Category Archives: Opinion

Fear of Freedom

Skydiving

My flights are booked. My visa approved. It was the easiest-tough decision of my life. In 9 weeks, 1 day and 14 hours, I will begin a journey, turning over a new page in my life.

At 25 years of age, I will move to Canada. For 8 months, maybe longer, I will move to Canada. Alone.

I have no real plan. Nowhere to stay. No job. No friends. Just a vague itinerary and the ability to put off thinking about most problems until they face me.

Yet, still, I am shitting myself.

It’s strange how our first reaction to freedom is to be scared. People are planners. We love to be comfortable with our tomorrows – we love to see around the next corner – we love to know.

A fear of the unknown is something most people share. We hate mystery, it pulls at our stomach and wont let go. If something is unknown to us, our imaginations can take over, and nothing can be more damaging than our brain on the loose. We can think up such terrible situations that could never possibly happen in real-life, yet we convince ourselves they could.

The best horror movies play on that fear – involving monsters that we never fully see, only glimpsing the features, making up the horror with our minds. When we do eventually see the monster, usually the movie stops being scary. Once you know what that great horror really is, once it can be understood, it’s no longer a threat. When we can compare the reality to what we imagine, we realise that our imagination was far scarier.

This fear of an unknown future is what stops most people from making drastic changes in their life, even when the changes will eventually be better for them.  When the future becomes a blank void, everything becomes scary. We look forward and all we can see is series of ‘what-ifs’ with no pre-determined path. Anything could go wrong. Anything could go right. We can see no reality, only the imagined. We never know what will happen. Scary.

Most people don’t take the leap. They just stay in a comfortable bubble, they know what will happen tomorrow, some know what will happen in 10 years, some have their whole lives planned til their death. There’s no problem with that, but to me there’s something boring in that inevitability.

A book is no longer fun to me when I can tell what’s going to happen. It feels like I’m just going through the motions, reading for the sake of reading. Life with a huge plan is like living for the sake of living. You already know what will happen, so why bother at all?

I’d rather live for the unknown plot-twist. But to do that I will have to conquer that fear. I will have to jump head first into the unknown, with nothing to protect me but the briefest of hopes that everything will turn out good. Knowing that the future is a blank canvas, that I can do anything with it.

Knowing that I am truly, completely free.

——

Photo is titled Skydiving by Kaipullai(கைப்புள்ள)

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A Hoodlum Spat In My Face

Yesterday a stranger spat in my face. Literally, not metaphorically.

I was sitting with a friend at the time – waiting for the bus – when a group of hoodlums walked by. One of these ruffians turned to me, shouted the word “BISCUITS” and spat in my face.

I don’t know why he shouted “BISCUITS”, possibly because he knew that I would go back to this word in an attempt to find some meaning within it. Perhaps he knew that word would keep me up at night, constantly questioning me, forever making me wonder “Why?! Why did he say biscuits?! What does it all mean?!”

Immediately after the spittle hit my face, I felt nothing. I did not feel angry or sad, just apathetic. I was apathetic, precisely because the entire scene didn’t mean anything. He didn’t do it for any reason I could fathom and without a reason, how could I have a reaction?

Later, I searched for meaning, part of me wishing that there was a little drama to the event. That I had somehow wronged this man in some way. That we were part of some tragic Shakespearen tale. I’m not completely against spitting if the scene calls for it. If the spitter minces their way over dramatically, shouting the words “I spit on thee and thy house for the wrongs thou hath done me *hawk-spit*” At least that spitting means something. Spitting in disgust. But I’m not disgusting. Give me some meaning if you’re going to spit on me dammit!

But NO, this spit meant nothing. Not spitting for feminism, or spitting for socialism. Just spitting for the sake of it.  What a waste of spit. Spit that was on my face. Spit that I barely cared enough about to wipe away.

Yet, I must confess, I am perhaps being a little misleading. When I say he spat on me, I know what you’re thinking:

You’re thinking it was in slow-motion. (Such things always happen in slow-motion.) A weasel-looking youth, with a small moustache, looking down on me with a crafty flash in his eyes.

You’re thinking of the sound he made as he built up the spit. A low rumble of phlegm in the throat.

You’re thinking of the quick instant when he shot the saliva out of his mouth. You’re thinking that I watched it slowly gliding through the air towards me as I screamed one long “NOOOOOOOOOO!”

You’re thinking the spit hit me on the eyebrow, my head kicking backwards like I’d been hit by a gun. You’re thinking the ruffian smiled slyly in my direction, so happy with all he’d accomplished.

But let me tell you, you’re thinking is wrong.

It all happened so quickly that I barely had time to realise it was happening. It wasn’t slow-motion, it was fast-motion. Suddenly this man was in front of me, he was shouting “BISCUITS!”, he was spitting.

And the spit was weak. There was no conviction behind it. It was apathetic spit. It was spit that said “meh, I don’t really feel like doing this, but I’ve got to.” It was like the piece of homework you leave until the night before deadline. Lousy, half-hearted and lazy. Just plain rubbish. I was the teacher that received that lousy homework, shaking my head and thinking “come on now, we both know you can do better than this! You’re underachieving. You’ll never make anything of yourself if you go through life like this.”

There was no build up of phlegm, there was no force behind the release. In fact, the lousy little shit didn’t even have the common decency to open his mouth! He instead spat through his lips. It was half spit, half accidental raspberry. His spit dispersed into a number of minute, micro-spittles. It was like when somebody tells you a funny joke, just at the moment you’ve taken a swig of cola. We’ve all been there right? The instinctive laugh that we try to hold in at the last second, which shoots a mist of cola onto our friend. (Or in my case, laptop, because I have no friends.)

That’s how his spit was. A short, shallow mist. If spitting were a sport, then my grandma could have beaten this guy. When the spit hit me I was barely aware that it actually had. When my friend asked seconds later “did that guy just spit on you?” I suddenly started to wonder whether he actually had or not. Had he just spat on me? I felt like running down the street after him. “Erm, excuse me, sorry to bother you, I was just wondering… did you spit on me back there? Just, I’m not sure if you did, which means I don’t really know how to feel about the whole thing. Oh. Oh, right. Oh, you did just spit on me. My mistake. Didn’t mean to trouble you. Oh, wait. Wait, wait, wait! Just one more question before you leave. Uh, soooo… what was that you were saying about biscuits?”

Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong though. Perhaps his friend had just told him a hilarious, long-winded joke. The type of joke that goes on and on, and is all building up to one, perfect punch-line. A punch-line like “BISCUITS!” Perhaps upon hearing this punch-line the ruffian was forced to also exclaim “BISCUITS!” Because after that long build-up the punch-line was so obvious, but also so hilarious. “BISCUITS! HAHAHAHA! MAN THAT’S GOOD!” But maybe all he could do was exclaim “BISCUITS” before trying to hold in his laugh. And maybe that laugh turned into an inadvertent raspberry of spittle in my direction. Maybe he didn’t spit at me. Maybe he just accidentally spat in my direction. Maybe he felt really bad about it, but he didn’t apologise because, well, that’d have been really awkward, wouldn’t it? Apologising to the stranger you just accidentally spat on. Maybe he was just being polite by not bringing me into an already awkward situation. How kind of him.

Maybe he had a medical condition that prevented him from controlling his lips? Maybe he thought I was on fire and was trying to put me out? Maybe he didn’t like my jacket? Maybe, he spat on me for no reason at all. No no. That can’t be right. Ridiculous! It must have meant something! Surely!

Maybe. Just maybe, I reminded him of one thing. The one thing he hated more than anything else in this rotten world. A thing that had haunted him since the day he’d been born. A thing that chased him down long corridors in his nightmares. A thing that had killed his mother, his father, and his pet goldfish. A thing he feared, but a thing he also one day vowed to destroy:

BISCUITS.

__________________________

Photo titled Hoodlum by carbonnyc.

The Annual Existential Crisis (Birthday)

By Dan

Progressione II

Last week I turned 25. I tried to forget about it, tried to push it to the back of my mind, tried to pretend it was a normal day. But, no. Noooo! Over 30 people (most of whom, let’s be honest, I barely talk to) were there on Facebook, “politely” reminding me that it was my birthday with a constant barrage of jovial messages.

It’s not that I dislike birthdays. I like presents. I like cake. I like attention. But what I hate is that moment. The moment when the party is over, the house is empty, cardboard hats cover the floor, the food on the table lies half eaten, and you sit alone on your sofa and you think, ‘so, I’m 25 now, what have I done with my life?’ The silence is the answer.

Nothing.

I am 25 and I have done nothing with my life. I don’t say this with pride, but I also don’t say this with self-pity. I just say it. How many 25 year olds have done anything with their life? Not many I wager. So why do I feel bad that I’ve done nothing with mine?

I don’t know what to do with my life. At all. But I feel I should be doing something. So my mind is caught in a constant cycle. First I must feel bad because I’ve not yet done anything. Then I must feel bad because I don’t know what to do. Then I must feel bad because I haven’t done what I don’t know what to do. I feel constantly confused. Like I have no place. I feel lost. I’m unsure about everything.

There’s a term for this. A “quarter life crisis”. A time in a young person’s life where they becoming introspective and start to question their existence. We go back to that question again of ‘who am I?

I’m sick of asking it. Really sick. The question is even starting to bore me. I’m starting to not care about who I am. Who gives a shit! Who says I should give a damn anyway?

The world. That’s who. My generation has been brought up with an unhealthy dose of optimism. As children we are told we can be anybody we want to be. That we can do anything we want to do. If we dream big, those dreams can one day be turned into reality. We can all be a great person. A memorable person. We can change the world if we want.

Then you grow up and you realise that unhealthy dose of optimism has turned you into a pessimist. You come to the realisation that you can’t be anybody you want to be. You can’t do anything. If you dream big, you eventually realise your dreams will never happen. You can’t change the world. You can barely build up the courage to change your hairstyle.

We’re raising our children to have a false grip on their existence. If we raise every child to believe their life is special, then eventually there’ll be a fallout when all of these children grow up and realise they’re just the same as everybody else. We aren’t all great people.

If everybody is a great person then what’s the point of being great? If everybody is great, then that just means being great is average. So really, what we’re saying is, everybody is average. It comes as quite a blow when you realise you’re just the same as everybody else. You will live, you will do nothing with your life, then you will die, and 100 years afterwards you’ll be lucky if your name turns up on a family tree. That is all.

We can’t all change the world. We all read the same books. We all think the same thoughts (even these thoughts, right now, that I’m typing.) We all buy our clothes from the same stores. We all feel. We all speak. We all see. We aren’t unique. We aren’t special. We are average. That hurts.

But I wonder, did it hurt my grandfather? Did he ever sit alone after the party. Sad about being the same as everybody else. Sad about his life having no meaning.

I doubt it. My grandfather’s generation fought in two World Wars. They went off to a foreign country, barely adults, and they shot other humans, who were also barely adults. But they never thought about it. Never wondered “what does this all mean?” They just thought about their family. Their love back home. Their luck to be alive. Nowadays it’s almost as if we’re unlucky to be alive.

However my grand parents were sold a different dream. They weren’t special. They weren’t unique. They were simply told that if they worked hard, they could have a family, they could have their own home, they could have a dog. They could be happily the same as everybody else, and if they were lucky they’d have enough money at the end of the year to buy a full turkey for Christmas. And they were happy enough. Not truly happy. But happy enough. With their existence, with their lives, with what they had. They knew that true, complete happiness was an impossible dream, that happy enough was the best they could hope for. They were happy with happy enough.

So where did it all go wrong? Well, personally, I blame The Beatles. I love The Beatles. They’re one of my favourite bands. But we really should have smelt trouble when they stopped singing about holding hands, and started singing about LSD.

The 60s were amazing, right? The world started to become more liberal (and never stopped!). Everybody started to become open minded. We suddenly decided that people should have equal rights. That everybody should have a chance. We decided that everybody, everywhere, could be a great person. Even you. Yes, you! Right there, you! Sure you’ve been born into poverty. Sure you’ve got no education. Sure you’ve only got the skills to dig ditches for a living. But even you could change the world! You could be great!

Once people believe they’re unique, they start to believe their life has meaning. Which leads to a horrible, horrible discovery when they realise it’s meaningless. Religion used to solve the problem. Sure, we have no meaning now, but we’ll have meaning later! But even those damn liberals have stolen religion from us and replaced it with the worst thing possible. Choice.

You can choose. You can do anything you like with your life. You have a choice. So much choice. So so soooo much choice. Choice is great. Choice means we’re free. But. (Oh, shit, there’s a but!?) You must choose wisely, you must make the right choice. God no longer exists, heaven doesn’t await us. This is it. This is your life. You have only got one shot. One choice. So make it the right choice. But make it now dammit! Time is running out!

That’s a lot of pressure. Your whole life is brought down to a choice. Which you must make. Around about now. Around about 25.

I don’t know what choice to make though. There are so many choices, and so much pressure to choose, that I can’t choose. I’m like a deer standing in the road, paralysed by the light of a car coming towards me. Behind the wheel is life. Grinning madly. Happy to run me over.

What if I make the wrong choice? What if I screw up? What if I fail to be that great person the world has told me I will be? What if? What if? What if?

There are so many what ifs that in the end, I make no choice. I don’t become a great person. I don’t change the world. I realise I’m not unique. I realise my life has no meaning. I realise I am average.

I sit alone. After the party. Thinking these things. Realising I was sold a lie in childhood, that I’m now paying for in adulthood. Searching for a solution. Searching for a choice.

But as I sit there, I start get bored. Bored of thinking. About everything.

So I turn the TV on. I open a bag of tortillas. I eat.

I start to go on with life. Forgetting all about that choice

Forgetting, that no choice is the worst choice of all.

—————–

Photo is Progressione II by Iguanajo

Online Dating and the Cyber-Self

Who am I?

It’s a question I’m sure everybody has asked themselves at some point in time. When we’re unsure of where we are going, or why we have done something. It’s a question that is completely valid to ask, it’s only natural to be introspective. Unfortunately there is no valid answer.

To explain who a person is in a sentence, a word, or even at all, is impossible. No person is so simple. Yet we constantly seek a simple answer. An impossible answer.

From time to time people believe they have found that answer. They believe who they are is finite and fixed. We’re good or evil. Happy or unhappy. Black or white.

But they haven’t found any reasonable answer at all. Who we are is a complex thing, we change constantly. In different situations we are different people. Really, we are a lot like a rainbow (lame!). We consist of a range of different colours and different shades.

A lot of people don’t understand this though. They can’t comprehend that a person is made of many different identities.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld which perfectly illustrates this. George reveals he has two distinct personas. One is “Relationship George”, the type of person he is when he’s with his girlfriend. The second is “Independent George”, the type of person he is with his friends. But George realises that if his girlfriend becomes friends with his friends, then his two personas will be forced together.

We all act differently depending on the person we’re with, or the situation we’re in. We change ourselves to reflect our circumstances.

As technology improves though, our means of communicating have changed. Our circumstances are now almost as complex as our personalities. Which has lead me to ask another question:

Who am I online?

We now have a new persona: a cyber-self – who we are on the internet.

Unlike our real life persona though, our cyber-self is something we are in complete control of. We can be whoever we want to be. We can edit out the bad bits and leave in the best bits.

Reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve already come to a conclusion about what type of person I am. This person is Internet Dan. But the thing is, Internet Dan and Real-life Dan are completely different.

Which leads to a problem. What if you meet Real-Life Dan, when you expect to meet a real-life version of Internet Dan? Can both Dans survive together?

The meeting of Cyber Persona and Real Persona is never usually a problem, we can take into account that people will differ slightly in real-life from how they appear on the internet. But sometimes a real-life relationship might hinge on a relationship made online. Never is this more important than during online dating.

Now it’s time to admit the sad truth. Last year I tried online dating. I say I tried it, but really I never went on an actual date. I signed up to a few sites, and waited. And waited. And waited. But nobody knocked on my door. I started to wonder why. Perhaps it was the unflattering photo on my dating profile that showed how massive my nose is?

So I changed the photo. And waited. And waited. Still no knock.

So I took another look. Maybe it was because I mentioned I was an atheist? If a girl was into her God, that might put her off.

So I changed my religion to Other. And waited. And waited. No knock. Another change. More waiting. No knocks. More changes.

They say the most important thing in online dating is to be honest. Please. We aren’t even honest in real-life, so why should we be on the internet? Honesty doesn’t make a person attractive. Unless you’re the type of person who likes the look of somebody who’s profile says “mostly I just like to sit around in sweat pants and watch TV.”

The problem of how we present ourselves online, has another layer though. Even if we do decide to present ourselves truthfully online, we wont manage to come up with a realistic version of ourselves, because as I’ve said, we can never truly answer the question “who am I?” and whenever we do answer this question it is just our own perspective.

In presenting yourself online, you are making a document of your self-image, the person you see yourself as. But what you see, and what others see can be completely different. We’ve all met people who think they’re hilarious, who think that everybody is laughing at their jokes, when really everybody is laughing at how pathetic they are. If you asked them if they were a funny person they would say “of course, everybody thinks I’m hilarious” and their online-persona would reflect this. But if you asked others they’d say “that guy’s as funny as cancer.”

With all of this in mind, I attempted to make my online-persona more attractive to the opposite sex.

Internet Dan was a millionaire, he owned a small island in the Indian Ocean, his profile photos weren’t even of him, they were photos of a male model, stolen from a website. To top it all off his penis was huge, so huge it was worth mentioning on his dating profile.

Yet still nobody knocked at my door.

Eventually it dawned on me. The reason I was receiving no messages was because girls don’t send messages to guys on dating sites. The guys chase the girls. It’s like being in the playground at school, playing catchy-kissy. You have to catch the girl before you can kiss her.

So I started searching for girls to catch. I started scanning their profiles, looking for my perfect match.

Unfortunately, a lot of these girls weren’t as smart as I was. They were simply too honest in their profiles, or they didn’t understand what persona they were projecting online. Some had pictures of themselves where it was clear they had a double chin. Some couldn’t use apostrophes. Some thought it was a good idea to mention their love of taxidermy.

But eventually I found her. My perfect girl. She was intelligent, funny, she was into baking and Scrabble. To top it all off, she looked smoking hot.

I started to wonder. What’s the catch? There’s got to be a catch, right!? She’s perfect!

We arranged to meet. She’d be wearing a red silk scarf she said. When I arrived I wondered why an obese man had stolen her scarf. Then I realised that the obese man was actually her. I was shocked. She had a full grown beard and everything.

I’m ashamed to say, I snuck away and didn’t speak to her again. I would feel bad, but she’d sold me a lie. Maybe she was intelligent and funny. (She was definitely into baking, you could tell she enjoyed her cakes!) But her physical appearance was so different from her online appearance, that I knew it wouldn’t have been the only liberty she’d have taken in presenting herself.

I realised then, that it was pointless to make Internet Dan the most amazing man alive, because Real-Life Dan could never compete. A girl would only feel disappointed if she met me, because she wanted another guy. Just the other guy would be some freaky version of me. I couldn’t exactly fight myself in a duel, it’d just be suicide.

So maybe the solution is to be honest after all. To let people meet our real-life persona online, so that the transition from online to real-life is easier and harmless. Maybe it’s time Internet Dan became just a part of Real-Life Dan, instead of a separate entity.

Although Internet Dan, really doesn’t want to give up his huge penis.

Is An Orange Beautiful?

Is an orange beautiful?

At first the question threw me off. I’d never previously thought about an orange in terms of beauty. In fact I’ve always just thought of oranges as food. Something to eat and momentarily enjoy.

Over the summer I learnt the pleasures of eating a fresh, in season, organic orange. Whenever I went to a supermarket with another person I’d buy one, peel it and offer a slice. “Mmmm, taste this orange! It’s so good.” A lot of my summer was spent getting people to share my passion for organic oranges.

Yet, at no point did I ever consider an orange to be beautiful. I considered an orange in every way. I argued with a girl I’d barely met about how you MUST peel all the white stuff off the orange before you eat it, she retorted that the white bit was the tastiest part. All I could say was,”are you mental?!”

Continue reading Is An Orange Beautiful?

Outgrowing Christmas

Baubs

Finally, after 24 years, it’s happened. I’ve outgrown Christmas.

My best Christmas was when I was 5 years old. I still thought Santa Clause was real and would you believe it, he bought me a shiny new bike. I often wonder how I could have been so foolish as to believe in Santa, but when you go to bed on Christmas Eve, excited about the gifts that await you, and you wake up the next morning to find a new bicycle has magically appeared under the Christmas tree, then it’s quite easy. After all, how else would the bike appear if it wasn’t for Santa?

Continue reading Outgrowing Christmas