Turn off the Lights So You Can See

When I was a child, I was fascinated by stars. I mean, absolutely spell bound. Often I would stare out of my out of my window as a young boy and gaze into the sky. I had no idea about constellations, actually, I doubt I even knew what a constellation was! But I would always find myself gazing in awe.  As time went on, I lost this fascination. One reason was no doubt moving to London, where roughly 99.99% of stars in the sky turn out to be the Virgin Atlantic flight to Miami or the Qantas jet making its way to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi. And slowly, the stars became less important to me. The joy they brought me as a child mattered no more. Life went on. Recently, I have fallen back in love with the stars. Last month I was able to point out the Big Dipper! At 22, I managed to identify my first constellation. And a thought descended upon me.

I am by no means old. Turning 23 but being surrounded by 18 and 19 year olds at university can make me feel that way from time to time! But truth is, I am still young. However, I am old enough for some things. Along with sex, driving (still learning) drinking (level:EXPERT) smoking, voting and clubbing, I am also old enough to forget the things I have done which made me happy. I am old enough convince myself that only certain measures of success count, and everything else is frivolous nonsense. I am old enough to think about all the things I feel I have failed at. All the things I should have done by now. I am old enough to be drowned out by the light of the world. Drowned out by the light of my thoughts. Through my journey discovering the workings of my own mind, I have discovered that I am by no means alone in being able to disregard my own achievements and abilities. I can deny myself pleasure for belief that I don’t deserve to feel positive in any way. And as I said, I am not alone in doing this. This, I have found, is one of the most difficult cycles to break. But I believe, if only for a day, this cycle can be broken, by simply turning it all off!

What do I mean? I mean turning off the belief that everything you do has to ‘matter’. That everything has to fit into some kind of grand plan. That the things that bring you enjoyment are not important. That is all wrong for one HUGE reason; NOTHING is more important than your own happiness. Over time, we all lose focus on the simple idea that our happiness is something that is of paramount importance in our lives. And coping with poor mental health makes that struggle much worse. But it is not impossible. Goals in life are important. They can give us drive, give us perspective, to some extent they can give us purpose. The lights of the world can allow us to see where we want to go in life. But they will not allow us to be what we need to be, and that is happy. For simple joys simply disappear, seemingly becoming irrelevant when placed with all the other pressures of life. But they are not. The stars I once loved so much will not feed me and pay to keep the heaters on in the winter. My poetry will not pay for the rest of my driving lessons. Going to see my beloved Arsenal won’t help me pass my degree (often it will directly hinder it, but that, my friends, is a whole different story!) I, like you, need the distractions of life to put life into a day to day context. But we all need to turn that off, for losing sight of the things that bring you the purest happiness is no price to pay.

I will leave this post with the work of Thierry Cohen. He took photos of cities around the world and showed what they would look like with all artificial lights turned off.

http://www.danzigergallery.com/artists/thierry-cohen

Turn off the lights of your world. For a moment, allow yourself to feel lost in the joys that speak to your heart and soul. Be free to place focus on the seemingly unimportant. Turn off the lights so you can see the beauty, so you can feel the importance of being happy. Turn off the lights so you can have…

a good day

The Only Way Over Is Through

Firstly, it’s good to be back, I know I left this baby of mine alone for far too long. Here’s hoping I will be a neglectful blogger NO MORE! Now that’s out of the way, let us begin.

Yet again, I credit the wonderful invention that is YouTube for providing the inspiration for this post. In particular, a huge debt of gratitude, not just for this post but for many hours of entertainment over the past six months, goes out to Hank and John Green. Now, if you don’t know who the Vlogbrothers are, if you have not been blessed by the awesomeness of Nerdfighteria, the bed of knowledge that is Crash Course and if you have no idea what DFTBA stands for, I suggest you go and educate yourself. Then, and only then, will you be fit to read this here post. I’m super serious. Have you gone and joined the light? GOOD!
So, as you can clearly tell, I have a great deal of admiration and indeed affection for the Green boys, as I trust you now do too. But I’m not here to talk about them…well, I kinda am…ANYWAY! I want to share something one of them said, something so simple yet deeply powerful.

Now successful as writers, entrepreneurs and of course YouTubers, both Green brothers were bullied as children, and both are very open about their experiences. I myself have been picked on in my younger days, and though I wouldn’t say I got it the worst, I can say I definitely know what it feels like to face a daily tormentor. One who seems unrelenting in their desire to break a small piece of you, chipping away until all that is left is an unrecognisable ruin of what once was. For me, those feelings are brought on from within, not without. But many of the emotions brought on by bullying are similar to those experienced by those suffering from mental health issues. And I think many of the solutions, or rather, surviving mechanisms needed to cope with bullying are similar to those needed to cope with a broken mind. In perhaps his most personal and resonant video, John Green speaks about his experience being bullied in school. And he tells a story of a time he performed at Carnegie Hall, a legendary venue across the pond. During audio check, one of the musicians he was on the bill with declared on the microphone ‘this is a message to my 16 year old self’. The cry was one of self affirmation and of survival. A call to a person who once suffered seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and yet made it through to see a happier day. This idea of surviving for a better day is somewhat problematic, well, at least it always has been to me. So I want to share my take on the whole thing.

Being told it will get better or hearing the dreaded ‘this too shall pass’ has always been the worse case scenario for condescending B.S.anyone can feed me. Because who the hell wants tomorrow to be better! After years and years of pain tomorrow just seems like another day to do it all again. So I say, forget about tomorrow! I do not know what, if anything, I will accomplish tomorrow, next week, next month. The fact that it is currently 05:56am indicates nothing but unnecessary tiredness rolling my way for the coming dawn! I can draw up the most elaborate plans for the next weeks, plans that take into account my potential, near inevitable mood swings, but as a the old saying goes, man proposes, God disposes. I am not saying throw your plans for the future out of the window, not even close. What I am putting forward is this. Think of the future, as today. Not in some motivational speaker go get em kind of way. Think of it factually. Today is your future compared to you yesterday, you last week, last month, last year. Think of today as a future, a future in which you survived. Because you did survive. The fact that you are reading this right now is all the evidence you need for that (I did hear you can make your blog available in the afterlife, but that’s premium package stuff and I ain’t got the funds for that). I refuse to believe that anyone who reads this cannot point out to a moment in the past where, in at least one way, they did not feel worse than they do today. And even if you are reading this feeling rock bottom, you are surviving it. And solemn as it is to think about, it is a sad fact that not everyone does survive from that. So I say, do not wait for some great success to come your way to send a message of victory to yourself. Today is your victory. It may not be the greatest victory of your life, but everything won in life is won in small victories. For those of a football persuasion, today may feel like more like a scrappy 1-0 at home than beating  Bayern Munich 5-0, but who cares. You won. Tell yourself from last year that you may not feel as good as you want. The demons may still haunt more than you’d like, you may still cry more than you care to ever share, you may not feel as confident as you think you should, but you are here and you won. Yes, it is just another day to get through, as was yesterday, as will be tomorrow. But get through you can. And if what ever you’re going through will be over, the only way over is through.

So to myself since I last posted. To the boy who spent far too many a night looking down into an empty bottle or glass of wine, beer and any spirit to hand. To the night when a broken rope was the only thing that kept me from disappearing into the eternal abyss. To the days and days spent in bed, not eating, not bathing, not doing anything more than the increasingly less frequent toilet visit. To the boy sitting in lecturers offices ready to throw away my degree. To the past five months, this is my message, from me to me. You survived. And that is enough to make today

a good day