2016 in words. Sort of.

To say this last year has been a rollercoaster would be an understatement. I think of it more like a bungee jump. How the thought of the jump is scarier than the actual activity. How the first part is the worst part and how it levels off at the end.

I can’t even put into words how I feel about 2016. I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for the last hour or so and even now I’m struggling to construct a reasonable sentence. But what I can say – without hesitation – is that I am proud of what I have achieved. And to me, that’s the most important thing.

Before the summer I received my last bulk of University grades. All of them, were firsts. And if you take into consideration the months leading up to those assignments, where I was suffering from an eating disorder, makes it all the more shocking; to me at least.

Every year I try and set New Year’s resolutions and tell myself to do things out of my comfort zone. But I don’t live my life by structure. I didn’t even apply to University and look where I am. I live my life spontaneously. By rolling a dice. A guessing game. I don’t like planning things. Planning means there’s an element of something going wrong. Like when you arrange to meet up with friends and they bail last minute. I can’t be bothered with that.

So this year I won’t set any resolutions other than to be the best version of myself.

I had a wake-up call in November and lost my Grandpops. Always appreciate your loved ones and never take them for granted. Things happen without a warning all the time. I never got to say goodbye. My mum never got to say goodbye. No one did. But the sky gained another star and I can only hope he’s watching over me whilst I do him proud.

I’m due to start work experience at an F1 team in January. I’ll also graduate. My future is charging right at me and I still don’t know where it’ll take me. But that’s the best part. Although I have a huge fear of the unknown, I’m almost excited by not knowing what will happen. The future is terrifying but I’m lucky to have the friends (new and old) and family I do, to share the adventures with. 2017 can only be better, I think, I hope.

If you’re reading this and like me you had an up and down year: believe in yourself. You’ll be surprised where self-belief will take you. If you don’t like something, change it. If you want to do something, do it. Be spontaneous. Be yourself. Your life is an open book – don’t let someone else write it.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain.

Make those mistakes. Be risky. Stop questioning the outcome because not every mistake will turn out to be a bad one.

 

Not everything is how it seems

“Take a before and after picture,” He said as I got up ready to leave the consultation. “When this is all just a memory, you’ll realise just how strong you are.”

Strong; adjective; having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks / able to withstand force, pressure, or wear.

We often confuse strength with power, that to be strong you must have enormous muscles and go to the gym almost every day. But strength isn’t about the weight you can carry, but rather for how long for.

However, there is a stigma.

That people with mental health problems shouldn’t speak up about their struggles because it’s a sign of weakness. But it takes a lot of strength to hold your own body let alone face the world. The weakness is not within the people who suffer, but within the people who believe in the stigma.

My story is somewhat different.

The bathroom became my bedroom, my pyjamas became my everyday clothes, my hair was in a ponytail, my makeup none existent. I kept quiet. I hid under my clothes. I distanced myself from the people who knew that something was wrong. I was stressed. Unhappy. I couldn’t walk. So frail. So weak. So lost.

We are midway through November and yet this last year has been the worst and the best of my life. I say that because at the start of the year and the first six months or so, I was the above paragraph. I stopped being myself.

I was diagnosed with EDNOS [eating disorder not otherwise specified] in February. I had an anorexic body but not an anorexic mind; my problems were caused by pain and stress rather than anything else. I was not in control of my weight loss. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I wasn’t aware and thus was totally blind sighted by it all until it was too late.

“Stand on the scales please” my doctor said as I walked into the room. “You look dangerously thin, have you been eating?” Before I could even answer, she had clocked the digits on the scales and begun to ring the receptionist to book an urgent consultation with an eating disorder clinic.

What I have missed out is that I had been collapsing; that’s why I had gone to the doctors in the first place. Suspected hypotension (low blood pressure). Which although true and is something I suffer from, was not the apparent issue.

I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to be made out to be a liar and I certainly couldn’t deal with yet more stress. So I bought smaller clothes, wore that good ol’ fake smile and decided to bite the bullet.

I steadily returned back to University, did some work experience at an F1 team and travelled to Paris. Casual, right? What I had realised, is that there were only so many seasons of Pretty Little Liars and once I was caught up I couldn’t just do the same thing every day.

Although I was not in control, I made it my priority to be in control. Don’t let anyone else, or whatever else, try to dictate your life. What you see in the mirror and what someone else see’s is only down to perception. Don’t let someone else’s opinion change your reality – if the sky is the limit, wave at them when you’re dancing on the moon.

Remember, strength is not what you hold, but how long you hold it. To prove it? I did just as I was told to in the first six words of this post.

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If you are reading this and suffer from any kind of mental illness, just know that you’re not alone. It’s not weak of you to need help, it’s brave of you to even bring it up. It’s not a weakness and it’s not embarrassing. Stop trying to be like everyone else, accept who you are and love the person who looks back at you in the mirror.

Never be afraid or ashamed of who you are. Be proud of yourself and never stop believing because the rest will fall into place. Those who underestimate you are the ones who don’t know what you are capable of. It’s not a question of if you will beat it, it’s when.

Start writing your next chapter.

An open letter to any girl that wants to work in motorsport

To ______,

If you want to do something, that isn’t what someone else thinks is right. Do it anyway. Take the risk. Because if you don’t, you’ll live the rest of your life asking questions that you would otherwise be answering for yourself.

Stop hesitating, stop doubting, stop comparing.

I never had someone encouraging me. Never had someone telling me to do whatever I wanted. I was always living this structured life that all of your school teachers advise you to live and instead of having them inspire you in doing whatever you want, you have them telling you to do something the way a book says. But, life is not a book. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, not everyone sticks around until the end, good people and bad people are hard to identify and you never know what can happen.

But what will happen is entirely based upon what you do right now. So that pause, that hesitation, will define what happens to your future.

I parted ways with a former employer a few months ago. I was drained. I was exhausted every single day, of every single week. I was keeping secrets. I was put in the middle. I was put in a position that made me the most uncomfortable I have ever been.

What I thought was a good opportunity, was one of the worst jobs and one of the worst experiences of my life. But it took me so long to admit to myself that I was unhappy because I was doing what I wanted and if I’m being completely honest, it still makes me uneasy today.

Not everything you do will be positive. You somewhat need these types of experiences to learn. Perhaps not to the extent of what me and my former colleagues dealt with. You do however need times that are rough because it’s how you develop your personality. It’s how you build your strength and how you understand your weaknesses.

I learnt that sun-cream in foreign countries – for me – is ineffective.

On the flip side, you will find people that you consider friends just as troublesome. For example, days ago I had someone claim I only spoke to them because they worked for a national sports broadcaster. He mistook my genuine friendliness for flirtation. Which I have to admit, is becoming a common trait – which is rather sad.

To quote said person: “I’m just saying. You want to know me when you think it’s useful. Rest of the time, you can’t be arsed,” which was followed by “If I didn’t have the job I did you wouldn’t have even given me the time of day.”

Not that I feel the need to defend myself, but as few of my friends will be able to confirm, this is wholly inaccurate.

I always get comments like “you don’t seem like the type of girl to like motorsport.” Can you imagine their reaction when I tell them I play football, too? It’s because there’s still this ideology [big or small] that girls and boys have to do different things, whether we want to admit that or not. There’s a reluctance to fully accept gender equality. Though admittedly, this doesn’t apply to everyone.

My advice? Prove them wrong. Show them why you should be considered just as anyone else. Be the person that inside you know you are. When you’re 80-years-old and chatting away to your grandchildren, it’ll be so much better to say “I can’t believe I did that,” than “I wish I did that.”

Had I not quit college – I would not be in University. I would not have met half of the people that I have. I would not have travelled. I would not be doing what I’m doing now. I would not be fulfilling the person I am or the life that I want.

This whole “the heart wants what the heart wants” quote doesn’t just relate to your love life. It represents you. If you’re not being yourself, then who are you? You can dream big, but live your life bigger. Not everything you want happens when you close your eyes. So go out and get it because hard work pays off. It isn’t instantaneous, but everything happens for a reason. If it’s not this time it’s because something better is waiting for you, you just haven’t noticed.

The most important thing is that people are going to love you, hate you, be unsure about you; but make sure that they spell your name right.  Because then, either way, you win.

From Kate x

 

Why motorsport journalism?

I somewhat stumbled on motorsport journalism by accident. It was never planned, it just sort of sprung out of nowhere; not that I am complaining. After seeing my fellow Zoom Auction colleague, Katy Fairman, do a post similar to this, I thought I’d share my progress, too!

A few years ago, after struggles with my anxiety, I was in a bit of a black hole. I had no options, no goals and actually, no dreams. I had nothing. I didn’t know who I was, my mind wouldn’t let me discover my personality. I was in a rather sorry state for a 17-year-old.

The problem we all face, is that we’re all forced to make a career decisive move at an age where we’re only just figuring out who we are. There’s no class in school where you learn how to handle tax or mortgage, or real life problems that we all should know about. I didn’t learn how to handle finance until University where I didn’t have a choice. And I made the rookie error of over-spending way before Christmas so was deep into my overdraft. At no point in my life, will I ever need to know about the cells in a leaf. Or that if you mix this with that it does this. As interesting as it was, schools and colleges need the real life scenarios for kids to learn. College for example, is supposed to be the last step until you reach life as an individual. But it’s far from it.

I left college because I was studying a course that I lost interest in. I had the problems with anxiety too that was severely hampering my attendance and I’ve always told myself; if you’re unhappy with something, change it. So I dropped out after a year. In hindsight, I probably should have finished the course. Something to fall back on perhaps, because counselling/social work is something I always wanted to do as a teen. Advice is something I’d like to think I’m good at because of my past experiences.

Blogging was very new to me. A girl who went to my school did a lot of fashion blogging and it inspired me to do the same. No, I am not a fashion guru. I can never really be bothered to be fashionable. But, I did blog about Formula 1. I was never a skilled writer. I had extra English help pretty much until Year 10 in school. I was blogging about things that I now deem as boring, like race reports and qualifying reports, the snoozefest posts if you like. But this caught the attention of website owners and it stems from there. You never really know who is watching.

I had a careers talk with an advisor and before I knew what was happening, I was starting University. In January 2015, I did my first event as ‘media’ at the Autosport Show and met some of my closest friends in Katy and Teagan. I have never been on my feet as much in a weekend, but, all for a good cause.

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If I’m being honest with you, I never wanted to be a writer. I’m still not sure if that’s really what I want. As I said, it sort of sprung up out of nowhere. I have never cared for news writing. I never will. It’s dull, it’s boring and I am not a gossip so finding the newest stories won’t ever appeal to me. I like feature writing. I like the freedom of being able to write about whatever you want, or interviewing whoever you want. I love in depth interviews with people like Sir Jackie Stewart; where you can really delve into it and listen to full on novels from his day and not get bored.

After Autosport, I attended the annual Zoom Charity Auction where I was introduced to Christian Sylt and Caroline Reid. They have changed my life. The charity is wonderful, it’s such an honour to be able to say I am a part of it. When they asked me to go to Monaco for its inaugural ePrix, I was stunned. Me? Are you sure? But they had full confidence in me and the weekend was phenomenal.

Walking through the tunnel [with Katy] every day to get to the track got better each day. Monaco is as beautiful as you think. It is a pain in the arse to navigate when half of the roads are closed and I’m sure I probably walked the length of the country on race day, but, it’s beautiful nonetheless. I also interviewed Alejandro Agag on his private yacht, interviewed Paul Di Resta too and had drinks with Freddie Hunt. I’m not sure the weekend will ever be bettered. My favourite moments were when Jack Nicholls practiced his signature on his arm but with permanent marker, and when Bruno Senna told Vitantonio Liuzzi his photo was “sh*t.” See more pictures from that experience here.

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A few months later and I had been published in The Independent, The Times and Sunday Express… Oh, and I was on a flight to go to the Austrian Grand Prix. So many people in this industry take this F1 lifestyle for granted. They don’t realise how lucky they are. They don’t appreciate how glamourous this is to your average fan who stands outside the paddock gates hoping to see their favourite driver. Yes, motorhomes are just glorified caravans essentially, but they’re damn pretty and it was in Austria where I realised that no matter what, I want to work in F1. For the past three years, regardless of being a ‘journalist’ I always sit trackside and watch an F1 race as a fan. Waste of money some would say. But I don’t care. I don’t want to lose the passion I have for this sport. I don’t want to forget why I’m doing what I do – like some journalists. I don’t want to be so fixated in a job that I stop enjoying it. In a sense, I don’t want to lose who I am. So I go to Silverstone every year, without fail.

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I have been on social media for years. I have met some of my closest friends through Twitter. I’ve seen its rise, its positives and its negatives. But the motor-racing community are the best bunch of people you will ever come across. Yes, some can be a bit daft on race weekends, but I’ve never been in a position where I can truly talk about the sport I love. No one from my school watched it. Or if they did, I didn’t know them. My best friend, Leanne, is the only one who I could watch it with (other than my family.) The ‘F1 family’ as I remember it being referred to, is a community that I’m happy to be a part of.

The nice chaps at Mercedes also asked me to visit their factory before Christmas. Apparently, I’m pretty good at social media. I’ve never seen a place so clean. It was such a fantastic environment and I had some good chats with the others there; even those I didn’t know. I also took home some free Monster energy cans. You may think that it’s lame. But I had a strawberry flavour one that I had never seen before (who doesn’t love strawberries?!) – despite the fact that I hate energy drinks. Has anyone else drank vodka and Red Bull so much, that after so long any energy drink just tastes like there’s vodka in it when there’s not? Just me?

This year so far has had its ups and downs. I took a heavy hit in January, but I’m still standing and I’m flying off to Paris this weekend. I wasn’t going to speak of that in this post, as I did a more personal one here, but I just wanted to tell you, that you can never give up. Whatever life throws at you, pick up a bat and hit it away. Home runs are always cool – Wii Sports taught me that. I went to the Zoom Auction again in January and despite being a bit worse for wear, had such a blast with Katy (my apparent partner in crime) and some new friends in Fatema and Lucy.

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Journalism in news form may not be for me, but I’m happy to go down the features and PR route which is what I’m doing. New adventures for me. Always keep those good vibes – hard work pays off. Very thankful to have had the chance to work with who I have and even luckier to have become friends with a lot of people because of this industry.

“I don’t have dreams. Just goals. Now on to the next one” – Harvey Specter

Race Week London Competition

Courtesy of GP Management, I have a pair of tickets to Race Week London on Tuesday the 30th of June to give away to a lucky winner.

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Race Week enters its second year and its 6 acre site in the heart if London will be home to F1 cars, drivers and stars alike as they gather to celebrate the glamour of motorsport in a garden like party.

As well as a never before seen 360 degree immersive experience, RWL will display some of the worlds rarest F1 cars including Jenson Button’s McLaren-Honda and James Hunt’s M23.

The festival will give guests the chance to race against F1 drivers in a genuine F1 simulator. With memorabilia and other luxury brands on show there will be plenty of entertainment, including live Q&A’s from F1 team bosses and drivers throughout the day.

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The centerpiece of Race Week will be the revival of the historic cricket match played in the 70’s by legendary F1 drivers such as James Hunt and Niki Lauda. This year will be even more nostalgic with the opposing team fielded by the cricket charity The Lord’s Taverner’s who formed the stellar opposition in the original game. The highest scoring player from that original match, none other than Sir Michael Parkinson, will be our honorary umpire on the day!

RWL Features ;

– A concours of classic and modern F1 cars.

– A revival of the historic 1974 F1 drivers cricket match set up by James Hunt and Niki Lauda, featuring family, friends and relatives of the original 11.

– The other cricket team will be fielded by The Lord’s Taverner’s, the original opposition in the 1974!

– Black Book Race Forum, with Motorsport industry leaders attending

– A festival of motorsport in the heart of the city on a 6 acre historic site

– Auctions and fundraising for the leading disability sports charity The Lord’s Taverner’s.

For your chance to win; ensure you are following @katehewif1 on twitter and like katehewif1 on Facebook and simply share this post on either form of social network – Good luck!

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Monaco ePrix experience

The last time I went abroad was three years ago with my friend, Laura, when we went to Ibiza. However a couple of months ago, I had an email from my friend and colleague Chris suggesting a trip to Monaco in aid of his charity, “Zoom”. Most of you reading this may only recognise the name because of its association with Formula 1, but this year Chris and Caroline decided to move the idea forward and have a similar event for the brand new series, Formula E.

Zoom allows drivers, key personnel and personalities to take photographs of absolutely anything to then auction off in a bid to support its participating charities. Zoom raised thousands of pounds for Great Ormond Street Hospital back in January for its F1 event, and hopes to do the same for the Prince Albert Foundation and One Drop. Though instead of auctioning off the signed images individually, the Formula E snaps will be put in a collage and sold as one big image instead. Be sure to check out @ZoomAuction on Twitter for a glance at some of the photos including Nelson Piquet Jr’s underwater selfie!

Obviously, I forgot to replace my cameras SD card so I was without a camera on the Wednesday. Nonetheless I took lots of photos that I thought I would share. It’s almost like the Monaco you don’t see on the TV with cars racing around its streets.

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Did you watch the Monaco ePrix? What did you think?

The blog, the future and the mental illness.

For Beth, Katie & Caitlin.

I wasn’t sure whether to post this sort of blog, but it would seem that sometimes you just need to be honest with yourself before others can start to believe in you. I never wanted this to happen, I never asked for it, and I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done something to deserve it; but three years ago I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. An illness I’d actually never heard of and couldn’t understand.

Before I knew what was happening I was having up to seven panic attacks a day. Mix that with a bit of asthma and it became unbearable. I felt like I was trapped. I couldn’t go to college, I would convince myself that I was actually stupidly ill with the flu or something until my mum or dad told me to have the day off. There were times that I was fine until I got out of my dad’s car and ended up running back to him and telling him to quickly drive away.

I ended up quitting college. My attendance was poor anyway – I think the highest it had been for the two years I’d been was about 88% and that was only because it was the first week. I quit because the course bored me. I was studying health and social care in the hopes of becoming a social worker so I could help others in similar situations to me (something I won’t go into). But I realised that if I couldn’t help myself, there was no way I could convince others to take my advice. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

I was at home for a year. Unable to leave the house, unable to leave my room, I may as well have been in a prison. I can’t imagine what my parents went through. I was unresponsive – locked inside my own head. The only way to get out was to stand on all of my worries and insecurities, pretending like they weren’t there, to only fall off and be right back where I started. It was a never-ending cycle that I couldn’t complete any longer.

My GP offered counselling and therapy. Both of which I tried and hated. I don’t particularly like talking about my problems. I felt like I was reminding myself of everything I wanted to forget. It was simply pointless. At that point I was my own therapist – if that’s even possible. I knew the only person who could help me, was myself. I was the one that knew when I was having a panic attack and how I could stop them or at least tone them down. I was the one who knew when I was feeling anxious.

Just when I thought I was getting on top of everything, it all went pear shaped. A ‘friend’ of mine told my best friend that it seemed like I was lying. That I’d missed another friends 18th birthday because I couldn’t be arsed to go. That hurt. The trust I had in anyone fell through and I couldn’t talk to anyone about general feelings let alone the anxiety, so I shut myself away – again.

The panic attacks came back, ten times worse this time and another half year had gone by. I was bored. I was bored of being home with nothing to do apart from paint my nails and brush my hair. So I did the only thing I could, and the only thing that I wanted to. I blogged about F1.

It seemed stupid at the time. “No one would read this”, “This is pointless” I would tell myself. Yet I carried on because it was keeping me occupied. My mind was focused on something other than negative thoughts. Soon after I dragged GP2 and GP3 into it and became pretty much obsessed with writing. I wanted to do it every day. I then got offers from websites asking to write for them freelance, so of course I said yes. It was almost a job.

Then I got my big break. I saw a careers advisor because my grades from high school were shocking. To give you a rough idea I only passed about 5 GCSE’s and failed science so badly that I only just scraped an overall E grade. The careers advisor forwarded me to a friend of his who was a sports journalist and worked at Staffs Uni. I emailed him, telling him everything and then went to meet him.

I was offered a position to do the Sports Journalism degree on the spot.

I ended up deferring a year because I simply wasn’t over the worst of my anxiety. The thought of being in lecture halls with hundreds of people freaked me out and I just couldn’t go.

The next year, or should I say this year however, has been totally different. I decided to live in halls so I had no way of leaving and so I wasn’t depending on my parents. The first week was definitely hard, but the first week is always scary. After that I seemed to forget about everything. I love my course, I love my friends, I love this University.

Since the New Year, I’ve had some pretty amazing opportunities. I attended the Zoom F1 charity auction, I’ve written in The Times and The Sunday Express. I’m due to fly to Monaco in May for the Formula E to help Chris with the Zoom event. And I’ll be going to Belgium, Hungary and potentially Italy to cover GP2 for Rumble Strip News. That’s four Grands Prix if you include going to Silverstone as a fan – everyone has to sit trackside for once and remember why they want to work in the sport, right?

The reason I decided to write and publish this is because mental health is a growing illness. More people have it than you know. It’s not ‘cute’ or ‘fashionable’ and it’s certainly not something to brag about it. Anyone suffering from anything from depression to anxiety should know there is a way out, but you need to trust and believe in yourself before you’ll find your help. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy, but I won’t lie to you. I wish I could say I’m completely over it, but truth is I still have days where I feel like anything and everything is going wrong. I get stressed and anxious about even the teeniest of things, but you learn to manage and cope. It just takes time and you have to be patient. You don’t have to go through anything alone.