biggest job I’d ever gotten from the app Fiverr. The task at hand: to edit a book of 100,000 words for $1,000. But then Fiverr takes 20% so I actually only got $800 – I didn’t think of this before. And even though I googled what I should be charging for such a big editing job, I still accepted the job. Because it’s ‘better than nothing’, right? Wrong, Kristina, wrong!
Why was I wrong to accept this job? Because the money I received did not equal the time I put into the project. Because, by accepting such a low rate, this tells the client they can get away with anything – not that my client did. They were lovely throughout. However, when you charge a low rate first of all, it’s quite awkward to ask for more when the edit takes longer than you thought.
So why did past Kristina accept such a low rate? Because she thought that, seeing as it was her first experience editing a book, she couldn’t possibly charge full-price rates. Because I was blindsided by the four figures. Because I thought it would be worthwhile when my work was published and my name was written under the contributors section. Because she had no respect for herself. Because she was stupid. Because she was naïve. Because she simply didn’t stand up for herself.
tHE ISSUE WITH fIVERR
My, oh my, where do I start? As helpful as apps like Fiverr and Upwork are for freelancers to get work, this does not counteract the sheer amount of people that turn to these apps to try to get a cheap deal. I’m sure other freelancers can resonate with this. If I had a penny for every person who has messaged me asking for ridiculously cheap prices, I’d be a rich lady. I recently had some guy contact me to request an edit of 22,000 words for $50 – minus the discount, that’s be $40! I said heck no!
I wouldn’t say that my client requesting the book edit was being that cheeky. Do I think they could have offered more money? Yes. Do I judge them for requesting 30% of a normal price? Yes and no. At the end of the day, I accepted the suggested price so it’s all on me. I also don’t want to completely bad-mouth Fiverr. It really is a much better app than Upwork because it puts the power in the service provider’s hands. With Upwork, I found myself writing essays for every job I applied for, basically pleading for the work. And most of the time, you don’t even get a reply. And when I did get a job, it was obviously ridiculously underpriced – this time it was a cookery book of over 50,000 words for $50. I know, I don’t know what I was thinking. So I’ll be staying on Fiverr for the time being. I’ll just ignore the idiots you get on there sometimes.
Now doing a job for a low price but with a high reward sounds okay, right? If my work gets published, then that’s something I can add to my CV, right? But what happens when you do a job for a cheap rate and then that work isn’t even used? Yeah, you guessed it, that happened to me. So not only did I work tirelessly for hours on end to get the language quality of this book (written by a non-native speaker) to a good standard – basically rewriting mass chunks of it – but now it’s not even going to be recognised. What happened was the book was supposed to be self-published, hence I was hired. But then a publishing house got involved with the original language version and decided they wanted to translate that as opposed to use the existing English version that I so tirelessly edited. Great. It’s not the author’s fault because I don’t think they could have predicted this would happen. But it still sucks. Why does it suck? BECAUSE I HAD NO RESPECT FOR MYSELF WHEN I ACCEPTED THE JOB. If I had been paid the rate I deserved, would I be as sour about the situation now? Probably not!
So, I’ve learnt a valid lesson from this ordeal. I have to know my worth and not let dollar signs sway my judgement. Yes, $1,000 sounds like a lot, but for editing an entire book? No, Kristina. That is not enough. And I shouldn’t work for less in the hope I will be recognised because the events I describe above could always happen.
My advice to anyone reading this: If you’re a requestor on an app, don’t ask for stupid prices. Have some respect for the skill you’re requesting. Sit and think for a second if your quote is enough. If you wouldn’t work for that, it’s quite likely that you’re being an a**hole and not offering the price your service provider deserves. Also, while I’m on this topic, have some respect for the field of editing and translation people! Everyone seems to think it’s easy and not much effort. But it really is! It’s just as hard as writing the original source text. If you, like me, are the person providing an editing service, don’t accept less than you deserve, make sure your name is mentioned when you deserve it to be, and have some respect for yourself. I know I will from now on. Also, if you’re my client reading this, I don’t mean anything personally. But next time, I will ask for more money from you.
So, I live alone. I haven’t felt like I have for a long time seeing as me and my boyfriend have been self-isolating together for over six weeks. But, I got a litte PMSie and decided to withdraw myself from our cute living situation for a week. I just didn’t think it was fair to him, poor guy. And now, I’m sat in my apartment by myself watching How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days with the gorgeous Matthew McConaughey and I’m wondering why I got so mopey and sad by myself before. For some reason, it suddenly hit me this week just how empowering living alone is. The fact that I’m also living by myself ABROAD adds another layer to the whole situation, which I’ll explain below.
WHY LIVING ALONE IS GOOD
1. Hello, independence!
The obvious reason why living by yourself is the best thing since sliced bread is the sheer independence you get. Like all the time. You can do what you want in your own space whenever and however you want. You can do the classic walk around naked. You can cook what you want, or just eat cereal for dinner with no judgement. You can actually date without having to skulk around any nosy housemates or concerned parents. You can bring said date back to your apartment if that’s your vibe. You can stay up late and get up late. Whatever you want, pretty lady!
2. Your mind has space to think
Sometimes, when your surrounded by other people, it can be hard to actually think. It sounds silly, but do you remember the last time you were in an empty room with no music on? The silence feels so empty, right?! That’s what it feels like living alone. Suddenly, your brain isn’t taking in the normal noises that come with a busy household. Instead it can focus on what matters to you. Since I’ve been alone in the last week, my creative juices have never been more juicy. I’ve had ideas about my career that I’ve never even considered before. And, my mind has just been more chilled.
3. You don’t have to talk to ANYONE
Of course, when you live by yourself, it’s just you. If you switch off your phone, you only have yourself for company, and it’s weird at first, but it really is great. When you live with someone, there’s always this readiness you have to have to talk to your partner, family, housemates, etc. But I noticed, after a day of being home alone, that I no longer had that hyper-alert feeling that I had to interact with someone. This might not be a good feeling for extroverts, but for introverts, it’s bloody lovely. The only interactions you have to decide about is if you answer a phone call or a text. The ball’s in your court.
4. Your living routine is under your control
The one thing I hated about living with housemates was people not cleaning their dishes ALL WEEK, leaving food in the fridge until it started to smell like death, people stealing my food from the fridge, people using the oven when I wanted to use it, people using the bathroom when I wanted to use it, and people just generally being in the house when I wanted to watch Friends and chill by myself. I feel like you have to go through this at university and early in your career to fully appreciate the freedom of having your own place later on. And oh man, do I appreciate it now. I can go to bed at night knowing that I won’t wake up to a sh*tstorm in the kitchen in the morning. Likewise, if I leave my plate on the side, I won’t have anyone complaining about it the next day. Would I go back to sharing? Only with my boyfriend. You’re welcome, babe.
5. You have your own sense of home all day
There’s nothing quite like having a sh*t day and knowing you can go home and vegetate in your natural habitat with no disturbance unless you request it. For me, as an expat, having my own place has been like a home away from home. You can fill your cupboards with treats from home, put pictures up wherever you want, even photos of landmarks from your home city. You can even put a flag up, why not? And now, sorry Mum, but my flat has been bumped up the list to be considered my actual home. I used to always think of my Mum’s house as home. But now, when I go back, it doesn’t feel like that anymore. And when I get back to my flat in Wroclaw, I’m like ‘ahhhhh, my own bed’. I never thought this day would come, but it has.
6. You learn things
When something goes wrong, only you can sort it out. Power goes out? Get those candles burning, girl! Got a leak? Call a plumber! Since living by myself, I’ve learnt things because I’ve had to. For example, the dishwasher. This is something I just thought you put dishes in and then took them out when they’re clean. I didn’t even realise you had to clean the thing! And oh wow, is that a gross job. I’ve found myself Googling how to get stains out, how to clean an oven and how to clean a mattress (don’t ask).
WHY living alone is weird
1. Nobody is there with you
Similar to number one above, you have independence but the trade-off is that nobody is there. Nobody! And it is weird. After a while, you start craving social connection (even if you are an introvert) and you talk to yourself sometimes. I definitely talk to myself, but hey, if I can’t talk to myself, who can?! I also struggle at night when I’m done with work, and I’m watching TV by myself. I grew up chilling in the evenings with my mum and sister. So when I’m sitting alone watching TV at night, I can’t help thinking about what they’re doing. And it’s a sad moment.
2. Your mind has TOO MUCH space to think
That’s right. Having space to think can work wonders, but it can also make you think about things unnecessarily. I liken it to when I was a lifeguard: When you spend eight hours a day on the lifeguard chair watching an adult swim class in a baby pool, meaning there’s pretty low risk of anything bad happening, your mind tends to wander. And, let me tell you, when you shout at kids to stop running and clean changing room floors for a living, you question your life choices a lot. Similarly, when I’m filling in my Passion Planner, I find I have so much free space in my week that I start to add unnecessary, unattainable goals. Why don’t I do yoga three times a week? Why don’t I have more things to do, dammit!? Then I fill out the whole week from Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and I’m disappointed with myself when I didn’t do my laundry between 3-4 p.m. on a Sunday. Why do I do this? Too much space! The quietness of an empty apartment has the same effect. Thinking about one thing quickly spirals into a whole internal debate in your head, and it gets weird. When you’d normally think your consumption of ice cream is just fine, you might start worrying about it unnecessarily when you live alone. Add in hormonal birth control on top of that and you have a cocktail for crying episodes and anxiety right there. While you eat said ice cream.
3. Nobody is there to hug you
This is a hard one, especially if you grew up with daily hugs from your mum like me. When I was younger, I used to crave having my own place so much that I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I wouldn’t have anyone to hug. Obviously, I got over it. And now I have a boyfriend, I have more access to hugs now than I used to before. But now I’m alone for the week, I’m starting to miss those cuddles.
4. You’re actually in charge of your routine
As I mention above, not living with anyone means everything in your place is just as you want it because you left it like that. At the same time, you have the freedom to use every room in your house whenever you want, however you want. This poses a problem though. Because I have this freedom, sometimes I get a little lazy. I might leave dishes on the side longer than usual, I might not hoover for weeks, I might not shower for days (don’t judge me), and I feel kind of crummy when I succumb to these habits. It sucks. And then I have to find the motivation to get back on top of my game with the chores and self-care. When your mum isn’t screaming at you to wash up, motivation is looooow. And do you know why I feel crummy when I turn into a lazy hermit? Because I love having a clean, organized house. So when I’ve been too lazy to clean it and put my damn stuff away, I start getting anxious and snappy. Mostly directed at myself.
5. Sometimes your own place doesn’t feel like home
Although my place feels more homely than any shared house I’ve lived in, it doesn’t quite have that 100% homely vibe, mainly because there’s no family there. It’s just me. Most of us grow up in some kind of family unit, and we take all those cosy moments for granted; playing board games with your siblings, watching TV with everyone in the living room, cooking together, eating together, etc. It’s magical stuff. So when I eat dinner alone these days, it feels weird. To make myself feel better, I watch family vlogs on Youtube.
6. You realise you don’t know anything
So you have to learn how to do something, whether it be fixing something or how to pay a bill, but first you have to get over the anxiety of realising you don’t know how to do it in the first place. And that can be annoying, especially when you’ve been working all day and can’t be asked to think about anything more than a glass of wine. This is where phoning your mum, dad or grandparents can really help you out. As much as we try to show the older generation that we know what we’re doing and we don’t need their help, sometimes your grandmother might know the perfect cleaning product to clean your shower door. You can offer an iPhone masterclass in return.
So there you have it …
That’s my view on living alone. There are pros and there are cons, and it really is down to the individual whether it’s for them. For me, living abroad and living alone really helps to seal the deal on the whole ‘independence’ thing. Not only do I have my own place, but there is also a significant distance between me and my family. Although it saddens me to know that I can’t just pop round my nan’s for a cup of tea or to my mum’s to watch Neighbours together, I think about how this distance has made me grow as a person, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.
Just like I think everyone should try living abroad, even for a short time, I really think everyone should try living alone. Even if it’s just for a couple of months to test it out, you need to know what it feels like. You might hate it, or you might think it’s the most empowering thing you ever did.