"The world is fucked, this isn't news," says Anastasia Macia plainly. "Nothing's real, it's all about who has money and who doesn't. And here we are trying to live our best lives with what we have. I'd like to think that I don't take anything for granted and don't expect anything from anyone either."
Anastasia, known to friends as Anya, is a feisty soul who tells it like it is. "I try to be self-sufficient in any way," she asserts. It doesn't always work but I'm working on it."
I first encountered this strong personality on Twitter, where I referred to her by her handle, Cracklin' Fire, for at least a year. We are both Lorde fans who loved the Pure Heroine album for its dark pop sounds. I knew that she was from the south of France but later discovered that she was living in London. "There is always something to do to keep yourself busy ignoring how lonely life can make you feel," she muses. "There are, of course, times where you still do feel pretty lonely. But everyone should learn to be comfortable with themselves and by themselves." A sentiment that I have seen expressed in more than one of my interviews lately, which brings me great happiness.
Anya finds it particularly relaxing to wander the empty streets of London by night. "The Thames path on the Isle of Dogs and on the Greenwich side are really nice, day or night," she says. She used to take the N550 home from Trafalgar Square after her late shift at the pub. "The bus route would go through the main famous spots of London and I really did enjoy the hour long ride even though I was exhausted or even drunk," she laughs.
Keep reading to learn more about the 23 year old's trajectory from the South of France to The Big Smoke. ///
RS: You grew up in a small village in the Southern France countryside. What was that like?
AM: I was surrounded by vineyards and hanging out with the same group of people for years. I always felt pretty different from them (cliché I know) and I couldn't wait to turn eighteen, graduate, and move to another city for uni. I moved to Toulouse and stayed there for two years before coming to London. It really shaped me into the person that I am now I think.
RS: How so?
AM: I wanted to be surrounded by people with similar minds, open-minded to others' cultural backgrounds and not just dwelling on staying in the same place where you've always been.
RS: Why did the villagers bother you?
AM: They never talked about moving away from the village. They always complained about how boring it was but never actually did anything to escape the boredness. They were settled in the lives they had and loved the gossip they could hear about anyone living in this place. I didn't, I just wanted to leave and explore the world. I also didn't feel close to any of them … except one girl who was my best friend for years until we moved to Toulouse together.
RS: What happened to her?
AM: She didn't make it, in a way. After a year away in the big city, she decided to move back in with her parents in the village, then she moved with her boyfriend to another small city an hour away from the village. She likes the simple life there.
RS: Has your independence come at a cost?
AM: I always feel like I'm letting my family and my best friends down for being so far away and not being able to be physically there when they need me and during the worst times. But that's the choice I made, to be far away, and they respect and understand it.
RS: What's one way people can become more comfortable alone?
AM: Feeling bored? Go out and do stuff by yourself, you don't need anyone to hold your hand all the time. I love going to get food in places I never tried before, going to temporary exhibitions, or (re)visiting the many free museums. Being on your own makes you step out of your comfort zone and that's what I like about the busy city. You really want to go to this concert but have no one to go with? Just go by yourself, you won't enjoy it any less. If you don't though, you'll regret missing out.
RS: I can't tell you how many concerts I've attended alone because I knew I would regret not going. Especially in Paris.
AM: It can make you pretty self aware, being alone at a concert, but, look around, there are other people there for the same type of music you like and you could make friends with them. Make an effort, step out of your bubble, and put yourself out there. Or don't, and just enjoy seeing one of your favourite artists live. It's good, makes you feel like you've done something that day.
RS: You had the chance to see Lorde last month at PrimaVera Sound.
AM: I was SO happy to finally see her in Barcelona. It was almost mystical. My heart was full and I couldn't help but grinning like an idiot, singing every word to every song with tears in my eyes. The performance was phenomenal, it all went by so quick.
RS: So what's your job in London?
AM: I work for Booking.com, in the customer service department at the moment. I've always wanted to work in a travel agency so getting this job offer at Booking.com was a real chance. I don't plan on staying a CS agent for long but need to get some experience and training before evolving inside the company.
RS: You tend to avoid sitting next to the group of French coworkers though.
AM: I don't want my brain to start functioning in French again!
RS: But you have to speak French over the phone?
AM: I deal with French customers most of the time, and it felt strange at first to be speaking so much French after almost not doing so at all for two years. But I'm used to the bilingual environment now. It might have actually helped, in a way, because before I would find it hard to switch between French and English quickly, and now I do it naturally.
RS: What did you do before Booking.com?
AM: I worked in a pub for a year and none of the staff were French so I didn't really speak French to anyone except for a few customers when they happened to realize I was French, or over the phone with my friends/family. Then I worked in a café where the manager was French but we were speaking in English in front of everyone so as to not confuse the others.
RS: What prompted your interest in English?
AM: I was actually pretty bad at this language when I was younger. I wasn't really interested in it and the teachers I had weren't making it any better. I only liked English because I was listening to music by American bands so I would go look up the lyrics on the internet and try to translate them to understand. I remember being in 4ème au collège (I was 13 or 14 years old) with this English teacher that no one liked and everyone had really bad grades.
RS: So how did you become bilingual?
AM: I started watching TV series, streaming online, and most of them were only available with French subtitles, no dub. The next year, I started getting better grades in my English class and passed all my tests without a problem. By the time I was in my first year of high school, I watched many TV shows during summer break and was at ease with the language. I still struggled to speak with my French accent but I was able to communicate.
RS: And you made friends over the summer with some English kids?
AM: They were staying in the campsite outside of my village, where I would go during the day to enjoy the pool and at night for food and drinks when the restaurant opened to visitors. I communicated with them over Facebook/WhatsApp during the rest of the year so it helped my communication skills for day to day conversations too.
RS: Something that people never believe when you tell them?
AM: If they can't see them at first, people get surprised about the tattoos I have. And also, downhill longboarding, as this isn't a "girl" thing apparently.
RS: How did you get into longboarding ?
AM: I never heard about longboarding until my second year at uni. I made friends with this cool girl called Nya and we got along really well and started hanging out outside of class. One day she turned up with this thing that looked like a skateboard but with a different shape and bigger wheels. It was a pintail longboard. She looked so at ease cruising on it that I wanted to give it a go. I tried skateboarding when I was younger but gave up after many fails. This longboard, though, was very easy to ride and it felt really nice and comfortable. I decided to get one for myself too. I bought a Riviera longboard, the Beta Fish one.
RS: So at first, you were only skating with Nya?
AM: Yes, we used to work together in a Carrefour outside of Toulouse on the weekends, and on Sundays we would finish at 1pm and then longboard our way back to the center of the city, have food and spend the afternoon just cruising about and chilling. We made friends with some girls from the Longboard Girls Toulouse crew and hung out with them a lot after that too. One day, after watching many videos, I decided I wanted to learn how to slide but no one in the group was actually doing it, everyone was only doing cruising or dancing tricks.
RS: How did you learn to freeride?
AM: I turned to the guys from the Association de Longboardeurs Toulousains. They took me to their local spot in l'Union (North of Toulouse) and taught me how to do my first coleman slides. Then when I got better, they took me to freeride events and to the Mourtis, a mountain spot where they used to go to do downhill. I was so happy to have found something I loved and able to afford it by myself, it really brought joy to me. The adrenaline, the speed, the good times spent with the people I skated with.
RS: That's so empowering.
AM: I had a 2 year hiatus when I came to London, as my work schedule didn't match the hobby and I didn't really know a lot of people skating here. I've been back into it since last summer though and I'm going to Slovenia at the end of the month, to attend the yearly Knk Longboard camp. I'm really excited about it and can't wait to (almost) die there!
/// Watch Anya longboard on her Instagram @cracklinfire.