Make-Up With Yourself

I have a lot of flaws.

I cover them up; I bleach them; I wax them; I pluck them; I pop them; I curl them; I paint them; I deny them. I do in many ways conform.

I don’t wear a lot of make-up, something in¬†me is probably trying to¬†quietly rebel,¬†but I do still¬†feel¬†naked without it.

I feel very exposed and open to judgement when¬†I don’t cover up those risqu√©¬†bags under my eyes¬†or those eye-popping spots on my face.

It is a feeling that’s¬†similar¬†the¬†worry¬†that you’re top¬†is too low-cut/ not low-cut enough¬†or your skirt too short/ not short enough. Which is strange¬†given they are coming¬†from opposite ends of the spectrum.

I guess what these feelings¬†have in common is that they are both concerned with perfection. It’s the same¬†embarrassment that comes with not meeting a specific¬†standard.

And, my natural disposition for¬†introversion probably doesn’t help me out here, either.

I don’t know if it’s the amount of time that¬†I spend in my own head, but oftentimes my body just feels like this ill-fitting morph suit. I’m¬†entirely within but¬†not fully with myself, if that makes sense.

It’s like I’m curled up¬†inside, afraid to reach out and push my arms and legs¬†into the sleeves¬†of my own¬†skin.¬†I¬†feel like I’m a¬†waddling, misshapen bean bag, socially awkward, just trying to stand normally, sit normally, smile normally, be normally.

However, I actually credit this discomfort for guiding me as a person.

It’s strange, but from a very young age I’ve always known this to be true:¬†my body and¬†what I do with it, what’s done to it, how it changes and¬†how it will never¬†change can never touch who I am as a person.

I try very hard to¬†stop feelings of physical disappointment from¬†transpiring into¬†true self-loathing. I think that’s when you’re truly¬†lost to the world.

That’s not to say I’ve never failed. I’m obviously human.¬†But, I have risen from the ashes of self-destruction more than once.

A mild example: when I was a little girl, I had a bout of what I now know was trichotillomania.

I was gifted with¬†a highly over-active imagination but,¬†just to¬†keep my ego in-check,¬†I was equally¬†cursed¬†with a¬†lot of irrationally¬†driven¬†anxiety as a child ‚Äď and, admittedly as¬†an adult. This resulted in me physically pulling my hair out and, in my case, this was from around my eyes and from my¬†eyebrows¬†to the point they were entirely¬†bald.

I remember crying before a party at school¬†because I couldn’t wear mascara like all the other girls were starting to.

I now have very short, very straight and very frail eyelashes which still grow in a bit patchy. It’s really not a huge deal, but¬†I do¬†feel very self-conscious if I haven’t curled them. Less feminine. More childlike.

That was a very exposing experience, particularly as I was so young РI think I was around eight years old.

Something from within me was¬†being impulsively expressed to the world.¬†It was¬†the truest¬†form of self-expression; it was¬†something I couldn’t entirely control nor predict.

However, I’m certain that¬†this strong link between my internal world and the external one helped me better understand what reality is. It’s a construct.

I was creating something physical out of a feeling. But who I was didn’t exist in the many¬†missing eyelashes, I was in¬†every pluck with which the hairs were pulled.

This was a compulsive behaviour, and compulsions are things that have to feel ‘just right’, perfect even, in order for them to cease.

The irony was that I was pulling my eyelashes out with some bizarre, indescribable, need to feel like I was doing it just right. For some reason my brain was finding perfection in self-destruction.

This link somehow taught me how to disconnect the physical realm from the internal one. I figured out that the world is just this web that catches pretty ideas like butterflies and bees, flower petals and grass, rain drops and sunlight, but it also tangles itself in flies, rubbish and dirt.

It’s like a strip of Velcro and we all¬†just stick our thoughts to it, puzzle them together, create opposing pictures and gather in cults of preconceived ideas. Reality and the world we live in comes from within.

I started scavenging for my pieces in the web and brought them back fairly broken and bruised from the net that had ensnared them. It was then I realised that within me exists my very own tiny reality, which I can create away from the mess that lies outside.

That’s not to say I don’t still¬†share my ideas or listen to others, of course,¬†I just do so very selectively now. There are a lot of bad ideas out there, a lot of cruel beliefs,¬†a lot of nasty minds,¬†and I’m not interested in letting any of them into my little¬†universe.

I’m happy that¬†I know of this special patch of soil within the depths of my¬†gooey,¬†mine-field of a¬†brain¬†where I can grow anything without sunlight or water, without¬†physical reality.

I think knowing of that power enlightened me to how we are all far bigger than our humble bodies let on.

The depth of a person means more to me than anything I can physically see. And, I’ve never met a single person who¬†I’d say¬†felt like a puddle.

People can be shallow in the way they look at others and the world, but people themselves, as selfish as they may be, are a bundle of wires, tangled in a unique way, barely keeping all strange systems go.

We can all¬†find someone to look at in envy. We’re all convinced no one has it worse than us.¬†However, when we start talking that’s¬†when¬†we realise that¬†not only are we equally broken, but that we¬†are also built¬†to fix¬†one another.

My dysfunction is your solution; what I’ve learnt from my pain might save you the trouble and vice versa.

However, I do think it’d be wise to drop all these old ideologies and unjustified prejudices.

We’re all held to these¬†strange, uncomfortable standards, which¬†no one has ever actually explained to us. We just go with it, because anything different will always be bashed back into¬†a stereotype, boxed, labelled and shelved, and the adjectives marked¬†on the tag are never as kind as they are to the norm.

I do have to push the female agenda here, because these days not even an inch of the female anatomy is free from scrutiny; the vagina is the holey grail of shame.

No one actually has a justifiable¬†explanation for why women should shave everywhere but their heads,¬†hide their periods and their sanitary products,¬†be sexually available but only¬†to a strict number of partners, and¬†pretend like female masturbation either isn’t a thing at all or only ever exists in porn to please a man’s eyes.

Also, I find the¬†way¬†the appearance of female genitalia is joked about to be¬†incredibly immature.¬†Seriously, you’d think we shit out of our vaginas the way some men (and women)¬†describe a regular, healthy female reproductive organ.

But, in all seriousness, this is a sickness and it’s contagious. Not liking the way we look can lead to not liking the way others look, and¬†such foreshadows¬†becoming cruel and nasty towards others just as we are cruel and nasty¬†towards ourselves.

Bottling up our feelings in bodies that we spend each day actively rejecting creates a horrifying juxtaposition.

We refuse to admit how broken we are, and we’ll just keep cutting and¬†re-stitching our own self-inflicted wounds¬†until they become infected¬†and lethal. The pain¬†from within, just like¬†those thoughts we build the world around,¬†creates its own reality and becomes too¬†physical¬†to bear.

How can you help yourself if you don’t like yourself?¬†Rare is a sympathetic hug from the enemy.

Not only should we be kind enough to offer an ear to those who are suffering, we must also be brave enough to accept one in return. Not only does telling your story out loud help you, it may also save someone else.

And, that’s quite simply why I wrote this post.

Mind, body and soul¬†positivity knows no gender, race, religion,¬†sexuality, label. Let’s allow our tears to water a new world¬†rooted in love and kindness,¬†acceptance and¬†empathy, and maybe a little¬†bit of¬†peace and quiet.

 

 

Remember That Time I Dropped Out of Uni

It’s incredibly frightening, suddenly realising you’re on¬†the wrong path. Worse still, is walking with the sun in your eyes, blinded by millennial promises¬†‚Äď graduate jobs, career ladders, money, money and more money. Happiness.

Luckily, I wore shades throughout my university degree. And, quite clearly, I saw beyond even their rose tint. I was ambling up a mere dirt-track, muddied by years of hopeful feet. Feet weighing wellingtons of apathy. Tripping over sharp rocks on an, apparently, stable route. Climbing my very own mountain of debt.

When I reached the peak, where the sun was the brightest, and hopes fluttered high, I couldn’t ignore the glaring truth any longer. And, in the heat of the moment, with tear-soaked toes, I caught cold feet.

I was disturbed to discover that my degree in Biomedical Science was, yes, a key, but to one door only. Behind this door I found a narrowing corridor into specialisation and at the end lay my bed, quietly making itself. Progressively, the colours grew duller, time passed slower, doors without handles taunted me and I felt like Alice in Blunderland.

Half-way through my honours year at university, suddenly, I was refusing the bottles labelled ‘drink me’ and the food teasing ‘eat me’. By this point, I was fat with scientific knowledge, but, ironically, this wasn’t particularly practical.

Lab work was the job, but lab work was not my forte. Having to run five different experiments at once, for six hours apiece ‚Äď with no time to daydream¬†‚Äď often resulted in a migraine. My mind just doesn’t work the necessary way and¬†I appeared slow. Really, it was just a serious sensory overload for me up in¬†my little cloud. Oddly, step-by-step instructions are kinda impossible for me to follow under pressure.

This has always been a problem for me. ‘Careless mistakes’ has been written in every report card, exam paper and test I’ve ever received. When my mind is moving as fast as it normally does, I tend to miss the obvious details. Further panic ensues and, thus, mistakes stack up. In the labs, I often nearly passed out from the heat, I’d say¬†‚Äď it was mostly the stress.

So, when it came to fourth year, when everyone else was discussing their exciting PhD offers and superb job opportunities, I was just trying to figure out how I was going to last the year.

I don’t mean this academically. I was actually on track for a really good classification ‚Äď much to the horror of my project supervisor, who¬†just thought I was having a moment and need not be so emotional.

But, truly,¬†my anxiety levels were unbearable. I mean, when you find yourself crying every morning in the girls toilets, having panic attacks in the library, calling into work sick in floods of tears, and¬†barely eating, I think it’s time to acknowledge there’s a problem.

Feelings of weakness and guilt plagued my decisions and fear clouded my judgement. Such had me convinced me that I was just meant to push through this. I wasn’t meant to let anxiety win. I was supposed to knock down or climb, at least, these walls that I kept encountering. Little did I know, this was incredibly stupid, counter-intuitive and ultimately more harmful.

It was one day, when writing a simple essay for exam practice, that I finally hit an immovable wall. I’ve then since tried to explain to people what this wall felt like: a solid barrier of nothing. I couldn’t go beyond it because there existed nothing yonder. Writing this essay was like trying to out-step the boundaries of a video-game and hitting a cold sheet of zeros. I suddenly couldn’t envision it ever seeing completion. Nowhere in the platform had the creators coded¬†such a¬†timeline into my gameplay. Time ceased to trudge¬†down that dirt-track and, with it, so did I.

University had, basically, unearthed an anxiety disorder in me. So, it was nice to land softly on this calming fullstop in the narrative.

This¬†was when¬†I grabbed my sparkly, blue journal for the first time in nearly four years. I had to try and understand all these premature thoughts that I’d smothered in their cots. It was time to listen to myself again. I just had to¬†ignore¬†that buzz of an agenda and the palpitating¬†deadlines.

It was then I wrote this: ‘I just need to see how I do in the last few weeks and If I still feel like leaving, I may have to. But, regardless, I need to not take it all so seriously. I don’t care about this degree. I don’t care what grade I get. I don’t care …but, perhaps, that’s reason enough to leave.’

Following this, I marked the¬†page, put my journal back on it’s shelf and went to tell my parents that I was definitely dropping-out of¬†university. In the space of four days, my friends had sequentially received ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I don’t want to do this’, ‘I’m thinking of leaving and not doing this’, ‘I’m leaving, fuck this’ texts. Texts that¬†were so¬†long they¬†had to be opened in word documents, I might add.

It’s funny that not being able to write is what triggered a need to write, again. This desire was evident in those texts alone, I think. Thoughts, turbulent in my subconscious,¬†only made sense when I wrote them down. It was clearer than ever, in this moment, that this writing thing was more than just hobby to me.

In fact, the long-distance relationship I’d been having with writing was probably¬†what made me so ill. I’ve always leaned on writing as a crutch, ever since I was a kid. My mind is a bit of a colourful whirlwind, which I find hard to express in any regular way and on a day to day basis. Coupled with¬†art, writing acts as the sieve that sorts, separates and makes sense of my world.¬†I can only find my voice outside the box,¬†strumming on¬†more¬†abstract chords.

I refrain from calling myself a writer and I’ll probably forever shy away from the title. I’m too much of a perfectionist to ever consider¬†myself to be of¬†that level of polished professionalism. However, I have started studying Journalism this month, so I am heading towards more serious writing opportunities. But, for now, I’ll take student. Student feels like a better fitting shoe for my fragile, pinkie-toe-sized ego.

It was a huge leap of faith, for me, to graduate with my bachelors, leave the Biomedical Science life-plan behind and, instead, pursue a writing career. I just saw no sense in completely discarding not only my dreams but my skill-set.¬†Writing¬†feels more natural to me than breathing. And, I knew if I could work that hard on something I hated, imagine what I could achieve¬†if I felt more inspired by my goals. I knew in my gut, I’ve always known, that I need to write to survive.¬†So, I thought, why not make a true living out of it.

To many, that may read like a genuine question, answerable by¬†one¬†pessimistic¬†listicle. But it’s my sentence and it’s my life, both of which I get to decide the meaning of, and I’ve never written anything more rhetoric. I too, answer only to myself.

What is the Meaning of Life?

This is a fairly broad question, I know.

On the surface, we all probably believe that the meaning of life is to be happy. However, it’s when we begin to deconstruct our individual ideas of happiness that we realise no two meanings will ever be identical. I may imagine success and fulfilment of dreams, where another sees simplicity and contentment. I may view life as one big uncontrollable motion, from which I’m never settling down, always moving, always experiencing different forces and exploring new directions. Whereas, someone else may prefer the inertia of a straightforward life, which has been previously tunnelled and is supported by social constructs.

However, regardless of how free-spirited we may think we are, often, our ideas of happiness are just a concoction of commercialism, upbringing and what our natural instinct to survive suggests. So, how can we be sure that the future we’re currently working towards will ever bring us the happiness it promises?

In short, we can’t.

There’s no way to know for sure whether you are on the right path. And, when you do happen upon it, you probably won’t even realise until years down the line that you had been on your way. Sometimes the right path looks entirely wrong to the outsider, whilst something in you just knows this is yours and it’s perfectly imperfect. This is why I think that it’s crazy to work for a future that will, yes, allow you to survive, but will make you miserable in the end. Plan B shouldn’t come before plan A, though, it’s still good to have one in mind.

However, speaking from experience ‚Äďachieving a Biomedical Science degree when I really wanted to become an author ‚Äď I realised going after plan B first was just an intense and prolonged form of procrastination. I was merely avoiding taking responsibility for my happiness by, stupidly, pursuing something that made me miserable, yet comfortable. My subconscious was at ease for a few years just knowing that I was safe … because I was surrounded by people who were of the same age and on the exact same carbon-copy journey.

In fact, have you ever noticed that everything you’re doing is to, supposedly, avoid unhappiness and poverty in the future. We genuinely spend our entire youth trying to determine our future, set-in-stone, for the rest of our lives. Determine our future. What does that even mean to a teenager? What does that mean to anyone? I’m sure the unpredictability of the quantum world laughs at us. For, we’re still somehow surprised by unforeseen¬†flaming loops, through which we must leap, and sudden dark pits, out of which we must climb. When really, we should expect it by now; plans rarely work out. Sometimes, that safe option actually leads to the unhappiness and poverty that you were trying to avoid in the first place.

‘B’ doesn’t come before ‘A’ in the alphabet, so why should you prioritise your life-goals any differently. If you’re still young, I think it’s only sensible to, at least, give what you really desire a try before succumbing to plan B. Focussing on plan B runs the risk of settling¬†for an unfulfilled life just because you’ve spent years carving it; this, you will regret.

Planning for the future is the only way that we know to tame the chaos; however, I think we fall into a trap when we become all about the plan. In the name of security, we begin factoring in suitable jobs and factoring out perfectly justifiable ambitions ‚Äď and I think fear is the huge, out of control, digger-shovel that comes along and irrationally clears up exceptional ideas mid-construction. I always wonder why we plan for security the average way. Why do we ignore our own desires that, with the same amount of planning, effort and acceptance of the inevitable failures to come, are just as plausible?

When something has been done a million times and proven to work, we’re all likely to follow the instructions; however, I always argue that someone had to go there alone first and defy whatever the norm was of their time. Therefore, following your own heart and ideas shouldn’t still be viewed as entirely ridiculous. Ironically, of all the things we’ve seen tried, tested and proven to work, we still deny human vision, aspiration and passion their rightful mention in the acknowledgements. These traits are the sole drivers of all innovation that has ever happened. So, we shouldn’t be so quick to write off the gut feeling that accompanies a brilliant idea. Any amount of transferable excitement can be used in the making of all kinds of dream-like realities.

Hence, why¬†it irks me so much when I hear someone scoff at another for pursuing their dreams. It is dangerous for the individual, and for the world that they could potentially impact, to deny them of their right to self-expression. Killing someone’s dream with your own lack of vision or success is manslaughter. It’s cruel.

People who preach the norm seem to feel stronger as part of the collective and this strength makes them feel like their voice is powerful. Collectively, yes, any idea can quash a lone wolf’s whispered howl. But, really, they’re not saying anything new and singularly they are no better than anyone else. So, don’t feel discouraged when you encounter one of these tailor-made minds. If you can rise above the noise of the world, you’ll find space enough to orchestrate your¬†own growth. Once you start spotting the pattern of a regimented voice, you’ll quickly learn which opinions to discard as unhelpful and fearful.

If you’re someone who dreams of a simple life, filled with contentment, that is entirely your choice, also. Often, the world wants to tell you that you’re lazy or dense because you don’t really have anything you want to achieve for yourself ‘professionally’ other than to get by comfortably. Ignorant these people are because you are often the folks doing all the menial, unrewarding work that keeps the world ticking by. I, personally, commend you. However, if you view yourself as ‘stuck’ in this situation, then I’m going to assume you have bigger dreams for yourself. And, I’m going to assume that you haven’t recognised these dreams, merely, because the world told you that you can’t. For you both, this article also speaks. Both still hold unconventional desires that ‘well-educated’ people just don’t seem to understand, sometimes.

This approach to life ‚Ästplaying it safe to avoid judgement, labels or failing at that dream you could never have achieved anyway, yeesh get over it¬†‚Ästis presumed rational and responsible. When, really, it’s almost entirely illogical.

I’m going to take a moment to delve into the education system¬†because, like death, it is something that we all have in common. The system currently in place works for those with dreams of becoming scientists and engineers and lawyers and joining other bodies of¬†knowledge. All of which I respect, highly regard and find much interest in. But, if you have dreams of doing anything unconventional, for example, something artistic … you’re kind of shunned by society and left to rot, in all honesty. Even with a degree in such fields.

I think this is worthy of merit: the creative types have to do everything for themselves. I really do think the spirit and determination of artists are highly undervalued qualities in this world. It takes a lot to turn your back on ‘safety’ for the sake of needing to tell the world something that you feel is important. It’s actually quite selfless ‚Äď when done right. Artistic forms can enlighten all kinds of people. They can speak to the general public on a more innately human level than, say, a complex science journal or a legal document. Some artists admittedly have a horrible ego and think they’re messengers of God but, generally, what those people produce isn’t that revolutionary, anyway. So, for the sake of argument, I’m going to factor them out of this equation.

The entire purpose of art is to embody many branches of knowledge and convey the reality of this world in complex, thought-provoking ways. Good art works actually come from incredibly knowledgeable people. And, with that, good art truly teaches void of lecturing. It both tells and questions the participant about something, thus, encouraging unique, personalised conclusions. Which, I believe, is the entire point of life.

To be perfectly honest, following a degree path route into a job is a far safer and sure option than accepting a shitty job for a few years, whilst trying to get people to care about that picture you drew or that story you wrote. I applaud the creatives of the world. You are probably the closest to achieving your own idea of happiness. Simply because you are so certain of what that is, that you have willingly jumped from the assembly¬†line and are now a rogue screw rolling about on the floor ‚Äď productively, I hope. It’s a mindset that will serve you well.

I encourage everyone, artsy or not, to have this vision of the world. Please realise that it’s all just a game. All anyone is after is money so they can do and buy the things that they want. So, leave people alone who are doing that in their own way. It’s an imperfect game, filled with loopholes that allow you to manipulate the rules. In fact, some rules are written in pencil, so you can just rub them out and replace them with your own. This will help you detach from the seriousness of it all and appreciate that there exist hidden levels, which the designers forgot to edit out, where you can still play.

Whatever, it is that you long for in life, I honestly believe there is a reason for that longing’s existence. I believe passion is the closest thing we have to foresight; to me, it truly is the sixth sense. I think¬†within all of us there is a knowing and that the happiest among us listen to their guts. If you want something in this vast universe, there’s no reason that little, insignificant you can’t have it. If you can spend years of your life putting effort into something you hate and excel, just think, you could be reaching new heights in the fields that truly excite you. Determination and hard work are transferable skills and equipped with them I believe you can do anything.

At the end of the day, we’re all going to die. This shouldn’t be terrifying; this should be freeing. You literally have nothing to lose. I actually think it’s healthy to remember the inevitability of death, every so often. It’s the one thing that will definitely happen, yet we only ever waste time worrying about¬†trivial, improbable consequences of living the lives we actually want. Death is really your biggest cheerleader; it wants you to recognise the ‘deadline’ that IT has set you. Once you realise this, you’ll find yourself more fearlessly working towards that in your own way. And, if you ever need to feel even freer, just look up at the stars. This will remind you that you’re living on a rock and if a rock can make all of this happen (gestures all around self), then you have the permission and the potential to become something more than you already are, too.

Live in a way that makes Life itself go,”YES,” whilst pointing at you like, this guy!

Good luck and create your own meaning.