So, as I sit here on the verge of going back to work, revved up on a come-down from pethidine and a shit-load of codeine, I’m am hitting hard a whole “what’s the craic?” thought process. For the first time since giving up teaching, I am asking myself what the hell is going on with me, with you and with the world in general? Googling for pointers and tips about how to rescue a new year, there’s loads of advice out there. The above ‘gem’ from someone called Brad Paisley (I am not even doing him the service of Googling him) particularly makes me want to set up a group of hand picked super heroes dedicated to taking out anyone who believes pithy be-meme’d advocacies of behavioural change are either helpful or effective. If they were, the increases in mental disorders among the young (who are seeing an increase in the number reporting mental health problems) would have been somewhat stymied purely by Facebook sharing. Show me a human who has been saved by Tiny Buddha, and I will happily eat my way through my library of totally pointless self-help books. Yes, I have self-help books. Clearly, none of them are working.
Now, last year contained some obvious markers, both culturally and personally, but all that has done is left me with a strong sense of futile injustice and a heavy malaise towards everyday-life. And I don’t think I am alone. Being part of a middle class, bleeding-heart cult-ural sect means that any knock back to the ideals we all hold dear – be in ownership of our bodies, ability to choose who we snog/marry/avoid and the right to cheap long weekends in Europe – means that swathes of friends, colleagues ‘n’ acquaintances have been left sprawling on the metaphorical bathroom tiles the tropological morning after the allegorical bad night before.
Now my own personal weltschmerz could be pin-pointed to three things that I am immediately aware of: lack of people, lack of projects that appear to be going anywhere, which may also be down to the human vacuum (which is a combination of self-imposed and circumstantial) and finally lack of meaning. And I honestly thought it was just me. You know, 35 any day now, moving from one tick box on surveys to the other one with the ‘grown-ups’ so I thought I would do something revolutionary and talk to people. And you know what I discovered? I am probably the only twat in the world who needs a full time arts project, probably involving multiple disciplines, on top of a full-time plus job, in order to stay sane. Which in itself is almost certainly not sane.
But wanna know what else I discovered? Nearly every one of my talented, wonderful and clever friends are FEELING THE SAME AS ME. Even the breeders with babies and partners and mortgages. In fact, especially the ones with babies and partners and mortgages. It’s not just whiny Millennial, either. My friends span a huge range of ages and experiences, and increasingly, they are all telling me the same thing. They are lonely, and don’t know what to do, and in an age of uncertainty, what’s the point?
I would like to tell everyone I have a magic bullet. I don’t and modern life takes it’s toll on me every day, but I’ve started to a do a few things that I’m finding helpful:
- Read. Use to books to inform and escape. I am writing a list of books I recommend and why here. It’s my project to build it up as the year goes on. Please feel free contribute.
- But not the News. At least not more than once a day. I genuinely believe that way madness lies, and before you know it you are arguing with the trolls on the Guardian comments section. Set a specific time to check the main headlines/read the paper (yes an actual paper Paper), just do not deviate from that. Turn off notifications from apps. Stay informed, once a day, but don’t disappear down the rabbit hole. News travels slowly, spin travels fast. David Bowie will still be dead. Syria will still be up shit-creek sans paddle. Trump will probably still manage to maintain presidency, despite the nuclear apocalypse. You can just read about it tomorrow. Which leads to…
- Do a social media detox. It’s hard. Really frickin’ hard. Especially if you life revolves around doing as much obscure London-based stuff as possible to fill the gaping voids of love and affection in your life. However, this can be compensated for here or here. Worried you will miss your peoples? Go through the list of friends and followers, note the ones you genuinely want to talk to and SEND THEM YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. I know. It’s genius. Wanna go old skool? Send them your home address and re-live your pre-teen era pen-friend obsession. Getting actual handwritten letters is really bloody exciting. You can thank me later. But honestly, I can tell you from personal experience, the internet is such an diverse ecoverse of things, you can avoid social media for three months and never once regret missing that picture of your mate’s dinner, or musings from an ex on the state of the FA Cup. Want to keep yourself honest? Start a social media Swear Box with a hard-hitting minimum payment. Write on it something like “Get off Twitter Twat-Face” or “Get the Fuck off Facebook Fatty McFatterson.” Then give all resulting cash to charity.
- Stop dating and definitely stop “dating”*. If you are single, obviously. If you are happily ensconced with the love of your life, then jog on. This is not for you. For anyone else, sort yourself out before tackling other people. Other people are easily as fucked up as you are, and if you are going through the ‘mean reds‘ the worst thing you can do is have two souls in the same state of disillusionment at the same dinner table. Never has a G&T tasted more bitter than when the human next to you is bemoaning Brexit and Becksit (the witty name for their ex’s departure) in the same breath, while your internal monologue quietly laments the death of dance hall romance and your loss of direction (“My thirteen year old self would be looking at me with pity and asking why I choose to do ‘adult stuff’ instead of paint pictures and play lacrosse.”**)
- Also, avoid dating apps. You are hard wired to get excited by games and the immediate rewards of “goal-directed behaviour“. A great article can be found here from a real-life, goddam addict. I agree with everything he says. Though the motley collection of men who now get harassed by me in real life situations might not agree.
- Travel. It broadens the mind. Sometimes, you just have to escape the city. And that’s not bad thing, if it’s just for a short time. Inspired by this awesome blog, I wanna do 12 new cities in 12 months. Gothenburg for New Year was January, and I have a terrifying ski holiday with work people booked for March. However, if you find yourself not wanting to come back to your life, then you have to ask what you are running away from. I have a list from my last holiday. And, I totally fed that shit to my Worry Monster. Hellyeah.***
- Look outward. It always helps. And I don’t just mean in your circle of friends. The best people I know channel their energies, negative or otherwise, beyond their own flesh sacks****. Whether that’s art or altruism, I think getting out of your head to make something or make a difference is important.
That’s my penny’s worth from this year so far. It’s just stuff I am finding useful. It’s not advice from an expert, or mantras for a new you. Cos, you’re probably already pretty new. After all, most of the cells in your body regenerate every 10 to 15 years. So I am actually barely a teenager. If anyone reads this before Sunday 15th January and wants a good place to start, I will be here for Sunday Assembly. I started going last year and it got lost in the melange of 2016 crappiness. But it’s one of the most joyful, lovely experiences I know. A group of people who meet for talk and singing of songs at top of lungs. Like church, but without God and more beards. Yes, ok, it’s a bit hipster but sometimes, you just need people. Because “People who need people/ Are the luckiest people in the world.”
*My mum may be reading this, but you know… “dating”, yeah?
**The correct answer to this is I don’t know but I’ve definitely backed myself into a corner at this point in time. I definitely miss painting. Lacrosse, not so much. Too much circuit training and early mornings in the cold. I never used to get cold as a teenager. Then I went to university and have been perpetually cold ever since. I am convinced that there is a correlation between education and ones ability to divert blood flow to outer limbs. I assume it’s a trait to secure the life span of essential organs and an arts degree convincing your brain to protect itself over things like fingers and toes. I am not grateful for this.
***In my head that sounded kooky and cute, but retrospectively it just comes off as demented middle-aged mad-woman. Possibly the 21st Century evolution of ‘crazy cat lady.’ One days someone will find my shrivelled husk under a pile of fugly cuddly monsters full of post-it notes all reading “oh-god-oh-god-oh-god I don’t want to die alone under a pile of hipster cuddly toys.” If this was an Alanis Morrisette song, she’d suggest this was ironic. She’d be wrong. However, if you would like a monster of your own get then here. Mine is called Flint, is brown stripped and has an eye patch. He’s awesome.
***Apologies, that sounds grosser/kinkier than intended, but I’ve said it now so shan’t take it back. You’re welcome.