Friday, 25 July 2014

Fourteen Days: A Short Story

Hi everyone! 
Long time no blog, right? 
I must apologise sincerely to my loyal fandom for going MIA for so long. This year has been absolutely hectic (which I'm sure most of you can relate to), and honestly, I've been thinking a lot about my blog and how I want it to express 'me' more. Doing a weekly blog just wasn't cutting it for me. So I've decided, with all things considered, to include all sorts of writing; be it poetry, short stories, essays, whatever.
 It's really important to me to stay true to who I am and I want to express every facet of that person through my writing. So! This week I'm going to begin with a short story I recently entered into a writing comp. Although I could go on editing forever, I came to a point of contentment with the piece, and this is the result. It's called Fourteen Days, and I considered telling you what it's about, but what fun would that make the reading of it, right? Any which way, I'm sure this will be relatable to most -- if not all -- of you. 
Please feel free to give feedback or leave comments below! Remember this is copyrighted, too, so no reposting is allowed. Thanks.


Fourteen Days

April third was unusually sunny and warm for its season, like a twisted parallel universe turning the view upside down and spitting it back in our faces. Everything crept up on us all at once, like it does on the random citizen whose face changes when they realise they’re a part of the latest Ellen prank. The day said nothing of what was coming for us. It wasn’t like the movies where the girl is left standing alone under a black umbrella in the middle of a field, staring into the distance as the dot figure love interest disappears. April third was two weeks ago, fourteen days from today.

It’s been two weeks, but two weeks away from you has taught me that you’re not really gone. April third was the beginning of our end, an end that should’ve ended on April third but fourteen days later is still ending. You’ve been here every day since April third, and only today I could see it. Only today I finally understand why the itch in my throat hasn’t gone away, and why everything about you still moves and breathes in my life.

Your number was gone after six days of telling myself it was useless because I memorised it already, the way I memorised everything else about you. I decided to delete it anyway; to be sure it was out of my phone even if it would never leave my mind. I erased every text we shared over post-date skip-beats as my thumbs raced around the keypad in tiny taps to keep up with my speeding pulse. I filtered every text until the floating letters jumbled themselves in my thoughts and exhausted day six in a mess of Helvetica Neue.

On day seven I made a point of clearing the last of your words, and cleaned you out of my inbox. Every e-mail that consumed me in your words while you were away and the distance wasn’t too much was gone on day seven. Fourteen days later, the distance won’t take you away from me, and I’m still figuring out how that’s possible. April third was the end, but it’s not, it wasn’t, and all the distance in the world hasn’t taken you away. The simplicity of it all has spun me into a complicated web of confusion and I don’t know how to extricate myself from it.

On day one I threw out the roses which were already eight days overdue and had shed half their petals by then, littering the tabletop with the scarlet-wrinkled scraps of our last days. I wrapped them in your favourite page of The New York Times, the last issue we shared and left open on the counter. The unfinished Sudoku puzzle stared back at me as your tiny handwritten numbers crumpled themselves around the rose stems, as far gone and incomplete as fourteen days away from watching you try to outdo your last record and never finishing. You didn’t even make it halfway that day because I distracted you for the last time, but I’m sure you’ll try again one day if you haven’t already. I watched the thorns pierce through the greyscale of your last effort as I wrapped them up, and took them out to the kerb where your puzzle will never be finished.

Day two was the grey area between returning your scarf and throwing out the pasta I kept in the fridge after you burned your finger on the pot and we laughed ourselves into tears at your swollen pinkie. Our whole world was erased in fourteen days, but it’s been a lifetime since day one, and a lifetime of erasing your life from mine.

I cried for the better part of day three, an orphaned child lost and shivering as I let out the backlog of emotions accumulated since that February night. I cried for every night I didn’t since April third and every night you’d seen me cry since the first time. We were only starting to get serious the day his condition got too serious and Socrates was put down. All comfort and no judgement, you held me in the parking lot at the Vet, stroking my hair as I broke down ugly and desperate into your chest with nothing else to cling to but my best friend’s collar.

I don’t remember much of day four, except that I took a morning jog to rid my mind of your last words and stopped at a new breakfast diner we’d never been to. It was different to the one we discovered after our first night in the apartment when all our things were still taped in cardboard boxes and labelled in black Sharpie. It was still close enough to remind me of it all, naïve to think I could let it go in four days and replace something like this, our place, in one morning jog. It was like, they say, buying the wrong spare part, replacing your favourite book to find out the special edition was discontinued a month ago, jogging into a new breakfast diner with a smile made of smattering ignorance with only four days without you like it would be that simple.

On day five I resurfaced and tossed out the mix tape you made me last September when I fractured my ankle at the lake house and we had to cut our holiday short. It played in the background as we shared takeaway Thai and the Autumn leaves busied themselves baring the lonely trees outside. It played for the two weeks I was bed-ridden with nothing to entertain me but reruns of The Blacklist and a collection of classic books none of our friends liked, your mix tape taking me through it all again. I stuffed it into the garbage along with the Get Well Soon card and the mocking teddy bear, furry arms wrapped around a crimson heart.

I remembered the Chanel no. 5 on day eight and poured it down the sink, rinsing away every last drop you’ll never smell on my neck again.

On day nine I stripped the walls of your face, stripped the memories and the arms around my waist. On day ten I tore the sheets off my bed, washed your scent from my pillow cases and replaced the Love Doona with the plain blue sheet set my mother bought us when we first moved in and didn’t care about colour schemes or matching furniture. It was only on day eleven I flushed all the sticky notes you left around the room, every last post-it you’re unforgettable and every crumpled I love you that lost their stick and curled into themselves on my mirror like yellow spiral shells. They’re gone, and it’s all gone, but you’re not and it’s making me crazy.

On day twelve I cut up the old gym card membership with the picture they took the day after I got promoted and you organised a surprise weekend in Cali. I stared at my favourite black bikini for twenty minutes before I put it into a bag with everything else I kept from that weekend and drove it to the nearest thrift store. I left your sand-specked kisses there along with the rest of it.

Yesterday was day thirteen. Thirteen was our lucky number, and there’s a sense of almost-happy relief in knowing it’s day fourteen today and that I’ve made it through day thirteen. Now I can throw it out too, along with the last of the things I found in the folds of my wallet. It wasn’t until day thirteen that I realised the fridge was empty and decided to make a trip to the grocery store for the first time in fourteen days, and found the last pieces of you – of us – creased and bulky in my wallet.

I didn’t wait to unload the shopping before I unloaded the wallet of everything left of you. I took out the voucher we won for the bottle of Merlöt that was left unclaimed, the bottle we never celebrated because by then the only special occasion was your uncle’s funeral and the timing was all wrong for it. I slipped it into my wallet and forgot about it until yesterday.

I took out the Coldplay tickets from last month when things didn’t seem so bad. I took out the first note you ever wrote me, the note I kept in my wallet so I could read it whenever I was having a bad day. I pulled out the creased postcard that didn’t fit because the stretch of Chicago’s skyscrapers along Lake Michigan was too long and I folded it to fit so I could keep you with me while you were away for work. A lifetime of separating our lives in fourteen days, and all that was left of it were the things in my wallet I forgot to get rid of until day thirteen.

All of those things were just pieces of paper that weigh next to nothing and take up next to no space. And all of those things were heavy in my wallet and full in the memories I couldn’t stand, so I got rid of it all. They were the paper-value scraps of the world, and the last remnants of the world we built. It was all those small things that filled my life with you and weighed me down everywhere I went until day thirteen.

It’s day fourteen today. The day it all started was the fourteenth, but today I’m going to take back the first date and every last remnant of you and that February night and everything in between. It was perfect, is what I never told you, and I’m so glad but I never got it out and it’s been stitched in my throat ever since. I’m getting it out now, before it’s too late and today spills into tomorrow and I have to spend another day draining you out. You had all my days, stole every one of my nights since that night, and now it’s the fourteenth night without you and I can’t stand you taking another one.

It’s day fourteen and you’re not on my mirror or my skin or in my wallet, flat and empty since I cleaned it out. I got rid of everything we shared, every last piece of you and me and everything in between. For the last time, I searched the place for any shred of you I might have missed, leaving nothing to chance as your voice filled my head and made me turn around half-expecting to see you at the door. I held onto nothing, but I still feel everything, and I have nothing left to throw away. My everything is empty and full and I don’t know which feels worse.

I could go over all the details of how it happened, and I have ever since you left, but I know that analysing every detail and explaining it all over again couldn’t have changed a thing. We were a distorted puzzle, sweeping our tiny apartment for the missing pieces that were already gone gone gone. We couldn’t stop it, stupid to think so and dream of what if’s now when it doesn’t matter anymore. Then one day turned into five into fourteen, and sitting here I realise how naïve I was, thinking you’d be gone in a day like every bad habit at New Year’s. It’s day fourteen and you’re still here. You’re in my dreams and my memories and I smell you when I roll over at night and feel you while I’m sleeping.

Today is day fourteen, and it’s the first day since you left that I realised you never really did.


Monday, 6 January 2014

Resolutions That Count

It's that famous time of the year when everyone realises they've spent the last year all up and still haven't achieved what they had hoped to. So what's our solution? Make a list of resolutions, of course! The only problem with New Year's resolutions is that they're made under the same pretexts as the previous year. What do I mean? I mean we do the same thing every year and wonder why the mojo flame burns dry by February. It's like those people who use new relationships to try to cover the mistakes of the old one. They think it's the answer to their prayers, but the previous issues get carried into every new relationship until they deal with them. A new partner doesn't mean a new start unless you're learning from the mistakes of the last relationship. 

It's the same with resolutions. Think of the 'partner' in this scenario as the New Year. You've just exited one year, and entered into another. Nothing's really changed except the calendar. You're still the same person with the same flaws, dreams and habits. You can't just turn a tap off all your bad habits, and flip a switch on better habits. You're still human, and you need to allow yourself to grow into habits -- they don't just happen overnight.

I was scrolling through my News Feed, scanning some different peoples' NYR statuses, and realised a common pattern in them all. So I thought it was time to make a point of helping the good people of my social circle to make more realistic, achievable resolutions for the New Year. I wrote up a quick 5-step guide to New Year's resolutions that count. Bottom line is, if we're not getting better at making these things, we're already setting ourselves up for failure. And no one wants to fail before they've even begun. So here's what I came up with.

Guide to achieving New Year's Resolutions:

Step 1: Make your resolutions realistic.
Instead of saying "I will quit video games completely from day one", remember that your addiction goes beyond the fact that you're stepping into a new calendar year. Instead, perhaps you could decide to play just one day per week... Or one day less per week (if it's like that).

Step 2: Make your resolutions achievable. 

Instead of saying "I'm going to climb Everest, write a book, create a YouTube mini series, start a corporate business & travel 37 countries," focus on some smaller goals you know you can achieve, but that will still challenge you. For example, you might plan to travel to just five countries, & you now have time to plan out your trips, save money, & organise them properly. This = guaranteed happiness & success.

Step 3: Plan.

You can never do this too much, especially when it comes to NYE resolutions. If you want to eat healthier, for example, perhaps you could write out a weekly schedule, & outline the restrictions for each day. Example, "On Mondays & Tuesdays, I will not eat chocolate, but on Sundays, I can eat whatever I please."

Step 4: Record your progress.

What motivates a lot of people is seeing results. Many of us forget our goals by January's end, because we lose motivation. So if you're working towards a goal like losing weight, weigh yourself weekly & take photos to remind yourself of all the hard work you've put in. This will help you Not set up for immediate failure.

Step 5: Celebrate!
It's almost the end of the year. You stuck to your goal & achieved results. You deserve to be proud of your achievement. Make a point of it, & treat yourself to something nice. 

It's always nice to make resolutions -- they give you things to work at, new hope and drive for a better year than the last. But with these resolutions come challenges, and it's important to work around them for the best New Year resolution outcomes.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Perks of Independence

Hey there lovely people! I hope you are all doing fabulously this week. For those of you who graduated this week, a huge congratulations goes out to you! 

This week has definitely caused a lot of hype (Facebook's been plagued with it); but there's also the side of sadness that makes leaving school a bittersweet experience. Whether you're a graduate, passing through a transitory phase, or soon-to-be, this will apply to you. So I thought we'd talk about some of the positives of transitory phases ( aka times in life when you're forced to be more independent than the last phase). I've devised a top 5, because we want to keep it to-the-point, and it's important to remember that there is something to be gained through every change in life. Alright, here we go.

1. Freedom.
You've heard this a million times, but no value can be charged on freedom. The world is now your oyster, and you can finally decide what you want to do. You're no longer restrained to the confines of other peoples' ideas of what you should do. A huge and important part of independence is freedom; the difference between people is what they do with it. You want to enjoy it, but not too much. If you get too relaxed, you'll lose momentum -- and possibly sense of purpose, too. Freedom, like all good things, needs to be used wisely, and in moderation.

2. The Life You Want.
This one goes on from the last point. Basically what I'm saying is now you can choose the path you want to take. You are free to create the life you've always dreamed of, and find your place in the world. You get to be your own person, and that's a wonderful part of growing up.

3. Find Yourself.
It's never easy to move on from things in life that become a part of you. I have a saying I always use, that goes "when you become a part of something, it becomes a part of you." Naturally, then, it's not going to be easy to move on from that. School is a huge one. You spend 12 years there, and then you wake up one morning and think "Holy crap, it's over. How did it go by so quickly?" *Note - freak-outs are common at this point.* But it's also a chance to find yourself. What does that mean!?!?

In school, you're in a controlled environment where social ranks dictate your validity, your worth. You're made to believe if you don't fit into one of them, you're not that special. But once you break out of that environment, you get to be exactly who you are without reservations, hesitation or that horrible feeling of inferiority (feeling 'not good enough'). Why? Because you find people who appreciate you for exactly who you are, a career that edifies your strongest talents, and the special someone who will love you for everything you are (if you haven't already).

4. Know Yourself.
What am I talking about, right? I don't mean 'knowing yourself' in the sense of knowing what foods you like and your fashion preferences. I'm referring to the internal 'knowing yourself' that comes with independence. When you're forced to make your own decisions and be your own person, you find a new strength within you. You learn to rely on yourself, to have faith in yourself, and rationalize decisions. You learn to listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts. The truth is that in life, people will disappoint you. They will let you down -- and sometimes when you need them most; and that's why it's important to know and trust yourself, because as tough as it may be, sometimes you won't have any other choice but to do it yourself. As you get more independent, you'll find the confidence and the strength to push through on your own when you need to. 

5. D.I.Y.
Leading on from the last point, when you don't need to rely on other people, it also means you're not waiting around for them. Exhibit A - getting your licence. Once you do, you no longer have to endure the painful wait at the train station, or the awkward conversations with drunk strangers on the bus. You don't have to beg people to drive you around anymore, or worry about irritating your parents/siblings/friends/whatever when asking them to take you places. Life is so much easier when you're not relying on everyone else to do things for you. It's not just about growing up; it's about making your own life easier, and showing people that you can be mature and responsible by taking care of yourself. It's a win-win situation.

So that's my top 5 highlights on the perks of being independent. The important thing to remember about every phase of life, is just to enjoy it. You'll be young once, in school once, in university before you know it, then working, married and retired. Or whatever you do with your life. That's not the point. Each stage of life is a process of change, and it's how you grow and become your own person. But at the same time, each stage is a piece you won't get back once it's gone, so don't forget to make the most of it. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

One Step Forward

Before I start, I think I should warn you that this blog is not my happiest, and although it's highly relatable and entertaining to read these sorts of things, just know you were warned about it.

Okay, so as some of you know, I recently started learning to drive. Now, I got a lot of slack for doing it so late. In fairness, when I turned sixteen, I committed all my time and effort into school. On top of that, I honestly didn't see the big deal. I knew I'd get my licence eventually, and I had no reason to rush the process. Buses and trains got me everywhere I needed to be, and I never felt pressured into getting my licence quickly because of it. I've come to the conclusion that even if I really wanted to get my licence then, I wouldn't have had the time. I was far too busy with school, and I wasn't earning enough to pay for lessons. So that's how I got to being on my L's at 18. 

So I've done my compulsory 10 instructor hours, and I'm at that frustrating stage where everyone I know with an open licence either refuses to supervise me, or they're too busy. That's totally understandable; everyone has their own life and priorities. But this feeling always seems to happen when you want something the most. Being in Uni and having all these extra responsibilities really puts the pressure on to hurry it up, too. Especially when half your friends are already on their P's. The joy.

Once I'd hit the 10-hour mark, I was feeling great about driving. I couldn't wait to get my hours up. Then life hit me in the face with a reality check: this will probably take longer than I was hoping. And this happens in so many situations. This is my most recent experience -- last week to be precise -- so I'm using it. But we can all relate. 

You  get off to a flying start on a new project/goal, and for the first few weeks, everything seems to be going great. Then you're woken by the reality check that it's not going to be a smooth ride all of the way. I really struggled with this in terms of my driving situation, because even without disruptions, it takes a good several months to acquire the 100 hours your dreaded logbook demands. And quite frankly, I just want to get it over with. So I got to that point where my high quickly plummeted to a low, and doubts started setting in. If you've been in a similar situation, you'll understand what I mean when I say I went one step forward and two steps back. You feel great for a while, then something comes along and puts a halt in your progress right when you need things to work. You know the moment. It's like that party trick you've been practicing forever, but the moment you try to show someone, you screw up.

Anyway, what I learned through the whole experience was two things: 1. Patience, and 2. Perseverance. Allow me to explain.

I think we struggle more with our perception of situations than the actual situation. For example, two people looking at the same artwork draw different meaning from it, the way two people in a dangerous situation might handle it differently. Life is so much about perception. In my situation, I looked at the negative side of the problem first. I went straight to thinking about how many hours I still have to go before I'm anywhere near getting my licence. 

Looking back on it now, though, I realised it's more important that I've made a start, that I'm doing all I can to seek supervision, and there's nothing more I can do than that. When you accept that you've done all you can do, the best thing left is patience. It's like being stuck in traffic jam. You've come this far, and you know you'll get out of it eventually; but you also know it's going to take longer than you expected to get to where you're going. Of course it's frustrating -- you just want to get to your destination. But there's clearly nothing you can do but wait. I think that's a good way to look at these situations. Although you might be frustrated in the moment, you need to remember that it will pass, and in the right timing, you'll be back on your way. So that's the patience part.

Persistence is just as hard as patience in these situations. When you're trying to do something, and things keep coming in the way of that, you start to wonder if it's even worth it anymore. Again, perception is important here. You can take it negatively and let it stop your progress completely; or you can call it a speed bump and go on. Yes, it will make you slow down, but you're still getting where you want to go. If you take anything from this, let it be this: what's important is not how long it will take, but that you keep moving. 

Remember, speed bumps aren't supposed to stop you; they're only there to slow you down temporarily. Although it might seem like things aren't moving along the way you'd planned, you need to remember that the best things in life rarely do go to plan. And no matter who you are or where you come from, you're going to face these speed bumps along whatever journey you're on. Life is never going to be a perfectly smooth ride, especially when you're working towards your goals - big or small. But if it was too easy, it wouldn't be worth it. Furthermore, you wouldn't learn how to be patient, persistent and strong through the jams and bumps along the way. 

In the end, you need to choose how you look at your situations. Life is only 10% what happens to you. The other 90% is how you choose to deal with / look at it. And although I'm not an expert, my own experience has shown me it's a lot easier to get through the speed bumps with a positive attitude. Don't let the detour make you think you're only going forwards one step to go back another two. Everyone has to face them. Everyone. The ones who succeed are those who make use of the haystack while they're trying to find the needle. It's not the destination, but rather the journey that makes or breaks you.

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hold Or Fold

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
It's been said before, and it'll be said again. Most people don't understand this until they're well into their teens, and with good reason. Life has a way of getting more complicated with age, and that's where all these wise sayings and quotes come into existence. The bad side of these wise sayings, however, is that they get so re-used and over-used that people stop listening. Their meaning and impact dissipate over time, and they become naff and old. People don't want to hear the same things over and over. 

Being a firm believer in goal-setting and dream-chasing, I also think it's important to keep life advice fresh and interesting. Facebook's been doing a pretty good job lately on their memes, but the truth is, until you have your own experiences, most of them will mean nothing more to you than philosophical jargon. This is where holding and folding becomes important.

You might be at a stage in your life where you don't feel like anything is really happening for you. You could be at a total crossroads where too much is happening at once and you have no idea how to handle it all. The good news is, this blog is relatable in either situation. If you don't understand it yet, you will eventually. 

The truth is, we all go through things in life that force us to make tough decisions. Sometimes it's even our ignorance of making these decisions that puts us into the crossroads. Either way, at some point or another, you'll have to face the music and choose what's worth keeping and what isn't. If you're a poker player, you'll already have an idea of where I'm going with this. At the end of the day, you can put things off as much as you want, but you will eventually need to either accept your situation or choose to change something about it. You can't be happy both ways. 

Since I love to learn things the long and complicated way, I'll use an example from my own life. Friendships. I used to hold onto so many friendships that weren't doing anything positive for me, friendships that took more than they gave. Why was I wasting my time on these people who didn't really care about me? Because when you're an early teenager trying to figure out who you are, you hold onto anything that comes along. Maybe not you, but that's what I did. On top of this, I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to be the girl in school who didn't have friends around her all the time. I thought it was the only way to survive the shark tank. Obviously I was wrong, but I didn't realise that until years later. Instead, I just held onto these 'friends', believing it was better to be a part of the crowd feeling miserable, than to find my own place in the scene and be happy. I took the easy way out.

This is the thing about misery and sadness, and pretty much anything else that's negative. We love to hold onto it all. We become obsessed with self-pity, and protect it like a open wound. It stings like crazy, but you wouldn't dare complain. Because it's better to feel like crap underneath and hide it under layers of fake smiles, than to admit you're not comfortable and be looked at differently. So you hold, when all you really want is to fold.

Anything in life that presents multiple choices will bring you to the same crossroads. For example, careers. There are three types of people when it comes to chasing dreams. Firstly, if you have a dream, and everyone you know is supporting it, then it's easy to chase it. There's nothing stopping you but your effort. So of course you're going to work hard for it if everything about it looks positive. All you need to worry about is your competition. 
Then there are those of you who have a dream, but everyone around you seems to be against it, and you know in your soul that it's what you want. So what the hell do you do, right? 
The last group are those of you who have supporters and critics, but the real problem is yourself. Maybe something in you doesn't feel quite sure about it, and doubts are constantly pulling you down. 

At the end of the day, everyone's either fighting competition, critics or doubts. Life would be too idealistic if everything came easily, and you'd never learn anything about yourself or the world. So what you're faced with is a crossroads. This is where so many people get lost or give up. But this is also where you need to decide whether to hold or fold. It sounds so easy when it's put into such a simple phrase. But how do you even know what to do? 

These are my top five signs that will tell you whether you should follow the yellow brick road or go back to Kansas.

1. Conscience.
They say it never fades, and I sure as life can testify to it. If you're doing something, or about to, and your conscience keeps telling you it's not good for you, it's probably time to listen to it. Your body doesn't talk to you because you're imagining things. It's reminding you of the things you know in your heart but can't admit with your mouth. 
At the same time, if your conscience is completely clear and at peace with what you're doing, then it's a good sign that you're making a move in the right direction. And for the love of all that's right, don't confuse doubts with conscience. Doubts are speed bumps; conscience is a mountain. It won't go away.

2. Instinct.
Again, it's a sign from your body that something's not right. If your instinct is screaming at you to not do something, it's probably because somewhere deep down inside you, you know it's not what you want or need. Your body is a lot smarter and in-sync with your actions than you think. Give it some credit.

3. Motives.
The subtle drivers that stay with you from beginning to end; motives are what drives you to start things, but they're not always good. Batman and The Joker both had motives behind their actions, but they led them to very different outcomes and reputations. So take the time to ask yourself, why am I really doing this? What is my motive? Is it going to lead me to good decisions, or bad ones? It's important to have a motive, but make sure it's for the right reasons.

4. Intentions.
This one leads on from the last point, and although they're two different things, they work hand-in-hand. You need to question how genuine your intentions are. If what you're doing holds bad intentions for others, or yourself, you need to recognize the red light before you crash into something.

5. Your Brain.
It sounds ridiculous that this made the top 5, but it's amazing how uncommon common sense is these days. Your brain is one of those things that's so basic and obvious that it's ignored just as easily as it is noticed. Let me put this one plainly: forget your heart for five minutes and pay attention to your brain. If you know in your head that your plan is either genuinely naive or poorly thought-out, something needs to change. You either need to re-assess the feasibility of your plan/goal, or start again. And if it's just plain stupid, save yourself the embarrassment of going ahead with it. There are times when you need to fight for what you want, but if you know it's a waste of time, it's time to fold.

If you've cleared the checklist, congratulations. If you're in denial, please take note that I put the point on Conscience first, with good reason, and maybe start again.

So what if you still don't know whether you should go ahead with it? The best way to figure it out is to make a list. Split it into two columns, and make a list of everything it will do for you and add to your life in a positive way on one side. Title it something really creative like "Plus". On the other side, all the things it's going to take away from your life. This one could be titled "Minus". 

If your situation is a friendship or relationship problem, for example, you'll write all the things the other person is adding to your life, and then all the things they take from your life. There needs to be a healthy balance leaning towards the Plus side for it to be a worthy cause of fixing. If it's not, you probably didn't need that friend in the first place. Don't think I'm just being cynical, because all relationships, whatever form they take, need to balance the gives with the takes. It's not fair for the other person to use you when it suits them, and then forget about you when you need them.

Sit down and be honest with yourself. You need to do a genuine assessment of your plan, otherwise it's pointless. If your Minus column outweighs the Plus column, it's probably time to fold. If your Plus column honestly outweighs the Minus, and you've assessed the former five tips, you have more than enough reason to hold.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Hard Work Pays Off

We've all heard the expression, but putting it into action is an entirely different matter. Because when you're in the middle of a huge assignment/ fitness challenge/ project etc., the last thing you want to do is work hard; especially if you've been working hard on it for the last few weeks. You're probably dying to have a break; to relax, or go on a holiday someplace where you don't have to think about it. Why? Because you're exhausted by now. You've passed the initial excitement phase, and your enthusiasm is probably long gone. By now you're thinking please hurry up and be over, so I never have to face you again. Or something to that effect. Right?

We've all been there, believe me. I'm pretty motivated when it comes to writing, but I get sick of it sometimes, too. There will be times in life when you just don't feel like doing it, no matter how passionate you are about it. I think it's important that we prepare ourselves for this. 

A lot of people think badly of themselves when they start losing motivation. You start thinking of all the time you're wasting, how slow you're moving, and how many people are going to be ahead of you. But it's totally natural to have a break. If anything, I think it's absolutely necessary. If you stare at a computer screen for hours on end, train for ridiculous blocks of time, or practise your instrument all day long, you start to drive yourself crazy. You also aren't really enjoying life. Of course, sometimes it's necessary to practise for a long period of time, but you're still human. You need a break. That's not the problem here.

The problem comes when a break turns into forever. All good things are best in moderation. And, like all good things, breaks are also good in moderation. When your break turns into a six-hour YouTube sesh, you're outdoing it. If that helps you relax, then fine. But I know first-hand that once I pass a certain time limit (usually about 20 mins), I start to lose interest, motivation and track of time. This is dangerous, because you get so comfortable, you don't want to get back into work-mode. Hence why short breaks are always better. If you're not good at keeping them short, use a timer. There is no excuse. Have breaks, but don't trust yourself too much. Things that lie stagnant, want to stay stagnant. An alarm will pull you out of it and keep you on-track.

I know a lot of my readers are either in high school or Uni/TAFE. Even if you're not, you've either been through this, or you eventually will. And you'll know how hard it is to stay motivated. What I've learned from my own school & Uni experiences, is that the hardest things to do are the things most worth doing. No one promised life would be easy. But I've never heard of anyone succeeding without hard work. I'm not talking about fame, because a lot of stupid people who did nothing amazing, are famous for... Well, no one really knows. What I'm talking about is real success. The people who started with nothing and made something out of it. So there's got to be a compromise somewhere, right? It doesn't just happen. If it did, everyone could make it, easily. We've got to be realistic.

Everyone wants to be successful, to leave something valuable behind; something that makes a mark on the world in some way. Whatever that thing is depends on who you are. We all have dreams and ambitions. The difference between the people who achieve success, and those who don't, is one thing. Hard work. That's it. There's no big secret, no 10-step formula for success. You can read all the self-help books in the world, but if you don't take action towards making your dreams more than dreams, you'll never make it. Hard work is the only way.

The funny thing is that it's so easy to spit the phrase out, but so hard to actually do it when the pressure comes. You start to get overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated. You feel like you can't breathe, or that it's all too much. Doubt has a funny way of creeping into the midst of it all. This is where you start to weigh up the possibilities, and you question if it's even worth what you're going through right now. The hard fact about life is that this is your biggest test. Although you're restless and don't want to go on, you can't win the race unless you put your last ounce of energy into that final stretch. Your muscles will burn the most right then, but you know you can't come first unless you push through the pain and go on.

It's the same with any type of race. It's going to burn, I can tell you that now. Your mind and/or body will be begging you to stop. But you can't. This is exactly when you need to remember how far you've come, and why you're doing it. The latter is extremely important. You can get so caught up in the stress of it all, that you lose sight of why you started working towards your goal in the first place. So take the time to refocus your attention to that. It will help, because you'll remember where you started, and remind yourself why you never want to go back to that. On top of all that, you'll realise just how far you've come, and why it's still worth fighting for. 

It might even take longer than you originally planned, but never let that throw you off. Everyone has to face their own share of bumps along the road. Just think of them as stepping stones. And remember, as long as you're always moving, you're on the right track. Every step forward is a step in the right direction. It can be really frustrating to wait, especially when the people around seem to be fast-tracking while you're stuck in the slow lane. Just remember the tortoise and the hare. There's more than one way to win. 

Just don't give up. You'll regret it more than any detour or traffic jam along the way. And remember, hard work really does pay off. The satisfaction at the end of the race will surpass any of the pain, stress and frustration you went through to get it. 
Just keep going, and you'll get there. I mean, seriously, have you ever seen a snail give up? He knows where he's going, and he knows as long as he keeps moving in his desired direction, he will eventually make it. He doesn't think about how long it's going to take him. He just keeps moving. So keep moving. 

When you find your passion, that in itself is worth fighting for. No one else can do what you were made to do. Don't throw that away just because you're passing through a storm. No matter how bad it is, it will always pass.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Pinkie Promise

"I've got your back." 
It's a phrase we've all heard, probably more than once. Unfortunately, that's as far as it goes most of the time, because it's always easy to make promises when you're on a high. Realistically, we've all been a part of it, so there's no sense in being judgmental over it. We are human, and we need to accept that we aren't perfect, and neither are our friends. Sometimes people will make promises that they won't keep; it's life. 

So what, right? What's the big deal, anyhow? If everyone does it, then it's not really worth mulling over. But that's the point. We think just because 'everyone else' does things, that it excuses us for doing it, too. It's the same with promises. I've learned a lot about friendship in the last couple of years, and I know how much it sucks when you're on the receiving end of this. 

There's a great quote that makes me nod every time I read it. It says: "It's very easy to say 'busy' when someone needs you, but it's very hard to hear 'busy' when you need someone." 
Is it not the truest thing you've ever heard? 
It always seems like when you need people the most, they aren't there. Then you realise that you do the same thing to others. The point is, I don't think we take our promises seriously enough. And we don't realise it until we're the ones copping it. 

Telling someone that you've 'got their back' gives you a really big responsibility; and one day, they're going to need it. Humans were made to live together, support each other, and show each other care, love and friendship. It's as basic a need as water. That's why it's so important to take our promises seriously. People will rely on you to come through on your promises eventually.

I think the real problem with keeping promises is the way we perceive them. Allow me to explain this: when someone makes you a promise, you probably don't think much of it for a while. Then something happens, and you realise you need them. Let's be clear. Promises mean different things to different people, depending on their personal needs. For example, to some people, support could mean something as simple as a good conversation. For others, it means taking them out and spoiling them for a day (mostly girls;)), or just shouting them lunch. The point is, we all have our own definition of what support means to us. 

My definition of support has always been based around having a friend who I could talk to, because I learned quickly that those kinds of friends are hard to find. But my definition of support will probably differ from yours, and that's okay. Everyone has their own needs. They're generally shaped by something lacking in your life, your life experiences; and/or your view of the world and what's important. I realise this is getting a little deep, but it's important to understand these things. Basically, you need to appreciate that not everyone thinks the same way that you think. Therefore, their needs will be different, too. Don't expect people to be like you. 

We also forget that other peoples' needs are just as important as our own. Everyone wants to feel like someone hears them, like they're not alone in whatever they're going through. But it's so easy to become insensitive when it's someone else. Because it isn't you. And I think part of the reason karma comes back around, is to remind us what it feels like when we're in the lower position. It's telling us to remember what that feels like, and not forget about others when they're feeling low. This all comes back to the idea of basic human needs. 

Life is about give and take. And, like all good things, it's best in moderation. Don't expect to take your whole life without having to give. So remember, they need you just as much as you need them. Don't think it won't happen, because you'd be surprised at how soon you'll need someone to be there for you, too. And in all truthfulness, you really don't know what people are going through. Even if they fill you in, you can't really know how they feel unless you've been in the same situation. The best you can do is just be there for them. You could be the person to stop someone from making a really damaging decision, or just brighten their day. And you know they'll do the same for you when you need it. Trust me, they'll respect you for it. 

And if you already know you won't be able to offer them that support, don't make the promise. Don't get yourself into a position where you'll lose the trust with people you love and care about. You'll hurt them more making a false promise than you would just staying out of it in the first place. 

How do you know when you won't be able to go through with a promise?
You'll know you're not really dedicated to a promise if:
a) you're looking at your timetable before agreeing, 
b) if you have to 'get back to them', or
c) if you hesitate. 

It's that simple.
If you have to think about whether or not to help someone, then you probably didn't want to in the first place. And if you're not in it 100%, then you're better off leaving it alone. How do you do this? Be honest with yourself. Whether it's a gut feeling, or you're just too busy to help them out, you're always better off when you're honest about it. People have issues, sure; but they're not completely ignorant to the fact that you have a life, and your own set of responsibilities and problems also. Just don't say "I've got your back" if you know you can't cover them when they need it most, yeah?

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