Equality. It’s the word of the century, something we are a species are constantly working towards, and yet I can’t help but notice how backwards we seem to be going sometimes. In my short time on this earth, I have experienced the growth of the internet and social media, and witnessed the effects it has had on society. With people being able to more easily find and connect with others like them, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of labels people use to identify themselves. Gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, religious, atheist, vegan, meat eater, rich, poor, democrat, liberal, republican, white, black… the list goes on and on. Not only do these labels exist, and more continue to pop up; but people are talking about them more and boxing themselves into categories. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years, online dating profiles required people to tick the boxes of all the labels they identify with. Humans have a biological desire to belong. It’s in our nature, and historically speaking, sticking together with people similar to ourselves increased our chance of survival. But we’re not living in those times anymore. In this day and age, you’d think we’d be evolved enough to put aside each others differences and unify ourselves as a species. Whether it’s race, religion, sexuality or something else entirely, people continue to label themselves, and in doing so, are furthering the segregation that we’re trying to end. Labels cause war. I understand the need people have to find a sense of identity and belonging in a world of differences, but isn’t it enough to simply call ourselves human?
Today I held a dove as it died in my arms. It was the first time I’ve ever witnessed the moment when life suddenly isn’t there anymore, and it horrified me. For fifteen minutes, I cradled the stunned dove that had been attacked by magpies, its wide eyes staring at nothing, its little body trembling in my hands. After trying to fly, he fell to the floor and died seconds later. It was a seizure, from shock my mother told me. It wasn’t peaceful like everyone claims death to be. It was violent and awful; the sight of a little heart giving its final few beats, a feathered body convulsing with the end of life. I was devastated. He was supposed to fly into the sunset a few hours later, but instead was lying limp on my living room floor. I’ve always hated death; the knowledge that eventually, everything must die. When I was a child, I remember saving insects from spiders webs, untangling them from their silk prisons and setting them free. To my dismay, I was informed that in doing so, I was potentially endangering the life of the spider instead. This is when I realised that life is cruel. But still, I tried my hardest to make sure every creature had a chance. I’d save the insects, rush to the windowsill, gather the dead flies that lay there and rush back to spider, carefully placing them in the delicate web. All the spiders in my house probably hated me. If I was served month-old roadkill instead of a steak, I’d probably hate me too. As the years passed, I learned to accept that I can’t save everything, but today – holding the dove that I’d bonded with for a few short moments – and watching it move on from this world… well, I guess it was just a harsh reminder that life can be swept out from underneath us at any moment. How depressing.
I have insomnia. Sometimes my mind insists on keeping me awake even when my body screams for sleep, and I have no choice but to let it. Drawing helps me put things into perspective and halts the progression of my negative thoughts before they pull me deeper into the dark, bottomless pit that I dig myself. This drawing took several months to complete, because I worked on it only when I was feeling anxious, mostly at nighttime. Charcoal isn’t my preferred medium as I’m a perfectionist and end up covered in it, but I felt it worked best to convey the emotions I was trying to express. I’m grateful to have things I can do that silence my mind – I know that not everyone does.
Looking into a mirror, she peels off her skin and puts it on inside out. The air assaults her exposed flesh, stinging the parts of her she’s stared at for too long. Her eyes draw constellations across her skin, connecting one flaw to another as if she’s a galaxy with a black hole at its center. It swallows stars and spews out asteroids, choking her with darkness. Being blind makes it nearly impossible for her to see what makes her beautiful.
When she sees nothing but black, I see the milky way.
We live in novels that have been created just for us. Worlds woven by words that we circle as though we are the Earth and they, the sun. Stories we tell ourselves become who we are, and suddenly, we’re orbiting time and space like we’re following a script. I see it happening to everyone around me. Manifested by our own perceptions, and fueled by our experiences and the opinions of others, an idea is nurtured until it demands to be fed. All thoughts have the potential to grow toxic, but insecurities are born hungry. When I was fourteen, my mother told me that my face was looking fuller, that I had put on some weight and was at last, ‘filling out’. To some, this would’ve been welcomed news – the thought of finally morphing into a soft, curvy woman like the ones we looked up to – but to me, this was the worst thing I could’ve heard at the time. Cue frantic googling of face exercises and hours of analysing the roundness of my cheeks, trying to determine if my fish lips and eyebrow lifts were doing anything to shed the barely-there puppy fat I had become hellbent on destroying. This was the first physical insecurity of many, and the beginning of my understanding that something small and seemingly insignificant can grow to become the whole world. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop; to feel and breathe and live the the repetitive motion simply because it’s familiar. It becomes your story. One you can read backwards or with your eyes closed. It’s the story you tell others, but more importantly, it’s the one you tell yourself. It shapes, motivates and guides you, but does not define you. Living within the novel that has been written for you doesn’t mean that you become someone else when you turn the page. You are more than the the words you tell yourself. If you’re unhappy about something that is within your control, don’t let past experiences be the reason why you cannot change. Don’t let people’s expectations of you hold you back from becoming the person you want to be. Stop living life according to a script that, when you’re taking your final breaths, means nothing. Write the story that you want to read because that would be one hell of a book.
“One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”
There is no quote that terrifies me more than this one. What’s worse than waking up one day and realising that your entire life has passed you by, seemingly in the blink of an eye? Quickly and quietly, perception catches you off guard and pulls the rug out from underneath you, leaving you scrambling to make something of yourself. To find purpose and fulfillment in this otherwise stale existence. Growing old is inevitable, and it’s one of, if not my biggest fear. I don’t want to age, not because I’m afraid of wrinkles and grey hair, but because these changes remind me that I have an expiry date. Perhaps, because I’m still young and have barely scratched the surface of what will become my life, I don’t understand the natural progression and ultimately, surrendering one must feel when they’ve reached the end of their tether. I’ve seen it in the eyes of the elderly who used to reside in the nursing home my sister once worked at. A look of acceptance, of exhaustion, and of peace. A life filled with joy, love, pain and grief, of moments that make us feel like we’re flying, and others when we struggle to catch our breaths. After decades of experiences, of milestones, hardships and accomplishments, there must come a time when someone decides they’ve had enough. For some, this moment comes much earlier in the timeline of their existence, either through the hands of the universe, or their very own. Others try to fight time and cling onto the appearance of someone they once were, continuously altering their bodies in the pursuit of eternal youth. We’re all walking the same path, and inevitably, we will all reach the end. We won’t all stumble across the same rocks or divots in the earth, and where some of us see as a path lined with flowers, others see only weeds. The lives we live are fleeting, and whilst we should accept the fact that we live within the constraints of time, we shouldn’t let that define the choices we make or the emotions we let consume us. Sometimes I feel like little more than a fearful child shoved into the body of someone who’s supposed to have everything figured out, but I don’t think anyone actually does. Contemplate the future and accept the past, but live in the present and take comfort in knowing that no one really knows what to do with this gift we call life.
If we never felt sadness, we wouldn’t ever appreciate what it feels like to be truly happy. With nothing to compare and contrast against the positive emotions, happiness becomes a constant state of being, synonymous with what it means to be human. Our lives would become dull. Yet, despite me being able to recognise the important role sadness plays in my life, I still struggle to accept when I feel anything other than content. I don’t allow myself to be sad as often as I should, because I don’t feel like I deserve to be sad. For the most part, I live a wonderful life. I’m surrounded by incredible, supportive and understanding people; I have a roof over my head, food in my belly and a bedroom filled with art supplies and books. I have so much, whereas others have so little, and so I tell myself that because others have it much worse, I’m supposed to be happy. But it’s okay to feel sad. Life isn’t a straight line that we follow until we reach the end of our road; no, life is an obstacle course that we’re thrown into blindfolded with no clue how to navigate our way through it. Even the most privileged of people will struggle at times, and that’s okay. Every single one of us will experience moments of both extreme joy and pain throughout our lifetimes, regardless of what kind of childhood we had or how much money we make. If a child breaks their arm, we don’t tell them to suck it up and stop crying because others are dying of cancer. We love and support them, and do our best to ease their pain. Sadness can’t be fixed with a bandage because sometimes it demands to be felt.
“Everybody wants happiness, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”
They forget to look outside,
To lift their eyes and appreciate
The world beyond their minds
Hollow souls slowly wasting,
Hungry for endless validation
An existence shaped by numbers,
They breathe a faceless world
Held within an emphatic vice
Of likes, tweets and followers,
They satiate their appetites
But still, emptiness persists,
And darkness consumes them
I’m waiting, watching a beautiful grandfather clock that is my life, each second representing a moment, an experience. I’m wondering which second is the moment I’ll find him, and I’m hoping I don’t run out of minutes.
For anyone who feels like they’ll never find ‘the one’, I assure you they’re out there, waiting for you too. So many people worry about the possibility of ending up alone that they often jeopordise what would have otherwise been a fulfilling, healthy relationship. Finding ‘the one’ isn’t about ticking things off idealistic checklists, but rather embracing a connection with someone who is as flawed and imperfect as you are. But before you can love someone else entirely, you must learn to love yourself first. Anyone who is unhappy within themselves will never find what they’re looking for by continuously checking the time. You will find them. It may not be when the clock strikes midnight, but one day your worlds will collide and then suddenly time won’t seem quite so important.