Two weeks ago, I found one of my birds dead on the bottom of her cage. It was completely unexpected as she was perfectly healthy, and I couldn’t think of what had happened to her. I was devastated. I couldn’t even bring myself to take her body from the cage, and had my friends come over to help me. A week later, I found another one laying there limply in a small puddle of blood. I’d seen a magpie outside a minute beforehand, and only then did it all click into place. The stupid things killed them both, the same way they’d killed the dove I tried to save a few months ago. I was so upset that I didn’t even get to look at her properly before my sister whisked her away to bury her in the front garden next to Piper, who’d been buried exactly one week before. I loved them both, but Freckles was my favourite bird, the sweetest little cockatiel with the most loving personality. She was obsessed with food, carrots in particular, and liked stick her head in my mouth and nibble my teeth when I was talking or trying to eat. I would take her for showers with me where she’d stand beneath the water contentedly, until she sneezed from getting too much water in her nose, and I’d have to pull her away so she could breathe, much to her irritation. I had her for almost six years, and Piper for four, but in that time they made me laugh and smile so much with all the quirky little things they did, and it’s just not the same without them. In some ways, I feel silly for feeling so much grief for ‘just birds’, but I loved them the same way I love dogs and cats, and the same way animal lovers love their own pets. Grief is the same feeling no matter what it is we’ve lost – I’ve never understood why some people equate physical size to the amount of sadness felt when they die. It’s been just over a week now since Freckles died, and two since I lost Piper, but it still hurts so much. I’m just so angry that their lives were taken when they were still so young, and in such horrible, violent ways. Because it was all so sudden, it’s been much harder to accept than when I’ve lost pets to old age or disease. I can’t reverse time and shouldn’t dwell on the ‘what if’s’, but this feeling seriously sucks, and I wish death didn’t have to hurt as much as it does. I’ve never lost a person, thank goodness, but I’m dreading the day that I eventually do, because if I feel this way over pets that I owned for half a decade, what will happen when I lose those I’ve known my entire life?
I feel painfully out of place, like a piece of pepperoni that has mistakenly made its way onto a vegetarian pizza.
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!
You didn’t want me
And I don’t understand
How you turned your back
On the little pairs of eyes
That loved to hold your hand
The high pitched voices
And tear stained cheeks
Of lives left behind
Of lives like mine
I don’t need you anymore
I’ve made peace in knowing
You chose to walk out the door
You didn’t want me
But I don’t understand
I still feel empty
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?
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.
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.