Moving On

Two years ago I wrote a post with the very same title as this one. Although the content between this post and that are vastly different, the theme, however, is the same – change. As over the next few weeks and months, things will change for me in a number of different ways. I am not only moving house, I am also moving for work and to be in the same country and city with my partner of 18 months.

As I sit and write this post I am sat on my sofa occasionally glancing up from the laptop screen to take stock of the four walls around me. Above the TV on the opposite wall, there used to be a large map where I had placed stickers of the various countries that I have visited. Around this I had stuck photos and postcards from some of these travel destinations; some were of landscapes, and many contained images of family and friends.

Looking at it now the bare wall reminds me that I the life I currently lead is, and always has been temporary.

As I write those words, I feel a wave of sadness wash over me as if to encourage me to hide away, to try and pretend that things aren’t changing around me. But if there is one thing that I have learnt over the past three years it is this, although we may not have control over a lot of things that may happen, we do have some power over how we respond to the change. And at least for now, I want to face this change that conjures anxiety and uncertainty and try to embrace it.

SWITCHING OFF FROM SWITCHING ON

Things have been quiet on the site for a little over a week as I have been away on holiday. The break provided me with what might seem like one of the latest Windows updates, including the swirling circle indicating ‘come back later’ and also having no clue of a definitive timescale of when the update will be complete. However, I now feel as though I am rebooting back to someone I vaguely know. I feel awake for a start.

A number of things take a hit when I experience periods of chronic fatigue; I skip the gym, my diet switches to dishes that require little thought or preparation on my part (so mostly fast food then) and I don’t have the mental energy to even think about writing. There were various moments last week where I felt as though I was having out of body experiences as I was struggling to focus or build enthusiasm for many tasks outside of day-to-day teaching. All in all, I was ready for some time out.

However, one of the things that I noticed over the course of the weekend was that I was still struggling to switch off. For example, one of my first thoughts on Saturday morning was that I needed to check my inbox… I didn’t as my partner wanted to head out for an early morning walk. A strategic diversion on his part? Not quite, more of a well-timed walk along the beach to watch the sunrise.

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I have a few more days before I head back to work and so I hoping to use the time to catch up with friends, get to the gym and to do something that I have missed dearly in this relatively short period, writing.

AUDREY: HOW DO I REJECT, REJECTION?

My one and only New Year’s resolution this year was to be less hard on myself. For the most part, I have done okay. In what would have been in the past a potentially intense or anxiety riddled situation, I have either been able to consider it from a different angle and maintain a level of distance that at times has surprised me. I have definitely had lapses, where I have given myself a telling off for ruminating about something inconsequential, but overall I haven’t allowed the hostility to reach a crescendo against myself.

But I have noticed a pattern (which perhaps has become apparent since taking my vow of being less hard on myself) that many of the incidents that cause me the most anxiety are related to experiencing rejection in some way or another. The pattern usually goes something like this; I experience some form of rejection (a friend fails to respond to an email/text, a colleague fails to acknowledge me, a disapproving look from a stranger… the list goes on), my anxiety builds (heart rate increases, stomach sinks, I am unable to focus on anything, that sort of thing), I ruminate (this has no pattern or structure, in reality, it could be for a matter of hours, an entire weekend or even years!) until the next event occurs. Rejection, ruminate, repeat.

I guess my position of being able to look at what could be one of my main reasons for such wild and vivid reactions to experiencing rejection comes back to when I was growing up (such a cliche, I know). I recall times when my parents rejected me in ways that still give me chills, like the time when I was still at school and I was being bullied by some classmates and when I asked for my mum’s advice (her help!) and she replied, “You’ll get over it.” Or when friendships have turned sour. I still dwell on a sleepover at a so-called friend’s house along with so-called friends who largely ignored me for the entire evening that left me crying into my pillow wishing I was at home.

I thought that I was ‘doing better’ but I find that this realisation has, rather than helped me, it has broken me and I am now reliving my chequered history of rejection. How can I move on?

From,

Rejection, Ruminate, Repeat

Dear Rejection, Ruminate, Repeat,

It is said that experiencing rejection is akin to physical pain. We all know the horrendous pain felt when we stub our toe but we may not be able to recall a specific incident in our past when we actually did this. However, we can very quickly flick through the ‘SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS IN OUR PAST’ file in our minds and find examples of when we have been rejected (the ‘Childhood’ years probably contains the most examples): your mum rejecting your plea for help or when those so-called friends ignored you for example. But what rejection boils down to is when you feel sidelined, you and your feelings are being ignored or marginalised, and for many (myself included) it causes panic. We wonder where we have gone wrong; what did I say? Did I cause offence? Did I not laugh/show concern at the appropriate places? Was it my hair?

Evolutionary science provides an insight into how rejection has been adaptive for humans, in that it helped people to survive. Living in tribes when we were hunter-gathers, to experience rejection was much like providing you with a warning signal to get your ass back into the tribe’s fold. If you were living on the edge away from the tribe’s protection you were likely to die, so it was imperative to be part of the group. Of course in modern society, we may not have to be in the ‘cool group’ to survive, but the basic premise is the same – we experience rejection as it provides a warning signal of some sort. The social and cultural norms are a fuckton more complex now and so this warning signal system and crucially our response to it can become maladaptive.

Another important human trait to consider here is that generally, humans look for patterns in behaviour. Often running behind the scenes in our minds, by analysing situations for repeated behaviour of some sort or a pattern it helps make our life chug along that little bit easier. Except when it doesn’t. And this is where the maladaptive response to rejection and this pattern seeking can get twisted. We can begin to seek rejection out. This can take the form of examining cues from our surroundings, particularly with those we are interacting with. And after some time of doing this, rejection becomes kinda comfortable. We know it for what it is and how it makes us feel inside, even if that is sick to the stomach.

The re-living of those memories could in some way be your mind purging some of the feelings associated with the events, through a personal and private exorcism. Alternatively, your mind could still be dealing with the emotions attached, neither are necessarily bad. Your early experiences of being rejected may in some way have contributed to your sense of self, cliche or not, but now things are different. The fact that you have been able since taking your vow of being less hard on yourself to take some steps back highlights two things; a keen self-awareness that many people would truly envy and that you are far stronger than you recognise. You are seeing the world and yourself through different lenses than before and this is perhaps the scariest thing right now, so your mind is going into over-drive to try and compensate. You have formed patterns that have felt comfortable and weirdly safe. You are evolving (growing just sounds too much self-help like) and it consciously started with making that New Year’s resolution. So please try and stick with it. That’s not to say that you won’t slip up again, but you are seeing changes and they are positive I can assure you.

Rejecting all rejection from your life is an impossible ask, as you may never ‘be over’ some of the pain you associate with people and past events. But if you are able, and it appears that you have already started down this road, to take steps in rejecting something far more significant – feeling bad about yourself.

You are not broken RRR, you are anything and everything but. You are remarkable, wondrous and totally awesome.

Love, 

Audrey

RELAXATION RESISTANCE

I have recently returned from a holiday abroad with my partner. The break followed completion of a school inspection for me and weeks filled with meetings for him.

Prior to booking the holiday, we were in two minds about how we wanted to spend the time together. We are lucky that we live in a part of the world where we can travel to some spectacular places both at home and away, but this time for me at least, things felt different. Rather than travelling around, I wanted to stop. I wanted a base to call our own, even if only for a week. Aside from the manic schedules that we both experienced when we returned to work following the Christmas break, we are also in a long-distance relationship. 939 miles to be precise (on a side note, he also worked out that in the first half of 2016, we had only spent 35 days together).

We have been able to manage the distance between us fairly well. We have a rough limit between how long we go without physically being in one another’s company, and although we may not speak each day, we are in touch via text (thank you, WhatsApp!) So when it came to thinking about a destination for our break, I quickly discovered that my partner’s plans were a little different to my own. He wanted to explore somewhere new and although initially I wasn’t opposed to this (certainly the seeing of somewhere new), the more I thought about it the idea of spending a day or two in one place before moving onto somewhere else caused my stomach to sink.

So I spoke up. I stated my case for a different and more relaxed pace of a holiday (something neither of us has done separately or together, I am talking ever!) and we came to an agreement: a place where we could explore an area through day trips, but no packing of rucksacks/suitcases every few days with all of the chaos (and excitement, admittedly) that goes along with it.

But it wasn’t all that easy, half way through the holiday I hit a hurdle. Something that now I realise rather than a hurdle was more akin to two parts of my mind tussling in a cage – anxiety vs relaxation. I didn’t know or couldn’t remember how to relax. The more I thought about being ‘relaxed’ the more anxious I became and the more I thought about it, my anxiety moved up a notch. It was a vicious cycle. If I had put my money on who would have won that mind tussle, I would have betted on the anxious part rather than relaxation on that day. I couldn’t sit still, each time I even glanced at my book my mind drifted and often to some pretty dark places (related to work and to my parents), and I found myself snapping at my partner.

Of course, I have severely generalised and reduced the complexities of my own anxiety and my ability to relax (or not). We are not simply existing in one state or in the other. Fortunately, as human beings, we are a little more complicated than that. However, it was as though in order to obtain a degree of mental peace my mind was showing resistance. There was still a fight to be had, even it was the final round.

I cannot recall what caused the end of the fight; it may have been the process of forcing myself to sit and read for a prolonged period of time, being able to sit and chat with my partner in one place together, the afternoon beers, or a combination of all of the above. But by the following morning, something had clicked, and I was able to sit and read without ruminating on some past conversation, or about a work project that I needed to start.

I am returning to work next week feeling refreshed and relaxed. I am already a little anxious (surprised?) about how long that feeling will last for, but at least for the time being a layer of fog has lifted and I am looking forward to getting stuck back in.

JUST ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION THIS YEAR

It’s December 31st, 2003 and I am in a wine bar in my hometown. Unfortunately, I am not there to drink or party, instead I am working. The bar provides a paycheck and therefore a vital lifeline to some much-needed funds during my holidays whilst studying at university.

It’s the second year that I have worked on New Years and here in actual fact. It’s a ticket only event so although it’s busy, the faces are the same, which adds a nice level of familiarity to the evening. Plus, I get paid double my usual hourly wage and the sneaky glasses of wine (paid for by some generous and drunk customers) help the evening run pleasantly.

The big boss is also here. He runs the wine bar and the restaurant next door and so he can usually be found barking orders at people there. I don’t particularly like him and I think that the feeling is mutual, though he is gruff and obstinate with everyone – who work for him that is.

He makes me nervous and when I am nervous I make mistakes. A case in point was on my first shift at the bar a little over a year earlier; where the manager of the wine bar had asked me to take some drinks around to the restaurant via a connecting tunnel between the two buildings. On my arrival to the restaurant I am greeted by the big boss of whom at this point I was yet to meet. He glares at me and rushes me to provide the drinks to the guests, it turns out that one of the waitresses is sick and so I am helping to cover when the restaurant was busy. It was heaving. I duck under the bar and turn to grab the tray. Except I didn’t. In my haste I had put the tray on the edge of the bar and the tray along with its contents come crashing and spilling to the floor. The noise reverberates around the restaurant and I swear the music momentarily stops. It leaves the big boss and I staring at one another. Me, feeling like an absolute idiot and wanting to crawl away. Him, wondering who idiot was who hired me. He shouts at me in one of those ways where he doesn’t actually raise his voice, it’s more body language and facial expression and I practically run back through the tunnel to the bar to make another tray load of drinks.

If it wasn’t for that incident, in my time since I have also locked myself out of the cash register so that he had to help me out, failed miserably at a cocktail training class (which he organised and was present for also), shattered more glasses and just generally messed up when he’s been around. I really didn’t make a good waitress.

And now back to New Year’s Eve in 2003. Despite the big boss’s presence; things are going ok: he hasn’t glared at me or even spoken to me for that matter, as much like our first encounter, the place is heaving. However, my optimism is short-lived when we have our eventual but inevitable clash. I am serving a customer when I manage to lock myself out of the cash register again. This isn’t an issue that happens solely to me, but in my rush (seems to be a pattern here) I fail to input my login code twice and it freezes. This creates a hold-up and he charges over and shouts at me. From what I can recall he says something like:

“I thought it’d be you, it’s always you.”

It was my turn to freeze as he continues to berate my crap skills as a waitress in front of customers. I say nothing and when he finishes fixing the register he marches off. As I hold back tears and continue to serve customers, a dark bitterness overcomes me, I make a resolution that I would never return to work at the bar after I head back to university.

However, much like many of my other New Year resolutions throughout the years, it didn’t stick and I was back at that wine bar at Easter doing my best to avoid the big boss again and because I needed the money.

Throughout my 20s, I usually made grand New Year’s resolutions. Epic you might say, including things like buy a new car, lose weight, buy a house, go travelling, quit my soul-sucking job (whatever it was), just for starters. Anything that would take me away from where I was and who I was at the time. And back in 2003, I didn’t know who the hell I was and it couldn’t have gotten more epic than sticking two fingers up at my boss, metaphorically speaking rather than literally.

Losing weight, getting a ring on it or going travelling are all worthwhile if they are truly what you want, but in my case I was making grand resolutions to help me escape myself.

I hate to sound like a cliche, but both time and age have made me realise two things; making grand resolutions are a bad idea and if you are going to make any then you have to keep working on them. So this year, I just have one resolution and I see it more as a work-in-progress for hopefully years to come: to stop being so hard on myself.

This is in regards to the things that I want to achieve and to acknowledge the things that I do manage. If I manage to finally finish the book that I’ve been working on for the past two years? Amazing! But I am going to try and not let the fear of not achieving this ruin me. If I manage to make a move finally out of teaching into something new? Yippee! But I acknowledge that this is a road that I have been on for some time now and like many paths there are quite a few turns on the way.

MAKING A CAREER SIDE SHIFT

I have been relatively quiet on the career change front on my blog for awhile now as I didn’t want to somehow jinx (damn, those gremlins again casting doubt on my actions) what I have been working on.

So what have I been up to?

An actual career shift…well, the first tentative steps.

Yep, I’ve said it and no whispering here! I have even said it out loud, admittedly to myself as evidence of things ‘happening.’ I have been working on something concrete, totally tangible and I have actually received a little money for some of my efforts.

So let’s go back a bit.

Around four months ago, I got in touch with a company that make resources for teachers and students for various academic subjects. My original intention for reaching out was simple; I wanted to find out whether if they would accept some of my academic blog posts to publish on their website. I certainly didn’t expect any remuneration for it, it was more about seeking recognition in a different sense – it was about getting my name out there with some of my work. I guess part of me would have hoped that this would progress to something more, but writing for the love of writing was/is the priority. 

After a few emails going back and forth between myself and the company, a Skype meeting was arranged and to my surprise, I found out that they wanted more; not just blog posts but they wanted physical teaching and learning resources produced that then would be available for purchase.

In the few months since, I have written a number of blog posts, produced some resources and began preparing some training materials that will be delivered in 2017. Baby steps, but they are in a different direction.

There is still part of me that is still cautious about saying too much right now, even to loved ones and even to myself about the work involved, as those gremlins have a habit of tipping huge buckets of water over my parade. But suffice to say, I feel excited and also valued in my contributions so far and I am looking forward (despite some of my gremlins saying things to the contrary) to what 2017 will bring.

SO THIS BUSY THING…

A few weeks ago a colleague and friend suggested a drink after work. We hadn’t seen one another properly for a few weeks apart from whizzing around the corridors, giving one another a brief ‘Hi!’ and ‘You alright?’ before shooting off to our next class or meeting.

So when she suggested a drink, I hesitated. I wanted to hang out, perhaps even grab a beer or two, but I had things to do. Really important things and they really couldn’t wait, or at least that was how I felt.

At that point in time my to-do list was heaving; work to mark, lessons to plan, write a letter of resignation to my current employer (this was certainly something I was postponing until the last minute), organise details for Christmas with family, edit my CV, order my brother a birthday card and arrange a gift, research opportunities using my teaching experience in other career fields, go food shopping, read about if there really is life after teaching, cry a bit and then do some more marking.

I didn’t go for those beers in the end.

A couple of days later after going nearly five days without hitting the gym (something that certainly helps me when it comes to de-stressing), I decided to attend a yoga class. And despite my best intentions I found myself increasingly frustrated as I couldn’t get into it, my mind was elsewhere; on that marking, on the lessons, I still needed to plan for the following day, on the alterations I needed to make to my CV…

I was anywhere but there.

So even when I was trying to take some time out and reflect, my mind was still on how busy things were.

I know that I am not the only one, even in just my social circle friends parrot back to me about how busy their lives are, with work commitments often taking up the lion’s share. But what is exactly making us so busy? When did we allow ourselves to keep going like we are living on a hamster wheel and not take the time to stop for a few moments to think about our next steps?

IT IS TECHNOLOGIES FAULT OR A POOR USER MANUAL?

Technology was meant to make our lives easier, relieving the burden of certain (particularly monotonous or repetitive) tasks and therefore freeing us up to focus on other aspects of a job, or even provide us with more ‘free time.’ However, computers for all their efficiency saving aspects have also created additional work, although I believe that this could be more to do with the use of computers in the workplace than the computers themselves. For example, a part of my role is to record student data. Pretty straightforward. I have my own spreadsheet where I enter student grades for tasks such as homework or assessments. However, I also have to enter this data on not one, but two further spreadsheets for the schools use. The first of which is the whole school data system and the second is for one of the members of management specifically. Why on earth he cannot use the whole school data management system or god forbid my spreadsheet is alien to me. So instead, the entire teaching faculty are expected to enter the same information multiple times.

There is some argument that being busy stems from the complex modern world that we live in. Many of us are connected in some capacity to our work 24/7 through phone and the internet. So even when we are at home or socialising with friends and family, it’s easy to do a ‘quick’ check-in with work. Interestingly this pressure to be present, also runs in parallel to the messages presented to us from various corners of the media that we (as a human race!) are losing grip of the present and so we need to spend time embracing the now, utilising relaxation and meditation practices.

But isn’t this (or me!) missing the point to an extent? Although there are certain findings that highlight people who meditate do find themselves more relaxed, productive and able to focus on the present, it’s often difficult to carve out time to complete the actual practice part. For myself, when I acknowledged my burnout earlier this year, I turned to meditation and downloaded an app for my phone. I lasted about a week and even then I had to keep reminding myself to actually do it via my calendar. Poor discipline on my part? Or could it be more to do with the fact that taking time out to meditate felt like it was at the bottom of that to-do list?

‘IF YOU’RE NOT BUSY, THEN THERE’S A PROBLEM’

This was something my current boss said to me within a few months of starting at my job a few years ago. I am often reminded of his words when I am pulling my hair out over data, weighed down with report writing/editing for my team, or like when I barely have chance to go to the toilet in the working day (note: I am reminded of the quote more than my boss at this time!). At least while passing the time in the bathroom, I can think of those words and remember that being busy has got to be a good thing… right?

In contemporary (Western) society, there is a level of stigma attached to those who are not seen as busy, the words slacker, lazy, unproductive come to mind. Because there is always something that you could be doing. Well, that is according to my boss.

I can only speak for me and my role as a teacher but in my ten-year career, the pressure to be busy has never felt more tangible. Data is followed by more paperwork so we can analyse student performances in examinations, which is then debated at length in meetings with management. Planning and marking are heavily scrutinised so that management can ensure students are progressing sufficiently and that our lessons are up to scratch. And finally, students are plotted on neat graphs to see how they are performing against other students in the school and across the world.

But is there a way to stop or at least even slow the hamster wheel?

Well, it’s something that I am still trying to work out… but I did manage to grab a couple of beers with my friend – only two weeks after first suggesting it.

AND WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

It’s been a good few weeks (cough… months…) since I last posted but I have good reason or at least that’s what I am telling myself.

Life kinda got busy.

The new academic year began in earnest and in what seems like a blink of an eye I am already a whole two months and a bit in. And whilst I have welcomed new students, greeted those returning, and got stuck into my planning, I have been reminded of some of the lessons I learnt as I worked through the course with Careershifters. Primarily, I have been wondering where do I want to be, as I have felt myself sink pretty quickly into a familiar malaise with my job once more.

I expected this. But it doesn’t mean that the discontent gets any easier to experience. 

The malaise is nothing new, the chain of thoughts attached are relatively similar to those that I have experienced for some years now but once again I am finding myself struck by some familiar thoughts bubbling to the surface associated with frustration by what part of me sees as a lack of tangible progress.

But if was only one thing that the careers course taught me and it’s that I have made progress. And a few events recently at work as well as the general malaise have led me to make a pretty bold decision. I am finally ready to try something new.

TIME FOR CHANGE

In my current teaching position I am required to provide one years notice to my employers of my future intentions. One. Whole. Freaking. Year.

I can certainly see it from their side, they want to advertise early, interview candidates, essentially find the right people for the job. Be organised and all that.

But a lot can happen in a year! And unless you are sure of wanting to stay (in which case it’s a case of signing on the dotted line and handing in that intentions letter immediately) then it leaves you in a conundrum. For me, it was a case of do I let them know that I have intentions of leaving hoping that something does come up, or do I hedge my bets, see what jobs arise and then hand in my notice if something significant comes up? And potentially have to stay a further year before I can hand in my notice? 

Well, I opted for the former. And I have discovered that my job has already been advertised! A cynical part of me screams, ‘You’re dispensable! I thought you knew that already?!’

So that’s me, dispensable but oh so very happy with the decision. Freaking nervous to the very core. But grinning from ear to ear.

AUDREY: WHY DON’T THEY LIKE ME?

Audrey,

This is going to sound like a really odd request for advice particularly from an adult but for as long as I can remember I have needed to be liked by pretty much anyone and everyone I interact with. But it’s more than just a need for people to like me, at times it verges on obsession. The crazy thing is that this doesn’t just include people who I am close to like my friends and family, it also includes people who I may only meet once or only interact with in small doses such as colleagues. I know that I shouldn’t give a shit about people who are either indifferent towards me or certainly those who are rude to me, but counter-intuitively, they are the ones I am more bothered about, particularly the ones who are rude or mean to me.

This obsession with social approval isn’t anything new. I can remember as a teenager when I forced a friend over the phone to speak to her younger sister and discover why she apparently didn’t like me. I really didn’t have much evidence to go on apart from the fact that she didn’t speak to me at school and the only link we had was her older sister and my friend. I could hear the sister saying all the things that as a rational adult I know I should just brush over my shoulder: she’s annoying, she’s boring, I just don’t like her! But I couldn’t let it go. By the end of the call I had managed to ‘persuade’ or rather coerce the younger sister to say that she did like me after all. What a way to make friends?! Through simply pestering (irritating) them into relenting.

Another sore point as a kid was that I was dumped a lot, that is I was picked up and dropped by a group of (mean) girls who I thought were the real deal when it came to a friendship group. I was constantly made to feel incredibly lucky that I was even admitted to this group. When they tired of me, I was left out from parties and cinema trips, only to have them pick me up again and regale all their wonderful friendship tales during my absence. I can even recall on one of the girl’s birthdays sitting in the cinema crying quietly as there weren’t enough seats for me to join them on the row. I was made to sit on my own and no-one offered to join me. Yet, I STILL wanted to be friends with them!

And now as a 30-year-old woman, I still identify with that overly-sensitive kid, and this obsession with social approval has become almost crippling in its ferocity. I agonise over not just what I say to others but also how I say it, so that in some social gatherings (particularly around people I don’t know well) I am at one of two extremes: super quiet or talking the ears off those around me because I don’t want them to think I am boring or have nothing to say. And when the party is over I am left with snippets of memories reminding me of a joke or comment I made to X or Y that could have been interpreted in a way that I didn’t intend.

A recent example of this social approval obsession is with a new colleague. Even on my off and sometimes grumpy days I make an effort to say hello to colleagues I see in passing, or at the very least I give a smile. This particular colleague attempts neither of these with me, or if she manages to muster the energy to reply she cannot even bear to glance in my direction. Anyone else probably wouldn’t think too much of it, perhaps she is thinking about other things, she doesn’t want to stop and chat, let alone say hello. But in being relatively passive towards me, I take it as a deep personal affront.

I have a fantasy that one day I will let the anxiety and obsession float over me, that I will stop fucking worrying and not let others bother me or at least not as much. How can I move in that direction and grow the fuck up?

30 going on 13

Dear 30 going on 13,

I can feel your desire for approval, as to a greater degree, we all crave it. That’s right, everyone. Some things can get easier as we mature and grow, we think that we are going to be able to do things right, be better than before. Progress. We can master our vulnerabilities and then it’s onwards and upwards whether that’s from a bad relationship, a crap job or lifestyle set-up. And it’s true, some of us are better at battering off the anxiety associated with certain social situations and blocking those freaking annoying thoughts that can plague your very existence. But this idea of progress is in reality deeply subjective and tenuous at the very least.

Perhaps you can link your desire for social approval to your childhood; were you striving for your mothers or fathers (or even both) good graces but your advances were met with rejection or a dismissive attitude? Perhaps it stems from making and fostering those early relationships with friends, including the mean girls. You never knew where you stood. So in response to this, you unconsciously decided that it was up to you to seek approval, rather than others seeking it from you. You wanted to be in control.

You say hello to colleagues in the corridor assuming that they will reply, you want to know why people may find you annoying, you expect to be able to sit with ‘friends’ (mean girls) when you go to the cinema. And fucking aye! I agree! There are basic social norms that we should expect from others, a little decency and a little humanity can go a long way. And perhaps that’s why there are certain people that we choose to hang out with, after all, they are the ones that tick some of the boxes like we tick theirs. But there are those that tick far less or even none whatsoever and we still spend time with them. We are rarely rational and you are judging others by your own social expectations (although sitting next to people you go to the cinema with is a given). This obsession to understand is only resulting in a never-ending negative feedback loop. One person fails to adhere to your social code, so you seek out answers for their behaviour, you aren’t able to find out or comprehend what their deal is, so you keep looking for unattainable clues unless you choose someone/something else to obsess over.

That colleague, those girls, the younger sister all have something in common. Your need to control the outcome. You want that colleague to at the very fucking least to acknowledge you, those mean girls to permit you into their circle with no conditions attached, and the younger sister just to give you a real goddamn answer to a very simple freaking question, “What is your problem with me?” And when you can’t control the outcome you lose your head, “This wasn’t how it was meant to be!” And then you try your darndest to fix the problem, you want them to see you in the way that your family and close friends see you.

And what about those people who love and cherish you? Why is it difficult to hold onto the positive thoughts and feelings associated with them? Or rather, them of you? Perhaps it’s because you don’t believe it’s real. You’re waiting for them to have a sudden epiphany and realise that you are boring and have nothing to say! You know what? At times, we are all boring and have nothing to say. But right now and since your teenage years you are judging yourself from this mythical ‘out-there’ worldliness that is somehow better than this world. Your self-worth is firmly placed in other peoples’ hands.

I wish I could say, “Don’t worry about it! Chill out! Why do you care so much? Stop being so sensitive!” But I imagine you’ve heard all of that before. Though if there is anything in life that I have realised and that is being sensitive is NOT A BAD THING and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel bad for it. I absolutely hate it when people say shit like that, as though expressing yourself or showing some emotion will send you to the depths of hell. If you want to cry, cry! If you want to scream, just do it! And if you want to walk past that colleague and ignore her then feel free. You don’t need to explain your behaviour, like in truth, many people don’t need to explain theirs to you. They have their own shit going on.

But all in all, retraining your brain to like yourself a bit better may be perhaps the way to move forward. Forgive the vulnerabilities of those mean girls, the younger sisters and the colleague as if you look close enough there are cracks that we are all try to hide. Learn to hold yourself up a bit higher by spending time with loved ones, sit back and take it in. Therapy could certainly help but see if you can enlist loved ones and take small steps. You’ll get there 30 going on 13.

Love, Audrey

ME, MYSELF AND MY GREMLINS

I recently watched an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert where she described how people frequently approach creativity with either a martyr or trickster mindset. The martyr is someone who believes that they must suffer for their art and for the creative process. The strongest indicator of someone with this mindset is that the closest adjective to describe their creative process is frustration. Frustration at the words that hang just out of reach, at the blank page, at the deletion of hundreds of words that you spent an entire morning writing, the pen you write with (as it must be the pens fault for the lack of words) or even your computer screen.

The worst part of acting the martyr is that what actually helps fuel creativity can actually hinder the process. You experience the buzz that comes from creating ideas and content, but when the ideas dry up or become stuck in a no man’s land somewhere in your mind it becomes easier to get caught up in a negative spiral. You are quick to criticise and pass judgement on your own abilities. Martyrdom results in your ideas becoming stuck in the mud, so a lot of the fun is lost. So why do it at all?

But there is another way, Gilbert asserts and this is to view inspiration and creativity as though it were a trickster. Whilst the martyr wants you to self-flagellate for your creativity, the trickster, on the other hand, wants you to play and specifically dance. Dancing in this context is unless you prefer doing it alone, a two-way process and importantly it’s meant to be fun!

Gilbert believes that the trickster is a bit of a shady character too, dropping by for a matter of moments before exiting through the backstage door, or hiding just out of view before pouncing (probably when you are in the middle of doing something else). Viewing the creative process in this way opens your mind to the fact that the way you are thinking shouldn’t be a burden or at its worst painful.

That is partly why I created some metaphorical gremlins to describe a part of my creative thinking. Although at times it’s as though I am training a group of unruly puppies. At times they are the most frustrating things in the world; they pee and crap everywhere, they chew up important stuff and even at their most basic they can annoy the hell out of me. But on the other hand, like puppies my gremlins can sit patiently, coax me along, encourage even providing support and purpose.

My gremlins have to a large extent kept leading me down the martyr route for many years. But working through the careers course, discovering and meeting other people with a similar mindset has forced me to realise that that road sucks, and I need to head in a new direction. This isn’t about turning back or fighting against the gremlins, far from it, it’s about creating a new path where the gremlins and I work together.

9U4HOT0AOU

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