Tag Archives: life

Dear Facebook User

Dear Facebook User,

It has recently come to my attention that Facebook is mainly comprised of delightful documentations of people’s lives. Eating delicious food and photos of incredible travels are what social media is made for, all glossy and edited with Instagram filters that make everyone look younger and happier than they really are.

If you are anything like me, a real human being with feelings, problems and a mostly unremarkable daily life, this flood of happiness, fun and realizations can make you feel inadequate, boring and unhappy at times. In a perfect world we would all feel happy enough in ourselves not to consider Facebook a battle of “Who is having a better time?” that often makes young people feel lonely.

This feeling of battle is what leads us to always be searching for the best, most incredible thing to be doing on a Saturday night. We always need to find the better thing to do, the thing that will bring us most joy and with social media and technology surely that event is just within our reach. We have become flaky human beings, always looking for the best night out, the best event, the thing that will make us happiest (or make us appear the happiest). If we were purely doing this for ourselves, it may be acceptable but I often feel like there are times that I look for the best angle, the best view just so I can share it on social media. This can lead to a type of unhappiness that is based on comparisons which I personally don’t think is healthy. Here is a common list of things you might think while you are scrolling down your feed.

– I could have gone to that party, it seemed to be better than the one I actually went to.
– Wow, Janet always travels to such incredible places. I wish I could do that.
– I can’t believe Johnny is moving to New York City, that sounds really cool and a lot better than where I am right now.
– Oh, Lucy got a new job and it’s better paying than what I got right now. Ugh.
– How the hell can Janet afford to travel so much? Why can’t afford to do that?
– Why does everyone else seem to be having a better life than I am?
– Aw, Jenna and Julien just moved in together. Too bad my last relationship came crashing down like a thousand waves.
– Ugh, Julie looks so much prettier than I do in this photo

Technology is incredible and I’ve made and kept a lot of friends through it. But the psychological effects of being on Facebook are real: we always think other people are happier, prettier and more fulfilled than we are. It’s a heightened version of “The grass is always greener on the other side” because we can see much more than the grass. We can see the food, the travelling, the embraces, the kisses and the smiles.

The absolute worst is when we can see other people moving forward and we feel like nothing is happening in our lives or we feel like we’ve gone back a few steps. It sucks, because sometimes there isn’t anything we can do to make our life move forward, we just have to wait until our next move is a possibility. So we sit there, in our modern-day anxiety, unhappy and bored, scrolling down through our friends’ accomplishments.

Because of technology we are unable to live in the present, we are unable to understand that what we have right now will not last forever and that we can be content with it for the time being, even if we feel like we are stuck or unhappy. Sitting with your pain or your boredom or your unfullfilment is necessary so you can one day move forward. Comparing yourself to your Facebook friends’ can make you want to rush through the phase you’re in which can be become destructive in the future.

Facebook User, I am writing this to you in the hope that you start realizing that we all have pain and that we all go through phases where we wished we could just give up. I am writing this to you so that you understand that the photos your friends put up on Facebook are selected, edited and tailored to make them look a certain way. You can be sure that behind the photo of that couple that just moved in there is hard work put into a relationship. You can be certain that behind your friends’ travels there were hours of work and planning and even home-sickness. Everyone has a thing, no one’s life is perfect and we all move at different speeds to achieve what we want.

On happiness after depression

[Trigger Warning: mental illness, suicide]

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If you read my blog regularly you will know I have struggled with depression and anxiety for about two years now.  This blog only has a few really personal posts and this is one of them. I don’t like posting personal blogs because I am supposed to be a ‘serious journalist’ who works on reports and opinion articles and ‘grown up’ things. But I guess I can be that and a blogger with feelings.

In the last eight months of my life I have seen a steady improvement in my mental health. I always hesitate when saying ‘now I am happy’ though because it implies I wasn’t happy for most of these two years which just isn’t true. It is hard to talk about happiness after depression because the default antonym of ‘happiness’ is ‘sadness’ and that’s not exactly what depression is.

Depression is pain and walking through a hazy life. It’s trying to see through a fog that seems impossible to dissolve.  What I’ve come to learn is that in the hardest parts of life, happiness is certain moments where you feel better. Looking back to the last two years I can remember many lovely moments that I would define as ‘happy’. I treasure them dearly because they contrasted so vividly with my daily numbness.

But in the last eight months the numbness has been fading, and I’ve been happy (or at least not numb) most of the time. I am looking forward to the next few months, as good things are coming up in my professional and personal lives. But it’s not just that the future looks bright.

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Although I give credit and thanks to all my family, friends and boyfriend who were my incredible support system during this illness, I am proud of myself.

I picked myself up from the ground when all I really wanted to do was dig deeper and bury myself alive.

Dusting off the dirt after you get up can be hard in itself: I had to learn how to walk again. Professionally, I had to start from nothing and build myself up as a freelance journalist because of the lack of jobs in my city. Personally, I had to relearn how to be a whole person because my personality and psyche were broken into little pieces. I stumbled through and I cried a lot. Sometimes I walked straight, others I just sat down and waited to feel better.

This week I lowered the dosage of my antidepressants. In two months I will lower it again, as it’s a slow process to go off really powerful medication like the one I am taking.

I feel happy. I feel fulfilled. I feel proud.

And after a year and a half of not feeling, of crying, of feeling intense pain in my chest I value a smile, a laugh so much more than I used to. Happiness is often taken for granted – when we are sad, we are conscious of it while happiness seems to be just a given.

Happiness after depression feels stronger because I no longer take it for granted. I am submersed in it and I often remind myself of harder times.

I hate saying ‘it gets better’ because to many people it doesn’t. Many people suffer depression for years and even decades, I don’t want to be dismissive of that. I’ve been really lucky in my recovery and although I know that’s not the case for a lot of people I hope this blog gives you a bit of hope. Even if your depression doesn’t get better, maybe you can notice the little moments of happiness I used to feel and grab onto them.

Who wore it better?

Who wore it better?

 

Have no fear – Part 1

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His paces echoed through the tunnel. It was dark in there and he could barely see , but he needn’t worry about anything. Violence and thievery had long been a problem in this world, and even in complete obscurity citizens were expected not to have any fear. He knew the way in the dark, so he walked on.

But in his chest, something was amiss – or had been born anew. He was not sure if he felt too empty or too full, but he was walking fast, nervously clutching his hands, darting his eyes to one side then another. Acting so nervous and on edge in public could get you sectioned nowadays, so he was glad that at least he was walking down the scary tunnel all alone. Scary?, he thought. Why am I using this word?

Nothing had ever been scary before. In fact, the word ‘scary’ was at the most scholarly, only showing up in historical records – and to those who did not study history, completely absent from their daily lives. It was not a valid or real feeling for him, or most anybody. It was a word he read when studying the old disasters of the past, a word the people who had lived in those times muttered and historians wrote down, hoping to illustrate how it felt to be in a world without peace, without fulfillment, without happiness. In a world where the phrase “times are hard” transcended time itself, and all generations could claim they had a hard time during their lifetime. It was a world fascinating to John, but lately he had been carrying more than curiosity inside his heart. That feeling, that thing in his chest, it was nothing short of unheard of for at least a couple of decades.

In times before his, people were scared, terrified. But no longer, for a while ago a man in power picked up a copy of “Brave New World” and whilst mothers, fathers and natural births were still reality, with no egg babies being planned for the forseeable future, everyone’s life path was already traced from the maternity ward. The Ministry of Futures made sure of that, and people were given the jobs they were best for, depending on early disposition. Capacity is happiness.

So there was John, a historian, researching the times of fear. Times reported as the dark ages of war, violence, irrationality. By all accounts everyone was unhappy back then, and now people were happy as can be. No obstacles, just straightforward guidelines on how to live life, what steps to take, how to reach the major goals. Although goals were probably not the right word for it – disappointment wasn’t around anymore and John had studied extensively that it came from a lack of achieving goals. Achievement, that was gone too, along with fulfillment, gratification and self-realization. They were all one in worldly success, unique in their way, but the same in most. He sometimes wondered how they found his disposition to study the past – how they knew he sometimes wished he had been in that past.

He walked and feared, but he wasn’t sure what exactly he was afraid of. Since he had been reading accounts of the past he had been prone to steal feelings that weren’t quite his own. Once, when speaking to his significant other a kind of despair rushed over him, a despair of being alone, without that person. That, of course, was not quite possible as the Ministry of Futures paired people together for life based on interest and personality. Even if somehow he was left behind, there would be another pairing to be made and no one was ever alone for more than a week. Simply because no one wanted to be alone, and future pairings were always a possibility.

But from reading the impossible love stories of the past, where people were left behind because of career, death and many, many other reasons, John had started to despair about the crazy idea of being left behind. No one was ever left behind now. It was all one straight forward line of life, but his heart still felt empty and full all at the same time. He strangely started to wonder what was the meaning of life – what was it? Why was he here? And too late into this thought he remembered that is what he was reading about earlier.

Arriving home, closing the door behind him, he felt much better. There was not much to think about anymore and he would not mention any of it to his partner.

If he was going crazy, he’d much rather do it on his own.

To be continued.

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Photo by BigPilou / Flickr Creative Commons License.

Obstacles – what do they mean?

The bus where Rosa Parks was arrested in by trying to overcome an obstacle. Photo by Maia C / Flickr Creative Commons License.

Staring at a screen with a stiff neck and a fragile sense of positivity, I am silly enough to start wondering what obstacles are for. Not obstacles in an obstacle course – though to be honest I don’t know why you would make running more difficult by making me stretch my legs in an impossible jump, but athletic I am not – but obstacles in a more literal sense – the barriers we find in life.

We will all meet them, sometimes we will see them coming and other times they will surprise us. But a true process of growing up – for me, at least – has been realizing life is hard for everyone.

Even with this realization (which I must clarify people had informed me before, but I never really understood it in its full meaning), I still struggle to understand the purpose of obstacles – why they are there and how do I get around them?

I want to be a writer, a journalist, a story teller, but since I graduated from university that hasn’t been a possibility. In all fairness, circumstances are not the best right now, options I was counting on fell through at the blink of an eye and now I found myself surrounded by mountains I must (supposedly) climb. And I wonder – why are they there?

It is impossible and inconceivable, in times of struggle and fear, not to consider the demoralizing option of giving up. If so many things stand in my way, if so many obstacles are blocking my vision of the future, maybe I am not meant to be a writer, maybe I am not meant to be what I have been working for in the past three years. Maybe it’s time to give up, to abandon my dreams. In the end, are obstacles meant to test or contest us?

Does not reaching an objective mean you are not meant to reach it, or does it mean you should try harder? Does it mean you learn something new, or just keep the old things you already knew safer within you?

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When Alice Walker was in school, she was hit in the eye with a BB gun by one of her brothers. She became blind on one eye and lived with scar tissue that was apparent and ready to be discussed and cussed by her classmates. She was suddenly shy, quiet, and, I imagine, not quite herself.

Upon graduation, after the scar tissue that made her so self-conscious was removed, she was voted class queen and most popular girl in school.

“[It taught me] really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out”.

Alice Walker learned something from her hardship. In many cases, we have no choice but to endure until the mountain moves itself – and then we learn.

Rosa Parks however, overcame her realities for a greater good, and in her case running into an obstacle was not a message to give up or even learn something new, it was a message to fight harder. Her obstacles were overcome and the world changed, but it may not have seemed like that at the time. When refusing to give up her seat to a white person in 1955, it must have felt like pain to be treated so badly, to be pushed aside for the confort of someone else, who was, at the time, thought to be better than her because of the colour of their human skins.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true,” Rosa told Sidney Rogers, a few years later. “I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then, I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Though it is undeniable that the actions Rosa Parks, mother of civil rights, changed the United States and the civil rights movement, the fact that she stood up (sat down, rather) for herself in that bus stemmed from tiredness, exhaustion. She was sick of the situation she lived in, sick of the obstacles, the barriers, the limitations. Rosa had already given in and sat in the marked “coloured seats”, and now that bus driver was trying to limit her even more.

If you let an obstacle take over your life it will get taller and harder to climb.

In this time of beginnings, with a new year starting full of hope and even something fresh , the barriers of life depend on you. Take these two stories as you will, but the truth is they both produced amazing women who I look up to. Keep hitting your head against the wall enough times, the wall might break down for you to pass, or the mountain will move on its own.  Or maybe stop and think for a bit and instead of going down the path you are now, which is perhaps not working, try another path. Instead of climbing, maybe try to go around it, or leave it a little bit – sometimes peace is the best way to go.

Good luck in 2013.

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Photos by Maia C and veesees/ Flickr Creative Commons License.

Saudades.

When I was a kid, I used to have a ridiculously wishful dream. I imagined a city where all the ones I loved and liked would live together in harmony. I don’t remember how I had worked it out, if everyone would keep their jobs and simply move their business to this new city, or if jobs weren’t needed at all because all we would do is hang out and have an amazing time together.

Today, at 22, I realize how unrealistic this thought is. It would obviously never happen and I often envy people who have lived in the same place their whole lives, knowing the same people, being the same person, growing in their own space for the duration of their existence. In the last ten years of my life I have migrated from place to place, and I can’t really say I know what planting your roots is really like. Even when I had lived in the same place for over ten years, I was far away from my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins, people I really care about. Being far away was difficult, and little did I know it would be something I would struggle with my whole life.

My parents and I at my graduation last July.

This is not to say I am not fortunate for what I have got out of moving around so much, since I have met so many amazing people from relocating but I also get to miss them every day of my life. I will always be torn between homes, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, to have more than one home. I will be eternally divided, though.

I don’t know if other people who have moved a lot in their lives feel like this but I really struggle in finding a place for myself sometimes. Where do I actually belong? It’s confusing to belong to several places. This is why I identify with the word saudades so much lately; it’s a unique Brazilian word that can be loosely translated to melancholic nostalgia. And it can apply to anything, from a person to a moment or an era.

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I think what gets me the most is that I miss certain eras of my life where I thought it was all together, that I was all right and that I belonged the most. I miss university in a way that is indescribable – after a couple of years of trying to belong, I actually did and it was wonderful. I miss Sheffield so much, I miss the independence and the carefree times I took for granted. Growing up is so hard, the pains are no myth – they are a harsh reality that can hit you with a blunder to the head if you don’t prepare for it.

And really, who does prepare for it? I certainly never did. I don’t know if I was very sheltered or naive – to be honest I was happy that way, so why dwell on it? – but today I am faced with difficulties I never knew I would face and I find myself dreaming of that city with all my loved ones once again. Not only that, but I hope for it too. That childish hope has remained somehow, and I wonder how on earth that could happen, as I am dealing with things I obviously never had to deal with when I was younger.

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One of my favourite sayings in the world actually comes from the movie Vanilla Sky (I don’t care if you don’t like it, I DO!) and it states, quite simply: “The sweet is never as sweet without the sour” and I have never felt this to be as true as I do now. And I feel this is what saudade is really about: it’s such a bitter-sweet reality, missing some one or a moment, but at the same time being so glad that you met that person or that this event in particular happened. It hurts because it’s gone but enjoying the memory is still satisfying. The odd thing is, the moments I miss the most are the boring, day-to-day stuff we don’t pay too much attention to. I wonder why that is.

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The unremarkable things, the silly things. Playing in the snow, feeling the warmth of the sun when the air is cold, waking up feeling like I’ve had a good sleep, walking to the shop and buying whatever I want for dinner, holding hands, casually chatting with house mates for hours instead of doing anything useful at all… These and many more are the things I loved the most about one era in particular in my life. But at the same time, I also missed my parents, my home and my home friends. Even if you’re happy, life will come with a few heartbreaks. As long as you accept it, it will be okay.

Pondering about these things is important to me, and I wanted  to share it. Saudade is what I feel, and it’s such a complex feeling. I do wish you some of it though for it’s quite a nice thing to have inside your chest – but you won’t know it until you do. And if you “suffer” from it, I’d like to hear your story.

To those I ever left behind, even before university, I love you and miss you all. I am sure you have all taught me something that is worth keeping and I hope to see you again someday.

In the end, I just want to say if you’re struggling with something similar, going through big changes in your life – keep your head above water, it’ll be worth it in the end.

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Photos from my personal archives, edited by me.