Everything you thought?

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I’m everything that you thought, ’cause I’m everything that you’re not.

 

Where did it come from? What does it mean?

The line is from the song “Stubborn Love” by Seaway, a Canadian band I’ve been listening to since discovering their music sometime during my first year of university, around four years ago. As for what it means, I obviously cannot speak on behalf of the band, but the beauty of music is that it invites everyone to interpret it in their own way. This is what it means to me.

First, a little context: I began this blog shortly after the end of a six year relationship, following which this song (already a favourite from their best album – in my opinion, anyway – Colour Blind) took on a new meaning. I have always liked how the song is energetic despite tackling complex emotional content, but it is how the lyrics capture the topsy-turvy roller coaster of emotion that I have been through following the break up that has given the song such significance during my healing process. One such example is the contrast between the chorus line “Cause tonight your hair falls around your ears / And it makes me want to stay”, later inverted upon its final repetition; “But tonight your hair falls around your ears / And it makes me want to leave“.

But it’s the line that I took inspiration for the blog’s name and tagline from that touched me most deeply; my ex and I always seemed to be opposites in most ways, and yet so compatible. It could have been easy to fall into a pattern of thinking in which I saw myself as no longer whole, or broken, but this line always reminds me to never forget the things I have to be proud of and love about myself – not only my strengths, but also the positive things that I brought to the relationship – instead of only focusing on what I’ve lost.

And so, that simple line became my personal mantra at my lowest moments; for I lost someone special and unique, but so did she.

X.

How to fight loneliness and win.

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Thanks to the development of new technologies the world is continually getting smaller.  Travel and communications have become easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before. Social media allows us to keep in touch with people that in days gone by would have had nothing more than a bit part in our lives, and offers the opportunity to get to know people we’ve never actually met.

So why do we still see so many articles about the “loneliness epidemic”? Maybe society is forgetting how to really connect, and the importance of genuine human contact? Or maybe it’s because people only show their best on social media, and we’re forgetting the uniting (and healing) power of sharing our insecurities, pains, and secrets in private with another person? Maybe it’s because we are more aware than ever of what we weren’t invited to or included in by our “friends”, or because we can see that person our crush (or ex, etc.) is spending a lot of time with, at the click of a button…

The truth is the reasons why don’t really matter. What really matters is what you do about it: loneliness may seem utterly debilitating, but it can also be defeated. It may affect people differently – from mild to devastating, short lived to seemingly endless – but it will affect everyone and anyone indiscriminately, if it is given the chance. In fact, everyone I have ever spoken to about it has felt the same at one time or another.

Here are the five things that I have found to be most powerful against loneliness, and help to keep it at bay when it comes for me:

1) Exercise. The endorphins will make you feel better, as will the satisfaction of swimming a length that little bit faster, or lifting that little bit more, or even being a little less out of breath when you walk up the stairs. You’ll also start to look better too, which will only help your confidence grow and make you feel happier in your own skin. It’s also hard to find time to feel lonely when you’re trying not to notice that your lungs are burning and your muscles aching. Outdoor exercise can get you out of the confines of your lonely room, and simple things like an amicable nod from a passing stranger may have a subconscious effect on how you feel for the rest of the day. Joining a club, participating in team exercises, or even simply working out at the gym can also lead to new friendships!

2) Set goals and document it. What the goal is really doesn’t matter, whether it be getting a new job, passing an upcoming exam, eating a cleaner diet, or even just sleeping more (which is also proven to help boost one’s mood, and will help get you through the next day’s exercise!), set some goals and fill your free time working towards them. Not only does filling empty time reduce how much time you have to wallow in your loneliness, but by documenting your progress you can look back and see the progress you have made, which will not only give you the satisfaction of having improved yourself but can help keep you motivated until you have completed your goal. And once you have, give yourself a pat on the back and get busy setting yourself some more!

3) Find a creative outlet. Loneliness is a powerful emotion, and one best not left to build up inside you. Creativity is a wonderfully powerful emotional outlet, and a great way to express yourself, work through problems in your head, or to simply let off some steam without needing to rely on anyone else. Paint, sing, sculpt, make, design, write, dance… Whatever works for you.

4) Find people like you. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. If you feel like you don’t belong, find where you do. Go to see bands you like in concert, or to watch your favourite sports team. Find your niche – be it a religious centre or a car meet. Don’t be afraid to do things alone, and go with an open mind. I have been to Reading Festival twice, once in a group, and once alone, and genuinely had as much, if not more, fun on the latter occasion – meeting new people and doing my own thing!

5) Disconnect. Get off social media! And if not completely (it is a phenomenal resource for keeping in touch with people after all), why not try to limit the time you spend using it? Social media feeds typically show a mixture of posts from all your contacts, so it can be easy to compare yourself with everyone else collectively rather than as individuals, compounding feelings of isolation and exclusion. What’s more, it can be hard enough to live your own life, without simultaneously trying to keep up with everyone else’s.

X.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

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“An astronaut!” eight-year-old me (pictured) would have told you…

… Or that I’d be a fire fighter, an inventor, a scientist, or a writer…

And I was at least partially right – I am a scientist, working towards inventing new cures for bacterial infections (I’ll admit this wasn’t the kind of invention I’d have dreamt of back then), and I do write all the time: research papers, songs, short stories, and now this blog too.

What I’m less sure of is whether or not I’ve “grown up” since. Yes, fourteen years have passed since this photograph was taken. Yes, I am now legally an adult. But some things haven’t changed: I still have a childish enthusiasm for trying anything new, for exploring anywhere new, and for learning; I never grew out of skateboarding, and it seems I never will; I still love Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, and would still like to be a rock star. But most importantly, I’m the same happy little kid I was back then – as full of dreams, and as full of hope for the future.

I’ve had many ups and downs between then and now, and I won’t pretend things have always been easy. I could have done without many facets of high school, and without some of the unsavoury people I’ve met along the way. I’ve been hurt, disappointed, heartbroken, and at times desperately lonely. But what hasn’t killed me has made me stronger, and wiser – I’m now quicker to cut bad fruit from the tree, and quicker to let myself heal. I won’t repress my emotions, but also won’t let myself dwell on the past or things I can’t change (as I once did). I have learnt you do get what you give, and so now always give my all. And my ever-present existential anguish now serves to motivate me to seize the day, to live and love to my heart’s content, rather than keeping me up at night. I also never became I fireman…

 

Back then, my early twenties seemed impossibly far off, and boringly adult – as my thirties do now (and I hope to feel the same about my forties when I get there, too). Some of my friends complain of feeling stressed, tired and achey, bored of their lives, and burnt out, yet I feel as full of life and energy as ever. Life is beautiful, the possibilities endless, and the future still yet to be written. In the wise words of Conditions, “Youth is wasted on the young/ Life is wasted on the living ones” – I hope to never lose my youthful spirit, as time takes me ever further from the days of my youth.

And I still wonder what I’ll be when I grow up…

 

X.