So, this blog has kind of been on the slow down. Sadly, from what I’ve seen is we’ve all started doing things differently. Personally, I’m not one to always talk about myself (as lovely as it is sometimes), but after a while life stories start getting too personal. Or we run out of Disney-style endings to tell others about.
But here’s a great article from the Huffington Post that thanks to photographer Steve Rosenfield who asked a broad range of people to fill out a ballot. To sum up: “What doesn’t define you?”. He then took several of his subjects and inked them up and took a picture of them.
After reading the article I also wound up browsing the comments, cause I do that, and learned a new word!
Ebonics. Although from what I understand this isn’t exactly an Oxford word.
I’ll follow through with a question to the fair readers of our tiny blog:
Would you be willing to have a picture taken of you with your deepest, darkest insecurities or secrets?
It’s an interesting idea, first of all it’s figuring out what doesn’t define you.
What happened that you won’t allow to rule the way you live your life?
It’s also the fact are you being honest with yourself?
That’s probably the biggest question. Will you allow your past to define your present and future?
Think about it peeps! And (maybe) comment below. You don’t have to tell us about your greatest fears, but will you let your past define you?
Before I start this, I want to make something clear. This post is not coming from a man who has had an easy time his whole life with women. In fact, I have had my heart broken more times than I care to admit. I have shed tears, been betrayed in the worst of ways and have been made to feel unimportant, almost to the point where I thought I didn’t exist. And even through all of this, I can still put my heart on the line for women because I believe in one fundamental reality.
Women are beautiful.
Last night, one of my best friends sent me an article and asked for my thoughts. So I opened it up and read the first line. “I’m just gonna come out and say it: I love insecure women.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and continued reading on for…
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(Note: I originally wrote this piece for a project about advice for people in their twenties. I never submitted it as the people running the project never responded to my questions regarding publishing rights, so now I’m posting it here. I tried editing it to make it a bit more personal, but it didn’t feel right, so here it is in its original form.)
Okay, so Disney said it first, but here’s my take on it:
First, a reality check. A simple fact of life is that you probably won’t end up doing what you want to do. To start with, you might not get into college. You might not get accepted for the college of your choice or for the course you really want to do. A large percentage of college students drop out before the end of their first year because (I hope someone has told you this before) college is hard. Even if you manage to stick it out and graduate, that certificate is no guarantee that you’ll get any job, never mind one in your field.
Some people are lucky and they end up in a career they love and where they will spend the rest of their lives. Most don’t. Chances are, by the time you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ll be in a job you don’t like. You might be making minimum wage. You might be making a lot more, but you’re not happy – the stress or the monotony is driving you round the bend. You might not have a job.
Whichever of these scenarios apply to you, keep moving forward.
When things are less than ideal the temptation is very big to sit back and feel sorry for yourself. When things are ideal we become complacent. Either situation leads to stagnation. But if you keep improving yourself, keep adding to your skillset, eventually you’ll recognise new opportunities. They’ll have been there all along. You’ll just be able to see them for what they are.
How do you do this? Volunteer. And learn.
Volunteering will not only make a difference in someone else’s life, but it will make you into a better person as well. It’s something you can put on your résumé. It will show that, even while you were unemployed, you still spent your time on something worthwhile. And it’s a great opportunity to network – while volunteering you will meet people from all walks of life. Who knows what doors they may open?
And never, never, never, never, ever stop learning.
So you didn’t get into college. So what? So you find yourself wanting to do something different than that for which you’re qualified. Your point is?
Today there are so many online courses one can do. Many of them are accredited by good universities. Compared to full-time study, they are ridiculously cheap. Borrow money if you have to (though not from loan sharks or credit card companies, but that’s a whole other piece of advice) but start enrolling for online courses or night classes. And if you’re employed, make sure your boss knows of each new qualification you earn. Keep adding new knowledge and skills to those you already have.
Keep moving forward.
Before publishing her book in 2009, Gretchen Rubin started a blog/website both of which shared the same title: The Happiness Project.
Rubin’s Happiness Project started a little bit after she was in the final stages of writing one her other books – I think it was a Winston Churchill piece. Either way, she came across a well-known person’s list of twelve commandments which outlined how they intended on living a happier life. This sparked a great idea in Gretchen’s mind; for one year she experimented and created her own “happiness project” thus resulting in the sharing with thousands of followers she acquired through her journey, a website where she posted regularly her thoughts and emotions and the things she has learned along the way to a happier life.
In the month of December 2012, I was reading this book for shear recreation. The fact that I had been selling several copies at the bookstore I was working for at the time was definitely a good convincer that I should definitely read that book soon. I was also hoping to get a little insight on what people might be doing differently that I could possibly learn from in order to gain a greater sense of happiness in my own life.
Did I learn anything? Absolutely. I learned that I was nowhere near as successful in many aspects of my life like Rubin’s. Something else I learned was that there were a lot of things that I acknowledged I never do but should really start.
Let it go
Act the way I want to feel
Do it now
Be polite and be fair
Enjoy the process
Identify the problem
Do what ought to be done
There is only love
As you’ve just read, these were the 12 Commandments Rubin shared in her book, and obviously we can’t all take away the same points to our own project but personally I can take away at least 7 points for myself.
1. Be Krys
Be me. It sounds easy enough but a lot of people have lost touch with themselves. A few years ago I had forgotten who I was because I was so preoccupied being part of somebody else’s plan that I forgot what my plans were, what I liked, or how I would react to situations. I had numbed myself from reality, but I soon realized I needed to break free of that little cage I put myself in. Now, I feel like I’ve slowly been starting from scratch, setting ground rules, standing my ground and trying to be myself again.
3. Act the Way I Want to Feel
I have been such a bottled up person, I realized that I was extremely fearful of things. Nervous. Cautious. Skeptical. Particularly when it came to pain. I used to be such a tough cookie. Growing up around a bunch of boys I learned that you better have a damn good reason to cry. Nowadays, I seem to have done a one-eighty and cry over just about anything.. okay, so I’m still learning the happy medium between never crying and crying all the time, it’s a learning curve and it’s all about controlling your emotions only to a certain extent.
9. Lighten Up
I’m a tight-ass. I admit it. I’m very particular to the point that I can be quite moody if I don’t get my way or something gets set up improperly. I suppose at this point I can say that #6 (Enjoy the Process) should be included in this section as sometimes I can get quite bitter over the fact that things aren’t going smoothly. It’s about being at ease. Relax. Enjoy it. Laugh. Smile. Or just nod your head to make things not blow up mid-process.
12. There is Only Love
This is another point that is taking time to figure out. This past year I’ve been learning quite a bit about this word: love. It’s a difficult emotion and there are so many ways of expressing it! I’ve only learned a small handful and I’m sure I have a bazillion other love ways to learn today, tomorrow and years from now.
These are only a few of the points from the list that I can personally take away. Life lessons. Emotions. Personal encounters that change your life forever. We all have a story that has made us rethink our situation and possibly have made us change something about us and we’ve wound up being much happier or just content and feel less burdened by something we thought was worth burdening over.
I’m not name dropping and promoting that you go out and by Gretchen Rubin’s book, but I can definitely say that if you’re looking for a good starting point at least check out her website. She has great amount of available resources to help you develop your own happiness (if you aren’t already). I cannot claim that I have been the happiest I’ve ever been, I’m not. I’m still content. It’s probably because of books like Rubin’s that has helped me realize that there were things in my life that needed to be shifted. Baby steps.
Are you happy? What makes you happiest? Have you ever had to give up something that made you happy? What’s your story?
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”
– Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
Last time I wrote about how each one of us is a story, that you are the author of your story and that you have to make the choices that will determine whether or not your story will be a good one.
But that made me think of something else: we all have an innate need to tell our stories. And more importantly, we all have a need to have our stories listened to.
That’s probably one of my biggest frustrations in life: I can’t find anyone to listen to my story. See, I’m a natural listener. If I sit next to someone on a bus or stand behind someone in a queue, they just start talking to me. Nothing too personal…at first. But I can’t help listening – I’m naturally good at it and I’ve been trained as a counsellor which merely honed my existing skills – and before long they’re spilling their guts to me. Continue reading
Anyone who’s read my regular blog will know that I am a scientist. More specifically I’m a geneticist and my long-term goal is to become a genetic counsellor. Because of this, genetic testing is an interest of mine and so I recently attended a screening of the film Do you really want to know? at the UCL Open City Docs Fest.
Do you really want to know? is a documentary about Huntington Disease (or HD) and the genetic test which is available to affected families.
For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, HD is a devastating disease which appears at around age 30-60 and slowly but surely destroys a person’s faculties until they can no longer walk, eat, talk or even remember who they are. What’s worse is that if you have a parent who has HD, there is a 50% chance that you yourself will inherit the disease. There is however, a very simple genetic test which will show without any doubt whether or not someone carries the gene.
The film talked to members of three families who all had very different views on whether they wanted to know their HD status and what knowing would do to them. A surprising number had decided not to find out. (Actually this is maybe less surprising considering they were American families and in the US knowing you carry the gene for HD could affect your ability to find health insurance.)
I can certainly understand why people don’t want to know but the interesting part for me was the reaction of those who did take the test and found out that they do carry the gene.
They had all embraced life and done everything possible to make the most of the disease-free time they have and were seizing opportunities that most of us wouldn’t even think about.
I understand this point of view completely but what it made me think was: why aren’t I doing that? I don’t think I have anything nasty lurking in my genes (one of my grandparents is 92 and still flitting about the place relatively independently) but life is, after all, short.
One of the families in the film had made it their mission to travel the world and try lots of extreme sports while their father was still able to join them. While on the other hand, the number of countries I’ve visited is still in single figures and as for extreme sports, the most extreme thing I’ve ever done is climb a tree.
Having said that, I do live a fairly exciting life, I’m always off to some event or another and certainly since I’ve been living in London I’m rarely short of a story about something interesting I’ve done recently.
But there’s always this feeling hanging over me of waiting. I put things off until later, things like travelling and other experiences.
I want to run a marathon someday but this year I’m not even doing the 5km Race for Life. I want to become fluent in French and learn Spanish but I don’t read any books or even watch many films in a foreign language. I keep thinking “there’s time for that later” but when is later? And what’s wrong with right now?
And I’m not alone in this, I know many people who are the same as me and I’m sure everyone reading this can think of something they keep putting off for no real reason. Does it really take the knowledge that there’s a ticking time bomb inside to kick us into acting on our dreams?
So this is the message I want you to take from this post: live for the moment. Embrace the present. And make the most of now.
I am a waitress. It’s not my dream job, but most days it’s fine enough. There are days when I really don’t like it but today was not one of those days. Actually, today was pretty good. There was just this one table that soured the mood, somewhat.
At lunchtime a table of five men joined us in the restaurant. One man in particular was a bit of a pain, being rude and demanding, but honestly none of the comments he made were what pissed me off. I guess you could say that it’s part of the job.
What did get up my back was the tiny little phrase he made right at the beginning of the meal. In response to my question whether anyone on the table would like a side dish with their meal he said “Well actually, I was thinking of having you on the side.”
I did a double take. You what now?
I do not get paid enough to listen to whatever you are insinuating.
First off, what do you even mean? I know what the answer to that question would be. Something along the lines of, “I don’t mean anything, I’m just having a laugh!” or “It was just a compliment, relax”. I know because I’ve heard that answer many times before. I’ve been told that it’s my fault for misunderstanding. It’s clever, I suppose, because there’s a play on words between the side dish, like fries and a bed partner? Someone who serves to titillate and to be provocative.
Is it really necessary to clarify my role here? I wait on you, and if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. However, I am not here for you to sexualize me. Really, that should go without saying.
I am glad that I work in a place where I feel safe, so I didn’t feel threatened or intimidated by his comments, but the idea that a man who must be near enough twice my age, can somehow phrase the idea between the two of us in a way that leaves no room for my consent… it’s scary.
I don’t want you to have me on the side. It is not a compliment. I am not gratified to find that I am somehow attractive to you. There is no way that what you’re saying to me right now is in any way beneficiary to my self-esteem.
Or is that not the point? Perhaps I’m just meant to stand there, play the prop, so that you can get your own kicks from your little joke. And since it’s ‘just a joke’ and not some major crime (like the one the you’re so subtly implying), there is no reason for me to be upset? You didn’t touch me so I suppose it’s ok then?
How have we come to the point where such thing can somehow be normalized? That all the shitty stuff that isn’t as bad as the things that – could have happened – is somehow not a problem anymore? It’s little things like this, these derogatory comments, are the things that lead to these very serious crimes. It’s the first step.
While writing this piece, I had to stop myself from typing phrases like ‘it was just-‘, and ‘no big deal’, because what happened to me wasn’t particularly newsworthy or out of the ordinary. It’s probably not even the most offensive thing someone’s said to me this week.
But that’s what’s wrong with it in the first place, isn’t it? Apparently this man’s four companions didn’t have a problem with it, since they didn’t say anything or react in any way. Were they cringing inside? Were they wishing they had just that little bit more courage to be able to say to their friend, “dude, that’s not cool, you shouldn’t be saying things like that,”?
I’m sure there are many people who would say that I’m overreacting, that I’m making something out of nothing, that I’m the one causing the problems. And you know what? I’m okay with it if I am.
Hell, be upset. Be horrified. I know that he’s just an asshole who’s ‘not worth getting upset about’, but you know what? Assholes don’t stop being assholes until something makes them. People will say that I should worry about the big problems before we worry about the little ones but maybe it’s these little things that slip through our fingers that start to add up, piece by piece, that make these big problems. I think we should start at the beginning: zero tolerance for bullshit. Force people to think before they speak. And to have some respect, dammit.
I am angry because today a man said inappropriate things to me and it was no big deal. This is my invitation to you to be angry, too.
Last time I wrote a blog for the Project, I wrote about body image and dealing with people around you who may tell you that you shouldn’t look the way you look. I tried to make the point that you should do what you want to do and feel good no matter what people say. That’s want to talk about today, too.
So, I’m an introvert. And for a long time, I’ve felt really insecure about this. I’ve never been the person who’s had a big group of friends or who would go out several nights a week. When I was younger I used to be pretty quiet and I would have to get used to a new situation before being comfortable enough to speak. I’ve mostly grown out of it since then. It’s easier to talk to strangers for me now but I still consider myself to be extremely introverted.
When I was a teenager, everything around me was telling me to do things. Go out more, meet people, drink, experience things. And because I’m a teenager and I’m easily influenced, I felt obligated to do these things even though I didn’t feel like it. For a long time I felt extremely guilty for having to answer ‘nothing, just hung out at home’ to the question ‘so, what did you do this weekend?’
And it wasn’t even just socially that it had influence on my life. When I was in college, I had to do three internships/work placements. On several occasions I was told in my assessment that I was too quiet, I didn’t show enough of myself, I didn’t show enough initiative. And naturally these things made me feel really bad.
It wasn’t till later, when I was about 21, when I came across a book called ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain in Waterstones, that I started to understand why I didn’t want the things ‘normal teenagers/students’ want. What caught my attention was the sub-title ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. I had identified myself as an introvert before but I didn’t really start accepting that until I read this book.
Cain goes to explain that the world has an extrovert ideal. We are told that we need to be extroverted to be successful. Introverted qualities such as sensitivity and seriousness are often considered to be negative or undesirable. Introverts are being shamed for being introverted, basically.
When I started reading Quiet, a new world opened for me. I started to understand and see the extroverted ideal that Cain was talking about in her book and I really took to heart the extensive research that she’s done on the difference between introverts and extroverts and the positive qualities in being an introvert. And, for the first time in my life I started to say to myself: you know what? I’m staying in and that’s okay.
We’re often told that ‘nothing will ever happen if you don’t go out there’ or that ‘being bored is for boring people’ but I think that some of us don’t feel the need to be adventurous all the time. I’m 23 now and in my last year of university. This would be the time to get wasted and go out every night and be a ‘typical student’ but I don’t feel the need to. I’d rather stay in and watch episodes of Hannibal while updating my blog than go out and go to a busy nightclub which will cost me loads of money.
I guess the point I’m trying to make, which I also tried to make in my last blog, is that you should do what you want to do and not let society convince you that it’s not good enough. If you want to go out, that’s absolutely fine. Go have fun. If you want to stay in, sit in your PJs on friday and saturday night and read a book, that’s absolutely fine, too.
I recommend Quiet for everyone who’s an introvert and might not be completely comfortable with it yet. This book will let you see yourself in a whole different light.
Be proud of who you are.
Some quotes from Quiet
“We live in a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. (..) Introversion is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.” (p. 4)
“Those considered charismatic by their top executives had bigger salaries but not better corporate performance.” (p. 53)
“Since when is solitude one of the Seven Deadly Sins?” (p.66)
“We’re all stories, in the end.”
The Doctor says this to a sleeping young Amelia Pond in the Doctor Who episode, The Big Bang. He is on the wrong side of a crack in time that’s rapidly closing and his story is about to end. He’s sharing it with one last person in the hope that he would be remembered.
I don’t know whether Steven Moffat intended it this way when he wrote it, but this line gives us a way to look at our lives – as stories. Continue reading