Mentally shakes myself out.
I have been wanting to write this post for a while but I’ve been putting it off at the risk of giving out advice that either sounds like bollocks or that I can’t even keep myself. Bear in mind that I’m 22 and while I have often been described as wise beyond my years, the only things I really know for certain are how to make a Latte Macchiato and how to do Shellac nails on your mate with one of those little light things.
A number of things have inspired me to write this post. Not all of which I’ll bore you with now.
One was this picture here that I found on Pinterest or something equally cliché.
Might sound dumb but you know when you see an inspirational quote every once in a while that actually really resonates with you? This was one for me. I even had it as my phone background for a while until people kept asking why it wasn’t a cute picture of my baby sister Martha anymore so I changed it back. (Here I paused writing to sing a little bit to a Paolo Nutini song that had come on shuffle. Just to set the scene for you.)
The other was this blog post I read last night where I discovered that 3,000 words of what some people may call oversharing can really spark something in someone who doesn’t even know you. (300-500 words who? My blog my rules.) Anyway, I want you to read it maybe even before you read this post. I don’t really know who she is but it popped up on my Twitter timeline and it made me cry a little bit which is always a very good thing when it comes to reading. It changed my mind a little bit which I’m sure is every writer’s main goal, to affect someone in some way for the better.
But what this got me thinking about was about the many things I have let define me, and how many other things are feeling like defining moments for other people every day. I wouldn’t say that my life has been awful by any means and on a day to day basis I feel happy and content and loved, but I’ve had my fair share of god-awful situations and experiences that if I could do my life over again I would probably try and skate around.
If I had to pick the nail in the coffin in terms of my forever wavering mental health or what keeps me up at night, I wouldn’t be sure what to choose. You could pick any sort of stressful or horrifying life event out of a hat and I could put forward a persuasive argument as to how it has changed and defined me. These are the sort of things that I’ll look back on when I’m older and wince because how did I cope with that when I was so young? How can I be surprised that it has changed me? But we all cope. And we all change. But let me get one thing clear right now – nothing that has ever happened to us, no one single life event, no matter how big or small, should EVER define us.
If I wrote down a list of these experiences that I have used to define myself in the past it would fill more than a page of Moleskine A4. People at various stages of getting to know me will have heard the story of some of them, if not most of them. Some I’ll freely discuss with a passing stranger outside a nightclub. Others I rarely talk about. With a few, I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth even if I tried. But the thing that links all of them is that I’ve let them define my self-worth, my future relationships, my self-esteem, what I eat and when I eat it, what I think about when I’m lying awake at night, what makes me cry and on my worst nights what wakes me up in a cold sweat so that I have to stick my head out of the window and wish that I smoked, just so I could calm down.
And then I stopped and decided that this didn’t need to be it. This didn’t need to be my life, mapped out like the constellations on my arms. Obviously, these things have happened, no one can change the past. But what you can do, to kind of do one over on it, is to not let these decisions and experiences define you. In the same way that you shouldn’t let your appearance, your weight, your family, your friends define you. The only things that should maybe define you are your accomplishments, your ambition and your personality. Unless you’re a right piece of shit, then maybe just keep your personality to yourself.
So instead of trying to shut these things out, or to dwell on them for way too long than I should, I’m deciding to recognise them, accept them for what they are, acknowledge how they have impacted me and then after all that, still not let them define me. They’re not going to dictate how I put myself out there as a person or how I feel about myself inside my own head. As soon as you stop dwelling on the past and defining yourself by what’s happened in your life so far, it becomes a hell of a lot easier to see your future clearly in front of you. When you lift these burdens, suddenly the little things in life become exciting again and we can all breathe a little breath of fresh air in the same way that we did when we were a child running out into every new day smiling.
If you can, just forget about the past for a minute. For an hour, for a day, for a week or hell even forever. Who the fuck cares.
My mum said to me once, when I was at my lowest point, “you made the best decision you could at the time, and that’s all anyone can do.”
And she’s right, obviously. Because she’s my mum.