Life, etc.

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

#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

words, actions and the vast chasm in between.

Dissecting a state of paralysis.

ImagePhoto courtesy of Jeen Na.

“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.”
– Simone de Beauvoir

“Live the life that you want to live today.”
– Just some words I wrote on a piece of paper which I then stuck on my wall

****

Funnily enough, writing this post has me thinking about this one time when I was squished in the backseat of a stranger’s car with three other people in the middle of the night driving along empty streets. As you do. 

At the party we had just left my friend and I had – unbeknownst to each other – both been eyeing off umm flirting with politely chatting to the most attractive guy there. At the conclusion of the evening he kissed one of us while the other was collecting their stuff. Then, in the car on the way home, someone else in the car shared that he had told her that he was interested in one of the Sydney girls… the one he didn’t kiss.

Oh, and at this point in time I was more or less sitting on top of this friend (seeing as we were still doing the sardine-in-the-backseat-without-seat-belts-oh-my-god-such-rebels thing).

Awkward.

“Words and actions,” I said loud enough for her to hear, looking straight ahead.

****

I am not wise; I pretend to be wise. I can rattle off things which certainly sound wise, much to my father’s annoyance. Why does this irritate him? Because wisdom without discipline is futile. And I epitomise wisdom without discipline.

See, I may know what’s good for me, but do I actually employ any of these tidbits of awesome into my own life?

Ahh no. I can definitely vouch for the fact that it’s a no. Ok, no need to be overly enthusiastic, Alex. A simple “no” was sufficient.

Want some examples?

Do I know that ice-cream is not a “health food”? Yes.
And so what did your diet consist of over your recent break? Umm. Ice cream. Maybe. Perhaps. Definitely. Yeah, so mainly ice cream.

Do you know that exercising on a more regular basis would improve your fitness, energy levels, skin, mood and overall health? Yes, I do know that.
And how many times have you exercised this week, Alex? Ahh minus twice. (I didn’t even know that was possible.)

Do you know how to make more financially responsible decisions so that you can save money for travel? Yes, it’s called not going on Asos.
And did you receive yet another parcel from Asos yesterday? Ahh yes. Yes, I did.

Do you know that going to bed earlier is immeasurably good for your health and wellbeing? Yeah, I feel ah-mazing after getting an early night.
And how often do you do this? Twice a year… max.

Do you know that you gain very little from sitting at your laptop? (Well, apart from testing the strength of your self-esteem by playing peer-comparison games on Facebook and knowing every detail of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wardrobe.) I’m sure that my stalker-esque knowledge of Kate’s wardrobe will come in handy one day. It will, I swear.

My saving grace is that I do drink water and I floss my teeth on a semi-regular basis (which is better than “never”, right?)

****

I am full of words. My words create blog posts, but they do not generate actions. I talk a good game. I’ve read hundreds of articles about a) fitness b) health c) getting what you want out of life d) being a better person e) blah blah blah.

I don’t need any more knowledge (seeing as nearly all of the articles can be reduced to the same thesis). I have all of the major building blocks I need. Perhaps lots of life stuff isn’t that complicated, but that we make it complicated so that we don’t have to can postpone tackling our issues… (Please note that that was an inadvertent “I am Alex and I am so wise” comment. See what I’m talking about?!)

Yet I prefer to read articles similar to previous articles about “Living Your Best Life”, rather than actually making changes so that I do live my best life. I have all of the tools already sitting in my handbag (or head). It’s just that I choose to not use them.

Why the hell not, Alex?!

I don’t know. That’s exactly what I’m trying to work out.

Insert literal thinking time here. 

(Disclaimer: I am about to sound like an arrogant twat.) I know that I can do it. I know what I’m capable of and I have a firm belief in my capabilities. I can put my words into actions. I have the drive, willpower and discipline to achieve my goals. I know this because I’ve already proven it to myself. I took all of those traits to the th degree. Which was only very detrimental.

Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps I’m afraid of what my life will become if I fully exercise the full force of my willpower again. I’m afraid that allowing the tidbits of wisdom I have amassed to be transformed into action will turn me into the obsessive person I was. And that scares me and if that’s what would happen I’d much prefer to stay being the unhealthy, hypocritical, arrogant person that I am, thank you very much.

If I put into action the things that I want to be a part of my life my life would be an Instagram feed of green smoothies, early morning runs, national park walks, camping trips, quinoa salads, piles of books I’d (metaphorically) devoured, sunshine, a chic yet rustic apartment, fresh morning air, travel, limbering limbs, laughter, healthy/#clean/gourmet meals, fresh flowers, lunch break walks, re-established evening rituals, organic protein balls, a vintage bike and seeing the stars out in the countryside.

It sounds glorious. And pretty damn healthy and happy. And sickeningly virtuous.

The only thing is that I’m not very skilled in virtue.

I hope I’ll get there. No, I will get there in time, but it’s going to take time. Seeing as I’ve written this post I can’t feasibly get away with doing nothing now (it’s harder to be a hypocrite when you have an audience) I’ll just have to keep taking some very small steps in the meantime.

But until I get past my fear I’ll just have to content myself with watching other people project the beautiful, organic life they (want all of their followers to think they) live on my Instagram feed.

#sigh

Alex x

PS: And happy Mean Girls anniversary, bitches. #tenyears #sofetch

a grey anatomy.

Break glass in case of emergency.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that actually, sometimes life isn’t happy go-lucky. Sometimes it is terrible. Sometimes it is hard and harrowing and just horrendous.

This is a post for and from those times.

****

It was meant to be a normal afternoon.

It certainly looked like one; sporadic clouds lined the sky – insignificant dabs of whitewash, powerless to the spectrum of blue.

But when I turned the corner everything changed.

What? What is happening? 

No. But this doesn’t happen in real life. Not mine, at least.

I desperately seek tears. Where? Where are they? 

I’m sure we’ll find them somewhere. But I shouldn’t have to search for them in the first place…

I can’t find them. I can’t find them anywhere. The adrenalin envelops my emotions and freezes my tear ducts.

And now I am composed of equal parts steel and lambswool and filigree lace and broken glass.

But I do not have the time to analyse my new composition; I have to make sure that everyone reaches the life raft before time runs out.

It is easier to pretend that nothing has happened, but it just causes more ruptures. But if I’m to acknowledge what has happened then it is going to be real. And I don’t know if I can deal with “real” just yet.

Linoleum floors. Fluorescent lighting. Under other circumstances I would recoil at the thought of the number of bacteria colonies on this plastic chair.

An attractive emergency worker walks towards us, setting a series of waves in motion. The guilt pummels me, taking me crashing onto the sandbank with it. I am left clutching my pressed powder and various lip products in a pathetic attempt at normality.

I think my facial muscles have been paralysed. There is no movement. They can’t lift up out of their darkness. Why can’t they find any strength?

I play scenarios through my head to fill the minutes with something, whilst desperately gasping for air. It hurts.

Everything hurts.

Hours have passed and I realise I need to be at work. Now.

The taxi driver politely turns his face away from his rear-vision mirror and the girl who has finally found them – she finally found where the tears were hiding.

Wiping mascara off inky, watercoloured cheeks doesn’t really equate to a “daytime smokey eye”, but I pretend that this was the look I was going for this morning. This morning was so long ago.

The regular route, the regular turns, the regular streets descend into a blur and a fight against the sting in my eyes. My lips tremble, quivering in an attempt to suppress this for just one more minute. Just one more minute of pretending and then I can be alone.

Eventually I find my way back home. The keys and chords tear through me; the raw cuts and grazes that are stinging so badly ooze onto the monochrome notes.

I do not know.

I do not know how to act. I don’t think I’d know how to behave normally even if I tried.

I’m just trying to make sure that this life boat stays afloat for each of us.

So much has changed and we’re pretending that there has just been a slight rearrangement of the furniture; whereas, in fact, we’ve moved house, state and country in the space of minutes.

Chocolate. I need something real and normal and safe and sweet.

I can’t remember the last time I cried myself to sleep. I think the shock is wearing off and the reality is beginning to settle in.

It’s 3am.

I wake up to bleary, puffy eyes and hugs; drifting in and out of sleep.

My dear friend is a welcome comfort, thawing these frozen rooms.

I’m still trying to process it all. I still don’t know which words could possibly describe how I’m feeling.

We sit in the sunshine in our pyjamas without sunblock.

It’s 2pm and I clumsily go through the motions; the motions of normal people on normal days in normal supermarkets.

Elton John accompanies me on the bus that evening. Blue jean tears are sewn down my cheeks and waltz over my lips. The elderly couple diagonally across from me look on at that twenty-something girl who is crying on a packed bus headed towards the city. And the makeup I’ve just done becomes redundant.

The helplessness envelops me. I just don’t know how to support everyone else in their pain. I just have no idea what to do.

And I still don’t know how to express how I’m feeling.

It’s 3am.

My body responds to the torture with a sore throat and blocked nose. Evidently I was not having enough fun before this.

I have the idea to do Stuff – all of the mundane stuff that needs doing in an attempt to help everyone else and to try and stop my mind from remembering.

We’re eating our favourite comfort food and the Elephant is dining with us, too.

I’m empty.

I have no air; I can’t breathe.

Everything’s spinning whilst remaining still and I’m swaying back and forwards in synchronisation with the shock, not knowing what has hit me.

All I can register is this foreign, yet familiar pain seeping through me – stretching from inside, searing and reverberating into nothingness.

It’s 12.26am.

I go to bed in the hope that there will be many hours between now and dawn.

 

Alex x

An editorial aside: I am not presently in “crisis mode” – this happened a while ago.

#socialmediafails: part two

Facebook “friends” and friends on Facebook.

ImageI think Ed and I could be friends.

Sometimes the strangest things happen on buses. Whether that be entire wardrobe changes, the disintegration of relationships played out in front of 60 relative strangers or procreation*, Sydney’s public transport certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to… colourful moments.

I had another one of those moments recently – except everyone remained fully clothed and no one shouted at their relatives. Yeah, a little less sexy and scandalous.

I was on my way to uni (truly groundbreaking stuff). As I walked up the back of the bus I spotted a girl whom I’m Facebook friends with sitting just in front of the seat I had my sights on.

Insert the part where we may eye-contact and say hi to each other and briefly catch up.  Insert the part where we don’t make eye-contact and don’t say hi to each other – even though we are now sitting 40cm away from each other.

Sorry. Let’s pause and recap. My “friend” is sitting in the seat in front of me and I am not going to say hi to her. Huh?

Just quietly, WHY THE HELL ARE WE EVEN FACEBOOK FRIENDS?!

Calm down, Alex. 

See, you could be deceived into thinking that we are actually friends. I mean, I know what she is studying, whom our mutual friends are, whom her family members are, whom her boyfriend is, what her boyfriend’s job is, her favourite authors and her pet’s name – all courtesy of our Facebook “friendship”. Well, except for the fact that we’re “friends” who have barely ever had a conversation with each other. But conversation is so passé, darling.

I’m still unsure whether I didn’t say hi because of the social conformity and norms which dictate that we don’t speak to people in certain settings or because the word “friend” has been diluted and no longer carries the value it once had. Either way, I have no idea how this girl and I even became to be Facebook friends in the first place.

****
Since then I ended up hanging out with another vague “friend” of sorts. Yep, another one. She’s a lovely person, but we’ve spent very little time together over the ten years that we’ve known each other. Anyway, we’ve kept abreast of what’s happening in each others’ lives by reading one another’s blogs, Insta-stalking travel photos and having the odd two minute catch up whenever we bump into each other, which counts for something. Right?

Ahhh. Hmm. Perhaps not, Alex.

See, spending some time with her the other week allowed us to go past the superficial “how-are-you-what-are-you-up-to-at-the-moment-oh-that’s-nice-bye!” And it was a pleasure to have done so, because I learnt so much more about her and her life that I could have ever done by Facebook-stalking her. We talked about the future, family dynamics, AFL-honed muscles and unexpectedly enchanting cities.I think social media only allows us glimpses into each others lives, and we orchestrate the glimpses we let others see – myself very much included.

I was reminded of this when I was catching up with a friend over coffee. (An actual friend this time.) Look, it was nice, but I was acutely aware of the fact that the main way in which we’ve kept abreast of each others’ lives recently has been by liking one another’s Instagram photos, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates. We’ve been friends for years, but honestly, I think that our social media friendship has been a contributing factor to the deterioration of our (actual) relationship. We ask each other about things which we’ve seen the other post about – no longer bothering to feign surprise after waiting for them to bring it up themselves.

It makes catching up somewhat redundant, doesn’t it?

So, with that in mind, I’m trying my best to not write various status updates about my life at the moment. Yes, I think that the Likes would be well into the double digits and gosh, I’d feel sooo totes loved and #blessed. But who am I kidding? My Facebook friends are all nice people, but I’m only close friends with a solid 4% of them and I want to share my news with this 4% in person because they are the people who really matter to me. They’ll be genuinely happy for me because they’ll understand the significance of the things I’m sharing with them.

I guess that’s why I didn’t say hi to that girl on the bus. She’s just a “friend” and not a friend. And those speech marks, small as they are, seem to make a difference.

Alex x

 

* I wish I could say that I hadn’t witnessed that last one in particular, but I kid you not – I did. #stillmildlytraumatised

to my sweet peach.

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Fun fact: the literal translation of au revoir is “until we next see each other”.

 

The week ahead is going to be a big one. Really big. Sad big.

See, I’m leaving a job I adore – out of choice – because I want to pursue a job which is more career-oriented. I have been nannying my little girl for close to two years and my lord have they been brilliant. I’ll still see her family on a regular basis, but I feel heartbroken knowing that this is our last week together.

Being a nanny can, in some ways, be mildly petrifying. Not only because you have the responsibility of looking after a little life, but because whether or not you want to, you know that you will be influencing and shaping that little life. And frankly, I don’t always have my sh!t together. Frightening stuff.

So, I want to write an open letter to my little girl… my sweet peach, darling girl, bubble, rascal, honey bear, roo roo.

****

My darling Roo,

This is our last week together, bubble, and I don’t want Friday to come. 

I know we’ll still see each other often (minimum once a fortnight as promised), but I know that my new job will not bring me the immense joy which I receive when I’m with you. I won’t be paid to laugh, to go on adventures, give you hugs, to sing in the car or do weird science experiments together – but you know I’d do all of that for free. Anyway, I won’t be paid to do your washing anymore either – so I guess there are one or two perks.

I don’t think that I am necessarily an exemplary or well-qualified role-model, honey bear, but I’d be ignorant to think that all of the time we’ve had together hasn’t left an imprint upon both of us. Some of those things I hope you haven’t picked up from me (we won’t go into them now), but I do hope that you have learnt some helpful things from our time together…

  • I know you bemoan the fact that I am constantly onto you about a) chewing with your mouth closed and b) not using your fingers to eat instead of cutlery, but there may be a time when you are about fifteen when you’ll go out for dinner with your friends for the first time. Very grown up. During dinner you may observe that some of your peers are talking whilst eating and have their elbows on the table and you may feel a tad awkward watching them. Look, it’s not life or death, but basic table manners are an important social skill – and that’s why we bother to correct yours now.
  • It’s good to do things which aren’t on screens. I know you love playing on your iPod and iPad, but there are lots of things which are as, if not more, engaging, stimulating and fun which are not made of pixels  – like your hula-hooping, drawing and singing. You may even find that life is more fun when you lift your eyes from the screen. (And yes, I need to do more of this myself).
  • There have been times when you’ve encountered mean people. It sucks to be hurt and rejected by others, sweetheart. I hope it helps you to remember something that we’ve discussed together: we can’t change that person, but what we can do is to ask ourselves “what can I learn from them?” And what we can learn is to not be like them. To quote one of my favourite books, The Bike Lesson, “This is what you should not do, so let that be a lesson to you.”
  •  It doesn’t matter whom you love, darling. It’s fine to love girls or boys or no-one. If you do end up married or in a long-term relationship later on in life, that’s lovely – but having a partner does not make you any more or less valuable a person. You will always be loved immensely by mummy, daddy, your friends, family and I.
  • I know you can be cautious about trying new things, peach, but if you don’t try new things how will you ever find out whether you like something? When you do try something new remember to be kind to yourself – it’s unlikely that you’re going to ace it straight away. You need to practice and persevere. In saying that, it’s important to know your limitations.  I know you’ll smash the green monkey bars and be ready for the pirate ship ride at Luna Park one day, honey.
  • Something which I’ve learnt over the past six years is that perfection, in my opinion, is not truly attainable… and if something is “perfect” it’s probably not going to be much fun. Perfection’s pretty boring. My advice? Don’t chase after perfection – it will leave you disappointed.
  • You are wonderful just the way you are, my love. There will probably be times in the future when you wish you were shorter or you didn’t have glasses. You may wish that you were more popular or smarter than someone else in your class. Everyone has different strengths, Roo, and we each have our own character – that’s part of what makes life interesting. Imagine how boring it’d be if we were all the same! You have been blessed with a wonderful sense of humour and a kind, generous heart and they are things which I didn’t and couldn’t ever teach you – this is innately who you are and I hope it never changes.

I’m sorry for all of the times when I’ve been impatient or self-centred. (See: the list of things which I hope you don’t pick up from me). You are probably unaware of it, but you often bring out the best in me. When I’ve had down days I’ve been able to drive over to your place knowing that just being with you would lift me out of my rut. That’s the kind of person that you are. And I’ve spent the past year and nine months thinking that I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you in my life. 

See you on Tuesday morning, peach. I love you very much.

Your Alexie x

contagion.

rain 02Image: Martina Woll

Monday.

I’ve let my entire week be coloured by Monday. Its grey blanket of clouds has permeated and spread its way throughout me. My skin, my lips, my hands – they all reek of Monday.

It wasn’t like something terrible happened. In fact, in many ways Monday could be seen as a success of sorts. But alas, I received it like an unexpected punch – curling up on the sodden earth as the air was taken out of me.

See, I’ve been applying for lots of jobs and programmes over the past few weeks. It’s been busy and fairly overwhelming, but somewhat exciting, too. On Monday I had a change of pace – rather than sending off applications I had two interviews- one for a job and one for an intensive exchange programme.

In summary: the first interview went well and the second interview went pretty well overall, but I made some undeniable stuff ups. And in summary: I didn’t get the job and I am 98.75% certain that I won’t be offered a position on the exchange programme tomorrow.

Despite the potential that I will find a better job and that I will almost certainly save a shed load of money (the cost of the exchange), the double dose of rejection has set the tone for my week: and it’s flat and off-key.

I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but I just feel disheartened. Why wouldn’t you want me to work for you? I get sh!t done and I bring in brownies on a semi-regular basis. I am not skilled when it comes to hula-hooping or cartwheels, but I can do other stuff, I promise.

On the other hand, if I had been offered the job and if I had really aced the exchange interview I would still be doing little mental fist pumps today. And today is Thursday. I would be feeling motivated and excited about life and really proud of myself, too. Which, if we extrapolate, indicates that I’m letting external forces shape my confidence and self-esteem…

But that’s all theory, and this is practice. And the reality is that we are here: It is Thursday and I am watching a bobbing ocean of umbrellas and hoods pass by me. The sky is still a monotonous backdrop of glaring grey. It’s been like this for days. Hasn’t it? I’m not so sure anymore.

I feel like I’m playing Stuck in the Mud: my legs are glued down and I have to push with all my might in order to drag myself over to the edge of this bog.

Bogged.

I’m bogged.

All of my energy is depleted from trying, in vain, to lift my feet from this mud. It’s oozing everywhere. God, I need a bath.

The muscles framing my lips quiver when they try to lift my lips upwards. It’s just too much weight for them to bear.

All I really want is sugar and hugs and sleep.

****

The street has been freshly doused with puddles. The empty pavement reveals the nature of its inhabitants – tucked away at their desks with their mid-morning lattes. Navigating my way to an unknown building I spot a boy. No, a guy. No, a man. A man is walking towards me; his face coming in and out of focus as his umbrella gently floats above him. A quick glance and then eyes turn away. Eye contact is impolite in the 21st century.

As the metres quickly dissipate, I look up. And as I do, he is passing me. And as he passes me he turns his eyes towards me. And as he turns his eyes towards me the muscles framing his lips lift them up through his cheeks.

And I smile back.

And although it only lasts a minute, it pushed away Monday for a few glowing seconds.

 

Alex x

Post-script: And now for some Gotye (of the Non-“Somebody That I Used to Know” variety).

Another post-script: As it turns out, I was offered a position on the exchange programme, after all 🙂

mouse-click miracles.

I’m sorry to inform you, but “liking” that photo will not save that baby.

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“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi.

Perhaps we’re all searching for a tangible miracle within our sometimes steel-clad, disenchanted world. Perhaps it’s because growing up to be a ballerina or a fire-fighter just doesn’t cut it anymore. But contributing to something that will change the world? That means something. That commands our respect and admiration. But perhaps we’ve taken it too far…

Before I get going I would like to clarify some things from the outset. Of most relevance to what is to follow: I am not a particularly charitable person. That wasn’t a deliberately self-deprecating comment, but rather a realistic one. I enjoy doing volunteer work, but I haven’t done much recently (although that is something I am going to work on this year). I don’t contribute that much money to charities or other worthwhile causes. I don’t campaign or attend rallies. I don’t fundraise. I don’t work at an NGO or charity and I don’t have any particular intention of doing so within the foreseeable future. Basically, I could be doing a lot more to help others and the world.

I would also like to emphasise that I do not intend to mock any of the causes or societal issues that I may mention. They all have real and devastating impacts on the lives of individuals throughout our world.

Disclaimer: over.

So, I may not be a particularly benevolent person, but occasionally I’ll like a photo or status on Facebook in a gesture of sincere clicktivism. I’m sure you know the type: the one where if we reach 1 million likes will mean the difference between a chronically sick child’s life or death. Or perhaps a #makeupfreeselfie for breast cancer as you may have noticed mingled into your Facebook newsfeed over the past week.

That has to count for something, right??

Well, actually, no. I don’t think so.

Sure – social media is a useful tool in driving a marketing or PR campaign. Personally, I think that a campaign without a social media activation and strategy would probably be minimising its potential and reach… unless you’re targeting non-social media users! And yes, social media has been really beneficial to individuals who are suffering in some very practical ways.

Take, for example, a dog I follow on Instagram. Yes, you read that correctly: I follow a dog on Instagram. Nice one, Alex. But to be fair, this isn’t any dog – it’s a hilarious French Bulldog named Sir Charles Barkley (You can call him Barkley for short). And with over 175K followers, Barkley’s posts travel far from his Seattle home. So far, his account has been used to find missing dogs and reunite them with their owners and raise money for pups who need expensive surgery in a similar way to how people who are seeking missing family members or a bone marrow donor have used Facebook to facilitate their search.

I’m not for a second doubting the power of social media in helping to raise awareness about certain issues and causes and that it can be really positive and powerful.

But tell me, how is sharing that photo of that baby actually going to ensure that it lives?

How is liking an animal rights photo going to save that pig?

How is retweeting Amnesty International really going to help those in need?

How is following World Vision on Facebook going to make a difference in the lives of children and communities in developing nations?

How is posting an attention-seeking status to the effect of “I want to do it on the kitchen bench” (which just happens to be a ‘secret thing amongst women’ about where you place your handbag down when you arrive at home) going to raise long-term, meaningful awareness of breast cancer?

How is supposedly divulging which colour bra you’re wearing (which is a similar thing where the colour corresponds with your birth month) going to change anything either?

How on earth is a makeup free selfie going to see an end to cancer? Please, do tell me. Ok, evidently it vaguely got my attention because otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this sentence, but have I done a breast check since seeing one of those #makeupfreeselfies? (I’ll give you a hint: two letter answer – first letter N, second letter O.) Bad Alex.

Makeup-free selfies, in and of themselves, can be positive in helping to promote a healthy, realistic body image (as long as they’re not being used as an excuse for fuelling our vanity). And if this week’s campaign was about that, then I wouldn’t be going on this mini-rant, because I have a lot of time for initiatives which help people to develop positive body image. But the last time I checked, my selfies weren’t finding a cure for cancer or encouraging my friends into doing breast checks.

imagesGW1PU19F  imagesKGNP1I0J  untitled

So, evidently I’m the Grinch of Breast Cancer awareness. You’re welcome to get pissed off at me.

You may disagree with me, but really, who the hell are we kidding? It’s great that we want to get involved and do our bit. But why don’t we do something which is meaningful, that is going to make a difference. We can contribute through the donation of time or money, for example. No, it may not get as many likes on Facebook. It may not make you look quite as baben on Instagram. It may not make you look like the socially aware, caring person that you wish to portray yourself as being.

But perhaps it could actually make a difference.

Alex x

Epilogue: And now that I have finished my little rant I guess this is the part where I ensure that I’m not a hypocrite by going out and contributing in a more meaningful way myself. #watchthisspace

PS: To the anonymous person who passed on a message to me through our mutual friend over the weekend – thank you! Also, come and say hi next time?

****

An editorial post script:

Since writing this I’ve found out that the #makeupfreeselfie trend has in fact raised a couple of million quid in the UK. This is great stuff. However, I know it may sound cynical and critical, but I find it repugnant that people were only, seemingly, spurred into action by the fact that doing so contributed to their social media self-promotion. For me, the idea of giving isn’t about the giver, but the recipient. 

In addition to this, I’d love to recommend Clementine Ford’s article in relation to the topic. She’s ace and so is her piece. Find it here.

Ax

pure intentions.

Who’d have thought that trying to do the right thing would be so hard…

Image

Flora finally had the hair she’d always wanted.

Every two to three months I encounter a mildly bizarre phenomenon: nearly all of my beauty and skincare products run out at Exactly. The. Same. Time.

SPF moisturiser? Nighttime moisturiser? Cleanser? Shampoo? Conditioner? Spot gel? BB cream? Mask? Scrub? ALL OF IT. Dammit.

The subsequent result is that my beauty spending will have been flat-lining and then there will be a spike somewhat reminiscent of yours truly on a sugar high after having devoured a piece slab of Lindt.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is that when all of my products run out I then remember that I am trying to be virtuous. (Emphasis on the “trying”.) And by “virtuous” I mean more organic/environmentally friendly/cruelty-free/toxin-free/paraben-free. But what the hell are parabens?

And thus begins my quarterly attempt at natural beauty.

It all begins with sunshine, sugar-free lollypops and rainbows without any artificial colours. I set out on my little adventure skipping off towards the fountain of all modern knowledge: Google. Because if you’re going to be green, research is pretty damn important.

Except research is boring. But more so, it’s OVERWHELMING. How green is green enough?

Is it made of all plant-derived ingredients? Are those plants organic? But, HOW organic? Is it free of toxins? Is it in biodegradable packaging? Does it have carbon credits?

Here are some fun things I’ve learnt along the way:

  • Miranda Kerr’s KORA Organics? Fun fact: only a small percentage (approximately 10%) of the ingredients in her products are organic.
  • Organic Care by Nature’s Organics, the supermarket option for environmentally-conscious consumers? Yeah, it’s mainly marketing. For one, their products are not organic so don’t let the parent brand name fool you. They proudly specify that they don’t have certain ingredients in their shampoos and conditioners (how wonderful!) but when you read the fine print they just have very similar ingredients with a different name (like “sugar”, “sucrose” and “glucose”). Ugh.
  • Botanical names are an utter b!tch. I feel like I need to do some post-grad study just to decode the list of ingredients. And then after you’ve decoded the flipping ingredients you then have to evaluate whether you would like to use them on your skin or not. Fun fact: every brand has a different cocktail of natural ingredients, which they can tell you without hesitation is better than everyone else’s. And it’s more organic than everyone else’s too. More organic. If you turn down something which is more organic then what kind of bad human are you?
  • A lot of the packaging is UGLY. Lots of it is either tacky and naff or really boring and dated. (Some notable exceptions include: Sodashi, Aesop and Grown Alchemist. You do good stuff, guys.) It seems like because they are au naturel that they assume that aesthetics are in conflict with their ethos. And while this probably reflects the values of some of their consumers, I am not one of them. I am superficial and I want to be WOOED by the packaging. I like marketing and visual communication. This is something that excites me. And thus, I want the packaging to be at least somewhat attractive. (NB: I find that this generally applies to gents, too. Attractive packaging goes a long way.)
  • Researching natural/organic/etc skincare is seriously like base jumping down into Wonderland. It is a whole new world down here. Think of all the fun you can have researching whether any of the benefits a product markets is actually of concern to you. For example, is natural better than organic? Are no parabens better than no toxins? Is vegan better than gluten free? (Yes, gluten free skincare). Cos if you’re going to bother to buy one of these green living products then you may as well make a conscious, informed decision, right?
  • And then you remember to ask yourself, “So, does the fact that this moisturiser is only made of natural ingredients mean that it will actually work?” And don’t think that you can stop to ask whether preservative free products are actually better for the environment. Don’t be stupid. You’re not meant to ask tricky questions! Also, something to keep in mind: it generally takes a month until you can really garner whether a product is working for you. Which means you’re kinda limited to properly testing 12 products a year. Have fun with that!
  • This is also not the time to remember that there is a strong correlation between gorgeous, glowing skin and drinking water, eating healthily and exercising regularly. That’s kind of irrelevant right now! I’m in the middle of trying to decide which preservative-free soap to buy!
  • Perhaps you want to sashay your way into organic/natural makeup. Enjoy! Also, have fun with the fact that as there are very few bricks & mortar stores which stock said products that you have to make your decision on which colour foundation is going to match your skin based on swatches on your computer screen. Cos that’s not fraught with danger at all.
  • On that note, is mineral makeup good for you? I heard that minerals were good, but then I heard that they were bad for you… But the brand has the word “Nature” in its name, so that must mean that it’s good, right? Right?
  • Then, darlings, you will get to the checkout and you will want gasp as you double check that you didn’t accidentally order three cleansers rather than one. No, don’t worry – no typos here! That’s right: you are about to pay an extortionate amount of money for products which you a) have not tried because you are unable to access any testers b) have comparatively few reviews on them because they are less-popular brands c) are expensive and d) which you have no idea will work for your skin! But it’s organic so input credit card details here!

Then you remember that you’re a student who is leaving her current job in three weeks time and that your bank account has seen better days. And so you close the twelve tabs that you have open. But, what to do now? You’ve already endured two days without a cleanser, telling yourself to hold out for your imminent purchase of a natural alternative.

But I still haven’t figured out what that obscure ingredient is. So, f*#& it.

Neutrogena? Garnier? MAC? Covergirl? Clinique?

My old faithfuls. I’m coming for you.

Alex x