Good Morning and happy Friday chaps. I am once again coming to you from the train from Greytown to Wellington, and currently am speeding through the tunnel between the Rimutakas. Matt is reading over my shoulder while he is meant to be studying so I will be naughty and rude and type that he is a sausage roll. Haha.
I have been thinking quite a bit recently about success and having problems and how our perception of these changes over time. Like many of you, I grew up thinking that my life would be better when I grew up - I’d have it all figured out. But as time is wearing on I realise that the older I get, the less I feel certain that I know what my future looks like. Sometimes, good things happen or bad things happen. Often, the good thing creates more problems which then creates more stress. Often, the ‘bad’ thing which I would rather hadn’t have happened actually shunts me in a direction I needed to be in, or teaches me a lesson I didn’t know I needed. Sound kooky? Let me explain by telling you a story.
Now here is something I’ve not really written about before - at school, I was pretty unpopular for a period of about five years. When you are in an all girls private school, popularity is everything. I was at my school from aged 7 to 18 which probably in retrospect isn’t very healthy. At least half of my time at school, I hated going in each day because I was so cripplingly lonely or was worried about a friendship crumbling that I couldn’t save.
My problems started when my friend Lucy Lindsay moved back to Melbourne with her family at the end of year 4. I adored Lucy and we used to play ‘Little House on the Prairie' together and dress up in her mothers clothes. After she left, I struggled to find a friend I could rely on from about year five until around year 11, with a one year interim period in year 9 when I was part of a little girl gang who toilet papered our ringleaders grandmas house in Cannon’s Creek on a Friday night for fun (her grandma was really cool actually and let us get out R16 movies and cook as much smelly Act II popcorn as we liked. She taught at the school for pregnant teens up the road). That group lasted about a year before our ringleader moved back to the UK and the group split up. I tried to make it work with other people in our group, but they were moving one. Once again, I was alone.
Despite knowing algebra, Pi and why Macbeth never stood up to his wife, friendship was a problem I couldn’t solve. I feel like it made high school so hard. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends for certain patches during those five years. I just always felt like after a few months or weeks I got ‘dumped’ for someone else, which really hurt. I was always shocked that people could even think about boys when they were 12 or 13 - I was just trying to figure out how to make ANYONE like me.
As any parent is wont to do when their child is unhappy at school, but they’re paying a lot to send them there my Mum and Dad gave me lots of hugs, made me cups of tea and encouraged me to focus on my studies (money was never discussed but this probably was in my parents sphere of consciousness). I was also praised when I did well, particularly in English. It was during this period that I turned to reading and creative writing. A family friend encouraged me to enter some competitions. Writing short stories gave me an escape from the difficult and unsolvable problems of high school (turned out I was quite good at it). I was able to lose myself in writing. People around me told me I should grow up to be a writer. This, and the desire to be liked, has stuck with me.
I figured a way around it around year 11 by learning to be funny, mimic and make people laugh. Around mid-late year 10 I also made my friend Maria who has been my loyal steadfast rock. I also made friends properly with Hayley (who I’d always looked up to) and my friend Amelia (who actually I’ve grown closer with since starting blogging because she works at Mecca and we both love The Anna Edit and Lily Pebbles - online nerd goals)!
If you had asked me at that point what success looked like at school I would have said, ‘Having friends’. For years, strong friendships were my absolute biggest measure of success. But like a junkie, it was never enough for me to have one or two friendships. I wanted more and more friends. I always wanted to be more popular because my experience had led me to believe I wasn’t popular enough.
However, in life, I’ve learnt that when you seem to solve one problem, it just creates different ones. You know when Hercules cuts off the head of the multi-headed beast in the film and it sprouts more? Yeah, just like that. Once you have friends, you can realise that friendships can be good friendships and some can be not so good friendships. And I’ve certainly had my fair share of some unhealthy friendships in my time.
I had one friend who I followed to university. She looked like a model. Initially, I loved being mates and so did she….so long as I did everything she wanted me to do all the time. I eventually realised that I couldn’t keep up with that. It felt like I was selling my soul for someone else’s pleasure. She even made me ask other people where the toilet when she needed to go because she was, despite her confident exterior, too insecure to even approach a stranger to ask where the loo was!
These days I’ve become more confident at letting less healthy friendships go.
Had I had an easy time in school, if I had known how to keep my head down and go with the group, I may not have ever had the shunt into writing I’ve known. These days, I feel like blogging isn’t the whole answer. Once again, it feels like each time that I cut the head off the beast and achieve a goal, I return to it a few weeks later only to find more and different problems sprouting from the beast. Why doesn’t my Instagram following grow anymore? What are other ‘influencers’ getting as opportunities? Is my following too small? It is difficult but that isn’t me speaking - its the little 12 year old Lucy, worried about having no friends or not being popular enough. I just keep on having to remind myself that actually, she can be retired. She will always be a part of me but she no longer serves me. I don’t hate her. She’s just trying to protect me. But I can be fine without her and she just needs to calm the f*ck down.
I now know that blogging The Residents blog is not the final solution to my desire to be a writer. It is just a step in the process. I think I will always blog, as I do love sharing my thoughts and off the cuff pondering with you. It might not always be about Wellington - but I expect it will stick around in some form or another. I do REALLY want to write a book, now more than ever. But I also know that as soon as that opportunity arises, I’ll have a whole host of new problems come up. My challenge is to keep a cool mindset and not to get distracted by all the shiny things, like free moisturisers and ‘fitting in’ with the cool set along the way. I need to remember I am the sum of all my parts. As Jameelia Jamil would say, I am more than a number, whether that is my weight or my follower count.
I’m a public speaker.
I’m a website designer.
I’m an art director.
I’m a photographer.
I’m a community manager.
I’m an event planner.
I’m a portrait maker.
I’m a policy advisor.
I’m a law graduate.
I’m an art-lover.
I’m a qualified lawyer.
I’m a business owner.
I’m an agony aunt.
I’m an aspiring gym goer.
I’m a partner.
I am a daughter.
I am a friend.
I am a writer.
I am a writer.
I am a writer.
And if I hadn’t have had all the experiences I have had leading me up to this point, maybe I wouldn’t be all these things. To get me to where I am now, that’s amazing.
Last night on the way home I listened to a podcast between Emma Guns and founder of one of my favourite all time apps, Headspace Meditation. I started using Headspace when I was 22 and I found it very helpful to work through some post-breakup stress which I was harbouring including accepting how people close to me reacted to the breakup.
In this podcast, Andy challenged the idea that we humans are constantly chasing happiness. We think it will come with a different relationship, or a better car. And so, in pursuit of this, we can end up chasing or avoiding certain thoughts. Lots of self-help advocates trying to control your thoughts. Andy thinks all we can do is stand back and observe our thoughts, using meditation as a tool. Which leads to his bold suggestion on the podcast that Happiness is already here in our lives, everyday - we just don’t notice it when we are constantly busy and rattled. Getting a little headspace through mindfulness and meditation can help. And actually, I would tend to agree with Andy (who trained as a buddhist monk for 10 years and really, really knows his stuff).
Accepting our reality and that it may bring gifts we never new of is one of the hardest parts of life, particularly in a society that tells you you should be wanting bigger, better, stronger, faster, more, more, more. However, it is up to each of us, including me, to find the wonderful things in our ordinary lives and to accept that sometimes we have a little person inside us who isn’t being very truthful when then pipe up in our mind anymore. Let’s let go of our judgement against ourselves and acknowledge all the work that we’ve done to get ourselves to exactly the point we are. Success and happiness may be found in the here and now.
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