Sh*t, I’m 29 today.

Sh*t, I’m 29 today. At 7.42am to be precise. I mean, I actually don’t feel so bad about it right now. My feeling on this number seems to fluctuate. There are times when my mind gets thinking about all the things I thought I’d have achieved and the milestones hit by this stage in my life. And then I try to push these thoughts out of my mind – or, better yet, try to be still and tell myself to stop it.

It was only 2 years ago that I turned 27, and I wrote this post. On the one hand, there are some gems in there. On the other, it gives me a headache just looking at it. Years of consuming knowledge all spilled out onto a page. Constantly trying to self-diagnose, to find ‘better’ information, to seek answers to the big questions and somehow come up with this grand-theory-on-life.

How to be happy. What career to do.

The irony is, this constant information-consumption leads to over-thinking and anxiety. A state of paralysis and in-action. I’ve worried so much about what to do with my life work-wise, that I have found myself not working – which itself causes low mood. My identity has become so wrapped up in “work”, that my life used to be unbalanced and key parts of my life neglected. Friendships, family, exercise, sleep.

Even at the gym this evening, I found myself pondering the 5 or 6 projects I’m currently interested in, work-wise. I’m constantly worried about making the right decision, about where to focus, about which ones to choose and which ones not to choose. About what I’m supposed to do.

Fuck it’s exhausting.

It’s really hard for me to let go, and just commit to – and focus on – a couple of those projects. I get this ridiculous FOMO and worry about making the right choice. What the f*ck is the right choice?! Surely there isn’t one. I know this logically, but it’s not easy to untangle myself from this destructive mindset.

Because I spend so much time thinking and worrying, I stop myself from just going with it and enjoying the moment. Living in the present. I have recently gotten back on the Headspace app and I usually do a little meditation whilst sat in the gym jacuzzi after my workout. I incorporate stretching and yoga into my workouts to relax and ease tension in my body – and thus in my mind.

Anything to keep me as still and relaxed and as focused on the present as possible.

I’ve spent so much time reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts, trying to reconcile my life and my work with those free-living freelancers whose stories I have endlessly devoured. I love to learn new things and have always been curious – but all this info-consumption only makes me more anxious.

Not too long ago, I even put myself on a non-fiction diet to stop putting irrelevant information in my head. I wish I could just make a choice and stick with it. And not need reassurance from the stuff I read and the people I see online. Really, it comes down to self-belief and self-confidence. There’s a lightbulb moment right there.

It looks like I’m about to start a job working for a good friend of mine in an exciting business, and I’m feeling good about this for a lot of reasons. But then I ask myself what projects I should be working on on the side – which might potentially become ‘the thing; further down the line. Again, it comes back to those stupid expectations.

I am just trying to be still, to feel rather than think, and to do rather than ruminate. I’m pretty sure that once I start this new job of mine, I’ll largely be kept busy and engaged. So I reckon I’ll have time for just 1 or 2 side-projects, maximum.

And whilst I’m still teetering over which ones to focus on, I am trying to lean into feeling rather than thinking. Both my therapist, and a good friend of mine who is training to be a coach (none other than ‘Girl J’ – remember her?), have asked me to imagine myself how I feel and experience doing the thing I’m pondering over, rather than thinking and ruminating about it.

And that’s what I intend to do from here on in. Less thinking, more feeling. Less ruminating, more doing. Less anxiety about the future, more being in the present.

Happy 29th to me. Perhaps I’m becoming more of an adult after all.

by Jas

✏ Written: Monday 4th June, 2018

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Living as a highly sensitive person (HSP)

Some time after I came across Susan Cain’s infamous TED Talk and realised I was an introvert, the notion of ‘high sensitivity’ came to my attention. Hmm, this sounds like me too, I thought. I think I came across some articles and blogs online which alluded to this ‘highly sensitive’ thing, before I stumbled across Dr. Elaine Aron, who is credited with beginning the study of the inate temperament trait of high sensitivity (in 1991).

 

HSP
credit: Zaimful

 

She also developed a test for high sensitivity, which seemed to confirm my hunch that I was, indeed, a highly sensitive person. You can find the test here.

I had always known that I was a pretty sensitive guy, to some extent. However, it seems that I’m learning more and more about this as time goes on. I’ve always been highly empathetic, can relate to anyone and know how to connect and put them at ease, and generally read people well. I get this hunch or intuitive feeling about people which I can’t logically explain.

During a family trip to rural Sweden, for about a week we were on the road visiting various places. This meant a lot of time spent together in close quarters in the car. Coupled with this, and the fact that the same couple of CDs were playing on loop the whole time (even when I mixed it up a little with my iPod), it just got too much for me. I think I yelled out or erupted or something, I can’t quite remember. My family lovingly refer to this incident as “the time Jas had a meltdown in Sweden”. Turns out I was just over-stimulated; it had been building and then couldn’t be held in any more.

I’ve also realised how my high sensitivity can come into play when I’m out and about in public. For example at the gym, where I go most days. Even after having gone for about 10 years, I still find myself constantly looking around me at the other guys and girls in my vicinity. Whether it’s comparing myself to other guys, or checking out other girls (hopefully with subtlety!), or just wanting to know who’s around. I’ve certainly gotten better at this, and just being present in my own space and focusing on my own workout. But it feels like I’m constantly alert. (I think my social anxiety and body-related issues also come into play here).

In some ways, perhaps this is quite a usual thing. To be on the treadmill or whatever machine, and just glance around. However, it can be exhausting and certainly isn’t always ideal to say the least.

(Also: look out for a ‘the people I avoid in the gym’ post which I should be uploading soon).

One of the things I’m aware of, and working on, is the judgement of others and the assumed judgement of others (i.e. the thoughts about myself that I project onto others, and therefore they think they have of me). Recently (at time of writing), for example, I’ve realised that I’ve been avoiding speaking to friends and family, for the fear that the ‘work question’ will come up in conversation, and that I will feel embarrassed and judged and sh*tty.

e.g. I spoke to one of my best friends on the phone last night, and I spent the whole call trying to be funny and entertaining, all the while trying to keep the conversation going and dictating it. I’ve felt bad at ignoring calls / not responding to his messages in the past (I’m actually supposed to be giving him a call as I write this!), and we had to cut the call short (which I was kinda pleased with),  I sent him a website link soon after and made a joke about it. It’s like I’m constantly trying to keep this facade up, and not direct any unwanted attention towards me.

I feel that all of this links in some way to my high sensitivity. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that there are benefits, too. The ability to feel deeply and connect so well/so much with others can be a wonderful gift, and I also feels it translates to my writing, too.

Also, I know that my body is also sensitive to things like gluten and alcohol. In a way I’m glad that I get/feel a response to these things, as it means I’m aware of my body trying to tell me something, rather than abusing my body slowly over time without my realising it.

Understand my sensitivity, and continuing to do so, has been key in learning how best to look after myself and be kinder towards myself. Thinking about it, I’m sure it also contributed to my actions/hyperactivity that I felt when I went a little crazy that weekend

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Are you a highly sensitive person, or do you suspect you might be ‘on the scale’? I’d love to hear how HSP-living is for you… 💙

Making time for family

I love my family. It feels like I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately – e.g. this post. My mother, father, brother and I have lived together for most of my life, with the exception of a couple of years when I was at university (-ies; I dropped out, twice).

We all know and understand each other pretty well by now. On the whole. Our personalities, traits and habits. Though we can drive each other mad on occasion (e.g. mum can be quick chatty at times – aka all the time – and inevitably at times when I wanna chill, bless her), I am fortunate (spoiled) in that our house has plenty of spaces to retreat to. Home is my safe space, and these 3 people are the ones I trust more than anyone in the world.

Though we live together, it’s all too easy to get complacent and not really spend quality time with each other (like we did the other night, when we did a cinema trip + meal). As I am getting older, whilst putting myself first and trying to get my own sh*t together, I am gradually beginning to appreciate my family more. After all, I won’t be living with them forever, and I just want to make the most of this time that we have together in our household.

My mother and her side of the family are very family-orientated folks. Whilst I’ve always been pleasant and friendly when we get-together, there are times of late when I feel I haven’t made enough of an effort. Especially whilst I’ve been working on myself and my mental health the last couple of years, it hasn’t always been easy juggling/prioritisation relationships. I mean I struggle with managing friendships/relationships at the best of times (most of the time!).

I have an uncle, my mum’s brother, who is only a couple of years older than I am, and he is very much a busy-body and extrovert-type (like mum); he is very family-orientated, and is always trying to organise activities, general get-togethers and trips away. I’ll be honest, he’s a good guy with his heart in the right place, but we are also very different people. He’s quite blunt and judgemental, as well as money-driven and materially-focused. This is just not me. (If it wasn’t for mum forcing me onto the property-ladders whilst I was earning, and the luxury of living at home, I would not have been able to afford/survive the last 3 years of no income). With the small age-gap between us, and considering that I’m the eldest of the cousins on my mum’s side (the next-oldest is 5 years younger), I reckon we may have had a closer relationship if we were more similar in personality.

That said, now and again, it’s nice to spend time with my uncle and cousins, especially as we are all getting older (seriously, time flies so fast) and are able to have more mature conversations, and connect more “on a level”.

It’s a balancing act between managing my energy and spending time with my family. I’ll be honest, the last couple of years haven’t been easy when it comes to family – especially whilst I’ve been managing my mental health and general life struggles, e.g. dealing with the perceived judgement from family (and the rest) about my work situation; whilst I’ve taken time off and experimented, it’s been tough being asked “what are you doing at the moment?” – and even going into situations/interactions having the fear that this question, or similar ones, will come up!

I feel so judged and unworthy, as if I have no identity. Also, I feel that there’s an undertone of inter-family competition, and I not only feel paranoid about my self-perceiving low-achievements compared to others in the family, but also that I’m letting my parents down, as well as worrying both them and my grandparents immensely. I think I know where my mum gets her anxious ways from, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that her 3 sisters are all panic-pots to varying extents, too. People mean well but, bless them, are anxious to the point that it can be stifling – especially for someone who is very sensitive / soaks up the energy around him.

About an hour ago, my bro and uncle returned from a long weekend away for a stag-do. We’re having a ‘de-brief’ tonight at GBK which should be fun. As I write this, my uncle just sent this message to our little family (uncle/cousins) Whatsapp group – “Basically ___ (my bro) and I have decided – booking a MAD club Saturday in Cannes for ____’s (my cousin’s) 18th. Freshers for his upcoming freshers”.

LOL. Whilst I may have been excited by such fun around 1- years ago, I’m not really sure that’s my scene. Though we’re all going to be away as a family in September anyway (in nearby Nice), so I guess it’s the sort of opportunity we should jump at and won’t get when we’re all older, married and settled with families and such.

They say you only live once, right? (I’m sure someone said YOLO before Drake did…). And, staying close to my family is one of my priorities for the year ahead.

[Edit: shortly after writing this post, I recorded myself reciting one of my poems for the first time 🙈 Here’s the Soundcloud link]

✏ Written: Sunday, 4th March 2018 @ 12.30pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Are you satisfied with the relationship you have with your family – both immediate and extended? Is ‘family’ a priority for you? As always, I’d love to get your thoughts 💙