I turned twenty-two nine days ago. We celebrated the new age with a Britney Spears themed party, bare country music and a lovelee, good time between friends. Each year after my birthday I use my newsletter to talk about some things I’ve learnt the past three-sixty-five, and this one has been a big cluster of greatness, as well as bumps. I’ve achieved a lot, waved a proud flag after hitting milestones, got to know myself and my ways much better, and gotten up each knock down, even when my own hands held the hammer. So here you go, twenty-two things I’ve learnt this year:
- That I don’t want to get shit faced anymore. I’ve been sober from alcohol for two years, nine months and sixteen days. Any time a little hiccup gets popped I go straight to the thought of, LET’S GET BLACK OUT AND FORGET THIS BODY. But the moment passes and resilience wins. If I actually deep it I would hate to get into the states I used to. I don’t like forgetting things. I don’t like acting out of my usual temperament. I don’t like danger or troublesomeness. I like things being straight forward, honest, easy to grasp. I see people nowadays when they’re off their tits and I wince. That threat of doing something you would never dream of, someone doing something to you in that vulnerability, something happening that you can’t sort out because you’re wankered. It doesn’t only just not appeal to me anymore but also really turns me away. This dawning leads me to my second lesson:
- That I am a control freak. I like to be the boss. I like to have a say and move things my way. I like to decide and pick and put together. I like to do my own thing and answer to myself. I like things being where I left them and moving only when my hands do it. I am not some mad drama queen who will freak out if it’s not this way (mostly) but I would rather engineer my life so that I am comfortably in control, not necessarily forcing others to do solely what I wish, but being in a position where I can be the final day without it causing issues. I never really noticed it before but the older I get the more I see I like wearing the trousers. A lot of things can trigger me, annoy me or piss me off so I would just rather sort it myself and with my own powers than rely or unravel if it’s not done the way I want it to be. Knowing this means I can work with it rather than against or with blindness to it.
- That I need and love to work. It sounds contradictory to my previous point but I like being at work, given a job, being told how to do it and being let to crack on. The job I have allows me to do that and I really love it. I hate being bored. I hate having nothing to do as all that happens is I spin out of control with my thoughts, feel mad guilt that I’m doing nothing and thus wasting time, and end up pursuing fillers then exhausting myself rather than actually being productive. Even though work can knacker me too it gives me a big confidence boost and something to focus on that isn’t my creative work, which in turn enhances that all important latter subject. Having worked, then not worked, worked, then not worked, I realise now that having a job actually benefits me hugely and is necessary in my way of being.
- To always stand up for yourself. I can be quite head-strong and ferocious. In my previous job I took the standing up for myself perhaps a little bit too far, totally disregarding any professionalism in pursuit of not backing down. But I don’t regret any of it. I am not on this earth so that I can feel like shit under someone else’s shoe, that shoe being attached to a human being who is exactly the same flesh and blood and beating heart that I am. No one is above you, nor below. Some people are amazing, some are cunts. But we are all people. I don’t let anyone treat me like shit. Or what I feel is shit. Which could be different to what they consider shit, which is always a point to note. But ultimately it’s just about protecting yourself and not letting anyone take the piss. Which again leads me to my next point:
- Setting boundaries from the get is vital. If you allow things to run on more than you’ve been comfy with them then you just get fucked for longer. State what you like or don’t like instantly. It may be a bit awkward but it will only be more intense and awful to address if you’ve waited a lifetime to bring it up. Save yourself the hassle and just be upfront from the beginning. You won’t save any hearts from breaking just by lying to appease or pretending in order to be accepted. If they really give a shit they’ll appreciate knowing these things so they don’t bug you. I’d rather be wise to how someone functions and act with that knowledge than power on full-force, steaming over scrunched toes and being baffled that I couldn’t take that route when I hadn’t been told so.
- You can say no to anything you want to say no to. This relates to the boundaries. I also have the ever-common illness where I find it hard to say no and push myself further than I’m capable of at times. In some areas I will straight-up deny and avoid the hassle of escape, but in stressful moments or with pressure in the mix or in those fuck-it moods I can sometimes bite nails over rejecting. But the truth is that you can say no whenever you need to. Even if it’s something you’ve said yes to before. And if you’re on a night out and want to go home just fucking do it. Don’t do what I do and stay longer than you should for sake of soiree and ruin the night for yourself by spending it miserable.
- You can say yes to anything you want to say yes to. And then there’s the flip round. You can say no, but you can also say yes to whatever you want. Everyone overthinks all the time way too much. We look to the past for related experience and the future for conspiracies about how it’ll turn out when the present could deliver gifts that are totally unexpected if we just relaxed and said yes without hardcore pondering before doing so. Spontaneity isn’t really my thing but some of the best moments of my life have been because of it. Same with times I’ve said yes when I’d usually say no and ended up experiencing something brilliant. This point also relates to not being ashamed of the things you enjoy. Saying yes to stuff that others wouldn’t doesn’t make you a freak, an outcast. Just go enjoy it. Life is too short and shit to persevere with things you hate just to prove a point.
- You owe no one anything. If you promised to go out tonight but don’t feel up to it now and really are in turmoil over going, then stay in. If you, in an awkward moment, said you’d watch that film you’d discussed with someone and never got round to it, shuffling uncomfortably when they bring it up the next time they see you, shrug it off. If you love them but they aren’t acting in a way that’s nice to you, fuck them off. You don’t owe anyone anything. All wounds heal. You are not the world’s biggest cunt because you had to pull-out of plans or because you gave up or because you failed. You’re just human.
- That all storms pass. Those moments I have felt like THIS IS IT NOW. Like things will never get better, like that light at the end of the tunnel will never reveal itself to me, like I am the ugliest most disgusting thing the world’s ever received. These grubby, evil times have been put to rest once the sun comes up again. And they will come back with sharp teeth to bite me when they do. But they will pass also. This life is temporary, we are all temporary, therefore any moment or feeling or state or memory or issue that feels like it’s glued to our makeup, will also fade into the atmosphere come its time. Even when your heart squeezes too tightly when you remember that thing that occurred over a decade ago, it passes when it passes. There are always things you can do to make heavy loads lighter. You just have to figure out what that means for you and your situations.
- Nearly everything has a solution, that is tailored to you, in life, you just have to find it. I know myself well enough by now to know exactly what sets me up for a spin, what winds me up and what cools me down. I am not a very casual person. Everything is and means 110% to me. I am passionate and I am a bit neurotic. I aim for a pinch and end up with a fistful. I obsess over things and don’t know when to stop or how to slow down sometimes. I get overwhelmed really easily and it’s the worst position for me to be in because I can’t handle it. And then I dig up a solution in a patch I wasn’t even expecting gold in and suddenly the sky clears. It’s usually not what is anticipated and only when I find it do I realise that what I was actually digging for wouldn’t have even scratched the surface. Open-mindedness is the key, I suppose. We evolve every day of our lives and we are constantly changing. This will effect what helps us. The things we’ve always relied on may halt their abilities to protect and that is okay. It just means we need to be proactive in finding the new source of stability that life has for us.
- Things you always hated may become your most loved and vice versa. My tastes have changed so much each birthday come-around and it actually makes me laugh. The things I was so into last year are the least of my fancies this one. And that has been ever since my inception. It’s always a surprise when you suddenly see a colour in a different way, or a clothing style in a new light, or hear a song and finally get it. Taste a food and notice that now it is moorish not vile, or vile and not moorish. If we stayed the same all the time, how bloody boring would that be? Going with the flow of it means you’re always up for a fun and exciting, twisted ride.
- That I am changing all the time, totally organically, and will continue to do so. This kind of relates to the previous statement. Following my subconscious development I have now found is healthier and more comfortable than battling against it or trying to manipulate myself into something I’m not. It’s quite a beautiful thing. A daily metamorphosis to observe over breakfast. What will I be tomorrow? Fuck knows. We’ll found out once the kettle boils.
- The past don’t need revisiting, the future don’t need obsessing over. This is one I have learnt yet certainly not mastered. It’s hard. Really bloody hard. We are made up of memories and to strip them of their power almost feels like disabling our own creation. And to stop planning the future also feels redundant and messy; like we are too relaxed and unorganised. Like we don’t care what happens. But the emphasis is more so on not allowing the bad stuff to overtake, rather than wiping clean the good. But also to avoid funnelling too much property into the best moments of our lives and walking foggy headed right past more beautiful things that are happening around us all the time.
- Rest and recovery is allowed and necessary. I’m an absolute glutton for going too hard on everything, pushing myself past my limits with no plan of slowing down, then crashing and crying on the train to work. I do it all the time. I’ll keep going and going and going, adding more shit to my already overflowing plate, and bump my forehead hard when suddenly the ever-speeding treadmill suddenly blows a fuse. I feel so guilty when I do fuck all. I get this severe fear that I am wasting my life and that I’ll be dead sooner than I can believe with nothing having been achieved. But you need the down for the up, otherwise the fall is just ten times harder when it finally and inevitably comes. I envy those who can just sit in front of the telly all day sometimes. That’s exactly what my body needs at moments and it’s something that causes me complete stress. I get embarrassed if I have a lay-in, even if I’ve been up all night. But I have learnt this year that the recovery is just as important as the doing.
- You can have fun without destroying or hurting yourself. Putting aside the too-frequent a late night, I don’t drink anymore. I have stopped doing drugs. But God do I have some fun. Probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I can dance for hours, I can chat to anyone, I am confident and I am keen. I never thought I was capable of so many brave things until I got sober. I didn’t know I had it in me to go on a night out and have more stamina than most seshing. Quite a few of my party-animals have told me they are shocked how well I hack it with nothing in my system. That they prefer me to other sobers because I don’t just keep bitching all night about the pints and the lines but I match the vibe. These are big compliments to me and they reassure that I don’t need anything to aid my hair being let down. So many people have told me they wouldn’t be able to cope without getting pissed at the club or before getting on stage. I find it sad, but I get it. I was always like that too. But now I’ve learnt that the equation isn’t unsolvable without that one input, it is just a different way of getting the answer and it is the one for me.
- That dancing is the healer. I lurve a good boogie. I get so much power out of dancing for hours and I have realised that it gives its own natural high anyway. The harder I go for it the more of a buzz my blood and bones vibrate with. It clears my head. It loosens my body. It refreshes my energy levels. It helps me stay sober. I have however also learnt this year that if it’s music I don’t like or can’t find a rhythm to then I just cannot dance to it. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t do it. I wake up at 4am for work, travel 4 hours total a day to get there and back, and last Friday I decided after all of that to still go out. I was in good spirits when we were sitting round the pub table having a giggle, still in good spirits when we went to a second venue. But then I crashed when we went onto their dance floor and R’n’B was blasting. It just ain’t my thing and I can’t have fun with the dancing to it. Then suddenly all the tiredness hit and it was sensory overload. I just hugged my mates goodbye and got the bus home. The week before I did the same thing; went out after my long shift and bloody danced like a maniac for hours, bringing everyone back to mine and chatting until the sun came up. I think dancing and music is such an energy and frequency related substance that it can provide different reactions depending. But overall dancing is one of my biggest joys in life and I know whenever I need a refresh I can just get my dancing shoes on and bounce it away.
- That I love performing. Learning to let loose when I dance has helped a lot in regard to performing. That shameless intensity means I can get on stage and not care what I’m doing or how I look but just embracing how I feel and what is making me want to move the way I move. It can be really daunting but there’s this magic to being on stage that once again gives a natural high. I suppose now I’m sober I’m just catting to get off my tits in any way I can that don’t show up on a drugs test.
- If you keep ending up in situations that are bad stop doing things that put you there. I hated every hungover morning that I would wake up and regret whatever I did the night before. I kept pushing my bad behaviour further and further and eventually the shame, the embarrassment and the self-hatred got too much. Then I went sober. I see people falling into hot water all the time by doing things drunk that they never would when straight and then blaming the booze. I find it quite sad to be honest. They can’t face the truth or blame the one thing that really causes it all and they certainly can’t quit it. So many people will never admit that drink causes a lot of the issues in their life. So many don’t even really know they can. It’s so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to separate from it. But I lose sympathy for people pretty swiftly if they are aware substances are at fault but won’t make any changes to improve their addictions, consumption, behaviour or consequences. Again, it comes back to solutions. And this one is glaringly obvious a lot of the time.
- That I can love someone but not need to spend every waking minute with them. A lot of people think unconditional love means excusing anything and accepting everything about the subject. That you would die for them, that you would die yourself if you were to be away from them. It’s not. Unconditional love is more passive and benign than that. It’s not aggressive or consuming. It is a deep rooted trust and care for somebody. I am an individual that needs time alone otherwise I lose my fucking mind. I’ll start to hate both myself and others if I can’t get access to that. There are so many people that I consider my closest, dearest and most loved in life. But some of them I keep at arm’s length. Some of them I can only see every few months. Some of them piss me off somewhat rotten most of the time. I still love them and cherish them, but I can’t spend a lot of time with them. Then when we do find the space to connect and unite, it’s lovely. Others I can be with more frequently yet I wouldn’t consider them as dear to me as the ones I like to scatter company with. It’s a weird one. Then I have my true true bredren that I can be with all the time, even just sitting in silence and looking at our phones and ignoring each other. It’s not unhealthy to want distance sometimes.
- Trusting people is needed, even if they end up breaking it. I find it really hard to fully trust people. I am an open book and would tell a stranger my deepest and darkest but actual trust, which I’ve learnt is not what I’ve always thought it meant, is hard for me to truly feel. It’s not just someone to tell secrets to or get dressed in front of. It’s bigger than that. It’s a level of comfortability, sanctuary and beautiful ugliness that words can’t capture. I keep a lot to myself and hate opening up when I’m in the midsts of my chaos. When the storms pass I share, but I don’t like doing it during. I spent a lot of time convinced that I was incapable of really trusting or being vulnerable with anyone because of old scars. But I see now that even if I end up getting fucked over, to trust, or at least try to, is a wonderful thing. You learn a lot about yourself when you let someone get in there and root about. Which leads me to another lesson:
- There is so much to learn from the people around you and so much you yourself can teach them. An eclectic community is electric. A range of ages, cultures, postcodes, styles, tastes, experiences when it comes to mates will make you a better person. You pick up things from those you’re around be it slang, twang, twitches or habits, and then become yourself a magi-mix of these aspects, furthering your own individuality. And you contribute to their patchwork of skin. You’ll never really know or grasp what you give those that love you or even just briefly bump into you. We’re blind to our influence. But it is there. If even the ones you hate change you, whether it be acting opposite to them to avoid mimicking what you so dislike or becoming violent in opposition to their traits, it manipulates you. So you must have an effect even if mouse-like. How cool.
- You’re more beautiful than you’ll ever see. Again, one I’ll always struggle with. But if when my friends are upset about insecurities and I look at them in disbelief because all I see is their glory, their gorgeousness, their greatness, then we all must just be fucked up and in it together. Although that don’t make the top you planned to wear look better when you finally get it on as you push and pull and choke up in front of the mirror, it’s still reassuring that we are all in it together. You don’t see yourself when you genuinely laugh your head off. Or when you turn your face to cross the road and the sun shines in your eyes. Or when you fucking dance or stand and ponder or sleep. I try to tell myself that the exterior doesn’t mean anything but that doesn’t soothe, it only makes me roll my eyes at the delusion of it. It does matter to me. I’ve tried forever to not care about my weight. And nothing has worked. To not want to cover my mouth because I have this weird insecurity about the lower half of my face. To not give a shit about how I look when I just stand there, especially if I’m not holding something. But I do care. I think the solution to this one is about doing things that you enjoy where you look back and go, Oh Shit, I didn’t even remember to care about the insecurities in that moment. All I did was live. And by twenty-three I’d like to say I’ve lived.
I’ve learnt more things, and forgotten even more than that. Everyday the answers get clearer and the questions shrink. I don’t want to know it all though, that would take the fun out of this, wouldn’t it?
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Part Of Me by Tedeschi Trucks Band – My mate showed me this band, firstly their song Midnight In Harlem which is a tune and then he showed me this one. The woman’s voice is so beautiful and effortless and the music accompanies it with ease and all. This is just one of them songs I think everyone will love. The lyrics are amazing and the musicality is inspiring. The band’s whole discography is worth checking out.
Book: Sheepshagger by Niall Griffiths – My friend has told me to read this for years. He’s said it’s the best thing he’s ever read every time the prompt was given. He finally brung it for me and I finally read it. Niall Griffiths style of writing really is unmatched. It is gritty and real and to its own wants. He often abandons literary norms and goes his own way which is fucking cool. He uses the Welsh dialect when doing dialogue and it’s really wicked to see it written. He explores youth and violence and partying and drugs in a very raw way that is again electrifying. For my birthday this friend got me Griffiths other book Grit and I’m excited to sink my teeth into that one next given the brilliance of Sheepshagger.