I Can Be Your Superhero

I was in Brighton a few months ago and went on a night out with a friend. At one point we went into a busy bar and he went to the toilet so I headed to a table by myself and took a seat. I couldn’t have been alone for more than a few minutes when a girl, maybe 21 or so, left her big group of friends and came to sit with me. I figured she was drunk or making a joke but she genuinely asked if I was okay. When I said I was fine and smiled she invited me to join her friends. There was nothing creepy about it, she apologised if she was bothering me but just wanted to make sure I was okay and not alone. When she went back to her table I could hear her friends questioning her and she honestly couldn’t see why it was weird. Another girl defended her with “empowered women, empower women right?!” High fives all round. Sweetest thing ever.
It didn’t surprise me at all that I was in Brighton when this happened. It’s a part of the reason I like Bristol too. They seem to be different to my experiences of a lot of other cities. People are way more open. Sometimes it’s annoying but most of the time I love it. Almost every time I go to the pub with my best friend, we end up sitting with randoms and chatting. It took me a while to let go of my suspicions but now I realise the majority of the time, they aren’t trying to hook up and they don’t want anything from me other than a conversation. A lot of the time, I never see them again but I love these kind of low pressure interactions.
Then there are the others. The people whose eyes you feel from a distance, the ones that shout from cars and might even dare to touch you for no reason (and that’s a big dare, trust me, because if a stranger touches me then my first instinct is going to be a backhand to the face). I have noticed that it happens a lot less often in Bristol, and when it does it’s far less intimidating. I think I feel like I have people by my side here. If something bad happened, I feel like people would have my back. That has never happened anywhere else. I was pushed in a busy road in Gloucester by a stranger once, in the middle of the day, and everyone ignored it and carried on walking.
I’m not going to try and explain why people act this way. Why they feel the need to holler obscenities from a distance, or approach people in a sexually threatening way. Frankly, I’ve not met anyone who can explain it to me rationally. What I do want to think about is society’s reaction to it. As a group, in the media we are disgusted and appalled, yet there has always been people that keep their heads down and ignore it. I’ve never been that person but it’s only been recently that I’ve overcome all the advise from older generations telling me “it’s none of my business” and “don’t get involved”. Fuck that. That girl who approached me in Brighton didn’t care about how she looked to her friends, she was totally pure of intention, and that has stuck with me. As a whole, I’ve decided to take less shit from people in my life and that should include from strangers in the street. Yes, I am aware that it comes with an element of danger and I won’t put myself at more risk than is necessary, but if we all aim to be that person that stands up for someone else in trouble then we’ll never be the one facing it alone. I know I’m probably going to be the minority actually acting on this. I know I’m not superwoman and I don’t have a bat signal telling me what to do. But I look super cute in that outfit, so I guess I’ve got to at least try.
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My Old Friend Ana

 

I’ve been dabbling with my eating disorder lately. That might sound like a strange thing to say, but I think if you have ever been consumed by one then you’ll know what I mean. I’m not obsessing yet, but I am teasing, almost seeing what I am still capable of. And this will definitely sound like a strange thing to say if you don’t understand, but I really miss it.

I remember being as young as 7 when I started having disordered thoughts. Looking out the window at my neighbours playing and seeming so happy while I felt so sad, I wished I could be skinny like them because then surely, I’d be happy. When I was 10 I went to a new school and panicked because I realised I wouldn’t be able to lose enough weight in time, so I brushed my teeth constantly and aggressively, because I thought at least then people would like me because I had nice teeth. Slowly, I started cutting out snacks and tried to exercise more and was motivated massively when I shot up about half a foot in a year and didn’t have my puppy fat anymore. When I was 15 I got pregnant and the self-loathing lept to a new level, I stopped eating completely. It went from there. Years of whatever it took to shed that extra pound.

I never fully worked it out. Sometimes I think it was a way of always being a victim. If I was sick, then people couldn’t leave me. Someone would have to look after me. I would dream of being in hospital where, even if no one came to visit me, I would have a team of doctors and nurses trying to help me. In reality, I probably just needed my dad to look after me. For a lot of people, it’s also a way of control, which makes sense too. There was so much change in my life, it was the one thing that no one else could decide for me. Although eating disorders are never truly about the way you look, I had terrible self-esteem and put that down to being a chubby kid. I was never great at anything, just pretty good at most things and I felt like I always needed a “thing”. I made not eating my thing, and even though nobody really knew the extent, I knew that I was great at it and I could be proud.

So why is it popping up now? I’ve worked on not wanting to be the victim. My therapist works with transactional analysis which involves looking at the ego states. I understand now, that I play the parent role (both negative and positive) so often that I really miss my child state and completely miss out the adult state in a lot of my relationships which means that I make myself the victim too often in order to feel loved and valued. I’ve worked on that so much. I let my mum be my mum and look after me more, I am silly with my friends and relate in a child to child aspect and I have matured my relationships by communicating in an adult to adult way. That game of being the victim still draws me in sometimes, but I see it and avoid it. In terms of the control side of things, I have my own place with my brother, a job that doesn’t involve political game playing anymore and am choosing to do what’s right for me more often than what I feel I should be doing. Yes, there have been a lot of big changes in my life lately, but ultimately, I am in control and I am making decisions that benefit me and make me happy in a real way. When it comes to my self-esteem, well, if I had told my teenage self that I would be almost double her weight and happier with myself than I’ve ever been then she never would’ve believed it. Writing is a big part of that, but I am also surrounding myself with people that encourage and support me, I am treating my body well and it’s repaying me in feeling strong and capable, and I’m in love with the work I do for my uni course.

I remember explaining to my ex that my eating disorder would always be a voice inside my head and he thought that it was a really depressing idea, that I had chosen to resign to living with it forever, but I still believe that’s true. It’s a part of me that I haven’t deciphered yet clearly, but it is a part of me. I do need to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it to work it out. I find that hard because I feel like people don’t want to talk about it. I try to be open, but I know that I can come across flippant sometimes because I’m conditioned to try not to come across as an attention seeker (because after all, isn’t that what all people with eating disorders are?! Ridiculous idea. Thanks again society). Unfortunately, it’s also one of the deepest part of me, in the sense that it’s something I nurtured and tended to for so many years, that it won’t disappear after a few conversations. I think I have plastered over it. Maybe that’s why it’s coming back. I’ve dragged up and dealt with so many of my other issues but there are these two big, ugly monsters in my life that I have yet to explore fully because they are just too scary. The fact that I have an eating disorder is huge for me, it’s changed so much of my life. The other monster is a bit too scary too talk about a lot of the time. Another day. 

I love feeling hungry. It’s like I’ve trained my brain to be proud of that feeling but it is important that I look after myself while I work out these things through. If my body has no fuel, then my brain won’t be working at it’s optimum and this is some serious shit I need to figure out. I know I am stronger now and I can work these things out, but it does take a conscious effort. I’m already weeks-worth of hungry and not sure how to get back, but I know if I don’t stop poking the monster now then it will take hold and my life is too damn good to go back there. Anyone up for going for dinner?

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Is This Me Coming Out Then?

 

One trait I know I’m guilty of is assuming that everyone thinks just like me. I know a lot of people do this and it tends to lead to misunderstandings, so I’ve been trying to work on it. One thing that completely slipped through my fingers in making this effort though, was the way people understand sexuality. I had just figured that, since I only keep company with people who are not dickheads, that my friends would all be accepting to all kinds of sexuality and wouldn’t feel the need to judge people who were different to themselves. Turns out, I was a bit wrong on that one. I’m predominantly attracted to men, but I’m also attracted to women. I just don’t think about the shape of someone’s genitals to be honest, that’s not a factor into whether I like someone or not. It’s that simple. Apparently, that’s a difficult concept to grasp.

I was very lucky because I grew up in a very open household in a lot of ways. I remember my mom asking me several times if I was “gay yet”. She wanted to make sure that if I was, then I wouldn’t have to fear the ordeal of coming out, and whatever I felt was totally fine. I could just say no, until I wanted to say yes and that would be that. I never did feel that pressure, and even now, I just don’t feel the need to explain to people my sexuality, although I don’t feel the need to hide it from people either. I’m genuinely comfortable in myself. Really, it has no impact on my friends lives at all. That’s where my assumptions come in, after a certain amount of time I just figured people knew. Turns out that people have their own assumptions and a lot of my friends had no clue. Astonishing really, considering the amount of people that have told me I just need to marry my best friend and get on with it because we’re clearly in love. Recently, I was talking to two friends about how I see my sexuality and one of them asked “is this you coming out to us?”. I didn’t know what to say. I was never really “in”. I also find it hard to relate to the term when people call me bisexual, because I’ve just never really labelled it like that. I just don’t care what people are, I care who they are! Interestingly, of course most of my friends are of my generation, but I was talking to my little brother who is 11 years younger about this and he said that he understood that as pansexual. Again, I don’t care what people want to call me in order to make sense of it in their own heads, as long as they are trying to understand. What has truly shocked me lately is the people that don’t want to understand.

“Errrr wow okay. So, that means you aren’t really satisfied with a man then? You’ll just wake up one day and go “okay I want a woman now”.””

I never thought I’d get a response like that when all I said was sometimes I like girls, sometimes it’s guys. I tried to explain that for me, it was equivalent of someone being with a brunette then waking up one day and wanting be with a blonde and the responses got better…

“It’s more like I wake up and go this woman I’m with is lovely but now I fancy a man. Surely it means your mind and your eyes wonder?”

Honestly, I couldn’t believe someone who I liked could speak like this to me.

“I know a few bi people. Male and female and all of them never hold down a long-term relationships because they’ve woken up one day and gone “I love you but now I want the same team””. (Bullshit, if you ask me, but sure.)

I had to cut the conversation off because I knew that if someone thought this way then I was never going to convince them otherwise. People have their own experiences and their own script in life and if they don’t want to change it then they won’t. Since then I’ve spoken to a few friends about this conversation and I’m honestly so surprised with how many people understand his point of view more than mine. For the first time, I feel awkward about my sexuality and I hate it. I’ve had people over-sexualize it and dated guys that don’t consider me kissing a girl cheating because they get turned on by it, had girls flirt with me because even though they’re straight, I’m like a fun adventurous experiment, but I’ve never felt like someone blatantly disagreed with what I feel. Essentially, this guy told me that I could never be in a happy relationship. It made me sad. And it made me sadder that more of my friends didn’t have my back.

Going forward, it makes me want to talk about my sexuality more. It’s a private part of me that really affects no one else. Even the people I date, at the end of the day, I’m dating them, so I’m attracted to them, that’s all that matters. But coming up against this kind of small minded, closed opinion has made me realise that there are far more people that are bigoted than I realised. It’s the same thing as when I try to explain to guys how fucking awful and common sexual harassment is. They know it’s there, but they don’t realise the extent because they don’t experience it in the same way. The only way to push against the shitty people in the world is by talking about things more. Explaining different points of view, different ways of seeing things. I know not everyone thinks like me, I know not everyone likes both (or all) of the sexes, I know that people don’t know what it’s like to feel fluid in that, I didn’t know that anyone cared how I felt about it. Obviously, we won’t think the same in terms of our own sexualities, but I need people to understand that it’s not okay for them to have an opinion on MY sexuality. This isn’t an agree to disagree situation for me. I am who I am and you either accept that fully or move on. To be honest, I’d question why any of my friends care about who I want to sleep with (except for drug dealers or murderers or something), but I am more than happy to answer any questions if they’re intrigued. I’ve asked plenty of questions to people myself. I won’t let the ignorant people keep me boxed off into a neat little category. I am open, and I see things for how they are, not what I think they should be according to some backwards, societal rules, and you know what’s ironic? Because of that I am 100% sure that I will have much more fulfilling romantic relationships than they ever will.

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The World is Not a Nice Place

How do you remain optimistic in such a shitty world? The polar bears are dying, children being ripped from their families and elderly people are isolated in their houses. Everyone has their own personal experiences that test them. Make them question happiness, love, family and their future, and I’m no different in that respect.
I can’t talk much about my work but I am in healthcare. I haven’t been there long and I’ve seen a whole new side of reality. When I worked in hospitality and people would get stressed my line was always “it’s not life or death, it’s really not that important, so it’s not worth stressing”. The problem is now, I am dealing with life or death. I also deal with a lot of minor problems or things that turn out not to be a problem at all. A lot of people at work roll their eyes and complain about the minor problems we have to deal with, and I understand that. You have to distance yourself from the weight of our job to be able to cope when you are faced with a baby that could be dying. I do this job because I want to make a difference. I believe that all we have is here and now, we’re insignificant in the grand scheme of things, so all we have is people. If I can help people then I’m happy. Which means I’m happy to talk people through their problems that aren’t really problems. Everyone needs some reassurance now and again. However, like I said, I haven’t worked there that long and I worry what the long term affect will be. At the moment, I get horribly emotional about some of the awful situations I have to deal with and I can’t keep doing that. It’s just not healthy. How do I find the balance between looking after myself and by becoming cynical?
I can relate this too, to relationships. I had a serious problem with anxious attachment and because of that I’ve been hurt. Really hurt. I’m happy being single but I’ve met someone recently that makes me think I’d want that to change at some point. The problem is, unlike my job, I am already cynical about people and relationships. I know that people have their own issues. They have their story which has effects that they aren’t even aware of, which of course impacts their behaviours. Cheating, for instance, is never simple. Everyone knows cheating is bad, yet people still do it. They do it for any number of different reasons and it’s never easy to work out why. I understand that, but do I want to put myself in the line of fire for the way other people act out their stories? I do know that I never want to feel how I felt after my last break up ever again so the easiest way to avoid that is by remaining cynical about every romantic possibility.
There are a million more aspects to life where people struggle with cynicism, but these are my main issues. How do I avoid becoming cynical in my job and how do I regain my optimism for a future relationship? How can I put up some armour to protect myself without shutting myself off to the world? Much of the beautiful experiences in life come from times where you take a gamble; high risk, high reward. Things scare you because they matter to you. It’s far too easy to make every decision based on fear and I’ve never seen that work out well. I don’t want to become a bitter, lonely old lady surrounded by dogs (sorry, but cats are awful. I might be willing to accept lizards). I guess that’s my answer right there. I don’t want to be that old lady, and people keep telling me that I’ll never survive in space (dream ruiners), so I’ll have to make it work. I’ll probably mess it up and end up in tears again at some point, but hey, that’s the risk we take. If life’s a game, then it looks like I’m all in

 

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The Age Old Question…

 

You may be expecting me to write about “The Meaning of Life”, or “What is Love?” here, but I’m stuck on something far simpler. Or at least it should be simpler. Can women and men ever really be just friends? Okay, it’s much more superficial than those other questions, but it’s one that genuinely plagues my life every day and it irritates me that I even have to question it.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot of random friends from a lot of random places. Even those closest to me can’t keep track to be honest. Most of my closest friends over the years have been women, but the easy-going, grab a drink and talk about nothing friends have always mostly been guys. I did have one very close friend who was a guy, but he royally fucked that up, which is really when my questioning began. We met through an ex and he was always “his friend” over mine, despite the fact that we worked together as well as hung out socially. When the ex and I broke up, there was no question in this person’s mind that he was picking sides and he was siding with me (don’t judge him here, my ex really did a number on me. Actually, a lot of his friends messaged me showing their support at that time so “bros before hoes” can fuck off). He was incredibly supportive and encouraged me to take my time and do whatever I needed to get over that break up and move on with my life. Good guy. And then he started acting weird. I suspected something was going on that he wasn’t telling me about and expressed that to a mutual friend who suggested he speak to me about whatever he was thinking. And then the bombshell, he had feelings for me. So predictable. Everyone said it would happen. He was a “nice guy” and really had very little experience with girls so any kind of attention he got, he would run away with it in his head. Thing’s went downhill quickly after that and it ended up in a horrible mess which would be too long to explain in this post. Long story short, we are no longer in contact at all. I felt bad when he told me he had feelings, but I had always been impeccably clear on my feelings towards him and the fact that we would never be more than what we were. I can’t be responsible for what’s going on in his head after all, only he is in control of that.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first or the last time this has happened. I like to think that I’m incredibly honest. Some people might say I’m even blunt in my direct nature, but I would rather that than misunderstandings so why does it keep happening!? These situations tend to fall into three main categories: 1. When I’ve been in a relationship, they know about the relationship and they know that it’s serious. 2. When I’ve been single, not interested in a relationship and never showed them any suggestion of feelings. 3. When I’ve been single, not interested in a relationship but perhaps we’ve been on a few dates. In every case I’ve done my absolute best to be completely clear about how unavailable I am, but I’ve learnt that when I say “no”, so many men hear “maybe”. It’s ruined friendships, hurt feelings and made me feel guilty so many times. People know me as an honest person, a lot of people say that’s what they like about me, so why would they think I’m saying something I don’t mean? Also, it’s worth noting here, that this situation has never happened with any women. They’ve always taken me on face value and believe what I say, which is interesting.

On the plus side, I do have some friends to this day that could’ve taken that route and didn’t. People that I know could’ve developed feelings for me but on understanding my outlook have decided that they would rather a friendship than to let those feelings continue. I respect that a lot. I do believe that we are in control of our feelings, about anything, and if we choose to then we can change them. It might take a lot of time and effort, but it is possible. So, I appreciate the fact that I have friends that have valued me enough as a human to make this effort. The problem is, because I’ve been in this situation too many times to count, as far back as when I was a teenager (being the angry emo girl that was nice to the “nerds”) that I’m cynical. I don’t know who to fully trust. When I said “no” are they hearing “maybe one day…” and they’re actually just not wearing their hearts on their sleeves like some of the others? How can you tell the difference? Then there are the friends who are attracted to you in a physical way, and maybe you’re attracted to them in that way too, but nothing would ever happen because of the friendship. I know that I am very clear in my mind what is a physical attraction only and what is more. My best friend is ridiculously attractive objectively, but I’m not attracted to her. A guy I used to work with is crazy hot subjectively, but I would never want to sleep with him let alone date him (even the idea makes me laugh). But, I can’t expect everyone to have that separation. So, that’s another thing I’m cautious about. I don’t want to be cautious around my friends. Not like that. I want to feel comfortable and open and trusting but part of me thinks that there’s always the potential that they will end up getting hurt one day. 

It’s something I haven’t figured out yet. I guess only time will tell. Everyone’s different and I can’t make assumptions, but we’re all humans and we live by patterns. It’s not just a coincidence that this has happened to me more than once. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? I’ll let you know if I work it out.

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Extrovert and Proud

 

The first thing everyone told me when I broke up with my ex was “he’s a dick”. The second thing was “you need to learn to be alone”. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of this was that now I don’t sleep in the same bed as someone else, I had to learn to spend more time by myself and be happy in my own company. Fair enough. I had been in long term relationships so long that everyone saw this as a learning curve that I had to take in my newly found singledom. The problem was, no one explained how I was supposed to do that.

I did a bit of googling and figured that maybe they meant I should make more time for self-care. So, I scrolled through the suggestions, blog posts and features on how to take some more “me time”. Nearly every recommendation was either 1. Take a bath. 2.Put a facemask on. 3.Read a book or watch a movie. Or 4.A combination of the above. Strange. People are telling me that I need a new way of living my life and the only way of doing that is to take a bath? I tried it. I put on a face-mask and grabbed a book and had a lovely bath. I even got the candles out. Which took me to 9pm, but I didn’t know what to do next.

I changed tact. Maybe people meant I should be doing all the things that I did with my partner, but by myself. I cooked long recipes I have never tried, went for random drives, went to the cinema alone, even walks in the woods, but I still didn’t really understand what the appeal of not being around people was. I could do all that with a friend or family and surely, that would be better?

Eventually, I spoke to my therapist about it.

“People keep telling me I should learn to be alone, but I just always crave social interaction. How can I learn to be happy when I’m by myself?”

“Think about it like this,” he suggested, “after a really stressful, physically and mentally exhausting shift, what do you want to do?”

I thought about it for a whole 0.32 of a second and responded “Either go to the pub, even if I’m not drinking, or head round to a friend’s house for a bit. Something like that anyway.”

“To me that sounds like you get your energy from being around people, which would mean that being alone drains you. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t happy alone, that just means you’re a true extrovert, which is quite rare.”

That session gave me a whole new outlook on things. I excused myself for feeling restless when I was sat at home alone and gave myself permission to do something about it. I started internet dating, to meet new people. I had some interesting experiences with that and ended up with some good friends that I’m still in contact with. When I had to get some uni work done, I took myself to a coffee shop or a bar to be around the buzz, rather than expecting myself to focus when I was holed up in my room. I replaced my solo walks in the country with going for a wander near the waterside in town and I found my relationships changing as I started spending time with people who I never used to see enough of, just because they fancied hanging out when I was free.

Another lesson in listening to yourself. Even people with the best intentions don’t live inside your body and mind so as much as they try to sympathise, they can’t always know what’s best for you. I know that when something traumatic or tragic has happened, it’s difficult to know what’s best for yourself. I struggle to distinguish between my gut feeling, which is trying to let me know what I need, and that self-destructive voice which is leading me down the wrong path. That’s exactly why practice is important. If you listen to yourself when you’re not in a stressful moment, it becomes easier and easier to listen to that angel on your shoulder when you are in a tricky spot. The hard part is when it’s not what everyone else thinks you should be doing. So, my advice, if anyone disagrees with how you’re coping with a stressful time (even though you are sure that you are doing the right thing), is to tell them to take a bath. Apparently, that fixes loads of problems.

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Yes, I like chart music. No, I don’t care if you do or not.

 

This morning I flooded my kitchen because I was busy dancing around to loud music instead of watching the tap. Yesterday, the last week actually, I’ve been pretty miserable. Work has been tough, some personal issues, and I suspect I’ve been a bit hormonal too making me more emotional. The usual stuff. This morning was no different, but I had the flat to myself so as I was cooking breakfast, I put some chart music on and turned it up loud. I was probably two songs in before I was singing to myself, and another two before I was dancing around the kitchen with the blinds wide open (to any passers-by, you’re welcome by the way). Despite having to leave for work after a short while, I’ve been in a great mood all day. Ah, the wonders of music.

Whenever I’m in a slump my favourite thing to do is jump in my car, turn up the tunes, and serenade myself to whatever music I fancy at the time and drive aimlessly. Sometimes that’s country, pop, folk, electronic, rock, drum and bass, it could be anything really, but it’s exactly whatever I fancy in that moment where there is no one to judge me. Throughout my life, people have always judged me for my random music taste. I don’t over think it, I just like what I like. I live in Bristol and a friend once told me that I’m her only friend here that openly admits to liking chart music and that doesn’t buy into the pretentious bullshit that is the Bristol music scene.

There’s just something about music that makes me feel. If I listen to something sad, I feel it, if I listen to a happy song, I feel it, and everything in between. I don’t care who wrote it or if they played their own instruments. Yes, there is more “integrity” in having the whole skill set and that is impressive, but that’s only one side of music for me. In my opinion as soon as any form of art leaves the artist it becomes a personal thing to whoever is consuming it. I do find it interesting to find out what certain lyrics are about or how that song came into being, but that doesn’t necessarily make it something different in my head. I wonder if artists find that frustrating. When they have such a clear image in their head of whatever it is they want to communicate, and that idea is missed. I’ve definitely felt persecuted by musicians in that past, who chastise me for the music I like, or not being able to hear a certain phrase or bass line and appreciate it the way they do.

 I was classically trained on flute until I was 16 and I was good. I did a bunch of grades and played in a few ensembles. If I’d chosen to put in the effort and I had the passion, I could’ve been really good. But I think I saw this unreasonable and judgemental standard that too many people have from afar. I had talent, but I wasn’t technical, and I refused to play the same 3 bars over and over not until they were right, but until I couldn’t get them wrong. That just wasn’t enjoyable to me, and I really don’t see the point of going into a creative industry unless you can really enjoy it. I do wish I’d not let them get to me and I’d kept the playing up for my own sake. I’d love to just be able to crack out an instrument and have a jam to myself, but I had to give it up because it was another layer of the pressure of adolescence that I had to shed.

Funny thing is, despite giving up playing music, I feel like I appreciate it so much more than some people that haven’t. I can understand that after being over exposed to something, it can loose its lustre, but it’s still a choice. To continue to play/listen/talk about music and it’s certainly a choice to form an opinion on people based of their outlook. Art is subjective. It’s there to be experienced by whoever, however they choose and there’s no argument that will change that for me now days. I’m so comfortable in myself I am more than happy to be that weird kid that just isn’t cool and listens to all the wrong things at all the wrong times. That kid is always way more happy dancing by themselves anyway.

 

 

P.S Having said all this, I am truly sorry if you are subjected to my cheesy country sing-a-longs because I’m sure that really doesn’t help you enjoy them at all.

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Friends in Doorways

 

“If you want to come into my life, door is open. If you want to leave my life, door is open. Just one request. Don’t stand in the door, you’re blocking traffic”

Cliche and overused, I know, but it does make sense of how I live my life. Cliches are cliche for a reason right? Some people think I’m cold because of the way I cut people out. I guess you could look at it that way, but I let people in just as fast.

Some people find it difficult to let people in. They try to find common ground, similar tastes in music or sport and want to have a matching sense of humour to base a friendship on. I don’t really think like that. Okay yes, my closest friends laugh at the same things as me (or in the case of my best friend, she sits there without judgement while I laugh at my own jokes and vice versa) or enjoy sitting at the bar for hours chatting like I do, but I don’t hold that as a standard. I have friends that I have very little in common with on the surface. It’s only through getting to know them better that I’ve realised we have a similar outlook on life. If people need company or have no one else to hang out with, then I’m your girl. Call me your friend. I’ve moved around a lot so I know what it’s like to have no one to go for a drink with after work. I don’t want people to feel isolated, and I enjoy meeting new people and learning about the different sides of life. Wins for everyone. 

On the other hand, I’m not interested in holding a place for people who prove themselves as toxic and poisonous. I recently had my eyes opened to the way a particular friend treats people. This friend was always very kind to me, he comes across generous and chivalrous but certain things never sat right with me about him. I shared with him a story of sexual assault once and, although on the surface he was supportive, he made several comments about how that incident was my fault. Even before then he would make comments about how I was immoral or weak, all shrouded in a smile to make it seem like a joke. What opened my eyes to this was a message he sent to another friend. A totally accusatory, derogatory and malicious message which he then asked that she didn’t show anyone. People like this have no space in my life. The poison of their issues seep into my mind. And that’s without even considering the drama people like this bring. Another cliched phrase comes to mind, “If people are nice to you but not nice to the waiter, they’re not nice.”

Of course, I make mistakes in my judgement of character and have ended up with several people like this in my life. Maybe because I’ve moved around so much, it makes it easier to let go. I think the main reason I make it look easy is because of the value I hold for myself. I don’t wish the people I’ve cut off any unhappiness. I only wish better for myself. I’m not the girl who has to fix everyone to prove herself anymore. I know I have inherent value because I breathe, and I think most of the people I’ve cut off haven’t yet reached that conclusion about themselves yet. That kind of thinking bleeds into every corner of your life if you let it. So sometimes I have to put my foot down and refuse. It’s called having boundaries, and I’m not cold for having them. Until then, my doors always open.

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The Wandering Generation

When people are lost, we tell them to travel to find themselves, or if they’re in between decisions or if they’ve had something bad happen. Travel is the holy grail of answers for our generation. Under the guise of “finding yourself” and “opening your mind”, it really is a great way to run away.

I’ve not travelled a lot, but I did do a 3-month stint in America a few years ago and it definitely opened my eyes, but probably not the way you’d think. No one ever tells you how hard it can be packing up every couple of days and moving on. Organising and finding places to stay, transport and navigating a country you’ve never been to. Our budget was insanely low, and we only managed the whole trip with the help of family in the end which I hated. The way I got through it was mostly through an attitude of resignation. Just taking things as they came and keeping moving, counting down until the next switch of location. Of course, I had some amazing experiences. I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to see the things that I saw but I wish I had waited. At the time, my relationship was breaking down, I was dealing with serious mental health issues to the point where I really questioned reality and I was drinking far more than was healthy to get through it. Being away from a routine and my support system at that time was by far the worst thing I could’ve done.

Recently I went away to the South of France. Only for a week, but we travelled from Montpellier to Nice, stopping in several places along the way. I noticed how differently I dealt with the whole thing although there were some key variances. For starters, I don’t speak French, but we were travelling with a friend who did. This meant that almost all the decisions about where to stay and how to get there were his. I offered to help, but he really had a hold over the whole thing and for that I was very grateful. Secondly, I was travelling with 3 friends, not 1 partner. Although I spent almost all the time with my best friend, there was less pressure on being active and social all the time. Thirdly, no one had money. We are all pretty much permanently strapped for cash, so we had to do the trip as cheaply as possible. When I went to America, it was with my ex who had a blatant disrespect for money which meant we spent a lot more, unnecessarily. Despite all these basic differences, my attitude of resignation was still there. Only this time it was in such a positive way. I relaxed and let go of control and let the group lead me. There were times where I had to step up and have an opinion, but overall, I just went with it. Instead of worrying about the next thing to do, I just enjoyed the moment, where I was and how I felt. I wasn’t running away anymore or searching for anything. I was just taking stock and appreciating the time.  It was an amazing week in an absolutely beautiful place. And I didn’t even panic on the plane on the way home.

That week as made me realise how much I’ve changed. My mental health is so much more robust now. Bad things have happened since I went to America that have shaken me, but over the last 18 months I have really fought to become who I want to be and learn to deal with them in a healthy way. Travelling is incredible, and I encourage you to take any opportunity you can find, but it won’t change what’s going on in your head. It might give you the perspective you need, but that can only happen if you are open to it. You can be open to it right where you are now, just like you can be running away even if you stay in one place. Don’t go chasing waterfalls in an exotic locations looking for yourself, you’re right here.

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The Relationship Game

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am without a doubt, unquestionably, 100% a relationship person. There is just one small issue. I hate relationships. I’ve been single now for 10 months which is the longest time I’ve been unattached since I was 14 (that makes a total of 12 years of relationships for anyone counting). To be fair, the only reason I am is because my last partner shattered my heart into a million teeny, tiny pieces then stepped on them until they were paste. My heart was paper-mâché trodden into the carpet, so, I’ve been working on that. It still hurts, I won’t lie, and it’s definitely been a part in some bad decisions over the last few months (although luckily, they’re becoming fewer and far between). It’s also been the best months of my life in so many ways. Doing what I want, when I want to without the obligation of explaining anything to anyone is a real freedom I have never experienced. When you have an intense relationship with someone like I have always had, you tell them every moment of your day. If there are minutes missing, then there are questions. That doesn’t mean I wanted to cheat, or even flirt, but it’s given me the space to have that extra pint or extra-large pizza, or even take an extra shift at work without repercussions. I have always had my own bank account and my own money but I still felt a weight of pressure to spend my money wisely so we, as a couple, could work towards whatever common goal we were working for. That pressure has been lifted and now I own too many pretty outfits and shoes that I don’t need. I can date who I like and because of that I have met many good friends who I would never have even met before before. I can dance in my underwear and take selfies to send to no one.

It’s not all roses, that’s true. I get lonely. I’ve stayed out all night drinking when I should’ve been looking after myself better and I’ve spent nights with men who have no respect for women in general, let alone me. When I struggle, I have to ask for help. There is no one there to pick up on the minute changes in my posture or attitude. Even when I do ask for help, sometimes people aren’t free or willing to listen to me ramble about my issues once again. When I feel chubby and my skin is bad, there is no one there to tell me I look pretty. I’m a cuddler and right now my bed is empty of a spooning partner which I aggressively make up for whenever I share a bed, to the annoyance of my friends (although, to be fair, that’s nothing new). Of course, there are bad points to being single, but this is true to any situation and right now, I’ll take the lonely nights over the stifling pressure of a serious relationship that’s not working.

The first problem with relationships is they seem so shiny from the outside. It’s all drinks and adventure and flirting and sex in the afternoon. It’s learning everything you can about each other and the optimism that you’ve found your “soul mate” (whatever that means) . You both make an effort with your appearance and get a thrill out of noticing every crease on your sparkly new partners face. You play with each others hair and give each other shoulder massages that last longer than 15 seconds. Then comes the trigger moment. In hindsight, it’s these moments, these decisions and sacrifices that make things change. For me, in both of my serious relationships, I guess you could pin point that moment as the time I agreed that my partner can fart in front of me. Fatal error. And from that second, the romance and wonderment wafted away with the methane.

Despite my solid 10 years of serious, adult relationships, I’ve not yet learnt how to be my own person when I’m in one. I am the kind of person who will throw myself in front of a bus for someone I love (friends and family included). My expectations are immense, and it’s taken a lot for me to learn that just because my other half wouldn’t take that fatal dive, doesn’t mean they don’t love me. Love is a difficult mistress to define and everyone reads her differently. Since I’ve been dating, I have had more than one man tell me that they like me or even love me while I sit there bewildered, feeling like I don’t even know the person sat in front of me, absolutely sure that they don’t know the real me. Being able to sync that with the person you choose to be with is important. So far, I don’t think I’ve experienced this and I’m thankful for that. If I had been with someone who feels feelings as strongly as I have, I may have drowned myself in them. I have been lucky enough to have my heart torn up which has allowed me to come up for air. In that air I found things that I didn’t know were important to me, because before they weren’t important to the person I loved. I’ve found things I detest and things that make me laugh and people that I connect with on a completely unexpected level. This time is a gift and I am grateful for it. I don’t want to be single forever. I still get that rush when I meet someone I think I could really fall for. The difference this time is I am more cautious. I am in love with my life, I am excited about the future and I’m only just getting to know myself. I’m not ready to give that up for someone who isn’t without a doubt, unquestionably, 100% the right person.

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