As children, we’re all asked what we want to be when we grow up. Maybe we said a princess, an astronaut, or in my case, an actress. In our minds, these things were all achievable; adulthood was a land of unknowns where you could do anything and be anyone, but as time passes, the reality of growing up hits us like a tonne of bricks. Life is no longer about making mud pies and playing make believe, but instead becomes an existence of responsibilities, deadlines and anxieties. We’re told to grow up and act like the mature adults that we are; to deal with what life throws at us in a mundane world of black and white. Well, to everyone that has ever told me these things… I refuse to live my life in greyscale, and I think you should too. Although some people like to think otherwise, we’re all still children, some of us just accept it more than others. Just look at the way people act in times of conflict, or when they’ve been hurt. Adults are much more controlled when it comes to demonstrating their emotions, but we all have an innate tendency to regress into our childlike selves. We’re much the same as children when we sulk, defend ourselves in anger or direct blame and name-calling at others. Next time you’re watching a political debate on TV, compare the politicians to kindergartners and you’ll see what I mean. So my question is, why do we allow ourselves to be childlike in some ways, but not others? You only have ONE life. Do you really want to spend it ticking things of to-do lists and climbing the corporate ladder? Hey, maybe you do, and that’s fine, but don’t think it’s below you to act like a child sometimes. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Children are constantly learning and discovering new things, which is why our perception of time is much slower when we’re younger. The more frequently you put yourself in new situations, the slower your days will become, meaning your life won’t whoosh by in the blink of an eye. Being a certain age doesn’t mean you’re restricted in what you can do… well… I’m not allowed in children’s ball pits, but when I open my own, giant one, I’ll let you know. What I’m trying to say is that life is supposed to be FUN. Make messes, make mistakes, abandon your schedule for a day, build a blanket fort, eat dessert before dinner, draw on the walls! Okay, maybe don’t do that… but you get my point. Let go and live. Live like you can fly to the moon and put on a shoe to find your prince charming. Don’t let the monotonousness of life get you down – do something crazy, be in the moment and LIVE!
I’m not sure what it is about me that makes strangers, particularly the elderly, think me sound enough to strike up a conversation. Being painfully shy, I tend to slink away from those I don’t know, but there’s something about the meaningful, often inspiring conversations that I have with fellow commuters and passers by that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Today, whilst waiting for my bus, a lovely older woman started talking to me about her three sons, all of which live overseas and work in various trades (apparently plumbers study for six years!). We talked about the world, owning a cafe, the price of real estate and travelling the country in a caravan, among other things. It was a lovely little conversation that brightened my morning and put a smile on my face. These days, people hardly look up from their screens long enough to notice the people they’re surrounded by. It saddens me that so many people are missing out on the wisdom and advice others have to give, and the simple pleasure of making a fleeting connection with someone outside their circle, whom they otherwise may never have spoken to. You could be the sunshine in someone’s day, an objective ear that listens without judgement or the strength someone needs to push through a difficult time. My most memorable and treasured connection was made when I waiting for the bus one day after school. I lifted my eyes from the book I was reading to see an elderly man with a cane sit by my side. He never did tell me his name, but he was 91 years old, and legally blind. The stories he told about his youth, and the world as it changed over the decades had me captivated, absorbing the wisdom he had to impart, and the joy left in his wake. He left after what felt like hours, humming happily before turning around to wish me a wonderful life. I think about him often, wondering if he has passed away or if he’s still wandering contentedly, chatting with other people that pause to lend him a listening ear. Whether it’s someone voicing their suspicions about an unfaithful partner, a man telling you that he has brain cancer or a woman whipping out a folder filled with pictures of her photocopied face (yes, I have experienced all of these interactions), take a moment to appreciate the unique people that we pass everyday and often never give a second though. Give them that human connection that is quickly and quietly slipping into oblivion.
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?
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.
I’m inside out,
You’ve scrubbed me clean
There’s nothing left for you to see
I wore my heart where it got broken,
I wish I hadn’t been so open.
I’m an open book. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I’m still yet to decide. There is a lot of talk aimed at people who struggle to open up and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings, but not as much surrounding those of us who are perhaps too open. In the past there have been times when I’ve tried to close myself off from the world and live a mysterious and solitary existence, but it’s literally impossible. I have too many thoughts that push against the confines of my mind until I set them free. My head may as well be a beehive, because it sure does feel like I have a swarm of busy, buzzing little bees up there. Being the person I am, I have no qualms with being open and honest when someone asks me a question. Sometimes my answer surprises them, and their impression of me alters. I see it in their eyes; the judgement when they realise that I too am a human being and won’t always fit into the little box they’ve created for me. So, if people don’t want to know my answer or hear my opinion, they shouldn’t poke the beehive.
Have you ever thought about how we’re alone in the world? When you look past your friends and family members; the people who love and care about you, it’s easy to see how alone we truly are. You don’t know what it’s like to be me, just like I don’t know what it’s like to be you. Our experiences and upbringings largely determine how we end up; our identities; what we like and don’t like; our core values and beliefs… and all of these are stored as memories. I am the only one able to access my memories, the only one who can re-live them. If two people share an experience, they both have memories of that experience, but they will be unique to each individual. If two people are sitting on a mountain overlooking a beautiful sunset, they’ll each be seeing it from a different perspective, no two people able to see it exactly the same, and thus, their memories will be different. Some people might think it’s the most beautiful sunset they’ve ever seen, whereas others may think it wasn’t that special, and that they’ve seen better. These differences in how we perceive things illustrate how unique we all are, and how no two people can ever be the same… which brings me back to being alone. So often, I think of people who were briefly a part of my life – we may have shared an experience, or they may have taught me something – and I can’t help but wonder if they remember me too. I could bring up a vivid memory of mine and share it with the person who is part of that memory, and they haven’t the slightest clue what I’m talking about. In these moments, I realise how truly alone we really are. Without someone or something to validate our memories, our minds are the only thing telling us they actually happened. It’s terrifying, particularly when I think of people who have their memories ripped away from them either through amnesia or Alzheimer’s, because they’re literally losing everything that made them who they once were. We’re essentially living through our memories and each moment in the present will become one of the past, a concept that exists entirely in our minds. We live alone in our heads, never really knowing how other people are living, or if they even exist at all.