It’s All About Perspective

Last week while I was at work, I got talking to this nine year old girl. We talked about her favourite books, school, and all the other things nine year old girls like. Somehow we got talking about age and I made the catastrophic mistake of asking her how old she thought I was.

“46?” came the reply. I laughed and said “Not quite!” Her next guess was 47 and it only went up from there. Now, I turn 23 tomorrow, so obviously I hope that I don’t look 47, but to a nine year old I clearly do look “old”. But let’s be honest, most kids aren’t great judges of age. I sure wasn’t, still aren’t! They see kids, big kids and grown ups. And maybe “old people”, you know, those people with grey hair and false teeth. Apparently those people are only a few years older that me!

I have to be honest, though. I did go home and check for wrinkles. Not because I’m old, but because I’m getting older and for the first time I’m starting to feel as though life is getting away from me.

When I was little I imagined a lot of things about being a grown up. Some things, like having my hair change naturally to black, having green eyes and a flawless tan, were not realistic. Other things, like being a vet, were. However if nine year old me could meet present day me, I don’t think she would be impressed. Her expectations of being married with kids, a farm and horses have not come to fruition. But at age nine, I thought people in their twenties had all that and more.

Silly me.

A little older, not much wiser, 13 year old me walked the school hallways looking at the year 12 students, 17 and 18 year olds, in admiration. They were so grown up and beautiful. They had relationships not just boyfriends. They drank coffee! They had it all together.

Ha!

Fast forward five years. 18 year old me: struggling with school, single, didn’t like coffee. I thought I’d turn 18 and go out clubbing. I went once to a place known as The Spewie and avoided it from then on. I thought I’d have my license and my own car. I still don’t. I despite that, I knew that I’d be married by 19. 20 at the latest!

Hahahahahaha!

Wrong again, past me. We’re currently on the cusp of 23, single and very much still trying to figure this whole life thing out. I have, in the past few years, leaned a lot, however. I’ve learned that no one really knows what they’re doing, but if you act enough like you’ve got it figured out, people will think that you do, and eventually, your life starts to look as if you’re a Proper Adult™. For example, I go to work every day. I complain about work. I save money. I buy an obscene amount of books. I’m about to buy my first car. And then I will learn to drive. From the outside, it’s starting to look like everything is coming up Milhouse. Finally, I’m an adult!

Except…

I don’t really understand taxes.

My little brother had to teach me the difference between a blue slip and a pink slip.

I can’t even keep my room tidy, let alone a house.

But the important thing is that this is all okay. I’m 22, nearly 23. Sure, some of my friends are married, some of them have kids. Hell, a couple of them have even graduated university! Some of them are really acing it. And some of them are addicted to meth. So, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not doing too badly.

It’s all about perspective.

 

 

Image credit: https://www.tes.com/lessons/s2mKePgAVVUC0Q/space-and-perspective

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“Say sorry!”

I don’t know anyone who likes to admit when they’re wrong. It’s a hard thing to do for most people. It takes a lot to go to someone and apologise for something you’ve done/not done. It takes even more to apologise for something that truly wasn’t your fault, something that I’ve been learning about recently.

Last Friday at work I had an… Altercation with someone. More accurately, I took a message for her in which the person gave me the incorrect phone number and she blew her top. All day she was at me. She got right up in my face, yelling and being very insulting. In short, it was extremely unprofessional and rude. And it made me cry. A lot. On Monday I spoke to my supervisor about it and basically told her how awful it was and how unfair it was that this woman treated the staff this way (I should put in quickly here, I work on reception and this woman was one of the people I do reception for. She’s not my boss, I don’t work directly for her, making it even more out of line). My supervisor agreed and we decided she would talk to our boss.

Then my supervisor told me that in the future, I should just apologise and try to fix the mistake, even though it wasn’t me that had made it. At first I was furious. Why should I have to apologise if I hadn’t made a mistake?! Why couldn’t I just tell her to f*** off?! Well, in short, because I had to be the bigger person. While my reaction would usually be “I didn’t do it, don’t look at me”, my supervisor explained that, unfortunately, in our role it was often easier to just say sorry. She told me that often the people that we do reception for will find errors or things that have gotten switched around and that while I may not have done anything wrong, if they’re upset they will usually react better to me saying sorry and offering to fix it, than if I just try to fix it.

Now, I have no problem taking responsibility for a mistake. If I mess up, then I’ll try to fix it. I do, however, have an issue with taking responsibility for someone else’s mistake. However, in my role it is far easier to just say sorry. Easier, not easy.

Saying sorry has never been easy for me. Apologising in general, especially with people I’m close to. But it’s something that I’m learning to do more and more. I think part of the reason I find it so difficult is that when I was little I never saw adults apologising. As I grew up I found I didn’t have to apologise that often either, except for doing the awkward sorry-shuffle through a crowded place – you know the one, “sorry, sorry, sorry, excuse me, sorry”.

I can remember this one particular time I had to apologise. I found it so difficult. I used to nanny for these two kids and I had made a promise to one of them, something like he could have x for dessert, but then I forgot and we were running out of time, so when he said “BUT YOU PROMISED!” I snapped at him, which obviously wasn’t fair and upset him. Later on, I remembered having promised and so I steeled myself up and apologised. I just said something like “I’m sorry I snapped at you. You were right, I did promise. How about we do it tomorrow night?” and just like that it was all okay again.

I think learning to put your pride aside and say sorry is a difficult thing, only made harder when you’re not responsible, but I also think it’s an important skill to have. It’s certainly something I’m going to have to work on. And like my supervisor said, you can always be swearing on the inside.

Playing The “Yes, but” Game.

It’s 23 days into the new year and I haven’t written anything. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I have a few little scribbles, a scene or two, in a note book somewhere. But as for substantial, planned writing, it just hasn’t happened yet. As always, I came into the new year with grand ideas of publishing my first novel (“this year, for sure!” – me every year), reading 52 books and moving out of home – permanently this time. I have to say, I’ve made fairly good progress on the books, being on my 11th already, but what with reading, binge-watching vampire movies and discovering a new anime series, my writing has suffered.

It wasn’t until just now, reading a blog post by my sister, that I realised how little I’ve written this year. Reading the post, all I could think was “God, I wish I could write like this”. I’ve always been compared to this particular sister. When I was around 12 we looked similar (she was 22, so I don’t know if that was insulting to her, me or both of us) and I constantly got mistaken for her. And then I started high school and people started expecting me to achieve like her. See, she’d topped the state in English, and when my teachers realised I have a particular knack for English, they all thought I would be The Next Her. Unfortunately, I let every single one of them down.

Being compared to my siblings, not just my younger-older sister, has always bothered me, mainly because (and I’m not afraid to admit this anonymously) I am extremely, painfully insecure.I hold ridiculously high expectations for myself, basically setting myself up for failure, but still beating myself up when I do fail. It’s something I realise is not good for me and try to change, but I think the Yes, But game is something everyone does, even from a disturbingly young age.

The Yes, But game goes like this: Person A compliments Person B. Person B either accepts or rejects the compliment, then passes it on to Person C. For example, “Wow, Anna, this story is brilliant!” “Thanks, but Judy’s was so much better.”. I’m sure we’ve all played this game at one time or another. I know that I, personally, play this game a lot. Not always out loud, either. Sometimes it goes like this: “Wow, this story is really good!” “Thanks!” *Inner thoughts* I bet they’re just saying that to be nice. Theirs was much better.

As someone who does this a lot, I have to say, it is an excellent way to undermine your own confidence. Because, let’s be honest here, we’re never going to be the best at absolutely everything we do. I’m never going to be the greatest writer in history, nor the best dancer, nor the best painter. In fact, even within my immediate family, I’ll never be the best at any of those things. But just because I know that, does that mean I should hang up my laptop, dancing shoes and paint brush? Of course not! I’m not going to get any better by sulking about how I’ll never be the best! And I don’t have to be the best, I just have to be my best. Comparing myself to others is never going to help me. Even if you compare yourself like this: “My story wasn’t the best, but at least it wasn’t as bad as Paul’s.” In fact, that may even be more harmful. Besides, maybe Paul’s just a little rusty, you don’t know.

I wish I could say that after realising how bad the Yes, But and comparison games are, I stopped completely and never did it again, but unfortunately, this is not the case. See, I am extremely competitive, and while I know I’ll never be the best, that does nothing to quench the desire to be the best. In fact, sometimes it fuels it, out of pure stubborness. But not matter how much it might drive me to try harder, in the end this is always my failing. Not matter how good I think my story is, when I start comparing it to others’, it makes me feel as if I’ve fallen short. So here is my new years resolution: Don’t compare any writing to anyone else’s until at least April.

I’ve just mentally started comparing this to my sister’s post, so I’ve failed already, but I’ll try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next…

 

 

 

Image credit: https://beingsakin.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/yesbut.jpg

Complications of Love

When I was younger love seemed so simple. The movies made it seem so easy. You meet a prince, he falls in love with you, you get married and live happily ever after. I always dreamed of the day I would meet my Prince Charming – or, more accurately, my Prince Eric – and be swept off my feet, falling hopelessly in love. I didn’t think about how to maintain the relationship, I didn’t have to. I was a kid and the way I saw it, you just sort of… Lived together.

When I was nine my family traveled to America. One night we had dinner with a friend of my mum’s, Mick. Mick lived with his partner at the time, a man. Being nine and oblivious to the concept of homosexuality, I didn’t realise that they were together. I thought they were house mates. It wasn’t until years later that I connected the dots and went to my mum saying “Mick is gay, isn’t he?”. I didn’t have a problem with it, even then. It was just a fact of life. My father, however, has a big problem with gay people. He uses a lot of hate language towards them, which honestly makes me sick. So, I was raised hearing that it was wrong and unnatural, when it was acknowledged at all.

The idea of me liking girls, however, wasn’t something I even considered until I was in year eight. I developed a little crush on one of my friends. It didn’t last for long and in my mind I made up ever excuse not to accept that it was a crush. I didn’t like girls, I liked boys! I dated boys! That was that. You either liked boys or you liked girls, those were the options! Right? Nope.

Year eleven brought around the State Drama camp. I met this girl called Georgina. She wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense, but I thought she was stunning. I was painfully shy and she was the most talented girl there. She asked me to be partners in class one day and was so nice and friendly that I couldn’t help falling for her. She was just so down to earth, so easy to talk to, and so talented. I never saw her again after that week, but she was a turning point in my life.

It was around that time that I learned of the term “bisexual”. I thought, “Hey, I’ve had crushes on girls. I must be bisexual!”. I still thought it was that simple. But I didn’t want to tell everyone, to ‘come out’. I spoke to one boy in our friends group who is bi, then I spoke to my mum. The conversation went like this: “Mum, I think I might like girls.” “Yeah, I thought you were that way inclined.” And that was sort of it. It hasn’t been brought up since. But I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being bisexual.

That was five years ago, and ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out what I am. I know you don’t need to put labels on things, but I like labels. They help me simplify things. See, I’ve known for years now that I fall for girls. I’ve known for even longer that I fall for boys. But I’m not sexually attracted to girls in the same way I am guys. Physically attracted, yeah, but not sexually.

So, it wasn’t as simple as I thought.

I thought that if you’re bi you feel the same way about boys and girls, but that’s not the case. Sexuality and romance are so personal, I doubt anyone works the exact same way as anyone else. It’s more like a spectrum  than “gay”, “bi”, “straight”. Trying to figure out where I fit on this spectrum has been really difficult for me, and has bothered me for a long time. I want to know exactly who I am, and having something this important in my life that I’m so unsure about is deeply unsettling.

At the start of this year I joined my university’s GSMA (Gender and Sexual Minorities Alliance). I was so scared going to the first meeting. I was terrified that somehow my father would see me there and find out what I was, even thought I didn’t know what I was. I was scared that one of my friends would see me. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in. I was scared that I was straight and that I wouldn’t belong. I was just plain scared.

I shouldn’t have been, of course. They were welcoming, friendly and fun. I liked fitting in with the group, I felt like I belonged there. But I still didn’t have the answers about what I was. I filed myself between Bisexual and Questioning, and just sort of hung out there. It was okay, it didn’t matter what you were in the group, as long as you were polite, friendly and willing to joke around.

Part way through this year I encountered another term. “Bi-romantic”. Someone who is bi-romantic is romantically attracted to both males and females (as well as other genders), but not necessarily sexually attracted to both. Yes! I thought, that sounds like me! And it did. And does. I fall in love with people no matter what their gender is, I can’t help it. It’s just the way I am. But I’m not really sexually attracted to females. I find them beautiful and attractive, but as I said earlier, it’s different from the attraction I have to males.

But, unfortunately, figuring out that I’m heterosexual and bi-romantic didn’t make everything easy like I thought it would. Instead, it just made me more afraid. What if people find out I like girls? Will my friends think I’d perve on them? Would they judge me? What if my family found out? These are all things that freak me the heck out. I think a few people are aware of my sexuality, but I keep it hidden from most people. It’d like to be open about it, but I’m scared of being judged, being teased, being isolated.

And that sucks.

Because right now I am falling for this amazing girl. She’s beautiful, smart, funny and we get on really well. She likes things I like, and talking to her about them makes me feel so alive. I want to hold her, to kiss her, to take her on dates. But I’m also too scared. It’s not just the fear that she’ll reject me, although that is ever-present, it’s that if we walked down the street hand-in-hand, people might stare. That if I took her as my date to the work Christmas party, people would think I was weird. That I couldn’t have her around to meet my family because of my father. I’m scared because I still can’t fully accept that I like girls, even though I like her so much.

When I was a kid, I thought love was straightforward. The older I get, the more complicated it seems. I’m hoping it’ll start to go the other way after a certain age, that it’ll start to seem more and more simple. I hope that one day we’ll reach a place where the LGBTQI+ community won’t have these fears. Most of all, I hope that one day I can call this girl my girlfriend, and be brave enough to walk through the mall holding her hand.

Treat yo self!

I’m a big believe in self-care and self-love. I’ve spent so much of my life hating myself and not taking care of myself, and it’s such a waste of time! It’s also super draining. During my teenage years I’d look in the mirror and cringe. I hated what I saw and who I was. I always wanted to be someone else, someone I thought was better. Now I still have days when I don’t like who I am, there are things I’d change, but I don’t hate myself. Most of the time.

Today I took myself on a date. As I (half-jokingly) said to my friends “No one else will, so I might as well do it!” After all, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself! Really, I’d had a fight with my parents. It had greatly upset me and I needed to get out of the house. It was raining, but I pulled on my boots and a jacket and went out. I started feeling better immediately. I love walking in the rain, especially around trees and grass. Out in the open I felt like I could breathe better, like I wasn’t trapped. I walked into town and went to Spotlight, a craft store. I walked around in there for a while, then went into K-Mart (incidentally, one of my favourite shop). There I decided to buy myself a set of water colour paints, some brushes and an art book. It wasn’t expensive, but it’s something I’ve thought about buying for a while. After that I went down to the cinema and watched The Girl on The Train (great flick!).

By the time I got home again, I was feeling calmer, happier and more peaceful. Comparing that to my mood when I left – tearful, strained and anxious – it was a great improvement.

I used to feel so guilty spending money on things like that. I felt like every cent I earned had to go into savings or something ‘important’. Then I realised: This is important. Taking care of yourself, doing things that make you happy, spending money on yourself, it’s all okay. I have a nice little lump of savings and it shouldn’t make me feel guilty to spend ten dollars on painting gear! If I was dropping hundreds of dollars every weekend, yeah, maybe a little excessive.

It’s okay to treat yourself to things. If you put in the hard yards and earn the money, then you shouldn’t feel bad about buying something you’ve saved up for (provided bills are paid first!). There are some things that I’ve bought ‘just because’ and they still make me happy. Some things are just junk, but it brought me joy at the time, and I don’t regret that. Part of taking care of yourself is knowing that it’s okay sometimes to spoil yourself. Go to a salon, have the more expensive cocktail, buy the blue AND purple nail polish. Treat yo self.

 

Image credit: candy.com

Books, books, books.

Today I bought 6 books.

This is a common occurrence for me. I love going and looking through second hand shops, especially the second hand book store we have in town. I love finding books I read when I was young, sequels to books I have or books that I think I might love for only a dollar or two. I love finding books with beautiful covers that, honestly, I might never read, but make me happy just looking at them. The place I’m happiest is surrounded by books. If you want to see me at my most relaxed and most open, take me somewhere with lots of books.

Which is why I wonder why dates to book shops aren’t a common thing.

I’ve always been an avid reader, for as long as I can remember it’s been a favourite hobby of mine. At the start of every school holiday my mother would take us to the town library. I’d pick a stack of books, usually five or six chapter books, and take them to the counter. The first few times the librarian would say “Wow, I bet those will keep you busy for the next two week!” but then a few days later I’d be back for more.

I loved, still love, being able to absorb myself in different worlds, to discover characters and places and lives, to be so deep into a book that you forget there’s anything outside of it. Reading is an escape. I have so many favourite books and authors that I almost dread being asked what they are. Whenever I tell someone I love to read they ask. “Oh, really? What’s your favourite book?” “How long do you have?” I have one bookshelf in my room. It doesn’t even hold half of the books I own, so I only put my favourites on there. The book has to be pretty special to earn a place on The Shelf. Once a book is on there, though, it’s usually there to stay. When I fall in love with a book, I fall hard. The Harry Potter series, for example, will always have a place on The Shelf, as will The Iron Fey, The Demonata and Anne of Green Gables. These are some of the books I’ll never grow out of.

I wish everyone loved books as much as I do, although then there would be even more competition for second hand books. Our town library throws books in the bin if they’ve been damaged or if they’ve been in the library for a few years. I personally think that is a crime akin to murder. I find it heartbreaking that they throw away perfectly good books to make room for newer books. I mean, look at the classics, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Anne Rice. Those books are old, but still amazing. I think they need to build more shelves. One of my dreams is to have enough bookshelves to hold all my books. And then more books.

I’ve always had a reputation of being an avid reader. Even in kindergarten, while the other kids had their reading groups I was in the “independent” reading group, which meant I could sit and read whatever and didn’t need to prove I could. When I got to high school the librarians knew me by name before most of my teachers because I was in there getting books every other day. I actually still have a school library book that I accidentally stole, but that’s another story…

The only thing I don’t like about books is the endings. When I finish a series for the first time I always feel a little sense of lost. I’ll never get to discover the story for the first time again. It’s always a little bittersweet. But knowing that I can go back and relive the story over and over again brings me comfort. Despite there being SO many books out there, every year I like to take the time out to revisit my favourites. And now, I’m going to go and dive into a new book, I hope it has a happy ending.

 

Image credit: Kameron Hurley

The Battle for Bed Sheets

As anyone who has ever shared a bed knows, there is nearly always a battle for more bed sheets. I’ve shared beds with my sisters, my friends, and partners, sometimes single beds, sometimes double beds. Space hasn’t been that much of an issue, but the sharing of bed sheets is.

The other day I was having a Down Day, which is what I call it when depression starts to win in the battle with me. As I was thinking about life, death and mental illnesses, I realised how similar The Battle for Bed Sheets is to the battle against depression.

When I sleep I pull the blankets around me as I roll from my back onto my stomach, effectively cocooning myself. Also not leaving a lot of spare blankets. This is fine when I’m sleeping alone, but as soon as you put someone else into the mix, I become a “blanket hog”. It got to a point with my ex-partner that we would have separate quilts because both of us were blanket hogs (although he was worse, just saying).

If you imagine the scenario with the blankets representing Happiness and the person I’m sharing a bed with being Depression, then it looks very similar. I try to roll over and surround myself with Happiness, while Depression wants to take it all for itself. Unfortunately, in this scenario I can’t get separate Happinesses for us to have, we have to share.

I’ve spoken about depression before, comparing it to a little creature. I like to picture depression as something physical, because it makes it seem easier to fight that way. Picturing it as a problem, like bed sheet sharing, helps me put it into a different perspective. A friend of mine once said that he always says “I have depression, depression doesn’t have me”, because it makes him feel like he has control. This is just a different way of coping with it.

I’ve recently been having a lot of Down Days. This happens sometimes, I start to lose the battle, I lose grip of the bed sheets and lie alone in the cold feeling resentful. It’s often very tempting to give up completely, to relinquish the bed sheets and accept that I’ll have to sleep in the cold. It seems easier than having to pull the sheets back and fight to keep them. But then you lie there, cold, miserable and isolated and you remember why you’re fighting.

You’re fighting because bed sheets are warm and comforting. You’re fighting for all the people willing to share their Bed Sheets with you (in this case I mean happiness. Although, possibly also literal bed sheets). You fight because when you win and get those sheet back then you’ll feel satisfied and accomplished. And every time you win a fight you get to add that to your Achievement Pile, and the bigger that pile gets, the harder you can fight because you have a whole pile of wins that remind you that you can do it.

Mental illness is a difficult battle, something that people often don’t know that you’re fighting. I know a lot of people who think that when they ‘lose’ to depression, whether that means they failed a class, they lapsed back into old habits, they self-harmed or whatever it is, that means that they’ve failed. Set backs like that can seem like a failure, like you’ve given in, but they’re just set backs. It’s not the end, the battle goes on and you can keep on fighting.

If you’re having a tough time, there are lots of resources available to you. I’ll list some below:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.sane.org/

https://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/

www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Remember, if you or someone else is in danger of hurting themselves you can call the emergency line (000 – Australia, 911 – USA, 999 – UK, etc). You can also take them, or yourself, to the emergency department at the hospital.

 

Image credit: http://www.prevention.com