New Year, new resolutions

2017

It’s that time of year again – time to set some new resolutions.

Like seemingly most people, 2016 isn’t one I’m particularly eager to remember (not least because I was a Remainer and I bloody loved Alan Rickman in everything I ever saw him in).

That isn’t to say that 2016 was a bad year for me. On the contrary, I got myself a new job and I’ve made some progress towards moving on with my life. In that sense, it’s been a bit of a forgetful, part-of-a-larger-puzzle kind of year, rather than one that’s been full of incredible, life-changing events.

In a way, that’s a good thing though. It just means that this year will be when all of last year’s progress will pay off. I’ve got some pretty high hopes about getting a new job pretty soonish, I’m currently looking for a flat to rent my with girlfriend, and I’m determined to finally get in shape (which I made some pretty good progress doing last year up until about mid-November, at which point I decided to pig out until New Year’s…).

New targets

So what are my new resolutions? Looking back on my targets last year, my two biggest aims were to read more and write more. Well, I’ve read a few books and graphic novels this year which I’m going to say is enough to have achieved the former goal, and I’ve written a pretty decent amount of blog posts on here so I’d say the latter goal was achieved too.

As well as those two goals though, I had a couple of other, smaller targets. I wanted to complete a 12-month weightlifting programme which unfortunately I didn’t (I got 9 months into it which I would say is a pretty good effort), and I wanted to eat healthier which, again, I lasted a good 9 months doing. Again, I’m pretty happy with the effort I made.

This year, I’m going to continue with last year’s aims. I want to read even more, I want to write even more, and I want to get healthier. On top of those resolutions though, I have a few more to add, based on the past few months:

  • See my friends more – my recent birthday party in London just reminded me how much I used to enjoy my friends’ company and, although it’s getting more and more difficult the older we all get, I think it’s important to rekindle the friendships we all had.
  • Move out of my mum’s house – the past year has made me realise just how much I yearn for the next chapter of my life. I want to get moving with the next chapter of my life and move in somewhere with my girlfriend.
  • Spend more quality time with myself – I’ve always felt a bit guilty if I have a night alone to myself but actually, I’m starting to realise just how helpful they are for letting me get things done and think things through properly. I’ve had quite a lot of holiday from work over November and December which have given me the time to really start to get into gear with developing a project I’m working on (which hopefully I’ll be sharing with you at some point this year…).
  • Slow down – this is more a general aim but I’ve noticed I have a tendency to want to do things as fast as possible. Whether that’s reading a book, travelling somewhere or having a conversation – I always veer on the side of reaching the end goal rather than enjoying the journey. I started doing mindfulness meditation halfway through last year with an app called Headspace which really helped me appreciate slowing down through daily 10-minute meditation breaks. Unfortunately, it slowly became an afterthought rather than something to prioritise, but I’m going to make a concerted effort to start it up again.

So like last year, I’m keeping my goals grounded and fairly simple, hopefully meaning I can achieve them or at least make a decent attempt to.

In general, I’m unusually optimistic about 2017 (which is pretty weird seeing as I’m a born pessimist). Here’s to it being as memorable a year as I hope.

Speak soon.

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Too old for anxiety

age-clock

As we all know, mental health issues have a stigma surrounding them. We might not like to admit it, but they do. Even though the number of people reportedly dealing with their own iterations of mental health problems is scarily high – and no doubt a lot higher than we actually think – talking about mental health remains an activity to be conducted behind closed doors.

It is improving, albeit painfully slowly. I imagine the stigma surrounding it being similar to the one that barely exists around cancer. What was once a disease people would be ashamed to have is now openly discussed and supported publically, as it should be. Unfortunately, talking about mental health issues exists as cancer’s former self – a subject to be brushed under the carpet and written off as the result of ‘stress’ or ‘upbringing issues’.

It’s a hard wall to break down. Even I – someone who is fairly open about the fact that he has feelings of anxiety in most situations – find it hard to tell someone about my mental health issues in certain instances, even though I know talking about these things is the only solution to relieving the stigma surrounding them.

Embarrassment

Part of my hesitation to breach the subject is as a result of my age. As a 28-year-old man, there’s a certain embarrassment associated with having anxiety. I think many people believe that a man of my age should be able to handle stressful situations, that I shouldn’t feel nervous simply talking to a cashier or barber; that I should feel entirely comfortable conversing with a next door neighbour; that I shouldn’t be stumbling over my words talking to new people; or that a simple phone call shouldn’t result in me having to leave a room full of people before I can properly talk to whoever is on the other end of the line.

It’s almost like by a certain age, society expects you to have dealt with the major issues in your life and ironed out the paranoia and uncertainty you’ve experienced up until then. Particularly by 28, you should be mature and conform with society’s ideal image of an ‘adult’.

Fuelling the fire

Of course, part of this embarrassment – like anxiety itself – is fuelled by my own thoughts. This is all what I think people believe, not what I know. But then, those thoughts exist for a reason. They exist as a result of conversations I’ve had over the years, the minor remarks that people say and don’t even think about, and the numerous sources of information that have existed throughout my life. Comments I hear every day like ‘he’s so weird’ and ‘he’s so boring’ aimed at someone that I know has anxiety issues but the person saying the remarks doesn’t. Or ‘she’s so depressing’ and ‘why doesn’t she just cheer up’ in reference to someone I know is struggling with depression.

Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of those comments which makes me hyper-paranoid that they’re being said about me too. Just going on social media, where pretty much everything is over-exaggerated, will tell you that those kinds of comments are rife in today’s supposedly over-PC society.

Compassion

I suppose the reason for this post is two-fold.

The first reason is to say that having anxiety as an adult is not weird or strange or bizarre, just like it’s not weird or strange of bizarre for someone younger to have it. I’m an example of someone with anxiety and I can tell you now, since my diagnosis and me deciding to be open about it, the number of people with the same issues is overwhelming and, quite frankly, worrying. Anxiety is isolating in both how society deals with it and how it makes you live your life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it.

The second reason is to inspire some sort of compassion. It’s too easy in this day and age to judge something as something else based on superficial evidence, to share your opinion quickly and to have your opinion – whether it’s valid or not – enforced by others making the same snap judgement as yourself. So, before you come to a conclusion, just take a step back. Consider their position, their emotions, their possible mental health issues and their possible life experiences.

It’s hard to type that without feeling massively hypocritical because I know I’ve fallen into exactly the same trap as I’ve just explained above. But I’m going to make a real effort to try and be more compassionate from now on. And I think everyone else needs to too.

Speak soon.

Birthday bothers

birthday

So tomorrow, I turn the ripe old age of 28. One step closer to 30…

Personally, it’s not that big of a deal to me, but then birthdays in general have kind of been a bit of a non-event for me since I turned 21. With each year that’s passed, my “celebrations” have become smaller and smaller to the point that last year I didn’t even bother doing anything with my mates – instead I went out for a meal with mine and my girlfriend’s family (not that that’s a bad thing of course – it was lovely).

Losing time

I don’t know if this is just a normal process everyone goes through as they get older, but I don’t really see a birthday as much of a reason to celebrate anymore – I mean, after all, I’m just running out of time for me to do what I want to in life.

I’ve blogged about this feeling before where it kind of feels like I’ve hit a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I’ve got to an age now where I feel I should have my own place, have a decent career under my belt and maybe even be considering a family. I haven’t got any of those things right now. I still live in my mum’s house, I haven’t even completed two whole years of full-time work yet and quite frankly, having kids is a much more realistic option in about 5/6 years than it is right now.

I find it pretty hard to put these things to the back of my mind at the most of times, but it’s a particular problem when a birthday comes around. It just gets me thinking whether I’m doing the right thing in life. Do I really have a job I enjoy? Am I following the right career path in general? Why is it that my friends are so much better off than I am?

Under the spotlight

So already, I feel like it’s pretty easy to see why I never treat birthdays as much of a big deal. But on top of that, the general feeling I have on a birthday is that I’m under the spotlight.

“Of course you feel like that, it’s your birthday you doughnut”I hear you cry. The difference is that I feel like most people can deal with being centre of attention from time to time, but unfortunately I HATE that feeling so much that I actively avoid it in all situations.

To me, it’s the same kind of fear as being up on stage. Everyone is focused on you like they’re expectant of something good and you have to entertain them. On top of that, I feel like the birthday person is supposed to be the one getting people to mingle – which I’m not the best at doing because of the fact that I have friends from multiple friend groups. That means that when it comes to creating a guestlist, it becomes this mish-mash of people that have never met before. That just gets me panicking about how they’ll interact with each other. Will the atmosphere be uncomfortable? Will they get on? Is it my fault if they don’t?

Clinging on to my youth

After all of that complaining, I have a confession to make: this year I’ve decided to do something a bit proper and have gathered a small group of us to go to a ping pong bar in London.

Kind of counters my fears right?

Well I’ll tell you why I’m doing something this year: because I want to – and I’m not letting any of the feelings of anxiety that I usually have around this time get in the way. I’ve even gone as far as creating an official Facebook event and invited people to it (shock horror!) – although I did avoid making it for a good two weeks because I was too scared that a load of the people I invited would say they were busy…

As I said, it’s a ping pong bar but it also lets you play beer pong so me and my mates can all try and re-enact our years at university. I’m hoping it’ll just be like old times and from the eight close mates of mine that have already said they’re coming, I’m actually pretty excited that it will be.

Hopefully this will be a year I forget about all the anxiety and just enjoy my birthday!

Let’s see…

Speak soon.