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 risqué 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 – 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 – I 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.



‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ – A bedtime story for adults

I rarely make it past the event horizon of a Waterstones bookshop – by the hand, I’m waltzed in. That might just be me getting high on the coffee fumes, though.

Often, I visit unintentionally and without any clear idea in mind. When this happens, I think the book chooses the wizard (sorry, my geek is showing). How I’m feeling directly affects the style of story that I pick. And, I feel a lot and very sporadically, so I have a strange, mixed collection.

Readers, notoriously romantic, are far more promiscuous in this way.

Upon my most recent redirection over the threshold – tripped up by the Costa sign – I dug out £50 worth of book vouchers. YAAAASS! I’d been saving these for when the landing felt just right. This time, I hadn’t bumped into an old lady on my mad dash in (that happened), so I considered today the day.

I was in the zone and ready to spend. I had the ethereal Grimes chiming between my ears, two hours before work, a few books in mind and one or two chance cards still to play. So, I followed my emotional ear through the bookshelves and found something that just happened to strike a chord.

‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ by Sun-mi Hwang was an immediate shout. It looked very small, very plain, very quaint and not very important. It’s about life from the perspective of a dog. I saw it and thought ‘same’.

I wasn’t in the mood for reading anyone’s magnum opus, or the next fictional bible, and I was trying to remove myself from sequels for the time-being. A standalone, 167 pages was a decent sized slice of cake for now. Quality over quantity was my reasoning; sometimes big reads can be exhausting and ultimately disappointing.

Massive, complex and elaborate plots were also not on my agenda (for once). I needed something simple and void of ego. I didn’t want to be in analysis mode nor did I really want to be impressed. Pleasantly surprised was more of what I had in mind. I wanted to be eased into a story, to float through its plot points and to be returned, only mildly changed, to the sea. It just had to be pure and of good intention, heart-warming at most.

‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ was that tiny drop in the ocean for me, and I mean that as a compliment. Nothing about it was overwhelming or particularly revolutionary, but it definitely didn’t feel like a waste. Sun-mi Hwang never went on longer than she had to nor did she cut anything too short. Her story held its own and enchanted me with neutral colours. It was incredibly simplistic and morally straight. A sophisticated children’s book is how I’d put it.

Our main protagonist is Scraggly. She’s a mongrel pup, kind of the ugly duckling of the pack, and we follow her as she grows, learning all about this terrible world. Life feels fairly dull and dreary through little Scraggly’s eyes. However, more notably, it seems hopeful. Literally, nothing goes right for the pup or her owners, but something optimistic is continuously bursting from Scraggly’s actions.

It is a classic tale of dog meets man and the shared burden such a bond brings. Problems arise for both Grandpa Screecher and Scraggly, which are a direct effect of their relationship. Amidst the conflict, though, the story does cleverly highlight how similar Scraggly, as a dog, and to weary Grandpa Screecher, himself. The menacing old cat next-door said it best:

‘You dogs look down at the ground all day and can’t do anything about it. You can’t see the bigger picture.’

As dog is man’s best friend and dogs are often said to be a reflection of their owners, I considered this to be a statement about people too. There were never many direct insinuations about human character, only moments like this where you were expected to make the connection by yourself.

In fact, we only understand Grandpa through what Scraggly is around to hear and see. She is always aware when something is wrong, but she is never quite sure what. A few lines of dialogue between Scraggly and Screecher reveal how difficult Screecher’s life is: he has two estranged children that he’s desperate to reconnect with and, generally, wishes to rebuild family relations for the love of his grandson. This is the kind of life that he ironically goes on to impose upon Scraggly by separating her from her pups, over and over again. We, also, gauge that he and Grandma are fairly poor, which results in such bad decisions that deeply scar Scraggly.

It’s funny, the secrets that the humans confide in Scraggly are our only source of character building. In order to paint a picture of who everyone is and the kind of life they live, what Scraggly hears is key. I loved this and thought it was quite a unique approach. Although we only ever get snippets of what is really going on because Scraggly is just a dog, everything she gets to hear is entirely truthful and vivid. It’s surprisingly moving, in a roundabout way.

If you own a dog, you’ll understand how accurate this is. To me, it highlighted how trusting the bond between human and dog is. It’s not just the puppy who loves unconditionally; even as a shitty human we fall hard. However, throughout the story, Grandpa Screecher repeatedly breaks this trust. In this case, he’s that shitty human, treating Scraggly as just another breeder dog to make money from. Nonetheless, his love for Scraggly is always evident. He never parts with her, even though he has many chances to. But, this could just be interpreted as selfishness. I do sometimes think keeping a pet can feel like so. This was an interesting thought to be left with.

There are many things that Scraggly just has to accept in life, and the same goes for Grandpa and Grandma. Scraggly is very hopeful and somewhat dreamy, so this is bitter kibble for her to swallow. Death is a huge theme throughout, and I think it’s actually used to unite every species that appears in this book. It is the one thing we all have in common, after all. Next-door’s cat is the realist to Scraggly’s idealist and provides some of the harder hitting lines.

‘This is what life is, you know. You say goodbye, they die, and life goes on. I know how it goes. I’ve never known a dog who lived with all her pups.’

This is where the sophistication in an otherwise child-like story comes from. It’s very dark but in a deeply intuitive way, quietly stirring familiar emotions. This isn’t a heavily descriptive book; the language is as simple as it gets. So, it’s charming how well Hwang conveys her message in a few simple words. She’s truly mastered the art of showing rather than telling. Something about this style of story-telling was effortless and, honestly, just pleasant.

It reminded me of a fairy-tale, or mythology, like folklore. The tone is distinctive. It had a clear direction and it didn’t waver. In fairness, the basic English could be excused as just a result of translation – ‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ was originally written in Korean. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I kind of inhaled the short sentences like a breath of fresh air.

I shed a single tear at the end. I didn’t expect to cry; I’d actually been quick to accept that the emotions I’d feel would be subtle. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised. I found it odd that such a predictable and simple ending hit me at all. It was very fitting ending, though. Heart-warming like I expected and so desperately needed.

Even though I said it was the kind of read that I could switch off during, I do think it’s the kind of book you could return to and uncover a lot of symbolism. I have a strong sense that the persimmon tree, which plays an integral role in the story, has some deeply rooted history in Korean culture. I think it was linked to the folklore involving it’s used to predict the severity of winter, something which directly and indirectly takes many lives in this story. I’m not sure, I’ll have to look into it, but it was a very present tree. The persimmon was practically a character in itself.

Anyway, overall, this was a pleasing and humbling read. I actually read ‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ in just under 4 hours – and I probably ate in between, or got distracted by Netflix, knowing me. There was a definite feeling of wholeness when it was over. The story was nice and rounded and just nice…it was just nice. I don’t know how else to explain it.

I’m going to apply my weird rating system now and give this book a, fitting, 3.5 dog-ears out of 5. It’s in my recommend pile. If you fancy a bedtime story in your old-age, ‘The Dog Who Dared to Dream’ is the perfect way to unwind and bring it back to basics.

dog-ear rating systerm
Thank you, Sun-mi Hwang!







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 –achieving a Biomedical Science degree when I really wanted to become an author – 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 – 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 – playing it safe to avoid judgement, labels or failing at that dream you could never have achieved anyway, yeesh get over it – is 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 – 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 – 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.