2012 vs 2016

June 25th, 2016



It’s Thursday, July 19th 2012.

That evening after sunset there will be a fire garden installation at the National Theatre, to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic Torch in London. My friends and I plan to check it out, cause pyrotechnics (do I need to say more?). Since it’s lovely weather, we agree to meetup earlier that evening at the Southbank and have dinner somewhere around there.

Now up until this day I think we all felt slightly cynical about the Olympics. In the past few months there have been constant subtle reminders that this is going to happen, but to us it’s mostly materialized as station closures, roadworks and other disruptions to our daily lives. There’s this wary acceptance that ‘yes, this is going to happen’, but it’s mainly going to throw the city into turmoil and be an annoying thing that we’ll need to deal with while we continue with our day-to-day. The Olympics are an event that we Londoners need to weather, not enjoy.

That evening those feelings disappear.

The moment I emerge from the underground tube station at Waterloo, I can sense that the city feels different. Just walking through the buzz and busyness of the Southbank you can tell that the cynicism has been replaced with this feeling of anticipation and hopefulness. Everywhere around me people are laughing, random strangers are enjoying conversations and there’s a general vibe that everyone is waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.

The air is full of not just excitement, but this collective feeling of pride of our city, of our London. The Olympics are coming and we’re going to show the world what it means to be a Londoner, to be a Brit. We’re going to welcome these athletes from all of the world and cheer them all on as they set their records and do amazing feats.

In the weeks that follow, my friends and I get thoroughly swept up in the Olympic spirit. We manage to get tickets to several of the actual events, watching various sports up close – and when we can’t get tickets, we attend the fringe events at the parks and Olympic Houses. Everywhere you go the city is cheering on the triumphs of the world.

This is our city and our city is celebrating.


It’s Friday, June 24th 2016.

That evening after work, friends of mine have pre-organized a meetup in the pub, jokingly mentioning the chances of needing a drink that evening. It’s been in my calendar for a few days, but I casually dismiss it as a fun moment to meetup with friends, not expecting that maybe I might actually need a drink that evening.

Now up until this point I think we all felt worried that Brexit could happen. It’s not until I wake up that morning and see that the result is LEAVE that it truly sinks in that today is a turning point.

Walking through London that morning – it feels like a city in mourning, with people expressing their grief in different ways. My trip on the tube, while never a very social experience, seems full of much more solemn quietness than usual. While catching up with friends and colleagues at the conference where I’m at that day, I can see the panic and defeat in their eyes. My entire Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of finger-pointing and blame and distrust, tons of voices lamenting the fact that we could ever get this far. And at the end of the day, there’s a flurry of people flocking to their closest pubs hoping to drink away the end of the world as they know it.

I’m not going to comment on the politics of this all – there’s still a lot that seems super vague to me. There are much more knowledgeable people than me out there who can explain what might happen and what we can do. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what effects this will have on me, on my friends, on my colleagues.

But: I want my city back.

I want that London that we got during the Olympics. A London that is hopeful – a London that can stand strong and show the world that ‘yep, things suck, but we can get through this’. No matter what happens, this entire pointing fingers at each other, blaming this group or that, criticising the things we could have done differently, it’s not helping. If we keep looking back and bemoaning the things that could have been, we’ll wallow in the world of ‘What-If’ and never make a difference.

We’ve had our day of mourning.

What’s next?

Today it’s Time to Talk Day, a campaign to make people aware of mental health issues and to get people talking about them. I’ve dealt with a lot of anxiety in the past 15 years or so, but have to admit I’ve never talked to a professional about it or even really considered it a mental health “issue” I have. Looking back though I’m realising maybe I should have – maybe I could have made it easier for myself if I had. I guess part of me just thought that this is what being a grown-up means, that everyone experienced these things but I just wasn’t good enough at coping with them. And that in itself is why I’m writing this – if it helps only one single person out there, that alone means this post was worth writing.

This time she spotted me

Being “perfect” and Imposter syndrome

I think my anxiety started in the final years of high school. Before those final 2 years, I thought school was pretty easy. I’ve got an awesome short term memory, so memorising stuff for exams wasn’t very challenging, and I always considered myself in the top of the class. In those final years though, things changed – I still was getting high marks and performing well, but it took way more time and effort than it did before and I put a ton of pressure on myself to be that ‘perfect’ student again. I started feeling anxious and bad whenever I got a bad grade, leading to me putting even more pressure on myself, creating this continuous loop of pushing myself maybe a bit too hard.

And that only got worse when I went to university. I decided to study Computer Science without having programmed anything before in my life (well, except for my graphical calculator) and I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff my peers already knew. Compared to them, I felt so inadequate – maybe I had made the wrong decision and I should have studied something else? Despite feeling like that, I kept pushing myself trying yet again to be that ‘perfect’ student even though I knew I could never be as good as my peers. And thanks to all my hard work, I did keep getting high marks for exams and assignments. I knew I wasn’t bad, but somehow I felt like it was just luck, that one day someone would expose me for the fraud I actually was.

At its worse, it would come on as full-on episodes of anxiety – I’d be sitting in the computer lab with a ton of other students around me, reading through the latest practical assignment and just freeze, knowing I didn’t know how to solve this problem. My chest would go all tight, my face and neck would go all red and splotchy, and the sound of my way-too-loud beating heart would drown out all the noise around me.

I now know that this is what is called Imposter Syndrome, but at the time I thought I was the only one feeling like this. Realizing that most people I know, even those who are way more experienced than I am, have dealt with imposter syndrome was a huge eye-opener to me. Hearing how I wasn’t the only person that has this and talking to others about their own experiences has been the main thing that has helped me deal with this type of anxiety. Knowing that most of us are ‘imposters’ and just trying the best we can has taken away that feeling that I don’t belong.

Throughout the years it’s gotten a whole lot less, but I’ll still have days where I don’t feel good enough – that I’m not doing the best I can. I’ll get stuck in loops of self doubt and blame for not having done more. It’s not quite Imposter Syndrome, but it still is anxiety about how I assume I should be. Especially after a day that hasn’t gone quite as I thought it would, I’ll get easily stuck in thinking of all the other ways I could have done something, replaying events over and over in my head.

The Worst Case Scenario Thinker

Tied to that is that there’s always this part of my brain that for any situation will try to come up with all possible outcomes – going down every path, be it good or bad. I’ll imagine all the ways past conversations could have gone, or how future conversations might go and (from a code perspective) come up with most edge cases before it’s needed. It’s a great skill to have (especially for work and board games), but only when I can reign it in and actually turn it into something I can act on.

In the worst case scenario though my worst case scenario thinker will focus way too much on the negative, coming up with a ton of unlikely and bad scenarios, causing me to freeze up and get massive panic attacks based on ‘what might happen’. I’ve had lots of sleepless nights where my mind has gone down the rabbit hole of doom and dread, conjuring up the worst things I can think of.

Nowadays it mainly happens to me when I’m doing stuff not part of my routine, like when I’m going on holiday. I’ll get super anxious just thinking about all the things I’ll forget to pack, how I’m going to miss my flights, how the airline will lose my luggage, how my flat will be burgled while I’m away, how the pet sitter will forget to feed my cats, how I’ll get lost and not find my way back to my hotel, how my bag, passport and money will be stolen, how… etc etc. I know most of it is unlikely and won’t happen, but it’s so easy to get trapped in thinking of all the negative that ‘could’ occur.

Understanding, compartmentalising and reflecting

For me, there have been 3 things that have helped a lot with how I deal with anxiety. The first is understanding. Identifying when I’m having a panic attack and understanding why it’s happening and what has triggered it, means I can try to stop my mind from going down the rabbit hole. I find the psychology of emotions fascinating (my master’s thesis was on facial expression recognition), and being able to learn what our brains do when we experience anxiety has helped me a lot (I find a good place to start is Emotional Intelligence from Daniel Goleman).

The second thing is compartmentalising. I’ll always have these parts of my brain that will pipe up at completely the wrong moments and I’ve accepted that they will always be there. I’ve realised though that I don’t always have to listen to them at that moment: I’ll acknowledge they’re there, then mentally shove it in a box and put it aside to open up later. I’ll never completely forget about that box though, and I will always get around to dealing with those thoughts and issues, but I’ll do it at a time when it works for me (rather than say in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep).

The third is reflecting. I wrote an entire article about doing personal retrospectives for 12 Devs during Christmas, so won’t go into too much detail here. Reflection for me is sitting down and taking the time just to think about all the things I’ve done and what I could have done differently. It’s a time to open the box with all the thoughts I had and to go through them. The main thing is doing it when it feels right to me – when I feel I have the right type of mind to deal with the issues.

I know these are just the things that I do and I have no idea whether or not they will help anyone else, but it might help just hearing how other people deal with stuff. I also know my version of anxiety isn’t as extreme as it can be for others, yet it will be more than what most people typically encounter. Anxiety is something that I know I need to deal with on a regular basis, and I know it will never fully go away for me. But talking about it, however hard and embarrassing and weird it might be, does help.

30 Things: Part Two

September 17th, 2014

Back in February after my birthday, I had this great idea to do a 30 Things While 30 List, cause I was too busy to actually finish the list before I was 30. Yeah, turns out: I haven’t gotten any less busier.

I started the initial list with only 10 items, so that I could focus on those in the first 4 months. Well, it’s 7 months further and how many of those 10 have I actually managed to do? 4. Meh. I suck.

Despite that though, I’m super happy I managed to do at least these 4 things! Here’s what they were:

#9. Run 10k

I actually ran 10k! I mentioned it here on my blog a couple of times, but a team of us from FutureLearn ran the British 10K to raise money for Computer Aid (you can actually still donate if you want to).

Now, I’ve never properly run before. I’ve tried to get myself into it over the past 6 years or so, but I never pushed myself to the point where I could actually run continuously for more than just a few minutes. This time around I stuck to a good training schedule and got myself to the stage where I could just run for 30 minutes straight.

I have to admit though: I didn’t keep it up and I need to build it up again. But it’s so so worth it. I definitely felt as if I had way more energy, despite doing these runs every other day.

#1. Visit Seckington

I’ve been living here in the UK for over 7 years now, and yet still had never managed to visit Seckington. I finally did. And got the obligatory camera shot:

#7. Go to a spa

I have to admit I made it a bit easy for myself and ended up going to a spa here in London for a massage and facial: the Elemis Day Spa in Mayfair. I so needed it though. I know I have terrible posture and I can just feel my back and neck tensing up too often.

#2. Play HintHunt

I got invited to a bloggers event last week for #LVLOVELIFE to try out HintHunt, the live escape game. The idea of HintHunt is that you’re stuck in a room and have to escape. Remember those flash games where you had to find all the items in a room and combine them in different ways to solve puzzles? That. In real life.

This was so much fun! I did the Zen room with 3 other bloggers and we managed to escape the room with only 49 seconds to spare. I don’t want to spoil the experience, so I won’t describe this in further detail, but I so recommend it to anyone. I now really want to do their other room too!

So what’s next on my list? Since I finished 4 items on it, I’m adding another 4 new items:

  1. Visit Seckington
  2. Play Hint Hunt
  3. See Les Mis
  4. Read The Prestige
  5. Make my own ramen
  6. Finish an online course
  7. Go to a spa
  8. Build something with Arduino
  9. Run 10k
  10. Visit an overseas city I’ve never been before
  11. Blog about 5 recipes
  12. Make boozy cookies
  13. Build a pillow fort
  14. Speak at a conference

Yeah, I’m cheating a little bit with that last item. I already spoke at DDD East Anglia last week and will be speaking at Hackference and FOWA soon, but come on! I need to check more off this list (plus it IS something I’ve been wanting to do for ages).

45 Days Later

February 15th, 2014

Yep, it’s been 45 days since I last blogged. I still can’t believe it’s been quite that long, but the past few weeks have been so busy and manic. I’ve moved to a shiny new river-side flat, work has moved to shiny new offices at the British Library, and I went on a 2 week trip to Orlando.

I’ll blog about Disney more in the next days, but as a sneak peek here are some photos of the trip:

Miss Geeky’s 2013 Highlights

December 31st, 2013

I can’t quite believe how quick this year has gone by! Looking back I’m amazed at what I got to do this year. Here are a couple of my highlights:


I got engaged! I love the ring Cristiano gave me. It’s got a ruby in the middle and 32 diamonds in the band; geeky, but not too obvious.

Me at the BAFTAs

I went to the BAFTAS. I still adore the dress I got. I just wish I had another chance to wear it.


I finished a triathlon (well, one thirds of a triathlon, but still, it’s more than I’ve done before!)

FutureLearn Cupcakes

I worked on FutureLearn and we launched in September! It’s so awesome to see actual people use something I’ve worked on.

The view from our room!

I went on my first proper holiday in like 7 years. The hotel we got in Croatia was quiet and relaxing, just what we needed after such a busy year!

So what were your highlights of 2013?

Tags: Personal

Last Sunday I had a great day with friends attempting to sledge with cardboard boxes in the park near Alexandra Palace. We weren’t that successful, cause it turns out: cardboard boxes make very bad sledges. Despite our utter failure to go fast, it was a lot of fun!

My favourite photo is of me pretending to go fast:

Like a rollercoaster

Here are a couple of other photos of that day:

Walk up to Alexandra Palace

First slide (attempt) of the day

Hadley attempts a solo slide

Looks faster than it was

Spot the fail in the background

Snow monster

I’ve always been a geek. I’ve always been a girl. Neither of those two things will ever change.

I’m not really sure why, but I’ve stayed away from blogging about being a girl in the tech/game-blogging/movie-blogging industry, leaving it to those that can write more eloquently than me. But I shouldn’t. I still experience weird situations that leave me puzzled as to why they happen, and I should be blogging about those.

Throughout my entire life I’ve had to prove that I am a geek, encountering men and boys that didn’t believe a woman could know about or would be interested in geeky stuff.

I remember being seven years old, having just discovered a new TV show: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At school, I overheard a couple of boys discussing the theme song. They couldn’t remember the lines, though, so I jumped in and sang the entire song for them. They were so baffled that a girl would watch that show that they didn’t believe those were the real lyrics.

I remember in high school being told that math and physics were too difficult for girls. That I should choose something more appropriate like biology or history.

I remember being at university, studying Computer Science and finishing a tricky assignment which the student assistant had just approved. I was quite proud of myself until I overheard that same student assistant say to another student “If SHE can do it, you definitely can.”

I hate that those things happened. I regret that I didn’t have more guts at the time to turn around and say “You. Are. Wrong.” But those experiences made me who I am today. My response to all those things was to be the best I could be — and to prove to everyone that I was smart enough to do anything a guy could do.

All of the above events happened more than ten years ago, so I can forgive most of those remarks and hope those people know better now. But these type of things STILL happen. I still experience prejudice just because I’m a woman.

A couple of times now at Forbidden Planet, a massive comic and sci/fantasy book store in London, I’ll be browsing and guys will approach and hit on me. The hitting on random girls at bookstores is a separate issue, but why do almost all of them start with “Are you buying a present for someone?” Seriously. You don’t think that just maybe I’m there because I’m interested in it myself?

At tech events, I’ve noticed that what I wear really makes a difference. If I’m wearing a geeky T-shirt and jeans/shorts, everything will be fine. When I’m wearing a pretty dress and nice makeup though, then the comments start. I’ll be at a hackday and someone will ask “Are you doing the marketing for this team?”. Or I’ll be at an event for bloggers and someone will assume I’m one of “the PR girls”.

A few months ago I was at a PR party and I met a girl who was wearing the standard geek uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. She remarked to me that she wished she had put on a dress — but she had to go to a Facebook developer event earlier that evening, so needed to wear jeans and t-shirt or else not be taken seriously. Do we truly still work in an industry where it matters what we wear? Are jeans and T-shirt our industry’s suit and tie, and are we really ignoring those that don’t conform to the industry’s uniform? Whatever happened to geeks allowing you to be whoever you wanted to be?

From what I’ve experienced so far, the games industry is a whole lot worse. No, let me get that right: the game blogging industry. At almost every game blogging/press event I’ve gone to, I’ve had male attendees (bloggers/PRs/game developers) stare wide-eyed at me and exclaim: “OMG. You’re a girl. Girls don’t like games.” They’ll either try to dissect how this strange creature got into gaming or disregard everything I’m saying. I can’t get over the fact that some people still don’t realize that, yes, girls play games too. And, yes, we like the same games guys like too. Girls are part of your readership/consumer base/target audience. Don’t ignore them.

All these incidents happend to me within the past year. I tend not to react, to “ignore” them, but actually? They annoy the hell out of me. And I’m not the only one that they happen to.

So I’m going to write about them more. And I want to hear from you all what you’ve been through.

I am “Miss Geeky”. I am a geek. And I am a girl. I’ll have moments of extreme geekiness, but I’ll also have moments of extreme girliness. I like makeup and pretty dresses and jewellery, and me liking those does not make me any less of a geek. I will not change what I like or what I wear purely to fit in and conform to people’s idea of the “geeky girl”. I will write more about this stuff, because everything I’ve talked about here shouldn’t be happening. Geeky girls have always been around. Just because you didn’t notice us doesn’t mean we weren’t there.

And it doesn’t mean you can ignore us now.

New Year’s Resolutions

January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I had a great New Year’s eve at a friend’s place, celebrating with board games, champagne and general awesomeness. I know I’m one day late with this blog post, but I still thought I should do a short post with some New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Book Buying Ban: It turns out I’ve still got more than 100 books on my To Be Read “pile”, mainly cause last year I ended up buying quite a lot of second hand books. So this year: a book buying ban. For the next year I’m not allowed to buy any books of new series/authors. I am allowing myself to buy some books though: 12 books, all 12 of which need to be specified within the next week and need to be books of existing series.
  2. Read 52 Books: Looking at my GoodReads stats of the past year, I only read a measly 26 books. Not too bad, but at that rate I’ll finish my TBR pile in 4 years… I also should put away the books I absolutely can not get into; maybe not necessarily get completely rid of them, but at least put them in a box to revisit in a few years time.
  3. Watch 26 “Old” Movies: I’ve got some serious gaps in my movie history. There are some great movies out there, that I’ve managed to miss completely and I really should catch up on them. I tried doing a 52 movies list  a few years back, so I thought let’s make it a bit simpler this time around. I’ll do a blog post later this week which movies I’ll be doing.
  4. Write more Book/Movie/Game Reviews: I read/watch/play quite a lot, way more than what I write about here on MissGeeky. I should do at least one proper review per week, and a roundup post at the end of each month covering whatever I couldn’t write about individually.
  5. Work Out More: An obvious one. I started running again at the end of November, but with all the Christmas stuff and cold weather I kind of stopped with it. I should really try to run at least once a week. Plus I want to go trampolining again!
  6. Blog more about recipes: I love some of the recipes I’ve been using lately, most of them tweaked in my own special way. Who wants to try out my katsu curry recipe?
  7. Visit Seckington: I’ve been living in the UK for almost 6 years now and I still haven’t visited the town Seckington. Who’s up for a day trip?

Sounds doable, right? Did you make any NY’s resolutions? Let me know in the comments.

I’m always quite wary about posting sponsored content on my blog. My stance on it though is: if it fits with something that I find relevant for this blog, I’m happy to write about it. In this case it’s a campaign for the British Red Cross and it came at exactly the right moment.

A crisis can happen anywhere, and to anyone.

Two weeks ago when visiting my sister’s place, my dad fell down from the top of the staircase. The stairwell was narrow, steep and high and my dad pretty much bounced backwards head first down the stairs. Earlier this year I had done first aid training, but at that moment I blanked out and couldn’t remember what to do, besides calling an ambulance which my sister’s boyfriend was already doing. I kept going over all the things I had learnt, but it’s stressful when it’s family. After the ambulance arrived, it took my dad to the hospital, and we spent the rest of the day there waiting for test results to come back. Everything turned out fine, except for some small broken bones in my dad’s hand.

Everything turned out fine, but a crisis can happen anywhere, and to anyone.

The British Red Cross help more than a million people in the UK every year. They support them in emergencies, provide care in the home, teach life-saving first aid skills, and do a ton of other services. I’m glad I did the first aid training course; even though I wasn’t that helpful this time around with my dad, who knows when what I learnt might come in handy.

If you want to learn more about the British Red Cross or more about their first aid courses, check out their website.

Disclaimer: this article is sponsored by the British Red Cross. All thoughts and opinions are my own though.

Olympics: Fire Garden

July 29th, 2012

I’m really enjoying the Olympics so far. I wasn’t expecting to be this excited for it, but I’ve gotten quite in the Olympic spirit, rooting for both Australia and the Netherlands (and maybe even a little for Team GB). I’ve mainly watched the swimming events from the past two days (the Women’s Freestyle Relay was awesome), and I’ll need to catch up with some of the other sports. I’m now also regretting now trying harder to get tickets; it would have been so good to see some of these events in real life!

For me the Olympic atmosphere properly started a couple days ago on Wednesday. A friend saw on the National Theatre’s site that they were doing a “Fire Garden” exhibition and thought it would be a good plan to meetup with some friends, have dinner and watch whatever the “Fire Garden” was. It was gorgeous weather that day, so of course the Southbank was completely packed with people and of course all the restaurants had large queues. Instead of queueing and waiting to be seated in a overly hot restaurant, we had the brilliant plan of picnicking in Jubilee Park and ordering Wagamama’s takeaway. I’m amazed I’ve never done that before! It was so much more fun and relaxed than actually sitting in a Wagamamas.

After a great dinner, we all realized we were still hungry and had at least an hour to kill till the Fire Garden. So we ended up crossing the river and getting ice cream at Gino’s. I still prefer Lick for the more unique flavours, but Gino’s do really nice traditional Italian ice cream (the website says they even have Bacio flavour which I didn’t notice that night).
With our ice creams in hand we walked to Trafalgar Square to sit on the stairs and enjoy the atmosphere. You could really feel London buzzing that day; everyone was excited for the Olympics and you could sense that excitement in the air. Cristiano made a couple of great pictures:

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

After sitting there for a while, we slowly made our way back to the Southbank to see what the Fire Garden was. Turns out it the name was exactly right: it was a “garden” of fire to celebrate the Olympic flame coming to London. It looked awesome! I didn’t manage to walk through it though; the moment I got close to the path my eyes teared up completely.

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

Fire Garden

Pretty, right? So fellow Londoners and non-Londonders, are you feeling the “Olympism”? What Olympic events have you seen so far?