“Thank you for everything”

“Thank you for everything”

This is a phrase I heard a lot at the end of camp. It confuses me a little. I think looking back at camp my ‘social role’ may have resulted in me offering more advice than being there ‘for the lols’. I was a good 6-8 years older than almost every counsellor at camp after all. And I’m a listener, I like hearing people’s problems and helping them reach a solution, that’s where I get my self worth from. I’ve always been like that, in many different friend circles. But even so hearing the phrase never really did much for me. And I think I know why.

It’s all about people’s expectations. What people may have perceived as me putting in extra effort to hear their problems and talk through rough periods with them, was just me being me. But not everyone is me, so it isn’t expected. As I said I have always been that way, despite being one of the younger members of my main group of friends. I have always tried to offer support and advice on matters, and I like to think I have good intuition about what people are feeling. Maybe it’s all those years of psychology paying off! But not everyone is like that, not everyone identifies the signs that someone isn’t doing so well and goes and asks them about it. This isn’t some ‘time to talk’ post (although that is super important), I don’t really know what the point of the post is (sorry) I just know the phrase bugged me. And this blog is nothing if not a scratch pad for my thoughts that replaces social media.

Anyway, luckily for me this year I have been in positions where everyone around me is younger, and so my natural tendency to listen and advise has been more regularly received, as those young’uns are normally worried about something! Firstly in Kenya being a team leader for a group of young people was incredible and I think I really thrived off being in a leadership position (look at this sounding like a cv!), especially when it came to giving people feedback. I dreaded giving people feedback but by being honest and sincere about both strengths and weaknesses I struck a chord with many of my volunteers and they said they genuinely valued our feedback sessions, more so than ones with other leaders as they didn’t go into as much detail.

Then in the US while I had no seniority in terms of a role I was older than everyone. The old man of camp! So naturally getting to know people they would talk about their problems and what’s going on in their lives and I would support them through that. One guy in particular I had many long chats with and really valued his company. He had some relationship dilemmas going on that some people would dream of, but it was causing him a bit of angst. He was the only one who said the phrase to me that I really appreciated hearing it from, because I felt like I’d actually impacted his life through our conversations.

Even though I appreciated hearing him say the phrase I still didn’t quite get why he needed to say it. I said not to worry and that I’d have talked about stuff any time he wanted. I think people at camp said it because they hadn’t known me very long. If they had known me longer then maybe they would know I was doing nothing out of the ordinary for my character. But to them it seems like extra effort.

I guess the point of all this late night bus rambling (18 hours and counting!) is to be yourself???? Is that too shit a conclusion to draw? I don’t know. I think just be who you are and people will gravitate towards what you have or they won’t. I am a listener. I like listening to people. I don’t talk about myself often. I normally get to know people way more intimately than they get to know me, and I’m fine with that. But thanking me for something that I consider to be a part of who I am as a person seemed a little weird, a little jarring. I guess it’s the same as saying “thanks for being you” isn’t it, and I hate to admit I’ve said that to people as well…..

Maybe this blog has no point. If you think it does (the 4-5 that read it) then please say what it is in the comments! I’d love to hear it!

I know this blog does serve some purpose of keeping my mind from drifting (still not ready, more on that/her later). So this is occupying my thoughts. This and “shoe dog” the memoir from the founder of Nike. Truly fascinating!

Anyway enough from me for now! I’ve written for long enough. Like I said please let me know if my words have any meaning or significance, I’d love to hear from you all!

This post is not so much part of my recovery, but it is part of keeping my sanity.

9378

Advertisements

Casual

The more I think about it the more I think it is one of the worst words in the English language. Besides actually. Just think of a time when actually has improved a sentence. Go on. You can’t can you. You actually can’t. Oh shit.

You shouldn’t do anything casually, it just shows a lack of effort or care. At least you shouldn’t do anything that matters casually, mainly relationships.

I should preface this post by saying that for some people different types of relationship work, and some people can do casual, I also think that some people think they can do it but really can’t. There is probably about 1% (stat pulled out of my ass, probably more) of the population who can genuinely separate love and sex long term and can do friends with benefits/casual/open relationships, call it what you want.

I should probably revise this post to say that I can’t do casual. My dating/romantic history is long ish (lucky me) and varied and I have been in many different situations with many people. But the thing I’ve come to learn is that I never looked back on casual encounters fondly. No matter how attractive I found the person or how good the physical sensation was of being with that person, I can never look back on it with any fondness. Because for me the encounters that matter are the ones with meaning. The people that I was in love with, or thought there was a possibility of me being in love with, or at least thought that something was going somewhere with. I’d say that out of all my encounters, maybe 20% have stayed with me positively. And that’s not many. When I say encounters I mean people in general as well not specific acts.

The other 80% of my ‘encounters’ have either left me feeling guilty (I’ve never cheated on anyone but I’ve felt bad for doing stuff without caring for someone), dirty, or just bad about myself. I don’t want to make myself feel any of those any more. The worst experience I can remember was with someone significantly older than me who I met for a drink at my local after chatting on tinder. She was attractive, funny, interesting, sophisticated. Everything I could have wanted. After a few drinks we went back to mine and did the deed, she stayed over. The next morning I rushed her out the door under false pretences and asked my mum to wash the sheets and replace all the bedding (complete disclosure on this blog yes I live at home and yes my mum does my laundry). The whole experience had made me feel sick and dirty, I didn’t want any reminders of it including the smell of her on my bedding. At the time I wasn’t very happy with myself but didn’t probe why the experience made me feel that way. Still I remember the feeling the next day, it was horrible. I think I felt disgusted that I’d just been physical with someone who I felt nothing for and saw no future with. I knew she wasn’t anywhere near my age so a relationship was out of the question, and I just wanted to sleep with someone, or so I thought.

Now while I’m in the US I can honestly say that having any casual encounters is the least of my concerns/interests. I am talking to someone who is really keeping my attention for many reasons but it’s not because I need physical intimacy. Don’t get me wrong I love that side of a relationship/life it is incredibly important and a lot of fun, but it’s no longer the goal. Remember from the previous entry?? The goal is a mutually loving relationship, not just chucking your dick at the wall hoping it’ll stick. Change your goals to fit your values. Having said that if your goal is to fuck yourself through your area/country/world then crack on! Our goals can’t always be the same.

I don’t want to sound old, but I do think this comes with age. I have thought for a while now that I will happily put off any physical side of a relationship until I’m sure about the person, and for the last person I was with that is what I did (it didn’t work out, more on that some other time still). But I was happy that I showed restraint and stuck to my guns when I said I would only be intimate with someone I cared about. It led to a much better experience. It also led to a fuck load of heartbreak. But whatever.

Back to the point. And I suppose the point of this blog in general. I’m not telling you how to live. I would never dream of doing that. I suppose my hope would be that you read this and identify a similar mindset or pattern of behaviour that makes you at least question why you do the things you do and what you want from your life. If I impart any knowledge on you with this entry it is just to give some thought to what is damaging to you as a person. Are casual encounters damaging your self esteem? Why do you chase causal encounters? Are you scared of intimacy? What happens when you look for more in a relationship? Are you afraid of rejection and therefor only having casual encounters because there is no feeling there? These are all valid questions to ask oneself, and I wouldn’t expect you to answer them all right this second, but give it some thought. For me, I know that casual encounters were a form of validation that I was missing outside of a relationship, but you only get that validation for a couple of hours before, during, and maybe after the encounter. After that you go back to needing the validation and feeling crappy. Now I would rather struggle with low self esteem (all about what problems you want to deal with) than struggle to seek external validation from many random women. And while I struggle with my problems I search for a meaningful relationship. The search isn’t going to be short or easy, but it is worth it. It is a problem worth having.

I am not doing casual anymore. This is part of my recovery.

9378

Aligning Your Values

Back again! Wooooo!

So my second serious post is related to my first. At least for me. It’s about aligning yourself as a person to your values. In essence, acting according to what you believe in.

I read a book recently. It was called ‘the subtle art of not giving a ****’ by Mark Manson. This blog entry is essentially the focus of the book, but I’m going to try and add in bits and not just regurgitate it for you. The book definitely says many more important things alongside aligning yourself to values but this is something I really like the idea of so it is today’s entry.

One of the first things the book tries to drill home is that happiness is not a goal that we should strive for, but rather the consequence of achieving other things and solving problems in life. We cannot achieve happiness because it isn’t formulaic. You cannot say if I have X amount of money or if I have Y and Z I will be happy and I’ve done it. Life completed. Instead you can say that you will try and find a mutually loving a respectful relationship, and work on that. The result of finding that thing would be happiness. That’s a little bit of a loaded example though because I’d hope you were happy in a relationship.

I’ll use one of my values I want to work on. Which is how this is related to my social media post. I have always disliked engaging in social media and I thought it had a detrimental effect on some of my friendships. So by coming off social media I hope to have higher quality friendships and be more content socially. This is a problem I am facing but also one that I’m willing to work on. I’m willing to work on being more social without a social media account. And when I achieve increased sociability without social media I will be happy because I have solved my problem. But I was never aiming for happiness. I was aiming to solve my problem.

This is what I mean by aligning yourself to your values. I have said for many years that I dislike social media, so why am I on it? That’s inconsistent. That’s like saying you dislike tennis but going and playing every day for 3 hours mindlessly (FYI if you can mindlessly play tennis like you scroll through social media I’ll be very impressed, and a little worried). But it doesn’t make any sense does it? No! I’m not anti-social. I have my moments but generally I do enjoy other people. So coming off social media gives me a new range of challenges/problems, but ones that I see as worth trying to solve versus the old problems of being on social media (mainly self esteem/mental health stuff). So in coming off social media I have aligned myself to a core value, that I don’t like what social media does to me and that I don’t need it. And I feel better for it. Like I said the problem isn’t solved because I still have to be Sofia without social media, but it is a different problem and one that I prefer.

The second thing the book says that really stuck with me is that it’s ok to be average. Like that is completely fine. It’s a bit like when your parent says you are special and unique, and one of a kind, but then some of the more cock-sure kids will respond saying that we can’t all be one of a kind. Well they are right. We can’t all be amazing and leaders and Barack Obama (would be nice thought wouldn’t it). So when aligning yourself to your values, you have to really think about what is attainable. And by attainable I mean what are you willing to work at.

Say you want to be a professional football player. Are you prepared to go through the problems that they face. All the training, the diets, the strict lifestyle, life on the road if you make it, limited family time. Are you prepared to train and practice for hours a day and go to cold wet shitty pitches up and down the country before you step out at Wembley after 10 years of practicing? I know I’m not! And I love playing football. But fuck that. I’ve never wanted to be a footballer anyway luckily. In the past I wanted my PhD, I wanted the title of dr (a rather obvious hangover from my large ego, now thinking about it). But I wanted that for the wrong reasons, I wanted the stature of the title. Now I want to finish my PhD because I’m so far into it and I don’t like the idea of quitting, but if I don’t get it and the ‘coveted’ title of dr, then so be it. I’m not doing it for that anymore, I’m doing it for me. That’s another value that Im trying to align myself to. My work. I want to make a difference. And it is something I have thought for almost a year now and I’m sort of making it happen. I took a break from my PhD this year to make a difference. I lived in Kenya for 3 months as a team leader doing community work on disability inclusion, I learned sign language, and I lead a lot of young people to push themselves to make a difference to a less developed country. As I’m writing this I’m working in a summer camp for kids with special needs in the US. I’m doing this because I believe these kids deserve to have an amazing summer like any typical kid. So here I am making a difference. Sadly these are only temporary experiences, but I hope to return to Kenya for more voluntary work and also look at similar but long term projects. Aside from this year I have always enjoyed teaching and I never really thought about why. But the reason is because teaching makes a difference. Even if it is one student, that is still making a difference to someone. At camp I ran a sign language lesson and one camper has really taken to it and will talk to me in sign every time I see her, and that’s the difference I wanted.

Back to the point of the book, changing problems and aligning yourself. So my problem now is that I want a job that makes a difference. The reality is that those jobs are not likely to pay well. So money has to be less of a priority. That is fine with me. Much as everyone says they want to grow up wealthy, I think I will genuinely settle for comfortable. Able to provide for whatever family I have. That’s my problem, not earning a million a year, but making sure I can provide and making a difference. So after my PhD that is what my next problem is, finding said job!

Back to the point of two paragraphs ago. It’s ok to be average. Unless you really are willing to have the problem of ‘being the best’ at anything which means thousands of hours of practice (no I don’t mean masterbating….sure we are all pros though right!) then just be average. Be average at football. Be an average earner. Be comfortable. Work on being more self aware. Or learning the guitar (but not taking it too far and being Jimi Hendrix). Just be average. Run your own race. And if you really feel like you could be the best at something then go for it. I’m not discouraging that. But realistically you aren’t going to be amazing at everything, and that’s ok. But I am amazing at a lot of things…..blogging included…..my command of the English language and grammar, not so much……

Anyway, those were two nice lessons weren’t they! Don’t be happy and don’t try and be good at anything. And align your values. Align the **** out of them. Think long and hard (now now) about what you want from life, what is truly important, and what will result in your happiness. Don’t aim for happiness. Happiness is bullshit. It’ll come naturally. You do you.

Aligning my values is part of my recovery.

9378

Social Media

I don’t have social media. I don’t like social media. I’ve spent about 6 years of my life thinking that it is an awful tool that neither conveys social benefits nor useful media. For those reasons I decided to get rid of social media a few weeks ago. Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, gone.

I can honestly say I don’t miss any of them. Not being on Twitter is slightly inconvenient in terms of keeping up with some news, mainly around music, but Facebook and snapchat just peddle negative influences into my life and I don’t need them.

It was my birthday yesterday. I got 3 messages (from people I’m unrelated to). Two were from my best friends, and the third was from a good friend during my masters. How did this make me feel? Aside from wanting a message from someone who didn’t send one (more on them some other time) I didn’t feel any different to when I received 50 happy birthday messages. Because here is the scoop, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that 400 people on my Facebook saw it was my birthday and took 30 seconds to type it out of politeness. I don’t need that. It doesn’t give me any validation of being popular or well liked, just that a lot of people have some time on their hands to be polite. I always thought that if I really like something, I will have a t shirt with it on. So tv shows, bands, games, whatever, if I love them I’ll wear it. I think the same about birthdays, if I love the person I’ll remember their birthday. I think I remember about 8 outside my family. That’s what matters to me. I had a nice birthday working at a summer camp, everyone here was lovely. So my birthday has been and gone without social media, no change. No loss.

I said I’ve spent 6 years thinking social media was bad, and this isn’t my first time off it. At the end of my first relationship I ended up giving my friend my Facebook password to stop me from ‘Facebook stalking’ my ex. It’s torture to have a whole page of information and photos to look up. I came back to it eventually, with some self control, but it was still hard. I will not be coming back this time, and not because of a woman. Because I think it is damaging to my own mental health. Because of the fallacy of ‘positive posting’ and the perfect lives that exist on there. Because life is not reflected accurately online. How can it be that mental health problems are increasing but everyone is on social media having the time of their lives, apart from the one week for mental health awareness that is….. So it’s taken me 6 years to finally jump, but I’m glad I have.

I did my undergrad dissertation on social media. It examined the relationship (correlation really but yeah) between social media use and self reported depression/anxiety/stress. Surprise surprise they were correlated positively! The more people used social media the more they perceived themselves to have mental health issues. It wasn’t the greatest research project in the world I will admit, but it definitely piqued my interest in the topic and gave me a little insight. I never got round to doing more research on the topic but from anecdotal evidence and my own experience, I think social media use does impact on depression and anxiety if only through comparison to other people. We see other people doing amazing things and looking fantastic with their fake photos and we are depressed or anxious that we don’t match up. Body image is the perfect example of this. Social media feeds are full of flawless people now, filtered up to the eyeballs, airbrushed, the whole nine yards. It sets unrealistic expectations that no one can match. And it makes us ill.

The thing is all this stuff has evolved. We no longer get 13 year olds being stupid saying they are down Asda buying some crisps or they are down the park playing football. We get 13 year olds posting touched up selfies looking 10 years older. We get teens posting about shopping sprees that make their peers feel inadequate. And in my experience we get a bunch of millennials posting 600 photos from Bali and Thailand. It’s difficult to navigate. I have had the fortune of knowing some amazing people, who have done some amazing things. I would never begrudge anyone their incredible experiences. The problem comes in comparing ourselves to these people and their experiences. We think we need to go to Bali or rent a super yacht or meet Kanye. But we don’t really need these things. We just need to live our best life. That’s all that matters. Focus on your own game. I’ve been incredibly jealous about some of the things my social media ‘friends’ have done in the past, but looking at my own life objectively I’ve done a lot too. And I’m happy with that. I’ve been all over Europe, I’ve volunteered in Africa twice, I lived in Kenya for 3 months! I’m currently living in the US for another 3 months. I’ve been working hard on a PhD. I’ve had years of amazing public engagement work that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve done a lot.

I know all that sounds like bragging. But I promise it isn’t. I think sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we are doing well and we are doing plenty. Someone told me once that they look through their Instagram because it reminds them that they did something that day. That person was smart. More on them later. Instagram is just an example of how that can be done, you could use Facebook to remind you what you have done, or just keep a photo album, or a journal (something I think I’ll try and keep up till at least the end of the year). Some people use social media to remind themselves what they’ve done. You do you. Whatever works. I think it is way healthier though to give ourselves a break sometimes and not go on a comparison binge of X, Y, and Z that will only make us feel like shit and that we are not achieving the milestones we never really had in the first place, like visiting Bali – don’t even know where the place is.

This time when I left social media I wrote a long post about my thoughts and reasons behind it. I do have it saved and will post it on here one day because I liked what I wrote. The main point though was that I never felt social on social media. It felt like a chore. Like an anchor tied around me. I had to engage in it, with all the group chats and being tagged in memes. In the same post I said I will be more social without social media. That hasn’t happened yet for a few reasons, mainly my mental state, but a few people did appear from the past and sent me some messages saying they would like to stay in touch and it was really nice. Is it more effort having to text someone every few weeks to check in? Absolutely! Is it worth it? Absolutely! Because those are the people that mattered. I would say about 10% of my Facebook ‘friends’ I could have an actual conversation with, so what is the point in the other 90%? That’s essentially what I’ve gotten rid of as well. The filler. I want to focus in on higher quality relationships and better communication, not just have a thousand e-acquaintances who occasionally like a status where I brag about my life (because why else do we post). I don’t miss the 90% and the likes. I’m a private person, I’ve always said and thought that. It’s time I start acting in accordance with my beliefs.

Think that’s enough of my ramblings on social media for now. Apologies for the lack of structure/substance. I’m very tired. I will get to planning out posts a bit more eventually I just wanted to get the first one out while I was a little motivated. I will also try and keep the posting semi-regular, when camp allows.

I should also say as a final point, once again, you do you. If you feel like you get something out of social media, or it is the only way to contact distant people then more power to you. All I would ask (of anyone) is to have a little self awareness and think about what you get from social media. What does it give you day to day. What does it make you feel. How does it make you feel. I hope the answer is positive but I get the feeling for some of you it won’t be.

Part of my recovery is getting rid of social media. I am better without it.

9378

First post

Obligatory first post! Cliché alert! No idea what form this blog is going to take, it will just be another avenue to get out some of my musings. If people take to them then great. If not then so be it. I have a few ideas for topics but will for the most part just write about whatever I’m feeling/whatever is relevant in my life at the time. Get prepared for sadness and heartbreak a lot. Let’s hope that improves.

I’ve called the blog recovery because that’s what this is for me. I’m not particularly well mentally at the moment. And I’m hoping this will be an emotionally valid outlet for some of my opinions.

Bye for now, until I do my first proper post in about half an hour.

9378