Choosing depth over width

I’m one of those people that finds meaning in just about everything. Even in the greasy pigeons outside my window who quite frequently don’t hesitate to procreate but 2 metres away from me (does this mean I’m forever alone?? Even pigeons can find love?!!) Anyway, I know that it’s just an anxious pattern to unconsciously (or consciously) seek reassurance when feeling a little on edge, but it can also be quite handy to conjure up some content – so, win win. (Thanks anxiety, for once you come in use for something!)

But alas, randy pigeons aside, I read a quote in a magazine by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh in which I found some actual profound meaning:

To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width

Whether you follow this blog or know me personally, you’ll also know that I’m leaving the country soon. Like, in 9 days soon. (And before you ask, no I of course have not begun to process this in any way shape or form! Wahoo!) So this quote hit home quite a bit.

While my time has been ticking down in London, I’ve been quite flustered in trying to do all of the things, see all of the sights, spend as much time as possible with all of my friends, tick off all of the bucket list stuff, because I don’t know when I’ll be back – and I don’t think anywhere could replicate London’s unique charm, identity and of course, history.

I walked the equivalent of three half marathons in three days, around central and east London in various loops, because I believe the best way to soak up a place is to do so by foot (or by bike). I finally tried the restaurants I’d been meaning to go to for ages. I went and strolled through the Royal parks I’d been ashamed to say I’d only just been to now as I’m leaving. I took myself up to Sky Garden for an impressive panoramic view of the place I’ve lived in on and off for four years. I popped to Brighton for the day and ate vegan fish and chips on the beach in the sun. I took myself on some bike rides, had old friends stay for a long weekend and revisited streets and places that hold some nostalgia for me. But still, it didn’t feel like I’d done enough. It still feels like I haven’t made the most of the city, I still have that nagging feeling of I haven’t got enough time to see everything. What a shame.

But then I stumbled across this quote again that I’d originally read a year ago. It made me think, actually no, I can’t possibly see or do everything. That’s a ridiculous idea! I can’t expand the width of my activities and choices or things I’m doing any more. I need to focus on the depth of what I’m doing instead. I need to enrich the experiences I’m having by not needing to do more. To be fully immersed in the now, in other words, and not in a future which is not real. To make peace with that you simply cannot do everything. You can’t! And that’s ok. What’s more important is making the most of the time you do have. 

And of course – full circle – this applies to everything in life, right? Instead of constantly seeking out more, thinking about what’s lacking, worrying about what needs to be done, fixating on scarcity and that time is running out, what if you tried the inverse? What if you threw yourself into everything you did, from waking up in the morning to the big events in life? What if you absorbed every fraction of every moment so richly that you didn’t actually feel that nagging need for more? 

It might feel like a cop out, or that you are wasting time, or that you are being uninventive or lazy – trust me, your ego will stop at nothing to perpetuate these narratives. You simply have to release them knowing that they aren’t true. When it comes down to the fundamentals, there is no moment that is more important than the moments we have right now, because nothing else is as immediately real. 

So in my context, I’ve decided that I’ve done my best, I’ve probably even got to the point of semi-exhaustion from trying to fit everything in and run around like a headless chicken on speed, but ultimately, and realistically, there’s no way I could ever complete that list, which is fine. I am simply so grateful for every second I’ve been able to spend with my precious friends who I’m going to miss so badly. No other people could fill those gaps and life will certainly feel a little strangely empty without them. For every glass of wine clinked, every delicious mouthful shared, every eye-wrinkling laugh had, every crunch of the twigs from our feet walking on the forest path, every warm tear-stained goodbye hug, every moment of pure comfortable silence, for every song sung in taxi rides home, every space shared in the warmth of the spring sun, every cosy moment sat inside in awe of the ancient London pubs, every split second of joy luckily captured on camera, every spontaneous ‘Shall we order some food?’s. All of it. 

A lump has just risen in my throat thinking about the reality of leaving. Like I said earlier, I’ve barely started grasping the fact that I’ll be out on my own again soon with only the company of two rucksacks. But deciding to cherish the depth of every interaction I’m lucky to have left with the people I love, I am sure that each memory will remain as sharp as ever, if not sharper than ever.

So, I implore you to do the same in life. Don’t focus on width, focus on depth, in whatever you do. Whether this is in creative endeavours, relationships, your career, your health, your purpose, throw everything you have into whatever is important to you and I can almost guarantee that your life will become a richer picture for it. Instead of life being short, life becomes longer for all the right reasons.

Quitting

‘Quitting’ is a dirty word. It implies that we’re not strong enough, that we’ve given up, given in, that we’ve stopped caring. But recently I’ve learned that it’s actually one of the most empowering things you can do. 

Quitting shows that you know what’s best for yourself, what you won’t stand for anymore, even if the act of quitting might be not be the best decision at the world, timing-wise. If you’re quitting something at an uncertain time in your life, whether it’s a job, a manuscript, a relationship, a friendship, a project, life plans, anything, it makes you all the more stronger for making that decision in a bumpy time. And you can quit the smaller things too! Quit the habits no longer serving you. Quit your own pettiness. Quit being productive if you don’t feel like it. You can quit most things in your life if you have the privilege/safety to. While it certainly shakes things up in our lives, ironically it’s the quitting that makes everything else become clear. That ‘everything’ being what you need the most right now. Like Glennon Doyle quoted on her Instagram: “Quitting is my favourite. Every day I quit. Every single day… Begin and quit! Only way to survive. Embrace quitting as a spiritual practice, loves.”

When I left my job, I was so torn as to whether I could actually leave because I didn’t have another gig or job offer to go to, despite piles of applications I’d sent out. I spent months going back and forth because of this; eventually I decided to just bite the bullet and trust that I would figure things out (while also being in a very privileged position to be able to bite said bullet, too). One month later, I was back on my feet and pursuing the freelance life I’d been dreaming of for a while and life was pretty sweet. Don’t get me wrong; the process of deciding to leave, actually handing in the notice and leaving in itself were all terrifying prospects, but I knew that it was my time. After the execution itself, it felt so empowering, even if scary. The former both outweighed and outstayed the latter.

More recently, I left another job and went through the same process – but again, it was the right thing for me to do at the time. In anguish over said execution, how it would be received, what colleagues would think (I know, I shouldn’t care), I did it anyway despite all of that egocentric chatter that gets very loud when you take a risk in any context. But after it was done, once more, I felt so much lighter. In quitting, I felt like life was in my hands again and I had the privilege to be able to choose to do anything I wanted (or not). To emphasise, Privilege (capital P) is the main pointer here – not anyone can up and quit their job because they want to.

Quitting can applies to creative projects too. Sometimes you try so hard to make something work and no matter how much you believe in its potential, something just isn’t clicking. Round hole, square peg; you just have to surrender to the fact that it just, for whatever reason, isn’t working and quit. In doing so, you automatically give yourself a wealth of new, more exciting, more rewarding, more interesting ideas to explore – like opening a door on a busy street and on the other side is this wonderful meadow with the backdrop of a stunning valley and dramatic snowy mountains. A creative Narnia, if you will. In short, by quitting creative things sometimes when they don’t feel right, you liberate yourself to probably an even better idea.

Sometimes you have to quit places. Sometimes you’re yearning for a change of scene or your time has simply expired there. It makes me sad to think of me quitting London, because that implies that I don’t want to be there anymore and I’m leaving for good, which isn’t necessarily true. But generally, sometimes we do need to quit our environment, whether that’s leaving a city, moving to a new place, a new country, a new house, a new county, a new planet; wherever. Conversely, you can also quit the idea of constantly moving around and fall in love with putting your roots down, too. Quit what doesn’t feel deeply good to/for you, essentially.

Sometimes you have to quit people. This is the toughest type of quitting, because it seems impossible. This doesn’t have to be in such black or white terms as the phrase suggests, simply a decision to move through your life without them – either at all or in certain contexts. Sometimes, friendships run their course, which is arguably even more sad than romantic breakups. People change as they age, experience various things, grow into/out of themselves and sometimes that won’t always align with you, despite your history. I’ll say it again, but choosing to quit certain people in your life (whether this is active or passive) is one of the hardest things you can do. But, it’s usually in your best interest. Luckily, I haven’t had to experience this much yet.

So many of us say But I don’t know if it’s the right time to quit. By even toying with the idea, you have already decided. The resistance you feel is simply your ego trying to keep you safe in the familiar, even if that familiar place is painful. The other part of you that is yearning for something else, something new, something more, something better, that’s the part you should trust. That’s your Knowing – the wisest part of you that feels like a gentle tugging in the direction of the path you were meant to follow.

So, give yourself permission to quit the damn thing – if you can. Even if it’s not the ‘right’ time – consider: when is it ever the right time? Especially if it’s hard. Free yourself of the internal conflict, but make the decision out of a place of love for yourself, rather than a place of hate and pain. It will be hard to choose to do so, but on the other side is the clarity you’ve been needing and deserve to give yourself. Imagine who you would be on the other side. Are they lying on an inflatable doughnut, bobbing on a pool, sipping a margarita in the sun, living their best life? Quite likely. 

Knowing

I reread Glennon Doyle’s powerful Untamed recently and something particularly stuck with me. 

In one part of her empowering memoir, she talks about her Knowing. Others may know this as intuition, gut feeling and so on. That instinctual feeling you have when you are pulled to do the thing you should do, that’s underlying all the opposing tugging feelings of what you want to do. And up until recently, I really discounted this as a general rule going through life. I thought ‘Eh, gut feeling, gut schmeeling – what is it really useful for?’

A lot, it turns out.

As I’ve been getting more in touch with my emotions and – I don’t know why I resist the word, but alas – ‘spiritual’ side, one recurring theme in the non fiction I was reading was aligning with your intuition. Coming home to your body. Connecting the mind and the gut. It wasn’t until I’d read Untamed again that I really started putting it into practice and understanding this more concretely. 

I think the word ‘intuition’ never really connected with me, but Knowing did. It implied that somewhere in my body had the best intentions for me because it just knew from previous experience – on a level I could never really put my finger on. It just knew that a choice I was about to make was not the one for me, as if it was the future coming back to say: Don’t do this, because I know that this isn’t what you really want. Every time I was about to (or am about to) do something that sabotaged my progress deliberately, I felt that tugging that said: Honey, we know how this ends, walk away. Yet the opposing, seductive force of desire was just too strong. Time and time again, I’d get swept away with it and shortly, after betraying my knowing, regret it, of course and feel deeply ashamed. 

The more I started understanding and tuning into my Knowing, though, the more I noticed it in those ‘crossroad’ moments – where I could either choose to abandon myself by way of self-sabotage or choose my authentic self by way of just listening to my gut. This could look like anything from bingeing on food right after a great gym session, or drinking the drink when I know I should sit with my feelings, isolate myself when I needed my friends or procrastinate until the very last minute, making my work a shoddy version of what it could have been. All of course ending in regret, shame and a host of other emotions that I deep down know I don’t deserve to feel anymore. It’s all ultimately rooted in self-worth, but that’s an ongoing process.

So, one day I started not only noticing the nudging of my knowing in those moments, but following it. Allowing myself to have the curiosity to think: ‘I wonder what would happen if I trusted my gut in this very moment and followed that path instead?’ And it turns out, wonderful things.

On that path is peace! On that path there’s no regret! No shame! Ahh!! Only empowerment and stillness. All things that every single human on this earth deserves. After – in the heat of the moment pre-binge – I chose to close the fridge door, breathe, calmly walk away, I felt this buzz I’d never had before: the buzz of self-generated power. I almost felt old layers shed beneath me as I stepped closer to my true self; not the version that I’d been conditioned to be since, well, forever. It sounds crazy to think that one small act can be so eye-opening, but in that moment I thought: What if I followed my knowing in each moment like this, regardless of the context? I’d be fucking unstoppable.

Of course, there are periods when all we want to do is self-destruct or self-sabotage. Sadly, it’s what feels familiar and the familiar feels safe, and the safe feels easy. We don’t have to expend as much energy concentrating on becoming anything different to what we’re used to being. We can accomplish more things, have more time to do the things we want to satisfy our desires. But, having had this conflict between resistance and surrender for so long, I decided that over my desires, my quest for pleasure, for ease, for joy, my emotional/spiritual needs just had to come first, even if they’re uncomfortable as hell to face. 

Following your Knowing isn’t easy. Choosing your gut instinct when you’re having that ever-tempting, nagging ‘but but but but but look at this shiny thing’ sensation brings up a whole host of emotions, shame included. Choosing what’s right for you rather than the thing you so desperately want (not for the right reasons) can provoke a lot of questions related to: Why can’t I/Why am I like this/Why is it so hard/Why am I here narratives. But that’s just your ego throwing a tantrum because you’re in unfamiliar territory; territory that you’re about to discover is so beautiful if you can just make it over the hill to see the view that lies beyond the discomfort.

And following your Knowing doesn’t have to always be in the heat of the moment; it can apply to anything in your life that ultimately comes down to a decision. Whenever there is conflict within you, you already know the answer. Whenever you feel stuck, you know the answer. Personally, when I am stuck, I ask myself: What is my Knowing telling me here? And the answers always reveals itself. And it’s usually doing the hard thing. But like Glennon says, We can do hard things.

The answer to whatever you’re struggling with always lies within you – you just have to notice it, get in touch with it every day, feel for it. We all know what a gut feeling sensation is like – the drop in your body as if someone is tapping at a door in the back of your mind waiting for you to answer, while your stomach grips the handle. Putting that physical feeling into the emotional context it is designed for, by connecting the mind and gut this way, is how we can start using our Knowing to come home to the best versions of ourselves: the one who wants the best for us, the one who is their true self. To me, that’s the ultimate goal in life – to break free of all of your past conditioned patterns to come back to who you are before the world got to you.

So while I’m very much a novice myself at this, I implore you simply notice. Notice in those crossroad moments, the fork in the road that leads to either ‘What you want to do’ and ‘What you know you should do instead’, and listen to your Knowing: it is the kindest gift you can give to your future self. Your Knowing after all is your future self coming back to you as a messenger, telling you that this is the path that was meant for you – it’s all connected, in the end. Trust the discomfort and the rest will follow.

The Value of Space

I bought a snake plant a few years ago, which, unsurprisingly, started to look a little sad last summer. They’re very low-maintenance, yet somehow I was still draining the life out of it. Not being a huge plant expert, but committing to learning on the go (if you can even commit to that strategy), I wanted to try and make him happier without giving up and palming him off to a neighbour or… welp, the plant graveyard AKA: the bin.

I’d tried under watering it, overwatering it, sunlight, no sunlight, so I thought I’d try and do the thing I’d been putting off the most: actually touching the soil and getting my hands dirty to repot the thing. A moment of silence, please, for my nails which I’m sure still have remnants of stubborn soil still lingering under there. 

So, I uprooted him – temporarily – and decided to essentially split the plant in two, tugging hesitantly at the roots, separating him into two medium-ish pots to see if that would work. I just wanted to make the poor bugger look less droopy – and droopy is the antithesis of what this plant should be; its nickname is Mother-in-law’s tongue, for crying out loud. So, a few fresh cups of soil later, a bit of patting down and some healthy doses of water, my one plant, became two! (There’s a Spice Girls song there somewhere…)

And happily, it worked! Alice not only helped the plant survive, but helped it thrive! It didn’t take much time at all for the little snake plant babies to shoot right up and for the leaves themselves to stand to attention proudly, as they should have been doing all along. They grew so fast and filled the space of the pot so easily it was hard to think they were ever in the same pot. It was no wonder all the little individual plants and leaves were so unhappy. And then, of course, Alice had a burst of inspiration…

This is PERFECT for a blog post!

You knew it was coming. If you read my posts, you know by now I grasp for inspiration in the most tenuous of places in my life. 

So, I had a thought: space. That’s all he needed to thrive. Despite everything else I was trying to give him to fix him, that’s the only thing that worked. And sometimes, it applies to us humans too.

I won’t go down the route that obviously we need to be figuratively watered, be in the sunlight and yada yada yada, because *that* would be far too millennial of me. No, I’m just going to go down the route that humans just need repotting from time to time. (Ugh, alright fine, that’s just as bad.)

But in all seriousness, sometimes we do get stuck. Sometimes we do feel like we can’t uproot without a bit of help. Sometimes we don’t know that’s the problem ’til someone outside of ourselves gives us a helping hand or the inspiration. And no amount of ‘watering’, ‘sunlight’, ‘shade’ or ‘plant food’ can shake that feeling.

Sometimes all we need is some space to get some clarity to find out what it is that we want. And if anyone has ever told you your happiness doesn’t matter, then start ditching that belief right now. Take the space you need to figure out what makes you happy, what brings you purpose, what gives your life meaning, because we only get one chance to do it all. (This got very serious very fast.)

For me, this means making the choice to uproot once again. This means packing up and selling all my stuff, saying bye to everyone I love again and leaving London once more. I’ve always felt a bit like a balloon and everyone around me a tree; I’m never quite able to firmly set my roots down, I’m always kind of floating around, easily moving to somewhere else if I choose to do so, even if that’s the other side of the world (bearing in mind that, while this notion is all very poetic and romantic, I am also in a very privileged position to be able to do this, which not everyone is).

While I adore London, that same balloon-y sensation has been tugging me in a direction outside of the capital city, where I have so many memories. Where there’s still so much potential for my future. A plethora of different paths I could go down. Where there are so many people I love and simultaneously so many new friendships blossoming. I’m not sure why, but I know I have to honour that intuitional tugging that’s nudging me, saying: Imagine how much you could bloom here too, and for now, here is Canada.

So I’m finally doing what I’ve dreamed of doing since I was 15. I’m uprooting to somewhere that has a very special place in my heart. A place full of snow globe-like childhood memories, a place bursting with the kind of striking beauty that makes me feel at home, that makes little Alice glow. I’ve been yearning to be away from the city-life for a while; a reason I’m sure is easily if not lazily assignable to the pandemic and lockdown after lockdown. A reason I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling.

And the space. I’ve been yearning for a different kind of space to find out what it is that I want next. London gave me everything I wanted for a period and more, but as you do, you grow older and you start to want different things, which is no dig on London. I’ll be back. She’ll be waiting and I’ll be embracing her with warm arms again one day I’m sure. Apples and oranges, baby.

To give yourself the gift of space – if you have that privilege – is one of the kindest gifts of all. And it can be in whatever form. Whether you carve out alone time in your day-to-day, go on a solo holiday, take a new course, pick up a hobby just for you, or yeah, uproot and move somewhere new by yourself. Space gives you the opportunity to be your authentic self, to give yourself the time to figure out what you really want, to experiment and play with the trajectory of your life – and by the way, you’re never too old to do this. While feeling stuck seems an impossible rut from which to break free, give yourself the patience and compassion to allow yourself to have space in your life, in whatever form.

And here we go – with that space, not only could you thrive just like my little (now big) snake plant, you could give yourself the potential to bloom into the strongest, most resilient version of you. Step outside of your day-to-day, be with yourself in the silence, listen. What is your intuition telling you? In which direction is it tugging you? Follow that urge and you may find the answers you’ve been searching for. Your potential won’t just be something that’s too far out of reach. You’ll embody it. And that’s pretty bloody empowering.

Read Once for Information, Twice for Transformation

Over the festive period, I love reading. It’s a great chance to catch up and scramble to tick off all those titles you promised yourself you’d get around to reading that year. And also who doesn’t love going into the new year feeling all smug and bookish? (Cause it gives you a free pass to watch more Netflix instead of reading when the inevitable January blues come along.)

I re-read quite a few titles in 2021 (in no particular order): Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, Dr. Edith Eger’s The Gift, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Anthony Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name and Massimo Pigliucci’s How to Be a Stoic.

Now you might be thinking: What a waste of time! You could have read so many other things in that time. 

You’re not wrong. But also, you’re wrong.

What I’ve found through revisiting books, particularly non-fiction, is that while I’m reading the same material again, I’m processing it in a new way. All of those ideas are absorbed by my mind in a much richer, deeper way to the extent I can begin applying those insights to my life, rather than letting them fly right over my head. This may seem like a common observation, but I really feel like the words sink into you more personally and stick. They strike a much more resonating chord. The words come back to revisit you throughout the day at moments when you need them the most. Those punchy snippets that made you think absently the first time but perhaps seeped out of your head that very same day are the same ones that are echoed through your days having read, if not studied, those books again.

It’s such a simple – and overlooked – way to deepen your knowledge on something. You may remember various passages that gripped you initially which end up hitting home even more – for me I underline/write these down and come back to them when I need them. The words feel more like a steadfast foundation of support rather than a fleeting whoosh of an idea that you may never think about again.

Some examples I had which especially resonated was one passage from Glennon Doyle’s incredible, empowering, shocking, rattling book, Untamed:

It turned out what I needed most was inside the one place I’d been running from my entire life: pain. Everything I needed to know next was inside the discomfort of now. As I practiced allowing my hard feelings to come and stay as long as they needed to, I got to know myself. The reward for enduring hard feelings was finding my potential, my purpose, and my people… I can’t imagine a greater tragedy than remaining forever unknown to myself. That would be the ultimate self-abandonment. So I have become unafraid of my own feelings. Now when hard feelings ring the bell, I put on my big-girl pants and answer the door.

Glennon Doyle, Untamed (London: Vermillion, 2020) p. 261.
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living: THE NO.1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER:  Amazon.co.uk: Doyle, Glennon: 9781785043352: Books
Read this. Then read it again. And again.
Pic from: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Stop-pleasing-start-living/dp/1785043358

And from an equally empowering book, but perhaps more softly so, are some nuggets of gold from holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger’s The Gift:

The language of fear is the language of resistance. And if we’re resisting, we’re working very hard to ensure that we go nowhere. We deny growth and curiosity. We’re revolving, not evolving.

Dr. Edith Eger, The Gift (London: Rider, 2020) p. 138

When you’re free, you take responsibility for who you really are… you reconnect with the parts of yourself you had to give up… You break the habit of abandoning yourself.

P. 66/67

With feelings there’s not way out but through. We have to be with them. It takes so much courage to be, without having to do anything about anything – to just simply be.

P. 46

A feeling is just a feeling, it’s not your identity.’

P. 35

And my favourite…

‘If you sit with one butt on two chairs, you become half-assed.’

P. 71
The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life: Amazon.co.uk: Eger, Edith:  9781846046278: Books
Then read this. And read it again.
Pic: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gift-Edith-Eger/dp/1846046270

I mean… take a moment to let all of that sink in. The more you read this kind of stuff, the more likely you will start to live by the same things and your lens through which you view life will shift. We’re humans. We love repetition, we love patterns – they’re predictable. And what’s better than making empowering, healing knowledge part of your day-to-day thought patterns?

Most of the books I revisited that shook me the most were non-fiction. But the fiction books I reread had the opposite effect. They softened me. The nostalgia of coming back to a place you’ve been already, but perhaps a year or so later when you yourself have grown and changed, makes you reflect on just that. How you perceive certain ideas or characters or events now, a kind of soft grief unravelling for who you used to be; how you used to think, what might have happened to be the catalyst of that change, no matter how subtle or obvious. It’s why I always reread Memoirs of a Geisha every summer – it’s a reminder of not just how beautiful the story and prose is, but how my perspective has evolved over the last year, how my curiosity has deepened. And loads of other mushy shit, as you can imagine.

So if you have *those* books that you absolutely adored or inhaled in a day or two, I encourage you to read them again! And again! See! It’s even there in the word – a gain!!! There really is nothing to lose but the time you spend dawdling on whether or not you should read it again. If you think it would be boring because you already know what happens, trust me, it will be the opposite.

And with all of the above, I really do stand by that we read once for information, twice for transformation. (And might I suggest one could lightly skim over something for inspiration!) There will always be new layers to peel back as you grow older and experience new things. And it will amaze you at how you can learn new tricks from an old dog (or book, in this case). Read something once and it will catch your attention. Read it again and it will give that same attention the momentum to change you.

An Equation for Life

Before I started university my social anxiety was probably at its peak. I was overplanning, overpreparing and catastrophising every little thing, worrying I wouldn’t make friends and/or that I’d have a lonely time. Before moving into my halls of residence, I remember cursing the fact there was no Facebook group setup so we, the flatmates to be, could start chatting and getting to know one another, like a friend had had when she’d started a few weeks earlier elsewhere. (Little did I know that that would be a blessing in disguise.) 

The day before, I felt like a bag of worms; nerves, excitement, anticipation all squiggling around inside my stomach and from my head to my toes. The buildup was quite excruciating – after the rollercoaster that high school was*, I couldn’t wait to move away. Then the ‘Day Of’ came and I felt something alien and unfamiliar. 

(*that would have been nowhere near as bearable had I not had my core group of best friends – you know who you are.)

I thought to myself: I don’t know anyone I’m about to meet. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I can just be completely myself. No masks. No weird awkwardness. No anxiety. It all just melted away. I woke up that morning and it all dissolved, like the moment you drop a bath bomb into the water. That feeling of surrender felt like the explosion of colour and wild fizzing as it bursts into a beautiful unique marbled painting on the water’s surface, the end result you can’t possibly predict. Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked by flowery metaphors.

So I got into the car that morning with my dad, buzzing with this sense of anticipation, but this on this occasion it was expectation-less. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I was completely ok with it. I felt like for the first time in so many years, I’d returned to my body, my authentic Self. I was open to receiving fun, joy and newness without the need to defend myself, by chronically living in a threatened state of ‘survival mode’. I felt lighter. I felt taller. (It’s difficult to describe without sounding like you’ve taken a dose of hallucinogenics, but I can confirm that was not the case.)

After a last minute dash to Tesco to grab some pots and pans I was missing (that sadly were probably never used, sorry dad), we finally arrived on campus. You probably could have charged your phone from the amount of electricity bouncing off me at that point. But that evening, after dad left me to my own devices with a teary goodbye, I met the people who would become some of my closest friends to this day, over 8 years later. I met the bunch who I’d have the time of my life with during one of the most pivotal periods of my youth away from home. I met the group of friends I never saw coming, that I never knew I needed. You guessed it: by expecting nothing, I actually received everything.

It’s hard to describe the amount of luck we had in those halls, if not impossible. The odds of you ending up with two or three friends in your corridor are probably the most likely. But to end up with having a circle you’re still close to now that made up the majority of your floor; there’s some kind of alchemy involved somewhere there. Without getting too mushy here, we had the most insane luck and have friendships for life borne from the legendary top floor of block 3E/4E (and beyond) and I’m still so grateful to this day for whatever forces brought us all together. No forms of distance, time or events have seemed to separate us yet – and since the science says once you’re friends with someone for 7 years, it’s for life, it looks like we’re happily stuck with each other!

What I’m saying here is that strange, weird, beautiful things happen when you release all forms of expectation. When you let go of the anxiety of what might happen, when you stop living in the land of What If and emigrate to the planet of The Beautiful Unknown. You aren’t ruled by the restricting forces of anxiety or fear; you are open to anything could happen and are far better equipped to live life as it was designed to be lived: freely! Once you release yourself from that cage of projected worry that’s mistakenly trying to keep you safe, you are much less a canary in the coal mine (if that’s not too dramatic an idiom) but better yet, a duck to the water, or as free as a bird – take your pick (there are actually so many bird idioms/metaphor/visual-language-related-things out there, guys).

So especially now while life is all things unpredictable and unknown, try letting go of all said things. They’re too heavy to carry around constantly and you deserve a break. It’s much easier said than done, but what happens if you’re curious about it to begin with? What happens if you decide to try letting the restrictive forces of control fade away like that bath bomb? You may find that life becomes less like a relentless march but more of a gentle, easeful flow. Think about the soundtrack to your life being more Enya, less My Chemical Romance. And then go from there… 

Expect nothing = receive everything.

Love is not a transaction

Whenever I’ve made a cup of tea, I always refill the kettle. That means the next person who comes to use it won’t have to; they can get their cuppa quicker. Now, I’m the furthest thing from a martyr, but to me, there’s nothing more annoying than when you’re gasping for a brew but the bloody kettle is empty, so you have to stand there for an eternity filling it up, waiting for it to boil, slowly descending into madness throughout the whole process.*

*Alright, perhaps having to do tax returns is a bit more annoying

But what prompted me to make this small gesture a daily habit was something I’d read about in relation to the purest form of love and kindness, that neither of them are a transaction. Love is not a transaction. And kindness is not a transaction. I’ll let you chew on that for a bit.

That statement made me think; of course we know that love and kindness are generally selfless concepts, but if we could cultivate a more conscious practice of this in our lives, how much fuller would said lives be? How many times have we experienced a random act of kindness from a stranger and felt so warmed from it? Even random acts of kindness from those we love? What if we could return that every day, stripped of any entitlement?

When we give love so openly, so freely, not thinking of it as a transaction, not expecting something in return, it makes the act of giving so much richer; you realise that you have such an abundance of it that you actually don’t need it at all – your ‘supply’ of love, as it were, becomes bottomless – and with that you start to see life with far fewer harsher corners and more softer edges. When you see life as an opportunity to give love and kindness rather than a rolling event where you are always waiting on the next moment love will come to you (or perhaps giving love only as an attempt to have it mirrored back), your ability to love and expand your kindness will become effortless. And then sneakily, you’ll find that love and kindness will appear in your life more and more. When you aren’t always seeking more, but giving more, there won’t be any scarcity of love; only a juicy abundance of it, wherever you go.

My mum and dad came to visit me this weekend and when they’d left, I discovered dad had rearranged my hideous Tupperware cupboard. He’d put all the lids together in one place and all the boxes stacked together adjacently, all in the right sizes, whereas before it looked like a scrambled mess of chaos. He hadn’t told me, he just did it knowing it would make life a little easier, even if the gesture was small on the surface. It made my heart smile.

My yoga teacher, a beautiful, kind, warm person, saw that I’d rushed into class one evening in shorts on a day which was definitely not built for shorts. Right before class as everyone was getting into their zone, I was just sitting with my eyes closed, tuning in, defrosting. I opened my eyes as the flow began and saw she’d brought a blanket and put it by my feet. Call me soppy, but this almost brought a tear to my eye. I made sure to thank her afterwards and the small act of kindness made me feel all fluffy for the rest of the week.

As I was frantically trying to make the last train home from London before lockdown was announced, I came downstairs to the foyer in my flat, where all the mail is stored and sometimes people in the building write post-it notes to one another. Someone had left some food with a note saying ‘For those isolating, please take!’ And I thought – what a huge difference this seemingly small gesture would make to someone’s life right now. Again, that feeling of warmth spread through me.

Stripped back of mushiness, what I’m trying to say is that: what if we told someone close I love you or I’m thinking of you for the sake of it? Or put someone’s washing away because we knew they’d had a bad day? Or gave a seat to someone on the tube because you didn’t need it? Or offered someone your umbrella at the bus stop on a rainy day? Or baked bread for an ill neighbour? Or wrote a letter to a friend you’ve been thinking about for a while? Or bought a sandwich and coffee for a homeless person? Or helped someone up the stairs with their pram? All without needing to receive anything back?

When you see love not as a transaction, but more as an opportunity to encourage warmth and kindness, you will find that the love in your life is more profound, infinite, even. Eventually you’ll see the love you’re giving out there being returned to you without even trying – and with that, completing the cycle. Until the next opportunity, and the next, and the next – because Lord knows we need more love and kindness on this planet, eh? And that’s what life should be about – spreading love and kindness as much as we can with our limited time here.

Romanticising the Ordinary

Last week I was fortunate enough to go back to Sweden to stay with my grandma, who I haven’t seen for about 2 years because of – you guessed it. Normally, it’s a week spent seeing family over there (and I’m lucky to have a lot of it), spending afternoons in the nearby woods, by the lake, going into the local town some days and then just *being* at home with Mormor (the Swedish name for grandma). Though we did all of the regular cosy things we normally do, something about this time was different.

I know a lot of people have had some inevitable personal shifts because of the trauma (micro and macro) that the pandemic has caused and I’ve definitely felt that effect too. If being forced to move back home and spend every waking minute with your family without anywhere else to go for an extended period isn’t somewhat stressful and/or challenging, hats off to you. Being stuck inside with anyone without anywhere to go is, needless to say, stressful in itself. But over that cooped up period, it gave me – as well as everyone else – so much time. Time to stop, to think (not always a good thing), time to really look at myself and what’s around me. Time to really bloody appreciate all the blessings I have in my life and in fact: how my life is made up of an abundance of them (thank you, whoever’s/whatever’s up there).

In that chapter, I learned about what this wishy-washy term of ‘presence’ really means. And the role of gratitude in someone’s life, when it doesn’t feel like a suffocating shame-inspiring mechanism. And when those two are put together, it gave me the opportunity to see life in a stripped back way I’d never seen before – most likely because my vision was clouded with heavy layers of unresolved trauma/personal issues (I’m by no means anything special BTW, everyone has some levels of trauma whether they know it or not).

But as I said, that time over lockdown gave me the space to stop resisting the discomfort of facing my shadows and look them directly in the eye. It was liberating, having moments of realisation where I’d think: ‘Oh! I don’t actually need anyone to validate me at all to feel worthy’, or ‘Oh! I’m not actually the victim of anything unless I choose to be’, or ‘Oh! It was actually me in the wrong the entire time!’ Hilarious little nuggets like that, yeah.

Anyway, to get back to the point, shedding these layers, slowly but surely, eventually gave me clarity. That clarity came in the form of simplicity, which brings me back to the title of this piece. When the mental chatter died down a little as I tuned into the present moment more and more often, the inner chaos was replaced with quiet. The constant narrative of thought/judgement in my mind was replaced with stillness. While I was out and about on my daily walks, noticing the marbling colours of the sky, or the elegant swooping of a wagtail or even occasionally the bounding motion of a deer in the distance – as cheesy as ALL of that shite is (and inevitably what’s still to come will be) – everything else abstract didn’t matter. Nothing mattered right then apart from the beauty that was around me. And it felt ridiculous and wasteful to be anywhere else but right there at that moment. Sometimes you’ve gotta give into the cheesiness and just choose peace, bro.

I felt this same feeling when I was in Sweden recently, which I now realise is because I was actually present – not only physically, but mentally. I was nowhere else, not planning the distant future or worrying about what was coming next. I was completely absorbed in the environment in which I was. I soaked up every moment – from the feeling of standing barefoot on her linoleum kitchen floor, to noticing the tiny rose motifs on her wallpaper, the pile of sudoku resting on the midnight blue table mats, her ‘90s style cooker with small framed photos of her every grandchild sitting on the shelf above it, the little seal sticker stuck to her radio that she’d turn on every Saturday morning. My days were filled with rich moments of noticing all the beauty in these details, all of which represented something of my grandmother – what she likes, where she’s been, what she’s seen, who she is, how those things are also in me somehow. And I really think this is why I remember this particular trip so vividly, as if it were barely a few moments ago. Every second was rich with my feeling of being completely there and when I say completely, I really mean it in the literal sense.  As a whole, grounded person; not someone who is half there and half in a future universe that doesn’t exist yet.

In learning to romanticise the ordinary, the previously mundane and even boring, that instilled not only an intense, electric presence, but a full sense of gratitude and love within me. Gratitude for having the ability to see and feel and hear these things, to even be there in the same room as my grandmother whom I adore so much. I think now, ‘Why wouldn’t you romanticise the ordinary?’ Because once you do, you realise just how ephemeral life is and how special everything in it is – and brace yourself for some more cheese, here – from the bricks that make up the building in which you live, to the hug from a friend after a tough week, from the smell of a vanilla-scented candle to the unexpected smile from a stranger. All of it is beautiful, simply because you’re alive to witness it.

Well, ahem, after all that mumbo-jumbo nonsense, I reckon it’s time for a stiff drink and a pack of Doritos, don’t you?

Life is Long, if you Know How to Use It

A good travel buddy of mine introduced me to Stoicism a few years ago and ever since I’ve started dipping my toe into various other philosophers’ writings. Lately, I’ve been reading Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long if You Know How to Use It. The title itself was enough to rattle me, let alone the content inside. It’s a tiny book small enough to fit in your back pocket, yet it’s filled with punchy observations that splash yo ur face with a proverbial bucket of icy water and make you think: Thank God I picked this up now, before it’s too late.

Like most stoic philosophers, Seneca cuts to the chase. He doesn’t sugarcoat any aspect of how we humans take our liberties with this gift most of the time. The Stoics think very pragmatically, logically, in a detached fashion, which is perhaps how they’ve gained a pejorative reputation of being emotionless – when in reality emotions don’t have anything to do with their beliefs at all. In this book in particular, Seneca asks the difficult questions of why we waste so much of our time, knowing that we really are only here for a brief moment, because it could end at any second. And stripped of semantics, it is as simple as that.

One quote which inspired me to write this was: Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die’ (p. 10).

At one point, he uses the adjective ‘arrogant’, which threw me too. But I found that I agreed: We really are a bunch of arrogant humans to believe that we are all going to live ’til our mid-80s. When Seneca attaches the ego to our mortality in this context, it is very sobering indeed. Because supposing that you’re going to live to see your old age as a given is actually a very bold claim, isn’t it? Assuming that you are going to Iive out a long life with your family and friends is quite ridiculous, and yes, arrogant isn’t it? What Seneca is saying with this particular adjective is that no one on this planet is guaranteed anything, so how egotistical is it to assume that you will live out a long, full life? That you or one of your loved ones, may not die tomorrow or next week? This isn’t a dig on anyone’s sense of morality, but an earnest observation.

To live in such an abstract future so as to miss your entire life because you believe that your life will last forever – you will end up missing out on all of the truly beautiful moments: talking on the phone to your Grandpa, cooking with your mother, conversations in the car after your dad’s picked you up from the station, listening to the radio with your grandmother. All of those precious moments – because your loved ones are here and still alive – seem meaningless and even boring when we think everyone we love is immortal.

Seneca, like the above thought, is quite a savage, but to sum this up:

You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last… You will hear many people saying: ‘When I am fifty I shall retire into leisure; when I am sixty I shall give up public duties.’ And what guarantee do you have of a longer life?”

This is the chief point he is getting at here: we are so attached to the idea that  – unconsciously – we believe that and behave as if we exist in the future, that the present is worthless. We are so preoccupied with the longevity of life that we forget completely that we could die at any given moment. Someone you love could drop dead of a freak aneurysm in the next five minutes; a close friend could be hit by a drunk driver next week; maybe a colleague is suffering from a fatal heart attack right this second – and the list goes on. It’s a terrible tragedy that we humans don’t realise is a tragedy until it’s too late – and ain’t that just the way of human nature? Seneca couldn’t have said it any better when he notes that ‘the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over’ (p. 14).

The main problem here is that we do this unconsciously – we assume, we bank on, we rely on, we believe that our life will last ‘forever’. But while this is an arrogant act, we don’t consciously attach this ego to our mortality; we don’t maliciously live our lives with this recklessness because we can (although, some do). We are just naive to the shortness of life and indeed, to the simplicity of it all. We want to protect ourselves by believing that we are safe, because we have so much time. But once that lightbulb pings on, we realise that actually, we have no time at all – it isn’t possible. As a classic example of irony, it’s at that moment when your days and moments begin to expand, each second becoming richer than the last, when you realise the gravity of your mortality. 

This idea links to another stoic mantra Memento Mori – which roughly translates to ‘meditate on your mortality’ – remember that you or any of your loved ones will eventually die. As morbid as it sounds, it is sobering as hell. It may sound depressing, but meditating on this fact every day instils a great load of gratitude. Said phone calls with your grandpa are suddenly worth more than any nugget of gold on this planet; those interactions with your grandma on Facebook are one of the most precious things on earth; a simple text message from your mother asking what you’d like for dinner is enough to burst your heart. Because you know that they – including you – could go at any moment. And thus, you take none of it – the previously mundane, even annoying things – for granted.

And when you are that present, not stuck in the future, your life becomes the beautiful 3-dimensional piece of art it has always been. Seneca says that we are too busy ‘arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in ours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately’ (p.13). As soon as you abandon the anxiety attached to living in the future, you will start living: really living.

So (within reason) live as if you may die tomorrow, love as if you may lose your close ones at any moment – because life is long, if you know how to use it and as Seneca says: ‘our lifetime extends amply if you manage it properly’. 

Ditching Planxiety or: How to Start Living

Sometimes I have moments where an idea will pop into my head out of nowhere and on the train the other day, that happened to my pleasant surprise. Catching myself getting stuck in the future, as I often do, the term ‘Planxiety’ came to me and I laughed to myself and thought: Is that ridiculous? But then I thought, actually, maybe not. 

How often have you found yourself daydreaming or worrying about what might happen, making plans, finding yourself anxious about not knowing what’s going to happen and getting lost in endless hypothetical situations? (No? Just me? Kay.)

The answer for me is countless times. While some people find themselves deeply entrenched in their past decisions and experiences (a place I can often find myself too), I find myself unconsciously floating off into another dimension of possibility which isn’t even real. When you think about that, it’s a bit mad isn’t it? Why am I spending so much time and expending so much mental energy on something abstract that isn’t even real yet? Even the past isn’t technically real anymore, it’s been and gone. Nevertheless, I realise now that this being stuck in the future is fundamentally a self-soothing tactic. It’s our overprotective brains trying to ready ourselves for any potential threats by predicting potential scenarios or outcomes, but man, it’s exhausting being stuck in the land of ‘What If?’. And on the flip-side, as the great John Mayer says: “I can’t keep running after yesterday.” 

After having read and studied Eckhart Tolle’s massively acclaimed book The Power of Now, it blew my mind how he was able to simplify our anxieties as humans in such a stripped-back way. He discusses the present moment and how if we can tune into it more and more, it will change our lives. And his viewpoints on this certainly shook up my own perspectives and allowed me to feel more grounded by the day, rather than floating up with the clouds of the past or the future. 

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment | Eckhart Tolle |  9780340733509 | agreatread.co.uk
This book may change your life. No pressure tho.

He explains how all of our anxieties that we feel or create live either in the past or the future, what he calls ‘psychological time’ as opposed to ‘real time’. If you are completely connected to the present moment – that is, really feeling where you are right now, being so aware that you almost feel electric, really seeing your surroundings – all of those anxieties will simply dissolve. There have been a few clashes with Tolle’s logic, which I can understand – obviously this doesn’t apply to you if you’re in the middle of a car crash or something else immediately traumatic; any anxiety experienced in that particular present moment isn’t going to dissolve, quite the opposite, so you have to take his thoughts with a handful of salt (especially the spiritual jargon). But the premise of his theory is quite hard-hitting like a splash of cold water to the face:

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”

When I read this quote for the first time, I had to reread it several times. Time… is an illusion? Time is an illusion. Damn. It’s something we’ve entirely made up as a species. The only that really exists is what’s here right now. So why should anything else (future anxieties, past regrets, anything keeping us stuck) even matter?

Once I’d digested this idea, I went for a walk to chew on it even more, putting his words into practice. To really feel what it was like to ‘be’ present or to just ‘be’. Leading up to that point, I thought it was just a load of self-help nonsense and didn’t really understand the concept at all, in fact, I resisted it entirely. 

But then I absorbed this book so much that what I’m about to say will actually sound a bit bonkers, so perhaps take it with a wheelbarrow of salt: I felt like I could actually see for the first time. When I immersed myself in the present on this walk, I noticed the detail of the leaves on the trees, the grooves in the buildings, the textures of the brick houses, the curves of the roads; I felt that electric feeling of being ‘alive’ – and yes, I was completely sober. Perhaps that was my first taste of transcendental meditation? Or freedom from tired, old thought loops? Or perhaps someone slipped something into my vegan sausage roll that morning? Who knows. 

That feeling was calming and grounding, so I tried to do this more and more every day – which is not as easy as it seems. But lo and behold, my Planxiety did begin to subside and it really did dissolve when I tuned into where I was at that moment, when I realised the distant future didn’t matter, because it simply wasn’t real. And what can be more important, more precious, more real than what is right here in front of us, right now? We could be wiped out by a comet in the next ten minutes and we’d never know, so what a tragedy it would be to know that we’ve wasted our lives in a universe that doesn’t even exist yet. Indeed, Eckhart writes:

“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.”

So whenever I catch myself with classic symptoms of Planxiety – worrying, mostly, about future plans, events, relationships, life path, career stuff, read: ANYTHING – I pull myself back down to earth like a humble helium balloon by just looking around me, noticing what’s happening, or not, and in truth, getting a little spaced out by it. But once you find that space, you will realise how ridiculous the human condition is and how much joy and freedom exists in the here and now. As soon as you can make that distinction, it’ll lighten the load of whatever you’ve been fretting about, because most likely, while it may have been once or may potentially be in the future, it isn’t even real! *Insert mind-blown emoji here*

Life is a Squiggle

Life is not a line, but a squiggle.

Ah yes, that famous quote from that influential Greek philosopher. 

I’ve had a setback recently due to a shoulder injury, which has definitely stymied me somewhat. Not being able to do yoga (when I was finally on a damn roll), not being able to go to dance classes I *just* signed up to and all the rest of my millennial melodrama. Being the weirdly flexible, double-jointed praying mantis that I am, I recently discovered my joints are prone to popping out of themselves if they happen to be worked at a certain angle, resulting in some soreness and moreover, an annoying inability to do certain things til that pain goes away. In the words of Elton himself, it’s a sad, sad situation and pity is very much welcome, but it got me thinking about how precious our bodies actually are and how much we take them for granted. And also how life has that tendency to screw you over literally at any point it feels like it (which is not always a bad thing).

Doing things as simple as putting on a jumper or pouring a cup of tea nags at my tendon, which is all fine and I know that (all being well) this is temporary – but what about people who suffer with chronic pain, who have to live with this terminally, as it were? Day in, day out, not being able to do the most basic of things? Athletes, even, who may be desperate to do the one thing that makes them feel most alive, but it’s been taken away from them? It really is the classic human tragedy that is experienced in many facets that we just don’t know what we have until it’s gone.  So ultimately, we should be treating our bodies like absolute princesses, because that’s what they are – think about EVERYTHING they do for us, without us even having to ask. It’s incredible, in the most literal sense of the word.

Ranting aside, I’ll come back to my very intellectual squiggle theory. We all suffer setbacks in many ways, with whatever we are trying to improve, whether it’s a project at work, your career in general, a relationship, a physical endeavour, personal/spiritual growth, or indeed, even vegetable growth in your very own humble allotment patch! Those metaphorical and very real slugs can eat away at your months, or even years, of hard work and sometimes yank you right back to square one, cause, Sod’s Law. Sometimes, it’s not even a matter of buying all the pesticide in the world; it’s on a much more complex scale that’s totally out of your hands.

Related to this theme of setbacks and overcoming them, my friend introduced me to the artist Henri Matisse who has an inspiring story. Matisse was a French artist and painter known for his pioneering use of bold colour in his print works and art, one of the few leaders in the ‘Fauvism’ movement. He died in 1954 of a heart attack, but before that became bed-bound due to developing necrosis from a surgical wound, that disabled him from being able to stand and paint. Nevertheless, he kept making art and original art even still, known for his ‘Painting with scissors’ technique, from his bedside.

So to put it mildly, he’s a pretty badass example of not letting life screw you over, even if you are an artistic icon. With this in mind, though, if you view life spanned out on a very basic graph, it isn’t supposed to be linear or easy. We aren’t supposed to shoot for the stars like a rocket in one straight line, as much as we are told to aim for said proverbial stars in our youth. For one, that would make life increasingly boring and – you know what’s coming – you wouldn’t ever learn or grow.

As much as I loathe the idiom What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger it applies to this context (even if my personal example is just another episode of Alice’s Pity Party). Without setbacks or stumbling blocks, we wouldn’t be forced to question our strength, our morals, our intentions or our purpose on this planet; we would become very two dimensional human beings and we have so much more potential to be more than that. Despite considerable, painful physical setbacks, Matisse found a way around them and moreover, didn’t let them stop him from creating. Life presented a tangled disarray of a squiggle to him, which is an understatement to say the least, but let Matisse, and many, many other resilient human beings throughout history, be examples as to how, hardships mostly are mind over matter. And that life’s just a squiggle. Sometimes a stupid annoying one. Sometimes one that leads you to previously unimaginable places. Enjoy the unpredictable messiness of it all.

The Human Trifecta

During lockdown, I’ve managed to get myself a little morning routine. I won’t bore you with the details, but if it’s a nice day, I’ll squeeze in a walk before I start work. Luckily, I’m back in the north of England so these walks are relatively peaceful and sometimes I get lost in my thoughts a bit. Sometimes I stumble on a nugget of pseudo-wisdom (that I’ve probably definitely picked up elsewhere) and have an Aha! moment. More specifically an Aha! This’ll be something for the blog, moment. (Writers can’t let shit go. They are always trying to squeeze potential material out of literally every single thing they do.)

Anyway, my latest moment of this led me to think of what I’m going to call the Human Trifecta (which I’ve just googled and it looks like it doesn’t exist – yay). And to me, this is the three essential things that make up or contribute to what we need to feel satisfied and dare I say it, happy.

On this walk I was pondering on what it would take on the most fundamental level for us humans to not only function, but thrive. I boiled it down to the three following things, in no particular order:

  1. Ambition (more specifically, career-led)
  2. Creativity
  3. Physical activity

With two of those things, we’re fine. We’re bumbling along. With just one, we probably won’t be all that satisfied, if, say, your career is thriving, but you never move your body or stimulate your creative side. Or if you’re a ripped athlete, but you don’t make nearly enough money to sustain that lifestyle or have time to explore other aspects of creativity (though one could argue bodybuilding is creative, therein they’ve bagged 2 out of the 3 and may well be satisfied – but not maximising their potential.)

But if you’re stimulating all three of those areas, then I would hedge a bet that life’s (objectively) pretty good. You’re focused on personal growth in your career (at whatever stage it may be), you’re moving your sacred body and keeping it youthful (and the brain chemistry active) and you’re finding time to get lost in your creative, playful side – which is arguably the most important one of all. 

But you might then say: “Well, Alice, not everyone has this much time to be able to juggle all of those things.” Except, you do. Everyone has time. It’s just about how you manage it. If you really care about it, you will make time for it (in most circumstances).

But aside from the career, making time applies mostly to carving out opportunities for physical activity or creativity. The former, if you are physically able, is relatively straightforward, once you get past the mental resistance, if that’s where you are. The more you do it, the more your brain craves it. But with creativity, that’s a whole ‘nother ball park.

Unlike exercise, you can’t demand creativity to happen. You can’t (try as one might) sit down and say: “Ok. I’m going to make something right now.” It just doesn’t work that way – and by all means, it shouldn’t. 

For starters, if you’ve been in a bit of a creative lull, or even still, have never approached the idea because it scares you to death a little, be gentle. You have to approach it like you would a timid lil bunny. You have to start with curiosity and experimentation, asking yourself: “What did I used to enjoy? What would I find fun? What have I always wished I could do?” Is it drawing? Painting? Collaging? Embroidery? 3D train model-making? Poetry? Architectural blueprints? Rapping? Salsa dancing? Making sock puppets? Or Play-doh mansions? It could be anything. All you have to do is channel your inner child’s curiosity: the untouchable, priceless innocence only kids have before puberty comes along and quashes our self-esteem and makes us question everything. Moreover, don’t force it, or that lil bunny will just run away. Coax it out gently, slowly, then when you’re ready, get going, with that reckless abandon you’ve always heard of but never experienced!

One thing to remember with creativity is that it’s so personal. It’s so individualistic. We can often get caught up in the ego-driven perspective that art only has to be something you physically make, but that’s not true. Creativity doesn’t have to be concrete – if you can let yourself out of that self-limiting belief and know that whatever you create, in whatever format, is unique to you – that’s what’s beautiful.

If that still feels completely out of your depth, then read about creativity. There are so many books out there that discuss fear in relation to it, how so many ideas pass us by because we don’t think they’re worthy, or we don’t think we’re capable. A great start is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. A laugh-out-loud, non-serious account on how to claim your creative spark because it’s out there waiting for you, you just need to go get it. Once you’ve overcome your chronic feelings of doubt and self-loathing, of course! Easy peasy, right?!

(In all seriousness, be kind to yourself – don’t criticise your art before you’ve even made it. Would you say all those mean things to little you? Probably not.)

Well, looks like Alice went off on a tangent there again. But to sum up, right here is what I think we all need especially at the moment. If we’re fortunate to have a job, great – let’s try our best to move forward. If we’re fortunate to have a physically able body, excellent – let’s move it as much as we can. And if we’re at the place where we feel like we can approach our creative sides – do it. Jump in. That scared feeling is good! If you’ve got all (or at least 2) of those areas of the Human Trifecta down, then you should be on the path to satisfaction. But if not, be kind to yourself and recognise you are on the way! God, maybe I should start a cult. That’s a creative project, right?

What is Abundance, Really?

There’s a dichotomy of thinking that I’ve learned can either hold you back from life so much or conversely open every door: living by a scarcity complex or living with abundance, respectively. And I KNOW a recent post was about the dangers of living in opposites, but this is different, because. It just is. Trust me.

I used to live with a fear-tinged perspective that glazed over my worldview. I used to think in terms of scarcity, that there wasn’t quite enough for me (but plenty for everybody else), that there was always something missing. This way of thinking led me to essentially living on autopilot, with fear in the driver’s seat. I’d consequently live in a state of constant comparison, low self-esteem, with a general belief that my life was lacking something at the core. There was an overarching anxiety that was telling me that there wasn’t time to relax because there was something to constantly be striving towards. I’d be quite reckless with money, fill various voids with booze and the rest of it but it never filled those holes – there was this persistent undercurrent of lack. A belief that I wasn’t enough, what I had wasn’t enough, where I was going was never enough. Lack, lack lack. As you can imagine, it’s a bloody exhausting way to live and to think. And as we know, if we let our minds run the show on autopilot, things will never change.

I read a book I thought was going to be really preachy in an obnoxious way, which then surprised me in the most pleasant way. It kind of took me by the shoulders and rattled me til I felt a bit motion-sick. That kind of oh moment. The book was You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. The title alone is enough to put you off, but stick with me. 

If you are at the point where spirituality n shit is absolutely not for you, might I suggest this book. It encourages you to explore the gross, dark parts of yourself in a pretty hilarious way. Sincero’s approach is no-nonsense at the core and explains things so well, on a sincerely (pun actually not intended for once) human level, such as gratitude, meditation, learning how to surrender, the importance of personal discipline even right into the depths of your murky subconscious (ew). All of that I’d never have given my time of day for, because I was rejecting it subliminally – I wasn’t interested, because I knew that it would help me and I didn’t want to be helped; I was too proud. This book though turned out to be one of the things that pulled me out of the proverbial water. There’s a lot to say about it, and something I’ll explore in a more detailed post another time, but one of the things that struck me most – that’s relevant here – is something called abundance. 

I give you permission to cringe away for a sec, or sigh or take an “Ugh”. Go on.

Abundance is one of those spiritual buzzwords that I think people don’t fully understand; I certainly didn’t til I read more deeply into it. On the surface, abundance connotes a happy-go-lucky image of – for me – a lady in a wheat field, swaying her dreamy white linen dress in the breeze, picking fresh strawberries, laughing while she skips along because she doesn’t have a damn care in the world. She’s abundant! There’s nothing going wrong in her life! I bet she’s got one of those signs that says ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ above her wine rack!

That’s what I pictured, anyway.

Going back to the point, abundance is misunderstood. Misunderstood as ignorance, I think. The ‘nothing can hurt me because I have wrapped myself up so thoroughly in cotton wool to the point where I can’t hear you because I’ve actually stuffed some in my ears, tra la laaa.’ 

But what abundance fundamentally means is thinking without limits – living without that fear-based perspective, living instead by embracing that everything you want is within your reach and wholly believing that (even if you know that really, not everything is – but that’s ok). It’s by living with a love-based perspective, by knowing there is always more and that there is enough for you (and there always was). By living without that undercurrent of fear, imagine the possibilities! I, myself, was more excited about life, open to trying new things – I joined an acting course for crying out loud – and moreover, was more forgiving when things did go wrong. It was all ok because there was always more – more opportunities, more people to meet, more experiences to be had, wherever I went. I decided that was a better place to be rather than living by ‘What if?’ And ‘What’s the point’? 

So personally, if you’re feeling stuck or stagnant – which is totally acceptable at the moment by the way – then I invite you to look into this concept, read that book, see how you feel afterwards. I’ve banged on about it a thousand times but I really do believe the most powerful thing you can do as a human is shift your perspective, if you use your malleable mind to its full potential and keep it open to new possibilities.

Happiness vs. Satisfaction

I think we all wish there were some kind of potion to make us happy and sustain it. Billions, trillions even, have been made from the ‘happiness’ industry in many forms. But happiness is perhaps the wrong word as to what we are truly searching for as humans (who are friggin’ hard to please). When I was working my third job when I lived in Sydney, cleaning houses, the man who lived there with his family decided one day to get stuck in and help me. That day we formed quite an unexpected bond and one thing he said about life and happiness has stayed with me ever since.

It was quite a modest Sydney-style semi-detached town house, tucked away from the chaos of Bondi Junction, down the road from Bondi Beach herself. Beautiful, sharp interiors; his wife was Swedish, so it had that effortlessly stylish minimalist touch with a twist of Bondi-chic – think black marble countertops in the kitchen, proud brass taps, pale wooden floorboards, odd-shaped statement chairs dotted around the house with art-decor lights craning above them, crisp white duvets and blankets, wrought iron framing the balcony, massive, wide French windows. Anyway, he decided to help me start the cleaning process and we got chatting. The place was tidy, but it was filthy. Over the next few weeks he needed me to scrub the place from top to bottom, which was fine. I was in my final few weeks before I was due to leave, so I was grabbing any cash I could. I had three jobs at the time so that statement was quite literal.

Throughout that Saturday, we formed said unexpected bond probably because he had two Swedish speaking daughters himself. We talked about my future, my family in Sweden, what I was doing in Australia, what my plan was when I went back home. At that point, it was a sunny mid-December in 2018, the end of the year was wrapping up. I didn’t really have much a plan other than to get to Bali as soon as I had my last day at my main job, an activewear store in a giant, awful, polished Westfield shopping centre.

“So what do you want to do?” He asked as I helped him move the bed back after we’d hoovered behind it. Ah yes. The million dollar question. I told him I wanted to work in publishing, maybe write at some point in the future, get paid for it. That tired, old naive dream.

“Honestly,” I started, “and I know this sounds so airy-fairy – but I just want to be happy.” I replied wiping the bedside tables. (Ahh how young I was.) He – let’s call him Bob – had an Argentinian folk song on in the background that I still can’t get out of my head to this day. The melody was full of colour, trumpets, passion, trilling away in a perfect chaos – I swear it unconsciously sped up our movements as we polished the skirting boards.

He paused: “Now, that’s a dangerous statement and I’ll tell you why.” 

The sun strode through the open double doors and drowned the room in an bleached amber midday glow. I watched him as he finished his sentence, peeling a pillowcase off a cushion. 

“You can go down the pub with your mates on a Friday, have a few beers, have a good time, and you’d be happy, right?”

“Right,” I replied.

“But would you be satisfied?” 

And I’ve been thinking about that bloody sentence ever since. Thanks Bob.

While happiness and satisfaction are two completely separate things, they are not mutually exclusive. You can be both, but the two concepts exist in entirely different worlds. To be happy – in the abstract sense – is to chase short term joy, to sustain that for as much as humanly possible. But to be satisfied, that shit takes work and isn’t as finite or accessible as being happy is. Being satisfied is a constant work in progress and requires discomfort and indeed, some measure of unhappiness, to get there. In short, happiness can effectively be bought, but satisfaction needs to be earned, to be constantly worked on. Everyone can be happy, not everyone can be satisfied.

Ultimately, it shows the division of short term joy and long term joy, in my mind. In order to live a balanced life, you need both, but to feel truly content, you must ask yourself: does – whatever you are pursuing – this satisfy me, deeply? Does this align with my moral values? Does this not only make me feel good, but does it make me feel good as a person?

I guess what I’m trying to get at is to keep asking those deeper questions. What is it that’s missing? What do I need more of? How can I get that? Not from other people or things, but from myself? Those might seem the most obvious questions – or equally, the most ambiguous – but satisfaction is probably not something you can simply acquire in the first place. What is my point here? In this tangled mess of verbal waffle, I guess I’m trying to say there is – contrary to what we’ve been sold – something way more valuable than being happy – being satisfied.

What Bob said that day rattled me; it inspired me to look inward, to stop chasing material things to replace happiness, to really get to the root of what will sustain contentment for longer, without worrying when I’ll next need to top up my joyometer – isn’t that what we humans are constantly chasing? What we’re afraid we will lose? 

While it’s infinitely more challenging to go after what you know is good for you – whether this makes you happy or not, a bonus if it does the former – in the long run, choosing satisfaction over short term happiness will always serve you the most. And we all deep down know this! Yet being human, it’s in our nature to keep doing the things we know we shouldn’t do, because the thrill of the rebellious is just too sweet. But to consciously choose to do the right thing, even in the face of discomfort or inner protests, it will always feel right and with that, you won’t only feel happy, but truly, genuinely satisfied.

And if you still aren’t feeling inspired, may I suggest a humble tune by the Stones?:

Waking up

The past few months for me have been kind of testing, because of what I can now identify as a big ass period of realisation. Which is what’s brought me back to the keyboard. It’s all been a time for unlearning, learning and processing, all coming from the catalyst that was myself and my past behaviour/trauma. What’s a better wakeup call than you getting sick of your own shit/old patterns? 

Just to clarify, I haven’t partaken in any kind of arson, or general illegal shenanigans. This is all just a product of a rapid period of growing up. And don’t cringe away from the ‘T’ word – trauma. We have all, to some extent, experienced it one way or another, whether as a kid, adolescent or adult; it’s a non-discriminatory spectrum.

Right, enough with the ambiguity and onto the juicy stuff: said ‘Waking Up’.

Call it what you will: ‘Realisation’, ‘Awakening’, ‘Waking up’ or quite simply: the ‘Holy Shit’ moment. Capital H, capital S. It’s all a part of the same thing and in a nutshell, encapsulates the one thing that most of us humans neglect on the daily: consciousness. But the thing is, most of us unconsciously neglect this. Oh, the irony. Can’t deal.

A couple months ago, I stumbled upon Dr. Nicole Le Pera and started looking into her more. She’s a PhD-educated clinical psychologist from Philadelphia, who, by observing traditional methods of psychotherapy decided it did not serve her own desired approach, which was namely a holistic approach. 

As well as going by some traditional psychology, she would moreover take into account everything in the body to help heal the mind; starting from gut health, incorporating breathwork (admittedly, I’m yet to be convinced by this) and encouraging mindfulness as the main triangulation of her practise. Having suffered from chronic anxiety her whole life, she now claims she is mostly anxiety-free and has all of the tools to manage it more effectively because of said holistic approach. May I emphasise here that we are not disregarding psychology as a science completely here, but rather, supplementing the practise with holistic work. Focusing on past behaviour and analysing thought processes is just as important as flexing the human consciousness muscle. 

Le Pera breaks down the mammoth concept of the consciousness into bitesize pieces which in turn helps you understand it further. The main gist is that we have two parts to our ‘self’/individuality/character, whatever you want to call it: The Ego and the Authentic Self: Who we think we are (who we’ve been conditioned to be) and who we actually are. If you want to read/learn more about the science (in a way that has not been severely butchered by myself), she explains it so well both on her YouTube and website:

https://yourholisticpsychologist.com/how-to-do-ego-work/

When we separate ourselves like so, we come to realise just how conditioned we have been; sometimes in extreme ways, like being raised in a Satanic cult believing that we are all doomed to perish in a pit of burning flames peppered with the ashes of our enemies* .. and then sometimes in more subtler ways… like being told that crying is bad and we should always hide our feelings. 

*Just to be clear, I am not in a Satanic cult; I just have a rather overactive imagination.

As kids, we are such tiny impressionable sponges and we soak up every ounce of what happens to us, which paves the way for our emotional responses, our attachments, our understanding of relationship dynamics and even the understanding of the world around us to this very day. We simply wouldn’t have known any different and some still don’t also, to this very day, in some cases. When we realise this or ‘wake up’ to this fact, we come to understand that we are not our past; we are not defined by what has happened to us. Whether that’s being bullied, abused, excluded or made to feel anything under the umbrella of ‘bad’.

As the consciousness grows, we equally grow to recognise which thoughts are driven by the ego; the proverbial devil on our shoulder, if you will – (bit of theme going on here isn’t there? Concerning.) And then there are the thoughts which are our authentic (real, ‘actual’) self. It takes a lot of work to divide these conflicting thought processes. Once we notice this, we can respond accordingly and ultimately, choose to respond (not react) in a way which is more sustainable, for example: calmly responding with an objective mind rather than mindlessly lashing out; it all depends on how you’ve been made to believe is the ‘correct’ way to react. Some believe yelling is the only answer, some believe avoiding the situation and withdrawing entirely is the solution.

Certain things trigger certain people and we then react the way we’ve always known to be appropriate. It could be something as simple as someone taking longer to reply to your text message than usual. ‘Ego’ tells you what Le Pera terms as ‘false narratives’, namely: ‘This person doesn’t want to talk to you and actually hates you’. Which is (generally) not the case. Unless maybe your friends have recently discovered that you are, in fact, part of a Satanic cult. Sorry. I digress.

When we step outside of our subconscious, we realise that actually instead: ‘They are busier than usual and will respond when they have the time because we are all leading busy lifestyles right now’. A typical ego response would be to fixate on this all day and even feel feelings of resentment toward that person. A conscious response would be to stay objective, depersonalising the situation and sitting in that initial discomfort until the consciousness eventually becomes second nature. 

Putting the separation of yourself and your ego into practice on a regular, consistent basis helps us continue to ‘Do the Work’ – because this isn’t just a one time lightbulb moment (as the featured image otherwise suggests). This is forming new neural pathways into more sustainable thinking and essentially, a mind free from constant negative, triggering thoughts that simply aren’t true.

I’m very aware that your attention is probably waning at this point, so to sum up: this concept is what’s helped me wake up to the proverbial sleepwalking I’d being doing hitherto and how radical this new way of thinking can be, which is why I’ve wanted to share it.

Now, rather than blindly jumping to conclusions and back down the self-destructive rabbit hole, I’m mindful of my thoughts and stand as an objective witness and try to understand those negative thoughts, then adjust my responses accordingly. It’s no quick fix but it’s a start and I truly believe that it’s helped me become more emotionally independent and a more compassionate person.

There’s so much to unpack in this whole ‘waking up’ process, but this is just the beginning, the actual becoming aware – becoming aware that ultimately, everyone is a walking product of their own conditioning – and whether they’re aware of it or not, we must be compassionate and understand that there is always a reason why people behave the way they do, whether they’re your mother, your sibling, your grandparent, your great aunt Dora, or a complete stranger.

We should all be more gentle with each other and remember that, while some people will never be aware of how to grow past their conditioning, everyone has experienced pain at some point in their life. 

Dude, chill.

“Mum, I’m so old. I’m 22! How can I get this to slow down?” I asked, with a waiver in my voice. Her reply was something I always come back to when I’m having a millennial-inspired mini breakdown about how fast I’m growing old:

“Look back to when you were 18,” she said, “would you want to do all that all over again?”

“No.” I said, which sent my brain into a whirlwind of all the prospects that the future held.

Us 20-somethings are constantly worrying about two things: not being adequate and growing old. One thing we should be worrying about most, ironically, is the fact that this is actually suffocating our ability to do anything.

We’ve been there (at least some of us), feeling utterly useless and empty: ‘why should I bother? This person (let’s call them Bob) already achieved x, y and z by the time they were my age, so it’s far too late for me to get started.’

You may want to look at it that way, but may I interest you in an alternative perspective?

A) You’ve no idea what Bob’s circumstances were like.

B) It is completely arbitrary to compare your journey to Bob’s.

C) And finally, turning a certain age does not debilitate you from pursuing what you want to do with your life.

Basically, fuck Bob.

It’s hard to ingrain this message into your brain when you’re constantly looking at others, admiring their motivation, their energy and their drive. Sadly, this just makes you want to do anything but related to your future or your personal growth. Whether it’s down to a lack of confidence/self-belief, I don’t think it’s wholly down to laziness. That is optional, but not believing that you are able to do what you are meant to do is a whole other kettle of fish.

Sharing these seemingly meaningless anxieties may help others who are doubting themselves, too. I’m sure it’s incredibly common for people to question their abilities and their purpose, but it’s nowhere near as common for people to actually air out this issue and express this anticipatory fear that feels like it’s drowning your brain and putting a gun to the head of your creativity simultaneously. Big sentence, but then again a big old weight off the chest.

So, whenever you find yourself thinking about your looming mid-20s and the impending despair of underachievement, just remember about that smug bastard Bob. Bob has no influence over your life, and even if he is more successful than you, does that mean he’s happy? No. Bob’s life will probably come crashing down around him sooner rather than later, not that we’ve had time to fantasise over that..

ANYWAY, without getting too distracted over Bob (who may well be a very real person), just take your time, keep going and remember if you never questioned anything about your life, you wouldn’t be evolving.

you-give-yourself-little-pep-talk-mirror-before-sitting-down-talk
via popsugar.com

What to do when you fail.

When I failed my driving test for the first time, God was I embarrassed. I was sat behind the wheel, after having been told I’d have to retake the test and knowing this all the while, crying like the wet lettuce I was (/am). I almost ran over a woman in an electric wheel chair, for God’s sake. In hindsight, I think it’s fair enough that the guy failed me.

Nevertheless, I was still pretty miffed that I’d failed after the amount of hours spent preparing for it – many gruelling hours as well. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the most coordinated of people to say the least, so imagine me learning to drive… In fact, I have a few testimonies of people who have shared a journey or two with me:

God awful, she almost killed me” – Hannah, 23, sister.

“Ahem, not the smoothest of journeys” – John, 56 (?), Dad.

“I’m sure it will come with practice!” – Heléne, 54 (?), Mum.

“What the bloody hell was I thinking getting into this battered up spaceship with you?!”  – Laura, 21, gal pal.

So the point I’m going to make, before I get even more sidetracked, is what happens after you fail the test.

When I got home, I avoided all family members, naturally and shut myself in my room and thought about what my instructor told me, Dave, the lad. He said the first thing I need to do was to go home and rebook the test straight away. Because otherwise this initial failure will get the better of me and I’ll never get round to beating it. So I did.

I rebooked the test for a few weeks later and it all went swimmingly. A couple of minors, here or there, but I’m not perfect. And I did that reverse round a corner like a boss.

This moment occurred to me recently, after having been disappointed with a few things careers wise. Although I felt embarrassed again, unworthy and disheartened, I knew that this wasn’t going to help me secure any application. I thought of the moment Dave told me to effectively suck it up and get back on the horse, because that’s the only way you can overcome things like this. They happen and you simply have to accept it and use the rejections as motivation to make yourself better. From every bad thing in life, use it as an opportunity to better yourself, otherwise it will just break you down, and you’re not worth that.

So the moral of this rather long-winded story is to keep going. No matter how forced it feels, no matter how little self-belief you have at the moment, just keep trying. It’s far easier said than done, but the more you try the less you will cry. Lol.

No but seriously, don’t let inevitable things like this block your road to success – utilise them to prepare yourself for similar situations in the future, and you’ll thank yourself. And personally, I thank Dave for giving me the kick up the bum that I needed.

 

The Fine Line

One thing I find, personally, is that actually using your past experiences to help others is something that benefits everyone. If you’re easily cringed-out, this post may not be for you, cause I’m gonna delve a little deeper which might not be your cup of tea for this time of the day(!)

The topic which I’m going to share my thoughts on is self-love.

The reason I’ve titled this post ‘The Fine Line’, is because people often mix up self-love and vanity a lot – two very highly concepts which people (including myself) find/found so hard to separate and understand. Self-love and vanity can be misunderstood as the same thing, because both things, on the surface, do encompass an appreciation of the self. But this is just at the very basic level. What people fail to understand is how vanity is incredibly destructive, while self-love has the power to completely transform your outlook and attitude to yourself, in the most positive light.

Another difference is that learning to love yourself is incredibly difficult in comparison to constantly having the need to polish your image. Many people are frightened of ‘loving yourself’ and reject the concept simply because they deep down don’t accept themselves as something valuable at all. Some may even be convinced that loving yourself is being in love with yourself – which is just not right at all. Insecurities do get the better of you – you behave in ways which are justified simply by the fact that you are punishing yourself for not feeling worthy. This can come in many forms, but the main point is, you are being the most unkind to yourself. But at the time, you won’t realise it.

Self-love is something which will come with time. For some, it might not even be something they need in the first place. For some, it may be a simple lightbulb moment: I don’t need this, I don’t deserve this, why am I doing this to myself? Or you might even sit and have a long think: this must stop, and I’m worth so much more than this. You will be amazed at the results on the other side once you stop treating yourself like shit, to put it bluntly.

If you know how much you’re capable when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself, just think of how much you can achieve when you finally become your best self. You’ll discover a new kind of understanding and compassion you perhaps never had before, and generally, a completely refreshing outlook on life. You’ll know how to tackle things when they get tough, will be better equipped than ever to get past it and grow from it rather than being completely squashed by it.

If you do take anything away from this post (and if you have even got this far, I applaud you), just know that, at whatever point you are with yourself that:

You are capable,

You are amazing,

You are kind

and above all, you deserve the best, whether you believe it yet or not.

Why is Generation Y in such a damn hurry?

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-sea-peaople-water-waves-back-Sunset-Joshua-earle

I’m sure I’m in the very same boat as many people my age now – that old group that the world now refers to as the Millennials.

For those who aren’t quite sure what tf this means, it’s basically those born, well, around the Millennium. The boat to which I am referring is a very unsteady and rocky ride, and one which more often than not make you feel just a little sick to your stomach. Basically, to simplify this awful metaphor I just conjured up, if you’re terrified about the future, you’re not alone!

For some reason, young people who will be the next working generation are in the biggest effing hurry in history. Whether this is because the inevitable speed of technology which just keeps on giving, or, once more, social jeffing media, the reason why is irrelevant.

Millions of people are in this exact same said boat right now, at any given point at this time in life. This includes recent graduates, those who have never gone past high school education, those still in their first job, those who can’t find a job – all of you. If there’s one thing you will take away from this post today, is that you’ll remember that the pressure of our generation is the reason for career-induced anxiety, it is not you.

Life right now seems to be a competition of who has their sh*t together the most: who’s the first to get their second credit card? Who’s the first to apply for a loan? Who’s the first to be a CEO? I can’t tell you who but I can tell you that none of that matters. At least not yet!

If you’re panicking and flapping that you’ve not done half as much as other people, or you should have achieved more, or that you should have done x, y or z, then STOP. The fear of the future is a terrifying one because you just don’t know what you want and just don’t know how to get there. But this fear is just as terrifying as it is universal.

One thing you must remember is that you have so much time. Live life at your own pace, and the pieces will fall together in your story just like they are supposed to. If you work hard, well, then you know you will be rewarded. Remember also that it’s okay to take a time out. It’s okay to not know.

So, although Generation Y are in such a damn hurry to do things, don’t let this make you panic even more about your future. Everyone should preach that comparison is the thief of joy. Furthermore, know that everyone’s individual circumstances are unique, and so, the most fundamental thing is trusting your gut and focusing on where your path in life will lead you.

(Also sorry for all the effing and jeffing.)

Girl, give yourself some credit!

It’s 2016, and the pressure for our generation to be the best is at an all time high. Thanks to the various platforms of social media, constant reminders of people’s achievements and goal-busting moments (how authentic they are, we’ll never know..) don’t really make our immediate lives any easier. Though it’s nice to sit back and dream, it also makes it so much harder to actually achieve said dreams, be it washboard abs, a holiday or simply trying out a new recipe.

The main problem here? It’s not social media, it’s the fear instilled by social media. The mountains of pressure we keep relentlessly piling onto our backs and where we direct our focus is one of the main reasons the fear sticks. And fear, well, that’s just not a good enough reason to not be your absolute best.

One of the things we need to start doing is giving ourselves more credit. For anything and everything. As long as you’re not giving yourself credit for eating 3 whole pizzas in a day. Think about it: how easy is it to tell yourself that you’re stupid, incapable and not worth it? It’s extremely easy. But learning to grow and help yourself is never an easy journey, especially if it’s one you’re very unfamiliar with. So take the leap (or baby steps) and do it, watch yourself grow.Whether they’re tiny steps or a massive improvement, arguably, the smaller steps deserve more of your recognition and encouragement.

For example, I had a bad week, or shall I say months, food wise. It’s been peak work time university-wise, and honestly, I’ve neither had the energy nor time to be making decent food regularly. Admittedly, yes, I’ve been diving headfirst into packs of biscuits and eating pizzas almost on the daily, and have been equally as horrified and proud of myself – if that’s at all possible.

But it gets to a point where you are ready for change, you just know. And so, after work is officially all completed, I’ve no excuse. But I’ve given myself the recognition no less for acknowledging that I need to change – and ladies and gents, that’s where it all begins. Baby steps.

In the gym, I managed to complete 6 intervals rather than the standard 3 today. Pat on the back, job done. For breakfast, I managed to turn down a load of biscuits, and there we go, pat on the back once again.

Call that the dullest anecdote you’ve ever heard, but the morals are there. There are significant stages that you simply must push past in order to banish any fear from stopping you getting what you want. And in that process, it’s crucial to keep giving yourself lil pats on the back, because, well, self-improvement must of course be partnered with the recognition that you deserve, even if it’s choosing the ‘skinny’ fries, it’s a step, and that’s all that matters. The speed at which you get where you want to be is nothing you should ever consider as defining.

So, just keep going – you are awesome! 

(don’t ask)

Just do it.

Nothing quite like a harsh, get-your-arse-into-gear phrase to wind you up in the early hours, right? No one likes getting up at 6am (or earlier), unless they’re a registered psychopath. But if you make a habit out of it, eventually, it will sink in and you will see some great benefits.

If you’re not much of an early-riser, below are some reasons which may make you rethink your morning routine. Coming from a part human/part sloth, this shows that even those who live in bed are able to resist slamming the snooze button:

Just get the F up.

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It is painful to get up earlier, but once you’re up, you’re up. Fight the temptation of drifting back off, haul yourself out of bed, then crack open your window and down a glass of water to wake up your system. Having a gentle alarm as opposed to something that sounds like a cockatoo getting stabbed will help definitely you wake up less pissed off – for me, anyway.

You’ll have more hours in the day (obvs)

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Us millennials always have something to be doing – there’s just so much competition out there we can’t really afford not to. Getting up earlier will mean you can accomplish so much more in the day, get that to do list finally ticked off and the post-it notes chucked away for good.

You’ll have more energy (not lying)

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Once you start becoming an early-riser, you won’t be able to think of anything less than I’m just tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired. Just keep on going with it. This brings me onto my next point…

EAT BREAKFAST.

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If you find yourself not having enough time to even make toast in the morning, you will if you get up earlier. They bang on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and they’re right. It gets the old metabolism going and obviously, gives you energy that you gon need. Speaking of which…

You’ll give your metabolism a boost (goals)

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Why does everyone keep going on about metabolism? Because it burns fat, without having to do anything! May I reinstate, GOALS. Having a regular sleeping pattern allows your body to regenerate any damage done (providing you get 7-9 hours at least) and kick-start your metabolism. If you’re going to bed too late, then it just throws it out of whack. Having a regular sleeping pattern will maintain your metabolism to keep burning off your morning croissant while you’re sat in a 9am. Throw in 3-5 green teas a day for an extra gold star to speed it up even more – but avoid having one a couple hours before you plan on hitting the sack (not that sack) to ensure sleep.

You’ll be more positive and productive (promise!)

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Getting more done will help you feel better about yourself alone. No one enjoys knowing they have an imminent tonne of shit to get done, and getting out of the way during the day may well leave you more time to wind down to some TV and of course, snacks.

You’ll sleep like a baby 

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A bit of an obvious one, but if you’re struggling to get some decent kip – just go to bed earlier! Having a routine of winding down every night is guaranteed to help you drift off. Turn down the lighting on your devices, get your stuff ready for the following day, take off your makeup – whatever, repeating the same things each night does register in your brain and will help you nod off more easily each evening. Calculating what time you have to get up with the hours of sleep you’ll need is also ideal to get your standard 8 hours.

Can’t get up, still? Make this your alarm:

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