Do fake designer goods feel good?

New York

I stepped through the battered dark door into the little shop, like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The chaotic street behind me, filled with cows and Tuk Tuk rickshaw cars merged into a cool air conditioned bubble. My mum had been raving about this shop the whole flight to India. It was fake designer bag paradise, apparently. I’d never been in a store like this before. The walls were completely covered floor to ceiling in bags. Maybe you know the kind.

Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, Jimmy Choo and so much Chanel. You name it, the bag man had it. I’d never seen so many bags. There were classic designs, outlandish eyesores, print bags etc. I was only thirteen at the time so the idea of owning a ‘”designer bag” was really exciting. We spent forever in that shop! We bought two huge bin bags full of bags. I remember carrying them down the street back to our hotel with this overwhelming feeling of excessiveness.

The funny thing was I’d never really used a bag. I had a Mulan coin purse which I normally shoved in my jacket pocket. It had no money in it and I had nothing important to carry around so I never needed a bag. My main money vessel is still a coin purse my best friend got me a decade ago. I find all these cards and compartments suffocating.

When I got back home I rarely used the bags. The few occasions I ventured out with a bag, I could feel myself hiding the fact it was “designer”. Pointless right? I didn’t want anyone to ask if it was real. If they did I would say it’s fake. The bag made me feel like a phoney, like I was walking around with a dirty secret.

I’m not sure why I felt this way. A bag is a bag at the end of the day. If a 1,600 rupee bag (roughly £20) cost the same as a £800-£1000 bag then wouldn’t it make sense not to pay the excessive fee? I knew the quality wasn’t the same which was part of it. Fakes need to have subtle differences. Maybe the logo is off tilt, maybe the print runs the wrong way or maybe the lining is completely different. That’s partly what made me nervous. An owner of the real deal would know at a glance my bags were fake. This made me think everyone could tell.

Another issue is ripping off the designer. It’s their creative property. The essence of them that you’ve stolen. Designer bags are an art because so much thought and care goes into them. Originally I didn’t appreciated that because I just felt like they unnecessarily overcharged for their bags. That was until my bags started to fall apart – fast. The straps fell apart, the linings came away and bits and bobs were dropping off left right and centre.

It made me appreciate the real deal, owning a fake. I can’t hold a fake without looking for the flaw and I don’t do that with anything else. I went to Turkey more recently and again these bags were everywhere. The same excitement I had in India didn’t come rushing back. You’d think given everything I’ve just said I wouldn’t get another bag but I did! Although, I just got one this time. I think I got it just because the opportunity presented itself since you can’t get fakes in the UK easily.

I think the jury is still out for me on this one. I now own one real designer bag. It was bought for me as a present and I love it. It doesn’t carry the negative feelings of guilt and awkwardness the other bags did. I don’t know if I’m converted and wouldn’t get one again. I won’t tell you which bag is the real one though. I think it’s more fun if I let you guess…

 

Are you eating your stress?

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We all have a comfort food, something we return to time and time again, a little pick-me-up when we’ve had a rough day. Sometimes our rough days don’t just last a day, they last weeks, months, even years.

For me I love wine and Chinese food. Wine is my instant pick me up. I don’t drink a lot but when I do I want to feel it, I want to escape. Otherwise, the calories aren’t worth it for me. I know this is part of my personality. I’ve always been an all or nothing type of person which makes it difficult to maintain a healthy balanced diet. I’ve learnt to use that to my advantage to identify when I’m falling into bad habits. If I drink for a few days in a row I feel crappy, my skin feels terrible and I have no energy the following day.

The good thing about generally following a healthy diet, my body gets confused when I don’t eat well for a while and reminds me in its own way that I’m falling off the wagon. However, I’ve noticed that when I’m really stressed my mind becomes good at muting my body’s warnings. Stress tires me so I no longer recognise that dip in my mood. Stress ruins my skin, I get more break outs, I get itchy and rashes appear. Stress tells my mind that I need those Cantonese style prawns and salt and pepper chicken wings because I’m having a hard time.

It really is a skill to say NO! To be firm with yourself when you just want to wrap yourself up in a blanket and hide from the world. When you’re pushing yourself mentally it’s so all consuming sometimes that you bench your physical wellbeing. We all do from time to time. The hard part is and always will be pulling yourself out of that rut and facing up to your habits. It’s acknowledging that you ate a whole box of Lindt chocolates last night for no good reason other than you wanted it. It’s having the courage to assess your previous week and pick out all those times you ate excessively. It’s ugly, it’s unpleasant, it’s a side to you you’d rather not acknowledge.

Part of beating stress eating is letting yourself do it. If you keep denying that you’re doing it, you’ll never come to a point where you decide to stop. If you think you might be doing it, let yourself have those naughty things for a while longer then pick a date to improve. It seems foreign when we’re young to think about eating for our health rather than our figure but it’s so important.

Some people react differently to stress which may beg the question are we just making excuses? After all some people handle stress by eating very little. However, there is some science behind it. Cortisol, the stress hormone is produced in the adrenal glands as a defence mechanism. Our body produces more cortisol to get us out of tense situations. When the adrenal glands are overworked, the body prepares for disaster, by storing fat and calories. So we crave foods, we lose precious energy, and we gain weight.

It’s believed to be a lingering effect from the simpler times when we hunted out in the wild and needed all that extra energy. Our increasingly sedentary lives but stressful workloads means our body is trying to help us but hasn’t adapted to our change in lifestyle. As someone who tries to listen to their body it can seem counter intuitive to ignore your stomach growling at you.

I have my own tricks to ease hunger pangs. I love fruity tea, it has few calories and some days I drink it one cup after another. I think because it’s warm and tastes like fruit I think I’m actually having something substantial. Also we can all do with drinking more water! I also find that If I force myself to only snack on one fruit, after a few days I get bored of eating the same thing so naturally stop snacking unnecessarily. If I was genuinely hungry I’d eat it.

Your body fights for you, it heals itself and it repairs the damage you’ve caused. If you give your body the fuel it needs, it will have you feeling better in no time.

The shoes that chased off the likes

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I’m wearing dessert on my feet. I slip my feet into these bad boys and they take me to slipper heaven. I walk past shop windows feeling funkay. Emphasis on the fun.

I uploaded this picture to Instagram recently, very conscious that my shoes weren’t everyone’s cup of tea or foregrounding an overly edited London townhouse. However, I publicised my shoes because they make me happy. My Instagram accounts had a few face lifts and I’ve found myself posting content previously because I know it will get likes, rather than because I like it.

These shoes are my social experiment, testing the theory of whether Instagram really is that basic. Is there really a perfect formula to posts? Over curated selfies, impressive backdrops and teeny tiny food.

After posting this picture the response was slowwww. I usually get a fair few likes but these were trickling through the pipeline like I’d clogged it with my fur-lined floppers. I’d posted the picture around 10pm which wasn’t a totally unsociable time. I waited it out for a while but they were fast confirming my hypothesis. After I gave the more natural likes a chance, I then cracked my fingers and gave my digital marketing skills a whirl to see if people would actively avoid liking this post.

Result: They did! People were actually liking other posts on my account in an effort to avoid my shoes! I found this hilarious.

Evaluation: Overall, my hypothesis was confirmed. There really is a formula to a perfect Instagram post. My shoes appear to be the antithesis of this. There are of course variables that may have effected my results such as people not liking the shoes, me, missing the post or being in a bad mood. However, there was a dramatic difference none the less.

How did it feel? It felt fantastic! There is something freeing about posting something you like for yourself and not caring how many people like it. I plan for all my posts to be things I like. The less likes they get, the better because that means it’s different.

Should we avoid photographing great moments because the lighting is bad? Should we not post pictures of our dogs in case no one cares? Should we not upload a selfie when we felt good that day because we didn’t contour our face?

Share your ideas, share things that catch your eye and share the little things.

I’m starting with my shoes. What are you starting with?

How to get a Grad Job

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Okay! This where we get down to the nitty gritty. If you haven’t already read my journey in getting my graduate position then that’s floating around my blog in the culture section. So, lets get down to it!

Online Assessments

Online assessments are notoriously difficult so don’t be disheartened if you get rejected from them. I know, easier said than done right? You normally have an aptitude test which is logic and numerical. I found this incredibly annoying because as someone who loathes maths I found it frustrating I might get rejected from a job that involved little numerical skills. You’ll also probably be asked to do a situational judgement test which is supposed to test if you’re the right fit for the company. These are usually the first hurdle to over come after you’ve filled out an application form. There are practice tests online and reading about the company culture helps a lot for situational judgement tests. The bench marks for these tests are very high because its just one of the many ways to cut people unfortunately.

Telephone Interviews

This is probably my least favourite thing. Sometimes you’ll get an interviewer who will prompt you to help you out and interact with you, others will stay silent. Silence is the worst, you can’t gauge how you’re doing or if you’re saying the right thing. I’ve failed a few of these for big companies and convinced myself I just wasn’t good at them. I did eventually pass one so it really does depend on the company sometimes. My advice for this is don’t have too many notes in front of you. One time I had a sofa covered in double sided notes which became impossible to navigate once I’d started the call. Interviewers can also tell when you’re reading from your notes because your voice will probably change, even if you think it doesn’t. It’s hard to wing it because you worry you won’t give your best answers, just try to have confidence in your preparation.

Assessment Centres

These are exhausting. Sorry I’m not more positive about the process but who likes being judged for hours on end? Not me! Assessment Centres normally consist of a group exercise, an hour long interview and a presentation. You’ll find you’re better at some areas more than others. I thought I’d struggle most with the presentation but It turned out I got really thrown off in group exercises.

The first group exercise I did was the first exercise at my first assessment centre. As soon as the exercise started, the girl next to me completely smacked down what I was supposed to be defending. She just said everyone should discount my thing immediately because it wasn’t feasible. Safe to say I was taken aback. I knew I was meant to defend my position but not be argumentative at the same time which is difficult to do. I thought I’d handled it well but apparently not as my feedback said I was defensive and quiet at the same time. Who knew you could be both! As a result, I passed the assessment centre but got waitlisted for a position. It was a highly desirable job at a popular company so I knew it was unlikely anyone would drop out.

  • Group exercises are hard to prepare for but my advice is don’t be the leader. Instead aim to move the discussion forward. Contribute a few points but focus more on getting your group to a unanimous decision. Assessors LOVE flip charts! If you see a flip chart in a room make sure you’re the one who suggests putting everyones ideas down on it for clarity. Ask people for their opinions. Also make sure you’re keeping track of the time, I always ask who wants to take the time as someone will normally volunteer.

 

  • For the presentation have a hook to introduce it. The hook will be something more light hearted that is related to the issue you’re discussing. For example, I did a presentation for an app for eBay and my hook was ‘There is nothing more frustrating than when you’re in a bidding war on eBay, the timer is ticking down to the last second, you’ve ran out of the office to make that final bid to clinch that designer jacket and then your app glitches out!” From there I then went on to cover all the ground they’d asked me to in the brief. It makes it more interesting and grabs the assessors attention. They hear so many of these presentations so you have to be a little different. Again if there is a flip chart use it but use it for small bits of information, like an important figure or a key word. Smiling and eye contact are the basics but an easy thing to let slip is tone of voice. Practice varying you pitch when you talk, nobody wants to listen to you drone on for half an hour in a monotonous tone. Raise your pitch when you’re introducing an idea and lower it when you discuss a problem perhaps.

 

  • You can prepare the most for the one-to-one interview and I advice that you do. I spent hours practicing interview questions. You might have a mixture of competency based, strength based and motivational based questions. You can find companies competencies on their website, usually in a bullet point list. They will be things like Team Work, Leadership, Confidence, Drive and Resilience etc. These are key points you’re expected to hit in your answers. Competency based questions normally follow a format like “Tell me about a time when you lead a team”. If we’re looking at the competencies I just mentioned you might respond with something like, “When I worked at (insert name), our store had a large influx of customers due to the festive season and my boss was off sick at the time. It was a high pressure situation because we were having an inspection that day. We had some new people that started at the time so I delegated tasks that I knew they were confident at and managed the customers on the till. As the store quietened down the inspector came forward and complimented us for doing so well handling the busy period. As a result we got a good mark on our inspection and my boss thanked me for stepping in while they were away”. That answer hits all the competencies mention. You probably won’t be able to hit them all with every answer but you should aim to hit a few.

You may have noticed that answer followed a structure, this is called the STAR structure. SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT. It will sound fake to talk like this at first but it’s what they are looking for.

Strength based questions will question whether you handle stress well or ask whether you enjoy working in a team or alone (it’s usually wise to say you like a bit of both but pick the preference closest to the position).

Motivational based questions will be like “Why this company?” or “Why this role?” So do your research on the company. Does it care about Corporate Social Responsibility (good buzz word)? Does it work with something specific that you’re interested in? Are there rotational placements that give you opportunities to learn new skills? All that jazz!

Finally you can be thrown a real curve ball and have an unstructured interview which is more conversational. Usually you can feed your prepared answers into some of these questions but you have to give more varied responses here. If your interviewer asks what you liked about your previous job, you don’t want to go all STAR on them and sound unnatural. They’re probably just looking for a positive response and giving you an opportunity to identify a time you did something good in a less structured way.

So! I think that’s enough information to chew on for now. I apologise if you’re not looking for a graduate job and found that a bit of a task to read. I hope this is helpful to those of you who are or will be looking for a job on a graduate scheme in the future. I’d also like to thank my boyfriend, Omar, who taught me all that I know about this process and listening to me practice interview questions over and over again.

Good Luck!

 

What it’s like looking for a Grad Job

 

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After setting up a dog boarding business summer 2016 I came back to university in Glasgow feeling weird. All through my A-levels and university I’d told myself I was going to become a teacher, I had this clear career path. It seemed simple amongst all the chaos other graduate job seekers were experiencing. I’d get to defer looking for a job a little longer whilst I did my teaching qualification and I knew that teachers were in hot demand. I felt comfortable knowing I wasn’t going to struggle looking for a job…Maybe that was ignorant of me.

 

I changed my mind about teaching and made the brave decision to look for a graduate job in Marketing. Searching for a graduate job is tough. I quickly came to the realisation that there were a heck of a lot of people who wanted a job in Marketing. People who had done Marketing degrees, people who had done internships at big companies, just so many people. It was the exact thing I’d feared all along and what had partly steered me in the direction of teaching in the first place. I was terrified of being another graduate horror story. I didn’t want my degree to go to waste. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend who had already gotten a job in Edinburgh and go back to Staffordshire with my Labradoodle in tow.

I applied to hundreds of jobs. I’m not even exaggerating, hundreds! I applied to everything. Sure I started out optimistic applying to Marketing specifically but after rejection after rejection my confidence dwindled. I went from wanting a digital marketing graduate job to anything with graduate in the title.

Many of you will already know this but graduate jobs have a lot of hoops to jump through. There are online tests, phone interviews, Skype interviews, trial days and assessment centres. This is on top of a long application form that can take hours to fill out. It’s exhausting! I was in my final year of university whilst doing this too which was stressful enough. I’ve been rejected at every stage you could be rejected at. ‘Unfortunately’ fast became my least favourite word in the English language because every rejection email/ phone call started with it. It was hard to stay optimistic and not take it personally. There were days when I’d have breakdowns and cry about it and others where I was determined and hopeful. The whole searching time was a complete rollercoaster of emotions.

I’ve flew to the other end of the UK and spent £250 (which wasn’t reimbursed) to be turned away from an assessment day after 15 minutes because I failed the first test. I’ve travelled to different counties to face a room of 50 people all fighting for the same job. I got through to an assessment centre that had 9,000 applicants, they took only the top 2% who passed the online maths tests, whittled it down further by looking at application forms and got waitlisted. I’ve been ignored, criticised and judge none stop since September. I’ve been rejected from jobs that I thought weren’t worth my time. I’ve spent hours filling out forms for companies to ignore my existence. I’m not alone, many of my friends are panicking and upset. We’ve all worked so hard for our degrees and gotten in loads of debt and this is what we’re now faced with.

I’ve finally been offered a graduate job but there is a story within that. I was sat on the bus on the way to that company and I answered my phone to a rejection call from a job I didn’t even want. I was thinking “great that’s set the tone for the rest of the day!” The company I was going to looked so hipster and cool, I felt really awkward in a full on suit. Other applicants had shown up with green hair, cut out tops and cropped trousers. It looked like one of those edgy startups filled with bright young people you aspire to be like. Everyone kept gushing about how cool it would be to work there, which made me nervous.

The first task at the assessment centre was a maths test; in person, no cheat sheet to go off, no help from anyone. Maths has never been my forte. I was over the moon to finish it at high school and it’s kept coming back to bite me ever since. I even ended up doing calculus at university (don’t ask)! I was convinced I’d failed, it was so much harder than I expected. I was ready to grab my bag and just go. One of the applicants had studied Engineering at Edinburgh so I knew there was no hope for me. I stayed out of awkwardness. I had to do a presentation in front of all the applicants which I was feeling insecure about. I’d only had the evening before to pull it together when I was exhausted. I just felt like everyone was better than me. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I’d passed the assessment centre and they wanted me back for another interview! After that I didn’t hear from them for a month. I was confused because I thought the interview went well. I left it a while to contact them again and it turned out getting back to me had just been lost in translation. I was told there would be a job for me and I was officially offered it yesterday evening! (A recently update) I also got offered a Commercial Graduate role for Royal Mail in London a month later.

I’m so incredibly lucky to have been offered two jobs. I know that and I don’t take it for granted at all. I didn’t think it was going to happen for me. I’d convinced myself all the stress had been for nothing and I was going back home. To get offered a job in the exact position I’d hoped out for in the beginning has validated my choice to be brave and go for what I wanted. If anyone is reading this and is finding themselves applying for jobs they don’t really want please don’t give up. By all means if you just need something for now that’s cool but don’t give up on that job you really want. You might have to brush up your CV, you might have to have many more rejections but it will all seem worth it in the end. I promise.

Why don’t we wear the clothes we like?

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I’m a clothes gremlin. I adore clothes. My idea of ecstasy is lying on a bed of shopping bags filled with clothes and running my hands over all the beautiful things I’ve bought. It’s my addiction. Alas, I’ve been a poor student since I was old enough to own my own bank account which restricts my deviant behaviour.

 

However… It has come to my attention that these clothes we’ve all been buying aren’t necessarily the clothes we truly want to wear. Why would we do that? I’ll tell you why because we’re scared. I’m guilty of it too but I’m saying no more! No more not buying crazy ass outfits because I’m worried people will think they look ugly or stupid.

 

I LOVE COATS! Multi-coloured, crazy patterns, tassel streaming coats! I’ve always worn colourful coats. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a black coat in my life but I’ve not had those Monster Inc. style coats that make people look at you like you’re insane.

 

I LOVE HATS! Out of fashion, costume worthy, deformed looking hats! They’re fun, they make me feel like I’m a character in a movie and they make me chuckle when I see myself in shop windows. Who wouldn’t want to wear something that makes themselves feel like that?

 

I LOVE SHOES! My God I love shoes. Shoes fit you no matter how much wine you drink or how many avocados you gorge on. You can kick it in cowboy boots, run around in your comfiest trainers, strut around it eccentric heels or Carrie Bradshaw the streets in fluffy mules. Why the hell not?

 

I feel like a closet freak for being so enthusiastic but having such a tame wardrobe. It’s really consumed my thoughts wondering why I don’t express how I feel through my clothes more and then I realised whilst showing my boyfriend some clothes I liked (one of my neurotic tendencies is to fill online shopping baskets to the brim and never buy anything). I showed him this bright multi coloured faux fur jacket with such enthusiasm and passion I expected him to mirror it back but he didn’t.

 

I know what you’re probably thinking, he’s a guy, of course he didn’t. That’s not it! He didn’t like how eccentric it looked. He thought it looked weird. I felt offended and protective over this jacket and then it hit me. I was never going to buy it; I was just in awe of it. I knew I wasn’t going to buy it because I knew that would be the general reaction of it. I mentally reeled through all the times I’d done that with specific items of clothing and all the lesser outfits I’d bought instead; all the trends I’d followed. I’ve been annoyed at myself ever since but I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Clothing is part of our identity and sometimes we lose ourselves. Sometimes we’re not sure who we are so we play it safe until we know.

 

I know that I feel connected to what I wear. Clothes reflect who I am and they reflect how I feel. I got a hat recently that’s out of fashion and inexpensive and I love it. I feel like Keira Knightly in love actually when I wear it and I actually love it. I bought a pair of clog like shoes with studs which are my new favourite shoes to wear and I purchased a bright red tweed jacket that’s the bomb. These are the start of my new wardrobe, my road back to recovery.

 

My aim is to have a wardrobe like a fancy dress box and wear those daring clothes that make people stop in the street and say:

 

“What is that crazy ass bitch wearing?”

Hello? It’s me, your friend.

 

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It’s annoying. It’s rude. It’s down right disrespectful and you’re pissed off, so you should be!

 

You’ve texted, you’ve called, you’ve Facebook messaged, Whatsapped, Snap Chatted, Christ, you’ve even Instagram messaged that elusive friend who just never seems to find the time to get back to you. You bump into them in the street, the excitement bubbling up inside of you. You’re finally going to find out the big mystery that’s kept your main gal from simply sending an emoji. Then you get hit with ‘sorry, I’ve been busy’.

 

Busy.

 

Home-slice, you don’t know what busy is! You mentally reel back through all those times you reached out to them after a long day at work, your family falling out with you, your boyfriend arguing with you and some stranger flipping you off on the motorway. Busy. Aren’t we all! You’ve been juggling responsibilities and managing priorities like every one else. Heck! You’ve been contemplating getting caffeine patches because your favourite mug keeps getting abandoned half full.

 

You don’t sit on your behind all day contacting every tom dick and harry. You don’t take afternoon naps and you certainly go to work. Oh, don’t you know you do that. So why when you’ve specially selected this person to speak to they give you the cold shoulder?

 

It’s natural as we get older, we have more commitments, we have diverging lives and it’s something we all have to adapt to. However, this isn’t a smooth transition for everyone. Is it wrong to expect friends to always be there?

 

There is a key distinction that needs to be made here. We’re not talking about low maintenance friends. The low maintenance friends for those of you who are not clued up on my personal vocabulary are those friends you can call up anytime out the blue and just pick up a conversation that you left off on a month ago. They’re friends you can just swing by their house to see them and they’ll wedge you in between their parents on the sofa and stick a glass of wine in your hand because they always have time for you! They’re the friends you can randomly text and say ‘Gal, u can see ur nipples through that top’ and they know exactly what Insta pic you’re referring to and laugh about it. You make time for each other when you have the time. You’re there for each other when its needed. Basically your friendship operates on an open door policy. Then there is the MIA friend.

 

The Missing in Action friend texts you when they want something like they need their boyfriend to see they actually have friends. They call you when they’re upset but never ask about you. They may even have a trigger where you can expect them to vanish without a trace. Normally a new boyfriend, a new group of friends or a new job. They complain others pick on them unfairly and you feel guilty for wanting to ditch them too but should you?

 

Now personally I have a threshold. I will be understanding, I will be supportive, I will try my very hardest not to be childish and haemorrhage friends for fickle reasons. I’ve reached out, brought flowers and patiently waited. That being said my limit is this-

 

“If a person is making you feel bad about yourself by their behaviour consistently and you feel that you will be happier without them then cut them loose”.

 

People will reach this limit in different ways. Maybe not at all but that is the philosophy I live by. It might seem silly to people that a person would feel bad about themselves just because someone is being flaky but it’s not silly and I’ll tell you why. Feelings matter. The way I feel matters, the way you feel matters and feelings should not be undermined by comments like. Don’t overreact. You’re being sensitive. Those are just code words for “I don’t want to deal with your feelings right now”. It feels crappy to be rejected, it feels crappy to be ignored, it feels crappy that someone who you thought was close to you turns out not to be. It feels personal why wouldn’t it?

 

It’s happened to me, It’s happened to a few of my friends. I don’t advocate ditching your friends for nothing. A lot of people go through depression, anxiety, stress and other issues which may make them distant for a while and need extra support. I’ve been there. All relationships are a balancing act. Sometimes we need to lean on our friend’s shoulders and sometimes they need to lean on ours. It’s hard to recognise when to cut the cord and it shouldn’t be a snap decision. I’d also like to point out that ending friendships also shouldn’t mean that it’s suddenly okay to start dragging your old pals name through the dirt or sending them hate mail.

 

In the words of the poetry that is spice girls:

I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try

If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.