Month: May 2014

question nothing // question everything.

Belated lessons and new questions.

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Oh, hey there world. It’s nice to see you, too.

It’s been over ten days since I last wrote – which is, in relative terms, such a long time that I was starting to become mildly concerned. But you see, I was being hyper-aware of not forcing myself to write, particularly after having written this recent piece (skip to the second half). Instead I’ve been waiting until it… just happened.

Trust me, I tried to write over the past ten days. It’s not like nothing has happened. Lots has happened, actually. My drafts have ranged from Eleanor Roosevelt to lying, dating to racism, feminism to vegetarianism, career progression to ethical trade. Naturally. My mind has been teeming, but my fingers have been spilling all over the ivory keys of the piano, rather than onto this, their usual, keyboard.

So, here we are after ten days.

I haven’t actually got any idea where this post is going, by the way. Which is somewhat exciting. Living on the edge.

I’ve noticed a shift over the past few years, but most acutely over the past few months.

In many ways I personified the “goody two-shoes” stereotype as a kid and a teenager. Sure, I was sometimes a mean older sister who was selfish and threw temper tantrums, but on the whole I was a Good Girl. I was the kid who loved nothing more than receiving her teacher’s approval. The kid who didn’t ever receive a detention or bludge school. The 13 year old who actively chose to hang out with the lovely yet “less cool”, conservative girls. The teenager who didn’t go to dances at the local boys’ school – not from a lack of a desire, but due to paralysing fear. The teenager who preferred to go to youth group rather than pursue the older boys, Bicardi Breezer in hand. Trust me, I could go on, but I’m going to spare myself any more cringes.

Looking back, I guess I understood the (power) structures which bound my life and I only ever worked within them. I barely even contemplated rebelling – well, not in any traditional sense of “rebellion”.

And, look, there’s nothing wrong with that; it may not have been a crazy, wild teenage experience, but it was authentic for me at that stage of my life.

There is, however, one huge issue with my younger self: she accepted everything that those in authority told her was the truth.

I lapped it up. I believed everything. I guess I was incredibly trusting and, in relative terms, I had no independent thoughts. My thoughts were always someone else’s.

Is this normal? (NB: Not a rhetorical question. I actually have no idea. Was everyone else like this and I’m just sitting here thinking I’m vaguely unique, but actually we’ve all been through this?)

Either way, I guess it all started changing when I came to the realisation at 19 that, in some ways, I was living a lie.

See, up until that point I had always identified as a Christian – the type that, insensitively told my boyfriend at the time that, actually, he wasn’t a real Christian. God, I was charming. If that former boyfriend is reading this, I’m sorry; I was such a twat.

Anyway. I was a Christian. It was what I had grown up with; it was what I had been told from a very young age was the truth. And look, my parents’ intentions were and are good – of that I have no doubt.

But then I came to realise that I had never actually stopped and thought any of it through; I had always just taken what others had taught me to be the only truth and the only way of seeing the world.

I had never stopped to intellectually, methodically work through the belief system which I was meant to be trying sharing with others for myself. (Scary, I know.) I had never questioned it. I had never questioned anything.

And so began the peeling away of layers – not because I did or do have any issues with those things – including the Christian faith (well, actually I do have some issues with that) –  but because I realised that if I’m going to bother to believe in something then I want to do both myself and others the service of taking it seriously. And taking something like a belief system seriously, I would argue, requires thinking it through – thoroughly – and asking questions. Why invest your life in something which you’re not sure, at your core, that you understand or believe in?

I’ve become acutely aware of this again over the past few months. It all began with my psychology lecturer charging us to “question everything”. In many ways, it was just a throw away line in a junior lecture, fruitlessly hoping to resonate with hundreds of first year ears. Sitting in the second last row of the crowded lecture theatre sat this slightly jaded fifth year student. There was no grand initial impact, but something began to simmer under the surface.

A few weeks later I started noticing things – thoughts, to be more precise. Little additions at the end of a paragraph. Little post-it notes at the end of a sentence.

Why? 

Really?

How?

Why?

How?

Really?

Is that actually true?

How?

What evidence is there? 

Does this actually matter?

Why? 

Do you really think so? 

But how about…? 

Why?

Tell me more.

That which was never part of my nature has suddenly flooded my cerebral cortices (making up for the past two decades, no doubt).  What was absent has quickly become inherent. And I love it. I am finally getting to grips with those “critical thinking” and “analysis” things that my various teachers have been talking about for years. I think I am finally thinking about new things in new ways. Whatever it is, it’s surprisingly exciting and exhilarating.

You took your time, Alex. True.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but at least I have begun posing some questions… right?

Alex x

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I don’t want to say no.

The heartbreaking realisation that you have to say no.

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“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
– Dirty Harry, Magnum Force (1973)

“A man’s got to know his limitations, and a woman’s got to know hers too.”
– Dirty Harry ft. Alex.

 

Yes.

It was all about saying yes. (more…)

#socialmediafails: Like me! Follow me! (Love me.)

Awkward social media realisations and what motivates me to write.

ImageWhat is more fictitious, rainbow-coloured unicorns or what I post on social media?

“Comparison is the thief of joy”
– Theodore Roosevelt.

Last year I read an article which fundamentally shifted my perspective of my twenty-something life. The article, entitled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy”, struck so many chords in me that I still have the tab open in my phone web browser. The article explains the relationship between the discontentment many Gen Ys feel and our use of social media.

Can I highly recommend that you go and read it? I can? Good. If you have not read it please, PLEASE STOP READING THIS and go there RIGHT NOW! Come back to this tomorrow. Just go. Go!! Yes, it is quite long, but yes, it is that good. Have you gone yet? There are unicorns spewing rainbows. Now have I convinced you? Good. Finally.

After having read the Wait But Why* article everything suddenly made so much more sense. The comparative inadequacy I felt, which I had let social media fuel, was able to be rationalised down to a competition where, unbeknownst to me, everyone else is cheating just as much as I am. (For anyone who spews rainbows must be a master of illusions.) I found this clarity and the realisation that no one actually has their sh!t together really quite comforting.

Since having these mini unicorn-illustrated revelations you would think that I would try and do my little bit to stop this really awful, toxic cycle, right? Right. Wrong. 

Despite gaining this new perspective I have not demonstrated the maturity or security in myself to stop posting self-promoting status updates, tweets and photos. Posting on social media to (strategically) garner as many likes and follows as possible is Just. So. Addictive.

I’m guilty of it. I still am. It can range from the successful (“I got a full scholarship! I got a new job!”) to the vain (“Oh, did I just accidentally post a selfie? #notthataccidental”) to the envy-eliciting (“Casual check-in at a 5 star restaurant, darlings!”).

I am completely guilty of this. Yet, why do I still do this? Because it feeds my ego.

It makes me feel special.
It makes me feel important.
It makes me feel valued.
It makes me feel loved.
(And if that’s not f-ed up, then I don’t know what is.)

Is posting really inane, “real” details about our lives the solution? It’s a nice thought, but I don’t think so as that could be:
a) just as attention-seeking as the aforementioned types of posts. I’m sure you’ve encountered them, too – the vague, wallowing, woe-sharing without any explanation (think “Life is the worst!”) which often receive an outpouring of social media sympathy and “care”. (Perhaps that’s part of the issue – maybe we have conditioned ourselves to feel better by sharing our negative experiences on social media. Are we really that disconnected in real life?? If so, then that’s depressing.)
b) bloody boring (Posts of the “I just popped a really big pimple” variety. Too much reality. We do not need that much detail, thanks.)

Who the hell are we kidding? We all know rationally that real life does not have a vintage filter which enhances the colour of our days. Life can be wonderful, but life can be shit. This is nothing new. So, how come we are all buying into this big con, when we probably know that what we see on social media is only a fraction of someone else’s life – and it’s a fabricated fraction at that?

Perhaps the way to counter this isn’t by changing how and what we post, but by weaning ourselves off it altogether. Perhaps it’s time to migrate away from this behemoth that we incessantly feed. Perhaps it’s time to de-friend the fake friend that is social media.

(I mean, how has “de-friend” been allowed to become part of our vernacular?)

****

Personally, I’ve been challenged by my relationship with social media through this blog.

“How?” you inquisitively inquire?

Well, over time it has become apparent that certain types of posts garner more likes, follows and hits than others, which makes it tempting to only write pieces of that ilk. From working in marketing I also know that ensuring that there is new content posted on a regular basis is beneficial for organic search engine optimisation (which we marketing folk call “SEO” – sorry for the jargon) where, basically, you’re aiming to be the first result in a Google search of certain terms which are relevant to your business/website/blog. You can aid your SEO by using key terms relevant to the searches you want to appear in throughout your site and by adding new content on a regular basis.

So, I’ve gotten into the habit of coordinating my posts on certain days of the week not only for SEO, but to correspond with when I know I’ll get the most traffic. An example? I do not post on Saturday night because:
a) most people are engaged in other activities on Saturday night and thus are less likely to see that I have posted something new and
b) it has become Very Important to pretend that you are having an Awesome Time doing something Awesome on Saturday night (even if you’re at home studying or sitting on Facebook when you’re meant to be studying). No one wants to commit social (media) suicide. Duh. 

But here’s the thing, I enjoy writing most when it is done out of a creative and emotional impulse. I need to express myself and it needs to happen now! And that means writing about things which are more or less sexy, controversial and happy-go-lucky than that which constitutes a popular post. Recently, I’ve been making myself post a new piece on certain nights each week which I fear is shifting my writing away from “impulse and expression” to “obligation”. The latter of which is the antithesis of what I want for this to be, because doing so would change the nature of this blog entirely.

See, I do not write for you; I write for us.

The “us” is imperative.

This blog would not be what it is if I didn’t write, firstly, for myself. See, if I was only writing to satisfy an external audience then I would find it less meaningful and fulfilling and the end product would reflect my being less emotionally invested in it.

Of course I write knowing that I have an audience and I greatly appreciate your readership, you gorgeous little bandicoots. It fills me with immense pleasure when you share that you have enjoyed reading a post or that it touched you. I love that. That really makes me so glad and it makes me feel pretty honoured, too. It is also, more often that not, comforting to hear that I am not the only one who is absolutely failing at life on a regular basis.

But of course not everyone likes this blog. And that’s perfectly ok – I am all for everyone having their own opinion. Furthermore, I am not under the illusion that this blog would appeal to everyone.

I have friends whom I respect and admire who have indicated that they do not like reading this blog. I let their unintentionally-hurtful, throwaway comments sting. Comments like, “I have another friend who has a blog. He’s a fantastic writer”. (I get what you’re implying. Cheers!) Look, I know they don’t approve of my sometimes less than G-rated vocabulary, content and cynicism. But that’s ok. I am not, after all, forcing them to read or specifically aiming to appeal to them.

But that isn’t going to stop me from writing.

I am not, after all, writing for any accolades or record-breaking number of website hits. I am not writing because I have to. I am not writing thinking that I am changing the world. I am not writing to please everyone. I am not writing to cast judgement on others (and if I do – please pull me up on it). I am not writing to perpetuate the life that I portray on Instagram.

I am writing because I find it therapeutic. I am writing because it allows me to unravel my thoughts and to learn from my experiences. I am writing because I love it.

And for the moment that is enough.

Alex x

* A name so desperately lacking in punctuation that it hurts my eyes. (Would it be so hard to add a comma and question mark?)

four little words and a lesson in self-belief.

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Ughh. Yuck. Thanks, but no thanks, Weight Watchers.

If you are a female over the age of 12 I think I could safely guess that you have read a magazine interview with a pretty, successful celebrity (most likely an actress or popstar). The interview will conclude with the starlet sharing their advice for anyone wanting to emulate their success. They finish by imparting their Words of Wisdom with their teenage audience, “Just believe in yourself!”

Just believe in yourself.

Please excuse me whilst I go and ease my nausea.

Believe in yourself?!

Please, kindly, piss off. I don’t need your cheesy, meaningless, insincere drivel in my life. Particularly because I have quite literally just eaten some delicious cheese and I am not in need of any more at the moment, but thanks anyway.

It is mildly infuriating, isn’t it? “Just believe in yourself” reduces success down to something as flighty and intangible as self-belief. I find it frustrating that it glamourises and minimises all of the gruelling work which goes into achieving goals and dreams. It trivialises something which is probably really amazing and turns it into another throwaway catchphrase.

And this is a shame because it means that we miss out on appreciating all of the effort and dedication which does go into achieving great things.

Perhaps some more useful advice would be to say, “Be prepared for really difficult times, but know that they will be invaluable to the person you will become”. I dunno. Just an idea.

In one of my business subjects at university this semester we have learnt about what is known as the Locus of Control. It is essentially a measure of whether an individual feels that what happens in their life is determined by internal forces – their own actions – or external forces – by chance and figures of power and authority. The former of the two is known as an internal locus of control, whereas to be of the latter is to have an external locus of control.

It was an interesting exercise despite some diabolically dry compulsory readings and from it I have realised that I have a strong internal locus of control i.e. I believe that I predominantly determine the course and outcome of events in my life. Since then it has caused me to think about how my own internal locus has impacts upon my life, as well as the effect of our collective loci upon wider society.

And so what does my locus of control mean for “Just believe in yourself”? Well, my perception of control over my life suggests, due to its focus on the individual’s ability as the source of power, that “Just believe in yourself!” is, in fact, the perfect catchphrase for me.

Oh, lord.

How can this wishy-washy bullsh!t be relevant to me?!

I’m not sure. But let’s hang in together for a few more sentences, ok?

Despite only developing my cynical streak within recent years, reading “Just believe in yourself!” was one of the first instances which elicited a cynical response from me as a young(er) chipmunk. Believing in yourself just seemed like a whole load of glittery crap.

But over the past few months my slightly cynical 23-year-old self has begun questioning my dismissal of this oft-repeated tidbit of advice.

It all began with a surprising and exciting opportunity presenting itself.

For some context fun: I left high-school as a bona fide over-achiever who, with the help of some mental illness, has since learnt to be an average (or under) achiever, among other things. I’ve talked about how much non-fun depression can be in previous posts, and something which I’ve experienced on a regular basis is being stuck in a rut. Ruts feel endless and awful and hopeless and it’s all rather miserable. Everything – even the simple things – feels like a strain. It’s somewhat the opposite to the plastic fantastic, perky optimism of “Just believe in yourself!”

And I may not have believed in myself a few months ago, but someone else did. And it was both disconcertingly foreign and incredibly powerful.

Someone thinks that I can do THIS?! Someone thinks that I am up to this challenge? You’ve got to be kidding me!

I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I had so consciously felt the encouraging push of someone else’s belief in my ability and my potential.

And it was mesmerising and surreal.

I continue to stumble along my way, but I now have that little reminder that someone believes in me which encourages me as a muddle my way through the day.

I would be lying to say to you that I’m not scared. I am scared. I am officially very scared. This opportunity is exciting, but it is also petrifying.

I am scared of how I am going to cope in certain circumstances. And I am scared of re-triggering sources of pain. And I am scared that I won’t be ok.

But someone believes in me.

I would be lying to say to you that this opportunity came about easily. It didn’t. It’s the result of many years of slogging through tough times. There has been a surplus of slogging.

But other people believe in me.

And from their belief I have noticed a change within myself:

Someone else believes in me… and that someone is me.

Being the cheesy critter that I am, this has manifested itself in a mantra of sorts:

“I believe in you.”

Four little words.

They are neither revolutionary, nor original, nor exceedingly elegant words. But they are words which are accessing a long-neglected source of internal willpower and which are helping to lift me up out of those ruts.

Perhaps these four little words are an essential I have long lacked, for I am delighting in the hope and comfort they bring.

Perhaps they can help me smother the heavy fear on the horizon.

Perhaps they can help me to achieve all of my goals and dreams.

Perhaps I should dull my cynicism and listen to celebrity drivel more often.

Mmm. Perhaps.

Alex x

the numbers game: when someone asks for your digits.

That Moment when someone asks for your number.

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Old-school is underrated.

“Hey, I just met you,
And this is crazy,
But here’s my number
So, call me maybe?”
– C. R. Jepson, 21st Century philosopher.

Oh, 2012. That unassuming little year will always bear the scars of one too many parodies of Miss Jepson’s one-hit wonder. Poor little 2012 – it wasn’t its fault.

Do you remember the video clip? The one with the super ripped guy mowing the lawn and then cleaning his car (see: Stereotypical Masculinity) and then, despite Carly flinging herself all over him, giving his number to one of her (male) band members? Yep, that one.

Well, I have something to say about it: I have never, in all of my 23 years, had anyone write their number down on a piece of paper and hand it to me.

And I feel like I’m missing out on so much. (Has anyone ever received a number on a piece of paper? Am I missing out??)

Inhale, Alex.

I guess I’ve always been someone who has given their number (when asked), rather than asking for someone else’s number or just randomly receiving a number from a stranger…

****

There were stripes and red lips and wine and conversation.

He coordinated his movements so that we would walk the wind-whipped 200 metres to the bus stop together.

We turned to part ways and I guess I knew what was about to happen. And it was exciting, because for the very first time in my life someone was going to ask for my number.

“Hey, Alex,” he said looking up at me from his winter coat. “Umm, could I have your number?”

OMYGOD!! YAY!! EEEEEEEEE!! IT’S HAPPENED, PEOPLE!! IT’S HAPPENED!!

The fact that I wasn’t attracted to him was beside the point. Obviously.

It’s not that he wasn’t lovely… or smart or interesting or quite good looking, but I just didn’t feel drawn to him.

But I didn’t feel like I was in the position to be fussy. Anyway, this was validity that a) someone was attracted to me and b) that my secret weapon – the red lips – worked.

And, look, it’s not like my self-worth was hinging on someone asking me out on a date, but it’s always a nice little ego boost, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, I had to break the news to him after a few dates that I wasn’t actually interested in him. That day had far too many bathroom freak outs and heart palpitations for my liking.

****

We’re fighting against the elements; we know that some very important people in our lives Do Not Approve. Which is a shame considering the fact that our chemistry is through the Richter scale…

We haven’t had The Moment yet. The one where he asks.

And I hold my breath hoping, willing him to do so.

Pretend to be busy doing other stuff, Alex. Where did that beverage of mine get to?

He lingers as his mates drag themselves through the front door. He lingers and I silently exhale.

He takes a step forward.

“Hey,” he smiles. Good god, he’s hot. “Can I have your number?”

YES!!!!!!!!!! Wait! Play it cool, Alex. 

“Umm… Uhh, yeah, ok,” I shrug.

He raises a wry eyebrow as he tries to gauge my sudden nonchalance before I recite the little poem of numbers to him.

Then he leans forward to say goodbye.

In some ways it was a shame that nothing came of it. Perhaps it was all social nicety. Perhaps he never intended to put words into actions. Perhaps the other players intervened (likely). Perhaps he saw it as too much of a risk. And perhaps he didn’t think I was worth that risk.

And that’s ok, because in many ways it was a very good thing that nothing came of it. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who won’t take risks every now and again.

****

Our noses register the distinctive combination of butter and salt. There’s popcorn somewhere at this party! 

We follow the trail to a tall, dark, handsome gent who is holding, eating and sharing the moreish goodness around.

We chat. Very briefly. And then he has to go.

“Hey. Do you want to see each other later on?” he asks.
“Tonight?” (Context: they were continuing on to another venue)
“No, I mean like going out for drinks sometime,” he smiles.
“Oh. Sure. Yes,” I smile in return.

And he tries and fails to coordinate getting drinks together about five times. You would think that after multiple weeks of him doing so that he would figure out that I’m quite busy and that subsequently he will have to put something in my diary more than 72 hours before the actual date.

He’s a slow learner who is keeping his options open. Delete and move on.

****

I always enjoy meeting new people at parties. Tonight is no exception.

There is conversation and there is wine.

Later that night he draws me away. “Hey, Alex. Can I have a moment of your time?” he nervously asks. He leads me inside where he turns to face me.

“Alex, I think I like you and I think we would have lots of interesting conversations together and I was wondering whether I could have your number and whether, if I called you and asked you out to dinner, you would say yes?” he stammers.

I smile and nod and tell him that there is indeed a very high chance that I would say yes.

“Oh! Ok. That’s great. I’ll wait three days to call you and everything.”
“God, I love how excruciating that is,” I jest.

Our chemistry may not be through the Richter scale, but he has the courage to put his words into actions. And there’s certainly something attractive about that…

Alex x

 Also. Fun fact: I’ve updated my About section. Because it’s all about me. Duh.